The Japanese Ceylon Attack
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Oct 1945, p. 42-60
Birchall, Wing Commander Leonard, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A telling of the speaker's experiences in the war. The necessity for some information not to be conveyed, in particular war atrocities and war crimes committed in Japan, due to the fact that the war criminals in Japan have not yet been brought to trial and it would be detrimental to the Allies and their endeavours to bring them to justice for what they have done if the crimes were spoken of in public at this time. The story of the speaker's brief service in Ceylon, and his capture by the Japanese shortly after arriving in Ceylon in 1942. Questioning by the Japanese. Treatment of the speaker and his fellow prisoners: interrogation, food, hygiene, etc. Details of the other prisoners. Transfer to a camp in Yokohama. Malnutrition and skin diseases suffered by the prisoners. How medicine was obtained. Smuggling in oil and peanuts. The Christmas of 1942. The arrival of supplies from the Red Cross. The relationship between food and morale. The speaker's relationship with the Japanese. Transfer to another camp in 1944 and repairing torpedo ships. Seeing a B29 in November of 1944. Problems with sand and fleas. Results of the raids in 1945 over Tokyo. Demolition work after the first raids. A description of the raids and the Japanese people. Transfer to a new area up north, called the Sendai area, up into the mining camps. The bad conditions of the mining camps. The stoppage of the movement of food as the railways were tied up, many of the stations having been knocked out in the raids. Hearing about Hiroshima through the underground. Hearing the war was over. The first planes arriving on August 30th. A story of buying and eating a cow, and then a horse. Assisting Japanese who had been in a train accident with the medical supplies dropped into the camp by the Americans. The morale of the prisoners; what kept them going.
Date of Original
18 Oct 1945
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
Thursday, October 18, 1945
Chairman : The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson

MR. THOMPSON: Gentlemen, it is indeed fitting that this club should be addressed today by one who has played such an important part in the conservation of the Empire.

We are all very proud of our Empire and what it stands for, comprising as it does nearly one-fourth of the land surface of the Globe on which the sun never sets.

On the opposite side of the world from Canada, there is a small but important part of this Empire, the Island of Ceylon, which owing to the resourcefulness of our guest of honour, remains in British hands. As a result of the actions of himself and his squadron, he is known today throughout the Empire as the "Saviour of Ceylon".

Our speaker, who joined the R.C.A.F. in 1937, received his commission in July of that year. In the early part of the war, the squadron he was attached to operated from the Shetland Islands. In 1942, he was transferred to the Pacific War Theatre and whilst in charge of the 413th Squadron, he and his men were responsible for the saving of Ceylon from the Japanese.

During the air operations, he was shot down over the ocean and captured by the Japanese and has been a prisoner in the Tokyo area for the past four years.

Gentlemen, it gives me the greatest of pleasure to introduce to you, Wing Commander Leonard Birchall, D.F.C., who has chosen as the title of his address-"The Japanese Ceylon Attack And Afterwards".

WING COMMANDER LEONARD BIRCHALL: Mr. Chairman, Members of The Empire Club: I would like to thank you very much indeed for this opportunity to come down here to try to give you some idea of the few experiences which I have had and, personally, I would like to tell you what you are in for. This is my first attempt at public speaking, so you are going to have to put up with that.

The other point: I have just returned from Ottawa and I have been informed there by the authorities that all mention of particular war atrocities and war crimes that were committed in Japan will have to remain in the background for the time being. The reason for this is that the war criminals in Japan have not been brought to trial as yet, and it would be detrimental to the Allies and their endeavours to bring them to justice for what they have done if we started mentioning them in particular at this particular time.

So with that in mind I would like to give you some idea of just what actually did happen.

