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When we Came Back, the Guards Were all Gone

Heroes Remember

When we Came Back, the Guards Were all Gone

They gave us a day off and then at night we’d have what they call tenko. They’d line us up and count us, make sure we were all there. So this night, they lined us up and counted us and we had, at the time, we were using an Australian soldier, a sergeant major, as an interpreter. And I heard him tell the interpreter, the Japanese corporal that was their sergeant, tell the interpreter to tell the men that they didn’t have to go to work tomorrow. But prior to this, we had sort of talked. No more bombing, something funny going on. So word got around camp that if they made any announcements, we weren’t going to cheer or yell or hoot and holler. Nothing, we’d just take and keep quiet, keep it to ourselves. So anyway, I could understand a certain amount of Japanese. And he told our interpreter to tell us that tomorrow we wouldn’t have to go to work, which had never happened before, two days in a row. So the interpreter got up on a stand there. And there was probably five hundred in the camp by that time. Anyway, he got up and told us that we didn’t have to go to work tomorrow. He said, “The Japanese didn’t give me any reason why, but, figure it out for yourselves.” So not a word was said. So the Jap was there, “Tell them again, tell them again.” Thought we’d hoop and holler, lucky to have another day but nothing happened. We knew about the atomic bomb by this time. I’d overheard some conversations in the mine and told the boys. After a couple of days, they said, “Yes, okay,” to our NCO’s, who were senior, to take us out for walks in the country side. Away we went and when we came back the guards were all gone. So we were on our own. A lot of things happened then. We broke into a store room they had with shirts, pants all sorts of things for army use. So we went downtown. We’d get three guys together, we’d go downtown and sell the shirts - ten yen a piece. Made some money, then we’d buy chickens. We could have gone in and took the chickens but we didn’t do that. We’d buy chickens, buy vegetables, bring them back to camp, cook them up. What else happened in those days. Some of the boys drank bad liquor and died from it. It was bad. And then the planes came over to drop parachute loads of food. That was great.

Mr. Jessop describes events in Omine camp that indicated the war was ending.

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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