Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott-Lindsley (courtesy the National Museum of the Royal Navy), Osaka Report (courtesy Steve Denton), Jeffrey W. Morris (courtesy Len Asplin) The Independent Battalion (author), Indian propaganda flyer, wartime cigarette packet (both courtesy Colin Standish) xxxx on Gosper (courtesy Matthew Roman), Narumi and Omori camp (both courtesy www.mansell.com)
Perhaps the most unexpected thing this month was Colin Standish’s discovery of his grandfather’s collection of POW Camp cigarette packets! In our climate paper doesn’t usually last very long, so their preservation in Canada possibly makes them unique. And there is something particularly approachable about historical artifacts simultaneously so fragile and mundane. While cigarettes were of course currency in camp and thus important, the packets themselves really were not and in most circumstances would have been discarded or burnt. But even the excitement of seeing these was surpassed by tasting a vintage port bottled some twenty-seven years before the invasion of Hong Kong.
30 In correspondence with John Asome about the four Lims (Private A. Lim, Private, Private J. Percy Felix Lim, Lance Corporal Kim Huan Lim, and Private Seang Teik Lim) lost with 3 Coy HKVDC on 19 December 1941, he mentioned that: “all four of them were teachers at St. Joseph's College [and] all four of them were originally from Malaya” (although I had previously heard that Thomas was from Singapore). He also kindly identified ‘A. Lim’ as ‘Anthony Lim’.
29 Steve Denton found an interesting letter from a Robert Millar Brown, Merchant Navy, formerly of the Osaka#1 POW Camp office. Although not an ex-Hong Kong POW himself, he names nine other members of the POW Office Staff including four ex-HK (Chief Petty Officer Writer Reginald Arthur King, RN, Lance Bombardier R Aldridge [possibly Robert Alderbridge, according to Steve], RA, Leading Writer Donald Frank Furzer, RN, and Leading Writer C. Cook [probably Leading Telegraphist Clifford Montague Cook], RN). The letter is headed ‘New Osaka Hotel’, which is where the Americans formed their HQ for the purpose of sorting out the locally recovered POWs.
28The latest edition of The Java Journal, the Newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoners of War Club 1942, has just been published. Despite the name, this organization has become a very credible ‘home’ for all Far East POWs and Internees. I was rather humbled to see my recent South China Morning Post article featured (see last month). More importantly, under the title: “Missionary Survived Prisoner-Of-War Camp”, they wrote: “Muriel Archer, a missionary who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War, has died aged 96. Ms Archer smuggled bibles into countries where preaching Christianity was forbidden and was dedicated to prison teaching and fellowship in Bermuda. She revealed little of her experiences as a prisoner of war. A close family friend, who asked not to be named, said Ms Archer was ‘treated very badly, but survived’ after being captured in Hong Kong. A member of St John’s Church, Ms Archer belonged to the Christian-based group Educational Services International, and taught English overseas, particularly in China. She had extensive teaching experience in Russia at a time when the activities of foreigners were strictly monitored. Ms Archer told The Royal Gazette in 1995: ‘We are not allowed to preach the gospel there. But I did find that people wanted me to teach them how to pray.’ Ms Archer worked with the downtrodden in countries all over the world, particularly people addicted to drugs. She traced her ‘second life’ as a missionary and charity worker back to the death of her only son, Christopher, to leukaemia when he was 19, as well as the early death of her husband William ‘Bill’ Archer. Ms Archer decided to ‘go where I am needed’, including Bermuda’s prison, as a member of the Prison Fellowship. Born in Britain, she spent much of her childhood in China, where her parents were missionaries. Her missionary work there was often conducted undercover. Her friend said: ‘She was a very understanding, smart, educated and worldly woman who had suffered and been around, and she was great at getting on with people. Anyone in need here in Bermuda could come around to her home and she would help them.’ “ However, even Barbara Anslow couldn’t work out which ‘Muriel’ this was, and I wonder if the original article (which appeared in the Bermuda Royal Gazette) was in error? We can’t find a Muriel in the Stanley records who matches the expected 1920s birth year.
25On my regular Sunday walk to the top of High West I noticed what appears to be a robust trench system facing roughly east. The vegetation hasn’t started growing back after winter yet, so next week I hope to take a better look.
23Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of The Hong Kong Independent Battalion. Originally written in Chinese in 1999, this version has been translated into English by Catherine Man. It is a short book but includes one thing I have not seen elsewhere: a roll of honour for the forty-four guerrillas who were lost during the war. 23 Colin Standish has found something else unique in his grandfather’s papers: his collection of wartime cigarette packets. Cigarettes were of course currency in Camp, so perhaps that’s why he kept them. But I have never seen the equivalent. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a great new article. He notes: “The 1st Bn Middlesex War Diary refers to a civilian, Herbert Howell Beddow, being blown to bits during a bombardment of Leighton Hill on 16 December 1941. After doing a little research I found he was employed by the Education Department as a Maths teacher… but he was not just a Maths teacher… he had served in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1 and was an Ace with ten recorded kills.” I was totally unaware of his background, and of course immediately visited the London Gazette to find his decorations and citations and was amazed to find there were none. In the Second war, for ten kills you would expect a DFC at a minimum. 23 I learned from Ian Gill today that the RAOC Sergeant I have listed as Alfred Cromer Mitchell actually had the middle name ‘Cromar’. I have fixed this.
21 Today I was kindly invited to a dinner, with a number of others, with Admiral Harry Harris, the new US Ambassador to Australia. It was very interesting, especially as he used to command the US Pacific Fleet, whose history from 1944-45 I have recently been studying. As his father had been born in 1914, and the hosts had a bottle of port from that year, they kindly gave him a glass of it. And as I was sitting next to him he let me try it. It was quite amazing to try a drink bottled in the first year of the Great War.
20 A friend has a strange note in his mother’s diary from Sunday 7 November 1943. Being a Eurasian, she was able to stay out of internment and lived in the city through the occupation in Hong Kong. But on this day she wrote: “[a friend] was here when [we] flew home on airplane from church”. What could this have meant?
19 I managed to put two wartime evacuees together again today. Always nice when that happens!
17 A nice HKVDC cap badge was found up in the hills today (illustrated). 17 This weekend I dedicated to starting a proper consolidation of my RAPWI (Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internee) files. What I hadn’t previously realized was that this was purely a British / Commonwealth phrase. It seems the Americans – although they did all the heavy lifting at the Japanese mainland camps – didn’t use it, though some of their documents refer to RAMP (Recovery of Military Personnel), but not very consistently. Interestingly – but not surprisingly considering the number of liberation rosters there - the late Roger Mansell’s website has a number of very useful documents and photographs illustrating the American side. One typical photo was of Narumi, with signs painted on the huts saying: “Yank, Thanks, Wasp”, “Britain CA”. “Men from Corregidor, Bataan Thank Wasp”, “Hong Kong men thank you”. Another clear one was of Omori. Also, the National Archives of Singapore have done a good job in compiling references to relevant RAPWI documentation in WO203.
15 Alan Knight contacted me again. He was neighbour to Sgt. Leslie Edward Johns, 2315049, 40 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, who was liberated 15 September 1945. He notes that the liberation was carried out by a US Navy unit headed by the first husband of Mrs. Wallis Simpson, Earl Winfield ‘Win’ Spencer.” 15 Iain Gow kindly sent me the MI9 form of his father, James Gow, Royal Scots. Like many young men, he had lied about his age and joined up at 16. The form includes the ‘pretend’ date of birth.
14Annemarie Evans notes: “In a full Hong Kong Heritage, (Broadcast Feb 3 & 4), I hear about WWII bombs from war historian Tony Banham after two are found in one week in Wan Chai; then go to Hong Kong Maritime Museum for a beautiful exhibition of export silver; conservationist Katty Law talks of her concerns about a plan to build a 25-storey hospital on Bishop Hill; and I salute the late amateur historian Chan Sui-cheung, author of East River Column: Hong Kong Guerrillas in the Second World War and After. In an excerpt from an earlier programme SJ talks about his childhood during the war.”
13 Steve Denton kindly sent me John Hardy’s (Middlesex) MI9 form. Apparently Hardy was one of several POWs who made half-hearted spur of the moment escape attempts in the very early days of the POW Camps, and was quickly recaptured with no serious repercussions. I don’t think anyone has studied these in any depth, but I have probably come across half a dozen examples by now.
11 I was contacted by a former army physiotherapist researching into the history of Physiotherapy in the army. He notes: “At present I am researching 1939 to 1945. In 1941 there were four RAMC Nursing Orderlies in the Colony who had qualified as masseurs at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley. Cpl Jeffrey Morris was one of these; he survived the St Stephen’s college massacre, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and Tokyo POW camp(s). On repatriation he became the assistant instructor at the Army School of Physiotherapy at Netley.” He kindly sent a photo of Morris, and his POW Index Card. is one of the most complex POW Index Cards I have seen. I won’t pretend I can read it all, but in summary: - He was captured in Hong Kong on 23 December 1941. That’s quite unusual and might mean he was working at St Albert’s Hospital, which was captured that day. This would mean he probably wasn’t at the St Stephen’s massacre. - On the back it states he was received in Japan on 10 October 1942, which is standard for those on the Lisbon Maru. - The interesting part is the second line, which moves him to a Tokyo POW Camp on 15 May 1945. This turns out to be Tokyo #13B Omi and he was the only ex-Hong Kong POW there. However, RAMC men were obviously very important to POWs and it is not unusual for them to be the only ex-HK POWs in a particular camp. - The last line (and again this is typical) is the date of his handover to US troops. He was repatriated on the Admiral Hughes. He does not appear to have filled in an MI9 interview, but not every man did. 11 Jill Fell contacted me, asking about Lieutenant George Calvert, HKVDC. According to my records, he was a POW in Stanley throughout the war, but there is also a George Calvert who was in Stanley Internment Camp. The latter was released to Victoria at some undated point, but I don’t know why. As some records show a George Harry Calvert, and others a George Henry Calvert, could they have been two different men?
9 The South China Morning Post carried a good article about Brian Finch today, mentioning his interest in the Lisbon Maru.
7I referred Meg Parkes (see last month) to the artwork included in Mervyn Scott-Lindsley’s prisoner of war sketchbook, held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Meg notes: “To date we have uncovered the contemporaneous work of over 40 previously unknown British military, amateur and trained, documentary artists. This work will be the subject of an exhibition here in Liverpool to showcase this hitherto unseen aspect of the history. From October 2019 to June 2020 the Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M) will host the exhibition entitled, ‘The Secret Art of Survival: the hidden documentary art from WWII Far East captivity.’ ” And this exhibition will now include examples from four Hong Kong POW artists: Bird, Coxhead, Poltock and now Scott-Lindsley. It’s also a good excuse to republish Scott-Lindsley’s excellent self-portrait. And oddly enough he was repatriated on the Gosper!
6 Matthew Roman, whose grandfather Pharmacist Mate 2nd class Arthur R. Hultz served on the USS Gosper (APA170) and contacted me a year or so back, notes that when his grandmother passed away recently they found some photos. They aren’t the best quality, but he’s kindly offered to look for better ones. Gosper was of course involved in RAPWI, taking 157 ex-HK POWs (according to Steve Denton’s research) to freedom. 6 I heard today from a researcher trying to track down the relatives of Ying Boswell, wife of Able Seaman Cyril L Boswell. Ying was a Chinese lady, one of the few wives of British servicemen originally evacuated to Australia in 1940.
2 The South China Morning Post today published an interesting video about Lamma’s wartime Japanese tunnels. 2 Amdad Ali’s (HKSRA) family got in touch. I especially welcome contact from the sub-continent as they provided so many of Hong Kong’s defenders and have historically been so under-documented. I sent them the three documents I have concerning his wounding and hospitalization.
1 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent me a copy of ‘The Macanese at War: Survival and Identity among Portuguese Eurasians during World War II’ by Roy Eric Xavier, Ph.D. The role of Macau and the Macanese has often been overlooked in post-war writings, so this was a refreshing read. Three excerpts particularly took my interest. The first was: “The youngest volunteer was, in reality, a fifteen year old student named Eduardo (Eddie) Hyndman. A mature youth, Hyndman was the only son of Eduardo and Laura Hyndman, whose families were Dutch and Portuguese originally from Macau. He was not among those in Kowloon at the time of the invasion, but enlisted following the first attack after telling recruiters he was seventeen. Alarmed by her son’s plans, Hyndman’s mother convinced Lt. George Palmer, who was married to her cousin, to transfer him to Palmer’s Engineer’s Unit to keep the boy near the family in Hong Kong. An account of Hyndman’s service follows: On the 20th (of) December, George, his Chinese driver, in the front seats, and Eddie, safely in the back seat of their staff car, made their way under fire from Japanese planes to the Peak. When they arrived at Magazine Gap Road they received heavy strafing from one of the planes, followed by a bomb which hit the back of the staff car. George and the driver were blown free… and landed on the road, unhurt... but poor Eddie… received severe injuries and was rushed to the War Memorial Hospital. Eduardo Filomeno Hyndman died of his wounds eleven days later. At fifteen, he was the youngest defender of Hong Kong to perish.” The second was a throwaway line about the last ferry to leave Kowloon for Hong Kong: “A woman standing next to Vincente on the ship was shot and died before reaching Hong Kong.” One has to wonder if this was a reference to Jessie Holland (see January). And the third was: “Reports of mass burials on Taipa, a neighboring island, of up to 400 bodies a day began to surface, leading to post-war estimates of 50,000 deaths during the war years.” As readers of this site will understand, I have long wondered about the uncounted civilian deaths of Hong Kong during the war (which, minimally, would have been some 250,000), so it is fascinating to see a number proposed for Macau. 1 Colin Standish sent me several more of his grandfather’s copies of Japanese propaganda leaflets, confirming that this must be the most complete collection in existence. One of the most extreme shows a turbaned Indian soldier being pushed into his position by a cowardly British soldier behind him. The caption reads: “We can’t shoot if you stand in the breach there”, with Japanese bullets flying around the Indian chap. It continues: “What rot that you lose your life far in Hong Kong in the battle predestined to be lost! If you want to sever your disgraceful connection with the Englishman, liquidating the relations between the white and coloured races, bring your rifles to bear upon them at once. Think over the matter; that is the natural and wise conduct.” While the author is to be congratulated on the correct use of the semicolon, even by 1941 standards it’s pretty dire. (And the Indian soldier’s right foreleg got a bit messed up, making me wonder if these were done in rather a hurry). Colin also sent copies of his grandfather’s notes about the deaths of fellow Royal Rifles, and his post-war correspondence with A Japanese Sergeant (a wartime guard) Yasouki Kamada. As I mentioned to Colin on his visit to Hong Kong last month, sergeant to sergeant friendships in the camps were not uncommon. As mature men, I suppose they sometimes recognised each other’s situation and simply made the best of it.
March 1st, 2018 Update
Low Keat Soo, medals, and newspaper article (all courtesy Joseph Low) Osaka POW list (National Archives), young McCallum Bell (courtesy Roddy Brown), Xmas day (courtesy Strellett family) Fisher envelope (courtesy Raymond Mo), 1942 deaths, Ashton Rose chit (both courtesy HK PRO via Colin Standish)
Sadly, I have to admit that I am now older than all but a few of the most senior of officers captured in Hong Kong in December 1941. And while my health has traditionally been excellent (right up until January I had been boasting about not having had a cold of any sort for six years…), in the middle of that month I came down with something that left me with a major sinus infection that took me five weeks to shift. And that was with the help of antibiotics that didn’t exist in 1941, and (of course) a more than adequate diet. I remember discussing health with Denis Morley (Royal Scots) years ago, and he told me that he simply didn’t get ill in the camps. Essentially, those who survived were fortunate enough to have the strongest constitutions and anyone with any sort of physical weakness (and I fear I would have been one) succumbed.
28Martin Heyes was kind enough to give me the bad news that: “Chief Superintendent Walter (Wally) Scragg, CPM, of the HK Police died in Sydney, Australia, on 20 Feb this year.” I had met Wally several times over the years (in fact he was a guest at our house warming party when we moved to our current flat some twelve years ago), but had been out of touch for a while.
27 I am just finishing David Hobbs’s excellent book The British Pacific Fleet, as I am working on both RAPWI and the liberation of Hong Kong, each of which require understanding local naval assets in August/September 1945. 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’!
26McCallum Bell’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch. He was killed just south of Wong Nai Chung Gap on 19 December when his Bren carrier was hit by a mortar, and the family would like to have a photo of him in uniform if anyone has one. All they have (which they kindly sent me) was one of him as a boy scout.
24 Patricia O’Sullivan gave a talk today at the Maritime Museum about the early history of the Naval Dockyard Police Force. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, but there is little written about the Dockyard Police and I would have been very interested.
23Raymond Mo kindly sent me a photo of the envelope of a letter to William Diego Fisher, HKVDC, autographed by other ‘Genki Boys’ at Innoshima. All the names are clear except what looks like Boris A Gel, which I think must be Boris A Gellman of 1 Coy. Interestingly he was one of the last of the garrison to escape from Kowloon to the Island after the former was evacuated. He swam across the harbour from Kai Tak.
22 Philip Cracknell notes of his new blog: “It is a moment in time. It is 3pm on Christmas Day 1938. Who are the people captured in this pre-war photograph taken in happier times, and what became of them. Some of them fought in the Battle for Hong Hong, some of them were wounded or killed, some of them were interned in Japanese concentration camps. This is an attempt to briefly tell their story.” We had actually corresponded about this as I had the same photograph in my collection (sent to me by the Strellett family), and had also been in touch with the majority of the families represented here.
21 The Researching FEPOW History Group note: “Future Memories Workshop University of Leeds, 19 March 2018, 9.30am - 5pm. There are only five places remaining for next month's FREE workshop. We have a great range of talks, covering POW art, second-generation experiences, escape attempts, the perspectives of perpetrators, Hong/Kong China, Makassar... Speakers include Clare Makepeace, Terry Smyth, Toby Norways, Nigel Stanley, Meg Parkes and more. It is sure to be a really interesting day.”
18A very kind soul has passed me copies of the Osaka #1B and Osaka #2B (Kobe) POW lists. I have been looking for these for years. It appears they were released in 2005, just after I was searching for them while writing the Lisbon Maru book. Finally I have a complete view of which Lisbon Maru survivors were in which camp. 18 Thomas Ritson Hetherington’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch.
17 I met Colin Standish in his hotel on Hollywood Road and we had a good chat about his researches and plans. 17 I received this communication via Meg Parkes: “Please could you help the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in its bid for HLF funding for the FEPOW art exhibition by sharing the Facebook link as widely as possible.” Scroll down to their entry of February 16, and on some PCs you may have to click on ‘See more’ in the third paragraph of the post (just above the image) to see the link to the survey.
16 Brian Finch kindly let me know that: “Laurel Films are in the process of producing a documentary about the Lisbon Maru Incident. They have already started filming and expect to release the film within 2 years. Their aim is to gather as much data as they can from a wide range of sources so as to produce a comprehensive and authoritative account, to be shown in English on the international market and also distributed in other languages, principally in Asia.”
12 Harry McFee contacted me to let me know that his new book Oh, Silent Cross is available. This is “a ‘collage’ of stories including maps, letters, newspaper articles and photos… in all, 726 pages of Second World War personal and ‘official’ information”. Harry assures me that it has a lot of Hong Kong C Force content so I have ordered a copy and will report back when I receive it.
11Colin Standish sent me the most complete set of December 1941 Japanese propaganda fliers I have yet seen, including a couple that were completely new to me. He has also – with the help of colleague Ryan Zade - tracked down the elusive Shamshuipo and Stanley Camp hospital records! Long known about, the last copies I was aware of were at HKU but no one seemed to know where. Now copies have arrived at the POW. They are: HKMS81 (medical records of Shamshuipo POW Camp), HKMS82 (Christmas Day Menu for Shamshuipo Prisoner of War Camp Isolation Hospital – it says signed by Sergeant Ahable, RAMC in charge of the kitchen (no such person exists, and my best guess is that in my files this is ex Corporal Albert Noble), HKRS42 (Records of Stanley Internment Camp and Hospital), and HKRS42-1 with the same description. 11 Steve Denton has found records indicating that Lance Corporal Arthur David Smith (Middlesex – attached to the Military Police, and a Lisbon Maru survivor) was a Canadian serving in the regular British army. While not unheard of, these are relatively uncommon.
6 Derek Nickson’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. 6 On the ‘menu’ published last month, Ken Skelton notes: “It is indeed an American Ration Menu - I have Menu #5 that my father brought back that was in the food drops done by B29's at Omine Camp. (He also brought back pieces of the coloured parachute silk that were attached to the drums). I also have the metal ration box that held the cardboard ration cartons which was dropped inside 50 Gal drums.”
5 Commenting on the photo of Joan Wood last month, Barbara Anslow noted: “Left to right: me; Dr Mark Erooga who did valuable service in Stanley Camp hospital; Joan Wood who passed away last month; (I can't remember this lady with long fair hair); Dermot McMahon of Postwar HongKong Police, who died last year, husband of the late Peggy (nee Barton) who was in Stanley; my late elder sister Olive Darby; one of the children in camp, have forgotten his name.”
4Today we had the last Hong Kong Club walk of the season, Violet Hill to Deepwater Bay via Repulse Bay. I call this one the ‘Travelling Massacre’ as it follows the route of the Tanaka Butai as they rampaged down Wong Nai Chung Gap Road. We had a good turnout of around sixteen people, and set off with a temperature of just five degrees! When I returned home I checked what the War Crimes files had to say, and it makes interesting reading: The Accused was the Commanding Officer of the 299th Regiment (“Butai”) of the 38th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, also known as the Tanaka Butai. This case concerned the fall of Hong Kong Island on the night of 18 December 1941. Three Regiments of the Japanese Army attacked – the Tanaka Butai on the right (landed at Sau Ki Wan); the Doi Butai in the centre (landed at Tai Koo Docks) and the Shoji Butai on the left (landed at North Point). They were to proceed to Wong Nei Chong Gap, after which they had separate objectives. The case concerned only the first Butai. It had the objective of reaching High West. It proceeded through Sau Ki Wan, to Stanley Gap after Wong Nei Chung Gap, then to Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay, and reached High West after fighting through Brick Hill and Shou Shan Hill… A number of specific incidents were highlighted: 1. Lye Mun and Sai Wan Fort at Sau Ki Wan: Bayoneting captured soldiers. 2. Salesian Mission (medical post): Butchering male military and civilian personnel. Women were taken away. 3. Pryce Incident at Island Road (Lye Mun): Two Canadian soldiers were made to work all day then bayoneted. 4. Murder of a wounded Hong Kong Singapore Artillery officer and the bayoneting of other captured soldiers. 5. Eucliffe at Repulse Bay: A number of soldiers who had surrendered were executed. 6. Wong Nei Chung Gap to Repulse Bay: Murder of personnel at various places. 7. Post Repulse Bay: The killing of 3 officers on Shou Shan Hill; the bayoneting of the remnants of a grenadier company at Little Hong Kong. … The Prosecution argued that ‘while isolated instances may occur which are not in the power of the Commander to prevent, when the abuses are widespread it argues that properly effective measures have not been taken’ (citing and later quoting Yamashita, United States Supreme Court). It was argued that the Accused failed to take proper steps to prevent and also punish his subordinates for illegal acts. Given that it was clear that atrocities did take place, whatever instructions/order/speeches/warning given were insufficient in such instances.”
3 Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK), kindly sending a photo (illustrated). 3 Colin Standish’s (Royal Rifles) grandson got in touch. 3 Harold Relph’s (Royal Artillery) son got in touch. 3 Having seen the CNN article about the two 1,000 pound bombs found here last week, I now regret that we weren’t able to arrange an interview. It was probably the best of the lot, with the only minor mistake being that there are no bullet holes in the HSBC lions – just shrapnel ones.
1 After yesterday’s radio spot (see last month), today I was inundated for requests from radio stations and newspapers, and had to turn them all down as I was working. That’s probably a good thing, as there are plenty of other people just as qualified to talk about the American bombing. 1 Discussions continued with Low Keat Soo’s family (see last month). He was one of the Malayan students at HKU who after release from POW Camp (in late 1942, as ‘locals’) stayed at May Hall because they had no families to go to. There they were forced to work in the Anti-Epidemic Squad of the Sanitary Department. Eventually he escaped with colleagues, joined up with BAAG and worked in Counter-Intelligence under Hall-Caine. He also served with the Americans in China, and the family kindly sent a photo from that period (plus others of his medals, family, and a newspaper article). His son notes: “As it turns out, my father working as part of the Sanitary Department when he was a POW in Hong Kong, met my mother I think at the Central Market where they did inoculations. After the war, he returned to Hong Kong and married my mother and so a bit of happy ending.”
February 1st, 2018 Update
Jessie Holland's grave, Oil Street (both author), Douglas Burns' neckercheif (courtesy Don Burns)
Joan Wood (third from left, courtesy Barbara Anslow who is first left), Percy Chittenden, Percy Chittenden's diary (both courtesy Ken Blackmore)
A Cruel Captivity cover (courtesy Ellie Taylor), Mount Davis 9.2 (via Steve Denton), 7 Bty 5 HAA in 938 (courtesy Andy Salmon, via Facebook)
Jessie Holland. I first came across her twenty years ago, discovering that a lady of that name had volunteered to serve on a launch in the evacuation of Kowloon on 12 December 1941, and had been shot and mortally wounded. In NTSC I wrote: “Two accounts, (Hong Kong Aftermath, Brown, page 15; Prisoner of the Japs, Gwen Dew, New York: Heinemann, 1943, page 45), mention a British nurse being killed on the last ferry from Kowloon, though they disagree on some details and provide no name. A more accurate account is probably Sui Geng, Ward, page 146, which describes a nurse called ‘Mrs Hollands’ as being ‘lightly wounded’ on this day while serving as a volunteer on a harbour launch under police control, recovering British troops (Lt. Forsyth and his Punjabis) from Kowloon. The Royal Hong Kong Police, Crisswell and Watson, page 174 specifies that she was wounded in the stomach, and was accompanied by another nurse, Mrs Sando. Hong Kong Police War Diary records: ‘In spite of the two European ladies being made to lie flat on the deck Mrs Holland received a bullet wound in the abdomen.’ But the Queen Mary Hospital records (which state that she lived at 6, Minden Avenue, and give her age as 45) are unequivocal: she was admitted and was pronounced dead on the same day. Correspondence with her family confirms her death, but she is not recorded in Commonwealth War Graves Commission files. This month (see the 12th) I finally stood at her graveside. The next such case that I am very keen to solve is that of Theodore Leslie Bell, who was shot and killed by the Japanese exactly one week later, and again has no known grave and no entry in the CWGC files.
31Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch. 31 Michael Wright, ex-3 Bty HKVDC, has passed away at the age of 105. I corresponded with him briefly around twenty years ago. I also heard a rumour that another Hong Kong stalwart had passed away, but I will reserve comment until I hear further. 31 Yet another bomb (probably another ANM-65) has been found in Wanchai, in close proximity to Saturday’s. I suspect both fell in the harbour, but had been covered up by later reclamation. This afternoon as I walked back from work I was interviewed by Annemarie Evans for RTHK on this subject.
30Today Barbara Anslow passed the bad news to David from Gwulo and me that: “my dear friend Joan Wood passed away in New Milton, a few days before her 99th birthday. Pre-war we had been colleagues as Stenographers with the HK Government. During the battle for HK, Joan was a VAD nurse at Bowen Road Military Hospital. Her father was killed by the Japanese soon after they landed on the island. Joan had married Reggie Wood before our war: Joan and her mother ended up in Stanley Camp. Reggie served in the Wavy Navy HKong and was a POW in Kowloon.” Barbara and Joan had been close friends for all these years. Joan’s father was William Seath of the ARP, killed by the Japanese on Mount Parker Road.
29 Low Keat Soo’s (HKVDC Field Ambulance, BAAG) son got in touch. This is leading to some very interesting correspondence as Elizabeth Ride is now helping the family understand what he did. It appears he was in counter-intelligence under Hall-Caine, but as with all such men he told his family very little. I shall report on this more fully next month. 29 Yesterday an American 1,000 pound HE bomb was uncovered during excavation work in Wanchai. The South China Morning Post covered the epic defusing process here. EOD tell me that it was painted with a black band, meaning armour-piercing. 29 Philip Cracknell has a new blog post about West Brigade HQ at Wong Nai Chung Gap.
28Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
27 Steve Denton found two more very interesting MI9 forms. The first was from Cyril Henry James, RASC, who noted that he: “Was tried by Japanese court-martial at Shamshuipo, by Colonel Commandant of POWs Hongkong for refusal to sign no-escape form. Was told that refusal to sign form would be regarded as mutiny and that I would be shot. I signed form.” He listed CSM Albert Fred Wood, Private Ernest James Gothard, Sergeant John Erskine MacDowell, and Driver Charles Henry Fitzgerald (all RASC) as co-defendees. The second was Kenneth Frederick Sawyer, RAVC, who wrote: “Attempted escape from Hong Kong island on Dec 25th 1941 after cessation of hostilities. As air raid in progress - stole sampan and attempted to reach coast of mainland but winds made it impossible. Landed on island of Lantau. Total concealment difficult; Chinese reported presence to Japs who sent out patrols which chased us for six days. On one occasion we were under fire but had no arms in our possession. Also without food. Re-captured by unit of Jap navy on the beach Dec 31st. He states he was with Private George Pape Middlesex and Driver Wheatley RASC, and continues: “Chinese inhabitants of the island reported our presence to Japs who gave chase. On Dec 31st we were pocketed and surrounded under the beach. We were without arms. Ran along beach in an endeavour to break through enemy lines but were seen by Japanese minelayer working off-shore and captured by them.” I have a note I wrote in 2007, frustratingly without any provenance. It reads: "Sawyer, RAVC, describes an attempted evasion by sea with Middlesex G. Papes, Horse Ambulance Driver Wheatley RASC, Private Jacobs, RAMC, and three Americans (Swannye, Billy, Casey) from 'an American cargo vessel that had been sunk in the harbour'. Took boats. Separated from the Americans after landing on Lantau north of Cheung Chow. On the 28th, met a Chinese man who described three dead men (presumably the Americans). Recaptured on the 29th.” George William Pape died on the Lisbon Maru. Driver Leslie Alfred Wheatley survived the war, being on the first draft to Japan. Mike F.K. Jacobs RAMC escaped with Whitehead in 1942. 27 Apple Daily today ran a nice article (in Chinese) and video about George Cautherley.
25 Elizabeth Ride today sent the Netherlands Red Cross all the BAAG documentation on Dutch POWs in Hainan, and I followed up by sending them a copy of the letter (see the fifth) which had sparked this conversation. 25 A correspondent notes: “I recently purchased an Army Long Service medal named to 1866149 W.O.2. F. Quinnell. R.E, (on eBay from a seller in Omaha, Nebraska. One can only guess how it got there). I have been able to gather quite a bit of information about him. He was a POW in Hong Kong for the entire war... He is mentioned 3 times in O’Toole’s POW diary, including in the opening entry as being with him (and escaping) at Wong Nai Chung Gap on the 19th.” Does anyone have any more detail? I list Frank Quinnell as being in the RE Services, but aside from that can add very little.
24 The Dutch Red Cross responded to me about the Hainan letter saying that they had very little detail on their Hainan POWs and would be grateful for whatever we could give them. I pinged Elizabeth Ride in Norway to see what she could do to help. She kindly sent them her files, including this note from her father's report to Whitehall after the war (Report on the Activities of an MI9/19 Organisation... etc - NA WO 208/3260): “(a) On the 17th August our HAINAN operation was cancelled as the Americans stated that they did not need our help and assured the Commandant that they had everything planned for that area. After the surrender it was found they had done nothing at all, and a Naval vessel had to be sent from HONG KONG to rescue the escapers and prisoners.” 24 Martin Heyes reports that Private Leonard Rimell’s (Middlesex) medals are for sale. I still don’t know whether Rimell was killed in Stanley on the 25th or earlier around the North Point Power Station.
23Elizabeth Ride notes: “I have recently posted my father's SSPo diary on Gwulo.” 23 Simon Cheung tells me that they have identified the first ‘old boy’ from St Paul's College who was lost during the war. This was Private Leung Tak Chiu of 3 Coy HKVDC. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a new blog about Lt Colonel Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson, the commander of the 5/7th Rajputs. He notes: “His role in the Battle for Hong Kong is reasonably well known. He was commanding officer of the 5th Battalion - 7th Rajput Regiment who faced the Japanese onslaught on the north shore during the night of 18th December 1941 - but what of his personal life? And what became of him?” The reminded me that in 2005 I was able to help return to the family a book that RC-R had written to his two sons. One of them had lost it in 1959, with other family papers, during his move from Birmingham to New Zealand. In fact he had left it in a flat which he shared with a friend. That friend’s son had fortunately retained it, and I put them in touch. 23 Through the kindness of Mary Monro I am now in contact with the daughter of John S. Whitehead, escapee and author of ‘Escape to Fight On’. 23 The Researching FEPOW History Group had revamped their website rather nicely. Well worth a visit!
22 Steve Denton (again! He is fast becoming the uber-researcher of the period) was kind enough to send me the MI9 form of Signalman Strangeways O’Leary. This contains an eyewitness report of the death – during the 1941 fighting - of two fellow signalmen, which more than anything else is what I am always hoping to find. Extremely useful. Steve also sent a copy of Geoffrey Hamilton’s three-page affidavit from the War Crimes trials.
21 Craig Mitchell today very kindly presented me with three wartime Japanese beer bottles. These are almost certainly from the occupation period rather than the battle, being found near a tunnel system built by local labour under Japanese supervision in 1944. No doubt the supervisors were enjoying a tipple while others worked… But I am very glad to have them and (when my wife declares them clean enough) I intend filling one with Sierra Nevada’s finest IPA and becoming the first person to drink beer from it since (I believe) 1944. That will surely be a photo opportunity.
20Steve Denton kindly sent me Godfrey Bird’s MI9 form. 20 Today the South China Morning Post article came out (see the fifteenth). Very positive, I thought. I may have made one little error, though (it was a long interview all off the cuff so I hope I can be forgiven). Looking again I think the Red Cross parcel menu (illustrated) I mentioned is actually from an American ration box parachuted into the camp shortly after the Japanese surrender. Not that this alters my point in any way. Interestingly, though, this article resulted in more emails coming my way than anything else the SCMP has published about Hong Kong War Diary. 20 Yay! Today my annual royalty cheque arrived from Hong Kong University Press. I have told them very openly that the way this thing works is as follows: they give me a royalty cheque, I use it to buy a small present for my wife, she then agrees to me pursing this hobby for another twelve months. This year’s cheque (and remember that this is for four books currently in print) is the equivalent of US$220. I have been told that JK Rowling and Dan Brown are feeling very intimidated, and I feel quite sorry for them. 20 An old school friend turned up in Hong Kong today, staying with his wife at the Harbour Grand in Oil Street, North Point. I volunteered to pick them up and give them a tour of HK (actually we had a great time), but as I walked down Oil Street I noticed that although a lot of the old buildings on the east side of the road seemed to have gone, a number on Electric Road (including the former clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club?) are being actively restored.
19 Stephen Verralls mentions that he is researching Henry Thomas Buxton and Alberta Buxton (he has Henry’s medals). I had often wondered about their daughter Patricia, and he notes: “the HK PRO has a file on Patricia’s (Patricia Walton using her father’s name) enquiries about the death of her mother and step-father (HT Buxton). This and other research I have shows that Patricia left HK in July 1940 with her grandmother to Manila, later to be joined by her grandfather who opened a business to support them. All 3 were interned by the Japanese and suffered as all internees did. They were repatriated to USA in 1945 and spent 4.5 months in USA recovering. They were then sent to Durban where Alberta’s only brother was resident. It seems that Alberta (nee Pearce) was originally married to a Mr Walton and married Henry around 1939/40. Patricia is from the first marriage. I have no idea who Walton was, but the grandparents were George and Madge Stanley-Lovett, he being a fertiliser manufacturer.” In my research for Reduced to a Symbolical Scale I had found this mention of their visit to Australia in 1941. 19 George Boote noted: “Today Peter Wyngard passed away, he was a Shanghai internee, and is mentioned in JG Ballard's autobiography, they were interned in the same camp at Lunghua. It got me thinking of a Stanley internee Lewis Morley who was a 1960s well know photographer. In Lewis's autobiography there are about 10 pages on his stay in Stanley, including a couple of drawings.” I had no idea this book existed, so have ordered a copy. Morley was in Stanley with his father (also Lewis; a government pharmacist), mother, and sister.
18 Well, after all that the CWGC has once again rejected our request for Jessie Holland to be recognised! This time because of ‘lack of evidence that her death was due to enemy action’. On our next attempt I will include the report from the Police Diary which states that she was shot in the abdomen and see if that does the trick. So at this point our evidence consists of: - An entry in the Police War Diary mentioning a “Mrs Hollands” being shot in the abdomen on a ferry on Dec 12. - An eye-witness report of a nurse being shot in this manner In Wenzell Brown’s ‘Hong Kong Aftermath’. - A file from the HK PRO showing that Mrs Jessie Holland, ANS, was a civilian fatality. - An unsigned HK Death Certificate for Mrs Jessie Holland, stating she died ‘on or about’ 25 December 1941. - A registry entry from the Queen Mary Hospital showing that J. Holland had been admitted on 12 December 1941 and had died the same day. - An entry from the Colonial Cemetery burial register for 13 December 1941 showing that Mrs Jessie Holland was interred in grave 10027 with Frank Short officiating. - A document from the HK Government showing that Frank Short was recognised as a Reverend. - A page from the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of 6 August 1942 stating that her death had ‘already been reported’. - A photograph of grave 10027 today.
16 Martin Heyes kindly sent me this obituary of Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, born in Hong Kong in 1946 and a naval surgeon during the Falklands War. 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.
15The South China Morning Post interviewed me today, with a wide-ranging set of questions about Hong Kong War Diary; everything from the genesis to the philosophy, the artefacts to the people. They also took at least 200 photos of yours truly!
14 Ellie Taylor notes: “Just a brief update about my book, 'A Cruel Captivity', due to be published at the end of May… I've set up a page on fb so that those involved with the book are able to keep up with its progress.” The reason for my involvement is that one of the men featured in the book, Crown Sergeant William Gordon Wilson, was a Hong Kong POW from the Royal Naval Dockyard Police. One can see a photo of Shamshuipo POW Camp on the spine.
13 Ron Abbott informs me that two Royal Scots who I list as Privates (Thomas Byrne, 3055362, and Adam Hunter, 3050308) should actually be Pipers. I have made the corrections in my off-line files though it will be a while before they are propagated to the website. 13 I am now in touch with Christine Thomas. She notes: “It was from the mid 1980s to mid 1990s that I completed my own project. Most weekends and public holidays would see me in the cemetery with hand held tape recorder trying to decipher the headstones. My day job was as a Police Research Officer at PHQ. I spend my retirement researching stories of some of the everyday folk who found themselves in HK back in the 19th & early 20th centuries and presenting my findings as talks to Family History Societies and Archives etc. – and writing various blogs.” The dates would explain why the photograph she had of Jessie Holland’s grave seemed very open, whereas when I visited yesterday it was extremely overgrown. But how grateful I am for her work!
12 So finally today as I walked home from the office I made the slight detour to the old Colonial Cemetery (now the Hong Kong Cemetery). At exactly the position that Christine Thomas had said, I found grave number 10027 - that of Jessie Holland. I placed a poppy in front of it and took a few photos, well aware that I was probably the first person since her burial on 13 December 1941 to visit that spot in the full knowledge of the identity of that grave’s occupant. It was simultaneously satisfying and melancholy; an odd moment.
11 Douglas Burns’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch, kindly sending a number of documents and a photo of his father from the time. He noted: “I also have a red cross neck kerchief that my father embroidered (self taught) with the names of all of his mates who were killed while he was captured. I can send you a photo if interested.” I was very interested! 11 Richard Horsburgh reported: “Brian Edgar sent me the attached report on the situation in HK post Japanese occupation written by Mavis Ming after she arrived in Chungking and began working at the British Embassy in about May 1942”. The four-page report showed a very sophisticated understanding of the situation in early-occupied Hong Kong. Interestingly, the last image also showed the first page of Major Munro’s report! Apparently this was among a file of ‘escapee reports’ sent from Chungking to the UK during that period. 11 The Java Journal linked to the Ient family website. I gave a member of that family a little assistance perhaps ten years ago, but clearly a lot of work has gone into it since then, covering Albert Ient’s (Royal Signals) and his comrades’ experience on the Lisbon Maru and elsewhere.
