October 31, 2005


My father, Douglas Phipps Coles (known as Doug) was interned at Santo Tomas from the time of the Japanese invasion until repatriation. He was an Australian who had been living in Manila at the time of the invasion. For most of his time at Santo Tomas, he rose early each day (before curfew ended!) and did the laundry for the Annex and Children's Hospital, and carried meals to the children in the hospital, working 9 and 10 hours a day On August 21, 1942, he received a Community Service Award for "meritorious service to the Community by his outstanding efforts towards our united aim to maintain the highest standards of Health and Sanitation" in the camp. It was signed by a B.H. Silew, H.M. Kelly, and another person whose signature I cannot make out.


My father passed away in 1983, as the result of a series of strokes. He often told the stories of his internment when I was a child (he was 49 when I was born).

I would love his name to be included in the list on your website. Also if you have any other information about the camp and those in it and the experiences they had I would be very interested to hear about them.

With sincere thanks,

Graham Coles
Melbourne, Australia

and here's more from Graham...
November 2, 2005

Hello Tom,

What a pleasant surprise it was to receive such a prompt reply to my email, and to learn what you have done to recognize my Dad's involvement in Santo Tomas.

As requested, here are a few more details about my father.

He was born in 1901 in Melbourne, Victoria, and died in June, 1983, just short of his 82nd birthday.

Douglas Phipps Coles - about 1902

Before the war he spent several years in the Philippines and other areas of south-east Asia (Borneo, Mindanao, Hong Kong), for most of that time as an itinerant salesman. At the time of the outbreak of war he owned a house in Manila. He had been an avid photographer and stamp collector, and had kept diaries of his life. Unfortunately all of this (apart from a few photographs) was lost at the time of the invasion, and his house was burned to the ground. He lost the heart for his hobbies after that.

Dad was repatriated to Australia in 1945, after which he met and married my mother.

Mr. and Mrs. Coles

I was born in 1950 and grew up as an only child.

Proud dad with Graham age 5 months.

Doug Coles with his son, Graham

I am now a school teacher, with three adult children and one grandchild. My mother is 95 and still living in Brisbane.

When I was a child, I remember Dad telling stories of his life, especially his internment, to almost anyone who would listen. He would become quite emotional during his telling of these experiences, much to my embarrassment. My mother also became very tired of hearing about his internment, and got quite annoyed with him when he would start telling them to a new audience, which might be a family we were visiting for a meal. It was a case of "Here we go again...!" As a result, I lost interest in his stories for many years, and unfortunately it is only since his death I have started to realize how special they were. Now there are so many questions I would like to ask him, but no longer can.

He used to recall how a couple of men were planning an escape from the camp - I think by digging a tunnel. They invited him to join them, but he refused, calling them fools for trying. They were shot and killed in their escape attempt, so Dad was glad he had not joined them.

He recalled getting up at 4.30 a.m. almost every morning to begin the laundry for the Annex and children's hospital. He remarked how surprising it was that the guards did not challenge him, as it was before the end of curfew, but they must have realized he was harmless and ignored the breach.

He would often take meals to the children in the hospital. Throughout his life, or as long as I knew him, he had a love for children, and they would flock to him. I could never understand the attraction they had for him. I guess in becoming a primary school teacher I must have inherited his love for children. It's interesting that in later years when I was a child and teenager, Dad spent almost every Saturday afternoon visiting the hospital in the city where we lived (Bundaberg, Queensland) and chatting with patients, both adult and children, who had no visitors, and he would run little errands for them, such as buying a magazine for someone, etc. But as long as he lived he always woke up at 4.30 a.m. - no doubt a legacy of his wartime experience. He always had sleeping difficulties, and usually relied on sleeping tablets to enable him to sleep.

I am attaching a few photographs as well as the certificate he received, and the pages of the "Liberation Bulletin". I hope these are of interest.

Thank you for taking an interest in my father's life. It would be wonderful if I were to hear from someone who remembers him from Santo Tomas.


Graham Coles
Melbourne, Australia

If you would like to share any information about Douglas Phipps Coles
or would like to be added to my POW/Internee e-mail distribution list,
please let me, Tom Moore, know.

I forgot to tell you my father's favourite song was the old hymn, "Oh God Our Help in Ages Past". I think it meant something to him because it was one he remembered from the old Methodist Church he attended as a child in Melbourne, and it probably became even more meaningful during the war.
"Oh God Our Help in Ages Past"
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