Padre Laite's Diary

1945 April to August

Easter Day, April 1, 1945. During the past week my left eye has been very painful, and the M. O. has been treating it with hot applications and strep drops. It is still aching but much better.

Services today were as follows: Holy Communion - Strong and Barnett; 1100hrs Davies; 6.15pm myself - Lord's Supper at close. Splendid congregations. At 8 o'clock this morning Capt. W. Le Boutillier and fifty men - all Canadians with two exceptions - left for Taifo, hear the border, for a month's work, presumably on gardens.

This morning had sweetened rice for breakfast. For lunch, 1 egg, onions, bacon (Red Cross parcel) with rice, and tea. Tonight we have beans and vegetables with rice. I have a bit of bacon and a few more onions, so should enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 4. During the past three days we have had air raids over this area. On Monday about 60, yesterday 50, and today less than 50. Some bombs dropped within three blocks of our camp. Our huts trembled, tins tumbled off shelves, and Lt Nugent was wounded yesterday, in leg and back, and went to hospital. Today the five padres had lunch together in the chapel during the latter part of the raid. We waited for a while but felt that we should eat, so cooked meat and vegetables, and coffee, and has salas and cake. It was Jim Barnett's birthday party. In Japanese Yen it cost about 700Yen but this meant about 5 decks of Black Cat cigarettes.

Monday, April 9. Yesterday services as usual. Communion services by Barnett and Strong. I spoke at 1100hrs on "Love's optimism", 1 Cor: 13:7. Squires at 6.15pm - "The Dry Bones".

The staff ready to move out to hospital near Argyle St, went today - 4 Doctors and about 35 R.A.M.C. I saw Dr. Anderson and got his wife's Victoria address. We had a long chat, a few days ago, about Victoria and our families. The balance of Canadian personal Red Cross parcels are being given to next of kin today. Some of our men will fare well.

April 14, Saturday. The whole camp has been upset during the past week. Hospital patients left for new hospital - China British School. Old men and cripples also went there. Officers in adjoining camp were shifted to lines formerly occupied by some of our medical staff, and a possible general move is anticipated for the rest of us. In all this activity, the traders still come to our huts, bartering eggs, sugar, onions, etc., for cigarettes and clothes. Black Cats at 220, British Consols about 180, and Sweet Caporal less. Onions sell at 20 Yen per lb, eggs at 14 1/2 Yen each, sugar about 35, and beans at 55. It is amusing to see the Jap sentry coming in to find a certain officer, or man, laying his rifle aside, and acting towards his man as though he were a long lost brother.

We heard last evening that President Roosevelt has just died in the U.S.A. We hope it is not true. If it is, our Hong Kong News will give us particulars about his death, successor, etc.

We have our chapel taken over by officers from adjoining camp. Now we shall likely use the hut next to this one.

This morning Lt D'Avignon gave me an egg and I fried it with bread. For lunch I will fry my extra chow fan, from last night, with a few onions. I toasted some beans this morning, and will grind them this afternoon. We eat the powder over our morning rice.

Planes have been over often this week, and as I write now, they are over, and comments are being passed about what they are after, as well as about the big raids of Jan. 15, 16, 17. We all agree that we do not desire a repetition of those raids.

Our last service was held in our chapel last evening. We opened it on Easter Monday, April 10, 1944, and I held this last service on April 12, 1945. We enjoyed every service and we trust much good was accomplished.

Monday, April 23. St. George's Day. Four years ago today I took the "Swartout" around to Vancouver, and after visiting Major Jackson, donned my uniform. Memories crowd in today. Services as usual yesterday. Barnett at Holy Communion, myself at 1100hrs - "The last breakfast", Davies at 6.15pm.

Rumour has it today that all Canadian officers move from this camp to the officers' adjoining camp, within the next day or so. We shall wait and see. We are interested now in the coming San Francisco conference, and hope that shortly after, the war will end. According to the Hong Kong News, Germany should be out of the fight soon.

Saturday, April 28. During the week it was leaned that a number of officers would transfer from the men's Shamshuipo camp to the officers' camp adjoining. Padre Strong R. N. and I were listed as padres, while Davies and Barnett were kept in the men's camp. Because Davies and Barnett are Church of England, we thought it better if I would remain, so as soon as Barnett knew that he was to remain, he went and saw Major Boon - Liaison Officer - and asked for change. His reply was that the C in C had said that officially there was no church in the camp, as from this week, so there would be no change, although he would make necessary representations. I saw him later and received the same answer, so yesterday about fifty of us - Canadians and Imperials (37 Canadians) - came to this camp. We just put our beds up last evening, and packed in for the night. I had used a semi-spring bed in the other camp, but now own a cast-iron bed, and felt it very uncomfortable, but will get accustomed to it soon.

New rules and regulations - to us - govern this camp. For instance; Meals - 7.30am tea; 8.30 breakfast; 1100 tea; 1230 tiffin; 3pm tea; 4.30 supper, and 7pm tea. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, breakfast - porridge; tiffin - rice and greens; supper - porridge. On Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; breakfast - porridge; tiffin - rice and greens; supper - plain boiled rice.

Already I have met many of the officers who were with us at North Pt Camp in 42, as well as all of our own officers, who had come to this camp nearly a year ago. It is very interesting comparing notes, asking and hearing questions, and answers. I was sorry, in many respects, to leave the other camp, but since this will be a decided change, and in some respects, an improvement, I am content.

The consensus of opinion is that it will not be for many months, as Germany is losing in Europe, and the Yankees are determined to win here. Weights are being checked today, and compared with that of a year ago. Last May I weighed 128 lbs. Today I weigh 138 lbs.

Monday, April 30. Spent a quiet day yesterday. Bennett conducted a Communion service at 9am with Strong assisting. Bennett led the evening worship and spoke on "Mark the perfect man and -".

We are now getting settled and have much more room than in other camp huts. I have been renewing North Pt acquaintances, and making new ones. Each evening after muster, I like to have a walk with some other officer. We do not find the petty things here, and so should be much happier than in the other camp.

Monday, May 7. On May 3rd I was delighted with card from Mom saying that letters had been received, and all are well at home. On the same date heard of Hitler's death in Berlin, and yesterday learned through the Hong Kong News, of the surrender of German armies in all parts of Europe, to the Allies. This means that at last the European war is over. What joy must there be throughout all nations because of this. We had been expecting this for the past weeks. Very few signs of jubilation were evident in our camp, but each man expressed thankfulness and hoped that Japan would soon realise her inability to cope with the situation out here, and ask for terms. We should be able to decide within the next few days whether we shall be prisoners for a few more weeks, or prepare for months longer in incarceration.

Yesterday morning a service of Holy Communion was conducted by Strong. I was to take the evening service, but because of rain and the condition of the hall - floor flooded - we postponed it until this evening. It is raining very hard now but may clear during the day.

We have been experimenting with rice and bean flour cakes - 1 egg, 1 spoonful Doma milk powder, peanut oil, salt and sugar added. Excellent job for this life, but I don't think Florence would like it very much, although Grayson and I would perhaps enjoy it, especially if we were camping out. I am looking forward to spending a few days with him away in the bush, and doing our own cooking. Either this or a good hiking tour. Which would you prefer, son?

Yesterday's service was held in the church - concert hall - this evening. I wore Bennett's gown - the first time since made a captive - I spoke of "More than Conquerors".

Monday, May 14. During the past week I saw Dr. Strong on the 9th, for check up, and on the following day, saw Dr. Evans about my eyes. Since then I have been given injections of nicotine and thymine, with eye baths and eye drops daily. I report again after one week. I am enjoying the change from the other camp, and have met many interesting people. I have been asked to give a lecture on my work on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I will give it in three separate huts, on 23rd, 25th, and 29th.

On Sunday next - Whitsunday - we have arranged for four services. Holy Communion at 7am (Strong). Holy Communion at 8.30am (myself). A Scottish Presbyterian full Communion at 1200hrs (I have been asked to give the address), and evening service at 6.15pm. (Bennett).

Wednesday, May 16. A very interesting detail came to our huts this evening. The C. in C. visited the camp yesterday and was in a very bad mood, hence the interesting detail following: -

"General discussion re Col. T's inspection. While fully retaining their attitude of loyalty to Col. T, the O.C. admitted that he was not in the best of tempers that afternoon, and said that although we had had a battle, it was nothing to what he and the sergeant had gotten after. C.C. stated "We know the war is nearly over but we cannot get H.Q. to agree".

