Padre Laite's Diary

1944 October to December

Sunday, Oct. 1, 1944. Barnett and Strong leading Communion services, with Davies at 1100hrs, and myself at 7.15pm. I spoke from 2 Timothy 2:12 - "My Deposit".

Meals are very poor these days. For breakfast we had unsweetened bran porridge and tea; for lunch, salt fish Chow Fan - a mixture of very salt sprat and rice, fried together; for supper, bean stew - or soup, a bit sour - rice, and tea. Planes have been overhead for the past week. We wonder if they are looking for shipping.

About thirty men - British and Canadians - came from Bowen Rd Hospital during the week. We sent two Canadians, and about fifteen British, to Bowen Rd for special treatment. Lts Languedoc, and Queen-Hughes went to hospital suffering from fever. Others of us have had fever lately, but escaped hospital. Within a period of 36 hours I swallowed, 4 Dovers powders, 3 10 grain aspirin, and 6 4 grain aspirin. This treatment allayed the fever. Once one has had Malaria it may return on short notice. Letters received today by some officers and men. I did not get one. My turn will come soon.

Had a walk today and a very interesting conversation with Sgt Major Rose, of the H.K.V.D.C. We tramped around the road and talked. Our conversation eventually centred around the services conducted by the padres in camp, and I was very grateful to hear him say that the services have meant a great deal to many men, and that although there have been many setbacks and times of testing for us all, the interest in and for the church services was maintained. Faith in many has been deepened, and they will go out of camp stronger Christians than heretofore.

Monday, Oct. 2. Dull with threatening of rain. Good day for reading indoors. The nights are cooler and better for rest, but the bug season is on, so most beds harbor them. If the Sun shines we take my bed out of doors today. Yesterday while Barnett and I were having lunch we saw six of the pests crawling over our burlap chair and finally killed them. How the folk at home would shudder if such things happened in our home dining room.

Oct. 8, Sunday. Services today - Davies and myself Communion, Barnett at 1100hrs - "Dives and Lazarus", and Strong at 3.45pm. Note the change of hour. No lights for later service. Week evening services as from tomorrow will be at 6.15pm.

Breakfast today was of bran porridge, lunch of fish Chow Fan, and supper - pork and vegetable stew with rice. This was a very tasty meal, but each one could have eaten many extras. A number of the boys who have been in camp hospital for a long time returned to the lines today. Two or three had been there for at least eighteen months. Most of us are still on vitamin tablets for another month at least.

My neck troubles me quite often, and my eyes are much below par. As soon as evening comes I cannot read and even during the day I can only read for short periods, but I am very grateful for being so well in other ways, and feel that as soon as I can have home foods I will soon be as fit as ever. My weight is now 143 lbs, thanks to our Canadian Red Cross parcel, and medical supplies. Tomorrow we are to have an inspection by our Japanese O.C. Camps, and on Tuesday another by some other official from Japanese administration staff.

Oct. 11, Wednesday. With no European news in Hong Kong News for two or three days, Dame Rumour was very busy yesterday. Bets were lodged that Germany is out. The Dame said that German Navy scuttled; no more fighting now between U.S.A. and Japan - all talkie talkie. Internal trouble in Japan: British Atlantic fleet en route to Pacific waters.

No cigarettes in camp, and now men are smoking tea, coffee, etc. The odd package in camp is being taken for prices ranging from Y5 to Y9 for an ordinary 50 sen package. This morning the News arrived and we learn that the war in Germany is still on. We were sorry to read that Wendell Wilkie has died.

Sunday, Oct. 15. This morning Strong and Barnett held Communion services. I led the morning worship at 1100hrs and spoke on Psalm 103:2 "Forget not all His benefits" - Thanksgiving.

This afternoon I visited the Camp Farm and saw pigs, goats, ducks and hens with chicks - some very new baby chicks. It reminded me again of old days, and for an hour I was in fancy taken out of this place of hunger, poverty and illness, into the days when Mom and the children were with me and we were very happy. What a happy home was ours! How I long for the day when with them, Stan, and others, days shall be bright again. Mail came in today - old and new - with some dated early 42 and others early 44, but no mail for me.

The meals are meagre today. For breakfast rice porridge; lunch - green vegetables and rice, and supper - vegetable stew and rice - just greens and rice. Weighed by Japanese doctors yesterday - am now 141 lbs. Nothing unusual happened during past week apart from air plane visits - two - and the harboring of about thirty Jap vessels, including war vessels, merchant, hospital, and oil ships. Formosa given heavy bombing during week - 1100 planes. Wrote card to Mom today. Padre Davies conducts evening worship.

Monday, Oct. 16. At 1540hrs today we had a very heavy air raid. About 28 bombers accompanied by fighters came over - a total of 50 or 60. Some of the lighter planes passed over our camp so low that markings could be easily discerned, and did they spit fire as they flew? A large concentration of ships must have received quite a straffing. Ten men in camp were hit - eight of them were Canadians - but none seriously. We understand that two officers from the camp adjoining, were takne to Bowen Rd Hospital. Pieces of shrapnel or shell came through roofs of huts. One shell burst on the roof of our hut and pieces came through, wounding Mr. Oneill on the elbow. Our only place of shelter is beneath our beds, and canvas, or open spring beds, would not very effectively stop heavy pieces of shell. We do hope that walls don't collapse.

Monday, Oct. 23. Services yesterday - Communions, Davies and myself; 1100hrs Strong, 7.30pm Barnett. Red Cross clothing issue today. I received a U.S.A. woolen blanket.

Wednesday, Oct. 26. Cigarettes have been very scarce and those who had any, found a ready market, at prices ranging from Y4.50 to Y10.00 or more. Last evening we were delightfully surprised to have an issue of four packages at 65 sen each. Today everybody is enjoying a Royal Leaf smoke. It is our only luxury, and as food is poor and scarce, a fag seems to help stave off the hunger pangs. Today the Japanese are putting on pictures, in the adjoining hut, for about one hundred of their soldiers - guards. We hear the music and singing from this hut.

Friday, Oct. 27. Three years ago today I said good-bye to my dear ones at Vancouver. What a change in my condition. Then I was in the best of health, and free. Today I weight forty pounds less. I am always hungry, and hemmed in by barbed wire - a prisoner of war.

Plain rice, vegetable stew, and rice and fish Chow Fan, made up our meals today. Memories crowded n today. Memories that bless. Memories of my early days at home, college days, marriage and happy family life, of friends, and of that special friend in Stan. We all talked of our last days in Canada, and of our longing to return, and feel that soon we may be free.

Sunday, Oct. 29. My Mother's birthday. In thinking of her today I am certain that John's words were meant for her type of mother - "And they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy".

Services today: Communion by Barnett and Strong. Morning worship by Davies, and evening - 3.45pm - myself. Text Ezekiel 2:1.

The Hong Kong News of today tells of Japanese successes at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, yet in spite of their successes, they admit that U.S.A. forces have landed large numbers of troops, supplies, etc. If they have control how can we land forces? For meals today we had - Breakfast, rice and tea; lunch, rice and cabbage stew, and for supper, rice and stewed cabbage - called in China Pok Choy. A very heavy rainstorm came up just at parade time. Everyone was soaked. Many of us came back to our huts, took off wet clothing, put on pyjamas - if we had them - and tumbled into bed at that early our of seven o'clock.

Sunday, Nov. 5. Services today: Communion, Davies and myself. 1100hrs Barnett, and 6.15pm - after muster - Strong.

Rumours are about the camp to the effect that this camp is to be moved to the vicinity of Canton. Others are that Grew, ex-ambassador to Japan, said, in a fireside chat to his nation, that now is the time for Japan to sue for Peace, and that the largest force in the history of U.S.A. is now in Manila Bay. Still another: The premier of Japan, Admiral Kiosha, has stated than an all out effort must be made now as U.S.A. have fifteen planes to Japan's one, etc., etc.

One hundred yen notes in camp for first time on Saturday. Three of our men called to Japanese headquarters about it. One of them was Williamson - our batman. No mail. Meals awful.

Sunday, Nov. 12. Twenty-six years ago we were celebrating the cessation of the World War. We wonder what is really happening in Europe, and the Pacific today. A paper comes to camp, but the news is so garbled that one cannot really accept it as authentic. It is good propaganda.

Services today: Strong and Barnett led Holy Communion services. I led the service - Armistice - at 1100hrs, and spoke on "The language and challenge of the Cross", John 19:20. Davies at 3.45pm.

Visited the chicken farm this afternoon for an hour, as well as saw two litters of little pigs. Learned that two older pigs are to be killed for us at Christmas time. Three hundred pounds of pork won't be much for nine hundred men. Today we had boiled rice for breakfast, rice and pumpkin stew for lunch, and rice, with bean and Taro root stew for supper. We are still very hungry, but look forward to our rice breakfast tomorrow morning, as though it were really something extremely palatable. Oh, for a good old Jigg's meal.

Nov. 16, Thursday. Three years since we arrived at Hong Kong. What changes since then! Then food was plentiful, and everyone keen for any new adventure. Today, as prisoners of war, appetites only are keen here. Food is exceptionally poor, but morale is still fairly high, as we now believe that the last stage of the war has been reached. About forty officers and men returned from Bowen Rd Hospital during the week. Others are expected within a few days. An extra piece of rice bread is given daily to most - or all - employed personnel of the camp. It is not very palatable without butter, jam, etc., but it serves to stay hunger pangs during the night.

New orders are being issued to the effect that all windows - excepting one on either side of hut - are to be closed after midnight. We amused ourselves over this detail by advising the midnight picket officer to be sure and close our window, and, since no one is to sleep with head covered, to be sure and visit our beds, tuck us in, and see that our heads are exposed.

Mail has come to camp today. We hope to get it tomorrow, but expect it to be 1942 mail. However even that will be read with pleasure.

Nov. 19, Sunday. Communion led by Davies and myself. Strong preached at 1100hrs, and Barnett at 3.45pm. Mail yesterday, but many of us received only a card from Canada's Prime Minister. We were hoping for home letters, but must await later distribution. Inoculation yesterday for Dysentery. My neck has been giving trouble of late. I applied Iodine to the exterior and felt some relief. I try as much as possible to avoid aspirin, which is the only other thing available to give any relief.

Sunday, Nov. 26. Barnett and Strong conducted services of Holy Communion. Davies preached at 1100hrs - St. Andrew's Day Sermon. At 3.45pm I led evening vespers, and spoke on "The call of Christ to Peter and us" - Matt. 14:28-29.

For quite a while any fish brought into camp has been such as we did see trodden under foot in the Chinese markets - salted, old, and smelly - rotten. During the week some fresh came in, and it was a treat. It was fried in peanut oil, and although the piece given each man weighed not more than two ounces, it tasted delicious, and we were all delighted at the change, and hope for more. Prices of canteen foods are beyond the limits now.

Sunday, Dec. 3, 1944. Davies and I conducted services of Holy Communion today. Barnett preached at 1100hrs, and Strong at 3.45pm. We are now thinking of Christmas and making plans for our Christmas church services. Looking back over the three years as a prisoner of war I know that that which has kept many of us going on has been that amidst the humdrum life, the monotony has been broken because while in this camp we have lived above it. Paul summed it up when from prison he wrote "Whatsover things are true, etc., think on these things".

I thank God that even here we can dream dreams. One fellow in speaking of this to me, a day or two ago, told of a chap in a T.B. sanitarium, who was being given sympathy by a friend, and his reply was "Don't be sorry for me. I was, and am, an architect, and in this place I have built the most wonderful cities".

Rising above one's difficulties one finds the Peace of God which passeth knowledge.

Sunday, Dec. 10. Had our monthly weighing during the week. Most of us have lost weight, undoubtedly owing to poor food. My weight is down three pounds.

Padre Strong, and Barnett conducted Communion services today. I was in charge of 1100hrs service and spoke of "Victory through difficulties", Romans 5:3-5. Davies at 3.45pm this afternoon - subject - "The Bible".

Had our first hot bath in a year today. Wood was made available by the camp commandant, and for which we are grateful. Mail in camp today. Mine was from Mr. Towler of Tofino, dated Oct. 29/42. I was delighted to receive it.

Monday, Dec. 11. Letter from Stan, dated Oct. 18/42. Good old Stan! How our tongues will wag when again we meet.

Friday, Dec. 17. Orders are being taken for Christmas supplies such as eggs, oranges, bananas, cake, etc. The prices make it impossible to order much. Eggs at 6.50 each, oranges 3.00 each, bananas 19.20 catty, and cake about 40.00 lb. I have ordered 4 oranges.

Red Cross clothing was issued a little while ago. The Japanese sentries are keenly interested in buying much of it, for sale outside we presume. However prices range from Y200 for pullover sweaters to Y750 for Red Cross blankets. I hear today that only seven blankets are left in camp. Mine is one of the seven, and I am trying to hold it for a while longer unless I can get a blanket or two to take its place. The nights are miserably unpleasant, with a damp cold, and as our food is poor there is no hot blood in our veins. We all wear every piece of clothes available but still we are cold.

Prices in the camp canteen are very high now. Syrup is Y60.00, Bean powder Y39.00, salt Y15, small tin tomatoes Y9, ketchup - poor - Y8.75, cigarettes sen65 - cigarettes in the lines Y5 per package.

Sunday, Dec. 17. Services as usual today. Davies and I conducted services of Holy Communion, with Strong, and Barnett, leading the 1100hrs, and 3.45pm services, respectively. At the evening service three Englishmen and three Canadian soldiers were accepted for confirmation.

Wednesday, Dec. 20. Florence's birthday. Mr. Percy Holloway of the D.D.C. whose wife, and daughter, as well as he, have birthdays this week, came in for lunch with Barnett and myself. I had two tins of salmon saved from Red Cross parcel for this day, in order that we could share such a meal, and for another reason: I did not want to feel hungry on her birthday. We had rice, vegetable stew of Pok Choy cabbage, and the salmon. We did enjoy it. For dessert we had an air-raid over Hong Kong, and vicinity, and for a while it was a bit lively around here, with Ack Ack fire, and other fires ascending, while bombs were dropping around Kowloon and Hong Kong areas. It is quiet now and I have been over to the chapel to say a special prayer for Florence, Grayson, and Mom, on this day.

Later I visited the boys in hospital area, and found everyone O.K. but reporting that pieces of shell or bullets penetrated a roof and a door, and one window was broken. I shall prepare a birthday card for Florence, and mail it this afternoon. With it will go a prayer that the words of dedication written for her day of Baptism - March 20, 1927, will be fulfilled in her life. Letter from Stan today, dated Nov. 23/43. Good old Stan, standing by as usual.

Friday, Dec. 22. This morning Col. Walker, Lt Blackwood, and I were chatting about today - three years ago - the day of our surrender at Wan Nai Chong. What a day! With the passing of the years it becomes more vivid to us. Today began with an air raid over Kai Tak area. Presumably they are planning to destroy the airport. The Ack Ack and Pom Poms near our camp were in action, and even the Japanese guards around camp were firing their weapons. It must have been to keep up their courage. They certainly could do nothing more.

The Red Cross representative visited our camp today. Amongst other places in the compound, he visited the canteen, and - I hear - wrote a list of prices. I hope he considered the prices a bit high. The following are listed for sale today;

small tin tomatoes Y9.25,
salt Y21.40,
bean curd Y14.20,
tomato sauce Y9.25,
jam (small) Y16.40,
matches Y2.80,
cig: papers .25,
razor blades Y2.60,
sauce beans Y14.60,
Chinese tobacco Y7.00,
small tin pickles Y12.00,
sugar Y26.45, per pound.

After our assessments for amenities have been paid for on pay day we have about Y50.00 left or about enough for 1 lb sugar and 1 lb salt. Cigarettes are limited to two packages per week at 55sen each, while any fellow with reserves for sale gets Y5.00.

