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They Issued Us With Straw Capes

Heroes Remember

They Issued Us With Straw Capes

It was very crude, there were two platforms on either side of the hut. Actually, it was in tandem, one was above the other. The middle of the floor was just dirt floor, right down, and it was just one long hut, with these platforms and they had, what do they call those mats, I forget it now, but they had mats, they were about that thick, straw mats. Anyway, those were the, that was what you were sleeping on. And they were hard. And there was no heat in these places at the beginning. Eventually we had a little coal heater, but there was no coal, so we couldn’t heat too much. They’d give you a little bit of coal, and that would last, you know, for a very short time and that was it. So the main thing was you kept walking around to keep warm through the winter. They issued us with straw capes. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen straw capes, but they’re very bulky things. They’re actually made like roofs, you know the straw roofs they have. If they’re wet, they become very, very heavy and they’ll hold a little bit of body heat, but that’s about it. And eventually you start to shiver and, you know, you’re back to square one. But they also had straw boots and they were terrible. They were cold, cold, cold. And they issued, I think I had one pair of Japanese sneakers. Black sneakers with just a toe. There’s a toe that’s separate from the rest and they hook in the back, there was no lacing, just hooking. So it was interesting, but they were terrible things to wear.

Mr. Babin gives his general impression of Niigata labour camp and describes the clothing that POW’s were issued.

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
Royal Rifles of Canada
Ambulance Driver

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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