May 28 1944 – (Sunday)
I’ll utilize my “day of rest” to add the odd thought to the “journal”. The only event of any importance since the last entry is the receipt of mail which included a Father’s Day card from Paddy and a letter from Dad. It’s good to hear that things were in good shape at home as recently as August of last year. Indications of an increase in tempo in the war situation and the ever impending second front leaves us optimistic about our freedom chances this year.
I’m still on the wood gang and my weight increases with a rapidity that is almost embarrassing. Our monthly weigh-in for the Japs found my tonnage increased from either 147 or 149, at the last official weigh-in, to 172 this time. Not bad on rice!
An indication of the difficulty experienced in trying to put thoughts to paper in this environment may be understood when I say that the date is now June 4th, a week after the three or four line endeavour that was started as last week’s contribution. In the matter of local news, I’ve missed nothing newsworthy in spite of the week’s lapse. Directly or indirectly the wood-chopping job is proving a great time killer. The work itself actually occupies only the mornings but I find that I’m able to spend the afternoon sleeping without jeopardizing my night’s effort to any extent. I may have mentioned previously the extreme hardness and all-around toughness of the wood we handle, particularly camphor, eucalyptus and a type we call Singapore hardwood. With the somewhat make-shift type of tools we use, we find that a morning’s work expends just about as much physical effort as one cares to give.
Between working and sleeping I’ve managed to get in a spot of reading having just concluded Douglas Reed’s third and last volume, “A Prophet At Home”. Reed indulges in a bitter denunciation of English politics and politicians in “The Prophet” and flays them unmercifully for the deterioration of the parliamentary system to the apathetic state which allowed them to be caught in the terrible state of unpreparedness evident at the outbreak of this war. Another book in the same vein, “Guilty Men” by Cato is also a scathing indictment of the politicians whose responsibility the aforementioned conditions was claimed to be.
Our rainy season has descended upon us since the last entry and seems to be determined to make up for lost time.
The Chinese Red Cross again comes to bat with another installment of bran, sugar, peanut butter and shark oil. We may thank God that organizations of this kind are allowed to perform at least some of their functions in wartime.
June 11 – (Sunday)
At long last we hear tidings from the western front which raise our hopes to a new high. The long-awaited second front has finally been launched. News of the momentous event was contained in Thursday’s paper and from it we learned that landing operations had begun on June 5thand 6thin the area between La Havre and Cherbourg. Subsequent news in Friday’s edition mentions further landings in the same area and, though they state that all paratroops that effected landing have been annihilated, we feel that such a statement is a bit of wishful thinking and we have every confidence in the ultimate success of the venture. Great excitement prevailed in camp in receipt of the news and people immediately cast caution to the winds and issued predictions on Germany’s collapse in periods ranging from two weeks to two months. Whatever other vices we as a group possess, pessimism does not seem to be included. Yesterday’s paper (Vernacular) presents a more detailed picture and from it we learn that Eisenhower and Montgomery are both in France directing operations, so it would seem that things are under some measure of control. Mention is also made of a reserve force of eighty divisions poised in readiness in Scotland. The use of three Divisions from Canada in the initial landing will bring the inevitable casualty list for those at home and, though I hope to be in error, I’m afraid these will be quite heavy. I suppose Hubert, Bob and many of our friends will be in the thick of things. We – in here – pause to reflect on what useless pieces of furniture we have become.
The local situation remains as unproductive as usual, except that yesterday’s paper mentions the round-up and capture of some one hundred and twenty persons, plus arms and ammunition, on Lantau Island, about six miles distant – with the claim that they were Communists. We have hopes that something will break in the not-to-distant future which will give us some indication of how things are shaping up in this area.
We enjoyed our first soft-ball game of the year when the hospital kitchen defeated #1 kitchen by a 6 to 2 score this morning. Our wood-chopper volley ball team begins to shape up nicely and we now share top league honours with the bakery sextet so perhaps from a sports viewpoint the summer season many not be entirely unproductive after all.
Another trip to the scales today finds me still piling it on. I tipped the beam at 178, an approximate gain of thirty pounds since dysentery days, unfortunately some of it is beri-beri and I hope to start a thiamin course tomorrow. Another bit of annoyance I’m currently enjoying is prickly heat brought on – I imagine – by my super secretions of perspiration these days.
June 12 – (Monday)
A further invasion report alleged to have come from the Vernacular and circulating tonight quotes Eisenhower as having expressed complete satisfaction with the initial stage of the landing and announcing that the second stage is under way. Neutral shipping was warned to remain in port for the period from June 8thto 15thevidently for its own protection. Complete optimism prevails in camp with the belief that “44” is theyear being almost unanimous.
June 25 – (Sunday)
The passing of another week brings little change in the general war situation in the west, at least by what we can judge from our news sources. Further developments in the Pacific sphere appeared with the announcement that an American task force had effected landing on Saipon Island, one of the Marianna group and a most strategic base, on June 17th. Yesterday’s paper also mentions that on June 19thand 20tha combined Japanese fleet encountered three groups of an American task force west of the Mariannas. Something a little new and revealing in the way of covering statements appeared in the report of losses in this encounter. Our losses are given as five carriers and one battleship sunk or damaged, plus one hundred planes shot down. Jap losses include one carrier, two oil tankers sunk, fifty aircraft shot down and the article concludes with the rather significant statement, “However our side did not deal a decisive blow against the enemy.” - ? – This after two years of the type of propaganda to which we’ve been subjected, we consider a most heartening admission. Further news last week of the bombing of Kyushu, one of the islands of the main Japanese group, indicates possibilities that the air offensive against Japan proper – promised by Chennault last year – may have begun. Details received here were somewhat skimpy due to local censorship but mention is made of the use of B.29’s, “Super Flying Fortresses”. An unverified rumour credited to the Vernacular claims Saipan has been evacuated due to “overwhelming superiority of the enemy”.
The week past brought a terrific fall of rain with every day featured by very heavy showers every few minutes. Colony oldsters are of the belief that something in the way of a seasonal record for rainfall will be established this year.
Friday next marks the passing of another birthday for Mrs. C. Once again my apologies for not knowing how many have slipped by. But at least I can claim some measure of credit for having remembered the occasion. I’m quite proud of the manner in which I have kept track of birthdays and anniversaries since my incarceration. Somehow dates seem of greater significance here than at home. Anyway – all the best and many more Mrs. C.
As if continuous rain by itself were not sufficiently dismal and dreary, we have the added annoyance of having to do without fags, a situation we hope to be of a temporary nature only. Evidently some supply difficulty downtown is responsible.
McCarthy, Prendy (Captain Prendergast) and Bob Nicol are laid low at present with an attack of some type of “flu” which is going the rounds. Bob and Prendy are members of the hospital wood-chopper crew so that the balance of us should have sufficient exercise to do us. I believe the ailment has been brought on by a rather stiff anti-cholera inoculation received earlier in the week.
June 30 – (Friday)
Mrs. C’s birthday is being celebrated on one of the most pleasant days we’ve yet experienced. A warm, clear day with a lovely cooling breeze gives one that “glad to be alive” feeling. Fairly low banks of fleecy clouds serve as back drops for hills which are beginning to take on their mid-year coat of green. Whatever else may be said for or against Hong Kong, it cannot be denied that few localities surpass it in the matter of natural beauty. I hope I am fortunate enough to enjoy its beauty more thoroughly in peace time. A family celebration of your birthday in these parts wouldn’t be a bad idea Mrs. C.
July 1 – (Saturday)
Just a note to record the Canadian observance of Dominion Day in Sham Shui Po. A baseball game with the Taiwanese guards resulted in a 15 to 1 victory for the Canucks. I didn’t play due to my having to attend a rehearsal for the evening show, but I understand the game was enjoyed by all – in spite of the rather lopsided score. One of the humourous features of the game was the performance of our North Point interpreter, Mr. Kochi, who served as umpire. From all accounts, the Canucks just couldn’t make a mistake while the poor guards had everything called on them. In the evening, a show along the lines of “Wrigley’s Treasure Trail” with skits and numbers by a five-piece band, helped to round out the entertainment. A cup of sweet tea with the compliments of the officers put the finishing touch to what we hope was our last Dominion Day celebration away from Canada.
I neglected to mention that I made June 30thsomething of a double celebration by martialing my courage and visiting the dentist. Much to my satisfaction I found one filling all that was necessary to tide me over for a few more months.
July 9 – (Sunday)
The general war situation has accelerated in tempo considerably on all fronts in the week past, according to our news sources here. The situation in France remains a trifle obscure but, as nearly as we can judge, things seem to be going according to plan. On the eastern Front, tremendous gains are recorded for the Russians, particularly in the central and Finnish sectors. With the evacuation of Kovel and Minsk, the situation would seem anything but encouraging for the Germans since, by our calculation, Kovel lies only 450 miles (approximately ) from Berlin and Minsk about 150 miles from the borders of East Prussia. Handling of the news at this end leaves us in some doubt as to whether these gains have been made quite recently, as reported, or whether delay in publishing dispatches lends the advance more of the appearance of a rout than it really deserves. If we are to take our news at face value then the swiftness of the advance is almost incredible. The Yanks are by no means leaving all the spectacular to the Russians. Mention is made Thursday of waves of hundreds of carrier-based aircraft raiding the Bonin Islands, a most strategic Pacific base situated some six hundred miles from the Japanese mainland. Somehow I can’t visualize excessive exuberance on the part of the Japanese people at the thought of American Task Forces racing around the Pacific almost at will. Establishment of Yank bases in the Bonins might do away with the necessity of footholds on the China coast and in the Philippines. It depends of course on whether aerial and naval warfare against Japan might be considered sufficient to force a decision, particularly if the European front does a convenient collapse for us.
Even our local news contains a bit more colour than usual. Fighting is reported some forty kilometers northwest of Canton, which puts us within ninety miles of fighting as the crow flies. (Unfortunately crows are just one of the things we can’t fly like.)
July 15 – (Saturday)
Entries seem to have evolved to a weekly basis so I’ll polish off this week’s a day ahead of schedule, owing to the likelihood of our having to draw wood this afternoon. General scarcity of wood in the colony and consequent curtailment of our ration has resulted in a new meal schedule commencing next week. A piece of rice-bran bread is to be substituted for our present ground rice dish. Actual rations remain unchanged for the two remaining meals. Evidently the fighting in the Canton area is manifesting itself in the matter of the colony’s food supply for we have received very little in the way of vegetable produce of late. Melons, a local product, have been the mainstay for quite some time. Beans supplies by the local Red Cross have been almost a staple item in our diet lately with at least one bean meal daily. How the poorer classes make out downtown is quite beyond us. Wood, food and cooking oil prices have soared to fantastic heights and we read in the local paper of rents being increased five and six hundred per cent. One case listed by the paper told of a coolie who had been paying a monthly rental of 18 Yen, receiving notification that his rent had been increased to 120 yen. News of that nature must play hell with the family budget. Listed in the same paper was an ad offering a Parker pen and pencil set for 1,400 Yen. Watches, gold, jewellery and other valuables considered of the non-fluctuating type, find a ready market at the most fantastic prices.
Last Thursday brought a welcome letter from Mother dated August of last year, my first for some time. What a difference a monthly quota of up-to-date mail would make in our miserable existence.
Weather for the week has been very unsettled and featured by a dozen or so “cloud-bursts” accompanied by quite heavy winds. July and August being typhoon months, we’ve been on the alert and ready to tie things down at the first sign of a big blow. Typhoon warnings up this afternoon has so far brought nothing worse than the usual windy showers. Doors and windows of tin sheeting would constitute a big danger if a typhoon were to strike.
I’ve just finished Shirer’s “Berlin Diary” and thoroughly enjoyed it. What a life chaps like Shirer, Reed, Gunther et al have lived. Why couldn’t I have exhibited journalistic tendencies in my youth?
Little change of note in news from the various war fronts with the possible exception of Burma. After a complete cessation of news for some time, mention is made Thursday of the Allies having managed to make contact with paratroops which landed in the Katha sector some weeks ago. Further reports of Jap air raids indicate our control in several key positions. Despite almost obvious attempts to be-cloud the issue as far as our news is concerned, it does seem as though things are progressing favourably for us. Evacuation of some 30,000 children from Tokyo was announced in last night’s paper.
Several feverish days, the aftermath I think of our last inoculation, resulted in a rather depressing wave of pessimism from which I am barely recovered. Even the thoughts of another six, eight or twelve month stretch in this place can be most disheartening. Sometimes, when one’s spirits are in eclipse like that, a person feels that he must get out soon or go off his rocker. I imagine even at this stage outsiders might consider some of us very close to the “jump the rails” stage. I feel lately that I’ve been most unsocial but I just don’t seem to have the push necessary to change. More than ever the need of a holiday trip, after this is all finished becomes evident – not as a luxury – but as a necessity. Incidentally, my few days “off-colour” cost me six pounds of my hard (?) earned weight.
July 16 – (Sunday)
Fighting is reported at Olita, just fifty-odd miles from the border of East Prussia, by last night’s paper. Vernacular reports claim extensive sabotage activity in France and this source also mentions the landing of parachutists in Central France and the capture of a small number of them. Evidently guerilla work was the object as we take the numbers landed to have been small. No mention of any kind has been made of the Pacific sector for three days so we assume Saipan is finished.
July 17 – (Monday)
Something of moment has occurred in the officers’ camp adjoining. On the way to work this morning we noticed they were still lined up on muster parade. An hour later, muster parade “on the double” sounded for us and we assembled on the square where, after some delay, we were carefully counted. After a further delay of perhaps half an hour, we were allowed to return to our huts and instructed to close all doors and windows and under no consideration were we to endeavour to observe what was going on “across the wire”, the penalty of infraction – arrest by the gendarmerie. Everything points to an “escape” but as yet we can only conjecture.
