Well, here we are in our internment? (or concentration) camp. I brought the Prep Girls over yesterday morning. We left the C.I.M. compound accompanied by five rickshas with cases, violins, shoe lockers and hard-boiled eggs; the children carried their dolls, and I carried my cat, Perry, in his basket. He entertained us by poking a beseeching paw under the lid at intervals. I led the procession and we trailed across the city to Temple Hill. We have been assigned the top half of a house for the Prep. When we arrived the front lawn was piled high with luggage four or five trunks deep. Grimy B.S. boys were doing noble work sorting and carrying. Orders, questions and appeals for help, in Chinese and English, flew back and forth.
"Has anyone seen a cabin trunk marked Fraser?"
"Are all the Prep mattresses there?"
"The San stove hasn't come yet."
"You two boys carry that co.... to the Burn's house."
"I've lost my best suitcase, has anyone seen it?"
"Nubbins escaped from her bag the way over."
"Has anyone seen Mr. Harris?"
We had a picnic lunch on the steps in the midst of it all and gradually light began to appear.
Superfluous furniture was cleared away, rooms were swept and washed, Prepites beds laid out on the floor and the Staff assigned to rooms in the Chinese servants' quarters. It was all friendly and picnic-like and only the presence of Japanese soldiers complete with bayonets reminded us that we really were being interned in enemy territory.
Pearl and Dorothy and I have a dear little Chinese out-house with three minute rooms, so we are in clover! The plaster is off the walls in patches, so we can see the mud bricks beneath, it was filthy dirty; and panes of glass in the window are "mo yu la" - but it is just grand to have a home of our own!
Perry has got himself into trouble already by going into the kitchen and stealing malt!! Aî-ya!
To-day Pearl and I have cleaned out the servants' kitchen ready to be used for a washing room. You should have seen me, arrayed in a dirty purple overall, & a white towel on my head, swishing a filthy rag mop around the floor.
Yesterday I did my first duty in an internment camp. Putting the children to bed was hectic. We had to wash in relays, and all face flannels and towels have to be handed from high pegs. Hot water has to be carried from the boys' washing room (the old servants' ....?) to the girls' washing room (miss Beagle's bathroom); and cold water has to be carried from the girls' to the boys'. We are only allowed to wash at night, because water is so scarce! We ate our supper sitting on cabin trunks in the hall - the Preps in their dressing gowns and pyjamas! other wise we all eat together in two rows downstairs - all sixty-two of us. We balance plates on our knees, eat stew with a soup - and enjoy it all immensely.
To-day is Sunday - and we have had an easier day. We had Morning Service led by Mr. William Taylor and a Song Service in the afternoon. Perry has settled down happily & made friends with Margaret Fraser, aged 3, who lives with her mother in the outhouse across the courtyard! He also has a grand time hiding in a clump of bushes, and jumping out at people as they pass by.
The kitchen Staff are working very hard. However they could not fail to smile at Ben Hayman's prayer - which was "Oh Lord, bless the people in the kitchen who are working so hard, and help them to work harder and harder and harder."
A very sad thing happened yesterday. Mr. Harris fell from our loft, - the ladder slipped - and hurt himself badly. Dr. Young was allowed over from the other camp, with a guard of soldiers, and they say he has fractured the base of his skull. He was unconscious for a long time. The boys carried him down the rickety backstairs to his room, on a door.
Now the cold weather is here and the fun has really started. I was on duty on a cold, wet, sleety day! The children had to play indoors - in their dorms and the hall. It was SOME squash! I wandered around stoking stoves, answering questions, quelling quarrels, finding paper, pencil, glue, string etc. "raving" at people for walking on the beds, and emptying "chambers"! They could not go to the outside lavatories because of the snow - so I was kept busy. To crown all, the electric lights failed to come on, so we had to go to bed by candlelight. I had just escorted eight little girls into the bathroom to wash, holding a very wobbly candle, when the candle overbalanced, fell behind the geyser, and left us in complete darkness. I took a step forward to find it - and knocked over a jug of cold water which swamped the floor! Oh dear! Poor Teacher on Duty! However, the day ended at last!
Yesterday we had an epidemic of children being sick. Dorothy spent the day washing out innumerable sheets, dressing-gowns, pyjamas, pants and other garments.
We have a communal bath system for the children. They all wash all over using their own basinful of water, and then we have a common rinsing tub.
Unfortunately, after Brian Kerry got in, the water was so dirty that we had to stop for the night!
We have had a lovely snow-storm. It is about 2 ft. high on the walls; and every morning we go out with tin dust pans before breakfast & clear pathways. Ailsa's and Mrs. Fraser's house has beautiful icicles hanging from the roof. They are about 5 feet long.
The children went out to play in the snow. David Allen lost a shoe in the bushes. When they came in they were just soaked. We had to have lines of washing across the hall to dry. Just like the East End slums!! Perry hates the cold.
When I put him out he just looks for a nice sheltered spot to sit. Bea came & told me to-day that she'd found him in the "penny house" sitting on top of the box!!
The boys have a new craze playing with buttons and string. The result is that Bea collected 26 buttons they had pulled off their clothes! Bruce Keeble hadn't got one left on his coat.
We have a pig. A small black pig - named Augusta. She lives in an alcove under the house, and we are fattening her... presumably for Christmas.
Dorothy & I were cleaning the children's shoes the other evening and a terrible tragedy occurred. We discovered - when nearly at the end! that we had blacked all the girls' brown shoes!! The night before the lights had gone off in the middle, and in the ensuing confusion the brown lid had been replaced on the black tin!!!
My chilblains are causing me much distress. I find the only remedy which touches them at all is soaking in alternate hot & cold water. The cold water is very unpleasant. I have convinced Dorothy that they must really be pretty bad if I prefer sitting with my feet in ice cold water in the middle of winter!
It's ages since I wrote anything in here! Things are just the same as ever. The present great idea is "walking miles". A mile is from the front gate to the San gate 14 times. Some of the children have done about 63 miles!! They have a wonderful chart on which to record their score.
Paul Grant was funny on Sunday, Mr. Bazire asked them to say what the Bible says about Heaven, and Paul's contribution was: "We won't have to work so very hard there." Typical! I'm afraid we all laughed.
Saturday (14th) was a great Chinese heathen festival. The Temple behind the hill is the Temple of Jû Huang, the great God of the Taoists (some long ago Emperor deified). And the people started streaming up the hill to the Temple early in the morning. By eleven the road was packed and the hillside was pretty well covered. The Temple gong banged and the cymbals went all the evening before.
A letter from Helen! It arrived via the Red Cross from somewhere abroad, we guessed Cairo because of the Red Cross stamp on the envelope. My first letter from my family since November 1941.
Bea has discovered some records with instructions and music for a "Daily Dozen", so in the dinner hour we gather outside and do our exercises - Preps and Grown-ups together. On Saturday afternoons we play hockey on the tennis court - five on each side, over twenties versus under twenties. That's good fun too. Lately we have had an epidemic of thieves. Pearl's trunk on the verandah was robbed one night. Ettie's week's washing went from her verandah. A third night the ladies downstairs went out in their night attire armed with dress-hangers to scare a thief away. And yet another night Mr. Bazire chased two men down the front drive with a poker! I have moved my trunks from the ti-tung and am sleeping on top of them. It's even harder than the floor.
We are now handed over to the Consular Authorities, and have to Parade twice a day and be counted.
Hands in pockets not allowed.
The latest piece of news is that we may be moved from here to a big Chinese school up the hill - everyone together! It is supposed to be a huge, bare place - no heating, no wells, no cooking arrangements except Chinese "kous" - oh well! we shall see.
Pearl was bitten by a scorpion the other morning; so we are all very "scorpion-minded" now. I shake my slippers and dressing gown very carefully before I put them on.
We number off in Japanese now. My number is Chiu Roku (16) The first day was very funny - even the Jap(anese) police couldn't help smiling at our efforts. Now he only smiles at little "Chiu Hatchi" ( Margaret Fraser) Margaret is sweet. The other day she asked her mother if she might wear her petticoat on top of her dress, like the Preps did on Sunday (their white pinafores!). And she also asked her mother to pull out her two front teeth, so she would be like Kathleen Smail.
Cubs and Brownies are both flourishing - I have the Brownies as well now. I set them competitions nearly every week and the poor T.O.D.s are besieged with requests for paper etc. for the next few days - but it keeps them well occupied.
Some of the girls and boys have been sleeping out in the garden. (I have done it several nights too - before the mosquitos started to bite!)
One night Maida Harris & Gracie Seaman changed places in the middle of the night.
The wind got up & Mr. Seaman came to see if they were all right .... And kissed MAIDA & tucked her in. Maida's comment afterwards was that she "wondered what it was all about."
One night Mr. Seaman was ill so Mr. Martin went to sleep in his room instead of Mrs. Seaman. In the middle of the night he was thirsty.
Got up in the dark & had a drink from a glass on the table. Thought it was very cold & heard something clink at the bottom. (Ice??) In the morning discovered it was the glass containing Mrs. Seaman's false teeth!!
Kathryn Phillips woke up one morning to find a dead mouse in her bed! We gave it to Perry.
What a long gap! We were moved here by the Japs on Sept 7-9th 1943. We came by boat – lying in rows on the floor of the hold and it was some journey. There was only one lavatory! And as we were not allowed on deck until 9 a.m. and therefore could not even reach that one!! – there was always a queue for the little pot behind a curtain held by a kind friend (Dolores Hughes) -!- all in the public corridor of course.
Weihsien is a big camp –1400- and is mainly composed of queues.- You queue up for meals in a large bare-boards dining room. You queue for hot water, you queue for showers, you queue for the Canteen! Etc. In fact, it's a new game to develop patience. I teach the Weihsien four-year olds – and of course do the eternal Prep school duty.
We had sports today to celebrate American Independence Day – and I jumped for Kitchen 1. I have got old and stiff but I managed to do 3ft. 9i. I wore Dolores Huges' pink pleated shorts! I felt rather embarrassed in front of the demure C.I.M. eyes but I think I looked nice. Also, I have bobbed my hair again. That deed was done on June 10th.
The champion did 4ft. 4" (Diana Candlin) but our Kitchen didn't manage more than 3' 10".
Still here! and everything much the same. I was paid three compliments yesterday!
No1 – Uncle Twif came to se the children and said he came to see me as much as the children because he always got a nice cheerful smile.
No2 – Mr. Hayes had to queue for an hour outside the shoe shop and meanwhile listened to me teaching. He came up at dinner time to thank me for my hours' lesson in patience.
No3 – Donnie McKenzie aged 4 was talking to me about poppies. What are they like? I asked. "Like you" he replied gallantly !!!
I had a letter from Mother last month to say they have moved to Cornwall. It sounds delicious! Rocks and breakers, heather and honey-suckle – and cream for tea. I'm looking forward to furlough!
For six months Monica and I had a little room to ourselves in the Hospital, but now we have lost it (Jan 3rd, 1945) and have ben moved into a big Dorm. 23/5 – shared between 11 of us. I imagine the average age is about (?60?) and we have to be just terribly good all the time!- I herewith append a plan of said dormitory:
Rules of Dormitory 23/5.
1- The poker must be laid at the right hand of the stove.
2- Wood must not be dried in front of fire.
3- The axe-edge must be turned away from the stove.
4- (Chin?) Must not visit in rest hour.
5- No "foreign body" must be put in the "highway".
6- You must be in bed before "lights-out" (10 p.m.)
7- Mats must not be shaken on the balcony.
"May I put potatoe skins on the fire?
"Mrs Mungeam, where are we to put potatoe skins?
"Well, in the fire or the garbage box I think. If it's a good fire –perhaps they could go on the fire this time.
"If you'd rather – I could go downstairs to the garbage box.
"I think it's a good fire to-night.
"Well I'll put them on the fire – It won't hurt it
M. puts them on the fire.
Mrs. Hodge was tending the fire and by accident clattered the top. She apologised humbly to the room for making a noise.
--- end of the diary ---