Since coming to this camp most of us have been doing one kind of work or another. Major Templar came and asked if I would work with him and a few others in the shoe repair shop, as a stitcher. I was amused as I had never used a cobbler's tools before, but was willing to try, and so began work by putting a couple of patches on a fellow's shoes. It was not difficult after a word of instruction. Since then I have mended five other pairs, and am enjoying the two hours work each day.

Tuesday, May 21. On Sunday the 20th (Whitsunday) services as follows: - Holy Communion 7.15am - Strong; 8.15am - myself; 1200hrs I shared with Bennett in Scottish Communion service - I gave the sermon on Psalm 23. Evening service, Church of England with Strong in charge. Bennett gave address on "It filled the house where they were". 120 communicants during the day.

Planes are over each night now, and rumour has it that Kyoushu is being attacked. During the week Major H. Hook was taken to hospital suffering from Spinal Meningitis, and since then, the hospital, hut 8 where he lived, and certain camp areas, have been isolated. The Major has improved. A camp bulletin as to state of his condition is read daily.

Visited Dr. Strachan today for re-check. Still on nicotine and thyamin. Committees have been slated to prepare reports on life with the camp, as well as during fight, for the past years. Deloughrey and I are on the cemetery and chaplains committee.

Monday, May 28. My birthday - Stan's on Friday last, the 25th. Naturally home is very much in my thoughts today, and I can imagine many pleasant things happening if I could have been home for our birthdays. Never mind, Stan, we shall celebrate anyway, whenever I get home. Wrote a card to A.J. today. Hope it reaches Newfoundland.

During the past week I gave two lectures on my work along the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Have been asked to give it in hut 2 tomorrow night.

The isolation ban is lifted today so will be able to visit hospital and hut 8 again. Lord Merthyr just brought in a pair of shoes for repair, so must get busy. Rumours last night about our heaviest raid over Japan. Call of special Japanese cabinet session, and Okinawa finished. News about ninety divisions crack Chinese soldiers, officered by 3000 Americans, near Canton - about 180 miles from there. Himmler suicide while in Allies' hands.

Concert held on Saturday night. We had great fun dramatising high lights in world news. Geo Porteous took part of Eisenhower, and I that of Donetz. We were all dressed up for the occasion. I wore Admiral's uniform.

Monday, June 4. Services as usual yesterday. 7am Holy Communion, Bennett (69 present). I led evening worship at 6pm and spoke on "Standing in the Gap", Ezekiel 22:30.

Distribution of white sugar (6 oz), oil (11 oz), Soya sauce (8 oz), - month's issue. We tomatoes every day (8 oz), from the prison camp garden, and learn that enough will be forthcoming until the end of June. They surely make a difference to at least one meal a day. Blackwood and I serve meals this week. Cigarettes cost Yen 14 for ten, so few are being smoked now.

I am still getting nicotine and thyamin for my eyes. Had a field test last Thursday. My left eye is useless now, and my right one is very poor. I have difficulty in reading notes after writing them. Perhaps good food and special treatment will restore them.

Major Hook is still very sick and had a poor day today. Dr. Strachan told me that he now has Malaria as an additional illness. Slapping has been the general rule in the camp of late, due to disobeying (?) of orders, etc. Have given my lecture again, and have had many men speak to me of it since.

Thursday, June 7. Found a ten inch worm in my stool on Tuesday so am to go to hospital today for treatment. Will be there - I hope - until tomorrow evening. I am being starved today. While the meals aren't very palatable, still I feel hungry now. Breakfast - porridge; tiffin - rice and greens; supper - plain rice (6oz each meal).

Friday, June 15. Left hospital on Friday last, but came in again on Sunday with Malaria Fever. For the first four days I was very sick, but am much better now. Rapid pulse, and a slight temperature is all I feel now, but this is from the treatment, which I trust will be effective. Major Hugh Williams (H.K.V.D.C.) and I mess together. He is a real fellow, and I am glad his name is Williams. He fusses over me as over a long lost brother. We are able to send a casserole (tin can) to the kitchen, for steaming. I just prepared a broth of a few beans, tomatoes, from cap garden, onions (40 Yen per lb), a spoonful of soya bean sauce, and a very small drop of oil. I will have that for supper, with rice. Breakfast consisted of porridge and salt; lunch, rice and greens.

There are upwards of 40 officers in hospital today. Many of us are suffering from malaria. My next bed patient is Capt. J. Rodriges, a Portuguese. He is very jolly and interesting. My family photograph is on my box table, and has been admired by many. We had a draw last evening for a parcel remnant. I drew a shirt, a razor blade, a pipe, and 4 cigarettes - all from left over Canadian parcels. I hope the exchange the pipe for food or clothing. It is worth 100 Yen, the shirt 150 Yen, razor blade 3 Yen. Around the hospital men are preparing their tins for the steamery.

The weather is warm and our dress is a Fan-du-shi (band between the legs and a string around the waist). Some wear a hanky around the neck, so we are a fine looking bunch. This is also worn by most in camp now. No shirt, and no shoes or stockings. They must be saved for cooler weather. Some are very thin, and all of us display our ribs.

I was fortunate yesterday in drawing for a message of 130 words home.

"Grateful to report that I am still keeping well. Co-operative church services regularly conducted. Varied camp activities appreciated and enjoyed. Your letters and pictures delightful. Hope you are well and taking care of yourselves. Planning for trip East with you. Know children doing well at school and music and sharing pleasures of your new home. Have you been able to finance my pension and insurance, as well as household, school, and other demands? You are always in my prayerful thoughts. Am strengthened by assurance of your love, kindness of your friends, and especially Stanley's constant loyalty and care. Keep smiling and don't worry. Regards to all friends and relatives. Deepest love for the dearest of wives and lovely children".
This message was to Mom.

Friday, June 22. Have been giving a great deal of attention of late about my future. I plan to go down to the sea, have my brothers and John Pennell come from Newfoundland, and Williamson and Colvin, with Chinese cooks, as part crew. Added will be one capable St. John Ambulance man, Mom, and myself. In addition to a sick bay we will always carry sick walking as paying guests. Could easily have twenty. Added to this we carry stores for sale - groceries, provisions, dry goods, boots, rubbers, oilskins, gramophones, radios, typewriters, wines (non-intoxicant), ice cream, chocolate bars, etc., Rep. Insurance Co., and newspapers. Have Florence, if she is finished school, as secretary, otherwise Chinese. Two cadets from Naval College as paying for training. The vessel should cost about 50,000 complete. Furnished free of charge. Goods, collateral, should pay for running expenses. I see it as a long felt need. Uniform for crew, suit like officers of Navy uniform - blue and white with gold cross as collar badge, and crown and anchor on cap - gold band - wide for self, 2 for captain, 1 1/2 mate, 1 boatswain. Crew blue with 3 buttons on cuff as Chief P. O.

Am still in hospital. Have been on awful tablets and have lost appetite. Weight about 130 lbs. Major Harry Hook very very ill.

Plan to change my name to "Hugh Creighton William Laite", because of confusion. Fleet of cars and ambulance attached. Name "Smiling Through". Asking Princess Margaret Rose to be Patron, and for a donation. Wages should be self - $300, Captain - 200, Chief Officer -  200, next - 175, Engineer - 175, Crew - 100, Cooks - 50, Florence - 50, lst oiler - 75.

June 28. I am leaving hospital today and I am feeling very much better, but have lost considerable weight. I am still thinking of my future prospects and ship. My new idea is to consult leading hospital authorities and doctors, as well as business men, government officials, etc., before keel laid. Then cater particularly to convalescent patients recommended by doctors. They will bring certificate of illness. Have a graduate nurse in charge, instead of St. John Ambulance man. One who would be a good dietician. Cruise North on inside waters, and South along West Coast of Vancouver Island. If can accommodate 75 patients per month it will pay. Pre-natal clinics held on board at every port of call. Serve guests the best food procurable. Minimum price to pay should be about $3.00 per day, or $90.00 per month, $50.00 for 2 weeks, $27.50 for week.

July 8. On Sunday last was able to attend services, but unable to conduct one. Strong led the morning Communion, and Bennett the evening worship. During the first six days after leaving hospital suffered excruciating pain in my stomach and bowels, and the doctors had no treatment for it. Lack of medical supplies again, but Ralph Sisson brought me some stomach powders, which, after two days, gave me some relief. Later I was given a dose of Castor Oil which helped, so far the past two days I have been nearly normal, and feel much better. My weight is now about 128 pounds - a long way from 185.

Wednesday last - 3rd - was Grayson's 16th birthday. What a handsome boy he must be by now. I long to see him. I wonder if Mom and Florence gave him something as from me. No news in camp these days, and we are very impatient and restless, wondering how much longer this East war will take. Have a feeling that forces and material are being brought over here for a final assault on Japanese mainland.

July 11. Weighed today. Down to 129 lbs. Have been thinking of home today, and in my mind has been cold chicken, salad rolls, fruit, and ice cream. What a feed! but here we had rice porridge - rice and pumpkin seed - for lunch, greens and rice, and for supper, plain rice. I made a pudding of porridge, rice, a spoonful of bean powder, a small drop of peanut oil, and some salt. We have no tea, except at 7am, but today D'Avignon found some tea, and I boiled a kettle of water, and about six of us enjoyed a cup of brew.

Thinking of fireside chats monthly on new Field at home. Shall read up then on Alaskan Highway, Salmon fishing in B.C., Gold mining in B.C., Red Cross work in B.C. - with the three latter I am familiar - and my own work and experiences. No news these days, and time passes slowly.

July 16. Services on Sunday - Myself at Holy Communion - 61 present. Scottish Communion at 1200hrs - 49 present. In the evening Strong spoke on "Humility".

Fuel shortage in camp and may be reduced to two meals of rice per day. Meals not at all palatable now. Beans 115 Yen per lb, sugar Y145, salt Y25. Had a very interesting walk and talk with Major Hook last night about coming to B.C. and having as hobby - bees and honey. Had another chat with Lt Com. Stevenson re Channel Islands, and Heraldry.

July 27. We have been served a few (3) small fish during the week. today we get some pork gravy with our noon day greens. Morning and evening meals are the same for the next few days - porridge of rice, bran, and beans.

Services on Sunday as usual - my free day - Strong at Holy Communion, and Bennett at evensong.

Had a very interesting hour on Sunday evening with Lord Merthyr, Capt Campbell, and Major Herridge, about Vancouver Island and vicinity. I had a map of the Island with me, which made the hour and chat more interesting. Lt Wood of the H.K.V.R.N.R. has been to see me about his going to Canada. His friend Paul is in Vancouver now. I am making a list of officers whose relatives are around Vancouver and Victoria, and hope to contact them on arrival.

Tom Blackwood and I serve meals this week. We finish today. Everyone talking and dreaming of home. Often a voice is heard in the night - "When do we go home" or "I want to go home". Dreams of home and loved ones. Jamy Gilbert's cat will have kittens soon. Much interest is shown in her, and we see that she feeds.

Have sold two blankets and received 750 Yen for them - poor quality - with it I can purchase 4 lbs of beans or salt fish - salt 25.60 lb, matches Y8, Mesa Y80 per lb, peanuts Y130 per lb, fish Y125, beans Y150 per lb.

Wonder if children are working this summer, and how much cash Mom has saved. Longing to see them all, and take Mom a trip East, maybe by bus across U.S.A.

Monday, July 30. Services as usual yesterday. Holy Communion at 8am (Bennett). I spoke at 6pm on "Pathways to God".

Report has it that we received our last meat on Saturday. We may get fish instead - but what fish! The meat was a great change even though it was only once a week - about 5 or 6 ozs. If the fish is fresh it will be O.K. Meals are the same as in my last note.

Lts Danderdale, Languedoc, Power, and Blane, are now in hospital. The bugs are giving everyone a great deal of trouble at night. They seem to be everywhere. They crawl under night clothes and crawl all over one's body. We catch them and crush them between thumb and finger, or in the garment. They smell to high heaven. Since they bite the fatter ones, many of us are free from bites. They get in every crevice of table, bed, or stool, in the walls on which clothes are hung, and around dish box. They exasperate one almost to distraction.

