Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation.
This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
MacLean & Banham (author's collection), Eric Calcutt (courtesy Andrew Calcutt), Lam Shui-pang (HK Government)
Lowe Bingham book, Bryden, Japanese sketch map (all via author)
Stanley comparison (courtesy TK Wong), Jitts grave concentration details (CWGC)
I wish I could recall my late mother’s original words. We were talking about her Second World War experience many years ago and she mentioned that for those years everyone’s lives were dominated by an overwhelmingly huge and frightening problem which wasn’t their fault, and which they could do nothing about (aside from follow government instructions). And in a way it was very liberating, despite the obvious dangers. All the little problems and decisions of life dropped away, becoming secondary to survival. Most things were simply put on hold. Perhaps in some ways that’s how Covid-19 feels today – a reminder of how things were 75 or more years ago.
31 Tan notes: “Not sure you aware the Siu Sai Wan stone house on news recently. It actually is a searchlight shelter built by British before war. That's the only one I know still exist in original condition.”
29 Bill Lake also notes: “Going through some of my loose papers during this spell of self isolation due to the Covid-19, I came across what looks to be an ‘in ship’ magazine for a hospital ship called HMNZHS MANGANUI. I was surprised to find something in there about the two BAAG agents with the same number 67.” This is a topic which has fascinated many people who have studied BAAG. Unfortunately there are no clues as to the author of the piece, but it reads: “You have read or heard about the patriots of many lands – people, who, not counting the price they would have to pay if discovered, continued throughout the war to play their part by means of sabotage, espionage, etc., which helped (sometimes in a small and sometimes large measure) to the defeat of our enemies. Let me introduce you to two people who worked behind the scenes in Hong Kong. Both were members of the BAAG (British Army Aid Group) – a group who worked helping the POWs in Hong Kong Camps by arranging escapes, providing guides through enemy held territory, besides obtaining information of a military nature which was of value to the Allies in the South China area. The full activities of the ‘BAAG’ will one day be told by a more versatile pen than mine – I can only relate for your interest the story of these two men. I met both in Stanley Prison, Hong Kong under the following circumstances. The first after his conviction and the second before trial. They never met each other and did not know of each others existence. One day towards the end of 1943 I was working in the Prison Garden and a Japanese prisoner, newly convicted, spoke to me. (Korean and Formosan prisoners were classified as Japanese) I had heard by prison wireless that a Japanese was on remand awaiting trial for espionage. All the prison inmates were certain he would be executed. But, here was the new prisoner having escaped the supreme penalty by a merciful providence and sentenced to 15 years. He told me that his surname was Wu and his number 67 in the BAAG. A couple of months later he was transferred to Canton en route to Japan. The last time I saw him he said ‘They will beat me again. Please pray for me every day.’ The second I met in August 1944. At this time owing to illness I had to enter the prison hospital, although the only treatment the Nips gave to sick folk was a cut in one’s rice ration. A Chinese remand prisoner was in the same ward and I recognised him as a Police interpreter before the Japanese attack on the Colony. Recognition was mutual. He told me his story. He was No.67 in the BAAG and knew what his sentence would be when he was tried. ‘I know they will give me the axe. Will you please see my wife is cared for when the war is over.’ I promised. His surmise proved to be correct and he paid the extreme penalty. These people must not be forgotten. As one 67 passed on another took his place – they knew what to expect if caught, but did not falter. I pray for you both – No. 67.” 29 Bill Lake shared three pages from what appears to be the original manuscript - or a copy of the same - of Stewart’s “Little red book” (“The Record of the Actions of the Hongkong Volunteer Defence Corps in the Battle for Hong Kong”), first published in 1953.
28Today should have been my last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club, already postponed twice! Unfortunately on the 25th the Club – like all the main clubs in Hong Kong – was asked by the government to close for the time being to slow the spread of Covid-19. Oh well. We’ll hopefully be able to restart walks in October. 28 Sergeant Edward Bull’s (RAOC) son introduced himself on facebook and sent a copy of the citation of his father’s Military Medal: “For conspicuous leadership, initiative and devotion to duty. On evening 15 December 1941, this NCO was placed in command of one of the pill boxes on the North East face of the Island. Although this was a duty he could have little expected and one for which he had no training whatsoever, he displayed an exemplary keenness and energy in carrying it out. He had complete control of his men, was ready and willing at all times to carry out orders, and he sent in useful reports on the situation during the three days he commanded the pill box. During the period 21/25 Dec 41 when the Bn HQ was at GILMANS GARAGE and the SOLDIERS AND SAILORS HOME Sgt. BULL was indefatigable in arranging reliefs for sentries, collecting and forming new parties at short notice to man pill boxes. He showed constant cheerfulness and ability to do whatever was asked of him. All this took place at a time of extreme mental and physical stress due to casualties, lack of sleep and shortage of rations, Sgt. BULL displayed great energy and a high sense of duty. He was a tower of strength to his superiors and a shining example to his subordinates.”
27 Ronnie Taylor has put together a good page about the friendship between Bill Spooner and Mickey Myles who ‘met’ in the sea off the Lisbon Maru. 27 Elizabeth Ride is busy at the moment, so I promised I would add some “Stories from the Ride Collection (Supplemental)” posts to the Facebook BAAG page. Today I chose Anthony Eden’s statement to the House of Commons of 10 March 1942. I think it is good background for the readers, and of course the ‘eye-witnesses’ referred to are relevant to the story too: “Out of regard for the feelings of the many relations of the victims, the Government have been unwilling to publish any account of Japanese atrocities in Hong-kong until these had been confirmed beyond any possibility of doubt. Unfortunately there is no longer room for doubt. The Government are now in possession of statements by reliable eye-witnesses who succeeded in escaping from Hong-kong. Their testimony establishes the fact that the Japanese Army at Hong-kong perpetrated against their helpless military prisoners and the civilian population, without distinction of race or colour, the same kind of barbarities which aroused the horror of the civilized world at the time of the Nanking massacre of 1937. It is known that 50 officers and men of the British Army were bound hand and foot, then bayoneted to death. (Cries of “Shame!”) It is known that 10 days after the capitulation the wounded were still being collected from the hills and the Japanese were refusing permission to bury the dead. It is known that women, both Asiatic and European, were raped and murdered, and one entire Chinese district was declared a brothel, regardless of the status of the inhabitants. All the survivors of the garrison, including Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese, were herded into a camp consisting of wrecked huts, without windows, doors, lighting, or sanitation. By the end of January 150 cases of dysentery had occurred in the camp, but no drugs or medical facilities were supplied. The dead had to be buried in the corner of the camp. The Japanese guards are utterly callous and repeated requests by General Maltby for an interview with the Japanese Commander had been curtly refused. This, presumably, means that the Japanese High Command have connived at the conduct of their forces. The Japanese Government stated at the end of February that the number of prisoners in Hong-kong were:- British, 5,072; Canadian, 1,689; Indian, 3,829, and others, 357; a total of 10,947. Most of the European residents, including some seriously ill, have been interned, and, like the military prisoners, are being given only a little rice and water, and occasionally scraps of other food. There is some reason to believe that conditions have slightly improved recently, but the Japanese Government have refused their consent to a visit to Hong-kong of the representative of the protecting Power. No permission has yet been granted for a visit by the International Red Cross Committee. The Japanese have, in fact, announced that they require all foreign consuls to withdraw from all territory they have invaded since the outbreak of war. It is clear that their treatment of prisoners and civilians will not bear independent investigation. I have no information as to the condition of our prisoners of war and civilians in Malaya. The only report available is a statement by the Japanese official news agency on March 3 to the effect that 77,699 Chinese have been arrested and subjected to what is described as severe examination. It is not difficult to imagine what that entails. It is most painful to have to make such a statement to the House. Two things will be clear from it to the House, the country, and to the world. The Japanese claim that their forces are animated by a lofty code of chivalry, ‘bushido,’ is nauseating hypocrisy; that is the first thing. The second is that the enemy must be utterly defeated. (Loud cheers.) The House will agree with me that we can best express our sympathy with the victims of these appalling outrages by redoubling our efforts to ensure his utter and overwhelming defeat. (Cheers.)” Elizabeth then sent me a copy of the telephoned report from Ride, which informed much of this speech.
25A correspondent asked why Geoffrey Jitts, 3 Coy HKVDC, was buried at Pillbox 8. He was of course buried at Pillbox 2, but while gathering the appropriate documents it occurred to me that many people might not be aware that the CWGC in the last couple of years has done an excellent job of adding grave concentration details to their website. There’s a lot of very valuable information here, and I must find time to go through all the Hong Kong fatalities. In Jitts’s case it’s clear that someone simply misread the ‘2’ on the concentration document as an ‘8’. 25 Derek Bailey (whose family were interned in Shanghai, and who used to teach my children at Island School in Hong Kong) very kindly sent me this link to MacArthur’s account of the occupation of Japan. It’s huge, but I expect it will be essential reading as his ‘Special Task E’ was “Recovery, relief, and repatriation of Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees without delay.” Derek also kindly sent a copy of the “first sixteen issues of the newspaper published in the Chapei Civil Assembly Center, Shanghai, China.” Chapei was the camp his family were held in.
24 I received the first newsletter from Roger Townsend at FEPOW 75 today. It begins: “This is my first FEPOW 75 Newsletter: to tell you about our plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repatriation of 20,000 former Far East Prisoners of War to Southampton over the winter of 1945. Nor should we forget the 17,000 who returned to Liverpool – and especially those many thousands who never returned at all.” And then specifically about Hong Kong: “As an example, we have been researching the story of Lt. Jimmy Whitham of the 1st Bn Middlesex Regt, who was one of the nearly 1000 victims when the Japanese Hell-Ship ‘Lisbon Maru’ was torpedoed on 1 October 1942. He had been captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, when his only son was less than a month old and both he and his American mother were interned in Stanley Camp for the next three years. Shortly after they were released in 1944 and returned to British Columbia, that little boy also drowned in a creek. I thought that might be the end of the story, but I found out a month ago that his widow is still alive, aged 103, and living on the Welsh borders! Her story alone would make the most amazing biography, but there have been others and I would love to hear of more.” In fact the Whithams (Beatrice & Jonathan) were repatriated to the States on 29 June 1942, but I hadn’t heard that story about the son before. Whitham was not a professional soldier; he was a member of the HKVDC drafted into the Middlesex on 8 December 1941.
23 Today I received notice from the producers that Channel 4 are planning to re-run My Grandparents War with Mark Rylance on Saturday 4th April at 19.00. I must admit I still haven’t watched my copy, though I am assured it is very good!
20 Today I had a very pleasant lunch with the Hong Kong Club deputy manager and Philip Cracknel. This has become an annual ritual to ‘thank’ the two of us for the historical hikes we do with the Club.
18Doug Price posted a great photo of Eucliffe (illustrated) on facebook today. I often get asked about the building, but although it was still standing when I first arrived in Hong Kong it had unfortunately been demolished by the time I realised its importance.
16Ronald Clements notes that he has been: “writing a biography for, Deidre Taylor/Larcombe… Deidre's biography, The Girl in the Drawer, has now been published in the UK under her married name Dee Larcombe. We took the liberty of including your name and that of your website in the acknowledgement.” Deidre was of course interned at Stanley as a child. Ronald continued: “In terms of adding to the sum of knowledge of the war in HK/internment there is little, if anything, new. With Dee being so young in the camp and neither of her parents talking much about their experiences, I had to rely heavily on the accounts of others to paint the pictures of life in the camps. It does, of course, recount the lives of some of those interned - Alfred and Elizabeth Taylor, Leo Borisoff and Nadia Seraphina - and what happened to them subsequently, told through Dee's own story (making something of her life after a very difficult childhood) which may be of more general interest.” I’ll certainly buy a copy.
15 Today the HKVCA announced that Ralph MacLean, Royal Rifles of Canada, had passed away. I met Ralph just a few years ago when he visited Hong Kong with a group of Canadians. I took them for a walk around Wong Nai Chung Gap, and to my amazement he completed the whole route with us. I thought he would live forever. 15 Patricia O'Sullivan has been studying the HK Dockyard Police for some years and notes that she is: “giving a paper at a conference of the Naval Dockyards Society next month, and want to include a brief account of their role in the Battle for HK.” I hope it goes ahead. Many conferences seem to have been cancelled recently. 15 Today I finally managed a (relatively short) walk up the hills! It’s just over nine weeks since my last one. What a strange year this is turning out to be.
13 The Canadian Consulate kindly informed me today that the Hong Kong government are taking steps to prevent vandalism of Lawson’s Bunker. The area had seen some graffiti and so forth from one of the nearby international schools a while back, but I believe that has been dealt with.
11Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me a dossier of all the BAAG documents relating to the Lisbon Maru. 11 Lam Shui-pang’s son got in touch again. He is certain that his father took part in the Battle of Hong Kong in the HKVDC, but we cannot find any documentation proving it. We know he was a Clerk VIA in the Statistical Department of the government, and that he had served in the HKVDC pre-war. If anyone has any documentation covering his wartime services we would be grateful.
10The HKVCA have announced the availability of their Spring newsletter. 10 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent details of Kho Kin (高健) of the East River Guerrilla Column (東江縱隊) to me and Elizabeth Ride 10 Ronnie Taylor kindly sent me the complete WO 361/1160 for Oeyama Camp, which lists the medical condition of many ex-HK POWs. 10 Jill Fell asked for details on John Mackenzie Jack (HKVDC) who knew her uncle. I sent her what I had noted in the Gittins books.
9 My copy of The Lowe Bingham Story arrived today. Not the sort of book you might expect to have a chapter about the war in Hong Kong, but it has. Generally it retells a generic story (ably enough), and adds the names of HKVDC members who worked for that company (and some of their competitors). More interestingly, it has a photo that includes Eric Bryden (second from right), and a Japanese sketch map with an unexpected story. Who was that ‘captured Japanese officer’? We all know about the wounded Japanese officer found and brought to St Albert’s by John Frelford (Middlesex), and there was a private Japanese soldier who defected to the British just before hostilities, but the implication here is an ex-Hong Kong officer captured – perhaps – on Guadalcanal?
6 Andrew Calcutt (see last month) kindly sent a couple of great photos of his father in uniform, one solo and another with four RA mates.
2 TK Wong kindly sent me a 1987 companion photo to the pre-war one of Stanley (see last month). While the angle isn’t perfect, you can see that a number of the pre-war structures survived. 2 Steve Denton dropped me a line to say that Lieutenant Harry Spong, Hong Kong Signal Coy – according to his POW Index Card – had very famous parents! His father was William Tell, and his mother Anne Boleyn. I’m surprised this didn’t happen more often. On a more serious note, the CWGC fortunately gets his parents’ names right here.
1Yet another American bomb has been found near Queen’s Road East. The last one I reported here was uncovered on February 2014. I wonder if a whole stick might have been mis-fused? 1 I heard today that we have lost another one of our Canadian veterans. Private Robert Barter, E29987, Royal Rifles of Canada passed away peacefully on 28 February.
March 1st, 2020 Update
Captain Hudson alone, and with colleagues (courtesy Hudson family), William Dewberry (via Ronnie Taylor)
Hudson family with Sawyer map (author), Hong Kong Signals Coy (via Brian Finch), Stanley comparison photo (courtesy TK Wong)
Japanese memorial service (via facebook), Dark Days cover (author), Ralph Shrigley (courtesy Shrigley family).
It was from the now infamous historian of the Third Reich, David Irving, that I learned the importance of seeking out the families of people of interest in historical research. Before he admitted being an out and out Nazi, he spent ten years working in Germany learning the language, and befriending wives and families of Wehrmacht officers. From them he retrieved diaries, letters, papers, and memoires. These gave him a depth of sources unmatched by any archives at the time. While Irving is now well beyond the pale, the same techniques of contacting families and asking what documents they might have, have served me well – as this month’s Captain Hudson story (see the fifteenth) relates.
28 Today I discovered to my delight that Gunner Eric Calcutt of 5th AA Regiment, 7 Heavy Battery, is still alive and well. He was on the third draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan and will be 99 years old this year.
27 Colin Standish kindly sent his grandfather’s file from veteran archives. They consist of the first page of his POW Index Card followed by two pages of medical records, apparently from camp. I have only ever seen one other set like this.
26 Today’s ‘Stories from the Ride Collection’ on the BAAG facebook page covers the organisation’s attempts to warn British and American forces that British POWs were being transported upon the Lisbon Maru
22 Philip Cracknell has updated his account of Robert Grindley Southerton at Stanley Internment Camp. He notes: “This is a very poignant story of a family living in Shanghai before the war. They were separated by the outbreak of war, the husband was incarcerated at Kowloon YMCA, then Kowloon Hotel and then Stanley Camp. The wife and son were not allowed to get off the SS Yu Sang in HK Harbour. The ship was ordered to Singapore with others on Sunday 7 December 1941. She put in at Manila on 9 December. The wife and son were later incarcerated at Santo Tomas Camp. The eldest daughter was at the family home in Shanghai. None of them knew what had happened to the others or even if they were still alive. Click the link to read their story and experience of prison camps in Hong Kong, Manila and Shanghai.”
21 My copy of Dark Days arrived. At first glance I don’t expect there will be anything very useful there, but you never know.
19Today’s post to the BAAG page describes their Communications network
17 Brian Finch again sent something of interest – an account of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru by John Murphy of the Royal Signals, and a good photo of the entire unit. 17 Zafrani Arifin posted a very interesting photo of a memorial service for the Japanese 38th Division on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. If we could count the number of white cremation urns at the front of the hall we might have a better lower estimate of Japanese losses in the battle.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent me a better photo of William Dewberry, Middlesex (see last month). 15 Today I had a long-anticipated meeting with the family of Captain John Hudson of A Company, Middlesex. We had been in communication for a while, but the birth of a granddaughter in Hong Kong was a good excuse for them to visit. They very kindly brought me a large set of documents – including the original and massive Sawyer map of 1941 Hong Kong (see September 2012). Most importantly they brought a number of A Company rolls and associated documents which have allowed me to complete a very accurate roll, with all key details for the entire company. If only all company commanders had kept such records, and if only I had contact with all the relevant families! Other photos they provided were of Captain Hudson himself, and several group portraits. The most interesting of the latter was labelled: “At Corporals Club Dance, Peninsula Hotel July 1941. L to R, myself, Lt Hancock, a visitor, Bandmaster Kifford, RQMS Aherne. Note: Sash round tummy is a bright red.” Hudson of course survived the war, as did Francis Hancock. I corresponded with the latter for several years; he was detached from the Middlesex and attached to the Hong Kong Mule Corps and had many interesting stories to tell. William Kifford was of course killed on 19 December 1941 in Wong Nai Chung Gap with Lawson (he had been attached for intelligence duties). The name of RQMS Aherne rings a bell, but I believe he must have left Hong Kong before hostilities.
14 The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence contacted me today saying: “The museum is currently producing a video titled ‘A Typical Day in Lyemun Barracks’ which is an animation base on the oral account of Sergeant Andrew Salmon. The video aims to illustrate the lives of British soldiers in Hong Kong in the 1930s. It will be showed in one of our galleries in the new permanent exhibition of HKMCD which is scheduled to open later this year. The exhibition is an educational and non-profit making one, no extra admission fee will be charged.” Salmon’s son kindly agreed to allow them to use a photo of his father. 14 Dave Deptford notes: “Currently on eBay: Five medal group - 39-45 pacific, war, defence and CPLSM to Michael Patrick Rogers (Rodgers). Born 23.11.1903, enlisted as A35 on 28.3.1928, Sgt 1.7.1940. Interned Stanley. Sub Insp 1.1.1946, Inspector 1.10.1946, CPLSM 27.3.1946. Retired 30.9.1949 as Inspector. Starting price GBP 150.00.”
12 The nineteenth Story from the Ride Collection posted today describes the rescue by junk of a Russian inventor, Wiliam Vallessuk, and two Norwegians, Ragnar Brodersen and Captain Halfdan Kvamsø.
8 Philip Cracknell’s latest blog covers 965 Defence Battery – an under-documented unit if there ever was one!
6 The BBC website today carried an interesting story about Captain Godfrey Bird’s son, who was an internee in the Philippines (I covered that story in Reduced to a Symbolical Scale).
5 Walter George Hicks’s (Hong Kong Chindits) son got in touch. He notes that he was: “Brother of Harold James Hicks, brother in law to Norman Broadbridge, Charles McDonald and Ron Fitzgerald [who] all ended up as POW’s… except my father. Even his sisters (except the youngest who managed to go to Macau with their mother) were sent to internment camp. My father is listed in your site as a non-uniformed civilian (‘Eurasian, aka W Kwok’). Yes, he was Eurasian and Kwok was his mother’s name. Knowing my father (a survivor) he probably ‘fibbed’ to avoid internment. Over the years, I have heard so many different stories about their experiences. Now, I just want to tie up a few loose ends. My father said he eventually managed to leave HK… to China and India and hence, fought in Burma. It’s the period from the invasion to his leaving that is a gap.” Well, I very much doubt he ‘fibbed’; he just used his initiative and was then courageous and skilful enough to escape Hong Kong and join British lines in China. Reporting to BAAG, he was one of 128 resourceful young Hong Kong men formed into a Chindit column to fight behind Japanese lines in Burma (attached to the Gloucesters). His sister Irene married Ron Fitzgerald (a prison officer before internment) in Stanley. 5 The eighteenth edition of Stories from the Ride Collection on the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) facebook page featured the BAAG junk.
2 Lieutenant Ralph James Shrigley’s family (he died under interrogation on 28 June 1944 aged 46 years, probably in fact killing himself to prevent giving information away) sent me some personal details and a good photo. He was born 03 Oct 1898 in Hamilton, Scotland and lived at Rosevale, Kilwinning, Renfrew, Ayrshire. His parents were William Henry Shrigley and Jean nee MacMillan. In the Great War he served as a Private of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers - Army Number: 53664. He was discharged on 14 Jan 1919 with a disability (gunshot wound to left leg).
1 TK Wong kindly identified last month’s mystery photo of the back of a waterside village as Stanley.
February 1st, 2019 Update
Ohasi Prison Camp survivors, Sappeer Murphy's cup (both courtesy Lincoln Keays), Tamar PO's Mess (courtesy Clive Connor, via Brian Finch)
Back of Village, and concert program (both courtesy Andrew Holland), another Osborn comic (courtesy Dick Yielding)
Apologies if I have made a comment like this before, but I managed to start the year in hospital having minor but very awkward surgery. I’ll be in recovery mode until early February, but the reason for bringing it up is not so much to excuse the relatively short entry this month, but to mention that records show that one of the Hong Kong POWs had a very similar problem soon after the surrender. Now, I can survive because I have access to drugs and sterile utensils, because I live in a clean environment, because I have good nutrition, and because I have a wife kind enough to help change the dressing twice per day! But it must have been unbearably miserable in the context of a POW camp. Having said that, the POW in question – although he was on the January 1942 list of ‘not expected to make a full recovery within 12 months - not only survived but within nine months was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs from HK to Japan!
29Richard Keays’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) got back in touch, kindly sending both a group photo taken of the Canadians at their liberation from Sendai POW camp #4B, Ohashi, Iwate, and a photo of what appears to be a boxing trophy. In the former his father is sitting in the second row, third from the right as you look at the photo, wearing a cap. For the latter he notes: “My father brought it back from the war and said it was given to him by someone he befriended in prison camp. The inscription on the trophy reads, SPR. W. Murphy R.E. Bantam Weight H.K. 1939.” This was William Murphy, who was on the first draft to Japan, but I can’t work out either how he kept the cup throughout the fighting and internment, but also met Keays! 29 The last Story from the Ride Papers for this month covered the establishment of AHQ Samfou.
25A researcher looking into Ernest Job, HKVDC, got in touch. I helped with a few details. Apparently Job was an ex-pupil at Chafyn Grove School, Bourne Avenue, Salisbury.
22William Dewberry’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo of Dewberry’s wedding (illustrated) and a shot of the Middlesex Drums with the Adjutant, Chattey. I have published the latter image previously, in October 2017, but it’s well worth repeating. 22 Today’s edition of Stories from the Ride Papers covered BAAG’s Establishment of Forward post Saikung.
18 Today I should have led the Hong Kong Club walkers on Cadogan-Rawlinson’s Last Stand, but unfortunately because of the health issues noted above, we had to cancel.
17Ron Holland’s son (see last month) very kindly sent a number of photos from his father’s collection. This included one of the back of a fishing village. Can anyone identify it? The others were pages from Shamshuipo Camp concert party programs. A particularly nice one includes many HKRNVR signatures, and another incorporated a skit by Osmond Skinner (Mark Rylance’s grandfather, who was covered in last year’s TV program). 17 Frode Olsen kindly noted: “Happy Chinese New Year! I am very pleased to let you know, that the translation of my book about the Danish Volunteers is just around the corner. Yesterday I received this article including a very kind interview.”
12 The January Java Journal included an obituary of Barbara Anslow, with a mention of her book ‘Tin Hats and Rice’. Ron Freer also had a good article, as did signalman Kenneth Edward Whittenham’s daughter who is involved in the forthcoming Lisbon Maru documentary.
10In the last day or two I’ve given some minor assistance to the author of a paper detailing Second World War Military Censorship Hand Stamps of the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong. Rather a niche topic perhaps, but surprisingly interesting. 10 A correspondent notes that he would like to visit Osaka #1B. Has anyone been to the location before, and could advise what’s there now and how best to get there?
8 Stories from the Ride Collection #15, on the BAAG facebook page, describes the setting up of AHQ Waichow.
5 George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale on eBay of letters relating to Sapper James Boxwell, RE, who was on the first draft to Japan. 5 ‘Monkey’ Stewart’s family kindly sent a couple of photos of their recent meeting with Fang Li and the Lisbon Maru documentary team.
4 Thanks to an interesting exchange on faceook, I now have a reasonably complete list of Russians in the HKVDC. After seeing it and adding a few names, I remembered that ‘the smuggled list’ actually breaks them out as a national group too (at least, those who survived the fighting).
3 Bob Sawyer contacted me again (see last month) with his father’s full story of his abortive escape, and more details about the loss of his friend Corporal Handel Ashton Fisher, RAVC. Fisher had married a Chinese lady shortly before the war, and was of course killed in the slit trench outside the Battlebox along with several others (Sawyer somehow survived unscathed). Post-war, Fisher’s wife asked where her husband had been buried. Sawyer told her he had been buried in the remains of the trench itself, and to his amazement she wrote back shortly afterwards to say that she had found his body and had it buried in Stanley. When asked how she had identified it, she replied: “but it was so easy. The day that Bud left home for the last time, he was in such a hurry that he left his false teeth behind. I only had to try them on all the skulls that were in the ground until I found the only one that fitted.” As far as possible, CWGC records seem to back up everything that Sawyer wrote. 3 ‘Tooti’ Begg’s family contacted me today. I had previously been in touch with his wife’s family (she of course was unfortunate enough to be murdered at St Stephen’s at Stanley). They sent me an image of his gravestone, showing that he died in 1967.
2 Dick Yielding has found a second edition of the Victor Comic, dated 1977, which shows the Victoria Cross action of John Osborn, VC (Winnipeg Grenadiers). He notes that: “They seem to have the uniforms a little more true to life in this one…”, which is true – but you have to wonder why they used the same story twice.
1 Clive Connor - son of Herbert Connor (RN, LM) – got in touch via Brian Finch, and quoting this website: “This is link to page containing many photos of POW’s in Japan. My father is in the 12th photo down titled ‘Nippon Express Co., Hyogo port branch’. He is 3rd from left… In the photograph of HMS Tamar PO’s Mess on Christmas 1940 Dad is 4th from the left. I would not be surprised that many of the other PO’s in this photograph might have ended up on the Lisbon Maru.”
January 1st, 2020 Update
New French Memorial and Stanley Service (author), Wall's medals (courtesy Jane O'Keefe)
Saiwan Canadian Service and Program (author), Lawson's original grave (author's collection)
Banham & Rylance (Channel 4, via Simon Gooch), Osborn comic (courtesy Dick Yielding), Beacom POW tags (courtesy Elias van der Pol)
Well, that’s it for another year. Tomorrow starts 2020, and that year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the reoccupation of Hong Kong. We need some positive mood in the SAR at the moment, so perhaps we can – for once – have a proper commemoration!
30Brian Finch sent some photos of Herbert Conner (RN, Lisbon Maru), including one of him and his fellow POs celebrating Christmas in 1940 in the HMS Tamar Petty Officers’ Mess.
29 I hear that it is likely a Lisbon Maru memorial will be created at the National Memorial Arboretum. I will add details as they become available.
27 Vic Ient has published (as an eBook) “These Valiant Men”, the story of eight British servicemen – including his father and five others from Hong Kong – in World War II in the Far East. It is also available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/These-Valiant-Men-British-Servicemen-ebook/dp/B081Z6SNWP/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=these+valient+men+ient&qid=1577765416&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmr0
21 Today we published Stories from the Ride Collection #13: “The spirit of Hong Kong”. These were the inspirational concluding lines from a speech on the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps given by Lindsay Ride at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1967.
19Philip Cracknell has published a very interesting blog about Sir Edward Des Voeux. No regular reader of these pages will need more information about his role and death in Hong Kong, but Philip points out how little else we know about him. All I could add (from earlier worries about exactly the same issue) is that there are no obvious records for him in the London Gazette, but Charterhouse school lists him in their Roll of Honour.
18 On the Stanley Group, John Fitzgerald’s grandson made contact. Fitzgerald was IC the Stanley Platoon HKVDC (a platoon entirely made up of Stanley prison guards). His wife and two daughters (one of whom was this correspondent’s mother) had been evacuated to Australia in 1940. In my files I have this note: "Sergeant John Hudson, Stanley Platoon: 'Then the nightmare came at 8.50pm on Xmas Eve. They attacked the Village with small tanks and thousands of troops, it was hell let loose, machine guns everywhere, some of the Volunteers defended the left of the Village and the Mary Knoll, but the attack came direct for us from the Beach and Lower Beach Road. For 3 ½ hours we fought so, with lulls between, then they would come on again screaming their heads off, just to be mowed down. By this time we had lost McLeod-Carr-Gowland with Foster, Cottrell and Stevens missing. Major Forsyth i/c had been killed, so Fitz-Gerald was i/c, I told him we had better fall back to the first Bungalow overlooking the Village, as we could hear firing and hand grenades bursting back by the Prison, they had managed to break thru along the Beach.' From a letter written 30 August 45, kindly supplied by Hudson’s daughter Rebecca via Brian Edgar, 16 June 2012." 18 William Wall’s niece (he was HKPF) made contact again, this time asking me to identify her uncle’s medals. Well, I know next to nothing about such things so immediately farmed the question out to Dave Deptford (who has forgotten more about such things than I have, er, hold on, I knew I came in here for some reason…) and Dave very kindly answered all her questions.
17 George Edmond Wilkinson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch.
16 Walking down from the summit of High West today I noticed the broken nose of a .303 right next to the path at the point some ten metres above (and perhaps fifty metres north of) the old Peak Butts. The wild pigs have done some useful work clearing the vegetation at that point, and with five minutes I’d found a further five broken bullets. I suppose they must all have overflown the butts. I was instantly minded of an entry in my late father’s diary upon firing a Sten gun for the first time: “I should not like to have been someone standing above and slightly to the right of my target”.
13 Today the French Consulate kindly invited me to join their memorial service at Stanley, made more important this year as they were unveiling an updated version of the stone there that memorializes French losses in Hong Kong during the war. In 2017 I was peripherally involved in researching some of these new details, and it was very satisfying to see the very professional result. A choir from the French International School was in attendance and did a really good job.
11Martin Heyes notes: “Thought you might be interested in this photo of a scarf owned by the daughter of the late Lance Bombardier ‘Tommy’ Atkins, formerly of 8 Coastal Regt, Royal Artillery. He fought at Bokhara Bty & under Major Templer at Stanley in Dec 1941. Apparently he & some of his chums had these scarves made - the letters stand for ‘Japanese Labour Camp Survivors Association’.” I have never heard of the JLCSA before, but a quick check with the IWM confirms their existence. 11 The HKVCA kindly let me know that their latest newsletter is ready. 11 Today I published the twelfth of the “Stories from the Ride Collection”. Today’s subject – following on from last week - was BAAG intelligence reports on Conditions in Occupied Hongkong. These examples were intended to simply demonstrate the enormous breadth and depth of BAAG’s reports. They covered Electricity, Gas, Water, Tramway service, Bus service, Private cars, Ferry services, Railways, Coal supply, Firewood supply, Population, Registration of persons, Food, Cement works, Dockyards, Fuel, Shipping, and Bombing raids.
10 Richard Yielding has kindly continued to send me bits and pieces of his Hong Kong literary collection. While most of it is familiar to me, he has found a couple of ‘new’ ones, but today he outdid himself with a copy of the Victor comic from 1963. It’s the story of Osborn, VC, and it is just outstandingly wrong in almost every way and yet… quite compelling. How funny that I may have read it all those years ago as a precocious four-year-old when it first came out! My favourite quote, from a rather unhappy looking Japanese NCO: “We will soon cut down the numbers of the English pigs!” Though – fair enough – Osborn was of course indeed English, born just a few miles from my birthplace in Norfolk. 10 Martin Heyes tells me that the Jubilee Battery (underneath Mount Davis) has been restored. That shows how out of touch I am. I had no idea. I’ll see if I can take a look before Christmas.
