Len Corrigan's Story

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Rumours Again - Is Freedom Ahead?

August 4 1945 – (Saturday)

A little bird whispered yesterday that Tuesday the 7th, was the date that the ultimatum is to expire????

A quick inspection today by Mr. Zindle, the Red Cross representative, revives the rumours of Red Cross parcels, but it’s not taken very seriously.

Last week’s little celebration has really played hell with the old stomach and may result in another spell in hospital. I’ll give it until Monday to return to some proximity of normal.

August 10 – (Friday)

Having had to make out another war diary today, I thought I might as well use the opportunity to tap out an entry while I had the machine. Nothing of interest to report since the last entry unless the use of the atomic bomb over Japan can be considered to have some bearing on our present predicament. Our rainy season, so confidently expected last month, seems to have hit us with a vengeance and every day this month has seen sporadic showers through the day and heavy downpours at night. These last few days have displayed all the symptoms of typhoon weather and, since this is the month for them, we will not be too surprised if we should wake up some morning to find the roof blown off.

The horror story of the month came to light a few days ago when one of the sentries told of a Chinaman who lives close to the camp, having been arrested and charged with “putting the snatch” on young children, killing and cooking them and selling the meat as pork or chicken. Some of the more fortunate moneyed people of the camp are wondering whether or not they have been guilty of cannibalism. That the food situation downtown is not too rosy can be judged to some extent by the price list of our official canteen. Some of the items I’ll include below: sugar – 325 yen; syrup – 645 yen; salt – 80 yen; tea – 340 yen; bran – 100 yen; cooking oil – 810 yen; salt fish – 420 yen; washing soap – 192 yen per bar. These prices are per pound and it would be interesting to know what staple foods such as rice, etc. are costing the consumer. The problem of wood, for example, is a grave one at the best of times. Noting an item in a paper of recent date which gives the price of milk as 70 yen per bottle (½ pint), we can sympathize with the poor man trying to raise children.

EXTRA - A flash has just come in that Russia is “IN”. We hear that she crossed the Manchukuo border and bombed Korea yesterday. How we hope this is the “straight stuff”.

The weather has been conducive to reading these last few days and I have been dividing my time between Well’s “Outline of History” and the “Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens”, both pretty good material. Whether or not I have profited directly by my reading while a prisoner remains to be seen, but I do believe that I’ve managed to whet my curiosity and interest. The exposure of my complete ignorance, these last few years, has fostered a hunger to learn which I hope to satisfy by the adoption of sensible reading material on my return. May I not fall by the wayside.

Great excitement! This Russian business is alleged to be “the goods”. Further amplifications of it are…that the Russians crossed the east and west borders of Manchukuo shortly after midnight of the 8th– 9th, and at the same time bombed North Korea. The extent of its meaning cannot as yet be gauged but the camp is agog at this bit which we consider the best piece of news we’ve had yet. We’re just that much closer to the biggest adventure of our lives.

The clothing market operates at fever pitch, and heaven help us if we’re caught here another winter. Unfortunately, Prendy and myself have nothing left to dispose of.

Rumours that the Chinese downtown are refusing to take yen notes has resulted in people converting what money they have into consumable goods as fast as they can, with the result that it’s hard to buy even if one has the where-with-all. Sentries were in this afternoon and bought fags at the camp rate of 18 yen per deck for sale downtown, where the price has jumped to 28 yen.

I attended a camp variety show this afternoon, which turned out pretty well. The audience, in an expansive frame of mind due to the news, received it very well.

The big question in everyone’s minds is now “Will she fight or do the sensible thing?” To us it could mean now or three months from now.

August 11 – (Saturday)

A big flash came in just before evening parade tonight. Rumour from the next camp says that one of the Portuguese lads, who was on a work party today, was told by his wife that Japan has asked for peace. Is it true??? Needless to say we’re as excited as Hell! Everyone is on edge but inclined to be skeptical, it’s just too good to be true. We hear, belatedly, that sentries were around this afternoon with rather incoherent stories about Russia and Japan “shaking hands”. We’ll just have to stand by and see what happens…

In the meantime, an incident in connection with the Russian entry is worth repeating. In the next camp our friend, Major Boon, hearing the news being passed around their camp about Russia’s move, demanded of one of his stooges the sources of the news and declared that there must be a radio in camp. Giving his Sergeant-Major orders to search the camp for the radio, Boon immediately hot-footed it for the Jap guardhouse and asked the camp commandant if he had heard the news, adding apologetically that the whole camp was discussing it but that he had no idea how the news managed to get in. Another story that comes in, whether it has any bearing on the above or not, we can’t say, and this one says that Jubilee Building, which serves as barracks for the guard, was raided by the camp commandant and a radio found. What a nice situation if it should so happen that Boon’s action was responsible for the search. Still another story which concerns the Formosans and which can be more readily believed is one which says that Lieutenant Wada walked into the Jubilee to find the guards clapping one another on the back and showing general signs of jubilation on receipt of the Russian news…Nothing more. We must wait to see what turns up from the newest rumour. And if it’s someone’s idea of a joke – well, I’m afraid I’m losing my sense of humour.

A sidelight story concerning two of the guards came to light this morning. It appears that eleven of the sentries decided to go downtown last night and “hopped the fence” (they are almost as much prisoners as we are). Coming back some time during the night they either expected the current to be shut off or forgot about it completely, with the result that two of them were electrocuted. From what we can learn, the remaining nine are still outside after that bit of discouragement.

I have just heard the text of Molotov’s speech on the Russian declaration of war. Quite a masterpiece. Significant to us is the fact that the Japs had asked for the terms which resulted in the nine-point manifesto.

August 12 – (Sunday)

Another day and the “finish” rumour still persists. The returning work party tonight says that four sources confirmed the news today. To quote one of the Portuguese who met, or rather saw from a short distance, his wife who said “It’s all over”. But still no official confirmation. My personal opinion is that we won’t hear anything until our people get here to take over administration, that is if it’s true. I’m inclined to bite, myself. Our news sources give us the dope that the Ruskies penetrated one hundred kilometres into Manchukuo by the afternoon of the 9th, and also that the new atomic bombs are creating havoc wherever they’re used. Rumours are circulating too that the Kwantung Army (Manchukuo) had surrendered en bloc so, whether our local news of the finish is correct or not, all the indications point to demoralization that needs very little for its completion. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s certainly in the cards to happen very, very shortly. The reaction in camp is featured chiefly by indecision. People are afraid to believe, they’ve been bitten before and there’s so much at stake this time that everyone is a bit shy. Personally, I’m a sucker. I’m going for it, hook, line and sinker.

August 14 – (Tuesday)

Still nothing official on the big news. People, in the main still are chary about accepting things as they appear to be. A “flap” early this morning has influenced a great many who were wavering on the brink. This latest bit is that (1) Armistice declared on the 10th. (2) The Emperor committed suicide. (3) August 15this said to be the date on which the “taking over” will commence. We are cautioned not to be alarmed if we should hear firing, since units of the fleet are expected in and will probably fire a salute….

Last night’s work party reaffirmed the general information already divulged by parties of the last few days. The most solid of this latest crop is one in which the mother of one of the work party lads said, “It’s all over. They have surrendered”. We heard last night that the information was to be officially broadcast from Chungking at three p.m. yesterday, from Manila at seven p.m. and from Moscow at 3 a.m. this morning. Well, if this is a hoax there are certainly a flock of people outside (and in) who have been taken in. I forgot to mention that Col. Toc gave us a half-hour notice that he was to inspect yesterday and asked that arrangements be made for a conference with our O.C. Colonel White. Although he failed to show up, he (and this is most unusual) phoned offering his apologies. I might mention that our people have been vainly endeavouring for over two years to get a conference with “his nibs”.

Our camp officials seem to be placing some credence in the rumours, for we hear that we are to have pork killed for tomorrow.

August 15 – (Wednesday)

Well, still we wait! Everyone’s spirits are down considerably from yesterday’s peak. Many people were so convinced yesterday that wherever one went industrious souls could be seen polishing brass, getting out uniforms and packing kits. Whether or not our imaginations play us false, we can’t say, but it does seem to us that the town is ominously quiet. The usual noisy clatter of Chinese street life has been inaudible to us these last couple of days.

Weather the last few days has been very beautiful, for which we are thankful since the accompanying depression of wet weather, added to the mental turmoil we all feel, would make things quite unbearable.

Wednesday evening– And still further confirmations! First, the work parties have been officially cancelled in the next camp. Stories from the work party personnel tonight include another story from the same lad who spoke to his mother a day or so ago. This chap again saw his mother and this time implored her to give him something definite on the situation. Her reply was that the war was definitely over, she had heard it over the radio at 2 p.m. today. A Chinese worker told the same details to other parties in another part of the city. Other members of the parties report that none of the public building are flying the usual flags, and special “riot” squads of Chinese are patrolling all over the city. Another significant thing happened in the next camp about 1:30 yesterday afternoon. In front of the guard room, a table was set up and a radio set upon it. Around this were grouped the guard commander and the guard. Later reports say that this was a broadcast from Tokyo by the Emperor, but this has not been confirmed.

Everyone’s spirits are again on the upswing. Half the other camp is over tonight and their enthusiasm was so contagious that they’ve managed to infect everyone with their confidence that it’s all finished.

August 16 – (Thursday)

Everyone is confident now. Excitement last night was terrific. People smoking, talking, walking around until all hours this morning. Mac was over before breakfast to tell us that the same conditions prevailed over there. Noises of the Chinese celebrations downtown commenced about eleven o’clock and in the next camp about a hundred excited people who couldn’t sleep were grouped in the main road when Wada came along, asking why they weren’t in their huts. On being told that they couldn’t sleep, Wada is said to have told them that they should get their rest, as they had a heavy day coming up tomorrow. At parade time, Colonel White button-holed Wada, apparently to ask him to set our minds at rest, but we have not learned the outcome of it yet. FLASH! People over from the other camp just came in to tell us that the news is in the Chinese paper. The statement says that the Emperor, in order to save life, etc., had agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Conference and had signed on the 14th. The War and Navy Ministers were said to have committed hari-kari. People are milling around like mad. I guess we’re all a bit “tetched”. More later if I can collect my shattered nerves…


From the Department of National Defence

August 17, 1945

To – Next of Kin of

Canadian Prisoners of War in the Far East

Now that victory over Japan has been attained, we are looking forward to the return of those who have been prisoners of war in Japanese hands.

Communication during these years of internment has been very difficult, but it is now possible for us to forward for you a letter which will be flown to Manila and placed in the hands of the liberated prisoners at the earliest possible moment.

A special air letter form is forwarded herewith to be used for such correspondence. Letters are to be addressed as previously instructed. The name and address of the sender is to be shown on the back of the air letter form above the notation “No enclosure permitted”. The sealed letter will then be inserted in the envelope addressed to the Director of Repatriation, Bate Building, Ottawa, and may be mailed without postage on either envelope, if mailed in Canada. If mailed in the USA or Newfoundland postage will be required on the outer envelope only, in accordance with the regulations in these countries.

It is requested that you return this air letter form as quickly as possible, and preferably within ten days.

No restriction is placed on the length of the letter, but enclosures are not permitted.

Facilities available at present are only sufficient to allow one letter to be sent from each next of kin but it is hoped that in the near future arrangements may be completed for a regular air letter service.

Immediately upon receipt of advice that liberated prisoners have reached Allied hands, next of kin will be notified by telegram by the Director of Records.

A special air mail service from liberated prisoners has been arranged; such air mail will be routed to next of kin through this department.

Arrangements have been made for the care and welfare of liberated prisoners. Hospitalization and medical treatment will be available where required. Everything possible will be done for their welfare and health, and plans have been made for their return home on a high priority basis, subject of course to their physical condition.

You will be kept informed as to further developments.

(Geor. H. Ellis) Colonel

Director of Repatriation

August 17 – (Friday)

Last night we tasted the first fruits of our new-found freedom. It all began sometime yesterday afternoon when Colonel White cornered Wada, the camp commandant, and demanded to know definitely about the cessation of the war. Wada evidently did a lot beating around the bush about it so White put on the screws, demanding food, removal of guards to the outside of the wire, and the cessation of parades, hut pickets, etc. Poor Wada said he was not in authority and could not officially grant the demands but White stated that we would take over all the administration within the camp so there was not much of an alternative. As a result of all this, the two camps became, unofficially, one, - and last night saw a big sing-song on the main road.

I spent most of yesterday digging up diaries, etc. some in good shape and others rotted to dust.

Sample of the actual diary. Click for larger view.

Yesterday’s rumour crop consisted of (1) Tocanoga’s suicide, (2) The date of the taking over of the colony – said to be the 18th, (3) The expected arrival today of three ships, including one hospital ship, (4) Eight transports said to be laying off the far side of Stone Cutters.

The Formosan sentries evidently raided Col. Toc’s chicken farm last night and made away with all his prize fowl. They also nicked the farm run by the other camp, necessitating the removal of the remaining chickens and some eight pigs into our farm, it being now vacant. The Formosans, though still nominally our guards, were conspicuous by their absence last night and when a protest was lodged to the guard N.C.O. about the chicken theft he said he could do nothing about it as the sentries were debunking right and left. Most of these lads feel genuinely frightened about the probable treatment by our people and are quite confident they are to be bumped off. No wonder they decamp.

I’m not so sure as I was about this freedom business. This idea of having to wear clothes again doesn’t appeal to me at all.

(Friday evening.) Nothing of any particular interest has transpired. We’re still pretty much in a daze. Can’t quite get used to this idea of being free. That freedom includes the odd restriction we’re reminded by an order stating that shorts will be worn at all times in the camp. The taking over of administration by our people means a renewal of regulations etc. and I find myself again a platoon commander. One of the first official acts this morning was the arrest of Major Boon, and I heard this afternoon that eleven of his stooges were to be taken into custody.

