Mum was a Civilian Internee of the Japanese Imperial Army


Members of the Reid Family shortly after the camp was liberated

Members of my mothers family shortly after the camp was liberated

From my previous post on the blog, you may have learnt for the first time that my mother along with her Grandmother, Mother, three brothers and one sister, were interned during WWII by the Japanese Imperial Army, this happened when Singapore fell to the Japanese in Feb 1942.

She along with numerous other Civilian Men, Woman and children from various countries who lived in Singapore and on the Malaysian Peninsula were interned either when the ships that they were evacuated on were either captured or sunk by the Japanese, many were captured in Singapore itself as the city became occupied.

My mothers family were lucky enough to be on a ship called the “MATA-HARI” that was captured and boarded by the Japanese Imperial Navy, rather then bombed and sunk, which there were quite a few, with survivors spending hours in the sea not knowing if they would live or die.


The “Mata Hari” Sailed from Singapore for Batavia with a ship’s complement of 483: 9officers, 72 European ratings, 2 Asian crew, 30 Royal Marines and 60 Royal Naval personnel from the Prince of Wales and Repulse, 60 Army personnel, 118 civilian men and 132 women and children. Three other ships in company were all lost, and Mata Hari could not find a suitable place in Sumatra to put her refugees ashore. Captured by Japanese forces 24 km (15 miles) off Muntok at 0300hrs. Her passengers and crew were landed the following day. Taken to Singapore, she was subsequently condemned by theSasebo Prize Court

Those Men, Woman and Children that were lucky enough to survive capture would then spend the next 3.5 yrs in captivity under the guard of the Japanese in makeshift P.O.W. camps, that were sometimes nothing more than make shift huts, with no proper sanitation, water supply or any form of proper medical care.

For anyone who’s interested I’ve attached a number of documents to the this post below, that I’ve found while researching my mothers time as a Civilian Internee

Sumartran Internes :

A list of Civilian Internees which might be interesting for your research, it’s a list of Sumatran internees, unsure how accurate the list is, but it actually shows my Great-Oma, my Oma, my Mum, and here brothers and sisters Erica, Roy, James and Dirk listed, I’ve highlighted the section in Red/orange, also I’ve started to highlight all the woman listed who were in mums camps. However not finished doing that, as it’s quite a long list, but thought you might like to see it in case you wanted to do any further research on other Civilian Internees in the camps.  It’s quite a long list and is nowhere complete, but it’s very insightful about the type’s of woman and children who were interned and provides details on where the woman worked, who they were married to and also if they survived the  war.

My mother Maiden name was Reid, you should see her listed on the Sumartran Internes document, along with her mother, brother and sisters, I believe I’ve highlighted these in red, also listed is her Grandmother under the name “Kobus”, sadly she died in the camp and

Sumartran Internees

Mata Hari Captains Logbook:

The Captains Logbook from the Mata Hari this was the ship that my mother and her family were on when they were evacuated from Singapore and which was then captured by the Japanese, resulting my mother’s internment, again quite insightful of what the ship had to do to escape the fall of Singapore and it’s eventual capture near Bangkok Island

Mata Hari Captains Logbook


A document that I found that was held by the Australian High Commision, which is an account of my Grandfather James Reid and the family’s efforts to leave Singapore before it fell, including his efforts to get the family evacuated on one of the ships that left Singapore, he managed to get them onto one ship the “ SS Vyner Brooke”, but they were turned away after reaching the ship, as there was no room left, however they were then able to get passage on the “SS Mata Hari”, which probably saved the familys life as the “SS Vyner Brooke” was bombed and sunk by the Japanese and some of those who managed to escape the sinking were  massacred by members of the Imperial Japanese Army when they washed up on the Bangka Island.

At the time of the documents writing my Grandfather had no knowledge that they had been turned away from the “SS Vyner Brooke” and shortly after its sinking the “Mata Hari” itself was straffed then captured by the Japanese ( This is detailed in the Captains Logbook and the Broadies account, both of which I sent earlier.

My Grandfather stayed ashore as it was literally woman and children and wounded that were being evacuated and as a Civil Engineer and a member of the Malaysian Volunteers, he stayed behind to help with the defence and evacuation of Singapore, it then details his own subsequent escape from Singapore after it fell and his arrival in Australia, where he then began searching for the family, unaware at the time whether they had been killed/interned or themselves successfully escaped.

Also included is a copy of the letter he sent to “The Crown Agents for the Colonies” in London just under a month after the fall of Singapore asking for help and any information they might have on his family


The document was recorded by the High Commission I believe.

Hope these are of as much interest to you as they were for me, my search for further documents is ongoing and slowly I’m hoping to build a much better picture of the life my mother and her family went through and connect with other children, grandchildren of survivors.

Vince Vince (1330 Posts)

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3 thoughts on “Mum was a Civilian Internee of the Japanese Imperial Army

  1. A friend of mine (who was also at school in Singapore in the 60’s and is in my Singapore schools reunion group) has a mum who was a POW of the Japs, I will find out where.
    You can email me at, we are going to have another reunion in Singapore in June 2016, following on from the successful 50th anniversary reunion that we had last year.

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