On Sunday 9 February at Guildford Uniting Church, Wesley Chapel, a special Dedication Service was conducted for the Sumatra Memorial Plaque. The dedication was preparatory to the plaque’s approaching placement in the Changi War Museum in Singapore, beside many other Regimental and commemorative plaques, on Saturday 22 February. A couple of years ago, Nola Elizabeth Hudson who turned 101 in April, made contact with family members to enquire how she could commemorate both family and friends who were lost and/or incarcerated during the Malayan campaign of 1942.
Nola’s grandchildren took up her cause and after extensive consultation with the Australian Branch of the Malayan Volunteers Group and the Changi War Museum, a plaque was developed to commemorate the British, Australian, Dutch, New Zealand, Chinese and Eurasian men, women and children and the Allied servicemen and women who suffered severe deprivation during three and a half years captivity at Muntok on Banka Island, and in Palembang and Loeboek Lingau camps on Sumatra from 1942–1945, as well as the many people who were killed in the evacuation of Singapore. An overall feeling of the fortitude and bravery shown by those held captive in the many camps within Sumatra was apparent to the congregation.
Internees lived in oppressive conditions, heat and dust during the dry and hot season, followed by rain and leaky thatched roofs during the monsoon, which created a mud-based existence. The conditions became totally unhygienic, food was minimal, malaria, beri-beri and dysentery without medication were rife. The attrition rate of prisoners exceeded 50%. A strong Christian message, that of forgiveness, was evident in Robert Gray’s address, whose grandparents were being honoured. A number of people who suffered severely at the hands of the enemy or lost loved ones had since expressed their willingness to forgive. Under such extenuating circumstances this is to be greatly admired.
Bill Adamson, Elizabeth Adamson and Arthur Cook