Gordon Quan in London, England, March 1945.Gordon Quan
Gordon QuanGordon Quan
Gordon Quan's discharge certificate.Gordon Quan
"You have to, you know, know exactly follow the instruction. You can’t say, I’d like to do this, right. You don’t do that. You have to obey the command. Each movement is important because not for you, it’s for your buddy, too."
When the war, back in 1939 when they started, at that time, the Chinese people at that time wasn’t allowed to join the forces. So a lot of them, they tried to join the navy and tried to join the air force, they wasn’t allowed. Until 1944, they were, especially me, I served in southeast Asia, at that time, they lost [the Allies], the Japanese took over the southeast Asia at that time. There were 90,000 prisoners of war. So therefore, they were quite, did some help to, that’s why, at that time, they allowed the Chinese, other nationalities join the forces. That was the reason at that time due to the situation at that time in 1944.
So I joined up and then went to my basic training in Canada and finished my basic training and then the British command come over Canada, asked for volunteers due to we were Chinese, more adapted to that area of conflict. So we all, just quite a few of us at that camp, at that time, in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, so we all signed up. At that time, you don’t know any better anyway.
We arrived in London, England. Because we have to do the documentation and they tried to find out what we adapted to. So happened my hand always better than my, what type of thing that I can, you know, good for. I was chosen to be a demolition expert so from there, we travelled from England by boat, down to India, a place called Signal Hill, which is controlled by the British. Took my basic there, went through the jungle training and so forth and then finished my training. And then I was shipped into the jungle to Malaya area. So we did some, like us were not like a bunch of troops that mass advance to do things. We were in a small group of 15 of us, we were trained and we have to make sure which area we’re going to do the damage for the enemy. Some of us, we’re jumping behind lines, some of us were going to area where I was, well, a group of us, 15 of us, Gurkahs [ethnic community from Nepal and northeast India, many of them served in the British Indian Army] and we used them for scouts. And then two of us that was demolition, I always carry a couple grenades, carry a pistol, the two of us. And then we all have two wireless people that do the communication. We have the East Indian down there or some other people do the cooking or do the carry, do the dirty work, what I call it. So we were fortunate that, at that time, to have the opportunity going further because due to when they have that H-bomb [atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945] at that time, that’s how we ended the war. If it wasn’t for the H-bomb, I don’t think I’d be here today.
Always a leader, a British officer was a leader, right. So we, like myself, two of us, as what they call demolition experts, we’ve got to do the job, go in there, whatever, blow it up or what the case may be. And we have to plan each plan, we have to do not just go in just like that. We have to size that area, what, where the enemies are, make sure that timing is more important, how to get in and how to get out.
You blow up anything that, say if the scout, the intelligent people will pass the information back to us, alright. And then say petrol dump or railroad tracks or train or boat, you know? We have to learn how to swim, too.
When you’re going in, you know exactly what you have to do. You say okay, if they say have to blow that train, right, you know exactly how you, on, on a train, right, you don’t just go blow put something on it, you would find where the piston that runs these things and then you put your explosive. See, because the explosives, you’ve got to time, what they call a primer, and you got like a time pencil, you set it and then you get out. If you don’t get caught. See, it’s all kind of a guerilla warfare.
You were slightly brainwashed, let’s put it that way. They give you all the good stuff, right, tell you what to do, what you don’t know, it’s your life, right, at that time. You have to, you know, know exactly follow the instruction. You can’t say, I’d like to do this, right. You don’t do that. You have to obey the command. Each movement is important because not for you, it’s for your buddy, too.
You have to work, those 15 people, we cook together, we sleep together. There is no rank structure. It’s the job, just doesn’t matter he’s a captain but he still have to do the job that what’s he have to do or organize it or give the last command or last word, you know. And then for us, especially demolition people, they know exactly what you’re going to do. I don’t think that, I still remember and still kind of dream about it, you know, so.