Memories Uninvited - Farewell and Home

Farewell to Hong Kong

Before long, probably about the first of September, we were assembled and loaded aboard the Empress of Australia.

I had over-indulged in all the good food that had been provided and became quite ill. It was diagnosed as "jaundice". I was very nauseated and my skin became yellow.

By the time we sailed I had recovered, and arrived in Manila in relatively good health, after a tryingly, slow voyage from Hong Kong.


In Manila we were billeted in tents in an American Army Camp. There I met some old friends who had arrived there from POW camps join Japan, as well as a large number of liberate American POWs. I remember especially Elden MacWhirter, with whom I had joined up in 1940.

I had landed in Heaven again! There was chicken every day, as many candy bars as you wanted, there was beer, there were cigarettes, there were movies, there was music blaring from every lamp post in camp.

There were songs by a new singer, one that we had never heard of, by the name of Frank Sinatra. The Andrews Sisters sang "Drinkin' rum and Coca Cola", Bing Crosby sang, "The Atcheson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe", "Don't fence me in", and the biggest tear-jerker of them all, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas". I cried with joy. When I think of that happy time, tears still come to my eyes.

Our prison camp rags were exchanged for American Army clothes. We were fitted out from head to foot with everything from a razor and toothbrush, to shirts, sox, underwear, boots, hats, jackets, everything!

It was interesting to see the Japanese prisoners in the camp, loosely guarded, and seeming quite content, working around the camp, dressed in American Army fatigues with a big white spot on the back of the shirt and a big"P" on one trouser leg and a big "W" on the other.

I went into town once to see what I could see. The city was a wreck, like all other war-torn cities in World War II. It was so unnerving to my sensitive feelings that I was afraid, and I was glad to return to camp.


Things were so good that I didn't want to leave Manila, but, after five days, transportation was arranged for some of us on a huge American Troop transport called the "Admiral Hugh Rodman".

The food, as usual, was the best, and in copious quantities. At meal time we lined up and received a tray of food, and stood at a long table to eat it.I have no conception of the number of Americans and others returning home, but the ship was crowded.

In the sleeping quarters, bunks two feet wide were stacked five high. I suffered from prickly heat, and got no relief until we got a little further north and the temperature cooled down.

It's strange why some things linger in one's memory. I can still hear, coming over the ship's loudspeaker. "The army garbage detail, report to the fantail!". Something new to me. Ex-POWs were excused all fatigue duties!

After  twenty-three days at sea, we finally sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. Some American fellows in our camp used to say, "Golden Gate in '48". Thank Heaven it didn't take that long!

We were greeted on the dock by a group of ladies from some service organization whose name I don't recall. They were most kind and sympathetic, handing us apples, soft drinks, and words of appreciation.

We saw nothing of San Francisco, because we were bundled immediately onto a train and headed north to God's Country.

We arrived in Seattle in daylight and immediately went aboard a ferry to Victoria. At this point I'll have to tell another little story!

In the prison camp, Bryce Craig used to talk to me about his girlfriend , Irene, and how he longed to see her again. As the ferry approached the  dock in the inner harbour at Victoria,  a large group of people were lined up, watching us come in.

Bryce and I were standing together, leaning over the rail. Suddenly Bryce said, "There's Irene!" Sure enough Irene was there, in her CWAC uniform, waving to us. Women in the army? Something new for us!

Aboard a bus, a group of ladies from some service organization gave us apples and soft drinks. I looked at an apple that one of the girls handed me, and suddenly I was overcome by a rush of emotion. Tears came to my eyes and for the first time since leaving ShamShuiPo, it sank in that it was really over!

Gordon Head Barracks

At Gordon Head we received the same deferential treatment that had been accorded us wherever we stopped. Plenty to eat! By that time most of us had put on a pound a day since liberation, so that on arriving in Canada there was little physical evidence of our years of starvation.

We were fitted out with Canadian uniforms and given a medal bar with four ribbons, the 1939-45 Star, the Pacific Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, and the Victory Medal. However, no Defence of Britain Medal!

At Gordon Head we were interviewed, given a cursory medical examination, and declared fit to travel. I was amused a few years ago, when I received a copy of my documents from Ottawa, to learn that one of the interviewers had scribbled a note to the effect that I would not likely amount to anything. I would like to compare notes with him now!

Five days after arriving in Victoria, we were loaded aboard a special train and sent off east. Someone had painted the words, "Hong Kong Special" on the side of the cars.

