Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
Attack on Hyuga (courtesy Cori Baker), Lynch and friends at Hakodate #2B (courtesy Helene Le Beau), Kamaishi Steel Mill after American attack (courtesy Carol Campbell) David Kyle (courtesy Jean Hughes), Laban's Lisbon Maru account (courtesy Barry Saville), Honouring Brian Gill (courtesy Ian Gill) Eastern Fortress, At Least We Lived, In Time of War (all author)
It’s not every week that I pick up three new books about Hong Kong’s wartime period and people. I haven’t had a chance to read any of them yet, but Collingwood’s In Time Of War, Oxford’s At Least They Lived, and Kwong Chi Man and Rusty Tsoi’s Eastern Fortress all look interesting in different ways. It’s interesting too to have two very different American perspectives this month: the amazing exploits of a US Navy pilot who one moment was attacking Japanese naval vessels under heavy return fire, and the next dropping cigarettes onto newly-liberated POW Camps, and a photo of an American senior officer in a different POW Camp that included some of the sickest (and therefore luckiest to survive) Lisbon Maru survivors.
30William McCombe’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. This seemed slightly déjà vu as I knew about the family from my studies of the 1940 evacuation (McCombe’s wife and two children had gone to Sydney). McCombe himself was an instructor at Kai Tak. 30 Jill Fell asked details of the Whiteleys in Stanley, wondering if one might be godmother to her cousin. All she knew was that this Mrs Whiteley lived on Broadwood Road. The Stanley records show an Ellen and William Whiteley, and the Jurors’ Rolls show that William Whiteley lived at 16 Broadwood Road (women were not required to be jurors in those days, thus the roundabout way of cross referencing).
29 Philip Cracknel has put a very interesting, though obviously not very pleasant, entry on his wartime blog about the St Stephen’s Massacre. It’s a collection of statements from a number of surviving victims. We believe that Dr Pope’s house was Bungalow A, but I would love to find proof. 29 A very interesting article appeared via The Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today, about Hong Kong’s harbour defences (indicator loops are lengths of cable laid on the seabed in order to detect submarine incursion). 29 I was contacted today, via Ron Taylor in the UK, by the daughter of a Hong Kong man lost on (we believe) a Merchant Navy vessel during the war. We want to see if he is mentioned on the new Hong Kong Memorial but have the usual challenge that the only way to be sure is to see his name written in Chinese, rather than transliterated in English.
26 EOD were today called to neutralise a device in North Point. It turned out to be a Japanese 150mm HEAP (High Explosive Armour Piercing). EOD were kind enough to let me know that it: “likely was targeting the Pill Boxes (thus the armour piercing, they are thick skinned to penetrate a structure without breaking up on impact). Location was on top of the old North Point Estate.” They also mentioned that the explosive was picric acid – slightly more powerful than TNT, but with an unfortunate tendency to react with the metal of casing and fuse to make a very sensitive contact explosive. These things get nastier as they age and are definitely best avoided. After the controlled explosion they continued: “all these years later and some of us are still dodging Japanese shrapnel in North Point.”
23 Mike Babin kindly let me know the sad news that his father Alf Babin – a survivor of St Stephen’s – passed away last month at the age of 92. A short obituary can be found here (scroll down on the right).
20 The South China Morning Post is looking to interview people in Hong Kong who lived through the war years, for the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the end of hostilities. 20 Here’s an interesting question. William Sprague’s (HKVDC) POW diary has a number of mentions of ‘Mercury’ as if Mercury is either a person bearing news, or something similar. For example: “No.12 read today, but Mercury was rather incoherent.” We wonder if this could be a reference to information coming into Argyle Street by radio or other means? 20 I was shocked today, looking at Amazon.com’s UK site, to see that paperback copies of Not The Slightest Chance are being offered for between two and four thousand pounds! Ludicrous. I’m sure no one would spend anything like that. I’ll have to see if HKUP would be willing to sponsor a new edition.
18 For the first time in a number of years, I was today introduced to a ‘new’ surviving POW from Hong Kong. He is David Kyle of the Royal Engineers, one of the ‘hard men’ who were on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to be sent to Japan. Aged 94, he now lives in North Island, New Zealand. 18 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me the list of personnel of HMS Cicala from ADM 199/1286. I didn’t know that this existed. There are dates on the list up to the end of 1942, which makes its provenance hard to guess.
17Tony Ablong contacted me again, still trying to establish precisely how his father Alfred Ernest Ablong (Senior), a Warden in the ARP, lost his life during the fighting. His name is not recorded in CWGC files, nor anywhere else formal that I can find. And yet he certainly didn’t survive, and is believed to have lost his life while trying to provide the defenders of Wang Nai Chung Gap with food. 17 A researcher by the name of Hans Houterman kindly provided me with proof that Joseph Hurst indeed served on HMS Cicala, initially under Gandy. Hurst referred to himself as the commander of the vessel (and this is confirmed by Holroyd’s account), and yet during the fighting the commander was Boldero. It now seems most likely that Hurst commanded temporarily, between those two captains.
16 I’m in contact with Ian Gill. This is doubly interesting, as not only is Ian the younger half brother of poor Brian Gill who drowned in Stanley, but his family and Boxer’s family were very close friends. In fact they stayed with Charles and Mickey at Conygar for quite a while immediately after the war. Ian kindly sent a number of photos from those days. 16 Being stuck in San Francisco airport for five hours, I finally read Joseph Hurst’s full account of his escape from North Point. It was extremely well written. It’s interesting that I now have full unpublished accounts from two of the four members of this escape, plus partial from a third. Hurst, among many other things, was a good observer. I particularly liked this description from a village they passed through shortly after escaping: "During this meal the domestic animals became part of the family. As it s custom to drop all bones and other refuse on the floor while eating, the chickens, dogs, pigs and other animals come into their own by wandering in and out between our legs picking up the scraps and incidentally, keeping the floor relatively clean. There was of course, the usual myriad of flies and mosquitoes due to stagnant pools and filthy conditions. However, I should say the people themselves made valiant attempts to keep themselves moderately clean. They were quite happy and did not aspire to any higher things in life; they were content with their normal lot and simply wished to be left alone. Their lot at this time was far from normal. The Japs had been there and looted the place, leaving little of any real value. They were pitifully poor. The food with which we had been provided was more than they could afford for themselves. We could see the amazed look in the eyes of the children as they watched us eat; it was a long time since they had seen a spread like that and probably never joined in one."
15 George Frost’s great grandson got in touch. The challenge here is that there were two George Frosts in Stanley, and we’re still not sure which one this was! They were both government Health Inspectors, which really doesn’t help.
13I passed Hugh Farmer a few details about Robert Taylor and the Rescue and Demolition Corps of the PWD (Public Works Department). Taylor was the manager of Green Island Cement and a Stanley Internee. Hugh’s Industrial History of Hong Kong website is well worth a look.
12 William Tyner’s family kindly scanned in a number of his letters, plus photos and other relevant documented from Kamaishi (see last month). These included a unique photo of Tyner’s wife and daughter being evacuated to Australia in 1940 on the Awatea (illustrated), and immediate post-war photos showing the damage from the American naval shelling of Kamaishi during which Tyner lost his life.
11 Henry Ching kindly sent me copies of his two most recent occasional papers, covering the HKVDC Nursing Detachment and Auxiliary Nurses. These are available to read here. 11 Lyndon White’s family kindly allowed me to give Canadian veteran George MacDonell a copy of a photo of Douglas Clague that they have. George needs this for a new book he is finishing up.
10Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch sending a large number of very interesting photographs and letters. These included the almost obligatory photo of Lynch and fellow doctors outside the Bowen Road Hospital, but also a selection of letters home. Lynch was one of the very seriously ill men left in Shanghai after the sinking, and eventually – towards the end of the war – transferred to the Hakodate camps. One fascinating photo shows Lynch with fellow POW officers at Hakodate #2B, including the American senior officer Captain John White, USMC. A complete list of these men can be seen on the late Roger Mansell’s website here, and oddly enough Lunch is also mentioned in Philip Cracknell’s latest blog here. Interestingly, Lynch was a French Canadian serving in the British RAMC. He is the only Canadian I know of who was on the Lisbon Maru. 10Mark Sellar was kind enough to send a copy of Brigadier Wallis’s attestation papers.
9 I received a fascinating set of photos from the States, relating to a USN pilot named Wesley Howard Stevens from the torpedo squadron VT-16 that flew from CV-15 (USS Randolph). The photos included a terrifying shot of an attack on the Japanese battleship Hyuga (on July 24, 1945, for which Stevens received the Navy Cross), but also a later photo of a supply drop into a POW Camp (Wakinohama) – and a letter to the pilot from one of the POWs who received that drop! That POW, Petty Officer Harry Roughly, RN, was ex-Hong Kong and had been on the Lisbon Maru. Many of the Kobe House POWs ended up at Wakinohama after the former was bombed out. Roughly passed away in 1979, but the guys in the States would be keen to contact his family if possible.
8 Archibald Laban’s nephew (see last month) kindly sent me his uncle’s description of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. This is a thirty page account written in beautiful hand writing.
3 Elizabeth Ride had an interesting question. “On which ship did Norman Lockhart Smith leave Hong Kong, on 4 December 1941?” It seems to be the SS An Hwei, but I would be interested if anyone could confirm this.
2Mike Beattie let me know that he’d found an Australian service record for his ex-HK POW father Sapper George Beattie, RE. It appears that he was enlisted with Australian forces in 1945 after return from Japan where he had been a POW (he was on the first draft).
August 1st, 2014 Update
Thomas Hannan second from left, Thomas Hannan service record (both courtesy Malcolm Grant), Leighton Hill Japanese positions (via author) BAAG Supply drop (courtesy Van De Linde collection), Rat Snake (author), King's College teachers (author) William Tyner (courtesy Carol Campbell), Gordon Chalmers (courtesy Andy Duffus), Eucliffe (via Gwulo)
Interesting that two different RAMC families would get in touch this week, and also that one of them would be a Canadian serving in British forces who was on the Lisbon Maru. Despite the large number of Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers POWs in Hong Kong at the time, none were sent to Japan on that vessel. I had always wondered if any of the British forces on board were actually Canadian, and now I have an answer.
30 As promised, Andy Duffus kindly sent several photos of Gordon Chalmers, Royal Scots.
29Maurice Lynch’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch via David Bellis. Lynch was a Canadian serving in British forces.
27 Today Ralph Reimers kindly sent me the complete version of escapee Joseph Hurst’s memoires ‘Escape from Hong Kong’. I will read it on a business trip in early August.
26William Charles Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a few photos (including one of William and Olive at the annual ball in Hong Kong in 1939 - they are 2nd and 3rd from the right). Tyner’s wife (Olive) and daughter (Marion) were evacuated to Australia. Tyner was one of 27 POWs unfortunate enough to be killed by the American shelling of their POW Camp in Japan (Kamaishi).
24 Richard Frost kindly pointed me to a page on Gwulo with some very interesting photos of both Eucliffe and PB17.
22I received an interesting email from Australia asking whether Hong Kong civilian Frederick John Willey had served in 5AA Regiment. Willey worked for Taikoo Docks and was moved to the ‘Combatant’ list of the reserve in 1940, so even though he was interned in Stanley with his family, it is possible that he joined the AA. Certainly at least two or three other Hong Kong civilians did – via the HKVDC - at some point (John Pearce, for example).
21Brigette Hutchinson kindly sent me an image of her father's (David Alexander Hutchison, HKVDC, V3552) application to remain in Australia upon discharge from British Armed Services. 21 Vera Murrell was discussed on the Stanley Group. I have a huge but very useful document of all government appointments (even the index is over 10MB), which shows that she was a teacher at King’s College. 21 Tan kindly sent me a ‘then and now’ photo based on the one on the bombing of Wanchai that I published last month. He does this so much better than me! We’re discussing what we should do with these – perhaps an exhibition or similar.
15 Cyril McLeman’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, pointing out that his name is spelled wrong (McLenan) on my website. I’ll fix that. She notes that he: “escaped through a torpedo hole by swimming underwater, he learnt to swim whilst stationed at Hong Kong before WWII. He was captured by the Japanese and spent the remainder of the war in a Japanese concentration camp where he was tortured, starved and placed in solitary confinement for a large portion of his time there. He never got over it and suffered nightmares his whole life.” 15 I heard today that my short history of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment will be published in Volume 54 of the Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in March of next year. 15 In discussions with Ralph Reimers about Joseph Hurst it is becoming clear that at some point Hurst commanded HMS Cicala. Does anyone have details of when this might have been? 15 Philip Cracknell reminded me about Frelford, the Middlesex private who ended up in Stanley rather than military POW camp after having saved the life of a wounded Japanese soldier. I have an official note about this somewhere. Each year I am either reminded of Frelford, or find that note, and the following year the opposite occurs but by then I’ve forgotten it was Frelford or who that note pertained to! One day I’ll finally put the two together. Philip has a blog about him here.
14 Today I was sent links to two equally interesting but very different video clips of Hong Kong in 1949, an amateur one and a professional. While 1949 is outside my normal scope, the city at that time had clearly hardly changed from 1945.
13Harry McNaughton’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) granddaughter got in touch to mention that the Arden Seven Commemorative Plaza in St Vital honours seven Battle of Hong Kong veterans from Arden Avenue (McNaughton was author of the book Shadow Lights of Sham Shui Po). I have met two of these men myself (Ed Shayler and George Peterson) and am very pleased to see them remembered in this way. I also think that the format – the seven empty chairs – is very effective.
13 Dave Deptford reports that the Sunday Telegraph today had an article about a young Japanese pianist who used to play to the POWs at Yokohama #14B. It’s very interesting, but perhaps what interested me most was the fact that they were able to write quite a good article about it so easily. Even five years ago they would have struggled to find these facts; ten years ago it would have been impossible. 13 My copy of Hong Kong 1941-45 has arrived. I will read it over the holidays.
12Brian Edgar reports that the book The Rice Paper Diaries has won the Welsh Book of the Year Award for fiction. The book was inspired by her great aunt and uncle’s (Thomas William Cosmos Jones and Elizabeth Menna Owen Jones) experience in Stanley during the war. However, there’s a bit of a mystery as the author states that Thomas Jones ended the war in Japan, which would be unique for someone who was a long-term Stanley internee. 12 Today my copy of Covered Up In Kowloon arrived (illustrated). Normally the books written by war time missionaries are a bit dull, as the missionaries tend to spend most of their words describing how wonderful they are, but this one – bought on Brian Edgar’s excellent suggestion – is actually very interesting. As Brian had said, almost the entire book is about two missionaries’ experience of living in Kowloon from its fall until the point of the Canadian repatriation. It’s a shame that it doesn’t give a lot of detail, and people are referred to as ‘Mrs A’ or ‘Mr D’ rather a lot, but it was well worth a read. Also, useful for my study of the fate of Hong Kong’s Chinese population in the war years: “Daily, as we walked the streets, we would see poor starved men, women, and children lying on the pavement too weak to move or already dead. Their numbers were so great, and the general poverty so intense that there were very few able to do anything to relieve their suffering.”
10Following on from last month, Malcolm Grant kindly sent three photos of Tommy Hannan in uniform and a copy of his service record. The latter, of course, bore the dreaded words familiar to all with relatives on the Lisbon Maru: ‘Previously reported Prisoner of War. Now Missing at Sea.’
9 I heard today that a group called Friends Of Hong Kong Cemetery has been founded, striving to help conserve the architecture, historical elements, flora and fauna. It sounds an excellent initiative to me, and I’ll give more news when it’s available. 9 Walking home from the office along Bowen Road, just before reaching the old military hospital, I noticed a Magpie Robin making a great fuss about something, flying continuously from the wall on the north side, to a tree on the south and back again. It didn’t take long to see why; a two metre long rat snake was in the tree, presumably threatening a nest. (Rat snakes are impressive but harmless, but seeing as they are the main food of king cobras I don’t normally spend too much time in their vicinity!)
