The de Brissac Bernard Family
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These Images were drawn by 16yr old Patricia de Brissac Bernard during internment by Japanese in Java. The de Brissac Bernard family were arrested and interned on 15 Oct 1942 and were imprisoned in 4 different camps (Werfstraat, Tanah Tingi, Tegerang, & Tjideng) In the last camp there were 10,000 prisoners The men were separated from their families for 4 years in different camps
The camps were liberated in September 1945 by the Ghurkha's with the Australian and American Army
Also interned with the family were the Pennefather family and Edie Pennefather rescued these drawings and brought them to England. They were rediscovered in 1983 and returned to Patricia de Brissac Bernard (now Prior)
Click the thumbnail image to download the full size picture
Extract of a letter written by H.D de Brissac Bernard regarding a claim for compensation following internment of his family by the Japanese
I am over 90 years of age. I lived and had my own business in Surabaya from 1925. My business was destroyed when the British Army entered Java to restore sanity to that damaged land.
After our liberation by air to Singapore it was ruled, on health grounds, that all ex British P.O.Ws must be repatriated to England. I had hoped at that time to go directly back to Java to examine the conditions and the possibility of restarting my business. I realised afterwards, conditions would have made it impossible.
We were the first British family to be repatriated by the British via Singapore, where we stayed with some 30 or 40 others in Raffles Hotel and then sailed by S.S.Celissia to Liverpool via Colombo.
In spite of efforts over years by the British Government Dept., “Trading with the Enemy”, we received no compensation for the loss of our home, personal effects and my business.
I have survived, as have my children. I won’t detail the efforts and determination it demanded from us all.
The Dutch Government who I understand were involved regarding compensation on a reciprocal basis with England; eventually rejected their obligations by apparently advising that they had conceded Java to the Javanese. I had however been assured many times by the “Trading with the Enemy” that compensation would eventually be forthcoming.
If this new move requesting Japan to consider making reparations to ex P.O.Ws is true, I believe and hope my family should be included.
From the day we were all arrested by the Japanese army in Surabaya at dawn in our home, I was separated and had no contact or knowledge of my wife and children for more than three years until a wonderful chance took place.
My son by then 9 to 10 years of age, was taken away from his family and sent to a “Boys Camp”. That was anything but what might be expected from its title.
I was asked by fellow P.O.W. friends, British and Dutch, to approach our Japanese Commander to allow some of the boys to be transferred to our camp. This after many attempts and troubles succeeded and the miracle happened. No one knew who they would be and one of about six, was my son.
Months later I planned to escape from our camp because rumour had it, that the women’s camps were being attacked by Japanese or Javanese, we did not know, and that the young women were in severe danger.
After nearly four years internment my daughters were now about 16 and 18 years old. I had no knowledge where their camp was. All prisoners were continually moved to other camps. My son Raymond thought that when he was with them months earlier that they were in a large camp in the Batavia area.
I escaped from mid Java, another long story, leaving my son with English friends, as my attempted journey would be too difficult and dangerous to take him. It succeeded - don’t ask how or why — I believe it was God’s will.
I was able to enter the women’s camp in the Batavia area through the help of an interned British Officer who was permitted by the Japanese to allow a working party of some 15 interned soldiers to enter the women’s camp, to help clearing piles of of stinking, crawling rubbish, help with fire wood, etc. etc. I joined that working party.
In a camp of some 10,000 women and children, appalling sights, I found the family thanks to another miracle. I asked a Dutch lady if by chance she knew of a Mrs. Connie de Brissac Bernard and she did and where in the camp they were placed.
My wife was in a very advanced stage of Beri-Beri My elder daughter*, who could not stand up from the ground, she was recovering from Typhus fever, just murmured “Hello Dad”. The younger sister was trying to make pieces of wood which was too big, , burn to heat some water. Her right arm was practically useless, wrapped in bandages the length of her forearm and hand. This due to an accident in the camp when running for help for a dying woman. The Japanese would not allow a doctor to attend and has resulted in permanent disablement.
Interned women doctors having nothing whatsoever to help or treat in any way begged the Japanese for hours to give what they required to help my daughter.
Notwithstanding that the Japanese had received and held a large store of medical supplies donated by the British and Canadian Red Cross for the P.O.Ws would only allow the issuing of bandages. The women doctors stated that an urgent operation was needed to save the use of the arm. Later in England an attempted operation could not bring back a normal arm and hand.
My wife was treated at St.Mary’s Hospital London and due entirely to the attention and instructions of Dr.Fleming, gradually recovered. She, a wonderful wife and mother lived until 1980 when she died of cancer.
* Patricia de Brissac Bernard who drew these pictures of life in the camp