Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
Lau graves (author), Stanley cemetery (Sandra Lau), Rosary Hill list (via Dr Colin Day) Herbert Jordan's wedding (courtesy Pip Firth), Alfred Allen (courtesy Sandra Smith), Stephen Grove (courtesy Malcolm Grove) Harmony Three badge (courtesy Steve Denton), Comms Diagram (author), Ohel Leah Synagogue plaque (courtesy Ilan Ozer)
I’ve been invited to do a very interesting project: Compile a list of all the diaries and memoirs of Hong Kong’s POWs and Internees. Published ones are simple, of course, as I maintain a complete annotated bibliography of published material. The interesting part is the unpublished section. I have always been amazed at how many people kept wartime diaries – ranging from a few scraps of paper with details of Red Cross parcel deliveries – to a 1,000 page tome by an HKVDC officer. Of course I won’t be able to cover all, but will find a representative selection from my own collection and those in archives.
29 Anne Ammundsen, the niece of Bob Newton of D Coy Rajputs who was killed when the Japanese invaded the North Shore of Hong Kong Island, confirmed that she is coming to visit his grave next month.
25On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, I saw a posting about a war memorial plaque at the Ohel Leah Synagogue. I think I missed this one when I did my roundup of Hong Kong war memorials some years back. I took exception to “S.D. Gerzo” – it sounds so impersonal. He was Samuel Daniel Gerzo, 1 Bty, killed At St Stephen's with Millington. When I noted that, Nona Langley added that his widow was Ida, and Luba Estes continued: “Then came word that Ida's husband was killed and my mother was asked to tell her. In my ten-year-old memory I could not even imagine what she was going through, this lovely lady lying on the bed part of the day totally distraught. Some of the war years we spent in Shanghai and found Ida again. My mother and she became closer friends. In 1945 when we returned to Hong Kong my parents invited Ida to stay in our house. My parents who were extremely hospitable invited British military officers for meals in our house. The food was not elegant tins of cornbeef seemed to be on the menu always. One officer who came was Joe Close, a very charming Captain. After meeting Ida he became a frequent visitor. They fell in love, married.”
24Bombardier Joe Denton’s grandson contacted me again, sending a host of interesting bits and pieces including a photo of the collar pips (illustrated) believed to be from the Japanese guard Sergeant Morita. Joe Denton was one of the ‘Harmony Three’ singers in Japan, together with Frank Florence RAMC, and Bombardier John ‘Ramp’ Bowen, RA. He was also a friend of Bombardier Thomas ‘Doughy’ Baker, and Lance Sergeant Johnny Inglis.
23George Rogerson’s (Royal Marines) son got in touch, pointing out that I had misspelled his father’s name as ‘George Roperson’. I have corrected it. I am hoping to learn more about the Royal Marines as they have been a rather under researched unit.
18 I received a message via some strange Vodafone system, from someone with an RAOC family background who was evacuated to Manila on the Empress of Japan, and then via the Awatea to Australia. Please contact me by email if you can! 18 A representative of Ying Wah College contacted me asking for further information on Herbert Noble, HKRNVR, who was headmaster of the school (which was also traditionally known as LMS, as it was founded by the London Missionary Society in 1818 in Malacca before moving to HK in 1843). Aside from war service, Noble served as the headmaster from the 1930s to the 50s.
17 Stephen Grove’s (HKVDC) granddaughter got in touch. Grove was part of the Air Unit, and left Hong Kong shortly before the invasion to move to Singapore and join the RAF there. Her father then kindly sent a photo, noting: “My father is… the first on the left of those marching. [He] left Singapore at the end of January when the RAF withdrew their planes to Java then Ceylon”. He added: “He was also Chairman of the Hong Kong Club for two years after the war, and his name is up there in the entrance.”Obviously Mr Grove was fortunate to leave Singapore before the Japanese attack. 17 John Roberts’s (RA) niece got in touch.
15 Fred Sanders’s (Royal Scots) granddaughter got in touch. 15 Albert Taylor’s (RA) son got in touch.
11 The Midlothian Advertiser ran a story on the Lisbon Maru, in which apparently Monkey Stewart was a Colonel of the Royal Scots, Lieutenant Potter was in the Royal Scots, and… well, you get the picture. At least in mentioned a few local men. 11 Tom Thomson sent a photo of Victor Thomson, Royal Scots: “in India circa 1936/7 possibly taken by Danny Fowler 2RS. Danny was a keen photographer. I saw some of his photograph albums in October 1994, he had sent them home with an officers wife during the evacuation of families.” 11I saw a ‘new’ book by Ralph Goodwin, ‘Escape from the Japanese’ advertised on Amazon today. I assume it’s a renamed reprint of his original Hong Kong Escape. Has anyone read it?
9 Signalman Alfred Allen’s daughter contacted me again (see February), kindly sending a couple of very nice photographs of him. 9 I’m working with a journalist on the fascinating story of Captain ‘Crumb’ Chattey. 9 Jim Trick reminded me that the HKVCA’s summer newsletter is published here.
8I discovered that the photo of amputees on HMS Oxfordshire that I published in the July edition is from the IWM. They label it: “Liberation and Repatriation August - September 1945: Limbless prisoners of war from Hong Kong celebrate liberation on board the hospital ship Oxfordshire. Left to right: R Jucke, Beausejoir, Manitoba, Canada; W Nunn, Colchester, England; J Smith, Doncaster, England; D Wanstall, Kirkaldy, Scotland; C Spendelow, Spalding, England; and seated W Parker, West Hendon, London.” Comparing this with my records, I believe they are: Reinhold Juenke, Winnipeg Grenadiers (hospitalized on 25 Dec 1941 at QMH), Walter Nunn, RE (leg amputated), Jack Smith, Royal Scots (leg amputated), David Wanstall, RN, HMS Thracian (leg amputated), George Spendelow, Royal Corps of Signals (leg amputated at thigh), and William Parker, RN, HMS Robin (leg amputated at QMH, 23 Dec 1941). The other image (of the same group but taken below decks) that I mentioned, and which is used in We Shall Suffer There, is also there. For some reason I can't save the exact URL, but you can navigate to both photos (and many more) from here.
7 Colin Day kindly sent me copies of a couple of pages from the National Archives with lists of Rosary Hill residents leaving for Macau in 1944. Rosary Hill is still one of the most under-researched parts of Hong Kong’s war, though apparently Vaudine England is studying it now. 7 Sandy Wynd kindly sent me this very interesting IWM Photo. Again, comparing the names with my records, I believe they are (left to right): Mrs Beatrice Doering, of West Norwood, London; Mrs Dora Begdon (HKVDC Nursing Detachment), of Cornwall; Miss Phylis Findlay, of Australia; Mrs Olive Burnett, Australia; Miss Grace Darby, Birmingham, England; Mr Arthur Groves (HKPF) and small daughter Joyce, of Birmingham, England. As Sandy pointed out, of course it should by Hong Kong rather than Japan. Also, Groves lost his young son (also Arthur) shortly after his birth in Stanley, and then his wife Doris (I believe in childbirth) in early 1944).
6 Pip Firth kindly sent me a photo of Bandmaster Herbert Jordan, Royal Scots, who is said to have been shot by his own guards when he failed to respond to a challenge (though the family heard he died of shrapnel wounds from a bomb). Unfortunately he is listed in CWGC files as ‘Jordon’, which we are trying to correct. Of the photo, he notes: “taken on the wedding day of Bandmaster Herbert Birkett Seddon Jordan and Noreen Anne Egan in Lahore on 20th February 1936 (Herbert Jordan seated to the left)”. Pip also had a great uncle, Claud Minot Newman, who was interned in Stanley and left a comprehensive diary. 6 A fellow researcher is investigating the wartime Japanese hijacking of the Sai On from Macau harbour. I wish I knew more about it. I was once contacted by a family who had several members who escaped from the vessel when it was brought back to Hong Kong, but that’s all I have heard.
5 Today I had a very interesting tour of Stanley with the families of BAAG agents Lau Tak-kwong, Lau Tak-oi, and David Loie Fook-wing. Under the leadership of David Loie, they formed part of Group M, which consisted mainly of Police Reservists and included several non-Chinese agents such as W.J. White and A.C. Shinton. They started operation in March 1943 and were one of the outstanding BAAG teams, reporting on a wide spectrum of enemy intelligence as well as communicating with Stanley Internment Camp. In May 1943, the Japanese accused the Lau’s of allowing their home to be used as a repository of intelligence documents. Members of Group M were also accused of possessing wireless radio receiver sets at White’s home at 97 Wan Chai Road, and at 39 Lockhart Road. David Loie killed himself, either just by jumping from the old LegCo building, or by taking cyanide and jumping, to avoid being forced to name any other members of the group. Lau Tak-kwong and Lau Tak-oi were executed. Loie is also mentioned here and in the Auxiliary Police History here. 5 Richard Modrell kindly sent me the War Diary of Chief Signal Officer China Command, Hong Kong. I read through it with great interest when I realized that I didn’t have a copy after all. One of the most interesting parts were the diagrams showing how communications were networked, and proving that there were a few wireless sets in use. Primarily they were used in the defence of the north shore of Hong Kong Island where Japanese shelling did the most damage to lines. One was at Fortress HQ, with one each at East and West Brigade HQs, one in Wanchai – presumably at Monkey Stewart’s HQ – and two with the Rajputs at Tai Koo and North Point. (I hope I’ve got that right; they used the A-F designations for battalions which if I recall correctly was A – Rajputs, B – Punjabis, C - Winnipeg Grenadiers, D - Royal Rifles, E – Middlesex, F - Royal Scots). However, the diary notes: “This chain was to adopt a listening role, and only to open up on case of urgency, or in the event of lines failing, or where a broadcast to all stations from Fortress was necessary”.
4Several people commented on my note about basing book titles on Churchill quotations. I realized belatedly that at least one other quote (of 23 December 1941) generated more than one wartime Hong Kong book title: “We were greatly concerned to hear of the landings on Hong Kong Island which have been effected by the Japanese. We cannot judge from here the conditions which rendered theses landings possible or prevented effective counter attacks upon the intruders. There must however be no thought of surrender. Evert part of the island must be fought and the enemy resisted with the utmost stubbornness. The enemy should be compelled to expend the utmost life and equipment. There must be rigorous fighting in the inner defences and if the need be from house to house. Every day that you are able to maintain your resistance you help the allied cause all over the world, and by a prolonged resistance you and your men win the lasting honour which we are sure will be your due. The eyes of the world are upon you. We expect you to resist to the end. The honour of the empire is in your hands.” The Lasting Honour was of course Oliver Lindsay’s very good book, and Resist to the End was Charles Barman’s memoir. I’ve always thought, though, that the phrase ‘We cannot judge from here the conditions which rendered theses landings possible or prevented effective counter attacks upon the intruders’ shows Churchill at his meanest. The tacit reprimand is as obvious as it is unfair.
3 A very interesting email between a number of ex-Hong Kong policemen today, noted that one Stanley internee, Robert Ellis, had been responsible for the "safe custody" of Ho Chi Minh who the British arrested in Hong Kong (in the early 1930s), and another Stanley internee, Frank Loseby, had defended him in court when the government decided to deport him.
1 Tai Hang Wong, following on from last month’s news of Fraser’s George Cross being auctioned, sent this interesting link about a post war George Medal won by a Hong Kong man in the Falklands. 1 EOD kindly informed me that the ‘nasties’ I mentioned being found in Fanling last month were four 3.5 inch anti tank rocket rounds (Bazookas) from the 1950s. “They were training rounds packed with beeswax, rusty and without any distinguishable markings.” 1 Received my copy of Escape to Pagan by Brian Devereux today. John Devereux, who the book is primarily about, was a Royal Scots sergeant who was shot in the head and badly wounded on 19 December 1941 (according to his medical files, thus probably at Wong Nai Chung Gap) and taken to Queen Mary Hospital on the 20th. Although the nerves in his face never mended properly, camp records show that he was on the 5th draft of POWs to Japan, and he was eventually liberated by the Americans from Tateyama (Nagoya #8B). Unfortunately, in the book he is an RSM, was wounded on Golden Hill, and was on the Lisbon Maru. Actually, post war he rose to the rank of WOI – which perhaps could have caused the confusion - but the other two points are a bit odd.
August 1st, 2016 Update
Wan Chai Gap pillbox and shelter (author), Cheung Yim Sang's HKVDC certificate (courtesy Paul Cheung) John Fraser (via SCMP), Ping Long Wan house, Miss Fan Lan (both courtesy Tai Hang Wong) Ian Burchett's veterans' event (courtesy Canadian Consulate HK), Signals War Diary (courtesy Richard Moddrel), Halldor report (courtesy Audun Urke)
So, with the fourth book finally with the publishers, I can now turn to the fifth and last of the series, provisionally entitled Noticeable and Dangerous, and being the story of all the escapees/evaders from Hong Kong and their continued war work. In practice, the narrative is likely to centre around BAAG, but must also cover the Chindits and every other organisation these people founded or joined. How I wish now that I had called the Lisbon Maru book: Frittering Away, the Sinking of the Lisbon Maru. Then all five titles would have come from the one Churchill quote: “This is all wrong. If Japan goes to war with us there is not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or relieving it. It is most unwise to increase the loss we shall suffer there. Instead of increasing the garrison it ought to be reduced to a symbolical scale. Any trouble arising there must be dealt with at the Peace Conference after the war. We must avoid frittering away our resources on untenable positions. Japan will think long before declaring war on the British Empire, and whether there are two or six battalions at Hong Kong will make no difference to her choice. I wish we had fewer troops there, but to move any would be noticeable and dangerous.”
31 I finally handed in the manuscript for the new book today, provisionally titled Reduced to A Symbolical Scale, and covering the evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940. I even provided provisional cover artwork, thanks to an original photograph from evacuee Margaret Simpson, a modern matching one from photographer friend Don Smallwood in Sydney, and help putting the two together from graphic (and Hong Kong history) expert Tan.
30 Well, my wife is away so I used that as an excuse to get up early and go for a long walk in the hills (yes, I know that’s pretty sad…) My route this morning was Bowen Road, Wan Chai Gap Road, Wan Chai Gap, down to Tai Tam Reservoir, back to Wan Chai Gap, Magazine Gap, Barker Road, then down Old Peak Road and home. I spent half an hour looking over and photographing the shelters and pillbox in the Wan Chai Gap region. The pillbox (a few metres down Lady Clementi’s ride) is one of my favourites as few people go there and the vegetation is so atmospheric, but I also noticed that one of the shelters is now so overgrown with creepers that it’s almost invisible.
28 I heard today the bad and totally unexpected news that Professor Jeffrey Grey, my PhD supervisor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, had passed away. There is an online memorial to him here.
25Cyril Bartlett’s (Middlesex) daughter got in contact, with the very welcome news that her 98 year old father is still with us! She also sent this very educational (and sometimes amusing) link to a TV appearance of his some years back.
23 Good news! The media is reporting that Fraser’s GC has been bought by a philanthropist and is likely to be donated to the nation. The SCMP also published what they say is a photo of Fraser, which I have not seen previously. 23 A researcher studying Stanley Internee John Webster McNaught got in touch. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about him (aside from his entry in the camp list), and nor does he appear in any of the Jurors’ Rolls I have.
22The Canadian Consulate kindly sent me today some photos from Ian Burchett’s leaving party. As the outgoing Canadian Consul he will be sorely missed, but as the photo shows perhaps 80% of those most seriously interested in Hong Kong’s wartime heritage today, it is well worth reproducing here.
19 Paul Normann Urke’s (first officer of the SS Haraldsvang, scuttled in Kowloon Bay on December 12th 1941) grandson got in touch. He attended last year’s Stanley Camp Reunion in Hong Kong as his grandfather was interned there. He notes: “In Not the Slightest Chance I noticed the name Jorgen Jorgensen, dead December 16th (page 89). I have good reasons to believe this is the captain on the Norwegian merchant ship SS Halldor. The ship was at dock in Taikoo Docks when bombed, on December 14th or 15th. Jørgen Jørgensen was born in Oslo December 8, 1879. One file says he died at the French Hospital. There is a grave at the Happy Valley Cemetery with the name Jorgen Jorgensen, but when I came across it on my trip to HK in February, this grave did seem much older than expected. However, Jørgen Jørgensen was not the only casualty from the SS Halldor. During the bombing another Norwegian seaman got hit and died: Per Gøsta Nyberg, born in Moss on September 2, 1882… One other file seems to indicate that there were casualties among the Chinese ship crew as well, three names are listed.” Those other three were Lei Eng Poh, Chien Tien Loo, and Law Wang, yet more local Hong Kong wartime fatalities who don’t seem to have been recorded on any formal memorial. 19 Paul Letters asked the Stanley Group about the demographics of the Stanley Internment guards. Barbara Anslow answered: “I don't recall any Indians or Sikhs, only Japanese and maybe Koreans. They were in the uniforms Don describes. A small group of three or four used to slouch through the camp on some days, they were no problem as long as you bowed to them. I do recall the event Don mentions when we all had to assemble on ground above the beach, it was soon after we entered Stanley, we wondered what was going to happen to us as we were surrounded by armed guards/soldiers. We feared we would be massacred, it was such a relief when we were allowed to go back to our billets which had been thoroughly searched during our absence.” Don Ady had noted: “Visible guards wore Japanese army uniforms: Black canvas shoes with a split for the two small toes, calf wrappings, and rumpled khaki uniforms with billed campaign caps. The calf wrappings made the trousers appear vaguely like jodphurs, as the fabric belled out a little just above the top of the wrappings. As I recall, the soldiers almost invariably bore their rifles with a bayonet mounted at the end of the gun barrel.”
15 Martin Heyes has been working with the family of policeman Robert Rudolph Ellis, who shared room 12/34 in Stanley Internment Camp with three others of the force. His granddaughter is currently working in Hong Kong.
12 Pip Firth, an ex resident of Hong Kong, is asking is anyone knows the exact location of Skeet Ground, or has photos? This was the Royal Scots’ HQ Kowloon side, and is only described (as far as I know) as ‘near Castle Peak Road, Tsuen Wan to the SE of the Redoubt’.
11 Kathleen Crawford (whose father was Donald Matheson, Royal Scots) kindly sent a photo of Villa Milagrosa in Baguio to which her mother was evacuated in 1940.
9 Richard Moddrel, son of Signalman Peter Moddrel, HK Signal Company (who finally left the army as a WOII after 22 years service), kindly sent me his father’s service records. He also included the cover of the Royal Signals War Diary. I had the text already, but had not previously seen the cover.
8 Cheung Yim Sang’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch, kindly sending his certificate of service. Like many Chinese Volunteers, he is listed in my files as ‘did not enter camp, or escaped early’.
3Dave Deptford notes: “The George Cross awarded to John Alexander Fraser, executed on the 20th October 1943 appears for auction as Lot 5 in the Dix Noonan Webb sale catalogue for 22 July 2016. Estimate (wait for it) GBP 120,000 to GBP 150,000. Notification of award in the London Gazette of 29th October 1946.” For the Hong Kong Dictionary of National Biography, I was asked to write the entries for Maltby and Harcourt to bracket the war. But I also asked the editors if I could add Fraser, and they kindly agreed. Shame, though, to see his medals for sale, though the circumstances are covered in the South China Morning Post. Dave also noted that Colonel Esmond H. M. Clifford’s – Command Engineers - medals (CBE Group of 8 medals awarded to the above at Lot 7 in DNW at sale as earlier advised, estimated at GBP2200 – 2600) are also for sale.
2 Continuing the discussion about the guerrillas, Tai Hang noted that the activities of anti-Japanese guerrillas in Ping Long Wan village of Saikung are mentioned at least in the following four Chinese books: - Hsu Yur Ching (ed.), A Record of the Anti-Japanese Activities of the Hong Kong-Kowloon Brigade in Saikung District, Joint Publishing, Hong Kong, 1993. - Hsu Yur Ching (ed.), Fighting In Hong Kong, Ocean Printing, Hong Kong, 1997. - Chen King Tong, Yau Siu Kam, Chen Ka Liang (eds.), The Defence of Hong Kong: Collected Essays on the Hong Kong-Kowloon Brigade of the East River Column, Hong Kong Museum of History, 2004. - Chen Dun Tak, A Record of the Hong Kong Office of the Eighth Route Army, Chung Hua Publishing, Hong Kong, 2012. “The story of [one of the] Little Devils Mr. Lau On are documented in two of the books listed above and confirmed by the 1997 memoir of Miss Fan Lan, head of the Urban Area Detachment of the HK-Kowloon Brigade based in Ping Long Wan village. [Miss Fan Lan] was an anti-Japanese student activist living in Wanchai District before the Second World War. After the fall of Hong Kong she went to China and joint the East River Column. In the winter of 1943 she was redeployed from Tung Koon back to HK to head the Urban Area Detachment at the age of 23. Little Devil Lau On was a next-door neighbour of the link-house that the guerrillas used as their hideout.”
1 TK notes: “a book published by the HANG HAU DISTRICT RURAL COMMITTEE in 2009 has all the names of guerrillas who fought during the occupation. The names of my father in law and his brothers are shown. One of my maternal uncles (son of the owner of the house used as hiding place) was a graduate of King's College, HK. Since he could speak English, he served as a Coast Watcher with the Americans in the mountains around Amoy, China. The parts played by the local residents in Saikung or NT deserve further study. There are some Chinese books on this topic but no English except the one by Chan Sui-jeung-East River Column. But that book describes mainly the part of pro-communist forces not local NT residents. Hope some one will take up this job.” 1 John Davidson’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. He was evacuated in 1940 with his mother. Initially I had thought that his father was Donald Davidson (who was killed by the Japanese at Tai Tam Tuk pumping station) as he was the only Davidson serving with the HKVDC when hostilities commenced. But in fact his father was John Davidson who left Hong Kong shortly before the invasion, and joined his wife and son in Sydney. 1 Tai Hang Wong notes: “On pp 221 to 222 of Edwin Ride's BAAG book Lt. J.D. Clague reported to Lt. Col. Ride that Agents 19, 46 and 48 had purchased a junk and permanently based it at Ngam Tau Sha. Miss Elizabeth Ride has kindly sent me two pieces of her late father's papers about this junk which helped in the 3-day escape of two Hong Kong bank officers T Fenwick and J Morrison on 18th October 1942 from Shaukiwan to Sha Yu Chung in Mirs Bay. To update Miss Ride about Ngam Tau Sha I sent her the following letter and a 1960's photo of the Tung Shum Lung section (new section) of the Ping Long Wan Village. The house behind the tree on the right of the 1960s photo is my grandfather's house that was used by the Red guerrillas as a hideout. A wild historical imagination of mine speculates that BAAG agents might probably have visited this house in their FIGS liaisons with the guerrillas.” The photo shows the same house (third building from the right) as at November 2014. 1 Vic Ient, via Ron Taylor (UK), notes: “I met and have written up the biography (in draft) of William Butler, Royal Signals. I did this by way of recording an interview with him and also taking information from his own story, written up by a volunteer some years ago. In own story he refers to a fellow servicemen called Vernon Talks who was on the Lisbon Maru. I suspect that the surname has been written down incorrectly by whoever transcribed his story. Sadly I can't check with Bill Butler as he died a few years ago.” I was on holiday, and Ron answered before I could. Driver Vernon Talks was indeed the name, though he was lost in the sinking. Vic has written up his father’s (Albert Ient) story here, and has notes on his fellow POWs here. Albert’s wife and two children were evacuees. 1 Chrissie Willicombe kindly sent a number of images relating to Percy Gubb (see last month). These included a press article about the Boon trial, including the first photo of Major Cecil Boon that I recall seeing. 1 George and Jimmy Kotwall’s great niece kindly sent me a number of photos, including a good head-and-shoulders of George (illustrated), and a small photo of them together as boys.
July 1st, 2016 Update
Vyner Gordon (courtesy Gavin, Colin & Duncan Gordon), James Hill (courtesy Andrew Hill), Borge Agerbak (courtesy Carol Hadley) Kennedy Road wall (author), Hong Kong War Activities Committee (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Oxfordshire amputees (via facebook) Duncan Sloss, Stanley dentists, Stanley liberation (all via facebook)
I’ve noted many times that thirty years ago the biggest challenge in studying Hong Kong’s Second World War experience was the great lack of paperwork. Today, though, we’re rolling in it – with the internet being the great facilitator. Normally I ignore historical photos on facebook on the basis that they are already accessible to everyone (and my preference is finding unpublished photographs). However, this month I came across a very interesting bunch of POW and Internee photos, including one of the ex-HK POW amputees on Oxfordshire. Anyone who has a copy of We Shall Suffer There can see a similar photograph taken below decks probably a few minutes earlier.
28 I heard the bad news today that James Wilson, one of the very few Lisbon Maru survivors still left, passed away on the 22nd.
26Carol Hadley, daughter of Winnipeg Grenadier Borge Agerbak, kindly let me publish a photograph of him. I was lucky enough to meet him face to face, on his visit to Hong Kong more than fifteen years ago. Carol let me know that only two Winnipeg Grenadiers, one from HW, and sixteen Royal Rifles are still with us.
25 Percy Gubb’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 25 Today at the Hong Kong Club we had a memorial service, organised by Maiko and Jamie, for Toby Brown who sadly passed away last year. Toby was a man with hugely diverse interests and intimidating knowledge of a vast number of domains of knowledge. Hong Kong’s World War Two heritage was just one area that fascinated him, and among many other things he set up the Bold Venture website after I took him to the crash site a few years ago (I am vain enough to assume I am the ‘warm hearted Brit’ mentioned). His loss, even now, hasn’t really sunk in.
24 I’ve been working on the photographs for the forthcoming book about the evacuees, and the Gordon family has been very helpful. Today Duncan Gordon kindly sent me an excellent photo portrait of Vyner Gordon, who was lost in the battle of Hong Kong after his family was evacuated. The Hill family also kindly sent me a photo of policeman James Hill, who was interned in Stanley while his family spent the war years in Australia.
22 I received a very interesting communication today: “My mother, Phyllis Katherine Lang, lived in HK during the war years and her two uncles George and Jimmy Kotwall were executed by the Japanese. Her boyfriend Cedric Salter receives mention in your book. My mother and Cedric corresponded during his time in Shamshuipo and I have her diaries and his letters that were smuggled from inside the camp. My question is could there have been more than one Cedric Salter? In your book it mentions that he avoided capture by posing as a Norwegian and eventually escaped to China. However the Cedric my mother knew was in Shamshuipo until being shipped to Innoshima Japan, I believe on the Tatsuta Maru in January 1943.” Indeed there were two Cedric Salters. This one was a signalman in the HKVDC Armoured Car Platoon, whereas the escapee was a Royal Scot.
21 Walking back from Causeway Bay along Kennedy Road I finally photographed the old wall on the north side of the road. Clearly pre-war, it doesn’t look like it will last much longer.
17 I heard the sad news today that Robbie Poulter, son of CQMS William Poulter of the 1st Middlesex, and a Lisbon Maru survivor, had passed away. Robbie was one of many people helping me with research into the 1940 evacuation.
15 Henry Langley, whose Hong Kong Dockyard family were evacuated to Australia in 1940, and then followed his father to Singapore when he was posted there before it was attacked, noted an extraordinary occurrence a few weeks ago when he received a phone call out of the blue. “This was from a lady in Melbourne who asked me if I had sisters Rosemary and Veronica. I replied yes. It transpired that she was phoning on behalf of a friend who had known my sisters when they were living in Melbourne in 1940/41 and indeed he had been to school with Rosemary. His friend had made various enquiries and done a lot of research (e.g. she had tracked some of the family’s journeys by ship all those years ago), and was ringing around people with my surname in the area. After the family had gone to Singapore and then back to England, he had kept in touch with Veronica by letter into the 1950s… Since that phone call both he and his friend have been to England. I met up with them three weeks ago and since then they have both met Rosemary and Veronica. And we are going to keep in touch. Anyway, I think it is an extraordinary story to meet up again, as he has done with both my sisters, nearly 75 years after they last met!”
14 Arthur Budd’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) son got in touch, and ever since I have been having a fascinating conversation with him. Apparently his father was wounded in the chest on 19 December, and was the beneficiary of an extremely skilful operation by a Scottish surgeon (either at St Albert’s or the BMH). The son notes: “After the war the surgeon wrote a letter to the Canadian gov't recommending him for a medal and forwarded a copy to my parents. My father tore it up and carried on with his life. My mother was frustrated that my sister and I were not able to read it. That being said the letter is not in his military file and that is fine. My sister and I cannot recall the name of the surgeon. My father did not stay in touch with him but he did try to find him in 1964 when he took us all to the UK and Scotland. He had practiced in Glasgow and Dad was advised by the hospital where he practiced he had died a couple of years before.” We have tried all the obvious possibilities, but so far have not identified the doctor (who apparently had said that Budd “was lucky he had been brought to him as he was the only one skilled enough to do the surgery”).
11 I heard the very sad news today that Jack Etiemble, RA – one of a handful of wonderful men who gave me enormous assistance with the Lisbon Maru book – passed away on May 26. His funeral was on June 15. Very kindly his daughter noted: “Thank you for getting him to open up about his war time experiences, it took a long time to come out and remained with him until the end but he found it easier to speak of it after meeting you.” 11 This evening my younger son and I had the great pleasure of meeting Brigadier Sir Lindsay Ride’s grandson Carsten Schanche for dinner. His mother, Elizabeth Ride, also sent me a very interesting document called Hongkong War Activities Committee.
9Elizabeth Ride kindly sent detailed notes on her father’s escape route. I just wish I had time to go and explore it all! Clearly he took some pretty steep off-piste routes as he wrote at one point: "Today was really the first time in my life that I knew really what it was to have the throat parched and tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth with thirst."
7 Ken Skelton was kind enough to pass me this In Memoriam notice for a Royal Rifle: “Batley, Eric (1922-2016). It is with great sadness that the family announces the peaceful passing of Eric Batley at the Hotel Dieu Hospital on Monday, May 16, 2016, in his 94th year. Eric was one of the last surviving Hong Kong Veterans. Husband of the late Jean Lowe. Dear father of Wayne (Shirley Judge) and Debbie (Larry Everett). Cherished grandpa of Amy and Megan Batley and Jessica and Dillon Everett.”
6My copy of Reginald G. Davis’s The Long Journey Home arrived today (illustrated). It’s a very thin volume, but interesting for its description of the Stonecutter Island RT unit, and the experience at Tamano Camp (especially its liberation and the repatriation of its inmates, which I’ve not seen documented elsewhere). Davis was also a man who had the whole Hong Kong experience, marrying a 1940 Hong Kong evacuee who was also the daughter of a Lisbon Maru victim. He names her as just Vera, but from my records I am pretty sure she was Vera W. Baskerville, daughter of TSM Albert Baskerville of 12th Coastal Regiment, RA. 6 EOD kindly informed me that the 9.2 inch shell found recently was in fact a Japanese 240mm. They are quite similar in size. Apparently it had been defused, probably quite soon after it was fired.
5 Elizabeth Ride pointed out that her father filmed some of his escape route in the 1950s, and the film is in the HKU Special Collections.
1 In response to the question about walking the POW escape routes (see last month) Tai Hang Wong replied: “Back to the early 1980s I walked two sections of the track with my friends that Col. Ride had done in January 1942. We did it in two weekend one-day trips in the winter. The first one from Lai Chi Kok to Siu Lek Yuen of Shatin. The second from Mau Ping to Three Fathoms Cove of Saikung. It was quite difficult to find or estimate the exact spots and locations that are mentioned in his son's book about the BAAG especially in the built up areas of the city. We just took the shortest or most direct streets or tracks when we were not sure. I anticipate it will be more troublesome in guesstimate them now three decades later.”
June 1st, 2016 Update
Johnson's Christmas Card (courtesy Kerry Norrie), Commander Dulley, Harbour view (both courtesy Hugh Dulley) Stafford Smith with Brian Gill (courtesy Ian Gill), John Darby's Index Card (courtesy Carolyn Johnson), Inclinometer (courtesy Dave via Stuart Wood) Jubillee Barracks (via facebook), William Forsey newspaper clipping and ID (both courtesy Brian Forsey)
At the end of the month my wife and I were invited by Cathay Pacific to view their first brand new A350 Airbus at Chek Lap Kok. They provided a bus which drove us onto the new airport (built out of the sea just twenty years ago), and as we circled round to HAECO we had an amazing view of the new Macau bridge. In a Hong Kong that changes so much from generation to generation, it is amazing that so many wartime relics remain, and perhaps even more amazing that ‘new’ veterans of the fighting in 1941 are still turning up. Emotionally history has a strange way of seeming closer each year, though in practice we know the gulf will always grow.
30 Harry Holden’s (RASC) family got in touch.
29Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me the war crimes transcript statement of Lau Tak Oi’s mother. Lau Tak Oi was married to David Loei.
28 Kerry Norrie, the daughter of the first officer of HMPS Perla kindly sent me her father’s (William Alan Johnson) 1940 Christmas card.
27 Brian Edgar has written a new blog about Rudolf Zindel of the Red Cross, who has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, and yet those of us who spend a foolish amount of time studying these things generally feel that he did a decent job in an unenviable situation. Brian has also found a story here about a Eurasian boy in Stanley with his sister and American mother, living with the Dutch community.
23 Bob Tatz was asking about Stanley internees Catherine Hellevik and Ingeborg Warild. He notes: “Catherine Hellevik and Olga Robinson (my godmother) were good friends from Stanley days. According to Olga, apparently Norman was separated from his mother on the troopship as he was ‘slightly’ too old to be included in the cabin berths for women and children. Being diabetic and beyond care by his mother, he gorged on chocolate and candies excessively (what kid wouldn’t after all those years), and never survived the journey home with his mother. Sad story.” How typical of these researches (and how sad) to have two tales of these immediate post-war deaths in the same month. 23 Victor Thomson’s Grandson mentioned a helpful Japanese camp official called ‘Uncle John’ and I immediately assumed he was referring to Watanabe in Stanley. It turns out though, that this Uncle John was a different helpful Japanese guard in Kobe: “my Grandfather had been on a work party, felt unwell and had squatted down. One of the Japanese guards carrying his rifle and a stick had come along and my Grandfather expected to get a beating, but instead the guard had drawn the image of a fish in the dust and given him an aspirin and told him to take a rest but look busy if anyone had come along. Later the same guard had shown him a wallet containing some 1st world war decorations (including British medals) he had been awarded after fighting in the 1st World War. He tried to help them as much as possible but sadly when discovered was executed for having the courage to follow his convictions.” Has anyone else come across him? 23 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced their June 2017 conference: “The latest RFHG newsletter is now available for you to download here. This includes the exciting news that once again we are working in collaboration with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to stage the 6th international FEPOW History Conference! It's all happening 9 - 11 June 2017 - be sure to get your place booked early!”
22 Someone has posted Breakthrough Film’s King & Country Episode 2 - Disaster in Hong Kong, onto YouTube here. I gave these guys some assistance and took a day off when they came to HK, to show them around. Glad to see my name rush past in the credits at the end!
21 Here’s an interesting challenge: Has anyone ever done a Shamshuipo escape walk? In other words, followed the exact route taken by escapees? I recall a friend once doing Goodwin’s route, and of course the HERO team did the MTB escape, but has anyone followed the others paths? 21 Two years ago Julia Law was trying to find details of his great grandfather, George Frosts in Stanley Camp. However, two George Frosts were interned, George Benjamin Frost and George Bartle Frost. Now he has found details of a grave, with enough details to show it was the latter.
20Ian Gill sent the Stanley group a link to the South China Morning Post Magazine story: “My grandfather's amazing life in China and how he found my mother”, with the blurb: “In 1916 in Hunan, Hong Kong-born Frank Newman took in an abandoned baby girl, much to the disapproval of his compatriots. Her son, Manila-based journalist Ian Gill, discovers that was just one of many surprises in the life of a most independent-minded man.”
16 Yet another nasty item turned up in the hills today. I am also seeing more and more evidence of ‘rogue’ detectorist activity - especially along Hatton Road – where they are making large excavations and leaving the road covered in earth. They’re not even likely to find anything interesting in that area, except for unexploded Japanese 150mm shells which are best avoided for obvious reasons. But one very interesting item did turn up recently, on the surface: an artillery inclinometer.
13 Another ‘new’ veteran of the war in Hong Kong turned up today, thanks to Martin Heyes who let me know he is in contact with the family. He is Ron Freer, Royal Artillery, who turns 101 this year.
12George Boote kindly let me know of the existence of a book called “The Long Journey Home”. I took one look and thought, ‘yes, of course I have The Long Journey Home’. But when I took a closer look, mine is by a member of the HKDDC called Victor Merrett. George’s one is by a Royal Naval radio man by the name of Reg Davis, is still available from the Braunton and District Museum at Davis’s home town.
11 So many interesting second world war Hong Kong photos turn up on facebook and other social media sites these days. Often they are repeats of well-known ones (though sometimes in a welcome high quality) and occasionally brand new. A photo of Jubillee Barracks turned up today, probably taken shortly pre-war, that I had never seen before.
9 Ian Gill notes: “I recently found in a compartment of my mother Billie's old leather suitcase a cachet of family photos, including an informal series on Brian. I attach two, one of Brian with Mickey Hahn and another with Uncle Stafford Smith.” The one with Hahn (illustrated) is nice, but who was Stafford Smith? According to my records there was a gentleman of that name in the ARP, and I have one note saying ‘died?’ But aside from the fact that he seems to have been known as both F Stafford Smith and Stafford F Smith, I don’t know anything about him.
8 William Forsey’s (HKDDC) son wrote me a letter, describing his father’s death on the hospital ship Oxfordshire on the way back to the UK after surviving the whole war in Shamshuipo. This is one of a tragic group of deaths I originally came across in my researches, that have post-war dates and no known grave. It took me a while to realise that these were burials at sea.
6John Darby’s (RA) great niece got in touch, kindly sending a copy of his POW Index Card. 6 Karen Lewis sent the Stanley Group an interesting photo of internees grinding rice (Barbara Anslow’s brother in law Clifton Large is the one wearing the hat, the other person is probably Leo Barton).
5 Allan Thomson kindly sent me a document relating his grandfather (Victor Thomson’) experiences as a POW and on the Lisbon Maru.
3 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that: “in DNW of 17 - 18th inst, Lot 133 is the Military Medal Group 7 to Sergeant H. V. Pearse HKVDC: BWM and Victory (Royal Marine Light Infantry), 39 - 45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence and War Medals. MM for defence of HK, Citation in LG of 4.4.46 (Maltby's Despatch). Estimate GBP 2400 to 2800.” 3 This evening I was invited to the Canadian Consul’s (Ian Burchett) house, along with many other people involved in this period of Hong Kong’s history, for a very enjoyable reception. Ian has done a great job in Hong Kong, and has been a great supporter of the cause of Canada’s wartime involvement in Hong Kong, but will be leaving for Ottawa soon.
2 Unfortunately the records of the locally-enlisted men who joined the regular RE and RA in Hong Kong seem to have been lost. Elizabeth Ride believes that Lau Kwok Ping was a Corporal in the regulars, but it’s not mentioned on the CWGC entry. Does anyone know? Interestingly, the scan of the old paper files show that Lau Tak Oi is listed as ‘son of’ instead of ‘daughter of’, but that has been corrected in her online entry.
1 Brian Edgar kindly sent a two-page report that Annie Sydenham co-wrote with Dean Smith on 20 November 1942 about children’s nutrition in Stanley Internment Camp. 1 Of last month’s report, Henry Ching noted: “Re the reference to R.J. Masters in the entry for 28th April, you have no doubt seen my father’s diary entry for 21st April, 1943. The visit of the Japanese gendarmes that night terrified us. They had in tow George Kotwall who, as you know, was subsequently executed.”
May 1st, 2016 Update
Jack Mitchell's birthday (courtesy Rosemary Mitchell), Lacey twins (courtesy Ishmael Abdul), Robert Ross (via Ron Taylor) Signals Reunion (courtesy Richard Moddrel), Nagoya 6B roster (courtesy the late Roger Mansell), BMH Sergeants' Mess (author) Japanese POWs and USAAF reconnaissance photo of Stonecutters (all courtesy Tai Hang Wong)
1946. With the news that finally my fourth book about the Hong Kong garrison is to be published, I’m looking at starting work on the fifth and final one of the series. But I’m now also conscious of the books that I won’t write, and one of them – perhaps potentially the most important - I always provisionally thought of as titled “1946”. The concept was to look at what the POWs did when they got home: the medical struggles, physical and mental; readjusting to a changed society; trying to find jobs outside the forces; cong to terms with their experiences, and so forth. Of course such a volume could be a lot broader than just the ex-Hong Kong POWs’ experiences, but it would be a study well worth completing.
30At the end of last month Wayne Carew posted a picture of a Nagoya liberation roster to facebook. It looked a bit familiar (maybe I gave it to him a long time ago), but I noticed something odd on it: two Frenchmen labelled as HKDVC. So today I went to my original Roger Mansell files (I was one of several people he kindly gave copies of his entire collection to shortly before he passed away) and found the originals. Not all the pages show these two men as HKVDC, but there they are: Andre Chaingy and Paul Cirello. Anyone recognise those names?
29 On my walk home from work we had the first decent weather today for weeks, and I snapped a shot of the Bowen Road Military Hospital’s Sergeants’ Mess.
28 Elizabeth Ride was asking about Rustam Jehangir Master, Electrical Engineer, China Light & Power Co Ltd, of 474 Nathan Road. Master was in the HKVDC Field Engineers and being of Indian descent was apparently held in Ma Tau Ching Camp. Unfortunately I don’t know anything else about him, but Elizabeth notes that both Master and his wife helped Ansari, GC, and were thus arrested by the Japanese.
24 Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of Robert Ross (Royal Scots), which he received from Ross’s grandson Raymond. Ron puts all these on very neat pages on his website.
22 Henry Ching sent the next two of his well-regarded Occasional Papers. These cover Non-European Internees, and Colonels in the HKVDC. As always, they can be found on the Hong Kong Volunteer & Ex-PoW Association of NSW website.
21 Hugh Dulley kindly sent me the current draft of his book about his father’s Hong Kong experiences (see last month). The initial impression is very good. 21Tai Hang sent a very interesting set of photos of Japanese POWs in various Kowloon locations in around September 1945. For one, he notes that it shows: “Japanese POWs at the intersection of Fenwick Street and Gloucester Road in Wanchai marching probably to the assembly point at the Naval Dockyard of Admiralty. They were fully armed and not escorted by British soldiers. The date could be mid August 1945. The road was still littered with discarded war damages. The building in camouflage colour on the right survived up to mid 1970s.” There is also a lot of visible battle damage, but with the majority probably from American bombing rather than 1941 fighting. Bowen Road is also visible top left.
20 Today was Jack Mitchell’s, HKVDC, 95th birthday. Rosemary Mitchell (his niece, who was in Hong Kong for the Stanley Internment Camp reunion at the end of last year) visited him and kindly sent me photos. 20 Thomas Jones’ (Merchant Navy) grandchildren got in touch, seeking more information about him, to differentiate him from another gentleman of the same name also living in Hong Kong in 1941. He was a Master Mariner and was resident at the Seamen’s Institute, Gloucester Road. He died on 1 August 1944.
17 I discovered today that Captain Maurice Lynch, RAMC, was a Canadian.
16 When looking for information about Charles Toms Bailey, an employee of Cable and Wireless and a member of the ARP, I found this short but interesting set of diary entries. 16 I discovered something today that many of you are probably already aware of, that the HKU Library online system has the majority of the Journals of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society available online. 16 The Wong triplets contacted me again, noting that they: “were delivered into this world by Dr Annie Sydenham [illustrated] in Oct 1950 at the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital (London Missionary Society) on Caine Road. Dr Sydenham arrived from England in 1925 to take up work in obstetrics and gynaecology at this hospital as soon as she had completed some Cantonese language study. We attended the memorial service for Dr Sydenham held on 20th January 1969 at the same hospital.” Dr Sydenham was a Stanley Camp internee during the war, and is mentioned in just a few books (Chuck Roland’s Long Night's Journey into Day: Prisoners of War in Hong Kong and Japan, 1941 – 1945, Dr E H Paterson’s A Hospital For Hong Kong: The Centenary History of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital 1887 – 1987, and Dr Bernice Archer’s A Patchwork of Internment). They would like to know more about Dr Sydenham's contributions to the medical service of Stanley Camp from 1942 to 1945, the exact date of her retirement from the Nethersole Hospital in Hong Kong, and the name and location of the cemetery where she was buried in Surrey, England, if anyone can help.
15 Well, it’s been a long wait, but Hong Kong University Press have finally confirmed that they want to publish my PhD thesis in book form under the name “Reduced To A Symbolical Scale” (a phrase from the same Churchill quotation as both Not The Slightest Chance and We Shall Suffer There). I’m just waiting for the final contract now. 15 Tai Hang Wong notes: “I am reading Terry Lautz's new biography of John Birch, an American missionary-turned-OSS intelligence captain who was killed in mid August 1945 outside Soochow, China in a still unclear/mysterious situation by the Communist Eighth Route Army soldiers. The enclosed Youtube video briefly tells how John Birch used his missionary experiences to build networks to rescue American flyers. At the 22 minute and 5 second segment there are a few scenes showing a 1943 bombing of Japanese installations in West Kowloon as seen from the bomb bay of an American bomber.” The areas shown in the bomb bay picture are Yaumati and Mongkok, with the main feature to identify these two areas being the Yaumati typhoon shelter constructed in mid-1920s. Tai Hang also included a 1 September 1943 USAAF picture showing the Lai Chi Kok oil storage depot under attack, an incident mentioned in many POW diaries as it was clearly visible from Shamshuipo Camp.
12 Quite a few years ago I started writing a heavily-illustrated book about the various battle field walks I’ve taken parties on over the years. I finished it to my satisfaction, and passed it to a publisher… and for various reasons it languished there. Said publisher has just got in contact again, and we’re looking at reviving the project.
9 Brian Edgar – again – found a very interesting newspaper report of the death of Jean Dubois in a robbery in 1940. Jean-Willy Dubois (Dubois's son) was a Swiss national who stayed outside camp during the war.
6 Following the recent discussions about the Arthur May book, Brian Edgar (who can apparently find anything!) found a video of him and the famous flag in question.
4William Bainbridge’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch.
3 Yasuko Claremont, of the POW Research Network Japan, who teaches Japanese literature at the University of Sydney, got in touch. She and Susannah Smith (research assistant and artist) will be publishing a book on grassroots postwar reconciliation this year. They were asking if they could cite this website. I emailed permission, but received no reply. I have had quite a bit of problem with spam filters recently, so if you are reading this, Yasuko, please go ahead!
2 Richard Moddrel, son of Peter Moddrel of the Hong Kong Signal Company who was at Kobe Camp, sent some fascinating photos taken at POW reunions of the Royal Signals at Blandford Forum in Dorset. Clearly the ex-POWs are engaged in some sort of role-play as Japanese guards. Does anyone know what this was all about?
1 Kung Fu experts David and Anthony Lacey gave me their permission to post a picture of them with their family (see last month). Their father, Harry Lacey, HKVDC, died as a POW. 1 Regular correspondent TK said something that stuck in my mind. Mentioning the fact that he and his two brothers (he is one of triplets) will return to Hong Kong next year for their mother’s 100th birthday, he noted: “Like most senior citizens she lost her three younger brothers during the occupation. They were forced to work in Hainan Island and never returned.” This topic really needs to be taken up by a Cantonese speaker and properly explored before it’s too late. A back-of-the-envelope calculation by me and other local historians shows that at least 250,000-300,000 Hong Kong civilians died between 1941 and 1945 – which is a far bigger story than that of the garrison which I generally focus on.
April 1st, 2016 Update
Alexander Leslie, then and now (courtesy Gordon and Maria Leslie), Dulley Rock Menu (courtesy Hugh Dulley) George Peterson (via Carol Hadley), PB1 (courtesy Francis Cheung), Victor Thomson (courtesy Tom Thomson) Bombing Taikoo (via facebook), Skvorzov book (author), with annotation (courtesy Luba Estes)
I don’t know exactly how many military veterans of 1941 Hong Kong are still with us. I’m in touch with a couple of Royal Scots, one or two HKVDC, a few Royal Rifles, one Middlesex, one RASC, and that’s about it. Outside that are a couple of remaining Winnipeg Grenadiers, and presumably a small handful of RN, RA, and other groups. In all, at most I probably met, spoke to, or corresponded with a couple of hundred over the years. Now that I realise what a privilege that was, I wish I’d managed to track down more.
30Richard Hide let me know the sad news that his brother David, a long standing committee member of the HERO group, has passed away after a short illness. 30 Francis says: “E. B. stood for Edward Benjamin.” The source is the memorial book of the HKVDC in the St. John 's Cathedral. I never thought of looking there. Great idea!
29 I received a copy of the April Java Journal today, from the Java FEPOW Club. It contained an interesting little snippet: “In May, our youngest FEPOW Bill Macauley will be 90 – congratulations Bill! He was part of the Civil Defence with the Hong Kong Corps of Air Raid Wardens at the age of 15 when the Japanese invaded and was held in different camps around the island. Most will know this ‘cheeky chappie’ from our reunions and the London Club – we’ll be gearing up to give you the bumps at our reunion in July Bill!” They also mentioned that Barbara Anslow has just been for a week’s cruise with her family. Despite the journal’s name, they have FEPOW members from all over the Far East and do a fine job.
27 Robert Gibson notes that the Kowloon Star Ferry clock tower is under renovation again. Every time this happens, we worry that the wartime damage still so clearly visible (especially on the north-facing wall) will be gentrified into nonexistence. 27 Francis Cheung sent me an unusually good photo of the mortar-damaged gun loop of PB1 on Jardine’s Lookout. This is where E.B. Young was mortally wounded. I am still hoping to discover what the initials ‘E.B.’ stood for, but no luck so far. I used to be in touch with his nephew and wish I’d asked then.
22 Luba Estes saw that I was missing an original copy of her father’s (Lt. Skvorzov, HKVDC) famous book “Chinese Ink and Brush Sketches of Prisoner of War Life in Hong Kong”, and with extraordinary kindness presented me with her spare copy! What’s more, she included copies of eight pages of veteran’s signatures from an edition of the book that her father took to a reunion in Hong Kong in 1965. Needless to say, I recognise many of those names.
21 Florence Lydia Mae Wookey’s granddaughter contacted me. She believes that Mrs Wookey was in Stanley, but she does not appear in any lists under that name. I think it’s possible she was in Rosary Hill. There was a Corporal Frank Wookey, Middlesex, who was on the Lisbon Maru. Perhaps Florence was his wife?
17 Tom Thomson, who was in touch in February 2015, got in touch again because his son (and his son’s wife to be) are visiting Hong Kong shortly. They will be looking at the places where Victor Thomson, of the Royal Scots and a Lisbon Maru survivor, was. Tom also kindly sent an excellent photo of his father.
16Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group (and particularly Jill, Bee Bicheno’s niece) the following note: “On September 22, 1941 the South China Morning Post (p. 4) reported a number of arrivals by ship. Three were said to be Hong Kong residents who were NOT evacuated but had gone to Australia on leave and been granted permits to re-enter: Dorothy Brazier (a Salvation Army volunteer who was to spend most of the occupation looking after orphans), Mrs. Monk (a schoolteacher) and Miss Bicheno, described as 'Secretary of the Hong Kong Singers'.” I recalled when I saw this that I had recently seen mention of Bee Bicheno’s teacher’s salary in a Hong Kong Government Civil Establishment list, and sent the relevant page to the group too. Philip Cracknell then pointed out that I had missed the name of another teacher on the same list – Ursula Tulloch, Charles Boxer’s first wife!
12 Ernest Jones’s (HKPF, Stanley Internee) son got in touch. He notes: “My father arrived in Hong Kong from the U.K. just 3 months before the attack and was incarcerated in Stanley Camp, where he met my mother. My mother's family history (Mendes Da Costa) goes all the way back to the 1650s when the Mendes' first arrived in Macao.” 12 Elizabeth Ride asked a question about Bombardier Cheung Chung Yat of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, which reminded me that there’s still one major piece of research that needs to be done – listing all the local members of the regular forces (RA and RE in particular). There were many of them, some named on this site, but many so far unrecorded. Elizabeth was also asking if anyone is specifically working on a study of 5th column activities during hostilities. This would also be a very interesting subject, as the true scale/organization appears to be unknown.
9 Chatting with Michael Hurst of POW Taiwan, I was reminded that I never discovered which ship took the ’Special Draft’, of 14 officers and seven batmen from Hong Kong to Taiwan (Shirakawa) in August 1943. Does anyone happen to know?
8Mark Huang kindly corrected the audio link for Arthur Gomes at the bottom of this page. 8 Chris Harley kindly let me know that Alfred Ernest Ablong senior has now been officially added to CWGC records. 8 Andrew Thomson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch. He is also an Andrew Thomson, and I assume was named after this uncle who was lost in the sinking aged only 23. Unfortunately the CWGC have him listed as ‘Thompson’, but what the family would like most is a photo of him. I have several of the different 2nd Royal Scots companies, but unfortunately none of them are annotated.
7Leslie Buckley’s (RA) great niece got in touch. She is visiting his grave in Yokohama in April.
6 I was sent this YouTube link of the liberation of Hong Kong in 1946.
5 In a very interesting exchange with Hugh Dulley (son of Commander Dulley who was killed at Postbridge) I learned that his father had hit a submerged rock near Chek Lap Kok during a Hong Kong to Macau yacht race in 1935, and that the rock has been known as Dulley Rock ever since! He kindly sent me a photo of the menu from the dinner honouring the naming. Hugh has just finished compiling a book of his father’s letters from 1936 to 1941 and it is now with the publishers. I will mention it in these pages when it is available. 5 Vic Marsh, son of Tom Marsh, Winnipeg Grenadiers, sent this very interesting newspaper article that mentioned his father. He notes: “Our family eventually settled in Kelowna, British Columbia, and dad joined the BC Dragoons with the new rank of Lieutenant and became a Cadet instructor. In his later years he always said it was the Japanese army and specifically the cruel officers that he disliked. He never held any animosity against the Japanese as a people.” 5 Yet more dangerous ordnance turned up in the hills today.
4 A friend of the Lacey family goy in contact (see January 2014), sending a photo of Anne Sue Lacey had twin sons. Anthony ‘Vincent’ Winston Lacey and David Wavell Lacey. Their father was Harry Lacey, HKVDC, who died as a POW in 1942. His twin sons went to high school with Bruce lee and went on to become world-famous martial artists known as the ‘Lacey twins’ kung fu masters of Choy lay fut. Anthony Winston Lacey's son Shane Lacey has been in the movies as a world-famous martial artists and kung fu champion.
3Thanks to a useful tip from Brian Edgar I was able to get in contact with Eager, who confirmed (see last month) that his sister Cynthia had passed away in Oregon in 1996 surrounded by her family. Brian also pointed to this interesting Hong Kong history website that I had not seen before.
March 1st, 2016 Update
Large bucket, Large bullet (both courtesy Janet Hayes), Nielson Field map (via facebook) With A War On, The Arthur May Story (both author), Arthur May (courtesy Francis Cheung) Rogue detectors, Rogue builders (both author), Police Roll of Honour (courtesy Richard Morgan)
I suppose some people will find the idea of kicking off this month’s report with a picture of a bucket (Mr Large’s bucket, hence the title!) a little odd. But for me, the full appreciation of history comes at the intersection of record (including memory), place, and artefact. That - as I may have mentioned before - is how this all started for me: finding a Japanese rifle cartridge at Wong Nai Chung Gap, and then reading about how it got there. That bucket once carried rice in Stanley Internment camp, and forms a permanent link with the internees’ experiences. Such things have no real monetary value but form a strong emotional bridge, which is why I get disappointed when I see governments and individuals failing to appreciate the importance of our heritage.
28 Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group this interesting self-portrait by Stanley internee Gerald Rose. Rose’s mother Rachel died in camp, and his father (BSM Henley Hembdon Rose, 2 Bty, HKVDC) was in Shamshuipo POW Camp. I visited Stanley with Gerald in 2012, but hadn’t realised he was an artist. 28 Shopping in the Gage Street market with my wife, I happened to look up at Graham Street (at the side of the beautifully named Yiu Fat Seafood stall) and noticed three pre-war buildings in various states of dilapidation. My guess is that they’re to be demolished and replaced with yet another modern building. What a shame that so little is done to preserve the few that are left.
25 Donald Plimer’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch. She is also the niece of Royal Scot George Plimer. She pointed out that I had spelled their names incorrectly on this site (now fixed), and that her father was mentioned in this article on the BBC’s website. There are some inaccuracies in it, of course, but it’s worth reading. Unfortunately she didn’t respond to my emailed reply, which is probably sitting in a spam filter somewhere.
24 I’ve been trying to trace the full name of the ‘Jessop’ mentioned in several places as the ‘ex policeman watchman at Taikoo’ who was first to report the Japanese invasion of the island, and engaged the help of ex-policemen Dave Deptford and Richard Morgan. The latter kindly sent a photo of the police roll of honour with the name ‘A Jessop’ on it. However, eventually I thought of checking my own files and found I had an email from Jessop’s son-in-law from 2004. He mentioned that the full name was John Edward Jessop, who was actually serving in the HKVDC at that time and lost his life on the night of the Japanese attack.
23My copies of The Arthur May Story, and With A War On both arrived. The former is certainly more readable!
21 Most Sundays I walk up the Peak, and recently I’ve noticed far more ‘unethical’ metal detecting. These are the fly-by-night brigade who never even bother backfilling their diggings, leaving debris all over the paths. I took a photo of a damaged earth bank along Hatton Road. I don’t know why they bother: the chance of finding anything they could profitably sell on eBay is vanishingly small, and the chance of eventually digging into a live grenade converges on certainty. The ‘ethical’ detectors know their stuff, record and report what they find, and leave no mess – though even they, in my opinion, take too much risk with ordnance.
20 Dennis Norris’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch.
19 Ian Gill noted: “Thought I would let you have news of an 80-year-old Stanley internee who is alive and well in the Blue Mountains of Australia. She is Samara May Thomson, who was known as Mavis Hamson when she was interned in Stanley from the age of 5 until nearly 9. Her daughter is Allana Corbin, author of the book ‘Prisoners of the East’, which provides interesting background on the Hong Kong war and Stanley camp.” I have Allana’s book and have been in touch with the family, but I didn’t have the photo that Ian attached, of Samara and her great granddaughter!
17 Alfred Allen’s (Hong Kong Signals Company, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch.
16 Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group this interview with Stanley child Christopher Chubb.
15 Although it’s not strictly to subject, I heard the said news today that Dr Dan Waters, BBS, ISO, had passed away. I had many a chat with him over the years, normally at memorial services and such like. He served in the Western Desert in the RA during the war, and carried a piece (or two) of shrapnel in him for the rest of his life. He, like me, was a Norfolk boy. The funeral will be a private one, and a memorial service will take place at 4 pm on Thursday 3 March 2016 at the Catholic Cathedral, Caine Road. 15 Here’s a question for the real experts: what did Eugene Alexander von Nagy Kobza do during the Japanese occupation?
