The original interview took place in Dad's home in Stonewall Manitoba, probably in 1971.
Based on listening to the tape of the original interview, I sent Dad a series of questions which asked him to provide more details on the various events. His answers have been included, sometimes as additions or corrections to the original transcription, or as new questions and answers.
Some editing has been done; for instance, all questions have not been included and responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. All transcription was from tape.
Listen to the interview (streaming audio):
Thanks to Sharon Reilly of the Manitoba Museum for providing a high quality copy of the original interview.
|(Could you tell us a bit about your early life, where you were born, etc.?)|
I was born in East Kildonan in 1916. There were four of us in the family. My father owned a shoe store in Winnipeg and we moved to Stonewall in 1924 on a farm. Like lots of other kids I worked on farms until war was declared. I was out in rural-town Saskatchewan when war was declared, riding freights. I joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers on the second of October '39.
My reasons for joining were partly financial as I didn’t have a steady job plus I was very patriotic in those days.
“Love the Land That Bore You but The Empire Best of All”
I think that Dad and Mom were kind of proud that I joined up. It made up for the disappointment of my quitting school in Grade 8. Dad had three or four brothers in WW I plus a couple of brothers-in-law. Mom was proud too, as she had come from England.
(Could you expand on what procedures there were for joining the army? Did you write any tests?)
There were no procedures or tests to join the army. I won’t forget the medical- they counted your eyes and if you were warm, you were in.
|(What was your early training like in the Grenadiers and where was this done?)|
The early training was done at Minto Armouries. We moved into Fort Osborne Barracks in Dec 39, after the first Div had pulled out - PPCLI.. We trained there during the winter and in the spring of '40 about 1000 of us left for Jamaica.
|(What type of training was done in Winnipeg?) |
We didn't have any equipment- we were using everything from the first war. Our uniforms were all first war uniforms. At that time we were a machine gun battalion- we had the odd Vickers gun. They just drew pictures of the box of a truck at the drill hall at Fort Osborne and where to place and mount the gun was done with chalk on the floor. There was no actual equipment at all.
(What was your trip like to Jamaica and what was done there?) |
The trip to Jamaica was something that you don't forget, coming from the prairies and on a boat. When we got there- I was with the transport part- my particular job there was driving ships guards to boats as any neutral ships coming into the harbour had to have a guard on them. One of our particular jobs was to drive the ships guards out, they would go out on a skiff and meet the boat and bring it in. When the boat went out we'd have to go out to Port Royal which is a big peninsula that runs way out in the harbour and we'd pick the guard up and bring them back. We had certain amount of internment camp guard to do. We had the crew off of the Graf Spee, so we had to do a certain amount of guard duty. Actually, we didn't do much training in Jamaica. It was just strictly garrison duty. We seemed to be always short men for all of the duties. Looking back on it now, it was a good experience. We were mad at the time because we joined up to go overseas; we didn't join up to go to the West Indies. We had this chip on our shoulder, at least a lot of us did, because we were sent down there.
There was a lot of social life. The Jamaicans were very friendly people. Our band was always in demand. As I was a driver, I had the opportunity of driving them.
(When did you come back to Canada?) |
We came back to Canada in Sept 41. I was on the first draft back. We had a good trip. We had Maj Hook in charge and there was only about 50 Canadians on the boat. When we got back here they gave us leave then we moved into the Robinson Building, which was situated on Main Street. We manned that when the main body came back and went on leave. In Oct 41 I made a big mistake and got married. (laughs)
We took a Bren-Gun carrier course. I'm not sure if it was when we first came back or shortly after. I think that were only back here about six weeks when we left again. Anyway, we took this Bren-Gun carrier course. It ended up we didn't have any bren-gun carriers, but we took it anyway out at Fort Osborne Barracks.
|(Was it in Oct that the men were called back to report on duty?) |
I came back on the first draft, then there was a main draft, then the third draft- I think they were only here about 10 days, then they were called back to take off again. There was a lot of bitterness over that because a lot of the fellows thought they were entitled to more than 10 days after spending a year and a half in the West Indies. Some of them weren't there when we pulled out for China.
We had turned in our rifles on return from Jamaica, and were issued with other rifles, but never had the chance to sight them in.
|(Were you put on the train the next day? How long did they give you to report?)|
I didn't get any notice of reporting because I was on the first draft. I'd had my two weeks leave and I was back in barracks. When they called in the third draft, they had just been home a few days and they didn't have much time- I'd say one or two days. I can't remember exactly. A lot of them had homes a long way from Winnipeg, and they'd just nicely got home and they had to turn around and come back.
We didn't figure that we were going to go to a war area. A lot of the officers had golf clubs and tennis racquets and stuff like that. So, we figured we were going to another area like Jamaica or something like that. I think that the actual top command of the Regiment figured that too. If things hadn't started the way they did we would have ended up being in garrison until the end of the war. The Japs changed that when they sided in with Germany.
Enroute to Vancouver we had some route marches and some men jumped ship.
It was a very nice boat; it was an Australian passenger ship. They may have been a little conversion done on it, I doubt if there was much except they put a bunch of wooden tables down in the hold and they slung hammocks from the ceiling for NCOs and privates. The officers all had nice cabins, staterooms . They fed us the first morning - I think it was mutton stew for breakfast. Before we had breakfast- we got on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon- there was a lot of dissension, a big rumpus. A bunch of us got off the boat, maybe 200 out of a strength 2000 on that boat and around 400 on the Rupert, I guess. We went off the boat and they called in the Provost Corps. There was quite a stink on the dock that night anyway; they eventually got us back on. They pulled her out about a mile or two and laid anchor there to keep us from getting back. Some fellows never did get back on the boat; they just took off. It was a smozzle, there was no doubt about it. Nobody knew what they were doing. They didn't have a clue. I imagine that part of the answer now, after reading history, is that our equipment should have been there and it wasn't there. It's hard to blame anybody for it because I imagine the top officials wondered where the transport was, they didn't know either. I don't want to start in to the govt but I think the fault lies there from start to finish. It was nothing but govt screwing up everything.
(What was the trip like to Hong Kong and during this trip was there any announcement made as to the destination?) |
No, there was no announcement made until we... we were three weeks on the water - we might have been out two weeks and we got a lecture one day from Lt Beirkett - anyway he was killed over there.-indicating that we had better take things more seriously than we had in the past because we might have to fight our way off the boat. Now, where he got his information...that's what I can remember.
We got little training other than putting together a Bren gun.
A humorous incident: when we were at Minto Armouries in ‘39, we had been issued underwear from WW I. We dragged it to Jamaica with us for kit inspections, and also brought it on the ship to Hong Kong. We decided that it was time to wash it, so we tied it to a rope, and let the rope out of the porthole. An hour later, we pulled in the rope, but the underwear was gone, just the knots in the rope remained. The Quartermaster didn’t charge us for it. That was good underwear – it was 25 years old when it met its death. We had fellows in our outfit that were younger than their underwear…
(What was the arrival like in Hong Kong?) |
The officers warned us as we neared the Philippines that we may have to fight our way off the ship. We thought it was just another joke.
The arrival in Hong Kong was like anything else, you know. We got off the boat and made our way, paraded down to Shamshuipo Barracks. I can't remember any incidents there.
|(Was there any training done before the actual battle broke out?) |
I was in transport. I drove a truck all of the time we were in Jamaica. Back in Winnipeg, we took this Bren-Gun carrier course and they made the old transport guys carrier drivers. We were detailed to a specific company for carrier drivers, so we ended up with no transport personnel. So they went eine-meenie-minie-moe and they picked out a bunch of guys for transport. They didn't know whether they could drive trucks or whether they couldn't. But of course we had no trucks anyway. When the fight actually started they commandeered a bunch of Chinese trucks. They were long wheel-based trucks and they couldn't possibly get around the hills in Hong Kong. It was impossible there, they were too long. When they got them commandeered, a lot of these fellows never drove a truck before in their life. So they came all through the hills and they picked up the old transport drivers who were on road blocks and one thing and another. They put us on the trucks and brought us back into transport because there was no carriers anyway. That just shows you the disorganization of the whole thing.
|(Where were you when the actual battle broke out?) |
I was Wan Chai Gap. They moved us up on a Sun afternoon. There was no reason. We were in Shamshuipo you see, then we spent our days (there weren't very many of them) parading up and down, saluting to the right and saluting to the left. Never out in the hills. There was the odd party, some of the senior NCOs were out running around the hills looking things over but the rest of us had never been in the hills. Hong Kong is flat along the harbour then it is really mountainous. We didn't know anything about the hills, so this Sun afternoon, I guess it would be about 6 Dec, (always a day difference between here and there), they said move the camp. We walked up the hills through little trails and one thing and another. We had no transport, we had old Lee-Enfield rifles. They'd switched our rifles when we got back to Winnipeg and we hadn't got them sighted in or anything. We paraded up through little paths up into the hills and pitched tents for the night. In the morning we had to take all of the canvas down - war had been declared. Of course, we didn't take it too seriously, we thought who the heck is wrong now- another smozzle? We weren't long finding out that they were right -they started to bomb us. The barracks that we had left on the Sun afternoon, they attacked on the Mon morning. As far as I'm concerned it was the same time as they hit Pearl Harbour. I think that there was one British soldier killed and a Chinese janitor, something like that. Very little loss of life because we got out. If we hadn't we'd of had it.
|(What sort of things happened during the battle between Dec 7 and 25 when surrender was declared and where were you at this time?) |
I was on the regimental ration truck from the 7 Dec until 19 Dec. The Japs landed; they made it across the half mile from the mainland to the island under a smoke screen. They'd set a bunch of oil tanks on the shore on fire and they were smoking and they got across that night.
Myself and Eddy Smelts from Elgin, we left Wan Chai gap with two truckloads of men and we went in with a guide to Jardine's Lookout. Unknown to us we went through the Japanese front line - they let us through. There was no action, no firing, might have been rumbles in the distance but there was nothing close.
We got into Jardine's Lookout, so we hung around there all night sleeping and half asleep in the cabs, and the men were dispersed. Lt Beirkett was in charge of that party. At daybreak they opened up on us from both sides. I set fire to my truck, we couldn't get them out and we didn't want them to have it. I took my gas mask, and I stuck it down the gas tank and got the harness saturated, then I threw it in the cab and got the truck going good.
I had a Thompson sub-machine gun, I forget how many rounds I had, but not that many. I took that with me but I can't remember what happened to Smelts' truck. We hung around trying to get out all day, everybody on their own, didn't know where we were going and we hadn't a clue where they were. They were sniping at us and they were coming damn close too. I remember crawling over a ledge and looking down (the reason I mention this is it was the only chance I got to shoot any of them), a bunch of Japs were sitting around cooking some rice over a fire and there was about 20 of them. I didn't have that many rounds in this submachine gun anyway and I just spewed them. I don't know whether I got any or whether I didn't, but anyway I took off at the high port.
About 6 or 7 o'clock that afternoon we couldn't possibly get out. We came across this shack up in the hills. It was something to do with the army, but I can't remember now. We went into this place and there was quite a few more Canadians in there. We decided to stay there. It seemed to me we stayed there that night, but I can't remember exactly. There would be about 50 guys. Lt Mitchel was there and Smelts, the other driver. An hour or so after we got in there the Japs came through - they were just like ants. They surrounded the place and this officer came in and pulled us all out. Everybody out. They lined us up on the road, there was quite a grade on the road. They made us all kneel down then they started sticking guys with bayonets. I was in the front and there was Jacky Albert on one side of me and Deslauriers on the other. They stuck them with bayonets and everything. I looked down and the actual blood was running down the road between my knees. They never touched me; I don't know why. Jacky Albert, he's alive, he got stuck just above his kidney, I guess. And Delorme, they cut him down his head here, his scalp just fell over, of course they killed him. And there wasn't many of us got out of that. And then, the ones that were able to walk around after that they were going to shoot us - so they lined us up in front of a firing squad. We figured we'd had it, there was no way that we would get out of this, they'd killed so many now, they wouldn't save us. This Jap officer, I didn't know he was an officer at the time, I never saw a Jap soldier in my life, but anyway he had one of this samurai swords. He let a roar out of him and these guys dropped their rifles and that was it - they wired us up together. They took us back into the shack and stood guard on us all night.
In the morning our own mortars saw this concentration of Japanese and they opened up on us. They landed a big 3" mortar in the middle of the shack and killed, I don't know how many. Smelts got it. One of the Mitchells got it, there was two brothers, they were both lieutenants, one of them got it or he was badly wounded. If anybody was wounded, there was no way, just stay there- I knew what they were going to do with them- they'd kill them. This Mitchell was wounded badly and his brother wouldn't leave him, so I guess they killed his brother too. We never heard of that since.
I was with Lt McKillop, who was a funeral director from Portage. He was badly wounded but he was smart enough that he didn't let on so he got out of there but he only lasted another day or two. They took us out of there that morning, that would be the 21st I suppose, and they marched us back to North Point and kept us there and then they took us across to the mainland at Kowloon. They made us parade in from of all the Chinese with all the wounded and sick. We had a door, four of us, and we were carrying Lt McKillop who couldn't walk anymore, he was bleeding to death. The blood was running off the door and running down our arms and there was nothing they would do for anybody who was wounded, the hell with them. So we paraded around Kowloon for a day or two. Some of the guys died and we still kept parading. They (Japanese) were showing off to the Chinese their power and their might. There was an old refugee camp on Argyle Street full of Chinese, or had been. It was full of straw and there was a bunch of Indians that were already there when we got there. Since the war was still on (we were captured ahead of time before the armistice) they mounted a bunch of big guns right outside of Argyle. Right outside of the camp. You could see the planes going over and coming back and where the targets were. They fed us nothing. We took all of the leaves off the trees and the grass out of the ground and boiled it in little tin cans. They never gave us a thing until the armistice was signed.
|The day that we were being sniped at, I survived by diving into a group of dead Chinese. They had come over to the island at the start of the war to avoid the Japanese, as Hong Kong was under British control. They had been dead for a week. I had to stay there until it got dark at night. I landed beside a big fat Chinaman who had a belly button as big as a golf ball. All day long, I had my nose up against this belly button and these big blue flies were going in and out, buzzing to beat hell. It was the longest day of my life. (laughs)|
(When did you finally hear about the surrender and who told you about it?) |
I really don't remember. They had moved us to Shamshuipo and we were laying there on the floor in what they called the married quarters. Jubilee Building? I forget. The only way we knew is when the main bunch of prisoners moved in. They'd scrounged a bunch of food before - they had it in their pockets and on their back- and then they got into Shamshuipo, the main bunch. I forget how many hundred and they had to turn all this food in, you see, and put it in a special room. While they were on parade being counted we got into this room. I know that I got a seven pound bully beef and I think I ate it all myself. That's all I can say; I can't actually remember except that the main body came in.
|(Were you moved back to North Point camp after that?) |
Yes, I forget how long we were in Shamshuipo, and then they moved us to North Point, then we were moved back to Shamshuipo again, all within a year, if I remember right. I know that when I left Hong Kong for Japan we were in Shamshuipo barracks.
(What was the daily life like in Shamshuipo?) |
Pretty well routine, I guess. We were working on KaiTec airport, hauling mud with coolies and the baskets. Levelling off the big hill to make the runway longer and stuff like that with picks and shovels.
(Were there any attempts at sabotage at this time at the airport?) |
Yes, as far as concrete mix there was. We were mixing cement and we'd make one batch 10:1 and another batch 1:1. There was strong places but some awful weak ones. That's true; I'd forgot about that.
(Was there still some type of organization among the ranks with the officers?) |
Yes, in Shamshuipo there was. They used to take the roll call. I'm not sure now. I can't remember.
(Was there any attempts to escape on the mainland?) |
Oh, yes. That was in North Point though. Yeah, there was four guys went over the wall, or over the wire. A lot of rumours, what happened to them none of us know. I know that George Brezinski was one and somehow or another during the smozzle before I was captured or after, I don't know, but I had a pair of these ripcord riding breeches. I wasn't wearing them and he came to me and asked me if he could have them and he told me what he was going to do. I gave them to him, I wasn't wearing them because I still had my battledress, I guess. He and Ellis and Payne- who the heck was the fourth guy. I can't remember. They went over the wire but they didn't get far. At that time the officers were in charge of our roll call - whether they told them the next morning there was four missing, I don't know. I've got my own opinion...
|(What about sickness in Shamshuipo and what treatment did they have for any sicknesses?) |
No, they didn't have any treatment. We had a place there called the agony ward. We had what they called 'electric feet' beriberi. The fellows couldn't sleep, their feet were just jumping and they were hot. I don't know whether the medical profession even has an explanation for it today or not. They would just holler and rave and that's why they called it the agony ward. There was no treatment, there was no nothing. We did have an outbreak of diphtheria and they brought in serum. As I was given to understand at the time, it was watered down but it saved that many more lives than giving the guy a full shot. I had diphtheria and in Jan 42 I couldn't see anything. I was practically blind. At night you'd look at a light and it would look like a streak, that was about all you could see. After I got to Japan my left eye came back but my right eye never did. It was because of the diphtheria or so our doctor told us.
(Did the men have any entertainment or hobbies at Shamshuipo?) |
Not really that I can remember. There may have been the odd fellow but most of us were working at Kai Tak airport and we were tired, not much to eat. You more or less rested and slept as much as you could to keep your energy up, if I remember right.
(Did you receive pay at this time for working?) |
I don't think so, not in Hong Kong. When we got to Japan we got 10 cents a day or something like that. I don't remember any money in Hong Kong because that would be Chinese money and I don't remember seeing any.
|(What about the Japanese personnel and the guards at this time? Are there any that stand out in your mind?) |
As far as the guards go, they actually didn't bother us very much if we didn't bother them. They were very weird people, if you can call them that. I remember one time, something I never forgot, there was a Chinese kid coming down the road, and the guards didn't have that much to do because there was no way that we could get out of there, if we did we'd stand up like sore thumbs because we were two feet taller than any of them, but I remember one day this Chinese fellow coming down the road on a bicycle and for something to do they knocked him off the bike and strapped him to a big tree. He didn't have any shirt on, he just had a pair of pants. There was lots of rats there and they caught this rat and they got a piece of pipe about two feet long, I suppose it was about two inch pipe. They held it up against his stomach and they put the rat in the end of the pipe, then they got some greasy rags and they lit them and they heated the pipe at the rat's ass end. The rat, he's chewing his way into this Chinaman's guts to get out. They stood back and laughed like hell, this is the way they showed you how they think. That was a big entertainment afternoon for those guys.
(When were you sent to Japan and how was the selection made as to who was going to go when?) |
I don't know just how the selection was made. It was supposed to be those that were the healthiest that they wanted to take to Japan. I went there about- it was the first draft out in Jan-Feb 43. We went on (what was the name of the boat) - the Tuta Maroo. (Perhaps the correct name is Toyama Maru - name taken from the book "Hell on Earth"). It was a hell of a trip.
Gap in transcription...|
...and at that time I couldn't see very good and I was walking toward the back, I was fairly lucky, because they filled the hold with guys, and they jammed them down there so thick that they couldn't even sit or lie down. There was about 30 they couldn't get in the hold; there was no place for them to stand. So we were up on the top deck in a kind of a mess hall laying on the floor which was a lot better than those poor guys had it. The only way they fed them was by lowering a bucket of rice on a rope. Of course the guys right under the hatches got the rice, the other fellows in the far corner there was no way they could get it. There was no bathroom facilities; everything was done standing up. I guess we were a week or so and docked at Formosa, then went on to Japan. That was a hell of a trip. There was maybe 1000 men on the ship, but I'm not sure.
|(What happened upon your arrival in Japan?) |
They put us on the trains after we docked at Nagasaki. They pulled all of the blinds down, we didn't know where we were going. We stopped at two or three different places. So many would be taken off. I went right up to just outside of Yokahama/Kawasaki 3D. Mitsubishi was the company name of the shipyard that we worked while in that camp.
