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