William Bell's Story

The Last Days in Hong Kong

On September 26th, 1942, after 9 months in North Point I, and many other Canadian POW's, were transferred back to Sham Shui Po Camp. One of the interpreters at North Point was a Japanese who we named "Kamloops Kid". He was raised in British Columbia, was well-educated, about 5'6" tall, 170 lbs., dark complexion and clean-shaven. He spoke very good English. This was a viscous man who eventually was convicted of murdering POW's. In the end, he was executed for his war crimes.

I remember on one occasion at Sham Shui Po the Japanese lined up the medical orderlies outside of the medical hut. I was about fifteen feet away when I witnessed one of the Jap officers walk up and down the row of orderlies and slap them in the face. Major Crawford was there on this occasion.

There was one British soldier assigned to the Signal Corps who came to me looking for any batteries we might have because he was attempting to build a radio. I told him we would keep our eyes open for one and would let him know if we found any. It wasn't long after that when I saw the Japanese guards march him away and we never saw him again.

We did have a radio which we hid from the Japanese inside our main hut. There was a garbage can which sat on a concrete slab, and we would move the garbage can in order to lift the concrete slab up. We would hide the radio underneath this slab. The radio was used to glean any information we could get about the war efforts, but unfortunately, it was only usable until the batteries went dead. We never could get any more power for it and, of course, the penalty was death for possessing a radio in any of the POW camps.

There was a Japanese guard at this camp named "Sato". Sato was one of those guards you could manipulate somewhat and use to your advantage. He once mentioned that he had a social outing coming up and that he did not have any good shoes to wear. The camp guards certainly weren't well equipped with the best clothing. He lamented how much he wished he could get some better footwear for this event. I had a good friend in one of the other prisoners who just happened to have a pair of shoes that were in pretty good shape. I borrowed the shoes from my friend and then lent them to "Sato" for that night. The next day he returned the shoes with a big smile and stated how proud he was of the impression he had made at his outing. He then pulled out a full pack of cigarettes and gave them to me (cigarettes were of course like gold in the camps and could be used to barter with).

Shortly after that I developed a severe toothache and was allowed to be taken out of camp to see a dentist. "Sato" happened to be the guard who escorted me to the Dentist office in a building in downtown Tokyo in order to have the tooth repaired. The dentist repaired my tooth and made arrangements to have several other teeth of mine worked on at a later time. The next time I was escorted back to have my teeth worked on we found that the building was completely destroyed. It had been bombed along with many other areas of Tokyo by the American bombers of the Doolittle squad.

Many of the men used their ingenuity in order to survive the camps we were in. One of the things we used to do was take whatever metal wire we could get our hands on and twist them into an electrical element. When we hooked these up to the lighting system we had a nice little hotplate in order to heat our food upon. We did get a little concerned though when the guys were hooking so many of these home-made hotplates to the electrical system the lights used to flicker pretty bad. We were scared the Japanese would catch on to what we were doing.

Jack Stephens, like many of the men, developed a bad case of Diphtheria and was taken to the "Agony Ward" (basically the point of no return for sick prisoners). On numerous occasions I would scrape out the large pots which were used to cook rice in, and gather all the blackened rice I could get. Later, in the dark of night, I would sneak out of my hut, crawl along the bottom of the huts, and make my way to the outside of the Agony Ward. I tried my best to elude the searchlights and Japanese guards. Jack and I had a secret whistle that we would use to signal each other, then I would toss the rice over the ledge so those in the ward could supplement their rations.

I remember many of the men felt that General Maltby tended to cooperate a little too much with the Japanese. I learned that all too well one night when I was making my way in the dark to the Agony Ward. As I was crawling in the dark I came upon General Maltby and several others who saw me and called out, "Who is that, get that man". I threw the rice out of my hands as fast as I could and ran back to my hut without being identified. I vowed that if I could ever be alone with that man some day I would take a round out of him.