Aunty Jenny Beale is from Gunnedah and is a descendant of the Gomeroi and Wanaruah peoples. This interview is part of the ‘Honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men and Women who Served Their Country’ project. Aunty Jenny talks about her father and uncle’s service in World War II, their imprisonment in Changi and Japan, and her uncle’s death whilst incarcerated. She describes the difficulty her father faced post-war in receiving entitlements available to other veterans and former POWs. In the excerpt below, Aunty Jenny pieces together what she knows about conditions at the Naoetsu Prison Camp, based on what her father told her, the marks on his body, and what she has read about the notorious camp.
My father never really talked very much about his experience. Like, you’d get little snippets but he was never one to sort of sit down there and do the bragging of the war stories and things like that. They were starved. He used to tell me about them eating rice all the time and maggots in the rice and that type of thing. They didn’t have the warm clothing because imagine, like my dad had never seen snow and he ended up in this prison camp where they had two or three foot of snow. So – how cold it was and how malnourished. They never got fruit or anything. They were beaten a lot, not that he actually told me but he had marks, scars on his back which he wouldn’t say what they were from. And when I started reading Hell’s Heroes, the book by Roger Maynard, it’s been very difficult for me to read this book because of what they had all gone through.