Friday, 30 September 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 2.

Sea Transport Arrives at Last

Eventually, after about three weeks we were informed that a Royal Navy ship, HMS Glory, an aircraft carrier, was on the way to take us home. After what seemed an eternity, we were told of it’s arrival and that we were to board next morning.

After breakfast we were ready to go, not much packing to do; a change of shirt, underwear and a waist length jacket. I also had a bag containing cigarettes that I was still smoking my way through and some tobacco and cigars I intended to give my father. After saying goodbye to our hosts, the Americans, we settled ourselves into the personnel carriers for the journeys to Manila Bay. The Bay, when we arrived, was absolutely packed full of ships of all descriptions. Gradually we were loaded into large craft type boats and out into the bay we went.

Someone nearby asked the U.S. Sailor steering the boat which ship we were making for; an aircraft carrier was his reply. We must have travelled three miles from the shore and the sea was still thick with ships. I came to the conclusion that they had all been readied for the invasion of Japan since, with all the surrounding Islands taken, only Japan remained to be resolved. I must confess I was pleased that the invasion hadn’t taken place as me and my fellow P.O.W.’s would not be on our way home; instead we would have been executed. Terrible as it was, I was thankful for the Atom bombs that had been dropped by the allies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We approached the aircraft carrier, floating alongside a pontoon, from which steps led up the side and into the interior of the ship. We were then guided up to the flight deck. When we were all assembled, the Captain welcomed us on board telling us how glad he was to have the opportunity tot make our lives more pleasant. He then gave a brief resume of what had been prepared for us. All the aircraft had been flown off to Sydney, Australia; the empty hangars now contained beds for us. Our meals were to be taken in the ships dining room. Each of us would receive £20; two bottles of beer and a packet of cigarettes would be available for us to buy each day. Our destination was to be Vancouver, on the West Coast of Canada, stopping on the way at the Island of Hawaii. Our ship, HMS Glory, was underway as we settled in and tried out our beds; quite an experience after so many years sleeping rough.

A Neighbour Onboard Ship

The following day we were asked to list our names and hometown. This list would then be printed and hung in the crew quarters and the crew would be doing likewise for us. There were over a thousand sailors on board and it was explained that there could possibly be someone they or we knew on board. No duties were asked of us except to keep our bed space tidy. It was nice to be able to go up on the flight deck after breakfast where we were able to relax in the deck chairs that had been provided, have a read or just watch the sea. The weather was glorious!

A day or two after the lists were exchanged I had returned to my bedside where my few belongings were kept. I had just sat down when I noticed four sailors approaching. As they came nearer, the features of one seemed familiar. It turned out that he, Charlie, lived down the road from my home and was about 4 or 5 years younger than me. The three other sailors were his friends and they told me they had put their daily rum ration in a mug for me and would do so for the rest of the voyage. I protested and told them I didn’t want them to do that, but they had decided and were determined to do it, and they did. Charlie tried to fill me in as to what had been happening at home whilst I had been absent. He told me how upsetting it had been especially for my parents when I had been reported missing. It was April 1943 when they were notified that I had been captured and was a P.O.W. in Japanese hands. Charlie paid me regular visits, bringing me extra food to try to fatten me up and we spent much time reminiscing about our youth.

The films being shown on board were mainly newsreels of the war years but others were of mishaps on the aircraft carriers, which I found distressing to watch. Damaged aircraft limping manfully back only to disappear over the side of the ship or crash and burst into flames.

Friday, 23 September 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 1.

September 1945 – Manila, Island of Luzon, The Philippines

It was now almost two months since our liberation from the Japanese and we still didn't know when we would go home. I continued my daily walks having no idea as to where the permanent U.S. Army Garrison I was billeted in was situated. Surrounding it on all sides were wide areas of open countryside shaded by coconut palms, with a few bushes here and there.

On our arrival here, we the P.O.W.’s had all been checked over, had X-Rays and given inoculations for heaven knows what. Returning to my tent one day I had been left a card instructing me to report to the medical centre and to take the card with me. At reception I handed the card to the medical orderly on duty who, after reading my number rank and name, looked up and said “Are you really in the Royal Air Force?” To which I replied, “Yes!” His face beamed as he said, “I just can’t wait to tel my Ma and Pa that I’ve actually met someone from the Royal Air Force. What luck I just can’t believe it!” I said “Thanks” and then enquired where I was to go. He then said he would take me and showed me to a room with a doctor in residence.

