Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
Central Police Station (author), Charles Collard (courtesy Charles Collard), Mosque bomb site (author) Victory Parade, B&W and colour (courtesy Ron Rakusen), Japanese Tunnel (courtesy Martin Dewick) William Golding's MI9 Form (via COFEPOW), Mystery Camp (via Geoff Emerson), British water bottle and Japanese Arisaka muzzle cover (author)
With the many recent finds of ordnance culminating in this month's discovery of a huge bomb in a residential area, naturally the potential danger has been widely debated. In fact the majority of recent finds have been well off the beaten path and are generally no great threat, and it would be impractical to try and clear them all. However, perhaps a more prudent policy would be wise in the built up areas. In fact the parts of the city that were heavily fought over or bombed are relatively small, and within those areas much post-war development has already resulted in deep excavations that have effectively made them safe. However, in those parts where only small post-war buildings with shallow foundations previously stood (as in this most recent case) perhaps a compulsory deep scan in the German model would be a sensible precaution.
27 Charles Collard’s son (see 5th below) also got in touch kindly sending me a list of the fate of the crew of HMS Cicala kept by his father in camp. 27 I heard from Flame Television, the producers of ‘Heir Hunters’ who I helped slightly on a program related to the Lisbon Maru. They say: “We now have a confirmed transmission date for the new series of BBC1’s Heir Hunters. The series will start on Monday 3rd March 2014 at 9.15am on BBC1 and will be shown daily from Monday to Friday for four consecutive weeks. The episode you were involved in will be shown on 3rd March although I would advise that you check TV listings nearer the time as programmes can sometimes be postponed if, for example, there is a sudden important news story. It’s also worth reminding friends and family that should they miss an episode, for the next seven days they can always watch it again online using the BBC iplayer website. Just go here and type Heir Hunters in the search box.” 27 Ian McKay has very kindly been helping me match the first students at the Central British School (now KGV) when it re-opened in 1946, with lists of 1940 evacuees to Australia. It seems that a very high percentage of that year were returned evacuees.
25In researching the fate of an internee of the Japanese, Geoff Emerson has found a photo of a group at an internee camp - but we don’t know which camp it is. Can anyone help?
23A friend of the Higgs family, who were evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940, got in touch.
20 The South China Morning Post today ran a short article about Hong Kong’s wartime remains. 20 Luba Estes sent a very interesting email relating to apparently seeing Lisbon Maru survivors in Shanghai. Her father (Lieutenant Skvorzov, HKVDC) had been left behind in POW Camp when she and her mother moved to Shanghai, so naturally they hoped to get news from him from these POWs (as no news was forthcoming from the camp). She notes: “One day my mother came home agitated because she found out that there were prisoners from Hong Kong in transit and billeted at the YMCA building… She didn’t know what she would achieve by going to the location of the YMCA building, but thought that in case the prisoners had a chance to look out of a window, we would carry a Hong Kong basket with SKVORZOV in large letters on the lid. Before the Japanese occupation, most school children carried their books in these Hong Kong baskets with their names on the lid. We had such a basket with us in Shanghai. When we reached the YMCA we slowly walked along the somewhat narrow street (much like the street between the Salisbury Hotel - the old YMCA - and the Peninsula Hotel in HK). There were very few pedestrians and we walked on the other side of the street away from the windows. And yes, there was a row of very large windows with curtains hanging from a bar mid-window down. Right away, we could see the prisoners straining over the top of the curtain to look out. Perhaps one or two had been looking out and told the others who gathered to see us. My memory is that there could have been ten at the window, I can’t remember, there could have been more or maybe less. They definitely saw us. There were no smiles or any effort to wave to us. We couldn’t tell the condition that they were in as all we could see were their faces from chin up. They appeared to be talking to each other… and then, shaking their heads, as if to say… he is not here.” All I can think of is that these may have been the sick POWs referred to on the 17th below, but I had thought they were at a temporary hospital at Woosung. I used the COFEPOW facility mentioned on the 18th below (interesting how these things often come together!) and found the MI9 Interrogation Form of William Golding of that group, but it doesn’t explicitly mention the YMCA.
18 William Wilson’s (Royal Scots, LM) great granddaughter got in touch. Wilson survived the Lisbon Maru, but his marriage didn’t. He was one of those who returned home to find that his wife had presumed him dead, and had made other arrangements. 18 Jonathan Moffat sent a useful reminder of this excellent link on the COFEPOW page that kindly allows people to download MI9 Liberation Questionnaires. They’re not all there yet, but it’s a great start and a very useful service kindly provided by volunteers.
17 Arthur Barnes’ (Royal Artillery, LM) great nephew got in touch. Barnes was one of the sicker survivors of the Lisbon Maru who was held back at Shanghai while the others went to the Osaka area, eventually being sent to the Hakodate camps in northern Japan, via Korea. He notes: “When the men broke out from the hold and jumped over the side, Jimmy held onto a raft with the help of an American called Eddie. They managed to get to one of the islands helped by the Chinese. He was sent to Japan and to one of the camps. During the last year of the war he was at Hakodate#2 Akahira camp on Hokaido. Because he had a way with horses, he was put to work with the ponies in the coal mines. He survived the war and went to live at Portland in Dorset. He went to work for my grandfather who was married to his sister. When my grandfather retired in 1971, Jimmy took over the butcher business until he then retired. Despite what he had been through, he lived a long life and died a few years ago at the age of 91. He never talked much about the war except to me, but never went into any great detail.” The mention of an American is interesting (theoretically there were none on board, but of course some did serve in British forces). I am hoping to learn more.
15Danny Parrot’s daughter got in touch (see August 2013) to say that she has finished the write-up of her father’s experience on Hong Kong. She also kindly attached a photo (illustrated).
14 Ken Bodie’s (HK Police Force) son got in touch. 14 Craig Mitchell kindly gave me a British wartime water bottle and an Arisaka muzzle cover recently found in the hills.
12 I hear that Monia Talan's (from the HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit, Z Force, and a Chan Chak escaper) service dress uniform jacket is for sale.
11 Suzannah Linton will be belatedly launching her book on Hong Kong’s War Crime Trials on Friday March 28. The launch will start at 17.30 at the Centre for Rights and Justice at Chinese University (at their Central site in Bank of America Tower). Further details can be found here, and registration can be done here. 11 While browsing Hong Kong Government records online, I came across two large but very useful documents listing the Civil Establishment of 1939. This names every government worker and shows their role, starting date, years in service, etc. The 1940 version doesn’t seem to have survived, but the majority of those listed in 39 were still present when hostilities commenced.
10Ron Rakusen read my Short History of No 3 Coy HKVDC (which I wrote for the Royal Asiatic Society some five or six years back) and saw the photo of the 1946 Victory Parade that illustrated it. He then kindly sent me several photos scanned from a special edition of TODAY showing the Victory Parade on 8th June 1946. These appear to have been taken moments before the similar photo I used in the Short History. Interestingly, they are in colour – but the colour to me looks like it was added by hand at some point. He also had some black and white images, again similar to ones I was given by 3 Coy families, of the Hong Kong contingent in Hyde Park (his father is second from the left in the front row seated on the ground in the latter, and is the bespectacled gentleman in the front left of the colour photo). Ron would be very grateful if anyone could provide better quality images of the event in which his father could be seen more clearly.
7 My usual walk to work was blocked today at Queen’s Road East and I had to take an interesting diversion through the early morning market in Wanchai Road. The reason for the road closure turned out to be an American 1,000 pound GP bomb (generally reported as a 2,000 pounder in the papers and on video) discovered in the construction of the foundations of the new Emperor International hotel tower between the Cosmo hotel and the Sikh Temple. I’ve walked past that bomb twice a day for around ten years! In the end Jimmy and his EOD team cut it open and burned the TNT on the spot. I have a 1945 photo of the Sikh Temple showing what I had guessed might be damage from a small bomb, but on reflection I believe that what we can see is not the effects of blast, but kinetic damage from that unexploded bomb simply flying through the structure to land and embed itself deep underground next door. I’ve done one of my not-terribly-good then & now mashups to show what I mean. Apparently the rear fuse had been struck but failed to function.
5 Charles Walter Collard’s grandson (see November) kindly sent a photo of his grandfather returning to the UK on a ship. Although undated, I suspect it was taken at the end of the war.
2Walking back from Central today I happened to look up at the old Central Police HQ which is currently under restoration. Some of it is no longer under wraps, and I have to admit it looks pretty good. It was of course bombed by the Japanese in 1941. Geoffrey Wilson who was there at the time, once wrote to me from his retirement home in Portugal saying: "A number of police officers of various ranks were killed or wounded; my office was set on fire and I was very lucky to get out alive with minor injuries."
1 I’ve been having a long correspondence with Michael Hurst in Taiwan to try to establish how Sir Mark Young and his batman Waller got to Taiwan in September 1942. We’re stumped at the moment. They were not on the ‘Special Draft’ that took Maltby and the other senior officers and batmen. We would be grateful for any information. 1 A party in the hills today found various items including British helmet remains, two buttons not yet identified (but one of which look like a Canadian Grenadier Guards button), two and a half British water bottles, and a new Japanese tunnel. 1 T.K. Wong and his brother reckon the original Japanese photograph in last month’s mash-up was tampered with to some degree having been taken from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Queen Victoria Street (whereas to match the southern side, I had to take my modern version from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Pottinger Street).
February 1st, 2014 Update
Des Voeux Road then and now, Queen's Road Ordnance Stores (both author), Western Independent (courtesy Bill Lake) 1940 building, Bowen Road Hospital guard room, Wong Nai Chung Gap shelter (all author) Attack on Wong Nai Chung Gap AA position (Japanese war artist), the hill behind today (author), Base of Japanese water bottle (courtesy Craig Mitchell)
This is very much a seasonal study. Everything heats up in November as relatives of those in Hong Kong during the war are reminded of the December invasion and their family members’ experiences, and culminates in December itself where each day brings tens of emails and every weekend (or so it seems) a memorial event of some kind. Then January slows down again – unless there’s a special Second World War anniversary matching the one we’re witnessing this year with the Great War. So the year has started quietly; by the middle of the month I had only received a single photo that I wanted to put on this site, whereas in a typical month I will have to choose from a hundred or more. But the second half seemed to speed up, perhaps because of the release of ‘The Railway Man’ and the general interest in twentieth century conflicts thanks to the Great War anniversary.
31Couldn’t resist the nice weather and quiet New Year streets so I went to Des Voeux Road to try and get one of my ‘then and now’ shots of Japanese and Indian troops on patrol. Trouble is that I spent such a long time waiting for a tram to come into the right position that I ended up getting the angle a bit wrong. I’m not very good at these! However, at the same time I noticed on the other side of the road a 1940 building (rather kindly labelled as such) that for some reason I had never seen before. 31 Finally finished my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment and sent it off. 31 Philip Cracknel kindly passed on some details he’d found about B Coy Middlesex pillboxes. Here, for example, is the equipment list for PB30 (which is still in place): 2 Machine Guns, 1 Thompson SMG, 6 Rifles, 2 pistols, 10,000 .303 rounds (500 tracer), 1,000 Tommy Gun rounds .45, 84 Webley .45 rounds,12 Grenades.
29 Today there was yet another find of ordnance up in the hills, as shown in this link (Chinese language) kindly supplied by Tom Li. There must be thousands of the things up there, and they’re not getting any friendlier with age. 29 Hugh Farmer got in touch, showcasing his very interesting website about Hong Kong’s industrial history. There are several articles covering the war time period, and he’d be keen to hear from anyone who could add more detail or point him at further sources. 29 Ron Rakusen notes that he is very keen to trace Anthony Witham, who used to live in Surrey, and is the son of Hong Kong’s pre-war ‘Tea Advisor’: “I am really keen to understand the role and status of a Tea Advisor to the Chinese Government as I have several envelopes that were from P.E Witham to relatives in the UK or which passed through his hands as an unofficial ‘courier’ between Shanghai and HK to other countries.”
28 I saw a note on the FEPOW Community from someone saying: “Last year, after several years researching into my father’s time as a POW in Japan, and somewhat to my surprise, I found myself applying for and being accepted onto a full time PhD in Sociology and History at the University of Essex. My research focuses on the life experiences of the children of British Far East Prisoners of War. When I first began to read around the subject, I was rather taken aback to discover hardly any academic research into the topic. For me, this is an important story, and one very much worth telling. Through face-to-face interviews, I aim to explore how the fathers’ experiences have impacted on the children, from early memories through to the present day. Now in my second term, I am beginning to plan ahead for the interviews, most of which will need to occur during the second year. So, if your father was a British FEPOW and you are interested in taking part, then I’d really like to hear from you. Later on, I’ll send out a briefing sheet giving more details of the research to those who have expressed an interest in getting involved. If you do think you could help me with this, I am sure you’d find it interesting.” If any children of POWs would like to be involved, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the researcher. Clearly this is a mature student!
27Michael Hurst in Taiwan is researching the Gosanos and Kotwalls, and also the ‘Special draft’ of Hong Kong senior POWs who left for Taiwan (initially) on 4 August 1942. As far as I can see I never identified the vessel they travelled in. Anyone happen to know?
26 Bill Lake kindly sent me the first two pages of ‘The Western Independent’ of August 19, 1945, which describes the logistics of the Japanese surrender in great detail. Neither of us were surprised that although it mentioned China, Korea, Singapore, Burma, Russia, and Japan itself, there wasn’t a single word about Hong Kong!
25Alan Burnett’s (Royal Engineers) nephew got in touch, lamenting how little has been written about the RE in Hong Kong (which is very true).
23 Several people were kind enough to let me know that Maximo Cheng (4 Bty HKVDC, Chindits) passed away today. I hadn’t seen him for several years. As far as we know, he was the last HKVDC man alive in Hong Kong, and the last of the 128 Hong Kong Volunteers who originally joined the Chindits. 23 Peter Osman’s (HMS Moth, LM) family got in touch via Annemarie Evans. 23 Fred Ambrose’s (Royal Marines, LM) nephew got in touch.
22Harry Lacey’s (HKVDC) family got in touch via Irene Dowling. His wife and three children were in Stanley. Two of the children were twins born in 1941, who grew up to be famous martial artists (as reported in July 2012).
20 Several people, including Martin Heyes, were kind enough to send me obituaries of Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese soldier to surrender after the Second World War. I told my kids the story, and they were amazed. 20 Walking back along Bowen Road I photographed the always-atmospheric ruins of the guard room of the old Bowen Road Hospital, and also the Queen's Road Ordnance Stores. The latter were rebuilt at great expense a few years ago by the Asia Society, but I have never seen them being used.
19 A walker (I believe I know who) found a Japanese 150mm shell in the hills today, which EOD blew up rather spectacularly. The pieces of shrapnel they collected afterwards show just why these were (and obviously still are) so dangerous.
18Quite regularly I get calls out of the blue asking me to take people for historical walks around Hong Kong, and I politely decline and point the requestor to various colleagues who do such walks commercially. However, Larry Summers, ex President of Harvard University, was around today and I very much enjoyed taking him, his son, and a few of their friends around Wong Nai Chung and Black’s Link. While at Wong Nai Chung I noticed that the steps leading up from the AA Site opposite Park View had been redone, and quite a lot of the vegetation had been cleared. This enables a better view of the half-destroyed block at the summit of that little hill, which makes an interesting comparison with the official Japanese War Artist’s painting.
17Henry Langley sent me two very interesting letters from Hong Kong Dockyard staff to his father just after the end of the war. One, from On Ah Lit of C.C. (Chief Constructors’?) Sawmill, H.M. Dockyard, reads in part: “As regards my old comrades in the Yard, some of them have died during occupation including Mak Pak and Yee Poi. Tang Ping Nam is back in the Yard as a store-drawer. Your former amah Ah Toi has not been traced so far, but I have not given up hope of getting in touch with her, and if she is found I shall convey to her your kind regards. I am sorry to hear that you have lost your lovely home and particularly your junk, and I hope I can make a new junk for you when you next come to Hongkong. I am looking forward to the time when we can take Chinese chow together – ‘HO HO SIK NEY’ (very good to eat).” Henry was unaware that his father had once owned a junk! 17 Ron Brooks confirmed that he has now taken delivery of his father’s Long Service and Good Conduct medal (illustrated. see last month).
15 I passed Dennis Clarke, the photo of his father – one of the four policemen in the photo last month - and he replied: “Yes, he is in the left and Donald Brown in the car. They were very good friends. Donald Brown retired from the Police in the 50s and moved to New Zealand where he passed away a few years ago.” 15 John Pelly Murphy’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch. She pointed me to a website that mentioned her uncle. I hadn't seen it before (though I corresponded with Francis Crabb for a few years - I think he's still around - and Arthur Gomes was a friend). I was very familiar with the Byrne company when I first lived in Hong Kong, but didn't realise the wartime connection.
14 Robert Louis Neubronner’s (Royal Engineers) granddaughter got in touch. Neubronner’s wife, son, and two daughters were evacuated to Melbourne. Mr Neubronner died in Osaka #2B (Kobe) and the family would be very grateful for a photograph of him if anyone has one.
12 Today I did the last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club – the infamous Mount Nicholson and Mount Cameron walk that follows the path of West Brigade’s retreat from Wong Nai Chong Gap to Wanchai Gap over the mountains. With 22 people (a handful of whom didn’t make it to the top of the peaks) I reckon it was the second biggest assault on Mount Cameron since 1941 – the previous record being held by the slightly large group from the club that I took up there three years ago. One of the attendees was the nephew of William Lambert of Number 1 Company, who was lost on Christmas Day 1941.
10While researching a member of Hong Kong’s Shanghai Evacuation Committee of 1937 – Dr Thomas Walter Ware – I found this very interesting link, according to which he escaped from occupied Hong Kong! The only problem is that I thought I had researched all the non-Chinese escapers, but had never come across him before. Brian Edgar has a few theories, and Elizabeth Ride has a note that makes us think the story is probably true, but does anyone else know about him?
7Gareth notes, again in connection with the shelters of Stanley Gap Road that I mentioned last month: “I think they may be the bunkers referred to as the ‘Stone Hill Shelters’ in the RR of C War Diary, and their Battalion HQ during the late stages of the Battle of HK. In favour of this possibility is the fact that they're close to Stone Hill, although (I think) actually on the Stanley Mound side of the stream separating Stanley Mound from Stone Hill. If they are the Stone Hill Shelters, they're the scene of the incident described under the heading ‘General Remarks’ in the RR of C War Diary for 22-12-1941. To quote: ‘An incident occurred at Battalion HQ during the afternoon, which bears recording. At 1530 hours, a sniper who had crawled down the ravine between ‘D’ and ‘B’ Companies fired at point blank range and hit Rifleman Labeouf who was unloading a truck on the road in front of Battalion HQ wounding him seriously. Sgt. D'Avignon seized a Tommy gun and after him firing several bursts but no trace of him was found’.” I checked with Rob Weir who confirms that these shelters match the map reference of the RRoC’s B Coy HK on Stone Hill. Very interesting! 7 Craig Mitchell reports finding a well-preserved Japanese water canteen up in the hills.
6Ron Taylor (HK) kindly let me know that Joan Crawford died on Friday (3 January), aged 97. He notes: “Joan, you will recall, was the one who reported the Battle in the Bus in King’s Road. She was in Stanley with her mother and father (Pte Ferdinand F Duckworth - Hughes Group and Manager at Hong Kong Electric) and wife of Sgt George William Kenneth Crawford (Sham Shiu Po).” 6 Jill Fell noted my mention of the Mogra family in last year's diary. She notes: “my father, Charles Reginald Warren, told me that his father, C.E. Warren (1872-1923) was great friends with E.R. Mogra and that they used to go on jade collecting expeditions to the mainland together. I believe that the Wesleyan minister, the Rev. Webb Anderson, used to go too.” We’d still like to learn more about the Mogras.
5 Rob Weir contacted me about the Shelters off Stanley Gap Road (see last month). He notes: “there were at least 7 originally, their demolition is of recent years. Originally built as a Company HQ, Wallis tried them as a Battalion HQ but found them unsatisfactory and moved to the Prison Officers Club. There were 16 shelters in the general area, including the three at Headland Road junction and some above the road just near there. I don’t know if the heavy duty toilet block at the junction with Chung Hom Kok Road classifies as a Shelter.” It’s surprising that the damage I reported was recent, as something has cut through very thick reinforced concrete and the place looks like it’s been bombed!
4Kwong Chi Man contacted me about a book he’s writing on Hong Kong’s Chinese soldiers. This will include the Hong Kong Volunteers in Burma, who I am also studying at the moment for my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment – several of whose members joined the Chindits.
January 1st, 2014 Update
Burford / Lisbon Maru memorial (courtesy Anita Jones), Donald Brown and friends (courtesy Sue Harding), Hong Kong wall memorial (courtesy Alfred Lai) Lee Gardens Theatre (courtesy The Lee Gardens), HKVDC Signals (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Reed brothers' photos (courtesy Henry Ching) Canadian lighter (courtesy Craig Mitchell), Stanley Bunkers (author), Raindle platter (courtesy eBay)
We spent last Christmas in Sydney, and this Christmas – for a family wedding – we visited Melbourne. It’s odd to see the suburb names that are so familiar from studying Hong Kong’s evacuees – Frankston, Brighton, St Kilda (where I got quite sunburnt the day after Boxing Day) – and see the majority of houses there just as they were in 1940. In Hong Kong we are so used to buildings being replaced every thirty or forty years that we forget that the rest of the world is somewhat more sustainable.
31Ian Brown is still trying to discover more about the Holland family (Jessie Holland was the nurse killed on the last ferry to leave Kowloon at the time of the Japanese invasion in December 1941; her husband Adam Holland was an inspector of buildings in Hong Kong who was killed in the air raid on Stanley Camp in January 1945. They lived at Stanley Terrace, Quarry Bay, at some point and had moved to 6 Minden Avenue in 1941. Jessie Holland's brother, Joe McDonald, worked with Asiatic Petroleum Company in Hong Kong; he and his wife Elizabeth returned to the UK at the outbreak of the war. Ian notes: “I wonder if anyone with a WW2 Hong Kong connection may recall anything of the offspring of Adam and Jessie Holland - namely Isobel Morrison Holland (born 1915), Alistair Wilson Holland (1917) and Joan McDonald Holland (1920). They were born in Scotland and grew up in Hong Kong in the late 1920's and 30's… An A.W. Holland born in 1917 sailed on the Accra from Liverpool to Nigeria in 1949, possibly in connection with work in the oil industry, and this may have been Alistair Holland. He may have been employed in the oil industry like his uncle.”
30Frode notes: “I am very happy to say that one of the biggest and oldest Danish newspapers, ‘Berlingske Tidende’ published the results of my research of Kaj Soren Kjaer exactly 100 years after his birth – 22 November 2013. The newspaper also made an interview of me on the background of my article.” (see October 3). Frode also noted that the article triggered reactions from Kaj Soren Kjaer’s relatives and kind letters from other readers. In one of these he received a copy of a report made 1944 by Mr Mogens Pagh, who was the head of the East Asiatic Company’s branch office in Hong Kong in 1941. This showed that Kaj Soren Kjaer (Kaj Søren Kjær), was one out of three posted young Danish men, who all volunteered. The two other were Kurt Wilkens and Jorgen (Jørgen) Vibe Christensen. Wilkens, like Kjaer, was killed (with 1 Bty in the defence of Stanley), but Vibe Christensen became a POW and was released in 1945. 29 Jill Fell was asking what the minimum and maximum age for the HKVDC was. Henry Ching answered: 18 to 50.
24 Ron Brooks has been able to obtain his father’s (Master Gunner C.F. Brooks, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru) pre-war Long Service Good Conduct (LSGC) medal. The person who had it is a regular on these pages and located Ron to offer it to him.
23 I was cheered to receive Christmas greetings from ex-Signalman Jack Mitchell today (see the name list for Dec 21). I hadn’t realised till today that his wife is Hong Kong evacuee Zena Mansell, whose father was in the PWD and was interned in Stanley Camp. 23 The photos I took at the Lee Gardens exhibition last month turned out quite well – especially one of an aerial shot of Causeway Bay that I guess was taken shortly post-war. The building in the centre is the old Lee Gardens Theatre, and the bare triangle behind it is part of today’s Times Square.
22 Dave Deptford was kind enough to send me an eBay link to a presentation salver to RQMS W. Raindle, Middlesex, who was one of the many senior NCOs to be posted away from Hong Kong in mid-1941 before the invasion. It is signed by around 44 of his colleagues, which gives an interesting opportunity to compare the fates of those who stayed versus those who left (K Killed, LM Lisbon Maru, HK Hong Kong): Ayres, 6201876 Sergeant Frederick Henry Edward (K LM) Baker, 6199285 Sergeant Thomas F (K HK) Ball, 4125363 Lance Sergeant Ernest Algernon (Left HK. K Syria) Bayly, Lance Sergeant Thomas (Survived) Bean, Sergeant W (Left HK. Survived) Bedward, 61988459 Sergeant Benjamin Harry (K HK) Blackman, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. Survived) Bond, 6196027 Colour Sergeant James William (K LM) Burgess, 6200152 Sergeant James (K HK) Burkitt, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. Survived) Burrell, Sergeant Alfred F (Survived) Castle, 6197065 Sergeant Thomas R M (K LM) Challis, Warrant Officer Second Class Robert (Survived) Chaplin, Sergeant R (Survived) Crowley, 6198993 Sergeant Patrick Joseph (K LM) Donovan, Platoon Sergeant Major F (Left HK. Survived) Farrow, Warrant Officer First Class H, MBE (Left HK. Survived) Finnis, Sergeant W (Left HK. Survived) Freshwater, Lance Sergeant C (Survived) Hale, Colour Sergeant Percy (Survived) Harvey, 6198273 Sergeant Sidney (K HK) Holdford, Lance Sergeant Charles (Survived) Jeffree, Drum Major George (Survived) Kifford, 4186777 Warrant Officer First Class Bandmaster William E.J. (K HK) Little, 6195113 Colour Sergeant John T (K LM) Lomas, Lance Sergeant Robert G (Survived) McDavitt, Lance Sergeant T (Left HK. Survived) Moody, Sergeant Alfred (Survived) Nayler, 6199294 Colour Sergeant Herbert Edgar (K LM) Overy, Sergeant Richard (Survived) Paterson, Warrant Officer Second Class E (Left HK. Survived) Parry, Lance Sergeant F (Left HK. Survived) Poulter, Sergeant William (Survived) Powell, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. K Salerno) Priddy, Colour Sergeant L (Left HK. Survived) Quick, 3708660 Sergeant James Albert (Left HK. K Burma) Ramsey, 6196028 Warrant Officer Second Class James Robert (K LM) Iches, 6198989 Warrant Officer Third Class Jack Ernest (K LM) Robins, Lance Sergeant George (Survived) Soden, Lance Sergeant Edwin (Survived) Sturdy, 6201477 Sergeant Patrick Joseph (K LM) Tattam, Lance Sergeant George (Survived) Tibble, 6194081 Warrant Officer Second Class William Ernest Joseph (K LM) Ure, Lance Sergeant William (Survived) Of the 31 who stayed, 15 died, but of the 13 who left, only 3 died. Despite those who left Hong Kong seeing action all over the world, leaving was by far the safer option.
21 Sue Beard and George MacDonell were kind enough to send me a copy of A Dog Named Gander. As the photographs in the book attest, Gander was a really massive hound, and one can understand the story of pilots who - seeing him from above – would report to the Gander control tower: “Bear on the Runway!” 21 Elizabeth Ride sent a fascinating photo of the HKVDC Corps Signals. We’ve identified the majority as follows: Back row: Walters (Shanghai), Signalman Conrad Semmelmann, Rose, McNider, Rogers, Warnock, Signalman James King, Captain Arthur Braude, Sergeant Robert Meadows, CSM Richard Rathmell, Second Lieutenant Alan Coppin, Signalman Brendan Wilson, Signalman William Gegg, Carr, Signalman Thomas Suiter Middle row: Borinevitch (sp?), May, Carson, Lance Corporal Lyall Glendinning, Barnes, Warnock, Cock, Carson, Signalman Cedric Salter, Lance Corporal Herbert Fountain, Signalman Norman Smith, Signalman Ivor Johnson, Walker, Signalman John (Jack) Mitchell, Warren, Sergeant Neville Booker. Front row: Jimmy Yee, Tan, S.B. Tam, Wong Kam Piu, ‘Frenchy’ Tcheng, Francisco Chan, Yip, Ed Eu, Kylum Yee, Lance Corporal Willie Eu, Billy Poy.
20Charles McCormick’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch. Her extended family (de Linde, Compton, Hetherington, Moore, Price, McColm, McCormick, Boyd, Mesny, King, Bumphrey, Craig-Martin, and Marshall) were spread around the civilian internment camps in Shanghai, including Pootung, Lungwha, Yu Yuen Road, and Yangchow C.
16 Jackie Ward kindly sent me a newspaper photo of Ian Gray, Royal Scots (illustrated) who was on board the Lisbon Maru.
15Anita Jones let me know that the Burford / Lisbon Maru plaque has now been put in place at the NMA. She kindly sent me a photo. 15 And on a related topic, Jim Huse was kind enough to let me known the sad news that Stoker Douglas Charles Stimson, Lisbon Maru survivor from HMS Thracian, passed away on the ninth of this month in Bournemouth.
13Geoffrey Emerson let me know that the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory is very keen on the history of the Observatory. Some months ago, thanks to Patricia Lim's fine book, he discovered that Charles Jeffries, the Observatory’s Director in the 1930s, is buried in Happy Valley - he died in early 1941. The headstone is in very poor condition and he would like to see about having it cleaned – but that would require permission from a relative. However, Jeffries' daughter Sheila married W. A. Mackinlay who was killed on 24 December 1941 (and is buried in Stanley) and after the war she married policeman Lancelot Searle. As I am in contact with Searle’s son, we were able to make a connection and hopefully the stone will now be restored.
12 Donald Brown’s (HKPF) family got in touch, sending a very interested photo of his in his car, together with fellow policemen Goscombe Goddard Clarke, Alf Brittain, and one unknown, believed taken outside a sand-bagged Tsim Tsa Tsui police station in 1941. Clarke’s son Dennis was born in Stanley Camp and retired to Macau a few years ago after a successful career managing Hong Kong’s Conrad Hotel.
11Joannes Tsang put quite a few photos on the web of the 7 December 2013 service at the Hong Kong Memorial Wall in Ottawa to commemorate the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong.
10Craig Mitchell reports finding a Canadian Ronson lighter up in the hills, together with the metal remnants from a gas mask case, and a strange rectangle of glass of about 4 by 5 inches. Possibly a heliograph? A Parker 1930s Streamlined Duofold Senior pen also turned up in the same area a few weeks earlier.
7Today, for around ten minutes, I joined presenter Cruzanne Macalister on RTHK Radio 3 to talk about Christmas 1941 as part of a series about Hong Kong’s Christmases past. 7 Alfred Lai kindly sent me a link entitled: “WWII Canadian Veteran Sgt Major George McDonnell talked of the bravery of Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps on YouTube”. 7 Brian Edgar notes: “Robert Hammond's book Bondservants of the Japanese is now available free online. It describes his family's time in Kowloon during the fighting and then in Stanley until the American repatriation. Try googling 'full bondservants Hammond voice' - when I did so it was the fourth on the results page. This is a link to that results page.” And: “Allman was an American lawyer from Shanghai stuck in HK during the attack. After the repatriation he became head if the Far Eastern Bureau of the OSS (Don [Ady’s] dad's boss?) and later worked for the CIA. His memoir Shanghai Lawyer is now available free online. Chapter 1 is about his work as legal adviser to the Camp Council and Chapter 18 is the best account I know of the work of the American volunteer drivers during the fighting (and of the controversial Bill Hunt, who was to become the leader of the Americans in Stanley).”
6 Bernard Oscar Alastair Thomson’s (2/14 Punjabis) nephew got in touch. 6 A researcher notes: “I am currently working on a project relating to awards of the Military Cross to Air Force officers in World War Two. This is quite a select band in that only 84 such awards were made. Two of these awards were to Air Force officers who escaped from Hong Kong and through China to India. As you know one was a New Zealander, Pilot Officer Eddie Crossley, and his exploits are well documented in the book ‘Bridge with Three Men’. I have limited information on the other officer, Flying Officer Norman Lee Baugh. I have been able to establish that he was from Sheffield and that he was an ex Halton apprentice in the 21st intake. I believe that he may have been an equipment officer with the Station Flight at Kai Tak. He was killed on the 31st of January 1943 when the Dakota of No. 31 Squadron in which he was a passenger crashed while flying ‘the Hump’ and Baugh is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial. Like Crossley, Baugh escaped form Hong Kong with two army officers, a Major Munro of the Royal Artillery and Captain Ivan Bernard Trevor of the H.K.V.D.C. Both Crossley and Baugh were gazetted with the Military Cross on the same day and I believe that Baugh escaped the night before Crossley and his two companions.” I will be providing him with Baugh’s unpublished escape notes, which were kindly given to me by Monro’s family.
4Craig Mitchell notes that he: “was on Mt Cameron last week and found a really interesting Japanese Pillbox with a small tunnel down the centre and then leading off under the hill. Most unusual. I have put the account on Gwulo with photos.”
2 In response to last month’s request, Henry Ching kindly sent photos of the four deceased Reed brothers from the school magazine ‘Steps’ December 1947 issue. Henry also sent the latest three of his Occasional Papers featuring HKVDC members interned in Stanley rather than as POWs, the 1943 release of Asian POWs, and the internment of civilians. All these as usual can be seen on the RHKRNSW website.
1 I started the month by taking the Hong Kong Club walkers around Stanley, but arrived a bit early and asked my taxi driver to drop me off near the start of the Wilson Trail where it comes off the hills onto Stanley Gap Road. Just east of there, north of the road, I had often noticed (from the top of a double decker bus) a Splinter-Proof shelter that I had never investigated. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t alone. It was in a line of three or four – hard to be sure as the other ones appeared to have been hit by very heavy shells, possibly 9.2 inch. I didn’t have time for more than a quick look, but it would be worth another one. The walk itself went well, with everyone very impressed with the museum at the ever-helpful St Stephen’s College who kindly gave us permission to enter the grounds and opened the museum for us.
December 1st, 2013 Update
Violet White, Simon White (courtesy Tara Beckett), Charles James (courtesy Pat Burton) Graves of Winnipeg Grenadiers escapers (author), Wreath laying in Ottawa (courtesy Ron McGuire), Max Oxford and Co (courtesy Emma Oxford) A Dog Named Gander launch (courtesy Alfred Lai), Parliamentary visit to Sai Wan (courtesy Canadian Consulate Hong Kong), Japanese fake AA gun (courtesy Craig Mitchell)
It’s not every month that a new book about Hong Kong’s wartime experience is announced, and it’s been many years since four arrived! This November I am pleased to relate that Emma Oxford’s book ‘At Least We Lived: The Unlikely Adventures of an English Couple in WWII China’ (see the 15th), ‘A Dog Named Gander’ by Canadian veteran George MacDonell (see the 19th), and ‘In Time of War’ by Richard Collingwood-Selby (see the 13th) are all available. I don’t know anything about the fourth, Benjamin Lai’s ‘Hong Kong 1941-45’ – which will be available next year - but it certainly sounds interesting too.
28 My office building in Causeway Bay, The Lee Gardens, is currently hosting a superb exhibition on the development of Causeway Bay as a whole, and the history of the Lee Gardens Theatre in particular. One sees so little of this sort of thing in Hong Kong that it is rather a shock when something of such high quality appears! The Lee Gardens Theatre is something of a sore point, as it still stood when I moved to Hong Kong but by the time I realized its significance to the battle (being the strong point in the north-south defensive half way between the shore and Leighton Hill) it had been knocked down.
26 EOD kindly sent photographs of the bomb recently found at Kai Tak and the Japanese 150mm shell from The Peak. In fact a second 100-pound bomb turned up at Chek Lap Kok this month too, but it is believed to have been brought there in a load of earth that also came from Kai Tak. The fuse of the bomb was in remarkably good condition when removed.
25 Jack Mitchell, HKVDC, got back in touch talking about 3 Coy. He notes: “I knew Edward and John Fisher, George Roylance, the Broadbridge brothers, the Mathew brothers, Prettyjohn, Joe Reid and others.” I also corresponded with Norman Broadbridge and George Roylance for several years.
24 Lieutenant Colonel Simon White MC’s (Commanding the 2nd Royal Scots) family kindly sent some unique photos they have been promising for some time, both of ‘Sim’ and his wife Violet (known as ‘Vi’ in Hong Kong, but ‘Honey’ to family) who was the Quartermaster of the HKVDC Nursing Detachment. While searching the Government Gazette for Simon’s MC I found him mentioned three times (as S E H E White), but never found the medal citation itself. His medals are now at Edinburgh Castle. 24 Elizabeth Ride passed me a photo of a reunion of five BAAG men shortly after the war, and I passed it to Vincent Young’s (BAAG) family to see if he could identify any of them. He identified one, Lam Ho Fat, his family noting that he: “worked on ships in 'sworn measures' after the BAAG disbanded and had a house on Jordan Road. He was attacked on the way home from work one evening when his Rolex was stolen. He fought back suffering head injuries which Vincent thinks eventually led to his death from a blood clot sometime later. His son in law had a restaurant in South Wales for many years and his widow lived in London until her death.”
23Craig Mitchell reported a number of interesting finds in the hills, including what appears to be a fake Japanese anti-aircraft position, consisting of trench works and a metal water pipe at the right length and angle to look like a gun barrel. Such things are common on the Pacific islands, but not in Hong Kong.
21Charles James’ (Royal Engineers, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. James was one of the 200 or so men who survived the sinking but perished in Japan shortly afterwards (in his case of diphtheria). She kindly included his Army Form W3040 (casualty) and a photo.
19 Charles Collard’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, telling me that his family have identified Mr Collard as the man facing the camera immediately to the left of the bucket in the twelfth photo (the second labeled ‘Nippon Express Co., Hyogo port branch’ in the Exhibition. He is only the second POW to have been identified (so far) from these photographs. 19 Major Alfred Lai was kind enough to let me know that George MacDonell’s new book ‘A Dog Called Gander’ has been published. I had heard that George was writing it, and I believe he may be working on a second new book too. 19 Henry Ching let me know of an interesting collection up for sale. It is described as: “Unique collection consisting of three items: An annotated copy of George E Baxter's scarce booklet ‘Personal experiences during the siege of Hong Kong, December 8th - 25th, 1941. Internment by the Japanese, January 5th - June 29th, 1942. Trip home and exchange civilian prisoners Laurenco Marques, [sic] P.E.A., In 30th - August 26th, 1942’ published by the East Asian Residents Association, [Sydney : 194-?]. [P.E.A. Portuguese East In] 48pp; A copy of the Hong Kong Government Gazette, 2 July 1948: Sir Mark Young, Events in Hong Kong on 25th December 1941, Special Supplement to the Hong Kong Government Gazette, 5pp. A folder with the handwritten title: ‘Battle of Hong Kong’ with 21 pages of press cuttings from the South China Morning Post reporting the trial of Japanese war criminals. The booklet by George E. Baxter is extensively and fascinatingly annotated, wrappers are chipped and torn particularly along the spine. The folder and many of the press cuttings are browned but otherwise very good and there is some very light occasional spotting Special Supplement to the Hong Kong Government Gazette.”
18 Brian Edgar found a long letter from a Chinese man connected with St Stephen's College, who spent the war years living in Stanley Village. After liberation he became Camp Labour Supervisor.
17Spent some time with Elizabeth Ride today, going through some interesting files that I hadn’t seen before. These included a very interesting and detailed account of the fighting at Postbridge (see August 2012), Signalman E. Maycocks’ (attached to 2, Scottish, Coy HKVDC) statement on the fighting at Stanley on 24/25th December, and Harcourt’s account of the period August 29 - September 16 1945. Elizabeth also had a number of BAAG photos from 1945 that I scanned at 1,400 or 2,800 DPI to bring out the details. 17 Alan Pong also contacted me about the Diocesan Boy’s School Roll of Honour. They would like to find a photo of the Reed brothers (four of whom perished during the war), if anyone can help.
15 Emma Oxford, daughter of Max Oxford RAF who escaped Hong Kong with Chan Chak, let me know that her new book ‘At Least We Lived: The Unlikely Adventures of an English Couple in WWII China’ has been published. This is the story of her parents, Max and Audrey Oxford, and their remarkable experiences in Hong Kong and China during and after the war. Audrey embarked on an eight-week journey alone to take up an assignment in Chungking, China, and Max – who had escaped from Hong Kong under fire from the Japanese – headed to the same city from the south. When the two met in Chungking at a tea party given by Mme Chiang Kai-shek, they began a lifelong love that would: “sustain them through war, separation, loss and a search for identity as expatriates in postwar Hong Kong.” They left an extraordinary collection of letters and journals, and these form the heart of the book. 15 Gavin Shiu sent me this very interesting link about the destroyed Universal Carrier in Causeway Bay that featured in a photo in Not The Slightest Chance.
13Gillian Bickley let me know that In Time of War, by Richard Collingwood-Selby is being released towards the end of this month. This is the story of Lieutenant Commander Henry Collingwood-Selby, the captain of HMS Redstart. 13 Maurice Francis is trying to trace the fate of Laurie Reuben Nielson of Stanley Internment Camp. Apparently he was in the mining business and his wife and children were left in the Philippines during the war, interned at Santo Tomas Camp. He believes that Henry and Elizabeth Tebbutt were also family friends (Henry was a POW in Hong Kong, and Elizabeth was in Stanley). 13 It’s amazing what turns up on the interweb these days. While looking for something completely different, I found this reference to the fan carried by the captain of the Lisbon Maru.
12Colin McFadyen’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch. 12 For next year’s Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society it looks like I’ll finally be completing my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment. Bit by bit, with these Short Histories, I think I’m writing a book… and at this rate it should be finished sometime around 2033! 12 Today I helped the Java FEPOW Club answer an enquiry about Gunner George Green, 8th Coastal Regiment Royal Artillery.
11 CSM John Osborn VC’s family got back in touch. I was glad to hear that his daughter, grandchildren, and granddaughter are all doing well. 11 Leighanne McKinlay-Wilkins (granddaughter of Lisbon Maru survivor Norman Lester, Royal Signals, who brought a copy of her grandfather’s diary to me in Hong Kong a couple of years ago - see September 2011), reports being in contact with Arthur Alsey’s (Royal Scots) daughter.
10 This morning, for the fourth or fifth time in the past eleven years, I took the Hong Kong Club walkers around the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. It rained! Yes, for the first time since I started doing these walks with the Club, it rained. This was the outer band of typhoon Haiyan that did so much damage in the Philippines. However, despite the fact that the rain was quite hard at the 08.45 assembly time, 12 people (and one very popular cocker spaniel) turned up. The rain eased off as we progressed, and it resulted in a very pleasant stroll. 10 In the afternoon I accompanied the Canadian Parliamentarians of the Canada-China Legislative Association to Sai Wan cemetery. They were actually a really nice bunch of people, and I felt quite guilty (on Remembrance Sunday) at enjoying their visit so much. After I said a few words about the battle and answered a few questions, they went down to the Canadian graves. I stopped for a moment to take a photo of the graves of the four Canadian escapers from North Point who were executed (they were buried together), and later saw one of the Senators make a beeline to put his poppy on one of their (Ellis’s) graves. I was impressed that he’d done his homework, but when I asked him about it later it turned out that his target had been interestingly serendipitous – Ellis had been the same age when he was executed, as the Senator’s son is today. It was interesting to hear from Ron McGuire that at the same time, at the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, Ottawa, he had been laying a wreath at his local (and well-attended) ceremony). 10 Philip Cracknell reports finding some interesting tunnels in the Mount Collinson area.
9 Anita Jones let me know that the Lisbon Maru / Frederick Burford memorial plaque has been installed at the National Memorial Arboretum. It’s located just outside the Education Centre, a short distance form the HKVDC Memorial. I’d be grateful for a photo if anyone is passing.
8 The papers reported two unexploded wartime devices being found, one at Kai Tak and the other on The Peak. The EOD were kind enough to confirm that these were an American 100 pound General Purpose bomb, and a Japanese (not British) 150mm High Explosive shell. 8 Andrew Chan notes: “I assume you know there is a plaque outside of the school hall of the Diocesan Boys' School in Mongkok. FYI, a new school chapel was built and it first opened to the public on November 11, 2012. It just so happened that the annual DBS Garden Fete was held on that day. Friends and old boys of DBS were invited to attend a Remembrance Service at the chapel. The names of the 46 old boys on the plaque was read and flowers were laid by the scouts.” 8 Melville Morgan’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) nephew David Spencer is researching his father’s wartime career. He served on HMS Thracian.
7Today my wife and I had dinner with Elizabeth Ride at the Helena May where she is staying while continuing her work on her father’s papers. We were talking about Carol Bateman as her ballet school is still there (and she was married to Howell, who led the break out from the Lisbon Maru). Elizabeth told us of a visit to the Helena May she made pre-war to watch a nativity play in the very same room where we were eating! She noted that the little room at the south eastern corner of the dining room had at that time been called the ‘green room’ (as it was used be performers before coming on stage). When we asked Ringo, the current manager, it was amazing to discover that it is still called the green room today. 7 Ron Taylor in the UK kindly sent me a photo of Henry Jinks (RA, Lisbon Maru) (Illustrated).
4 In continuing discussions with the Balean family (see last month), they note: “Arthur Robert Fenton Raven (Architect) was my Grandfather and the father to Wynn and Dorothy. His lasting achievement is the King Yin Lei mansion on Stubbs Road.” He continues, covering the 1940 evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia via the Philippines: “In Paul Gillingham's book ‘At the Peak’ it states that ‘the Empress of Asia stood ready waiting to sail from Kowloon Wharf on 5th July 1940, exactly a week after Governor Northcote's announcement. Among the evacuees assembled outside the Hong Kong Hotel, Pedder Street (the HK Hotel is no longer in Pedder Street - but there is one in Kowloon now) were Wynne and Dorothy Raven and their mother who were forced to leave Mr. Raven who had an architectural office and censor duties at Cable and Wireless.’ (I had trouble keeping up with AW [AW = Auntie Wynne] so the words might not be exact). AW says it was a specially hot day and after we were on board they sent us down below into the steerage - Dorothy piped up ‘what do you think we are - cattle?’ We went on deck and saw the purser who said to see him after they had sailed and he would see what he could do. They ended up with a first class cabin.’ ” 3 Ron McGuire in Canada sent a very interesting British War Organization Fund Hong Kong label. He notes: “The seal is ---44mm x 67mm,probably printed in sheets of 20 or 25 and is roulette perforated to separate them”. I hadn’t seen one like it before, but a search of old Hong Kong newspapers (select Old HK Newspapers under ‘Collection’) taught me something about the organisation. Ron has completed a very interesting six part illustrated article on "C" Force for a non-military reading audience.
3 Philip Cracknell mentioned that he was a photo of Felix Hill’s (HMS Tamar) cabin cruiser the Vanla. He noted that he: “came across some evocative pictures of a beautiful 1930's motor cruiser called ‘Vanla’ in HK waters. I found them in Admiralty Files covering requisition of boats, launches and ships by the Naval Authorities on the outbreak of war.” He gives details here.
2Philip Cracknell kindly sent me a large set of photos from the Harold Matches Collection (see last month). For the summer white uniform, his contact notes: “Harold Matches L/Sgt A/87 - in whites. Summer uniform for European R&F (junior officers) pre war. Was not continued post war, when whites were reserved for Very Senior Officers Full Dress (Ceremonial). Bombay bowler with then Force Badge (white metal crown), Bowler worn by Europeans in Indian Police, in some African Forces and in Palestine. Dark blue pugri with black patent leather chin strap. Tunic -with high collar and numerals (A87) on both sides. Sergeant's stripes (chevrons in silver embroidered wire, on black backing). Black leather revolver belt, with snake belt buckle. Black lanyard to revolver (there were a variety of calibres, but predominantly .38, carried loaded but with no additional ammo). Black leather holster, fold over cover. White trousers, Black leather shoes. Note trade/proficiency badge on lower right tunic sleeve. Possibly LG in white metal, denoting trained Lewis Gunner.” Harold Matches’ story can be read here.
November 1st, 2013 Update
Sapper John Morris (courtesy Michael Morris), British button (courtesy Craig Mitchell), John Roarty (courtesy Sean O'Brogain) Taikoo Map (courtesy Andrew Suddaby), Sandakan photos (courtesy Australian War Memorial), Queen's Road / Kennedy Road ARP tunnels (courtesy Julia Yip) Red Cross Parcel (courtesy Australia War Memorial), Nurse Edith Townsend (courtesy Suzie Wager), Police jacket (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
The discussion about building a model of Pillbox 39 (see below) made me realise how much more work could be done to flesh out our understanding of the period. For example, the maps in Not The Slightest Chance, apart from providing, shall we say ‘inspiration’ for certain maps in certain subsequent books, could do with a great deal more work. As I often say, Hong Kong was no Battle of Berlin with 3,000,000 men involved. In fact it was closer in scale to the Battle of Britain, and that conflict has been studied so thoroughly that in the majority of cases we now know who shot who down. I don’t suppose we’ll ever get to that level of detail for the Battle of Hong Kong – and, let’s face it there isn’t the same sort of money to be made in such a niche subject – but there is certainly a lot more that could be done by us enthusiastic amateurs.
30Allen Wells’ (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch.
29 Malcolm Hawes’ (Winnipeg Grenadiers) great-nephew got in touch. Hawes was one of about ten ex-Hong Kong POWs who unfortunately died in the last two months of the war from accidentally drinking industrial alcohol – no doubt thinking it was the real thing. 29 Ron Rakusen, referring to the Cathay Lodge photo from last month, notes that his father joined the Lodge in May 1939 and points out that at least two men lost as POWs – the Treasurer Harry Budden and his son Junior Steward Gilbert Budden - are almost certainly in that photo. Mike Parker believes it was taken in 1938 or 39, noting: “Bro. Langley (back row on the left, we are told) is not wearing a collar of office, which he should have been if it was 1940, when he was made Junior Steward.” Michael also sent me the pages from the Cathay Lodge History that tell the story of the two Buddens.
27The FEPOW repatriation memorial was unveiled at Southampton today, and photographs can be seen here on facebook.
26 Thanks to Elizabeth Ride, Dorothy Hardwick (nee Coates) got in touch. Dorothy was a 1940 evacuee who returned to Hong Kong before the Japanese invasion, but escaped with her father and sister to Macau where they stayed the war years.
24 Isabel & Dr Hermann Balean’s (Stanley internees) family got in touch. The Balean’s son Geoffrey was also in the HKVDC and survived the war. Somewhere I have that well-known photo of Geoffrey in Shamshuipo with Albert Rodrigues and Solomon Bard. 24 John Officer’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) old school got in touch. They are putting together a remembrance service that will mention him. Eyewitnesses saw him escape from the Lisbon Maru and swim to the islands, only to be dashed against the rocks by the waves and killed. Although I could not supply a photo of him I sent the entry from Medical Officers in the British Army 1660-1960, Volume II, Sir Robert Drew, Wellcome Library 1968.
22 Elizabeth Ride, visiting Hong Kong, sent me a report I’d not seen before written by Colonel Newnham, describing the incident when the lighter Jeanette carrying dynamite from Green Island was accidentally fired upon and blown up with considerable loss of life. The report stated that the fatal shots had been fired from PB63 at the end of the Vehicular Ferry Pier in Central, in charge of which was Corporal Charlie Heather. Heather, after surviving the Lisbon Maru and imprisonment in Japan, would have the interesting distinction of being the first FEPOW to return to London after the Japanese surrender.
