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Your Leg Would Be Caught Between the Bumpers

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Your Leg Would Be Caught Between the Bumpers

The coal gang was hard work all the way, and you had - it was very extensive. The work there, you could be loading cars, coal cars, railway cars, or you could be on a trestle pushing a coal car around that they used to put about half a ton of coal in it, and you pushed it to certain bins. There were bins around the trestle. And you’d empty the coal into the respective bins. And that was very hard work, because not only were you up on a trestle, where if you were subjected to heights, you know some people didn’t care, and I didn’t. It was very sparse. The trestle was just, that was it, it was just the track and 2x4's and that was it. There was no where to go, so if a car came up behind you, you had to make sure that your leg wasn’t where the bumper was. There were two bumpers, because what would happen is your leg would be caught in between the bumpers. And that happened to me many times. And we used to load cars with baskets, you know, a pole with a basket on each end and, there was, you’d put, I suppose it would weigh roughly around 80 pounds maybe, or somewhere around there. I’m guessing, but we tried to put less in them, because with our weight, I didn’t weigh anything and you just went on nerve, you know. It was mind over matter there. But you had to go. They had a sawhorse and they had a plank. These planks were very heavy. They were about three inches and they were about ten inches wide or so, twelve inches wide. And they’d be about, anywhere from ten to fifteen feet long, eighteen feet long. And they went up on a horse and then there was another one going from that one up to the coal car. Maybe you don’t think that that’s hard work, but you had to go up that trestle, go up to the top and then they had another board running the full length of the car. They had planks running this way and then they had the planks running down the middle. And what you did was you ran up to the top and you got on the car and you emptied the baskets, threw it off your shoulder, emptied the baskets, put it on, and kept going and they had another sawhorse on there with the planks running down. So what it was, was you just went up and down and you’d get down here, you had one prisoner here loading the baskets. He had a shovel and he’d load the baskets, so it was a continual trip. And there was an overseer, with a hardwood stick that he’d stand there and he’d supervise. There might be about seven or eight teams going up and down. And you did the work or else he’d crack you with it. I saw that guy, he broke that stick on the back of one of the guys. And two, three days later the guy died. He was so weak he couldn’t really do the work. But that’s an actual, I saw the guy, he just smashed that cane and he was, that Japanese was one of the biggest Japanese that I’ve seen, he was a big man.

Mr. Babin describes working slave labour in a Japanese coal yard, and the danger that he faced there.

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

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