8Joseph Hurst’s (RNR, Escaper) nephew-in-law got it touch. This has led to one of the most interesting conversations in recent months. With an OBE and two DSCs, Hurst (perhaps unsurprisingly) turns out to have been a very interesting man. Of fellow escaper Petty Officer E. Maxwell Holroyd, R.N. he notes: “Naval reservist who had been attached to the Chinese Maritime Custom’s shore staff. His knowledge of the countryside over the border was extensive. During his years in the Customs as a preventive he was able to learn all the smugglers’ paths and methods. His frequent incursions into the Chinese interior with armed parties gave him valuable knowledge and experience of the interior, as well as the eccentricities of the Chinese. A fluent speaker of Cantonese and all local dialects, together with an uncanny knowledge. He was tough, reliable and extremely humorous. To him, without a doubt, must be given the credit of at least seventy percent of the success of the escape." 8 Brian Edgar found an interesting file at the PRO implying that the UK was giving help to destitute citizens in Stanley Camp during the war. The subject, Thomas Henry Gordon Brayfield, is shown in the Jurors' List until 1939 as working at Carmichael & Clarke, Ltd and as a 'special juror'. This implies that at least at that time we would have been relatively wealthy. 8 I received a request for information about the Japanese removal of metal from Hong Kong for their war effort. I gave what assistance I could, and then asked Elizabeth Ride what she had on the subject. Amazingly, Elizabeth had a file on this topic – I suspect she has a file on every topic! – and kindly assisted.
7 I have mentioned this site about Barney Byrne, HKVDC, before. Today I found another one here. Seems like a very popular chap! 7 Charles Dobie has found another collection of Hong Kong liberation photos from HMCS Prince Robert.
6 Through Ron Taylor in the UK I am in touch with an Australian journalist who is: “researching a diary from WW2, author unknown unfortunately, who was a POW in Changi before being sent to Kobe in Japan.” The diary mentions several Hong Kong POWs who had been on the Lisbon Maru, one of them being the well-regarded RSM Challis of the first Middlesex.
4When looking through my old computer files I came across a large set of images of BAAG labelled ‘Van De Linde’. The only problem is that I can’t recall how I got them! I remember Osler Thomas (Force 136) showing me a photo of a supply drop ten or fifteen years ago, which seems to be in this set too, but I don’t recall if they came from him.
2On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, someone posted a link to an excellent BAAG handout from last year’s exhibition at the University of Hong Kong. I am surprised that I hadn’t seen this before as I was peripherally involved in the show (looking after some of the exhibits for a year or so afterwards). 2 I learned from Alexandra Talbot today that her father was a member of Z Force. I should have guessed from his close friendship with Mike Kendall. “Our Group originally had seven members: Mike Kendall the head know-all and trainer; Ronnie Holmes; Eddy Teasdale; Colin McEwan; Bob Thompson; Monia Talan, a very sweet quietly spoken … guy but tough when needed; and myself, doctor to the group if doctoring ever became necessary. Each member had to do the same training and was really of equal standing in the group…” 2 The Researching FEPOW History Group has announced their 2015 conference in association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM).
1Jack Mitchell sent me a nice story: “Although the HKVDC was mobilised on 7th December ’41, I was not released from Special Duties in the Colonial Secretariat until 21st December. Suffice to say that some material had to be destroyed securely – that was done in the furnaces of the Old Gloucester Hotel. All was accomplished and on completion of the job on 1st December, I was given the choice of staying on at the Secretariat or joining Corps Signals, having first been warned that the end was not far off. I elected to rejoin my Unit but the problem was how to get from Central District to Corps Headquarters in Peak Mansions – the Peak Tram and public transport were non-existent. One problem! The solution – walk up the steps adjoining the tramlines from Lower Garden Road right to the top. The climb was quite arduous – carrying some food supplies for my mother, sisters, baby niece billeted on May Road, together with my own kit. I never had time to count the steps or admire the view – one fall could have spelt disaster for me. I eventually made it, much to the surprise of my pals.” 1 Elizabeth Ride, remembering an unexplained photograph of a wrecked car somewhere on the Peak that I put on this site a few years back, quoted a report by N.I.D., 20.12.45 WO 208 750A: "Death of Captain Pardoe. Captain Pardoe was sent on a liaison to another Intelligence organisation situated on the Peak. As the car was climbing the hill a Japanese air raid took place and a bomb fell near the vehicle wrecking it and killing the occupants." This may have been Pardoe’s car, but there were quite a few damaged in the area. 1 T.K. Wong was kind enough to point out that the water colour paintings (see last month): “were drawn by Kwan Shan-Yuet. He was a quite famous painter of the LingNan Faction”. I believe this is Guan Shanyue in modern transliteration. And for the photo of the aftermath of an American raid on Wanchai, he noted: “The white building in the background of the photo was the Peel Clinic. It was a landmark of Wanchai even up to the mid 70s. To the left of the rails was the Southorn Playground (Southorn Stadium of today). The photo is facing to the direction of Causeway Bay.” The street is Johnston Road.
July 1st, 2014 Update
Mike Kendall (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Gordon and Mrs Chalmer (courtesy Andy Duffus), Begg murder (via facebook) Wanchai bombing (via facebook), Luk Kwok Hotel (via facebook), Wallis medals (courtesy Mark Sellar) Artist's chop (courtesy Alexandra Talbot), Tom Hannan (via Ron Taylor, UK), Chick-lit (author)
It’s an odd feeling being between projects. With my study of the 1940 evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong now completed, I need to start something else. Of course I have a number of old projects available, half-written books about the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel, or Hong Kong’s Irregulars (BAAG, the Chindits, everything accomplished by the escapers and evaders), and so forth. But it’s also an opportunity to start up something entirely new. I’ll probably spend the summer thinking it over, and may well complete one of the old projects before applying myself to a brand new challenge.
28 A student contacted me today, about researching into the Japanese shipment of metals from wartime Hong Kong to Japan. This certainly included motor vehicles and statues, and I suspect other things too.
26On the way to the annual Canada Day reception in Central, I stopped off at a nearby book shop and saw a few of my books for sale in an unexpected – but no doubt vastly less loss-making – genre! 26 The Australian Defence Force Academy kindly let me know that my thesis has been forwarded to the examiners. There will now be a wait of six to eight weeks for a result.
24Thomas Hannan’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) cousin was put in touch with me by Ron Taylor (UK) who also kindly passed me a photo. The cousin has not yet responded to my email.
22George Robinson and Gordon Wheatcroft’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) nephew got in touch. He notes that Mr Robinson was shot in the legs and never had feelings in them again. Thanks in part to Hollywood, where people always make a full recovery from wounds, in reality permanent nerve damage was a common occurrence. 22 Alice and David Hutchinson’s (Stanley Internee and HKVDC respectively) daughter got in touch.
21Alexandra Talbot kindly sent me an excellent photo of Mike Kendall of Z Force fame (HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit).
20 Gordon Chalmers (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, noting: “He survived the war and returned to Edinburgh, married in 1948, then in the late sixties returned to his native Aberdeen. He was always very reticent to talk about the Lisbon Maru, though he did on one memorable occasion, revealing the horror of the tragedy. However, he was more open about his time as a POW always telling me the 'the Japanese were cruel to their own as much as they were to us'. Unfortunately Gordon died in 2004 aged 90 and I inherited his 'memory box' which contained his military medals, athletics medals, Japanese 'Victory' money and Royal Scots badges etc., which he took me through when I was a young lad.” He also kindly sent several photos. 20 Mark Sellar kindly let me know that: “the Pacific Star quartet and Imperial Service Medal of Harold Jackson, Storeman at the Royal Naval Dockyard, Hong Kong, were offered for sale on eBay last weekend. I note that after transportation to Japan and subsequent liberation, Harold (accompanied by his family) returned to Hong Kong post-war to resume - for a few years - his work in the Dockyard Stores there.”
16 Alexandra Talbot (daughter of Stanley internee Dr Harry Talbot) is trying: “to find out some information regarding a series of Chinese water colors given to my parents in Hong Kong many years ago… I would like to find out who the artist is… my parents were told that the artist was quite famous.” I don’t know anything about these things, but have added a photo of the artist’s signature and chop just in case someone else does.
13Peter Hennessy kindly let me know that Vice Admiral Ralph L Hennessy, DSC, CD, passed away today, and his obituary was published. Although Ralph was not in Hong Kong (instead he fought with distinction in the RCN in the Atlantic), he was the eldest son of Colonel Pat Hennessy RCASC who was killed by a shell on The Peak during the fighting. He would have been 96 this September.
12I was delighted to hear from Phil Doddridge, Royal Rifles of Canada, again. We used to be in touch regularly, and I was fortunate to meet him on his last visit to Hong Kong. He’s now 92, and in good health. 12 Thomas Fullerton’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch. 12 I received an email from Eleanor Vaughan, visiting Hong Kong from Canada to research Hong Kong’s war crimes trials from the perspective of the Canadian POWs’ experience.
10Stuart Braga reported a book I hadn’t heard of before: Covered Up In Kowloon. However, I had heard of the authors (Canadian missionaries and Stanley internees named Harold Fetherstonhaugh Collier and his wife Frances Dorothy Collier). Left behind in Kowloon as the Japanese attacked, they never made it to Stanley, instead being added directly to the Canadian repatriation in 1943.
7William Grant Shepherd’s grandson contacted me. Shepherd was one of the people who helped me most on the Lisbon Maru book (he was a Royal Navy Engine Room Artificer and, obviously, survived the sinking). It’s always interesting when this happens, as in many cases POWs were happy to tell me (just a fly on the wall) things that they could never tell their own families. 7 On someone’s advice, I read Fighting Mad by ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert. It is a fascinating book by a fascinating (and finally rather tragic) character. Calvert’s first posting was to pre-war Hong Kong where he raised a unit of local Royal Engineers and learnt reasonable Cantonese. He states that while visiting China during the war he came across the group of Hong Kong escapers and evaders gathered together by BAAG and was instrumental in making them part of his Chindit group (William Young of 3 Coy HKVDC would become his batman, but in practice also his bodyguard during some of the worst fighting). 7 I am back in contact with Kamal Prasad, son of Kamta Prasad who commanded B Coy 2/14th Punjabis. Kamal is helping me with some biographical details of his father, who had an outstanding post war career. One nice quote when I asked Kamal why his mother’s name has the letters ‘RK’ in front of it: “Oh, RK is/was the Indian title... my mum was a small Raja's daughter, kind of blue blooded. She once told us kids your father has earned his title (rank), it's not merely by birth!!”
6Elizabeth Ride passed me a very interesting document (which was primarily intended for Tim Ko) concerning Japanese battle charms identified by BAAG. I wonder if this could explain the sometimes unexpected things (old coins, old badges, and so forth) sometimes found on the battlefields? 6 Mark Sellar sent me a very interesting note saying that he had been able to: “obtain the medals of Brigadier Cedric Wallis, and thought you might like to receive the attached photograph of his campaign medals as he had worn them in later life.” The medals are: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Interallied Victory Medal, General Service Medal 1918 GV 1st issue with clasps 'Iraq' & 'Kurdistan', 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, War Medal with Oakleaf emblem denoting 'Mention-in-Despatches'. He continued: “M.I.D., was specifically for his services during the Battle for Kong, and was published in the Supplement to the London Gazette issue of 4 April 1946, the preamble of which states: ‘The KING has been graciously pleased to approve that the following be Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941’.” Mark also pointed out that contrary to many accounts, Wallis was not a recipient of the Military Cross (interestingly, neither was his counterpart Lawson, though some books also claim he was).
4 Iain Gow followed up from last month’s photo of the ruins of Kobe house with a plan of the camp taken from John Lane’s book Summer Will Come Again. This book, by an Australian POW (not captured in Hong Kong), used to be available to read online but seems to have been deleted now. 4 Barbara Anslow noted: “Seeing reference in your May newsletter to the Marriott family jerked my memory: I recall the death of Mr Marriott but thought he was referred to as 'Kid'. I believe his daughter was the young mother who lived in a room in our corridor in Block 3, Married Q, with her little boy Tommy. [Their surname was White]. Tommy was the only child in our corridor of flats, his Mum was continually keeping him in order so as not to annoy us adults; he was a charming little boy.” This was Mrs J. P. White.
2 Justin Cahill kindly sent me a copy of George Baxter’s (the manager of the Hong Kong Bureau of United Press) short book, Personal Experiences During The Siege Of Hong Kong (illustrated). In three parts it covers the battle of Hong Kong, internment, and the exchange at Laurenco Marques.
1 Someone put a newspaper page on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, mentioning the death of Nurse Begg of the HKVDC. I knew that her husband, like Nurse Buxton’s was in the HKVDC, but hadn’t realised until reading this that the third of the British nurses killed at Stanley on Christmas Day, Nurse Smith, was married to Lieutenant Colonel Walter John L. Smith, RAOC, who was also in Hong Kong and was taken POW. This facebook page is well worth keeping an eye on. Other interesting images posted this month included a photo of the original Luk Kwok Hotel – showing war damage – and a rather unpleasant image showing the destruction caused by American bombing in Wanchai.
June 1st, 2014 Update
Barracudas over HSBC (via Charles Dobie), Reg Stemp (courtesy Jan Roy), Odd buckles (courtesy Stuart Wood) Stanley war damage (via Charle Dobie), Stanley Camp (author's files), Stanley war damage (via Charles Dobie) Xmas day with the Penns (courtesy Susan Lange), Roberts Block (author), Allister painting (courtesy Arleigh Hudson)
This May marked the 160th anniversary of the foundation of the Volunteers. Brought into being in 1854, they were disbanded a year or two before the 1997 handover. During all that time the Volunteers were rather different from most part-time forces, taking their job very seriously, and – for example - delighting in beating the Middlesex Regiment (regular professional machine gunners) in competitions on the range. During the Battle of Hong Kong, several HKVDC units were all but wiped out, but at a severe cost to the Japanese. Post-war research has clearly shown that at Wong Nai Chung Gap, 3 Company was responsible for more Japanese casualties than any other unit, and other companies were equally effective at Stanley and other engagements. Today, although I am only in touch with a handful of veterans from those days, there’s still a strong spirit alive with the Volunteers Association in Hong Kong, Canada, and Australia, and all celebrate Foundation Day.
31 As part of the commemorations of the anniversary of the start of the Great War, Bill Lake sent a reminder that a production of Oh What A Lovely War will be playing at the Shouson Theatre in Wanchai, June 25-28. The important point is that this production is in association with the Royal British Legion. Details can be found here.
30 Iain Gow, whose father (James Gow, Royal Scots) was a POW at Kobe House, found online a fascinating colour cine film of the ruins of the camp. The shot in question starts at 1.20, and I found that by blowing it up to full size and taking a screen shot, I could capture a reasonably good quality image. The footage is taken from an almost identical angle as this photo from the Australian War Museum from August 1945. Iain has a photo of his father standing by the same broken corner piece shortly after liberation. 30 Today the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association continued the tradition of holding their annual dinner on the last Friday of May, as the anniversary of the founding of the Volunteers. The main guest was Ian Burchett, the Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao, who gave a fine speech. The Association also kindly invited me, with the added attraction that not being the main guest, I had a free dinner and didn’t even have to speak! It was actually very enjoyable, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the attendees I knew (and how generous they were with the port…)
29 Kenneth Young’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch.
28Arleigh Hudson, granddaughter of John Burton RCASC, got back in touch. The family has a number of paintings given to them by William Allister, RCCS, including a fine one that is clearly a view from North Point POW camp looking north across the harbour. There are also copies here.
27 Walking down from The Peak via Hatton Road I had a good view of ‘Doc’ Ride’s house. Although it looks pre-war, it was actually built for him at HKU just after the war. There is, of course, a 10-inch coastal gun in the garden.
25Walter Thompson’s (HKPF) family got in touch, kindly sending a number of photos of him and his family, including one of Walter himself just before the war (illustrated). Walter’s wife and two children were evacuees, and another daughter was the first evacuee to be born ‘in Australia’ as she was born at sea in Australian waters as their ship arrived.
23 I was contacted by a friend of Alf Bennett, who kindly introduced me to wartime policeman Walter Thompson’s family. Bennett was a fluent Japanese speaker and a friend of Charles Boxer, among others. 23 Dave Deptford notes that Sapper Bernard Todd’s relatives live near him, and want to know more about his death. Todd’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry brackets his death as 8-25 December 1941. However, in my original research into the 1941 deaths, I noted that the internal records of the CWGC listed him as having been originally buried at the north end of North Point camp on 22 December. The implication, I believe, is that he had been wounded at some point between December 19 and 22 in the eastern sector. He may well have been in the group of POWs held at Wong Nai Chung Gap overnight on the 19th, and marched to North Point on the 20th. Many of those, of course, had been wounded in the fighting or when the 'black hole' was mortared.
21 I had an interesting email today from a friend of the Marriott family. She is researching Henry ‘Ked’ Marriott and his descendants, including daughters who became Emma E Field and Mrs White.
19 Today I received an unusual email from the family of a man apparently murdered on the China / Hong Kong border in the mid 1950s. They would like help to identify where he was buried, and reinter him properly. This is way outside my normal area, but worth pursuing.
17George Tattam’s (Middlesex) granddaughter got in touch again (see 2010). Previously I had told her that Tattam was liberated from Yokohama Stadium Camp, but I now realize that this was incorrect. He was a POW there until 1 May 1944, then the camp closed and the POWs were dispersed. In Tattam’s case, he went to Tokyo #18D. From there, finally, he was sent to Tokyo #15B (or #5B), from which he was actually liberated.
14Rob Weir mentions that walking into his local Melbourne library he found a copy of Not The Slightest Chance on the shelf! 14 On the Hong Kong War facebook page, someone posted a South China Morning post article featuring Tim Ko which I think I missed last year.
12 RSM Enos ‘Henry’ Ford’s (RA) niece got in touch via Philip Cracknell. (see last month). 12 I had an enquiry from the village of Silverstone about a name on their war memorial: Albert Henry Roberts of the RASC who is buried in Sai Wan. Roberts was actually one of the POWs who died in Taiwan and was reinterred in Hong Kong after the war, so I passed the question to Michael Hurst of the POW Taiwan group who kindly furnished all the necessary details.
11 Susan Lange sent a fascinating 1939 or 1940 Christmas Day photograph. Taken at ‘Penno’s’ (which no doubt means the Penn family’s house) at 172 The Peak, Mount Kellett, Hong Kong, at 15.00, it shows: John Collis, Marion Gordon, Alistair Somerfelt, Gladys Collis, Aci Bowker, William Simmons ‘Simmy’ of the Tramways, Keith Valentine, Rene Penn, Harry Penn, Ralph xxxx, Mrs. Somerfelt, and Vyner Gordon. Children: Gavin Gordon, Bruce Valentine, David xxxx, and Judith Ann Collis, with Patricia Penn standing behind the children. Bowker and Gordon were of course both lost during the war. We would be grateful if anyone could plug in the two missing names. She also sent another photo of old Peak School’s students in 1933/1934, though I suspect most of these had actually returned to the UK to continue their education before the outbreak of the Pacific War – but not their teacher, Bee Bicheno, who was interned in Stanley.
10In my correspondence with Stemp’s family, they revealed that Stemp’s mother (nee Taylor) lost not only her son, but also all but one of her brothers to war: William Taylor, Boer war and WWI, Sapper 59372 87th Field Coy RE, killed 30 December 1915 Joseph Taylor, Boer war, died shortly after of wounds. Samuel Taylor, WWI, Private 6051 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment died 19 March 1917 aged 25 on board hospital ship Asturias returning from Salonika where he had been fighting. John Taylor, WWI, private 951525 Royal Fusiliers. Died in 1947 in Springfield Mental Asylum, Surrey, from shell shock incurred during the Great War. George Taylor, WWI, Private 10142 Royal Fusiliers survived the war and died in 1949. I have come across other stories of such major losses in single families, but it's the shellshock aspect that I find most horrifying. It was only a few years ago (2009?) that I read that the last shell-shocked British soldier from the Great War had finally passed away in an asylum.
9Reginald Stemp’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending two photographs and a copy of Mr Stemp’s last letter home. He notes: “He talks about his daily life and that the food is ok but that he wouldn’t mind going short if he could get home. He also mentions that the church is a Cinema and that he had tickets to see A Little Bit of heaven. He mentions the Canadians arriving.” Stemp’s letter shows that he was in 12th Battery, but the CWGC has him under 8th. I expect he transferred shortly before hostilities commenced, and the paperwork never caught up.
5Taking a short cut from Island School to Wanchai I passed the Roberts Block of the old Victoria Barracks. It’s a large sturdy building and a shame that it appears to be unused at the moment. The nearest other block has been one of Mothers’ Choice’s units for many years.
4Two strange objects were found in the hills today, like enlarged buckles or clips, or similar. We’ve all found these over the years, but no one knows what they are. Any ideas?
1 In response to last month’s question about documentation of wartime events in Happy Valley, T.K. kindly sent the following summary: a. H K Surgeon - Li Shu Fan-page 100, page 105-106, 109-111 and page 124. b. Phyllis Harrop - HK Incident-page 83-84. c. Adrienne Clarkson - Heart Matters-page 19-20. d. War Diaries of Captain U. Laite (C Force) - 23-24 of Dec. 41. e. Excerpts from HK War crime Trial - Appendix 7 1 The month started well, continuing with helping Charles Dobie identify the locations of the HCMS Ontario 12 September to 1 November 1945 photos here (you need to allow some time for loading). I expect others can help with more details. Of particular interest to me were the battle-damaged buildings in the Stanley photos here. Another that caught my eye was what I first thought was a squadron of spitfires in a fly-over above the old HSBC headquarters. On closer examination, I realised that they were in fact the awful old Fairey Barracuda (my mother flew in these in the WRENs, and nobody had a good word to say about them – unlike the Firefly which was quite popular). I have arranged the Stanley damage photos of Up The Hill and the Police Officers’ Club (enlarged) on either side of a stock photo of the camp so that you can see where these two buildings fitted in.
May 1st, 2014 Update
Evacuees in Canada (courtesy Strellett/Hutson family), Dragon Lodge (author), Forth's grave (courtesy Amanda MacGregor) Rum Bottle (via Craig Mitchell), Stanley battle damage (via Charles Dobie), Frank Foord records (courtesy Martin Heyes) George Parkins (courtesy Rowena Palmer), Stanley Prison (via Philip Cracknell), Fredrick Mulvihill (courtesy Anthony Mulvihill)
One unexpected discovery I made in the early 1990s was that the majority of ex-POW families that I contacted had kept dad’s/husband’s diaries. These ranged from two or three scribbled sheets (typically containing just significant dates – letters from home, Red Cross parcels and so forth), to one of more than 1,000 pages kept by an HKVDC officer. Many people think it was against camp rules to keep diaries, but I’m not at all sure that was the case; there was even a bookbinder in Sham Shui Po who made blank books to order. But here’s the point: the keepers of some diaries typed them up post war. With modern software, it’s now easy to scan such pages in and turn them directly into word processor documents. I just did that with a 50,000-word document (nothing to do with Hong Kong, as it happens) and it took less than a day. Anyone with such a diary that they want to share with family, or even consider for publication, can now save hundreds of hours of typing.
30 Charles Dobie kindly sent a fascinating set of photos taken by HMCS Ontario in Hong Kong after arriving on 12 September 1945. I’m helping him identify some of the locations and will share the URL next month. There are a number that I have never seen before, such as a view of Stanley showing battle damage to the Prison Officers’ Quarters.
28 I had a look at Dragon Lodge today (see the 12th). It has a new gate and a new padlock, but aside from that it doesn’t seem to have been touched since the last renovation efforts petered out around three years ago. Some of the windows are open, which doesn’t bode well for its future.
25 Albert Forth’s (RE) family got in touch, kindly sending a photo of his grave in Yokohama.
23 Boris Milenko’s (HKVDC) son contacted me, noting that: “He graduated in 1939 from the University of Hong Kong and joined the volunteer defence force soon after. He was in Hong Kong when the Japanese invasion occurred and for several months worked at the hospital.” Hong Kong Volunteers In Battle lists him under: ‘Did not enter POW Camps or escaped early in 1942’ as Sapper Milenko B. G. 5258. Aside from that, I don’t seem to have anything about him.
22I was contacted today by a free lance archery writer who had found this quote: “In trying to take the Repulse Bay Hotel the Japanese were astonished to find themselves assailed in the surrounding undergrowth by flaming arrows, the defenders having found an old archery set on the premises.” (The Crown Colonist, Volume 12, page 129, 1942). Although I have a couple of eye witness accounts of the undergrowth being set fire to, I haven’t previously heard of flaming arrows being employed. Has anyone else?
21Susan Lange, the grand daughter of Captain David Strellett, kindly sent a photo: “of a party for ‘Hong Kong Refugees’ at Government House, Victoria, BC in October 1940. My mother, Jane Strellett (age 14) and Patricia Penn are in it, amongst many others.” Patricia Penn is the young blonde girl right up front to the left. Jane Strellett, oldest daughter of David, is the young girl with dark curly hair in the middle, with her eyes looking down to the left of the photo. Unfortunately I don't know who the others are at this point. Anyone recognize them?
20Philip Cracknell has written an interesting new blog: “about RSM Ford on Mount Davis who lived at the Cathay Hotel and Miss Leontine Grace who owned it. She was one of three Miss Ellis sisters interned in Stanley Camp and from a prominent Jewish family in HK. RSM Ford was a Technical Gunnery Instructor (I.G.) and survived the war - continued in the Army was commissioned as an officer. His wife Edith Rose (known as Rose) was evacuated with their daughter Dorothy (still alive). I am trying to get more information from family but I think he must have gone to Australia to meet up with Rose and Dorothy and returned to UK with them - where his father met him - his father missing a leg from the Great War. The Cathay Hotel was on the North Shore and destroyed by shelling. Leontine Ellis, a member of HKVDC N.D., died in Stanley Camp in 1942. Her sisters returned to HK in 1947 after having been evacuated to UK.” Ford was in the Battery Plotting Room at Mount Davis during the famous unexploded shell incident.
15 Ian McNay kindly let me know that he returned from Australian evacuation aboard the SS Kanimbla, stopping at Hiroshima on the way. That must have been quite a shocking experience so soon after the bomb (around June 46).
14Yet another wartime British water bottle turned up in the hills today, but this time it was First World War vintage. Old stock issued in 1941, or a memento that one of the older soldiers still carried? Also (illustrated), a Winnipeg Grenadier badge. 14 Henry Ching kindly sent two more of his Occasional Papers (24 and 25), this time covering the PWD Corps and ANZACs in the HKVDC. At time of writing they are not yet on the Hong Kong Volunteer & Ex-PoW Association of NSW’s website, but presumably will be soon.
12 Philip Cracknell sent the Stanley Group a very interesting May 1949 aerial photo of Stanley, featuring St Stephens’s and the prison. 12 Rob Weir placed a great article about Hong Kong’s coastal pillboxes on Gwulo. 12 Gordon Smith sent me a series of very interesting emails about ‘Dragon Lodge' which is at 32 Lugard Road on the Peak. I walk past this house every week, and it has been empty for as long as I have known it; I fantasize about the owners donating it to me, as it is in such a wonderful location. While I’m not sure I believe all the stories (here and here) associated with the building, perhaps they explain why it has been uninhabited for so long.
11 Local historian Bill Lake spoke today on the Radio show ‘Morning Brew’. I found it very entertaining.
10 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent a unique covering letter (from BAAG files) from Cheung Chin Shum to the British Ambassador in Kukong, that originally included an attachment of a letter to be forwarded to Mrs Sarah Robinson Smith (an evacuee in Australia who was married to Quarter Master Sergeant Robert Smith of the RASC and had evacuated with their four children). Unfortunately that letter itself was not in the files. Cheung describes how Smith was a fuel and light accountant of the RASC, and he was his assistant. Robert Smith died as a POW of dysentery on 13 August 1942.
8Rowena Palmer (see last month) kindly sent a photo of her Great-Uncle George Parkins who died on the Lisbon Maru.
7Bob Tatz kindly sent me a great deal of information about Leslie Woodward ‘Tips’ Tipple and his wife Dorothy Irene (who was born in Hong Kong 10 August 1912, nee Avenell). They were married in St. Andrew’s Church on Nathan Road in January 1932 and had two children – friends of Bob in those days - Lesley (31-Dec-1933) and Berry (31-Oct-1932). “Dorothy and the kids were evacuated to Australia. Tips was with the RAF in Hong Kong when he met Dorothy, sometime before 1932. When demobbed he joined Gilman Motors or Dodwells (he was a trained Rolls Royce Engineer and had a degree from Oxford). He used to deliver loads of trucks into China and made several runs on these missions. Then Tips joined KMB when they started up in 1933. He left HK soon after the family departed for Australia. Tips arrived in Shanghai driving a truck where he left his household effects in the custody of an English policeman. Somehow he became a Captain in the Indian Army Ordinance Corp and was taken on to go to Burma for the Burma Road construction. He left Shanghai on 2 December 1941 (Evacuation No. 183), as a passenger on the S.S. Anhui, and arrived in HK 6 December 1941. Anhui must have left HK just before the attack on HK, but the ship by-passed Singapore on its way directly to Sydney, arriving on 29 December 1941. Tips’s passport showed the following notations: 6 January 1942 – ‘right to stay until 6 February 1942 – holder is proceeding to India’. The next passport notation showed ‘Harbour Police, Colombo, 31 January 1942’.” Tips was killed in a car crash in Calcutta driven by a drunken RNVR Officer on 1 May 1942. Interestingly, I am pretty sure that this was the voyage on which Anhui stopped in Manila on the way to Sydney. Some Hong Kong passengers disembarked there, and would spend the war years in Santo Tomas Internment Camp.
6 A correspondent’s father (then eight years old) lived in Happy Valley during 1941. Does anyone know of any accurate Chinese account of how civilians fared there at that time? I have put together a few bits and pieces relating to the fighting that passed through the area, but nothing comprehensive, and nothing about the months that immediately followed.
5 Working with Anthony Mulvihill (see last month), we now have what I believe to be a near perfect listing of Thracian’s crew. Anthony also kindly sent a photo of hid father, Fredrick Mulvihill of HMS Thracian who was wounded and taken prisoner. 5 A perfectly preserved wartime military rum bottle was found up in the hills today.
2 Martin Heyes kindly sent me the Statement of Service n the Canadian Armed Forces for Private Frank Maxwell Foord, Winnipeg Grenadiers, who was lost on 22 December 1941. This is the first such complete set that I have seen, consisting of the Attestation Paper, Record of Service, and Record of Promotions.
April 1st, 2014 Update
Lenny Munsey's wedding (courtesy Mike Ward), George Robins at Shamshuipo and with friends (both courtesy Janet Nye) Barbara Anslow's block of flats (courtesy TK), Yale Plaque (courtesy Susan Wood), Andrews' knife (courtesy Charles Collard) Compass (courtesy Martin Dewick), Wanchai's Haunted House (author), Bodie and intake (courtesy Ian Bodie)
Jack Mitchell’s mini-biographies of some of his friends in the HKVDC Signals reminded me of a letter that I asked Lieutenant ‘Bunny’ Browne to write more than ten years ago. I asked him to send a one-paragraph description of each of the officers in Maltby’s Battle Box during the fighting. He kindly did that, and of course now I wished that – back then when I had the opportunity – I had asked all the veterans I corresponded with to do similar.
29Frederick Mulvihill’s (RN) son got in touch. Mulvihill served on HMS Thracian.
27 Leonard Munsey’s (RAOC) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending a wedding photo. Apparently Munsey was one of many of the garrison who married local Hong Kong girls, in his case having a daughter too. Unfortunately no one seems to have copies of the marriage certificates from that time. The wedding photo, like so many from that date, was taken at the north eastern corner of the old Supreme Court building.
26 George Robins’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch. Robins commanded PB22 - which is still visible on the Chung Hom Kok shoreline from Stanley - in the fighting. She included four photos of Robins and the Middlesex, two of which were clearly taken pre-war at Sham Shui Po barracks.
24Jack Mitchell of the HKVDC Signals kindly sent a report on all the Signallers shown in the group photo (see January 2014). Fortunately Jack has a remarkable memory and was able to bring many of these men to life with his descriptions. For example: “Signalman Cedric Salter – was an Air Conditioning Engineer employed by Dodwells and returned to Hong Kong after the war. Was attached to the Armoured Cars and won the Military Medal. Sent to Japan on the first Volunteer draft in December ’42. Married a Mae Brown in Hong Kong after the war and later returned to the UK. Salter’s Lewis Gun was the only one firing when the Japanese bombed the Colonial Secretariat and the HKVDC Headquarters – I was with him at the time.” And: “Thomas Suiter (Sut) – educated at CBS and I think worked for the Bank Line. His father was a chemist at The Pharmacy (the junction of Queen’s Road and Peddar Street). Suiter survived the war, returned to Hong Kong for a short time and left to take up residence in the UK.” He also reminded me that Billy Poy’s daughter went on to great things in Canadian politics. 24 Joy Wanstall, whose father George Bainborough served on HMS Tamar during the war, kindly passed on the bad news that Jack Hughieson (who served on the MTBs and was one of the very few survivors of the Lisbon Maru still around) had passed away at the age of 94.