14Janet kindly followed up by sending a photo of her father’s (Clifton Large) Stanley Camp rice bucket. She also kindly typed the relevant section about the attack that day from “It was Like This” by her grandmother Mabel Winifred Redwood: “[January 16] at 8.30 a.m. our guards again sounded the alarm. We were confined to quarters all the morning, listening to the zooming of planes and faint bombing a long way away. During a lull in the activity about noon, Olive and Barbara sped down to the hospital for their afternoon shift. Just after that, a group of planes flew over the camp, very high up, in reassuring numbers. They looked like a shoal of small silver fish in the brilliant sunshine. As we gazed in pride at them, two planes collided. One burst into flames and immediately crashed out of sight behind the hills. The other fell more slowly, enabling two men to bale out. Their parachutes opened and one of the men floated down freely (he was captured by the Japanese, we heard later), but the parachute of the other airman became entangled in the falling plane and he was lost. Suddenly all was noise and confusion. The planes were directly overhead and diving low. Machine gun fire, the snarling of the planes and the thud of their bombs struck terror in our hearts. No consolation that the attackers were our allies and their targets were guns set up on top of the gaol and a large Japanese ship beached in a nearby bay. Several bombs hit the rocks outside the gaol, shattering windows in the hospital and our blocks. The Japanese were retaliating with machine guns from their camp HQ on the hill, as well as with the guns atop the gaol. At the first onslaught, we rushed into the hallways and corridors for safety and huddled there listening to what sounded like all hell let loose. We felt the blast of one almighty thud. Someone bravely watching from a front verandah shouted to us that Watanabe, one of the Japanese HQ staff, had gone rushing down to the hospital. Olive and Barbara were there when he arrived to seek medical aid for the internees in one of the bungalows which had been hit by a bomb. Volunteers hurried off with stretchers and found that fourteen of our number had been killed outright; another died before reaching hospital.” The wrecks of the two planes were of course found by Craig Mitchell a couple of years back. 14 Playing around on facebook I found an interesting hand-drawn Philippine POW Camp ‘Monopoly’ board. It mentioned Nielson Field, which has always interested me as it was the intended destination of the three B24s that crashed in September 1945 while attempting to fly released POWs there from Okinawa – including many who were ex-Hong Kong. The Wikipedia entry mentions that Nielson himself ‘because he was British’ was interned in Hong Kong (he was, he was in Stanley), but this is odd as many British people captured in the Philippines remained in internment there until liberation. It adds he: ‘was never seen or heard from again’.
13Mabel has been trying to send me a photo of that bullet, and her daughter Janet (in the States) kindly helped today and successfully got one to me (illustrated). Mable’s son Robin mounted it in Perspex with the story of the event. I took a look and immediately told her that the bullet wasn’t the normal American 50-cal I was expecting to see. I asked Tony Williams in the UK (he’s probably the world’s leading expert for calibres from 5.56-37mm) for advice. What worried me is that the bullet should appear bronze in colour, with rifling marks, should be more pointed at the front and less at the back. I was actually worried that they had something potentially dangerous! Tony immediately pointed out that what they have is the steel core from a normal armour-piercing 50-cal bullet which has lost its jacket upon impact with the ground. The jacket is probably still at Stanley somewhere.
12 TeeAy, CSM Osborn VC’s grandson, kindly sent a very atmospheric photo of Canadian snow, and the wreaths that he habitually puts at places of memorial.
11 Alexander Leslie’s (Royal Scots) son contacted me with the very welcome news that he (the father!): “will be 100 years old on 11 March.” It’s quite unexpected to be finding ‘new’ veterans after so many years.
10Barbara skyped Mabel (who lives in New Zealand) and mentioned my ‘Mabel story’ to her. I had also asked her if Bungalow C at Stanley was ever reoccupied after the January 1945 bombing, and after discussing that she noted: “she said Clifton (later her husband) picked up a spent bullet from one of the planes just after that raid. I was in the hospital office at that time, but Mabel was with Clifton in front of the Married Q when a plane flew low along the road there, firing. She still has that bullet.” I asked if I could see a photo of it.
5Luke Gauci is still trying to track down ex-Stanley Internee and international competition swimmer Cynthia Eager, if anyone can help. Her father was lost in the MTB attack.
4 George Boote kindly told me about a book called “With A War On”, published in 1984 by American Stanley internee Mary Higgins. I was able to find a second hand copy online and ordered it. 4 Francis Cheung reminded me of the new book, “The Arthur May Story” by Ron Taylor, and I immediately ordered a copy. He also sent me a photo of Arthur taken at Hong Kong’s cenotaph some years back.
2Apple Daily published photos of a find of what looked like an unfired shell. I checked in with EOD and they told me it was an early 20th century 3.7 inch shell, probably a howitzer, found unusually close to the border. Possibly it was from the HKSRA’s 3.7 inch howitzers. They also told me of the recent find of a British M36 Grenade and a Japanese 50mm mortar in the hills, but those of course turn up all the time.
1 Stephen Vine kindly sent a presentation he gave at the launch of Suzanna Linton’s book about the Hong Kong War crimes trials. His father was a prosecuting officer. Stephen’s late stepmother (Aida) was an Agabeg, and being Armenian the family lived in and around Caine Road throughout the Japanese occupation. 1 The month started with a lunchtime lecture at Glenealy Primary – the admirable school that our kids once attended. I gave them a presentation about ‘Interesting people in Hong Kong, 41-45’. I paired the interesting people up - for example two professors: Doc Ride who founded the BAAG, and Professor Wenzel Brown who was interned in Stanley until repatriated to America. I paired Barbara Anslow up with Emily Hahn, as ‘two interesting ladies’. When I spoke about Barbara, I said: “This is Barbara, who was interned with her mother and her two sisters, Olive, and, er…” To my amazement, the whole class shouted: “MABEL!” Apparently they had been reading her diaries online in preparation! I let Barbara know the story.
February 1st, 2016 Update
James Hart's 100th (courtesy Archie Hart), St John's Memorial, Repulse Bay Hotel drain (both author) Canadian party and 1941 map, Close up of map (both courtesy John Russell), Edwin Husband (courtesy Ken Williams) Humorous abbreviations (courtesy Frode), Baukham letter (courtesy Anthony Baukham) Joseph Burgess letter (courtesy Dan Bond)
What a bizarre business history is. A lady widowed for over seventy years, a massacre victim celebrating his one-hundredth birthday, a watch (lost in a battle) that might run again, a question finally answered after ten years. Someone asked me today why I got involved in this subject in the first place, and I automatically answered that ‘it was just bad luck’. But it’s thought provoking too, and satisfyingly unpredictable.
31 Finally I was able to take the Hong Kong Club walkers around the Stanley battlefield. Two weeks ago it was too wet (this has been the wettest January on record by a good 10%), last week it would have been too cold. And this week it was almost too windy! But we had twenty people turn up and had a good walk. Ending in Stanley Cemetery, someone pointed out that Phyllis Bliss’s ashes had been placed in an urn behind Arthur Sidney Bliss’s headstone. Bliss was killed at Chung Hom Kok on Christmas Day 1941, and Phyllis had been a widow for the remainder of her hundred-year life. I hadn’t realised she had passed away (she remained in Hong Kong), but the urn gave the date 26 May 2014. 31 I am back in contact with the family of Lt Col Houghton. Todd’s message (below) slowly rang a bell, and suddenly I recalled that they had contacted me in 2006. At that point they had written: “Major Houghton had two sons which were very young when he left for HK before the war. As his second wife died during the birth of his second son, and he had recently moved to Scotland prior to leaving for HK, the two boys ended up in a care home and boarded out to a remote island farm. No family ever came for them so they remained there until becoming adults. My wife’s father (David) has always wanted to know what became of his father.” I have now sent them all the details on the loss of Ginny.
30 Stuart Woods reported finding a Japanese watch, a Seikoha Nation, in the hills in a condition that might be restorable. Before that, they found the butt plate of a Lee Enfield.
27 Dan Bond got back in touch, kindly sending a Red Cross letter about his great uncle Joseph Burgess of the Middlesex (see June 2013). The sad part, of course, is that Burgess had been killed in Stanley (PB28) on Christmas Day. Even years later, it appears, the family still didn’t know this.
26 Today was James Hart, RASC’s, 100th birthday (though the family celebrated on the 23rd). Not bad for a man who the Japanese left for dead at the Eucliffe massacre! His son Archie kindly sent me some photographs of the event. 26 Todd Blomerth kindly sent me a biography he had written of Willard Sharp, the pilot of B24 Ginny. Three B24s were lost on 10 September 1945 carrying ex-POWs: Les Miserables (whose pilot I once interviewed. The majority of POWs on board were ex-HK. It crashed in the sea, with the survivors being rescued by HMS Ursa); Liquidator (which crashed in the mountains in Taiwan, and the bodies of those on board were recovered in atrocious conditions in which - I was told - a number of Taiwanese soldiers died. The British on board were initially buried in Taiwan but were reburied in Hong Kong later. These included the father of entertainer Clive James); and Ginny (Ginny was never found, and it is uncertain whether they hit a mountain - which is perhaps unlikely, as you might expect the wreckage to have been found by now - or the sea), one of whose passengers was Lt Col Houghton (see last month). 26 Peter Monypenny kindly sent me his thoughts on Christopher Man (see December).
24 Woke up this morning to find a temperature of one degree outside, and -0.8 on the Peak up the hill from us! There was ice on the trees and icicles by the waterfall. While such low temperatures are unusual and did not occur in 42-45, winters typically do have a few days in single digits here, which must have been very trying in the largely unheated wooden huts of POW Camps. 24 Tina Selby got back in touch. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Jones mother Irina, and aunt Rolanda were in Stanley, and her step-grandfather Roland Jones, HKDDC, was lost on Gatling in the fighting.
23 Anthony Baukham, son of Victor Baukham HKRNVR got back in touch kindly sending a number of documents relating to his late father.
22Joan Wilkinson’s (Stanley internee) son-in-law got in touch. He notes that: “She and her family were internees in Stanley camp for the full duration of the war. She is mentioned in Barbara Anslow’s diary in September 1942. Mum sang at a concert in the camp with her sisters Maureen & Marjorie and we were wondering does either Barbara herself or any other contributor to the diary remember Mum and her family. Her Mum & Dad were called Fred & Beatrice Wilkinson and the rest of her siblings were called Fred, Joyce, Brian & Maurice, Mum’s singing group were known as the Wilkinson sisters in the camp. We also have family connections to the Pereira’s, namely Augusto Pedro Pereira Jnr who was imprisoned in Nagoya 8B Tateyama POW camp. Also Joseph Nelson Wilkinson was killed on 18th December, as you know from your researches, he was a Gunner in the HKVDC. Billy Wilkinson was also a POW in Sendai POW camp No 2.” Barbara indeed recalled the family, praising their singing! 22 Geoff Emerson kindly sent me a copy of his full Stanley Reunion Report from last year. It’s a truly unique document, bringing together so many of those born or conceived in Camp. 22 I finally finished reading the very good “It Won’t Be Long Now”. In it, one of the most interesting things for me was Heywood’s description of the early days (pre-25 Dec) as a POW in the New Territories, with those captured at the fall of the Shing Mun Redoubt. One thing of note is his mention of a single Canadian who was with these POWs, captured ‘having got lost in Kowloon’. It rings a vague bell, and must be either a D Coy Winnipeg Grenadier or a RCCoS man. It’s not the still-missing Private Gray, as Heywood notes that this individual rejoined Canadian POWs in January 42.
20 I had a request from a researcher today, seeking contact with the Eager family. John Crawley Eager was killed on MTB 26 on 19 December 1941, and his family was in Stanley. His daughter, Cynthia, became a famous swimmer and is the focus of this request. I asked MTB expert Richard Hide, and although he didn’t have the contact details he had a few photos of Mr Eager and has updated his excellent account of the raid in which he was killed.
17Today should have seen the last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club, but the rain was so bad that we had to postpone it. Typical April weather – in January! 17 On the Stanley Group, Brian Edgar notes: “This site has a photo of and a little information about internee Roland Arthur Charles North, a senior civil servant. A quick look at the whole site suggests his father was a very interesting man.” 17 Philip Cracknell has written a particularly interesting blog about Stanley internee George Giffen.
16 Alfred Paling’s (RAF) family got in touch. I don’t know much about him (aside from the fact that he was held in Shamshuipo POW Camp and died of pellagra). Can anyone assist? 16 About that ‘blasted rock’ I referred to in July on Hatton road. I walked past it again this morning on a cool rainy lonely day, and had a rethink. What I had thought might be a shell impact was, I now think, the end of a borehole. I suspect this rock was simply blasted out of the way by the builders of this road in the 19th C. 16 I can’t recall exactly what set me off, but I saw one too many references to Hong Kong being attacked ‘the day after’ Pearl Harbour. If the attack at Pearl was at 08.00 local time (Dec 7), that would have been 02.00 (Dec 8) in HK. So if the first Japanese border crossing was at 07.30 HK time on Dec 8, that would actually have been 5.5 hours after Pearl was attacked. Seem right? 16 Ron Taylor (HK) followed up the news about John Fitz-Henry with his list of wartime HKVDC members believed to be still with us. He has just ten now, the only one of whom I am in regular contact with being Jack.
14 Edwin Husband’s (Royal Signals, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo.
12 David Bellis of Gwulo notes: “The latest three shows of Annemarie Evans's ‘Hongkong Heritage’ have covered different aspects of the wartime years in Hong Kong, including Stanley Camp. They are all available to listen to online. 19 Dec 2015 show: 00:00 Introduction to the wartime diaries project and some diary extracts from the fighting period 08:11 Interview with Diana Fortescue about her family's experiences in Hong Kong and Stanley camp, and her book, The Survivors: A Period Piece. 26 Dec 2015 show: 00:00 Interview with Ian Gill about his mother Billie's life and her experiences in Stanley camp, and Ian's later search to find his father. 17:10 A visit to a couple of Hong Kong's WW2 air-raid tunnels. 2 Jan 2016 show: 00:00 Interview with Veronica Heywood about her father's experiences as a POW in Sham Shui Po camp, and the book of his account "It Won't Be Long Now - The Diary of a Hong Kong Prisoner of War" that has recently been published. 10:20 Interview with CM Shun, Director of the Hong Kong Observatory about his research into the history of the Observatory, including the previous directors' experiences during WW2. 12:46 Extracts from the wartime diaries covering the occupation years.”
11Ron Taylor (HK) also let me know the sad news that John Fitz-Henry (HKVDC) passed away in September. His correspondent notes: “John was the youngest of our PoW Members, being just 17 years old when captured in 1941, and one of the last survivors of Innoshima Island PoW camp.” 11 I heard the bad news today that Jack Mitchell’s wife Zena passed away on the 9th. Jack is one of the few ex-HKVDC POWs I am still in touch with. 11 I had an email from an ex-RN chap who served in Hong Kong in the sixties and heard the story of A.B. Ronald Mattieson (HMS Thracian) who survived the Eucliffe massacre (as described in White Ensign Red Dragon). Mattieson was a POW in HK until liberation, but does anyone know what happened to him afterwards?
8John Russell, one of the Canadian visitors last month (son of Albert James Russell, Royal Rifles of Canada), kindly sent a photo taken during our walk around Wong Nai Chung Gap. During that walk he also kindly gave me a large – and very useful – annotated Hong Kong map that I hadn’t previously seen, published by the War Office in 1930 and updated by them in 1938. John also notes that on the page Book 3: The POWs of this website there’s a picture of his father (under Japanese Camps, he is the middle one in the first row as POW # 96, Albert James Russell, Royal Rifles of Canada, 7 Plt, A Coy, wounded at Repulse Bay on 19 Dec 1941). He was 19 then, and 82 years old when he died in 2005. 8 Frode in Denmark sent me a very interesting page from the 1934-1935 HKVDC Year Book, giving joke explanations of various military initials. (Actually I bet few people these days would know all of the actual meanings, for example: Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services. There’s actually a very useful long-list here, which though it refers to the Great War is a strong subset of the Second).