21On the Stanley Group, Richard Morgan noted in a discussion abut Preston Wong Shiu Pun: “I think you will know that Preston Wong was a also Sub-Inspector in the Police Reserve. I have a photocopy of a memorial booklet produced post WWII (after November 1946 which is the latest date I can find mentioned in it). The booklet prefaced by Ts'o Tsi On (the brother, I think, of Ts'o Tsun On) contains obituaries for David Loie Fook Wing and members of his group. These include Preston Wong Shiu Pun and those Police Reserve Officers whose names are written on the wall below Preston's name in the photograph from Stanley, before their execution. These are: Sub-Inspector Cleveland Elroy Chang Yit [the BAAG Roll of Honour records him as "Cheng Yuet"] From Trinidad. Assistant Manager at the Metropole Hotel. Sub-Inspector Chan Ping Fan, of the PWD. Lance Sergeant Yeung Sau Tak, an assistant draughtsman at the HK Naval Yard. Crown Sergeant James M. Kim, and also Sergeant Philip Chan, whose name is not written on the wall. These names (and the names of members of the Police Reserve who died in other circumstances) were recorded in the original HKP Roll of Honour book in 1948. There are now three such books which are located at the memorial situated on 3/F of Arsenal House Police HQs. The books are placed in front of the parade during the Force Remembrance Day Ceremony, and all the names of fallen officers are recorded in the ceremony programme which is published each year. The obit of Preston Wong is quite detailed.”
21 Craig Mitchell reports finding a couple of standard issue British wartime army buttons up in the hills.
20 John Singleton’s (RAOC) great nephew-in-law got in touch. Mr Singleton was probably lost at Overbays. 20 Edith Townsend’s (Senior Nurse, Stanley Camp) niece got in touch, kindly sending several photographs. Townsend returned to nursing in Hong Kong post-war, as Matron of the Matilda.
19Philip Cracknell sent some interesting photos from the Harold Matches Collection, including his pre-war winter uniform jacket of the Hong Kong Police. “The Uniform Tunic - Standard issue pre-war winter tunic, high collar with A87s in chrome, denoting his service number, A (showing European Contingent), this number was allocated to an officer on enlistment and stayed with him until his promotion to Sub Inspector, when the overt display of numerals ceased. Five large chrome buttons to front, details unclear from photograph but would bear King's crown and HKP. Four patch pockets, I would expect the buttons here to be of the same design but slightly smaller. No buttons to cuffs and no badge of rank. Would have enlisted as Constable, retained this rank whilst under training and then advanced to Lance Sergeant. Later promotion to Sergeant brought about display of the standard three chevron chromed insignia. This high collar style winter tunic was done away with post war when all European Lance/Sergeants were regraded to Sub Inspector, with open collar, white shirt and black tie.” Philip also included a full listing of the elements of the collection. Among the documents is coverage of a case report concerning a high profile post-war attack on two British expats, Lytton Bevis Wood and George Ronald Ross, both employees of Deacons. The former was killed and the latter badly wounded. They were attacked by four Chinese men on 11th Feb. 1948.whilst out walking in the Kowloon Hills. Ross had been a Stanley Internee during the war.
18The Requiem Mass for John Idwal Morris was held today at the Church of the Immaculate Conception & St Joseph, Hertford. Michael Morris was kind enough to send me a copy of the booklet with the order of service. 18 Robert Joseph Maycock’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch. There were five brothers (a sixth, Arthur, had died pre-war), four of whom were in the Volunteers: Maycock, Robert Joseph, Private, unknown serial number, served in the HKVDC Armoured Car unit, in Car No. 5 (HQ Car) which was destroyed on Blue Pool road by a mortar at 19.30 Dec 18, stayed in Hong Kong, Shamshuipo, as a POW; Maycock, John H. (jnr.), Private, unknown serial number, served in Field Coy Engineers (Hong Kong Electric), was initially held in Argyle Street, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, Ernest Richard, Private (serial 4524), served in 2 Coy, was initially held in Argyle Street, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, William George, Private (serial 2357), served in unknown unit, was initially held in North Point, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, Thomas Edward (Motor Mechanic), interned in Stanley. The brothers’ mother was Japanese, which led to those imprisoned in Japan being particularly badly treated.
16 Henry Ching reports meeting the daughter of Major Cameron de S. Robertson MM who was OC Pay Detachment of the HKVDC in 1941
14John Roarty’s (Middlesex) grandnephew got in touch. Roarty was killed in Pillbox 39. He notes: “John Roarty was actually in the Freestate army (the auxiliary) and got fed up and his father (a veteran Inniskilling Fusilier of WWI who left a leg in Ypres) bought him out, but Johnny disliked farming and joined up at the Dunree treaty Port in Donegal (this was passed over to the Irish Free State in 1938). He was from Manorcunningham, Letterkenny, County Donegal, but I think he was born in Dunlewy, near Gweedore, County Donegal. [I spoke to a man called Major Morris who said a survivor said] he remembered him because he was from the Free State, he was quite short, had reddish hair, was quite a bit older than the rest of them (being 27) and he was very kind particularly to the younger soldiers (now I can only go by what they told me) we have never sent off for the records. So he was born in 1914 sometime.” As one of the family is thinking of making a model of Pillbox 39 as a memorial, Tan, Tim Ko, and Rob Weir all kindly provided information (the bulk from Tan) to enable them to do this. 14 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, Julia Yip has posted a fascinating – and comprehensive set of maps of Hong Kong’s old ARP tunnels.
13Anita Jones tells me that the artwork for the Lisbon Maru plaque at the National Memorial Arboretum is ready. 13 Philip Cracknell told the Stanley Group that: “I was reading an old HK newspaper (Sunday Herald for 25 Aug 1940) and saw an account of death of George H Fowler a civil servant employed in Colonial Secretariat Office. He crashed in a Moth at or near Kai Tak whilst on duty with Volunteer Air Arm. Barbara I recall you were friendly with Florence Florrie Fowler who was a stenographer also in Colonial Secretariat Office and later interned at Stanley with her parents? I was wondering if George Fowler was her brother? The pilot was Brian Maurice Hynes but was unable to see him listed in Stanley list or as member of RAF or HKVDC...?” To which Nicola Davies replied: “A Brian Maurice Hynes, Royal New Zealand Air Force, died Oct 28th 1944 aged 26 and is buried at Reichswald Cemetery Germany. Have found him arriving in California with lots of other airmen from New Zealand in May 1942. Obviously en route to Britain.” Confirming that this is the right man, the US immigration record for RNZAF Hynes gives his place of birth as Victoria Hong Kong. This was of particular interest to me because years ago when researching Not The Slightest Chance, I tried to find all the HKVDC Air Unit men who volunteered for RAF service and lost their lives, but I missed Mr Hynes. I also list as 'possibly' the wrong George Fowler (George Henry Fowler, killed with 136 Squadron in India on 16 September 1943), having not found the information about him being in a pre-war crash. But this does illustrate the risk of going by the name alone with this sort of research. 13 In Canberra, Australia, today to visit ADFA. While there I took the time to also visit the fantastic Australian War Memorial museum. It was far better than I had expected (Canberra is such a small city that sometimes you forget it’s a capital). Among all the large items there, were several smaller and more emotive ones – such as an original Red Cross POW food parcel. Also, one wall was devoted to displaying the photos of the 1,787 men who died on the Sandakan death march – a number very similar to those aboard the Lisbon Maru, which gave it (for me) yet another dimension.
12 Michael Morris gave me the bad news that his father ex-Sapper John Morris passed away peacefully in the Queen Elizabeth ll Hospital, Welwyn Garden City, Herts in the early hours today. He also sent me a photo taken of Mr Morris in 1946 when he was in a rehab centre in Kingston on Thames. Not long ago, in August, he had celebrated his 93rd birthday in good spirits. I’ll miss those annual updates. 12 Lieutenant-Colonel Simon White’s great granddaughter got back in touch (see May 2012).
11 Chris Harley continues his massive effort to ensure all the CWGC records for Hong Kong are correct. Currently he is studying Paul Davis, who died 28 March 1944 of beri beri in Stanley Camp. He seems to have been left off this list altogether, yet he was an ‘Oiler’ on the paperwork which makes us wonder if he was Merchant Navy.
8Charles Barker’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) son-in-law got in touch, sending me a photo of Mr Barker (illustrated). Mr Barker helped with the book Season of Storms, by Robert L Gandt.
7Had a drink with Dr Colin Day today. Colin is the ex publisher at Hong Kong University Press and was kind enough to induct me into the world of publishing ten years ago with Not The Slightest Chance. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and I tend to use him as a mentor for all things writing related.
3 Timothy McCarthy’s (Hong Kong Police) son got in touch, noting: “He served in Hong Kong from about 1931 to 1949 when he returned to Ireland. He fought in the defence of Hong Kong and was interned in Stanley for the duration of the war. He died in 2001 aged 89. My mother who is still alive, lived in Hong Kong for a few years before 1949.” 3 Today I met Frode Olsen who was visiting from Denmark and has been researching into the life of Kaj Soren Kjaer HKVDC (see August). We went through the Index of War Casualties held at the Museum of Coastal Defence, which lists the fates of all HKVDC members killed during the fighting, together (often) with their place of original burial, plus the internal documents I have from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and some old maps. With the aid of these documents we came up with a likely original burial place for him near the sugar factory in Taikoo. Frode visited the spot next day to pay his respects. It will soon be the 100th anniversary of Kjaer’s birth, and Frode is preparing a commemoration at his old school in Copenhagen.
1Dennis Ching sent me a note saying: “I’m currently reading a book, “Hong Kong Under Japanese Occupation: A Case Study in the Enemy’s Techniques of Control”, prepared by Robert Spencer Ward, American Consul, as detailed to the Far Eastern Unit, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Dept of Commerce, Washington, DC, 1943, 148 pages… My interest in the referenced book above is because my late father, Walter Fong CHING, was a Chinese-American citizen and civilian prisoner in Hong Kong during WWII. His name is listed in Ms Suzannah Linton’s Hong Kong War Crimes Trial Collection from the UK Archives and Hong Kong University.”
October 1st, 2013 Update
Wright-Nooth's retirement (courtesy Jim Walker), Dickson's medal group (courtesy Mark Sellar), WIlliam Gould (courtesy Joan De'ath) Hongkong Dockyard, Cathay House (both courtesy Henry Langley), Joe McDonald (courtesy James McGuiness) HKVDC Signals in 1939 (courtesy Jill Fell), Charter Passport and letter (courtesy Bill Lake)
It’s interesting to put a group of people into their fuller historical context. The father of one serving officer in wartime Hong Kong (Lieutenant Andrews of the Field Company Engineers, who was 102 when I last contacted him in 2002) lost his life in the Boer War. Many of the senior British and Canadian officers had fought in the First World War (and a fair number had MCs to prove it). And a handful who survived the fighting and the POW years went on to serve in the Korean War and, in one case at least, Vietnam. Even today, I occasionally hear from descendants currently serving in Afghanistan.
30William Gould’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch (see 17 November 2011), kindly sending a couple of photos of her father.
26 Jenney Dempsey’s (see August 23) grandnephew got in touch (note the correction to the spelling: Jenney rather than Jenny). He also kindly sent photos of Jack Dempsey’s silver cigarette case, inscribed: “Jack Dempsey, Stanley Internment Camp, Hong Kong, 7-3-1943”. 26 Bill Lake notes: “I have recently been passed the passports which were issued to John and Yvonne Charter. They were issued in Stanley Civil Internment Camp and were signed by Gimson himself.”
21 Henry Langley sent a second photo, this time of the Hong Kong freemasons at Cathay Lodge. He notes: “I think my father is in the back row on the far left. I don't know the date the picture was taken but on the back it is embossed ‘Hong Kong King's Studio’ and stamped on the back ‘Photo by King's Studio, 107 Queen's Road, C. Tel. 28755 Hong Kong’… the picture would have been taken sometime between 1938 and when my father left Hong Kong in October 1941.” 21 Correspondence with Nurse Holland’s family continued: “My cousin in London was out in Hong Kong in recent years trying to trace her great-aunt Jessie Holland and she was quite sure that she worked as an art teacher in a school in Hong Kong. This concurs with a memory I have of my father suggesting that she had further education before she married, this was unusual in the years just before WW1… I'm including a photo of her brother Joe MacDonald who worked as an engineer with Asiatic Petroleum Company in Hong Kong, he and his wife Elizabeth survived the war and returned to the UK where he died shortly afterwards from stomach ulcers. In the photo Joe is the guy bowling.” Does anyone recognise the location, or have any idea which school Jessie worked at?
20 Responding to last month’s query about D. Harley Collins-Taylor and D. Harley, Jack Mitchell (ex HKVDC) was kind enough to let me know that: “Douglas Harley Collins-Taylor and D. Harley were two different men, the former being a Probationer in the Senior Clerical and Accounting Staff grade who worked in the Treasury, where I believe his father also worked in a very senior position. D.H.C-T was a very young man when he was killed.” 20 Henry Langley sent me a very clear photo of the Dockyards taken sometime prior to 1928. Two submarines are clearly visible in the dry dock, but the Peninsular Hotel isn’t there yet. In fact it seems the only building that still exists today is the Kowloon Star Ferry clock tower.
19Had my annual medical at the Matilda Hospital today, and arrived fifteen minutes early. I walked around and took a photo of one of the foundation stones, noting it was from the Royal Naval Hospital. Foolishly I thought it might have been from the original one in Wanchai (now the Ruttonjee), until I noticed the MCML (1950) date. But what happened to the foundation stone from the old RNH, does anyone know? And what about the foundation stone from the demolished War Memorial Hospital on the Peak? I recall seeing it years ago, preserved outside a new development, but I can’t find it any more. Walking home from the hospital I found a dead checkered keelback (I think; keelbacks can be hard to distinguish), so it’s definitely snake season! 19 Mark from Aberdeen Medals notes that he has: “the medals of 6201812 Cpl. R. J. Dickens, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment - who as you will know from your records was captured in Hong Kong on 25 December 1941, and was subsequently a survivor of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. While you will also know that Corporal Dickens served again in Hong Kong with 1/Middlesex 1949-50 and again in 1951 during their post-war garrison, you may not know that Corporal Dickens then had the distinction of seeing active campaign service during the Korean War when in 1950-51, 1st Middlesex served in Korea - his medal group thus represents an extremely rare combination of campaign medals to the Middlesex Regiment - and a true 'Diehard'.” Dickens was mentioned on these pages 8 October 2012. Mark kindly sent a photo of the group, which comprises: - The 1939-45 Star - The Pacific Star - Defence Medal - War Medal - Korea Medal (6201812 Cpl R.J. Dickens. MX.) - United Nations Service Medal with clasp 'Korea' According to the regimental journal it appears that only 18 men of the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment who were veterans of the Battle for Hong Kong were still serving with the battalion when it returned to Hong Kong in September 1949. Dickens was one of the few of these who then went on to serve in the Korean War in 1950.
17Walking back from the office along Bowen Road, my shoelace became undone. I moved to the side of the path and placed the offending foot on a convenient rock – and came within six inches of stepping on a young cobra (illustrated)! 17 Ron Rakusen noted: “I saw this item in the 1st July 2013 blog and looked at the list of interviews. However, the one I was really interested in as the Arthur Gomes one. When I went to the webpage it was always the one for Maximo Cheng. Do you have the web link for Arthur Gomes?” He’s right; I put in the wrong link. This is the correct link for Arthur’s interview. 17 Nurse Jessie Holland’s (killed but unrecognized in the 1941 fighting) family got in touch, noting: “Jessie Holland (nee McDonald) was my father's cousin, she was born in Moorpark, Renfrew, Scotland, on 5th February 1896 and married Adam Morrison Holland of Clydebank on 25th June 1914 in Glasgow. At marriage he was a 26-year old shipwright but became an inspector of public works in Hong Kong. I know of his demise in Bungalow C in Stanley during a 1945 air raid. I'm less sure of the outcome of his wife Jessie and their children; I've been told they had 3 children. [We] had an address card for them indicating a house in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, I know that he sailed in May 1919 and that she appeared to sail in 1920 and 1929 so they may have crossed back and forward a few times but they were living in Hong Kong for some time prior to the war. Her brother Joe McDonald (16-12-1893) and his wife Elizabeth also moved there but this was closer to the outbreak of war, they both survived the war and returned to the UK. They died without offspring and it has been difficult to ascertain much definitive information of the very last period of the Hollands' lives. It would be of great interest if anyone had any knowledge or recall of them or their time there”. Can anyone help? It doesn’t appear that the McDonalds were in Hong Kong during the war years.
15Philip Cracknell (often mentioned in these pages for his research) recently started writing a blog about the Second World War in Hong Kong to capture various interesting stories he has come across. This one on John Seaby (WO HKRNVR - Mine-Watching Branch) has a first hand account of the Lisbon Maru.
14Guy Shirra has created a Wikipedia page for Orders, Decorations, and Medals of Hong Kong
13Bernard Baker’s (HKPF) cousin got in touch. 13 Finally we had an entry to the Lisbon Maru memorial ‘competition’ (see last month), from Jim Walker: “The ‘Lisbon Maru’- struck by USS Grouper on 2nd October 1942. Onboard were 1,816 British POWs from Hong Kong. Over 800 suffocated, drowned or were shot trying to free themselves. The wreck lies 27m down, 120 miles east of Shanghai.” But the original instigator, a relative of Frederick Burford who was lost on board (see February), suggested: “In memory of Frederick Burford and one thousand other British POW from Hong Kong who died during or shortly after the tragic sinking of the Lisbon Maru on 2nd October 1942. May you all never be forgotten.” Initially I wasn’t so enamoured with the idea of mentioning just one individual, but upon reflection I think it works; it humanises that figure of 1,000.
