Padre Laite's Diary

1944 January to March

Sunday, Jan. 2, 1944. Mom's birthday. I conducted a Communion service in our new chapel this morning and I felt that our spirits were indeed kindred there. At lunch, Sgt Ray Squires, of Victoria, B.C. and Chief Engineer Shottan of England, came with us to share. We had procured a few potatoes, so I had par-boiled them, and then we found a baking pan, and put beans as first layer, spuds, tinned mutton, spuds again, beans and bread crumbs. The bake house heated it for us and together we enjoyed the best meal for months. We are planning something similar for Mrs. Barnett's birthday on Jan. 14, and perhaps another on May 28, as Shottan and I were born on that day. Of course we hope to be free before that day in May, but one never knows.

Mom Dear. How I long to see you. My whole life aches for you, and the children, many many times, and I pray daily that you all may be kept well, and are not over anxious. This prayer helps me to carry on here, even at times when flesh aches, mind is perturbed, and my soul troubled. Faith, as you spoke of in your letter, keeps me steadfast, and unafraid of the tomorrows. Our group photograph hangs in my hut, and today I talked with you. You already know what I said. What a wonderful wife and mother you are, and how I long to be able again to tell you of my love and devotion. As time passes you become more and more part of my deeper life. I am sure that Grayson is playing the man, and Florence is an added joy. God bless you, dear on this your birthday.

Capt Davies preached at 1100hrs on "Demas" - good sermon - Padre Strong conducted the evening service, and gave a short address on Paul. Barnett and I led a Watch Night service on ;Dec. 31, 11.30pm. I gave a short New Year's wish from 3rd John, verse 2 "Beloved I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth". A large congregation was present in spite of the rain, and many favorable comments have since been made.

Sunday, Jan. 9. Services as usual. Barnett preached at 1100hrs on Epiphany, and I conducted the evening worship and spoke from Exodus 33: 14, and used "Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh" to represent respectively (1) Our work for material good. (2) The blessings and joys of life. (3) Sorrows and difficulties.

News about more folk of Stanley Camp being repatriated. Some of our men here have wives and children there now. Sgt Major Hume just received word that his wife and daughter - who was born in prison at Stanley - are leaving for Australia.

Sunday, Jan. 16. Conducted 1100hrs worship and began series of short sermons on the Prodigal Son. Today had Johnny Hoosha, and Ron Claricatte, in for lunch. We had beans, a few onions, some rice, a couple of tomatoes, 1 tin Bully Beef, and some bread crumbs - baked. It tasted very good.

Barnett and I still do our own housework. I do the dishes, etc., while he does the sweeping, because of my arm and neck. We have lots of fun, and get along well, but we do get tired of the monotonous life and food, and long for freedom, and home. We have had no mail for nearly a year, and so naturally we talk a great deal of home, and wonder, wonder, wonder, how they all are.

Williamson who was with me at Wan Nai Chong Gap, through our fighting, brought me a lovely cribbage board - made in hospital - with Chinese characters, meaning something like "Best wishes and many sons". The sons will undoubtedly refer to grandsons.

Sunday, Jan. 23. I conducted a Communion service at 9.30am. Strong preached at 1100hrs on "Principles of God" - Justice, Mercy, Sincerity, and Love - and began with illustration of first principles of seamanship. The three L's - Log, Lead, and Lookout. At night Barnett led the service and spoke of the conversion of St. Paul.

Tuesday, Jan. 25. Barnett and I were delightfully surprised today to receive our first pay from the Japanese government. We were paid - as from December 1st, 1943 - which means that for exactly two years we were imprisoned as unpaid officers. Now we do feel independent and are glad.

A new order has been put into force as from today. Now everyone - apart from hospitals - goes on the parade square for 15 minutes each morning, after parade, and does P.T. Our camp band gives us the music while we do our exercises. At 1500hrs daily the ranks go out for more exercises and games. It is an excellent thing and all are pleased, but we would like a bit more food and something besides Atta for breakfast - unsweetened - Rice and vegetable stew for lunch, and more Rice and vegetable stew, and bread (4 oz) for the evening meal. However although I am now down to 134 pounds as against 185 when I arrived here two years ago I am feeling fairly well but tire very easily. We play bowls about once a week.

Saturday, Jan. 29. About thirty men left for Bowen Rd hospital today. Thirteen of them are Canadian. A like number will be coming from Bowen Rd this afternoon.

Sunday, Jan. 30. I held Communion service this early morning. Capt Davies preached at 1100hrs, and Padre Strong led the vespers at 7.30, and spoke on "The joy of the Christian life" - Psalm 33.

We hear that our ration of bread is to be halved during this week - 12oz per man per week instead of 24. Keep smiling and notch up the belt is the pass word now, and said with a grin.

Sunday, Feb. 6. Services as usual today. Strong and Davies leading in the early communion services. Barnett preached at 1100hrs - Matt: 20 - and I led at 7.30pm and spoke on Psalm 62: 5 "Leave it all quietly with God, O my soul" - Moffatt - and administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper at the close. Very little news worthwhile apart from pressure being placed on Franco, Spain by Britain and U.S.A., and a story of heavy fighting around Marshall Islands group.

Today was the second birthday of Barbara Ann, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hume. She was born at Stanley Internment Camp. Her mother and she are now enroute to Australia - we hope. S.M. Hume (Tiny) asked us to share her second birthday party, so he and Chief Eng. George Shottan came. They brought tomatoes, spuds and beans, with their ration of rice and greens. I made a fire in our hut - stove made out of an oil tin - and poured everything into a pan, and heated well. It tasted very good even though we had no meat. Our tea was without milk or sugar. Our bread ration has been cut from 24 to 12oz per week, and now we get a piece of fruit (???) cake twice a week. The taste is different anyway and perhaps a change is good.

We are hoping and longing for mail and Red Cross supplies. If the latter do not soon arrive we may have to pull in another notch of our belt, but why worry. It doesn't help. We do know that our loved ones are not prisoners of war and so we are sure that they have ample food and will be ready to feed us well on our return. May our anticipations be soon changed to realisation. Until then we keep smiling and carry on.

Sunday, Feb. 13. During the past week every unpaid officer and man in camp received yen 28.50 sen - from the Canadian and International Red Cross. The rest of us received yen 8.50. Prices are very high now but it will enable men to get salt, 2.20, Soya Bean sauce, 3.70, Garlic, 1.40 per pound, Onions, 2.70 per pound, and cigarettes - 25sen packet of 10.

Services as usual today. At 1100hrs I continued my series on the Prodigal Story, while Capt Davies spoke at night on Refusal - "He would Not".

Sunday. Feb. 20. During the week all officers' huts were searched. We do not know why. Our books, etc., in this hut were moved, but nothing was taken. During the search we were all on the "square". Mr. Wada - the O.C. - was very gracious in his apologies when we were called to his office, and told us that the search was to take place so soon after tiffin. He is very courteous in many ways.

Today I conducted early Communion service. Strong preached at 1100hrs on "Things Temporal and Things Eternal", and Barnett speaks tonight on "The good Samaritan". As from Wednesday next - Ash Wednesday - we conduct our evening service at 7pm instead of immediately after muster.

Sunday, Feb. 27. The weather has been glorious of late: clear and cool, with very little rain. Food stuffs are more expensive now, and so our cash hasn't much purchasing power. Services as usual today with Barnett supplying for Padre Strong who has gone to hospital with Malaria. Davies conducted evening worship. During Lent our evening vespers are held at 7pm with a fair attendance. We are following a set topic each week, beginning with Love - Joy - Peace, etc., until Passion week. Some of our men are developing or contracting Malaria, and our hospital is filling up again, but it is not serious yet.

Thursday, March 2. Today I was patching the back of my shirt when an orderly from Camp office came in and said "Mail is in, and there are some for you". I immediately went to our office and received five, one from Mom, three from Stan, and one from Dr. Sclater, our Moderator. Was I pleased? Believe it or not, I wept for joy. Mom's letter, written just before Christmas 1942, was as cheery as I knew her to be. I am proud of our children as she says they are as good as gold, and doing well at school, and good old Stan! His letters, written Oct., Nov., and Dec 8, led me to feel that he often writes to me, and keeps in touch with the family in Vancouver. His reference to Moncton, and Vancouver was very heartening. Deeply regret that letters - or rather cards - can be sent only to family, but he and Florence will understand. The message from the moderator was a real stimulant, and as one officer said, "a letter one likes to keep". Barnett heard from his English family, Davies from his Aunt, and Strong had his first three letters from his wife. He is very happy today. Quite a few letters came in, with others to follow.

Sunday, March 5, 44. Charmed today to receive another letter from Mom, dated Oct. 27, 42. The news about her health, Stan's kindnesses, and the childrens' successes at school, filled me with pride and gratitude. I could imagine Grayson and his sports, Florence with her speaking tests, etc. This evening I led the vesper service and spoke on "Spiritual Reserves" Matt: 25: 4. Barnett preached at 1100hrs and he, with Davies led the morning communion service, while I had a Sacramental Supper at the close of the evening service.

Sunday, March 12. More letters of 1942 came into camp during the week. We were all pleased that Lt Harry White, who had not heard to date from his family in Calgary, received three letters from his wife and three from his brother in the R.A.F. He was delighted with news that all were well. Today at 1100hrs I conducted worship and spoke on "Elder Brother". Davies this evening's vespers, and Barnett early Communion. Padre Strong comes out of hospital tomorrow.

Three air raid calls sounded on Friday night. Bombs were dropped in three relays, but none near our camp. We were in bed when the last siren of the night sounded, and were asleep long before the all clear sounded. No paper comes in today or tomorrow so we will be without any kind of local news, or information, about the raid. Yesterday morning we were all called to our parade square for full Red Cross kit inspection. I just had a hat and a pair of worn out canvas shoes.

Sunday, March 19. A letter from Stan dated Sept. 6, 42, reached me today. I learned from it when Sally received my first letter, written on June 1st, 1942, at North Point Camp. I can imagine the thrill they all received on receipt of it, but no more than was mine to see her handwriting for the first time in many months - 16 months after the war began.

We are on seconds in food today, and so had comfortable tummies. Breakfast, Atta, sweetened, and tea. Tiffin, rice and greens stew. Supper, rice and meat and vegetable stew, and tea. I was weighed during the week, and am now just 128 pounds. I came back to my hut, singing "Fading away like the stars of the morning".

Whenever Barnett and I have a sponge bath here in our hut, we laugh at our figure. I persuade myself that I must be the other fellow. I can truly say that I am like the old grey mare - "Not what I used to be", but our spirits are up, appetites keen, and hopes high. I conducted a Communion service this morning at 8.30. Strong preached at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 1930 hrs.

Sunday, March 27. We have been talking of feeds we are to have when we get home. I have been reading "How green was my valley", by Richard Llewelyn, and here is a recipe of a broth made in the home of a South Wales miner. It is called:

"Brandy Broth"
Take one shoulder (small) of lamb, one small piece of ham, and one chicken. Stuff chicken with sage, thyme, and onions, and lay all together in a pot, and cover with water. Cook in oven until tender (but not broken). Make a past of soft roes of fish, with yoke of eggs, cream, and butter. Whip together tight. Add to meat broth. Next add diced carrot and turnips, and some cracked marrow bones, and a mixing of boiled potatoes and milk. After half an hour, pour in a noggin of brandy, and a pint of ale. Another two noggins of brandy at intervals of fifteen minutes. With second of these add chopped white onions, and chopped green of leeks, or a little parsley. Serve hot with toast.

How we would enjoy this now, but look forward to having it at home with Mom and Florence as chief cooks, and Grayson, Stan, and myself as best eaters.