Veteran Stories:
Bill Willington MacWhirter


  • Wooden chopsticks used as ustensils to eat, 1941-1945.

    Bill MacWhiter
  • Wooden Identification Card No. 37, 1941-1945. Mr. MacWhiter had to have this ID on him at all times, if not, he was beaten by the Japanese guards.

    Bill MacWhirter
  • Pictured here are (L-R) Charley Mahoney, Earl McBeath and Bill MacWhirter in the Philippines making their way home after liberation from the Omine Japanese prison camp, September or October 1945.

    Bill MacWhirter
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I never surrendered. The governor of the island surrendered the island and I was ordered by my officer to lay down my arms. I never put up my hands."


When we [the Royal Rifles of Canada] got into Hong Kong, we landed on the Chinese side, it’s called Kowloon. And the island of Hong Kong would be south of that. And we landed in Kowloon and we marched I think about four miles to these barracks, Sham Shui Po. And in Sham Shui Po, we were stationed there but just before the war, they moved all the trained troops that had more training to the island. But we were what you’d call recruits and I was attached to 18R, 18R meaning 18 Reinforcements of "D" Company.

So I was there when the Japs came over. And they bombed us. I did my fighting in the hills; Stone Hill, Bridge Hill, Mount Parker, the Graveyard, I fought in the Graveyard. I was with Big Jim Darrah when he got hit in the leg in the catchment. And these other places I hear some of them talking about, I was not there. So I don’t know… you know, as a young fellow, and I have to tell you something else: I was not scared and I can’t understand; maybe because we were young but I was not scared. Like when that shell came over and I say my hair stood up, yes, but as a rule, in the hills, we were going up the hills and you could see the bullets cutting the grass there zip, zip zip, zip. And we’d still go.

First thing you look, I won’t use the name because I could be wrong on it but this fellow was laying there and he was shot through the throat. And there was spit like coming out each side and blood... Well I just looked at him and kept on going. I have to be honest; I did not see a scared man in D Company.

[After 18 days of heavy fighting,] the Governor [Sir Mark Young] surrendered the island at two o’clock [on December 25, 1941, when Allied positions were overrun by the Imperial Japanese Forces]. And it was at least between six and eight o’clock at night, we were still fighting in the Graveyard and doing a hell of a good job. Goldie Ramier - I’m sure it was him - he come up the hill, he said, boys, the war is over. Well, of course the Japs, they were laying off down there too and you know how it is, there’s a lull and everything. He said, you may as well come back to Stanley Fort. So what I want to say to you, and I tell everybody from the day I come back, I never surrendered. The governor of the island surrendered the island and I was ordered by my officer to lay down my arms. I never put up my hands. And the third day, the Japs come in with coal-burning trucks - coal, not oil, not the oil - coal-burning trucks. They had no power and all of a sudden but they, they still operated. And on the front, they had a red cross on it but not the kind of Red Cross that we have in Canada. This was just a cross, red. And they came in and they lined us up and they counted us. And they used us decent, we thought, not so bad, and the Americans would liberate us. And then they’d let us go… and of course, we had to stack all our rifles, stacked all our rifles in bunches, there. And we went back and I’m not too sure, the boys went out, buried the dead and different things like that.

And I’m not too sure but maybe two or three days later or whatever it was, they decided to move us from Stanley Fort to North Point [prisoner-of-war camp], which was 11 miles. And we started to march and that’s when it got bad. One fellow got a bayonet to the back. It was Goldie Ramier I was speaking of; he was from Port-Daniel [Québec], he was a good friend of my brother’s. They bayoneted him through the shoulder. We thought he was dead, so his mess tin I wrote on it, “Goldie Ramier” and “died”. And anyway, I used it all the time I was in the prison camp, because they moved us from North Point over to Sham Shui Po, Sham Shui Po, then we went on the Tatuta Maru [a troopship for the Imperial Japanese Navy] to Japan. But everybody did not go together. So we thought Goldie had died.

And when I come back, Goldie was home before me. But I told him about it and that time we were back, I was only 21 years old when I came out of that prison camp. Goldie and my brother was only 23. Anyway, [for] years I told him about it and he never come to get it, so years passed and I had the mess tin. So about three years ago, I passed up, Goldie’s dead now, and I met his son in Shigawake [Québec]. And I told him the story. He said, I’d like the mess tin. So I gave it to him. His name was carved on it, and I picked it with a nail.

Follow us