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Thursday, May 21, 2020

In Memory of Horace (Gerry) Gerrard, a Canadian Hong Kong Veteran (1922 - 2019): An English Version of the 2016 Interview 元カナダ兵日本軍捕虜 ジェリー・ジェラードさんの一周忌に


On May 22 a year ago, Horace (Gerry) Gerrard, a Canadian Hong Kong veteran, died at age 97. He was one of the 1,975 Canadian soldiers who were sent to defend the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong against a Japanese attack in December 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong was one of the Japanese multiple attacks on the Allied nations on December 7/8, including the Pearl Harbor attack. 290 Canadian soldiers died in the battle that ended with the British surrender on Decemeber 25, and those who survived, like most of the other Allies' POWs, were put to slave labour, suffered from harsh living conditions, malnutrition, diseases and violence for 3 years and 8 months until Japan surrendered in August 1945. 264 more Canadians died during that time. With the death toll of 554 and approximately 500 more wounded, the casualty rate was more than 50%, "one of the highest casualty rates of any Canadian theatre of action in the Second World War" ( Canadians in Hong Kong, Veterans Affairs, Canada). Those who survived and returned to Canada continued to suffer physically and mentally from the wartime trauma, with its impacts on the second and the third generations.

Back in October 2016, I had an opportunity to interview Gerry, one of the few surviving Canadian Hong Kong veterans, with the help of a friend Lee Naylor, another Hong Kong veteran's son. I was told then that there were only two veterans who were still able to talk about their experiences, one in the East, and one in the West of Canada, and Gerry was the one in the West. My two-part article on Gerry was printed in the February 10 and 17, 2017 editions of Japanese weekly political magazine Shukan Kinyobi

Gerry Gerrard interviewed at his home near Victoria, Vancouver Island. Photo by author. 

Here are the articles.

知られざるカナダ兵日本軍捕虜の歴史 生存者ジェリー・ジェラード氏の証言
Unknown History of Canadian POWs of the Imperial Japanese Army - Testimony of a Survivor, Gerry Gerrard 
Part I: Life of Hunger and Abuse, at the Concentration Camp 
Part II: Humiliating "Apology" from Japan 
URL:  (The text is in Japanese, but you can look at photos.) 

I have not had a chance to publish Gerry's story in English yet, so I will do so now, on the first anniversary of Gerry's death.

After being captured, Gerry was put to forced labor for one year in Hong Kong under harsh living conditions. Then he was among the 500 Allies' POWs who were sent to Japan in January 1943. He was placed in the Tokyo 3D Tsurumi Prisoner of War Camp (Nippon Kokan Tsurumi Shipyard), located in Yokohama, and there too, persevered slave labour, abuse, and beriberi under the cold weather. He witnessed the Tokyo Air Raid on the early morning of March 10, 1945. Later he was transferred to Sendai POW Camp #4-B (Nippon Seitetsu Ohashi Branch) that was located in Kamaishi, Iwate, and stayed there until the Japanese surrender of August 1945. Since he hadn't thought he was going to survive another winter in that camp, it was the moment he knew that he was coming home alive.

Gerry was paid a minuscule amount (after the food expense was deducted!) only once, while he was at the Yokohama camp, when the Red Cross came. The Japanese government never compensated for the unpaid work of Canadian veterans. In 1998, the Canadian government paid 24,000 dollars to the Hong Kong veterans and widows who were alive at that time. They were not happy that the money came not from the Japanese government, but from Canadian taxpayers (see CBC Digital Archives).
Lee Naylor and Gerry Gerrard. Photo by author. 

In 2011, then DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) government  made an "apology," one that was really not an apology and delivered in a humiliating manner as described in the article. It was delivered behind the closed door, without a proper document signed by the prime minister. With no presence of media, Japanese people were not informed of this "apology."

Apology can be only acceptable when the history is made available widely to the citizens of the perpetrating country and it is taught to the children of that country so that the history is not repeated. The Japanese government has failed to deliver such an apology to the Canadian Hong Kong veterans (let alone many other victims of the Imperial Japan's wartime atrocities).

This is why it was such a precious opportunity for me, as a citizen of Japanese ancestry, to interview Gerry and publish his story in a Japanese media outlet. I am grateful for Lee Nayor, without whom I could not have met Gerry. Having avoided Japanese products where he could, it must have not been such a pleasant thing for Gerry to meet me, but with Lee's introduction, he agreed to be interviewed. He even kindly took a photo with me.

Gerry thanked me for shedding light on this history in Japan. He said at the end of the interview, "I meant to ask the Japanese government, 'Have you apologized to your own people?' I am sure they suffered a lot." I was surprised and moved that Gerry, with all the suffering of himself and his comrades on his shoulders, extended such thought to the Japanese war victims.

I will continue to tell your story, Gerry. Rest in peace.

Gerry and author. Photo by  Lee Naylor.

[Below is an English version of Gerry Gerrard’s story printed in two parts in the February 10, and 17 editions of Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Kinyobi. Please note that some parts are not word-by-word equivalents of the Japanese version, as I tried to use original expressions by Gerry as much as possible in the reverse-translated English version.] 

Part I

Unknown History of Canadian Prisoners of War in the Battle of Hong Kong: Part I
Story of Survivor Gerry Gerrard

Hunger and Abuse --- Life at the POW Camp

Not much has been told about the former Canadian soldiers who were captured as POWs by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Battle of Hong Kong.
We have been fortunate to hear a story from one of the survivors. It reveals the abuse of POWs then and the fact that Japan has not provided a proper apology to the Canadian veterans.

Satoko Oka Norimatsu

(Page 36)
-        Please tell us about your background.  
I was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, on January 19, 1922. When I was four years old, my family moved to Alberta. During the Great Depression, it was not easy for the family, with six children. I left school in Grade 9, and did any job I could find to help support the family.

When I was sixteen, I faked my age to be eighteen and joined the army reserves. I was able to do that because I was in the scout and I knew signaling. On September 2, 1939, just before WWII broke, I was called up and went to the West Coast by train. In Victoria, I was trained as a gunner and a signaler. Later I became a member of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and was stationed in the East. I received infantry training too.

In the middle of October, 1941, I was one of those called out for overseas duty. We went to the West Coast by train. Joined by Royal Rifles, and not even given time to say goodbye to family, we boarded the troop ship Awatea at Vancouver, and headed for Hong Kong. On a separate ship were all the equipment, gear, ammunition, vehicles, etc. It went as far as the Philippines, and there Americans used them. We arrived in Hong Kong on November 16, and for three weeks, we were at Sham Shui Po, and were taken around to different defence places.

Transferred to Japan

-        The Japanese attack on Hong Kong was December 8, 1941?
Yes. It was 8 A.M., several hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii wasn’t even thinking what was going to happen to them, but we were prepared the day before. We set up a temporary wireless station right in front of the quarters. I went to breakfast at 7, and came back, let other guys go for breakfast and I took over. That was when the planes came over.

-        (The British/Canadian) forces were defeated and were taken as POWs in Hong Kong. What was the experience there?
We were transferred back to Sham Shui Po. When we got there, every wood was stripped down. All my stuff, all my gear were gone. There was no door, no window – all taken. I had no blanket. I found somewhere a light canvas – big enough to lay. For a pillow, I bundled up my clothes and put underneath that canvas. That was my pillow.
Food was terrible. Everyone was hungry. Beri beri, dysentery, typhoid, diphtheria – all these serious diseases. With beri beri, you couldn’t stand on your feet. I was in Hong Kong for a year, repairing and extending Kai Tak Airport. We had to mix cement with hand. The Jap guards didn’t know how to make cement. We would do things like making one batch with half sand, and another with too much cement.

-        Later you were transferred to Japan.
On January 19, 1943, five hundred of us were transferred to Japan. The name of the ship was Tatsuta Maru. It was my 21st birthday. They just let us right down into the hole. Guys kept coming down, and if we all wanted to sit down we had to sit between the legs of the guy behind you. We landed in Nagasaki. As soon as we landed, they gave us five small buns. We went by train from Nagasaki, and there they fed us the same food as their own. A little square, a half-inch deep. One for rice, and one divided into 6 compartments – a little bit of fish, a little bit of meat, and a little fruit. Good, except the amount was really small. We got off at Tokyo and got on an electric train. We went to Kawasaki, and they marched us to 3D (Nippon Kokan Tsurumi Shipyard Tokyo No.3 Camp).

(Page 37)

Days at the Camp

-        What was the camp like?
There were platforms, each for twenty men, sleeping head to head with the next guy. All they had was straw mats, about half an inch thick. Every two feet was strip of woods. They gave us four blankets. We couldn’t believe this, but they were all made of shredded wood, pressed together. There wasn’t much warmth. The siding of the building was about half an inch and there was no lining in the inside. It was freezing cold. They had sometimes snow. There were stoves, but never used because there was no fuel. There was a bathing tub that would hold about thirty men, but there was no fuel so it only got used a few times.

When we first got there, one of the commanders at the camp spoke to us, and after talking about rules and punishments, he told us “Some of you may never see Canada again; in fact, none of you will. Canada will be divided, and Japanese will govern.” I was shocked to hear that.

-        What was the work condition there?
We marched to and from work. I think it was about 5 miles. When it snowed, they marched us to work one way and back another to break trail.

One thing we didn’t want to do was to get caught in the compartment by yourself with a couple of Japanese. Not that I found civilians mean, but when there was bad news they weren’t good; they take it out on us. If you do something you weren’t supposed to do or if you are caught doing something… I just take it easy and don’t get excited. They are going to get their way anyway.

-        There was much violence at the camp, wasn’t there.
The army guys had guns and factory guys had sticks. I wasn’t beaten up so badly. The worst thing of course was the slap in the face; it was pretty bad. One day at Sham Shui Po we were lined up to be counted… and we were short by one. This interpreter, the Kamloops kid (Japanese-Canadian Kanao Inoue who was notorious for his abusiveness), he beat up our officer. It was pretty hard to take when guys stand behind you with a rifle. You know what they can do.

At 3D, one guy got caught for smuggling cigarettes. They beat him up. He was stood up all night and every hour, they poured cold water over him. He survived.

[In the column on the left side of Page 37, Interviewer Satoko Oka Norimatsu gives a brief background of the Battle of Hong Kong, including how these almost 2,000 Canadian soldiers were brought to fight the hopeless battle; the massacre at the St. Stephen’s Hospital; casualties of the battle, the worst (in terms of rate) among all the Canadian missions in WWII; soldiers who survived the battle being taken as POWs for the 3 years and 8 months of life under slave labour and abuse in Hong Kong and Japan; and veterans suffering various forms of PTSD, affecting children and grandchildren. On October 6, 2016, an interview took place with one of the 18 surviving Canadian Hong Kong veterans, 94-year old Gerry Gerrard, at his home near Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Gerrard is one of the perhaps only two surviving veterans who are able to tell their stories.]

(Page 38)

War ends at last

-        At the end of March, 1945, you were transferred to Kamaishi (Sendai POW Camp Sendai No. 4, or Nippon Seitetsu Ohashi Kogyosho).
It was because the bombing got bad. They never expected they were going to get bombed. In fact, they never made preparations for the population. They had no place to go. They built air raid shelters. This is funny. They dug it down and they put a board across and put sod on the top. That was an air raid shelter. One night they bombed out a strip about a mile wide --- Yokohama, Tokyo (air raid of March 9/10). We spent the whole night in the shelter. There was light, bombing noise, and loudspeakers…

I was at Kamaishi for 6 months. There were Americans, Dutch, Javanese, Australians, British, and Canadians. Most worked in the mining, but I was put on one of the fires working for the blacksmith. Hammering everything…There was nobody else around. Nobody else spoke English. I was in the same building where the machine shop was. Americans were running the machine shop. I never saw anyone, but I used to get messages. Somebody would walk by and say the news quickly. By the time I turned around, they would be gone. There was a radio at the machine shop.

