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
Fanling Camp 1941 (courtesy Derek Smith), William Tyner (courtesy Carol Campbell). Lisbon Maru cuttings (courtesy George Boote)
Kamaish Steel Mill and Gym (Grady affidavtit, courtesy Carol Campbell). .303 bullet in the hills (author)
John Officer (via Brian Finch), Pre-war buildings at Kwai Chung (courtesy Tan), Phillip Bruce's work (courtesy Steve Denton)
For as long as I can recall I have advised anyone beginning to be interested in the Battle of Hong Kong to start by reading the late Oliver Lindsay’s well known book, The Lasting Honour. Now, I wonder… Having earlier this month devoured Philip Cracknell’s excellent Battle For Hong Kong, I may have to change my tune. My only concern is whether the level of detail in this new work might overwhelm the newbie? It’s fine for all you HKWD aficionados, who will all recognise every name of every person and every place, but might it be a bit too much for someone truly new to the subject? I’m not sure. Perhaps I should recommend them both. Start with Lindsay to get you interested, and then move straight to Cracknell for the real thing!
29 A reader is looking for a copy of a newspaper article entitled: “Former war criminal hopes to thank Canadian POW”, from The Asahi Evening News of 27 July 1993. I know a lot of you have good archives, so does anyone have a copy?
28 Steve Denton, who has been corresponding with my old friends Iain Gow and Ian Inglis, asked about the late Phillip Bruce. Phillip, when I first arrived in Hong Kong more than thirty years ago, was then the preeminent amateur historian of Hong Kong in the war years. He wrote quite a few bits and pieces – and all of high quality. I have his Lyemun notes, and of course a copy or two of Second To None, but does anyone have all his Military History Notes? I know there were at least four of these. Sadly Phillip died young, but there is a nice obit here.
27 George Boote kindly notes: “Below is a book that I read over the summer, I picked the book up from the best second hand book shop I have ever been in which is in Brisbane. This summer I went to Rabaul and Guadalcanal as well as Japan again, passing through Ozz and Guangzhou (it’s 34 years since I was last in Canton). Neil Begley was imprisoned in Shanghai, but his parents were in Stanley, I checked in Greg Leck’s famous tome, and yes they are listed there. He was in HK at the start of the war and was shipped back to HK at the end of the war, although the book is not a specifically HK related book it’s well worth a read, there is a shocker at the end of the book which I won’t tell you about.” I am very grateful as I was not aware of this book. I have ordered a copy.
26 Philip Nelms’s (Middlesex) nephew got in touch.
25 I went for a walk in the hills this morning, and was fortunate enough to stumble over a spent .303 bullet still lying on the surface after all these years. I generally refrain from posting photos of ordnance of any sort on this site (as I try to discourage people from poking around in areas which were never cleared). However, just this once!
23 The October Java Journal of the Java FEPOW club reported on the sad passing away, a few weeks after her one hundredth birthday, of Joan Coxhead, wife of Hong Kong POW Geoffrey Coxhead. They also published an obituary of the latter, from 2000: “Geoffrey Coxhead, who has died aged 89, survived four years as a Japanese PoW to become headmaster of King's College, Hong Kong. An engagingly original teacher, Coxhead was also a talented sketcher and photographer, a first-rate chess player and a keen climber. Geoffrey Shervill Coxhead was born on May 10 1911, the son of the headmaster of Hinckley Grammar School in Leicestershire. He was educated at Oundle, Liverpool University, and University College, London. His first job, in 1935, was at the Cathedral School, Bombay. He moved to Hong Kong in 1940, arriving just as British women and children were being evacuated, and joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps as a part-time soldier. Called up in December 1941, he was a gunner on Stanley Peninsular, his gun facing impotently out to sea as the Japanese invaded from the mainland. The first months of imprisonment while still in Hong Kong were relatively benign. The prisoners set up a school, where Coxhead taught geography, and he founded a chess club, its members carving the pieces from any discarded wood that they could lay their hands on. Transported to Japan, Coxhead worked in the dockyards on Innoshima Island, on the Inland Sea, where he mitigated the horrors of hard labour on meagre rations by making exquisite drawings of the scenery and keeping an immaculate diary in tiny, but highly legible, writing. He scavenged for scraps of paper for sketching, and successfully hid the diaries beneath a loose board under his sleeping mat. They give a detailed record of life as a PoW. In one account he recalls how the prisoners were endlessly resourceful. One volunteered to clean the guards' hen house so that he could smuggle out the occasional egg at the bottom of a bucket of chicken manure, which the guards were far too fastidious to search; another scratched a small garden on waste ground where he planted pumpkin seeds. Survival, nonetheless, was a struggle, and many of Coxhead's fellow PoWs died of malnutrition and disease. He himself was severely injured in the dockyards when a keel fell on him. It took six fellow prisoners to free him, and he was hauled off to a doctor in a wheelbarrow. When the doctor ordered him to get up and walk, Coxhead fell down. Years later, an X-ray showed that he had fractured one of his vertebrae. Unlike many ex-Japanese PoWs, Coxhead never felt animosity towards his captors. He experienced sufficient acts of kindness to appreciate the distinction between individual Japanese and their government. On one occasion he was "resting" in the hold of a ship when he should have been working; two guards spotted him, threw him a packet of cigarettes and walked on. After the war, he returned three times to his place of imprisonment, and was always given a VIP welcome by the Japanese dockyard workers. Repatriated via Australia, he met his wife-to-be, Joan Osborn, on board ship. Travelling steerage, he had great pleasure each day turfing the first-class passengers out of their lounge in order to run a shipboard school. Geoffrey and Joan married in England and together returned to Hong Kong, where he resumed teaching. Fluent in Cantonese, he worked in a number of schools, finally as headmaster of King's College. He threw himself into school life, founding hill-walking societies, chess, photographic and arts clubs. With a colleague he wrote a popular series of school geography books. When he retired to England in 1967, he taught at Aylesbury for several years. Many of his former Chinese pupils would look him up when they visited England. From his young days he played chess to a very high standard. He was chess champion of Bombay in 1935 and of Hong Kong in 1952. Well into his eighties he continued to compete in the Hastings Chess championships. As a keen hill walker and climber, he explored the further reaches of Hong Kong's New Territories and seized his chances on home leave to climb in Britain and the Alps. He climbed the Cobbler in Argyll (classified as ‘difficult’) when he was 78. While his successor at King's College praised his tolerance, sincerity, gentlemanliness and humour, Coxhead could on occasion be testy. On his final visit to Hong Kong in 1995 he was waiting to go into lunch when he was approached by an affable stranger. ‘What’, asked the unknown man, ‘was your role in Hong Kong?’ Coxhead, who had just finished fielding reporters' questions, responded irritably: ‘What is your role in Hong Kong?’ ‘I,’ said his companion with a smile, ‘am the Governor.’ The stranger was Chris Patten and the two men then chatted for 10 minutes. Coxhead's excellent memory enabled him to recite extensively from Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare and the Bible. He is survived by his wife, Joan, and by their three children.” Joan’s father was a rubber planter who was interned by the Japanese and died in a Hellship sinking.
22 George Boote kindly sent me a set of newspaper clippings about the Lisbon Maru from the Daily Mirror in the 1960s. He found these in a set of documents originating with Lisbon Maru survivor Able Seaman Edward Tuffs. These aren’t – by a long chalk – the only ones that I have seen, so one can argue that the tragedy wasn’t really ‘forgotten’ at all. 22 Philip Cracknel has a new blog post, about PB 22 and Beach Defence Units.
20 Steve Denton has kindly been scouring wartime newspapers for photos of Lisbon Maru men. They’re obviously not of the highest quality, but still much appreciated.
19 Herbert Dinsdale’s (civilian internee) son got in touch, looking for details of his family’s pre-war evacuation to Canada. Unfortunately the only details I have are for the official evacuation to Australia via the Philippines. I’m not sure how best to advise on these private evacuations. 19 Donald McDonald’s (civilian POW) great nephew got in touch. He notes that McDonald was an ex-Naval man who worked as a civilian Wireless Operator in Hong Kong for the Admiralty Civilian Shore Wireless Service. Despite his civilian status, McDonald (and four others in the same capacity, John Bowes, Theodore Clark, Henry Jones, and James Tyson) were held in Shamshuipo POW Camp. I suspect all five must have been captured ‘on the front line’, namely, in their case, Stonecutters Island (where we assume they were all wireless operators as part of Y Section). 19 Working with Elizabeth Ride, I have been trying to understand more about the Overseas Chinese Volunteers Unit (OCVU), which appears to have been an anti-Japanese and anti-British group of primarily Malayan Chinese working in wartime China. It seems a very under documented group.
18Janet Sykes (daughter of Len Sykes, HKVDC) notes: “Hi Tony – I was looking at the diary for the first time in a while earlier in the week and spotted this post from January: “20 Leslie Coxhill’s (HKVDC) son got in touch, kindly sending images of a menu (from Hiroshima #5B, Innoshima, POW Camp). The menu is largely written in faux French, making fun of the Japanese, and it is signed by twelve other POWs. The only thing I don’t understand is that it is entitled ‘Victory Dinner’ and dated Tuesday October 24th, 1944. What is significant about that date?” This is the entry in my father’s diaries from that day: “Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Holiday. Up at 7 AM. Breakfast and Tiffin daikon top soup. Then a Red Cross dinner!! Wonderful eats: – hors d’oeuvres of daikon and pickled onion, a clear but excellent Red Cross soup, salmon cake, daikon tops well seasoned with red pepper, corned pork loaf pie (excellent taste), Rose Mill pate bun, a rice sweet decorated with jam, prunes and buttercream – very sweet and nice, then coffee. Everyone in excellent spirits. A Chesterfield and a letter from Arthur completed a wonderful day. Roll on the day when we shall have eats like this every meal. I nearly forgot, with the pie we had a piece of tongue each, about 2” square, a Nip issue, and that issue, all very welcome. 200 letters arrived altogether. Mr Pritchard saw a list in the camp office which he presumed was part of the nominal roll of the new prisoners due shortly. We had our tablecloth for dinner, also I used a knife and fork. Wizard.” My father didn’t use the faux French on that day – but he did a couple of weeks earlier: “Tuesday, October 10, 1944. Holiday. Beautiful day. Breakfast seaweed, Tiffin sweet potato tubes, then dinner! What a dinner: easily the best dinner we have had as POW. It was a wonderful effort. We started off with hors d’oeuvres Nipponaise (some daikon, tickled onion and pickled seaweed, served up nicely on plates for six persons) then Potage Miso (lots of miso and some barley): next came Salmon à la Orientale (15 tins of salmon mixed with rice): then Rissoles à la Mode de Prisoners des Guerres (meat pie in other words made from 13 tins of ham and eggs, two tin Spam, two tins Vogt, 12 tins Rose Mill pate), also ¾ bucket of Les plus belles feuilles des potatoes douces (sweet potato tubes): then Coupe McKenzie (a rice ball with chocolate sauce [15 bars of chocolate and one tin milk]): then Rigatto Americano – rice and cheese ball made from 13 packets of cheese and finale of two ladles of coffee (10 tins coffee and one tin milk). Excellent meal: words fail me. A Chesterfield followed, then the news!! Boy, wonderful news. We have pushed 100 miles into Germany to Reutlingen in a direct line from unit: more wedges in the Aachen and Arnheim areas: headlines say ‘Allied ring Titans around greater Germany, situation critical.’ It is certainly getting near the end. Let’s hope it comes next week. Bill Gegg moved into room five leaving us with 29 men in our room.”
17 I spoke to Elizabeth Ride in Norway today, and we agreed that on a regular basis she will pass me a “Story From the Ride Collection” which I will post to the BAAG facebook page. We started today with the fascinating story of the Brooms. Next we will do ‘The Bankers’.
16William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter kindly got in touch again, sending a photo of James Downs’s medals (illustrated).
14Today I finished reading Philip Cracknel’s new book, Battle For Hong Kong, which I promised to review this month. One of the main challenges with writing about this battle is of course the fact that so much happened simultaneously in different places entirely separate from each other. So do you structure your narrative chronologically? Or by unit? Or by place? There’s no perfect answer, but Philip has chosen a sound compromise of parcelling up actions into logical groups, and ordering those groups as close to chronologically as possible. Of course there is some overlap, but nothing that gets in the way of understanding. And I have to say that anyone wanting to understand the battle of Hong Kong need look no further. This book does a truly excellent job of telling this complex story as clearly and completely as possible – in fact I don’t know of any better (and I pride myself on having at least one copy of every known book on the topic). The first half of the book is good and comprehensive, but the second half excels in a can’t-put-it-down way. Some descriptions – and the East Brigade Counterattacks spring immediately to mind – are the best I have read, clearly aided by Philip’s strong understanding of the battlefield topographies. The book is also aided by a large number of clear battlefield maps, though one more map – Wanchai Gap to Wong Nai Chung Gap, showing Black’s Link and Mounts Cameron and Nicholson - would have been helpful. Aside from that, all I can find to be ‘negative’ about (I can’t make this a hagiography!) is that there are perhaps half a dozen typos which could easily be corrected for the next edition. And they should be, because this book is going to be very popular, and rightly so.
12 Derek Smith, son of HKVDC Signalman Norman Smith, got back in touch noting that he had found a number of group photographs, including his father, labelled Fanling in 1939, 40, and 41. In this 1941 photo his father is in the back row, second from right.
9I received confirmation today that Volume 59 of JRASHK was published last week, including my paper estimating the number of Hong Kong Chinese civilian fatalities caused by the war, and my review of Tin Hats and Rice, A Diary of Life as a Hong Kong Prisoner of War, 1941–1945 by Barbara Anslow, Hong Kong: Blacksmith Books, 2018, 372 pages. ISBN 978-988-77927-4-1, HK$138 and The First Shall Be Last, The War Journal of John Charter and Memoirs of Yvonne Charter, Hong Kong 1940–1945 and Stanley Civilian Internment Camp by Anthony Crowley Charter Surbiton, UK: Grosvenor House Publishing Company, 654 pages. ISBN 978-786233967, £17.99. (By the way, I hear from the family that Barbara is rather poorly at the moment, so I wish her well).
6 I learned today that Francis Crabb passed away at 02.40 on the morning of Sunday 18 August. The funeral will be held on Thursday 12 September 2019 at 11.00 at Basingstoke Crematorium, Manor Farm, Stockbridge Road, Basingstoke RG25 2BA. He was 96, and to the best of my knowledge was the last survivor of the wartime 2 Coy HKVDC.
5 Tan notes that he has discovered that the Salvation Army site at Kwai Chung existed before the war and includes some shelter like structures. Does anyone know if they were used during the war? By my calculation they could have been in either B Coy or D Coy Royal Scots territory. 5 Brian Finch, continuing in his research into the Lisbon Maru, has been given a fine colour portrait of Major John Moore Officer, RAMC, whose tragic death on the rocks of the nearby islands was witnessed by so many.
2 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that Marlow's Military Auctions, 12th September 2019 are offering a group of five medals (Indian General Service Medal with clasp NWF 36 - 37, 39 - 45 Star, Pacific Star War Medal, and Defence Medal) to 11272 Sepoy Mohd Din 2/14 Punjab Regt. KIA 18 December 1941 and Commemorated at Sai Wan. Estimated at GBP 80 -120, as Dave says: “Medals to this Regiment for Defence of Hong Kong are rarely seen.” I looked around and saw that the same group were last auctioned in 2013.
1William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter got in touch, noting that she: “was very interested to see your mention on your August update of 14th July, of the medal collection of James Downs which was for sale via auction. What a pity I missed it, I would have been interested in perhaps buying it! My grandfather William Tyner and James Downs did, as you say both die on 10th August 1945 following the Allied shelling of the camp at Kamaishi”. She also very kindly set a photo of Mr Tyner and an Affidavit by Major Frank Grady (US Signal Corps) who was the senior Officer at the time of the allied bombardment at Kamaishi. Grady noted, immediately after the shelling stopped at around 16:00: “Investigation showed that men from the camp were scattered all over the waterfront and also along the river, huddled behind logs, in shell holes, etc. Many were badly burned, including Dr. Pijma. The air raid shelter, which had been wood-lined, was still burning. We found two bodies. The body of Cpl. Earl H. Gaskin, an American, was found in the one-third section of the shelter that was uncovered. He apparently had fallen in while trying to run away. J.F. Gaspers, a Dutch prisoner who had been badly wounded in the first raid, was found in the compound, burned to a crisp. Five more prisoners died subsequently from their burns: James W. Downs, British, 10 August 45, William C. Tyner, British, 10 August 45, William H. Brodie, New Zealand, 10 August 45, Robert Wilkin, American civilian, 24 August 45, Teunis Ruiter, Dutch, 25 August 45. I wish to remark on the case of Downs, who was a medical orderly. Although I did not witness it myself, I was told by other – Dr. Pijma, and two other orderlies, Langlaan and McElroy – that Downs received the severe burns from which he died because he stayed behind to help the patients evacuate from the air raid shelter.” I wonder if Tyner might have been lost in exactly the same way? And, as so often happens in history, how odd it is to be watching the Rugby World Cup games played at Kamaishi today with this in mind.
September 1st, 2019 Update
Elizabeth Ride & Rowena Banham (author), The Arden Seven (courtesy Ben Chong), Mount Austin Barracks (via Internet)
Smokes for Wounded (courtesy TK & Tai Hang Wong), Chieng Lee Hai and document (courtesy Justin Ho)
Stanley Aerial (courtesy Philip Cracknel), MacAlarney POW Index Card (courtesy Steve Denton), Sir Mark Young (via Tim Page)
The greatest thing about history is that, in practice, there is an infinite amount of it. My summer holiday reading was Viking Britain by Thomas Williams, Lords of the Desert by James Barr, and an oldy – Wing Leader by AVM Johnnie Johnson. The last was just for fun, but the previous two were surprisingly relevant. Vikings was timely, because while visiting Elizabeth Ride in Norway earlier in the month we were also able to visit the incredible Viking Ship Museum in Olso. Lords of the Desert was also apt because although it deals with the post war period, its thesis (America’s attempts to stop British influence over oil production in the Middle East) was similar to that of America’s attempts to stop Hong Kong returning to British rule after the Japanese surrender. And that happened to be a topic our younger son was studying for school over the holidays. As they say, history never repeats but it certainly echoes! And with that little heap of books out of the way, finally I was able to pick up Philip Cracknell’s Battle For Hong Kong. I am already half way through it. I’ll review it properly next month, but my initial impression is extremely positive.
