John Arthur Rix
Royal New Zealand Navy

Hong Kong - Hiroshima - Osaka

Contributions by Nick Dooner, nephew

Main Osaka Chikko Camp About Us

 

On February 7, 2011, at my motel while I was on assignment in Northern New Zealand, my cousin handed me a small brown suitcase belonging to his late father, Jack. I had known of its existence for my entire lifetime and was excited at the prospect of viewing the contents.

As Russell handed it to me, I assumed the viewing would only be allowable while I was in town.

“No,” he said. “Take it with you for as long as you need. You have the journalistic side and this needs investigating.”

Struggling to contain my excitement, I put it on the motel table and popped it open -- the first time it was to reveal its contents to the world in more than 60 years.

My heart raced as I rifled through the papers in search of one item -- the small black diary that I had heard so much of. Finding it at the bottom my breath stopped as I lifted it into my gaze. The cover read “J. A. Rix."

Carefully opening the fragile pages, I was about to discover the experience of my uncle Jack, as a prisoner of war incarcerated in Hong Kong and five separate camps in Japan, including Hiroshima, for the majority of World War 2.

Over several weeks of sorting, the small suitcase has provided me with over eighty individual items and numerous leads -- so many that is difficult to list everything.

However there are letters, P.O.W. documents, telegrams and correspondence from the U.S. 8th Army and N.Z. Governments to and from Jack, and to and from his parents. Some of the letters are heart retching to read to view details of the conditions suffered and those of the parents desperate in search of a son.

My most jaw-dropping moment was to discover in his diary that he was aboard the Lisbon Maru!

On the website for the hell ship http://www.lisbonmaru.com/ there is a photo of Jack. The page listing for “The Men” in hold number one, fifth row down -- there he is, the sailor between the two chaps wearing caps.

On returning from the war, Jack, a railway clerk and train driver, took up numerous postings around the North Island of New Zealand between Auckland and Wellington, living in railway housing through the 50’s to the early 70’s. One account his son told to me was that in the 50’s a group of Japanese businessmen visited his railway yards for discussions. He could not partake in the round table talks and sent other staff into the room. His reasoning was that he would have killed them.

Daughter Diana was born with skin rashes and irritations that persist to this day. Son Russell was not hearing the teacher when he started school. A medical examination revealed he had been born without eardrums. Jack was in the vicinity of the Hiroshima bomb and visited the city soon after. One can’t help but draw conclusions as to any health defects passed on.

Jack found the stress of having small children quite difficult. This was not surprising given what he had been through.

He was a peace loving man that always had a smile or a joke at hand. His had a keenness and passion for the freedom of the great outdoors. Jack would take as all in his Holden car on long road trips deep into the interior. He could find the most exotic of locations next to beautiful rivers where we ate fried bread, and the Billy smoked away at the base of the fire, even if the tea tasted burnt.

Jack never talked of the past and my mother had advised me and my brother not to ask. He passed away after a heart attack in Wanganui, New Zealand, in 1974, age a mere 54, having had numerous prior attacks over many years.

This is an incredible account of a man whom used up eight of his nine lives during the war years. God only knows how he survived Hong Kong, the Lisbon Maru, the sickness and slavery of Japan, aircraft crash landings upon liberation, to step onto the wharf at Wellington, New Zealand, in January 1946.

Attached is my transcription written in Jack's own words of the diary account as a P.O.W. in Hong Kong and Japan -- the most important item in the collection.

--- Nick Dooner, Television Cameraman, New Zealand

"While in captivity, I have had scabies, tropical ulcers, Hong Kong Dog (similar to malaria), yellow jaundice, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery 3 times, boils, ulcer in ear, broken foot, dobie rash, bronchitis, beri beri and pneumonia... I had to take the bombs, torpedoes, dive bombers, and starvation along with the enemy, instead of being with our allies on the dealing out side... Many times I had one foot in the grave and the other on a bar of soap and the sky was black and threatening to rain... Sometimes I nearly lost hope but always thought of... that wonderful native land, New Zealand."
---Jack Rix, in letter home, Dec. 23, 1945

Transcript of WWII Diary

P.O.W. John [Jack] Arthur Rix 0/7426 RNZN

Navy Telegraphist
Hong Kong and Japan P.O.W.
1940-1946

[Contains Japanese printing so assumption is made that this was given to Jack upon capture.]

Page 1

J. A. Rix No. 656

Prisoner of War Camp No. 2
Osaka
Japan

Kapi Rekisu [name written in katakana; "Kapi" unknown meaning]

Hoincho No.811 - No.656

Sham Shui Po No. 4191

Hiroshima. No. 15

1942-43-44-45



P.O.W. Index card for Rix
Captured in Hong Kong - Dec. 25, 1941
Transferred to Osaka POW Camp - Oct. 11, 1942
Handed over to John ??? at Osaka Station- Sept. 8, 1945

Page from Master Roster listing Rix

Page 2

Hand drawn NZ and British flags
The letters N Z
A crown and Anchor

Pages 3 and 4

The Navy Blue [A poem -- some words missing]

Say girl I saw you sneer just now
Don’t I look good to you
I’m not one of your class you say
I wear the navy blue

You think that I am not fine… snow?
For such a girl as you
Men who would not hold your hand
Have worn the navy blue

You bar us from your theatres full
And from your ballrooms to
When there’s room for everyone
Except the navy blue

How many folks in civil life
Will ever stop to think
That sailors do some other…
Besides carnage and drink

We're only common sailor boys
Till wars start to brew
And then dear folks you are the …first?
To cheer the navy blue

When we are gone and life’s
Last cruise is through
We’ll not be barred from heaven’s gate
For wearing the navy blue

So when you see a sailor boy
I’d smile if I were you
No better men were made by god
Than those in navy blue

Page 5

The Angler's Prayer

Lord give me grace
To catch a fish
So large that even I
When speaking of it afterwards
May never need to lie

Page 7

Troopships
M.V. Boisevain [….]
S.S. Soo Chow […]
USS.Gen. Howze [USA]
… Queen Elizabeth [ER]
Durban Castle

Page 9

Ports and Cities [Left NZ Oct 1941]
Sydney Aust
Madagascar Celebes Is.
Surabaya ?
Semarang Java
Batavia ? Java
Singapore Malaya
Kowloon China
Shanghai
All of these by sea

Moiji [Moji] Japan
Hiroshima Japan
Osaka Japan
By Rail

Kobe Japan
Kyoto Japan
By road

Yokohama Japan
Atsugi Japan
By rail

Okinawa Japan
Naha Japan
Loag North Luzon
Manila Philippines
By Air

Page 10

Leyte, Philippines
San Francisco USA
Angel Island USA
By Sea

Oakland USA
Cheyene USA
Chicago USA
Toronto Canada
Debert Canada
Tamro ???? Canada
Halifax
By Rail

South Hampton
By Sea

London
Devonport
By Rail

Port Said
Aden
Bombay
Colombo
Fremantle
Perth
Sydney
Melbourne
Wellington [Arrived back in NZ Jan 27, 1946]
By Sea


[Jack then writes from the rear cover inwards]

1940 Feb.
Mobilized. HMS Philomel, Minesweepers. HMS South Sea, Cunnel [Currel?], Futurist.

1941
Oct.

Overseas Draft. Left N.Z. HMAS Canberra. Sydney. Saw Queen Mary 81,000 and Queen Elizabeth 83,000. Celebes. Java. Singapore

Nov
Left Singapore S.S. Soochow.

Dec 7th
Arrived Hong Kong HMS. Tamar.

Dec 8th
Hostilities commenced 4am. First air raid 7.40am. Drafted HMS. Barlight.

Dec 22nd
Barlight bombed 27 planes. Missed by 50 yards. Holes below waterline. Later sunk.

Dec 23
Dockyard W/T. and defense.

Dec 25th
Hostilities ceased. Capitulation of Hong Kong.

26th
Prisoner Of War, age 19 years.


M.I.A. telegram, Feb. 25, 1942

1942
Jan

Sham Shui Po P.O.W. Camp. 5,300? Prisoners. Later 5000. Rice diet. Malnutrition, no medical supplies. 1000’s of refugees. Tuckloads of dead Chinese. Atrocities. Diphtheria broke out, 2 to 4 deaths a day. First attack of dysentery and tropical ulcers. ???. Hong Kong dog. Whale meat, dog and cats, not bad to eat. Fever.


POW postcard from Hong Kong (rcvd. Jan. 1945)

Sept. 28th
Left Hong Kong. Lisbon Maru [This was a hell ship]. 1800 prisoners.


Letter from Hong Kong

Oct 1st
Torpedoed 7am. Battened down. No air or water.

Oct. 2nd
6.30am Ship listed heavily. Mad rush to break out of hold. Stern under. After hold 200 prisoners trapped. Japs firing at us in water. 8:30am Ship sank. 5:40pm Picked up by Japanese tug. No food no water. Many died.

Oct 3rd
0200am Shanghai. No clothes. Very cold. Given little water and hard biscuit. Unable to chew. 4pm First food after 72 hours.

Oct 5th
Left Shanghai Shin Shi Maru. Only 930 survivors.

Oct 8th
8am Buried Tel. M. Stewart at sea.

Oct 10th
Arrived Moiji [Moji] Japan.

Oct 11th
Hiroshima Military Hospital. Weight 48.5 kilos. Dysentery again.

Nov
58? dysentery cases.

Dec
22 died. Food bad. Jap orderly? stealing our chow. Worse than a slaughter house.

1943
Jan. 11th

Arrived Osaka P.O.W. Camp No. 2. Started work 10 sen a day.

March
Very cold, only 1 shirt, 1 pr trousers, 1 jacket, rubber shoes. Electric feet. Beriberi. Work hard. Rice and veg soup. Enifer stabbed in back.



Postard from Osaka, Mar. 12, 1943

July 27th
Broken foot. Alassie? Doctors and Apples Yates.

Aug 8th
Dysentery again. Ichioka hospital. Many deaths. No toes and no feet cases. Food bad. No med supplies.

Sept 25th
Shigoto ["work"] again razor operations. Break into ships iceboxes for food. Everybody hungry. 3 oz. fish twice a month. 2 oz. meat once in 3 months. Seaweed, soya paste, squid, octopus, eel. Soap 1 bar in 2 months.


Letter, Oct. 4, 1943

Dec 25th
2 years a Horio ["P.O.W."]. Rec. Red Cross food parcel. Yellow jaundice.



Postcard, Dec. 28, 1943

1944
Jan.
Only two rest days a month from work. Foundries, docksides and senpaku [shipping] unloading ships. Food cuts and rationing. Caught a snake. Just like chicken. Stealing on the increase. No mail yet. Bed bugs prevent sleep at night.


Letter, May 1, 1944

April 12th
Collapsed at work, carried back to camp. Pneumonia.

July 24th
Blood transfusion.

Aug
Rec. 5 letters, first since Nov 1941.

Sept
Big flood, everybody upstairs.


Letter, Sept. 17, 1944

Oct
Fairly Fit. Paper work, start of air raids.

Nov
Big earthquake.

Dec 28th
Out to Shigoto again 3 years a prisoner. Der. Tag ?

1945
Jan
Work every day now 1 yasumi ["day off"] a month.


Letter, Jan. 11, 1945

Feb
Worked on sugar ship, dried bananas and sweets. Got caught stripped in the road searched. Beat up with swords. Kneeling for 4 hours.

March
Worked for 6 weeks without a day off. 4 chaps taken away, told we won’t see them alive again! (stealing).

15th
All night incendiary raid by B29’s 1/3 of Osaka flattened. No trams. No more work at the foundries.

April
Air raids very often now. B29’s like silver ghosts in the air. Enjoy raids. Stop work and take shelter. Fox holes. More rice cuts. Wheat mixed in rice, horrible. Green veg. seldom. Soya sauce soup, seaweed. Joto nai ["Not all right"]. Losing weight. Catch pigeons to eat. Made radio broadcast.

May?
Rumours about Germany. Lyne to Notogawa. No ships in harbour now. Only work on the docks.

June 25th
9.30am. Big air raid in our area. Our camp burned down. Never seen so many planes or such destruction. Lost all my kit again.

June 2nd
No water. Rations burnt. Shifted to Samuri. Takusan ["A lot of"] fleas. Shipyards and factories close by abunai ["dangerous"]. Water sukoshi ["a little"]. 4 days no work. Joto! ["All right!"]. Travel by barge back to Chikko everyday 2 hours. Back late at night. Danger from mines in harbour - B29’s. Working in burned out godowns. Sugar like toffee. Saw ship blow up and sink. Mine.


Japanese-English dictionary used by Rix

June
Making new camp. Numerous raids. Started dropping H.E. 3 bombs 300 yards away. Took shelter in small woodyard. Shrapnel from AC AC. Watched bombs leaving planes.

July 6th
Shifted back to Chikko. Still no water. Don’t feel safe living in godown. Shipyards, power station, rail bridge, marshaling yards, AC AC Baty close by. Sleep on straw sacks on cement deck. Ventilation bad. Mosquitos deadly. Boil and abcess. Can hardly walk. Can’t get a day off. Temp 101. One chap caught. Stood in rain for 2 hours.

July
Went 15 miles by truck to Osaka. City flattened. Why don’t they jag in. 1000’s homeless living in shelters and tin shacks. Saw many large bomb craters, dead bodies and horses.


Prison camp photos showing Osaka damage, camp life

July
Working at Senriyama oil dump. Dive bombers what a speed. Sheltered in the trees. So close could see the markings. Yankee P51! P38’s and Grummans. Also RAF from task force. Bombed and machined gunned air drome 1/2 mile away. Chow bad, no veg. Little rice mixed with plenty of beans. Catching pigeons. Cooking up weeds to stop boils. Feel weak. No soap, fag's, boots, few clothes. Dread coming winter. Everyboby making wooden go aheads?

July
The sirens on and off all day and night now. Dive bombing and machine gunning raids. Definite air superiority. Seldom see a Nip plane. Living in godown which seem to be targets for the yanks. Watch night air raids, incendiaries like firework display. H. E. terrible noise often shaking the building. Big flash when they hit. Some fires still burning from June 1st raid. No water. Found tobacco leaf in burned out godown. Good smoke. Had bath in bomb crater. Still no water in mains. Caught with salt, beaten bound up all night. Mosquitos deadly.

Aug
Another rice cut. Watery soup 70% beans 30% rice 350gms. Much stomach trouble. Everybody pessimistic. Gloom club. We’re doomed. Always tired many sleepless nights owing to AC AC close by. Two yank officers on trial for trying to escape.

Aug 12th
B29’s this morning but only dropped leaflets.


13th
Big H.E. raid.

Aug 17th
Went for water today. Civilians have no tin hats. No work today. No announcements no raids. Something strange is happening.

Aug 17th
Sirens went during the night. Wakaran? ["I donno"; Jack adds question mark]. AC AC.

Aug 20th
Adjutants speech. War not over only temporary armistice. Tenko as usual. No outside working parties. Rice 600 gms. No beans. Onion and eggplants soup.

Aug 21st
Out on water party 10am. Ginger Quinn RM. Harry Pelham RE. strolled up and greeted us 10:30am, told us war was over. Came from Kobe camp. What an uproar in our camp. Deputation to jimusho ["office"]. Guard issued with extra amo. Garrison put up. Japanese still deny war is over. No veg for tonight. Our demands for food. 1:30pm 100 men left for food expedition. Guard just laugh and watch lads walk away. Tried to catch a bullock. Went out myself but food godown empty. Got back 4:30pm. Newspaper on board. Issued ultimatum to Japanese to have European chow in camp by 12noon tomorrow. We know there is godowns of food supplies for German raiders at Kobe.

Aug 22nd
Double guard on camp last night. Guards every 50 yards outside camp. No supplies. Arrived at 12 noon today. Everybody marched out of camp at 1pm to cover supply party. Caught tram to center of city. Nothing but ruins and desolation in city. Civies quite cheerful towards us. 2 trucks commandeered and went to Kobe. Returned 11:30pm with tin food supplies.

Aug 23rd
2:30am couldn’t sleep for noise went for a stroll. 9am went on ration truck to Kobe. Saw Butterworth and Baker. Plenty of food. Lads wheeling sugar in all afternoon. Sugar is the currency there. Only 14 Navy there. Only 100 Navy in our camp. 3 years ago there were 350 of us survivors of the Lisbon. 1,115 deaths out of 4,000 P.O.W. in Osaka. 4 chaps from jail arrived in bad shape. 1 serving 10 years solitary confinement for trying to escape. Can't talk now.

Aug 24th
9am went up the city. Went to Kyoto 50 miles away. Only 15 miles from Lyne. Do not pay on trains or trams. Nips bowing and saluting. Left Kyoto 2pm. Civies filling air rad shelters.

25th
Went to Kobe. Saw Dog Baker. Back by 5:30.

26th
Did some washing this morning. Watching waiting for planes to drop food and clothing supplies. Change in weather. Tail of a typhoon. Longing for mail. 1 bag came this morning but only 2 lads lucky. All the rest was for deceased.

27th
Takusan planes over but no supplies dropped. Grumans.

28th
Few planes over this morning. Some lads form Lynes camp arrived pretty thin and pale. 4 engined transport planes about 2pm. Food, clothes, medical supplies dropped by parachute. First time have felt full since Xmas 1941. Much excitement. So low see pilot's hands. Roof hopping.

29th
Grumans and B29’s again this morning. Practically fence hopping so low. Before had to dodge bombs, now supplies. Few Nips killed.

30th
More planes, more supplies. Low dives just above the wires, very thrilling. More lads from Lyne's camp. Very thin, some byoki ["sick"].