9Today I had a very enjoyable “High Tea” with the current British military attaché in Beijing. I was actually very pleased, because although the Canadian Consulate has always been very good about memorialising the events of 1941 – and even the Americans and others have shown an interest – until today the British have been utterly absent. Hopefully this presages a genuine change of heart!
8 Steve Denton has helpfully researched the number of Lisbon Maru survivors left at Shanghai and has raised it from the 42 I previously listed to a more accurate 47. 8 Today Desmond Lau posted (on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) a postal commemorative of the first anniversary of the Japanese occupying Hong Kong (illustrated). 8 Beautiful sunny weather – though cool – for this morning’s 72nd annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan Cemetery, also marking the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack. There was a good turnout, and Philip Herbert (who also attended) showed me an interesting link to Sherborne School’s Role of Honour. It is very well done and shows the global nature of the war. For Hong Kong connections there’s Whitham on page 3, and John Grayburn VC (nephew, I believe of Vandaleur Grayburn of HSBC) on page 1 and William Hall (Royal Scots) and Donald Sandilands (Rajputs) on page 2.
7The latest journal of Close Encounters in War has been published. I have assisted them in the past and appreciate their dedication to detail. While obviously it’s not directly related to Hong Kong’s war time experiences, I thought some readers might be interested.
6 Ha! First thing this morning, at my seven a.m., I had a Skype interview with Canadian TV. I was quite pleased with it. Answered every question in a single take. Was remarkably articulate for the time of day. It was only when I saw my final (and very short) appearance that I realized I had been still wearing the same shirt I’d slept in! Not surprisingly they gave the rather-better-turned-out (and at least equally articulate) Mike Babin rather more screen time. The end result can be seen here. 6 In relation to a request I did a little research into the First Nation members of C Force. Now, I’m by no means an expert in this subject and may not have got this quite right, but at first pass my count is 52 – a surprisingly high number. 6 Jon Reid – in finalizing his book about his father Captain John Reid, RCAMC - made me chuckle today. He had made the same mistake I have made so many times, of putting a quote into his work and thinking: “I’ll put the full citation in later. There’s no way I’ll forget where that came from.” It’s so easily done, but 100,000 words later of course you forget. Note to self: Always add the citation at the same moment you add the quote. 6 A researcher and collector in Holland notes: “I found your website researching a group of POW items I have belonging to M.F. Beacom. He was a member of the DDC and was POW in Akenobe camp. I have a ww2 collection that focusses mostly on the “life behind barbed wire” during ww2. I use the collection mainly for exhibitions and education. If you wish I can send you some pictures of Beacom’s items.” He kindly sent me a number of photos, of which perhaps the most interesting was the set of Michael Francis Beacom’s POW number (241) tiles.
5 Lance Corporal Kenneth Frederick Sawyer (RAVC) son kindly got in touch. Sawyer is a gentleman I have been interested in for some time, as not only was he an accomplished artist in camp, he was also a recaptured escapee (see May).
4 The Mark Rylance documentary (about his grandfather, Osmond Skinner, who fought with the HKVDC and was wounded at Stanley) was broadcast today. I was surprised by how many emails I received from people who had watched it out of general interest - family, old school friends and so forth - and then to their amazement seen me (and I believe Philip Cracknell as well, but as I have not yet seen the show myself I can’t be sure!) It was well reported in the press, as in this Telegraph example. By the way, what you see is Mark and me at the Peninsula where we sat at a table going through documents. Hopefully it appeared like a single take with multiple camera angles. In fact, though, it took quite a number of takes as they wanted five views (me looking at Mark, Mark looking at me, over my shoulder, over Mark’s shoulder, and close ups of the documents themselves) without cameras being visible in any shots. So we actually had a continuity lady who did nothing but track the documents (did they start face up or face down, did Mark pass to me or did I pass to Mark, where were they put down - and again, face up or face down - and in which order) so we could be sure it was the same each time. 4 Today I published the “Stories from the Ride Collection #11: BAAG Intelligence Summaries and Précis.” “S” Section reports were produced in a weekly Counter Espionage Précis. The investigations covered categories ranging from individual persons to whole institutions. They also included investigations to clear people suspected of subversive activities. Captain Chan Ying Hung: “It is our intention to produce at least one edition of this Precis every week. The size will vary and very often it may be necessary to turn out as many as three or four editions during any one week, depending on the necessity for immediate circulation. Our object in producing this Precis is to ensure that the information contained in it should be as widely known as possible by those directly concerned and that the greatest benefit be obtained from the reports of our agents and the results of our investigations by all Allied organizations, into the subversive activities of enemy intelligence agents, saboteurs, and fifth columnists. It is our intention to include information already in our possession and recorded on our files, as well as new reports as these become available. These reports are of interest and importance from two distinct angles: 1. In order that we may be on our guard and thus be able jointly to frustrate attempts on the part of enemy agents and saboteurs and assist towards their arrest. 2. As a documentary record for reference after the war to assist in identifying and disposing of fifth columnists, etc…” The Intelligence Summaries: Since May 1942, the reports of Intelligence agents had been collected into weekly Intelligence Summaries: the Kukong Intelligence Summary (May to July 1942), the Waichow Intelligence Summary (August 1942 to April 1944), and the Kweilin Weekly Intelligence Summary, KWIZ, from May 1943 to February 1945. In 1944 KWIZ contained the following six sections, all with sub-divisions: Section I: POWs Internees & Escapees, Section II: Military Intelligence , Section III: Non-Military Intelligence, Section IV: Chinese Intelligence, Section V: Intelligence for Press Attaché, Section VI: Indians 4 Lance Bombardier Richard Palmer’s (RA, Multiple wounds at Belcher’s fort – amputation of leg) family contacted me. They note: “Richard was related to my father's side of the family. My father was in the RAF and served in that theatre including some time in HK at the end. The photograph and post card were kept in my father’s photograph album which I inherited when he died. They are wonderful historical and family documents and I thank you for your research which meant I was able to fill in some details about Richard. I never really knew who he was. I mentioned him to my 86 year old mother, she didn’t know who I was talking about, then she said ‘Oh you mean Dick, who lost his leg’. My father mentioned that he heard soldiers talking about him at the end of the war, perhaps either the RAF repatriating POWs by air or on a trooper and saying how Richard was taken to work each day as a POW by his mates in a wheel barrow.” They kindly sent several photographs, Including one of a note stating that he’d lost his leg. They asked the identity of Camp A and, being lazy, I used Google to look up my own work, and found this fascinating collection of Hong Kong POW correspondence as a result. (Camp A was the Bowen Road Military Hospital).
2 I was very pleased to hear both from Naneli’s family and the holder of his medals (see last month), that they had come to an accommodation and the medals are back in the hand of the family. The family has concluded that they will donate them to The Hong Kong Museum of History (at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.)
1Andrew Holland (son of Lance Bombardier Ron Holland 862469, 36 Coast Battery RA). See April) kindly sent me a hand-written Urdu textbook which his father had had in camp. There were many language lesson groups in the POW Camps once they got organised, though I’ve not seen reference to an Urdu one before. While today we tend to think of Urdu as the Pakistani national language, in those pre-partition days it was considered to be just another Indian language. British officers of the Indian army were expected to speak at least one local language, and I dare say that most senior NCOs did too. 1 While the author and broadcaster Clive James – who passed away on 24 November - has no direct connection with Hong Kong, his father is buried in Sai Wan Military Cemetery. In James’s own writing he describes how his father lost his life when the USAAF B24 “Liquidator” flying him back from a POW Camp in Japan (Okinawa to Manila) crashed in Manila Bay. In fact it crashed into the Seaboard Mountain Range, northeast of Taitung, Taiwan, from which the bodies were removed in very challenging circumstances.
December 1st, 2019 Update
Agerbak brothers (courtesy Carol Hadley), Wong Nai Chung Gao bed (author), John Potter (via Brian Finch)
Remembrance Day (courtesy Darren Mann/Bill Lake), Lawson's bunker and granddaughter (author), Naneli's medals (courtesy Art Ralston)
Boldero homecoming (courtesy John Moulton), Bob Tatz's book launch (author), Naafi fag box (anonymous)
Quite a month! What with the disturbances in Hong Kong, the Mark Rylance documentary being finished, and having the enormous pleasure of accompanying Brigadier John Lawson’s granddaughter around Hong Kong, it’s been quite a whirl. But of course, all that was tempered by the confirmation of Barbara Anslow’s death, which is a terrible loss. I went to my files and selected an appropriate image of her to illustrate this month’s report, but in doing so I found another image – of Barbara and me laughing at some stupid joke while having lunch in the old Murray Barracks. I’m fat (it was a long time ago) and Barbara is out of focus, but it didn’t half bring back some happy memories. All I can do (see below) is try to leave her with my best effort of an obituary.
29 Ron Taylor kindly passed me the following message: “My father (Dr. YEUNG Ming Hon) is fine at his old age of 96. He has dementia and does not recognise me anymore, however he can eat by himself, very steady with his chopsticks. He needs to be in his wheelchair and he does go out for lunch”. Yeung served in the HKVDC Field Ambulance. 29 The subject of this week’s Stories from the Ride Collection (#10) was Counter Espionage Report 113, Japanese Agents in Macau. While full of useful detail, it nicely illustrates the challenges of research based on such old and faded documents. I simply could not work out what the first word was. Basic? Some? I really don’t know.
28 Thanks to the Mark Rylance documentary I am now in touch with the grandson of Arthur Pears (brother of Peter Pears), the wartime captain of HMS Thracian.
27 Douglas Clague’s (RA, BAAG, Operation Swansong) daughter kindly got in touch, thanks to Elizabeth Ride. 27 Andrew Holland kindly sent me a photo of the Argyle Street POW Association annual lunch, and a page (plus the cover page) of their 1952 directory. I first saw this directory in around 1999, by which time the numbers were naturally somewhat diminished. 27 Fascinating! The family of Private Richard Morley, Middlesex, noted mention of Corporal Charles Goddard’s engraved mess tin. This gives us – for the first time – a full listing of the defenders of PB33. Unfortunately there are three possible contenders for the name ‘Webster’ but all the other names are unique. In my files it now thus reads: Pillbox 33 Goddard, Charles Corporal 6202957 (XD3) Funnell, John Private 6202119 (LM) K 15.4.43 Y Francomb, Arthur Private 6213440 (argyle) (XD5) Gentry, Frederick J. Private 6199070 U 1-2.10.42 LM Morley, Richard Private (XD1) Pennick, Reginald J. Lance Corp. 6201384 U 1-2.10.42 LM Pope, William Private 6213579 (LM) Remer, Louis Private 6203205 H 28.12 10.1.42 U 12.1.42 Ridden, Donald Private 6202704 U 1-2.10.42 LM (Webster) ? ? ? Wilderspin, Harry A. Lance Corp. 6201867 (LM) K 4.3.43 Y
25 Richard Yielding kindly sent me a photo of an ANZAC HKVDC shoulder flash. These are pretty rare as the ANZAC Company of the HKVDC, which had about 50 men, only existed from 1932 to 1935 (according to the late Philip Bruce’s excellent book Second To None).
21 Dave Deptford, sharp-eyed in the medal department as ever, alerted me to those of Henry James Ross, RAMC (who was on the Lisbon Maru and died in Osaka #2B). “Spink, November 27 - 28th 2019, Lot 265, Medal group of three (39 -45, Pacific and War Medal with M.I.D) to the above with detailed blurb. Estimate GBP400 - 600.”
20 This morning I had the privilege of accompanying Brigadier Lawson’s granddaughter for a walk around Wong Nai Chong Gap followed by a visit to her grandfather’s grave. I have corresponded with Lawson’s family (and Wallis’s too, of course) for many years, but it was our first meeting in the flesh. At ‘Lawson’s bunker’ we noticed that the south western bunker’s door was open, showing the steel frame of a bunk bed. Too big to have been carried through the door itself, it must have been assembled inside. Could it be original? 20 This week’s Stories from the Ride Collection (#09) covered the B.A.A.G. Civilian Staff. 20 I was kindly informed today that this year’s Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces, on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, will take place at 14.15 on Friday, 13 December at Stanley Military Cemetery. “On this occasion, a new monument plaque will be unveiled and inaugurated. It contains updated information with new names of Frenchmen involved with Free France and the defence of Hong Kong, which recent historical research has revealed and saved from yesteryears forgotten history.” I shall gratefully attend.
19 Thomas Murray’s (RE) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo. Murray was lost on ‘the south side of Wong Nai Chung Gap’. 19 This evening my older son (who lives in London) attended a private viewing of the Mark Rylance documentary. He kindly mentioned that I ‘looked like an idiot’ but spoke highly of the other attendees – even though he single-handedly brought down their average age by a few decades! 19 Martin Heyes notes that he is taking the daughter of James Edward Atkins, RA, for a walk around Hong Kong - to Bokhara Battery and elsewhere - when they visit next month. Atkins was: “was born 16.2.1920 and joined the Royal Artillery in 1936 having lied about his age. The Recruiting Officer told him to go round the block and come back when he was 18! On all his Army records he has the date of birth 16.2.1918. He was nicknamed Tommy. He died 1989 aged 69. After his initial training he was posted to Hong Kong in September 1937.” Martin kindly forwarded a set of photos and documents.
17Steve Denton pointed out something I had never noticed before, but which is of great interest. He has shown that many POW Index Cards of POWs who perished include the time of death. These times can appear in Arabic numerals or Chinese, either below or after the date of death. 17 I had an email today from an American medal collector who has the medals of Company Sergeant Major Marciano Francisco Baptista, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. The name of course instantly rang a bell. This the ‘Naneli’ whose family published a book about him a few years ago (Souvenir of Shamshuipo), kindly asking me to write the foreword. I immediately contacted them to ensure that nothing untoward was happening, but no. Apparently Naneli had handed his belongings out far and wide (as, of course, he had every right to do). But even so, the family was glad to know where his MBE had finally ended up. They still have many artefacts from him, including a silver cigarette case with the inscription: “Presented to C.S.M., M.F. de P. Baptista by his comrades and friends of the H.K.V.D.C. Club Lusitano and Club de Recreio to commemorate his appointment as a Member in the Most Excellent order of the British Empire. 20-1-49.”
15Charles Haviland’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. 15 Mike Babin sent me an interesting challenge! He asked me to identify the author of an unsigned wartime letter to his mother. Fortunately there were sufficient clues for me to deduce that it was from Canadian ex-Stanley Internee Mrs Alys Greaves.
14Jon Reid let me know that his book The Captain Was a Doctor (about his father Captain John Reid, RCAMC, the only Canadian officer to travel from Hong Kong to a POW camp in the Japanese homeland) was delivered to the publisher on time at the beginning of November with a hoped-for publication date of 19 September 2020. 14 Brian Finch kindly sent me a number of photos from the family of Gunner John Potter (RA, Lisbon Maru), including a rather good and unusual one of him and a comrade manning an old 3-inch AA gun.
12 This evening I attended Bob Tatz’s "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong" Book Launch at Café 8 at Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum at the harbour. Despite the disruption of protests in Central at least 40 people turned up and everyone enjoyed it. On the way home riot police blocked my most direct route, and sadly that meant I had to re-route via a pub I rather like. 12 John Moulton’s (RAF) son got back in touch, kindly sending a collection of eight scans from his father’s autograph/scrap book. The eighth was a poem by his father, the other seven were written/drawn by: 1 - Wing Commander Humphrey G. Sullivan, local head of RAF 2 - Captain William Dennis Poltock, 2nd/14th Punjabis 3 - Lieutenant Alec V. Skvorzov, HKVDC. (Luba Estes’s father). 4 - Captain Godfrey V. Bird, Royal Engineers. He went on to become a successful architect. 5 - ? Unidentified. Looks like H ’45. I feel like I recognise the style, but no luck so far. 6 - The one-armed Lieutenant Commander John C. Boldero, RN, Captain of HMS Cicala 7 - Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bruce Parkinson, HKRNVR (I think)
11 The South China Morning Post today published a new article about the Canadian contribution to the Battle of Hong Kong.
10 Today was Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, and there was a good turnout despite advanced warnings of potential protests. The “BAAG Friends and Family” group was well represented and the weather was very kind to us. 10 The Mirror in the UK ran an article about surviving British Hong Kong POW Ron Freer.
9 Carol Hadley kindly let me use a superb photo of her father and two uncles (L2R: Borge, Tage, and Knud Agerbak) manning a Vickers gun. 9 At Elizabeth Ride’s request I posted Stories from the Ride Collection #08: James Edulji Kotwall this morning as a Remembrance Day special. It included the following: “On 21 August 1995, the South China Morning Post published an article under the heading: 'A true Hong Kong Hero'. It was the story of Jimmy Kotwall and began thus: ‘Doris Kotwall zealously guards an old set of cherished photographs and yellowing letters in the cramped Sha Tin flat she shares with her daughter and grandchildren. Leafing through the pages of the family's prized album, revives bitter-sweet memories of her husband Jimmy, before the Japanese occupied Hong Kong, and of the terrible tortures he suffered before being executed. Jimmy Kotwall is one of the territory's unsung heroes of World War II. He was not a soldier, but a Eurasian civilian and merchant who could have stayed out of harm's way and come out of the war unscathed if he had kept his head down. Yet despite, or, perhaps, because of, the execution of his brother George and 32 others by the Japanese in October, 1943, for providing intelligence through his leadership of the British Army Aid Group, Jimmy bravely followed in his brother's footsteps, aware he would also pay with his life if uncovered. Early on March 26, 1944, after Jimmy had spent many months reorganising the clandestine group and funnelling sensitive information to the British forces in China, Doris woke to strange sounds and voices outside their Causeway Bay house...’ 9 An interesting cache of items turned up in the hills today, including the first NAAFI cigarette tin I’ve seen!
8 Ron Parker kindly sent me this link to an article: “Remembering a Mi'kmaw soldier who spent years as a prisoner of war.” 8 Les Carter, whose father served on HMS Tern, kindly sent me a copy of the 288 “Monument” Mess (The Fellowship) newsletter, in which his father had written an article describing his wartime experience. Entitled “I Was There” it covers his time on the ship, fighting as infantry, and the Lisbon Maru.
7 I took a friend from Baptist University to walk the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail this morning. The first thing we noticed was that wild boar had been digging over a large area on and around The Black Hole of Hong Kong. Although we looked, we couldn’t see any artefacts there. However, just as we finished the walk by Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, to my surprise we found a relatively intact Japanese 6.5mm rifle cartridge on the surface.
6 Wild Pictures let me know that: "the documentary we have made about actor Mark Rylance’s family history during WW2, which you so kindly contributed your expertise to, is due to be screened on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday 3rd of December 2019." 6 Today I posted the seventh episode of Stories from the Ride Collection #07: Y.C. Liang (梁潤昌, also sometimes known as 梁昌. His codename was "P.L" - the first and last letters of the medicine Prontocil). Date and place of birth: Shanghai 1918, Nationality: Chinese, Occupation: Trader, Tenure in BAAG: Dec. 42 - Dec 45. Citation for courage in the cause of freedom “In 1942, the BAAG contacted this man in Macao, and in view of his business connections he was put in charge of an escape and intelligence group there. Early in 1943, he made the dangerous trip out of Macao through enemy territory to Kweilin and set up safe escape routes. At Kweilin he was fully briefed and returned to set up his organisation. Throughout all his service, he was operating under the very noses of the Japanese, and in spite of that he was able to maintain weekly contacts with our post without loss. Through his channels, over 50 European and 4 American evaders were smuggled out of Macao to safety and important messages passed into Hongkong. In all this work, he not only showed organising ability of a high order but he displayed outstanding bravery and extreme devotion to our cause” (Signed) L.T. Ride, Colonel Commandant BAAG
4 Dave Deptford kindly notes: “Through The Saleroom, Dominic Winter Auctions, Cirencester, Gloucs, 7th November 2019, Lot 276: WW2 Pacific Theatre, POW Archive, Shamshuipo Camp. Various sketches and notes on camp life. Description states they were possibly made post war when he was under treatment! G.R. Edwards R.N. Lt Cdr, Estimate GBP200 – 300.”
2 I heard the sad, though not unexpected, news today that Barbara Anslow (illustrated) passed away on 29 October. To the best of my knowledge she was the last surviving Stanley Internee who had been interned while already an adult. I was one of many lucky enough to talk to her first-hand about the experience, and to go round Stanley prison, camp, and cemetery with her once – together with Geoff Emerson. Her book Tin Hats and Rice records her wartime experience, and my last correspondence with her was to send her a review of it that I wrote for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Barbara’s funeral will be held at the Sacred Heart and St Francis Catholic Church in Frinton-on-Sea on 11th November at 1.45pm followed by a cremation at Weeley Crematorium at 3.30pm and a celebration of her life at Frinton Cricket Club afterwards. Thanks to support from St Helena Hospice in Colchester, Barbara’s family was able to care for her at home until the end, which was her fervent wish. I had hoped to find a formal obituary somewhere, but failed. I have therefore attempted my own:
Barbara Anslow, 01 December 1918 - 31 October 2019 Barbara Anslow, nee Redwood, was the second daughter of a naval dockyard family consisting of her father William, mother (also Barbara), older sister Olive and younger sister Mabel. Her father worked for the British admiralty and the family moved to Hong Kong in 1927 where he worked in the Naval Dockyards. In 1929 they returned to the UK, where Redwood worked at the Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland and then the Ordnance Depot at Crombie, but in 1938 he again decided to accept a three-year posting to Hong Kong. The family thus settled easily into Hong Kong life, with the three girls enjoying the carefree existence of the between-the-wars years until very suddenly, in the summer of 1940, they – like the majority of British women and children – were summarily ordered to evacuate Hong Kong. The authorities feared a Japanese invasion and were determined to ‘clear the decks’ of non-essential personnel. The evacuation proceeded swiftly, and some 3,500 women and children were soon off loaded to the Philippines as a halfway house to eventual dispersal in Australia. The four Redwood ladies – finding themselves in crowded accommodation in Manila - accepted an offer to stay at the more luxurious Calamba Sugar Estate, and there within a few days they heard the utterly unexpected news that back in Hong Kong, father and husband William Redwood had suddenly passed away. The authorities bent the rules and allowed them to return to Hong Kong. There they learned essential skills with Barbara senior and Mabel becoming nurses, Olive joining Food Control as a stenographer, and Barbara junior becoming stenographer to Wing Commander Steele-Perkins, in charge of Air Raid Precautions. Fortunately all four ladies survived the invasion, Barbara’s mother being particularly lucky as she was posted to the exposed Jockey Club emergency hospital where a number of her comrades were attacked and raped. Eventually the Redwoods ended up interned at Stanley Civilian Internment camp, Olive joining them last when her post at Bowen Road Hospital was finally closed. Barbara was 22 when she was interned. At Stanley, to the great benefit of future historians, she instigated a regularly updated diary. From my point of view, this is the Barbara I first knew – a disembodied voice from the archives who could have existed centuries ago. To meet her in the flesh (during her visit to Hong Kong in 2008, kindly paid for by her children) only a few years after our first ‘encounter’ was a strange, though of course wonderful, experience. I still have a photograph of our first lunch together, in which (for good reason, I assure you) we appear to be giggling like teenagers. Also at Stanley, in 1942, Barbara would meet a gentleman by the name of Frank Anslow. Frank was a married man and in the camp days themselves there was nothing between them. At liberation, Barbara and her family moved back to the UK, but Barbara was soon offered a job as a stenographer for the Hong Kong Government, and returned in June 1946. There she (with many Government employees, women on the top floor and men on the first) was accommodated in the French Mission. Frank Anslow was one of those on the first floor, and the two were married in March 1948. They had five children, and finally moved back to the UK in 1959. In the post-war years Barbara deposited her wartime diary at the Imperial War Museum in London, thus becoming well known to all researchers since. Many of us (Bernice Archer, Geoffrey Emerson, David Bellis, and myself – among others) took advantage of her phenomenal memory in more recent years, learning a great deal to our advantage in the process. Fortunately Bellis, more than anyone, encourage her to publish her diary to the wider world and this project finally came to fruition in 2018. Meanwhile Barbara had become more and more involved in FEPOW/Internee affairs, attending the Buckingham Palace garden party on more than one occasion, and being chosen to read the FEPOW Prayer in London to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the surrender of Japan, on VJ Day 2015. From my side I lost count eons ago of the number of emails we had exchanged over the past twenty or more years. Suffice it to say that she never lost her marbles (to put it mildly). In fact I recall a visit together to Stanley Cemetery during which she became extraordinarily frustrated because while standing at someone’s headstone she momentarily couldn’t recall the name of the deceased’s mother’s sister’s employer’s nephew’s dentist’s wife’s hairdresser’s rabbit (or something like that). Her memory was truly remarkable. In September of 2019 a review I had written (of her published diary, Tin Hats and Rice, and in parallel Charter’s diary, The First Shall Be Last, expertly compiled by Bill Lake) was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. I emailed her a copy, but her grandson kindly replied: “Barbara is unfortunately very poorly at this time but was extremely keen for me to read out your review to her this morning, which she enjoyed very much.” Sadly, a month later she passed away. I should, however, leave the last words to Barbara herself: “I like to think camp made me more tolerant… something you have to be when sharing a room at close quarters with at least four other people, with their irritating habits, their snores and their burps. I can feel special compassion for crowds of refugees on TV, and for starving African babies with all their bones showing.” She will be sorely missed. For so many of us she represented so much, but most importantly she represented both herself – a lady whose spirit we all admired so much – and the times she lived through.
November 1st, 2019 Update
Lisbon Maru Memorial (courtesy Kent Shum), Felix & Author (author), HK Club on Mount Cameron (courtesy Darren Mann)
Young Index Card (anonymous), Philip Nelms (courtesy Chris Nelms), Hell on the Lisbon Maru (courtesy Steve Denton)
Worrall book (author), Two Kings draft cover (couresty Graham Earnshaw), Begley book (author)
I was thinking, while planning to attend this month’s Remembrance Day services. Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Shamshuipo, Lisbon Maru, Kobe House) passed his one hundredth birthday this month and Barbara Anslow (Stanley Internee) is almost at her hundred and first. Anyone who was an adult (21 or more in those days) in 1941 is now at least 99 years old. The last living veteran of the First World War was Florence Green, a British citizen who served in the Allied armed forces, and who died 4 February 2012, and the last combat veteran was Claude Choules who served in the British Royal Navy (and later the Royal Australian Navy) and died 5 May 2011. Both were aged 110. So we can expect the window to finally close on our veterans in a decade, and at that point their whole experience will pass into history.
30 This week’s Notes from the Ride Collection featured the Chinese Canadian agent Bill Chong. 30 I have often wondered if civilian internees also had POW Index Cards. I imagine that normally they do not, but I discovered today that Hong Kong’s Governor, Sir Mark Young, indeed had one. Perhaps people of his status were recognized as a special case.
26 Ha! After taking a year off because I was so busy at work (and a fat lot of good that did me!) today I resumed my Hong Kong Club historical walks – which I have been leading for perhaps fifteen years now. And we started the season with the toughest. I walked to Wong Nai Chung Gap to meet the gang, then took them onto Black’s Link. From there we ascended Mount Nicholson (not too bad), descended again, walked round the back of Mount Cameron – in the face of some sort of race going in the other direction; hundreds of people, which is odd as normally I have that path to myself - and then ascended Mount Cameron. So much better today in the dry! But it’s still a serious and sometimes treacherous walk, and I was proud that everyone (and ages spanned from around eight to around seventy) made it. At the top we conducted a sort of birthday celebration for ex-Royal Scot Dennis Morley who…. 26 …is one hundred years old today! Dennis – a great guy, who helped me enormously with my Lisbon Maru book – fought Kowloon side on Golden Hill, on Black’s Link / Mount Nicholson / Mount Cameron where we were walking today, survived the Lisbon Maru and the Kobe POW camps, and finally retired to the Cotswolds. So today I sent him a sort of scroll with a few photos of Hong Kong, birthday wishes from his many friends here, and finally a photo taken this morning with the Hong Kong Club at the summit of Mount Cameron. 26 Theodore Hung, whose great uncle was in 3 Coy, HKVDC, asks: “I was wondering if you have any photos of No.3 Coy of the HKVDC, I would really like to know what my great uncle looked like. I know there is a photo of the No.3 Coy on the Wong Nap Chung Gap trail but it is hard to identify who is who.” It’s a good question. I used to be in touch with lots of 3 Coy families, but neglected to ask if any had an annotated Company photo. Can anyone help?
25 I hear from the Canadian Consulate that Bob Tatz is confirmed to be in Hong Kong from Friday, November 8 until Sunday, November 17 to launch his autobiography "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong". They note that his current agenda (always subject to change) is: Sunday, November 10 – Remembrance Sunday Ceremony @ the Cenotaph Monday, November 11 – Bookazine Reading and Signing (TBC. We’re still waiting for Bookazine to confirm their interest). Tuesday, November 12 – Book Launch at Café 8, Maritime Museum (We are working with the Museum and Café 8 on the details). Expected timing & program: 18:00 Arrival at Maritime Museum 18:30 Guests start arriving 19:00 Welcome speeches. Bob reads selected passage from book. Q & A with audience 19:45 Networking, photos, etc. 20:30 Event ends
Event: Bob Tatz "Lost in the Battle for Hong Kong" Book Launch at Café 8, Maritime Museum. Date: November 12, 2019 (Tuesday) Time: Doors will be open at 6:30pm; Event will start at 7:00pm and end at approximately 8:30pm RSVP: Free admission and limited seats available! Light refreshments will be served. Please register your seat(s) with the Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong by email HKONGRSVP(at)international.gc.ca latest by November 8, 2019 (Friday).
23 Philip Cracknell’s latest blog entry describes Captain Sydney Harry Batty-Smith, the Governor’s ADC. 23 Kent Shum kindly sent me a set of photos from the Lisbon Maru memorial visit. 23 This week’s Stories from the Ride Collection: The story of Tse Dickuan. He was the Chinese gentleman who – with enormous courage – copied the complete British / Canadian POW list from Shamshuipo and smuggled it to BAAG lines in China. 23 A real red letter day, with copies of two ‘new’ books about Hong Kong during the war arriving. Both had been kindly recommended by George Boote. They were: Neil Begley’s An Australian’s Childhood in China Under the Japanese, and George Worrall’s No Cure No Pay. I described the latter below (see the first of the month), but as well as a Hong Kong chapter as I mention it also has a few other very useful vignettes, including one about “Night Soil Boat” Foster (page 49) who would later be killed in the Chan Chak escape. The former doesn’t have a great deal on Hong Kong as Begley himself was interned in China. However, until repatriation to Shanghai, his parents were in Stanley Camp and their experience is covered. Both books are also a very good read.
21Unfortunately I missed an important event today. Feng Li had arranged for a group of Lisbon Maru families to travel from the UK to China to visit – by boat – the resting place of the Lisbon Maru itself. By all accounts it seems it was a great success, but unfortunately it wasn’t a good time for me to be away from Hong Kong. 21 Kenneth Wong kindly sent me Sir Mark Young’s official post-war report of his experience, which I had not seen before. Thanks to this and some help from Steve Denton, we were finally able to find his batman’s (Waller’s) first names: John William. I had also not previously known that when Young was in Woosung Camp he refused (supported by the twelve other British prisoners) to sign the “I will not escape” chit. The 1,500 or so Americans were advised to sign by their officers, but the British: “were locked up in a bare barrack without blankets during exceptionally cold weather and on one occasion they were beaten by the Japanese guards”. Finally Young negotiated a modified version of the chit, which they then felt they could sign.
19Having been kindly invited to write the blurb for the English version of Frode’s book about the Danish HKVDC members (Fighting for Two Kings), today I finally put pen to paper and sent the publisher my best effort. Hopefully publication is not too far away now.
18Today I thought I’d better check the path up Mount Cameron, ready for the Hong Kong Club walkers next Saturday. Unfortunately a belt of rain arrived just before I did, and as the vegetation over that path is head-height in places I was soaked by the time I reached the top. It’s clear that very few people use that path now, and sliding and slipping back down it I couldn’t blame them. 18 Steve Denton kindly sent a copy of Royal Scot William E. Cody’s well-known article “Hell On The Lisbon Maru” from Wide World Magazine - the first time I had actually seen a copy. 18 A month ago Anthony Guterres put an excellent photo of his grandfather Joaquim Guterres (illustrated) on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. For some reason I didn’t notice it until today. On 15 June 2017 I had noted: “Via Henry Ching I learned that Lieutenant Joaquim J. Guterres, HKVDC, who I listed as having died in St Teresa’s in We Shall Suffer There, in fact passed away in the canteen of Argyle Street Camp. A small detail in the greater scheme of things, but still an important one.
17 Frank Young’s (RN) family got in touch. Frank was one of two Petty Officers surnamed Young from HMS Redstart, lost during the battle of Hong Kong – on the same day according to CWGC - with no known grave. While researching Not The Slightest Chance I thought this must be a mistake. It seemed like too much of a coincidence so I assumed there could only have been one. But it turned out that Stoker Petty Officer William Young was actually lost on 21 December while attacking Shouson Hill, and now I think it’s more likely that Petty Officer Frank Young was lost on the same day at the same place.
16 Today’s “Stories from the Ride collection” on the BAAG Facebook page features an editorial about the BAAG from the South China Morning Post of 19 January 1946.
14 Elizabeth Ride sent me an interesting document. It is a set of quotes from third parties about the value of the BAAG (almost like the ones you see in the fly leaf of a book, endorsing it and its author).
12TK Wong, having read my paper on Hong Kong civilian fatalities 41-45, reminded me: “when we met in Causeway Bayfour4 years ago, you asked me the captioned figure. I said it must be around 250000 to 300,000. I agree with the figure in your article. My three maternal uncles were sent to Hainan Island and never returned… My grandmother (father side) died during the war in Waichow since the whole family, except my father, returned to Waichow (being Hakka) in 42. They had very hard time in China.” These experiences seem pretty much universal for Hong Kong families.
11 I had an email from Dennis Morley today (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) reminding me that the 26th will be his 100th birthday. “Never thought I’d make it”, he says.
9 I am now firmly in the routine of working with Elizabeth Ride to add a story “From the Ride papers” to the British Army Aid Group facebook page each Wednesday. Today’s entry featured the China Unit of the Chindits.
7 Chris Nelms very kindly sent a photo of his uncle Philip Nelms (see last month). 7 Ronnie Taylor in the UK kindly sent me a photo of Harold Audsley (RE, Lisbon Maru). In fact I realized later that I already had it in my files, but I have no objection to receiving things twice! Thanks to all this help, I now have photos of exactly 274 of the men who were aboard when the ship sailed.
6 Discussing (with Steve Denton and Iain Gow) the fate of the Lisbon Maru survivors who perished in camps in the Japanese mainland, and whether any might have been buried rather than cremated, I discovered something interesting. The CWGC is constantly adding details to their site, and I found that they note that the means of identification of Yokohama remains was ‘Particulars on urn’ (which of course implies all were cremated. See this example for John Jupp (the fourth image under the ‘concentration’ tab).
5 It’s good to see the British newspapers taking up the story of Downs’s medals and family (see last month). 5 A well preserved brass feed block from a Vickers medium machine gun turned up in the hills today.
2 Iain Gow’s son James (James is therefore the grandson of Royal Scot James Gow of the Lisbon Maru) is in Kobe exploring the site of the old Kobe House POW camp. Today is of course a very appropriate day to be searching for it. 2 This evening I had a very enjoyable dinner with George ‘Felix’ Chanduloy, whose two uncles (Uncle Lui Kar Yan and Uncle Andrew Chan Kwong Kee) were BAAG agents #68 and #78 respectively. There were of course two different agent 68s, which makes research a bit of a challenge.
1 George Boote kindly brought to my attention a book about Bill Worrall called No Cure No Pay, written by the well-known HK personality the late Kevin Sinclair. I wasn’t aware of it, but it includes an interesting chapter about the invasion of Hong Kong – including him helping ferry back Royal Scots from Kowloon side after the battle of Golden Hill. Bill Worrall married Raquel Bonner (widow of Corporal Horace William Bonner, HKVDC - killed in the Overbays massacre) in camp. They had one son, William Richard Worrall who was born in camp 13 August 1944 (he was later Chief Superintendent, HKPF – and his son Tim Worrall was also in the Hong Kong police until a few years ago). Raquel and Horace had two little girls pre-war, Dolores and Julia. Raquel herself was of Spanish decent, hence the dark hair and reputed good looks! I have been in touch with Julia’s own daughter (Karen) over the years.
October 1st, 2019 Update
Fanling Camp 1941 (courtesy Derek Smith), William Tyner (courtesy Carol Campbell). Lisbon Maru cuttings (courtesy George Boote)
Kamaish Steel Mill and Gym (Grady affidavtit, courtesy Carol Campbell). .303 bullet in the hills (author)
John Officer (via Brian Finch), Pre-war buildings at Kwai Chung (courtesy Tan), Phillip Bruce's work (courtesy Steve Denton)
For as long as I can recall I have advised anyone beginning to be interested in the Battle of Hong Kong to start by reading the late Oliver Lindsay’s well known book, The Lasting Honour. Now, I wonder… Having earlier this month devoured Philip Cracknell’s excellent Battle For Hong Kong, I may have to change my tune. My only concern is whether the level of detail in this new work might overwhelm the newbie? It’s fine for all you HKWD aficionados, who will all recognise every name of every person and every place, but might it be a bit too much for someone truly new to the subject? I’m not sure. Perhaps I should recommend them both. Start with Lindsay to get you interested, and then move straight to Cracknell for the real thing!
29 A reader is looking for a copy of a newspaper article entitled: “Former war criminal hopes to thank Canadian POW”, from The Asahi Evening News of 27 July 1993. I know a lot of you have good archives, so does anyone have a copy?
28 Steve Denton, who has been corresponding with my old friends Iain Gow and Ian Inglis, asked about the late Phillip Bruce. Phillip, when I first arrived in Hong Kong more than thirty years ago, was then the preeminent amateur historian of Hong Kong in the war years. He wrote quite a few bits and pieces – and all of high quality. I have his Lyemun notes, and of course a copy or two of Second To None, but does anyone have all his Military History Notes? I know there were at least four of these. Sadly Phillip died young, but there is a nice obit here.
27 George Boote kindly notes: “Below is a book that I read over the summer, I picked the book up from the best second hand book shop I have ever been in which is in Brisbane. This summer I went to Rabaul and Guadalcanal as well as Japan again, passing through Ozz and Guangzhou (it’s 34 years since I was last in Canton). Neil Begley was imprisoned in Shanghai, but his parents were in Stanley, I checked in Greg Leck’s famous tome, and yes they are listed there. He was in HK at the start of the war and was shipped back to HK at the end of the war, although the book is not a specifically HK related book it’s well worth a read, there is a shocker at the end of the book which I won’t tell you about.” I am very grateful as I was not aware of this book. I have ordered a copy.
26 Philip Nelms’s (Middlesex) nephew got in touch.
25 I went for a walk in the hills this morning, and was fortunate enough to stumble over a spent .303 bullet still lying on the surface after all these years. I generally refrain from posting photos of ordnance of any sort on this site (as I try to discourage people from poking around in areas which were never cleared). However, just this once!
23 The October Java Journal of the Java FEPOW club reported on the sad passing away, a few weeks after her one hundredth birthday, of Joan Coxhead, wife of Hong Kong POW Geoffrey Coxhead. They also published an obituary of the latter, from 2000: “Geoffrey Coxhead, who has died aged 89, survived four years as a Japanese PoW to become headmaster of King's College, Hong Kong. An engagingly original teacher, Coxhead was also a talented sketcher and photographer, a first-rate chess player and a keen climber. Geoffrey Shervill Coxhead was born on May 10 1911, the son of the headmaster of Hinckley Grammar School in Leicestershire. He was educated at Oundle, Liverpool University, and University College, London. His first job, in 1935, was at the Cathedral School, Bombay. He moved to Hong Kong in 1940, arriving just as British women and children were being evacuated, and joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps as a part-time soldier. Called up in December 1941, he was a gunner on Stanley Peninsular, his gun facing impotently out to sea as the Japanese invaded from the mainland. The first months of imprisonment while still in Hong Kong were relatively benign. The prisoners set up a school, where Coxhead taught geography, and he founded a chess club, its members carving the pieces from any discarded wood that they could lay their hands on. Transported to Japan, Coxhead worked in the dockyards on Innoshima Island, on the Inland Sea, where he mitigated the horrors of hard labour on meagre rations by making exquisite drawings of the scenery and keeping an immaculate diary in tiny, but highly legible, writing. He scavenged for scraps of paper for sketching, and successfully hid the diaries beneath a loose board under his sleeping mat. They give a detailed record of life as a PoW. In one account he recalls how the prisoners were endlessly resourceful. One volunteered to clean the guards' hen house so that he could smuggle out the occasional egg at the bottom of a bucket of chicken manure, which the guards were far too fastidious to search; another scratched a small garden on waste ground where he planted pumpkin seeds. Survival, nonetheless, was a struggle, and many of Coxhead's fellow PoWs died of malnutrition and disease. He himself was severely injured in the dockyards when a keel fell on him. It took six fellow prisoners to free him, and he was hauled off to a doctor in a wheelbarrow. When the doctor ordered him to get up and walk, Coxhead fell down. Years later, an X-ray showed that he had fractured one of his vertebrae. Unlike many ex-Japanese PoWs, Coxhead never felt animosity towards his captors. He experienced sufficient acts of kindness to appreciate the distinction between individual Japanese and their government. On one occasion he was "resting" in the hold of a ship when he should have been working; two guards spotted him, threw him a packet of cigarettes and walked on. After the war, he returned three times to his place of imprisonment, and was always given a VIP welcome by the Japanese dockyard workers. Repatriated via Australia, he met his wife-to-be, Joan Osborn, on board ship. Travelling steerage, he had great pleasure each day turfing the first-class passengers out of their lounge in order to run a shipboard school. Geoffrey and Joan married in England and together returned to Hong Kong, where he resumed teaching. Fluent in Cantonese, he worked in a number of schools, finally as headmaster of King's College. He threw himself into school life, founding hill-walking societies, chess, photographic and arts clubs. With a colleague he wrote a popular series of school geography books. When he retired to England in 1967, he taught at Aylesbury for several years. Many of his former Chinese pupils would look him up when they visited England. From his young days he played chess to a very high standard. He was chess champion of Bombay in 1935 and of Hong Kong in 1952. Well into his eighties he continued to compete in the Hastings Chess championships. As a keen hill walker and climber, he explored the further reaches of Hong Kong's New Territories and seized his chances on home leave to climb in Britain and the Alps. He climbed the Cobbler in Argyll (classified as ‘difficult’) when he was 78. While his successor at King's College praised his tolerance, sincerity, gentlemanliness and humour, Coxhead could on occasion be testy. On his final visit to Hong Kong in 1995 he was waiting to go into lunch when he was approached by an affable stranger. ‘What’, asked the unknown man, ‘was your role in Hong Kong?’ Coxhead, who had just finished fielding reporters' questions, responded irritably: ‘What is your role in Hong Kong?’ ‘I,’ said his companion with a smile, ‘am the Governor.’ The stranger was Chris Patten and the two men then chatted for 10 minutes. Coxhead's excellent memory enabled him to recite extensively from Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare and the Bible. He is survived by his wife, Joan, and by their three children.” Joan’s father was a rubber planter who was interned by the Japanese and died in a Hellship sinking.
22 George Boote kindly sent me a set of newspaper clippings about the Lisbon Maru from the Daily Mirror in the 1960s. He found these in a set of documents originating with Lisbon Maru survivor Able Seaman Edward Tuffs. These aren’t – by a long chalk – the only ones that I have seen, so one can argue that the tragedy wasn’t really ‘forgotten’ at all. 22 Philip Cracknel has a new blog post, about PB 22 and Beach Defence Units.
20 Steve Denton has kindly been scouring wartime newspapers for photos of Lisbon Maru men. They’re obviously not of the highest quality, but still much appreciated.
19 Herbert Dinsdale’s (civilian internee) son got in touch, looking for details of his family’s pre-war evacuation to Canada. Unfortunately the only details I have are for the official evacuation to Australia via the Philippines. I’m not sure how best to advise on these private evacuations. 19 Donald McDonald’s (civilian POW) great nephew got in touch. He notes that McDonald was an ex-Naval man who worked as a civilian Wireless Operator in Hong Kong for the Admiralty Civilian Shore Wireless Service. Despite his civilian status, McDonald (and four others in the same capacity, John Bowes, Theodore Clark, Henry Jones, and James Tyson) were held in Shamshuipo POW Camp. I suspect all five must have been captured ‘on the front line’, namely, in their case, Stonecutters Island (where we assume they were all wireless operators as part of Y Section). 19 Working with Elizabeth Ride, I have been trying to understand more about the Overseas Chinese Volunteers Unit (OCVU), which appears to have been an anti-Japanese and anti-British group of primarily Malayan Chinese working in wartime China. It seems a very under documented group.
18Janet Sykes (daughter of Len Sykes, HKVDC) notes: “Hi Tony – I was looking at the diary for the first time in a while earlier in the week and spotted this post from January: “20 Leslie Coxhill’s (HKVDC) son got in touch, kindly sending images of a menu (from Hiroshima #5B, Innoshima, POW Camp). The menu is largely written in faux French, making fun of the Japanese, and it is signed by twelve other POWs. The only thing I don’t understand is that it is entitled ‘Victory Dinner’ and dated Tuesday October 24th, 1944. What is significant about that date?” This is the entry in my father’s diaries from that day: “Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Holiday. Up at 7 AM. Breakfast and Tiffin daikon top soup. Then a Red Cross dinner!! Wonderful eats: – hors d’oeuvres of daikon and pickled onion, a clear but excellent Red Cross soup, salmon cake, daikon tops well seasoned with red pepper, corned pork loaf pie (excellent taste), Rose Mill pate bun, a rice sweet decorated with jam, prunes and buttercream – very sweet and nice, then coffee. Everyone in excellent spirits. A Chesterfield and a letter from Arthur completed a wonderful day. Roll on the day when we shall have eats like this every meal. I nearly forgot, with the pie we had a piece of tongue each, about 2” square, a Nip issue, and that issue, all very welcome. 200 letters arrived altogether. Mr Pritchard saw a list in the camp office which he presumed was part of the nominal roll of the new prisoners due shortly. We had our tablecloth for dinner, also I used a knife and fork. Wizard.” My father didn’t use the faux French on that day – but he did a couple of weeks earlier: “Tuesday, October 10, 1944. Holiday. Beautiful day. Breakfast seaweed, Tiffin sweet potato tubes, then dinner! What a dinner: easily the best dinner we have had as POW. It was a wonderful effort. We started off with hors d’oeuvres Nipponaise (some daikon, tickled onion and pickled seaweed, served up nicely on plates for six persons) then Potage Miso (lots of miso and some barley): next came Salmon à la Orientale (15 tins of salmon mixed with rice): then Rissoles à la Mode de Prisoners des Guerres (meat pie in other words made from 13 tins of ham and eggs, two tin Spam, two tins Vogt, 12 tins Rose Mill pate), also ¾ bucket of Les plus belles feuilles des potatoes douces (sweet potato tubes): then Coupe McKenzie (a rice ball with chocolate sauce [15 bars of chocolate and one tin milk]): then Rigatto Americano – rice and cheese ball made from 13 packets of cheese and finale of two ladles of coffee (10 tins coffee and one tin milk). Excellent meal: words fail me. A Chesterfield followed, then the news!! Boy, wonderful news. We have pushed 100 miles into Germany to Reutlingen in a direct line from unit: more wedges in the Aachen and Arnheim areas: headlines say ‘Allied ring Titans around greater Germany, situation critical.’ It is certainly getting near the end. Let’s hope it comes next week. Bill Gegg moved into room five leaving us with 29 men in our room.”
17 I spoke to Elizabeth Ride in Norway today, and we agreed that on a regular basis she will pass me a “Story From the Ride Collection” which I will post to the BAAG facebook page. We started today with the fascinating story of the Brooms. Next we will do ‘The Bankers’.
16William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter kindly got in touch again, sending a photo of James Downs’s medals (illustrated).
14Today I finished reading Philip Cracknel’s new book, Battle For Hong Kong, which I promised to review this month. One of the main challenges with writing about this battle is of course the fact that so much happened simultaneously in different places entirely separate from each other. So do you structure your narrative chronologically? Or by unit? Or by place? There’s no perfect answer, but Philip has chosen a sound compromise of parcelling up actions into logical groups, and ordering those groups as close to chronologically as possible. Of course there is some overlap, but nothing that gets in the way of understanding. And I have to say that anyone wanting to understand the battle of Hong Kong need look no further. This book does a truly excellent job of telling this complex story as clearly and completely as possible – in fact I don’t know of any better (and I pride myself on having at least one copy of every known book on the topic). The first half of the book is good and comprehensive, but the second half excels in a can’t-put-it-down way. Some descriptions – and the East Brigade Counterattacks spring immediately to mind – are the best I have read, clearly aided by Philip’s strong understanding of the battlefield topographies. The book is also aided by a large number of clear battlefield maps, though one more map – Wanchai Gap to Wong Nai Chung Gap, showing Black’s Link and Mounts Cameron and Nicholson - would have been helpful. Aside from that, all I can find to be ‘negative’ about (I can’t make this a hagiography!) is that there are perhaps half a dozen typos which could easily be corrected for the next edition. And they should be, because this book is going to be very popular, and rightly so.
12 Derek Smith, son of HKVDC Signalman Norman Smith, got back in touch noting that he had found a number of group photographs, including his father, labelled Fanling in 1939, 40, and 41. In this 1941 photo his father is in the back row, second from right.
9I received confirmation today that Volume 59 of JRASHK was published last week, including my paper estimating the number of Hong Kong Chinese civilian fatalities caused by the war, and my review of Tin Hats and Rice, A Diary of Life as a Hong Kong Prisoner of War, 1941–1945 by Barbara Anslow, Hong Kong: Blacksmith Books, 2018, 372 pages. ISBN 978-988-77927-4-1, HK$138 and The First Shall Be Last, The War Journal of John Charter and Memoirs of Yvonne Charter, Hong Kong 1940–1945 and Stanley Civilian Internment Camp by Anthony Crowley Charter Surbiton, UK: Grosvenor House Publishing Company, 654 pages. ISBN 978-786233967, £17.99. (By the way, I hear from the family that Barbara is rather poorly at the moment, so I wish her well).
6 I learned today that Francis Crabb passed away at 02.40 on the morning of Sunday 18 August. The funeral will be held on Thursday 12 September 2019 at 11.00 at Basingstoke Crematorium, Manor Farm, Stockbridge Road, Basingstoke RG25 2BA. He was 96, and to the best of my knowledge was the last survivor of the wartime 2 Coy HKVDC.
5 Tan notes that he has discovered that the Salvation Army site at Kwai Chung existed before the war and includes some shelter like structures. Does anyone know if they were used during the war? By my calculation they could have been in either B Coy or D Coy Royal Scots territory. 5 Brian Finch, continuing in his research into the Lisbon Maru, has been given a fine colour portrait of Major John Moore Officer, RAMC, whose tragic death on the rocks of the nearby islands was witnessed by so many.
2 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that Marlow's Military Auctions, 12th September 2019 are offering a group of five medals (Indian General Service Medal with clasp NWF 36 - 37, 39 - 45 Star, Pacific Star War Medal, and Defence Medal) to 11272 Sepoy Mohd Din 2/14 Punjab Regt. KIA 18 December 1941 and Commemorated at Sai Wan. Estimated at GBP 80 -120, as Dave says: “Medals to this Regiment for Defence of Hong Kong are rarely seen.” I looked around and saw that the same group were last auctioned in 2013.
1William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter got in touch, noting that she: “was very interested to see your mention on your August update of 14th July, of the medal collection of James Downs which was for sale via auction. What a pity I missed it, I would have been interested in perhaps buying it! My grandfather William Tyner and James Downs did, as you say both die on 10th August 1945 following the Allied shelling of the camp at Kamaishi”. She also very kindly set a photo of Mr Tyner and an Affidavit by Major Frank Grady (US Signal Corps) who was the senior Officer at the time of the allied bombardment at Kamaishi. Grady noted, immediately after the shelling stopped at around 16:00: “Investigation showed that men from the camp were scattered all over the waterfront and also along the river, huddled behind logs, in shell holes, etc. Many were badly burned, including Dr. Pijma. The air raid shelter, which had been wood-lined, was still burning. We found two bodies. The body of Cpl. Earl H. Gaskin, an American, was found in the one-third section of the shelter that was uncovered. He apparently had fallen in while trying to run away. J.F. Gaspers, a Dutch prisoner who had been badly wounded in the first raid, was found in the compound, burned to a crisp. Five more prisoners died subsequently from their burns: James W. Downs, British, 10 August 45, William C. Tyner, British, 10 August 45, William H. Brodie, New Zealand, 10 August 45, Robert Wilkin, American civilian, 24 August 45, Teunis Ruiter, Dutch, 25 August 45. I wish to remark on the case of Downs, who was a medical orderly. Although I did not witness it myself, I was told by other – Dr. Pijma, and two other orderlies, Langlaan and McElroy – that Downs received the severe burns from which he died because he stayed behind to help the patients evacuate from the air raid shelter.” I wonder if Tyner might have been lost in exactly the same way? And, as so often happens in history, how odd it is to be watching the Rugby World Cup games played at Kamaishi today with this in mind.
September 1st, 2019 Update
Elizabeth Ride & Rowena Banham (author), The Arden Seven (courtesy Ben Chong), Mount Austin Barracks (via Internet)
Smokes for Wounded (courtesy TK & Tai Hang Wong), Chieng Lee Hai and document (courtesy Justin Ho)
Stanley Aerial (courtesy Philip Cracknel), MacAlarney POW Index Card (courtesy Steve Denton), Sir Mark Young (via Tim Page)
The greatest thing about history is that, in practice, there is an infinite amount of it. My summer holiday reading was Viking Britain by Thomas Williams, Lords of the Desert by James Barr, and an oldy – Wing Leader by AVM Johnnie Johnson. The last was just for fun, but the previous two were surprisingly relevant. Vikings was timely, because while visiting Elizabeth Ride in Norway earlier in the month we were also able to visit the incredible Viking Ship Museum in Olso. Lords of the Desert was also apt because although it deals with the post war period, its thesis (America’s attempts to stop British influence over oil production in the Middle East) was similar to that of America’s attempts to stop Hong Kong returning to British rule after the Japanese surrender. And that happened to be a topic our younger son was studying for school over the holidays. As they say, history never repeats but it certainly echoes! And with that little heap of books out of the way, finally I was able to pick up Philip Cracknell’s Battle For Hong Kong. I am already half way through it. I’ll review it properly next month, but my initial impression is extremely positive.
27Brian Finch kindly put me in touch with the family of Eric Gladstone Phillips (RA, Lisbon Maru).
25 A number of people have followed up on my mentions of shooting part of a TV documentary with ‘a celebrity’. Well, although I still can’t give any details, I see it’s now in the public domain. It was Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance. 25 Many years ago I was based for six months at RAF Boscombe Down in the UK, and though not a big facebook user I belong to a relevant page. Someone there posted an article about the famous lady pilot Jean Bird. I had not previously put two and two together, but Derek Bird confirmed that she was the sister of Captain Godfrey Bird, RE, who was a POW in Hong Kong. So just FYI, here are the details: “Jean Bird (8 July 1912 – 29 April 1957) was a pioneering pilot and the first women to get her RAF wings. Jean Lennox Bird was born in Hong Kong on July 8, 1912, daughter of Lt Col. Lennox Godfrey Bird who was an architect with multiple buildings to his name in Shanghai. She took up flying when she was just eighteen. She trained at Hampshire Aeroplane Club in Hamble, in 1930. Her father retired in 1935, eventually to Old Farm, in Beech, England. By the time war broke out in 1939 she was an experienced pilot. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as assistant section leader in 1940 and remained there for a year until she was able to join the Air Transport Auxiliary as a First Officer on 1st August 1941. Bird worked there until the organisation was closed down at the end of the war on 30 November 1945. Like many of the women pilots Bird then joined the Women’s Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. When she joined the reserve force was training women as fully qualified pilots. Bird was the first of these to receive their RAF Wings. By the time she qualified Bird had 3,000 hours in more than 90 different types of aircraft. She was awarded her wings on 20th September 1952 at Redhill Aerodrome. She was also a member of the 3rd Hants (Alton) Battalion of the Home Guard from December 1955, one of 16 women to do so. She also worked with the Women’s Junior Air Corp training women to fly and she was a glider pilot. Bird was never one to let establish gender stereotypes hold her back. She managed to get membership of the all-male RAF Club in Piccadilly by not identifying her gender. Her membership was rejected as soon as it was discovered she was female. While a reservist Bird was working for Meridian Air Maps doing photographic survey work. While surveying the proposed route of a new road the plane she was flying, an 'Aerovan' twin-engined freight plane, crashed and she was killed on 29 April 1957. The verdict on the incident was accidental death although evidence was shown that the airplane had been incorrectly fitted with a spare part. She is remembered with the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy, a Chinese antique carving in jade, commemorating her learning to fly in Hong Kong. It is awarded annually to a British woman pilot who has achieved a noteworthy performance in aviation by the British Women Pilots’ Association.” Derek also let me know the details of many other famous members of his family. I suggested he write a book about them as they really were an extraordinary bunch!
24 Ben Chong posted an interesting photo to facebook. It shows a Canadian memorial which I was unaware of, to “The Arden Seven” – which included Ed Shayler and George Peterson who have both visited Hong Kong. 24 A member of Sir Mark Young’s family has joined the Battle of Hong Kong facebook group, sending a well-known photo of him. 24 Steve Denton has found what appears to be another mistake in CWGC files for the Lisbon Maru. John McAlarney should be John MacAlarney. Such swaps of ‘mc’ and ‘mac’ are not unusual, but of cause play havoc with modern computer sorting.
22 I heard today from the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (HKMCD). They note that they are currently closed while they undergo a revamping project involving a renewal of the permanent exhibition. They expect to re-open probably in late 2020.
19To answer a reader’s question, does anyone know where the Corps of Military Police was barracked in Hong Kong in 1941?
14Setting off on an early morning walk I noticed a family of blue magpies scolding something. Foolishly I looked up into the tree to see if there was a rat snake or similar bothering them, before looking down and coming face to face with a large adult masked civet cat! (Illustrated). They are normally very shy, but this one was scrounging around a place where people put out food for feral domestic cats. That walk always ends up with me coming down Mount Austin Road, and I always look for ‘cooked off’ bullets in any diggings because when the barracks were hit (and I just came across a good photo of the damage) a fire started and a huge cache of .303 rounds went up. Usefully for interpreting the photo, the large house at bottom left (Haystack) still exists, and is today the Japanese consul's residence.
11 Years ago, my younger son and his school friends shot quite a good video about the Battle of Hong Kong and put it on YouTube. Somehow an old email account of mine must have been attached to it because today I saw this notification from a Maureen Grimshaw: “Thank you for this very good video. My father was captured by the Japanese and taken to Japan on the Lisbon Maru. My mother was a young Jewish girl from Shanghai. She spoke little about her experiences which is understandable, but there is a period I have always been baffled over. I believe my father deserted the British army and married my mother in 1939 app. I am curious how they managed to stay together in the period from 1939 to probably to December 1941. He was working for the Royal Dockyard Police. Can you tell me anything about them, and if he could have been posted on Hong Kong Island during the months before the invasion? I was born in Kowloon, on Highgate Hill Road in April 18th 1942. My father was already in one of the camps by then before being shipped to Japan.” Unfortunately I can’t respond to it and there was no email address in the comment. If anyone knows Maureen, please ask her to email me directly.
9 On the BAAG group, Elizabeth Ride notes: “Hugh Farmer has kindly posted the next Shipping report, which you will find [here]. I quote this passage from LTR's postwar report to Whitehall: ‘Despite these conditions, the full functions of H.Q. were carried out throughout this move, and the weekly printing of K.W.I.Z. – sometimes printed during a halt on the road-side – was maintained unbroken. It was an achievement only possible in a unit of high morale, and whose officers were actuated by the utmost devotion to duty.’ P.S. Please note that the two agents mentioned are HALO and DANTE. Has anyone any information about the identity of these two agents? They were obviously members of the very successful J Group, under Mark Tsui.” This is a good illustration of my point below.
6 The family of Chiang Lee Hai, Raymond and Chiang Lee Hin (both HKVDC) got in touch (Chiang Lee Hin, Sim Beck Hoe, Lee How Fong, and Leow Hock Yew were kept under house arrest at May Hall in Hong Kong University until they tried to escape in 1943. Sim Beck Hoe ‘died in prison’ while Chiang Lee Hin and the other two were executed). They believe that Chiang Lee Hai worked for BAAG, but I can’t find his name in any records, and nor can Elizabeth. However, it’s worth remembering that many BAAG personnel are only known by their agent numbers or code names, and we don’t yet know their names. Chiang Lee Hai had survived the 5AA Bty massacre. They also sent a very interesting and useful set of photos and documents, and in return - if anyone has one – would like a group photo of 5AA Bty.
4 Today we took the subway in Oslo from Nationaltheatret to Borgen, jumped on a bus there, and alighted just outside Elizabeth Ride’s very nice place in the suburbs. She has a lovely flat, with a balcony giving views down towards the city. It was really a social visit rather than a ‘working’ (or BAAG research) one, but it was very nice to see her again and talk about old times in Hong Kong. I hadn’t been to Norway for forty years, and had forgotten how nice it is.
3Philip Cracknel’s latest blog describes what happened at No. 2 Battery HKVDC (Bluff Head - Stanley) during the defence of Hong Kong in December 1941. He included a very good aerial photo of Stanley Fort and peninsular, which I had not seen before.
2 The BAAG facebook page continues to grow its membership. It consists of both family members of BAAG personnel and people like me who are simply very interested. A member of Dougie Clague’s family is the latest to join. 2 TK and Tai Hang Wong are in Glasgow attending a family wedding. They note: “Inside a secondhand book that I bought is a surprising bonus bookmark left by the first owner in 1943. Was there a similar morale boosting campaign for POWs and civilian internees in HK and Far East?” What an interesting question! As far as I know there was not, but cigarettes (primarily from the Red Cross) did of course get into the camps. I somehow doubt that modern medical professionals would approve of this sort of ‘charity’…
August 1st, 2019 Update
Battle for Hong Kong (author), Lisbon Maru Memorial book (courtesy Steve Denton), Pio-Ulski letter (courtesy Nona Pio-Ulski Langley)
Vibe's medals, POW chop (both courtesy Frode Olsen), Excerpt from BAAG Benny Xavier report (courtesy Elizabeth Ride)
Alison & Tim Luard (courtesy George Chanduloy), Japanese 'evacuation' summary (courtesy Chi Man Kwong), Jack Hughieson (courtesy Brian Finch)
First of all my apologies for the late posting of this month’s blog, though that’s not unusual for July. We were on holiday in the UK and then spent the first few days of August in Oslo, Norway, where we visited Elizabeth Ride - but I’ll cover that in the August edition.
29 Brian Finch kindly sent a set of photos of Jack Hughieson. Many of the Lisbon Maru survivors seem to have led rather colourful post-war lives, but none more so than Jack! But I will have to leave the details until after the TV documentary is finished.
28 Alexander MacDonald asked for a copy of my paper about Bungalow A’s role (at St Stephen’s College) in the Stanley Internment Camp. Unfortunately as I am travelling in the UK at the moment I can’t send him a copy. However, I discovered that it is available online here.
27 Martin Heyes has an explanation for the ceramic memorial pot recently found at the Shing Mung Redoubt (see April): “Just a very quick line to say that the ‘mystery’ of the ceramic pot inside the metallic box, buried outside the AOP at the Shing Mun Redoubt, has now been solved! I showed a couple whom I took up there yesterday the item. One chap looked under the pot and found a couple of Polaroid photos of a dog wrapped there. They explained that the pot contains the ashes of somebody’s favourite pet. Quite why the ashes should be buried there, I don’t know. Perhaps someone liked taking the pooch for walk on the Maclehose Trail?!”
24 Celebrated my sixtieth birthday at lunch at the Victoria Hotel, Holkham, Norfolk, UK, with my family. How time flies! I was only twenty-nine when I arrived in Hong Kong…
23 Steve Denton kindly sent me this link to an interview with my friend Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) conducted by another friend, Meg Parkes!
20 This evening we flew to the UK for a two and a half week holiday, so the blog for the remainder of this month will be shorter than it generally is. However, as we were packing, the doorbell rang and Philip Cracknel’s book arrived! I already have a reading list for this trip, so will have to review it next month instead.
19I had a nice email from that TV company I mentioned in the May update: “I wanted to say a huge thank you for all your help and your contribution to the film with [Mr X]. Your knowledge and expertise is absolutely invaluable to us. I watched a rough cut on Friday and the scene with you and [Mr X] is totally brilliant. [Mr X] told me that he found it incredibly fulfilling and rewarding meeting you. I know you also went out of your way to do the walk with him to North Point and have been in liaison with him since. We really couldn’t have made this film without you - so thank you so, so much.”
16 My copy of Bold Venture, a new history of the American wartime bombing of Hong Kong, arrived a few days ago and I just finished it. I’m not quite sure what to say about it, as it is so different from how I would have written such a book that I found it disappointing. It’s told in a sort of narrative non-fiction style, and didn’t have anything like the detail that I was hoping for. For example, the huge and complex US Navy attacks of 15-16 January 1945 are briefly mentioned as part of a single paragraph, whereas Emily Hahn’s repatriation to the States (which really has nothing to do with the bombing of Hong Kong) gets one and a half pages.