I was transferred to the 413th Squadron which was then based up in Shetland, in December of 1941. We operated all that winter up off Norway, doing patrols and in March of 1942 we were then transferred to the Pacific theatre to operate out of Ceylon. We flew machines out. I was in the second machine to arrive. We went out by Gibraltar, flew to Cairo, to Abukir, near Alexandria, where we had a major overhaul. The other machine with me at that time was delayed at that point to have some repairs and I carried on and went down to Ceylon. Our base at that time was on a little lake, known as Kogona. This lake is in the southwestern corner of Ceylon, near a town named Galle. The lake is very small and not very good for operations, but it was the only one available. We were making the best we could out of poor supplies and everything else that went with it.

We arrived just around noon and I was taken into the operations room where we were briefed, interrogated, and the crew were sent out to the rest house. The next day we went back to the aircraft and started to unload all our supplies. It was at this time I was informed that they suspected the Japanese might be somewhere in the vicinity of Ceylon. If you recall, at that time the Japanese fleet had been in close cooperation with land forces operating around Burma. The fleet had left that particular theatre and they suspected that on the way going back they might stop off and take a shot at Ceylon. Just what their intentions were, I don't know. They were very anxious to continue the patrols.

This machine of mine was second in, and other machines at that particular time out on patrol came back that night. They asked if I would take off first thing in the morning before dawn. We detailed the crew and got ready. The following morning, before dawn, we took off and proceeded on what is known as a crow-over patrol, 300 to 400 miles from Ceylon. It was a wonderful day, nice and clear. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Everything was going along merrily. We had just finished a little snack and were getting ready to go home--this was four o'clock in the afternoon-when somewhere out in the horizon we suddenly saw some specks which appeared as if they were a convoy. We had had no notification of convoys in that area, so we immediately went in that direction to investigate. As we got in the area where the convoy could be identified we ran into the outer air screen of the Japanese fleet. As they attacked us we identified the ships and immediately started out on our first signing point. This had to constitute the position, course and speed, the actual composition of the forces, and also we gave our position.

The normal procedure was that we repeat this three times. We got through twice, and half way through the third time, when an explosive shell came in and knocked the wireless set out and also laid the wireless operator hors de combat at that time. In the meantime, about forty Zeroes were buzzing around us. The first casualty was our port gunner who had his leg practically knocked off at that time. It was necessary to put him inside the aircraft on the crew bunks. The engineer then got in that position and the fight was on. We got as low as we could to stop the attack from underneath us, but they started coming from the top and the next thing we knew they had punctured the gas tank and the gasoline was on fire and flowing down inside the aircraft. We managed to get that out. At the same time we were blazing away with all we had in the vicinity of the attackers and the machine started to break up.

When we were in that particular situation the fire broke out and this time we eventually went down and landed on the water. The machine sank instantly. We go' everybody out that we could. The only person we couldn't get out was the poor lad on the bunk. He went down with the machine. The remainder of us were left swimming as hard as we could away from the burning gasoline. While we were getting away we tried to form in a group. At that particular time we noticed the Japanese aircraft starting to come after us. We were by ourselves and we didn't think anything was going to happen. The next minute they opened with guns and for the next twenty minutes we had to keep repeatedly diving under the water in order to evade the Japanese. When we had finished two more lads were gone and there was only six left.

We noticed a Japanese destroyer coming our way. It came up quite close, dropped a lifeboat and picked us up. Three of the lads were in pretty bad shape. The other three, the navigator, the second pilot and myself, got off quite lightly. They took us on board the Japanese destroyer, put us on the forward deck, and the questioning started. They were very anxious to find out if we had gotten away a wireless message, also what we knew about Colombo. We told them we knew nothing about Colombo, we had newly arrived. We kept the name of the base as quiet as we could. We knew they were putting in facilities there that we didn't want them to know about. We told them we had just arrived in Colombo and had taken off immediately. Regarding the wireless, we told them we had not got one out. Everything went well until Colombo came back and asked us to repeat our message. They then found out we were lying to them and they threw us all in a small hole at the forward end of the destroyer. We did what we could for the three lads who were shot up, but we couldn't get any medical aid for them. We stayed there for three days. The three that were not too badly off were taking turns at lying stretched out on the floor, and the other two would have to take turns at leaning up against the bunkhead.

