Padre Laite's Diary

1944 July to September

Sunday, July 2. Yesterday was Dominion Day and we celebrated it by having a baseball match, in the afternoon, between our Guards, and Canadians. Our team won - score 10-1. At night Huck O'Neill and party put on a concert for the men, and each man had a treat supplied by the Officers. It was sweetened tea, after the show. We had hoped to procure a package of May Blossom cigarettes for each man but there are now no cigarettes in camp - we say the horse barn is empty. Meals are very meagre now and prices are very high, and very little can be purchased. This morning we had rice porridge and tea; for lunch, rice, tea, and curried vegetable stew. Tonight we have rice, tea, and beans flavored with Bully Beef.

Services as usual today. Davies and myself with Communion. Strong at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 7.45pm. The news is very vague these days, but apparently Churchill is hopeful of ending the war this year. Let's hope so as the world must be sick of it by this time.

Monday, July 3. Grayson's birthday. Just off quinine, and report tomorrow for blood test. Hope the bug is dead. I am having a duck's egg for lunch today. Bought it yesterday for Y3.50. I know Grayson will fare better. I hope he is given something as from me. Wonder if he and Florence are working during holiday. Will send hi a card this week.

Monday, July 10. Rumours current today about twenty thousand Germans surrendering at Cherbourg. Roosevelt's new ultimatum to Japan, and bombing of Japanese meteorological station at Sprattley Group - near Indochina. Yesterday spent as usual. Barnett and Strong had early communion. Davies at 1100hrs on Philemon, and myself at 7.45pm, on "Life's Troas' experience" - Acts 16:8. This morning I was thanked for the service, by Mr. Jones on behalf of others. Sacramental service at close of evening service with twenty-one present.

Monday, July 17. Nothing unusual happened during the past week. Our Sunday services were conducted as usual with Strong, and myself holding early Communion services. Barnett preaching at 1100hrs on "Ye are the salt of the earth", and Strong at 7.45pm on "Inasmuch a ye did it".

Today a lot of excitement has been caused by reported escapes from the officers' camp adjoining ours, and we have spent much time on the parade square, for recount. It was very tiresome in the heat.

Tuesday, July 18. On the square again today for recount and a later call for inspection by a party representing the General of this area. We - the officers - were at extreme end of parade while the party came and inspected from the other end, while we did some P.T. exercises. I later learned that sixteen were in the party.

Food is horrible these days. Rice and tea in the morning, rice and vegetables - mostly potato tops and a bit of vegetable marrow - for lunch, and something similar for supper. The fish ration is very small, and generally little sprats stewed, but sometimes fried in peanut oil. The issue is very meagre. A bread issue is ours on Tuesday and Saturday - about 6oz each time. It is surprising how we carry on and keep fairly well, under such conditions. Some play volley ball, others bowls, and some work gardens, while others just read and do ordinary camp fatigues.

Had a letter from Mom today under date of April 28, 43. Note Florence's cooking and Grayson's work around lawn. Glad they are keeping well and that Grayson has a keen sense of humour. Note especially Stan's interest and attention. Good old Stan!

Prices in canteen are advancing - Soap ^3.60, small tin tomatoes Y.3.80, Soya milk powder Y11.75, cigarettes Sen 50, matches Y1.10, sugar Y10. All the orders must be small because of shortages.

Sunday, July 23. On Thursday, 20th, there was a partial eclipse of the Sun for approximately three hours - 1355-1655hrs.

We were weighed again during the week. I now weigh 130 lbs.

Services today as usual. Strong and Barnett, for Communion services, myself preaching at 1100hrs on "Faith in time of war", and Davies at 7.30pm. Holy Communion at close.

Basketball is in vogue now and teams are keen, even on the present diet. Letters in camp today for some officers and men.

July 26. Sgt Major Rose of H.K.V.D.C., whose wife died at Stanley recently, has been notified that his two children, Dawn and Gerald are to be repatriated to Canada, if homes can be provided for them. Naturally, when Barnett and I heard of it, we each offered our homes to them, and today I have written the following card to their guardian at Stanley.