27Brian Finch kindly put me in touch with the family of Eric Gladstone Phillips (RA, Lisbon Maru).
25 A number of people have followed up on my mentions of shooting part of a TV documentary with ‘a celebrity’. Well, although I still can’t give any details, I see it’s now in the public domain. It was Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance. 25 Many years ago I was based for six months at RAF Boscombe Down in the UK, and though not a big facebook user I belong to a relevant page. Someone there posted an article about the famous lady pilot Jean Bird. I had not previously put two and two together, but Derek Bird confirmed that she was the sister of Captain Godfrey Bird, RE, who was a POW in Hong Kong. So just FYI, here are the details: “Jean Bird (8 July 1912 – 29 April 1957) was a pioneering pilot and the first women to get her RAF wings. Jean Lennox Bird was born in Hong Kong on July 8, 1912, daughter of Lt Col. Lennox Godfrey Bird who was an architect with multiple buildings to his name in Shanghai. She took up flying when she was just eighteen. She trained at Hampshire Aeroplane Club in Hamble, in 1930. Her father retired in 1935, eventually to Old Farm, in Beech, England. By the time war broke out in 1939 she was an experienced pilot. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as assistant section leader in 1940 and remained there for a year until she was able to join the Air Transport Auxiliary as a First Officer on 1st August 1941. Bird worked there until the organisation was closed down at the end of the war on 30 November 1945. Like many of the women pilots Bird then joined the Women’s Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. When she joined the reserve force was training women as fully qualified pilots. Bird was the first of these to receive their RAF Wings. By the time she qualified Bird had 3,000 hours in more than 90 different types of aircraft. She was awarded her wings on 20th September 1952 at Redhill Aerodrome. She was also a member of the 3rd Hants (Alton) Battalion of the Home Guard from December 1955, one of 16 women to do so. She also worked with the Women’s Junior Air Corp training women to fly and she was a glider pilot. Bird was never one to let establish gender stereotypes hold her back. She managed to get membership of the all-male RAF Club in Piccadilly by not identifying her gender. Her membership was rejected as soon as it was discovered she was female. While a reservist Bird was working for Meridian Air Maps doing photographic survey work. While surveying the proposed route of a new road the plane she was flying, an 'Aerovan' twin-engined freight plane, crashed and she was killed on 29 April 1957. The verdict on the incident was accidental death although evidence was shown that the airplane had been incorrectly fitted with a spare part. She is remembered with the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy, a Chinese antique carving in jade, commemorating her learning to fly in Hong Kong. It is awarded annually to a British woman pilot who has achieved a noteworthy performance in aviation by the British Women Pilots’ Association.” Derek also let me know the details of many other famous members of his family. I suggested he write a book about them as they really were an extraordinary bunch!
24 Ben Chong posted an interesting photo to facebook. It shows a Canadian memorial which I was unaware of, to “The Arden Seven” – which included Ed Shayler and George Peterson who have both visited Hong Kong. 24 A member of Sir Mark Young’s family has joined the Battle of Hong Kong facebook group, sending a well-known photo of him. 24 Steve Denton has found what appears to be another mistake in CWGC files for the Lisbon Maru. John McAlarney should be John MacAlarney. Such swaps of ‘mc’ and ‘mac’ are not unusual, but of cause play havoc with modern computer sorting.
22 I heard today from the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (HKMCD). They note that they are currently closed while they undergo a revamping project involving a renewal of the permanent exhibition. They expect to re-open probably in late 2020.
19To answer a reader’s question, does anyone know where the Corps of Military Police was barracked in Hong Kong in 1941?
14Setting off on an early morning walk I noticed a family of blue magpies scolding something. Foolishly I looked up into the tree to see if there was a rat snake or similar bothering them, before looking down and coming face to face with a large adult masked civet cat! (Illustrated). They are normally very shy, but this one was scrounging around a place where people put out food for feral domestic cats. That walk always ends up with me coming down Mount Austin Road, and I always look for ‘cooked off’ bullets in any diggings because when the barracks were hit (and I just came across a good photo of the damage) a fire started and a huge cache of .303 rounds went up. Usefully for interpreting the photo, the large house at bottom left (Haystack) still exists, and is today the Japanese consul's residence.
11 Years ago, my younger son and his school friends shot quite a good video about the Battle of Hong Kong and put it on YouTube. Somehow an old email account of mine must have been attached to it because today I saw this notification from a Maureen Grimshaw: “Thank you for this very good video. My father was captured by the Japanese and taken to Japan on the Lisbon Maru. My mother was a young Jewish girl from Shanghai. She spoke little about her experiences which is understandable, but there is a period I have always been baffled over. I believe my father deserted the British army and married my mother in 1939 app. I am curious how they managed to stay together in the period from 1939 to probably to December 1941. He was working for the Royal Dockyard Police. Can you tell me anything about them, and if he could have been posted on Hong Kong Island during the months before the invasion? I was born in Kowloon, on Highgate Hill Road in April 18th 1942. My father was already in one of the camps by then before being shipped to Japan.” Unfortunately I can’t respond to it and there was no email address in the comment. If anyone knows Maureen, please ask her to email me directly.
9 On the BAAG group, Elizabeth Ride notes: “Hugh Farmer has kindly posted the next Shipping report, which you will find [here]. I quote this passage from LTR's postwar report to Whitehall: ‘Despite these conditions, the full functions of H.Q. were carried out throughout this move, and the weekly printing of K.W.I.Z. – sometimes printed during a halt on the road-side – was maintained unbroken. It was an achievement only possible in a unit of high morale, and whose officers were actuated by the utmost devotion to duty.’ P.S. Please note that the two agents mentioned are HALO and DANTE. Has anyone any information about the identity of these two agents? They were obviously members of the very successful J Group, under Mark Tsui.” This is a good illustration of my point below.
6 The family of Chiang Lee Hai, Raymond and Chiang Lee Hin (both HKVDC) got in touch (Chiang Lee Hin, Sim Beck Hoe, Lee How Fong, and Leow Hock Yew were kept under house arrest at May Hall in Hong Kong University until they tried to escape in 1943. Sim Beck Hoe ‘died in prison’ while Chiang Lee Hin and the other two were executed). They believe that Chiang Lee Hai worked for BAAG, but I can’t find his name in any records, and nor can Elizabeth. However, it’s worth remembering that many BAAG personnel are only known by their agent numbers or code names, and we don’t yet know their names. Chiang Lee Hai had survived the 5AA Bty massacre. They also sent a very interesting and useful set of photos and documents, and in return - if anyone has one – would like a group photo of 5AA Bty.
4 Today we took the subway in Oslo from Nationaltheatret to Borgen, jumped on a bus there, and alighted just outside Elizabeth Ride’s very nice place in the suburbs. She has a lovely flat, with a balcony giving views down towards the city. It was really a social visit rather than a ‘working’ (or BAAG research) one, but it was very nice to see her again and talk about old times in Hong Kong. I hadn’t been to Norway for forty years, and had forgotten how nice it is.
3Philip Cracknel’s latest blog describes what happened at No. 2 Battery HKVDC (Bluff Head - Stanley) during the defence of Hong Kong in December 1941. He included a very good aerial photo of Stanley Fort and peninsular, which I had not seen before.
2 The BAAG facebook page continues to grow its membership. It consists of both family members of BAAG personnel and people like me who are simply very interested. A member of Dougie Clague’s family is the latest to join. 2 TK and Tai Hang Wong are in Glasgow attending a family wedding. They note: “Inside a secondhand book that I bought is a surprising bonus bookmark left by the first owner in 1943. Was there a similar morale boosting campaign for POWs and civilian internees in HK and Far East?” What an interesting question! As far as I know there was not, but cigarettes (primarily from the Red Cross) did of course get into the camps. I somehow doubt that modern medical professionals would approve of this sort of ‘charity’…
August 1st, 2019 Update
Battle for Hong Kong (author), Lisbon Maru Memorial book (courtesy Steve Denton), Pio-Ulski letter (courtesy Nona Pio-Ulski Langley)
Vibe's medals, POW chop (both courtesy Frode Olsen), Excerpt from BAAG Benny Xavier report (courtesy Elizabeth Ride)
Alison & Tim Luard (courtesy George Chanduloy), Japanese 'evacuation' summary (courtesy Chi Man Kwong), Jack Hughieson (courtesy Brian Finch)
First of all my apologies for the late posting of this month’s blog, though that’s not unusual for July. We were on holiday in the UK and then spent the first few days of August in Oslo, Norway, where we visited Elizabeth Ride - but I’ll cover that in the August edition.
29 Brian Finch kindly sent a set of photos of Jack Hughieson. Many of the Lisbon Maru survivors seem to have led rather colourful post-war lives, but none more so than Jack! But I will have to leave the details until after the TV documentary is finished.
28 Alexander MacDonald asked for a copy of my paper about Bungalow A’s role (at St Stephen’s College) in the Stanley Internment Camp. Unfortunately as I am travelling in the UK at the moment I can’t send him a copy. However, I discovered that it is available online here.
27 Martin Heyes has an explanation for the ceramic memorial pot recently found at the Shing Mung Redoubt (see April): “Just a very quick line to say that the ‘mystery’ of the ceramic pot inside the metallic box, buried outside the AOP at the Shing Mun Redoubt, has now been solved! I showed a couple whom I took up there yesterday the item. One chap looked under the pot and found a couple of Polaroid photos of a dog wrapped there. They explained that the pot contains the ashes of somebody’s favourite pet. Quite why the ashes should be buried there, I don’t know. Perhaps someone liked taking the pooch for walk on the Maclehose Trail?!”
24 Celebrated my sixtieth birthday at lunch at the Victoria Hotel, Holkham, Norfolk, UK, with my family. How time flies! I was only twenty-nine when I arrived in Hong Kong…
23 Steve Denton kindly sent me this link to an interview with my friend Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) conducted by another friend, Meg Parkes!
20 This evening we flew to the UK for a two and a half week holiday, so the blog for the remainder of this month will be shorter than it generally is. However, as we were packing, the doorbell rang and Philip Cracknel’s book arrived! I already have a reading list for this trip, so will have to review it next month instead.
19I had a nice email from that TV company I mentioned in the May update: “I wanted to say a huge thank you for all your help and your contribution to the film with [Mr X]. Your knowledge and expertise is absolutely invaluable to us. I watched a rough cut on Friday and the scene with you and [Mr X] is totally brilliant. [Mr X] told me that he found it incredibly fulfilling and rewarding meeting you. I know you also went out of your way to do the walk with him to North Point and have been in liaison with him since. We really couldn’t have made this film without you - so thank you so, so much.”
16 My copy of Bold Venture, a new history of the American wartime bombing of Hong Kong, arrived a few days ago and I just finished it. I’m not quite sure what to say about it, as it is so different from how I would have written such a book that I found it disappointing. It’s told in a sort of narrative non-fiction style, and didn’t have anything like the detail that I was hoping for. For example, the huge and complex US Navy attacks of 15-16 January 1945 are briefly mentioned as part of a single paragraph, whereas Emily Hahn’s repatriation to the States (which really has nothing to do with the bombing of Hong Kong) gets one and a half pages.
14 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that: “In SPINK 24-25 July 2019 at Lot 169, medal group of three (39-45, Pacific and War) to the above, awarded MID for services in enemy hands, died Yokohama 20.8.1945! Estimate GBP100 - GBP140.” The Spink catalogue reads: “169 Three: Private J. W. Downs, Royal Army Medical Corps, who went ‘in the bag’ on Christmas Day 1941 at the Fall of Hong Kong, later spending almost four years as a Prisoner of War; he died just 10 days after liberation having endured nearly four years of brutal treatment in Japanese internment camps. 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; War Medal 1939-45 with M.I.D. oak leaf, unnamed as issued, with original Mentioned in Despatches Certificate in the name of ‘Private J. W. Downs, Royal Army Medical Corps’, dated 23 January 1947, good very fine (3) £100-140 James Westby Downs was born on 28 October 1913, the son of John and Margaret Downs, of 78 Grafton Road, Keighley, Yorkshire. Taken prisoner at the Fall of Hong Kong, he died on 20 August 1945 and is buried at Yokohama War Cemetery, later being posthumously ‘mentioned’ for his services whilst in enemy hands (London Gazette 23 January 1947, refers); sold together with copied C.W.G.C. casualty details and Japanese P.O.W. records.” However, according to my research for WSST, the date is an error for 10 - August - 1945, when Downs was killed by an Allied bombardment of Kaimishi.
12Frederick George Lee’s (RN) family got in touch, thinking he served on Tamar whereas in fact he was on HMS Robin. Lee was MiD as a POW, but unfortunately I don’t know why. Does anyone know where the details of MiDs are kept? In this case it’s the navy, but I would be interested in the other branches too. MiDs are gazetted, but without citations.
11 I now have the draft script of the Lisbon Maru TV documentary to study. So far it looks pretty good.
8George Black’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 8 Steve Denton kindly shared all his Lisbon Maru personnel files with me. This makes a very useful library which must have taken hundreds of hours to compile. He is also working on a Book Of Remembrance for the Lisbon Maru, which I think looks very good.
6 Nona Pio-Ulski Langley posted her mother’s ‘POW thank you’ letter on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. This makes four of these now in my collection. (See December 2018).
5 I will keep the details anonymous, but Brian Finch’s efforts to tack down Lisbon Maru families and get their stories keeps turning up amazing (and often sad) tales. Today he related one of a survivor who never recovered from the trauma of his experiences (which, aside from the sinking of the ship, included being shot in the head), tried to murder his wife in 1960, and spent the remainder of his life in prisons and an institution for the criminally insane. 5 George ‘Felix’ Chanduloy notes that he met Alison McEwan and (husband) Tim Luard in London last month, and kindly sent a photo. George is on the right. Alison is of course the daughter of Colin McEwan, and Tim Luard wrote the book about the MTB escape. 5 The HKVCA note that: “There will be a ‘Memorial Service’ in Ottawa to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the end of the war in the Far East on August 15th, 1945. We will be holding the service on Saturday, August 17th, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the ‘Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall’ on Sussex Drive (at the corner of King Edward Avenue). There is parking across the street at the National Research Council.” (Details can be seen on the calendar link here).
4 Danish researcher Frode Olsen (author of Ikke En Jordisk Chance) notes: “As you know, Christensen, Jorgan (Jørgen) Vibe Gunner 4689 NP (XD6) was sent to Sendai POW camp No 2 in August 1944. From his niece in Washington I have received a photo of a small item Jørgen Vibe Christensen kept in a frame (see below) together with his medals from WWII. It is a wood token of a kind, which Jørgen mentioned as his ‘prisoner’s chop’ from his time as Japanese POW.” I don’t recall seeing one of these before. But I suggest it’s not a wooded token, but an actual ‘chop’ (i.e. is a Chinese version of the sort of seals that Europeans would use on wax. However, it worked more like a printing press using ink). I guess that if you looked at the square section on the base (right side) of this wooden stick you would find it embossed with his POW number (199) in Japanese / Chinese characters. It could be 百九十九 or 一九九.
3 Today I met Kwong Chi Man for a chat at the private library called "Nose in the Books” in Causeway Bay. Nice location! Chi Man explained some very interesting research he is looking at, which hopefully I can assist with. The strangest thing about the conversation was the discovery that we are both visiting Elizabeth Ride in Norway next month, just days apart! He also kindly gave me a Japanese document showing how many Hong Kong people they ejected from the Colony during the war. It came to 1,094,754, which is remarkably close to the most likely estimate (1,061,613) that I established in a recent paper for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 3 Jim Trick kindly pointed out that I had spelled the late Gerry Gerrard’s name incorrectly at one point in last month’s blog, and also that my list of surviving Canadian Hong Kong Veterans was outdated. It should read: Lance Corporal Robert BARTER, Rifleman Philip DODDRIDGE, Rifleman Hormidas FREDETTE, Rifleman Eugene LAPOINTE, Sergeant George MACDONELL, Rifleman Ralph MACLEAN, who were all of The Royal Rifles of Canada, and Corporal George PETERSON of The Winnipeg Grenadiers. 3 Elizabeth Ride told the BAAG group: “Recently, a researcher asked whether the Ride papers had any information about a man named Benny Xavier. I sent him this [investigation] about Xavier by the BAAG Counter Espionage division. The document is difficult to read, but some of our Group may be interested in this aspect of our many-faceted BAAG. The CE papers are still classified in the Australian War Memorial Ride papers until 2021, but are accessible on WO 343.”
1 July the first being the handover holiday, I took my usual long walk over the hills and spent some time using a large stick to brush some of the mud off the lower part of the path up High West. The local wild pigs have really made that area their home, and in case anyone has any doubt as to who the culprits are, they thoughtfully left some nice clear trotter prints! (Illustrated).
July 1st, 2019 Update
Ex-Chindit Wong Shing (via facebook), Li Mak Yuen's medals (courtesy Leo Lee), Whitfield book (author)
Fredette & Standish, Fredette's mementoes (both courtesy Colin Standish), James Gilbert cover (courtesy Bill Lake)
Chinese Civilan Memorial (author), BAAG Group with names (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Komorova grave (author)
The Komaroff story (see below) is another reminder of just how much I don’t know about the Occupation years. One thing I should do is check the Hong Kong Cemetery (Colonial Cemetery) graves register, and the registers for other formal cemeteries. I have also ordered the book Bold Venture. While it has had mixed reviews, at the moment there is very little literature about the American bombing of Hong Kong.
26 Today I visited the old Colonial Cemetery to get photographs of the Komoroff / Komorov / Komorova grave. I found it easily enough, very close to the Stubbs Road entrance, and surrounded by a number of other Chinese and Russian burials from the occupation years. On the way back I passed through the botanical gardens and took a photo of the war-damaged memorial to Chinese civilians lost in the world wars.
25 Barbara Harding kindly sent me an extract from Leo Landau’s diary in which he describes seeing USAAF pilot Lieutenant Kerr being shot down on 11 February 1944: “Today was the most thrilling as yet in camp. I saw my first dog fight and a plane coming down smack into the sea and a pilot bailing out at a high altitude.”
24 Iain Gow kindly noted that he had found the Australian War Crimes Affidavits for Kobe house: “There are some interesting details of the camp layout, and one talks about new prisoners being kept in the ‘oval’ (presumably the ground of the Kobe British Cricket Club across from the camp) until they could count up to 50 in Japanese. It’s weird seeing guard names one of my father’s friends used to mention, and on a more somber note, there is a description of how bodies were cremated in barrels (top of page 52), re-iterating that’s why my Dad would never join in with the song ‘Roll Out the Barrel’.” 24 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent the BAAG group an annotated photo of some the BAAG agents who were connected with AHQ Waichow.
21 Colin Standish kindly sent me this obituary of Gerry Gerard. 21 The Java Club Special Edition today included a nice obituary of Stanley Internee William Macauley. 21 Paul Astroshenko kindly helped me with the Komaroff inquiry. He notes that his: “parents knew the Komaroffs. Most of the family were killed by an American bomb on Nathan Road in the first American air raid in Hong Kong. They had an infant son, Vitaly Komaroff, who was not with them. He was adopted by a couple, Felix and Claire Suter. Felix was Swiss and Claire was French. The Komaroff family who were killed on that fateful day are buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley.” Note that the gravestone’s inscription is in Cyrillic, and the transliteration reads Komarov. These unfortunate people are not in any of my files, which make me think a) they must still have had Russian nationality at this time, and b) there may be other third-nationals missing from my files. It would be fascinating to do a study of all known wartime civilian burials in Hong Kong’s official cemeteries, although this would only be a tiny percentage of overall deaths. By the way, Paul has a website in which he has documented his childhood experience of this particular bombing raid.
19My copy of Hong Kong, Empire and the Anglo-American Alliance at War arrived a couple of days ago and I just finished it. There are a few mistakes and some assertions you could question, but bearing in mind that it was written more than twenty years ago it actually does a pretty sound job of explaining why, against Roosevelt’s best efforts, Hong Kong reverted to British rule instead of Chinese. Definitely worth a read.
16 Brian Finch let me know that an interview that he did in November 2017 with Hong Kong Radio 3 (about the Lisbon Maru) has finally been broadcast, and is also available on this link.
15 John Baxter, who I assisted with information about Charles Bennett, RE (see last month), has cleared up a minor mystery. Quite a lot of the POW Index Cards from Japan state that the ex-POW in question was handed over to “John Martin” of the US Army after liberation. He has discovered that this John Martin was himself a medic and an ex-POW, namely Major John J. Martin, 41st Infantry Regiment, and had been in Oeyama and Chikko.
14All credit to Steve Denton for leading the charge by taking my file of everyone aboard the Lisbon Maru, and going through thousands and thousands of documents to eliminate my mistakes, errors in the Shamshuipo POW list, errors in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database, and a handful of really tricky questions of mistaken identity (sometimes accidental, sometimes not…) The end result is that we now have a finalised list of exactly 1,816 checked and rechecked names. There could well be a few spellings still to perfect, but aside from that the work is complete. Interestingly, 1,816 is the number that the Japanese claimed all the time. 14 Bob Tatz’s book is now available on Amazon.
13 On facebook someone shared a fantastic IWM photo of British Commandoes and a small Chinese lad guarding the Happy Valley racecourse in September 1945. It had been ‘colourised’ by Benjamin Thomas, who did a truly excellent job (illustrated). 13 Elizabeth Ride notes: “For several years, Hugh Farmer's excellent website 'Industrial Hongkong' has been publishing BAAG agents' reports on naval and shipping matters in occupied Hongkong. If any of the BAAG group are interested, you can find these reports by consulting the Index as follows: 1. go to the website
2. click on the Index on the Home Page
3. scroll down to articles beginning World War Two where all the BAAG related articles are listed
4. click on an article of interest to read.”
11Chohong Choi kindly sent me a very interesting link to the story of a Mr Wong Shing who has just celebrated his one hundredth birthday. According to the post he joined the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong in April 1939 and was stationed at Cape Collinson with 12 Coast Regiment. I can confirm that someone of that name, from the Royal Artillery, crossed into China and reported to BAAG after Hong Kong’s fall, and joined the Hong Kong column of the Chindits. 11 Iain Gow kindly sent a link to the full Kobe House report, which I had not seen before.
10A nice bit of detective work by Steve Denton shows that Lance Bombardier Thomas Williams and Lance Bombardier Samuel Boyce (both of 965 Defence Battery, and both on the Lisbon Maru list) were in fact one and the same man. As far as we can tell, he enlisted as Thomas Williams but his real name was Samuel Boyce. Normally when this happened (and in those days it was more common than you might think) the CWGC entry would include both names, and add ‘enlisted as’ to the pseudonym, but not in this case. 10 Michael Hurst in Taiwan is still searching for the name of the ship (or boat) which carried Maltby, his senior officers, and their batmen to Taiwan, arriving there in August 1943. He has found it described as both a ‘lighter’ and a ‘small wooden vessel’. We would both be grateful if anyone could identify it! I have been looking at BAAG records from Hong Kong at the time to see if any agent described the right sort of vessel at the right sort of time, but no luck yet.
9 Thomas James’s (RA) great niece got in touch. 9 John Long’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) granddaughter got in touch. 9 Phillip Cracknell has published another interesting blog, this time covering 4 Bty HKVDC.
8 The HKVCA have published their latest newsletter. With the recent passing of Gerry Gerard we are now down to just seven survivors from C Force: Bob Barter, Ed Bolton, Phil Doddridge, Hormidas Fredette, George MacDonell, Ralph MacLean, and George Peterson.
7 CPO Li Mak Yeun’s (HKRNVR) great grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo of his medals. He would like more details about his grandfather’s service, but unfortunately I have very little. But it is fantastic to hear from a Chinese member of the HKRNVR, and I think it’s the first time in 30 years that this has happened! 7 I had a difficult query from Australia: “I wanted to get in touch with you, as I was recently in Hong Kong and got to thinking about my partner’s grandparents. From what we know, they were missionaries in Hong Kong and killed in a bombing around 1942. We only have their surname unfortunately, Komaroff, and believe they were from Russia. Would you have any suggestions about how we might track down what happened to them and more about their story?” That’s going to be hard, as I can find no mention of that name in any of my files. 7 I finally got round to ordering a copy of Hong Kong, Empire and the Anglo-American Alliance at War by Andrew Whitfield. 7 Colin Standish kindly sent me several images from his interview with Hormidas Fredette. Rifleman Fredette has kept many items from those days, including a jar of tobacco issued in Japan!
5 Another descendant of the Matheson family (Marjorie Matheson was the manager of the Repulse Bay Hotel – see April) got in contact.
4 Barbara Harding (see last month) kindly sent me a complete copy of Leo Landau’s diary – but not for further distribution.
1 Bill Lake, on seeing the Leo Landau book cover image (see last month) noted that he had a similar one – clearly by the same artist – for Lieutenant James C. Gilbert, Royal Rifles of Canada. On this one the initials of the artist M.F.B are clear (with the date 1944). It must be CSM Marciano F. Baptista, 6 Coy HKVDC.
June 1st, 2019 Update
Bob Tatz's new book (courtesy Bob Tatz), Leo Landau book (courtesy Barbara Harding), Greater Green Snake (author)
Mount Nicholson Foxholes, High West AOP (both author), Argyle Street rollcall (courtesy Hong Kong News?)
FEPOW Art Exhibition (courtesy Meg Parkes), Clipper Lounge (author), HSBC Model (courtesy Keith Grant)
I suppose there are many reasons why the suffering of Hong Kong’s civilian population during the war has not seen much public discussion. There have been so many books (and I’m guilty of at least four of them…) about the garrison and the Colonials, but their experience – unpleasant, and often fatal, though it was – was on such a small scale in comparison. This month I finalised a full-length article for the next Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society describing the starvation, the mass exodus, and the persecution of these civilians. Using every source I could find, I have attempted to calculate a total number of deaths and justify my conclusions. I won’t pre-empt myself here and now, but upon publication I will revisit the subject.
31 Bob Tatz let me know that his book launch for Lost In The Battle for Hong Kong will be in Edmonton on June 6. Hopefully there will also be a Hong Kong launch later in the year.
30Meg Parkes let me know that the exhibition The Secret Art of Survival, Hidden artworks by British Far East POW 1942-1945, will open at the Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool, on Saturday 19 October.
29 Michael Hurst notes that the Spring-Summer 2019 Taiwan POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on his website now.
27Brian Edgar notes: “Some scenes from a silent film directed by Chester Bennett have appeared on YouTube. Bennett was one of those who made trips from Stanley into town to spend the money loaned to the internees by the Japanese in spring 1942. He turned down repatriation to the USA because Franklin Gimson asked him to stay behind to help the British. He was guaranteed out of Stanley, probably by his Macanese wife, and in town he became a BAAG agent as well as smuggling money, messages etc into Stanley. He was executed on Stanley Beach on October 29th, 1943.” 27 A Danish researcher has been asking about Blanche Isabella Scott, several of whose children were either evacuees from Hong Kong or were interned at Stanley.
26 Charles Bennett’s (RE) nephew got in touch. 26 Bill Lake kindly sent me this link to a pdf copy of the official Canadian report on the ”Canadian Participation In The Defence of Hong Kong, December 1941”.
23 Both Gerry Tuppert and Burke Penny were kind enough to let me know the sad news that Gerry Gerard, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, had passed away yesterday at the age of 97. I had met him on his last visit to Hong Kong.
22 While waiting for a flight at Hong Kong airport I was able to meet Barbara Harding (daughter of Leo Landau, HKVDC) who was also flying that night. She kindly presented me with a copy of a privately printed booklet containing many of his diary pages and illustrations from Shamshuipo. 22 The VIP referred to below contacted me again, and we had a very pleasant walk (without the TV cameras this time) over the hills from Wong Nai Chung Gap to the site of the old North Point POW Camp. I was hoping to show him some of Hong Kong’s fauna along the way, but alas all we found was an absolutely huge female Giant Woodland Spider being pursued by four small but hopeful males!
21 I finalised my two articles for the next Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society today. One is a short review of the Anslow and Charter journals, and the other is a full-length study of Chinese civilian fatalities in Hong Kong 41-45. I hope the latter leads to much useful debate. 21 Michael Maddess has: “found around 8 or 9 old war caves in Tai Lam country park around 500m below the MacLehose trail.“ Does anyone know if these are the ‘standard’ Japanese tunnels?
19 I spent the whole day today at the Peninsula Hotel and Shamshuipo Park, filing with our VIP visitor. It was a lot of fun, and the Pen looked after us very well. At the moment we don’t have a date for the documentary to be released but when it’s fixed I will announce it on this website. I should point out that I’m not the only Hong Kong wartime historian involved; you will see several familiar faces!
18 Steve Denton has done some very useful further research on the ‘official’ list of POWs on the Lisbon Maru, and has managed to show that several of these men were actually on different drafts. My original list ran to 1,828 but it seems that we are now down to 1,817 – suspiciously close to the official Japanese number of 1,816. This month I was too busy travelling to look into this properly, but I will do so in June.
15 Frank Chamberlain’s (Royal Marines) son contacted. Interestingly, Chamberlain was a batman at Argyle Street Camp and brought home a written account of the Anglo/American evasion attempt (see last month) which I think must have been drafted by Sawyer and was probably given to Chamberlain when Sawyer was sent to Japan. He also kindly sent me a concert program for “The Argyle Melody for 1943”. 15 Patrick Flynn kindly sent me some photographs from his father’s (Captain James Flynn) post-war 2/14th Punjabi reunions.
14Coming home from my usual morning walk in the hills I saw a beautiful, almost translucent, metre long Greater Green Snake right next to Old Peak Road. A helper walking a dog in front of me screamed “Snake!” But even with her helpfully pointing and shouting “there! there!” it was so still and camouflaged that I couldn’t see it for a full minute. Then I pushed it gently away from the road. I have seen so many of these killed by people who mistake them for the totally different Bamboo Pit Viper that I wasn’t taking any chances.
13I met a British TV crew at the Peninsula Hotel this morning to prepare for our filming with a VIP visitor on Sunday. Interestingly, we visited the Clipper Lounge from which their helicopter flies, and I loved the aeronautical decor! Unfortunately I have to be secretive about this project for the moment, but will announce details in due course.
8 I have one wartime photo of Argyle Street Camp in my collection. Does anyone know the original source? I suspect it’s the Hong Kong News, but am not certain.
5 Janet Hayes (Barbara Anslow’s niece) very kindly put me in touch with Sergeant Leslie Millington’s son (see last month).
4 Stuart Woods kindly sent me some photographs of the AOP on Mount Nicholson (funny how these things always happen in pairs). I will visit it next time I go up there. He notes that some rocks further up the hill: “are where a boy in the 1970's found a .303 rifle and after a failed attempt to fire it decided to burn it on a small camp fire. It subsequently discharged itself due to heat and shot him in the leg hitting an artery, he survived but almost bled to death.” Anyone know any more details of that story?
3Trudged up to the top of Mount Nicholson this morning and found a large area of well-preserved fox holes that I had not previously noticed. However, the path up to the summit is pretty badly eroded now. There were also a lot of wild pig diggings, one of which had excavated the back end of a Canadian .303 rifle cartridge (illustrated).
1 I walk up High West most mornings, but today deviated from my usual route and took the path that goes round to the West from the top of Hatton Road. I followed it to the old Artillery Observation Post, which for some reason I had never visited before. There’s not much to see – except, on the way back, a full-grown wild boar! May the first is a little late in the year to be seeing the pigs. 1 Keith Grant kindly sent me a couple of photos of a: “silver gilt model of the old bank building given to Archie McAlpine on his retirement on 16 June 1956.” Earlier Keith had told me that Archie McAlpine (who was interned at Stanley) was his great uncle by marriage, and: “was chief engineer for Hong Kong Bank and lived in a flat at the top of the bank… His wife, my great aunt, Elizabeth McAlpine, was evacuated to Manila with her step daughter (Margaret) and decided to stay there only to be interned in Manila. Archie and Liz both returned to HK after the war.”
May 1st, 2019 Update
Arthur Whitaker and his wife (courtesy Donald Whitaker), Copy lion at new HSBC office (author), Lance Bombardier Holland (courtesy Andrew Holland)
BAAG Bugle (courtesy Bill Lake), Omine area view (courtesy George Boote), Shing Mun object (courtesy Martin Heyes)
In the epic defence of Stanley Village, the two Millington brothers (Leslie Charles and Henry James) fought side by side as Sergeants in the 1st Battery HKVDC, with Henry Millington being lost. This month I was asked an urgent question about them, but unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly) I have never been in touch with the family. Can anyone help?
28 Brian Finch kindly sent me a copy of Jack Hughieson’s memoirs (see last month).
27Arthur Whitaker’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch, kindly sending me his father’s account of the sinking and a photo. He notes: “The photograph of my parents was taken on the 50th anniversary of VJ day 1995. Dad was very ill at the time but wanted to be part of the memorial ceremony in Horsham where they lived. He passed away February 1st the following year aged 80. [And] I was especially interested in the photographs of the POWs in the Exhibition section. It is possible that he is in the 12th picture, 5th from the left wearing a hat and looking down at his plate, there is certainly a resemblance there.”
26 Brian Edgar kindly solved an old puzzle for me today. I have a note from 2007 about Ken Sawyer, RAVC (and one of the best artists in POW Camp) escaping from Lantau with three Americans and three British servicemen, before the group became split up with the British being recaptured and the Americans ‘being killed’. Brian has found a newspaper article By Guenther Stein Special Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, from 25 March 1942. In Chungking she interviews Robert Douglas Casey, of Seattle, and Charles Hatlan of St Louis, who had just arrived there after trekking from Hong Kong where their Standard Oil Tanker Admiral Rilliam [sic] had been sunk. They describe how they escaped with a third colleague, Howard Swaney of San Francisco, and four privates of a British Middlesex Regiment. The team stole three small boats and rowed to Lantau. After a few weeks there was a skirmish with the Japanese and they ‘lost one of our Middlesex soldiers’. The other three British then ‘decided to escape to Castlepeak’ but were captured and ‘beheaded immediately’. Mr Swaney became ill and decided to surrender to the Japanese and was believed killed too. Hatlan and Casey then left ear in February with Chinese assistance and successfully escaped. Sawyer names the four British men as himself, Middlesex George Pape Middlesex (who perished on the Lisbon Maru), Horse Ambulance Driver Leslie Wheatley RASC, and Private Mike Jacobs, RAMC (who actually succeeded in escaping). He also describes meeting a Chinese gentleman, after the two groups separated, who told them all three Americans had been killed. The British, he says, were recaptured on the 29th.
23 Corresponding with Barbara Anslow and Jennifer Dobbs today, I let the latter know that in my ‘living’ version of NtSC I have updated the notes on the death of her father (having recently been sent his death certificate) to: “Prisoner of the Japs, Dew, page 238 describes how Dobbs and his American wife Alice had come from Kunming in south China to Hong Kong for the Christmas holiday, and when the battle started he volunteered and lost his life. But his daughter Jennifer corrects: ‘Actually they did not go to HK for Christmas. They would not have left us children behind if that were true... They went on business, to visit a dentist and Christmas shopping and planned to return before the holidays.’ Until Alice was repatriated (probably in June 1942 with the other Americans), their two children John and Jennifer were stuck in Kunming with no idea of their parents’ whereabouts. With a War On, Higgins, page 375 claims: ‘He was sent to Kowloon with others who were to take up prepared positions in the New Territories and has not been heard from since.’ Family lore is that he was in a building that was hit, though of course if that were true the date would be more likely 12th. His death certificate states: ‘killed in a boiler explosion’ with a date of 25 December.” Presumably that telegram refereed to was to the Colonial Secretariat, but it would be interesting to see if it (and perhaps other such reports) could be found.
20 George Boote is staying with family in Kyushu and took the train over to Omine to photograph the site of the old POW camp and mine there, kindly sending me a selection.
18 Martin Heyes described a strange find outside the Shing Mun Redoubt: “As we were leaving, something metallic caught my eye - glinting in the sunshine. [All] I could see was what transpired to be the corner of a metal box, the soil surrounding which was very loose after recent rain. I was able to dig it out with bare hands. The box had a metal clasp which was not locked and, upon opening it, I discovered this blue ceramic pot ‘sealed’ with a piece of adhesive tape inside. There was an (empty) plastic envelope in the lid of the box. I didn’t open the ceramic pot; for some reason I didn’t feel it appropriate. I left everything in situ.” Very odd.
