Friday, 29 July 2011

21: Beans, Quarry Work and an American Bomber – Part 1.

I had never liked working in the mine although it was an improvement on the dockyard at Hakodate, and wondered if I could possibly swap jobs with someone, our captors didn’t seem to mind, providing the mine had its full shift. Others had made a change over by saying they were giving their friends who were unwell a break. If the replacement worked well, there were no problems.

Suddenly the late shift at the mine was halted and we were now put on a day shift, leaving the camp in the morning just before the other daytime workers. I asked Sakata why the change, he said there was stealing in Ohasi and the mine working prisoners were getting the blame. It was not food that was going missing and he suspected it was the Koreans who were the culprits. I was unable to find out what was being stolen, or indeed, if there was any truth in it.

There was another thorough search of the building just as we were having our evening meal, it seemed that some of the prisoners working in the mine workshops had been too happy and the Japanese workers rather glum.

The Chinese camp now seemed pretty full and as we passed by, I could see a mound of earth had been built up which looked very similar to a volcano crater with a large fire in the centre, into which I saw two bodies being thrown. I surmised there must have been many deaths to need a fire that size.

Spring had arrived, the weather pleasant and were were still receiving our rice balls daily at the mine.

One advantage of working a day shift, was being able to go to and from work in the daylight after spending so many hours in the darkness of the mine. When working the late shift we still had to be up early with the day workers for roll call, the wood collecting had to be done before our shift, but now that we were on a day shift this task had to be done when we arrived back at camp and before evening meal.

Our diet was also being changed, sometimes there was barley mixed in with the rice, later, a third of the rice was replaced with soya beans mixed with our remaining ration. These beans were hard and went sour if not eaten straight away. The small pieces of fish that we had on occasions was also pretty scarce. Hungry as we were, we found even more unpalatable now. The beans began to cause stomach upsets and some of the men started to suffer diarrhoea, so the cookhouse agreed to cook and serve the beans separately from the rice. Some tried to trade their beans for rice, if successful, the price would be one measure of rice for three of beans. I was fortunate that I was able to eat the beans with no ill effect.

Remembering Hakodate and how the dysentery started, I took extra care with my food dishes and ate my beans separately before the rest of the meal. To starve off the hunger, some were saving a little of their daytime meal and consuming it very slowly in bed before trying to sleep. I tried for a time keeping a quarter of my breakfast and lunch so I had a reasonable sized meal at night, but found it hard to keep to when I was still feeling so hungry. The very real problem was that we were all starving, when I retired for the night and had time to think, all that filled my mind was food. There soon became a surplus of beans, some of the men couldn’t eat any without having problems, but I was managing to stomach them and at times ate extra that were offered to me. Eventually the Lieutenant, our go between was sent over to the Jap building to complain and was hit on the head with a shovel for his pains and told “No beans that night and any more complaints, no beans at all”.

I thought this a good time to try and get out of working in the mine, with a surplus of beans and to anyone not able to stomach them, the daily rice ball at the mine must have been quite an incentive. One evening I spoke to a chat who worked in the limestone quarry, it was a similar type of work to what we did in the mine, the limestone rock being blasted out, picked up and loaded into trucks, taken I understand to purify the iron ore in the blast furnaces. I had been working in the mine for two years now and really did feel in need of a break.

The rice ball was what we craved more than anything else, so we agreed on the story that I was feeling unwell and he was taking my place in the mine until I was better. This he told to the mine authorities and I to the limestone quarry management. We did the change over after the next rest day of our ten day week. I liked working in the quarry, it was sunny and I was out in the open air with no weight target to reach and the truck loads we had to push were much smaller, but during working hours there was no let up, we were hustled continuously. There was no rest in the mine either except when the foreman was out of sight.

I now enjoyed a smoke break of ten minutes, morning, afternoon and at lunchtime, it was a pleasure to be able to sit in the sun to eat my meal, to relax and feel the fresh air and not someone breathing down my neck. I felt free for a time, this was one of life’s normally taken for granted pleasures that had been denied me for so long and was greatly missed.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

20: Honourable Men and Rice Cakes – Part 2.

Christmas day 1944 arrived and gratefully we each received an American Red Cross parcel, we also had oat free rice that day. One of the mine officials entered our hut bringing with him a wind up gramaphone together with two records. I remember the two tunes, ‘Don’t sit under the apple tree’ was one, the other ‘Row, Row, Row’. Those two records were played continuously the whole day.

The official said his name was the equivalent of Smith in English, he also informed us that he was the mines official photographer and would like to take photos of us when the weather improved and if good enough, they would be printed in the Japanese newspapers, showing us to be fit and healthy cared for prisoners. The war with Japan had been going on now for three years, I felt that far more was happening that we knew.

The searches in camp were stepped up, our meagre possessions, even little odds and ends were inspected and turned over.

I wasn’t aware at the time, but heard later, that the closest they came to finding the radio was as the guards burst in at one end of the hut, it was being carried out the other end in a rice tub.

I felt our long imprisonment must end soon although at the time, we had seen no sign of allied planes.

About two hundred Canadian soldiers had been moved into the new hut that had been erected in our camp, they were mostly put to work in another level of the mine, a few of them on various other jobs. Therese men had been moved from a camp to the south, I believe, and did tell us they had seen American bombers.

The new camp for Chinese prisoners had been completed and was now being occupied, I never say any of these men at work.

Another man died in our hut, he was American and had given up. He had been suffering from vitamin deficiency and swollen up with excess fluid, he never went to work. There were four other similar cases who survived the war so it wasn’t a fatal illness. The dead man was cremated on an open fire on a piece of open ground outside the camp. He was laid on a pile of wood which was ignited and fed with more wood until completely incinerated. The next day before the afternoon shift, I was detailed with three others to clear the ground where the cremation had taken place. As we raked the ashes level, there were still small pieces of bone amidst the wood ash, but this didn’t upset us in any way, we had seen so much suffering and cruelty that our whole attitude to life and death had drastically changed over the last three years. It was simply as if we were raking the ground ready for planting.

More rumours of a radio in camp abounded and we heard the Americans were said to be recapturing islands and approaching Japan. Sakata said to me “The war will be over this year”, I fervently hoped he was right.

At camp we had a change of Commandant and the permanent staff. We hardly ever saw the old Commandant, except for when he was required for official duties to read out new orders to us prisoners. I wondered how we would far with the new one.

The iron ore at our level in the mine was running into a bad seam and was producing more slate than iron ore. This made work easier as the slate was much lighter in weight. More equipment was being transported to the mine, ready to make a start on another rock face in another direction. Pulling the loaded equipment into the mine were tractor type vehicles with low cabs and wheels that ran on the train lines, these were powered by the American and British truck engines that I’d seen in the hold of the ‘Dia Nicchi Maru’ on that never to be forgotten sea voyage to Japan.

There were days at the mine when we had to go out onto the mountain side to drag logs down to the valley floor where they were picked up and transported into the mine by train; these were used as pit props.

I remember on one of these occasions one of the wood cutters told us to have a break and produced a snake about four feet in length that he had killed, skinned and cleaned. He said that it was good to eat, lit a fire then proceeded to cut the snake into chunks, then placing a small metal sheet on the fire roasted the chunks on top. He then shared it between us prisoners not having any himself, it tasted rather like port. I’m sure he did this because he realised we were half starved. Looking back it is good to remember the humane as well as the brutal treatment we experienced.

It was pleasant to be working in the open in daylight at times, in contrasts to the darkness of the mine each day and then walking back to camp in the dark. I think we were mainly put to work outside when they were endeavouring to find new seams of iron ore for us to work on. So, after a couple of days we were back in the mine.

One one bright sunny day as we left the hut to form up for work, ‘Smith’ the mine official cum photographer, was waiting. He informed us he was going to take some photos to show the Red Cross so they could see we were being well treated, also they would be in the local paper showing the work we were doing. The official that carried a clipboard was also present and included in the photos. He, I believe, kept an account of how many prisoners were employed in the mine each day and was known to us as ‘Ori San’. He wore a Hitler moustache and, I thought, resembled a cross between Hitler and a Gorilla. We often joked at his expense, but he was amiable and one of the very few Jap’s that I actually heard laugh.

Friday, 15 July 2011

20: Honourable Men and Rice Cakes – Part 1.

Christmas 1944 was approaching and things seemed to be changing, some guards seemed more friendly, others more sullen and brutal if given an excuse. We heard that the war was going well for the Allies. Rice seemed to be getting scarce, so we were now having a mixture of oats and rice which wasn't very palatable, but still received our rice ball at the mine.

A new P.O.W. hut was being built in our camp about the same size as the one we were housed in. Also, past the village of Ohasi on the way to the mine, another large camp was under construction. Sakata told me it was for Chinese prisoners, who would possibly be put to work improving the roads.

