December 18, 2008

Reader Comments

This section functions as a guest book. Comments posted by readers are displayed here rather than in the comments section beneath each chapter. E-mail addresses or other contact information will be included on request.

Comment by: Nico Diemel
In Response To: Chapter 8: Changi
Received: 3/28/09

Thanks for the story about Changi and that generation of the men who endured those awful years. My father Nicholaas F. J. Diemel was in that same camp in Singapore, where he died just one week before the end of the war. Your writing brings back many memories about the old Ned Indies and the war years there. With the rest of my family, we spent three and a half years, in the camps in Ambarawa. Thanks for the blog information.

Comment by: Yvonne

In Response To: Chapter 9: The Death Railway
Received: 12/1/09

My father was a POW there as well, forced into slave labor to build the Thai-Burma railway. As a child I remember overhearing him tell stories about it to other Dutch friends. He passed away in 1985, and I sure wish I could roll back the clock and hear those stories over again, but this time with a new appreciation for the hardships he surely endured. As a child, there was no way I could relate, and I never really believed the stories about eating insects, or the sweltering heat, the forced marches, the hunger and thirst, and waking up with dead people all around you. Thank you for researching and posting this website. What a wonderful legacy to your opa. I look forward to reading future chapters.

Comment by: Winfried Deijmann
In Response To: Chapter 15: "Margie, It's Your Father!"
Received: 7/10/10

I know 100% certain where this photo is taken. The theater at the back is the (former) Passage Theater in The Hague. Behind the two ladies on the left of the picture is one of the entrances to 'The Passage', that leads to the Spuistraat.
[ RK: Winfried is the son of Juliette van der Steur (stage name: Jill Bannister), a lady crooner at the Tabarin bar and dance club in colonial Surabaya. She sang with The Oriental Ramblers, an ensemble led by musician Bart Groenewoud, who was also the owner of the Tabarin. Winfried sent these photographs of his mother:

Juliette van der Steur
Surabaya, circa 1940

Photo courtesy of Winfried Deijmann

William C. Dobson and Julie Dobson-Van der Steur
Photo courtesy of Winfried Deijmann

He thinks it is likely that Han Samethini worked with Van der Steur and Groenewoud. This is certainly possible, although Samethini's albums contain no evidence to confirm it. ]


Comment by: Phyllis Graham

In Response To: Chapter 11: The Shadow Under the Sun
Received: 7/20/10

I am "blown away" by the story as well as all the time (and love) I know has gone into this work. Robin, you are truly creating a treasure for now and for the future.

Comment by: Adirox
In Response To: Chapter 3: Anna
Received: 8/18/10

Thank you. I really enjoyed your writing. I live in Surabaya and I'm a local history enthusiast. It's been a very, very long time that I've been curious how European people who once lived here - for quite a while - lived their life like. The only source to satisfy my curiosity was my late grandfather. He told me many stories about how he lived and interacted with his friends, many of them were Dutch. Your writing gives me new insights on how Europeans in Surabaya lived back then. Once again, thank you for sharing your grandfather's story with the world. I appreciate it a lot.

[ RK: Adirox (Adi Hartono) maintains a Facebook page devoted to Surabaya's colonial history: Surabaya Tempo Dulu ]

Comment by: Gregory Moor
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 10/27/10

Lisa Samethini passed away on 27 October, 2010 in Sydney, Australia, aged eighty-eight. She leaves behind her sister Tini in Holland, four daughters, Mary-Emma, Francesca, Christine and Sandra as well as their husbands, nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren. A courageous and much loved lady who will be missed by all.

