Fukushima Civilian Internment Camp Japan, June 1945
Written by Malcolm Ingleby Scott
We were officially given into Japanese custody by the German Authorities on 10th July 1942 on board the SS Ramses in Yokohama harbour. Addressing us there a Japanese official informed us we were being placed under the care and charge of the Fukushima Prefecture and that we were fortunate in the allocation as, amidst beautiful surroundings, very fine accommodation, including spacious lawns and shady trees, had been placed at our disposal.
On the night of 10th/11th July we were taken by train to the town of Fukushima and about 9am reached our destination, a Roman Catholic Convent on the outskirts of the town. There we were placed in charge of a special branch of the local police force. Climate - Fukushima lies in a very fertile valley, at an altitude of over 1000 feet above sea level. From December to March snow lies constantly and daily temperatures vary between freezing point and 14° F below. Spring and Autumn are of very short duration while Summer is hot and very humid. Earth tremors at times have been very severe though seldom last for more than a few seconds.
Housing - The building is excellent, a two storied concrete structure, the former property of the Roman Catholic Church containing the usual offices, Chapel etc of a convent. The living accommodation consists chiefly of small rooms, most of the floor space of which is taken up by sleeping mats. Each room holds three persons and is approximately 8ft x 12ft. A few rooms are larger and all contain a table, chair and a built-in wardrobe. The beds are 'tatamis' - matting about 2in thick and 6ft x 3ft in size - and bedding consists of a mattress, a Japanese quilt or 'fotong', which is a fairly heavy bedspread lined with cotton wool. In addition a blanket and sheet were issued to all those who did not already possess same. The building is divided into sections - one for the men and the other for the women and children, separated by means of fire-proof steel doors. All men internees are accommodated on the second floor while the women occupy both first and second floors of their small section. The remainder of the ground or first floor is taken up by the administrative offices, staff rooms, two small mess rooms, a large hall and the kitchen. The latter is well appointed though inadequate in equipment such as pots and pans to meet the requirements of 140 people. Meals are served in three sittings, two for the men and one for the women and children. The men's section has five rooms for lavatories and bathing facilities, one containing a long bath. The building stands in grounds of approximately three acres, most of which is vegetable garden with the exception of a concrete exercise ground of about 40 x 15 yards. The situation and housing is excellent for a small community such as ours and had the Japanese Authorities extended to us anything like the consideration recognised internationally as civilian internee treatment we could have settled down fairly comfortably and been as happy as is possible under the trying circumstances. As the following report will show, the antagonism and non co-operation of most of those in charge of us could not do otherwise than instil in all a deep feeling of resentment or even hatred. The period under review covers three years of internment.
The Men's Section totals 98 - excluding two deaths - and is made up as follows:-
British civilians - 33
British seamen - 24
Greek seamen - 19
Straits Chinese - 9
South and West Africans - 6
British Arabs - 5
Spaniards - 1
Armenian - 1
Women's Section - 29 Adults (British, British Indian, Chinese and 1 Greek) and 13 Children.
During the period there has been one death and one birth shortly after our arrival
Food - The rations provided have been inadequate at all times to maintain us in good health and conditions. Quantity and quality have been lacking and loss of weight among internees varies from two to more than five stones. Many have suffered constantly from headaches, dizziness, boils, stomach trouble and general weakness while in the case of the women, menstruation stopped for long periods at a time. Daily meals have been cut increasingly from 1943 until March 1945, since when the diet has consisted of practically bread alone, slightly less than 24 ounces per day, only varied on a very few occasions by the addition of a small plateful of some watery stewed green matter or a small portion of fish. Many internees both men and women have been forced to collect weeds from the garden and eat them in an endeavour to appease their hunger. In the beginning it was obviously the policy of the Japanese Authorities to reduce us to a condition of base servility by means of starvation and when food was plentiful in the kitchen it was purposely withheld and allowed to go bad rather than give it to the internees. Eggs, fruit and large quantities of meat have been thrown into the refuse pit while internees complained and suffered from hunger. Camp rations have been delivered to the building in reasonable quantities but have never been served out in proportion as much of the food intended for inside consumption found its way outside again. Meat and fish in meagre portions was maintained in the diet for two years. A small pat of butter, about the size of a shilling, was given on 29 occasions while dry bread at breakfast was relieved for about a year by a minute serving of jam, not sufficient to cover one slice of bread. At one time liver sausage was given for a few months and this was considered very valuable because of its contents. Fruit and sugar have been served so occasionally as to make them practically non-existent, while eggs, milk or any food of that nature have never been received. Very seldom has a meal consisted of more than three or four tablespoonfuls in addition to the bread ration which has been raised from time to time because of very obvious need and acute distress. The only beverage supplied from hot water has been a mealtime cupful of weak tea without milk or sugar. Had it not been for the timely arrival of the Red Cross relief, the inadequate diet supplied would have reduced the camp to a very grave and serious condition. That prospect again faces us as we have been informed by the International Red Cross that no more Red Cross food is available to augment the daily ration of bread which is the only food supplied to the Camp at present.
Medical Attention - Since our arrival we have had eight general medical inspections - the first in September 1942, the last in August 1944 - all of which showed a steady loss of weight. It would appear that these inspections were made to check up on infectious diseases as little or nothing was done to help general sickness throughout the Camp. It has only been possible to get medical attention in cases of extreme necessity and of the three internees who have died in Fukushima, one could probably have been saved if prompt medical aid had been available. The stroke from which another elderly internee died might have been avoided had he not been forced to weed the garden in a blazing hot sun. No hospital room has been provided and apart from soup or rice and, very occasionally, a little milk no special diet has been obtained by the sick. In cases of fatal illness, treatment and death took place while the room was still occupied by two other internees. Apart from laxatives and aspirin, practically no other medicine has been supplied by the Authorities and material for bandages has always been refused. On one occasion a soiled unwashed bandage, previously used by a suspected syphilitic subject, was given in response to a very urgent request. The needs of the women have received little or no consideration and they have continually been without supplies of suitable material for purposes of personal hygiene. A small quantity of paper and cotton wool has been given from time to time, the latter calling for repeated washing. Dirty rags were offered at one period and an urgent request brought forth the demand to produce the soiled pads for inspection. Conditions have improved since we have got into touch with our Neutral Representative and the Red Cross. Medical kits and medicines have been supplied by them and two qualified nurses among the internees, not allowed previously, have been permitted to care for the sick. Great suffering has been caused through lack of dental treatment, or where it has been given, the lack of permanent material used in fillings etc. Patients are made to go for long periods with only cotton wool dressings in painful cavities and it is most difficult to obtain extractions. We have applied for forceps for this purpose but the Authorities have either been unable to procure them or have disregarded the request. A set of these for Camp use would make much of the suffering, which has to be borne at present, unnecessary. Clothing - Only in cases of extreme necessity did the Authorities supply clothing, though many men arrived with only the garments they stood up in. To meet the severe winter, underwear was required by everyone and though sufficient appeared to reach the Camp for that purpose, most of it went to the Japanese staff and guards and very little was distributed among the internees. Great hardship was experienced during two severe winters as the meagre issue provided was totally inadequate. The attitude of those in charge of us is clearly shown when it is recalled that, at this time, the use of the Japanese blanket issue was greatly restricted if not prohibited entirely. Repeated application for patching material to preserve such clothes as we did possess brought forth an issue which did not nearly meet requirements. No clothing or material was provided for the baby born in the camp, while the growing children have always been without suitable footwear. A few pairs of shoes were later received from the Red Cross but were insufficient to meet the needs of the children. It has only been by displaying great ingenuity in the making of footgear that parents have been able to keep their children's feet warm during the cold winter months. This problem has always been a major one as apart from the heavy boots supplied by the Red Cross - not allowed to be worn indoors - no footwear has been provided.
