January 1 – (Saturday)
I feel I must start the year off with an entry of some sort so here we are. The New Year began somewhat inauspiciously, blanketed by a heavy dismal fog that lends an atmosphere of isolation to our little world apart. The paper has not come around yet but those who have seen it report considerable progress in Russia with the Soviets taking back three strategic towns. Marked advances in Italy are also mentioned and some type of action is reported in Burma. Either Berlin or Germany in general have been the recipients of two thousand tons of allied bombs in the past day or so, indicating that the tempo of things is being stepped up all around.
The noon meal brought a bully stew which means just as much to us here as the turkey being enjoyed by the people at home and resulted in my deciding to give this a rest and crawl under the blankets for a little after-dinner nap. --- Not such a bad start for ‘44” at that. ----
January 15 – (Tuesday)
Little of local import has occurred in the first fortnight of 1944, in fact it is lack of movement in one quarter that has caused most of the conjecture recently. I refer to the draft situation. The draft which was scheduled to leave here the first week in December didn’t manage to get away until today although they had been warned to be ready several times. This fact coupled with the news that a draft of 500, mostly Canadians, had left Sham Shui Po for Japan has everyone making wild surmises as to the reasons behind the moves. Most popular theory seems to be that the hospital is being evacuated and the colony cleared of prisoners. Basis for the assumption re the hospital is the fact that, though the original draft was to number only twenty, the Japs have asked for forty, with some staff to be included. Twenty went out today with no admissions and another twenty are scheduled to leave Tuesday. I have asked to leave Tuesday for, though no officers are said to have been taken from camp with the last bunch, I’m rather inclined to agree with the theory that the colony is being cleared and I want to make sure I get out with “our” gang. Everything depends on a stool test Monday morning. Assumed reason for the movement of prisoners to Japan is the ever-increasing difficulty of food supplies and the imminence of possible action by the Chinese Army in this area. Our grub situation has actually shown a marked improvement in the last couple of weeks, with the exception of the last few days. Our rations have not improved in quantity but I must admit the quality of the greens to have been decidedly superior. The injection of chrysanthemum “greens” into our diet, on one or two occasions quite recently, however, is something which does not meet with my approval.
I have just finished a book titled “The Hows and Whys of Human Behaviour”, by George A. Dorsey, PhD. (Blue Ribbon Books Inc., New York City), which leaves me fairly bristling with good intentions and resolutions which I intend to apply on my return. A light psychological study, the book seems to have stirred me more in regards to personal problems, etc. than any that I’ve read and has served as a spur for me in the period of readjustment which awaits me on my return. I shall miss the library and the opportunities of undisturbed reading which the hospital affords.
Rather an unexpected disclosure was made in the news of a few days ago with the announcement that the Soviets were operating west of Sarny, a town well inside the Polish border. We had no indication that their drive had penetrated to such depths. Today’s paper tells of a raid over Germany on Tuesday which employed some 1,400 planes and quotes a German admission that one of the new reserve squadrons of fighters was employed against it. The same issue quotes Roosevelt as saying, “1944 marks the entry of the war in to the final stage, the offensive stage”. How we seize on such statements to bolster our hopes that the end is in sight.
My weight took a terrific jump in the last fortnight and I registered two gains of 4 ½ pounds each, leaving my tonnage at the new high of 155 pounds. Evidently “ole man dysentery” has been given the runaround. I hope!