10 Mary Monro tells me that her book about her father (escapee Major John Monro, RA) is getting close to publication). 10 Steve Denton kindly sent two entries from Arthur Alsey’s Diary for 1942 about James Donnelly (see last month). 10 On Facebook, Andy Salmon placed a very interesting photo of 7 Bty 5 HAA on parade at Lyemun in 1938.
9 While, as usual, searching for something else altogether I accidentally found the 1941 ordinance specifying the circumstances under which the Hong Kong police force could be sworn in as a militia.
8 Ian Brown sent this exciting (at least, to me) email: “I am indebted to Christine Thomas for information she has given me regarding the burial of Jessie Holland which appears to have taken place on 13 December 1941 under the auspices of Frank Short. This would indicate that she was buried in the former Colonial Cemetery, the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley, a stone marks her grave, No 10027 in Section 18 of the cemetery near the old fountain.” I shall visit the cemetery on Friday when I walk home from the office – it’s only five minutes out of my way. Apparently Christine worked for around twenty years in the Royal Hong Kong Police, in archival records management. She is now retired in the UK, has extensive cemetery records, and gives talks and presentations on life in the former colony while she continues with her research.
7 Again while searching for something else entirely I found an interesting article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 60 [May 19, 1953] entitled “Neurological Sequelae in Repatriated Prisoners of War from Hong Kong: a Follow-up”. 7 Bill Lake asked a very interesting question: What’s the story of the repatriation of Japanese POWs after their surrender in 1945? I can only find little bits and pieces and it would be good to learn the whole story.
5Robert Chan emailed me a link to the display at the front door of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. That looks like Nurse Kay Christie to me. 5 Elizabeth Ride emailed me to say: “I have the original of a letter written on Nederlansche Roode Kruis paper by an escaped Dutch POW on Hainan to the BAAG asking for help”, and asked my help in finding parties who might be interested in a copy. I will contact the Dutch Red Cross and see what they can do. 5 There was a fascinating article in the South China Morning Post today, concerning the fate of Staff Sergeant Jack Flegg, PWD, who I recorded as being “Bayoneted, ‘with his assistant’, at Tai Tam reservoir” on 22 December 1941.
2Steve Denton kindly sent Marcel Doiron’s (see last month) repatriation records. He also included a short digitised coloured cine clip of one of the Hong Kong coastal batteries – I think it was Mount Davis – firing a 9.2, and I was able to extract a decent still. 2 While searching for something completely different (as often happens) I found the IWM’s complete collection of four videos of the liberation of Hong Kong. 2 One of the most interesting finds when cataloguing the first couple of boxes of my archives at the end of last month was a high resolution photo of Private Percy Chittenden, Middlesex. It was labelled: “Private Percy Chittenden… tries to compose a cablegram to send to the folks back home as the ship which is carrying him in the first stage of his return to England docks at Honolulu.” The ship was the USS Admiral Dickman, and the photo was credited to the US Army. But as soon as I recalled it I recalled a story from 2005 when I was contacted by his family who told me: “We have found some more papers that my uncle brought back from Japan… There is one item which has amazingly survived from Hong Kong, a diary for 1941 with entries on every day from Jan. 1st to Dec. 17th.There are no entries after Dec.17th. It looks like the diary was returned to him after the war. He had written his name and address in it. It is inside a bag inside an airmail envelope. Written at the back of the diary is: 'This was found in 1942 (summer) in our garden of No.8 Broadwood Road, Hong Kong when we went home. Everything lost. We lost four brothers. Very sad. B. Reed… Written on the bag is: 'Can’t locate please return this to his family if possible. Mrs B Reed, 244 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hongkong'. I was able to pass photos of the diary to Mrs Reed’s daughter, Angela Niles, who knew nothing about the incident. The four brothers were of course the four Reed brothers killed in the HKVDC, Arthur, Edgar, Francis, and Stephen.
1 Geoffrey Emerson notes: “Lawrence Ziegler, a child in Stanley Internment Camp, passed away in November 2017 in St Louis, Missouri, at age 87. A missionary family, his mother and six children were in the Camp. They were repatriated in June 1942. His younger sister Laura Ziegler Darnell attended the Stanley Camp Reunion in 2011 organized by Geoff Emerson. She and one older brother, Theodore A Ziegler, are now resident in the United States.” 1 Ron Abbott is continuing his researchers into pipers in Hong Kong. In 1941, the Sergeant Piper (Ron notes: “for some unknown reason, the HKVDC appears to have continued using the term 'Serjeant-Piper' rather than Pipe-Major despite the British Army officially having reverted to the term 'Pipe-Major' in 1921) of 2 Scottish Coy HKVDC was William Craigie Keith Mackie. He continues: “Mackie was last seen (and heard) alive in the vicinity of the old Stanley Police Station in Hong Kong on 24th December 1941. He was purportedly playing ‘Heilan’ Laddie’ and ‘Cock O’ The North’ at the time.” He also identified George Nesbit (‘Nisbit’ in my records, though Nesbit sounds more credible) of 2 Coy as a Piper. He also pointed out that the Royal Scot I have as “McHattey, Stanley Private 3053696 (LM)” is in fact Drummer Stanley McHattie, sending me his POW Index Card as solid evidence. 1 Continuing the story of Sergeant John Carvell (see last month), Steve Denton notes: “it’s not much but it’s pieces of the jigsaw. I found his MI9 on the COFEPOW site and also tracked him down on the HMS Implacable for his return home.” His MI9 interrogation form confirms he was based at the BMH for the duration, which interestingly he refers to as ‘Camp A’.
January 1st, 2018 Update
View of Happy Valley, September 45 (courtesy Robert Ferris, via Charles Dobie), French commemoration at Stanley (courtesy Geoffrey Emerson), Visit to St Stephen's (courtesy Martin Heyes)
Different unknown grave styles (author), Yen payments to camp funds, Possibly Fourth Bty HKVDC (both courtesy Briony Widdis)
Causeway Bay under fire (courtesy Tai Hang Wong), Bowie's maunscript cover (author), Unknown trio from Mavis Ming's collection (courtesy Richard Horsburgh)
The Donald Bowie story (see the 28th) tells me that I have a problem (which was also pointed out to me by Dr Colin Day in an email earlier this month, and has actually been mentioned many times before by Dr George Cautherley and others): I am not really in control of my archives, and a great deal of what I have is unique. Sims’ report doesn’t exist anywhere else, and I have countless letters and papers from veterans of Hong Kong’s war and unique papers (hard copies) from Hong Kong in 1941, from Stanley Internment Camp, the POW Camps in Japan, etc. I suppose when I retire I will have time to catalogue it all properly but for the moment it’s a bit of a liability. Still, over the holidays I decided to at least get started. The first box I went through (it took an afternoon) contained, among many other things: An original copy of the South China Morning Post for 10 December 1941, and the Daily Express for 20 December 1941, around 100 pages of unpublished POW memoires by John Quinn (Royal Marines), documentation relating to William McCombe (HKVDC - including an original drawing of him sketched in Shamshuipo), a pre-war photo of Francis Crabb (HKVDC), Jim Fallace's 10 December 1942 account of escaping the Lisbon Maru, W.J. Anderson's statement of the 'trial' and executions in Stanley in 1943, Holroyd's unpublished escape account (80 pages), F.W. Wright's account of his escape (6 pages), Howarth & Ferguson’s escape report (3 pages), John Morrison's escape report (18 pages – this and the previous two all being from Elizabeth Ride), letters from Taffy Evans (Middlesex), Luiz Gosano and Francis Crabb (HKVDC), Gordon Fairclough (RA) Marilynn & Bob Armacost (the USAAF pilot of B24 Les Miserables that ditched carrying POWs), and Grant Shepherd (RN). And it isn’t as if things are slowing down! This month’s blog is the longest of any month since I started it in this format in October 2003. (And, oddly enough, that might be long enough ago for this to now be the oldest continuous blog still in existence on the entire web. I’ll revisit that topic on its fifteenth birthday).
31A beautiful last day to the year. Cool, but bright and sunny with good visibility. Left the house at dawn and walked up the Peak, then up to the top of High West. Nothing specifically history-related, but great views down to Pinewood and Mount Davis batteries, Stonecutters Island, Aberdeen, etc.
30Martin Spurrier’s paper on Bevan Field (wartime commander of 9 Platoon, 3 Coy HKVDC, and later the boss of Hong Kong Land) is almost ready.
28 A very interesting post appeared on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today: “On this day in 1941 my Uncle, then Sgt. John (Jack) Edwin Carvell (RAMC, BRH) was captured on HK. He and another engineer were hiding out and continuing their war against the Japanese, after the formal surrender, when a local told the Japanese their location. He spent the rest of the war in Sham Shui Po. I used to stay with him on Shaftesbury Ave in the 70's and was hugely affected by his wartime experience and the effect it had on him. I've tried to research his past, but hit a bit of a wall, I did find him listed on the HK War Diary page. Any information anyone can provide, or directions on how to research deeper, would be greatly appreciated. Jack ended his career as a Major and received an MBE for his services to the Empire, I greatly admired the man. He also tried out for Tottenham Hotspurs in the 30's before joining up and being shipped to HK. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, and have a great 2018 everyone”. Well, this is really annoying. I know that Carvell was a Royal Engineer attached to the Bowen Road Hospital, so thought I could help with details. I found my Bowie manuscript (of his book, Captive Surgeon in Hong Kong – I bought it on the interweb before so many people became interested and prices started going up) easily enough, but MSM Eric Sims' eleven-page account of the RE at Bowen Road Hospital (which came with it) is no longer there. However, Bowie confirms that Mr Carvell served at the hospital both at Bowen Road and when it reopened 24 March 1945 at the Central British School (so he would in fact only have been at Shamshuipo POW Camp between the two hospitals). But here’s the problem: while searching in vain for Sims’ account I found so many papers that I’d forgotten I had. Copies of PRO files, many letters from ex-POWs, bunches of papers from their families, genuine copies of the South China Morning Post from December 1941, wrappers from Red Cross parcels from the camps in Japan, original official papers from the Japanese administration in Stanley, all sorts of wonderful things. I suppose that’s what happens when a thirty-year hobby accumulates items in the hundreds every single month, but it’s worrying.
27 Hugh Dulley notes: “You might be amused to hear that last year I wrote to the BBC History Magazine re the 75th anniversary of the invasion as they pride themselves on marking anniversaries. They published my letter and this year they wrote a short article to mark the anniversary and published a full page photo of the Battle.” I checked the BBC History Magazine’s website, but unfortunately the HK article isn’t visible. I guess they want people to buy the magazine.
23 The South China Morning Post posted a very interesting video today, featuring Craig Mitchell and the other ‘ethical detectorists’ and their findings in the hills. While it’s good to see the interest, I remain extremely concerned that one day someone will stick a spade in something nasty and we will all regret it. However, both Craig and the narrator emphasised this point several times at the end of the piece. 23 Bruce McNamara reminded me of his International Witness to War Project: “The International Witness to War Project is a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Canadian International School of Hong Kong, and Chinese International School. The project required secondary school students to interview survivors of the Second World War. Recordings and transcripts of these interviews were then deposited in the university archives for permanent storage and protection where they are available to researchers. To date more than 300 transcripts have been added to HKU's archives in this way, making it the largest collection of publicly available interview transcripts on the Second World War in East Asia. An annual ceremony recognised both students and interviewees for these valuable contributions. In 2012 the project was awarded the 'University of Hong Kong Faculty of Arts Knowledge Exchange Award', which recognizes efforts that make outstanding social and cultural impacts on the Hong Kong community.” It sounds interesting, and I must take a look.
22 Richard Horsborough sent a couple of interesting photos from Mavis Ming’s collection. Can anyone identify the two soldiers?
21 I received another request for information about a Lisbon Maru survivor, Sapper Jim (James) Donnelly, 22 Fortress Company, RE. 21 An email today read: “I’m trying to find out about Freddie Knightly who was a survivor of the Lisbon Maru, and subsequently Deputy Chairman of HSBC (my father worked with him in Hong Kong in the 1960’s and 70’s). This is only reference I can find of him (apart from a photo taken of him and my father)”. But when I checked it appeared that the reference is incorrect. Knightly was not on the Lisbon Maru, but was instead interned as a civilian in Haiphong Camp, Shanghai (moving to Fengtai in June 1945).
20 Today I had a request from St Paul's College: “As you are aware, one of our ex Principals, Mr Evan Stewart, was the OC of No 3 Machine Gun Company, HKVDC. Fighting alongside him were a number of students from St Paul's. Three or four of them, sadly, lost their lives at Jardine' s Lookout.” They would like to raise a memorial to them. Unfortunately, although I have lists of all who were killed there, they don’t have any lists of old boys from pre-war so for the moment we cannot match them up. However, when letting them know where Lieutenant James Anderson of that Company was buried, I noticed for the first time that he is in a communal grave with other 3 Coy men. The information on the CWGC web site shows that their bodies were all found at the Jardine’s Lookout AA site, and that some were identifiable and others not. As they were buried in a collective grave I imagine their remains could not be separated.
19 Barbara Anslow kindly sent Christmas greetings to all the readers of Hong Kong War Diary: “Dear Tony and all members and those connected with HKong’s history during the war, wishing you all a happy Christmas and a good New Year. Tony's newsletter continues to be one of the highlights of my month, thanks so much for it. David Bellis' gwulo daily input on line of various war diaries seems to expand every year, great! Through Philip's and Brian's contributions I have learnt so much history of the war. Love to you all, and God bless, Barbara.” 19 Ron Taylor (UK) notes: “A while ago I was sent by Andrew Templer a transcription of a talk by Douglas Bertram and Brigadier Cecil Templer in 1985. This talk is now added to the Far East Heroes web site.” 19 Martin Heyes kindly sent a photograph taken on one of his tours of St Stephen’s, Stanley. This was for the family of Quentin Jones (second from the right), grandson of William Ernest Jones who was a senior draughtsman in the Public Works Department (PWD) of the HK Government at the outbreak of the Pacific War, and who was interned in Stanley. Martin himself is on the far left. 19 Elizabeth Sinn and Christopher Munn have a new book out, Meeting Place: Encounters across Cultures in Hong Kong, 1841–1984. While not about the war time period explicitly, it looks like interesting background reading.
18Briony Widdis (Douglas Crozier’s, HKVDC, granddaughter) sent a very interesting photo of what I think must be her grandfather’s payments to the Camp hospital. POW officers were paid a few Military Yen each month, and volunteered contributions to the Camp hospital to pay for a little extra food for the men there. I have not seen one of these before. She also sent a photo of what I think might be Fourth Battery HKVDC, although her father commanded Second. 18 Bob Tatz tells me he’s now editing the second draft of his book.
12Michael Stewart (son of the highly-respected Evan Stewart who commanded 3 Coy HKVDC) who I had recently put in touch with his childhood friend Richard Neve (son of Gordon Neve who was killed during the fighting) let me know the sad news that Richard had just passed way. Richard gave me a great deal of help in writing Reduced To A Symbolical Scale. 12 An interesting newspaper cutting (illustrated) appeared on facebook. Last month, and several times previously, I have commented on the number of marriages between British soldiers and their local Cantonese girlfriends immediately before hostilities. The letter noted: “Sirs: Hong Kong, facing constant threat of attack, has recently seen many war marriages between British soldiers and Chinese girls, formerly rare occurrences, In this recent wedding the lance corporal of the famed Royal Scots (left) was bridegroom, while a private of his regiment acted as best man. Note the background of sandbags.” Unfortunately neither bride nor groom are named. The author of the letter, however, I can identify as Vincent Hubert Charles Jarrett, who won an efficiency medal in the HKVDC as a private in 1935. He was an Assistant Editor of the South China Morning Post in 1941, and became a Stanley internee. Aged 46, he was class C in the Hong Kong Defence Reserve. 12 Robert Chan notes: “Please share the Christmas story of Marcel Doiron, or other of his records.” He passed this link, which is fascinating and well worth a look. It’s pretty much a full set of typical POW records. Doiron (MiD) served in the Royal Rifles of Canada. 12 I am in touch with Jessie Holland’s family again. She, as readers will know, was the nurse who was killed during the evacuation of Kowloon. She had volunteered to help on a launch, and was shot in the stomach, expiring at the Queen Mary Hospital. Her husband Adam Holland was later killed in the accidental bombing on Bungalow C in Stanley Internment Camp in 1945, and that’s probably why she has no record in the CWGC (their three children, Isobel, Alistair and Joan appear to have left Hong Kong before hostilities, so no family member was here in 1945 to do the paperwork). And yet, as she died on 12 December 1941, surely she would have been formally buried somewhere? If we could find her grave there would be more chance of having her properly added to CWGC records. 12 Charles Dobie notes: “I've had another batch of photos sent to me from the voyage of HMCS Ontario in 1945. Included are several Hong Kong photos, all official Canadian Navy photos, which weren't included in the two previous collections of that voyage which are on my website. Robert Ferris sent me photos belonging to his father, Edmund Ferris, who made the voyage. Edmund is still alive, is 92 years old and in good health. A few of the new photos show details of the celebration parade as well as individual Hong Kong people.” There were indeed some great ones there, with one of a Jeep overlooking Happy Valley being especially evocative.
11 Bill Lake emailed me to say: “I have been asked if I knew which Artillery Battery finally sank the ship HMS Tamar after she refused to sink when being scuttled.” It’s a great question, but although I know that this indeed happened, I have never seen any formal documentation. Bill – himself a former RA man – reckoned that a Bofors would make the most sense, and I can’t argue with that. A Bofors rolled up to the waterfront firing point blank into the old ship’s waterline would certainly have done the job. (For any of our younger readers, the Bofors L60 was a fast-firing 40mm cannon designed for AA, but capable in many other roles). 11 Karen Wespi (Edie’s daughter) kindly emailed me to say: “Just a quick note to let you know my Mom, Edith Badger (Mason), passed away this morning. She died peacefully in her sleep.” Edie and I corresponded in great volume and detail over a number of years, about her father Joseph Mason (who passed away in Stanley Internment Camp) and his possible involvement in hiding Hong Kong’s gold from the Japanese during the occupation. Edith spent part of the war years under house arrest in 4, Dorset Crescent, Kowloon Tong, part in Rosary Hill, and the last few months in Macau. Later she became one of Cathay Pacific’s first air hostesses.
8On the Stanley Group, Barbara Anslow drew this fascinating review of ‘The Suitcase’: “I have greatly enjoyed reading 'The Suitcase' which gives a vivid portrayal of life in Hong Kong 1940-41. However I think you gave the impression there were few 'ordinary expatriates' around then, only Peakites: whereas there were vast numbers of ordinary people like my family! My younger sister Mabel was also a VAD in Bowen Road Hospital during our war. You mention her in your book as one of the VADs who was sent in to Stanley some months before all the other nurses. Mabel was then 18; she became ill soon after arriving in Stanley, with thyrotoxicosis (spelling!). She is now 94 and lives in a Home near her son in New Zealand as she has very little sight and can't walk unaided. Our mother was also called Mabel Redwood. Perhaps you have read her memoir called 'It Was like This..' Which is mainly about the HK war and internment. It is often available on Amazon, hardback in large print, also in paper back. My Mum was an auxiliary nurse in the wartime hospital in the Jockey Club throughout the battle. When the Japs entered that hospital and raped some of the younger nurses, Marie Paterson hid beneath my Mum’s camp bed and escaped that fate. The camp beds were jammed closely together. It was feared that more Japs would come for the other girls, but Marie was freezing on the concrete floor, so she squeezed into Mum's bed with her, she was a slight person but my Mum was about 170 lbs then. When more Japs came in with their torches, Marie kept her head beneath the covers. When all was quiet again, Marie got up, saying she had to go... my Mum was puzzled and anxious, not knowing then that Marie intended to get out of the Jockey Club to tell our authorities what the japs had been doing there. I have never before heard of one of the Chinese nurses dying there after the raping - it doesn't appear in my Mum's long account of that time (now in the Imperial War Museum), although she does mention that the young St Ambulance girls were badly used. You might be interested in my novel called 'The Young Colonials' which includes the Battle for HongKong and Stanley Camp. Although the characters are fictitious, the HK background is authentic. It is sometimes available on Amazon, it's much longer than my Mum's memoir. You mention VAD Joan Wood in your book, she is almost 99 and we speak on the phone now and again. Her father, surname Seath, was killed soon after the Japs landed on HK island. My HK war diaries are in throes of being published in HK.”