After three days of this they moved us to the aircraft carrier, acting as the flag ship of that particular fleet. The Atogi was later sunk by the Americans at the Battle of Midway. They took us to that ship and there they treated the sick lads pretty well. They put them in small cots and gave what medical aid they had. The three of us were allowed to lie on a piece of canvas. Once again we were in one of the forward holes and things went along not too badly until the questioning started again. At that time we were being questioned every night. We were being taken up singly into the questioning room, and segregated from the others until they were finished with you, and then they bring you back down again.

They were very anxious about our operational experience: We told them we didn't have any. Then they were anxious about how we had gotten out there and in order to protect what we thought at that time was pretty vital, we told them some story of a fictitious convoy having left Montreal the 1st of January, which was our only mistake, and that we had come on the convoy all the way through to Bombay. They tried to break it down. They worked us over pretty well. However, we managed to stick to the story and when we finally did get to Japan they had it all written up and they said, "Well, it was a pretty good story anyway."

Then they took us to a place called Nukoska, which is a naval base just beside Yokohama. From there the three lads who were wounded were taken to the naval hospital. The other three were taken to the Japanese Naval Interrogation camp, located about ten miles outside Yokohama. There they were given special treatment for questioning. We were advised at this time that we were not prisoners of war, that we were still on the firing line, and if they found it necessary we would be down as "killed in action".

We were not allowed to speak. We had to give all our requests in Japanese. They taught us Japanese. At least there was one interpreter in the American Navy, captured at the same time and he gave us Japanese lessons. We were confined, two people to a room. The rooms were approximately six feet by eight feet, with rice straw mats on the floor. There you were-you weren't allowed to talk. You had two cigarettes a day, one after breakfast, one at night. The food was pretty scarce. We were on half rice and half barley and we were allowed to have one bath a week. We got one cubic inch of soap a week to do all our laundry and our own body cleansing, so we had to really stretch it along to make it last. However, we looked after that pretty well too. We were only allowed to wash once a day so that helped out.

The interrogators that we had at that time would come from Tokio, and we nicknamed them "The Quizz Kids". They would come in and planned to see certain prisoners who were then taken to the questioning room and given the grilling over which the Japanese thought proper. After the questioning they would get to work and start to fix up all our stories and readjust. The normal procedure was if the answers were not satisfactory there was physical violence, and also solitary confinement and shortage of rations. There wasn't much difference between the solitary confinement and the normal confinement, except that you had your door locked all night long, where the other people didn't. This lasted approximately five months.

I might say something about the other prisoners. There were about sixty in that camp, made up of survivors from the Java Sea Battle, some from the "Huston", some from the "Exeter". We had the ten lads that had been in Kiska and were captured there by the Japanese. We had people from Guam, some from Wake Island and some from Dutch Harbor, plus ourselves from the Indian Ocean. So we had a fairly representative group of both English, Americans and Canadians.

We were then moved out. We proceeded on the 15th of September, 1942 to be taken to Yokohama, nine of us. The camp we were taken to was just opening that day and was located in the basement of a baseball stadium in the center of Yokohama. We had one large room in the particular building in which there were housed at that time 225. There were nine of us and 216 British troops from Hong Kong, part of the first detachment brought up to Japan by the Japanese. The first boat load of the prisoners from Hong Kong started out the camps in the Tokio area.

We started on pretty small rations. The lads came up in quite bad shape. They had suffered quite a lot in Hong Kong and we suffered from most of the malnutrition diseases--beri beri, scurvy and pellegra, and also a lot of skin diseases at that time. We tried to do the best we could. We organized the camp as rapidly as we could. We had some very good officers. I at that time was Senior in the camp and it fell to my lot to try to do the best we could for the chaps there. Medicines were absolutely nil to start. Eventually they started giving us a monthly supply which would last not many days. In order to get medicine we would buy what we could under the wire, through the black market, and things like that, and we pooled our money into a fund called "Medical and Amenities Fund."

