Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
November 1st, 2014 Update
Eileen 'Jimmie' Begg, and Eileen with family (courtesy Anne Carter), Greg Leck (author) Foord memorial (courtesy Martin Heyes), James Hart (courtesy Archie Hart), George MacDonell's latest (author) Field Telephone (courtesy Craig Mitchell), Ken Oliver and son Bryan (courtesy Jilly Sutton), B24s over Hong Kong (USAAF)
I sometimes mention to people that this project began as a discovery of bullets on Hong Kong’s hillsides, and slowly morphed into a study of the people who fired them (or were fired at) and their families. Certainly these days it is the human story that dominates my research. This month has added several important examples: the first contact with the family of one of the nurses murdered at St Stephen’s, contact with a family whose son enlisted under a false name to serve with his brother – both then being lost on the Lisbon Maru, a photo of a naval volunteer with his children on the beach where later he would meet his death, and the annual contact with the family of James Hart who survived the Eucliffe massacre and is now aiming for his hundredth year. To put these in context, from another continent and another war we have a victim’s bedroom preserved untouched for almost one hundred years. I learned slowly that war’s only legacy is grief, and this October illustrates that supremely well.
29John Lawson (Brigadier Lawson’s son) let me know that he recently visited Hong Kong and saw the well-named Lawson Room at the Canadian Consulate here. 29 Brian Edgar let the Stanley Group know about a new book. I bought an electronic copy, but haven’t yet read it. 29 George ‘Ken’ Oliver’s (HKRNVR) granddaughter got in touch. She wanted to know more about how he met his end, but all I could tell her was that he was with the Aberdeen Mine Watching Station, and most probably disappeared around 23 December after evacuating from the Repulse Bay Hotel. The CWGC records simply say he was lost in the Repulse Bay area. He may have been shot on the beach as he left the tunnel, or he may have been picked up with others and marched away to be massacred at Eucliffe. I have yet to find an eyewitness report to his fate. She also kindly sent me a set of photos, including some of Ken with his children on what appears to be Repulse Bay beach in happier times.
28My younger son was doing a project about turning points in Hong Kong’s history, and I provided the famous photo of the formation of USAAF B24s bombing Hong Kong. I’ve always wanted to get the original full resolution version, as many interesting landmarks – including of course Sham Shui Po POW Camp – are also visible.
26 The first Hong Kong Club Walk of the new season! We had 15 people on the ‘Tea and Bullets’ route, which gently follows the length of Bowen Road looking down on the scene of the fighting in Wanchai, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, and Wong Nai Chung Gap. 26 Greg Leck let me know that Suzannah Linton’s book on the Hong Kong War Crimes Trials was published at the end of last year. I missed that.
25 I heard from the FEPOW Community that the whole of WO392 (the roster of British POWs in Japan or Japanese-occupied territories) is now online here. It’s a bit fiddly to use, but at least it’s there. 25 Brian Edgar has added a very interesting article about Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke on Gwulo.
24 I was asked whether Edward Arthur Bull RAOC 7584496 was a founder member of the Far Eastern Prisoner of War Association in Hong Kong. Does anyone know? 24 I heard back from Robert Taylor’s family (see August), via Hugh Farmer. I had mentioned that Mr Taylor was lucky in being unscathed when a bomb hit his wartime home –Stanley’s Bungalow C. Apparently I was wrong. The blast that killed the other inhabitants actually blew him bodily through the window, which no doubt saved his life but left him with severe back injuries. 24 A friend of Allan Webster’s (Middlesex, Lison Maru) family got in touch, and I was able to send him a photo of Mr Webster’s name on the Sai Wan Memorial. (He had seen this article on Michael Hurst’s web site).
22Mike Nelson (see last month) kindly sent a photo (illustrated) of his father, Thomas Nelson (RA, who survived the Lisbon Maru) and evacuated older brother Peter Nelson. 22 Robert Dunlop’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch. Mr Dunlop was of course wounded outside the North Point Power Station. His wife Edith was interned in Stanley.
18 A friend of the Woodward family (William Woodward was a Stanley Internee) got in touch. Margaret Woodward was evacuated, but I don’t know where their three children (Dorothy Ellen Lucy Woodward - born ca 1925 in Hong Kong, Margaret Joan Woodward - born ca 1930 in England when they were on leave, and Elizabeth Anne Woodward - born ca 1932 in Hong Kong) spent the war years as they are not mentioned in my records. I suspect they went to Australia too, as this family matches the demographics of a group that I believe are missing from my records. 18 Martin Heyes sent me this very nice link to a timeline of Pathe news clips about Hong Kong.
16George MacDonell (ex Sergeant of D Company, Royal Rifles of Canada) very kindly sent me a copy of his new book ‘They Never Surrendered’ about the Allied POWs who defied their captors in Hong Kong and Japan. I haven’t seen Mr MacDonell for a few years but I have unlimited respect for him, and would highly recommend his first book ‘One Soldier’s Story’ – not just for the honest and remarkable coverage of the war years, but also for what he did (through sheer determination) with his life in the years after.
15 Dave Deptford let me know that Thomas Murray’s (Royal Scots and a Lisbon Maru survivor) medals are for sale on eBay.
13With the cooler weather now upon us, the usual sleuths have been up in the hills where they today found an almost complete British Field Telephone.
10 Martin Heyes recently took the nephew (plus his wife) of Private Frank Foord of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, around Wong Nai Chung Gap, Saiwan Cemetery and Stanley, and kindly sent me a photo of a memorial to him, which is maintained by the family.
9 “Jimmie” Begg’s family was kind enough to send me a photo of her. They also note that her husband ‘Tooti’ Begg, HKVDC, was known as Tooti because of his false teeth. They added that the extended family had suggested that Jimmie evacuate to Australia, but Tooti had been confident that he could look after her if anything happened. They also sent a photo of Jimmie (first left at front), Tooti (second from left at back), with my correspondent on the ground near Jimmie, and her brother on the bicycle and her mother on the right hand end of the picture. She added: “My brother was packed off to school in England when he was about eight so I think the picture would have been taken in about 1937 or 1938. The family was in Chungking in 1937 and home leave in 1938 so I am guessing it was Chungking.”
8 Archie Hart was kind enough to send me a photo of his father James Hart, RASC, who will be 99 in January and is hoping to make his ‘ton’. Not bad for a man who (as regular readers of this site will know) was left for dead with seven bayonet wounds in the Eucliffe massacre.
7Charles and Robert William’s (both Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch. He notes: “One of the brothers was there under his own name, Richards, was a Sergeant I believe and is buried in Hong Kong, the other, while serving in the Army, but in a different unit to his brother, deserted and then re-enlisted under an assumed name so he could serve with his brother both were taken prisoner together and are known to have been on Lisbon Maru at the time it was sunk.” In fact both are memorialized in Hong Kong, though neither body was recovered. The family didn’t know what name Charles had enlisted under, but with a little sleuthing I was able to discover that it was Wilson. I had a note in my files that no one of that name was mentioned in POW Camp lists, and the CWGC entry showed that his parents were Richards.
6 Eileen Margaret ‘Jimmie’ Begg’s (HKVDC Nursing Detachment) niece got in touch. She notes: “It took me years of searching through libraries before I found out what happened to her. That would have been in the late 70s. I found the book by Oliver Lindsay and I also found The Fall of Hong Kong by Tim Carew which was written in the 60s. I still have the books. I heard my mother when she received a telegram about my aunt (Auntie ‘Jimmie’). I don’t remember whether I was ten at that time, but it is something I have never forgotten – the pain, agony and shock of her distress were very hard to absorb by a child. I could not do anything to help her. She never spoke about it and would never return to Hong Kong. She was born in Shanghai in 1905 and my father was born in Tientsin. All the Berthet and Cumming and Jameson families arrived in and were then born in China from 1862 onwards.” I have always wondered about the three nurses, Mrs Begg, Buxton, and Smith, and after so many years it is quite unsettling to suddenly make contact with one of their families. Mrs Buxton had a daughter called Patricia, but I have yet to discover what became of her (Mr Henry Buxton, HKVDC, was also killed).
4I returned from a business trip to San Francisco, went home and changed, and then immediately went to see Hong Kong’s famous protesters, take some photos, and chat to the students. As I walked away, who should I bump into but historian Greg Leck (author of Captives of Empire - see last month) who I thought I wouldn’t be able to meet on this visit. We had a good chat.
3 In answer to last month’s question, Dave Deptford confirmed that the HKPF revoked their militia status – according to the covering paper to the HKPF War Diary – on the afternoon of 20 December 1941: “when the Commissioner (Pennefather-Evans) drafted a note for The Governor, subsequently signed.” 3 Geoffrey Emerson noted: “In HK at the moment are two ladies from Australia whose aunts were in Stanley Camp. One aunt, Sheila Maria Haynes, left a number of mementoes, and three days ago, Judy and sister Susan presented these to St Stephen's College for the Heritage Gallery there. Philip Cracknell has done one of his fine blogs about Sheila and her husband, Patrick Cullinan, a policeman, who were married in Camp on 11th August 1945.” Apparently the Heritage Gallery has now had more than 5,000 visitors.
2On the Stanley Group, Michael Martin asked about resources covering the ‘out of camp’ experiences of third nationals in Hong Kong during the occupation. Brian Edgar pointed him at the very interesting Pio-Ulski site, which also exhibits one of the 29 August 1945 letters of thanks from the POW senior officers.
1After we had established the date of the Anhui’s departure from Hong Kong (see last month), Philip Cracknell pointed out that the ship N.L. Smith actually departed on was the Ulysses (see the original question in August). The foolish thing is that I knew this already, as it formed part of my research into the evacuation of Hong Kong. Sadly I quite often Google things these days, only to find the answers in my own work…
October 1st, 2014 Update
McCombe servicing Moth, and POW Camp sketch (courtesy Brian McCombe), Barclay Medals (courtesy DNW via Dave Deptford) Inglis homage (courtesy Ian Inglis), RSM Ford (courtesy Teresa Gilliam-Hill), Hyde-Lay family (courtesy Jill Fell) Bernard Ward (courtesy Lynda Winter), Maltby letter (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Stanley pillow (courtesy Ian Gill)
The end of September is typically when Hong Kong’s best weather starts. For an hour this morning I sat on our balcony watching the world go by (while the kids’ stupid rabbit nibbled my toes). At a time like this it’s still a wonderful place to live, and the willingness of those – more than seventy years ago now – to risk their lives in its defence becomes a little more understandable.
26Philip Cracknell has written another of his excellent blogs, this time about a central character in the British ARP - Wing Commander Alfred Steels-Perkins (he was a former Deputy Director of ARP in the UK who had complied, together with General Pritchard and Wing Commander Hodsoll, the official ARP books issued by the British Government). I am reasonably familiar with the family as his wife and children were evacuated. 26 I mentioned the Nelson family to Ron Brooks, whose father was a Master Gunner with the same Royal Artillery regiment (12th Coastal). He kindly sent a group photo of his father with other senior RA NCOs, and also one of him and his brother as children in 1940 together with a friend called ‘Ian Wilson’. The most likely Ian Wilson is Ian G. Wilson born 13.9.30, son of Lieutenant George Wilson, RAOC.
25 I had hoped to meet up again today with Greg Leck, author of the enormously impressive work ‘Captives of Empire’ as I hadn’t seen him for a few years and he was passing through Hong Kong on the way back from Beijing. Unfortunately some annoying passport issues prevented us from meeting.
24Via Jim Trick of the HKVCA I received an interesting question from the Royal Hong Kong Police Association about the swearing in of Hong Kong Police as militia in December 1941. I recall seeing this mentioned in the South China Morning Post – perhaps the edition of December 8 itself – but will have to check. On about December 20 they were de-sworn, but I’m not sure where the authoritative record of that might reside. 24 Thomas Nelson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) younger son got in touch while visiting Hong Kong. Nelson’s older son and wife had been evacuated to Melbourne.
23 Ralph Reimers kindly sent me a photo of Joseph Hurst (illustrated) looking like something out of The Cruel Sea! Probably not a man to pick a fight with… 23 Martin Heyes kindly sent a copy of Stanley internee June Cheape's memoirs of Hong Kong 1941 - 45, with reference to her time in the camp.
22Concerning Elizabeth Ride’s question about the Anhui (see last month) Jenifer and Philip Burton kindly sent me this extract from Will Sprague’s diary: “We fell to talking of events a year ago this being the equivalent Sunday that we were mobilised. I was on the ‘Ulysses’ that morning & came ashore with Morley Wright & something in the air caused us to have a few beers together in the H.K. Hotel before finding out whether or not mobilisation had been ordered. The day before (Saturday 6th) I had seen cousin Evelyn with her baby on the Anhui, & they had sailed at 7pm. I now know that both ships got safely to Singapore via Manila, but that Anhui had a near miss by bomb at Singapore & the Chief Off. killed. So I wonder where Evelyn is now.” Thus we have established the date of the vessel’s departure.
21 I was sent a very interesting photo and caricature of RSM ‘Florrie’ Ford of the RA, and put the owner in touch with Ford’s family. 21 Today the Canadian Consul General in Hong Kong let Brigadier John Kelburne Lawson’s family know that they have named a conference room at the new Consulate after him. They were very pleased! 21 I had an interesting meeting with Dr Patrick Lo who is studying archives and archivists in Hong Kong. We had a long chat about my work, and that of others who study this subject.
19 Robert England’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch, sending a couple of newspaper articles from the Aberdeen Journal about England’s capture and recovery. He was on the fifth draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, and at the end of the war was liberated by the Americans from Narumi Camp. Robert's wife was Dora, and she was evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia via the Philippines in July 1940; she arrived in Brisbane on the Awatea. She moved to Melbourne on 4 September that year, where her address was: c/o Mrs. Stapleton, "Los Angeles", 456 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. Mrs Stapelton was a fellow Army wife evacuee.
18Brian McCombe very kindly sent me a set of papers and photographs relating to his father William McCombe, HKVDC (see last month). These ranged from a picture of his father fixing a De Havilland Gypsy Moth at Kai Tak, to Brian and the kids playing around in their car outside their Nathan Road Flat. There was also a fascinating letter received by William in Narumi POW Camp, on the back of which a POW artist (my guess at the signature is Gunner Aubrey George Gardner, HKVDC) had sketched his portrait.
