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Memento : Issue 27
While Rosemary Také's wish is not unusual, the story of her grandfather's internment, as revealed by documents held in our collection, certainly is. Rosemary's grandfather, Takéo Tsuji, was one of 834 Japanese prisoners-of-war who were 'repatriated' from Australia to Japan in August 1942, in exchange for Australian nationals. But like many other Japanese internees from Loveday camp in South Australia, Takéo Tsuji was not returning home but to a country he had chosen to leave over 20 years earlier. The men were long-term residents of New Caledonia -- miners, farmers and fishermen who had migrated there from Japan in the early 1900s. It is presumed they were arrested in New Caledonia and interned in Australia at the beginning of the war. Their families and homes awaited them in New Caledonia, thousands of kilometres from their final destination. According to records held in our Adelaide collection, five of these New Caledonian men felt so strongly about their removal to Japan that they lodged formal declarations to the Loveday camp commandant requesting exclusion from repatriation, preferring to remain interned. Yet, a little over a week later four of the five were reported to have 'now requested that they be allowed to go', and on 18 August 1942 they joined 830 others on the SS City of Canterbury when it sailed from Melbourne. Many of these men never returned to New Caledonia from Japan, and their children and grandchildren, like Rosemary Také, grew up not knowing about their time of internment in Australia or why they were sent to Japan. In October last year, Rosemary and a group of 20 other members of the Amicale Japonaise de Nouvelle- Calédonie (Japanese Friendly Association of New Caledonia), led by association president Marie-Josée Michel, came to Australia to discover what they could about their family members' lives as internees in Australia in World War II. Early on the group's itinerary was a very moving visit to the site of the former internment camp at Loveday. Once a camp covering 440 acres of cultivated land and housing over 5000 male internees, Loveday was so large that it had its own hospital, bakery, piggery and post office, and its poppy farm was the largest producer of raw opium in Australia. Now all that remains are a few concrete foundations partly hidden by weeds in the open fields. In an effort to learn about the daily lives of their relatives in this place where so few clues remained, Marie-Josée, Rosemary and several others visited our Adelaide office. At the time of their pilgrimage to Loveday, Rosemary was unsure whether her grandfather had even been interned there, but in a military security file about the repatriation of Japanese internees she struck gold, finding her grandfather listed on a Loveday nominal roll. In this same file is a diary kept in meticulous Japanese characters by a Japanese internee from Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) recounting events in the daily life of Loveday internees. The New Caledonian researchers pored over the English translation of this diary, building up a mental picture of life in the camp. They read of surprise inspections of tents, the issue of clothing, food, newspapers and tobacco, funerals for internees, Japanese language lessons, Charlie Chaplin movies, physical drills, wrestling and baseball matches. The diary also recorded the arrival of new groups of internees, the purchase of a 'talky projector', the effect of weather on labouring, and occasionally, and most treasured of all, entries about the movement of particular men from New Caledonia to other camps. Although no Loveday case files or index cards for the researchers' relatives could be found, we were able to provide copies of dossiers on 24 of the New Caledonian Japanese internees sought. Marie-Josée wrote: 'Our pilgrimage was really successful on all points: close friendship in the party, good organisation, nice people we met, abundant collection at the National Archives, nice weather, warm welcomes and so many things. We have got the serenity and the appeasement of our spirit, happy to re-build our ancestors' roots and reconstituting the puzzle of their lives. All our thoughts are of gratitude. ' 'Seeing the place where my grandfather was interned during the war became a real necessity.' Rosemary Také, December 2003 Three of the visiting researchers from New Caledonia in our Adelaide reading room with Reference Officer Graham Thomas (left) and State Director Graham Hawker (far right). Marie-Josee Michel (second from left) is holding the diary of a Japanese internee, which is in our collection. Spring--Summer 2004 MEMENTO 15