The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941–1945

A Patchwork of Internment

(日人下的西方平民拘留經驗(1941–1945): 拼湊起來的拘留史)

Bernice Archer

ISBN : 978-962-209-910-4


February 2008

300 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$195.00
No longer available

Anyone with an interest in the Second World War in the Far East is familiar with military and Prisoner-of-War narratives. But how the 130,000 British, Dutch and American civilian men, women and children captured and interned by the Japanese in the Far East during the same period survived their internment is less well-known. How did these colonial people react to the sudden humiliation of surrender? How did they adapt to three-and-a-half years in Japanese camps in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies? The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941–1945 addresses these questions.

Bernice Archer’s comparative study of the experiences of the Western civilians interned by the Japanese in mixed family camps and sexually segregated camps in the Far East combines a wide variety of conventional and unconventional source material. This includes: contemporary War, Foreign and Colonial Office papers, diaries, letters, camp newspapers and artefacts and post-war medical, engineering and educational reports, biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and over fifty oral interviews with ex-internees.

An investigation of evacuation policies reveals the moral, economic, political, emotional and racial dilemmas faced by the imperial powers and the colonial communities in the Far East. Using contemporary personal accounts the shock of the Japanese victories and the devastating experience of capture are highlighted. Inside the camps, the author focuses on agency and survival. She demonstrates that, far from being passive victims with no control over their lives, the Western civilian internees were dynamic agents who used and adapted the social and cultural resources they inherited from the colonial world—such as the embroideries sewn by the women in the camps and, in particular, the three quilts made by the women in Changi—to survive their ordeal.

The Internment of Western Civilians under the Japanese 1941–1945 also covers wider issues such as the role of women in war, gender and war, children and war, colonial culture, oral history and war and memory.

Bernice Archer became a mature student in her late forties. A BA Hons in Humanities at the University of the West of England led to a PhD at the University of Essex and the subsequent writing of this book. In 2001 she researched and curated the first ever exhibition totally related to civilian internment in the Far East. It included many artefacts never previously seen by the public and was held at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.