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Heroes Remember

It's when we got to Sham Shui Po we got the beriberi. Now we had the dry beriberi and that's what they called electric feet. I never had that, I had wet beriberi. I’ll tell a little about dry beriberi first. I had a lot of friends that had that dry beriberi and these guys would get buckets, I don't know where they'd get it from some of them. And we had water there and it was cold. And outside the hut, I can remember these guys sitting, couple of them, as many feet we could get in that bucket would get in it. And they had some kind of thing to sit on. They'd put their feet in there and they'd let that cold water tap run on there for these electric feet. And these are men, and they're not babies, and they sit there crying all night with them electric feet and electric shocks in that cold water. The only way they'd get relief was in that cold water. Now the wet beriberi. We had guys, the doctors apparently don't know to this day how or where it came from, because you'd weigh a hundred pounds today and a week later you'd weigh two hundred pounds. It's amazing! I had it in both my legs, both from here down, I had, I was very lucky, it's damaged both my knees, that's all. To this very day, and this one here is really bad. I had legs like two telephone poles. You could stick your finger in there about that deep and it would leave a hole in your leg and you know about ten minutes later it be back smooth again, and you'd push it back in and you had another hole in your leg. That's wet beriberi. But we had guys who had it in their head, and their head would swell up all big like that, their brains floating around there. We had guys who got it in their lungs and their chest. Those guys that got in their chest, they ain't here because they drowned in it right away. And then we had guys that got it in their stomach and they tapped them and drained it off. And one guy we had even up in Japan, they tapped one guy. We had like a wash basin, a large wash basin about that big around and about that deep. They drained five wash basins full of water out of his stomach, but they saved the guys life, he didn't die. We had one guy, that guy was a WO2, he got it in his testicles. He blew up like a balloon, only bigger then you’d blow up a balloon. It’s unbelievable, your sac would swell up that big around. The guy couldn't stand up, he couldn't hardly lay there with his legs apart like that, with his sac about that big around. Unbelievable.

Beriberi was another serious condition afflicting the POW’s at Sham Shui Po. There were two types; dry and wet. Mr. Flegg describes how the dry beriberi, or electric feet, made grown men cry. He contracted the wet variety, which caused massive fluid retention in different parts of the body. Mr. Flegg discusses the consequences of this edema.

Aubrey Flegg

Aubrey Flegg was born on October 18, 1917 in Welland, Ontario. His father moved the family to Northern British Columbia when he was three. Mr. Flegg describes living on a “stump farm”, and working from a very early age. Leaving home at sixteen, he trapped in winter and felled timber during warmer months. Mr. Flegg was married with a young family when the war started, but he enlisted out of patriotic duty. He joined Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, and later reinforced the Winnipeg Grenadiers, thinking he would be going to Europe. Instead, Mr. Flegg found himself trying to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese against overwhelming odds. Imprisoned for four years, he survived the ravages of disease, starvation, abuse and forced labor in both North Point and Sham Shui Po Camps and the Oyama mines. Mr. Flegg offers an impassioned story of the Hong Kong experience.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Aubrey Flegg
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Machine Gunner

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