Later – reliable (?) sources inform us that two persons made a get-away. No further details except that three men occupying adjacent beds to the “escapees” and the leader of the group to which they belong have been taken out of camp. A search party consisting of three truck-loads of guards, equipped with flash lights, rolled out of camp tonight. – Hope the lads make it through ---
I have just finished reading Nora Waln’s “The House of Exile” and found it very good. It’s an interesting disclosure of the family life of well-to-do Chinese.
Feeble rumours of a draft (officers) out of here on July 27thhave been heard.
July 25 – (Monday)
“Pressure of business” prevented the observance of Sunday as “entry” day. An inspection of high-ranking Japanese supply officials held up our wood issue for two or three days so that Sunday was utilized to “catch up”. Something of a bizarre situation exists in connection with the supplying of our wood. Normal procedure is to have a large supply of wood brought into this camp and piled in the yard of our ration depot – since we are apparently used as a distributing point for other camps and military establishments. Distribution of wood with the camp is the responsibility of one Captain Graham Crewe, (R.A.S.C.) a twerp of the “school-tie” public school system and the manner of delivery to us is, to say the least, at times very annoying. The usual practice is to allow us to draw one day’s ration at a time until the Japs come in for their portion which consists – naturally enough – of all pieces that appear fairly easy to saw or chop - after which we are allowed to draw a three or four day supply of culls. This routine permits Crewe to endear himself to the Japs concerned and apparently results in a few personal “gifts” etc. for him – but hell’s bells – fair play is fair play, particularly when our tools are considered. Prior to inspection, both kitchens were practically out of wood for four days, although a huge pile of “untouchable” wood was stacked in the depot compound, and cooking was maintained by scrounging bits of lumber etc. around the camp. This of course is typical “army” strategy the world over so we don’t really mind it so much… Another demonstrative incident which illustrates the cooperation the Japs can achieve in our supply officer, occurred in the course of the inspection. Officially, we receive a most minute ration of sugar from the Japs but unfortunately of late, it has not been forthcoming. Inspection day a sample of a camp meal was called for and the usual rice, tea and whatever else went with it, was tendered to Crewe for delivery to the officials. Believe it or not – I do – the tea was found to have been sweetened when it arrived at the Jap guard house. One can almost see the party commenting on how lucky we prisoners are to be enjoying such luxuries. During the inspection of the hospital, a sample of our rice bread was given to one of the party to taste and Crewe volunteered the information that it also contained sugar. Our cook, a Russian named Potaloff – who detests Crewe – innocently (?) corrected the statement by saying, “But Captain Crewe, you know we put no sugar in this bread”. Crewe then suggested to the officials that the daily ration was probably saved for a Sunday treat of sweet rice-flour cake, but again “Pop” spiked Crewe’s guns with the statement that only sugar supplied by the local Red Cross was used in the cake. Naturally, one can hardly blame ration conditions in camp on the Japanese when our own supply officer goes out of his way to cover either his own ravaging or someone else’s by handing out hokum to people who could better our conditions and probably would, if they knew. How we’ve come to love the “old school tie” type of Englishman.
A near typhoon on Friday gave us a bit of a thrill and wrought considerable damage on gardens, and banana and papaya trees people have been carefully nurturing for months. My bed is along the end wall of the hut and, because of my length, I find that my head actually juts out into the passage to the door. Early in the morning, one of my fellow officers, answering nature’s call, foolishly opened the door and, since the force of the typhoon came from that direction, I was very nearly blown from my bed by the blast of wind and rain that rushed in. The result was the cleaning of our table of everything, including our dishes box, the loss of my window and my belongings scattered the length of the hut – to say nothing of soaked bedding and bed. Strangely enough, two blankets folded and put under my mattress to raise my pillow, were blown completely out from under my head as I slept.
July 26 – (Tuesday)
I was called away from last night’s entry to witness the most peculiar sky-scape we’ve seen here to date. The sky to the west was a mass of pale, yellowish-orange which as it spread out to meet the eastern horizon, gradually became transformed to a beautiful purple. The resultant glow presented everything in an eerie light and reminded one of pre-cyclone moments in Canada. Gradually developing rain clouds and a vivid electric display prompted some rapid repair movements on the window that was a casualty in the other night’s storm. Fortunately, nothing more than a mild visit this morning of Saturday’s typhoon was experienced, although we are still having squalls of rain every few moments.
