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God, it was Scary!

Heroes Remember

Yeah, I went on sick parade, one of these days, one of these first days and my pulse was awful high. It was 140 - just sitting there. So they started giving me some pills, small little pills. I took a dozen a day, I think. And it improved my situation, my pulse went down. Atapalene, I think it was called, the the medication. So I didn’t go down to the mine right away. They took the boys down the mine there after a couple of days and had a sorry tale when they came out. It was an old abandoned mine and they were going to reopen it - a coal mine, but I didn’t see it. So when I got a little better they put me out to work on the surface, surface job, which meant unloading cars of either rock, hard rock or coal, depending on what the situation was. These coal cars were, I don’t know, size probably ten feet long and four feet wide built like a tub and all linked by railway car links, like smaller than railways cars though. We used to go down in the coal cars at an angle. They had big machines at the top of the mine surface and a long cable and these cars hooked one to the other and they go down at a slant, go down to about 1600 metres. I don’t know what that makes, about a 1000 feet deep, I suppose. And one day I had to go down in the mine, and that was one of the worst days of my life. God it was scary. Water pouring down off the ceiling, that sort of thing. I don’t know at what point in time that I started to go down in the mine but I had been on the surface quite a while and I hated the mine, I hated it, I hated it. I was drilling new tunnels and blasting. I didn’t do any blasting or drilling. I was a mucker. I used to muck the place. Interviewer: What did a mucker do? He had a basket like a dust pan shaped affair made of bamboo. It had handles on the side and we had a scrape made like a garden hoe, only bigger and stronger, and we used to pull in the crushed rock or whatever from the blast. We had sledge hammers to break up the big pieces and throw them into these cars and have them hauled up to the surface and emptied. It was hard work. But the Japanese, they’d tell you, “Good, you had a good day’s work. Tomorrow, instead of doing ten cars, you do twelve cars.” So we’d do twelve cars. We just kept going, they always wanted more.

Mr. Jessop discusses initially being too ill to work in the coal mine, and his fear of going underground once well enough to do so.

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
Royal Rifles of Canada

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