Wednesday, August 1, 1945. We are all counting on the end of hostilities to be realised this month. It will mean home in September. I have spent all morning in cleaning my bed of bugs. I began with the iron bed and washed it in a strong solution of boiling water and lye. Then I took all the bed clothes outside and spread them on the hot cement block. Later I gave them all a good shaking. There must have been hundreds of them. I am also hanging my shirt, shorts, etc., on the line, so for a night I may be free of the pests. They have never been so plentiful at any time since we came to camp, as now.

Many of us are working on our reports. I hope to finish mine this week.

Wednesday, August 8. Holy Communion service on Sunday morning - 60 present. No evening service because of rain. The service was held last evening in a hut set apart for concerts and services in wet weather. Strong conducted it, and in the name of his church (Church of England) received 8 officers into membership by confirmation. He spoke from Moffatt's translation "Ye are a colony of Heaven".

Weighed today. Still 129 lbs, but feel greatly improved. Have been busy with my report lately, but hope to finish it this week.

August 15. Twenty-one years ago today Sally and I were married. It has been a wonderful road with her as my daily companion. I know that I am in her thoughts today, as she and our lovely children are in mine.

Last evening we had a roll of toilet paper sent in by our hosts for each man - a three months issue. Today we had pork and chicken - puzzle to find the pork and chicken - with our greens and rice.

There are many rumours about Japan's surrender. Let's hope they become realities. However everyone is hopeful and very optimistic, and may who have little iron rations stored away are getting them out and having an extra for dinner or lunch. Prices are high. For instance we get 85 Yen per month, but a tin of syrup would cost us ten months wages, 1 box of matches, 1 week's wage, and a package of smokes about the same, salt 50 Yen per lb.

On Sunday last Strong held Holy Communion at 0800hrs, and Bennett preached in the evening on "They that wait upon the Lord".

I am now working on a comprehensive report for my church, and am finding much help from men representing the different types of Hong Kong life, and already I have articles of merit on yachting, the floating population, newspapers, Hong Kong old and new, and an excellent article on our Thanksgiving service after the fall of Germany. My own report for the O.C. is ready. I have read it to our own O/C who complimented me on it. Capt. R.W.P. came to me last evening and said that on our way back he wants my church office address, as he wants to write them about my work during the fight.

Monday, August 20. On the 16th we received an authentic report about the surrender of Japan, and the destruction caused by the atomic bomb. Since then we had interesting days. It was with interest that we watched our O.C. Lt Col. White hand over the parade to Lt Col. Field at 0800hrs, and with Commander Wornell of the R.N. meet Wada, our C.C., and demand an audience. It was granted, and later we heard the report that Japan had surrendered.

See note about thanksgiving service, hoisting of colors, etc., and services of yesterday with over 100 at Holy Communion alone. Strong led in the morning, Bennett held a Scotch Communion at 1145, and Davies and I conducted evening service, and I held a Communion service at the close. Later a concert was held outside the hall.

Broadcasts were coming in at 7pm, 9pm, and 10pm. News about Japanese delegates reaching Manila, etc. Many of our officers are away to Stanley today, to see relatives. We await their return with interest. I sent word to Nurse Leslie of Queen Mary Hospital staff, enquiring for my little Chinese nurse Ruth Caswell (or Lou). I also sent Yen 100.

Thursday, August 23. News broadcasts daily which we are glad to receive. We learn of the Japanese surrender, occupation of Japanese mainland, etc. Now we hear that a relieving force is headed for Hong Kong. We expect them within the next few days. The local C in C has assured us of European food, but to date we are still getting rice and greens for our meals, and now our stomachs are reacting against such stuff. I suppose it is largely due to our nervous condition. Everyone is keyed up to a very high pitch. If they do not give us good food today at noon, our senior officers are making other arrangements for good food so the situation may be changed with the next few days.

I have been ill with a cold for the past few days, and have been in a good sweat. I am feeling much better today. Rumour has it that we are to be taken to Manila before going home. We do know that we will get proper treatment before going home, as we are now - a bunch of scarecrows.

I still weigh 128 1/2 lbs.