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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rehman Khan (courtesy Patrick Flynn), Stanley internees in 1995 (courtesy Ian Gill), Defend or Die (author) Walter Hall (courtesy Hall family), Odd room under Jubillee Battery, PB1 interior damage (both courtesy Tan) Edmonton wreath (courtesy TeeAy Osborn), HK Club at Osborn memorial (courtesy Penny Brown-Tomlinson), John Nichol (courtesy Paul Nichol)
The deluge of new books continues, but this time with a twist. A well as Julie Lawson’s book referenced below, my cousin Simon Gooch has just published his first book. Although it’s nothing to do with Hong Kong it may still be of interest as it is a wartime biography entitled: Group Captain John 'Joe' Collier DSO, DFC and Bar: The Authorised Biography of the Bomber Commander, Air War and S.O.E Strategist and Dambuster Planner. It seems that the history bug runs in the family!
30At lunchtime today I visited Glenealy Primary School to give a short talk about some interesting and colourful characters in Hong Kong during the war. There are so many to choose from, but I decided to focus on six contrasting pairs. See what you think: Two professors: Lindsay Ride, Wenzell Brown Two ladies: Barbara Anslow, Emily Hahn Two Canadians: Brigadier Lawson, Mike Kendall Two Indians: Kumta Prasad, Rehman Khan Two Chinese: Admiral Chan Chak, David Lam Two Japanese: Kiyoshi Watanabe, Isoroku Yamamoto Of course the last is a bit of a cheat as Yamamoto was never actually in Hong Kong (as far as I know), but is such an interesting character to talk about and obviously very much influenced Hong Kong’s war. Anyway, I really enjoyed myself, the kids asked fantastic questions, and I went back to work afterwards in a very good mood!
26I received a fascinating email today from a lady whose American father (Gordon Torrey) and uncle (Norman Torrey) came to Hong Kong in 1939 to sail on Richard Halliburton's ill-fated Sea Dragon expedition. However, seeing the state of the vessel the two men elected instead to stay in Hong Kong working for Texaco. Norman then sailed to Manila on the Elvira (owned by Alfredo Carmelo, Mexican Consular to Manila and aviator), together with Australian James Peterson, and they were captured by the Japanese in around August 1940 – never to be seen again. Gordon Torrey escaped from Hong Kong on the Kung Sang on 8 December 1941, dodging bombs in the harbour. He arrived at Manila on the 10th, and he was lucky to sail from there (via Indonesia) to India before the Philippines fell. This lady would like to know if anyone knows the final fate of Norman Torrey and James Peterson, or anything else about the Kung Sang. 26 I heard from Ron Parker (son of Major Maurice Parker, Royal Rifles of Canada) today for the first time in a long while. He notes that his website about his father has had 59,000 hits. Not bad! He also notes that Brigadier Lawson’s granddaughter Julie Lawson Timmer has had a novel published. 26 Phil Cracknell has written a fine blog about the finding of Siddans’s identity bracelet and other items. 26 Geoff Emerson writes: “As some of you know, based on the success of our gathering in Hong Kong in 2011, I have been considering organising another gathering this year. I have been urged to do so by many and have been consulting a number of interested people. I have now decided to go ahead. The dates will be Monday, 30 November, to Sunday, 6 December 2015.”
25We had perfect weather today for the last Hong Kong Club walk of this season. All three walks this time explored the urban battles, with today’s covering Victoria. This has been a very enjoyable year, as each walk has been far more of a discussion than a lecture. We ended up at the Osborn status to take a group photo to send to Patricia in Canada. Hopefully it will cheer her up post-operation! (Her son reports it was a success). 25 Walter Hall’s granddaughter (see November) was kind enough to send me a photograph of him in uniform. She also sent a photo of a sad little postcard that he wrote home earlier saying just: “Dear mum and dad and all just a few lines to let you know I am on my way to Hong Kong and have been sea sick once.” He would not survive his next voyage, on the Lisbon Maru.
23 Ron Taylor (HK) let me know that Phillipe D’Almada Remedios of 5 Coy, HKVDC has passed away at the age of almost 92. He was a neighbour of mine, though I only met him twice. 23 Tan mentioned a plan to build a house on the site of Jubilee Battery. He notes: “It's the buildings above the battery on the road side. That place was used by police before as detention center. It was called as "White House" by public. Here are the detailed proposals. They plan to preserve the battery and magazine below.” Does anyone know anything about this? I believe it’s the detention centre which became somewhat infamous during the 1967 riots. Tan also mentions a story that the Japanese locked people in the Jubilee battery’s underground magazine (which he photographed) during the fighting. Does anyone have any details of this?
22 Ron Taylor (UK) sent a link to a newspaper article headlined: “Australian researcher appeals for help in tracing the story of a Durham prisoner of war.” It mentions six ex-Lisbon Maru POWs. In particular they want to find the family of Luke Holden, C Coy, Royal Scots.
21 John Dewar’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch. Dewar commanded 7 Company, HKVDC.
20 A trench of wartime debris discovered in the hills today included, among other things, the ID bracelet of John Siddans (RN, Lisbon Maru). Clearly his presence on the Lisbon Maru shows that he survived the fighting in which his ID was lost, but unfortunately my records show that although he survived that voyage, he then died on the way to Shanghai on one of the small boats that the re-captured POWs continued on. In fact I suspect that this eye-witness described his death: “There were apertures in the side of the craft for excess sea water washed on deck to run off again. At this time, the wind was blowing through them and we were getting the full force of it. We huddled together tightly like a herd of sheep. God! It was cold. All that could be heard was the chattering of teeth. It was decided that at intervals the bods on the inside changed places with those on the outside, so giving everyone a chance for a warm up. It was during one of those changeovers that it was discovered that one of our number had died. Just couldn’t stand up to the exposure. He was laid on deck, and we carried on swapping places and trying to stop our teeth chattering. That was the coldest night of my life. We pointed to the dead body and [the Japanese sailor] went off, only to return with another sailor and between them they put the body over the side. There was much discussion between the two, then off they went. About a half hour later, one returned with a tray of some sort on which were rice-balls and the other with a pot of steaming green tea. It was like manna from heaven.” He was the son of Harry and Susannah Siddans; husband of Florence Siddans, of Alderley Edge, Cheshire, and the finder would very much like to return the item to the family if they can be found.
19 John Nichol’s (RNDYP, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo. He notes that Nichol was in the Royal Artillery on a posting to Hong Kong, and took the position in the Dockyard Police so he could remain in the Colony. 19 Scholastic Canada kindly sent me two copies of Gillian Chan’s new book “Defend or Die, The Siege of Hong Kong” of the ‘I Am Canada’ series. I read an earlier version of the manuscript and can confirm that, although it is fiction aimed at the younger audience, it is built on a foundation of very solid research. 19 A very odd find was reported from the hills today: an American .30-06 cartridge, and an American-made .303! The first might possibly be from an aircraft (though the vast majority of the almost 500 billion air-fired American rounds of World War II were .50 cal), but I can’t think of any good reason for the latter being there.
17Today I was kindly given two British wartime water bottles and the surviving metal and glass components of a gas mask, all found in the hills at the weekend. 17 I just re-read Solly Bard’s autobiography ‘Light and Shade’. I’m not sure if I have ever reported on it in these pages previously, but I had forgotten how interesting it was.
15I received an email from a gentleman at KGV asking for assistance in documenting some of their alumni during the war. I’ll see what I can do. Some years back I researched the Roll of Honour on the wall in the main entrance of the school (including one old boy killed in Korea when his Hawker Sea Fury rolled off the deck). Also, some of their immediate post-war staff were ex-POWs and internees, and many of the first intake after the war were ex-evacuees. The building itself, of course, is where the Bowen Road Hospital migrated to in the closing months of the war. 15 Craig Mitchell has continued his research into the aircrew of the two crashed Avengers that he found in the hills in 2011 and 2014. He has found a detailed description of the long drawn out death of one of the pilots, Richard Hunt (in a Japanese POW Camp), which makes for very depressing reading. 15 I received the Java Journal for January today, and learned that my old friend Taffy Evans (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) had passed away last November. Apparently the Java FEPOW group had been successful in giving him some welfare support over the past few years, which I was very glad (and grateful) to hear.
14 Andrew Normand’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch.
12Patrick Flynn was kind enough to send me a large set of his father’s photos of the 14th Punjab in 1947. Of these, the outstanding one for me was the portrait of Subedar-Major Raja Haider Rehman Khan, OBE, OBI, MC. Photos of the Indian defenders of Hong Kong are exceedingly rare, and Khan (as effectively RSM of the 2/14th) was an extremely respected NCO. 12 TeeAy Osborn, CSM Osborn VC’s grandson, got back in touch. He kindly sent a couple of photos of a wreath that he placed at Edmonton city hall (in a temperature of -25) for the people of Hong Kong, soldiers of the Commonwealth, nurses, and Doctors. He also let me know that his mother (Osborn’s daughter) Patricia is going into hospital for an operation on her appendix. 12 I finally found the document (in WO 361) relating to Private Frelford and his special treatment as a POW. The enquiry as to why he had special treatment concluded that he had done what was best (he had been captured while treating an injured Japanese officer near Stanley), and even implied that he should be considered for a medal. Take a look at Philip Cracknell’s post on the subject. 12 Tan got in touch to share his recent photos of the interior of PB1 on Jardine’s Lookout. He notes that the observed: “Damage high on wall means the fire from the slope below. Damage low on wall means fire just outside the loophole! Most damage on the roof and wall should be caused by grenade dropped from the observation shaft. The heavy damage indicated many grenades were dropped into PB1. The battle around PB1 is mainly close combat rather than long range gun fire. It's unbelievable how people can survey in there after such heavy attack!” He has also created a very useful architectural plan showing where the damage is.
11 The South China Morning Post today ran a very interesting article about the locating of the two TBM Avengers that crashed north of Stanley on 16 January 1945. Those of us who have visited the crash site, and know (among other things) the awful fate of one of the pilots, held our own little moments of silence on the anniversary itself.
9 Dave Blackbourn, nephew of William Hedley Whittaker of the HKVDC Field Ambulance, who died in Shamshuipo on 7 December 1943, got in touch again noting that William’s wife Florence Lillian Whittaker (nee Hartstill) (who evacuated to Australia with baby daughter Anne) died in Melbourne, Australia, on February 8th, 2008, aged 106.
7Referring to last month’s report in the obituary of Anne Sorby, Henry Ching notes that: “her husband Terence was the son of Vincent Sorby who was manager of the Hong Kong Electric Co. in 1941. Vincent Sorby was in the Field Company Engineers of the HKVDC, but obtained permission to join his colleagues in the so-called Hughes Group, to protect the North Point Power Station from saboteurs. He was wounded and subsequently died of his wounds. His son Terence, Anne’s husband, served in the Hong Kong Regiment in the early 1950s and was in command of the MG Platoon.”
6Victor Thomson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. He notes that his father passed away on 11 October 2003, and that he has heard that he: “helped to break open number one hold thereby giving 200 navy prisoners a second chance at life; to quote Jack Hughieson one of those prisoners. Dad did not say much about his experiences unless there was a lesson or moral in it. I do wish he could have spoken to you before he died he had a marvelous memory. Sadly what told me was only the tip the iceberg. In October 1994 I attended a regimental reunion of the HK section of the Royal Scots, there I met Jimmy Ford, Alex Glasgow, Peter Gillies (Piper), Danny Fowler who enlisted on the same day as Vic and was in Huntly squad at Glencorse barracks in 1933. Several men said they would not have survived but for Victor.” 6 Relating to last months question about the Cenotaph photo, David Gunson notes that the mystery man looks very like K.K. Munro (a World War II tank commander known as ‘Captain Crump’ and member of the Hong Kong Club). 6 Yet another interesting find from the hills, as reported by Craig Mitchell: a well-preserved Royal Engineers button (illustrated).
4 Ian Gill recalls that his aunt: “Dorothy Newman recalled that in Baguio she was friends with a Filipina called Yvonne (who went to Australia with her but she couldn't remember her surname) and also that they dressed up one time and were escorted to a social occasion like a ball by smartly uniformed cadets from the Philippine Military Academy. Would the ball have been at the PMA or perhaps even the Mansion (the President's summer place)?” It sounds very credible, but I haven’t heard of this ball before. Has anyone else? Ian also kindly sent me a fascinating photo from the 1995 reunion, of Stanley internees Ron Murray (who lived with his father and two brothers in the garage next to Bungalow B), Ian’s mother Billie Gill and Fr. Bernard Tohill, a Maryknoll priest. I have mentioned Ron before on this site (see February 2010 among other dates), and father Tohill left a fascinating account of his experiences.
January 1st, 2015 Update
Orval Little (on right, courtesy Marlene Brock), Little's grave today (author), Japanese beer bottles (courtesy Craig Mitchell) Frederick Fooks (courtesy Beth Haden). David Kyle at border (courtesy Jean Hughes), Prisoners' Pie (couresty Derek Smith) Brian Gill's death certificate, Hahn/Boxer and Gill family, Louise Gill's billeting form (all courtesy Ian Gill)
In 2003 when I wrote Not The Slightest Chance I attempted to read everything published, and as much as I could that was unpublished, on the topic. In fact I didn’t do too badly, as since then I have only found perhaps half a dozen books that I’d missed. There was of course an almost unlimited amount of unpublished material, much more of which has become available – thanks primarily to networking with other interested people through the Internet – in the past ten years. However, over the holidays I have been reviewing the number of new relevant publications since 2003, and it’s quite surprising how many there have been. The resurgence of interest shows no sign of peaking yet, bearing in mind the volume of new works printed in the past twelve months.
26 Ian Gill sent a copy of Dorothy Newman’s marriage certificate to William Rogers (see 2 below). It was witnessed by William Sproul, killed on December 25, and “Heath G.R.” who is most likely WOI Charles Richard Heath of the Royal Engineers, who died of dysentery in Shanghai shortly after being picked up from the Lisbon Maru. In other words, none of the three men survived the war.
24 I was glad to read a Christmas greeting from Jack Mitchell today, one of only around a dozen veterans of Hong Kong’s 1941 garrison with whom I am still regularly in touch. He’s 94 now. He asks: “Have you ever found the "lost" pill box on the north side of Black's Link, connecting Middle Gap and Wanchai Gap? It should still be there, unless road works below Black's Link necessitated its removal some time after Zena and I left Hong Kong in the latter part of the 1990s.”
17Today I met Ian Gill for a coffee and a chat about Stanley, Bungalow B, and his family. Ian kindly sent me a copy of his as yet unpublished manuscript about his mother’s experiences in Stanley and more generally.
16 Vernon and Doris (née Muir) Walker’s (Stanley Internees) great grandson got in touch, kindly sending a copy of Doris Walker’s passport signed by Gimson. 16 Ian Gill and Erik Rydbert (grandson of Stanley internee Rosaleen Millar) met today at St Stephen’s College where Ian was donating a cushion (see last month), made by Rosaleen in 1944 as a birthday gift for his mother Billie, to the Heritage Gallery housed in former Bungalow A.
15 Ridyard Blinkhorn Davies’s (HKPF, Stanley Internee) granddaughter got in touch. Her mother, Barbara, was a Hong Kong evacuee.
14James Hayes sent (via Henry Ching) interesting details of John Hoosha’s, (Winnipeg Grenadiers) medals. This led indirectly to me discovering that Tom Forsyth’s book From Jamaica to Japan is currently downloadable as a pdf.
12Volume 54, 2014 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong Branch, was sent out to members today. It includes my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment. 12 The Telegraph published another of their fine obits today, this one for Anne Sorby. Although Sorby was not in Hong Kong at the fall, she was posted to Kunming with SOE in 1944 for Operation Remorse. (With thanks to Martin Heyes for the link).
10Jean Hughes (David Kyle’s, RE, daughter. See August) kindly sent a photo of Mr Kyle at the Chinese border – at left, facing camera - shortly before the invasion, plus two sketches from Kawasaki POW camp.
9Lady Gertrude MacGregor’s (Sir Atholl MacGregor’s wife and Stanley Internee) great niece got in touch.
7Orval Little’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter got in touch, sending a fine photo of her father and an unknown companion at London, Ontario, before departure. As luck would have it, today was the annual Canadian Memorial Service at the Sai Wan Cemetery, so I was able to send her a photo of her father’s grave. The memorial service went off well, as usual, but cooler than usual. At least that meant that none of the scouts standing by each Canadian grave were too badly affected by heat this year. 7 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that Spinks are holding an auction in HK on 18 January 2015 featuring David Tett’s collection of Hong Kong POW postal items. 7 Don Ady let the Stanley Group know that: “On the night of Thursday, December 11, 1941, in the twilight, we had crossed over in barge to Hong Kong. The barge tried another round trip, but never made it back, sunk just offshore by gunfire. My father led us some distance (a half mile?) to a place which was known to me as ‘The Church Guest House’. That was perhaps under the auspices of the LMS, London Mission Society. I am curious to hear if the building still exists? The Church Guest House was already crammed full of refugees when we got there. Luckily they had a general invitation from a ‘neighbor’ who lived straight up the hill on the next road, an officer with the HKVDC who was off with the war fighters and not in the house. We were directed to go up there. It was a steep climb in the dark for about 6 of us through the sword grass on the spine of the upslope ridge. We found the key and made ourselves at home in the basement/ground floor. The house was separated from the road on its upside (south) by an areaway (like a sunken alley) about ten feet wide, and about 10 feet below the top of a low rock wall that edged the road. Crossing to the house from the road was a ‘bridge’, under which was a compact servants' sleeping room in which my parents sheltered. On the downhill side of the basement doors with many small rectangles of clear glass gave a good unobstructed view of the harbor. Just outside that north side of the house was a narrow concrete walkway.” Most probably the Church Guest House was today’s Church Guest House (also known as Martin House, close to Government House), but which was the HKVDC officer’s house? 7 Bill Lake has been busy making a documentary about Donald Kerr (a P51 pilot shot down over Kowloon). With the help of David’s son Donald and some amazingly fit locals (including a man of 89), they found the charcoal cave where Donald was hidden after landing.
6Following last month’s entry about Charles and Robert Richards who were on the Lisbon Maru, I received an email from a gentleman noting that these men were his mother’s first cousins. I have put the two families back in touch. 6 Andrew Flett’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great granddaughter got in touch. 6 Philip Cracknell published an interesting new post about the Parker and Saiwan 6-inch howitzer batteries. 6 A very unusual find – a well preserved Japanese dog tag (illustrated) – turned up in the hills today. It belonged to Soldier Number 125 of the 2nd Company of the 230th Infantry Regiment. Two wartime Japanese beer bottles were at the same site.
5 A researcher contacted me looking for information about Canadians in BAAG or other irregular units in South China. Of course I mentioned Kendall and Proulx, but I expect there were others.
4We had a final family dinner with Elizabeth Ride at the Helena May today before she left for Europe again. 4 Henry Ching kindly sent me the next two of his Occasional Papers. I particularly enjoyed the childhood memories. I once found a piece of driving band from a gigantic Japanese 240mm shell no more than 100 metres from Village Road. I suspect that the unexploded shell he brought home was probably a 20mm (almost one inch wide by four inches long). These came in a number of versions, not all of them explosive. The explosive ones generally have a detachable brass fuse at the top, and are pretty obvious. No doubt his father recognised that his son had found an armour-piercing (or similar non-explosive) one! As usual these papers can be seen on the website here. (Note that the home page of that site currently hosts a very good obit of the late Solly Bard).
2Signalman Norman Smith’s son got back in contact, kindly sending a set of his father’s photographs and other bits and pieces including a copy of the POW magazine, Prisoners’ Pie (September 1942 edition). Another interesting item appears to be an order for rather a lot of booze to be delivered to POW officers in September 1945! 2 Ian Gill (see last month) kindly sent an interesting set of documents. Including a post war photo of him and his mother with Mickey and Carola Hahn/Boxer, the Japanese death certificate for Brian Gill (and his British birth and death certificates), and his mother's 17 December 1941 billeting card for 2 Peak Mansions. I haven’t seen these billeting cards before, though presumably there were many of them. Ian also noted that an adopted sister of his mother, the late Dolly Bido, was married in Hong Kong to Sapper William Rogers, Royal Engineers, who was killed in the battle (he also sent Rogers’s commemorative scroll).
December 1st, 2014 Update
Brian Gill (courtesy Ian Gill), Canadian shoulder flashes (via Craig Mitchell), Fred Gibson (via Ron Taylor, UK) James Flynn with Charlie Price RRoC, Takliwa sinking, Flynn third from left second row from bottom with other Punjabis (all courtesy Patrick Flynn) RA neck flash (courtesy Philip Cracknell), HKVDC Danes (courtesy Frode Olsen), HKVDC at Cenotaph (courtesy Ron Taylor, HK)
I have often idly wondered which of Hong Kong’s own wartime veterans made the biggest contribution to the post-war world. Clague and Pearce, of course, became huge Hong Kong businessmen following the escapes as POWs and service in the BAAG. Ride returned to the University, was knighted and became Vice Chancellor. Robert Thompson of Z Force became one of the world’s leading experts on counter insurgency (advising the Americans in Vietnam, getting knighted too, and writing ‘Make for the Hills’). William Anderson became the CEO of a huge company – NCR - writing the book ‘Corporate Crisis’. Clifford Matthews became emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, and was the first to propose that life on earth might have originated from material brought by comets. But this month I also learned something of the next generation: the son of one of Hong Kong’s wartime evacuees was until recently the CEO of HSBC!
30Woke to see thick fog, unfortunately on the day that I had arranged to take the Hong Kong Club walkers around the Peak for a talk about the wartime experiences in the city which is normally clearly visible below. We had to use our imaginations somewhat… Of the twenty signed up for the walk, ten braved the dripping conditions and we actually managed to spend an enjoyable morning.
29 John Horridge – whose mother (pregnant with him at the time) was a Shanghai evacuee who passed through Hong Kong on the way to Australia in 1940 – got in touch sending a very interesting couple of pages from the SCMP of October 1940. John’s father escaped from Shanghai just before the Pacific War began, but unfortunately his ship was diverted to Manila and he spent the war interned there.
27 While preparing this month’s website update, I counted the number of photos that I had received that merited display (bearing in mind that in the current format there are only ten slots available). It was 46. That shows what a seasonal topic this is. There are months when I don’t even get half of that, but interest always peaks at the end of November and beginning of December. It’s no surprise that the length of text this month also broke my guideline limit of 2,500 words. 27 “Congratulations, you have successfully completed your studies. The UNSW Canberra Higher Degree Committee (HDC08/14) has resolved that your thesis merits the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” Well, there you go. Five years of work finally paid off. And I think it’s fitting that after all these studies of the POWs, my subject (‘The evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940’) was actually about their families.
25Continuing his investigation of Danes in Wartime Hong Kong, Frode kindly sent me a copy of the 8 December 1941 Marriage Record for Bramall Burgess and Sessan Lilian Fjord Christensen – a wedding I mentioned briefly in Not The Slightest Chance. 25 My wife and I had dinner this evening with Elizabeth Ride at the Helena May. She is visiting as she often does at this time of year, doing further work on her father’s papers.
22 Leslie Wright’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch providing several interesting photos, including one of Wright apparently on board a wartime ship (illustrated). She notes: “Leslie didn’t speak of his experience, and couldn’t sleep when he returned home– finding the darkness too frightening. Apparently he also went over the road to his local barbers for a hot towel shave one day wearing only his pyjamas. Clearly there could never be any way that people back home could ever understand, besides which they had been coping with their own challenges of rationing and the doodlebugs.” He married in 1946, but: “Sadly their relationship didn’t succeed and Leslie volunteered for a posting in the Gold Coast where he met his death in a traffic accident 14 November 1948. So sad that he survived the war only to be killed so soon afterwards.” 22 It’s fascinating what you learn. Bob Tatz pointed out that just after Hong Kong was invaded: “Sun Yat-Sen’s widow and her sister were escorted to their waiting plane by Cohen” for evacuation from Kai Tak, but we weren’t sure which sister this was. But I recalled that she was the KMT Finance Minister (H.H. Kung’s) wife, and Bob knew that Kung’s wife was Soong Ai-ling. 21Dave Deptford asked me for some basic information about Stanley Internee Walter Ernest Bryant Howell of the Hong Kong Police Force. Oddly, though, the details in the Stanley lists are sparse to say the least. They almost imply that he spent a period outside the camp. Can anyone explain? 21 Had a very interesting lunch at Hong Kong’s Country Club at Deepwater Bay today to discuss the local wartime history.
19Ron Taylor (HK) asked for help to identify the gentleman on the right of a photo he has. The other three are (R to L): Arthur May, Jack Edwards and Maximo Cheng. Bill Lake and I reckon the photo might have been taken in December 1991 when so many people came over for the Sai Wan service to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of Hong Kong’s war. Although the man on the right looks very familiar, I can’t place him. Can anyone help? 19 Janet Sykes kindly sent me a copy of her grandfather’s (John Gray Robertson, a radiographer at Kowloon Hospital) diary. One of the many interesting things therein was this notice that he saw when interned in the Kowloon Hotel in January 1942 before being moved to Stanley: “Notice Proceedings of a meeting held in room 3O1 on Sunday 18th January 1942. President, Dr. Selwyn Clarke, D.M.S. & Messrs. T. B. Wilson, Gate, Shields, Manners, Drs. Uttley & Smalley, Mr. Okomoto and a Japanese Officer. (1) All those in the Kowloon Hotel, will be moved to Stanley in a week or ten days, where they will be joined by the civilian internees now in Hong Kong, a total of about 15OO. (2). British, American and other nationalities will be housed separately, and it is requested that groups should be made up of about twenty people. (a) Married couples, married couples with children, (c) Single Men, (d) married women with children, but without husbands, and single women. (3) Arrangements will be made for a number of families resident in Kowloon to visit their homes to collect commodities, such as blankets and clothes etc. but not furniture other than folding camp beds. Separate arrangements will be made for residents of Hong Kong. (4) As there is no electric lights in Stanley at present, oil lamps & candles should be collected, also kitchen utensils. Improved conditions are promised and all will be able to go out in the fresh air. The food situation will be improved and a more varied diet will be provided. An improvement in changing large dollar notes is promised and the banks are expected to open soon. Internees should take such tinned foods as they can carry.”
18 I received an email today asking about the repatriation of the RNDYP, specifically whether I knew: “if they got paid after liberation for the time spent in captivity and when they would have been demobilised.” I could answer such a question for the army, but not the navy. Does anyone have this documented?
17Researchers worldwide have been shocked to hear of plans to close the IWM library and Explore History Learning Centre as a cost cutting exercise. You can use this link to see what is being proposed at the IWM and, if you wish to, sign the petition. 17 Philip Cracknell has written another interesting article, this time about George Kennedy-Skipton.
16 Richard Morgan kindly set me photos of the medals and service documents of Albert Dungey (HKDDC).
15 Jack Chalker passed away today. While not one of the Hong Kong POWs, his famous but infamous sketches of The Railway defined that experience for a generation.
14 Frank Russell’s (Royal Engineers) niece got in touch. Russell was reported missing 'east side of Wong Nai Chung Gap'. If that's correct, it would have been around where the Cricket Club is today, or possibly on the slopes of Jardine's Lookout. 14 Walter Hall’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch.
8 My annual royalty cheque arrived this morning from Hong Kong University Press, and I thought people might be interested in the fabulous returns from the thousands of hours it took me to write my three full books on the general topic of Hong Kong’s war. This year, 77 copies of Not The Slightest Chance were sold, plus 56 of The Sinking of The Lisbon Maru, and (coincidentally) 56 also of We Shall Suffer There. On top of this, an unspecified number of eBooks were also downloaded – which is good to see. Monetarily, it’s enough for a case of moderately good wine (provided the wife chips in with the other half…). So for those who assume this is my living, I assure you that it’s not. On the other hand, considering that the last of these books was published in 2009, it’s not so bad to still be earning half a case of (cheap) wine’s worth each year! (PS As mentioned a couple of months ago, websites have been advertising some of these books for up to 4,000 pounds each. Don’t buy them at that price – or anything like it, because if the demand is still there, HKUP will simply print more.) 8 Up in the hills, another field telephone was found today, in much better condition than that recovered last month. Two Canadian shoulder flashes also turned up in another location, as did a Royal Artillery cap badge, a well-preserved RA collar badge, and a broken HKSRA shoulder flash. 8 Philip Cracknell posted a very interesting new blog entry on the battle for Sanatorium Gap. 8 Henry Ching kindly let me know the bad news that Solomon Bard of the HKVDC passed away last night (the night of 7/8th November) in a Syndey hospital. He notes that “he was the Honorary Colonel of the RHKR (The Volunteers), 1982-84 and again in 1990. In 1941 he was a lieutenant in the Field Ambulance of the HKVDC and was at a medical post on Mt Davis, narrowly escaping being killed when a shell landed near him but did not explode. He spent the occupation years as a POW in Sham Shui Po Camp. Apart from his activities as a Volunteer, he was a medical doctor, a musician and orchestral conductor, and took a keen interest in the history of Hong Kong. He was much respected by all who knew him.” He was also the first person I ever interviewed face to face about their wartime experiences.
7 Ron Taylor in the UK very kindly sent me a photo of Frederick William Gibson, Middlesex, who died on the Lisbon Maru.
6Andrew Harpham, on the FEPOW Community site, shared a copy of the ‘Guard Your Tongue’ leaflet, that essentially forbade ex-FEPOWs from discussing their experiences once they returned home. There was another pamphlet issued later, called "Settling Down in Civvy Street", but we haven’t yet located a copy. 6 Following his successful research into the Dane Kaj Soren Kjar’s (HKVDC) fate, Frode Olsen is now turning his attention to the other Danish members of the wartime organisation. It seems there were more than we had thought; three others also worked for the Danish East Asia Company: Kurt Wilkens, born in 1921, was killed 25 December 1941 close to Stanley, Jorgen Vibe Christensen, born 1917 was taken as POW, and the head of the Danish EAC Mr. Mogens Pagh (who due to his business responsibilities did not volunteer and escaped Hong Kong later). He included a photo of these people (left to right: Kurt Wilkens, Mrs. Pagh, Director Mogens Pagh and Kaj Soren Kjar.) Other Danes are believed to include: Kaj Vestergaard Petersen, who in 1941 worked as a salesperson for another Danish company in Hong Kong “Nordic Feathers”, Captain Alec Damsgaard, and merchant seaman Holger Christiansen. To this list, Ron Taylor (HK) added another: Lance Bombardier 4354 Neils Orskov Christensen of 2nd Battery of the HKVDC who died in captivity on 18.12.42. Frode’s research into the latter has already turned up his “very detailed diary of more than 160 pages covering from the summer of 1941 till December”. 6 A somewhat sensational article in the Daily Mail, following the murder of two Indonesian ladies in Hong Kong by a British banker, at least mentioned Stanley Prison’s wartime role.
3 James Flynn’s (2/14th Punjabis) son got in touch. He notes that his mother: “wife of Major James Lough Flynn (retired from the Royal Artillery in 1951, a Captain with the 14th Punjab at the time of Hong Kong), passed away October 23rd, just before her 93rd birthday.” He also kindly sent me a number of photos of the loss of the Takliwa (it ran aground as it was returning the Indian ex-POWs on 15 October 1945), and Punjabi reunions in 1947 (Flynn is third from left in the second row from bottom). Although officially everyone on the Takliwa was recorded as being rescued by the Sainfoin, four Indian ex-POWs are recorded as being lost on 15 November 45 with no known graves. I suspect the real date of loss was 15 October 45. The family moved to Canada after the war (Flynn was a good friend of the Price officer brothers, John and Charles of the Royal Rifles), and he also sent the cover of an original forty-four page listing of all the Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers veterans prepared for the 25th Anniversary Memorial, Toronto, 1970.
2 From Philip Cracknell, responding to last month’s notes on Ken Oliver: “Lt Landsbert (HKRNVR) writes ‘we (he and Goldenberg) were subsequently involved in the fighting in and around Repulse Bay Hotel. On 22nd Dec it was decided to evacuate that area and orders were so given by OC Troops Major Templer RA in conjunction with Lt Cdr Swetland MWO to be carried out around midnight. The Japanese were covering Island Road, and a route was mapped out to cut across the rough, hilly ground and join Island Road as near as possible to Stanley View. I was in the same party as Goldenberg, and W/Os Dallow and Oliver. For some reason the party became disorganized in the darkness between the Lido and the Island Road Bridge, at which point we were fired upon by Japanese armed with Machine guns. The party scattered and I have not seen or heard of Goldenberg since, nor of Dallow or Oliver’. (Note from Lt Landsbert. ‘The party of which I had charge got through to Stanley without mishap. (however afterwards we found) We lost five Warrant Officers on the night of 22nd December namely Goldenberg, Dallow, Oliver, Gibbs and Biggs. As far as I know there has been no definite confirmation of their deaths beyond the fact that a search party was said to have seen several bodies of dead naval officers on the hillside below Island Road’ (Note by Lt A R Brown) (HKRNVR files).”
1 Ian Gill kindly sent me a photo of his brother Brian, who died in Stanley Camp in May 1944. I should get a copy laminated, and place it by his grave there. Barbara Anslow once noted: “Brian Gill, [was] drowned in a freshwater container at the beach, aged about 4; the RC priests made him a coffin out of a drawer of their chest of drawers; the sides within were covered with crimped-up white silk (from someone's dress); I saw them planing a piece of wood to form the top.” 1 Richard Hide, referring to last month, notes: “N.L Smith’s voyage on the Ulysses is well documented in “Hong Kong Full Circle 1939-1945” by Alexander Kennedy, late O/C MTB 09 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla Hong Kong. After failing to get a publisher Kennedy self-published five hundred copies.” This is very true, and in fact I have two copies of Kennedy’s book – and am hoping one day to have five, cornering 1 percent of the market. But Richard added something that I didn’t know: “Rachel, N.L Smith’s daughter was Kennedy’s fiancé, Kennedy escaped with the Chan Chak party on Christmas Day and eventually came in on the same Tide as the Smith’s at Glasgow after they had gone round the world in opposite directions. They were engaged soon after.”
November 1st, 2014 Update
Eileen 'Jimmie' Begg, and Eileen with family (courtesy Anne Carter), Greg Leck (author) Foord memorial (courtesy Martin Heyes), James Hart (courtesy Archie Hart), George MacDonell's latest (author) Field Telephone (courtesy Craig Mitchell), Ken Oliver and son Bryan (courtesy Jilly Sutton), B24s over Hong Kong (USAAF)
I sometimes mention to people that this project began as a discovery of bullets on Hong Kong’s hillsides, and slowly morphed into a study of the people who fired them (or were fired at) and their families. Certainly these days it is the human story that dominates my research. This month has added several important examples: the first contact with the family of one of the nurses murdered at St Stephen’s, contact with a family whose son enlisted under a false name to serve with his brother – both then being lost on the Lisbon Maru, a photo of a naval volunteer with his children on the beach where later he would meet his death, and the annual contact with the family of James Hart who survived the Eucliffe massacre and is now aiming for his hundredth year. To put these in context, from another continent and another war we have a victim’s bedroom preserved untouched for almost one hundred years. I learned slowly that war’s only legacy is grief, and this October illustrates that supremely well.
29John Lawson (Brigadier Lawson’s son) let me know that he recently visited Hong Kong and saw the well-named Lawson Room at the Canadian Consulate here. 29 Brian Edgar let the Stanley Group know about a new book. I bought an electronic copy, but haven’t yet read it. 29 George ‘Ken’ Oliver’s (HKRNVR) granddaughter got in touch. She wanted to know more about how he met his end, but all I could tell her was that he was with the Aberdeen Mine Watching Station, and most probably disappeared around 23 December after evacuating from the Repulse Bay Hotel. The CWGC records simply say he was lost in the Repulse Bay area. He may have been shot on the beach as he left the tunnel, or he may have been picked up with others and marched away to be massacred at Eucliffe. I have yet to find an eyewitness report to his fate. She also kindly sent me a set of photos, including some of Ken with his children on what appears to be Repulse Bay beach in happier times.
28My younger son was doing a project about turning points in Hong Kong’s history, and I provided the famous photo of the formation of USAAF B24s bombing Hong Kong. I’ve always wanted to get the original full resolution version, as many interesting landmarks – including of course Sham Shui Po POW Camp – are also visible.
26 The first Hong Kong Club Walk of the new season! We had 15 people on the ‘Tea and Bullets’ route, which gently follows the length of Bowen Road looking down on the scene of the fighting in Wanchai, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, and Wong Nai Chung Gap. 26 Greg Leck let me know that Suzannah Linton’s book on the Hong Kong War Crimes Trials was published at the end of last year. I missed that.
25 I heard from the FEPOW Community that the whole of WO392 (the roster of British POWs in Japan or Japanese-occupied territories) is now online here. It’s a bit fiddly to use, but at least it’s there. 25 Brian Edgar has added a very interesting article about Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke on Gwulo.
24 I was asked whether Edward Arthur Bull RAOC 7584496 was a founder member of the Far Eastern Prisoner of War Association in Hong Kong. Does anyone know? 24 I heard back from Robert Taylor’s family (see August), via Hugh Farmer. I had mentioned that Mr Taylor was lucky in being unscathed when a bomb hit his wartime home –Stanley’s Bungalow C. Apparently I was wrong. The blast that killed the other inhabitants actually blew him bodily through the window, which no doubt saved his life but left him with severe back injuries. 24 A friend of Allan Webster’s (Middlesex, Lison Maru) family got in touch, and I was able to send him a photo of Mr Webster’s name on the Sai Wan Memorial. (He had seen this article on Michael Hurst’s web site).
22Mike Nelson (see last month) kindly sent a photo (illustrated) of his father, Thomas Nelson (RA, who survived the Lisbon Maru) and evacuated older brother Peter Nelson. 22 Robert Dunlop’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch. Mr Dunlop was of course wounded outside the North Point Power Station. His wife Edith was interned in Stanley.
18 A friend of the Woodward family (William Woodward was a Stanley Internee) got in touch. Margaret Woodward was evacuated, but I don’t know where their three children (Dorothy Ellen Lucy Woodward - born ca 1925 in Hong Kong, Margaret Joan Woodward - born ca 1930 in England when they were on leave, and Elizabeth Anne Woodward - born ca 1932 in Hong Kong) spent the war years as they are not mentioned in my records. I suspect they went to Australia too, as this family matches the demographics of a group that I believe are missing from my records. 18 Martin Heyes sent me this very nice link to a timeline of Pathe news clips about Hong Kong.
16George MacDonell (ex Sergeant of D Company, Royal Rifles of Canada) very kindly sent me a copy of his new book ‘They Never Surrendered’ about the Allied POWs who defied their captors in Hong Kong and Japan. I haven’t seen Mr MacDonell for a few years but I have unlimited respect for him, and would highly recommend his first book ‘One Soldier’s Story’ – not just for the honest and remarkable coverage of the war years, but also for what he did (through sheer determination) with his life in the years after.
15 Dave Deptford let me know that Thomas Murray’s (Royal Scots and a Lisbon Maru survivor) medals are for sale on eBay.
13With the cooler weather now upon us, the usual sleuths have been up in the hills where they today found an almost complete British Field Telephone.
10 Martin Heyes recently took the nephew (plus his wife) of Private Frank Foord of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, around Wong Nai Chung Gap, Saiwan Cemetery and Stanley, and kindly sent me a photo of a memorial to him, which is maintained by the family.
9 “Jimmie” Begg’s family was kind enough to send me a photo of her. They also note that her husband ‘Tooti’ Begg, HKVDC, was known as Tooti because of his false teeth. They added that the extended family had suggested that Jimmie evacuate to Australia, but Tooti had been confident that he could look after her if anything happened. They also sent a photo of Jimmie (first left at front), Tooti (second from left at back), with my correspondent on the ground near Jimmie, and her brother on the bicycle and her mother on the right hand end of the picture. She added: “My brother was packed off to school in England when he was about eight so I think the picture would have been taken in about 1937 or 1938. The family was in Chungking in 1937 and home leave in 1938 so I am guessing it was Chungking.”
8 Archie Hart was kind enough to send me a photo of his father James Hart, RASC, who will be 99 in January and is hoping to make his ‘ton’. Not bad for a man who (as regular readers of this site will know) was left for dead with seven bayonet wounds in the Eucliffe massacre.
7Charles and Robert William’s (both Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch. He notes: “One of the brothers was there under his own name, Richards, was a Sergeant I believe and is buried in Hong Kong, the other, while serving in the Army, but in a different unit to his brother, deserted and then re-enlisted under an assumed name so he could serve with his brother both were taken prisoner together and are known to have been on Lisbon Maru at the time it was sunk.” In fact both are memorialized in Hong Kong, though neither body was recovered. The family didn’t know what name Charles had enlisted under, but with a little sleuthing I was able to discover that it was Wilson. I had a note in my files that no one of that name was mentioned in POW Camp lists, and the CWGC entry showed that his parents were Richards.
6 Eileen Margaret ‘Jimmie’ Begg’s (HKVDC Nursing Detachment) niece got in touch. She notes: “It took me years of searching through libraries before I found out what happened to her. That would have been in the late 70s. I found the book by Oliver Lindsay and I also found The Fall of Hong Kong by Tim Carew which was written in the 60s. I still have the books. I heard my mother when she received a telegram about my aunt (Auntie ‘Jimmie’). I don’t remember whether I was ten at that time, but it is something I have never forgotten – the pain, agony and shock of her distress were very hard to absorb by a child. I could not do anything to help her. She never spoke about it and would never return to Hong Kong. She was born in Shanghai in 1905 and my father was born in Tientsin. All the Berthet and Cumming and Jameson families arrived in and were then born in China from 1862 onwards.” I have always wondered about the three nurses, Mrs Begg, Buxton, and Smith, and after so many years it is quite unsettling to suddenly make contact with one of their families. Mrs Buxton had a daughter called Patricia, but I have yet to discover what became of her (Mr Henry Buxton, HKVDC, was also killed).
4I returned from a business trip to San Francisco, went home and changed, and then immediately went to see Hong Kong’s famous protesters, take some photos, and chat to the students. As I walked away, who should I bump into but historian Greg Leck (author of Captives of Empire - see last month) who I thought I wouldn’t be able to meet on this visit. We had a good chat.
3 In answer to last month’s question, Dave Deptford confirmed that the HKPF revoked their militia status – according to the covering paper to the HKPF War Diary – on the afternoon of 20 December 1941: “when the Commissioner (Pennefather-Evans) drafted a note for The Governor, subsequently signed.” 3 Geoffrey Emerson noted: “In HK at the moment are two ladies from Australia whose aunts were in Stanley Camp. One aunt, Sheila Maria Haynes, left a number of mementoes, and three days ago, Judy and sister Susan presented these to St Stephen's College for the Heritage Gallery there. Philip Cracknell has done one of his fine blogs about Sheila and her husband, Patrick Cullinan, a policeman, who were married in Camp on 11th August 1945.” Apparently the Heritage Gallery has now had more than 5,000 visitors.
2On the Stanley Group, Michael Martin asked about resources covering the ‘out of camp’ experiences of third nationals in Hong Kong during the occupation. Brian Edgar pointed him at the very interesting Pio-Ulski site, which also exhibits one of the 29 August 1945 letters of thanks from the POW senior officers.
1After we had established the date of the Anhui’s departure from Hong Kong (see last month), Philip Cracknell pointed out that the ship N.L. Smith actually departed on was the Ulysses (see the original question in August). The foolish thing is that I knew this already, as it formed part of my research into the evacuation of Hong Kong. Sadly I quite often Google things these days, only to find the answers in my own work…
October 1st, 2014 Update
McCombe servicing Moth, and POW Camp sketch (courtesy Brian McCombe), Barclay Medals (courtesy DNW via Dave Deptford) Inglis homage (courtesy Ian Inglis), RSM Ford (courtesy Teresa Gilliam-Hill), Hyde-Lay family (courtesy Jill Fell) Bernard Ward (courtesy Lynda Winter), Maltby letter (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Stanley pillow (courtesy Ian Gill)
The end of September is typically when Hong Kong’s best weather starts. For an hour this morning I sat on our balcony watching the world go by (while the kids’ stupid rabbit nibbled my toes). At a time like this it’s still a wonderful place to live, and the willingness of those – more than seventy years ago now – to risk their lives in its defence becomes a little more understandable.
26Philip Cracknell has written another of his excellent blogs, this time about a central character in the British ARP - Wing Commander Alfred Steels-Perkins (he was a former Deputy Director of ARP in the UK who had complied, together with General Pritchard and Wing Commander Hodsoll, the official ARP books issued by the British Government). I am reasonably familiar with the family as his wife and children were evacuated. 26 I mentioned the Nelson family to Ron Brooks, whose father was a Master Gunner with the same Royal Artillery regiment (12th Coastal). He kindly sent a group photo of his father with other senior RA NCOs, and also one of him and his brother as children in 1940 together with a friend called ‘Ian Wilson’. The most likely Ian Wilson is Ian G. Wilson born 13.9.30, son of Lieutenant George Wilson, RAOC.
25 I had hoped to meet up again today with Greg Leck, author of the enormously impressive work ‘Captives of Empire’ as I hadn’t seen him for a few years and he was passing through Hong Kong on the way back from Beijing. Unfortunately some annoying passport issues prevented us from meeting.
24Via Jim Trick of the HKVCA I received an interesting question from the Royal Hong Kong Police Association about the swearing in of Hong Kong Police as militia in December 1941. I recall seeing this mentioned in the South China Morning Post – perhaps the edition of December 8 itself – but will have to check. On about December 20 they were de-sworn, but I’m not sure where the authoritative record of that might reside. 24 Thomas Nelson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) younger son got in touch while visiting Hong Kong. Nelson’s older son and wife had been evacuated to Melbourne.
23 Ralph Reimers kindly sent me a photo of Joseph Hurst (illustrated) looking like something out of The Cruel Sea! Probably not a man to pick a fight with… 23 Martin Heyes kindly sent a copy of Stanley internee June Cheape's memoirs of Hong Kong 1941 - 45, with reference to her time in the camp.
22Concerning Elizabeth Ride’s question about the Anhui (see last month) Jenifer and Philip Burton kindly sent me this extract from Will Sprague’s diary: “We fell to talking of events a year ago this being the equivalent Sunday that we were mobilised. I was on the ‘Ulysses’ that morning & came ashore with Morley Wright & something in the air caused us to have a few beers together in the H.K. Hotel before finding out whether or not mobilisation had been ordered. The day before (Saturday 6th) I had seen cousin Evelyn with her baby on the Anhui, & they had sailed at 7pm. I now know that both ships got safely to Singapore via Manila, but that Anhui had a near miss by bomb at Singapore & the Chief Off. killed. So I wonder where Evelyn is now.” Thus we have established the date of the vessel’s departure.
21 I was sent a very interesting photo and caricature of RSM ‘Florrie’ Ford of the RA, and put the owner in touch with Ford’s family. 21 Today the Canadian Consul General in Hong Kong let Brigadier John Kelburne Lawson’s family know that they have named a conference room at the new Consulate after him. They were very pleased! 21 I had an interesting meeting with Dr Patrick Lo who is studying archives and archivists in Hong Kong. We had a long chat about my work, and that of others who study this subject.
19 Robert England’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch, sending a couple of newspaper articles from the Aberdeen Journal about England’s capture and recovery. He was on the fifth draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, and at the end of the war was liberated by the Americans from Narumi Camp. Robert's wife was Dora, and she was evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia via the Philippines in July 1940; she arrived in Brisbane on the Awatea. She moved to Melbourne on 4 September that year, where her address was: c/o Mrs. Stapleton, "Los Angeles", 456 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. Mrs Stapelton was a fellow Army wife evacuee.
18Brian McCombe very kindly sent me a set of papers and photographs relating to his father William McCombe, HKVDC (see last month). These ranged from a picture of his father fixing a De Havilland Gypsy Moth at Kai Tak, to Brian and the kids playing around in their car outside their Nathan Road Flat. There was also a fascinating letter received by William in Narumi POW Camp, on the back of which a POW artist (my guess at the signature is Gunner Aubrey George Gardner, HKVDC) had sketched his portrait.
16 Reginald Hildred’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. He asked where Hildred was captured, but as he was in 965 Defence Battery – which was dispersed all over the Island – my best guess is in the Stanley area as that’s where the majority of these men ended up. Interestingly, the family is also related to Leading Sick Berth Attendant Ken George Baggs from the Royal Naval Hospital who survived the Lisbon Maru. Hildred’s relatives live in Brisbane, Baggs’s in Sydney. 16 Ian Inglis (son of John Inglis, also of 965 Battery RA and the Lisbon Maru – though unlike Hildred he survived the sinking), is on holiday in Hong Kong with his wife and son. They visited the site of Sham Shui Po POW Camp and took several photos of the memorials there.
15 Jill Fell kindly sent a photo of the Hyde-Lay family (which she received from Ian Hyde-Lay, Derek Hyde-Lay's son). It is a family portrait of Alexander and Betty and their children, Derek and Kathleen, taken in about 1937. Alex and Betty were of course accidentally killed in the American bombing of Stanley Camp’s Bungalow C in January 1945. The children were neither in my evacuation list nor the Stanley role, so Jill kindly asked Ian Hyde-Lay where they were during the war years. He responded: “Kathleen was evacuated in 1940 and sent to live family friends or acquaintances in Duncan, BC (on Vancouver Island, 45 miles north of Victoria). I believed she attended Queen Margaret’s School. [Derek had been sent] from China to the UK in 1937. He attended St. Mary's prep school in Melrose, and then moved to Oundle School in the Midlands. Upon graduation, he briefly attended Cambridge University, but then joined the Royal Navy in 1943. He worked on various ships, and did several of the Murmansk convoy runs.”
14 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that Eng Lt John Barclay’s (RN, HMS Barlight) medals are for sale by DNW (Dix Noonan Webb), on September19th 2014, Lot 1540. “WW1 and WW2 group of 7 medals to the above, reported as having been ex HMS Barlight, a Boom defence vessel scuttled at the Fall. Recorded as having been held in a wide selection of PoW Camps in HK, last given as SSPo. Detailed write - up. Est GBP120 – 160”. I wonder if this is the same John Barclay reported as receiving a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal: “Barclay, John, Engineer-Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R. Case 43600. At 8.30 a.m. on the 8th September, 1916, a man was thrown into the Firth of Forth owing to the swamping of a small boat. Engineer-Sub-Lieutenant John Barclay, R.N.R., jumped in from his ship and attempted to rescue him but failed.”
12 Trevor Hollingsbeee pointed out that Mercury (see last month) could also be: ”used as code to refer a telegraphic cable system, as recently as the 1990s.” Also of course, Mercury is a common newspaper name, and was in turn the Roman god of communication. It seems very likely that the term was used for some forms of intelligence coming into the POW camps.
11 Jean Hughes notes of her father (Sapper David Kyle, see last month): “I have discovered Dad was definitely in Kawasaki 1, reading Dorsey Walkers diary, he mentions on July 30th 1944 two men drank what they thought was alcohol and got very sick, in fact he said two died. There was actually 3 men, Dad being the third, he didn't drink as much, so wasn't sick. He has filled me in on the results of that episode. Also August 13th 1945 2 men were injured during a bombing raid Dad was one of those.” The alcohol referred to was industrial alcohol from a crashed American plane.
10BACEPOW (Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War) let me know that they are planning a 70th Anniversary of Liberation trip to the Philippines January 30 – February 11, 2015. Details can be seen here.
6 Frederick Stanford’s granddaughter got in touch. Stanford was CSM of C Coy Royal Scots and was lost on the Lisbon Maru. Some years back I gave a little help to David Stanford for his book ‘Roses In December’ about his grandfather. 6 Elizabeth Ride pointed out that the Cicala crew list referred to last month was a part of General Maltby's post war report to the War Office in November 1945 (with an introductory letter): "which I assume was compiled during their captivity from their collective memories (as they would not have had notes to consult, of course). I have not taken copies of Maltby's whole report (hundreds of pages) but what I have taken is in the HKHP, and included in this is the Cicala report (13 pages) attested by 'Commander RAN, Senior Officer Gunboats' but my copy is without personal signature. The despatches which concern the naval side were 'submitted by the Commodore RN' (see Maltby's letter page 3), so the list would have been on the authority of the Commodore.”
5Lynda Winter kindly sent a photo of Gunner Bernard Ward, 8th Coastal Regiment RA, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru.
2Ian Gill (see last month) is wondering if policeman Brian Fay’s family are around. Fay was one of the police escapers who was recaptured and badly treated, and was a family friend. Interestingly, the Bidmead family (Bidmead was a fellow escapee) joined the Stanley Group recently. He notes that: “I have a cushion (see photos attached) that Rosaleen Millar (fellow internee and my godmother) made for [my mother] for her birthday in 1944 with threads scrounged from here and there.”
September 1st, 2014 Update
Attack on Hyuga (courtesy Cori Baker), Lynch and friends at Hakodate #2B (courtesy Helene Le Beau), Kamaishi Steel Mill after American attack (courtesy Carol Campbell) David Kyle (courtesy Jean Hughes), Laban's Lisbon Maru account (courtesy Barry Saville), Honouring Brian Gill (courtesy Ian Gill) Eastern Fortress, At Least We Lived, In Time of War (all author)
It’s not every week that I pick up three new books about Hong Kong’s wartime period and people. I haven’t had a chance to read any of them yet, but Collingwood’s In Time Of War, Oxford’s At Least They Lived, and Kwong Chi Man and Rusty Tsoi’s Eastern Fortress all look interesting in different ways. It’s interesting too to have two very different American perspectives this month: the amazing exploits of a US Navy pilot who one moment was attacking Japanese naval vessels under heavy return fire, and the next dropping cigarettes onto newly-liberated POW Camps, and a photo of an American senior officer in a different POW Camp that included some of the sickest (and therefore luckiest to survive) Lisbon Maru survivors.
30William McCombe’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. This seemed slightly déjà vu as I knew about the family from my studies of the 1940 evacuation (McCombe’s wife and two children had gone to Sydney). McCombe himself was an instructor at Kai Tak. 30 Jill Fell asked details of the Whiteleys in Stanley, wondering if one might be godmother to her cousin. All she knew was that this Mrs Whiteley lived on Broadwood Road. The Stanley records show an Ellen and William Whiteley, and the Jurors’ Rolls show that William Whiteley lived at 16 Broadwood Road (women were not required to be jurors in those days, thus the roundabout way of cross referencing).
29 Philip Cracknel has put a very interesting, though obviously not very pleasant, entry on his wartime blog about the St Stephen’s Massacre. It’s a collection of statements from a number of surviving victims. We believe that Dr Pope’s house was Bungalow A, but I would love to find proof. 29 A very interesting article appeared via The Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today, about Hong Kong’s harbour defences (indicator loops are lengths of cable laid on the seabed in order to detect submarine incursion). 29 I was contacted today, via Ron Taylor in the UK, by the daughter of a Hong Kong man lost on (we believe) a Merchant Navy vessel during the war. We want to see if he is mentioned on the new Hong Kong Memorial but have the usual challenge that the only way to be sure is to see his name written in Chinese, rather than transliterated in English.
26 EOD were today called to neutralise a device in North Point. It turned out to be a Japanese 150mm HEAP (High Explosive Armour Piercing). EOD were kind enough to let me know that it: “likely was targeting the Pill Boxes (thus the armour piercing, they are thick skinned to penetrate a structure without breaking up on impact). Location was on top of the old North Point Estate.” They also mentioned that the explosive was picric acid – slightly more powerful than TNT, but with an unfortunate tendency to react with the metal of casing and fuse to make a very sensitive contact explosive. These things get nastier as they age and are definitely best avoided. After the controlled explosion they continued: “all these years later and some of us are still dodging Japanese shrapnel in North Point.”
23 Mike Babin kindly let me know the sad news that his father Alf Babin – a survivor of St Stephen’s – passed away last month at the age of 92. A short obituary can be found here (scroll down on the right).
20 The South China Morning Post is looking to interview people in Hong Kong who lived through the war years, for the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the end of hostilities. 20 Here’s an interesting question. William Sprague’s (HKVDC) POW diary has a number of mentions of ‘Mercury’ as if Mercury is either a person bearing news, or something similar. For example: “No.12 read today, but Mercury was rather incoherent.” We wonder if this could be a reference to information coming into Argyle Street by radio or other means? 20 I was shocked today, looking at Amazon.com’s UK site, to see that paperback copies of Not The Slightest Chance are being offered for between two and four thousand pounds! Ludicrous. I’m sure no one would spend anything like that. I’ll have to see if HKUP would be willing to sponsor a new edition.
18 For the first time in a number of years, I was today introduced to a ‘new’ surviving POW from Hong Kong. He is David Kyle of the Royal Engineers, one of the ‘hard men’ who were on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to be sent to Japan. Aged 94, he now lives in North Island, New Zealand. 18 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me the list of personnel of HMS Cicala from ADM 199/1286. I didn’t know that this existed. There are dates on the list up to the end of 1942, which makes its provenance hard to guess.
17Tony Ablong contacted me again, still trying to establish precisely how his father Alfred Ernest Ablong (Senior), a Warden in the ARP, lost his life during the fighting. His name is not recorded in CWGC files, nor anywhere else formal that I can find. And yet he certainly didn’t survive, and is believed to have lost his life while trying to provide the defenders of Wang Nai Chung Gap with food. 17 A researcher by the name of Hans Houterman kindly provided me with proof that Joseph Hurst indeed served on HMS Cicala, initially under Gandy. Hurst referred to himself as the commander of the vessel (and this is confirmed by Holroyd’s account), and yet during the fighting the commander was Boldero. It now seems most likely that Hurst commanded temporarily, between those two captains.
16 I’m in contact with Ian Gill. This is doubly interesting, as not only is Ian the younger half brother of poor Brian Gill who drowned in Stanley, but his family and Boxer’s family were very close friends. In fact they stayed with Charles and Mickey at Conygar for quite a while immediately after the war. Ian kindly sent a number of photos from those days. 16 Being stuck in San Francisco airport for five hours, I finally read Joseph Hurst’s full account of his escape from North Point. It was extremely well written. It’s interesting that I now have full unpublished accounts from two of the four members of this escape, plus partial from a third. Hurst, among many other things, was a good observer. I particularly liked this description from a village they passed through shortly after escaping: "During this meal the domestic animals became part of the family. As it s custom to drop all bones and other refuse on the floor while eating, the chickens, dogs, pigs and other animals come into their own by wandering in and out between our legs picking up the scraps and incidentally, keeping the floor relatively clean. There was of course, the usual myriad of flies and mosquitoes due to stagnant pools and filthy conditions. However, I should say the people themselves made valiant attempts to keep themselves moderately clean. They were quite happy and did not aspire to any higher things in life; they were content with their normal lot and simply wished to be left alone. Their lot at this time was far from normal. The Japs had been there and looted the place, leaving little of any real value. They were pitifully poor. The food with which we had been provided was more than they could afford for themselves. We could see the amazed look in the eyes of the children as they watched us eat; it was a long time since they had seen a spread like that and probably never joined in one."
