Douglas, John Taylor

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John Taylor Douglas
18 May 1921 – 7 June 1990
Sgt J.T. Douglas service file photo (1).jpg
Place of birth Swan River, Manitoba
Place of death Cloverdale, British Columbia
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Rank Sergeant
Sergeant John Taylor Douglas (18 May 1921 - 7 June 1990) was a Canadian soldier who served during the Second World War, much of the time as a Japanese Prisoner of War, and who continued to serve after the War.

Early Life

John was born on 18 May 1921 at Swan River, Manitoba, to parents John Taylor and Martha Ellen Douglas. He is recorded as having at least one sibling, a brother named Morton.

He attended Aberdeen School followed by King Edward High School in Vancouver where he completed two years of high school, finishing Grade 10. While attending school, he was a newspaper carrier and magazine salesman and he also reported working as a fruit picker and on a salmon trawler in the summer.

When he joined the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, he was living in Vancouver with his mother whom he listed as his next-of-kin.


Douglas joined 11th Armoured Car Regiment Signal Troop of the Non-permanent Active Militia on 31 March 1939 at Vancouver, British Columbia.[1] He was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 145 pounds, with a fair complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. He claimed previous service of one-and-a-half years with the Irish Fusiliers and one year with Cadets.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Douglas joined 9th Fortress Signal Company at Prince Rupert, BC as a Wireless Operator. While with the unit he was attached to the Rocky Mountain Rangers and 102nd Heavy Battery, RCA for periods of service. In July 1941, after initially being transferred to 10th Fortress Signal Company in Vancouver, he proceeded to Camp Barriefield to join 4th Canadian (Armoured) Divisional Signals which was being formed there. In August 1941 he was again transferred, this time to Debert Military Camp in Nova Scotia where he underwent training before he was transferred to Headquarters, "C" Force on 21 October 1941.

Travelling East to West with other members of 'C' Force by CNR Troop Train, members of the unit were picked up in Debert, Valcartier, Montreal, Ottawa, Armstrong ON, Capreol ON, Winnipeg, Melville SK, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper. They arrived in Vancouver on 27 October and were embarked on the ship AWATEA, a New Zealand passanger liner. The ships sailed from Vancouver on 27 October and arrived in Hong Kong on 16 November having made brief stops enroute at Honolulu and Manila. On arrival, all troops were quartered at Nanking Barracks, Sham Shui Po Camp, in Kowloon. Their equipment, loaded on the ship DON JOSE, never reached Hong Kong as it was rerouted to Manila when hostilities commenced on 8 December 1941.[2]

There is no record of the role Signalman Douglas played during the Battle of Hong Kong or where he was stationed but for a general description of "C" Force and the battle, please see: Defence of Hong Kong and Canadian Signals. Douglas survived the battle and is not recorded as wounded when he was taken as a Prisoner of War on 26 December 1941 by the Japanese. He is recorded as being detained in Shamshuipo Camp, Kowloon from 26 September 1942 until 19 January 1943. Along with the other POWs, he was then shipped to Japan to serve as slave labour for the duration of the war. He was in Tsurumi Camp from January 1943 until 16 April 1945 after which he was moved to Ohashi Camp. While in Japan, he was forced to work for Nippon Steel Tube at Tsurumi Shipyards on a variety of jobs related to ship building and later for Nippon Steel Company.[2]

He survived his time in captivity and was returned safely to Allied hands on 15 September 1945. Along with other survivors, he travelled by aircraft from Guam to San Francisco (arriving 3 October) before proceeding by train north to Vancouver where he arrived on 5 October 1945. He had numerous periods in hospital after his return until, on 2 April 1946 he was discharged on demobilization with noted residual issues from malnutrition.

Douglas re-joined the Canadian Army 23 July 1951. He proceeded to the Royal Canadian School of Signals (RCSofS) in Kingston Ontario in August where he received training before joining No. 1 Signal Squadron in March 1952.[3] He was promoted Lance Corporal on 11 June 1953. He served with Central Command Signal Regiment from December 1953 until March 1954, serving with Headquarters, Eastern Ontario Area in Kingston. He then served with No. 1 Airborne Signal Squadron until July 1954. Reverting in rank to Signalman, he spent six months at the RCSofS. In January 1955 he joined the East Coast Signal Regiment and served in Fredericton New Brunswick. He became a member of New Brunswick Signal Squadron when it was formed from East Coast Signal Regiment in December 1957 and promoted to the rank of Corporal.

From October 1957 until October 1958 he served in the United Nations Emergency Force with 56 Canadian Signal Squadron in Egypt. Upon his return to Canada, he joined 3 Signal Squadron in Gagetown, New Brunswick. In March 1960, he was transferred to British Columbia Signal Squadron in Vancouver. He was promoted Sergeant in October 1963 and, starting in September 1964 was a member of the detachment at Nanaimo BC where he became a member of 740 Communication Squadron when it was stood up in 1966/67.

Throughout his re-engagement period, he continued to suffer effects from his time as a Prisoner of War and was on occaision hospitalized. His service ended when he was medically released on 3 April 1968.

Personal Life

After his release from the Army in 1946, he had hoped to become a commercial fisherman but he initially found work as an apprentice boat builder. The company he was working for failed and he later found work successively as a carpenter's helper, a sheet metal helper and finally a machinist's helper at the railway workshops in Revelstoke BC for three years before rejoining the Army in 1951.

John married Elizabeth Jean sometime between 1946 and 1951 and together they had three children.

John died at home in Cloverdale, British Columbia, on 7 June 1990. His death was deemed attributable to his military service, at least to a degree, as a Memorial Cross was awarded by the Government of Canada.

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Notes and References

  1. The unit was soon after disband and rolled into 11th Divisional Signals.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Information from Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association - Individual Report: K34017 John DOUGLAS
  3. No. 1 Signal Squadron became part of 1st Canadian Signal Regiment when it was stood up in the fall of 1952.