Friday, 10 February 2012

Postscript Notes

The Ships: HMS Li Wo

I feel I must mention the Li Wo, it looked to me like what it was, not a ship that would go into action with the battle ensign flying against such odds, I had never heard of the action described below and I am sure not many other people have.

HMS Li Wo was sunk on 14th February 1942 (77 died; 7 Prisoners of War; her Commanding Officer was awarded the VC)

VC Won in Naval Action
The Times, Wednesday December 18, 1946

RNR Officer’s Valour

The King has approved the award of the Victoria Cross to: The late Temporary Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, RNR.

On February 14, 1942, HMS Li Wo, a patrol vessel of 1,000 tons, formerly a passenger steamer on the Upper Yangtze River, was on passage from Singapore to Batavia. Her ships company consisted of 84 officers and men, including one civilian; they were mainly survivors from His Majesties Ships which had been sunk, and a few units of the Army and R.A.F. Her armament was only one 4 inch gun, for which she had only 13 practice shells, and two machine guns. Since leaving Singapore the previous day, the ship had beaten off 4 air attacks, in one of which 52 machines took part, and had suffered considerable damage. Late in the afternoon she sighted two enemy convoys, the larger of which was escorted by Japanese naval units, including a heavy cruiser and some destroyers. The commanding officer, Lieutenant T. Wilkinson, gathered his scratch ships company together and told them that, rather than try and escape, he had decided to engage the convoy and fight to the last, in hope that he might inflict damage upon the enemy. In making this decision, which drew resolute support from the whole ships company, Lieutenant Wilkinson knew that his ship faced certain destruction, and that his own chances of survival were small.

Straight for the Enemy

HMS Li Wo hoisted her battle ensign and made straight for the enemy. In the action which followed the machines guns were used with effect upon the crews of the ships within range, and a volunteer gun’s crew manned the 4 inch gun, which they fought with such purpose that a Japanese transport was badly hit and set on fire.

After a little over an hour HMS Li Wo had been critically damaged and was sinking. Lieutenant Wilkinson then decided to ram his principle target, the large transport, which had been abandoned by her crew. It is known that this ship burnt fiercely throughout the night following the action and was probably sunk. HMS Li Wo’s gallant fight ended when her shells spent and under heavy fire from the enemy cruiser, Lieutenant Wilkinson finally ordered abandon ship. He himself remained on board and went down with her. There were only 10 survivors, who were later made prisoners of war. Wilkinson’s valour was equalled only by the skill with which he fought his ship. The Victoria Cross is bestowed upon him posthumously in recognition both of his own heroism and self sacrifice and of that of all who fought and died with him.

Lieutenant Wilkinson, who was 44, was the youngest of five sons of the late Captain William Wilkinson, of Widness. His VC is the 181st awarded in the war, and the 22nd won by the Navy.

HMS Li Wo became the most decorated small ship in the Royal Navy, the awards were as follows:

Victoria Cross
Temporary Lieutenant, Thomas Wilkinson, RNR

Distinguished Service Order
Temporary Sub Lieutenant, Ronald George Gladstone Stanton, RNR

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
Acting Petty Officer, Arthur William Thompson

Distinguished Service Medal
Leading Seaman, Victor Spencer

Distinguished Service Medal
Able Seaman, Albert Spendlove

HMS Kedah

The Kedah, after disembarking those of us it had brought from Singapore to Batavia (Jakarta), Java, was not repaired but sent to Tilijap on the South Coast, the same port we were told to make for on the 6th March, nearly a month later, to evacuate the staff of General Wavell to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). It had a charmed life as it was bombed again, en route, this time it proved too much and it came to a halt, it was then towed to Colombo, and repaired, it then did patrol duties until the end of the war. At Singapore it was part of the allied fleet which entered the harbour after victory.

The Dia Nichi Maru

Recent research has shown that the name plate on the deck stated that the ship started as the Eskdale built by Charles Connell & Co, Glasgow, Scotland, 1893. It was launched 25th November 1893, and was built for R. Mackhill & Co., she was sold to a Japanese company in 1912 became the Dai Nichi Maru. Records show that she ran aground of Japan at Omai Saki 21st 1931, later written off by Lloyds.

Ibuku Maru was completed by Mitsu & Co. Japan 5th April 1922 for Kyuei Shoka & Co then sold on to Italya Shosen & Co. on the 15th June 1935 and renamed the Dai Nichi Maru, she was one of the first oil fired power ships. I have endeavoured to find out if the Japanese Navy salvaged the original Dai Nichi Maru, when the war with China had started and put into war service. I thought the condition of the ship I travelled on was very poor if, as stated, just twenty years old at that time.

Dai Nichi Maru II could have been converted to coal as Japan was short of oil during the war, was the nameplate therefore a souvenir from the old ship. A Dai Nichi Maru was torpedoed and sunk southwest of the Island of Luzon in the Philippines, with the loss of over 2000 Japanese soldiers and crew

Friday, 3 February 2012

Postscript Notes

My attempt to buy a cake at railway crossing.

During my visit to the British Embassy in Tokyo I spoke to a Professor of Japanese culture asking him about my close encounter with beheading. He was very surprised that I had escaped death, his only explanation was as follows.

The Japanese Army with the capture of Singapore was exhausted and battle weary having fought a long battle with British soldiers all the way down the Malayan peninsular. The planned attack on Australia needed Java to be the next target and a fresh army was required, new recruits with some reserve soldiers, the Dutch surrender made this an easy task.

In the Japanese Army, status is paramount, the officer in charge of over 400 prisoners, the armed guard of  soldiers of all ranks, his authority, absolute law. In breaking ranks to buy a cake I had shown I did not respect his authority, insulting his position of rank, death was the penalty. His fury and rage at the insult I had done to him made him lose control of himself and when he did regain it, there was his sword above held by his two hands with he and I looking each other in the eye, it had all gone wrong, he had not followed his training, I should have got a lecture from him, made to kneel in a submissive position with my neck exposed for beheading. Now he had to regain his authority with the armed guard looking on possibly telling me that I did not know what honour was and he was magnanimous with his generosity and would let me live, returning his sword to his scabbard his honour and status intact. Motioning me to return to the ranks. After this explanation the professor told me that I was fortunate to to still be alive.

The move from Hakodate Camp to Ohasi.

On moving to Ohasi camp we knew that we were in a poor state of health, most men covered in ulcerated sores but did not realise that we looked dirty, it was no surprise that we had been given bedspaces at the end of the hut. There were over a hundred Dutch and lndonesians in the camp and their medical needs were treated by a Dutchman, E.W. Wim. Lindeijer, Snr. I have been fortunate to get an entry in a diary that he kept of our arrival there on 12 May 1943.

The last few days have been quite shocking, 29 of our people left for Hakodate and 39 British Pows arrived from there. Almost all of them have skin diseases, some are literally covered with ulcerating wounds. Terribly dirty. It took us a long time to pull their wounds open with pincers and cleanse them, there are hardly any wound dressings. This morning we repeated the treatment in the sun, that will do them a lot of good I think.

We were sent there to start working an additional mine level.


The incident when a guard came in as l was washing after finishing work in the mine around 11pm. I did not respond quickly enough for him to get my head out of the wooden sink and bow, I only knew of his presence when I heard his boots on the concrete floor, he kept smashing my head against the wooden side of the sink I was bent over.

In later life l had trouble with my vision and when I needed a cataract removed was told that the back of my left eye was covered in scars. At the hospital the surgeon who was to remove the cataract asked if I had been in a bad car accident to which I replied no.

On the day of the operation the senior nurse asked the same question and would not let the matter drop and thought I was lying. My eye would not respond to eye drops to enlarge the pupil. She went on to tell me a car accident could cause loss of sight as the eyelids are the only means of keeping eyes in my head. A special lens had been ordered as it was feared infection would break out.

The operation went ahead, as the anaesthetic wore off the eye started to pain me, it increased as time passed, no sleep during the night, too much pain, I laid there trying to think of the cause of the damage, then I recalled the Japanese guard in the washhouse. My wife drove me to hospital in the morning, on the way there I had a mild heart attack caused by the pain, she suggested that I should be taken to A&E, I said just get me to have treatment for this eye. I was treated immediately and given further medication, the eye has never returned to normality, it still pains me.

I am lucky to have survived situations where so many died and l lived to tell of it.

Hakodate Camp

Hakodate camp improved the year I was moved, 1943, the Japanese did not like the loss of slave labour after the hazardous conditions and shipping losses sustained getting the P.O.W.’s to Japan. A new camp was built with better living conditions, but the greatest improvement was the removal of the existing Commandant. A more relaxed atmosphere was allowed in camp, the last roll call and lights out was extended to 9pm. In the summer months, the camp now had a sea view, the P.O.W.’s could now walk down a path on the camp boundary and bathe in the sea.

At the docks they were well treated at work, as the war progressed the fit Japanese men had to leave to join the army, leaving only the old men and very young students and women to do the work. The authorities were doing all they could for the prisoners as they felt they were the best work force they had, but of course the P.O.W.’s were as usual doing all they could underhandedly to make things go wrong.

Shortly before the end of the war they were taken from the docks to work in coal mines, this falls in line with the orders issued to exterminate all P.O.W.’s in the event of an invasion of Japan.

The total number of deaths in Hakodate Camp was 114, most of these deaths occurred in the first six months before my removal from the camp to Ohasi. Possibly some of these men were still ill suffering from the dreadful food and conditions on the Dai Nichi Maru. The weather and wooden building we lived in did not help, the sadistic commandant added to our discomfort.

A further 29 men were detailed to be sent to Hakodate also died in a military hospital nearby the port of Moji where we docked, 12 dead men were also found in the hold of the Dai Nichi Maru when all the P.O.W.’s who could move had left the ship.

A P.O.W. camp named Mukaishima in the south of Japan also had 26 of the P.O.W.’s from the Dai Nichi Maru die in the first six months, the 140 men sent there experienced a better climate and brick accommodation which probably helped the recovery of some.

The voyage from Singapore to Japan must have been equal to the conditions experienced by the unfortunate slaves who suffered this misfortune 200 years ago travelling to America.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

27: Return to Japan – 2006. Part 4.

Sunday 4th June

This morning we took a taxi to the Eizen-Ji Temple to meet the Buddhist monk once again. He guided us around the temple where we saw the granite family shrines of local people. A specially commissioned monument for the P.O.W.’s who had died in Hakodate camp was also there with the man who had designed it and raised the funds for its erection there.

There followed a fifteen minute service with the priest chanting and striking a large brass urn that gave off the sound of a deep bell that resonated around the building, a large solid wooden drum was also struck at intervals, as the service progressed we in turn said silent prayers and burnt incense.

A film crew and reporters were present to record the event, and once the service was over, we looked around several parts of the temple before sipping green tea and eating traditional Japanese cakes whilst seated cross-legged on the floor, in a large communal room in the adjoining house. It was now lunchtime so we made our way to a small French restaurant where we had an enjoyable meal of soup, brioche and kebabs.

In the afternoon we went to the YMCA were I gave a talk in the hall to a group of 60 local Japanese majority of which were elderly, they listened in silence and with their impassive features I did wonder if I was making any impression on them. When I had finished speaking, several asked questions about life in the camp, I was surprised when an Australian got up and spoke, then later I met three who I learned were all English teachers, this rather amused Angela, the thought of Japanese students speaking English with an Assue accent.

As I left the platform a Japanese man took over and started to speak, pinning up a very large sheet of paper covered in Japanese writing, I recognised him as Mr Asari the man who I assisted planting the tree and rose bush, he was telling them that it was time that Hakodate remembered the P.O.W.’s who died there also the Japanese dead by erecting a city memorial.

Before leaving I was offered several thousand Yen for my visit, I refused to accept it, telling them to use it to start their fund for the memorial.

This engagement over, we returned to the hotel to collect our cases, then boarded the airport bus which took us a short ride to the edge of the city to a very modern airport.

The flight to Tokyo in the A.N.A. aircraft had the usual pilots view on the overhead cabin television screen which enables passengers to watch the take off and landing, switching to look vertically down as it leaves the ground and then switches back as it approaches the runway for landing. Our flight time from Hakodate to Tokyo Haneda airport was one hour ten minutes. We then boarded a limousine bus to Tokyo Central Station where we hired a taxi to our hotel and unpacked.

It was getting late when we took a stroll to a fast food bar for a meal of rice and tempura, miso soup with noodles and a cold beer.

Monday 5th June

Angela and Bari went off to Tokyo Central Station in order to book our seats on the ‘Bullet’ train for our following days journey to Hiroshima, they also called in at the British Airways office to book our seats for the homeward flight.

I had a relaxing morning and after lunch we decided to try the Tokyo underground system, a notorious rabbit warren. After studying the route charts, went to the Asakusa district, a main traditional Japanese shopping area, we encountered no problems in getting there, but we had avoided the rush hour! For the first time during our stay in Japan, more tourists were noticeable, most of the shops were for tourists, all selling similar Japanese goods, like elsewhere, there were some old streets, others modern. We did our shopping and then made our way back and went out for an evening meal.

Tuesday 6th June

Today we travelled without our Japanese companions, boarding the ‘Bullet’ train for Okyama, then a quick change of trains for the remaining journey to Hiroshima, a total journey time of just over five hours.

We disembarked and were met by Mr Kobayashi, the representative of the Japanese P.O.W. Network. We then travelled by taxi to the Memorial Park, there we were met by a young lady interpreter, also, I was introduced to a gentleman, Mr Mori, who as a child of eight years of age had remarkably survived, from only a distance of two miles, the blast of the atomic bomb that had been dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima. We entered a large hall where refreshments were being served and ordered coffee while Mr Mori continued with his story of survival. Apparently he was blown off his feet by the blast and into a shallow river, the weeds, reeds and mud covered him and protected him from the radiation, two other boys, his friends, who stood beside him, died.

I asked his views on the dropping of the bomb, “It was a terrible thing”, he said, “But it had saved many lives by stopping the war”.

Meanwhile, Mr Kobayashi had taken Angela and Bari around the museum, a place which I had already visited on a previous trip, I met up with them outside. Angela said she found the exhibits interesting but would have liked more time.

We returned to the rail station and caught a local train to the coastal channel port town of Onomichi, arriving at our hotel, the Green Hill, just after 18:00 hours. At 18:30 we attended a formal dinner in the hotel with a group of invited guests, which finished at 21:00 hours.

Wednesday 7th June

A small ferry from a dock immediately outside of our hotel took us across the short expanse of water to the town of Makaishima opposite, where a monument to the P.O.W.’s who had worked and died there had been erected four years earlier. I was then taken to a perk where the English Oak Tree that had been planted near the memorial had been moved to, it had been realised that it would have grow too large to leave by the towns road in a central location.

We then returned to the factory where the P.O.W.’s worked, this was now producing Japanese open toed socks. In the owners office while being entertained with the traditional cup of green tea, we were presented with three pairs of socks each.

Before boarding the ‘Bullet’ train for our return to Tokyo, we were taken up the mountain overlooking the town and the coastal inlets of the sea that interspersed this area forming a group of small islands.

Yoshiko, Taeko and Fuyuko were waiting for us as the train pulled into Tokyo Central Station. It was our last meeting and time to thank them for all that they had done to make this a most enjoyable and unforgettable visit. There was a lot of talk as we enjoyed our last meal together before finally saying goodbye.

Thursday 8th June

We made an early start to ensure there were no hiccups in getting to the airport on time. We left the hotel by taxi to Tokyo Central Air Terminal, from there to Narita Airport by Limousine Bus. A stroll around the airport shops for last minute presents, light refreshments, then boarding the aircraft which departed on time at 13:10 for our 10½ hour flight home across the top of Siberia.

Friday 9th June 

Arrived at London, Heathrow Airport at 16:47, just three minutes early from our scheduled time of arrival, ending our trip to Japan.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

27: Return to Japan – 2006. Part 3.

Saturday 3rd June

Meeting in the hotel foyer we had breakfast then went to the waiting press cars that were to take us to the old Hakodate camp site. On arrival I was introduced to the man who had bought the site on which the old prison camp had stood, he was now in the process of using the old huts to build a restaurant which would include rooms for paying guests. It was not yet completed, the decorating was still to be done. It had splendid views of the sea and bay which had been obscured from P.O.W.’s view by a high wooden fence that surrounded the camp site, today it was a splendid summers day.

The next surprise was that a local historian named Mr Asari, who I now met, was to plant a rose and black pine tree with me in the grounds overlooking the sea. My daughter Angela was asked to throw some earth then water them in, Bari was kept busy taking photo’s alongside the press men present. A wooden board was put in place with the date and my name on, which was to be replaced at a later date with a granite stone engraved to commemorate my visit.

This task completed, I was then shown round inside the building, it was constructed of old aged timber, a quarantine sign was screwed to an internal wall, a relic from one of the camp huts. We then went to the site of the old crematorium, a little way up the hill, it had been demolished long ago and replaced with a very modern building with a glass door frontage that could have been anywhere.

Further down the hill was a small café overlooking the bay, we sat in the garden and had lunch,  surprisingly, Russian food, Borsch and a Cornish pasty type pastry with a herb filling.

After lunch our next call was to a Buddhist Temple built in 1643, this was where the ashes of the P.O.W.’s who died in Hakodate were kept until the end of the war. Why I was given Bill’s ashes to safeguard, I don’t know, was it because I helped carry him up the hill to the old brick crematorium or because I washed and fed him? I will never know the answer.

The docks were the next stop, it was still the old dry dock that had been there for 106 years, I was told. I remembered this place very well with the winter winds and snow coming in off the sea. A large modern ferry boat was now in dock being renovated, looking very smart with its finishing coats of paint. I could still feel that cold wind there even on this glorious sunny summers day, so felt the need to don the zip-up jacket I had taken along, it had not changed and I had no wish to linger there.

The two reporters from the Hakodate newspaper were taking us to the cable car station, on our way we drove through the old quarters of Hakodate close to the old camp and saw the old British Embassy, the Chinese Centre and the Russian Church, throwbacks of the fish industries of the 1800’s. The press left us when we reached the station to return to their newspaper offices to write their reports. We then rode the cable car to the top of Hakodate mountain and had stunning views of the town, harbour and the twin coastline of the peninsular.

Another busy day out over, we returned to our hotel, then told that we would be dining out at a French restaurant where we were welcomed by an elderly lady, her Buddhist Monk son was to join us later. The restaurant had been closed to other diners and a grand piano installed with pianist playing western music. Several courses of food were served, excellent roast been being the main course, champagne and the finest wines made it a superb meal.

Well sated and expecting to say our thank you and goodbye to our hosts we were surprised to be told that the evening was not over yet, two cars waited outside to take us to the top of Mount Hakodate once again so that we could see the city lights on this clear night. It was a stunning view and an apt finale to an outstanding evening as the cars returned us to our hotel.

Friday, 2 December 2011

27: Return to Japan – 2006. Part 2.

Thursday 1st June

Early morning a car from the Embassy arrived and took us to Tokyo Central Station where we were to meet Taeko and Yoshiko to board a Shinkansen ‘Bullet’ train travelling north east for 2½ hours at almost 200 miles per hour, to Hanemaki, changing there to a branch line train for a 1½ hour journey to the port town of Kamaishi. This was a very pleasant rural journey travelling through wooded valleys, rice fields and farming where flat areas were cultivated.

At Kamaishi station I was greeted by local Council officials, reports and a film crew, then taken by minibus to the local museum where photographs of Ohasi iron ore mine, the prison camp and war damaged Kamaishi town were shown to me. Great interest was caused when I pointed to myself dressed in a miners hat paraded with others before leaving for work in the mine. We then boarded the minibus accompanied by the press who interviewed me throughout the day.

First stop was the old Ohasi prison camp which was now completely flat with no sign of its previous habitation, I asked what hap happened to the camp and was told that the local people who had lost their homes during the air raids and bombardment from warships had dismantled it and taken the wood to build makeshift homes. The large stock of food we had left that had been dropped by air was given to the children, they were suffering from a shortage of food.

The gravel road and mine railway outside the camp to Kamaishi and the mine had disappeared, there now was a tarmac road in place.

The next stop was the ore mine which is now a thriving mineral water bottling plant. I knew from experience that there was plenty of water in the mine, but never envisaged this.

The mine had along history, being established in the mid 1800’s. In the main building there was exhibits of the different types of rock, minerals and ore that had been mined there, also relief models of the hillside and mine, further along were several boards which contained various photographs. I did enjoy learning the history of this mine where I had been put to work but cannot say it brought back memories because they have never left me.

Another short ride took us to the mine entrance which was blocked off by two large solid steel doors, I immediately felt disappointed as I had hoped to look inside, but need not have worried as shortly after a miner arrived with the key sent up by the mine management. I was so pleased I was able to go inside and touch the rock walls, it made my day.

We had stopped on our way to the mine to pick up a man who was a child when I worked there, speaking to him through the interpreter, I asked if he knew of the mine collapse in 1945, “yes”, he replied “there was also a collapse in 1942 and 1943”. I would not have felt so safe had I know that when I worked there. It was then time to return to Kamaishi to meet the Mayor.

We entered the Council Offices where we were greeted by the Mayor. He said he was very pleased that I had returned to Kamaishi and thanked me for doing so. We all indulged in a traditional cup of green tea, on leaving he thanked me again and to show his appreciation gave me some locally farmed caviar on departure.

A visit to the harbour was next, it had not changed at all, this was a sight I shall never forget, my mind went back to September 15th 1945, I could see the place where I walked down the ramp of the landing craft with my companions to be taken to the hospital ship in the bay with its escort destroyers. As I looked out at the bay I could see the ships there, waiting. An amazing feeling, one that I cannot forget.

Our final stop was the steel works. It was explained to me that steel was brought here from other works in Japan now and the products made here are steel wire for car tyres and iron dust for disc brake pads.

The blast furnaces were destroyed during the air raids and bombardment on the 9th August 1945 and never rebuilt. These were the first western type in Japan, built in 1857, their remains are a museum site now.

Now it was a hasty retreat as we had only twenty five minutes left to return to our hotel for a quick shower and change before presented ourselves to a formal dinner with invited guests in honour of my visit.

Friday 2nd June

Today I had a rather daunting task ahead of me, I had been asked to speak to 460 students, school officials and some parents, about my imprisonment in Ohasi and the work I did in the mine. I had never spoken to an audience of this size before.

On arrival we were taken to the headmaster’s office for introductions then sat round a table to drink tea and have a chat, then it was time for me to face the waiting audience. Clapping started as soon as we entered the hall, Yoshiko sat beside me on the stage to interpret and so I began to speak.

There was complete silence as I spoke which made me more comfortable and relaxed as the students listened intently. I spoke of the ups and downs of life during the two and a half years I spent in the Ohasi camp, also of the freedom when the war ended and we were all released.

I had managed to explain life as it was at the camp in the hour allotted to me, the students now had just thirty minutes in which to question me, they didn’t waste any time, the boys asked endless questions which I answered in turn until the headmaster interrupted to say that time had run out. Then a boy and girl both made a speech on behalf of the students thanking me for coming, I was then presented with a symbol of Kamaishi city, I replied that it had been my pleasure.

On leaving, the headmaster told me he was surprised at the students interest and the number of questions asked. As I made my final attempt to leave all the boys crowded around me wanting to shake my hand. I was as surprised as the headmaster was, at the amount of interest shown.

Outside the minibus was waiting to take us to the station. As we waved and said our goodbyes to the Kamaishi people there was a warm feeling that we all had enjoyed the visit and meeting each other.

Returning to Hanemaki railway station we boarded a ‘Bullet’ train to Moriaka where the fast track ended. We then changed platforms for an ordinary express to Hakodate, during the change over I noticed a member of the railway staff point me out to another so I assumed he had seen my visit on the television news the evening before although I did not see it myself.

The express was fairly fast speeding past mountainous scenery and through several tunnels, the longest tunnel was the one under the sea from the island of Honshu to the island of Hokkaido, which I understand is one of the longest in the World being 33½ miles long. We arrived in Kakodate at dusk after a total five hour rail journey from Kamaishi.

It was 19:30 in the evening when we arrived at Hakodate rail station and it felt much cooler this far north from Tokyo and as evidence, cherry blossom was still in bloom. Our hotel was just a short distance from the station across a large open square, next to the harbour and famous Hakodate fish market. We were feeling rather weary after another busy day so had our evening meal, then retired to be ready for another busy day ahead of us tomorrow.

Friday, 25 November 2011

27: Return to Japan – 2006

In April 2006 I received an invitation to attend an investiture ceremony at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Two Japanese ladies, Mrs Taeko Sasamoto and Mrs Yoshiko Tamura who are founder members of the Japanese P.O.W. Network were to receive the award of M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire) for their dedication and hard work in tracing details and final resting places of all British P.O.W.’s who had died in Japan. I became acquainted with these ladies when they visited my home in March 2004.

I decided to accept the invitation and extend my stay to twelve days intending to visit my old camps where I had been held prisoner. When I informed Mrs Tamura of my intentions she asked if she and Mrs Sasamoto could accompany me, I assented, they then arranged an itinerary. Unfortunately my wife was unable to travel with me as she had recently had surgery and not fit enough to travel, so my daughter Angela agreed to accompany me, also a personal friend, Bari Logan.

We booked flights, bought Japan Rail Passes and with the help of Mrs Izumi, who is a secretary of the British Empire, were able to book our accommodation at a hotel quite close to the Embassy, in Tokyo.

My companions and I took off from London, Heathrow Airport at 13.50 lunchtime, Saturday 27th May in pouring rain. Arriving at Tokyo, Narita Airport at 09:10 Sunday morning 28th May after a 10 ½ hour flight, only to find it pouring with rain, but not for long, soon the sun shone and stayed shining for the rest of our visit.

We boarded a Limousine Bus which took us to a drop off point in central Tokyo where we hired a taxi to our hotel, The Grand Arc Hanzomon. I had a pleasant view from my 15th floor room which overlooked the moat and grounds of the Emperors Palace.

Monday 29th May

Early morning, Yoshiko greeted us in the hotel lounge and explained the itinerary that had been arranged for us and to accompany us to the travel agent to pay for our hotels in Hakodate and Kamaishi which had been booked in advance, also our internal flight tickets from Hakodate to Tokyo, Haneda Airport.

First stop was Tokyo Central Station where we exchanged our Rail Pass Vouchers for Japan Rail Passes and made our seat reservations on the Shinkansen ‘Bullet’ trains.

This task completed, we boarded a suburban train to Yokohama where our next stop was the travel agent. Business completed we were driven by Yoshiko to the Commonwealth Cemetery where Taeko was waiting with two newspaper reporters, one from the Daily Telegraph, the other from the Asahi Shinbun, Japan’s number on Newspaper, who then proceeded to question me about my return visit and also of the time I spent in Japan during my P.O.W. years.

The reason for visiting the Commonwealth Cemetery was to see the grave of my friend Bill, who had died during captivity. I had kept his ashes with me until my release then handed them over to be returned to the U.K. In 2004, I learnt that his mother could not bear to accept him home in a box, she had not been informed of his death so was completely shocked, his ashes were returned to Japan.

Leaving the Cemetery our next stop was to a restaurant where we enjoyed a meal and chat after which the newspaper reporters departed. We were then driven to Taeko’s house for the afternoon where we indulged in more food, after a pleasant relaxing few hours we were taken to Yokohama station where we boarded a train to Tokyo returning without problems and back to our hotel.

Tuesday 30th May

It was only a short walk from our hotel to the British Embassy where the investiture ceremony was to start at 17:30 hours. Arriving at the gates we were admitted after the usual careful security checks.

On entering the building I was asked to put my signature beside my name on the list of guests, then escorted to meet the Ambassador, Sir Graham Fry’s wife, a charming lady who informed me I was the guest of honour and would be seated with the award recipients families, then went on to explain the procedure that would follow.

The guests were seated and the ceremony began, the Ambassador speaking in Japanese and an Army member of staff translating at intervals in English. A large group of press and television camera’s recording the event. Champagne followed, food and drinks were offered while people chatted. I was kept very busy by a number of people from the press and several members of the Japanese P.O.W. Network who asked to speak to me. The Ambassador thanked me for coming to Japan saying how much it was appreciated by all the guests and staff. It was a lovely warm evening as guests were able to stroll about in the gardens.

After a pleasant evening we made our way back to the hotel accompanied by fifteen members of the Japanese P.O.W. Network where a buffet meal and drinks had been ordered in the restaurant. They all wanted to speak to me, asking questions, so I was constantly passed from one person to another, it seems they rarely encounter an ex-P.O.W. to speak to, person to person.

It was the early hours of the morning before this happy gathering came to an end. I was pleased that my companions and I had a free day ahead of us, needless to say, we did not intend to rise at the crack of dawn.

Wednesday 31st May

During the day we took a stroll around part of the perimeter of the large moat that surrounds the Emperors Palace gardens, I then sat in the shade of trees enjoying the tranquility before returning back to the hotel for another rest followed by a meal out that evening.

Monday, 21 November 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 8.

England, at last!

It was another grey morning when we finally docked into Southampton. The Captain had done well; crossing in just four days and ten hours, not far short of its own record. Some Americans on board told us this happened with every crossing. The Captain would cruise to America at a slower pace, so as to conserve fuel, then burn what he had saved on a fast return to England.

Coming ashore, nothing seemed to have changed. There were just a few railway people on the quayside. We were instructed not to enter buildings as the customs men were there and would go through our bags. We were then directed to where the trains were waiting. Before long we were on our way to RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton, and were informed by RAF personnel that if all went smoothly we would be on our way home that night. It was a great feeling knowing that our long journey was almost over. I longed to reach home after an absence of almost four and a half years.

Cosford was well organised and was ready for our arrival. We were passed through the various departments as quickly as possible. We each saw a doctor who gave us yet another check over and asked us a few questions about our health. Then a kit check and on to another department to receive our travel warrants and timetables. Lastly, we lined up at the pay desk to receive a sum of money; part of our back pay. I can’t recall exactly how much, but it didn’t really matter, we were home. The station personnel told us that if we wanted to know the whereabouts of any RAF pals we had left behind, they would willingly try to trace them. I left the names and numbers of two pals that I would very much like to trace.

One Final Walk and Home

A telegram was sent to each of our homes telling our parents of our expected arrival times. We said our goodbyes and away we went. So much had happened, so many experiences that really there was little to say. It was late at night by the time I arrived at my destination. My father was waiting on the platform to greet me as I climbed down from the train. There were no taxis available, so we walked home. I didn’t mind as I wanted the opportunity to familiarise myself with my new surroundings.

Half an hour or so later, as we approached our home, I could see a large banner across the front of the house with the words ‘Welcome Home Frank’. Once indoors, I found all my relatives had assembled to welcome me home. My Mother said she knew I didn’t like any fuss but had to put out the flags because all the parents were doing the same when their sons came home and she didn’t want them to think that she didn’t care about her son. She promised that they would be taken down in the morning. Questions were being thrown at me from all directions for the next three hours. Then everyone finally dispersed, after I had promised to visit them all over the next few weeks.

