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It Can’t be any Worse Than Here, Son.

Heroes Remember

It Can’t be any Worse Than Here, Son.

In my own case, I know how I was selected. They had, a lot of guys had hot feet. And I remember being lined up one the side of the street. I call it a street because it was in a barrack area in Sham Shui Po and you had to walk across the street. If you could walk across the street alright then, and I walked across the street and I didn’t stagger and didn’t holler so I was chosen to go to Japan. And I talked to the Padre there, I don’t know if it was that night or another time, later, within a few days, and I asked him if he thought I was doing the right thing by going to Japan. He said, “It can’t be any worse that here, son.” So I stuck it out. My hot feet were bad at that time. The ship we were on was a passenger ship. There’s a story about that. I spent the trip, I don’t know if it was three or four days, I can’t remember, on a stairwell. And a little bit on a level, too. We would change around. We had no room to sleep. But I remember seeing when some doors were open that one side of the ship had been filled up with ballast. And the ballast was concrete, poured concrete and we asked about that later and it seems that in the twenties and thirties, the Japanese would send to England for specifications for boats and prints and diagrams and the British companies were willing to sell it to the Japanese. But the Japanese would copy, this is what we were told, they would copy the prints and the specs and send them back and say this isn’t what they wanted. They’d keep the odd one and pay for it but they sent it back. But the British got wise to this so this one particular type of vessel they wanted, they asked for specifications, diagrams and they got them and they built it and they lost the ship, it tipped over. Because it wasn’t balanced properly. So they righted it and built up a counterweight with concrete that cut down the capacity of the ship. It was a big joke there for a while. And that ship, we went over - we stopped between Formosa and the mainland. We didn’t know what for at the time but it because of the American submarines. And we stayed there around four hours, I guess. Stopped right in the middle of the ocean and then they scooted for Japan. Seems to me somebody died on the trip. Yeah, that’s it. Somebody died on the trip. And when they divided, I don`t know how many we were, when they divided us into separate groups to go to, lets say the camp I went to, they went down the list and they got to my name and there was one missing because a fellow had died and they moved my brother into the group I was with. Otherwise, we would have been separated for the rest of the war. But as it turned out, we were in the same camp. A lot of strange things happened.

Mr. Jessop describes being selected for the Japanese labour camps and his boat ride to Japan.

James Robert Jessop

James Robert Jessop was born in Edmunston, New Brunswick, in 1921. He and his twin brother were the eldest sons among nine children. His father worked full-time as a mechanic at the local pulp mill. Mr. Jessop recalls having had good teachers in school, where he also played hockey and rugby. He eventually worked at Fraser’s Mill for twenty-four cents an hour, but enlisted in 1940 for the prospect of better wages. He applied for and was accepted into the Royal Canadian Air Force, but switched to the Royal Rifles to be with his brother. Before leaving for Hong Kong, Mr. Jessop trained and served in several places in Newfoundland. Mr. Jessop’s experiences in the Hong Kong campaign were typical; forced to surrender and work as slave labor in both Sham Shui Po and Omine, malnourished, ravaged by disease and subjected to abuse at the hands of his captors. He also witnessed first hand the devastation of Nagasaki. Mr. Jessop’s service ends with a touching family reunion and a heartfelt sense of loss for his fallen friends.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Robert Jessop
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Royal Rifles of Canada

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