Lisa on her wedding day
Bandung, Java
June 4, 1941

Sydney, Australia
March 28, 2009

[ RK: Elisabeth Boerman-Samethini was the wife of Frank Samethini, and sister-in-law of Han. I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet my great aunt "Tante Lies", whose recollections have enriched the early chapters of this blog. May the Lord bless and strengthen her family in this time of mourning. ]

Comment by: Mantri Animasi
In Response To: Chapter 11: The Shadow Under the Sun
Received: 3/12/11

Thanx for sharing about wars in Indonesia, especially Surabaya. :)


Comment by: Jason Stagg
In Response To: Han Samethini Remembered
Received: 3/12/11

Photo Courtesy of Jason Stagg
Jason Stagg Private Collection

Hope the attached is of some interest. Found it in a local junk shop. Shame it's missing its top.

Said poster now resides in my collection. It was more or less 1 in a million. Said junk shop was dealing with a deceased's estate. It more or less fell out of an old book. Was headed to the bin when I spotted it. I grabbed it. Gave him a few dollars. It interested me so I did homework, stumbled over your site and decided to e-mail. Hence here we are. Will send some better photos.



[ RK: Astounding! This is an original Chungkai Theater show poster from 1944, discovered near Sale, Victoria (about 60 miles east of Melbourne). Evidently it was brought home by an Australian survivor of the Burma Railway. Jason sent scans of the poster so the text can be read more easily. The credits include the names of Samethini, Alex Koot, Wal Davis, and Harold Pycock. As compere (emcee), Pycock probably shouted his signature cry, "Taxi!", at the start of the show. From the artist's signature (G B Gee), visible in the bottom photo, we can tell the poster was drawn by British POW Geoff Gee. Cheers indeed and many thanks, Jason! ]

Photo Courtesy of Jason Stagg
Jason Stagg Private Collection

Photo Courtesy of Jason Stagg
Jason Stagg Private Collection

Photo Courtesy of Jason Stagg
Jason Stagg Private Collection


Comment by: Elly Tigelaar-Becker

In Response To: Han Samethini Remembered
Received: 4/7/11

I just read your very interesting story about your opa Han Samethini. My dad was a POW, too. He was a POW from March 1942 until August 1945 (Bandung > Batavia (Cycle Camp, Glodok) > Palembang (Pangkalan Balei/Dai Ichi) > Singapore (Changi) > Wilhelminakamp (from August 1945 until the end of March 1946).

Image Courtesy of Elly Tigelaar-Becker

Today I was also looking for ancestors in old newspapers and - to my surprise - I saw the name of your opa on this list of POW's in Thailand. Out of curiosity I looked for more and yes (!) I found a few other articles and notices. If you are interested, I will send them to you. Just let me know!

By the way, I noticed that the "Samethini home in Surabaya" was at Brantasstraat. When I lived in Indonesia as a kid (after the war) my home was at Brantasstraat (Bandung)!!! Isn't that another coincidence?

With kind regards, hartelijke groeten,



Comment by: Marlies Liefveld
In Response To: Appendix C: The Samethini Band in Bangkok
Received: 7/18/11

Our father, Jan Liefveld, passed away on November 5, 2005. Our mother, Wieke Liefveld-Marcussen (1921), was also staying in Bangkok after WWII. She was a gifted jazz and boogie piano player, and occasionally played in the Holland Club. We think she is the young woman sitting on top of the truck. During the war she was a member of the Sandiwara [a type of dramatic performance originating in West Java - RK]. Her combo was called "Rita and Her Boys". She is still living in Deventer, and playing the piano every day. Thank you for the memorable pictures.

Kind regards, on behalf of our family,

Marlies Liefveld

[ RK: Marlies, thank you very much for the information about your father and mother! Above is a closeup of the photo showing pianist Wieke Liefveld in Bangkok in 1946. Below are closeups of Jan Liefveld with his trumpet, playing on the same flatbed truck and posing at the Holland Club.]


Comment by: Charles Destrée
In Response To: Appendix D: Sketch Artist J. Chevallier
Received: 8/29/11

Thanks for your nice site!

From April till November 1947 I was sent on secondment from Southern Sumatra to Batavia. Where I was working as draughtsman for the magazine Wapenbroeders at LVD, later DLC. So there I met Chevallier, Henk de Vos, chief of the Drawing Room, Jan Boon and Theophile Suykerbuyk, and others.

