PRISONERS OF THE SAMURAI
Even though you have ten thousand fields, you can only eat one measure of rice a day. Even though your dwelling contains one thousand rooms, you can only use eight feet of space at night.
Clearly the major
problem in the
The meat in the camps came from a wide variety of animals. David Michell speaks of horse and mule meat in the Weixian kitchen. Carey in Lincoln Avenue Camp speaks of water buffalo meat, "which has a very coarse and tough texture. It had a strong odour and was not palatable. We sometimes received horse meat from the Japanese cavalry lines across the street from our camp. When hungry, one is not too fussy." Christine Akerman (then Anderson) recalls of Ash Camp, "When they closed the Greyhound Race Track some very strange meat came in." Hugh Collar speaks of camel meat in Fengtai.
internees went to great lengths to solve the problem of hunger. In Weixian scientists advised the inmates which plants and
berries were harmful for eating, and which were not. One scientist in this camp
experimented with the making of yeast, as the Supplies Committee reported
sometimes of having large quantities of flour, but the delivery of yeast had
become irregular. Ivy Gallagher recalls of Yangzhou
Camp A, "My memory is of being so hungry that we raided the guards'
rubbish bin for the pork rind. This we boiled in a tin set in the smouldering
reed ashes, and then let it cool. We called it “brawn” In Pudong
Camp they discovered that a certain creeping plant was high in Vitamin C, and
not just a weed, and so made use of it for eating. Hunger also forced the
prisoners to process and eat food which was in poor condition. John Fee says of
the Longhua Camp, "It took the ladies of the
vegetable cleaning squad a lot of stamina to cope with the lorry load of mixed
and decaying vegetables dumped outside the vegetable shed." It was
fortunate that in Stanley Camp and some of the
source of nourishment for some camps came in the form of the regular monthly
parcel of food. Many internees in
The acute shortage of food meant that its distribution to each internee had to be carried out with precision, or there was trouble. Methodist missionary Deirdre Fee was given the unenviable task of being a food server at Longhua Camp. "It was the place to make enemies, for if you served one person a fraction more than another, there was sure to be a blow up." The other possibility was that some would rejoin the food queue and get double rations. Brethren missionary Chris Willis in Yangzhou Camp C was appointed "to see that no extra-hungry person slipped in and got a second helping." In the same camp the kitchen workers began to claim excessive perks and take extra food home. The management committee had to appoint George Henderson of the Scottish Bible Society to police the kitchen, and supervise the opening and locking up of stores.
In Weixian Camp the Discipline Committee had to regularly handle cases of "scrounging", the punishment for which was having one's name "posted" on the official Notice Board, and having certain camp privileges withdrawn for a fixed period of time.
is clear that the supplies brought into the camps by the Japanese authorities
were woefully inadequate for the inmates, whose health and stamina went
steadily downhill as the months and years of internment went by. It is doubtful
whether the 11,500 civilian prisoners in mainland
There was a high vitamin value in these carefully selected parcels, in which were powdered milk, tinned butter, Spam, cheese, chocolate, sugar, coffee, jam, salmon and raisins. However, few if any camps received more than two consignments of these boxes of nutritious food. Some parcels were appropriated by the Japanese authorities for their own soldiers." Others were stored in godowns and never delivered." Others, such as the Canadian Red Cross parcels (which were sent at the time of the repatriation in September 1943) were brought to prisoners over a year later.
solution to the acute shortage of food in the camps was the development of the
Black Market. Bill Ream describes the form it took in Stanley Camp. "It
created something quite new in
But it was at Weixian Camp, with its ideally large circumference and country surroundings, that this black market trade was conducted on a larger scale. Laurence Tipton claimed that "at night thousands of dollars' worth of goods, would pass over the wall in the form of eggs, sugar, preserved fruits, jam, oil, tobacco, cigarettes, canned milk." To show how highly organised it was he states, "On the outside [i.e. outside the electrified wires of the camp wall] regular bootlegging gangs were organised ― the Hans, the Chaos and the Wangs. In the dead of night or at dawn they would send a representative over. Greased and clad only in G strings, he would slip in, take the orders, run over the accounts, receive payment and quietly disappear."
ringleader of this large-scale activity was Trappist
priest, Father Patrick Scanlan. He was concerned about the mothers and children
in the camp, who needed more nutritious food; and, as a man free from family
commitments, he felt that he could risk the harsh penalties imposed if he was
caught. Scanlan became a legendary figure in the camp, and was spoken about
with admiration long after he was transferred with others priests and nuns to
many narrow shaves the priest was finally caught in the act of black-marketing,
and put in solitary confinement for two weeks in a small stone house, near the
Japanese officers' houses. Food was brought to him by Ted McLaren of the
Next to the problem of food and nutrition in the camps came that of accommodation. It would be true to say that most of the camps had twice as many people as they could comfortably accommodate, apart from the problem of the condition of the buildings. With such a squash inevitably came tension and conflict. Langdon Gilkey, Chairman of the Housing Committee at Weixian Camp, found that people in both the male and female dormitories resisted requests to move their mattresses merely a few inches, in order to make way for a late comer to camp. He observed, "Everyone, having lost his 'place' in his home and club porch in the treaty ports, and thrown into cramped quarters with insufficient room to establish himself, felt less than real until he made some small corner of space his own."
