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July, 2, Thursday. Our thoughts were very much at home yesterday - Dominion Day. We had arranged a programme of games for the day but rains came, and prevented the completion of it. The weather cleared in the evening and we were favored with a Minstrel Show, by our men. It was very well done, and O'Neil, Mackinnon and others deserve a great deal of credit for it. Even the cooks put on a better meal in the evening, and we had steak, onions, peas, potatoes, and gravy, of meat sandwiches, raspberry tart and cocoa.
The Japanese Commandant - Lt Wadda - had a conference with a few of our leading officers yesterday, to say that negotiations are now in progress between their government and ours, about the possible exchange of prisoners. The time spoken of is within the next three months. We are praying that it may be so. If it does materialize, we will go to Portuguese East Africa, and from there, across the Sound Atlantic to Canada. The whole thing sounds pretty fantastic and almost too good to be even within the realm of possibility, but it may be so, and we continue to hope.
During the morning I located a map in one of the huts and we have been studying the likely route to be taken. I notice that it also contains the signs to be used during this season when typhoons may be experienced. It has been raining all day. Our working party to to return to camp.
2000 hrs, Brown of R.R.C. gave me a gold watch asking me to keep it for him until August 1. He has loaned a fellow some money and was given it as security, but since he has no safe place to keep it while he sleeps, he desires me to keep it for him. I warned him that if I lost it I could not be responsible, but shall do my best to keep it for him.
July 4, Saturday. We had a visit yesterday from the Lt Colonel in charge of prison camps (Lt. Col Tokunaga). He was accompanied by a Red Cross representative, and one of the neutral consuls. During their tour of the camp, the Red Cross man asked about food and medical supplies. In the first matter, he was told there there are days when we nearly starve, and in the latter, the answer was "We have insufficient supplies". This may result in added supplies for dispensary, and kitchen, but I have my doubts.
This morning our O.C. Lt Col Trist, the O.C. R.R.C. Lt Col Price, Capt Cunningham of Brigade, and about a dozen men are being taken down town to broadcast. We were all very sick at heart since yesterday's visit of the authorities of Jap Army, and Red Cross, as our O.C.s were informed that our casualty list has not been sent to Canada yet. My heart nearly broke as I thought of my own family and the hundreds of others living in suspense for nearly seven months. I know that Mom and the children will be as brave as any, but their worry must be awful at times. We pray earnestly that soon they may know at home. Some of us tried to exercise a bit of humor, and since this rumour about repatriation, we voiced the opinion that maybe we would be given the information on paper, to take with us. We would enjoy pushing our doorbell and passing in the information that we have been prisoners of war, and then passing in ourselves.
Sunday, July 5. Grayson's birthday. Dear Son: This morning I spent a long time looking at your photograph, and thought of how you were so grateful to have your bicycle last year. I wonder how you are doing at school, and in the city. I do know that you are doing all you possibly can for your Mom, and are a real little man. I thought of you as a little fellow who used to climb on my knee and say "Daddy sing Sonny boy". I spent much thought about you, Florence, and Mom, and hoped that you spent a very pleasant day. I spent today around our huts, and spoke of this being your birthday. They shared with me a wish that I may see you soon. God bless you, Sonny boy. You mean more to me than you think, and I pray that you will be the splendid man I believe it possible for you to be. I know that Mom, and Florence, will be good to you today. I hope they give you something for Dad's sake. I plan to be a real Dad and pal to you if I ever return.
We had our communion service this morning. Our evening service was very well attended, although it had rained all day, and the skies were still black, and lowering, but it kept fine. Capt Barnett spoke on "Fear God, Love the Brotherhood" and our hymns were - "Rise up O men of God" and "Abide with me", with a solo by Pte Willie. "I vow to thee my country".
I have been reading "Pilgrim's Progress", and will read a little more before bed time. Good night, Sonny Boy, and God bless you, Florence, and the best of mothers. I long to see you all.
July 9, Thursday. During the week rumours about our repatriation have been many. While the idea of repatriation is good, nought may come of it, but still the rumours keep the fellows interested, and give them something to chat abut. This morning, on my way to camp hospital, I went through the Sgts' hut and the question asked was "How long will it take you to pack up, Padre? and how about the 52000 buns we are to have ready? How will they keep? and how long will they last?"
At the hospital similar questions were asked. We have 35 men there now. Most of them are suffering from fevers, or dysentery. Some will have to go to Bowen Rd hospital, but the majority will get better here. The weather has been unsettled during the past few days. Rain showers have been experienced every day, although we were told that this is supposed to be our hot month.
Major E. Hodgkinson has been teaching shorthand, and I have enrolled in his latest class, which began on Monday, 6th. It is interesting, and the study of it will help to pass time.
July 10. Storm signals have been ordered up, and the authorities fear a typhoon. Most of the officers in the R.R.C. section of the hut have everything packed ready for a quick move. The wind is high now and rain squalls are frequent, with a rising temperature. Our huts will not withstand the typhoon, as they are very poorly built. We have already had many surprises, and a typhoon would be just one more so why worry.
Sunday, July 12. The officers were given another opportunity to write letters for today's mail. We learn that for some reasons, unknown to us, this may be our last mail. We think that there must be a shortage of shipping, or shipping lanes are changed, and do not touch neutral country.
I had communion service at 0745 hrs today, as Capt Barnett is laid up with a bad leg. Some infection has set in a recent hurt, and he may be off his feet for a few days. Lt McKechnie went ill early this morning, and has quite a fever now (1200 hrs). He is being sent to Bowen Rd Hospital today. I have been suffering with head colds, and body pains for the past few days. My legs were very tender for a couple of days, but are better now. I hope to escape fever or dysentery.
Our typhoon or storm signals were unnecessary as far as we were concerned. We had just a stiff breeze with rain for a few hours, although the signal No.7 - green over green over white - meaning gale from N.E. was up. Today it is calm and hot with much humidity. We are wearing shorts only.
I finished my letter a few minutes ago and with the letter went a prayer for the best of wives, the loveliest of children, a marvellous sister, good brothers, and a matchless friend and brother in Stan. We get terribly lonely at times but our faith helps us to smile and carry on. One of our officers was terribly upset and lonely for the past few days, but we kept with him and he has snapped out of it again, for which I am thankful, as this life within such a small enclosure certainly wears one down unless his faith and will to win are uppermost in his thought. By the good and grace of God I will win through. I have felt from the beginning of the war, and even through the hell of Wan-Nai-Chong, when all seemed lost I had a feeling that I would get through.
Naturally there were moments of doubt as on the night of December 21st when we were being shelled, sniped, grenaded, and mortared, when I thought that while there was still a chance, it was very meagre. I did not have my identification disc on me so put my haversack over my shoulder as it carried my name and contained my shaving kit and family photograph. If we were all killed, parts of our equipment would have been found, on or by us, and in this way I would be identified.
I had to conduct the evening service without Cap Barnett's assistance. There were 225 present. Hymns "Breathe on me" and "Onward Christian soldiers". Lesson - Acts 4: 5-14. "No other Name". At the close of the service the Dutch officer thanked me for the message and complimented me on it as well. To bed at 2230 hrs with my last thoughts being of home.
Thursday, July 16. The weather has been very disagreeable during the week with heavy rains during the nights and showers with squalls during the days. On Tuesday night I caught cold while sleeping with window open, and spent most of yesterday on my bed. Last night Capt Bush gave me two aspirin tablets before I retired, which relieved me somewhat and today I feel much better. No one seems to have any surplus vitality, or reserve energy, and even a slight cold greatly affects us.
The food is not as good as a while ago. I understand that rations are being reduced. This morning we had boiled rice, coffee - unsweetened, with little milk - and one slice of toast - a bit sour. For lunch we had bread (sour) with meat, very little but enough to make two sandwiches. For dinner we will likely have stew, bread, and water.
Sgt Payne made some drawings of our camp, the inside of our hut, and some eating utensils and footwear. I pay him ten pkgs of cigarettes for them. I was unable to study my shorthand yesterday, so will have to spend most of today at it. With our low vitality, owing to lack of proper food. I think of Florence, who once said to me "Dad, if I do not eat, I cannot work, or study". I know now what that means.
The camp hospital is in a deplorable state today
because of last night's heavy rain, and the twenty patients looked
pretty miserable this forenoon when I was there. Some of our boys have
returned from Bowen Rd Hospital and report two rumours.
(1) That the repatriation scheme between Japanese and Canadians will soon become effective.
(2) That a division of Canadians have landed in Egypt as reinforcements.
We also hear that B.B.C. news said that the Swiss visitor to this camp of recent date, reported that we 1600 soldiers here and that all are being properly cared for. If this has reached Canada prior to the casualty list, I can well imagine how many, or all of our loves ones, are wondering if we are numbered with the 1600 or the 400 who are killed or missing. The camp is very quiet now - Brigade order that time from 1400-1500 hrs be a quiet period - and we are reading, writing, or sleeping. Capt Barnett's leg is much better today.
Saturday, July 18. During the past days my cold left me with neuralgic pains in face, neck, and head, and I have been miserable but am feeling better tonight. While our morning and noon meals were meagre our evening meal was much better - steak and potatoes, one slice of bread (sour), a cup of good tea, and a piece of cake, cookies, or pie, would have been like pennies from heaven. It is not much to have to go on for sixteen hours before our next meal, tomorrow at 0900 hrs.
The Hong Kong news tonight reports that 1400 Australians were being moved from one prison camp to another in a Japanese ship which was torpedoed by a submarine. All are reported lost. This we consider to be one of the fortunes, or misfortunes, of war, and if our repatriation is put into effect, we too will be taking our chances with, I trust, added precautions.
The Dutch officer and two of his men are outside my window, talking. They are very interested in some topic, but I cannot understand their language. The officer was admiring my family photograph today and spoke of the good looking children. He said "Every man is not so blest".
Today was cleaning day and until lunch time our batmen were very busy taking beds, cots, and bunks, outside, cleaning the hut and then bringing everything back and arranging the hut as before. A concert is in progress on the square tonight, and I can hear them singing "I wonder who's kissing her now" and "By the old mill stream". In all our songs etc., we think of home as we know our loved ones are thinking of us. God bless them all tonight.
Wednesday, July 22. Rain storms have occurred every day since the beginning of the month, and what downpours. Last night it seemed as though the bottom was out of everything, as it sounded like hail. The whole camp was flooded, as the drainage system is not adequate to cope with such cloudbursts. This afternoon it cleared for a little while and men were around the square, happy to be out in the sunshine but the sky is overcast again and showers are experienced. Word has been sent around camp that the roll call which ordinarily takes place outside, will be held indoors.
Yesterday I was making some notes about the battle at Wan Nai Chong Gap, where I spent all of my time from the night of the invasion of the island on Dec. 18 until the morning of the 22nd, when, because of lack of ammunition our group had to surrender. Lt Blackwood who was the last officer to be wounded, and who did a magnificent job, has submitted his report. He gave it to me for comparison with my notes and in it he writes of me as follows. "At the time of our surrender the padre, Capt Laite, who had been with us from the first day, was marched away at the point of a bayonet in the direction of Wan Chai Gap. That was the last we saw of him". In his comments at the end of the report he continues "The padre, Capt Laite, whom we were fortunate in having with us, was of inestimable value in aiding and comforting the wounded, which office he executed unremittingly, night and day, with no regard for himself". I was glad to read this note and comment and am grateful to the lieutenant for it.
Saturday, July 25. It seems a long time since Christmas Day. We wonder how many more weary months will pass before we experience the joy of freedom, and be on our way home. For the past few days we have had a persistent rumour around the cap to the effect that Canadians would be on their way home by the end of august. Today we hear that it was idle rumour, although given to our men by the Jap guard. The hopes of the men were pretty high for the past few days. How this contradiction affects them remains to be seen.
I had one of my eyes inflamed a bit during the week, and had to have treatment at the M.I. Room, but it is all cleared up again.
Sunday, July 26. Communion service at 0745 hrs - 40 present. For the first Sunday our men were called out as a work party and more than four hundred have gone. This may mean no service this evening as our bandsmen are away with the party. I have spent part of the morning visiting the camp hospital, as well as sick in the huts. Some of them are suffering a great deal from dysentery. One fellow told me that during the past 24 hours he has gone to the toilet every fifteen minutes. The poor chap looks very ill today. I will take him along a few makings for cigarettes this afternoon. I only wish that we could have lots of smokes in the camp as it would help the fellows who have been smokers so long. Some of the older ones have been smoking for fifteen or more years. Today I was given 50 packages of Gold Leaf cigarettes by Capt Bush - proceeds of tobacco sold - to be used in the hospital. He still owes me about 17 packages. Capt Barnett gets the same number for his men. We are hoping that when the S.S. Asama Maru gets here from Portuguese East Africa, she will bring us some mail from home. I wonder how Mom is, and long to hear from her. I do know that she is brave and will carry on hoping and praying that I am still alive. Our letters are gone and may reach Canada soon. Our meals are pretty slim now and we hear that there may be less rations as time passes. This morning we had rice with little milk and sugar, coffee unsweetened, and one slice of toast. For lunch we had tea, two fresh buns with enough jam for half of one, and two wee raisin tarts. In the evening, rice and vegetables, and water, but we are accustomed to pulling in our belts another notch and will carry on until we are free. Rain storm prevented evening worship.
Tuesday, July 28. The morning began with very heavy rain. The working party (200) from our unit was drenched before they left the camp but rain or shine makes no difference now, as the Japs have determined to get the airport completed, and the men must go our every day, 200 or more from either unit. Five officers went our today. I have been asked if I care to go and naturally said I would so I may go on Thursday or Saturday. Last night one of the R.R.C. men sold me a copy of the Hong Kong Telegraph, issued on Nov.16 (day of our arrival). The payment for anything and everything amongst the men, is in cigarettes. I had none left so gave him 10 sen which will buy about six. It was my last bit of cash, but I get some more on pay day. The weather is clearing now, and for the first time since coming to Hong Kong, I saw a rainbow. I thought of the promise made to Noah so long ago, and the thought of the promise to him and to me as well, gives me faith and courage to carry on. I just said good morning to my family's photograph, and only wish that I could see them in person. I can imagine how Stan keeps in touch with them and in this I am comforted.
Wednesday, July 29. Capt Gray (R.C.) just handed me a copy of the P.C.E. Post dated Dec. 26, 41 - the day after our surrender. The heading of the editorial is "Time for calmness". I quote in part "whether or not the Japanese surrender terms prove generous there is reason to presume that they will be fair. In the battle of Hong Kong, both sides have fought fairly and with discrimination. The Japanese have obviously sought to confine their fire to reasonable military objectives, and other buildings damaged - even hospitals - have been mostly in the line of fire... The vanquished have still a dignified part to play: it is to accept defeat with a good spirit, and to be properly appreciative of reasonably humane terms."
A note under the heading "A Bird's eye view" has caught my eye, which makes me think of some of us who have lost 30, 40, or more pounds. "One sailor I know is now so reduced that the battleship tattooed on his chest has become a steam launch". I am reminded of Grayson when I further read what the turkey said to the pudding "See you later". Here is a better thought "Give me a share of you faith but keep your doubts to yourself".
Wednesday, July 29. (1700 hrs). The storm signal No. 9 has been up since noon, as a sudden storm of wind and rain came up. This signal denotes that the storm may increase. Wind is East. Lt Mackechnie has just returned from hospital and looks much better.
August 1, Saturday. The weather is continuing wet. We have had rain showers every day of July. Our food is not so good now. Rice is the staple diet, and while I have at last been able to eat it, many of our men are finding it very difficult. We have been told that there will be no meat or fish in camp for at least another ten days. I visited four huts this morning to heck on sick, and have just returned from the camp hospital where we - the W.G. - have eleven men. The R.R.C. have ten men there as well.
We had our final game in softball league yesterday, played between E Co men of the W.G. and R.G. men of R.R.C. Our men won with a score 9-8. The game was very exciting and all our fellows were keen as mustard to win. There was an accident during the game. One of the R.R.C. men was sitting of the sidelines with others watching the game. The bat slipped from one fellow's hand and hit the spectator on the side of the skull, which necessitated sending him to Bowen Rd Hospital.
I have been reading "The menace of Japan" by T. Conroy, who has spent fourteen years in that country as a professor in one of the universities. He married into one of the aristocratic families. It is a very penetrating and revealing study of the country, its history, its faith, education, habits, customs, and politics. The story of its aggressive annexation policy is worth noting. The book is published by the Mayflower Press, Wm Bros & Co Ltd, England. (1934).
Sunday, Aug. 2. It rained very heavily during the night, and early morning, which prevented us from having our 0745 communion service on the concrete block outside. We plan for one in the workshop at 1030. The sky is overcast, with clouds black and lowering, indicating more rain during the day. It is now 0900 hours. Breakfast will be up in fifteen minutes, which will consist of rice I suppose. Last night we had a bit of scalloped potatoes, and two dessert spoonfuls of tinned beans. Some of us were talking about Johnny Cake and Maple syrup, with beans. At 10 o'clock last night our kitchen staff surprised us with a cup of cocoa, meat sandwich, and a raisin tart.
I have just been handed a copy of Kipling's "If" and must inscribe it in my diary for safekeeping.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Our evening service had to be cancelled because of rain, which came in torrents. Meals have been meagre today. For lunch we had a bread bun with a touch of jam, and for supper, we had a spoonful of scalloped potatoes and one raisin tart. No rations have come to camp today so meals tomorrow will likely be about the same as today.
Some of the men in camp have taken up hobbies of one kind or another. One fellow makes slippers out of bits of leather, felt, etc., and sells them for 12 pkgs of cigarettes. Another makes cribbage, or chess boards. Another makes cigarette cases. Another does inlaid work on cigarette cases, etc. One of our Sgts makes chess boards, etc. I have given him an order for a set of dominoes, with room for a pack of cards, and space for a pencil, and cribbage pegs. On the base of it is a set of Chinese characters, meaning something sacred, as the board for the box came from a Chinese altar. Another has made quite a number of canes for the officers. In this way they keep themselves supplied with cigarettes. One fellow has already made a mess tin, and a soap dish (tin), for me, and now has an order for another tin with cover, to put purchases in. I spend most of my allowance, each month, in this way, in order to meet my present need and at the same time help the other fellow.
Tuesday, Aug. 4. The Jap comprodore came yesterday with some supplies for sale, to the officers' mess. He reports that many lines of groceries are getting short in this city, especially meats and milk. Our order for cigarettes was also short, and this means an added problem in camp, as so many who buy, pay with smokes. This morning our men who have been working at the airport, are being paid. They get 10 sen for each day's work, which will purchase 6 cigarettes. It is surprising how far the men will make them go. Some will get as many as four smokes out of one cigarette, by re-rolling its contents. Some tomato juice (tins) came in yesterday and each officer had to take four in order to pay for them. This morning I used most of my tin (shared it with Capt Cunningham) on my tin of rice, and saved the bit of sugar for my coffee. This with a piece of toast, made a good breakfast. Bun and tea for lunch.
1400 hrs. There are lots of bugs (bed) around and while I write, Porteous our A.S.O. officer, Capts Terry, and Walker are watching ants attack the bugs. Porteous is giving a running commentary on the fight. He just announced that the ant won the fight.
Saturday, Aug. 8. Rfn Brown of R.R.C. had his watch returned on Thursday. I was glad to return it as I was worried for fear of losing it. Nothing out of the ordinary happened during the week. Food is none too plentiful now and our meals are less appetising. Smokes are also scarce. I have received my Domino-Cribbage set, which is considered the best in the camp. Already I have been able to get two orders for similar cases for the sergeant, which pleases him greatly (Sgt. Joe Kitkoski).
I have just been told that, in a draw for an officer to speak over the Japanese radio broadcast, my name was drawn. I am rather pleased and interested, and pray that my family may hear my message. Have just finished reading Charnwood's "Life of Lincoln" and greatly enjoyed it.
Sunday, Aug. 9. A glorious morning. Conducted a communion at 0745 hrs. Forty men attended. We are waiting for breakfast to come up, and wonder what it will be. Officers are resting on their own, or the other fellow's bed. One just commented on the ten months since we left home, and that it seems like ten years. We are talking of what we would like for breakfast. One would be satisfied with good buttered toast, and coffee. Another wants bacon and eggs, and another says "Don't forget the grapefruit". The time will come when we shall be able again to enjoy such a meal. Until then we must keep going and not allow this trying experience to weaken our characters, or sour our life. Out of this experience we hope to emerge with a larger sense of fellowship, and I trust, with malice towards none. I have just finished my script for the broadcast. This may be slightly altered by the Japanese authorities, but I do hope it passes with only a slight, if any change. Each officer is given five minutes on the air.
August 10. Third Canadian Broadcast. Hello Canada! This is Capt U. Laite of the Canadian Chaplain Service, attached to the Winnipeg Grenadiers, now prisoners of war in Hong Kong. We deeply appreciate this opportunity, afforded us by the Japanese authorities, to speak to our loves ones in the Land of the Maple Leaf. Naturally my first thoughts are with my dear wife and family, in Vancouver, my sisters in Moncton and Montreal, as well as Stanley, in Halifax, and my brothers in Newfoundland. Please don't be over anxious about me, I am keeping well, cheerful, and as optimistic as ever. I am certain that Florence and Grayson are doing well at school and will share the loneliness of the best of mothers, in a commendable manner. You have my fondest love.
Life in our camp is as good as we can expect here under war conditions. While our Japanese authorities are making very effort to solve our food problem, still with our hearty occidental appetites, we would welcome a ship laden with foods, containing all the necessary vitamins. We have an educational scheme by which fifteen subject are being taught to twenty-five classes of Grenadiers. Many of our officers are teaching, and include, Lieutenants Blackwood, Nugent, Park, McCarthy, Moze, and Campbell. Series of lectures on economics are being given by Lt Queen-Hughes, while Lts Corrigan and Black are interested in music circles. In all this work we have the hearty approval of the Japanese authorities. The health of our troops, under the careful supervision of Major Crawford, with capable assistants in Captains Reid, Gray, and Baufill, remains reasonably good. Although we suffer to a greater or lesser degree from the circumstances under which we are living, conditions in general are not as bad as the medical officers expected them to be. If things get no worse than they are at the present time, we shall not have suffered too severe a damage. Our religious work goes on apace. Visits to our camp hospital, and the huts, are made daily by the Canadian chaplains. Capt Barnett, of the Royal Rifles of Canada, and I share in joint communion and preaching services. We are happy in our work and find officers and men responsive.
The Brockville group of Grenadier officers is intact. They send greetings to their friends in that city. Lt McKechnie is considered the humorist of our hut, and helps to keep us in a pleasant mood. Our thoughts are always with you at home, and the time of our release is daily discussed or spoken of. We are eagerly looking forward to replies to our three letters sent from this camp. Repatriation is the big subject under discussion just now, and while doubts are sometimes expressed, we are hoping that it is still within the limits of possibilities. To all friends of the Grenadiers we say "Don't lose heart". We long for the day when we shall be with you in the old home again. Until then, Chins up! and Cheerio! and with my closing word to the dearest of wives and children, all my love and the best of luck.
Tuesday, Aug. 11. Our week evening services had to be discontinued because of working parties etc., but we have begun again, and had our first meeting last evening. We have arranged for Capt Barnett to lead a discussion on St. Mark's gospel, after which I will lead with the gospel by St Luke. Today I have been over three times to see Pte Cake who has been suffering from dysentery. He cannot get his rice or his bun eaten. A few tins of tomato juice came to our canteen so I am using my portion for him. I emptied the contents of the tin in a bottle so that it will keep longer. It should last him 24 hours as he can take just a little at a time. He has lost a great deal of weight and looks very ill. At our own supper table - rice, potatoes, and two small spoonfuls of beans, and a few dates. Lt Dennis becomes ill. He lost all color and his whole body was trembling. He rested on his cot for a while and is feeling much better now (9 p.m.)
Our working party of 100 men was out to the airport, cutting grass today. Major Hook and Mr. Porteous went with them. They report that very ancient tools were given the boys with which to do the work. I fear that many of them will feel tired after having to be in a stooped, or cramped position while working. One of the boys of the R.R.C. died this morning at Bowen Rd Hospital, where he had been taken a day or two ago, suffering from pneumonia. Capt Deloughery went along to conduct the funeral service.
Saturday, August 15. Our wedding anniversary. During the week our M.O.'s have been very anxious about the increased number of men on sick parade. There have been found a couple of cases of infectious diseases in our W.G. ranks, and so today, our camp is divided. The R.R.C. are kept within their own grounds and we within ours. I understand the ban has been placed by the Japanese authorities but may be lifted within a week. Our religious services, educational classes, concerts, etc. are all curtailed now. Meals today are poor. For breakfast we had rice, sugar, hard toast (sour) and coffee made of ground rice. For lunch a bun and more coffee, unsweetened. Supper of potatoes and a tiny fish, with sour bread and water. Today our officers decided to establish a fund for extra food for our very sick men. We are hoping that the numbers will not increase so that the number provided for may really benefit by this fund. Capt Walker was taken to hospital today, suffering from dysentery.
Sunday, Aug. 16. Ban on. No evening service. My thoughts have been a great deal with my family today. I think of Mom as one of God's best gifts to me, and long for another opportunity of proving to her and the children my affectionate devotion. I have today written my story of the war - my part in it - from the day it began until our surrender at Wan Nai Chong Gap, on the morning of December 22. I shall write it into my diary when I have corrected it.
Friday, Aug. 21. There has been great excitement around camp during the past two days. Yesterday morning Sgt Bayne, L/Cpl Herzinski, Pte Ellis and Pte Adams, were reported missing. We immediately knew that they had escaped. Our companies had special roll call, but nothing could be found of them. It was then reported to our O.C. who in turn reported it to the Brigadier. We all hoped that it would be withheld from the Japs for a few more hours in order to give the fellows a better chance to get away. However, the camp commandant was notified and we were all out for a muster parade. A ban which had been placed on the camp for fear of the spread of infectious diseases was immediately lifted and everything was astir. We learn now that the fellows had been planning this for a long time and had maps, money, binoculars, and a compass with them, as well as enough food for about ten days. I know the boys and believe that they have brains and ability, and given a fair chance, should get through the Jap lines and on to Chinese territory. We wish tem luck. Some of the men were later questioned by the camp commandant, and asked why the boys left. He was told frankly but honestly that they felt what many feel. First, that it is the duty of any soldier to plan for and try to escape, and again, that it is better to stop a bullet in an attempt to escape than it is to slowly starve in this camp. The officers are fed a bit better than the men and we are poorly fed but most of the men will certainly show bad signs of malnutrition. Already many of them are showing them. Others must follow. Following are the names and addresses of the four men who escaped.
Sgt John Bayne, 125 Harroppy Ave., St. Vital,
L/Cpl George Berzenski, 457 Macdermott Ave., Winnipeg. (26)
Pte Percy J. Ellis, Wawanesa, Manitoba. (25)
Pte John H. Adams, 609 Balmoral St., Winnipeg. (25)
A few days ago I hit my right leg front and it is now infected so I must use fomentations on it daily. This is really the only treatment for it in camp as we are without any salves, powders, etc. I have just been giving it a good sun bath as it may help to dry up the pus. I have been excused parades for the past two days but hope to exercise it today by playing volleyball. The swelling which was up yesterday had subsided and I hope the leg gets better soon.
I have just finished my notes on my experiences from the declaration of war Dec. 8, 1941 until we surrendered at Wan Nai Chong Gap on Dec. 2, 1941. It may make a bit of interesting reading for someone in years to come.
Sunday, Aug. 23. Barnett leads. I read Psalm 46 and speak on "Facing life with steady eyes".
Sunday, Aug. 30. Barnett was alone in services today because of my leg.
Sunday, Sept. 6. Barnett led the communion service this morning but went ill with fever shortly after. The M.O. wouldn't allow me to stand on my leg long enough for evening service, but before the time for service came a thunder and rainstorm came on and everyone was confined indoors.
Friday, Sept. 7th. During the past two weeks I have been kept indoors suffering from an ulcer on my right leg (front). I am able to get about on it a bit now but cannot be out very long. Added to this I had a terrific headache for a week, with a slight cold added for good measure. I have lost more weight and now am only one hundred and forty-two pounds.
During the past two weeks quite a few changes have taken place because of the escape of our four men. The whole camp has been reorganised and now men are grouped in fives with each party of the group responsible if another party attempts an escape. Three of our N.C.O.'s Sgt MacNaughton, S. M. Logan and S. M. Adams, were taken away to Stanley prison for a few days for questioning in relation to our escaped men. The compradore has been taken from our camp as a punishment, for awhile. We do hope he returns soon as our food problem is becoming acute. To those of us who have been suffering this means a great deal. Nothing seems to be very palatable, even at the best of times. Now we just have to compel ourselves to eat.
Capt Walker has returned from Bowen Rd Hospital and reports that Major Hodgkinson will be away for two months because of his feet condition. Today we have Major Baird of the W.G. and Capt Thompson, P. M. of the Rifles, going to hospital. Other officers are ill today with fever. Some of us got our colds a week ago when a muster roll call was ordered at eleven o'clock (2300 hrs) and we were either standing on the parade square, or sitting (those of us who couldn't stand) by the side of the huts for five hours. The night was showery and many of us got wet. I had my feet soaked.
This is Labor Day in Canada. I do hope that Mom and the children are having a pleasant day. By this time they know where I am and I trust that their minds are content and not over worried.
Sept. 8. Capt Barnett went to Bowen Road Hospital suffering from Enteritis and Dysentery.