14 Dave Deptford kindly let me know that: “In SPINK 24-25 July 2019 at Lot 169, medal group of three (39-45, Pacific and War) to the above, awarded MID for services in enemy hands, died Yokohama 20.8.1945! Estimate GBP100 - GBP140.” The Spink catalogue reads: “169 Three: Private J. W. Downs, Royal Army Medical Corps, who went ‘in the bag’ on Christmas Day 1941 at the Fall of Hong Kong, later spending almost four years as a Prisoner of War; he died just 10 days after liberation having endured nearly four years of brutal treatment in Japanese internment camps. 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; War Medal 1939-45 with M.I.D. oak leaf, unnamed as issued, with original Mentioned in Despatches Certificate in the name of ‘Private J. W. Downs, Royal Army Medical Corps’, dated 23 January 1947, good very fine (3) £100-140 James Westby Downs was born on 28 October 1913, the son of John and Margaret Downs, of 78 Grafton Road, Keighley, Yorkshire. Taken prisoner at the Fall of Hong Kong, he died on 20 August 1945 and is buried at Yokohama War Cemetery, later being posthumously ‘mentioned’ for his services whilst in enemy hands (London Gazette 23 January 1947, refers); sold together with copied C.W.G.C. casualty details and Japanese P.O.W. records.” However, according to my research for WSST, the date is an error for 10 - August - 1945, when Downs was killed by an Allied bombardment of Kaimishi.
12Frederick George Lee’s (RN) family got in touch, thinking he served on Tamar whereas in fact he was on HMS Robin. Lee was MiD as a POW, but unfortunately I don’t know why. Does anyone know where the details of MiDs are kept? In this case it’s the navy, but I would be interested in the other branches too. MiDs are gazetted, but without citations.
11 I now have the draft script of the Lisbon Maru TV documentary to study. So far it looks pretty good.
8George Black’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 8 Steve Denton kindly shared all his Lisbon Maru personnel files with me. This makes a very useful library which must have taken hundreds of hours to compile. He is also working on a Book Of Remembrance for the Lisbon Maru, which I think looks very good.
6 Nona Pio-Ulski Langley posted her mother’s ‘POW thank you’ letter on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. This makes four of these now in my collection. (See December 2018).
5 I will keep the details anonymous, but Brian Finch’s efforts to tack down Lisbon Maru families and get their stories keeps turning up amazing (and often sad) tales. Today he related one of a survivor who never recovered from the trauma of his experiences (which, aside from the sinking of the ship, included being shot in the head), tried to murder his wife in 1960, and spent the remainder of his life in prisons and an institution for the criminally insane. 5 George ‘Felix’ Chanduloy notes that he met Alison McEwan and (husband) Tim Luard in London last month, and kindly sent a photo. George is on the right. Alison is of course the daughter of Colin McEwan, and Tim Luard wrote the book about the MTB escape. 5 The HKVCA note that: “There will be a ‘Memorial Service’ in Ottawa to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the end of the war in the Far East on August 15th, 1945. We will be holding the service on Saturday, August 17th, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the ‘Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall’ on Sussex Drive (at the corner of King Edward Avenue). There is parking across the street at the National Research Council.” (Details can be seen on the calendar link here).
4 Danish researcher Frode Olsen (author of Ikke En Jordisk Chance) notes: “As you know, Christensen, Jorgan (Jørgen) Vibe Gunner 4689 NP (XD6) was sent to Sendai POW camp No 2 in August 1944. From his niece in Washington I have received a photo of a small item Jørgen Vibe Christensen kept in a frame (see below) together with his medals from WWII. It is a wood token of a kind, which Jørgen mentioned as his ‘prisoner’s chop’ from his time as Japanese POW.” I don’t recall seeing one of these before. But I suggest it’s not a wooded token, but an actual ‘chop’ (i.e. is a Chinese version of the sort of seals that Europeans would use on wax. However, it worked more like a printing press using ink). I guess that if you looked at the square section on the base (right side) of this wooden stick you would find it embossed with his POW number (199) in Japanese / Chinese characters. It could be 百九十九 or 一九九.
3 Today I met Kwong Chi Man for a chat at the private library called "Nose in the Books” in Causeway Bay. Nice location! Chi Man explained some very interesting research he is looking at, which hopefully I can assist with. The strangest thing about the conversation was the discovery that we are both visiting Elizabeth Ride in Norway next month, just days apart! He also kindly gave me a Japanese document showing how many Hong Kong people they ejected from the Colony during the war. It came to 1,094,754, which is remarkably close to the most likely estimate (1,061,613) that I established in a recent paper for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 3 Jim Trick kindly pointed out that I had spelled the late Gerry Gerrard’s name incorrectly at one point in last month’s blog, and also that my list of surviving Canadian Hong Kong Veterans was outdated. It should read: Lance Corporal Robert BARTER, Rifleman Philip DODDRIDGE, Rifleman Hormidas FREDETTE, Rifleman Eugene LAPOINTE, Sergeant George MACDONELL, Rifleman Ralph MACLEAN, who were all of The Royal Rifles of Canada, and Corporal George PETERSON of The Winnipeg Grenadiers. 3 Elizabeth Ride told the BAAG group: “Recently, a researcher asked whether the Ride papers had any information about a man named Benny Xavier. I sent him this [investigation] about Xavier by the BAAG Counter Espionage division. The document is difficult to read, but some of our Group may be interested in this aspect of our many-faceted BAAG. The CE papers are still classified in the Australian War Memorial Ride papers until 2021, but are accessible on WO 343.”
1 July the first being the handover holiday, I took my usual long walk over the hills and spent some time using a large stick to brush some of the mud off the lower part of the path up High West. The local wild pigs have really made that area their home, and in case anyone has any doubt as to who the culprits are, they thoughtfully left some nice clear trotter prints! (Illustrated).
July 1st, 2019 Update
Ex-Chindit Wong Shing (via facebook), Li Mak Yuen's medals (courtesy Leo Lee), Whitfield book (author)
Fredette & Standish, Fredette's mementoes (both courtesy Colin Standish), James Gilbert cover (courtesy Bill Lake)
Chinese Civilan Memorial (author), BAAG Group with names (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Komorova grave (author)
The Komaroff story (see below) is another reminder of just how much I don’t know about the Occupation years. One thing I should do is check the Hong Kong Cemetery (Colonial Cemetery) graves register, and the registers for other formal cemeteries. I have also ordered the book Bold Venture. While it has had mixed reviews, at the moment there is very little literature about the American bombing of Hong Kong.
26 Today I visited the old Colonial Cemetery to get photographs of the Komoroff / Komorov / Komorova grave. I found it easily enough, very close to the Stubbs Road entrance, and surrounded by a number of other Chinese and Russian burials from the occupation years. On the way back I passed through the botanical gardens and took a photo of the war-damaged memorial to Chinese civilians lost in the world wars.
25 Barbara Harding kindly sent me an extract from Leo Landau’s diary in which he describes seeing USAAF pilot Lieutenant Kerr being shot down on 11 February 1944: “Today was the most thrilling as yet in camp. I saw my first dog fight and a plane coming down smack into the sea and a pilot bailing out at a high altitude.”
24 Iain Gow kindly noted that he had found the Australian War Crimes Affidavits for Kobe house: “There are some interesting details of the camp layout, and one talks about new prisoners being kept in the ‘oval’ (presumably the ground of the Kobe British Cricket Club across from the camp) until they could count up to 50 in Japanese. It’s weird seeing guard names one of my father’s friends used to mention, and on a more somber note, there is a description of how bodies were cremated in barrels (top of page 52), re-iterating that’s why my Dad would never join in with the song ‘Roll Out the Barrel’.” 24 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent the BAAG group an annotated photo of some the BAAG agents who were connected with AHQ Waichow.
21 Colin Standish kindly sent me this obituary of Gerry Gerard. 21 The Java Club Special Edition today included a nice obituary of Stanley Internee William Macauley. 21 Paul Astroshenko kindly helped me with the Komaroff inquiry. He notes that his: “parents knew the Komaroffs. Most of the family were killed by an American bomb on Nathan Road in the first American air raid in Hong Kong. They had an infant son, Vitaly Komaroff, who was not with them. He was adopted by a couple, Felix and Claire Suter. Felix was Swiss and Claire was French. The Komaroff family who were killed on that fateful day are buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley.” Note that the gravestone’s inscription is in Cyrillic, and the transliteration reads Komarov. These unfortunate people are not in any of my files, which make me think a) they must still have had Russian nationality at this time, and b) there may be other third-nationals missing from my files. It would be fascinating to do a study of all known wartime civilian burials in Hong Kong’s official cemeteries, although this would only be a tiny percentage of overall deaths. By the way, Paul has a website in which he has documented his childhood experience of this particular bombing raid.
19My copy of Hong Kong, Empire and the Anglo-American Alliance at War arrived a couple of days ago and I just finished it. There are a few mistakes and some assertions you could question, but bearing in mind that it was written more than twenty years ago it actually does a pretty sound job of explaining why, against Roosevelt’s best efforts, Hong Kong reverted to British rule instead of Chinese. Definitely worth a read.
16 Brian Finch let me know that an interview that he did in November 2017 with Hong Kong Radio 3 (about the Lisbon Maru) has finally been broadcast, and is also available on this link.
15 John Baxter, who I assisted with information about Charles Bennett, RE (see last month), has cleared up a minor mystery. Quite a lot of the POW Index Cards from Japan state that the ex-POW in question was handed over to “John Martin” of the US Army after liberation. He has discovered that this John Martin was himself a medic and an ex-POW, namely Major John J. Martin, 41st Infantry Regiment, and had been in Oeyama and Chikko.
14All credit to Steve Denton for leading the charge by taking my file of everyone aboard the Lisbon Maru, and going through thousands and thousands of documents to eliminate my mistakes, errors in the Shamshuipo POW list, errors in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database, and a handful of really tricky questions of mistaken identity (sometimes accidental, sometimes not…) The end result is that we now have a finalised list of exactly 1,816 checked and rechecked names. There could well be a few spellings still to perfect, but aside from that the work is complete. Interestingly, 1,816 is the number that the Japanese claimed all the time. 14 Bob Tatz’s book is now available on Amazon.
13 On facebook someone shared a fantastic IWM photo of British Commandoes and a small Chinese lad guarding the Happy Valley racecourse in September 1945. It had been ‘colourised’ by Benjamin Thomas, who did a truly excellent job (illustrated). 13 Elizabeth Ride notes: “For several years, Hugh Farmer's excellent website 'Industrial Hongkong' has been publishing BAAG agents' reports on naval and shipping matters in occupied Hongkong. If any of the BAAG group are interested, you can find these reports by consulting the Index as follows: 1. go to the website
2. click on the Index on the Home Page
3. scroll down to articles beginning World War Two where all the BAAG related articles are listed
4. click on an article of interest to read.”
11Chohong Choi kindly sent me a very interesting link to the story of a Mr Wong Shing who has just celebrated his one hundredth birthday. According to the post he joined the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong in April 1939 and was stationed at Cape Collinson with 12 Coast Regiment. I can confirm that someone of that name, from the Royal Artillery, crossed into China and reported to BAAG after Hong Kong’s fall, and joined the Hong Kong column of the Chindits. 11 Iain Gow kindly sent a link to the full Kobe House report, which I had not seen before.
10A nice bit of detective work by Steve Denton shows that Lance Bombardier Thomas Williams and Lance Bombardier Samuel Boyce (both of 965 Defence Battery, and both on the Lisbon Maru list) were in fact one and the same man. As far as we can tell, he enlisted as Thomas Williams but his real name was Samuel Boyce. Normally when this happened (and in those days it was more common than you might think) the CWGC entry would include both names, and add ‘enlisted as’ to the pseudonym, but not in this case. 10 Michael Hurst in Taiwan is still searching for the name of the ship (or boat) which carried Maltby, his senior officers, and their batmen to Taiwan, arriving there in August 1943. He has found it described as both a ‘lighter’ and a ‘small wooden vessel’. We would both be grateful if anyone could identify it! I have been looking at BAAG records from Hong Kong at the time to see if any agent described the right sort of vessel at the right sort of time, but no luck yet.
9 Thomas James’s (RA) great niece got in touch. 9 John Long’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) granddaughter got in touch. 9 Phillip Cracknell has published another interesting blog, this time covering 4 Bty HKVDC.
8 The HKVCA have published their latest newsletter. With the recent passing of Gerry Gerard we are now down to just seven survivors from C Force: Bob Barter, Ed Bolton, Phil Doddridge, Hormidas Fredette, George MacDonell, Ralph MacLean, and George Peterson.
7 CPO Li Mak Yeun’s (HKRNVR) great grandson got in touch, kindly sending a photo of his medals. He would like more details about his grandfather’s service, but unfortunately I have very little. But it is fantastic to hear from a Chinese member of the HKRNVR, and I think it’s the first time in 30 years that this has happened! 7 I had a difficult query from Australia: “I wanted to get in touch with you, as I was recently in Hong Kong and got to thinking about my partner’s grandparents. From what we know, they were missionaries in Hong Kong and killed in a bombing around 1942. We only have their surname unfortunately, Komaroff, and believe they were from Russia. Would you have any suggestions about how we might track down what happened to them and more about their story?” That’s going to be hard, as I can find no mention of that name in any of my files. 7 I finally got round to ordering a copy of Hong Kong, Empire and the Anglo-American Alliance at War by Andrew Whitfield. 7 Colin Standish kindly sent me several images from his interview with Hormidas Fredette. Rifleman Fredette has kept many items from those days, including a jar of tobacco issued in Japan!
5 Another descendant of the Matheson family (Marjorie Matheson was the manager of the Repulse Bay Hotel – see April) got in contact.
4 Barbara Harding (see last month) kindly sent me a complete copy of Leo Landau’s diary – but not for further distribution.
1 Bill Lake, on seeing the Leo Landau book cover image (see last month) noted that he had a similar one – clearly by the same artist – for Lieutenant James C. Gilbert, Royal Rifles of Canada. On this one the initials of the artist M.F.B are clear (with the date 1944). It must be CSM Marciano F. Baptista, 6 Coy HKVDC.
June 1st, 2019 Update
Bob Tatz's new book (courtesy Bob Tatz), Leo Landau book (courtesy Barbara Harding), Greater Green Snake (author)
Mount Nicholson Foxholes, High West AOP (both author), Argyle Street rollcall (courtesy Hong Kong News?)
FEPOW Art Exhibition (courtesy Meg Parkes), Clipper Lounge (author), HSBC Model (courtesy Keith Grant)
I suppose there are many reasons why the suffering of Hong Kong’s civilian population during the war has not seen much public discussion. There have been so many books (and I’m guilty of at least four of them…) about the garrison and the Colonials, but their experience – unpleasant, and often fatal, though it was – was on such a small scale in comparison. This month I finalised a full-length article for the next Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society describing the starvation, the mass exodus, and the persecution of these civilians. Using every source I could find, I have attempted to calculate a total number of deaths and justify my conclusions. I won’t pre-empt myself here and now, but upon publication I will revisit the subject.
31 Bob Tatz let me know that his book launch for Lost In The Battle for Hong Kong will be in Edmonton on June 6. Hopefully there will also be a Hong Kong launch later in the year.
30Meg Parkes let me know that the exhibition The Secret Art of Survival, Hidden artworks by British Far East POW 1942-1945, will open at the Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool, on Saturday 19 October.
29 Michael Hurst notes that the Spring-Summer 2019 Taiwan POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on his website now.
27Brian Edgar notes: “Some scenes from a silent film directed by Chester Bennett have appeared on YouTube. Bennett was one of those who made trips from Stanley into town to spend the money loaned to the internees by the Japanese in spring 1942. He turned down repatriation to the USA because Franklin Gimson asked him to stay behind to help the British. He was guaranteed out of Stanley, probably by his Macanese wife, and in town he became a BAAG agent as well as smuggling money, messages etc into Stanley. He was executed on Stanley Beach on October 29th, 1943.” 27 A Danish researcher has been asking about Blanche Isabella Scott, several of whose children were either evacuees from Hong Kong or were interned at Stanley.
26 Charles Bennett’s (RE) nephew got in touch. 26 Bill Lake kindly sent me this link to a pdf copy of the official Canadian report on the ”Canadian Participation In The Defence of Hong Kong, December 1941”.
23 Both Gerry Tuppert and Burke Penny were kind enough to let me know the sad news that Gerry Gerard, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, had passed away yesterday at the age of 97. I had met him on his last visit to Hong Kong.
22 While waiting for a flight at Hong Kong airport I was able to meet Barbara Harding (daughter of Leo Landau, HKVDC) who was also flying that night. She kindly presented me with a copy of a privately printed booklet containing many of his diary pages and illustrations from Shamshuipo. 22 The VIP referred to below contacted me again, and we had a very pleasant walk (without the TV cameras this time) over the hills from Wong Nai Chung Gap to the site of the old North Point POW Camp. I was hoping to show him some of Hong Kong’s fauna along the way, but alas all we found was an absolutely huge female Giant Woodland Spider being pursued by four small but hopeful males!
21 I finalised my two articles for the next Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society today. One is a short review of the Anslow and Charter journals, and the other is a full-length study of Chinese civilian fatalities in Hong Kong 41-45. I hope the latter leads to much useful debate. 21 Michael Maddess has: “found around 8 or 9 old war caves in Tai Lam country park around 500m below the MacLehose trail.“ Does anyone know if these are the ‘standard’ Japanese tunnels?
19 I spent the whole day today at the Peninsula Hotel and Shamshuipo Park, filing with our VIP visitor. It was a lot of fun, and the Pen looked after us very well. At the moment we don’t have a date for the documentary to be released but when it’s fixed I will announce it on this website. I should point out that I’m not the only Hong Kong wartime historian involved; you will see several familiar faces!
18 Steve Denton has done some very useful further research on the ‘official’ list of POWs on the Lisbon Maru, and has managed to show that several of these men were actually on different drafts. My original list ran to 1,828 but it seems that we are now down to 1,817 – suspiciously close to the official Japanese number of 1,816. This month I was too busy travelling to look into this properly, but I will do so in June.
15 Frank Chamberlain’s (Royal Marines) son contacted. Interestingly, Chamberlain was a batman at Argyle Street Camp and brought home a written account of the Anglo/American evasion attempt (see last month) which I think must have been drafted by Sawyer and was probably given to Chamberlain when Sawyer was sent to Japan. He also kindly sent me a concert program for “The Argyle Melody for 1943”. 15 Patrick Flynn kindly sent me some photographs from his father’s (Captain James Flynn) post-war 2/14th Punjabi reunions.
14Coming home from my usual morning walk in the hills I saw a beautiful, almost translucent, metre long Greater Green Snake right next to Old Peak Road. A helper walking a dog in front of me screamed “Snake!” But even with her helpfully pointing and shouting “there! there!” it was so still and camouflaged that I couldn’t see it for a full minute. Then I pushed it gently away from the road. I have seen so many of these killed by people who mistake them for the totally different Bamboo Pit Viper that I wasn’t taking any chances.
13I met a British TV crew at the Peninsula Hotel this morning to prepare for our filming with a VIP visitor on Sunday. Interestingly, we visited the Clipper Lounge from which their helicopter flies, and I loved the aeronautical decor! Unfortunately I have to be secretive about this project for the moment, but will announce details in due course.
8 I have one wartime photo of Argyle Street Camp in my collection. Does anyone know the original source? I suspect it’s the Hong Kong News, but am not certain.
5 Janet Hayes (Barbara Anslow’s niece) very kindly put me in touch with Sergeant Leslie Millington’s son (see last month).
4 Stuart Woods kindly sent me some photographs of the AOP on Mount Nicholson (funny how these things always happen in pairs). I will visit it next time I go up there. He notes that some rocks further up the hill: “are where a boy in the 1970's found a .303 rifle and after a failed attempt to fire it decided to burn it on a small camp fire. It subsequently discharged itself due to heat and shot him in the leg hitting an artery, he survived but almost bled to death.” Anyone know any more details of that story?
3Trudged up to the top of Mount Nicholson this morning and found a large area of well-preserved fox holes that I had not previously noticed. However, the path up to the summit is pretty badly eroded now. There were also a lot of wild pig diggings, one of which had excavated the back end of a Canadian .303 rifle cartridge (illustrated).
1 I walk up High West most mornings, but today deviated from my usual route and took the path that goes round to the West from the top of Hatton Road. I followed it to the old Artillery Observation Post, which for some reason I had never visited before. There’s not much to see – except, on the way back, a full-grown wild boar! May the first is a little late in the year to be seeing the pigs. 1 Keith Grant kindly sent me a couple of photos of a: “silver gilt model of the old bank building given to Archie McAlpine on his retirement on 16 June 1956.” Earlier Keith had told me that Archie McAlpine (who was interned at Stanley) was his great uncle by marriage, and: “was chief engineer for Hong Kong Bank and lived in a flat at the top of the bank… His wife, my great aunt, Elizabeth McAlpine, was evacuated to Manila with her step daughter (Margaret) and decided to stay there only to be interned in Manila. Archie and Liz both returned to HK after the war.”
May 1st, 2019 Update
Arthur Whitaker and his wife (courtesy Donald Whitaker), Copy lion at new HSBC office (author), Lance Bombardier Holland (courtesy Andrew Holland)
BAAG Bugle (courtesy Bill Lake), Omine area view (courtesy George Boote), Shing Mun object (courtesy Martin Heyes)
In the epic defence of Stanley Village, the two Millington brothers (Leslie Charles and Henry James) fought side by side as Sergeants in the 1st Battery HKVDC, with Henry Millington being lost. This month I was asked an urgent question about them, but unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly) I have never been in touch with the family. Can anyone help?
28 Brian Finch kindly sent me a copy of Jack Hughieson’s memoirs (see last month).
27Arthur Whitaker’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch, kindly sending me his father’s account of the sinking and a photo. He notes: “The photograph of my parents was taken on the 50th anniversary of VJ day 1995. Dad was very ill at the time but wanted to be part of the memorial ceremony in Horsham where they lived. He passed away February 1st the following year aged 80. [And] I was especially interested in the photographs of the POWs in the Exhibition section. It is possible that he is in the 12th picture, 5th from the left wearing a hat and looking down at his plate, there is certainly a resemblance there.”
26 Brian Edgar kindly solved an old puzzle for me today. I have a note from 2007 about Ken Sawyer, RAVC (and one of the best artists in POW Camp) escaping from Lantau with three Americans and three British servicemen, before the group became split up with the British being recaptured and the Americans ‘being killed’. Brian has found a newspaper article By Guenther Stein Special Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, from 25 March 1942. In Chungking she interviews Robert Douglas Casey, of Seattle, and Charles Hatlan of St Louis, who had just arrived there after trekking from Hong Kong where their Standard Oil Tanker Admiral Rilliam [sic] had been sunk. They describe how they escaped with a third colleague, Howard Swaney of San Francisco, and four privates of a British Middlesex Regiment. The team stole three small boats and rowed to Lantau. After a few weeks there was a skirmish with the Japanese and they ‘lost one of our Middlesex soldiers’. The other three British then ‘decided to escape to Castlepeak’ but were captured and ‘beheaded immediately’. Mr Swaney became ill and decided to surrender to the Japanese and was believed killed too. Hatlan and Casey then left ear in February with Chinese assistance and successfully escaped. Sawyer names the four British men as himself, Middlesex George Pape Middlesex (who perished on the Lisbon Maru), Horse Ambulance Driver Leslie Wheatley RASC, and Private Mike Jacobs, RAMC (who actually succeeded in escaping). He also describes meeting a Chinese gentleman, after the two groups separated, who told them all three Americans had been killed. The British, he says, were recaptured on the 29th.
23 Corresponding with Barbara Anslow and Jennifer Dobbs today, I let the latter know that in my ‘living’ version of NtSC I have updated the notes on the death of her father (having recently been sent his death certificate) to: “Prisoner of the Japs, Dew, page 238 describes how Dobbs and his American wife Alice had come from Kunming in south China to Hong Kong for the Christmas holiday, and when the battle started he volunteered and lost his life. But his daughter Jennifer corrects: ‘Actually they did not go to HK for Christmas. They would not have left us children behind if that were true... They went on business, to visit a dentist and Christmas shopping and planned to return before the holidays.’ Until Alice was repatriated (probably in June 1942 with the other Americans), their two children John and Jennifer were stuck in Kunming with no idea of their parents’ whereabouts. With a War On, Higgins, page 375 claims: ‘He was sent to Kowloon with others who were to take up prepared positions in the New Territories and has not been heard from since.’ Family lore is that he was in a building that was hit, though of course if that were true the date would be more likely 12th. His death certificate states: ‘killed in a boiler explosion’ with a date of 25 December.” Presumably that telegram refereed to was to the Colonial Secretariat, but it would be interesting to see if it (and perhaps other such reports) could be found.
20 George Boote is staying with family in Kyushu and took the train over to Omine to photograph the site of the old POW camp and mine there, kindly sending me a selection.
18 Martin Heyes described a strange find outside the Shing Mun Redoubt: “As we were leaving, something metallic caught my eye - glinting in the sunshine. [All] I could see was what transpired to be the corner of a metal box, the soil surrounding which was very loose after recent rain. I was able to dig it out with bare hands. The box had a metal clasp which was not locked and, upon opening it, I discovered this blue ceramic pot ‘sealed’ with a piece of adhesive tape inside. There was an (empty) plastic envelope in the lid of the box. I didn’t open the ceramic pot; for some reason I didn’t feel it appropriate. I left everything in situ.” Very odd.
16 I was delighted today to be contacted by the family of Miss Marjorie Matheson, the redoubtable wartime manager of the Repulse Bay Hotel, who kindly sent a photo. My correspondent notes: “Marjorie Matheson was born at Wei-bai-wei in China, 23 April 1902. Her father had moved from Perth, Australia to Hong Kong about 1900 to become a Stock Broker. His name was Robert Thomas Matheson, and when he became ill he returned to Brisbane, Queensland and died but his wife Lillian was in Hong Kong with their daughter at the time of his death in 1929. Marjorie visited Brisbane on various occasions, so I remember her well [and] we visited Hong Kong on our way back to Australia in 1966, when Marjorie took us to the Repulse Bay Hotel. She told us how she ‘Put as many medals on her chest and demanded that the Japanese let them bury their dead’. She was a big lady and the Japanese were small!! And I read somewhere someone asking if it was her who was in charge of the Helena May, well it was her. Marjorie lived her whole life over there and died in 1972 in Hong Kong.”
15Brian Finch told me the sad but fascinating story that Lionel Sidney Smith of the Middlesex, who was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft and passed away in 2012, had a son: “Kenneth Richard Smith [who] was killed by a landmine on 8.6.74 while serving with Australian SAS in Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe)”. Today both are buried in Colchester Cemetery. 15 Steve Denton sent me an interesting record of death of Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 6202039, of the 8th Coast Regiment, RA. The date of death was 24 September 1945, and in WSST I described him as dying on a hospital ship. However, this form gives the cause of death as “Injuries in air crash”. The three known and infamous plane crashes were on 10 September 1945 so it would be feasible for someone injured on that day passing away on the 24th. However, only one of the three B24s that crashed that day had survivors. I checked the MACR and there is no one of this name listed. However, for the first time I realised that three, or possibly four, of the survivors picked up at sea were indeed ex Lisbon Maru. They were: Clifford Rumary, Andrew Grieg, Thomas Hanley, and possibly William McDonagh, Royal Scots. A British soldier with his serial is in the manifest, but (strangely) under the name ‘Floyd C Bennett’. The fact that Hart is buried at Yokohama clearly means that he wasn’t lost at sea. So I wonder if there was a fourth plane crash? Just before he passed away, Taffy Evans mentioned to me that he too had survived a plane crash, and he’s not on the manifest of the known aircraft either. I never had the chance to follow that lead up.
14Frode from Denmark kindly sent a link: “Just a quick link solving the question of identity of Jorgensen, Jorgen, Ship’s captain, died 16 December from his wounds.”
13 Ron Holland’s (RA) son got in touch. Not only does he have a great photo of his father, but also the nominal roll of 36th Battery. 8th Coast Regiment! This is extraordinarily helpful. Prior to this I had a pretty complete list of 8th Coast Regiment gunners, and a roll for 30th Battery. Now, with 30th and 36th documented, I can be sure that the majority of names I have remaining are from the third and last Battery: 12. It also seems from these documents that 12, 30, and 36 Batteries were known as A, B, and C Batteries. Holland was a batman in Argyle Street and is mention in Ray Barman’s book Resist To The End. 13 The Argus in Australia posted a story about Neville Cavanagh, one of eleven Australians who volunteered for service and ended up being sent to Hong Kong as part of the RN Dockyard Police. Cavanagh also survived the Lisbon Maru 13 I went for a long walk today, up Violet Hill. I was looking for bits and pieces but it was pretty pointless as the summit was in thick fog. At one point I found a cartridge but it turned out to be a blank from post-war British carbine. On the way home I took Black’s Link as far as Middle Gap, and then tool the path that goes off to the left, and eventually joins onto Middle Gap Road. Only a short way along it I happened to look up to my right. Now, I must have walked along that path a hundred times, but I had never before noticed what looks like a long, low, brick built gun position. Once home (after looking at the sites of the houses on Middle Gap Road and Coombe Road mentioned in Bob Tatz’s war time memoires – see last month), I looked it up in Gwulo – that now indispensible tool for all Hong Kong historians. Very interesting!
11 George Chanduloy sent an interesting email about ‘accidentally’ discovering the office of the old anti-Japanese Guerrilla war of the East River Column Association (HK) (now renamed the 'Old Soldiers Cultural Association'.) George had two uncles who were with the BAAG - Uncle Andrew in Post X and later with the USAAF, and Uncle Lui with his mission bringing aid into Burma. Copies of the original BAAG ‘crest’ have also been circulating between the group. 11 Thanks to research by Brian Finch I learned today that Lisbon Maru survivor Jack Hughieson had ended the war at Miyoshi. I just listened to the IWM recordings of Jack, and on Reel 6 he indeed mentions that he ended the war in Miyoshi Camp. As far as I know that’s unique for an ex-HK POW. According to this article it’s Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture, and thus only about 50km from the centre of Hiroshima itself. Close enough to see the flash of the bomb, I would imagine. A number of families have told me that their fathers or grandfathers had seen the Hiroshima or Nagasaki Bomb, and up till now I have discounted these as probably a mis-remembering of travelling through one or other of these cities after Liberation. But this account sounds credible.
7Elizabeth Ride sent the BAAG group the URL to a Canadian documentary about the Battle of Hong Kong which I assisted with. I certainly consider it to be one of the better efforts.
6 Steve Denton discovered the POW Index Card of Arthur Jack ‘Bill’ Evans who was one of three men to escape from the Lisbon Maru and evade recapture. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Japanese have marked him as ‘deceased’! He also found the card for ERA James Chambers. The Shamshuipo POW list shows him as having been on the Lisbon Maru, but his card shows that this is clearly an error. 6 I don’t normally show the military artefacts that turn up in Hong Kong from time to time, but this one is different. Early in the mornings I like to climb High West, and today near the base of the path I found a smashed .303 bullet (illustrated). At that location I don’t believe it’s likely to be associated with the fighting. Perhaps it’s more likely to be an over shoot from the old butts just a few yards further down the hill.
4 I have had another request to try to solve the disappearance of a Hong Kong Chinese civilian during the Japanese invasion. It’s personal, so I will keep it anonymous. It is typical of this type of request, which I received occasionally: “The reason why I am reaching out to you is, my father, who is in his late 80s now, has asked me for the help. And I just don't know how to start. It is related to my grandfather, who was killed in - nowadays it is called Shatin - during the first few nights of invasion. Based on the story from my dad, they landed somewhere close to that area for equipment and supplies unloading, and my grandfather was killed on the night of the landing. My father's family took the body to some [Air Raid] shelter along with 3 other bodies. I am tasked to find the remains, if there is a way. My ask is, do you have any idea how I can start the search?” I don’t hold out much hope. Selwyn Clarke had said that some 4,000 civilians perished in the invasion, and those bodies which were formally recovered appear to have been mainly buried in mass graves.
3 Today I met Keith Grant, who kindly asked me to sign his copy of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale. His mother Thelma was evacuated, and her father (Willian Organ, HKDDC) died as a POW. 3 Jim Trick kindly sent a link to a new interview with surviving Canadian Royal Rifles veteran Hormidas Fredette. 3 Bill Lake sent the BAAG group a photo of the BAAG bugle, noting that it was: “presented in 1944 by a Lt. Colonel Boyes-Cooper. It is at the moment in storage at the RHKR (Vol) Clubhouse in Happy Valley.” 3 Barbara Harding, daughter of Leo Landau of the HKVDC, sent a wonderful photo of her and her parents at home in May 1949. 3 The April Java Journal contained an obituary of Bill McCauley, whose death I reported last month.
2Today I visited for the first time HSBC’s Kowloon-side archives at the HSBC Centre at Tai Kok Tsui. Previously I had corresponded with their archivists in London, going back as far Edwin Green, But this new archive is super high tech and impressive, and also very hospitable! I was very pleased to see that they had fibreglass replicas of the two lions downstairs, complete and accurate down to the last piece of shrapnel damage!
1 Simon Biggs has written a blog about the role of the Royal Marines in wartime Hong Kong.