September 3 – (Monday)
Brigadier Kay arrived last night and has just given us a bit of a talk in the hut this morning. Not much news that we had not already heard and it looks as though we will remain here another couple of weeks. Taken all the way through this has been a most peculiar situation. We understand our people are taking over officially today, but in the meantime there has been considerable looting and general badgering about downtown.
I went down to the ship and spent a pleasant afternoon chinning with Darjes and a chap named Mullan who used to live in Swift Current. I also heard that a chap named Fowler, who played hockey with Hubert, was looking for me – but I missed him. It’s grand to get the odd bit of news from home and though these lads have been away for quite a few months, we were able to get together on considerable guff.
AIRMAIL LETTER FROM LEONARD –
September 4, 1945 – Hong Kong
Dearest Glad, Paddy & Shelagh,
The heading indicates we’re still at the old stand but hope to be on the move very shortly. Brig. Kaye, Canadian Military Attaché from Chungking and former O.C. of the Grenadiers, arrived yesterday from Kunming and is doing everything possible to expedite our removal. The latest “dope” is that we will be leaving aboard the Empress of Australia within the next 4 or 5 days, destination, the Philippines.
Our present situation here is most peculiar. As far as we can gather it was decided that, for political reasons, H. Kong must be re-occupied by the British, and accordingly a relief “ship train” was made up from the closest of British bases, Australia. Having received no news as to prevailing conditions of POW’s and internees in H.K., and to prevent atrocities such as had befallen these people in other “liberated” areas, Admiral Harcourt, with the fighting ships under his command, soon outdistanced the slower ships of his “train” and despite the fact that surrender terms had not been signed, steamed into the harbour and “took over”. The peculiar part is that, though the harbour bristles with strength in the way of carriers, warships, etc. the lack of man power to police the colony has resulted in the Japs still maintaining their arms and the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. The “Australia” is expected in momentarily with 3,000 R.A.F. people but in the meantime, the Nips have their hands full trying to suppress looting on the Kowloon side (mainland), and in addition they undergo considerable provocative abuse from the Chinese populace. On the Island, British Marines have taken over completely, but there too, the looting problem is quite acute. Several small parties have been recruited from our camp to aid in policing duties but since the terrain is unfamiliar to most Canucks, we’ve missed the fun. Leave to walk through the town is easily procured and most of our lads go out daily, chiefly with the object of visiting the “Robert” where they have good Canadian hospitality lavished on them.
Speaking of hospitality, a large party from camp visited the battleship “Anson” last evening and we were given a fine reception. The “Anson” is the most powerful of the “George V” ships and the tour of her was a wonderful experience. Don’t be too alarmed if you should hear my voice issuing from your loudspeaker some evening for I was one of those chosen to say a few words. Just what I did say I find it difficult to recall for the recording of my particular contribution took place rather late in the evening, after a most convivial session in the wardroom. – Brig. Kaye in for a few minutes to tell us the “Australia” has arrived. Arrangements have been made for us to move on board as soon as the R.A.F. has disembarked, possibly Thursday morning. Kaye believes we’ll be in Manila for the weekend, for how long, we don’t know.
Well, so long for now.
Rumoured Canadian mail awaits in Manila!
September 5 – (Wednesday)
It’s remarkable how easily I can become sidetracked in these efforts to keep up to date in this diary. Yesterday a party from camp were guests aboard the battleship “Anson” and what a fine ship she is. Of some 35,000 tons, she is the most powerful of the Sovereign type ships and with her “radar” controlled 14-inch guns, she presents a terrific unit of firepower. My personal opinion, after hearing descriptions of most of the naval battles which took place in the war, is that the huge outlay represented by this type of ship is out of proportion with its usefulness, due to the immense part aircraft has played in this show. It would seem that the same sum put into aircraft carriers would be more in keeping with present strategies.
The hospitality of our naval cousins aboard the “Anson” left nothing to be desired and a good time was had by all. We were each taken personally in tow and shown the ship, from the Admiral’s cabin to the stoker’s locker room, with well-timed visits to the wardroom for the occasional stimulants to help ease the rigours of numerous climbs from lower to upper decks. For some obscure reason I was chosen as one of those to make a recording for subsequent broadcast by radio and, checking back mentally, I hope I didn’t “put my foot in it”. The thing proved harder than I at first anticipated, not being a “man of the public” by nature.
Today Brigadier Kaye was in for a few moments to say that the “Empress of Australia” had arrived with 3,000 R.A.F. lads and that arrangements had been made for us to go aboard just as soon as they had disembarked. Kaye’s opinion is that we will probably be in Manila for the weekend. Another point he mentioned was that there would probably be Canadian mail awaiting us there. Plans for us beyond Manila have not been disclosed, and there is a divergence of opinion as to whether we go straight home or slip down to Australia for awhile.
People connected with essential services, other camps and those who could figure any legitimate excuse for staying downtown have been gradually drifting away from camp and with the departure of the H.K.V.D.C. this morning the place takes on the appearance of a deserted village. Almost the only inhabitants left are the Imperials and the Canadians.
Anti-looting patrols are still going out but I haven’t managed to get in on any of them yet. Evidently we Canucks are not supposed to be familiar enough with the town to warrant letting us loose with weapons. One patrol on the Peak area last night is said to have bumped four Chinos in the course of duty.
A combined Marine band from the “Indomitable” and the “Venerable” played a concert for those of us left in camp this afternoon. Very nice. Tomorrow a party is being planned for an inspection of the two carriers. All Canadian officers are invited to lunch downtown with Brigadier Kaye tomorrow noon but since two officers are required in camp, Mac and I volunteered to stick around. I don’t go for this social business anyway.
I had a bit of luck this afternoon. I was forced to stay in camp this afternoon due to my being a platoon commander and was therefore out of the running for any loot which might go begging downtown. The official turnover took place at eleven this morning and all day our people have been rounding up sentries, taking whatever suited their fancy in the way of armament while doing so. Mac and I and several others were out of camp this morning while taking some rations to the Indian camp on Argyle Street and while there almost created a bit of an international incident by “borrowing” a few swords from a Gendarmerie Headquarters we happened across. It occurred thus: We walked into the building, past sentries, still armed, and boldly by-passed the office where we knew any officers or N.C.O.’s would be located. On finding the proper room we also walked into four or five N.C.O.’s, all of whom still retained their swords. Our lads went for the swords and, since there were not enough to go around, I asked one of the Nips to “lend” me a pistol. Fortunately, the man whom I accosted was an interpreter and he expressed his sorrow that there were no pistols available, also that we saw fit to confiscate the swords for, as he said – and rightly enough too – that by the article which they had signed, they were to hand in weapons at 11 o’clock and that when our people came around to collect, they would be found wanting in the matter of swords. I was putting up rather a good case, so I thought, and was about to commence moving off myself when one of the N.C.O.’s became quite huffy about the whole proceedings, a frame of mind which seemed to communicate itself to the Nips in general and to one private in particular – for this laddie brought up his rifle. Now, at this stage, I felt very little enthusiasm for souvenir hunting and was quite willing to call the whole thing off, but decided Mac and the rest were not quite far enough down the street, so I took it on myself to take on the duties of ambassador-at-large and pinch hitter for the gang. When I thought Mac sufficiently distant to ease the situation, I did a bit of easing myself, after laying a protective smoke-screen of conversation to cover my retreat. Oh well! We were successful…
Tommy Blackwood proved himself a real pal this afternoon when he returned from downtown with two swords, one of which he intended for me since firstly, I had failed to click in the morning, and secondly, because he thought I should possess one after my personal experience with these implements during the war. I still hope to get at mine before I leave but if I fail I have one to replace it.
It looks as though there may be a bit more delay before we get out of here, due to the “Australia” being a bit dirtier than anticipated, and the fact that it may require some cleaning up.
R.A.F. personnel are in guarding the camp tonight. The Nips have evidently been exercising remarkable discipline in the downtown and the R.A.F. tell us that no difficulty was experienced in the transition today, at least not so far as the Nips were concerned. The Chinos evidently managed to get a few Japs before our fellows could get close to rescue them, for the Chinos were attacking any small groups of Japs that still happened to wander around loose. Looters too, are still a headache, in fact we have heard twenty or more shots from around our own perimeter in the past hour or so.
September 6 – (Thursday)
A very quiet day, so far. I spent the afternoon on the “Venerable”, the carrier, and once again my legs are worn down to the knees. Terrific cracker offensive downtown today in celebration of the big turn-over yesterday – it sounds like the second battle of the Marne.
No word of any move yet, although we hear that the Nips are to be moving in to this camp very shortly. I saw a few parties of our erstwhile enemies surrender their arms, etc., this afternoon and, knowing how they felt from bitter experience, the sight didn’t give rise to elation on my part. Some of our fellows have been stupid enough to take advantage of the Nips in their present situation, but I think most of our lads are ready to live and let live. Yesterday, while out on the party that scrounged the swords, we had the pleasure of seeing Honda at Nip headquarters and took advantage of the opportunity to wish him luck and thank him for his efforts on our behalf during his term of authority here.
Tonight Prendy and I have been invited to the Indian camp for an evening of real pukka Indian food, prepared in the traditional manner, so we look forward to some hefty dishes.
Ottawa, ONSep 96:39 p.m.1945
Mrs. Gladys Mary Corrigan
Swift Current Sask
86051 Pleased to inform you that Lieutenant Leonard Bertram Corrigan previously rePorted prisoner of war in Japanese hands is now officially reported safe with the Allies health good stop further information follows when received
Director of Records
89625 Further to our telegram 86051 pleased to inform you that Lieutenant Leonard Bertram Corrigan is now safe in Manila Fourteenth of September 1945
Director of Records
September 12, 1945 - Swift Current, Sask.
My dearest Len,
No words can express our happiness in getting the telegram Sunday night that said you were safe and would be home. We’ve waited so long for the news – it still hasn’t really sunk in yet. Now that I can write a decent letter I don’t know where to begin. I imagine it will be easier to talk to you than write. We’ve been apart so long, I can’t seem to think of things to interest you.
The children are well. I imagine you’ll hardly recognize them. Paddy is nearly as tall as I am and weighs 110 pounds. Shelagh is tall for her age but quite slim. She started school this fall, but as yet doesn’t like it. I’m having quite a time to keep her going. I haven’t started Shelagh’s music lessons yet, but hope to do so soon. Paddy’s been taking from Verda Town, and I think is doing well. I know I can’t read any of her music now – not that I ever could before. I’ve been playing in the orchestra at the Elks for nearly two years now. It’s extra money, and has given me something to occupy my time.
People here have been grand to me, and everyone is so pleased I’ve had good news from you. You’ve no idea the number of people who have asked for you. And I think my phone has rung for two days steadily – people saying how glad they were you were safe. It’s been a terrible time for you, and we haven’t found these years easy to take at home. I only hope you’re in good health and that the weeks fly by so that we can be together again. Our next hope is mail from you personally, and to see you soon.
All my love,
September 9 – (Sunday)
Well, we’re finally on the way, that is we’ve at least moved on board. I hear tonight that we won’t be leaving harbour until Tuesday.
The Indian dinner mentioned in the last entry was a huge success. I had the pleasure of meeting three very gallant Indian officers, whose exploits are being rewarded by high decorations after things settle down.
Friday I spent looking over Hong Kong, thence to a happy evening aboard the “Anson”. Saturday morning we came down to the “Australia” with a party of Canadian officers to help hump Red Cross supplies and in the late afternoon, due I suppose to the heat, I conked out and was taken to the ship’s hospital where I spent the night. Men from camp began to arrive this morning and I believe all military personnel are now aboard. Our quarters are on “D” deck and the temperature ranges from 120 degrees up. As mentioned above, it is said we leave dock Tuesday and proceed to Stanley where we pick up women and children. Present arrangements seem to be for us to proceed to Manila, remain there for a short period and then home. Rumour has it that there’s a 50-50 chance on flying from Manila. Personally I’m not too fussy about hurrying home unless we have a very strict medical check. Conking out yesterday seems an indication that things may not be as right as I’d like to believe.
The harbour fairly teems with shipping. Warships, auxiliary craft, transports, submarines, everything in fact. There must be upwards of thirty craft in at present and we hear another dozen are expected Tuesday. Three “liberty” ships are tied up alongside us and they have been disgorging all types of mechanized equipment the whole day. A tremendous amount of reconstruction work will be necessary and I should say it will be a matter of three or four years before things again return to normal.
How good it will be to enjoy some measure of privacy and solitude. One gets so sick of hearing every topic rehashed a dozen times. People complaining in the camp because we weren’t put on board ship at once are now complaining about accommodation now we’re on board, claiming they were more comfortable in camp – and so on – That’s the aspect of prison life that’s wearing.
September 10 – (Monday)
And now indeed, all is chaos and confusion. The women have arrived on board. After a night that would have done credit to a Turkish bath establishment, we pulled away from Kowloon docks around breakfast time this morning. Passing down the harbour was a grand experience as we passed the visible token of victory in our recent war. At least six carriers plus the two score or so other ships of all types waved us a cheery “God Speed” as we threaded our way toward Li Mun Channel. Arriving off Stanley, we anchored for two or three hours, then steamed back into Junk Bay where we remained at anchor ever since, taking on the women and children who remain in Stanley. These people are being ferried from Stanley in mine sweepers and, since they number about 650, it’s rather a lengthy task. Future plans are still indefinite but we have a tanker lying close by so it does look as though we’re due to oil before we leave – which will probably be tomorrow noon at the latest.
The males on board are quite noticeably anti-female about now as they feel the latter largely responsible for the crowded accommodation. It seems that prior to the outbreak of war, all women except those considered essential for war work, about half a dozen apparently, were ordered to leave the colony. Through the old business of pull, etc., some four or five hundred managed to stay with husbands, etc., and bearing this in mind, the majority of male opinion on board feels quite strongly about being subjected to inferior quarters, by the fairer (?) sex – particularly when most of their own wives had to leave the colony five years ago. Oh well!
