October 1 1944 - (Sunday)
A new month faces us, one which six or eight months ago we optimistically thought would find conditions sufficiently clarified to enable us to make a fairly reasonable estimate as to how much more time we were to spend “in durance vile”. One of our self-styled intellectuals is poorer today by $400 (Cdn) owing to the fact that the Allied strategy board let him down in not having the war concluded by this date. The current bet is a double or nothing affair – his first date was Christmas of last year. Very little sympathy is being wasted on the individual as he’s one of those pedantic lads who can always read between the lines and thereby has at his finger tips stores of knowledge which enables him to expound to all and sundry the inside story of just how things are going – anywhere. We do feel a bit badly though, about the Allies not adhering to his plans.
A few letters this morning but none for me. Seems months since I received any word, to say nothing of the pictures I’ve hoped to receive.
The reading of a book called “Testament”, which depicts the struggles and chaos of Russia just prior to and during the Revolution, has hardly served to ease the mental strain that my impatience imposes on me these days. A sympathetic bond was established right from the beginning when the author was captured by the Austrians and placed in a prisoner of war camp. I suffered with the poor gent from his release, by repatriation, all through the desolate years of uncertainty occasioned by the revolution, until his escape to France. Personal post-war problems occupy my mind a great deal and I must confess I don’t get much satisfaction from contemplation of them. This frame of mind, plus a change in control, which has resulted in our receiving an altogether unfavourable view of events lately, is no doubt largely responsible for the annoying feeling of pessimism which I’m enjoying these days.
News of continuance of cigarettes in yesterday’s paper – at a slight increase in price – so we sit back and hope supplies will be forthcoming. The wholesale price is quoted at 1.80 yen per pack, so we can reasonably be certain they’ll be more expensive here. Anything will be better, I think, than getting along on five fags per day – besides food prices in the canteen render our money useless anyway.
Another of our lads went “mental” on us a couple of nights ago and was fortunately able to make a Bowen Road draft yesterday. Present circumstances are not entirely responsible for his condition since he was one of several who, at the outbreak of war, were being treated for syphilis. Lacking treatment, the M.O.s have had these lads under observation with the expectation that just such a fate would befall them. Quoting Churchill in a recent speech, the paper prints an excerpt in which Winnie suggests the possibility of the European war lasting in to the first months of next year. This doesn’t do much to allay my current pessimistic mood. Casualties admitted by the British in Burma were a bit of a surprise to us. Evidently we’ve been treating the Burma campaign much too lightly.
The Red Cross parcels didn’t do half a job on my weight. A check-up this morning verifies the Jap weigh-day figure. One hundred and eighty-one pounds. Fortunately the weight includes a bit of muscle for there are few in camp that outweigh me. It’s almost shameful in these circumstances. I start back to work tomorrow so I’m hoping a spot of exercise will yank me out of my mental slump.
Big doings on Thursday, October 5th, the Portuguese National Day. Unfortunately my rib precludes any athletic endeavours on my part, but the Ports will be taking on the camp at volleyball, softball and bowls following which an impromptu concert will be given.
Our enjoyment of electricity was short-lived. Today’s paper announced the discontinuance of power for an indefinite period. Evidently we’re out of coal again.
October 13 – (Friday)
This “lucky” date combination seems to suggest that this day is just as good as any other to make an entry. Unfortunately news remains one of the items which we have least of – with the possible exception of cigarettes. This last commodity is almost in the position of graduating into the unobtainable class along with the dodo, etc. Mac, Prendy and myself hang on stubbornly in spite of disheartening fluctuations in the cigarette market. Three days ago we paid 5 yen per deck, then 7 yen and yesterday morning the market hit 11 yen. A rumour yesterday afternoon to the effect that fags were coming in today at the old price resulted in a sharp drop to 4 yen, but we too were sucked in and failed to capitalize. The rumour proved groundless so we bought this morning at six yen. It would seem as though the master’s body is going to lack nicotine unless something unforeseen turns up.
Our European news is hopelessly vague these days. One day we hear of the Allies breaking through the Siegfried line in two or three places, then again we read of fighting miles to the rear, then splurges forward again. The net result is that we wonder just what the hell is happening. The old “Germany folds” rumour circulated very strongly again early this week. The big event was supposed to have taken place on the sixth.
The air raid siren has just gone – Quite a number of planes passed over a few moments ago but we thought they were Japs. A heavy cloud bank prevented our seeing them. Three large four-engined flying boats arrived yesterday from somewhere so, of course, we assume they have been driven from the Philippines. We had a rumour going around last night that some islands between Formosa and Luzon had been bombed by 400 carrier-based aircraft. We hope so. It brings Chester that much closer. Quite a large convoy of medium-sized craft are in the harbour today. Perhaps that’s why they’re a little touchy with the siren. Sunday, several large freighters were in and one of them either struck a floating mine or turned into the local mine field. Some people saw and heard two explosions but were unable to determine the extent of the damage, if any. By next morning all the bigger ships had moved off.
Camp life still follows the old routine. The days I don’t mind but the nights particularly without lights, become hopelessly tedious. If we only had something new to talk about. After three years, we’ve all told and retold our life’s history so there remains nothing but the old standby, “How long will it be now?” and what we hope to do on release. The physical aspect seems to have been relegated to second place by the mental and it’s a much more difficult burden to bear.
Planes are again circling overhead but, as no effort is being made to pierce the cloud-bank, we assume it is not the “enemy”.
October 15 – (Sunday)
Big news in yesterday’s paper which may affect us in some way. Eleven hundred carrier-based planes raided Formosa on Friday. Formosa, about the size of Vancouver Island, is some four-hundred miles from here to its closest point. The rumour re the 400 planes was correct in all except the objective. The islands bombed in this raid lie approximately half-way between Formosa and the Japanese mainland. Definitely things are beginning to move. Ten planes went over yesterday afternoon, followed by “Albert” making a reconnaissance, but nothing dropped here.
A big mail in this morning, but I failed to click.
October 16 – (Monday)
Great excitement in camp. We now have a topic of conversation at least for awhile. The siren blew about 4 pm this afternoon and, after an interval of twenty minutes or so, we heard our planes. Twenty-eight four-motored bombers appeared in the north-east and, flying in beautiful formation, passed directly over the camp, dropping two sticks of bombs on – we think – Kowloon Docks. Despite a rather heavy barrage of ack-ack fire, the flight made its seemingly leisurely way, apparently quite oblivious to the bursts which could be seen all around them. Hardly had the large flights passed overhead when, with a great chattering of machine guns, another flight of some fifteen Hudsons appeared, flying very low, and crossing the path of the bombers at right angles. These planes were so low that it seemed something of a miracle that they were able to escape the barrage of rifle and m.g. bullets that went up. Escape they did, however, and it was beautiful to watch them, never varying their formation one iota, as they passed directly over our heads. This flight evidently had the ships in the harbour as their objective for they continued on in the direction of Stone Cutters Island where each released his load at the ships clustered there. Our hut came in for a bit of excitement when a pom-pom shell hit the roof, exploded and came on through, scattering bits of shrapnel around the interior. The hole in the roof where the missile made its entry is directly above a spot midway between Mac’s bed and mine and it’s most fortunate that no one was seriously hurt – for about fifteen of us were clustered about the doorway having a look-see. Huck O’Neill, the Canadian Knights of Columbus man, received a gash in the knee and one in each arm – but he was the only casualty here. I had something of an amusing, though rather stupid, experience during the raid. It seems that when the shell exploded the majority of the sight-seers grouped around the door made a dive for comparative safety under the first handy bed. Being of a curious nature, I made for a side window instead, in an effort to get a better view. I had no sooner arrived than the second flight appeared and their appearance, accompanied by the terrific roar of their machine guns, was so thrilling that I turned around to call Mac so that he too could enjoy the spectacle. I was flustered momentarily to find not a soul in sight for the full length of the hut…everyone had climbed under a bed. For just that moment I knew exactly how the boy on the burning deck must have felt. However it did have its compensations – I was the only man in the hut to see the Hudsons.