7 Further to the below, Don Ady noted: “On December 3, I and my daughter were invited to dinner by Janice and Bill Anderson in Palo Alto, California. Bill in  at age 18 in December served in the HKVDC. Now he is a truly remarkable age 98, who still walks easily! Subsequent to the Battle of Hong Kong, Bill was a POW in Hong Kong, then in Japan. Post war he testified at the War Crimes Trials. There he referred to his ex camp commandant as ‘Rat Face’. This drew vociferous complaints from the defense team. But, he was only was reusing the prisoners' name as they had not been introduced nor had they been told of the actual name. Bill subsequently joined in National Cash Register in Hong Kong. There he had a truly remarkable career. After rising to head the Hong Kong office, he was transferred to Japan to be number one there. In culmination he ended up as NCR's international president in Toledo, Ohio, USA.” Bill was the author of Corporate Crisis: NCR and the Computer Revolution. 7 There was an interesting discussion on the Stanley Group about dentist Harold ‘Sammy’ Shields who practised in Stanley Internment Camp but apparently was not qualified. However, the work done there was so good that post-war he was allowed to practise in Hong Kong. Don Ady recalled: “I can attest, personally, to Sammy Shield's dedication to his dental work. As a 9 year old in Stanley, six of my baby teeth were rotted and needed to be extracted to protect the permanent teeth. When the chloroform went on my nose I did a natural childish thing - tried to hold my breath. This created a detriment to the operation, but not to myself. I had been put over the edge of deep unconsciousness but not all the way under. Upon awakening, I remembered nothing at all. Sammy, however, appeared a bit rattled and a bit angry. He had a very good reason for that. I had, he said, been constantly screaming like a banshee! Yet, obviously he had kept up the good work and taken out six teeth. That can not have been easy with the effort required when he was no doubt fatigued from hunger.”
6 The Fall-Winter 2017 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on the POW Taiwan website now.
5 Martin Heyes mentions that Quentin Jones, the grandson of Stanley Internee William Ernest Jones is in Hong Kong to sell his grandfather’s Chinese stamp collection. Philip Cracknell noted that this link refers to Jones helping design a peace stamp after the war.
3 Being the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the invasion, this morning the Canadian Consulate hosted their annual memorial service at Sai Wan. I sat with Geoffrey Emerson on the bus to the cemetery and he mentioned a book called Hong Kong French Connection - from the 19th Century to the Present Day, 2012, edited by Francois Dremeaux, which has 10 pages of interesting photos and writing about 1941-1945. I have ordered a copy. We all arrived a little early, so I spent some time photographing graves, and especially comparing the three main types of Unknowns (A Soldier of the War, An Allied Soldier of the War, and A Soldier of the War [regiment]). But it was a well-attended service, with a number of Canadian parliamentary dignities attending. Unfortunately there was a slight mix-up as that delegation left, and that led to the busses being a little delayed. Fortunately Bill Lake was on hand with his car and provided both Geoff and me with a lift back to Central! 3 A lot more finds turned up in the hills today. I expect there will be more to relate on these in January. 3 Steve Denton kindly sent me Thomas Charles Cunnigham’s (RAMC) MI9 file. In it, Cunningham has written: “Captured with A.D. Station, Wongneichong, about 20/12/41. Escaped 21/12/41 during hostilities. Recaptured 25/12/41.” Under the title: “Give Regimental particulars of anyone who accompanied you on each attempt” he wrote: “Capt B De Barclay RAMC (went different way. I think was detected as shooting started). Pte Evans RAMC (Believed killed - did not see him when we walked into ambush), L/Cpl Linton, 1/Mx.” Barclay and Evans were never found. Linton was taken to the Queen Mary Hospital on the 22nd, and survived the Lisbon Maru. However, he perished in Osaka #2B (Kobe) of cardiac beri beri on 21 December 1943. Steve also provided the MI9 files of Private Thomas Scott, Royal Scots; Gunner Bert Garradley, RA; Gunner George Haywood, RA; Lance Corporal William Taylor, Hong Kong Signals Company; Private Bill Spooner, Royal Scots; Sergeant Henry Jeffree, Middlesex; Sidney Croft, Royal Marines; and W/O John Seaby, HKRNVR. He also included Ramp Bowen’s ‘The Lisbon Maru’. I knew Bert and Bill, and it’s always a little strange seeing ‘ancient documents’ that were penned by people you knew. 3 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent me a Japanese photo (shot from Braemar Hill looking westward) showing Lee Garden Hill on the centre left with the dome of Lee Gardens Theatre clearly shown (I remember it. It was demolished in 1991 at the junction of Percival Street and Leighton Road). Part of the hill existed up to the late 70s. Stubbs Road and Gap Road are on the North West corner of the photo. Parish Hill is on the left of Gap Road while Morrison Hill is on the right. Barbara Anslow lived in the building on the left margin of the photo. Leighton Hill is out of the left side of the photo, and today’s Excelsior Hotel should be at the extreme right of the waterfront. Tai Hang Wong added for clarification: “1. The wide 'street' running up on the right side of the photo behind the ICI complex is the section of Hennessey Road between the current East Point Road and Percival Street. 2. The small hill with a lot of trees below (i.e. east of) the dome of the Lee Theatre was the Lee Garden Hill. Judging from the rising smoke the large building at its northern end just got a hit. 3. A small portion of the eastern end of Sugar Street can be seen left of the large residential building at the southern edge (i.e. left) of the ICI complex. This residential building was knocked down in early 1970s.”
2 Today I heard directly from Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) for the first time in a while. He notes: “I don’t think I would recognise the boys now. The last picture I saw one of them was about 12 ft tall. I would love to do the Hong Kong trip, but I’m under petticoat government so I am not allowed. I think I could do it if I could get a wheel chair or something like that to move around. Unfortunately my legs are giving away. My mind is willing but my body is not. Two to go until the tonne so I can get the queen’s birthday card (if she’s still around then).” Indeed, our older son – who walked around the Wong Nai Chung battlefield with Dennis when he was around five - is now 6’5! More to the point, I very much hope that Dennis makes his ton.
1Help needed: On 8 September 1942, 134 Hong Kong Chinese POWs were foolishly released from Shamshuipo by the Japanese (foolishly, because the great majority quickly rejoined the fight against them). But I have not been able to find a complete list. I can figure out perhaps 100 of them, but if anyone had the actual list it would be very helpful. 1 Steve Denton noted: “I got a surprise visit from my Grandma last night and she brought me some newspaper cuttings that she’s saved from the daily mirror in 1962.” The first cutting was a letter signed “Kobe House” from a Lisbon Maru survivor in Corsham, Wiltshire. He was asking if there was any official record of the loss, and the paper gave a surprisingly accurate answer. The second was an answering letter from Major ‘Dick’ Smith, historian of the Middlesex Regiment. Steve also kindly passed me Lieutenant Colonel F.D. Field’s (RA) MI9 file, reporting the escapes of Wedderburn, Passmore, Fairclough, Clague, White, and Pearce of the RA, and Bosanquet of the HKVDC. 1 While it’s not strictly relevant to Hong Kong, I heard today that Bill Marshall, President of The Java FEPOW Club, passed away peacefully yesterday, 30th November 2017, just nine days after his 100th birthday. As one of the most active FEPOW groups, the Java club had been kind enough to ‘adopt’ a number of their Hong Kong brethren in the last few years. 1 Today the Remembrance Ceremony for the Free French Forces was held at Stanley. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but Geoffrey Emerson did, noting: “Eric Berti, Consul General of France spoke. It was held by the large stone monument and brief biographies were given of the six Free French fighters whose names are on the monument and who died in Hong Kong. Students from the French International School recited poetry and sang a chorale, ‘Le chant des partisans’. And of course La Marseillaise was sung.” He also kindly supplied several photos.
December 1st, 2017 Update
Arnold Forster (courtesy Peter Forster), Banham at Crown Wine Cellars (SCMP), Weaver letter (courtesy Lindsey Archer)
Canadian delegation at Sai Wan (author), Mavis Ming & Billie Gill (courtesy Richard Horsburgh via Ian Gill), The Ridge from Violet Hill (author)
Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and BAAG Wreath (author), Signals Reunion (courtesy Nick Metcalfe)
The writing season is finally upon us. I don’t know why, but I do at least 75% of my research and writing work from autumn to spring. So it’s time to finally get a proper grip on BAAG and everything else that sprang from Hong Kong’s escapees and evaders. It’s a big project, and probably the biggest challenge will be to try to compress it into a single volume. I may well have to carve sub-subjects out for future papers for the Royal Asiatic Society.
29I left the office this afternoon and went to the Pullman Park Lane Hotel to pick up visitors from the Parliament of Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, and accompany them to the Sai Wan War Cemetery. They were an interesting bunch, and while walking down to the Canadian graves with them I saw that the grave of Colonel Pigdon, RAMC (an Australian captured in Singapore and transferred to Mukden) had been decorated with some little inscribed crosses from Epping North Public School (in New South Wales), St Mary’s, and one more that I couldn’t read, each saying ‘Their Spirit Our Pride 2014-2018’ thus looking more like a Great War memorial.
26This morning saw the second of this season’s Hong Kong Club walks. Our route was that taken by the surviving POWs from the Black Hole of 20 December 1941, as they walked over the hills from Stanley Gap to North Point POW Camp. It was perfect cool weather for it, and took almost exactly three hours.
25 Yet more finds in the hills today, including a watch and Canadian prismatic compass. 25 I saw on facebook that someone had kindly posted a newspaper article from 11 March 1942 quoting Anthony Eden’s statement about the Hong Kong POWs. He gave their numbers at the end of February – from Japanese figures - as British 5,072, Canadian, 1,689, Indian, 3,829, and others, 357; a total of 10,947. If you add in the 1,500 members of the garrison who were killed in the battle you get 12,447. Adding in the HKVDC members (including nurses) who were interned in Stanley, the Chinese and Eurasian members of the forces who melted away into the local population at surrender, and ignoring the police force who were only militia for a short period, it sounds pretty accurate. 24 This evening I attended Brian Finch’s talk for the Royal Asiatic Society at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. He covered his new translation of A Faithful Record of the Lisbon Maru Incident and was kind enough to give me a copy. At the same time I finally picked up a copy of the RAS Journal Volume 57 and was able to read Vaudine England’s very interesting summary of Rosary Hill, and Brian Edgar’s coverage of Irish stay-outs in occupied Hong Kong and the challenges they faced. I also enjoyed the article about the bombing of Bungalow C, but still disagree with the conclusion that it was deliberate. I have all the documentation from the carriers (thanks to Craig Mitchell) and while it is certainly true that a ‘Japanese barracks’ at Stanley was one of their targets, I find it much more likely that the American pilots would have thought the new Stanley Prison was the barracks. So whether they were aiming for that, or the lighter off shore, or the Japanese AA gun near the bungalow (all common theories), hitting Bungalow C was still an accident. And, with the technology of the day, even with low level bombing, deliberately hitting a target as small as that Bungalow would have been a remarkable piece of airmanship.
24 Steve Denton is continuing his great RAPWI work and has now identified 157 ex-Hong Kong POWs repatriated on the USS Gosper. 24 Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group this very interesting email: “I've just come across a story in the South China Morning Post for December 12th, 1945 that casts an interesting light on the Stanley resistance. Douglas Waterton was a radio operator involved in the reception of illegal news and messages from outside. One night in 1943 he went to H. F. (‘Sammy’) Shield’s Dental Clinic and asked him to create a hiding place for a sheet of paper, foolscap size, containing important information. Shields took out two top teeth as an excuse for an upper denture; he made the vulcanised plate deeper than usual so it could include a sliding panel covering a recess where the paper could be secreted. Shields told the reporter that he feared that if the hiding place was discovered, the trail would lead back to him, so he must have been terrified when on July 7th, 1943 Waterton was arrested. The radio operator was one of those executed on Stanley Beach on October 29th, but the denture was never discovered and somehow Shields got hold of it and demonstrated its operation to the reporter. It’s sometimes said that the Hong Kong resistance was amateurish, but a lot of evidence, including this story, makes me think otherwise. And Mr Shields was just an ordinary internee doing his job when out of the blue he was asked to risk torture and perhaps execution to help the resistance. There must have been internees who, in such circumstances, refused their services - and who can blame them? But in all the cases I’ve read about, they went ahead, as did Mr Shields.”
23 Dan Bond wrote: “I am wondering if you could possibly assist in finding info on Pte Barker of the 1st Battalion Middlesex. In my research for my Uncle Tommy Burgess I have received from family members his last letter home dated 24th Oct 1941 and also a letter from a Pte Barker dated 7th Mar 1946. It is addressed to Tommy's mum, my great nan, and it explains he was a Japanese P.O.W and how he had promised Tommy he would find her and tell her what happened to him.” He kindly attached the letter, and after a little investigation, this turned out to be Private J. Baker (either Jack Baker 6201138 or John Baker 6203298) of the Middlesex rather than Barker.
21 Diana Hall (daughter of Eric Hall, HKVDC) got back in touch asking about the fate of her grandparents, Robert Hall and Jeannie Silver Hall who were imprisoned at Weihsien Internment Camp in China – they had emigrated from Scotland to Tientsin, China in 1920. Although they were both liberated, family lore had it that Robert died on the journey home, possibly in a hospital ship and possibly in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was pleased to be able to tell her that he died on 9 January 1946 aged 68 at Ranchi Military Hospital, India, as the result of illness contracted whilst in Weishien. Ranchi is the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, in the area that used to be known as Bihar Province. Unfortunately I don’t know where he is buried. There is a British Military Cemetery in Ranchi, but no civilians appear to be buried there. Possibly there was a colonial cemetery in Ranchi; can anyone help?
20 Nick Metcalfe notes: “As a consequence of my piece about the Hong Kong Signal Company and the Lisbon Maru, I was contacted by the son of Arnold Topliff BEM, who was awarded his medal for saving the life of Captain Christopher Man. He provided for me a wealth of information and photos that I thought you’d be interested in. Notably a super photo of 35 members of the Signal Company at their first reunion in 1969. All of those who attended were sent a copy of the photo and a ‘decode’ sketch that lists all who were there. Anyway, it allowed me to add a new story to the Royal Signal Gallantry Awards website, which you can see here.” The gentlemen here are Victor Ient, Henry Liley, Monty Truscott, Eustace Levett, Harold Copsey, Eric Rumford, R. Hood, Norman Lester, James Dignan, George Busby, Harold Roelich, Mathew Fraser, A. Binniglsely, (unknown), William Bevan, F. Ashford, Harold Bates, B. Harrison, William Holland, Alec Hunt, William McCormick, F. Bennett, David Howell, Peter Moddrel, Fred Latter, Robert Coghill, Arnold Topliff, William Devlin, Fred Carter, James Murphy, G. Nation, John Whitehead, A.A. Austin, George Caroll, and L. Parry. (Those names with initials only do not match any of my Hong Kong POW records). 20 The Mavis Ming research (see last month) had an outstanding result today. Ian Gill wrote: “After Stanley, my mother, Louise Mary “Billie” Gill arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, in the lavender housecoat that my father George Giffen had made for her from a blanket. At Lower Hutt hospital, where she delivered me on October 25, 1945, New Zealanders she had never seen before would come in and drop off gifts, mainly for the baby, on her bed. It was Christmas every day. Still, she lacked cash – and her own clothes. Before she left for the UK, the New Zealand government gave her 10 pounds and a friend slipped her another five pounds. She went shopping but could not find shoes small enough to fit her. At Sydney, Mum was met off the boat by her friend and former Hong Kong flat-mate, Mavis Ming, who took her to David Jones shopping mall where Billie finally found two pairs of child-size shoes -- and much more besides, I’m sure. And there the story would have ended -- until Tony Banham contacted me to say a Richard Horsburgh was doing research on Mavis Ming and could he pass on my email? It turns out Richard married Mavis’ daughter, Siaoman, and they are writing a book on Mavis. Yesterday, Richard sent me the attached photo of Mavis Ming in Sydney with the caption “Mavis with an unknown woman,” asking if I had any idea who the other woman might be. I took one look -- and jumped out of my chair. Not only was the woman my mother but the photo is one of the best I have ever seen of her, showing her in full plumage as a true Shanghailander: elegantly garbed in new hat – and what a hat – jacket, gloves and purse. Above all, she smiles with a quiet self-confidence that was lacking in the worrisome weeks after Liberation. She still hadn’t fully recovered physically from Stanley’s meager diet – despite appearances, she was still rail-thin – but at least she looked something like the smartly dressed woman she had been before the war. She was finally emancipated from the tired, demeaning garb of prison camp. Footnote: The radiantly reconditioned Billie returned to the ship and, known as a dab hand at bridge (a game she learned at Stanley from Henry Kew, an Australian who devised his own system), she was approached by another ex-internee, Dr. Helen Canaval, who asked to partner her. Billie confessed she had blown the last of her money. Helen, wife of the surgeon who had removed Billie’s appendix in Stanley by candlelight -- was so keen to partner Billie that she offered to spot her with a loan. That evening, Billie could hardly pick up a hand without bidding six or seven No trumps. It got so that she became embarrassed to look at her cards. Anyway, she made enough money to repay Helen and last her for the rest of a long journey.”
19 Martin Heyes reports meeting the nephew of Lieutenant Commander John Boldero of HMS Cicala. 19 As it was a quiet day I walked from home (Conduit Road) via Chatham Path, Barker Road, Magazine Gap, Coombe Road, Wanchai Gap, Blacks Link, to Wong Nai Chung Gap. Then walked along the Violet Hill catchwater until The Ridge where I took a photo of what I think must be the route (down a stream) that the Japanese used to attack The Ridge. But over the years I have found very little evidence of fighting round there, though quite a lot on Violet Hill itself.
18Steve Denton bought an old copy of Martin Weedon’s Guest of an Emperor and found it inscribed “Val, from Martin, 10 November 1949”. Such inscribed copies of printed memoires are not unusual, but I have sent a photo to Weedon’s son in case it is of interest. 18 As everyone knows, the Japanese advance along the North Face of Hong Kong Island to get to Victoria was blocked at the North Point Power Station by a bunch of grumpy old men who had fought in the Great War. I’ve always been interested in what happened next; at what stage did they decide to turn south along Wong Nai Chung Gap? I asked TK Wong his opinion and after reviewing his Japanese material he said: “The Japanese army used the experience they learned in the New Territories to fight in the battle for the island of Hongkong i.e. avoid coastal flat areas with paved road, and fight through hilly or mountainous areas in night times. The easy way is to attack westward through [Causeway Bay and Wanchai] to Central after landing in [North Point]. But in a divisional level meeting held at 2 p.m. 17-12-1941 at MaTauWai, the Japanese decided that it was too dangerous to use the aforesaid tactic because the route would be heavily defended and surrounded by high grounds (Leighton Hills, Morrison Hill, Lee Garden Hill).” He notes that the last directive ordered by the commander of the 38 Division to attack HK Island was made at 08.00 (18-12-1941) at Shatin. It ordered the 230 Regiment to, after landing, move uphill to occupy the hills east of Tai Hang (hills behind So Kun Po, Cemetery Ridge, and NW slopes of JLO, overlooking Causeway Bay, Leighton Hill and Happy Valley areas). Then move west to attack Mt Nicholson and Mt Cameron in order to occupy the hills east of Magazine Gap. The 228th regiment would attack eastward to Tai Tam areas and the 229th would move up Mount Parker and then attack westward to Violet Hill. “So when Col. Tanaka reached the summit of Violet Hill at around 5p.m. of 19-12-1941, he moved south along the catchwater on the western slope of Violet Hill (avoided using the Repulse Bay Road). He had already known that the 230 and 228 regiments were fighting around the WNCG areas. That shows the Japanese army fought according to their plans and they used their experience acquired in the New Territories. But part of the 230 Regiment - Suzakwa Butai (engineer soldiers) still fought from NP toward Leighton Hill and they met resistance near the NP power station.” So in other words they had always planned to occupy Wong Nai Chung Gap, thus being stopped at the Power Station was not the cause. 18 There were a number of interesting finds in the hills today, including a set of Canadian buttons (illustrated).
17 Dave Deptford alerted me to an Aberdeen Medals sale of a group of five Second World War medals to Sub Commodore Walter Fred Field, RAOC: 39-45, Pacific, Defence, War, and Army Long Service. Estimated price GBP160+. 17 I have often been asked which of the Lisbon Maru POWs ended up in Osaka #1B, and which in Osaka #2B (Kobe). I don’t know of any rationale for the split, so have only been able to answer for the few individuals who either told me or recorded the fact elsewhere. Now Steve Denton seems to have made a bit of a breakthrough by isolating around 200 who were in the latter (which was also known as Kobe House).
15Arnold Forster’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a great photo of his uncle - who was lost in the sinking 0 riding his motor bike.
12 Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph started cheerfully (despite the context) with the meeting of many old friends, but as we chatted the heavens opened and – aside from a handful of better prepared individuals who had thought to bring umbrellas – we were soaked. Elizabeth Ride had asked Sandra Lau (Lau Tak Kwong's granddaughter), to lay the BAAG wreath, and she did so together with David Loie (grandson of David Loie Foo Wing). Lau Tak Kwong was executed on 29 October 1943 and David Loie took his own life when captured to avoid betraying his comrades. I noticed that David Loie’s CWGC entry is incomplete, giving his date of death as simply 03-09-1939 – 31-12-1947.
11 There’s been an interesting discussion in the Stanley group about the fact that no photos of the Naura Maru (the sixth and final draft from Hong Kong on 29 April 1944) can be found online. I now strongly suspect that the name is incorrect, and it was either the Inaura Maru or the Naruo Maru.
9 Steve Denton has found two more MI9 Interrogation forms (Sergeant Alfred Bright, Middlesex, and WOII Frank Daniel, RE), which show that Daniel was not only on the Lisbon Maru but was a Block Leader in Osaka #2 Branch Camp (Kobe). He was not marked as a Lisbon Maru survivor on this website, but that turned out to be my mistake. 9 I heard today that the electronic edition of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale should be available next year. 9 The papers today are claiming that a wartime shell was found during construction work, but a cursory look shows that it has studs rather than a driving band and is clearly much older. I checked with EOD, and they conformed hat it is a Palliser shell.
7 I have been invited to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces, jointly organized by the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong & Macau and the Souvenir Français History Society. It will take place Friday the 1st of December at 4pm, at the Stanley Military Cemetery, though unfortunately I will not be able to attend. 7 I heard today that a human skull had been found in Tai Tam near HKIS, and a British M36 grenade too (though I don’t know if the two incidents were related). The police took care of the former, and EOD the latter.
6 Today I recorded a radio show about Reduced to a Symbolical Scale with Annemarie Evans for RTHK. 6 Hong Kong Land kindly gave me a copy of their book 125 Years of Hong Kong Land, which of course features Bevan Field and has some excellent photos.
5 Jim Trick from the HKVCA asked if I could identify the location of this photo of Canadian POWs. I’m pretty sure it’s Shamshuipo. It took a while to decode the words on the wooden box on the left, but it’s “Indian Broken Pekoe”, a type of tea.
4An interesting contact from Ronnie Taylor in the UK: “My grandparents were Alf Martin, who was born in Kennington in 1893 but moved to Hong Kong probably in 1902. He died there in 1940 and is buried in the Protestant cemetery in Happy Valley. I visited his grave last week as we were in Hong Kong over half term. My grandmother was Enid Craik, born in Hong Kong in 1899. Her father (John Robertson Craik) is buried next to Alf Martin in the Protestant Cemetery. Enid was interned in Stanley during the war, where she married John Michell, who worked for the Hong Kong police. My father and his sister had by this time been sent to live with their aunt (my grandmother's sister) in Shanghai, hence why my father was interned in Yangchow. My father was born in Hong Kong in 1928 and christened in St John's Cathedral, where his parents had married in 1923.” 4 Joyce Wilkinson’s (Stanley Internee) grandson got in contact.
3 Responding to last month’s post regarding Mavis Ming, Ian Gill kindly responded: “Mum and Mavis were great friends and shared a flat in Hong Kong.” I have put the two in touch.
1 Kenneth Allanson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 1 The Dobson in the photograph (see last month) is probably Sub-Lieutenant Charlie Dobson, RNVR. 1 Brian Edgar responded to the request last month for more information on Mavis Ming, showing that there were 22 entries for her in the SCMP historic archives. The final one was actually published on 8 December 1941, which read: “Physical displays of a high quality were provided by the student of Belilios Public School, Wah Yan College, and Chung Wah Middle School, and members of the League of Health led by Miss Mavis Ming. The students went through their exercises with precision. Miss Ming’s troupe carried out a series of difficult movements with ease.” 1 I finally brought home my copy of the South China Morning Post for October 20th and photographed it! (See last month). 1 Following up from the story of John Weaver, Middlesex, lost on the Lisbon Maru and his marriage just pre-war to a Chinese lady, the family were kind enough to send me a set of photos of the couple and the post-war letters as the authorities tried their best to help. As I mentioned last month, although such marriages were quite common at that time, these letters are – in my experience – unique.
November 1st, 2017 Update
Boxer Magazine (courtesy Tai Hang Wong), Hong Kong Club Walk (courtesy Howard Tsang), Tai Koon Hotel list (author)
Sidney Picton in Sri Lanka (courtesy Nyree Penycate), Middlesex Drums (courtesy Simon Pervis), Dobson, James, Oswald, Morley (courtesy Stuart James)
Lisbon Maru London service (both courtesy Ron Brooks) Lisbon Maru Zhoushan service (courtesy Kent Shum)
A particularly busy month. Of course that’s not unusual in a subject closely associated with a Christmas Day surrender; it naturally becomes more intense as the year progresses. And even more so with this year being the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. Articles on that topic have appeared in many different newspapers, with the ‘hook’ being a certain Chinese film-maker and entrepreneur ‘Fang Li’ who wants to raise the remains of the vessel. But, as I explain below, I think this is a misunderstanding compounded by a degree of creative license. That being as it may, it was good to see appropriate attention finally being paid to the incident, and wonderful to be reminded that survivor David Beningfield is still with us as well as, of course, old friend Dennis Morley. No, I don’t think it was Japan’s greatest-ever war crime, but it truly was one of the greatest losses of life at sea in British history.
28John Weaver’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch, with the story of a young Chinese lady (from what appears to be quite a wealthy family) that he married shortly before the outbreak of war. Alas, he did not survive the sinking and in 1947 the British authorities tracked his widow down in China to tell her the bad news – the first such case that I have come across of a local bride being informed in that way. 28 Steve Denton has completed his monumental effort to document all the ex-Hong Kong POWs (500+) repatriated on the USS Joseph Dickman.
27Today I was honoured (and I mean that quite seriously) by a lunch with the Canadian Consul General, Jeff Nankivell, together with Consul Derry McDonell, and co-ordinator Carol Cheung. It’s the first time I have visited the new official residence, and I was very impressed. We spoke of various potential initiatives that could be developed in the spirit of living memorials to C Force. And, in case anyone is interested in such details, the food was excellent!
26William Ingram’s (Royal Artillery, Stanley Internee) granddaughter got in touch via the Stanley Group. He mother and (twin) aunt evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940 when her grandfather was still in the Royal Artillery. He must either have retired prior to December 1941 and was thus interned as a civilian, or used his Irish nationality as a neutral. Either way, I now know this is the same man, so another minor mystery solved!
24I received an enquiry about the unofficial Osborn Memorial – the unstructured pile of granite blocks around 50 metres east and a little south of the Osborn plaque by the path to the summit of Jardine’s Lookout. I told them what I knew, and that I had first visited 15 or so years ago. But does anyone know exactly who initiated it? 24 Hong Kong Land kindly sent me a soft copy of their book: A Short History 1889 – 1964. 24 A number of people pointed me to this Daily Mail article about the Lisbon Maru. This one reads like a review of my book on the subject (and quotes from it extensively), but having made enquiries I am now 90% sure that ‘Fang Li’ does not exist. I think this is a muddled reference to my old friend, filmmaker, and entrepreneur Frank Lee. But I don’t know the source of the rumour about a desire to raise the wreck. It is in fact not raisable. It was no spring chicken when sunk, and 75 years in hot turbulent water has rendered its fabric useless. With tens of thousands of tons of wet silt below decks, it would split like sodden paper were anyone to try to raise it today. 24 Jo Price notes that she has: “finally finished my first novel about my Grandparents and their experiences in the lead up, and during the Battle of Hong Kong. My Gran, Joan Whiteley, was a QA nurse at Bowen Road and later was a POW interned at Stanley (that is Book 2!) I feel so nervous sending this email to this group as you are all so knowledgeable and passionate about this part of our history. I only hope that I have done this part of their story justice. I would really welcome any feedback. I am thrilled that some of the reviews and feedback so far have been so positive and have made people think about and research what happened during the fall of Hong Kong. I hope that my grandparents would be proud. It is currently available in paperback - (ignore where it says out of stock - that is a temp error)”
23 Alan Knight notes: “I have just received the catalogue from Wellington Auctions, which lists a medal group awarded to Corporal A. Goodman, Middlesex Regiment, who died when ‘Lisbon Maru’ was sunk. The price of the medal is Pounds 260, and the Item # is 10/17/287.” 23 Tai Hang Wong noted, in a message to Elizabeth Ride: “The new Shui Chuen O Estate of Shatin mentioned in the enclosed report was completed between 2015 and 2017. Its location is the former Sugar Loaf Peak that Colonel Ride's Escape Group walked past sometime between 0430 hours and daybreak on 11 January 1942 during their southward descent from Kun Yum Shan toward the shoreline of Siu Lek Yuen at Tide Cove. The new development of Hong Kong has obliterated one more legacy of your father's escape route. Two of the pictures show the scars left by the hill fires which occurred earlier this year. Dr Banham's site has a marvelous video taken by a drone revealing the unfilled war trenches near the hill tops in that area after the fire. I wish I could visit and study the disposition of those trenches before they are covered by the scrub again.”
22 A researcher contacted me about an Australian Eurasian called Mavis Ming who was caught in Hong Kong when the invasion occurred. It appears that she registered on the Murray Parade Ground as ordered, was interned originally at the Tai Koon Hotel, and then escaped to Mainland China (probably on the grounds of ethnicity) by March 1942. It was very interesting looking at the Tai Koon (and other hotels) lists again. Lots of good information there.
21 This morning saw the first Hong Kong Club Walk of the season. Last year I took a sabbatical because firstly I was so busy that I was getting concerned that I was burning myself out and being a bit of a burden to the family, and secondly the admirable Philip Cracknell had stepped in to conduct his own walks for the Club – and it’s very healthy to have that new perspective. But today’s walk was so enjoyable I wondered if I’d rather shot myself in the foot last year! We had twelve attendees (probably the perfect number) and simply did the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail, the very first walk I ever did with the Club fifteen or more years ago.
20Simon Jervis noted: “I have recently acquired a large photograph of The Corps of Drums, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment taken at the Nanking Barracks, Shamshuipo, Hong Kong in 1940. I was researching the names when I came across your website and I thought that you might like a copy. As far as I can ascertain, every man in the photograph was either killed in action or was taken prisoner. Several died on the Lisbon Maru. There are three names that do not appear on your website, Chacksfield, Chattey and Webber, and two that I can not narrow down to an individual soldier, Hall and Wilson. I have identified the first three and I am still working on the last two.” It really is the most remarkable photo. Simon had clearly already done a great deal of research and when I checked against my records I found nine died during the fighting, and three on the Lisbon Maru (12 lost from 32): Back row: Drummer Ken D. Gage, Third Draft to Japan Private Charles Bellchambers, Fifth Draft to Japan Private Hall (could be Walter or John), both died on Lisbon Maru Drummer John Klimeke (Klimke, in my records), First Draft to Japan Private Henry S. Winsborough, To Japan Drummer Dennis Richard Ninchin (Minchin, in my records) lost 8/25 December 1941 Drummer George John Endersby, lost 19 December 1941 Private Leonards (Leonard, in my records. Could be Albert or Eric) Drummer James Harrington, Fifth Draft to Japan Drummer Chacksfield Private Albert Arthur Grover (Groves, in my records), lost 23 December 1941 Middle row: Drummer Ivan H. Abercrombie, First Draft to Japan Drummer William G. Dewbury, Lisbon Maru Private Albert W. Fielding, First Draft to Japan Drummer Charles W. Tully, Sixth Draft to Japan Drummer Albert Flood, Lisbon Maru Lance Corporal Webber Private Sidney Arthur Merton, lost 19 December 1941 Drummer Herbert Revell, First Draft to Japan Drummer Laurence Samuel Onslow, lost 24 December 1941 Drummer Arthur Walter Grossmith, lost 19 December 1941 Private Eric Lane, lost 25 December 1941 Front Row: Drummer Ernest Klintworth, lost 19 December 1941 Drummer Herbert E. Rowe, POW in Hong Kong Boy Patrick J. Cosgrove, Third Draft to Japan Lance Corporal Howard Alfred Pelham, Died on Lisbon Maru Drum Major Charles Holdford, Lisbon Maru Captain Walter Chattey, POW in Hong Kong (with Stanley Platoon) Corporal Staley Lance Corporal James Arthur Parsons, lost 19 December 1941 Lance Corporal Roy Leslie Rocker (Rooker), Died on Lisbon Maru Lance Corporal Wilson (could be Donald, John, James, Eric) In fact the odd men out are Chacksfield, Webber, and Staley who do not appear in my 1941 records (in fact there is a Webber, but he was a Captain). Possibly these three were amongst the men returned to the UK before the outbreak of the Pacific War. Chattey was of course in jail at Stanley when the war started. Released, he became the unofficial commander of the Stanley Platoon, HKVDC, and covered himself in glory. One by-product of this research was realising that I had Captain Clifford George Webber, Middlesex, incorrectly marked as ‘escaped’. It appears he was drafted to POW Camp in Japan instead – Steve Denton shows him on the repatriation roster of the USS Joseph Dickman – but, unusually, the Shamshuipo Camp records did not mark which draft he was on. 20 I would have missed this had it not been for the kindness of our office amah who put a copy on my desk! Stuart Heaver of the South China Morning Post did a good job following our discussion at Crown Wine Cellars. 20 Paul Onslow kindly sent me .pdf versions of: PB3 During the Battle of Wong Nai Chung Gap: From the Japanese Perspective, by Kwong Chi Man, and Pill Box 315 on Gin Drinker’s Lane, by Lawrence WC Lai. I had hard copies of both, but soft copies are so much easier to store and retrieve.
17 HKUP kindly informed me that my new book, Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, was reviewed in Asian Review of Books on 10 October 2017. The link is here, and (being as objective as I can) I think it’s pretty fair. 17 Last month I wrote: “7 Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter-in-law got in touch. However, I received no reply to the email I sent in return, which always makes me suspect spam filters!” In fact they were just busy and I am glad to say we are back in touch.
15 Steve Denton, as he continues to trawl through the MI9 Interrogation Forms for ex-Hong Kong POWs has sent me a number of interest. To date they are Desmond Hynes (HKVDC), George Aitkenhead (HKVDC), John Byres (RA), Edward Field (RA – of particular interest as I used to correspond with him), and Kenneth Day (Middlesex).
13Leslie Andrews’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch. The family has a small treasure trove of documents from those days. They note: “I am still looking and have found over 40 letters written by Leslie, two of which are from the Hong Kong POW camp and sent via the Sce de Prisonniers de Guerre. I also have copies of the Hong Kong Fellowship newsletters from June 1943 till January 1946.” 13 Brian Finch let me know that he will be launching his English translation of A Faithful Record of the “Lisbon Maru” Incident on November 16 at the Helena May. Event details can be found here. He notes: “The 75th Anniversary of the Lisbon Maru Incident fell on 2 October this year, and was marked by commemorative events in China and London. Tony Banham has produced a meticulously researched and well-written account of this incident, called: The Sinking of the “Lisbon Maru”: Britain’s Forgotten Wartime Tragedy. Following that, the Lisbon Maru Association of Hong Kong carried out their own research in China, speaking to some of the fishermen who had taken part in the rescue and their families. They produced a book as a result, whose title translated into English is: A Faithful Record of the “Lisbon Maru” Incident. This is the book I have translated, which gives new insights, seen through the eyes of the Chinese fisheremen. The book includes a detailed account of how the Chinese hid three of the prisoners of war in a cave, under the noses of the Japanese, later smuggling them across more than 1,000 miles of China to reach the wartime capital of Chongqing. It also contains details of mainland Chinese documents not previously seen, and includes a moving account of a visit to China by one of the survivors of the disaster and his emotional reunion with those who saved his life.”
12 Philip Cracknell added a new blog post incorporating a number of annotated photos of Stanley Camp. 12 I received a query from the US television series Finding Your Roots, researching someone who was in Hong Kong during the war years. This is the second or third of these (or similar) that I have received, so clearly there’s a big market!
11 I was contacted by a representative of Hong Kong Land today. They are pulling together documentation about Bevan Field, pre-war their Assistant Secretary and post war Managing Director (Oscar Eager, the previous MD, having been killed in the bombing of Bungalow C). Field himself of course was commander of 9 platoon of 3 Coy HKVDC.
10 Kent Shum kindly sent me a selection of photographs from the Zhoushan end of the Lisbon Maru commemoration. He included this excellent video from CCTV, and a link to a Chinese news item. 10 This afternoon I met Greg De’Eb at Crown Wine Cellars for a number of press interviews about the site. We finished at around 19.30 and being shut up in the bunkers I was completely surprised to see it dark outside! Oddly enough, as I departed I looked up at the bunker wall outside and to the left and saw on its top what looked like a machine gun post rather similar to these.
9 Peter Starling of the RAMC museum sent me this interesting email: “An ex RAMC Physio has emailed me asking about four men who were masseurs, JW Morris, TC Cunningham, AJ Britnell & H Peasegood. He has the service record of Morris who went on Lisbon Maru so could have ended up in the Osaka camps but the record states he was released in Malaya. Do you think this could be a mistake or is there a chance some HK POW’s ended up in Malaya via Japan?” Morris was indeed on the Lisbon Maru but I have never heard of ex-HK POWs ending up in Malaya. I can’t rule it out 100% as RAMC POWs were of course highly valued and occasionally had the unique experience of being the sole person transferred to a particular POW camp because a medic was needed there. And in fact that seems to have been the case with Morris, as I had never previously noticed that he was the only ex-HK POW at Omi. However, he was liberated by the Americans and I know of no reason he would have been take to Malaya.
6 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me examples of correspondence between Arthur Duff (see last month) and her father.
4 I was contacted by the Sunday Times about a Lisbon Maru article. Unfortunately as I was working in San Francisco and had no time, I couldn’t talk to them on the phone and they failed to accept my invitation to send questions via email. It resulted in this slightly odd story (see above), a version of which also appeared in the Daily Mail.
3 Tai Hang Wong contacted me to note that: “The Review of Culture Journal, published by the Cultural Affair Bureau of the Macau Special Administrative Region Government, has designated the 47th Volume ‘In Memory of Charles Boxer’ to commemorate the 110th birthday anniversary of Professor Boxer in 2014. The eleven articles in this edition (4 in English and 7 in Portuguese) have done a impressive job to highlight the academic contributions of Charles Boxer in the study of Portuguese and Dutch colonial experiences in East Asia. They also provide some useful materials of Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn after Charles resigned from the army in 1947.” 3 David Beningfield emailed to say: “Just to let you know that my father, W.C. Beningfield, 1st Middlesex is alive and well on this 75th anniversary of the Lisbon Maru sinking. Though facing mobility issues he is still very much alert and engaged and thanks to assistance from my brother and sister is still able to live in his own house with my mom, Emily in Quesnel, BC Canada.” This is excellent news. For a couple of years I thought that only Dennis Morley, Royal Scots, was still with us. David also sent a recent photo of his father (illustrated). He is 97 now, and he and his wife have been married 69 years (and in fact were sweethearts even before the war).
2 Today was of course the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. There was a well-attended memorial service at the FEPOW memorial at Camden, and Ron Brooks (son of Master Gunner Charles Brooks who was lost in the sinking) kindly sent me several photographs. There was a simultaneous service in Zhoushan, China, near the site of the sinking, and CCTV set up a live TV feed between the two sites.
1 Sydney Picton’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “My grandfather became acutely ill just before his 66th birthday, with a mis-diagnosed myocardial infarction; eventually he was hospitalised. Believing he was now recovering, indeed, the doctors had told him he was ‘on the mend’, such that he could move from ITU and into a ward the next day, my grandfather decided it was time to return to Hong Kong. He pledged to take me with him and I was so excited, for a few hours at least. However, there was a twist of fate, later that night he died of his final myocardial infarction.” He had joined as a boy (Boy's Service) aged 15 and remained in Service until 1960, the day before his forty-third birthday. She included a photo of his repatriation, which we think we have tracked down to 99 Chatham Street, Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is first right (in the shades) and Reg ‘Pedlar’ Palmer is centre. 1 Hugh Beard’s (RASC) son got in touch. 1 I was sent a photo of a sporting trophy – a silver cup - inscribed: H.K.V.A Rt Half No 2 Coy SUBn Cup 1906-1907 Gunner J.W. JAY Many may know that at the start of the twentieth century the Volunteers included the Hong Kong Volunteer Artillery, which had two batteries (1 and 2), each split into a right half and a left half. This cup (presumably sponsored by the subalterns) seems to have been won by Gunner Jay of the right half of 2 Bty (Coy). It’s before my usual period, but does anyone know what the Cup was for? 1 In response to last month’s mention of the Canadian Governmental report on their involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong, Jim Trick noted: “You may be interested in the HTML version which we've referenced on our CForce site.” 1 Captain Thomas James’s son (see last month) kindly sent a photo of his father with Lieutenant Dobson, (James), BSM John Oswald, and BSM Frederick Morley at Stonecutters. Morley died of enteritis on 17 August 1942. Dobson’s identity is uncertain.
October 1st, 2017 Update
Treenlaur, Escape to Free China, The Endless Battle (all author)
Hilary Baxter at Shamshuipo (courtesy Roger Baxter), Patricia Briggs, RAPWI (via Steve Denton), Dennis Healy - front row, far right (courtesy Rosalind Richardson, via Ronnie Taylor)
Middlesex Depot detail, 1936 (courtesy Dan Bond), Lisbon Maru first day cover (courtesy Kent Shum), Centenerary envelope (courtesy Andrew Hill)
The second of October will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and there will be commemoration events in both the UK and China. The UK event will take place at the FEPOW War Memorial in Camden, which is next to Mornington Crescent underground station. The ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. (so, if you are visiting, please arrive by 10:00). Medals should be worn. It is hoped that Viscount Lord Slim, OBE, President of the Burma Star Association, will attend and lay the first wreath. Other wreaths will be laid by representatives of units who had men on the Lisbon Maru. A short statement will be read out briefly describing the incident and expressing gratitude to the brave Chinese fishermen who rescued hundreds of the prisoners of war. A similar event is being held in Zhoushan, China, where the incident took place and it is hoped that a live Chinese TV broadcast on CCTV Channel 13 will enable them to watch all or part of the ceremony in London. The organiser of the Chinese event has written an oration thanking British soldiers for fighting with the Chinese during the Second Word War, and in particular remembering the 828 lost in the sinking. An English translation of this will be read out at the London event. The last known survivor of the sinking, Dennis Morley of the Royal Scots, who is unable to attend, has put some thoughts in writing and these will also be read out. The bugler playing the Last Post and Reveille will be Raymond Smith, the son of the late Reginald Smith of the Middlesex Regiment, who was one of the survivors. After the ceremony a room has been set aside in a local pub - the Cobden Arms at 28—30 Camden High Street - for everyone to gather.
29 Thomas James’s (Royal Artillery) son got in touch.
27 This month’s Java Journal notes: “Kenneth Shipsides died on 19th September. He had been with the Navy on HMS Tamar and was held on Hong Kong and Japan (Nagoya area). He was 103 and still lived in his own home until he passed.”
25 A correspondent notes: “I am running a project as part of the 2020 Royal Signal centennial commemoration to develop a definitive register of Royal Signals gallantry awards from 1920-2020. As part of the project I have established a small website and part of that is a blog to expose some stories about the Corps and about those who feature in the project. The next post there will be to commemorate those who died during the Lisbon Maru incident, during which one Royal Signals soldier earned a BEM for Gallantry.” The blog can be found here, and its author has given me a huge amount of help in my long-term project to document all honours and awards given in Hong Kong 1941-45. 25 A correspondent notes that he is in touch with an internee of: “Stanley Internment camp. He was transferred with about 40 others from Hong Kong on the late afternoon of the 24th December 1942 to Shanghai arriving four days later about 7pm - 28th December 1942. Reuters Bill O'Neill was on the ship too. My grandfather was on the ship. It had one funnel, the hull was a worn black and it did not travel as part of a convoy. It did not dock anywhere on its journey but at one point circled some islands off Formosa (Pescadores?)” He would like to know if anyone knows the name of this vessel.
24Daniel Bond (whose great uncle was Joseph Burgess, Middlesex) got back in touch noting: “I have just today received the attached picture that you may find of interest. Apologies for the poor quality, I am trying to find a company to do a high res scan for me and will try to send a better quality when I can. However you may like it as it shows the Middlesex regiment in 1936 and I am assuming that some of these gentlemen went out to Hong Kong and these may be some of the only images the family may have.” I blew up part of the photo and indeed many faces would be recognisable. 24 Tai Hang Wong let me know that: “The Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA) will open the Asia Pacific Peace Museum and Education Centre in east Toronto in 2019. Mr. George MacDonell and other surviving Battle of Hong Kong Canadian veterans will be invited to contribute their reminiscences of the war.” Originally I had little to do with ALPHA as originally they seemed (to me) unhealthily obsessed with Japanese atrocities, but according to Tai Hang they have now broadened their outlook and are doing more to promote knowledge of Canadian contributions in the defence of Hong Kong.
23 Finding myself with an hour to kill waiting for my wife in Central, I visited the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. I had last popped in when it was still in Stanley, and was impressed to see a much more mature and professional offering today. Unfortunately (from my perspective) there wasn’t a great deal of coverage of the war years, but they had something unexpected. This was the model of a boat called ‘Treenlaur’, constructed by Major Templer, Royal Artillery, in POW Camp! I have contacted his family to see if they are aware of this.
21 Jeremiah O'Connell’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
20 Charles Lenton’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. He notes: “one of the few things we knew about my grandfather's time in Japan was that he was, for a long period, sent to labour on a farm (he was born into farming stock in Cambridgeshire, which may explain his suitability). The elderly couple at the farm were quite kind to him, since he reminded them of their son (who was away fighting), and so treated him kindly; it was only when the military came for inspection that they had to beat him.” The latter part was relatively common. POWs on working parties in Japan often struck up working relationships with civilians. But working on a farm was very rare, and I’m not sure I have come across this before. 20 A correspondent asks what the exact relationship between the RA and the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery (HKSRA) was. It’s a good question. The HKSRA is a possible topic for me for a future article for the Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society, as that’s probably the best motivation to give myself to finally research this interesting but little-documented unit properly. 20 Ronnie Taylor in the UK kindly put me in touch with the family of William Fraser (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) who perished in Japan of cardiac beri beri. They kindly supplied a photo. He has also added a roll-of-honour on his website for my original hometown, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk. Oddly enough there was also a HK POW who died in Japan, Corporal John Tibbs, RE, whose CWGC entry shows his parents living in Wells (Son of Percy Ivan Browning Tibbs and of Lilian Annie Tibbs [nee Dye], of Wells-on-Sea, Norfolk), though I imagine they retired there.
16 I received my copy of The Endless Battle today. I shall review it later. 16 I finally managed to find time to meet Geoff Emerson today, and he very kindly gave me a few spare (and possibly the last) Stanley Internment Camp 2016 Reunion tote bags! At one of George Cautherley’s meetings he had noticed than mine was looking a little threadbare (I carry my dry shirt in it every day when I walk to the office) and had kindly offered to replace it.
15 Looking for a grave reference today I saw that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have a nice new look and feel on their website. I was glad to see that it still mentions Hong Kong War Diary as a partner!
14I received my copy of Escape From Hong Kong to Free China January and February 1942, today. I was unaware that its author had even been in Hong Kong at the time, as he evaded capture entirely. The only other book I have had to purchase at this sort of price was the equally rare Told In The Dark (a set of stories written down as told in Stanley Internment Camp.). 14 One very happy result of the publication of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale is that I have been able to put two of the protagonists (Michael Stewart and Richard Neve who were both school boys at the time) back in touch.
13 I received a very welcome email from Ronnie Taylor in the UK noting: “Rosalind Richardson sent me two photos of Dennis Healy who died on the Lisbon Maru. It says HMS Collingwood on the hatband. In the group photo he is front row, far right.”
12 Kent Shum, having seen my announcement about the planned London 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru commemoration, kindly sent me a note stating that there will be a: “commemorative event on the same day at Zhoushan City, this event held by the Zhoushan Ocean University and I will be there on 2 October. Besides they designed a first day cover for the event and hope to pass on this envelope as a gift to the participants in London at the day.” The first day cover notes that President Xi mentioned (at a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II last year) the sinking of the ship. I had often wondered why he knew about it, and asked Kent. He responded: “You won’t be surprised because the trip to Zhoushan on 2005 was approved by President Xi, he was the Secretary of the Zejiang provincial party committee at that time.” The trip he refers to is when my wife and I were invited by the local government to Zhejiang that year to visit the area of the sinking, It was quite a trip! Very memorable in many ways, including meeting some of the local fishermen who had risked their lives saving the lives of the POWs under the guns of the Japanese. 12 Today I briefly met Hilary Baxter (daughter of Brian Baxter, HKDDC) and her husband at their hotel as they made their way through Hong Kong as part of their ‘Middle Aged Gap Year’. It was fascinating. Brian had been one of the younger members of the unit, and post-war had gained a PhD at Durham University and become an extremely successful naval architect, working on designing the Royal Navy’s Type 21 and Type 22 Frigates. I was able to give the visitors a few pointers on what to see in Hong Kong (they visited the memorials at Sham Shui Po the next day) and was very glad to have met them. 12 Bill Lake sent me a link to an online version of the Canadian Governmental report on their involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong, My first thought was that I had seem it before, but in fact the appendices are not familiar – but they are certainly useful.
10Andrew Hill, who kindly helped with Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, sent me an interesting envelope. He notes: “The envelope contained a letter from my grandfather James Hill to my grandmother Nora Hill. It shows her Sydney address at the time, where she lived with my father Norman and Aunt Helen for a short while after being evacuated from Hong Kong.”
9 A little earlier in the month I sent a few copies of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale (as author, I only get a few free copies) to the dozen or so people who gave me the most help in the project. Now I am starting to get their responses as they read through it. So far, largely so good, though I find that in the case of the Simpsons (the mother and daughter on the front cover) I had been wrong in thinking they had had Pearl Harbour in mind as their final destination ‘to be safe’ from the Japanese. In fact it was just an extended stop over on their way to San Francisco. 9 I also sent a few copies of my Short History of Bungalow A to those who helped me. Dr Louise Law (without whom I don’t believe the bungalow would have been converted into the heritage gallery), Cortia Chung at St Stephen’s College, my old friend Dennis Clarke (born in that bungalow during the war), and Leilah Wood in Canada (almost killed in the bungalow by a Japanese bomb).
7 Dr Stephen Davies of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch today kindly sent me a .pdf copy of the final version of my Short History of Bungalow A, Stanley Internment Camp, which forms part of Volume 57 of the Journal. Apparently it also includes an article about Rosary Hill, but I have not seen it yet. 7 Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter-in-law got in touch. However, I received no reply to the email I sent in return, which always makes me suspect spam filters!
4 George Boote did me a great service today, alerting me to a book called Escape From Hong Kong to Free China January and February, 1942, by James Arthur Duff (illustrated). I had never even heard of it before. Anyway, apparently only five copies of this slender volume are known and I was fortunate enough to find and purchase a copy at a steep, but not ridiculous, price.
3Steve Denton (son of Bombardier Joseph Denton, Royal Artillery and Lisbon Maru), with whom I have been corresponding for ten years now, has done sterling work on the repatriations of ex-HK POWs. Working through all the passenger lists for the likes of USS Admiral Hughes, USS Joseph Dickman, etc. he is putting together the most complete account of their return that I have yet seen. It’s odd, though, that the embarkation rolls for the USS Joseph Dickman consistently refer to her as the Joseph Dyckman! It seems that these documents may include RAPWI details for the majority of ex-HK POWs. It also contains details of internees being repatriated from the Philippines, including Patricia Briggs (whose unfortunate story of being separated from her parents I relate in Reduced to a Symbolical Scale).
1 Brian Edgar kicked off the month with an interesting post about the layout of graves in Stanley cemetery. Also, referring to last month’s entries, he kindly sent me the following two notes: “1) you were right - Bozena Brezny, age 27, is on the Rosary Hill list for June 29, 1944.While it’s hard to prove a negative, I can’t find her on the Red Cross lists of people helped by Zindel in 1942-1943 when the Japanese allowed him to assist Third Nationals - there are three other Czechs on his records. 2) The dentist’s chair was presumably the one ‘stolen’ from a Wanchai godown by Selwyn-Clarke, Arthur May (driving) and one other volunteer from St Paul’s Hospital - it almost cost them their lives, as a Japanese patrol was heading towards them, but Naval Cdr. Takasaki saw the ambulance, realised that what was happening was humanitarian, and generously wheeled his men down a side road (Footprints, 75-6).”
September 1st, 2017 Update
Christos Pavlou then & now (courtesy Chris Pavlou), Richard Harrison's RAF accident (courtesy David Button), Swettenham's appointment to Royal Scots (courtesy London Gazette)
Shamshuipo POW Camp, the Haddock brothers, Stanley dental surgery (all courtesy IWM)
Firing practice warning (via HKU), Canada-China Legislative Association at Sai Wan cross, and at Lawson's grave (author)
As always after finishing any sort of writing project I look at all the others I have on the boil (I generally write a lot in parallel) and select one or two to focus on next. With Reduced to a Symbolical Scale finally delivered, I’ve been looking around. For books, (aside from the obvious one covering Hong Kong’s escapers and evaders) I have a novelised version of the siege of the Repulse Bay hotel, my Hong Kong Dictionary of War Time Biography (a massive but essential project), and the second of my so-far unpublished comedy historic novels (!) For articles, I have a study of POW and Internee diaries, the story of Theodore Leslie Bell, a study of all the medals and awards of the Hong Kong garrison, and an annotated version of the Hong Kong Club’s Roll of Honour. And on top of that are at least two more articles (A Short History of 2 Coy HKVDC, A Short History of the HKRNVR) that really need starting. That’s a lot to choose from! Writing season starts in earnest in October, so until then I think I’ll just play the field.
30 Richard Morgan sent the Stanley group an interesting mini biography of Sapper Henry Marriott, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, who is listed as a Stanley Internee but may have been hospitalised as he died quite early in 1942. One of the stories he quoted has been told many times, but is still worth repeating: “On the morning of 22nd January 1918, an incident took place in Gresson Street, Wanchai during which five Hong Kong Police officers were shot dead by an armed gang. Henry Marriott, then a Sergeant in the Naval Dockyard Police, was at home with his wife in St. Francis Street on the southern side of Queen’s Road East. Alerted to the pursuit of the culprits, he grabbed his service rifle and ran down into the street. He was immediately confronted by an escaping suspect who opened fire at him at point blank range, the bullet narrowly missing its target. Marriott chased the fugitive up the hillside and brought the man down with a shot from his rifle, killing him.”
27 Brian Baxter’s (HKDDC) daughter got back in touch.
26 Hong Kong was struck by a second typhoon today, this one being far more destructive in our little corner of the island than the last. Walking down to Central afterwards meant negotiating four fallen trees on Glen Ealy between Conduit Road and the Catholic Cathedral, not to mention thousands of leaves and branches and deep flowing water everywhere.
25 This morning I accompanied a small delegation of Canadian Senators and Parliamentarians (from the Canada-China Legislative Association, or CCLA) to Sai Wan Cemetery for a wreath laying ceremony coordinated by the Canadian Consul General, Jeff Nankivell. Of particular interest to me was meeting Senator Joseph Day of New Brunswick, a city which I know a little about as I have two friends there. I took photos of the delegation with the wreath, and then asked Senator Day and others to stand at Brigadier Lawson’s grave so I could take a photo for Lawson’s grandson.
23 A researcher contacted me asking for details of Arthur Basnett, Royal Scots, who died in St Teresa’s Hospital as a POW. As noted on this website’s British Infantry page, Arthur’s two brothers Robert and Leslie were also lost in the war, on the railway and in Poland respectively. 23 A T10 typhoon (Hong Kong’s maximum rating, and officially a Severe Typhoon - though not yet the Super Typhoon that will hit one year) struck Hong Kong today. I missed it as I was working in Chicago that week, but will go up into the hills when I return to see if anything interesting was washed out.
22I received a nice note today from Brigadier John K. Lawson’s grandson. 22 Martin Heyes notes: “Late on last Sat our company (WalkHongKong) was contacted by a chap called Milan Brezny from Australia. He & his wife were passing thro' HK to Europe for vacation and left last night, so the only day available for any activity was yesterday. (Mon). Milan, who was born here in 1949, was the son of Pte. 4371 Ladislav Brezny of No. 7 Pln, No. 2 (Scottish) Coy of the HKVDC. The latter, whose daytime job was with the Bata Shoe Company, was Czech and he came to HK with his wife Bozena (Beatrice) in about 1938.” That’s a perfect illustration of the international aspect of the HKVDC. Apparently Bozena stayed out of camp, but I wonder if she might have been in Rosary Hill? Martin also included a link to Brezny’s grave. Oddly enough I know that area, as I have an office in North Ryde nearby.
20Richard Harrison’s (HKRNVR, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. Interestingly, as a member of the Hong Kong Club who lost his life he has been part of the research I have been doing on their Roll of Honour. But now I know considerably more about his Great War RAF (he joined after 1 April 1918) service, during which he was injured in a flying accident. The family notes: “There is an irony in having escaped the horror of the First War to be killed so horrifically in the Second one might say.“ Initially I thought that Stanley Internee Margaret Dickinson Harrison was his wife, though in fact she turned out to be the wife of Wilfred Hugh Lane Harrison, a Civil Servant in Hong Kong. This Harrison was a Lieutenant Commander, RN, hence the confusion, and he survived the war in Shamshuipo. On the latter Harrison, Richard Harrison’s family kindly did some research, noting that he was born in: “Durham 1900, and he joined the Navy as a Midshipman on 1/11/1918 and rose to the rank of Lt Cmdr at the time of the fall of HK. Interestingly, he made the pages of the Daily Mirror of 13 Mar 1942. It tells a story of how he was Naval ADC to the Governor of HK and his wife refused to be evacuated home.”
19Elizabeth Ride kindly let me know that BAAG agent #62, Vincent Young, has just celebrated his 100th birthday. She attached the link to a gwulo article. 19 Ian Gill had a very interesting article in the South China Morning Post today. He notes: “My mother Billie Gill emerged from Stanley a single mother without means. Through extraordinary efforts, she fulfilled her dream of giving me an English public school education. But when, years later, she heard what had happened at the prep school, she was beside herself with fury.” 19 I had a unique contact today from someone studying dentistry in POW camps. It’s fascinating just how specific and detailed some researches are. Fortunately I remembered the IWM photo (why do these things always happen in threes?) of the dentist chair at Stanley with (I believe) Dr John Lanchester operating. When I looked at it carefully and blew it up, I noticed a lot of battle damage on the walls to Lanchester’s right.
17 Elizabeth Ride kindly pointed out that in the photo of HKVDC officers and the Governor last month, the names of the officers in the back row are (left to right) Lieutenant Wright, her father, Lieutenant Robertson, Second Lieutenant Wray, and Lieutenant Richards. 17 I had an enquiry today about a local Hong Kong lad (Eurasian) who very probably joined the RASC here in 1940 or 1941. ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert started this trend by recruiting local men into the Royal Engineers at that time (he spoke Cantonese), and before the invasion there were reasonable numbers joining the RE, RA, RASC, and other units. My question is, has anyone found original roles of these men? BAAG kept files of a number of such individuals who escaped or evaded into China, but these are not complete and of course we can assume that not all of them made it out of Hong Kong.
16I heard today of a new book about the battle of Hong Kong: The Endless Battle by Andy Flanagan. The blurb reads: “Near the end of October 1941, a few hundred soldiers from New Brunswick were among the 1,975 Canadian troops who set sail from Vancouver to reinforce the British Colony of Hong Kong. Within two short months, after a hard-fought but disastrous battle against the Imperial Japanese Army, the island fell to the invaders on Christmas Day, and its defenders were ordered to surrender by the governor of Hong Kong. The survivors were taken captive. Based on the first-hand accounts of the author's father, Andrew "Ando" Flanagan, a rifleman from Jacquet River, NB, The Endless Battle explores the Battle of Hong Kong and its long aftermath, through the eyes of the soldiers. During their captivity, the POWs endured starvation, forced labour, and brutal beatings. They lived in deplorable conditions and many died from illness. But the soldiers stuck together, bound by their cameraderie, loyalty to King and Country, and collective desire to sabotage the Japanese war effort. Writing intimately and sensitively about the lingering effects of the trauma of the soldiers held in captivity, Andy Flanagan shows both the heroism of individual soldiers and the terrible costs of war.”
14 George Swettenham’s (Royal Scots) nephew got in contact, and we began a very interesting discussion. Swettenham joined the Royal Scots from the HKVDC as one of the replacements for officers lost earlier in the fighting, and was himself lost on the 19th of December, or possibly the 23rd. What I hadn’t realized until now was that he and another HKVDC officer (Michael Turner) had been recruited by the SOE a few months before the invasion and were working in parallel with Z Force. My assumption is that when war came that SOE unit was disbanded, while Z Force continued. Turner joined the RA and survived. Interestingly I can find nothing about Swettenham in any Hong Kong files, despite the fact that apparently he worked for Butterfield & Swires.
12As often seemed to happen this month, I was searching for something entirely different when I found a set of live firing practice notices for Hong Kong’s coastal guns – and more particularly the anti-aircraft guns. I suppose it’s logical enough that they would need to practice, but it had never struck me before. There were 47 such notices in 1941 alone.
9 My first ten copies of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale arrived today (illustrated). Good to see after so many years of effort! My first notes on this topic (which culminated in my PhD thesis) were written in about 2004.
7Christos Pavlou’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family contacted me to let me know that I have spelled his name incorrectly on this website and the Lisbon Maru one. Originally I had the name as ‘Christie Pavlon’, but I have now corrected it. They note that he was of Greek Cypriot descent, and kindly sent me photos of him in uniform in wartime and towards the end of his life.
6Frederick Stanley Richardson’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch, wanting to know more about the circumstances of his death on 11 December 1941. All I know is what is in NtSC, which describes how he was lost in the battle on Golden Hill. One thing I am uncertain of, though, is what happened to the bodies from that battle. Several escapees who passed over Golden Hill three or four months later reported seeing many bodies there, but never (as far as I have seen) suggested that they might have been of officers who they knew. And Richardson has a known grave. I wonder if officers’ bodies were carried down the hill and either buried at the bottom (and reinterred after the war), or were even brought back at the time to Hong Kong Island? Too late to ask anyone now, unfortunately.
5While searching for another IWM Hong Kong photo, I found one labeled: “Sub Lieut R Haddock (left) a prisoner of war since the Japanese invasion with his brother Warrant Shipwright C F Haddock, of HMS Swiftsure, a cruiser of the relieving task force.” The POW Haddock was of course in the HKRNVR. The photograph I was actually trying to find was the famous one of Shamshuipo, also reproduced above. Does anyone know its IWM file number? An author wants to get permission to use it in a book. 5 Philip Cracknell has released his latest blog. “This month it's a reflection on Japanese and German war crimes. The German war crimes were committed by the Waffen-SS on surrendered British troops during the fighting retreat to Dunkirk.”
3 Bill Lake notes: “Whilst researching ‘Little Hong Kong’, I accidently came across this: A list of all the Indian forces campaigns.” It includes a chapter on Hong Kong. It’s available as a book here, and can also be downloaded in other formats. However, the text format has clearly been OCRed and many mistakes have been inserted.
2 I heard today of a forthcoming book which will include the story of William Wilson, RDYP. I will make further details available when I have them.
August 1st, 2017 Update
HKVDC Officers and Governor (via Elizabeth Ride), HKVDC drum (courtesy Ben Dalgleish), Pinewood pig (courtesy Martin Heyes) Hodgkinson report (courtesy Steve Denton), Wong Nai Chung sign 2006 (author), Wong Nai Chung sign 2017 (courtesy Martin Heyes) Truong casualty report (HKPRO, via author), Leo Borisoff (courtesy Robert Sterling, via facebook), RtaSS advertisement (HKUP)
Aaaaarghhh! For the first time in ten years, I’m late publishing an update. A long vacation in the UK (cold and wet) and Greece (hot and dry) put everything behind schedule, so apologies for completing this month’s blog in a bit of a rush. Now I need to get myself sorted out for this year’s writing season (I am always most productive from around September through to Easter – essentially the cooler months) to focus on the fifth and last of my books in the Hong Kong 41-45 series, provisionally entitled Noticeable And Dangerous and focusing on all those who escaped and evaded, and what they then did from then until the end of the war and beyond. Meanwhile it’s exciting to see the new fourth book (Reduced to a Symbolical Scale) being advertised and attracting interest.
30 Joseph Edmunds’s (RAF) niece’s husband got in touch. He notes: “We knew he was a medic and that he had received some kind of award for his work. We were thrilled to find that it was the BEM for carrying out a leg amputation. He had told us that he often used razor blades to work on his patients but hope he had something more substantial in this case.” I was able to send him the London Gazette page detailing the award. 30 The HKOR Benevolent Association notes: “In Remembrance and Commemoration Of the 72nd Hong Kong Liberation Day And Those who gave their lives for our tomorrows, Of the British, Hong Kong and Allied Servicemen, The Patron and Committee Members Of HKMSC Association (Former Hong Kong Military Service Corps of the British Army General Service Corps) Kindly Request the Pleasure of the Company of the Hong Kong Citizens At a Ceremony to be held at the Sai Wan War Cemetery, Cape Collinson Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong, At 11:00 a.m, on Sunday 27 August 2017. (Shuttle bus service will be provided. Boarding location is outside Wellcome Super Market, Shaukiwan MTR Station. The first bus service departs at 10:00 a.m.) For enquiries, please whatsapp 91924630.”
29 Ron Taylor’s (UK) The FEPOW Family facebook page is getting a lot of traffic now. Recently I’ve been using it to correspond with the families of two Lisbon Maru men, Signalman William John Harkinson of the Hong Kong Signals Company, and Leading Seaman Harry ‘Bogey’ Butler of HMS Thracian. Also, I have been in touch with the family of Isaac Williamson of D Company Royal Scots who was detached to HQ China Command, and the family of Christopher John Robert Jones who was born in Hong Kong 9 November 1941. As that's 16 months after the evacuation, there must have been another reason that he and his mother stayed in Hong Kong. It appears that his father was Henry Stephen Jones of 1 Bty HKVDC who lost his life in the defence of Stanley on Christmas Day 1941 when Christopher was just seven weeks old. Mary (Henry’s wife) and Christopher spent the war years in Stanley Civilian Internment Camp, in the servant's quarters of Room A3. ‘Servants quarters’ doesn't sound very grand, but although they were small they offered a little privacy for a couple, or in this case a mother and son.
26 Brian Finch notes: “I am pleased to be able to report that PWRR Headquarters have confirmed that there will definitely be an event in London on 2 October to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Lisbon Maru Incident. No further details are yet known, and I will pass these on as soon as I hear.” I will post updates on this site when they become available. 26 Geoff Emerson kindly let me know that the report on the Researching FEPOW History Conference 2017 is now online here. Although this year’s conference was not focused on Hong Kong, I spoke at two earlier conferences.
23 Steve Denton kindly sent me the Australian War Crimes Commission Questionnaire for Corporal Walter Hodgkinson, RAMC, covering the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. As Steve notes: “There's nothing really new in the way of information but I think the hand written ones bring things to life so much more.”
22 Eagle Kmlam put a photo of the Chindit Memorial in London on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. It lists The Hong Kong Volunteer Company sixth from the bottom of the units involved. On the same page, Robert Sterling also posted a great photo of Leo Borisoff, HKPF.
18 Ben Dalgleish notes: “I've just arrived in the UK and been to a war curio shop named the Armoury of St James. In their possession they had a presentation drum with a very distinct and memorable symbol painted onto it, I'm sure you will agree. See attached photo. I've just purchased the drum and it's on its way back to Hong Kong to hopefully educate and remind people of the sacrifices of our forebears. The only sad thing is that we do not know who the drum was made for or by whom. That information was lost when it was sold to the shop. If you would be so kind as to upload this to your webpage and newsletter, perhaps we could find the original owner and find more information about it.” He included a photo, reproduced above. Can anyone help?
16 Matthew Broadbridge very kindly sent me biographical details of the British officers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment. He notes: “I am very interested in the Indian Army during the period roughly 1903-1947 and research individuals who served as officers. I am very fortunate that I have amassed a small run of Indian Army Lists over the years with which to help with this, and with the London Gazette being online these days (though not perfect) this will get you a long way.” 16 A correspondent writes: “I looked through your website on Second World War. I recalled during my teens in 1980s I read a book by an ex-British banker in Hong Kong (probably from HSBC). The book was very written and got very vivid account on how the invasion happened in the mid-level and the peak. I tried to search for the book via the online catalogue of Hong Kong public library but failed to locate the material.” It sounds like A Yen for My Thoughts. G. A. Leiper. Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1982, to me. In NTSC I wrote: “Leiper’s book deserves to be better known. A member of 2 Company but also an ‘Essential Person’, he spent the 18 days working in Chartered Bank during the day, and attached to 4 Company at night. He therefore witnessed the goings-on in Central twenty-four hours per day. His obscene (and probably very accurate) depictions of the effects of shells and bombs hit home with this author, as all were within a short walk of where this book was written; the bloody execution of two Chinese ‘looters’ post-surrender was almost on the doorstep. The remainder of the book describes life under the occupation.”
15 Martin Heyes sent a set of photos from the Wong Nai Chung trail, clearly showing that the government has repaired all the damaged signs and signboards. It’s interesting to look at his current photos, compared to the ones I took in 2006 when the originals were still wrapped in plastic having just been delivered.
12 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me a very clear photo of her father (as a Lieutenant, top row second from left) and other HKVDC officers at Fanling Camp pre-war. The Governor in the photo is Sir William Peel (front row, centre, 9 May 1930 to 17 May 1935) and Ride was promoted to Lieutenant on 20 October 1931, so that narrows the date of this picture down to between 20 October 1931 and 17 May 1935. 12 A damaged but unfired Japanese shell of roughly 120mm calibre was found on the beach on Lamma today. EOD reckon it was probably washed in by a storm from a post-war ordnance dumpsite at sea.
9 Long-time correspondent Martin Heyes kindly sent a delightful email (and photo) recounting an encounter with a wild boar at Pinewood Battery the other day. It looks exactly like the one I met on Conduit Road very early one Sunday last month.
7 I heard today that Mary Monro’s book ‘Stranger In My Heart’ is at 97% funding. Hopefully this will be concluded soon.
6 Lesley Clark kindly sent me the latest July Java Journal, which included a report on the Buckingham Palace garden party that Barbara Anslow (and others) attended last month. 6 François Drémeaux contacted me. He notes: “I am a French historian living in Hong Kong. Last year, I defended my PhD thesis on «French presences in Hong Kong during interwar period» and, of course, my researches brought me to the aftermath of the Japanese invasion. Next year, I will join the History department of HKU as a Honorary Assistant Professor, which will give me the opportunity to push forward my work on some topics.” As well as looking at the well-known French heroes who helped defend Hong Kong (such as Egal and Delacourt) he is looking into three French sailors who he believes were stranded here in 1941 (Chanzy, Cerillo, and Ohm) and two Indochinese civil servants (therefore French subjects at that time) who died 19 December 1941: Ngo Chi Dao and Tran Van Truong. I had these in my lists as ARP men killed at some point in the fighting, under the names James Dao and Vantrong.
4 Chris Harley from In From The Cold kindly let me know that he had submitted the details of Alfred Rough Fullerton to the CWGC. Fullerton was one of the names on the Hong Kong Club roll of honour who I discovered had certainly been lost in the war but was not commemorated (see previous months).
3 Michael Hennessy kindly sent a copy of “The Battle for Hong Kong: A Battlefield Tour” by Major Helen Wildman AGC (ETS) and Mr Ivan Wildman. I believe this is the book asked for last month.
1 Robert Davis sent the framing tag of the Middlesex ‘colours’ featured last month. It showed that they were made in Finchley. 1 Tai Hang Wong sent this link, knowing that it would be interesting to Blaver’s family (see last month).
July 1st, 2017 Update
Collison Blaver (courtesy Marilyn Wright), Middlesex colours embroidery (courtesy Robert Davis), William Faid (courtesy HKU) Bateman's POW Index Card (courtesy Nicola Davies), JF MacGregor's jurors' role entry (via author), RtaSS Cover (courtesy HKUP) Mark Weedon (courtesy Mark Weedon), Maltby's affidavit, pages 1 and 2 (courtesy www.archieven.nl)
Last January was the one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the British occupying Hong Kong, and December was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the invasion. Now it’s the twentieth anniversary of the handover on Saturday 1 July. At a dinner last week I was telling someone about watching the film The Battle of Britain being filmed over my head in 1968, just 28 years after the event - and yet 1968 is now nearly 50 years ago itself. How time flies. And it’s our silver wedding in October, and next year this website will celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of this blog in this format – which I believe makes it the oldest continuously running historical blog in the world! But it’s odd that as time passes by I feel closer and closer to the historical events I cover here.
30 Last month I posted a photograph of the sign for No. 457 (Barker Road) included the name of its pre-war resident, Mrs J.F. MacGregor. Today I found the entry for her husband in the Jurors’ Role for 1941 showing, naturally, the same address.
24 Mary Munro, daughter of John Monro MC RA, notes: “You may recall that I shared with you [my father's] documents about the battle of HK, his escape from Sham Shui Po and journey to Chongqing. I retraced his steps in 2013 and you very kindly referred me to Martin Heyes for a battlefield tour. Anyway, I wrote a book about it all which is being published by Unbound. You can find out more about it [here]. There is a synopsis of the book and a short video with some nice images from HK and China.” It looks very interesting apparently this is the sort of publisher where if sufficient people pre-order a book, then it will be published so I ordered one today.
24 Robert Davis, great nephew of RSM Robert Challis (Middlesex) who was on the Lisbon Maru kindly sent me photos of two framed ‘mini colours’ of the regiment, which his grandfather (RSM Cecil A F Davis, who was not in Hong Kong), also served in. I’ve never seen anything quite like them – they look almost like cushion covers.
18 While searching for something about Maltby, I found a two-page affidavit from him that I had never seen before, in Dutch archives. 18 Michael Hurst notes that the Spring-Summer 2017 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on his website now. You can access the newsletter - and all of the previous ones, by looking in the SOCIETY section of the website and clicking on the Spring-Summer Newsletter in the newsletters box. Also here is the link to the newsletter.
17 Gwulo today has a fine feature article from Barbara Anslow about her visit (yet again, how the other half live!) to the Queen’s Garden Party. In associated correspondence up came the question of who was who in Hong Kong’s ARP? I have looked everywhere I can think of, but have yet to find a nominal roll. Can anyone help?
15 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. 15 Martin Heyes reports that the damaged signboards of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail have been repaired. I believe that to be in response to action taken by Martin, Mike Babin in Canada, and others. Good to see in any case!
13 The family holding J T Sayer’s POW bracelet, and J T Sayer’s family themselves, are now in contact! (See last month).
12Richard Hide kindly let me know that Kay Collingwood – wife of Cuthbert Collingwood of the MTB escape – passed away on 9 June 2017 aged 97. He notes that: “Kay, who came on the HERO re-enactment in 2009/10 was the last first generation link to the Christmas Day escape.” 12 Ruth Manserg notes: “I am writing a book about Cumbria in World War Two and have included the Hell Ships. Lance Corporal Donald Joseph Grant of the Royal Engineers, of Penrith, died after being rescued from Lisbon Maru. Captain Roland Ernest Knowles of Windermere died.” 12 Michael Martin, grandson of wartime Hong Kong policeman and artist A.J. Savitsky, notes: “I had the great fortune of having these pictures sent to me yesterday. It’s a caricature of Leo Borisoff drawn by my grandfather in Stanley Camp. It was sent to me by Robert Stirling (Leo's son) who I hope will also join this forum. It was also to my great delight to find out he only lives a 30min drive away from me! Leo Borisoff was a White Russian Policeman in HK and in Stanley Camp and he was friends with my grandfather and his cousin Vitaly 'Vic' Veriga” (Illustrated). I hadn’t previously realized the connection with the Veriga family, who I mention in Reduced To A Symbolical Scale.
11Mark Weedon, son of Captain Martin Weedon, B Coy, 1st Middlesex, got in touch again with a number of interesting family documents and photographs. He also attached a photograph of himself standing in the memorial gardens where his father’s ashes lie beside his mother’s.
7Nicola Davies, following up from the mention of Lolly Goldman (see April), sent this useful link (which oddly enough I had also found a few days ago while researching wartime Hong Kong Club members).
3While continuing searching for details of Hong Kong Club members lost during the war, I stumbled across a useful article about William Faid on the HKU’s Physics Department’s website.
2Tai Hang Wong notes: “You may have seen this Canadian documentary published by the History Channel in 2004. It is now available for free download in YouTube.” Actually I know it well. This is one I helped with, corresponding with the producers for a few months then taking them round Hong Kong. One even came to our flat-warming party! Of course Tai Hang didn’t know this, because although I’m mentioned on the credits at the end, they shoot by in a couple of nano-seconds. However, in my opinion this is one of the better short documentaries on the battle, and I’m glad to see that it’s online. 2 A student from the Chicago area contacted me, interested in the post-war recovery of Hong Kong. I was once asked to write a book about the liberation and immediate post-war period, but didn’t have the bandwidth (I still don’t, to be honest). But I’m not aware of anything comprehensive in the literature. Does anyone have any ideas? 2 A correspondent notes: “I was based in HK for the last four years prior to the handover. During that time there were war tours that started at Osborn Barracks, they were run by the British Army and were very informative. I took several family and friends on a few… There was an A4 size booklet available to all participants of the tour.” Does anyone have a copy of that booklet? I thought it might be ‘Eighteen Days’ but apparently not.
1Sik-Tim Chan’s (HKVDC) daughter got in contact (see April). 1 Collison Alexander Blaver’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter got in touch, noting that I had mis-spelled his name by adding an ‘n’ to make it Collinson. I have corrected that in the on-line garrison lists. She notes too that: “When dad returned from the war, he was sent to Chorley Military Hospital, Toronto (it no longer exists) where he met my mother, Jane Meaden. She was a nursing sister there. They met in November, 1945. In April, 1946, when dad went to Quebec to receive his medal, he asked mom to go with him. She did (with another couple). While there, dad proposed to mom on the Plains of Abraham. They were married in Toronto in June 1946. My sister was born in March 1947 and me in December, 1948. Unfortunately, dad died in October 1951. I was 2 1/2 months shy of my third birthday.” She kindly attached an excellent photo of Mr Blaver.
June 1st, 2017 Update
Hong Kong's defenders (courtesy Life), Chatham Path and AGAS book (author) Gisby travel pass (courtesy Janice Elvins), Gin Drinkers trench (courtesy Tan), Sayer POW Index Card (courtesy Nicola Davies) Biggs MI9 form (courtesy Steve Denton), Pinewood Battery (author), Kobe House Blues (courtesy Steve Denton)
The highlight of the month has to be Tan’s reconnaissance of the Gin Drinkers Line at Siu Lek Yuen (see the 19th). When you see remains from 1941 in such good condition it’s really eye-opening. I would have expected 70+ years of rain to have all but obliterated the trenches, but clearly not. And while sometimes I fear drone use may get out of hand, clearly nothing beats them for work of this kind. The fact is that so much of Hong Kong is steep and overgrown that remains of this sort (though not necessarily of this scale) are still everywhere, usually invisible in the undergrowth even if only a few metres off the beaten path.
30 Barbara Anslow notes that she will once again be attending the Queen’s Garden Party today.
29 Ronnie Taylor (UK) has started putting the Special Parties within the Roll of Honour, and Hong Kong is here. Does anyone know the name of the ship that took Hong Kong’s senior officers? I was never able to find out. 29 Philip Cracknell has published his next monthly blog, including a look at Pinewood Battery.
