April 26 1942 – (Sunday)
And yet another Sunday. The morning remained unspoiled by rain just sufficiently long enough to enable us to hold Mass out of doors then just as we had breakfasted, it came down in torrents. Having nothing further to do the remainder of the morning, we took Terry and company on at bridge, managing to lose a dollar for our efforts. Evidently the penalty for Sabbath gambling.
I finished “My First 2,000 Years” and can’t say I enjoyed it. I think possibly the author put more thought to the rousing of baser sensibilities rather than producing a document such as the material seemed to warrant.
This afternoon we were again, at intervals, subjected to heavy rains. It was almost as though it would stop pouring just long enough to refill some unseen vessel then, with a sudden rush it would gush forth again in cloud-burst proportions. I’m sure we must have had as much rain in the last twenty-four hours as we would ordinarily get at home in six months.
I commenced reading “God of Clay” this afternoon and, since it represents a new side of Napoleon’s life, it should prove interesting – if true.
I’m afraid the moving of the Navy must have taken with them some of the brains behind our rumour supply. The old favourite, of an alliance between Japan and the Allies against Russia, again raises its ugly head.
Another “lights out” in the offing so – with the hope of some sun tomorrow – it’s -30-.
April 27 – (Monday)
At dawn, the new day gave promise of a day of sun, for a change, but even before breakfast, this was dispelled by clouding accompanied by a light drizzle.
Later in the morning, we thought of braving the elements to play volley, but our minds were quite made up by the coming of the rain – in full force – so to pass the morning we had another session of Mah Jong. The afternoon remained dull but the rain did stop long enough to enable us to play three games of volley before parade.
Still no news or even fair rumours of the outside world. It’s peculiar the sense of detachment one acquires in circumstances like this. Whether it is that we cannot think beyond the boundaries of our own selfish desires or whether we just give up mentally, I don’t know. But we do seem to lose interest in things outside, unless they would appear to have a direct bearing on our release. Certain I am though that, if conditions remain the same, this “stretch” is going to play a tremendous part in the lives of a lot of us, particularly the more youthful ones. Actually chaps about my own age seem to be standing up best of all, those older slipping physically and the younger mentally. The foregoing of course, applies only if conditions remain unchanged and if we have to put in much more than a year or year and a half. And how am I holding on? Very well, I think (I hope)! My brain (?) never too sturdy at the best of times, seems to let me down considerably in the matter of concentration, but whether that’s due to my not having given it much practice in that field, I can’t tell. Physically I’ve shrunk considerably – roughly 25 pounds, but I don’t think that’s done much more than soften me up. But the two days or so I spent on my back taught me how easily one might make a habit of doing same.
Well, not much to do so I think I’ll organize some bridge until bed.
April 28 – (Tuesday)
And still another day of rain. For curiosity’s sake, although the fall could in no way be compared to Sunday’s, we put out a can for an hour. Our meteorological survey reported it had rained one half an inch in said hour, not heavy, I’ll admit, but when one considers we receive up to ten hours of rain per day, it’s a fair amount of moisture.
Since rain curbed our athletic ventures we spent the morning playing Mah Jong and with usual beginner’s luck managed to take the boys.
Lunch was again on the light side and consisted of sweet spuds and sour bread. Rations haven’t been forthcoming lately and things are getting pretty slim.
Taking advantage of a lull in the rain we played some volley in the afternoon. I might mention that the camp is situated on reclaimed land which is sandy so that the rain which doesn’t run off is absorbed almost at once.
Dinner, aided and abetted by a visit from the Comprador, was something of a culinary gem and consisted of roast beef, sweet spuds, a fried bread patty, gravy, bread, dates and cocoa. Life again looks bright.
After dinner there being not much to do, I spent most of the evening chin-wagging, which in this place usually means gossiping or criticizing someone.
I understand our news sources are once again in the saddle, so that’s something.
April 29 (Wednesday)
By way of change this effort gets a start before breakfast. I’m Orderly Officer today and, having to be on parade a bit earlier than ordinarily, I climbed out of bed on waking. No rain so far this a.m. although it did rain through the night. Maybe we’ll manage some volley after breakfast.
Noting the date brings to mind the fact that we’ve spent a third of a year in prison camps. Actually it hasn’t seemed that long, although quite long enough. I dread the thought of changes that “may” have taken place at home.
Breakfast provided an appetizing change, pancakes with maple syrup. Lunch too rated high with fried lemon sole and rice. The Comprador’s visit has set things up nicely for awhile.
Athletically speaking, the morning was very full. A baseball game with the Rifle Sergeants gave us a tie and from the conclusion of P.T. parade until lunch, we played volley ball. Needless to say I utilized the quiet hour for a siesta.
The afternoon was to be a Jap inspection day but he didn’t show up so we missed it.
Dinner provided another treat, the menu included whale steak (as tender as liver), sweet spuds, bread plant, stewed dates and bread with butter. Strangely enough, even after such a tasty meal, I’ve felt the pangs of hunger all evening. Too much exercise I guess.
Rain after our afternoon parade, discouraged sport so I started John Buchan’s “Courts of the Morning”. Later on we spent the evening winning twenty cents from Maze and Terry at bridge.