23 Today I submitted the second draft of my thesis about the Hong Kong Evacuees. I don’t know whether it is good enough, but it is certainly far better than the first draft!
22 Lau Yam Choi’s grandson got in touch. It seems that Lau may have been in the BAAG, but we are currently checking details.
21 Lindsey Cartwright let me know that while cleaning out some bits and pieces they: “found a military watch with the name Chas McGuire, with Hong Kong 1940 on the back. With it is an old gold coloured cigarette case (complete with 5 Craven A cigarettes inside) and a similar Vesta Case.” There was no one of that name in Hong Kong by 8 December 1941, but I wonder if anyone recognizes the name from earlier years?
20I had an interesting email from Susan Wood, who kindly sent a photo of a plaque to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Yale, commanding officer of the 1st Hong Kong Regiment, the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery. She notes: “I found your excellent and informative website while researching my local War memorial - Bryneglwys in Denbighshire, North Wales. Although not on the memorial a member of the Hong Kong and Singapore Artillery has a plaque in the church - John Corbet Love Yale - a member of the same Yale family as Elihu Yale, whose name graces the American University - Plas-yn-Ial, the family home, is within the boundaries of Bryneglwys.”
18 Douglas Crozier’s (HKVDC) granddaughter got in touch. Crozier’s wife and children were evacuees.
17Walking to work along Kennedy Road I noticed that some building work on the north side had improved the view in that direction. You can now look down on Ship Street in Wanchai, which has always interested me as it was the final front line. The view to the infamous ‘haunted house’ of Nam Koo Terrace had cleared enough to take a photo.
16 George Parkins’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch.
14Today a Victorian 50 cents coin from 1891 turned up in the hills, apparently hit almost dead centre by a small piece of shrapnel (illustrated). Or possibly that’s the remains of some solder that attached it to a chain or similar?
13 I had a query today relating to Vincent Sorby of HKE who was killed in ‘The Battle of the Bus’ in North Point outside the power station in 1941. The village of Todwick in South Yorkshire is installing a new War Memorial, and Vincent’s brother Frederick William Dare Sorby was born there. He moved to Canada and was killed at the end of the Great War.
11 Herbert Ernest (Tommy) Brewer’s (HKRNVR, MTB escape) family contacted me. I hadn’t realised before that the Brewers were an established Hong Kong family. Tommy’s mother and father (Herbert Edney Brewer, Connie Brewer) had lived in Hong Kong too, with their daughters Mary and Peggy and another son, Peter (who was Peggy’s twin). Connie and the two girls moved back to the States before the war, though Herbert Edney’s and Peter’s movements are uncertain. Great Grandfather Walter William Brewer ran a bookstore in the Colony, but his wife died of rabies in 1892; their son Herbert’s first child, Doris, also died of rabies. Hong Kong was very different in those days… 11 Received an email from Michael Thomas whose father served in Hong Kong from 1936 to early 1939 with 8 Coast Regiment before returning to the UK to attend an anti-aircraft course thus missing the invasion. He mentioned that 8 Coast Regiment was originally known as 8 Heavy Brigade until it was renamed 8 Heavy regiment in 1938 and 8 Coast Regiment in 1940. Sometimes these old names still appear in wartime records. Michael himself lived in Hong Kong starting in 1956 when his father was posted back here post-war.
9Ian Bodie kindly sent a photo of his fathers and other police of the ‘Class of 38’. They are: Top Row: Sikh officer; Ken Bodie; Willie Watson; N Rennie; Alan CC Stewart; Alec Leslie; Tom Ross; Mackay Gillies; Sikh officer. Middle Row: David Fyffe; Jimmy Ferrier; Staff Instructor J Fell; James Cairns; Richardson Leslie: Barney Ross. Front Row: George Watt; J MacMillan; J Aitken; Sidney Dowman; Lundy Gordon. Alec Leslie was killed on 1 September 1950 in an incident in which a kidnapping suspect had barricaded himself in a village house in Ha Kwai Chung Village in Tsuen wan Division. Edmund Luscombe, who took command of the operation and had also been interned in Stanley, was killed in the same incident. According to Wally Scragg, Ken Bodie shot the suspect dead. A looter killed Richardson Leslie from Dundee (who was Eleanor Leslie’s brother) on 26 December 1941; his death is described by George Wright Nooth in his book, ‘Prisoner of the Turnip Heads’. Tom Ross from Dundee was to become Ken Bodie’s brother-in-law. 9 Among a number of interesting items that turned up in the hills today was a well-preserved Great War vintage compass (probably a Verner's pattern no. VIII). I suspect that these were still being used in Hong Kong in 1941.
7 I had an interesting email from Frank Newton who served in 1949 at the Matilda hospital in the RAMC during his National Service. He pointed out that the Royal Naval Hospital memorial stone outside came from the War Memorial Hospital, a point that I hadn’t grasped before (the Matilda Hospital used to be known as the Matilda & War Memorial Hospital). The old Royal Naval Hospital in Wanchai had been badly damaged during the war, and in 1946 they decided they needed a replacement. In 1949 the War Memorial Hospital re-opened as the new Royal Naval Hospital, and that must be where that stone came from. That War Memorial Hospital was a short walk away from the Matilda, and was knocked down perhaps 40 years ago.
5 Dave Deptford notes: “In DNW Sale of 25 -26 March at Lot 1514 appears the following medal group of five –1939-45, Pacific, Defence, War and Army LSGC - only last is named - attributed to Sgt Alfred Cooke, Military Police, captured 25.12.1941 at HK and later transferred to labouring at Omine nr Nagagsaki. Estimate is GBP160 -200.”
4Charles Collard kindly sent photos of a pocket knife that his father (also Charles Collard) and his friends kept secretly during internment. Two dog tags are attached, in the name of CPO W.H.A. Andrews DJX 163086. The reverse appears to have his HK POW number of 3852. This is odd, as in my records it is 5258. Bizarrely, the CWGC have him listed as “Andrews S, William Henry Austin” and with a different serial number, with a date of death of 22 March 1943. My records show that he was on the Lisbon Maru and died of acute pneumonia in Osaka #5D.
3 Arthur Sims’s (Army Educational Corps) grandson got in touch. His mother was also a Hong Kong evacuee. 3 Apparently the Heir Hunters TV series Lisbon Maru episode was broadcast today and acknowledged the ‘Tony Banham Collection’, which is about right as all I did was provide a couple of photos and some information so they could appear knowledgeable on the subject!
2 Philip Cracknell kindly solved the Sir Mark Young question (see last month) by showing that he was flown by the Japanese (together with his batman Waller) from Hong Kong to Shanghai. He found this detail in a BAAG document dated 21 November 1944. The information there was obtained from Commander Woolley RN who ‘recently escaped from a Japanese gaol on Shanghai. The source was a POW in the Woosung Camp in Feb 1942 when Sir Mark was brought into that camp’. 2 Shelia Stones let me know that a singer called Tom Hickcox has written a song about the Lisbon Maru. I managed to find a version on YouTube here.
1David Bellis has put recordings of an interview with Barbara Redwood on his site in two parts, here and here. 1 TK was kind enough to point out that Mabel Redwood’s book ‘It was Like This…’ describes the bombing of the Sikh temple by the Japanese (they lived next door, about where the Cosmo Hotel is now). So it appears it may have been hit more than once, which is also what EOD told me. He also included a photo of Happy Valley with Barbara Anslow’s block of flats at the top left. These were eventually replaced by the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the New China News Agency, and the Cosmo Hotel. The mosque would have been immediately to the block’s right.
March 1st, 2014 Update
Central Police Station (author), Charles Collard (courtesy Charles Collard), Mosque bomb site (author) Victory Parade, B&W and colour (courtesy Ron Rakusen), Japanese Tunnel (courtesy Martin Dewick) William Golding's MI9 Form (via COFEPOW), Mystery Camp (via Geoff Emerson), British water bottle and Japanese Arisaka muzzle cover (author)
With the many recent finds of ordnance culminating in this month's discovery of a huge bomb in a residential area, naturally the potential danger has been widely debated. In fact the majority of recent finds have been well off the beaten path and are generally no great threat, and it would be impractical to try and clear them all. However, perhaps a more prudent policy would be wise in the built up areas. In fact the parts of the city that were heavily fought over or bombed are relatively small, and within those areas much post-war development has already resulted in deep excavations that have effectively made them safe. However, in those parts where only small post-war buildings with shallow foundations previously stood (as in this most recent case) perhaps a compulsory deep scan in the German model would be a sensible precaution.
27 Charles Collard’s son (see 5th below) also got in touch kindly sending me a list of the fate of the crew of HMS Cicala kept by his father in camp. 27 I heard from Flame Television, the producers of ‘Heir Hunters’ who I helped slightly on a program related to the Lisbon Maru. They say: “We now have a confirmed transmission date for the new series of BBC1’s Heir Hunters. The series will start on Monday 3rd March 2014 at 9.15am on BBC1 and will be shown daily from Monday to Friday for four consecutive weeks. The episode you were involved in will be shown on 3rd March although I would advise that you check TV listings nearer the time as programmes can sometimes be postponed if, for example, there is a sudden important news story. It’s also worth reminding friends and family that should they miss an episode, for the next seven days they can always watch it again online using the BBC iplayer website. Just go here and type Heir Hunters in the search box.” 27 Ian McKay has very kindly been helping me match the first students at the Central British School (now KGV) when it re-opened in 1946, with lists of 1940 evacuees to Australia. It seems that a very high percentage of that year were returned evacuees.
25In researching the fate of an internee of the Japanese, Geoff Emerson has found a photo of a group at an internee camp - but we don’t know which camp it is. Can anyone help?
23A friend of the Higgs family, who were evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940, got in touch.
20 The South China Morning Post today ran a short article about Hong Kong’s wartime remains. 20 Luba Estes sent a very interesting email relating to apparently seeing Lisbon Maru survivors in Shanghai. Her father (Lieutenant Skvorzov, HKVDC) had been left behind in POW Camp when she and her mother moved to Shanghai, so naturally they hoped to get news from him from these POWs (as no news was forthcoming from the camp). She notes: “One day my mother came home agitated because she found out that there were prisoners from Hong Kong in transit and billeted at the YMCA building… She didn’t know what she would achieve by going to the location of the YMCA building, but thought that in case the prisoners had a chance to look out of a window, we would carry a Hong Kong basket with SKVORZOV in large letters on the lid. Before the Japanese occupation, most school children carried their books in these Hong Kong baskets with their names on the lid. We had such a basket with us in Shanghai. When we reached the YMCA we slowly walked along the somewhat narrow street (much like the street between the Salisbury Hotel - the old YMCA - and the Peninsula Hotel in HK). There were very few pedestrians and we walked on the other side of the street away from the windows. And yes, there was a row of very large windows with curtains hanging from a bar mid-window down. Right away, we could see the prisoners straining over the top of the curtain to look out. Perhaps one or two had been looking out and told the others who gathered to see us. My memory is that there could have been ten at the window, I can’t remember, there could have been more or maybe less. They definitely saw us. There were no smiles or any effort to wave to us. We couldn’t tell the condition that they were in as all we could see were their faces from chin up. They appeared to be talking to each other… and then, shaking their heads, as if to say… he is not here.” All I can think of is that these may have been the sick POWs referred to on the 17th below, but I had thought they were at a temporary hospital at Woosung. I used the COFEPOW facility mentioned on the 18th below (interesting how these things often come together!) and found the MI9 Interrogation Form of William Golding of that group, but it doesn’t explicitly mention the YMCA.
18 William Wilson’s (Royal Scots, LM) great granddaughter got in touch. Wilson survived the Lisbon Maru, but his marriage didn’t. He was one of those who returned home to find that his wife had presumed him dead, and had made other arrangements. 18 Jonathan Moffat sent a useful reminder of this excellent link on the COFEPOW page that kindly allows people to download MI9 Liberation Questionnaires. They’re not all there yet, but it’s a great start and a very useful service kindly provided by volunteers.
17 Arthur Barnes’ (Royal Artillery, LM) great nephew got in touch. Barnes was one of the sicker survivors of the Lisbon Maru who was held back at Shanghai while the others went to the Osaka area, eventually being sent to the Hakodate camps in northern Japan, via Korea. He notes: “When the men broke out from the hold and jumped over the side, Jimmy held onto a raft with the help of an American called Eddie. They managed to get to one of the islands helped by the Chinese. He was sent to Japan and to one of the camps. During the last year of the war he was at Hakodate#2 Akahira camp on Hokaido. Because he had a way with horses, he was put to work with the ponies in the coal mines. He survived the war and went to live at Portland in Dorset. He went to work for my grandfather who was married to his sister. When my grandfather retired in 1971, Jimmy took over the butcher business until he then retired. Despite what he had been through, he lived a long life and died a few years ago at the age of 91. He never talked much about the war except to me, but never went into any great detail.” The mention of an American is interesting (theoretically there were none on board, but of course some did serve in British forces). I am hoping to learn more.
15Danny Parrot’s daughter got in touch (see August 2013) to say that she has finished the write-up of her father’s experience on Hong Kong. She also kindly attached a photo (illustrated).
14 Ken Bodie’s (HK Police Force) son got in touch. 14 Craig Mitchell kindly gave me a British wartime water bottle and an Arisaka muzzle cover recently found in the hills.
12 I hear that Monia Talan's (from the HKVDC Reconnaissance Unit, Z Force, and a Chan Chak escaper) service dress uniform jacket is for sale.
11 Suzannah Linton will be belatedly launching her book on Hong Kong’s War Crime Trials on Friday March 28. The launch will start at 17.30 at the Centre for Rights and Justice at Chinese University (at their Central site in Bank of America Tower). Further details can be found here, and registration can be done here. 11 While browsing Hong Kong Government records online, I came across two large but very useful documents listing the Civil Establishment of 1939. This names every government worker and shows their role, starting date, years in service, etc. The 1940 version doesn’t seem to have survived, but the majority of those listed in 39 were still present when hostilities commenced.
10Ron Rakusen read my Short History of No 3 Coy HKVDC (which I wrote for the Royal Asiatic Society some five or six years back) and saw the photo of the 1946 Victory Parade that illustrated it. He then kindly sent me several photos scanned from a special edition of TODAY showing the Victory Parade on 8th June 1946. These appear to have been taken moments before the similar photo I used in the Short History. Interestingly, they are in colour – but the colour to me looks like it was added by hand at some point. He also had some black and white images, again similar to ones I was given by 3 Coy families, of the Hong Kong contingent in Hyde Park (his father is second from the left in the front row seated on the ground in the latter, and is the bespectacled gentleman in the front left of the colour photo). Ron would be very grateful if anyone could provide better quality images of the event in which his father could be seen more clearly.
7 My usual walk to work was blocked today at Queen’s Road East and I had to take an interesting diversion through the early morning market in Wanchai Road. The reason for the road closure turned out to be an American 1,000 pound GP bomb (generally reported as a 2,000 pounder in the papers and on video) discovered in the construction of the foundations of the new Emperor International hotel tower between the Cosmo hotel and the Sikh Temple. I’ve walked past that bomb twice a day for around ten years! In the end Jimmy and his EOD team cut it open and burned the TNT on the spot. I have a 1945 photo of the Sikh Temple showing what I had guessed might be damage from a small bomb, but on reflection I believe that what we can see is not the effects of blast, but kinetic damage from that unexploded bomb simply flying through the structure to land and embed itself deep underground next door. I’ve done one of my not-terribly-good then & now mashups to show what I mean. Apparently the rear fuse had been struck but failed to function.
5 Charles Walter Collard’s grandson (see November) kindly sent a photo of his grandfather returning to the UK on a ship. Although undated, I suspect it was taken at the end of the war.
2Walking back from Central today I happened to look up at the old Central Police HQ which is currently under restoration. Some of it is no longer under wraps, and I have to admit it looks pretty good. It was of course bombed by the Japanese in 1941. Geoffrey Wilson who was there at the time, once wrote to me from his retirement home in Portugal saying: "A number of police officers of various ranks were killed or wounded; my office was set on fire and I was very lucky to get out alive with minor injuries."
1 I’ve been having a long correspondence with Michael Hurst in Taiwan to try to establish how Sir Mark Young and his batman Waller got to Taiwan in September 1942. We’re stumped at the moment. They were not on the ‘Special Draft’ that took Maltby and the other senior officers and batmen. We would be grateful for any information. 1 A party in the hills today found various items including British helmet remains, two buttons not yet identified (but one of which look like a Canadian Grenadier Guards button), two and a half British water bottles, and a new Japanese tunnel. 1 T.K. Wong and his brother reckon the original Japanese photograph in last month’s mash-up was tampered with to some degree having been taken from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Queen Victoria Street (whereas to match the southern side, I had to take my modern version from the intersection of Des Voeux Road and Pottinger Street).
February 1st, 2014 Update
Des Voeux Road then and now, Queen's Road Ordnance Stores (both author), Western Independent (courtesy Bill Lake) 1940 building, Bowen Road Hospital guard room, Wong Nai Chung Gap shelter (all author) Attack on Wong Nai Chung Gap AA position (Japanese war artist), the hill behind today (author), Base of Japanese water bottle (courtesy Craig Mitchell)
This is very much a seasonal study. Everything heats up in November as relatives of those in Hong Kong during the war are reminded of the December invasion and their family members’ experiences, and culminates in December itself where each day brings tens of emails and every weekend (or so it seems) a memorial event of some kind. Then January slows down again – unless there’s a special Second World War anniversary matching the one we’re witnessing this year with the Great War. So the year has started quietly; by the middle of the month I had only received a single photo that I wanted to put on this site, whereas in a typical month I will have to choose from a hundred or more. But the second half seemed to speed up, perhaps because of the release of ‘The Railway Man’ and the general interest in twentieth century conflicts thanks to the Great War anniversary.
31Couldn’t resist the nice weather and quiet New Year streets so I went to Des Voeux Road to try and get one of my ‘then and now’ shots of Japanese and Indian troops on patrol. Trouble is that I spent such a long time waiting for a tram to come into the right position that I ended up getting the angle a bit wrong. I’m not very good at these! However, at the same time I noticed on the other side of the road a 1940 building (rather kindly labelled as such) that for some reason I had never seen before. 31 Finally finished my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment and sent it off. 31 Philip Cracknel kindly passed on some details he’d found about B Coy Middlesex pillboxes. Here, for example, is the equipment list for PB30 (which is still in place): 2 Machine Guns, 1 Thompson SMG, 6 Rifles, 2 pistols, 10,000 .303 rounds (500 tracer), 1,000 Tommy Gun rounds .45, 84 Webley .45 rounds,12 Grenades.
29 Today there was yet another find of ordnance up in the hills, as shown in this link (Chinese language) kindly supplied by Tom Li. There must be thousands of the things up there, and they’re not getting any friendlier with age. 29 Hugh Farmer got in touch, showcasing his very interesting website about Hong Kong’s industrial history. There are several articles covering the war time period, and he’d be keen to hear from anyone who could add more detail or point him at further sources. 29 Ron Rakusen notes that he is very keen to trace Anthony Witham, who used to live in Surrey, and is the son of Hong Kong’s pre-war ‘Tea Advisor’: “I am really keen to understand the role and status of a Tea Advisor to the Chinese Government as I have several envelopes that were from P.E Witham to relatives in the UK or which passed through his hands as an unofficial ‘courier’ between Shanghai and HK to other countries.”
28 I saw a note on the FEPOW Community from someone saying: “Last year, after several years researching into my father’s time as a POW in Japan, and somewhat to my surprise, I found myself applying for and being accepted onto a full time PhD in Sociology and History at the University of Essex. My research focuses on the life experiences of the children of British Far East Prisoners of War. When I first began to read around the subject, I was rather taken aback to discover hardly any academic research into the topic. For me, this is an important story, and one very much worth telling. Through face-to-face interviews, I aim to explore how the fathers’ experiences have impacted on the children, from early memories through to the present day. Now in my second term, I am beginning to plan ahead for the interviews, most of which will need to occur during the second year. So, if your father was a British FEPOW and you are interested in taking part, then I’d really like to hear from you. Later on, I’ll send out a briefing sheet giving more details of the research to those who have expressed an interest in getting involved. If you do think you could help me with this, I am sure you’d find it interesting.” If any children of POWs would like to be involved, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the researcher. Clearly this is a mature student!
27Michael Hurst in Taiwan is researching the Gosanos and Kotwalls, and also the ‘Special draft’ of Hong Kong senior POWs who left for Taiwan (initially) on 4 August 1942. As far as I can see I never identified the vessel they travelled in. Anyone happen to know?
26 Bill Lake kindly sent me the first two pages of ‘The Western Independent’ of August 19, 1945, which describes the logistics of the Japanese surrender in great detail. Neither of us were surprised that although it mentioned China, Korea, Singapore, Burma, Russia, and Japan itself, there wasn’t a single word about Hong Kong!
25Alan Burnett’s (Royal Engineers) nephew got in touch, lamenting how little has been written about the RE in Hong Kong (which is very true).
23 Several people were kind enough to let me know that Maximo Cheng (4 Bty HKVDC, Chindits) passed away today. I hadn’t seen him for several years. As far as we know, he was the last HKVDC man alive in Hong Kong, and the last of the 128 Hong Kong Volunteers who originally joined the Chindits. 23 Peter Osman’s (HMS Moth, LM) family got in touch via Annemarie Evans. 23 Fred Ambrose’s (Royal Marines, LM) nephew got in touch.
22Harry Lacey’s (HKVDC) family got in touch via Irene Dowling. His wife and three children were in Stanley. Two of the children were twins born in 1941, who grew up to be famous martial artists (as reported in July 2012).
20 Several people, including Martin Heyes, were kind enough to send me obituaries of Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese soldier to surrender after the Second World War. I told my kids the story, and they were amazed. 20 Walking back along Bowen Road I photographed the always-atmospheric ruins of the guard room of the old Bowen Road Hospital, and also the Queen's Road Ordnance Stores. The latter were rebuilt at great expense a few years ago by the Asia Society, but I have never seen them being used.
19 A walker (I believe I know who) found a Japanese 150mm shell in the hills today, which EOD blew up rather spectacularly. The pieces of shrapnel they collected afterwards show just why these were (and obviously still are) so dangerous.
18Quite regularly I get calls out of the blue asking me to take people for historical walks around Hong Kong, and I politely decline and point the requestor to various colleagues who do such walks commercially. However, Larry Summers, ex President of Harvard University, was around today and I very much enjoyed taking him, his son, and a few of their friends around Wong Nai Chung and Black’s Link. While at Wong Nai Chung I noticed that the steps leading up from the AA Site opposite Park View had been redone, and quite a lot of the vegetation had been cleared. This enables a better view of the half-destroyed block at the summit of that little hill, which makes an interesting comparison with the official Japanese War Artist’s painting.
17Henry Langley sent me two very interesting letters from Hong Kong Dockyard staff to his father just after the end of the war. One, from On Ah Lit of C.C. (Chief Constructors’?) Sawmill, H.M. Dockyard, reads in part: “As regards my old comrades in the Yard, some of them have died during occupation including Mak Pak and Yee Poi. Tang Ping Nam is back in the Yard as a store-drawer. Your former amah Ah Toi has not been traced so far, but I have not given up hope of getting in touch with her, and if she is found I shall convey to her your kind regards. I am sorry to hear that you have lost your lovely home and particularly your junk, and I hope I can make a new junk for you when you next come to Hongkong. I am looking forward to the time when we can take Chinese chow together – ‘HO HO SIK NEY’ (very good to eat).” Henry was unaware that his father had once owned a junk! 17 Ron Brooks confirmed that he has now taken delivery of his father’s Long Service and Good Conduct medal (illustrated. see last month).
15 I passed Dennis Clarke, the photo of his father – one of the four policemen in the photo last month - and he replied: “Yes, he is in the left and Donald Brown in the car. They were very good friends. Donald Brown retired from the Police in the 50s and moved to New Zealand where he passed away a few years ago.” 15 John Pelly Murphy’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch. She pointed me to a website that mentioned her uncle. I hadn't seen it before (though I corresponded with Francis Crabb for a few years - I think he's still around - and Arthur Gomes was a friend). I was very familiar with the Byrne company when I first lived in Hong Kong, but didn't realise the wartime connection.
14 Robert Louis Neubronner’s (Royal Engineers) granddaughter got in touch. Neubronner’s wife, son, and two daughters were evacuated to Melbourne. Mr Neubronner died in Osaka #2B (Kobe) and the family would be very grateful for a photograph of him if anyone has one.
12 Today I did the last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club – the infamous Mount Nicholson and Mount Cameron walk that follows the path of West Brigade’s retreat from Wong Nai Chong Gap to Wanchai Gap over the mountains. With 22 people (a handful of whom didn’t make it to the top of the peaks) I reckon it was the second biggest assault on Mount Cameron since 1941 – the previous record being held by the slightly large group from the club that I took up there three years ago. One of the attendees was the nephew of William Lambert of Number 1 Company, who was lost on Christmas Day 1941.
10While researching a member of Hong Kong’s Shanghai Evacuation Committee of 1937 – Dr Thomas Walter Ware – I found this very interesting link, according to which he escaped from occupied Hong Kong! The only problem is that I thought I had researched all the non-Chinese escapers, but had never come across him before. Brian Edgar has a few theories, and Elizabeth Ride has a note that makes us think the story is probably true, but does anyone else know about him?
7Gareth notes, again in connection with the shelters of Stanley Gap Road that I mentioned last month: “I think they may be the bunkers referred to as the ‘Stone Hill Shelters’ in the RR of C War Diary, and their Battalion HQ during the late stages of the Battle of HK. In favour of this possibility is the fact that they're close to Stone Hill, although (I think) actually on the Stanley Mound side of the stream separating Stanley Mound from Stone Hill. If they are the Stone Hill Shelters, they're the scene of the incident described under the heading ‘General Remarks’ in the RR of C War Diary for 22-12-1941. To quote: ‘An incident occurred at Battalion HQ during the afternoon, which bears recording. At 1530 hours, a sniper who had crawled down the ravine between ‘D’ and ‘B’ Companies fired at point blank range and hit Rifleman Labeouf who was unloading a truck on the road in front of Battalion HQ wounding him seriously. Sgt. D'Avignon seized a Tommy gun and after him firing several bursts but no trace of him was found’.” I checked with Rob Weir who confirms that these shelters match the map reference of the RRoC’s B Coy HK on Stone Hill. Very interesting! 7 Craig Mitchell reports finding a well-preserved Japanese water canteen up in the hills.
6Ron Taylor (HK) kindly let me know that Joan Crawford died on Friday (3 January), aged 97. He notes: “Joan, you will recall, was the one who reported the Battle in the Bus in King’s Road. She was in Stanley with her mother and father (Pte Ferdinand F Duckworth - Hughes Group and Manager at Hong Kong Electric) and wife of Sgt George William Kenneth Crawford (Sham Shiu Po).” 6 Jill Fell noted my mention of the Mogra family in last year's diary. She notes: “my father, Charles Reginald Warren, told me that his father, C.E. Warren (1872-1923) was great friends with E.R. Mogra and that they used to go on jade collecting expeditions to the mainland together. I believe that the Wesleyan minister, the Rev. Webb Anderson, used to go too.” We’d still like to learn more about the Mogras.
5 Rob Weir contacted me about the Shelters off Stanley Gap Road (see last month). He notes: “there were at least 7 originally, their demolition is of recent years. Originally built as a Company HQ, Wallis tried them as a Battalion HQ but found them unsatisfactory and moved to the Prison Officers Club. There were 16 shelters in the general area, including the three at Headland Road junction and some above the road just near there. I don’t know if the heavy duty toilet block at the junction with Chung Hom Kok Road classifies as a Shelter.” It’s surprising that the damage I reported was recent, as something has cut through very thick reinforced concrete and the place looks like it’s been bombed!
4Kwong Chi Man contacted me about a book he’s writing on Hong Kong’s Chinese soldiers. This will include the Hong Kong Volunteers in Burma, who I am also studying at the moment for my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment – several of whose members joined the Chindits.
January 1st, 2014 Update
Burford / Lisbon Maru memorial (courtesy Anita Jones), Donald Brown and friends (courtesy Sue Harding), Hong Kong wall memorial (courtesy Alfred Lai) Lee Gardens Theatre (courtesy The Lee Gardens), HKVDC Signals (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Reed brothers' photos (courtesy Henry Ching) Canadian lighter (courtesy Craig Mitchell), Stanley Bunkers (author), Raindle platter (courtesy eBay)
We spent last Christmas in Sydney, and this Christmas – for a family wedding – we visited Melbourne. It’s odd to see the suburb names that are so familiar from studying Hong Kong’s evacuees – Frankston, Brighton, St Kilda (where I got quite sunburnt the day after Boxing Day) – and see the majority of houses there just as they were in 1940. In Hong Kong we are so used to buildings being replaced every thirty or forty years that we forget that the rest of the world is somewhat more sustainable.
31Ian Brown is still trying to discover more about the Holland family (Jessie Holland was the nurse killed on the last ferry to leave Kowloon at the time of the Japanese invasion in December 1941; her husband Adam Holland was an inspector of buildings in Hong Kong who was killed in the air raid on Stanley Camp in January 1945. They lived at Stanley Terrace, Quarry Bay, at some point and had moved to 6 Minden Avenue in 1941. Jessie Holland's brother, Joe McDonald, worked with Asiatic Petroleum Company in Hong Kong; he and his wife Elizabeth returned to the UK at the outbreak of the war. Ian notes: “I wonder if anyone with a WW2 Hong Kong connection may recall anything of the offspring of Adam and Jessie Holland - namely Isobel Morrison Holland (born 1915), Alistair Wilson Holland (1917) and Joan McDonald Holland (1920). They were born in Scotland and grew up in Hong Kong in the late 1920's and 30's… An A.W. Holland born in 1917 sailed on the Accra from Liverpool to Nigeria in 1949, possibly in connection with work in the oil industry, and this may have been Alistair Holland. He may have been employed in the oil industry like his uncle.”
30Frode notes: “I am very happy to say that one of the biggest and oldest Danish newspapers, ‘Berlingske Tidende’ published the results of my research of Kaj Soren Kjaer exactly 100 years after his birth – 22 November 2013. The newspaper also made an interview of me on the background of my article.” (see October 3). Frode also noted that the article triggered reactions from Kaj Soren Kjaer’s relatives and kind letters from other readers. In one of these he received a copy of a report made 1944 by Mr Mogens Pagh, who was the head of the East Asiatic Company’s branch office in Hong Kong in 1941. This showed that Kaj Soren Kjaer (Kaj Søren Kjær), was one out of three posted young Danish men, who all volunteered. The two other were Kurt Wilkens and Jorgen (Jørgen) Vibe Christensen. Wilkens, like Kjaer, was killed (with 1 Bty in the defence of Stanley), but Vibe Christensen became a POW and was released in 1945. 29 Jill Fell was asking what the minimum and maximum age for the HKVDC was. Henry Ching answered: 18 to 50.
24 Ron Brooks has been able to obtain his father’s (Master Gunner C.F. Brooks, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru) pre-war Long Service Good Conduct (LSGC) medal. The person who had it is a regular on these pages and located Ron to offer it to him.
23 I was cheered to receive Christmas greetings from ex-Signalman Jack Mitchell today (see the name list for Dec 21). I hadn’t realised till today that his wife is Hong Kong evacuee Zena Mansell, whose father was in the PWD and was interned in Stanley Camp. 23 The photos I took at the Lee Gardens exhibition last month turned out quite well – especially one of an aerial shot of Causeway Bay that I guess was taken shortly post-war. The building in the centre is the old Lee Gardens Theatre, and the bare triangle behind it is part of today’s Times Square.
