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A Barracks Collapses Causing Death and Injury

Heroes Remember

A Barracks Collapses Causing Death and Injury

December 31st, 1943, January 1st, 1944 one of the huts we were in collapsed on us. They used no nails in the building of their super structures. They used a square hole and a square peg and then a small square peg that goes through another hole and holds it together. The camp was built on the side of a sand hill and all they used for foundations or footings was a rock and they put a six-inch log on it to hold up the big 18 inch center beam. I woke up and all I could hear was crumbling, crushing, crackling wood and we had been working on apples and oranges that day and the only thing I could recollect, the stack was collapsing and this was the crushing lumber and all of a sudden I got hit and that's the last I remember. I had my pelvis crushed. There was eight of us, six of us with crushed pelvis's and we lost eight men that were killed by that same beam. That was January 1st, 1944 and I was laying on my back with my knees propped up on straw sack until March and an American doctor that had come up from Tokyo that the Japs had brought up, came in one day and told us that if we didn't get up and get our legs straight and start walking that we would never walk again and they pulled the gunny sack out and my legs collapsed and I couldn't move them. I rolled over and I crawled over to the door and I, the barrack end of it was built up about two feet and the floor was mud and along one wall was a, like a railing and I finally got the courage up and I stood up and I held the handrail and I tried to walk but I couldn't do it. But every morning, twice a day I'd get up and do that and finally within a week I was walking with a couple of sticks. And by the end of March, I was back in my old Niiagata dockyard gang, out working.

Mr. Atkinson describes the collapse of his barracks roof. The falling beams kill eight POW’s and crush his and five others' pelvises. After some time, he is advised by a captured American doctor to start moving, or he wouldn't walk again. His mobility returns, and he goes back to work in the Niigata shipyard.

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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