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eMedals-A Canadian Hong Kong Internment Group to Sgt. Fletcher; Royal Rifles of Canada

Item: C4628

A Canadian Hong Kong Internment Group to Sgt. Fletcher; Royal Rifles of Canada

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A Canadian Hong Kong Internment Group to Sgt. Fletcher; Royal Rifles of Canada

British War Medal (2522642 GNR. C.W. FLETCHER. C.F.A.); Victory Medal (2522642 GNR. C.W. FLETCHER. C.F.A.); 1939-1945 Star; Pacific Star; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp and Hong KongClasp; and War Medal 1939-1945. Naming is officially impressed on the First World War pair, the others are un-named as issued, the Hong Kong Clasp on the CVSM being a replica. Mounted to a suspension with swing bar pinback, as worn by the veteran, extremely fine. Accompanied by a Hong Kong Veteran's Battle Patch (white embroidered conjoined letters "HK" in a Chinese-style font, on a red wool base, tan cotton mesh backer, 50 mm); a Royal Rifles of Canada Shoulder Flash (red embroidered lettering, on a hunter green wool base, black cotton mesh backer, 18 mm x 122 mm, traces of glue residue on the reverse from previous board mounting); a First War Canada Cap Badge (bronze, maker marked "RODEN BROS. TORONTO 1918" on the reverse, 38 mm x 39.2 mm, intact lugs); two First War Canada Shoulder Titles (bronze, one is maker marked "CARON BROS. MONTREAL 1916" on the reverse, the other is unmarked, 14 mm x 51.7 mm and 13.7 mm x 51 mm respectively, intact lugs); a First War Canadian Field Artillery Collar Tab (bronze, maker marked "GAUNT LONDON" on the reverse, 17.8 mm x 39.8 mm, intact lugs); a First War Royal Canadian Artillery Cap Badge (bronze, maker marked "TIPTAFT B'HAM" on the slider, 49 mm x 65.2 mm, intact slider); two Second War Royal Rifles of Canada Cap Badges (first badge is blackened and gilt bronze, unmarked, 45 mm x 55.2 mm, intact lugs; second badge is bronze, unmarked, 44.7 mm x 55 mm, intact lugs, with red felt backer); a Princess Louise Fusiliers Cap Badge (bronze gilt, unmarked, 42 mm x 47.5 mm, intact lugs); a Town of Lac-Megantic Great War Service Medal (two-piece construction, sterling silver, obverse illustrating a standing soldier holding a rifle and backed by a flag, with a wreath composed of branches of laurel leaves and maple leaves below, all on a shield and surmounted by a left-facing beaver, reverse marked "STERLING", hallmarked and marked "925" (silver), inscribed "PRESENTED TO" and "FOR GALLANT SERVICES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-18", with the engraved inscription "C. FLETCHER BY THE PATRIOTIC SOCIETY OF MEGANTIC" between the two inscriptions, 32.2 mm x 39.8 mm, ring suspension); two Photographs (one of Fletcher in uniform and his wife, black and white with a gloss finish, inscribed in blue ink "CHARLES WILLIAM FLETCHER & wife GRACE RIDER" on the reverse, 33 mm x 52 mm; the other of a young Fletcher in civilian clothes, black and white with a matte finish, with a partial naming in blue ink on the reverse, oval-shaped, 68 mm x 87 mm); a Hong Kong Veterans Needlepoint Plaque (in red, yellow and green yarn, on a tan open weave canvas, illustrating the conjoined letters "HK" in a Chinese-style font, inscribed "P O W" above and "1941-45" below, card backer, 220 mm x 340 mm); two CDs (both labelled "#2522642, Private Charles William Fletcher / Driver, Canadian Filed Artillery, W.W.1" and "Cemetery Photos, Mount Pleasant Cemetery Ditchfield, Frontenac County, Quebec", with multiple images); along with copies of his Second War Medals Award Card, Attestation Paper, Service Records, Medical Records, Discharge Certificates, Hong Kong Interment File Cards, six Canadian Pacific Telegraphs Telegrams, and various official reports, letters and assorted research papers.
 
Footnote: Charles William Fletcher was born on April 30, 1898 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the son of John Fletcher and Louise Dew Fletcher. He completed Grade 7 in Lac-Megantic in 1911 and from 1911 to 1918, he worked as a Farmhand on his family's farm in nearby Ditchfield for seven years, before joining the CEF. Fletcher signed his CEF Attestation Paper as a Driver (2522642) with the 79th Depot Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, on April 11, 1918 in Montreal, Quebec, at the age of 19 years and 11 months, naming his next-of-kin as his father, John Fletcher, stating that he had no previous military service, that he was Single and that his trade was that of Farmer. The 79th Overseas Field Battery, formed at Montreal, was the last field battery formed in Canada. He embarked Canada on June 20, 1918 aboard HMT Waimana, arriving in England shortly thereafter and was placed on command at Frensham Pond on July 7thThree days later, he was admitted to the Military Isolation Hospital at Aldershot on July 10th, suffering from a case of the measles, his stay lasting three weeks, before being discharged on July 31st. Three months after being discharged from hospital, Fletcher was transferred to the Canadian Field Artillery for overseas service in the French theatre as a Gunner, on October 29, 1918, where he was to serve with the 16th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery in France. He was taken on strength with the Artillery Pool at the Canadian General Base Depot in France on October 31, 1918. He left base for the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp on November 8th, arriving on the 10th, the day before the armistice. Upon the ceasing of hostilities, he was posted to the 6th Brigade on December 22nd and was taken on strength the following day. A little over six months after the end of the war, he proceeded to Canada from Liverpool, England on May 19, 1919 aboard HMT Cedric. Gunner Charles William Fletcher was discharged upon demobilization at Dispersal Station "F", No. 4 District Depot in Montreal, Quebec, on May 29, 1919, credited with having served in Canada, England and France, entitled to wear the War Service Badge, Class "A", number 301009. For his First World War service, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After the war, he worked for three years on the family farm in mixed farming until 1922, when he became self-employed, having his own farm at Lac-Megantic. He would continue to farm for the next eighteen years, until 1940, when he would enlist with the army for a second time, for service during the Second World War. He was one of many from the Eastern Townships of Quebec who served with the Royal Rifles of Canada, in amalgamation with the 7th/11th Hussars and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Together, with six companies of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and four British garrison battalions, they would later become the defenders of Hong Kong. Fletcher signed his Canadian Active Service Force Attestation Paper as a Private (E-30282) with the Royal Rifles of Canada, on August 9, 1940 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, stating his birth date and place of birth as January 29, 1898 in Ditchfield (near Lac-Megantic) (and not April 30, 1898 in Lac-Megantic as per his CEF Attestation Paper), Frontenac County, Quebec, naming his next-of-kin as his mother, Louise Dew Fletcher (which was later changed to his wife, Grace Elizabeth Fletcher), stating that he had previous served with the 16th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery from 1918-1919 (credited with having served in Canada, England, France, Belgium and Germany), that he was Single (which was later changed to Married as of February 26, 1941), that his religion was Protestant and that his trade was that of Farmer and Motor Car Driver. He completed regimental infantry training at Valcartier, Quebec and at Sussex, New Brunswick. He was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal on November 1, 1940 and embarked Canada on November 21st, disembarking with "W" Force. He was posted to the Newfoundland Airport on February 8, 1941 and was confirmed in the rank of Lance Corporal the next day. Fletcher was granted permission to marry by the Army, marrying Grace Elizabeth Rider on February 26, 1941 at Lac-Megantic, the ceremony performed by the Reverend A.F. Pollock. At this time, he had his next-of-kin changed from his mother to his wife. He was promoted to Acting Corporal on July 1, 1941 and was confirmed in the rank of Corporal shortly thereafter, while serving as Section Leader, serving in the North Atlantic Area for nine months. Corporal Fletcher was re-assigned to Pacific theatre duty with the Royal Rifles of Canada, embarking Canada on October 27, 1941 and arriving in Hong Kong on November 16th. In a letter from Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Price, Royal Rifles of Canada, Corporal Fletcher was promoted to Sergeant on December 1, 1941, and this fact would be re-established after the war. Of the 962 officers and men of the Royal Rifles of Canada who arrived in Hong Kong, 130 of them were killed in battle, with the Winnipeg Grenadiers having about the same numbers and suffering similar casualty rates. Sergeant Fletcher was with the Royal Rifles of Canada when he fought against the Japanese Imperial Army in the Defence of Hong Kong, from December 19 to 25, 1941 and was subsequently taken prisoner on December 25th, at the age of 43. Canadian authorities back home tried to confirm information regarding his capture through the Argentine and Swiss governments, who represented Canadian interests in Japan and Occupied China. Unofficially, he was reported as a Prisoner of War as of September 7, 1942 and was confirmed as such on October 24th. His birth date was acknowledged as January 29, 1898 by the Japanese in their official records. Fletcher contracted beriberi (a cluster of symptoms caused primarily by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency) in 1943, as did many other prisoners. There were 832 members of the Royal Rifles of Canada who were imprisoned in prisoner of war camps in Hong Kong and Japan, 129 of which died in captivity (59 in Hong Kong and 70 in Japan). They were horribly mistreated, in a vile and inhumane manner, in flagrant disregard of the principles of the Geneva Convention that governed the treatment of prisoners of war (in which Japan was not a signatory). Sergeant Fletcher personally witnessed many atrocities, including torture, beatings and other cruelties. They were forced to work as slave labourers in landfill and construction of the Hong Kong aerodrome, at Omine and other mines in Japan, and on other projects. The men were deliberately and systematically overworked, beaten, and starved on a diet primarily of rice and whatever else could be obtained. They were denied medical supplies and aid, receiving only a few of the Canadian Red Cross supplement packages sent to them. Upon liberation by the Americans, Fletcher was declared "Safe in Allied Hands" as of September 19, 1945, many of the liberated prisoners weighing half their normal body weight. He had been a Prisoner of War for forty-four months: December 29, 1941 to September 26, 1942 at North Point Barracks; September 26, 1942 to January 19, 1943 at Sham Shui Po at Kowloon; and January 23, 1943 to August 23, 1945 at Kawasaki, Japan. Of the 1,973 Canadians who sailed from Vancouver in October 1941, some 300 were killed in action in the defence of Hong Kong, 500 were wounded, and 250 died or were killed while Prisoners of War. Of the 702 survivors, many like Corporal Fletcher were to die prematurely due to the ravages of abuse, poor diet, abominable living conditions, and lack of medical treatment for malaria, diphtheria, dysentery, beriberi and injury. Fletcher arrived in Manila, Philippines on October 1, 1945, where he was interviewed about his experiences while a prisoner of the Japanese. In a written testimony to the War Crimes Office, dated October 3, 1945, he stated the following: (i) that someone was always being beaten while the Japanese Army were in charge of the Prisoners of War; (ii) that men including himself were forced to work on airfield construction at Hong Kong; (iii) that on the ship which took them to Japan, the SS Tatatu Maru, the prisoners were crowded and not allowed to exercise, and that they were not given lifebelts; (iv) that just after the surrender at Hong Kong, the Japanese marched them through the streets so the natives could laugh at them; (v) that the Japanese failed to provide proper food quarters or medical care; (vi) that collective punishment was the Japanese favourite method of punishment; and (vii) that while at Kawasaki, about the end of May or the first part of June, a Japanese civilian who was assistant mine manager forced Rifleman George Murray of Canada to work, although he was quite ill.....when Murray couldn't keep up with the work, he was beaten and kicked, his death the result of his being forced to work, in addition to the beating he had suffered. Fletcher embarked Manila on October 9, 1945 for Vancouver, arriving on October 25th, where he was struck off strength to the 1st Battalion, Prince Albert Volunteers. He was subsequently admitted to Vancouver Military Hospital on October 30th and remained there for a week, until being discharged on November 7th and placed in a convalescent facility. He returned to his home province of Quebec and continued to be hospitalized, initially in Montreal, undergoing treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis and hookworm disease as of January 8, 1946, the medical officer overseeing his case stating that Fletcher may still be under treatment for another year to a year and a half from that date. E-30282 Sergeant Charles William Fletcher was discharged by reason of being "unable to meet the required military physical standards", at No. 4 District Depot at Montreal South, Quebec, on January 9, 1946, credited with having served in Canada, the North Atlantic Area and Hong Kong. Upon discharge from the Army, he was granted a $100.00 clothing allowance, a rehabilitation grant of of 30 days' pay of rank and was granted 42 days commutation of leave with R.A. from January 10 to February 20, 1946. Fletcher signed an affidavit on January 11, 1946 at Montreal, Quebec, before Captain R.O. Craig, a Commissioner of the Superior Court for the Province of Quebec, describing in detail his experiences while a prisoner of the Japanese, stating: "I, the undersigned, Sergeant C.W. Fletcher, E-30282, Royal Rifles of Canada, attached to No. 4 District Depot, C.A., being duty sworn on the Holy Bible, do depose and say:- I enlisted the 8th of August 1940 with the Royal Rifles of Canada and arrived in Hong Kong with my unit on the 16th of November 1941. I was taken prisoner by the Japanese on the 25th of December 1941 at Stanley Fort. The next day I was transferred to North Point Barracks in Hong Kong and we stayed there for approximately nine months. The rations were very poor and the rice given us was of a very bad quality. The barracks we were in were in a very bad state of repairs and we suffered from cold. At the end of January 1942, the Japanese Authorities of the Camp at North Point Barracks forced everybody, Officers and men, to sign a document by which we were promising not to escape. An old soldier of the Royal Rifles, by the name of Frank Porter, refused to sign said document. He was taken to jail, where he was left for four or five days without food and cruelly beaten up. When he came back to our camp, after having decided to sign, he was a complete human wreck. On September 26th, 1942, all the Canadian prisoners were taken from North Point Barracks to Camp Sham-Shui-Po in the outskirts of Kowloon. The rations did not improve and our Quarters were in a poor shape of repairs; the majority of the prisoners were sick with dysentery and beriberi and, due to lack of medical supplies, proper care was not given to prisoners. On December 1942, all the prisoners were in the Parade Square for the roll call, a S/M was given the state of parade to the Jap Authorities when it was found out that the name of a man had been misplaced. Capt. Norris of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, who was Orderly Officer of the day, tried to explain the error but as soon as he started to talk a Jap interpreter started to hit him in the face with his fists. Capt. Norris fell down after a while and the interpreter continued kicking him all over his body with his feet. At this stage of the incident, Major Atkinson of the Royal Rifles walked toward the interpreter to talk to him, but this interpreter turned around and started to kick Major Atkinson in the legs; in turn, Major Atkinson fell down and the interpreter continued to kick him whilst he was lying on the ground. Both, Capt. Norris and Major Atkinson, were taken to the M.I.R. Major Atkinson had to walk with a cane for approximately 15 days. On the 19th of January 1943, with a group of about 800 persons, I was put on a troop ship, the Tatota-Maru, and sailed from Kowloon to Nagasaki. From Nagasaki we rode by train to Kawasaki and we walked from the station to a camp called Ormina. At this camp he had to work in a nearby coal mine under inhuman conditions, the majority of us was sick but had to work just the same, the temperature of the mine reached sometime as high as 105 degrees. In July or August 1944, C.S.M. Caldwell presented the Jap Authorities with a fatigue list, on which instead of the word Nippon he had written the word Japs. When this list was submitted to the Camp Commandant, Capt. Kaneiko, he ordered Caldwell to be put under arrest and taken to the guard room. He was beaten up by the guards and when he came out his face was all swollen. He was sentenced to stay in detention for 10 days. One morning, in September 1944, Pte Hobson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was boxing for fun with a Jap Sergeant, by the name of Ushida. Suddenly, Sgt. Ushida got mad and he ordered (a) few guards who were watching the fight to administer a beating to Pte Hobson. One guard took a bamboo stick about 5' long and started to strike Hobson until he lost consciousness. As a consequence of this beating, Pte Hobson was sick for more than a week. I could not remember the name of the guard who stroke Hobson. During the whole year of 1945 the Camp Staff was opening and stealing from all the Red Cross parcels that were supposed to be distributed to us. I remember seeing Sgt. Koboyashi, Sgt. Ushida, Pte Nakahala, L/Cpl. Oshima and the Camp Commandant himself, Cpt. Kaneiko, eating food stuff taken from our parcels. The Camp Staff was also smoking American cigarettes taken from the same parcels. Attached to my affidavit, is a photograph marked "X" on which I identify a member of the Staff, whom we used to call the Brown Bomber, his head on exhibit "X" is circled with ink. This member of the staff was very cruel, he used to walk around with a bamboo stick and beat up 10 to 15 men a day. In the Spring of 1945, six N.C.O.'s among them, Sgt. Davignon, Sgt. Limb, C.S.M. Hebdon, Sgt. Ross, Cpl. Burns, C.S.M. Caldwell, C.S.M. Parks, were found in the barracks looking at maps, clips from Japanese newspapers. Capt. Kaneiko, then Camp Commandant, and to whom this was reported, ordered the N.C.O.'s to be put under arrest and then to be taken to the guard room. They were ordered at this time of the year to take off their clothes, even their boots, except a pair of cotton shorts and to stand at attention facing a wall. They stood at attention for 32 consecutive hours with their bare feet on a cement floor. Once a man was fainting he was beaten up with a stick and then revived with ice water. Sgt. Ross was very sick with dysentery at the time, but had to stay at attention with the rest. I was delivered by the Americans on the 19th September 1945." He was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy Hospital at Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec on January 25, 1946, where he continued to be treated for Pulmonary Tuberculosis (caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) and is contagious) and Ancylostomiasis (caused when hookworms, present in large numbers, produce an iron deficiency anemia by sucking blood from the host's intestinal walls). There was some question after the war, as to his established rank, which would affect his pay. The Army acknowledged that he was a Corporal, yet he argued that he had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. In a note written by Fletcher to the Army, he stated "I hereby accept my discharge from the service with the rank of Corporal under the following reservation. As a member of the Royal Rifles of Canada I was promoted to the acting rank of Sergeant on or about 25 Dec 41. I feel that I should be reinstated in my former rank upon demobilization with pay retroactive to the date of my promotion. I propose to write the date to (the) Director of Record (Army) Department of National Defence, Ottawa, Ont. while still in the army regarding this matter." It was later established by the Army that, indeed, he had been promoted to Sergeant by Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Price, Royal Rifles of Canada, on December 1, 1941, three and a half weeks before the fall of Hong Kong. He was "granted Japanese Campaign Pay of Rank of Sergeant", effective June 1, 1945. For his Second World War service, he was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp and the War Medal 1939-1945. His medals were dispatched to him before he died on May 31, 1950, at the age of 52 and were posthumously received by his wife on June 13th. His plan was to return to farming for himself after the war, the medical officer familiar with his case indicating that he would be physically able to continue that type of work upon completion of his treatment. His brother had been looking after his farm while he was in the Army and the medical officer was hopeful that he could still make use of his brother's assistance, if need be. Charles William Fletcher died on May 31, 1950, at the age of 52, five years after his liberation, the privations which he endured no doubt leading to his death. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Ditchfield, Frontenac County, Quebec. His wife, Grace Elizabeth Fletcher (nee Rider, March 5, 1903 - November 22, 1967) died at the age of 64 and is buried in the same cemetery. Many others soldiers suffered ill-health and premature death directly attributed to their Prisoner of War treatment by the Japanese. The Hong Kong Battle Patch was awarded to all Canadian Veterans in 1945, who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong, circa 1941. For a half century, the survivors unremittingly had sought Japan's acknowledgement, apology, and recompense for the disgraceful treatment which they suffered. Only recently did various Prime Ministers of Japan begin to admit Japan's shame, at first using the word "hansei" (meaning "regret" and expressing a measure of sorrow at what had transpired). In the face of continued pressure, championed by the Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada, a clear apology was finally given by Prime Minister Murayama in August 1995, exactly fifty years after Japan's surrender. Opposed to his own conservative Cabinet, Prime Minister Murayama spoke out on Japan's wartime actions with unqualified repentance, stating that "during a certain time in the not-to-distant past" Japan followed "a mistaken national policy" of "colonialism and aggression" that caused "tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries". Using the word "owabi", which unequivocally means "to apologize", he expressed his "heartfelt apology" and promised to eradicate "self-righteous nationalism". On September 23, 1995, The Sherbrooke Hussars regiment held a special Service of Remembrance at St. Peter's Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where the colours of the regiment and antecedent units were laid up. A parade followed in honour of the veterans of Hong Kong and to mark the placement of the badge of the Royal Rifles of Canada on the guidon of The Sherbrooke Hussars. The occasion honoured all Hong Kong veterans, a number of whom were present, and was attended by many past members and friends of The Sherbrooke Hussars and members of the public. (C:156)

 

 
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