16 I was delighted today to be contacted by the family of Miss Marjorie Matheson, the redoubtable wartime manager of the Repulse Bay Hotel, who kindly sent a photo. My correspondent notes: “Marjorie Matheson was born at Wei-bai-wei in China, 23 April 1902. Her father had moved from Perth, Australia to Hong Kong about 1900 to become a Stock Broker. His name was Robert Thomas Matheson, and when he became ill he returned to Brisbane, Queensland and died but his wife Lillian was in Hong Kong with their daughter at the time of his death in 1929. Marjorie visited Brisbane on various occasions, so I remember her well [and] we visited Hong Kong on our way back to Australia in 1966, when Marjorie took us to the Repulse Bay Hotel. She told us how she ‘Put as many medals on her chest and demanded that the Japanese let them bury their dead’. She was a big lady and the Japanese were small!! And I read somewhere someone asking if it was her who was in charge of the Helena May, well it was her. Marjorie lived her whole life over there and died in 1972 in Hong Kong.”
15Brian Finch told me the sad but fascinating story that Lionel Sidney Smith of the Middlesex, who was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft and passed away in 2012, had a son: “Kenneth Richard Smith [who] was killed by a landmine on 8.6.74 while serving with Australian SAS in Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe)”. Today both are buried in Colchester Cemetery. 15 Steve Denton sent me an interesting record of death of Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 6202039, of the 8th Coast Regiment, RA. The date of death was 24 September 1945, and in WSST I described him as dying on a hospital ship. However, this form gives the cause of death as “Injuries in air crash”. The three known and infamous plane crashes were on 10 September 1945 so it would be feasible for someone injured on that day passing away on the 24th. However, only one of the three B24s that crashed that day had survivors. I checked the MACR and there is no one of this name listed. However, for the first time I realised that three, or possibly four, of the survivors picked up at sea were indeed ex Lisbon Maru. They were: Clifford Rumary, Andrew Grieg, Thomas Hanley, and possibly William McDonagh, Royal Scots. A British soldier with his serial is in the manifest, but (strangely) under the name ‘Floyd C Bennett’. The fact that Hart is buried at Yokohama clearly means that he wasn’t lost at sea. So I wonder if there was a fourth plane crash? Just before he passed away, Taffy Evans mentioned to me that he too had survived a plane crash, and he’s not on the manifest of the known aircraft either. I never had the chance to follow that lead up.
14Frode from Denmark kindly sent a link: “Just a quick link solving the question of identity of Jorgensen, Jorgen, Ship’s captain, died 16 December from his wounds.”
13 Ron Holland’s (RA) son got in touch. Not only does he have a great photo of his father, but also the nominal roll of 36th Battery. 8th Coast Regiment! This is extraordinarily helpful. Prior to this I had a pretty complete list of 8th Coast Regiment gunners, and a roll for 30th Battery. Now, with 30th and 36th documented, I can be sure that the majority of names I have remaining are from the third and last Battery: 12. It also seems from these documents that 12, 30, and 36 Batteries were known as A, B, and C Batteries. Holland was a batman in Argyle Street and is mention in Ray Barman’s book Resist To The End. 13 The Argus in Australia posted a story about Neville Cavanagh, one of eleven Australians who volunteered for service and ended up being sent to Hong Kong as part of the RN Dockyard Police. Cavanagh also survived the Lisbon Maru 13 I went for a long walk today, up Violet Hill. I was looking for bits and pieces but it was pretty pointless as the summit was in thick fog. At one point I found a cartridge but it turned out to be a blank from post-war British carbine. On the way home I took Black’s Link as far as Middle Gap, and then tool the path that goes off to the left, and eventually joins onto Middle Gap Road. Only a short way along it I happened to look up to my right. Now, I must have walked along that path a hundred times, but I had never before noticed what looks like a long, low, brick built gun position. Once home (after looking at the sites of the houses on Middle Gap Road and Coombe Road mentioned in Bob Tatz’s war time memoires – see last month), I looked it up in Gwulo – that now indispensible tool for all Hong Kong historians. Very interesting!
11 George Chanduloy sent an interesting email about ‘accidentally’ discovering the office of the old anti-Japanese Guerrilla war of the East River Column Association (HK) (now renamed the 'Old Soldiers Cultural Association'.) George had two uncles who were with the BAAG - Uncle Andrew in Post X and later with the USAAF, and Uncle Lui with his mission bringing aid into Burma. Copies of the original BAAG ‘crest’ have also been circulating between the group. 11 Thanks to research by Brian Finch I learned today that Lisbon Maru survivor Jack Hughieson had ended the war at Miyoshi. I just listened to the IWM recordings of Jack, and on Reel 6 he indeed mentions that he ended the war in Miyoshi Camp. As far as I know that’s unique for an ex-HK POW. According to this article it’s Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture, and thus only about 50km from the centre of Hiroshima itself. Close enough to see the flash of the bomb, I would imagine. A number of families have told me that their fathers or grandfathers had seen the Hiroshima or Nagasaki Bomb, and up till now I have discounted these as probably a mis-remembering of travelling through one or other of these cities after Liberation. But this account sounds credible.
7Elizabeth Ride sent the BAAG group the URL to a Canadian documentary about the Battle of Hong Kong which I assisted with. I certainly consider it to be one of the better efforts.
6 Steve Denton discovered the POW Index Card of Arthur Jack ‘Bill’ Evans who was one of three men to escape from the Lisbon Maru and evade recapture. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Japanese have marked him as ‘deceased’! He also found the card for ERA James Chambers. The Shamshuipo POW list shows him as having been on the Lisbon Maru, but his card shows that this is clearly an error. 6 I don’t normally show the military artefacts that turn up in Hong Kong from time to time, but this one is different. Early in the mornings I like to climb High West, and today near the base of the path I found a smashed .303 bullet (illustrated). At that location I don’t believe it’s likely to be associated with the fighting. Perhaps it’s more likely to be an over shoot from the old butts just a few yards further down the hill.
4 I have had another request to try to solve the disappearance of a Hong Kong Chinese civilian during the Japanese invasion. It’s personal, so I will keep it anonymous. It is typical of this type of request, which I received occasionally: “The reason why I am reaching out to you is, my father, who is in his late 80s now, has asked me for the help. And I just don't know how to start. It is related to my grandfather, who was killed in - nowadays it is called Shatin - during the first few nights of invasion. Based on the story from my dad, they landed somewhere close to that area for equipment and supplies unloading, and my grandfather was killed on the night of the landing. My father's family took the body to some [Air Raid] shelter along with 3 other bodies. I am tasked to find the remains, if there is a way. My ask is, do you have any idea how I can start the search?” I don’t hold out much hope. Selwyn Clarke had said that some 4,000 civilians perished in the invasion, and those bodies which were formally recovered appear to have been mainly buried in mass graves.
3 Today I met Keith Grant, who kindly asked me to sign his copy of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale. His mother Thelma was evacuated, and her father (Willian Organ, HKDDC) died as a POW. 3 Jim Trick kindly sent a link to a new interview with surviving Canadian Royal Rifles veteran Hormidas Fredette. 3 Bill Lake sent the BAAG group a photo of the BAAG bugle, noting that it was: “presented in 1944 by a Lt. Colonel Boyes-Cooper. It is at the moment in storage at the RHKR (Vol) Clubhouse in Happy Valley.” 3 Barbara Harding, daughter of Leo Landau of the HKVDC, sent a wonderful photo of her and her parents at home in May 1949. 3 The April Java Journal contained an obituary of Bill McCauley, whose death I reported last month.
2Today I visited for the first time HSBC’s Kowloon-side archives at the HSBC Centre at Tai Kok Tsui. Previously I had corresponded with their archivists in London, going back as far Edwin Green, But this new archive is super high tech and impressive, and also very hospitable! I was very pleased to see that they had fibreglass replicas of the two lions downstairs, complete and accurate down to the last piece of shrapnel damage!
1 Simon Biggs has written a blog about the role of the Royal Marines in wartime Hong Kong.
April 1st, 2019 Update
Alex at PB314 (courtesy Alex MacDonald), Leighton Hill ARP tunnels (via facebook), Portal 107 (author)
Church Guest House (author), Attack on the Stanley Gap AA position (via facebook), Tyndareous Stone (courtesy George Boote)
Battle for Hong Kong (courtesy Philip Cracknell), Omine Second drop (courtesy George Boote), Norman Hendy wedding (via Brian Finch)
This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of my arrival in Hong Kong. I’ve often mentioned it, but it was great timing! Back in 1989 everyone told me that I was wasting my time trying to research Hong Kong’s war: everyone was dead, no one wanted to talk about it, and anything written down had been burned to boil rice during the occupation. And in those days before the Internet propagated to most ordinary people, it seemed that I was the sole person interested in the period. Fortunately they were wrong. I had some lucky breakthroughs and discovered that there were plenty of survivors (then) still around, and they wanted to talk to me so their stories would not be forgotten. And family after family had kept diaries, letters, and all sorts of other documents. And for about ten glorious years this was the world’s only website dedicated to the topic, and everyone interested came straight to me! Now times have changed. The veterans are mainly gone, but there’s a growing and mature community of interest. Hong Kong’s war has gone mainstream.
31 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that: “Currently on eBay at S/No 382862149962 (medal groups) are Four Medals, 39-45, Pacific, Defence and War, to R (Robert) Clapperton Cpl 46786 Royal Scots, along with award slip (to relatives). Your Garrison List confirms his presence, as Lost... Current price GBP263.00.”
30 Barbara Anslow kindly let me know the bad news that ex-Stanley Camp internee William Macauley died last week at the age of 92. She notes: “When the Japs attacked Hong Kong he was 15, in a boarding school in Kowloon, his parents were in China. He became a despatch corps messenger during the fighting. After the surrender he joined all the British civilians sent to Stanley. Having no family, he had to fend for himself in the camp where he worked in the kitchen and got extra food. He attended the camp school and sat his O levels there. I knew him by sight. War over, he was united with his mother in England; his father had died, and his elder brother - shot down in the war. Bill joined the RAF and served for 23 years. I re-met Bill 5 years ago through the Java Club, at a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace; later I met him and his wife Kay at other Java club functions, he was a happy and vital member of the club.”
28 Bob Tatz kindly sent me the wartime chapter of his biography to review. If the rest of the book is as absorbing as this chapter, then I am certainly buying a copy! Hopefully it will be launched in Hong Kong towards the end of this year. Among many other things, the story mentions the Church Guest House, which is only about five minutes walk from where I live. I’m always concerned that unimproved pre-war buildings like this will suddenly be demolished, so I went down with my camera and took a few photos.
26 Francis Cheung notes that the Japanese may have established a germs research institute in wartime Hong Kong. He notes: “A private collector, G S Zhang, recently told the media in Mainland China in 2011 he found an archive entitled ‘Germs Research Institute in Hong Kong’ from an old book store in Japan, which came with 2 B/W photos probably showing the responsible Jap officers and family photo of the highest official. There was also an organization chart (compiled in 20-Oct-1944) outlisting the responsible officers/positions and their respective duties.” 26 Stephen Verrals let me know that the Royal British Legion and other ex-services associations have a project to place a Hong Kong memorial to Chinese servicemen at the UK National Arboretum. They wish to list on the memorial all the Chinese British Army units from 1842 to 1997. That’s a challenge, if we are to be sure that no one is left out.
25 Kathleen Crawford, RSM Donald Matheson, Royal Scots', daughter, let me know that her daughter is visiting Japan later this year for the rugby world cup and would be hoping to visit his POW camp. I reminded her that it was Osaka #1B.
22 Ian Gill sent a link to his article mentioned last month: “My parents' unlikely love story in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.”
21 Brian Finch, in his Lisbon Maru researches, has discovered an amazing story of a survivor of that vessel who married in Japan in 1945! But I won’t scoop him, as this is his own (rather exciting) work.
20Just for fun I sent Alexander MacDonald a Hong Kong War Diary T-Shirt, and I was pleased to see him wearing it on a recent expedition to PB314 (where he is perched at the entrance). 20 Someone posted to facebook’s Battle of Hong Kong page a map showing the layout of the grid of air raid shelters under Leighton Hill, so on my way to work this morning I had a quick look. Starting from the side of the small HSBC on Leighton Road I found several of the entrances to be quite accessible. I took a quick photo of Portal 107 and when I have more time I should go back and walk round the entire hill and see how many are still visible in total. Also on facebook, someone else posted the best copy I have yet seen of the Japanese war artist’s painting of their attack on the Stanley Gap AA position. As far as I can tell, it is almost entirely accurate.
19Today was the thirtieth anniversary of me moving permanently to Hong Kong. It is impossible now to calculate how my life would have turned out had I not made that move, but I am very glad that I did!
18George Boote kindly sent me copies of two documents. One was ‘The Last Phase at Omine’ by Geoffrey Gordon Tyson (an Australian, not captured at Hong Kong). And the other was an excerpt from Blackwood’s Magazine of January 1946 called ‘Sweet Waters’ by Lieutenant John Gibson, D.S.C., RNVR, describing the liberation fleet’s entry into Hong Kong in 1945. The Omine work is purely paintings and sketches, the one of the ‘second food drop’ on the camp after Liberation is especially good. 18 Vic Ient gave me the welcome news that he is writing a book about his father, Albert Ient, Royal Corps of Signals, and his comrades.
16 Richard Moddrel kindly sent a photo of his father Peter Moddrel, Royal Corps of Signals, and colleagues dressed ‘on parade ‘Tenko’ Aug 1979’ taken in Blandford Forum, Dorset.
14 Bill Lake kindly sent Shaftain’s account (from Elizabeth Ride) of the negotiation with the Hong Kong triads to prevent them massacring Europeans as the Japanese attacked. 14 Brian Edgar notes that there may be a TV series about Emily Hahn, including her time in Hong Kong.
10 The Researching FEPOW History Group (RFHG) have sent a reminder about their Workshop on 10 June 2019 at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House (London). They will be covering diverse topics, including: Indian POWs of the Japanese, Jewish POWs of the Japanese, The legacy of medics in captivity (Bill Frankland and Cicely Williams), Australian Military Nursing and Internment, FEPOW memories and material culture, and Transgenerational stories, including experiences of camps in Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Sumatra.
10 Ron Abbott, referring to the photo labelled No 5 Section, No 2 Platoon Royal Scots in the January edition, notes: “Unfortunately, I can't make out the cap badge although it could be that of the Royal Scots based on approximate size and shape; but even then I'm not convinced that it is. The main problem is... these men are wearing kilts. With the exception of the Pipers in that battalion, nobody else wore kilts. Not the commissioned officers, not the warrant officers nor the rank and file. Only the Pipers... and they wore plain glengarries, not diced glengarries as can clearly be seen in this photograph. The only battalion of the Royal Scots in which all wore the kilt was a Territorial battalion, specifically the Dandy Ninth, e.g. the 9th (Highlander) Battalion, Royal Scots; and they were not in Hong Kong even in their amalgamated form as the 7/9th Battalion by WW2. Do you have any other information about the photograph?” Can anyone clarify?
9 Dave Deptford notes: “Via The Saleroom, ‘Police Medals’, by Charterhouse Medals, Group of 4 to A.B. Allan. Includes rare Hong Kong Naval Dockyard Police Long Service Medal to Allan, with Pacific etc. Blurb contains photo of him allegedly in Gordon Highlanders.” I assume this must be Divisional Inspector Alec Bruce Allan. 9 Like many other aficionados, I have pre-ordered Philip Cracknell’s Battle For Hong Kong 1941. 9 Brian Finch’s research has found a son of Garfield Kvalheim of the USS Grouper (the boat that sank the Lisbon Maru). When I knew Gar, he and his wife Fran had no children, but apparently he had children from an earlier marriage.
7George Boote kindly sent me a link to a newspaper article about the diary of Ralph Nicol, Royal Rifles of Canada. He also notes that he has: “just been catching up with HKWD, I noticed the link for the Japanese tank. I have just bought tickets to see it running at the tank fest. I really hope that they show in the UK the Lisbon Maru documentary that you have been working on, as a point of interest In the Army museum in Chelsea, before they did the massive refurb, they had on display a model of the Lisbon Maru, alongside a fan that belonged to the Japanese captain. They no longer display those items, they also used to display the stone that used to be on the peak mentioned in Martin booths book Gweilo; Tyndareus stone alongside a magnificent oil painting of the survivors of the ship wreck.” Well this was great, because I have often remembered that stone memorial which used to be where the top of Hatton Road joined the playground between The Peak and High West. At some point it was removed, but the text on it said: “This stone memorial was erected by Lieutenant Colonel John Ward, Commanding Officer, in memory of those men on the 25th Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, who died when the troopship TYNDAREUS struck a German mine off Cape Agulhas, South Africa, on 6th February 1917. The Battalion had embarked in England and were en route for Hong Kong to carry out garrison duties. There is no doubt that the exemplary conduct of all ranks after the accident contributed in considerable measure to the Master’s ability to prevent his ship from sinking with further loss of life. The 1st Battalion of the Regiment subsequently fought with distinction during the defence of Hong Kong – December 1941.”
5Colin Standish kindly let me know that one of the few remaining Royal Rifle of Canada veterans had passed away, Bill MacWhirter.
4Bill Lake very kindly hand delivered my copy of The First Shall Be The Last (the Charter Stanley Camp diaries) to me today (illustrated). It’s certainly a massive volume! I will report back on it when I’ve finished. 4 Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Norman Hendy’s (Sick Berth Petty Officer, HMS Tamar, RN) wedding day in 1934, with Norman Williams, acting as best man.
3 Last month I noted the passing of Peter Moss, and was delighted to see that Jason Wordie had written an obituary. I was a little surprised, though, to see that he didn’t mention that Robert Thompson was himself a Hong Kong evader! (Though it is perfectly possible that sub-editors might have deleted words for reasons of space).
2As you were! If you saw last month’s attempts to separate the two Private Andrew Blacks of the second Royal Scots, please ignore it. The paper trail is horribly confused with pencilled notes adding ‘Thomas’ as the middle name in some cases, and ‘Christie’ in others. But – working with my ever-patient colleague Steve Denton – we have decided it’s logical to give precedence to the Liberation Roster. After all, the Americans would simply have asked the rescued man’s serial number so it should be correct. That gives us: Black, Andrew Christie - Private 3054080 U 1-2.10.42 LM Black, Andrew Thomas - Private 3054483 W 19.12 (XD1)
1 Aside from the new BAAG facebook page, we are communicating on a regular basis with the group of ‘relatives and friends’ behind it. Elizabeth Ride today sent some biographical details of Dr Raymond Lee. In light of my recent draft paper on the wartime deaths of Hong Kong’s civilians, it was interesting to read this sad paragraph: “In the early part of 1943 when the Japanese began to deport the destitutes of Hongkong into free China the problem of dealing with them became an acute one because of the number and the shortage of hospital accommodation. In view of their condition which was caused by malnutrition and starvation it was a hopeless fight in dealing with them in an ambulatory manner because what they required more than anything else was food and more food. Since no organisation took any interest in these poor helpless wrecks it fell on the Medical Unit in initiating relief measures.”
March 1st, 2019 Update
HKVDC Battery practice, 2 Battery HKVDC, HKVDC two minutes silence (all via Frode)
Osborn Memorial, St John Ambulance Memorial, New tunnel? (alll author)
Leo Landau (courtesy Barbara Harding), James Atkins (via Martin Heyes), The Slightest Chance (via author)
For reasons that will become apparent in a few months, I am very keen to establish contact with more people with connections to 1 Bty HKVDC. This month Leo Landau’s daughter got in touch, which was great. But I am still looking for more diaries and photos of this unit if anyone can help. Contact with the family of Captain George Fred Rees, CO of the Battery, would be particularly welcome – or any lead on their War Diary (if it exists).
And on a second matter, I wonder if any sleuth out there can help find the family of Captain Rob Roy McGregor, USN, the captain of the USS Grouper (214) which sank the Lisbon Maru? You would think a captain would be relatively easy to track down, but I have had no success.
26There are plans afoot for a proper memorial to the Lisbon Maru at the NMA. I will of course provide updates as the project progresses.
24 Steve Denton has proven that there is another mistake in CWGC files. They list Andrew Christie Black, 3054080, as being lost in the Lisbon Maru, whereas we can now show that this man was on the first draft to Japan and survived the war. The Andrew Black lost on the Lisbon Maru was in fact Andrew Thomas Black, 3054483.
20Colin Standish kindly let me know that Fred Cooper, Royal Rifles of Canada, passed away in January. He also very kindly sent me a number of transcripts of interviews with veterans conducted by Chuck Rolands. 20 I heard today via Annemarie Evans that Peter Moss has passed away. He and Cyril Pereira (of the SCMP in those days) were the first two people to read and critique the original ms of Not The Slightest Chance. He will be missed.
16Clare Makepeace notes: “I just wanted to let you know that my article on the war graves of British POWs who died while constructing the Thai-Burma railway was finally published this month.” While the subject is the railway, it includes mention of Arthur Basnett who was lost in Hong Kong.
12 Brian Edgar has found an interesting PhD thesis called The Life and Times of Percy Nettle, who was a Stanley Internee. 12 Martin Heyes notes that he has had a request from the daughter of Gunner James Edward Atkins, who was a member of 8 Coast Regiment, 30 Coastal Bty, during the battle. He also kindly attached a photo of Atkins. He asks what is the meaning of the group names under 30 Coast Battery in my nominal roles? Sadly, I don’t know! These were given to me by a relative of the CO and I don’t have a key. So if anyone knows (in this context) what 10s, PF, BCAs, Tels, BPR, Elo, etc. mean we would both be grateful. I can possibly guess some, but am looking for an authoritative answer.
11 Jennifer Lo contacted me to say: “I wanted to inform you that my grandfather, [last surviving HKVDC 3 Company veteran Sam Lo], passed away peacefully on February 8, 2019 at 10:27 am. He was 94 years old. His birthday was January 30, 1925.“ We were just in the process of arranging a war pension for him from the Hong Kong Government.
10Steve Denton kindly confirmed that the Gunner Edward Arndle (RA, Lisbon Maru) on my website should in fact be Edward Arnold. The original mistake is in the CWGC records.
9The BAAG facebook page is really gaining momentum, with many interested parties (including families of BAAG members) continuing to join.
8 Anne Ammundsen (Captain Bob Newton’s, Rajputs, niece; Bob was killed by a mortar outside North Point Power Station), kindly let me know that the family has written up: “the transcripts (done by his brother, Roy) of Bob's letters to his parents - written from both India and Hong Kong during the course of WWll. The booklet is 74 pages long,” She has sent me the full set. 8 Leo Landau’s (HKVDC) daughter got in contact. She mentions her father’s wartime diary, which sounds very interesting. 8 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent the new BAAG group four photos of banners painted at post-war BAAG reunions in the 1950s. Some names are in English and very familiar: I see ‘D Hunt’ and ‘M Talan’ for example), but most are in Chinese. However, this is very useful as the transliteration of Chinese names to British in those days was pretty irregular, and in practice the Chinese versions are fare more useful.
7 David Beningfield kindly sent a pre-war photo of his father (William Beningfield) in uniform. 7 Bill Lake kindly informed me that there is indeed a second plaque on the St John Ambulance memorial, and kindly sent me a photo. With the help of these plaques I have updated my records, but am left with far more questions than answers. While anecdotally I know that many of their 56 deaths occurred in Wong Nai Chung Gap and Stanley, I don’t know firm details of any – and suspect many more deaths occurred during the occupation. But one name really stood out, Ambulance Sister Katima El Arculli of the Victoria Nursing Division. El Arculli is a name famous in Hong Kong history, and the family is still very influential today. I am very surprised that I can’t find details of Katima anywhere. 7 Old friend Frode in Denmark emailed me to say: “As mentioned in my mail last month, I am happy to let you know that my book about the Danish Hong Kong-volunteers, IKKE EN JORDISK CHANCE, will be translated into English with a view to publish in the autumn by Earnshaw Books in Hong Kong/Shanghai. The extensive translation and editing work is now about to start, and I am looking forward to the cooperation with the professional translator and the publisher.” He also sent me a number of excellent high-resolution photos of HKVDC exercises, parades in Central, and two equally high-resolution photos of 2 Battery, one of them captioned! Captioned photos of this quality are any historian’s dream. The ranks include Second Lieutenant William Andrew Mackinlay who at that time was married to Sheila Mackinlay (nee Jeffries). But he was transferred to the Middlesex during the battle and was killed on Christmas Eve. His widow later married Policeman Searle (they were both in Stanley Camp). I know their son and sent him this photo, he kindly replied that Mackinlay was: “a solicitor with the firm of Messrs Deacons, who on 13/11/36 was living at 15/19 Observatory Road, Kowloon. (see Hong Kong Daily Press; ‘Forthcoming Wedding’ - same date). He was admitted to the Supreme Court to practice as a solicitor on 3/10/32. He was also involved at that date with the Machine Gun Troop of the HK Volunteer Defence Corps. He was also involved in the Hong Kong ADC, which is where he met my mother Sheilah Jeffries, when they were both acting in Noel Coward play. According to my mother he had come first in his law exams (whether in HK or the UK I do not know), and was a Yorkshireman, with family, including a sister, in Yorkshire. Their wedding was on 18/12/36 at St Andrews Church, HK. My mother told me that he was picked out from the HKVDC to be an officer in the Middlesex Regiment as he was seen as extremely efficient, brave, and outstanding officer material. I do not know the date of his transfer. On the 13/12/41 he wrote a long letter to my mother giving as his address: 1st Btn. The Middlesex Regt, (D.C.O), c/o G.P.O. In it he describes his duties: his main job was to liaise with the Police, and went every evening to Central Police Station 8 Banham Road, where he mentions seeing Lance Calthrop. The night before he had been going up on high ground (every hill) searching for spies. He also mentions in this letter that Professor Simpson with the Gunners was wounded loosing his little finger. He also mentions meeting up with a Major Gunn of the Royal Scots. His regiment was rather reduced in numbers at this time and he mentions that his Quartermaster is Capt. Guscot. On his death my mother received the following letter from his commanding officer which I write out in full: Murray Barracks Hong Kong 28th December, 1941 Dear Mrs Mackinlay, I find it most difficult to write to you to tell you how truly sorry I am that you have lost one of the best and most gallant of husbands. Your husband was killed going out to see what had happened to a patrol which the G.O.C. had ordered to be carried out at all costs. At the time he was in command of a mixed detachment of Middlesex, R.A., and R.S. none to easy a body of troops to handle, in the neighbourhood of Canal Rd East close to the Happy Valley. He had handled his command with great gallantry and I placed the utmost reliance on his judgment. He was a grand example to my men. Until the fatal night he had been attached to my HQ and had shown himself a most able and reliable officer. I find it most difficult to believe he has gone. As you know he was slightly wounded by a bayonet wound in his leg and I was glad to be able to send him to Bowen Rd to see you that night. I know, from the very little he said to me how fond and proud he was of you and you can rest assured that no one but you was ever in his mind. Speaking personally I have lost a hastily made friend and my sympathy in your irreparable loss goes out to you. Believe me, Yours sincerely, H.W.M. Stewart.” He also kindly attached a photo of Mackinlay.
6 Today I finished my first draft of an attempt to calculate how many of Hong Kong’s population as at December 1941 perished before liberation. There is still some tuning up to do, but it seems possible to establish a credible range of 300,000-340,000. I am hoping this will be published by the Royal Asiatic Society. 6 As is now my tradition on the second day of Chinese New Year I set off on a longish walk. Conduit Road to the top of Jardine’s Lookout, via Bowen Road and Park View on the way there, and Black’s Link, Coombe Road, Barker Road, and Chatham Path on the way back. On the way I stopped at the St John Ambulance Memorial at Wong Nai Chung Gap and discovered that the memorial plaque to those lost in the war really is there (as Anne Ozorio had told me). But only 37 names from their 56 fatalities were listed. Perhaps I missed a panel? Later I saw that there was a new wreath on the Osborn Memorial on Jardine’s Lookout itself, that someone had cleared the vegetation from the Artillery OP at the top, that the big typhoon last year had cleared trees blocking what looks like a second tunnel entrance to PB3 at the bottom of Black’s Link, and that what may be a ‘new’ Japanese tunnel had become visible at the top of Black’s Link (just up hill from where the buildings end).
5Brian Finch kindly sent a newspaper report from the Liverpool Echo of 9 June 1950 of Bill Evans’ death. Evans was one of the three men who not only survived the Lisbon Maru, but evaded recapture. I have long known that he was assassinated by mistake in Vietnam, but these credible details are new: “Mr. A. K. W. Evans, English inspector of the British American Tobacco Company, was shot dead last night in Saigon by Vietminh terrorists, who also shot and killed a Vietnamese policeman. Police believe the terrorists mistook Mr. Evans, aged 47, of 12 Crown Crescent, Scarborough, for someone else. Mr. Evans arrived in Saigon from Djakarta last month, and was driving the French assistant manager of the tobacco company, M. Maurice Lebas, and two friends from the factory at Cholon. They were stopped by a group of four Vietnamese, including a girl. The men in the group opened fire with automatic pistols. Mr. Evans was shot through the head and died instantly. Lebas was wounded twice in the arms. The killers escaped in a waiting car, but were challenged by a Vietnamese police patrol. The police opened fire and the Vietminh men replied, killing one policeman. The car vanished in the traffic. The Franco-Vietnamese Surete has launched an extensive search. Mr. Evans, who left Britain last January, leaves a widow, a French-woman, living in Saigon. Mr. Evans had no children. He represented the British American Tobacco Company in China for many years. He is a member of a Bristol family, and is a brother of Mr. E. P. Evans, secretary of the Scarborough Rugby Union Club. He was in Scarborough on leave last year, and was expected on leave again in August - Reuter.” Just as a side note, the only other ex-Hong Kong POW I know who was killed in Vietnam was ex-Winnipeg Grenadier John McCoy, who was in fact an American and later volunteered for service in the Vietnam War as a Ranger. He was killed in a firefight there in the mid-60s.
3George Boothroyd’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch.
2 I always warn people about the danger of unexploded ordnance in the hills, where everything from revolver ammunition to grenades, mortars to shells (of up to 9.2 inch and 240mm in calibre), and bombs of up to 2,000 pounds have all turned up in the last few years – and often. But I never thought to warn anyone of unexploded potatoes… 2 I set off on my usual route up the hills early this morning, and almost immediately came face to face with a Masked Civet Cat on Hornsey Road! Our older son was staying with us over the summer and said he often saw them there, when running at night when the temperature dropped. Later on the same walk, on Chatham Road, I found another porcupine quill. I keep a little glass of them now, in my study (illustrated – which might give you an interesting view into a corner of my study!). 2 Blacksmiths Books the publisher, kindly sent me a copy of Paul Letters’s book The Slightest Chance today (can’t think where he got the idea for that title?) I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but it’s getting good reviews and knowing Paul I am sure the research behind it will be spot on.
1 Bill Lake was kind enough to inform, me that the January 2019 update of this website failed again. I still don’t know what the bug is, but seem to have found a workaround which incorporates using on browser to edit the site, and another to publish it. 1 I saw today (via Elizabeth Ride) that Gwulo has – with her help – put together a very useful starting list of BAAG agents, together with other information.
February 1st, 2019 Update
David Kyle (courtesy Jean Hughes), X Heavy Bty (courtesy Ian Inglis, via Brian Funch), Told In The Dark (author)
Royal Scots 5 Section 2 Platoon, Parachute cord tablecloth, Gale family (all via Brian Finch)
BAAG Team (courtesy Bill Lake), Cape Collinson Battery before and after the great typhoon (courtesy Tan)
For some time Elizabeth Ride, daughter of Brigadier Sir Lindsay Tasman Ride, CBE, has suggested that the various ‘friends and families’ of BAAG (the British Army Aid Group) should get themselves together into an Internet-based community like the Stanley Group or the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. As a result, a few of us have helped create this page. The steering committee has also had its first meeting (see the photo: from left to right Sandra Lau, Bill Lake, Dennis Cheung Tsun Lam, Rusty Tsoi, Dr Chi Man Kwong), and content has started to arrive. Please feel free to take a look.
29 Today I saw a British newspaper report about a restored Japanese Type 95 tank. I’ve seen wrecked ones on remote Pacific islands, but this one is in working order. I believe this is the type the Japanese used in their attack through Tai Tam and down into Stanley where they ran into the two pounders of the HKSRA 965 Defence Battery.
26 A lady in the UK has started a formal petition to the UK government for 15 August to be a national day of commemoration to remember those who fought in the Far East, and the POWs in particular. Those interested can see details and sign up here.
25 I hesitated whether to add this, but while searching my 100,000 or so archived emails for something completely different I found this amusing correspondence from my birthday in 2004, with Janet Jacobs whose father was on the railway. She noted: “Can't remember if I told you this already but it is really funny. Do you recall I told you about the two old boys I serve and one was on the railway and the younger of the two was stationed in HK post war for many years, he told me he had a book for me to read and it transpired it was yours? Well here is a rough account of him bringing the book in. ‘Good Morning boys, how are you both?" ‘Ar ya ar reet this mornin'?’ ‘Yes thanks I'm fine.’ ‘Here's the book I promised ya.’ ‘Oh fantastic thank you, I kinda know the author you know.’ A look of ridicule and disbelief preceded. ‘You KINDA know the author, wos his name then?’ ‘Tony Banham’. ‘Ya just rid that on the frunt, din’t ya?’ ‘No seriously, I do honest.’ ‘Where's he live then?’ ‘Hong Kong - of course.’ ‘You’re funny int ya eh, bet ya dun’t know his wife's name?’ ‘I do, it's Rowena actually.’ ‘Oh ar, got any kids has he?’ ‘Yes he's got two boys.’ ‘Two boys eh, I suppose ya knows thems names an all?’ ‘They're Mark and Harry.’ ‘Ar Mark and Harry indeed, how old are they then? ‘ ‘Mark's about six and Harry was born the day my Dad died, so he's two and a half.’ Another look of ridicule, and he then looks at the brother and smiles and says, ‘Wot else dya know bout him then?’ ‘He was born in Morley St Botolph, lived in a pre-fab and his sister was a curator at Wisbech Museum a good few years back, and he's coming over to Wells in August with his family for a holiday.’ He chuckles away and then proclaims very loudly: ‘Ya know wot dunt ya gal?’ ‘No, what's that then?’ ‘You’re full a shit, but you can still borra me book!’ Tony, isn't it wonderful!”
24 Another interesting set of photos via Brian Finch today, this time from George Robins of the Middlesex showing the Cricket XI and a tablecloth made of silk webbing from a parachute – believed to be from food parcels dropped into camp by the Americans. Also, from John Inglis RA, a fine portrait of X Heavy Battery, HKSRA (Inglis is second row from bottom wearing glasses – seventh from left), and a very atmospheric photo of the Gale family (the father, Edward Gale Senior, has his right hand on the shoulder of John Gales, and his left hand on that of Edward Gale, who was on the Lisbon Maru with the RCoS. The boys’ sister Margaret is standing in front of Mrs Gwenllian Gale). This photo is a reminder of how much tougher was for most families in those days. I recall a Lisbon Maru survivor telling me many years ago that pre-war he was sent down a coal mine at the age of fourteen with no training or safety equipment, and after that experience nothing in his life really frightened him again. Finally, he included a rather fine photo from Matthew Smith’s (Royal Scots) family of number 5 section 2 platoon. 24 From Brian Finch today, particularly fine photos of John Barnes, RA, and Alfred Keeler, Middlesex. For the latter, Brian’s correspondent noted an email from me from ten years ago noting: “Here are two entries from the diary of Sergeant Bill Poulter, Middlesex. It's not happy reading, as your great uncle so nearly made it. He passed away on the day the Japanese surrendered. These entries are from 1945: ‘Pte. Andrews of the Middlesex Regiment died on the night of 30/31st of July. He appears to have died quietly in his sleep and his is the third death since we came here. After his body was cremated, I took his ashes and kept them. On the night of 1/2nd August, we had another raid. It was quite close this time. They were bombing the town of Toyama, which is about five miles from us. Nearly all the camp was watching the raid; in fact we had a grandstand view. As the raid started we could see the planes, they looked all silvery and it looked like lots of little stars were falling from them. Later as the incendiaries took effect, the planes changed from silvery to rose red; it was a lovely sight from where we were. None of our sentry was visible; in fact I think the camp was deserted, except for the prisoners. After the raid was over and we were all supposed to be in bed, the Jap sentries turned up and walked round the camp. Nothing worthy of note happened until the night 14/15th August when we had a local alarm but it turned out to be a damp squib, nothing to get excited about this time. On the morning of the 15th at 3am Pte Tom Keeler died. He had got steadily worse since coming up here. I think he would have made it if he had had proper medical treatment. Today I have received some information and I’m undecided whether to keep it to myself or to tell someone. If I tell some one, it’s bound to get round the camp and if it’s not true it may cause a big disappointment. I think I will keep it to myself and enter it in my diary and wait conformation. This is the news. At work today, August 15th, a small boy came up to me and in a very furtive manner said, ‘Shenso Oware’, this means in Japanese, ‘The War is over’ I’m inclined to believe that it is true. To my way of thinking the time is about ripe for this to happen. Anyhow time will tell if it is true. Twenty planes came over and restocked us with food. Later a correspondent from the “Yank” came to the camp taking photographs and notes about the camp. Boy, does he hate the Nips, anybody would think that he had been a prisoner to hear him talk. He was very interested in the two white boxes that I have; they contain the ashes of Keeler and Andrews. FLASH! We leave here on September 6th, this is supposed to be definite. I sincerely hope so.’ Exactly how Mr Keeler's remains got back to Acton I don't know, especially as Mr Andrews' remains were lost. This, and other extracts from Bill's diary, are covered in my Lisbon Maru book.”