I can send some drawings from that time.

Thanks for your attention.


Charles Destrée
(1926), former war volunteer in the Stoottroepen (under command of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who was a former SS member! Which was discovered only half a century later)

[ RK: It is an honor to hear from a veteran of the Stoottroepen, which in English may be rendered Assault Troops. These were elite Royal Dutch Army infantry units sent to the East Indies in the late 1940s to fight the Indonesian nationalists. Jan Boon (1911-1974), a.k.a. Tjalie Robinson, is famous among older generation Indos (Dutch Eurasians) as an illustrator and humorist.]


Comment by: Vivienne Ennemoser
In Response To: Han Samethini Remembered
Received: 2/28/12


I have been looking at your memoir of Han Samethini.  My father was a POW and took part in shows, and I'm pretty sure that I recognise him in the middle of a group photograph of a show organised by Leo Britt.  Would you be kind enough to let me know where these photographs can be found?  I would dearly love to get a copy of that photograph.

Kind regards,

Vivienne Ennemoser

[ RK: Vivienne is the daughter of Captain James Francis Clark, who appears in the center of the "Wonderbar" cast photo taken at Chungkai in May 1944.  He is the POW sitting behind the tallest guard, holding a cup.  In several separate e-mails she kindly shared the following recollections about her father.] 

My dad was born in 1913, in Glasgow.  All I know about his capture is that he believed he was sailing out to take part in the war in the Middle East but when Pearl Harbour happened they were told on the ship that they were being re-routed to the Far East - to great consternation.  They were not very long in Singapore before it fell, and he described walking along the Bukit Timah road, towards Changi.  He was a medical officer attached to the Sherwood Foresters.

....For most of his life my father didn't talk about his experiences.  But towards the end (he died aged 89 a few years ago) he did talk about it, and one of the things he talked about was the pleasure he had in taking part in the shows.  He had a very sweet tenor voice and sang light arias.  Over the years I remember we would run into fellow ex-prisoners who would immediately greet him as the singing doctor.  He always marvelled at the ingenuity of many of the prisoners, such as making a keyboard (albeit without sound) for a pianist so that he could continue to practice - and seeing what they managed to produce for the shows makes me marvel too.

....One of the Japanese soldiers showed my father kindness, at great risk to himself, after my father had been made to stand in the sun for hours while they tried to make him give permission for sick soldiers to work on the railway.  It would be so good to know if one of these soldiers was that man.  But that's something I'll never know now.

 ....By the way, I noticed that as well as both being in the group photograph, your grandfather's and my father's names both appear in 'Eddie's Road-Show'.  So they certainly must have known each other.  I only wish I had made this connection a few years ago while my dad was alive.  In his later life he would have absolutely loved it....

[ RK: Many thanks, Vivienne, for this fascinating information! I notice that your father's name also appears at the bottom left of the Thai Diddle Diddle show poster.] 


Comment by: Iain Calderwood
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 3/3/13

In response to Jason Staggs' comment and picture.  Geoffrey Gee was my great uncle (my maternal grandmother's twin brother) and I would be interested in any further info that could be supplied.

[ RK: Iain, it is a pleasure to hear from you.  According to Burma Railway scholar Prof. Sears Eldredge, Geoffrey Gee's POW diary is being kept at the Imperial War Museum.  I suggest you get in touch with IWM and ask to speak to the Keeper of the Department of Documents.  That post was held by Roderick Suddaby when I contacted the museum in 2007.  Here is a link to their contact info:  And here is a link to the IWM home page: .  Another possible source of information is the FEPOW Community:  

NIOD (Netherlands Institute for War Documentation) has at least one digital image of Gee's artwork:

The above is a birthday card Gee created for Dutch POW entertainer Joop Postma.  I found it by typing birma (Dutch for Burma) in the search field of the World War II image gallery: and then clicking on the Zoek (search) button.  See below:

Possibly there are other Gee images at this source.
Best of luck in your research efforts!  If I find any further information on your great uncle, I will post it here. ]


Comment by: Vincent van Loenen
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 10/13/13

Amazing and very impressive.  Jan Liefveld was my teacher in elementary school in Deventer, 1950's.  Wonderful person, great teacher.


