Padre Laite's Diary

1944 April to June

Sunday, April 2. Psalm Sunday. Services as usual. Strong and Davies conduct morning Communion, while Barnett conducts 1100hrs service, and I lead the 7.30pm service, and a Sacramental service at its close.

April 7, Good Friday. I conducted the service at 1100hrs, and Strong led a service of sacred song and music, at 7.30pm.

Had a letter from Florence at Bamfield, dated 6-8-42, which thrilled me with pleasure. I thought of the Summer of '41, when she did the making of meals, because of Mom's indisposition, and how pleased she would be when I could get home for them, and they were good meals too, sweetheart. I look forward to even better ones from you on my return, and am sure that you will be as pleased as ever. I had a good laugh over Grayson working in a garage. He is proving to be the right kind of boy, and one who will go far. His mother must be proud of him. It must have been lovely for Mom to have Cis with her for a month. It meant much to both. Received Mom's letter, written on receipt of my first, sent from Camp H, North Pt Camp, and was delighted with enclosed snaps. What a bonny girl Florence is.

Easter Day - April 9. Barnett and Davies conducted early Communion. Strong preached at 1100hrs on "Facts of the Resurrection". Barnett conducted 7.30pm service, and I led in Sacramental service at close of vespers. A good day; impressive services and many worshippers. These were the last services to be held in this chapel as in the reconstruction of the camp, we are being given a hut in C lines, and so tomorrow, we clean and make ready C 1, for services in the future. We are all sorry to leave our present chapel as it was well conditioned and met all requirements.

April 12, Wednesday. Was delighted today to receive letters from Florence and Cis. These are the first letters from them, and were written 29-8-42. News of our Newfoundland relatives was interesting. I was glad that Cis found Mom so well and the children so happy, and that Florence gave such a glowing report of Bob and their lovely boy. No wonder they are so happy, and I know that that boy is an added attraction at Moncton for Stan as I am sure they get along well. I hope to see him too some day, and won't we have fun?

Sunday, April 16. I was especially pleased to get letter from my wife today, date Sept. 1, 42, telling me of receipt of my letter. I know her love, and can imagine her joy. Her letter of Aug. 10, 42, came today as well, with news of Grayson at work and on holiday, and Florence at Bamfield.

Services as usual today. Barnett and I with early Communion. Davies at 1100hrs preached from Job "If a man die shall". Strong at 7.30pm spoke on "The hands of Jesus" Deut. 26:8.

Our hospitals and camp have been rearranged lately. We have now about 110 in Canadian hospital. There are many suffering from Beri-beri, about 400 in whole camp of 1100. Hope few are serious. Our food has increased and improved during the past fortnight, which may have a salutary effect on us all. My stomach gave me trouble last week but is now O.K. again.

April 21, Friday. Received an order to move our quarters today, and now about 40 of us are domiciled in a long hut. We have very little room, but meals come up on time as usual, and we can still rest and read. Windows are of galvanized iron, but now can be kept open by day and night. Sgt Paul of the Dental Corps, died today, and will be buried tomorrow. I will conduct the church service and Barnett will go out for interrment.

Letters during the week from Mom and Cis, written Aug. 23, 43. The first for 1943, and only 8 months old. How happy am I to know that good old Stan is on the coast, and how delighted the family will be to see him occasionally. I can imagine how their tongues wagged when they met. I went to church on Thursday evening on receipt of the news, with a special prayer of gratitude in my heart.

April 23. St. George's Day. The third year in this service has ended. I do hope that the next year finds us home. Regular services today with Barnett preaching at 1100hrs, and Davies at 7.45pm.

April 30, Sunday. A draft of about 200 men left yesterday for parts unknown to us. Amongst them were 148 Canadians. Today our regular services were held. Strong and Davies with early Communion. I preached at 1100hrs on "More than Conquerors" Romans 8:37, and Barnett at 7.45pm on St. Philip, "Lord show us the Father, and it sufficeth us".

May 1, 1944, Monday. Orders to move were given our hut this morning and now we are settled in B1. It is quite a squeeze to get 41 officers in this hut, but we are finding room for eats and sleep, so why worry. Meals are very slim now and we find it difficult to do P.T. and other duties daily. Much rain has fallen during the past few days, and more is to be expected daily since this is the rainy season here. How beautiful Canada is looking today. Flowers, shrubs, etc. are in bloom and the whole country is coming into seed time. Rumour has it that more men and officers will soon come into this camp, and that soon we shall have three camps, including the Guard, within one perimeter.

Sunday, May 7. On Friday one of the Japanese soldiers was accidentally crushed by a truck, and died a few hours later. We all felt sorry - regrets were expressed by many - over such a death in this quiet spot. Some officers returned from Argyle St. Camp during the week. Others, we think, are to follow later. They are separated from us and although most of them are Canadians, we have not been allowed to contact them.

This morning Barnett and Davies held Communion services, while Strong preached at 1100hrs - Isaiah 33: verse 17, 20. At 7.30pm I conducted a "Mother's Day service" - Proverbs #1:28 - "Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praiseth her". A very large congregation attended.

Thursday, May 11. The new officers' camp, adjoining ours, is now fully occupied by the former personnel of Argyle camp. All our Canadian officers have returned but we are not being allowed to contact them.

Sunday, May 14. Barnett and I held Communion services today, while Davies led in the 1100hrs service, and Strong at 7.45pm. Davies preached on the story of "Ruth and Naomi", and Strong on "A bruised reed shall He not break" - Isaiah 42:3.

My thoughts were at home today "Mothers' Day" and I knew that many were thinking of me. How we all long for home and good food again. This evening we had rice and a special curry which gave us a really satisfied feeling for a little while. Our portions are very small, but we are satisfied if, with even these reduced rations, we can see this thing through. I have been able to sell something this week - the first ever - and spent the yen in Soy a bean milk powder, 2 lbs onions, 3 lbs potatoes, and some soap. This will help out for a few weeks with careful economy.

Sunday, May 21. Letter from Mom dated July, 43. Delighted to hear of Berkley's visit to old home. Know how much A.J. and Lottie enjoyed his visit. Hope he was able to visit his brothers and sister as well. Services as usual today. Strong and I had Communion services. Barnett at 1100hrs, and Davies at 7.30.

Have been able through sale of coat, to purchase some extra food, as well as help out a couple of fellows in hospital. Our meat, vegetables, and cocoa, are cut now, so our diet is very, very unsubstantial, but something will turn up later, we feel certain. One door may close but another opens.

Sunday, May 28. Today Barnett and I shared in my birthday party. We had decided on Barnett's birthday - March 29 - to hold over our last tin of bully beef - really mutton - until today. Yesterday we prepared our meal. It consisted of beans, yen 7.10, bully, yen 25.50, onions, 3.5, potatoes, 3.60 (2 lbs), pickles (1bot.), 16.50, tomatoes, 3.00. Total yen 61.20 or with exchange $153.00. Today it came from the bake shop, piping hot, and we devoured half of it. Will have the rest at supper time. A bouquet of wild flowers adorned our table. The officers shouted, or quietly expressed their best wishes. Capt. Dennison, and Capt. Banfill, whose birthday is also today were seen, and Lt Blackwood informed me that today is his wife's birthday, and thus best wishes were exchanged with a wish which was really a prayer that next year would find us at home.

This morning (Whitsunday) Davies and Barnett held Communion services. At 1100hrs I spoke on "The need of a new Pentacost" - Luke 24:49, and Acts 1:8. Tonight Strong leads at 7.30.

Today I have read my twenty letters received, and know that loved ones are thinking of me as much as I think of them. Especially near and dear is Sally to me today. Perhaps William Blake's words express for me quite aptly my thoughts of her today.

"So when she speaks, the Voice of Heaven I hear;
So, when we walk, nothing impure comes near;
Each field seems Eden and each calm retreat;
Each village seems the haunt of holy feet."

There are still abut 80 men in our Canadian hospital. Campbell Rutherford is quite ill, and yesterday his group in the lines were given 1 dozen eggs to sell - by lot. The boys, who haven't had an egg for many months, knowing of his condition and need, sent the eggs, after purchase, to him. It was such a fine gesture that it touched many of us deeply, and Campbell in particular. It was a real tonic to him, and the boys feel better because of it. Such is the spirit amongst our men. Even though all are hungry, we recognise the larger need and fellowship.

Monday, May 29. Had Pte Fleming to see me with a letter from Young United Church, Winnipeg - Rev. Donnelly. It always cheers to know that the home church does not forget us. Since his visit at 9.30,  C.C.M.S. Cairns of H.K.V.D.C. came to see me, with an old Whitsundtide hymn which came back to his memory during my sermon of yesterday morning. He said that forty years have passed since he learnt it, as a boy at home, but the real meaning was made vivid by me during my sermon - "We've a story to tell to the Nations". Last evening I sat at the rear of our church, and watched the men, as they assembled. What a motley group we were. Men with patched shirts and pants, clogs on feet. Others with a sleeveless singlet, and patched shorts, and canvas shoes. Other with a whole shirt - really - and fair shorts, and good shoes, and the odd one removing clogs, as soon as seated, in order to rest his feet. Some came with canes, a couple being led by a friend, or comrade, because of blindness. Some with an arm or leg missing, others with wounds, and all showing loss of weight and lacking vitality and energy, but our faith is not impaired - Faith in the things that abide.

Sunday, June 4. During the past week we were photographed, at P.T. and at work. Maybe we shall see pictures of our camp in the Japan Times, a little later. More mail came into camp during the week. I was not fortunate enough to receive any. I am longing to receive Grayson's letter and snaps mentioned by Mom in her August 43 letter. Services as usual today, Davies and I at Communion service. Strong at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 7.45. Blackout since Friday night, which meant shortened service. Have sold my coat, and am now hoping to sell pen, letter case, and shaving kit. Anything to provide extra food by which I can get through this ordeal. Rice, green horror, and bully - very little - and vegetable stew, does not indicate long life. Cash means beans, salt, Soya bean, milk powder, etc. Very few of us have reserve energy now, and very little sets us back for a few days, but no one despairs as we hope to be free this year.

George Sokalski died during the week. His family live at 890 Pritchard Ave, Winnipeg. I wrote all his cards and read his letters as we were good friends. He was a fine type of fellow and we regret his passing.

Sunday, June 11. Just change of routine this week in camp, and of course the big event for which we have been looking and longing - the big Western front offensive which began on June 6 - Dunkirk Day - and which we believe will shorten the global war. The Hong Kong News did not give us many details, but enough to excite and interest us exceedingly. How our tongues wagged, and what a boost to our spirits. We think of the sacrifices which must be made in this great adventure, but we know that our men are - and were - ready to face it with courage. Services as usual today, Barnett and Strong for Communion. Davies at 1100hrs, and myself at 7.45pm, and Communion after if blackout off. Subject of message Finding Christ in life's common ways".

Sunday, June 18. Davies and I led Communion services today, while Barnett led the 1100hrs service, and Strong the evening vespers. I was weighed during the week and find that I have gained another three pounds and am now the great weight of 135 lbs. What a weight!

Thursday, June 22. Had innoculation against Cholera on Monday, and have been ill for past two days with fever and headache, but am on deck again this evening, and feel like my old self. Yesterday was a miserable day, with terrific headache and loss of appetite. How I long for fruit today, or some of the nice things out of the home pantry.