22 Dave Deptford was kind enough to send me an eBay link to a presentation salver to RQMS W. Raindle, Middlesex, who was one of the many senior NCOs to be posted away from Hong Kong in mid-1941 before the invasion. It is signed by around 44 of his colleagues, which gives an interesting opportunity to compare the fates of those who stayed versus those who left (K Killed, LM Lisbon Maru, HK Hong Kong): Ayres, 6201876 Sergeant Frederick Henry Edward (K LM) Baker, 6199285 Sergeant Thomas F (K HK) Ball, 4125363 Lance Sergeant Ernest Algernon (Left HK. K Syria) Bayly, Lance Sergeant Thomas (Survived) Bean, Sergeant W (Left HK. Survived) Bedward, 61988459 Sergeant Benjamin Harry (K HK) Blackman, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. Survived) Bond, 6196027 Colour Sergeant James William (K LM) Burgess, 6200152 Sergeant James (K HK) Burkitt, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. Survived) Burrell, Sergeant Alfred F (Survived) Castle, 6197065 Sergeant Thomas R M (K LM) Challis, Warrant Officer Second Class Robert (Survived) Chaplin, Sergeant R (Survived) Crowley, 6198993 Sergeant Patrick Joseph (K LM) Donovan, Platoon Sergeant Major F (Left HK. Survived) Farrow, Warrant Officer First Class H, MBE (Left HK. Survived) Finnis, Sergeant W (Left HK. Survived) Freshwater, Lance Sergeant C (Survived) Hale, Colour Sergeant Percy (Survived) Harvey, 6198273 Sergeant Sidney (K HK) Holdford, Lance Sergeant Charles (Survived) Jeffree, Drum Major George (Survived) Kifford, 4186777 Warrant Officer First Class Bandmaster William E.J. (K HK) Little, 6195113 Colour Sergeant John T (K LM) Lomas, Lance Sergeant Robert G (Survived) McDavitt, Lance Sergeant T (Left HK. Survived) Moody, Sergeant Alfred (Survived) Nayler, 6199294 Colour Sergeant Herbert Edgar (K LM) Overy, Sergeant Richard (Survived) Paterson, Warrant Officer Second Class E (Left HK. Survived) Parry, Lance Sergeant F (Left HK. Survived) Poulter, Sergeant William (Survived) Powell, Lance Sergeant R (Left HK. K Salerno) Priddy, Colour Sergeant L (Left HK. Survived) Quick, 3708660 Sergeant James Albert (Left HK. K Burma) Ramsey, 6196028 Warrant Officer Second Class James Robert (K LM) Iches, 6198989 Warrant Officer Third Class Jack Ernest (K LM) Robins, Lance Sergeant George (Survived) Soden, Lance Sergeant Edwin (Survived) Sturdy, 6201477 Sergeant Patrick Joseph (K LM) Tattam, Lance Sergeant George (Survived) Tibble, 6194081 Warrant Officer Second Class William Ernest Joseph (K LM) Ure, Lance Sergeant William (Survived) Of the 31 who stayed, 15 died, but of the 13 who left, only 3 died. Despite those who left Hong Kong seeing action all over the world, leaving was by far the safer option.
21 Sue Beard and George MacDonell were kind enough to send me a copy of A Dog Named Gander. As the photographs in the book attest, Gander was a really massive hound, and one can understand the story of pilots who - seeing him from above – would report to the Gander control tower: “Bear on the Runway!” 21 Elizabeth Ride sent a fascinating photo of the HKVDC Corps Signals. We’ve identified the majority as follows: Back row: Walters (Shanghai), Signalman Conrad Semmelmann, Rose, McNider, Rogers, Warnock, Signalman James King, Captain Arthur Braude, Sergeant Robert Meadows, CSM Richard Rathmell, Second Lieutenant Alan Coppin, Signalman Brendan Wilson, Signalman William Gegg, Carr, Signalman Thomas Suiter Middle row: Borinevitch (sp?), May, Carson, Lance Corporal Lyall Glendinning, Barnes, Warnock, Cock, Carson, Signalman Cedric Salter, Lance Corporal Herbert Fountain, Signalman Norman Smith, Signalman Ivor Johnson, Walker, Signalman John (Jack) Mitchell, Warren, Sergeant Neville Booker. Front row: Jimmy Yee, Tan, S.B. Tam, Wong Kam Piu, ‘Frenchy’ Tcheng, Francisco Chan, Yip, Ed Eu, Kylum Yee, Lance Corporal Willie Eu, Billy Poy.
20Charles McCormick’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch. Her extended family (de Linde, Compton, Hetherington, Moore, Price, McColm, McCormick, Boyd, Mesny, King, Bumphrey, Craig-Martin, and Marshall) were spread around the civilian internment camps in Shanghai, including Pootung, Lungwha, Yu Yuen Road, and Yangchow C.
16 Jackie Ward kindly sent me a newspaper photo of Ian Gray, Royal Scots (illustrated) who was on board the Lisbon Maru.
15Anita Jones let me know that the Burford / Lisbon Maru plaque has now been put in place at the NMA. She kindly sent me a photo. 15 And on a related topic, Jim Huse was kind enough to let me known the sad news that Stoker Douglas Charles Stimson, Lisbon Maru survivor from HMS Thracian, passed away on the ninth of this month in Bournemouth.
13Geoffrey Emerson let me know that the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory is very keen on the history of the Observatory. Some months ago, thanks to Patricia Lim's fine book, he discovered that Charles Jeffries, the Observatory’s Director in the 1930s, is buried in Happy Valley - he died in early 1941. The headstone is in very poor condition and he would like to see about having it cleaned – but that would require permission from a relative. However, Jeffries' daughter Sheila married W. A. Mackinlay who was killed on 24 December 1941 (and is buried in Stanley) and after the war she married policeman Lancelot Searle. As I am in contact with Searle’s son, we were able to make a connection and hopefully the stone will now be restored.
12 Donald Brown’s (HKPF) family got in touch, sending a very interested photo of his in his car, together with fellow policemen Goscombe Goddard Clarke, Alf Brittain, and one unknown, believed taken outside a sand-bagged Tsim Tsa Tsui police station in 1941. Clarke’s son Dennis was born in Stanley Camp and retired to Macau a few years ago after a successful career managing Hong Kong’s Conrad Hotel.
11Joannes Tsang put quite a few photos on the web of the 7 December 2013 service at the Hong Kong Memorial Wall in Ottawa to commemorate the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong.
10Craig Mitchell reports finding a Canadian Ronson lighter up in the hills, together with the metal remnants from a gas mask case, and a strange rectangle of glass of about 4 by 5 inches. Possibly a heliograph? A Parker 1930s Streamlined Duofold Senior pen also turned up in the same area a few weeks earlier.
7Today, for around ten minutes, I joined presenter Cruzanne Macalister on RTHK Radio 3 to talk about Christmas 1941 as part of a series about Hong Kong’s Christmases past. 7 Alfred Lai kindly sent me a link entitled: “WWII Canadian Veteran Sgt Major George McDonnell talked of the bravery of Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps on YouTube”. 7 Brian Edgar notes: “Robert Hammond's book Bondservants of the Japanese is now available free online. It describes his family's time in Kowloon during the fighting and then in Stanley until the American repatriation. Try googling 'full bondservants Hammond voice' - when I did so it was the fourth on the results page. This is a link to that results page.” And: “Allman was an American lawyer from Shanghai stuck in HK during the attack. After the repatriation he became head if the Far Eastern Bureau of the OSS (Don [Ady’s] dad's boss?) and later worked for the CIA. His memoir Shanghai Lawyer is now available free online. Chapter 1 is about his work as legal adviser to the Camp Council and Chapter 18 is the best account I know of the work of the American volunteer drivers during the fighting (and of the controversial Bill Hunt, who was to become the leader of the Americans in Stanley).”
6 Bernard Oscar Alastair Thomson’s (2/14 Punjabis) nephew got in touch. 6 A researcher notes: “I am currently working on a project relating to awards of the Military Cross to Air Force officers in World War Two. This is quite a select band in that only 84 such awards were made. Two of these awards were to Air Force officers who escaped from Hong Kong and through China to India. As you know one was a New Zealander, Pilot Officer Eddie Crossley, and his exploits are well documented in the book ‘Bridge with Three Men’. I have limited information on the other officer, Flying Officer Norman Lee Baugh. I have been able to establish that he was from Sheffield and that he was an ex Halton apprentice in the 21st intake. I believe that he may have been an equipment officer with the Station Flight at Kai Tak. He was killed on the 31st of January 1943 when the Dakota of No. 31 Squadron in which he was a passenger crashed while flying ‘the Hump’ and Baugh is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial. Like Crossley, Baugh escaped form Hong Kong with two army officers, a Major Munro of the Royal Artillery and Captain Ivan Bernard Trevor of the H.K.V.D.C. Both Crossley and Baugh were gazetted with the Military Cross on the same day and I believe that Baugh escaped the night before Crossley and his two companions.” I will be providing him with Baugh’s unpublished escape notes, which were kindly given to me by Monro’s family.
4Craig Mitchell notes that he: “was on Mt Cameron last week and found a really interesting Japanese Pillbox with a small tunnel down the centre and then leading off under the hill. Most unusual. I have put the account on Gwulo with photos.”
2 In response to last month’s request, Henry Ching kindly sent photos of the four deceased Reed brothers from the school magazine ‘Steps’ December 1947 issue. Henry also sent the latest three of his Occasional Papers featuring HKVDC members interned in Stanley rather than as POWs, the 1943 release of Asian POWs, and the internment of civilians. All these as usual can be seen on the RHKRNSW website.
1 I started the month by taking the Hong Kong Club walkers around Stanley, but arrived a bit early and asked my taxi driver to drop me off near the start of the Wilson Trail where it comes off the hills onto Stanley Gap Road. Just east of there, north of the road, I had often noticed (from the top of a double decker bus) a Splinter-Proof shelter that I had never investigated. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t alone. It was in a line of three or four – hard to be sure as the other ones appeared to have been hit by very heavy shells, possibly 9.2 inch. I didn’t have time for more than a quick look, but it would be worth another one. The walk itself went well, with everyone very impressed with the museum at the ever-helpful St Stephen’s College who kindly gave us permission to enter the grounds and opened the museum for us.
December 1st, 2013 Update
Violet White, Simon White (courtesy Tara Beckett), Charles James (courtesy Pat Burton) Graves of Winnipeg Grenadiers escapers (author), Wreath laying in Ottawa (courtesy Ron McGuire), Max Oxford and Co (courtesy Emma Oxford) A Dog Named Gander launch (courtesy Alfred Lai), Parliamentary visit to Sai Wan (courtesy Canadian Consulate Hong Kong), Japanese fake AA gun (courtesy Craig Mitchell)
It’s not every month that a new book about Hong Kong’s wartime experience is announced, and it’s been many years since four arrived! This November I am pleased to relate that Emma Oxford’s book ‘At Least We Lived: The Unlikely Adventures of an English Couple in WWII China’ (see the 15th), ‘A Dog Named Gander’ by Canadian veteran George MacDonell (see the 19th), and ‘In Time of War’ by Richard Collingwood-Selby (see the 13th) are all available. I don’t know anything about the fourth, Benjamin Lai’s ‘Hong Kong 1941-45’ – which will be available next year - but it certainly sounds interesting too.
28 My office building in Causeway Bay, The Lee Gardens, is currently hosting a superb exhibition on the development of Causeway Bay as a whole, and the history of the Lee Gardens Theatre in particular. One sees so little of this sort of thing in Hong Kong that it is rather a shock when something of such high quality appears! The Lee Gardens Theatre is something of a sore point, as it still stood when I moved to Hong Kong but by the time I realized its significance to the battle (being the strong point in the north-south defensive half way between the shore and Leighton Hill) it had been knocked down.
26 EOD kindly sent photographs of the bomb recently found at Kai Tak and the Japanese 150mm shell from The Peak. In fact a second 100-pound bomb turned up at Chek Lap Kok this month too, but it is believed to have been brought there in a load of earth that also came from Kai Tak. The fuse of the bomb was in remarkably good condition when removed.
25 Jack Mitchell, HKVDC, got back in touch talking about 3 Coy. He notes: “I knew Edward and John Fisher, George Roylance, the Broadbridge brothers, the Mathew brothers, Prettyjohn, Joe Reid and others.” I also corresponded with Norman Broadbridge and George Roylance for several years.
24 Lieutenant Colonel Simon White MC’s (Commanding the 2nd Royal Scots) family kindly sent some unique photos they have been promising for some time, both of ‘Sim’ and his wife Violet (known as ‘Vi’ in Hong Kong, but ‘Honey’ to family) who was the Quartermaster of the HKVDC Nursing Detachment. While searching the Government Gazette for Simon’s MC I found him mentioned three times (as S E H E White), but never found the medal citation itself. His medals are now at Edinburgh Castle. 24 Elizabeth Ride passed me a photo of a reunion of five BAAG men shortly after the war, and I passed it to Vincent Young’s (BAAG) family to see if he could identify any of them. He identified one, Lam Ho Fat, his family noting that he: “worked on ships in 'sworn measures' after the BAAG disbanded and had a house on Jordan Road. He was attacked on the way home from work one evening when his Rolex was stolen. He fought back suffering head injuries which Vincent thinks eventually led to his death from a blood clot sometime later. His son in law had a restaurant in South Wales for many years and his widow lived in London until her death.”
23Craig Mitchell reported a number of interesting finds in the hills, including what appears to be a fake Japanese anti-aircraft position, consisting of trench works and a metal water pipe at the right length and angle to look like a gun barrel. Such things are common on the Pacific islands, but not in Hong Kong.
21Charles James’ (Royal Engineers, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. James was one of the 200 or so men who survived the sinking but perished in Japan shortly afterwards (in his case of diphtheria). She kindly included his Army Form W3040 (casualty) and a photo.
19 Charles Collard’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, telling me that his family have identified Mr Collard as the man facing the camera immediately to the left of the bucket in the twelfth photo (the second labeled ‘Nippon Express Co., Hyogo port branch’ in the Exhibition. He is only the second POW to have been identified (so far) from these photographs. 19 Major Alfred Lai was kind enough to let me know that George MacDonell’s new book ‘A Dog Called Gander’ has been published. I had heard that George was writing it, and I believe he may be working on a second new book too. 19 Henry Ching let me know of an interesting collection up for sale. It is described as: “Unique collection consisting of three items: An annotated copy of George E Baxter's scarce booklet ‘Personal experiences during the siege of Hong Kong, December 8th - 25th, 1941. Internment by the Japanese, January 5th - June 29th, 1942. Trip home and exchange civilian prisoners Laurenco Marques, [sic] P.E.A., In 30th - August 26th, 1942’ published by the East Asian Residents Association, [Sydney : 194-?]. [P.E.A. Portuguese East In] 48pp; A copy of the Hong Kong Government Gazette, 2 July 1948: Sir Mark Young, Events in Hong Kong on 25th December 1941, Special Supplement to the Hong Kong Government Gazette, 5pp. A folder with the handwritten title: ‘Battle of Hong Kong’ with 21 pages of press cuttings from the South China Morning Post reporting the trial of Japanese war criminals. The booklet by George E. Baxter is extensively and fascinatingly annotated, wrappers are chipped and torn particularly along the spine. The folder and many of the press cuttings are browned but otherwise very good and there is some very light occasional spotting Special Supplement to the Hong Kong Government Gazette.”
18 Brian Edgar found a long letter from a Chinese man connected with St Stephen's College, who spent the war years living in Stanley Village. After liberation he became Camp Labour Supervisor.
17Spent some time with Elizabeth Ride today, going through some interesting files that I hadn’t seen before. These included a very interesting and detailed account of the fighting at Postbridge (see August 2012), Signalman E. Maycocks’ (attached to 2, Scottish, Coy HKVDC) statement on the fighting at Stanley on 24/25th December, and Harcourt’s account of the period August 29 - September 16 1945. Elizabeth also had a number of BAAG photos from 1945 that I scanned at 1,400 or 2,800 DPI to bring out the details. 17 Alan Pong also contacted me about the Diocesan Boy’s School Roll of Honour. They would like to find a photo of the Reed brothers (four of whom perished during the war), if anyone can help.
15 Emma Oxford, daughter of Max Oxford RAF who escaped Hong Kong with Chan Chak, let me know that her new book ‘At Least We Lived: The Unlikely Adventures of an English Couple in WWII China’ has been published. This is the story of her parents, Max and Audrey Oxford, and their remarkable experiences in Hong Kong and China during and after the war. Audrey embarked on an eight-week journey alone to take up an assignment in Chungking, China, and Max – who had escaped from Hong Kong under fire from the Japanese – headed to the same city from the south. When the two met in Chungking at a tea party given by Mme Chiang Kai-shek, they began a lifelong love that would: “sustain them through war, separation, loss and a search for identity as expatriates in postwar Hong Kong.” They left an extraordinary collection of letters and journals, and these form the heart of the book. 15 Gavin Shiu sent me this very interesting link about the destroyed Universal Carrier in Causeway Bay that featured in a photo in Not The Slightest Chance.
13Gillian Bickley let me know that In Time of War, by Richard Collingwood-Selby is being released towards the end of this month. This is the story of Lieutenant Commander Henry Collingwood-Selby, the captain of HMS Redstart. 13 Maurice Francis is trying to trace the fate of Laurie Reuben Nielson of Stanley Internment Camp. Apparently he was in the mining business and his wife and children were left in the Philippines during the war, interned at Santo Tomas Camp. He believes that Henry and Elizabeth Tebbutt were also family friends (Henry was a POW in Hong Kong, and Elizabeth was in Stanley). 13 It’s amazing what turns up on the interweb these days. While looking for something completely different, I found this reference to the fan carried by the captain of the Lisbon Maru.
12Colin McFadyen’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch. 12 For next year’s Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society it looks like I’ll finally be completing my Short History of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment. Bit by bit, with these Short Histories, I think I’m writing a book… and at this rate it should be finished sometime around 2033! 12 Today I helped the Java FEPOW Club answer an enquiry about Gunner George Green, 8th Coastal Regiment Royal Artillery.
11 CSM John Osborn VC’s family got back in touch. I was glad to hear that his daughter, grandchildren, and granddaughter are all doing well. 11 Leighanne McKinlay-Wilkins (granddaughter of Lisbon Maru survivor Norman Lester, Royal Signals, who brought a copy of her grandfather’s diary to me in Hong Kong a couple of years ago - see September 2011), reports being in contact with Arthur Alsey’s (Royal Scots) daughter.
10 This morning, for the fourth or fifth time in the past eleven years, I took the Hong Kong Club walkers around the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. It rained! Yes, for the first time since I started doing these walks with the Club, it rained. This was the outer band of typhoon Haiyan that did so much damage in the Philippines. However, despite the fact that the rain was quite hard at the 08.45 assembly time, 12 people (and one very popular cocker spaniel) turned up. The rain eased off as we progressed, and it resulted in a very pleasant stroll. 10 In the afternoon I accompanied the Canadian Parliamentarians of the Canada-China Legislative Association to Sai Wan cemetery. They were actually a really nice bunch of people, and I felt quite guilty (on Remembrance Sunday) at enjoying their visit so much. After I said a few words about the battle and answered a few questions, they went down to the Canadian graves. I stopped for a moment to take a photo of the graves of the four Canadian escapers from North Point who were executed (they were buried together), and later saw one of the Senators make a beeline to put his poppy on one of their (Ellis’s) graves. I was impressed that he’d done his homework, but when I asked him about it later it turned out that his target had been interestingly serendipitous – Ellis had been the same age when he was executed, as the Senator’s son is today. It was interesting to hear from Ron McGuire that at the same time, at the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, Ottawa, he had been laying a wreath at his local (and well-attended) ceremony). 10 Philip Cracknell reports finding some interesting tunnels in the Mount Collinson area.
9 Anita Jones let me know that the Lisbon Maru / Frederick Burford memorial plaque has been installed at the National Memorial Arboretum. It’s located just outside the Education Centre, a short distance form the HKVDC Memorial. I’d be grateful for a photo if anyone is passing.
8 The papers reported two unexploded wartime devices being found, one at Kai Tak and the other on The Peak. The EOD were kind enough to confirm that these were an American 100 pound General Purpose bomb, and a Japanese (not British) 150mm High Explosive shell. 8 Andrew Chan notes: “I assume you know there is a plaque outside of the school hall of the Diocesan Boys' School in Mongkok. FYI, a new school chapel was built and it first opened to the public on November 11, 2012. It just so happened that the annual DBS Garden Fete was held on that day. Friends and old boys of DBS were invited to attend a Remembrance Service at the chapel. The names of the 46 old boys on the plaque was read and flowers were laid by the scouts.” 8 Melville Morgan’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) nephew David Spencer is researching his father’s wartime career. He served on HMS Thracian.
7Today my wife and I had dinner with Elizabeth Ride at the Helena May where she is staying while continuing her work on her father’s papers. We were talking about Carol Bateman as her ballet school is still there (and she was married to Howell, who led the break out from the Lisbon Maru). Elizabeth told us of a visit to the Helena May she made pre-war to watch a nativity play in the very same room where we were eating! She noted that the little room at the south eastern corner of the dining room had at that time been called the ‘green room’ (as it was used be performers before coming on stage). When we asked Ringo, the current manager, it was amazing to discover that it is still called the green room today. 7 Ron Taylor in the UK kindly sent me a photo of Henry Jinks (RA, Lisbon Maru) (Illustrated).
4 In continuing discussions with the Balean family (see last month), they note: “Arthur Robert Fenton Raven (Architect) was my Grandfather and the father to Wynn and Dorothy. His lasting achievement is the King Yin Lei mansion on Stubbs Road.” He continues, covering the 1940 evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia via the Philippines: “In Paul Gillingham's book ‘At the Peak’ it states that ‘the Empress of Asia stood ready waiting to sail from Kowloon Wharf on 5th July 1940, exactly a week after Governor Northcote's announcement. Among the evacuees assembled outside the Hong Kong Hotel, Pedder Street (the HK Hotel is no longer in Pedder Street - but there is one in Kowloon now) were Wynne and Dorothy Raven and their mother who were forced to leave Mr. Raven who had an architectural office and censor duties at Cable and Wireless.’ (I had trouble keeping up with AW [AW = Auntie Wynne] so the words might not be exact). AW says it was a specially hot day and after we were on board they sent us down below into the steerage - Dorothy piped up ‘what do you think we are - cattle?’ We went on deck and saw the purser who said to see him after they had sailed and he would see what he could do. They ended up with a first class cabin.’ ” 3 Ron McGuire in Canada sent a very interesting British War Organization Fund Hong Kong label. He notes: “The seal is ---44mm x 67mm,probably printed in sheets of 20 or 25 and is roulette perforated to separate them”. I hadn’t seen one like it before, but a search of old Hong Kong newspapers (select Old HK Newspapers under ‘Collection’) taught me something about the organisation. Ron has completed a very interesting six part illustrated article on "C" Force for a non-military reading audience.
3 Philip Cracknell mentioned that he was a photo of Felix Hill’s (HMS Tamar) cabin cruiser the Vanla. He noted that he: “came across some evocative pictures of a beautiful 1930's motor cruiser called ‘Vanla’ in HK waters. I found them in Admiralty Files covering requisition of boats, launches and ships by the Naval Authorities on the outbreak of war.” He gives details here.
2Philip Cracknell kindly sent me a large set of photos from the Harold Matches Collection (see last month). For the summer white uniform, his contact notes: “Harold Matches L/Sgt A/87 - in whites. Summer uniform for European R&F (junior officers) pre war. Was not continued post war, when whites were reserved for Very Senior Officers Full Dress (Ceremonial). Bombay bowler with then Force Badge (white metal crown), Bowler worn by Europeans in Indian Police, in some African Forces and in Palestine. Dark blue pugri with black patent leather chin strap. Tunic -with high collar and numerals (A87) on both sides. Sergeant's stripes (chevrons in silver embroidered wire, on black backing). Black leather revolver belt, with snake belt buckle. Black lanyard to revolver (there were a variety of calibres, but predominantly .38, carried loaded but with no additional ammo). Black leather holster, fold over cover. White trousers, Black leather shoes. Note trade/proficiency badge on lower right tunic sleeve. Possibly LG in white metal, denoting trained Lewis Gunner.” Harold Matches’ story can be read here.
November 1st, 2013 Update
Sapper John Morris (courtesy Michael Morris), British button (courtesy Craig Mitchell), John Roarty (courtesy Sean O'Brogain) Taikoo Map (courtesy Andrew Suddaby), Sandakan photos (courtesy Australian War Memorial), Queen's Road / Kennedy Road ARP tunnels (courtesy Julia Yip) Red Cross Parcel (courtesy Australia War Memorial), Nurse Edith Townsend (courtesy Suzie Wager), Police jacket (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
The discussion about building a model of Pillbox 39 (see below) made me realise how much more work could be done to flesh out our understanding of the period. For example, the maps in Not The Slightest Chance, apart from providing, shall we say ‘inspiration’ for certain maps in certain subsequent books, could do with a great deal more work. As I often say, Hong Kong was no Battle of Berlin with 3,000,000 men involved. In fact it was closer in scale to the Battle of Britain, and that conflict has been studied so thoroughly that in the majority of cases we now know who shot who down. I don’t suppose we’ll ever get to that level of detail for the Battle of Hong Kong – and, let’s face it there isn’t the same sort of money to be made in such a niche subject – but there is certainly a lot more that could be done by us enthusiastic amateurs.
30Allen Wells’ (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch.
29 Malcolm Hawes’ (Winnipeg Grenadiers) great-nephew got in touch. Hawes was one of about ten ex-Hong Kong POWs who unfortunately died in the last two months of the war from accidentally drinking industrial alcohol – no doubt thinking it was the real thing. 29 Ron Rakusen, referring to the Cathay Lodge photo from last month, notes that his father joined the Lodge in May 1939 and points out that at least two men lost as POWs – the Treasurer Harry Budden and his son Junior Steward Gilbert Budden - are almost certainly in that photo. Mike Parker believes it was taken in 1938 or 39, noting: “Bro. Langley (back row on the left, we are told) is not wearing a collar of office, which he should have been if it was 1940, when he was made Junior Steward.” Michael also sent me the pages from the Cathay Lodge History that tell the story of the two Buddens.
27The FEPOW repatriation memorial was unveiled at Southampton today, and photographs can be seen here on facebook.
26 Thanks to Elizabeth Ride, Dorothy Hardwick (nee Coates) got in touch. Dorothy was a 1940 evacuee who returned to Hong Kong before the Japanese invasion, but escaped with her father and sister to Macau where they stayed the war years.
24 Isabel & Dr Hermann Balean’s (Stanley internees) family got in touch. The Balean’s son Geoffrey was also in the HKVDC and survived the war. Somewhere I have that well-known photo of Geoffrey in Shamshuipo with Albert Rodrigues and Solomon Bard. 24 John Officer’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) old school got in touch. They are putting together a remembrance service that will mention him. Eyewitnesses saw him escape from the Lisbon Maru and swim to the islands, only to be dashed against the rocks by the waves and killed. Although I could not supply a photo of him I sent the entry from Medical Officers in the British Army 1660-1960, Volume II, Sir Robert Drew, Wellcome Library 1968.
22 Elizabeth Ride, visiting Hong Kong, sent me a report I’d not seen before written by Colonel Newnham, describing the incident when the lighter Jeanette carrying dynamite from Green Island was accidentally fired upon and blown up with considerable loss of life. The report stated that the fatal shots had been fired from PB63 at the end of the Vehicular Ferry Pier in Central, in charge of which was Corporal Charlie Heather. Heather, after surviving the Lisbon Maru and imprisonment in Japan, would have the interesting distinction of being the first FEPOW to return to London after the Japanese surrender.
21On the Stanley Group, Richard Morgan noted in a discussion abut Preston Wong Shiu Pun: “I think you will know that Preston Wong was a also Sub-Inspector in the Police Reserve. I have a photocopy of a memorial booklet produced post WWII (after November 1946 which is the latest date I can find mentioned in it). The booklet prefaced by Ts'o Tsi On (the brother, I think, of Ts'o Tsun On) contains obituaries for David Loie Fook Wing and members of his group. These include Preston Wong Shiu Pun and those Police Reserve Officers whose names are written on the wall below Preston's name in the photograph from Stanley, before their execution. These are: Sub-Inspector Cleveland Elroy Chang Yit [the BAAG Roll of Honour records him as "Cheng Yuet"] From Trinidad. Assistant Manager at the Metropole Hotel. Sub-Inspector Chan Ping Fan, of the PWD. Lance Sergeant Yeung Sau Tak, an assistant draughtsman at the HK Naval Yard. Crown Sergeant James M. Kim, and also Sergeant Philip Chan, whose name is not written on the wall. These names (and the names of members of the Police Reserve who died in other circumstances) were recorded in the original HKP Roll of Honour book in 1948. There are now three such books which are located at the memorial situated on 3/F of Arsenal House Police HQs. The books are placed in front of the parade during the Force Remembrance Day Ceremony, and all the names of fallen officers are recorded in the ceremony programme which is published each year. The obit of Preston Wong is quite detailed.”
21 Craig Mitchell reports finding a couple of standard issue British wartime army buttons up in the hills.
20 John Singleton’s (RAOC) great nephew-in-law got in touch. Mr Singleton was probably lost at Overbays. 20 Edith Townsend’s (Senior Nurse, Stanley Camp) niece got in touch, kindly sending several photographs. Townsend returned to nursing in Hong Kong post-war, as Matron of the Matilda.
19Philip Cracknell sent some interesting photos from the Harold Matches Collection, including his pre-war winter uniform jacket of the Hong Kong Police. “The Uniform Tunic - Standard issue pre-war winter tunic, high collar with A87s in chrome, denoting his service number, A (showing European Contingent), this number was allocated to an officer on enlistment and stayed with him until his promotion to Sub Inspector, when the overt display of numerals ceased. Five large chrome buttons to front, details unclear from photograph but would bear King's crown and HKP. Four patch pockets, I would expect the buttons here to be of the same design but slightly smaller. No buttons to cuffs and no badge of rank. Would have enlisted as Constable, retained this rank whilst under training and then advanced to Lance Sergeant. Later promotion to Sergeant brought about display of the standard three chevron chromed insignia. This high collar style winter tunic was done away with post war when all European Lance/Sergeants were regraded to Sub Inspector, with open collar, white shirt and black tie.” Philip also included a full listing of the elements of the collection. Among the documents is coverage of a case report concerning a high profile post-war attack on two British expats, Lytton Bevis Wood and George Ronald Ross, both employees of Deacons. The former was killed and the latter badly wounded. They were attacked by four Chinese men on 11th Feb. 1948.whilst out walking in the Kowloon Hills. Ross had been a Stanley Internee during the war.
18The Requiem Mass for John Idwal Morris was held today at the Church of the Immaculate Conception & St Joseph, Hertford. Michael Morris was kind enough to send me a copy of the booklet with the order of service. 18 Robert Joseph Maycock’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch. There were five brothers (a sixth, Arthur, had died pre-war), four of whom were in the Volunteers: Maycock, Robert Joseph, Private, unknown serial number, served in the HKVDC Armoured Car unit, in Car No. 5 (HQ Car) which was destroyed on Blue Pool road by a mortar at 19.30 Dec 18, stayed in Hong Kong, Shamshuipo, as a POW; Maycock, John H. (jnr.), Private, unknown serial number, served in Field Coy Engineers (Hong Kong Electric), was initially held in Argyle Street, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, Ernest Richard, Private (serial 4524), served in 2 Coy, was initially held in Argyle Street, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, William George, Private (serial 2357), served in unknown unit, was initially held in North Point, then Shamshuipo, then transported to Japan on the fifth draft; Maycock, Thomas Edward (Motor Mechanic), interned in Stanley. The brothers’ mother was Japanese, which led to those imprisoned in Japan being particularly badly treated.
16 Henry Ching reports meeting the daughter of Major Cameron de S. Robertson MM who was OC Pay Detachment of the HKVDC in 1941
14John Roarty’s (Middlesex) grandnephew got in touch. Roarty was killed in Pillbox 39. He notes: “John Roarty was actually in the Freestate army (the auxiliary) and got fed up and his father (a veteran Inniskilling Fusilier of WWI who left a leg in Ypres) bought him out, but Johnny disliked farming and joined up at the Dunree treaty Port in Donegal (this was passed over to the Irish Free State in 1938). He was from Manorcunningham, Letterkenny, County Donegal, but I think he was born in Dunlewy, near Gweedore, County Donegal. [I spoke to a man called Major Morris who said a survivor said] he remembered him because he was from the Free State, he was quite short, had reddish hair, was quite a bit older than the rest of them (being 27) and he was very kind particularly to the younger soldiers (now I can only go by what they told me) we have never sent off for the records. So he was born in 1914 sometime.” As one of the family is thinking of making a model of Pillbox 39 as a memorial, Tan, Tim Ko, and Rob Weir all kindly provided information (the bulk from Tan) to enable them to do this. 14 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, Julia Yip has posted a fascinating – and comprehensive set of maps of Hong Kong’s old ARP tunnels.
13Anita Jones tells me that the artwork for the Lisbon Maru plaque at the National Memorial Arboretum is ready. 13 Philip Cracknell told the Stanley Group that: “I was reading an old HK newspaper (Sunday Herald for 25 Aug 1940) and saw an account of death of George H Fowler a civil servant employed in Colonial Secretariat Office. He crashed in a Moth at or near Kai Tak whilst on duty with Volunteer Air Arm. Barbara I recall you were friendly with Florence Florrie Fowler who was a stenographer also in Colonial Secretariat Office and later interned at Stanley with her parents? I was wondering if George Fowler was her brother? The pilot was Brian Maurice Hynes but was unable to see him listed in Stanley list or as member of RAF or HKVDC...?” To which Nicola Davies replied: “A Brian Maurice Hynes, Royal New Zealand Air Force, died Oct 28th 1944 aged 26 and is buried at Reichswald Cemetery Germany. Have found him arriving in California with lots of other airmen from New Zealand in May 1942. Obviously en route to Britain.” Confirming that this is the right man, the US immigration record for RNZAF Hynes gives his place of birth as Victoria Hong Kong. This was of particular interest to me because years ago when researching Not The Slightest Chance, I tried to find all the HKVDC Air Unit men who volunteered for RAF service and lost their lives, but I missed Mr Hynes. I also list as 'possibly' the wrong George Fowler (George Henry Fowler, killed with 136 Squadron in India on 16 September 1943), having not found the information about him being in a pre-war crash. But this does illustrate the risk of going by the name alone with this sort of research. 13 In Canberra, Australia, today to visit ADFA. While there I took the time to also visit the fantastic Australian War Memorial museum. It was far better than I had expected (Canberra is such a small city that sometimes you forget it’s a capital). Among all the large items there, were several smaller and more emotive ones – such as an original Red Cross POW food parcel. Also, one wall was devoted to displaying the photos of the 1,787 men who died on the Sandakan death march – a number very similar to those aboard the Lisbon Maru, which gave it (for me) yet another dimension.
12 Michael Morris gave me the bad news that his father ex-Sapper John Morris passed away peacefully in the Queen Elizabeth ll Hospital, Welwyn Garden City, Herts in the early hours today. He also sent me a photo taken of Mr Morris in 1946 when he was in a rehab centre in Kingston on Thames. Not long ago, in August, he had celebrated his 93rd birthday in good spirits. I’ll miss those annual updates. 12 Lieutenant-Colonel Simon White’s great granddaughter got back in touch (see May 2012).
11 Chris Harley continues his massive effort to ensure all the CWGC records for Hong Kong are correct. Currently he is studying Paul Davis, who died 28 March 1944 of beri beri in Stanley Camp. He seems to have been left off this list altogether, yet he was an ‘Oiler’ on the paperwork which makes us wonder if he was Merchant Navy.
8Charles Barker’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) son-in-law got in touch, sending me a photo of Mr Barker (illustrated). Mr Barker helped with the book Season of Storms, by Robert L Gandt.
7Had a drink with Dr Colin Day today. Colin is the ex publisher at Hong Kong University Press and was kind enough to induct me into the world of publishing ten years ago with Not The Slightest Chance. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and I tend to use him as a mentor for all things writing related.
3 Timothy McCarthy’s (Hong Kong Police) son got in touch, noting: “He served in Hong Kong from about 1931 to 1949 when he returned to Ireland. He fought in the defence of Hong Kong and was interned in Stanley for the duration of the war. He died in 2001 aged 89. My mother who is still alive, lived in Hong Kong for a few years before 1949.” 3 Today I met Frode Olsen who was visiting from Denmark and has been researching into the life of Kaj Soren Kjaer HKVDC (see August). We went through the Index of War Casualties held at the Museum of Coastal Defence, which lists the fates of all HKVDC members killed during the fighting, together (often) with their place of original burial, plus the internal documents I have from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and some old maps. With the aid of these documents we came up with a likely original burial place for him near the sugar factory in Taikoo. Frode visited the spot next day to pay his respects. It will soon be the 100th anniversary of Kjaer’s birth, and Frode is preparing a commemoration at his old school in Copenhagen.
1Dennis Ching sent me a note saying: “I’m currently reading a book, “Hong Kong Under Japanese Occupation: A Case Study in the Enemy’s Techniques of Control”, prepared by Robert Spencer Ward, American Consul, as detailed to the Far Eastern Unit, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Dept of Commerce, Washington, DC, 1943, 148 pages… My interest in the referenced book above is because my late father, Walter Fong CHING, was a Chinese-American citizen and civilian prisoner in Hong Kong during WWII. His name is listed in Ms Suzannah Linton’s Hong Kong War Crimes Trial Collection from the UK Archives and Hong Kong University.”
October 1st, 2013 Update
Wright-Nooth's retirement (courtesy Jim Walker), Dickson's medal group (courtesy Mark Sellar), WIlliam Gould (courtesy Joan De'ath) Hongkong Dockyard, Cathay House (both courtesy Henry Langley), Joe McDonald (courtesy James McGuiness) HKVDC Signals in 1939 (courtesy Jill Fell), Charter Passport and letter (courtesy Bill Lake)
It’s interesting to put a group of people into their fuller historical context. The father of one serving officer in wartime Hong Kong (Lieutenant Andrews of the Field Company Engineers, who was 102 when I last contacted him in 2002) lost his life in the Boer War. Many of the senior British and Canadian officers had fought in the First World War (and a fair number had MCs to prove it). And a handful who survived the fighting and the POW years went on to serve in the Korean War and, in one case at least, Vietnam. Even today, I occasionally hear from descendants currently serving in Afghanistan.
30William Gould’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch (see 17 November 2011), kindly sending a couple of photos of her father.
26 Jenney Dempsey’s (see August 23) grandnephew got in touch (note the correction to the spelling: Jenney rather than Jenny). He also kindly sent photos of Jack Dempsey’s silver cigarette case, inscribed: “Jack Dempsey, Stanley Internment Camp, Hong Kong, 7-3-1943”. 26 Bill Lake notes: “I have recently been passed the passports which were issued to John and Yvonne Charter. They were issued in Stanley Civil Internment Camp and were signed by Gimson himself.”
21 Henry Langley sent a second photo, this time of the Hong Kong freemasons at Cathay Lodge. He notes: “I think my father is in the back row on the far left. I don't know the date the picture was taken but on the back it is embossed ‘Hong Kong King's Studio’ and stamped on the back ‘Photo by King's Studio, 107 Queen's Road, C. Tel. 28755 Hong Kong’… the picture would have been taken sometime between 1938 and when my father left Hong Kong in October 1941.” 21 Correspondence with Nurse Holland’s family continued: “My cousin in London was out in Hong Kong in recent years trying to trace her great-aunt Jessie Holland and she was quite sure that she worked as an art teacher in a school in Hong Kong. This concurs with a memory I have of my father suggesting that she had further education before she married, this was unusual in the years just before WW1… I'm including a photo of her brother Joe MacDonald who worked as an engineer with Asiatic Petroleum Company in Hong Kong, he and his wife Elizabeth survived the war and returned to the UK where he died shortly afterwards from stomach ulcers. In the photo Joe is the guy bowling.” Does anyone recognise the location, or have any idea which school Jessie worked at?
20 Responding to last month’s query about D. Harley Collins-Taylor and D. Harley, Jack Mitchell (ex HKVDC) was kind enough to let me know that: “Douglas Harley Collins-Taylor and D. Harley were two different men, the former being a Probationer in the Senior Clerical and Accounting Staff grade who worked in the Treasury, where I believe his father also worked in a very senior position. D.H.C-T was a very young man when he was killed.” 20 Henry Langley sent me a very clear photo of the Dockyards taken sometime prior to 1928. Two submarines are clearly visible in the dry dock, but the Peninsular Hotel isn’t there yet. In fact it seems the only building that still exists today is the Kowloon Star Ferry clock tower.
19Had my annual medical at the Matilda Hospital today, and arrived fifteen minutes early. I walked around and took a photo of one of the foundation stones, noting it was from the Royal Naval Hospital. Foolishly I thought it might have been from the original one in Wanchai (now the Ruttonjee), until I noticed the MCML (1950) date. But what happened to the foundation stone from the old RNH, does anyone know? And what about the foundation stone from the demolished War Memorial Hospital on the Peak? I recall seeing it years ago, preserved outside a new development, but I can’t find it any more. Walking home from the hospital I found a dead checkered keelback (I think; keelbacks can be hard to distinguish), so it’s definitely snake season! 19 Mark from Aberdeen Medals notes that he has: “the medals of 6201812 Cpl. R. J. Dickens, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment - who as you will know from your records was captured in Hong Kong on 25 December 1941, and was subsequently a survivor of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. While you will also know that Corporal Dickens served again in Hong Kong with 1/Middlesex 1949-50 and again in 1951 during their post-war garrison, you may not know that Corporal Dickens then had the distinction of seeing active campaign service during the Korean War when in 1950-51, 1st Middlesex served in Korea - his medal group thus represents an extremely rare combination of campaign medals to the Middlesex Regiment - and a true 'Diehard'.” Dickens was mentioned on these pages 8 October 2012. Mark kindly sent a photo of the group, which comprises: - The 1939-45 Star - The Pacific Star - Defence Medal - War Medal - Korea Medal (6201812 Cpl R.J. Dickens. MX.) - United Nations Service Medal with clasp 'Korea' According to the regimental journal it appears that only 18 men of the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment who were veterans of the Battle for Hong Kong were still serving with the battalion when it returned to Hong Kong in September 1949. Dickens was one of the few of these who then went on to serve in the Korean War in 1950.
17Walking back from the office along Bowen Road, my shoelace became undone. I moved to the side of the path and placed the offending foot on a convenient rock – and came within six inches of stepping on a young cobra (illustrated)! 17 Ron Rakusen noted: “I saw this item in the 1st July 2013 blog and looked at the list of interviews. However, the one I was really interested in as the Arthur Gomes one. When I went to the webpage it was always the one for Maximo Cheng. Do you have the web link for Arthur Gomes?” He’s right; I put in the wrong link. This is the correct link for Arthur’s interview. 17 Nurse Jessie Holland’s (killed but unrecognized in the 1941 fighting) family got in touch, noting: “Jessie Holland (nee McDonald) was my father's cousin, she was born in Moorpark, Renfrew, Scotland, on 5th February 1896 and married Adam Morrison Holland of Clydebank on 25th June 1914 in Glasgow. At marriage he was a 26-year old shipwright but became an inspector of public works in Hong Kong. I know of his demise in Bungalow C in Stanley during a 1945 air raid. I'm less sure of the outcome of his wife Jessie and their children; I've been told they had 3 children. [We] had an address card for them indicating a house in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, I know that he sailed in May 1919 and that she appeared to sail in 1920 and 1929 so they may have crossed back and forward a few times but they were living in Hong Kong for some time prior to the war. Her brother Joe McDonald (16-12-1893) and his wife Elizabeth also moved there but this was closer to the outbreak of war, they both survived the war and returned to the UK. They died without offspring and it has been difficult to ascertain much definitive information of the very last period of the Hollands' lives. It would be of great interest if anyone had any knowledge or recall of them or their time there”. Can anyone help? It doesn’t appear that the McDonalds were in Hong Kong during the war years.
15Philip Cracknell (often mentioned in these pages for his research) recently started writing a blog about the Second World War in Hong Kong to capture various interesting stories he has come across. This one on John Seaby (WO HKRNVR - Mine-Watching Branch) has a first hand account of the Lisbon Maru.
14Guy Shirra has created a Wikipedia page for Orders, Decorations, and Medals of Hong Kong
13Bernard Baker’s (HKPF) cousin got in touch. 13 Finally we had an entry to the Lisbon Maru memorial ‘competition’ (see last month), from Jim Walker: “The ‘Lisbon Maru’- struck by USS Grouper on 2nd October 1942. Onboard were 1,816 British POWs from Hong Kong. Over 800 suffocated, drowned or were shot trying to free themselves. The wreck lies 27m down, 120 miles east of Shanghai.” But the original instigator, a relative of Frederick Burford who was lost on board (see February), suggested: “In memory of Frederick Burford and one thousand other British POW from Hong Kong who died during or shortly after the tragic sinking of the Lisbon Maru on 2nd October 1942. May you all never be forgotten.” Initially I wasn’t so enamoured with the idea of mentioning just one individual, but upon reflection I think it works; it humanises that figure of 1,000.
10 For those who haven’t seen it, the Hong Kong Library archive search facility (for Old Hong Kong Newspapers) has had a facelift and now works for all computers, not just Microsoft.
9 Barbara Anslow emailed the Stanley group about the death of Lewis Morley: “I have today read in Daily Telegraph the obituary of LEWIS MORLEY, aged 88. He was in Stanley Camp as a young man, and always known then as 'Freddie' which was actually his second name, his first name was the same as his father's Lewis (also in Stanley). He was a neighbour of ours in the Married Quarters. He found fame in the sixties as the photographer who took the photo of Christine Keeler sitting astride a chair (picture reproduced in the D.Tel. today.)”
7 For a while I’ve been on the mailing list of BACEPOW (Bay Area Civilian Ex-POWs), and today I received their latest newsletter. We’ve have been having an interesting discussion contrasting the experiences of US civilians in the Philippines, and British civilians in Hong Kong.
6 Jim Walker kindly sent a couple of photos of George Wright-Nooth’s retirement parade at MHQ in 1971.
3 George Boote noted that: “Mark Felton is bringing a new book out on the 19th Sept: China Station. It's about the British Army in China until 1997.” It’s not clear how much there is about wartime Hong Kong, but I suspect it will put it in useful context.
1Jill Fell uploaded a 1939 Christmas card photo of the HKVD Corps Signals to the Stanley Group and also Gwulo. She notes: “The card was sent by my uncle, Leslie Warren to his family in England. I wonder if it is possible for other people in the Stanley group to pinpoint relatives in this photo. I believe that there was a published list of the members of the Corps and David has provided a link to Tony Banham's HKVDC lists. David has also overlaid the photo with numbers and letters to help with identification. For instance Leslie Warren is at 1j. Leslie left Hong Kong for Penang shortly before the Hong Kong invasion and joined the Penang and Singapore Local Defence Corps. There is a long letter from him to his family describing the Penang invasion, but that is not in my possession. He was granted an emergency commission and was posted for special duties to 101 Special Training School Malaya. He was at the defence of Singapore and, with his engineering skills, is thought to have been involved in sabotaging the Japanese communications. He made his way to Ceylon in one of the fishing boats that made that journey. He contacted his youngest brother (my father) who was a planter in Ceylon and warned him to get out, as 'the Japs were coming there next.' Leslie was posted to Meerut with the Royal Engineers and died there in 1943 ‘of disease and privations’. There was also some discussion as to whether Bill Anderson, who went on to be CEO of NCR (and wrote about it in Corporate Crisis), was in the Signals or the Field Ambulance. I list him in the Signals. 1 Following last month’s note about George Hallam, HKPF, being missing from the list of Hong Kong’s war dead in We Shall Suffer There, Dave Deptford has done some sterling work. It turns out that it’s not an error, as Hallam left Hong Kong for Singapore on December 4th (and the research on this website and the books covers only those in Hong Kong as at December 8th 1941). He was born 21.4.1894, and served 28.10.1913 to 1.10.1920 as private 73358 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, enlisting in the Hong Kong Police 20.10.1920. Commended by the Commissioner of Police in 1930 he was awarded CPLSM 15.10.1938 as Sub Inspector. His wife (Dora) and two boys (Derrick 7 and Bernard 4) returned to the UK arriving in London on 6.5.1938. It appears that Hallam was despatched to Singapore for Secret Service work. He escaped 13.2.42 on MV Relau, a 75 ton oil palm tanker of the Straits Shipping Co. It left with 66 persons on board and picked up survivors from various vessels sunk by the Japanese, being intercepted in turn by the Japanese on 16.2.42. As an internee he was held at Muntok where he died in captivity on 18.7.44. Most of the civilians who died in the Japanese internment camps in Sumatra (and were the inspiration for Lavinia Warner’s Tenko) were reburied in maintained cemeteries in Jakarta and have headstones that can still be visited today, but this is not the case for the dead of the infamous Muntok camp on Banka Island. After the war they were removed from their shallow graves near the camp and reburied, but in 1960 the Dutch asked the British to move their Muntok cemetery graves so that the Indonesians could use the land for building. Unfortunately the Commonwealth War Graves Commission elected to rebury the military personnel but left the civilian victims where they were, as it is not in their Royal Charter to move or safeguard civilian graves. In 1980, when a petrol station was built on the site (almost exactly over the part of the cemetery where the British graves had stood) and the remains of the some of the civilian women and men were found, it was assumed by locals that they were military personnel and they were reburied in a shared plot bearing this incorrect description. Presumably that’s where Mr Hallam lies today, but it seems the nature of his secret service work is buried with him.