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
Three views of the Lisbon Maru documentary screening (all author)
Author with Ted Green (couresty Iain Gow), William Beningfield and wife (courtesy the late Bill Beningfield), Centre Street builidng (author)
Hormidas Fredette (courtesy Colin Standish), Costeley Smith BC (couresty Iain Gow), Stanley collection (eBay, via George Boote)
August News In the middle of this month, in fact on VJ Day itself, I attended the ‘special screening’ of the new documentary “The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru” at the British Film Institute on London’s south bank. It was a full theatre of 450 people, mainly relatives of those who had been on board, but also representatives of service associations, the film crew, musicians, and others who helped in making the film. Attendees included Chinese media from both China and the UK, and members of the Chinese Embassy in London - headed by the Ambassador Zheng Zeguang. Fang Li, the Chinese businessman who financed and directed the documentary, introduced the film and explained that he wanted feedback from the relatives. I believe he plans to incorporate any useful suggestions and then fine-tune the work to create a final version which hopefully will go on general release. You can read my account of the day below, but meanwhile take a look at this interview. Personally I only appear in the last thirty seconds or so but it gives you some idea of the scale and meaning of the event. 31 As I finalise this month’s update, we are awaiting the arrival of what might be (in the worst case) the most destructive typhoon to hit Hong Kong in many years. That’s the bad news. The silver lining is that torrential rain sometimes washes interesting artefacts from the hills… 28 Douglas Ferguson’s (Royal Engineers, escapee) daughter got in touch. This is very useful as I’ve been trying to find more details of his escape. He and Sapper Howarth were the last out of the camps, to the best of my knowledge, except for Goodwin (and of course excluding the three escapees from the Lisbon Maru). 26 Patrick Flynn, son of Captain James Lough Flynn of the 2/14 Punjab, got back in touch. He noted: “After some years of searching for this book (and paying the price!) I managed to acquire a copy of General Brodie Haig's history of the regiment. Published in England by Lund Humphries. Maybe even self published because this copy was sent by General Brodie – ‘Will you send the price of the book (L1-0-3) to me at the above address.’ The history does have a four page section on the 2nd Battalion in Hong Kong along with a list of the officers (including my father) who served there.” He kindly sent me a scan of those pages. 25 Sem Vine got in touch, noting: “Someone who lives quite near me happened to post something on social media about her great grandfather, Arthur William Bright. He was a Leading Stoker in the Royal Naval Reserve, who was killed on the Lisbon Maru, and very recently I found out that she went to the showing of the new film ‘The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru’ in London on VJ Day this year. Since then a facebook group has been set up, still in the introduction stages, but you may be interested to join. I did find my grandfather on your site, who survived the sinking and the camps, but unfortunately he has a minor typo – Royal Engineers: Unallocated: Daniel, Frak J. W.O.II. 1863059.” I have fixed that unfortunate typo, and took a look at the facebook page. It’s a good idea. 23 Colin Standish kindly sent me a photo of Hormidas Fredette, Royal Rifles of Canada, who he recently visited. He may well be the last survivor of all the veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong. There are now no British or Hong Kong veterans alive that I know of. Of course, I can’t prove that they have all passed away, but I think it is likely (the British, in particular, having a higher average age than the Canadians as the great majority were pre-war regulars). It is always possible that one or two Indian veterans survive, but I have never had much luck making contact with them. 22 George Boote: “A press copy of the famous Stanley raising the Union flag photo has come up on eBay, along with an interesting typed out article, which looks like it was also a press release, quite interesting and I wonder the story behind the lot.” I don’t think it’s actually a press release, and in fact the writing seems so familiar that I feel I should be able to immediately say who wrote it. 18Referring to last month’s question about the correct spelling of Costley Smith’s name, Iain Gow kindly noted: “Attached is a birth certificate which may be of interest - I’ve an account on Scotland’s people and was poking around as I need to use up credits before they expire, and came across the birth of a C Smith, who may be the Private Smith in your blog!” The details match his POW Index Card, so it must be him – and yet the birth certificate seems to spell the name “Costeley”! 17 The China Daily has already started printing stories about this week’s event, see here and here. 15 Whilst in the UK for a holiday last month, I heard that there was to be a ‘special screening’ of the new Lisbon Maru documentary in London on August 15. That was awkward as we would be back in Hong Kong by then, but after a deal of soul-searching I decided that I had to return to London for it so flew back on the 13th. The location was the BFI on the South Bank (an area I know quite well as my family had something to do with its post-war development and the Festival of Britain). I was only able to give the organisers a few days’ notice that I would be attending, so assumed that I would simply be a member of the audience. Far from it! When I arrived at the venue wearing an unaccustomed suit and tie - and thirty minutes early - the first person I bumped into was Iain Gow (illustrated), son of James Gow of the Royal Scots. As I was saying to him that I probably wouldn’t recognise anyone else there, who should turn up but Ron Brooks, son of Master Gunner Charles Brooks RA. Then Ted Green, son of Edward Ernest ‘Dodger’ Green (Royal Corps of Signals) arrived, and so it went on. As soon as Fang Li (the producer and director of the film) saw me, he said that he’d like me to say a few words immediately after the film. And then we sat down for the showing. The moment it started I heard muffled sobs from the audience – the vast majority of them being families of those on board. And though it continued like that for the next two hours, it honesty felt more like just 45 minutes. William Beningfield of the Middlesex, the last known survivor from the ship, was a particularly effective interviewee, being both totally honest about the experience and then devastatingly funny. Finally, after the film and speeches ended, I was led away for an intimate pre-reception reception with just twelve of us and the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James (amongst the other attendees was of course Major Brian Finch – who did a sterling job organising the event – and his wife, plus Hilary Hamilton and husband, and Mark Weedon and wife). After that came the main reception at which I would dearly have liked to have had a beer or two, but instead bumped into friends old and new, and various members of the media who demanded interviews. I did my best, despite it now being about three in the morning by my biological time! Other people I met included Shirley Bambridge, daughter of Sergeant Gerald Frances Taylor, Royal Army Dental Corps (and her son and grandson), Mark Fielding-Smith, grandson of Private Arthur Betts, Middlesex, and Sheila Stone, daughter of Signalman William T McCormick. Finally we wrapped up at 19.00 (the event having started at 13.00). As I extricated myself and left to return to my hotel (the idiosyncratic but excellent Hoxton ten minutes walk away in Southwark) I bumped into the family of Lieutenant Kenneth Heywood, Royal Scots. Eventually I popped into a supermarket on the way back and grabbed a sandwich and a couple of bottles of beer for my dinner, rather stunned by the realisation that after thirty years of living the battle of Hong Kong and its aftermath, finally I had attended (what was effectively) a Memorial Service of appropriate size and solemnity. Quite a day. 13 Justin Ho notes: “The 2023 VJ Day Memorial Ceremony was at City Hall today, and was held successfully - the rain stopped precisely at the beginning of the ceremony! Afterwards, we had a nice gathering at the RHKR Association.” 12 BQMS ‘Busty’ Dicks’ (RA, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. This is a name I know very well, as Dicks was remembered by many of those in the third hold of the Lisbon Maru as the NCO who did the most to keep spirits up as the gunners did their best to pump out the ever-encroaching water and keep the ship afloat after it was torpedoed. Jack Etiemble, for example, as a young gunner on that ship, wrote to me twenty or more years ago saying: “Tony, although there was no panic in No.3 hold someone had to take control of the pumping, and in my opinion this is just what `Q` Dicks did, as well as organising and making sure the pump was fully manned at all times, he tried to keep up morale cracking jokes and stating ‘keep it up lads we’re gaining’ as he placed a bit of wood in the water knowing full well the reality was just the opposite… My last memories of ‘Q’ Dicks is just after the war ended, he was running what passed as our cookhouse and trying to salvage food from the 44 gallon drums that the Americans had dropped without parachutes, and had finished up flat as pancakes.” 11 Today – and this is my other excuse for being late publishing the July edition of this blog – I completed the final proof read of Volume 63 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch and cleared it for publication. This is my third Volume since assuming the role of editor, and finally I feel I know just about what I’m doing. I think it genuinely takes three years to settle into something like this, and perhaps I’ll continue in the role for something like seven more years. Ten is enough, then someone else can come in with new ideas and fresh thinking and take it further. This year I fully intend to finish an index of the first 63 volumes, and that will be my legacy! 10 Today I had a good chat with Robin Love, who is researching the life and death of her great uncle, Signalman Henry Villiers Dixon. Unfortunately his is one of the cases that I never got to the bottom of. All I can say is that the diary of the commander of the Hong Kong Signals stated that Dixon was Killed in Action at Stanley, and the CWGC implies that he was buried there during the fighting (their concentration page confirms that they recovered his body from Stanley Cemetery). And the diary of Signalman Peter Moddrel states that he was shot. If that is so, then a date of death between 21 Dec and 25 Dec 1941 would be most likely (with the last date most likely as the biggest losses occurred then). 7 Walking to Sai Ying Pun market today, I happened to notice a very old (and seemingly well-preserved) local-style building on the corner of Centre Street and Des Voeux Road West. It’s certainly pre-war, but I can’t find any information about it. 5 I was contacted by a research group in China: “Zhejiang International Maritime College, which is a public college located in Zhoushan City, Zhejiang Province, China. From the August of last year, our research team has been doing research on the sinking of Lisbon Maru, and collected a lot of materials. We have finished the translation of these materials and now want to compile them into a book and may publish the book.” Unfortunately my emails to them can no longer get through. 1 I heard that Dr James Hayes had passed away in Australia. Ex-President of the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong, he was enormously knowledgeable on all aspects of old Hong Kong’s history. A tribute can be read here. 1 Apologies for the late posting of the July news. For a variety of reasons I made three trips to the UK over the summer, and posting was also delayed by the need to finalise Volume 63 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
August 1st, 2023 Update
Old BMH Postcard (unknown), Embankment shrapnel damage (author), Jameson in Firefly (via The Telegraph)
Allan of the HKDDC (both via Martin Heyes), Peckham of the HKDDC (unknown)
Alan Turing statue, War Blind statue, Rutherford memorial (all author)
July News It’s a short report this month. For family reasons I had to spend almost the whole of July in the UK, and that followed ten days there in June. However, at least I was able to spend some time in London looking at some forgotten wartime damage over there. I am returning to London again this month for a Special Screening of the new Lisbon Maru documentary, and will provide a full report on that at the end of August. 31 Both Sandy Wynd and Martin Heyes were kind enough to send me The Telegraph obituary of Lt Cdr Ralph Jameson, a Fleet Air Arm pilot who helped repatriate PoWs from Hong Kong in 1945. Jameson embarked in HMS Venerable to join the British Pacific Fleet for the assault on Japan when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The article noted that then: “Venerable sailed for Hong Kong where she assisted in the liberation of the colony and repatriated hundreds of prisoners-of-war. Jameson remembered ‘so clearly, aircraft ranged on deck and the hangar laid out with camp beds for the PoWs. They were in very poor health. We took hundreds onboard; many were Indian nationals, who we took home to Madras’.” (The article also noted Jameson’s rare Exceptional pilot assessment, and that: “During his 15 years’ service, Jameson had clocked 1963 accident-free flying hours and flown 28 aircraft types.”) In the photograph he is sitting in a Fairey Firefly, one of the types my mother regularly flew in as a Wren. 31 Today I finished a final proof-read and review of the English sub-titles on the new Lisbon Maru documentary. I shall be attending a ‘special screening’ of it in London next month. 30 Ian Quinn posted on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today, covering the rather odd story of the bombing of Stanley Internment Camp on 24 July 1945. This is a short quote, but it’s worth going to the page to read the whole thing, and see a photo of the aircraft’s captain (Sy): “After a tour flying Catalina's out of Guadalcanal Lt Sy Goldklang was now in command of a PBM Mariner with VPB-25 based in Lingayen Bay operating from a tender, the USS Currituck. Up until now, they had only flown the South China Sea at night, but with no Navy PB4Ys available, daytime patrols in the lumbering and vulnerable Mariners had started as interception by Japanese aircraft was now becoming very unlikely. Flying the daytime patrol in PBM # 59335 at the unfamiliar high 1,500 feet above sea level made Sy ‘a little uneasy at first’, undoubtedly, because he was accustomed to flying low to the water under the cover of darkness for safety reasons and this was his first daylight mission. After patrolling in the area of ‘Macao Island’, he headed for Hong Kong. As they were flying over Kowloon, ‘admiring the hillside's beautiful white buildings glistening like diamonds’ they were startled by heavy bursts of anti-aircraft fire almost hitting them and ‘decided to get the hell out ASAP.’ Sy… ‘The most direct route from Kowloon was to fly over the bay, cross over Hong and head for the open sea. In order to rid the plane of weight and thereby gain speed, dropping our bombs made a whole lot of sense. I was about to dump them in the bay when I spotted a large freighter unloading cargo at a Hong Kong pier and it became a logical target. Therefore, I turned towards it, aimed our bombs at the freighter, deliberately dropping them a little long so that if I missed hitting the ship, the bombs would hit the pier and adjacent warehouses.’ The bombs did indeed miss the pier and went into the ‘warehouses’, which were the Internment Camp. Two went through the roof of bungalow A and another dropped on a room in St Stephen’s which injured Noel Croucher. Others injured were Leila Woods, Mavis Hampson, Rev. Myhill, and Mr. Murray. Some came close to the Japanese camp Headquarters.” I’m really hoping that Ian will one day publish a book of all the research he has done into the air war over Hong Kong. 24 Ian gill notes that the Amazon publication date of his book Searching for Billie has been delayed from August 1 to October 1. 21Martin Heyes notes that there is: “A group of medals awarded to a man who served in the Royal Navy Dockyard Police during the Battle for Hong Kong, being sold at auction by Spinks in London.” The gentleman concerned was Divisional Inspector Alexander Bruce Allan. Philip Cracknell noted: “The photograph must be after 1917 when Gordons changed head-dress from Glengarry to TOS. He served with Gordon Highlanders. As far as I know this unit (RN Dockyard Police) served in the dockyard from start to finish. Tony I suppose the RN Dockyard Police were automatically part of the DDC?” That is actually a good question. RN Dockyard Police fatalities are listed by the CWGC as HKDDC, so I believe it is the case. But it is a poorly-documented area (and in fact as far as I know I am the only person to have published on that topic). 