No papers have come into camp since Friday and of course the result is a crop of fantastic rumours, The last pukka news gave us great hopes. Admission on the part of the Japs of Saipan’s loss and a statement by Montgomery to the effect that things were progressing beyond his hopes in Europe sound pretty good to us. An article, written by a Japanese Admiral, which sets out the almost unbelievable strength of the American Pacific fleet will hardly do much to bolster the morale of the people of Nippon. Most persistent rumour in camp now concerns Premier Tojo. Several different stories from as many sources only serve to becloud the issue, but the general consensus indicates something of a radical change of key positions in the Japanese cabinet formerly in Tojo’s hands.
I’ve availed myself of the opportunity to borrow a typewriter and whale away at it for a few moments in the afternoons. I may get something constructive from this exile after all – if we’re here long enough.
July 31 – (Tuesday)
Today I commemorate the ?th anniversary of my wedding day. A splurge of food, consisting of bully beef and canned fish served to make the day an event for Mac, Prendy and myself. As is natural in a position such as I enjoy (?) at present, considerable thought has been given to the possibilities of changes in our domestic relationships due to our separation and the general disquieting effects of war. Unquestionably things cannot be expected to be resumed on the same basis as before, due to mental and emotional changes which are bound to manifest themselves in both parties. Not a pleasant outlook but --- just another post-war problem to be solved.
We are now completely out on a limb in regards news. The local paper has been discontinued – permanently – we understand and we must now content ourselves with any gleanings we might get from our rumour crop. For my part I’m quite happy with the new arrangement, as I feel that the lack of good news should alleviate, to some extent, this terrible impatience which seems to have us all in its grip. Our last news received gives me great hopes of an early cessation of hostilities so I guess I can contain myself for a few months.
Another move involving Canuck officers finds us enjoying considerable more hut space than formerly since we now have one and a half huts for our forty-nine. We have Handa (Honda?), the Jap Sergeant-Major, to thank for the move, since he noticed the hut congestion when making a count during our recent storm period and approached the Commander-in-Chief for re-allotment. Under the previous arrangement, the hot weather would have rendered our hut most uncomfortable since all mosquito-nets are down shortly after supper, thereby preventing what little draft we get from circulating.
Our hospital kitchen volleyball team finished on top of the league and we soon embark on a new series termed the International League, with representative teams from Russia, Portugal, Great Britain, Eastern Canada and Western Canada. I captain the Western Canada entry and we open the league series tomorrow night with a game against Russia.
August 2 – (Thursday)
“Albert” was over shortly after midnight last night and dropped a bit of “stuff” close enough to camp to give us a few thrills and a light shower of debris. Cosmo docks were evidently the objective but damage was not believed to have been heavy.
August 7 – (Monday)
Another week passes, a week of daily rains of the cloudburst type that curtailed all sports and made for a generally depressed atmosphere throughout the camp. One bright spot pierced the gloom with the resumption yesterday of our local news. It seems that when the paper was cut off, no adjustment was made for subscriptions which had been paid and for which no paper had been received. A complaint laid, with this oversight in mind, caused reconsideration of the original decision and we are again to enjoy our “news”.
My oft-repeated statement that time means nothing in this environment is perhaps born out to some extent by the fact that I complete (I hope) this entry on Sunday, August 13, a mere week’s diversion from the initial commencement. To get back to the matter of news – Events of great significance have occurred during the period of our news stoppage. In the Pacific area we find that task forces have been active of late and learn that Saipan, Guam, and possibly two of the Bonin group (these latter unconfirmed) have been occupied by the Yanks. The first bombing of the Philippines occurred last week when planes appeared over Davao, on Mindinao. The resignation, en bloc, of Premier Tojo and his entire cabinet attests to the fact that the pressure of continued reverses and the ever-tightening encirclement ring around Japan is at last having its effect on the government and people of Japan. Locally, we note considerable military activity being manifested in South China, not a great distance from here, but we find the situation hard to follow and can only hazard hopeful opinions on what is actually happening. Around camp we believe we can see signs of increasing tension in the behaviour of our hosts. Perhaps the fact that “Albert” has been over almost every night this past week contributes a little uneasiness to their peace of mind.