15 George Frost’s great grandson got in touch. The challenge here is that there were two George Frosts in Stanley, and we’re still not sure which one this was! They were both government Health Inspectors, which really doesn’t help.
13I passed Hugh Farmer a few details about Robert Taylor and the Rescue and Demolition Corps of the PWD (Public Works Department). Taylor was the manager of Green Island Cement and a Stanley Internee. Hugh’s Industrial History of Hong Kong website is well worth a look.
12 William Tyner’s family kindly scanned in a number of his letters, plus photos and other relevant documented from Kamaishi (see last month). These included a unique photo of Tyner’s wife and daughter being evacuated to Australia in 1940 on the Awatea (illustrated), and immediate post-war photos showing the damage from the American naval shelling of Kamaishi during which Tyner lost his life.
11 Henry Ching kindly sent me copies of his two most recent occasional papers, covering the HKVDC Nursing Detachment and Auxiliary Nurses. These are available to read here. 11 Lyndon White’s family kindly allowed me to give Canadian veteran George MacDonell a copy of a photo of Douglas Clague that they have. George needs this for a new book he is finishing up.
10Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch sending a large number of very interesting photographs and letters. These included the almost obligatory photo of Lynch and fellow doctors outside the Bowen Road Hospital, but also a selection of letters home. Lynch was one of the very seriously ill men left in Shanghai after the sinking, and eventually – towards the end of the war – transferred to the Hakodate camps. One fascinating photo shows Lynch with fellow POW officers at Hakodate #2B, including the American senior officer Captain John White, USMC. A complete list of these men can be seen on the late Roger Mansell’s website here, and oddly enough Lunch is also mentioned in Philip Cracknell’s latest blog here. Interestingly, Lynch was a French Canadian serving in the British RAMC. He is the only Canadian I know of who was on the Lisbon Maru. 10Mark Sellar was kind enough to send a copy of Brigadier Wallis’s attestation papers.
9 I received a fascinating set of photos from the States, relating to a USN pilot named Wesley Howard Stevens from the torpedo squadron VT-16 that flew from CV-15 (USS Randolph). The photos included a terrifying shot of an attack on the Japanese battleship Hyuga (on July 24, 1945, for which Stevens received the Navy Cross), but also a later photo of a supply drop into a POW Camp (Wakinohama) – and a letter to the pilot from one of the POWs who received that drop! That POW, Petty Officer Harry Roughly, RN, was ex-Hong Kong and had been on the Lisbon Maru. Many of the Kobe House POWs ended up at Wakinohama after the former was bombed out. Roughly passed away in 1979, but the guys in the States would be keen to contact his family if possible.
8 Archibald Laban’s nephew (see last month) kindly sent me his uncle’s description of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. This is a thirty page account written in beautiful hand writing.
3 Elizabeth Ride had an interesting question. “On which ship did Norman Lockhart Smith leave Hong Kong, on 4 December 1941?” It seems to be the SS An Hwei, but I would be interested if anyone could confirm this.
2Mike Beattie let me know that he’d found an Australian service record for his ex-HK POW father Sapper George Beattie, RE. It appears that he was enlisted with Australian forces in 1945 after return from Japan where he had been a POW (he was on the first draft).
August 1st, 2014 Update
Thomas Hannan second from left, Thomas Hannan service record (both courtesy Malcolm Grant), Leighton Hill Japanese positions (via author) BAAG Supply drop (courtesy Van De Linde collection), Rat Snake (author), King's College teachers (author) William Tyner (courtesy Carol Campbell), Gordon Chalmers (courtesy Andy Duffus), Eucliffe (via Gwulo)
Interesting that two different RAMC families would get in touch this week, and also that one of them would be a Canadian serving in British forces who was on the Lisbon Maru. Despite the large number of Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers POWs in Hong Kong at the time, none were sent to Japan on that vessel. I had always wondered if any of the British forces on board were actually Canadian, and now I have an answer.
30 As promised, Andy Duffus kindly sent several photos of Gordon Chalmers, Royal Scots.
29Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch via David Bellis. Lynch was a Canadian serving in British forces.
27 Today Ralph Reimers kindly sent me the complete version of escapee Joseph Hurst’s memoires ‘Escape from Hong Kong’. I will read it on a business trip in early August.
26William Charles Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a few photos (including one of William and Olive at the annual ball in Hong Kong in 1939 - they are 2nd and 3rd from the right). Tyner’s wife (Olive) and daughter (Marion) were evacuated to Australia. Tyner was one of 27 POWs unfortunate enough to be killed by the American shelling of their POW Camp in Japan (Kamaishi).
24 Richard Frost kindly pointed me to a page on Gwulo with some very interesting photos of both Eucliffe and PB17.
22I received an interesting email from Australia asking whether Hong Kong civilian Frederick John Willey had served in 5AA Regiment. Willey worked for Taikoo Docks and was moved to the ‘Combatant’ list of the reserve in 1940, so even though he was interned in Stanley with his family, it is possible that he joined the AA. Certainly at least two or three other Hong Kong civilians did – via the HKVDC - at some point (John Pearce, for example).
21Brigette Hutchinson kindly sent me an image of her father's (David Alexander Hutchison, HKVDC, V3552) application to remain in Australia upon discharge from British Armed Services. 21 Vera Murrell was discussed on the Stanley Group. I have a huge but very useful document of all government appointments (even the index is over 10MB), which shows that she was a teacher at King’s College. 21 Tan kindly sent me a ‘then and now’ photo based on the one on the bombing of Wanchai that I published last month. He does this so much better than me! We’re discussing what we should do with these – perhaps an exhibition or similar.
15 Cyril McLeman’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, pointing out that his name is spelled wrong (McLenan) on my website. I’ll fix that. She notes that he: “escaped through a torpedo hole by swimming underwater, he learnt to swim whilst stationed at Hong Kong before WWII. He was captured by the Japanese and spent the remainder of the war in a Japanese concentration camp where he was tortured, starved and placed in solitary confinement for a large portion of his time there. He never got over it and suffered nightmares his whole life.” 15 I heard today that my short history of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment will be published in Volume 54 of the Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in March of next year. 15 In discussions with Ralph Reimers about Joseph Hurst it is becoming clear that at some point Hurst commanded HMS Cicala. Does anyone have details of when this might have been? 15 Philip Cracknell reminded me about Frelford, the Middlesex private who ended up in Stanley rather than military POW camp after having saved the life of a wounded Japanese soldier. I have an official note about this somewhere. Each year I am either reminded of Frelford, or find that note, and the following year the opposite occurs but by then I’ve forgotten it was Frelford or who that note pertained to! One day I’ll finally put the two together. Philip has a blog about him here.
14 Today I was sent links to two equally interesting but very different video clips of Hong Kong in 1949, an amateur one and a professional. While 1949 is outside my normal scope, the city at that time had clearly hardly changed from 1945.
13Harry McNaughton’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) granddaughter got in touch to mention that the Arden Seven Commemorative Plaza in St Vital honours seven Battle of Hong Kong veterans from Arden Avenue (McNaughton was author of the book Shadow Lights of Sham Shui Po). I have met two of these men myself (Ed Shayler and George Peterson) and am very pleased to see them remembered in this way. I also think that the format – the seven empty chairs – is very effective.
13 Dave Deptford reports that the Sunday Telegraph today had an article about a young Japanese pianist who used to play to the POWs at Yokohama #14B. It’s very interesting, but perhaps what interested me most was the fact that they were able to write quite a good article about it so easily. Even five years ago they would have struggled to find these facts; ten years ago it would have been impossible. 13 My copy of Hong Kong 1941-45 has arrived. I will read it over the holidays.
12Brian Edgar reports that the book The Rice Paper Diaries has won the Welsh Book of the Year Award for fiction. The book was inspired by her great aunt and uncle’s (Thomas William Cosmos Jones and Elizabeth Menna Owen Jones) experience in Stanley during the war. However, there’s a bit of a mystery as the author states that Thomas Jones ended the war in Japan, which would be unique for someone who was a long-term Stanley internee. 12 Today my copy of Covered Up In Kowloon arrived (illustrated). Normally the books written by war time missionaries are a bit dull, as the missionaries tend to spend most of their words describing how wonderful they are, but this one – bought on Brian Edgar’s excellent suggestion – is actually very interesting. As Brian had said, almost the entire book is about two missionaries’ experience of living in Kowloon from its fall until the point of the Canadian repatriation. It’s a shame that it doesn’t give a lot of detail, and people are referred to as ‘Mrs A’ or ‘Mr D’ rather a lot, but it was well worth a read. Also, useful for my study of the fate of Hong Kong’s Chinese population in the war years: “Daily, as we walked the streets, we would see poor starved men, women, and children lying on the pavement too weak to move or already dead. Their numbers were so great, and the general poverty so intense that there were very few able to do anything to relieve their suffering.”
10Following on from last month, Malcolm Grant kindly sent three photos of Tommy Hannan in uniform and a copy of his service record. The latter, of course, bore the dreaded words familiar to all with relatives on the Lisbon Maru: ‘Previously reported Prisoner of War. Now Missing at Sea.’
9 I heard today that a group called Friends Of Hong Kong Cemetery has been founded, striving to help conserve the architecture, historical elements, flora and fauna. It sounds an excellent initiative to me, and I’ll give more news when it’s available. 9 Walking home from the office along Bowen Road, just before reaching the old military hospital, I noticed a Magpie Robin making a great fuss about something, flying continuously from the wall on the north side, to a tree on the south and back again. It didn’t take long to see why; a two metre long rat snake was in the tree, presumably threatening a nest. (Rat snakes are impressive but harmless, but seeing as they are the main food of king cobras I don’t normally spend too much time in their vicinity!)
8Joseph Hurst’s (RNR, Escaper) nephew-in-law got it touch. This has led to one of the most interesting conversations in recent months. With an OBE and two DSCs, Hurst (perhaps unsurprisingly) turns out to have been a very interesting man. Of fellow escaper Petty Officer E. Maxwell Holroyd, R.N. he notes: “Naval reservist who had been attached to the Chinese Maritime Custom’s shore staff. His knowledge of the countryside over the border was extensive. During his years in the Customs as a preventive he was able to learn all the smugglers’ paths and methods. His frequent incursions into the Chinese interior with armed parties gave him valuable knowledge and experience of the interior, as well as the eccentricities of the Chinese. A fluent speaker of Cantonese and all local dialects, together with an uncanny knowledge. He was tough, reliable and extremely humorous. To him, without a doubt, must be given the credit of at least seventy percent of the success of the escape." 8 Brian Edgar found an interesting file at the PRO implying that the UK was giving help to destitute citizens in Stanley Camp during the war. The subject, Thomas Henry Gordon Brayfield, is shown in the Jurors' List until 1939 as working at Carmichael & Clarke, Ltd and as a 'special juror'. This implies that at least at that time we would have been relatively wealthy. 8 I received a request for information about the Japanese removal of metal from Hong Kong for their war effort. I gave what assistance I could, and then asked Elizabeth Ride what she had on the subject. Amazingly, Elizabeth had a file on this topic – I suspect she has a file on every topic! – and kindly assisted.
7 I have mentioned this site about Barney Byrne, HKVDC, before. Today I found another one here. Seems like a very popular chap! 7 Charles Dobie has found another collection of Hong Kong liberation photos from HMCS Prince Robert.
6 Through Ron Taylor in the UK I am in touch with an Australian journalist who is: “researching a diary from WW2, author unknown unfortunately, who was a POW in Changi before being sent to Kobe in Japan.” The diary mentions several Hong Kong POWs who had been on the Lisbon Maru, one of them being the well-regarded RSM Challis of the first Middlesex.
4When looking through my old computer files I came across a large set of images of BAAG labelled ‘Van De Linde’. The only problem is that I can’t recall how I got them! I remember Osler Thomas (Force 136) showing me a photo of a supply drop ten or fifteen years ago, which seems to be in this set too, but I don’t recall if they came from him.
2On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, someone posted a link to an excellent BAAG handout from last year’s exhibition at the University of Hong Kong. I am surprised that I hadn’t seen this before as I was peripherally involved in the show (looking after some of the exhibits for a year or so afterwards). 2 I learned from Alexandra Talbot today that her father was a member of Z Force. I should have guessed from his close friendship with Mike Kendall. “Our Group originally had seven members: Mike Kendall the head know-all and trainer; Ronnie Holmes; Eddy Teasdale; Colin McEwan; Bob Thompson; Monia Talan, a very sweet quietly spoken … guy but tough when needed; and myself, doctor to the group if doctoring ever became necessary. Each member had to do the same training and was really of equal standing in the group…” 2 The Researching FEPOW History Group has announced their 2015 conference in association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).
1Jack Mitchell sent me a nice story: “Although the HKVDC was mobilised on 7th December ’41, I was not released from Special Duties in the Colonial Secretariat until 21st December. Suffice to say that some material had to be destroyed securely – that was done in the furnaces of the Old Gloucester Hotel. All was accomplished and on completion of the job on 1st December, I was given the choice of staying on at the Secretariat or joining Corps Signals, having first been warned that the end was not far off. I elected to rejoin my Unit but the problem was how to get from Central District to Corps Headquarters in Peak Mansions – the Peak Tram and public transport were non-existent. One problem! The solution – walk up the steps adjoining the tramlines from Lower Garden Road right to the top. The climb was quite arduous – carrying some food supplies for my mother, sisters, baby niece billeted on May Road, together with my own kit. I never had time to count the steps or admire the view – one fall could have spelt disaster for me. I eventually made it, much to the surprise of my pals.” 1 Elizabeth Ride, remembering an unexplained photograph of a wrecked car somewhere on the Peak that I put on this site a few years back, quoted a report by N.I.D., 20.12.45 WO 208 750A: "Death of Captain Pardoe. Captain Pardoe was sent on a liaison to another Intelligence organisation situated on the Peak. As the car was climbing the hill a Japanese air raid took place and a bomb fell near the vehicle wrecking it and killing the occupants." This may have been Pardoe’s car, but there were quite a few damaged in the area. 1 T.K. Wong was kind enough to point out that the water colour paintings (see last month): “were drawn by Kwan Shan-Yuet. He was a quite famous painter of the LingNan Faction”. I believe this is Guan Shanyue in modern transliteration. And for the photo of the aftermath of an American raid on Wanchai, he noted: “The white building in the background of the photo was the Peel Clinic. It was a landmark of Wanchai even up to the mid 70s. To the left of the rails was the Southorn Playground (Southorn Stadium of today). The photo is facing to the direction of Causeway Bay.” The street is Johnston Road.
July 1st, 2014 Update
Mike Kendall (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Gordon and Mrs Chalmer (courtesy Andy Duffus), Begg murder (via facebook) Wanchai bombing (via facebook), Luk Kwok Hotel (via facebook), Wallis medals (courtesy Mark Sellar) Artist's chop (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Tom Hannan (via Ron Taylor, UK), Chick-lit (author)
It’s an odd feeling being between projects. With my study of the 1940 evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong now completed, I need to start something else. Of course I have a number of old projects available, half-written books about the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel, or Hong Kong’s Irregulars (BAAG, the Chindits, everything accomplished by the escapers and evaders), and so forth. But it’s also an opportunity to start up something entirely new. I’ll probably spend the summer thinking it over, and may well complete one of the old projects before applying myself to a brand new challenge.
28 A student contacted me today, about researching into the Japanese shipment of metals from wartime Hong Kong to Japan. This certainly included motor vehicles and statues, and I suspect other things too.
26On the way to the annual Canada Day reception in Central, I stopped off at a nearby book shop and saw a few of my books for sale in an unexpected – but no doubt vastly less loss-making – genre! 26 The Australian Defence Force Academy kindly let me know that my thesis has been forwarded to the examiners. There will now be a wait of six to eight weeks for a result.
24Thomas Hannan’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) cousin was put in touch with me by Ron Taylor (UK) who also kindly passed me a photo. The cousin has not yet responded to my email.
22George Robinson and Gordon Wheatcroft’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) nephew got in touch. He notes that Mr Robinson was shot in the legs and never had feelings in them again. Thanks in part to Hollywood, where people always make a full recovery from wounds, in reality permanent nerve damage was a common occurrence. 22 Alice and David Hutchinson’s (Stanley Internee and HKVDC respectively) daughter got in touch.
21Alexandra Talbot kindly sent me an excellent photo of Mike Kendall of Z Force fame (HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit).
20 Gordon Chalmers (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, noting: “He survived the war and returned to Edinburgh, married in 1948, then in the late sixties returned to his native Aberdeen. He was always very reticent to talk about the Lisbon Maru, though he did on one memorable occasion, revealing the horror of the tragedy. However, he was more open about his time as a POW always telling me the 'the Japanese were cruel to their own as much as they were to us'. Unfortunately Gordon died in 2004 aged 90 and I inherited his 'memory box' which contained his military medals, athletics medals, Japanese 'Victory' money and Royal Scots badges etc., which he took me through when I was a young lad.” He also kindly sent several photos. 20 Mark Sellar kindly let me know that: “the Pacific Star quartet and Imperial Service Medal of Harold Jackson, Storeman at the Royal Naval Dockyard, Hong Kong, were offered for sale on eBay last weekend. I note that after transportation to Japan and subsequent liberation, Harold (accompanied by his family) returned to Hong Kong post-war to resume - for a few years - his work in the Dockyard Stores there.”
16 Alexandra Talbot (daughter of Stanley internee Dr Harry Talbot) is trying: “to find out some information regarding a series of Chinese water colors given to my parents in Hong Kong many years ago… I would like to find out who the artist is… my parents were told that the artist was quite famous.” I don’t know anything about these things, but have added a photo of the artist’s signature and chop just in case someone else does.
13Peter Hennessy kindly let me know that Vice Admiral Ralph L Hennessy, DSC, CD, passed away today, and his obituary was published. Although Ralph was not in Hong Kong (instead he fought with distinction in the RCN in the Atlantic), he was the eldest son of Colonel Pat Hennessy RCASC who was killed by a shell on The Peak during the fighting. He would have been 96 this September.
12I was delighted to hear from Phil Doddridge, Royal Rifles of Canada, again. We used to be in touch regularly, and I was fortunate to meet him on his last visit to Hong Kong. He’s now 92, and in good health. 12 Thomas Fullerton’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. 12 I received an email from Eleanor Vaughan, visiting Hong Kong from Canada to research Hong Kong’s war crimes trials from the perspective of the Canadian POWs’ experience.
10Stuart Braga reported a book I hadn’t heard of before: Covered Up In Kowloon. However, I had heard of the authors (Canadian missionaries and Stanley internees named Harold Fetherstonhaugh Collier and his wife Frances Dorothy Collier). Left behind in Kowloon as the Japanese attacked, they never made it to Stanley, instead being added directly to the Canadian repatriation in 1943.
7William Grant Shepherd’s grandson contacted me. Shepherd was one of the people who helped me most on the Lisbon Maru book (he was a Royal Navy Engine Room Artificer and, obviously, survived the sinking). It’s always interesting when this happens, as in many cases POWs were happy to tell me (just a fly on the wall) things that they could never tell their own families. 7 On someone’s advice, I read Fighting Mad by ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert. It is a fascinating book by a fascinating (and finally rather tragic) character. Calvert’s first posting was to pre-war Hong Kong where he raised a unit of local Royal Engineers and learnt reasonable Cantonese. He states that while visiting China during the war he came across the group of Hong Kong escapers and evaders gathered together by BAAG and was instrumental in making them part of his Chindit group (William Young of 3 Coy HKVDC would become his batman, but in practice also his bodyguard during some of the worst fighting). 7 I am back in contact with Kamal Prasad, son of Kamta Prasad who commanded B Coy 2/14th Punjabis. Kamal is helping me with some biographical details of his father, who had an outstanding post war career. One nice quote when I asked Kamal why his mother’s name has the letters ‘RK’ in front of it: “Oh, RK is/was the Indian title... my mum was a small Raja's daughter, kind of blue blooded. She once told us kids your father has earned his title (rank), it's not merely by birth!!”
6Elizabeth Ride passed me a very interesting document (which was primarily intended for Tim Ko) concerning Japanese battle charms identified by BAAG. I wonder if this could explain the sometimes unexpected things (old coins, old badges, and so forth) sometimes found on the battlefields? 6 Mark Sellar sent me a very interesting note saying that he had been able to: “obtain the medals of Brigadier Cedric Wallis, and thought you might like to receive the attached photograph of his campaign medals as he had worn them in later life.” The medals are: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Interallied Victory Medal, General Service Medal 1918 GV 1st issue with clasps 'Iraq' & 'Kurdistan', 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, War Medal with Oakleaf emblem denoting 'Mention-in-Despatches'. He continued: “M.I.D., was specifically for his services during the Battle for Kong, and was published in the Supplement to the London Gazette issue of 4 April 1946, the preamble of which states: ‘The KING has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941’.” Mark also pointed out that contrary to many accounts, Wallis was not a recipient of the Military Cross (interestingly, neither was his counterpart Lawson, though some books also claim he was).
4 Iain Gow followed up from last month’s photo of the ruins of Kobe house with a plan of the camp taken from John Lane’s book Summer Will Come Again. This book, by an Australian POW (not captured in Hong Kong), used to be available to read online but seems to have been deleted now. 4 Barbara Anslow noted: “Seeing reference in your May newsletter to the Marriott family jerked my memory: I recall the death of Mr Marriott but thought he was referred to as 'Kid'. I believe his daughter was the young mother who lived in a room in our corridor in Block 3, Married Q, with her little boy Tommy. [Their surname was White]. Tommy was the only child in our corridor of flats, his Mum was continually keeping him in order so as not to annoy us adults; he was a charming little boy.” This was Mrs J. P. White.
2 Justin Cahill kindly sent me a copy of George Baxter’s (the manager of the Hong Kong Bureau of United Press) short book, Personal Experiences During The Siege Of Hong Kong (illustrated). In three parts it covers the battle of Hong Kong, internment, and the exchange at Laurenco Marques.
1 Someone put a newspaper page on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, mentioning the death of Nurse Begg of the HKVDC. I knew that her husband, like Nurse Buxton’s was in the HKVDC, but hadn’t realised until reading this that the third of the British nurses killed at Stanley on Christmas Day, Nurse Smith, was married to Lieutenant Colonel Walter John L. Smith, RAOC, who was also in Hong Kong and was taken POW. This facebook page is well worth keeping an eye on. Other interesting images posted this month included a photo of the original Luk Kwok Hotel – showing war damage – and a rather unpleasant image showing the destruction caused by American bombing in Wanchai.
June 1st, 2014 Update
Barracudas over HSBC (via Charles Dobie), Reg Stemp (courtesy Jan Roy), Odd buckles (courtesy Stuart Wood) Stanley war damage (via Charle Dobie), Stanley Camp (author's files), Stanley war damage (via Charles Dobie) Xmas day with the Penns (courtesy Susan Lange), Roberts Block (author), Allister painting (courtesy Arleigh Hudson)
This May marked the 160th anniversary of the foundation of the Volunteers. Brought into being in 1854, they were disbanded a year or two before the 1997 handover. During all that time the Volunteers were rather different from most part-time forces, taking their job very seriously, and – for example - delighting in beating the Middlesex Regiment (regular professional machine gunners) in competitions on the range. During the Battle of Hong Kong, several HKVDC units were all but wiped out, but at a severe cost to the Japanese. Post-war research has clearly shown that at Wong Nai Chung Gap, 3 Company was responsible for more Japanese casualties than any other unit, and other companies were equally effective at Stanley and other engagements. Today, although I am only in touch with a handful of veterans from those days, there’s still a strong spirit alive with the Volunteers Association in Hong Kong, Canada, and Australia, and all celebrate Foundation Day.
31 As part of the commemorations of the anniversary of the start of the Great War, Bill Lake sent a reminder that a production of Oh What A Lovely War will be playing at the Shouson Theatre in Wanchai, June 25-28. The important point is that this production is in association with the Royal British Legion. Details can be found here.
30 Iain Gow, whose father (James Gow, Royal Scots) was a POW at Kobe House, found online a fascinating colour cine film of the ruins of the camp. The shot in question starts at 1.20, and I found that by blowing it up to full size and taking a screen shot, I could capture a reasonably good quality image. The footage is taken from an almost identical angle as this photo from the Australian War Museum from August 1945. Iain has a photo of his father standing by the same broken corner piece shortly after liberation. 30 Today the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association continued the tradition of holding their annual dinner on the last Friday of May, as the anniversary of the founding of the Volunteers. The main guest was Ian Burchett, the Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao, who gave a fine speech. The Association also kindly invited me, with the added attraction that not being the main guest, I had a free dinner and didn’t even have to speak! It was actually very enjoyable, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the attendees I knew (and how generous they were with the port…)
29 Kenneth Young’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch.
28Arleigh Hudson, granddaughter of John Burton RCASC, got back in touch. The family has a number of paintings given to them by William Allister, RCCS, including a fine one that is clearly a view from North Point POW camp looking north across the harbour. There are also copies here.
27 Walking down from The Peak via Hatton Road I had a good view of ‘Doc’ Ride’s house. Although it looks pre-war, it was actually built for him at HKU just after the war. There is, of course, a 10-inch coastal gun in the garden.
25Walter Thompson’s (HKPF) family got in touch, kindly sending a number of photos of him and his family, including one of Walter himself just before the war (illustrated). Walter’s wife and two children were evacuees, and another daughter was the first evacuee to be born ‘in Australia’ as she was born at sea in Australian waters as their ship arrived.
23 I was contacted by a friend of Alf Bennett, who kindly introduced me to wartime policeman Walter Thompson’s family. Bennett was a fluent Japanese speaker and a friend of Charles Boxer, among others. 23 Dave Deptford notes that Sapper Bernard Todd’s relatives live near him, and want to know more about his death. Todd’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry brackets his death as 8-25 December 1941. However, in my original research into the 1941 deaths, I noted that the internal records of the CWGC listed him as having been originally buried at the north end of North Point camp on 22 December. The implication, I believe, is that he had been wounded at some point between December 19 and 22 in the eastern sector. He may well have been in the group of POWs held at Wong Nai Chung Gap overnight on the 19th, and marched to North Point on the 20th. Many of those, of course, had been wounded in the fighting or when the 'black hole' was mortared.
21 I had an interesting email today from a friend of the Marriott family. She is researching Henry ‘Ked’ Marriott and his descendants, including daughters who became Emma E Field and Mrs White.
19 Today I received an unusual email from the family of a man apparently murdered on the China / Hong Kong border in the mid 1950s. They would like help to identify where he was buried, and reinter him properly. This is way outside my normal area, but worth pursuing.
17George Tattam’s (Middlesex) granddaughter got in touch again (see 2010). Previously I had told her that Tattam was liberated from Yokohama Stadium Camp, but I now realize that this was incorrect. He was a POW there until 1 May 1944, then the camp closed and the POWs were dispersed. In Tattam’s case, he went to Tokyo #18D. From there, finally, he was sent to Tokyo #15B (or #5B), from which he was actually liberated.
14Rob Weir mentions that walking into his local Melbourne library he found a copy of Not The Slightest Chance on the shelf! 14 On the Hong Kong War facebook page, someone posted a South China Morning post article featuring Tim Ko which I think I missed last year.
12 RSM Enos ‘Henry’ Ford’s (RA) niece got in touch via Philip Cracknell. (see last month). 12 I had an enquiry from the village of Silverstone about a name on their war memorial: Albert Henry Roberts of the RASC who is buried in Sai Wan. Roberts was actually one of the POWs who died in Taiwan and was reinterred in Hong Kong after the war, so I passed the question to Michael Hurst of the POW Taiwan group who kindly furnished all the necessary details.
11 Susan Lange sent a fascinating 1939 or 1940 Christmas Day photograph. Taken at ‘Penno’s’ (which no doubt means the Penn family’s house) at 172 The Peak, Mount Kellett, Hong Kong, at 15.00, it shows: John Collis, Marion Gordon, Alistair Somerfelt, Gladys Collis, Aci Bowker, William Simmons ‘Simmy’ of the Tramways, Keith Valentine, Rene Penn, Harry Penn, Ralph xxxx, Mrs. Somerfelt, and Vyner Gordon. Children: Gavin Gordon, Bruce Valentine, David xxxx, and Judith Ann Collis, with Patricia Penn standing behind the children. Bowker and Gordon were of course both lost during the war. We would be grateful if anyone could plug in the two missing names. She also sent another photo of old Peak School’s students in 1933/1934, though I suspect most of these had actually returned to the UK to continue their education before the outbreak of the Pacific War – but not their teacher, Bee Bicheno, who was interned in Stanley.
10In my correspondence with Stemp’s family, they revealed that Stemp’s mother (nee Taylor) lost not only her son, but also all but one of her brothers to war: William Taylor, Boer war and WWI, Sapper 59372 87th Field Coy RE, killed 30 December 1915 Joseph Taylor, Boer war, died shortly after of wounds. Samuel Taylor, WWI, Private 6051 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment died 19 March 1917 aged 25 on board hospital ship Asturias returning from Salonika where he had been fighting. John Taylor, WWI, private 951525 Royal Fusiliers. Died in 1947 in Springfield Mental Asylum, Surrey, from shell shock incurred during the Great War. George Taylor, WWI, Private 10142 Royal Fusiliers survived the war and died in 1949. I have come across other stories of such major losses in single families, but it's the shellshock aspect that I find most horrifying. It was only a few years ago (2009?) that I read that the last shell-shocked British soldier from the Great War had finally passed away in an asylum.
9Reginald Stemp’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending two photographs and a copy of Mr Stemp’s last letter home. He notes: “He talks about his daily life and that the food is ok but that he wouldn’t mind going short if he could get home. He also mentions that the church is a Cinema and that he had tickets to see A Little Bit of heaven. He mentions the Canadians arriving.” Stemp’s letter shows that he was in 12th Battery, but the CWGC has him under 8th. I expect he transferred shortly before hostilities commenced, and the paperwork never caught up.