19 Having dropped off my wife at Fortnum and Masons on Piccadilly to go shopping with a friend, I had a whole day off in London to myself. Having arranged to meet my older son on the South Bank for a slow lunch time / afternoon pub crawl, I first went to the British Museum to see the amazing (and mainly East Anglian found) treasures in their rooms 49 and 50 (I had vaguely hoped to see the Morley Hoard there, found just six months and fifty-seven yards from where I was born – on the site of a Second World War USAAF hospital - but had forgotten that it was displayed in Norwich instead). I then took the tube to Embankment to photograph some Blitz shrapnel damage that I vaguely recalled seeing as a boy, but had never seen documented anywhere. If anything, it was bigger and more impressive than I had recalled (and occupying a far greater area of stonework than visible in my photo). 17 Proud father syndrome: Today our younger son (illustrated, with his long-suffering mother still trying to dress him) graduated with a First Class Hons degree in Aerospace Engineering at Manchester. But I have to say that what affected me most was the fact that from our Manchester hotel room window we could see the building where Rutherford first split the atom! The end of the Second World War was – in effect – architected right there. And then a short walk away was a statue of Alan Turing – without whom the war in Europe would at minimum have lasted longer with more casualties. Then, at Manchester Piccadilly railway station, there is a powerful statue of the returning war blind from the Great War. What a wonderful place Manchester is. (Another slight aerospace connection is that this young man’s great uncle Reyner Banham worked on the design of the Bristol Centaurus aeroengine during the war.) 15 Today I found a picture of an old postcard of the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road. Unfortunately as I was traveling I was too busy to note the provenance, but it was too good to miss (even though it is confusingly captioned 'Victoria Hospital'). 11 Originally I believe it was hoped that the new Lisbon Maru documentary would be ready in time for this years’ Cannes, but in fact they’re still finalizing a few points. Today we are checking the Rolls of Honour. 8 I heard from Anne Ammundsen today: “About a different war, but at least my two-decade struggle to get published finally paid off! Now I am a published author. I still haven't found the Hong Kong / Tonga book. It will never happen now, which is distressing.” Long term readers of this website may recall that Anne is still: “desperate to find a book I purchased in Sydney in 1986, whilst staying at the Wentworth Hotel (23 August 1986 to 9 September 1986)… I’ve forgotten the title and the author, making the 35-year search so difficult… It was a novel/thriller, about Tonga (Tonga Trench, undersea action) where I was living when I visited Sydney that year. Extraordinarily, this novel had a passage in it about my real life uncle (Captain Robert Newton, Royal Scots), who was killed in Hong Kong in 1941 when the Japanese invaded.” She really would like to find another copy of that book if anyone can help! 7 Today my wife and I flew to the UK for three weeks, visiting Norfolk, Manchester, and London, having a holiday and catching up with various friends and neighbours. We return on July 29. 6 I just heard that Hong Kong historian James Hayes passed away in the early hours of this morning in Sydney at the age of 92. He joined the British Overseas Civil Service in 1956, being posted to Hong Kong. He spent most of his career in the New Territories, first as a District Officer (1957-62), then as a District Officer and Town Manager (1975-82), and finally as Regional Secretary (1985-87). In 1966 he joined the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, becoming Honorary Editor of the Journal the following year (in other words, my job today). He was responsible for the next fourteen issues (1967-1980). He became a Vice-President of the Society in 1970 and served as President of the Society from 1983 to 1990. Like me, he achieved his PhD later in life, in his case in 1975 at the University of London’s School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS). He wrote an extraordinary number of articles papers, and books, all based on his intimate knowledge of Hong Kong’s village culture and his unparalleled acquaintance with various forms of Chinese-language documentation. He retired to Sydney in 1990 but continued to publish numerous articles and four major books: Tsuen Wan: Growth of a 'New Town' and its People (1993), Friends & Teachers: Hong Kong and Its People, 1953-87 (1996), South China Village Culture (2001) and The Great Difference: Hong Kong's New Territories and Its People, 1898-2004 (2006). Fortunately (if you know what I mean), we just had time to include his obituary in Volume 63 of the current Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, which I am currently finalizing. 3 Today I was interviewed, as a stakeholder, for a “Study on setting up of an open museum for historical relics appreciation in the country parks of Hong Kong.” This is being carried out by Mott Macdonald in Ngau Tau Kok, Kowloon. They have been commissioned by the HK Government to conduct a consultancy study into the feasibility of establishing one or more “Open Museums” in some of HK’s Country Parks with WW2 connections. The two locations shortlisted are the Shing Mun Redoubt and Pinewood Battery. I gave them my opinions, and provided a few old photos which I hope will help. 1 At the end of June I was sent a photo of a cemetery memorial to Leslie Peckham of the HKDDC. Unusually, he is buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery. He died as a POW in Shamshuipo of Hydrocephalus Avitaminosis (lack of vitamin B). I apologise that I did not note the name of the photographer.
July 1st, 2023 Update
Inside 41a Conduit Road (courtesy Hong Kong Reminiscence), Joseph Joseph's grave (author)
WNCG Trail Station 2 old and new, Station 8 in the rain, Station 4 (author)
John Bottomley HKVDC (courtesy Robin Bottomley-Smith), Manchester War Blind Memorial, Prish grave (author).
June News I had originally always intended that my four-part history of Hong Kong’s war years (Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, Not the Slightest Chance, The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and We Shall Suffer There) should in fact comprise five volumes. Unfortunately my publisher – at least at that time – lost interest, and the fifth volume, which focused on the fates of all the escapees and evaders who broke out of Hong Kong after 8 December 1945, was never completed. Since then I’ve focused more on helping other people with their researches and books, doing various pro bono and paid historical consulting work, running this website and so forth. But now I’m tempted to complete it anyway. After all, I have all the research in hand, much of it unique and unavailable to others, and if I don’t publish then sooner or later all will be lost. Stay tuned! 28 Robin Bottomley-Smith posted a number of interesting diary entries, and a photo, from his grandfather Major John Hubert Bottomley of the HKVDC Engineers, on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. 28 The Java FEPOW Club published their latest newsletter today. It included a good article on George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada, who passed away the other day. 27 I saw a photo of the Canadian grave of Roland Lapalme, Royal Rifles of Canada (illustrated) which Colin Standish had posted on facebook. I’m always interested in the final resting places of Hong Kong’s veterans so asked him about it. He said: “Brookbury cemetery is a very beautiful place - fork in a back road that was once a thriving community. Steps away from a beautiful lake and barn. Many Royal Rifles came from the area, my own Grandfather having signed up in Bury. It’s known for having the highest per capita volunteer ratio in Canada in WW2. Interesting story: I went to their recent military display in March. A man next to me said, ‘Are you a Standish?’ I said yes. He was the son of Arnold Pryce, who was found by my Grandfather bayoneted in a hut on the march from Stanley to Sham Shui Po. He drank rum hidden by my Grandfather there and survived the war, the rum somehow keeping him with sustenance, pain relief and antiseptic properties to keep him alive! It's one of those legendary stories from the battle.” 26 I was pleased to hear today from Dene Lynneberg, the son of Ross Lynneberg, a New Zealand survivor of the Lisbon Maru who helped me with my researches. Apparently Dene’s younger son (thus Ross’s grandson) now works in Hong Kong. 25Justin Ho, looking at some old data on my website, pointed out that the relevant POW Index Card says that Shamshuipo POW #1224 (Private Smith of the Royal Scots) has the Christian name Costey. Although this Index Card (and one other document in Kew) indeed claims it is ‘Costey’, it is in fact pretty much unknown as a Christian name. He is also in other records as Costly and Costley. ‘Costly’ seems to appear most often, which although still odd for a Christian name, might have been intended as a parent’s joke… Also interesting is that fact that someone has added a note (by hand) to his index card which seems to say ‘Costly the Cracker’. I wonder if that was his trade? Certainly a couple of the Middlesex lads had been professional safe breakers before joining the forces to (presumably) escape the law. 20 I heard today that Goods of Desire are selling a Second World War ‘Defend Hong Kong’ T-shirt. Their shop in Central was closed during Covid, though, and it doesn’t seem to be available on line yet. 20 The celebration of the life of George MacDonnel took place today, and was streamed here. 15 Henry Villiers Dixon’s (Royal Corps of Signals) great nephew got in touch. Unfortunately his was one of the deaths I never really sorted out, but everything indicates he died of gun shot wounds in Stanley on or shortly before December 25. 14 I had to fly to Manchester today because of a family emergency. Once urgent items were taken care of, I had a day or two in which I could spare a few hours to look around. While not directly related to Hong Kong’s wartime experience, I was very impressed by the way they integrate historical content with the city centre, in particular the memorial (outside Manchester Piccadilly Station) to those who lost their sight in the Great War, and the simple and understated bronze of Alan Turing. Of course we in Hong Kong have our repurposed Great War Tommy statue from Eucliffe, which now represents CSM Osborn VC, and the new sculptures outside the Museum of Coastal Defence, but we could still do more. 11 I hear that the Premiere of the new documentary film ‘The Sinking of The Lisbon Maru’ will be in London on 15 August. I’m not yet sure if I will be able to attend as I’ve been in the UK in June already and will be over there again in July. 9 Following a report by Martin Heyes that there were issues with the improvements to the Wong Nai Chung Gap Historical Trail, I finally took a look this morning. Although I had to miss inspecting the last two signboards because of a sudden heavy rain storm, I was able to view the remainder. The good news is that the new signboards are in place, and in general are an improvement on the old; the supports have been faced with rough local stone, much more fitting with the environment. The bad news is that Martin was absolutely correct. There are a number of cases of direction indicators being incorrectly placed (being 180 degrees out of alignment in three cases, and slightly less wrong in a few others). This has now been reported to the relevant authorities, who I believe are taking action. I’ll take another look in July. 7 LegCo had a discussion about war time relics today. 7 The HKVCA published their summer newsletter today, as did the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society. 5 Continuing the focus on remaining pre-war buildings in Hong Kong, I was interested to see that the Haw Par Mansion (Tiger Balm) is being reopened to the public. 4 Today I joined a very enjoyable guided walk of the Jewish Cemetery in Happy Valley, under the knowledgeable leadership of Howard Elias. While the cemetery is home to many members of famous families such as Kadoorie, Belilios, Sassoon, and Odell, I was more interested in the second world war graves. For example, Georgorie Prish who died 23 May 1945 and was father of Sapper Reuben Prish of the wartime HKVDC Engineer Corps. I also saw the grave of Joseph Edgar Joseph who I am pretty sure was the father of Harry Joseph of 41a Conduit Road, who of course lost his life during the fighting as described last month. 2I doubt it is coincidence that following my mention of 41a Conduit Road last month, the facebook page Hong Kong Reminiscence had an exceptionally interesting post about the property.
June 1st, 2023 Update
Kai Tak Station Flight (courtesy Justin Ho), Dewar's DSO (author's collection), Kaufmann card (via eBay)
Splinter Proof Shelter, Douglas Castle (both author), James Murphy and family (courtesy Philip Cracknel)
King letter (via eBay), SCMP for 30 Aug 1945 (author's collection), Holden's death (RASC History)
May News With so much going on in the world, there are perhaps higher priorities than saving our Second World War heritage. However, the wholesale looting of wartime wrecks (which are almost always war graves too) in the Pacific and South China Seas leaves a bad taste. That pre-atomic bomb steel isn’t even that valuable anymore, as atomic bomb tests ended long enough ago that most radiation is already out of the system. In Europe, before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, vast quantities of material was being looted from Eastern Front battlefields and sold on eBay (though to be fair, other groups did a good service in retrieving, identifying, and formally burying thousands of sets of human remains). Hong Kong, too, has seen the battlefields scoured in recent years, but generally the finders seem to either keep the (safe) artifacts they find, or present them to schools and museums – and in a few cases even track down the families of the owners, and return them. 31 Today I visited PolyU’s geophysics department for a briefing on their various geophysical surveys of Hong Kong. Interesting stuff, especially LIDAR images of trenches and so forth with the vegetation stripped away. I expect I’ll have more to report on this later. 30 A Chinese-registered vessel has been detained by Malaysian authorities after possible illegal salvage of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. I’m not sure why they use the odd term “cannon shell”, but the photo could be a 6-inch shell (these were not QF). 28 Elizabeth Ride has a document from 19 November 1945, showing a large number of men – including Captains Rudy Choy and Chan Ying Hung – being transferred from S Section BAAG to “DSB”. The question is: What is or was DSB? I can’t find anything. 26 Talking of pre-war Pok Fu Lam properties, I see that the one hundred year old Villa Ellenbud has just been sold. This was at one stage the accommodation for nurses at QMH. 25 I heard today that there will be a Celebration of Life for George MacDonell in June at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church, 1 Greenland Rd, ON M3C 1N1. I won’t put all details here, but if anyone wants to attend and has not received an invitation, let me know and I will put you in touch with the organiser. 24 Wes Injerd asks: “Would you happen to have any info on Lewis Bush? I noticed his name on the roster for the ‘secret’ Bunka Camp (Radio Tokyo) and wondered what he did there.” It’s a good question. Of course I know Bush well, as he was involved in the surrender of “Crown Wine Cellars” (or the Little Hong Kong bunkers), and was captain of MTB08. But in his book “The Road To Inamura” he only mentions Bunka twice, and in both cases the context is fellow officer POWs (British and American) being sent there. If I can find my copy of his other book “Clutch of Circumstance”, perhaps I can learn more. The context is that Wes has just published a page about Bunka on the Mansell website (which he maintains). 22 For the first time in a few years, I heard from Yoshiko Tamura of the Japanese POW Network. She has a list of five men with Chinese names, interred at Yokohama, and wanted more details on ethnic Chinese in British service. The names are: Bong Sye Chong (Netherlands, East Indies), Kwek Tuck See (Malaya), Ng Hong Seah (?), Tan Geok Hye (Malaya), and Tan Teik Wah (Penang). It’s clear that they were captured in Malaya so I was unable to help. While playing with the CWGC website so that I could explain to her that the CWGC distinguishes by nationality of force, rather than ethnicity, I happened to notice for the first time that five US servicemen are buried in Sai Wan: Cigoi, Lay, Miller, Sturges, and Uphoff. Fortunately I was able to find this description of the loss of Cigoi, which explains (at the end. It is quite long) how he went from being captured in the Philippines, to dying in Taiwan, to being interred in Sai Wan. Clearly the headstones in these cases do not actually mark the individual remains. 22 I received a link to this “Canadians in Hong Kong” document today. I can’t work out how to navigate to it through their menus, which may explain why I didn’t find it earlier!
19 I learned this morning that the revitalized CLP Clock Tower in Argyle Street (a grade one historic building) reopens to the public today with three museum exhibition galleries. The Kadoorie family has always been keen on heritage, but this is the first I have heard of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage Office”! 17 I was sent a link to a ten-minute video of Hong Kong in 1938. The soundtrack seems very familiar, but not the footage. I think that I may have seen a black and white version, but this one has been colourised - which of course brings it to life in a new way. It is fascinating to see locations like the Cenotaph and the Chinese Memorial Gate in the Botanical Gardens, before they received their Second World War Damage. 16 Martin Heyes confirms that the “enhancement” of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail is being actively worked on. I shall have to wander over and take a look. 11 Two people were kind enough to let me know that papers relating to Private King of the Middlesex were for sale on eBay. King was one of those lost in air crashes when the Americans kindly tried to evacuate them from Japan. It was a terrible business. It took the Americans a long time to work out exactly what had happened (as one of the three planes lost that day wasn’t reported overdue for 48 hours). Even now I think it’s possible that a fourth aircraft carrying POWs may have gone down on the same day. While King’s poor father (Captain P. King - his letters are naturally painful to read) desperately tried to find out what had happened to his son, the MACR so easily available to us today clearly shows King as a passenger on a crashed aircraft, and his fellow POW Robert Wright confirmed this in his autobiography. I have never been in touch with the family, so was surprised to learn that the Kings had been unique in - for a while - having a father and all three sons serving in the army during the war. 11 The HKVCA note that later this month they will release a new design for their website. 11 I was invited to talk at a dinner at Crown Wine Cellars this evening. It’s always a great location for a talk, and I covered the local PBs (especially 14 and 15), and the happenings at the Little Hong Kong Ordnance Store itself – especially Major Dewar, who really wanted to blow up the whole place to prevent its capture! (This is the sane Dewar who is also mentioned in the RASC history page about Holden, and his DSO citation is worth a read. Incidentally, so is Philip Cracknell’s account of PB14 and those lost there, such as family man James Murphy.)
10 I joined an interesting walk around Pokfulam this morning. While it became a real hike later, it started as an exploration of some of the older properties around Queen Mary Hospital: Jessville, Douglas Castle (now renamed and used by HKU, I believe), Old Alberose (see February 2023), and Béthanie. We also passed quite a few splinter-proof shelters as we headed towards Aberdeen. 10 Talking to Ian Gill today I discovered that he has finished researching the fascinating story of his mother and has already found a publisher. “Searching for Billie” will be available in August. He also reminded me that his father, George Giffen, had written the whole 30 August 1945 issue of the South China Morning Post single-handedly! (This was of course the first edition since 26 December 1941). 10 Kaufmann’s family say: “I noticed one letter from my Nan whom I was very close to (C.E. Kaufmann). Regarding the name Koeppen: a lady of that name gave my Grandad a bible which is now my own!!!” 9 Justin Ho notes that: “Not sure if you have seen these, but some correspondence of Fred Kaufmann’s are auctioned on ebay. Interestingly, the dealer mentioned your work on the HKDDC.”
8Justin Ho notes that an: “RAF Gau Lung magazine (illustrated) is up for auction on ebay. Fortunately, most of the image resolutions were good enough for two selected articles to be extracted, studied and referenced. In addition, a rare photo was seen featuring a Vildebeeste and RAF personnel, taken in 1939.” The legend to that photo says: “K2940 Vildebeeste – Early 1939 Back: ?, Davis, Corporal David C. Highlands, Corporal John David James, Corporal George H. Stewart, Corporal Derrick L. Dickenson, Corporal Hubert Charles Henley, Sergeant Cecil Chapman, ACI Gillespie, ?, ?, LAC Albert Edward Hughes, ?, ?, LAC George Wilson Brass Front: Sgt Observer J. Ogden, F.S. Aikman, Plt Off ?, Flt Lt Wright, Plt. Off Difford, Sgt Pilot Forbes, Sgt Pilot Howe” This was the Station Flight at Kai Tak in 1939. The photograph was: “found in the wallet of a former member of this Flight who died in Japanese captivity”. The deceased man was Brass, who died 1 March 1944 at Osaka No. 3 (Oeyama) of cardiac beri beri. For the remaining men: James died 14 February 1942 of gunshot wound suppuration. Dickenson was killed during the Battle of Hong Kong on 19 December 1941, and Chapman on 20 December, and they have no known graves. Hughes was wounded (he was ex-HKVDC). The others on the list weren’t in HK on 8 December 1941, and had almost certainly been posted back to Europe for operations. As pre-war regulars their chances of surviving the following years of war would not have been high. As the names are incomplete, it is hard to match them with RAF records: for example two Sergeant J. Ogdens were lost in Europe and North Africa. We can be more certain, however, of the fate of Flying Officer Ivor Benison Difford, who was killed in a 607 squadron Hurricane in a collision during the Battle of Britain. 7 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced the final confirmed list of speakers for their June conference.
5 I heard from Harold Holden’s family again. Holden was killed as a civilian master. Initially he was working for the RASC in command of French, but apparently (and according to the RASC history) he was lost somewhere on Hong Kong Island fighting as infantry. With his Death Certificate and a mention in the RASC’s Official History I was able to get him added to CWGC files about six years ago, but still don’t know exactly how, where, and when he was lost. I wish I knew more.
May 1st, 2023 Update
George MacDonell (lower right) at St Stephen's college (author), Evacuation at Hue (John Olson), Francis Hardy (courtesy Debbie Tighe)
Wong Nai Chung Gap, Harry Joseph and pals, Little's POW Index Card (all author's collection)
Sir Cecil's Ride (author), Madar's grave (courtesy Kitty Lam), Fenwick Street damage (courtesy 'George Best')
April News Much of this blog for the past twenty years has been about the tangible impact of the Second World War on modern Hong Kong. From there, this Easter and for the first time, my wife and I decided to visit Saigon. I was 16 when Saigon fell and that awful war finally came to an end, and to an adolescent in ‘quiet’ Norfolk in the UK – who had been aware of the conflict his entire life – it had all seemed so terrible and exotic. Indescribable footage on the 6 o’clock news, double-page colour spreads in the Sunday supplements, napalm explosions, fleets of helicopters, jungles that could have been from another planet; the sheer glamour (to use Tim Page’s unfortunate but accurate word) was overwhelming. And then only ten years later I was spending time in northern Thailand, and there were so many people in uniforms with weapons (fantasists, some of them, I now suppose), and Hueys and Broncos flying around, and even – if one went up to Three Pagodas – sometimes gunfire and mortars while refugees straggled over from Burma. It seemed that the war had never ended. For some reason I had thought that Saigon would still have the echoes of all of this, but not a bit of it. Not at all. Saigon is essentially Taipei (or Reading…) with banh mi. Yes, there are museums with all the hardware of the time displayed, but it seems no more relevant there than if it had been in Rome or Exeter. We stayed at the Continental, the unchanged hotel that features so prominently in Michael Herr’s Dispatches, but the war has gone. Completely. And that’s probably very healthy and correct. It just isn’t quite what I had expected. (John Olson’s famous Hue photo was to have been the lead image this month, but was usurped by the passing of George MacDonell). 30 The story about pre-war buildings and their occupants (see last month) stirred some interest, so I dug out a photo of Harry Joseph (third from left) and his HKVDC ASC colleagues. Harry lived at 43a Conduit Road and although he lost his life in the Ridge area massacre, the building still stands. His last letter home to his family – less than two months before his death - read: “43a Conduit Road Hong Kong November 3rd 1941 My dearest mother, Received your letter in which you say that you are expecting to arrive here about the end of January. I am glad dear that you have finally managed to get passage and I hope that you will use your discretion when the time comes as politically the news seems to change from day to day – anyway I personally don’t think that it is as bad as it looks – I don’t think that the Japs have the nerve to make any moves just at present – believe me they will have plenty to contend with once they start anything. There doesn’t seem to be any particular news from this town, except that on Sunday night I listened to the broadcast of the Hong Kong wives to their husbands in Hong Kong – if these women don’t hurry back they’ll find that all these boys here have Chinese ‘sweeties’, and you should see the way they are dressing now. I mean the women as there are no young foreign females here. Pat and I are keeping very fit, and go to practically most of the shows. I haven’t seen Grace for some time, I suppose she must be keeping pretty fit and still looking after orphans. Ritchie’s arm is better now and out of the sling – she wishes to be remembered to you. I am placing a trial order with Ellis for oranges and jam for some dealers here. If it is good then their next orders will be large ones. I am also writing to Naomi today as I am sure she would like to know how we all are getting on. Reading newspapers with startling headlines doesn’t help one to feel any too good. How is Fran and Walter getting on. It’s a long time since we’ve had any decent pictures of you all – how about it. We are getting some snaps taken and shall forward them when ready. Well dearest this is all I have to say for the time being. Lots of love kisses and hugs to you all from us both, Very lovingly your Harry” 28 Walking along Sir Cecil’s Ride early this morning I was amazed how much damage the wild boar have caused. I was surprised that they didn’t seem to have dug up anything interesting, bearing in mind that path’s history! 26 Kitty Lam posted a fascinating photo on facebook, of the grave of Lavinia Madar, killed during an American air raid on Kowloon. I suspect such graves are reasonably common, but no one has compiled a list. Paul Astroshenko, for example, once told me that most of the Komaroffs family were killed by an American bomb on Nathan Road in the first American air raid in Hong Kong, but the total deaths were in the thousands. It would be good to identify and catalogue those graves, where they are still known. The Madars were an Indian family. I have five members listed in my wartime files, including Thomas Madar, of 3 Coy HKVDC. 25 I was discussing Captain Alex Warrack, RAMC, with his son, who mentioned the “My Bed Space” painting, which was painted by Godfrey Bird in the Argyle Street POW camp in Hong Kong as a birthday present for his father (illustrated). This was lent to Meg Parkes for the Secret Art of Survival ‘Creativity and ingenuity of British Far East prisoners of war 1942-1945’ exhibition in Liverpool which ran from October 2019 to June 2020, 24 Unfortunately I received notice too late to include this in last month’s blog, but today Dr Brad St Croix presented “Canadians at Hong Kong: Myths and Memories” to the HKVCA. The blurb read: “This presentation will examine how the Battle of Hong Kong’s negative legacy developed in Canada, the topic of Brad St Croix's PhD dissertation. Many individuals, including historians, journalists, and authors have contributed to the negative legacy’s creation and propagation, starting from the Second World War and continuing today. This discussion is separated into two halves. The first part will focus on the history of the battle by exploring several myths that plagued our understanding of the Canadians at Hong Kong. Myths surrounding why the Canadian troops were sent to Hong Kong, the relationship between the British and Canadian armies from 1914 to 1941, the defence planning of Hong Kong from 1841 to 1941, the selection of the units of “C” Force, and their training will be explored. The second part of the presentation will focus on the memory of the battle. The 1942 Hong Kong Inquiry and the 1992 television miniseries The Valour and the Horror will be discussed as the factors relating to the battle’s legacy since the Second World War.” I believe it will be posted here later. 23 Not for the first time, I found a photo in my own archives that I didn’t know I had. It is one of a well known set of 1946, and shows Wong Nai Chung Gap from the north looking south. It’s worth reproducing here as it shows so many important wartime features. 22 I heard today that Veronica Needa had passed away. She was Victor Needa’s daughter. As many will know, Victor was a Shanghai-based jockey who happened to get caught up in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded. Half Japanese himself, he was extraordinarily useful during the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel. By coincidence, post-war the family lived in the building where I am writing this, and in fact we used to rent the flat they had lived in. I was in contact with Veronica from time to time, and she visited us once or twice. 22 As the Lisbon Maru was the only ‘hell ship’ from Hong Kong sunk during the war, I naturally focus on it. But the discovery of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru this week highlights that – taking the Pacific War as a whole – it was just one of many. 19 By coincidence, today I was sent this link to an excellent Gwulo article, combining many valuable documents about Hong Kong’s fixed defences. Interesting that the first few were all from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, which pretty much justifies my point below! 18 The evening I joined the first face-to-face AGM of the Royal Asiatic Society for several years, and walked away very enthusiastic. The society’s Journal – of which I am editor – is a great resource of local history (including, but going way beyond, the Second World War). Unfortunately it us underutilized because, although articles can be found on JSTOR, there is no single searchable index. So I resolved to complete one!
