Len Corrigan's Story

CHAPTER SIX - Reflections on the First Three Months

Patricia – age nine:

On my 9thbirthday, I was living in Winnipeg with my grandparents. They had an apartment at 185 Spence St. not far from Broadway. The Parliament Buildings were just a few blocks away.

When I travelled from Swift Current to Winnipeg, as I did several times, it was either by bus or by train. Things were very different then. A child could be sent by either mode of transportation, with the understanding that the bus driver or train conductor would make sure that the child was looked after.

St. Mary’s Academy was the school I went to in Winnipeg. We lived a long distance away from the school, and I took the street car every day, to and from school. I made a few friends at school, but there was never an opportunity to see those friends outside of school hours. Regarding Winnipeg, I do remember the gym classes, where we were dressed in navy tunics, and white long-sleeved shirts. What one wore on a regular day was a black dress with long sleeves and white collar and cuffs. To complete the outfit we had black wool stockings and black shoes. When I arrived one day with brown shoes, I was sent home on the streetcar and missed a whole day of school because my uniform was not completely correct.

For the times that I was living at home, I attended St. Patrick’s School but the friends I made were close to where I lived, and didn’t attend that elementary school. The Catholics were definitely a minority in Swift Current, and many of those I knew at school came from the farming communities outside the town, as well as being scattered through the various areas of Swift Current itself. Quite a few were French-speaking, with names like Laverdiere, Lepage, and Toupin.

Living with Grandma and Grandpa Corrigan meant some opportunities to see movies, usually ones dealing with music – either musicals, operas or the stories of musicians. It was understood that I would practice every day, and when there was company, I would be expected to play the piano for those who were visiting. We travelled to Uncle Bert and Aunt Kathleen’s house for Sunday dinner once in a while.

When they were in season, my Grandfather would take me out berry picking to the end of the streetcar line where the blueberries were larger, and we would come home with large shopping bags at least half full. Very tasty! And Grandma would make blueberry pie. My grandfather was very caring, and would help me with my studies, particularly history and geography. He also began to take me golfing with Uncle Bert when I was nine or ten, and made the experience a very positive one.

Relatives visited occasionally. Margaret and “Teenie” were Grandpa Corrigan’s sister-in-law and niece, and visits usually involved conversation, a performance and dinner. We did go a few times to Auntie Voi and Uncle Mike’s house, usually for Sunday dinner.

Auntie Voi was one of Grandpa’s sisters, and had several children, most of them much older than I was. The two youngest were Theresa, who was in her early teens and Allison, a boy who was probably about twelve. Theresa and I got along very well, and there are pictures of she and I with a sled, sliding on a small hill near their house in the winter.

Friends that Grandma and I would visit once in a while lived in St. Vital, and we would take the streetcar just about to the end of the line, either the St. Mary’s car or the St. Anne’s car. They lived at 73 Crystal Avenue, and there were seven children in the family. The younger children were closer to my age, and we enjoyed the playhouse which their father had built in the back yard.

I do remember helping pack Red Cross parcels with my grandmother and many other women in a large building, probably some place like the Osborne Barracks. There were always socks being knit as well, and a lot of searching for even more ways to support the men who were overseas.

As far as food rationing was concerned, I wasn’t really aware of it in Winnipeg, but I do remember Mom talking about food stamps, and small portions of things like butter and meat.

I remember going to Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park one summer and getting a terrible sunburn. My body was covered in ointment in an attempt to ease it. The only problem was when I took my nightgown off after sleeping fairly comfortably the attempts to take it off resulted in a fair bit of skin going with it. A quite painful experience!

March 16 1942 – (Monday)

Heavy rain awakened us this morning and though it stopped around breakfast time, the day remains quite dull.

I spent most of the morning with a kit inspection. Why, I have no idea, but the Japs want all souvenirs turned in, so we had to list and tag our collection.

Our noon meal was long on taste and short on quantity again. We had pancakes and though good, they couldn’t compare with the first lot. Seems we’re getting damned particular sudden like. We did appreciate them though.

Supplies, for some unknown reason, simply rolled in today. We received quite a large quantity of flour as well as vegetables, pork and three kinds of fish. To add to the picture, the Compradore came in with his load this afternoon. I don’t know just how the latter will be worked, but I imagine each unit will receive a percentage to sell: at any rate, coffee, milk, sugar and cigarettes (of tobacco) were included in the load.