Sept 3rd
Lyne came down for the day. Not looking well.


Letter from US 8th Army Lt. Gen. Eichelberger to Rix, Sept. 20, 1945

Sept 6th
Shifted with 60 others to Osaka new hotel. Car driving. A real bed and room to myself. First class accommodation and attention. The tables have turned at last.


Driving team (?) that Rix was attached to, in front of Hotel New Osaka. Rix is in 2nd row from the rear, 2nd from the right (next to man in dark shirt) with cap tilted to his left.

Unknown group in front of Hotel New Osaka where Rix shifted to from the prison camp

Sept 7th
40 American Army occupational staff arrived. 4 RN and some nurses. First Capstan since 1941.

Sept 8th
7:30pm the lads left by train. Start of the homeward voyage.

Sept 9th
Finished driving 4am. Wake up 3:20pm. Missed bacon and eggs for breakfast. 11:30pm Shingai.


U.S. driving team that Rix belonged to.
Rix is standing 5th from right, behind motorcycle rider.

Sept 10th
Station 7am and 8am. Kobe afternoon.

Sept 11th
Osaka castle. Tanoji atchi kochi ["Exciting here and there"]. Up in plane for 30? minutes C47.

Sept 18th
9pm for Kobe in convoy. 10:50 train late. 4:30am left Osaka 8am. Hoincho 900 P.O.W. only 400 alive now.


Unknown group at Ration/Distribution Store

Unknown group in Tel Ops Room (?)

Sept 18th
Farewell party at Osaka new hotel. Admiral Byrd present.

Sept 19
Left Osaka.

Sept 20
9am arrived Yokohama. Big reception at station. Speech by Eichelberger and Admiral. Medical inspections. Players cigs. 7:30pm Transport to Atsugi Air Port.



Letter from Atsugi Air Port, Sept. 20, 1945
"The tables have turned after all these years."

Sept 21
Weather bad, raining. Had look inside B29, C54, B17, Gruman, P88 and others. Took off at 10:40 C46.
Landed at Okinawa 5pm. 5 mile ride through Okinawa battlefield to camp. Saw a picture show.

Sept 22nd
Plane Byoki. Went for a ride to Naha through the battlefield. Went to a show at night.

Sept 23rd
Got up ….

24th
2am left by lorry for airfield. Left in B24 at 4:30am. Forced landing at Loag Nth Luzon 10am 2 engines left. Arrived Manila 4.30pm. C46 transport Manila camp. Interrogation and medical. Saw Lynne, Harry Franklin, Jim Muller, Apples Yates.

Sept 27th
Left Manila aboard U.S.S. P134 at 1700 hours. General Howze.


Rix recovered telegram, Oct. 1, 1945

Oct 7th
Crossed the date line.

Oct 15th
Golden Gate Frisco. Angel Island. Ferry boat Welcome Home music.

18th
Left Oakland pm by rail.

22nd
Chicago 9pm. Changed to CNR.

25th
Debert, Canada. Rest camp.

30th
Left Debert 4am.

Nov 1st
Embarked in Queen Elizabeth 1230. Sailed to Halifax 1400 hrs. Concert. Wee Georgie Wood. Commander Bisset (whale speech).

Nov 5th
Arrived in Southampton. HMS Shrapnel. Leave in London. Sightseeing.


Welcome letter from King George to Rix, Sept. 1945

Nov 27
HMS Drake. Awaiting draft. Home.



"Rix is safe" telegrams, Nov. 30, 1945

Dec 5
Drafted. HMS Devonshire in dock.

7th
On leave again 7 days.

10th
Went to B.B.C.

15th
Sailed from Devonport.

22nd
Port Said shoreside.

23rd
Suez Canal.

25th
Red Sea. Xmas Day.

26th
Aden.

27th
Arabian Sea.

30th
Bombay. Shoreside.

31st
1700 Left Bombay.

1946
Jan 1st
At sea.

Jan 2nd
Colombo.

Jan 3rd
1700 Sailed.

Jan 10th
0930 arrived Freemantle. Apples Yates on Jetty. Saw Q.Q.W. and got…. Kings Park and sightseeing. Picture show. Grand time.

Jan 11th
1300 sailed.

Jan 15th
Arrived Sydney.

Jan 22nd
Train? to Melbourne.

Jan 23rd
Sailed for Melbourne in Durban Castle.

Jan 27th
Arrived Wellington.

News articles:

Nephew thanks U.S. Army for liberating uncle in 1945

New Zealand man thanks U.S. Army for liberating uncle in 1945