Thousands of empty five gallon oil cans are being stored in Jubilee Buildings and it is generally believed that their purpose is to prevent, if possible, the failure of the local water supply from hindering their efforts in the event of a siege, a fault which is alleged to have been contributory to the fall of several Jap island garrisons. The Russian situation has developed sufficiently to be termed the outstanding achievement during our news lapse. We now find Joe’s boys in the Warsaw area and giving every indication that they’re going to be hard to stop. Confusion arising from similarity of names makes it difficult to determine exact positions but, if our interpretation is correct, their present thrust rests some fifty-odd miles from the border of Germany proper. The situation in France seems to be progressing satisfactorily but in the light of the news we’ve had so far, it does look as though the Second Front is being used for just the purpose its name indicates; the Russians seem to be the ball-carriers this time. News of the severance of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany leads us to believe that Europe is almost ready for the coup-de-grace. Rumours that last night’s paper contained word of the Turkish Army marching into Bulgaria remain unconfirmed because of non-delivery (so far) of said paper. Optimism runs high throughout camp with everything pointing (we believe) to possible release in, at most, a matter of months.
“Albert” went over at noon today. Perhaps we’re due for some excitement tonight.
Our wet spell seems to have broken and we can now look forward to some real heat.
August 11, 1944 – Swift Current, Sask.
So happy to get a card from you after two years silence. Am saving Digests. Will collect others if possible. All is well at home.
All our love,
Card from Paddy – no date
I am in grade six. I have just come back from Winnipeg. Grandma sold the house but we are still living in it. Miss you.
August 20 – (Sunday)
This weekend finds us riding the crest, a result of news concerning the Russian and French fronts received last night – after a slight delay. Thursday and Friday’s papers were withheld until Saturday night and the resultant gains since our last release of coherent news sent everyone’s spirits soaring. In the French front we hear of a three pronged thrust into southern France from the sea, as well as substantial gains in the northern invasion area. At present the line seems to lie through Drieux, Chartres and Orleans and, at the northern end, some undetermined point in the middle of the Seine River. This, by our calculations, puts us something like thirty-five to fifty miles from Paris. We note with pride that the 1stCanadian Army is operating in the vanguard of one of the thrusts supported by one thousand tanks. Meanwhile our Russian friends seem intent on reaching Berlin ahead of the Anglo-Americans for the paper mentions that in one sector, which we believe to be west of Krakow, “bitter fighting is in progress, but so far the Russians have been kept off German soil”. Mention is also made of the northern sector of this front where the “Battle for East Prussia” is being waged. No towns are mentioned in this area so we are completely in the dark as to the location of any lines of battle. No mention whatsoever of the Pacific warfront for about a week, but we feel the Yanks are not taking any rest cure in the interval. In mentioning the U.S. Air Force in China, the paper seems at a loss to account for the fact that the Americans still retain air superiority in China, in spite of the loss of over a thousand planes alleged to have been shot down by the Japs. Figures given for the present American air strength in China are some seven hundred odd. An interesting bit in the same article mentions an American claim that planes, with a capacity of two hundred men each, are leaving India on the Indo-China air route at the rate of a plane every five minutes. – Not bad! – Considering that our news is conceded to be at least two weeks late, can we be blamed for our optimism?
Another type of news was received in camp tonight. Commencing at once, electric power has been completely cut in camp and henceforth we revert to permanent black-out conditions. This measure was not entirely a surprise as we have followed in the paper efforts to conserve fuel by the first curtailment, then discontinuance of the ferry and bus services. Economic conditions in the colony worsen from day to day with essential commodities commanding prohibitive prices. How long can it go on, we wonder, and how much tightening of belts must we resort to before things finally break?
A week of terrific rains has us all longing for a glimpse of the sun. I’ve seen just about as much precipitation as I care to see in one lump.
“Albert” has braved the rain these last few nights but, though we hopefully anticipate a bit of excitement, it seems that a “look-see” is all he’s interested in. Our hosts show much concern over our remaining in camp these days for we are subjected to three and four bed-counts a night. I can imagine that the American task forces galloping about the Pacific hardly encourages tranquility of mind.
August 21 – (Monday)
Glad tidings – we hear that a Red Cross ship is in harbour and unloading supplies. – Allah is good. –
August 22 – (Tuesday)
Great excitement prevails. A work party has been called for handling of the Red Cross supplies. A bulletin covering the situation can be expected momentarily.
STOP PRESS NEWS– A late dispatch from the work party indicates that cases being handled at present are of Canadian Red Cross origin. Each case is said to contain eight individual parcels and our “on the spot” reporter scores a scoop with the following itemized list of contents. Butter (1 pound), chocolate (5 ounce bar), klim (1 pound), corned beef (12 ounce), tea (4 ounce) or coffee (6 ounce), toilet soap (2 ounce), pilot biscuits (8 ounce), cheese (4 ounce), luncheon meat (1 pound), prunes (7 ounce), raisins (7 ounce), sugar (8 ounce), sardines (3 ¾ ounce), salmon (8 ounce), salt and pepper (1 ounce each), jam or marmalade (1 pound).