10 For those who haven’t seen it, the Hong Kong Library archive search facility (for Old Hong Kong Newspapers) has had a facelift and now works for all computers, not just Microsoft.
9 Barbara Anslow emailed the Stanley group about the death of Lewis Morley: “I have today read in Daily Telegraph the obituary of LEWIS MORLEY, aged 88. He was in Stanley Camp as a young man, and always known then as 'Freddie' which was actually his second name, his first name was the same as his father's Lewis (also in Stanley). He was a neighbour of ours in the Married Quarters. He found fame in the sixties as the photographer who took the photo of Christine Keeler sitting astride a chair (picture reproduced in the D.Tel. today.)”
7 For a while I’ve been on the mailing list of BACEPOW (Bay Area Civilian Ex-POWs), and today I received their latest newsletter. We’ve have been having an interesting discussion contrasting the experiences of US civilians in the Philippines, and British civilians in Hong Kong.
6 Jim Walker kindly sent a couple of photos of George Wright-Nooth’s retirement parade at MHQ in 1971.
3 George Boote noted that: “Mark Felton is bringing a new book out on the 19th Sept: China Station. It's about the British Army in China until 1997.” It’s not clear how much there is about wartime Hong Kong, but I suspect it will put it in useful context.
1Jill Fell uploaded a 1939 Christmas card photo of the HKVD Corps Signals to the Stanley Group and also Gwulo. She notes: “The card was sent by my uncle, Leslie Warren to his family in England. I wonder if it is possible for other people in the Stanley group to pinpoint relatives in this photo. I believe that there was a published list of the members of the Corps and David has provided a link to Tony Banham's HKVDC lists. David has also overlaid the photo with numbers and letters to help with identification. For instance Leslie Warren is at 1j. Leslie left Hong Kong for Penang shortly before the Hong Kong invasion and joined the Penang and Singapore Local Defence Corps. There is a long letter from him to his family describing the Penang invasion, but that is not in my possession. He was granted an emergency commission and was posted for special duties to 101 Special Training School Malaya. He was at the defence of Singapore and, with his engineering skills, is thought to have been involved in sabotaging the Japanese communications. He made his way to Ceylon in one of the fishing boats that made that journey. He contacted his youngest brother (my father) who was a planter in Ceylon and warned him to get out, as 'the Japs were coming there next.' Leslie was posted to Meerut with the Royal Engineers and died there in 1943 ‘of disease and privations’. There was also some discussion as to whether Bill Anderson, who went on to be CEO of NCR (and wrote about it in Corporate Crisis), was in the Signals or the Field Ambulance. I list him in the Signals. 1 Following last month’s note about George Hallam, HKPF, being missing from the list of Hong Kong’s war dead in We Shall Suffer There, Dave Deptford has done some sterling work. It turns out that it’s not an error, as Hallam left Hong Kong for Singapore on December 4th (and the research on this website and the books covers only those in Hong Kong as at December 8th 1941). He was born 21.4.1894, and served 28.10.1913 to 1.10.1920 as private 73358 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, enlisting in the Hong Kong Police 20.10.1920. Commended by the Commissioner of Police in 1930 he was awarded CPLSM 15.10.1938 as Sub Inspector. His wife (Dora) and two boys (Derrick 7 and Bernard 4) returned to the UK arriving in London on 6.5.1938. It appears that Hallam was despatched to Singapore for Secret Service work. He escaped 13.2.42 on MV Relau, a 75 ton oil palm tanker of the Straits Shipping Co. It left with 66 persons on board and picked up survivors from various vessels sunk by the Japanese, being intercepted in turn by the Japanese on 16.2.42. As an internee he was held at Muntok where he died in captivity on 18.7.44. Most of the civilians who died in the Japanese internment camps in Sumatra (and were the inspiration for Lavinia Warner’s Tenko) were reburied in maintained cemeteries in Jakarta and have headstones that can still be visited today, but this is not the case for the dead of the infamous Muntok camp on Banka Island. After the war they were removed from their shallow graves near the camp and reburied, but in 1960 the Dutch asked the British to move their Muntok cemetery graves so that the Indonesians could use the land for building. Unfortunately the Commonwealth War Graves Commission elected to rebury the military personnel but left the civilian victims where they were, as it is not in their Royal Charter to move or safeguard civilian graves. In 1980, when a petrol station was built on the site (almost exactly over the part of the cemetery where the British graves had stood) and the remains of the some of the civilian women and men were found, it was assumed by locals that they were military personnel and they were reburied in a shared plot bearing this incorrect description. Presumably that’s where Mr Hallam lies today, but it seems the nature of his secret service work is buried with him.
September 1st, 2013 Update
George Brown, RASC (courtesy Sean Brown), Edward Brunning (courtesy Stephen Brunning), Mike Kendall and chldren (courtesy Alexandra Talbot) In Stanley (courtesy Chris Potter), Buddy Hide's wedding and report in Sussex Express (both courtesy Richard Hide) Japanese War Memorial (courtesy HMCS Prince Robert), Repulse Bay and Saiwan Cemetery in 1949 (both courtesy National Library of New Zealand)
Thanks to Richard Frost, my desktop is overflowing with fantastic pictures. Some are official photos (many seen before) taken at Hong Kong’s liberation, but available now at a higher resolution that I have previously come across. Others are (to me) from a completely new set, taken in October 1949 and available for use by non-profit researchers. I’ve downloaded around 25 of the most relevant to my own research, but other people are bound to find many other pictures that are useful to theirs.
31 Looking at updates on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, I noticed a link to Three Years And Eight Months on YouTube. It’s in Chinese, but worth a look even for those who don’t speak Cantonese. I think it was made around 2008, if I recall correctly. 31 Jason Wordie has updated his website.
26 Natalie Cadenhead of the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand, sent me a copy of a very interesting article about Lisbon Maru survivor Sapper Arthur Mackney. This appears in a journal which can be found here. 26 Here’s an interesting dilemma for Chris Harley, trying to decide whether these two men, Douglas Harley Collins-Taylor, HKVDC and D. Harley, Merchant Navy, both lost on Christmas Day, are in fact one and the same. Anyone know? Here are the issues: - The great majority of Merchant Seamen in Hong Kong in December 1941 joined either the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps (HKDDC) or the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (HKRNVR). - However, a handful of men turned up and were sworn in and given rifles at the last moment. - But the rank 'Lance Bombardier' doesn't imply a last minute thing, and of course gunners need significant amounts of training, as it's a technical job. - However, the battle in which 1 Battery had so many casualties on 25 Dec was an infantry battle which became very hand-to-hand. Any man who could hold a rifle would have been useful. 26 Michael Morris contacted me to say that his father, Sapper John Morris (22 Fortress Company), just celebrated his 93rd birthday. 26 Barbara Anslow sent the Stanley Community a copy of a letter she had written to a friend just 12 days after Hong Kong was liberated. Part of it read: “Last night we saw our first fairly up-to-date film; it was 'When Irish Eyes are Smiling', and our only regret was that it wasn't in modern costume; of all the films we have been shown this past week not one has been a modern one... we are dying to see what the world of today looks like, fashions, etc. At present we feel like country cousins; you should have seen us all stare and exclaim the other night when one of the relieving forces produced a perfectly ordinary cigarette lighter! Some of our makeshifts would make you laugh. I suppose things have been pretty short in England during the war, but I wonder if the school children had to rely on cigarette papers on which to do their home and school work?”
25 Has anyone read Dark Days by Tan Kheng Yeang yet?
24 Anita Jones, who provided the photo of Fred Burford (see February) has managed to talk the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire into possibly erecting a small plaque with up to forty words, remembering the Lisbon Maru, in the Far East Section of the arboretum. One day we should have a full-size memorial somewhere, but it is very appropriate to have one at the NMA. Here’s my go, but I can only get down to 46: "1,000 British POWs from Hong Kong died during or shortly after the sinking of the Lisbon Maru on 2 October 1942. Today the rusting wreck lies 27 metres down on the silty seabed 120 miles east of Shanghai, at the easternmost edge of the Zhoushan Archipelago." I’m not proposing a formal competition, but if anyone can come up with a better version then I’ll send it to a survivor or two for their blessing, and then back to Anita.
23 I think I’ve found a mistake in We Shall Suffer There. I seem to have left out Henry George Hallam of the Hong Kong Police. But I wonder what his story is? How and where did he pass away in order to end up with an unknown grave on 16 July 1944? With only a handful of exceptions, unknown graves result from the fighting itself, or later losses such as the Lisbon Maru and air crashes. Does anyone know what happened to Mr Hallam? 23 Stephen Brunning (see April 2012) has found a photo of Sapper Edward Robert Brunning who lost his life 17 December 1941. 23 Dave Deptford notes: “DNW Auction 19 - 20 Sept 2013, Lots 784 and 785 respectively WW2 groups of 5 each to Privates [John] Hoosha and [Alexander] Colvin, both Winnipeg Grenadiers. Both estimated at GBP180+”. 23 On the Stanley group we have been trying to identify a ‘Jenny’ whose brother was Jack Dempsey and whose husband was in the HK Police and was lost during the war and who was evacuated to Australia with a small son in 1940. Post war she married a Mr Miller. I believe the first husband must be Sub-Inspector John Joseph Walsh who passed away 4-3-42 and was married to a Jeanette Walsh who was evacuated to Australia in 1940 with her son Frank (born 12 November 1935). If this is the right family, I am in touch with the grandson Shane Miller who still lives in
21 After all his research, Chris Harley from In From The Cold is putting forward 28 names of people who lost their lives in Hong Kong during the war but are not yet recognized by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These include Nurse Jessie Holland (wife of Adam M. Holland, PWD, who himself would be killed in January 1945 in the bombing of Bungalow C at Stanley), W. Zimmern HKVDC, and Harold Holden who I had identified in my earlier research. So far the list does not include Theodore Bell or Ernest Ablong as we do not yet have Death Certificates for them. Who would have thought we would still be doing this so long after the fighting finished? The list also included Hryniewicz, HKVDC, but he served under the name of Greenevitch so will need to be taken out. Nothing is ever simple with Hong Kong! 21 Ken Wright sent a good photo of Orita Masura, who was implicated in various war crimes including the Stanley College Massacre. (Illustrated)
20 Basil ‘Danny’ Parrott’s (RA) daughter got in touch. Parrott escaped with Whitehead from Shamshuipo and I will be very interested to learn more. 20 Dave Deptford reports the following medal groups currently being offered by Aberdeen Medals - E H M Clifford CBE, MC, Colonel RE, GBP4275. R D Walker OBE MC ED, Lt Col Director of War Supplies, GBP4600. G F Harrison MBE, Major RAMC, GBP2600. Clifford commanded the Royal Engineers in Hong Kong, and Walker was Chief Engineer of the KCRC and wrote the 1940 evacuation manual and commanded the HKVDC engineers.
19 George Boote kindly sent me some pages from the chapter “Stars In Battledress” from the book “If Only I had Wings” by the recently deceased and much loved (mainly because of Dad’s Army) Bill Pertwee. In a section about Cardew Robinson (at school in the early 1970s I had a Physics teach called Mr Robinson who had been a Halifax pilot during the war – we all called him Cardew though didn’t know why) it mentions that he was sent to Hong Kong at war’s end: “We then got new orders to go to Hong Kong. Our lads ran everything there, including the post offices. Some commandos arrived at this time and we did a show for them using the pavement near our quarters as a stage, and the audience sat in the road and the pianist sat in the gutter. Hardly the Palladium! We were in Hong Kong for about five weeks serving primarily as reoccupation forces, and then we came back with the first repatriation troops from the Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.” Another entertainer called Joe Black was also on board, When he arrived at Shamshuipo POW Camp he noted: “By tremendous coincidence someone I knew. His name was Albert Stevenson, and he had been the stage manager at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire when I used to play there in variety before the war. Like other prisoners Albert had suffered at the hands of the Japanese; suffering that plagued him for many, many, years. I believe he eventually had something like thirty operations. In the post-war world of entertainment he rose to be a television director and producer, one of his big successes being the long-running discovery series, New Faces.” There is no Albert Stevenson in my POW records, so I’m unsure who this was. 19 Mike Chapman, grandson of Joshua Pollock who was the senior naval officer on the Lisbon Maru got back in touch. 19 Richard Frost has also come across this collection on the New Zealand library website, which appear to have been taken by an aviation company. They date from around October 1949 and are also extremely detailed once you zoom in. It's a little awkward but worth it. These include the earliest photo of Sai Wan Cemetery that I have yet seen. 19 Benjamin Lai notes that in the 1938-1941 British Army (Half Yearly Army List - Revised for the period ending 31 Dec 1941 - Crown Publishing 1942) (which should list every regular officers in the British Army), the only reference to a Cyril Jones was this: Jones, Cyril, Born 30/10/05, E Lan. R. 2Lt 4/2/26, Lt. 4/2/29, Adjutant 1/10/35 - 29/9/38, Capt 15/2/38, acting Major 27/8/40 - temp. Maj 23/11/40. Presumably this was the famous Cyril ‘Potato’ Jones of the Royal Scots (rather than East Lancs), but he seems to have been a Captain again when he commanded A Company, and I actually thought he was a Lieutenant in 1940. Anyone know more?
18 The HK Prisoners of War Association assisted by the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association and the Hong Kong Adventure Corps held the annual Victory Day Ceremony at the City Hall today.
17While checking the wording of Churchill’s “We Shall Suffer There” speech, I came across this short but totally unexpected video.
16 Phillip Cracknell reports that he has access to a large amount of documents, police reports, photos, diaries etc. relating to Harold Matches who was a Police officer in Hong Kong before and after the war and was interned in Stanley Camp. He died some 20 years ago and his wife died recently.
13 Alexandra Talbot kindly sent a photo of Mike Kendall (SOE, Z Force HKVDC) and his two daughters. Both she (Mike and Betty Kendall were her godparents and Mike was her father’s best friend) and I would be very keen to contact the family if anyone is in touch with them. 13 Mat Booth reports that: “I recently went to find JLO PB3 near the old police station in Wong Nei Chung. On the way I had a look at Lawson’s Bunker and it’s in a sorry state. Construction rubbish everywhere and some of the bunkers are being used by cleaners/construction workers to store their stuff. It’s also heavily overgrown which has added to the legions of mosquitoes that plague the site.” I’ll see if I can visit. Sounds rather like it is reverting to its pre-2005 state.
10 Sent a few bits and pieces to the BBC’s Heir Hunters program, relating to the Lisbon Maru. More when we get nearer to the transmission date of this episode (probably early 2014).
8George Brown’s (RASC) grandson got in touch. I had already reported on this family in May 2012. Brown had marred a local girl, Shuit Chun Cheong before the Japanese invasion. His grandson notes: “He had two children with her, my aunty Rose (born in 1940) and my father, born June 2nd 1942 (and so born after his capture). My grandfather was transported to Tokyo, Japan as a PoW and after the war never returned to Hong Kong to find his children. My father remained there until he was 18 when he then made his way to the UK where he eventually met his father for the first time who had by then (1960) remarried and had two other children.” Brown’s wife died in around 1951 of TB. The family has no records of her and no idea as to her ancestry. They would be very interested in learning more about her birth/death and parentage if anyone can help.
7 I was delighted to hear from Jack Mitchell (Corps Signals, HKVDC) again about last month’s question concerning L. H. Phillips on the KGV Roll of Honour. He notes: “Regarding your enquiry about L H Phillips (July, '13 Newsletter), I think that he was one of three brothers (I remember him and a younger brother, Howard), whose parents were American Missionaries in China. L.H. was at the old Central British School (now known as KGV) and I remember Howard at one of the KGV School functions post war.” Hopefully this brings me a little closer to tracking his fate. Presumably his name will appear in some American memorial.
5Chris Potter joined the Stanley Group noting: “I have a drawing signed by [A. Savitsky] of my mother and me (as an infant in a sling on her back). I'll try to post a pic. Some facts: my father, John Potter (HKVDC) was killed on Christmas Day 1941. He was a partner in Leigh and Orange, architects. I was born in HK in September 1941 and Stanley became our home for the duration.”
1Frode Olsen kindly sent his research into the life of Kaj Soren Kjaer – a Danish citizen who was killed with the HKVDC on 19 December 1941. Oddly enough, he was born in Copenhagen, and we were there on holiday (less than a kilometre away from his house) when Frode sent it. He noted: “Kaj Soren Kjaer was born 22 November 1913 as the son of Carpenter Jens Andreanus Kjaer (Kjær) and Emilie Filippa Pauline, maiden name Gronemann. The family lived in a small ground floor flat on 50 Engelstedsgade in the eastern part of Copenhagen (Østerbro) in Denmark. The house still exists”. He would be interested in any other information anyone has about him and The East Asiatic Company (Danish: Det Østasiatiske Kompagni or ØK) where he worked. Interestingly we stayed in Copenhagen, not far from here, over the summer holidays. 1 Richard Frost kindly sent me this link to a collection of photographs from a gentleman who served on HCMS Prince Robert. I recognise around 25% as being from the official Canadian photographer, so I suspect that they all (aside from the banknotes) are. But they are really high quality scans, and a fantastic collection. 1 Richard Hide kindly corrected my post last month: “It was Donald who died last month. Duncan died in 2009. Both are buried alongside their father Admiral Chan Chak KBE at the Tsuen Wan Cemetery (荃灣華人永遠墳場) Hong Kong.” I have fixed it accordingly. Richard also sent a photo of his parents’ wedding which took place within a fortnight of ‘Buddy’ Hide’s return to the UK following the Christmas Day escape.
August 1st, 2013 Update
Sugar's Christening photo and invitation (courtesy Geoffrey Kingman-Sugars), the late Rod Suddaby (courtesy Nick Parkes via Meg Parkes) Cenotaph then and now, Wanchai from The Peak (author), Newton (courtesy Daniel Kirmatzis) Gwen Flower story (The Telegraph), Wanchai and Kellett Island, 1930 (courtesy Ian Inglis)
July News It's good to see that the Researching FEPOW History group (see the 26th) have another conference planned for 2015. This team has done a great deal of excellent work in not only researching the period and the individuals concerned, but also in promoting their memory through a series of appropriately-placed memorials.
31 Henry Ching notes that he has published the next two editions of his Occasional Papers. I believe these will soon be available here on the usual website.
30 Henry Lott's (Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps) grandson got in touch, noting that he has placed a number of his grandfather's items with the Imperial War Museum. He also noted that they called themselves the Donald Duck Corps, which I had not heard before!
29 Jack Mitchell appears to have solved the riddle of the relationship between the two Marriotts discussed last month, noting: "Kid was quite handy with the gloves. Sonny, Kid's son, was quite a keen motorcyclist who was in the Armoured Cars in December 1941. He was 'shipped' to Japan on the 3rd draft (as I was) in 1943 and after the war returned to Hong Kong and worked in the GPO as Controller of Posts. Sonny, as I remember him, was steady, quietly spoken, reliable and someone good to have around when the chips were down."
28 Ronald Thorn's (Royal Engineers, Lisbon Maru) cousin got in touch.
26 The Researching FEPOW History group have announced their July 2013 newsletter, which contains - among other things - details of the forthcoming 2015 conference.
25 Ron Rakusen notes, seeing the discussions earlier this year about the location 'Stonehenge' in Stanley, that he believes it was also used by the Freemansons for their meetings.
21Went for a walk round The Peak to get some photos for that book. It's quite thought provoking ro look East from the northern path and realise that the short distance from Jardine's Lookout in the far middle ground to the Hopwell Centre in the near middle ground was the entire advance managed by the Japanese from the December 18th invasion to the surrender on the 25th. 21 The Telegraph continued its overage of the Gwen Flower story today. I was one of the people asked to confirm the Captain Witney story. I couldn’t, but looking at the list of HK doctors lost 41-45: RAMC: Lt-Col Cyril Armstrong (Married) Captain B. D'Epinay Barclay (Married) Lieutenant Andrew Maxwell (Marital status unknown. Age unknown) Major John Officer (Marital status unknown. Age unknown) Captain Peter Witney (Marital status unknown) Other: Dr Orloff (Married) Lt-Col George Black (Married) It seems that Witney Is perhaps the most likely. He 28 when he died; Flower was 31 or 32 at that time. Interestingly, Dr Orloff’s case is one that I am currently working on with In From The Cold (see last month). His wife, shot by fifth columnists on December 24th, is listed by the CWGC, but Dr Orloff – killed at the Silesian Massacre – is not.
17 Philip Cracknell mentions that he saw on eBay a set of items relating to Lance Corporal W. Forrest, Royal Scots. “The medals consisting of 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, War Medal. All contained within registered box from Infantry records, Perth, Scotland, addressed to Mr Wm Forrest of Leith, Edinburgh. The lot also included two Japanese army rank slides/boards, Glengarry hat, cap badge removed, two 'RS' white metal shoulder titles, Australian Military Forces soldiers pay book to 3055962 William Forrest (many recovered FEPOWs received Australian pay Books as originals were lost/destroyed.) The lot also had a Membership card of Southend & District FEPOW Association dated 1992 to Mr W Forrest and a Newsletter from The Japanese Labour Camp Survivors Association, photocopy of some pages of 'One Day at a Time', A British POW's account of life in a Japanese slave labour camp and a Military duffel in green with name rank and number.” It sold for just over 300 pounds.
15Icy Smith let me know that her children’s book about Hong Kong during the war, Three Years and Eight Months has been published. I haven’t read it yet, but she is kindly sending me a copy.
14Sorting through some old photos looking for potential illustrations for a new book, I came across a set taken in the 30s and kindly sent to me by Ian Inglis nearly ten years ago. 14 David Bellis of gwulo.com noted (see last month): “Several newspapers have carried the story of Rae and her father's diary in today's edition. The longest version is in the Sunday Magazine of today's South China Morning Post. Thanks to Hong Kong journalist Simon Parry for the good write-up, and to Phil for putting Simon on to the story. A shorter version of Simon's article also appears in today's edition of the UK's Daily Mail. Finally another UK newspaper, the Telegraph, has published their own account of the story.”
13 I received an email from London: “I am enquiring as to an individual who died when the Lisbon Maru was sunk. His name was Percy Alfred Newton. He was an Old Boy of Emanuel School in Battersea, London. Next year I am publishing an account of the experiences of Emanuel boys who served in both world wars. I am also holding an exhibition in November 2014 at the School.” Newton was a subaltern of the Middlesex. Although I had listed him as ‘unallocated’ (meaning simply that my research had been unable to allocate him to a particular company), it’s clear from a quick check that I did for the school that he was actually in A Company.
12 Today I met with Odyssey, a publishing house in Hong Kong. They have shown interest in my book of battlefield walks and have already produced a draft version of a sample chapter. More later. 12 William Chester-Woods (HKPF) great grandson-in-law got in touch. This family was one of many separated by the evacuation to Australia and the war in general. Today split between Australia and the US, they are planning a grand reunion in America in 2015. My correspondent’s wife added: “It has been over 30 some years since all 4 siblings were all together. Just thinking about it brings me tears. I cannot wait for that day they all reunite together.”
9 John Headley’s (RAMC) grandson got in touch. The RAMC men were of course generally above average intelligence and education, and were often interesting people. He notes: “Joe was an interesting character. Sent to an orphanage at a young age he joined the Army and was posted to Tientsin in China. He met a local Chinese girl but was unable to marry her whilst serving. To be demobbed he had to return to the UK which he did and then made his own way back to China where he married my grandmother Ying Mei Bao and set up a lucrative dance hall business and had three children. Clearly he recognised that war was coming because he re-joined the British Army shortly before the start of the war and was posted to Hong Kong. He believes that he was comparatively well treated during his imprisonment because he could speak colloquial Chinese and cook rice! He also learned to play chess and helped to teach me. After the Japanese surrender he returned to Blighty with his Chinese Wife and had another 7 children (Ying Mei was a catholic!) of which my mother was the first (4th overall).” They also included two photos of the couple, including one pre-war (illustrated).
7 Richard Hide kindly let me know that Donald Chan, son of Admiral Chan Chak and in fact a neighbour of ours, passed away at 02.40 this morning. His twin brother Duncan passed away a few years ago. Richard noted: “Donald had battled his cancer for the past year, and managed to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition on his father in Canton on the 9th April 2013.” 7 Heard today that Bill Doull of the Royal Rifles had died in April.
5 Luba Estes let me know the very good news that she has started work on her memoires! After surviving wartime Hong Kong and then Shanghai, she ended up leading a very exciting life on the stage and in the CIA. 5 Chris Harley (see last month) is now working through Merchant Navy death certificates thanks to a document entitled: “Registry of Shipping and Seamen: War of 1939-1945; Merchant Seamen Prisoner of War Records. DEATHS OF ALLIED PRISONERS OF WAR IN JAPANESE CONCENTRATION CAMPS”, which I have never come across before. 5 Russ Banks sent me a link to his organisation which is seeking to provide British passports for Chinese ex-servicemen in Hong Kong. It’s a little outside my normal area, but interesting nonetheless.
2 Also following up from last month’s notes, Elizabeth Ride kindly informed me that: “You ask about Shafkad Ali, Mohamed Sadik and Asghar Ali. These men were accused of attacking their POW guards on the 19th April 1943, and executed on the 15th July 1943. The transcript of their trial ('Captured Enemy Document') is filed in the BAAG papers in the Hong Kong Heritage Project in Kowloon.”
1 Can anyone help identify the L.H. Philips who is listed on the Roll of Honour at KGV? I can find five different possible entries in the CWGC files, none of which quite fit. I have asked people familiar with the other names on that roll, but no one has yet identified him – in fact he may be American. 1. Henry Ching kindly confirmed that Bashir Ahmed (see last month) was an ARP dispatch rider. 1 I heard today that Roderick Suddaby died on Thursday. Rod was, until his recent retirement, in charge of the Documents Section at the Imperial War Museum. He was always helpful to me and a host of other researchers, including giving my wife and I a lift to attend meetings in the UK on more than one occasion. Meg Parkes sent me an excellent photo of him, and Jonathan Moffat kindly sent a copy of his obituary in The Times. 1 Bertram Sugars’s (Stanley Internee) son got in touch. This was one of those fascinating emails that I always hope for! Sugar had been a pilot in the RNAS in the Great War and was invalided out of the new RAF in May 1918 after almost dying in a crash. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1928 via eight years in Shanghai. In Hong Kong he was a member of the HKVDC but was also number two under the Controller of Government Stores. Immediately before the war he joined the Auxiliary Ordnance Corps with the rank of Acting Major. The AOC is one of those Auxiliary Corps that is hard to research as it was formed so shortly before the outbreak of war. According to the Civil Defence Corps Regulations, 1941, promulgated on 4 July 1941, there were ten Corps: Auxiliary Communication Service. Auxiliary Conservancy Corps. Auxiliary Fire Service. Auxiliary Labour Corps. Auxiliary Medical Corps. Auxiliary Ordnance Corps. Auxiliary Quartering Corps. Auxiliary Supply Corps. Auxiliary Transport Service. Civil Pay and Accounts Service. The Auxiliary Ordnance Corps. is documented further in the Instructions of 9 October 1941. With these directives being given so shortly before the invasion, it isn’t surprising that we don’t know more about them. My contact, Geoff Sugars, then aged one, and his mother were evacuated to Australia in 1940. His father was interned in room 9/50A (i.e. an amah’s quarters) in Stanley. Can anyone identify the guests at his Christening?
July 1st, 2013 Update
Mr Stimson now, Mr Stimson then (both courtesy Chris Whaley), Ray Stoddard (courtesy Bob Sutcliffe) Louis Baggs (courtesy Michael Sage), Buckley memorabilia (courtesy Dave Deptford, via eBay), Joseph Burgess (courtesy Dan Bond) Spanish Villa (via YouTube), HK Death Certificates (courtesy Chris Harley), P51 crash documentation (courtesy Elizabeth Ride)
As I write, it is 33.2 degrees at Shamshuipo, 32.6 at Argyle Street, and 32.3 at Stanley. The humidity stands at 72%, but is expected to be back to 95% tomorrow. I once wrote that the POW experience could be phrased in four words: hunger, boredom, disease, and death. I forgot discomfort. Showers, air conditioning, a change of clothes, a cold drink from the fridge; the POWs and internees spent four summers with none of the little luxuries that makes Hong Kong’s weather bearable today.
29 Several people pointed out that the 1938 YouTube video of Hong Kong (see last month) had a great view of the ‘Spanish Villa’, also known as Altamira, which was occupied by B Company Royal Rifles at the time The Ridge was evacuated. I managed to cut a still from the video, and driving past in a taxi to Stanley today it seems little changed. 29 Michael Hurst sent an update noting that the Spring-Summer 2013 Taiwan POW Society newsletter is up on their website.
28Chris Harley (In From The Cold) is now working on two interesting cases. The first concerns the Orloffs. Dr Orloff was killed at the Salesian massacre but is not recorded in CWGC files. His wife was shot by fifth columnists on 24 December 1941 near Queen Mary Hospital but is. Looking at the death certificates, it is clear that the two were confused. The other case is Sarah Moir who, I believe, was in Amoy with her husband when the war started though she was in the Hong Kong Auxiliary Nursing Service. She died in the Great Western Road internment camp in Shanghai (though is recorded as ‘Sally’ Moir in CWGC files) in Shanghai where she was interned with her husband, though a Kathleen Muir (again a nurse) was interned in Stanley and I believe was their daughter.
27Ron Parker, son of the highly respected commander of D Company Royal Rifles of Canada, Major Maurice Parker, contacted me to say that he has redesigned the website he built ten years ago (hard to believe it’s so long) in his father’s honour. The new website looks great, and has many new pages from when I last visited. h 27 The KGV Alumni newsletter today carried a wonderful article about ‘Vintage Kowloon’ featuring the memories of Joyce Hardie who was a 1940 evacuee. Her father was killed in the Merchant Navy.
25 George Plimmer’s (Royal Scots) daughter got in touch. She is also the niece of Donald Plimmer, Royal Scots, who was on the Lisbon Maru. 25 Richard Morgan sent the Stanley Group a fascinating account of Henry ‘Kid’ Marriott, a boxer and a Sergeant in the Naval Dockyard Police who ended up as a Stanley internee towards the end of a very interesting life. His two daughters (and possibly his wife?) were evacuated to Australia in 1940. In Commonwealth War Graves Commission records he is listed as Sapper Henry Marriott, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, aged 60, dying on 13 February 1942. Richard notes: “I first came across Kid Marriott when researching the Gresson Street incident which took place in March 1918. Five Hong Kong Police Officers, Inspector Mortimer O'Sullivan, Sergeant Henry Goscombe Clarke, Detective Constable Kwong Kui, Detective Constable Kwong Sang and Constable Moola Singh, were shot and killed whilst attempting to arrest a criminal gang in a tenement building in Gresson Street, off Queens Road East. Kid Marriott, still a Sergeant in the Naval Dockyard Police, was at home with his wife in St. Francis Street on the other side of Queen's Road East [immediately opposite], when the shooting started. He grabbed his service rifle and ran down into the street. He was immediately confronted by an escaping suspect who opened fire at him at point blank range, the bullet narrowly missing its target. Marriott chased the fugitive up the hillside and brought the man down with a shot from his rifle, killing him. On 8th May 1918, a ceremony was held at Central Police Station in Kid Marriott's honour, hosted by the Captain Superintendent of Police, Mr. Messer. He was presented with a gold watch and chain with a medal attached. The inscription read: ‘Presented to H. Marriott by the Community and members of the Police of Hong Kong for his courageous conduct in the Gresson Street Affair on 22nd January 1918’.” Marriott is listed in the Matilda Hospital records as having been admitted on 20 December 1941, though frustratingly they do not list why.
24 Brian Edgar has found no fewer than eighteen audio interviews with Hong Kong’s POWs and Internees on the IWM website. I knew half of them personally, and it was great to hear their voices once more as all have now passed on. In fact I was so impressed that I have added all eighteen to the bottom of this web page as they’re well worth a listen (though the sound quality varies a bit). 24 A worthy continuation of the R.E. Jones diary story (see below) can be read on Gwulo here. 24 It’s not often that the NME (New Musical Express) contacts me, but when they did today I of course knew why. They are writing an article about the delightfully named ‘F_ck Buttons’, one of whose grandfathers was on the Lisbon Maru. I sent them a postcard of the ship to use as an illustration. (I have the FB’s CD ‘Tarot Sport’ on which the piece entitled ‘Lisbon Maru’ appears. It actually isn’t bad).
21The producers of the BBC One programme, Heir Hunters contacted me. “This series follows probate researchers as they track down potential heirs to unclaimed estates. In each episode we explore some of the family history and relevant social history in celebration of the life of the person who has left the estate.” One of the episodes for the next series has a connection with the Lisbon Maru, which sounds very interesting.
18 As my older son is now something of a photographer, I asked him to take pictures of several artefacts I have that have been found on the battlefields over the years. One was a Japanese 13mm bullet (illustrated), one of only two I know of that have turned up in Hong Kong in recent years. Distinguished from the more common American 50-cal by a lack of cannelure, it is almost perfectly preserved.
15 In the Honours List today, a well-deserved MBE to: “Rodney William Beattie. Manager, Commonwealth War Graves Cemeteries, and director, Thailand-Burma Railway Centre, Thailand. For services to the Commonwealth war graves and the history of the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre in Thailand.” Rod has also been a stalwart at the Researching FEPOW History conferences.
14Tim Luard notes that his wife has: “been very excited by the news of the emergence of Rae, daughter of RE Jones, whose diary from Stanley you may recall I found a few years ago on the bookshelves at the old McEwan family home on the Isle of Arran and she transcribed, without really knowing whose it was or how it got to be there. It turns out Rae always thought the diary had been destroyed [by her mother], and was amazed to see it up there on the Gwulo site when she googled her own name on her new iPad. It's now being returned to her by the museum at St Stephens where Alison had sent it for safe keeping. Anyway, the full moving story has now been written up by David Bellis, as you may have already seen, but perhaps you'd like to draw your readers' attention to it.”
12Dave Deptford let me know that a set of documents relating to William Buckley, RAOC, are: “Currently on E Bay under ‘Hong Kong - Collectibles-WW2 Japanese POW...’ Much paperwork, diaries, recipe book, ration cards and much else ascribed to the above.”
