1/1/41 Eve spent mostly by consuming too much fire water. Consequently, New Years Day spent applying ice to regions most bothered. Invited to Archie Salisbury’s in the evening and a very merry time was had. Officers from T/C’s 30 and 32 present for course and the place looks like an O.T.C. Had met most of these chaps at the arctic session at Petawawa.
15/2/41 Original officers beginning to leave Cornwall for more advanced positions. Within a few weeks only six old-timers left. New fellows ok, but the feeling is not the same. Fred Fortier and I decide to brighten things up. Borrowed Highland outfits and begin to sow a few oats. No serious repercussions. Had two big parties when officers left, both a huge success. Belgian nationals in Canada have started a recruiting tour and our T/C is to be used for their quarters. Officers well liked. Still plenty of work.
23/3/41 Leave for Kingston to undergo brushing up course as powers to be now realize that 30 days not long enough as a training period and it is to be changed to 4 months. Met Swartzen for the first time in months. While there, publication of my appointment to Capt. was made. So Tingley and I had to set up the drinks. Marge is back in Ottawa now and I usually am able to drive there every second weekend. She is staying with Dot and Donnie When returning to T/C from Kingston didn’t arrive until 2 a.m. But Col. Percy Gardner (our supervisor from M.D.3 and a fine chap) happened to be there, so everybody in H.Q. hut was up and consequently we proceeded to wake up all the officers and drinks were on me for extra pip. Conditions again appeared somewhat normal at reveille.
10/4/41 First gathering of lads for 4 months training. As it turned out eventually they are to be kept in the army for Home Defense for the duration. Work always too much for my staff but it is now impossible to carry on. After a struggle, was allotted more equipment and the establishment amended giving me 4 more staff. Huot promoted to Q.M.5 and Murch to Sgt. Both deserving. Two trainees enlisted and are now with me. Alex Wood B.A. and school teacher from PEI and Camille Gay from Ottawa U. Later got two more lads...Dennis Bergeron from Cornwall and Earl Armstrong from Ottawa. Except for me, all staff are R.C.’s and we have some grand arguments and plenty of humour. All good workers and office running smoothly. Received compliments from both Kingston and Ottawa. Sam Wellwood usually inspects (sometimes bringing Ted Beddoe) and a party usually results.
16/4/41 Red Letter Day. Son Edward Rainey Page, 7 lbs 1 oz, born to Capt. Edward Louis and Marjorie Rainey Terry at Ottawa Civic Hospital. He is a swell little fellow. Marge and I (although we may not have realized it) have waited a long time for this happy occasion. I frankly admit I am very proud and I sincerely hope I can make myself the kind of father such a son deserves and love to be the kind of mother I know Marnie will be. Congratulations flowing in and once again the drinks are on the Terry’s.
27.6/41 Appointed as Captain in the R.C.A.P.C. following many heated arguments over status. Due to circumstances it gives me seniority over Swartzen and Tingley. The spring has passed with no unusual occurrences. Work going smoothly and get home to Marnie and Teddy every second weekend.
12/8/41 Summer passing very pleasantly. Still get home every second weekend for a pleasant time. Teddy growing into a great baby, healthy and good. Marge and I quite happy. Occasionally we get in a round of golf on Sunday. On weekends spent in camp it is usually work with the odd bridge game. On two or three Sundays have gotten away for a round of golf. One Sunday with Al Carisse and another at Point Claire, very enjoyable times. Furlough started on this date, Marnie and I drove to Toronto, Dunnville and Brampton. Came back to Ottawa for last week, stopping off in Peterboro to see Swartzen. Lots of rest and golf. We had a good time and I enjoyed this two weeks with Marnie immensely. Saw Teddy considerably for the first time.
12/10/41 Another red letter day. Our wedding anniversary and Teddy’s christening. The Pages all present, Jack Page Jr, to be God-Father. After a hectic trip Irving (my brother) and Ruby arrived from Kansas City. Open house at the Rainey’s. Col. and Mrs. Larose came early and stayed late. Orval Murch brought a little blue blanket as a gift from himself and Romeo Huot. It was greatly appreciated. Romeo not able to come due to illness of wife. I think everybody enjoyed themselves, particularly Marnie and I.. Was certainly glad to see Irving and Ruby again. Took a chance and over-stayed by some 12 hours, after all one only has one tenth anniversary and it isn’t every day you christen your first baby or have a brother drive 1500 miles for a visit when gasoline is difficult to get after 7 p.m. on Sundays. Subsequent events proved I was justified as although I was on draft for England I had no embarkation leave, nor was I to get anymore or was I to go to England.
13/10/41 Left about 4:30 after fond farewells all around. The Pages had left for Toronto about 2 and Irving and Ruby were to leave next morning. No sooner reached camp than a wire was given me stating cash to be handed over on 16th and to report to Ottawa on 17th. Goodbyes were immediately started and I was given several send-off parties. Made a couple of asinine speeches in Sargeants’ and Officers’ messes as I was in no mood to talk. It is peculiar how a year’s association with a new group grows on one and I was to leave Cornwall with a heart throb. Sargeants gave me cigarettes and Officers presented me with an engraved sterling flask. All appreciated, but the gift of an excellent briefcase filled with cigarettes from my staff was the most touching gift of all.
16/10/41 Major Pilley arrived to make handover to Lt. Mathews, intimated new appointment to be something of a surprise. (IT WAS). Sitting around a bottle in Pay Office, adieus were said by a fine bunch of fellows. Left at six, not to return. Party at Lefebvre’s (Fred’s to the initiated and how that word makes me homesick today 2/2/42). At night I was given new stick, shirts, handkerchiefs, flashlight, etc. by carpenters, Salisburys, Blair Munal(Sp?) and Lorna McMillan. Party broke up early as I had to return to pack for early departure.
17/10/41 Goodbye to a fine bunch of pals and Cornwall. Only 5 original officers now left at camp. Reported at Pay H.Q. where the only information I could get was to outfit myself for a sub-tropical climate and to report to Winnipeg as Paymaster of the Winnipeg Grenadiers no later than the 21st. This meant leaving Ottawa on the 19th and no leave. The W.G. Paymaster was made Field Cashier of “Force C” of which we were a part and resulted in my not going to England. After interview, spent afternoon and night with Marnie and Teddy. Didn’t feel so good myself and flatter myself that Marnie was quite unhappy.
18/10/41 Marmie and I drove downtown to shop. First had to arrange transportation and expenses and then buying spree was on. Marnie got me a lovely dressing gown from Devlins. At night a little party at the Avalon was staged. Hammie, Mary Hamilton, Bruce and girl friend, Bill and Hilda Mylek (Sp?) , Marnie and I. A splendid time was had, ending at Hamilton’s flat for eats.
19/10/41 Spent entire day with Marnie and Teddy. It was tough to leave a son not old enough to recognize one as his dad, as well as leaving wife and home. (Was convinced at the time it was not to be forever as I have had enough close shaves to make me think my demise will be of old age). Drove to Marge’s mother’s about 11 and from there to the station. Same bunch as night before plus Dot and Donnie at station Final goodbyes to Marnie on platform. I think she stood the gaff better than I. Left for Winnipeg and points west at midnight.
21/10/41 After two nights and a day on train travelling through rather desolate country, arrived at Winnipeg. Took room at Fort Gary Hotel, brushed up a bit then off to H.Q. M.D. #10 . Met major
Baxandall (Sp?) And from there to W.G.’s quarters in Robinson building on Albert St. Everything and everybody in a flutter. Pay work in fair shape but plenty to do. Capt. Hilliard , P.M. of DD#10 assisting. Met O.C. Lt. Col. Sutcliffe and officially became P.M. of Unit.
24/10/41 Didn’t see much of Winnipeg as busy night and day. Knocked off at 9 pm and joined Roger White and Ken Lyons of H.F.C. for a mild party. It became rather a fiasco and we ended up in my hotel room in time to pack and get to muster parade to be held prior to departure. Surplus cash had been handed over and accounts closed during day and arrangements made for boat payment to be picked up in Vancouver.
25/10/41 Left Winnipeg at one o’clock for Vancouver. Had now learned definitely but unofficially we were enroute to Hong Kong.
26/10/41 Enjoyed trip as it was my first visit to the Canadian West. Actually, terrain very dull until foothills of Rockies appeared. Stopped for an hour in Banff, beautiful spot, appears as a large valley sided by rugged peaks. The Rockies are magnificent, top anything I have ever seen for gigantic splendour. Takes full day and a half to cross by train. Became friendly with a young baby faced last name Charlie French on trip and we played a lot of cribbage. Other fellows a good bunch but haven’t had an opportunity to get to know them.
27/10/41 Arrived Vancouver about two o’clock. Met on docks by Major Barstow (as nasty as ever and made things unpleasant) and drove to bank for cash to make payment on boat to men. Against orders I phoned Eleanor(sister-in-law) from the bank as I didn’t expect to be able to see her. Boarded the converted Australian luxury liner Awatea about 4:30 and completed arrangements with D.P.M. of MD #11. Managed to get to shore again about six. Phoned Eleanor and she, Art, Paul and Audrey picked me up at Vancouver Hotel and drove to their home. Wired a night letter to Marge from there. Glad to see them all, but had to leave early for ship. Weighed anchor about 21:00 hours and we were on our way. Slight mishap to begin trip. A few men kicked up a fuss as quarters were very cramped and evening meal none too good, also comparison to officers quarters left much to be desired. All ironed out and the main lounge was turned over to the men for concerts etc. Capt. Bowman and I shared cabin. We were very comfortable. Bath, shower and plenty of room. Began to get better acquainted with officers of unit, also officers of Royal Rifles of Canada, an English speaking Rgt. from Quebec City forming balance of Force “C” . Should have mentioned sooner, coincidence in Winnipeg. Intended to look up Bill Nugent (Lillian’s brother who is an officer of the Cameron Highlanders). So imagine my pleasure and surprise when I discovered he had been drafted to the W.G.’s the same day as me.
15/11/41 Trip very enjoyable aside from terrific heat and humidity as we get further south. Aside from mutton predominantly at meals we are fed very well. Not much work and recreation plentiful. Played bridge with all and sundry and cribbage with Charlie French. First port of call was Honolulu. A beautiful place but we were not allowed to land. Groups of Islanders in grass skirts and with ukes, put on a show by boat side. Not Bad. In these very blue waters saw flying fish and sharks for the first time. After this visit we had fresh pineapple regularly, an exquisite flavour, so different from that of canned or imported pineapples in Canada.. Was taken through engine room by purser and chief engineer. A massive and well kept mass of huge machinery and tiny delicate instruments. Next call at Manilla, another U./S. Naval base in the Philippines. Pleasant spot but not comparable to Hawaii. No unusual incidents on board ship. Liquor and cigarettes very cheap. Life boat drill every other day. .Boat payment made by halves, $5 each time. Capt. Davies, former P.M. of unit and now my boss as Field Cashier, sick most of trip with colds and pleurisy. In all seriousness, he said time after time he didn’t expect to return from this voyage. Two Canadian Nursing Sisters are aboard but seldom seen by anyone as their time is monopolized by Brigade Brass hats, Brig. Lawson, Col. Hennessy, Major Lynden and Staff Capt. Bush. Had met the latter in Ottawa with Davies and it was he who suggested tropical clothes. Nurses Christie and Waters, the former I believe trained with my sister-in-law Eleanor and knew her husband Dr. Art Buell. Final night on board we were tendered a special dinner by Awatea with a menu card as a souvenir wishing us good luck. My card (since lost or stolen) was autographed by all at our table: Purser Brian Hurley (fate unknown), Lt. Ted Dunderdale (O.K.), Lt. Vic Dennis (O.K.), Lt. Charlie French (killed), Lt. Languedoc(wounded), and myself (wounded). Might add here that my cabin mate Capt. Bowman was also killed. Champagne during the meal then we bunched off for a few private parties then to bed for an early rising in Hong Kong harbour.
16/11/41 Disembarked about 0830 hours. Stood around docks for some time then marched four miles to barracks known as Hankow Barracks in a district known as Shamshuipo. Might better add here that the colony of Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island and about 1500 square miles on the mainland known as The New Territories. On the mainland is the city of Kowloon where the largest docks are situated and is almost 100% populated by Chinese. On the Island is the City of Victoria, residential, government offices and international business section. The total population of the two cities is about 2 million of which only about 20,000 are other than Chinese. This small minority consists of many nationalities. We had been welcomed to harbour by four obsolete airoplanes piloted by excellent airmen. Unfortunately we were later to learn that this was the full strength of the air force. The planes never left the ground during the short but disastrous conflict. Royal Rifles were also quartered in Shamshuipo but in Nanking Barracks. The march up was tiring after so long on board ship, but very interesting. Surprised to find everything so modern, theatres, stores, hotels, apartment houses etc. Reached barracks about 1300 hours and was immediately contacted by R.A.P.C. Officers who had arranged to exchange Canadian $ for HK$ the rate being $3.60 HK for $1 Cdn. Buying power yet to be ascertained. It was soon discovered that there wasn’t enough HK$ available so Capt. Tommy Thompson RAPC and Capt Roslyn Davies and I proceeded to the city to try to obtain a further supply from money changers. The rate was most unfavourable so we called it a day. Davies took a room at the Peninsula Hotel and we stayed there for the evening gathering interesting facts and ideas of Hong Kong from Thompson. Returned to barracks about 1100 to locate a room before all taken. Had a large two section room reserved but it was more like a jail. Concrete walls with bars on the windows, cold and damp. Plumbing very antiquated, none in room and toilet of the outhouse variety. Hong Kong climate said to be cold in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. It is the winter period and about 90 deg F in the sun in the day, but cooling off at night and rain.
30/11/41 A most unusual day for me as I had let myself be talked into a 15 mile hike over mountains with Vic Dennis and a Capt. Holmes of the HKVDC (Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps.)(since reported killed). We had met him at a cocktail party given all Cdn officers by members of the Hong Kong Club. We learned later that the club really came to life that night for the first time in years. In any event, they were most hospitable. We walked through the New Territories over Tamaishan Peak and ended up at Fan Ling Golf Course where we had lunch and a “refresher”. Back to Kowloon by train. Enroute we visited a Buddhist temple, saw numerous rice fields growing on peculiar little terraces due to the mountainous nature of the country. It results in a unique method of irrigation. The to terrace is flooded and dammed. When well soaked, undammed and the water flows to next terrace etc. etc. Walked through numerous little villages, perhaps a dozen families grouped together for economical and cooperative existence. Came to 100 yards of the border with Jap troops, not plainly visible, but massed just across the river. On the whole a most pleasant day but rather arduous for a chap disinclined to walk further than to the nearest Coca Cola. Victoria and Kowloon present a peculiar picture at night as poverty is so prevalent. Many people have no homes or even a hut and these unfortunates sleep by the thousands on side walks. As nearly all second stories overlap the street below, they are afforded some protection. But, many go to sleep never to awaken during the winter as they are poorly clad and can’t withstand the low night temperatures (seldom lower than 50 degF). These people are known as “Street Sleepers” and present quite a social problem. Recently churches and social agencies built a camp large enough to accommodate 1600 of them (only a small minority) at North Point. Despite the fact that many of them are diseased, all of them filthy, 2100 of us are now housed as P.O.W.’s in the buildings they were formerly in. To save face, “batmen” are not used here. Instead, each officer has a chinese “boy” (15 to 50 yrs of age). When first seen by me he said “ You my master”, I said “Oh! What’s your name?” He said “Hehwo”. I said “ Hello, but what’s your name”. He again said “Hehwo” I said “ Please stop the baby talk and tell me your name”. He must have become disgusted with me by then as he thrust his passport at me, imagine my embarrassment to discover his name to be HoWo. He was a good worker and cost me $7.00 Cd. A month. From this sum he had to support himself, a wife and two children. Labour is very cheap but apparently the cost of living is very low. Top price for coolies not over . .50HK$ per day which is about 15 cents Cdn. Beggars from about the age of 5 and up, pester you wherever you go, although there is usually some humour. Their favourite expression is something like “ Cumshaw” which apparently means anything from “please donate” to “tip”. English people have taught them other words but indicated a wrong meaning. Consequently a beggar might say “ Cumshaw, no mudder, no fodder, no food in belly, no whiskey soda, no limousine, cumshaw cumshaw”. Paid the boys on the 29th, staff fair, but don’t compare to former group at T/C/#31 , conditions none too good, same old trouble, can’t get equipment. Rations present quite a problem, Imperial system involving cash transactions. Food poor in comparison to Cdn rations and almost everyone getting fed up with Hong Kong.
