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You Knew you had to Drink It

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You Knew you had to Drink It

You probably heard other guys talking about hot feet. That’s where the hot feet started. Well now we find out it was malnutrition. Then we didn’t know, then they didn’t know. The doctor that, we had a doctor from Burma, from one of the Asiatic countries, he was a doctor there and he claimed that he had, knew all about the tropical diseases and malnutrition and he couldn’t figure it out. It was malnutrition. Your vitamins would not go, not enough vitamins to feed your nerves and your parts of your body. The feet was one of the tender ones. And the feet got so hot you’d stand in a pail of water and sit down on a curb, like I’m sitting here and the curb is there and you have both feet in a pail of water. Within a half an hour, you’d hate to put your hands in that water, it’s so hot. Well, I don’t really remember the names now, but there were boils and scabies, and now we found it was malnutrition and beri-beri. Dysentery was a very common thing. Mind you, I was lucky, I didn’t get dysentery too bad but I know that guys who had dysentery so bad that no sense of them going to bed because they would just be sitting on the toilet all night long. They would sleep on the toilet. Well, diphtheria broke out, and the doctor at Sham Shui Po, he was trying to, Dr. Crawford, he was trying to isolate the carriers of diphtheria and the non-carriers. And then he would quarantine the carriers so the other guys wouldn’t get them, and then he found out that he didn’t have enough space to put all the diphtheria carriers in the compound. And in the mean time, the Japanese were bugging him. In fact I seen him get beat up and slapped around in front of the troops many times because he was letting too many people die. And they wouldn’t bring him any medication, any medicine to, what he asked for they wouldn’t give it to him. Same as if you had quinine, he wanted quinine for the boys when they were, when they were down with malaria, he wanted quinine to treat them. He’d ask for, say, a hundred tablets, he’d get three. Now what he would do, he would take them, the few tablets that he would get, he would dissolve them in water and give you a little sip of water. And that would be your quinine treatment. You’d get the carrot tops, potatoes, you’d get the potato tops, and the cooks that we had in the kitchen cooking rice and the cooks tried to do their darnedest. They would cook those things and you would drink it, and the only reason you would drink it, because you knew you had to drink it. That’s the only vitamin C that you ever will get there in that prison camp, because they wouldn’t give you any vegetables that had vitamin C in it other than the green stuff.

Mr. Friesen describes various diseases in the camp and the attempts to curb them with meagre medication and rations.

Isaac ‘Ike’ Friesen

Isaac ‘Ike’ Friesen was born on a farm in the Russian Ukraine on October 19, 1920. His father died while Ike was an infant, leaving his mother to run the farm. At the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution, Mrs. Friesen sold the family farm and emigrated to Winkler, Manitoba, later moving to and buying a house in nearby Pomcooley. Mr. Friesen attended the four room school across the street, completing grade eight before becoming a farm laborer to help support his mother. He eventually tried working on a sugarbeet farm in Carmen, Manitoba, but quickly decided joining the armed forces was a better option. He tried to join the Royal Canadian Navy, but was deferred to the Army. He took basic training as a member of the Eighteenth Manitoba Reconnaissance Regiment at Shilo. He was designated as “D” - unfit for overseas service, until being recruited by the badly depleted Winnipeg Grenadiers where his status suddenly became “A1.” Once the conflict in Hong Kong ended with the Allied surrender, Mr. Friesen worked as a laborer at Kai Tek airport. He was eventually shipped to the camp in Niigata, Japan, where he labored as a stevedore. After being liberated and returning to Canada, Mr. Friesen, as the result of a chance meeting while hitchhiking, was offered and accepted employment with what is now Shell Oil.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Isaac ‘Ike’ Friesen
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Truck Driver

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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