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Effects of Poor Diet

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Effects of Poor Diet

Well I, I would say that it had a great effect on, first of all, of course, obviously people started to lose weight, the first indication of a, of a poor, inadequate diet. But then, I guess the next thing was the, was the diphtheria outbreak. But, oh, even before that in, in North Point, we had pellagra, or at least what I gather was pellagra, and it, I think it has symptoms similar to, to scurvy in that your, your, your gums are diseased, your teeth loosen and these are very sore spots. It can affect your privates as well. I suppose the, we used a very descriptive term for, for, for this, they call it strawberry balls. And it, that particular piece of your anatomy was just like a piece of raw meat, very, very itchy and very sore. We had up to five Canadians die in a day. That wasn't usual that, that many died in a day but there, there was at least one day in which five Canadians died of diphtheria. And many, many dozens I would say contacted, contracted diphtheria. Fortunately I never did, and I probably had shots before I went while I was just a youngster. Something gave me immunity and I guess it was, was that. I had, I had dysentery on, twice, amoebic dysentery, I had Berri-Berri, both the wet and the dry, but not very seriously for some reason. I, my legs swelled up and, and I did have the, the electric feet but not the way that, that some had it. Some would sit all night with their feet in a bucket of water, in, in fact all night and all day, the, the only, only relief that they could get. And some even went to the, and I don't know of any Canadians but I do know of one British soldier who, or by hearsay anyway, who had both legs taken off because he just couldn't stand the, the, the pain from the electric feet. I couldn't eat or I didn't feel like eating, the rice was, tasted like sawdust and felt about the same consistency. But, so I didn't, I wasn't eating any of it, I was giving it to a British sailor that was next to me. And then suddenly I realized, "I had better start eating or I'm going to end up like some of the others," so, and I, that's, as I say, that's when I determined that I would, I would survive if, if even if I was the last one, I would be, and, and that I think probably resulted in my being here today with the, because otherwise I don't, without that resolve, people just curled up and died, that's all.

Mr. Ewing describes some of the diseases that set in at the POW camps as a result of poor diet and living conditions.

Kenneth Alexander Ewing

Kenneth Ewing was born in 1925, the 4th oldest of 12 children. His father was a civil engineer for the province of New Brunswick which enabled them to manage fairly well during the Depression. His father was a Lieutenant in the First World War and signed up as an engineer in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945. Mr. Ewing quit school in Grade 10 at the age of 15 to join the army. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to join the Merchant Navy and joined the militia in the spring of 1940. He then joined the N.B. Rangers (militia). In November 1940, he went active with the Royal Rifles. He did his basic training in Botwood, Newfoundland, guarding the port. He did further guard duty in Botwood, Gander, and St. John's, Newfoundland, Valcartier, Quebec, and Saint John, New Brunswick. He was posted to Hong Kong as a rifleman in "A" Company. He was taken POW and sent to a slave labour camp in Japan where he endured beatings, disease, and very poor living conditions but considered himself lucky since other Canadians had been executed.

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

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