17 Lorence Irvine followed up with details of the members of his family who were in the Royal Rifles. I’ll see what I can add from my files. 15 I heard today that George MacDonell had passed away, and in fact was touched to receive a personal message from Sue Beard with the details. George was a true gentleman who I first met on the big Canadian visit to Hong Kong of December 2005, which coincided with the opening of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. It wasn’t just George on that trip, but also Flash Clayton, Phil Doddridge, Gerry Gerard, Douglas Rees, and Ed Shayler (the latter making himself very popular with my kids by bringing them some maple syrup!) On their first day I met the group at the Conrad hotel and boarded the tour bus. First we went to Queen’s Pier from which I told the story of why the battle happened, and the battle itself up to the point where the island was invaded. Then to Wong Nai Chung Gap to talk about the fighting on the island itself. That trip ended at St Stephen’s, where, in the bus, I told the visitors the story of the massacre there – fully aware that Flash’s eyes (he was a survivor of that event) were on me the whole time. Then we walked in, and Flash told us – and the assembled students – his experiences there on Christmas day 1941 (as in the photo. George is quietly seated lower right, kindly signing a copy of his book for someone. Typical of him to give someone else the limelight!) Two days later we all met again at the annual Canadian ceremony at Sai Wan, and the following day we all went to the dedications for the Lawson and Osborn plaques. On December 6 we joined them for a farewell dinner at the Repulse Bay Hotel, sitting with George. Over the years I had introduced my wife to a number of veterans, but this was the first time I had seen her so impressed by one of them! He had more than a little of film-star James Stewart’s charm. The following morning, before they flew out, I accompanied them on a walk of the Wong Nai Chong Gap trail. A little behind schedule, we also ended up at St Stephen’s again and viewed their collection of wartime bits and pieces. I kept in touch, from time to time, ever since. This leaves only one remaining member of Canada’s ‘C’ Force: Hormidas Fredette who was 106 years old last week. 13 Justin Ho was kind enough to let me know that CQMS John Little’s (Middiesex) medals are for sale. Typical of such a senior man, he was married and his family (wife Lilian, and children Kathleen – born 9.4.29, Kane – born 29.11.31, and Daphne – born 6.9.34), had been evacuated from Hong Kong in July 1940, going to Sydney on the Awatea. 12 Justin Ho asked me to today about a British RAMC officer, recorded in some contemporary diary entries as ’Worral ‘. This was clearly Captain Alex John Warrack, RAMC, RMO of the Royal Scots. When I looked into it, I recalled that Warrack (and his family) were actually extremely interesting, and a good target for me to include in the Spatial History ‘Faces of War’. As an aside, Warrack’s cousin was the senior British Medical Officer with the First Airborne at Arnhem. 9 While in Saigon I came across Olson’s famous photo of wounded Marines being evacuated from The Citadel at Hue, and then found this educational story which perfectly illustrates the difference between serious and superficial research into conflict history. Well worth a read. 5 Debbie Tighe posted several photos of her uncle Francis Gordon Hardy (HMS Tern, Lisbon Maru) on the FEPOW Family facebook page. 4 Tan, in reference to last month’s comments about wartime heritage, made a good point: “I read you mentioned about development of war site for tourists’ attraction. PB315 and the old police station building at Kowloon Reservoir is very good site to change to visitor centre. Its location is good and easy to access. The building there can convert to small museum easily. There is good starting point to Shing Mun and Lion Rock area with more war site. Attached my paper about PB315 for your reference.” (The paper was in SEB Vol 23). PB315 is the only Gin Drinkers Line pillbox still intact today, thus is worthy of serious consideration. 3 I heard today from Lorence Irvine, who notes that 29 of his family were with the Royal Rifles of Canada in Hong Kong, I look forward to more details with great interest! 3 I received the April Java Journal today. I have nothing but respect for this organisation, but in an article about the Lisbon Maru they unfortunately repeated the falsehood (not their fault – it’s repeated on several websites) that the ship was carrying Canadian POWs. It was not. The first two drafts from Hong Kong (the Lisbon Maru being the second) took only British POWs to the Japanese mainland. It was only from the third draft onwards that Canadian were included. As a respectable organisation, they will print a correction in the next edition. 2 Unfortunately I heard just too late to advertise in March, that the HKVCA’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 25 at 2pm (Eastern Time). 1 “George Best” posted a very interesting photo to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. It shows Fenwick Street in Wanchai, probably at the end of the war as the visible damage looks as if it’s from air raids.
April 1st, 2023 Update
NtSC cover art (author), Battle damage (courtesy The Battle of Hong Kong: A Spatial History Project), Hong Kong Minefields (courtesy Gwulo)
Pennefather-Evans (via Henry Wong), Ken Salmon and Tony Banham, Andy Salmon animation at HKMCD (both author)
9.2 inch guns (via Historical Walk HK), Robinson Road Index Card (anonymous), 15 Robinson Road (author)
March News At the start of the Covid crisis, I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and (as co-designer of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Heritage Trail all those years ago), started writing a strategy for Hong Kong to add – as the situation reverted to normal in the future, and tourists returned – its Second World War experience to the offerings to our visitors. The Hong Kong Second World War Experience which I wrote was party inspired by visits to Malta and Singapore who have taken this opportunity seriously for years. Now I see that the government are planning: “providing incentives for the industry to develop and launch tourism products with cultural and heritage elements.” (I think I saw an article somewhere in the press that explicitly mentioned the Second World War, but can’t find it now). I was also interested to find that one of the few academic articles on the topic actually refers to hongkongwardiary! But a couple of experiences this month made me think that we really haven’t yet properly addressed the opportunities presented by our museums and wartime heritage. 29 Today the Stanley Camp facebook page carried this post: “I have some sad news to share. Yvette Harley nee Whitefield who was born in Stanley camp passed away last week. She was a great friend of my parents. My mum knew her from when she returned back to HK from evacuation as their parents were friends.” As far as I can see from the family's Stanley records, though, she was not in fact born in camp: Whitefield, Florence Edith Irene British 12.08.07 F Housewife Stanley A1/4 husband John P Whitefield Whitefield, John McArthur British 08.05.32 M Student Stanley A1/4 Father John P Whitefield Whitefield, John Paterson British 14.05.02 M Inspector of Lighthouses Stanley A1/4 wife-Florence EI Whitefield Whitefield, Yvette Irene Miss British 17.07.33 F Student Stanley A1/4 Father John P Whitefield 29 Philip Cracknell has a new blog post. He notes: “I received an email from the Manager of a museum in Kent. A group of medals in a faded brown envelope had been found in the attic of a house in Minster on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. They belonged to Robert Grindley, a prison officer who served in the Stanley Platoon and fought at the Battle for Stanley. He and his wife, Marjory, were interned at Stanley Camp. This is their story.” 28 Today I met the great niece of James Alfred Maynard, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, and her husband. I have known her by email for more than twenty years, and she was making her first trip to Hong Kong to see the places her great uncle would have known (he was posted to Hong Kong in 1937, and perished on the Lisbon Maru). 22 I had a request today: “I recently posted a photo of my paternal grandmother with two of her daughters-in-law and granddaughter dated July 1943 in Macau. I was informed by a friend about the ex-POWs from Shamshuipo camp, mainly the Portuguese Volunteers, who visited Macau on a Royal Navy ship in February 1945 to visit their loved ones who sought refuge in Macau. He also informed me about a hockey match between the Volunteers and the Macau team, and said it was likely my two uncles, Bobby and Reggie Reed, were on that ship. I had no knowledge of this and wondered if they were part of that contingent and got to reunite with family members. Stuart Braga posted a response to my query about that visit and included the newspaper article naming the Volunteers who participated in the match. In that account, reference was made that the team was without the services of Reggie and Bobby Reed. I am attaching below the link to my post and Stuart Braga's comments for your reference. I am hoping you might be aware of the actual list of all the Volunteers who were on that ship to Macau, and not just those who participated in the hockey game. It would be great to know that both Bobby and Reggie were included on that visit.” The ship was the frigate HMS Parret, but unfortunately I don’t know of a passenger manifest for that trip. 22 On facebook’s Battle of Hong Kong page, Henry Wong posted a good photo of Pennefather-Evans, who arrived from Malaysia as Hong Kong’s new Commissioner of Police in May 1941, and became Singapore’s Commissioner of Police post-war. 19Bob Tatz reminded me that the book Through Japanese Barbed Wire by Gwen Priestwood stated that she arrived in Chungking (Chongqing) with a full list of British internees. Is that original list still in the archives somewhere? 19 Yet another live Japanese grenade turned up in the hills today. 18 Gwulo today carried an interesting and authoritative essay on the wartime marine mine fields around HK. 16The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: a Spatial History Project posted a very interesting photo of battle damage today. I wish I’d known about this when I visited the Museum of Coastal Defence earlier, as it is very close. The text reads: “On the way to the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence one could find Tam Kung Temple that was built in 1905 and revamped in the early 2000s. At the Temple’s front gate were some bullet marks from the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. On the evening of 18 December 1941, the 2nd Battalion of the 229th Infantry Regiment, 38th Division, landed in the vicinity of Ah Kung Ngam held by the Rajputs. At that time, the Temple was at the seaside, and the bullet marks suggest that it was fired at from a northerly direction. The pattern of the marks also suggests the involvement of automatic weapons.” This building was of course on the corner of Aldrich Bay, overlooking the Japanese landing areas. 16 I had an interesting discussion today with Brian Finch about CSM Robert Chaplin, Middlesex Regiment. He is listed in several contemporary documents as having the rank QMS, yet in the infantry there was generally no such rank – just RQMS and CQMS. And on Chaplin’s POW Index Card and so forth, he carries the more common rank of CSM. Brian’s best guess was that: “Chaplin’s appointment was as Quartermaster Sergeant (Orderly Room Sergeant), perhaps carrying the rank of Colour Sergeant, or maybe WO2, the same as a CSM’s rank.” Alternatively he thought: “RQMS is usually the most senior WO2, and can sometimes be a WO1, often the next RSM in waiting. Perhaps Chaplin was the next most senior WO2 in line for becoming RQMS and was therefore designated QMS as a kind of temporary holding appointment. In any case his actual rank would have been WO2 and equivalent to CSM, but as he was (presumably) in the orderly room and not in a company he could not be called a CSM. But on forms such as [the POW list], CSM would be a convenient shorthand and would avoid confusion, for example for the captors.” 16 Historical Walk HK posted a very interesting (and as far as I am concerned, unique) photo of two 9.2 inch guns being taken to their emplacement at what looks like Mount Davis? 15 I received two copies of interesting POW Index Cards today. One was marked “Kowloon Defence Position, Lance Corporal Robert Bankier, Royal Scots 8 Platoon, A Coy”, and was clearly of an NCO captured at the fall of the Shing Mun Redoubt. The other was for CQMS Manuel Alberto Baptista, 5 Coy HKVDC, whose card showed his wife Marie Theresa Vas Baptista then living at 17 Robinson Road. That’s a stone’s throw from where I live, and for a moment I thought I recalled that the original building was still standing. This would have been quite unusual, as there are very few occasions where I have found a direct link between wartime people and residential buildings that still exist – the ‘best’ to date being the story of poor Harry Joseph who lived at 43a Conduit Road. However, when I went to check I found that the building I was thinking of is 15 Robinson Road rather than 17. Still, it is certainly pre-war (mid nineteen thirties, by the look of it), so I took a photo anyway. I wonder what it was used for during the war, and if it has any links with HKVDC personnel? 14 Believe it or not, today is the twentieth anniversary of the launch (at the FCC) of Not The Slightest Chance. 14 I heard today that Laurel Films just received the Public Screening Certificate from the Chinese Film Bureau, meaning that the film has now been approved by Beijing. There will be two more rounds of technical checking, but hopefully there will be no significant problems. They are still working on the sound, music and animation, hoping to finish everything by May. It looks like I may soon have another credit to add to my new IMDB listing! 13I heard today that the Harry Odell documentary is finished and will be screened twice at the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival next month. 10 I heard today that the management of Hong Kong's Country Park is designing a series of panels for the MacLehose Trail No. 5 Section about the war relics (pillboxes, direction slabs, marker stone, and blockhouse) which can still be seen there. 8 This afternoon I met Ken Salmon (son of Andy Salmon, RA, Lisbon Maru), who I have corresponded with for many years, and we visited the Museum of Coastal Defence. I hadn’t been there since attending the re-opening ceremony which followed the recent renovations. We were both quite impressed. While the collection and exhibits are not on a huge scale, they cover the subject pretty well. Most of the relevant personal weapons are on display, together with a range of original documents and other artefacts. Ken approved of the little ‘Daily life of garrison in Lyemun Barracks’ video display, which features his father throughout the narration. Perhaps most importantly, for a Wednesday the place seemed remarkably full and lively, with at least two school parties in attendance. 7 I went walking with a friend and neighbour today, up to Wan Chai Gap. I mentioned the pillbox nearby, along Lady Clementis’s Ride (LPB 12) and he was interested in taking a look. He was keen that we should talk to the Government and get the site restored and a signboard erected. My feeling is that it’s more atmospheric and emotive to just stumble across a ruin like that in the ‘jungle’ unexpectedly, but I saw his point. Even something as substantial as a pillbox won’t last forever if it’s not stabilized and protected. This one has already been damaged since I first came across it. 7 The HKVCA published their latest newsletter today. Amongst many other things it mentions JP Bear’s video tribute to the Canadian dog Gander. 6 Some time ago I had a call from France from a company that produces video stories for the cultural travel TV program ‘Invitation au Voyage’ (City Country Culture), broadcast on the TV channel ARTE in France and in Germany. Today we met for them to shoot a small segment about the Lisbon Maru. Initially the interviewed me in Hong Kong harbour, then the Lamma ferry, and finally on the beach at Lamma itself (which stood in for the small islands where the survivors from the ship originally gathered). The team (illustrated, all two of them!) were actually shooting quite a few segments covering different topics, and it was great to feel that Hong Kong is truly opening up again and regaining the international attention it has traditionally had. 5 The same friend quoted below has discovered that at least the first four HK Signals Coy POW Index Cards state that they were captured in Kowloon rather than Hong Kong Island. That seems unexpected, but interesting. 4 Justin Ho kindly pointed out that Private William Wylie’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) medals are for sale. I believe from the wording that they don’t bear his name, but are attributed to him. 3 Ken Skelton, referring to last month’s mention of Nurse Gubbay, noted: “UK Medical Series History of WW 2 - "The Royal Naval Medical Service - Vol. 2 - Operations pp. 258 - 282-covers The Royal Naval Hospital Hong Kong - it includes a report of the Hospital PMO and a report of the Hospital Matron describing the experience of Bowen Road through a daily diary account from start of action to Surrender, then goes on to briefly describe the experience till wars end.” He notes that Naval Military Press are his go-to source for UK related official histories, and adds: “the Army Campaigns history include all the breakdown for casualties treated at Bowen Rd. by type of wound/ disease etc (my father was moved to Bowen Rd after surviving St Stephen’s atrocities Dec. 25).” 2 I had a question today which rang some bells, but I can’t find an authoritative source. My correspondent noticed that several HKVDC communications written in Shamshuipo implied that the writers were in Companies A through F. I vaguely recall Arthur Gomes saying something about a reorganistion like that, for administrative / messing purposes, in camp but can’t locate the details aside from a quote in Sykes’ POW memoirs: “The Volunteers are now divided into 7 Companies, A, B, C, D, E, F & G, we are C & today was spent trying to organise the company into working parties.” 1 A friend in the UK notes that Edward Lee’s (HKVDC 5657) POW Index Card shows that he escaped at some point – probably very early after the surrender. His HK POW Number is 10981, right next to that of Lewis Bush, HKRNVR, who of course entered camp a bit late as the Japanese forced him to act as an interpreter. Does anyone know Lee’s story? I asked Kwong Chi Man and he told me: “Lee is such an enterprising (and luck) man! He was not captured in Stanley until 2 Jan 1942 and escaped from SSP on 22 Jan. He then apparently worked in HK Breweries until being discovered (possibly by an informant as suggested by the wordings of the document ‘being reported’) in Feb 1943. The breweries was taken over from the Rutonjee family by the Japanese and continued to produce at least until 1944.”
March 1st, 2023 Update
Kine-Theodolite (courtesy Andrew Holland), Gloucester Gathering invitation, proto-POW Index Card (both anonymous)
Ride table maps (author), Stanley gathering (courtesy Philip Cracknel), D Coy PB Equipment (author's collection)
Old Mental Hospital, Old WNGC Trail signboards (both author), Canadian Chamber walk (courtesy Elsie Chan)
February News We received the welcome news today, the last day of February, that as from tomorrow masks will no longer need to be worn in Hong Kong, inside or out. Finally we are coming out of the most bizarre - roughly three year and eight month - period of Hong Kong’s history (from the troubles of 2019 to the end of Covid) since that dreadful time 78 years earlier. Of course it makes a poor comparison, but nevertheless an interesting one. We mainly couldn’t travel, tourists couldn’t (or didn’t) come, and life was without doubt different. In some ways it was even positive; I’ve never felt so much part of Hong Kong as I have these last few years, when everyone knew that everyone here was resident, when the city seemed less crowded and busy, and people seemed to have more time for each other and for the city itself and its history. 28 Embarrassingly often I am asked a question which I can’t answer, and then find that I have a perfectly relevant document in my files. I suppose that’s what comes of collecting information on this subject for so many years, and cross-referencing it all on my computer. One document that answered a researcher’s questions this month was the partial war diary of the HKVDC Armoured Car Unit, and when I found it I also found a particularly interesting – but forgotten – document listing the commanders of each B Coy Middlesex Pillbox, together with the amount of ammunition issued (and indirectly illustrating that the Webley and Thompson used different .45 rounds!) And I wonder why PB24 had ten times as many tracer rounds as any other pillbox? 23 The China Daily, Global Times, and other outlets all ran further Lisbon Maru stories based on the Chinese Embassy’s event. 21 Raymond Walter Hill’s (RA) family contacted me. They noted that he was: “born in Whisby, Lincolnshire in 1919… His parents were Josiah Benjamin (Ben) and Elsie Hill… Raymond was a gunner in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, service number 868722, Eighth Coast Regiment. There was a short newspaper article in the Stamford Mercury with the news that he was safe in Australia. Raymond’s parents lived in Ketton at the time and he was married to Susan Wright at St. George’s church, Stamford (Stamford Mercury 14 June 1946.)” Oddly enough, the person who sent the email had studied at Homerton with my sister fifty years ago! 19 Today the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James, Zheng Zeguang, hosted a gathering in Gloucester of more than 120 relatives of POWs who were on the Lisbon Maru. Last year he gave Dennis Morley’s daughter a letter from President Xi Jinping. With the help of Brian Finch and others, the Embassy organised this event so that they could personally meet some of the relatives. The Ambassador confirmed that a memorial was being planned to be built in Zhoushan. The event is nicely covered on the Chinese Embassy’s website, and by the BBC. 19 The Researching FEPOW History Group have started confirming the speakers for this year’s conference. They will include: John Tulloch, MBE, who served in the New Zealand Army from 1965 to 1973, including a Tour of Duty in Vietnam from July 1968 to July 1969. He served in the Royal Artillery from 1973 to 2003 in the UK, Northern Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, including the Falklands in 1982. He served in the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces from 1978-80. He spent 21 years as a visiting Jungle Warfare Instructor and advisor to the UK Jungle Warfare School in Brunei. His book ‘The Borneo Graveyard 1941-1945’ which took 12 years of research, was published in March 2020 and launched in the UK in 2021 at the CWGC VJ Day 2021 Service. He was honoured with the MBE in 2003 in recognition of his service to jungle warfare training. He gives talks on Vietnam and Borneo to the military, historical groups and schools. Dr Toby Norways, a Senior Lecturer in Scriptwriting at the University of Bedfordshire. He is an award-winning writer of script and prose. His films have screened in diverse locations around the world, including BAFTA Piccadilly, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hollywood, and Iraq. Toby was awarded a PhD in English Literature from Liverpool Hope University in 2021. The PhD involved writing a memoir of his late father, Bill Norways (1918-86), a Corporal in the 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment, who spent three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese. Bill was a trained artist and brought back over 200 paintings, sketches, and photos from his captivity in Singapore and Thailand. Dr Jon Cooper, a recent graduate from the Centre for War Studies and Conflict Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, having completed his thesis on the life and times of the Scottish soldiers in Singapore in 1942. Previously Jon spent seven years in Singapore as Project Coordinator for The Adam Park Project, which looked at the archaeology relating to the defence of the Adam Park Housing by the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshires and the subsequent occupation of the wrecked estate by 3,000 POWs in 1942. Jon curates an online virtual museum which holds all the Adam Park source material, which is linked to the book ‘Tigers in the Park’. He currently works as a freelance conflict archaeologist, battlefield tour guide and a tutor at the University of Glasgow in which the Singapore campaign is given the limelight. Jon also helps with the CoFEPOW Scottish section, introducing new Scottish members to the experience of the Scots in the Far East. His ambition is to get back out to Singapore to continue the surveys along the south coast battlefields. 17 Ronald Holland’s (8th Coast Regiment, RA) son got back in touch, noting: “I found this photo of him (dad is the very young looking one holding the phone, so it was possibly taken sometime after late 1939 - when he arrived in Hong Kong - to around 1940/41) alongside what I believe is a coastal range finder (?)” What makes this so interesting is that the device is not a range finder but a Kine-Theodolite which was used to film the burst of shells (normally AA, I believe) for correction purposes. I’ve never seen one in a Hong Kong context before, and managed to find this film of one in use. I promised I would post the photo here to see if anyone can identify the location. You would think those concrete platforms would be easy to identify, but they don’t ring any bells. Holland enlisted on 14 October 1937 and arrived in Hong Kong 1 September 1938. 15 Philip Cracknell has published a new blog: “Archibald Cook was captain of the HK-Canton steamer the SS Fatshan. His ship was seized in Canton when the war started. His wife and three youngest children were in Hong Kong at their home in Felix Villas. They were interned at Stanley Camp after the British capitulation. Their three oldest children were at boarding school in Chefoo, in Northern China. They all met up again in Portuguese East Africa. This is their story.” 12 A friend in the UK sent me a very unusual POW Index Card. It is for Nurse Sallie Gubbay, HKVDC. I had actually been sent a copy in 2007 by Ron Bridge, who noted: “I was privileged to have two or three long conversations with the late Irene Braude who was Commandant of the HKVDC VAD 12 -15 years ago, she also gave me a copy of the HKVDC at the outbreak of hostilities. She told me that Sallie Gubbay had been very badly injured during the raid on Bowen Road (16 December 1941 I recall) and had remained in hospital there until she died the following May. (Somewhere I have documentary evidence of this raid, Irene did not say whether it was injury or the complications from that injury or a secondary infection.)” The CWGC recorded her as Sarah Gubbay first, and then corrected it to Sallie, but in some cases record the surname as ‘Gubby’! But what makes this particularly interesting for me is that I hadn’t previously noticed her next of kin was her daughter ‘Mrs L Kadoorie’. The Kadoories were, and are, one of the richest families in Hong Kong, and this means that Sir Michael Kadoorie (who I know slightly - he owns the Peninsula Hotel group, China Light & Power, etc.) is Sallie Gubbay’s grandson! 11 The Researching FEPOW History Group has confirmed that their June conference is going ahead. Details can be found here. 11 Woke to see thick fog all over Hong Kong – not the best start for a walking tour with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce! By the time I arrived at Wong Nai Chung Gap (around 08.15) it was if anything worse and I was afraid no one would turn up, but by 09.00 we had around 20 people assembled and began a pleasant (though largely view-free) walk. But I was shocked to see ‘my’ Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail sign boards lying demolished on the ground! Fortunately a Cantonese-speaking friend was on hand to interrogate the workers there, and they said they were simply replacing them – which is fair enough as they are old and rusty. A fair amount of vegetation also seemed to have been cleared and the view of the old mess hall’s floor (site of the terrible mortar bomb incident of 20 December 1941) was more clearly visible than usual. Later I heard that a qualified individual had ensured that the replacement boards will have a few pre-existing errors corrected. More on that when they are in position. 11 At Great Yarmouth (only a few miles round the coast from my hometown) on Monday, workmen dredging a river picked up a German 250kg HE bomb. EOD didn’t like the look of it and decided it was unsafe to move it further. After some delays while nearby gas pipes were checked, and several thousand people were evacuated, they built a massive reinforced sand berm around the bomb to direct any blast upwards if anything went wrong. Then work began with a tracked robot cutting through the casing to separate the detonator from the bulk of explosive. Meanwhile, of course, many people complained of the inconvenience and delay as surely ‘an old thing like that would never go off’. But they stopped complaining when it suddenly blew up. Fortunately no one was hurt and the berm prevented serious damage, though I don’t think the robot has turned up yet! But the serious lesson, of course, is that plenty of Second World War ordnance is still perfectly viable and anything found should be treated with respect. 10 Reginald Hildred’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family contacted me again (see September 2014). They have discovered that he married a Chinese lady called Shirley Yau on 6 December 1941 in Hong Kong (illustrated). Hildred was lost in the sinking, so the family knew nothing about this. This marriage isn’t in the list of immediately pre-invasion weddings between the garrison and local ladies that Kwong Chi Man maintains. I traced Shirley as being sent to the New Asia Hotel with other British civilians on their way to Stanley Internment Camp, but being Chinese by birth she would have been allowed to exempt herself. Hildred’s Casualty Card suggests that his wife escaped Hong Kong, went to Guilin, and was under the protection of the British Military Attaché there, but there the trail ends for the moment. Her name does not appear in BAAG files, which were my only real hope. 9 I quite often walk to and from Sai Ying Poon market, returning via High Street. Normally I walk on the south side of the road but today crossed over – and then realized that I’d never before noticed the old walls I’d been walking by! It turns out that this was Hong Kong’s Old Mental Hospital. The walls of the lower floors were preserved when it was knocked down and a modern building was created some 25 years ago. Pre-war it was apparently accommodation for nurses, so I’ll have to see if I can find what the building was used for in wartime. 7 A friend in the UK is engaged in a very serious study on the POW Index Cards. He’s attempting to learn how and when they were created, modified, updated, stored, found at liberation, and used by the Allies to reconcile POW lists and fates. He has found some very interesting proto-cards and so forth. 7 Ken Skelton kindly looked in his copy of Stephen Davies’s HMS Tamar book to find an answer to the question about shore-based accommodation raised last week. (I am embarrassed to say that I don’t yet have a copy. I missed it when it first came out, and can’t see it on Hong Kong bookshop shelves at the moment – and Amazon say they’re out of stock). Anyway, he noted: “p255/256 - almost from the outset Tamar had never been entirely able to provide sufficient accommodation for all personnel at peak demand... other ships like Wyvern were used as accommodation ships… early years of 20th century some evidence the naval base used some shoreside bldgs. within the dockyard - which unknown.” Which pretty much supports what I had guessed. 6 I heard from Fang Li’s team today that they are “reaching a Final Cut of the [Lisbon Maru] documentary and will send this version to the National Film Bureau for a second review.” That’s good news. Obviously the production was delayed by Covid, and I was concerned that the deterioration in geopolitical relationships in the last few years might have thrown a spanner in the works. I later heard that it may be premiered at Cannes. 5 My wife had a few friends round for lunch, and decorated our dining room table with our best place mats. These are antiques depicting Chinnery paintings, and were a kind present from Elizabeth Ride when we visited her in Norway in 2019. They had of course belonged to her father, Brigadier ‘Doc’ Ride of BAAG fame. Unfortunately the Mappin & Webb box they were stored in was too big for us to take, but when I emailed Elizabeth the photo of our table she explained why they were in that box. I thought the story might be of interest, so firstly an extract from Ride's speech to the HKU Congregation of May 1950: “I should like to refer to the story of the Mace; you have all noticed the vacant stand in front of this desk: the mace that should occupy that stand was cunningly hidden in the Library in 1942 by some of the Chinese members of the staff. There it remained in safety until February 1945 when robbers broke into the library in search of paper which was a scarce and valuable commodity in those days. The mace alas was stolen from its hiding place under a pile of old paper, and since then no trace of it has been found. In an attempt to trace the maker, Colonel L.G. Bird, the brother of the designer was written to, and he has spared no effort in helping us. After communicating with many well known silversmiths in England without result, he put a notice in ‘The Times’ and a few weeks ago he received a letter from Major Penn-Gaskell of the New Forest, enclosing a cutting from ‘The Graphic’ of the 16th of December, 1916. The cutting depicted our mace, stating it was made by Mappin & Webb and described it as ‘a unique example of the silversmith’s art’. With this information to hand, Colonel Bird went to the makers and they were able to produce photographs of the original. From these photographs an enlargement has been made by our Department of Physiology, and this enlargement will be on view this afternoon in the new Engineering School. When you see it, I think you will agree it was a most excellent example of the silversmith’s art, an example too rare to be lost; for $10,000 we can have an exact replica made and it is noteworthy that on the reverse side there is a space large just large enough to record the munificence of a donor. In the meantime I should like to express our grateful thanks to both Colonel Bird and Major Penn-Gaskell for their valuable help. The University is indeed fortunate in its friends.” Next from Ride’s speech of March 1951: “For the new mace we are indebted to the munificence of Mr. Leung Yew who immediately after the last Congregation came forward and offered to cover the cost of its manufacture. During tea this afternoon I hope you will all take the opportunity of examining the mace, and although it still lacks its jade ornaments, I am sure you will agree that it is an outstanding example of British craftsmanship; combining as it does, oriental history through the medium of occidental art, it is a fitting emblem to symbolize the supreme authority of a British University set beside a China sea. On the shaft of the mace you will see four panels; on one is embossed a scene of early Hong Kong, on another a picture of this building as it was last year; the third bears an inscription recording the munificence of Mr. Leung Yew and the forth remains empty and on it later it is hoped to depict the main building as it will be when completed. On the obverse of the head of the mace is the Colony Coat of Arms, and on the reverse that of the University, both beautifully embossed, a significant reminder that we are an integral part of the Colony.” I wish we’d kept that box now, it was the one HKU’s mace came in! 3 I received notice today of another Lisbon Maru article churned out online. Yet again it incorrectly repeats the idea that Canadian POWs were onboard, though aside from that and a few typos is reasonably accurate. 2 A whole team of local historians, young and old, gathered at Stanley Cemetery today and had a good chat. There was more to it than that, but the story will have to wait. 2 It’s odd how things tend to happen in clusters. Today I was sent this link to the pre-war Colonial property called Alberose (just south of Queen Mary Hospital), and then my older son in London sent me this link to another big pre-war property. Clearly – though perhaps not surprisingly - Hong Kong’s rich and famous like to live in mansions!
February 1st, 2023 Update
First and third, Japanese attack on King's Road (courtesy Tan), second, Indian patrol on Des Voeux Road (Author)
Wong Nai Chung school party (courtesy Tim Hoffman), Cigarette case (via Jeffrey Ho), Wanchai Market, then, not long ago, and now (Author)
Deb LegCo notice (via Government reports online), Brown's bag (courtesy Sheila Forsyth), Asahi Shinbun 18 Dec 41 (courtesy Rusty Tsoi)
January News Well, I didn’t get quite as many entries for the ‘then and now’ photo competition of Hong Kong wartime scenes as I’d hoped, but I’m pleased to announce that the winner (again) is Tan with his two images showing the Japanese attack along King’s Road at Fortress Hill taking first and second place. However, I have also given myself third place for my Des Voeux Road effort showing Japanese and Indian troops on patrol, not for quality (which is poor) but for the patience required to wait long enough for a modern tram to come almost perfectly into position! But I’m also leaving the competition open for another month, just in case anyone else wants a go. I have a couple of new ideas myself. 31 Today I received an invitation to join a very interesting expedition early next month. But more about that in the next update! 28 Another question: Prior to the Second World War did the Royal Navy have any barracks or billets on shore? As far as I know, all seamen were based on their ships, on the Tamar hulk, or (for shore leave) at the China Fleet Club. And yet it seems reasonable that senior officers, and perhaps naval staff at the Royal Naval Hospital or other shore-based units, might have had urban accommodation. While searching for an answer I came across this very interesting history of the China Fleet Club (other parts can be found from the links here). It’s possible that Stephen Davies’s book on HMS Tamar has some information, but unfortunately so far I haven’t seen it in Hong Kong shops. 25 A trip to Stanley by bus today showed that the old bullet-scarred wall by Wanchai Market has now been demolished. I wish I’d taken more photos of the original while I still could! I took a quick shot as we passed, and in the sort of ‘then and now’ photo montage that I produced, the wall in question is – in the pre-war original photo – the one just behind and to the left of the lorry with the black cab and white body. Also on the topic of Stanley, I was asked whether the CWGC graves there contained human remains in coffins or not. I know that burial services there during the war itself used a reusable coffin with a fake floor, but don’t know whether post-war interments used coffins or not. The last one I attended, in 2009, certainly did. 23 With help from others, I have been looking for records of a Mr M.R. Deb. He was an Indian gentleman, perhaps originally from Malaysia, who came to Hong Kong in about 1937 to work in an anti-mosquito/malaria team under Dr Robert Best Jackson. It seems that Jackson left Hong Kong before hostilities, but Deb didn’t and – apparently – was killed in the fighting at North Point when the Japanese invaded. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t appear in the CWGC records or any of my files. For anyone not familiar with the site, it’s possible to search for Hong Kong Government reports from 1842-1941 here. 20 Jeffrey Ho posted a photo of a silver cigarette case found on the battlefields (I am continuing with my policy of not revealing the exact locations of any battlefield finds). I was able to locate an exact match. 18 I have an Arthur Foster in the Stanley internment lists with profession given as “Health Inspector”. I also have an A. Foster in my nominal roll for the HKVDC Field Ambulance. I wonder if they could have been one and the same? 18 Continuing yesterday’s conversation, Eursal Kaine’s daughter noted: “My Dad, I think because he was with my uncle John Kaine (who was a paraplegic because of a mining accident) got flown out of Fukuoka (Sept 15/45) and saw Nagasaki from the air on his way to Okinawa on an American plane (he collected the flight crew’s autographs) and then another flight to Manila (Sept 19/45) and did as you said come home on the Hughes (left Manila on Sept 24, 1945.)” The autographs read: Fukuoka-Okinawa Sept 15, 1945 Sgt. Clifford V. Adair Box 607 Reading Michigan USA Douglas C-47 4337998 3rd emergency Rescue Sq. B flight. Sgt. Anthony Forte 3rd Emergency Rescue Sq A.P.O. 245 Rfc. Allan Pensinger Portland Oregon 2317 S. W. Vermont St. 519 military police Okinawa Lt. Ivan E. Crockett Jr. 800 S Fir Ave, Inglewood California Sgt. Arthur Bird 200 Campbell St. Valparaiso Indiana Lt. James W. Ashmore 717 SE 12th St, Paris, Texas Ist Lt. D. R. Brock 705 Carolyn Ave. Austin, Texas, navigator. The third emergency rescue squadron makes sense, but the aircraft serial number is unfortunately off. 43-37998 was a B-17 which never served in the Far East. However, I managed to find records of a C-47A-30-DK with serial 43-47998. I wonder if that might have been it? 17 Eursal Kaine’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) daughter got in touch again (see March 2022) noting: “I’ve another mystery for you to send out to the group to see if we can solve it, and another interesting piece of memorabilia too. My father came home to Canada with another soldier’s duffle bag. It belonged to Louis Brown B68230. According to the HKVCA individual report (and you), he was on the same transport to Japan as my father and uncle, and also ended up in Omine. There is no further record after that. Just wondering if we can figure out how Dad ended up with Louis’s bag. On the bag, it seems Louis had been a soldier before he went to Hong Kong (the painted left side shows places like Fort York Arm, Iceland, Aldershot England. That’s an interesting story too, I’m sure. Sending you photos of the two sides of the bag, and also one of the sheets from Dad’s autograph book.” In fact there seems to have been quite a bit of gift-giving between POWs as they made their way home, but interestingly Kaine went back to North America on the USS Admiral Hughes, while Brown was on the USS Howze. Looking at the bag, Fort York Arm is Fort York Armoury, Toronto which makes sense. The odd one out here is Aldershot. However, I looked into it and I see that a Canadian Brigade (consisting of The Royal Regiment of Canada, Les Fusiliers MontRoyal, and The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa) was sent to Iceland in June/July 1940, with the first two battalions being sent to Aldershot at the end of October that year to rejoin the main body of the 2nd Canadian Division there. So that implies that Louis Brown was originally in (probably) the Royal Regiment of Canada, then joined the Royal Rifles back in Canada before they were sent to HK. 16 Craig McCourry notes that his new film Battlebox is now streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK and USA, and Tubi. There’s also a new poster (illustrated). 16 The Editors of the Close Encounters in War Journal, who I have occasionally worked with, let me know that issue number five of their journal, "Science, Technology, and Close Encounters in War" is now online. 13 Walking through Wong Nai Chung Gap with a friend, we came across a group of secondary school students on a historical tour. It’s good to see people making use of the historical trail. 12 I heard today from a French film company planning a short documentary about the Lisbon Maru. 11 Gunner Arthur Cooling’s (RA) nephew got in touch. He notes that Cooling: “was the son of a WW1 regular soldier who saw service in the Boer War aged 18 and was commissioned Warrant Officer in the field in 1915. After leaving the Army in the 1950’s Arthur & family emigrated to Australia to take up a position as a prison warder. Apparently he had a reputation with the prisoners as being a hard man. Imagining his upbringing and life as a POW it’s not difficult to understand the attitude he may have had with the prisoners.” This makes sense as Cooling was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs to Japan. 10 The Java Fepow Club (now the largest and only remaining UK Nationwide FEPOW Club, with worldwide members too) issued their January Java Journal newsletter today. It contained a reprint of an article concerning the death of Yeung Ming-Hon (see last month). 8 Rusty Tsoi notes, of the Asahi Shinbun of 18 December 1941: “it said the Japanese interviewed a corporal captured with Jones… This 23-year-old ‘corporal’ came from Bradford of Yorkshire, and he told the Japanese that the British soldiers used to spend two months training in Kowloon every year; and he had participated this kind of training twice. He didn’t really say anything bad about his military life at all. However, I’m not quite sure who was he in reality…” I don’t know either, but no doubt he was one of the Royal Scots captured with Jones at or around the Shingmun Redoubt, and held at Fanling at the time of the alleged interview. 4 Justin Ho let me know about another interesting eBay item, a POW letter/card from William Murray Mayne, Winnipeg Grenadiers. I’m surprised how much money these items sell for. 2 We flew back from Christmas and New Year in the Philippines today, which is why the December 2022 update was published a few days late. Lucky we didn’t travel on the first, as Manila airport was knocked out by a power outage and almost 400 flights were cancelled or delayed. But there’s always a silver lining. Cathay Pacific laid on an extra flight today, five hours earlier than the one we were booked on, and we managed to switch to it, getting better seats in the process and getting home at six in the evening rather than after midnight as expected! Thus the delay in publishing last month’s update was a day less than I had feared.
January 1st, 2023 Update
75th Memorial Service (author), Arthur Turner, RA (via Facebook), Vleeschouwer letter (eBay via Justin Ho)
Old HK in Colour images (courtesy OldHKinColour), Wanchai then and now (courtesy Tan), Duane and Dennis Clarke (IWM)
Winnipeg Tribune (via Henry Wong), Fraser's medals (courtesy Daily Mail), WIlfred Miles's new stone (courtesy Christine Lindgren)
December News I’ve been very impressed by recent colourisations of old Hong Kong photographs, often in a ‘then and now’ pairing. Obviously I’m most interested in the wartime period, so I thought we’d kick off the new year (the twentieth anniversary year of Hong Kong War Diary in this format) with a competition. Who can create the best Then & Now photo using an original from (let’s say, to add more possibilities) 1940-46? No prizes, of course – just the glory and honour! All entries (if there are any…) should please reach me no later than 28 January 2023. I have included in this month’s photos an example done by Tan in 2014, of bomb damage in Wanchai following an American raid in 1945. 30 An interesting conversation (about the Supermarine Walrus) between Martin Heyes and Philip Cracknel led to a number of useful finds. The former provided this nice clip of Walrus operations, and the latter the records of two Walruses (one, two) lost in Hong Kong waters shortly before hospitalities. A further two were of course destroyed in HK on 8 December 1941 by the Japanese attack. 26 I have known anecdotally that a number of ex-HK POWs, who returned home post-war via Canada, fell in love with the country and emigrated there later. I read about one in more detail today on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page: “Arthur Turner… was a gunner with the 8th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery…When he was liberated in 1945, he was hospitalized with dysentery, beri beri, malaria, and severe malnutrition. While being repatriated to the United Kingdom he travelled by train from Esquimalt, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He fell in love with Canada and vowed to return and find work as a policeman. In 1947, he did just that by joining the Toronto Police Department where he eventually rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant at 12 Division. A respected leader, Turner was elected President of the Metropolitan Toronto Police War Veterans Association in 1974. He retired in 1983, and sadly died of a heart attack less than four years later.” 24 Antony Yeung, son of the last known survivor (in Hong Kong) of the Battle of Hong Kong, kindly gave me the bad news that his father – Yeung Ming Hon of the HKVDC Field Ambulance - passed away today. The press also carried the story. 23 John Patrick Maher’s (965 DB, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter contacted me. Fortunately I had in my files (thanks to Steve Denton) her grandfather’s own first-hand account of the sinking. 19 Henry Wong posted an interesting front page from the Winnipeg Tribune on facebook today. The main photo is well known, but I’m not sure that I’ve seen the one of Sutcliffe (bottom right) before. 18 Martin Heyes notes that he has just had his second paper (on the subject of Colonel Evan Stewart of the HKVDC) published in the respected Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society in the UK. He is working on a third paper which I will mention when it is ready. The Orders and Medals Research Society, HK Branch December 2022 Newsletter has also been uploaded to the Branch website and can be seen here. 15 Rather surprisingly, the Gibraltar Chronical today mentioned three of Hong Kong’s wartime soldiers. One of them (Gunner Joseph Viotto) had married Chow Tai Choy in Hong Kong on 1 November 1941 (the same day that two other Hong Kong gunners – James Brown and Ernest Bedford – also married their local girlfriends). 14 Today I helped the Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project with a special facebook post remembering internee baby Anthony Clark who died 80 years ago to the day, at the age of twelve days. It read: “Stanley Cemetery, 1945. A snapshot of the complexity of wartime family life. Dennis Clarke and his half brother Duane Liu, at the grave of Dennis’s brother Anthony Clarke who died 80 years ago today at Stanley Internment Camp aged just 12 days, having been born prematurely. His father was policeman Goscombe Goddard Clarke, and his mother was American Mildred Liu. Duane was born in Beijing in 1936, his sister Gardenia Liu was born in Hong Kong in 1940, and Dennis in Stanley in 1944. The children and their mother were interned in Bungalow A. Goscombe Clarke’s wife Joyce and their two children (Goscombe junior and Ann) had been evacuated to Sydney in 1940, while Mildred Liu had fled to Hong Kong that year leaving her husband in Beijing. After the war, Goscombe Clarke moved to the UK, and the Liu children didn’t make contact with their father (then in Taiwan) again until 1970. Goscombe passed away in Great Yarmouth, UK, in 2003, Mildred and Duane passed away in Los Angeles in 1979 and 2008 respectively, and Gardenia in Sherman Oaks, California, in 2018. Both Goscombe and Mildred remarried other people after the war. Dennis retired in 2010 after 45 years with Hilton Hotels, initially in the US but with his last eleven years as VP of Operations for Conrad Asia Pacific and Managing Director of Conrad Hong Kong. Despite Anthony’s name being correctly spelled in the original gravestone photographed, today he is recorded by the CWGC as Anthony Clark. We are currently working to rectify that.” 14 Today I was able to show Andy Salmon’s son Ken the animation that Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence made of a gunner’s life in pre-war Hong Kong, based largely on his father’s account. It’s clearly aimed at the younger viewers, but seems quite successful in that! Ken approved, which was what mattered. 13 A couple of good Old HK in Colour ‘then and now’ photos were shared on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today and I noticed that both had the same British warship in the background. HMS Anson, I believe. It got me to thinking that there really aren’t a lot of good then and now mash-ups from the period, which is a shame. Admittedly they are challenging as not too many photos have survived from 1941-45, but at the same time they are extraordinarily useful because the territory has changed so much since. 11 Tan was kind enough to let me know about the new SBE issue which (fortunately for us!) seems full of Second World War articles again. (Illustrated). 11 Unfortunately I have lost my notes for this one, but today I was sent a link to a Daily Mirror article about the sale of John Fraser’s George Cross a few years back. 7 The HKVCA Winter newsletter was published today. They also let me know that “the next HKVCA virtual event will be on January 17 at 08:30am (Hong Kong) / January 16 at 7:30pm (in eastern Canada). It will feature Dr Kwong Chi Man speaking about his Spatial History Project, and a complementary project presented by Nathan Kehler of the Canadian Research and Mapping Association, speaking about his group’s virtual mapping project to tell the story of the Canadian involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong.” The Zoom registration link is here. 6 I received a welcome email today: “I have read some of your writing about historical Hong Kong with great interest. My Grandparents and Great Aunt and Uncle were in Hong Kong when War broke out. My grandmother and her sister were evacuated to Australia and my Grandfather and my great Uncle were Japanese POWs and both families returned to Hong Kong after the war, continued bringing up children and living there until their retirement from the prison service when both families left for UK. I have just started thinking more seriously about the two sisters’ experiences as evacuees in Australia and how this impacted their lives. I have arranged to talk to my Mother’s cousin who remembers life at that time. So I just wanted to touch base and say hello! I'm just about to buy your ‘Book 4: The Evacuation’ on Amazon - really looking forward to it!” After a few questions and some research, I found that the grandmother and her sister (Connie and Floss) had both married men in the Prison Service, and this is what I have in my evacuee files:
Rosen, Robert S. Prison Officer Constance CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. Shirley A. 4 CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. June A. 1 CH M (i.e. Connie and Floss, and Floss’s two young daughters Shirley and June, were evacuated from Hong Kong, and then onwards from Manila on the Christiaan Huygens, disembarking in Melbourne - though unfortunately I lose track of them once they disembark). My notes say that Constance returned to Hong Kong on the Duntroon in August 1946 (together with Robert, who had joined her in Australia for convalescence after the Japanese surrender), and Florence and daughters returned on the SS Eastern in the same year. Fred Winterton’s right hand had been shattered in the fighting outside the police station in Stanley, and later had to be amputated. While discussing their experience, I pointed out that it’s also worth bearing in mind that quite a few evacuated women clearly found the experience liberating. In the pre-war years, life as a married western woman in HK could be quite stifling and dull. Some flourished when they had to take charge of their own lives in Australia, and many marriages failed because of this - and also, of course, the long separation and the fact that many of the menfolk were either killed or suffered what we’d now call PTSD. From my researches it seems that a bit more than half the evacuees stayed in Australia post war, one way or another. 5 I heard today that Christine Lindgren had dedicated a new memorial stone to her father (HK POW Wilfred Miles, RA). He is buried in St Non’s Church, llannon, Wales. She is intent that he should not be forgotten, so I thought I would mention him here. 5 I think I may have posted this before, but when I was searching today for something completely different I accidentally stumbled upon Kyoda Shigeru’s (master of the Lisbon Maru) fan at the National Army Museum. It’s amazing what turns up! I also found, under Apprehension of Suspected War Criminals, the following note about him: “Presently employed as pilot in Tokyo Harbour. Probable home address: 279 Jiyugaoka Meguro-Ku, Tokyo-To.” 4 Today we had the first Annual Canadian Memorial service at Sai Wan since 2019 (in fact I believe they had some form of ceremony in the two years in between, but because of Covid restrictions we were discouraged from attending). The attendance wasn’t huge, but that’s only to be expected after such a long break. It was good to see a high-level deputation from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission themselves there, including Sir Bill Rollo. I was also able to finally introduce myself to the new Canadian Consul, Rachael Bedlington. It didn’t dawn on me – despite the flurry of email confirmations in which it was clearly stated – that this was the 75th such memorial, until I read it on the programme when I arrived! As always, I walked around the cemetery taking photos of various graves as we waited for formalities to begin. 1 Justin Ho found some interesting letters (from Belgian Stanley internee Ernest-Pierre de Vleeschouwer) on eBay. Apparently the dealer specialises in 19th-20th century letters sent from and to China or Hong Kong. (One, two, three, four).
December 1st, 2022 Update
Statues at the HKMCD (both author), HKVDC Armoured Car (courtesy The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project)
Geoffe Clarke, RASC (courtesy Anthony Clarke), Cloake at Stanley and newspaper report (via Stephen Hutcheon)
November News I generally think of Hong Kong government-run museums as being wonderful big buildings in locations that would be worth a fortune, manned with abundant staff, budget, and resources, and containing just half a dozen exhibits and twenty or more colourful explanatory posters. And I compare that to when my sister was curator of the Wisbech & Fenland Museum in the UK in the 1980s, as the only member of staff, presiding over an ancient crumbling building crammed with amazing things (Napoleon’s tea set captured at the battle of Waterloo, a Zulu warrior’s kit – still crawling with parasites that had somehow survived since Victorian days, Dickens’s original ‘Great Expectations’ manuscript, a many-thousand-year old Egyptian bronze of Anubis the jackal-faced god of war, and so forth). But the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence falls nicely in the middle of these two extremes, and I was delighted to be invited this month to its reopening ceremony following post-Mangkhut repairs. They have done an excellent job! 30 Annemarie Evans today reminded me of her 2005 interview with Jack Etiemble about the Lisbon Maru. Apparently her programmes (such as this one) are available on MMIS. 29 Returning to DBS again, Debbie Lee Jiang posted a page from “Perpetuation”, their 120th anniversary booklet: “5) There have been many reports of Japanese soldiers seen sitting in corners and corridors. Many students also caught fleeting glimpses of dismembered heads of soldiers hanging in mid-air. The sounds of some strange march of perfect unison have often been heard in the dormitory. 6) Previous to 1968, there had been numerous sightings of a figure dressed in white standing motionless in front of the garage. In 1968, when the swimming pool was under construction, two sets of skeletons were found together with some Japanese swords (now in display). The sets of skeletons were removed and since then no more sightings were reported.” I don’t think anyone has yet compiled a full set of Hong Kong’s second world war related ghost stories, but they would make a pretty large volume: DBS, St Stephen’s College, Nam Koo Terrace, The Hong Kong Country Club, Dragon Lodge, there are no shortage of candidates. 27 I received a regular email update from Researching FEPOW History today. The book Captive Fathers, Captive Children sounds very interesting. This sort of research has often been discussed by the families of FEPOWs, but as far as I know it’s the first of its kind to be published.
24 Today the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, presented a Zoom talk about Project Avenger. Even though I was quite familiar with the story (Craig Mitchell took me to the crash site shortly after finding it, together with a small posse from EOD to detonate some Japanese ordnance located nearby), I still enjoyed hearing the details. It’s worth keeping up with the RAS as they have quite a lot of interesting talks, with Kwong Chi Man covering “Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997” next, on Tuesday 6 December. 24 As usual, while looking for something else entirely I found this fascinating colourised footage from towards the end of the Great War. It’s not, of course, directly related to this site’s subject, but may be of general interest.
23 Thanks to Franco Yeung, today I was invited to the re-opening ceremony for the Museum of Coastal Defence. It had been quite badly damaged in the Mangkhut typhoon of 2018, but clearly they have taken this as an opportunity for a major upgrade and overhaul. Strikingly, as you emerge from the lift to walk to the rotunda, various bronzes of soldiers loom out of the mist (it was a dirty grey evening), which gives a nice atmosphere. The building itself seems more spacious than it was, and despite of the attendance of numerous dignitaries, they had the kind good sense to give a single crisp speech, and then let a young a cappella group (who were very good) sing a few songs. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long enough for a proper look round, but I’ll be back. I bumped into Bill Lake and Rusty Tsoi there, and Admiral Chan Chak’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter. 22 On The FEPOW Family page, Anthony Clarke posted photos and details of his uncle Geoff Clarke, RASC. Clarke was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. He died of blood poisoning later in 1942 at Tokyo #2 Hospital. 21Justin Ho reports finding a ‘new’ veteran from the wartime HKVDC. More on that at the appropriate time. He also kindly passed me a link to the late Mr. Seah Tin Toon's (1922-2001) Interview, done by the National Archives of Singapore. It has five parts plus a transcript viewing option. 21 Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to follow (when I can) the careers of descendants of Hong Kong’s wartime garrison. Here’s an update on singer KT Tunstall (granddaughter of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru.) 20 Keith Andrews in the UK kindly put me in touch with Arthur Paul Glanvile’s (Stanley internee) daughter again. She was evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in July 1940 together with her mother and two sisters. On release from Stanley, not realising that his family had already retuned to the UK, he asked to be sent to Australia hoping to be reunited there. They were finally reunited late in 1945 in the UK. Sadly he died of TB (which he had whilst in the camp) in 1955. In Stanley he had the unique room identifier as ‘Lep.’ I wonder if this could have been the old ex-leprosarium, which might have made a makeshift TB sanatorium? 16 The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project today posted a good Japanese photo of a knocked-out HKVDC armoured car. I think it’s probably Bill Lowe's car: No. 1 Car (lost at Wong Nai Chong Gap, December 19th). The crew were: Walker, Charles Douglas, Sergeant Labrousse, Ernest Denys, Corporal Marriott, Henry Ernest, Private Lowe, William, Private Schouten, Klaus, Private. All survived, with Schouten (who was Dutch) being interned at Stanley, and repatriated with the Americans in June. 15 Today I was invited by the « Souvenir Français de Chine » and the General Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macau to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 2nd at 2:30pm. I believe it is invitation only, so interested parties should contact the Consulate. 15 Leading Seaman Moses McElroy’s (HMS Thracian, Lisbon Maru) daughter-in-law got in touch. 14 Walking in the Peak area this morning I took Governor’s Walk to get a photo of how the Mount Austin Barracks area looks today. The modern buildings are certainly a good deal less impressive than the Victorian monoliths they replaced. 13 Unfortunately a family commitment meant that I couldn’t join the Memorial Service at the Cenotaph this year, though I was told it was well attended. 13 DBS held their Garden Fete today, and Sunny Liu kindly posted a photo of their Roll of Honour. 10I downloaded the Recommendation for Award for John Pearce of BAAG from The National Archives in the UK (Catalogue reference: WO 373/101/397) free of charge today. That’s pretty good service! 9 Stephen Hutcheon on the Stanley Camp facebook page mentioned: “Here’s a photo I found on an Australian museum site showing Australians meeting at the Stanley Internment Camp after the Japanese surrender in August 1945. The caption on the back of the photo is partly removed”, but the legible part reads: “Countrymen meet. Australian journalist R.J. Cloake, xxxx Stanley Camp, Hong Kong, meets another Australian, J.H. Adams of Sydney with the coming of the reoccupation forces. Mr Cloake was on the staff of the South China Morning Post and brought out an issue of the paper day [sic] after the surrender to the Japs. He is nxxxx the job, ROYAL NAVAL OFFICIAL PHOTGRAPH”. With a good piece of detective work, he also found a newspaper column written by this journalist on his visit, published Tuesday 4 September 1945. 3 With reference to Mount Austin Barracks (see last month), my note reminded Rob Weir of “pictures I had of the Barracks, from one of my Kew visits… They cover both the ground and first floor but unfortunately a couple of the pictures are blurred. There are a couple of others showing overall plans” (Illustrated). So clearly Kew would be a good place to find further details. 1 Justin Ho found some interesting HKVDC signatures in the book The Portuguese Community in Hong Kong.