Leonard's card from POW camp. Click for larger view.

Our people had a confab with Col. Toc this afternoon and judging by the report given us, our people really laid down the law. Colonel T. feebly protested that we were a bit premature in the take-over business, but I guess our people talked him down.

Tomorrow is said to be the big day of the official take-over. In the morning at 8 a.m. the camp is having a full dress parade for the purpose of a flag-raising ceremony, with all the musicians in the two camps combining into one big band to provide music.

Everything goes in cycles. When we first arrived in January 1942, the fence was lined with the Chinese – either selling or begging. Again the Chinos crowd the wire hollering “cumshaw”, this time receiving mostly clothing, although each hut did collect plentiful supplies of food for them. They tell me that starvation has been a very serious problem downtown with numerous cases of cannibalism reported.

A P.51 appeared over the colony shortly after noon and gave everyone a thrill. It circled a couple of times and headed out to sea again.

Diary excavations are decidedly not a success. Two caches were badly decomposed, and one was not found – out of four tries. To Hell with it!

Sleeping outside last night was like a holiday at some resort. No parades helps too!

There was a touching sight today as the Indian officers, residents at Jubilee, were reunited with their British officers. Full marks for these fellows. They’ve undergone some rough treatment and their loyalty was unflagging.

I feel sorry for the few remaining Formosan and Jap guards. They have not been in evidence around camp the last day or so but today they cleared their guard room of rifles, M.G.’s etc. We know exactly how they must feel. I hope the Formosans get a good deal from our people for, though they’re certainly a bunch of rogues, had they not been willing to take the rap for the trading they undertook with us, I’m afraid our numbers would have been decreased by considerably more than they are.

Another night of waiting --- Two Yanks, (Naval Intelligence men) were brought into camp around noon. Their story was that they had been operating along the China coast for the past year and were picked up by the Japs five days before the capitulation. Very much on the hungry side, they were fed double rations from our kitchen and taken away by the Japs again. They mentioned that when they were told to move they thought they were to be taken out and shot and, as can be imagined, they were quite overjoyed to hear that things were all over.

August 18 – (Saturday)

Still another day of uncertain waiting. The day characterized by the reunion of camp people with their relatives outside. People from Stanley were brought over about 9:30 this morning and since then almost a steady stream of people have been allowed in. Touching scenes these, and they remind us that soon, we hope, we too will be embracing loved ones. Particularly pathetic were those involving young children, born since the war, who had never seen their fathers and were naturally quite shy. Eddo’s wife and sister were in and Prendy, Mac and myself spent about an hour in their company. Comparing notes with these people, we find that we haven’t been too badly off after all. Some of the Portuguese people report living in an atmosphere of terror these past three years, in constant fear of gendarmes who were continually taking people into custody for interrogation, coupled with the unceasing struggle to keep families fed and warm. Every time mail from Macao was received by these people, it entailed a visit from the gendarmes who questioned every word, every phrase, trying to read hidden meaning into all that was written. Third nationals were jailed and, in some cases, beheaded. Eddo’s father-in-law was lodged in jail and died while in custody. We noticed a small incident this morning which illustrated quite clearly the terror the Nips inspired. Two small children that had come in with their mother noticed Wada and the Jap interpreter coming towards them and ran crying to their mother. (Slight interruption here. Seven of our planes – they look like carrier-borne U.S.! – just arrived over the colony and circled the camp at a fairly low altitude, dropping pamphlets. What a thrill!) The pamphlets were addressed to POW’s and internees in the occupied areas and stated that a representative was on his way to look after the interest of the internees etc., in regard to food, housing and so on – until such time as the occupying forces arrive to take over. The pamphlet was signed by Lieutenant-General A.C. Wedemeyer. Someone just came in to say that one of the pilots threw his helmet out as he swooped down on the camp and some Canadian in the other camp was the lucky finder.

(l to r) Corrigan, Maze, Black and Blackwood - liberated - 1945. Click for larger view.

To revert to the atrocities mentioned above, we hear that some of the chaps taken out of camp at Argyle were tortured and put to death in the course of investigation concerning the radio found there. One chap was tied to a bed, gas thrown on him and, after he had burned awhile, shot. We hear that the four Canucks who escaped from North Point were seen being led through the streets, tied together with wire throughtheir hands. Apparently they were later executed. The number of stories of murders, torturing and general atrocities is appalling. What beasts these people have been.

