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We Felt That we Would not be There Long

Heroes Remember

We Felt That we Would not be There Long

We were still doing drill and I was in, most of the boys had moved, I guess they knew by this time that something was coming. But I was in Kowloon with the rest of our recruits, probably 40, 45 or 50 of us and we went over to the NAFFY Building and we had something to eat, in the morning. We could have that anytime. Our money was very good over there. I, with a friend of mine, he’s dead now, from Hopetown, William Huntington, we went in to play some pool before we went on to drill, and some Chinaman jumped out and he said, “There’s some planes.” So we run out and we said, “Look at our planes from Singapore.” And all at once they come into a dive. It was the Japanese, and they hit the Jubilee Building, and that’s the first person I seen killed because they machine gunned our barracks and the burst of bullets just about cut a Chinese guy, he went to dive through a fence, and a burst of bullets just about cut him in two. That’s the first death I saw. So, our sergeant got us in underneath the bed. By this time, the sergeant was Ted Salsaw and a fellow by the name of Flash Clayton, so they got us in, they got us under the beds, these iron beds, until the bombing was over. And when the bombing was over, we went out and we could see these craters, holes that the bombs had struck. They moved us out right away, onto the ferry. We marched down onto the ferry, and I was very worried because I had this big pack on and I was not a swimmer. I said, “If they hit me, I’m gonna drown.” But we were lucky they did not come over, and I went on to the Island and I went out to an outpost by the name of Lai Moon. I really think myself, well I can remember that we just thought the Americans were going to wipe these little people right off the face of the earth I did not see any fear in anybody. No, I’m sure that we felt that we would not be there long. Anyway, the night they landed, they landed right where I was, at Lai Moon. We had a Newfoundland dog there. I guess he got killed. He grabbed a hand grenade but some say he killed a few Japs first. But we did not have the people. The only ones I saw fighting was Canadians, I have to be honest. I shouldn’t say this maybe, but I only seen Canadians fighting and we only had 2,000 of us there and the Japs, they were all over the place. They just kept coming and we did not have a gun. I can remember having a 9.2. I think they put that out of action the first day or something. We had no big guns, we had no ammunition, and I had never seen a mortar or a Tommy gun or a machine gun. The first Tommy gun I saw was Lance Ross’, and the machine gun, the only time I seen it was when it was on the floor when I was taking it apart. I had never seen a Vickers. These things all came into view when I was in to the action but we had no ammunition for most of them. One day we were on top of a hill and Lance, I did not know how to pull a hand grenade. I had my, I had thrown away my respirator, and I had put the hand grenades in there and I was alongside this Lance Ross from Hopetown, and I was passing him the grenades because I did not even know how to throw them. And we cornered a bunch of Japs down over a hill, quite a mountain, into a white building, they went in there. So we had no mortar so we sent down a platoon, this was 16 platoon. And we sent down to get a mortar to some other platoon and they had no mortar. So the Japs, when the night come, they sneaked out. But we could have blown that building all to “H.”

Mr. MacWhirter describes an attack on Kowloon, fallback to Lai Moon, and the invasion of the island by the Japanese. He discusses the inadequacy of Canadian weapons.

William MacWhirter

William MacWhirter was born in Niagara Falls, New York, USA, on January 10, 1924. He was one of five brothers. During the depression, his family returned to Hopetown, Quebec, where he completed grade 8 in school. By 1939, his father, a First World War Veteran, had joined the Veterans Guard and two older brothers had enlisted; William became head of the family farm at the age of fifteen. He eventually enlisted in New Carlyle at the age of seventeen. His basic training took place in Val Cartier and St. John, and as a member of the Royal Rifles, D Company, he was deployed to Hong Kong. After a futile attempt to defend the colony, William joined many other captives in the dismal North Point and Sham Shui Po POW camps. He was eventually sent to the labour camp at Omini, Japan. He returned home safely, but he has paid a heavy price, physically and emotionally. He remains, however, an ardent patriot.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
William MacWhirter
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Royal Rifles of Canada

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