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Life in a Prisoner of War Camp

Heroes Remember

Life in a Prisoner of War Camp

And Shamshuipo that was our camp before the war. It was, it's a nice camp except that there was no windows, no doors, no nothing, see. So everything was changed. I mean everything was wide open. And the mosquitos over there well for Malaria it's dangerous. So we had no protection. Interviewer: During that period of time, the men were expected to work. What do you remember about the work that you prisoners were expected? Ya we were getting up in the morning at four, four thirty, every morning. And we had to walk through Kowloon to go to the ferry which is about two miles I think, to walk. And as we walk on the street every morning we saw corpses here and there. Chinese, die from lack of food. And we saw these trucks painted in green picking up the bodies and throwing them in like garbage. And we got on the ferry every morning to go to Kai Tak Airport. And we had to move a mountain to in the sea in order to enlarge the Kai Tak Airport. It was in the hot sun. We had a G-string, nothing on the head. And it happened a few times, too many times that we didn't have any breakfast or we didn't have any dinner. Imagine, and we didn't have enough to eat and yet they were not giving us our meal. Interviewer: And during this time, the men were still sick from many of the diseases that you just talked about? Worse than ever. Yes, some people were dying everyday. Sometimes six in a day from diphtheria especially. Yes there were all kinds of disease. Pneumonia and also of course electric feet and Beri-beri and all those things you know.

Mr. Castonguay describes life in the POW camp and the working conditions they encountered.

Bernard Castonguay

Bernard Castonguay was born in Montreal, Quebec on February 9, 1921. He was the fourth of eleven children. His father worked for CPR as a seam fitter. Mr. Castonguay left home at the age of sixteen to look for adventure. He worked as a lumberjack and on the railways. Unable to find work in 1940, Mr. Castonguay went to Quebec City and joined the Royal Rifles of Canada. He was then shipped to Gander, Newfoundland where he worked as a signalman and sentry. Afterwards, he went to St. John, NB. While in Hong Kong, Mr. Castonguay was captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp (Omeni) in Nagasaki, Japan to work in a coal mine. After his service, Mr. Castonguay worked with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) later becoming the Regional Director of CNIB. He also volunteered and worked with the Canadian Council for the Blind.

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

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