During one meal time, I was asked to take over dishing out the soup. I hesitated at first, remembering how I had been accused of being unfair with the rice and then thought to myself that they were all just like me. Hungry men with not enough food inside them. There had to be a change now and again to ease the tension, so I agreed to take the job on. If there was an uneven number of solid bits in the soup, there was no need for me to remember whose turn it was to have an extra lump. I would just ask who had three pieces and who had two the last time. I was never asked to step down from that job and kept it to the end.

Late in 1944, the regular army guards were reduced in number and were replaced by the Japanese equivalent of the home guard, who took over many of the guard duties. They were old soldiers who had been slightly wounded, we called them ‘Honourable Men’. There was one of them to each mine level party, so instead of one guard accompanying us all to and from work as before there were now three. Being old soldiers they new all the tricks. One evening they brought some sacks of satsumas into the hut to sell. I had very little money, but was able to purchase thirty three and managed to consume them over three days, including the peel.

The greatest benefit of having these ‘Honourable Men’ as guards, was when there was to be a search. One of them would come charging through the hut shouting “Search, search, search”, and then ask if anyone had anything he could look after whilst the search was being executed. Of course he wanted to see what we had and then come back later offering to buy whatever we had worth purchasing. The RAF blue pullovers were in great demand, so the old guards would wear them under their uniform until after the search and then come bargaining, there was quite a good market for them apparently. Of course we know it was the radio that the search was all about.

The foremen at the time soon got to know about these blue pullovers by talking to our new escort. At work one day, foreman Hai San approached me and asked if I was in the RAF which I affirmed, and if I had a blue pullover. I told him the only piece of the RAF clothing I had was my blue jacket. He told me to bring it to work and if it was of any use, he would buy it. I could not use it, we had only been allowed to wear the Japanese issue of clothing since arriving in this country. So next day I took it to the mine, but after looking at it, Hai San said it was of no use to him he wouldn’t be able to wear it under his jacket like a pullover but perhaps his wife might be able to make something from it for his little son. Hai San’s wife said she would be able to make some trousers from it, so agreed a price of thirty rice cakes. I asked for five a day to make them last as long as was possible, the pay off to start the following day. The cakes were one and a half inches wide, five inches long and half inch thick and were made of rice flour and sugar. Next morning Hai San said he had my cakes and I was to collect them at dinner break, his wife had given him ten, five was too small a batch to bake. I was a little disappointed and ate five after my dinner deciding to chance taking the other five back to camp.

Searches at night were not so frequent now, so put them in my side pack under my rice box, as at times we had to remove and open the box for inspection. As we marched into the gate that night past the guardhouse, I noticed the Sergeant of the guard standing watching us. The guardhouse being three feet higher than the square, he was able to watch the guards search us. The guards had formed us up ready on the square when the Sergeant called out to him, and proceeded to do the search himself. As he walked along the line I noticed he wasn’t looking for rice boxes, but telling each man to remove his box and looking in the bag instead.

My turn came, so I removed my rice box, he looked into the bag, then thrusting his hand in pulled out my five rice cakes and asked, “Where did you get these?”. I was trying to think of a plausible answer when he said “You have stolen them from a Japanese man’s dinner box”. Stealing was a bad offence, a crime and selling to a Japanese wasn’t very favourable either. I told him my foreman had given them to me for being a good worker, he looked at me and said “No stealing, what was the foreman’s name?” “Hai San” I replied. He then kept repeating “Good worker” as if it was a huge joke. When he stopped he screwed the five cakes into a ball and hurled them on the ground as hard as he could, then followed this by jumping up and down on them until they were flattened out. He then picked them up pushing them into my face before hurling them to the ground once again. His fury spent, he calmed down pointing to the jailhouse and told me, “Do that tomorrow and you’re in jail.” Hai San didn’t mention it, whether he had been made aware, I do not know but he paid off his debt with two more batches of ten rice cakes, which needless to say, I ate at dinner break, leaving some of my dinner rice at camp for a midnight snack.

Friday, 8 July 2011

19: Goodbye to Worms and a Surprise Feast

My army boots were by now worn out, I was now having to wear the Japanese rubber soled boot which gave no protection and were not suitable for working in the mine. On occasions we had to work in other levels of the mine, our regular level number was five hundred and fifty.

On level five hundred, instead of us prisoners working together as usual, each one of us worked either with a Japanese or a Korean. There were a considerable number of Koreans on forced labour, who the Jap's had brought over from Korea together with families and put to work in the mine. They were housed separately on the outskirts of the village and seemed afraid to communicate with us for some reason.