In reading “A Short History of the English People”, by John Richard Green last night, I chanced on some remarks concerning religion by John Colet, one of the main intellects with Thomas More and Erasmus, behind the Renaissance in England. Strangely enough, our religious ideas seem to coincide and because of his clarity I quote some of his statements in the hope that some light may be cast on the muddle I made of my treatise of a few entries ago. To quote Green – “It was the resolve of Colet to fling aside the traditional dogmas of his day and to discover a rational and practical religion in the gospels themselves, which gave its peculiar stamp to the theology of the Renaissance. His faith stood simply on a vivid realization of the person of Christ. In the preeminence which such a view gave to the moral life, in his free criticism of the earlier Scriptures, in his tendency to simple forms of doctrine and confessions of faith, Colet struck the key note of a mode of religious thought as strongly in contrast with that of later Reformation times as with that of Catholicism itself. The great fabric of belief built by the medieval doctors seemed to him simply the “Corruptions of the schoolmen”. In the Life and Sayings of its Founder, he found a simple and rational Christianity, whose fittest expression was the Apostles Creed. “About the rest,” he said with characteristic impatience, “let divines dispute as they will.” Of his attitude towards the coarser aspects of the current religion, his behaviour at a later time before the famous shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury gives us a rough indication. As the blaze of its jewels, its costly sculptures, its elaborate metal work burst into Colet’s view, he suggested with bitter irony that a saint so lavish to the poor in his lifetime would certainly prefer that they should possess the wealth heaped around him since his death.” And again in his undertakings to reform the Church I quote Colet in an address to the convocation of the clergy at the commission of Bishop Warham. “Would that for once you would remember your name and profession and take thought for the reformation of the church! Never was it more necessary and never did the state of the church need more vigorous endeavors.” “We are troubled with heretics”, he went on, “but no heresy of theirs is so fatal to us and to the people at large as the vicious and depraved lives of the clergy. That is the worst heresy of all”. Colet’s idea of religious reform was, to again quote Green, “It was the reform of the bishops that must precede that of the clergy, the reform of the clergy that would lead to a general revival of religion to the people at large. The accumulation of benefits, the luxury and worldliness of the priesthood must be abandoned. Care should be taken for the ordination and promotion of worthier ministers and the low standard of clerical morality should be raised. It is plain that Colet looked forward, not to a reform of doctrines, but to a reform of life – not to a revolution which should sweep away the older superstitions which he despised, but to regeneration of spiritual feeling before which they would inevitably vanish”. Another quotation, this from one of Colet’s colleagues expresses still further the need of change. “Synods and decrees, and even councils”, wrote Erasmus, “are by no means in my judgement the fittest modes of repressing error unless truth depends simply on authority. But on the contrary, the more dogmas there are, the more fruitful is the ground in producing heresies. Never was the Christian faith purer or more undefiled than when the world was content with a single creed, and that the shortest creed we have”. Erasmus incidentally, pressed for the enlightenment of the poor and held that the undogmatized teachings of Christ should be available for them. Green says, “Erasmus desired to set Christ himself in the place of the Church, to recall men from the teachings of Christian theologians to the teachings of the Founder of Christianity”. Though the above was intended to apply to a background of some four hundred years past, it would seem that time has not completely eradicated the circumstances which motivated the need for reform. I might add that Colet, Erasmus and company had as supporters such ecclesiastics as the Bishops of Warham, Rochester and Winchester, so that it would seem that foundation for the need of reform was not lacking.
January 18 – (Wednesday)
Our Tuesday has passed without any indication of the departure of the draft. I’m afraid now that we’re destined to remain here at least until the end of the month.
My test on Monday indicates a lack of yee olde germe so I’ve evidently nothing to worry about from that quarter for awhile. My weight of the same day is rather disconcerting as I registered a loss of six pounds for the week. I’m inclined to suspect a degree of fickleness in the scales after my alleged four and a half pound gain of last week. At any rate, my weight now stands at 149, which represents a gain of three pounds in the last month.
Ugly rumours of a small draft having left Sham Shui Po still float around. I’m afraid if true, that Mac, Black and company will have been included. News, views and stews are lacking these days so I imagine this entry will just about wind up “Bowen Road Hospital Interlude.”
January 21 – (Saturday)
Just how much faith can one bestow on the old adage that “no news is good news”? That old saw, accompanied by an almost reverent hope, is on everyone’s lips and mind today. The reason? Wednesday’s paper headlined the news that Britain was endeavouring to negotiate a separate peace with Germany. Quoting the Soviet newspaper Pravda, the paper went on to say that Von Ribbentrop had effected a meeting somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula with two English representatives to discuss terms of a separate peace. It added that the meeting was not without some results. Subsequent paragraphs gave the views of various governments, the U.S. expressing surprise at its origin in the semi-official government organ, Pravda, and Britain merely announcing that the policies of the anti-Axis were already determined and remained that way. No comment was forthcoming from Germany or Russia. Immediately, we seized on the loophole that no country had actually come out with a denial of the article which, by the way, was dated January 12th. Thursday’s paper brought protests of indignation from anti-Axis quarters with allegations that Germany was using subtle means to effect a rift in the British-United States-Russia front. Again we sifted through reports and could find no denial of the meeting actually taking place. Friday was going to clarify matters we hoped but, unfortunately, no issue of Friday’s paper was delivered…nor Saturday’s…and we understand that no English or Vernacular papers either came up or were printed. I’m not sure which it is on those days. Anyway, there is the situation. Is there some big news in the offing and if so, is it Germany’s capitulation, (English seeking terms doesn’t seem to be justified at the moment) or the starting of the second front, or just coincidence? We reason that if suppression of news is behind it, that the first query would be the likely one since so much publicity has been given the remainder that it can be said to be something of which we expected to hear from day to day. Time alone will provide the solution, so we can do nothing but sit back and wait, and hope.
