THE BRITISH OCCUPATION OF SUMATRA
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THE BRITISH OCCUPATION OF SUMATRA book
Sumatra, then as now, was far less densely populated than Java. The census carried out by the Dutch administration in 1930 states that the population of Sumatra was 8,238,570; the population of Java and Madura, by contrast, was 41,719,524.1
Sumatra is a much larger island. A chain of mountains runs inland, parallel with the west coast. The eastern side of the island is marshy and humid. The climate is markedly hotter. The heat was such that the British did not attempt to do much during the day. Caroline Coham-Fleming, who worked for the Red Cross in Medan and married a British officer, remembers ‘long, hot, sultry days’.2 Glyn Moyle, an 18-year-old private in the South Wales Borderers, also stationed in Medan, says: ‘It was so hot. It was hotter than Burma. You couldn’t do anything during the day. An officer tried to organize a parade but was reprimanded by a superior.’3 There is a great deal of jungle and a wider range of exotic flora and fauna. It is much more inaccessible and large areas of the interior are populated by tribal peoples. There are very few large towns and distances between towns and villages are great. Communications are less developed: there is no railway linking up the island and roads are of poor quality.