(What was the life like there?) |
We worked in a shipyard. We worked pretty well routine. We were starving to death. There was guys dying every day. You'd never come in from work unless there were two or three dead. Malnutrition, beriberi and all of this stuff. They worked us eight hours a day and we'd get very few days off.
(Was there any sabotage?) |
Oh, yeah. A little bit. The place where we used to eat was a steel building that hadn't been standing more or less on legs and above it was all of the templates for marking out the parts of a boat. When they'd bring the rations from camp for dinner (rice or potatoes), this is where we used to eat, There was a few lockers and a stove or two, and it was kind of sheeted in with plywood, it wasn't really out in the open. One of fellows rigged up a candle and had it all figured out how long it took to burn. About four o'clock in the morning this whole thing went up. The guy that got the credit for it had nothing to do with it. I don't want to talk about it because I can't prove anything. The fellow that did it, he didn't want to say anything because when that happened, they had a pretty good idea that it was one us but they couldn't prove anything. We had to eat out in a place where there was no shelter and a lot of guys developed pneumonia and died over it. The guy that did it wondered if he'd done the right thing and he kept quiet. One of the fellows, a Staff Sgt, made a big noise when he came home and took credit for it but it wasn't him at all. Another fire was started but there wasn't that much chance to get away with anything. Some of the guys riveting bolts would miss the odd rivet , but other than that it was pretty hard to...
|(What was the food like at this time?) |
About the same as it was all through it. A bit of rice, the odd piece of fish, a little bit of watery soup. Nowhere near what we needed. There wasn't that much change in rations from the start to the finish that I can remember.
(What about Red Cross parcels- did you receive any at all?) |
I know very well that in the time we were there we didn't receive two full ones each. They'd come in with so many then you'd have to split maybe three or four ways. I don't blame the Red Cross because I think that the Japs took it themselves. I think that they did their best to get in there. There was no way to educate them fellows as to what it was for.
(What was the sickness like and was there any medicine at this camp?) |
There was lots of sickness and I can't remember much medicine, I can't remember any. They had a kind of a powder like flour that they used to give you if you got dysentery. Other than that, we had Capt Reid there, he was a doctor and he did everything he could. I don't remember any medical supplies.
Pulling teeth: We had one dental Sgt and one pair of pliers. There was no freezing of course. We used to lay the patient, with one guy on each arm and leg. One guy would lock his fingers around your forehead, and squat down to hold your head from coming up and that’s the way they pulled teeth.
(What about the Japanese guards at this camp?) |
There was good ones and bad ones. The ones that were good, they had to be bad every now and again to keep their job. They had a pretty soft touch guarding us guys. They didn't want to be drafted into the army and they were doing war work. A lot of them had a little bit of human feelings about them but they had to rip into us every now and again and make it look good as far as the top Japs were concerned.
A torture that the Japs took quite a bit of fun pulling off. They would make you, while you were working in the shipyard, watch the arc on an electric welder. If you didn’t keep your eyes on it and keep them open, they would club you on the muscle of the leg with a big stick so you could hardly walk. Of course, you couldn’t sleep at night as your eyes felt like they were full of sand. So you couldn’t sleep at night, then had to go to work the next day, which made it that much worse. They thought it was fun.
(What about communications with the outside world? Did you know what was going on, how the war was progressing?) |
Not too much at that time. We had the Nippon Times, or something. It was a paper printed in English that was full of Japanese propaganda. We had a chance to read this; they didn't mind us reading it so we figured that most of it was lies. We didn't believe half of it and we didn't pay too much attention to it. Around March 1945 the B29s came over and that gave us a bit of a lift.
|(Did you stay at camp 3D until the end of the war?) |
No, in March we moved up to a place called Ohafti, which was a mining area. They had a big smelter right on the coast called Komitchi. We were in about 12 miles in this mine. We worked underground in the mine. That was the worst part; that was far worse than.. The fact that you're working underground and had five miles to walk and five to come back all uphill. The rations were getting worse as the war went on. If they could get worse; they weren't getting any worse, they were just getting smaller. It was the same stuff.
