Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
Luba Estes and father (via facebook), Naneli Baptista's certificate (courtesy Peter Campos), Lisbon Maru ceremony (courtesy Kent Shum) Heywood book launch (courtesy Geoff Emerson), Warbrick/Staple wedding, QMH pre-war (both courtesy Deborah Coxon) Alf Tarbuck (courtesy Colin Hitchmough), Herbert and Edith Hill (courtesy Amanda Parkes), Chan Kwan Po recognition (courtesy Tai Hang Wong)
Allow me to indulge myself. This month my younger son’s school project was to create a seven-minute video about Hong Kong’s war years, incorporating the civilian experience and one comparison with another geographical region. My job was simply to supply images and newspapers on demand, while his friends helped with the voiceovers. The result, here, is (in my obviously unbiased opinion!) really quite credible. And also, for those interested, it’s another anniversary today: the first version of news on this website in this format was October 2003, twelve years ago.
30 Jeremiah O’Connell’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor, UK.
29 Bill Dudman’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch.
27 Brian Edgar has written an interesting new blog about the Irish population of Hong Kong during the occupation (it’s the second article here). 27 Ron Taylor (UK) let me know that Canadian ex-POW Bruce Cadoret of the Royal Rifles of Canada has passed away.
26Kent Shum notes that on 2 October he went: “to Zhoushan City, to mark the 73 anniversary of the Lisbon Maru incident held at the Zhejiang Ocean University.” He took three wreaths to the ceremony, from the British Consulate General of HK, Royal British Legion (HK Branch), and the Hong Kong POW Association. He believes that this is the first time a memorial wreath from the British Consulate General of Hong Kong has been laid in mainland China. He also kindly sent a photo.
24 Well, this is amazing! Brian Finch kindly let me know that in President Xi Jinping's speech at the State Banquet in front of the queen, he mentioned the Lisbon Maru! (The key part is at around 3:45). 24 The Helena May, my wife’s club, just featured on Discovery Channel. Interesting that this was the HQ of the Middlesex for at least part of the fighting!
23 I was contacted today by the grandson of a wartime Indian gunner of the HKSRA. Alas, after a few exchanges we discovered that he had served in Singapore rather than Hong Kong. One of the most glaring gaps in my research is the lack of details of so many of the Indian defenders of Hong Kong, and I had been very much hoping this would turn out to be one of them. 23 I could only find it reported in Chinese, but yet more ordnance turned up in the hills today.
22 Clothhilde Thirwell’s (Stanley Internee) daughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo of her mother. She notes that: “My mother and my oldest sister were both interned at Stanley civilian camp in 1941. At the time, my mother was pregnant with her second child and she was apparently permitted to give birth to my brother at St. Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay, after which she was repatriated with her family in Macau, sometime around 1942.” My records agree. She also notes that the Thirwell and Thirlwell families are actually two branches of the same.
21Philip Cracknel has updated his Hills Family blog, with new photos from granddaughter Amanda Parkes. Amanda also provided us some absolutely fascinating photos of the inside of her grandparents’ house in Hong Kong in the late 1930s. The minutiae of detail are just what the historian wants! He also updated another interesting story with some new pre-war photographs (courtesy of Judy Bercene).
20 Colin Day tells me that the latest issue of the Journal of the RAS is now out. It contains the obituary for Solly Bard to which I contributed a small segment.
19 Today was the launch of “It Won't Be Long Now: The Diary of a Hong Kong Prisoner of War” by Graham Heywood. Heywood worked for the Observatory and was its first post-war director, so fittingly the launch was held there. Geoffrey Emerson, a key mover behind the publication, kindly sent me several photos afterwards. Everyone was there, among whom were: Doreen Steidle, Philip Cracknell, Tim Ko, Patricia O’Sullivan, Amanda Parkes, Ian Burchett, John Haddon, and forty or fifty others, including Heywood’s daughter Veronica and of course the current director, Shun Chi-ming, FRMetS, JP. 19 Interesting discussion on the Stanley group about who was the last baby to be born in Stanley Camp. It seems it was Fearn Cochrane on 25 August 1945, though Ian Gill (who was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand on 25 October 1945) may have been the last baby to have been conceived there!
17I was contacted by a Canadian researcher today, seeking details on three Canadian Hong Kong casualties: Max Berger, Hymie (Hank) Greenberg, and Robert Macklin. While the first two were with C Force, Macklin, more unusually, was in the Army Education Corps.
16Chris Harley (see below) notes that Paul Davis has been added to the CWGC’s roll of Civilian War Dead. Davis was an American merchant seaman of the S.S. Admiral Y.S. Williams. The ship was in dry dock when the Japanese attacked, and I found an interesting description on the Internet: “When the actual capture or take over of the Admiral Y.S. Williams took place there was some sort of a fire fight and it was during this that one of the 34 crewmen was killed by a Jap sniper. But two of crew escaped, and ten were repatriated. Sadly the Master and 20 crewmembers were imprisoned at Kowloon in the Shumshuipo POW camp for the duration of hostilities. Four of those crew members died in this camp due to the cruel treatment of the captors. The Admiral Y.S. Williams was eventually salvaged by the Japanese and renamed TASUTAMA MARU. In 1952 she was repaired and again was renamed YAHAHGI MARU. In 1958 she was still in service.” Those crew members who died in Camp were: Harold Christensen (oiler) Paul W. Davis (oiler) Harry Goldman (Chief Engr.) Thorwald Hansen (AB) John A. Jackson (Messman) was the crewman shot in the attack.
12 Frode Olsen in Denmark notes that he has: “now completed the first draft of a documentary book on the Danish community in Hong Kong in the late 1930’s and the humble Danish participation in the defence of Hong Kong in December 1941. As you know, nine joined the HKVDC. Two were killed in action, one died in Sham Shui Po; five spent the rest of the war as Japanese POW. At the present time the book is planned to be published in Danish only, but if it is well received, it may also be translated into English.”
11 Malcolm Hardie’s (Stanley internee) daughter got in touch. Hardie and Oates were seconded from Jardines (they appear to have both been officers on the SS Yat Shing) to help out at the Matilda Hospital. She kindly included a letter written by Stanley internee Reverend Dow, minister of Union Church Hong Kong (on Kennedy Road) in 1941, describing her father during the war years. 11 Amanda Parkes (see last month) kindly sent me a photo of her Stanley internee grandparents Herbert and Edith Hills sitting outside their house in Hong Kong before the war.
9 Tai Hang Wong notes: “In the last few days I was tracing the activities of the famous Chinese historian Chen Yan Ko in Hong Kong from Feb 1941 to May 5th 1942. I read one Chinese book and came across the titles of two Japanese books that may be useful to study of Hong Kong under the Japanese occupation.” The two Japanese books are The Biography of Lt. General Rensuke Isogai, The Life of A Soldier and China Expert, and Hong Kong Under Japanese Military Administration. The Chinese book was: Diaries of Chan Kwan Po 1941 - 1949 Volume Two, Hong Kong Commercial Press, 1999. He adds that: “During the years of Japanese Occupation Mr. Chan worked as an editor of the Wah Kiu Daily News and with the approval of the Japanese Cultural Affairs Office he continued to serve as an adviser to maintain and safe keep the collections of the HKU Library. On December 28th 1941 just three days after the fall of HK the Japanese sealed the Main and Fung Ping Shan Libraries to prevent looting of the books as cooking fuel. He observed and secretly recorded that the Japanese had shipped 111 crates of rare books stolen from HKU to Japan at the end of January 1942. There are many entries in his 1943 diaries recording how he and the remaining staff of the HKU Library retrieved the books and government documents from several warehouses where the Japanese kept their loots from government departments major companies, law firms and private collectors… In June and July 1946 with the assistance of a friend working in the Far East War Crime Tribunal in Tokyo Mr. Chan successfully secured the return of the 111 crates of stolen books from the Japanese Imperial Library in Tokyo. In recognition of Mr. Chan's valuable service during the occupation the British government in 1947 awarded him the honour of OBE.” Following on from this, he sent me a photo of the Staff and Students of the Chinese Department, HKU, and another photo of the old Victorian GPO which was demolished in the early 1070s. What I did not realize was that the four white granite columns each of which was carved from a single granite block are now preserved and erected at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Kam Tim.
8 I’m in contact with Chris Harley at In From The Cold Project again. He notes: “At present only G W Cooper has been accepted from the Hong Kong list. So far IFCP has had 2,723 cases accepted by CWGC with another 1,900 awaiting decision so you can see we have a little way to go yet.” He notes that George William Cooper is shown on his DC as of Kowloon Riding School as KIA 7 to 25/12/1941. However, despite the fact there were two others of the same name in Hong Kong lost in the RE and Middlesex, the jurors’ roll for 1939 shows a civilian butcher called George William Cooper who had been in Hong Kong in that job since at least 1928. And the Government Gazette (8 August 1941) shows him being moved from the Combatant Group to Essential Services. There seems to be a pattern here as Theodore Leslie Bell was another Essential Services man who was killed and has no formal record.
7 The papers reported the finding of unexploded ordnance today at the Queen Mary Hospital (Chinese, English). EOD kindly told me it was a nose-fused Japanese 150mm. They raised the interesting question of what this hard-point busting shell would have been aimed at, and my best guess is that it overflew the Mount Davis battery.
6At lunch time today I met long-time correspondent TK, and Frances Cheung. We had a good chat, and TK gave me a copy of the book ‘Piloted to Serve’ by Rebecca Chung kindly sent by his brother Tai Hang. Chung’s husband Leslie Wah-Leung served in the HKVDC (where he was wounded), while she herself was a nurse at Queen Mary’s Hospital under Mabel Everett who would become a Stanley Internee. Leslie’s three brothers, Gunner Raymond Chung Wah Chiu, 3428, Gunner Ralph Chung Wah Kiu, 4530, and Gunner Raymond Wah Cheung, 4529, all managed to blend with the crowds after the surrender and avoid internment. 6 Richard Moddrel (see March) notes that his father Peter Moddrel of the Royal Corps of Signals, did an interview with the South China Morning Post in 1975. He kindly sent me a copy.
3Peter Campos kindly sent a menu for New Year’s dinner, 1944, from Shamshuipo Camp, and a unique ‘Arts and Crafts Exhibition Certificate of Merit’ granted to CSM Marciano Baptista for winning first prize in the Illuminated Drawing section at ‘the above exhibition held (1st to 8th November, 1944) at the Prisoners of War Camp, Shamshuipo, Hong Kong.” It was signed by Captain Leopold Ashton-Rose of the IMS, Captain Njall Bardal of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Lieutenant Solly Bard of the HKVDC, and an HKVDC private whose signature unfortunately I cannot decipher. 3 Apparently Winnipeg councilors still want Mitsubishi to apologize to Canadian PoWs for WW II forced labour, but I can see no evidence (yet) that any worked for that company. 2 Horace Pike’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo (illustrated).
1Deborah Coxon kindly sent two pre-war photos of Queen Mary’s Hospital where it appears her Stanley internee relatives Martha Staple and Isabella Warbrick (see last month) were originally based. She also included a photo of Martha [Warbrick's] marriage (tragically short-lived) to Kenneth Kingsley Staple in Hong Kong Cathedral. 1 Colin Hitchmough kindly sent a photo of Alfred Tarbuck (see last month). He also included a number of wartime photos taken in China, which the family picked up in Hong Kong in those days. Tai Hang Wong identified them – by the hats worn by some of those pictured - as being most probably taken in Canton. I have seen other series like these, generally showing atrocities, the effects of bombing, etc. 1 Yesterday, on this facebook page, I found an amazing photograph of Luba Estes and her HKVDC father.
October 1st, 2015 Update
HKSRA in colour (courtesy Martin Ng), Middlesex rugby team in Singapore (Patrick Sturdy), South China Morning Post (author) ARP Tunnel (author), Elizabeth Sharp and mother (courtesy Elizabeth Sharp), George Watson mess tin (courtesy Alex McGowan) Harold Hill (courtesy Moreen Sore), Far East magazine (courtesy Ian Topham), First Day Cover (courtesy Francis Cheung)
It's odd how often contacts come in clusters. I have had very little communication over the years with the Hughes Group of the HKVDC, but this month two families contacted me on the same day. The story of their defence of the North Point Power Station is epic, especially bearing in mind their average age and the fact that every one of them seemed to be such a colourful character (I was once contacted by an American who was writing a film script on the topic, having become fascinated by the group's diversity). Like the Stanley Platoon, most of the survivors seemed to avoid the military POW Camps and instead were interned at Stanley. I definitely have them earmarked for a future 'Short History'.
29 Walking home from the office today I noticed that one of the ARP Tunnels on Queen’s Road East was open. I’ve peered in that tunnel complex, but not that particular entrance before.
28Alfred Tarbuck’s (HKDVC) great nephew got in touch. Tarbuck was in the Hughes Group, and like many of them was moved from Shamshuipo military POW Camp to Stanley Internment Camp. 28 Elizabeth Sharp, the first baby to be born in Stanley Internment Camp (on 27 January 1942) got in touch. She kindly sent a photograph of her and her mother taken in camp. Her mother was Lyn Joffe, and her father Eugene Joffe was also in the Hughes Group of the HKVDC. Oddly enough, though, born in 1908 he appears to have been much younger than the others. How strange to get two Hughes Group contacts in a single day! Lyn’s brother Alan Murray was in the Royal Army Pay Corps and was a POW in Shamshuipo. 28 Martha Staple’s (Stanley Internee) granddaughter got in touch. She is also the great niece of another Stanley Internee, Isabella Warbrick. 28 Helping my younger son on a school project (it was a public holiday in Hong Kong), I photographed some of my old collection of South China Morning Posts published in the period 8 to 26 December 1941. I was surprised how well they came out. These aren’t the originals. I borrowed the originals from the late David Roads in 1990 (he was one of the first people I knew when I moved to Hong Kong) and photocopied the lot.
26 Patrick Sturdy’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch sending two very interesting – and high quality – photos of the battalion’s sports teams while they were in Singapore in 1937. This is not a very well documented period, and it was fascinating to see that of the whole rugby team only Sturdy (third man on the second row) and Challis (sixth man on the first row) were still in the battalion at December 1941. This of course was because of the well-known ‘milking’ of the battalion to provide a core of men around whom much of what would become the D Day armies would be built. Challis of course went on to become RSM, and was the senior POW in Kobe House after the officers were removed.
24 I received the latest (October) copy of the Java Journal. In one article it noted: “Our first event was a simple service held at the Rowan Tree memorial to the Far East Prisoners of War, who were Servicemen and Civilians from ourselves our allies in this war. The turnout was impressive with upwards of a hundred people. Groups attending included two former FEPOW, Widows, Children and Families of FEPOW with the guest of honour Mr Ken Shipsides, a Plymouth resident at the tender age of 100, a former Royal Navy man who was captured at the fall of Hong Kong."
21 Ian Topham sent an image of the ‘Far East magazine’ for June 1945 to a FEPOW Group I belong to. Has anyone else copies of these? Meg Parkes noted that it: “was produced from 1944 by the Red Cross and St John War Organisation for the relatives of all those held captive in the Far East.”
20 Searching for something completely different, I found a very interesting new Hong Kong pillbox video on the SCMP website. 20 Geoff Emerson notes that he is: “heavily involved in a book launch, having edited the book - the diary of Graham Heywood, who became Director of the Royal Observatory after the war. He was a POW in Shamshuipo Camp, Kowloon… The book launch will take place on 19 October, 3-6 pm at the Observatory in Tsimshatsui followed by a memorial service in St Andrew's Church (where the Heywoods were married before the war) next to the Observatory.”
19Herbert Hills’s (ARP) granddaughter got in touch. Hills was held in Stanley Internment Camp for the duration, as was his wife (Edith Hills) who was nurse ND145 in the HKVDC nursing detachment - though they were not in the same room.
18Harold Hill’s (RN, MTB escapee) daughter got in touch, kindly sending written details and a photo. 18 Nicola Davies kindly sent new information about Alexander McGregor Mitchell which confirmed that he was not the man the family was looking for (see last month). At least now they can refocus their search. 18 Martin Ng put a fascinating colour photo of an HKSRA gunner on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. I don’t know whether it was taken in Singapore or Hong Kong, but to see a photo of the HKSRA – let alone a colour one – is a real surprise. I believe the round he is carrying is from a 3 inch AA gun.
15 I had an interesting email today noting: “I frequent an auction house here in N Yorkshire (Tennants) mainly as I buy and sell photographs artwork and interesting objects as part of my semi retirement mode. On Saturday I bought a group of WW2 Medals to the aforesaid Gunner Watson. The usual group of War Defence 39-45 Star and Pacific Star. I noted a HK & POW connection and wondered at the mess tin in the base of the card box, a sentimental keepsake perhaps.” My correspondent kindly included a photo of the mess tin and a number of documents. Gunner John George Watson, 868734, was in the 7th Heavy AA Battery of the 5 AA Regiment, and was sent to Japan after capture.
14 Bill Lake kindly sent a rather unexpected photo of a Bamboo Pit Viper on the headstone of Victor Branson’s (Middlesex) grave at Sai Wan. (Illustrated). Branson was of course one of the unfortunate recaptured escapees who was executed. 14 Barbara Anslow notes: “I have just finished reading a fascinating book called 'The Survivors' by Diana Fortescue about her parents Tim and Margery Fortescue, who with their baby Adrian were interned in Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong 1942-45. During the Japanese invasion in December 1941 I got to know Tim by sight - as Assistant Private Secretary to the Governor Sir Mark Young, he was always about the tunnel (beneath Government House) where I was working for the Director of Air raid Precautions. I got to know him much better in Stanley when he and Margery and Adrian moved from the room they had been sharing with five (originally nine!) other internees, to take up residence in what had been the tiny kitchen next door to the room occupied by my Mother, two sisters and myself. The kitchen had been cleared of sink, boiler etc to make space for three beds. To ensure that now toddling, Adrian didn't wander off when their door was open, the Fortescues cut it in half horizontally so the top half could be left open for air. They became lovely neighbours. To cut down on the endless queuing for everything, the Fortescues and the Redwoods took it in turns to collect each other's hot water ration for tea (if any) first thing in the morning.” I haven’t read it yet, but I believe Diana may be coming to Hong Kong later in the year and will hopefully bring some copies with her.
12I emailed an interesting website, Air Crew Remembered, asking if they’d be interested in linking to my lists of 1941 RAF personnel in Hong Kong, and they kindly linked to my entire site!
8Bob Tatz, who I have mentioned before on these pages as he was a ‘stay out’ of camp originally as a boy in Hong Kong during the war, and was then in Stanley, has been in touch again. He is working on his account of the period which I am really looking forward to reading. Today he also sent me some details on Bill Rowe, HKVDC. He notes: “In your book I notice that you have an entry for Bill Rowe, Signalman with the HKVDC. Bill was a friend of mine, and actually was my ‘boss’ when I was serving under him on one of Jardines ships. Subsequently, after we both had retired from the seagoing life, we met up in Sydney in Australia in 1994 and we enjoyed a nice get-together together with Tony Lapsley. I never knew that Bill was with the HKVDC in the war, was wounded in battle, and subsequently interned and shipped to Japan. I received his obituary notice and eulogy prepared by his daughter Christine, copy of which is attached, from a mutual friend of Bill. There is also a tribute prepared by one of his fellow-prisoners. I thought you might be interested in this material.” What I hadn’t previously realized is that Bill Rowe was born in Shanghai, the son of a Japanese orphan girl and a Scot who was killed in the Great War. Mr Rowe was his stepfather. Sadly Bill died in 2001 as a result of a traffic accident.
4 Brian Edgar kindly let the Stanley Group know about Vivian Kong’s blog about the 1940 evacuation.
3 Francis Cheung kindly sent me copies of the Official First Day Cover of the 70th anniversary of the ‘Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression’. We even had a special one-off holiday in Hong Kong to celebrate it, though I did me little good as I was working in New York that week! He followed up with a number of excerpts from the recent Exhibition Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Victory Over Japan, some well known and others less so.
2 Ian Dixon’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch.
September 1st, 2015 Update
Barbara Anslow (courtesy BBC, via Nicola Davies), Sakai Takashi and Tanaka Hisabazu (via TK Wong) James Wilson (courtesy Martin Wilson), Alf Bennet and Billie Gill (courtesy Ian Gill), James Hart (courtesy Archie Hart) Skvorzov ilustration (courtesy Luba Estes), William Sprague (courtesy Jen & Philip Burton), Thomas Stone (courtesy Christine Ogborne)
The seventieth anniversary of VJ Day was, to everyone’s great satisfaction, actually recognised by society as a whole – in the UK and many other places. VJ ceremonies happened all over Britain, and all over the world, and that led to a renewed outburst of interest in the period – reflected in many new contacts around the middle of this month. Also, in case any regular readers noticed, July’s entry was cut short by a family holiday (which was enjoyable, despite the fact that on our first summer weekend in the UK it was only 25 degrees – 12 on the Saturday, and 13 on the Sunday…) I have now added the final three photographs for that month, and coverage for its final eight or so days; they’re worth a look. As for this month, it’s been busy. It seems that the many commemorations of the 70th anniversary of VJ Day have sent people scurrying to their various attics in search of bits and pieces, old letters and photos, and I’ve had a welcome number of new enquiries from family members of Hong Kong’s 1941 garrison (the results of which have blasted this month’s update considerably north of the theoretical 2,500 word maximum!)
30 Frank Bennett’s (Hong Kong Signal Company) son kindly sent me a copy of his father’s memoires. Frank (known as Frank ‘Johnny’ Johnson when he enlisted) gave me lots of help while I was writing the Lisbon Maru book, but a lot of the details here – especially of the work parties, which I always find interesting – is new to me. He also gives an interesting clue: Desmond Harrington of the Signals is one of the men listed a being killed in an air crash while being repatriated, who I have not been able to find on the manifests of the three B24 crashes I found for the appropriate day. But according to this writing, his plane crashed on takeoff, so this may be a different aircraft altogether. It’s interesting too, how many Hong Kong Signals Company entries there have been for this month.
28 Rita Vaughan tells me that she and two colleagues have published a new book called ‘Mossley Remembers The Second World War’. “It will be launched at Mossley Library, George Lawton Hall, Mossley, on Friday September 11, at 11.00 am. At the book launch the three Mossley ladies will talk about their research and how they compiled their book.” I believe it contains mention of Mossley man Signalman Albert Lawton. He was in the Hong Kong Signals Company, and after the fall of Hong Kong was held as a Prisoner of War at Sham Shui Po POW camp in Kowloon. From there, he boarded the Lisbon Maru and was one of around 200 survivors of the sinking who died in Japan during the next two months of exhaustion, exposure, and disease. Picked up from the sea by the Japanese, he was taken via Shanghai to Osaka #1B Camp. There he came down with bacillary dysentery, and was taken to Ichioka Ward where he passed away.
27Aaron Hedley Dixon’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. 27 Henry Ching has published two more of his eagerly awaited Occasional Papers. The first covers his father’s experience as a prisoner of the Japanese gendarmes. It’s ugly reading: “Sat up and took notice when someone said Europeans, Hongkong Bank. Outside Sir Vandeleur Grayburn and Streatfield. Latter to Cell 2 and Grayburn into ours. Call him and make room near me. Arm troubling me, sore where hit on ground. Getting septic. Still can’t get up easily so Grayburn helps me. He is second class prisoner so gets no soong, so share mine with him. Cell population now 33. Someone gave us spoon with all plating off. This we use between us, spooning rice into hand in turn and licking it off…” The second documents the Stanley executions of 32 BAAG agents and internees. 27 Another good wartime Hong Kong story in the China Daily from Basu Chitralekha.
26Thomas John Stone’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch, kindly sending a photo of Mr Stone taken when he joined up in 1937 (it’s a little dark, but I’m very grateful for anything I get). He was on HMS Thracian and she would very much like to know which ship he came to Hong Kong on, though sailings from the UK were so regular in those days that I doubt it would be possible to determine. 26 Ian Gill, on the Stanley Group, asked: “Does anyone remember R. T. Broadbridge who, according to the attached birth certificate of my half-brother Brian Gill, was district registrar in Hong Kong in August 1940. My friend Vicky Needa, daughter of Janet Needa (nee Broadbridge) and jockey Victor Needa, thinks it might have been her uncle Reginald Broadbridge who signed up with the Volunteers, took part in the defence of Hong Kong and later was a POW in Japan with three other uncles of Vicky.” To me this was fascinating as about ten years ago when I was writing up 3 Coy, someone gave me a phone number for the Broadbridge family in Sydney. I was there on a business trip and waiting at the airport for my flight home I phoned the number. When they answered I explained who I was and asked whether Norman had left any diaries or letters when he passed away? The voice at the other end said: “I AM Norman!” Needless to say, he gave me a lot of help. As for Vicky Needa, she used to live in the building I’m writing this in. In fact I believe her father passed away in what was at one time our bedroom. Although I knew them both (Norman passed away, and I’ve not seen Veronica for a while), I had no idea they were related. Barbara Anslow adds: “Thanks, Tony. Amazing all the connections. My mother and Vicky's mum Janet were good friends from pre-war HK days and she introduced me to Janet and Victor Needa and their daughter Vicky in 1975... I knew Janet Broadbridge as we were billeted with ARP personnel in Dina house during the HK battle. On Christmas Day, in that miserable evening when we all wondered what would happen to us now HK had surrendered to the Japs, some of the menfolk in our group improvised a 'party' in their room to try to keep cheerful, and Janet and her friend Lilian Hope and myself were among those invited.”
25 Dave Deptford reports that Sapper Frances Sarsfield’s medals are for sale (including his MM). He was wounded in action of December 21 and was on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to Japan. 25 This is pretty sad. An eighty-year-old building in Wanchai is to be demolished because, according to some accounts, there are another dozen or so buildings of the same age still extant. Imagine applying that same logic to London, or Rome… The real reason of course is that the land underlying the pawnshop is estimated to be worth about HK$400 million (US$51.6 million).
24 Does anyone know who Stanley Internee Alexander McGregor Mitchell’s parents were? I have a correspondent who thinks he may be a relative but is not sure. ‘Their’ A M Mitchell was also born in 1912, but has a different day and month to our internee.
22 Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent me photos of three more men lost on the Lisbon Maru: John Tomlinson, Bertram Newnham, and John ‘Busty’ Phipps (like John Scully, all from Hong Kong Signals Company).
20Alan Pong notes that on November 8 during the school fete, the DBS School Museum is going to hold an exhibition about the forty-six old boys who were lost in the war.
19 Today I was invited to the WW2 Veteran Association’s Club to be interviewed by Zhejiang TV for a local documentary they are making about the Lisbon Maru. It seemed to go well.
18Norman Harding’s (RAOC) daughter got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK).
17 Douglas Day’s (HKVDC Z Force) son got in touch. He notes: “Just an update for you, dad died on 19/6/1990, so some time ago now. He had a heart attack and did not recover.” I corresponded with Mr Day’s Z Force colleague David Parsons for many years. 17 Richard Hide’s short documentary for CCTV on the Christmas Day 1941 MTB Escape has been published. 17 T.K. Wong notes: “found these two photos from HKUST library yesterday. The first one is Sakai [Takashi] and the second one is Tanaka [Hisabazu]. The banner means EXECUTION OF THE HIGHEST COMMANDER OF THE IJA IN SOUTH CHINA - LT. GENERAL TANAKA.” 17 Ian Gill kindly sent a number of photos of his (and his mother’s) visit to Hong Kong in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of Liberation. One shows her with Wing Commander Alf Bennet, the Japanese speaker who as a POW was a good friend of Major Charles Boxer. 17 Martin Wilson got in touch to let me know that his father James Wilson (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) is still very much alive and kicking at the age of 96 “and still enjoying the odd whisky”! 17 Stanley John Richards’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nieces got in touch. 17 Alexander Hill Cochrane’s (RA) daughter got in touch. She notes: “He died in 1965, 44 yrs old, I was 6. He was constantly ill with lots different things, was like that since he came home from war.” The late Charles Rolands in Canada was the expert on this subject, but I could never get him to stick his neck out on the effects of the war on the survivors’ life spans. But with all due respect to him (he was a great man), it seems to me as a layman that there were a rash of deaths in their mid-40s, and another in their mid-60s, which appear to have been related to war time experiences. 17 Martin Heyes sent this link from the BBC showing Royal Navy POWs at the bottom of Garden Road. The Omori photo also shows a number of ex-HK POWs.
16 Peter Campos kindly sent me the draft copy of his book about his mother’s uncle Marciano Francisco (Naneli) Baptista and his POW Camp art. It’s very impressive and he has (rather flatteringly) asked me to write the foreword. 16 Benjamin Titheridge’s (RE) nephew got in touch. He notes that his father used to relate: “the story of not recognising his brother when he returned to Victoria Station, such was his emaciation.” 16 The annual commemoration of VJ Day and liberation was held today at City Hall.
15 Barbara Anslow was today broadcast on BBC television from London reading the FEPOW Prayer. Barbara noted that: “I read a poem by servicemen A.E. Ogden and V. Merritt entitled The FEPOW Prayer: 'And we that are left grow old with the years Remembering the heartache, the pain and the tears, Hoping and praying that never again Man will sink to such sorrow and shame. The price that was paid we will always remember Every day, every month, not just in November We shall remember them.' Massed bands played for the hymns we sang. Finally, the so poignant Last Post was sounded. Then all veterans and carers formed up for the March past, led by one of the splendid bands. Next came a large group of veterans in wheelchairs, including me. It was really moving how many of the really old veterans actually walked, some helped by relatives. There were many other younger people in the March, presumably grandchildren of deceased ex-POWs. It was a wonderful moment as we emerged from Horse Guards on to the streets of London - the crowd and the cheering and the waving, we could hardly believe it! This continued as we processed, great crowds held back with barriers and policemen. At the Cenotaph we stopped for wreaths to be laid, then on past Parliament and the Abbey, still cheered, and into Westminster Gardens for a reception beneath marquees. Everyone was supplied with a box of delicious refreshments. Incredibly, in all that crowd, I eventually met up with 5 ex-Stanleyites, - Libby Joffe who was the first baby born in Stanley, Barbara Coe (nee Morris) also born in Stanley, Dorothy Kilbee who was 6 months old when taken into Stanley, Hilary Hamson (nee Powell), about 9 years old in camp, Daisy Barbara (nee Cullen) a young child then.” When I saw the name ‘V Merritt’ I wondered whether it might actually be Victor Merrett from Hong Kong. Now, thanks to some key detective work by Elizabeth Ride we have an answer! In Signalman Conrad Semmelman’s (HKVDC) papers she found a copy of the FEPOW Prayer together with an illustration and the following text: “The above lines were composed by no. 4857249 Corporal Arthur C. Ogden 1st Battalion The Royal Leicestershire Regiment and The British Battalion 1941-45 when he was in Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton in December 1974. This drawing was designed by Victor R. J. Merrett Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps who was in the hospital at the same time. The lines were dedicated to Sister O’Hara of the FEPOW Unit in the Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton”. So there we have it. It was ‘our’ Victor Merrett, and the poem that Barbara read, unknowingly at the time, had a direct connection with Hong Kong.
15 Desmond Hynes’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch. 15 Herbert Kenneth Blofield’s (RAOC) niece got in touch. Blofield’s wife and daughter were evacuated to Australia.
14 Jen & Philip Burton kindly sent a photo of William Sprague (HKVDC) following our discussion about their blog of his POW diary last month (which they are repeating, with each day being displayed 70 years after it was written). 14 Brian Finch notes that the Cadogan Hall website holds details of a program for September 13 in which he will give a brief outline of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru as an example of ‘people to people’ cooperation and express his gratitude for the courage of the local Chinese fishermen who rescued so many POWs. The Hymn of the Lisbon Maru will follow.
13 Ian Cartwright-Taylor kindly sent a copy of the Daily Telegraph for 27 October 1945, noting that the Queen Mary travelling from New York had been held up by a storm from docking at Southampton that day and the passengers, among 450 British and American civilians and 600 British service personnel, included 22 liberated British PoWs from the Far East. No wonder the job of tracing all the RAPWI repatriations is so tricky, when they were split into such small groups. 13 I set up some interviews for China Daily, with Barbara Anslow, Dennis Clarke, and George Cautherley, and the results are here and here. I was a little miffed that the paper didn’t bother acknowledging my help – but the key point is that the story was told.
11 Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of John Scully, Hong Kong Signals Company (illustrated), who was lost on the Lisbon Maru.
10 Landon Burch of 2 Coy HKVDC passed away in Bowral, Australia, today after an illness. I had not corresponded with him for several years.
8Referring to last month’s group photo, Dave Deptford offers this useful analysis, thinking it appears to be: “a 'local' unit, several ethnic groups shown and a range of ages. Wolseley helmet - spiked, pugaree with stripes, similar to HKP of the pre-war period. Collar insignia worn, but can't identify uniform - no medal ribbons, only one whistle lanyard, several styles of buttoning to tunic. NCO wears stripes on right arm only, an army way of display. Note the Bugler. I do not believe these are HKP (Regulars). Could be HKP Reserve / Specials (or similar dependant on date), they were a motley crowd and tended to make up things as they went along. Front rank have rifles but I cannot identify them. I am led towards HK Volunteers in some form although cannot find a comparison in Phillip Bruce's history of the Unit.” Of the same photo, Peter Campos notes that it was not CSM Baptista in the photo (as my text had stated) but his brother, Rodolfo (Peter’s grandfather). This has been corrected. He adds: “My grandfather is in the front row on the right; he was born in 1895 and according to an uncle, this photo was taken when he was a teenager. So the date is most likely 1910 to 1914 if we assume age 15 to 19.”
6 Stanley Smart’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 6 Archie Hart kindly sent me a photo of his father (James Hart, RAOC), noting that all being well he will turn 100 in January.
5 Ron Taylor (HK) brought to my attention the fact that – despite the information displayed on this website - Graham Heywood’s (HKVDC) family have no information about him being interned in Japan. Heywood, of the Royal Observatory, wrote the book Rambles in Hong Kong in 1938, which was reprinted in 1992. This reprint has a commentary by Richard Gee which mentions that Heywood had an unpublished account of the war, but the only coverage of internment I can see just says he was interned for three and a half years. The Shamshuipo records sent to BAAG show he was on the 5th draft. Those records are a good 99% accurate, but there are occasional glitches. I am a bit suspicious in this case because Heywood’s colleagues on the 5th draft all appear on the liberation roster of Nagoya #8B, but he doesn’t. This may well be a mistake in the records. 5 Luba Estes kindly sent me a sketch by her father, A.V. Skvorzov noting: “Col. Botelho was quoted saying, ‘It was the grandest sight’ on seeing the British fleet enter to liberate Hong Kong and so to it must have been the grandest sight for the prisoners in Shamshuipo to see the Union Jack raised”.
4Peter Campos sent me a sketch of the church at Shamshuipo, signed by Eric John Green, the RC Chaplain of the Middlesex. In my records for him I have the note ‘CF’ (as in the signature) though I don’t know what it signifies.
3 Elizabeth Ride, noting last month’s photo of the gun in her father’s garden, says: “Lovely photo of the Lodge garden - it is looking very well tended and my father would have been very pleased. The gun was found buried just inside the present gates (and my father stayed home from the office a whole day to watch it being hauled over to its present position). He took part in every detail - even the wrought iron patterns in the holes in the garden wall.”
1Henry Ching notes: “Re the entry for June 12th concerning the family of Richard Arthur Penny (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru). Richard Penny’s wife was Winifred Agnes Robinson, and she was known popularly as Bonnie Penny. Bonnie was the daughter of James P. Robinson and Florence Mary Hopwar. Bonnie and her parents were interned in Stanley during the war. Bonnie’s maternal grandfather was James Sidney Hopwar who came from Australia. The Hopwar family was very well known in Hong Kong’s Eurasian community.”
August 1st, 2015 Update
The 'Fat Pig' (courtesy Getty images), Japanese POWs at Shamshuipo (anonymous), William Wall (courtesy Jane O'Keeffe) A young Rodolfo Bapista in unknown uniform (courtesy Peter Campos), Professor Ride's garden, Possible shell impact (both author) Bullen map (courtesy Philip Cracknell), Cartwright-Taylor repatriation group and family snapshot (courtesy Ian Cartwright-Taylor)
July News In 1989 when I first started researching this topic, everyone said I was wasting my time. “You’re wasting your time”, they said. “Everyone is dead and all the documents were burnt to cook rice during the occupation”. Initially I believed them, but every month since more documents and memories have appeared – to the point where I have been forced each year to recognise that I know less and less about the topic than I had imagined, when compared to the ever-growing list of sources! As an example, perhaps fifteen years ago I read an article by Phillip Bruce about ‘Red’ Bullen’s actions in the defence of Stanley. I lost my copy years ago, but now a full account by Bullen’s colleagues has turned up – just one of the constantly expanding collection of documents that I have never seen before.
28Jim Trick of the HKVCA let me know that: “Using the mass of data accumulated by Vince Lopata we're in the midst of populating our new 'C' Force database. The aim is to produce, on request, an individual report on any chosen member of 'C' Force that is tailored to the life of that member. We have a lot of work left to do, but feel that we're on the right track.” It’s very good. The link is here.
27Philip Cracknell has written an excellent blog about ‘Red’ Bullen in the defence of Stanley. Phil found eye-witness reports of Bullen’s gallantry by George Cottrell and Ernest James Stevens of the Stanley Platoon, including a map of the action.
26 Dave Deptford let me know that: “Currently on eBay 3911 9539 6739 (HK/Collectables/Militaria) is a copy of [Skvorzov's 1948 SketchBook], 15 sketches of camp life in a card covered booklet, you will be familiar with it. Current price GBP70.00, ending 7th August.” 26 The South China Morning Post ran an article about the apology. The records I have make no mention of Canadian ex-HK POWs in Japan working for Mitsubishi.
24 I have received a number of emails asking if ex-HK POWS in Japan also worked for Mitsubishi. The answer is yes. POWs in Osaka #4B (Ikuno) (holding Major Houghton, Captain Martin Weedon, and other officers from the Lisbon Maru, who arrived on March 31 1945), Osaka #6B (Akenobe) (holding Hong Kong POWs, including Robert Bede Moore, who arrived on May 18 1945 from Sakurajima), andTokyo #1D (Mitsubishi Yokohama Ship-building) (which held just Dr, A.C. Price from Hong Kong) all worked for Mitsubishi-owned concerns. 24 Ron Taylor (UK) has begun the massive job of digitising British POW rolls from Japanese camps. Here’s his current list for Osaka#4D, for example. 24 Ian Cartwright-Taylor kindly sent me a fascinating set of photos of his family’s evacuation and his father’s time as a POW (including one of his repatriation – does anyone recognise any of the people in it?) It also had one rare and cherished photograph of the family that they managed to get through from Australia to his father in ShamShuipo Camp.
23 Jen and Phillip Burton let me know that they are putting Bill Sprague’s, HKVDC, diary online: “We thought that it would be appropriate to mark the 70th Anniversary of the end of the war with something from the Diary and so we have set up a blog.”
20 Many newspapers, including the Guardian, ran stories today about Mitsubishi apologising to an American POW slave labourer. Odd, as some people commented, that the British newspapers made no mention of the British slave labourers who were there too! However, in fact the son of one British POW did attend, and met Mitsubishi privately – reporting very positively on the experience.
19 On a walk up past Pinewood Battery I noticed a rock that seemed to have taken a direct hit from a shell. I suppose there might be some other explanation for the obvious impact damage, but I can’t think of one. On the same walk I took a nice photo of the 10 inch gun in 'Doc' Ride's garden. 19 Philip Dawson sent me this useful link to REPORT NO. 163, HISTORICAL SECTION CANADIAN MILITARY HEADQUARTERS, CANADIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE DEFENCE OF HONG KONG, DECEMBER, 1941. 19 I’ve been helping CCTV with a short documentary on the Lisbon Maru. 19 The Researching FEPOW History Conference has published the Report for the Conference at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine: Surviving Far East Captivity and the Aftermath: 70 Years On 5 – 8 June 2015.
17 Peter Campos sent me a sketch from his great uncle’s book, but not by Baptista. He wanted to know who the [illustrated] officer, and the artist, were. The officer looks to me like ‘The Fat Pig’, Colonel Tokunaga, who was in charge of all the POW camps. And if the first letter of the signature is a D or P, then only: Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bruse [sic] Parkinson, HKRNVR, fits. Peter also notes: “I would like to hear from anyone who remembers, or has had stories or anecdotes passed down to them, about Naneli ‘Artista’ Baptista. I've put a request in to the major Portuguese community newsletters in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Australia (Uma news; Casa de Macau; Lusitano News) for the same. This is to ‘flesh out’ the person, especially from Camp days, for the book.” I added a photo of the Fat Pig to compare to the sketch.
10Arthur Robert Brown’s (HKRNVR) grandson got in touch. Brown’s wife, daughter, and son (who would become my correspondent’s father) were evacuees. 10 Peter Campos got in touch again, sending a photo of Rodolfo Baptista and colleagues – but the helmets don’t look like HKVDC of any age to me. Could this be HKPF? 10 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me an extract from the report written by Sgt Charles Medley, Hong Kong Police, for the Colonial Office after his repatriation on the Gripsholm: "The bodies of our military forces found within the confines of the camp have been properly buried and - thanks to Messrs Robinson and Rothwell of the Police - all graves, including those of civilians, have appropriate headstones suitably inscribed, chipped out by hand from granite blocks found in the camp. These men have earned the praise and thanks of all. The cemetery, which is the original military one in which British soldiers and their families were buried as early as 1843, is the resting place of those of the forces who could be conveniently placed there, together with those who have died in camp. It is maintained and kept in excellent order by a Mr Brown, formerly of China Light and Power Co Ltd. This man lost his younger son in the battle for Hongkong, and recently received word that his elder boy died in Bowen Road Military Hospital through tuberculosis during the early part of 1943." (See the discussion last month). The ‘elder boy’ referred to is of course Walter Joseph Brown of the HKVDC ASC.
9William Wall’s (HKPF) daughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo. She also quoted a letter from him, sent on 21 July 1943 (a typed letter to his sister - her mother). He said he was: "in pretty good shape... my naturally even temper gets slightly frayed at times... we are allowed to receive photos so send some along... tell me what are people dancing now? What are the latest songs? What pictures are running? Who won the All Ireland championship?... Tell them at home not to worry about me. I'll be all right". (My correspondent and her husband are principals of Irish Life and Lore, recording in audio and archiving oral history, principally in the areas of Irish social and national history).
8 The Shanghai Daily ran a nice article about Royal Rifle George MacDonell today. 8 Nicola Davies kindly passed on a few leads for finding the family of Albert Edward Heath (see last month).
5Derek Bailey reported visiting the Yorkshire Wartime Experience and seeing a display tent there featuring three large Newfoundland dogs, and a board relating the exploits of ‘Sergeant Gander’ of Hong Kong fame!
4 I was approached by Francesco Lotoro, an Italian pianist and conductor who since 1989 has been researching music written both in Internment and POW Camps from 1939 to 1945. He has found thousands already and would be interested in any from Hong Kong. Although I have seen many songs written here, they have almost all been (I can think of one exception – The Kobe House Blues) new words set to old music. He’s really looking for names / biographies / photos / scores of musicians (composers, arrangers, conductors, etc., both amateurs and professionals).
3 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society’s Spring-Summer 2015 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on their website now.
2 I’m doing a lot of work again on people who lost their lives in Hong Kong during the fighting, but don’t appear on the CWGC official records. In total (excluding Chinese civilians) there are around twenty of them. Theodore Leslie Bell is one, and his daughter would be extremely grateful for a photo of him if anyone has one. He was on the local staff of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. 2 Elizabeth Ride quoted me a KWIZ asking if it rang a bell: "During an air raid on Hongkong on 19th or 20th December 1944, an Allied aircraft flying in a northerly direction over Victoria Peak was seen to release 3 parachutes with objects attached. One of the parachutes was seen to hit the ground in the area North of and below Victoria Peak. The remaining parachutes drifted towards the direction of Tsun Wan. The aircraft did not appear to be damaged." All I could think of was air dropped sea mines?
1 I provided NHK with a few photos of Shamshuipo POW Camp for a project they are doing about a lady’s grandfather (Yaichiro Tanbo, a marine engineer in the Imperial Army) who was interned there in 1945 after Hong Kong surrendered to Harcourt’s fleet. He spent five months in the camp in total. Fascinating to hear such a new spin to such an old story! 1 Peter Campos, great nephew of Company Sergeant Major Marciano Francisco (Naneli) Baptista of 6 Coy HKVDC is planning to work with his uncle to produce a book of CSM Baptista’s wartime sketches.
July 1st, 2015 Update
Barbara Anslow and Ian Gill, Mabel Redwood's food 'bowl' (both courtesy Ian Gill), Barbara at the Garden Party (courtesy Barbara Anslow). Craig Prior depositing John Robertson's diary and flag at St Stephen's, the flag, and the diary (all courtesy Cortia Chung) Richard Penny (courtesy Ron Taylor, UK), Peter Moddrel & friends (courtesy Richard Moddrel), Victoria Hospital foundation stone (author)
If only it was possible to officially declare June 2015 “Barbara Anslow Month”! It’s a very odd experience. More than twenty five years ago when I started reading about Hong Kong’s war time happenings I saw Barbara’s name (and sometimes quotes from her diary) but it felt like I was reading about someone from ancient history – Elizabeth I, for example, or Cleopatra. But having met her since, corresponded regularly for many years, and seeing her take a leading roll in so many aspects of the modern interest in the subject I have come to regard her as a genuine national treasure. So no one could have been more appropriate to represent Hong Kong’s Internees at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, in a month where she also kindly agreed to be interviewed by the media (more on that later), and met Ian Gill whose family was of course also interned.
28Walking along Barker Road this morning – in a temperature of 33 degrees and 80% humidity – I stopped to take a photo of the foundation stone of the old Victoria Hospital. It was of course still operational during the war, and had the best view over the city of any of them.
26 Lesley Clark kindly sent the latest Java Journal. It notes, among many other things, that the organisers of a VJ Day memorial are trying to find the families of seven Dover men who died while fighting in the Far East during the Second World War. One of them is Albert Edward Heath who was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs W Heath of Dover. He was an old Duke of York's boy and served in the Royal Engineers. He was captured after the capitulation of Hong Kong on December 25, 1941 and died December 18, 1944 aged 25. Does anyone have contact with the family? The same journal also had a truly fascinating list detailing famous film stars who fought during the war! Finally, it mentioned one more ex-Hong Kong FEPOW, Ken Shipsides of HMS Tamar, who has recently joined their association.
24 Phil Dawson kindly sent me a copy of the monograph: “1941-1943 Japanese Army Operations In China and HK invasion plans.” I’m sure I have a hard copy of this somewhere, but like so many of my paper files I can’t lay my hands on it now.
23Today I receive a large and very welcome set of photos from Barbara Anslow of the Garden Party.
19 H.C. Cartwright-Taylor’s (RE) son got in touch. His mother and sister were evacuated to Australia in 1940. 19 An interesting discussion on the Stanley Group shows that Stanley cemetery – like Sai Wan – used crosses to mark graves in the early post-war period before they were replaced with the standard CWGC stones.
16 I received a nod from HKUP today that my thesis is one step nearer to being published in book form! It’s not quite there yet, but it’s getting close.
12Something’s going on! I have been contacted by two different TV companies planning documentaries about the Lisbon Maru. Unfortunately they’ve left it a bit late. I don’t think any of the survivors (and now I’m only in regular touch with one) were born any later than 1920, which makes the youngest 95 or so. 12 Ron Taylor (UK) kindly put me in touch with the family of Richard Arthur Penny (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru). The family notes that: “Richard was married to Winifred Penny, from Hong Kong, we believe she was of a mixed race from Asian origin. Richard was a fluent speaker of Mandarin as he once worked as a banker for many years in Hong Kong, which is where we believe he met his wife. Sadly Richard only ever brought his wife back to England once, because as we understand his Mother did not approve of the marriage.”
11Today Stanley Camp was represented at the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace by ex-Internees Barbara Anslow and Bill Macauley (thanks to an invitation provided by The Java Far East Prisoners of War Club 1942). Barbara reported: “It was a wonderful experience, and the weather really perfect. There were guards with evil looking guns at the Garden Gate which we entered. Maureen was pushing me in my wheelchair, but as we entered a Royal Marine insisted in wheeling the chair all the way to the marquee. There were lots of tables set out on the grass, and in the marquee where we found empty seats. We were meant to link up with the other thirteen Java Club members but as we had no designated table number, and mobile phones had to be turned off, it was like looking for needles in a haystack as there were so many people there. I have never seen so many and such varied fascinators! Eventually Margaret Martin Social Secretary of the Java Club found us, as did Bill Macauley who was a teenager in Stanley, He was billeted quite near to my mother sisters and I. I had been looking forward to meeting the Java Club veterans whose accounts of their POW experiences on the Burma railway and in Japan I have read in the Java Club magazine, but we could not find them. It was very sobering to watch veterans of all the services there, some in wheelchairs, and to remember how much we all owe them and their fallen comrades. One young man presumably was an Afghanistan casualty, in a wheelchair with steel claw hands, legless, and with a restructured face - how brave to appear in public like that. The tea was delicious, you queued in the marquee for a mini prepared dish of finger sandwiches, scone and various cakes, and drinks of squash. You could queue again if you wanted more. Then strawberries and cream. Princess Anne and husband passed very close to us, she was charming when she stopped to speak to one or two people near us, she is so petite. While we were eating, Esther Rantzen came over and shook hands with us, also the dancer Anton de Bec from Strictly. It was all absolutely amazing, I am still tired, we didn't get home until 8pm last night, and had to get up at 5.30 this morning to go to Wales.”
10 Meg Parkes asked if I knew anything about a newsletter called the Comet, four editions of which were published at the Bowen Road Hospital. She notes: “I understand it was put together by the nurses on the wards for the benefit of FEPOW patients.” The name is certainly familiar, but I couldn’t find any record in my files. 10 Luba Estes kindly sent me the report she wrote for Suzannah Linton for the Hong Kong's War Crimes Collection.
8 Referring to last month’s question, Richard Hide notes: “When HERO was given the use of the floating Jumbo Restaurant on Christmas Day 2009 free of charge, Donald Chan told me that Stanley Ho, who owned the restaurant, had worked with his father Chan Chak as a radio operator.” It’s the first time I’ve heard this, and it would be very hard to verify now.
5Today Cortia Chung at St Stephen’s College, Stanley, let me know the good news that John Gray Robertson’s diary and Japanese flag (see February) have been very kindly donated by his family to the Heritage Gallery. She also kindly sent a selection of photographs of the event and the display case.
4 Peter Moddrel sent a photo of his father (arms crossed) taken when he was Liberated in Yokohama in 1945 and showing the captured Japanese sword (see March). He would be very interested to learn the identities of the other three men.
3The South China Morning Post ran another article about HMS Tamar. I also had an email from Barbara Anslow on the subject: “Reading in your newsletter about the Tamar, an unforgettable sight in Naval Dockyard pre-war, with its white roof like a hood reminded me that in my childhood Tamar had film shows open to Dockyard employees. My parents took my sisters and I to one of these shows, silent pictures, when my younger sister Mabel then four years old, asked my mum 'Why does that man keep smelling the lady's hand?' “
2 Ian Gill met famous Stanley Internee Barbara Anslow in the UK today. He notes: “In her 96th year, Barbara Anslow is one of Stanley's few remaining survivors and still going strong. At her home in England, she receives visitors from all over the world and one of the latest was Ian Gill who talked to Barbara about her memories of his parents, his half-brother and his godmother, all of whom were internees. Barbara is donating a thermos flask cup used by her mother Mabel Redwood as a food bowl in Stanley to the Heritage Gallery in Stanley.” He also kindly sent several photos of the occasion.
1 Edward William Boryer’s (HKDDC) family got in touch. 1 Mathew Smith’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo (illustrated). Smith was MiD in the fighting but was lost when the vessel sank.
June 1st, 2015 Update
HMS Tamar (courtesy HK Gov), Old entrance to RNH, Wall outside Wanchai Market (author) Wally Wood (courtesy Tracey Watson), HSBC exhibition (author), Harry Long's letter (courtesy Hugh Farmer) Freddie Clemo, MBE, and view from Innoshima (courtesy Fiona Malca), 1920s Causeway Bay (courtesy Tai Hang Wong)
Walking round the site of the old Royal Naval Hospital (see 5) got me thinking again about heritage. Years ago when I lived in Delft, I knew a French architect (who, like many of his species, worshipped my late uncle) whose job it was to preserve the facades of old buildings while renovating their interiors to suit modern use. The end result was streets that looked like they’d fallen off a medieval painting, yet were fully functional. While there’s not much of Hong Kong’s heritage left, there’s a lot to say for this approach. It’s horses for courses of course; turning a colonial building on the Peak into a boutique hotel – serviced by vehicles ruining Hong Kong’s most popular walking path – is ludicrous, but what has been done with Wanchai Market works well. As you pass, all you really notice is the old Art Moderne building rather than the huge tower block that rises from the middle of it. Personally I preferred it when it was a fully functional market serving its community, but it’s honestly not a bad compromise. I also see that HSBC currently has a historical exhibition on display under their headquarters. It's worth a look.
29 The Telegraph has published an article about the Chinese civilians who helped rescue the survivors of the Lisbon Maru.
28 Freddie Clemo’s other daughter got in touch. 28 I hear that a new book on the American air war over Hong Kong is being produced. That’s very good news.
26 Tracey Watson kindly sent a photo of Wally Wood (on the right). He’s wearing a white uniform, though. Was this a dress uniform for the Middlesex?
25Robert Wilson’s (RN) grandson got in touch. Wilson was blinded in the fighting. 25 Well, that’s me feeling very small. At the end of last year, when I was head down finishing my PhD, George MacDonell kindly sent me a copy of his (very good) latest book, They Never Surrendered. I was busy then, but finally today I sat down to read it and discovered a lovely letter from George stuffed into the front. Needless to say I dashed off a quick reply, but note to idiotic self: When people are kind enough to send books, give them the priority they obviously deserve.
23 I got in touch with Peter Burnett’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family thanks to Ron Taylor (UK). His granddaughter notes that his widow Amy (now 97) and daughter Margaret (73) are still with us. 23 My wife and I should have had lunch with Barbara Anslow’s grandson at Stanley today together with Geoffrey Emerson and David Bellis. Unfortunately the May rains were so bad that it had to be called off.
22 China Daily asked my opinion about HMS Tamar today. It seems that interest is gaining steam!
20 Dave Deptford notes that: “In an auction by Martello Philatelic Auctions Ltd, Lot 113 on 22.5.2015,is a collection of various philatelic items including -ex UK Cover via PoW Post and Japanese Red Cross to Mrs J Crawford, Block 13, Room 61, Indian Quarters, Hong Kong.”
17 Freddie Clemo’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch. She has just visited the site of Innoshima (Hiroshima #5B) POW Camp. She notes: “my father passed away 16 years ago. But not before establishing a successful company in the Philippines which I now continue to run together with my business partner (who also came with us to Habu last Friday) as well as my mother. My father was also awarded the MBE in 1990. He maintained the sense of humour throughout his life that he was obviously famous for at camp. Interestingly, having spent his formative years at Habu shipyard, his career ended up within the maritime industry and he had many Japanese friends and business partners. I can only deduce that his POW years taught him many things about ships in general and about forgiveness and understanding specifically. As he would often say to me ‘Kid, don't sweat the small stuff’.” She sent me a very large number of fascinating photos, both of her visit to Innoshima, and of documents relating to her father. One of the photos was the view out to sea from Innoshima, matching that in Coxhead’s famous painting, which was printed after the war with Potter’s poem. Potter was actually writing about the view from Shamshuipo, of course, but the two march very well. 17 This book sounds interesting: Captive Memories, Far East POWs and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, by Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill. In the message I received: “The Researching FEPOW History group draws your attention to a new book which charts, for the first time, the history of a unique medical collaboration between Far East POW and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. It features extracts from 66 FEPOW oral history interviews, plus a summary of Dr Kamaluddin Khan's unpublished PhD thesis (Liverpool 1987), based on his extensive Far East POW psychiatric study, conducted in Merseyside from 1975 onwards.” I know Meg, and have pre-ordered a copy. I don’t know whether it includes any ex-Hong Kong POWs though.
14 Brian Edgar made a surprise discovery in the Canadian National Archive in Ottawa: Red Cross records relating to wartime Hong Kong. He notes: “one thing was clear: the strong defence of the work of Rudolph Zindel and the Red Cross in Hong Kong that [Geoff Emerson] mounts in the preface to the book edition of his thesis is completely justified. Under exceptionally difficult conditions - great personal danger and the continuing decline in the purchasing power of the Military Yen - Zindel and his committee provided Stanley, Rosary Hill, Bowen Road, and the uninterned British dependants with cash and a wide range of goods. In the case of Stanley, this included important supplementary foodstuffs like peanut butter and soya beans as well as medicines for Tweed Bay Hospital. In addition, the Red Cross provided spectacles and repaired shoes as well as paying the small allowance for canteen purchases that is often recorded in the diaries… Other sources make it clear that by the end of the war Zindel was financing much of the operation by borrowing on his own personal credit.”
11 Ron Taylor’s (HK) book on Arthur May is almost ready for publication, and he kindly let me see an advanced copy. More details in due course.
8 This year Geoff Emerson is organizing a second Stanley Reunion. He notes: “Arrive in HK on Monday, Nov 30, first event on Dec 1 and last event on Sunday, Dec 6, leave HK on Monday, Dec 7. There will be an optional 2-night tour to Kaiping, China from Dec 7 - 9.” 8 William Ramsey’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch. Ramsey’s wife and two sons were interned in Stanley. 8 Don Ady let the Stanley group know that child internee Harriet Refo (now Locke) passed away on May 4. There is an obituary to her here.
7 I had an interesting question from Macau, asking if I could confirm that Stanley Ho had been a member of the ARP, based in Castle Peak Road, during the fighting. Unfortunately I could not, as my ARP records are very sparse. 7 Tai Hang Wong sent a fascinating aerial photo of Causeway Bay taken 1924-25 by the RAF Air Survey. He notes: “The only two buildings that survive up to now are the St Paul's Convent Hospital (and its Cathedral) and the Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Episocal) Kindergarten Centre on 7 Eastern Hospital Road.”
5On a dripping humid evening, I stopped on the way home from work and walked round Wanchai road, at the back of the Ruttonjee Hospital. Eventually I found the gateway that Martin Heyes had described – the original entrance to the Royal Naval Hospital. When I mentioned this to David Bellis he sent me this link to Gwulo. Most interestingly, half way down the page there’s a photo of two column tops which are no longer stored in that area – but one of them is clearly that which I saw recently at the front entrance! (See March photos). David added: “They can be seen on this old photo which we think was mis-labelled as a Police Station and actually shows the entrance to the Naval Hospital from Queen's Road (then known as Gap Road)”. I also noted that the bullet damage on the old wall outside Wanchai Market has been cemented out of existence!
4 Hugh Farmer kindly sent a report written by Harry Kin Hong Long describing his experiences in the fighting, including the King’s Road ambush in which he was wounded in the leg. It also contained the first eyewitness description I have seen of the bombing of the HKVDC miniature rifle range, and a photo of Harry (illustrated) together with a letter from Sir Mark Young.
3Elizabeth Ride kindly referred me to a report in CO 980/120 written by nine repatriates on Grispholm. 3 In one of those bizarre coincidences, Gillian Bickley, who published “In Time of War” emailed me today to ask if I had read it! She notes that it can be ordered here.
2 Today I finally got round to reading “In Time Of War” Lieutenant-Commander Henry Collingwood-Selby R.N. (1898-1992). It’s a fascinating read, being a combination of his diaries and POW writings, together with many other bits and pieces. Among other things I leraned from it that Nurse Olga Franklin of the Royal Naval Hospital rose to become Matron-in-Chief of the QARNNS post-war. Even more interesting was the diary entry while he was recuperating at St Albert’s shortly after the surrender. Those who were fit enough would walk up Mount Nicholson looking for Great Coats and food left over from the fighting. He reports: “Had a good climb in the afternoon and was able to look down in Deep Water Bay. Found an unexploded [9.2 inch] shell near the top, probably fired from Stanley.” Interestingly, two or three years ago I took a group from the Hong Kong Club up there, and the following day one went again by himself, off the path, and found what must surely have been the same shell! It was disposed of by EOD. 2 Jen and Philip Burton have made an interesting discovery. Carefully going through William Sprague’s POW diary they have excerpted all mentions of camp commanders (see last month’s question about Hideo Wada’s sword). From this it seems that ‘George’ was a sergeant rather than a lieutenant, and Honda was a sergeant major. The only officer appears to have been Wada himself (and Tanaka, the overall commandant of all Hong Kong camps).
1 Up in the hills today, one of the metal detector experts found a cigarette lighter – possibly of wartime origin – with someone’s initials on it. Interestingly, only one person in the entire garrison had those particular initials so it will be interesting to see what happens next. 1 Martin Heyes kindly responded to last month’s request to hear if anything substantial was left of the old Royal Naval Hospital. He noted: “I think you may be referring to a quite substantial archway and gate, which is located on Wanchai Rd between Queen's Rd East & Wood St. Not easy to find; behind shops or market stalls on the right hand side if you walk from Queen's Rd East.” 1 Dave Deptford kindly responded with some biographical details of William Valentine Field (see last month), amongst them that he was born in1886 at Ramsgate, Kent, was in the 1901 Census at Kent County Industrial School, aged 15, as 'Boy Under Detention', and was married in 1911 at Shanghai to Emma Elizabeth Lyons.
May 1st, 2015 Update
David Scott visiting Saiwan (courtesy Karmel Kingan), Wong Nai Chung Map (via Rusty Tsoi), Hideo Wada's Sword? (courtesy Mark Burch) BAAG AA Gun sketch (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), First Day cover, front and back (courtesy Luba Estes) Douglas Franklin articles (courtesy Rosemary Inglis), Charlie Heather (IWM, via Martin Percival)
What to do with HMS Tamar? It now seems almost certain that the large piece of wreckage discovered a few months ago in the southern sector of the harbour is indeed from the wreck. I haven’t seen it yet, but imagine it isn’t much to look at; it’s not the Mary Rose. However, the ship was a central feature of Hong Kong for many years, its name lives on in Admiralty, and it’s one of the few tangible remains from that period. How to best, and most usefully, preserve and display all or part of it?
29I’ve been discussing William Valentine Field (HKRNVR) with Stephen Davies. We don’t know much about his background, except for his mention in Ellen Field’s book and the fact that he appears to have been and Inspector in the Police Reserve in the 1930s (when he was also working for the Peninsular). Does anyone else know anything about him? 29 Herbert Dixon’s (RNZVR) cousin got in touch.
27 David Scott, nephew of Arthur Beresford Scott of the Royal Rifles of Canada, visited Sai Wan Cemetery recently together with Karmel Schreyer to see his uncle’s name on the memorial. Karmel kindly sent me a few photos of the occasion. 27 Alexander Kinnear’s (Hong Kong Police) granddaughter got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK).
26 Len Seabrook’s (RA) nephew got in touch. Recently I have come to believe that Seabrook was one of three 24 Coast Battery gunners killed in the shelling of Pak Sha Wan on the morning of 14 December 1941. 26 Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of a letter which Yvonne Charter received from Superintendent Franklin acknowledging her duties from 8 Dec to 31 Dec 1941 at the Royal Naval Hospital. I have seen at least half a dozen letters of this sort (typically for this sort of role, rather than active fighting), but I don’t know why they were needed. 26 I was contacted by a writer from the South China Morning Post about an article concerning the recent discovery of part of the wreck of HMS Tamar. Good to see the continuation of interest there!
25 Ian Blair’s (Punjabis) grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo of a Japanese sword that ‘Kiwi’ Blair brought back. Family lore has it that it was taken from the Commandant of Shamshuipo after a number of POWs lynched him at the end of the war! Now this is interesting, because to the best of my knowledge the camp had three Commandants: the first was Lt. Saikanu, then Lt. Wada Hideo, then Lt. Honda. Saikanu was accepted by the POWs (they called him George), Honda was respected too, but Hideo Wada – although there were mixed reports, some positive - was generally hated. Among other things, he had been in charge of the Lisbon Maru and was rightly blamed for the deaths in the sinking. I have never been able to find details, but everyone says that he ‘died shortly after the war’. I admit I wondered if he might have been lynched (and perhaps it was covered up or simply ignored) though I have nothing solid to base that on aside from a lack of any other information. But if he was the owner of that sword, as a lowly army lieutenant interpreter (hence getting a low-prestige job in charge of POWs) he would almost certainly have possessed one of the mass-produced wartime swords rather than one of those famous and valuable hundreds-of-years-old family swords. But I’m sure an expert could quickly determine that.
20TK reports an interesting book called Forgotten Soldiers by Fred Gaffen (published by Canadian Defence Academy Press). It records the names of the Native Canadians who fought in Hong Kong: “From New Brunswick came Henry Martin and from Quebec, Patrick Metallic and Frank Methot, who enlisted in the Royal Rifles of Canada. From Manitoba came Max Noel of the Bird Tail Sioux Band; Stanley Frederick Roy Stodgell from Transcona; Oliver Barron, David Chaboyer, Ernest Lavallee and Jean Joseph Anthony, Sioux from St Laurent, who did not return; Edgar Herbert Baptiste from the Red Pheasant Reserve near Battleford who died of many wounds, and George Badger from the Cote Band, Kamsack, Saskatchewan, who died as a POW in 1943, all of whom were members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Private Bertrand C. Moore, from Moose Factory and later Cochrane, Ontario, died of pneumonia and beri-beri while a prisoner at Camp Niigata, Japan, three weeks before the end of the war. Private Edward Joseph Morrisseau of the Fort Alexander Band died shortly after his return, as did Private Isaac Sanderson, an Indian living in Selkirk, Manitoba.” Baptiste’s name, of course, ‘featured’ in the strange book The War Bonnet. 20 Philip Cracknell made the interesting discovery of a Wikipedia entry about Stanley child internee Patrick Corrigan.
19 Rosemary Inglis kindly sent me a newspaper cutting about the establishment of the ‘Douglas Franklin Reserve’. Douglas was a Hong Kong evacuee who settled in Australia (along with many others), and his father was pre-war editor of the South China Morning Post. She also sent a clipping about the family publishing a book of the latter’s poems, and a menu from the post-war voyage of the Duntroon returning Hong Kong evacuees from Australia.
17 I was contacted today from a reporter from the China Daily, writing an article about the Lisbon Maru for publication next month. 17 Elizabeth Ride sent the Stanley Group an interesting but undated BAAG document implying that the Japanese were willing to negotiate an exchange of up to 600 women, children, and invalids from Hong Kong internment if a similar number of Japanese men of military age were allowed to leave internment in Australia in return. Needless to say, this didn’t happen.
16 Luba Estes, daughter of Volunteer A.V. Skvorsov (the well-known artist) sent the ‘Silver Circle’ (of which, to my great honour, I transiently became a member!) a first day cover of the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Hong Kong that she: “used to have it framed and hanging along side my father’s POW sketches in our house - then it disappeared - perhaps I took it off to show it to somebody and never hung it back.” Luba also sent me some autobiographical notes which I read with great interest as I waited three hours for a delayed flight to Bucharest! I have asked her (not for the first time) to produce an autobiography. As a Russian-speaking actress who worked for the CIA in its busiest period, you would be right in thinking that she has led an ‘interesting’ life…
15 Barbara Anslow mentioned that she has also been invited to: “take part in a remembrance of VJ Day at the Cenotaph Whitehall on August 15th, including a march past of veterans… very slowly I hope.”
12 Sally Jones, whose uncle was lost on B24 Sweepy Time Gal in Hong Kong waters, kindly sent me the relevant MACR and some associated notes. Now I have a fuller picture of the fate of the crew.
11 A relative of Andrew Allan, Royal Scots, kindly sent me a photo of his plaque at the Mount Thompson memorial Gardens Crematorium, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (illustrated).
10 Following last month’s notes, Elizabeth Ride kindly sent four pages of BAAG observations about the crew of Sweepy Time Gal. 10 Robert Gibson kindly put me in touch with the grandson of George Robert Haymon, who at the end of WWII: “was given the job of assisting the Chinese Nationalist take the surrender of the Japanese in many Japanese Cities. The deal seems to have been: The Japanese would hold in position until the Chinese Nationalist plus Colonel arrived to take the surrender. They would then surrender in good order and be repatriated to Japan. One place he was scheduled to take the surrender on this basis was Hong Kong, as agreed between Roosevelt and Chiang Kai Shek. He was, however, delayed and the British Navy got there first.”
9 Hong Kong University Press are provisionally interested in publishing my thesis on the evacuation for British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940 as a book. I really hope this goes ahead! 9 Jen & Philip Burton kindly sent me a clip from The Telegraph today. A light-hearted letter from Paul Corser about an American bomb found in Hong Kong during work that he was supervising.
8 Henry Ching kindly sent me the next two of his Occasional Papers, this time on Eurasian Volunteers (primarily featuring 3 Coy and 5 Bty) and locals in the HKVDC. As usual these can be found on the website here.
7 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent a BAAG sketch from KWIZ #80 of January 1945 of a Japanese AA gun. 7 Rusty Tsoi placed some very interesting maps of Wong Nai Chung on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today. Much as I dislike facebook on principal, the discussions on that page are becoming really interesting.
6 The battle to recognise the wreck of HMS Tamar continues! Today I supplied those in the front line with details of all the other naval wrecks around Hong Kong. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any real doubt that what was found is the remains of Tamar. At that location, and at that size, a demonstrably naval wreck can really only be one vessel. 6 Fr. Bernard Tohill’s (Stanley Internee) great niece got in touch. 6 Here’s an odd thing: Charlie Heather of the 1st Middlesex is said to have been the first British FEPOW to return to the UK after the war. One of my favourite photos is of him in hospital shortly after his arrival, being visited by his elderly mum and dad. I keep it above the computer I am typing on now. When I came home from the office today, it had fallen off my wall and was lying on my scanner – and the first email I opened was one from Martin Percival (who had originally alerted me to that photo), asking for a copy of that very same photo to help in preparation for a RAPWI presentation he is giving later this year!
5 I heard the fantastic news today that Barbara Anslow and Bill Macauley will represent Stanley Camp at the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in June. Apparently the Java Club (at the invitation of the Not Forgotten Association) were responsible for organising this very appropriate and much deserved honour. 5 Keith Brown, son of ‘Topper’ Brown of the Middlesex, raised an interesting question. He’s wondering whether Tim Carew’s interview notes from his two books (The Fall Of Hong Kong and Hostages To Fortune) have been preserved? It’s not impossible; some years ago when corresponding with the family of Sergeant Rich (killed at PB14 at Ocean Park) they showed me a letter they had received from Carew in the 60s, but I wonder if there’s a mother lode of these somewhere?
4 Tai Hang Wong sent me details of an interesting and unusual publication, "The Plunder of Hong Kong" published in Chinese by Kin Man Book Publisher. He notes: “Mr. Tao Wen (Wen is the last name) 1907 - 1950 was a left-wing wood carving artist born in the Mei County of Kwangtung Province. He joined the Left-Wing Artists League of China in 1931 and fled to Hong Kong in 1932 to avoid the arrest of the Nationalists following the failure of the Fukien coup earlier that year. After establishing the Hong Kong Wood Carving Study Society in 1935, Tao Wen went to Yenan in support of the December 9 Anti-Japan Movement. In the 1940's he lived in Kweilin and Hong Kong.” The book appears to contain some wood carving pictures showing the scenes of HK during the Japanese occupation period.
2 At the end of last month Geoffrey Emerson kindly put me in touch with evacuee Ian Meffan’s family. This turned out to be very useful, as it transpired that in my research I had swapped Henry Meffan’s and Norman Meffan’s (they were brothers) families.
1 Hugh Farmer (of Industrial History HK) let me know he’d come across: “the book, Golden Prospects: Chinese on the West Coast of New Zealand. This contains two or three pages about Harry Kin Hong Long.” He kindly sent these to me. Long was in the reserve of the Armoured Car group of the HKVDC. In the King’s Road ambush he was shot in the leg and had it amputated. 1 In response to the Grispholm question, a number of people made useful recommendations of relevant books. These included: David Miller, Mercy Ships Bruce Ellerman, Japanese American Civilian Prisoner Exchanges and Detention Camps, 1941-1945 Robert B Hammond, Bondservants of the Japanese George E Baxter, Personal Experience During The Siege Of Hongkong. Gwen Dew, Prisoner of the Japs Joseph W. Alsop, I've Seen the Best of It Charles E Bohlen, Witness to History 1929 - 1969 Phyllis Argll, Prisoner in Japan Bruce Elleman, Japanese-American civilian prisoner exchanges and detention camps, 1941-45 And two websites here and here.
April 1st, 2015 Update
Saiwan Cemetery (courtesy Andrew Hayward), Leslie Cheung (via Tai Hang Wong), Peter Moddrel & Colleagues (courtesy Richard Moddrel) RNH Pillar (author), Henry Wong article (courtesy Belinda Wong-Swanson), Jim Ford letter (courtesy Glenis Devereux) Billie Gill and friends (courtesy Ian Gill), Black Hole in 1947 (via Rusty Choi), Black Hole today (author)
Launched in London June 1863, HMS Tamar was berthed permanently at Hong Kong in 1897 as the base ship for the Royal Navy. A big white shape familiar to every sailor who passed through Hong Kong between then and 1941, she has been forgotten by everyone for more than seventy years – aside from those of us who know where the Hong Kong place name Tamar (applied now to our seat of government) comes from. But now, it seems, HMS Tamar may have (at least in part) reappeared.
29 I had a long walk today around the Jardine’s Lookout / Mount Butler area, coming back via the AA position diagonally opposite Park View. I’m at least 90% sure that Rusty is correct. That’s the site of the Black Hole. I had been there at least 100 times before, but didn’t realise its significance. It looks small when you stand on the concrete floor, but that’s a well known effect with buildings. Witnesses claim around 150 men were locked in, and that would certainly have been a tight squeeze. However, it could also be a slight exaggeration (even today I could probably name fewer than 50 who were there when the mortar hit). 29 Today I sent Colin Day my part (covering the war years) of the longer version of Solly Bard’s obituary. Writing this necessitated re-reading Light and Shade, which was no hardship at all. Interestingly, in his book Bard refers to Lindsay Ride as being a Major, but in fact he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 19 June 1941. 29 Frederick Nelson’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. I believe Nelson must have been in B Coy as he is mentioned in Wright’s book.
28A few days ago I received a top-secret email about ‘something’ being found at sea. Today it was publically revealed that what appears to be a large part of the remains of the original base ship, HMS Tamar, have turned up in the reclamation work for the Central-Wanchai bypass. Taken out and scuttled as the Japanese approached in December 1941, the remains of the wreck were blown up and largely removed in 1947. However, it seems that a very significant chunk was left in situ – now about six metres under the seabed near the old Wanchai Ferry Pier – and this has now been rediscovered. Of course this would be of huge historical importance if it could be proven that it really is Tamar – and all evidence so far suggests that it is. 28 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page where we’ve been debating the location of the ‘Black Hole of Hong Kong’, it seems that Rusty Choi has shown that it was immediately above the 3 Company store shelter next to the Wong Nai Chung Gap AA position. 28 A friend of Dick Sutcliffe (Lieutenant Colonel J.L.R. Sutcliffe’s son) and a serving Air Canada captain, today kindly sent a photo of Sutcliffe’s grave at Sai Wan. Sutcliffe of course died of disease at the Bowen Road Hospital in 1942. By coincidence the pilot’s father was also a crew member of HMCS Ontario at the liberation of Hong Kong.
27Having recently read that a small part of the old Royal Naval Hospital was still visible on the site of the Ruttonjee Hospital (whose entrance I march past at the start and end of each weekday on my commute) I decided to break my journey for once, and walk up for a look. All I could find, though, was what looked like the top of an old column. I wonder if that’s it, or perhaps I missed something?
24I heard from Dave Deptford that the medals of Gunner Lawrence Cook R.A are being offered for sale privately in the UK at GBP165.00. The group comprises GSM Palestine, with the 39-45, Pacific, War, and Defence medals. The most interesting thing is the paperwork, which claims that he was captured on 16 December 1941 – which, if it is accurate, would imply Kowloon. 24 I was emailed an interesting story today: “When the Japanese invaded, the owner of a hotel contacted his network of friends and told them to pack up their valuables in a large chest, put their name on the front, and bring it to the hotel. They were then stacked in the hotel basement, and the entrance to the basement was then bricked up and plastered over. After the surrender the Japanese requisitioned the hotel, but did not discover the basement.” It sounds quite credible, but I think it may have been Singapore rather than Hong Kong. Ring any bells?
22Helping with Solomon Bard’s obit I’ve been looking into some details of the Field Ambulance. Elizabeth Ride passed me an interesting comment from its commander (her father):"In the Shamshuipo prison-of-war camp I was sought out by an officer of another arm of the service who told me of an incident enacted on the south of the island, of which he and his men were the admiring spectators. They had a full and uninterrupted view of a neighbouring peninsula, and one afternoon shortly before the surrender they saw one of our ambulances making its way steadily northwards towards Island Road as though uncertain as to how far it could or should venture. The reason for this caution soon became obvious to the onlookers when they were able to make out enemy positions held in strength to the north. An abrupt halt of the ambulance indicated that its team too had been made aware of its danger, probably by warning rifle fire. The ambulance backed along the road to safety, and then turned, ready to make a more rapid get-away if required. The stretcher bearers then alighted and moved north again on foot carrying a stretcher. Again they drew enemy fire, and again they had to retire and take cover. After some time the team emerged again and made another advance along a different route, but again they were forced to retire. This happened a number of times, but it was obvious the team was determined to rescue their comrade and that a way had to be found. They had no idea they were being watched by approving eyes and the applause of spectators played no part in their behaviour; it was purely their sense of duty and loyalty to a comrade that spurred them on, and when finally the party appeared with their wounded man, the far away hills rang with cheers of applause. Theirs, no one can deny, was a show of heroism in every sense of the word." 22 Tai Hang Wong alerted me to a series of very interesting photos of Hong Kong (see these links: one, two, three) in around 1935. One shot of Tai Koo includes a white building to the right of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery on the south side of King's Road to the left of the Mount Parker Road, which was formerly the Quarry Bay Junior School (opened in 1926). In the 80s' or later it became Pui Chi Boys' which was closed in 2007. When looking into that area again, I found this very interesting thesis about Woodside.
21 Philip Cracknell sent me a very useful set of photos taken in and around Wong Nai Chung Gap, probably very shortly after the war. While not of the best quality, this is helping establish more exactly the position of shelters and buildings which are no longer there (or in some cases, probably still there but buried under the cricket pitches). One of the issues we’re looking at is the exact position of the ‘Black Hole of Hong Kong’ in which many prisoners were locked on the night of 19 December 1941. Early on the 20th it was hit by a mortar bomb, and those no longer fit to walk to North Point (a long way over steep hills) were bayoneted.
20 It seems that I receive a question about this every year, but the issue of Sweepy Time Gal has resurfaced. This was a B24 (hull number 42-40622, MACRS 9126) shot down off Hong Kong on 18 April 1944, recovered by the Japanese, and brought ashore in the area of (I believe) Kennedy Town. Families of the crew members who perished are still trying to find their burial places; two are rumoured to have been interred somewhere in the ground of HKU. 20 Alderley Edge published an update on the Siddans story today.
19 Interestingly, in light of on the note below, I received another email from a gentleman whose father, Des Bettany, fought in North Malaya and spent time in several camps including Changi. He notes: “He always told me he had to paint to keep sane and upon his death we found over 300 paintings he did during those dark days. Many of them are cartoons and show the opposite of what he was living in.” While not strictly following this site’s focus on Hong Kong, the website they have placed many of the illustrations on is worth a look. 19 I received an email from someone researching pre-war Hong Kong artist A.N. MacFadyen, who is also interested in Hong Kong’s POW art. I let her know about the works of Rozario (menus, camp scenes), Baptista (concert programmes), Skvorzov (people, camp scenes), Savitsky (people), Scott-Lindsey (people and camp scenes), and other camp artists.
18 Philip Cracknell has completed two more interesting articles. The first is a revamp of the Siddans one, with the addition of photos that resulted from contact with Siddans’s family (thanks to the newspaper article mentioned last month). The second covers the houses that were on and around Red Hill during the war.
17 Jen and Philip Burton kindly responded to last month’s request for information about Major John Price with some excerpts from William Sprague’s, HKVDC, diary that mention him. Elizabeth Ride also assisted with an offer of the report that Price wrote in 1945 about his years as a POW.
16Richard Frost kindly sent me an old photo of PB17. 16 Margaret Martin of the Java FEPOW Club kindly did some extra work on the subject of Mr Siddans (see last month).
11 Henry Wong’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch. Henry was in 3 Coy and in 1978 was interviewed by the South China Morning Post about his experiences in the fighting at PB1 and PB2 on Jardine’s Lookout. She kindly provided a copy of the article. 11 Peter Moddrel’s (Royal Corps of Signals, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch, kindly sending several photographs. He notes of his father: “He joined the Army in 1934 and retired in 1956 with the Rank of WOII. After the war he served in Palestine, Korea, Austria (where he met my mother) they married in Vienna. They then lived in Germany until he retired. He kept a diary whilst a prisoner which is in the Royal Signals museum in Blandford Forum. After retiring from the Army he joined Cross and Blackwell which was bought out by Nestles and retired at the age of 65 as a Senior Print Buyer. He died in 1986 at the age of 69 whilst on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico from a massive heart attack. In 1975 he returned to Hong Kong on holiday and an article as written about his exploits in the South China Morning Post.”
9 Victor Scantlebury’s (Middlesex) great nephew got in touch. He notes: “I have a letter written to my Grandmother by his widow, Elizabeth, which gives some detail about the events leading to his death.” The letter gives details of Scantlebury’s capture and the Maryknoll massacre. 9 Glenis Devereux kindly sent me a photo that she found in her father’s (John Devereux, Royal Scots) papers. She notes that it is: “of a young Royal Scots man in uniform. On the back was written: ‘For old times sake, all the best, Adam’.” (Illustrated). Does anyone recognize him? She also attached a letter from Jim Ford MC, written to her brother.
7 A wartime shell was disposed of in Victoria Park today, having been discovered during the digging for the new Central-Wanchai bypass. EOD kindly told me that it was a Japanese: “240mm round, last one was at Tin Hau in 2007. Was fired by a Type 45 Howitzer. Found on what would have been the old sea bed before reclamation. A round dropped short fired at something large and concrete in the vicinity of Victoria Park?” That target was probably PB53.
6Tai Wong let me know about the autobiography of Mrs. Rebecca Chan Chung which is available in English as: Piloted To Serve: Memoirs of Rebecca Chan Chung, World War II in China with Flying Tigers, U.S. Army and CNAC. He notes that it was: “Self-published in 2011, ISBN No. 1467518646. Rebecca became a Registered Nurse in Hong Kong on 10th December 1941 and worked in Queen Mary Hospital during the war until the hospital was taken over by the Japanese Army. She played a prominent role in nurse training in the 1960s and 1970s.” He also mentioned that she was married to Leslie Chung Wah-Leung of 4 Bty, HKVDC. The book was published by Rebecca’s daughter Deborah who adds that: “My great uncle Dr. Wai Cheung CHAU served as a medical doctor in Hong Kong St. John Ambulance and was seriously wounded in the battle at Magazine Gap… You may also be interested in the 2013 book ‘Pray Standing’ by my cousin Frank Ling (son of my dad's #1 sister). The book has the beginning chapter on the Battle of Hong Kong and includes the wartime experience of my dad and his brothers. Frank was in Hong Kong during WWII, though he was a child then. [Here is a website about this book]. I shall speak in Cantonese based on my mother's book in the HK Museum of History at 3 pm on Sat., July 11, 2015. In addition, I shall speak in English at 10 am in Diocesan Girls' School at 10 am on Friday, July 10, 2015. All are welcome to both free events.”
5 I continue a long-time correspondence with William Sprague’s family. Sprague was in the Armoured Car Unit of the HKVDC and kept a fascinating diary as a POW, noting the activities of his mess: Capt K.C. Hamilton ASC Unit Harbour Office Capt W.C Clark Fortress Signal Coy Capt D.J.S Crozier Commanding 2nd Battery Education Capt S.O. Hill PWD Lt K.M.A. Barnett Commanding 3rd Battery Lt S.J.G. Burt Corps Artillery HQ Education Lt R. Sleap 4th Battery Lt G.S. Wilby 3rd Battery Education Gnr K.W. Pedersen 1st Battery Gnr O. Skinner 1st Battery HKS Bank Pte W. Sprague Armoured Car Platoon Harbour Office as well as other happenings around camp.
3 Following on from last month’s mention of Baptista’s drawing’s, David Bellis kindly forwarded this link. 3 Ian Gill kindly sent me a photo of three Stanley internees – Joan Witham, Billie Gill and Freda Howkins – at a reunion at Freda’s home in Odiham, Hampshire, on July 3, 1985. He notes: “They had all been residents of Bungalow B in 1942. Philip and Joan Witham had a son, Anthony, who was exactly the same age as Billie’s boy, Brian. When Joan was ill, Freda bathed Anthony and Brian together in a tin bath with water heated by a charcoal chatty. Freda was later evacuated to Shanghai. In 1985, the ladies’ names were Joan Gordon-Thompson and Freda Ingham.” 3 I was contacted today by a lady planning a book about the Gripsholm exchange. She has already spoken to Don Ady, and has Emily Hahn’s book. I would recommend Taken in Hong Kong by Norman Briggs. Anyone else got any good sources?
1 Following on from last month, Bill Lake sent me a note from a friend of his: “Lionel Lammert was the brother of Isa Lammert who became Mrs. Isa Watson. Lionel’s father was interned with my parents and shared the same room with Isa and others. The bit that is wrong is that Lionel was not the son of the Government vet. Mr. Lammert senior ran his own business… the auctioneers Lammerts. Ken Watson (Isa’s husband and interned in Argyle Street and who later became a Legislative Council member) took over the auctioneer business after the war.” 1 Arthur John McGahan’s family are trying to trace his wartime years. He was clearly in Hong Kong and probably a member of the HKVDC, but government records show that he was permitted to leave the Hong Kong Defence Reserve in December 1940. The family believe he went to Shanghai and was captured there, yet the London Gazette shows him being promoted to WOI on 22 March 1943. Can anyone fill in the details? 1 It seems very likely that another Stanley internee diary will shortly be kindly donated by the internee’s family to the St Stephen’s College Heritage Gallery. More on this in June.
