The Captain Was a Doctor


A Canadian medical officer and prisoner of war returns from the Second World War a hero — and a very different man.

In August 1941, John Reid, a young Canadian doctor, volunteered to join the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps with four friends from medical school. After five weeks of officer training in Ottawa, Reid took an optional two-week course in tropical medicine, a choice which sealed his fate. Assigned to C Force, the two Canadian battalions sent to reinforce "semi-tropical" Hong Kong, he was among those captured when the calamitous Battle of Hong Kong ended on Christmas Day.

After a year in Hong Kong prison camps, Reid was chosen as the only officer accompanying 663 Canadian POWs to Japan to work as slave labourers. His efforts over the next two-and-a-half years to lead, treat, and protect his men were heroic. He survived the war, but finding a peace of his own took ten tumultuous years, with casualties of a different sort. He would never be the same.


The Captain Was a Doctor is a haunting exploration of a decorated hero of the Hong Kong campaign during the Second World War....This is a moving story by his son attempting to understand how his father endured the war, and how he left part of himself behind in the prison camps.

Tim Cook, author of Vimy: The Battle and the Legend

Jonathon Reid’s is a splendid and well-written account, carefully researched in his father’s papers and other records. This fine biography tells us much of Canadian courage and character in the greatest adversity.

J.L. Granatstein, author of Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace

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