Comment by: Mar Liefveld
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 10/4/14

This is to inform you that Wieke Liefveld, as mentioned in regard to the tour in Bangkok, has deceased on January 2nd, 2014.  In the last week prior to her death, at the age of almost 93, she enjoyed performing on piano in the elderly home where she resided.

 [ RK: Mar, please accept my condolences on the death of your mother.  It is good to hear that she enjoyed playing the piano to the very end of her life.  Her music must have brought happiness to many.]


Comment by: Suzanne Altman
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 10/16/14

Many, many thanks for this memoriam.  I have been trying to find info about my father's (John Frederick Charles Altman) time as an Australian POW, and there he was!  You even had a photo of Dad as a trumpet player in a POW band.

Yours very sincerely,

Suzanne Altman

[RK: Thanks for your comments, Suzanne.  By any chance, is your father one of the trumpet players appearing in either of the two photographs below?]


Comment by: Eric Koot
In Response To: Appendix C: The Samethini Band in Bangkok
Received: 5/5/15

Thanks for the interesting and moving story.  My father never spoke much about his Burma Railway experiences.  By reading your blog I learned a lot about this period though.  Just wanted to complete some details about Alex Lex Koot.  Born 24 January 1913 in Oosterbeek, The Netherlands.  Died 25 February 1998 in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands.  Very happy and thankful that this chapter of life is now documented.

Thank you.

Eric Koot (son of Alex Koot)

[RK: Thank you very much for this information, Eric!  It has been added to the section about your father in Appendix C.  Now having Alex Koot's birth date, I was also able to locate a scan of his Japanese POW Index Card, and this has been added also.  I am glad to know that this blog has helped you to learn a bit more about your family history.]


Comment by: Gordon
In Response To: Reader Comments
Received: 8/25/15

When can we expect to read the remaining chapters of the memoirs? I am particularly interested in his new start in East London, South Africa.  My son, Martin, participated in 'Blaze Away' at the Guild Theatre, playing 'Stranger on the Shore' on his clarinet.  I hope you can complete the story of your Opa.

[RK: I have certainly been tardy in adding new chapters to the biography, so thank you for this encouragement!  Han Samethini's scrapbooks contain a number of press cuttings and adverts for the 'Blaze Away' shows, including this one from July, 1969.  Do you or your son have any recollections of these productions, or of Mr. Samethini himself, that you would care to relate?  If so, I will be happy to include this information in the biography - with your permission, of course, and giving full credit to source.]


Comment by: Grace Kaplan
In Response To: Liberation and Heartbreak
Received: 10/10/15

My father is Piet van Velthuysen.  He passed away in 1987.  Thank you for posting this.  He often spoke of his time in the POW camp.

[RK: Thank you, Grace.  Your father's talent was very evident in the artwork he produced for POW entertainments!]

Comment by:  Jeff Keasberry 
In Response To:  Appendix D: Sketch Artist Jan Chevallier
Received: 7/21/17

Hi, my comment has been long overdue.  Great site and tribute to Han Samethini.

Thanks for posting the artwork of my grandfather (mother's side) Jan Chevallier.  I would love to share some background info about him.  Will come back soon!

[RK:  Thank you, Jeff!  I have long been curious about the career of your grandfather, Jan Chevallier, who was obviously a talented illustrator.  If not for the caricatures preserved in one of Samethini's scrapbooks, I would be unaware of his work.  I will be grateful for any information you can provide about the life of Mr. Chevallier, so that the blog section devoted to his memory (Appendix D) can be expanded and improved.  Again, thank you!]




iain calderwood said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RK said...

Iain, see my response above.