Hong Kong Vets of Pilot Mound

Knud Agerbak

Ken AgerbakBorn in Copenhagen, Denmark Oct 8, 1918 to Anton and Kama Agerbak middle child of five children, Borge and Tage older and Anne and Margaret younger. The family moved to Pilot Mound Manitoba in 1927 when he was 9 years old, where he went to school at Gowancroft until the age of 13. Then he worked for different farmers in the area for 3 years before Borge and Knud went to Great Falls to freight supplies for the mines at Gunner Gold and San Antoine for the winter , moving to the Keewatin Lumber Company following that.    

While taking a break in the fall of 1939, Borge and Knud heard war had broken out and headed to Winnipeg to enlist. Tage had signed up with the Winnipeg Grenadiers the day before they got there. Not knowing, they went to enlist with the Princess Pats but because their father hadn't filed citizenship papers and Knud was a month too young, they were turned away. They then went over to the Winnipeg Grenadiers to try telling the same story and were told to go outside and come back in saying they were Canadian citizens and they could sign up so that is what they did. Knud (Ken) and his two brothers trained in Winnipeg until the spring of 1940 when they were moved to Bermuda then on to the West Indies. In the West Indies most of their time was spent on guard duty, not much actual training went on and there was very little weapons training as well. They spent about a year and a half in the West Indies before returning to Winnipeg October 10, 1941. On October 19th, 1941 they were regrouped and separated into different Companies. Knud went to "A" Company.  They were loaded on a train bound for Vancouver without knowing their final destination until a brief stop over in Calgary where they were told they were headed for Hong Kong.    

They arrived in Vancouver October 21st and were loaded onto ships headed for Hong Kong, landing at Cowloon where they were marched to Shansypo Barrack. Over the next three weeks A Company was attacked by the Japanese from the north and many were killed or injured including the Commanding officer and the second in command. The men that were still able, made their way back to their camp and were regrouped with B Company. Again they were ambushed and many killed or injured. At this point there were just small groups of men left and it was more or less every man for himself. Most of the survivors ended up at Wonleesong Gap on Christmas day 1941 and were told to surrender and move to the hill top where they were certain they would be gunned down. The Japanese bayoneted (killed) the ones that were wounded so severely that they couldn't walk and the rest were marched down to ferries and taken back to their barracks and held prisoner.

During the battles these men were out numbered 10-1 and were very poorly equipped. Basically all they had were the weapons they could carry - rifles, Bren guns, a few Tommy guns and a small mortar.    

While being held, men were used in work camps building Tytac Airport and conditions were bad - no washing or waste facilities. Men got sick with diphtheria, plague, and beri beri and many died. They were fed rice twice a day and expected to do 12 hours of hard manual labor.    

After some time, some of the men, including Knud were taken to Japan to work in the ship yards. They were loaded up in the hold of an old freighter ship, not fed and forced to live in their own waste.

When they arrived at Yokohama they were paraded to the barracks. Knud was put in charge of a French company but could not speak French so communication was hard. He also could not speak Japanese which made communication doubly hard but he did manage to learn enough Japanese to get by.

Knud and his new company worked in the ship yards with the same diet of rice and sometimes if they were lucky a piece of vegetable or fish. When men weren't where they were supposed to be or didn't listen their commanding was the one to get punished as he was supposed to have control over them. These men seemed to think this was great as they wouldn't get the beating and they had him over a barrel. At times the Japanese would put him out in the scorching sun without a shirt and then at night when it got quite cool, throw a water soaked towel over him. These men were expected to keep up with the Japanese workers even with their malnutrition and sicknesses and when they didn't were punished.  

Early in 1944 the bombing of Tokyo had started and these men were then transferred to the Iron mines in northern Japan. Men were required to load so many cars in a day in the mines and they worked twelve hours a day.  There was no safety equipment no hard hats sandals on your feet and they wouldn't take the men out of the mine when they blasted. All they had was carbide lights and when they blasted that blew out the lights and they had to wait until the Japanese came around to relight them.    

When the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happen and the Japanese surrendered, it took quite a long time for these men to be found but once spotted food was dropped into them by parachute to hold them over until they could be helped out of there. They were marched down to the coast and loaded onto ships and taken back to Tokyo and from there flown to Guam where Ken spent a week in hospital. He spent time in different hospitals along the way finally making it home to Winnipeg where his mother and father awaited him. To their surprise it was him that showed up, not Tage as they were told he was missing in action. Knud spent time in Deer Lodge hospital after that suffering from depression, malnutrition, stomach ulcers, bad nerves and other associated illnesses.    

When Knud was well enough he made his way to Flin Flon and was hired on at Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting and worked in the Smelter there for 22 years. Bad health plagued him through his whole time there in and out of hospital at Deer Lodge until finally in 1966 he required a stomach transplant. This was one of the first few operations like this ever performed and he suffered a long time with that until finally his body adopted it. In 1968 his working days at HBM&S were over, still suffering symptoms of his war trauma he would pass out from the heat at work at times and decided that he should look for other means of employment .    

His family and him ended up back in Pilot Mound where Tage's widow Rose still lived. He worked at different odd jobs and made enough to survive on there and stayed until they decide to move to Tisdale Saskatchewan in 1989. Knud's wife Elizabeth was from that part of the country and at that time had many relatives sill living so they spent the rest of his life there before passing away on December 19, 2001 of cancer.