5Taking a short cut from Island School to Wanchai I passed the Roberts Block of the old Victoria Barracks. It’s a large sturdy building and a shame that it appears to be unused at the moment. The nearest other block has been one of Mothers’ Choice’s units for many years.
4Two strange objects were found in the hills today, like enlarged buckles or clips, or similar. We’ve all found these over the years, but no one knows what they are. Any ideas?
1 In response to last month’s question about documentation of wartime events in Happy Valley, T.K. kindly sent the following summary: a. H K Surgeon - Li Shu Fan-page 100, page 105-106, 109-111 and page 124. b. Phyllis Harrop - HK Incident-page 83-84. c. Adrienne Clarkson - Heart Matters-page 19-20. d. War Diaries of Captain U. Laite (C Force) - 23-24 of Dec. 41. e. Excerpts from HK War crime Trial - Appendix 7 1 The month started well, continuing with helping Charles Dobie identify the locations of the HCMS Ontario 12 September to 1 November 1945 photos here (you need to allow some time for loading). I expect others can help with more details. Of particular interest to me were the battle-damaged buildings in the Stanley photos here. Another that caught my eye was what I first thought was a squadron of spitfires in a fly-over above the old HSBC headquarters. On closer examination, I realised that they were in fact the awful old Fairey Barracuda (my mother flew in these in the WRENs, and nobody had a good word to say about them – unlike the Firefly which was quite popular). I have arranged the Stanley damage photos of Up The Hill and the Police Officers’ Club (enlarged) on either side of a stock photo of the camp so that you can see where these two buildings fitted in.
May 1st, 2014 Update
Evacuees in Canada (courtesy Strellett/Hutson family), Dragon Lodge (author), Forth's grave (courtesy Amanda MacGregor) Rum Bottle (via Craig Mitchell), Stanley battle damage (via Charles Dobie), Frank Foord records (courtesy Martin Heyes) George Parkins (courtesy Rowena Palmer), Stanley Prison (via Philip Cracknell), Fredrick Mulvihill (courtesy Anthony Mulvihill)
One unexpected discovery I made in the early 1990s was that the majority of ex-POW families that I contacted had kept dad’s/husband’s diaries. These ranged from two or three scribbled sheets (typically containing just significant dates – letters from home, Red Cross parcels and so forth), to one of more than 1,000 pages kept by an HKVDC officer. Many people think it was against camp rules to keep diaries, but I’m not at all sure that was the case; there was even a bookbinder in Sham Shui Po who made blank books to order. But here’s the point: the keepers of some diaries typed them up post war. With modern software, it’s now easy to scan such pages in and turn them directly into word processor documents. I just did that with a 50,000-word document (nothing to do with Hong Kong, as it happens) and it took less than a day. Anyone with such a diary that they want to share with family, or even consider for publication, can now save hundreds of hours of typing.
30 Charles Dobie kindly sent a fascinating set of photos taken by HMCS Ontario in Hong Kong after arriving on 12 September 1945. I’m helping him identify some of the locations and will share the URL next month. There are a number that I have never seen before, such as a view of Stanley showing battle damage to the Prison Officers’ Quarters.
28 I had a look at Dragon Lodge today (see the 12th). It has a new gate and a new padlock, but aside from that it doesn’t seem to have been touched since the last renovation efforts petered out around three years ago. Some of the windows are open, which doesn’t bode well for its future.
25 Albert Forth’s (RE) family got in touch, kindly sending a photo of his grave in Yokohama.
23 Boris Milenko’s (HKVDC) son contacted me, noting that: “He graduated in 1939 from the University of Hong Kong and joined the volunteer defence force soon after. He was in Hong Kong when the Japanese invasion occurred and for several months worked at the hospital.” Hong Kong Volunteers In Battle lists him under: ‘Did not enter POW Camps or escaped early in 1942’ as Sapper Milenko B. G. 5258. Aside from that, I don’t seem to have anything about him.
22I was contacted today by a free lance archery writer who had found this quote: “In trying to take the Repulse Bay Hotel the Japanese were astonished to find themselves assailed in the surrounding undergrowth by flaming arrows, the defenders having found an old archery set on the premises.” (The Crown Colonist, Volume 12, page 129, 1942). Although I have a couple of eye witness accounts of the undergrowth being set fire to, I haven’t previously heard of flaming arrows being employed. Has anyone else?
21Susan Lange, the grand daughter of Captain David Strellett, kindly sent a photo: “of a party for ‘Hong Kong Refugees’ at Government House, Victoria, BC in October 1940. My mother, Jane Strellett (age 14) and Patricia Penn are in it, amongst many others.” Patricia Penn is the young blonde girl right up front to the left. Jane Strellett, oldest daughter of David, is the young girl with dark curly hair in the middle, with her eyes looking down to the left of the photo. Unfortunately I don't know who the others are at this point. Anyone recognize them?
20Philip Cracknell has written an interesting new blog: “about RSM Ford on Mount Davis who lived at the Cathay Hotel and Miss Leontine Grace who owned it. She was one of three Miss Ellis sisters interned in Stanley Camp and from a prominent Jewish family in HK. RSM Ford was a Technical Gunnery Instructor (I.G.) and survived the war - continued in the Army was commissioned as an officer. His wife Edith Rose (known as Rose) was evacuated with their daughter Dorothy (still alive). I am trying to get more information from family but I think he must have gone to Australia to meet up with Rose and Dorothy and returned to UK with them - where his father met him - his father missing a leg from the Great War. The Cathay Hotel was on the North Shore and destroyed by shelling. Leontine Ellis, a member of HKVDC N.D., died in Stanley Camp in 1942. Her sisters returned to HK in 1947 after having been evacuated to UK.” Ford was in the Battery Plotting Room at Mount Davis during the famous unexploded shell incident.
15 Ian McNay kindly let me know that he returned from Australian evacuation aboard the SS Kanimbla, stopping at Hiroshima on the way. That must have been quite a shocking experience so soon after the bomb (around June 46).
14Yet another wartime British water bottle turned up in the hills today, but this time it was First World War vintage. Old stock issued in 1941, or a memento that one of the older soldiers still carried? Also (illustrated), a Winnipeg Grenadier badge. 14 Henry Ching kindly sent two more of his Occasional Papers (24 and 25), this time covering the PWD Corps and ANZACs in the HKVDC. At time of writing they are not yet on the Hong Kong Volunteer & Ex-PoW Association of NSW’s website, but presumably will be soon.
12 Philip Cracknell sent the Stanley Group a very interesting May 1949 aerial photo of Stanley, featuring St Stephens’s and the prison. 12 Rob Weir placed a great article about Hong Kong’s coastal pillboxes on Gwulo. 12 Gordon Smith sent me a series of very interesting emails about ‘Dragon Lodge' which is at 32 Lugard Road on the Peak. I walk past this house every week, and it has been empty for as long as I have known it; I fantasize about the owners donating it to me, as it is in such a wonderful location. While I’m not sure I believe all the stories (here and here) associated with the building, perhaps they explain why it has been uninhabited for so long.
11 Local historian Bill Lake spoke today on the Radio show ‘Morning Brew’. I found it very entertaining.
10 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent a unique covering letter (from BAAG files) from Cheung Chin Shum to the British Ambassador in Kukong, that originally included an attachment of a letter to be forwarded to Mrs Sarah Robinson Smith (an evacuee in Australia who was married to Quarter Master Sergeant Robert Smith of the RASC and had evacuated with their four children). Unfortunately that letter itself was not in the files. Cheung describes how Smith was a fuel and light accountant of the RASC, and he was his assistant. Robert Smith died as a POW of dysentery on 13 August 1942.
8Rowena Palmer (see last month) kindly sent a photo of her Great-Uncle George Parkins who died on the Lisbon Maru.
7Bob Tatz kindly sent me a great deal of information about Leslie Woodward ‘Tips’ Tipple and his wife Dorothy Irene (who was born in Hong Kong 10 August 1912, nee Avenell). They were married in St. Andrew’s Church on Nathan Road in January 1932 and had two children – friends of Bob in those days - Lesley (31-Dec-1933) and Berry (31-Oct-1932). “Dorothy and the kids were evacuated to Australia. Tips was with the RAF in Hong Kong when he met Dorothy, sometime before 1932. When demobbed he joined Gilman Motors or Dodwells (he was a trained Rolls Royce Engineer and had a degree from Oxford). He used to deliver loads of trucks into China and made several runs on these missions. Then Tips joined KMB when they started up in 1933. He left HK soon after the family departed for Australia. Tips arrived in Shanghai driving a truck where he left his household effects in the custody of an English policeman. Somehow he became a Captain in the Indian Army Ordinance Corp and was taken on to go to Burma for the Burma Road construction. He left Shanghai on 2 December 1941 (Evacuation No. 183), as a passenger on the S.S. Anhui, and arrived in HK 6 December 1941. Anhui must have left HK just before the attack on HK, but the ship by-passed Singapore on its way directly to Sydney, arriving on 29 December 1941. Tips’s passport showed the following notations: 6 January 1942 – ‘right to stay until 6 February 1942 – holder is proceeding to India’. The next passport notation showed ‘Harbour Police, Colombo, 31 January 1942’.” Tips was killed in a car crash in Calcutta driven by a drunken RNVR Officer on 1 May 1942. Interestingly, I am pretty sure that this was the voyage on which Anhui stopped in Manila on the way to Sydney. Some Hong Kong passengers disembarked there, and would spend the war years in Santo Tomas Internment Camp.
6 A correspondent’s father (then eight years old) lived in Happy Valley during 1941. Does anyone know of any accurate Chinese account of how civilians fared there at that time? I have put together a few bits and pieces relating to the fighting that passed through the area, but nothing comprehensive, and nothing about the months that immediately followed.
5 Working with Anthony Mulvihill (see last month), we now have what I believe to be a near perfect listing of Thracian’s crew. Anthony also kindly sent a photo of hid father, Fredrick Mulvihill of HMS Thracian who was wounded and taken prisoner. 5 A perfectly preserved wartime military rum bottle was found up in the hills today.
2 Martin Heyes kindly sent me the Statement of Service n the Canadian Armed Forces for Private Frank Maxwell Foord, Winnipeg Grenadiers, who was lost on 22 December 1941. This is the first such complete set that I have seen, consisting of the Attestation Paper, Record of Service, and Record of Promotions.
April 1st, 2014 Update
Lenny Munsey's wedding (courtesy Mike Ward), George Robins at Shamshuipo and with friends (both courtesy Janet Nye) Barbara Anslow's block of flats (courtesy TK), Yale Plaque (courtesy Susan Wood), Andrews' knife (courtesy Charles Collard) Compass (courtesy Martin Dewick), Wanchai's Haunted House (author), Bodie and intake (courtesy Ian Bodie)
Jack Mitchell’s mini-biographies of some of his friends in the HKVDC Signals reminded me of a letter that I asked Lieutenant ‘Bunny’ Browne to write more than ten years ago. I asked him to send a one-paragraph description of each of the officers in Maltby’s Battle Box during the fighting. He kindly did that, and of course now I wished that – back then when I had the opportunity – I had asked all the veterans I corresponded with to do similar.
29Frederick Mulvihill’s (RN) son got in touch. Mulvihill served on HMS Thracian.
27 Leonard Munsey’s (RAOC) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending a wedding photo. Apparently Munsey was one of many of the garrison who married local Hong Kong girls, in his case having a daughter too. Unfortunately no one seems to have copies of the marriage certificates from that time. The wedding photo, like so many from that date, was taken at the north eastern corner of the old Supreme Court building.
26 George Robins’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch. Robins commanded PB22 - which is still visible on the Chung Hom Kok shoreline from Stanley - in the fighting. She included four photos of Robins and the Middlesex, two of which were clearly taken pre-war at Sham Shui Po barracks.
24Jack Mitchell of the HKVDC Signals kindly sent a report on all the Signallers shown in the group photo (see January 2014). Fortunately Jack has a remarkable memory and was able to bring many of these men to life with his descriptions. For example: “Signalman Cedric Salter – was an Air Conditioning Engineer employed by Dodwells and returned to Hong Kong after the war. Was attached to the Armoured Cars and won the Military Medal. Sent to Japan on the first Volunteer draft in December ’42. Married a Mae Brown in Hong Kong after the war and later returned to the UK. Salter’s Lewis Gun was the only one firing when the Japanese bombed the Colonial Secretariat and the HKVDC Headquarters – I was with him at the time.” And: “Thomas Suiter (Sut) – educated at CBS and I think worked for the Bank Line. His father was a chemist at The Pharmacy (the junction of Queen’s Road and Peddar Street). Suiter survived the war, returned to Hong Kong for a short time and left to take up residence in the UK.” He also reminded me that Billy Poy’s daughter went on to great things in Canadian politics. 24 Joy Wanstall, whose father George Bainborough served on HMS Tamar during the war, kindly passed on the bad news that Jack Hughieson (who served on the MTBs and was one of the very few survivors of the Lisbon Maru still around) had passed away at the age of 94.
23 Today I submitted the second draft of my thesis about the Hong Kong Evacuees. I don’t know whether it is good enough, but it is certainly far better than the first draft!
22 Lau Yam Choi’s grandson got in touch. It seems that Lau may have been in the BAAG, but we are currently checking details.
21 Lindsey Cartwright let me know that while cleaning out some bits and pieces they: “found a military watch with the name Chas McGuire, with Hong Kong 1940 on the back. With it is an old gold coloured cigarette case (complete with 5 Craven A cigarettes inside) and a similar Vesta Case.” There was no one of that name in Hong Kong by 8 December 1941, but I wonder if anyone recognizes the name from earlier years?
20I had an interesting email from Susan Wood, who kindly sent a photo of a plaque to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Yale, commanding officer of the 1st Hong Kong Regiment, the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery. She notes: “I found your excellent and informative website while researching my local War memorial - Bryneglwys in Denbighshire, North Wales. Although not on the memorial a member of the Hong Kong and Singapore Artillery has a plaque in the church - John Corbet Love Yale - a member of the same Yale family as Elihu Yale, whose name graces the American University - Plas-yn-Ial, the family home, is within the boundaries of Bryneglwys.”
18 Douglas Crozier’s (HKVDC) granddaughter got in touch. Crozier’s wife and children were evacuees.
17Walking to work along Kennedy Road I noticed that some building work on the north side had improved the view in that direction. You can now look down on Ship Street in Wanchai, which has always interested me as it was the final front line. The view to the infamous ‘haunted house’ of Nam Koo Terrace had cleared enough to take a photo.
16 George Parkins’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch.
14Today a Victorian 50 cents coin from 1891 turned up in the hills, apparently hit almost dead centre by a small piece of shrapnel (illustrated). Or possibly that’s the remains of some solder that attached it to a chain or similar?