The lads in the camp who were working got 10 sen for one day's work. The N. C. O.'s got 15 sen, and the Warrant Officers got 25 sen. If you worked a clay you got 10 sen, if you didn't work, you got nothing. Hence, the sick lads had no money and we had to take care of them.

The first winter in camp was one of the worst winters in Japan. I am speaking only for the area I know, which was the Tokio area. At that time we didn't have very much Red Cross stuff--it hadn't started to come through as yet. It was nip and tuck all the way. The lads suffered a lot from beri beri, and it was very demoralizing.

One of the worst things we had to contend with was a symptom known as painful feet. This was due to dry beri beri, at least that is what doctors told me. In this particular instance, the lads' feet became very hot and painful, and it was impossible to get any sleep. During that winter the lads would walk up and down on the cold concrete floor with their bare feet, trying to cool them enough to get some sleep or ease them enough to get some rest.

Also another thing happened at that particular time. Due to lack of vitamins their eyes started to go and some of the chaps went practically blind.

It was now coming in toward Christmas and toward November the first batch of Americans arrived from the Philippine Islands. We received 75 of these. One of the prisoners was a doctor and he did a marvellous job for us in our camp. That brought our total strength to 300.

We didn't have much in the way of clothing. Their shoes were in pretty bad shape and those working outside were on jobs which necessitated leaving camp at 5.00 or 5.30 in the morning and returning at 5.00 at night. Typical work we were doing was stevedoring, working on railway sidings, doing coollie labour, and working in one plant which was an oil plant where they made all kinds of vegetable oil, peanut oil and cocoanut oil, castor oil, and so on. Also that particular job was a Godsend to us, for through that plant we got our castor oil for medicinal purposes, and oils for ointment for the skin diseases. It was against all regulations to bring anything back and some of the methods that were used were nothing short of being ingenious. We managed to get some of the stuff in and also the peanuts that they managed to get back was one of the things that gave us our supply of protein at that time and helped a great deal.

This particular Christmas of 1942 was one of the most impressive I have ever seen. We managed to buy a little Christmas tree and a few decorations, and with that we tried to make life as happy as we could. We tried to make preparations for a decent dinner by cutting down. our rations for about a week beforehand so at least we would have a good feed for Christmas. Everything was going along well and on Christmas Eve the first Red Cross stuff arrived. This was the British Red Cross which came in from East Africa, I believe--Portuguese East Africa. Each man was given a parcel of his own with the usual Red Cross supplies--bully beef, butter, bacon and biscuits and things like that. Also, one of the most prized possessions was a cake of soap. We had the parcels for Christmas Eve. Also we managed to get a couple of guitars, a ukelele, and an accordion and one of the lads had a clarionet.

On Christmas Day we had a small church celebration. We had no padre with us, but we tried to do the best we could. At least we thought it was a pretty good success.

Then the Red Cross supplies started to trickle through and we got some bulk supplies from East Africa. We got some dried fruit which was very valuable for its Vitamin C, and we also managed to get some bully beef. We had some cocoa and some sugar which we found it necessary to steal in order to have. Sugar was very scarce in that country. Sugar, soap and oil were the pass words and have since been termed the S.O.S. of Japan. You could get anything you wanted for a piece of soap. Naturally, at the oil factory the boys soon found out how to make soap, and they managed to get that out and redistribute it to the other jobs where the lads were working, stevedoring, and so on, and through that they were able to buy medicines from the civilians, and other such things as we needed.

As I have said, cigarettes were very scarce, and that was also a problem. If we could get the lads a cigarette now and then they were quite happy.

The lads went to making recipe books while in camp.

I don't think there was a lad who went through without making a recipe book, which he promptly threw away when we went to Manilla.