7/12/41 Sunday and aside from a little tennis have done nothing from time of landing. Most evenings spent in mess as I have been more fortunate than most in the unit (they spend nearly all of their time studying the lay of the land and manning positions they will have to defend in case of invasion. I’ve been able to get around both Kowloon and Hong Kong in day time while attending to banking, conferences with Brigade HQ, Imperial pay etc. . Have been to the show a couple of times, to a dance given by the Chinese Cdn Club (Chinese born or raised in Canada) and to a couple of night clubs. If invited out by an Imperial officer you usually spend the evening in the lounge at the Hong Kong Hotel sipping gimlets or if doing business with the English army officers it means most of the day for some trivial matter as invariably you must accompany them to tiffin or afternoon tea. Best meal in HK was at the American Club...pumpkin pie almost as good as Marnie’s. Quite a few Americans here, most of them connected with Air Transport. I’ve become quite lonesome. Sure would like to see Marnie and Teddy. The various smells and peculiar flavour of foods are becoming tiresome. Very little fresh food of any kind. Practically all vegetables have to be boiled due to Chinese farmers using human excretia for fertilizer and the prevalence of cholera, dysentery etc. Have yet to see a laundry and cafes are few and far between.
8/12/41 Slept in but was wide awake at 7:30 after having been informed that Japan had declared war on Britain and the U.S. Not completely dressed when the first air raid alarm sounded at about 8 a.m. and within five minutes bombs were dropping too damn close for comfort. This attack was a surprise to all and the Declaration of War a surprise to most. Most white women had been evacuated 18 months before, but some had refused to go and recently a movement had been started to allow others to come back and I understand a few had. This matter became quite a feud amongst rival groups but this attack settled the matter for all time. I think most of us thought our stay in Hong Kong to be a garrison job and surely Cdn Army HQ in Canada thought so or else they were very lax in allowing us to bring thousands of dollars worth of peace time kit and equipment not to mention the fact that a great deal of needed equipment was to follow us by slower ships at a later date. Bordering and just across the parade square from Hankow and Nanking Barracks was the Jubilee Building (formerly married quarters for garrison troops) where some of our men were quartered and where Cdn. Brigade had offices when we first landed. This appeared to be the target for the first air raid together with the one and only airport.. My room was within 100 yards of this building and if I was to say I wasn’t scared stiff it would be a most terrific falsehood. It was my baptism of fire and for noise I’ll choose the 24th of May anytime. There were 25 planes (I counted them when they were almost out of sight going back to their base) and I think about 50 small bombs were dropped in our immediate vicinity. Nearest to my room about 30 feet, but not too dangerous as bombs were of small variety, but shrapnel came into my room through the windows and concussion broke nearly all the glass. George Porteous (YMCA) auxiliary officer with our unit and just returned from England, was in the next room and hollered at me to lie flat on the floor with my tin hat on, which I did. It was a most helpless yet provoking situation. All our troops had taken up positions on the Island, days before. Imperial and Indian troops (Rajputs and Punjabis) were out in New Territories and we were absolutely without defence. Actually, little damage was done (aside from ruining my breakfast by dust, plaster etc. falling into jam and butter...but by noon I was so hungry I ate it anyway), and only two were killed.. At the same time however, other planes demolished the airport, put the air force of 4 planes out of action and sank a clipper ready to leave with our mail. Incidentally, we have had no mail of any kind from Canada although some received cables in response to ones we sent. No word of any kind from Marnie, hope she got my cable and that she and Teddy are ok. Raid couldn’t have lasted for more than 3 or 4 minutes even if they did dive bomb us going and coming. To me it seemed like hours. Almost immediately, orders were received for the balance of the unit to join the main body on the Island. I got the pay documents packed almost immediately but it took the balance of the day for the Quartermaster to get his stores all ready to be moved. Two more air raids during the day but were directed at Stonecutters Island where the Govt. Wireless is located. I left Shamshuipo about 2 pm with the head of QM stores. (Pay Sgt. gone earlier with my staff, trunks and pay books) and reached docks about 2:15 pm. Before I could get the trucks on the vehicular Ferry, airplanes were over again and the Ferry shoved off for mid-harbour. Why I don’t know. Finally the all clear sounded and eventually got over to the Island and to Battalion H.Q. at Wanchai Gap. Met by Major Trist (2 i/c) who showed me to billet at 529 Coombes Road after Bat. stores placed in 530. Arrived here about 5:30 pm and all quiet for the balance of the day. Mess is also at 530 Coombes Rd. And it is fairly well stocked with food etc. Charlie French had arranged for me to be billeted with him so had my stuff moved to 529 where a warm comfortable bed awaited. This was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Harston, an elderly English couple who had lived here for years. They were very kind and most hospitable. Dead tired and to bed at 8 pm not to awaken until 8:30 next morning....3 hours late for stand-to.
15/12/41 Pay Day but have been unable to get remittance rolls ready, however they are well on the way. Too bad I had been ordered to shelve pay books as they would have simplified pay to troops in field. It is the contention of Thompson (PM of Rifles) and myself, that Davies erred in this matter. War so far has been limited to artillery exchanges and dive bombing attacks by the Japanese. This refers to the Island only as hand-to-hand fighting has taken place on the mainland and the Empire troops have been forced to evacuate with heavy casualties to the Royal Scots. Canadians not actually in the scrap but one company on hand suffered one casualty. Despite the proximity of our HQ to heavy gun positions (9.2's and 7.5's) and a large gasoline dump we have been fortunately free from gun fire but the odd bomb drops in our vicinity. Casualties very light, but lack of air support is very disheartening. Brigade HQ has requested troops be paid as soon as possible to bolster morale. It is going to be a most difficult proposition as troops are scattered all over the Island and as some positions are continually being attacked by plane. It may be necessary to pay by night.
17/12/41 Ready to pay, but first had to obtain cash. Artillery barrage has been increased and had to run gauntlet of fire to bank in Victoria. On approaching centre of city, gunfire ceased but terrific damage had been done and we later learned a temporary truce had been arranged as Japs had sent an envoy over to ask for surrender. Got back to HQ without further difficulty only to receive orders that pay books must be circulated. This would hold up pay for 4 or 5 days but we started in on the terrific task of bringing them as up-to-date as possible and posting balances. Gun fire opened up again about 4 p.m. and they are getting our range by accident or design will never be known. French, Porteous and I were now bunking in the basement of 529 along with the Scott Harstons. None too comfortable, but a good safety measure as protection against anything but a direct hit.
18/12/41 Still working on the pay books. Slow job as we are in the basement of 530. Very dark and light fails about once an hour for indefinite periods. Bombing and shelling increasing. Aside from chances of further resistance conditions fairly good. Food plentiful and as prepared by our own cooks is the best since we landed. Old issue of 2 oz. of rum per man per day has apparently gone by the boards as we only received one allotment. However, mess supply still holding out and a hot one after standing-to in the cold morning and before bed (if any) goes very well. Worked until midnight and then left for billet only to find entrance blocked by re-arrangement of boxes etc. due to bomb exploding at rear of house. Tried several other entrances but all blocked and people inside couldn’t hear. As it was pitch dark took a chance on flash light to find servants’ door but this risky as out troops ordered to fire on any light. However, thought my black-out light would be enough protection. Imagine my embarrassment when three shots rang out and felt a slight tug at my ankle. Future research showed a furrow along ankle. Lucky, lucky me. Then and there, decided to spend the night at 530.
19/12/41 Still trying to get pay books in shape for pay but situation becoming more serious. Shelling becoming more intense and the prospect of getting the boys paid before further developments of a beneficial nature are very remote. Many hits in immediate vicinity all day and in the afternoon a direct hit on 526 (a composite part of 528 where I was originally slated to go) killed seven and seriously wounded about ten others who were resting after an all-night session. Helped clear the place out and it was really a mess. Capt. Davies and Col. Hennesey reached HQ that p.m. but left almost immediately. Last I ever saw of them, both killed next day by shell fire. Our lines of communication and transport routes were having a difficult time due to either 5th column Chinese or Japanese who had managed to stay in the colony unnoticed, sniping from various unlikely places in considerable numbers. The Japanese made a landing early this morning under cover of darkness and a natural smoke screen from a burning oil tank. They left the beaten paths and took to the hills. Apparently they are well trained in this type of warfare as they are even equipped with rubber shoes with the great toe cleft from the balance of the shoe. Similar to a mitt. They put up a terrific but legitimate fight and from reports had little difficulty in routing the shore defences. Pay staff worked on the books all day but filled sand bags after dark to throw around our HQ basement dug-out. Most of my time is spent trying to get these damn pay books ready to distribute.
20/12/41 After breakfast decided I would try to remove a few days growth of beard so took over the bathroom on the first floor of 530 from Lt. Col. Sutcliffe who had just shaved. Began to apply lather. A matter of seconds and the old adage of “ a shell heard never hurts” was proven most incorrect because if I hadn’t heard the whistle, this account would not have been written. On hearing the scream of the shell I turned and ducked (not far enough, but still sufficiently to keep my head on my shoulders) away from the window. Terrific flash and a nasty and very forceful bang on the back. Went down on my face and was partially covered in brick, concrete etc. First impression was thankfulness I was still alive and second that I could see. However, I tried to rise and couldn’t. Shouted, and Major Baird and one other officer dragged me to the basement. I managed to walk part of the way. Witnesses now tell me I am very, very lucky and living on borrowed time as the shell exploded on the window sill and the bathroom was greatly damaged.
First aid revealed a gash by my eye and two or three shrapnel wounds on my back. Was rushed to A.D.S. and from there to Queen Mary Hospital. Before leaving HQ had turned over cash box keys to Sgt. McLelland with necessary instructions, smoked a cigarette and sipped a hot rum while stretched on my tummy waiting for the ambulance. A very sore point with me is that I was sent away without my haversack or trench coat which were right in the basement and without any heavier clothes which were in my box stored in the garage at 530 and easily available. However, “c’est la guerre”!! And the shells were still falling. But I now have one ripped battle dress and for a change of dress wear my birthday suit. Fortunately I had all the snapshots taken on the 10th Anniversary with me and two others of Teddy alone and the one I took inside of Marge and Teddy when he was just two or three weeks old. In a pocket of my jacket a snap of Romeo Huot my old batman, also turned up. Besides these I have a picture of the Cornwall Pay Office staff. That great bunch of lads and how I wish I was there. These words are being written on 28/2/42 and these snaps are the only reminder that there is such a place as Canada and home and at this date have had no word of any kind since leaving Canada and none of us know whether the Cdn. Govt. Has been given a casualty list by the Japanese. Spent a very painful day in hospital but treated well although only superficially.
21/12/41 Back has become very sore. Spend most of my day back and forth from ward to xray room and operating theatre. Attended by Chinese surgeon (never did find out his name) who did a good job. One small wound on cheek, two deep gashes on my left shoulder and the small of my back and three other abrasions on my back. Shrapnel removed and holes packed. Have to heal from within as holes are too large to put in stitches. Chinese probationary nurses very kind and attentive and matrons do what they can although very busy as casualties keep pouring into hospital. Have to lie on stomach but an A.N.S. supplied cigarettes and able to enjoy the odd puff. Some of the boys are pretty badly shot up. One lad, on coming to after ether, began to curse in no uncertain terms. Another chap gave him hell for using such language, not knowing that he himself had used expressions as bad or worse the night before. This created an amusing diversion.
22/12/41 Pain easing a little but neck still very stiff and can move head only with help of nurse. In afternoon, moved to 4-bed room used for officers. Lt. Com. Selby (R.N.) already there, shortly Capt. K.S. Robertson (HKVDC) brought in and finally our own Padre, H/Capt. Uriah (Hugh) Laite. He was not wounded, but suffering from shock and exposure. He had been with a group who had to surrender due to lack of ammunition. After a thorough going over he was taken through Jap lines and set free. Very fortunate!! While in Jap custody he had seen the body of Cdn Brigadier Lawson and brought back his identity disc. Our foursome proved to be a good combination but for the present all satisfied to say little and do nothing.
25/12/41 SURRENDER . The first British defeat in the Far East. We received this news about 3 p.m. and although we had all thought it inevitable (unless RAF reinforcements were sent and this improbable) we felt very miserable and it certainly was the finishing touch to a most gloomy Xmas. My son’s first Xmas and I a Japanese prisoner. One bright spot during the day, plum pudding at noon rations in the hospital. Good but very scarce and anything extra really appreciated. It was rather a relief when our big guns and ack-ack on Mt. Davis ceased firing and of course when the Japs stopped bombing this spot, the hospital stopped shaking as they were dropping them within 150 yards. From hearsay and despite the intensity of the attack I believe the Japs fought a humane war and although a few cases of rape and murder have been reported since the surrender we are given to understand that the offenders have been summarily shot. In any event, the crowded native sections were not bombed except where military objectives also appeared. Two hospitals were hit but they were in the neighbourhood of a magazine and an ack-ack. This is most surprising as the Island is so small and so dotted with gun implacements almost any point could be considered fair game. Well it’s over for the first batch of Canadians who have participated in actual combat in this war and by all reports a very stiff fight was put up as almost any Jap will say “ Canadians good fighters”. It certainly is too bad it had to turn out this way as only God knows how long we will have to remain as prisoners of war. Also it now appears that the defence of Hong Kong was little more than a mockery with no chance of success from the outset. The Japanese strength was tremendously under estimated and the Canadian bodies lying out in the hills testify to the futility of bringing “C” Force more as “window dressing” than anything else. Xmas day in hospital finally ends but as blackout still in effect the night is gloomier than the day.
31/12/41 The end of a year that has had some very happy spots but which has ended very miserably. Time spent in Cornwall pleasant, most pleasant to get home from there every second weekend, then of course the birth of Teddy without (and possibly the reverse) the loss of Marnie’s health. This climaxed by 10th Anniversary and Teddy’s christening on the 12th of October. Now a prisoner of war, still in hospital, with future very uncertain although am gradually recovering from wounds. Food very scarce, but what we get is good although rice is 90% of diet. With what chocolate and jam the four of us can buy with the little money we have left, we get by not too badly. Play cribbage with Robertson, read considerably and with all types of persons to talk to time passes fairly quickly in daytime. Nights are uncomfortable as I can’t lie comfortably and so can’t sleep except in fits and starts. Sister Spry looks after us and although old maidish and rather cranky she does well and gets us any extra food possible. A little Chinese nurse has become very friendly with me as it has turned out that she was adopted by a Canadian Minister S.G. Caswell who lives at 53 Hopewell Ave. Ottawa and who I believe is minister at the Church where Marge and I were married and where Teddy was baptised. He probably christened Teddy. Since arrival in hospital have been visited by Major John (Doc) Crawford and pay Sgt McLelland. I told “Mac” to get all the $ and documents to Brigade HQ or Fortress as it is called as quickly as possible. I’m anxious to find out how successful he was. Hospital still blacked out at night as officials are apparently frightened of Chinese looters or bandits who are playing havoc with civilian population and deserted homes. It is said they remove everything from houses including all wood work as firewood is very scarce in China. As “enemy civilians” have all been interned I am afraid I must say goodbye to all my belongings as my trunk was left with Scott Harston at 529 and a big box in the garage at 530 Coombes Rd. These homes were all ransacked and some burned. This means all personal and army things that I own including gifts given when leaving Canada, gown from Marnie and flask from T/C #31, etc. also gone is the Chinese Kimona I was going to send to Marnie as soon as I found something suitable for Teddy. Total value about $600. Cdn, very sickening, but “fortunes of war”. Although I think orders should have been given limiting our wardrobe to “battle kit” when leaving Canada. Speaking of blackouts reminds me of the confusion caused by air raid alarms after the Japanese entered Kowloon. If enemy planes appeared the siren in Victoria would sound “Alert” but almost immediately “All Clear” would sound from the mainland. Finally the Japanese mixed the signals up so much we usually took an “All Clear” to mean run for cover. New Year’s eve without a drink, Marnie please note, and what a dull evening. Lt. Com. Selby has been taken to Naval hospital, his bed being taken by Suerre(sp) Berg, a Swedish shipping merchant and a Pvt. in the HKVDF. Bill Nugent is three floors up with arm and leg wounds coming along nicely.