Considerable shrapnel fell in camp and Sergeant-Major Honda thoughtfully had “orderly-sergeants” call blown, before the “all clear” went, to ascertain the number of casualties, if any. The check-up revealed eight casualties, none of them serious – five of which were Canadians. Pom-pom shells tore holes in the roofs of our wash-house, our hut and the hospital kitchen – where one of the cooks was spattered with shrapnel. Spent casings from the m.g.’s of the planes that flew over were picked up all over camp, as well as bits of shrapnel of varying sizes. An unexploded ack-ack shell 2 ¾ inches by about 8 inches, hit the roof of the Canadian convalescent hut, gouged a terrific hole in the roof and bounded harmlessly to the ground between the huts. The head of the shell that came into our hut was about three inches long and it gouged out a sizeable chunk in the concrete floor. During the raid a stretcher was seen being carried in the other camp, the occupant with his head heavily bandaged, and rumour now has it that it is a Canadian officer who is said to have been seriously hurt. – Taken all in all, it was something of an exciting day.
October 17 – (Tuesday)
A check-up on the results of the air-raid (by rumour of course) reveals that over a thousand Chinese are reported to have been killed in the Kowloon dock area so the damage can be judged to have been fairly extensive. The power-house on the mainland adjoins the dock area so I doubt if we can hope for lights. Power was supposed to have been resumed yesterday too. Further rumours claim that a duplicate number of planes that appeared over here also appeared over the island so it would seem that, if this is true, over a hundred planes in all took part in the raid.
A raid signal was sounded again today but nothing came of it. We enjoyed a game of bingo in the hut until the “all-clear” – much easier on the nerves.
October 22 – (Sunday)
Another week and another short entry. Yesterday’s paper brings news of what appears to be a landing on the Philippines. The wording of the dispatch was that the Americans had commenced their re-invasion of the Philippine Islands, but no definite statement of an actual landing appeared. A large task force accompanied by numerous transports, commenced coastal bombardment on the island of Leyte, south of Luzon, and aided by the China-based aircraft and planes operating from the island of Pililau and the island of Morotai, heavily bombed numerous areas preparatory to landing. Coming as it does on the heels of the Formosan action, this new venture gives us new grounds for our hopes. Final results of the Formosan raid have not been given as yet but the Japanese claim to have wrecked havoc on the task force involved. That the loss was considerable for Japan can be judged by the fact that they admit the loss of over three hundred planes. Evidently this operation must have been used as a diversion move to screen the subsequent attack on the Philippines. Could anyone but the Yanks conceive and operate on the stupendous scale which the present Pacific campaign calls for? I doubt it. When one considers the colossal organization required to successfully operate over the vast distances which face them in the Pacific, it’s almost staggering. It does my mean streak a world of good seeing the British Naval men eat humble pie. No jeers now when we prod them with, “Leave it to the Yanks”.
Further bits of rumour re the bombing – we understand the docks are ruined and to date one thousand and seven bodies have been recovered from the ruins. Unfortunately the dock area was surrounded by a thickly populated residential district, mostly Chinese dock workmen, and I think they too were very badly hit.
Another peace conference rumour yesterday. All the details too! Clement Attlee is said to be acting as Chairman of the British-American-Russian committee and the story is that at, or after, the capture of Aachen, peace offers were tendered by Germany and an ultimatum received in reply. Gist of the ultimatum was “complete surrender”, the alternative being the complete demolition of German towns and cities. A statement by Attlee says that only those actively participating in the fighting will assist in setting the final peace terms. This latter statement is absolutely “pukka” dope from the Vernacular but we think that most of the first part is an assumption arising from improper translation.
Red Cross clothing was issued yesterday on a basis of one of each of the following per man – great coat, pajamas, underwear (longs), shirt, socks, gloves, towel, hankie, winter cap, socks, woolen sweater. I clicked on a suit of underwear (Stanfields) so I’m quite happy.
Lights were resumed for the two hour period the night before last, so I guess they missed the power house.
Today we lost our status as a Canadian officer group, having been amalgamated, through no wish of ours, with the Imperial officers. I can scarcely visualize any of them being overcome with joy for that matter!
November 3 – (Friday)
Another milestone slips around and again I must celebrate a birthday in prison camp. I was so certain this time last year that its date would find us enjoying freedom that, in a moment of rash optimism, I offered MacCarthy a case of Scotch in the event of our still being incarcerated on the next anniversary of my birth date. Well…we’re still here. I’m doping out a plan of retaliation which will ensure my being able to get in on the consumption end of the deal.
The prospect of further months in here is anything but heartening for I’m sure the drab, purposeless existence we lead must be exacting its toll, particularly on the mental side. Some degree of mental stagnation must surely result from the unnatural life we lead. While formerly one experienced a bit of difficulty in matters demanding concentration, now the job of marshalling one’s thoughts has become a task of no mean proportions, particularly as we believe freedom to be around “that” corner. Oh we do have our fun! I can imagine that there will be enough “misfits” back from Germany, who will have been enjoying similar circumstances, to make us more or less inconspicuous when we once again reach civilization. Perhaps we can form a “mutual sympathy” club.
Efforts on the part of the censor’s department to render the news from the several war-fronts as unintelligible as possible are meeting with entirely too much success from our point of view. On the western front we note with pride that the Canadians seem to be more than holding their end up. Give ‘em Hell lads!
Naturally we’re inclined to view with some impatience the seeming lack of great progress on that front, however if the plan is to conserve life at the expense of a few months, so much the better. In the Philippine area, the Yanks seem to have themselves fairly solidly established on Leyte Island, despite the huge losses the enemy claims to have inflicted.
A rumour circulating last night that we are to be moved to a new camp in the Canton area. Original basis was the story given by one of the sentries, backed by the absence of Honda, who was said to be in Canton – ostensibly to look over the new site. With action in this vicinity not entirely beyond the realms of possibility, the suggestion is not entirely without logic. A change of scenery would help a lot in our efforts to pass the time.
Again there’s nothing of local import to record. General health remains good, although the appearance of numerous septic sores reveals a decline in fitness either due to seasonal changes or the lowering of our diet standard. Blockade measures have been rendering it increasingly difficult to keep us supplied with vegetables of a decent quality and it’s inevitable that the effect should soon be apparent.
Something in the way of a local scandal has come to the surface the last day or so. It seems the boys have been putting their Red Cross clothing on the market in order to be in a position to buy the odd fag, put their children through college, or buy coal for their poor old widowed mothers and, quite incidentally, to enable them to shoot the odd game of craps. The sentries have been most helpful in this respect as it seems that they too have their own obligations to fulfill, and the net result is, or was, that the camp – for a few days – did more trading than is normally recorded on a good day on the floor of the “Exchange”. Circumstances quite outside the sphere of operations however were finally to assert themselves and put the whole scheme on the “unprofitable ventures” list. It seem that the powers that be downtown decided that their inflation program called for the issue of notes of 100 yen denomination to facilitate purchasing powers in the colony. Now that in itself may be an extremely sound measure, but it happened that, since prices being paid for goods in camp were rather large, some of the “century” notes began to circulate within a day or so in camp of the notice of issue and there being no official channel by which the notes could have entered camp, someone immediately “smelled a mice”. No one knows just how the word got to the proper people but, after a day or so of vigorous bartering, some ten or twelve lads were called to camp office to explain just how they happened to be in possession of such nice new “C” notes. Fortunately, Sgt-Maj. Honda decided to take a lenient view, at least as far as our fellows were concerned and they were let off with a bit of verbal chastisement. Of course there may be still further repercussions as there is to be a check-up of Red Cross supplies at the end of the month. (I’m planning to wear my underwear until then – just to be safe.) The sad sequel to the story is that the quarters of the sentries were searched and a large supply of Red Cross materials found, confiscated and turned over to our ordinance stores. Nor does the story end here. It seems that they must re-buy and return all goods bought from our lads and, to add insult to injury, or vice-versa, they report every day for a week to undergo a bit of physical “going over” as a reminder that merchandising is not the best hobby that a sentry of a prison camp can indulge in. Having seen a bit of this “physical” business, in which the administrator doesn’t stint himself, I’m inclined to be a trifle sympathetic.
November 12 – (Sunday)
A brief entry this week to record the gist of a speech by Uncle Joe, alleged to have been in the Vernacular a day or so ago. As we get the story, the occasion was Red Army Day, November 6th, and Joe is reported to have stated that “the fighting on both the eastern and western fronts was both bitter and heavy, but that everything was progressing according to the schedule laid down at the Teheran conference”. Acknowledging the support rendered by the United States and Britain, he said that “at one crucial point of the struggle, the timely aid given by the Allies had been instrumental in turning the tide of battle from defeat to victory”. Commenting on post-war plans he stated that, “it had been decided that the aggressor nations would be rendered impotent by “force of arms” indefinitely if necessary and that the three powers, Great Britain, the United States and Russia, would maintain armies for this purpose”. Of more immediate interest to us was his classification of Japan as an aggressor nation. This suggests to us the possibility that Japan is being given a very broad hint that on the conclusion of the European affair, Russia will declare a state of war with her. The whole thing looks like a beautifully timed bit of political persuasion which might possibly influence Japan if she has any ideas of a continuation of the fight after the finale in Europe. We think here that, providing the Yanks are pretty well-established in the Philippines, the Japs may decide that the odds are a bit too heavy for her to continue the struggle. We hope so –
A softball game today between the Canadian officers and a team composed of the pick of the Portuguese and Canadian men resulted in the officers ekeing out a narrow win with the score of three to two. A nice hit by Prendy in the tenth inning (which Joe Hamel misjudged) drove in the winning run. Although reminiscent of former tussles with the crack Portuguese teams of a year or so ago, the decline of form was very evident, particularly in the batting. Of course we don’t get any younger.
My weight has slipped slightly and today I registered a seven pound loss. Still plenty there to carry me through.
November 15 – (Wednesday)
A draft of fifty men from Bowen Road today confirms our Vernacular speech rumour. The mention of it in our paper and an editorial dealing with its implications (or lack of them, as the Japs prefer to think) had both been deleted from our paper but not from the one received at the hospital). Evidently it is the plan to completely evacuate the hospital, due to a shortage of water, as another draft of fifty is expected within the week. Curtailment of the water supply on the heights of the island due to lack of power for pumping purposes is the reason for the shortage. Further reports on the bombing verify our rumours of damage done in the docks as well as damage inflicted on the power-house and cement works which adjoin it.
November 27 – (Monday)
The closing phases of this month find us in much the same unenlightened frame of mind as that of a few months ago, though we had hoped the situation to be sufficiently clarified at this stage of the game for us to hazard some reasonable prediction as to the time hostilities were liable to continue. One would think that by this time we should have realized the folly of allowing ourselves to be influenced by successive waves of optimism and instead, adopted more of an attitude of resignation to the circumstances which refuse to be controlled by wishful thinking. Apparently we are prey to the usual frailties that beset human nature.
Mac had a birthday yesterday and we celebrated the event with a gastronomic orgy consisting of bully-beef, chow fan, fried spuds and a cake, the latter a most laudible effort on Mac’s part considering he had only rice flour, corn flour and an egg to work with. Very, very good. Considering the commonplace articles that we now class as luxuries, it is almost frightening to contemplate our reactions when we are finally turned loose amongst things.
Our news remains as unrevealing as ever and we must be content with odd bits gleaned from the Vernacular. This source, being contraband, is apt to be so generously studded with rumours that it is something of a job trying to figure just what is the “dope”. Our paper has contained no European news whatsoever for four days but we can’t be sure whether it is the result of accident or design. Meanwhile, operations in the Pacific seem to be progressing favourably although – as it seems to us – slowly. Yesterday’s paper informs us of a raid on Tokyo in which seventy planes, operating from the Mariannas, participated in Yank activities in the Leyte sector and appeared to be successful – in fact we hear a rumour today that the Japs had evacuated the island. We don’t quite understand what appears to be a steady advance by the enemy against south China bases of the Yank Air Force in this sector, Kwielin, Henyang and now Nan King, have evidently been evacuated by our people, whether through necessity or according to plan we don’t know. We can assume however that they know what they are doing.
Local prices continue to sky-rocket, attesting to the difficulty resulting from the blockade. One or two items and the prices listed for them may serve to indicate what the local people are up against. Syrup (1 pound) 45 yen, sugar (1 pound) 32 yen, soy beans (bulk) 21 yen per pound. The government has recently lifted its rationing system on the essential commodities such as rice, etc., and the resulting prices – (increases over the previous rates) in the necessities directly affected practically everything else. Cigarettes remain our big problem and a month’s smoking at 7 yen per deck, takes some financing. We still smoke though!
Sweeney arrived last week with a Bowen Road draft of fifty and he will be a big help in the entertainment field, although we suffer from a shortage of instruments. Plans are in the making for a Christmas concert and we expect to get down to business shortly.
We are now enjoying the best season, insofar as the weather is concerned, of the colony. Lovely clear days and nights serve to accentuate the feeling of impatience. What a lousy waste! Strange, I didn’t seem to notice commonplace things like the weather at home. Maybe I’m developing a sense of appreciation!
A rumour of mail today, but no sign of it yet. Did I mention that the last mail brought a letter from Flo?
News in the paper that a Red Cross ship has arrived at Tokyo with supplies for prisoners in Japan and South China leads us to hope that we’ll see some of it here soon. Diet conditions remain none too good here so we hope it won’t be too long. We are experiencing a shortage of toweling at present which isn’t too surprising when the service required of them is considered. My “one and only” has done noble duty since early North Point days which, considering that at least one shower a day is indulged in, is about as much as one can expect. Socks and hankies too are beginning to show the ravages of time, but of course, there’s always an alternative solution for these.
December 6, 1944 – MAILED TO CANADA
Dearest Glad & Kiddies,
Just a time to express the hope that you’ve enjoyed the best the coming holiday season has to offer. Health being maintained here as I hope it has with you. Extend my greetings to family and friends. Am looking forward to….
(rest of message missing)
December 8 – (Friday)
This being the third anniversary of the outbreak of war in this area, an entry would seem to be called for – however, due to the extreme cold we have been experiencing since the first of the month, I had decided that the cold fingers that would result made the effort not worth the sacrifice. The cold, rainy weather certainly held no promise of any excitement in the way of commemorative action by our air laddies and we were quite resigned to letting it pass as just another day. The Yanks however, thought differently and about 9:30 – while we were busy chopping wood, we heard the sound of planes and dashed out in time to see five Hudsons come swooping over the camp from behind the hills to our north. Following on the heels of the Hudsons came some nine or ten single motor fighters (P.51’s we believe) flying very low, in threes, pairs and singly. The Hudsons dropped their loads on targets on the island and on shipping concentrated in the harbour and we heard later that one ship had been sunk and another set ablaze. The damage done on the island, if any, could not be ascertained but at the time of writing, smoke can be seen issuing from the ship that was set on fire. Evidently the Japs were of the same frame of mind as we were insofar as any expectancy of action was concerned, for the planes encountered practically no ack-ack fire until they had accomplished their first task. The fighters then moved to Kai Tak, where they subjected the airport to a terrific strafing. Just what further damage the bombers did we can’t say, but they buzzed around for some twenty minutes before moving off, by which time the general racket was so intense that it was impossible to ascertain just what was going on. We did hear later that Whitfield Barracks and Cosmo Docks received a going-over. All in all it was quite a morning’s entertainment and it helped bolster spirits that had sagged perceptibly with the cold of the last few days.
Speaking of cold, and who isn’t these days, we got quite a kick out of a camp detail which stated that – pending an issue of blankets, “people would be allowed to sleep together”. As can be imagined, some of the “fatter” fellows came in for quite a ribbing.
Camp life flows along much the same as usual with little to break the monotony, particularly at night.
STOP PRESS NEWS– While writing this (4 p.m.) I heard the noise of explosions and rushed to the door in time to see two planes swooping in across the waterfront. A few more explosions, whether ack-ack or bombs we can’t say, and several bursts of m.g. fire from the planes – and all is quiet again. This seems to be getting to be a habit.
