The Japanese Guards in Tokyo

Heroes Remember

The Japanese Guards in Tokyo

The Japanese Guards in Tokyo Interviewer: What were the guards like at the camp? Well some of them were, were, were looking for reasons or, looking, looking for reasons to, to, to beat the prisoners. Some of them had, in fact, I guess most of them had come back from service in other parts of, of the Japanese Empire at that time, from the, probably from the East Indies, and they had no love at all for, for, for the prisoners. So, they were, they were quite brutal, and their beatings, when they, when they beat anybody, they were quite, quite brutal. Interviewer: Do you remember being beaten yourself? I was never beaten. The only, the only punishment I received was near the end of the war. I was in Shinagawa and right next to us was a, a supply room for, for the, that the Japanese guards had for their provisions. And in this supply room was, were some Red Cross parcels that the Japanese had appropriated and, on their feast, their festive days, they, they would come over and, and take a parcel or two over, and, and, so, we happened to have a chap by the name of Jim Murray who was very observant and he noticed that when the Sergeant Major in charge of the rations came over that he didn't use the key to get into this place, he just pulled the hasp off. So he decided that, that was a good place to, to spend some time, so, so he went over and he stole one and he took another a few days later. And at that one, somehow or other, he had put the hasp back and, so that the Japanese were aware that somebody other than themselves had been in it. They circled the, they circled the hut we were in because it was, it was a quarantine hut, really, and they never came in there except on, for, for role call, morning and night. So they, they saw footprints going around back of this hut and so they flooded the, the place with guards and they went round and round. And it so happened that another chap, a British sailor, a friend of mine, actually, was extremely sick, in fact he was dying, and he had some, not Oxo but the American equivalent of Oxo in his, in his, in his locker just above his bed, and... Interviewer: This is a bouillon cube of some kind? Yes, exactly, and it wasn't in a cube, it was powder, but it was bouillon, you're right. And, so he was, he knew that if, if the Japanese discovered that, that he had this that, that he would be killed because he, he wouldn't be, he couldn't, he hadn't the strength even to stand. So he wanted somebody to take this out. So I took it out and I turned around and there was a guard looking at me, so I was in for it. And they, they started to beat me and there was a little Japanese interpreter there, the interpreter for the camp and I forget, I forget his name, but he stopped them. He stopped it. And, but that didn't stop the punishment which was five days in a little brig, little cage. The first twenty-two hours we had to kneel and then the rest, we had five days in there all together and that was standing, supposedly at attention. Now that was the, that was the, the punishment for that little bit of, well, for, for having those bouillon cubes.

Mr. Ewing describes the guards in the slave labour camps in Tokyo and tells a story about the only time he received extraordinary punishment.

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
Royal Rifles of Canada

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