January 1 1945 – (Monday)
Once again we begin a new calendar series, fully confident that this is to be “our year”. The observance, on looking back over our period of incarceration, that this is to be our fourth celebration of New Year’s under these circumstances, rather gives one a jolt, but even our confirmed pessimists concede the possibilities the coming year holds for our release. The current German counter-offensive, which local papers have seized upon as a new basis of hope for Axis victory, fails to impress us as anything but a last desperate lashing-out by the Hun, against the inexorable machine which must inevitably crush him. Developments in this section appear to us to have been slow until we consider the immense strides made in the last six months. Distances to be covered and the difficulty of establishing supply routes being taken into consideration, it must be admitted that our friends, the Yanks, have done a big job. That the Philippines battle which now rages is of great strategic import can be judged by the treatment it receives in the local press, where it is referred to as the “decisive” struggle in the battle of the Pacific. The recapture of the Philippines will no doubt be the prelude to a landing on the China continent, and, though there are several points the Yanks might choose, dependent on the strategy involved, we live in hope that the Kowloon peninsula will be their final choice.
Looking back over the years we find that our lot seems to have improved steadily until we have now reached a point where, aside from rather uncertain ration conditions whose fluctuations are determined by general conditions, our loss of freedom seems to be our only serious consideration. Admittedly, that loss is of no mean value, but when coupled with former grim reminders that every day was a struggle for one’s very life, the resultant depression became a very heavy cross to bear. However, what’s past is finished, and we have since learned to some extent that it is unwise to indulge too much in that old human frailty – self pity. Turning thoughts to the new future which faces us fills us with a terrible impatience to be out and doing things. How are we to fit ourselves into environments which have been changed so drastically by events of the past few years? How much has the mental stagnation to which we have been exposed affected our abilities as parents and providers? These questions are ever before us as we try to exercise the necessary patience we need to carry us to their fulfillment.
Our Christmas concert was very well received and the past four days have been days of hectic preparation for some kind of production for today. If the show planned for New Years happens to please, it will certainly have created some kind of record in stage annals. Conceived and executed in four days! It looks as though the first run will be little more than a dress rehearsal, however, our public will understand.
The sport program of the holiday season consisted of matches in all sport between representative teams from the hospital side and the lines. Our hospital team last night lost a hard-fought volleyball match to the lines, but evened things up this morning by taking their measure at softball. All matches have not yet been completed but I believe the hospital leads the series at present.
Our aerial activity ceased abruptly on Christmas Eve, at least as far as we were able to find out, though we averaged a half-dozen alarms a day. I neglected to mention in the last issue that we had one casualty in the last raid. One chap very nearly lost an eye when he was hit by shrapnel from a pom-pom shell which exploded in front of him. An ack-ack shell splinter some six inches long landed at the door of our hut but no one was hit.
January 2 – (Tuesday)
Strange how these things go. The new show not only went over all right, but most of the people to whom I have spoken claim it was enjoyed more than the Christmas concert (????).
One more item – an indication of some of the difficulties faced by the housekeeper downtown may be had from the perusal of the latest price list as given by our canteen. Peas per pound, 67 yen; beans per pound, 73 yen; rock salt per pound, 20 yen; sugar per pound, 50 yen; chicken per pound, 105 yen; pork products (lard, liver, etc.) per pound, 150 yen; beef per pound, 80 yen; other commodities such as rice, wood and cooking oil are not listed but we can assume that they are proportionately high. The paper editorially warns the public that they can expect to encounter still more difficult conditions in the new year (???).
January 7 – (Sunday)
Papers of the 6thand 7thcontain one or two items of interest to us. First, task forces are on the loose again and on the 4thand 5th, raided Taiwan with four or five hundred planes respectively. Yesterday’s paper mentions a task force westof Luzon, which puts them within a day and a half of us here. Some U.S. shipping production figures given yesterday are interesting. The item reports that sixteen hundred odd ships, totaling sixteen million tons, were built last year in the States, and this makes good reading for us. An item that mentions the widening scope of Montgomery’s command in Europe is probably the basis of an earlier Vernacular that we received which stated that Eisenhower was moving to the Pacific to assume command here, and that Montgomery was taking over in Europe.
January 14 – (Sunday)
The first fortnight of the New Year has been marked by a noticeable acceleration in the tempo of the war effort in the Pacific theatre. The appearance of a task force off the west coast of Luzon, as mentioned in the last entry, has resulted in a landing having been made in the Lingayen Bay area on the ninth. Yesterday’s paper admits that two infantry divisions and one tank division had successfully landed and were attempting to advance in the San Fabian sector. The same paper also mentions a landing attempt at Akyab in Burma, and since the paper mentions that the Japs bombed the waterfront, we can assume that at least a bridgehead has been established. Shonan (Singapore) also made the news with a raid on the 11thby twenty B.29’s. Friday’s paper mentions the fact that the British fleet is now in Australia and that Australian land, sea and air forces are now taking their active part in the Philippine operations. The Pacific now seems to have become the focal point of the greatest activity in the global struggle.
News that the “enemy” landing at San Fabian employed three convoys of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty vessels each, plus the escorting war-craft, must make rather dreary news for the Japanese public. Developments on the European front have been relegated to a secondary position by us due to the fact that the news seems unable to follow any logical sequence in its presentation. Despite minor setbacks and evident fluctuations along the front, we feel that everything is under control in that area.
Mail came in today but I failed to click….Official weight now is 181 pounds. Ye Gods! What will happen when I hit real food again?
The paper tells us that a ship laden with Red Cross supplies sailed from Japan on the eighth for Shanghai. It looks as though we might be getting some here in the very near future.
Current news has everyone riding the crest. Numerous private strategies are being expounded, most of which, of course, include the recapture of the colony at an early date. The most common theory advanced is that the Americans will continue on to Taiwan after the consolidation of Luzon, from where they will be in a position to establish bases for their attack on the Japanese mainland. Proponents of this theory believe the task of the continental landing at Luichow, Hong Kong or Fuchow will fall to the British Fleet. The opinion that the drive on the China continent will commence within the next three months is also expressed. Offers are out for cinch memberships in the “O.B.E.” (Out Before Easter) club. It would seem we don’t lack hope anyway!
Cigarettes still remain a problem with the current price seven yen per deck. My greatcoat and ring have done their bit for the syndicate for the past few weeks but, unfortunately, our stock of saleable articles is about shot. My tin-ticker went the way of all such things a year ago and provided us with a goodly supply of tinned goods. We have managed remarkably well at that.
Chilly weather has discouraged such quiet past-times as reading or typing of late, but I have managed to get in a bit of good reading. “Oliver Wiswell” and “Three Harbours”, both of which deal with the American War of Independence were rather good, particularly the latter. Biographies of Churchill (“Battle”) and of Galileo (“The Star Gazer”), I particularly enjoyed.
The alarm has just sounded, but since the sky is overcast we see nothing. “Albert” is evidently around though. A convoy of some kind is reported to have come in last night so if he spots it we’re liable to see some action.
January 15 – (Monday)
A big raid today in which twenty-four fighters and fighter bombers participated. The raid lasted an hour and a half and featured considerable dive-bombing on shipping in the harbour and Half Moon Bay, as well as on the airfield at Kai Tak. We have heard no rumours yet as to results but we in camp had a lively time with ack-ack, shrapnel, etc. dropping all over the shop. No casualties reported in camp though. A further raid this afternoon provided the thrills of the day. Four torpedo-carrying planes suddenly appeared from over the hills behind the camp, streaked across the corner of our parade grounds (so low that they had to swerve to avoid hitting Jubilee buildings) and leveled out at ships in the harbour. One destroyer was hit squarely amidship and sank almost immediately, and two other ships lying close by were damaged. (Several people walking on the square at the time got the thrill of their lives.) Fires were seen to break out on the two damaged ships but how serious we couldn’t say. Four more planes, following on the heels of the first group, also came across and one of these was brought down, the pilot managing to bail out. Numerous buildings in camp were hit by ack-ack shells, mostly pom-poms, and though there were several narrow escapes, again no casualties were reported. The menace from ack-ack shrapnel is not too lightly dismissed here, as the huts offer little, if any, protection from it. The advent of low-flying planes from behind the camp means that we have everything from pistol to heavy ack-ack shells directed at us from all angles. T’Ain’t funny………
I suffered from a “near-miss” of another kind this morning on the wood pile when a piece of wood flew up and hit me in the face. Strangely enough, the piece hit me “long side” on putting a gash over my left eye, another on my chin and taking a bit of skin off my nose and upper lip. A couple of stitches above the eye served to put things right, but I’m glad I have a snub nose!
Strange that I should mention the state of the exchequer in the last entry. Last night I was almost “forced” to part with some of my bed clothing for sufficient fags to last the three of us until the end of February, at the rate of a deck a day. Seems one never knows one’s luck.
(Monday evening) – a rumour going the rounds seems to be fairly authentic too – that all garrisons in the colony were given a “stand to” order as of yesterday noon. It apparently comes from the fact that a task force is supposed to have been spotted two hundred miles north of Hong Kong. Consensus of opinion is that a good number of the planes which participated in this morning’s raid were carrier-based Grummans.
January 16 – (Tuesday)
(11:45 a.m.) This is being tapped out in the midst of an air raid that has lasted since 8:30 this morning. Shortly after reveille, “Oscar” circled the camp – evidently to spot shipping dispositions in the harbour. We had barely returned to our huts after morning muster when the alarm went, followed almost immediately by the sound of planes. Since that time we have had, with very few lulls, one of the best exhibitions of dive-bombing we’ll probably ever see. Objectives seem to be scattered all over the colony and territories. Just how many planes are taking part in the raid is hard to say, but I’ve counted more than twenty in sight at one time. This is the best yet!! The ack-ack is terrific but it doesn’t seem to deter the pilots, who keep circling and diving in sort of wild “follow the leader” style. The planes seem to work in waves – each wave devoting about twenty minutes to its task then, leaving four or five around, the main body of wave moves off, to be replaced in about ten minutes by another flight. Needless to say, the camp is coming in for its share of shrapnel, etc., several bits having dropped quite close to the hut. Angie is raising hell because one has landed in the midst of his carrots, just outside his window. (It was an unexploded pom-pom, as we discovered later). Several minor scratches reported in camp, but nothing serious.
The all-clear blew at 12:30 and at one o’clock four planes swooped in over the hills and made for the ships in the harbour. Two of these planes carried torpedoes. Rumours of results achieved we’ll get when the raid is over. We hear that a member of the camp office staff, who has been in hospital with malaria for a few days, suffered a heart attack during the raid and died shortly after. Another shell through the roof of our cook-house but no casualties this time. Quite a number of huts throughout the camp have been hit, and pierced by ack-ack, but again, fortunately no one was injured. Smoke from the bombers objectives can be seen rising almost from every direction that one looks.
3 p.m. – Another alarm, about an hour ago, and I was about to write that the only evident activity was “Albert” circling around, when we heard the drone of a number of planes. Going to the window for a look-see, I finally picked out a formation of six – flying very high above the island and, as I watched, one lone ack-ack shell burst in their midst, scattering the formation.
It is now almost five o’clock. I’ve made about six attempts at this writing but every attempt is discouraged by another wave of planes. To revert to the scattered formation: Two of the planes seem to have been hit and fluttered down until they passed from my line of vision. The remainder of the flight went into vertical dives, and as though this were a signal, the air was quite suddenly literally filled with planes. The ensuing din was terrific, and for twenty minutes or so, everything rumbled and shook with the concussion of falling bombs and ack-ack firing. (And still another bunch has come over)…The rumble of planes has not ceased since three o’clock and the plan of operation seems to be twenty or so minutes of bombing, followed by a comparative lull of ten minutes, and then another series of heavy bombings. The sky is overcast by pall of smoke and dust and there are at least nine huge columns of smoke arising from the general direction of the waterfront. The raid of a few minutes ago deposited a bomb at the Castle Peak road junction about two blocks from us, and gave us a bit of a shaking – to say nothing of the dust which is drifting over and filling the hut. Two more planes were casualties from these later raids. I witnessed two downed planes over Stone Cutters Island, one in flames and the other with his wing shot off. Several claims to have….to hell with it! I’ll finish this tomorrow when things become a bit less exciting! (I hope!)
January 17 – (Wednesday)
As happened yesterday, “Albert” was over shortly after reveille and we expected a repetition of the big show yesterday – but nothing came of it. The alarm sounded about ten o’clock but no planes materialized. The summary of yesterday’s results, according to Honda (we hear), seems to be that ten ships, six destroyers and four transports, were sunk while they bagged thirteen of our planes. Added to this there is the damage caused along the waterfront, where fires in the godowns, etc., are still casting up smoke. The Texaco installation at Shing Mun, about seven miles from here, was also set ablaze, a huge column of smoke and flames which could still be seen at reveille this morning. Estimations of the number of planes taking part in the raid vary from three to five hundred, but I do know that in one raid, over fifty planes were counted in the air at one time. Two freighters can be seen “bottoms up” from the camp and there appear to be three or four ships either beached on the island or listing badly. The result achieved by the four planes which came in about one o’clock yesterday were – one destroyer, hit squarely amidship and almost immediately sunk, and a large tanker badly holed in the bow. One bomb, which was evidently intended for the small shipyard adjoining the camp, hit a few feet from the sea wall which forms the camp boundary on that side and gave the inmates of the dysentery hospital a bit of a thrill. The pilot of one of the two planes which burst into flames tried to bail out but unfortunately delayed too long and his chute caught fire. Another of the pilots, his plane evidently badly damaged crashed into a destroyer and caused a fire aboard the vessel. Considerable attention was paid to ack-ack positions with some success evidently for we did notice a definite slacking off of ack-ack fire towards the end of the afternoon. Not only were objectives in this area bombed heavily, for we could hear tremendous activity over on the island, apparently around Stanley and Aberdeen. Some of the planes carried markings in which the red and blue were quite distinguishable and we assume that they were from a British task force. Regardless of nationality, the pilots today certainly put up one of the most remarkable shows we’ll probably ever see. Their exhibitions of dive-bombings were absolutely superb. To attempt to describe such a show with any kind of continuity would be impossible. After I was finished, one felt much the same as after having witnessed a five ring circus. There was simply too much going on for one person to absorb anything but a very hazy picture of the whole…We hear that six more destroyers have just come into the harbour. That may mean another big day tomorrow.
A sentry rumour raised the ship losses ante to twenty-six. We hear too that one of the planes, with a full bomb load, crashed on the Kings’ Theatre in Hong Kong, and rather made a mess of things in that section.
The best story of the day is that duringthe raid on the harbour shipping, the Chinese were out in small boats to collect the fish killed by bombs.
Today’s paper estimates three hundred planes took part in the raid, claiming to have downed fourteen, damaged ten and one probable. Some damage was caused, it admits.
January 19 – (Friday)
The papers of yesterday and today contain some items worth recording – chief among them being the fact that Macao came in for a bit of bombing and strafing on Tuesday when twenty-one Grumman-carrier-based planes raided the harbour facilities, forts and wireless station. The paper mentions that the planes were believed to have come from the carriers of a United States task force known to be operating in South China waters. On Monday, this task force launched attacks against Canton, Swatow, Hong Kong and Hainan Island with its carrier-borne planes. Eighty B.29’s also raided Taiwan on Wednesday, while Shanghai was raided on Thursday. Deletions from our one page newspaper lead us to believe that the rumour that some internees at Stanley were killed in Tuesday’s raid is correct.
Four P.51’s gave us a thrill on Thursday when they came across camp at a very low altitude and strafed the small shipyard next door. Empty cartridge cases were strewn all over camp.
January 21 – (Sunday)
A formation of thirty or more four engine-bombers, flying quite high, passed overhead about four o’clock today, dropping their cargo of bombs on the harbour area. No report of damage caused is available as yet but it is believed the naval dockyard must have suffered. The work party announces that one large ship was set ablaze.
January 28 – (Sunday)
The week just past has been productive of such an abundance of news, rumours, Vernacular reports, etc. as to leave us in a state of optimistic bewilderment as to just what is taking place on the world’s war-fronts. If we are to place any credence in even a percentage of our reports we find that events are progressing very satisfactorily for us; that is in fact just the trouble! Things seem to be going too well. It would seem that the years have at last taught us an abhorrence of being “sucked in”. However, I’ll list the events and let the future prove their veracity or otherwise. We’ll commence with the European front. Of the Allies in the west we have heard nothing for quite a number of days. In the eastern section of this battle-ground, according to an alleged report from the Vernacular, the Russians commenced their winter offensive, throwing in one hundred infantry divisions and fifteen tank divisions (just when the offensive began we can’t say, since our English paper has studiously avoided any mention of Europe since the German counter-drives check). A few days ago we heard that in the north, Konigsberg had been evacuated and that in the central Polish sector, Warsaw had been given up by the Germans on the 16th. In rapid succession, following this, we heard that the Russians had control of all of East Prussia and were now operating in the outskirts of Danzig. South and west of Warsaw the momentum of the drive had gathered in the cities of Lodz and Posen in its westward thrust until finally we heard that the German border had been reached. Fair enough…but we now hear that the Ruskies have reached Frankfurt (??) which is only about sixty-odd miles from Berlin. Of course this type of news presentation which we enjoy might (?) make such terrific speed possible but ??. Our informants insist that it’s the “straight stuff” and we do know that in the past these sources have been reasonably “reliable”. Still….
And now for the local dope. The fact that task forces are gallivanting around the Pacific almost at will these days, leaves the possibility of action imminent in any one of a dozen likely places along the China coast, including Hong Kong, so that anything we notice locally may be nothing more than routine precaution because of existing circumstances. The first item of interest – from our standpoint – was the announcement in the paper that the Japs had routed a brigade of Chinese troops and captured the village of Huichow, thereby forestalling any plans the Chinese might have had to link up with the Yanks in the event of a landing in the Bias Bay area. (Huichow is only fifty-two miles from here by rail, and the proximity of Chinese troops was a pleasant surprise to us!) About the same time, the “Vernac” is quoted as saying that Chiang Kai Chek was establishing head quarters at Suichow, some ninety miles north of Canton. About the first of the week we witnessed troops, to the number of some three-thousand and in full battle kit, marching out on the road to the territories. Then came a rumour that the Adjutant of the next camp had made the statement that the Governor had declared Hong Kong to be in a state of siege. The same day the Japs ordered our R.E.’s to construct some kind of container capable of holding a week’s supply of water for the camp. The day following, one of our visiting “traders” told us that the troops we had seen marching earlier were engaged in fighting Chinese troops between here and Canton and that the Chinese had a great many horses and machine guns, which would indicate to us that here was something different to the guerillas of which we usually hear. This lad also said that rail and steamship communication with Canton had been cut, a fact which had its effect on the local “dry goods” market, and that local labour was being recruited to build fortifications in the Bias Bay area. So much for the local stuff.
Because of a very noticeable lack of news concerning the Philippines battle, we assume that the Americans are progressing satisfactorily. The last bit of news the paper gave us was that the Yanks had penetrated, in small numbers of course, to a point on the highway halfway from the landing point at Lingayen to Manila…And there it is. Certainly the general run of it permits a basis for optimism but – how much are we to indulge in without leaving ourselves wide open for a big fall?
In connection with the raid by big bombers last Sunday, the local press describes them as China-based B.24’s and that the raid resulted in the destroying of five hundred homes, with the resultant deaths of over one thousand persons and the serious injury of five thousand more. No military damage was done, the paper admits.
We are now experiencing a spell of the cold, drizzly weather which is seasonal now, but most uncomfortable with all. Apparently this type of weather accentuates any beri-beri tendencies for I find myself starting to puff up again.
The Japs are fixing the row of huts immediately to our rear, for storing supplies we hear. Hope they don’t decide on ammunition!
I’ve just finished an excellent book by H.C. Link entitled “The Return to Religion” and, contrary to my expectations, found it contained an abundance of good common sense psychology, rather than the usual platitudes on religion.
No aerial activity since last Sunday with the exception of the old reconnaissance flights of “Albert” and “Oscar”. The bombing of the Japanese mainland by B.29’s seems to be a daily occurrence and, judging by the size of the attacks on Taiwan, it would seem that a task force must be operating in that area.
January 29 – (Monday)
A work party of one hundred and fifty “A” men was called out yesterday with instructions to take a change of clothing, blankets and money, but no foodstuffs. The destination is unknown but it is rumoured that the party will be out for twenty days; billeted at Bowen Road; and will be employed at garden work at the Happy Valley Race Course. This seems a logical explanation since the colony is being exhorted to support a “Grow Your Own Food” campaign to counteract the effects of the blockade. Our rumours of the Russian drive seem to have been “slightly” exaggerated. The “guff’ seems to be that they have progressed as far as the Polish city of Posen. The Chinese dope seems to be holding up, however, for we hear that today’s “Vernac” reports very heavy fighting seventy miles north of Canton.
Our own paper tonight says that the Yanks – again in small numbers – have penetrated into the Clarke Field area, north of Manila. The paper adds that the main body of the “enemy” has succeeded in reinforcing itself with an additional division, giving the main strength some seven or eight divisions. We hear (strictly rumour) that two task forces are operating in the Taiwan area and have effected a landing on the southern tip of that island. Burma news is very heartening, with several divisions converging on Mandalay from all directions.
February 1 – (Thursday)
Early this afternoon we heard a rumour (supposed to be “the goods”) that the Russians had advanced to the German city of Leipzig and that whole German armies were laying down their arms. Neutral observers are reported to have stated that the fate of Germany will be settled in a matter of days. We were inclined to believe this all to be a bit of wishful thinking until the arrival of our own paper with the admission that the Ruskies had crossed the German border, on a very wide front, to a point some eighty miles from Berlin. We are now inclined to believe almost anything we hear….
A further addition to the above is that the Germans are only putting up resistance in isolated groups, and that unless they manage to form some sort of line, the whole show is liable to collapse within the next forty-eight hours or so.
February 4 – (Sunday)
Today the weatherman has completely forsaken us and we shiver in our huts, thoroughly chilled by a bitterly cold, wet north wind. Further news of events in Europe, via yesterday’s “Vernac’, indicates that the end seems finally at hand. The Russians are reported to have pushed forward to a point only forty seven kilometres from Berlin and refugees flocking to that city are said to have been given food for three days by the Red Cross, that being the limit of their available supplies. An unfortunate aspect in connection with these refugees is that those who seek to escape from the Russian onslaught by leaving Berlin are being bombed and strafed by the Anglo-American airmen. Whether or not this be true we of course can’t say, but I should not be surprised if such were the case. The Germans have been warned that they would be subjected to all the horrors of total war and it may be that the Allies are using this weapon with a dual purpose - to hasten the end in Europe, and to provide food for thought for those in Asia who might decide to fight on to a bitter finish. Perhaps it is necessary, certainly I’m no judge, but I can’t feel altogether proud of our use of such drastic measures. Surely the women and children will have suffered enough in this business?
The same sources as the above claim that there is street fighting in Manila, so it would seem that the end is not far off in the Philippines.
An item stating that the United States was preparing to lend Soviet Russia six billion dollars after the war, would seem an indication that Russia is prepared to play ball in Asia when she is finished in Germany. We still hope the Japanese will find a good loophole to withdraw, without losing too much “face”. It might be still possible for her to salvage something from the wreckage if she does. Time will tell.
February 5 – (Monday)
The latest flash from the war fronts, although not yet confirmed, is as follows: The suburbs of Berlin have been reached and there is fighting in the streets. On the western sector of that battle-zone the Anglo-Americans are said to have occupied Dusseldorf. Manila has fallen to the Yanks.
Yesterday’s paper indicated that three landings have been effected in the Manila locality and that the Yanks seemed to be having things pretty much their own way. The paper also gave us news that the Awa Maru would be leaving Mojii around the 17thwith Red Cross supplies for POWs and internees in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Java, Sumatra, etc. so we can look forward to their arrival about the first week in March. With the supply lines to Canton cut, we are finding the vegetable situation becoming rather acute.
February 11 – (Sunday)
Our cold spell still persists and most of our time is spent in the seemingly futile task of trying to keep warm. The mercury is hovering around the 40 degree mark and believe me that’s not comfortable.
Progress on the different war fronts can best be judged by a review of our different sources of news for the last few days. From yesterday’s “Vernac” we cull the following…The Allies on the western front have unleashed what is said to be the greatest artillery barrage in history, evidently as a prelude for a big “push” to eventually link up with the Russian drive on Berlin. Hitler is said to have instigated another “purge” which brought the execution of the chief of the Berlin Gestapo and several others suspected of being pro-British. We hear too of the contemplated territorial divisions to be made in Europe after the war. Silesia and Brandenburg provinces to the Czechs, East Prussia to the Poles, etc., etc. Is it to be another “Versailles Treaty”? I had hoped that the “minority” question would be avoided in this settlement. From the same source we learn that, after a terrific shelling by war ships of the Allied Fleets, the fortress of Corregidor has been reduced and our ships are now in Manila Bay.
News in our paper has been rather scanty but we took pleasure in reading yesterday that “the Yanks on February 3rdpreceded by Filipino guerillas, entered the city of Manila and made their way to the Santo Thomo Internment Camp, where they released some two hundred internees and posted a garrison at that point”. Generally speaking, as far as we can ascertain from the news, there seems to have been very little real stiff opposition put up in the Manila sector. What the situation is in northern Luzon we have no idea, since there has been no dispatch from there for the last couple of days. Our last report was that the Japs were adopting guerilla tactics “according to plan”.
We note that the Japanese Diet, scheduled to adjourn on February 8th, “unless some emergency arose”, is still in session. Dare we hope that the emergency may be the collapse of her German ally, and that she might possibly be considering……?
Mail twice this week, mostly ’44 letters, but again I failed to register. George Porteous received the bad news that his wife had died. They have two sons aged nine and thirteen.
Chinese New Year tomorrow and this weather is the type which they believe will accompany good luck throughout the New Year. We hope so too!
With the main task in the Philippines nearly completed we sit back and wonder when and where the next blow will fall….
February 19 – (Monday)
After a lull occasioned by a press holiday over the Chinese New Year, our paper resumed again today, bringing us the tidings of still another move by the Yanks. We read that on the 16thand 17th, “carrier-based planes, operating from a task force within the Japanese waters, raided several districts on the Japanese mainland for about nine hours. The main strength of the task force comprised of about 30 surface craft, including ten carriers, from which an aggregate total of one thousand planes participated in the sustained raids. Just prior to the nine-hour raid on Friday, about 60 Marianna-based B.29’s, in formation of tens, conducted scattered attacks on several districts in the Kanto sector”. We also read of an attempted landing having been made on the Bonin Islands, a strongly-fortified position only 600 miles from the mainland. Evidently the strafing and bombing was a cover for the operations on the Bonins but what we do find significant is the fact that, though the task force was evidently very close to the mainland, the Japs claim of damage inflicted is only “one large vessel, presumed to be a carrier, which was damaged and set ablaze”. In the same paper is the announcement that air-borne Yank troops landed on Corregidor in the forenoon of February 16th…Things are getting hot again! No news from Europe.
The work party from Bowen Road arrived last night and were tired and properly fed up. They seem to have had quite an uncomfortable time of things, digging in the rain and cold, poor food, long hours, and generally being pushed about. They are certainly glad to be back. They bring the rumour that the Red Cross ship left on the 14thand should be here about the 23rd. We hope so…
No sun yet this month.
Signs of the times: Two English half-sovereigns sold in camp a few days ago brought 5200 yen…our pay, 58 yen per month – seems a trifle insignificant!
February 21 – (Wednesday)
The Red Cross rumour seems to have foundation. The O.C. camp fatigues has been ordered to have a large party ready for the handling of same on Saturday.
A very good source gives us the news that the Bonins are finished. This will give the Yanks a fighter plane base for future B.29 operations against Japan proper. It’s quite possible that the Yanks may have decided to go at Japan directly, instead of the longer and probably costlier route via the Continent. We presume of course that some arrangement will have been reached between the United States and Russia.
Official word has just been received that the Red Cross ship is in harbour and a special party has been detailed to handle supplies tomorrow. Everyone is in high fettle as they “preview” the long awaited parcel. It is assumed that, since it would seem the Yanks are behind this shipment, that the parcel will be the same as that issued to Yank POWs in Japan; this being the case, our parcel will be a “super” of twenty-eight pounds.
Meanwhile, events in the Pacific area progress at such a rate that it is something of a job to keep abreast of the times. Between February 16thand 18th, a total of six hundred planes have raided the south Taiwan area; 150 planes on the 16th, 170 B.24’s on the 17thand 360 fighters on the 18th. On the 19th, the paper reports that one hundred B.29’s raided the Tokyo area again. Mention is also made of the sinking by Jap planes, of one of our transports off Chichijima, in the Ogasawara (Bonin) group, so that it rather looks as though this island must be slated for the next landing, after the finish of Iwo Jima. Things look up…
February 24 – (Saturday)
Our much-looked for Red Cross parcels have at last arrived, and instead of the jubilation in camp which usually accompanies such an event, we find everyone more than a bit let down. The reasons, to some extent, are of our own making for we have been a bit prone to “build up” the shipment in view of the more than ordinary publicity it received beforehand. Nevertheless, when the parcels finally arrived we found, not the bounteous Yank parcels we had expected, but the eleven-pound British parcel of the original 1942 consignment. The parcels have not been delivered as yet, but since the total for the colony is only six thousand odd, we can hardly hope to do better than one per man. Perhaps we’re becoming a bit selfish in our wants. (?) It does look though, as if we had been “sold” a bit. We find it rather hard to believe that our people would go to the trouble to give safe conduct to a ship which is only going to deliver the rather small total of 39 tons of clothing and food-stuffs for over six-thousand people. Doesn’t seem just right.
As if to rub things in just a bit more, we hear that members of the guard “looking after” our stuff at the docks, were a bit free with their “charge” and satisfied their wants to the extent that one or two of them were sick (all over our parcels, if you don’t mind). Oh well! We cannot have everything.
One bit of good news, for the Canucks anyway, is that there are personal parcels (comfort) in fairly good quantity. These are said to contain – besides clothing, cigarettes, etc., a fact that will be more than appreciated, since fags are now going for seventeen yen per deck. The shipment also includes besides the comfort, the R.C. parcels, shoes, clothing, medical equipment, books, gramophone records, and a crate labeled “Theatrical Kit”. Also mentioned were two cartons of Old Gold cigarettes (nine cartons were unloaded at the docks) so that we can look forward to an issue of five Old Golds per each. All in all…not bad. We do appreciate these things in spite of the disappointment I mentioned earlier.
We had our first glimpse of the sun this month when Old Sol peeked out for about an hour today, but it was short-lived for an hour later it was raining again. Incidentally, the soaking won’t help the general condition of our parcels.
Mail twice this week, and all ’44 stuff. I clicked with a letter from Addie Seaver, or “Cincy”.
News this week has been rather meager, with much fuss being made over Iwo Jima, where they claim the Yanks have landed thirty thousand troops. The force operating against the island is said to number five hundred war-craft, including three hundred landing barges. Sounds like a lot of stuff for an island of only eight square miles. Our underground reveals that a lull prevails on the western front which is believed to be a prelude to a large scale offensive by both the Russian and the Anglo-Americans. We hear too that things are still “hot” around Canton.
February 27 – (Tuesday)
Yesterday and today are certainly red letter days for the Canadians. With no warning whatsoever, the individual parcels mentioned earlier started to pour into camp yesterday – two and a half truckloads of them, and they should be ready for issue today. Such expedition, on the part of our hosts, was most surprising and the Canadian lines were soon a bedlam of small talk as everyone discussed his chances of “clicking’. Excitement reached a peak about four o’clock when a party was called to carry the parcels to camp office to be checked, and individuals learned that they had “scored” for sure in either fags or comforts. I’m afraid an outside observer might have thought us a group of half-witted kids waiting for Santa, so great was the jubilation. It’s almost pathetic to see grown men react in such a juvenile manner to a situation which, after all, is not really extraordinary. Perhaps it best illustrates the effect the deprivations of our present existence can cause.
(A slight interval of two days here – the general excitement does not permit the necessary concentration.)