Rumour from the people outside, who claim to have heard it from the radio, is that a force left Manila at 5 p.m. last night headed for here. We “should” be seeing them tomorrow morning sometime if this is correct. We hear too that according to settlement terms, Hong Kong is to be made an international port with Kowloon reverting to the Chinese and we hear that these people (the Chinese) have already taken over Canton (evidently the South China Japanese forces surrendered to them) and are on the border of the New Territories waiting for the relieving force to come in here. It is said that the occupation of the colony will be accomplished by an international force of Russians, Yanks and British troops, said to be under the control of a British marine officer. I had hoped that we would get away from this rumour business but evidently it is not to be – for awhile anyway.

Our people have taken what to me seems to be a rather high-handed attitude towards the Nips in the present situation. With no communication of any kind from our people, they have decided that they – in the person of our Colonel Field as senior officer of the colony – have just taken on themselves the authority which as I see it, is vested with the Nips until such time as they can officially transfer their responsibility to our people. Fortunately they have managed to get away with it, so far, and parties from camp today went downtown, commandeered trucks and a car and proceeded to look for godowns of food and other supplies. Small quantities of food were found and brought in – mostly tea, salt and sugar, I hear.

Something which should help to eliminate the rumour problem is the arrival in camp of two radios. We understand that at present they are capable of handling only long wave, but they expect to have them adjusted very shortly. Come on Nimitz! This indefinite waiting is wearing everyone down…

August 19 – (Sunday)

Nothing of any great import has occurred as yet although we hear that a fleet comprised of some ten transports, three warships and one hospital ship have been anchored off the far side of the island of Hong Kong since early this morning. A further rumour tonight says that the representatives mentioned in yesterday’s pamphlet have arrived in the colony. We’ll most likely see the forces landing tomorrow or the next day.

Life in camp is hardly to be recognized as the same as that experienced a week or so ago. Plentiful supplies of oil, sugar, beans and rice are now available and everyone goes around with that satisfied look characteristic of the well-fed person. We find it just a bit difficult to realize that we don’t have to economize on food anymore.

The radio that came in the other day has been set to work and we now have the regular news broadcast from Manila daily. Nothing of interest to us personally except that the delegates have arrived at Manila for the signing of the treaty. I hear that one of the commentators really roasted the Emperor in tonight’s broadcast.

After listening to further horror stories from the people from downtown today, I find that I’m not quite so inclined to that feeling of forgiveness of one’s enemies that is supposed to characterize the proper Christian. Rape, murder, extortion, and the most cruel tortures have been practiced by the Nips on everyone in the colony. An example of the pleasant manner in which these boys conduct a war can be had in their treatment of the Yank airmen shot down in raids over the colony. These poor lads were publicly crucified to crosses with wire, their heads covered with sacks to cover the extent of the brutalities they had suffered, and later their heads lopped off and exhibited in public, together with one of the planes shot down. Story after story told by people who had brothers, fathers, friends, etc., rather inclines one to hope that the Yanks will learn of the fate of their comrades and exact a grizzly revenge. The extent that the women of the colony have suffered is almost beyond belief.

My weight a week ago was 155 pounds, but I’m afraid that at the rate I’m shoveling things at my stomach, I’m going to walk out of here almost back to normal.

We just finished a band concert tonight and that, coupled with a strenuous game of ball this morning has left me almost punchy with fatigue. I have to play practically all afternoon tomorrow so I must get some sleep. I forgot to mention that we now enjoy lights again. What a life!!

August 21 – (Tuesday)

Still hanging around the old stomping ground. Our latest news indicates that Canton and Hong Kong are to be occupied some time before the end of the month so we don’t expect a change of scenery much before that time. Evidently it looks as though the policy is to have the British do the taking over. We also hear that arrangements are being made for convalescent camps in the Philippines to accommodate one hundred and fifty internees and POW’s, so we may have a two or three month sojourn there – however, our immediate problem is to get out of here.

Nothing in the way of interesting news of the camp. People come in daily from downtown to see friends and relatives here, and from twelve noon until seven in the evening, the place looks like an Elk’s garden party – liquor and all. I’ve met a number of Portuguese young ladies and you can believe me that, after a three year period in which none of the fairer sex were in evidence, it’s no easy task to mix easily with them now. I’m thinking of becoming a hermit after I get home.

In order to make things as pleasant as possible for the guests from the city, entertainment has been provided every afternoon – chiefly in the form of “swing” music. This has entailed playing from 2 p.m. to 6 and, coupled with practices and shows for the inmates of the camp, makes something of a busy day for me. There has been a concert every evening for the past few days to help pass the time and it is intended that this schedule be kept up until we’re released. Nimitz, or someone, had better hurry – we’re running out of material.

The latest dope on the above possibility is that MacArthur is to proceed to Japan at the head of a huge air and naval force made up for the purpose of the signing of the treaty and the occupation of that country.

A big B.24 or B.29 was over yesterday cruising around, and he was followed by four P.51’s who circled the camp very low and dropped some individual packets of cigarettes. I smoked a Philip Morris today. Not bad at all….

There is much bustle and activity in camp as various units attempt to get records and reports up to date. With pips and crowns again in evidence we suddenly find we are once again in the army and senior officers who were only too glad to borrow your tea kettle or what-have-you, hardly recognize you when you meet them. Oh well, I guess we’ll pull through okay.

August 24 – (Friday)

Well, we had thought by this time to be enjoying the balmy breezes of Baggio, or some similar establishment in the Philippines. Rather a unique experience this, to be enjoying freedom (?) and yet still remain captive. Our contact with the outerworld, the radio, while a blessing in many ways, serves as well to heighten the impatience we all feel. We hear that the fleet still lies off Stanley so it’s rather annoying to have the radio report that much interest is being taken in the prisoners and internees in the Far East. Further postponements of signing etc., would indicate that we’ll probably be relieved about the end of the month. I suppose our grumbling typifies our human frailties, for after all, we’re not suffering a bit except in our own minds. Grub is plentiful, the future looks rosy and we have nothing to do but lie around. What more could anyone want? Indications of typhoon weather have been in evidence all day and since early afternoon the wind has been increasing in velocity. The radio reports that a low pressure area has been noticed around the Philippines for the last two days so that we may still be in for something stiff.

Reports from downtown indicate that peace and order are being maintained despite the fact that the Nips have been subjected to the odd bit of provocation by the Chinese. We hear that four Chinos were shot to death when they expressed too much jubilance at the appearance of the planes on Tuesday. Like ourselves, the Chinese population jumped the gun on receipt of the surrender news and for a day or so the Nationalist flags were in evidence on all the streets. We hear that the Nips resented this just a bit and after one or two spots of not too serious trouble, the flags have again been put in the moth balls until the propitious moment. For our part, we regret a bit of optimistic generosity which prompted us to give away our remaining stock of beans, salt, etc.; if this lasts much longer we’ll have to go out to the fence and start begging it back.

Now that freedom is in the offing, I find those amazing stocks of ambition, which served as a background for my plans for the future, to have mysteriously evaporated. It’s always so much easier to surmount tremendous obstacles in one’s imagination than when faced with the real thing. I’ll have to give myself some pretty strong pep talks when we are finally released.

Tonight’s radio reports that a typhoon in the Kanto area in Japan has interfered with communications in that country and the signing may be still further delayed. Last night’s radio stated that every effort was being made to expedite the return of prisoners and internees to their homes, and added that opportunities to communicate with the people at home would be given those affected at the earliest possible moment. We now wonder if the plan is to take us directly to Canada. Everyone was convinced we would spend some time in convalescent camps in some tropical clime to take the edge off the rigours of the Canadian climate. Makes no never mind, as long as we enjoy a bit of freedom.

August 25 – (Saturday)

Just a wee note to record one or two minor points of interest. Tonight’s broadcast is said to have stated that Admiral Harcourt will arrive some time next month for the relief of Hong Kong, as there has evidently been a delay of forty-eight hours in the signature proceedings. The delay in the take-over has begun to give the camp officials a bit of a headache with some of the boys finding the tardiness a bit irksome and going over the fence. Two nights ago, one of our chaps was absent for the night and again last night four Canucks spent the evening “out”. Just how many actually go out every night is difficult to say for the wire is quite easy to surmount, there being no sentries on and only an occasional picket of ours making the rounds. The five Canucks who were found out, were checked only because they had sense enough to report to the M.O.’s for anti-VD treatment on their return to camp; I’m afraid there are a goodly number who didn’t report and are therefore almost sure to be in for it. You’d think men would learn after almost four years.

Re the question of leaving camp – parties go out from the camp daily to Stanley and C.B.S. and starting tomorrow thirty people who have relatives downtown will be allowed out on pass. Walking parties, not to exceed forty persons are to be commenced on Monday and though they are not allowed downtown it does mean that we’ll be allowed to hike back over the hills a bit into the New Territories.

This morning the ration front was strengthened with the distribution of an ounce and a half of butter per man and we hear tonight that some coffee beans and meat have arrived in camp. We were issued with an ounce and a half of coffee and two and a half ounces of Saki day before yesterday and we understand tonight that the Nip ration man is reported to have stated that, knowing that we dislike Saki and have a preference for whiskey, the Nips are scouring the colony for whiskey to issue instead of the Saki. Our people say that the Nips are really falling all over themselves in their efforts to cooperate.