6 Diane Bishop-Whent kindly sent a photo of Raymond Pearce (see December. Illustrated).
4 Jim Trick kindly let me know that Phil Doddridge’s memoirs have been moved to a new location here.
2 It’s become a habit to start the new year with a long walk, and today I did one that I’ve been meaning to do for years – from our house in Conduit Road to Repulse Bay. The route was Bowen Road to Wong Nai Chung Gap, and then the contour road round Violet Hill and down the steep hill to meet the coast just east of Repulse Bay. On the way, by the St John’s Memorial in Wong Nai Chung Gap I noticed a new plaque – apparently erected in November – commemorating the lost St John’s personnel. They give the number correctly as 56 – the 55 Chinese personnel, and Alan Potter who was lost on the Lisbon Maru (and who Brigadier Sir Lindsay Ride had successfully insisted should be included in their lists). At Repulse Bay I walked along the road just under the old Repulse Bay Hotel garage, and finally found the famous drain in which the hotel’s inhabitants had sheltered during daylight in the siege (in fact Rob Weir had told me where to look several years ago).
January 1st, 2016 Update
Ralph MacLean (Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong, via Jim Trick), Canadian visitors (author), Stanley Reunion 'children' (courtesy Ian Gill) Fly Chit, 4th Battery HKVDC (both courtesy Nick Garland), Mark Tsui's wedding (courtesy Lawrence Tsui) HKVDC Cocktail Shaker (courtesy Chris Potter), Fortescue book (author), 29 Lugard Road (courtesy Amanada Parkes)
December, being the anniversary of the battle, is always the busiest month – and this year with more than 60 war-related visitors here, was certainly no exception. Geoff Emerson did a fantastic job planning and organising the 2015 Stanley Reunion, and Mike Babin likewise with the HKVCA Tour. As for photos, the monthly format I use for this site limits me to just ten, but there were over 40 of sufficient interest that I would have liked to have added them!
31 Geoff Emerson kindly corrected my entry for November 9 (see, obviously, last month!) Barbara Hume is Barbara Laidlaw today. Barbara Coe was Barbara Morris before she was married. 31 Sher Muhammad’s (HKSRA) widow contacted me. Interesting to suddenly have two new contacts from Pakistan when there have been so few previously. 31 Seeing last month’s mention, Jessie Holland’s family contacted me again. Jessie was killed on 12 December 41, and although her husband Adam was killed in the bombing of Stanley’s Bungalow C at the end of the war, it seems likely that Jessie would have been buried properly by her husband before the fall of Hong Kong, but possibly without time to construct a headstone. They have told me that the couple had three children, Isobel, Alistair and Joan. Alistair shows up (as ‘Alister’) in the 1940 Jurors’ Role, but doesn’t appear in any HKVDC or POW/Internee list. Neither do his two sisters (at least, not under the surname Holland. I believe all three would have been adults in 1941 and therefore could have been married). Possibly all had left Hong Kong by the end of 1941.
30Raymond Pearce’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK).
27Muhammad Ilahi’s (HKSRA) widow got in touch from Pakistan. This is only the second such contact I have had in 25 years. 27 Chris Potter kindly sent a photo of a cocktail shaker presented to his father John Edward Potter on the occasion of his marriage by the members of the HKVDC Air Arm on 29 November 1939, noting that it: “has an amazing survival tale to tell. It was looted by Japanese soldiers from my parents' house on the Peak and made its way to a post-war market somewhere in the East where it was bought by an Englishman who happened to recognise some of the names on it. By then we were living in New Zealand, but on a brief and rare visit back to England (her birthplace) my mother met the said Englishman, who enthusiastically returned the shaker to her.” Each name has a story: W.E. Peers – Killed in 58 Squadron, 15 January 1941. S. Grove – Possibly the auditor Stephen Grove? No war record found. R.G. Parker - Possibly in my records as R.J. Parker, who served in the HKVDC. A.F. Walkden – Transferred to the HKSRA as Lieutenant. Died in Japan, 23 February 1943. K.W. Forrow – Served in the HKVDC and survived. D.H. Stewart – A Douglas Harrison Stewart was killed in the RCAF, 15 October 1942. G.H. Fowler – Was killed in an accident at Kai Tak, 25 August 1940. B.M. Hynes – Brian Maurice Hynes was killed on 28 October 1944 over Germany. L.M. Wylie – Killed in 1 Coy HKVDC, 19 December 1941. P.E. Bedell (Instructor) – Probably Patrick Edwin Bedell, killed in the Singapore campaign, 205 Squadron, 7 December 1941. John Potter himself, of course, was lost with 1 Coy HKVDC in the defence of Stanley, 25 December 1941. Chris also sent photos of the shoes that were made for him in Camp!
26Anneke Kekwick’s (nee Offenberg – Stanley Internee) granddaughter let the Stanley Group know that her grandmother passed away yesterday
22 Trevor Hollingsbee asks a very interesting question: Why is a British soldier marching in the Japanese Victory Parade? He can be seen at around 02.20 in this clip, and appears to be a Royal Scot corporal. It’s a very interesting video even without this, though much of the footage seems to be the IWM collection discussed last month.
20 Ian Gill kindly sent a photo taken at the Stanley reunion (in Stanley Cemetery) of photo of those attendees who were born (or conceived) in Stanley. From left to right: Rosemary Mitchell, Ian Gill, Dennis Clarke, Lydia Veriga Kirby, George Cautherley, Conner Hackett, Chris Potter, Barbara Laidlaw (nee Hume), Elizabeth Sharp, Michael Thirlwell, Margaret Coleman (nee Forster), Gillian Woolley (nee Millar) and Brooke Himsworth. Ian also sent two photos of his father – George Giffen – with the HKVDC in the 30s. He initially served in the Anzac Company, which doesn’t seem very well researched.
19 Chris Potter, who I had briefly met at the Stanley reunion, got in touch. He was born in September 1941 and grew up in Stanley Internment Camp. Among the many souvenirs he has of that period are the sling in which his mother carried him (which is still in remarkable condition) and a pastel drawing of him and his mother using it, by A. Savitsky, the well-respected artist/policeman. 19 Amanda Parkes kindly sent a set of photos taken by her family (Herbert Hills’ family) in and around 29 Lugard Road in the 1930s. The building was seriously damaged by shelling in December 1941 (in fact a live Japanese 150mm turned up nearby earlier this year) and was demolished and rebuilt post-war.
18 Chris Harley let me know today that Harold Holden has been accepted by the CWGC as Civilian War Dead. 18 Rob Weir made an interesting comment about the non-escape from the Shing Mun Redoubt AOP (see last month). He notes that few people would be willing to make a dash down a pitch-black tunnel at night, while under attack and surrounded by an enemy that might be anywhere. It’s a good point. In that situation I think I would have stayed put too.
17William Fergusson’s (Dockyard Police) daughter got in touch. She notes that he had previously served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Hong Kong, and when he retired from them he took over the Marcel Café. There he kept a silver plaque that his regiment had awarded him, which he somehow preserved through all the years in Shamshuipo Camp. 17 Today I was interviewed by the Morrin Centre (Canada) about the preservation of Hong Kong’s wartime remains (or lack of preservation, in many cases…)
15 Iain Gow kindly sent a scan of his father’s POW Index Card, pointing out something I’d never noticed before. The date of entry to ShamShuiPo POW Camp is shown as 7 January 1942. When I checked other HK Index Cards, they were the same. As most of the POWs entered ShamShuiPo on 30 December, this implies that the official opening date was a week later.
13Continuing his research into why Major A.C. Houghton – lost in a B24 crash on his way back from Camp in Japan – is commemorated in Kent instead of Sai Wan, Richard Bone notes: “I received a response from the CWGC, in short it says that Major Houghton should have been recorded at Sai Wan but the records at the time provided to the CWGC were not accurate enough to be definitive for him to be commemorated there… Incidentally I did a very quick bit of Google research, AC Houghton was one of four brothers, one died in WWI the other two seem to have survived the wars. I think I mentioned that Maj Houghton’s son died in Jan 1944 in a crash, he was in the Fleet Air Arm. I do wonder if he knew this news while he was a POW.” 13 Second walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club, the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. It was very enjoyable, with the usual group of regulars and good walking weather. 13 A gas mask turned up in the hills today, on the surface in remarkably good condition.
11 Ian Gill kindly sent me copies of two poems written in memory of his half-brother Billie who died in an accident in Stanley Camp. One was by Les Parkin (who was another child in camp) and one was by George Giffen (who became Ian’s father, and is also the man quoted in the War Crimes newspaper article referred to on the 1st). 11 Referring to last month’s still from the surrender ceremony at Government House in 1945, Richard Hide notes: “Standing in the centre next to the man in the white tropical uniform is David MacDougall.” He has also recently been in touch with Lt-Commander John Yorath’s granddaughter. In a further email he sent this link to a video about the surrender.
8 Neill Garland’s (HKVDC) great nephew got in touch, noting: “Aged 17 he flew with the RFC/RAF in WW1, returned to Scotland after the war, then after a degree in ship engineering from Strathclyde, moved to Hong Kong in the 1930s to the Marine Division out there.” He sent a very interesting set of papers, including the Scottish Quarterly – a 57-page anthology that was clearly typed and illustrated in camp, plus the first ‘fly chit’ I have seen, a hand-written will of a fellow soldier (I.B. Trevor, I believe – he survived) written on 24 December 1941, and many other pieces. 8 Henry Ching kindly sent me two more of his occasional papers. They cover the Ablong family and Hong Kong Cadets during the war (interestingly, mentioning Paul Tsui again). As always, they can be read here.
7 Luba Estes has discovered an original copy of her father’s book on the web for an astounding amount! 7 Gordon Simmons’s (Royal Rifles) granddaughter got in touch. 7 Bill Lake kindly sent photos of the Kamloops Kid, both alive and very dead following execution. 7 Of the Stanley Reunion, Ian Gill noted that: “At least three in the group photograph of Stanley children taken after Liberation attended last week’s Stanley Reunion in Hong Kong: Brooke Himsworth, whose father Eric organized food distribution in camp, Gillian Woolley (nee Millar), who showed us Stanley mementoes and Maureen Coleman (nee Forster) who was seven at war’s end and recalled bed bugs and roll calls. Other picture highlights include Conner Hackett visiting the Commandant’s Headquarters that had been his parents’ home when his Dad had been doctor at Stanley Gaol, and Chris Potter showing us photos of himself as a tot taken with a Japanese guard and with his mother at Stanley.”
6 Nice weather today, as usual, for the annual Canadian Memorial Service at the Sai Wan Military Cemetery. There was a good turn out, added to by the 30 or so visitors from the HKVCA, and a similar number from the Stanley Reunion. Ralph MacLean spoke very well. I looked down at one point and noticed that the grave I was standing by was that of an American named William Roger Suits who served with the Royal Rifles (illustrated). The CWGC record notes that he was “Son of Kenneth B. and Nina Suits, of Decatur, Michigan, U.S.A.” I wonder what his story was? 6 A strange find in the hills today: a US Navy radio receiver, and a British transmitter – both of wartime vintage, though probably pre-1941. 6 Anne-Marie Evans has a very nice review of the Graham Heywood book in today’s SCMP Magazine.
5 At 08.30 this morning I waited in light drizzle and cold winds at Wong Nai Chung Gap for the Canadian Tour organised by Mike Babin of the HKVCA. Fortunately when they arrived the rain eased off, and we had a very enjoyable walk around the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. One veteran, Ralph MacLean of C Company Royal Rifles under Major McCauley, accompanied us – and put us to shame by completing the entire walk and looking more comfortable at the end than many of the younger people! Then we took the group’s bus down to Stanley to visit St Stephen’s College and their excellent museum before retiring to the Cricket Club for lunch. I had to leave them there, and as I left suddenly the heaven’s opened and we had the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen in Hong Kong in December! They have added a trip report to their website here, with photos here. 5 Charlie Dobie has added more wartime photos of Hong Kong to his album here.
3 This evening I accepted George Cautherley’s kind invitation to join the Stanley Reunion dinner (organised by Geoff Emerson) at the Hong Kong Club. It was very well attended, with the 30 or so attendees including around 10 people who were either children in Stanley or born in camp. David Bellis of gwulo.com spoke about Hong Kong historical information on the web, and Diana Fortescue introduced her new book about her parents in Stanley. Ian Gill – conceived in the camp - also spoke about his and his family’s experiences. Finally, we showed a three minute video clip of the liberation of the camp, shot by the Royal Navy and kindly provided by Elizabeth Ride and H.T. Leung.
2 Brian Finch kindly put my in touch with Peter Moneypenny, who at one point served as ADC to the late Major General Christopher Man (later Private Man of the Athol Highlanders). Man, of course, was one of the best respected Middlesex officers (responsible for the defence of Leighton Hill amongst other things) and I am looking forward to learning more about him. 2 Ron Taylor (UK) continues to add POW Camp rolls to his website, and has now completed Innoshima (Hiroshima #5B).
1 Referring to last month’s video of a Japanese war criminal taking his captors it what appears to be the direction to Tweed Bay to visit a memorial to executed prisoners, Brian Edgar kindly sent this newspaper link. The story there (under the heading “Jap Visits Victims’ Graves” implies that the location of the execution was the usually-quoted one of Stanley Beach. Also, referring to the same video, Avery Tong kindly pointed out that the Chinese captain in the first 3.07 of the clip filmed during the ID parade at Sham Shui Po Camp was Captain Paul Ka Cheung Tsui, MBE. Tsui’s son Lawrence confirmed this and kindly sent a photo of his father in uniform in 1946 at the wedding of Mark Shing-cheung Tsui at Rosary Church, Tsimshatsui. He notes: “Mark (No.56) was Confidential Clerk of the BAAG Field Intelligence Group working side-by-side Paul Tsui as well as sent to assist McEwan in Forward Area 2 (Samfou of the West River region). Many of the diagrams in the BAAG Collection were drawn by Mark from debriefing agents, especially the most efficient Group J (under No.2 Au Fai) which he rendezvous at Taam Sui and later Toishan.” 1 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that John Tibbs’s (RE) medals and other ephemera are visible on the web here. I’ve always been interested in Tibbs as his CWGC entry records his family living in Wells-Next-Sea, my home town.
December 1st, 2015 Update
Stanley kids at Liberation (courtesy Royal Navy), Fred Thompson (via Ron Taylor), Ride at surrender (courtesy IWM) Diocesan Boys' School poster (courtesy Alan Pong), Shingmun inscription (author), It Won't Be Long Now (author) Piloted to Serve, Souvenir of Shamshuipo, Hong Kong's War Crimes Trials (all author)
Elizabeth Ride has found the answer to a question that’s been bugging me for years. If you watch any TV documentary about the fall of Hong Kong, you always see the same footage of Japanese troops jumping off a landing barge and running up a quayside with oil barrels and dark smoke billowing above them. It’s clearly not actually combat footage, and I have always assumed it comes from the ‘Fall of Hong Kong’ propaganda film that the Japanese shot in 1942 – during which they recreated elements of the fighting. But where is the original? Now we know. Also, in the week of November thirtieth, two groups of visitors arrive in Hong Kong: one consisting of families of Canadian veterans, and the other of families of Stanley Internees. The latter party includes up to ten people born in Stanley, and this month’s top photo – of the Stanley kids as they were found by the Royal Navy in September 1945 – is in their honour.
29And still grenades turn up. These things, the Japanese version in particular, really don’t get any kinder with age. I don’t recommend anyone searching for them.
28 I received an email today advertising an auction in Hong Kong, of which Lot 1 is ‘Collections of Hong Kong Liberation 1945’ and appears to include a pennant from Anson, as well as other things. The estimate is HK$100,000, which puts it a bit beyond what my pocket money will stretch to. 28 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society has announced that their Fall-Winter 2015 POW Society newsletter Never Forgotten’ is up on their website.
27 Among the five hours of original wartime cine film that Elizabeth Ride found at the IWM are two Japanese films I’ve been searching for over the past twenty years. The propaganda film shot in 1942 is filed under RMY 66-2-3, and consists of two reels totalling 16 minutes. Although the re-enactment scenes aren’t too bad, the remainder is pretty poor propaganda showing the dastardly British shooting Chinese refugees left right and centre. However, there is also a second clip filed as RMY 66-4 Part II. This is a newsreel with some genuine combat footage filmed from the air (burning buildings in North Point for example), plus some of surrendered British POWs, merged with a few scenes from the propaganda film. Very interesting to see.
26 I received an interesting enquiry about Major Alfred Houghton, RE, who – along with other ex-HK and ex-Lisbon Maru POWs – was killed in September 1945 when the B24 (‘Ginny’) taking them from Okinawa to Manila crashed. All the other victims are commemorated as unknowns at Sai Wan, but for some reason Houghton is remembered on the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey. Does anyone know why?
25 My copy of Peter Campos’s book ‘Souvenir of Shamshuipo’ arrived today. This is the collection of sketches by Marciano Francicso de Paula "Naneli" Baptista and other prisoners of war, and is a very high quality production. More details here. This made me think I should show all the recent additions to my Hong Kong wartime library.
22 Today I took the Hong Kong Club walkers out for the first hike of the season – the Shing Mun Redoubt. Ridiculous weather (bright sunshine for late November, and the temperature peaked at 30.4 degrees), but extremely enjoyable. I don’t know why I had never done it before, but I walked underground from the Strand Palace Hotel to the OP on the western side. A little claustrophobic, but not too bad (thanks to the light from my trusty iPhone!) Question: Thomson said he couldn’t leave the command post because Wylie had locked the door on his way out: Why couldn’t he have taken the route I took today, underground? The tunnel from that side links back to Charing Cross and seems perfectly serviceable. While I was on site I also took the opportunity to photograph the famous Wakabayashi inscription.
21 Albert Jackson’s (Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) granddaughter got in touch. 21 Some three years ago I wrote an experimental article called ‘The Historiography of C Force’ which intended to explore the somewhat controversial differences in interpretation (between Canadian and British historians) of the relationship between the two nations during Hong Kong’s defence. Not long ago I was suddenly informed it was about to be published, so rushed to update it. Now it is available here in the journal Canadian Military History. I would be interested in readers’ views. The edition also includes a very interesting article by Humphries and Rosenthal on the Rehabilitation of Hong Kong’s Canadian POWs. 21 Stuart Braga let me know that his thesis: ‘Making Impressions: a Portuguese family in Macau and Hong Kong, 1700-1945’, came out on 24 October, published by the International Institute of Macau. It’s available either as a printed book or online. 21 Luba Estes contacted me about the photo of her and her father (see last month). She kindly included another similar photo, taken perhaps six months earlier. She notes: “The photograph was taken at 49 Kadoorie Avenue, which was opposite 35 Kadoorie Ave, the house my father built to which we moved before December 1941. My guess, I was eight… This will make you smile; my father's ancestors were mostly high ranking Cossacks from the banks of the Volga. They all had beautiful uniforms with medals. We used to tease my father that his father who was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Harbin, Manchuria, was a Cossack who was afraid of horses. I don’t know how true that was, but it was a fun story.”
19 This evening we had a family dinner with Elizabeth Ride at the Helena May. It was very pleasant meal (it’s such a civilised place – I know I’m old-fashioned about such things, but in the current age I really appreciate this aspect of the atmosphere). Each time we come here with Elizabeth I recall her stories of pre-war nativity plays in the Green Room, and we recall December 1941 when the Middlesex Regiment was HQed here for a while. 19 Don Ady sent the Stanley Group a very interesting letter that he’d written to a friend in October 1942. Between the fall of Kowloon and the invasion of Hong Kong he was living near where I am writing this, and he noted: “We had some close misses as far as shells and bombs are concerned, but the only casualties were a couple of scratches I received, when I was out picking up shrapnel in an areaway with the road up above. But not knowing there were any planes overhead I quite surprised to hear a plane diving quite close. So I dashed for a hallway because I was nearer to it than was to the door. But being used to planes diving just as and hearing heavy guns of some kind going off and thinking they were the bombs, I made a dash for the door, and the real bomb went off on the road just above, and a rain of glass fell on me (not mentioning some pieces of window frames although none hit me) and you should have seen me leap inside.” Before that he noted, while still Kowloon side: "Then we went through shot and shell until Thursday evening when we had just started to set the table for supper. When Mr. Pommerenke came over all excited saying that there was going to be a couple of barges, something of that sort, to evacuate a few people from Kowloon (Mr. Steiner had gotten the information) So I hurried up and drank my milk while Dad spent about two minutes throwing some various articles in a suitcase which was already mostly packed. While Mom talked to our servants because no Chinese were allowed to cross on the barge. And luckily we got across without interference from the Japs. (The barge we went in went to go about 6:30 PM and the other one went two or three hours later, but was machine gunned." I wonder if anyone else remembers this part of the evacuation of Kowloon?
18 I have finally finished reviewing In From The Cold’s list of Hong Kong Death Certificates from the war period (they look for DCs that appear to have no matching records with the CWGC). I have passed them my findings, and hopefully we will soon see some results.
16 A correspondent asks if anyone is in touch with Stanley internee Nicky Goodban, the son of Mary and Gerald Goodban (he was headmaster of DBS)? 16 Today I finally received my copy of Suzannah Linton’s excellent Hong Kong’s War Crime Trials. I hadn’t realised that it took such a multi-dimensional view of proceedings, and am very much looking forward to reading it.
15 Today I spent several hours with Elizabeth Ride, viewing a set (five hours worth in total) of cine films about Hong Kong during the war that she had received from the IWM. The great majority was filmed in September 1945, but (astoundingly) a fair chunk were in colour. Primarily filmed by the navy, a large percentage covered the doings of Harcourt’s fleet (including plenty of footage of Corsair and Barracuda operations), entering the harbour, and clearing the area of Japanese forces before entering Stanley camp. In the latter, film of the children was particularly exciting to see. We also watched footage of the Japanese surrender at Government House in 1945, and noticed Elizabeth’s father witnessing the event. 15 A perfectly preserved British army water bottle turned up in the hills today (illustrated). On other battlefields where there are layers of anaerobic mud such finds are relatively common, but not in Hong Kong.
14A nice article about Canadian veteran Ralph MacLean appeared in the Daily Mail today.
12 Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent a couple of photos of Fred Thompson (RA, Lisbon Maru).
10 George Allan’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch via the FEPOW Community. I let him know that Mr Allan was held in Shamshuipo until 27 September 1942 when he boarded the Lisbon Maru in the company of almost 2,000 other British POWs. He survived the sinking, but when the surviving POWs were regrouped at Shanghai he was one of around 40 deemed too sick to continue the journey to Japan. Many of this group died of disease, but the survivors eventually travelled - in June 1945 via Korea - to Japan and Hakodate. They arrived on the 29th of that month.
9 On the FEPOW Community site, a member noted: “I was in Stanley, Hong Kong last week and visited the Stanley Military Cemetery, I took a number of photos and added my pictures to the site. Whilst there, I met a lovely lady, Barbara Coe, Barbara was born in one of the internment camps in Stanley, she hadn't been back for 70 odd years and was visiting her Uncle who was buried there.” The uncle was Andrew Zimmern, so I think this must have been Barbara Hume. 9 Yet another book about wartime Hong Kong. I’ll read it before passing comment.
8 Philip Cracknell has posted an extremely valuable piece of work on his website. The post is based on a Guide to Civilian Internee Graves from the period 1942-1945 at Stanley Military Cemetery (which he has prepared for the forthcoming Stanley Reunion arranged by Geoff Emerson).
7 Gordon Nisbet contacted me, pointing out that I had mistyped his father’s (William Nisbet, Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) name on this website. This has now been fixed.
6 Today I provided documentary evidence on the death of Jessie McDonald Holland to the In From The Cold team. Hopefully she will now be recognized by the CWGC. I wonder where she was buried? She was pronounced died of wounds on 12 December 1941 at the Queen Mary Hospital.
5 Peter Campos has announced the publication of the book "Souvenir of Sham Shui Po," a collection of sketches by prisoners of war imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II in Hong Kong. His great-uncle Naneli Baptista compiled this collection, which included many of his own sketches, and several from others in camp. He notes that the book is available here for the cost of printing alone; you can preview it there too. 5 Alan Pong kindly sent me a photo of the poster of the Diocesan Boys' School Roll of Honour which would be on display during the DBS Annual School Fete on Sunday 8 November. 5 Brian Finch dropped in today for a chat about a Chinese book about the Lisbon Maru that he has translated into English. It looks very interesting.
3 Looking at this video clip of a Japanese interpreter (Niimori, I think, despite what it says here) being marched out of Stanley Prison to show his guards a memorial to executed POWs, a correspondent notes: “the location must be Tweed Bay and logically that would be the place where the Japanese would have taken prisoners being closer to the prison and camp, and more isolated than other beaches in the immediate Stanley area.” Generally ‘Stanley Beach’ is quoted as the execution spot, but the march certainly seems to be southward, past the west wall of the prison compound.
1 In discussing Graham Heywood’s recently published POW diary (see last month), TK notes: “According to my Japanese photo records, the picture on Heywood's book cover was taken near NAM WAH PO (south of Fanling). It is located west of the Fanling Highway. The hills on the middle ground is Cloudy Hill while those on the background is Shek Uk Shan in Ma On Shan area. Hunch Backs will be just out of the left margin on the photo in the back. Now, we still have a road bridge in NAM WAH PO. P.S. NAM WAH PO is just north of HONG LOK YUEN but on the west side of Fanling Highway.” The book is orderable from here, and my copy just arrived. Looking at Heywood’s paper trail in more detail, it seems that he was probably not a serving member of the HKVDC when captured. He and Starbuck had both been assigned to the Combatant Group earlier, but were reassigned to the Key Posts Group on 4 Sept 1941. 1 Ron Taylor (HK) kindly let me know that Bruce Hoy Poy (5 Bty, HKVDC) passed away at the end of October at the age of 98. Following release from Shamshuipo in 1942, he made it to nationalist China where he worked for the American Army Air Force before getting a flight to British India and returning to Perth.
November 1st, 2015 Update
Luba Estes and father (via facebook), Naneli Baptista's certificate (courtesy Peter Campos), Lisbon Maru ceremony (courtesy Kent Shum) Heywood book launch (courtesy Geoff Emerson), Warbrick/Staple wedding, QMH pre-war (both courtesy Deborah Coxon) Alf Tarbuck (courtesy Colin Hitchmough), Herbert and Edith Hill (courtesy Amanda Parkes), Chan Kwan Po recognition (courtesy Tai Hang Wong)
Allow me to indulge myself. This month my younger son’s school project was to create a seven-minute video about Hong Kong’s war years, incorporating the civilian experience and one comparison with another geographical region. My job was simply to supply images and newspapers on demand, while his friends helped with the voiceovers. The result, here, is (in my obviously unbiased opinion!) really quite credible. And also, for those interested, it’s another anniversary today: the first version of news on this website in this format was October 2003, twelve years ago.
30 Jeremiah O’Connell’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor, UK.
29 Bill Dudman’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch.
27 Brian Edgar has written an interesting new blog about the Irish population of Hong Kong during the occupation (it’s the second article here). 27 Ron Taylor (UK) let me know that Canadian ex-POW Bruce Cadoret of the Royal Rifles of Canada has passed away.
26Kent Shum notes that on 2 October he went: “to Zhoushan City, to mark the 73 anniversary of the Lisbon Maru incident held at the Zhejiang Ocean University.” He took three wreaths to the ceremony, from the British Consulate General of HK, Royal British Legion (HK Branch), and the Hong Kong POW Association. He believes that this is the first time a memorial wreath from the British Consulate General of Hong Kong has been laid in mainland China. He also kindly sent a photo.
24 Well, this is amazing! Brian Finch kindly let me know that in President Xi Jinping's speech at the State Banquet in front of the queen, he mentioned the Lisbon Maru! (The key part is at around 3:45). 24 The Helena May, my wife’s club, just featured on Discovery Channel. Interesting that this was the HQ of the Middlesex for at least part of the fighting!
23 I was contacted today by the grandson of a wartime Indian gunner of the HKSRA. Alas, after a few exchanges we discovered that he had served in Singapore rather than Hong Kong. One of the most glaring gaps in my research is the lack of details of so many of the Indian defenders of Hong Kong, and I had been very much hoping this would turn out to be one of them. 23 I could only find it reported in Chinese, but yet more ordnance turned up in the hills today.
22 Clothhilde Thirwell’s (Stanley Internee) daughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo of her mother. She notes that: “My mother and my oldest sister were both interned at Stanley civilian camp in 1941. At the time, my mother was pregnant with her second child and she was apparently permitted to give birth to my brother at St. Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay, after which she was repatriated with her family in Macau, sometime around 1942.” My records agree. She also notes that the Thirwell and Thirlwell families are actually two branches of the same.
21Philip Cracknel has updated his Hills Family blog, with new photos from granddaughter Amanda Parkes. Amanda also provided us some absolutely fascinating photos of the inside of her grandparents’ house in Hong Kong in the late 1930s. The minutiae of detail are just what the historian wants! He also updated another interesting story with some new pre-war photographs (courtesy of Judy Bercene).
20 Colin Day tells me that the latest issue of the Journal of the RAS is now out. It contains the obituary for Solly Bard to which I contributed a small segment.
19 Today was the launch of “It Won't Be Long Now: The Diary of a Hong Kong Prisoner of War” by Graham Heywood. Heywood worked for the Observatory and was its first post-war director, so fittingly the launch was held there. Geoffrey Emerson, a key mover behind the publication, kindly sent me several photos afterwards. Everyone was there, among whom were: Doreen Steidle, Philip Cracknell, Tim Ko, Patricia O’Sullivan, Amanda Parkes, Ian Burchett, John Haddon, and forty or fifty others, including Heywood’s daughter Veronica and of course the current director, Shun Chi-ming, FRMetS, JP. 19 Interesting discussion on the Stanley group about who was the last baby to be born in Stanley Camp. It seems it was Fearn Cochrane on 25 August 1945, though Ian Gill (who was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand on 25 October 1945) may have been the last baby to have been conceived there!
17I was contacted by a Canadian researcher today, seeking details on three Canadian Hong Kong casualties: Max Berger, Hymie (Hank) Greenberg, and Robert Macklin. While the first two were with C Force, Macklin, more unusually, was in the Army Education Corps.
16Chris Harley (see below) notes that Paul Davis has been added to the CWGC’s roll of Civilian War Dead. Davis was an American merchant seaman of the S.S. Admiral Y.S. Williams. The ship was in dry dock when the Japanese attacked, and I found an interesting description on the Internet: “When the actual capture or take over of the Admiral Y.S. Williams took place there was some sort of a fire fight and it was during this that one of the 34 crewmen was killed by a Jap sniper. But two of crew escaped, and ten were repatriated. Sadly the Master and 20 crewmembers were imprisoned at Kowloon in the Shumshuipo POW camp for the duration of hostilities. Four of those crew members died in this camp due to the cruel treatment of the captors. The Admiral Y.S. Williams was eventually salvaged by the Japanese and renamed TASUTAMA MARU. In 1952 she was repaired and again was renamed YAHAHGI MARU. In 1958 she was still in service.” Those crew members who died in Camp were: Harold Christensen (oiler) Paul W. Davis (oiler) Harry Goldman (Chief Engr.) Thorwald Hansen (AB) John A. Jackson (Messman) was the crewman shot in the attack.
12 Frode Olsen in Denmark notes that he has: “now completed the first draft of a documentary book on the Danish community in Hong Kong in the late 1930’s and the humble Danish participation in the defence of Hong Kong in December 1941. As you know, nine joined the HKVDC. Two were killed in action, one died in Sham Shui Po; five spent the rest of the war as Japanese POW. At the present time the book is planned to be published in Danish only, but if it is well received, it may also be translated into English.”
11 Malcolm Hardie’s (Stanley internee) daughter got in touch. Hardie and Oates were seconded from Jardines (they appear to have both been officers on the SS Yat Shing) to help out at the Matilda Hospital. She kindly included a letter written by Stanley internee Reverend Dow, minister of Union Church Hong Kong (on Kennedy Road) in 1941, describing her father during the war years. 11 Amanda Parkes (see last month) kindly sent me a photo of her Stanley internee grandparents Herbert and Edith Hills sitting outside their house in Hong Kong before the war.
9 Tai Hang Wong notes: “In the last few days I was tracing the activities of the famous Chinese historian Chen Yan Ko in Hong Kong from Feb 1941 to May 5th 1942. I read one Chinese book and came across the titles of two Japanese books that may be useful to study of Hong Kong under the Japanese occupation.” The two Japanese books are The Biography of Lt. General Rensuke Isogai, The Life of A Soldier and China Expert, and Hong Kong Under Japanese Military Administration. The Chinese book was: Diaries of Chan Kwan Po 1941 - 1949 Volume Two, Hong Kong Commercial Press, 1999. He adds that: “During the years of Japanese Occupation Mr. Chan worked as an editor of the Wah Kiu Daily News and with the approval of the Japanese Cultural Affairs Office he continued to serve as an adviser to maintain and safe keep the collections of the HKU Library. On December 28th 1941 just three days after the fall of HK the Japanese sealed the Main and Fung Ping Shan Libraries to prevent looting of the books as cooking fuel. He observed and secretly recorded that the Japanese had shipped 111 crates of rare books stolen from HKU to Japan at the end of January 1942. There are many entries in his 1943 diaries recording how he and the remaining staff of the HKU Library retrieved the books and government documents from several warehouses where the Japanese kept their loots from government departments major companies, law firms and private collectors… In June and July 1946 with the assistance of a friend working in the Far East War Crime Tribunal in Tokyo Mr. Chan successfully secured the return of the 111 crates of stolen books from the Japanese Imperial Library in Tokyo. In recognition of Mr. Chan's valuable service during the occupation the British government in 1947 awarded him the honour of OBE.” Following on from this, he sent me a photo of the Staff and Students of the Chinese Department, HKU, and another photo of the old Victorian GPO which was demolished in the early 1070s. What I did not realize was that the four white granite columns each of which was carved from a single granite block are now preserved and erected at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Kam Tim.
8 I’m in contact with Chris Harley at In From The Cold Project again. He notes: “At present only G W Cooper has been accepted from the Hong Kong list. So far IFCP has had 2,723 cases accepted by CWGC with another 1,900 awaiting decision so you can see we have a little way to go yet.” He notes that George William Cooper is shown on his DC as of Kowloon Riding School as KIA 7 to 25/12/1941. However, despite the fact there were two others of the same name in Hong Kong lost in the RE and Middlesex, the jurors’ roll for 1939 shows a civilian butcher called George William Cooper who had been in Hong Kong in that job since at least 1928. And the Government Gazette (8 August 1941) shows him being moved from the Combatant Group to Essential Services. There seems to be a pattern here as Theodore Leslie Bell was another Essential Services man who was killed and has no formal record.
7 The papers reported the finding of unexploded ordnance today at the Queen Mary Hospital (Chinese, English). EOD kindly told me it was a nose-fused Japanese 150mm. They raised the interesting question of what this hard-point busting shell would have been aimed at, and my best guess is that it overflew the Mount Davis battery.
6At lunch time today I met long-time correspondent TK, and Frances Cheung. We had a good chat, and TK gave me a copy of the book ‘Piloted to Serve’ by Rebecca Chung kindly sent by his brother Tai Hang. Chung’s husband Leslie Wah-Leung served in the HKVDC (where he was wounded), while she herself was a nurse at Queen Mary’s Hospital under Mabel Everett who would become a Stanley Internee. Leslie’s three brothers, Gunner Raymond Chung Wah Chiu, 3428, Gunner Ralph Chung Wah Kiu, 4530, and Gunner Raymond Wah Cheung, 4529, all managed to blend with the crowds after the surrender and avoid internment. 6 Richard Moddrel (see March) notes that his father Peter Moddrel of the Royal Corps of Signals, did an interview with the South China Morning Post in 1975. He kindly sent me a copy.
3Peter Campos kindly sent a menu for New Year’s dinner, 1944, from Shamshuipo Camp, and a unique ‘Arts and Crafts Exhibition Certificate of Merit’ granted to CSM Marciano Baptista for winning first prize in the Illuminated Drawing section at ‘the above exhibition held (1st to 8th November, 1944) at the Prisoners of War Camp, Shamshuipo, Hong Kong.” It was signed by Captain Leopold Ashton-Rose of the IMS, Captain Njall Bardal of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Lieutenant Solly Bard of the HKVDC, and an HKVDC private whose signature unfortunately I cannot decipher. 3 Apparently Winnipeg councilors still want Mitsubishi to apologize to Canadian PoWs for WW II forced labour, but I can see no evidence (yet) that any worked for that company. 2 Horace Pike’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo (illustrated).
1Deborah Coxon kindly sent two pre-war photos of Queen Mary’s Hospital where it appears her Stanley internee relatives Martha Staple and Isabella Warbrick (see last month) were originally based. She also included a photo of Martha [Warbrick's] marriage (tragically short-lived) to Kenneth Kingsley Staple in Hong Kong Cathedral. 1 Colin Hitchmough kindly sent a photo of Alfred Tarbuck (see last month). He also included a number of wartime photos taken in China, which the family picked up in Hong Kong in those days. Tai Hang Wong identified them – by the hats worn by some of those pictured - as being most probably taken in Canton. I have seen other series like these, generally showing atrocities, the effects of bombing, etc. 1 Yesterday, on this facebook page, I found an amazing photograph of Luba Estes and her HKVDC father.
October 1st, 2015 Update
HKSRA in colour (courtesy Martin Ng), Middlesex rugby team in Singapore (Patrick Sturdy), South China Morning Post (author) ARP Tunnel (author), Elizabeth Sharp and mother (courtesy Elizabeth Sharp), George Watson mess tin (courtesy Alex McGowan) Harold Hill (courtesy Moreen Sore), Far East magazine (courtesy Ian Topham), First Day Cover (courtesy Francis Cheung)
It's odd how often contacts come in clusters. I have had very little communication over the years with the Hughes Group of the HKVDC, but this month two families contacted me on the same day. The story of their defence of the North Point Power Station is epic, especially bearing in mind their average age and the fact that every one of them seemed to be such a colourful character (I was once contacted by an American who was writing a film script on the topic, having become fascinated by the group's diversity). Like the Stanley Platoon, most of the survivors seemed to avoid the military POW Camps and instead were interned at Stanley. I definitely have them earmarked for a future 'Short History'.
29 Walking home from the office today I noticed that one of the ARP Tunnels on Queen’s Road East was open. I’ve peered in that tunnel complex, but not that particular entrance before.
28Alfred Tarbuck’s (HKDVC) great nephew got in touch. Tarbuck was in the Hughes Group, and like many of them was moved from Shamshuipo military POW Camp to Stanley Internment Camp. 28 Elizabeth Sharp, the first baby to be born in Stanley Internment Camp (on 27 January 1942) got in touch. She kindly sent a photograph of her and her mother taken in camp. Her mother was Lyn Joffe, and her father Eugene Joffe was also in the Hughes Group of the HKVDC. Oddly enough, though, born in 1908 he appears to have been much younger than the others. How strange to get two Hughes Group contacts in a single day! Lyn’s brother Alan Murray was in the Royal Army Pay Corps and was a POW in Shamshuipo. 28 Martha Staple’s (Stanley Internee) granddaughter got in touch. She is also the great niece of another Stanley Internee, Isabella Warbrick. 28 Helping my younger son on a school project (it was a public holiday in Hong Kong), I photographed some of my old collection of South China Morning Posts published in the period 8 to 26 December 1941. I was surprised how well they came out. These aren’t the originals. I borrowed the originals from the late David Roads in 1990 (he was one of the first people I knew when I moved to Hong Kong) and photocopied the lot.
26 Patrick Sturdy’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch sending two very interesting – and high quality – photos of the battalion’s sports teams while they were in Singapore in 1937. This is not a very well documented period, and it was fascinating to see that of the whole rugby team only Sturdy (third man on the second row) and Challis (sixth man on the first row) were still in the battalion at December 1941. This of course was because of the well-known ‘milking’ of the battalion to provide a core of men around whom much of what would become the D Day armies would be built. Challis of course went on to become RSM, and was the senior POW in Kobe House after the officers were removed.
24 I received the latest (October) copy of the Java Journal. In one article it noted: “Our first event was a simple service held at the Rowan Tree memorial to the Far East Prisoners of War, who were Servicemen and Civilians from ourselves our allies in this war. The turnout was impressive with upwards of a hundred people. Groups attending included two former FEPOW, Widows, Children and Families of FEPOW with the guest of honour Mr Ken Shipsides, a Plymouth resident at the tender age of 100, a former Royal Navy man who was captured at the fall of Hong Kong."
21 Ian Topham sent an image of the ‘Far East magazine’ for June 1945 to a FEPOW Group I belong to. Has anyone else copies of these? Meg Parkes noted that it: “was produced from 1944 by the Red Cross and St John War Organisation for the relatives of all those held captive in the Far East.”
20 Searching for something completely different, I found a very interesting new Hong Kong pillbox video on the SCMP website. 20 Geoff Emerson notes that he is: “heavily involved in a book launch, having edited the book - the diary of Graham Heywood, who became Director of the Royal Observatory after the war. He was a POW in Shamshuipo Camp, Kowloon… The book launch will take place on 19 October, 3-6 pm at the Observatory in Tsimshatsui followed by a memorial service in St Andrew's Church (where the Heywoods were married before the war) next to the Observatory.”
19Herbert Hills’s (ARP) granddaughter got in touch. Hills was held in Stanley Internment Camp for the duration, as was his wife (Edith Hills) who was nurse ND145 in the HKVDC nursing detachment - though they were not in the same room.
18Harold Hill’s (RN, MTB escapee) daughter got in touch, kindly sending written details and a photo. 18 Nicola Davies kindly sent new information about Alexander McGregor Mitchell which confirmed that he was not the man the family was looking for (see last month). At least now they can refocus their search. 18 Martin Ng put a fascinating colour photo of an HKSRA gunner on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. I don’t know whether it was taken in Singapore or Hong Kong, but to see a photo of the HKSRA – let alone a colour one – is a real surprise. I believe the round he is carrying is from a 3 inch AA gun.
15 I had an interesting email today noting: “I frequent an auction house here in N Yorkshire (Tennants) mainly as I buy and sell photographs artwork and interesting objects as part of my semi retirement mode. On Saturday I bought a group of WW2 Medals to the aforesaid Gunner Watson. The usual group of War Defence 39-45 Star and Pacific Star. I noted a HK & POW connection and wondered at the mess tin in the base of the card box, a sentimental keepsake perhaps.” My correspondent kindly included a photo of the mess tin and a number of documents. Gunner John George Watson, 868734, was in the 7th Heavy AA Battery of the 5 AA Regiment, and was sent to Japan after capture.
14 Bill Lake kindly sent a rather unexpected photo of a Bamboo Pit Viper on the headstone of Victor Branson’s (Middlesex) grave at Sai Wan. (Illustrated). Branson was of course one of the unfortunate recaptured escapees who was executed. 14 Barbara Anslow notes: “I have just finished reading a fascinating book called 'The Survivors' by Diana Fortescue about her parents Tim and Margery Fortescue, who with their baby Adrian were interned in Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong 1942-45. During the Japanese invasion in December 1941 I got to know Tim by sight - as Assistant Private Secretary to the Governor Sir Mark Young, he was always about the tunnel (beneath Government House) where I was working for the Director of Air raid Precautions. I got to know him much better in Stanley when he and Margery and Adrian moved from the room they had been sharing with five (originally nine!) other internees, to take up residence in what had been the tiny kitchen next door to the room occupied by my Mother, two sisters and myself. The kitchen had been cleared of sink, boiler etc to make space for three beds. To ensure that now toddling, Adrian didn't wander off when their door was open, the Fortescues cut it in half horizontally so the top half could be left open for air. They became lovely neighbours. To cut down on the endless queuing for everything, the Fortescues and the Redwoods took it in turns to collect each other's hot water ration for tea (if any) first thing in the morning.” I haven’t read it yet, but I believe Diana may be coming to Hong Kong later in the year and will hopefully bring some copies with her.
12I emailed an interesting website, Air Crew Remembered, asking if they’d be interested in linking to my lists of 1941 RAF personnel in Hong Kong, and they kindly linked to my entire site!
8Bob Tatz, who I have mentioned before on these pages as he was a ‘stay out’ of camp originally as a boy in Hong Kong during the war, and was then in Stanley, has been in touch again. He is working on his account of the period which I am really looking forward to reading. Today he also sent me some details on Bill Rowe, HKVDC. He notes: “In your book I notice that you have an entry for Bill Rowe, Signalman with the HKVDC. Bill was a friend of mine, and actually was my ‘boss’ when I was serving under him on one of Jardines ships. Subsequently, after we both had retired from the seagoing life, we met up in Sydney in Australia in 1994 and we enjoyed a nice get-together together with Tony Lapsley. I never knew that Bill was with the HKVDC in the war, was wounded in battle, and subsequently interned and shipped to Japan. I received his obituary notice and eulogy prepared by his daughter Christine, copy of which is attached, from a mutual friend of Bill. There is also a tribute prepared by one of his fellow-prisoners. I thought you might be interested in this material.” What I hadn’t previously realized is that Bill Rowe was born in Shanghai, the son of a Japanese orphan girl and a Scot who was killed in the Great War. Mr Rowe was his stepfather. Sadly Bill died in 2001 as a result of a traffic accident.
4 Brian Edgar kindly let the Stanley Group know about Vivian Kong’s blog about the 1940 evacuation.
3 Francis Cheung kindly sent me copies of the Official First Day Cover of the 70th anniversary of the ‘Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression’. We even had a special one-off holiday in Hong Kong to celebrate it, though I did me little good as I was working in New York that week! He followed up with a number of excerpts from the recent Exhibition Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Victory Over Japan, some well known and others less so.