Exhausted, the prisoners shuffled their way back to the one room shack they called “home” in the Japanese prison camp. Inside were five bunk beds lined up against the walls and ten straw mats in the middle of the room. In one corner stood a stove, unused. They were forbidden to light it, even on nights like this where the temperature dipped well below the freezing mark.
Don Chambers and his buddy Harry rubbed their arms in an attempt to keep warm, but it was no use.
“I think we should light the stove,” Harry whispered.
“You know we’re not supposed to,” Don said.
“But, we’re gonna freeze to death. What would it hurt? They’re all out hoopin’ it up at some dance anyway. They won’t know.”
“Harry, I don’t like it.”
“Well, I can’t take it anymore,” Harry got up and walked over to one of the bunk beds. He looked around and finally found what he was hoping for. A wobbly board. He eased his fingers underneath and pulled hard. It snapped loose.
“Here, gentlemen, is our warmth for the evening,” Harry held his prize possession high for everyone to see.
Don pleaded with his friend. “Harry, don’t do it.”
“Oh Don, don’t be a baby. I won’t get caught.”
Harry walked over and placed the piece of wood in the stove.
“Okay, who has matches?” he asked.
They watched as another prisoner went to the other corner of the room, removed a match from his hiding place, and handed it over. Harry placed some straw from one of the mats on top of the board, struck the match on the stove and threw it in. Smoke immediately began to fill the small room.
“Did you open the damper, stupid?” one prisoner asked.
“Oops,” Harry said.
“Well, hurry up before you smoke us to death,” another said.
Harry opened the damper and soon the room cleared.
Everyone gathered around the stove to draw from its heat.
“Oh, that feels good,” one said.
“I almost forgot how good warmth feels,” another said.
“See Don, everyone loves me now!” Harry smiled. “You were worried for nothing. All the guards are—”
A cold blast of air filled the room as the door slammed open. Three guards stood there holding batons.
“Who lit stove?” one asked in broken English.
All eyes were on Harry.
“You?” the guard asked.
Don watched his friend and saw fear on his face as the guards rushed him. Before Harry could respond to their question, they slammed a baton into his knees. He doubled over and they struck him again across the back. The sound echoed in the small room. Harry fell to the floor. His sobs silenced the prisoners.
“Stop!” Don tried to reach his friend, but the other guard shoved him out of the way. The rest of the prisoners held Don back. Any attempt to help would result in the same fate.
The guards kept hitting Harry until finally, he lay still. They stripped him and carried him out the door.
Don watched in horror as they tied Harry to a pole. Two of the guards left, while the other stayed to make sure no one tried to free him.
“He’s going to freeze to death,” Don said. “We have to help him.”
“It’s no use. If you try, they will kill you too,” another prisoner said.
“But he’s my friend,” Don said as he fell to his knees, sobbing. When will this war end so he could go home?
I’m taking a break from my regular blog to tell you about my uncles. The above story is based on true events and is an excerpt from a short story I wrote called “War Brothers.” Four of my uncles—Donald, Wesley, Murray and Dean Chambers—all served in different capacities in World War II (my grandfather also served in WWI). They fought for our freedom and underwent many horrific events such as beatings in a Japanese prison camp to watching their buddies die beside them in the trenches. Things that many of us are fortunate enough not to have to endure.
This story is one example of what the brave men and women went through to fight for our freedom. There are many still fighting. Let’s not only take this week to ponder, pray and thank those individuals, but remember them every day. Praise God for them.
I grew up hearing stories of the war and I’m so grateful to my uncles for their acts of bravery. Without men like them, our country wouldn’t be free.
Without our Saviour, we wouldn’t be free.
We shall never forget them.