There may be “some” truth in the Armistice rumour, at least in so far as the offer might have been proffered – this according to a Navy man who swears he read it in the paper himself.

Our “syndicate” is not broke yet but we’re getting awfully bent. Our capital now rests at $10.00 Canadian, which might just as well be circus money sometimes, depending on the “black market”.

After a lovely dinner of fishcakes, Mac and I sought out our wavy Navy friends, Dudley and MacDowell, and spent the remainder of the evening playing bridge.

The canteen prices were announced after dinner but they were so high as to be prohibitive in so far as we’re concerned. In most cases such as fags, tobacco, etc., we could do better right in camp. It is thought however, that when listing the prices, the Compradore – used to dealing with the Jap “sen” has become confused with the Hong Kong “cent”, which is only half the value – i.e. 20 sen equals 40 cents (Hong Kong) or 1 yen equals $2.00 Hong Kong or Mex.

March 17 – (Tuesday)

So dawns another “17thof Ireland”. What hellish spots we pick to spend holidays such as Christmas, New Years and the 17thin. “Join the Army and See the World”!

We had quite a heavy rain last night – in fact at home it would likely have been termed a cloudburst – but here where they’ve had as high as five inches to the hour, it’s just a rain. I believe our rainy season is about due to commence, even the last few days the drizzles we encountered formerly have given away to rains. The rainy season also brings with it the typhoons, which can and sometimes do assume proportions that aren’t even funny. The highest “recorded” velocity experienced here was a mere breeze of 176 miles per hour, at which point the recording instrument ceased to function. This happened six or seven years ago but the natives, quite optimistically, assure me the average typhoon doesn’t venture much above 125 miles per hour – which seems a hell of a good thing!

I’m afraid this inane volume, to the casual observer, will present a cross between a weather report and a menu in a Chinese café.

Lunch consisted of two slices of bread, two eggs, a rolled pancake containing jam, and tea. Very nice but not bulky enough.

The day turned out to be one of those lovely sunny days such as we get in June at home, so I sat around lapping up sunshine.

Good news arrived late in the afternoon. The Colonel received the news that Tokyo had agreed on a pay for officers and that a casualty list would be sent home.

Planes flew over the city dropping pamphlets to celebrate the fall of Java, Rangoon, etc. and to announce that India and Australia would soon follow. Even this news failed to dim our exuberance caused by the rumour of pay.

Good St. Patrick was still with the “Micks” in the matter of food. At dinner, Mac and I managed to get properly filled on dry rice, bully stew, bread and tea. -Wotta repast-.

The evening we spent in song – or something. The officers had a sing-song in the hut with Doc Gray at the piano, Bardal on the guitar and yours truly on the sax. We managed to fritter away three hours without any serious casualties.

And so – with another day closer to home and another five spot in the sock, I’ll lay me down on my nice soft boards for a bout with Morpheous.

March 18 – (Wednesday)

Today is our inspection day so breakfast and lunch are to be advanced a half-hour to ensure ample time to have things arranged for the visit of the Camp Commandant.

Breakfast provided a slight change since we had brown sugar in place of the usual white. I believe it’s actually a maple sugar, although it’s considerably weaker than our Canadian type. It blends nicely with rice however.

Our company hut was chosen as the hut to be inspected so we had no parade to worry about this morning.

Lunch consisted of rice, flavoured with soybean sauce and fried into patties in peanut oil and pork fat. Absolutely wonderful. It’s remarkable how the little things we consider quite ordinary at home are absolutely luxuries here. Unfortunately, as with all things, the quantity is insufficient.

Parade at two o’clock proved to be one of those things so common to the army, as we stood for almost an hour – a task not made easier by the hot sun that came out just as we arrived on parade. Things seemed to suit the Commandant as he gave the word out that he was well satisfied with the manner in which the camp was being run.

After parade, time was spent just sitting and talking, most of the latter being concerned with the matter of pay and the question of writing home. I’m afraid the former won’t come to pass for a month or so – at least,

Dinner, due to a shortage of wood, consisted of two eggs and two slices of bread. A bit light to go to sleep on.

Dud and Mac were over after dinner and we bridged and gossiped until lights out.

March 19 – (Thursday)

Another prospective sunny day, although the breeze is a mite chilly. Maze and I dispensed with our sack coverlet last night and damn near froze to death.

Today is clean-up day so we have the business of moving all beds and equipment out so the hut can be sprayed.

Lunch was a slim replica of last evening’s dinner and consisted of bread and tea and some kind of bread pudding, fried. Fortunately dinner was again replete with rice and we had it with a small amount of stew, so – once again the inner man was satisfied.

News brought in from one of the hospitals proved almost as stimulating as the meal. Apparently the Philippines have been holding out better than we’ve been led to believe and Yanks and Canucks were reported to have landed in Australia, if such be the case our plight would not seem quite so dismal as formerly. Burma was also reported as progressing, as were our friends the Ruskies.

Dud was in tonight for a bit of a chat and we were given some interesting view points on life in the East. He has spent some time here, prior to this was stationed in Singapore, on the Malay Peninsula mainland and in New Guinea, all of which makes him an authority on the subject as far as we are concerned. I’d love to have things break in such a way here that we would be stationed here for awhile, to enable us to get around a bit and see the East. Actually, it still has its good points, at least as far as I’m concerned, although this view-point is not shared by most of my fellow officers. It would be a shame to have come this far and to have seen only Hong Kong.

My day to shave again, so I took the opportunity to get rid of my moustache. However, one look at my puss and I’m immediately working on its successor. I can imagine how Mrs. C. would criticize, but I’ll have it off by the time I reach home. – Unless I’m flaunting a full beard!

Dudley tells us the summer months are really lousy here. Actually, the temperature rarely exceeds 90 degrees but since the humidity amounts to 90%, things get pretty grubby. Walls drip continuously and clothing, boots, etc. become mildewed and covered with green mould. Lovely prospect, what?

Well, things are quiet today so I’ll sign off to await what the morrow has in store. I’m afraid my efforts will become even more fruitless unless something breaks soon. The old brain just can’t seem to conjure up the facts.

March 20 – (Friday)

This day’s chronicle I’m having to do on Saturday as I neglected my secretarial duties yesterday.

Nothing of any consequence took place except that the meals again proved skimpy, with tea and two slices of bread for lunch and patties for dinner.

We played another ball game with the Navy in the afternoon and again we were trimmed. Why, I don’t know, but our ball team seems to have gone to hell lately.

Last night they had another meeting with the Japs on the question of pay and it seems that they were asked to get their pay lists in by dinner time tomorrow. Maybe the pay she’s come soon – we hope!

The sun came out in the afternoon, but a cold wind discouraged sun-bathing somewhat.

Spent the evening making up my detention book and listening to everyone spend their money.

March 21 – (Saturday)

Again I’m Orderly Officer so that will take care of a few extra moments. The sun is trying desperately to elbow its way from behind the clouds and we certainly hope it succeeds, the wind has quite a bit of bite to it today.

Lunch proved a little more sturdy than usual with the addition of a little baked rice to our eggs and bread.

Afternoon found us taking advantage of the advent of warm sun but, unfortunately, there are some people that can’t seem to stand the sight of others being comfortable, and some miserable soul picked two teams for a game of softball, routing us from our position of ease. As if I didn’t have enough trouble keeping my body resources ahead of my stomach and appetite. Woe is me –

Dinner was another more or less short order meal. I think the rice ration must have been cut again.

After dinner we had our usual Saturday night binge in the way of a concert and it was quite good. You’ll probably recall Willis (Post Office box 812) who travelled for the I.H.C.? He’s with us here and tonight he sang the “Lost Chord”, rather well too. I couldn’t help thinking what a far cry from the last time I heard him, at a band concert in the Elks’ Hall at Swift Current.

March 22 – (Sunday)

Once again the week has rolled by and we’re on the threshold of another. The day dawned clear and bright so I went to Communion and later to the recitation of the Rosary. It’s rather peculiar that religion here seems to be the medium most capable of bringing me into closer contact with family and home than any other line of thoughts or associations. Oh well, another week has slipped by us, another week closer.

Breakfast was a porridge mixture of rice and oatmeal, aided and abetted by a bun. A very good combination. Unfortunately the firm is again out of cigarettes so the pleasures of today’s meals are dimmed somewhat by the absence of that luxury.

The morning, in spite of the sun, proved a mite chilly so it was spent in the hut where, for want of a better thing to do, we re-fought the war.

Lunch consisted of pancakes, which though very nice don’t put the bulk in the diet that my system seems to crave.

After lunch we again absorbed more sun – I’m beginning to take on some semblance of brown now – and once again some idiot suggested baseball, so we took revenge on the Navy – giving them a 12-7 trimming.

The fag problem is most acute and is accentuated by the paymaster, who tantalizes us with the thought that our pay will probably be forthcoming within the next couple of weeks or so.

Dinner finally gave me an opportunity to “catch up on bulk” as we had dry rice with a thin vegetable sauce. I added still further to mine by trading bread for rice.

After supper I walked the square until 8:30 with Simons of the Rifles, exchanging experiences etc., then wandered over to the C.S.M.’s for a further session of chin-wagging there.

There seems to be a small flurry of excitement amongst the Nips tonight – passing street cars are stopped and searched and there seems to be considerable military about. Guess it won’t affect us however, so off to bed.

March 23 – (Monday)

Another day of days for table #3 – first on seconds – although at breakfast, as usual, seconds there were none. The porridge rice combination again, a lovely dish, I could eat four portions like we get.

The day is very dull and seems to threaten rain at any moment. It’s not cold however and that’s something. I understand we still have some cold “snaps” to go through.

Another bridge tourney commences today but I’ve gracefully retired from this one. Anything over an hour’s bridge in a day taxes my temper and patience to the limit.

We’ve had another series of rumours which, if correct, have the Russians going great guns almost on the old Prussian border, as well as on the Polish. An English landing at Le Havre is also reported but I think that’s too obviously a “latrinogram”. It seems a bit early for a spring offensive but we do hope to hear of things commencing shortly.

Lunch proved even more meager than usual and consisted of tea and bread – fine days we’re picking for seconds!

More activity amongst our captors today. Street cars are still being searched and, in addition, a large party of Marines has been searching the hills across the road from camp.

Our meals and afternoon “basks” are taken in the real Continental style, with music. The piano that was brought in is housed in the hut next to ours, and one of the occupants plays fairly well.

Another fagless day doesn’t improve the outlook in general. Damned annoying with a pay in line soon. We’d quit smoking were it not for that.

Dinner consisted of fish, fried in peanut oil, and dry rice and, after considerable barter – i.e. bread for rice, etc. I managed to stuff myself sufficiently to alleviate that “Grand Canyon” feeling.

Fortune again smiles on her wayward offspring – but what a price per grin – our syndicate just floated a loan of $90.00 (Canadian) to be repaid in Canada with $135.00. Not a bad rate of interest what? Just to make things a little more binding, we must change this sum into Hong Kong currency, at the rate of $3.00 Hong Kong for $2.00 Canadian, in order that we may purchase putrid cigarettes, that retail at 40 cents per package, at the rate of $1.00 for ten fags. After all that’s worked out it makes for rather expensive smoking, doesn’t it? However the old law of supply and demand holds and we’re quite content. Having partaken of my first fag of the day I find myself endowed with renewed vigor and optimism. Checking my “books” I find that all I owe is around $40.00 Canadian, which isn’t bad for about three months smoking.

Once again the hut takes on the atmosphere of the old meeting house as the bridge tourney staggers along. As a matter of passing interest, our friends Dud and Mac, whom we defeated in the first round, managed to go right through and are tonight playing in the finals of the first event.

Well, there being no news and no rumours, I’ll close this for another turn at my bed and boards.

March 24 – (Tuesday)

Weather still is warm today but the clouds obscure the sun. Breakfast found us back again on straight rice, but rice in any form is good medicine for me.

Our company has a clean-up the hut campaign this morning, so there wasn’t much to our parade at 10:45.

There is still considerable military activity in evidence today and much scurrying to and fro, of trucks loaded with Marines and soldiers. Marines are still searching the hills behind the camp. Rumour has it that six or eight Nips were killed night before last, but that may not be the case.

Lunch consisted of bread and two eggs and, while not what I’d choose at home, it sufficed.

There’s still no sun this afternoon so we just sit around and gossip until parade time. There’s another ball game at 4:30 which means I’ll be extra hungry for dinner.

This must be my extra special week – for a change we win our ball games, incidentally I modestly admit – under pressure – that I lead the team in batting averages, - then comes a bang-up dinner. Such a repast has not been our lot for many moons. Roast pork (one slice), rice patties (two patties per), a slice of bread, plain rice and gravy and tea. Outside of quantity I couldn’t have hoped for a better meal at home. – Even traded my bread for more rice and – to top it off – we were able to smoke after supper. I only hope we get out of here before I lose my taste for rice. One of these days I’ll have bushels of it.