One hard job we sometimes had, was to carry the drill bits used to bore the iron ore ready for the gelignite to be put in. These were up to four metres long and were mounted on an adjustable mounting, jacked up between the floor and roof and driven by compressed air. Water was sprayed to keep the drill cool. The drill bits were solid steel and an inch and half in diameter and extremely heavy. These we had to carry on our shoulders to the workshops when they needed re-sharpening or to be returned. Whilst drilling was in progress the noise was intense and very unpleasant to work near.

My stomach pains returned after a month. I now realised how I had become infected with worms, when I learned that the sewage from the cesspits in the village, was used to top up the large holes of about six cubic feet, which were dug in the corner of the fields. This was left until spring and then spread over the crops. Eating the raw, unwashed potatoes that I had stolen from the fields, had been the obvious cause. The pains, which felt like something trying to bore through my inside, continued but I saw no evidence of worms, until one night I awoke and felt one at the back of my throat, it was the most nauseating feeling. As I lay on my side, it was trying to thrust its way into the back of my nose. I sat up and tried to reach it with my fingers without success, I then tried coughing and eventually manged to grab hold of us, tugging it out and wrapping it in a piece of paper to show the surgeon next morning.

When I show him my three inch worm, which as about as thick as an earth worm, he told me I was in luck, he had recently been given some American Red Cross medical supplies. He handed me two large capsules to be taken after eight hours without food. I’d had breakfast at eight o’clock before seeing the doctor, so did not eat my midday meal before going to work. I also left my evening meal behind my bed. On my return to camp that night, I filled up with water.

Breakfast time next day, I swallowed my capsules, twenty four hours after my last meal. As the capsules dissolved in my stomach, I could taste the fumes, not unlike petrol and felt rather giddy. I went and laid on my bed, resting before going to work at one o’clock. Suddenly the guards burst in demanding a wood collecting party. I had brought down three of my ten bundles so far, it was a waste of time trying to tell the guards I wasn’t well enough, so off I went. We walked up the hillside to the wood pile and I decided I would only carry the one bundle down that day. These were carried by placing a robe round the waist, then winding it round the bundles on our back, the rope ends were then thrown over our shoulders and gripped in each hand. I was surprised at how weak I felt, when having placed the bundle on my back and standing up, I immediately fell over backwards and was unable to get up. A couple of men helped me up and to avoid a repeat performance, I managed to get back to camp in a crouching position. I returned to the hut to rest until it was time for work.

Roll call came and I took my evening meal with me today. I had accumulated four meals of rice which I had stored in my mug, bowl and soup dish, I had given my share of soup up. Walking to work I still felt rather weak and arriving at the rock face, my three workmates did most of my share of work, knowing I hadn’t eaten. After about two hours I felt then need to evacuate my bowls, so took a lamp and went to a worked out rock seam that was used as a toilet area. I emptied my bowls, held the lamp to see if I had passed any worms and was astounded to see on the ground a large cluster of about forty to fifty of them, two to three inches long, all dead. I had passed nothing else, just worms. I felt greatly relieved that at last I had seen their demise. What we would have done without those American Red Cross supplies, or our surgeon and his helpmate for that matter, I do not know. At meal break I ended my thirty four hour fast. I felt so much better after eating and could hardly wait to get back to camp for a midnight feast of the rice I had saved.

It was a wonderful feeling walking back that night with no more worrying about those ghastly worms eating away inside me, so off we went with the Americans plus the six Englishmen in the first group, sprinting ahead closely followed by the Indonesians who made up the second group, our group bringing up the rear followed by the guard and camp foreman. If our group had seen anything worth stealing, I suppose we would have been doing a sprint, but personally after my recent experience with the potatoes, I was not too keen on the idea of chancing having another bout of worms. One of the Indonesians told me some time later that they also stole potatoes from the fields, but only on bath nights. The fire under the bath was always left burning for the miners when they returned about eleven o’clock at night. When everyone had bathed, the Indonesians put their potatoes in the hot ash and by the time they had done their washing, the potatoes would be cooked ready to eat.

There was not the comradeship in this camp, each of the different nationalities kept in a tight circle, keeping their secrets and perks to themselves. There was none of the sharing or helping each other that I’d experienced before.