April 30 – (Thursday)
Dull again and more rain through the night. I lay awake until 3:30 so I don’t feel particularly robust this morning. I spent my hours before sleep with thoughts of home running through my mind. I’m still sold on the car idea but last night I added a new touch. If time doesn’t permit a lengthy journey as previously planned, I’d like to spend a couple of weeks just playing golf. I’d like to join one of the Winnipeg clubs such as Niakwa or St. Charles and take two weeks of lessons just to ensure a good start. There’s much controversy on what might be done with us on our arrival home, but everyone seems to think we’ll be given a fairly lengthy furlough to enable us to pack a little meat on the old bones. Strangely enough, later on in the day, we had some discussion on things after the war and for one point that rankles. It’s the Seniority List. We find ourselves junior to some members of the regiment who are not, as yet, even qualified for the second pip, a point that isn’t so good with promotions bound to come up.
Meals today were very mediocre and aside from the breakfast which gave us the rice and porridge mixture, are hardly worth mention.
Rain throughout the morning queered a proposed game of baseball so our athletic endeavours consisted solely of volley ball, played after the four o’clock parade and we again took the Rifles three straight.
The evening was damp and chilly and we did nothing more exciting than play Mah Jong all night. I’m glad our stakes are imaginary. My luck took a complete reversal.
Started the “Island of Dr. Moreau”, by H.G. Wells this afternoon so I think I’ll finish that before retiring. It’s trashy anyway.
May 1 – (Friday)
This traditional “First Day of Spring” crept in with a very slim promise of a look at the sun, but by midmorning, even that promise was dispelled by a gentle drizzle. In the matter of vegetation, this is one of the most barren countries. The hills of the island and mainland are covered with grass and some very small bushes which gives them at least a greenish look, but on the whole it’s pretty desolate. What a combination the soil at home and the rainfall here would make. That things grow well if given decent soil is indicated by the small plots of flowers, etc. the boys have fixed up. In most cases I find plants seem to look as though they lacked any permanency. We have a couple of banana plants that seem to be doing well.
Rain again spoiled the morning sports but, after a lovely lunch of cocoa and buns, we played a couple of games of volley with the Rifles.
Parade schedules were altered slightly and should represent an improvement. The morning parades remain the same but the former afternoon parade changes to 7:30 in the evening, giving us a clear afternoon.
Another day in which I’ve been unable to conjure up any worthwhile ideas or thoughts so will desist until tomorrow. I’ve started another book that promises to be fair, “Crippled Splendor” by Evan John – so I’ll away and at it.
May 2 – (Saturday)
Another weekend coming up and the rain and dullness still persists. We’ve had no sun for sixteen days, hence my daily reference to the weather. After breakfast, though it sprinkled a bit, we took the Rifles on at volley until parade, then, since it’s our company’s turn on the court, played with them until lunch.
Around noon we noticed the arrival of armed guards, who took up posts on all the side-roads and at intervals along the main road, and decided some big shot must be expected. Sure enough, we were ordered by the Nips to see that everyone remained indoors away from the windows, as one of their princes was to pass and we were not to view his august person.
After lunch, volley activities of the morning making a little rest advisable. I slept until 3:30 then more volley until dinner. After dinner and the evening parade, it being concert night, we gathered on the square and again listened to an evening of high caliber entertainment. Returning to our huts we found something amiss with the lights so this miserable effort is being written on my knee, under the light of a street lamp outside.
May 3 – (Sunday)
As though to properly inaugurate the approaching rainy season, we commenced this new week with a proper downpour, although last night at time of retirement, it was clear as a bell. Heavy rain commenced about 2 a.m. and it has simply poured since. How many inches have fallen I can’t say but at home it would be classed as some cloudburst. Unfortunately we still retain in our hut roof, several souvenirs of the war in the way of shell holes through which the water streams, though efforts have been made to patch them. Some well-meaning numbskull comes to bat with the information that this type of weather usually lasts from twenty days to three months, with few breaks. Nice country – serves the Nips right if they have to keep it.
Some thing went haywire with our rations yesterday and the results were a day in which we ate no meals which used rice. Breakfast consisted of pancakes and syrup, with bread and jam, while lunch brought froth bully, buns and fresh cucumbers. Dinner brought forth the grand touch – sweet spuds, roast beef, buns, dates for dessert and – wonder of wonders – corn on the cob – can you beat it?
News the last day or so, while containing the odd morsel of good tidings, remained on the whole, decidedly unpromising. India with her present attitude, not entirely unwarranted, remains something of a problem and it looks as though Burma has gone. The only ray of hope is the commencement, although still in a minor way, of an offensive from the south, I guess we can wait though.
The evening I spent at a concert in our company hut which while not good, was not bad. Thought I’d have to give a sax solo but the boys were spared when I pleaded a lack of reeds as a cause for postponement. I’m stuck for two weeks hence.
May 4 – (Monday)
Having neglected to keep my daily diary assignment on the above mentioned date, I must needs write this on Tuesday. Fortunately our life here is not so complex as to make difficult the reconstruction of a day’s events an arduous task.
The weather remained dull and for the most part consisted of an almost continual drizzle, interspersed with heavy showers. Most of the morning, due to dampness, was spent indoors playing Mah Jong. We did manage to squeeze in a game of volley before lunch however.
Lunch proved a trifle frugal with cocoa, a bun and jam. By a little deft trading, I managed to wangle an extra portion of cocoa, so I fared very well.
After lunch we received the wholesome news that the pay master had arrived, so the greater part of the afternoon was spent squaring accounts and purchasing supplies. With the present scale of prices, it’s surprising how far 25 yen will notgo.
Dinner was rather well put up and included corned beef and onions on toast, with sweet spuds plus dates for dessert. After dinner I played Mah Jong until ten, then ping pong until “lights out”.
May 5 – (Tuesday)
To carry on with the above – once again we’re plagued by rain, not heavy but in sufficient volume to spoil most sport activities.
Breakfast again had the added touch of oatmeal with the rice and it was most acceptable. After breakfast, though the weather remained soggy, we filled in time by slushing through five games of volley. The rain spoiled parade, so we played bridge until lunch, the latter consisting of rice and a nice curried stew of corn beef. Most curried articles, so far, have had too much curry for my liking, but today’s portion was rather good.
The last few days have found the Nips, for some reason or other, taking a number of precautions against air attacks. A look-out stand has been constructed on the guard house roof and a sentry with binoculars posted. Black-out curtains have come into camp and huge letterings reading “Canada” are being constructed around the camp area. The Jap paper states the ships “North Carolina” and the “Washington” were proceeding eastward through the Suez. This would almost seem to indicate that the Yanks are preparing to “step in” in a large way in this neck of the woods. These events, coupled with the air raids, while so far I’ll admit are not particularly far reaching, present something resembling a slow awakening and I have no doubt that when the scope is enlarged it will, like old Mississippi, roll along.
Dinner brought us our old friend the whale in the form of steaks, so that with sweet spuds and buns, it was almost a European meal.
After the evening parade, my time was spent putting this Chronicle in shape and gossiping. And so another day has come and gone. I’ve allotted myself this daily task of writing, regardless of how fruitless it may be, in order that my brain is ensured at least of a light workout every day.
May 6 – (Wednesday)
Once again we awoke to the sound of rain, although the volume was not as large as of late. Breakfast, once more, found us dependant on straight rice, sans porridge, but since I have procured a small can of Carnation milk, the meal was most enjoyable.
We were to have played baseball with our Sergeants this a.m. in the new summer baseball schedule just drawn up, but found that Brigade, for reasons best known to themselves, has issued an order prohibiting the formation of teams consisting of Officers or Sergeants exclusively, for competition with the men. Apparently, in the recent series between the Rifle Officers and “E” Company Grenadiers men’s team, for the camp championship, it was thought that the R.R.C. men, in their efforts to inspire their officers to greater heights, had been too free with nicknames etc., for the food of discipline. – Just isn’t done, old thing, you know!
After a light lunch of bun and bully we made plans for volley only to have them dashed by the advent of heavy rains.
Today being Jap inspection day we hoped that the parade might be cancelled by rain. Alas, even the elements are against us and, as though to mock us, the sun shone with burning intensity the full hour we were forced to stand waiting.
Dinner again brought curried stew and rice and, while filling, it seemed to lack by comparison with recent evening meals.
This air raid mania being assumed by the Nips is evidently not in jest. Tonight we are to have our first A.R.P. drill, to consist of the men being hustled out on the square and lying down in pre-arranged company areas, on the sounding of a warning bell. First Aid and fire prevention squads have also been organized.
I understand the Nips are taking some Officers and men from the camp and allowing them to make a four minute transcription for broadcast purposes, to be picked up by the BBC for re-broadcast. Evidently the Brigadier will do the majority of the talking the first time. The consensus of opinion amongst the Officers is that propaganda uses will be given to the scheme. We Anglo-Saxons seem to have a horror of other people using subtle means against us, though we take great pride in our own employment of same. Everyone is afraid the Brigadier will have to say we are being treated well, a point which they seem to hate to have to admit as the absolute truth. For my part, as long as they continue treating us as well as they have, it’s their right to make use of the fact any way they see fit. In the eyes of the world – “guess I ain’t got no pride, or sumpin’”. A.R.P. drill is due so I will terminate this for the evening.
May 7 – (Thursday)
I find that I’ve made a terrific blunder in the matter of Shelagh’s age, having taken it on myself to give her an extra month. My apologies, Shelagh.
The morning opened with a slight rain which dissipated toward mid-morning leaving us, if not a clear day, at least one in which our sports were not too seriously hampered. As a result of this we had, throughout the day, about two hours of volley. But around dinner, rain again visited us and for the remainder of the day it poured.
Meals today were just mediocre, breakfast providing porridge plus, lunch a meat patty, dry rice and bread and for dinner – sweet spuds, rice and bread pudding.
Our air raid practice drill went okay last night. A little extra excitement was provided when one chap, taking advantage of the black-out, filched 25 decks of fags from another who had sold his watch in order to smoke. The result of this was a turn-out of three companies – after midnight – and the catching of the culprit with the goods.
After the evening parade, there being nothing to do, I spent the time initiating the sergeants into the mysteries (?) of Mah Jong.
May 8 – (Friday)
Another weekend in the offing and with it comes another breach in my daily writing stint, so that I find myself peering back from Saturday.
As usual nothing of any significance occurred, unless a visit by the Comprador could be considered of news value. It certainly would have been two months ago. It’s peculiar how quickly we humans fall into the way of, and accept, improved conditions. The meals no longer excite one to a frenzy, as they did not long back, and the fag situation, while not yet having reached the point where we can afford to be careless with them, is at least no longer a matter of major importance. I’m afraid if and when we do get back, we will take with us nothing in the way of true evaluation of the necessities but memories.
As usual rain dampened (no pun) our sporting activities somewhat but we did manage to play a couple of games of volley. As a general rule the morale of the camp has risen to a point where the men are taking more interest in sports such as baseball and volley, particularly the latter, with each company having about nine teams. Another item of interest and one which will no doubt prove a remunerative diversion, is the gardening project. The Japs have set aside a flat area, across the road, approximately 150 x 35 yards, which we have fenced off. Here a garden is to be planted and maintained by our boys – thereby assuring – we hope – a supply of fresh vegetables for the camp. Actually the amount of vegetables forthcoming will be negligible but the greatest advantage will be in giving some of the boys something to do outside of camp.
The evening I spent playing Mah Jong with somewhat better success than has been my lot recently. Around 10:30 I was called to the “Corrigan Hostel” to admit a couple of so-called thugs, alleged to have purchased rations from the kitchen – a most heinous crime in these straits.
May 9 – (Saturday)
To continue with the new day, our dull weather is still with us and a sharp wind makes the day too cold for shirt sleeves and lolling about.
Breakfast again brought us the porridge plus, and with a lunch of rice and gravy and a dinner of rice, meat pie and dates, the day from a grub standpoint was a decided success.
Our news sources hint at a large Naval battle raging in the south Pacific, with fairly substantial losses by the enemy evident at this stage. Occupation operations at Madagascar and activities in the East in general the next few months should present sufficient indications to allow us to hazard reasonably accurate guesses as to the length of our term in durance vile. I still remain as optimistic as of three months ago anyway.
Tonight our usual Saturday night concert was presented but unfortunately my provost duties intruded and I was unable to attend. I did manage to get in on cocoa and tarts served in the hut afterwards though.
May 10 – (Sunday)
After a cold, dismal, rainy night, we awoke to a day anything but pleasant. Breakfast by way of a change, included pancakes in lieu of the traditional rice and, as far as I’m concerned, it was a poor substitute.
Since Black and I are entered in the current Bridge Tourney, we played the Bardal-Trist combine and were soundly trimmed. We did get some measure of compensation by trimming Terry and Nugent by an even greater margin in the course of the afternoon and evening. But ten rubbers of bridge is stretching (again no pun – or is it) things a mite too much.
Our athletic urges being squelched by both rain and bridge, I find myself dopier than usual from lack of exercise.
Harper had a rather nice swagger stick made by one of our sergeants, so Black and I have both placed an order. A handicraft competition is being held soon with suitable prizes (cigs) for the winning entrant. It’s remarkable some of the things that are being made. One lad has made a “Crucifixion Scene” inside a pop bottle and it’s a marvel. Another is fashioning rings from silver coins (price six decks) and his workmanship is almost perfect. If I can get the coins I’ll have a couple made for the girls. Numerous other items such as wood-carving, sketches, etc. are coming to light – even knitted articles.
I realize Sunday isn’t the best day I could pick for reference to this subject, but a decapitated Chino body floating by brought to mind the following. From the time of my entry into the army I have been plagued with a horror of future probable associations with corpses, and my reaction to them – this due partly to a natural squeemishness on my part and a lack of contact with said corpses in civilian life. Strangely enough, even the somewhat grizzly sensation of having shortened a man’s allotted span prematurely with my own hands, failed to move me at all. The sights of bodies in various stages of dismemberment and decomposition fail to rouse anything more than a feeling of morbid curiosity. I could never have believed such an attitude possible, viewing it a year or so ago, and yet I’m sure there’s none of the “hardening” one reads about.
After that bit of sordidness I’d better call it a day.
May 11 – (Monday)
Although we did get some rain during the night, our working day week looked promising enough to make plans for a long neglected hut clean-up, and with the arrival of some sun, about ten a.m., we set to work. Our cleansing efforts took up greater part of the morning but they did leave sufficient time for me to drop 10,500 points at Mah Jong before lunch. Tales of cafes and laundries changing hands overnight can hardly be discredited when the speed of winning or losing is as apparent as that.
We see by the local paper that Canada must have some of the facts concerning us there. A dispatch from Ottawa was quoted as saying we were getting in vegetables, meal and flour and were making our own bread. It will be interesting later on to learn just when our casualty list does reach home. I can well imagine that our “sufferings” could be made into lovely propaganda material by some of our politicians. We did hear of Anthony Eden’s protestations in our early captivity – all highly touched up, of course.
The afternoon, with the sun peeping through at odd intervals, proved rather on the warm side, in comparison with our weather of late. The volley court being vacant, we took advantage of the break and played an hour or so of stiff volley ball, with the result that I feel deliciously tired and lazy. Guess I’m getting soft.
Meals today, in my opinion, were again a bit below par. Breakfast was as usual, so was okay. Lunch and dinner were definitely on the light side with buns and bully forming the main courses.
Feeling not overly ambitious, we spent the evening playing Mah Jong and I managed to cut my losses of the previous session down by one third.
May 12 – (Tuesday)
This day commenced with a light rain which gave way to some sun about mid-morning. We are duty company today so I was relieved of the necessity of attending P.T. parade this morning.
Harper, as second-in-command of the gardening project, reports the men are doing a fine bit of work and are seemingly very enthusiastic. Considering our (or their) diet, it’s amazing that they should react this way, but Harper confides they’re mostly “new” men so that may explain things.
The Nips today held some defensive manoeuvers against probable attack and in conjunction with artillery practice on the mainland, set several very efficient smoke screens along the island waterfront. Rumour has the Chinese army endeavouring to retake Canton, so it’s possible these precautions are quite vital – we hope.
Rain again set in this afternoon but not before we were able to get in four games of volley. We residents of dried-out Saskatchewan find it extremely difficult to accustom ourselves to the continual patter of rain.
Nine large bombers passed over around noon headed south east, so again, will guess as to the objective, etc. The legitimate grapevine appears somewhat optimistic over the European situation and Winnie’s speech against the use of gas against the Russians tends to create the effect that they think the Hun is being pressed a bit.
