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He was so Weak and so Gone, he was Eating Flies

Heroes Remember

He was so Weak and so Gone, he was Eating Flies

Once the war was over, when we marched back in there, we saw that all the buildings were stripped of everything; the windows, the doors, the door jambs, same thing, the windows, everything. So we, of course, like every hut has two little cubicles at the end which normally housed the sergeant, the platoon sergeant. So, I was given one of those, but there was no windows, no doors and things like that. I slept on the floor. I covered myself with my greatcoat. I had one blanket, which was underneath me and that’s it. In Hong Kong, the summertime can stick around at 106̊ but in the winter time it can be cold, just as cold as it gets in Vancouver. Mostly in the summer time, the flies, and I seen one chap was eating a slice of bread. Somehow the cooks, oh by the way, when we got into this camp, the Japanese asked for any cooks. the Japanese asked for any cooks. Guess who answered to that call? All the drivers, they didn’t even know how to cook. However, none of our cooks would have done any better, because nobody knew how to cook rice dry like, so it was soggy and it was awful to eat. But I seen a chap, finally the cooks crushed rice into powder and made bread. So this chap was eating this slice of bread there and it was covered with flies. And he was so weak and so gone that he was eating flies and in no time, he lasted about three weeks. But you can’t, at certain times there are only certain things you can do. You can’t do everything. Bed bugs, my God, they used to climb the ceiling and then drop on you. They were very well trained. And, of course, that’s the reason why we cut our hair so close and we tried to keep water (inaudible). Water doesn’t cost any money, even there, but you have to be very careful with this water. And we didn’t have no soap, but eventually at one time, no soap, so when you get a bar of soap you . . . I remember I was given the highest respect given by this fella, yeah, compliment, from this fellow by the name of Garth. He was a tall corporal (inaudible). And I’d left my soap, it was a big bar of soap that I had got from the Japanese, and I’d left it in the washroom and he happened to pick it up, but he wasn’t strong enough to walk over to me so he sent Corporal Henderson to me and he said, “Garth would like to see you over there.” And he looked at me. “Here,” he said, “if it wasn’t you, nobody else would have gotten it.” I thought, my God, so I cut the bar of soap in half .

Mr. Bérard describes Sham Shui Po barracks, and relates difficulties dealing with flies, bedbugs and general hygiene. He talks about respect given and returned for a bar of soap.

Léo Paul Bérard

Léo Paul Bérard was born in Ste Anne des Chenes, Manitoba, in 1915. He was one of only four of the family’s thirteen children to survive. His father was a farm and forest worker. Mr. Bérard studied carpentry in school, and helped his crippled brother to learn the trade. In 1933, he enlisted with the Winnipeg Grenadiers to join their ball team - he was given the rank of corporal. He pursued extensive NCO training, attaining the rank of sergeant. Mr. Bérard offers us a view of the Honk Kong/Japan internment through the eyes of a soldier who deeply respected his officers and men, and who was in turn respected by them. Many of his clips include very personal references of this sort. After returning from the war, Mr. Bérard remained in the Army, where he trained soldiers for the Korean deployment.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Léo Paul Bérard
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Platoon Leader

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