August 31 – (Friday)

So much has happened in the last few days that everyone has been thrown into a flat spin. To go back a couple of days; Wednesday, Prendy and I had an opportunity to get away to Stanley and though much of the day was spoiled by rain, we did enjoy ourselves. We were taken in tow by a young couple who had been marooned in Canton and who knew no one in the colony and had an amazingly successful day. What a treat to meet human beings again, although the fair sex looked a bit formidable at first. One point we noticed, and we did think it an improvement, was the complete absence of any of the usual trivialities of conversation, etc., on the part of the women; of course, when married and unmarried people live practically in one another’s laps for nearly four years, most inhibitions are bound to go by the board. On the whole, the people of Stanley don’t seem to have done badly, though they have been terribly crowded.

The big thrill of the day came in the early afternoon when a Douglas transport circled the camp and dropped supplies by parachute. We had as a vantage point the roof of one of the barrack buildings and the plane came low enough that we could almost make out the features of those who were kicking the cases through the door in the side. The plane circled four times, dropping about twelve cases, the parachute of one failing to open, and then the pilot circled very low, below the roofs of the buildings and gave everyone a wave before he pushed off. I neglected to mention that on the way to Stanley, our launch was dived on every few minutes by one or another of the planes which circled the colony all day. A few minutes before our departure from Stanley, we were given an additional lift by the appearance at some distance of units of the fleet. All in all, quite a successful day.

Arriving back in camp, I found a stag party and, being asked to play, joined in. The guest of honour, a Rajputs officer, is to be married tomorrow. This session broke up in the wee small hours and, though I had previously sworn abstinence, the finale found me rather fuzzy. The supplies of liquor, food, etc. that have come into camp daily for the past couple of days are amazing. Thursday proved an even more strenuous day than Wednesday. To begin with, I attended a wedding at St. Theresa’s Church in the early afternoon, followed by a reception at Matta Chong internment camp at which we again supplied the music. The fleet having steamed into harbour in the morning, we decided that we would go down to the waterfront and have a look-see. We were happily thrilled to find the Canadian cruiser, Prince Robert, tied up to the Kowloon wharf and proceeded at once to take steps to go aboard. Arriving on board, we found almost the total Canadian population of camp milling around, searching for news from home. My only contact was a chap named Darjes from Swift Current, but unfortunately I didn’t have much time for conversation. I’m trying to get to see him today. The Canucks on board ship really played the good hosts to our people. Cigarettes, chocolate bars, cookies, drinks, everything; our lads came away fairly staggering (that goes quite literally). Canada, according to all reports, seems to have emerged from the war in a most enviable position economically, at least as far as belligerent countries are concerned. There seems to be the usual political chaos which has evidently resulted in some rather stupid situations.

This is being finished off on Saturday – September 1st– with so many interruptions, bits of news coming in and general confusion, it’s almost impossible to get something like this done. As mentioned yesterday, we’re all in a flat spin. This colony is in a most peculiar category. From what we can gather, Harcourt came in quite all on his own and as a result arrived ahead of the transports, etc., so that we have the peculiar situation of the British walking in and assuming command without sufficient troops to back them up. The formal surrender has not taken place yet so the Nips have not as yet been dispossessed of their arms. Crews of the “Robert” and “Anson” patrol a very small area around the docks, but aside from that the Nips are still responsible for policing the colony. Planes from the two carriers zoom around from morning to night to maintain the illusion of force, but I’m afraid that if the Chinese decide to take retaliatory measure against the Japs, there’s not much our people could do for, though the Nips still retain arms, mobs are a very annoying piece of business – especially to small groups.

Yesterday, Mac, Black and myself went into town and spent a lovely quiet day relaxing in the flat of a Portuguese friend. To be able to sit back and enjoy the comfort of clean floors, soft furniture and other amenities of civilized life is a joy that can only be understood by those that have been denied the blessing of them. Later in the evening we walked downtown to have a look at the ships and then walked back the long four miles to camp. Within a block of the dock area, a Marine on a motorcycle stopped to talk to us and as we talked, a Chino rushed up to say a mob was looting a building just up the street. The Marine pushed off at once and we followed. Almost immediately, a small patrol vehicle containing some eight or ten Marines also drew up and at once set on the crowd of two or three hundred people who were congregated in front of a godown. In the general mix-up, we found Chinos dragging sacks and boxes out of the buildings where they would be set upon by people waiting there and who would endeavour to hijack them of their loot. The patrol, quite without any help on our part, for it was dark and we had no weapons of any sort, soon dispersed the main body of the crowd to the opposite side of the street, from where, with a little rough persuasion, they evaporated into the side streets. I forgot to mention that on the way downtown we happened along just at the conclusion of another little incident. It appears that a Nip soldier, dressed in Chinese civvies had cut off his lady friend’s head with his sword and then either fallen or jumped from a second story window to the street below. We arrived on the scene simultaneously with a couple of armed Jap soldiers just as it seemed that the gathering crowd was about to do violence to the murderer, who had hurt his leg in the fall and was unable to escape. One of the soldiers put the chap on his back and made off, the others covering him with their rifles, and followed at a discreet distance by the crowd.

We have been hearing of isolated cases of trouble in both Hong Kong and Kowloon and one of the Marines, to whom we spoke last night, said that two of their chaps were reported to have been killed the previous night. A detail in camp this morning mentions that some of the Naval volunteers are detailed for patrol tonight in the Bowen Road area. Hope we can wangle in on this…

This morning the camp administration was taken over officially by a Lieutenant Archer, R.N., who is apparently a POW representative. Members of some Commando units from one of the ships have been in and out of the camp all morning and what a hefty bunch they are.

Someone has just come into say that Colonel Tocanaga, Wada, and Takiyama, the camp interpreter, have just arrived in camp under guard. The rumour is that they have asked to be given the protection of the camp. It is also said that their trip through the camp to the camp office was greeted by considerable abuse, in the form of suggestions as to their disposition in the future. They did not look happy…

Patients at C.B.S. were removed to the hospital ship yesterday afternoon and we hear that further removals from other camps is to take place today.

Rumour has it that the R.A.F. is to arrive to take over today but to date we have seen no evidence of this as yet. Word has been received that Brigadier Kaye, the former commander of the Grenadiers, is to arrive from Chungking very shortly.

Having just seen some of the atrocity pictures of German concentration camps, we realize that, by comparison, we have really been living the life of Riley here. Funny how we can always manage to emphasize and magnify out little troubles. In this connection it is interesting to note that POW’s in the Philippines were herded into caves, M.G.’s mounted at the entrance and flame throwers directed into the interior. We hear that at one place only one person survived. This story was evidently known to the people outside shortly after its occurrence and they lived in constant dread that, at the outbreak of hostilities, the civilians would suffer the same fate. We do know that sentries were alleged to have told our people that, in the event of this place being attacked orders included means for our quick disposal. Seems we never know our luck…

Being in town yesterday, I missed a chance of getting an airmail letter away, but I availed myself of the opportunity before breakfast this morning.

Post war rehabilitation plans for service men seem to be very generous and I hope to avail myself of the opportunity presented……Another trip downtown today to see if I can contact Darjes and get some news from home.


Sham Shui Po Camp, Hong Kong Saturday, September 1, 1945

Dearest Glad, Paddy, Shelagh, et al –

A few lines in haste to once again inaugurate communication. How have you all been keeping these last thirty or forty years? Have had no mail from you since your letter of August ’44 so can only hope you have all weathered the storm OK. Send pictures at your first opportunity. My health, and that of friends such as Blackie, Maze, Blackwood etc. very good. Plans for our immediate future very much in the dark but we hope to be shipped out very shortly.

Hope you have managed to save back copies of Time, Life, etc., for we’ve been hopelessly out of touch. No plans for the future on my return but look forward to some sort of quiet holiday in which we can again become acquainted.

The thrill and excitement of release still has us in its grip and renders it difficult to express the thousands of queries which race through my mind. Word of friends at home and something of a resume of your local events will be much appreciated.

The last pictures received of the girls make me wonder if I’m to become the shrimp of the family. Do they retain former interest in golf, music, etc.?

Must close this rather incoherent scribble as time presses, but do hope to hear from you all shortly. Best love to Mother, Dad, Grandma Hart etc.

Love, Leonard

September 1st, 11 p.m.

Dearest Glad, Kiddies and all –

Have just arrived back from a trip to the “Robert” to find that we are able to dispatch another letter before 9 a.m. tomorrow. Spent a most pleasant afternoon with a couple of Swift Current lads, Darjes and Mulland and went over as much of the local gossip as the boys could remember. What a treat to have these things recalled to mind.

No word yet as to any plans for our immediate future though we believe that we’ll be pushing off for Manila, as an initial stage within the next few days (we hope). Movement of hospital patients aboard the hospital ship commenced yesterday. Forgot to mention this morning that Joe Hanel still with us and in excellent shape.

May I impress on you the urgency of photos of yourself and the girls. My imagination in a turmoil trying to picture you after all these years, after all I must have something to guide me when I met you’se gals at the station. Any news of friends, etc. will be much appreciated.

News of rehabilitation plans for returned men gives me great hope for the future. I’ve been dreaming and planning these years for a pleasant holiday with you all and the scheme will be a great aid.

I suppose after such a long absence, a wayward husband should fill a letter with numerous expressions of love but somehow it does seem superfluous and beside, I’m out of practice. However you do know you have –

All my love,