Embroidered signature apron : Jan O'Herne and Dutch women at Kamp 1A Ambarawa Internment Camp, Java

Place Asia: Netherlands East Indies, Java
Accession Number REL26397
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cotton
Maker Unknown
Place made Netherlands East Indies
Date made 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Woman's white cotton apron with decorative blue edge of bias binding. The bib of the apron is embroidered in red and brown with 'Kamp 1A Ambarawa 1942', which has been underscored with a strand of embroidered black barbed wire. Over forty signatures, in many colours, have been executed in stem-stitch embroidery on the body of the apron.

History / Summary

Associated with Jan Ruff-O'Herne (nee O'Herne) who was born in 1923 at Bandoengan, the capital of Central Java. On 8 March 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army captured Java. Jan, her mother Josephine, and two sisters Fien and Celeste, were interned in a prison camp in a disused and condemned army barracks at Ambarawa in Central Java. The camp held about 3,000 Dutch women and children. This apron has been embroidered with the signatures of about 40 of the women in Kamp 1A, Ambarawa in 1942. It includes the signatures of Jan's mother and sisters.

On 26 February 1944 a truck arrived at the camp and the ten most attractive girls, including Jan O'Herne, were taken to Semarang to become 'comfort women' in a brothel which became known as 'The House of the Seven Seas'. She was reunited with her mother and sisters four months later. The family was liberated from a camp in Batavia (Djakarta) on 15 August 1945. Jan emigrated to Australia from England in 1960. She spoke at the International Public Hearing of Japanese War Crimes in Tokyo on 9-10 December 1992, at the invitation of the Dutch organisation the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts.