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It took the passage of 70 years for the Japanese government to issue a formal apology for the horrible mistreatment suffered by Canadian prisoners of war.
"I phoned my house and when my little sister answered, I said, 'Hi Esther, this is your big brother, Dick, calling,'" Leir recalled. "She let out a squeak and hung up, she was so frightened. She thought I was calling from the great beyond."
Leir, who eventually rose to the rank of rear admiral, has lived in Victoria since he retired in 1975. During the years since then, he's often been asked to talk to students and other groups about his service and wartime record.
Floggings were common for the most minor transgression of camp rules, Leir said, and food was practically non existent. "Lots of guys starved to death. We tried to take care of each other, but there really wasn't much we Adidas Football Boots Green And Pink could do when someone got really sick."
Prisoner of war says he holds no grudges
Leir was officially listed as killed in action. He remembers the day of his liberation after the war ended began with an unusual calm.
The Canadian prisoners of war were "forced into backbreaking labour in construction sites, mines, shipyards and foundries, and were frequently beaten and starved," Veterans Affairs Canada says.
"During the war, the Japanese were just incredibly cruel people," he said. "They looked down on us as rubbish because we'd surrendered, rather than died fighting. And the senior officers really bullied their own men, the ones who were guarding us, so what else could we have expected in terms of treatment, other than a miserable life?"
or grudges," the remarkably spry Leir said. "That's not the way to grow old gracefully.
that topic as soon as I can," he said. "Otherwise, how the hell could I have stayed alive."
"They knew who I was, that I'd been in their 'care' during the war," Leir said. "Maybe there was a little bit of extra respect, but there was nothing like an apology that I ever heard."
After the war, Leir went onto a long and distinguished career with the Royal Canadian Navy. He returned to Japan three times as a senior officer or commander on various ships.
"We woke up, and it was quiet. Turned out, the Japanese had just walked away and left us," he said. "We thought, about time, those bastards."
His three years as a PoW, of course, is part of that experience, but it's not a part he dwells on. "To be honest, I try to swerve off Adidas Football Boots F50
The formal Japanese apology was delivered Thursday by Toshiyuki Kato, a parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs. It was received by a delegation of former Canadian soldiers, led by Veterans Affairs Minister Steve Blaney.
"I just laughed when I heard about that," Leir, who was born in Penticton, said Thursday. "Their apology, that doesn't mean a thing to me, not one bit."
After his ship, HMS Exeter, was sunk Puma Evotouch Review
It's not that the 90 year old Leir can't forgive the Japanese. It's more that he views his internment, and the way the abusive prison camps were run, as an inevitable consequence of both the war itself, and the Japanese character.
Leir hitchhiked his way back to Canada on returning cargo planes.
The first Canadian prisoners of war had been captured after the Japanese invaded Hong Kong on Dec. 8, 1941. Of nearly 2,000 Canadian troops that had been stationed in the British colony, more than one quarter died in PoW camps.
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"I was extremely lucky to survive all those years," Leir said. "I guess I was one tough fella at that age."
in the Indian Ocean in 1943, Leir was taken prisoner. He weighed 185 pounds. When he was released three years later, he weighed 92 pounds, and had survived bouts of malaria, beri beri, dysentery, and other tropical diseases.
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