Feakes, George James (Civilian POW, b.1893 - d.1960)

Accession Number PR05245
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Diary, Notebook, Document
Maker Feakes, George James
Feakes, George James
Place made Australia, Borneo, Netherlands East Indies, Singapore, United Kingdom
Date made 1932-1946
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition

Collection relating to the Second World War experience of George James Feakes, civilian POW, Singapore and Dutch East Indies, 1942-1946. Feakes was an Australian engineer based in Singapore, whose job it was to sabotage communication devices at the fall of Singapore. He was captured while escaping Singapore aboard the HMS Grasshopper.

Diary 1 is a purple covered notebook with “Diary of G. J. Feakes (1)” written on the cover upon a white sticker. The diary spans the period 4 February to 7 April 1942. The diary begins with Feakes describing the Japanese bombing of Singapore and his escape aboard the HMS Grasshopper with other civilians. The diary continues and describes the Japanese aerial bombardment of the convoy consisting of HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly, the latter of which is hit by three bombs and sunk in the first wave, the former, upon which Feakes is a passenger, is hit in a later attack catching fire and becoming beached. What follows is a movement by those able to travel through Sumatra, going between what was then Dutch occupied territory in an effort to make it to India or Australia. The diary ends with news of those who were too injured to move through Sumatra being picked up by a Red Cross ship, and those who moved being captured by Japanese forces in Padang.

Diary 2 is a tan-coloured Dutch receipt book used as a diary with “Bon-boekje” (receipt book) and a picture of an eagle printed on the cover with “[Diary continued] (2)” written in pencil on the cover. The diary spans the period of 12 July 1942 to 28 April 1943. This diary largely discusses the mistreatment of Feakes and other internees while in Padang. The diary discusses Feakes’ stay in hospital for rheumatism, several friends dying, the camaraderie of internees to pool together supplies for celebratory events such as birthdays, rationing, food supplies, and the failing sight of several internees owing to malnutrition. Also discussed is his movement to the Padang military prison, and then the Padang civil prison, being held by a native guard and noting the lack of presence of actual Japanese soldiers guarding them.

Diary 3 is a tan-coloured Dutch receipt book used as a diary with “Bon-boekje” (receipt book) and a picture of an eagle printed on the cover with “Diary continued (3)” written in pencil on the cover. This diary continues with many of the same themes, however it shows Feakes getting consistently weaker. The diary discusses the black market and Feakes selling the remainder of his personal possessions that were worth any money in order to buy food. The diary mentions rumours about war news and possible prisoner swaps, Feakes’ constant concern for his family, however the main subject that dominates the diary is food and malnutrition and every effort being made in order to eat, including eating any animal that they come across. There are also frequent mentions of an earthquake and aftershocks that cause much destruction around the area where they are imprisoned.

Diary 4 is a small brown faux-leather covered 2-ring binder with inserted pages creating a notebook. Prior to internment, the notebook appears to have been used to keep track of Feakes’ finances and other related details such as life insurance dating from approximately 1932. The notebook begins with several pages of different south-east Asian recipes for dishes such as nasi goreng and ox’s tongue. Following the recipes is a diary spanning the dates 3 March to 29 August 1944. The diary largely focused on the severe shortage of food rations provided for the internees and the desperate measures they go to in order to obtain food including eating rats, snakes, and jungle leaves. The diary mentions the limited number of letters received by internees, the lack of Red Cross supplies, and the illnesses and deaths resulting from malnutrition. This particular diary is unusual as it reads forward from the first page, using on the front-facing pages, then on filling all of the front-facing pages, Feakes uses the back of the pages starting from verso of the last page - as such the first and last page are on the same leaf.

Diary 5 is a small black, faux-leather covered diary with “Walker’s Diary 1935” embossed on the cover. The diary largely contains notes about investments from the pre-war period, and a large amount of recipes given to Feakes by Dutch prisoners of war interned with him. The diary contains a few entries, spanning the period 16 October 1944 to 30 April 1945 while Feakes is interned in Bangkinang. These sporadic entries discuss briefly the two postcards that Feakes received from his wife during the 3 year period of his internment, the severe lack of food, the large amount of people dying from beri-beri and dysentery in close proximity to Feakes, and his hope to one day be reunited with his family.

Also included are:

3 x loose passport pages with recipes written on them, including rabbit pie, pancakes and ‘special tiffin.’ One page contains the last few entries of Feakes’ diary, spanning the period 12 July to 14 August 1945. These entries again mention starvation, Feakes’ weakness from varying ailments relating to malnutrition and poor treatment, however they also mention three postcards he received “buck[ing] [him] up no end.”

1 x yellow fabric-covered “Australian Military Forces Soldier’s Pay Book” with “Aust civilian internee” and Feakes’ name written on the cover. The pay book contains two entries, dated September and October 1945, following Feakes’ liberation from Bangkinang Camp.

1 x envelope with “internment sketches / originals, done by Bartholomew (internee)” written on the cover; and

1 x receipt dated 25 May 1945 for a donation that Feakes made to aid “British Civilians interned at Padang, Sumatra.”