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
Yeung Ming Hon (courtesy Anthony Yeung), IOU Letter (courtesy Roy Delbyk), The Lisbon Maru Massacre (author)
Guterres medals (via Anthony Correa), French Stanley ceremony (courtesy French Consulate), Japanese POWs in Shamshuipo (courtesy Canadian War Memorial)
The eightieth anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Hong Kong has gone past relatively unnoticed, and yet I would argue that there is more interest in the period locally than ever before. But with Covid and other events dominating life and discourse so much, the dice were loaded against any large-scale commemorations. But there were many smaller-scale or private memorials, and perhaps the most interesting was the series of facebook posts called “The Battle of Hong Kong in Rare Photos, 8-26 December 1941” from The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project. I have chosen three of my favourites as illustrations this month. But the biggest celebration was surely discovering that Yeung Ming Hon of the HKVDC Field Ambulance was still with us! To the best of my knowledge he is the sole surviving member of the Corps today.
29 Correspondent Roy Delbyk noted that he had purchased a rare printed edition of the famous (infamous?) Duff report about C Force. It is also available online here.
25 Andrew Holland kindly sent a copy of a 1944 Shamshuipo Christmas card from Majors Ernest Hodkinson, Henry Hook, and John Bailie of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. 25 I was one of several interested parties interviewed for this article which appeared on Nikkei Asia today.
23 Today I went for a regular physiotherapy session in Sandy Bay and got there a bit early to see if I could find any remans of nearby PB1. I searched – as far as I could – between Victoria Road and Sandy Bay Road but found nothing. I checked with Rob Weir and he said that he had had the same experience. I suspect it was removed when the new water pumping works were built at the location in 1964.
22 Today Steve Denton kindly sent me a copy of “The Lisbon Maru Massacre: a dramatis personae” by Steve Denton and Robert Widders. As a listing (with some biographical details where available), of every participant in a Second World War incident, it may well be unique.
21 Anthony Correa put a photo of the medals of Lieutenant Joaquim J. Guterres, HKVDC, on facebook. He notes: “His medals here kept proudly by his son Peter Guterres and daughter in law Yolanda Guterres”. Guterres commanded 19 Platoon, 5 Coy, HKVDC and died in St Theresa’s Hospital on 26 July 1942 of dysentery.
16 Jon Reid kindly sent a link to his interview: “WW2: The Canadians Who Fought for Hong Kong | The Agenda”. It included a very unexpected photo from within a Shamshuipo POW Camp hut, showing what appeared to be Asian POWs. When I checked with Jon he noted that the producers got it: “from the Canadian War Museum. On the back of the photo is written: ‘Japanese living in the same prisoner quarters the Allied prisoners had been kept in, within HK, post surrender’.” That makes sense!
15 Albert Sellers’ (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch via Philip Cracknell. 15 The South China Morning Post today carried an interesting article about the Watershed group, who are now leading tours to wartime sites, sometimes in period uniforms.
9Emile Bertulli’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch. 9 I have been working with Peter Cundall and Yoshiko Tamura in Japan on confirming the identities of some of the lesser-known ships that took POWs from Hong Kong to Japan during the Occupation. I will report back in this in January. 9 Doug Smith kindly let me know that Geoffrey Clarke’s, RASC, name is on the City Of Birmingham Tramways Department War Memorial as he was a member of the Head Office Staff. 9 And on a lighter note: Owning your own internet domain always attracts a certain amount of spam, but this is the first to have made me laugh out loud. Apparently I just fired myself:
“Dear Tony, Employee at hongkongwardiary.com Company,
We are deeply saddened to inform you that your term of employment at hongkongwardiary.com company has come to an immediate end. Due to the affect of covid-19 epidemic in our company, we have no choice but to end your employment with us because we cannot service all the employees anymore. This decision is effective immediately and the original documents for the cancellation of your employment will be given to you in three days time. Note! this is just like a redudant leave. Find attached your 2 months salary receipt. We thank you for your service and we wish it didn't have to end this way.
Human Resources Manager cc: firstname.lastname@example.org” (It included, of course, an attachment ridden with viruses).
8 For its fall 2021 issue, Canadian Military History has published a special issue to commemorate the Battle of Hong Kong’s eightieth anniversary. This issue explores various aspects of the battle, its aftermath and its memory. Very kindly they have added all the .pdf files for download here. There was a bit of a surprise in the article Objects Relating to the Canadian Experience in Hong Kong: the ‘bullet fragment’ is quite clearly a .45 fired from a Thompson! 8 Bill Lake and David Kerr gave an online talk to the Royal Asiatic Society, Beijing. This evening, which I joined online. It was called: “Legacy, WWII Allies and the Battle of Hong Kong”, and covered both the Chan Chak escape and Donald Kerr’s rescue after being shot down over Hong Kong in his P40. 8 Stewart Sloan published an interesting article about his father, Charles (Chucky) McConnell Sloan, HKVDC. 8 The Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association, in conjunction with the Hong Kong Prisoners of War Association, held a simple wreath laying ceremony at the Shrine in the City Hall Garden of Remembrance at 11.00 today to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Battle for Hong Kong.
7 Here’s a mystery that I have been discussing with Professor Kwong Chi Man. A certain Eric Percival Hunt of the Royal Army Service Corps married a Mabel Suen immediately before the Japanese attack on Hong Kong. And yet there is no record of a man of that name being killed in the fighting, being a POW, or having escaped. I really do not know who he was. 7 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society has just published their Vol. 22, Number 2 Fall-Winter 2021 newsletter. 7 Those with a deep interested in the Battle of Hong Kong have often discussed the case of Swindon man John Frelford of the Middlesex. It was said of him that he was interned as a civilian in Stanley (rather than as a soldier in Shamshuipo) because he had saved the life of a Japanese soldier in the heat of battle. I have to apologise as I didn’t keep note of who sent this, but it is an article by Frelford, Swindon published in the Daily Sketch of 1 July 1964 in their “great war stories for £1,000 series”: “The machine guns crackled in quick staccato barks. They seemed to be so near I could almost hear the spent cases tinkling on the ground. The mist that had protected us from observation all night had lifted and we – the survivors of ‘D’ company of the 1st battalion Middlesex Regiment – were on an exposed hillside in the Stanley Peninsula, Hong Kong, pinned down under a murderous fire. It was one of the most miserable days in my life. Tired, hungry, our uniforms in rags, we had been 17 days in the field, trying to stem the Japanese attack. But the night before they had attacked, carrying everything before them. The main impetus had passed us and we were now trying to link up with ‘B’ company on our left. It was 6.30 a.m. on Christmas morning in 1941. At home in England, even in wartime, people would be wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Children would be undoing wrappings on such presents as could be got during the war. Like Henry V’s soldiers said before Agincourt: I would rather be up to my neck in freezing Thames water, if only I could be home. We in the seven-man section that had set off to climb the hills towards Deepwater Bay, to try the link-up, had not even a cigarette between us, let alone any food. And now our cover was gone and we were exposed to the full weight of the Japanese guns. It was not exactly the time for peace on earth and mercy mild. To escape the machine-gun fire I crawled forward in the open to a crevice in the rock. The machine-gunner followed me. He fired burst after burst at the crevice, sending chips of rock flying around, as well as the ricocheting bullets. I squeezed down as much as I could by the dead Canadians and Japanese who were sharing my shelter. And to make things worse my move to apparent safety had attracted the attention of a jap sniper. He fired methodically and at regular intervals. His shots cracked past my head like metal bees. Then a Japanese soldier I took to be dead with a shot in the head, slowly opened his eyes. Was he wounded enough to be harmless? Should I kill him? The questions flashed through my mind. Then I noticed that he gestured with his hand to his helmet and then mine. I decided to take mine off. I had nothing to lose. No sooner had I done so and squeezed down beside the Jap than the sniper, who obviously couldn’t see very well, left me alone. But the machine-gunner continued firing. The Jap kept saying a word in Japanese. Over and over again. He wanted water. We were both in the same boat. He had saved my life. It was Christmas Day and I was very likely going to die, so what the hell. I gave him all he wanted. I bound up his head with a shell dressing. Moving around tying the wound brought me very close to the machine-gunner’s shots, but I was past caring. I just thought that if I was killed at least I’d done something decent on that terrible Christmas Day. By pointing at himself and saying the word ‘Gota’ over and over again, I gathered it was his name. I told him mine – John. We both then settled down to get what rest we could. But 17 days in the field had worn me out. I fell into a sleep like death. I was awakened by a foot on my chest and a bayonet against my throat. Dizzy with fatigue I saw a Jap standing over me. He pulled back his bayonet and made as though to lunge, to finish me off. But Gota had also woken up. He shouted something to him. The soldier paused, puzzled, then grounded his rifle, motioning me to get up. For the second time that day Gota had saved my life. I was now a prisoner of the Japs, but at least I was alive. And as the soldier walked me away I looked over my shoulder and waved to Gota. He waved back. I never saw him again. I was taken before an interrogating officer, who tried to bully and bluff information out of me. But I gave none. Then he asked me about Gota. He seemed to be puzzled by such behaviour. I explained that I thought the man was dying and did for him what I hope he would have done for me if the situation was reversed. But I also told him that if he had not been wounded I would have tried to kill him. The officer’s face brightened. ‘For that answer,’ he said, ‘your life is saved.’ I had a lot of time to think about things in the prison camp. I often wondered what had happened to the enemy who saved my life twice. Without the chivalry of an unknown enemy soldier I would be lying in some war cemetery in the Far East.”
6 Anthony Yeung kindly let me know that his father, Yeung Ming Hon (98 years old and still healthy) was a private in the HKVDC Field Ambulance and was captured at Stanley. He notes: “As this year is the 80th anniversary of the defence of Hong Kong, it piqued my interest in the HKVDC. My father, now with dementia, did talk about the war and said the HKVDC fought gallantly. I was informed by Ronald Taylor of HKVDC that my father is probably the oldest living member of the HKVDC who saw action in the war.” To the best of my knowledge, he is in fact now the last surviving member of the wartime Corps. 6 Cecilia Burroughs published, on facebook, an interesting six-page account of her personal experiences during the Battle of Hong Kong. 6 Surveying & Built Environment, of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors today published “A Special Commemorative Issue Marking the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, 8 December to 25 December 1941” (illustrated).
5 Justin Ho kindly sent this link to the medals believed to be (but not certain) of Corporal Herbert Stockham, R.A.F, who was killed on 19 December 1941.
4 My Zoom talk “Shipped to Japan” for HKVCA is now confirmed for 24 Jan 2022 19:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) / 25 Jan 2022 07.30 Hong Kong time, and anyone interested can register here. 4 Peter Weedon kindly let me know: “This medal group appeared on a dealer’s list today and is now heading my way - which I would not have been able to afford had I bought the dockyard group. The critical point from a medal collector’s perspective is that there are two named medals.” The medals – to 6202309 Corporal Sidney Robert Mitchell–Gears, Middlesex, were: 1939/45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal, General Service Medal E2 clasp Malaya Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Regular Army E2. He was “born in Lambeth, London 12th October 1914, serving with the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment in Hong Kong, he was taken prisoner of war when the colony surrendered to Japanese forces 25th December 1941, his next of kin (presumably his father) recorded as Mr Edward Hope Mitchell–Gears of 20 West Square, St Georges Road, London. The War Office casualty list recorded he was missing 25th December 1941 TNA WO417/37 and later confirmed prisoner of war in War Office casualty list WO417/37. Private Mitchell–Gears survived the sinking of the Japanese Transport Ship Lisbon Maru 1st October 1942 whilst enroute to Japan. He is recorded as being a member of the second draft to Kobe POW camp, Osaka, Japan when the list was compiled in 1943 TNA WO361/1780.” He also notes: “The Malaya clasp on the General Service Medal represents post-1952 service. It’s likely that the recipient was a pre-war Regular not a conscript who continued serving after captivity.” He was one of seven named prisoners of war at Kobe who voluntarily gave their services as Medical Orderlies in the Camp Hospital (which had upwards of 240 patients - mainly suffering from dysentery - in the charge of a Staff Sergeant RAMC as there was no Medical Officer). Mitchell–Gears remained in the Army, he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal 1st June 1953 and served with the now amalgamated Queen’s Regiment in Malaya. He married in 1967 and died in 2001 aged 86 years. 4 The Consulat Général de France à Hong Kong et Macao posted a photo of their event at Stanley Cemetery today.
3 Roy Delbyk kindly sent me two items: a July 1938 assessment of the fighting capabilities of the Japanese army (possibly written by Charles Boxer?) and two interesting letters relating to IOUs in Stanley. These have been widely discussed, but I believe they are the only examples I have actually seen.
2 Mike Babin kindly let me know that Sam Chiu has recently published the article: “Adding new knowledge: Canada’s C-Force in Hong Kong” in The Canadian Philatelist, the Official Journal of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. Unfortunately it is not available online. 2 Peter Weedon let me know that for the believed Serwar Khan Dockyard Police medal auction mentioned last month: “The group hammered for £1,500 so with commission and VAT probably near £1,900.”
December 1st, 2021 Update
Colourised Japanese fighter (courtesy Chris Whitehouse), Lisbon Maru Roll (courtesy Steve Denton), Royal Scots (via eBay)
Vermette brothers (via CBC CA), Beacom's POW tags (courtesy Elias van der Pol), Remembrance Day (courtesy Cardin Chan, via Bill Lake)
On Remembrance Day, Hong Kong University Press posted a photo montage of their published Second World War histories which I rather liked (illustrated). It just shows how many books are still being written about what is, in all fairness, a rather small niche in the great scheme of things. And long may this continue! I know of at least four further books on the topic which should see the light of day between now and mid 2022, and I suspect there are a number of others.
27 This morning I received an email from Perth Academy in Scotland, concerning their old boy John Dickson who was lost in the friendly-fire explosion of Jeanette in Hong Kong harbour on 12 December 1941. They are planning a video memorial for their Roll of Honour, and as luck would have it I was planning a trip to IFC anyway. While there I took some videos of the harbour around where Jeanette must have been destroyed, and also tried to find the exact location today of PB63, from which the fatal shots were fired. I reckon it must have been somewhere near, and probably just below, the Sandro fashion boutique. I recall seeing it before it was demolished in 1994, but there is literally nothing left in the area to get your bearings by.
26 Today I started sending the first articles for next year’s Volume 62 of the Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, to be peer reviewed.
24 Sandy Wynd sent me this interesting IWM film of Hong Kong from 1946. The shots of Wanchai bomb damage are useful, and almost at the end there’s what looks like the ‘Black Cat Club’ in the background. Presumably that was some pre-war dive, but I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere.
23 Archibald Elston’s (HK Police) granddaughter kindly sent me a large set of her grandfather’s documents from or about wartime Hong Kong. They included Sir Mark Young’s despatch – which oddly enough I’m not sure I had ever seen before, George Baxter’s account, and many other interesting bits and pieces.
22I heard that early today in Canada, Signalman Charles Barry Le Patourel, HKVDC, passed away. Unfortunately I was unaware that he was still with us, and therefore never made contact. He was on the third draft of POWs to Japan, and emigrated to Canada having been liberated via Australia.
22 Elizabeth Ride called me this evening to ask if I had had any news of Vera (Lo) Hui, but unfortunately I couldn’t help.
21Project Avenger kicked off today, the formal archaeological project to investigate the crash site of Grumman Avenger which collided with another Avenger over Tai Tam on 16 January 1945. I visited the site once, with the original discoverer Craig Mitchell, and can confirm that it’s not easy to get to! 21 On a personal note, my wife and I walked up to the top of the Peak today, for this first time since I broke my left ankle. Three and a half months is not a bad recovery time considering what a serious break it was.
19 I received another invitation today: “The Consulate General of Canada invites you to the live broadcast of the Canadian Commemorative Ceremony in Hong Kong - Le consulat général du Canada vous invite à la retransmission en direct de la cérémonie commémorative canadienne à Hong Kong - Sunday, December 5, 2021 10:00 a.m. (Hong Kong Time) | Dimanche le 5 décembre 2021 10h00 (heure de Hong Kong). In order to comply with the COVID-19 regulations imposed by the Hong Kong SAR Government, the ceremony is strictly open only to invitees (no exceptions) and attendance will be limited this year. The Consulate General of Canada will live stream the ceremony on its official Facebook pages, so would-be spectators can join in the commemoration virtually.”
18 Today I received the annual invitation from the «Souvenir Français de Chine» and the General Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macau to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 3rd, but unfortunately will not be able to attend this year.
17 We had a great example of international research collaboration today when George Boote in the UK kindly alerted me to the sale of three original Savitsky portraits on eBay. I immediately alerted Savitsky’s grandson who successfully negotiated a price and bought them. When he asked me to assist in identifying the subjects, I suddenly realised that they were Stuart ‘Tootie’ Begg, HKVDC, and Joan Armstrong (who in 1946 would become his second wife). Begg’s previous wife Eileen sadly lost her life in the Stanley massacre.
16 Today I saw a rather good colourisation, by Chris Whitehouse, of the well-known photo of a Japanese fighter curving up to intercept USAAF bombers that had just attacked Kai Tak.
14 Kwong Chi Man and I spoke this morning as a panel at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. The session was advertised as: “On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong with a panel discussion between military historians with a breadth of understanding from different perspectives. HKBU academic Kwong Chi-man popularises history to his students and the public alike, with books including Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840-1970 and tools such as an interactive online map of the battle. Tony Banham is the author of four books on the Hong Kong experience during the Second World War and founder of the Hong Kong War Diary project, which studies and documents the 1941 of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. Their conversation is moderated by former FT journalist Lucy Colback, who is writing a book about WWII based on first hand accounts by veterans worldwide. Join them to revisit and gain new understanding of a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.” It was a lot of fun, and at least thirty people attended, asking some pretty good questions. Unfortunately, though, it meant that we were unable to attend the memorial service at the Cenotaph which occupied the same time slot. However, luckily several people (including Cardin Chan via Bill Lake) supplied photos of the latter. The reason I chose to display that particular image is that it shows the now traditional multi-denominational clergy (I hope that’s the right term) who attend. 14 John William Melton’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch.
13 Rifleman Joseph Napoleon LeBlanc’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch.
12 Today my copy of the Lisbon Maru Roll of Honour booklet, and the memorial unveiling memorial service program , arrived courtesy of Steve Denton. The booklet is far more formal and professional looking than I had expected! Steve kindly gave credit to: “the Queen’s Regimental Association, in particular Alasdair Goulden, the secretary”.
11 Stephen Hutcheon posted on facebook: “An interesting story about Leslie James Quon Keen who later changed his last name to Channing. Born in Australia in 1906, he was adopted by a Chinese woman who migrated to Hong Kong in 1919. He joined the HKVDC in 1925, but during the Battle of Hong Kong was seconded to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. He escaped to Macau after the surrender and return to the colony after the war. After working for a while at the China Mail, he eventually received permission to return to Australia with his family.” More details in a newspaper article here.
9 Elias van der Pol posted photos of the POW serial tags of Michael Francis Beacom, who was in the Akenobe POW camp. He was a member of the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps. 9 Colin Standish and others were kind enough to forward a link to this newspaper story of Urban Vermette, a Winnipeg Grenadier who also served in Korea.
8 Corporal Anatole Nicholas Tonoff’s (HKVDC) son got in touch with the welcome news that he had scanned his father’s wartime diary. More on this, hopefully, in the near future. 8 For sale on eBay: a photo of three Royal Scots, (named as left to right Private James Duncan, Private Robert Inglis, and Private James Stuart – but I think the middle man is actually Robert Ingols, in which case all three were survivors of the Lisbon Maru) pictured at the Air Force Club New York, 20 October 1945, before sailing home on the Queen Elizabeth. It’s a shame about the watermark on the photo, but I guess that’s how they make their money.
5 The HKVCA today publicised their next Virtual Event, “The Fence” - A Discussion for 22 November. “The Fence, a feature-length documentary produced by Tortuga Films, powerfully tells the story of one of the longest incarcerations of WW II - at Sham Shui Po POW camp - with personal accounts from Canadian veterans George MacDonell and George Peterson. Meet the film’s director, Viveka Melki, and hear from survivor Luba Estes, who witnessed unspeakable war crimes watching and waiting for her imprisoned father from outside the fence of Sham Shui Po POW camp, and Dr. Kwong Chi Man, East Asia military historian and Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.” Unfortunately I did not hear about it in time to include in my October update. However, we have agreed that from now on they will give me an early tip-off about these talks so that I can advertise them in the previous month’s update of this blog.
1 The family of Leonard Verdun Owen (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) got in touch. Interestingly he was one of three men I know of in the wartime Hong Kong garrison, all born during the Great War, with the middle name ‘Verdun’. 1 I have accepted an invitation to give a Zoom presentation to the HKVCA on Tuesday, January 25 at 8:30am Hong Kong time (7:30pm Monday Toronto time). More details in the 1 January 2022 update!
November 1st, 2021 Update
Lisbon Maru service in Zhoushan (via Kent Shum), Lisbon Maru memorial back and front (courtesy Steve Denton and Brian Finch)
Henry Fox in RCoS uniform (courtesy Elaine O'Neil), Tamar Boys (IWM via facebook), Lancerary Newnham (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
Alabaster book cover (courtesy HKUP), HKILF Flyer (courtesy HKILF), Hongkongers book (courtesy Chi Man Kwong)
Obviously the big news of the month was the unveiling of the new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK. It was an extraordinarily well-attended event in remarkable sunshine. I received a dozen or more emails from attendees, all expressing their thanks to the organisers. Clearly it was a memorial whose time had arrived. I was also kindly sent fifty or more photographs, and a link to a high-quality video of the event. And on October the second, the anniversary itself, the usual small but very dignified group of young people in Zhoushan held their annual waterside memorial service.
29 Philp Cracknell notes: “I was tidying up my files when I came across the citation for Lance-Corporal Walter Cook, ‘D’ Coy 2/RS. He was born in Chile, an Anglo-Chilean, and when war started in 1939 he returned to the ‘mother country’, a country he probably barely knew, in order to enlist and serve. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry on the battlefield. Although wounded by rifle fire, he survived the close-quarter fighting at Golden Hill. He rescued a wounded solder from ‘A’ Coy who was 500 yards in front of ‘D’ Coy positions. He brought him back through artillery fire. He survived the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and he survived the prison camps in Hong Kong (Sham Shui Po) and Japan (Osaka). I paid this small tribute to him on my blog.”
26 In yet more book news, Martin Heyes notes that “Children of the Massacre; the Extraordinary Story of the Stewart Family in Hong Kong and West China,” by Linda and Robert Banks is available now. Evan Stewart was of course CO of 3 Coy HKVDC. 26 Good news from my surgeon today. I can walk unaided again. Of course, after 12 weeks either non weight bearing or partially weight bearing, that’s easier said than done!
25 Iain Gow notes that he was shown what was: “said to be a pencil sketch of the Lisbon Maru from a survivor, I’d never seen this one before but likely you have! Angle is wrong when comparing with the existing photograph and the other sketch, so I suspect may not be the Lisbon Maru, though wondered if it may have been another Hellship instead?” It’s a good question. Aside from the angle and unclear provenance, it looks quite like the Lisbon Maru.
22The proof reading of “More than 1001 Days and Nights of HK Internment” is done, and we have received the first draft of the book’s cover (which could of course change).
19 I see that a collar badge of the HKVDC’s ANZAC Company has been sold on eBay at a relatively high price for such an item. I also hear that this item is so unusual as to be a source of suspicion. Caveat emptor, as they say.
18 I heard today that Dr Kwong Chi Man will give a talk about the Battle of Hong Kong Spatial History Project on 1900-2030 5 November 2021 (PDT time) or 1000-1130 6 November (Hong Kong Time). The webinar is organized by the UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative of the University of British Columbia. Register here. 18 The HKVCA held a Virtual Event today called “We Remember Hong Kong: A Hong Kong Time Capsule.” Unfortunately I received details too late to publicise it last month, but the description read: “Join us for a look back at the life-changing and heartwarming story of the student pilgrimage to Hong Kong in 2005. These young people, accompanied by teachers and parents, travelled to Hong Kong to show their gratitude in person to the Canadian soldiers who lie buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery. The students participated in the creation of the “We Remember Hong Kong Memorial Capsule Project”. Every student who made the pilgrimage to Hong Kong, and those from across the country who also participated in the project, contributed a short story, a biography, a poem, a song or an artistic piece to be included in the memorial capsule enshrined at Sai Wan Cemetery on December 4th, 2005. A number of Hong Kong Veterans accompanied the group. This presentation is a tribute to the Veterans and the students who collaborated to bring attention to these brave and valiant soldiers of the Second World War.”
17 On facebook Henry Wong posted a photo with the caption: “These ex-prisoners of war drink their first tot of rum since 1941. Left to right: PO Leonard Soper, captured in HMS TAMAR when Hong Kong fell on Christmas 1941; PO Callohane, of Skibbereen, Eire; Yeoman Frederick Mitchell of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs; PO Geoffrey Josey, of Newbury, Berkshire; and PO William Mitchell of Milton, Southsea, Hants. (IWM)”. Josey was Thracian. Fred Mitchell Tamar. Bill Mitchell was MTB08. All, including Soper, were on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to Japan. I don’t have a record for ‘Callohane’ and suspect it’s not his correct name.
14 Today I received the Java Club’s latest newsletter. 14 Kwong Chi Man has done a great job of starting a list of just-pre-war marriages between Hong Kong’s garrison and local ladies. This is something that has always interested me, and the current list is 50+.
13 Philip Cracknell posted a very interesting photo of Maltby together with another senior officer who we believe to be Lanceray Newnham (who would later be executed by the Japanese). If so, and I’m 90% sure it’s him, it’s the first photo I have seen.
9 I heard today that Kwong Chi Man’s new book, Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997 is on Amazon already, though it won’t be available until the new year.
7 The Watershed team kindly sent me the recommendation for Sepoy Resham Khan, 13914, 2/14th Punjabi’s Military Medal. It’s great to see people studying the Indian Army in Hong Kong, as they have always been severely underrepresented in the literature.
5 I’ve been invited to take part in this year’s Hong Kong International Literary Festival: “History and Heritage LIVE Venue: The Jockey Club Studio Theatre, The Fringe Club Sunday 14 November 2021, 12:00 – 13:00 The Battle of Hong Kong - 80 Years On 香港戰後那些年 On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong with a panel discussion between military historians with a breadth of understanding from different perspectives. HKBU academic Kwong Chi-man popularises history to his students and the public alike, with books including Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840-1970 and tools such as an interactive online map of the battle. Tony Banham is the author of four books on the Hong Kong experience during the Second World War and founder of the Hong Kong War Diary project, which studies and documents the 1941 of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. Their conversation is moderated by former FT journalist Lucy Colback, who is writing a book about WWII based on first hand accounts by veterans worldwide. Join them to revisit and gain new understanding of a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.” The organisers also created a flyer, showing our most recent books, to publicise the event. 5 Rusty Tsoi noted on facebook: “When we studied the Battle of Hong Kong, we used to be puzzled about the actual figure of the Japanese casualties, and here is some clue. In this book ‘The Eternal Victory: Hong Kong - Manila – Singapore’ published by the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in February 1942, showed that while they had captured 11,241 prisoners of war and found 1,555 bodies (possibly excluding those who were killed and occasionally cremated after atrocities) of the Hong Kong Garrison, they had suffered 675 deaths and 1,404 wounded.” It’s hard to know what to say. The figure of 1,555 bodies is extraordinarily accurate, and yet intuitively 675 Japanese fatalities – bearing in mind known high losses on Sir Cecil’s Ride and the St Stephen’s areas – seems improbably low.
4 George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale of Private Downs’s (RAMC) medals. There are a few mistakes on the listing. Downs was one of those killed by ‘friendly fire’ when Kamaishi was bombarded from the sea on 10 August 1945, though for some reason the CWGC list his date of death as 20 August. I have no idea why they claim he was ‘liberated’ on the tenth.
3 Today the new memorial to the Lisbon Maru was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in front of a crowd of around 650 people representing families, the military bodies that those on board came from, and other groups. The weather was fine, and I hear that everyone appreciated the event – including the introductory speech which I co-wrote with Brian Finch. Thanks to the following for sending photographs and other details: Ian, Inglis, Iain Gow, Pete Starling, Brian Finch, Steve Denton, and Ron Brooks. It was written up in several newspapers including The Times, Edinburgh News, and LichfieldLive. Some papers also mentioned the new Royal Scots Memorial unveiled at the same time. 3Elaine O’Neill kindly sent me a companion photo of Henry Fox in his Royal Corps of Signals uniform (see last month). He is perhaps the fourth or fifth member of the garrison I am now aware of who switched from the navy to the army.
2 Volume 61 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society – the first for which I have been editor – was delivered today (illustrated). Now for Volume 62!
October 1st, 2021 Update
Fukken Maru (courtesy Peter Cundall), Fukken Maru orders (courtesy Yoshiko), Pan Am Clipper (via Panam.org)
Mess 25 Block 10 (Arseny Savitsky, courtesy Michael Martin), Buglass's name (courtesy Sandy Wynd), Central Market (via author)
Po Tin Chak (via Canadian Consulate, HK), Henry Fox (courtesy Elaine O'Neill), Brad's Video (via author)
It’s a great shame that I’m missing the dedication of the new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK on Sunday October 3. However, as I can’t leave Hong Kong because of a mobility issues, and I couldn’t easily return because of draconian quarantine rules, it wouldn’t really be practical. But I helped write the introduction for the event so will be there in spirit. A lot of people have worked on this, but in particular Christopher Allanson, Steve Denton, and Brian Finch have put it all together – sometimes working on the background for many years. I hope they have great weather and a great turnout, and I look forward to sharing photos and a report next month.
29 Alan Webster’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. They are preparing to visit the NMA on Sunday for the memorial unveiling. Luckily their questions sparked the recall of a document listing which companies each of the Middlesex missing from the Lisbon Maru came from. I will now merge that data with my other listings for a better company by company roll.
27 The HKVCA presented a talk about Canada’s Indigenous peoples, their involvement in Canada’s military and specifically C Force, and stories of some of C Force’s Indigenous Veterans. Unfortunately I didn’t get notice early enough to advertise it in last month’s update.
26 Peter Cundall of http://www.combinedfleet.com/ kindly wrote to me about the Fukken Maru, attaching a photograph of the vessel. He notes that the document I was kindly sent is from JACAR, the Japan Center (sic) for Asian Historical Records. Although the chop stamps are from the Imperial Japanese Army the document is probably a B series Diplomatic Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs document. We believe the ship departed Hong Kong early on 4 September 1942, so he thinks the likely itinerary would have been: 4 September 1942 early departed Hong Kong. 5 September 1942 arrived Makung and sailed with convoy No.259. 10 September 1942: Arrived Mutsure (western roadstead of Shimonoseki Straits of which Moji was the main transport port). Possibly stopped at Moji to discharge Non-POW passengers. Late 10/Early 11 Sept 1942 sailed Moji. 12 September 1942 arrived off Kobe and likely joined coastal convoy (No details). 12 September late (or 13 September early) 1942 sailed from Kobe. 15 September 1942 Arrived Yokohama (NB document says bound for Tokyo). He continues: “It is known the Fukken Maru departed Tokyo Bay in a convoy of 4 ships escorted by minelayer Ukishima for the Inland Sea on 17 September 1942 at 1000 with the convoy sailing at 9 knots. So this corroborates at least by inference the testimony of the POWs. The ship was civilian operated which makes records on her hard to come by. On the name Fukken Maru (the name shown in almost all transliterations except Lloyds Register) can be rendered as Fukuken Maru but is regarded by purists as incorrect. To confuse matters, from 1938 the Japanese Govt adopted Kokutai transliteration in place of Romanisation and Fukken Maru was rendered as Hukuken Maru instead of Fukuken Maru in Lloyds Register(that seems to have got the original transliteration ‘wrong’). This was only maintained until about early 1943 when the Japanese returned to the previous style of romanisation.” It’s very satisfying to get some more solid leads on this draft after so long. 26 I helped out today with another South China Morning Post article, but unfortunately it’s behind a firewall unless you have a subscription. While searching for possible illustrations, I found one from (I think) 1945 immediately after the Japanese surrender (illustrated) and another nice aerial shot from perhaps 1970 which shows the atrium through which the infamous bomb fell on 15 December 1941.
20 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, Deborah Chung placed a photo of her late father, Leslie Wah-Leung Chung (1917-2009), noting that as a gunner: “with the 4th Battery of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, was severely wounded in Lei Yun Fort in the Battle of Hong Kong on 14 December 1941. He facial nerve was cut by shrapnel, thus causing facial paralysis, distortion of the mouth, his left eye not being able to be completely closed, and his left ear not working very well. Here is his photo taken in the British Consulate in Guilin, China, in July 1942. There, he received Honourable Discharge. These wounds were with him for the rest of his life.”
19 Iain Gow kindly sent me this interesting link to: “an interactive map about birthplaces of WWII Royal Scot fatalities.”
17 Nikkei Asia published an interesting story entitled: “Race to save Hong Kong's wartime relics”. 17 I found this interesting article about the Baptist University Battle of Hong Kong interactive map project. 17 Michael Martin shared a number of his grandfather’s (policeman and Stanley internee Arseny Savitsky) Stanley sketches and caricatures with the Stanley Group. I am hoping that one day he will have collected enough to publish them in an annotated book! One of the many interesting illustrations was of the inmates of ‘Mess 25, Block 10’ I had assumed that to mean Room 25, Block 10, but the residents of that room: John William Fitzgerald, Civil Servant, Samuel Hodge, Prison Officer, John William Hudson, Prison Officer, James McCutcheon, Prison Officer, and Leslie John McTavish, Prison Officer, don’t seem to match the signatures on the illustration.
16 Yoshiko in Japan kindly sent me the two letters ordering the sailing of the Fukken Maru carrying the first 616 British POWs from Hong Kong to Japan in early September 1942.
14 While searching for something else (yet again…), I found a photo on the web of the Pan Am Clipper in Hong Kong shortly before the outbreak of the Pacific War. This is the plane which was sunk at anchor early on 8 December 1941.
13 Sandy Wynd kindly noted: “I was visiting Fife this weekend and, whilst passing through my old home town of Cupar, I stopped to see the addition to the War Memorial mentioned in your updates in August and you can see the excellent work done in my photographs.” See the mention of Buglass last month.
11 Brad St.Croix posted a video review of his favourite five books about the Battle of Hong Kong on YouTube. I enjoyed watching it - though with growing nervousness as I realised what the fifth review would cover... and then I had a nice surprise. The best coverage of the challenges of returning POWs is of course Chuck Roland's Long Night’s Journey into Day, and the deepest work on Canadian signalmen is Burke Penny's Beyond the Call. For Allister I once wrote: "Whether this is a ‘classic’ of Second World War literature is debatable, but it is without doubt the nearest thing to it to have emerged from the Hong Kong campaign." 11 The Winnipeg Free Press published an obituary of George Peterson today. (Thanks to Colin Standish for letting me know). An accompanying story can be found here.
10 Today I was invited by the Royal British Legion Committee to attend a small ceremony to open the History Research Room at the World War II Veterans Association clubhouse. I had originally hoped to attend, but was put off by warnings of heavy rain as I am still hopping around on one leg.
8 Henry Fox’s (Hong Kong Signals Company, Lisbon Maru) great niece kindly sent a: “photo of my great uncle Henry Fox, signal man who was on the Lisbon Maru. He was born in Clones in Monaghan in 1918, and was lost on the Lisbon Maru in 1942. Henry was called Harry in the family as his uncle was a Henry too. Henry was initially in the navy and then went to the royal signals but I am unsure when this was. He was captured Christmas day 1941. Henry’s parents were John Joseph and Margaret and his father… had served with the Royal Irish fusiliers in WW1 and lost an arm. Henry’s brothers James was in the royal air force and was also captured by the Japanese but escaped.” He is wearing his HMS Ganges cap.
6 Angela Niles (daughter of Wilfred ‘Willie’ Reed, see last month) noted that she read: “in your 8/13 entry about the Portuguese nun, Sr Cecilia Marie Carvalho who wrote that passage in the Diaries of the Maryknoll Sisters regarding the goldfish incident! She was a relative on my mother's side of the family. Her grandniece and grandnephew live here on the Eastside as well and we are in frequent touch.”
5 George Peterson, the last surviving veteran of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served in Hong Kong, passed away today.
4 I learned today, via the Canadian Consulate, that Dr Po-Tin Chak, a Second World War St. John Ambulance veteran who participated in the Battle of Hong Kong, died on 22 August at the age of 99. They noted: “Dr. Chak survived the Battle of Hong Kong, the St. Stephen's College Massacre and the Sham Shui Po Prisoners of War Camp. He eventually became a medical surgeon, and moved to Vancouver, Canada in the 1980s where he continued to take part in various events commemorating the Second World War and those who served. Last year, Dr Chak received the Second World War Tribute from Veterans Affairs Canada. Former Consul General of Canada to Hong Kong and Macao, Jeff Nankivell, also shared Dr. Chak’s story in the virtual WWII Commemoration Ceremony hosted by the St. John Ambulance Burnaby Division.” His obituary noted: “When World War 2 broke out, Dr. Po Tin Chak was transferred to the Military Division of the Brigade which was attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Hong Kong where allied forces, including Canada, fought The Battle of Hong Kong to protect the British colony for two weeks, but were outmanned and outgunned 4 to 1. The young Chak was positioned at the Collinson Battery (歌連臣角炮台), Cape Collinson in Chai Wan (柴灣), when the invaders landed there. The Collinson Battery defenders and the medical personnel were in full retreat, and even grenades were handed out to slow down the Japanese Imperial Army, but Po Tin Chak wasn’t trained in warfare, as he was trained in saving lives. They came upon a first aid station with an ambulance, and since Chak already knew how to drive, he was tasked with driving the wounded to a field hospital at St. Stephen’s College (聖士提反書院), but went to Stanley Fort (赤柱炮台) instead. That miscalculation saved his life and the wounded individuals he was carrying, as the invading army stormed St. Stephen’s College hours before the surrender, and murdered the defenceless medical staff, wounded military, and civilians. The following day, Po Tin Chak went to St. Stephen’s College to seek the wounded, but instead became one of the few who witnessed the aftermath of the bloodstained campus.”
1 William Au Yeung kindly sent details of his Hong Kong medal collection (see last month). Those for the 1941 garrison included:
Chief Petty Officer Herbert Howard Connor, Royal Navy
Rifleman Roger Cyr, Royal Rifles of Canada
Lance-Naik Allah Din, 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment Second Lieutenant Michael Forster Fenwick, Royal Scots Sapper Frank William Henry Haynes, Royal Engineers Sergeant Arthur David Manning, Middlesex Regiment Lieutenant George Wright Morrison, Royal Navy
Sergeant Harold Victor Pearse, HKVDC
Lieutenant Francis Gavan Power, Royal Rifles of Canada
Lance-Naik Ball Ram, 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment Commissioner Edward Maurice Raymond, St John Ambulance Brigade Edmund Brinsley Teesdale, Z Force, HKVDC Able Seaman Cecil Pinder Thomas, Royal Navy Lance Bombardier Albert Waddington, 7th Battery HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery Lance Sergeant Frank Woods, 7th Battery HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Cecil Pinder Tomas is especially unusual as he left Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 as part of the crew of HMS Thanet, and was lost in 31 January the following year when she was sunk off Malaya. Teesdale became Colonial Secretary post-war.
September 1st, 2021 Update
Alec Greaves (courtesy Stephen Hutcheon), Giles's grave (via Dick Yielding), Bobby, Edgar, and Stephen Reed (courtesy Anglea Niles)
August books (author), Bill Wood (courtesy Irene Warren), HMAS Castlemaine (via Henry Wong)
I am delighted to say that Professor Kwong Chi Man’s superb interactive and dynamic map of the Battle of Hong Kong is now online and publicly available in its first iteration, and I think Baptist University should be congratulated for backing this project. I’m hoping that the functionality and granularity will only improve over time (that’s the enormous advantage of digital models), but it’s already an excellent foundation. It’s well worth taking the time to drill down to certain areas or units and run the map for various time segments to see the movements. All the pillboxes, gun sites, and other fixed defences are also represented, as are a growing number of artifacts and individuals. When I first drew the daily maps for Not The Slightest Chance I dreamed that one day they could be animated, but this goes way beyond that into potentially ground-breaking territory.
On a side note: On 3 August I posted a parcel at the Wyndham Street post office in the rain, then took Pottinger Street as a short cut to Queen’s Road. I didn’t make it. I slipped on the wet granite and suffered a trimalleor fracture of the left leg. I spent a total of eleven nights in hospital, which is why I wasn’t at any commemorative event this month, and also why this month’s blog will be shorter than normal. Hopefully I’ll be mobile again within two to three months. But it was interesting lying in Queen Mary Hospital, thinking of those (Boxer, Neve, Gordon, Wiseman and so forth) who had been there before me.
31 Today I was contacted by a medal collector with the biggest collection of Hong Kong Second World War medals I have heard of. Hopefully there will be more detail next month.
29 Kwong Chi Man and the Baptist University team today soft-launched their interactive map of the Battle of Hong Kong and it is well worth a look. The South China Morning Post article about it was also published today. 29 Henry Wong posted a very interesting note about HMAS Castlemaine: “Last remaining ship of Harcourt’s fleet, HMAS Castlemaine of the Australian 21st Minesweeping Flotilla is one of sixty Bathurst class Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth Government's wartime shipbuilding program. She and her sister ships was part of Rear Admiral Harcourt’s fleet which entered Victoria harbour on August 30, 1945. In fact, HMAS Castlemaine was one of the three minesweepers that cleared the Tathong Channel ahead of the British fleet entry of the harbour. During her stay in Hong Kong between September to October 1945, she has performed various duties including minesweeping, anti-piracy patrol as well as entertaining recent released POW from Stanley camp, at one point there were 22 Australian Minesweepers busy sweeping the Hong Kong and its adjacent area in September 1945. She left Hong Kong on October 14, 1945 and decommissioned in December 1945. Later on she served as a immobilized training vessel in Royal Australian Navy until 1973 and today preserved as a museum ship in Williamstown (suburb of Melbourne), she is the only remaining ship that entered Hong Kong on August 30, 1945.”
27 Today Kwong Chi Man came to our house (as I am not very mobile) together with a reporter and a photographer from the South China Morning Post, who Interviewed the two of us for around three hours (!) on the new Battle Map. 27 Dick Yielding notes that on a Facebook Site called Military Grave Restorer he found: “An article on Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clement Giles, Royal Marines who is interred at Storrington West Sussex. He was a Royal Marine and Pilot of Supermarine Walrus L2259”. In Hong Kong of course we know him as Major Giles, RM. Interesting to see a second post-war gravestone this month!
26 Big news! Yoshiko in Japan has now definitely identified the Fukken Maru as the ship that took the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. We have been searching for that name for many years. She notes of her findings: “This is the confidential order in the name of Japanese Governor General of Hong Kong Isoya (Isotani?) addressed to the Japanese Army in Hong Kong, the POW Camp in Hong Kong and the Military Police in Hong Kong on 1st September 1942, to command the 621 POWs embark onto the Fukken Maru which leaves Hong Kong for Japan on 4th September. And to transport them under guard, 1 officer (Lieutenant Tanaka), 2 non-commissioned officers, 1 Medical Orderly and 1 interpreter should board together. The second confidential letter attached to the above is the report on 5th September about the correction of numbers of the POWs transported to Japan is 616, not 621.”
25 I received an email today from the daughter of Wilfred ‘Willie’ Reed. He was the third of the seven sons of Amaro John Reed and Marie Rita Reed. As is well-known in Hong Kong, four of his brothers (Edgar, Arthur, Stephen and Francis) were killed during hostilities. She kindly sent me many family photos.
24 Iain Gow kindly sent me this clip from Scotland: “Recently work has been taking place to insert the name of a soldier who fell during WW2 onto the Cupar War Memorial. A proposal was submitted to Fife Council for a new name plate to be added to the existing pillar, approval was then sought from the War Memorial Trust and then the Listed Building and Historic Scotland for consent. The new name plate has now been inserted onto the 1939 pillar and a blank plate inserted onto the 1945 pillar to maintain symmetry. Once the work is completed the Branch hopes to hold a brief dedication service to honour a fallen comrade, always abiding by the families wishes. The individual concerned is, Private George Buglass, son of Peter and Margaret, was killed at the age of 27 while serving with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots in Hong Kong. He was a dairyman in Dalkeith before joining the Army at the age of 20, and after a year’s home service was a year in India before being sent to Hong Kong. It was reported locally at the time that Private Buglass was first reported missing in Hong Kong in January 1942, although his entry on the Sai Wan Memorial’s roll of honour gives his date of death as December 21, 1941.” In fact Buglass was lost on 21 December ‘between Sir Cecil’s Ride and Tai Hang Road’ and has no known grave. 24 Today I received an invitation from the Royal British Legion Committee to attend a small ceremony to open the History Research Room at the World War II Veterans Association clubhouse on 10 September 2021. I hope I can make it!
23 The Hongkong Standard carried an interesting story today about the Bonham Road Government Primary School pre-war building. Unfortunately the URL they used will not link from this site so I will type it in full: https://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news/section/4/179177/Shelters,-pendulum-among-historic-school's-charms
21 Bill Wood’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter put a fine photo of her father on the FEPOW Family page.
20 Walter Copeland Hodgkinson’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “He was shipped out to Hong Kong in December 1938 as a hospital cook in the R.A.M.C. He was captured at St Albert’s Convent on 23 December 1941.” 20 Kevin Carr posted a photo of Rifleman Murray Carr’s grave in Sussex, Canada (illustrated). I’ve often thought it would be a very interesting project to find when and where each of the survivors of the battle ended their days. Phil Doddridge noted “I remember Murray well. We were both in D Company, and associated somewhat after the War. A good friend. We lived in the same hut in Sham Shui Po. The good natured banter between him and another POW amused everyone.” 20 Tai Wong kindly shared this coloured version of the well-known Japanese film of the invasion of Hong Kong.
18 BAAG Agent ‘Domus’, Wing-Hong Kwan (1908-1973), family got back in touch. They note: “He was an architect… He is also known as actress Nancy Kwan’s father”.
17 Stephen Hutcheon posted a good photo of Alec Greaves in his BAAG uniform, which Stephen still has. It may be the only complete ‘ordinary’ BAAG uniform in existence today.
16 I had a very welcome enquiry from Yokohama today. Some Japanese historians are attempting to find the name of the Japanese vessel that took the first ex-HK POWs to Japan. Regular readers may recall that earlier researcher Greg Michno had named this ship ‘Maru Shi’ (Japanese for ‘fourth ship’, meaning simply that it was the fourth of eight ships that he could not identify). Unfortunately many veterans and their families read his book (Death On The Hellships) and thought it was the real name, causing confusion ever since. Lieutenant Jim Ford, Royal Scots, once told me that it was called the Fukyu Maru, but I assumed he was joking. Let’s hope they are successful.
14 I heard from Philip Cracknell today that Osler Thomas’s widow Lily had passed away earlier this month. Osler was of course a medical student who joined the HKVDC Field Ambulance and was left for dead at the Salesian Massacre. Later he escaped to China, rejoined British lines at BAAG HQ and then served in Force 136.
13 “George Best” noted on facebook: “Photo from a buddy obtained in the late 70s from a government museum in Star House. It showed captured Indian and British soldiers in Kowloon dated 21-12-1941. Maryknoll Convent School and St Teresa’s Church appeared in the photo. Sister Cecilia Marie Carvalho (Portuguese) wrote in a book (titled The Diaries of The Maryknoll Sisters In Hong Kong - page 123 to page 125) vividly about how the allied POWs and Japanese soldiers behaved in the school. After they left, all the goldfish were gone, so she presumed that in their hunger they had eaten them.” He also posted a large number of interesting photos of Shamshuipo and several good clippings from the South China Morning Post over the years, including one about Wilfred Bashford, RAOC, who was inspecting a damaged Bofors when he took shelter in the Hong Kong Club and ‘liberated’ some cutlery!
8 Ho Lam Yiu very kindly took the time to explain that my Martini-Henry bullet (see last month) is no such thing! He has found similar bullets to mine at the same location and notes that: “they weighed about 250 grains each (250.9 and 247.8 grains respectively), while Martini-Henry bullets weigh in excess of 400 grains… I believe the best fit, given what we know about the history of the place, would be .455 Webley revolver ammunition (specifically, Powder Mk. I or Cordite Mk. I or II). Not only does the weight fit the two bullets I found (265 grains), but a picture of a sectioned cartridge also shows a closer fit in both length of bullet and size of base hollow, on the left of the fourth picture.”
7 Janet Sykes gave me the good news that she has put her father’s memoirs online for free viewing here. They make a full-length book which I helped edit. Well worth a look for anyone deeply interested in the POW experiences of senior NCOs. Her father was CQMS Leonard Sykes, Field Engineers, HKVDC and his memoir is called “The Waterless Days are Here”.
4 Well, that was fun. Yesterday I slipped on the wet granite steps of Pottinger Street and managed to break my left ankle in three places. Two operations later, I am now the proud owner of several strips of metal, and rather more long steel screws, holding that leg together. The prognosis is that I should hopefully be able to start putting some weight on it again within two months. Till then, once I get out of hospital I’m home bound (as we live on a hill surrounded by ramps and steps, none of which can be managed on one leg!)
2 Pavel Krejci (researching into Czechs who fought in the battle of Hong Kong. See last month), has: “identified Rudolf Hoselitz who is not listed in the papers (at least I did not see him there) but you have him on your website. This guy is apparently of Jewish origin and born in Slovakia in 1883. You can find more details about Rudolf here.” He has also now identified all nine Czechs who were in the HKVDC, namely: Břežný, Pospíšil, Krofta, Jiříček, Tomeš, Staněk, Tauzs, Wolosh, and Hoselitz. 2 My two new books, A Weekend to Pack and My Beautiful Island, arrived today. Both are unique. The former is all about the evacuee experience (of the family of George Bearman, HKDDC, who would die as a POW), and the latter is about a mother and son’s survival after the husband and father (John Potter, 1 Coy HKVDC) was killed in the battle.
Ben Thompson in Japan (courtesy Susan Crawford), Gorman and colleague (via Brian Finch), Geoff Clarke (courtesy Anthony Clarke)
Stanley from The Twins (author), Japanese map of Wanchai Gap (via facebook), HK under fire (via Jonathan Ho)
Japanese recce of North Face (courtesy Sven Erik Jørgensen), Baptista medal group (courtesy Peter Campos), Ricci Hall HKVDC memorial (courtsey Ricci Hall, HKU)
I recall as a young man being utterly terrified of public speaking. That’s not unusual, but I had that fear in spades. Then, after I moved to Hong Kong more than thirty years ago, I found a job which – in part – required me to teach technical skills. I became interested in the science of that, and then became more confident, and within ten or so years was running PR (among other things) for the APAC arm of a large multinational. I did my hostile media training with Channel 9 in Australia and started teaching presentation skills myself. I did live TV and spoke on big stages in front of thousands, feeling very pleased with how far I had come until I overheard someone saying: “Oh, him. He’s too polished to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t trust anything he said.” I realised then that I had to unlearn all my PR smarts, and try to return to authenticity (if you can fake that, as the comedians say, you’re made!) So when Craig McCourry invited me to speak on camera in the middle of the month (see the 20th) I was very happy to get back into practice, it being my first opportunity to do so since shooting ‘My Grandfather’s War’ with Sir Mark Rylance two years ago.
30 ADFA contacted me today, kindly passing on an email they had received for me from a relative of Gilbert Alexander Harriman, HKRNVR, who had read by PhD thesis online.
29 I received an email from a Czech PhD student at HKU researching Czech members of the 1941 HK garrison. I list these four men as being in 2 (Scottish Coy HKVDC): Ladislav Břežný, Alois Jiříček, Jaroslav Krofta, Alois Pospíšil – with thanks to my correspondent for correcting the accents! He notes that there is an online article here (in Czech), which he roughly translates as: “Krofta arrived in Hong Kong in 1934 and since then he worked as a manager in the Baťa company. In 1938, Krofta founded the Czech Club (Český kroužek) of expats living in Hong Kong. The Club had 30 men and women. In 1938, these Czech citizens protested against the Munich Agreement and 12 of them volunteered for service in the British Army. All these 12 Czech citizens were accepted for the service. Seven of these 12 Czechs were assigned to the HKVDC, the rest to other units (the article mentions anti-aircraft guns and guarding units). When Hong Kong was attacked, the defenders were pushed back to Hong Kong Island. The article says that Alois Pospíšil died on 24 December 1941. He was 23 years old. The article also mentions another Czech who died when guarding the local power plant (no other details included). Jaroslav Krofta miraculously survived a direct hit of his shelter, only lightly wounded, while two of his comrades in the shelter died (the article does not say if these two comrades were Czechs or not). After the capitulation of Hong Kong, Krofta was taken prisoner and went through North Point Refugee Camp and Sham Shui Po Camp. Then the article describes Krofta’s life in these camps and says that he survived and returned to Czechoslovakia”
27 Anthony Clarke posted a photo on the FEPOW Family page: “Taken in Hong Kong between late 1938 and the invasion Christmas 1941. My uncle Geoff Clarke is on the front row far left wearing a hat. It says on the back: D. I. S. Staff Supply Depot.” Private Geoffrey Clarke, RASC, was on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, and unfortunately passed away 29 October 1942 at Tokyo Main Camp Shinagawa of blood poisoning. With the renumbering of the Army in 1920, RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), [Horse Transport], M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). Clarke was in Supplies, and I would have expected it to be Director Of Supplies (DOS), but I could be wrong. 27 Ricci Hall of HKU have created a very nice poster of the six lads they lost in the HKVDC in the Battle of Hong Kong. 27 Not exactly World War II related, but I was delighted to see no fewer than fourteen pigs (three sows and eleven piglets) near The Peak this morning. It looks like the Hong Kong government’s effort to spay the majority of sows didn’t exactly work.
26 Peter Campos sent a photo of his great uncle’s (CSM Naneli Baptista, HKVDC) medals asking for their identification. I know very little about this so sent the photo to Steve Verralls who kindly replied: “MBE (post war); 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals, 1935 Jubilee Medal and Territorial Efficiency Medal (HK) with 3 long service clasps”. 26 A researcher has been asking for information regarding “Mr. Lo Tung Fan - son of a solicitor’s interpreter who formed a HK special constabulary in 1941, engaging in intelligence activities against the Japanese, caught in 1942 and subsequently executed.” Elizabeth Ride has kindly provided some details. Her website continues to be updated, with new entries visible here.
20 Today Craig McCourry, to whom I recently gave some minor assistance for his new film ‘Battlebox’, invited me to be interviewed on camera about Hong Kong’s Second World War experience and my thoughts on history in general. It was a lot of fun – despite being soaked on the way there by a passing typhoon, and again on the way back! 20 As many regular readers of this site will be aware, for several years now a Chinese documentary team has been doing serious research for a film about the Lisbon Maru. When Covid hit they naturally went a bit quiet, so this week I asked them whether – bearing in mind the unfortunate cooling of international relationships – they still intended to finish their work. They replied: “Yes, although having been delayed by many factors for quite some time, this documentary will still go ahead. We don’t think the current political ‘arguments’ will affect our film, but we do need more time in the post-production stage to put things together. Thank you for your consistent efforts in helping us. I think we all need more patience at this point.”
19 Susan Crawford on the FEPOW Family facebook page, posted then and now photos of her father, Ben Thompson, RASC, who is still with us and has just celebrated his one hundredth birthday! Every time a ‘new’ ex-HK POW turns up I am amazed and declare him to be the last who we will ‘find’, and then another one shows up. In this case, uniquely, Thompson has his own rather good blog! 19 Stacey’s famous history of the Canadian army, including Hong Kong, is now available online here.
16 Sven Erik Jørgensen sent me a very interesting email. He notes: “I am the editor of Dykkehistorisk Tidsskrift published by Historical Diving Society, Denmark. The attached picture is from the book ‘Die Wekrmacht – Das Buch de Krieges 1941/42’ page 82. The German text for the picture says: ‘The swimmers from Hong Kong’ who in the strait between Hong Kong and the mainland neutralized enemy mines to pave the way for Japanese landing crafts.” The garish illustration purports to show the Japanese pioneers, led by an Olympic swimmer, who checked and cleared the landing areas on Hong Kong Island before the invasion of December 18. I showed him the passage from Eastern Fortress (by old friends Rusty Tsoi and Kwong Chi Man) which explains that this raid had indeed been planned by the Japanese, but was cancelled when the swimmers were hit by British shells.
14 The Java FEPOW Club published their latest newsletter today. Interestingly it referred to the War Illustrated Magazine, which had at least one Hong Kong article here.
13 Craig McCourry has created a new video of military historian (and ex gunner, and ex martial arts movie star!) Bill Lake talking about the Battle of Hong Kong. 13 It looks like the Grenville Alabaster book is just about ready to go. We have a cover photo, and the three of us involved in putting it together have signed the contract. (No, I’m afraid that doesn’t imply we will make any money! It’s just a legal agreement.)
12 Walking past the High West rifle range (the butts end) this morning, I looked down and saw a large pure lead hollow based bullet lying in the mud. I recognized it as a Martini-Henry bullet (illustrated) of the Victorian era (in British service from 1871 to 1889), and the first non-.303 bullet I have found there. 12 Brian Finch kindly sent some good photos of Thomas Henry Gorman (Royal Naval Yard Police, Lisbon Maru). Gorman returned to Hong Kong after the war and ended heading up the RNYP as Chief Inspector. I looked up my correspondence with the family from 15 or so years ago and noted that they had said: “he gave a gold ring to the Chinese fisherman who saved his life but he thinks the Japs took it off him.” I immediately thought (as did Brian when I told him this) of the deputation from the Zhoushan islands that visited us in Hong Kong in 2005, bringing a monogrammed gold ring that they said had been given to a villager by a rescued POW. At the time I did some basic research and discovered that it was a 9-carat ring made at Chester, England, in the year 1912 by the goldsmiths ‘J.N.W.’ I found a photo of an identical ring made around 20 years earlier, so they were probably quite common. However, the monogram looked like FG. Perhaps it really is TG?
9Phil Cracknell has published a new blog: “This is a brief analysis of the F2 Gun at Mount Davis, its underground magazine and hoist system and an exploration of the layout of the underground bunker which contained the Fortress Plotting Room and HQ for Western Fire Command at Mount Davis. Click the link to read the story.” 9 On facebook someone added this useful link to Hong Kong 1945 images on Wikimedia. Most are well-known, but it’s still a convenient collection.
8 I was sorry to learn today that John Lawson, Brigadier Lawson’s son, passed away on Saturday. We had corresponded for many years, and I met his daughter in Hong Kong not too long ago. 8 Today I did one of my regular but infrequent (perhaps three or four times a year) longer walks, from Mid-Levels around the hills to Stanley for lunch. That last view of Stanley from The Twins before taking the steps down is almost map-like and gives a good impression of the peninsular as it was during the war. 8 Jonathan Ho posted an American photo of Hong Kong under air attack. I have seen it before, but the resolution seems better this time. A few days earlier someone (I regret to say that I didn’t note who) posted a Japanese battle map of the Wanchai Gap area. This one is particularly interesting for me as I have passed through that area on foot many hundreds of times.
7 I was quite surprised to hear that Bill Anderson of the HKVDC has just passed away. I have his book about NCR, and for some reason incorrectly thought he had passed away a while back.
4Today I received an unexpected but very welcome email from Portugal: “My name is António Fragoeiro and I hope everything is well with you. We are investigating the ‘Portuguese HKVDC forces’ during world war two, and would like to inform you that your website has been one of our most important sources of information, therefore we will be using some of your data, if you don’t mind. We will be placing and credit your name, work as ‘source material’ and a direct link to your website. This is our website.” I must admit that I tend to think of the Macanese as being almost their own unique nationality (nossa gente), being a mix of Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and all other areas that the home country had colonised. But it is still good to see them being remembered like this in the mother country.
2 Brian Edgar notes (see last month): “One of the former Lunghua internees who supported Mr. Hiyashi was the father of the novelist J. G. Ballard, who flew to Hong Kong from Shanghai to help him. Ballard claims that his father actually testified in his defence and he was ‘justly’ acquitted, but your new evidence suggest this was a mistake. I lectured on Ballard's Lunghua novel Empire of the Sun at a couple of Open University Summer Schools in the 1990s, and after one of them I spent the rest of the evening talking to two women who had been in Lunghua. Some former internees had obviously kept in touch with Mr. Hiyashi as they told me how hurt he had been by the portrayal of the camp in Ballard’s novel (1984). They spoke very highly of Mr. Hiyashi and thought his reaction was completely justified.”
1 Steve Verralls was kind enough to let me know that: “the medals of the following Officer are up for sale at GBP650... 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals in box of issue with issue and condolence slips. 38495 Major Leighton William David Walker, Second in Command of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots who was killed in action on the 1st of October 1942 whilst a Prisoner of War on board the Japanese Troopship Lisbon Maru. Apparently he took over as 2 i/c when the previous committed suicide.” Royal Scot Dennis Morley told me that he had seen Walker on deck, giving his life jacket away. I mention it in the book, but for some reason didn’t attribute it to Dennis. ’The Lasting Honour’ includes the same detail. Walker took over after Major Burn shot himself on Conduit Road, apparently as a result of finding himself unable to prevent the rout in the New Territories. The medals of another Lisbon Maru survivor, Able Seaman Victor Vulcan Stainer, were also sold.
July 1st, 2021 Update
Joyce Carroll and Alan Collinson (courtesy Alan Collinson), Stanley Gap AA position (both author)
Argyle Street area (courtesy Rusty Tsoi), Barker Road Station, 1955 (via author), High West range (via Historical Walk HK)
Hong Kong, 1949 (via facebook), Evan Stewart's medals (via Martin Heyes), POW Post (courtesy Ben Dalgleish)
I’m not a great fan of facebook, but I have to say that technically speaking it’s not a bad platform for discussion groups. Luckily with the Battle of Hong Kong, and the Stanley Camp group, and the various FEPOW groups (such as this one, and this one) we have a useful exchange of information and research. But what really bugs me is that on so many such military groups, all intelligent discussion is completely swamped by thousands of self-indulgent comments like “Stand down sir, your duty’s done”; “We salute and thank you”; “We will never forget”; “May you rest in peace”; “Heroes all.” This sort of superficial sentimentalisation trivialises military service and has no place on British and Commonwealth sites (in my opinion). Leave that for our colonial “Thank you for your service” cousins so that the rest of us can get to work!
29 I’ll end the month with a bit of a laugh for Hong Kong based friends: On 2 July 2005 we applied for ordinary membership of the Ladies’ Recreation Club. Today, sixteen years later almost to the day, they finally phoned my wife… Unfortunately, with our then young children now grown up and fled the nest, there’s not much point in joining today, even though we’re just five minutes’ walk away. I suppose these clubs tend to chase nice big corporate debentures rather than focusing on serving the locals.
28 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society’s Spring-Summer 2021 POW Society newsletter ‘Never Forgotten’ is up on their website now.
27 I watched a fascinating 1955 Hollywood film called ‘Soldier of Fortune’ over the weekend. Film of Clichés would have been a more appropriate title, but most of it is either filmed in 1955 Hong Kong or has 1955 Hong Kong on a back projection so it was pretty interesting. Two scenes feature the Barker Road Peak Tram stop (the Peak Tram has been in the news recently as it just closed for a six month enlargement and renovation). I was surprised to see how little the station had changed.
25 I have a tradition, at around this time of year, of walking from Discovery Bay to Silvermine Bay with two of my oldest friends in Hong Kong. This time we took a pretty circuitous three-hour route, but interestingly it enabled me to visit the silver mine itself for the first time.
24 On Hong Kong Past – The Early Years someone posted a 1949 Time photo of Hong Kong Island from the air. Among other things, at bottom middle is a clear view of PB63 at the end of the Vehicular Ferry, from which Corporal Heather fired the shots that detonated the barge-full of dynamite that Jeanette’s barge was carrying. When searching for photos of that Pillbox which I took nearly 30 years ago, I found all my photos of wartime editions of The South China Morning Post, including the Christmas Day 1941 one (illustrated). 24 The subject of this evening’s Royal Asiatic Society Online Lecture was the Battle of Hong Kong 1941, by Dr Chi Man Kwong. This was Chi Man’s introduction of the online dynamic interactive map of the battle, which I have been helping with. It went very well and gained positive feedback. Hopefully it will be live and available to the public towards the end of the summer.
22 Every time I see a mention of singer KT Tunstall I recall that she is the granddaughter of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru.
21 Today I finished my proof reading of the second draft Volume 61 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Now Colin Day will add my corrections to his and we’ll proceed to the third proofs
19 I’ve been contacted by a family friend of Tomohiko Hayashi, the first commandant of the Lunghua civilian internment camp in Shanghai. Apparently he was taken to Hong Kong post war for the war crimes trials. However, because of vocal support from the internees, he was released before the court sat. I was hoping to ask Suzzanah Linton if she had any further information on him, but unfortunately her old Bangor email no longer works. I guess she has move on.
17 Today I sent the final set of mini-biographies for this version of Kwong Chi Man’s interactive battle map. That’s forty in all. I have been greatly enjoying myself going through the map and checking all the movements of units.
14 Mike Babin sent me a question relating to Thomas Thomasson H6778, a Winnipeg Grenadier who was apparently wounded in the battle and hospitalized for four months – initially at Queen Mary’s Hospital and then at Bowen Road Hospital. He perished of diphtheria in (we think) Shamshuipo Camp Hospital in October 1942. But this question again raises the question of whether there is a ‘seam’ of unmined hospital data somewhere. All I have are the details from the HK PRO (ranging from quite good, to scraps, but generally running out towards the end of January 1942). But every now and then I see mention of extremely detailed individual records, and I still don’t know where they come from! 14 Hilary Dyson kindly sent me some detailed information about the early life of Digby Menhinick, the only Royal Marine to have been killed in the Hong Kong fighting. 14 Brian Finch kindly reminded me that we are still planning to dedicate the Lisbon Maru Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum on October 3, Covid and restrictions permitting. I really hope I’ll be there.
11 On facebook today someone posted some very interesting photos, from Historical Walk HK, of the High West shooting range. I know the butts very well and have picked up many bullets that overflew it, but had always wanted to know where the shooting itself was done from. Although not directly linked to Hong Kong’s wartime experience, I imagine many HKVDC men would have used that range.
10 Rusty Tsoi found a very interesting photo on eBay of Prince Road, Kowloon, which he has marked up to show many of the local landmarks of wartime interest.
8 Today I walked over the hills (for those who like details: Hornsey Road, May Road, Chatham Path, Barker Road, Peak Road to Magazine Gap, Coombe Road to Wanchai Gap, Black’s Link to Wong Nai Chung Gap, Tai Tam Reservoir Road) on a wild goose chase to buy a frozen turkey at the Park View supermarket! They didn’t have any, but I took the opportunity to check the old AA position diagonally opposite. I was surprised to see that a lot of trees have been cleared from the top-most block house, and it (and its battle damage) is far more visible than it was. 8 Evelyn Theodora Oswald’s niece got in touch. I believe Evelyn Oswald, an evacuee from Foochow, was evacuated once again from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940. Her husband John Lee G. Oswald stayed, and became an Acting Battery Sergeant Major in 1st Battery of the HKVDC. It’s astonishing that he survived as 50% of that battery were wiped out in the defence of Stanley. After capture he was held at North Point POW Camp, then Shamshuipo, and was then on the fifth draft of POWs to Japan. In 1945 he was liberated from a camp at Nagoya.