Trying to Adjust to Normal Life Again

I realised the very next day that it was going to be very difficult to get back to my old lifestyle. I felt very much alone. My friends, who had been my constant companions before I joined up, had all married and moved away. The first few days I spent taking long walks, assuring myself that everything would soon be fine and I would be able to settle down once again to leading the normal happy and contented life I once knew. Although I felt lonely, I actually needed to be alone while I tried to sort out my feelings.

I was due back at RAF Cosford in January after eight weeks leave so I was looking forward to meeting up with some of my old RAF pals. In the meantime, I decided to write to Bill’s mother. I mentioned early in this story that my mate Bill had died in Hakodate. I first met him in the hut when we were posted overseas; he and I left our friends behind and were given a cabin together, so we chummed up. We hadn’t much in common other than that we were both keen on motorbikes.

I wrote to Bill’s mum offering to pay a visit. I received a reply from Bill’s sister saying her mother had no wish to see me; she couldn’t understand why I had survived and her son hadn’t. Bill’s ashes, which I had kept and handed in on my release, had been safely delivered. His sister invited me to visit her at her home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, as she needed to know the full details of his death. I did my best to explain.

After the visit, I decided to get away from home for a time and make the promised visits to all my uncles and aunts. My cousins, of course, were still in the forces. One of my first visits was to the parents of my best pal. He had intended volunteering for service with me, but his parents wouldn’t let him. Nine months after I joined up I spent a weekend with him on leave; telling him that I had volunteered for overseas service. He was now living in Oxfordshire, with a wife and child and still serving in the RAF. During my conversation with his parents they mentioned another family who were still awaiting news of their son. I told them that he had died in Java in 1942 but they shouldn’t mention this to anyone; I wanted them to hear the news officially in the proper manner.

I was invited to a dinner at the Conservative Club laid on for ex-P.O.W.’s like myself. The dinner was fine until I discovered I was the only Japanese P.O.W.; all the others were from Germany and Italy. They had lots of funny and amusing stories to tell of incidents that took place while they were in captivity. I’m afraid I could not recall one incident that was in the least bit funny or amusing, so I felt a bit of an odd one out.

My mother mentioned a young workmate who I vaguely remembered from the early days. We had both worked for a large building and decorating firm specialising in hotels and public houses. I was decorating apprentice and he, Henry, was a plumber’s apprentice. He left when he was eighteen, because of the poor wages, and went to work in a factory. He was a big strong lad and when called up joined the Royal Marines. Landing in France on D-Day, he was hit in the head and neck by shrapnel from a mortar shell. He was now a church caretaking living in a one-bedroom cottage close to the church with his wife and child. Henry’s mother had asked for me to see him, hoping it might help him in some way. When I did visit him I fond it quite an ordeal; he looked normal but there the resemblance ended. He had great difficulty when trying to speak and when he did managed to say anything he sounded like a backward child. He memory was impaired and I could see by his face the struggle he was having in trying to remember who I was. I found this very distressing but stayed with him all afternoon, hoping to see some improvement. Regrettably, it just didn’t happen.

Young Lady in the Office

I was kicking my heels by now, willing my eight weeks leave to end. I realised there were not too many people my age around; they were mostly under eighteen or over forty-five. I thought I might pay my old firm a visit to see if any of my old workmates were still around. I went to the office and spoke to the young lady who told me some of the chaps were decorating a dance hall in a hotel nearby. I went round there and, on entering the dance hall, received a very warm welcome. I enjoyed a cup of tea and a long chat with my ex-workmates, which left me feeling happy and relaxed. I asked who the young lady was in the office and whether she had a boyfriend? I was told “No!” They told me she was eighteen years old and at the moment she wasn’t interested in boyfriends. After a couple of dates they always seemed to make a nuisance of themselves, which I could well understand. I thought she was gorgeous and I found out her name was Lena. My mates went on to say that they had told her not to bother with the chaps because I was on my way home and was the one for her. As I took my leave from them I was asked when I would be returning to work. I wasn’t too sure about that!

Before making for home, I decided to pop back to the office to ask Lena out. To my delight, she accepted. Three months later, on our way to a former P.O.W.’s wedding, we changed trains in London and found ourselves passing a jeweller. I asked he “Shall we get engaged?” and she replied “Yes!” So, we popped in and I bought her a ring. We were married in the Parish Church six months later when Lena was nineteen. I had celebrated my 26th birthday the day before. It was, I must say, much to the disapproval of our respective parents. My mother felt that she had lost her son for the second time and Lena’s mother thought she was far too young, but grudgingly gave her consent after a bit of coaxing, we are still happy and contented after 65 years of marriage, so it could not have been a bad decision.

When my leave was up I returned to Cosford and found the information I had asked about my two pals was waiting for me. Once had been to North Africa and Italy in charge of an airfield fire appliance and had survived the war, we met up later. The other who said he would wait for what he had volunteered for, reached his ambition and became a Spitfire pilot. Taking his first operational flight on an offensive sweep over France at the time when the German FW 190’s ruled the skies, he had been shot down and killed. I felt terribly sad at the news. He was such a lovely chap who, before joining up had worked at Liberty’s store in London. I remember that he had taken me along there to meet some staff when I spent a weekend leave at his home.

I have a lot to be thankful for, I survived the war and here, the Memoirs of my war experiences end.

Next: Return to Japan – 2006

Saturday, 12 November 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 7.

From Canada to The United States of America

On the last day of our journey across Canada, our steward pointed and said, “Niagara Falls over there”. The train slowed down and we crossed into the United States of America at Buffalo. Along the way, three of the locomotives had been disconnected; they weren’t needed once we had left the gradients behind. The remaining one was replaced at Buffalo with a new locomotive with New York Central on it. The journey continued, passing through more densely populated areas of small town America. some of the names I remember hearing of before; Rochester, Syracuse and Albany were some of them. Finally, we reached our destination; Newark, New Jersey. Our journey had taken five days and four nights and passed through some of the most spectacular country I had every seen.

Collecting our packed kit bags we left the train and entered the station. We were then escorted to a ferry, which was within walking distance of the station. The ferry was crowded and busy but the service was frequent. Once the required number was on board we were on our way to the city of New York. A short way into our crossing we saw our ship, the Queen Mary, in the distance. With eagerness and some trepidation we left the ferry and walked to the ship. The last stage of our journey was about to begin.

