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POW Living Conditions

Heroes Remember

POW Living Conditions

Sham Shui Po was a line of old buildings that they used for barracks, that was the same barracks we were in before we were taken prisoner. The only thing is everything of any value was stripped out of them. Oh, we had everything, you name it, we had them. There was bed bugs, head lice, body lice, fleas, cockroaches, they were all there. And to make it worse, we were on the waterfront, the camp was on the waterfront, and every time the tide would come in there would be some bodies washed up on the shore and they would lay there until the tide would take them back out again and talk about a stench. We were being fed, to start with they picked up a bunch of them 100 kilo bags of rice that we’d used as sandbags and some of them were soaked with blood. There was maggots in them all, that’s what they fed us. As far as quantity was concerned it was one of them there small squat salmon cans, one of them level full of rice three times a day and another one full of potato top soup, or another day there would be cucumber soup, or it could be egg plant soup or onion soup. North Point was, well it was a little better camp, not much but a little better. But there I was on a burial detail and we were burying five and six diphtheria people who died of diphtheria every day. There was six of us on this here burial detail. They took us across to the mainland and we had to work on extending the runway on the Kai Tak Airport air strip. What we had was a pole across our shoulder and there would be two baskets, and one on each end, hanging from each end of the pole, and they’d fill them with dirt from the mountainside and we’d carry them down and dump them where they wanted it and then go back for more. It kind of knocked hell right out of their health. I mean, we all lost so much weight. I know one fellow that must have weighed over 300 pounds at one time and I think about six months after he was taken prisoner of war he lost this weight so fast, he was down to under 100 pounds that his hide hung right almost to his knees, it was like a skirt. Well, the Japanese guards, any of them that we had, I think was the meanest and most miserable people that the Lord ever strung guts in. I think they were hand picked because they couldn’t get along with their own people.

Mr. Lowe describes Sham Shui Po and compares it with his experiences at North Point, particularly burial detail and the Kai Tak labour gangs.

Garfield Lowe

Garfield Lowe was born in Cobalt, Ontario, on May 6, 1919. His mother died shortly after his birth. His father was a mine manager, but moved to Rackham, Manitoba, and setup a blacksmith shop where Garfield learned the trade from his father. Mr. Lowe was on his own at age 15, and over the next six years did a variety of jobs, including trapping skunks for two dollars a pelt, farm labourer and sawmill worker. During this time he was married and had two children. At the age of 21, he enlisted with the Winnipeg Grenadiers. After completing basic training in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he performed internment camp duty in Kingston, Jamaica, where he received extensive machine gun training (no live fire), but no infantry tactics. In Mr. Lowe’s words, the Grenadiers were reinforced with “rejects” before leaving for Hong Kong. Mr. Lowe spent time in four different camps during his incarceration, and witnessed some horrifying events which haunt him to this day.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Garfield Lowe
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Machine Gunner

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