16 Reginald Hildred’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. He asked where Hildred was captured, but as he was in 965 Defence Battery – which was dispersed all over the Island – my best guess is in the Stanley area as that’s where the majority of these men ended up. Interestingly, the family is also related to Leading Sick Berth Attendant Ken George Baggs from the Royal Naval Hospital who survived the Lisbon Maru. Hildred’s relatives live in Brisbane, Baggs’s in Sydney. 16 Ian Inglis (son of John Inglis, also of 965 Battery RA and the Lisbon Maru – though unlike Hildred he survived the sinking), is on holiday in Hong Kong with his wife and son. They visited the site of Sham Shui Po POW Camp and took several photos of the memorials there.
15 Jill Fell kindly sent a photo of the Hyde-Lay family (which she received from Ian Hyde-Lay, Derek Hyde-Lay's son). It is a family portrait of Alexander and Betty and their children, Derek and Kathleen, taken in about 1937. Alex and Betty were of course accidentally killed in the American bombing of Stanley Camp’s Bungalow C in January 1945. The children were neither in my evacuation list nor the Stanley role, so Jill kindly asked Ian Hyde-Lay where they were during the war years. He responded: “Kathleen was evacuated in 1940 and sent to live family friends or acquaintances in Duncan, BC (on Vancouver Island, 45 miles north of Victoria). I believed she attended Queen Margaret’s School. [Derek had been sent] from China to the UK in 1937. He attended St. Mary's prep school in Melrose, and then moved to Oundle School in the Midlands. Upon graduation, he briefly attended Cambridge University, but then joined the Royal Navy in 1943. He worked on various ships, and did several of the Murmansk convoy runs.”
14 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that Eng Lt John Barclay’s (RN, HMS Barlight) medals are for sale by DNW (Dix Noonan Webb), on September19th 2014, Lot 1540. “WW1 and WW2 group of 7 medals to the above, reported as having been ex HMS Barlight, a Boom defence vessel scuttled at the Fall. Recorded as having been held in a wide selection of PoW Camps in HK, last given as SSPo. Detailed write - up. Est GBP120 – 160”. I wonder if this is the same John Barclay reported as receiving a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal: “Barclay, John, Engineer-Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R. Case 43600. At 8.30 a.m. on the 8th September, 1916, a man was thrown into the Firth of Forth owing to the swamping of a small boat. Engineer-Sub-Lieutenant John Barclay, R.N.R., jumped in from his ship and attempted to rescue him but failed.”
12 Trevor Hollingsbeee pointed out that Mercury (see last month) could also be: ”used as code to refer a telegraphic cable system, as recently as the 1990s.” Also of course, Mercury is a common newspaper name, and was in turn the Roman god of communication. It seems very likely that the term was used for some forms of intelligence coming into the POW camps.
11 Jean Hughes notes of her father (Sapper David Kyle, see last month): “I have discovered Dad was definitely in Kawasaki 1, reading Dorsey Walkers diary, he mentions on July 30th 1944 two men drank what they thought was alcohol and got very sick, in fact he said two died. There was actually 3 men, Dad being the third, he didn't drink as much, so wasn't sick. He has filled me in on the results of that episode. Also August 13th 1945 2 men were injured during a bombing raid Dad was one of those.” The alcohol referred to was industrial alcohol from a crashed American plane.
10BACEPOW (Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War) let me know that they are planning a 70th Anniversary of Liberation trip to the Philippines January 30 – February 11, 2015. Details can be seen here.
6 Frederick Stanford’s granddaughter got in touch. Stanford was CSM of C Coy Royal Scots and was lost on the Lisbon Maru. Some years back I gave a little help to David Stanford for his book ‘Roses In December’ about his grandfather. 6 Elizabeth Ride pointed out that the Cicala crew list referred to last month was a part of General Maltby's post war report to the War Office in November 1945 (with an introductory letter): "which I assume was compiled during their captivity from their collective memories (as they would not have had notes to consult, of course). I have not taken copies of Maltby's whole report (hundreds of pages) but what I have taken is in the HKHP, and included in this is the Cicala report (13 pages) attested by 'Commander RAN, Senior Officer Gunboats' but my copy is without personal signature. The despatches which concern the naval side were 'submitted by the Commodore RN' (see Maltby's letter page 3), so the list would have been on the authority of the Commodore.”
5Lynda Winter kindly sent a photo of Gunner Bernard Ward, 8th Coastal Regiment RA, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru.
2Ian Gill (see last month) is wondering if policeman Brian Fay’s family are around. Fay was one of the police escapers who was recaptured and badly treated, and was a family friend. Interestingly, the Bidmead family (Bidmead was a fellow escapee) joined the Stanley Group recently. He notes that: “I have a cushion (see photos attached) that Rosaleen Millar (fellow internee and my godmother) made for [my mother] for her birthday in 1944 with threads scrounged from here and there.”
September 1st, 2014 Update
Attack on Hyuga (courtesy Cori Baker), Lynch and friends at Hakodate #2B (courtesy Helene Le Beau), Kamaishi Steel Mill after American attack (courtesy Carol Campbell) David Kyle (courtesy Jean Hughes), Laban's Lisbon Maru account (courtesy Barry Saville), Honouring Brian Gill (courtesy Ian Gill) Eastern Fortress, At Least We Lived, In Time of War (all author)
It’s not every week that I pick up three new books about Hong Kong’s wartime period and people. I haven’t had a chance to read any of them yet, but Collingwood’s In Time Of War, Oxford’s At Least They Lived, and Kwong Chi Man and Rusty Tsoi’s Eastern Fortress all look interesting in different ways. It’s interesting too to have two very different American perspectives this month: the amazing exploits of a US Navy pilot who one moment was attacking Japanese naval vessels under heavy return fire, and the next dropping cigarettes onto newly-liberated POW Camps, and a photo of an American senior officer in a different POW Camp that included some of the sickest (and therefore luckiest to survive) Lisbon Maru survivors.
30William McCombe’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. This seemed slightly déjà vu as I knew about the family from my studies of the 1940 evacuation (McCombe’s wife and two children had gone to Sydney). McCombe himself was an instructor at Kai Tak. 30 Jill Fell asked details of the Whiteleys in Stanley, wondering if one might be godmother to her cousin. All she knew was that this Mrs Whiteley lived on Broadwood Road. The Stanley records show an Ellen and William Whiteley, and the Jurors’ Rolls show that William Whiteley lived at 16 Broadwood Road (women were not required to be jurors in those days, thus the roundabout way of cross referencing).
29 Philip Cracknel has put a very interesting, though obviously not very pleasant, entry on his wartime blog about the St Stephen’s Massacre. It’s a collection of statements from a number of surviving victims. We believe that Dr Pope’s house was Bungalow A, but I would love to find proof. 29 A very interesting article appeared via The Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today, about Hong Kong’s harbour defences (indicator loops are lengths of cable laid on the seabed in order to detect submarine incursion). 29 I was contacted today, via Ron Taylor in the UK, by the daughter of a Hong Kong man lost on (we believe) a Merchant Navy vessel during the war. We want to see if he is mentioned on the new Hong Kong Memorial but have the usual challenge that the only way to be sure is to see his name written in Chinese, rather than transliterated in English.
26 EOD were today called to neutralise a device in North Point. It turned out to be a Japanese 150mm HEAP (High Explosive Armour Piercing). EOD were kind enough to let me know that it: “likely was targeting the Pill Boxes (thus the armour piercing, they are thick skinned to penetrate a structure without breaking up on impact). Location was on top of the old North Point Estate.” They also mentioned that the explosive was picric acid – slightly more powerful than TNT, but with an unfortunate tendency to react with the metal of casing and fuse to make a very sensitive contact explosive. These things get nastier as they age and are definitely best avoided. After the controlled explosion they continued: “all these years later and some of us are still dodging Japanese shrapnel in North Point.”
23 Mike Babin kindly let me know the sad news that his father Alf Babin – a survivor of St Stephen’s – passed away last month at the age of 92. A short obituary can be found here (scroll down on the right).
20 The South China Morning Post is looking to interview people in Hong Kong who lived through the war years, for the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the end of hostilities. 20 Here’s an interesting question. William Sprague’s (HKVDC) POW diary has a number of mentions of ‘Mercury’ as if Mercury is either a person bearing news, or something similar. For example: “No.12 read today, but Mercury was rather incoherent.” We wonder if this could be a reference to information coming into Argyle Street by radio or other means? 20 I was shocked today, looking at Amazon.com’s UK site, to see that paperback copies of Not The Slightest Chance are being offered for between two and four thousand pounds! Ludicrous. I’m sure no one would spend anything like that. I’ll have to see if HKUP would be willing to sponsor a new edition.
18 For the first time in a number of years, I was today introduced to a ‘new’ surviving POW from Hong Kong. He is David Kyle of the Royal Engineers, one of the ‘hard men’ who were on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to be sent to Japan. Aged 94, he now lives in North Island, New Zealand. 18 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me the list of personnel of HMS Cicala from ADM 199/1286. I didn’t know that this existed. There are dates on the list up to the end of 1942, which makes its provenance hard to guess.
17Tony Ablong contacted me again, still trying to establish precisely how his father Alfred Ernest Ablong (Senior), a Warden in the ARP, lost his life during the fighting. His name is not recorded in CWGC files, nor anywhere else formal that I can find. And yet he certainly didn’t survive, and is believed to have lost his life while trying to provide the defenders of Wang Nai Chung Gap with food. 17 A researcher by the name of Hans Houterman kindly provided me with proof that Joseph Hurst indeed served on HMS Cicala, initially under Gandy. Hurst referred to himself as the commander of the vessel (and this is confirmed by Holroyd’s account), and yet during the fighting the commander was Boldero. It now seems most likely that Hurst commanded temporarily, between those two captains.
16 I’m in contact with Ian Gill. This is doubly interesting, as not only is Ian the younger half brother of poor Brian Gill who drowned in Stanley, but his family and Boxer’s family were very close friends. In fact they stayed with Charles and Mickey at Conygar for quite a while immediately after the war. Ian kindly sent a number of photos from those days. 16 Being stuck in San Francisco airport for five hours, I finally read Joseph Hurst’s full account of his escape from North Point. It was extremely well written. It’s interesting that I now have full unpublished accounts from two of the four members of this escape, plus partial from a third. Hurst, among many other things, was a good observer. I particularly liked this description from a village they passed through shortly after escaping: "During this meal the domestic animals became part of the family. As it s custom to drop all bones and other refuse on the floor while eating, the chickens, dogs, pigs and other animals come into their own by wandering in and out between our legs picking up the scraps and incidentally, keeping the floor relatively clean. There was of course, the usual myriad of flies and mosquitoes due to stagnant pools and filthy conditions. However, I should say the people themselves made valiant attempts to keep themselves moderately clean. They were quite happy and did not aspire to any higher things in life; they were content with their normal lot and simply wished to be left alone. Their lot at this time was far from normal. The Japs had been there and looted the place, leaving little of any real value. They were pitifully poor. The food with which we had been provided was more than they could afford for themselves. We could see the amazed look in the eyes of the children as they watched us eat; it was a long time since they had seen a spread like that and probably never joined in one."
15 George Frost’s great grandson got in touch. The challenge here is that there were two George Frosts in Stanley, and we’re still not sure which one this was! They were both government Health Inspectors, which really doesn’t help.
13I passed Hugh Farmer a few details about Robert Taylor and the Rescue and Demolition Corps of the PWD (Public Works Department). Taylor was the manager of Green Island Cement and a Stanley Internee. Hugh’s Industrial History of Hong Kong website is well worth a look.
12 William Tyner’s family kindly scanned in a number of his letters, plus photos and other relevant documented from Kamaishi (see last month). These included a unique photo of Tyner’s wife and daughter being evacuated to Australia in 1940 on the Awatea (illustrated), and immediate post-war photos showing the damage from the American naval shelling of Kamaishi during which Tyner lost his life.
11 Henry Ching kindly sent me copies of his two most recent occasional papers, covering the HKVDC Nursing Detachment and Auxiliary Nurses. These are available to read here. 11 Lyndon White’s family kindly allowed me to give Canadian veteran George MacDonell a copy of a photo of Douglas Clague that they have. George needs this for a new book he is finishing up.
10Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch sending a large number of very interesting photographs and letters. These included the almost obligatory photo of Lynch and fellow doctors outside the Bowen Road Hospital, but also a selection of letters home. Lynch was one of the very seriously ill men left in Shanghai after the sinking, and eventually – towards the end of the war – transferred to the Hakodate camps. One fascinating photo shows Lynch with fellow POW officers at Hakodate #2B, including the American senior officer Captain John White, USMC. A complete list of these men can be seen on the late Roger Mansell’s website here, and oddly enough Lunch is also mentioned in Philip Cracknell’s latest blog here. Interestingly, Lynch was a French Canadian serving in the British RAMC. He is the only Canadian I know of who was on the Lisbon Maru. 10Mark Sellar was kind enough to send a copy of Brigadier Wallis’s attestation papers.
9 I received a fascinating set of photos from the States, relating to a USN pilot named Wesley Howard Stevens from the torpedo squadron VT-16 that flew from CV-15 (USS Randolph). The photos included a terrifying shot of an attack on the Japanese battleship Hyuga (on July 24, 1945, for which Stevens received the Navy Cross), but also a later photo of a supply drop into a POW Camp (Wakinohama) – and a letter to the pilot from one of the POWs who received that drop! That POW, Petty Officer Harry Roughly, RN, was ex-Hong Kong and had been on the Lisbon Maru. Many of the Kobe House POWs ended up at Wakinohama after the former was bombed out. Roughly passed away in 1979, but the guys in the States would be keen to contact his family if possible.
8 Archibald Laban’s nephew (see last month) kindly sent me his uncle’s description of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. This is a thirty page account written in beautiful hand writing.
3 Elizabeth Ride had an interesting question. “On which ship did Norman Lockhart Smith leave Hong Kong, on 4 December 1941?” It seems to be the SS An Hwei, but I would be interested if anyone could confirm this.
2Mike Beattie let me know that he’d found an Australian service record for his ex-HK POW father Sapper George Beattie, RE. It appears that he was enlisted with Australian forces in 1945 after return from Japan where he had been a POW (he was on the first draft).
