Skip to content

Struiswijk POW Prison, Batavia

Struiswijk Prison, in Batavia, Java (now called Jakarta, Indonesia)

Struiswijk prison was designed and built by the Dutch. It was a kind of fortress. On the perimeter was a wall, approximately 10 meters high, with a lookout post where two Japanese armed guards kept watch. Inside the wall was a fire corridor, about 20 meters wide.

Behind the fire corridor was a solid wall without windows; that was the back of the actual prison. To get into the prison you first went through high steel doors in the first wall, and then there were two doors in the inner wall. If you can imagine it, the entrance doors were connected to each other by a kind of tunnel.

Once inside the inner walls there were offices, a warehouse and the watch. The centre of the prison was an open area with some trees. It was about the size of a football pitch.

Around this field were barracks converted to lodgings and cells. The inner wall of the prision formed the rear wall of the barracks and the cells were groupsed into blocks. Leen and I were locked in a single cell, in Block J. 

In the original Dutch design one cell was intended for just one local prisoner. The dimensions were two and a half meters long, one and a half meters wide and 2 meters high.

The lighting in our cell was an electrical bicycle lamp on the ceiling. We made improvements by using the silver paper from a cigarette packet to reflect the light back into the room. With this we could both play solitaire with a deck of cards in the evening.

During the time that we were in that block we were allowed out three times a day. We could wash and shave at the well. The well was in the middle of the courtyard that belonged to our block. It was an opportunity to go to the toilet and get something to eat. Those excursions took about two hours. Talking to other prisoners from another block was strictly prohibited so we were completely devoid of any news. It was difficult being completely isolated from everything outside our block. This isolation lasted about six months.

It appeared that the Japanese interrogated the inmates for any details or knowledge, which they could use for their war efforts. I saw several inmates taken from our block and they were badly beaten before coming back. Some I never saw again…