(What about when the atomic bomb was dropped- did you hear anything about it?)|
(some comments missing) ...the atomic bomb. The war was over anyway, there was no doubt about it. As I said, in March of 45 they moved us to Ohafti. About June I guess, the American fleet came and they levelled hundreds of smokestacks at the iron smelter at Komitchi from just off-shore. I forget how many thousand Japs they killed. They came down to our camp and loaded up a bunch of us to bury these Japs. They were already buried actually because they were in holes in the ground. They'd dig a hole for an air raid shelter and put some bamboo trees across and a bit of mud. They were buried already; their heads and legs and arms were sticking out. You could see the American navy laying right off the shore and I think that was about June of '45. I can't remember how we found out about the atomic bomb being dropped.
(What about the guards; was there any change in the last few months of the war?) |
Not that I could see.
(Was a new set of men brought in?) |
Not where we were. Not that I can remember. They figured that they were winning the war until the last minute anyway. They were so pumped up with propaganda they didn't know the difference. They figured that they had troops fighting in California. They didn't have a clue.
|(How did you find out about the Japanese surrender?) |
We were coming out of the mine this particular afternoon about 4 o'clock. The mines there are in the side of a hill; they go in a different levels. They're not straight down; you walk in maybe a mile into the side of a mountain. We were coming out but still inside the mountain and the guards were excited. We understood enough Japanese to figure out that the war was over. When we came out, there were other crews- some were working in the electrical end of it- we came out on the same street and were marched back to camp. All of the guys had smiles on their faces but they didn't say too much because we were still under guard. The next morning there was no work - I'm ahead of myself. At Ohassi we had the crew off the American Houston that was sunk off Singapore, I believe it was. They had a radio. They turned it on every 10 days or so, so we were expecting it. We had a lot of Javanese from Java and they had to be pretty careful because they didn't trust these guys. they had to be careful who they told their news to because these guys would sell you out.
(When did the Americans come to the camp?) |
I got sick of waiting for them so I took off. Others took off too but they went to the local railroad station in Ohassi (near Komitchi, which is a seaport). The Japanese civilian police had orders not to let anybody out of camp - pick them up. That was the first bunch that tried to get out. We got a smart idea - we knew that there was a big cable car that came from way over the hills - we didn't know where, but we knew that there was life over there. We took off and went over the hills and got into a small place and went to the train station. All that they ran out of there was ore cars out to the main line. We told the guy there that we wanted to get to Tokyo and we didn't want any trouble and we wouldn't give them any. He was nice and got civilian police to escort us to the main line. Then there were more police and got us on a passenger coach by this time. We told them we didn't want to be crowded because the Japanese trains are loaded like flies; they're on the outside and all over. We had lots of room. They put a policeman on with us and took us right down to Tokyo. There were six of us. We got through to Tokyo that way and met up with the American army there. Then they put us on the Iowa overnight then flew us to Guam and put us in the hospital there. We were there about 12 days, I guess.
|(What was done there- was there a medical check-up?) |
There wasn't that much done. They gave us good food and that was about all. There may have been some sicker than I was that received more attention, but I can't remember.
(When you left Guam how did you travel - by boat or by train, and where was your next stop?) |
It was in San Diego. We went by boat- the USS Lamar. They moved us up the coast North to a place called Camp Haan- near Riverside. We were then put on a passenger train and brought up the coast to Victoria. We had to bum money; the Canadian Government must have been mad that we ever came home. They gave us $10 in Camp Haan -big deal -we spent that in Riverside in about 10 minutes. We had to bum money- we got to Seattle on the train and we just missed the ferry and we had several hours to wait. None of us had any money, so we went to the American Red Cross and told them about it. There was about 50 Canadians. We told them they'd have to take our word for it that we'd sent it to them when we got home. They gave us 10 each and we had a day in Seattle while waiting to get across to Victoria. We got to Victoria- in the meantime we had an Australian officer who was the boss taking us home- so we got to Victoria and they had an old Winnipeg electric bus there- it ran that was about all you could say. They gave us a card and a rotten apple as a welcome home from the people of BC. Coming up from San Diego on the train the Americans are throwing cartons of cigarettes and bottles of whiskey through the windows. I shipped cigarettes and whiskey from Victoria in a kit bag, I had so much. Quite a difference.