After the formalities I was questioned about the mine I had recently worked in. My chest was then examined and the doctor asked me if I had TB. I told him no, but when very young about five years of age, I’d spent some time in an isolation hospital with Diptheria. “That’s it” he exclaimed and then went on to explain that it had left a scar on my lung. I was very relieved it was nothing more serious.

Reading some of the glossy magazines provided by my generous hosts, America seemed like another world to me. Some of the advertisements seemed unbelievable. For instance “We are sorry you cannot buy your new Mercury, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet or whatever but when you GI’s come home we'll make sure you don’t have to wait too long.” I thought of the Americans in our camp at Ohashi who had owned cards before they joined up and with the ‘two rank’ instant promotions they had been given wouldn’t have any cash problems when they returned home.

White and Black – ‘Firewater’

We British ex-P.O.W.’s hadn’t received any pay but we had no real need for it as our hosts were catering for all our needs. I recall one amusing incident when taking one of my daily walks. Once I had moved outside the camp I noticed a parked caravan ahead. As I approached, I could see it had an open side with soft drinks, beer and spirits for sale. A black G.I. stood at the open side and a young Philippino lady served behind the counter. I was unaware at the time that a very strong segregation of coloured and white troops was normal; never acknowledging one another. As I walked past I nodded and said “Hello, it's good to be in the shade in this heat.” The G.I. looked at me rather strangely and asked, “Where you from?” “England” I replied. He then wanted to know what I was doing there. I told him I was one of the ex-Japanese Prisoner’s of War at the camp awaiting to be transported home. He asked if I would like a drink. I said, “No thanks. I haven’t received any pay as yet. He then told me not to worry about paying so I said, “Thanks, I’ll have an orangeade”. He said, “I’ve heard about your limeys”; a reference to the drink I ordered, I think. The G.I. was drinking from a bottle of whisky and I could not help but notice the label. It read White and Black, Fine Scotch Whisky; not the usual Black and White Whisky we would see back home.

I enjoyed the orange drink buy my new friend kept insisting that I have a drink with him. By now the potency of whatever he was drinking was taking effect and it was obvious that my refusal to join him was beginning to upset him. He called for another glass, which he half filled from the bottle. I wished him good health and took a swig from the glass. Firewater would be an understatement; the fumes went to my head and what felt like liquid fire went down my throat. I gulped down the orangeade to try putting out the fire. I asked him if I could see the bottle; it had been distilled in Manila. I told him I was unable to drink that out here in the heat, as my stomach couldn’t cope with alcohol after so long without decent food. He then wanted to buy me a bottle to take with me. I thank him for his generosity whilst pouring my glass of firewater into the orangeade bottle, telling him that was quite sufficient and that I would drink it later in the cool of the evening.

Thinking I had been very diplomatic and about to continue on my way, he asked, “How did you get on for women?” “Women!” I exclaimed and emphasised “No women!” I was taken aback and wondered what type of prison camps he was thinking of; certainly not ones run by the Jap’s. I should have departed then, but he hadn’t finished with me, not by a long chalk. Pointing to the young Philippino lady behind the counter he said, “Will you?” She smiled broadly and nodding her head vigorously said No, she wouldn’t mind at all. Suddenly, illustrated lectures that I had attended in initial training and on board the ship going to Malaya where two doctors graphically described the results of venereal disease flashed through my mind. I certainly had no inclination or wish to participate, so simply shrugged and told him I needed to get my health back but, “Thanks anyway.” I then beat a hasty retreat and, needless to say, I didn’t drink the firewater!

I noticed every few days an aerial spray was being carried out by U.S. air force lighting twin fuselage fighters. P.38, I think they were called. I was unable to find out what was being sprayed or even how much of the camp was sprayed. I came to the conclusion that it was just the area where we, the ex-P.O.W.'s, were camping.

Friday, 16 September 2011

25: Liberation by Americans, Yokohama and Manila in the Philippines

One more day of waiting and then on the Fifteenth of September, Nineteen Forty Five (15.09.45), American trucks drove into our camp. We were on the move at last. Someone was sent up the road to tell the Chinese to move into our camp and to use up the supplies. As my turn came, I climbed on to the truck, my very few possessions in my side pack and Bill’s ashes in his box and away we went. It was an exhilarating feeling to be on our way home at last, after three and a half years of privation and forced slave labour.

We rode off down the road to Kamishi where American soldiers had organised everything perfectly. Landing craft as used for invasions were waiting ashore for us to walk on, then taken out to a hospital ship lying out at sea, warships were anchored nearby. Our landing craft came to rest alongside the hospital ship, I climbed aboard. It was another example of perfect organisation. We were told to strip off all our clothing and throw everything else we were carrying into nearby bins. I looked around for a sailor to hand Bill’s ashes so he could be returned home, I couldn’t just throw him in the bin. The sailor escorted me to a cabin where I gave Bill’s name, number and the details I knew of his home town etc, then back I went to be processed. All the new clothing that we had taken off was now thrown over the side, the sea a mass of floating olive green uniforms and boots. We were then shown into cubicles and spraying with chemicals to kill any skin infestations we may have had, then into the showers, as we left we were given U.S. navy denim trousers and shirt, underwear and shoes then a medical examination. I was told I was fit but needed fattening up and to go out of a door and onto the deck. On deck I watched landing craft going to the different warships unloading men. Later I was called to one and taken with others to a destroyer where at the rear deck, rope climbing nets were hung over the side, these we clambered up, being greeted by the sailors and shown our berths.

As soon as the required number of men were on board, we set off. Over the loudspeaker system we were told our destination was to be Yokohama and we should reach there the following day. We were also told that the ship’s crew would eat first as they had to work the ship, we would eat after and could take as long as we wished over our meal. When our turn came the dining room was empty except for the cooks who told us to eat anything and everything we wanted, they would leave us to help ourselves. We ate our fill following by lots of delicious coffee. I then went to my bunk and enjoyed a good nights rest. On awakening next morning, the destroyer was pitching in rough seas, so we decided we would stay in our bunks rather than face the wind and spray on deck, at least we were travelling in comfort this time round.

On arriving at Yokohama we disembarked. We understood that all our ex-P.O.W.’s were being brought here and then flown to the Philippines on their way home, but when we arrived a typhoon was approaching Japan, so the planes had been grounded, instead, we were to board a cruiser and go by sea to Manila.

All the American warships had been made to accommodate troops which had been transported during the battle for the islands of the Pacific, so were ideally suited to carry us.

Our food was served to us on large pressed stainless steel trays, with different dishes for each compartment, followed by plenty of fruit and ice cream. It was very enjoyable.

The typhoon reached Yokohama and we put to sea. Small ships were breaking from their moorings and smashing against the quay. After a night at sea the weather improved and we enjoyed a pleasant voyage to the Philippines. Each night on deck a film was shown on a screen erected on the rear gun turrets. A ‘Movie Call’ was sounded on a bugle over the loudspeaker system and all men not on duty rushed up to the fantail which was the rear decks.

The American Navy seemed entirely different to the Royal Navy, the Captain walked about the deck wearing a baseball cap with CAPT on the front. Any announcement was preceded with “Now hear this”. We had a marvellous time with them, they gave us free beers, chocolate and cigarettes and couldn’t do enough for us.

Arriving at the Philippines we were taken to a U.S. Army Camp and put into large tents. Their treatment and generosity knew no bounds. An issue of three bottles of beer, forty cigarettes, three cigars, a packet of pipe tobacco and bars of chocolate every day and wonderful food. We had another medical and X-Ray then kitted out in U.S. army uniform.

Outside the camp was utter devastation everywhere, so found we were better off staying in camp. There was entertainment every evening with films and live concerts, I remember Danny Kaye appearing there. Most of us ex-prisoners rarely attended the concerts and films, we found it difficult to mix and socialise with normal people. We had changed so much we found we could only feel comfortable when talking to each other. I did go outside in the vicinity of the camp for the occasional walk as we were there for a month and with so much good food and no work, I needed the exercise.

Coming back to my tent area one day after one of these jaunts, I suddenly heard a Japanese voice shout “Hyaku San-Juu Ni”, my prison number 132, which stopped me in my tracks. I turned and looked in the direction to where the call came from and there was my old adversary, the dock foreman from Hakodate shipyard Watanabe digging a trench.

I walked over to him, he was smiling and trying, I think, to convey to me the word ‘Remember’ and managed “You, me, Hakodate. I replied “You are the prisoner now”. “Cigaretto?” he asked. I turned to his American guard and asked if I could give him cigarettes. He seemed astounded and asked how I came to know him. I explained he had been my foreman at one camp for six months. He then wanted to know, “Did he give you any trouble?” to which I replied, no.

In the meantime, a rapid conversation was taking place in the trench between Watanabe and another Japanese soldier, who seemed rather bewildered.

I bent down and gave Watanabe some cigarettes, enough to share with his friend. I asked him if he was being well fed, also, if he knew when he would be going home. Yes, he was being well fed and would be going home in about six months time. I said goodbye and walked away, thinking to myself, what a remarkable meeting.

I was pleased he called out to me. He obviously regarded our ‘duels’ against each other without animosity or surely he would not have made me aware of his presence when he was at such a great disadvantage. I realised he could have made my life a lot worse at Hakodate by calling the guards to deal with me at times.

What surprised me most was that he was still able to recognise me, also, remembered my number, two and a half years later, especially as I was now wearing U.S. uniform.

I perhaps owed him more than those few cigarettes as I felt he may have inadvertently saved my life.

Friday, 9 September 2011

24: Supplies from the Skies and a Freedom Adventure from Camp – Part 2.

A full week had passed since the war ended, so decided I would like to have a look outside the camp. I walked to Ohasi hoping to see my friendly mine foreman Sakata, hoping to repay him in some small way for his fair treatment and attitude towards me. I did not find him but was given the information that as soon as was possible, he had left for Yokohama to be with his family once again.

Another day, four of us boarded a bus at Ohasi and travelled to Kamaishi. I had seen these buses on the odd occasion when walking to and from work. I believe they were run on wood fumes as a substitute for petrol, they made very slow progress. My mates and I were wearing the American olive green tropical uniform and boots, but the locals didn’t seem to mind us and on our arrival at Kamaishi, bade us good day. The destruction of the town had been complete, every stone and brick building had been damaged, no wooden houses remained, all had been burnt to the ground, only the small concrete roads between the houses remained. I looked around me and saw nothing but ashes which I noticed people were sifting through where their rice store had once been, we watched as they sorted out the scorched grains.

After a time we walked to the sea shore. The water was very clear and looked inviting, the sun was shining, so we decided to dip out feet in to start with and if warm enough, to take a dip. I put my feet in and the shock of the cold water immediately cancelled out any thoughts I’d had of bathing in these waters, paddling my toes had been more than enough. I let my feet dry in the sun and as there was nothing to see or do in Kamaishi, decided to go back to camp. We started to walk then managed to get a lift on a Jap lorry for the remainder of the journey.

A group of us decided to pay a visit to the Chinese P.O.W. camp. Walking round we were surprised at how few appeared to be there. We came across some eventually and from what we could understand, there were now only about sixty of them that had survived out of four hundred. They were terribly thin but were now eating better with the surplus food from our camp. Moving on we passed the huge fire where I had seen bodies being tossed in, it was still alight but probably just burning itself out.

Some of the men had become impatient at the delay in collecting us and had decided to walk over the mountainous hills behind the camp, to where about four miles on was said to be a railway station, they didn’t return so had obviously pressed on to some unknown destination. I spoke to one of the chaps and suggested we take a trip out but he thought we should wait a few more days in case of any developments. The forces broadcast on radio told us to “Stay where you are, Tokyo is full of American troops and you will all be collected as soon as possible”.

We waited until the twelfth of September, almost a month since the war had ended, we were restless. Next morning my chum and I started off climbing up and over the hills, there was a worn path so we had no difficulty in finding our way to the station. Arriving there we asked the Jap in the ticket office for two tickets to Tokyo which he wrote out. He spoke English and said there was a curfew on at night so we would have to put somewhere overnight, also not to take the next train but the one after. We had quite a long wait before our train finally arrived with Japanese soldiers on board. Two of them made signs for us to wait before boarding. They then cleared a whole carriage of civilians, then gestured for us to board. Two soldiers stood on guard, one each end of the carriage then off we went. We had taken food and drink with us from the bountiful supply at camp, so settled down to enjoy the journey.

It was late evening when we pulled into a station, one of the guards informed us “We stop here to sleep”. When we alighted there were three Japanese policemen and more soldiers lined up on the platform. One of the policemen stepped forward, I think he was the Chief of Police, shook our hands and bowed. He said the trains must stop here due to curfew so he wold take us somewhere to stay the night. Outside the station the road was jammed with people waiting to catch a glimpse of us, the soldiers pushed through the crowd making way for us. After a ten minute walk, we were ushered into a building and once inside saw it was a hotel. The policeman assured us we would be looked after and asked whether he and his two friends could join us later for a meal, to which we agreed. We were shown to our room and then the location of the bathroom. The beds consisted of the usual rice matting plus a pillow and quilt. We cleaned up then waited to be told when the meal was ready. It seemed to take hours, we had nothing to read to occupy our time, no radio to listen to and there was no furniture whatsoever in the room.

Dinner was served in our room eventually, a charcoal fire, a small table with rice, fish, pickles and hot thin soup followed by green tea and saki. Our guests arrived with the meal, the talk mainly consisted of where did we come from, did we like Japan, what were we now intending to do, was we in a hurry to go home etc? Before leaving, our friendly policeman asked what time we wished to rise in the morning, our reply was to catch the first train out. We were then thanked for having them and wished well, as they departed with a lot of bowing.

We were woken at five next morning and served a rice and fish breakfast. We settled our bill and then made for the station, still with our soldier escorts in tow. The train was already waiting in the station, we were ushered into another empty coach and off we went once again, with our guards as before. I sat wondering what might be ahead of us, we hadn’t much money as we had only been given just one small payment, enough to buy any odd item we might need. When starting our journey, we had no thought of staying in hotels. The train was making very slow progress and as we couldn’t afford another hotel, I just hoped we would reach Tokyo before very long.

After travelling for about an hour, the train pulled into a not very large station where we were asked by a soldier to alight who then pointed to a waiting room. No one else got off but we did as we were told. The soldier then boarded the train and was away, we were alone. We assumed the departing train was not going to Tokyo and we were having to wait for another. We hung about for an hour without seeing anyone and began to wonder what could happen next. We decided not to leave the station, just in case the train turned up in our absence.

It was still early in the day when a civilian suddenly appeared, he couldn’t speak much English and kept repeating “Red Cross” and walking towards the exit. He apparently wanted us to go with him, so as he obviously knew of us, we followed him outside the station where a large saloon car was parked, he opened the door for us to get in. We rode through the countryside for sometime, the scenery was hilly at times but we did not pass through any large towns. Eventually we stopped at what must have been a Japanese cafĂ© for a rice meal and green tea which he paid for.

As we talked and gestured during the meal it became clear we were on our way back to Ohasi, a ship was calling there to collect us. It would be too difficult to move us by road or rail owing to the severity of bomb damage. In my view Kamaishi had no docks left to take any ships either. Resuming our journey, we arrived back at camp in the darkness. It seemed rather odd, no one seemed interested in where we had been or bothered about us getting back, it was as if we had just been for a ten minute walk. The day we had left for our journey to Tokyo, the food drops had ceased and the men informed they were to be picked up very shortly. There were still huge amounts of supplies stacked on the parade ground, enough to have filled a warehouse.

Friday, 2 September 2011

24: Supplies from the Skies and a Freedom Adventure from Camp – Part 1.

Next morning we discovered the badly burned men had been moved from the sick bay during the night whilst we slept, also, the army guards had left. The guardroom and main gates were now being named by Japanese military police.

At ten o’clock we all formed up on the square, the three American officers at the front, the Japanese officers and their staff of soldiers facing us. The Japanese Commandant then read out a statement saying our Countries had reached an agreement and that the war between us had now come to an end. The M.P.'s on guard at the gates were there to protect us from any Japanese who might wish to do us harm. He then handed over command of the camp to the American C.O. who inspected the Jap soldiers before putting them back on duty.

The C.O. addressed us requesting us to stay in camp until things had settled down, but we were free to go out if we so wished, also there was now a curfew covering the whole of Japan at night. He expected to hear more news on the elusive radio which the Jap’s had searched in vain for and apologised for not sharing the news with us in the past. He had understandably not wanted to risk losing the radio, as he felt we may have needed it for our survival. P.O.W. was to be put on the roof of our hut, plus a number four hundred for the total number of ex-prisoners in camp.

Once dismissed, we were free to do anything we wished, no more slave labour, no more hunger and brutality, it was hard to come to terms with, I lay on my bed wondering what would come next. Suddenly a cheer went up at the American end of the hut as they heard on the radio, those who had been Japanese prisoners for three years were all promoted two ranks up with pay to start from when taken prisoner, so we now had a Colonel in charge of the camp instead of a Captain.

We celebrated that day with two meals of port stew containing real chunks of meat, what a feast and how we enjoyed it. Not many of the men went out that day. About mid-morning the following day we heard planes, the sound coming from over the hills from the next valley then passing away. Shortly after we heard the sound of the engines returning, I went out onto the square and flying towards our camp were Hellcat fighters, which must have come from an aircraft carrier that was present when Kamaishi was attached. They flew low over the camp, waving and circling, the pilots throwing out packets of cigarettes and one small parcel. Inside the parcel were strips of white canvas and diagrams showing how to indicate what was needed most urgently, food, medical supplies or clothing. All we could think of at that time was food, so the relative diagram was displayed, the pilot acknowledged and then flew off. The whole camp was buzzing with excitement as to what would happen next, we hadn’t long to wait.

Early afternoon we heard the planes engines approaching and coming along the valley at about forty feet, were a flight of torpedo bombers and as they flew over they dropped kitbags full of loaves of bread, milk, a side of bacon hit the square with a thud, cigarettes, tinned fruit and some sacks of potatoes. They then flew off leaving a note to say they would feed us every day. Needless to say we really enjoyed that food – it is hard to describe the pleasure it brought and how we eagerly awaited their visit each day. We still ate rice as our main food, but it tasted so much nicer with all the extras.

After five days of daily visits, they dropped a message saying the aircraft carrier had to leave as their food stocks were running low, they must also have used all the sailors kitbags in which they had been dropping our supplies. They also wrote that the American air force would be bringing us further supplies in B29 Super-fortress’s and would be able to bring in bigger loads and would fly from Okinawa.

The next day all ears were pinned back listening for our new saviours, at last we heard the sound of the bombers engines and looking up, I was surprised to see they were at about the height as flown by reconnaissance planes, obviously no low level flights for them, maybe they were using bomb sights. There were three planes and as we watched, we saw the cargo leave the planes, parachutes opened and down came the containers, some snapping off the parachutes and whistling down sounding like bombs. One crashed through the roof of the Japanese guardhouse, hitting a Jap soldier who had been watching from a window and bursting out the side of the building, the man with it, I don’t think he survived. Another hurtled into our toilets, one of our men was using one at the time, as it smashed through demolishing half of the cubicles, the sewage from underneath gushed up through the hole the man was squatting over, covering him completely. He was rescued and washed down with a hose and appeared to be in shock, he was unable to speak for four hours.

After the raid, for that was surely what it had seemed with the camp suffering a lot of damage, there was a bit of clearing up to do. It was decided next time they came, we would take cover. The containers being used were forty gallon oil drums which had the bottoms cut out, then been spot welded together in pairs to double their size, making them far too weighty to be held by the parachutes when filled with the tins of food. Supplies had fallen outside the camp as well as in and orders had been given out, all food supplies dropped for the ex-P.O.W.'s was to be handed in, any Jap caught stealing any would be shot. One Japanese man came into the camp covered from head to foot with tomato sauce. Cases of the stuff had gone through his roof breaking his arm. Would we go and collect what was left he asked. He was cleaned up, his arm reset by the surgeon and given some cigarettes and food leaving the camp a happy man.

The Japanese army had organised the collection of the scattered supplies and soon trucks began to arrive with loaded containers and cases. There were boots, clothing, cigarettes and food, there were prepared meals labelled breakfast, lunch and dinner, also chocolate, everything we could possibly want was there. We had decided that during the next ‘raid’, we would shelter in a railway tunnel nearby. We didn’t have long to wait. The following day three planes appeared and we all rushed for shelter. It was a repeat performance with half the cargo damaged or ruined. The broken chocolate bars were like shingle on the ground and when pressing ones foot in the earth, evaporated milk would ooze up. The losses didn’t bother us as we were more than amply provided for.

We had started by dividing the drops equally but with just the second delivery, we were getting eight packs of cigarettes each. Of course we had to sort out the boots, picking out the size we required, this averaged eight pairs per each man and that was the scale of the drops with everything.

‘Smith’ came into camp with his gramophone one day. We asked for copies of the photos he had taken, he returned some days later with them, I cannot recall what we paid for them.

We felt that someone must have registered a complaint regarding the ‘raids’. As the planes approached on the third drop, a red parachute was released, we assumed to give us time to take cover, when the drop had been completed a green chute was released which was obviously the ‘all clear’ signal. The amount of supplies being dropped were far beyond our needs, we were rapidly running out of storage space and were now stacking the daily supplies that still kept coming, onto the square. Our Adjutant decided to visit the Chinese camp to see what their needs were and so it was shared with them.

The feeling of freedom from roll calls, orders, searches, being guarded and watched at all times and so many restrictions was marvellous. It gave a wonderful feeling of well being sitting around chatting, smoking decent cigarettes and the food, fabulous tasty food, no longer the gnawing hunger in the pit of my stomach that had been with me for three and a half years. No more beatings and almost freezing to death, no worms eating away inside me, my skin clear of sores and boils and best of all, being able to smile. I felt alive once again and found myself looking forward to each tomorrow.