23 I emailed Ray Barman today (son of BQMS Barman of ‘Resist to the End’ fame), but was very sad to receive a reply from his wife saying that Ray had passed away in February 2017.
21After a gap of some years I am back in contact with Maltby’s grandson. Among other things he asks: “Did you ever see the Chinese film ‘Love in a Fallen City’? A love story between a Hong Kong Chinese couple during the invasion. Unfortunately no English subtitles or dubbing available but an interesting enactment of the Peninsula Hotel siege with actual military characters who do speak English. Grandfather is seen at the end embarking on a launch over to Kowloon Side to surrender the colony.” It sounds interesting. Has anyone seen it? 21 Today I received the awful news that Glenis Devereux had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I was emailing her just a few days ago. Her father - John Michael Devereux, who survived being shot in the face during the fighting - was a sergeant in the Royal Scots. 21 Via Brian Finch I have an interesting schematic of Kobe House drawn by Alec Smith, RE.
20 Leslie Coxhill’s (HKVDC) son got in touch, kindly sending images of a menu (from Hiroshima #5B, Innoshima, POW Camp). The menu is largely written in faux French, making fun of the Japanese, and it is signed by twelve other POWs. The only thing I don’t understand is that it is entitled ‘Victory Dinner’ and dated Tuesday October 24th, 1944. What is significant about that date? 20 I received a sad and totally unexpected email from Bob Tatz today: “I was devastated at the news of [Ruth Sewell-Baker’s] death on New Years Day, and would like to share this with you. I am so thankful that Ruth and I reconnected after a gap of 73 years when I visited her in Oxford in 2016, the same year that I visited Barbara Anslow. The following was the announcement I received from her husband Roger: Ruth died peacefully on 1st January in the JR Hospital, Oxford, having had a totally unexpected severe stroke at home the previous night. Her memorial service was held today, Saturday, January 19, 2019.” Better news, though, is that Bob’s memoirs should be published later this year.
19 1 Battery HKVDC were all but wiped out in the battle of Stanley where they held the frontline on Christmas Eve. But has anyone ever heard of a War Diary? Or have had contact with the family of the Battery’s CO, Captain George Rees? I would be grateful for either. 19 David Kyle’s (Royal Engineers) daughter kindly contacted me today. Sadly she noted: “Just to inform you my father David Kyle, Army number 1874148, 22 Fortress Company, passed away 31st December 2018, in his 100th year. Dad was in Hong Kong until the surrender to the Japanese, he was in Shamshuipo Barracks, until 1942 then transferred to Japan, Kawasaki 23-D. His POW number was sapper 228.” She kindly sent a couple of post-war photographs of him.
18 A small group of like-minded people have created the BAAG Descendants and Friends Group of facebook. They published the minutes of their first meeting (last might, at the Police Sports and Recreation Club in Mong Kok) and kindly sent me a photo. 18 This evening Crown Wine Cellars held a party to celebrate the renewal of their lease on the Little Hong Kong premises. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, but I was very much cheered by the news!
16I had an extremely interesting call with a UK documentary company this morning. I hope the unusual project they are working on comes to fruition!
15Colin Hodgson’s (Royal Corps of Signals, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch.
14 I received the latest Java journal today and was very pleased to see three Hong Kong related stories there. They published an article on Barbara Anslow’s book (already into its second edition!), another on Ron Freer, and a third about Bill Macauley. Ron was an early victim of Shamshuipo’s diphtheria epidemic, and never really recovered. But what I hadn’t known until recently is that his father was killed in the Great War. Admittedly Ron is 103, but even so it seems amazing that someone with that background should still be with us. And long may that continue!
12 Old friend Tan got in touch to say: “I saw your post about the searchlight of Collinson Battery damaged by typhoon. I went there to check the damage as I just visited the site a year ago. I am so shocked to see the damage caused by the typhoon. The solid concrete structure standing around 10 meters above sea level over 70 years smashed in to pieces. Most unbelievable is the left searchlight completely disappeared! All the remaining structures are gone and only the clean base left there. The road connecting to it also disappeared! I attached a photo I took before to show how the structure looks originally for you to compare. Typhoon Mangkhut really caused huge damage to HK coast.” His before and after images really are amazing. Tan also sent me photos of other damage around the coast to a variety of wartime structures; I wish he was in charge of Hong Kong’s heritage! He also shot some very interesting drone footage of the impact of that typhoon.
11 Today there was a Canadian Ministerial visit to Saiwan. The Consulate asked me to accompany them, but (I think for the first time) I had to turn them down as I didn’t have enough notice. It’s a shame as I really enjoy helping out when I can, and it’s a privilege to get to meet such interesting people. I hope it went well.
10The Researching FEPOW History Group (RFHG) announced today that registration is now open for their one-day workshop at the Institute of Historical Research, London. They note that: “We are really excited to announce that our next one-day workshop will take place later this year on 10 June, 2019. As ever we will be covering a wide range of topics all related to captivity, internment and forced labour across Southeast Asia and the Far East during the Second World War. The full programme for the day will be confirmed in early March 2019. Tickets are £25 plus a small booking fee. This will include light refreshments (delegates will be asked to bring a packed lunch), and please note that places are strictly limited.”
7Today I heard from the family of evacuees Barbara Ellen Hayward and Richard Twyman Hayward, aged 13 at the time. He had been born in Hong Kong in 1927. His father was Allan William Hayward, Captain of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, who apparently died in Burma in 1943. 7 A lady in Northumberland sent me an unusual and interesting email: ”I love vintage things and so my mum bought me a vintage evening bag from a Charity shop in Sunderland, Wearside, England. It looked 50s in age. Upon using it, I realised that it had a bank note in it. This looked like Monopoly money! I passed it onto my twin boys to play with/put in their ‘odds and ends’ box. The next day I was curious as I realised it could be used to date the bag possibly. To my surprise I think I have an original 1941 bank note which I believe to have been issued between Oct 41 and Dec 41.” It certainly looks like a genuine note. Now, my wife – if she gives someone a purse or bag – always puts a small bank note in it for luck. Perhaps that’s an old tradition? This may well have been a gift from pre-war Hong Kong.
5 I hear that the Al Jazeera short about Crown Wine Cellars is out. Here is the link on YouTube. 5 This morning (as we often do on a Saturday) my wife and I walked along Bowen Road and climbed up to Wanchai Gap, seeing another four wild boar in the process.
4Walking home from my annual medical examination at Matilda Hospital I came across a wild piglet (illustrated) and her much large dad! This was on Homestead Road, and they were both so tame I think someone must be feeding them.
3Phillip Cracknell posted a fascinating blog about Brigadier Jack Reeve, who commended the Hong Kong infantry immediately before the Japanese invasion, leaving the Colony in November 1941. I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of him before. He also posted a second one, covering the story of Captain Douglas Baird, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru.
1 Sylvia Midgett put a 1950 newspaper advertisement for ‘Told In The Dark’ on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, showing the original price of HK$3.50. I buy copies of every book from this period of Hong Kong’s history that I ever hear of, but this was one of the hardest to track down. Eventually, perhaps ten years ago, I found my copy via Sotherans, and it cost a small fortune. 1 Steve Denton kindly sent a link to an account of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru by Alf Hunt.
January 1st, 2019 Update
Barbara Anslow's 100th (via Rosemary Mitchell), Edward Phillips (via Brian Finch). Saiwan 1954 (courtesy CWGC)
Annual Canadian Memorial Service (author), Charter Journal (courtesy Bill Lake), HMS Cicala (via facebook)
ARP Truck (courtesy Phillip Cracknell), May Huang letter (author's collection), Yau Sam Lo (courtesy Jennifer Lo)
First of all, apologies for the late publication of last month’s update. I actually hit the ‘publish’ button on time on the last day of November, and didn’t realize that anything had gone wrong until TK Wong kindly let me know. Apparently I hit a bug in the software which I use to update the site each month. That was a surprise. Fifteen years ago I hit bugs quite often, but it has been very stable since then. Hopefully all’s well this month!
31 Philip Cracknel has published a nice article about Captain Norman Cuthbertson, Royal Scots, who was genuinely heroic aboard the Lisbon Maru. 31 Research by Brian Finch makes a very strong case that Edward Upton, RE, died of diphtheria in the first hold of the Lisbon Maru before she sank. Previously I was only aware of two naval men who shared that fate (with Beri Beri being their cause of death). In a letter to Upton’s widow, his CO Lieutenant William Clarkson states explicitly that he died in the hold and was carried up to the deck and buried at sea.
30 From information supplied by Brian Finch, it appears that the Plymouth Naval Memorial (which I have never visited) has a panel or panels dedicated to the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. That had never occurred to me before. I had assumed that all the lost naval men listed there would simply be in rank and alphabetical order. If anyone has a photo, I would be grateful.
29Jennifer Lo (see last month) kindly sent me a contemporary photo of her grandfather, HKVDC and 3 Company veteran, Yau Sam Lo. 29 Kent Shum kindly sent me the Chinese poster advertising Fang Li’s new Lisbon Maru documentary.
27Bill Lake has confirmed that the Charter Diaries are now published and available. I know this has been a lot of work, and am very much looking forward to reading my copy.
25 Brian Finch has put together a set of links showing the publicity so far afforded the new Lisbon Maru documentary, expected to see completion in 2020: BBC World News 2018.7.9 BBC Today 2018.7.14 BBC Online 2018.7.14 Sunday Post 2018.9.2 23 Today I received an email that truly made my day: “Dear Tony, I want to thank you so much for first contacting me many years ago, and drawing me into the Stanley Group on line, because without that happening, I would not have met up with David Bellis and my war diaries would never have been published. This has been the most exciting year of my life! Regards and God bless, Barbara (Anslow).” As Barbara is one of my heroes (or heroines, to be more precise), it’s rather a big deal!
22 Today the CWGC put an old photograph of Sai Wan on facebook. Taken in 1954 it shows the cemetery before anything around it was built up. Interestingly, at mid left there are three clearly defined 500-pound bomb craters. In one of the comments, someone posted this video of me taking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau around the cemetery at the end of 2016. We appear at about 01.26.
21Brian Edgar sent an interesting link to a set of Christmas cards sent to Charles Collingwood Roberts, taipan of Swire, while in Stanley:
20 John Lomax’s (RA) son got in touch. 20 Elizabeth Ride (and others) have suggested that there should be a BAAG social media group (on facebook or whatever) in the same manner as the Stanley Group and the Battle of Hong Kong group. I think it’s a great idea, and hopefully we can kick it off early in the New Year.
19 George Boothroyd’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch.
14Al Jazeera interviewed me on camera today for a documentary about Crown Wine Cellars. 14 Old friend Rob Weir was in Hong Kong again recently and took a closer look at PB14. He notes: “The Lyon Light Shelter shows obvious signs of shrapnel damage within the structure, consistent with reports that fighting took place there - in some form. The accessible outer walls of the PB, and a quick peek inside through an open loophole, showed no apparent battle scars. On this visit, I was able to get inside and have a good look. Apart from some damage apparently caused by probable squatter residents over the years, there is no apparent battle damage within the main compartment of the PB. As I mentioned previously, this PB is a little different to most of the other Beach PB’s in that it has an extended entryway along the left side. This is only obvious from the inside as the area is completely covered by a landslip externally. On the side of the entryway, opposite the entry to the main compartment is a large, roughly circular, hole. This has been filled with carefully laid stones and rocks, and is limited to one area rather than the whole side collapsing from the landslip. My theory is that it was caused by an explosive charge set against the outside wall. That could explain how the crew were overcome without fighting.” Rob included a few photos, but unfortunately it was so dark inside that they don’t meet this site’s (ahem) ‘high standards’!
11 On the Stanley Group, Brian Edgar notes: “Those who share my taste for the Inspector Morse and Lewis series will be pleased to know there's a Stanley Camp input. Here's Chris Burt, born Christopher John Burt, on May 1, 1942.” Barbara Anslow immediately replied: “Working in the camp hospital office, I well remember Chris Burt being born there, and seeing him as a new baby.”
8 Frank Hinge’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson kindly sent a photo. 8 In answer to the question (see last month) of supplying food to frontline troops, TK notes from his study of the RASC and RCASC, that: “They (both Eng. and Can.) emptied the Central Depot at Queen's Road and dumped foods to various food stores in the hills across the island - Stanley, Wanchai Gap, Quarry Bay, Aberdeen, Chung Hom Kok etc. on the first two days of the battle. The new depot at Deep Water bay fed 59 units of around 10,000 men. They baked 8,000 to 14,000 lbs of bread per day up to almost Christmas Eve. They were required to make numberless issues (food) to even small units and sub-units, very often having a ration strength of only three or four. On the 21st they used mule transport to carry food to exposed hilltop positions. Those emergency food stores were quite near to the fronts and the soldiers could get tinned beef, corn, vegetables, and milk when hot meals were unavailable.” Although this is about Hong Kong Island, I imagine it was similar in the New Territories.
7Brian Finch managed to find a photo of Edward Phillips, Middlesex, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru. And as he says, “what a photo!” 7 I was working in Bucharest this week, seeing snow fall for the first time in many years. And at breakfast today I was informed that in my ‘real job’ I will now be reporting directly to Larry Ellison for a period. Unexpected, and good in some ways, but unfortunately likely to eat into the little free time that I still have for things historical.
6I had a very welcome email from Dennis Morley today, after having ‘joined the dots’: “Tony, I am now in touch with Rowena Alsey daughter of Arthur John Alsey band sergeant of the 2n bn the Royal Scots. This is a pleasant surprise. He was a likeable guy who I respected. Hope you and yours are well.”
5 Rudolph Raschle has been in touch, He notes that H. W. Ray, R.K. Butler, E. Butler, George Butler, Fitz-gibbon, D. Keats, Martin Ray, and John E Raschle were all relatives in Hong Kong during the war. In my records I can see: Butler, Ernest Oswald - Gunner, HKVDC. Shamshuipo POW Camp Butler, Reginald Charles - Stanley Internment Camp, British born 06.06.42, Electrical Engineer Fitz-Gibbon, William Guerin - Stanley Internment Camp, British born 25.03.85, Secretary PWD HKG Keats, Dorothy – In Stanley internment camp with her whole family. Apparently one of the Rays was a big noise in Hong Kong’s film community, after which the Ray Theatre was named (from Gwulo: Address: 102 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. Truelight Building is the current occupant at the site. Ray Theatre operated during the period February 6, 1951 - March 1, 1971). https://gwulo.com/node/36570
4 Yau Sam Lo’s (see last month) granddaughter kindly sent me an account of his life. Interestingly she notes that when he was first in POW Camp: “My grandfather’s two older brothers also came to visit him every day. They knew how to speak Japanese and they paid money to the prison guards so they could bring food for him.” Her great-grandfather had been the President of Business Association for Taiwan, doing business with the Japanese, so the family knew how to speak Japanese.
3 Ivor Arthur Gale’s (RAF) grandson got in touch. Unfortunately his ‘reply to’ email address was incorrectly set so I could not reply. So Leigh Gale, if you read this then please fix it and try again! I am particularly interested as I have had so few contacts from Hong Kong’s RAF families. 3 Brian Finch sent me something I hadn’t seen before: a civilian casualty card for the Royal Marines / Royal Navy. This one was for Charles Collard’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) wife, with a rather endearing misspelling of his name. I hadn’t considered this aspect of war before, but of course servicemen would need to be informed if family were killed in air raids. Collard served on HMS Cicala, and while playing around on the web this month I came across a ‘new’ and rather good photograph of her. 3 Tai Hang Wong noted that yesterday he hiked the treacherous section of Maclehose Trail between Kowloon Pass and Sha Tin Pass which was part of the Gin Drinker Line on the south side of Lion Rock Hill facing Sha Tin Valley. He adds: “The following few pictures taken by Francis Cheung may be of interest to you. One of them shows a concrete military marker of the Gin Drinker Line. It is quite worrying to find the three original military markers in that section not being protected by any preservation measures at all, subjecting them to the damage of nature and vandalism. In fact the inscriptions on the one next to the display board that mentions the BAAG history is seriously worn out and illegible.” Of course this isn’t unusual, and generally the government is good at fixing or replacing defaced boards.
2 Today we celebrated the annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan. There was, as always, a good turnout and it was great to see many friends. Mike Babin from HKVCA was there as usual and we had a brief catch-up. Had a long chat with Bill Lake who is studying Helen Ho and her sisters. I immediately told him that I had a copy of a ‘thank you’ letter sent to her upon liberation by the senior officers in Sham Shui Po, but when I got home I couldn’t find it. I found copies for May Huang and Joan Ip, but can anyone lay their hands on Helen’s? To me the awful quality of the copies of these letters just adds to their value. The POWs owed such a huge debt to these ladies (who somehow got food and other things into the camps) that they were determined to show their appreciation whatever the technical difficulties!
1Barbara Anslow’s one hundredth birthday! I have probably noted before that thirty years ago when I first started studying this period in Hong Kong’s history, I came across Barbara’s diary quoted in secondary sources as if it was an ancient document. Little did I suspect that I would meet Barbara and her family and be corresponding with her to this day! And it’s not just me; she has generously given her time and memories to the whole community interested in those days. 1 Correspondence continues with Ken Salmon (son of Andy Salmon, RA, Lisbon Maru) who I met in Hong Kong last month. Of his father’s first wife (nee Martha Gomes) he notes of the 1940 evacuation: “she was heavily pregnant at the time and was disembarked in Manila where she gave birth to a baby daughter before continuing on to Australia, eventually settling in Sydney until after the war. Sadly, after reuniting with my father in Sydney, they returned to HK where Martha passed away in May 1950, aged 31.” Very sad, and what a challenge for a 21 year old to have a first child, by herself in a strange country like that.
December 1st, 2018 Update
Stanley cemetery damage (courtesy Philip Cracknell), William Cambridge (courtesy Alan Cambridge), High West (author)
John Weaver at the border, William Holland and friends (both via Brian Finch), Sendai POWs (via author)
Artur or Carlos Basto (via Meg Parkes), Charlie Bentham before and after (couresy Lisa Bates)
Donald Neal success in retrieving the records of an HKVDC officer from Kentigern House (see the sixteenth) is very encouraging. He has kindly sent me the contact details of the people who helped him, and I will follow up with them. Up till now I thought that these details were not available in the UK (and so far, of course, I don’t know how comprehensive they are).
27 I received notice today of a new peer-reviewed journal whose inaugural edition includes an interesting article on fifth-columnists in the 1941 fighting in Hong Kong. 27 Kai Chiu Hung’s (3 Coy, HKVDC) great nephew got in touch.
26 The Researching FEPOW History Group has announced their next one-day workshop on 19 June 2019, and a two-day conference 5-7 June 2020. 26 On my way to San Francisco today I had a very enjoyable meeting – at the airport as all parties were flying out at roughly the same time – with Viveka Melki and Chi Man Kwong.
19 Brian Edgar has written this very interesting article about wartime collaboration (and its lack). 19 Rob Weir notes: “Visited PB 14 yesterday and, probably because of the typhoon, managed to get inside for a decent look. It is a strange beast: a standard two loophole ‘bent’ front beach PB, but it has an external air void running down one side and across the back, only ever seen before on one other in a photograph, and the access on the other side being through an extension which puts the entry at the front adjacent the loophole. This ‘annex’ seen in a slightly different form on the Tai Tam Junction PB. The combination of both must be pretty unusual. This must have made life interesting for the LL crew, as they would have to cross the front of the PB to reach the access steps, which are immediately adjacent the opposite side of the PB. No way could you get around the back.” I haven’t been there since I visited with Jim Thompson and the then CEO of Ocean Park around eight years ago.
18 Martin Heyes notes that he visited Stanley Military Cemetery just after the typhoon hit and found that one tree had come down. He and Philip Cracknell kindly sent photos of the damage caused, which the CWGC is rectifying. 18 Not strictly related to the second world war, but on one of my regular trips to the summit of High West I see the government seems to be fortifying it!
16Don Neal tells me he has been successful in getting the HKVDC service records of Colonel R.D. Walker from Kentigern house. 16 On the FEPOW facebook page, Lisa Bates posted photos of Charlie Bentham, RE, who was one of the ‘hard men’ shipped to Tokyo on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong. He looks about 16 on enlistment, but considerably older and wiser when pictured as a POW.
15 Arthur Alsey’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) daughter sent a number of interesting photos of her father via Brian Finch. One of them (illustrated) clearly demonstrated the famous shorts! Normally I am not reporting Brian’s work in detail as it is all bound up in the Lisbon Maru documentary project, but Arthur’s name is so familiar to all readers of Barbara Anslow’s diary that I thought I should mention it. 15 Brian Finch continues to do sterling work on the Lisbon Maru families. Thanks to his efforts and continuing contacts through this website I now have photographs of 222 of those who were on board. Among some photos not directly related to the Lisbon Maru were a set showing Lance Corporal John Weaver, Middlesex, at the border with China, and another of Corporal William Holland, RCoS, and friends.
12On facebook today someone posted the well-known photo of Portuguese POWs at Sendai (there are similar photos of the Canadians too). I have a better quality version, but what made this special was the annotation, which read: “Top row: A.P. 'Chunky' Xavier, Henrique 'Ariri' Noronha, Eduardo A. 'Dicky' Noronha, Arthur Basto, Robert A. Souza, Leo A. Souza, Alfred J. M. Prata, E. J. 'Turibio' Cruz, J. M. Jesus, George Ablong. 2nd row: Marciano Silva, Benny Marçal, F. W. Reis, 'Tonin' Sequeira, Tommy M. Castilho, Caetano M. 'Gaita' Azedo, J. F. D. Ribeiro, Darius C. Alves, José A. Marques, Pepe Baleros. 3rd row: Carlos 'Sluggo' Soares, David Leonard, E. A. V. Remedios, Norman Leonard, Henrique Ribeiro, Richard Silva, Harry Mathias, António F.'Butter' Noronha, Freddy Rocha, Carlos 'Sonny' Rocha, Cezar A. Roza, Hugo Garcia, E. J. Figueiredo, Augusto 'Gussy' Sequeira. 4th row: Leo R. Campos (standing), C. A. J. Ribeiro (standing), Luiz Xavier, A. C. Neves, José M. 'Zinho' Gosano, Carlos 'Chodas' dos Remedios, A. M. Baptista, Dr. Patrick M. Cmeyla (U. S. Army), J. C. Remedios, António C. 'Tony' Barretto, Robert J. 'Bob' Barnes, A. Cruz, Luizito Remedios. Front row: M. A. Larcina, Roberto Silva, G. S. Edwards, 'Alichi' Ribeiro, E. S. Marques, Roque Silva, Aquiles V. Jorge, Hugo Ribeiro, Henry Souza, Cicero Rozario, A. B. 'Tony' Carvalho, Billy Wilkinson (squatting), António M. 'Smoky' Xavier (on one knee). 12 Charles Dobie kindly noted: “I found a 48-page illustrated booklet (half English, half French) published in 2005 by Veterans Affairs, Canada. It gives a short history of the Canadian Forces in Hong Kong during the invasion. If you don't have a copy I'll drop it in the mail to you. It is ISBN 0-662-68645-4.” I don’t think I have seen this before so am looking forward to receiving it.
11 A Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) shoulder flash turned up in the hills today. The only problem is that we don’t know whose it was. Of course it could have been lost pre or post-war, but perhaps most probably it belonged to an officer on the General List who was here during the fighting. But I don’t know of any of them from that Regiment (Neve, of course, was Royal West Kent, but that’s a different thing entirely).
10 Victor Branson’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. We have been enjoying researching his Great War and HKVDC progress. In the former he won an MC, with the citation: “T./Lt. Victor Cecil Branson, 13th Bn., R. Suss. R. For conspicuous gallantry near Becordel Becourt on 22nd August, 1918, on patrol. With a small party of men he entered the village of Becordel Becourt, then some 1,500 yards in front of our line, and discovered it to be free of the enemy. The same night, when the post of another company had been driven back, he immediately proceeded with two men, re-established the post, and at once pushed forward in pursuit of the enemy, obtaining a valuable identification some eighty yards in front of the post.” 10 Apparently some experts (see last month) believe that the true number of trees lost to the great typhoon could be as many as 100,000.
9 Steve Denton kindly sent this link from the Telegraph about Ron Freer (see last month). Everything seems about right except that of course he was not aboard the Lisbon Maru. 9 A reader sent an interesting question: What food did the men in the pillboxes have during hostilities? It’s not something I really know anything about. I assume the cooks would have tried to get hot food to them when it was safe to do so, and I assume they had some sort of rations stock-piled too, but if anyone knows the details I would be very interested to learn more. 9 Meg Parkes, who must be becoming the world’s leading expert in FEPOW art, let me look at ‘Tookie’ Poole’s scrapbook. Joseph Albert ‘Tookie’ Poole served in the 1st Middlesex, and like many other POWs asked his fellow prisoners to add a sketch to each page. Frustratingly I couldn’t identify all the artists, but found Nicholas Jaffer, Artur (or Carlos?) Basto, Alfonso Barretto, Francisco Soares, and Robert Barnes.
7 Yau Sam Lo’s (HKVDC 3 Coy) granddaughter contacted me, with the unexpected and welcome news that he is still with us, living in Canada, and now 93. He lied about his age and enlisted aged just 16.
5Ronald Clements, a freelance writer in the UK, has sent me a request for contact with anyone who can provide information for a biography he is writing about Dominica Deidre Danielle Taylor. Deidre was interned with her mother, Elizabeth Anatol Taylor, in Stanley Camp when around 7 months old, so aged four on their release. Elizabeth was from a Russian family with the surname Borisoff. Her husband, Alfred Taylor, was with the Royal Army Medical Corp. He was interned in Shamshuipo Camp and then transferred to Osaka on the 6th draft. The family were united after the war and came back to the UK on the Empress of Australia. Ronald believes that Leo A. Borisoff, a member of the HK police force, who was also at Stanley, may well have been Elizabeth's brother. Any information about Deidre, Elizabeth, Alfred and the Borisoff family would be gratefully received.
4 On the Stanley Group, Brian Edgar notes: “One of my cousins has given me the two 'lost' notes sent to my father's family in Windsor in early September 1945 just after he had left camp with my mother to try to get bread production going again”. The notes are here, and here are Brian’s families other cards and letters from the period.
1Continuing the great short trousers, long trousers debate, Jill Fell notes: “I've only just read the September query about short or long trousers for the HKVDC uniform in December 1941. The 1939 Christmas photo that I posted [here] shows the Signal Corps in short trousers. I assume it was taken no earlier than November. Twenty years previously, my uncle, Arthur Warren is photographed wearing HKVDC uniform with short trousers for his nephew's christening, whereas my younger father, wearing mufti, is in long trousers.”
November 1st, 2018 Update
Fran and Garfield Kvalheim (courtesy Sharon Tice), Royal Freer (courtesy Java Journal), High West trench (author)
Captured at Shing Mun (via Tim Ko), Middlesex Band around 1937 (courtesy Fiona Parkinson). Saiwan 1947 (via facebook)
Haystack, BMH Sergeants' Mess, May Road Garages (all author)
The Hong Kong War Diary website dates back to 2000, but took its current form in October 2003. This month is therefore, believe it or not, the fifteenth anniversary of this blog in its current form. I believe it is one of the oldest (possibly even THE oldest) continuously updated monthly blogs in the world. Readers from day one have seen 340,000 words of text (equivalent to three typical novels, and all free of charge!) and 1,800 photographs.
So this extra-long edition will consist of two things: the usual monthly update, followed by a special round up of some of my favourite stories and photos from the last fifteen years. I thought I would choose one per year, just as a reminder of all that I have learned – and present it as a thank you to the now thousands of people who have kindly contributed to my knowledge of Hong Kong during the wartime years.
29 Peter Loughlin’s (HKPF, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch, kindly sending a photo. There were very few police on board, but by chance I had a copy of a POW post card he had sent his wife and young son, plus details of his career with the police force. I was able to give these to the family, but sadly after some research they informed me that the son (who they did not previously know about) had died at around the same time as Loughlin was lost on the vessel. 29 This evening I had a very pleasant dinner at my local with Ken Salmon (whose father Andy Salmon was on the Lisbon Maru) and Brian Finch and his wife Gillian.
28 Beautiful weather for my usual walk this morning. Among other things I photographed the May Road garages that Lube Estes had recently mentioned on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, the strange trench near the top of High West, and Haystack, a pre-war house on the Peak which is now the residence of the Japanese Consul. Also saw the first wild pigs of the season! 28 A very well preserved Royal Scots shoulder flash turned up in the hills today.
26 Robert Gibson kindly let me know about a new exhibition called Three Years and Eight Months: Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation, at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Lee Shau Kee Library which will run from October 4, 2018 – March 31, 2019. Details here. 26 The local press today carried stories of yet another Japanese grenade turning up. The quantities of ordnance that have been found over the years always amazes people, but when I remind them that shortly before hostilities commenced in Hong Kong the British issued an extra million rounds of .303 to each infantry battalion (i.e. six million more) then the scale becomes clearer.
22Philip Cracknel has posted a short blog on Stanley Internee Robert Grindley Southerton.
19 William Ure’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch, kindly sending many photos. One of them looks like it was taken in Singapore in about 1937, of the Middlesex Band (Ure is fourth from right).
18 Today I received a copy (via Brian Finch) of Andy Salmon’s personal diary and unpublished book ‘Remember My Face’ about the Lisbon Maru, co-written with Christine Henderson.
17Alex MacDonald asked for more information on Theodore Leslie Bell and Charles Mycock. This was a useful reminder, and I took my notes on Bell and added a few further findings before sending it back to Alex. Like the case of Mrs Hollands, sometimes it takes years to sort these things out and get official recognition, but there is now no doubt that Bell is an undocumented British fatality of the war – and deserves a medal for helping Father Percunas when he was wounded. In the words of Father Tohill: “One man never to be forgotten was a Mr. Bell who welcomed us to the Valley and had hoped that we could help in the construction of huts for the refugees. He had been put in charge of the work; he was not well and suffered from dysentery. He showed much goodwill and set about his work with zeal. After the war Fr. Perkumas [sic] told me how good Mr. Bell had been to him when he helped him leave the hut where he had been wounded by a Japanese bullet. Bell had supported him, and even when confronted with a Japanese machine-gunner who wanted them both to raise their arms, he had hesitated to obey, not wanting Fr. Perkumas to fall helplessly to the ground. For this reason, or probably because he was wearing khaki, the soldier did not hesitate to shoot him. The two of them lay on the ground for quite some time. Bell still tried to assist Perkumas to reach the red house. Before dying he spoke of God’s goodness, and asked the priest to forgive him for not having been of more help.”
16 I asked (on Elizabeth Ride’s sage advice) Audun Urke if he knew any details on the murders of the ‘five Swedish nationals’. He pointed out that the true number was three, adding: “the episode is mentioned in depth by the Norwegian Seaman's Mission pastor, Mr. Johan Nielsen in his account published in 1946. Unfortunately it is published only in Norwegian with the title "Av en sjømannsprests loggbok" (Den norske sjømannsmisjons forlag - Bergen 1946). Pastor Nielsen's church was an important meeting place for Scandinavian sailors in the period between December 1941 and February 1943. The three Swedish sailors came from the MS Ningpo, a Swedish Merchant ship scuttled by the crew in December 1941. They celebrated Christmas, Easter and other holidays together with the stranded Norwegian and Danish sailors at the Seaman's Mission in Chatham Road 2, Kowloon. According to Pastor Nielsen the three were: Anton Wilhelm Forsberg from Ljung, Paul Ingvar Lindquist from Stockholm, and Carl Wilhelm Anderson from Gothenborg, (The Swedish sources writes his name Karl, without mentioning the middle name - and you will also find Andersson with an extra ‘s’ in it).”
15Bill Lake kindly sent a cutting from the Hong Kong Telegraph of 9 December 1941 reporting on donations to the bomber fund. What struck us was the familiarity of the names of the donors: Bicheno, Cautherley, Hyndman, MacGregor, Wylie – all well known to anyone who has studied Hong Kong in the period.
12 Since last month’s big typhoon I have noticed how many new views there are in Hong Kong. Great swathes of trees and brakes of bamboo have gone, and opened up new vistas. Walking back from the office today along Bowen Road I noticed how clearly visible the old sergeants’ mess at the Bowen Road Military Hospital has become, without the cover of the blown down trees.
11 Several people reported that Barbara Anslow’s book is mentioned at length in a Daily Mail article today. 11 Brian Finch kindly sent several photos of Charles Haviland (RN, Lisbon Maru).
10And talking of mega fauna, the South China Morning Post today carried two stories about our wild pigs. In one they apparently attacked a couple of elderly people in the New Territories. In the other, three little pigs apparently went on a very orderly shopping expedition.
8 Today I received the October Java Journal (the newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoner of War Club 1942 – though for many years it has been open to every FEPOW). I was amazed and delighted to learn that Sergeant Ron ‘Royal’ Freer, of Hong Kong’s 8th Coastal Regiment RA, became 103 this month. I had no idea he was still around. He notes that he was stationed at Fort Stanley in Hong Kong, where he was in charge of the Plotting Table and Table Fire Director. He was then a POW in North Point before transferring to Shamshuipo where he stayed until liberation. 8 I took my new walk today, where instead of going Chatham Path, Barker Road, The Peak I go Chatham Road (cross Barker Road), Hospital Path, Severn Road, Plantation Road, Findlay Path, The Peak. As I neared the end of Findlay Path I saw a trio of young people gathered around a small animal. It turned out to be a dying masked civet cat; I think it had been attacked by dogs. Saddened by this I continued my walk to High West, and eventually came down via Old Peak Road. There, opposite the Ladies Recreation Club, I saw two young women standing over a large animal in a ditch. It turned out to be an adult porcupine, hit by a car. Lovely to see Hong Kong’s mega fauna, but very sad in this context. 8 Avery White’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter kindly shared many of her father’s photos and letters. The photos included one of Monkey Stewart, apparently proposing a toast at some pre-war celebration. The most interesting letters were written in defence of Japanese war criminal Hiroshi Morita. Most men actually felt that he was reasonable (in comparison to the majority of POW guards at Kobe), and actually helped the POWs from time to time. They felt that his sentence of twenty years was extreme, and tried to help his attorney reduce it. One 1951 letter, in good but imperfect English, was to White from Morita’s wife, thanking him for his efforts and confirming that Morita’s sentence had indeed been reduced. She asked for further help with Morita’s petition for release after serving five years. Unfortunately I don’t know the result.
6 Brian Edgar found this thesis concerning the Norwegians In Hong Kong before and after their February 1943 internment (Chapter 5). One thing that it notes: “The most relatable act of lawlessness to the Norwegians must have been the murder-looting of five Swedish nationals on Victoria peak, like them, the Swedish were third nationals, and strictly neutral in the war.” Brian added that in the book ‘Taken in Hong Kong: December 8, 1941: Memoirs of Norman Briggs World War II Prisoner of War’ by Carol Briggs Waite he found the quote: "One of the saddest instances of looting happened much later. When we were all sent to internment camp, we asked the three Swedish officers, as third party nationals, if they would like to move into the house. They were living in one room downtown in very cramped quarters. The proposal was put to them that if they lived there and kept the property out of the hands of the Chinese looters, the Company would make a settlement with them for the expenses they had in holding on to the Company property. They moved in about two weeks before we left. On April 10th they were informed by the Japanese that they would have to get out on April 15th, as the Japanese governor of Hong Kong was coming there to live. The reason for this was that it was about the only livable house left on the Peak. On the night of April 14, a gang of fifteen Chinese looters showed up, entered the house, murdered the three Swedish officers, and then went through the house and made a shambles of it. It was very sad, as we knew them quite well and knew they all had families at home in Sweden. The looters knew that it was their last night and, after the governor moved in, there would be an armed guard on the place. After the destruction, of course, the Japanese governor couldn't move in either." The location of the incident was 459 The Peak, also known as Altadena. I believe it is 27 Barker Road today. 6 I have been trying desperately to find the families of the crew of the USS Grouper, SS-214, the American submarine that sank the Lisbon Maru. None of the British POWs on board ever blamed the Americans; it was a Japanese ship carrying Japanese troops and war materials, thus a valid military target. I used to be in touch with crewman Garfield Kvalheim who passed away some years back, and today niece Sharon Tice sent me a wonderful photo of Gar and his wife Fran. Unfortunately I have not been able to contact any other of the families.
4 When I wrote the book about the Lisbon Maru I was lucky enough to find in the archives the now famous photograph of the sinking ship. It was clear, though, that originally there had been two photos. Andy Salmon’s family – perhaps twelve years ago – sent me a photocopy of the now missing second photo. It was taken perhaps thirty minutes after the first, and shows the vessel settling stern first, with the figures of POWs on the bows. Today the Salmons, via Brian Finch, kindly sent a clearer version.
3 Philip Cracknell posted a short but interesting new blog about Lisbon Maru survivor Henry Ross, RAMC, who perished in Japan. He notes: “This is a very short piece, mainly because I could find so little about him, but it's written as a tribute to S/Sgt Henry Ross, Royal Army Medical Corps. He died, aged twenty-six, from starvation/malnutrition whilst in a Japanese prisoner of war camp… He is remembered for always putting others before him, and even when the stricken Lisbon Maru started to sink, instead of trying to save himself he stayed on the ship, as long as possible, trying to save others and tend for the wounded and disabled. Captain Martin Weedon, 1/Mx believed he owed his life to S/Sgt Ross who tended him whilst Weedon was very ill with diphtheria.“ 3 Rob Weir, the expert on Hong Kong’s fixed defences, kindly wrote to me noting: “The purpose of this missive is to correct a minor point. The reference to the Cape Collinson Observation post in the September News opening paragraph should be Cape Collinson CASL (Coastal Artillery Search Light) Installation… There are two, separated by roughly 100 metres, their purpose being to illuminate targets for the Battery guns at night. The Engine House, which contained engines and generators to supply the electricity for the lights, is on the hillside roughly above this installation, but on the opposite side of the road.”
2Bill Lake noticed my mention of the special anniversary edition of the Hong Kong news of December 1942, and kindly sent me a copy of the entire newspaper! This is, I think, the first full edition of a Hong Kong News that I have seen. 2 I have had several interesting replies to my question (see last month) of whether Hong Kong’s defenders in 1941 wore long or short trousers. Ken Skelton in Canada reports Captain E. L. Hurd's, Royal Rifles of Canada, diary reporting on 16 December 1941: "During the morning of Dec. 16th the Imperial Troops raided our store house at Lye Mun and pillaged battledress. I complained to the O.C., Middlesex in our area and many were returned." Which is interesting but inconclusive as (no offense) the Middlesex were inveterate pilferers. I also looked up contemporary photos such as the one of Royal Scots captured at the Shing Mun Redoubt, and they are all wearing long trousers, and of the Canadians landing in November and marching to Shamshuipo all apparently wearing shorts. And then Barbara Anslow kindly let me know that: “my diary of 18.12.41 records that Sid Hale of Royal Scots who had been in Military Hospital with wounds, called to see me on his way to rejoin his unit 'wearing khaki shorts and tin helmet’.” So perhaps men wore a variety.
1 Brian Finch has reported something very unusual: the record of the funeral service of William Fraser, Royal Scots, in Kobe, 1943. As death in POW Camps was sadly on an industrial scale, I had previously assumed funeral services would have been almost robotic. Not so, it appears. This service, conducted by an American Naval Officer, Commander Harrison, was personal and sincere. 1 Another one from Brian Edgar. While Augusta Wexham and her husband (Robert Wexham, RN, who perished on the Lisbon Maru) appear in the records, there is no mention anywhere of a son, and of course it is nonsensical to suggest that a child was on the Lisbon Maru. 1 Brian Finch kindly sent me several photographs of Martin Weedon, commander of B Company of the Middlesex. One of them (illustrated) was a particularly fine portrait. 1 At the end of last month, Brian Edgar found an article from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, May 27th 2002. It read: “Schools Honour the Memory of PoW Campaigner. A CONCERT has helped a fund in memory of a wartime prisoner of the Japanese who died from a rare disease. A show by Catholic schools in Coventry raised pounds 975 for the Amyloidosis Research Fund in memory of Florence O'Grady, of Daintree Croft, Styvechale, who survived a Japanese PoW camp and went on to win compensation for inmates. She died, aged 63, last May, from degenerative disease amyloidosis. The concert was held at St Mary's RC School, in Lansdowne Street, Hillfields, where she was a teacher for 30 years. The proceeds have taken the total of the research fund to pounds 5,700, which has delighted her husband, Gerard. He said: ‘I'm very very touched by the way people have responded and it's most generous. It shows the esteem in which she was held because she really was an exceptional person.’ Mrs O'Grady was just three years old when her family was captured by Japanese troops who marched into Hong Kong in 1941. She was held in Stanley Camp on the island for almost four years. The tireless campaigner won pounds 10,000 compensation from the government last year as part of a payout to all former prisoners and their widows to recognise their suffering. Mr O'Grady, aged 61, said the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, where the amyloidosis research fund is based, is the only place in the country which is researching the disease. He is campaigning for greater awareness of the rare condition which kills up to 300 people a year. He said: ‘They're now trying out drugs on people which will hopefully control the condition, which they're very positive about. I feel the more awareness is raised, the more things can be done in the long run.’ “ Researchers in the Stanley group believe she was Florence Roberta James, born 1 Dec 1937. Probably Florence’s mother was married to Private James Ivor James of the Middlesex who died on the Lisbon Maru. His POW card has Mrs James 368 The Peak HK. Barbara Anslow mentions a little girl Flossie James a couple of times in her recently published diary, she was a fairy in Peter Pan in August 1944 and was confirmed in May 1945. Oddly, James’s CWGC entry mentions no wife. 1 The HKVCA facebook page showed a very interesting set of photographs entitled ‘Officers of the British Forces and the Canadian Forces visits the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Chai Wan, Hong Kong, 1947’. I hadn’t seen these before. In fact I thing these pre-date the earliest Sai Wan photos I have in my archives, showing the top section of the cemetery bare of graves. 1 After my notes about last month’s typhoon and the number of trees lost, I see that number has now been upgraded to an unbelievable 46,000 (upgraded yet again at the end of the month to 60,000). The South China Morning Post reports that the old runway at Kai Tak is now being used to store them. The same edition also noted the coming retirement of Tony Chow Shek-kin, who has headed EOD in Hong Kong for many years and certainly deserves a long and happy retirement.
Fifteenth Anniversary Memorial
2003 These were real people…
“Hello Tony. I've found a photo of the Royal Scots Regiment in my husband's old family photo album. His father, Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant George Trinder (No 3049835) is in the front row, 7th from the left. I've attached it in case it is of interest to you. I have assumed that the two men whose photos are attached to the railing of the verandah were the officers. Do you think that is possibly correct? Aileen Trinder.”
It’s very easy when considering history to forget that the objects of our interest were real people. Mr Trinder was lost in the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and I was immediately struck by the obvious character of the man in this outstanding portrait.
2004 … and some of them were children.
“My name is Karen, my mother Julia Bonner was a prisoner of Stanley Internment Camp, taken on her 12th Birthday 19th December 1941. Her nickname was Blondie, her mother Raquel Bonner was of Spanish decent, she married Captain William Worral in Stanley Internment Camp. He was well known in Hong Kong as a salvage Captain ‘Tug Boat Bill’. My blood grandfather Corporal Horace Bonner was in the Hong Kong Defence corps, when the island fell to the Japanese, he reported to headquarters and my mother never saw him again. He was the security guard at the Hong Kong Dock yards when it fell. I know that he was killed at war, however would like to know anything about his final days, if anyone can give me a clear indication of how to find any information about him I would gratefully appreciate it. When he died so did all the ties that my mother had with his family in England as all the records were destroyed. We know that he had 2 sisters and that is about it. Mum is the third from the right. The one laughing. She thinks this photo was taken around the 19th/20th December 1941. She remembers the date as the 19th, the day she was captured, was her twelfth birthday. She actually went to the French Convent School as a student before the war.”
I think the impact here is the combination of the exact place and time (North Point Camp, 19 December 1941) and the resilience of children. I used to know several kids who had been taken to North Point on that day, and although Julia is laughing here, what they saw – especially when wounded Canadians were brought in – stayed with them forever. Raquel and her two daughters were in Room 15/15 in Stanley with the Eagers and Worrals.
2005 Hong Kong was a prime posting…
“Tony, As requested photo which was taken in the Sergeants mess in Hong Kong. From left to right ‘Pop’ Ayers, Bill Poulter, Jim Ramsey, Dorothy Poulter, and Ivy Ramsey. I do not know who the two other men were. I know that Jim Ramsey, one of Dad’s friends, went down with the Lisbon Maru. Mum and Ivy remained great friends until 1993 when Ivy died. Regards, Robbie Poulter.”
Between the wars, Hong Kong and Shanghai were considered prime postings. A humble soldier could do very nicely in cities which (though it’s hard to believe now) were then very poor. This photo epitomises the high life, though all three men would see the lows of the Lisbon Maru with only Poulter surviving.
2006 … and women served too.
“Tony, Thank you so much for replying so quickly. The details below confirm some of the information we have found from her diary. I will continue to try to find more information on my grandfather. If I do I will pass it on. I have attached a photograph of my grandmother and one taken on the ship on their way to Hong Kong. I have also attached a beautifully illustrated poem written by one of the POW's. We found a number of sketches that my grandmother was given, some of them with notes attached thanking her for her kindness which is lovely. There was obviously a lot of talent around and evidence that people still managed to keep a sense of humour. We have found an original copy of a 'Special Edition' of 'The Snake & Staff' dated January 1942 which is very funny. I think it must have been distributed around Bowen Road Hosp as it mentions Norman Leath amongst others. If I can scan it well enough for you to read, I will pass it on. Thank you again. Kind regards. Jo Price.”
Joan Whitely was one of many women serving in Hong Kong. She was interned in Stanley, but left there soon after the Japanese surrender to work at the Central British School (now KGV) hospital.
2007 Families were destroyed.
“Hello Tony, Thank you for your email. I thought that as you were in touch with the Reed family that they may like to see the diary entry and envelope etc (photos attached). I suppose that there is no memory now of the diary being found. I expect that my uncle wrote to Mrs Reed at the time. Congratulations on your book. Regards. Ken.”
Middlesex soldier Percy Chittenden’s diary was found on Leighton Hill just after the fighting, and was kindly sent to him by the Reed family post--war. Sadly, that family lost four sons in the HKVDC during the war. Gunner Francis Oswald Reed, Private Edgar Vincent and Private Arthur Augustus Reed were all killed in the December fighting, and Private Stephen Arnold Reed died of wounds early in the New Year.
2008 It has been a real privilege to meet the veterans…
“Ok, Tony, here goes!! Kind regards, George”.
This photograph – taken during Barbara Anslow’s visit - is (from left to right) Geoffrey Emerson, my good friend the late Toby Brown, Barbara Anslow, Barbara's daughter (I believe), my wife, and a bearded George Cautherley (who was born in Stanley Internment Camp). Barbara was showing us round and explaining the story behind each headstone. Later we retired to Stanley for lunch. I have another treasured photo of Barbara and I giggling like teenagers, but I have no recollection why.
2009 … and to stay in touch with them.
“Dear Tony. Good morning! As spoke, the photos are also for you too. Those images are already deleted in our camera. Your website is a very interesting resource for study. I would view it and recommend to students. Best, Yours sincerely, mo-ching.”
Now, to most people that would mean very little. But to me it means Elizabeth Ride’s (daughter of Brigadier Ride, the founder of BAAG) annual visit to Hong Kong. We always met up, and I learned great deal. And our kids loved her visits too because their own grandmother was too poorly to travel by then, and Elizabeth would bring them little gifts; they called her ‘stunt nana’.
2010 Interest continues to grow…
“The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:”
This is one of Robert Gibson’s excellent photos of our Hong Kong Club walks. I started taking the Club for historical walks many years ago, when no one else seemed much interested. Now at least one of those who accompanied me then conducts walks of his own, and many more people – local and foreign – are passionately interested. The research by the younger generation today exceeds the little I was able to do then, and no one is happier to see this than me.
2011 … and finds, one way or another, keep turning up.
“Dear Tony, A W B Strachan, my father, was in Hampshire R 151358. He was a POW at Shamshuipo. I have a medical case, Japanese Issue and some provenance - drawing by A V Skvorzov and by Bird. I attach some photos, is this of interest? Regards, James Strachan.”
It seems that every month people find things in Hong Kong’s hills and are kind enough to let me know. I could have filled each one of these years with photos of shells, grenades, guns, magazines, bombs and so forth – but I chose not to as these things are dangerous and I don’t want to encourage people to search for them. But sometimes other, safer (perhaps? I’m not sure in this context!) items turn up too.
2012 They had skills that later generations lost.
“Hi Tony. My father was a 'guest of the Emperor' in Argyle Street during WWII, having served with the Middlesex Regiment. (I've found his name on your website.) He was captain of A Company. He was heavily involved in the Argyle Street POW Association for many years before his death in 1998. We've got some odds and ends of his adventures during this time which you may be interested in and also a detailed map of HK and surrounding areas reportedly drawn in the camp during his stay. We would like help in identifying the author/artist of this incredible artifact, not least because it would surely be of great interest to his family. We're visiting HK in November and wonder if we could meet up. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards, Philip Hudson.”
Captain John Hudson, Middlesex, family sent me this map (among many). I believe it was drawn by Lance Corp Ken Sawyer, Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Judging from the scrapbooks kept in POW Camp, everyone then could sketch and write poems that put our modern generations to shame.
2013 Not every project pans out.
“Dear Tony, Just finished the whole text in time, please see attached medium quality PDF from p.1-18. There are 3 photos and one logo embedded in the Microsoft Word document that you did not email to me. They are images from p.1 (one pic and the HK Club logo), p.3, p.17. Please email files to me so that I could improve the photo quality. Thanks. Au Yeung.”
Aaargh! I spent years (literally) writing Walking The War, a book of illustrated war walks – and drawing the maps by hand - and for one reason or another it never got published. What a shame. Maybe one day. These were the ten carefully researched walks I put together over the years for the Hong Kong Club.
2014 It happened here…
“Hi Tony, I see you try to combine the old and current photo together. Here is the result I did with a photo on your site. It's a very powerful image when combine the pass and current image together. Also a new way to tell the story. It will be very interesting to make a book or exhibit with this kind of images. How do you think? Regards, Tan.”
Hong Kong, perhaps more than any other city, has changed dramatically since 1941. Sometimes so much so that it is hard to grasp that the events we read about really happened in our streets and hills. This merging of ‘then and now’ helps fix those events in our times.
2015 … and reverberates to this day.
“Tony, Here are some more photos you might consider for your website. One, the whole group in Stanley Cemetery - 1 Dec. Union Jack - in St Stephen's Chapel, 2 Dec. Ian Gill presented this flag, which was said to have been hidden and raised in a POW camp in Indonesia in 1945, later given to his mother, Billie Gill, and he draped her coffin with it in 2006. The people in the photo were children, born or conceived in Stanley Camp, except Cortia Chung and Winnie Wong of St Stephen's College and me. Geoff.”
Geoffrey Emerson’s photo is worth a thousand words. All these people started their lives in Stanley Internment camp and revisited Hong Kong in 2015 for the reunion which Geoffrey organised.
2016 The foundation is intergenerational respect…
“Tony, Once again thank you. It was great to meet you in person. Attached are some photos of today for you. Sincerely, Ben.”
Ben Dalgleish’s grandfather was Ip Kwong Lau, a member of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment. He escaped from wartime Hong Kong, joined up with BAAG, then became a Chindit. Uniquely (to the best of my knowledge) he later became the only member of Hong Kong’s wartime garrison to join the SAS. (Winnipeg Grenadier John McCoy, an American, joined the Rangers post war and was killed in Vietnam. He may well have been the only other Hong Kong veteran to have joined Special Forces). So it’s not surprising that Ben joined Watershed for their uniformed re-enactment of 1941 marking the seventy-fifth anniversary in December 2016. But the fact is that most of the emails I receive are also from current generations trying to understand the experiences of their ancestors.
2017 … and we’re not finished yet.
“Dear Tony, I am happy to attach the full cover of ‘Reduced to a Symbolical Scale’ for your perusal. Can you please give it a thorough review and confirm that it is ready for press? If there is anything else that requires attention, please let me know by Monday, 12 June. We will prepare the files for printing as soon as we have heard from you. Thanks and with very best wishes, Clara Ho, Managing Editor, Hong Kong University Press.”
So that’s the most recent book done and dusted. But there’s lots more to do. I have half a dozen potential articles for the Royal Asiatic Society at least half finished, and two or three more books I’d like to complete before I too leave this mortal coil. But of course I’ll report back on all of that in 2033 when Hong Kong War Diary celebrates its thirtieth anniversary!