One evening on our walk back, an extraordinary event occurred. On one route we passed the Korean dining hut and apparently the cooks regularly put the scorched rice that was scraped from the coppers it was cooked in, outside for the prisoners to collect on their way past. Of course the Americans had kept this little secret to themselves, hence their sprint ahead of us each night. On this particular evening, finding no scorched rice outside, the Americans had entered the dining hut and helped themselves to rice from the tubs on the tables and of course then the Indonesians arrived and saw what was happening, in they went.

Our group arrived as they were leaving the hut with rice piled high in their lunch boxes, their hats and anything else they had to carry the rice in, so without hesitation in I went. There were tubs of rice and large chunks of red salmon on the table, so I helped myself to six pieces of salmon and filled my side pack with rice. As I was leaving, the guard came rushing in and the two Koreans cooks fled at the sight of him. The guard then ushered the remaining prisoners out and ran to the Americans who had by now eaten their rice, some of the Indonesians still had some and we English group hadn’t started on ours. We had taken rather large amounts, I had enough rice for at least six ordinary meals. The guard came along frantically telling us to eat it up or throw it away. We then knew that he was in a panic and had lost control of us. He was obviously frightened that he would be in dire trouble for failing in his duty. If he had raised his rifle and threatened to shoot, we would have regretfully thrown the food away. We realised that we were on top for once and told him we were going to keep it and reasoned with him that it would be seen on the road and questions might be asked, some might want to know how it got there. Also we couldn’t eat it all and intended sharing with the men in the camp who didn’t work at the mine.

We walked on slowly, eating some on the way. As we neared the camp, the guard had one more try, stopping us and telling us to eat up, we told him “No search in camp tonight”. He was still very worried, so we suggested we wait outside whilst he went in to check if the Sergeant was about, this he agreed to do. He went away and shortly after came hurrying back saying “OK move quick”, which we didn’t need telling twice. We formed up quickly for him and were dismissed, no search, what a relief.

Normally when we arrived back in the hut around eleven fifteen at night, it would be rather quiet with some of the men asleep, but within minutes they were all wide awake and rather noisy, with everyone busy eating and talking. We tried to keep quiet as we didn’t want to alert the other guards that something unusual was going on and all the food had to be consumed in case of a search the next day. A guard did come into the hut eventually whilst we were still eating and told us to be quiet. Strangely enough he didn’t put the lights on or demand to know what was going on, which was most unusual, so we did wonder if he was a friend of the guard that had escorted us back that night.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

18: Food Sharing, Potatoes and Worms - Part 2.

On the poles that carried electricity cables to the Ohasi village were several loudspeakers. I had no idea if the civilian population had radios, but at various times we heard loud music played and some talking, which was possibly news programmes.

On one of our days off, guards suddenly burst in and herded us all out onto the square as we were. Two guards then moved amongst us, searching those that looked as if they might be concealing something about their person. Meanwhile inside, our beds and belongings were being turned over and ransacked by other guards. After half an hour we were allowed back in. On another occasion we were all ordered out onto the square and lined up. A Jap officer then announced we would be staying there until someone admitted to the theft. I had no idea what was missing and never found out. After fifteen minutes, there was a murmuring amongst the Indonesians, and then five of them pointed to one man, the unfortunate man was led away and we were dismissed. Back inside the hut the Indonesians refused to discuss the incident.

Anyone needing surgery could expect pretty primitive remedies and or treatment. The surgeon operated on an American miner whose thumb had been damaged and the bone become infected with the iron ore. The cut the bone out completely and sewed the flesh together, a marvellous job, although the thumb was pretty useless, it was mush better than an amputation.

It was not good for those needing dental treatment, the surgeon explaining he was not a dentist and further more, he had no tools suitable for the job. There were two men who were suffering and needed to have teeth extracted, so one of the prisoners who was employed in the mine workshop, stole and thoroughly cleaned a pair of pliers. The surgeon then said he did not have enough local anaesthetic for tooth extractions, as it was needed for wounds contaminated by the iron ore. So the arrangement was that the man with raging toothache was refused treatment for about three days and when he could stand the pain no longer, he was to call the surgeon day or night. The sailor who assisted was a huge man who held the patient down whilst the surgeon did the rest. If this took place during the night the job was carried out in the hut. I was very glad that I'd had the foresight to visit the dentist in Singapore.