Fee shows how the inmates of Longhua Camp craved for
mere privacy and independence. "There was frequent friction over the
opening and shutting of windows. All slept, washed, dressed and lived every
minute of the day in the full blaze of publicity." This basic human need
for privacy was particularly true of the many women in the large female
dormitories. Ivy Gallagher speaks of a woman in a
Besides the acute problems of food and accommodation was the inability of the civilian prisoners to communicate with family and friends in the outside world. Officially, the 25-word Red Cross form should have sufficed, giving briefly some basic personal news, but in practice few left the Commandant's office, let alone reach their destinations. The Japanese knew that with the richness of the ambiguities of the English language about Uncle Sam, John Bull and the state of the weather, all kinds of messages could leak out, and few of their officers were qualified to censor English mail at this level. Consequently, few letters were permitted to go out. After the surrender in August 1945, Ken McAll found in the Commandant's office at Pudong Camp hundreds of Red Cross letters torn up in the waste paper basket.
Stanley Camp in
Raymond de Jaegher, in the Weixian Camp, was highly
competent in both spoken and written Chinese, and found ways around the problem
of correspondence. With a view to obtaining help and information for the
beleaguered camp, he found some names and addresses of patients of the former
An important feature of camp life was the Rollcall, which was usually held twice a day. In some camps this entailed the internees numbering off in Japanese. If someone in the group was on work duty, a person who was normally number 57 now became number 56; and not all could adjust to this change linguistically. The guard on duty would give a report in front of the prisoners to his superior, which went something like this: "There should be 149 people in this section. There are 139 present, 6 are on work duty and 4 are sick." It was the writer's privilege to follow Eric Liddell in 1945 as the Warden for Blocks 23 and 24 in Weixian Camp. Liddell had clearly made a good impression on the guards, and so Rollcall always went smoothly. The writer would then walk to the Guard Room. Guards came in from the five sections of the camp, the figures were chalked up on a blackboard, were duly reconciled (though not with precision), and he would be given permission to ring the bell for the whole camp to disperse and return to their duties. Where there had recently been escapes, Rollcall was considerably prolonged, and extra Rollcalls would be summoned in the middle of the night, partly as punishment and partly to avoid further escapes.
the winter of 1944, when the temperature was down to 14 degrees below zero, a
group of lady missionaries in Longhua Camp, who were
in their 60s and 70s, bravely refused to leave their beds and go out into the
cold for Rollcall. Fortunately the guard accepted
their remaining indoors, and counted them as in their dormitory. In Weixian Camp, a year before the end of internment, a
tragedy occurred during Rollcall. While 500 men, women
and children were waiting outside the hospital in lines, a scholar of the
In some camps, failing to stand fully at attention or to bow when the guard passed by, earned a hard slap in the face or prolonged Rollcall. Sewell says of Stanley Camp, "Some internees were merely slapped, others had to kneel at headquarters, and quite elderly men were kicked or birched like young schoolboys." To many in the business community to bow was a foreign and degrading gesture, but for the missionary community Oriental bowing was a familiar action.
former prisoners, who have written about the
the top of the pyramid was an elected
come now to some of the achievements in the
things as history dates and geographical boundaries had to be given by memory.
In some camps notes were taken down by the pupils in pencil in note books,
rubbed out and the books re-used; in others, toilet paper was used. Before the
end of the war, examination papers were taken which were later validated by
educational authorities in
only were classes organised for the young, but most camps had Adult Education,
as well as public lectures on many subjects. In the Haifong
Road Camp, under the leadership of A.E. Thornton, formerly the Principal of the
Lester Technical Institute, a busy curriculum was arranged. There was even a
course on Navigation, though, to avoid arousing the suspicion of the Japanese,
it was called "Territorial Mathematics". Collar asserts, "Many
men left the camp far better fitted to earn a living in a competitive world
than when they entered it." The inmates of Pudong
Camp had more leisure time than those in the other camps, and set up a
In most camps there was a weekly meeting of Drama or Music. When there were plays, the Japanese officers usually took the front seats, even though they did not understand everything. In Longhua the inmates formed an Amateur Dramatic Society, and produced Shakespeare's Macbeth and Twelfth Night; and Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore, Trial by Jury, and The Gondoliers. In Weixian the inmates produced, among other plays, Shaw's Androcles and the Lion.
In Pudong Camp a choir sang Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance. One musical event there ended with a flourish of Rule Brittania, and the final bars of God save the King were carefully camouflaged by the violins. The audience leapt to their feet, and the Japanese, not to be left out, leapt to theirs, and joined in the rapturous applause. Haifong Road Camp produced Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Stanley Camp produced John Masefield's Good Friday and Midsummer Night's Dream, Noel Coward's Private Lives and The Housemaster, J.B. Priestley's Laburnum Grove and White Cliffs of Dover. In all the camps Gilbert and Sullivan's plays were popular, but the writers all stress that they did not have The Mikado. Much ingenuity was needed to furnish the correct scenery and garments for the plays; and life in the camps would have been much poorer without these evenings of entertainment.
of the qualities which camp life brought out was inventiveness and
improvisation. The old proverb says, "Necessity is the mother of
invention", and this was a daily challenge in the long war years. Langdon Gilkey observes, "No problem of sanitation, cooking or
drama was so difficult that some means could not be devised to cope with
it." In the Weixian Camp there was a special
exhibition of camp inventions and gadgets ― all kinds of contraptions
were displayed. Bill Bream speaks of an ingenious gadget in Stanley Camp.
