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Cartoons and jokes that kept British soldiers sane: 'Jungle Journals' from Japanese PoW camp inmates discovered in an attic where they were left for 60 years
- The magazines were the idea of Lt Ronald Williams from Powys, Mid Wales
- He was an officer leading the 77th Heavy Anti Aircraft Royal Artillery
- Held prisoner on the island of Java, now part of modern Indonesia
- The journals were locked in a suitcase until the 60th anniversary of VJ Day
- Lt Williams' widow Margaret, 95, revealed their existence to son Frank
By Helen Lawson
PUBLISHED: 06:28 EST, 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 06:38 EST, 12 July 2013
Secret magazines written by British soldiers held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp have been discovered after more then 60 years hidden in an attic.
The 'Jungle Journals' were produced by inmates to lift fellow soldiers’ morale as they struggled to survive the horrific conditions in the labour camps during the Second World War.
Anyone caught reading them faced severe punishments from the prison guards on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies.
The handmade journals, filled with jokes, colour drawings and short stories, were the idea of survivor Lieutenant Ronald Williams, who took them home after the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
The Jungle Journals were started by Lieutenant Ronald Williams to keep the spirits of other prisoners of war up in a Japanese labour camp
The cartoons and humour in the journals were designed to help morale in the camps, where prisoners suffered daily beatings and the deaths of their friends
One cartoon noted the difference between the garden parties of 1939 and 1942
A NOTE FROM THE FIRST ISSUE
'You are now reading the first issue of "The Jungle Journal".
'This paper is produced in the hope that it may help pass the time for us. Facilities being what they are, don’t expect too much.
'If this production can make one gunner forget for five minutes the disappointments and discomforts of his present position, then our editorial efforts will not be in vain.
'The editorial policy of this paper is very simple. We try to entertain.
'The only promise we make to our readers is this - this journal will remain free and independent or cease publication.
'There will be no propaganda matter printed under the present editorship.
'Will anybody and everybody who has a story to tell or a verse to work off, please submit it for publication.
'Like the Salvation Army we say "All contributions will be gratefully received".
'We will endeavour, however, in this world to give some reward, maybe a packet of rokkos. This means YOU!
'We ask you to give us frank criticism of this issue and to tell us what to do with the
future issues. But not too frankly please!
'This space in our first issue is dedicated in true humility to the memory of the
gentlemen of this Regiment who died on active service on this foreign soil.'
Taken from Dr Frank Williams' book: ‘The Jungle Journal: Prisoners of the Japanese in Java 1942-45’
The soldier, who died aged 58 in 1969, kept his collection in a suitcase in the attic at his home in Powys, Mid Wales.
On the 60th anniversary of VJ day, his widow Margaret, now 95, passed the papers on to their youngest son Frank, a retired consultant radiologist.
Dr Williams, 63, said: 'The journals were a distraction from the awful time they were living in.
'Stories kept the men’s minds off other things.
'I think they felt they needed to keep human spirit. It was a way for them to stay sane.
'You can see hatred all the way through. They detested their captors but the men kept a level of humanity which I think is incredible really.'
The magazines, which have now been published in a book by Dr Williams, give a rare insight into life on Java, now part of modern Indonesia, from 1942 to 1945.
They showed the boredom and horror of day-to-day life in the camps, as well as the humour that helped the men survive beatings, deprivations and the deaths of their friends.
They even included a ‘My Part of the World’ section about home and hobbies - such as stamp collecting, chess and fishing.
The first issue carried the message: 'If this production can make one gunner forget for five minutes the disappointments and discomforts of his present position, then our editorial efforts will not be in vain.'
Lt Williams, an officer in the 77th Heavy Anti Aircraft Royal Artillery, edited the journals, which were first produced on stationery then thin tissue paper once supplies ran out.
They were passed around the camp under the noses of their Japanese guards.
Contributors wrote under pseudonyms and as the journals increased in popularity the number of pages expanded from ten to 50.
One cartoon, captioned 'Leave it to the skipper', showed a captain on board his boat smoking a cigar while battleships sank in the distance, while another illustrated the big band favourite Deep Purple with a boxer, right
Another 'well known songs illustrated' showed a prisoner working in the camp telling a guard: 'The Things You Are'
Regimental Rhymes described the inmates of different ranks held inside the camps
Lt Williams' son Frank, 63, has published the journals in a book after his widow Margaret, 95, revealed their existence in 2005
Cartoons included jokes about the strange and frightening situation the soldiers had found themselves in
Contributors who drew cartoons or wrote short stories used pseudonyms to protect themselves from their captors
A July 1942 editorial said that the journal proved 'once again that barbed wire does not by any means make a cage' and celebrated the 'boys of this regiment who have so splendidly represented us in the Football Championship'
While many prisoners were worked to death in factories or coal mines, Lt Williams remained in Java for more than three-and-a-half years.
Dr Williams said: 'I was a teenager when my father died and it was only the last six to nine months of his life that he started telling me about his time during the war.
'He told my mother a few things but he didn’t tell other people very much about his experiences.'
Dr Williams, from Llangattock in Powys, said: 'He always came across to me as a troubled man.
A illustrated poem written by Lt Ronald Williams celebrated the life of chess, from its creation in Persia 2000 years ago to British prisoners playing it in the 'far, Far East!'
Another of Lt Williams' poems talked about 'Home', where: 'There's a little housewife waiting, For a ship to sail the foam, Across ten thousands miles of ocean, And bring her loved one home!'
Lieutenant Williams and his wife Margaret, pictured in the late 1930s before he was sent away to war
Lt Williams, pictured on home leave in 1941, took the journals back to Wales after the end of the war and kept them in a suitcase
'My mother always said he was a different person from when he went to war and when he came back.
'It was the experience, he didn’t really want to talk about it or remember it.
'He had lost a lot of his friends who died in the Far East.'
After he came across his father's papers, Dr Williams got in touch with Java 42, a club for prisoners of war who survived the camps in the Far East.
He discovered that other Jungle Journals were kept at the Imperial War Museum in London.
His father's records suggest there were up to 11 journals but four editions are still missing.
He said: 'It has been great that it has all come together but I am sure there must be more journals out there.
'To find the rest of the excerpts would be fascinating.'
THE FAR EAST AT WAR: 1941-1945
Japan's forces had invaded Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaya in December 1941, following the country's surprise attack on the American base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.
Britiain lost lost battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to attacks from Japanese planes that month, and did not have enough military power in the region to stand up to attack.
The British commander in Singapore surrendered in February 1982 and some troops managed to escape to the islands of Java and Sumatra, part of modern Indonesia.
Indonesia, then a colony known as the Dutch East Indies, was invaded in January 1942.
By March, the Dutch commanders surrendered, and all Allied troops on the island became prisoners of war, where they suffered starvation, disease and exhausting labour in the many Japanese camps across the Far East.
Japan surrendered on September 9 1945, four months after the end of the war in Europe.
The date is now commemorated as VJ Day.
The first Jungle Journal was marked 'week ending March 28th 1942' and was 'priceless' according to its cover, which featured a nude woman
The first issues were produced on stationery before supplies became scarce
The illustration on the cover of the fourth issue, left, showing a man drawing, was labelled 'branch office', while issue five, right, was dated week ending July 31 1942, four months after the first Jungle Journal came out