January 25 – (Tuesday)
I have chosen this day to answer, after a fashion, the conundrum presented by our news of last week, chiefly because the date marks the beginning of the New Year for the Chinese. As for the news – well, it just seemed to have evaporated. Sunday’s paper made no mention of the incident at all and any chance we might have had to see if we could ferret out anything significant in subsequent editions, went by the boards with the suspension of the paper until January 28thbecause of the New Year holiday. However, being an optimist of the super-duper class, I’m still inclined to believe it was a portent of a trend that, I hope, will manifest itself in the near future.
Our weather has been particularly outstanding these last few days. Warm, with bags of sunshine, it makes one feel grand just to be alive. Our local weather prophets are all crossed up as I understand from them that we should be on the verge of the cold, damp, dismal cycle of weather.
As can be seen, our draft has not materialized yet and it now looks as though we’ll see the end of January in here.
My latest excursion into the printed world is an excellent book by H.G. Wells titled “The Holy Terror”, which is not – as the title might indicate – a book on boxing or gangsterism, but a story of a wonderful new political movement embracing the people of a united England – United States sphere in particular and the world in general. At least so I gather from the first quarter of the book as read. Maybe his “Utopia” is the answer to our somewhat muddled scheme of things. We’ll see.
January 31 – (Monday)
This entry is being penned from the old stomping ground at Sham Shui Po, I having finally managed my get-away from the hospital with a draft on Saturday. Arriving here, I was able to set my mind at ease, inasmuch as those hideous rumours of subsequent drafts out of here proved false. It’s strange how one becomes reconciled to environments. I felt I was arriving back home when we landed here. The camp shows little change since my departure with the possible exception of the garden plots. Agriculture has branched out to such an extent that almost every available foot of ground is now being utilized as a food provider. Some administrative changes too are in evidence chief among which is the P.T. period twice daily, the morning one – compulsory for everyone – being accompanied by the camp band. Under the guiding hand of a new camp Sergeant Major who is said to be an exceptionally clever and likeable chap, the place fairly bristles with system and efficiency, a condition which brings out too clearly the muddled, though well-meant administration at the hospital. We have some three hundred Canucks, out of a total camp strength of around a thousand, so there was little foundation for our wild camp clearance rumour of Bowen Road. Rumours of another draft within a month are now circulating and are generally considered as an actual possibility. Personally, I care little when or where I go as long as I remain with the gang, although I have no desire to get mixed up with the senior officers again. The food situation is a definite improvement over the existing conditions at the hospital and I’m doing a lot of catching up these days. Generally speaking though, the food situation in the Colony is far from good and local food supplies become increasingly more difficult to procure. As far as we are concerned, Red Cross supplies seem to be on the verge of giving out so that, unless further shipments arrive, difficult times are in the offing. Latest word is that at present consumption rates, the atta will be finished and sugar has been a thing of the past for the last two months.
I arrived in camp just in time to catch the last night of the latest show and found it very good. I understand I’ve missed about three really good shows since my departure but will have an opportunity to see some of the better numbers in a show titled “Cavalcade of ‘43” which comes up shortly.
March 11 – (Saturday)
Once again, I’m enjoying (?) the comforts of the camp hospital. It would seem that, having once partaken, hospitalization tends to become something of a recurring habit. At any rate, we’re here again. My stay this trip should prove a short one for, though I’m in the dysentery ward, tests so far show no indication of the presence of the bug. My stomach seems to be upset about something, a condition which I’m afraid I brought on myself. A week ago or so I had the opportunity of joining the permanent wood-chopping staff of the hospital kitchen and, hoping that I might rebuild the old body with a bit of strenuous exercise, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, not only was it a mite too strenuous, but I found master’s body just couldn’t take things anymore, with the result that, after going off my feed for a week, my system finally openly rebelled at my efforts to over-ride my better judgement, resulting in my admittance Thursday night. Oh well! I’ll learn.
News around camp is conspicuous by its absence with the possible exception of the ever-present draft rumours. Information from several reliable sources seems to concur on the possibilities of our leaving by the month’s end. Some insist that the camp is to be cleared entirely by the middle of next month, others that the draft will be comprised of all the officers, plus some from Argyle Camp and a sufficient number of O.R.’s to act as batmen. Whatever its ultimate composition, a draft will be most welcome anytime. Food conditions in the Colony are fast approaching a stage which promises to be anything but amusing. Last week our rice ration was cut by one-third and the fact that we are near the end of our Red Cross reserves isn’t exactly encouraging. For reasons beyond our ken, we hear that M. & V. and bully rations will be increased next week from four to eight ounces per man per week for the former. This bit of news, coupled with the absence of flour and decrease of atta leads some to the conclusion that it is the intention to use up the small remaining Red Cross stores before the draft goes. Some idea of the difficulties being faced by people outside may be gleaned from current prices downtown, some of which I quote; rice – five yen per catty ( 1 ⅓ lb), pork – 18.50 per lb, beans – 2.60 (8 ounce tin), margarine – 12.00 per pound, salt – 3.10 per pound, onions (bulb variety) – 3.50 per pound, cooking oil – 25.00 per pound, local syrup – 10.80 (2 lb tin), soy sauce – 3.70 (pint), cigarettes (cheapest) – 45 sen for ten. Wood is 25.00 per picul (133 pounds) and like rice, sugar and oil is rationed. I might mention that a log of wood approximately two foot long by a diameter of one foot will weigh around 50 pounds. Our best buy in here is corned mutton at 10.50 per 12 ounce tin. Considering the probable earning capacity of the average individual outside, one can visualize just what they have to contend with, so it is not without reason that I say we are fortunate in here – nevertheless, malnutritional defects are again beginning to manifest themselves amongst the men so we welcome the possibility of any change.
Mail has been coming into camp for the past week almost daily, at the average of 30 to 40 letters per day, but so far I haven’t clicked. I’m still hoping for photos.
By co-incidence, less than six hours after penning the above re mail, I am the recipient of some myself. – Not “The” letter, but very acceptable none the less. A card expressing Christmas and New Year’s greetings, plus a prayer for my safe return home comes from Addie Seaver. Strange how friendships bridge the years. A note-worthy feature of today’s batch of mail is the inclusion of six letters for Harry White, his first since capture. Reports from the hut indicate that Harry is staggering around, still somewhat punch drunk not knowing where to start first. Mac says he’s so excited he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. What a thrill after these months of disappointment. Is it strange that we wonder how we’re going to react to different situations when we get out? I can visualize people excusing our actions with a shake of the head and a sad smile with the knowing assertion, “Really a shame my dear, but you know he was a prisoner of war for years.” Ah well! Maybe my creditors will adopt the same attitude.
March 17 – (Friday)
And so passes another 17thof Ireland, and with it the deflation of a rumour that has been most persistent for the past couple of weeks. From literally dozens of sources we have been hearing that the 17thwas the date on which the draft figures would be given out and all waited impatiently for news as to who was going etc. etc. An orderly sergeant’s call this morning announcing distribution of caps to some of the inmates and requesting information as to who possessed, or rather, did not possess two serviceable shirts, served to strengthen our convictions. Instead I hear tonight of a proposal for the construction of air raid shelters as a precaution against “all-out” bombing. That doesn’t sound like we’re moving out.
One bit of local news has come out since the last entry which might possibly have some interesting reverberations. I refer to the action of local government in removing rice from the ration list downtown. This action is tantamount to an official admission by government that they are unable to keep the Colony supplied and they now place the onus on the local Chinese merchants to see what they can do. It means simply that whatever stocks of rice do enter the Colony will be placed on the open market where those having sufficient money will be able to procure what they want, while those less fortunate --- well --- The price of rice jumped from 5 yen to 15 yen per catty on the black market the day the announcement was made, although the measure is not effective until April 15. Despite official admonition against profiteering, it would look to me as though someone is going to go hungry. What then?
General war news, while none too plentiful, is definitely favourable to us. A late “Bamboo telegraph” report informs us of the Russian penetration into Poland as far as Lemburg. If true, it would indicate everything is under control in the Eastern Front sector. The local paper still records the ever-approaching advance of the Yanks in the south and it now looks as though the Burma campaign has finally got under way.
March 19 – (Sunday)
I continue on Sunday in order to have an entry on Paddy’s birthday. Many happy returns Pat. Once again, I’m hoping to celebrate the next one with you. I can hardly picture you in your present state. Surely you must be as big as your mother by this time. I hope you still retain an interest in the piano and that your mother has been instructing you in the finer points of golf. By the time of my return we should be able to make up a pretty fair family foursome. – Maybe next summer.
I’m still hospitalized although I’ve changed my residence from Dysentery ward to Convalescent. The M.O. has me on a nice mushy diet of ground rice, aided and abetted by a course of ten needles of nicotinic acid. – So – I’ve little to do but sit around and rest, a thing I find easy enough to do with my stomach in its present condition. Some of us have life pretty easy.
March 27 - (Monday)
At long last I am able to record receipt of the much-hoped for letters and snaps from Glad. Yours of August 15/42 duly received and in the process of digestion. I can’t say offhand whether the receipt of the family likeness has had an uplifting or depressing effect. Certainly it does make one wonder what in hell we’re wasting time on this side of the globe for. – Oh well! I also received a newsy letter from Nina last week, dated July 29, 1942. (It would seem as though we’re a mite off the beaten path when it comes to getting mail). Nina mentions receiving a typewritten letter from Paddy. I hope the latter is going in for it seriously.
Once again I’m back in the lines, the reason being that some rather significant moves have taken place in camp – moves that would seem to point to only one thing, a draft. Friday a camp muster on the square resulted in the registration of all the fit men in camp and further steps, taken Sunday and Monday, which seems to be resulting in the setting out of segregation areas, leaves us with little doubt concerning the imminence of a draft. Having no knowledge of just who might be included in the draft personnel and fearing that a “quickie” might be pulled which might catch me hospitalized, I asked for, and received, my release. Actually I do feel much improved though I am at present plagued by a type of scabies which finds me with a dozen or so very healthy sores, all nicely septic. What condition my blood must be in!
Bamboo telegraph, which at one time or another has served us up some pretty fair rumours, comes to bat now with a really “colossal” set, some of which have been verified, leaving us wondering whether to “bite”, as we have done with former “super-dupers” or to disregard the whole lot as hokum. Anyway, for what they’re worth here they are: Operations commenced by March 3rdby States forces against areas on Luzon Island (P.I.) resulted in the establishment of a Yank bridgehead after twelve days of bitter fighting. American forces are now reported to be forcing their way towards Manila in the face of fierce enemy opposition. Item #2 – Anti-Axis troops in considerable number are reported to have effected a landing on the Dalmation Coast. Item #3 – It is also reported that U.S. troops operating in the D.E.I. area effected a landing on Sumatra. Item #4 – News from the Eastern front indicates that the Russians, in their drive westward, have succeeded in crossing Bessarabia and are now operating in Romania proper. Of this stock, I’m afraid the last mentioned item can be the only one which we can hope to really contain any germ of truth. However, “if” some credence could be given the others, our chances of liberation this year would be considerably enhanced. I must admit most of us to be, after our two years plus, just selfish enough to gauge the importance of most of our news by the bearing it has on our ultimate release. Regardless of the veracity of rumour, the “bona fide” paper news received continues to buoy us up. The Ruskies continue their marvelous work and a small item in yesterday’s paper, telling of Churchill making a short “before the battle” speech to troops in England lends us the hope that work will soon commence on another front which will bring that climax, which we all await, to affairs in the west. – Roll on lads! This mode of living threatens to become monotonous.
Another squint at my letters and pictures makes me more impatient than ever.
April 1 – (Saturday)
As I enter this effort in my book, I hear snatches of news from tonight’s paper. Evidently, the Germans have evacuated a town in northern Romania, situated on the Pruth River, which is situated on the main railway line to the south areas and can therefore be considered important strategically. News of invasion preparations in Holland, which include flooding of some of the Low Countries is also a hopeful sign.
No further news on draft developments but we hear tomorrow is the day.
April 7 – (Good Friday)
This would seem to be my lucky day, at least as far as mail is concerned. Tonight I am the lucky recipient of four letters, two from Gladys, one from Nina and one from Frank Allen, all of them very newsy. I feel something of a pig, getting four in one bunch while others have still to hear from wives and mothers but I guess that’s the luck of the draw. I’m glad to see Paddy still retains her musical interest and I note, with some apprehension, my wife’s evident improvement in the field of golf. I humbly submit also, to the administration of the wrist-slap over the matter of Shelagh’s age. To be quite frank, I had thought her to be three and a half years of age when I left. Now that I’ve firmly established the years of one member of the family, all I need is a hint as to Paddy’s and your own and I’ll be all set. I’m still able, after complex calculations, to accurately establish my own age. I still can’t get used to the satisfaction derived from receipt of the written word from home. It’s amazing --------
Events in camp remain at the well-known standstill, even the draft rumours seeming to have evaporated. I imagine the draft is still a fact but either lack of ships or blockade seems to have put the kibosh on it for the present. A blessing in the form of some supplies from the Chinese Red Cross has been received in camp and, though I’m not sure of the quantities, the following items are rumoured to have been brought in. Peanut butter (70 lbs), shark oil, bran (1,800 lbs), sugar (brown) and soybean milk powder. Regardless of the quantities entailed, we accept with grateful thanks and thank heaven for such humanitarian organizations as the Red Cross. I don’t think there’s any doubt that most of us owe our lives to the earlier efforts of this group in providing us with food. We have, by a freak of circumstances, profited in still another way due to the scarcity of food. It may be remembered that, approximately a year ago, some twenty-five pigs were purchased from outside with money from the camp amenities fund, the object being to provide a modest meat supply for future days when Red Cross supplies were no longer available. The number of pigs having increased from the original twenty-five to some ninety-odd presented an additional problem in the matter of fodder, slops and left-over rice from camp proving inadequate. According to rumour, the ration officer took it upon himself to issue, unofficially of course, rice from the rations which was cooked up for the pigs. Somehow, news of this reached the Japs, who were somewhat annoyed and their suggestion was that the pigs be sold at the original purchase price of 1.50 yen per pound (present price downtown ~34 yen), the money to be used to buy rice to replace that used for fodder. By some adroit means, an agreement was come to which calls for the slaughter of all pigs, except five, over a three month period so that we now enjoy pork stews twice a week. Needless to say – that suits us!
My letters came along at a most opportune time. Physically, I’ve been at a low ebb all day – due to efforts to cleanse my system and rid myself of these septic sores. I’ve taken a course of strepticide pills throughout the day and I may say that the physical reaction to “strep” is a most glorious “hang-over” consisting of terrific headaches, nausea and a very unsettled stomach. After feeling sorry for myself all day, the letters proved just the stimulant I needed.
I have just finished Douglas Reed’s “Insanity Fair” and found it most entertaining and enlightening. He certainly foretells the events leading up to this war and gives a remarkably clear picture of the current trends. Reed’s picture is somewhat different to that portrayed by Gibbs, particularly in their conception of the subsequent effects, however, this is due, I think, to the different strata in which each worked. I also read a few chapters of his “Disgrace Abounding” and was particularly struck with two chapters in which he deals with the Jewish problem. He is certainly anti-Semitic but I must admit his arguments against them seemed well-founded and sound. – I hope to make several books of this type, which I have read here, the nucleus of a small library that will assist me in after-years in my endeavour to keep abreast of the times.
Just in passing I want to mention an editorial, aimed at profiteering, which appeared in last night’s paper and which mentions one or two items affected by our local ‘inflation”. One of the examples given was “caustic soda”, an article used in the manufacture of soap and which, according to the article, sold for $100 (Hong Kong) per tub before the war. The paper went on to state that although stocks still existing were brought in before the commencement of hostilities, the price of caustic soda soared as high as 120,000 yen per tub, the present price being 40,000 yen. Towels too were mentioned and the editor could not reconcile himself to the price of a small thin towel being 35 yen and rice being sold at 7.50 per pound. Seems screwy, doesn’t it? I only hope that when deductions are made from our pay for board and lodging etc. enjoyed here, they are made on the exchange basis represented in the first example. Thus – Hong Kong $100 - $33.50 (Canadian) – 120,000 therefore equals damned little. I fear I’m going to begrudge paying out for lodging and pay while in here.
April 22 – (Saturday)
A series of developments in connection with the much-rumoured draft has served to occupy our minds with the usual questions of destination, disposition, etc., and serves also as an excuse for this entry. The machinery was set in motion on Wednesday when the camp R.E.’s received orders to construct a kitchen bake-shop and ration stores in “E” and “F” lines which, with the exception of our hut, had previously been segregated by wire from the rest of the camp. This move, of course, started the usual flurry of rumours and conjectures. Thursday, a draft of medical people, ten from Bowen Road and ten from Argyle, arrived in camp and were immediately herded behind the wire where they were somewhat incommunicable by an order which promised that anyone trying to establish contact with them would risk being shot. Friday forenoon brought an orderly sergeant’s call which resulted in some two hundred of the camp personnel being called up and also placed behind the wire. Today rumour has it that a party of officers, alleged to be 150, were put aboard ship at Cosmopolitan docks this afternoon so it would seem that Argyle too is being denuded. All we’d like to know is – does the set-up include officers from here, and if so, who? – Unfortunately we lose Johnnie, Joe and Guita but we hope for a reunion in the not-too-distant future. Pending the draft’s departure, we are occupying temporary quarters a little more removed from the segregation area.
