This page contains information to aid in researching the POW history of individual members of the December 1941 Hong Kong Garrison.
We Shall Suffer There is a text book covering the Hong Kong POW and Internee experience from capture to liberation. Like Not the Slightest Chance, it takes a chronological approach to the subject,and attempts to cover each and every camp, draft, and movement so that the experiences of all individual POWs can be understood. It also investigates the deaths of each individual lost in the camps. The most balanced review is probably this one from the Asia Review of Books.
Publication was in March 2009. It is now available in Hong Kong bookshops, and globally via HKUP's secure ordering site, and Amazon at:
Also, you can see an interview with the author and Far East Economic Review here.
Hong Kong Camps
Hong Kong Camps
Most people imagine that, at surrender, the garrison was taken prisoner en masse. In fact, prisoners were taken from the very start of the fighting, with Graham Heywood of the HKVDC being first (he was checking rain gauges on the border when the Japanese crossed). At the fall of the Shing Mun Redoubt, he was followed by a number of Royal Scots – primarily from 8 Platoon, A Company – and others.
Few, if any, further men of the garrison were captured on the mainland. One Winnipeg Grenadier, John Gray, disappeared, but there is circumstantial evidence that he was set upon by looters.
These early prisoners were taken to Fan Ling, and did not rejoin their comrades until mid January.
The next batch to be captured were rounded up during and after the fighting in Wong Nai Chung Gap on December 19th. On the 20th, they were marched to North Point refugee camp, which then started its short career as a POW camp (some locally-caught European civilians were already in North Point Camp when these soldiers arrived). Men were captured in skirmishes between then and the surrender, and in the main seem to have been taken to North Point, and from there to Argyle Street and other locations.
The first mass capture of civilians was at the Repulse Bay Hotel. These were marched through Wong Nai Chung Gap to a paint factory in North Point.
Soon after the surrender, some 2,000 men of East Brigade, captured at Stanley, joined their comrades at North Point. At the end of December, the men of West Brigade were ferried to Shamshuipo, which was to be the main Hong Kong camp during the war.
In January, the camps were rationalised. North Point became the Canadian and Royal Navy Camp, Shamshuipo became the British Army and HKVDC camp, Ma Tau Chong was opened as the British Indian Army Camp, and ‘enemy’ civilians were sent to Stanley Internment Camp. Other civilian internment camps were opened at Rosary Hill and, later, Ma Tau-wai (which was the renamed Ma Tau Chung, after the remaining Indian POWs were finally moved from there to Argle Street late in the war).
In April 1942, the Argyle Street Camp was opened for officers, who were accompanied by 100 Other Ranks who primarily acted as cooks and batmen. (Note that in the background of the Argyle Street photo to the left, the Central British School - now KGV - can be seen).
This was the situation until early September 1942, when the first transportation of POWs to Japan took place. In late September, the Lisbon Maru sailed. Between them, these ships had removed nearly 2,500 men – primarily from Shamshuipo. This opened enough space for the remaining POWs in North Point to be moved there; North Point was then closed. Drafts continued in the next two years. In 1944, Argyle Street was closed too, with the officers moving to Shamshuipo (which was then split into camps ‘N’ and ‘S’). The situation in Hong Kong then remained virtually unchanged until the end of the war.
Note 1: Although the Stanley Camp was for civilians, a number of older members of the HKVDC were interned there, as was Rifleman Riley of the Royal Rifles who had been captured at the Repulse Bay Hotel where he had been passed off as a civilian. The Hong Kong Police force was also interned there, minus a few of their number who had been captured during the short period that the police officially acted as a militia force against the invaders.
Note 2: A number of hospitals were also used by POWs during the years of occupation. The biggest of these was the Bowen Road Hospital, though this establishment was moved to the Central British School in 1945.
(The maps below are designed to be printed out and carried by those wishing to visit the sites of these camps. Note that only Shamshuipo has any memorials to this time, and these are in a park situated approximately where the Jubillee Buildings were.)
North Point POW Camp
ShamShuiPo POW Camp
Argyle Street POW Camp
MaTauChung POW Camp
By C.L. Rozario, via his daughter Anna
Having decided that it made more sense to turn the POWs into slave labourers so that more Japanese might be freed up for the armed forces, a series of transportations to the Japanese homeland began.
The first, the Shi Maru, left Hong Kong in September 4th 1942 with 620 POWs aboard These were the ‘hard men’, many of whom had refused to sign the ‘no escape’ chit. The majority came from the Royal Scots, the Middlesex, and the Royal Artillery, with a handful from the Royal Navy and other units.
The second, the Lisbon Maru, sailed with 1,834 men on September
27th. Torpedoed by the SS214 Grouper on October 1st, it sunk of the Zhoushan archipelago on October 2nd with great loss of life. The full story can be read on www.lisbonmaru.com
After the survivors of the Lisbon Maru had been rescued, rounded up, and taken to Shanghai, from there they were shipped to Japan on the Washington Maru.
These men were then sent to Osaka No.
1 and Osaka No. 2 (Kobe) camps, minus a handful who were left in
Shanghai after the sinking - too sick to travel further - and eventually ended up in the Hakodate area.
The third transportation was on January 19th 1943, on the Tatsuta Maru, and included
1,180 men. This was also the first draft that included Canadians,
although only one officer accompanied them.
The fourth left Hong Kong on August 18 1943 with 473 men.
The fifth was on Dec 15th 1943 and included 563 POWs.
The last occurred on April 29th 1944 with just 221 men.
There was also a ‘special’ draft of 13 senior officers to Formosa (Taiwan) in August 1943.
Note1: Transliterations vary for many of the ships’ names.
2: All numbers listed here are the actual counts of the names of the
men listed as being on each vessel in the ‘Search Garrison’ section.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Japanese POW authorities were great record keepers. For every POW, they created an Index Card, and they took individual photographs at various times - and always before a draft. Before some drafts, they also took cine film. Alas, most of the individual photos - and all the cine film - seem to have disappeared. But here are a few, mainly Canadian, POW photographs:
The men above are: Ken Cambon, Alby Russel, Nick Dee, Pat Commerford, Unknown, William Tuppert, Harry Davies, Elmer Smith.
All serious researchers will sooner or later hear about the 'Index Cards'. These exist for almost every POW, and follow a standard two-page format with the first page describing who was captured, where and when, and the second giving the camp details (and either the details of the POW's death, or his handing over to his liberators). The following example is for Reginald Gunstone:
Gunstone’s index card is a good example of an Amagasaki POW. Dates, of course, are given in 'Showa' years (starting from the Emporer's rule. Add 25 to get the western year). This one reads: Showa 18 Jan 22nd Transferred to Osaka prisoner camp. Showa 20 Jun 2nd Transferred to Hiroshima camp (2nd branch)/ Showa 20 Sep 2nd At Hibi, Tamano-shi, Okayama pref, passed to RA Condr. Davies Thomas John. (It is not clear why it states #2B, as Tamano was in fact #3B. Welcome to the confusing world of Japanese homeland camp numbering!).
The other important document for the researcher is the MI9 interview card. Here is one from Hong Kong: