Memories Uninvited - Phil Doddridge's Story

Memories Uninvited

Even though the Battle of Hong Kong was fought more than 60 years ago vivid memories creep uninvited into the minds of many Hong Kong Veterans who fought that bloody battle.  On December 8th., 1941, (December 7th. in Canada), more than 50,000 battle hardened Japanese troops attacked the collection of Regular British Army, Indian Army, barely trained Canadian troops and the HKVDC, basically a group of weekend warriors. The 14,000 defenders had no chance of winning but stunned the Japanese by holding out for 17 days. Here is the most vivid recollection of the Battle of Hong Kong from the perspective of Rifleman Phil Doddridge, "D" Company, Royal Rifles of Canada.

Philip Doddridge was born on April 2, 1922, to Hugh and Emma Doddridge of New Richmond, Quebec. He was just 18 years old when he joined the Royal Rifles of Canada July 29, 1940, weighing in at 120 pounds soaking wet, and standing 5´ 10" tall in his army boots. He and several other young men from the area thought that joining the army was as good a way as any to become gainfully employed and get a taste of adventure at the same time. It was also the patriotic thing to do with the Canadian Army looking for healthy young men who wanted to serve their country.

In Phil's own words...

I wish I could recall all the "bons mots" and salty expressions that come to mind as I lie in bed at three in the morning. I really should get up and go to my desk and set these ideas to print. My lazy habits have followed me into retirement. I guess I won't change now.

I am trying to get a summary of my experiences put together in book form. it has taken a long while because of many interruptions. It seems that each time I get down to work something happens to distract me. So if I get a book completed it will give an account of my army life from enlistment on July 29, 1940 to discharge on January 26, 1946.

I want my readers to understand that I make no claim to literary prowess, if I'm not being too presumptuous in thinking that others besides my wife Edwina, and my daughter, Nancy, will bother to read this. My sole object is to put down in print my recollections of my army career, if readers will permit me to grace my army experience wish such lofty terms. That I want to do before the Grim Reaper comes to collect his due, decides that my four score years allotment is enough, and decides to finish the job I cheated him out of over sixty years ago.

The book is not deathless prose, but my main purpose in writing it is to get down on paper what my life was like during those years. Since my discharge in January, 1946, well, that is another story.

I joined the Army on July, 1940 at  the age of 18. Nothing much was doing in the small village of New Richmond in 1940. The depression had us in a hammerlock as with the rest of the western world.  It was probably worse in New Richmond, a no- industry town in those days. At the age of 18, I had quit school the year before and had drifted rather aimlessly, doing odd jobs and living with my parents.

On a summer evening I was strolling down the main thoroughfare of New Richmond when I saw in the window of one of the two "hotels", a recruiting sign in the window.  I went in, and soon had signed on the dotted line. That was the beginning of my illustrious career as a soldier of the King.

On to Quebec City, then Valcartier, Sussex, Botwood, Gander and St. John's Newfoundland, and finally, in the fall of 1941, off to the Far East.

There were fifty-three of us youngsters from New Richmond, Grand Cascapedia St. Jules, and Maria, who joined the Royal Rifles and went to Hong Kong. My name is Phil Doddridge. I am a retired school teacher and a Hong Kong Veteran. This is the story of my life in the army in 1942.

A Disclaimer, of sorts ....

I wish to make it clear that nothing that follows is fiction. Everything that is contained in this record is true, to the best of my recollection. If I have offended anyone, or if you think that I have defamed your character, please believe that such an intention was furthest from my thoughts. I love all my comrades, and would not seek to do them harm either by word or by deed.

If, perchance, you should read these lines, I beg you, be kind in your criticism. I am not a writer, and this, apart from a few hastily, and sometimes ill-advised letters to the editor, is my first attempt at publishing.

Another point I want to make at the outset: I do not plan to dwell on he inhumanity of our captors or the grievous wrongs that were visited upon us during our stay in the prison camps. That has been done often enough. I do not wish to treat our experiences in a frivolous manner, however. That would be an affront to the memory of all those brave men who left their bones in a foreign land, and those who survived and are still suffering in mind and in body.

No, the attitude that brought me through those trials, I firmly believe, was my ability to search for the bright side of the situation. Sometimes I found it, sometimes I even found humour. That is the theme that I want to follow in the simple lines written here.

The sound of a distant bugle floating through the long grass at Quite Viti, where we were on some sort of manoeuvre, haunts my memory, haunts my dreams. It is a sound I shall never forget. It seemed to signal a farewell to my innocence, for soon thereafter my youth was swept away, replaced by the struggle to survive. For four years all my efforts would be concentrated on the determination to overcome the brutal conditions under which I was forced to spend my youth. It would be four long years until I saw Canada again and returned to a normal life. I cannot understand why I, at 87 years of age, am in such relatively good health, and looking forward to the future when so many of my comrades have gone beyond the veil. I am blessed. How long will it last? That I shall not dwell on.

 to Chapter 1 - Joining the Army