13 I had a query today relating to Vincent Sorby of HKE who was killed in ‘The Battle of the Bus’ in North Point outside the power station in 1941. The village of Todwick in South Yorkshire is installing a new War Memorial, and Vincent’s brother Frederick William Dare Sorby was born there. He moved to Canada and was killed at the end of the Great War.
11 Herbert Ernest (Tommy) Brewer’s (HKRNVR, MTB escape) family contacted me. I hadn’t realised before that the Brewers were an established Hong Kong family. Tommy’s mother and father (Herbert Edney Brewer, Connie Brewer) had lived in Hong Kong too, with their daughters Mary and Peggy and another son, Peter (who was Peggy’s twin). Connie and the two girls moved back to the States before the war, though Herbert Edney’s and Peter’s movements are uncertain. Great Grandfather Walter William Brewer ran a bookstore in the Colony, but his wife died of rabies in 1892; their son Herbert’s first child, Doris, also died of rabies. Hong Kong was very different in those days… 11 Received an email from Michael Thomas whose father served in Hong Kong from 1936 to early 1939 with 8 Coast Regiment before returning to the UK to attend an anti-aircraft course thus missing the invasion. He mentioned that 8 Coast Regiment was originally known as 8 Heavy Brigade until it was renamed 8 Heavy regiment in 1938 and 8 Coast Regiment in 1940. Sometimes these old names still appear in wartime records. Michael himself lived in Hong Kong starting in 1956 when his father was posted back here post-war.
9Ian Bodie kindly sent a photo of his fathers and other police of the ‘Class of 38’. They are: Top Row: Sikh officer; Ken Bodie; Willie Watson; N Rennie; Alan CC Stewart; Alec Leslie; Tom Ross; Mackay Gillies; Sikh officer. Middle Row: David Fyffe; Jimmy Ferrier; Staff Instructor J Fell; James Cairns; Richardson Leslie: Barney Ross. Front Row: George Watt; J MacMillan; J Aitken; Sidney Dowman; Lundy Gordon. Alec Leslie was killed on 1 September 1950 in an incident in which a kidnapping suspect had barricaded himself in a village house in Ha Kwai Chung Village in Tsuen wan Division. Edmund Luscombe, who took command of the operation and had also been interned in Stanley, was killed in the same incident. According to Wally Scragg, Ken Bodie shot the suspect dead. A looter killed Richardson Leslie from Dundee (who was Eleanor Leslie’s brother) on 26 December 1941; his death is described by George Wright Nooth in his book, ‘Prisoner of the Turnip Heads’. Tom Ross from Dundee was to become Ken Bodie’s brother-in-law. 9 Among a number of interesting items that turned up in the hills today was a well-preserved Great War vintage compass (probably a Verner's pattern no. VIII). I suspect that these were still being used in Hong Kong in 1941.
7 I had an interesting email from Frank Newton who served in 1949 at the Matilda hospital in the RAMC during his National Service. He pointed out that the Royal Naval Hospital memorial stone outside came from the War Memorial Hospital, a point that I hadn’t grasped before (the Matilda Hospital used to be known as the Matilda & War Memorial Hospital). The old Royal Naval Hospital in Wanchai had been badly damaged during the war, and in 1946 they decided they needed a replacement. In 1949 the War Memorial Hospital re-opened as the new Royal Naval Hospital, and that must be where that stone came from. That War Memorial Hospital was a short walk away from the Matilda, and was knocked down perhaps 40 years ago.
5 Dave Deptford notes: “In DNW Sale of 25 -26 March at Lot 1514 appears the following medal group of five –1939-45, Pacific, Defence, War and Army LSGC - only last is named - attributed to Sgt Alfred Cooke, Military Police, captured 25.12.1941 at HK and later transferred to labouring at Omine nr Nagagsaki. Estimate is GBP160 -200.”
4Charles Collard kindly sent photos of a pocket knife that his father (also Charles Collard) and his friends kept secretly during internment. Two dog tags are attached, in the name of CPO W.H.A. Andrews DJX 163086. The reverse appears to have his HK POW number of 3852. This is odd, as in my records it is 5258. Bizarrely, the CWGC have him listed as “Andrews S, William Henry Austin” and with a different serial number, with a date of death of 22 March 1943. My records show that he was on the Lisbon Maru and died of acute pneumonia in Osaka #5D.
3 Arthur Sims’s (Army Educational Corps) grandson got in touch. His mother was also a Hong Kong evacuee. 3 Apparently the Heir Hunters TV series Lisbon Maru episode was broadcast today and acknowledged the ‘Tony Banham Collection’, which is about right as all I did was provide a couple of photos and some information so they could appear knowledgeable on the subject!
2 Philip Cracknell kindly solved the Sir Mark Young question (see last month) by showing that he was flown by the Japanese (together with his batman Waller) from Hong Kong to Shanghai. He found this detail in a BAAG document dated 21 November 1944. The information there was obtained from Commander Woolley RN who ‘recently escaped from a Japanese gaol on Shanghai. The source was a POW in the Woosung Camp in Feb 1942 when Sir Mark was brought into that camp’. 2 Shelia Stones let me know that a singer called Tom Hickcox has written a song about the Lisbon Maru. I managed to find a version on YouTube here.
1David Bellis has put recordings of an interview with Barbara Redwood on his site in two parts, here and here. 1 TK was kind enough to point out that Mabel Redwood’s book ‘It was Like This…’ describes the bombing of the Sikh temple by the Japanese (they lived next door, about where the Cosmo Hotel is now). So it appears it may have been hit more than once, which is also what EOD told me. He also included a photo of Happy Valley with Barbara Anslow’s block of flats at the top left. These were eventually replaced by the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the New China News Agency, and the Cosmo Hotel. The mosque would have been immediately to the block’s right.
March 1st, 2014 Update
Central Police Station (author), Charles Collard (courtesy Charles Collard), Mosque bomb site (author) Victory Parade, B&W and colour (courtesy Ron Rakusen), Japanese Tunnel (courtesy Martin Dewick) William Golding's MI9 Form (via COFEPOW), Mystery Camp (via Geoff Emerson), British water bottle and Japanese Arisaka muzzle cover (author)
With the many recent finds of ordnance culminating in this month's discovery of a huge bomb in a residential area, naturally the potential danger has been widely debated. In fact the majority of recent finds have been well off the beaten path and are generally no great threat, and it would be impractical to try and clear them all. However, perhaps a more prudent policy would be wise in the built up areas. In fact the parts of the city that were heavily fought over or bombed are relatively small, and within those areas much post-war development has already resulted in deep excavations that have effectively made them safe. However, in those parts where only small post-war buildings with shallow foundations previously stood (as in this most recent case) perhaps a compulsory deep scan in the German model would be a sensible precaution.
27 Charles Collard’s son (see 5th below) also got in touch kindly sending me a list of the fate of the crew of HMS Cicala kept by his father in camp. 27 I heard from Flame Television, the producers of ‘Heir Hunters’ who I helped slightly on a program related to the Lisbon Maru. They say: “We now have a confirmed transmission date for the new series of BBC1’s Heir Hunters. The series will start on Monday 3rd March 2014 at 9.15am on BBC1 and will be shown daily from Monday to Friday for four consecutive weeks. The episode you were involved in will be shown on 3rd March although I would advise that you check TV listings nearer the time as programmes can sometimes be postponed if, for example, there is a sudden important news story. It’s also worth reminding friends and family that should they miss an episode, for the next seven days they can always watch it again online using the BBC iplayer website. Just go here and type Heir Hunters in the search box.” 27 Ian McKay has very kindly been helping me match the first students at the Central British School (now KGV) when it re-opened in 1946, with lists of 1940 evacuees to Australia. It seems that a very high percentage of that year were returned evacuees.
25In researching the fate of an internee of the Japanese, Geoff Emerson has found a photo of a group at an internee camp - but we don’t know which camp it is. Can anyone help?
23A friend of the Higgs family, who were evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940, got in touch.
20 The South China Morning Post today ran a short article about Hong Kong’s wartime remains. 20 Luba Estes sent a very interesting email relating to apparently seeing Lisbon Maru survivors in Shanghai. Her father (Lieutenant Skvorzov, HKVDC) had been left behind in POW Camp when she and her mother moved to Shanghai, so naturally they hoped to get news from him from these POWs (as no news was forthcoming from the camp). She notes: “One day my mother came home agitated because she found out that there were prisoners from Hong Kong in transit and billeted at the YMCA building… She didn’t know what she would achieve by going to the location of the YMCA building, but thought that in case the prisoners had a chance to look out of a window, we would carry a Hong Kong basket with SKVORZOV in large letters on the lid. Before the Japanese occupation, most school children carried their books in these Hong Kong baskets with their names on the lid. We had such a basket with us in Shanghai. When we reached the YMCA we slowly walked along the somewhat narrow street (much like the street between the Salisbury Hotel - the old YMCA - and the Peninsula Hotel in HK). There were very few pedestrians and we walked on the other side of the street away from the windows. And yes, there was a row of very large windows with curtains hanging from a bar mid-window down. Right away, we could see the prisoners straining over the top of the curtain to look out. Perhaps one or two had been looking out and told the others who gathered to see us. My memory is that there could have been ten at the window, I can’t remember, there could have been more or maybe less. They definitely saw us. There were no smiles or any effort to wave to us. We couldn’t tell the condition that they were in as all we could see were their faces from chin up. They appeared to be talking to each other… and then, shaking their heads, as if to say… he is not here.” All I can think of is that these may have been the sick POWs referred to on the 17th below, but I had thought they were at a temporary hospital at Woosung. I used the COFEPOW facility mentioned on the 18th below (interesting how these things often come together!) and found the MI9 Interrogation Form of William Golding of that group, but it doesn’t explicitly mention the YMCA.
18 William Wilson’s (Royal Scots, LM) great granddaughter got in touch. Wilson survived the Lisbon Maru, but his marriage didn’t. He was one of those who returned home to find that his wife had presumed him dead, and had made other arrangements. 18 Jonathan Moffat sent a useful reminder of this excellent link on the COFEPOW page that kindly allows people to download MI9 Liberation Questionnaires. They’re not all there yet, but it’s a great start and a very useful service kindly provided by volunteers.
17 Arthur Barnes’ (Royal Artillery, LM) great nephew got in touch. Barnes was one of the sicker survivors of the Lisbon Maru who was held back at Shanghai while the others went to the Osaka area, eventually being sent to the Hakodate camps in northern Japan, via Korea. He notes: “When the men broke out from the hold and jumped over the side, Jimmy held onto a raft with the help of an American called Eddie. They managed to get to one of the islands helped by the Chinese. He was sent to Japan and to one of the camps. During the last year of the war he was at Hakodate#2 Akahira camp on Hokaido. Because he had a way with horses, he was put to work with the ponies in the coal mines. He survived the war and went to live at Portland in Dorset. He went to work for my grandfather who was married to his sister. When my grandfather retired in 1971, Jimmy took over the butcher business until he then retired. Despite what he had been through, he lived a long life and died a few years ago at the age of 91. He never talked much about the war except to me, but never went into any great detail.” The mention of an American is interesting (theoretically there were none on board, but of course some did serve in British forces). I am hoping to learn more.
15Danny Parrot’s daughter got in touch (see August 2013) to say that she has finished the write-up of her father’s experience on Hong Kong. She also kindly attached a photo (illustrated).
14 Ken Bodie’s (HK Police Force) son got in touch. 14 Craig Mitchell kindly gave me a British wartime water bottle and an Arisaka muzzle cover recently found in the hills.
12 I hear that Monia Talan's (from the HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit, Z Force, and a Chan Chak escaper) service dress uniform jacket is for sale.
11 Suzannah Linton will be belatedly launching her book on Hong Kong’s War Crime Trials on Friday March 28. The launch will start at 17.30 at the Centre for Rights and Justice at Chinese University (at their Central site in Bank of America Tower). Further details can be found here, and registration can be done here. 11 While browsing Hong Kong Government records online, I came across two large but very useful documents listing the Civil Establishment of 1939. This names every government worker and shows their role, starting date, years in service, etc. The 1940 version doesn’t seem to have survived, but the majority of those listed in 39 were still present when hostilities commenced.
10Ron Rakusen read my Short History of No 3 Coy HKVDC (which I wrote for the Royal Asiatic Society some five or six years back) and saw the photo of the 1946 Victory Parade that illustrated it. He then kindly sent me several photos scanned from a special edition of TODAY showing the Victory Parade on 8th June 1946. These appear to have been taken moments before the similar photo I used in the Short History. Interestingly, they are in colour – but the colour to me looks like it was added by hand at some point. He also had some black and white images, again similar to ones I was given by 3 Coy families, of the Hong Kong contingent in Hyde Park (his father is second from the left in the front row seated on the ground in the latter, and is the bespectacled gentleman in the front left of the colour photo). Ron would be very grateful if anyone could provide better quality images of the event in which his father could be seen more clearly.
7 My usual walk to work was blocked today at Queen’s Road East and I had to take an interesting diversion through the early morning market in Wanchai Road. The reason for the road closure turned out to be an American 1,000 pound GP bomb (generally reported as a 2,000 pounder in the papers and on video) discovered in the construction of the foundations of the new Emperor International hotel tower between the Cosmo hotel and the Sikh Temple. I’ve walked past that bomb twice a day for around ten years! In the end Jimmy and his EOD team cut it open and burned the TNT on the spot. I have a 1945 photo of the Sikh Temple showing what I had guessed might be damage from a small bomb, but on reflection I believe that what we can see is not the effects of blast, but kinetic damage from that unexploded bomb simply flying through the structure to land and embed itself deep underground next door. I’ve done one of my not-terribly-good then & now mashups to show what I mean. Apparently the rear fuse had been struck but failed to function.
5 Charles Walter Collard’s grandson (see November) kindly sent a photo of his grandfather returning to the UK on a ship. Although undated, I suspect it was taken at the end of the war.
2Walking back from Central today I happened to look up at the old Central Police HQ which is currently under restoration. Some of it is no longer under wraps, and I have to admit it looks pretty good. It was of course bombed by the Japanese in 1941. Geoffrey Wilson who was there at the time, once wrote to me from his retirement home in Portugal saying: "A number of police officers of various ranks were killed or wounded; my office was set on fire and I was very lucky to get out alive with minor injuries."
1 I’ve been having a long correspondence with Michael Hurst in Taiwan to try to establish how Sir Mark Young and his batman Waller got to Taiwan in September 1942. We’re stumped at the moment. They were not on the ‘Special Draft’ that took Maltby and the other senior officers and batmen. We would be grateful for any information. 1 A party in the hills today found various items including British helmet remains, two buttons not yet identified (but one of which look like a Canadian Grenadier Guards button), two and a half British water bottles, and a new Japanese tunnel. 1 T.K. Wong and his brother reckon the original Japanese photograph in last month’s mash-up was tampered with to some degree having been taken from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Queen Victoria Street (whereas to match the southern side, I had to take my modern version from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Pottinger Street).