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Interviewer: When you look back, Mr Purse, on your service in the Winnipeg Grenadiers, and in both the battle, the desperate battle for Hong Kong and the miserable conditions and the three and a half years afterwards that you spent in Japanese prison camps and ultimately in slave labor camps, when you look back on that, how would you say that, that has affected you? Well, in my case, I honestly can't believe that I went through it. I, I keep saying to myself, God I don't think I could have done that. You know, even the graders, they, they put us on graders, the graders you see. They put 75-80 people on graders, a rope and you pulled that grader and did the roads in Japan. I can't believe that those things, you know that I could be part of that. But I was, and, but I always believed that I would, I don't know survive, but I always believed I'd get back home. Interviewer: When you look back on that experience and you think back on the deprivations that you endured, the cruelties that were inflicted upon you, what's your attitude towards the Japanese people? Well, I said earlier that I don't have any hard feelings towards the Japanese. It was a dictatorial regime. Uhmm, and in my work with the blind, and I did international work, you've seen that program. I was deeply involved with programs in Japan on blindness, and I had to simply tell myself I had a job to do, the Japanese were just another culture. And I remember looking after an international student because I was very active in Rotary too in the Exchange Student program. This Japanese boy, I was going to be his counsellor and somebody had told him I was a prisoner of war in Japan. And so one night he came to my door and pushed the button and he'd heard about this. He said to me, he said, "You know, I'm from Japan". And I said, "Yes, I know". He said, "But I had nothing to do with it". Here's a boy, eighteen, saying to me I had nothing to do with it how could you blame him. And, and I keep in correspondence with some of the people that worked for the blind, Nippon Lighthouse for the Blind in Japan and my association even after retirement. And I don't trust the military. I was back in Japan about 20 years ago, 21, 22 years ago and the only time that I had any uneasiness in Japan was when I'd see the military because they haven't changed. They look the same and they act the same. I don't, I just think you had to make sure that you could turn your life around and get on with it. That was yesterday.

Mr. Purse was asked to describe how the Hong Kong experience during the Second World War affected his life once he returned to Canada.

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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