A little side-light on the rice question is brought to mind here and, though its propriety may be questioned, I think it’s worth recording. As you may know, rice contains an exceedingly large quantity of water, the way we have it cooked, and until our systems became accustomed to it this, coupled with coldish weather, was the cause of much amusement and inconvenience due to the number of nocturnal rises from the warmth of our beds it occasioned. It actually entailed not one or two but from five to seven visits of an evening. Fortunately this was diminished as time went on, but it was humorous at first.

March 25 – Wednesday

How time flies – three months – a quarter of a year since our surrender. How much longer now? I think we’ve managed to bear up exceedingly well so far.

This morning there’s a heavy mist that’s almost a rain, in fact I guess it did rain through the night.

Breakfast this a.m. provided a new item for our diet sheet, unpolished rice, which is reported rich in vitamin B. There are quite a number of cases of Beri-Beri in camp due to lack of “B”, so we hope by supplementing our diet with the new rice occasionally, to avoid this danger.

Once again I seem to have a slight (I hope) touch of dysentery, the last – fortunately – was more or less a false alarm so I’m staying quiet, just in case.

As a result of the above, I did stay quiet all day and started a book, “Nanking Road” by Vicki Baum, which I’m enjoying. It’s fashioned after the “Grand Hotel” type of story and, since it centres around Shanghai and therefore has considerable of things Chinese in it, it’s proving doubly interesting in these circumstances.

Today was again a light lunch day and brought only bread and tea. Dinner consisted of dry rice with vegetable and pork gravy, so it was in some measure a compensation.

Rumours again appear optimistic regarding the general war situation and we seem to be doing fairly well on all fronts with the exception of having cut the Burma Road in one place.

The evening Terry and I spent trying to convert Canadian money into Hong Kong currency. What a situation. Now that we have the money, the rates are so prohibitive (even steven now) that we can’t get fags. – Wotta life! –

March 26 – Thursday

This day holds promise of a little sun later on and even now it manages to push its chin from behind a lather of mist every few minutes.

Breakfast again consisted of unpolished rice and, though it seems to demand more sugar than the other, it’s still very palatable, not unlike Dr. Jackson’s bekkus puddy in taste.

Dinner consisted of bread and eggs, one of which I traded for more bread.

Sure enough, out came the sun and though it seemed to lack the intensity of other days, it was very enjoyable. The morning was spent moving bunks in and out of the hut for washing purposes.

After lunch we witnessed another episode of a kind which I have so far avoided mentioning – namely, brutality to the passing Chinese. While we personally have had no cause for complaint, there has been considerable undeserved inhumanity to many an unfortunate Chinese, male and female, who has happened to do the right thing at the wrong time – dependant seemingly on the whim of the guard. As an illustration: Directly opposite the camp, across the street, are situated the barns of the Hong Kong Tramways and, shortly after dinner, four men obviously employed there, dropped off a tram which doesn’t ordinarily stop here, and started for the barns. Half-way across the street they were hailed by the guards and taking off their hats they meekly made their way to the camp gate. Here they were lined up in single file, facing the road and one of the sentries began to talk to them. Suddenly the other sentry grasped the man on the end by the shoulders, from behind, and the first proceeded to slap – first with one hand and then the other – the poor unfortunate’s face. This was repeated down the length of the line, then the Chinese were kicked and sent away. Whether or not the reason is a misunderstanding I can’t say, but it does seem peculiar.

Supper consisted of dry rice and fried fish cakes and they were the ultra. – Nice diet for prison camp, eh?

Mac and I are invited over to the Navy hut by Dud and Mac so I look forward to a pleasant evening.

March 27 – (Friday)

A cold, windy, dull day greeted us this a.m. and the dust of the camp, swirling around, brought memories of good old Saskatchewan.

Only half rations of sugar with rice at breakfast. I hope supplies come in.

Last night was a lovely gesture on the part of Dud and Mac. We enjoyed a sing-song in the Navy Hut and were then served tea, and, of all things, an egg sandwich apiece. Now thatis hospitality. Anyone who has the necessary will power to enable them to save rations to provide snacks for their guests deserves a meritorious service medal of the highest order.

Rumours are flying around of a speech made by Churchill in which he is supposed to have stated that reverses in the East are finished. From now on the woim toins! Hope he’s right!

Dinner gave us another of “those” nights. Dry rice, pork pie with vegetables, bread and tea. By a series of deft trades, involving bread and a fag, I managed a banquet fit for a king. Certainly we’ll not suffer much if this standard of grub is kept up. In my anxiety to record dinner, I almost neglected lunch, which consisted of dry rice, pork gravy and a bread fritter. Truly this has been a day of days.

Work has been going apace on the sunken ships in the harbour and the Nips have managed to salvage a couple. The shipyards too have been brought into production and are going to town. One must hand it to these chaps for a lot of things.

Further supplements to the Winston Churchill speech have him making the statement that the next six weeks will find the Germans in such a position as to make it likely the war will have terminated by the end of summer. Is it wishful thinking or is there finally something concrete on which to base our hopes???

March 28 – (Saturday)

Once again I start the day with P.T. and a shower. How long this latest venture in building the body beautiful lasts will depend largely on the weather. Today began very dull with a cold wind, but toward noon the sun did manage to come out for a while. I’ve been endeavoring to encourage a nice tan, but after a day or so of no sun at all, the previous results seem to disappear.

I spent the morning rustling about the “Corrigan Home For Delinquents” which, it turned out, was decidedly lousy. A situation of that kind, if allowed to run unchecked, may seriously hamper the degree of hospitality we like to extend to our guests, so, the morning was spent delving into corners with quantities of disinfectant.

Lunch consisted of bread (three slices today) and tea and since the bread was fresh and heavy, it filled the void nicely. The rice ration has again been cut and that of flour raised, so I don’t know just what the future has in store. My stomach has been up to its old trick for the last few days. A fine pickle I’d be in if I were forced to “change” diet.

The fag situation remains doubtful. We’re smoking, but at what a price. Imagine paying ten cents (Canadian) for one cigarette which, under ordinary circumstances, we wouldn’t even smoke for hospitality’s sake.

I’ve started another book, “Little Steel” by Upton Sinclair, which is supposed to be quite good. I find it hard to read here, for though we have ample time, it seems difficult to maintain any degree of concentration.

One or two faintly amusing circumstances arose last night due to a complete change-over of our guard. It seems some of the laddies, since it was their last night and all, delved a mite too deep into their “juice of the grape” supply, the result being one or two became quite plastered. Some time in the “wee sma’ hours” one of them wandered into our hut and, from all reports, just sat down on one of the beds and “unlaxed”. Another apparently not in as fine shape, wandered into one of the Rifles’ company huts where, being worn out by his day’s labours no doubt, he climbed into bed with a sergeant and went to sleep. This might have escaped notice, had he not left his rifle standing by the foot of the bed, in such a position that commuters to the latrines, each and every one, managed to knock said rifle to the floor with a great crash. Someone evidently reported the performance to the N.C.O. of the Guard, who came in and proceeded to knock hell out of the ex-sleeper. While on the subject, the Nip method of enforcing discipline, according to their privates, is a cuff on the side of the head and they thought the swagger sticks we carry were for the purpose of beating our men. The Jap system also includes the saluting of N.C.O.’s by privates, all salutes being accompanied by a slight bow from the waist. I hope the new guard is sufficiently lax to enable the “across the fence” trade to loosen up.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to relax with my book but couldn’t get interested.

Dinner was again a bang-up meal consisting of fried fish, dry rice and a bun – and again we were properly filled up.

Heard the rumour tonight that McNaughton had been made Commander-in-Chief of British and Canadian forces in England. If true it might indicate a more aggressive policy.

Saturday night and again it’s “Town Hall Tonight” in North Point. The Concert was particularly good tonight and the wealth of talent un-earthed is amazing.

Must close this off as the sentry has just requested “lights out” although it’s only 10:30.

March 29 – (Sunday)

This new week crept in enshrouded in deep fog. Apparently this Sunday has been chosen as a National Day of Prayer at home, so there was quite a crowd at church this a.m. I went to Communion, had breakfast then meandered over to the men’s lines to see how they fared. In the good old days when we did manage to get news, I was the purveyor of the latest items to the men – now the situation is reversed and I must depend on the men for my rumours. Most of them are trash but it’s a sport that we all enjoy. The latest this morning is the recapture of Rangoon and Canton by our forces.

Lunch provided us with pancakes and a bun which, for a wonder, proved sufficient. My innards are still kicking up and I don’t seem to desire as much as usual.

I just noticed today how our bunch, as a group, are beginning to fatten up. Everyone’s face has lost the gaunt, hollow look so prevalent on our arrival here. Most of us had used up our surplus body fat during the battle, due to short rations, and lack of sleep, and Sham Shui Po offered no opportunities for replenishment. I understand that, when the system is taking on large quantities of carbohydrates, the supply not needed by the body is turned to fat, so that probably is the solution to our filling out.

Rumours, rumours, rumours – In the absence of news it seems everyone’s spare time must be devoted to concocting rumours. The latest – General McArthur, from Australia, announces that sufficient reinforcements have arrived in Australia and the Philippines for operation there. Turkey has reached the point where relations with Germany have become strained and possibly broken off. Dardenelles closed to Germany – being used by Britain to bring in supplies at Germany’s back door.

I received my weekly news digest after dinner to find that the above doesn’t seem to jibe with the accepted version. Strange!

Dinner again the deluxe class – with bread, dry rice and a piece of roast pork and gravy.

Popped in on Dud and Mac after dinner and chewed the rag, chiefly about typhoons, since the dull weather suddenly developed into a stiff rain with thunder. Some lurid tales of the 1937 typhoon were told – one in which a 20,000 ton Jap steamer was blown up on shore, stern first, until only the bow remained in the water. Another freighter in the harbour was deposited over the quay in such a way that it straddled a road along which traffic used to pass – until its removal. The Empress of Russia was in harbour at the time and had to maintain full speed ahead, with anchors out, to prevent her from being blown ashore. All this in a harbour fully protected by hills on all sides. The winds, incidentally, only reached 160 miles an hour on this occasion.

Talk then turned to the “Dairy Farm”, a firm that supplies milk, vegetables and imported meats to the island. To give an idea of the scope, just prior to the outbreak of war, they milked three times daily a herd of over 1,100 cows. Supplementing their meat supplies, they kept some 3,500 pigs. All stables, corrals, etc., are built on the sides of hills and corrals are terraced, after the manner of pineapple plantations in Hawaii.

“Lights out” is due – so again it’s -30-.

March 30 – (Monday)

This day broke cold and dismal with the odd spot of rain – so P.T. was called off. Later on in the morning it began to rain in earnest, with the result that the morning parade was postponed.

I dislike these cold, wet days. Having less than usual to do everyone remains inside and the resultant chatter defeats any attempt at concentration on reading, etc. that I’m capable of putting forth. One of these disturbers of solitude (now I become personal), a senior officer, is situated a bed or so away and his efforts to regale anyone who will listen is often the cause of a tendency toward murder on my part. Considering himself quite a story-teller and entertainer par excellence, an audience of one is all that’s required to let loose the rush of half-witticisms that comprise my gripe. Actually, the foundation of my lack of appreciation is the fact that during the war he proved himself anything but an officer or a man. In fact he “blew up” proper. After the surrender, he slunk around like a beaten puppy with its tail between its legs, but unfortunately he has again recovered his cockiness and is, once more, every inch the soldier – even to the extent of criticizing the efforts of others in battle. I can well imagine what a brave, courageous group of officers we’ll have by the time of our arrival home. For the benefit of the record I may state that there were only two officers above the rank of Captain whom I considered to have earned their salt. The remainder I can only classify as useless.

The meals remained at their recent high standard today. Lunch consisted of two eggs and three slices of bread, and dinner of dry rice with pork gravy and peas.

Rain continued throughout the day, cancelling parades, so I utilized the time in taking a nap.

After dinner I put through a big business deal. For four packets of cigarettes, I purchased a parka, much the same as a Hudson Bay Company parka only tan in colour. Actually, it wasn’t as cheap as it looks, as it works out to $6.00 Canadian, but it’s still a bargain.

After dinner I played various games of cards with Dud and Mac until “lights out”.

March 31 (Tuesday)

In the normal scheme of things today would be payday, but now – well – it’s just another day. Unfortunately it rains cats and puppies so it looks like another day of sitting around. I’m Orderly Officer so that helps a wee bit.

I understand that McNaughton has been in Canada and the United States. I hope they have decided to let loose on the enemy this year. The rumour about Andy being Commander-in-Chief must have been confused with McArthur’s appointment to the Pacific Command.