"We were having trouble with the rice, which came to us in large sacks.
Hungry Chinese in
There was also ingenuity amid the crises facing the camp doctors, who had little equipment. In Yangzhou Camp C a boy of 16 had developed acute appendicitis. Frances McAll recalls, "Between us we possessed one pair of surgical gloves, two pairs of artery forceps and a very small bottle of chloroform. Within two hours of the diagnosis being established, a table had been made by a carpenter, a mask for the anaesthetic had been produced out of a piece of wire; towels, swabs and the handful of instruments had been boiled, and the room selected as the operating theatre, scrubbed from ceiling to floor." Dr. Godfrey Gale wore the one pair of gloves, and applied the scalpel, with Dr. Ken McAll assisting. Dr. Frances McAll gave the anaesthetic, "drop by precious drop". The offending appendix was removed, and the patient made an excellent recovery.
Dr. Keith Gillison, in the same camp, had a cavity in one of his teeth, and made an appointment with the camp dentist, who had only a tooth forceps and a few instruments. He was assisted by a member of the carpentry team using a hand drill. The carpenter supplied the power, and the dentist his expertise in preparing the cavity for filling. The tooth was successfully filled, but the two workers went on to improve their apparatus for the future. They made a wheel and treadle. Gillison had brought to camp a length of expanding curtain wire, and this was used to transmit the rotation from the spinning wheel to the dentist's drills.
final observation centres around the question of
regards the treatment of military prisoners, Lord Russell has shown that every
single provision of the 2nd Hague Convention of 1907, which
then was the official attitude of the Japanese Government towards the treatment
of civilian internees? The records of communications between Argentine (the
protecting power for
was in February 1942, when the wholesale internment of British and American
civilians in the
JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAVE NOT YET RATIFIED THE 1929 PRISONERS OF WAR CONVENTION.
WHILE, THEREFORE, NOT BOUND BY THE CONVENTION, THEY WILL OBSERVE ITS TERMS
"MUTATIS MUTANDIS" IN RESPECT OF ENGLISH, CANADIAN, AUSTRALIAN,
did not however specifically cover the situation regarding civilian prisoners.
But on 14 February 1942 this was clarified by the Japanese Legation at
DURING THE WHOLE OF THE PRESENT WAR THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT WILL APPLY, MUTATIS MUTANDIS AND SUBJECT TO RECIPROCITY, THE ARTICLES OF THE CONVENTION CONCERNING PRISONERS OF WAR TO NON-COMBATANT INTERNEES OF ENEMY COUNTRIES, ON CONDITION THAT THE BELLIGERENT STATES DO NOT SUBJECT THEM AGAINST THEIR WILL TO MANUAL LABOUR.
Acceptance of this commitment would involve adhering to the following clauses in the Convention which would be especially relevant to the civilian camps:
― Article Ten. "Prisoners of War shall be lodged in buildings or huts which afford all possible safeguards as regards hygiene and salubrity. The premises must be entirely free from damp, and adequately heated and lighted. All precautions shall be taken against the danger of fire. As regards dormitories, their total area, minimum air space, fittings and bedding material, the conditions shall be the same as the depot troops of the detaining power."
have seen that the internment camps in
In order to facilitate being watched, camps were concentrated as much as possible, as a result of which they became more and more crowded ... In many cases this reduced living and sleeping accommodation of internees to a width of 20 inches per person.
― Article Eleven. "The food ration of Prisoners of War shall be equivalent in quantity and quality to that of the depot troops. Prisoners shall also be afforded the means of preparing for themselves such additional articles of food as they may possess. Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to them."
In describing the individual camps it has been made clear that inadequacy of food was the major problem. Dr. van Velden says in this regard:
After 1943 official rations were not equal to those of the Japanese depot troops, as prescribed by the Prisoners-of-War Convention and the Japanese Prisoners of War Regulations. They were much lower, having a value of 1400 - 1600 calories. Owing to 10 - 20% underweight and bad quality, the real value of these rations in many cases was no more than 900 - 1200 calories, being much lower than those supplied to the prisoners of war ... Nowhere had war conditions, shortages of food and transport caused such scarcity and want as to justify to any extent conditions prevailing in the camps. After the Japanese capitulation sufficient supplies could immediately be sent to the internees.
He goes on to say:
The higher military and naval authorities in
It must also be borne in mind that in the last year of the war the Japanese themselves were acutely short of food.
Our conclusion must be that, though the Japanese Government had not signed any international conventions, they did undertake to observe them both in respect of military and civilian prisoners of war, but in fact fell far short in fulfilling such commitments.
End of Chapter.