As soon as the food started to go down so did the morale. It was necessary to start rumours and so on to keep the boys going.

Everything was going along well and suddenly the Officers were ordered out and we 'had to go out and work on the jobs with them. It was actually a boon at the time. It brought us in a lot closer contact with the lads and the trust they had in us we tried to live up to. Working with them like that we got to really know them. We got to know what was going on the outside and we could see and understand their little problems which they would bring to us.

That camp in 1943 was one of the best I have ever been in. At the conclusion of the winter of 1943 we had our last death. Out of the 300 we lost seven over that one winter, and we never lost another the rest of the time we were in the place which was about another year. It was all due to the work of the lads themselves. We made them as health conscious as we possibly could. We had no other instruments or anything else but they certainly put on a good show of putting up with the treatment we had to give them.

At that particular time the headquarters camp, located at Tonagawa was moved to a small piece of reclaimed land in Tokio Harbour and the former camp, Tonagawa, was then converted into a hospital for prisoners of war. They called it a hospital but it was one of the worst camps in the area. Here again the authorities are keeping me from telling very much about that. Needless to say it was only as a last resort we ever sent anyone there. When they were absolutely out of hand and we could do nothing we sent the boys to that hospital.

I didn't get along very well with the Japanese. I didn't think the same way. They couldn't understand my viewpoint and I certainly didn't understand theirs.

We then got moved from that point in 1944. It was March 20th of 1944 that I was sent to another camp where we did repairing on torpedo ships that came in and doing work for the navy and anybody else. The camp was situated three miles away from the job and the boys had to walk every morning and the three miles back at night. Food was getting pretty scarce in Japan at that time and the weight charts started to show quite a decline. We started to raise a rumpus. Things came to a head one day when it was necessary to order the lads not to go to work. We stood fast until finally we got what we wanted. The net result of that was the doctor and I were removed for discipline. We were sent to a special camp where we were going to be imbued with the spirit of and talk Japanese philosophy. We heard about it, but we weren't very much impressed at the time. We received our special treatment. We came under the arm of a servant that was there whose special job it was to look after no one but the Officers. There we had to do all the menial tasks in the camp. My first job was in charge of camp sweeping. Every morning we would parade with brooms and sweep up the area. They figured by little detail we were the highest paid sanitation outfit in the world. We had two American Commanders, a Major in the British Army, and myself, at that time a Squadron Leader. We figured we were going pretty well, but the Japanese didn't seem to think that was such an honour.

We worked in the camp starting in 1944 and our big thrill came in November of 1944, when the first B29 came over and gave a look around and then came on home. At least we had seen one.

Another particular point about this camp is the fact it was built on sand. It was all reclaimed ground, as I said, and the sand seemed to be a beautiful place for the breeding of fleas. Fleas were quite a nuisance in the camp, so we applied to the Japanese for a little insecticide. The Japanese took it up and gave us some powder which the fleas enjoyed very much. We went back and they had a very brilliant idea. We had five barracks in the camp and we had four dogs. These dogs were paraded every day in a barrack and tied to the leg of the table. At noon the prisoner medical orderlies had to take the dogs outside, brush them off, give them a good shake and bring them back in again. At night the same procedure went on. They then told us we had a sure cure for fleas. However, we didn't agree with him there either.

The main raids were starting the beginning of 1945, and as I say we were in the heart of the Tokio area, in the Bay, and it seemed to us they would come right overhead and over our camp. We had some air raid shelters but they were built Japanese style and we couldn't go into them. We preferred to stay on the ground where we could get a good running start in case anything started coming our way. We had a miraculous escape in that camp. In fact you could not convince any of the prisoners that the pilots coming over did not know where we were. Everything around the camp was flat. After the first raid for three days and nights the fires were quite distinct-you could read a newspaper on the parade ground, although we read in the papers that the Japanese now had the fires all under control.