I’m back on the wood-chopping gang again and my weight is doing a remarkable come-back job. A check-up a couple of days ago reveals a topping, by two pounds, of my pre-dysentery weight of 161. How much of the new weight can be attributed to beri-beri is a matter of conjecture, but on the whole I feel rather fit. My legs have given me a spot of bother recently but this and a “pellagra mouth” are my only physical complaints. I do hope the old body hangs out sufficiently to allow me to continue working. Whatever else it does, it’s certainly perked up my appetite.
April 24 – (Monday)
Another letter from Gladys – this one dated August 25, 1943. Things are speeding up. Glad to note the consummation of the Dahl-Leavesly nuptials. I’ll have me a bottle of rum on the strength of that – someday.
April 30, 1944 – Swift Current, Sask.
My dearest Len,
All are well here and at Winnipeg. Still no mail from you. Hope and pray that you are well. Snaps taken recently. Aren’t the girls big?
All my love,
May 6 – (Saturday)
The yearly commemorative effort in honour of the combined birthdays of Shelagh, Grandma Hart, Nina, etc. being due tomorrow and no work today due to wood shortage, I’ll just combine circumstances and rattle off a few lines. First, my very best wishes for many more anniversaries for those concerned. McCarthy recalls that May 7this also the birthdate of several members of his clan so we feel that momentous things must result (particularly in Europe, we hope) from such favourable portents. Indications given us by our local papers lead us to expect the opening of the second front momentarily and, of course, we have every confidence in it being prosecuted to a successful conclusion. Whether the action, when finally undertaken, will be decisive enough to encourage our hopes of being released this year, remains to be seen but – we still hope.
The departure of the draft last Saturday was marked by more than the usual feeling of loss generally accompanying these occasions. The loss of so many of our Portuguese friends seemed somehow to be more poignant than that experienced in other drafts. It was almost as though these chaps were life-long friends rather than mere acquaintances of two short years. We have much to thank these friends of ours for, particularly through some of our most difficult times, when acts of comradeship entailed the personal sacrifice of truly essential things which they cheerfully shared with friends whose circumstances prevented the procurement of foodstuffs, etc. I shall recall too with much pleasure, the hours of sport enjoyed with this fine group of athletes and count myself fortunate in having met and competed against such good sportsmen as the Leonard brothers – Terry, Dave, Norm and Stan; the Gosana brothers – Jerry, Luigi, and Zinho; “Spotty” Perara, “Rerry” Noronha, Tony Alves, Georgie White and a host of others, all gentlemen, both on and off the playing field. Yes, we Canadians owe much to the lads of Hong Kong’s Portuguese colony. Their contribution to our drab camp existence can not be extolled enough. Mac, Blackie and myself experienced a more personal loss with the departure of Johnnie, Joe, Guita, “Uncle” (E.M. Franco) and “Rickie” (Ricardo Silva). We sincerely hope our friends are enjoying their new habitation and we look forward to a happy reunion in the not-too-distant future.
Camp life remains as dull and monotonous as ever with nothing to vary the normal run of work parties, camp fatigues, etc. Since my arrival from Bowen Road, I find my mental processes have gone into another flat spin, with the result that I have the greatest difficulty in undertaking the reading of a book or any sort of writing. I seem unable to recapture the feeling of ambition that prevailed for a short time at Bowen Road.
Generally speaking, our domestic state has improved somewhat in these last few months so that I think a résumé of an average camp day might not be amiss. Firstly, in the matter of quarters, I find our present accommodation leaving something to be desired. We understand, and are cheered by the thought that, the present set-up is of a temporary nature, which is just as well since we find ourselves squeezed, some forty of us, into one hut. The ever important question of food promises – unless some unexpected new source is tapped, to be one which will probably be uppermost in our minds for the next few months. The bulk of our Red Cross supplies have been used up, together with those furnished by the local Red Cross, a month or so ago and our position is now one in which we find ourselves dependant, with the exception of a very small quantity of bully and M. & V. still remaining, on local markets for a supplementary food to go with our rice. Unfortunately, from a purely personal standpoint, the mainstay of this auxiliary supply lately has been melons and cucumbers, neither of which I have any love for. I’ll be glad when seasonal changes force a commodity change. Beri-beri and pellagra are again making inroads into general camp health but I believe we’ll not be too badly off if our present diet can be maintained.
I believe I’ve mentioned the improvement shown in interior administration in the camp of late. Fortunately, those days seem to have gone when people were, for no evident reason, the recipients of slaps, poundings and the prodding of rifle-butts, and I do think that very few, if any, of the camp inmates have anything but good to say for our local Japanese administration. We do, however, harbour a great deal of resentment for the English officer who acts in the capacity of camp liaison officer. Whether this man is so frightened of our hosts as to let his judgement become warped or whether it’s just another “Limey” trait, I can’t say, but certainly his attitude and methods have promoted a feeling of revulsion throughout the whole camp. Imagine – if you can – a “Regular” British officer in a British POW camp using his own countrymen as stool-pigeons and stooges amongst their own compatriots to report minor infractions and petty breaches of camp discipline to him, this by the way, was carried on to the extent of placing men in the latrines in an endeavour to report anything which might be included in casual conversation. Things of this nature, if we are to believe our propaganda machines at home, might be expected from some of our enemies, who we are led to believe are not quite as “enlightened” as we more “Fortunates”, but it just doesn’t seem “cricket” to find such measures being practiced by officers and men of the armed forces of the “Mother” country. It is generally conceded that one might expect more justice and consideration in direct dealings with the Japs than can be obtained from the office of the liaison officer. To get on with a résumé of our “day” – Reveille at seven followed by a breakfast of ground rice and tea at half past seven officially commences our day. Morning muster at 8:45 is followed by a half-hour of the musical P.T. which I mentioned earlier, after which the daily camp fatigues such as sanitary, drawing or ration cleaning of areas, drains and huts undertaken by those not permanently employed. “Permanent” employment refers to kitchen staff, wood-choppers, gardeners, ordinance people, etc. The gardens, incidentally, are being run these days almost wholly by officers and have proved a boon to the camp diet question – to say nothing of the profit derived by those employed there. Lunch at 12:15 usually brings rice, tea and a thin vegetable stew which suffices us until the main meal at 5:30. A second P.T. parade at 3 p.m. for those not “employed” serves to discourage too much lying around the huts. Dinner follows immediately after the 4:45 muster parade and it usually consists of the usual rice and tea augmented by a somewhat thicker stew than at tiffin and, twice or three times a week, fish (usually fried – if size permits). Lights out at eleven brings each monotonous day to a close and we repair to our “couches” to contemplate the possibilities of our release this year and the good things it would entail.
In regard to sports, we find that disease and successive drafts seem to have virtually eliminated this form of time-killer from our routine, however with the coming of warm weather, volleyball is in the revival stages – in fact, a small league is in the offing – made up of members of the kitchen and wood–chopping gangs. Generally speaking, it would seem that the days of really good competitive sport are gone.
The weather man has been particularly kind to us this year as we were not subjected to more than two or three weeks of cold weather – a fact for which we are indeed thankful since it is quite likely that in our present condition, inclemency of weather might have seriously affected the health of the camp.
The first mail for some days brought a most welcome letter from George Dunlop. Yes, the main theme was golf. Rather makes one homesick for the old fairways and sand greens.
A group of some hundred and fifty-odd officers arrived from Argyle Camp and took up residence in the “segregation area” mentioned earlier. Rumour has another two hundred and fifty joining them soon as a prelude to an officers’ draft. We have been expecting the order to move in with them but as yet it has not been forthcoming. Colonel Price and Charles Price, Major McCauley and Father Deloughrie are the only newcomers I’ve recognized so far.
May 6th, 1944 – Shelagh…
My fifth birthday tomorrow. A shared birthday with my Great Grandmother Mary Hart – who was born in the year of Confederation – and my Aunt Nina, Dad’s older sister. But still no recollection on my part of what was going on around me in terms of daily activities. I remember living in the little house on Third West that my mother mentions in her letters – and I know from the pictures of Paddy and I taken in that home that life carried on – without word from my father and what was happening to him. Hard to imagine that we had no idea about his state of health or circumstances as a prisoner of war.