March 1st, 2015 Update
RAMC Buttons from Stanley (courtesy New Zealand National Army Museum), 2 Bty HKVDC (courtesy Elaine Polglase), Japanese Prayer Flag (courtesy Janet Sykes) John Devereux (courtesy Glenis Devereux), Jim Ford & Vic Thomson (courtesy Tom Thomson), Robert Ross (courtesy Raymon Ross) Edward Pierce (courtesy Mark Riddell), Stewart commendation of Edward Bull (John Bull), Lewis Gun find (anonymous)
Surprises, surprises, surprises. It’s a bit like that American TV series, ‘Pawn Stars’ which starts: ‘You never know what’s going to come through that door’. This month’s surprises include an account of an intact Lewis Gun found in the Botanical Gardens, an invaluable fully annotated photo of 2 Bty HKVDC of Stanley fame, and finally locating the remains of those cremated at Stanley following the massacre there. You never know what’s going to come through that email…
26 I received an email from the town of Mossley, at the edge of the Pennines, where they are researching the names on the local war memorial. One of them is Signalman Albert Lawton, a Lisbon Maru survivor who passed away with bacillary dysentery at Osaka just two months after the sinking.
24 Jack Mitchell (HKVDC) sent me Chinese New Year greetings, noting: “En-route to Sham Shui Po Camp late in December ’41, we passed the Majestic Theatre (on Nathan Road) and the billboard depicted a ship disappearing over the horizon in murky cloud and rain and generally foul weather, the title of the picture – yes, you have guessed it ‘The Long Voyage Home’. How ironical.”
22Robert Ross’s (Royal Scots) grandson got in touch, kindly sending photos of Ross, plus his POW Index Card and Red Cross report. Ross was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft to Japan.
21 Marciano Baptista’s (HKVDC) great nephew got in touch. Baptista was one of the great camp artists, who produced wonderful illustrations for camp concerts and so forth.
20Jim Trick and Vince Lopata of the HKVCA kindly sent me a link to an important Doctoral thesis covering the War Crimes trials pertaining to Hong Kong (with special emphasis on those that included Canadian POWs).
19Philip Cracknell has received – thanks to the article posted in the UK newspaper – a possible photo of John Siddans. 19 The Industrial History Hong Kong website has posted a new story about Waglan Island Lighthouse, which had to be evacuated when the war started.
18 Richard Frost kindly sent me links to photos of Pillbox 18 at Repulse Bay, and Eucliffe.
17 I received an interesting enquiry from Canada, wanting to know if there are any genuine photos of C Force in action in Hong Kong. I had to inform them that to the best of my knowledge, although I believe some were taken, none are known to have survived. 17 The widow of Jorgen Vibe Christensen contacted me, no doubt because of conversations with Frode, and kindly sent me several more photos of 2 Battery HKVDC.
16For reasons that I’m not yet ready to reveal (a man of mystery!), for the last few months I have been re-reading my entire library of Hong Kong World War Two literature – several hundred pieces in all. Today I was reading a rather odd book called Silks, Satins, Gold Braid and Monkey Jackets by Jim Shepherd. This time I read as far as the appendices, which I think I missed on the first go, I was fascinated to read that it was Shepherd with two police friends who interred the charred remains of the unfortunates whose bodies were cremated outside St Stephen’s College. Shepherd notes that they buried them where they were burned, and nothing is under the memorial in the cemetery. However, he then went on to say that he had kept anything metal that they found, and eventually donated these items to the National Army Museum in New Zealand! I contacted the museum and discovered that these remains include a number of buttons, a watch face, and an ID tag from a German POW camp (Stalag XVIII-C). I suppose it’s just feasible that a member of the BEF might have been captured in France, taken to the camp (which was built in early 1941), escaped, rejoined the army, and then been shipped to Hong Kong before December, but it seems unlikely. The museum then very kindly sent me photos of all the buttons, still clearly showing the effects of the fire. While most of the buttons are either standard army, or HKVDC, two of them are RAMC – and in that context almost certainly were from the uniforms of the three medics killed there (George Black, Peter Witney, and William Parkin). However, I’m not sure if Black (who was HKVDC) would have worn RAMC uniform, so these most likely belonged to either Parkin or Witney. 16 Bill Lake notes: “I have just returned from Kweilin where we filmed some more of the documentary concerning the Donald Kerr escape and the Flying Tigers. We actually went in the cave that was Claire Chennault’s Command Post. It was huge and stretched back into the mountain about 3-4 kilometers according to the local guide. We went in about 2 kilometers but due to time constraints had to come back out. Near the cave they had built the Flying Tigers Museum, but that was not yet completed. They plan to open the museum on March 28th and some members of the group are scheduled to attend. Mrs. Chennault who is about 96 may or may not attend the opening. We also went to Erhtong and Yantong where the Flying Tigers / AVG / 14th Air force airstrips were and actually discovered one of the rollers that was used to manually flatten the runways.”
15Frode is back in touch (see November) with his exhaustive researches into Danish defenders of Hong Kong. He now lists: 2nd Battery: Niels Ørskov Christensen (died 1942 in POW camp) Jacob A. Gundesen Erik Hüttemeier Børge Herschend Holger Dreyer Jørgen Vibe Christensen 1st Battery Kurt Wilkens (killed 25 December 1941) Kay Westergaard Pedersen 1 MG Company Kaj Søren Kjær (killed 18-19 December 1941) Amazingly, he also sent a fully annotated photo of 2nd Battery, HKVDC showing Ken Barnett still the CO. Does anyone know when Crozier took over from him? That would help us date the photo. Frode would also like to learn more about Alec Damsgaard (who was certainly Danish) and Holger Christiansen of the HKDDC (who may have been Danish), both of whom were in the December 25th MTB escape.
14 After threatening for several years, this month my wife finally joined the Helena May. We have already been there for a couple of meals, and it’s such a nice club. But it reminded me of eating there with Elizabeth Ride last year. She recalled pre-war nativity plays in the Green Room, but also that the building had been the HQ of the 1st Middlesex early in the fighting. Today she kindly sent me a copy of the attachment to Appendix B of Maltby’s Despatch (ADM 199/1286), which refers to its use as an HQ. The subject of the attachment was the firing on the dynamite-laden vessel Jeanette by PB63 with great loss of life. Corporal Heather is named as the man who gave the order to fire. Oddly enough, four years later he was the first of all the British FEPOWs to return to the UK, and a photo of him recuperating in hospital being visited by his parents hangs on my wall above this computer.
12 Ian Gill sent some fascinating photos of his mother with Mickey Hahn and Charles Boxer at the latter’s home (Ringshall End) in 1994. 12 Yet again I have been asked for details about Betty Lam who married Francis Woodley (Mike) Kendall in China in the 1930s. Can anyone help? So far all attempts to find Kendall’s (SOE, Z Force HKVDC) family have failed.
11 A local newspaper in Siddans’ part of the world has joined in the search for his family.
10KGV is integrating their Roll of Honour into the school curriculum, which I think is a great idea. I once researched those named on it (while my kids played football on the pitch outside), and sent them the potted version. They are also interested in learning more about alumni Lieutenant Lionel Lammert (son of the Government vet, who was transferred from the HKVDC to the Rajputs and beheaded in Causeway Bay) and Captain Crozier, HKVDC, who was a teacher there as well as OC 2 Bty.
9A Canadian film maker is looking for any interesting details about Colonel Jack J.H. Price, Royal Rifles of Canada. I have passed on what I know, which unfortunately isn’t a great deal.
8The South China Morning Post today ran an article about the finding of Siddans’s ID bracelet (see last month).
7 Edward Arthur Bull’s (RAOC) son got in touch. In response to a question in October, he notes: “you ask if Edward Arthur Bull (my father) was a founder member of the Far East Prisoners of War Association. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe he was – he was certainly very active in the Association. I’m not sure how much you know about my father. He was awarded the Military Medal for his service in Hong Kong, something he was always very proud of. Despite his wartime experience, he couldn’t wait to return to HK, and managed a posting there in 1947. He stayed initially with the army (REME), then with RHKDF as armourer and finally Hong Kong Government (Treasury) until 1972. He retired to York, and passed away in 1991.” He included various documents, the most interesting by far being a letter of recommendation written on 31st March 1942 and signed by Monkey Stewart of the Middlesex, who of course passed away a few months later following the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. 7 Edward Pierce's (RA, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo of him. 7 Tan notes: “There is a PB located on the hill side near Queen Mary Hospital. [New slope maintenance work there will affect it]. The other PB there near the gas station was demolished when expanding Pokfulam Road before.” Does anyone know anything about this work, and whether the Pillbox will be affected? Tan also sent me a photo and a map. 7 Francis Normand kindly sent a photo of his father (illustrated. See last month). 7 Dave Deptford let me know that in the DNW Auction of 25th February, Lot 633, is the BEM Group of five medals (with a detailed write up, the BEM being for services as a POW) to Coy Havildar Major Amir Ali, 5th/7th Rajputs. Estimate GBP 350+.
6 Robert ‘Flash’ Clayton of the Royal Rifles passed away today. A survivor of the St Stephen’s Massacre, I had the pleasure of meeting him once. 6 Stephen Davies asked the interesting question of whether anyone had ever compiled a full list of all medals and awards won by members of the Hong Kong garrison. I asked around the various medal experts, but none of them know of any. So I have started compiling one myself. However, in our correspondence Mark from Aberdeen Medals noted that one could search “the Second World War 'Recommendations' on-line at The National Archives file series WO 373”. 6 Philip Cracknell has written a blog about a number of unexploded artillery rounds found in Hong Kong’s hills recently. Another recent post about Stanley Internment Camp is also worth a look.
5 Tom Thomson kindly sent a photo of his father Victor Thomson (see last month) with James Ford MC at the 2003 ceremony when the Royal Scots received new regimental colours, and another of the Hong Kong colours sent to the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank in Singapore for safe keeping before hostilities commenced in the Far East, later rediscovered in a bazaar in Malaya in the 1950s, and now displayed at the regimental museum in Edinburgh Castle.
4 John Devereux’s (Royal Scots) daughter got in touch, kindly sending several photos. Devereux was badly injured in the fighting on 19 December, most probably at Wong Nai Chung Gap, where he was shot in the face. She notes that after this wound he was: “left with half his face permanently paralysed, who could not close his constantly running eye and had to sleep with it open, suffering further serious complications as a result.” He passed away when he was just fifty. Interestingly she had a copy of the famous battalion photo of the Royal Scots, but it is very slightly different from the copy the rest of us have! It was clearly taken just a few seconds before or after the other version. Among other interesting documents retained by the family is a partial record of his pre-war hospitalization at the Bowen Road Military Hospital. This covers, in great detail, February to October 1941. I wonder how it survived? I have not seen an equivalent anywhere.
3Janet Sykes kindly sent me a photo of a Hinamaru Yosegak or “Good Luck flag” of the sort given to Japanese soldiers with patriotic messages from close family members or workplace friends as they went off to war. This belonged to her grandfather John Robertson (see November). 3 Following last month’s question about American-made .303 ammunition recently found in Hong Kong, Ken Skelton notes: “Due to Lee Enfield shortages the Canadian Government received many US Pattern 17 (P17) Rifles with bayonets. Mainly used for home defence, Internment Camp Guards, airfield defence and on board RCN Ships. I recently parted from my collection a box of 30:06 ammunition, Canadian Issue "C" Broad arrow marked with the tell tale Red Warning Band across the box. The P17 Rifle usually, also had about a 1 1/2" Red Warning Band painted on the forestock wood. The Warning band was meant to alert users to NOT chamber .303 rounds in the P 17 - the cartridges are so similar.” 3 Tai Wong kindly sent me a Chinese translation of the Japanese four-Volume "A Comprehensive History of The Pan-East Asian War". The Hong Kong section starts on page 435 of Volume Two.
2 An ex-member of the Hong Kong Police kindly contacted me, telling the story of a Lewis Gun that was dug up in the Botanical Gardens in the winter of 92/93. That area was well guarded in 1941, as the Helena May Institute was for a while the Middlesex HQ, the Volunteer HQ was just a little further down Garden Road, and of course the Governor and garrison commander were based nearby. Kumta Prasad of B Coy 2/14 Punjabis was in charge of local defence. That Lewis Gun was probably part of the perimeter, but whether it was lost during the fighting (some trenches were hit by mortars) or buried deliberately to prevent it falling into Japanese hands, is a matter of conjecture. With it were a few rounds and the disintegrating remains of a drum magazine, but presumably the police disposed of the whole lot.
1 Russell Lockwood’s (RN) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending me his service card. Lockwood served on HMS Cicala.
February 1st, 2015 Update
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.”