Miss Gladys MacNider,
Block 3, Room 17,
Military Internment Camp Stanley.

This card assures hearty welcome to Dawn and Gerald, from my family at 3677 West 19th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. This leaves me well and in good spirits. Know you will be happy together. Best wishes for you and fondest love to my family. Sincerely,
U. Laite.

Sunday, July 30. During the week the officers moved into other huts. There are now 27 in ours. This gives us each a bit more room. Two or three are still in hospital and fourteen are in the adjoining hut. Today services were conducted by Davies and myself at Communion. Strong conducted the 1100hrs service, and because Barnett was ill, I took the evening service for him and spoke on Deut: 33:27, followed by Sacramental service. We no longer get the Hong Kong News, so are deprived of any news. Of course rumours galore will be heard within a few days. We are all hoping however that this year finds us free, and perhaps on our way home, but we try to possess our souls in patience, and keep fairly well in spite of very poor food.

Wednesday, Aug. 2, 1944. Yesterday afternoon I had a very interesting half hour with Mr. Thomas of Vancouver. He had been in Hong Kong as a consulting engineer, and worked with one of the power companies, when war was declared. His wife is at West Vancouver, and he hopes to return to her as soon as the show is over.

Thursday, Aug. 3. Last midnight we were all roused from our slumbers by Ack Ack fire, because our bomber was over dropping bombs near our camp - some say on or near Cosmo docks. The plane was very low, and by the vibrations glass was broken in a nearby hut. Planes were over again at 4am, but it was too cloudy and dark for bombing. All of us heard the midnight visitor, and the siren sounding, but most of us were asleep before the all clear sounded. Are we getting callous or is it just steady nerves?

Sunday, Aug. 6. Great excitement today as the Hong Kong News came to camp, and during the past seventeen days, while we were without it, many things happened. New governments in Thailand, and Japan. Turkey has broken off diplomatic relationship with the Axis. An important meeting of Reich leaders in Berlin, and story of attempt on Hitler's life. Advances by Allied forces on every front indicate that the end of hostilities may be near.

Services as usual today with Davies and Barnett as preachers at 1100hrs and 6.30, respectively. Had long chat with Mr. Thomas of Irvin Drive, West Vancouver. He is ill with Pellagra, and jaundice, and will go to Bowen Rd Hospital next week.

Aug. 10. Chas' birthday. Hope he and family are O.K.

Sunday, Aug. 13. The same old routine during another week. Raids on three nights of the week, keeping some awake. We all feel that the raiders must be after shipping around this coast. Land mines have been dropped about twenty miles from here, according to the Hong Kong News. We also learn from it about the hanging in Germany of seven high ranking army officers. Apparently something is going wrong in that country. Now men are talking of the end of hostilities, and some are even hopeful of being home for Christmas.

Services today: Communion services led by Davies and myself. Barnett at 1100hrs and Strong at 6.30.

Tuesday, Aug. 15. Our wedding anniversary. Twenty years ago we were married. My breakfast that morning at Nin's was a good one. This morning I ate rice porridge and tea. For lunch we are to have pumpkin stew, rice, and tea, and for supper, rice, fish sauce, and tea. My thoughts today are at home. My prayer this morning was one of thankfulness for Sally's love, kindness, patience, courage, and faith, and that the children would follow her way of life. What a devoted mother? I still think of her as the finest and most loveable of wives. I've been humming "Let's grow old together - we shall weather life together, you and I". Flowers for her today from Stan as from me, no doubt will be sent to 19th Avenue. Good old Stan. What a brother. Surely he is the Thousandth Man.

August 18. I have been interested today in one of our men, who recently came out of Dysentery ward. He had a bad case of worms, and to date has the worm record - seventy four worms with an average length of more than 8 inches. He did weigh two hundred pounds, but now his weight is about 140. His height is still 6 ft 1 in. It is a wonder he didn't shrink in length as well. He is doing well now as the treatment received dealt effectively with his enemies. Some of the diet now is fit only for worms. Potato tops, roots of shrubs, improperly cured fish, etc.

Sunday, August 20. This is the 90th day since Jan. 1, with rain, but it does help cool the air, and keep down flies, mosquitoes, etc. Barnett held Communion service after morning muster. I led the 1100hrs service, and spoke on "Road Builders" Isaiah 30:21. Davies led the 1830hrs service and spoke on "There were other little ships" - Intercessory prayer was the theme.

Tuesday, Aug. 22. Great excitement today. We learn that large Red Cross supplies of food, and medicine, from Canada, are coming into camp today. We look forward to receiving them, and feel that our M.O.'s difficulties will be greatly lessened by the arrival and use of their quota. We learn that the parcels contain jam or marmalade, sardines, salmon, cheese, chocolate, sugar, butter, soap, prunes, raisins, tea or coffee, biscuits, Klim, meat, salt, pepper. How we will enjoy first of all our slab of chocolate.

Sunday, Aug. 27. During the past week our men have each received yen25 as well as a parcel - Red Cross - from Canada. The weight is 135oz and great pleasure was ours on opening it and finding most items unharmed after these three years. Only the cheese, in many parcels, was unfit for use. We have had an exceptional surprise as well - two stews of pheasant, and yesterday, roast partridge, and quail or turkey and geese. How our tummies rejoiced, and our spirits bounded. Services today as usual. Early Communions. Strong at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 7.15pm.

Monday, Aug. 28. Had an invitation to Middlesex hut this morning for a piece of cake and a cup of milk - made from some of contents of parcel - with one or two extras. Here is recipe - 2 oz butter, 1/4 lb rice flour, 1/4 lb Klim, 1/4 lb Soya bean milk powder, 2 eggs, 2 oz chocolate, a dessert spoonful sugar, 1/2 lb mixed fruit, salt, yeast. Mix ingredients in the normal manner. Line cake tin with greased paper, and cook in oven - moderate - for 2 1/2 hours. After using this recipe at home write L/Cpl H. Harding, 2 Upper Baker Street, Liverpool, England. He showed a sense of humour when asked for the recipe, by writing the following - 2 tins Dubbin, 1 boot lace, 2 old socks, 1/2 pt red ink, 7 tins Tiger balm. Mix and cook for 19 months.

One of the H.K.V.D.C. men died on Saturday morning, after attempting suicide. It has been a terrific strain for most men, on such food for three years. Some have Pellagra tummies, etc., while the brain can also be affected. Our batman is debugging my bed today. Hope to sleep in comfort tonight.

Thursday, Aug. 31. A.J.'s birthday. Wonder where he and family are, and if Lottie is still living. What a day! What a day today! Two other Red Cross parcels have been given us, making three within a week. It is amusing to watch the members of any hut, or group. One fellow likes crackers and cheese, another eats chocolate, while another wants a cup of milk. Six of us share one tin of Bully, once or maybe twice - a week. Mail came in yesterday and I had a letter from Mom dated Nov. 10/43. The twenty five words meant everything to me. I am glad too that they are using my typewriter, while I am away. The news is so good now that all are hopeful of an early end of hostilities.

Sunday, Sept. 3. We are all enjoying the contents of the Red Cross parcels. Many are making little puddings, or loaves, of salmon, meats, etc. I am planning a pudding of biscuit, chocolate, milk, butter, raisins, and salt. Services as usual today. Strong and Barnett with early Communion services. Davies at 1100hrs and myself at 7.15pm. I spoke on "The Owner's Mark".

Wednesday, Sept. 6. Had my pudding last evening. Yum! Wasn't it good. I enjoyed every morsel of it. My next attempt will be a salmon loaf.

We now learn that Finland has severed relationship with Germany, and accepted the Soviet's terms of peace; that our forces are nearing the German border, and that in the whole global war, our forces are doing well. Our camp band under the direction of Freddie Irving is having a rehearsal in the next (room) so I will rest, read, and listen for awhile. I was delighted with Mom's letter of Nov. 10/43. Now the children are at school again. I know they will do well. I can imagine how they have both grown and developed.

With our Red Cross parcels came a few religious books, as well as about 150 others. For the religious literature some of us are very grateful, as we have had nothing of its kind since our imprisonments. The padres are enjoying the change as it helps us to keep in touch with present day thinking. Many of the other books are scientific, biography, etc., and will be of great benefit to the camp in general. Some mail comes to camp on three or more days each week now.

Thursday, Sept. 7. Delight last evening to receive letter from Stan written Sept. 13/42. I was struck by one sentence in his letter. "I am thankful that we have been able to keep Sally cheerful, and hopeful, whilst she has been waiting for news". I can imagine how much Mom went through during those early months until she felt convinced in her own mind and heart that I was safe. Her faith was tested, but did not waver, of that I am certain, and good old Stan stood by, and with his letters, messages, etc., helped more than he can ever know. The children too, by their sunny personalities, and hopefulness, were an added blessing. Friends of the family made their contribution as well. I was anxious about her for weeks but sometime in February or early March I felt a deep inner peace, and from that day ceased to be over anxious, as I felt that Mom was satisfied in her heart that I was safe. I remember telling Colonel Sutcliffe about my feeling, and peace of mind in this particular. Surely Prayer was heard and answered.

Another letter dated Jan. 7/43, reached me last evening. It was from George Jeffers, Farmville, Virginia, U.S.A. It was a delight to receive it, and to know that he has been in touch with Sally, after so many years. How the years rolled back, and memories that bless came crowding in.

Friday, Sept. 8. Another surprise this afternoon. The kitchen announced Liver for supper. What a treat! For two years we have been starved, and now with our Red Cross parcels, and extra foods, we sometimes wonder if we are in the same camp. Maybe the show will soon be over.

Sunday, Sept. 10. Just wrote Grayson. This, I hope, will be final card from this camp, as news seems so good now, that optimism is running riot, and we are imagining ourselves out of camp and fee within a few weeks. To Grayson I wrote,

"Dear Son; Delighted with letters from Stan and Jeffers. Know you and sister busy at school. Give every attention to studies, and proper care to the loveliest of mothers. Don't let her worry. Keep smiling. Am quite well and hopeful. Regards friends. Love for you all. As ever. Dad".

Davies and myself at Communion services today. Barnett at 1100hrs, and Strong at 1915hrs.

Friday, Sept. 15. Ralph's birthday. What a happy home it was when he came. How his Dad and Mother rejoiced, and what a bonny boy! Now they are "just away" and he is married - maybe with a son - and living in the old home. Best wishes, Old Boy.

S. M. Hume of the H.K.V.D.C. Just came in for a few minutes. He had with him a measuring tape, and so some of us had measurements made and compared with pre-prison days. Here are mine - pre-prison - chest 42, waist 37 inches. Today, chest 36, waist 31. I look forward to borrowing Grayson's clothes on my return home, for my first visit downtown. Or will I buy, and have him borrow mine? Wait and see.

Delighted with letters last evening from Mom and Stan. Mom's dated July 25/42, and Jan. 16/43. Stan's was Jan. 3/43. What a man Stan is. How shall I ever repay him for all his goodness to my family. Am sure that Sally is very happy to have him at Bamfield again. Good old Bugs! I look forward to a deeper friendship, or if comradeship is a stronger word I will use it.

Since our Red Cross parcels arrived I have enjoyed every meal by adding a little something from the parcel of good things. Barnett is surprised that I have chocolate left as he knows what a sweet tooth I have. I have put on weight and am now 143; as against 129 a month ago, and I feel so much better, too. When at my former low there were days when I felt like falling over, but just kept going. Now I feel so much better that I wonder if I ever felt weak, hungry, or ill. All of us have added pounds to our weight lately. We are also on a treatment of capsules or needles of vitamin B, etc., so we will not look so emaciated when the gong sounds.

Sunday, Sept. 17. Communion services by Strong and Barnett. I spoke at 1100hrs on "Standing in the Gap" Ezekiel 22:30. Davies at 7.45pm - topic - "St Matthew".

Wednesday, Sept. 20. 1000 days a prisoner.

Sunday, Sept. 24. Today I conducted Communion. Strong preached at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 7.15pm.