-        How did you know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
It was about four days later we found out what it was. I got the story from one of the Americans who was talking to one of the kids and that said that… one bomb, the whole city was gone. The Japanese had their heads down… they were really upset. So that’s what we assumed it was. We knew then that the war was on its way to end.

-        What was your feeling then?
Well, I think, we are going to make it. We knew that we weren’t going to make another winter up in that mountain, so half the time I used to tell myself. If you had told me people could live under that condition, I wouldn’t have believed it. It is amazing what you can do when you have to.

-        I remember reading in your story that at the beginning the Japanese commander told you that you weren’t going to see Canada again.
That’s right. That was what kept me going.

-        How was the day Japan surrendered, August 15?
We all knew that the end was coming. They used to call people in the loud speakers. On that day, when the guy came, he just didn’t stop and he says the war is over. We went back to the camp. The guys weren’t so excited. There was no cheering and all that… I guess most of them hadn’t heard yet. Things were the same the next morning. We would get up and then were going to see what was going to happen, because we weren’t going to work. For sure. They left overnight. We were ordered to wait there, and we were there for another month.

Part II

Unknown History of Canadian Prisoners of War in the Battle of Hong Kong: Part II
Story of Survivor Gerry Gerrard

Humiliating “Apology” by Japan  

The war finally ended, and the POWs of Allied Nations were able to go home.
After the war, the Japanese government repeatedly rejected the former Canadian POWs’ requests for an apology, and the “apology” that did happen in 2011 was far from sufficient.
Canadian Hong Kong veteran Gerry Gerrard carries a gentle tone, but his nightmare will never disappear.

Satoko Oka Norimatsu

(Page 38)

-        How did you manage the month you spent at Kamaishi while waiting for rescue? 
Americans dropped the food by air. We got K-ration, dehydrated fruit, cigarettes. Chewing gum. Oh, kids. Bubble gum. They go around saying “gum, gum.” I made sure that I didn’t overeat. I liked chocolate bars though.

Americans picked us up on September 15, 1945. It was Nimitz fleet. They went up and got the train. We got aboard the train. We went on the destroyer, down to Tokyo Bay. From there we could see the shipyard where I worked. On 18th, they put us on the hospital ship. It wasn’t originally a hospital ship but they made it into a hospital ship. There were 2,500 passenger on that, mostly American troops. We were eating for 5,000. We went to Guam first. A few days there. They had a B29 airport. Big planes. Running their bombing from there (to Japan).

Home at Last

-        Did you lose a lot of weight at the camp?
One time they weighed me in 1942, and I was 136 pounds. 113 in the camp. I got worse than that. I never had a chance to weigh. My normal weight after I came home was 155-6. I am 167 now.

-        Did the letters you received from your family encourage you?
Not too much. All they let me know was that they were alive. Didn’t mean too much. Sometimes these letters were a couple of years old. I thought, at least they know I am alive. I am not going to worry about them. I am just going to worry about this guy (me). I guess these (other) guys get too upset, you know… I guess it depends on your own makeup. For me, since I was told I wasn’t going to see Canada again, I was determined that I was going home.

-        Did you ever get paid, in Hong Kong or in Japan?
The only time was when Red Cross came in, they gave some of the money they owed us. 10 cents a day. So much off for our food. I don’t know how much they owed us. I was at 3D. We were not allowed to talk to Red Cross. They just came in, looked around, and went out. They (Japanese) brought extra food while the Red Cross was there, and when they left, they took out all that extra food out again.

I was never paid at Kamaishi. It was Japan that had to pay us. It was asked, but nothing came out of it. Canadian government gave us money (24,000 dollars, in 1998). Canada sort of settled the war by just claiming what was the Japanese property overseas, so they signed it off (in the San Francisco Peace Treaty). That was why they (Japan) didn’t pay us. Japs couldn’t pay all those POWs anyway. That would have cost a fortune.

(Page 39)

Is This an Apology?

-        How did you get from Guam back to Canada?
I was in San Francisco for a few days. We boarded the train. We were dressed in Navy dungarees. Blues jeans, and hats. They gave us 20 dollars. From Seattle, we got on the ferry to Victoria. We disembarked right in front of the legislature. My girlfriend was there. Speller had sent a telegram while I was at San Francisco. He knew where she lived. Evelyn. I married her on November 27.

I wasn’t ready to get married. I needed some breathing time. But she waited that long. What the hell. I needed a place. She was pushing me. Our first child Bev was born on July 13, 1947.

-        What work did you do after you went home?
I never stayed in the military. I signed the release at Calgary, and got discharged. It was December 1945. I went into a hospital. I had abscess on my tailbone, since before I went to Japan. I got by okay. They just cut it open and drained it.

I got apprentice as an electrician. I worked in construction; went to work on a lot of houses. I worked at a shipyard for a year. In between layoffs. Finished one job, then don’t know another one or not. I built a house shortly after.

-        You went to Japan a number of times after the war.
The first time was 1995, then 2005, 2010, and 2011. Four times. I went with a group, with other veterans and families, organized by HKVCA (Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association). I went back to the shipyard in Tsurumi. They don’t build ships anymore; they build engines. We went to Yokohama War Cemetery too.

-        2011 was when the Japanese government offered an apology?
Yes. It was really a farce. We were not to tell anyone that we were going. We went to Hong Kong, then we went to Japan. The minister (Steven Blaney, then Minister of Veterans Affairs) met us in Tokyo. At the apology, there were three veterans in the room, and three more attended. Derrill Henderson was allowed in. From the Japanese side were the parliamentary vice-minister of foreign affairs, his aide, and the translator. There were no reporters. No cameras. Nothing. I had a phone call from a fellow, after I got back, whose son lived in Japan for 29 years. He said no media, none of the media reported it. So people don’t know the apology. They wanted us to agree to their apology. It was all about friendship, making trades and so on and so forth. That was probably what it was all about. To me, an apology is not worth if you have to ask for it. That was asked once and it was refused, and that was it. I was not even in favour of going over, but in the end, I agreed to it. We took pictures of the guys afterwards but none of the Japanese were in it. After they finished, they just walked off and that was it.

[In the column on the left side of Page 39, Interviewer Satoko Oka Norimatsu provides additional background such as the large role Canadians played in the WWII (with more than a million military members participation out of the then population of 11 million); relative emphasis of war memory on Europe overshadowing the Hong Kong experience; Canadian’s Veterans Affairs website specifically noting that POWs under Imperial Japan went through harsher experience than those of Nazis; the 2011 “apology”, after decades of rejected requests, being a humiliating one]

(Page 40)

Feelings towards Japan

-        Was there a document signed by the prime minister?
No. I don’t think we signed anything. I just agreed to it. At the meeting the vice minister read out the apology and each of us responded. I just questioned. Why? How come it took so long?

The minister didn’t understand what you were saying anyway. So there was an interpreter. You don’t know what’s going on between them you know. We’ve been all through that in the prison camp. If you got charged in the Jap camp…. You couldn’t defend yourself or your fellows, so you depended on their interpreter, you know.

-        What else did you tell the Japanese government?
I told him, if it is about peace and future, that’s okay. That was why I agreed to it, for that, but not for what you did in the past.

-        In the end, you didn’t think it was the right apology.
No, no, I didn’t. It was Derrill’s death wish. There were people who wanted it (an apology). I didn’t care. I didn’t think you should have to ask for an apology.

-        After the war, did you have trauma?
No, I did quite well. Health-wise. I have two daughters, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. My daughter lives here. That’s one reason why I am here. There are two grandsons, with families here. They said we can see you, but I never see them!

-        I am sure you had anger during the camp.

-        Do you think you have forgiven them, or?
I can’t hold somebody here responsible for what somebody else did. Right now there are not many left. I’ve never held anything against them, but I don’t go look for Japanese cars when I buy a car. Something like that… but I ended up buying some (Japanese products) anyway… it is hard to avoid.

But I don’t hold any grudge… I guess I just have to relax. I might lose a few nights sleep after this, you know. All these interviews they do… prey on your mind. I used to wake up with beri beri --- it wakes me up at night kicking and all that. Got me into single beds.

-        (Doing an interview) must be a lot for you.
It is nice to know people are remembering this. You know one day we are going to die and it will be lost. The kids (the second generation) took up the organization and they deserve a lot of credit. Thank you people too for bringing this to light… though it won’t prevent any war, I don’t suppose.

There is something when I went up to this apology. I came out, and I meant to ask them, “Have you apologized to your own people?” I am sure they suffered a lot.

Interview in collaboration with Lee Naylor

Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Director of Peace Philosophy Centre 

Monday, May 04, 2020


Read and sign:


From the "ABOUT" page of the website: 

The COVID-19 Global Solidarity Coalition is a collective working group of more than 50 activists, scholars, artists, students, teachers, speakers, advocates, and others from at least 19 countries and places who are committed to the transnational health, peace, security, and well-being of every individual. We began our journey in early March in response to conversations, challenges, and best practices within our communities. Together, we agreed to forge a path of support and solidarity. From this, a manifesto was written, stating our demands for true peace, justice, and equity at local, national, and global levels.
We plan to officially release our COVID-19 Global Solidarity Manifesto to the world during two online events 16-17 May depending on your time zone (9.00 and 21.00 New York City time on 16 May). This website will provide more details about the events soon.  We will also announce how we will work together to ensure our Manifesto helps create the world we know is possible. Please join us!  

For more: visit the website:






1. 私たちは、強固な国民皆保険の制度と、すべての人間の基本的権利としての医療保険を要求します。 

2. 私たちは、今起こっている世界中すべての紛争を即時停戦し、戦争という病魔に終止符を打つことを要求します。それは、外国軍事基地の閉鎖、軍事演習の中止、核兵器の廃絶を含むものです。私たちは、すべての国が、軍事費を最低半分は削減し、すべての人々の医療保険、住居、保育、栄養、教育、インターネット接続など社会的ニーズを満たすことに振り向けることを要求します。そうすることによって、すべての人々の肉体的・精神的・経済的安全を確実に守ることができます。 

3. 私たちは、現行の持続可能性のない「際限のない成長」という幻想に基づく資本主義経済を、人間の命、生物の多様性、天然資源が保護され、最低所得が保障されるような、協同にもとづく寄り添い型の経済にあらためることを要求します。そうしてこそ、各国政府が協力して、気候変動という生物の生存を脅かす脅威とたたかうことができるのです。


5.私たちは、全ての労働者が新型コロナウィルスから守られ 衛生管理の行き届いた労働環境と収入と働く権利が長期的に保証されることを要求します。 

6.私たちは、全ての人々が完全な保護を受けることを要求します。特に女性やその他親密なパートナーによる暴力や児童虐待の被害者、高齢者、貧困層、囚人や抑留者、難民やその他の避難民、在留許可書の有無に関わらず全ての移民、ホームレス、LGBTQIA +の人々、人種的/民族的少数民、先住民族、障がい者、能力的に難しい問題を抱えている人々--これら最も脆弱な人々とその他の全てが保護の対象です