Sunday, Dec. 24. Three air raids today; one immediately after Tiffin, one at 3.45pm, and another at 6pm.

Strong and Barnett held Communion services in the morning. Davies preached at 1100hrs "There was no room for Him in the inn".  I had just begun our service at 3.45 when siren sounded and we had to return to our huts. At 6pm I had just sounded the gong for an evening Communion, and men began to go to our chapel, when the siren again sounded. A few had reached the chapel, and after waiting a while I decided to carry on with the service. Our service was ended before the "all clear" sounded. Thus ended our Christmas Eve.

Meals were poor today. For breakfast, boiled rice and tea; tiffin, curried bran liquid, rice, and tea, with a small piece of cake; for supper, vegetable Chow Fan.

Monday, Christmas Day. Strong led early Communion. Davies conducted Choral Communion at 0920hrs. Barnett at 1100hrs. I lead a Christmas Carol service this evening at 6.30pm. We have learned today that one of the American planes was brought down yesterday; the pilot baled out and - we hope - was picked up.

All thoughts are with home folk today. The distance from here to our respective homes may be long, and the waiting wearisome, but distance does not divide our thoughts and affections today. Lt Harry White and I made a tour of hospitals at 1000hrs, and everywhere hopes are high that soon we shall be at home, and that peace after this time of chaos will be permanent. I know that Grayson and Florence will give Mom all cheer possible today. On my ninety minute picket this morning from 0400-0530hrs, I was thinking of them and planning for my first days at home. All being well, what a time of grateful rejoicing.

A concert is in progress in the adjoining hut, and is held for hospital patients (walking) only. The place is packed.

Our 1100hrs service had just begun when the air-raid siren sounded and so our service was cancelled. Since lunch we have had another, so apparently the Yanks are busy even on this day. This afternoon spent time looking at snapshots of family, and read letters from Stan, Florence, Cis, children, and the best of wives. I know how their thoughts are with me today. Other officers and men are doing similar tings today, I notice. If thoughts of home and prayers for the end, help in ending this war, we should soon be out.

Meals were extra special today. Breakfast consisted of ground rice, ground burnt beans - sweetened - and tea; lunch - rice, potato chips, pork gravy, and coffee; supper - rice, mixed vegetables and pork, one large piece of cake, tea.

At 6.30pm I had just begun our Christmas Carol service when the air raid siren sounded. I did not hear it, fortunately, so just carried on for a while, when Davies went for a light for the piano, and on his return told me about the siren. I did see a large Jap plane come to the airfield, so did not worry. The boys had a good laugh when the all clear sounded, just before closing, and I told them about the first siren, so much earlier. Since then I have been told that many heard the first siren, but just sat, and were glad I did not hear it. They teased me and said it was a case of listening with a deaf ear, or looking with a blind eye. However we had a good service and all are pleased that even amidst the raid we did carry on.

Wednesday, Dec. 27. Sister's birthday. She has been in my thoughts during the day. Barnett celebrated today his Christmas by having eggs, meat, fried vegetables, rice, and tea, at which Douglas, of Navy; Sgt. Pugsley, and I, had with him, a good lunch, in Pugsley's room.

Thursday, Dec. 28. Parade of all camp personnel on the main road, for inspection by some Lt General - some say new governor. We were on parade for about three hours. Attended concert in the afternoon. McKinnon and team put on a very good show. Many of the men have been sick with Diarrhoea, since Christmas dinner. Since we have been a very long time without much fat, it was too much for our sensitive tummies. Three officers are in hospital - Capt Dennison, Lt Strong, and Lt Ross. Capt Pendregast goes tomorrow. Lt Queen-Hughes came out of hospital today.

At Christmas time I bought 4 oranges Y8.00 each, 6 small bananas for Y15.00, and i bottle of wine for Communion at Y55.00. Barnett gave me Y10.00 towards the wine. I had disposed of my Red Cross blanket for some cash, and two other blankets, so had more cash than the other padres, hence the special wine for Christmas and New Year.