Queer people our warders. This afternoon they brought a young Chinese over to the gate, then lit into him with a stick, felling him and rendering him unconscious. Some time later, the victim seeming loathe to come out of his trance, they bundled him into a wheel barrow and dumped him over the sea wall. Surely as humans, they’re hard to fathom. One minute they seem to be generous, decent and friendly then, without turning a hair, they pull some stunt as I’ve mentioned. For a race of people claiming to love animals, flowers, etc. they can be decidedly callous to human sufferings.
Mah Jong again provided the evening’s entertainment and again I picked up some points on my heavy losses of yesterday.
The meals today were very good. The usual breakfast, a lunch of fish on toast, bun and tea and a dinner that gave us cucumbers, sweet spuds, bully, brown bread, buns and the most delicious raisin tarts I’ve tasted.
Although men in the Hong Kong prison camp heard that Canada was to be given the news of their names, it was May 13, 1942 that Canadian newspapers had the information on who had been captured.
The article in a Toronto paper says “Official silence concerning Canadian prisoners of war at Hong Kong has been pierced for two Toronto women. They have been informed by the National Defence Department at Ottawa that their husbands are ‘unofficially reported prisoners of war’”. The clipping kept in a scrapbook by the Corrigan family goes on to say that “the two Toronto officers were among 34 officers and one civilian auxiliary service man in the list announced by Ottawa. The information came through London from the British Embassy at Chungking.”
It continues….”Several from Winnipeg – Unofficially reported prisoner of war” – and includes the name of Lieutenant Leonard B. Corrigan.
We know from letters written later that Gladys was notified of Leonard’s status as a prisoner of war officially on May 10th. There must have been some sense of communications getting through prior to that because on May 1st, 1942, she writes a letter…
My dearest Len,
At last we have some hope of getting in touch with you…I pray that you are well and safe.
As you see we are back home again – we have been here since February. I have taken a small house – on Third West where Steve Marzak once lived, four rooms, and have fixed it up quite nicely.
June Murphy is staying with me and it’s nice to have the company. Paddy and Shelagh are both well…growing every day and praying for their Daddy…they speak of you often. Paddy is taking music at the convent. Your Dad and Mother sent us a piano from Winnipeg. They are keeping well.
I received your two airmail letters in December and your Christmas card in January. I’m sorry you didn’t get any of my letters.
This letter has to be brief so will close. We are well and think of you daily – praying for your well being. I do hope you can send a reply.
All my love,
Another letter in August of 1942 suggests that Gladys still hasn’t received word from Leonard.
August 15, 1942
My Dear Len,
These letters to you seem so hard to write until I hear from you, then it will be much easier. I am sending some snaps taken lately and will send more later on.
Paddy is still in Winnipeg and will be coming home to go back to school. Mother may be coming to stay with us for awhile as Hugh has joined active service and is going to (deleted) later on; they are having headquarters in (deleted) just now. Florence and Jack* are moving to the coast; he is working there now.
I heard from Vern Nesbitt yesterday – Jack has just arrived overseas and she is quite lonely now. I also heard indirectly that Barnes had been in (deleted) and was asking for you.
I have been golfing with the Dunlops quite often – they always ask for you and wanted me to give you their regards.
I had subscribed to Readers Digest for you and as soon as I can send them along I’ll do so. Jimmy Steer called on me the other day – he comes in here now. Hilda just had a son last week.
Your Dad and Mother are well. Grandma Corrigan is still living and well, also Grandma Hart. I spent two days with her in Moosomin – and she thinks of you constantly. Shelagh also speaks of you often and she will remember you. Just tonight she was talking about you always calling her “Buttons”. I’m constantly reading articles about where you are, trying to get some idea of what you’ve been through.
We miss you terribly and pray for you daily. God bless you and keep you safe –
Your loving wife
*Gladys’ sister and brother-in-law
May 13 – (Wednesday)
Still another dull day in prospect, in fact by mid-morning it was again pouring down, to continue until late afternoon.
Breakfast provided a change, not a pleasant one as far as I’m concerned, in the way of pancakes. Lunch too was not the best from my point of view. The main item being cucumbers with brown bread and tea. Dinner was rather exceptional providing good steaks of beef (yes, beef!) with a lovely gravy, sweet spuds, bread and dates. A point in the connection with these “good” meals. Unfortunately for our peace of mind, we subalterns, whose duties include the supervision of the men’s meals, still have sufficient conscience left to feel that every time we partake of a meal such as that, the men are being gypped, one way or another, on their rations. The shame of it is that we can do nothing about the situation. There’s absolutely no question in our minds that the officers get more than their proportionate share of rations, but it’s typical to this outfit that anything we do or say seems to have no effect. Unfortunately it’s an impossible job to try and trace the proper facts and figures. Harper lost his job as Quarter Master for not “playing ball”. – So much for gastronomic news.
The rain eased sufficiently before dinner to enable us to get in four games of volley, so athletically the day was not entirely wasted.
After dinner we played Mah Jong and I managed to elevate myself to the plus side of the books. One of the Nip sentries wandered into the hut while the game was in progress and after watching for a while, took my chair for a hand. We had thought ourselves progressing fairly well, but he made us look just what we are – rank amateurs.
Now that we have the fag situation more or less in hand, another problem threatens to rear its ugly head – that of matches. They’re as scarce as fags formerly were.
May 14 – (Thursday)
Another lapse of energy in this work of art finds me casting about on Friday for pearls of wisdom I should have on Thursday.
