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Sometimes I Dream About it, the Stink

Heroes Remember

Sometimes I Dream About it, the Stink

We were there, we would get pretty discouraged. We would get to think we’d never get out. And they lined us all up and they said, “Able bodied men, step out.” So my brother stepped out. When he stepped out, I stepped out also. Anyway, out of us, I think this gang, there must have been for sure 300 or 400 of us and they put us onto a boat, the Tatuta Maru and they took us up to Japan. Onto that boat they put us down into the hold, and you could not sleep. Everybody had to stand up. People in there, they were both things. They were peeing all over the place, and if they had to have a dump, they had to have it. Sometimes I dream about it, the stink. The stench was awful. And they’d open the hole up above and lower down the food. And it wasn’t much, you know, and we would try to give it to the boys who were suffering the most. In the meantime, we knew that there was 1,800 Royal Scots that had been sent to the bottom. The Americans had did it because the Japanese were carrying no red cross or anything on it. And then we had heard this story that they had machine gunned nurses going, when they got out of the water and things like this, so we were pretty worried. But we landed into Nagasaki, and in Nagasaki they split us all up. They sent some up north, here and there, and I was one of the guys, plus my brother, who went to Omini. When we went to Omini the camps were quite nice to what we came from so we thought we were going to be well. The first week or two we were. They made us learn Japanese. They gave us three days to learn to count in Japanese, or we were getting beat up. So, we learned to count Japanese. They’d line us up and some of our officers complained and said according to the Geneva Conference, this wasn’t right. But the Japanese said we got nothing to do with anything in Geneva or any place else. Anyway, then after that once we could count they shipped us off into the mine. That’s when they started to get rough again.

Mr. MacWhirter describes conditions on the Japanese ship, Tatuta Maru, while being shipped to the Omini labour camp in Japan.

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
Royal Rifles of Canada

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