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
Alabaster journal (courtesy David St Maur Sheil), Vic Ient's new book (author), Cogbill news cutting (courtesy Jennifer Schaible)
Fred Moore (courtesy Stephanie Coleman), Stanley Greaves, Martha Staple & family members (via facebook)
Levett's war diary (via Jennifer Schaible), Punjabis at the Shing Mun Redoubt, the Joe Denton book (author)
This month was of course dominated by being the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day (which I learned for the first time is known as VP [Pacific] Day in Australia). As well as receiving (or seeing on social media) a large number of photos of members of Hong Kong’s garrison, as promised I was honoured to publish some unique new content – an article by Sergeant George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada. If you haven’t seen that already, please page down to the July update and you will find it at the top.
(Note that this month I have changed the font to Geneva in an effort to make the text more readable).
31 The month ended with welcome news via facebook, that Sir Chaloner Grenville Alabaster’s family are considering publishing his four-volume account of life in Stanley Internment camp. Oddly enough he has two different Wikipedia entries! 31 My copy of Victor Ient’s book arrived today (see the tenth below).
30 I heard today the sad news that John Penn, son of Harry Penn (the wartime commander of 1 Company HKVDC), passed away on the 21st.
27 Here’s an interesting question: Did the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps (HKDDC) have their own cap badge? They fell between two stools in terms of which force they were part of, with both a naval connection and an army one (they were associated with the HKVDC when hostilities commenced). I have photos of members in which I can certainly see cap badges, but unfortunately not clearly enough to identify. 27 Professor Chi Man Kwong and colleagues at Baptist U have created an interactive map, entitled "Hong Kong Resistance: the British Army Aid Group, 1942-1945".
26 William Robertson’s (HKRNVR) grandniece got in touch. As far as I can see, Robertson (who worked for Hong Kong Bank) hadn’t spent much time in HK before the war, in fact he had recently been in Singapore.
25 Chris Potter (son of John Potter of the HKVDC Air Arm) corrected one of my records. I had Robert Jeffrey Parker, but he has corrected it to Robert Geoffrey Parker noting that he: “was an architect like my father, although I don't know the company he worked for.” He also showed that Parker was quite an artist, kindly attaching some cards he had sent Chris’s mother.
25 Martin Heyes notes: “I don’t know if you have seen this short video, which I thought you might find of interest. [I see] that a number of the old boys served in No.3 Coy of the HKVDC.” It is about DBS during the war years, created as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations last year, and is rather good. The interviews with many familiar names are very valuable.
23 This evening we were delighted to announce the go live of the new BAAG website. This site went live today, 23 August 2020, at 18.00 Hong Kong time. The significance of the date is that it is exactly seventy-five years since the British Army Aid Group smuggled the authorisation to resume British sovereignty over Hong Kong, to the Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson in Stanley Internment Camp. The new site hosts a growing and welcome fraction of Elizabeth Ride’s BAAG archives. It is primarily intended to be a permanent memorial to the members of BAAG, but of course it also commemorates Brigadier Sir Lindsay Ride’s wartime role, and Elizabeth’s years of hard work in collecting and organising the records, and kindly making them available to a broader audience. 23 Patrick Whelan’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch.
22 I heard the sad news that Anne Ozorio passed away in the UK today. She was a very helpful and knowledgeable member of Hong Kong’s historical community, and I wish she had written more. Her The Myth of Unpreparedness: The Origins of Anti Japanese Resistance in Prewar Hong Kong is perhaps her best known work. (It was mistakenly published with the editor’s unresolved comments included. For those not familiar with academic publishing, it is typical to go through such a process, and it is also perfectly normal for such comments to be concise to the point of bluntness. But it is not normal to publish them). But in parallel, Anne was also a highly respected and knowledgeable critic of music with her own well-known blog. One of her friends created an informal obituary here.
21 Elizabeth Ride called from Norway, with news to be released on the 23rd.
18 Jon Reid tells me that: “The Captain Was A Doctor is now at the printer and the pre-publication stage is getting underway. If I haven't sent it to you, this publisher link will show the six reviews (edited by Dundurn to fit) the book has already received.” 18 For reasons too early to divulge, I have recently become interested in Tigers in twentieth century Hong Kong. We all know the two famous stories (including the Stanley Internment Camp one), but CNN says there have been others. And Luba Estes on facebook noted: “On weekends, my family drove to the 12-mile beach where we had a shed and on Sundays we spent the day in Castle Peak. In 1940 driving home, both my mother and I saw and stared as my father slowly drove by a large tiger sitting proudly on the embankment while observing the road we were on. My sister and father missed it.)
17 Robert "Bob" Cogbill’s (Hong Kong Signal Company) daughter got in touch, kindly sending me copies of pages from the Prisoner of War Diary of Chief Signal Officer China Command, Hong Kong 1941-1945 (Eustace Levett). She also sent photos from POW camp, of an ex-POW reunion, and a nice local newspaper article about her father.
16Fred Moore’s (RE) niece got in touch. Fred was one of six ex-Hong Kong POWs who very unfortunate drank poisonous industrial alcohol shortly after liberation in Japan. They were: Bent, Howard N. Rifleman F/40828 RRoC (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Cyr, Clement Rifleman E/30414 RRoC (XD3) K 7.6.45 Y Al Devaney, Peter Gavin Sapper 1880606 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Moore, Fred Sapper 1874085 RE (XD5) K 7.9.45 Y Al Morris, James Stuart Sapper 1874306 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Pemberton, George Lance Corp. 1871779 RE (XD3) K 8.9.45 Y Al The Van Allen affidavit on the late Roger Mansell’s site covers the story. Tape 1, side B, of this American POW’s memoirs also describes the incident (about twenty one minutes in).
15 Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day, so I posted George MacDonell’s excellent article as promised, and then sat back to read the news. Rather nicely, many relatives of FEPOWS posted stories and photos of their family members on all the relevant social media sites. Many were already familiar to me, but new photos included George Oliver, RE, Stanley Greaves, HKVDC, Sidney Cottiss, RAMC, George Hodgson, Middlesex, Isabella Warbrick, Nurse, Martha Staple, Colonial Nursing Service, and Frederick Wilson, RAF. Perhaps the most memorable was the one of the two nurses and their two brothers. The was posted by Debby Coxon who noted: "My grandmother, Martha Jane Staple (top left) and great-aunt Isabella Warbrick, who both worked as government nurses through three years, eight months, five days in Stanley Camp, Hong Kong. Top right, William eldest brother, killed in Great War, bottom left, youngest brother Robert, died of wounds December 1944, Belgium, while they were still interned." On top of these were two more Lisbon Maru men, Christopher Warren, Royal Corps of Signals, and John Edwards, RN. 15 It was good to see The Edinburgh Reporter focusing on Second Royal Scots in a VJ article today, and another article appeared in the Louth Leader the following day, with a further one (primarily about the Joe Denton book) in Wales Online a few days later. 15 Ian Gill notes: “Today is VJ day and Adrian Chiles of BBC Radio 5 called to ask about my parents’ unusual love story in Hong Kong’s Stanley internment camp. Our chat, part of a three-hour show, starts at the 1:14.30 mark and lasts 20 minutes.” (This may not be available in all countries). 15 Edward Butterfield’s (RS, LM) great great niece got in touch. 15 I hear that Joe Denton’s (who survived the Battle of Hong Kong in the Royal Artillery, and the Lisbon Maru) first great great granddaughter was born today. She should have appeared on the eighth, but apparently waited for VJ Day!
13 Today I discovered that a new reprint of Evan Stewart’s classic account Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle is available. This is essentially the 2004 extended version of the 1954 softback original, with new cover art. 13 Colin Standish kindly told me that someone in Canada is selling an old wartime leather belt, studded with cap badges and should flashes from Hong Kong. The seller notes: “It's a Middlesex Regiment officer's belt with badges, nearly all British I think, was brought back by a former Canadian P.O.W., Cpl. W.G.T Tuppert of the Royal Rifles of Canada, taken prisoner on Christmas Day, 1941.” More on this later.
10 There must have been a fourth air crash involving ex-HK POWs being repatriated from Japan. All Hong Kong buffs know about Les Misérables, Ginny, and Liquidator, but there are so many indicators of a fourth. Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 3rd officer Robert M. Brown, and Gunner Ernest John Bampton all apparently died on 24 September 1945 in another aircraft crash taking off from Okinawa, and at least one of the Lisbon Maru survivors (Taffy Evans, Middlesex) stated that he had survived such a crash – and yet his name is not on the MACRs of any of the three known B24 accidents. 10 Vic Ient notes: “At last the printed version of my book is published!” 10 Philip Cracknell noted: “Two stories in one but related. The first is about ZBW the radio station in Hong Kong broadcasting under fire in December 1941. A programme of dance music and the news from Daventry. Daventry calling. The second is about Frank Kekewick Garton a Wireless Engineer based at the transmitter station at D'Aguilar. He was ordered to evacuate the station and return to GPO HQ in town. He made a mistake by driving up Repulse Bay Road to WNC Gap in the morning of 19 December, but how was he to know the Japanese had taken the gap. His wife was shot dead and their Chinese Amah shot through the chest. I just realised they were the two civilians found in No 4 Repulse Bay Road - a house that still stands at the top of Repulse Bay Road but what happened to Garton.”
9 Rob Weir, who knows more about Hing Kong’s fixed defences than pretty much anybody asks: “After reading the comments about PB 14 on the August diary I’m confused. The nominated crew of that type of PB, with LL, was 9. As one wounded was evacuated by ambulance on the 22nd, where did the other three come from?” Good question. 9 I’m not entirely sure if I have seen this before, but while searching for something else entirely (as one does) I found this rather nice article about my fourth book.
8 I had an email from Annemarie Evans, who runs the RTHK radio show ‘Hong Kong Heritage’. She noted: “Sorry for short notice - you'll be this weekend's Hong Kong Heritage. I'm looking to do a few programmes to mark the 75th in different ways or at least include related subjects. So you you're up this weekend. First the WWII bombs and then I'm going to add in our 2009 interview on the unknown soldier - the body found in 2004 and the WWII helmet.” Fair enough. She also advertised the show on facebook (illustrated). In the end the helmet was sent to the Canadian War Museum who identified it as one of a batch made in Hong Kong itself for local defence. The interview can be listened to here.
6 I had an interesting email from Denmark today. “The Olsens were born in China. Escaped to Hong Kong (how I do not know) and were Danish volunteers in Hong Kong. They escaped from there to India via Singapore (again a blank) where they served with the British forces. Do you by any chance have any information on my father, Alexander (Olly) and his brother Francis Olsen?” This is one for Frode. I don’t have any record of these people in my files and suspect they were in Singapore before hostilities commenced. 6 Hong Kong veteran Peter Choi passed away today at the age of 98. The last surviving veteran here that we know of is now Ng Sai Ming. Oddly enough both men were local recruits in the regular Royal Artillery.
5Today I was sent a link to a video of Indian soldiers in Hong Kong, populating a brand-new Shingmun Redoubt. I created several useful stills from it, and it proved what I had always believed – that the area was totally treeless at the time. 5 Today I had a request for more information about Hong Kong POW Harry Odell. I have parceled up all I have, but if anyone else has more details I am sure they would be welcome. 5 Iain Gow kindly sent me copies of two post-war letters from Lieutenant Jim Ford, Royal Scots, to his father. 5 While looking for something else, I came across this rather emotive photo. 5 Bridget Harris notes: “It’s been really interesting having your insight into the drawings and I hope you don’t mind me sending you a question about my Uncle’s WWII diary but it would be so helpful if you could shed light on this. In September 1945 there are two entries which I’m trying to find out more about: ‘2nd September” I took another photograph or two and anxiously awaited the Sp.Br. Commander who I thought was in camp and would come to look at my drawings. No luck. 3rd September… as luck would have it the Sp.Br Commander of the News Service came in and promised to send off my Drawings by Air Mail. I got them all packed up and handed them to him; a weight left my shoulders. He was up for more photos of camp and with his P.O & another Sp Br. Fellow was busy all morning snapping and filming Sonny Castro as a girl the band and small town groups of Canadians.’ Do you have any idea who this Special Branch Commander might have been?” I don’t but I can confirm that the Royal Navy had a Special Branch, which included photographers.
4 My copy of Robert Widders’s book Forged In Blood And Music arrived today. 4 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a new look and feel for their website. Unfortunately for the moment this has stopped their Grave Concentration (and other) records from appearing, but they tell me they are aware of this and are working on a fix. They note: “We hope to have all functions on the website back up and running ASAP. Unfortunately some of the original features are taking a little longer than anticipated to transfer over to the new website. Thank you for your patience and we hope this has not been too much of an inconvenience.”
2 Corresponding with well-known researcher Meg Parkes (who is working on an article about artist POW M.E. Scott-Lindsley) we noticed that one of Godfrey Bird’s excellent paintings is mis-labelled as La Salle College instead of Central British School (now KGV). 2 I received an interesting email today: “I am writing a book about Chartered Surveyors in Singapore 1868-2018, and one Chartered Surveyor (who was also an architect) was George Willis Grey, who moved to Hong Kong from Singapore in the late 1920s. I have seen his name in your website as someone who joined the HKVDC but I have no idea what happened to him. Do you know anything about him during the War years, that I can make reference to in the book?” Unfortunately all I could confirm was that Hong Kong government records showed that he was added to the List of Authorized Architects published in 1924 and 1931.
1 Soldier Magazine has now published the results of my interview of last month. Nice to be featured in the same edition as Captain Sir Tom! ‘My’ part starts on page 39, but in fact the whole magazine is worth reading. It’s very professionally put together.
August 1st, 2020 Update
Saiwan Cross of Remembrance (courtesy Lori van Gemert), James Murphy, and with family (courtesy David Murphy)
Joe Denton's birthday card (courtesy Steve Denton), Reid book cover (courtesy Jon Reid), Albert Carter (courtesy Lori van Gemmert)
Royal Scots Museum (courtesy Tai Hang & TK Wong), Kobe Bombing (via Steve Denton), PB14 crew concentration (courtesy CWGC).
VJ Day 75th Anniversary Supplement
As promised, I am extremely honoured this month to present a new paper from Sergeant George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada, covering his experiences of the end of hostilities. I have had the honour of meeting Mr MacDonell and have the deepest admiration for him as a gentleman an example to us all. The fact that he is still producing articles of this quality is a wake up call to 'youngsters' such as me! To read his paper, please click on the icon below.
I am also pleased to present Burke Penny's blog which he originally wrote to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of VJ Day. Burke's uncle Don Penny also served in the Battle of Hong Kong, with the Canadian Signals.
STOP PRESS: There will be a special extra edition of this website on August 15 to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day. I am very much hoping it will for the first time include unique content from a true VIP of the Battle of Hong Kong.
30 Two newspapers, The Star and Sussex Live, covered Robert Widders’s new book about POW Joe Denton and his experiences (including the Lisbon Maru). My copy is on its way.
29 Kenneth Selwyn Mould’s (Royal Army Service Corp) family got in touch. 29 I received the sad news via Richard Hide that that Alick Kennedy, son of Lieutenant Alex Kennedy HKRNVR (of MTB escape fame), passed away following a short illness on the 18 July 2020.
25 Peter Campos notes: “I was just on your site and was delighted to see the photo from Shamshuipo; the shirtless man on the left is my godfather, Luis G. Gosano (we called him Luigi). He passed away in 2013. He was married to my aunt, Socorro (Mimi) Baptista, who died a few months later.” See last month.
24Soldier Magazine (see last month) notes that the result of my interview will be: “in the August Edition, published Aug 1.” The interviewer, and assistant editor, noted: “When you do your update please mention too if you like that I'm the great nephew of L/S Charles Alfred Caswell (RN) of HMS Tamar, who is buried in Stanley Military Cemetery.” (Illustrated). 24 I was sorry to hear today that Mike Broom of the Hong Kong branches of the Royal Asiatic Society and Orders & Medals Research Society has passed away. 24 How in God’s name can I possibly be 61? In my mind’s eye, on this, my birthday, I am around 32 years old, still galivanting around like an idiot. Anyway, I started the day with a fantastic walk to the top of the Peak, but then on the way down I saw something unusual: The door and windows of the old Mountain Lodge gate house were wide open because the building was being renovated. I spoke to the workers there and had a quick look inside: The walls were adorned with large black and white photos of Mountain Lodge and the general area in pre-war times. There was, to be honest, very little space inside, but it was still nice to see.
22Having taken note of the research done by John Mundie (with a little help from me, and rather more from Richard Towey, Curator of The Museum of The Royal Regiment of Canada) the CWGC have confirmed that the single Saiwan headstone (IX. D. 17.) bearing the legend ‘The Royal Regiment of Canada’, is incorrect. It should be Royal Rifles of Canada. The CWGC note: “I have also placed a headstone amendment request into our works programme which will be assessed by one of our works teams when they are next on site. If an amendment in situ is possible this will be carried out in due course however if a replacement stone is required this will add some time to the process (anything up to 18 months). Given the present situation, I cannot provide you with any sort of definitive timescale but I have requested a photograph of the completed work which can be forwarded on to you once received, if required.” In my experience the CWGC are totally reliable once a decision like this has been made, and I’ll keep an eye on progress from the Hong Kong end. (See April news for background).
20 Today I had an interview with RTHK concerning the 100-pound bomb found at Kai Tak the other day. I am told that it will be broadcast on Saturday August 1 at 7.30am, and Sunday August 2 at 6.15pm, for people listening live, and then there will be a permanent podcast link after that. Annemarie, the interviewer (who knows what she’s doing) did a great job, while the poor suffering interviewee tried to recall the AN-M numbers of various American bombs! I hope I said that the 2,000 pound variety was an AN-M66, but we’ll see; or hear, I suppose.
19 Dave Deptford kindly noted: “For D.N.W. on 20.08.2020, not yet lotted but in Preview; WW2 Group 4, D.C.M, 39-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal A.D Manning, Sgt Middlesex Regt, Captured on Fall, died 2.9.1942. Estimate GBP5,000 to GBP 7,000.” Manning actually died on the 3rd, not the 2nd as in CWGC records, of diphtheria.
18This date, 18, is lucky in the Chinese calendar, and an anonymous donor kindly sent me the passenger manifest for HMS Colossus on its repatriation voyage to Hong Kong 5 October 1945. What I hadn’t realized until now was that the aircraft carrier continued to Singapore and then India, taking ex-POWs to both – and most surprisingly for me, Brigadier Cedric Wallis was on the India list. (My contact also happened to mention the outstanding work done by SSAFA [the Armed Forces Charity], so in return I’m giving them a mention here too.)
16 Oh calamity! Another old American bomb has been found, this time at Kai Tak. I don’t want to underestimate the potential damage from such devices, but EOD know what they’re doing and if we just let them get on with it, they’ll do what’s needed.
14 Derek Beningfield writes: “In July of 1920, the First World War had been over for less than two years, women under the age of 30 could not vote, the first solo Trans-Atlantic flight was still seven years away and the Royal Navy ruled the waves. July of 1920 also saw the birth of William Charles Beningfield, who will be turning one hundred years old on July 14, 2020. To say he has experienced a lot over the course of one century would be an understatement.” See more about this Lisbon Maru survivor here. 14 George Boote kindly pinged this one over. These early post-war deaths have always interested me. How did young Mr Bell lose his life?
11Here’s a book I want to read. This is the story of the POW experience of a certain Joe Denton, RA, the grandfather of the Steve Denton who has been so often mentioned on this site. 11 Today (just one day before deadline) I finally sent Jon Reid the foreword I wrote for his biography of his father, The Captain Was A Doctor. It’s a fine book and it was an absolute honour to be asked to help. 11 Meg Parkes notes: “I’m writing about my good friend Lt Scott-Lindsley again. I’m researching a VJ Day 75 article I’m writing for the Naval Records Society’s online magazine and I was wondering if you can give me any further insights about him?” I was able to pass her a few details, and a few more kindly forwarded by Isabella Herd. At some point, presumably on VJ Day, the results will be published here.
10Steve Denton kindly sent me a set of photos of the American bombing of Kobe (including the POW Camp area). I had seen one or two before, but there were some quite amazing ones showing the scale of the fires and damage done.
9Colin Standish kindly sent me a copy of The Gingras War Amps report on Hong Kong Veterans in Canada.
6 This morning, following a week resting from walking with a bad knee, I joined two friends on a walk from Discovery Bay in Lantau to Silvermine Bay, followed by a very welcome pizza and a few beers. It reminded me that I still need to do more research about Lantau during the war years, and this tourist-free period is probably as good a time as any.
5 While looking up something concerning C Force today, I was reminded of the one member who left Canada but did not arrive in Hong Kong - Rifleman David Schrage, a severe diabetic who had hidden his condition and overdosed with insulin. He is often forgotten, so I thought I would mention him here. As he was buried at sea he has no known grave, and is commemorated in Saiwan.
4 Tai Hang Wong kindly shared photos from the Museum of The Royal Scots in Edinburgh Castle (concerning its 2nd Battalion in the Battle of Hong Kong), taken on a visit that he and his brother TK made last year.
2 Justin Ho notes: “Recently, I saw the updates for July on your page regarding the Bartlett medals. It ended with a sold price of 15,370 HKD. Months ago, there was an auction regarding an HKVDC Scottish Company Plaque. It was eventually sold to a good friend of mine - a collector who collected HKVDC, Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC) and other Chinese-themed militaria of the late-19th and 20th century. What made the plaque interesting was a name was found at the plaque's rear (even the eBay seller and my collector friend had failed to spot it initially!) The name was spelled as ‘J. R. LEITCH’. I remember seeing the name Leith, James Rea Corporal 2564 in your War Diary Database, who was part of the HKVDC Scottish Company.” Unfortunately there was no room in this month’s edition to include the photo, but it’s an interesting find. 2 Albert Edward Carter’s (Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “I am the granddaughter of Albert Edward Carter, born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on January 13, 1898. Albert was a private #B83222, during WW2 and he died in Hong Kong on April 22, 1942 and is buried in the Sai Wan Cemetery. My sister and I had the good fortune to be able to visit the grave site in 2015. I was able to reassure my mother that her father was resting in a beautiful location and the site is well taken care of. It had always been her wish to visit the site, but she was never able to do so. I am attaching a copy of the only picture I have of my grandfather. It was taken either before he left Canada or somewhere else, possibly Hong Kong. I'm wondering if you might be able to identify where this picture was taken? I know there isn't a lot to look at, but it's possible that you might be able to identify the barracks in the background? I have recently learned that Albert's mother was a child of the British Home Children and sent to Canada in 1888. I've also come to believe that Albert's real father was not the man we believed him to be, but I am still working on finding out more about that. These, of course, are all side stories, but they do make Albert's ancestry intriguing.” Carter died of pneumonia at the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road. As well as the photo of her grandfather, she also sent me a very evocative photo of the Cross of Remembrance at Sai Wan Cemetery, with two black kites doing sentry duty above.
1 Concerning the photo of the initial British surrender (see last month) TK Wong notes: “The captioned photo seems to be taken during night time but the initial surrendering talk took place in the afternoon in St. Paul's Hospital, Causeway Bay. Unless it was taken indoors and without light the photo should not be so dark in the background.” That’s a good point, though the tram tracks at the lower left of the photo should also be taken into account, and I believe the actually discussions took place at 18.00. This year (I checked with the Hong Kong Observatory) sunset on 25 December will be 17.47 – which is not too far off. 1 James Michael Murphy’s (Middlesex) grandson got in touch. He notes: “On your website ‘Hong Kong War Diary’ you have him listed as unallocated and in your book – Not the Slightest Chance – you have him detailed as being killed in the Bennetts Hill area (page 245). However I believe he was part of the platoon who were all killed in Pill Box 14 – this is based on information provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who list a total of eleven casualties.” This is absolutely correct. The Graves Concentration reports I referred to last month make it clear that the complement of PB14 was ten men (actually they say eleven, but the ‘Wood’ they list appears to be there in error, as is Murphy’s name which is here typed Murray). He adds: “For your reference my grandfather joined the 2nd Middlesex Regiment as a Bandsman in 1929 (at 15 years old) and was discharged from the Army after 6 years service with the colours in 1936, under Article 1073 RWt 1931 and Para 383(ix)(a) Kings Regulation 1935. He re-enlisted with the Middlesex in April 1940 arriving in Hong Kong in May 1941. His father (my great grandfather), also served with the Middlesex Regiment during both the second Boer War and through World War One.” In the Murphy family group photo the lady my correspondent’s grandmother (Rose Mary), the little boy in the middle at the back is his father (John Michael), the little boy to the left front is his uncle - James Michael. and the little girl on her father's lap is his Auntie (Joan Ann).
July 1st, 2020 Update
Surrender party (via Kwong Chi Man), Vincent Young and friend (courtesy Eloise Butler), POWs at Moji (Greater East Asia War Graphic)
RAMC Form B157 (Wellcome Library, via Steve Denton), Site of Menhinick's wounding (courtesy Hilary Dyson), Shamshuipo (courtesy Mrs Vilma Sequeira, via Jim Trick)
Sykes diaries (courtesy Janet Sykes), Norman Harding and colleagues (courtesy Deborah Coatsworth). Bartlett medals (via eBay)
I learned this month that singer/songwriter KT Tunstall is the granddaughter of Lisbon Maru survivor and Royal Scot, James McDougall. It’s interesting how many artistic people have such a connection. I helped on a documentary last year with the Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance whose grandfather was also a POW here. And if you remember the film Saving Private Ryan, the actress who played Mrs Ryan was Amanda Boxer (daughter of POW Major Charles Boxer). Also, Jessica Tandy, who won an Oscar for her role in Driving Miss Daisy, had a brother (Edward ‘Tully’ Tandy) who was a Hong Kong POW. The famous tenor Sir Peter Pears’s brother, Arthur Pears, commanded HMS Thracian and was interned throughout the war. There may well be many others…
25 I heard today that Ron Freer had passed away on 29 April aged 104. Ron was a Sergeant in 8th Coastal Regiment, Royal Artillery, and spent the war years in Shamshuipo. 25 As is often the case, while searching for something totally different I found The Diaries of the Maryknoll Sisters in Hong Kong, 1921–1966 pp 97-119, covering “Japanese Occupation And Internment, 1941–1942”. Unfortunately it’s only an introduction. 25 Colin Standish sent two very interesting Camp IoUs from his grandfather. One was ‘selling’ a loaf of bread in October 1944, for the price of “my Xmas Dinner, no matter what it is.” 25 Martin Heyes let me know that he has paper on the VC and GCs awarded to Hong Kong recipients during the fall of Hong Kong and the Japanese occupation, published in the latest OMRS Journal. It can be found here.
23 Sergeant Edward Curtis’s (HKVDC) old school got in contact. They note: “Edward Curtis attended St. Michael's School (1919 - 1921) in Victoria, BC, Canada when a boy. He is on the school's Roll of Honour, of those former students killed in WW2. I have been trying to identify him in school photographs without success, but in searching for him on the internet discovered your comprehensive website. Edward was a member of No. 1 Coy, Hong Kong Defence Volunteers. He was born in the U.S. and is listed in some references as an American, but was adopted by his aunt who immigrated to Canada and ended up in Victoria in 1908, shortly after Edward was born. Do you have any information about Edward, particularly (a) a photograph of him with his company, and (b) how he would have ended up enlisting in the HKVDC? (Interestingly, there were at least three other boys who subsequently attended St. Michael's who were evacuated from Hong Kong because of the war. One went on to become the Taipan of Jardine Matheson.)” I don’t have a photo so checked with Company Commander Harry Penn’s son, but unfortunately he didn’t have one either. Interestingly, Curtis’s CWGC entry states that his wife lived in the States. 23 Colin Standish notes: “There is a new CBC show featuring the Battle of Hong Kong by Mark Sakamoto (author of Forgiveness) who is the grandson of the recently deceased Ralph MacLean of the Royal Rifles of Canada from the Magdalen Islands and HK veteran. My Grandfather's photo is pictured in the introduction.” Unfortunately it seems that this can only be viewed In Canada.
21 Kwong Chi Man kindly sent me a copy of a photo of the original surrender discussions at Causeway Bay between Lt. Cols. Stewart and Lamb, and senior Japanese officers. There is also an interpreter present, at least one more senior British officer, and a couple of other unknown Caucasians. I sent a copy to Lamb’s family to see if they could identify him but unfortunately all the British officers have their backs to the photographer. 21 George Boote kindly let me know that “a medal group belonging to Sapper Bartlett are up for sale on Ebay”. According to the listing: “Bartlett subsequently saw service with a Bomb Disposal Company, and qualified for the rare Bomb & Mine Clearance 1945-49 clasp to the General Service Medal 1918. The qualification for the Bomb & Mine Clearance 1945-49 clasp was an aggregate of 180 days active engagement in the clearance of bombs and mines in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, during the period 9th May 1945 to 31st December 1949. The term of 'active engagement' was taken to mean the process of digging down to a bomb or its removal and final disposal. In the case of mines, it meant the entering of the perimeter of live minefields, disarming the mines or acting as a water jet operator. It should be noted that being a member of a unit so employed did not, in itself, count as a qualification. To be eligible, the recipient must have been personally engaged in one or all of the processes from the reaching to the final disposal of the bombs or mines.” I’m always interested to learn what the POWs did post war. 21 Jim Trick kindly sent me scans of various documents and photos acquired from Mrs Vilma Sequeira, widow of Vicente Antonio Sequeira, HKVDC. These included a shot taken in wartime in Shamshuipo. It rings a slight bell. I may have seen a lower resolution copy before, but photos like this are very rare. 21 Norman Harding’s (RA) granddaughter kindly sent me a photo of him (on the left) and a ‘J. Black’ who I think may have left the Colony before invasion.
20 Janet Sykes notes (see last month): “Great to see that you included a snippet in the diary this month – thanks. I had the insane thought when I started the ‘snippets’ that I might do this with every day of the diary – but that was when I’d only done 50 pages of transcribing, and it soon got pretty hard. You’re exactly right in your post, I was aiming for ‘poetic’ and even read them at the local library on world poetry day last year – quite well received I think.” She attached a photo of the diaries and other bits and pieces. 20 Cec Lowy contacted me, saying: “My son called me last week and asked if I could find any information about Father Bernard Tohill. His brother John is a friend of my son and knows little about his wartime experiences. He has asked me to try and get some info and I knew you were the man. Any info or links on him would be appreciated by his brother.” Fortunately I have Father Tohill’s memoirs of 1941/42 which I was able to send him.
18Tom Dempster, son of Henry Dempster, Dockyard Police, reminded me today of the 1949 letter petitioning against the fact that the Royal Naval yard Police were still bound by regulations stating that members of the force could only marry a ‘European of a type approved of by the Commodore’. This was out and out discrimination as many of these men were already married to non-Europeans, and none other of the British forces were bound by such archaic and stupid rules. At least two of the signees (David Curry and Arthur Manwaring) were of the wartime unit.
16Today I was interviewed by the British Army magazine Soldier. They had some very sensible questions (and rather a good website, in my son’s opinion – and he knows about these things). Later I’ll publish a link to the resulting article. 16 I had a very enjoyable discussion at Nose in the Books today with the tenured Professor Kwong Chi Man of Baptist U. On the way home I paused at the old Colonial Cemetery to pay my respects at the grave of Jessie Holland. We really must get a proper headstone for her at some point. As a nurse killed in the service of her country while volunteering for a dangerous mission, she deserves at least that. All it says today is still the location reference ‘10027’. 16 I had an interesting email today relating to Frankie Shaftain: “I am wondering could you provide me with information about Frank Shaften / Shafton. He lived beside my grandfather after he retired and either he or his wife passed some artefacts of the era to my father. I have been told he was a chief of police but from my limited research it appears he was in Hong Kong C.I.D. One of the artefacts we have allegedly relates to the surrender of a Japanese soldier at a prisoner of war camp.” Apparently he was given a silk smoking jacket, a ceremonial belt, and a ceremonial Japanese sword.
14 James McDougall’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. I learned from them that after liberation from Osaka #2B, McDougall returned to Hong Kong and married a Mimi Susan Fung who lived at 340 Jaffe Road. Robert, their eldest son, was christened at the English Methodist church and they had three further children: Stuart, Carol-Anne, and Meemee. James was one of the twelve survivors that attended the fundraiser at the Queen’s pier for the Chinese islanders and fishermen who helped save them from the Lisbon Maru. He worked post-war for Star Ferries. They apparently fled Hong Kong in 1949 (family stories imply gambling debt) and James and family returned to Leith, Edinburgh experiencing rejection due to his Eurasian children and Mimi’s Chinese heritage (which family stories link to a Chinese war lord). Mimi's granddaughter went on to be the successful recording and song writing artist KT Tunstall, albeit after adoption as her mother Carole-Ann gave her up. James passed away in 1991, and seldom spoke of any of his experiences. He was actually born James MacDougall, but when he failed his medical he returned as McDougall… James was extremely well liked at home and was a big family man. He later remarried Sheila Montgomery and had several other children.
9 I had a question from Taiwan about the US Army Air Force B-24 bomber, nicknamed ‘Liquidator’, that crashed in south eastern Taiwan on September 10, 1945. I have the MACR for this, and for the two others that I know crashed that day (Les Miserables, and Ginny). Liquidator was the only one not carrying ex-HK POWs, though the Commonwealth troops on board were re-buried in Sai Wan in 1947 (most famously Clive James’s father). The question is whether anyone has details of the mission to recover the bodies from the mountainous crash site? There are several accounts on the web, but somewhere there must be an official record of the reputedly American-led recovery. 9 YK Tan has written two good papers for Surveying & Built Environment. One is called “Company Headquarters along Gin Drinker’s Line and Other Places in the New Territories”, and the other “Gin Drinker’s Line and Other Types of Marker Stones in Hong Kong.” 9 Mike Babin enquires: “I have a question for you: we received an inquiry about a Canadian soldier, Patrick Vermette. He is listed as being buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery (VIII. F. 20.). However, there is a record of his burial at Argyle St Cemetery here. I haven’t been able to find anything else about his situation, but I’m assuming that his remains were relocated to Sai Wan after the war. Would that be correct, do you think?” This is an excellent question. Many people may not have noticed that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – though dint of hard work and long hours (because I know they are quite underfunded for the scale of work they do) – have in recent years expanded the information shown on their website. Their ‘grave concentration’ and similar records answer this sort of question, and give us a granularity of information which was previously missing. 9 Discussing the famous Japanese photo of ex-HK Lisbon Maru POWs (said to have been taken on the dock at Moji) with Steve Denton, we now think these are all the senior officers. From left to right our best guess is: X, Monkey Stewart, X, X, X, X, X, Joshua Pollock, Sydney Horswell. It would be nice to fill in all those blanks…
8 Liz Smith notes: “I just wanted to say how lovely it was to find these records and look up my great uncle… Michael Flaherty and his wife Lily (Wong) Flaherty who were in Stanley. The records for Mrs Flaherty mentions the address... 21 Seymour Rd, Ground Floor... so I will add this to my family tree info! Michael has a grave and I hope to visit HK one day!” I was in the cemetery this month and took a photo (illustrated) of his headstone. 8 Geoffrey Emerson kindly let me know of the passing of Jessie Stewart. He notes that she was: “A very nice lady who attended most RAS talks and went on many RAS overseas trips, as well as other activities. Vicky Lee of BU is planning to write a longer article about her life. Her father (Chinese Maritime Customs) was an internee in Japan during the war.” 8 I found a rather interesting paper on Hong Kong’s military heritage, called “Reuse of Fortifications”.
7 A correspondent asked: “Do you know how Japanese use Whitfield Barracks during the occupation?” I gave an answer based on BAAG’s reports, but I wonder if anyone else has details? Elizabeth Ride notes reading: “KWIZ #56, which mentions the Barracks. So it looks as though it was simply used to barrack Jap troops.” But which battalions were based there when the invasion began? Traditionally Muslim troops (such as the Punjabis) were in Whitfield, and I know the 5/7th Punjabis maintained a battalion HQ there early in the fighting. So I think it’s very probable they were barracked there. And the HKSRA were at Gun Club Hill. But I don’t know about the Rajputs. Can anyone help?
6 Sergeant Menhinick’s (Royal Marines, see last month) family kindly sent an annotated photo with a cross showing where they believe he was mortally wounded. Maltby’s dispatch reads, for December 24: "At 0915 hours the enemy had reinforced the northern portion of Mount Cameron where he was about 300 strong. The small party of Royal Marines (q v. para 117) was now patrolling the spurs South of Mount Parish in touch with the 5/7 Rajput Regt. who had collected hospital discharges, etc, and formed a third platoon which had been positioned on the Mount Parish spur.” Unfortunately 117 (Dec 22) isn’t very useful. It simply states: "A new R A. (West) H.Q. was being established at Victoria Gap. At this critical time the Royal Navy offered valuable help—1 officer and 40 men of the Royal Marines—who were ordered to Magazine Gap to report to the senior officer there (Lt.-Colonel F. D. Field, R.A.) for the purpose of clearing up the situation at Wanchai Gap, now out of touch.” But the spur of Mount Parish is just to the right of the original photo, so this is likely to be the action in question.
5John Cairns notes: “I found your monthly Hong Kong War Diary blog while searching for any online information about my grandfather, Donald Gordon Cairns. He and his younger brother Colin were both [internees at Stanley Camp, having worked at the Harbour Department at the time of the fall of Hong Kong.] My father Peter (born in Hong Kong in 1928 and evacuated to Australia with his mother and aunt prior to the invasion) told me of a story about my grandfather rescuing his brother from a drunken Japanese guard in Stanley Camp. Apparently, the guard had forced Colin to his knees and was threatening to shoot him and upon hearing about this, my grandfather ran to the building, switched off the light and knocked the guard unconscious. I believe that the guard had been so drunk that there was no subsequent follow-up to the incident.” This story sounded very familiar, but I’ve not been able to put my hands on it. Does anyone have any ideas? He also added: “I watched Mark Rylance’s episode of ‘My Grandfather’s War’ just after sending you my original email. It was a fascinating and very moving account, and quite a coincidence to see your interview having just contacted you.” That documentary seems to have had quite an impact (I’m glad to say).
1 Steve Denton kindly shared the “Monthly distribution returns, and nominal rolls by station, of No. 27 Company, RAMC, in Hong Kong, Jan-Nov 1941”, courtesy of the Wellcome Library. I have used the October returns to improve my RAMC list. I wish I had a Form B157 for every army unit here at the time!
June 1st, 2020 Update
Beattie and son with 2 Coy (courtesy Mo Beattie), A Section roll (courtesy Lilian Lorraine), Attack on A Section (via author)
RAMC in 1940 (courtesy Chris Hodgkinson), Menhinick MiD (courtesy Hilary Dyson), Dodwell's grave (courtesy Bill Lake)
Lady Clementi splinterproof shelter and Pillbox (author), Alan Potter (courtesy John Potter via Brian Finch)
The research on A Section, 7 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (see the 6th), is the sort of work I particularly enjoy. The location of their loss is little changed from 1941, and we have information in many dimensions: Japanese photos and paintings, artefacts I’ve found on the site, the remaining buildings, the British account, and now a reliable list of the men themselves. I’ll put the research together as a potential paper for some publication or other.
28 Today I had a long and interesting chat with film maker Craig McCourry, the Hong Kong film maker whose successes have included Christmas at the Royal Hotel.
25 Robert Gibson kindly sent me this interesting link to a description of Hong Kong Harbour’s war time defences. 25 Giving some minor assistance to Jon Reid on his forthcoming biography of his father (the highly respected Captain John Reid, RCAMC) “The Captain Was a Doctor”, I looked a little deeper into the other two officers who accompanied Reid on the third draft to Japan. With valuable help from Steve Denton, I now know a little more about Major Hamish Gordon Robertson, RAMC, and Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander John Allison Page, RN.
24 I received a very interesting email from the Beattie family today. As far as we can ascertain, Thomas McCluskie Beattie (and his friend Bartholomew Sheehan) were members of 2 (Scottish) Company, HKVDC. Beattie’s wife (Gladys) and son (Rod) were evacuated to Australia, and Sheehan became a POW. But Thomas Beattie doesn’t show up in my wartime records, so we believe he must have escaped Hong Kong by boat, probably shortly before the Japanese invasion. We’re trying to find the details, but meanwhile they sent me a couple of very fine photos of Thomas and comrades, and his son. 24 Walter Hodgkinson’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. He notes that his father: “joined the RAMC at York at the age of 17 and was posted to Hong Kong late 1937/early 1938. He was at the Combined Military Hospital Kowloon when the conflict started. Dad died in September 2003. He didn’t speak very much about his experiences but we were always aware of what had happened to him. Towards the end of his life my mother got him to write a short history of himself and we are very grateful to have that. A section of this is about his war time experiences and what happened on the Lisbon Maru and has many parallels with stories in your book.” The RAMC is another unit I need to learn more about, and he kindly sent me a number of photos which we are now attempting to curate. He also included Hodgkinson’s memoirs, the first HK RAMC biography I have read. This explained that he was sent directly to 27 Coy RAMC in Hong Kong, which rather implies that all the photos were taken here. I wonder if the photo of Caucasian and Indian personnel is in fact of a joint RAMC/Indian Medical Service (IMS) group? Perhaps all the staff of the Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon? All medics were, of course, held in the greatest respect. I was just re-reading Hughieson’s memoirs, and at one point he noted: “Our Naval Sick-Berth Attendant was kept very busy all the rest of that day, cleaning and dressing wounds. He was an Irishman called Paddy McCreedy, with a great sense of humour, and tremendous faith. We all loved him. He tried on several occasions, to send one or two of them back to Base for treatment, without success. They insisted on keeping together no matter what.” (This was actually Thomas McCready from the RNH, who survived the Lisbon Maru). 24 Digby Collings Menhinick’s (Royal Marines) granddaughter got in touch. Unfortunately the Marines are a sparsely-documented force in Hong Kong’s battle, and unless a marine was with Farrington or Giles I generally don’t know what they were up to. I suspect that Menhinick was in the Wanchai/Causeway bay area as Senior NCO. All I know for sure is that he was Mentioned in Dispatches for his leadership. He was the only marine lost in the fighting, though a further 13 were lost as POWs.
22William James Howard’s (HKVDC) great nephew got in touch. While helping with a few questions I happened to revisit the late Roger Mansell’s site to check up on the Tateyama British Roster (which included Howard) and found some very cheering references to my own work!
20 Walked to the top of Jardine’s Lookout with a friend and returned by way of the Wing Nai Chung Gap Trail. While by the Black Hole of Hong Kong we were investigated by a friendly half-grown wild pig. It’s common enough now, so unfortunately I think someone is feeding them.
18Colin Standish added: “I appear to have a typed C Company of the RRC War on Japanese letterhead, my grandfather's recollections of the Battle, orders of the day from POW Camp and a pay sheet from POW Camp.” These are all interesting documents, and I’m hoping a nominal roll might turn up.
16 Brian Finch kindly emailed: “Alan Potter’s son Chris has kindly sent me four photos of his father which I have scanned and attach. 1. is a professional studio type photo, marked ‘Henry Flett & Co118-119 Cheapside, London EC2’. 2. with the same shirt and tie, looks as though it is another photo by Flett taken in the same sitting. Dates unknown but likely to be in the 1930s. 3. Alan and his wife Olive, probably at their wedding, around 1930-32. 4. Alan and young son, probably Christopher, although it might have been his younger brother. Date 1932-4. A very distinguished looking man, making his untimely death all the sadder.” I have not posted all the photos here, but as Potter’s story on the Lisbon Maru is well known I thought the details would be of general interest. 14In an email from the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society I learned that the Sir Mark Rylance episode of the Channel 4 documentary My Grandparents’ War is now viewable online. They noted that: “Members of the RASHK may see some familiar faces and locations. Oscar-winner Sir Mark explored the extraordinary World War II story of his grandfather Osmond Skinner, a banker for HSBC, who defended the territory as part of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force with little to no training and spent almost four years as a Japanese prisoner of war. You can watch [it here].” Well, I tried. But apparently it’s not available from Hong Kong.
13A friend has helpfully sent me the POW Index Card of Alex Venshou (see last month), so we’ll see if the details there can help us track down his brother (?) ‘J’ Venshou, also HKVDC. 13 Derek Bailey sent this very interesting link to a film of British forces accepting Japanese POWs in Hong Kong in 1945. Although I had seen still images from this previously, I don’t think I had seen the footage itself.
11 Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish, C Coy, Royal Rifles of Canada, is continuing his research into the latter’s wartime career. We’ve exchanged quite a few emails this month about medical conditions, Japanese propaganda, the deaths and burials of POWs, and so forth. But one of the most interesting things he has found are a number of papers documenting post-war research into Canadian ex-POWs’ health. Amongst these is: “a 1965 report by Dr H.J. Richardson [which] examined 100 Hong Kong POWs whose brothers had served in the European theatre and found that Hong Kong veterans experiences a significantly higher rate of blindness, heart disease, hypertension, and premature deaths than their brothers.” Obviously I am eager to learn more. The great expert on POW health, Dr Chuck Rolands, never mentioned this report when we corresponded on the subject for a number of years.
10 Anna Rozario (daughter of Cicero Laertius Rozario, HKVDC) kindly sent me a number of documents relating to Sendai #2B. 10 James McGillivray’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch, kindly sending a photo. 10 Walter Ferdinand Arndt’s (American Stanley Internee) niece got in touch. He, of course, was repatriated on the Gripsholm mentioned below.
9John Alexander Trapman’s (HKSRA) son got in touch. He notes that a portion of his father’s autobiography mentions Hong Kong. This might be very useful, as the HKSRA is a very under researched unit. 9 Charles Tully’s (Middlesex) son posted a picture of his father on the COFEPOW facebook page.
8 Edwin Flinter’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter placed a photo of him on the FEPOW facebook page and kindly gave me permission to publish it on this site (illustrated). 8 Iain Gow, son of James Gow (Royal Scots), kindly sent a photo of: “my dad’s rosary, which we were told was given to him when he was a prisoner in Kobe by a priest, so it’s the only thing he brought back with him as far as we know.”
7 Janet Sykes, daughter of Len Sykes (HKVDC), who I have known since 2009 kindly sent me a copy of her father’s diary which she has transcribed. She also included a file of ‘snippets’ she has produced, which is quite moving because, although deliberately simple, it’s written in a poetic style. For example, for Tuesday 30 December 1941: “On the move today Take only what I can carry One kit bag. Full One wicker basket. Full Two blankets and a cushion Two hours to walk only a quarter mile Kowloon by ferry More walking Destination reached - Shamshuipo barracks. Disorderly bungalows No windows, no doors Concrete floors Very very cold Sleeping five in 5’ x 10’ hut Tired I slept very well.” Len Sykes passed away 22 February 2009. He was Company Quarter Master Sergeant in the Engineers division, joining up not long after his arrival in Hong Kong - in September 1938 - from the UK. 7 I posted another Story from the Ride Collection (Supplemental) concerning Ride in the Great War. It consisted of a reference from Lt. Col. Hurry, formerly C.O. of 38th Batt. A.I.F. In part: “I have known Lindsay Tasman Ride during his service in 38th Battalion A.I.F. from February to August 1918 at which time I was either second in Command or C.O. of the Battalion. I attach a memo of his military history taken from his pay book and the Battalion and other military records. On his joining the Battalion in February 1918 he was soon promoted to be a scout and did good work in a particularly nasty spin in the trenches before Warneton where we were subjected to almost continuous field-gun minenwerfen and M.G. fire for eight days. A few weeks later in the rush to the Somme in March we met the Germans on the Ancre and he was one of four scouts who reconnoitered Marrett Wood and paved the way to its occupation by the Battalion forestalling the enemy in this important position by only about half an hour. The Wood was then subjected to heavy enemy fire of all sorts during which Ride received a gunshot wound in the leg and was subsequently hit by shrapnel while being carried out. Re-joining in August he was just in time to take part in the fighting of the hundred days on the Somme and was in charge of a rifle section in the actions at Sailly Laurette and Bray in the latter of which he sustained a fractured pelvis through shell fire and was hardly out of hospital again when the Armistice put an end to hostilities.”
6 Met an old friend at the start of Black’s Link today, intending to show him the path to the top of Mount Cameron and take in the famous views. Alas, the peak was covered in cloud so instead we walked the length of Lady Clementi’s Ride. I hadn’t realized till then that I had never walked the whole thing, thus found a ‘new’ splinter proof shelter and pillbox. 6 Norman Harding’s (RA) daughter Lilian Lorraine posted a number of interesting items to the FEPOW page on facebook. This included a Roll of Honour of 4 Section, 7HAA Regiment at Wong Nai Chung Gap: Lawrie, John Ferguson 2nd Lt. 221887 U Dec 19 Andrus, Leslie Bombardier 842579 U Dec 19 Hasler, Leonard Frederick Lance Bdr. 833106 U Dec 19 Barsby, John Alfred Lance Bdr. 5108975 U Dec 19 Williams, Leslie Harry Lance Bdr. 1426693 U Dec 19 Chable, Ernest George Lance Bdr. 873050 U Dec 19 Griffiths, Samuel Richard Gunner 1426871 U Dec 19 Macintyre, Samuel Gunner 887395 U Dec 19 James, Robert Gunner 863750 K Dec 19 Mullen, Thomas Gunner 3527013 U Dec 19 McCann, Arthur Gunner 3245532 U Dec 19 Delahunt, Peter Gunner 856600 U Dec 19 Idle, Jack Gunner 870467 U Dec 19 Holland, William Henry Gunner 1493022 U Dec 19 Lavelle, Ernest C. Gunner 1492815 U Dec 19 Cooper, Geoffrey Samuel Gunner 1493199 U Dec 19 Milner, Albert Gunner 1493074 U Dec 19 In fact I believe that Robert James was shot in error at Stanley (and that’s why he has a known grave, whereas the others were just left lying in the hills). On the other hand, I think it’s likely that: Aldridge, Walter George Bombardier 831552 U Dec 19 Should be added to this list in his stead. 6 Colin Standish is asking if anyone knows where the interview transcripts and notes made by Grant S. Garneau while researching his book on the Royal Rifles of Canada might be found? I was in regular contact with Grant from 2002-2005, when I believe these were still in his possession. Very unfortunately though, by 2008 he had early onset Alzheimer’s.
5 Jennifer Stutchbury – if you are reading this, a member of Norah Witchell’s family would like to make contact with you. Your email has changed since we were last in contact. 5 It had been my intention to send Albert Devonshire’s wartime helmet and dog tag (kindly found and sent to me – via the equally kind services of Bill Lake) to his daughter this month, but today I discovered that due to the virus all airmail to the UK has been temporarily suspended. Disappointing, but we’ll simply have to wait. I’ve wrapped it as best I can to prevent the humidity damaging it further.
4 Derek Bailey, who I knew as an Island School teacher in Hong Kong when our children studied there, kindly sent me a link to a very useful Life article about the repatriation of American internees in 1942. The photo of Carola Boxer is particularly interesting, though I don’t believe for one moment that she only spoke Mandarin and Cantonese! Charles, her father, was of course fluent in English, Japanese, and Portuguese.
2 Philip Cracknell has added a new blog covering 1 Battery, HKVDC.
1 From my April blog, Philip Cracknell kindly notes: “I think you have an error relating to Pte John Frelford, 1/Mx. He did not bring a Japanese wounded soldier into St Albert's (I don't know who did that). He was 'D' Coy 1/Mx based at or around Maryknoll Mission House Stanley. He gave medical help to a wounded Japanese and as a result, his life was spared. I wrote a blog on him some years back.” That’s correct, and I knew that already so the mistake was all mine. I’m sure someone once told me who carried the wounded Japanese officer to St Albert’s, but memories are not what they once were. In a similar vein, Iain Gow notes: “Just read a bit of the monthly update and noted the comment about the wounded Japanese officer at St Albert’s. My dad James Gow 2RS told my brother David about an incident which may have been this one: he recalled that he could remember the sound of a Japanese officer’s sword scraping along the ground as he was being dragged to the hospital, and said because the hospital had treated the officer, he felt that had saved them. Does that fit in with the account you mentioned?” Yes it does. And Philp Cracknell had this to add: “I recall that Edith Hills got a Mention for actions relating to the dead Japanese soldier at St Albert's... surprising in a way he was brought in mortally wounded. Edith Hills son Pete wrote ‘By Tank to Normandy’ about his experiences in France and Germany as a tank troop commander. I found a file in National Army Museum on Frelford - he ended up being blind but apparently clairvoyant and was always plagued by the fact that so many of his company at Maryknoll under Lt Scantlebury were put to death so cruelly. He ended up in Stanley rather than POW camp getting lenient treatment for his act of compassion that astonished the Japanese patrol commander.” 1 Bill Lake very kindly sent a photo of Michael Dodwell’s grave (see last month). It turns out he’s been putting poppies on it annually on behalf of another member of the family.
May 1st, 2020 Update
Omori Stamp (British Post Office), Japan POW Camps (MacArthur report), Bryant POW Index Card
MTB26 (via Richard Hide), Devonshire tag (courtesy Timothy Rankin), Naval Forces of Colonies (courtesy Isabella Herd)
Smith/Lindsay letter and Smith Family portrait (courtesy Deirdre Swanney), Pre-hostilities bus tickets (via TK Wong)
A shout out to indefatigable researcher Steve Denton. Steve’s grandfather, Joe Denton RA, was on the Lisbon Maru. For many years I struggled alone to try to sort out the details of exactly who was and was not on that ship, and what their fates were. You’d think it would be easy, but oh no. That early in the Pacific War, with communications so poor and record keeping typically untrustworthy, it was very much a case of ‘managing in uncertainty’. Originally I had thought that the Japanese report of 1,816 POWs on board was in error, but going through it name by name and document by document (and there were many, many documents, many of them contradictory) Steve managed to show that the Japanese record keeping was in fact very good. This month we’ve just – I hope – solved the last two problems. One was a Royal Scot who was mistakenly listed as missing on the Alamein Memorial rather than Sai Wan (see the fourteenth), and the last was a Middlesex lad, John Foster. I don’t think we’ve fully got to the bottom of his case yet, but he stepped onto the Lisbon Maru on 27 September 1942 and has been lost to history, and us all, ever since then. Why is this important? It’s not just the memory of these men, but also a new plan to create a Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, and naturally we want to be certain that every detail there is complete and correct.
27Robert Bluestone’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch.
25 I learned today that the Post Office in the UK is issuing: “A collection of eight Special Stamps featuring evocative photographs capturing the relief and jubilation that followed the formal end of the Second World War in 1945… The original black and white photographs have been expertly reproduced in colour for the first time.” Imagine my surprise when one of the eight turned out to be of the liberation of Omori Camp, featuring a number of ex-HK POWs. In fact the chap with his head stuck between the two standard bearers is Leading Stoker Tom Middleton, RN, of HMS Tern. Captured in Hong Kong and one of the 'hard men' (the first group of ex-HK POWs to be shipped to Japan), he passed away on 7 January 2009 in Lewisham Hospital. I wanted to tell his son – also Tom Middleton - about this (he would have been thrilled) but his email bounced back. If anyone is in contact with him, please let him know. The original caption for his photo (I have the black and white version) read: “Allied prisoners of war cheer their rescuers, as the US Navy arrives at the Omori prison camp on August 29, 1945. They are waving the flags of the United States, Great Britain and The Netherlands. Electrician's Mate 2nd Class James D. Landrum holds the American flag. He was captured after the sinking of USS Grenadier (SS-210).” I have mentioned this before, but in David Hobbs’s excellent book ‘The British Pacific Fleet’ I came across this great piece: “On 28 August 1945 a US Navy patrol boat came alongside HMS Duke of York at her anchorage at Sagami Wan at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. She delivered Private Edgar Campbell [RASC] and Marine John Wynn, both of whom had been taken prisoner on Christmas Day 1941 when Hong Kong fell. On hearing that Japan had surrendered and Allied warships were visible off the coast, they had set off from their prison camp when the gates were opened, walked thirty miles to a beach at Sagami Wan and then swum out to an American warship, all this despite the debility caused by spending over three years in a succession of prison camps. They were the first British prisoners to be recovered from Japan.” Needless to say, they were both ‘hard men’ from the first draft to Japan. I notice that the Omori Camp list has them both as simply ‘walked away’! As so few people in the UK – where other Far Eastern events were largely swamped by Changi and The Railway - seem to know that the Japanese mainland camps existed, I have also added a map from MacArthur’s account (see last month).
24Today I received a message from Mike Babin, President of the HKVCA: “The Board of Directors has decided that it will be impossible to hold our national convention in Ottawa in August of this year. Many of you have expressed concerns about attending because of COVID-19, and there are simply too many uncertainties regarding travel and group gatherings to enable us to properly plan and carry out the event. Therefore, we are postponing to next year, the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong. We expect to hold the convention the weekend of August 14/15 2021 in Ottawa. More details will be provided at a later time.”
20 John Mundie points out that the Wikipedia entry for The Royal Regiment of Canada includes a photo which appears to have been taken in Sai Wan showing the grave of an unknown soldier of that regiment. This doesn’t seem to make any sense. My immediate thought is that this is simply an error for Royal Rifles of Canada.
19 A researcher asked for more details of Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bruce Parkinson, HKRNVR. She notes that Parkinson is listed in “Naval Forces of the Colonies” as a Probationary Cadet. I was very grateful to learn this, as I didn’t previously know this publication existed. She adds: “I believe that his father [Tom Parkinson, a Stanley Internee] was working for Crown Agents in the 30s and brought his family to Hong Kong... It’s a mystery though what he did after the war.” Can anyone help?
17 Robert Grindley Southerton’s (Stanley Internee, transferred to Shanghai) granddaughter got in touch. Southerton was covered in this recent blog by Philip Cracknel. 17 Brian Finch notes that: “Simon Drakeford has written an essay describing Bill Evans’ life in some considerable detail. This was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (China) and a copy is attached.” Bill Evans was one of the three men who escaped the Lisbon Maru and were not recaptured. This paper is published in Vol 79, 2019 No 1.
15Took a friend to the summit of Mount Nicholson today. Nice walk, and one of the few places where we didn’t see any other people! Out of interest, I made him a list of the nineteen Winnipeg Grenadiers killed in the fighting round there: Private Cooper, Kenneth S. U Buried on Black’s Link. Lieutenant David, James A. V. U Probably shot in the head. Lance Corp. Eccles, Norman C. U Buried on Black’s Link. Private Edgley, Charles U Mount Nicholson. Sergeant Foster, Russel M. U Mount Nicholson. Buried by Chunchman, RAMC. Warrant Officer II, CSM Fryatt, Walter B. U Buried on hill Black’s Link. Private Girard, David K Lieutenant Hooper, Ronald Jamieson K Shot in chest by sniper, Wong Nai Chung/ Private Kellas, William A. U Last seen Jardine’s Lookout. Private Larsen, Robert E. A. U Buried Black’s Link. Private Lawrie, Keith R. U Mount Nicholson. Private Little, Francis U Mount Nicholson. Private McBride, William Ferguson U Buried Black’s Link. Private Meades, Raymond A. U Buried Black’s Link, Mount Cameron. Sergeant Rodgers, Edward Herbert K No report found. Private Wiebe, Henry U Buried Black’s Link. Private Willis, Charles U Last seen Black’s Link. Lance Sgt. Woods, Albert T. U Killed Middle Gap, Black’s Link by LMG fire. Lieutenant Young, Hugh K Buried on hill Black’s Link. In every case, of course, it’s my ambition to find eye-witness reports of their deaths. For Edgeley, for example: “I saw Edgely go down and I crawled over to bandage his leg. He was sitting up watching me. I had just ripped his pants when his body jumped up; another bullet hit him in almost the same place. The pain in his stomach told me that this one had gone much further. Bullets were flying around so I had to stay close to the ground… we pulled Edgely some distance to a tree that gave him some shade. We then escaped”, Phil Doddridge quoted in The Damned, by Nathan Greenfield, page 151.
14 Well, this is a new one. I was amiably arguing with Steve Denton over the final details of all those who were aboard the Lisbon Maru when we discovered that one of them, Private Joseph Bryant, Royal Scots – was commemorated on the Alamein Memorial rather than Sai Wan! His POW Index Card leaves us in no doubt that he perished on the Lisbon Maru. I took this up with the CWGC via a good contact (Chris Harley) at In From The Cold and they have already agreed to rectify this when resources allow. The very final detail we are looking at now concerns Private James Foster, Middlesex. He was aboard the vessel, but exactly what happened to him then is a mystery as the records are incomplete. He was either lost in the sinking, or died in Kokura Hospital nine days later. Either way, he has no known grave.
13 George Cooper’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. His wife, nee Barbara Lord, was evacuated to Australia with their young son Patrick. Later she remarried, and the daughter of that union is writing a book about her.
12Timothy Rankin, a Hong Kong metal detectorist, found a number of items in the Stanley area, one of which bore the serial 6202157. After a bit of sleuthing around, both Rusty Tsoi and I realized it was Corporal Devonshire, Commander of PB 31. Luckily I am in touch with his daughter who had already sent me a photo of her father (illustrated). Rankin notes: “In his helmet was a gas mask, his webbings and the parts to the liner for helmet and the tag all placed inside,“ and has kindly agreed to give her these items. Hopefully she can be reunited with them as soon as conditions allow. I was wondering why Devonshire was never drafted to Japan, but his daughter notes: “He had to have his cartilage removed during his imprisonment. This went septic and they opened the other side of his knee to let the poison out and he was never able to bend his knee back fully after that.” Odder, though, was an HKVDC attendance award shield that turned up in the same area. This is made out to Sapper J Venshou. I know that another Venshou - Alexander Caesar of the Field Company Engineers - was in the HKVDC when hostilities started (his brother?), but have never come across ‘J’ before. Can anyone help? I assume it is a Russian name.
8April’s Java Journal mentioned the passing of Pat Hughieson who died on 27th March. Pat was the widow of Jack Hughieson who survived the Lisbon Maru.
7Trevor Hollingsbee kindly corrected an error I had published here in January 2018. I had noted the Telegraph obituary of Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, born in Hong Kong in 1946 and a naval surgeon during the Falklands War. I said: “It appears his father was Lieutenant Commander James Jolly, RNR, Harbour Master in 1941, and his mother was a F.A.N.Y. Nursing Sister.” In fact his father was Gunner Tadeusz A. Jolendovsky, HKVDC, who presumably Anglicized his name post-war.
6Douglas Smith’s (HKVDC) daughter kindly got in contact, sending a copy of her father’s POW diary and some family photos and letters – including an interesting one from an earlier historian of the period, Oliver Lindsay. She notes: “My father, Douglas Smith, and my grandfather, Major James Smith were both in the fall of HK. Before the war, my grandfather was Chief Engineer of the HK China railway and the family lived next to the railway station. My grandmother and aunts were evacuated to Australia, where my grandfather joined them after the war. My father returned to HK and initially joined the police then a civil servant accountant with various Govt departments. My mother left Scotland to teach music in HK and was one of the founders of the HK School Music Festival, which I believe still lives on.” The caption for that family photo is: from left to right: James (Jimmy), Major James (father), Marie, Dorothy, Elizabeth (mother) and Douglas. Sadly, Jimmy accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun on a boat in Hong Kong waters and is buried on one of the outlying islands. Marie had married earlier in the war and followed her husband to Rosyth, Scotland where he was based in the navy and later was lost at sea in a submarine. I believe he was Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class Donald Marrable, lost 25 February 1942 of H.M. Submarine P.38. Marie and her new baby then journeyed by ship to join the evacuated family in Australia. Major James Smith’s grandson (D. Derek Marrable, MBE) has written a book about him and is looking for a publisher. He has kindly sent me a copy of the manuscript which I will read with interest. 6 Barbara Harding wrote to me about her uncle, Emile Landau. I found that he had a mini biography on the website of the Jewish Historical Society of Hong Kong.
5 Richard Hide notes: “I was recently contacted by a guy named Alan who supplied a YouTube link showing a wrecked boat nosed up to a wall. I have compared it with my photos of the MTB’s and can confirm it is the wreck of MTB 26 which was lost with all hands on 19 December 1941. Colin McEwan of the SOE recorded in his diary: ‘Although we missed the first pair we suddenly saw one — later found out to be Wagstaff's (MTB 26) — come racing up the harbour from Green Island in a straight line for Kowloon Bay. By this time the Jap's, were on both sides of the harbour and both M.G and T.M. fire were brought to bear on the boat while to add to the strafing she was being bombed at the same time. Suddenly she stopped, started to drift to the HK shore’.” 5 Oliver “Christopher” Marton’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch, having watched the repeat of My Grandfather’s War with Mark Rylance’s grandfather, Os Skinner. She notes: “I have found this fascinating as my family were caught up in this period in Hong Kong. [My father] was a solicitor by trade but joined up like Os Skinner. Just before war started he married my mother, Anne Dodwell at St John’s Cathedral. My mother’s family were part of an import , export company called Dodwell’s and I believe my grandfather, Stanley Dodwell, may have been chairman of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank before the war, as nothing was ever spoken much about the war when I was a child or what my father went through. I know my father went to a camp with my mother’s brother, Michael Dodwell who died in the camp aged 21, they had to build a runway and had a very hard time. My father died when I was 3, that would be 1954, as a direct result from his captivity, he got diphtheria which weakened his heart. Most of my family were evacuated to Australia. My brother was born in the Philippines on the way to Australia where my grandparents, mother and two of her sisters along with Richard, my brother, spent the war. My other aunt volunteered as a nurse and spent the war years in a civilian camp in Stanley. She is the only one who has regaled me with her amazing experiences during that period.” Post war she lived at 9 Middle Gap Road, a most prestigious address and yes, Stanley Dodwell was Chairman of HSBC for a short period.
4 Bill Lake kindly notes: “Just came across this on YouTube. The fight for Shing Mun Redoubt. Although the video is voiced in Cantonese, it does have does have English subtitles and covers most things.” It’s actually both very good and nicely made. 4 Elaine Polglase (wife of Jorgen Vibe Christensen, HKVDC), who lives in Vancouver now, kindly emailed to tell me about Frode’s excellent book about Dane’s in the HKVDC, called Fighting for Two Kings. I was able to reassure her that I was aware of it.
3TK Wong kindly sent me copies of 1941 Kowloon Motor Bus Co. tickets preserved by Ken Skelton. He notes: “the original tickets of the attached photocopies were sent by Syd Skelton (RRC) to his wife before the war started. Ken gave the photocopies to me about 15 years ago. The ticket punching system was used in HK up to the early 70's. They represent not only the history of HK but also Canadian soldiers.”
April 1st, 2020 Update
MacLean & Banham (author's collection), Eric Calcutt (courtesy Andrew Calcutt), Lam Shui-pang (HK Government)
Lowe Bingham book, Bryden, Japanese sketch map (all via author)
Stanley comparison (courtesy TK Wong), Jitts grave concentration details (CWGC)
I wish I could recall my late mother’s original words. We were talking about her Second World War experience many years ago and she mentioned that for those years everyone’s lives were dominated by an overwhelmingly huge and frightening problem which wasn’t their fault, and which they could do nothing about (aside from follow government instructions). And in a way it was very liberating, despite the obvious dangers. All the little problems and decisions of life dropped away, becoming secondary to survival. Most things were simply put on hold. Perhaps in some ways that’s how Covid-19 feels today – a reminder of how things were 75 or more years ago.
31 Tan notes: “Not sure you aware the Siu Sai Wan stone house on news recently. It actually is a searchlight shelter built by British before war. That's the only one I know still exist in original condition.”
