Sketch by Jack Chalker

War is Ended

The Australian Officer was bombarded with questions, as to what was happening.  He told us his first task, was to get food, clothing and medical supplies to the camp as quickly as possible.  An air-drop of supplies was promised and arranged.  Later that day we heard the drone of engines overhead, but no air-drop, then the drone of engines died away.  The Officer was very dismayed and extremely worried but not as worried as we were.  We knew the camp was in a narrow piece of land, jutting into the drained lake and would be hidden from the air, and would be a hard target on which to drop supplies.  It was agreed that a truck would be commandeered from Notagawa and a group of us would strike out towards Kobe, the nearest place to where the Allies had set up a supply base, the Officer would accompany us.  A truck was duly found and we set out to pick up supplies at Kobe.  We passed through Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, the people there gazed at us in awe, we must have looked like a bunch of rag-tags, to be shunned at all costs.  The run down to Kobe was like a trip to heaven, this was our first taste of freedom and a break from the hell of a prison camp.  Kobe was duly reached and we were directed to a large warehouse and told to report to the Officer-in-Charge.  Inside the warehouse was everything you could think of and it was chock full.  The Australian Officer reported to the Supply Officer, what was needed at our camp and how urgent it was to get back quick.  The truck was loaded with everything we could think of in a short time.  The Supply Officer asked us to stay for a meal, but he was informed that time was of the utmost importance in getting back to the camp.  The Australian Officer was made aware of the fact that evacuation plans for the camp were now in the process of being finalised and we would be informed in a day or two.  Our group boarded the truck, each of us was given a bag of goodies to use on the way back, and then finally we moved off.  The Officer-in-Charge had been shocked at our emaciated condition and our obvious weakness.  He had wanted us to go to hospital, but we informed him we would make it back and that every moment we wasted was precious.  He duly waved us off, shouting “Good Luck and God Bless”.  The drive back to the camp seemed to take ages and all the way back we were objects of curiosity to the Japanese people.  We reached the camp several hours later, to a hero’s welcome, everybody was cheering, there was a mad rush for the truck.  The Australian Officer told everybody to hold it, as there was enough for all.  The truck was unloaded, and there was amazement at what it contained.  Nothing like this had been seen for years, there were uniforms, boots, underwear, cigarettes, cigars, food, clothes, towels, soap, medical supplies, and various other items.  The Supply Officer at Kobe had certainly gone out of his way to make sure we got everything we needed.  There were 160 men in the camp and everyone got a fair share of what we had brought back.  There was much rejoicing that night, then we settled down to wait for our evacuation to civilisation and real freedom.  During the week, rail transport was arranged, we would travel from Notogawa to Kobe where we would be billeted in a transit camp prior to our final destination which would be Yokohama.  Kobe was a very fascinating city and we did quite a lot of sightseeing in the few days we were there.  Eventually the order came, that a large draft would be evacuated that night to Yokohama, by rail, on the first stage of the journey home.  There was great joy in our hearts that at last, the evil of our prisoner of war days and the healing would begin and end.  The next day, our train arrived at the docks in Yokohama, where a large medical centre had been set up in several warehouses.  Nurses and doctors were swarming all over the place and hundreds of American soldiers were there to tend to our needs, and to give us any assistance wanted.  We were in poor condition and still very weak.  Most of us were suffering from malnutrition, beri-beri, dysentery, exposure, pellagra and many other diseases.  We disembarked from the train and were made to line up.  The American officer then told us what was going to happen.  We would strip off all our clothes and leave them to be burnt on the dockside.  The next move, we were to be deloused before entering the medical centre where we would get a complete medical and dental checkout.  We would then be graded as to how we would travel, whether it would be by hospital ship, troopship or by air.  At the end of the inspection, and on the way out, we would be issued with a complete American uniform and accessories and billeted in one of the warehouses which had been transformed into a hospital, there to await on our grading for travel.  This procedure was duly carried out and we settled down for the wait.  Everything was done to make us comfortable, everybody was so concerned about our health and that we should get the best attention possible.  A few days passed before I got my grading, I was transferred to a hospital ship, which was tied up at the quay, they said I had amoebic dysentery.  I stayed on the hospital ship for two days without any treatment but during that two days, the doctor discovered that I was wrongly diagnosed and that I would be transferred to a troopship which was enroute to Manila in the Philippines.  This ship was carrying a large batch of our regiment and I was glad, I was among some of my old mates whom I had not seen since we were split up, years ago.  This ship was named the “U.S.S. Goodhue” and I must say, the Captain went out of his way to make the cruise to Manila a pleasant experience.

I will always remember our first meal, aboard ship, the ships doctors had warned us to take it easy, on the amount of food we consumed, as our stomachs were in no condition to accept large amounts, but, like most people in our position, we gorged ourselves.  An average of 10 helpings of food was recorded in the ship’s newspaper for that first meal.  Oh, how we suffered by not listening to doctor’s advice.  We were a sick and sorry mess, for most of the voyage to Manila.  The voyage ended at the harbour terminal to the sounds of martial music and the greetings of hundreds of American soldiers, we had become objects of curiosity to the people on the quay.  Upon disembarking, no time was lost in getting us into buses, to go to a transit camp.  Everybody was showering us with cartons of cigarettes, cigars and chewing gum, before we got moving.  All along the roadside, from Manila to the camp, a distance of 15 miles, was supplies.  Upon arrival at the camp, we were split up to go to our allotted tents and await for further information.  The hospitality and the genuine friendliness at this camp was overwhelming.  Every day we were given a P.X. issue of a carton of cigarettes, tin of cigars, coca-cola and gum.  Huge kit bags were forthcoming, to carry all our rapidly expanding wardrobes, cigarettes and other goods, which were being heaped on us.  All of our draft were regaining our health and strength very slowly, we were not so emaciated or gaunt now, but we were still very poor specimens to look at.  We had already spent a week at the camp when word came through that we would be embarking on the U.S.S. Goodhue , for a voyage to San Francisco and to receive the Freedom of the city upon arrival, rail travel across America to another port where we would be shipped to Southampton in England, had also been arranged.  The voyage was uneventful, until nearing San Francisco, the ship’s Captain let it be known that a change of plans had been ordered and the ship would now call at Seattle on the border of Canada.  During the voyage to Seattle, orders were changed again, we were to go to Esquimault harbour to the city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where everything had been arranged and awaiting our arrival.  On reaching Victoria, we said our goodbyes to our American friends and promised never to forget the goodness and sympathy that had been shown to us, all the way from the prison camp at Notogawa in Japan, to Victoria, in Canada.  There were tears in our eyes as we left the ship.  We were now in the process of leaving American authority and changing over to British authority and we were not too keen about that.  The British Government had sacrificed us to a horrible existence under Japanese cruelty, sadism, slow starvation, slavery and the threat of ultimate death.  The transit camp was well organised and the food and medical attention was first class.  We were allowed out of the camp to visit the city of Victoria and to mingle with the population.  The Canadian people took us to heart, we were invited to that many parties and to the local pubs.  There was one glaring weakness to this round of pleasures.  We had not many thoughts about it until it struck home, we had no money with which to pay for our share of the festivities.  This fact was made known to the Officer-in-Charge of the camp, who arranged for an advance payment to all prisoners.  Guess what, we all received C$5 (five dollars) what an insult!  What could we do with that amount, we protested, but our protests fell on deaf ears.  After three days, the first batch to leave for home was announced.  We were to cross over to Vancouver by ferry and pick up the train, which was to take us all the way across Canada to the port of Halifax by “Canadian Pacific Railway”, at last we were on the way home.  The train was fitted out with sleeping berths and we got into them immediately we boarded the train.  You must remember, we tired very easily and we were still not strong enough to exert ourselves.  Halifax, was a long, tiring journey, by train from Vancouver.  At every whistle-stop, hordes of Canadians boarded the train to feed us and bring us fresh fruit, cigarettes, chocolate, and the usual cup of hot tea.  As usual, the hospitality and kindness was staggering, it was getting too much for us, but what can you do about it.  On reaching Halifax, the train off-loaded us on the quay, where a huge liner was tied up.  This liner was named the “Ille De France” and we would be sailing home in it. 

The liner was to sail on the 26th October, 1945 to Southampton, our last stage to home, what a coincidence, I had left with the battalion for service abroad on the 26th October, 1936 from Southampton, nine years earlier and to make it more of a coincidence, it was also my birthday.  We do not have pleasant memories of this trip, once aboard, we were bundled below decks to where hammocks had been slung and very little space to move, this was to be our living quarters for the journey.  The top decks had been allotted to officers and V.I.P.s returning to Britain.  We were told, we would be under strict medical attention from doctors and nursing staff and all our needs would be attended to.  We were in for a lot of shocks on this trip, the food was shocking and it was rationed out.  We were reminded of the fact that we were British soldiers and as such, that is the way we would be treated.  No sympathy here, we were now under British authority.  We were not allowed to go on deck, or mix with the other passengers, we were confined to below decks.  During the journey, we never saw a doctor or a nurse, in fact, nobody wanted to know us, this hurt us deep down, it looked like everybody on the ship looked down on us with contempt.  Every night there was the sound of revelry, music, and of everybody having a whale of a time, but we were never allowed to take part in the fun.  After a very unpleasant journey, we docked at Southampton.  It was evening when we docked, all the lights dockside were blazing, but it looked eerie.  There was no welcome awaiting us, and to make matters worse, we were not allowed to disembark until all passengers left the ship.  It gave you the feeling that you were not wanted and that you had committed a crime by returning to Britain.  Eventually we disembarked, and passed through customs, then moved out to a transit camp.  The next day we were issued with cash and a travel voucher, bundled into a train, which had been laid on and headed north.  A start to a new life had begun.  We had been given indefinite sick leave from army duties.  I would have served nine years and three hundred and sixty two days by the time I was demobilised and was I glad to get out.  I have nothing good to say about British Governments or the Army.  I feel we were sacrificed unnecessary and that we were treated abominably after the war was over.  It is now fifty years later since the war ended, and I still feel very bitter about it all.  I have never got over the war years and will never forgive the Japanese.

 

The End

 

 

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[J. McHarg Miller] [Stationed] [Siege] [Internment] [Lisbon Maru] [To Japan] [Notogawa] [War is Ended]

 

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