11 Brian Edgar found an interesting link about Max Bickerton – probably the main interpreter in Stanley.
10 Meg Parkes is working on a project to find: “artwork with medical connotations (medical in the broadest sense not just illness and treatments but also depicting the psychological aspects of captivity - faith, entertainments, humour etc.)” I have sent her a few bits and pieces from the Hong Kong files. 10 I am in touch with Chris Harley from the In From The Cold Project – an attempt to identify and commemorate all British war dead not currently in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s files (and to correct mistakes in existing records). He is currently going through the Hong Kong records and I will help where I can. I know of perhaps four or five missing names, though getting sufficient documentary evidence to have them included will be a challenge. 10 Through the FEPOW Group in the UK I am in touch with the daughter of Private Alexander Thomson, Royal Scots, who was attached to the Corps of Military Police. She notes: “He told me that he was the last one on the Lisbon Maru before it went down - couldn't swim, but was caught on a hook on a hatch cover, which he then held on to, before the Chinese arrived. After pickup by the Japanese, he developed gangrene in the wound - somewhere near the groin - which was cleaned up by a Japanese naval surgeon. He wound up for some time in Hiroshima at a POW hospital, where most of the other patients had dysentery. After he recovered, he wound up being sent to Kobe. He told me he worked for Mitsubishi, Matsui, and in dockyards unloading sugar. Of course, they stole what sugar they could. He was discharged after return to Britain because of damage to his eyesight.”
8Joseph Thomas Burgess’s (Middlesex) great nephew got in touch. Burgess was killed at Pillbox 28 in Stanley on Christmas Day 1941. I looked at the site a couple of years ago, but no trace of the pillbox seems to be visible today.
6Brian Edgar mentioned: “Father Nicholas Maestrini's book 'My Twenty Years With The Chinese' It's one of the rare detailed accounts of a European's life outside the camps during the occupation, and it also includes a description of his work setting up the post-war Catholic Centre with Father Meyer.” I was able to find a copy on the Interweb pretty easily, and have ordered it for summer holiday reading.
5Lewis Baggs’ (RASC) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo. He notes: “Louis was born in Bath on 12/10/1917. He was the son of Charles Baggs who was a Somerset Light Infantry Regiment Old Contemptible veteran having served on the Western Front and on the North West Frontier during the First World War. Louis joined the army as a Beachley Boy at Chepstow on 5th May 1932. He was posted to the RASC as a mechanic and in 1939 was serving in HK. He was photographed at the Kwong Lom Studios in HK some time in 1939. He sent this photograph / post card to his sister Phyllis, my mother… He was housed in camps in Amagasaki, Osaka and Toyama, Honshu. He was 4st in weight when repatriated. The family hardly recognized him when he stepped off the train at Bath. He returned to the army and served for a few years. He was then employed as a post courier for Bath City Council until retirement in the 1970's. He passed away peacefully in a nursing home in 2005.” 5 Philip Cracknell found an interesting list of ‘Hong Kong executions’ at the PRO in London. As well as all the expected names, there are three Indians listed who do not appear to be in CWGC lists: Shafkad Ali, Mohamed Sadik, and Asghar Ali, all listed under 15 July 1943. Also, there’s a Bashir Ahmed listed under 29 October 1943. However, his name doesn’t appear on the trial transcripts covering the thirty or more others executed that day. I have a Bashir Ahmed listed as a Dispatch Rider with the ARP HQ. I wonder if it could be the same person? 5 Glynis Durrant, daughter of evacuee Francoise Paulin, got in touch. She also had a Canadian great uncle, Frank Benoist who lived in Shanghai/Hong Kong working for the Chinese Maritime Customs during the period and would like to know more about him.
2 Ray Stoddard’s nephew (see last month) sent me an interesting set of documents relating to his uncle. He also notes: “I should mention that Major Bishop was a family friend And that Capt Banfil was a next door neighbor in Cookshire Quebec and he delivered my baby sister in June 39.” Ray and his four brothers all served during the war.
1 Craig Mitchell and Elizabeth Ride continued their discussion about P51s shot down in and around Hong Kong. Elizabeth found the BAAG report about Houck (later executed at Big Wave Bay) being shot down and – remarkably – Craig found his coat. 1 Christopher Whaley kindly sent ‘then and now’ photos of Lisbon Maru survivor Douglas Stimson, ex-stoker from HMS Thracian (see last month).
June 1st, 2013 Update
Albert Murchie (courtesy Randy Driscoll), HKVDC Top Brass (courtesy Susan Lange), Evacuee passport stamp (courtesy Henry Langley) War Department stone, Bowen Road Sergeants' Mess, Chinese War Memorial (all author) Boiler Room sketch (courtesy Brian Edgar), Wilkinson brothers (courtesy Wayne Carew), Asia Society HQ (author)
Well, I missed an anniversary in March. Tuesday 11 March 2013 was the tenth anniversary of the launch, at the FCC, of the newly-printed Not The Slightest Chance. To put it mildly, it’s been an interesting ten years!
30Christopher Whaley informs me that he met today Douglas Stimson, ex-stoker from HMS Thracian and Lisbon Maru survivor, who is now 93. I have asked him to send photos. 30 Craig Mitchell and Elizabeth Ride have been sharing a very interesting conversation over the fate of two P51s reported crashing around Hong Kong by BAAG.
29Henry Langley, whose father worked in the Hong Kong Dockyards in 1940 and whose mother and sisters were evacuated to Australia, kindly sent a copy of his mother’s wartime passport – together with photos of their temporary houses in Melbourne and Singapore. The latter move came about as his father was transferred to the Singapore Dockyards just before the war started, and his mother and sisters left Australia to join him there – barely escaping the Japanese invasion a short time later. 29 Walking back from work I stopped at the old Bowen Road Hospital to get photos of the interior of the guard house on Bowen Road, as its door was open. Interestingly, it has a fireplace and a chimney! It was a sunny day (for once. We had six inches of rain last Wednesday morning!) so I also walked up to the Sergeants’ Mess and got a decent shot of that. 29 A friend sent me this very interesting link to a film of Hong Kong shot in 1938. Some bits seem very familiar, but others not at all, so perhaps I have seen an edited version somewhere before. Interesting to see the Chinese War Memorial before it sustained its Second World War damage.
27Wayne Carew (the son of Duncan Izatt of 3 Coy, HKVDC) kindly sent two sets of photos of the related Wilkinson family. These included William Wilkinson junior (who was also 3 Coy), and Joe Wilkinson (illustrated) who was killed with many of 5 Bty.
25 Janet Sykes (daughter of Leonard Sykes, HKVDC) passed Wes Injerd the Zentsuji camp regulations, which Wes has now added to the appropriate page of www.mansell.com.
23Philip Cracknell informed the Stanley Group that while at the Imperial War Museum he read the diary of Stanley Internee Michael Lee Bevan who was the Deputy Head of ARP. He notes: “Interestingly the collection includes a sketch book (or scrap book) with beautiful drawings of Camp Life including views of Tytam Bay, a view from the IQ [Indian Quarters], Stanley Bay, a busy rendition of Roosevelt Avenue full of activity, a depiction of the Canteen, the IQ Kitchen, and many others and surprise surprise the Grass Boiler in the IQ. It’s the same drawing as was posted earlier but much clearer and entitled ‘The Grass Boiler’. There is no signature as in the previous one. The man at the back with the cap on and bare chested, is I think an internee. I assume Bevan must have been the artist.”
21 The new facebook page showed that well-known photo of female ARP wardens outside a shelter. I recall discussing it with others several years ago, and wondering whether it was taken immediately pre-war or post-war. Something about those uniforms just doesn’t look quite right – though I may be wrong. I asked Barbara Anslow, who is the only member of the wartime ARP I’m still in touch with. She replied: “My memory thinks they did have uniforms, I 'm pretty sure they were green. I myself didn’t have uniform, being office staff.”
20Apropos of yesterday’s article, Bill Lake kindly sent an excerpt from John Charter’s diary describing the incident in great detail. At one point it notes: “They seemed to come down so slowly, and when both were halfway down we saw a huge splash in Tytam Bay, not far from Stanley beach. A column of water went up and then for a long time the water came seething a foaming up in a big circle: there was no explosion and I think it must have been one of the heavy red-hot engines that had fallen out of the first plane.” I wonder if that splash could actually have been the other 2,000 bomb, which may not have had time to arm properly?
19The South China Morning Post excelled itself today with an article about Craig Mitchell’s discovery of the wrecks of the two Grumman Avengers that crashed in the hills having collided while attacking Stanley on 16 January 1945. Not only was there a full length column on the front page, but page four was dedicated to the story too. The exact locations are being kept secret for the moment as the crews are still missing and their remains are likely to be somewhere nearby. However, as the wrecks are in a very inaccessible location, we’re not too concerned that they will be accidentally found.
15 Geoff Douglass has started a facebook group about the Battle of Hong Kong. It’s worth a look and there are plenty of photos there already. 15 Ray Stoddard’s (Royal Rifles) nephew got in touch. 15 Brian Edgar reported a new novel set in wartime Hong Kong, called the Rice Paper Diaries by Francesca Rhydderch. The author can be seen talking about the book in this unusually well-made video. She notes that she is the great niece of internee Menna Wilders (nee Gillies). As no one appears under that name in the Stanley lists, a little sleuthing turned up a London Gazette of 10 February 1948, which showed that she changed her name from Elizabeth Menna Owen Jones to Elizabeth Menna Owen Gillies at that time. In other words, she was in fact nee Jones.
13Harry Graham’s (RN) son got in touch, as he is visiting Hong Kong. His father served on HMS Cicala, and his sister had already been in touch with me some time back.
10Doctor Harry Talbot’s (Stanley internee) daughter got in touch. She has an interesting 200-page autobiography that Talbot wrote of his experiences in Hong Kong from 1933-46. He was Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s doctor, knew the Soong family and was generally very well connected. He was also a close friend of Mike Kendall of the HKVDC’s Z Force – Mike & Betty were her God parents - and she would very much like to make contact with the Kendall family again. The Kendalls had two adopted daughters who may have moved to Canada. 10 Jack Mitchell of the HKVDC got back in touch to comment on last month’s mention of the Mogra family: “My parents knew them in the late ‘20s, when they lived in Shameen, Canton. Mr. Mogra was a Parsee (Iranian) merchant. As far as I remember, Jimmy M had two brothers, Kekki and George and two sisters, Lily the older and a younger one whose name I have forgotten. The sisters were boarders at the D.G.S. in Jordan Road and used to visit us from time to time. I believe one of the boys lived in Hong Kong after W.W.II but for how long and where, I don’t know.” 10 Brian Edgar reports that there is going to be a musical based on the experiences of RAF Squadron Leader Donald Hill.
9 Susan Lange, Captain David Strellet’s granddaughter, kindly sent me an extremely high quality annotated photo of the HKVDC senior officers in camp in the New Territories in 1940. Standing, from left to right: Captain David Louis Strellet, Captain Cedric Blaker MC, Lieutenant Cyril ‘Potato’ Jones (Royal Scots), Captain Fred Flippance. Sitting: Captain Sydney Batty-Smith (ADC Governor), Lieutenant-Colonel George Duncan Black, Colonel Henry Barron Rose (OC Volunteers), H.E. Governor (Lieutenant General Edward Felix Norton DSO MC), Lieutenant General Eric J.R. Mitchell, Captain Eric Neville Thursby (adjutant Volunteers), Lieutenant Parkinson (quartermaster Volunteers). It seems that all were still in Hong Kong when the war came, except the acting governor and Parkinson, though Black was the only one to lose his life in the conflict. 9 John McLellan (son of David McLellan HKVDC) got back in touch. I hadn’t previously realised that he was an evacuee.
6Outside the British Consulate today I photographed the new Asia Society HQ. The area has been transformed since I last went there and freely wandered over and around the old military buildings making up the Kennedy Road Ordnance Store! 6 Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group these minutes of the meeting of the Hong Kong University Senate on February 23, 1942. , adding: “I guess that 'Stonehenge' was the place also called 'the quarry', used by groups and individuals who wanted privacy. Does anyone have any idea where it was?” Barbara Anslow then noted that: “We used to call the 'Quarry' a small area of waste ground almost opposite the 'American Block' beyond which you could walk to the pre-war Leprosarium, and a little further on, Tweed Bay Hospital. (But it was easier to get to Tweed Bay H. from the path leading from Married Q, past Stanley Gaol, then to the sea.) This quarry had a fairly flat part, with quite high rocks on one side. The R.C.s used it for Mass on the first Christmas Day in Stanley, 1942, and subsequently for meetings. Father Meyer made a make-shift altar in the rocks, and got some RC policemen to haul some 'Mimi Laus' (concrete blocks lying about the camp, they had been used to protect doorways etc. during the battle) to use as (most uncomfortable) seats. I don’t remember the name Stonehenge being used for the quarry, but it could be.” 6 Philip Cracknell has been studying Canadian side arms during the battle, and has concluded: “The Canadian Army primarily used Colt semi automatic pistol (Model 1911-A1) chambered for .45ACP ammunition. They also used Smith & Wesson chambered for standard service .38 ammunition. Officers could buy their own side arms and some may have carried British Webleys .455 cal and British Enfield No 2 Mk1 Revolvers with 38 cal rounds but most would have used the US (Colt) manufactured semi automatic pistol rather than British revolvers.” I have also once found an automatic .38 cartridge (.380 Auto R P - R P is Remington Peters) at a Canadian position. 6 Martin Heyes sent me Diana Durbin’s obit from The Telegraph. He notes: “Connection with HK? Well, Deanna was born in Winnipeg, a fact I am sure was well-known to the Japanese High Command. After the Japanese captured the Mainland on 12 Dec, they set up loudspeakers in Kowloon and played records - tapes - whatever, of Deanna singing with a view to making the Canadians (Winnipeg Grenadiers) so sad and homesick that they would surrender! Don't believe it worked though.”
5I have started work on a long-term plan to sponsor a memorial to Hong Kong civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War. Being very conservative with the figures, there were 200,000-250,000 victims, and they have been largely forgotten. In fact there are very few memorials to local victims at all, except a few wartime graves, the ‘new’ memorial at Stanley to those lost at sea, and the old gate – originally raised for the Chinese victims of the Great War, while attached to British forces – at the north eastern entrance to the Botanical Gardens.
2Albert Murchie’s family (see last month) kindly sent a photo of him, and also the transcript of a radio transmission he made as a POW, kindly picked up and relayed to the family by Ceclia McKie on the US west coast, who transcribed an amazing number of these (scroll down here for ‘Capital Woman’).
1Frank Rawlings’ (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. The family were also evacuees. 1 On the Stanley group there has been discussion of a sketch of the Boiler room – found by Brian Edgar on eBay - at the ‘I.Q. Stanley’. Presumably this is the Indian Quarters. It’s now visible on Gwulo, though the artist has not yet been identified.
May 1st, 2012 Update
Scott-Lindsley self portrait (courtesy National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth), Percy Hatchett (courtesy Neil Andrews), Bill Glover (courtesy Nick Firby) William Jones' Fraktur (courtesy Ron Rakusen), Bell Obituary (courtesy Neil Lind), Austin Godson (courtesy Tracey Gibson) Shamshuipo Memorial (courtesy Ken Clark), Invasion Map (courtesy Kieran Wright), CLP HQ (author)
I have a problem. This month, as often happens, I have received far more interesting images than I have space for on this page. You would think technology would come to the rescue: I need some sort of system that would take the visitor to this site on one hand, and the 30,000 or so images of Hong Kong 1941-45 that I have on the other, and deliver the set of pictures that a particular visitor to this site would find most interesting. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep adding the usual ten images per month…
28 Percy Hatchett’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, sending a fine photo. 28 Albert Murchie’s (Royal Rifles) grandson got in touch.
27Ron Rakusen notes: “I am sure you know the story behind the design of the two stamps on the envelope that Bob Tatz sent you [See October 2012]? They were designed by the Postmaster General E I Wynne-Jones and the Chief Draughtsman of the PWD William Ernest Jones while they were both in Stanley Camp… The attached Fraktur is by William E Jones who obviously knew his bible. It was signed by him in February 1944 in Stanley Camp. You will see if you enlarge it that inside the ‘illuminated’ drawings are views of Hong Kong, pagodas, junks, etc.”
25 Wallace Wood’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch.
24 Elizabeth Ride called from Norway, discussing Jimmy Edulji Mogra. Mogra was in 3 Company, HKVDC, and was half Japanese. Fatally wounded in the Black Hole at Stanley Gap, he finally perished at Arygle Street early in January 1942. His CWGC entry shows his mother was Waki Mogra, and this document implies that he had two brothers and a sister of whom I was previously unaware. 24 On the FEPOW Community group, Ian Topham posted a very interesting set of photos of the rededication – by the POW Research Network Japan – of the memorials at the Hiroshima #4B camp. Although no ex-HK POWs were held there, it’s very encouraging to see these memorials being established and dedicated with plenty of local school children in attendance. Those responsible noted: “In 2003, a Memorial plaque was set into a remaining wall of the camp, and a Peace Park with monuments was opened. This year the old wall was decided to be demolished, but the concerned local people wanted to preserve the Memorial Plaque. With cooperation of many people and four big supermarkets, the plaque was preserved at a corner of the shopping area.”
22 Nick Firby got back in touch (see February) on the subject of William Glover, sending a photo of him that was probably taken shortly after the war. He notes: “Bill's death certificate records that he died in 1972 from Addison’s Disease, which I am told was attributed to the malnutrition he suffered while in captivity.”
22Kenneth Dawson’s (HKDDC) nephew got back in touch, kindly sending a number of pieces pertaining to his uncle who was second mate on the Kumsang, and lost his life when Gatling was bombed.
21Kieran Wright is working on updating the maps on his app (see last month) and adding the old coastlines.
19Henry Ching sent me two more of his Occasional Papers, this time covering Bombardier Douglas Orr, HKVDC, and the wartime contribution of the Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS). As usual, these can be read on http://www.rhkrnsw.org/ 19 A Hong Kong student at LSE emailed me asking: “where I can access information about Hong Kong Defence Corps during WWI - I know there were HK volunteers engaged in guard and patrol duties during the Great War.” Good question; I don’t recall any publications covering the HKVDC’s efforts in the Great War.
17 Ken Clark sent a good set of photos from his visit to Hong Kong last month, retracing the steps his father Sergeant Charles Albert Clark (Canadian Postal Corps) during the fighting (see December 2012), and visiting the site of Shamshuipo POW Camp. One of the photos was of Wanchai Gap Road, which I walk up every day after work in Hong Kong!
16 Neil Lind emailed me from Canada: “We have a National Magazine in Canada, known as Maclean's. It tries to put a Canadian face on the news despite our proximity to the US media. Of late, the mag has been using its back page as an obituary for Canadians to share the life story of their loved one. Some have died tragically and the family feels a need to share their story to ease their grieving I suppose, while others share the history of their loved one that left us. This week's story is about William Bell, a survivor of the Battle of Hong Kong. Bill was from Winnipeg.” I reported on Mr Bell’s death last month, but I think it is an admirable tradition to have obituaries of these ‘ordinary-but-not-ordinary’ people on the back page of the magazine. Interestingly, the article was not prompted by Mr Bell’s family.
15 Daisy Jex Rogers’ granddaughter got in touch. Daisy was born Gittins, and her daughter Vivienne Jex Davies spent the war years in Macau. Now, there’s a subject that no one has yet explored in any depth: Macau 1942-45. Considering the number of spies there from both sides, and the large Hong Kong refugee community (not to mention the coming and going between the two), it’s crying out for a good book.
13In a discussion with Henry Ching, he pointed out that in Hong Kong there were three MiDs for services while POWs – Captain R.R. Davies, Lieutenant K.M.A. Barnett and Captain R. Egal. I wonder how that stacks up against Singapore?
11 Ian McNay, Philomena Lapsley, and Henry Ching very kindly assembled the most complete list yet of HKVDC members – and others who were in the garrison in 1941 - who settled in New South Wales, Australia, after the war.
8 That’s it. Finally sent the first draft of my thesis (on the 1940 evacuation of British civilians from Hong Kong to Australia) to my supervisor. Now, while I wait for the inevitable list of complaints/revisions, I finally have time to focus on a few other projects. 8 Today the National Archives of Australia notified me that they had digitised a last set of records I had asked for. I think they have the most admirable system I have yet come across: If researchers want copies of items in their archives, we can pay to have them digitised – and the digitised pages are then made available on their website for everyone to see. So we get what we want, their costs are covered, and the whole community of interest benefits. (The file in question was “Hong Kong evacuees - Applications for financial assistance”). 8 Taking a taxi this evening from Mong Kok MTR station to KGV, I passed the old China Light & Power HQ on Argyle Street and was horrified to see that they had knocked the west wing down. I took a quick (and not very good) snap, but later discovered that they have simply returned it to the form it was in when built in 1940. It’s nice to see it being restored in the same form that would have been familiar to POWs at that time.
4 A rather good article appeared (in Chinese) in the Apple Daily today, about some of the efforts to preserve Hong Kong’s wartime heritage. It has attracted quite a lot of attention among people with similar interests. 4 Philip Cracknell paid a visit to Lyemun, taking a series of useful photos of the ordnance store bunkers there. He also found the memorial to Driver Joseph Hughes, GC, of the RASC who was killed in an explosion there in 1946. 4 The Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth kindly sent me the complete set of high-resolution images of Scott-Lindsley’s diary (see last month). The sketches are really extremely competent, and I’ve been able to write a few words about most of them. They include four or five of North Point POW Camp – a largely undocumented camp as it was only active for nine months – as well as portraits of fellow POWs Temporary Electrical Lieutenant John Charles Chown, RNVR, Paymaster Lieutenant William Richard L. Bowley, RNVR, Sub-Lieutenant Charlie R.C. Dobson, RNVR, of the destroyer HMS Thracian, Lieutenant Gerald Horey, RNVR, Paymaster Lieutenant Ralph Edward Sisson, RNVR, Chaplain Cedric J. Brown, Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Surgeon Lieutenant Charles Edward Mason, RNVR, Major Charles Joseph Manning, HKDDC, and Major Duncan Campbell, HKDDC.
3 Austin Godson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch, sending me both a photograph of him, and a typed up set of his letters home from around 1928 (from Egypt, China, India, on leave, and finally Hong Kong as he travelled with his battalion) to immediately before the invasion of Hong Kong. In total these come to over 25,000 words and make fascinating reading. It would be a very interesting project to fill in the gaps and turn it into a book. Those of us used to the conspicuous wealth of modern Hong Kong might be surprised by this comment as he passed through on the way to Tianjin in 1929: “About daybreak we anchored in the natural harbour of Hong Kong. This place struck me at once by the way it resembled Oban in situation. There is the same land-locked stretch of water with hills and woods on either side. The hills here, however, were much higher and steeper, and the nearest seemed almost to overhang the entire harbour. It was dotted here and there with beautiful little white villas, perched one above the other among the trees right to the top, and without any apparent means of getting from one to the other owing to the steepness of the slope on which they were built. We stayed only a few hours and no one could go ashore, but there was plenty to see in the harbour, which was crowded with shipping, and we were surrounded by Chinese boats and sampans selling fruit, all sorts of useful and useless European manufactured articles, cigarettes, a few specimens of wood-carving and china vases, and singing birds in cages. Excellent bananas were only 3d a dozen, and I enjoyed them so much after three weeks at sea that I ate sixpenceworth without stopping. This was the first close view I had of the Chinese people themselves. The great mass of the Egyptian people is naturally very poor when compared with our own, but the Chinese people must be so poor that poverty can hardly be said to exist among them; they simply live in a totally different manner from ourselves. The people in these sampans had each a long pole with a net on the end of it, and with this they picked up every scrap that was thrown from the ship.” 3 Andrew Hill sent a unique photo of his evacuated family at an uncertain location and notes: “The photograph features women and children, possibly on route to Hong Kong sometime after the Japanese surrender (1946?). My grandmother, Nora, is standing with her hands resting on my father’s shoulders. Norman looks to be about 11 years old in the photo. My aunt, Helen, is standing to the right, in the front row, third from the end, with her left hand folded over her right. Perhaps this was a group of evacuees en route, returning to Hong Kong. There are a few uniformed Polynesian or Melanesian women in the photo, which suggests the photo was taken in New Zealand, New Guinea or a South-Pacific island.” Actually I suspect the photo was taken on a voyage from Australia back to the UK at around that time, but it raises an interesting question. Do other people have photos from these voyages? 3 Brian Edgar reports on a websitethat: “tells the story of the designing in Stanley of the 1946 'peace issue' stamp.”
2 Henry Langley kindly sent me some wonderful photos of his family and their friends the Bowdens just before the 1940 evacuation of civilians Hong Kong.
April 1st, 2013 Update
POWs at Shamshuipo (courtesy Craig Mitchell, via Philip Cracknell), Postbridge then and now (author), Sheila Haynes article (Australia Women's Weekly) Repaired signboard (author), George Merriman (courtesy Harold Merriman), Fred Burford's letter (courtesy Anita Jones) 2,000 Bomb interior, from side, and rear (author)
The Internet has changed everything. Not only do extraordinary things now turn up all the time (read below for the Hong Kong Fellowship newsletters, and the Mervyn Scott-Lindsley diary – not to mention Brian Edgar’s constant discoveries), but it allows an incredible amount of sleuthing. Take this example: I’m spending the holidays alone, finalising the first draft of my thesis on the Hong Kong evacuation. A letter of October 1940 mentions a Dr Stout going to Australia to join his wife there. A check in my files shows that there was an evacuee married to a Dr E W Stout. A search in Hong Kong Government records online enabled me to expand the name to, a Lieutenant in the pre-war HKVDC. And finally a search in the Australian War Memorial online files shows that Edward William Stout became RMO of the 2/5th Independent Company in the Australian Army. Perhaps five minutes work gave me a depth of information that would have been utterly impossible to find in pre-internet days.
29 A friend very kindly sent me a link to a pdf file collecting the Hong Kong Fellowship News Letters. This is from the J.M. Braga collection at the National Library of Australia.
28 Several people were kind enough to send me this link to the obituary of Major Murray Ormsby, judge and prosecutor at the war crimes trials in Hong Kong. 28 While searching for something else, I was lucky enough to find this link to a very interesting Hong Kong POW Diary from Mervyn Scott-Lindsley, RNVR, now at the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth.
24 Tim Luard, author of ‘Escape From Hong Kong’, is giving an illustrated talk on Chan Chak's Escape, to the Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong on April 2 (6.30 drinks, 7.30 talk, at Price Waterhouse/Gloucester Tower). 24 George Merriman’s (MI6) son got in touch. This is very interesting, as I don’t know much about MI6’s involvement in Hong Kong after Drage left. He notes: “Unfortunately Dad didn’t write his memoirs – I think he took the whole MI6 secrecy stuff rather too seriously and it wasn’t until just before he died that he told us he’d been involved in intelligence work in HK. One of the last things he had to do before the fall of Hong Kong was go around the place disabling radio listening posts, and he actually copped a minor shrapnel wound in one leg near his ankle while being strafed by a Japanese fighter who’d spotted him on his travels and had a go at him.”
23 Dave Deptford notes: “As a group photo appears in the latest production you may be interested in the following - In the photo of the farewell for Inspector McLellan, No 2 Police Station, on the front row, far left, is identified one Police Sergeant Charman. Interesting chap, born UK, served WW1 21st London Regt, awarded Military Medal, then Distinguished Conduct Medal. Post war went to the RIC [Royal Irish Constabulary] and was blown up, then to Hong Kong and achieved fame as the OC of the Anti-Piracy Guard HK to Shanghai (appears in the well known photograph), returned to UK and joined up again with further war service, I think with the Middlesex. More to the point - should anyone be interested in the Honours and Awards (BEM Civil) and King's Commendation for Brave Conduct for 'special services during the enemy occupation of Hong Kong' or 'services during military operations in the Far East prior to 3rd Sept 1945' to Hong Kong residents - these can be found in the Supplement to the London Gazette No 37858 published on 17th January 1947.” 23 Assudamal H Vaswani’s son got in touch. Vaswani worked for M/s Utoomal &Assudamal Co., and was incarcerated in Stanley Jail by the Japanese “for assisting the likes of Sir Grayburn of HSBC and personnel of Shell”. Does anyone have further details?
22I downloaded Kieran Wright’s free iPad 2 app ‘Hongkong 1941’ from the AppleStore today. It’s a great idea – a summary of the battlefields, with photos and histories, and even a test for the real aficionados! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this myself, as the potential as an educational or tourist tool is fantastic. Well worth a look. 22 Noel Hammond’s (HKVDC) grandson got back in touch.
19Brian Edgar has written a good article about Thomas Monaghan. 19 An unexploded British 9.2 inch Armour Piercing High Explosive shell turned up in the hills today, and was disposed of by EOD. Like the 2,000 pound bomb mentioned below, it had been lying clearly visible on the surface all these years, but no one had stumbled across it.
17 Today I took the Hong Kong Club walkers from Park View to the site of North Point POW Camp, tracing the forced march of the first POWs captured in the Stanley Gap area on December 20, 1941. It was perfect weather, being cool enough for the long slog up to Quarry Gap to be pleasant. As I was waiting for the walkers, I walked up to the AA position diagonally opposite Park View and noticed that the sign board (which was vandalised a couple of years ago) had been replaced.
16 Martin Heyes kindly sent me a copy of an article entitled "Hong Kong's Chinese Gunners" by a Chinese gentleman named Cheung Yan-lun. It describes the recruitment of local gunners into the Royal Artillery starting at the end of 1937, with 23 enrollments, with a second batch of 40 in June 1938, a third of 40 at the end of 1939, and a fourth, again of about 40, in 1940. Following that, a further 150 were recruited for the 5th Anti Aircraft Regiment. As the article includes many names (and serial numbers) I now have a much better understanding of the 300 or so Chinese gunners in Hong Kong.
13Dennis and Marlene Bell were kind enough to pass on the sad news that: “Winnipeg Grenadier L/Cpl. William Bell, H6336, passed away this evening at 6:40 pm on the day of his 96th birthday! We are so thankful that God blessed us with Dad all these years, and that he was able to pass quickly, and peacefully this evening.” They also attached a photograph of Mr Bell (illustrated).
12 The 16 January bombing referred to below was not a lucky attack at all. As well as accidentally bombing Bungalow C at Stanley Internment Camp, killing 14 internees, two Grumman Avengers also collided and crashed fatally. This evening I joined a few friends in those hills to report an empty 2,000 pound General Purpose HE bomb casing associated with one of those aircraft. The bomb had had its TNT roughly removed – presumably by wartime guerrillas – but when we escorted EOD to the site a further six live Japanese Type 89 mortars turned up, which had to be dealt with. The following day the government lifted the bomb casing out, slung under a helicopter. A unique find (as most of the American bombs that turn up in Hong Kong are 500 pounders) in my opinion it would make a very appropriate basis for a memorial to the USAAF and USN crews lost attacking Hong Kong.
11 Ron Taylor (HK) kindly sent me a long report by someone at 3rd Battery, HKVDC, at Aberdeen. It is entitled ‘The War in Hong Kong as seen, in the main, from the 3rd Battery position at Aberdeen’. Ron notes: “On the cover is written in hand: Written Jan 1942, Typed May 1946, Amendments 1978. The author is not clear, but his wife / girl friend is named Peggy.” It seems likely to me that this was written by Sergeant Gerry Davies, whose wife Margaret was one of the unfortunates lost in the bombing of Bungalow C on 16 January 1945. 11 Philip Cracknell kindly sent a pre-war photo of Erinville, where escapee Benny Proulx, HKVDC, and his family lived pre-war.
10 Based on last months observation that I had found, along the contour path on the west of Violet Hill, the exact position where the historical photo of Postbridge was taken, I decided to try yet another of my not-very-professional ‘then and now’ mash-ups. But this one didn’t come out too badly.
8Brian Edgar announced another of his finds: “It's a very well presented account of the experiences of 'Barney' Byrne, who, although a neutral, joined the HKVDC after the Japanese attack. He spent time in Shamshuipo before being transported to forced labour in Japan. The blogger has provided a lot of very interesting material to expand the story, which is fascinating in itself.” And another article by Stanley Internee Dr. Talbot. “I came across a complete post-war article by Talbot on eye problems in Stanley.”
6Douglas Smith’s (HKVDC) granddaughter got in touch, but as she did not respond to my replies she will probably find them in her spam folder!
4Researching FEPOW History has announced the building of the Southampton Repatriation Memorial. Many Hong Kong POWs and Internees were repatriated through the port. They note: “SOUTHAMPTON IS TO become home to a major new World War Two memorial. The Researching Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) History group has been granted permission by Southampton City Council to create the Repatriation Memorial and will launch a national appeal this week to raise funds for the granite plaque. It will commemorate the arrival back in Britain during the autumn of 1945 of thousands of servicemen and civilians (including children) who had survived captivity under the Japanese. The first ship home, the SS Corfu, docked in Southampton on 7 October 1945 with 1,500 FEPOW on board. The Leader of Southampton City Council, Councillor Richard Williams, commented: Southampton is delighted to support this important initiative, to recognise the lives of those men, women and children who survived captivity in South East Asia and the Far East during World War Two, particularly as the first ship back to Britain docked with the survivors in Southampton. We fully support the campaign to raise funds and have granted permission for a Repatriation Memorial to be sited close to the waterfront.” 4 Constance Sing’s (Stanley internee) great niece got in touch. At liberation Constance returned to the UK on the Highland Monarch, and “she was 59 when she returned and lived till 92.” 4 Philip Cracknell sent the Stanley camp a photo of Sheila Haynes (a Stanley internee) as a bridesmaid, and coincidentally it has the Signal Hill tower in the background! In a second coincidence I found another photo of Sheila in a very interesting article from the Australian Women’s Weekly of 20 July 1940.
2 Anita Jones sent me a scan of Fred Burford’s (see last month) last letter home. “…and please don’t worry mom”, it ends.
1 I took the second of Craig Mitchells’ (via Philip Cracknell) photos of POWs at liberation (see last month), and blew it up to see if anyone could recognise any of them. 1 T.K. identified the tower illustrated last month as being on Signal hill (formerly observatory Hill), Tsimshatsui. When the Royal Artillery mentioned it as an Observation Post I had imagined it was on the border with China, but it seems they were observing the harbour instead. 1 The month started well, with Gordon Andreassend kindly sending a copy of the December 2012 edition of Surveying & Built Environment, which this year contained two stories of interest: A Note on British Blockhouses in Hong Kong by Rob Weir and Reconstructing The Early History of the Gin Drinker’s Line from Archival Sources by Chi Man Kwong. The latter notes that the cost of building the line was only GBP168,000!