By way of a change, although most unusual for this time of the year, the weather was dull today with the odd splash of heavy rain, of sufficient quantity that volley ball was disrupted for the morning.
Something of a “situation” has arisen over the above mentioned volley. As will be recalled, the Junior officers of both regiments were shifted to one hut, away from the Seniors. As is natural under the circumstances, or perhaps it may have been the reason behind the move, the Junior group as a whole might be termed a bit “leftish” in their ideas. So much for the general situation. Enter the volley ball theme. The popularity of the game, amongst the officers I “modestly” admit, has been built up chiefly because I made it my business to arrange games and get the required number of players out every time we wanted to play. The same general set-up applied to Pete McDougall of the Rifles. Yesterday some of the men in my company, having played considerable volley in Jamaica, came to me with a challenge to play against an officers team. I accepted and, not trying to pick a particularly starry aggregation, chose six of us who have been playing together a fair amount, including Pete and one other Rifle officer. – So far so good. – We played two games and won both and promptly received challenges from two more men’s teams, including the band team, champions of the regiment in Jamaica. Imagine our surprise on returning to the hut to find ourselves the objects of snide remarks and general ridicule – one Winnipeg Grenadier captain referring to us as “that superior group of officers that style themselves the officers All Star Team”. Considering myself to have taken quite enough guff from Winnipeg Grenadier officers in general, I took up the offering and entered into quite heated talk with some of the members of the “old school”, which got us nowhere except a challenge to play a team of their picking – which of course was accepted.
Chapter two of this nerve wracking drammer will be found in Friday’s issue of the North Point “Noose”.
Meals of today followed the general recent trend, so for once I’ll spare the gory details.
Black and I played off two of our bridge games today and being in our usual good form, managed to lose both.
The Nips are at a new game now, the shooting at coolies gathering wood on the hill across the street. No scores available yet.
May 15 – Friday
Today again gave promise of some sun and actually, for the first time in ages, we have – up to time of going to press – had no rain.
For breakfast we fell back on the old reliable straight rice, lunch of cucumbers and bun and a fill dinner of sweet spuds, roast beef, buns and dates.
Comes now Volume Two of the grip(e)ping inside story of volley ball in North Point. This day found the enemy camp slashing at one another with double-edged verbal thrusts, a perfect set-up for a grudge game. The game took place in the afternoon and resulted in the justification of my choice by the trimming of the belligerents – two straight. Victory on the field, rather than settling the case merely caused a change of tactics on the part of our opponents. A further argument was started in the showers – my adversary this time being the adjutant, who had played with the losers. His complaint was that it wasn’t fair to the rest of the officers who wished to play, to have us together as a team and he saw the need of organization so that everyone would stand a chance. In theory, I admitted the truth of his contentions, but I was forced to remind him that teams had previously been drawn up, but unfortunately some of the Captains and Subalterns, who had played in Jamaica, were cursed with a prima donna complex that made them feel I should extend a personal invitation to them every time we went out. This had been one of the big reasons for picking the “new” men on the team I had fielded, the other and lesser reason being that some of the newer addicts played a hell of a lot better. The Adjutant did agree, in part, with these remarks and asked that I organize things on a larger scale, for the general benefit of the majority – a suggestion to which I, ever the diplomat, replied that we preferred to play just as we were, although there was nothing to prevent him or anyone else who might wish to go ahead and organize. The upshot of the whole business was the placing of the volley situation in the hands of a regimental sports committee for re-organization, and another black mark for the “new” officers.
Such little things help to step up the tempo of an otherwise drab existence and are a great help as material for doddering diarists.
While on the subject of the regiment and that strata encumbered by the “new men”, I’d like to say that if, when I get home, anyone mentions Jamaica, I’ll go stark raving mad! Morning, noon and night – stories of wine, women and good times in Jamaica ring through the air – always the same, each a tale of either a lust or taste satisfied. How many memories of seduced women and the amounts of liquor individually polished off, have I been forced to sit through? If only they could have been the same dashing courtiers under shell-fire.
Well, best I should shut up before I get mad again. -----
May 16 – Saturday
Another weekend in the offing, this one blessed with some sun and heat for a change. Another rainless day and, though the sun was not out all day, it did remain hot and humid. Clothes, shoes, etc., being moist and mouldy all the time. Evening finds me somewhat washed up due to the heat and the athletic ventures of the day. Last night too, I had trouble sleeping, having been made a living sacrifice to a bevy of mosquitoes. Maze and I share a mosquito bar originally intended for a bed somewhat smaller than ours and the result is, that after several turns and tosses, my nether regions are, in no small measure, exposed to the feastings of several generations of the pests.
The Nips, as a somewhat tardy propaganda project, today took motion pictures of themselves landing on and capturing the island. The actual landing took place a short distance from here and they sent word of the proposed effort that we might not be frightened by the sounds of gunfire, etc. Thoughtful what? I didn’t see the show but I understand some of the boys did.
Last night, around 11:45, we heard two shots and found this morning that four Chinos, two men and two women, had been caught prowling around, probably in search of wood. The men, father and son, had managed to escape but the women were tied to a lamp post and there they stood – the whole day – in the hot sun. Tonight they were brought in and tied to a gate-post. What their ultimate fate will be, I have no idea.
The meals today favoured us with the usual mixture for breakfast with rice and gravy for lunch and sweet spuds and fried herrings for supper.
Tonight was our concert night but I found the efforts I had put in to two hours of volley and a game of baseball left me too tired to stay and watch.