November 1st, 2022 Update
Lisbon Maru group (author), Lisbon Maru memorial at Zhoushan (both via Kent Shum)
Removed, War Illustrated (via CH Au), Takliwa document (courtesy Lloyds)
Bungalow D painting (courtesy Archibald Brown), Bungalow D photo (author), Mount Austin Hotel (via Internet)
October News Believe it or not, this time next year will be the twentieth anniversary of this monthly blog – making it one of the oldest continuously updated blogs on any subject in the world. I’ll have to create some special content for it – so come back in October 2023! Meanwhile it’s interesting to consider the two biggest changes (as far as this topic goes) over those 20 years. Firstly we’ve gone from having many veterans to talk to, to probably a single digit number. With the passing of Phil Doddridge this month (see the fifth), for example, we are down to two Canadians. I don’t now know of any surviving Brits or Indians, but of course they were generally regular soldiers who had already been in Hong Kong for a few years before the invasion, and thus were on average a little older than the Canadians. There could be a tiny handful still with us. Secondly, in the same period we’ve gone from having very little easily available information on this topic to having a plethora of online sources and books. How times change! 30 I received an email from Researching FEPOW History: “Here is your preview of the posts coming up in November on Rice and Shine. The Intrepid Theatre-Goer goes live on Wednesday 2nd November at 10:00 (UK time). In this post, read about Captain Wilkinson's opinions of the shows he saw once he was back on his feet and take a detailed look at the heavily praised show Hayfever.” 26 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that auction house Noonans (formerly Dix Noonan Webb) on 9 November 2022, as Lot 410, will be auctioning a group of five Medals (39-45, Pacific, War, Defence, and Army Long Service) of CQMS Thomas Bayly, B Company, 1st Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, who was a POW at Sham Shui Po, Nagoya, and Toyama, with an estimate of GBP 260 – 300. 24 Hazel Dolan, Corporal Albert Devonshire’s, Middlesex, daughter (you may recall that Timothy Rankin found her father’s tin hat and dog tag a year or two back, and we were able to reunite her with them) contacted me again, having read on this site that her father’s signature had appeared in a Canadian POW’s scrapbook. I was able to put the two together and she now has a copy. That’s really what this site is all about. 24 Rochdale Online today posted a little article about war memorials, which happened to include two local men lost on the Lisbon Maru. 24 Pete Starling kindly brought the journal, Canadian Military History, to my attention. In fact I was already familiar with it, and they published one of my papers a few years back. However, I wasn’t aware of the rather good search facility. 23 I heard from Lynne Williams: “It is a long time since I first contacted you about my stepmother's war experiences in Stanley Camp and I am very grateful for your help as well as for the information in your books. I thought you might be interested that I have finished a book about the first half of her life entitled ‘The Girl with the Butterfly Hands’. The publishing date will be the 17th November and it will be published both as an ebook and paperback. It is available online at Amazon and all the other book outlets (my favourite is Booktopia, of course).” Confusingly (though this was covered on this site last year, and is no doubt all explained in the book) the stepmother as variously known as Elizabeth Evelyn Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Evelyn Soo, Elizabeth Evelyn McGowan, and Chin Yu Williams. 21 C.H. Au posted a lot of photos from the 29 March 1940 edition of War Illustrated magazine, including one of two boom defence vessels working on Hong Kong Harbour’s outer defences. Does anyone recognize them? 19 Justin Ho reports: “Recently I have been trying to look for my granduncle's internment card using the Fold3 database. However, a huge chunk of HKVDC Chinese cards (Smuggler List #s 4362 - 4445) are not on Fold3. Based on my existing experience with such results, this generally suggests that they were stored in another place, i.e. British and commonwealth, colonial cards in National Archives; Canadians in Ontario Archives; Dutch O-20 Cards at Netherlands Archives. Do you by any chance know/ have heard of where the cards went?” I checked with Steve Denton, who knows more about Index Cards than anyone else I know, and he said he was 99% sure that he doesn’t have an index card at Kew. 18 I had an enquiry relating to Lance Naik Imam Din, 10638, 2/14 Punjabis. Apparently he may have been involved in some sort of POW resistance against the Japanese. Does anyone have any information? 13 I was contacted today by the nephew of James Connell Brown (Stanley Internee). Born 8 January 1908, he was an electrical engineer with the government, but worked for HSBC post-war and apparently married a fellow internee. He has inherited: “a collection of drawings and paintings by various members of the camp and some dated and signed. The most accomplished paintings have a signature of Ian Highet.” Highet was the banker Ian Campbell Hugh Highet, and signed himself ICHH. My correspondent continues: “There is a painting of some graves which seems to be a section of a larger painting. The grave names are A Raddy RRC Killed Dec 1941, Li Lin Dec 1941, Kenneth Evans killed 1941 and James Merry killed Dec 1941.” He kindly sent photos of several of these watercolours. One of Bungalow D at Stanley was particularly good, and almost matched the angle of a photo of the same building I took perhaps ten years back. 10 Two or three times a week I walk past the site of the old Mount Austin Barracks (previously the Mount Austin Hotel). As far as I can see there’s no trace of the old building now. It was knocked down soon after the war, and eventually had some very expensive flats built there in a gated compound. But I was interested to see what it was like, and found a decent photo on the Internet. It was certainly very large! You can see why the government bought the hotel (in 1897) and converted it to a barracks. It was still in use in 1941, when a Japanese shell set fire to a huge dump of .303 rounds there. 8 Lillian Randall got back in touch after almost twenty years, to state that she is still struggling to get her uncle, Sergeant George McCarthy’s, Winnipeg Grenadiers, memoir manuscript edited and hopefully published. I have been lucky enough to read through the whole thing, and hopefully can give useful advice. She also sent many photos and illustrations (McCarthy created many rather interesting pen and ink sketches, particularly of POW life). 5 Phil Doddridge, Royal Rifles of Canada, passed away today at the age of 100. He had visited Hong Kong a number of times, and I had met and interviewed him – and kept in occasional touch until recently, even if only via facebook. Colin Standish kindly sent this obituary link. 4 Shamas Munir (see last month’s query about Sabir-Ud-Din, 2/14 Punjab) notes: “Hancock was kind enough to send me a cutting from the Madras Weekly of 20 October 1945: ‘Eight hundred prisoners of war from Hong Kong who were rescued from the ill-fated S.S. Takliwa which caught fire and was abandoned off the coast of the Nicobar Islands last Monday while on its way to India, arrived in Madras Harbour this evening…’ The ship had been carrying 516 men of the Punjabis, 109 of the HKSRA, 153 of the HK Mule Corps (including Hancock), 19 men of the Rajputs, and 5 of the IMS. I copied the above script from your web site for reference. Can we get the names of these POW travelled to Madras, or any source to get these names?” It’s a good question. I have never seen a manifest for the Takliwa but it would be very helpful. I was able to find an interesting document on Lloyds Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre, and in fact they had quite a few others about this ship. I have also added Sabir-Ud-Din’s name to the Indian nominal roll on this website. 2 Today is the eightieth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. Kent Shum kindly let me know that the now-traditional commemoration ceremony took place at Zhoushan today, and sent several good photos. Meanwhile I prepared a montage of photos of a number of the POWs who were aboard, in the forlorn hope of getting a well-known magazine to run an article on the anniversary. 2 Brian Finch gave Lisbon Maru descendants this update: “I know many of you are keen to know about progress on the documentary film. There have been significant delays caused mainly by Covid and the restrictions that are very strict in China. But Laurel Films are continuing to work on the film and hope to release it next year. A recent Chinese press report includes some clips provided by Laurel Films, which will give a small taste of what to expect. You can see this here.” 2 Antonio Fragoeiro posted (to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) an interesting letter from the International Red Cross (illustrated), stating: “The opening of the ‘IRCC’ Hong Kong office. Until then the HK prisoner of war situation management was done by Shanghai.” 1 Lisbon Maru articles continue to show up in the Chinese press, this one under the title “Stories shared by Xi Jinping”. This included a broadcast from the new Lisbon Maru memorial which was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum last year. 1 The next HKVCA virtual event will be on November 21 at 7.30pm Toronto time (8.30am on November 22 for Hong Kong). The subject is “The PoW Experience in Hong Kong and Beyond. Noted Canadian historian and author Nathan M. Greenfield will discuss the differences in experiences between Canadian PoWs in Europe in both world wars and those of Canadian PoWs in Hong Kong. He will discuss issues such as the legal status of the different PoWs, forced labour, starvation, beatings, executions and resistance to their captors. He will also touch on PoWs held in Canada during WWII.” Here’s the Zoom registration link.
October 1st, 2022 Update
Yoshihara Seiyu POWs (courtesy Waldron family), Yoshihara Seiyu (courtesy Yoshiko Tamura), Bill Stoker senior's medals (courtesy Bill Stoker junior)
Stanley Journal (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Message for Nasty, Lost in China (author)
Here’s something that hadn’t really struck me before: the vast majority of people in the UK today have never seen – in circulation – coins bearing a monarch’s head other than that of Queen Elizabeth II. Yet when I was a child living there in pre-decimal days I found coins in my change with George VI’s head, George V, Edward VIII, and Queen Victoria - as well as the shiny new ones starting from 1953 with the ‘new’ Queen’s head. Coins found occasionally on Hong Kong’s battlefields are generally George VI, though of course Hong Kong’s coins also carried the Queen’s head from 1953-1997. And now, the world’s last head of state who actually served in the Second World War is gone.
Addendum: Please see the 10th for an important correction on the identity of BAAG Agent 75 last month.
28 I haven’t previously mentioned the Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project’s facebook page, but it’s well worth following. There was a particularly interesting story today on the civilian internee exchange ships.
26 I heard today that the Royal Geographical Society Hong Kong’s Gala Dinner 2022 features “The Battle and Occupation of Hong Kong 1941-1945” with guests of honour Philip Cracknell and David Bellis on Saturday, 22 October 2022. 26 The HKVCA’s live event today, on Captain Edmund Lionel Hurd, Royal Rifles of Canada, can be watched here (together with other recordings of previous events).
23 I received two gifts of books today (in both cases I was given the opportunity to read through them and make comments before publication): A Message for Nasty by Rod Fry, and Lost in China by Jennifer Dobbs. I can happily recommend both, and both have been described in earlier months. The former covers Vince Broom’s rescue of his wife and children from occupied Hong Kong, and the latter the death of Francis Dobbs in Causeway Bay in the fighting (and internment of his wife) and the effects on their two young children left behind in wartime mainland China.
22 I spoke to Elizabeth Ride today, for the first time in a while, mainly on the topic of Agent 75. 22 Lance Bombardier John ‘Red’ Bullen came up in conversation with Martin Heyes today, I had forgotten how late his MiD was granted, and why (but the story is covered here).
21 Ian Harrison contacted me again (see January 2022 for details). He and the family are still searching for an oil painting of Mrs Gordon Neve (GSO II Maj. G.E. Neve’s wife) which was presumably on the wall of their Married Accommodation in Hong Kong (most likely, I think, in Victoria Barracks, either the Cassels Block - originally called Block C and today the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre – or Wavell House - now the aviary education centre). It may have been taken by her on the evacuation to Australia, or more likely left behind to be looted during the occupation. Either way it has not been seen since and they would very much like to trace it on the off-chance that it wasn’t destroyed. What I had forgotten was that it was painted by quite an important artist, Frank Cadogan Cowper, and had been exhibited by the Royal Academy in 1930.
20 The Orders and Medals Research Society, HK Branch September Newsletter is now available here.
18 Another Lisbon Maru story here, this time in Shanghai Daily. President Xi has certainly done a good job publicizing the incident.
16 I mentioned some time ago that Perth Academy was working on a video memorial to all their old boys lost in the Second World War. I helped with details and some video footage for John Dickson, lost on the Jeanette. The video has now been completed and can be watched here.
15 Out of respect for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the virtual event "Lives Lived: Edmund Lionel Hurd" scheduled for Monday, September 19 was postponed to Monday, September 26.
12 I’m back in touch with Bill Stoker, having discovered (primarily thanks to Barbara Davies) that there’s a mistake in my HKVDC documentation. I have Bill Stoker senior listed as IC 7 Platoon, 2 Coy, but in fact he was IC 5 Platoon. (To add to the confusion, this Bill Stoker had a son called Bill Stoker who was a Hong Kong evacuee and later a famous post-war RAF jet fighter pilot, and my contact his that Bill Stoker’s son – also called Bill Stoker!) Bill Stoker kindly sent me a photo of Bill Stoker’s medals.
10 Last month I quoted a book called “Clock Tower Reminiscences” recently published by the Hong Kong Heritage Project, which stated that BAAG Agent 75 was W.H. ‘Hongkie’ Kwan. This is incorrect, and Elizabeth Ride has kindly sent me the following, together with more than sufficient evidence to show that Agent 75 was (of course – and I should have recalled this myself) Francis Lee. She notes: “I am truly sorry to have to pour cold water on the erroneous suggestion that Kwan was ever allocated the number 75. The fact is that my BAAG Register of FIG agents, authenticated by documentary proof, shows that the number 75 was conferred on Francis Lee You-Piu.” The publishers have quite correctly said: “We and the writer would like to extend our apologies for the oversight and will seek to rectify the fault when we reprint the book.” So it will be resolved, which is right and correct. 10 Craig McCourry sent out a new BattleBox film poster today, and also the link to the first-look teaser.
8 Someone pointed me to an old New Zealand newspaper article about Ana Reddish in Stanley. It’s more than 20 years old and has some odd points, but still worth a look. The BBC also has an article about the family. However, this doesn’t mention the son who died immediately after birth, who in fact I don’t seem to have heard of before and is not covered in any documentation that I can find. 8 The HKVCA published their Autumn 2022 Newsletter today. 8 A wartime mine was found and dealt with off Cape D’Aguilar this afternoon. 8 The death of Queen Elizabeth II today was a break in history. She was the last remaining head of state to have served in the Second World War.
7 The Stanley Journal magazine came up in discussion today. It was published in at least 1942 and 43, but no one seems to know how many (irregular) editions there were. I have two copies (or at least their front covers). Does anyone else have any?
3 I have been corresponding again with Yoshiko Tamura of the POW Research Network Japan. I sent her a number of high-resolution photos of POWs in Kobe from the Waldron Collection. Noticing that one of them showed ex-Lisbon Maru POWs at Yoshiwara Seiyu, she kindly sent me an archive photo of the factory. 3 The Lisbon Maru theme continues to reverberate in China, here and here.
1 I heard from RFHG (Researching FEPOW History Group) that “Registration for the 2023 Researching FEPOW History Conference in now open for all former delegates and mailing list subscribers. This gives you a month of early access before registration officially opens on 1st October 2022.” The Registration Form can be found here. 1 I had a welcome email from India asking why Sabir-Ud-Din, 2/14 Punjab, who died 26 November 1942 was missing from my files. It turned out to be a very good question. Eventually I realized that the original CWGC publication for Sai Wan’s Memorial to the Missing that I had worked with 30 or so years ago (when compiling my initial lists of personnel) had been missing an Addenda page which must have been produced later. I tracked it down and found it contained an extra 21 names. Eleven of them were BAAG, and I had them listed elsewhere. One was a post-war interment unrelated to my studies. Four were in my files already from other sources. The remaining five, aside from Sabir-Ud-Din himself, were: Constable A.K. Karamat, HK Police Reserve (Indian Coy), died 11 December 1944. Private Richard James Cox, HKVDC who was killed on 17 December 1941 (and whose brother Charles William Cox of 3 Coy was killed just days later - both were sons of Albert James Cox and Sophie Cox, of Hong Kong.) Gunner Naranjan Singh, 2 Mountain Bty HKSRA, died 28 November 1944. Constable Wali Dad, Hong Kong Police, died 9 February 1944. 1 Following on from last month’s post about the B24s that were lost while repatriating ex-POWs, Iain Gow (son of James Gow, Royal Scots) notes that: “My mother (my dad would talk to her, but, as was the way, not really to us about his experiences), for as long as I can remember always told us that on my dad’s repatriation flight, the bomb bay doors suddenly opened and some FEPOWs fell out. She maintained this was why he had such a fear of heights, even when, say, travelling along in a car on a road with a steep drop beside it. I also found the passage where a similar event was said to have taken place, the aftermath being seen by Kenneth Harrison, a FEPOW from Singapore, but imprisoned in Japan, flying from Okinawa to Manila and described in his book ‘The Brave Japanese’.” Iain kindly attached a scan of the page. Cicero Rozario, HKVDC (in his unpublished memoir), also mentioned that William Doxford, HKVDC, was lost in the same way, and another account said the same for Bombardier Arthur Compton who had been captured in Singapore. However, we know that both these men were in fact lost on Ginny. What makes James Gow’s report so compelling is that he said the bomb bay door incident was on his own aircraft. However, if anyone really was lost in this way they were not ex-HK POWs, as I can account for all of them. But this debate encouraged me to check my sources one more time to see if I could find any passenger manifests for such flights, and I did in NARA RG407 Box104 (illustrated) which was somehow filed under Philippines! Admittedly these appear to be flights concentrating ex-POWs on Okinawa (including Boswell, who once again tells the same story) before further flights to Manila, but even so it implies that somewhere in the NARA archives there may be full manifests (not just the MACRs for the aircraft that were lost) for the onwards route. I’ll find them one day and resolve this once and for all.