Speech by Mr. Theodore Bazire at Liberation Banquet, Weifang, 17 August 1995


         Respected Mr. Li Huixin, Vice-Chairman of Weifang People's Congress, Madam Wang Xioujuan, Vice Mayor of Weifang People's Government, Ladies, Gentlemen and Friends, we feel it an exceptional honour to be entertained so regally tonight.


         Mrs Estelle Cowley, Dr. Neil Yorkston and I, Theodore Bazire, have returned on the fiftieth anniversary of our liberation, following three years of internment by the Japanese near your city. Certainly, nothing we dreamed of fifty years ago could ever compare with the warm welcome you have extended to us today and this sumptuous Liberation Banquet you have so generously provided. Our party includes Mr. Ronald Cowley, the husband of Estelle, and Ruth and Anne, daughters of Neil. We have all made a special effort to be here on this special day and have come from all corners of the earth - from England, South Africa, Australia and Canada.

         You, our hosts, have honoured us with your company tonight, generously giving of your time. We have enjoyed this opportunity to meet you and to converse with you; certainly, we do not wish to detain you longer than necessary, but I nevertheless wonder if you might permit me just a brief reminiscence to conclude my speech.


         As schoolchildren in the internment camp, we were studying for our school-leaving examinations but, of course, our teachers had no communication with England and could not obtain copies of the official examination question papers for 1945. However, the teachers had brought into the camp copies of the examination question papers of previous years from which they were able to devise examination question papers for us comprised of genuine questions. When the war was over, our headmaster took these question papers and our written answers to the university in England and explained the circumstances. The university accepted his explanations and marked the papers in the normal way. That was how we three obtained our school-leaving qualifications and were therefore allowed to proceed with our university courses.


         In Weihsien camp, however, we did not have the apparatus necessary for the practical aspects of Physics or Chemistry, so our science studies had to be restricted to Biology. To complete our studies of Biology, we had to know how frogs grow and what makes them 'work'; to achieve that, we had to dissect frogs to find out. The problem was that we hadn't any frogs. But then came the answer: the skies opened up, down came the rain and up came the frogs - but in the stream outside the camp. So we went to the Japanese and explained that we wanted to go and collect frogs in order to cut them up. They thought this was unnecessarily barbaric but, nevertheless, gave us permission to do so. I was one of the frog-collectors. Eventually, we set off - outside the camp. All was going well until, at one point, we had to cross the stream. The Japanese guard had polished his boots and didn't want to get them dirty, so he handed me his rifle, jumped over the stream and beckoned me to follow. I had no wish to cause trouble, so I waded across - through the cool water - holding the rifle over my head. When I got to the other side, I handed the rifle back to the guard - with a grin. When we had finished collecting frogs, we had a lovely swim in the stream watched by all our jealous friends on the top floor of the hospital block. Some weeks later, however, when the Americans, including an Old Boy of our school, arrived by parachute, the laugh was on us because, while the rest of the school was out in the fields gorging on the treasures dropped by parachute, we were indoors doing our final, frantic revision and sitting our examinations. However, it was all worthwhile in the end because we were all successful.


         And now, fifty years on, all of us here this evening can express gratitude to the powers we individually believe in - whether such powers be of this world or another - that we have all come through this half century successfully and in good health and in friendship, to be able to celebrate together with this marvellous Liberation Banquet.


         It therefore gives me great pleasure to take advantage of this unique opportunity to propose this toast: to the continuation of the friendship between Great Britain and the People's Republic of China; long may it last!