Sept. 10, Thursday. On Tuesday the Japanese authorities made another search of all huts in our camp. Nothing of any value was found, but some rubber boots and groundsheets were taken away. I hear that the latter will be returned. The Japanese soldier who searched my section was born at Steveston, Vancouver, B.C.
Sept. 12, Saturday. This morning at 0700 hrs Pte John Spicula Smith of B Co died in our camp hospital of Dysentery. We bury him today at noon. The Japs have sent in five very lovely wreaths for the grave. The funeral was conducted at 1245. The party of fifteen men, besides eight bandsmen with Capt Pendregast in charge. Lt Col Holm, Lt Col Trist, Major Atkinson and Capt Golden also attended. He was given full military honors.
This evening I found one of our boys in D Co Hut suffering from ulcers on his left foot. I have gone twice and applied hot cloths and tomorrow will follow it up with more heat. Many of the boys have awful sores on their bodies - all from malnutrition and lack of vitamins. Our meals are not Canadian and lack the necessary proteins and consequently we suffer.
Sunday, Sept. 13. Capt Golden may go to hospital today. He suffers from Dysentery. Yesterday Capt Price and Lt Smith went there from the Rifles hut. A rumour about repatriation is around camp today. Now we hear that a revised list has been prepared and that the amputation or similar cases are included. It will be a blessing if such cases could go home, although there are many men who are physically worse than some cases - amputation, etc. - that have been kept in hospital since our surrender last December.
I am feeling much better now. My leg is nearly well. My appetite has returned and I eat whatever we can get to eat. I have regained one pound during the past week. I was able to have communion service this morning at 7:45 - 30 present - and plan for an evening service as well. I have had five of our men speak to me about joining the church and will meet them next week for consultation and advice. Capt Barnett is still at hospital and so I will begin a study group tomorrow evening at 8 o'clock. I will begin with St Luke's gospel. It is now 3:30 p.m. I just came from giving the soldier mentioned above another application of hot cloths. His leg has greatly improved.
I am now sitting on one of the bits of grass in the camp. I have my pillow under me though. I think of home. The street car is passing. I wish it could take me to Dunbar to see the best of wives and the dearest of children. There are times when my eyes ache for a sight of them. How glad they would be to see me and what a fuss they would make in order to have me regain my strength. I weight 143 pounds today. This means that I have lost 35 pounds. Other have lost even more.
Evening worship at 2000hrs. Psalm 42.
Friday, Sept. 18. The weather has been better during the week with the nights cooler and better for rest. Men from our camp have been going to Bowen Rd Hospital each day. Two deaths are reported from there. Lt Harper, Lt MacCarthy and Lt Nugent have gone to the hospital too, for special treatment. Rumour has it today that the Royal Scots and Middlesex men - about 2000 men - will be leaving for some part of Japan within the next day or two. Many constructions or interpretations are placed on that rumour. Capt. R. Philip is back from Bowen Rd. His name is on the list for repatriation. Dr. Reid is in bed today, with fever. I began my course of studies on St Luke's gospel, on Monday evening at 8 o'clock, and my group of fellows seem to enjoy it.
Friday, Sept. 26. Nine months have passed since the war in Hong Kong ended. On January 22nd the Grenadiers moved into this camp. We have orders now to be ready to leave tomorrow so we have been busy today packing and making ready. We are to be out on the square for inspection tomorrow morning at 0700hrs. The working party goes out as usual but will be taken to our new camp after the day's work. We do not like the idea of returning to Shamshuipo as the quarters and conditions are not nearly as good as here, but it is no use for us to worry or bother. It just can't be helped and so we smile and carry on.
On Saturday the 19th I was taken with diarrhoea and was just saved from dysentery, for which I am thankful. I was pretty sick for a few days and have lost much strength. I am better now but will not be strong enough to carry my packs tomorrow. My batman has arranged for other fellows to take them for me. Arrangements have been made whereby many of our sick men have been, and are being taken to Bowen Rd hospital instead of Shamshuipo. Most of them will be there for at least three weeks. Many of the English troops are being taken to some place in Japan - presumably for work - and some of us are inclined to think that we too may be left at Shamshuipo for just a short while and then sent outside this area. Our food has been very poor of late. This morning we had rice, bit of sugar with watered milk - very much diluted - plain toast, and rice, coffee without sugar. For lunch two buns with a bit of sausage sandwich.