March 1 – (Thursday)
The great days are over at last, and we settled down to some degree of normalcy. To begin approximately where I left off on Tuesday morning…
In the first place, we enjoyed our first sunny day in a month and, as we were out of wood, I managed to get on the outside wood party – thereby wangling a trip downtown to the wood depot. This proved as enjoyable as a picnic since we were out from ten in the morning until about three in the afternoon and in that time we loaded only six trucks of wood. On arriving back we found the Canuck groups around camp office waiting for the distribution of the parcels. Though I had previously been told that I was not among the lucky “expectants”, I now found my name was on the list. From this point on things are pretty much a jumble of pleasurable excitement. When received, I found my parcel to be a comfort one and it certainly proved such to me. The items it contained could not have been more appropriate had I picked them according to my own wants. Such items as soap, socks, etc. are worth their weight in gold under these circumstances. Almost everyone of the officer group managed a comfort parcel and the hut took on the appearance of a bazaar as people spread their new belongings for the admiring gaze of their friends. Any attempt on my part to describe the joy occasioned by these contacts with civilization in general and loved ones in particular would be hopelessly inadequate, but I can say that those at home would have been amply repaid had they been able to witness the effect on our boys here. Naturally, all were not lucky enough to get cigarettes but the officer group alleviated the disappointment to some extent by the formation of a pool which netted approximately 25,000 fags which were distributed to those men who were missed. Several small pools had been previously formed among the officers, prior to the parcel delivery, and as a member of a fourteen-man syndicate I netted about two thousand. It goes without saying that everyone in camp was smoking Canadian cigarettes before the day was out. I was very glad to hear complimentary remarks by the members of other units on the generosity of the Canucks…God knows…they’ve had little enough these last three years.
Apparently my quota of excitement was not all used up for the parcels, for on Wednesday I received a card from Paddy and a letter from Glad, with pictures enclosed – both dated 1944. The evident growth of the girls is amazing. Mrs. C. will have become the shrimp of the family by the time of my return….All I need now is a visit by Nimitz to complete things.
We have still to receive our Red Cross parcels (the latest delivery date is said to be Saturday) but somehow they seem to have become an insignificant item.
February has proved a most productive month for us here. Germany, ticketed to fold hourly, seems to be hanging on, but we hear that the long-awaited offensive in the West has commenced and the Anglo-Americans, particularly the latter, seem to be making pretty hefty gains. Out here we note an increase in the number of planes employed against the Japanese mainland, the last report stating that 600 carrier-based planes, in conjunction with one hundred and thirty B.29’s, had raided the Tokyo area. It doesn’t speak too well for the Jap defenses if a task force can operate successfully so close to the mainland. We hear little else from the Pacific front except that the Iwo Jima garrison still fights bravely on. Oh well! Nothing to do but sit back and see what March has in store for us.
March 4 – (Sunday)
Red Cross parcels were issued yesterday and, to everyone’s surprise, they proved to be generally in good condition. The issue was one parcel per man but we hear today that there is a possibility of a further allotment of two parcels between three.
The camp has never witnessed such a session of trading as that which followed on the heels of the Canadian parcels. The whole thing was becoming fantastic when the camp office found it necessary to issue a warning that a sentry had been apprehended downtown with goods which could have emanated only from Sham Shui Po, and that steps were to be taken in camp to put a stop to trading. Sentries and traders stormed in and out of huts at all hours of the day and night and the quantities of brown sugar and eggs arriving in camp were astounding. Very conservative estimates place the number of eggs that arrived, in a three-day period, at between ten and fifteen thousand. That’s not bad for a thousand inmates, particularly when – up to now – they have been unobtainable. I think the best story of the session (and it’s absolutely true!) is the one in which coolies were used to help the sentries bring intocamp the goods to be used as “exchange”. I did hear too that one person had been offered a “woman”, very cheap. Prices quoted for Black Cat cigarettes the first day were fifty yen, but by yesterday the price had risen to one hundred and twenty yen per pack (25). Closing prices yesterday were roughly as follows – 6 duck eggs or three pounds of sugar for one Black Cat; Sweet Cap (20’s) at 75 yen; Black Cat (25s) at 120 yen; Trades….one can Red Cross bacon for nine eggs; one can bacon for one can milk, two small tins of sugar and one can of cheese. For once, the Canadians will be able to eat. It’s a pretty happy camp about now!
We hear rumours of a landing on Japan but we’re inclined to discount them as being a bit premature. An island between Japan and Formosa was reported to have been raided heavily by carrier planes a few days ago.
March 18 – (Sunday)
Today being a wood-chopper holiday, I’ll utilize the opportunity to tap out a commemorative entry for Paddy’s birthday, though I be a day ahead. Many of them Paddy – and again I insert the oft-repeated hope that the next occasion permits the extension of my best wishes “in person”. One of these years I’m bound to be right.
Things remain quite normal here and, though the news gives us no indication of anything startling, we have the feeling that something momentous is in the offing. For the present, we adopt the life of taipans and scoff richly of the foods derived from our trade in cigarettes, etc., received in the parcels from home. After the initial splurge of the first hectic days following their arrival, we found our inventory of stock not as imposing as we had imagined – in fact, a bit of retrenchment was called for in order that our smoking, for at least a short period, would be assured. The result of our efforts is that we plan to enjoy an egg a day for three weeks or a month and, by trading our Canadian fags for Japanese, we have a fag supply that will keep us going for about four months. Trading seems to be about as brisk as ever in the camp though a temporary lull developed for a few hours last night when Honda discovered a couple of sentries who were quite obviously not engaged in guard duty, in our hut. Business is as usual this morning though. The risks the sentries seem willing to assume for a bit of profit seems amazing to we of the west. Oh well! It’s certainly been a God-send for the camp as a whole in the matter of food.
Casting back over the years passed, we find that we have graduated to a scale of mental and physical well-being that, by comparison, puts us in the luxury stage judging by the standards of those earlier days. Of course, being human, we didn’t underestimate our trials and tribulations, but then the situation was so utterly different to any we had ever come across that we were quite unprepared to meet it as we should. Anyway we have come far and it’s a pleasure to be able to note the improvement. If as, they say, the surmounting of such obstacles strengthens one, then perhaps we have even gained, rather than lost, on the transaction. Let’s hope so………
A bit of excitement over the colony the day before yesterday when five fighters appeared. Evidently they were escorting heavy bombers for we heard the drone of “big stuff”, though we didn’t see them. Two Jap planes doing reconnaissance came in for a bit of a shock when the fighters dropped on them from the skies. One of the Japs cruising over the airport area was forced into a “crash-dive” when two of our fighters dove on him. (I can imagine he must have established some kind of a quick-landing record judging by his speed when we saw him last), and the other plane, less fortunate, was shot down in the hills behind the camp. No bombing was indulged in so it would appear that their task was merely to neutralize the planes at the airport. (We later learned that the whole China coast came in for a bit of bombing from planes based at Clarke Field in the Philippines). (Vernac).
The action of the Japs in taking over the defence of French Indo-China would seem to indicate a fear of an American landing in that area. We hope so….
With the advent of warmer weather I find my weight dropping back to what should be about a normal camp weight for me. The official weigh-in on Wednesday listed me at 168 pounds, a loss of thirteen pounds in the last month. This loss (?) I believe is probably due to the rise in temperature, plus a supply of decent wood which ensures a good work-out, a combination which promotes perspiration and thus dispels, to some extent, the results of beri-beri which have been evident in me for the past few months.
I have just finished a St. Patrick’s Day show which, though not too good, served as a bit of entertainment for the camp. More than anything else I think I miss the musical side of that “other” life. Not having a sax has been something of a handicap here and, though I do borrow one for shows, etc., I do not get the use of it that I would if it were my own. Aside from concerts, the only playing indulged in is a bit of a recital, twice weekly in the different huts and employing two saxes, two violins, two guitars and a snare drum. I look forward to some family sessions on my return hence my frequent references to the musical efforts of the girls.
March 20 – (Tuesday)
News in today’s paper that the garrison on Iwo Jima had made their last glorious effort in the defence of that island. I make a note of this for future verification; our papers had given us the news that Saipan had held on for over a month, but we find that, according to some recently delivered issues of the Japan Times that the struggle was over in a week.
Another task force is reported operating off the southeast coast of Kyushu for the past two days. Heavy raids on airfields in that vicinity coupled with intensified B.29 activities are said to be still in progress.
A rather stiff return of my old stomach complaint has made it necessary for me to take things easy for awhile. I had hoped I had seen the last of that…
Bowen Road is to be moved, en bloc, to some former Chinese school in Kowloon and we hear that, pending the setting up of accommodation, a number of them will be moving into camp for ten days or so. We hear too that Stanley and Rosary Hill may be moved to the mainland. It would appear that the Japs intend making a stand on the island.
March 25 – (Sunday)
Bowen Road crowd have all moved in; the patients on Thursday and the staff on Friday. A “re-hash” concert was staged for them Thursday afternoon and their appreciation was most evident. The majority of them are finding Sham Shui Po quite the place after the gloomy atmosphere of the hospital, and they find it a bit hard to understand the generally cheerful outlook and the comparative freedom enjoyed by us here. I think most of them have already made up their minds that they would much sooner stay here than move to their new home. The noticeably low frame of mind indigenous to the patients as a group is attributed, by the Bowen Road doctors, to “melancholia” induced by malnutrition. Since there is no noticeable difference in diet between the two camps, we are inclined to place the blame on an overdose of poor administration and its resulting effects. The indifference, or the lack of firmness, on the part of the officers of the staff, coupled with the rapaciousness of the R.A.M.C., is a disgrace to British administration, particularly at this stage of the game, in that it has served to promote a spirit of depression. I boil when I hear some of the stories concerning the treatment of the patients in the matter of rations and Red Cross supplies. It’s no wonder people show a tendency to be anti-British around camp. Everyone here is doing his utmost to show the visitors “the best” during their short stay with us. A concert is planned for them next Saturday or Sunday and there are “sessions” in their huts almost nightly.
“Albert” was over before breakfast this morning and, though the sky was heavily overcast, he dropped his load somewhere on the island.
March 31 – (Saturday)
A few minutes while waiting for the dress rehearsal of this afternoon’s show…Beautiful weather these days so we take the opportunity to store up a bit of suntan.
News from the fronts remains good, particularly the western sector. Latest Vernacular dope indicates that General Patton has penetrated a hundred miles into the German lines, while the Canucks and the British too, have made considerable advances. We hear that Kesselring’s forces have been cut off by the Americans, and that the situation is considered critical. Maybe we are finally to hear that it is sufficiently critical to warrant the long-awaited collapse.
The Americans in the Pacific sector have not been idle in the meantime, for our paper relates of another landing – this time on a small island in the Okinawas, which is one of the main islands in the Riukiu group, situated between Formosa and the Japanese mainland about four hundred miles south of Kyushu. Bases in this area will be of prime importance in the final assault against the Jap mainland. We wonder just what is behind the transfer, at this stage of the game, of cruisers and destroyers, by both Britain and the United States, to Russia. Something cooking in this locality later?
A visit Thursday by some ten fighters, which were evidently convoying bombers, resulted in one of our chaps being knocked down as he dove in on Kai Tak. No bombing was indulged in and after several dives on the airport, the fighters cleared off.
Edo Da Silva is the recipient of bad news yesterday when he learned that his father had died last month in Macao. Ed has had a lot of hard luck since coming in here – having lost a baby girl, born shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, and a father-in-law. Rather tough on a young fellow. Ed plans to come to Canada after the war where I hope to be of some assistance to him in the matter of rehabilitation.
A work party of fifty Canadians called up yesterday were given instructions to prepare for a month’s absence. They leave tomorrow and we understand, unofficially, that the destination is to be Taipo, some eighteen miles out in the territories.
Another Easter in the offing – and we had though to spend this one outside. Oh well! We’ll just have to change our O.B.E. Club to O.B.C.