29 Bill Lake also notes: “Going through some of my loose papers during this spell of self isolation due to the Covid-19, I came across what looks to be an ‘in ship’ magazine for a hospital ship called HMNZHS MANGANUI. I was surprised to find something in there about the two BAAG agents with the same number 67.” This is a topic which has fascinated many people who have studied BAAG. Unfortunately there are no clues as to the author of the piece, but it reads: “You have read or heard about the patriots of many lands – people, who, not counting the price they would have to pay if discovered, continued throughout the war to play their part by means of sabotage, espionage, etc., which helped (sometimes in a small and sometimes large measure) to the defeat of our enemies. Let me introduce you to two people who worked behind the scenes in Hong Kong. Both were members of the BAAG (British Army Aid Group) – a group who worked helping the POWs in Hong Kong Camps by arranging escapes, providing guides through enemy held territory, besides obtaining information of a military nature which was of value to the Allies in the South China area. The full activities of the ‘BAAG’ will one day be told by a more versatile pen than mine – I can only relate for your interest the story of these two men. I met both in Stanley Prison, Hong Kong under the following circumstances. The first after his conviction and the second before trial. They never met each other and did not know of each others existence. One day towards the end of 1943 I was working in the Prison Garden and a Japanese prisoner, newly convicted, spoke to me. (Korean and Formosan prisoners were classified as Japanese) I had heard by prison wireless that a Japanese was on remand awaiting trial for espionage. All the prison inmates were certain he would be executed. But, here was the new prisoner having escaped the supreme penalty by a merciful providence and sentenced to 15 years. He told me that his surname was Wu and his number 67 in the BAAG. A couple of months later he was transferred to Canton en route to Japan. The last time I saw him he said ‘They will beat me again. Please pray for me every day.’ The second I met in August 1944. At this time owing to illness I had to enter the prison hospital, although the only treatment the Nips gave to sick folk was a cut in one’s rice ration. A Chinese remand prisoner was in the same ward and I recognised him as a Police interpreter before the Japanese attack on the Colony. Recognition was mutual. He told me his story. He was No.67 in the BAAG and knew what his sentence would be when he was tried. ‘I know they will give me the axe. Will you please see my wife is cared for when the war is over.’ I promised. His surmise proved to be correct and he paid the extreme penalty. These people must not be forgotten. As one 67 passed on another took his place – they knew what to expect if caught, but did not falter. I pray for you both – No. 67.” 29 Bill Lake shared three pages from what appears to be the original manuscript - or a copy of the same - of Stewart’s “Little red book” (“The Record of the Actions of the Hongkong Volunteer Defence Corps in the Battle for Hong Kong”), first published in 1953.
28Today should have been my last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club, already postponed twice! Unfortunately on the 25th the Club – like all the main clubs in Hong Kong – was asked by the government to close for the time being to slow the spread of Covid-19. Oh well. We’ll hopefully be able to restart walks in October. 28 Sergeant Edward Bull’s (RAOC) son introduced himself on facebook and sent a copy of the citation of his father’s Military Medal: “For conspicuous leadership, initiative and devotion to duty. On evening 15 December 1941, this NCO was placed in command of one of the pill boxes on the North East face of the Island. Although this was a duty he could have little expected and one for which he had no training whatsoever, he displayed an exemplary keenness and energy in carrying it out. He had complete control of his men, was ready and willing at all times to carry out orders, and he sent in useful reports on the situation during the three days he commanded the pill box. During the period 21/25 Dec 41 when the Bn HQ was at GILMANS GARAGE and the SOLDIERS AND SAILORS HOME Sgt. BULL was indefatigable in arranging reliefs for sentries, collecting and forming new parties at short notice to man pill boxes. He showed constant cheerfulness and ability to do whatever was asked of him. All this took place at a time of extreme mental and physical stress due to casualties, lack of sleep and shortage of rations, Sgt. BULL displayed great energy and a high sense of duty. He was a tower of strength to his superiors and a shining example to his subordinates.”
27 Ronnie Taylor has put together a good page about the friendship between Bill Spooner and Mickey Myles who ‘met’ in the sea off the Lisbon Maru. 27 Elizabeth Ride is busy at the moment, so I promised I would add some “Stories from the Ride Collection (Supplemental)” posts to the Facebook BAAG page. Today I chose Anthony Eden’s statement to the House of Commons of 10 March 1942. I think it is good background for the readers, and of course the ‘eye-witnesses’ referred to are relevant to the story too: “Out of regard for the feelings of the many relations of the victims, the Government have been unwilling to publish any account of Japanese atrocities in Hong-kong until these had been confirmed beyond any possibility of doubt. Unfortunately there is no longer room for doubt. The Government are now in possession of statements by reliable eye-witnesses who succeeded in escaping from Hong-kong. Their testimony establishes the fact that the Japanese Army at Hong-kong perpetrated against their helpless military prisoners and the civilian population, without distinction of race or colour, the same kind of barbarities which aroused the horror of the civilized world at the time of the Nanking massacre of 1937. It is known that 50 officers and men of the British Army were bound hand and foot, then bayoneted to death. (Cries of “Shame!”) It is known that 10 days after the capitulation the wounded were still being collected from the hills and the Japanese were refusing permission to bury the dead. It is known that women, both Asiatic and European, were raped and murdered, and one entire Chinese district was declared a brothel, regardless of the status of the inhabitants. All the survivors of the garrison, including Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese, were herded into a camp consisting of wrecked huts, without windows, doors, lighting, or sanitation. By the end of January 150 cases of dysentery had occurred in the camp, but no drugs or medical facilities were supplied. The dead had to be buried in the corner of the camp. The Japanese guards are utterly callous and repeated requests by General Maltby for an interview with the Japanese Commander had been curtly refused. This, presumably, means that the Japanese High Command have connived at the conduct of their forces. The Japanese Government stated at the end of February that the number of prisoners in Hong-kong were:- British, 5,072; Canadian, 1,689; Indian, 3,829, and others, 357; a total of 10,947. Most of the European residents, including some seriously ill, have been interned, and, like the military prisoners, are being given only a little rice and water, and occasionally scraps of other food. There is some reason to believe that conditions have slightly improved recently, but the Japanese Government have refused their consent to a visit to Hong-kong of the representative of the protecting Power. No permission has yet been granted for a visit by the International Red Cross Committee. The Japanese have, in fact, announced that they require all foreign consuls to withdraw from all territory they have invaded since the outbreak of war. It is clear that their treatment of prisoners and civilians will not bear independent investigation. I have no information as to the condition of our prisoners of war and civilians in Malaya. The only report available is a statement by the Japanese official news agency on March 3 to the effect that 77,699 Chinese have been arrested and subjected to what is described as severe examination. It is not difficult to imagine what that entails. It is most painful to have to make such a statement to the House. Two things will be clear from it to the House, the country, and to the world. The Japanese claim that their forces are animated by a lofty code of chivalry, ‘bushido,’ is nauseating hypocrisy; that is the first thing. The second is that the enemy must be utterly defeated. (Loud cheers.) The House will agree with me that we can best express our sympathy with the victims of these appalling outrages by redoubling our efforts to ensure his utter and overwhelming defeat. (Cheers.)” Elizabeth then sent me a copy of the telephoned report from Ride, which informed much of this speech.
25A correspondent asked why Geoffrey Jitts, 3 Coy HKVDC, was buried at Pillbox 8. He was of course buried at Pillbox 2, but while gathering the appropriate documents it occurred to me that many people might not be aware that the CWGC in the last couple of years has done an excellent job of adding grave concentration details to their website. There’s a lot of very valuable information here, and I must find time to go through all the Hong Kong fatalities. In Jitts’s case it’s clear that someone simply misread the ‘2’ on the concentration document as an ‘8’. 25 Derek Bailey (whose family were interned in Shanghai, and who used to teach my children at Island School in Hong Kong) very kindly sent me this link to MacArthur’s account of the occupation of Japan. It’s huge, but I expect it will be essential reading as his ‘Special Task E’ was “Recovery, relief, and repatriation of Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees without delay.” Derek also kindly sent a copy of the “first sixteen issues of the newspaper published in the Chapei Civil Assembly Center, Shanghai, China.” Chapei was the camp his family were held in.
24 I received the first newsletter from Roger Townsend at FEPOW 75 today. It begins: “This is my first FEPOW 75 Newsletter: to tell you about our plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repatriation of 20,000 former Far East Prisoners of War to Southampton over the winter of 1945. Nor should we forget the 17,000 who returned to Liverpool – and especially those many thousands who never returned at all.” And then specifically about Hong Kong: “As an example, we have been researching the story of Lt. Jimmy Whitham of the 1st Bn Middlesex Regt, who was one of the nearly 1000 victims when the Japanese Hell-Ship ‘Lisbon Maru’ was torpedoed on 1 October 1942. He had been captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, when his only son was less than a month old and both he and his American mother were interned in Stanley Camp for the next three years. Shortly after they were released in 1944 and returned to British Columbia, that little boy also drowned in a creek. I thought that might be the end of the story, but I found out a month ago that his widow is still alive, aged 103, and living on the Welsh borders! Her story alone would make the most amazing biography, but there have been others and I would love to hear of more.” In fact the Whithams (Beatrice & Jonathan) were repatriated to the States on 29 June 1942, but I hadn’t heard that story about the son before. Whitham was not a professional soldier; he was a member of the HKVDC drafted into the Middlesex on 8 December 1941.
23 Today I received notice from the producers that Channel 4 are planning to re-run My Grandparents War with Mark Rylance on Saturday 4th April at 19.00. I must admit I still haven’t watched my copy, though I am assured it is very good!
20 Today I had a very pleasant lunch with the Hong Kong Club deputy manager and Philip Cracknel. This has become an annual ritual to ‘thank’ the two of us for the historical hikes we do with the Club.
18Doug Price posted a great photo of Eucliffe (illustrated) on facebook today. I often get asked about the building, but although it was still standing when I first arrived in Hong Kong it had unfortunately been demolished by the time I realised its importance.
16Ronald Clements notes that he has been: “writing a biography for, Deidre Taylor/Larcombe… Deidre's biography, The Girl in the Drawer, has now been published in the UK under her married name Dee Larcombe. We took the liberty of including your name and that of your website in the acknowledgement.” Deidre was of course interned at Stanley as a child. Ronald continued: “In terms of adding to the sum of knowledge of the war in HK/internment there is little, if anything, new. With Dee being so young in the camp and neither of her parents talking much about their experiences, I had to rely heavily on the accounts of others to paint the pictures of life in the camps. It does, of course, recount the lives of some of those interned - Alfred and Elizabeth Taylor, Leo Borisoff and Nadia Seraphina - and what happened to them subsequently, told through Dee's own story (making something of her life after a very difficult childhood) which may be of more general interest.” I’ll certainly buy a copy.
15 Today the HKVCA announced that Ralph MacLean, Royal Rifles of Canada, had passed away. I met Ralph just a few years ago when he visited Hong Kong with a group of Canadians. I took them for a walk around Wong Nai Chung Gap, and to my amazement he completed the whole route with us. I thought he would live forever. 15 Patricia O'Sullivan has been studying the HK Dockyard Police for some years and notes that she is: “giving a paper at a conference of the Naval Dockyards Society next month, and want to include a brief account of their role in the Battle for HK.” I hope it goes ahead. Many conferences seem to have been cancelled recently. 15 Today I finally managed a (relatively short) walk up the hills! It’s just over nine weeks since my last one. What a strange year this is turning out to be.
13 The Canadian Consulate kindly informed me today that the Hong Kong government are taking steps to prevent vandalism of Lawson’s Bunker. The area had seen some graffiti and so forth from one of the nearby international schools a while back, but I believe that has been dealt with.
11Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me a dossier of all the BAAG documents relating to the Lisbon Maru. 11 Lam Shui-pang’s son got in touch again. He is certain that his father took part in the Battle of Hong Kong in the HKVDC, but we cannot find any documentation proving it. We know he was a Clerk VIA in the Statistical Department of the government, and that he had served in the HKVDC pre-war. If anyone has any documentation covering his wartime services we would be grateful.
10The HKVCA have announced the availability of their Spring newsletter. 10 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent details of Kho Kin (高健) of the East River Guerrilla Column (東江縱隊) to me and Elizabeth Ride 10 Ronnie Taylor kindly sent me the complete WO 361/1160 for Oeyama Camp, which lists the medical condition of many ex-HK POWs. 10 Jill Fell asked for details on John Mackenzie Jack (HKVDC) who knew her uncle. I sent her what I had noted in the Gittins books.
9 My copy of The Lowe Bingham Story arrived today. Not the sort of book you might expect to have a chapter about the war in Hong Kong, but it has. Generally it retells a generic story (ably enough), and adds the names of HKVDC members who worked for that company (and some of their competitors). More interestingly, it has a photo that includes Eric Bryden (second from right), and a Japanese sketch map with an unexpected story. Who was that ‘captured Japanese officer’? We all know about the wounded Japanese officer found and brought to St Albert’s by John Frelford (Middlesex), and there was a private Japanese soldier who defected to the British just before hostilities, but the implication here is an ex-Hong Kong officer captured – perhaps – on Guadalcanal?
6 Andrew Calcutt (see last month) kindly sent a couple of great photos of his father in uniform, one solo and another with four RA mates.
2 TK Wong kindly sent me a 1987 companion photo to the pre-war one of Stanley (see last month). While the angle isn’t perfect, you can see that a number of the pre-war structures survived. 2 Steve Denton dropped me a line to say that Lieutenant Harry Spong, Hong Kong Signal Coy – according to his POW Index Card – had very famous parents! His father was William Tell, and his mother Anne Boleyn. I’m surprised this didn’t happen more often. On a more serious note, the CWGC fortunately gets his parents’ names right here.
1Yet another American bomb has been found near Queen’s Road East. The last one I reported here was uncovered on February 2014. I wonder if a whole stick might have been mis-fused? 1 I heard today that we have lost another one of our Canadian veterans. Private Robert Barter, E29987, Royal Rifles of Canada passed away peacefully on 28 February.
March 1st, 2020 Update
Captain Hudson alone, and with colleagues (courtesy Hudson family), William Dewberry (via Ronnie Taylor)
Hudson family with Sawyer map (author), Hong Kong Signals Coy (via Brian Finch), Stanley comparison photo (courtesy TK Wong)
Japanese memorial service (via facebook), Dark Days cover (author), Ralph Shrigley (courtesy Shrigley family).
It was from the now infamous historian of the Third Reich, David Irving, that I learned the importance of seeking out the families of people of interest in historical research. Before he admitted being an out and out Nazi, he spent ten years working in Germany learning the language, and befriending wives and families of Wehrmacht officers. From them he retrieved diaries, letters, papers, and memoires. These gave him a depth of sources unmatched by any archives at the time. While Irving is now well beyond the pale, the same techniques of contacting families and asking what documents they might have, have served me well – as this month’s Captain Hudson story (see the fifteenth) relates.
28 Today I discovered to my delight that Gunner Eric Calcutt of 5th AA Regiment, 7 Heavy Battery, is still alive and well. He was on the third draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan and will be 99 years old this year.
27 Colin Standish kindly sent his grandfather’s file from veteran archives. They consist of the first page of his POW Index Card followed by two pages of medical records, apparently from camp. I have only ever seen one other set like this.
26 Today’s ‘Stories from the Ride Collection’ on the BAAG facebook page covers the organisation’s attempts to warn British and American forces that British POWs were being transported upon the Lisbon Maru
22 Philip Cracknell has updated his account of Robert Grindley Southerton at Stanley Internment Camp. He notes: “This is a very poignant story of a family living in Shanghai before the war. They were separated by the outbreak of war, the husband was incarcerated at Kowloon YMCA, then Kowloon Hotel and then Stanley Camp. The wife and son were not allowed to get off the SS Yu Sang in HK Harbour. The ship was ordered to Singapore with others on Sunday 7 December 1941. She put in at Manila on 9 December. The wife and son were later incarcerated at Santo Tomas Camp. The eldest daughter was at the family home in Shanghai. None of them knew what had happened to the others or even if they were still alive. Click the link to read their story and experience of prison camps in Hong Kong, Manila and Shanghai.”
21 My copy of Dark Days arrived. At first glance I don’t expect there will be anything very useful there, but you never know.
19Today’s post to the BAAG page describes their Communications network
17 Brian Finch again sent something of interest – an account of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru by John Murphy of the Royal Signals, and a good photo of the entire unit. 17 Zafrani Arifin posted a very interesting photo of a memorial service for the Japanese 38th Division on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. If we could count the number of white cremation urns at the front of the hall we might have a better lower estimate of Japanese losses in the battle.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent me a better photo of William Dewberry, Middlesex (see last month). 15 Today I had a long-anticipated meeting with the family of Captain John Hudson of A Company, Middlesex. We had been in communication for a while, but the birth of a granddaughter in Hong Kong was a good excuse for them to visit. They very kindly brought me a large set of documents – including the original and massive Sawyer map of 1941 Hong Kong (see September 2012). Most importantly they brought a number of A Company rolls and associated documents which have allowed me to complete a very accurate roll, with all key details for the entire company. If only all company commanders had kept such records, and if only I had contact with all the relevant families! Other photos they provided were of Captain Hudson himself, and several group portraits. The most interesting of the latter was labelled: “At Corporals Club Dance, Peninsula Hotel July 1941. L to R, myself, Lt Hancock, a visitor, Bandmaster Kifford, RQMS Aherne. Note: Sash round tummy is a bright red.” Hudson of course survived the war, as did Francis Hancock. I corresponded with the latter for several years; he was detached from the Middlesex and attached to the Hong Kong Mule Corps and had many interesting stories to tell. William Kifford was of course killed on 19 December 1941 in Wong Nai Chung Gap with Lawson (he had been attached for intelligence duties). The name of RQMS Aherne rings a bell, but I believe he must have left Hong Kong before hostilities.
14 The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence contacted me today saying: “The museum is currently producing a video titled ‘A Typical Day in Lyemun Barracks’ which is an animation base on the oral account of Sergeant Andrew Salmon. The video aims to illustrate the lives of British soldiers in Hong Kong in the 1930s. It will be showed in one of our galleries in the new permanent exhibition of HKMCD which is scheduled to open later this year. The exhibition is an educational and non-profit making one, no extra admission fee will be charged.” Salmon’s son kindly agreed to allow them to use a photo of his father. 14 Dave Deptford notes: “Currently on eBay: Five medal group - 39-45 pacific, war, defence and CPLSM to Michael Patrick Rogers (Rodgers). Born 23.11.1903, enlisted as A35 on 28.3.1928, Sgt 1.7.1940. Interned Stanley. Sub Insp 1.1.1946, Inspector 1.10.1946, CPLSM 27.3.1946. Retired 30.9.1949 as Inspector. Starting price GBP 150.00.”
12 The nineteenth Story from the Ride Collection posted today describes the rescue by junk of a Russian inventor, Wiliam Vallessuk, and two Norwegians, Ragnar Brodersen and Captain Halfdan Kvamsø.
8 Philip Cracknell’s latest blog covers 965 Defence Battery – an under-documented unit if there ever was one!
6 The BBC website today carried an interesting story about Captain Godfrey Bird’s son, who was an internee in the Philippines (I covered that story in Reduced to a Symbolical Scale).
5 Walter George Hicks’s (Hong Kong Chindits) son got in touch. He notes that he was: “Brother of Harold James Hicks, brother in law to Norman Broadbridge, Charles McDonald and Ron Fitzgerald [who] all ended up as POW’s… except my father. Even his sisters (except the youngest who managed to go to Macau with their mother) were sent to internment camp. My father is listed in your site as a non-uniformed civilian (‘Eurasian, aka W Kwok’). Yes, he was Eurasian and Kwok was his mother’s name. Knowing my father (a survivor) he probably ‘fibbed’ to avoid internment. Over the years, I have heard so many different stories about their experiences. Now, I just want to tie up a few loose ends. My father said he eventually managed to leave HK… to China and India and hence, fought in Burma. It’s the period from the invasion to his leaving that is a gap.” Well, I very much doubt he ‘fibbed’; he just used his initiative and was then courageous and skilful enough to escape Hong Kong and join British lines in China. Reporting to BAAG, he was one of 128 resourceful young Hong Kong men formed into a Chindit column to fight behind Japanese lines in Burma (attached to the Gloucesters). His sister Irene married Ron Fitzgerald (a prison officer before internment) in Stanley. 5 The eighteenth edition of Stories from the Ride Collection on the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) facebook page featured the BAAG junk.
2 Lieutenant Ralph James Shrigley’s family (he died under interrogation on 28 June 1944 aged 46 years, probably in fact killing himself to prevent giving information away) sent me some personal details and a good photo. He was born 03 Oct 1898 in Hamilton, Scotland and lived at Rosevale, Kilwinning, Renfrew, Ayrshire. His parents were William Henry Shrigley and Jean nee MacMillan. In the Great War he served as a Private of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers - Army Number: 53664. He was discharged on 14 Jan 1919 with a disability (gunshot wound to left leg).
1 TK Wong kindly identified last month’s mystery photo of the back of a waterside village as Stanley.
February 1st, 2019 Update
Ohasi Prison Camp survivors, Sappeer Murphy's cup (both courtesy Lincoln Keays), Tamar PO's Mess (courtesy Clive Connor, via Brian Finch)
Back of Village, and concert program (both courtesy Andrew Holland), another Osborn comic (courtesy Dick Yielding)
Apologies if I have made a comment like this before, but I managed to start the year in hospital having minor but very awkward surgery. I’ll be in recovery mode until early February, but the reason for bringing it up is not so much to excuse the relatively short entry this month, but to mention that records show that one of the Hong Kong POWs had a very similar problem soon after the surrender. Now, I can survive because I have access to drugs and sterile utensils, because I live in a clean environment, because I have good nutrition, and because I have a wife kind enough to help change the dressing twice per day! But it must have been unbearably miserable in the context of a POW camp. Having said that, the POW in question – although he was on the January 1942 list of ‘not expected to make a full recovery within 12 months - not only survived but within nine months was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs from HK to Japan!
29Richard Keays’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) got back in touch, kindly sending both a group photo taken of the Canadians at their liberation from Sendai POW camp #4B, Ohashi, Iwate, and a photo of what appears to be a boxing trophy. In the former his father is sitting in the second row, third from the right as you look at the photo, wearing a cap. For the latter he notes: “My father brought it back from the war and said it was given to him by someone he befriended in prison camp. The inscription on the trophy reads, SPR. W. Murphy R.E. Bantam Weight H.K. 1939.” This was William Murphy, who was on the first draft to Japan, but I can’t work out either how he kept the cup throughout the fighting and internment, but also met Keays! 29 The last Story from the Ride Papers for this month covered the establishment of AHQ Samfou.
25A researcher looking into Ernest Job, HKVDC, got in touch. I helped with a few details. Apparently Job was an ex-pupil at Chafyn Grove School, Bourne Avenue, Salisbury.
22William Dewberry’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo of Dewberry’s wedding (illustrated) and a shot of the Middlesex Drums with the Adjutant, Chattey. I have published the latter image previously, in October 2017, but it’s well worth repeating. 22 Today’s edition of Stories from the Ride Papers covered BAAG’s Establishment of Forward post Saikung.
18 Today I should have led the Hong Kong Club walkers on Cadogan-Rawlinson’s Last Stand, but unfortunately because of the health issues noted above, we had to cancel.
17Ron Holland’s son (see last month) very kindly sent a number of photos from his father’s collection. This included one of the back of a fishing village. Can anyone identify it? The others were pages from Shamshuipo Camp concert party programs. A particularly nice one includes many HKRNVR signatures, and another incorporated a skit by Osmond Skinner (Mark Rylance’s grandfather, who was covered in last year’s TV program). 17 Frode Olsen kindly noted: “Happy Chinese New Year! I am very pleased to let you know, that the translation of my book about the Danish Volunteers is just around the corner. Yesterday I received this article including a very kind interview.”
12 The January Java Journal included an obituary of Barbara Anslow, with a mention of her book ‘Tin Hats and Rice’. Ron Freer also had a good article, as did signalman Kenneth Edward Whittenham’s daughter who is involved in the forthcoming Lisbon Maru documentary.
10In the last day or two I’ve given some minor assistance to the author of a paper detailing Second World War Military Censorship Hand Stamps of the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong. Rather a niche topic perhaps, but surprisingly interesting. 10 A correspondent notes that he would like to visit Osaka #1B. Has anyone been to the location before, and could advise what’s there now and how best to get there?
8 Stories from the Ride Collection #15, on the BAAG facebook page, describes the setting up of AHQ Waichow.
5 George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale on eBay of letters relating to Sapper James Boxwell, RE, who was on the first draft to Japan. 5 ‘Monkey’ Stewart’s family kindly sent a couple of photos of their recent meeting with Fang Li and the Lisbon Maru documentary team.
4 Thanks to an interesting exchange on faceook, I now have a reasonably complete list of Russians in the HKVDC. After seeing it and adding a few names, I remembered that ‘the smuggled list’ actually breaks them out as a national group too (at least, those who survived the fighting).
3 Bob Sawyer contacted me again (see last month) with his father’s full story of his abortive escape, and more details about the loss of his friend Corporal Handel Ashton Fisher, RAVC. Fisher had married a Chinese lady shortly before the war, and was of course killed in the slit trench outside the Battlebox along with several others (Sawyer somehow survived unscathed). Post-war, Fisher’s wife asked where her husband had been buried. Sawyer told her he had been buried in the remains of the trench itself, and to his amazement she wrote back shortly afterwards to say that she had found his body and had it buried in Stanley. When asked how she had identified it, she replied: “but it was so easy. The day that Bud left home for the last time, he was in such a hurry that he left his false teeth behind. I only had to try them on all the skulls that were in the ground until I found the only one that fitted.” As far as possible, CWGC records seem to back up everything that Sawyer wrote. 3 ‘Tooti’ Begg’s family contacted me today. I had previously been in touch with his wife’s family (she of course was unfortunate enough to be murdered at St Stephen’s at Stanley). They sent me an image of his gravestone, showing that he died in 1967.
2 Dick Yielding has found a second edition of the Victor Comic, dated 1977, which shows the Victoria Cross action of John Osborn, VC (Winnipeg Grenadiers). He notes that: “They seem to have the uniforms a little more true to life in this one…”, which is true – but you have to wonder why they used the same story twice.
1 Clive Connor - son of Herbert Connor (RN, LM) – got in touch via Brian Finch, and quoting this website: “This is link to page containing many photos of POW’s in Japan. My father is in the 12th photo down titled ‘Nippon Express Co., Hyogo port branch’. He is 3rd from left… In the photograph of HMS Tamar PO’s Mess on Christmas 1940 Dad is 4th from the left. I would not be surprised that many of the other PO’s in this photograph might have ended up on the Lisbon Maru.”
January 1st, 2020 Update
New French Memorial and Stanley Service (author), Wall's medals (courtesy Jane O'Keefe)
Saiwan Canadian Service and Program (author), Lawson's original grave (author's collection)
Banham & Rylance (Channel 4, via Simon Gooch), Osborn comic (courtesy Dick Yielding), Beacom POW tags (courtesy Elias van der Pol)
Well, that’s it for another year. Tomorrow starts 2020, and that year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the reoccupation of Hong Kong. We need some positive mood in the SAR at the moment, so perhaps we can – for once – have a proper commemoration!
30Brian Finch sent some photos of Herbert Conner (RN, Lisbon Maru), including one of him and his fellow POs celebrating Christmas in 1940 in the HMS Tamar Petty Officers’ Mess.
29 I hear that it is likely a Lisbon Maru memorial will be created at the National Memorial Arboretum. I will add details as they become available.
27 Vic Ient has published (as an eBook) “These Valiant Men”, the story of eight British servicemen – including his father and five others from Hong Kong – in World War II in the Far East. It is also available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/These-Valiant-Men-British-Servicemen-ebook/dp/B081Z6SNWP/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=these+valient+men+ient&qid=1577765416&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmr0
21 Today we published Stories from the Ride Collection #13: “The spirit of Hong Kong”. These were the inspirational concluding lines from a speech on the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps given by Lindsay Ride at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1967.
19Philip Cracknell has published a very interesting blog about Sir Edward Des Voeux. No regular reader of these pages will need more information about his role and death in Hong Kong, but Philip points out how little else we know about him. All I could add (from earlier worries about exactly the same issue) is that there are no obvious records for him in the London Gazette, but Charterhouse school lists him in their Roll of Honour.
18 On the Stanley Group, John Fitzgerald’s grandson made contact. Fitzgerald was IC the Stanley Platoon HKVDC (a platoon entirely made up of Stanley prison guards). His wife and two daughters (one of whom was this correspondent’s mother) had been evacuated to Australia in 1940. In my files I have this note: "Sergeant John Hudson, Stanley Platoon: 'Then the nightmare came at 8.50pm on Xmas Eve. They attacked the Village with small tanks and thousands of troops, it was hell let loose, machine guns everywhere, some of the Volunteers defended the left of the Village and the Mary Knoll, but the attack came direct for us from the Beach and Lower Beach Road. For 3 ½ hours we fought so, with lulls between, then they would come on again screaming their heads off, just to be mowed down. By this time we had lost McLeod-Carr-Gowland with Foster, Cottrell and Stevens missing. Major Forsyth i/c had been killed, so Fitz-Gerald was i/c, I told him we had better fall back to the first Bungalow overlooking the Village, as we could hear firing and hand grenades bursting back by the Prison, they had managed to break thru along the Beach.' From a letter written 30 August 45, kindly supplied by Hudson’s daughter Rebecca via Brian Edgar, 16 June 2012." 18 William Wall’s niece (he was HKPF) made contact again, this time asking me to identify her uncle’s medals. Well, I know next to nothing about such things so immediately farmed the question out to Dave Deptford (who has forgotten more about such things than I have, er, hold on, I knew I came in here for some reason…) and Dave very kindly answered all her questions.
17 George Edmond Wilkinson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch.
16 Walking down from the summit of High West today I noticed the broken nose of a .303 right next to the path at the point some ten metres above (and perhaps fifty metres north of) the old Peak Butts. The wild pigs have done some useful work clearing the vegetation at that point, and with five minutes I’d found a further five broken bullets. I suppose they must all have overflown the butts. I was instantly minded of an entry in my late father’s diary upon firing a Sten gun for the first time: “I should not like to have been someone standing above and slightly to the right of my target”.
13 Today the French Consulate kindly invited me to join their memorial service at Stanley, made more important this year as they were unveiling an updated version of the stone there that memorializes French losses in Hong Kong during the war. In 2017 I was peripherally involved in researching some of these new details, and it was very satisfying to see the very professional result. A choir from the French International School was in attendance and did a really good job.
11Martin Heyes notes: “Thought you might be interested in this photo of a scarf owned by the daughter of the late Lance Bombardier ‘Tommy’ Atkins, formerly of 8 Coastal Regt, Royal Artillery. He fought at Bokhara Bty & under Major Templer at Stanley in Dec 1941. Apparently he & some of his chums had these scarves made - the letters stand for ‘Japanese Labour Camp Survivors Association’.” I have never heard of the JLCSA before, but a quick check with the IWM confirms their existence. 11 The HKVCA kindly let me know that their latest newsletter is ready. 11 Today I published the twelfth of the “Stories from the Ride Collection”. Today’s subject – following on from last week - was BAAG intelligence reports on Conditions in Occupied Hongkong. These examples were intended to simply demonstrate the enormous breadth and depth of BAAG’s reports. They covered Electricity, Gas, Water, Tramway service, Bus service, Private cars, Ferry services, Railways, Coal supply, Firewood supply, Population, Registration of persons, Food, Cement works, Dockyards, Fuel, Shipping, and Bombing raids.
10 Richard Yielding has kindly continued to send me bits and pieces of his Hong Kong literary collection. While most of it is familiar to me, he has found a couple of ‘new’ ones, but today he outdid himself with a copy of the Victor comic from 1963. It’s the story of Osborn, VC, and it is just outstandingly wrong in almost every way and yet… quite compelling. How funny that I may have read it all those years ago as a precocious four-year-old when it first came out! My favourite quote, from a rather unhappy looking Japanese NCO: “We will soon cut down the numbers of the English pigs!” Though – fair enough – Osborn was of course indeed English, born just a few miles from my birthplace in Norfolk. 10 Martin Heyes tells me that the Jubilee Battery (underneath Mount Davis) has been restored. That shows how out of touch I am. I had no idea. I’ll see if I can take a look before Christmas.
9Today I had a very enjoyable “High Tea” with the current British military attaché in Beijing. I was actually very pleased, because although the Canadian Consulate has always been very good about memorialising the events of 1941 – and even the Americans and others have shown an interest – until today the British have been utterly absent. Hopefully this presages a genuine change of heart!
8 Steve Denton has helpfully researched the number of Lisbon Maru survivors left at Shanghai and has raised it from the 42 I previously listed to a more accurate 47. 8 Today Desmond Lau posted (on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) a postal commemorative of the first anniversary of the Japanese occupying Hong Kong (illustrated). 8 Beautiful sunny weather – though cool – for this morning’s 72nd annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan Cemetery, also marking the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack. There was a good turnout, and Philip Herbert (who also attended) showed me an interesting link to Sherborne School’s Role of Honour. It is very well done and shows the global nature of the war. For Hong Kong connections there’s Whitham on page 3, and John Grayburn VC (nephew, I believe of Vandaleur Grayburn of HSBC) on page 1 and William Hall (Royal Scots) and Donald Sandilands (Rajputs) on page 2.
7The latest journal of Close Encounters in War has been published. I have assisted them in the past and appreciate their dedication to detail. While obviously it’s not directly related to Hong Kong’s war time experiences, I thought some readers might be interested.
6 Ha! First thing this morning, at my seven a.m., I had a Skype interview with Canadian TV. I was quite pleased with it. Answered every question in a single take. Was remarkably articulate for the time of day. It was only when I saw my final (and very short) appearance that I realized I had been still wearing the same shirt I’d slept in! Not surprisingly they gave the rather-better-turned-out (and at least equally articulate) Mike Babin rather more screen time. The end result can be seen here. 6 In relation to a request I did a little research into the First Nation members of C Force. Now, I’m by no means an expert in this subject and may not have got this quite right, but at first pass my count is 52 – a surprisingly high number. 6 Jon Reid – in finalizing his book about his father Captain John Reid, RCAMC - made me chuckle today. He had made the same mistake I have made so many times, of putting a quote into his work and thinking: “I’ll put the full citation in later. There’s no way I’ll forget where that came from.” It’s so easily done, but 100,000 words later of course you forget. Note to self: Always add the citation at the same moment you add the quote. 6 A researcher and collector in Holland notes: “I found your website researching a group of POW items I have belonging to M.F. Beacom. He was a member of the DDC and was POW in Akenobe camp. I have a ww2 collection that focusses mostly on the “life behind barbed wire” during ww2. I use the collection mainly for exhibitions and education. If you wish I can send you some pictures of Beacom’s items.” He kindly sent me a number of photos, of which perhaps the most interesting was the set of Michael Francis Beacom’s POW number (241) tiles.
5 Lance Corporal Kenneth Frederick Sawyer (RAVC) son kindly got in touch. Sawyer is a gentleman I have been interested in for some time, as not only was he an accomplished artist in camp, he was also a recaptured escapee (see May).
4 The Mark Rylance documentary (about his grandfather, Osmond Skinner, who fought with the HKVDC and was wounded at Stanley) was broadcast today. I was surprised by how many emails I received from people who had watched it out of general interest - family, old school friends and so forth - and then to their amazement seen me (and I believe Philip Cracknell as well, but as I have not yet seen the show myself I can’t be sure!) It was well reported in the press, as in this Telegraph example. By the way, what you see is Mark and me at the Peninsula where we sat at a table going through documents. Hopefully it appeared like a single take with multiple camera angles. In fact, though, it took quite a number of takes as they wanted five views (me looking at Mark, Mark looking at me, over my shoulder, over Mark’s shoulder, and close ups of the documents themselves) without cameras being visible in any shots. So we actually had a continuity lady who did nothing but track the documents (did they start face up or face down, did Mark pass to me or did I pass to Mark, where were they put down - and again, face up or face down - and in which order) so we could be sure it was the same each time. 4 Today I published the “Stories from the Ride Collection #11: BAAG Intelligence Summaries and Précis.” “S” Section reports were produced in a weekly Counter Espionage Précis. The investigations covered categories ranging from individual persons to whole institutions. They also included investigations to clear people suspected of subversive activities. Captain Chan Ying Hung: “It is our intention to produce at least one edition of this Precis every week. The size will vary and very often it may be necessary to turn out as many as three or four editions during any one week, depending on the necessity for immediate circulation. Our object in producing this Precis is to ensure that the information contained in it should be as widely known as possible by those directly concerned and that the greatest benefit be obtained from the reports of our agents and the results of our investigations by all Allied organizations, into the subversive activities of enemy intelligence agents, saboteurs, and fifth columnists. It is our intention to include information already in our possession and recorded on our files, as well as new reports as these become available. These reports are of interest and importance from two distinct angles: 1. In order that we may be on our guard and thus be able jointly to frustrate attempts on the part of enemy agents and saboteurs and assist towards their arrest. 2. As a documentary record for reference after the war to assist in identifying and disposing of fifth columnists, etc…” The Intelligence Summaries: Since May 1942, the reports of Intelligence agents had been collected into weekly Intelligence Summaries: the Kukong Intelligence Summary (May to July 1942), the Waichow Intelligence Summary (August 1942 to April 1944), and the Kweilin Weekly Intelligence Summary, KWIZ, from May 1943 to February 1945. In 1944 KWIZ contained the following six sections, all with sub-divisions: Section I: POWs Internees & Escapees, Section II: Military Intelligence , Section III: Non-Military Intelligence, Section IV: Chinese Intelligence, Section V: Intelligence for Press Attaché, Section VI: Indians 4 Lance Bombardier Richard Palmer’s (RA, Multiple wounds at Belcher’s fort – amputation of leg) family contacted me. They note: “Richard was related to my father's side of the family. My father was in the RAF and served in that theatre including some time in HK at the end. The photograph and post card were kept in my father’s photograph album which I inherited when he died. They are wonderful historical and family documents and I thank you for your research which meant I was able to fill in some details about Richard. I never really knew who he was. I mentioned him to my 86 year old mother, she didn’t know who I was talking about, then she said ‘Oh you mean Dick, who lost his leg’. My father mentioned that he heard soldiers talking about him at the end of the war, perhaps either the RAF repatriating POWs by air or on a trooper and saying how Richard was taken to work each day as a POW by his mates in a wheel barrow.” They kindly sent several photographs, Including one of a note stating that he’d lost his leg. They asked the identity of Camp A and, being lazy, I used Google to look up my own work, and found this fascinating collection of Hong Kong POW correspondence as a result. (Camp A was the Bowen Road Military Hospital).
2 I was very pleased to hear both from Naneli’s family and the holder of his medals (see last month), that they had come to an accommodation and the medals are back in the hand of the family. The family has concluded that they will donate them to The Hong Kong Museum of History (at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.)
1Andrew Holland (son of Lance Bombardier Ron Holland 862469, 36 Coast Battery RA). See April) kindly sent me a hand-written Urdu textbook which his father had had in camp. There were many language lesson groups in the POW Camps once they got organised, though I’ve not seen reference to an Urdu one before. While today we tend to think of Urdu as the Pakistani national language, in those pre-partition days it was considered to be just another Indian language. British officers of the Indian army were expected to speak at least one local language, and I dare say that most senior NCOs did too. 1 While the author and broadcaster Clive James – who passed away on 24 November - has no direct connection with Hong Kong, his father is buried in Sai Wan Military Cemetery. In James’s own writing he describes how his father lost his life when the USAAF B24 “Liquidator” flying him back from a POW Camp in Japan (Okinawa to Manila) crashed in Manila Bay. In fact it crashed into the Seaboard Mountain Range, northeast of Taitung, Taiwan, from which the bodies were removed in very challenging circumstances.
December 1st, 2019 Update
Agerbak brothers (courtesy Carol Hadley), Wong Nai Chung Gao bed (author), John Potter (via Brian Finch)
Remembrance Day (courtesy Darren Mann/Bill Lake), Lawson's bunker and granddaughter (author), Naneli's medals (courtesy Art Ralston)
Boldero homecoming (courtesy John Moulton), Bob Tatz's book launch (author), Naafi fag box (anonymous)
Quite a month! What with the disturbances in Hong Kong, the Mark Rylance documentary being finished, and having the enormous pleasure of accompanying Brigadier John Lawson’s granddaughter around Hong Kong, it’s been quite a whirl. But of course, all that was tempered by the confirmation of Barbara Anslow’s death, which is a terrible loss. I went to my files and selected an appropriate image of her to illustrate this month’s report, but in doing so I found another image – of Barbara and me laughing at some stupid joke while having lunch in the old Murray Barracks. I’m fat (it was a long time ago) and Barbara is out of focus, but it didn’t half bring back some happy memories. All I can do (see below) is try to leave her with my best effort of an obituary.
29 Ron Taylor kindly passed me the following message: “My father (Dr. YEUNG Ming Hon) is fine at his old age of 96. He has dementia and does not recognise me anymore, however he can eat by himself, very steady with his chopsticks. He needs to be in his wheelchair and he does go out for lunch”. Yeung served in the HKVDC Field Ambulance. 29 The subject of this week’s Stories from the Ride Collection (#10) was Counter Espionage Report 113, Japanese Agents in Macau. While full of useful detail, it nicely illustrates the challenges of research based on such old and faded documents. I simply could not work out what the first word was. Basic? Some? I really don’t know.
28 Thanks to the Mark Rylance documentary I am now in touch with the grandson of Arthur Pears (brother of Peter Pears), the wartime captain of HMS Thracian.
27 Douglas Clague’s (RA, BAAG, Operation Swansong) daughter kindly got in touch, thanks to Elizabeth Ride. 27 Andrew Holland kindly sent me a photo of the Argyle Street POW Association annual lunch, and a page (plus the cover page) of their 1952 directory. I first saw this directory in around 1999, by which time the numbers were naturally somewhat diminished. 27 Fascinating! The family of Private Richard Morley, Middlesex, noted mention of Corporal Charles Goddard’s engraved mess tin. This gives us – for the first time – a full listing of the defenders of PB33. Unfortunately there are three possible contenders for the name ‘Webster’ but all the other names are unique. In my files it now thus reads: Pillbox 33 Goddard, Charles Corporal 6202957 (XD3) Funnell, John Private 6202119 (LM) K 15.4.43 Y Francomb, Arthur Private 6213440 (argyle) (XD5) Gentry, Frederick J. Private 6199070 U 1-2.10.42 LM Morley, Richard Private (XD1) Pennick, Reginald J. Lance Corp. 6201384 U 1-2.10.42 LM Pope, William Private 6213579 (LM) Remer, Louis Private 6203205 H 28.12 10.1.42 U 12.1.42 Ridden, Donald Private 6202704 U 1-2.10.42 LM (Webster) ? ? ? Wilderspin, Harry A. Lance Corp. 6201867 (LM) K 4.3.43 Y
25 Richard Yielding kindly sent me a photo of an ANZAC HKVDC shoulder flash. These are pretty rare as the ANZAC Company of the HKVDC, which had about 50 men, only existed from 1932 to 1935 (according to the late Philip Bruce’s excellent book Second To None).
21 Dave Deptford, sharp-eyed in the medal department as ever, alerted me to those of Henry James Ross, RAMC (who was on the Lisbon Maru and died in Osaka #2B). “Spink, November 27 - 28th 2019, Lot 265, Medal group of three (39 -45, Pacific and War Medal with M.I.D) to the above with detailed blurb. Estimate GBP400 - 600.”
20 This morning I had the privilege of accompanying Brigadier Lawson’s granddaughter for a walk around Wong Nai Chong Gap followed by a visit to her grandfather’s grave. I have corresponded with Lawson’s family (and Wallis’s too, of course) for many years, but it was our first meeting in the flesh. At ‘Lawson’s bunker’ we noticed that the south western bunker’s door was open, showing the steel frame of a bunk bed. Too big to have been carried through the door itself, it must have been assembled inside. Could it be original? 20 This week’s Stories from the Ride Collection (#09) covered the B.A.A.G. Civilian Staff. 20 I was kindly informed today that this year’s Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces, on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, will take place at 14.15 on Friday, 13 December at Stanley Military Cemetery. “On this occasion, a new monument plaque will be unveiled and inaugurated. It contains updated information with new names of Frenchmen involved with Free France and the defence of Hong Kong, which recent historical research has revealed and saved from yesteryears forgotten history.” I shall gratefully attend.
19 Thomas Murray’s (RE) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo. Murray was lost on ‘the south side of Wong Nai Chung Gap’. 19 This evening my older son (who lives in London) attended a private viewing of the Mark Rylance documentary. He kindly mentioned that I ‘looked like an idiot’ but spoke highly of the other attendees – even though he single-handedly brought down their average age by a few decades! 19 Martin Heyes notes that he is taking the daughter of James Edward Atkins, RA, for a walk around Hong Kong - to Bokhara Battery and elsewhere - when they visit next month. Atkins was: “was born 16.2.1920 and joined the Royal Artillery in 1936 having lied about his age. The Recruiting Officer told him to go round the block and come back when he was 18! On all his Army records he has the date of birth 16.2.1918. He was nicknamed Tommy. He died 1989 aged 69. After his initial training he was posted to Hong Kong in September 1937.” Martin kindly forwarded a set of photos and documents.
17Steve Denton pointed out something I had never noticed before, but which is of great interest. He has shown that many POW Index Cards of POWs who perished include the time of death. These times can appear in Arabic numerals or Chinese, either below or after the date of death. 17 I had an email today from an American medal collector who has the medals of Company Sergeant Major Marciano Francisco Baptista, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. The name of course instantly rang a bell. This the ‘Naneli’ whose family published a book about him a few years ago (Souvenir of Shamshuipo), kindly asking me to write the foreword. I immediately contacted them to ensure that nothing untoward was happening, but no. Apparently Naneli had handed his belongings out far and wide (as, of course, he had every right to do). But even so, the family was glad to know where his MBE had finally ended up. They still have many artefacts from him, including a silver cigarette case with the inscription: “Presented to C.S.M., M.F. de P. Baptista by his comrades and friends of the H.K.V.D.C. Club Lusitano and Club de Recreio to commemorate his appointment as a Member in the Most Excellent order of the British Empire. 20-1-49.”
15Charles Haviland’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. 15 Mike Babin sent me an interesting challenge! He asked me to identify the author of an unsigned wartime letter to his mother. Fortunately there were sufficient clues for me to deduce that it was from Canadian ex-Stanley Internee Mrs Alys Greaves.
14Jon Reid let me know that his book The Captain Was a Doctor (about his father Captain John Reid, RCAMC, the only Canadian officer to travel from Hong Kong to a POW camp in the Japanese homeland) was delivered to the publisher on time at the beginning of November with a hoped-for publication date of 19 September 2020. 14 Brian Finch kindly sent me a number of photos from the family of Gunner John Potter (RA, Lisbon Maru), including a rather good and unusual one of him and a comrade manning an old 3-inch AA gun.
12 This evening I attended Bob Tatz’s "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong" Book Launch at Café 8 at Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum at the harbour. Despite the disruption of protests in Central at least 40 people turned up and everyone enjoyed it. On the way home riot police blocked my most direct route, and sadly that meant I had to re-route via a pub I rather like. 12 John Moulton’s (RAF) son got back in touch, kindly sending a collection of eight scans from his father’s autograph/scrap book. The eighth was a poem by his father, the other seven were written/drawn by: 1 - Wing Commander Humphrey G. Sullivan, local head of RAF 2 - Captain William Dennis Poltock, 2nd/14th Punjabis 3 - Lieutenant Alec V. Skvorzov, HKVDC. (Luba Estes’s father). 4 - Captain Godfrey V. Bird, Royal Engineers. He went on to become a successful architect. 5 - ? Unidentified. Looks like H ’45. I feel like I recognise the style, but no luck so far. 6 - The one-armed Lieutenant Commander John C. Boldero, RN, Captain of HMS Cicala 7 - Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bruce Parkinson, HKRNVR (I think)
11 The South China Morning Post today published a new article about the Canadian contribution to the Battle of Hong Kong.
10 Today was Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, and there was a good turnout despite advanced warnings of potential protests. The “BAAG Friends and Family” group was well represented and the weather was very kind to us. 10 The Mirror in the UK ran an article about surviving British Hong Kong POW Ron Freer.
9 Carol Hadley kindly let me use a superb photo of her father and two uncles (L2R: Borge, Tage, and Knud Agerbak) manning a Vickers gun. 9 At Elizabeth Ride’s request I posted Stories from the Ride Collection #08: James Edulji Kotwall this morning as a Remembrance Day special. It included the following: “On 21 August 1995, the South China Morning Post published an article under the heading: 'A true Hong Kong Hero'. It was the story of Jimmy Kotwall and began thus: ‘Doris Kotwall zealously guards an old set of cherished photographs and yellowing letters in the cramped Sha Tin flat she shares with her daughter and grandchildren. Leafing through the pages of the family's prized album, revives bitter-sweet memories of her husband Jimmy, before the Japanese occupied Hong Kong, and of the terrible tortures he suffered before being executed. Jimmy Kotwall is one of the territory's unsung heroes of World War II. He was not a soldier, but a Eurasian civilian and merchant who could have stayed out of harm's way and come out of the war unscathed if he had kept his head down. Yet despite, or, perhaps, because of, the execution of his brother George and 32 others by the Japanese in October, 1943, for providing intelligence through his leadership of the British Army Aid Group, Jimmy bravely followed in his brother's footsteps, aware he would also pay with his life if uncovered. Early on March 26, 1944, after Jimmy had spent many months reorganising the clandestine group and funnelling sensitive information to the British forces in China, Doris woke to strange sounds and voices outside their Causeway Bay house...’ 9 An interesting cache of items turned up in the hills today, including the first NAAFI cigarette tin I’ve seen!
8 Ron Parker kindly sent me this link to an article: “Remembering a Mi'kmaw soldier who spent years as a prisoner of war.” 8 Les Carter, whose father served on HMS Tern, kindly sent me a copy of the 288 “Monument” Mess (The Fellowship) newsletter, in which his father had written an article describing his wartime experience. Entitled “I Was There” it covers his time on the ship, fighting as infantry, and the Lisbon Maru.
7 I took a friend from Baptist University to walk the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail this morning. The first thing we noticed was that wild boar had been digging over a large area on and around The Black Hole of Hong Kong. Although we looked, we couldn’t see any artefacts there. However, just as we finished the walk by Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, to my surprise we found a relatively intact Japanese 6.5mm rifle cartridge on the surface.
6 Wild Pictures let me know that: "the documentary we have made about actor Mark Rylance’s family history during WW2, which you so kindly contributed your expertise to, is due to be screened on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday 3rd of December 2019." 6 Today I posted the seventh episode of Stories from the Ride Collection #07: Y.C. Liang (梁潤昌, also sometimes known as 梁昌. His codename was "P.L" - the first and last letters of the medicine Prontocil). Date and place of birth: Shanghai 1918, Nationality: Chinese, Occupation: Trader, Tenure in BAAG: Dec. 42 - Dec 45. Citation for courage in the cause of freedom “In 1942, the BAAG contacted this man in Macao, and in view of his business connections he was put in charge of an escape and intelligence group there. Early in 1943, he made the dangerous trip out of Macao through enemy territory to Kweilin and set up safe escape routes. At Kweilin he was fully briefed and returned to set up his organisation. Throughout all his service, he was operating under the very noses of the Japanese, and in spite of that he was able to maintain weekly contacts with our post without loss. Through his channels, over 50 European and 4 American evaders were smuggled out of Macao to safety and important messages passed into Hongkong. In all this work, he not only showed organising ability of a high order but he displayed outstanding bravery and extreme devotion to our cause” (Signed) L.T. Ride, Colonel Commandant BAAG
4 Dave Deptford kindly notes: “Through The Saleroom, Dominic Winter Auctions, Cirencester, Gloucs, 7th November 2019, Lot 276: WW2 Pacific Theatre, POW Archive, Shamshuipo Camp. Various sketches and notes on camp life. Description states they were possibly made post war when he was under treatment! G.R. Edwards R.N. Lt Cdr, Estimate GBP200 – 300.”