Treatment - During our first two years of internment we were treated not as civilian internees but on a scale lower than that accorded to criminals in British prisons. We were subject to constant nerve strain and innumerable harsh, petty regulations which served no other purpose than that of creating discomfort. For instance, when we had no means of employing our time, not even reading, we were not allowed to lie down between the hours of 6 am and 8.30 pm, nor could we lean on our bedding in an endeavour to find ease. Bathing has always been a Sunday feature and it became a punishable offence to wash other than the hands, face or feet during the week. We cannot yet go outside when we wish to and are forced out when we do not desire to go. In bitter, cold weather after having been ordered outside - the majority insufficiently clothed - permission to take shelter from an icy, cold wind was refused and we were driven daily from the lee of the building into the shelterless open. During summer, we were not allowed to sit on the grass but were confined to paths and the asphalt square and forced to walk continuously or weed the garden in the blazing hot sun. Indoors, in temperatures below freezing point and minus the central heating, we were not permitted to use the Japanese blankets or to wrap our own personal blankets around our bodies any higher than the waist. When the heating was turned on, the use of blankets was forbidden entirely and this when many internees only possessed the minimum of clothing. During four months of the winter season the weather is very cold and heating is essential but we have never been given it for half the time necessary and last winter, for less than one month in all. As a result, the whole Camp has suffered badly from chilblains, severe colds and chills, while there have been three cases of pleurisy and threatened pneumonia. To make us thoroughly uncomfortable, if not to cause actual distress, has seemed to be the aim of those placed in charge of us. Regulations have been enacted and bans placed upon any ways or means we, ourselves, have devised from time to time to mitigate the burden of discomfort. We have been ordered 'not to appear happy' - reading and the playing of any games for amusement were at one time restricted to one or two hours during the day and the Chief of Police, on his first visit to the Camp, said that if things got worse for Japan, so would it for us. He also informed us that he knew we despised the Japanese and it would appear, judging from the way we have been treated, that most of those in charge have made the most of every opportunity to humiliate us and made us suffer for that grievance against the European in general. We were made to bow on every possible occasion to all guards and officials and our mission to do so immediately on sight has been the cause of much trouble. Guards took a malicious delight in continually coming amongst us to insist upon this ceremony and not to be aware of their presence was considered a deliberate insult and called for punishment. All music, singing etc was prohibited and one internee was taken to the office, made to remove his glasses and slapped for humming. For the first year, treatment was especially disgraceful; the guards were given the right to hit both men and women at will and full advantage was taken of this. Slapping was indulged in frequently and when no offence could be found, many internees were framed by guards who disliked them for no apparent reason. On one occasion, a guard unmercifully attacked one of the women in the course of which she was thrown to the ground and kicked several times in the face. She was compelled to remain in bed for a week to recover from her physical injuries and it was many weeks before she recovered from the nervous shock. For allowing a little water to spill on the floor from a leaking tin, another internee, a man, was similarly treated. Not only were the guards guilty of hitting and slapping but also the first two Commandants and the Interpreter. It is worthy of note that the latter was the first official to lift his hand to an internee and this to a woman. Three men were cruelly beaten up by the order of one Commandant for waving to the women, while another man was subjected to third degree methods over a period of 36 hours in an effort to make him admit or inform upon supposed breakage of regulations. A favourite punishment for breakage of minor regulations was to make the offender kneel for long periods and, on a few occasions, with the knees across bamboo rods. In cold weather, to stand for hours at attention before an open doorway, was considered light punishment for the most trivial offence. Four women in their night attire were made to stand before an open door on a bitterly cold night from 8.40pm to 11.20pm and when released, found it almost impossible to walk, their limbs having become stiff with cold. Women were informed they must not lock lavatory doors and guards entered bathrooms while they were bathing. On several occasions, visitors have been taken to witness this act and repeatedly their sense of decency and modesty was violated. For individual offences, food has been stopped and, on many occasions, the cigarette issue of the whole Camp withheld. Children have not been exempt from such punishment, one boy aged 10, being made to stand for 1½ hours in pouring sleet without permission to use his coat. As a result, he caught a severe chill which later developed into jaundice. On another occasion, the offence being a broken window, three boys were made to bare their stomachs and the mothers told to burn them with a red hot poker. To the relief of the distraught mothers, the incident closed by the Commandant taking the red hot poker and contenting himself by burning their hair. Even in church we were not free from petty annoyance and interference. Men were not allowed to look towards friends, wives or children while it was an offence to sit with knees crossed or to put hands in one's pockets. Our internment history is full of such incidents - too numerous to mention in detail - but the above will leave no doubt as to the nervous tension in which we were compelled to exist for the first two years. Since the visit of our neutral representative and the Red Cross delegate, conditions have improved as apart from one or two incidents, slapping has stopped and regimentation decreased, although since April 1945, with the coming of a new Commandant, antagonism is again very evident and many of the old restrictions and regulations are gradually being reinforced.
Husbands and Wives - All contact between members of families ceased immediately upon internment and except for a birthday or some such special occasion, when a 10 minute interview in the presence of the Commandant and the interpreter was sometimes allowed, it was a serious crime and brought forth drastic punishment to smile at or acknowledge in any way, husbands, wives or children should they happen to come into contact or see each other across the compound.For propaganda, we were made to mix freely on one occasion and parade 'joyfully' in front of the cameras while in actual practice, our women were made to draw the shutters of their windows so that even they could not have the small pleasure of looking on while their husbands and friends were weeding in the vicinity. After 15 months without meeting, we were told we were to be allowed to meet at regular intervals and were given that privilege five times for periods ranging from ½ to 1½ hours at a time. It was not until the end of December 1944 that we were granted permission to meet daily for 1 to 2 hours, but since April 1945, meetings have again been curtailed by order of a new Commandant who seems very averse to granting the concession. Meetings have been cut to twice and three times per week and for periods of only 1 hour at a time. On one occasion, half an hour only was allowed, this after three years of internment and at a period in the War when wives and families require all the comfort and consolation their husbands can give.
