William Bell's Story

After the War

I was officially discharged from the armed forces on April 8th, 1946, at the rank of Lance/Corporal. All said and done, I suffered Malaria while in Jamaica, one gunshot wound to the left hip, and four grenade shrapnel wounds at Jardines Lookout, dry Beriberi, Rheumatoid Arthritis, mouth ulcers, Pellagra, Cheilosis and Stomatitis, A-Vitaminosis (lack of Vitamin A), Dysentery and Malnutrition from the various POW camps I was held in. I have also suffered my entire life from Skin Cancer all over my body as a result of radiation exposure from close proximity to the A Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. The cancer first started showing up shortly after my liberation from POW camp. I also had shrapnel pieces work their way out of my scalp for several years after returning home.

Upon returning home after liberation by the Americans I kept in close contact with my comrades. We had regular meetings, quite often in each others homes, and yearly reunions which were often held at the Carling's Brewery. I was a member of the Hong Kong Veterans Association colour party and also served as a member of the entertainment committee.

I was lucky enough to attend many social gatherings over the years. It was also very special to be able to visit with John Osborn's wife, Margaret on several occasions. I also communicated a great deal with the wife of John Payne after my return home. She even offered me some of John's original drawings which I gratefully declined. I felt that they were better left to her and her family, and I believe they have since been passed on to a more appropriate place.

On May 10th, 1946, I received my payment for military service while I was in the Far East. For 2364 days served I received $945.00 regular pay and $271.00 overseas supplement, for a total of $1216.00. On March 17th, 1949, I received an additional salary payment of Japanese Campaign Pay. I was paid 35 cents per day for 188 days totaling $65.80. Of course I also received an adjustment of pay for my promotion to Lance/Corporal from December 20th, 1941, until my discharge. Looking back now, it certainly wasn't very much monetary reimbursement for almost 4 years of brutality at the hands of the Japanese.

On June 21st, 1951, at the age of 34 I again signed up for military service in the Canadian Army (RCIC) and was assigned to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. I trained in Valcartier, Quebec. Unfortunately, I underestimated the physical and mental trauma which I had endured at the hands of the Japanese, and on August 29th, 1951, I had to leave the permanent forces as unfit. I did continue to serve in the Canadian Army Reserve Force until November 1st, 1953.

In 1966, a Pilgrimage to Japan and Hong Kong was planned. Quite a few of us mustered the courage to go back for the twentieth anniversary trip. The visit back to the Far East included many social receptions as well as visits to various war cemeteries and memorials. We flew to Japan via Honolulu, Hawaii and landed at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The most difficult part of the trip was visiting the grave of my bother, Gordon, at the Yokohama War Cemetery. I knew I would probably never travel again to Japan to see it again.

It was quite a pleasure to have had Sergeant-Major John Osborn's youngest son, Gerald, accompany us on the trip back to the orient. There was even one of my former Japanese prison camp guards at one of the social functions we attended, but I found it impossible to bring myself to approach him. Twenty years later the memories were still too painful.

Our group then traveled to Japan, landing at the Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The most ironic part of the trip was landing at Kai Tak Airport (also known as Hong Kong International Airport), which I had been forced to labour on while being held by the Japanese some twenty years earlier. I must say this was a most bittersweet and sobering return to a land where so much suffering had been endured.

I was not able to fulfill my mother's wish to bring my younger brother Gordon back home safely. Mom never forgave herself for not "Laying a Claim" to her son Gordon (to use her words), upon his return home from Jamaica in order to prevent him from shipping out to Hong Kong. I believe though, that she wanted to keep Gordon and I together to look after each other. I have received many medals for my part in the Battle of Hong Kong, which I am proud to have hanging on my HKVA blazer, but I would gladly trade them any day to have my brother Gordon back!

As a footnote, my son Dennis and his wife Marleen, took a trip to London, Ontario in August, 2005, where they were able to meet Sergeant-Major John Osborn's son, Gerald Osborn, and his wife Lillian. This was the first time he had ever met any of the children of the man who saved my life. If it weren't for the brave actions of Gerald's father, neither of us would be alive today. I was proud to have served and fought alongside the members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada.