The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

May 18th, 2011

Conclusion of Jack Russell Story

Nov. 6, 1945

Three Days Vacation

     They were working at the steel mill when one morning they were told by the guards they were to have three days’ vacation.  Questioning some of the guards they learned of the big conference and felt something unusual was afoot.  At the end of the three days they were told they were to have another three days’ vacation.  They realized then, said Jack, the war was over or nearly over.

Americans take over camp

     As they neared the end of their second three days’ holiday Commander Callahan, who was in the same camp, was called to the office of the commandant where he was told the war was over; that the Japanese had surrendered.  Commander Callahan was put in charge of the camp and taking over its administration he took what food he needed from the stores and the prisoners had plenty of rice and beans.  A pig, raised in the camp, was immediately slaughtered and for the first time since they had arrived in Japan the prisoners enjoyed fresh meat.

Dickered With Citizens

     The camp meanwhile was thrown wide open and the prisoners tramped through the town, at will, dickering where they could with civilians for food.  The Japs were thoroughly afraid of the Allies by now, said Jack, and they used us very well.  Restaurants were very scarce, he added, but some of the boys who reported finding one said they paid 24 yen, or some $6.00, for a very skimpy meal.

Left Camp in September

     It was a happy day when the prisoners were taken aboard the train on September 6 by their Japanese escorts bound for Yokohama where they boarded the ship for home.  On the way their boat stopped at Guam, Honolulu, San Franscisco, ran up the coast to Seattle, Portland, Victoria and Vancouver where the Canadians were put aboard the train for their various homes.  On the trains they enjoyed the best of accommodations and Jack was particularly pleased with the way the Americans treated them, Handing out the best of food, and clothing, candy, ice cream, etc.

Loses Weight

     Asked how the Japanese diet affected his health Jack said he had dropped from 150 pounds to 93 at one time, but this was due to an attack of diphtheria.  There was no hospital treatment for the sick or wounded, said Jack.  Those suffering from contagious diseases were segregated in certain huts, but the conditions there were just the same as in the other huts.  You slept on the floor and suffered from the cold.  Many of the boys, depressed, starved and overworked just could not stand up to the treatment.

Climate like Canada

     Speaking of the climate Jack Russell told your reporter that it was much like that of Canada. While it did not seem to be as frosty as in Canada, at times, he said, there was seven feet of snow.

Joined West Novas

     Jack Russell was 29 years of age when he joined the West Nova Scotia Regiment on February 22, 1940, only a few months after the war broke out.  For nine months he trained at Aldershot and was on draft for Britain.  As he returned from embarkation the draft was cancelled.

Transfers to Royal Rifles

     Shortly after his return from leave Lieut. Col Holmes of the Royal Rifles, whose regiment was stationed in Newfoundland, visited the West Novas looking for reinforcements for his unit.  Jack Russell was among the 130 men he selected and they moved over to Newfoundland on December 22, 1940.  For another nine months they remained in Newfoundland, and in August 1941 they found themselves back in Canada  at Val Cartier camp.  Two weeks later they were in Barrack Green at St. John, N.B.  There something was afoot, although the regiment did not know what it was and two weeks later the Royal Rifles returned to Val Cartier.  Two days later they packed again and were on their way to Hong Kong.  They sailed from Vancouver on October 7, 1941 and landed in Hong Kong December 18th, calling at Honolulu and Manila on their way.

Sub Startles Crew

About a day out from Manila the ship picked up a submarine and the alarm was sounded for all on deck.  Many of the boys, said Jack, refused to even get out of their bunks.  The submarine proved to be American and pulled up alongside the ship to refuel from the ships tanks.

Received by British

     As their ship docked at Hong Kong, Jack recalled, they were met by two British regiments, the Middlesex and the Royal Scots, both of which were badly cut up in the evacuation of Dunkerque.  In that battle the Middlesex regiment was completely wiped out with the exception of some seven men.

     On the Island the Canadians did guard duty until the Japs struck their first blow at Pearl Harbour and Hong Kong.

Great to be Home

     It’s great to be home, Jack added, as the interview came to an end.  I’ve seen a lot of the world in the past few years, he added, but let me tell you Springhill is as good a place to live as any I have seen.  Far from well, Jack will be compelled to rest for some time until he regains his normal health.  He has already put on a great deal of weight, but his general health still requires a great deal of care.

Welcomed Home

     As he came into the Junction Saturday morning, October 13th, at 2 a.m. he was welcomed by the Mayor and members of the Town Council, relatives and friends.

Jack Russell (right) and unidentified client.