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’ 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 Battle of Hong Kong ended on Christmas Day.

After a year in Hong Kong prison camps, Reid was chosen as the only officer to accompany 663 Canadians sent 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 would never be the same.

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