August 1st, 2014 Update
Thomas Hannan second from left, Thomas Hannan service record (both courtesy Malcolm Grant), Leighton Hill Japanese positions (via author) BAAG Supply drop (courtesy Van De Linde collection), Rat Snake (author), King's College teachers (author) William Tyner (courtesy Carol Campbell), Gordon Chalmers (courtesy Andy Duffus), Eucliffe (via Gwulo)
Interesting that two different RAMC families would get in touch this week, and also that one of them would be a Canadian serving in British forces who was on the Lisbon Maru. Despite the large number of Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers POWs in Hong Kong at the time, none were sent to Japan on that vessel. I had always wondered if any of the British forces on board were actually Canadian, and now I have an answer.
30 As promised, Andy Duffus kindly sent several photos of Gordon Chalmers, Royal Scots.
29Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch via David Bellis. Lynch was a Canadian serving in British forces.
27 Today Ralph Reimers kindly sent me the complete version of escapee Joseph Hurst’s memoires ‘Escape from Hong Kong’. I will read it on a business trip in early August.
26William Charles Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a few photos (including one of William and Olive at the annual ball in Hong Kong in 1939 - they are 2nd and 3rd from the right). Tyner’s wife (Olive) and daughter (Marion) were evacuated to Australia. Tyner was one of 27 POWs unfortunate enough to be killed by the American shelling of their POW Camp in Japan (Kamaishi).
24 Richard Frost kindly pointed me to a page on Gwulo with some very interesting photos of both Eucliffe and PB17.
22I received an interesting email from Australia asking whether Hong Kong civilian Frederick John Willey had served in 5AA Regiment. Willey worked for Taikoo Docks and was moved to the ‘Combatant’ list of the reserve in 1940, so even though he was interned in Stanley with his family, it is possible that he joined the AA. Certainly at least two or three other Hong Kong civilians did – via the HKVDC - at some point (John Pearce, for example).
21Brigette Hutchinson kindly sent me an image of her father's (David Alexander Hutchison, HKVDC, V3552) application to remain in Australia upon discharge from British Armed Services. 21 Vera Murrell was discussed on the Stanley Group. I have a huge but very useful document of all government appointments (even the index is over 10MB), which shows that she was a teacher at King’s College. 21 Tan kindly sent me a ‘then and now’ photo based on the one on the bombing of Wanchai that I published last month. He does this so much better than me! We’re discussing what we should do with these – perhaps an exhibition or similar.
15 Cyril McLeman’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, pointing out that his name is spelled wrong (McLenan) on my website. I’ll fix that. She notes that he: “escaped through a torpedo hole by swimming underwater, he learnt to swim whilst stationed at Hong Kong before WWII. He was captured by the Japanese and spent the remainder of the war in a Japanese concentration camp where he was tortured, starved and placed in solitary confinement for a large portion of his time there. He never got over it and suffered nightmares his whole life.” 15 I heard today that my short history of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment will be published in Volume 54 of the Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in March of next year. 15 In discussions with Ralph Reimers about Joseph Hurst it is becoming clear that at some point Hurst commanded HMS Cicala. Does anyone have details of when this might have been? 15 Philip Cracknell reminded me about Frelford, the Middlesex private who ended up in Stanley rather than military POW camp after having saved the life of a wounded Japanese soldier. I have an official note about this somewhere. Each year I am either reminded of Frelford, or find that note, and the following year the opposite occurs but by then I’ve forgotten it was Frelford or who that note pertained to! One day I’ll finally put the two together. Philip has a blog about him here.
14 Today I was sent links to two equally interesting but very different video clips of Hong Kong in 1949, an amateur one and a professional. While 1949 is outside my normal scope, the city at that time had clearly hardly changed from 1945.
13Harry McNaughton’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) granddaughter got in touch to mention that the Arden Seven Commemorative Plaza in St Vital honours seven Battle of Hong Kong veterans from Arden Avenue (McNaughton was author of the book Shadow Lights of Sham Shui Po). I have met two of these men myself (Ed Shayler and George Peterson) and am very pleased to see them remembered in this way. I also think that the format – the seven empty chairs – is very effective.
13 Dave Deptford reports that the Sunday Telegraph today had an article about a young Japanese pianist who used to play to the POWs at Yokohama #14B. It’s very interesting, but perhaps what interested me most was the fact that they were able to write quite a good article about it so easily. Even five years ago they would have struggled to find these facts; ten years ago it would have been impossible. 13 My copy of Hong Kong 1941-45 has arrived. I will read it over the holidays.
12Brian Edgar reports that the book The Rice Paper Diaries has won the Welsh Book of the Year Award for fiction. The book was inspired by her great aunt and uncle’s (Thomas William Cosmos Jones and Elizabeth Menna Owen Jones) experience in Stanley during the war. However, there’s a bit of a mystery as the author states that Thomas Jones ended the war in Japan, which would be unique for someone who was a long-term Stanley internee. 12 Today my copy of Covered Up In Kowloon arrived (illustrated). Normally the books written by war time missionaries are a bit dull, as the missionaries tend to spend most of their words describing how wonderful they are, but this one – bought on Brian Edgar’s excellent suggestion – is actually very interesting. As Brian had said, almost the entire book is about two missionaries’ experience of living in Kowloon from its fall until the point of the Canadian repatriation. It’s a shame that it doesn’t give a lot of detail, and people are referred to as ‘Mrs A’ or ‘Mr D’ rather a lot, but it was well worth a read. Also, useful for my study of the fate of Hong Kong’s Chinese population in the war years: “Daily, as we walked the streets, we would see poor starved men, women, and children lying on the pavement too weak to move or already dead. Their numbers were so great, and the general poverty so intense that there were very few able to do anything to relieve their suffering.”
10Following on from last month, Malcolm Grant kindly sent three photos of Tommy Hannan in uniform and a copy of his service record. The latter, of course, bore the dreaded words familiar to all with relatives on the Lisbon Maru: ‘Previously reported Prisoner of War. Now Missing at Sea.’
9 I heard today that a group called Friends Of Hong Kong Cemetery has been founded, striving to help conserve the architecture, historical elements, flora and fauna. It sounds an excellent initiative to me, and I’ll give more news when it’s available. 9 Walking home from the office along Bowen Road, just before reaching the old military hospital, I noticed a Magpie Robin making a great fuss about something, flying continuously from the wall on the north side, to a tree on the south and back again. It didn’t take long to see why; a two metre long rat snake was in the tree, presumably threatening a nest. (Rat snakes are impressive but harmless, but seeing as they are the main food of king cobras I don’t normally spend too much time in their vicinity!)