International Red Cross - All attempts to get in touch with the Red Cross were refused and nothing was heard from the Society until March 1944 when a parcel of American Red Cross relief food arrived for each internee. This was followed by a visit from the Delegate a few days later who informed us that nothing was known of this Camp until 1st March 1944. For propaganda purposes, a great display was made by the Authorities, conditions changed overnight, a reading room and lounge, complete with wireless, came into being. Men and women were allowed to mix freely and a hospital room with two nurses in attendance was fitted out. This all disappeared, however, when the visit and the filming were over. We complained bitterly to the Delegate of our treatment and made the appeal that we should be treated as ordinary human beings and not as criminals undergoing punishment. He advised us to let 'bygones be bygones' and obtained many promises from the Authorities which, if they had been carried out, would have improved conditions greatly. When we took up the matter with the Authorities, we were informed by the Interpreter that promises meant nothing to the Japanese. A gradual improvement, however, did take place from that date, regimentation slackened off, slappings became less frequent but little or nothing was done to add to our comfort. It seemed that any concession granted was against the wishes of those in charge of us and any restraint shown was only because of the fact that we were no longer isolated and cut off from the outside world. Our needs were all made known to the Delegate, particularly those of food and clothing. Help was promised and we were told that a representative would visit us at least every three months. It was not, however, until a year later that we received a further visit when great disappointment was expressed by the Camp as it was thought we had made it very obvious to the Delegate that for our welfare, it was essential some outside contact be maintained. Isolation and the complete control given to the local police had taught us, by bitter experience, that such was necessary. As a result of the visit, clothing arrived for the Camp on three occasions - one box containing a small supply of light summer material, a few pairs of shoes and toilet articles for the women, not nearly sufficient to cover urgent needs and making no provision for the cold weather. For 98 men, a consignment of heavy clothing providing kit for 35 men was received in August 1944 and it was not until April 1945 that this was followed by a further 40 kits to cover the winter requirements of men, women and children. As the last consignment had been in the hands of the Red Cross since November or December 1944, it was difficult to understand, in view of the acute distress in the Camp and the severe weather then being experienced, why despatch had been delayed so long. We have since been informed that though fully aware of the inadequacy of the relief, the Red Cross can do no more for us meantime as this Camp has already received its share of all available food and clothing. During three years of internment and over a period of 15 months since our whereabouts was officially known, we have received a total of 10 parcels per adult. Owing to the seriousness of the food situation, we have informed the International Red Cross Committee that relief from them is no longer supplementary but very essential and that by using the contents very sparingly, a parcel can be made to stretch out for a period of three weeks. Each parcel contains:-
3 x 12 oz tins of meat or pork
1 tin of powdered whole milk
1 x 8oz tin of salmon
1 x 6oz tin of jam
1 x 4oz tin of coffee
3 or 4 3.75 ozs of butter
½ lb cheese
1 lb of dried fruit (prunes or raisins)
8 oz chocolate
2 small cakes of soap
5/7 packets (20) cigarettes
2 packets of chewing gum
1 x 6oz tin of pate (meat)
The supply of books received filled a great want in our lives, also a few games both indoor and outdoor. The latter are, however, wasted upon us as we were only allowed the pleasure of outdoor games for a short period on Sunday mornings. Disappointment has been expressed owing to the absence of any communication from the British Red Cross Society regarding our welfare. This was most noticeable at Christmas 1944 when greetings were received from the International Red Cross, American Government and Red Cross, the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions and the British Indian Red Cross Society. No message was received from the British Government or any organisation in the homeland.
