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Stealing Food was Worth the Risk

Heroes Remember

Stealing Food was Worth the Risk

The Canadians were split up into a foundry gang, a coal yard gang, a shitutzu gang, the wrinkle coal yard gang and the maratsu dockyard gang. Our dockyard gang was 50 men and we stevedored. Luckily enough again, another part that actually saved my life. The coal yard gang, oh there must have been about 150 men in the coal yard gang and the balance of the 300 odd were in the foundry gang. I can only relate little instances about the other two but the dockyard gang, I'm an experienced stevedore and an experienced thief. We handled food and everything else through and we stole our share and we got our own beatings for stealing when you got caught. But we got away with a hell of a lot more than we got caught with. Anytime a bean boat came in, they would steal a bag of beans and down to our mess shack. Because they told us if we were going to carry 90 kilos bags of soy beans from the dock into the box car, we had to eat them and those of us that survived that dockyard gang, every day at noon, the little ration of rice we got from camp, the ration of grain we got from camp, we got a Klim powdered milk can full of cooked soy beans. In fact, they were so good they, Kabiason put one of our fellows in there as a permanent cook in our little mess shack.

Mr. Atkinson describes himself as becoming an experienced thief while working in the Niigata shipyard. He feels the rewards of stealing food for himself and the other prisoners far outweighed the consequences of getting caught.

Harold Atkinson

Harold Atkinson was born on February 14, 1922 in Selkirk, Manitoba. He had three siblings. His father, a First World War Veteran, died when he was nine. His family lived on relief, seven dollars a week, and he helped by delivering papers. He finished grade nine, and then in 1940 enlisted. Mr. Atkinson was eighteen when he joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He served in Jamaica, guarding German and Italian nationals at an internment camp. He returned to Canada and then went to Hong Kong with his unit. Mr. Atkinson fought against and was taken prisoner by the Japanese. As a prisoner, he heard several comrades bayoneted to death. Mr. Atkinson worked at Kai Tak airport and in North Point Camp's diphtheria ward. In Omini, Japan he worked as a stevedore at the shipyard. When the war ended, Mr. Atkinson was fortunate enough to be flown home.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Harold Atkinson
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Machine Gunner

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