8Joseph Hurst’s (RNR, Escaper) nephew-in-law got it touch. This has led to one of the most interesting conversations in recent months. With an OBE and two DSCs, Hurst (perhaps unsurprisingly) turns out to have been a very interesting man. Of fellow escaper Petty Officer E. Maxwell Holroyd, R.N. he notes: “Naval reservist who had been attached to the Chinese Maritime Custom’s shore staff. His knowledge of the countryside over the border was extensive. During his years in the Customs as a preventive he was able to learn all the smugglers’ paths and methods. His frequent incursions into the Chinese interior with armed parties gave him valuable knowledge and experience of the interior, as well as the eccentricities of the Chinese. A fluent speaker of Cantonese and all local dialects, together with an uncanny knowledge. He was tough, reliable and extremely humorous. To him, without a doubt, must be given the credit of at least seventy percent of the success of the escape." 8 Brian Edgar found an interesting file at the PRO implying that the UK was giving help to destitute citizens in Stanley Camp during the war. The subject, Thomas Henry Gordon Brayfield, is shown in the Jurors' List until 1939 as working at Carmichael & Clarke, Ltd and as a 'special juror'. This implies that at least at that time we would have been relatively wealthy. 8 I received a request for information about the Japanese removal of metal from Hong Kong for their war effort. I gave what assistance I could, and then asked Elizabeth Ride what she had on the subject. Amazingly, Elizabeth had a file on this topic – I suspect she has a file on every topic! – and kindly assisted.
7 I have mentioned this site about Barney Byrne, HKVDC, before. Today I found another one here. Seems like a very popular chap! 7 Charles Dobie has found another collection of Hong Kong liberation photos from HMCS Prince Robert.
6 Through Ron Taylor in the UK I am in touch with an Australian journalist who is: “researching a diary from WW2, author unknown unfortunately, who was a POW in Changi before being sent to Kobe in Japan.” The diary mentions several Hong Kong POWs who had been on the Lisbon Maru, one of them being the well-regarded RSM Challis of the first Middlesex.
4When looking through my old computer files I came across a large set of images of BAAG labelled ‘Van De Linde’. The only problem is that I can’t recall how I got them! I remember Osler Thomas (Force 136) showing me a photo of a supply drop ten or fifteen years ago, which seems to be in this set too, but I don’t recall if they came from him.
2On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, someone posted a link to an excellent BAAG handout from last year’s exhibition at the University of Hong Kong. I am surprised that I hadn’t seen this before as I was peripherally involved in the show (looking after some of the exhibits for a year or so afterwards). 2 I learned from Alexandra Talbot today that her father was a member of Z Force. I should have guessed from his close friendship with Mike Kendall. “Our Group originally had seven members: Mike Kendall the head know-all and trainer; Ronnie Holmes; Eddy Teasdale; Colin McEwan; Bob Thompson; Monia Talan, a very sweet quietly spoken … guy but tough when needed; and myself, doctor to the group if doctoring ever became necessary. Each member had to do the same training and was really of equal standing in the group…” 2 The Researching FEPOW History Group has announced their 2015 conference in association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).
1Jack Mitchell sent me a nice story: “Although the HKVDC was mobilised on 7th December ’41, I was not released from Special Duties in the Colonial Secretariat until 21st December. Suffice to say that some material had to be destroyed securely – that was done in the furnaces of the Old Gloucester Hotel. All was accomplished and on completion of the job on 1st December, I was given the choice of staying on at the Secretariat or joining Corps Signals, having first been warned that the end was not far off. I elected to rejoin my Unit but the problem was how to get from Central District to Corps Headquarters in Peak Mansions – the Peak Tram and public transport were non-existent. One problem! The solution – walk up the steps adjoining the tramlines from Lower Garden Road right to the top. The climb was quite arduous – carrying some food supplies for my mother, sisters, baby niece billeted on May Road, together with my own kit. I never had time to count the steps or admire the view – one fall could have spelt disaster for me. I eventually made it, much to the surprise of my pals.” 1 Elizabeth Ride, remembering an unexplained photograph of a wrecked car somewhere on the Peak that I put on this site a few years back, quoted a report by N.I.D., 20.12.45 WO 208 750A: "Death of Captain Pardoe. Captain Pardoe was sent on a liaison to another Intelligence organisation situated on the Peak. As the car was climbing the hill a Japanese air raid took place and a bomb fell near the vehicle wrecking it and killing the occupants." This may have been Pardoe’s car, but there were quite a few damaged in the area. 1 T.K. Wong was kind enough to point out that the water colour paintings (see last month): “were drawn by Kwan Shan-Yuet. He was a quite famous painter of the LingNan Faction”. I believe this is Guan Shanyue in modern transliteration. And for the photo of the aftermath of an American raid on Wanchai, he noted: “The white building in the background of the photo was the Peel Clinic. It was a landmark of Wanchai even up to the mid 70s. To the left of the rails was the Southorn Playground (Southorn Stadium of today). The photo is facing to the direction of Causeway Bay.” The street is Johnston Road.
July 1st, 2014 Update
Mike Kendall (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Gordon and Mrs Chalmer (courtesy Andy Duffus), Begg murder (via facebook) Wanchai bombing (via facebook), Luk Kwok Hotel (via facebook), Wallis medals (courtesy Mark Sellar) Artist's chop (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Tom Hannan (via Ron Taylor, UK), Chick-lit (author)
It’s an odd feeling being between projects. With my study of the 1940 evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong now completed, I need to start something else. Of course I have a number of old projects available, half-written books about the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel, or Hong Kong’s Irregulars (BAAG, the Chindits, everything accomplished by the escapers and evaders), and so forth. But it’s also an opportunity to start up something entirely new. I’ll probably spend the summer thinking it over, and may well complete one of the old projects before applying myself to a brand new challenge.
28 A student contacted me today, about researching into the Japanese shipment of metals from wartime Hong Kong to Japan. This certainly included motor vehicles and statues, and I suspect other things too.
26On the way to the annual Canada Day reception in Central, I stopped off at a nearby book shop and saw a few of my books for sale in an unexpected – but no doubt vastly less loss-making – genre! 26 The Australian Defence Force Academy kindly let me know that my thesis has been forwarded to the examiners. There will now be a wait of six to eight weeks for a result.
24Thomas Hannan’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) cousin was put in touch with me by Ron Taylor (UK) who also kindly passed me a photo. The cousin has not yet responded to my email.
22George Robinson and Gordon Wheatcroft’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) nephew got in touch. He notes that Mr Robinson was shot in the legs and never had feelings in them again. Thanks in part to Hollywood, where people always make a full recovery from wounds, in reality permanent nerve damage was a common occurrence. 22 Alice and David Hutchinson’s (Stanley Internee and HKVDC respectively) daughter got in touch.
21Alexandra Talbot kindly sent me an excellent photo of Mike Kendall of Z Force fame (HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit).
20 Gordon Chalmers (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, noting: “He survived the war and returned to Edinburgh, married in 1948, then in the late sixties returned to his native Aberdeen. He was always very reticent to talk about the Lisbon Maru, though he did on one memorable occasion, revealing the horror of the tragedy. However, he was more open about his time as a POW always telling me the 'the Japanese were cruel to their own as much as they were to us'. Unfortunately Gordon died in 2004 aged 90 and I inherited his 'memory box' which contained his military medals, athletics medals, Japanese 'Victory' money and Royal Scots badges etc., which he took me through when I was a young lad.” He also kindly sent several photos. 20 Mark Sellar kindly let me know that: “the Pacific Star quartet and Imperial Service Medal of Harold Jackson, Storeman at the Royal Naval Dockyard, Hong Kong, were offered for sale on eBay last weekend. I note that after transportation to Japan and subsequent liberation, Harold (accompanied by his family) returned to Hong Kong post-war to resume - for a few years - his work in the Dockyard Stores there.”
16 Alexandra Talbot (daughter of Stanley internee Dr Harry Talbot) is trying: “to find out some information regarding a series of Chinese water colors given to my parents in Hong Kong many years ago… I would like to find out who the artist is… my parents were told that the artist was quite famous.” I don’t know anything about these things, but have added a photo of the artist’s signature and chop just in case someone else does.
13Peter Hennessy kindly let me know that Vice Admiral Ralph L Hennessy, DSC, CD, passed away today, and his obituary was published. Although Ralph was not in Hong Kong (instead he fought with distinction in the RCN in the Atlantic), he was the eldest son of Colonel Pat Hennessy RCASC who was killed by a shell on The Peak during the fighting. He would have been 96 this September.
12I was delighted to hear from Phil Doddridge, Royal Rifles of Canada, again. We used to be in touch regularly, and I was fortunate to meet him on his last visit to Hong Kong. He’s now 92, and in good health. 12 Thomas Fullerton’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. 12 I received an email from Eleanor Vaughan, visiting Hong Kong from Canada to research Hong Kong’s war crimes trials from the perspective of the Canadian POWs’ experience.
10Stuart Braga reported a book I hadn’t heard of before: Covered Up In Kowloon. However, I had heard of the authors (Canadian missionaries and Stanley internees named Harold Fetherstonhaugh Collier and his wife Frances Dorothy Collier). Left behind in Kowloon as the Japanese attacked, they never made it to Stanley, instead being added directly to the Canadian repatriation in 1943.
7William Grant Shepherd’s grandson contacted me. Shepherd was one of the people who helped me most on the Lisbon Maru book (he was a Royal Navy Engine Room Artificer and, obviously, survived the sinking). It’s always interesting when this happens, as in many cases POWs were happy to tell me (just a fly on the wall) things that they could never tell their own families. 7 On someone’s advice, I read Fighting Mad by ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert. It is a fascinating book by a fascinating (and finally rather tragic) character. Calvert’s first posting was to pre-war Hong Kong where he raised a unit of local Royal Engineers and learnt reasonable Cantonese. He states that while visiting China during the war he came across the group of Hong Kong escapers and evaders gathered together by BAAG and was instrumental in making them part of his Chindit group (William Young of 3 Coy HKVDC would become his batman, but in practice also his bodyguard during some of the worst fighting). 7 I am back in contact with Kamal Prasad, son of Kamta Prasad who commanded B Coy 2/14th Punjabis. Kamal is helping me with some biographical details of his father, who had an outstanding post war career. One nice quote when I asked Kamal why his mother’s name has the letters ‘RK’ in front of it: “Oh, RK is/was the Indian title... my mum was a small Raja's daughter, kind of blue blooded. She once told us kids your father has earned his title (rank), it's not merely by birth!!”
6Elizabeth Ride passed me a very interesting document (which was primarily intended for Tim Ko) concerning Japanese battle charms identified by BAAG. I wonder if this could explain the sometimes unexpected things (old coins, old badges, and so forth) sometimes found on the battlefields? 6 Mark Sellar sent me a very interesting note saying that he had been able to: “obtain the medals of Brigadier Cedric Wallis, and thought you might like to receive the attached photograph of his campaign medals as he had worn them in later life.” The medals are: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Interallied Victory Medal, General Service Medal 1918 GV 1st issue with clasps 'Iraq' & 'Kurdistan', 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, War Medal with Oakleaf emblem denoting 'Mention-in-Despatches'. He continued: “M.I.D., was specifically for his services during the Battle for Kong, and was published in the Supplement to the London Gazette issue of 4 April 1946, the preamble of which states: ‘The KING has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941’.” Mark also pointed out that contrary to many accounts, Wallis was not a recipient of the Military Cross (interestingly, neither was his counterpart Lawson, though some books also claim he was).
4 Iain Gow followed up from last month’s photo of the ruins of Kobe house with a plan of the camp taken from John Lane’s book Summer Will Come Again. This book, by an Australian POW (not captured in Hong Kong), used to be available to read online but seems to have been deleted now. 4 Barbara Anslow noted: “Seeing reference in your May newsletter to the Marriott family jerked my memory: I recall the death of Mr Marriott but thought he was referred to as 'Kid'. I believe his daughter was the young mother who lived in a room in our corridor in Block 3, Married Q, with her little boy Tommy. [Their surname was White]. Tommy was the only child in our corridor of flats, his Mum was continually keeping him in order so as not to annoy us adults; he was a charming little boy.” This was Mrs J. P. White.
2 Justin Cahill kindly sent me a copy of George Baxter’s (the manager of the Hong Kong Bureau of United Press) short book, Personal Experiences During The Siege Of Hong Kong (illustrated). In three parts it covers the battle of Hong Kong, internment, and the exchange at Laurenco Marques.
1 Someone put a newspaper page on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, mentioning the death of Nurse Begg of the HKVDC. I knew that her husband, like Nurse Buxton’s was in the HKVDC, but hadn’t realised until reading this that the third of the British nurses killed at Stanley on Christmas Day, Nurse Smith, was married to Lieutenant Colonel Walter John L. Smith, RAOC, who was also in Hong Kong and was taken POW. This facebook page is well worth keeping an eye on. Other interesting images posted this month included a photo of the original Luk Kwok Hotel – showing war damage – and a rather unpleasant image showing the destruction caused by American bombing in Wanchai.
June 1st, 2014 Update
Barracudas over HSBC (via Charles Dobie), Reg Stemp (courtesy Jan Roy), Odd buckles (courtesy Stuart Wood) Stanley war damage (via Charle Dobie), Stanley Camp (author's files), Stanley war damage (via Charles Dobie) Xmas day with the Penns (courtesy Susan Lange), Roberts Block (author), Allister painting (courtesy Arleigh Hudson)
This May marked the 160th anniversary of the foundation of the Volunteers. Brought into being in 1854, they were disbanded a year or two before the 1997 handover. During all that time the Volunteers were rather different from most part-time forces, taking their job very seriously, and – for example - delighting in beating the Middlesex Regiment (regular professional machine gunners) in competitions on the range. During the Battle of Hong Kong, several HKVDC units were all but wiped out, but at a severe cost to the Japanese. Post-war research has clearly shown that at Wong Nai Chung Gap, 3 Company was responsible for more Japanese casualties than any other unit, and other companies were equally effective at Stanley and other engagements. Today, although I am only in touch with a handful of veterans from those days, there’s still a strong spirit alive with the Volunteers Association in Hong Kong, Canada, and Australia, and all celebrate Foundation Day.
31 As part of the commemorations of the anniversary of the start of the Great War, Bill Lake sent a reminder that a production of Oh What A Lovely War will be playing at the Shouson Theatre in Wanchai, June 25-28. The important point is that this production is in association with the Royal British Legion. Details can be found here.
30 Iain Gow, whose father (James Gow, Royal Scots) was a POW at Kobe House, found online a fascinating colour cine film of the ruins of the camp. The shot in question starts at 1.20, and I found that by blowing it up to full size and taking a screen shot, I could capture a reasonably good quality image. The footage is taken from an almost identical angle as this photo from the Australian War Museum from August 1945. Iain has a photo of his father standing by the same broken corner piece shortly after liberation. 30 Today the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association continued the tradition of holding their annual dinner on the last Friday of May, as the anniversary of the founding of the Volunteers. The main guest was Ian Burchett, the Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao, who gave a fine speech. The Association also kindly invited me, with the added attraction that not being the main guest, I had a free dinner and didn’t even have to speak! It was actually very enjoyable, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the attendees I knew (and how generous they were with the port…)
29 Kenneth Young’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch.
28Arleigh Hudson, granddaughter of John Burton RCASC, got back in touch. The family has a number of paintings given to them by William Allister, RCCS, including a fine one that is clearly a view from North Point POW camp looking north across the harbour. There are also copies here.
27 Walking down from The Peak via Hatton Road I had a good view of ‘Doc’ Ride’s house. Although it looks pre-war, it was actually built for him at HKU just after the war. There is, of course, a 10-inch coastal gun in the garden.
25Walter Thompson’s (HKPF) family got in touch, kindly sending a number of photos of him and his family, including one of Walter himself just before the war (illustrated). Walter’s wife and two children were evacuees, and another daughter was the first evacuee to be born ‘in Australia’ as she was born at sea in Australian waters as their ship arrived.
23 I was contacted by a friend of Alf Bennett, who kindly introduced me to wartime policeman Walter Thompson’s family. Bennett was a fluent Japanese speaker and a friend of Charles Boxer, among others. 23 Dave Deptford notes that Sapper Bernard Todd’s relatives live near him, and want to know more about his death. Todd’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry brackets his death as 8-25 December 1941. However, in my original research into the 1941 deaths, I noted that the internal records of the CWGC listed him as having been originally buried at the north end of North Point camp on 22 December. The implication, I believe, is that he had been wounded at some point between December 19 and 22 in the eastern sector. He may well have been in the group of POWs held at Wong Nai Chung Gap overnight on the 19th, and marched to North Point on the 20th. Many of those, of course, had been wounded in the fighting or when the 'black hole' was mortared.
21 I had an interesting email today from a friend of the Marriott family. She is researching Henry ‘Ked’ Marriott and his descendants, including daughters who became Emma E Field and Mrs White.
19 Today I received an unusual email from the family of a man apparently murdered on the China / Hong Kong border in the mid 1950s. They would like help to identify where he was buried, and reinter him properly. This is way outside my normal area, but worth pursuing.
17George Tattam’s (Middlesex) granddaughter got in touch again (see 2010). Previously I had told her that Tattam was liberated from Yokohama Stadium Camp, but I now realize that this was incorrect. He was a POW there until 1 May 1944, then the camp closed and the POWs were dispersed. In Tattam’s case, he went to Tokyo #18D. From there, finally, he was sent to Tokyo #15B (or #5B), from which he was actually liberated.
14Rob Weir mentions that walking into his local Melbourne library he found a copy of Not The Slightest Chance on the shelf! 14 On the Hong Kong War facebook page, someone posted a South China Morning post article featuring Tim Ko which I think I missed last year.
12 RSM Enos ‘Henry’ Ford’s (RA) niece got in touch via Philip Cracknell. (see last month). 12 I had an enquiry from the village of Silverstone about a name on their war memorial: Albert Henry Roberts of the RASC who is buried in Sai Wan. Roberts was actually one of the POWs who died in Taiwan and was reinterred in Hong Kong after the war, so I passed the question to Michael Hurst of the POW Taiwan group who kindly furnished all the necessary details.
11 Susan Lange sent a fascinating 1939 or 1940 Christmas Day photograph. Taken at ‘Penno’s’ (which no doubt means the Penn family’s house) at 172 The Peak, Mount Kellett, Hong Kong, at 15.00, it shows: John Collis, Marion Gordon, Alistair Somerfelt, Gladys Collis, Aci Bowker, William Simmons ‘Simmy’ of the Tramways, Keith Valentine, Rene Penn, Harry Penn, Ralph xxxx, Mrs. Somerfelt, and Vyner Gordon. Children: Gavin Gordon, Bruce Valentine, David xxxx, and Judith Ann Collis, with Patricia Penn standing behind the children. Bowker and Gordon were of course both lost during the war. We would be grateful if anyone could plug in the two missing names. She also sent another photo of old Peak School’s students in 1933/1934, though I suspect most of these had actually returned to the UK to continue their education before the outbreak of the Pacific War – but not their teacher, Bee Bicheno, who was interned in Stanley.
10In my correspondence with Stemp’s family, they revealed that Stemp’s mother (nee Taylor) lost not only her son, but also all but one of her brothers to war: William Taylor, Boer war and WWI, Sapper 59372 87th Field Coy RE, killed 30 December 1915 Joseph Taylor, Boer war, died shortly after of wounds. Samuel Taylor, WWI, Private 6051 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment died 19 March 1917 aged 25 on board hospital ship Asturias returning from Salonika where he had been fighting. John Taylor, WWI, private 951525 Royal Fusiliers. Died in 1947 in Springfield Mental Asylum, Surrey, from shell shock incurred during the Great War. George Taylor, WWI, Private 10142 Royal Fusiliers survived the war and died in 1949. I have come across other stories of such major losses in single families, but it's the shellshock aspect that I find most horrifying. It was only a few years ago (2009?) that I read that the last shell-shocked British soldier from the Great War had finally passed away in an asylum.
9Reginald Stemp’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending two photographs and a copy of Mr Stemp’s last letter home. He notes: “He talks about his daily life and that the food is ok but that he wouldn’t mind going short if he could get home. He also mentions that the church is a Cinema and that he had tickets to see A Little Bit of heaven. He mentions the Canadians arriving.” Stemp’s letter shows that he was in 12th Battery, but the CWGC has him under 8th. I expect he transferred shortly before hostilities commenced, and the paperwork never caught up.
5Taking a short cut from Island School to Wanchai I passed the Roberts Block of the old Victoria Barracks. It’s a large sturdy building and a shame that it appears to be unused at the moment. The nearest other block has been one of Mothers’ Choice’s units for many years.
4Two strange objects were found in the hills today, like enlarged buckles or clips, or similar. We’ve all found these over the years, but no one knows what they are. Any ideas?
1 In response to last month’s question about documentation of wartime events in Happy Valley, T.K. kindly sent the following summary: a. H K Surgeon - Li Shu Fan-page 100, page 105-106, 109-111 and page 124. b. Phyllis Harrop - HK Incident-page 83-84. c. Adrienne Clarkson - Heart Matters-page 19-20. d. War Diaries of Captain U. Laite (C Force) - 23-24 of Dec. 41. e. Excerpts from HK War crime Trial - Appendix 7 1 The month started well, continuing with helping Charles Dobie identify the locations of the HCMS Ontario 12 September to 1 November 1945 photos here (you need to allow some time for loading). I expect others can help with more details. Of particular interest to me were the battle-damaged buildings in the Stanley photos here. Another that caught my eye was what I first thought was a squadron of spitfires in a fly-over above the old HSBC headquarters. On closer examination, I realised that they were in fact the awful old Fairey Barracuda (my mother flew in these in the WRENs, and nobody had a good word to say about them – unlike the Firefly which was quite popular). I have arranged the Stanley damage photos of Up The Hill and the Police Officers’ Club (enlarged) on either side of a stock photo of the camp so that you can see where these two buildings fitted in.