The Greatest Liner Afloat

On boarding the Queen Mary, we were presented with a ticket showing our cabin and deck number. I was in for a shock. Everything was such a contrast to my trip on the MV Athlone Castle when leaving England in 1941.

The MV Athlone Castle was a liner that, before the war, sailed between England and South Africa. On that trip, Bill (my friend who died in the Hakodate POW camp) and I were given a cabin for two with wardrobe, cabinet and washbasin. The headwaiter had played a tune on a small dulcimer to announce that meals were being served. The only concession made for conversion of the MV Athlone Castle to troop carry was the installation of long tables in the dining room to replace the normal ones. We had enjoyed a nine-week cruise to Singapore back in 1941.

But now, on the greatest liner afloat, I was dumbfounded. Our cabins had been stripped bare and filled with metal bunks, four high on each side of the cabin. They were constructed from tubular frames with steel mesh stretched across and a thin mattress on top. The only standing space in the cabin was between the bunks. Fortunately for us there were only four of us in our cabin so we each had a spare bunk where we were able to place our kit. When seated for our evening meal we were given all the information that they deemed necessary. As we entered the dining room I had noticed a wall covered with a relief map showing England and America with the Atlantic Ocean between them on which was a model of the Queen Mary supposedly showing the ship’s passage. I had seen this on newsreels in cinemas before the war when the media had been shown around the interior of this huge liner. We were told that apart from the working crew on board, the Americans were now running the ship. On its return trip from England, having deposited us ashore, the ship would be packed to capacity bringing home 15,000 American servicemen; an uncomfortable trip I would imagine. We were told that they would be served two meals a day; one at 10:00 am and the other at 4:00 pm; we on the other hand, would get three meals!

Once again we were informed, no pay: Britain was broke. We would not, therefore, be allowed ashore. They were unable to say when we would be sailing but it would be as soon as the ship was refuelled and the provissions were brought on board. I felt that the sooner this trip was over the better! After a good meal that evening, most of us walked around the decks looking at New York’s skyscrapers and the lights. That evening Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Eisenhower’s deputy during the European war, visited us; he walked around the decks talking to groups of us, questioning us about our experiences. He apologised for the lack of cash but told us that books, magazines and newspapers were being brought on board to occupy us.

In the daylight the streets of New York seemed a long way from the docks. Our only view was of warehouses and a three-tier road, which disappeared into the distance. An American soldier guarded the gangway onto the quay. Time dragged as we either walked around the decks or lay on our bunks. After dark some of the airmen went down the gangway and spoke to the guard. He explained that he had orders not to let anyone past but, if they climbed over before they reached him, he would look the other way. The few that did get ashore were treated to drinks but were unable to get into the city centre without a taxi so they decided not to bother.

The Queen Mary set sail after three long days giving us a look at the Statue of Liberty as we headed for the open sea. Looking back, the skyline couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anywhere else in the world. The ship was very stable as we ploughed into the rough seas. We were well into November by now with grey skies and the weather quite chilly. We were all longing to reach Southampton; it seemed a lifetime since the war in the Far East had ended on August 15th, now three months ago.

Friday, 4 November 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 6.

Up early next morning, kit bags packed, we were off down to the docks to board a ship for a two and a half hour voyage to Vancouver. My emotions were rather mixed. I desperately wanted to go home but felt sad at leaving the people who had been so kind and generous, helping us ease our way back into society.

We arrived in Vancouver about three hours later and disembarked in two separate groups. One group to travel on Canadian Pacific Railways and the other on Canadian National Railways; I was to board the latter. After a short walk each group were settled in their respective trains, which were to travel, by different routes across Canada to our destination, New York in the United States of America. Our train was the largest I had ever seen with twenty-two coaches pulled by two locomotives. Our coach was comfortably warm with double-glazed windows and two settee type seats facing each other with two of us to each settee. There was also a pull down bunk above the window that formed part of the roof by day.

During the evening, whilst we were at dinner, the steward unlocked the pull down bunk and made that and the settees into beds ready for us to retire. I had the bunk. I felt a surge of excitement as we pulled away from Vancouver. As we left we could see the Rocky Mountains and soon we would pass through them. Vancouver was a surprisingly large city with lots of small towns and suburbs. But in no time it seemed we were in the mountains running along tracks cut into the mountainside with our speed decreasing as the train started to climb the steep gradients. As I watched from my coach window, which was near the front of the train, I could look back along the whole train, which by now had acquired two more locomotives. We now had two engines at each end of the train which I could see winding itself gracefully around the curves of the mountain with columns of black smoke and steam rising straight up from the locomotive’s funnels. The scenery was breathtaking, with snowy mountains, fir trees and riverbanks along which the track sometimes ran.

At the end of our coach there were washing facilities, toilets and showers. After dinner which was served in the dining coach, we sat on our beds chatting for a while before turning in. The rhythm of the train soon rocked us to sleep although we were half wakened occasionally by the unfamiliar sound of the train whistle. In the morning we found that we had passed through Calgary during the night. The steward told us that we would shortly be stopping at a town called Medicine Hat for a change of driver and fireman and to allow the train to refuel. There would, he said, be a further five stops along the way where we would be able to dismount for an hour to stretch our legs and have a look around. We would be alerted to return on board by the train’s whistle and bells which would sound at intervals ten minutes before the train was due to depart.

There was snow on the ground as we chuffed into Medicine Hat, the train bell ringing just like a small church bell. It was a small station without a platform. As the coach door opened, the metal floor hinged up revealing steps down to the trackside. I had donned my hat, greatcoat and gloves to face the weather but my first breath of air told me where my lungs began and ended. It was freezing with snow crunching underfoot. I decided to have a look round the nearest locomotive and noticed that the Company’s name had been removed from the coaches and had been replaced by a sign saying ‘Armed Forces Sleeper’. On the locomotive’s tender I read waster capacity 6000 gallons, coal 16 tons; an enormous amount I thought. I was told later that they also used 600 gallons of oil, which was sprayed into the furnace with the coal, the coal was fed into an opening in the tender floor, crushed in a worm drive then blown into the furnace under pressure with the oil.