26 John Thomas Sayer’s family have contacted me. Let’s see how this goes.
25 I heard today that there may be a 75th anniversary memorial event for the Lisbon Maru in the UK in October. I will keep people informed as the idea develops.
22 With help from Nicola Davies and others, it seems we’re getting near to a critical mass of information on Alfred Rough Fullerton to enable the CWGC to finally enter his details on their system as a war death (see last month). Nicola has also managed to trace the POW Index Card and family of John Thomas Sayer, so perhaps it might be possible to give them the POW bracelet also reported last month.
21 Well, sometimes you get what you ask for! Left home on Sunday at around 0700, and got to the end of Conduit Road opposite the university. A man walking his dog in the same direction, just a few metres ahead of me, suddenly turned round and started walking briskly towards me. While puzzling about this, I moved to the left of the pavement to let another large dirty dog go past (following him) to my right – only to realise it was a young Wild Sow! She passed within a metre of me, so cool like she was just going to pick the ‘lets up from church or something. Very nice, though had she been a full-grown boar I would have run away. 20 I received a very interesting MI9 interview form from Steve Denton. Only perhaps 5% of ex-POWs who filled in these forms when they returned added any details, but this one certainly did. It was from Signalman Strangeways E. O’Leary, 850983, attached to the Hong Kong Signals Company from Singapore Fortress Signals. He was a Lisbon Maru survivor. Part 1 of the form covers camps, part 2 any escapes or attempted escapes, and part 3 escape committees. And then we have: Part 4. Sabotage. Did you do any sabotage or destruction of enemy factory plant, war material, Communications, etc., while employed in working parties or during escape? (Give details, places and names). “Whilst working unloading ships at Osaka harbour we used to unscrew any moveable parts of ships or winches drop over side. I used to exchange destination labels on goods in warehouses especially on dynamos, motors + electrical machines. Part 5. Did you observe any courageous acts performed by allied personnel? (Give names, places, etc.). “L / Cpl. Reginald Biggs, Royal Corps signals. Biggs saved many lives of drowning men when ’Lisbon Maru’ torpedoed 150 miles south Shanghai. Biggs saved my life at risk of his own. Nips on board tried to drive survivors back into water. Biggs interposed himself between. Might have been killed. Biggs is NOT my friend but courage, bravery should be praised, noted. I'll do what I can as token of my own regard for his initiative. Hope he receives some mark of distinction for his selfless humanity.” Unfortunately, as far as I can see from the London Gazette, Biggs’s heroism was never recognized. 20 I finally found The Telegraph’s obituary of John Pearce today, and was very cheered to see myself quoted.
19Tan notes: “I went to Siu Lek Yuen after a hillfire and found long trench system of Gin Drinkers line exposed. You can see the trench, lookout and pillbox remains clearly on the hill.” He included a couple of photos and a link to some fantastic drone footage he took of the area, which shows the trench system far better preserved than I had expected. 19 On facebook, someone posted a link to the 1940 copy of Life (on Google) which focused on the defence of Hong Kong. After a little effort, I managed to reproduce the page with all the individual photos, some of which are named and some not.
14 A correspondent notes seeing a: “lady appearing on Antiques Roadshow last week (series 39 episode 21, 16:54 to 21:57, if you are interested and can get to see it) with her father in law's mementoes from POW camp... apparently gifts from American personnel and an airdrop newspaper still with its canvas drop bag. She mentioned he had been captured in Hong Kong.” I can’t get iPlayer in Hong Kong, but this sounds interesting. 14 Steve Denton kindly sent me a copy of the song “Kobe House Blues”. This was a popular ditty with the Lisbon Maru / Kobe House POWs, and I first heard an ex-Royal Scot sing it perhaps twenty years ago. I hadn’t realised till now that Norman Colley wrote the words. 14 Walked up Hatton Road early, as I always do on a Sunday, to try to find the exact position of Philip Cracknell’s Pinewood Battery shot. I think I found it, though it’s surprisingly different now. Walking up the steps back to Hatton Road I found a porcupine quill, and then saw a civet cat when I walked up to Governor’s Walk. It’s been quite a good year for wildlife, and although I’ve seen no wild boar yet in 2017, signs of them are everywhere. Snakes, though, seem thin on the ground. I’ve just seen a single Blind Snake so far, whereas normally by May I will have seen three or four species. Birdlife is much as normal, except for the very welcome resurgence in Blue Magpie numbers – I saw four on this walk alone. And at Victoria Gardens a black kite (illustrated) flew just over my head. I came back the long way, via Barker Road and Chatham Path, noticing for the first time that the sign for No. 457 (Barker Road) included the name of its pre-war resident, Mrs J.F. MacGregor.
13 Following intervention by the family, Bandmaster Herbert Jordan, Royal Scots, is now recorded under the correct name by the CWGC. Previously he was under the name ‘Jordon’. There are many such errors in CWGC data (not surprising, due to their sheer numbers and the difficulty of checking in pre-database / internet days, but one by one they are getting fixed.
6 Edgar (Tony) Gisby’s (RAMC) widow got in touch. She notes that he was: “on duty and a defender of St Stephens Hospital. I have a copy of the original War Crimes Affidavit that he wrote with a witness present 25/03/1946. There are two other documents, a military pass and a Hong Kong hotel bill… Tony became a Senior Male Nurse and acquired many letters after his name. He died in 1992. I am very proud of the part he played during the war, at St. Stephens and also caring for POWs for four years in captivity.” I hadn’t seen this affidavit before, but it fitted in well with all the others. The military pass and hotel bill were very interesting, as they were for Japan rather than Hong Kong (Gisby was on the Lisbon Maru). A number of Lisbon Maru survivors seemed to have helped the liberating American forces immediately after Japan’s surrender, and I guess Gisby was one. The letters after his name were S.R.N., Q.N., B.T.A, M.R.I.P.H.H. He became a Senior Nursing Officer, was awarded the prestigious Queens Nurse status, and worked with the District Nurses Association. Later he owned a nursing home in West Sussex, was a leading member of the Nursing Homes Association and was instrumental in negotiations with the government (1970's) involving private beds to be used to alleviate NHS hospital demand by geriatric patients.
1 I received my copy of MIS-X today, the book about AGAS by Lt. Colonel Wichtrich who ran the unit in China. There are some rather odd details in it, which make me wonder if perhaps Wichtrich wrote it rather late in life, but it makes an interesting contrast to BAAG who were doing the same job – and a great deal more besides. 1 First thing in the morning I took off on a walk from Conduit Road to Park View. Bowen Road, Wanchai Gap Road, Middle Gap Road, Black’s Link, Wong Nai Chung Gap, Park view, Black’s Link, Coombe Road, Barker Road, Chatham Path, May Road, Glen Ealy, and home. Three hours ten minutes in total. Perhaps unwisely I went shopping for dinner at the supermarket at Park View, so spent one hour thirty-five minutes of that carrying my groceries! On the path from the southern end of Middle Gap Road to Middle Gap itself, I passed the stream where I last saw a Barking Deer all of twenty years ago. Has anyone seen one on Hong Kong Island since those days? 1 Being a holiday I decided to spend some time in the afternoon researching the Pakhoi (see last month). According to page 90/91 of Greg Leck’s book it left Hong Kong with 28 Britons, and 6 Norwegians on board, and when the ship was captured the Japanese took it to Amoy, from where the passengers were transferred to the Shanghai-area camps. Checking against those camps I see six from Hong Kong at the Great Western Road Camp, of whom one definitely and one maybe or had evacuee families. And at Haiphong Road Camp, thirteen from HK, of whom 9 had evacuee families: Beeken, David William - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp -1940 JR Beeken, Edith Dorothy – Great Western Road Camp - wife of David in Haiphong Road Camp Bell, Robert Barr - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR Dryburgh, John Clunnie - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Hope, Stewart - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Jeacock, Frederick John - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Keown, Richard McArthur - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Lyle, David Laird - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Maybe - JR 1940 Main, Robert - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Moir, Archibald Black - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - JR 1940 Moir, Sarah Black (ANS) - wife of Archibald - Great Western Road Camp - died 22 Dec 44 Munro, Donald - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Nimmo, James - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Yes - JR 1940 Norrie, Robert Brown McGover - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Pattinson, Reginald Kingsley - Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co. - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR Peoples, David - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR Pollock, Samuel James - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes -1940 JR Thomson, John Butler - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Wallace, Robert Cooper - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - JR 1940 I wonder who the other nine were, and what became of them?
May 1st, 2017 Update
Hong Kong Historians (author), France, HKVDC (courtesy Tai Hang Wong), Home & Royal Rifles (courtesy Bill Lake) POW Bracelet (courtesy Sharyn Kreuger) A R Fullerton letter (via Stephen Dowd), Jackson watch (courtesy Craig Mitchell) Chan Sik Tim, OBE (courtesy Micky Chan), Allam Khan, and Allah Rakka Khan papers (courtesy Charles Ingmire)
Many years ago, when an ex-HKRNVR officer passed away, his family kindly sent me the Roll of Honour of the Hong Kong Club which he had in his possession. Many years later this led to the Club mounting a professionally made Roll of Honour on the premises, faithfully reproducing the paper original. One of my long-term projects has been to research each of the individuals represented there. Many are of course very straightforward, old Hong Kong hands lost in the HKVDC or the HKRNVR, or who died in Stanley Camp. But a surprising number were lost far away, in different battlegrounds or at sea. There are even a few whose deaths I have not yet got to the bottom of (they are not recorded in the CWGC files). But this month I got a little closer to one of them.
29 Last month I mentioned that there had been a very interesting find in the hills. I can now reveal that it was an inscribed watch that had belonged to Rifleman Ray D. Jackson, B/68205, of the Royal Rifles of Canada. It was found on the hillside where he was killed. His comrades had initially brought his body down and buried it by the path, from which temporary grave he was reinterred in 1947 - but clearly various bits and pieces were left at the spot where he had actually lost his life. My initial reaction to the find was pride that the watch had been located at the place where I had deduced (in Not The Slightest Chance) that he was lost. But immediately that feeling was replaced with tragedy. The boy was only 21 when he was killed, very much the same age as my oldest son. When he put that watch on his wrist he had all his life to look forward to. Keep an eye on Philip Cracknell’s blog, as I expect he will shortly tell the whole story of how he and a wholly admirable group have returned the watch to the family.
25 Elizabeth Ride let me know of the Chinese Dragons British Lions exhibition at the University of Hong Kong, which will continue for another month. 25 Chan Sik Tim’s (HKVDC) son got in touch, kindly sending a photo of his father. Chan was in 3 Battery, and was one of many local Volunteers who – at the suggestion of their officers – melted into the background after the surrender and were not interned. He notes that he has collected many papers about his father, and: “Most of this info refers to my father’s life and his achievements in HKG, and on top of the list is him being awarded the MBE by her Majesty in 1969. During the 1950’s and 60’s, he was a well known public figure involved in numerous public organisations. One of those being the Chairmanship of the HongKong School Sports Association that re-established the Physical Education programme in all HKG schools that eventually led to him being awarded the MBE.” On their wartime experiences, he notes of his parents that they: “escaped to Macau first, then came back to marry in HKG. The banquet was at the Peninsula Hotel. I have their married Certificate, Chinese style, very elaborate and colourful. They spent the rest of the war in HKG and both sides of the family suffered very badly under the hands of the Japanese. Pretty much lost everything.” Interestingly, Michael Wright of 3 Battery is still with us – I believe he is the last surviving officer from wartime Hong Kong, now 104 years old. 25 Tai Hang Wong reports on the finding of an unusual war relic at the northern end of the steep Pan Long Wan Road in the Clear Water Bay region. He notes: “More than thirty years ago our late maternal uncle told us that this cow shed had been used by the guerrillas during the war years as a makeshift detention and interrogation centre of their captured pro-Japanese elements and thugs. Those found guilty were bought to a beach further down the village to be executed. The reliability of this war relic is confirmed by the old villagers, in particular the two surviving ‘little devils’.”
24 A correspondent made a kind offer: “I have an envelope of a prisoner of war letter addressed to Lieutenant Goldman of 5th AA battery and if you have any relatives contact I would like to send it to them”. This is of course Captain Lawrence ‘Lolly’ Goldman, HKVDC, but unfortunately I have not yet had any contact with his family. Can anyone help? His wife Elizabeth and daughters Elizabeth junior and Pamela were evacuated to Melbourne in 1940, returning to the UK in 1946, but there I lose track of them. 24 David Grant notes: “I am researching the Auxiliary Police in Ireland, what many would call the Black and Tans in Ireland in War of Independence. One of them was a Japanese prisoner and died in 1942 in Hong Kong. You already have him on your database. I don't know if you record further details of the men, but if you do, feel free to use any of this.”
23 Continuing research into Hong Kong Club members who lost their lives during the war, I am down to just two who I cannot identify. But I found a new lead on one I know simply as “A.R. Fullerton”. He is not recorded in CWGC, nor can I find him anywhere else so I assumed he must have left Hong Kong before the outbreak of war. I knew that his family had been evacuated to a flat in St Kilda in 1940, and at this link I discovered a letter to them which he had posted from Victoria, Hong Kong at 4 pm, 17 November 1941 – just three weeks before the invasion. So perhaps he was lost in Hong Kong after all? The only other member I have not been able to locate was ‘A M Barton’. The Bartons were a very big family, and W M Barton was also a Club member, who died of wounds from King’s Road. But I’ve yet to find any records of an A M. Even Barbara Anslow has no memory of anyone of that name, and she knew the family in camp and is still in touch with several of them today. There are still one or two more on the list whose identities I know, but whose records of death I can’t yet find – but I suspect that some of these may not have had British nationality (for example Oliver John Shannon who was apparently killed as a civilian in Manila – possibly American) and therefore are not recorded by CWGC.
20Bill Lakes kindly sent a rather good photo of Lt. Col. William Home of the Royal Rifles from a newspaper clipping.
19 This evening George Cautherley (himself born in Stanley Camp) organised a gathering at the Hong Kong Club to discuss the general question of Hong Kong’s historical archives, and what potential their future might hold. It was certainly a most distinguished group, and on the photo above one can see: Seated, font row, L to R: Chris Munn, Chloe Lai, our host George Cautherley, Vaudine England, Geoff Emerson. Standing, L to R: Philip Cracknell, Robert Bickers, Peter Cunich, Robert Nield, Tony Banham, David Bellis, John Wong. One thing I learned from this assembly of luminaries is that a five-part trilogy is called a quintet. I should have known that! 19 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent a photo of Norman Hoole France, HKVDC, who I note in Not The Slightest Chance was shot by a sniper at Stanley. However, in Sheridan’s diary I found the following entry: “As we were carting some cases from an upper bedroom I discovered a body in a cupboard at the top of the stairs. He had slumped down with a rifle between his knees and his brains had been shot out. Whether it was an accident or not we could decide. However, Tuck recognised the man as Professor France of Hong Kong University, a member of the H.K.V.D.C.” From this, and other notes found by Tai Hang, I think suicide is more likely. For the pictures themselves, the top one shows Mr France and Mrs. Selwyn-Clarke accompanying Madame Soong Ching Ling (Chairman of the China Defence League) boarding a launch (carrying medical supplies in aid of China war efforts) at Central in 1939. The lower picture shows the committee members of the China Defence League in 1938 outside a building on Seymour Road; Norman Hoole France, second from right, was the Honorary Treasurer and Hilda Selwyn-Clarke (third from right) the Honorary Secretary. Tai Hang also sent this link to a set of writing about (or by) the famous writer and HKU student Eileen Chang (the ‘From the Ashes’ link on that page has more about France). France was of course a professor of history at HKU.
18 Bill Lake kindly sent me a newspaper clipping from George Wong’s treason trial, which noted that the Japanese war memorial off Mount Cameron was intended to be the site of mass Hara Kiri following “the expected British invasion.” The base of the war memorial of course still exists, and rumours persist of an ancient Samurai sword buried inside.
17 Richard Keown’s daughter got in touch. Keown was in the Dockyard and was one of those who escaped on the Pakhoi which had sailed from Shanghai for Hong Kong on 20 November 1941. After she discharged her cargo on 28 November, with twenty-eight Britons and six Norwegians on board, she left. But when war came the ship would be intercepted by the Japanese, and taken with her passengers to Amoy and internment. Keown therefore ended up with a number of other Hong Kong Dockyard staff at the Haiphong Road Camp. At some point I must see if I can work out all the names of this group, many of whose wives and children (like my correspondent) would have been evacuated to Australia in 1940.
15 Tai Hang Wong let me know that Galen Perras’s rather good article “Defeat Still Cries Aloud for Explanation: Explaining C Force’s Dispatch to Hong Kong” can be downloaded here.
13Allah Rakka Khan (Punjabis) son-in-law got in touch. He notes that Khan: “moved from Pakistan to the UK in the late 1950s under an invitation letter from Field Marshall Auchinleck, presumably a general letter for those who served under him in the forces (although I have not seen this letter)… From his Certificate of Service which his wife has kept… it appears that he served in Malaya/Hong Kong in WWII as part of the Punjab Regiment. He was from a village in Punjab close to Jhelum which was the Punjab Regimental Centre. After the war this area of course became part of Pakistan.” Khan lived from 1921-1979. He continues: “Amazingly, his brother Allam Khan who was also serving, but whom Allah Rakka had not seen for 4 years, also survived the internment. They were reunited in hospital after their liberation by a nurse who twigged that there were two patients from the same place in the Punjab (called Chakanwali). What a great moment for them that must have been. His widow says that he was not wounded, but I did note on his Service record that there is reference to scars, but that may have been unrelated to the war as he continued in the army until 1956 I think. I think that his health probably suffered greatly as a result of his wartime privations and he died aged 59.” He also kindly sent a photo of the brother, Allam Khan.
10I received a very interesting email noting: “I recently discovered a POW bracelet engraved with the name J. T. Sayer. My uncle served in WWII on a naval ship that I understand took part in retrieving POWs from Japanese camps. A Mr. Jonathan Moffatt suggested that you might be able to provide information that would help me trace the gentleman’s family so that I could give them the bracelet. Barring that, is there somewhere I could send the bracelet? I don’t want to simply throw it out.” The bracelet is that of Corporal John Thomas Sayer, 7261964, Royal Army Medical Corps. He spent the entire POW period at Shamshuipo, and was then presumably repatriated on HMCS Prince Robert. A photo of the bracelet was kindly attached to the email and is reproduced above. I contacted the RAMC museum, but unfortunately they have no leads on the family. Can anyone help? 10 Seeing the note about the Bungalow C bombing last week, Bill Lake kindly sent the relevant part of John Charter’s diary which gives by far the most comprehensive account of the attach from the Stanley Camp side that I have ever seen. It was clearly a very major attack, and it’s a wonder that there were no fatalities outside the bungalow. Others were hit by 50-cal bullets from the strafing, and in at least one case a spent 50-cal cartridge case penetrated someone’s leg! I had often wondered about that when I picked these cases (and their larger brother, the 20mm) up on my local North Norfolk beach as a child. Falling from a fighter’s wings at the rate of 40 or 60 per second, they would have a fair amount of kinetic energy on impact. 10 Jen & Philip Burton, seeing the mention of ‘Darkie’ Elsworth last month, kindly sent a couple of paragraphs about him from WISP (William Sprague’s diary), which I passed to the family. They were very grateful.
4 Ben Wespi, great grandson of Joe Mason (Stanley internee buried in Stanley cemetery) passed through Hong Kong for the Sevens. Mason’s daughter Edith Badger who I corresponded with over many years and at great length, always claimed that he had been responsible for hiding much of Hong Kong’s bullion during the war years. 4 That’s it. The fourth book of my five part trilogy (!) on wartime Hong Kong - “Reduced to a Symbolical Scale”, the evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940 - is finally complete (at least, from my side). Now it’s just a matter of waiting for publication. Hopefully we’ll see it in the summer.
1 Steve Denton sent me an interesting obituary of Norman Colley, RE, who appears to have been the man of that name who was on the Lisbon Maru. Colley passed away as recently as 9 February 2016, so somehow I missed contacting him. Steve also sent me a couple of POW poems, including one from Colley, and the well-known ‘A Prisoner’s Prayer’ by Roger Rothwell of the Middlesex (illustrated). 1 The South China Morning Post carried an interesting and timely warning on our unexploded ordnance.