As I was saying before the interruption, the nights are bloody awful. These last few days have been so cold and miserable that almost everyone retires to the comparative warmth of their beds before nine o’clock. Certainly if we are deficient in other things, we don’t suffer from lack of sleep. For a month or so we have enjoyed the visitation of “Oscar”, the nocturnal counterpart of “Albert”, almost nightly and how he does it we don’t know, but nearly every night, rain or shine, he drops bombs somewhere in the vicinity. The advances in instruments since we dropped out of the picture probably accounts for it.
Four planes just circled the colony but we heard nothing drop. Our most recent crop of rumours state that a breakthrough has been effected in Germany, somewhere in the vicinity of Essen, but of course we have no verification. Draft rumours are again starting up and another choice bit of stuff heard today is that Prince Konoe is forming a government in Japan. Meanwhile, the proper news reveals as little as usual and we can only hazard guesses as to how things are going. There seems little doubt that operations in the Leyte sector are still progressing satisfactorily which means that the theatre of war comes ever nearer to us here. Perhaps today’s little show is a prelude to something in this neck of the woods. I guess that is too much to hope for just yet though.
We hear that lights will be available for two days at Christmas, and also that Camp Sergeant-Major Honda is personally donating four cigarettes and some sweets to everyone in camp. A nice gesture on his part, if true. I have nothing but praise for the thoughtfulness and consideration shown by Honda for we prisoners. Little things like dismissing each group as it is counted, when the weather is inclement, help a lot since a big majority of the men are usually under-clad. Formerly we waited anything from ten minutes to an hour and either froze or got soaked, depending on the weather, while doing so.
December 21 – (Thursday)
Lack of wood provides a bit of a holiday this morning so I will utilize the time to make a pre-Christmas entry. We have been more than fortunate these last few days in having had a bit of daily excitement provided in the form of air attacks by small groups of P.51’s. Almost every day this week in the early afternoon, we have been visited by the fighters who seem able to get right in before they are noticed. The main objective seem to be Kai Tak for they usually drop whatever load they carry, then gang up on the airport and give it a good strafing. Yesterday, one of the small seaplanes which is stationed here, took off from the airdrome and headed out to sea when the planes appeared (a sound bit of strategy as I don’t think it is armed). Unfortunately however, it just happened that the route he chose fell across the path of two of our fighters that had circled the colony The pilot evidently did not, at first, see his adversaries and when he did, one plane was practically upon him. From our vantage point we saw him make a desperate effort to escape by side-slipping when he realized his danger, but just as he disappeared from our view we heard the rattle of the fighter’s guns. Later we learned that the fighters paid him no further attention but the damage had evidently been done for, though he did manage to recover from his side-slip, he later crashed in flames close to the airport. A new wrinkle in ack-ack projectiles which on bursting, eject three parachutes from which trail either wires or small bombs. Apparently it is much the same as the type used in England two or three years ago. Shortly after the raid yesterday, some twenty-four Japanese bombers appeared and, until their identity was established, gave us a bit of an additional thrill. Things are certainly perking up in the aerial line.
Our little gang celebrated Ala’s birthday on the 18thwith a bit of a feed and another cake experiment. Evidently our other cake success can be attributed to beginner’s luck as this was not the gem we had hoped to produce.
The paper of the 17thgave us the news that the Yanks had extended their Philippine operations with a landing on the island of Mindora. This development, if successful, will provide an excellent base for operations against Luzon, since the northern tip of the island is only some 175 miles from Manila. Heartening too is the news that Nimitz has shifted his Pacific operational base to Guam from where he is expected to direct his offensive against Japan proper.
A somewhat grim ration situation was alleviated by the arrival of the local Red Cross monthly supply of beans, etc., augmented this time by some bran, suet, peanut butter, sugar and dripping. This lot, supplemented by the killing of a pig for Christmas, assures us of a promising bill of fare for the holiday season. Mention is made in yesterday’s paper of the Japanese government asking for safe conduct for a ship containing Red Cross supplies destined for prisoners in China and the Philippines.
Speaking of the coming holiday season, the camp is a bustle of preparation for concerts, church services, etc. With air-raids disrupting things in the afternoons, the problem of getting in rehearsals becomes a major one.
Underground channels reveal that the lot of women and children in the internment camp at Stanley has not been a happy one. We hear that some thirty-seven children have succumbed to the effects of malnutrition and also that the disquieting effects of bombings is beginning to tell on the nerves of both women and children. It is said that application has been made to our hosts to have them removed to less exposed quarters closer to town. The same source reveals that Stanley Fort is pretty much a shambles due to the action of land-mines that have been dropped lately. Either Oscar’s missiles have been landing in that area or they have had raids of which we heard nothing.
December 22 – (Friday)
Another raid last evening just before muster and again this morning as we were preparing for the morning parade. Clouds of black smoke rising from the airport last evening indicate that either a plane has been hit or a small cache of oil set ablaze.
December 25 – (Monday)
Today we celebrate our third, and we hope our final, Christmas in Sham Shui Po. Celebrations in the main will be confined chiefly to our favourite indoor sport – eating – and at time of writing our little gang is away to a good start with a cake and (bean) coffee breakfast, followed by a light snack of bean chow fan after parade. The menu for the day shows much promise, with flapjacks, soup and gravy listed for tiffin and pork cottage pie, soup and small individual cakes for dinner. The success of the day is almost assured with these delicacies to look forward to. Midnight Mass, celebrated last evening at seven o’clock, while enjoyable, somehow failed to live up to my hopes. Perhaps I’m too prone to judge things by the ’42 standard. It would seem that conditions prevalent that year contributed more to the impression created than I had realized. I hope Johnnie, Joe, Guita and other friends since departed on drafts are enjoying the best this year. News in the paper that Nagoya has been the objective of several raids by B.29’s leads us to hope that none of our lads have been casualties.
A most pleasant surprise in the way of a Christmas package was the receipt of mail the day before yesterday. A letter from Glad, which included some snaps and a postscript from Paddy, was very welcome. The usual thoughts attendant to Christmas Eve, of the girls getting set for the big day, prompted a bit of nostalgia last night and my only solace was the thought that next year would find me participating in the preparations.
A break from the weatherman was much appreciated and for almost a week we have enjoyed beautiful clear days and nights. Our spell of cold weather prior to that certainly left much to be desired.
After a three-day lay-off, our visiting airmen yesterday repaid us three-fold for their lack of attention. Three raids in the afternoon by a type of fighter plane hitherto not seen in this area (some believe them to be carrier-based) kept everyone on the go. Our enthusiasm was dampened somewhat in the last raid of the day when we witnessed the destruction of one of the raiders who was unfortunate enough to run afoul with an ack-ack shell. I did not witness the happening myself but evidently the pilot bailed out and subsequently landed in the water off Stone Cutters Island. Reports from the sentries differ but it does seem that he was picked up later by launches.
December 31 – (Sunday)
We’ve just finished our first presentation of the Christmas Concert and must say it was very well received. Two more shows, one tomorrow and one the day after, will mark the finish of this production and the commencement of the work on the New Year show. Lacking lights, the show was staged in the afternoon and, by clever arrangement of mirrors, Old Sol provided the flood light arrangement system, with exceptionally good effect we’re told. The show was of the light musical comedy type, complete with glamour girls, chorus, band, etc., and featuring the latest tunes (from 1925 on). I must remind Joe Hamel in later years that he makes a fine bandy-legged chorine!
I have just finished dinner – and what a dinner – I feel foundered. We’re in the midst of an air-raid scare, our third today and all duds as far as we’re concerned. They must be a might touchy with that siren button.
The latest rumour is that Stalin is conducting a big drive in East Prussia in coordination with a similar effort by Eisenhower in Europe. Nothing of importance from the Philippines except that the Yanks are busy constructing airfields. Air attacks on Manchukuo and the Japanese mainland seem to be a daily occurrence with the number of planes running from twenty to eighty B.29’s a raid. Looks as though they’ll soon be getting down to business.