Lunch again reverted to the bread, tea and jam status and dinner gave us rice and cheese. Having no taste for the latter I left the table with a slight feeling of lacking something. We hear tonight the disquieting news that nothing but rice and flour will be forthcoming until Thursday, so I guess it’s straight rice, with a vengeance ----.

Sure enough, it rained all day and – being cold as well – proved quite miserable. The afternoon I spent reading a rather good book titled, “The Yellow Briar”, by Patrick Slater, dealing with the Irish in Ontario about 100 years ago. Some of the incidents described, particularly his treatment of an Irish wake, were quite amusing and I enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly. Although I haven’t as yet read more than one or two good books, still I am reading a bit – hope it brightens my spelling. The struggle to get my brain functioning is terrific.

We are told that the rain such as we’re now experiencing, runs for weeks at a stretch, plus considerable heat with it later, so I’m not looking forward to summer. It seems so damnably hard to keep spirits up under such circumstances. – The devil finds work, etc. etc. –

Major Hodkinson came back from Bowen Road Hospital yesterday and professes to have seen a list of amounts to be paid officers when the pay does start. A Lieutenant will receive MY 90 or 90 Military Yen, or approximately $180.00 Hong Kong at the present rate. – ‘Twill keep us in fags anyhow. –

I think I’ll drop over to the Sergeants hut and gossip and try to pry loose some of their dough.

April 1 (Wednesday)

April Fools’ Day lived up to its name as far as the weather was concerned. It did stop raining this morning but, although the sun ventured from behind the clouds from time to time, it also remained damnable cold.

Most of the morning I spent playing bridge with Mac and demonstrating our quite evident (?) superiority over Maze and Harper.

Lunch was light, bread and tea. I fear I’ll be more than losing my girlish figure.

This afternoon I tried to sleep but only managed an hour. I don’t know how I’m going to manage if and when I hit a good mattress again. This board business may be healthy to sleep on but it can be damned uncomfortable as well. It’s a pleasure to get up in the morning.

News today has the Secretary of the Navy, Knox, telling Americans to prepare for a long war. Hope you don’t mean in the Pacific, Knoxy old boy! Maze and I were doing a little fancy thinking while walking the square this evening and managed to engender a keen feeling on having left the South Saskatchewan Regiment, most particularly in respect to promotion. Assuming the Second South Saskatchewan Regiment has been mobilized, we would all likely have had our Captaincies, as senior Subalterns; as it is – with politics as they are in this outfit – oh well. We also planned our way home. Assuming the Canucks are in Australia in force and, by the time of our release have come in for some fighting, we figured a logical move might be to ship us there when this blows over, re-equip us, then have other units there absorb us. That is too damned rosy however. Wonder how they will handle us? There are three or four alternatives.

Supplies are low today so dinner is on the light side. Rice cakes, a slice of bread and a very small portion of dry rice was our lot. Not at all bad though.

After supper, Mac and I noticed another of those little incidents that places some of the seniors in such an exalted position in our esteem. The Colonel has been under the weather all day and so stayed in bed. At noon to supplement our meager lunch he had a mug (not a cup) of hot milk brought to him. The mess, by the way, pays $1.00 per can (small Carnation) for milk. At supper, the same thing again plus a cup of sugar to go with the bread. So what?, I hear you say. Well, actually you’re right, perhaps we’re taking on the very spirit I condemn, but, in these circumstances we felt things not justified. Our mess at present has no funds and stocks are low, with the result that milk is diluted to the extent that, aside from colour, it is almost unrecognizable as milk. Sugar too has been scarce so as to warrant half rations the last few days to make it go around. In other words, the milk used would have been sufficient for two breakfast for 35 officers and the sugar about one meal for the same. Still you say – “So what?” – What gripes us is the fact that the other of our officers, numbering at least four, lay in bed for days, and some for weeks and there was no suggestion from the Colonel that they get anything different – even when they were unable to eat the meals. A situation like that couldn’t possibly have existed in the South Saskatchewan Regiment. Rather we would probably have insisted on the identical course the Colonel took on himself. No one insisted here though – such is life away from home.

I must have climbed out of the wrong sideboard this morning. I’ve felt depressed and sour all day – possibly because of the cold.

Think I’ll close up and go rumour hunting!