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Bickley Got the Shrapnel in the Eyes

Heroes Remember

Bickley Got the Shrapnel in the Eyes

They called the Canadians around and they said, “Who would like to drive this ambulance?” No one actually wanted to because most of them didn’t know how to drive, including myself. However, it came right down to it, I was elected so I became the driver. We started out early in the morning and Bickley, the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) guide, was with me. We had to go, not the same way that we came in from Victoria, but I think they would call it, what would they call it? The east. I guess the east side of the island. Whereas before we were on the west side of the island. We started out, got as far as Repulse Bay and we were going to take that road that goes up to Wong Nai Chong Gap, and up in through that area, but the guards told us there it was closed. So anyway, Bickley said, “Well I know, just keep going and there is another road that goes around to Aberdeen.” So we kept going, but the roads were very hilly and there’s a huge drop, and of course its very curvaceous there, so we came around a curve and there was a crash on the windshield and there were, actually I found out later, machine gun bullets hit the windshield and Bickley, of course, he got the shrapnel in the eyes, and I kept on going around the curve. There were vehicles all along the shoulder on one side, because the other side of course was a big drop, and they were all burnt out, so there must have been a battle there shortly before that. Anyway, when I got around to the other side of the hill, I was sheltered from above, so I just pulled in there, and I noticed there were two people in a sandbag enclosure right in the middle of the road. So, I just caught that, you know you catch things as you go along. I had a shell dressing bag about that size and there was maybe a dozen shell dressings, and they were huge things. So, I unravelled one and wrapped it around Bickley’s eyes, and I pushed him to a corner and told him to stay there. I was going to go out and see if I could find a way out. So I got out and I went around the back and I opened the doors, and this fellow was sitting there. He wanted to get out and figh the Japs. He had no arms or anything so what happened is the bull came inside the cabin and they ricocheted around and everyone in there was wounded, for the second time. Anyway, I pushed him back in and I said, “You stay in there, I’m in charge of this ambulance.” I was kind of mad, I suppose, fear and mad and everything went together. So I said, “Get in there and I’ll see if I can get us out.” I closed the door and that was it. He couldn’t open it from the inside so I just went back and I called out to the two soldiers. One was a Hong Kong volunteer and the other one was a Winnipeg Grenadier, and I said, “Can I get through here?” and he said, “No, they’re all the way up, up there Just then, the Hong Kong volunteer was shot, he just collapsed. So I thought, well this is it. So I got in the ambulance and I started to, trying to turn it around, and every minute I expected the machine guns to open fire. But I was just far enough around that I was sheltered from the top. I managed to get it around and of course, I didn’t have that driving experience, you see, to do all these things, but I did.

Mr. Babin describes being ‘volunteered’ to drive an ambulance, and a narrow escape from a mountain pass ambush by the Japanese.

Alfred Joseph Babin

Alfred Joseph Babin was born in Moncton, New Brunswick, on October 15, 1921. He was one of five children. His father was a carpenter. Mr. Babin completed grade 8, but left school to work at the local 5 & 10 to help support his family. When old enough, he enlisted, citing better income as his reason. He first joined the New Brunswick Rangers, but quickly transferred to the Carleton and York Regiment. Basic training only consisted of infantry drills. He then joined the Royal Rifles, performing guard duties at the airbase in Gander, Newfoundland. After arriving in Hong Kong, Mr. Babin was volunteered as an ambulance driver, in which capacity he served until Hong Kong surrendered. Mr. Babin recalls in clear detail, life in the POW camps and slave labour in the coal yards near Niigata. After safely returning to Canada, Alfred Babin remained in the Canadian Armed Forces as a member in the military band.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Alfred Joseph Babin
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Royal Rifles of Canada
Ambulance Driver

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