After stopping to let ex-POWs off along the way, the Hong Kong Special terminated at Park Extension Station in Montreal.

Newspaper caption: He's Back - Miss Ila Gilker has an enthusiastic hug for her cousin P. Doddridge, who arrived yesterday at Park Avenue Station aboard the "Hong Kong Special". The happy pair are from New Richmond, Que.

(from The Herald, Montreal, Friday, October 17, 1945)


Park Extension Station was crowded with people who came to welcome us. On the platform I immediately spotted two friends who had been in the war in Europe and who had recently arrived back home.

The first night after I arrived, a group of us went to the Diana Grill on the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine streets and raised a rumpus.

What the war had done to us! Here we were, five young men from the New Richmond-Grand Cascapedia area, three who had served in England and Europe, who had seen the terror and devastation of the war on the continent, and the bombing and destruction of cities in England, one who had been in the Merchant Marine, ferrying supplies and men to England, while dodging German torpedoes, and myself, just back from Japanese prison camps.

It has caused me to wonder what may have happened to us five and other thousands of young men and women, if the war had not come along.

For myself, I think that I may not had the inspiration to go back to school and earn something of a formal education. I may not have had the opportunity to lead a full and satisfying life as an educator, instead of pursuing some mundane and dead-end job, a destiny I was otherwise headed for.

So, did the war help me? In that sense it did. In spite of the horrors and deprivation, the endless days of languishing behind barbed wire, the hunger, the disease, the insurmountable hopelessness, the waiting and longing;  the outcome for me was a change of direction in my life and a chance to do something better. For that I am grateful.

Carousing in Montreal while waiting on bureaucracy was enough to make me anxious to see the folks at home, the ones I had left so abruptly just before Christmas in 1940 after my sick leave.

Arnold Ross and I had overstayed our time in Montreal, and thus had missed the free ride home. We somehow got to Quebec City with all our gear.

I had my "liberated" Samurai sword strapped to my belt and what was left of a sixty-carton case of Camel cigarettes, purchased on the Hugh Rodney, slung over my shoulder.

Not knowing that the Quebec Army Headquarters had been moved from the Citadel in Quebec City, we headed up the hill to get a railway pass for the trip home.

By that time it was evening, and not much was stirring at the Citadel. We found an officer, God bless him, who scurried around, telephoned, and searched, and finally got authorization to write passes for us to board the train at Levis at midnight. Arnold offered him a drink from a bottle of rye that he was carrying under his tunic!

Arnold, John St.Onge, and I got off the train in Campbellton the next morning to be met by my father and my brother, and an old friend from boyhood days.

Home at last!

When we arrived at our house, Mother was standing in the doorway, sixty years old, looking pink and healthy. A tearful reunion!. Strangely, I don't remember very much about it.

On reflection, I don't think I exhibited much emotion of any kind. Had I become hard and unfeeling? What had prison camp done to me?

At any rate, I had come home. It was October 16, 1945, four years less four days since I had been home on embarkation leave.

Now what to do? There were parties a-plenty, almost every night, everyone celebrating the end of the war, and each day welcoming late home comers from Europe and elsewhere. The rest of the 1945 autumn passed in a haze.

I had been granted thirty days leave which was scheduled to end about December 20. After being locked up for nearly four years, I treated the idea of returning to barracks just before Christmas as a huge joke.

So, after the New Year, and things had quieted down a bit, I thought that I should return and open the pages of the next chapter of my life.

Lo and behold! What happened when I reached Lauzon, was that I was placed under open arrest and charged with being Absent Without Leave.!

Still thinking it was a joke, I laughingly presented myself to the orderly office to be paraded for my crime. I sat wait in the outer office for my turn behind another miscreant.

I listened to the whole procedure. He had been AWL for seventeen months. The trial  went as follows: "How do you plead?"  "Guilty". "Do you accept my punishment?"  "Yes".  "Seven days CB."

I was dumbfounded! Seven days CB! This man was a DESERTER! He should have been given a stiff prison sentence and a dishonourable discharge!

My turn next. "How do you plead? "How do I plead! I was guilty as charged. So I answered, "Guilty". "Do you accept my punishment?"  "Yes", believing that the little colonel would laugh along with me. "Seven days CB."

Again I was dumbfounded!. Dumbfounded? I was appalled! Four years in a Japanese prison camp and then be handed seven days CB for staying a few days over my leave!

I made no comment, but left the little colonel's presence, went to the barracks gate, hailed a cab, and spent my seven days CB in Quebec City. That was the last I heard of it.