I found out last night what cremation holds for one. I tried to sleep on “D” deck in a hammock. Hot was no word for it!
Rumours today that the Canucks are to go to some camp twenty miles from Manila. Chances of flying are still good.
A Major Brown and party of Canadians came aboard this morning but aside from taking some of our much-needed cabin space, I haven’t seen much result from the mission.
September 11 – (Tuesday)
This bit is being written on the boat deck where I perch in the shade and consider what a beautiful trip this could be under different circumstances. A lovely, clear day and the blue Pacific really living up to its name. With a bit of refrigeration for the sleeping quarters and a happier choice of company, it would be perfect. This, of course, brings up the question of women and I must say that the old saw of “nature in the raw” etc. has certainly been upheld, in general, by the females from Stanley. Those who take issue with the colossal expenditure of beauty aids should see the results of some of nature’s handiwork. Some of it is quite demoralizing. Of course, we males wouldn’t walk away with any beauty prizes, but then one doesn’t expect too much from them anyway.
I’m afraid my incarceration hasn’t helped to destroy my trepidation in regards to women. Coming home promises some frightfully embarrassing moments or I miss my guess.
A short talk today with the Canuck rehabilitation Major reveals that, as far as he knows, we will be spending some (?) weeks, under canvas, at Manila. We are due to arrive Thursday morning and on arrival will be taken in hand by the Yanks who will equip us with clothing and other needs. Whether or not we will fly home depends entirely on the transport problems. Provided we get some measure of privacy, I’m in no great rush.
I’ve met a young lad, age 11, who is one of the Stanley people, and it was most refreshing last night to enjoy a conversation of a person not afflicted with a POW complex. Incidentally, the young rascal took me in tow for a couple of hours and we explored the ship – which means that yours truly climbed countless flights of stairs and ladders before we were mercifully rescued by lights out at 11 p.m.
I forgot to mention that we upped anchor this morning about 8 o’clock, having taken on fuel last night. About two hours out we passed a cruiser escorting a carrier and two transports – Hong Kong bound. A tremendous show of power is concentrating in Hong Kong next week with more of Admiral Fraser’s fleet and numerous troops coming in. It is said the British 14thArmy from Burma is arriving.
I was not so tickled to leave Hong Kong as I perhaps should have been. To me it will always remain “the Jewel of the East’ and were it in an American sphere, I would certainly try to return there to live.
Airmail Letter from Leonard
Aboard “Empress of Australia”
Wednesday, September 12, 1945
Dearest Glad & Girls,
A few lines to keep you posted on P.W. movements in the Far East. Nothing exciting to report since the last letter. Our departure from camp was most unspectacular. I, as a member of a volunteer party called to handle Red Cross supplies at the docks, was probably the first camp inmate to take up residence aboard, as I conked out in the heat, and spent Saturday night in the ship’s hospital. Sunday noon the remaining camp personnel arrived, and by evening were all aboard. Monday we sailed down the harbour and anchored in Junk Bay where the women and children from Stanley Camp were brought aboard. Tuesday morning we upped anchor and commenced the voyage to Manila, which we hope to reach by tomorrow morning. The ride down the harbour provided thrills for us as we passed a portion of the naval strength that accomplished so much during the war. The harbour teemed with shipping of all types, the “Anson”, the most modern of the Sovereign Class Battleships, seven carriers, cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers, submarines, transports and all manner of auxiliary craft. To us, who have missed these things, an imposing sight. We hear Admiral Fraser is also on the way to H.K. with his fleet, and that the 14thArmy is coming from Burma. We’ll have to start another war to keep these lads out of mischief. Future plans remain quite indefinite and information to date is that we Canadians disembark at Manila, where we will be taken under the wing of the Yanks pending some solution to the transport problem. Manila City is evidently completely devastated so we are to live under canvas twenty miles from the city and we have been assured of a pleasant, comfortable life while there. It is believed it will be some weeks before transport will permit continuing to Canada, but every effort is being made on our behalf and there’s a 50-50 chance that we may fly home. We will probably have to undergo all manner of medical exams, etc. and this, with the food we will receive, will almost ensure us arriving home in pretty good shape. The month of food which we have already enjoyed is beginning to manifest itself and I’m afraid I’m going to put on quite a few pounds – in the wrong places. We’re all finding it a bit difficult to believe that the freedom for which we have longed these past years is finally ours. It’s all rather nightmarish – the women and children aboard (about 600) seem to add to the confusion, rather than dispel it. Incidentally, Mother Nature has been rather rough on most of the females. Stripped of the old war paint, they’re a bit disconcerting. – We hear that there is a possibility of receiving mail from home on our arrival at Manila. We hope so – we’ve all an intense hunger for news, pictures, etc., from you people at home. Please take full advantage of any opportunities you may receive – due to being overcrowded our gang enjoys (?) the accommodation afforded by “D” deck and as a result, we combine the pleasures of eating with the less enjoyable attributes of a Turkish bath. Sleeping below is out of the question and, with the advent of a bit of breeze last night, the deck was almost comfortable. All for now – will write from Manila.
September 13 – (Thursday)
8 a.m. – This leg of the trip is just about finished. We are entering Manila Bay, having just passed Corregidor. The sun is coming up nicely and it looks like a good day on the way. Yesterday the weather was featured by rain squalls and brisk winds which rendered travelling conditions much cooler.
They dropped the “hook” about 9 o’clock in the midst of the greatest array of shipping I have ever seen. There must be close to 500 ships, mostly transports, tankers, barges, etc., anchored in the harbour. Small landing barges and launches have been buzzing about the ship for the past hour, but no indication of any move has been given for us. A slight haze makes visibility poor, but we can make out a few buildings on shore. A large number of sunken ships are also visible.
Two men died aboard last night and were hoisted overboard before daybreak. One of them, an internee from Stanley, leaves a wife aboard. Quite a number of our fellows are temporarily sick. It must be the new food.
5:30 p.m. – It looks like we’re finally going to move into dock. “Anchor stations” has just been piped for the crew. It seems that arrangements were not as complete as we had assumed and the people here were not too happy to take us ashore. Rumour has it that the Captain refused to proceed under present conditions, his reasons being that he had neither the crew nor the facilities to handle his passengers under the present circumstances. He is said to have cited the two deaths as evidence of the great responsibility a long voyage would entail. A British Brigadier arrived on board and inspected quarters. His remark – “Appalling!”. The temperature in our quarters was found to be 115 degrees.
Midnight Thursday– Talk about the yokel at the fair – my mouth has been agape for two hours. We have finally arrived at #5 Replacement Camp, some 30 miles from Manila, and since leaving the ship, we have been rendered speechless by the manifestations of Yank administration which were to be observed on every side. In the first place my estimate of the shipping in the harbour was most conservative. I’m sure there must be twice that number. The next big jolt we received was the motor transport. I’ve never seen such a display of vehicles, either in variety or number, hundreds and hundreds of them. Our convoy alone must have numbered almost 50 vehicles. Our next eye-opener was the stores of supplies. On the trip out, we passed miles of supplies piled in dumps on both sides of the roads, countless tons for miles on end of every type of supplies from auto tires to canned goods. Arriving at camp we were whisked at once to our tents then given a delicious meal, a process utterly devoid of the usual waiting around so characteristic of the British. In the tent we found a camp bed, mess nets and wooden floors, and on each bed a small bag containing towels, soap, razor, fags, chocolate bars, in fact everything one desired for personal comfort, even chewing gum and a rather nice form letter of welcome. We were told that our stay will probably be about five or six days, after which we will likely be flown home. Some of our lads recently arrived from Japan are to leave for Canada tomorrow. The camp itself is something of a triumph for Yank efficiency for we hear that it has sprung up in the past two weeks.
September 14 – (Friday)
We begin to get settled in our temporary home. Even the camp is a source of amazement to us. The section in which we are now located was a bare patch of ground yesterday. Just how big it is I can’t say, but it covers miles of territory. I had a big surprise this morning when I met some of our fellows from Japan. Some of these lads look in the pink, a result we hear, of their ability to steal Jap rations while employed as stevedores. Others unfortunately didn’t fare so well. The Canadian casualty list in Japan is very high, particularly the R.R.C.’s and the stories of treatment would chill your blood. Apparently we’re to be completely outfitted and medically examined so we’ll be kept fairly busy. I enjoyed drawing rations of beer (3 cans), fags (60), chocolate and Coca-Cola for the day. The main idea here seems to be to do everything they possibly can for POW’s.
September 16 – (Sunday)
At last a letter from home. One which I’m afraid was just a mite disappointing. My wife must surely be able to cram less news into more words than a writer for the pulps. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong attitude. It must be my POW complex.
We’re still living the life of Riley in Manila. I attended a very good game of baseball this afternoon and the caliber of ball may be judged by the fact that three major leaguers participated – two pitchers and a first baseman.
I had my medical yesterday and was pronounced fit to travel. I scaled 169, a gain of 16 pounds since the end of the war.
News has just come in that we leave, by boat, Tuesday so we should hit ‘Frisco about the first week of October. Damn! I hoped we’d go by plane.
I met Guita’s brother yesterday and heard more atrocity tales from the camps in Japan. No word of Johnnie or Guita.
Sunday night– I feel very low tonight. Don’t know why, maybe the letter. It recalls a problem which has more or less faded into the background this last month, that post-war personal problem. Tonight, in conversation with a Winnipeg officer recently arrived, we reaped a few of the first fruits of our recent incarceration. From him we learned that most of our Osbourne Barracks crowd had done well and managed to get Majorities out of the show. Jealous? Yes, frankly we are. It does seem to accentuate our unproductivity for four years.
TELEGRAPH TO GLADYS –
Swift Current Sask September 21, 1945
PWM Lieut Leonard B Corrigan
All well and safe love to all the family address Canadian liberated POW Manila via Melbourne Leonard
TELEGRAPH TO LEONARD –
PWM LIEUT LEONARD B. CORRIGAN
CANADIAN LIBERATED POW MANILA VIA MELBOURNE
SO HAPPY TO RECEIVE CABLE ALL WELL HOPE SEE YOU SOON
September 21 – (Friday)
Two days out and the ship settles down to the inevitable boredom of a long voyage. With no noticeable swell our ship rides as smoothly as a train so that personal comfort is not lacking. As mentioned previously, the meals are of high caliber and one can almost feel additional pounds being added. We should be in really fine shape, though perhaps fleshy, by the time we reach home. This business of going home is rather awesome and quite frankly I’m a bit frightened by the prospect. So many disquieting influences, working for such long periods as we’ve been through, can create big changes which may be difficult to assimilate. – I guess there’s not much use trying to tackle problems which, as yet, exist only in my imagination. The future has always been my bug bear.
“Abandon Ship” drills these past two days, and some target practice with the 40 m.m. guns yesterday, helped to relieve the monotony. I had a light workout with the sax this morning when they called for volunteers to form a band. With 3,000 to choose from it was inevitable that some pretty hot stuff would come to light and we had a good time. Another session tomorrow.
We’ve been doing a good 21 knots today due to our having to turn south to avoid a typhoon area yesterday. There’s much less propeller vibration than any ship I’ve travelled.
September 25 – (Tuesday)
Seven days out and very little to relieve the monotony of a long voyage. Yesterday, due to some boiler fault which required 23 hours to fix, our speed on the remaining three boilers was cut to 15 knots but today, in spite of heavy headwinds, we managed to average better than 18 knots. We are now roughly 3,000 miles from Manila and should hit the half-way mark about supper time tomorrow. The last day or so we have been running very close to, and parallel with, the equator and despite a good air conditioning system, the ship’s interior is quite hot enough. Fortunately, we’ve had little sun, the weather being featured by wind and rain squalls. Last night we again turned north and are now on the “Great Circle Route”, which leads right to ‘Frisco.
A concert tomorrow with the new “ship’s orchestra” as the mainstay. The combination, though small, is peppy (and noisy). A tenor, an alto (yours truly), trumpet, two guitars, squeeze box, fiddle and drums comprise the band. A very good Negro baritone came to light in rehearsal. Really grade “A” material.
I’m getting terribly, terribly fat – in fact, I’m being kidded about beri-beri because of the way my face is filling out. The one thing lacking on board is space to put forth a bit of real muscular energy.
September 27 – (Thursday)
Nothing of import to record except the date phenomena stated above and occasioned by our crossing the International Dateline.
A bit of a thrill last night about midnight, when the ship stopped and, on proceeding on deck to ascertain the reason, we found the ship’s search light busily sweeping the sea. A distress flare was said to have been sighted but, though we circled and searched for an hour or more, nothing was spotted. Communication with another ship not far from us revealed that she had seen nothing, so after reporting to Hawaii we moved on again.
Our northward swing has brought us welcome relief from the heat and the remainder of the trip should be much more pleasant.
LETTER FROM LEONARD TO GLADYS….
Aboard U.S.S. Admiral Rodman
Friday, September 28th
Your letter received Sunday, Sept. 16thand, while extremely glad to see any word at all from you, wee bit disappointed in it from a news standpoint. However, you can’t be expected to have everything, can you Butch? Anyway to get back to the approximate point of my narrative as of my last letter. With rare good luck I managed to click this first draft for, though the next was scheduled to leave two days after our departure, it is not likely that they will be as comfortably berthed, nor are they as likely to make the speed which we are managing. Our draft of twenty four officers and eighty men goes to form a party of nearly five thousand passengers, mainly POW’s (Yank) and enlisted men whose terms of enlistment have expired. Our ship, the Rodman, is listed at 22,000 tons and has a very enjoyable cruising speed of over 20 knots, in fact she’s by far the most comfortable riding ship I have been on. We embarked Tuesday, 18th, and after oiling up in the harbour Wednesday morning, we set sail about noon. Since then we have managed to plow along at a daily speed of better than twenty knots despite having to cut one boiler for twenty-three hours due to some mechanical trouble.
Certainly these Yanks don’t do things by halves. Despite the number of men she carries, a great deal of thought has been given to the comforts of these men and though space is at a premium, air-conditioning has done much to make the crowded quarters livable. The officers’ quarters have the added advantage of spring beds and mattresses and though space is still jealously hoarded, the compartment does have its degree of comfort. The one disadvantage is the lack of deck space on which to do something strenuous enough to use up some of the waste energy provided by the exceptionally good meals. I’m beginning to tack on fat at an alarming rate, most of it manifesting itself in those two most conspicuous places, the face and the waist line. I haven’t given the scales on board the chance to tell their ghastly story, but judging from the remarks directed at me, the increase must be substantial.
Despite the comforts of ship life, a voyage of six or seven thousand miles can become a Hell of a bore after the first week or so. Shortly after departure from Manila we were forced to turn south to avoid a typhoon, with the result that for almost a week we ran parallel and very close to, the equator, during which time our air conditioning system really had its work cut out for it. We did get a bit of thrill Thursday night when the ship stopped quite suddenly. Going on deck we found that a flare had been sighted and the sea was being swept with the ship’s searchlights. After an hour’s futile search we continued on our way hoping that the flare had been the figment of someone’s imagination. Contact with another ship in the immediate vicinity revealed that they had seen nothing and apparently Hawaii had no knowledge of anything on the loose in this part of the ocean.
A variety concert staged on the afterdeck a couple of nights ago was, despite considerable interference from rain-squalls, very well received and we hit the boards again tomorrow afternoon with the same show. Some very good talent came to light, a Negro baritone singing “Old Man River” being particularly outstanding. The orchestra, of which I am a humble member, is not bad, not good mind you but not bad.
We are at present a mere two thousand miles out – well up to schedule apparently and latest official word is that we’ll be docking sometime on the morning of Wed. 3rd. Rumour has it that this is to be something of a show draft and it is expected that there will be something of a civic reception when we arrive in ‘Frisco. We see by the news that Dinah Shore has committed herself to meet all homecoming ships bringing the “boys” back from the Pacific so we’ll probably see one celebrity anyway. The last couple of days the ship has cooled down somewhat due to our having turned north again on the “great circle route”. Every day closer to shore increases my apprehension of the future we’ll soon have to face. We are too aware, even at this stage, of the changes that can be wrought in four years. However I guess these things must await their proper time.
This has turned out to be a terribly disjointed letter but I’m afraid I can’t get the old mind clicking at all. Perhaps it's poetic justice after the criticism I directed at your effort. Anyway I think I’ll put it to one side and hope that something of interest turns up before the end of the voyage.
…The last day out and inspiration hasn’t hit me between the eyes yet. Everything remains up to schedule and we’ll be off land sometime tonight – though we won’t go in until tomorrow. We understand that personnel on our draft have been listed by radio with Ottawa, so we rather expect mail or wires, or both, when we arrive at ‘Frisco tomorrow. Just how long we’ll dilly-dally in Vancouver before being released is a matter of conjecture but general opinion is that, after wasting no time in ‘Frisco, we’ll be in Vancouver for at least three or four days before we set out for home. I’m rather hoping that I’ll get a wire in Frisco telling me that you will meet me in Vancouver, though why I can’t say.
I’ve felt more than usually low these past couple of weeks, which seems a little out of keeping with the general spirit that should prevail about now. Must be the result of too much attendant excitement to the idea of going home. I guess I’ll have to take a couple of days of the rum cure and see if that won’t unwind the tension a bit.
Well, I don’t seem to be able to add anything but gloom to this bit so I might as well sign off. I don’t expect to have the opportunity to phone from ‘Frisco, but will do so from Vancouver so, until then, au revoir.
LETTER FROM LEONARD TO HIS SISTER NINA….
Aboard U.S.S. Admiral Rodman
Friday, September 28th, 1945
With the possibility of improved postal conditions in the future, this seems an opportune moment to reestablish our correspondence to its former semi-annual basis, to say nothing of giving me some practice on this infernal machine which, if not one of Mr. Underwood’s best models, is certainly one of his earliest. I’ve heard nothing of Hubert so I’m taking the lack of news as an indication that he was wholly successful in his contribution to the downfall of Hitlerism etc. Lacking his address I must ask you to share this with him and pass on to him and his’n my very best.
Nothing much in the way of news to pass on except that this second leg of our trip home is being accomplished aboard a Yank Navy troopship, the Admiral Rodman, a lovely ship of 22,000 tons with a smooth cruising speed of over twenty knots and an extreme minimum of toss or roll. The Rodman was to be our magic carpet upon which we entered that mystic state called ‘civilization”, where such amenities as spring beds, air conditioning and good food (eaten with a plate), occasioned a bit of joyous bewilderment at first, although it didn’t take us long to readjust ourselves, particularly in the matter of food. Our coloured waiters looked on in awe, with a slight mixture of alarm, as we galloped through quantities of food that would have done credit to the appetites of a heavyweight wrestling stable. In the interval between our release and subsequent arrival at Manila, my registered tonnage showed an increase of sixteen pounds. God knows what the additional food I’ve stored away since coming aboard has done; I’m afraid to let the scales tell their story. It’s quite bad enough to have people point out (as though there was something the matter with my eyes), visible changes in contour lines in face and waistline.
Future plans are very indefinite but our immediate schedule calls for our arrival in ‘Frisco Wed. morning, from where we will be sent immediately to Vancouver, there to receive complete re-outfitting of clothes, etc., and have our pay and allowances properly adjusted. Following this we embark on a leave period of forty-two days, at the end of which we drop back to depot for our medicals and discharge. Incidentally, this draft which we Canucks form a small part, is said to be a “show” draft and we understand there are possibilities of a civic reception at ‘Frisco when we arrive.
A grand feature of our evacuation has been the treatment accorded to us by the Americans since our having been taken under their wing in Manila. Everything possible has been done in the effort to cater to our comfort and expedite our return home and our people have nothing but praise for the thoughtfulness of our cousins to the south. Considering the thousands of their own POW’s and men whose terms of enlistment are up, now awaiting transportation home from the Pacific area, it does seem magnanimous on their part to sacrifice their own interest to further ours. Already they have flown a goodly number of Canadians home and those remaining have been assured that they will be given all possible priority on any available transport. Damned decent I calls it. While on the subject of the Yanks I might add that we have all been slightly overwhelmed by the visible results of America’s mass production efforts which were in evidence at and around Manila. The hundreds and hundreds of ships, planes and the mechanized vehicles of all sizes and types fairly had us all on the ropes to say nothing of the miles of supplies, piled mile after mile along the road between Manila and our camp. Later in camp, when I was expressing this amazement to one of our Canadian POWs who had been flown down from Japan, his rejoinder was, “Hell! That’s small potatoes, you should see Okinawa!” Oh well! I guess we’re a bit backwoods anyhow.
To say that we’re anxious to get home smacks of deliberate understatement, but I must admit that I’m just a mite terrified by the thought of it all. At the moment we seem to be existing in a rather indefinite present which refuses to recognize either past or future, but underneath lurks an uneasy “lamb to the slaughter” feeling – resulting from the knowledge that one day we’ll be suddenly precipitated into reality and have to wake up and live. We’ve found out four years can be a long, long time and I’m afraid our education has scarcely begun.
These few lines seem to have extended themselves considerably so I’ll just nip them off here before they wander too far afield. As mentioned before, things are a bit indefinite beyond Vancouver but I may possibly swing down your way on my leave and tell you a few atrocity stories. In the meantime, I’ll close, hoping you’ll accept and pass on, particularly to Carole Ann, my love.
September 29 – (Saturday)
Still shuffling along. Time seems almost as dragging here as it was back in camp. A repeat concert of our previous show this afternoon was well received.
I hastily, and humbly, correct an entry of a few days back when I mentioned target practice with the 40 m.m. guns. I learned today that the target was not, as I casually assumed, an empty oil drum or something of that nature tossed overboard to give the gunners a bit of sport, but a real, live honest-to-God mine which strayed directly in our path. I wonder if we would have viewed proceedings quite as nonchalantly if we had known.
During the 23 hours previous to noon today we averaged 21 knots to cover 506 nautical miles, a new day’s high for the trip. We are now 1,696 miles from the Golden Gate. Our present position is approximately 700 miles due north of Honolulu.
LETTER FROM GLADYS….
Swift Current, Sask.
September 30, 1945
Can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to receive your first letter, written September 12 aboard “Empress of Australia”. You spoke of another letter. I haven’t received it as yet. They told me we could write to you at Manila. I wrote one letter. Then I saw your name listed in a group as having sailed aboard the “Admiral Rodman”, so I didn’t write again. Also, I hope you received the cable I sent in reply to yours. I’ve read and reread your letter. Even in print before me I can’t seem to realize you’re really free to write and to come home. We’ve waited so long for such news that I can’t believe it when it does come. I saw your picture in the Tribune yesterday and I was so glad to see you looking so well. Mrs. Amos sent the picture over, and, once again I was pretty excited – first picture of you in four years. Paddy and Shelagh were so excited, and they’re really excited (can’t seem to find a better word) about you coming home. To have a Daddy again seems unbelievable to them. Paddy is so much like you – even in her actions.
Everyone here is so interested in when you’re coming home, etc. – wish they’d give us more details. All I have to go on are the newspapers and some radio news. I’d love to be able to meet you somewhere, but I have no news to go on. I’ve kept a newspaper scrapbook since you went away in ’41. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. Blackwoods have been very nice to me. Mr. Blackwood has phoned from Regina anytime he received any news he though I mightn’t have received. They’re a lovely couple. I hope to see them again soon. Also, Noreen has written me.
Guess I’ll close for now, my dear – will write again soon. I still find it hard to write you a letter that sounds the least bit interesting. Bob & Vi, Edie & Reg, Jack & Carole Rooney, Ronnie & Isabel – they all want to be remembered to you. Also the Dunlops – George always asks for you.
All my love,
October 2 – (Tuesday)
Well we are at the fag end of what has been a tedious journey. The approach to civilization finds me a bit down at the heel mentally, the result I suppose of my pent-up emotions associated with the thought that we’re at the end of this particular long road. We’ll soon be finding out just what’s cooking. This idea of hurling obstacles that persist in remaining in the background is definitely unnerving. I’m afraid my letters to my wife have reflected this uneasiness of mind which predominates at present, but I’ve been unable to lift the depressiveness since we left Manila.
Our swing back up north has done things to the weather which are not altogether pleasant for we warm weather boys. Three successive days of rain, which has today given way to fog, find us very susceptible to the slightest lowering of temperature. From here it looks as though we’re not going to see much of ‘Frisco and environs. Wouldn’t that be just our luck? Half way around the world and the extent of our travels has encompassed only one city, Hong Kong, and some didn’t see very much of that.
Have I mentioned that Dinah Shore is scheduled to meet us in the harbour tomorrow, where she is to serenade us from a tugboat? Why, is hard to say. These people seem to love their publicity.
I’m hoping there will be word from Gladys at ‘Frisco as we understand that our draft lists were to be sent from Manila to Canada. I’m also hoping that she will be meeting me in Vancouver though I have no reason to think the idea would suggest itself. Tomorrow seems eons away but I guess I’ll manage to live through.
Later Tuesday– Time to pen a line or two while we tie up to Pier 15. Our day was somewhat spoiled from a sight-seeing standpoint, by a heavy veil of ground fog and smoke, a combination which rendered it difficult to appreciate the grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge as we crept in beneath it. The natives of ‘Frisco, however, were going to see that we weren’t let down and we steamed up the harbour to our berth to the accompaniment of shrieking whistles and screaming sirens. An escort of tugs and fire-boats bore down on us as we approached the dock, and a small steamer crammed with femininity joined our escort – from that point in we were regaled with popular music supplied by a Negro dance band accompanied by those sounds which we had missed for so many, many months, women’s voices. As we approached the dock, we were able to pick out the distinctive red tabs which adorn staff officers and big-wigs of the British and Canadian armies and found that our welcoming party included the Canadian Adjutant General and members of his staff, among them Colonel Clarke, father of one of the Rifle officers who was with us.
Still later Tuesday– I’m disgruntled. Many times in our monotonous camp life we of the “West” had verbal clashes with our cousins from down “East” and, to be perfectly frank, I must say that we Westerners were never quite as impressed, as we perhaps should have been, considering the financial and political power represented by our compatriots. My personal opinion, based on observations of the offspring of some of these “Tai pans” is that the parents are so busy cultivating the good things of life that they never have time to teach their children such elementary things as manners, thoughtfulness, etc. Today we had a lovely example of the boorishness which can be fostered under these peculiar circumstances. The Adjutant-General, accompanied by his staff, came on board as soon as the ship was tied up and we Canadian officers were called together to meet him. At the conclusion of a little speech of welcome, we of the Grenadiers were greatly surprised to hear the A.G. extend an invitation to the “Rifle” officers to come to his suite in the Mark Hopkins Hotel, there to enjoy a bath and dinner. Comprising only one third of the total number of officers present and therefore too few to cause any serious disruption to the party in general had we been included, we Grenadiers were, to put it mildly, taken aback by the manner in which the invitation was extended. It came to light later that the A.G. had made arrangements for the Rifle officers to speak to their wives in Canada over three specially-leased direct wires, at the expense of the Canadian taxpayers. We of the “West” were left twiddling our thumbs aboard a deserted ship, with no word of disembarkations arrangements, meals or the length of time we were to remain in ‘Frisco. Three of us, by utilizing the friendship of one of the ship’s officers, managed to get on to the dock and from a pay-booth made our own arrangements to communicate with our families. Two of us, due to our having to wait for almost an hour while the other chap’s call when through, found on our arrival back on board, that the remainder had departed for the station at Oakland and we too were left high and dry. A sympathetic Red Cross man commandeered a car for us and after being assured by the woman driver that we still had an hour or so until train time, we accepted the advice of our chauffeur and saw as much of the town as we could in the limited time.
Our driver proved to be a typical Yank woman whose Flying Officer husband had been in the Pacific for three years and she gave us an entertaining commentary as we travelled. The Mark Hopkins crowns ‘Frisco’s highest hill and the tower twenty stories above presents a marvelous view of the city and environs. Unfortunately, fog and a film of smoke from distant forest fires somewhat curtailed the picture for us. The top floor of the “Mark” contains a beautiful cocktail lounge so while there we sampled some of Uncle Sam’s liquor. Driving back to the pier we found that our train was to leave from Oakland, which presented the opportunity of crossing the Oakland bridge. What a massive tribute to engineering. Simply colossal! We arrived at the station with twenty minutes to spare to find that the departure time had been set back an hour. We also learned that the train was “all-Canadian” and our party was to number nearly 400 POW’s a number of our lads from Japan having been centred in ‘Frisco awaiting our arrival. After partaking of American grub for the past two months, we found these boys the picture of health. The average weight increase had been a pound a day since their release.
We left ‘Frisco about 5:30 which brings this up to date. We are now entering the Pine country and the hills are beginning to assume some size, so we must soon be entering the mountainous areas. Our boys are really travelling in class with each man occupying a Pullman berth. We have also a Canadian hospital car attached, complete with nursing sisters.
Future plans are – train to Seattle, boat from Seattle to Victoria and our processing at Gordon Head. It is planned to have the gang return home by regiments as much as possible because of contemplated civic arrangements, in both Quebec and Winnipeg. The old, old Malarky!
Portland – Tuesday, 11 p.m. – Horrors! We had half an hour here so I traipsed downtown a few blocks for a look-see. Passing a scale I just couldn’t resist climbing aboard. I nearly fell through the floor as I watched the arm swing around to the 190 mark. Almost forty pounds increase since our release. Shameful ain’t it?
This Oregon country looks like the ideal spot to live. The terrain is much the same as that of our northern foothills and the booming lumber industry provides a bustling activity that lends an attractive air of self-sufficiency to an already beautiful country-side. A small city like Eugene would be grand to settle in, judging superficially, of course.
LETTER FROM LEONARD….
San Francisco - Noon Tuesday, October 3, 1945
Just a few lines to give you our last developments. A grand welcome here this A.M. But, from our point of view, a little disappointing due to heavy fog which obscured ‘Frisco. Met by Adj. General of Canada and staff, his plans entail our leaving by train at 5 p.m. for Seattle, from where we will go to Gordon Head for re-fitting. He thinks we shouldn’t be there more that a day or so. We are to proceed east from Victoria by regiments because of plans of civic reception at Winnipeg and Quebec. However, individuals living west of Winnipeg may drop off at their homes if desirous of doing so. Do you wish to come in to Wpeg or shall I drop off in S.C.? I’ll phone from Victoria and you can let me know. Personally I think we’ll have a few days in Victoria as they’re waiting for the remainder to arrive from Manila.
In Haste, Love,
SPECIAL TO THE WINNIPEG TRIBUNE….
GRENADIERS LEAVE ‘FRISCO FOR HOME – by Peter Inglis….
San Francisco, Oct. 4
Deep in one of the bunk-packed holds of the big U.S. transport Admiral Rodman one of the most dramatic reunions of the war’s end took place at noon Wednesday. There Col. F.W. Clarke, of Quebec and Ottawa, special assistant to the Adjutant-General and founder of Canada’s directorate of repatriation, met his son Capt. W.F. Clarke of the Royal Rifles of Canada, a prisoner of the Japanese at Hong Kong for four years.
Both were almost speechless. Col. Clarke said only “I can’t put into words” and his son: “Oh boy, this certainly is grand”. Around them were packed 25 officers and 79 men of Canada’s Hong Kong force.
The Admiral Rodman which was packed with 4,000 United States troops and 1188 Britons, as well as the Canadians, was delayed by fog off the Golden Gate. And the Canadians were taken direct by ferry to Oakland pier to board a train for home joining 244 others who docked Tuesday on the “Ozark” and had been taken to Fort McDowell in San Francisco Bay for rest. Down in the steaming holds, officers and men told their stories.
Capt. Uriah Laite, of Vancouver, who was a Marine missionary on the west coast of Vancouver Island for the United Church before the war, and became Chaplain of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, said: “The Japs set out to break us. They said at the end they were amazed at our spirit.”
George Porteous of Saskatoon, Y.M.C.A. auxiliary services attached to the Grenadiers told of his struggle with the Japanese to permit education and recreation for the prisoners. “I tried to get recognition as a welfare officer, but word came back that I was a prisoner of war.”
Cpl. Guy Faulkner, of Winnipeg, a former Tribune reporter, was more interested in getting news of his home office than in telling of his experiences. Of them he said only:”We made the best of it, but I can tell you we didn’t have much straw to make our bricks. The food situation was chronic and the medical situation was bad. I can’t say too much for the officers. They did a marvelous job in a very invidious position.”
A merchant seaman, Wireless Operator Ozzie Collett of Winnipeg, was in the same camp but has not been shipped home yet. They were the only Canadians at Kawasaki No. 1 near Tokyo. The rest were British, Indians and Chinese.
There was a brief flash of humour during the welcome ceremonies, when Gen. Walford announced: “I have a message here from the Minister of National Defense,” and a voice from among the repatriates called out “And who would he be now?”
Gen. Walford went into conference with Lt. Col. William Home, who became senior Canadian officer at Hong Kong on the death of Brigadier J.K. Lawson and Pat Hennessy as was Maj. George Trist of Winnipeg, second in command of the Grenadiers.
October 5 – (Friday)
Today we arrived in Canada. Maybe I’m a sentimentalist, but it did seem good after four years. We are now almost face to face with the problems that have been bothering us for so many months.
Disembarking at Victoria provided joyous scenes of reunion as our boys singled out loved ones and friends in the milling crowd that gathered at the pier entrance. My first link with that distant past came with the meeting of Oley Thompson, his wife and Levane, - former Swift Currentites who were kind enough to be there to greet me. Packed aboard buses our happy crowd was soon on its way to Gordon Head and it was thrilling to note the reception we received from passers-by along the route. Arriving at the camp we were immediately given a meal, then jumped right in to the formalities of processing. I must confess that later in the day and, not I’m sure intended as part of the processing scheme, I fell afoul of some good Canuck rum that didn’t do much to help my own readjustment policy.
TELEGRAM TO GLADYS….
MRS. GLADYS CORRIGAN 1945, OCT. 9
185 SPENCE STREET WINNIPEG MAN
YOUR HUBBY ON SPECIAL TRAIN 675 ARRIVING WINNIPEG TUESDAY 5:45 P.M. HAVE EVERYTHING READY HE LOOKS LIKE A MILLION STOP
RED CROSS CONDUCTING OFFICER
FROM THE WINNIPEG TRIBUNE
HOME AT LAST
After being prisoners of the Japanese since the fall of Hong Kong in December, 1941, 108 Winnipeg Grenadiers detrain from a special troop section at the C.P.R. depot Tuesday evening. They were wearing the new HK red and gold flashes and all looked healthy and fit.
“BEST WE’VE HAD YET”
GRENADIERS GET RIOTOUS WELCOME
Some 4,000 Winnipeggers Tuesday evening jammed their way into the C.P.R. depot and overflowed to the street outside. They argued with service police, got pushed around and did a little pushing around themselves.
THEY WERE THERE TO WELCOME THE LARGEST GROUP OF WINNIPEG GRENADIERS TO RETURN TO WINNIPEG. WELCOME THEM THEY DID, IN THEIR OWN STYLE. IT WAS ANYTHING BUT ORGANIZED. NO ONE CARED.
No one, that is but train reception committee members. A small man at the public address microphone pleaded and threatened. Second battalion Grenadiers and service police had their hands full.
The crowd gave – only sufficiently to clear a portion of the floor space.
AND THEN THE GRENADIERS CAME MARCHING IN. THE CROWD REPLIED WITH CHEERS. THE LINE OF GUARDS FOLDED UNDER PRESSURE. THE ROTUNDA WAS JAM-PACKED WITH GRENADIERS STRUGGLING TO REACH RELATIVES STRUGGLING TO REACH THEIR MEN.
Two bands blared but not loudly enough to drown out the cries, the laughs, the yells.
ONE ELDERLY WOMAN IN THE RELATIVES’ WAITING ROOM FAINTED.
Representatives of the province, of the city and of M.D. 10 were present. No one cared much about that either.
The Grenadiers were grabbed by their families and hustled out the front entrance to the 150 cars placed at their disposal by the Young Men’s Section of the Board of Trade.
There was much noise. Much confusion. It was like a good reception should be….completely uninhibited.
The special C.P.R. troop train left Vancouver with 101 men and seven officers aboard from the Grenadiers, and 187 men and 16 officers from the Royal Rifles.
NINE OF THE GRENADIERS MISSED THE TRAIN AT BRANDON. FOUR OF THEM, F.J. LAVALEE, W CHAVOYER, W. COATES AND N.W. KOWALCHUK WERE ALL FROM WINNIPEG. THEY ARRIVED ONE HOUR LATER AT 6:45.
Trying to get hold of Grenadiers to talk with them was like trying to catch fish with bare hands. It could not be done.
But a question would be half asked, and a reply half given. But this much was gathered, and it was said by Sgt. E. Neil of Fort Francis.
“BROTHER! WINNIPEG HAS GIVEN US THE BEST RECEPTION WE’VE HAD!”
Most of the boys could think of their experiences both ways: Some could laugh them off. Others couldn’t bear to speak of them.
Pte. Steve Yormula, Molson, Man., attracted attention by his hearty laugh; he was blond, little, grinning and he had beautiful teeth. What was the joke?
“THEY CALL ME SMILER. YES? I MADE ‘EM LAUGH IN CAMP TOO. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS GRIN AND THE BOYS GRINNED WITH ME. I GOT CRACKED A COUPLE OF TIMES BY THE JAPS FOR DOING IT. I’D LIKE TO SPIT IN THEIR EYE!”
Col. Trist came up the stairs and was instantly surrounded by a score of people. He was almost bodily carried from the station.
Capt. Leboutillier of the Royal Rifles cried “Anyone know Mrs. John Park. I’ve got a message for her.” Half a dozen people were eager to take it. It was this “Love, dear”.
There was a Capt. D.G. Philip, 74 Hargrave Ave., Sgt. Gordon McKinnon, A.J. Neault of Dauphin, who said that Joe Skworak also of Dauphin, “is fine and will be home soon”.
With Neault was J.F. Robinson. “Say we saw Harry.” “Harry who?” “Harry Atkinson. We worked together on the docks.”
AND THERE WAS HARRY, FIRST GRENADIER TO RETURN TO WINNIPEG. PUSHING HIS WAY THROUGH THE CROWD, SHAKING HANDS WITH OLD FRIENDS.
Cpl. E. Dickie, formerly of Dauphin, now of Winnipeg said “Oh, I drove a steam engine for the Nips.”
Pte. Mulvaney, 553 Elgin St. joked about a finger stump. How did it happen?
“IT WAS HACKED OFF BY A SPADE BY ONE OF THEM **** NIPS. I STOPPED TO PICK UP A CIGARETTE BUTT.”
A MESSAGE FROM KING GEORGE
The Queen and I bid you a very warm welcome home. Through all the great trials and sufferings which you have endured at the hands of the Japanese, you and your comrades have been consistently in our thoughts. We realize from the accounts which we have already received, how heavy these sufferings have been. We know too, that these have been endured by you with the highest courage. We mourn with you the deaths of so many of your gallant comrades. We hope with all our hearts that your return from captivity will bring you and your families a full measure of happiness.
Vividly, I recall being awakened early in the morning by my mother, and being dressed to go by train from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg where the troops were to come. I remember my coat and hat my grandmother McDonald had made for me. I have no recollection of arriving in Winnipeg or staying at my grandparents’ apartment.
But again, vividly, I remember being in the train station with my grandfather Corrigan while my mother, sister and grandmother went off to look for my father. We were standing in a huge crowd when suddenly I was swept off my feet by a very tall man (I was six years old). A photographer captured the moment when I realized I was seeing my father for the first time. I remember the rough texture of his army uniform. He is a total stranger.My mother, sister and grandmother returned to us and I’m sure there was laughter and tears. But being six – and short – all of the emotion was carried on above my head. And what do you say to a six-year old after four years away. There was so much going on. We obviously returned to Spence Street to the apartment.
At some point I started school at
St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg. And I only remember this because
– in a strict Catholic school of black uniforms with white collars
and cuffs, I showed up in a red sweater and plaid skirt. Not a good
beginning. But they did have the greatest doll house with proper
furniture (to scale) and even tiny dishes and cooking utensils.
I have no idea how long I was there – I probably didn’t make a big
impression on them either!
A close friend of my mother and dad wrote to say that the reunion in Winnipeg was “not a too satisfactory one – due in large part as I remember it – to an attitude on the part of the senior Corrigans.” My mother and I went back to Swift Current while my father stayed in Winnipeg for debriefing. References in the diary to problems that my father was not looking forward to facing most likely had to do with tension between his parents and my mother. My mother’s friend continues in her letter “I loved them both and they loved each othereach in his/her own way – and the war has a lot to answer for.”