CHRISTMAS DAY IN TAIWAN

 

Christmas comes but once a year

As a prisoner of war it was not of good cheer

When you read these few lines you'll no doubt understand

How Christmas was spent in this far distant land;

Reveille was sounded an hour before dawn

And roll call was taken, t´was a bitter cold morn

Number! (or Bango!) in Japanese

We did as were bid, and not as we please

We returned to our huts when dismissed from parade

To find on the tables our breakfast was laid

One bowl of rice, one bowl of stew

That's all we got, but what could one do

The meal completed we could only patiently wait

For dinner in a bowl instead of a plate;

'Twas not Christmas for the Nips, but it so happened the date

Was a day in the year which they celebrate

So out on the parade ground we stood in the cold

Bowing our heads and hearing strange stories told

This over, a service for us we requested

And for once in our lives we were left unmolested

And dressed in our clothes of no great apparel

We sang 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' and two other carols;

Mid-morning the 'hut leaders' by the bugle were called

And five fags per man in their hands were installed;

Then dinner-time came, a delightful surprise

"There's meat in the stew", from the cookhouse came cries

It was the first we had seen for over six weeks

And greatly preferred to 'potato tops' and leeks

Never before had we been given a sweet

But today we had bananas, it was such a lovely treat.

The afternoon was quiet, with so little to be said

And with nothing better to do, we lay on bed

Sleep I am sure only came to a few

As in our minds were our loved ones, and also we knew

That back in dear `Blighty´our country, our home,

They were thinking of us, as we were of them;

Six o´clock came, we thought our meals to complete

And with chopsticks not spoons our tea we did eat

Instead of rice and veg: stew it was rice and fish sauce

With a rabbit stew at seven as an extra course;

With eating completed we all started singing

Hark! what is that sound, is it not church bells a-ringing

Alas no!, 'twas the bugle being blown, for roll call is at eight

Then an order was shouted "It will be an hour late"

So we kept on with our singing as if we didn't care

For all that was missing, yes even the beer

We sang 'Auld Langs Syne' a few minutes before nine

And as the bugle call sounded we fell into line

The Jap officer came round and to end our delight

Came "roll call is over, put out the light";

So that's how we spent Christmas, you'll no doubt say a hard case

But we're not too down-hearted we know a change must take place

And when that time comes, how happy we'll be

To return to our homes contented and free.

 

M.A Rooney (No 766) `Kinkaseki´ POW Camp Taiwan 1943

 

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