Outside the station was a large log building with general store emblazoned across it’s front; some of us decided to go inside. A large iron barrel stove stood in the centre of the room, the remainder of the store being packed to capacity with everything imaginable, all one needs in this frozen climate. I’d never seen so many commodities in one place and could have browsed for hours. Instead, I thought I would explore some of the town, walking down a couple of side streets. There were no other shops in sight, the general store obviously being the main supplier to the local populace. The only inhabitant I encountered were some men wearing hats and earmuffs, lumber jackets and thick trousers and strapped knee length boots. It was a visual geography lesson for me but I decided I needed to get back on the train to enjoy its cosy warmth.

Next stop Moose Jaw; a similar journey, similar town except for the weather which was horizontal snow and freezing wind. I wasted little time in hopping back on the train. The scenery was also changing as we journeyed on with the countryside becoming flatter. We then reached the prairies, the wide-open spaces, which took a day and a half to cross. At one of the stops some English girls, who had met and married Canadians, were waiting to meet the train. They all talked of the loneliness, with no neighbours nearby. Three of them were so desperate they asked if they could join the train and travel home with us. I must say I had some sympathy with them because I was desperate to get home and could hardly wait for the journey to end.

The view from the train was just mile after mile of grassland with bushes here and there, of course this was November and the wheat and cereals must have been harvested, the occasional farm scattered the horizon, I felt that to live such a lonely life with no near neighbours and not another human being in sight would be hard to bear unless born into this vast lonely world. We did not stop at any of the large cities having pas Winnipeg about half way through our journey and now as we neared the end sped past Ottawa and Toronoto.

Friday, 28 October 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 5.

Friendship and a Social Life

One day we left camp late in the afternoon intending to visit a cinema that evening. We stood talking on a street corner when two young ladies in army uniform walked towards us. They stopped and said they had been told that there were a lot of ex-P.O.W.'s walking around town not knowing what to do. They had been given the afternoon off and some free cinema ticket so, would we like to go to the movies with them? So, in we went!

After leaving the cinema we went into a café for a drink and to try some maple syrup pancakes. One of the girls seemed very friendly towards me and asked if we had seen the totem poles and the park. They said they would take us there the following day, which they did. By late afternoon it was obvious that one of the other chaps and me were getting all the attention. Of the other two, one was getting married when he got home and decided he was going back to camp; the other joined him.

I now knew the young lady who had paired off with me was Laura. We had a meal out and a drink in a club then she took me back to her flat where I met mates of hers from the various flats in the house. Our meetings were flexible. We agreed to meet at the same time and the same place each day not knowing if she had to be on duty the next day.

One day the RAF chaps were taken to the RCAF station to be kitted out with uniforms. Tailors were on hand to do any alterations needed. We were given a kit bag in which to pack a greatcoat, which was accepted gratefully to keep out the cost night air. It was becoming quite frosty. We were also issued with black leather gloves, not the woolen ones normally issued in England. Back at camp all the airmen, including me, were busy sewing on badges and generally feeling smarter and more comfortable in ourselves. Laura thought I looked great and suggested we go for a walk. During the walk we passed other army girls on the other side of the road going in the opposite direction. They shouted as we passed. Laura said to me “Wait here” then walked across and spoke to them. On return I asked if she knew them. She said “No”, but they had called me a nasty name, which I can’t recall. she explained that all Canadian servicemen volunteered for overseas service; there was no compulsion. But everyone who stayed at home was deemed to be a coward. Apparently they had assumed I was one of the latter, which seemed rather strange as there were an extra 1000 or so men walking about in their new army uniforms. Laura said she had put them straight!

On the Sunday, Laura had arranged to take me to her brother’s house for dinner in the evening. By now it was late October and becoming very chilly. The house was very warm but the only sign of heating was a fire in the lounge. I asked how they managed to keep so much warmth when there were no obvious radiators. I was taken down to the basement where an iron barrel stove was glowing, burning just sawdust. On and around the stove was a metal casing with a pipe reaching the ceiling where further pipes branched out to vents in the skirting of the rooms above. These kept the rooms beautifully warm.

It was a nice detached house of timber and brick construction with unfenced lawns at the front. My host told me he had a good job as a welder in the docks, was always busy repairing damaged ships and had a car. After dinner he asked my intentions. I told him I hadn’t thought about it; I just needed to get home and sort myself out. He then said it would be easy for me to get a job at the docks, young people were needed in Canada and assistance was available to help them emigrate. I explained that I was only twenty years old when I left England and was now twenty-five. My parents would expect me to spend some time with them. I had volunteered for the RAF at nineteen and had been out of their lives for too long. Also, it must have been a worrying time for them whilst I had been a Japanese P.O.W.

We were by now settled into a routine. Mornings were spent in camp, mainly just hanging around. Most  of the airmen now had girlfriends and others had been adopted by local families who cared for them and showed them around the sights. Some just went about in groups. so afternoons and evenings were taken care of. Therefore there wasn’t too much enthusiasm when a day out at a flying boat station in the wilderness was offered. Eventually around fifty decided they would go; apparently they had quite a jolly time. It seem they were given a tour of the base and as much food and drink as they could managed. Also, a Christmas dinner was laid on with plenty of games. In other words, have what you like and do what you will; and apparently they did! The coast would be leaving to take them back to camp at 5pm. It seems that most of them ended up in the WAAF’s (women's) quarters, which are strictly out of bounds to airmen. The story goes that, at around 4.30 pm, the WAAF Officer entered the hut exclaiming, “What are you naughty girls doing to these poor airmen? Let them go at once. You know they should not be in here and their coach goes in half an hour”.

It was now over three weeks since we arrived here. The married men especially were getting restless and wanted to be on the move. We were all wanting to get home to try picking up the threads of our lives so we were happy when a notice was pinned up on the board notifying us of our departure in two days time. Laura and I had arranged to go to the cinema that day. When we met her first words were, “You’re going home!” I asked her how she knew but she just said, “We know!”

I had hardly recognised her the next day when we net; it was the first time I had seen her out of uniform. Her friend Jean, who I had met with Laura on the first day, had invited us with another couple to her parent’s house for the day. We arrived at a large, well furnished bungalow where a buffet meal had been prepared and a bottle of wine. Most impressive; not many people in England lived in this style. I think it was all meant to impress me as I realised the girls were keen for us to return to Canada. It was a pleasant evening; good company, chatting and listening to big band music on the radio broadcast from America. Laura said lots of girls would be coming to the docks tomorrow when we sailed, but she wouldn’t be there. We would say our goodbyes tonight.