Our irregular foreman who we had on occasions, didn’t work amongst us as the other three did. He would fold a cloth, placing it on a rock upon which he would sit for the whole shift, except for the meal break. We didn't know his name, but secretly called him “Heap High”. He sat so that the railway line was in his sight at all times, smoking his pipe, watching and counting as we pushed the trucks to the chute, happy that we were reaching the target. As we passed him with the loaded truck we would say “Okay”, and he would answer back something that sounded like “Heap High”, hence his nickname. At the chute we would hurl a couple of rocks down to make a noise and then push the loaded truck back to the rock face, loading a few more rocks higher on the side he sat. We would repeat this performance all shift, except for an occasional emptying of one. We were sorry we didn’t have him more often. At one time during the summer, he took us out on the hillside for our meal break. It was a glorious day with the sun beating down and we experienced a rare feeling of freedom, laying relaxed on the grass, how we enjoyed that break.

Earth tremors were fairly frequent on the Island of Honshu where we were and I became accustomed to them. On one of my days off whilst lying on the bed, I heard a noise in the distance and as it came closer, the only way I have of describing it was the sound of a large number of traction engines or steam rollers, their iron wheels grinding on a concrete road. As the noise increased, the building began to tremble. I looked out of a nearby window and saw all the Japanese pouring from their building onto the square. All the dishes, tins and mugs were falling off the shelves and outside, the filled water butts were spilling over. The noise was now deafening, everything was moving and shaking, the earth, the buildings, there was the occasional crash as boulders came tumbling down the rocky hillside at the back of the camp, then gradually it passed on its way along the valley. The waters butts had to be refilled, these were kept full at all times for the purpose of fire fighting, the Jap’s then returned to their building. Going to work the next day, I had expected to see some damaged to the mind but everything appeared to be in order.

One one of our rest days, the weather was very hot and oppressive, we were once again hustled out of our hut into the square, whilst another search for a radio was carried out. I felt the ground come up and woke up in the sick bay with a saline drip in my arm. I was told to keep out of the sun unless wearing a hat. There wasn’t much choice, with the guards rushing in from both ends of the hut driving us out.

We were nearing the end of summer when, one day Hia San our foreman told us tomorrow night was a celebration. We were rather mystified as to what there was to celebrate but he said we would have Saki, of course we only believed things when they happened. 

The following day at work, Hia San didn’t chase us to reach the tonnage target as was usual, disappearing on two occasions before we’d had our meal break, which we thought was overdue. He then went off once again saying he was going to see if the men in the office had gone home, on his return he said “All clear”. He then took us out of the mine onto the hillside, telling us to sit and eat our meal. A friend of his then appeared carrying two bottles of home made wine, Saki. Small glasses that would hold about a measure of spirit, were then passed round, it tasted slightly sour but alcoholic. He and his friend chatted and offered round smokes for the rest of the shift, we didn’t enter the mine again that night. Hia San stumbled back down the hillside with us, to the waiting guard and handed us over, he usually walked back with us to Ohasi, but not that night.

Autumn was approaching and one day, as always, on the look out for anything edible, I noticed a small field with what looked like a crop of potatoes growing in it. A closer look next day and I was sure, so that evening on the return journey from work, I put a spurt on so I was well ahead of the single guard bringing up the rear. Moving quickly, I went into the field and scraping round one of the plants, found four potatoes. I rubbed as much dirt off as was possible, then ate them raw before arriving back at camp. They tasted earthy, not at all pleasant, but I was hungry enough to eat anything. I repeated this performance as often as I was able, until one day the potatoes were harvested and my extra source of food came to an abrupt halt.

Two or three weeks later, I started suffering stomach pains with no relief. I felt alright otherwise except for the hunger pangs which were always there. Walking to work one day, I had a strange feeling in my back passage and putting my hand there, felt a large worm hanging half out. I grabbed hold of it pulling it out and threw it to the ground, deciding I would report to sick bay next day. Next morning, I went to see the surgeon and explained what had happened, his reply was “Not another gold brick”, an American expression for something worthless. He thought I was trying to escape work and told me to bring him a worm, he would then treat me. As turned to leave, I had another jab of pain that made me wince, the sailor assistant asked where the pain was, I told him my lower abdomen. He placed his hand on my stomach and felt it, then turned to the surgeon saying “You had better give him some treatment, his stomach muscles are tense and tight”. With this the surgeon gave me some worm tablets and told me not to eat for eight hours before taking them. He didn’t think the tables were strong enough for the type of worms I had, if I found another, I was to keep it for him to see.

About this time, one of the men from the other end of our hut managed to escape from camp, but his freedom only lasted twenty four hours. Why he thought it was worth a try in the land of slant eyed people, I’ll never know. Where could he possibly go without being noticed? His close companions in the hut were fortunate there were no reprisals against them, as was the case in the Java camp. We didn’t seem him again.