Three survivors on how they endured oppression, cruelty and abuse as prisoners in Japan during WW II

"Up to five of our guys were dying in one day." It was the longest and most brutal of wartime internments.

On December 8, 1941, only hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Japan invaded Hong Kong.  Nearly 2,000 Canadian soldiers had been sent there to defend the island. After a short battle, thousands of soldiers were taken as prisoners of war and endured nearly four years of oppression, cruelty and abuse; among the longest and brutal internments of the Second World War. Their stories are told in The Fence, a new film from the documentary Channel.

Three of the last surviving Canadian veterans to endure this prison time tell personal stories of the battle, their experiences inside the barbed wire enclosures, and their eventual liberation.

Phil Doddridge, 98

"You avoid as much as possible attracting attention." After the Battle of Hong Kong, 19-year-old Phil Doddridge was taken prisoner by Japanese forces. From December 1941 to August 1945, he and his comrades suffered privation, sickness and humiliation. Watch his story.

After liberation, Doddridge became a teacher, then a school principal, eventually becoming Director General of his regional board. He married, had three children and is enjoying woodworking and other outdoor activities in his retirement.

Ralph McLean, 97

After nearly 70 years, Ralph MacLean, a Second World War veteran of the Battle of Hong Kong, looks back on his 44-month imprisonment and the special friendship he made with his camp’s Japanese Commandant.

When the war ended, the commandant gave McLean a military insignia from his uniform, and said, “don’t forget me.” He still has the insignia today.

Hormidas Fredette, 102

"One time, I cried. I wanted to come home". In October 1941, 24-year-old Canadian soldier Hormidas Fredette was sent to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese. He shares his memories of the battle, as well as his 3 years and 8 months in a POW camp. 

After the war, Fredette returned home, married his sweetheart and retired to the Annapolis Valley with his two sons.

Watch The Fence, on the documentary Channel.

Available on CBC Gem

The Fence

documentary Channel