(What happened in Victoria?) |
We were put in Gordon Head camp. I was held there as a dysentery carrier, unfit to travel. They kept me there for two weeks. I was issued new uniforms.
|(From Victoria where did you go?) |
When I left Victoria there was only two of us. The others had gone on. There was Bill Jeffery, and I guess he was held up for the same reason that I was. We got on the train in Vancouver and headed to Winnipeg. We arrived in Winnipeg on Oct 24 1945.
(When you arrived in Winnipeg, did you have to go into Deere Lodge for treatment?) |
I went in for chest trouble and they kind of laughed at me or made me feel as if I shouldn't be there. I came home and I didn't get discharged until Feb. They didn't know what to do with us; we were kind of a bug. That spring I was having chest trouble and I went in and they made me feel as if I shouldn't be there. I came home and I guess it was a year later and my chest was getting worse so I went to the local doctor. He said to me 'what are you doing here? You should be at Deere Lodge'. I said" they don't seem to want me there, at least that's the feeling I got'. He wrote a letter and the first thing that I knew, they called me in. I was there about two or three weeks I guess, and they gave me penicillin and other things.
(When were you discharged?) |
(When did you return to work?) |
Practically immediately. As I said before, I was on the farm, and when I came home my dad was getting old. I asked him if he would sell me the farm. Actually before I got my discharge I had bought two or three sows that were pregnant. I started right in. For about two years I never left the farm just to come to town for groceries on the tractor because I never had a car.
(What about family adjustment after the war?) |
A little rough! I used to wake up in the middle of the night hollering and shouting hitting my knuckles on the wall. That only lasted a while.
|(How is your general health today; is it pretty good?) |
No. It could have been if they'd used their heads after the war. I kept on farming and two or three times a year I'd be in the hospital. I had to depend on hired men and there was a lot of arguing and fighting with the doctors in Deere Lodge. For a long, long time it was terrible. Lately, it's been good. They kept telling me to get off the farm- I had this chest trouble, I had 50 head of cattle and a milk contract with Modern Dairies and was hauling bales. I was getting worse but I had only a 30% pension - how could I get off the farm. They raised my pension to 70% - if it hadn't been for Dr. Macdonald he's the best man that Deere Lodge ever had. Six years ago they raised it again to 100% and I sold the farm. I didn't want to do it. I can't kick lately, but I have to go in once or twice a week and go on the machine in there (Deere Lodge). They pay my gas; I can't complain. For a long time it was bad. If you blew your cork they'd send you to a psychiatrist- you're haywire.
|When did you join the Legion? What made you decide to join? |
I joined the Legion in Feb 1946 as soon as I got my discharge The reason that I joined the Legion was I thought that the war was over but the fight wasn’t. I could remember veterans of the First World War coming home to a kick in the ass. They were established on the worst farm lands in the country, such as NW of Balmoral. They were in very poor health; a lot of them could barely breathe from mustard gas. These vets had started the Legion in 1926 as they had some good things going for us when we got back. The more strength we had, the better for all. Especially for the wives and kids of those who were killed or wounded.
What events of interest happened between 1971 and today? I know that you have received recognition from the Legion (life membership, etc).
In 1972 I received the Meritorious Service Medal which is the highest award at a branch level. In 1981 I received a Life Membership. Shortly after I was given a silver tray with the Legion crest for 25 years as Service Officer.
The Operation “SERVICE” mentioned in the citation was when we got cards made up, took them around and put them in everybody’s mailbox in our area. This was to let veterans know who was eligible for DVA assistance.
Tapes are in possession of James Trick.