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Bill, you Want to Live?

Heroes Remember

Bill, you Want to Live?

Well, at last, I got the diarrhea which they called the garigari (sp). They said at the mines, “Anybody with garigari, put up your hand and go back to camp.” So I put up my hand, and, "Yousko." I moved out and two guards came back. When they got me halfway back they gave me some hammering. I’ve had a sore back ever since. I’ve had a very sore back. They beat me. They knocked me down. I was young, because I know today if they hit me and knocked me down what I'd do, I’d lay down, but instead of that, I kept getting up. At last, I could not get up. Another time I was into the camp, and I had eaten, I was hungry. We had our ration of rice for the morning, and then the one to take into the mine. There was only, it was not even a good half of a ration for one meal, so I eat some of it, and when the Jap seen that, he decided to give me beating. This fellow, his name was Youshido. He was a huge man for a Jap, most of them were smaller than we were. Of course, he struck me onto the side of the face and when he did right away, angry, you know, and my sergeant said to me, by this time in our rooms was one sergeant from Grand-Cascapedia. I don’t know if, you’ll probably see him, Bobby Barter. He said, “Bill! Do you want to live?” And you do want to live, you do want to live because... I had a bad temper, but anyway I stood at attention. And he had hit me and he had knocked me backwards and when he would knock me backwards, I have six picks where I can show you where they’d stick the bayonet in my ass, and I’d walk ahead and stand at attention, and he would hit me again. And he knocked me backwards six times, and I would not go down. Again, I think this was silly. Today I realize that, I should say but a young fellow... So, I was standing up there and I kind of grinned at him I guess and he struck me with the butt of the rifle here, and since then, I have to have my face froze. They have to go up with a needle up here to the base of the brain and they freeze me up here because this, and now this part here is kind of paralysed but if not, I can’t take the pain, whatever it is. He knocked the -- I had nice teeth -- and he knocked four teeth out of my mouth, the four front teeth. Anyway, I went inside and when I came out he blackened my eye. He had given me some beating. I remember I went inside and Bobby or some of those said, “Well, we warned you Bill.” There was eight of us in these little rooms, and I was so angry, you know, and I was young. I said, “I’ll beat every damn man here.” I was furious you know. But anyways, I realized after the worst it wasn’t their fault. If you left your room and went to the toilet you had to move your tag from your room to your toilet and you did not have time to move that tag because when you had to go, you had to go. We all had the diarrhea. There was no such thing as saying, “I couldn’t move a tag.” You’d run like the dickens to get there. But if you were gone and they came and the tag was in the room and you weren’t there, you’d get the hell beat out of you. They were very cruel up there. Into Japan, that was my hardest time. I mean, I had both my feet broke there and they still made me work in the mine. I dropped a rock and a fellow from Pasbebiac, another guy, I don’t know if he’s going to be interviewed, Peter Derosbie, we were lifting a rock and he dropped his end and it come down and it fell across my feet and broke the bones up here. And they had some kind of a black stuff they put on it, but they made me go to work. And I was into the mines, and at last I was passing a white mucus and you’d, there was no toilets or nothing. You’d just sit any place you went. But when I was down there passing that mucus, if you had have come along with a rifle I’d have said, “Shoot me.” I was suffering, suffering. But, first thing one day it was all over.

Mr. MacWhirter describes his personal beatings and the long-term impact of the abuse. He also describes being forced to work with both feet broken and with serious gastrointestinal problems.

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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