The results of those raids we saw quite vividly because of the fact the work groups were still going out to their various jobs. Also, our water supply went off after the first raid for three days and the electrical supply was off for practically a week. Since the Japanese cooking requires a great amount of water--cooking rice and soups--we had to go into Tokio to a small spring close by and draw water from a well there and bring; it back. The sights we saw down the streets were something that are very hard to even think about. They were in a terrible shape.

As you know, the Japanese don't go in very much for leather shoes. They wear little grass sandals and things like that. The fire started on the outskirts and worked in from, there and the Japanese would run in to the center and it was terrible to see them sitting around on the street, trying to cook little bits of rice they had and doing the best they could.

We were scared when we went out because we thought the Japanese might come after us. We were strutting out with our best uniforms that we always wore when we went into town, and the contrast was so amazing that we were darned glad to get back with our water detail.

Following the first of the big raids they put us on demolition work. They started building fire lanes through the city, not so much to control fire but to give people in there a chance to get out. They lost a lot of people in houses jammed so closely together. The fire bombs they were using at that time were very effective. I believe they were jellied gasoline. The heat was terrific. The people would be caught among all the little houses and you just cannot get through them unless you know the ways and byways. They started pulling down whole sections of the city wholesale to leave some way for people to get out.

We nicely got started on that and were working on salvaging when the B-29 came over and finished it for us. They came through and worked toward Yokohama. The biggest raid on May 29th came on over and completely knocked out Yokohama. I have since met some of the lads originally in Yokohama who were there at that time. The stories they had to tell of various situations and how they had to march through the city while it was burning were amazing. If it hadn't been for their own self-control they never would have made it.

All through the raids we were very fortunate in the Tokio area. We lost very few. I can only recall one lad who didn't get through it and that was not his fault. The others all stuck together and managed to get through.

When you drove through the countryside the prisoners of war camps stood up like a sore thumb. Why that was we were never able to find out. Since then I have talked to pilots of the B-29s and they said they didn't know where the camps were. The Japanese believed that they did. When a raid started there were hundreds of people outside our fences there because they thought they were safe.

As the fires progressed through there, burning out the areas, they then started to pull in the camps because there was no place for the boys to work. All the railway stations were all knocked out. The railway traffic was practically at a standstill. The rice supply in Tokio had been knocked out. Food was getting very scarce. It was now requiring two or three days search in the countryside to get even a half a truck load of vegetables and we had five hundred prisoners in camp. A half a truck load would have to do a week.

They then decided to start moving the lads to a new area up north, called the Sendai area. We then went up into the mining camps. I was sent out of Tokio in charge of 233 lads. We went up to a place called Seoul, half way across the island, due west of Tokio, on an elevation of 4,500 feet and we were working there in an open pit mine. The conditions there were worse than I 'had ever struck in any of the camps. We had absolutely nothing. They weren't prepared for us and food was very scarce. The tie-ups on the railways practically stopped all movement of food. The only supply of water was a little mountain stream, drainage for the rice paddies coming in near the vicinity, and that was the only supply for washing, doing laundry and also cooking.

Our kitchen consisted of three rice boilers stuck up on some rocks. That was all. We had no roof. The poor lads in the kitchen. (I had 25 Canadians in that camp and all the kitchen staff were Canadians) they worked through some of the hardest conditions you can imagine. Day and night they worked with the rain coming down and they did a darned good job. Sanitation was practically nil. We were eating wild vegetables, anything we could find. We lost two Dutch laddies up there because they ate some poisonous vegetable. We had nothing in the way of medicines, and no way of getting them. There were no medical supplies anywhere and although we tried to do the best we could, it was a hopeless situation.

They were marching up a hill, a rise of about another three or four hundred feet, and it would take probably a half hour climb to get to work, at which point we would arrive and go to work and everybody else would' sit down to rest. Weight was starting to go off and the camp was getting in a pretty bad state when all at once through the underground we heard of Hiroshima.

Since coming back practically everyone I have talked to has asked what was the effect of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. We were nowhere near the district. The Japanese district papers passed it off as something just a little different. But the news of it went through the underground like wildfire. We never saw anybody so scared in our lives.

The next thing we heard was that the war was over. The official notice cause from Tokio by runner on the 19th and we put up big signs to inform the aircraft that would be coming over. We dubbed the aircraft "The Biscuit Bombers." On the 30th of August the first planes arrived. That was our biggest day. At the end of the war we didn't know quite where we stood. We knew the civilians were alarmed. We knew we would probably have to beat our own way out and we didn't know whether we would make it or not. We were very undecided what to do or what was going to happen to us. When the first plane came over we knew we were in. The first thing they dropped was an American flag. Within five minutes we had a flag pole up and the flag was flying. They dropped food and notes, telling us to keep our chins up, that the Marines were coming, and everything like that. They were soiree of the best things that ever happened to us. That was the first bit of decent food we had in that camp. That gave a little fortitude and we managed to push our way around and buy a cow. It cost us 2,304 yen: That was a great day. We talked of that cow for days. We went around collecting, ten yen from this person, and ten from that. Everybody was coming in and asking how the money was coming in. We sent it out and we awaited the arrival of the bossy. Bossy came up the road. She was jet black and beautiful. We all cheered and formed a guard of honour and brought her in. We stood around and petted her. Most of us missed lunch going out to admire her. All the experts were on the job, telling us approximately how much meat we would get out of her.

They found some grass and prepared a nice room where the slaughter was going to take place. We took the cow into the room and two men were detailed for the slaughter. They got in where Bossy was and we all gathered around, about ten deep.

Just at the critical moment when the man was going to swing, someone said, "Give me the axe, I will show you". He swung and one of the horns went off. The first indication of trouble I heard was a loud thumping of hoofs-the bossy had cleared the place by ten feet, all feet going. She went out of the gate and we chased her three miles. Finally, we got a hold of her and brought her back and this time there was no mistake.

The next day we had our first real steak since we had been prisoners. We went into the countryside. We took rice with us and swapped it off for vegetables and we had a real meal. It was so good that we finished that cow off in two days.

The next thing we tried to do was get another one but there were no more cows available. Then we had to resort to a horse. This cost us 1900 yen, but we didn't enjoy that quite so much. However, it was meat and with the food we were getting from the aircraft that paid another visit to us on the 31st, we were doing alright. You could practically see the lads putting on weight.

The clouds came down right after that and we could hear the aircraft going over top, but they just couldn't get down to us. On the 5th they came in again and that was the best day they could have arrived because we left for camp that night. We came down on the train, leaving about midnight, and arriving at Yokohama about ten o'clock in the morning.

I would like to recount one experience which might be of interest on that particular trip coming back. At about four o'clock in the morning when coming down we stopped at a small station and while we were waiting for some unknown reason, we suddenly saw a Japanese on the platform in pretty bad shape. The interpreter was a lad, born and brought up in Hawaii, about as proAmerican as you want. We nicknamed him "Eddie". We got Eddie and went out to see what the trouble was. We found there was a train wreck down the line a hundred yards. Three wooden coaches, filled with approximately a hundred Japanese each had been smashed up. The first people able to make their way from that wreck to the platform were just arriving.

I would like to explain that we had all the medical supplies that had been dropped to us. All the sulfa drugs, iodine, morphine, bandages, everything. We weren't going to leave them in the camp so we took them back with us. We got out on the platform and we organized. There were eight officers, of which two were doctors. We got two medical orderlies. We took the platform over and had a little receiving depot with people around there bringing us hot water. The other officers washed all the people that came up. The two doctors then attended to them and the medical orderlies bandaged them up. We went through the train and picked up the spare blankets we had, gave them to them, and put them on the platforms.

Those people, practically half alive and half dead, still couldn't get over the idea of being looked after, given a shot of morphine and placed on the blanket, and the first thing they would do was to pick up the blanket and feel it, and see that it was wool.

After an hour we left that place and the only person left to care for people was a woman who knew a little about medicine. We had to give all the instructions and we left all the medicine and bandages that we had.

When we first stopped at the station, the civilians didn't know how to take us. And we were a little scared we didn't know what they were going to do. They stood goggleeyed. When we left they lined up on the platform and cheered us. That gives a little idea of what kind of people they are.

When we arrived at Yokohama we had made flags out of pieces of sheets and crayons. We had an authentic American flag, we had a Dutch flag and we had a British flag. The Canadians--we made one up. We also had one Chinaman but he couldn't design very well. We formed up on the platform, marched out and lined up on the street.

The next thing we knew there were cars strung around us and Red Cross girls were giving out cigarettes, candy bars and everything we wanted and from there on it has been wonderful. The boys have been really taken care of on the way back home.

I was taken and flown to Okinawa and from there to Manilla and it was there at Manilla that I first heard that my message had gotten through.

There are a few general points I thought you might be interested in, such as the morale of the prisoners. Generally throughout it was excellent. They would be down a day or so, but you never could keep them down, and to what to contribute that I don't know. I am not a Psychologist. I don't know how they did it. Maybe it was just stubbornness. They weren't going to let the Japs beat them, no matter how bad things got. They would go back in their rooms and laugh about it, and whenever they got a beating that was an egg issue.

Mail was another thing that kept the morale going. Some people got letters, others didn't. The mail situation was very bad. If anyone did get a letter they would immediately take it around to everybody else, tell them all the circumstances about the person writing, and they knew practically the whole life history and by the time they read the letter they felt as though they had received the letter themselves.

That was another amazing thing--the exchange of confidences. The lads got together and there wasn't anything they wouldn't do for one another. We were in there together and really a lot of our camp was kept alive mostly on rumours. As you know, a rumour is a wonderful thing. Some we had to instigate ourselves in order to fill up--news was very difficult to get and was forbidden. No one was allowed to have newspapers. All the newspapers were bought by giving rice outside. That was the way we got the newspapers in and one way we kept up with the news.

I think that covers practically everything. If anybody is interested or would like to ask any questions after this is over I would be only too glad to answer them.

I would like to thank you very much for listening so attentively.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


The Japanese Ceylon Attack

A telling of the speaker's experiences in the war. The necessity for some information not to be conveyed, in particular war atrocities and war crimes committed in Japan, due to the fact that the war criminals in Japan have not yet been brought to trial and it would be detrimental to the Allies and their endeavours to bring them to justice for what they have done if the crimes were spoken of in public at this time. The story of the speaker's brief service in Ceylon, and his capture by the Japanese shortly after arriving in Ceylon in 1942. Questioning by the Japanese. Treatment of the speaker and his fellow prisoners: interrogation, food, hygiene, etc. Details of the other prisoners. Transfer to a camp in Yokohama. Malnutrition and skin diseases suffered by the prisoners. How medicine was obtained. Smuggling in oil and peanuts. The Christmas of 1942. The arrival of supplies from the Red Cross. The relationship between food and morale. The speaker's relationship with the Japanese. Transfer to another camp in 1944 and repairing torpedo ships. Seeing a B29 in November of 1944. Problems with sand and fleas. Results of the raids in 1945 over Tokyo. Demolition work after the first raids. A description of the raids and the Japanese people. Transfer to a new area up north, called the Sendai area, up into the mining camps. The bad conditions of the mining camps. The stoppage of the movement of food as the railways were tied up, many of the stations having been knocked out in the raids. Hearing about Hiroshima through the underground. Hearing the war was over. The first planes arriving on August 30th. A story of buying and eating a cow, and then a horse. Assisting Japanese who had been in a train accident with the medical supplies dropped into the camp by the Americans. The morale of the prisoners; what kept them going.