Sketch by Jack Chalker

Last Words

Last Words

 

A few years later, at the age of 76, Mary Baldwin flew to British Columbia to see her son David, now returned to farming near Dawson Creek in the north of BC after serving in Britain in the Army as a volunteer until 1944.  She described her ordeal in her own words to the local paper.

A tough woman !  One of the last photographs of her, looking much as I remember her, is the last in the series.

Let the last words be hers !!

THURSDAY. JULY 15, 1948.

PEACE RIVER BLOCK NEWS

A Courageous Scottish Mother

 

 

Mrs. Mary Baldwin, 76 years old, flys thousands of miles to see her son, Dave Baldwin of Doe River, British Columbia — Their first meeting in 30 years

 

 

I saw tears today in a man's eyes as he looked at his mother while she told this storty in the office of the Peace River Block News.

"My husband and I planned to take this trip together to Canada. We talked about it many a time when we were living at Sandakan, North Borneo. I came alone.”  For a moment a shadow passed over her features. '

"My husband was employed as an engineer on a boat owned by the Bakau Company, manufacturers of dyes. He was on a trip along the Coast bound for Dutch Borneo with a cargo of dyes when his boat was machine-gunned by a Japanese warship, and all the crew were either killed or taken prisoners. I did not hear of my husband's fate until two years later. Then I learned of his suffering and ill treatment and his death in a Japanese Internment Camp at Terrakon, Dutch Borneo, I waited alone in our home at Sandakan. The Japanese came in and I was taken prisoner. I was seventy then, I was taken with about twenty women prisoners to the Governor's House. We were reassured that "this is not internment" — "this is safe custody”' Then we were, told we just had ten minutes to get ready for a long trip. The Governor had a lot of cases in his wine cellar — so in ten minutes we attacked those cases and we all got "right royal full." We got in such a state that we didn't care where they took us. As I was stepping on the launch I lost a bottle I had concealed under my arm— a bottle with a "black and white label" on it.”

"We  were  taken   to   Berhala Island   and   then   later -put   on board an old tanker. We slept ten nights on deck without any covers. We were interned in a Japanese Camp at Kuching Sarawak for three and a half years. I lost sixty pounds, our diet consisted of rice and turnip tops. For a little while we had tea, and then no tea, no sugar and no-salt.”

“I had to work in the fields from eight o'clock in the morning until, four in the afternoon, hour after hour,  hoeing or gathering wood. It was hard work hoeing, the heat was intense. I was thousands of miles from my own folk. I was weak and hungry, but in my mind's eye I saw a picture of a wee house in Innellan, Scotland, and my children waiting for me. Twelve in my family, four sons and eight daughters, and eight grandchildren And this picture, and my faith saved my life and gave me the strength l needed to survive. And I lived to see that vision come true.”

“We were taken to the American Camp Labuan in Australia. I sailed for home on the 9th October, 1945, on board a troopship, "The Highland Monarch" arriving at Southampton England, 9th of November, I took the train to London, then to Glasgow, and the boat from Glasgow to Innellan, Argyllshire, — and there I could see on the Pier — "Dunoon" Pier, my Kathy, Jennie, Mary, Dodo, John and Hugh, but they did not know me. They had come from towns and villages in England and Scotland to welcome me home. The reunion was held at my daughter Jennie's home in Innellan. My son Dave missed this reunion. He had been discharged from the Army in 1944 and was home in the Peace River Block district. I decided this year to make one more trip — the trip my husband and I had planned.”

“I boarded a Trans-Canada plane at Prestwick, Scotland, on the morning of May 5th, arrived in Montreal the following morning, left by plane for Toronto, from Toronto to Edmonton, and C.P.A. plane from Edmonton to Fort St. John arriving at 7 p.m. on May 7th. My son Dave was waiting at the airport to greet me.”

After travelling thousands of miles in the air - Mrs. Baldwin had to finish the last few miles of her journev on. foot. Dave's car got Stuck in the snow. Mrs. Baldwin was a little anxious about leaving her luggage in the car - but was assured by her son Dave that there were no thieves in the Peace River Block. Mrs. Baldwin enjoyed the plane trip, and was most impressed when flying at night over towns and cities to look down and see thousands of twinkling lights.

This charming Scottish visitor will be in the Peace River Block visiting her son and "his. familv at Doe River, until the morning of July 24th, when Mrs. Baldwin leaves Dawson Creek Station at 9:30 for Edmonton, and then, is flying from Edmonton to Prestwick, Scotland.

The hills around Pouce Coupe remind Mrs. Baldwin of the hills of home. Mrs. Baldwin has her own "wee hoose" in Innellan, Scotland, and can look from her window and see the ships passing by bound for Canada end the United States. "East or West - Home is best" says Mrs. Baldwin.

Her little granddaughter  was asked her name, but before she could reply her grandmother quickly said affectionately, "Mary" after your Grannie, and your sister's name is Margaret."

There is something grand and noble and inspiring in the way this Scotswoman came through many hazardous experiences — and if the readers of the Peace River Block News could only see her smiling face and kindly expression — they to would want to add their tribute and say: "Will ye no come back again to the Peace River Block.”

 

Next Chapter

Re-Discovery

 

 

Sharing information with others is rewarding in itself, the pieces from the jigsaw begin to fit together and a picture begins to appear. Improve your knowledge and help make the Fepow Story an everlasting memorial to their memory.

Any material  to add to the Fepow Story please send to:

Ron.Taylor@fepow-community.org.uk

and their story will live on.

 

[Baldwin] [The Beginning] [The Long Journey] [Settled at Sandakan] [War] [Release] [Last Words] [Re-Discovery] [Conclusion]

 

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