Another flash reports receipt of medical supplies such as vitamin tablets, quinine, insulin, syringes, etc. plus some dental supplies. The number of cases is not yet known but each case is said to contain enough medicinal supplies to do one hundred adults for six months. Needless to say the entire camp is agog. The only worry we have now is whether or not the parcels will be given out individually or whether Crewe and his parasites will manage to get their hooks in.
A late bulletin states cardigans, shoe repair materials, shirts, two gramophones (plus records), a violin and two ukes, some music and books are also included. Some bulk supplies of milk powder, fruit juice, pablum, and some type of dried fruit, are also listed. One thought is unanimous in camp. “Thank God for the Red Cross!”
Final Bulletin on Red Cross Supplies– number of cases received – 1,761, which should indicate a total of 14,088 individual parcels. It seems that this camp is to be utilized as a distribution point for all supplies, since boxes addressed to Stanley Internment Camp and to Mr. Zindel, the local representative of the International Red Cross are being stored here. The local distribution date is as yet undisclosed but everyone is happy as kids at a Christmas tree with the contemplation of what is to come. Considering that our M.O.s have had to work with practically only those drugs which they have been able to obtain “over the fence”, one can imagine what a God-send the medicinal supplies will be to them and to the camp in general. Of course we don’t know what our share may be of these supplies but it is nice to hear of millions of units of serum, millions of vitamin tablets and a sufficiency of drugs such as M.&B.s and the newer drugs of the sulphanilimide family. Rumour has it that the whole camp will be given courses of vitamin tablets and nicotinic acid.
In my exuberance over the Red Cross supplies, I almost neglected to mention a windfall we received as a result of the electricity shut-down in the Colony. Cessation of power meant naturally the closing down of cold storage plants and we were the lucky recipients of some seventy pheasants. Not bad fare for a POW camp! Human nature being what it is, everyone immediately decided such magnanimity must have been prompted by the trend of news received from the world’s war fronts. Whatever the motives – the pheasant were very tasty – “It never rains but it pours.” All men in camp received 25 yen from the Red Cross. Evidently a belated Christmas gift. Everyone feels himself the hero of a “Rags to Riches” tale. –
September 1 – (Friday)
Another month slides by, a month which has proven quite productive for us, both mentally and physically. The highlight of course, from our point of view, was the receipt of the Red Cross parcels. The initial issue disclosed the fact that much of the perishable articles – such as cheese, raisins, chocolate and prunes, had not weathered the tropic heat too well so that, after considerable discussions, it was decided to issue everyone’s full quota of parcels in one allotment. After replacement of shortages, etc., the quota works out to three and two thirds parcels per man. What a lovely pile of food to contemplate. Seems almost a shame to eat it. It goes without saying that the universal part-time occupation is the scoffing of biscuits, jam, butter and cheese, etc. In connection with their distribution of supplies, we were fortunate in having a committee made up, in part, of the Officer commanding Canadians in camp and the Canadian S.M.O. which, although its powers in connection with distribution were purely nominal, did serve as a means of keeping a close tab on quantities, etc. and ultimate disposition of all goods. Evidently Crewe and company had an ear to the ground. Medical supplies have not been released as yet but it is hoped they will be forthcoming by next week. The general effect of the parcels on the camp seems little short of miraculous and, for once, the ever-present topic of release is relegated to a secondary position of importance.
I neglected to mention in the last entry two rather tragic occurrences which served to remind us that we are not yet out of the woods. Two attempted suicides, one of which proved successful, and one mental case, brought home the folly of letting one’s mental guard down. One chap, a Canadian, attempted to slash his throat but fortunately was a bit careless. The second chap, also a Canadian by birth but a resident of Hong Kong, was more successful when he jumped headlong from the rafters of the latrine to the concrete floor. Severe head and back injuries caused his death in a matter of a few hours. Hard on the heels of these two came a third, also a Canadian, who – though quite harmless, was considered unsafe to be at large and was sent to Bowen Road Hospital. On the whole I consider that we’ve been very fortunate in respect to mental cases as I doubt whether we’ve had more than a dozen since the start. Evidently we must still be careful though.
We’ve just had word that medical supplies are to be released this afternoon – quantities unknown. Speaking of medicines, etc., reminds me to note that I’m at present on the casualty list with a broken rib – sustained in a volleyball game on Sunday. Due to a lack of adhesive and the fact that I have had a bad case of prickly heat which would render a binding intolerable, my treatment consists of abstinence from exercise or sport for a few weeks.
News from the war fronts continues good, so good in fact that we no longer comment on the good news contained in any one issue. It now seems that every paper records something in our favour. The European front, when viewed through our news releases, is hopelessly obscured. We hopefully believe that advances in that area have been so marked that news censors are stumped in their efforts to release bulletins which would indicate that the situation is still in hand. (I personally don’t believe it is). Treatment of the situation in Paris could be cited as an example. According to the paper of a day or so ago, the Germans still held the city and fighting was in progress in several sectors. In the same column, mention is made of two attempts on the life of De Gaulle, one as he passed in a parade and another at a public ceremony of some kind in Notre Dame Cathedral. Seems just a trifle inconsistent doesn’t it? The situation in Romania too can hardly be termed clear, but it does seem evident that Jerry’s is a lost cause there. People in the “wise” climb out on a limb and say that Saturday’s or Sunday’s paper will contain “tremendous” news. One local school of thought believes that the special session of the Japanese Diet, scheduled to meet September 6th, is being convened for the purpose of making the decision as to whether or not the war is to be continued, after the fall of Germany. Could be!! Rumours of Germany packing it in were very strong early this week.
September 3 – (Sunday)
Current rumours say we’ve penetrated some fifty miles into Germany on the French front, against very little active opposition. Evidently the resistance being offered is said to be half-hearted at least on this front, and it is also said the representations for peace have been made by some German group, evidently the army. Another bit of “hot dope” is that Russia is massing troops on the Manchukuo border. – Everything points to happiness.
September 25 – (Monday)
Nearly a month has passed and we have yet to hear of the fulfillment of the Germany rumour mentioned in the last entry. This war situation can be horribly annoying, particularly when this intense impatience grips all of us. One day I feel the culmination of things to be a matter of a very few months, even weeks, then again there are times when I can’t visualize any conclusion for at least six months or a year. I’m afraid our news, plus the natural desires for freedom, rather warps our judgement as to the potentialities of even such a juggernaut as the Allied war machine. Sporadic flashes of news indicating tremendous advances tend to make us set rather large quotas for our forces to gain per day, or week, without consideration for difficulties of terrain, etc., which are not apparent to us. I seem to have lost some of the complacency with which I was formerly able to regard our situation. Perhaps cessation of sports is the answer. I’m at present enjoying a week’s lay-off from work due to a bit of strain on the broken rib. I had thought everything nicely under control in this connection and had been sawing for a couple of weeks, then spoiled it all by wrenching something while drawing wood last Friday. Seems that I must have bruised a lung judging by the pain occasioned by breathing. Time on the hands certainly seems to leave the mind carrying the load.
The question of distribution of vitamin tablets, etc. for the camp has been settled and everyone goes on a thirty day course of a capsule per day plus an ascorbic acid tablet three times a week. The capsule is reputed to contain nicotinic acid, thiamin concentrate and several vitamins so our system, after their three year holiday, must needs go back to work. The sudden onslaught of vitamins gave many of us slight reactions for a few days but the situation was only a temporary one.
The general result of the parcels and medicines throughout the camp is a very evident improvement – mentally and physically in everyone.
News from the theatres of war serves to heighten, if possible, our impatience. Although today’s paper contains no European news, we have been able to note of late the tightening of the encircling ring around Germany. Penetration of the Siegfried defence positions in the west and the arrival of the Russians at the Czech border make it only a matter of time until Germany must fold. Why she postpones her eventual fate is beyond us. What a debt to German humanity is owed by Hitler and his crowd, if only for the senseless slaughter and desolation from this point to the end. I don’t think we can expect any less from the Germans. It does seem such a futile waste though.
Of more personal interest to us is the announcement of landings on Palilau and Morotai Islands, the former of the Palau group, situated some five hundred miles east of the Philippines, and the latter three hundred miles south of Davao. The bombings of two airfields near Manila by two hundred and ninety planes and a raid on Manila itself by one hundred and fifty planes, both on the same day, would seem to presage an attempt on the Philippines in the near future. No European news today but instead a rather “defeatist” article which raps Germans for committing strategical errors and for underrating the Allies. Is this lack of news indicative of the end, or is it merely that the weekend dispatches have been held up?
Draft rumours have been revived again and it is thought efforts will be made to evacuate us before hostilities commence in this area. Contemplation of the tragic end suffered by eight hundred Americans, when their ship was sunk off Mindanao leads us to hope that we’ll be completely forgotten and allowed to remain here.
We enjoyed lights last night from 7:30 to 9:30 as power was resumed. Curtailment of electricity is said to be responsible for a shortage of cigarettes which has been in effect for about a month. Fortunately our canteen, by rationing cigarettes at four packs (10’s) per week, per man, has been able to guarantee a supply until the end of the month. We hopesupplies will again be forthcoming following resumption of power.