2 I heard the sad, though not unexpected, news today that Barbara Anslow (illustrated) passed away on 29 October. To the best of my knowledge she was the last surviving Stanley Internee who had been interned while already an adult. I was one of many lucky enough to talk to her first-hand about the experience, and to go round Stanley prison, camp, and cemetery with her once – together with Geoff Emerson. Her book Tin Hats and Rice records her wartime experience, and my last correspondence with her was to send her a review of it that I wrote for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Barbara’s funeral will be held at the Sacred Heart and St Francis Catholic Church in Frinton-on-Sea on 11th November at 1.45pm followed by a cremation at Weeley Crematorium at 3.30pm and a celebration of her life at Frinton Cricket Club afterwards. Thanks to support from St Helena Hospice in Colchester, Barbara’s family was able to care for her at home until the end, which was her fervent wish. I had hoped to find a formal obituary somewhere, but failed. I have therefore attempted my own:
Barbara Anslow, 01 December 1918 - 31 October 2019 Barbara Anslow, nee Redwood, was the second daughter of a naval dockyard family consisting of her father William, mother (also Barbara), older sister Olive and younger sister Mabel. Her father worked for the British admiralty and the family moved to Hong Kong in 1927 where he worked in the Naval Dockyards. In 1929 they returned to the UK, where Redwood worked at the Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland and then the Ordnance Depot at Crombie, but in 1938 he again decided to accept a three-year posting to Hong Kong. The family thus settled easily into Hong Kong life, with the three girls enjoying the carefree existence of the between-the-wars years until very suddenly, in the summer of 1940, they – like the majority of British women and children – were summarily ordered to evacuate Hong Kong. The authorities feared a Japanese invasion and were determined to ‘clear the decks’ of non-essential personnel. The evacuation proceeded swiftly, and some 3,500 women and children were soon off loaded to the Philippines as a halfway house to eventual dispersal in Australia. The four Redwood ladies – finding themselves in crowded accommodation in Manila - accepted an offer to stay at the more luxurious Calamba Sugar Estate, and there within a few days they heard the utterly unexpected news that back in Hong Kong, father and husband William Redwood had suddenly passed away. The authorities bent the rules and allowed them to return to Hong Kong. There they learned essential skills with Barbara senior and Mabel becoming nurses, Olive joining Food Control as a stenographer, and Barbara junior becoming stenographer to Wing Commander Steele-Perkins, in charge of Air Raid Precautions. Fortunately all four ladies survived the invasion, Barbara’s mother being particularly lucky as she was posted to the exposed Jockey Club emergency hospital where a number of her comrades were attacked and raped. Eventually the Redwoods ended up interned at Stanley Civilian Internment camp, Olive joining them last when her post at Bowen Road Hospital was finally closed. Barbara was 22 when she was interned. At Stanley, to the great benefit of future historians, she instigated a regularly updated diary. From my point of view, this is the Barbara I first knew – a disembodied voice from the archives who could have existed centuries ago. To meet her in the flesh (during her visit to Hong Kong in 2008, kindly paid for by her children) only a few years after our first ‘encounter’ was a strange, though of course wonderful, experience. I still have a photograph of our first lunch together, in which (for good reason, I assure you) we appear to be giggling like teenagers. Also at Stanley, in 1942, Barbara would meet a gentleman by the name of Frank Anslow. Frank was a married man and in the camp days themselves there was nothing between them. At liberation, Barbara and her family moved back to the UK, but Barbara was soon offered a job as a stenographer for the Hong Kong Government, and returned in June 1946. There she (with many Government employees, women on the top floor and men on the first) was accommodated in the French Mission. Frank Anslow was one of those on the first floor, and the two were married in March 1948. They had five children, and finally moved back to the UK in 1959. In the post-war years Barbara deposited her wartime diary at the Imperial War Museum in London, thus becoming well known to all researchers since. Many of us (Bernice Archer, Geoffrey Emerson, David Bellis, and myself – among others) took advantage of her phenomenal memory in more recent years, learning a great deal to our advantage in the process. Fortunately Bellis, more than anyone, encourage her to publish her diary to the wider world and this project finally came to fruition in 2018. Meanwhile Barbara had become more and more involved in FEPOW/Internee affairs, attending the Buckingham Palace garden party on more than one occasion, and being chosen to read the FEPOW Prayer in London to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the surrender of Japan, on VJ Day 2015. From my side I lost count eons ago of the number of emails we had exchanged over the past twenty or more years. Suffice it to say that she never lost her marbles (to put it mildly). In fact I recall a visit together to Stanley Cemetery during which she became extraordinarily frustrated because while standing at someone’s headstone she momentarily couldn’t recall the name of the deceased’s mother’s sister’s employer’s nephew’s dentist’s wife’s hairdresser’s rabbit (or something like that). Her memory was truly remarkable. In September of 2019 a review I had written (of her published diary, Tin Hats and Rice, and in parallel Charter’s diary, The First Shall Be Last, expertly compiled by Bill Lake) was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. I emailed her a copy, but her grandson kindly replied: “Barbara is unfortunately very poorly at this time but was extremely keen for me to read out your review to her this morning, which she enjoyed very much.” Sadly, a month later she passed away. I should, however, leave the last words to Barbara herself: “I like to think camp made me more tolerant… something you have to be when sharing a room at close quarters with at least four other people, with their irritating habits, their snores and their burps. I can feel special compassion for crowds of refugees on TV, and for starving African babies with all their bones showing.” She will be sorely missed. For so many of us she represented so much, but most importantly she represented both herself – a lady whose spirit we all admired so much – and the times she lived through.
November 1st, 2019 Update
Lisbon Maru Memorial (courtesy Kent Shum), Felix & Author (author), HK Club on Mount Cameron (courtesy Darren Mann)
Young Index Card (anonymous), Philip Nelms (courtesy Chris Nelms), Hell on the Lisbon Maru (courtesy Steve Denton)
Worrall book (author), Two Kings draft cover (couresty Graham Earnshaw), Begley book (author)
I was thinking, while planning to attend this month’s Remembrance Day services. Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Shamshuipo, Lisbon Maru, Kobe House) passed his one hundredth birthday this month and Barbara Anslow (Stanley Internee) is almost at her hundred and first. Anyone who was an adult (21 or more in those days) in 1941 is now at least 99 years old. The last living veteran of the First World War was Florence Green, a British citizen who served in the Allied armed forces, and who died 4 February 2012, and the last combat veteran was Claude Choules who served in the British Royal Navy (and later the Royal Australian Navy) and died 5 May 2011. Both were aged 110. So we can expect the window to finally close on our veterans in a decade, and at that point their whole experience will pass into history.
30 This week’s Notes from the Ride Collection featured the Chinese Canadian agent Bill Chong. 30 I have often wondered if civilian internees also had POW Index Cards. I imagine that normally they do not, but I discovered today that Hong Kong’s Governor, Sir Mark Young, indeed had one. Perhaps people of his status were recognized as a special case.
26 Ha! After taking a year off because I was so busy at work (and a fat lot of good that did me!) today I resumed my Hong Kong Club historical walks – which I have been leading for perhaps fifteen years now. And we started the season with the toughest. I walked to Wong Nai Chung Gap to meet the gang, then took them onto Black’s Link. From there we ascended Mount Nicholson (not too bad), descended again, walked round the back of Mount Cameron – in the face of some sort of race going in the other direction; hundreds of people, which is odd as normally I have that path to myself - and then ascended Mount Cameron. So much better today in the dry! But it’s still a serious and sometimes treacherous walk, and I was proud that everyone (and ages spanned from around eight to around seventy) made it. At the top we conducted a sort of birthday celebration for ex-Royal Scot Dennis Morley who…. 26 …is one hundred years old today! Dennis – a great guy, who helped me enormously with my Lisbon Maru book – fought Kowloon side on Golden Hill, on Black’s Link / Mount Nicholson / Mount Cameron where we were walking today, survived the Lisbon Maru and the Kobe POW camps, and finally retired to the Cotswolds. So today I sent him a sort of scroll with a few photos of Hong Kong, birthday wishes from his many friends here, and finally a photo taken this morning with the Hong Kong Club at the summit of Mount Cameron. 26 Theodore Hung, whose great uncle was in 3 Coy, HKVDC, asks: “I was wondering if you have any photos of No.3 Coy of the HKVDC, I would really like to know what my great uncle looked like. I know there is a photo of the No.3 Coy on the Wong Nap Chung Gap trail but it is hard to identify who is who.” It’s a good question. I used to be in touch with lots of 3 Coy families, but neglected to ask if any had an annotated Company photo. Can anyone help?
25 I hear from the Canadian Consulate that Bob Tatz is confirmed to be in Hong Kong from Friday, November 8 until Sunday, November 17 to launch his autobiography "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong". They note that his current agenda (always subject to change) is: Sunday, November 10 – Remembrance Sunday Ceremony @ the Cenotaph Monday, November 11 – Bookazine Reading and Signing (TBC. We’re still waiting for Bookazine to confirm their interest). Tuesday, November 12 – Book Launch at Café 8, Maritime Museum (We are working with the Museum and Café 8 on the details). Expected timing & program: 18:00 Arrival at Maritime Museum 18:30 Guests start arriving 19:00 Welcome speeches. Bob reads selected passage from book. Q & A with audience 19:45 Networking, photos, etc. 20:30 Event ends
Event: Bob Tatz "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong" Book Launch at Café 8, Maritime Museum. Date: November 12, 2019 (Tuesday) Time: Doors will be open at 6:30pm; Event will start at 7:00pm and end at approximately 8:30pm RSVP: Free admission and limited seats available! Light refreshments will be served. Please register your seat(s) with the Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong by email HKONGRSVP(at)international.gc.ca latest by November 8, 2019 (Friday).
23 Philip Cracknell’s latest blog entry describes Captain Sydney Harry Batty-Smith, the Governor’s ADC. 23 Kent Shum kindly sent me a set of photos from the Lisbon Maru memorial visit. 23 This week’s Stories from the Ride Collection: The story of Tse Dickuan. He was the Chinese gentleman who – with enormous courage – copied the complete British / Canadian POW list from Shamshuipo and smuggled it to BAAG lines in China. 23 A real red letter day, with copies of two ‘new’ books about Hong Kong during the war arriving. Both had been kindly recommended by George Boote. They were: Neil Begley’s An Australian’s Childhood in China Under the Japanese, and George Worrall’s No Cure No Pay. I described the latter below (see the first of the month), but as well as a Hong Kong chapter as I mention it also has a few other very useful vignettes, including one about “Night Soil Boat” Foster (page 49) who would later be killed in the Chan Chak escape. The former doesn’t have a great deal on Hong Kong as Begley himself was interned in China. However, until repatriation to Shanghai, his parents were in Stanley Camp and their experience is covered. Both books are also a very good read.
21Unfortunately I missed an important event today. Feng Li had arranged for a group of Lisbon Maru families to travel from the UK to China to visit – by boat – the resting place of the Lisbon Maru itself. By all accounts it seems it was a great success, but unfortunately it wasn’t a good time for me to be away from Hong Kong. 21 Kenneth Wong kindly sent me Sir Mark Young’s official post-war report of his experience, which I had not seen before. Thanks to this and some help from Steve Denton, we were finally able to find his batman’s (Waller’s) first names: John William. I had also not previously known that when Young was in Woosung Camp he refused (supported by the twelve other British prisoners) to sign the “I will not escape” chit. The 1,500 or so Americans were advised to sign by their officers, but the British: “were locked up in a bare barrack without blankets during exceptionally cold weather and on one occasion they were beaten by the Japanese guards”. Finally Young negotiated a modified version of the chit, which they then felt they could sign.
19Having been kindly invited to write the blurb for the English version of Frode’s book about the Danish HKVDC members (Fighting for Two Kings), today I finally put pen to paper and sent the publisher my best effort. Hopefully publication is not too far away now.
18Today I thought I’d better check the path up Mount Cameron, ready for the Hong Kong Club walkers next Saturday. Unfortunately a belt of rain arrived just before I did, and as the vegetation over that path is head-height in places I was soaked by the time I reached the top. It’s clear that very few people use that path now, and sliding and slipping back down it I couldn’t blame them. 18 Steve Denton kindly sent a copy of Royal Scot William E. Cody’s well-known article “Hell On The Lisbon Maru” from Wide World Magazine - the first time I had actually seen a copy. 18 A month ago Anthony Guterres put an excellent photo of his grandfather Joaquim Guterres (illustrated) on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. For some reason I didn’t notice it until today. On 15 June 2017 I had noted: “Via Henry Ching I learned that Lieutenant Joaquim J. Guterres, HKVDC, who I listed as having died in St Teresa’s in We Shall Suffer There, in fact passed away in the canteen of Argyle Street Camp. A small detail in the greater scheme of things, but still an important one.
17 Frank Young’s (RN) family got in touch. Frank was one of two Petty Officers surnamed Young from HMS Redstart, lost during the battle of Hong Kong – on the same day according to CWGC - with no known grave. While researching Not The Slightest Chance I thought this must be a mistake. It seemed like too much of a coincidence so I assumed there could only have been one. But it turned out that Stoker Petty Officer William Young was actually lost on 21 December while attacking Shouson Hill, and now I think it’s more likely that Petty Officer Frank Young was lost on the same day at the same place.
16 Today’s “Stories from the Ride collection” on the BAAG Facebook page features an editorial about the BAAG from the South China Morning Post of 19 January 1946.
14 Elizabeth Ride sent me an interesting document. It is a set of quotes from third parties about the value of the BAAG (almost like the ones you see in the fly leaf of a book, endorsing it and its author).
12TK Wong, having read my paper on Hong Kong civilian fatalities 41-45, reminded me: “when we met in Causeway Bayfour4 years ago, you asked me the captioned figure. I said it must be around 250000 to 300,000. I agree with the figure in your article. My three maternal uncles were sent to Hainan Island and never returned… My grandmother (father side) died during the war in Waichow since the whole family, except my father, returned to Waichow (being Hakka) in 42. They had very hard time in China.” These experiences seem pretty much universal for Hong Kong families.
11 I had an email from Dennis Morley today (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) reminding me that the 26th will be his 100th birthday. “Never thought I’d make it”, he says.
9 I am now firmly in the routine of working with Elizabeth Ride to add a story “From the Ride papers” to the British Army Aid Group facebook page each Wednesday. Today’s entry featured the China Unit of the Chindits.
7 Chris Nelms very kindly sent a photo of his uncle Philip Nelms (see last month). 7 Ronnie Taylor in the UK kindly sent me a photo of Harold Audsley (RE, Lisbon Maru). In fact I realized later that I already had it in my files, but I have no objection to receiving things twice! Thanks to all this help, I now have photos of exactly 274 of the men who were aboard when the ship sailed.
6 Discussing (with Steve Denton and Iain Gow) the fate of the Lisbon Maru survivors who perished in camps in the Japanese mainland, and whether any might have been buried rather than cremated, I discovered something interesting. The CWGC is constantly adding details to their site, and I found that they note that the means of identification of Yokohama remains was ‘Particulars on urn’ (which of course implies all were cremated. See this example for John Jupp (the fourth image under the ‘concentration’ tab).
5 It’s good to see the British newspapers taking up the story of Downs’s medals and family (see last month). 5 A well preserved brass feed block from a Vickers medium machine gun turned up in the hills today.
2 Iain Gow’s son James (James is therefore the grandson of Royal Scot James Gow of the Lisbon Maru) is in Kobe exploring the site of the old Kobe House POW camp. Today is of course a very appropriate day to be searching for it. 2 This evening I had a very enjoyable dinner with George ‘Felix’ Chanduloy, whose two uncles (Uncle Lui Kar Yan and Uncle Andrew Chan Kwong Kee) were BAAG agents #68 and #78 respectively. There were of course two different agent 68s, which makes research a bit of a challenge.
1 George Boote kindly brought to my attention a book about Bill Worrall called No Cure No Pay, written by the well-known HK personality the late Kevin Sinclair. I wasn’t aware of it, but it includes an interesting chapter about the invasion of Hong Kong – including him helping ferry back Royal Scots from Kowloon side after the battle of Golden Hill. Bill Worrall married Raquel Bonner (widow of Corporal Horace William Bonner, HKVDC - killed in the Overbays massacre) in camp. They had one son, William Richard Worrall who was born in camp 13 August 1944 (he was later Chief Superintendent, HKPF – and his son Tim Worrall was also in the Hong Kong police until a few years ago). Raquel and Horace had two little girls pre-war, Dolores and Julia. Raquel herself was of Spanish decent, hence the dark hair and reputed good looks! I have been in touch with Julia’s own daughter (Karen) over the years.
October 1st, 2019 Update
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.