FUKUSHIMA CIVILIAN INTERNMENT CAMP - June 1945
Neutral Representatives - The Swiss Delegate representing British interests visited the Camp during April and August 1944. The Delegate was most sympathetic and remonstrated with the Authorities regarding their treatment of us. He obtained the promise that the frequent corporal punishments would cease and endeavoured to obtain for us more humane living conditions. On the occasions of his visits, extra food was served to the internees and made to appear much better than usual. 'Window Dressing' was explained to him but presumably our serious position was not fully understood as the Camp considers that a remark to the effect that we were better off here than in other Camps as regards food, injured our cause and has, at least partially, been responsible for the more frequent cuts in food which took place from that date. At best, in view of our complaint, it was a most undiplomatic statement to make in the hearing of people who required little or no excuse to inflict further discomfort. Special medicines were provided by him and a few requests of individuals received his attention. In some cases he was able to despatch telegrams to relatives and had the Authorities allowed requests to go forward to him, much more would have been done for us in this respect. His visits obviously impressed those in charge and no doubt had we been in more frequent contact, treatment would have become much more rational. Materially, he has been unable to do much for us but has always endeavoured to assist by passing our requests to the Red Cross or the YMCA. Through him, we obtained a monthly allowance of Yen.50 per head from our government but, unfortunately, the non-existence of a Camp canteen has made this aid practically useless. We were told we could expect a visit every 3 months and to refer to him by mail when necessary. The latter arrangement has proved to be subject to Japanese approval as all communications regarding Camp conditions have been refused despatch by the Authorities, while delivery of those allowed to go forward cannot be relied upon and at times have taken months to bring forth a reply. Great disappointment has been felt that no communication has been received from our Home Government as it was thought that contact with our neutral representative would have brought us into direct touch. That we have received no information regarding our status as prisoners, or any assurance from our Government that steps were being taken to protect our interests as British Internees, has always been a matter of grave concern to us. We are still virtually 'in communicado' as far as our vital interests are concerned and have still to hear from our Representative that our conditions and treatment have been reported to our Government. Two visits have also been received from a Swedish delegate as Representative of the Greek Community and one from an Apostolic Delegate. The latter made a gift of Yen.1000 to the Camp but having no International standing, could not intervene on our behalf in any way. The Swedish Delegate gave us hope of exchange and attended to matters of Greek interest. He also did his best for the Camp as a whole but, like the Swiss Delegate, has found local control too strong to overcome in many respects. General Conditions - Since June 1944 most internees have been in receipt of a monetary allowance but no canteen has been provided from which small necessities and comforts could be purchased. After repeated applications, we were allowed on two occasions to buy such things as pencils, pens, mirrors, razor blades and hair combs etc but all requests to purchase anything in the way of food were refused even when fruit was plentiful in the district. The allowance proved useful to the Authorities, however, as the cigarette issue which was previously free was turned into a purchase more often than not with no provision made for those who were not in receipt of an allowance. Since internment, only 59 cakes of soap have been distributed among 98 men to keep themselves and their clothing clean, though tooth powder and brushes have been given out every 6 months until recently. Only 2 sinks and 1 long bath are now available for use of the men, though 2 other wash rooms, complete with lavatories and another bathroom, could be made available if slight repairs were carried out. Nothing was provided in the way of reading matter or amusement and it was not until the arrival of Red Cross relief that we obtained a supply of novels, playing cards and text books for studying purposes. From July 1942 until March 1944 we were allowed no communication with the outside world.
No news, except such falsehoods as India and Australia being occupied by the Japanese, was given regarding the progress of the war and all applications to apply to the Red Cross or a neutral power were refused. In November 1942, a cruel hoax was played upon the Camp. Certain people were given permission to write to their relatives advising them of their safety but these letters never left the building. A few postcards reached us in March 1944 and since that date, mail and cables have been delivered in small quantities from time to time, though there are still a number of people who have yet to hear from their relatives. A newspaper in English was provided on 1st March 1944 and, except for odd periods when it was withheld for unknown reasons, was received until 14th May 1945 since when there has been no issue.
Lack of knowledge of the language has always caused us great difficulty and the official interpreter provided by the Authorities unfortunately added to our troubles. The Camp feels he was responsible for much of the misunderstanding which arose from time to time as it was very often quite evident from the attitude of those in charge that truthful interpretation had not been made. His private feelings continually influenced him in his duties and his viciousness may be judged from his action in striking a woman during an interview in the office. He has also been guilty of spitting in an internee's face and it was often thought that he deliberately encouraged much of the regimentation and petty persecution practised by the guards.In charging the Japanese Government with maltreatment, if such was not its intention, the fault undoubtedly lies in the complete control given to the local police, our continual isolation and the lack of supervision by responsible members of the Government. With very few exceptions, those placed in charge have been entirely unfit for such duty, most of them being undisciplined and incapable of keeping under control their ever-present desire to treat us as active enemies.
PS After release from the Camp, Malcolm was repatriated via Australia and arrived home in time for Christmas 1945. He married his fiancée Patricia Whalen on 28th February 1946. They had a daughter in November 1947. Malcolm was subsequently awarded the S. Atlantic Star, the Pacific Star and the 1939-45 Star.He never recovered from the traumas suffered in the Camp and was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from what we now call 'post traumatic stress disorder.' The effects of beriberi and shrapnel wounds coupled with PTSD finally took their toll and he died of a coronary thrombosis on 26th November 1959. He was 53 years old.
Material kindly submitted by: COFEPOW Member - Chris Best (daughter of Malcolm Ingleby Scott)