May 17 – (Sunday)
This is one day I’m thankful for Sunday being kept as a day of rest. I awoke this morning not at all refreshed by a night’s rest, although I seemed to have slept well. Too much energy burned yesterday I guess. Strangely enough we’re experiencing another good day, just sufficient sun to dispel the moisture and enough breeze to keep things cool.
Breakfast consisted of pancakes but I still prefer my sweet rice.
I guess probably diet exerts a great amount of influence but I couldn’t help notice that very little, if any, thought is given to women here. This astounding revelation occurred to me when I happened to notice this morning that all the gentler sex do their hair in such a way that their ears are in full view, lending something of attractiveness to the younger members who, as mentioned elsewhere, have particularly attractive hair.
Well, another little morsel was tossed our way this evening by our friend the Adjutant. We Subalterns are required to attend a meeting every evening, ostensibly to talk over any questions arising from our daily duties, but in reality to obtain the latest dope on things momentous in other parts of the globe, the whole idea being to circumvent a Brigade order prohibiting this type of knowledge to be remitted by Subalterns. Tonight due to pressure of a volley ball game, yours truly and three other “new” officers were five minutes late for said meeting, the result being the Senior Subaltern was ordered to parade us to the Colonel. That, in itself, seemed fair enough but, talking the matter over with others, we found that, of a total of twelve Lieutenants, eight others were late for the same meeting – one of them, an “old” boy actually coming in about three minutes after my arrival. Maybe I’ve developed a persecution complex but this seems to my mind to be bordering on discrimination and I have been elected to present the case, after admission of guilt, to the Colonel – having received permission of the others, not pegged, to cite them in the case. Tomorrow at 1100 hours we mount the rostrum.
Another interesting sidelight in the “Struggle of the Subalterns” developed at lights out in our hut. The Camp Orderly Officer came into the hut about 11:03 (lights out at 11:00) and shouted for the cessation of all talking – at once! Evidently a couple of Rifle Lieutenants didn’t shut up quite quickly enough for, in the next breath, he placed them under open arrest. Such is life in a prison camp. It’s bad enough in most places being a junior but they seem to love to grind it in here.
Volley again played the large role in sports as we had seven games, again trimming “B” Company’s all-star aggregation. I’m afraid I shan’t be picking up much of my lost weight with the amount of perspiring and showering I do in a day.
May 18 – (Monday)
The day of our trial dawned dull, with a suggestion of rain. After breakfast, Black and I picked teams from our respective companies and engaged in a volley series, the result being a win for “B” Company.
Our “parade” turned out something of a flop, since the Adjutant evidently changed his mind and didn’t have us up before the C.O. The net result was a brief verbal battle between the Adjutant and myself which settled nothing. Administration of justice in the Rifles also went haywire as the Lieutenants were released from arrest and the charges were dropped. No fun at all today.
After our “Orders”, we played an all-star crew from the men that included four men of their championship team, and lost two games by very narrow margins. We hope for revenge tomorrow.
The afternoon Black and I spent losing 3,000 points in the bridge tourney to Bradley and Smith.
This evening we received news that, in the near future, arrangements would be completed for the transfer of mails, possibly in the next two weeks. Certainly hope so. We’ll only be able to write one page but it will be a source of information anyway.
Dinner consisted of fried fish, sweet spuds and what I understand to be the last of our date supply. The latter is one item we’ll miss in our diet.
Rain fell in torrents for a couple of hours this afternoon and has continued at intervals all evening. –30 –
May 19 – (Tuesday)
Very early this morning, around two, we were awakened by a terrific downpour of rain, a real super-duper cloudburst, that lasted for almost half an hour. Breakfast consisted of the rice-porridge mixture, almost the last of it I understand, due to a shortage of the latter. Further rain during the morning queered both sports and parade so I utilized the time sleeping.
After a lunch of bun and bully, I borrowed a map and spent the afternoon working on that. As a change from our recent hot spell the day turned cold and uncomfortable.
Dinner consisted of sweet spuds, fish cakes (sardines) and bread, with honey – very nice. A rather peculiar, if not stupid, line of reasoning is taken by our mess committee in the issue of sugar and milk for tea. For some obscure reason, a person desiring or rather preferring their sugar on rice instead of in tea, is out of luck. Either you takes it in your tea or you doesn’t take it at all!
May 20 – (Wednesday)
Again we’re plagued by rains this morning and as a result roll call is inside the huts. Breakfast brought another porridge mixture.
Around ten the rain let up for sufficient time to permit a short session of volley between “A” and “B” Companys, the result being a game apiece and cessation for parade with the score tied in the third.
After a lunch of rice and curried stew there was a great flurry of preparedness for an impending visit by the Prison Commandant. Unfortunately rain again interfered but only after we had been “standing to” for over an hour.
Some of our English lads brought out some cricket equipment later in the afternoon so I took a whack at bowling and batting. I might be able to work the latter but my bowling is apt to be a little dangerous for fielders and spectators.
After a dinner of sardines on toast, we went to our usual subalterns meeting to find that our source of “ewsnay” had been cut off, rendering future meetings unnecessary. Brigade has decided only unit commanders will be the recipients henceforth.
Black and I took on Blaver and “Boots” (Captain LeBouttillier) Rifle Adjutant, at bridge and managed to eke out a 2,000 point loss. Blaver, as probably mentioned before is the Rifle Officers’ pitcher and an excellent athlete. “Boots” is also a regular fellow. Our move into this hut has meant closer contact with some of the Rifle officers and we find some really fine chaps amongst them. We played a lot of volley with McDougall from Montreal, and Simons, a Jew from Quebec City, two fine chaps.
May 21 – (Thursday)
Rain again threatened to wash out our athletic program for the day but after breakfast we managed to get in some softball with Brigade Headquarters team, again absorbing a trimming.
I must see the M.O. about my arm, even grasping a pen hurts a bit.
Pete sits opposite me working on his “literary effort” on “Life in Hong Kong”. Someone suggest it’s too bad we haven’t someone sufficiently qualified to write a book on this particular phase of World War II. Admittedly, if one were to present the facts as we know them, in a serious book, a large percentage of the contents would be considered fiction by its readers, so fantastic would it seem. The errors of omission and commission made here would, to the outsider, seem fantastic in an army with the alleged organization supposedly possessed by the British. Even after our incarceration, the manner in which the “Brains” of British and Canadian armies handled things is most laughable. Yes, it’s too bad someone couldn’t get it all in. What a story could be told.
Meals for the day were very mediocre and don’t merit any mention. I guess food doesn’t just mean what it used to. Aside from the breakfast mixture, I don’t look forward to any of them.
Had my arm looked at and the doctor is of the opinion there’s pressure on a nerve somewhere. It is suggested that I should go to Bowen Road Hospital the first chance I get to have an x-ray.
The evening I spent attending a concert put on by our Company which, aside from being smutty, was not bad.
May 22 – (Friday)
Another dull day but I’m not particularly interested as I’m supposed to be out of sports for awhile.
The volley court is being repaired this morning as a league game between my team and that of Billings is postponed till this afternoon. I neglected to mention that the decision of the sports committee re volley was to form a seven team league – one team being fortunate enough to be captained by Corrigan.
Spent the morning reading Farnol’s “Sir John Dering” a light novel which I enjoyed.
After a lunch of cucumbers, bun and bully and a short nap, I took on Parker and Banfield at bridge and had quite a struggle, finally winding up the game about 10 p.m. with a deficit of three hundred.
My team managed to eke out a three straight win session from Billing this afternoon.
May 23 – (Saturday)
And another week has slipped by. This week will mark our seventh month since embarkation from Canada. For some reason it still has an aura of unreality about it all. It actually seems difficult to imagine how things are, or could be, at home. Life in Canada seems as much a part of the distant past as school days, first binges, etc. It’s remarkable and a good thing, that we’re as adaptable as we are. Last night I tried to visualize my arrival in Canada in, I hoped, the not too distant future and found, even in fantasy, that I was unable to produce a logical train of events. The one glimmer of light in the morass is the fact that at the end of this month, for example, ye old government will owe me $600.00 – which isn’t hay.
Rain fell almost all of last night and has continued, quite heavily, this morning, putting the kibosh on all parades. Having nothing to do, Black and I took on McGreavey and Breakey at bridge.
After a lunch of bully and bread, we resumed our bridge and again took it on the chin. Only 120 points down this time though.
About four o’clock, a Battalion parade was called and, with both the battalions drawn up in review order, we were faced by Colonel Toganga, the Prison Commandant for the island, who, through his interpreter, “ordered” us to sign an affidavit saying we would make no attempt to escape. The tone of voice used by the Colonel and his very exact wording of the order left no doubt in anyone’s mind as to whether he was serious or not. It transpired that the Brigade and Unit commanders had been called out earlier in the afternoon for a conference having to do with this subject. When faced with the situation, the Brigadier rather put his foot in things by making the statement that the Canadians had not surrendered unconditionally, as alleged, but had been captured after the general surrender, and were therefore not obligated under international law, to sign any such oath. According to other members at the meeting, the honourable Colonel at this point hit the roof and made the Brigadier stand to attention for the remainder of the interview. Opinion of the “Juniors” in the matter is that the Brigadier should have taken the responsibility of signing or otherwise on his shoulders and instead of giving advice to us, should have given us an order one way or the other. As it stands now, the Nips have been unnecessarily aggravated by our attitude since everyone signed anyway and we as officers have blackened ourselves as far as Canadian military law is concerned. During the course of the Unit Commander’s conference, signatures of General Maltby and the Navy Commodore were produced as levers to influence our chiefs into signing. Somethings of a “Fox Pooey” occurred at the conclusion of the Jap Colonel’s speech to the Battalions. The Nip Colonel and his interpreter stood on a large table in front of us and, at the conclusion of his talk, stood waiting for a salute of dismissal. Unfortunately the Brigadier evidently a bit confoosed by preceding events, stood the party at ease, whereupon the Nip told him to salute, so he called the officers to attention and they saluted. It looked terrible….
The handicraft exhibition was held this afternoon and the general quality of the exhibits was amazing. A big majority of the entrants had not done any of the carving, etc. previous to imprisonment but the work turned out would put some professionals to shame.
Word has just come in that one man has refused to sign his affidavit and has been marched off by the Nips for court-martial. The Jap Colonel, in his speech, made it quite plain that the signing was an order of the Japanese Imperial Army and refusal to sign was to be dealt with by army court-martial. So – the man’s fate – we know not. – Certainly he showed a great deal of courage, but, I’m afraid, little prudence.
Saturday night again finds us gathered on the square for our weekly concert. Tonight brought a re-appearance of the band, although a much smaller edition than formerly. As it stands now, the band includes two trombones, five trumpets, two clarinets and two alto saxes, but although handicapped in numbers they did very well. In the course of the concert a very clever “March of Time” skit was put on and was given a great hand.