7 On 31 December 2020 I wrote:
‘Looking forward to 2021 with a new brother - unbelievable.’ And there we are. Yes, it is indeed somewhat unbelievable that in 2020 we are still finding and reuniting people separated by the Second World War, but yes, there we are.” And “The two people I referred to rather mysteriously last month – a half-brother and half-sister separated by the war – reunited today. ‘Thanks for everything. I owe you a drink or two. Just having a whiskey myself to celebrate’ says one, and ‘looking forward to 2021 with a new brother – unbelievable’, says the other.
Today their photo (Alan Collinson and Joyce Young) gets pride of place in this monthly report. Their mother was Margaret Young (nee Kerr). William Young, Petty Officer Stoker on HMS Redstart was killed in Hong Kong on 24 December 1941 aged 32. Joyce was their daughter, and Alan was born in 1943 thus they are half-brother / half-sister. They met virtually through this website, not previously knowing of each other’s existence, and then physically this year. 7 Elizabeth Wright Brown’s (Stanley internee, in fact born in camp) grandson got in touch.
4 Ben Dalgleish made an interesting find of a couple of POW/Internee mail pieces. One was sent to Corporal Harry Elliott Drew HKDDC, and the other to Jean Mathers in Stanley (the wife of Captain David Mathers of the Punjabis, and herself author of Twisting the Tail of the Dragon).
3 Peter White, whose brother George White was a sergeant under Lieutenant Field of 3 Coy HKVDC and showed great tenacity at PB1 in Wong Nai Ching Gap, got back in touch. He was asking after Anne Ozorio, and I had to pass him the sad news that Anne passed away in the UK in August of last year. 3 I’ve been telling everyone that this is the driest spring I ever recall in Hong Kong, and I learned today that we had the hottest May on record. (Since then, I admit, we've had little but rain).
1 Martin Heyes notes: “In March this year Ron Taylor very kindly sent me the attached photograph of the medals awarded to Col. Evan Stewart, Honorary Colonel of the HKVDC. The photograph had, in turn, been forwarded to Ron by Col. Stewart’s son, Col. R.M. Stewart OBE TD DL, (Michael), who had recently had his father’s medals framed. As I know I do not really need to mention, Major Evan Stewart (as he then was) commanded No. 3 Coy of the HKVDC during the 1941 battle. His Company fought with great tenacity, inter alia, in the WNC Gap area during the battle.” A couple of medal experts who saw this photo immediately spotted that the original medal ribbon in the frame was that of the OBE (Civil), whereas Evan Stewart was clearly awarded the OBE (Military). Michael has now had the mistake rectified. Apparently the chap who did the framing was ‘mortified’ at his error! Oddly enough I posted a much lower resolution version of the same photo to facebook last month, in answer to a query about HKVDC medals.
June 1st, 2021 Update
Boxer & Oda (courtesy Kwong Chi Man), Swiftsure at Causeway Bay (via Facebook), possibly John Lander (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
Haider Rehman Khan (author's collection), Chattey grave (via Project Nova Past & Present), Walter Richardson Scott (courtesy Richard Morgan)
With the publication of the Bearman book (see 25), and with the new New Zealand book (see 4), the Sykes diary, and the Alabaster diary all on the way, it seems that the stream of modern works about Hong Kong’s wartime experience is never ending. On top of that I am aware of at least one more factual book and one more novel in the works, not to mention a number of films in their various stages of pre and post production. When I used to talk to survivors they almost always thought of themselves as ‘forgotten’. Not anymore, it seems. PS, following on from last month’s editorial, at the end of May the South China Morning Post ran the following article: 4 dead, 243 injured among Hongkongers going hiking from January to April.
30 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced that they hope to have their next conference in June 2022 in Liverpool. 30 A friend of the family of James William Feather (Royal Marines) got in touch.
28 The HKVCA are advertising a free Virtual Event on June 21 at 19:00 ET entitled “Canadian Nursing Sisters in the Battle of Hong Kong, and RCMI Virtual Tour”. Registrations are accepted here. 28 I have mentioned Jean Bird (cousin of Hong Kong POW Captain Godfrey Bird, RE) before. Although she has no direct connection with wartime Hong Kong (despite having been born here in 1912), the family shared a new site about her today and it’s well worth a read.
27JP Bear, a US Army Vietnam Veteran who has written a screenplay about Sergeant Gander (the dog mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada) reports that he has now created a trailer which he is using to pitch his idea to various film professionals.
26 The other ex-policeman I asked about photos of Walter Richardson Scott very kindly replied to me today with an amazing photo of Hong Kong Police CIS staff in November 1932 with names. That of course included Scott, but for potential use by other researchers the other names are: ASI Whant*, SI Carpenter, Sergeant Kennedy, Sergeant Ellis*, Sergeant Byron, Sergeant Fowlie, Sergeant Allen*, Sergeant Kinnear*, Sergeant Goodwin+, SI O’Connor+, SI Baker+, Sergeants Fitches, Russel*, Thorpe*, Meadows, Hemsley*, Carruthers*, Moran, Hill*, Clemo, Edwards, MacDonald*, Dixie, Baker*, Glassoonoff*, Gould and Mottram*, SI Dorling, SI Carey+, Insp. Vincent, Insp. Marks, Chief Det. Insp. Reynolds*, Mr W.R. Scott+, ASP, Mr L.H.V. Booth, DCI, Mr T. Murphy, ADCI, (P), Mr A.R.S. Major*, ADCI (C), Insp. W. Shannon, Insp. J. Murphy, SI [illegible], [Illegible]. (* means that a policeman of that name was still in HK at 8 December 1941, and + means they lost their lives in the war).
25 George Boote kindly pointed out that there’s a new book out which covers the life of George Bearman, HKDDC, and his family’s evacuation from Hong Kong to Australia. I had been in dialogue with Bearman’s granddaughter some years back so knew that research was going on, but lost touch. I have ordered a copy. 25 On the Stanley Camp facebook group Siobhan Bland Daiko posted a photo of: “My grandmother, Doris Walker's passport renewed in Stanley Camp.” It’s interesting that it was signed by Gimson. 25 I left our flat early this morning for my daily perambulation around Hong Kong’s hills, and within minutes (on Chatham Path, a Mecca for this species) had bumped into two mating Greater Green snakes. A Chinese gentleman tried to shoo me away, explaining how dangerous they were, while I in return tried to show him how to distinguish the utterly harmless and docile Greater Green from the Bamboo Pit Viper they are often mistaken for. In the end I got the snakes safely off the path. 25 As far as I can see, this Guardian article about the forced repatriation of Chinese merchant seamen at the end of the Second World War has nothing to do with Hong Kong residents, but it is still a shocking read. 25 Bill Lake kindly sent a copy of the whole HMNZHS Maunganui Newsletter of 24 September 1945, and I though its editorial was so good that it’s worth repeating here in full: “Our cruise of the China Seas is over. At the moment we are southwards bound with nearly four hundred patients, and another small contribution has been made to the enormous task of repatriation. It is well for our own peace of mind to remember that it is only a small contribution, almost an infinitesimal contribution. There has never been any stage in the world’s history when such enormous movements of men and women were necessary. It overshadows the movements of armies in the days of conflict. In Germany alone more than 10,000,000 slaves from other countries were imported. All the combatant nations held vast numbers of prisoners. The end of the war found combatant troops in millions far away from their homes. If the problem were one of transport only, it could be fairly efficiently organised by any joint council of pre-war tourist agencies. But it is infinitely more complicated. Of the prisoners and refugees found in enemy hands an abnormally large number are sick and their evacuation is slow, tedious and costly. Naturally they all want to return to their homes, but often their homes had disappeared and their friends and relatives are difficult to locate. Alternative destinations have to be selected with great care. In every country of the world the housing problem is acute. One home in every five in Britain has been destroyed or damaged, and in countries that have escape actual destruction of houses the war effort has precluded a normal building plan. There is probably no country in the world at the moment that is ready to receive comfortably a large expansion of temporary residents with their necessities of accommodation, food, clothing and transport. However, the difficulties of repatriation do not offset its urgency. No one has a greater claim on all the resources of the Allies than the ex-POW or Internee, and to no one else will be given more. That more expedition and more indulgence to personal preferences is not available it is not because of blindness to their desirability, but because of the limitation of resources that were sacrificed without stint to the cause of victory. The collapse of Japan was one of many occasions during this war where the Allies were caught unprepared. Their planning had been directed towards further invasion of enemy territory, but they expected to go in with offensive weapons and not with medical supplies. When peace came quick decisions had to be made. On one there was general agreement - that by all means possible and at the very earliest opportunity their compatriots should be removed from enemy control. That was the first phase and it is now almost completed. Hereafter the pace must necessarily slow. Many details of the consequent plan are still in the making, but it is taking shape and its form will be determined not by the individual desires, but by the common good of the greatest number. The brave new world that was promised will become a fact, but it has first to be made. So, as the ship plunges on in the direction of Australia it is wise to remember that it is only one very small unit among the thousands that at the moment by land, sea and air are redistributing mankind over the face of the earth. Fortunately the task is simplified by the forbearance of the ex-POW. In general we believe he is conscious of the major difficulties and by exercising a little more of that patience without which he would not have survived his captivity, he will continue his journeyings with equanimity and eventually realise an even greater gratification on reaching his final destination.”
24 One of my ex-Police contacts felt that there might be a photo of Walter Richardson Scott in Alexander Grantham’s biography “Via Ports” (future Hong Kong Governor Grantham and Scott were good friends and brothers-in-law, having married two American sisters). I ordered a copy from HKUP and it arrived today, and lo and behold it does have a photo! It’s not the best quality, but it’s a great deal better than nothing. The only photo I am missing now is that of Flying Officer Norman Lee ‘Whimpey’ Baugh, MC, RAF. I can’t find one anywhere (but note the MC – a very rare decoration for an RAF officer).
23 Keith Andrews kindly pointed out that according to what looks like a credible website, the Washington Maru / Shinsei Maru No. 1 was not the Shinsei Maru which took the Lisbon Maru survivors from Shanghai to Moji. For background, those Lisbon Maru survivors always said that the Washington Maru was just another name for the Shinsei Maru that they were on. I am not yet fully convinced that this is incorrect, as the whole of the year 1942 is missing from the Washington Maru data. Steve Denton pointed out that, among other things, Percy Chittenden seemed certain when writing in 1945 that the Washington Maru and Shinsei Maru were one and the same.
22 It seems we’ve just about put all the pieces of the next Volume of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, together. Now will come the typesetting and proof-reading before it goes to publication.
21 Chi Man Kwong sent me a fascinating photo, taken around 1940, of Charles Boxer with the Japanese consul Oda (who helped manage the Stanley Camp). He notes: “Oda was Boxer's kendo teacher”. 21 While searching my horribly over-crowded bookcase for a lost book, I found one I lost so long ago that I’d forgotten I ever had it! This was a copy of the very rare (though, to be honest, tiny and not terribly useful) ‘How Did The Japs Treat You’ by W M Burnside. It measures about 7cm by 12 and has just 15 pages. (Interestingly, I was given this booklet some years back by Kelly Stuart of Austin, Texas who bought it at an estate sale, looked up the name ‘Burnside’ on this website, and kindly posted it over).
20 Jennifer Dobbs kindly sent over another 25 or so copies of Arthur Gomes’s newsletters.
18 While researching Lieutenant Power of the Royal Rifles for the mini-biography series, I recalled that there was a question some years ago when his medals were up for sale. Firstly, no one could find his MC mentioned in The Canada Gazette, and secondly the medal itself had strange plating and engraving (illustrated). While I can’t explain the latter, I was finally able to find the former by ploughing through lots of old copies. It is dated 2 April 1946, and follows on from the gazetting of Osborn’s VC. 18 Elizabeth Ride has added two new posts to her website covering activities in POW camps, and the Hong Kong George Crosses.
17 I heard very good reviews on Craig Mitchell’s talk on battlefield finds to the HKVCA today, and fortunately it is available to watch here. I recommend it! 17 Academia sent me “A historiographical review of Hong Kong's military history” by Pok Man Seung today. 17 I finally finished the Foreword for Leonard Sykes’s POW diaries. I will post publication details here when they become available. 17 Elizabeth Ride called, to help me clear up a few issues with the mini-biography I am writing of her father. As I suspected, his current Wikipedia entry has a few errors, which I will correct when we’ve finished. Lady Ebury (Sue Ebury, of Weary Dunlop fame) was working on a full-length biography of Ride shortly before she passed away, but it seems it was never completed and she didn’t want the incomplete version shared.
15 I am back in touch with relatives (in the States) of Walter Richardson Scott. I was hoping they would have a photograph of him for the mini-biographies project, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear that they have. They suggest I try the HK Police, so I have emailed a couple of ex-Police contacts.
14Meg Parkes kindly sent me photographs of Geoffrey Coxhead, HKVDC, which I needed for my mini-biographies project.
11 Researching the famous career of ‘Crumb’ Chattey (Middlesex), I posted a query on the FEPOW family Facebook group. Someone very kindly replied with a photo of the Chattey grave in Mundsley, Norfolk, noting: “This will be cleaned in the near future as part of the Project Nova Past & Present Programme. We are recording every CWGC headstone in England and any private markers noted whilst researching the CWGC in each location.” Chattey’s brother was also in the Middlesex and (unusually for that regiment) became a POW on the Railway.
10 Bob Da Silva notes: “Recently I acquired the attached document. It was written by my uncle Ricardo da Silva’s brother in law (my uncle together with my dad, his younger brother Roberto) ended up in Sendai. Richards wife’s name was Hazel and she is mentioned in Ted’s memoirs on page three, third last paragraph.” Ted (Edward Harris) ended up in Stanley with his family: Harris, Ann Mrs British 17.01.95 F Housewife Stanley 9/33 2041 Harris, Edward British 29.10.24 M Apprentice Engineer Stanley 9/33 2042 Harris, Rose Miss British 15.10.28 F Student Stanley 9/33 2043 It’s always good to receive these personal accounts which can be added to the overall picture.
8 Philip Cracknell noted: “For Battle of Hong Kong aficionados: Glancing through 'Eastern Waters Eastern Winds' (History of the Royal HK Yacht Club) I spotted this photograph which shows PB 16 and its searchlight LL 16. The boat crew in the foreground are bringing a boat ashore on Middle Island. The ruin of the Lyon Light (LL) structure is still extant but only the concrete base of the pill box (PB) remains.” The chap in the middle looks very like John Lander to me.
7 I heard from The Java FEPOW Club today that: “The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre Museum is in need of urgent support now due to the COVID pandemic. The Museum was re-opened last September after 6 months of closure, and they have only had a few local visitors living in Thailand since re-opening. This has seriously undermined their income and they have had to substantially cut their operating costs by reducing salaries. So far they have managed to keep all their staff by living on their reserve funds, but these are now running out. Those of us who have visited the Museum and had such wonderful support from the Staff there – Rod Beattie, Terry Manttan, Andrew Snow and all the local Thai staff – know how much work has gone into the research of each and every man who worked on the Railway. We know how well the Cemeteries are looked after, particularly when Rod was in charge of them. Those of us whose fathers or relatives are buried there may have a special reason for wanting to help the Museum in their hour of need, but I am sure that every one of us with a FEPOW relative would wish to help as well.” If anyone would like to donate let me know, and I will send you a form that TBRC gave me which shows all the ways to do it. 7 The Facebook Battle of Hong Kong page today featured a rather nice image of Swiftsure steaming west past Causeway Bay on its way to liberate the Colony.
5 It’s really sad that we know so little about the vast majority of the Indian servicemen who fought in Hong Kong in the war years. We have their names and the ‘official’ unit histories, but almost no personal accounts or photographs to put faces to names. One I’m particularly interested in is the highly decorated Subedar-Major Haider Rehman Khan of the 2/14 Punjabis. I mentioned him to Kamal Prasad (Kumta Prasad’s son) today, and he noted: “The Subedar and my father exchanged festive greetings each year till 1960-61, (which showed the high esteem they had for each other) when the Indian intelligence Dept intercepted one of these greetings from Pakistan and created a ruckus. Dad was called to GHQ in Delhi - we were in Bombay - and asked about this. The Chief then intervened and saved him from an official reprimand for communicating with the enemy!! Dad threatened to resign as this was the second incident, the first being in 1955 as a brigade commander in J&K… The Subedar was really an exceptional leader of men. Dad used to speak very highly of him and his strength of character, discipline, integrity and sheer Will power in holding the men together in the face of the huge pressure from the Japs to defect to the INA. This especially after the murder of Captain Ansari of the Rajputs. This upset the rank and file of the Punjab immensely, and many turned rebellious. Haider Rehman was a large landholder in undivided Punjab, a ‘Raja’ who joined as a ranker because of poor English which precluded his passing the examination for entry to the officer cadre. Besides this he was a true soldier, with a very strong sense of loyalty to the Regiment. Nigel Forsyth, whom I met in Dunedin spoke very highly of him. Haider was a recipient of both the IOM and MC after the War. Dad used to say he was a tower of strength both during the battle and as a POW, earning respect by personal example to the men.” The son of another Punjab officer – Captain James Flynn – sent me an excellent photo of Haider Rehman Khan some years back.
4 I received a very interesting manuscript from a New Zealand publisher today, which they asked me to read for historical accuracy. It concerns a unique story from Hong Kong in the early days of the war. More about this later!
1 Woke up with a big rash on my left arm. One of the hidden dangers of Hong Kong! I must have brushed against a Lacquer Tree on Mount Davis on yesterday’s tour of the Coastal Battery site there.
May 1st, 2021 Update
Robert Lapsley's 100th (courtesy Philomena Lapsley), HMS Whelp (courtesy IWM), Waterfall Bay defences (author)
PB14 and Lyon light (courtesy J.C. Echizen), ARP Warden (via YouTube), Macpherson family (courtesy Emma Pruen)
TDKY staff at Gulangyu, TKDY staff 1937 (both courtesy of Swire Archives), Unusual shelter (courtesy Tan)
I have walked in Hong Kong’s hills every day for as long as I can recall, even if it was just over the top from mid-levels to my old office in Causeway Bay. In 2019 I walked to the top of High West and the Peak most mornings, and if I saw anyone on the former it was generally the same two regulars. Now, everyone is at it! Not necessarily with the right experience or footwear (the ASR helicopter was called out twice as many times as normal in 2020), but they are all out walking. Even my wife and her friends are now looking for new places to go and are including Second World War hikes as ‘places of interest’. I don’t know how long this new-found enthusiasm will last but am enjoying it while I can.
30 Walked with a friend to Mount Davis battery today. I had completely forgotten just how much was still left to see, but unfortunately you can no longer get into the Plotting Room (scene of the famous unexploded shell incident). We then walked back to Central along the shore line, which is much more pleasant than it used to be. 30 I received this from the HKVCA: “Live from Hong Kong! Discover how amateur historian Craig Mitchell and his colleagues search the battlefields to find relics of the Battle of Hong Kong, trace their history, and return them to their owners’ family members.” Time: May 17, 2021 07:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada). Register here.
27 Academia.edu is sending me some interesting theses. The Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong; The Strategic Importance of Hong Kong and the Details of the Japanese Military Rule is a good example. Another is The Sum of All Fears: The Evacuation of British Subjects from pre-war Hong Kong.
25Elizabeth Ride contacted me, discussing her research into how the Japanese knew about the illegal radio being operated in the Argyle Street Camp. 25 Justin Ho, who has been researching his step grandfather Raymond Chiang Lee Hai, notes: “In 2019, A Malayan-Chinese veteran by the name of Ho Weng Toh (Captain Ho) published his memoirs called Memoirs of a Flying Tiger. Captain Ho is a former HKU student who later joined the Chinese Air Composite Wing (CACW), and later settled down in Singapore. Coincidentally, he was one of the 23 people to escape from HK to the Guangdong Province from 5th - 14th August, 1942 (mentioned in previous correspondence). The operation was led by [Raymond Chiang Lee Hai] and Lo Teng Kee, who were guides. The details of the escape is covered in pages 21-32 of the book. Uncle Ray was also referred to as an ‘agent’, very likely his affiliations with the BAAG.” I hadn’t recalled that any of the HKU escapees joined the Flying Tigers, but Ho went on to pilot a B25. 25 The South China Morning Post ran a story about Jubilee Battery today.
24 Ken Blackmore kindly alerted me to this auction of old Hong Kong photos. It only has an indirect connection with the topic, but it’s all good background. 24 ABC in Australia ran a story about James Kim (BAAG) and his brothers today.
23 Jennifer Dobbs in the States kindly sent me an almost complete set of Arthur Gomes’s famous newsletters, from 1998 to 2004. I had perhaps half a dozen odd copies already, but nothing as comprehensive as this. It will take me a while to go through them. To some degree this blog, which began in this form in October 2003, was intended to continue Arthur’s newsletter.
22 Kwong Chi Man sent me a fine photo of a knocked-out 60 pounder at North Point. This must be Winter’s gun (which was used to sink three freighters in the harbour, suspected of being Japanese OPs). I had seen the photo before, but in poor resolution.
21 Working on a short biography of Digby Menhinick, the only Royal Marine to be killed in the battle of Hong Kong, the family kindly sent me a wonderful photograph of him. (Illustrated). 21 Karen Swan Lapsley noted on facebook: “My uncle, Robert Lapsley, 100 years old, at the Anzac Memorial service today at the RSL Anzac Village… Wounded December 24, 1941. Imprisoned by Japanese until August 1945. Now resides in Sydney. Nulli secundus in Oriente.” Robert Lapsley was also featured in this newspaper article.
20 Richard Whittington contacted me, researching William and Jean Sayers in Stanley Internment Camp. I gave him the little I know, adding: “I also wonder if Murdo William Sayers might have been their son, despite his rather bare CWGC record saying his parents were in the UK?” Richard kindly replied showing that: “there is a memorial in Rosskean Parish Churchyard for Murdo, who was William's son, killed on 25 Dec 1941 aged 21 and for William's wife Jane (not Jean) Rena (nee Kelt) who died 29 OC 1946 aged 51.” Clearly my suspicion was well founded.
19 Bob Tatz notes: “Recently I saw in your monthly diary that Tony recently celebrated his 100th birthday. It was about 2005 that I visited both Tony and Bill in Sydney in Australia… I spent a good afternoon with both of them reminiscing about the times we were all with Jardine’s and they were my Chief Engineers. Sadly Bill was killed in a car accident shortly after this. Tony is mentioned in my book (also photographed) on pages 188, 192, 199 and 220. Bill is mentioned on pages 233-236, 239, and 265. I have pictures of Bill, though not in the book. I would like somehow to convey my congratulations to Tony Lapsley for reaching such a milestone in his life. I do not have his address or connection with his family.” 19 Eloise Butler let us know that Vincent Young, BAAG, passed away today. He lived not far from me, though I only met him once. This was Doc Ride’s view of him: “Before and during hostilities in Hongkong, Vincent Young was a Sergeant in the Chinese section RA. After the capitulation, he evaded capture and reported to the BAAG in China for further service. He was immediately employed in a civilian capacity (having been discharged from the army according to WO instructions) and sent back to Hongkong on a scheme which eventually resulted in the escape of a large number of Indians. He remained in Hongkong for some months as our inside Indian contact but when it was found that there was too large a price on his head he was withdrawn and employed on the no less dangerous job of runner between our post in the New Territories and AHQ. After this post was withdrawn, he was a member of the ill-fated coast watching station that was captured by the Reds, but fortunately he was not at the post at the time of the capture. He subsequently took a prominent part in the negotiations which lead up to the safe return of those members captured. Owing to his outstanding bravery and value in field operations, he was transferred to Force 136, but after a period of training during which he again proved to be a man of outstanding qualities, the operation was abandoned. He then returned to the BAAG and was engaged on an operation in Hainan when hostilities ceased. He displayed outstanding ability and exemplary courage throughout all his service and was of inestimable value to us in our escape and evasion work.” Signed: L T Ride, Colonel.
17 I had often puzzled over the oft-repeated claim that the Japanese war memorial was built on Mount Cameron. The site is clearly not on Cameron, but on an isolated spur the other side of the road at Magazine Gap. Today I finally learned that this is called Bowen Hill! 17 Reading Squadron Leader Donald Hill’s diary yet again, I noticed that: “Group Captain Horry sails for Singapore on the Ullyses leaving Wing Commander Sullivan as our CO.” I had forgotten that this extra last-minute change in the top brass took place. 17 Ruy Barretto very kindly sent me a USB with a copy of R.J. Everest’s notebook detailing the fates of members of the HKVDC. I will have to go through it carefully as there are certain details (dates of promotions in camp, for example) which I am not sure are preserved elsewhere.
16 Today I received the latest edition of The Java Journal. The only Hong Kong related story (aside from a nice obituary of Dennis Morley) was another mention of the return of John Carley’s sports medal from 1935 to his nephew (see January). However, it may be of general interest that it also mentioned that three sites on Dover's iconic White Cliffs are being considered for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn, who died last year. Former Beatle Sir Paul, writing to Vera Lynn’s daughter said: “Dear Ginny, I think it is a great idea to have a statue put up on the White Cliffs of Dover so your lovely mum, Vera Lynn, can welcome people forever.”
13 Sandy Wynd notes: “I was browsing and came across this colour video which really made Hong Kong in 1945 come to life if you haven’t seen it.” I found it fascinating because although the clapper boards confirm this was shot in September 1945, you would think the war had been over for ages.
12 Rusty Tsoi notes: “Recently I got a copy of the Official Programme of the Victory Celebrations on 8 June 1946 held in London, and finally we can be certain which units represented Hong Kong to participate in the Celebrations, namely the HKRNVR, HKVDC, HKVC, Hong Kong Pioneer Company and ‘civilian services’ (including Hong Kong Police and ARP at least). The following link was a video in YouTube, which was one of the footage of the Celebrations. I guess you may have seen it as well... The gentleman speaking in Cantonese at the end of the footage was an ARP warden, but we could not figure out who he was at the moment, still...” I have to say he looks very familiar!
10 Tan notes that the shelter at the junction of Shek O Road and Cape Collinson Road is a very different design from others. Does anyone know why?
9 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, passed away today. It’s not generally appreciated in Hong Kong that he was involved in Liberation here. Prince Philip was First Lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Whelp, which with HMS Wager was part of the escort for Admiral Fraser’s (Commander of the British Pacific Fleet) flagship Duke of York in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. On 9 September, ten days after Harcourt’s fleet arrived in Hong Kong, the three ships left Tokyo to bring Fraser to Hong Kong for the local surrender. The IWM has a wonderful photo of Whelp and Wager ‘topping’ up with oil from Duke of York, from which I cut the photo of Whelp above. 9 Burke Penny kindly sent me a photo of William Allister which I needed for the Baptist University project. 9 Professor Stephen Davies helped solve a minor mystery today, by putting me in touch with the family of Frederick John Jeacock (a shipwright with Taikoo Dockyard in 1941). I confidently told them that Jeacock had left Hong Kong immediately before the invasion in a vessel called Pakhoi which had been intercepted by the Japanese at sea, all on board being interned in China (as related in Greg Leck’s excellent book Captives of Empire). Stephen pointed out that this was somewhat unlikely, as Pakhoi was elsewhere at the time. Fortunately Jeacock’s daughter was able to check and noted: “My father sailed from Taikoo with other Taikoo employees at 2am on the morning of the 8th December (they were previously meant to sail at 2am on the 7th) on board the SS Kiangsu bound for Singapore.” So it was the Kiangsu after all. What makes me interested is that while researching the 1940 evacuation from Hong Kong I noticed a lot of Dockyard families where the husband/father was no longer in Hong Kong by the time of the invasion, I had speculated that they may have been sent to the new Dockyard at Singapore in the interim, but checking against the Chinese internment camps, the majority were on the same ship. I see they were spread over the Great Western Road Camp andHaiphong Road Camp (JR is Hong Kong Jurors’ Role): Beeken, David William - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp -1940 JR
Beeken, Edith Dorothy – Great Western Road Camp - wife of David in Haiphong Road
Camp Bell, Robert Barr - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR
Cunningham, William S. - ? - Great Western – 1940 JR Dryburgh, John Clunnie - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Hope, Stewart - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Jeacock, Frederick John - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Keown, Richard McArthur - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Lyle, David Laird - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Maybe - JR 1940
Main, Robert - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Moir, Archibald Black - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - JR 1940
Moir, Sarah Black (ANS) - wife of Archibald - Great Western Road Camp - died 22 Dec 44
Munro, Donald - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Nimmo, James - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Yes - JR 1940
Norrie, Robert Brown McGover - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Peoples, David - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR
Pollock, Samuel James - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes -1940 JR
Thomson, John Butler - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Wallace, Robert Cooper – Taikoo Docks – Great Western – Maybe – 1940 JR Stephen also got the Swire archivists involved, and they very kindly let me use the 1937 photo of the Dockyard men (Courtesy of Swire Archives). Of the other photo of the POWs while still in Amoy, Mary Rose Pulvercraft notes: “Card table, left Pattinson, R B Bell, Cunningham, another. Standing, R C Wallace, Jap, Mrs Moir, Mr Moir, Jap, Norwegian, Jeacock, Breckin, Norwegian, Stewart Hope, Dryburgh, two Norwegians. Sitting, middle row, Keown, Lyle, Mrs Breckin, Mrs Bell, Captain Bell, Peoples, another.”
8 Philip Cracknell notes: “This is a series of photographs from a very recent walk I took among the ruins of war on Mount Davis. The structures photographed include the three 9.2-inch gun emplacements (F1, F2 and F3), the AA section position (2 X 3-inch) and the impressive remains of the Royal Navy Port War Signal Station later used as Western Fire Command after the original position was destroyed. I have interspersed the description of the recent walk and current photographs with extracts from RSM Enos Ford's hand-written diary held at the Imperial War Museum. He served at Fort Davis throughout the battle and the terrific bombardment. Click [the link] to see the post.”
7 I was again contacted by the family of Terence Claude Hill. This is another search going back fifteen or more years. Apparently he lived with his two sisters in Kowloon pre-war, and they perhaps left for Australia as evacuees before the invasion. Either way, it seems the family got separated and his descendants really know nothing about their family’s roots. Aspects of the story don’t really add up, and I have made no real progress. All help, as ever, would be gratefully received.
5 I’ve been in touch with Lieutenant Colonel Macpherson’s family again. They kindly sent me this link to a video they made ten years ago to mark his ‘100th birthday’. They also sent me a photo of his: “legacy. Even though he only made it to 30 years of age this is what he left behind. Attached is a picture of Malcolm Macpherson celebrating his 80th Birthday, with his 3 children (plus husbands/wife) and 6 grandchildren. From left to right: Felix Macpherson, Jo Macpherson, Hector Macpherson, James Macpherson, Caroline Macpherson, Malcolm Macpherson, Charlotte Macpherson, Peter Durgerian, Rae Durgerian, Flora Durgerian, Ishbel Amyatt-Leir, Emma Pruen née Macpherson, Poppy Pruen and Matthew Pruen.” I’ve seen several such family groups of men who survived the war, but I think this is the first I have seen from one who died.
4 Today my wife and I walked over the hills to Waterfall Bay. For some unclear reasons you’re not encouraged to visit, but we climbed over the fence and had the place to ourselves until a few kayakers beached themselves there. It’s a nice spot with some interesting defences. 4 Steve Denton kindly sent me an article by Christopher Man (in The Die-Hards), which refers to seven POWs who volunteered as medical orderlies in Kobe House and did a fantastic job. They were: No. 6201000 Corporal Frank Wookey No. 6199800 Lance Corporal William Puddifoot No. 6202309 Private S. Mitchell-Gears No. 6213478 Private Percy Chittenden No. 6201452 Private Leslie Lansdell No. 6213496 Private Albert Green No. 6200321 Bandsman Joseph Nolan
2 Henry John Joslin’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch through the kind services of Keith Andrews.
1 J.C. Echizen posted several fine photos of PB14 and its Lyon Light on facebook today. I just finished writing a short biography of Sergeant Rich, the PB’s final commander, which made it particularly timely.
April 1st, 2021 Update
Two shots from BattleBox (courtesy Craig McCourry), 2/14 Punjabis (courtesy Kamal Prasad)
Devil's Peak Redoubt, City Hall Memorial, Gough Battery (all author)
James Flynn (courtesy Patrick Flynn), Jubilee Battery views (courtesy Tan), Richard Walker Mills (courtesy Michael Martin)
After much deliberation I have finally launched my own boutique agency, Reyner Banham Consulting, offering historical PR consulting, research, and writing. In fact, of course, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for many years but have now decided to make it my focus. The website is far from perfect (and I know it doesn’t support mobile devices well yet), but all feedback would be gratefully received. Meanwhile, all historical research proceeds as usual!
30 I heard this evening (from her son Lawrence) that Mrs. Paul Ka-cheung Tsui passed away peacefully in Hong Kong today. She was married to Paul Tsui of the British Army Aid Group in January 1944, at the St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Wai Chow (Huizhou) where BAAG had its Advance HQ. Ronnie Holmes and Dick Hooper were among the many well-known names at the wedding ceremony.
29 While looking through the diaries of Captain Christopher Man of 1st Bn The Middlesex Regt, I found a note entitled: DRAFT SENT BY 1 MX TO BURMA NOV 41, which I don’t think I’d seen before. It’s widely known that a large number of their NCOs went back to the UK, but clearly this draft to Burma would likely still have been there when the Pacific War started. The note read: “The u/m Officers, NCO’s & Men were sent to BURMA at the end of November 1941 for Training. It has been thought advisable to add their names to this record as all details of this party were lost in HONG KONG. Lieut. G.C. DAWSON 2/Lieut. P. JAMES Sgt PRIDDY Sgt. POINTER Cpl. SETON Cpl. McGRADY PTE THOMPSON (80) PTE THOMPSON (39) “ CUNNINGHAM “ HILL “ McALHATTON “ MORAN “ GEIST “ EATON “ DORMER “ CHACKSFIELD “ MARTIN (56) “ HOWE I looked for the names in CWGC files, but only Dormer seems to have been lost in Burma (though a possible Moran was lost in Italy).
28 An interesting find in the Chai Wan area today. It looked to me like a British 3-inch AA shell (unfired, but case less. Perhaps someone, a long time ago, took the latter as a souvenir. I recognized the time fuse as it seemed identical to one I found on an unexploded 3.7-inch AA shell in the UK as a child). And just a few days ago, in an area I walked past on Friday, we had this.
27 Joseph Henry Newman’s (Royal Military Police) nephew got in touch. 27 Martin Heyes shared a link to a well known British Gaumont newsreel of Hong Kong’s defences, but it’s well worth watching again.
25 Jon Reid gave an online presentation about his book The Captain Was A Doctor today. The recording can be found here. 25 Steve Denton kindly sent me this. It seems to be a partial listing of Red Cross cards documenting POW telegram communications. I tested a few Hong Kong names, but at least with the set I tried I only found records for the deceased. But it is interesting stuff.
24 I wandered down to City Hall this morning to get some photos of the Shrine and HKVDC memorials for the Dobbs family. I was concerned to see that some parts of the area are now a little overgrown. Regular readers will know that sometimes a search for the fate of an individual (or their burial place) can take years or even decades, and this is one of those. Francis Edward Litton Dobbs worked with the China Salt Gabelle and lived in Kunming with his American wife Alice and their three children. Just before the invasion, Dobbs and his wife visited Hong Kong to see the dentist and do some Christmas shopping. They were trapped by the attack, and Dobbs volunteered. Perhaps he went up into the New Territories and was killed when a boiler exploded in a building there (possibly used to store military materials, and possibly a school-type building) early in the fighting. The Stanley list has a date of death of 12 December. His body may or may not have been brought back to Hong Kong. His death certificate states he was killed in a boiler explosion on December 25, but as this wasn’t signed until 1946 it may be dubious. Suffice it to say that Dobbs’s name is in CWGC lists (as dying on 22 December), but he has no known grave at the moment and his exact fate is still uncertain. He is referred to in passing in at least three books, but so far – having been looking into this case for fifteen years - that’s still all I have. STOPPRESS: Just before posting this month’s blog I noticed that someone at the ever-helpful gwulo.com had recently posted a Probate Record giving location of death as the Kwong Sang Hong premises 192 Hennessy Road Hong Kong, 22 December 1941. This could be the breakthrough I’ve been hoping for.
22 Bob Tatz emailed me today to say that he is expecting to release a second revised edition of his book very soon. He notes: “The changes are not significant, the major item being the addition of about 20 photographs after Chapter 15, and some minor editing in the Introduction and Afterthoughts at the ending.“
21 This morning my wife and I took the MTR over to Yau Tong and walked up the hill to Gough Battery and Devil’s Peak Redoubt. I hadn’t been there for years and was amazed to see how popular it was. I had also forgotten how much was left. When the current hiking craze dies down I’ll go back for a better look.
20 Perth Academy in Scotland contacted me today about an old boy, John Dickson, who was lost in the Jeanette explosion in Hong Kong harbour. They would like to make a wooden memorial for him, and I wonder if anything from Jeanette was preserved? My correspondent also noted that: “I was taking photos of headstones in East Wemyss cemetery, Fife. In the background was a family dedication to Eli Westwood.” Gunner Westwood, 8th Coast Regiment, died of meningitis as a POW in June 1942. There’s no way to collate all these private memorials in the UK to men lost in Hong Kong, but I probably hear about two or three each year. 20 On facebook I saw someone advertising the free download (from Amazon) of a new book: “Three Years Eight Months: The Forgotten Struggle of Hong Kong's WWII”. I downloaded and read it. It would be charitable to say it was worth pretty much what I paid for it.
18 Not directly pertinent to the subject in hand, but I had my first BionTech jab in Hong Kong today. A good reminder of how lucky we are in Hong Kong these days to have easy access to modern medicine. 18 I was alerted to two older documentaries about Hong Kong on YouTube. The first, a 2014 piece covering the entire history of Hong Kong, I quite enjoyed (the Second World War segment begins at 29.30). The second is in Chinese, though with subtitles, and includes the words of a number of Chinese veterans I used to know.
17 Craig McCourry reports that his Battlebox movie has now finished shooting and is in post-production. He also shared some quite credible images from the film. 17 I discovered today that the once hard-to-find history of Victoria Barracks is now available online here.
14 In connection with the Royal Mail stamp featuring liberated POWs at Omori (see May 2020), Ian Quinn notes: “There is another HK ‘connection’ in this group also. Glenn McConnell, the pilot of the B-24 ‘Sweepy Time Gal’ shot down 18/04/44 is at the back framed by the outstretched arms. Glenn was exceptionally tall hence he stands out.” 14 On the subject of concert parties at Stanley, Michael Martin posted some sketches on facebook of: “[Richard Walker] Mills in Stanley Camp. All painted by AJ Savitsky. I've actually never seen these before and found them here”. Clearly there were many plays!
13Tan notes: “I mentioned before about British officer locked by Japanese inside Jubilee battery underground magazine. Here is photo of the brick room inside No. 2 gun magazine. It possibly built by Japanese used as jail.” I superimposed the photo on his scanned image which shows the brick room more clear inside the magazine (note the shadow image on the wall shows a rack was added in there). Does anyone know anything about this?
12I received the latest FEPOW75 newsletter today and noticed that the website has been much improved. 12 For anyone interested in the weapons used in Hong Kong during the war, there are now many useful and knowledgeable videos available. This one shows the technical aspects of the Bren gun (note the shot at 24.30 demonstrating the unique oblong shape of firing pin, a shape well-known to anyone who has picked up spent .303 cases in Hong Kong), and this one demonstrates the training for the weapon.
11 I was going through some old emails and found this one from 2004 from Kamal Prasad (son of Kamta Prasad, CO B Coy, 2/14 Punjabis): “My father is seated 3rd from left, next to Sub Maj Haidar Rahman Khan (with the cap & long beard) In the centre is Lt Col GE Grey, the CO, followed by Sub Mohd Khan & Capt IJ Blair. Behind Blair is, I think, Nigel Forsyth. I do not know the others. The title to the pic is ‘Officers & VCOs of the 2/14th Punjab Regt after liberation in HK, Sept 1945’." As photos of the Indian Regiments are so rare, I thought I’d post it this month, together with a rather fine photo of Major James Lough Flynn (who I believe was the CO of D Company) which I received from his son Patrick about ten years ago. 11 I have been assisting a gentleman writing a biography of Christopher Man of the Middlesex, and excellent choice of subject. Fortunately I have a small collection of photos of the Mans, the Weedons, and Geoffrey Cadzow Hamilton taken immediately post war (and lent to me by Hamilton’s daughter). One question that has come out of this is when exactly did the Middlesex leave their barracks at Shamshuipo, and which barracks (presumably on Hong Kong Island) did they move into at that time?
10 Today I was contacted by the great granddaughter of George Findlay Andrew. Andrew was in China during the war, working for Force 163. His son George Leslie Andrew was interned in Stanley where he met his wife to be, Gladys Collard. Both being classified as Canadian they were repatriated in 1943. George Leslie Andrew then continued to the UK to join up and was posted to India where (according to a newspaper article) he was “engaged in special work which took him twice over ‘the hump’ into China.” Gladys volunteered for nursing service in Italy, and when the European war ended transferred to India where they would be reunited. Elizbeth Ride also kindly supplied a couple of BAAG documents confirming George Findlay Andrew’s role in China.
9 I had an interesting email from the family of two British children who were interned in Stanley but repatriated. To complicate matters, although their first names were Elizabeth and John, their surnames were at various times Fitzgerald (that being their mother's maiden name), Soo (as their father was Chinese) and McGowan (their stepfather's surname). After marriage Elizabeth would be Chin Yu Williams, but that is another matter. The Stanley list shows them twice: Fitzgerald Elizabeth Evelyn Miss Canadian 14.12.24 F Clerk IWM
Fitzgerald John Allan Canadian 05.07.27 M Student IWM
With the note "Repatriated Canada 23.09.43”, and:
McGowan B E Miss F Stanley NomRollMar42 McGowan J A M Child Stanley NomRollMar42 It seems that someone managed to get them listed as Canadian and thus repatriated.
8 Alan Sloan posted a photo of his father John Kane Sloan (illustrated) on facebook. Unusually, Sloan’s POW Index Card lists him as a civilian whereas his Shamshuipo record shows him as a Private in the HKVDC. He was captured at the North Point Power Station, and possibly as a civilian (the Japanese were consistent in recognizing civilians captured on the front line as being military POWs).
3 EOD disposed of a three-inch mortar in Shek O today. There seems to be a lot of stuff turning up at the moment, and I’m not sure if it’s the earth crumbling after this extended dry spell or just the pigs nosing things up!
1 Sandy Wynd kindly replied to my question about Stanley Concert programmes (see last month), pointing me to examples here and here. 1 Thanks to both Justin Ho and Ken Skelton for identifying the Royal Rifles of Canada item (see last month). It turns out it is a collar badge of the then 8th Regiment Royal Rifles of Canada (the name of the RRoC from 1900-1920), which was authorized in 1904 and worn until c.1920.
March 1st, 2021 Update
Shamshuipo in around 1935 (courtesy "George Best"), Shamshuipo in 1946 and Photo alignment (author)
Filter beds? (author), RRoC badge (courtesy Colin Standish), Aberdeen Industrial School (author)
Manning HKDDC (courtesy Eve Castillo-Jones), Manning in Argyle Street (via author), Unveiling Saiwan Memorial (courtesy Bill Lake)
An old friend turned up out of the blue this afternoon and very kindly gave me three examples of battlefield memorabilia preserved and mounted in a most professional style. One of them was particularly evocative as – although not a personal item – it could only have come from a particular place at a particular time. Now the thing is that I knew that, and my friend knew that… and that’s what’s got me slightly worried. You see, the Hong Kong Government’s initiatives for the Hong Kong Chronicles and the ‘open museums’ of the Second World War (both mentioned below) are to be applauded. But will they be created by the right people, with that necessary blend of deep knowledge and passion? If you visit Hong Kong’s museums, for example, you immediately realise they are well budgeted and the contents are professionally displayed, but you also feel (with a few exceptions: The Maritime Museum springs to mind) that they are managed and run by people with Museum Studies degrees, rather than a true fascination for the topic. Still, I suppose we’re fortunate to even be in a position to have such a discussion.
28I have been corresponding with Jennifer Dobbs again. Her father - Francis Dobbs who lost his life in Hong Kong during the fighting – worked in China for the Salt Gabelle. I am surprised how little seems to have been written about the latter. There are a few articles online under the name “Salt Administration”, but not a great deal.
27 Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish, Royal Rifles of Canada, has been amassing a useful collection of RRoC artefacts. Today he showed me what appears to be a strange one: a ’slung bugle badge’. That motif is common enough in the British Army, but most notably associated with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. And yet as far as I know Volens Et Valens has only ever been used by the RRoC. As for the 8… I’m no expert but I associate such insignia with regiments rather than battalions. Has anyone seen one of these before?
25 I have been helping a fellow researcher with some details of concerts held in Shamshuipo POW camp. I have quite a number of images – probably at least 25 – of programmes, cast lists, sketches of scenes, and even reviews, most of which are from individual diaries. But it is interesting that I only seem to have one from Argyle Street, and as far as I can see none from Stanley. Does anyone have these? At some point I’ll write an article on the topic for the Roya Asiatic Society.
24 In today’s budget announcement the Hong Kong Government stated that: “money will also be used to convert some wartime relics into ‘open museums’ to ‘enrich visitors' experience and enjoyment at the countryside’.” Interesting. 24 I received an email from the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, working on the Hong Kong Chronicles. They were looking at the paper I wrote for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society a couple of years ago covering Chinese civilian deaths in Hong Kong during the war years.
23 There was some discussion on the internet today about whether 2 (Scottish) Coy HKVDC wore glengarries or not. I have seen photos of them in plain black caps with the HKVDC cap badge, but also have two photos which appear to show some of them wearing glengarries. I believe that on occasion they did.
21 I received the latest Researching FEPOW History Group newsletter. It began: “Have you seen the new series we are running on our blog? The ‘Sharing Research’ series has already featured posts from Jon Cooper, Louise Reynolds, Toby Norways, and Edgar Jones. A new post goes live every Wednesday at 10am which you can view on the RFHG website. Alternatively click the link below to view everything we have posted in the series so far!”
20 “George Best” has been placing (on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) a large number of very useful photos of Shamshuipo as a pre-war barracks. It seems that the majority, or perhaps all, were taken when the second battalion of the East Lancashire regiment were stationed there 1933-1937. As such they give a very good idea of what it would have looked like as a POW Camp just a few years later. I lined up one of his photos with one of mine (from 1946) on a map of the camp to show people the general layout.
18 Major Charles Joseph Manning’s (HKDDC) great great granddaughter got in touch. I was very pleased, as Manning was the wartime commander of the unit and she kindly sent a number of photos. The family lived at 14a Magazine Gap Road, a short walk from where I am writing this. In reply I sent her a sketch of Manning drawn in camp by fellow POW Lieutenant Mervyn Scott-Lindsley, RNVR. I knew that Manning’s wife and two daughters had been evacuated to Australia before hostilities, and now I have learned their names (Ursula, Jennifer, and Sheila). 18 I went for my annual medical checkup at the Matilda Hospital today, and when I left I looked over the slope to its west to try to find the AOP which Kwong Chi Man had told me was there. Although a lot of vegetation had been cleared away, I couldn’t make it out and didn’t fancy scrambling down.
17 On the question of Ivor Patterson (see last month) the CWGC today replied: “We have failed to find a reason in our records why BAAG was being shown as part of Pte. Patterson's record. It appears to have been added in error. We have now removed it.” 17 I walk up High West at least once a week, and on facebook in a discussion about Japanese tunnels someone wrote: “I found with ease this gem hidden just a few footsteps from the main path to Mount High West. The access couldn't be possibly easier. Just before the first flight of stairs heading up the mountain you follow the ribbon trail veering off to the left. The tunnel with two entrances will show on your right within 20m. There's also trenches just S of it or left of the trail.” In fact I firstly took the wrong trail, right at the start of the steps, later discovering the right one at the point just up the steps where they level out and lots of .303 bullets are to be found from the old butts. And then I came across the tunnels much as advertised.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent two photos of Jack Benson, Royal Scots.
14 Today I visited the island of Po Toi for the first time. We took the ferry from Stanley and walked over the top (Trail 3) and back into the village. I have often wondered if this was one of the uninhabited islands where the Japanese dumped Hong Kong people during the Occupation, but apparently it has always had a small population.
13 I heard today from Stephen Hutcheon, a journalist working with ABC in Sydney. His mother (now aged 98) was living in Hong Kong at the time of the Japanese invasion and was whisked away to Macau during the occupation to keep her out of harm's way, his late aunt Hilda Greaves (a nurse) was interned in Stanley, and his late uncle Stanley Greaves died fighting for the volunteers to defend the colony in December 1941. 13 David St Maur Shell notes that his mother: “found this photo of Admiral Harcourt greeting Sir Grenville Alabaster... It is from a group of photos cut from papers and some seem to be originals from the surrender period given to the family by a friend who was on HMS Euryalus one of the navy boats in Harcourt’s fleet.” Something about the edging of the photo looks very familiar but I can’t put my finger on it. I was wondering where it might have been published.
11 Sandy Wynd was the first person to let me know that The Telegraph had published Dennis Morley’s obituary today. I confess to not being a huge fan of the paper, but I think their cartoonist (Matt) is the best in the business, and their obituaries are the Best of British, so I was very glad to help with this.
9 Bill Lake notes: “I think this will be of interest to you. Anthony Charter’s parent’s saved this order of service for the unveiling of the Sai Wan Bay Memorial. Anthony in turn passed it on to me, along with the Chimes of St. John’s and the Liberation Service at Stanley… The reason that the Charters would have been there is that they were both members of St. John’s Cathedral Choir at that time.” He kindly attached the programme.
8 George Patterson, the last of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who were in Hong Kong, is one hundred today (illustrated).
5 A friend and I walked to the top of Lion Rock today, oddly enough the first time I have done that in more than thirty years in Hong Kong. One of the many interesting things along the route are the concrete pillbox ‘maps’ which are seen at several places, showing distances and directions to nearby PBs of the Gin Drinkers Line. Recent research by Kwong Chi Man and others has clarified what a complex ‘line’ this really was, with more than one hundred pillboxes in multiple lines and groups covering all aspects of the hills. 5 Brian Finch dropped me a useful note. “As you know, we’ve spent some time over recent months sorting out details for the [Lisbon Maru Memorial], including badges, order of precedence and other delights. One specific point we have discovered is that the Army Dental Corps did not become Royal until after the war.” It turns out that this is absolutely correct and I will amend my records accordingly.
4Frank Leslie Macey’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 4 After dropping my wife off at the French International School at Wong Nai Chung Gap this morning, I walked down to the covered water reservoirs by Blue Pool Road. I wonder if this could have been the area of “Filter beds” referred to in the Royal Scots’ account of the fighting in that area? Unfortunately most of it was out of bounds.
3 From Christopher Allanson (of the family of Captain Kenneth Allanson RA, Lisbon Maru) I heard today that: “After much work formal approval for the [Lisbon Maru] memorial and its siting near the Far East POW area has been given by the [National Memorial Arboretum] and the formal dedication and memorial service is scheduled for Sunday 3rd October next at noon subject to movement restrictions having been lifted.” I will attend if I possibly can. 3 Jim Trick asked Philp Cracknel and me to critique this video about the Battle of Hong Kong. We both agreed that there were many, many errors in detail, yet the presentation (as a continuous 3D graphic simulation) was very compelling and – overall – educational.
2 T.K. Wong reminded me today that all three of his almost 104 year old mother’s three younger brothers were killed during the war, being sent to work as forced labourers on Hainan Island. Sadly, this can’t have been an unusual experience. 2 I received the following email today: “I saw an email from a person related to Jack Smith, in which they said he was in camp Nigatta and he knew Ralph McClean and was a good friend. My dad Hercules Ralph Buchanan RRC also was very good friend of Ralph McClean. I was hoping that person could e-mail me as I would like to talk to them. Thankyou his son Richard Buchanan.” I replied, but heard nothing back. Alas, yet another spam filter has apparently done the wrong thing… 2 While searching for details of Alfred Cecil Houghton, RE, for another project, I discovered that his son Sub Lieutenant (A) George Alfred Houghton had been killed in a crash in the Clyde while serving in 846 Squadron FAA flying from HMS Tracker on 10 January 1944. The squadron was flying Grumman Avengers at the time, and it appears that Sub Lieutenant E.B. Dixon and Leading Airman R.F. Gates were killed with him(as was a passenger, Ordinary Signalman George A Smith), though I can see no report of this crash in HMS Tracker’s history. But perhaps that explains why the Houghton family have never contacted me. (Houghton himself, of course, was one of those lost in the September 1945 B24 crashes whilst being flown home as an ex-POW).
1 Today I heard the good news that the Grenville Alabaster Wartime Journal project has been approved for publication by the HKUP editorial board. 1 Last month I completely forgot to report on Aberdeen Industrial School. While walking from the Wong Chuk Hang MTR station to the site of the BattleBox filming I finally took the opportunity to photograph this building. It was of course the local headquarters for the defence of this region in December 1941, with RAF personnel manning machine guns on its roof.
February 1st, 2021 Update
Dennis Morley at 101 (courtesy Denise Wynne), Devonshire's Helmet (courtesy Hazel Dolan), Routledge (courtesy Leslie Kiehlbauch)
Bob Lapsley at 100 (courtesy Philomena Lapsley), Joint Hospital (courtesy Carol Campbell), Whyte Family (courtesy Brian Simpson)
Thomas Hewson (via Brian Finch), Carruthers reunion (courtesy Michael Carruthers), James McDougall (courtesy Mark Collins)
“Looking forward to 2021 with a new brother - unbelievable.”
And there we are. Yes, it is indeed somewhat unbelievable that in 2020 we are still finding and reuniting people separated by the Second World War, but yes, there we are. And, conversely, we are still losing people. Good old indestructible Dennis Morley of the Royal Scots is gone. I honestly thought he’d outlast me, but at the age of 101 having survived the fighting on the Gin Drinkers Line and Golden Hill, the battles of Wong Nai Chung and Mount Nicholson, the surrender of St Albert’s Emergency Hospital, the diphtheria and dysentery epidemics of Shamshuipo, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, the years in Osaka #2B (Kobe House) POW camp, the American fire bombing of that city, and the journey back in which several of his comrades lost their lives when B24s carrying them home flew into a typhoon - Dennis was finally killed by Covid-19.
31 Anna Rozario kindly sent a link to a nicely-done web version of Shadow Lights of Shamshuipo. Fortunately I have a hardback copy which I found some 15 years ago, but I wish more rare books were available in this form.
30 George Boote has been rereading his collection of some 70 FEPOW Forums. In the Christmas 1981 forum he found a story written by Michael Giblin of 7 HAA Regiment. It mentions the escape (from Shamshuipo) and recapture of Sergeant Thomas Salisbury, 7th HAA, Bombardier Evans (presumably David Evans), and Sergeant Fuller (presumably Geoffrey Fuller). I don’t believe I have heard of this escape before.
28 Today I heard via Philomena Lapsley that her uncle, Robert Lapsley HKVDC, who was a POW in Shamshuipo and Innoshima, celebrated his 100th birthday on January 19. 28 The South China Post ran a good article about Dennis Morley today.
26 Dennis Morley’s funeral took place today at 12.00 noon (8.00pm in China and Hong Kong) at Gloucester Crematorium. 26 William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter Carol Campbell notes: “I have been scrolling through your updates on the War Diary web page today, (I've got a few to catch up on!), and came across the group photo sent to you by Walter Hodgkinson's son in June last year. You state on the website: 'I wonder if the photo of Caucasian and Indian personnel is in fact of a joint RAMC/Indian Medical Service (IMS) group? Perhaps all the staff of the Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon?' I realised that I have a very similar photo, which is annotated on the back 'British and Indian Staff, Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Jan 1939' (copies attached for you). This would suggest that you are right and that this might be an annual staff photo.”
23 Today the filming starts for Battlebox. Unfortunately I am not free to visit the set for the next few days.
22 Today I walked, as I do most Fridays, with my old friend George Bush. That isn’t his real name of course, but when I first knew him he was a very successful headhunter (now he’s one of Hong Kong’s most successful psychotherapists), and to get past my then secretary’s defences and get put through to me, he would (successfully, again) claim to be that particular American president… This time he proposed a trip to the top of Brick Hill. I had always assumed the whole mount was wired off as part of Ocean Park, but not at all. We walked to the summit (quite a trek for me, from Conduit Road to Bowen Road, up Wanchai Gap Road, down Lady Clementi’s Ride all the way to Aberdeen, crossing a busy corner of the latter to get to Nam Long Shan Road, walking up that road past the Singapore International and then the Canadian International schools, and then up steps to the left, many, many, steps to the summit. From there we had tremendous views, including some south towards Ocean Park and some of the wartime shelters there. An old friend of mine, Gordon Fairclough, had been based there during the fighting, a period he describes well in his book Brick Hill and Beyond. Next time I’ll explore further.
21 This morning I left home early to walk over the hills to Waterfall Bay. I don’t know why I never did this route before, but it was pretty straightforward and exactly 1.5 hours door to ‘door’ at full speed. Unfortunately access to the waterfall itself is currently locked. It would have been simple enough to jump over the low fence, but there were so many people around that I felt embarrassed to do so. But I’ll do it next time, as I could see one or two wartime shelters around its base.
20 Jon Reid kindly sent me a review of his book from Literary Review of Canada. Unfortunately it seems to be behind a firewall, but some readers will hopefully have access. Here’s an excerpt, concerning Reid’s journey home from POW camp: “He reached her from Pearl Harbor: Reid’s low-key, almost cross-sounding murmurs were hard to understand, and what Jean could make out wasn’t what she was longing to hear. His voice was clipped, giving the basics of where he was, how he was coming home, handling this surreal reunion, hindered by technical difficulties, the best he could. ‘Say something nice to me,’ Jean finally blurted. Reid’s questioning garble was lost on her, so she said again, ‘Please, say something nice to me.’ Her husband never managed that simple act. Although he had married the young woman he adored - although he returned to her in Toronto and although they had two children - something had shattered inside him. He never really managed ‘nice’ again.” The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto also asked Jon to do a Zoom talk on the book on the 19th, which he has kindly uploaded to YouTube here.
18 Albert Devonshire’s old tin hat finally reached his daughter in the UK today. The helmet was found by Timothy Rankin in the spring of 2020, but delays caused by Covid, and our changing family travel plans, and then a death in our family and other distractions, led to me not dispatching it to the UK until mid-December. And then air transport was disrupted yet again, and despite being sent by air the helmet took a full month to make the trip. Luckily it seems to have arrived in good shape. Since then, Timothy has also found the key and tag for Devonshire’s pillbox, and – as mentioned last month - it has been written up by Philip Cracknell. 18 Mark Collins kindly sent a photo of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru (and was KT Tunstall’s grandfather, see June). 18 Ken Skelton kindly pointed out that a copy of Shanghai Lawyer (see last month) is available from Abebooks. I hope I have managed to secure it! 18 A number of newspapers have run the story of John Carley’s (965 Defence Battery) medallion, including the Manchester Evening News and the Lancashire Telegraph.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Gunner Thomas Hewson, lost on the Lisbon Maru.
14 There has been considerable coverage of Dennis Morley’s passing, including in the Stroud News and Journal and the Daily Mail. 14 Long term correspondent George Boote notes: “This is interesting, not my cup of tea to purchase, and I never trust this sort of thing unless it has provenance.” I immediately notified Maltby’s grandson who said: “Looking at the seller's location, Preston Lancs., I suspect this was in the possession of Ann Halam who was Maltby's first daughter who lived there. She was an archaeologist and her house was full of surveying and draughting equipment as well as samples and reports. When she went into a home, we let other members of the archaeological community come and take what they thought to be important or useful.” and put in a bid for this item himself.
13 Today I had lunch with the President of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr Helen Tinsley, to discuss points pertaining to the annual Journal.
12 Elizabeth Ride phoned again to further discuss the BAAG names she is chasing up. Afterwards I wrote to her: “I just searched CWGC again with every combination of the name I could think of, but with no luck. However, I did find this quite comprehensive write-up of Operation Minerva and Lau Teng Kee’s role. The book - you probably know it - is Special Forces Operations in South-East Asia 1941 - 1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks / Creek by David Miller, Jan 20, 2016. Unfortunately I cannot read Appendix C online, but apparently it has something about Lau’s family.” Elizabeth replied: “It was at Millar's request I wrote to the CWGC in his attempt to have Lau recognised. Lau is of course definitely on my BAAG Roll of Honour. It would have been nice to know, but not necessary for my R of H, if there had been any developments.” It’s frustrating to note that all the other men lost on Lau’s mission are already recorded by the CWGC. I have also contacted the CWGC for help in the case of Ivan Patterson.
11 I received copies of the latest Java Journal today. I see that Shanghai internee Ron Bridge passed away on 27 September 2020. Ron helped a lot with recording civilian internees all over the China region. The Journal also included George MacDonell’s article about POW Camp sabotage in Japan, and a mention of Victor Ient’s book ‘These Valiant Men’. Finally it recorded “Civilian Internee Dee Larcombe from Kent, who was born in Hong Kong in 1941 just before the Japanese invaded and held there throughout captivity. Please see the books section for her book ‘The Girl in the Drawer’. Her father was Alfred Taylor of the RAMC who was taken on Hong Kong and held at Shamshuipo and Osaka no. 1 camp, Japan.” I have covered the latter book earlier, but have yet to read it myself.
10 Michael Carruthers (HKVDC) nephew got in touch. He noted: “My late uncle, Nigel Carruthers was a POW when Singapore fell and survived the war in Changi. One of his brothers, Andrew, was taken prisoner in Sumatra where he died, and a third brother was Michael (Micky) Carruthers, who we understand, was in the HKVDC and was awarded the MC for his part in the defence of Hong Kong. So far we don't know any more about his time there. I have read that there were 19 decorations awarded to those who fought in the battle, so I am assuming that Michael was one of those. Do you have any information about him? I have attached a newspaper cutting from 1968, showing Michael with his mother and four surviving brothers. I should explain that our family connection was through Nigel's wife Margaret, my mother's younger sister. She also had quite an eventful war, having been working for the Malaya broadcasting service and was one of the last to leave Singapore before it fell. She had a hair-raising escape by sea ending in Colombo, and later went to live in the States, before returning to Singapore after the war, where she met and married Nigel. Afterwards, Nigel and Maggi returned to Scotland to take over the Dormont estate after Nigel's father died. At that time, my parents were based in India so my brothers and I would often spend our school holidays at Dormont which was where we got to know the Carruthers family well.” Michael Carruthers was of course a highly respected member of the HKVDC, commanding the Armoured Car Platoon, and is well remembered. 10 I have not yet had a chance to look at this properly, but I was very interested to see a new PhD thesis about RAPWI.
9 Justin Ho notes: “I was recently browsing old books and booklets online, when I came across these two yearbooks of the 14th Punjab Regiment (a 1940 and 1948 one) currently being bidded on. The 1948 one has a brief mention of the 2nd Battalion playing a ‘prominent role in the Defence of Hong Kong’ in one of its pages.”
8 The two people I referred to rather mysteriously last month – a half brother and half sister separated by the war – reunited today. “Thanks for everything. I owe you a drink or two. Just having a whiskey myself to celebrate” says one, and “looking forward to 2021 with a new brother – unbelievable”, says the other. 8 The whole community of interest (led by Philp Cracknell in this case) was involved in this story.
7 Today Annemarie Evans from RTHK came to our flat to interview me about the life and times of Dennis Morley. I will put a link on this blog when the resulting program is broadcast. 6 Brian Finch kindly sent me a number of files relating to Lisbon Maru survivor and escapee Bill Evans, who was accidentally murdered in Vietnam shortly after the war. ‘Accidentally murdered’ sounds rather odd, but unfortunately he was mistaken for someone else in an otherwise well-planned assassination.
5 This afternoon from 12.00 to 16.00 I joined film maker Craig McCourry on his set on the twenty-seventh floor of an industrial building in Aberdeen for rehearsals for his new film Battlebox. It’s an interesting dilemma for a historian: it’s a work of fiction, so really I should give it a wide berth, and yet because it’s based on fact I’d rather be involved and hopefully help ensure it doesn’t stray too far from reality. So the upshot is that I have been assisting as ‘script consultant’ and ‘additional dialogue by’ and thoroughly enjoying myself. It is fascinating (and rather impressive) to see professional actors taking your words and adapting them to their characters. 5 Tan notes, of the Second Battalions Scots Guards emblem: “The emblem is still safe so far. Here is a video. Will check again few months later.”
3 Dennis Morley passed away peacefully in hospital at 12.30 today. I heard belatedly that the only other known survivor from the Lisbon Maru, William Beningfield of the 1st Middlesex, had passed away in Canada the Sunday before Christmas, so Dennis was – to the best of my knowledge - the last of them all. I corresponded with him for years, and he visited us twice in Hong Kong. 3 I have had a request for any paperwork relating to Operational Orders or Defence Plans for Hong Kong. My correspondent notes: “I can't see them listed at Kew but they may be under an obscure heading. The reason I am looking for them is because I want to see what plans had been drawn up for the Defence and who/where/what, the perceived threat was. This would have been the basis for drawing up Operational Orders that would then have been brought into play if and when the threat became a reality. For example, at sometime a decision had to have been made about building those pill boxes and tunnels on the mainland, it would have been laid down why they were deemed necessary. Details of how they were to be used, manned etc would also have been written down, all sorts of likely scenarios would have been addressed. These plans would have been reviewed and any identified changes written in. The maintenance of them would also have been written down, to what level etc depending on their importance. They were likely classified documents.”
1 To clarify from last month: Elizabeth Ride’s criteria for her Roll of Honour: “is that there should be proof of working for BAAG and proof of death during the war.” She is currently struggling with three names on her brother Edwin’s list: Patterson, Wong For Yau and Wong Kwong Sheung. I am pretty sure that Patterson is the gentleman I mentioned in We Shall Suffer There: “The CWGC lists Private Ivan Patterson, 7536265, RADC, K 10.2.43 as being ‘BAAG’, and this is echoed in Edwin Ride’s book. However, there seems to be no evidence that Patterson was involved in BAAG, and in fact he was a POW in Taiwan who was re-interred in Saiwan post-war.” But I have no idea yet on the other two gentlemen. A fourth gentleman, Lau Teng Kee, definitely lost his life on BAAG service, but it isn’t yet clear how to get him recognised by CWGC. 1 Brian Edgar kindly sent several newspaper clippings about James Whyte (see last month), and I have posted a photo of the Whyte family in case it jogs any memories. He also found another newspaper article about Father Robert Jacquinot which stated: “After the fall of Hong Kong he arrived on the island in the hope of being able to organise relief services.” I still find it very unlikely, but as always would be happy to learn more. 1 Ronald J. Routledge’s (Royal Canadian Corps of Signals) daughter posted an excellent photo of her father on facebook. She noted: “My (late) father told us almost nothing about his experience, so I'd been hoping to see something relevant here. I do know he was wounded in Hong Kong on Dec. 8 1941, captured on Dec. 25th and taken to Shamshuipo POW camp. Later, however, he was removed to Stanley Prison, tried for espionage and incarcerated in a Canton Military prison for the duration of the war. If anyone can provide more information about him, or especially photos, I'd be grateful.” Of course his activities in camp are quite well known, but I didn’t have any other relevant photos.
1 A Japanese soldier's dogtag has been found in the hills (illustrated). It's only the second I have heard of in the last ten or twenty years. 1 David Bellis from Gwulo kindly noted (see last month): “Here are a couple more of boundary stones to see around High West (scroll down the page to see the map)”.