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Caster Oil Did the Trick

Heroes Remember

Caster Oil Did the Trick

Even the Japs, sometimes, they had to lift a boat that had been sunk at the harbour and it was full of rice. So they lifted it up and then they got some of us slaves to unload it. They had made a ramp so that it would be easy. Now, I don’t know, 240 pounds would probably be the weight of these bags that were there, providing it was dry, but this was soggy rice. It took four men to put it on your shoulder and as long as you didn’t break your cadence going down that ramp, you’d make the bottom part. There was four men to take it off your back, but don’t start going too fast because you can’t stop. So you had to be very careful. You could break a leg so easily. Interviewer How much rice per day did you men eat? Well, our bowl was a normal bowl about that size, but suddenly, the Japs ran out of rice also down there, and they fed you half barley. Half barley and half rice that used to give you bad heartburn. God, it used to almost kill me. However, when you are hungry, you eat anything. You’d have for breakfast, you’d have, they’d make a soup out of the carrot tops, potato tops, just the weed like, and they’d put probably maybe a little bit of fish in and then that was soup with a half ration of rice. They had some Red Cross food and then, so therefore they’d bring in some food, especially corn oil. Man, that was so . . . but, if, maybe if you went to work on the airport, they give you a tin of, oh, the famous tin, bully beef. Anyway, you got a tin between four men, doesn’t last very but anyway, it at least helped that half ration of rice. So everybody that could go to work again went to work. And I was one of the better conditioned chaps, because, I went sick one day and my doctor said, “How come you’re constipated?” I said, “I’ve been constipated all my life, I have to work at it, but I’ve went twenty-three days now.” “Oh,” he says, “doesn’t matter, because rice is 96% water anyway.” But, when I went back him, I was in pain so therefore he gave me one spoonful of caster because he had carried a gallon of caster oil in his paraphernali there. And I was the only one that could use it. So for about t and a half years, I was fed twice a week a spoon of caster oil. That was the height of vitamins that could be gotten around the camp.

Mr. Bérard describes the food at Sham Shui Po, and how his discomfort leads to an unusual dietary supplement.

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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