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Reaction to end of Second World War

Heroes Remember

Reaction to end of Second World War

Then when the first atom bomb was dropped, the guards kept on screaming about (inaudible) which are the bombers. And then they thought with Truman coming in, there was going to be a major improvements on the relationship. But after that, they decided that Truman wasn't a friend after all. And we seemed to see that the guards were a little less, they just didn't show the same stability that they'd had earlier. And when the first bomb dropped, a lot of them sort of said, well, it's over. And then they came back on really strong and then the second bomb, of course, that ended that and they pretty well deserted the camp. And we were sort of left on our own. Uhmm, we commandeered a train to take us to Tokyo. They... but then the American aircraft flew over and dropped, bombers dropped parcels and food and what not to us in the camp. So we knew that that portion was finished. Interviewer: What was your reaction when you realized it was over? I don't know that I, I think because of the circumstances over that period of time, emotions were very difficult to, they never showed. I think that, you just took everything - the good things and the bad things, sort of in your stride. You didn't know how to handle it. And I know that I had great trouble after getting home to even appreciate humour, and I don't know, it just, it just took a long time to recover from that mental circumstance. Interviewer: When you realized that it was over, when did you find out how badly you had deteriorated? I guess maybe, the problem, one problem I had was that I hadn't realized how much sight I had lost. Because there was nothing to read and there was nothing to look at and so I guess that was the greatest shock when I got out and I thought I could drive a car and I couldn't. It was wrong and I think it was, that was the major problem. And the other problem was claustrophobia. I just couldn't get on a bus with people, I couldn't do that. But, I think it was primarily to do with the visual problem. I hadn't realized that I had lost so much sight. Interviewer: What caused you to lose as much sight as you did? Well it was diphtheria to start with and also malnutrition and I have optic atrophy and I don't have hardly any sight in this eye and seven percent in this other eye. But..., I think that was the most disturbing thing that I experienced was that I wasn't able to do the things that I had looked forward to doing, when I got out of the camp. Interviewer: Mr Purse, what do you, were you ever told how much you weighed at liberation? I think I weighed 108 lbs. Interviewer: And what would your normal weight have been? About 155, 160 I guess, which is what I weigh, I haven't changed much in weight. Interviewer: So you were about 50 lbs or so underweight at liberation. Yes, but you have to understand at that time, I'd have a 40 inch waist with the edema and water. I don't know how much water I'd have on me, unbelievable, the amount of water. The edema would build up so much that it would just go right through your bowel. And of course, more than that, a lot of us had to get clear of these round worms that we had right through us. Unbelievable, but you be, wake up choking and the damn worm would be coming out of your mouth. Uhmm, it's a, I just really find it difficult to believe, and I say this to my wife, "I can't honestly believe I survived it. I'm not that kind of person. How could I live under those circumstances and, and survive". I know it happened but I find it very difficult to believe that it happened to me.

Mr. Purse remembers the reaction of both the prisoners of war and their Japanese guards as news of the end of the war arrived, and reflects on how surprised he continues to be that he survived the experience.

Ross Purse

Ross Purse was born in Roland, Manitoba on September 10, 1918. He has one brother and five sisters in what he describes as a close-knit family. Their father died when Ross was just 10 years old. He enlisted with the Winnipeg Grenadiers within hours of Canada declaring war on Germany in September, 1939. Following training in Winnipeg, he was sent to Jamaica in defence of the island and for duty at prisoner of war camps for captured Germans. He returned to Winnipeg and was put aboard a train travelling west, eventually arriving in Vancouver from where he and his comrades sailed for the British colony of Hong Kong.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Ross Purse
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Winnipeg Grenadiers

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