Language selection


Japan and working in the Coal Mines

Heroes Remember

Japan and working in the Coal Mines

In January 1943, the camp commandant got a bunch of us lined up on one side and as he walked, we had to walk across the field. And if we walked well enough, we didn't know why, but we were sent to a ship and embark for Japan. And when we got aboard the ship we went down in the hull and we were placed so close to one another, one standing up against another, just like sardines. I said how are we going to sleep here you know. But anyway we, that was done that way. We were three days aboard that ship. We stopped in Formosa to refuel and we went on to Nagasaki. Many of us were all sick of course but we were able to work you know. Well we had to walk through the city until, to a train station. And then they gave us some buns, white buns to eat, at night. And we travel. And we change train a few times, I don't know why. And finally we got to Fukuoka. Homani(sp) was the name of the camp. A coal mine, we work in a coal mine. At the beginning, we had to work on the hard rock to enlarge the tunnel going down towards the coal. We were drilling, using dynamite and loading cars to get the rock out. And then mixing cement to make a partly cement wall. The whole thing was reinforced with iron coming from Canada. Rails you know in the U shape. So we work for a good year like this you know. Very dangerous, some died. Especially after the dynamite had explode, it was a ceiling that may fell down on you while you are loading rocks on the train you know.

Mr. Castonguay recalls how the prisoners were sent to Japan by boat or train to a coal mine where they worked in dangerous conditions.

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
Royal Rifles of Canada

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: