Individual Report: H6039 Kenneth MCCULLEY

1st Bn The Winnipeg Grenadiers

General Information

Rank: First Name: Second Name:
Sergeant Kenneth Baxter
From: Enlistment Region: Date of Birth (y-m-d):
Winnipeg MB Manitoba 1918-12-23
Appointment: Company: Platoon:
Platoon Sergeant D

Transportation - Home Base to Hong Kong

Members of 'C' Force from the East travelled across Canada by CNR troop train, picking up reinforcements enroute. Stops included Valcartier, Montreal, Ottawa, Armstrong ON, Capreol ON, Winnipeg, Melville SK, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, and Vancouver, arriving in Vancouver on Oct 27 at 0800 hrs.

The Winnipeg Grenadiers and the local soldiers that were with Brigade Headquarters from Winnipeg to BC travelled on a CPR train to Vancouver.

All members embarked from Vancouver on the ships AWATEA and PRINCE ROBERT. AWATEA was a New Zealand Liner and the PRINCE ROBERT was a converted cruiser. "C" Company of the Rifles was assigned to the PRINCE ROBERT, everyone else boarded the AWATEA. The ships sailed from Vancouver on Oct 27th and arrived in Hong Kong on November 16th, having made brief stops enroute at Honolulu and Manila.

Equipment earmarked for 'C' Force use was loaded on the ship DON JOSE, but would never reach Hong Kong as it was rerouted to Manila when hostilities commenced.

On arrival, all troops were quartered at Nanking Barracks, Sham Shui Po Camp, in Kowloon.

Battle Information

We do not have specific battle information for this soldier in our online database. For a detailed description of the battle from a Canadian perspective, visit Canadian Participation in the Defense of Hong Kong (published by the Historical Section, Canadian Military Headquarters).

Wounded Information

Date Wounded Wound Description References

Hospital Information

No record of hospital visits found.

POW Camps

Camp ID Camp Name Location Company Type of Work Reference Arrival Date Departure Date
HK-AS-01Argyle StreetKowloon, Hong KongN/AN/A
HK-SA-01ShamshuipoKowloon, Hong KongCapture42 Jan 22
HK-NP-02North PointNorth Point, Hong Kong Island3342 Jan 2242 Sep 26
HK-SA-02ShamshuipoKowloon, Hong Kong42 Sep 26 45 Sep 10

Transportation: SE Asia to Home

No related information found. Please submit documents to us using the contact link at the top of this page.

Post-war Photo

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Other Military Service

No related information found. Please submit documents to us using the contact link at the top of this page.

Death and Cemetery Information

Date of Death (y-m-d) Cause of Death Death Class Death Ref
1981-11-24Post War
Cemetery LocationCemeteryGrave NumberGravestone Marker
Grand Marais Manitoba Canada.Ashes scattered

Gravestone Image

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Obituary / Life Story

Peacefully on Tuesday, November 24, 1981 at his residence, Kenneth McCulley, aged 62 years, of 132 Tupper St. North, in Portage la Prairie, beloved husband of Eliza McCulley.

Cremation. A memorial service will be held in the Chapel of the Omega Funeral Home on Thursday, November 26 at 2:00 p.m. with the Rev. Sid Walmsley officiating, assisted by the Rev. Colin Chapman.

Ken was born on December 23, 1918, son of the late Catherine and Thomas McCulley, at Winnipeg, where he was raised and received his education. He was employed as an apprentice upholsterer with Healy and Day. In 1934 he enlisted with the Reserve Canadian Army and in 1939 he was called to active service with the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He served in Bermuda, Jamaica and in Hong Kong, where he was taken prisoner of war from December 23, 1941 until his release at the end of the war.

He returned to Winnipeg and in 1945 moved with his family to Portage where he operated McCulley’s Upholstering Shop until his retirement in 1978.

He was a member of the Hong Kong Veterans Association, he was a life member and presently past president of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veteran’s of Canada Unit No. 13, a member of the Canadian Order of Foresters, a member of the 13th Field Battery Officers Mess, the Portage Seniors Curling Club, the Pine Falls Seniors Golf Club, a member of the Portage Volunteer Fire Fighters for 23 years and a member of St. Mary’s Prairie Anglican Church.

Predeceased by his parents, he leaves to mourn his passing, his loving wife Eliza; two sons, Jim and daughter-in-law Rosalene of Victoria, B.C. and Ken and daughter-in-law Linda of Portage; four daughters, Mary (Mrs. George Game) of Comox, B.C., Barbara (Mrs. Terry Andres) of Pinawa, Man., Valerie (Mrs. Robin Walmsley) of Winnipeg and Miss Donna McCulley of Winnipeg; 15 grandchildren. Also surviving are two brothers, Thomas of Taber, Alberta and John McCulley of Montreal, P.Q.; one sister, Betty (Mrs. Bill Sarginson) of Victoria, B.C., and several nieces and nephews. He will be sadly missed by his family and many friends.

Should friends so desire, memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army Service Fund, care of 220 Duke St., Portage la Prairie.

Funeral arrangements are in care of The Omega Funeral Home.

Links and Other Resources

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Related documentation for information published in this report, such as birth information, discharge papers, press clippings and census documents may be available via shared resources in our HKVCA Vault. It is organized with folders named using regimental numbers. Use the first letter of the individual's service number to choose the correct folder, then scroll to the specific sub-folder displaying the service number of your interest.

General Comments

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H6039 Kenneth MCCULLEY July 24/1948 to Eliza (Iza) Sarginson at Winnipeg MB.

Reunion planned for former PoWs

By AL HERRON, Staff Reporter

Former Hong Kong prisoners of war living in Nova Scotia will hold a reunion Friday in Citadel unit. Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans Association hall, Maynard Street, eight to nine p.m.

Although an active Hong Kong prisoners association exists in western Canada, Ken McCulley, of Portage la Prairie, Man., who is organizing this reunion, says this is the first attempt to get the former prisoners together in Nova Scotia.

There are 21 ex-prisoners known to be living in Nova Scotia, Mr. McCulley said, and probably more. He said all efforts at contacting the old soldiers have met a great response, and he hopes to follow the first organizational efforts now with a reunion of all former prisoners in the four Atlantic provinces in mid-summer. There are more than 100 in the Atlantic area, he says, members of the two Canadian regiments stationed in Hong Kong - the Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles of Canada - when the Japanese overran the garrison in 1941.

A local regiment, the Princess Louise Fusiliers alerted originally in early war days for transfer to the Hong Kong garrison, was replaced by the Royal Rifles.

Mr. McCulley served with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, and was taken prisoner in 1941. He spent four years in Sham Shui Po prisoner of war camp, until war's end in 1945. Sham Shui Po, was in Kowloon, across the harbor from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong prisoners are reputed to have suffered more than any other group of allied prisoners and practically none are without severe after effects from more than four years of starvation, malnutrition and brutality.

Mr. McCulley said about 20 per cent of those taken prisoner at Hong Kong did not survive the ordeal. A common complaint is loss of sight.

The prison camp, Mr. McCulley said, was an old British army barracks which had been looted and vandalized before the prisoner occupation. Everything had been removed, the windows were all broken and there were no washroom or toilet facilities.

Prisoners were given no issue of blankets, eating or cooking utensils over the entire period. An occasional issue of wormy brown, unpolished rice and potato leaves were given to the prisoners, uncooked. They had to find their own methods of getting it cooked.

Mr. McCulley, with a group of others, found a sewer catch basin which became the container in which they boiled their rice and potato leaves.

He remembers two occasions in which there was a variety given to their fare. A supply of eggs was given them on one occasion, he recalls. The Chinese have some way of preserving eggs over long periods, he explained, and these eggs were dated, showing them to be over 100 years old. Some contained nothing but dust, he said, while the ones in better condition were about the consistency of hard boiled eggs - “almost good", he said.

On another occasion the Japanese opened the gates and drove in 10 pigs - then closed the gates and let the prisoners figure out their own solution to butchering and cooking the hogs, with no knives or other necessary tools. Mr. McCulley refrained from describing how the job was accomplished.

Clothing wore out, and the only clothing issue the guards made to the prisoners was G- strings. Prisoners were supposed to receive one Red Cross parcel a month, but the only parcels the Hong Kong prisoners saw were 2 1/2 parcels in the four years.

Originally there were about 5,000 prisoners in the Sham Shui Po camp, Mr. McCulley said, but at the end of the first year the malnutrition and brutality began to have their effect. It was then that the men began to die. Some were removed to other camps, and at liberation the number of prisoners was sharply reduced, though he doesn't know how many survived in the camp.

Anything the Japanese construed as a breach of discipline brought what Mr. McCulley called "instant beatings,” the brutality was followed by a cut in the meagre rations. On one occasion, he recalls, four men escaped. “They didn't get far. When they were caught their heads were chopped off.”

Despite the starvation the prisoners were constantly at hard labor. Mr. McCulley says the biggest job was building an airport for the Japanese at Kai Tac. One runway had to be lengthened considerably to take the bigger aircraft, but there was a hill in the way. The prisoners removed the hill and hauled it across the airport to the lower side, where it was spread and levelled. The hill was moved in ancient trolleys, pulled by two men, until the trolleys wore out, then the men carried the earth across the airport in panniers hanging from a yoke across their shoulders.

One morning Mr. McCulley awoke early, and going down to the river which served as washroom and lavatory, he discovered there were no guards. Investigation by the prisoners discovered the guards at their headquarters hut, kneeling on the floor, foreheads on the ground as they listened to a speech by the emperor on the radio. “We knew immediately that the war was over,” said Mr. McCulley.

The USAF dropped instructions in the prison compound to the prisoners to remain where they were and permit the Japanese to maintain policing duties until the Americans arrived. They also dropped food and vitamins.

It was a month before the prisoners were liberated by the Americans. “The first allied man we saw," said Mr. McCulley, "was a Canadian, a Warrant Officer from the Prince Robert, who came into the camp to take pictures.

All former Hong Kong POWS, widows and families are invited to the reunion Friday.


Remembering Dad - submitted by Barabara Andres March 2021

Ken McCulley was a first generation Canadian, son of British parents, who grew up in Winnipeg, MB, surrounded by a large cadre of McCulley aunts, uncles, and cousins. Throughout his life he placed great emphasis on the value of family and friendships.

A classically trained upholsterer, he opened McCulley's Upholstery, in Portage la Prairie, MB in 1946 which he operated until 1978 when deteriorating health necessitated an early retirement. He was greatly respected in the community for the quality of his workmanship. Every client who entrusted him with their furniture deserved the best he could offer, no matter how small the job.

Ken McCulley lived his whole life with passion. His internment in Hong Kong taught him to never take tomorrow for granted and he faced challenges with obstinate determination to either overcome or get around them. He was a lifelong learner, avid debater (especially about politics), and strove to improve not only himself but also the world around him. His ordeals as a prisoner of war instilled in him a deep desire for social justice, which he made certain to pass to his six children.

He enjoyed socializing, especially if there was a drink at hand, and was a loyal friend who willingly lent a hand or an ear as needed, particularly to his fellow Hong Kong Veterans who he considered his brothers.

Ken was very active in the community serving as a volunteer ambulance driver and firefighter, St. John's Ambulance trainer, with the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans, and with the HKVA.

He was an avid curler enjoying the strategy, skill, and camaraderie of the game and in his later life traded the relative serenity of fishing for golf, which once again afforded him the opportunity to learn a new skill while socializing.

He shared some of his wartime experiences with those outside of his HKVA family, although he was much happier discussing his time in Bermuda or Jamaica than his experiences in prison camp. As children if we didn't like what was being served for dinner he would recount the story of how he would count the maggots in his daily bowl of rice, hoping for a large number because he knew that they provided much needed protein.

He never resented the Japanese people and often commented that their soldiers were fed little better than the Allied prisoners.

While outwardly a bon vivant, Ken struggled with the mental and physical effects of his war experience for the remainder of his life. The creation of the HKVA gave him a welcome opportunity to share his struggles with others with shared experiences.

End of Report.

Report generated: 18 Apr 2024.

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Additional Notes

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  1. Service numbers for officers are locally generated for reporting only. During World War II officers were not allocated service numbers until 1945.
  2. 'C' Force soldiers who died overseas are memorialized in the Books of Remembrance and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, both sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada. Please use the search utility at VAC to assist you.
  3. Some birthdates and deathdates display as follows: 1918-00-00. In general, this indicates that we know the year but not the month or day.
  4. Our POW camp links along with our References link (near the bottom of the 'C' Force home page) are designed to give you a starting point for your research. There were many camps with many name changes. The best resource for all POW camps in Japan is the Roger Mansell Center for Research site.
  5. In most cases the rank displayed was the rank held before hostilities. Some veterans were promoted at some point prior to eventual post-war release from the army back in Canada. When notified of these changes we'll update the individual's record.
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  7. In some cases the References displayed as part of this report generate questions because there is no indication of their meaning. They were inherited with the original database, and currently we do not know what the source is. We hope to solve this problem in future.
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