Bicycle Camp, Batavia, Jakarta - Java ***

Bicycle Camp Batavia, 1942-3


The bicycle Camp at Batavia was located at a place called Senen in the older part of the city at Weltevreden. It was the former barracks to the 10th Battalion Bicycle Unit, Netherlands East Indies Army. POWs called it the Bicycle Camp.
A gravel road ran right up through the camp.  At the entrance were two iron gates  with an administration building to one side and a sentry box either side of the gates.  Off either side of the central road were twelve brick and concrete barracks with tiled roofs.
Toilet facilities were more hygienic –  the latrines were a covered area behind the barracks, an open drain about 15 feet long and 10 inches deep and about a foot wide in concrete where continual running water flushed out refuse to the local sewerage system.  Men stood above the gap or squatted beside.
For bathing there were taps with running water in the yards outside.  There were even a couple of concrete wash houses with a big tub of hot water – the men splashing themselves with the water outside.  There was even soap!
The 300 or so Perth survivors were given their own barrack as were the Houston survivors.
The 2/2nd Pioneers had been here since early March occupying the hut next to ‘Perth’ group.  With the 2/2 Pioneers were about 100 men from 2/3rd who had been put off on their way home from the Middle East.  And of course included some 2/4th men some of whom had escaped from Singapore.
The sleeping quarters consisted of little cubicles  divided off as bedrooms – for those who could not fit inside, they slept on the verandah.
Brigadier A.S. Blackburn VC was the most senior Allied Officer. The camp was run well. Discipline ensured the huts were cleaned and swept out daily and undertake outside duties.
The food was good.  Fresh green vegetables and bananas.  Three meals of rice daily with a good mixture of green vegetables, with occasional meagre amounts of meat.  There were five operating kitchens.  One for the officers, one each for the Americans and the Dutch and the other two for Australians.
Rivalry between the nationalities suited sporting games to keep the men fit.
The 2/2nd Pioneers shared their rations and some clothing to the Perth group – who had no supplies and little in the way of clothing having been in the water as the Perth sank.
There were regular work parties and eventually a canteen was established where the men could purchase items with the money they earned working.
There were concert parties presenting some entertainment.
The guards were Korean and the engineers were Japanese as was much the case on the Burma-Thai Railway.  The Koreans were cruel and despised by the POWs.
In May 1942 the camp was almost completely filled with British and Australian POWs. Work parties would leave the camp to do labouring jobs around the environs of Batavia or on the wharves at Tanjkong Priok. Tasks included roadwork, rolling steel drums, or sorting out motor vehicle parts, as there was a General Motors assembly plant at Tanjong Priok.
On 14th May British and Dutch troops were moved to another camp and the Australians from Glodok Prison and the advance party from Leles, were transferred to the Bicycle Camp. There were two 2/4th deaths at this camp.  Edgar Jones who died in July 1942 and William Nicholls who died 13 October 1942.

Reference to

Read about all POW Camps Java


By 10 October, the 1000 Dutch, 450 Americans and 500 Australians became known as Java 5A Party left Bicycle Camp for the port of Tanjong Priok to sail to Singapore under the command of Major L. Robertson, 2/5th Field Regiment.  They arrived and became known as the ‘JAVA RABBLE’.



Arthur Blackburn, a South Australian lawyer, became the first South Australian to receive the Victoria Cross (at the 1915 landing on Gallipoli).  In February 1942 a small Australian force including Blackburn’s battalion was hastily landed in Java; he was promoted temporary brigadier and appointed to command ‘Black Force’, with orders to assist the Dutch against the rapid Japanese advance. After three weeks vigorous but fruitless resistance, and in spite of Blackburn’s reluctance, the Allied forces surrendered.

Location of Bicycle Camp, Batavia, Jakarta - Java *** (exact)