Language selection


You Scrubbed Until They Bled

Heroes Remember

You Scrubbed Until They Bled

It was a refugee camp to start with, and they had bunks, they were double bunks but they were very, very close together; just jammed right up. The bed bugs and the lice were just terrible, really. It was a dirty place, very dirty, it was right on the water, on the harbour. And there was a cement wall and the latrine consisted of a couple planks extended from the wall and that was it. Diphtheria broke out and in the meantime dysentery was rampant. The food was not too bad at the beginning because we were using our rations but then it started to peter out and there was difficult in getting rice eventually, especially when we went back to Sham Shui Po. And that’s the time when we were in North Point when the four soldiers escaped and of course they dragged us all out on the parade square and we were there. It was miserable out there. It was pouring rain and we were there very early in the morning and they kept us there all day and they decided to put us in groups of ten, so if anybody escaped, that the other nine would of course be killed or whatever. After that it was just poor rations until we went to Sham Shui Po. We used to get a cup, just a tea cup, of rice three times a day. There was a few greens you know at first. We used to get some greens and the juice from the greens, not very much, just a little. You had to spread it around and there was the odd fish but the fish was rotten by the time it got to us and was all maggoty. The rice was all maggots really but you ate it because when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. After I went to Sham Shui Po, scabies, they were rampant there. Of course the only thing you had was a brush and a little bit of sulfur that you used and mixed it, you know. And you scrubbed until they bled, that was what you did for treatment. When I was working there in a diphtheria hut, that’s what it was, a hut, I don’t recall any medication being given to any of the patients there. The only reason they were there was because they had, in the latrine actually, there were pails so you had to empty the pails. So the only help that they got was the help that the orderly gave them and tried to keep it clean. There was a shortage of water, so you had to be careful about how much water you dished out. It was very, very, bad and then I went to work at Jubilee building where the diphtheria and the dysentery patients were, and it was terrible. They used to swab their throats. They had no medicine to give these people, when they did get it, who are you going to give it to? What were your priorities? So I didn’t envy the doctors really, and these people were lying there, just skin and bones and that’s no word of a lie, there’s just skin and bones.

Mr. Babin describes disease, living conditions and rations at North Point and Sham Shui Po camps and working in a diphtheria ward.

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

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: