Prisoners of War
Among the first Canadians who became prisoners during the Second World War were the soldiers captured during the Defence of Hong Kong in Dec 1941.
Since the Japanese had not signed the Geneva Convention, they treated POWs primarily as slave labour, referring to their ancient tradition that to surrender was a disgrace. Allied POWs of the Japanese laboured under extremely debilitating conditions and virtually never received their Red Cross parcels. Many died of disease, torture or overwork. Many more who returned from the war never fully recovered.
In contrast, prisoners of the Allies were treated humanely, especially those sent to countries like Canada, where food was more plentiful. Some POWs in western Canada were granted days off to hike or climb in the mountains. Many German POWs who came to Canada enjoyed their lifestyle here so much they chose not to return to their own country after the war ended.
Almost 9,000 Canadian soldiers, airmen, sailors and merchant seamen were captured during the Second World War and held as prisoners of war. These included soldiers captured during the failed raid on Dieppe in 1942, the Italian Campaign and the liberation of Europe after the Battle of Normandy.
Many of the POWs who were eventually liberated at the end of the war were left with physical and emotional scars that would last a lifetime. The price paid by these brave servicemen helped in the eventual victory of the Allies in 1945. Their service and sacrifice will not be forgotten.