Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation.
This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Anslow's 100th (via Rosemary Mitchell), Edward Phillips (via Brian Finch). Saiwan 1954 (courtesy CWGC)
Annual Canadian Memorial Service (author), Charter Journal (courtesy Bill Lake), HMS Cicala (via facebook)
ARP Truck (courtesy Phillip Cracknell), May Huang letter (author's collection), Yau Sam Lo (courtesy Jennifer Lo)
First of all, apologies for the late publication of last month’s update. I actually hit the ‘publish’ button on time on the last day of November, and didn’t realize that anything had gone wrong until TK Wong kindly let me know. Apparently I hit a bug in the software which I use to update the site each month. That was a surprise. Fifteen years ago I hit bugs quite often, but it has been very stable since then. Hopefully all’s well this month!
31 Philip Cracknel has published a nice article about Captain Norman Cuthbertson, Royal Scots, who was genuinely heroic aboard the Lisbon Maru. 31 Research by Brian Finch makes a very strong case that Edward Upton, RE, died of diphtheria in the first hold of the Lisbon Maru before she sank. Previously I was only aware of two naval men who shared that fate (with Beri Beri being their cause of death). In a letter to Upton’s widow, his CO Lieutenant William Clarkson states explicitly that he died in the hold and was carried up to the deck and buried at sea.
30 From information supplied by Brian Finch, it appears that the Plymouth Naval Memorial (which I have never visited) has a panel or panels dedicated to the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. That had never occurred to me before. I had assumed that all the lost naval men listed there would simply be in rank and alphabetical order. If anyone has a photo, I would be grateful.
29Jennifer Lo (see last month) kindly sent me a contemporary photo of her grandfather, HKVDC and 3 Company veteran, Yau Sam Lo. 29 Kent Shum kindly sent me the Chinese poster advertising Fang Li’s new Lisbon Maru documentary.
27Bill Lake has confirmed that the Charter Diaries are now published and available. I know this has been a lot of work, and am very much looking forward to reading my copy.
25 Brian Finch has put together a set of links showing the publicity so far afforded the new Lisbon Maru documentary, expected to see completion in 2020: BBC World News 2018.7.9 BBC Today 2018.7.14 BBC Online 2018.7.14 Sunday Post 2018.9.2 23 Today I received an email that truly made my day: “Dear Tony, I want to thank you so much for first contacting me many years ago, and drawing me into the Stanley Group on line, because without that happening, I would not have met up with David Bellis and my war diaries would never have been published. This has been the most exciting year of my life! Regards and God bless, Barbara (Anslow).” As Barbara is one of my heroes (or heroines, to be more precise), it’s rather a big deal!
22 Today the CWGC put an old photograph of Sai Wan on facebook. Taken in 1954 it shows the cemetery before anything around it was built up. Interestingly, at mid left there are three clearly defined 500-pound bomb craters. In one of the comments, someone posted this video of me taking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau around the cemetery at the end of 2016. We appear at about 01.26.
21Brian Edgar sent an interesting link to a set of Christmas cards sent to Charles Collingwood Roberts, taipan of Swire, while in Stanley:
20 John Lomax’s (RA) son got in touch. 20 Elizabeth Ride (and others) have suggested that there should be a BAAG social media group (on facebook or whatever) in the same manner as the Stanley Group and the Battle of Hong Kong group. I think it’s a great idea, and hopefully we can kick it off early in the New Year.
19 George Boothroyd’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch.
14Al Jazeera interviewed me on camera today for a documentary about Crown Wine Cellars. 14 Old friend Rob Weir was in Hong Kong again recently and took a closer look at PB14. He notes: “The Lyon Light Shelter shows obvious signs of shrapnel damage within the structure, consistent with reports that fighting took place there - in some form. The accessible outer walls of the PB, and a quick peek inside through an open loophole, showed no apparent battle scars. On this visit, I was able to get inside and have a good look. Apart from some damage apparently caused by probable squatter residents over the years, there is no apparent battle damage within the main compartment of the PB. As I mentioned previously, this PB is a little different to most of the other Beach PB’s in that it has an extended entryway along the left side. This is only obvious from the inside as the area is completely covered by a landslip externally. On the side of the entryway, opposite the entry to the main compartment is a large, roughly circular, hole. This has been filled with carefully laid stones and rocks, and is limited to one area rather than the whole side collapsing from the landslip. My theory is that it was caused by an explosive charge set against the outside wall. That could explain how the crew were overcome without fighting.” Rob included a few photos, but unfortunately it was so dark inside that they don’t meet this site’s (ahem) ‘high standards’!
11 On the Stanley Group, Brian Edgar notes: “Those who share my taste for the Inspector Morse and Lewis series will be pleased to know there's a Stanley Camp input. Here's Chris Burt, born Christopher John Burt, on May 1, 1942.” Barbara Anslow immediately replied: “Working in the camp hospital office, I well remember Chris Burt being born there, and seeing him as a new baby.”
8 Frank Hinge’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson kindly sent a photo. 8 In answer to the question (see last month) of supplying food to frontline troops, TK notes from his study of the RASC and RCASC, that: “They (both Eng. and Can.) emptied the Central Depot at Queen's Road and dumped foods to various food stores in the hills across the island - Stanley, Wanchai Gap, Quarry Bay, Aberdeen, Chung Hom Kok etc. on the first two days of the battle. The new depot at Deep Water bay fed 59 units of around 10,000 men. They baked 8,000 to 14,000 lbs of bread per day up to almost Christmas Eve. They were required to make numberless issues (food) to even small units and sub-units, very often having a ration strength of only three or four. On the 21st they used mule transport to carry food to exposed hilltop positions. Those emergency food stores were quite near to the fronts and the soldiers could get tinned beef, corn, vegetables, and milk when hot meals were unavailable.” Although this is about Hong Kong Island, I imagine it was similar in the New Territories.
7Brian Finch managed to find a photo of Edward Phillips, Middlesex, who was lost on the Lisbon Maru. And as he says, “what a photo!” 7 I was working in Bucharest this week, seeing snow fall for the first time in many years. And at breakfast today I was informed that in my ‘real job’ I will now be reporting directly to Larry Ellison for a period. Unexpected, and good in some ways, but unfortunately likely to eat into the little free time that I still have for things historical.
6I had a very welcome email from Dennis Morley today, after having ‘joined the dots’: “Tony, I am now in touch with Rowena Alsey daughter of Arthur John Alsey band sergeant of the 2n bn the Royal Scots. This is a pleasant surprise. He was a likeable guy who I respected. Hope you and yours are well.”
5 Rudolph Raschle has been in touch, He notes that H. W. Ray, R.K. Butler, E. Butler, George Butler, Fitz-gibbon, D. Keats, Martin Ray, and John E Raschle were all relatives in Hong Kong during the war. In my records I can see: Butler, Ernest Oswald - Gunner, HKVDC. Shamshuipo POW Camp Butler, Reginald Charles - Stanley Internment Camp, British born 06.06.42, Electrical Engineer Fitz-Gibbon, William Guerin - Stanley Internment Camp, British born 25.03.85, Secretary PWD HKG Keats, Dorothy – In Stanley internment camp with her whole family. Apparently one of the Rays was a big noise in Hong Kong’s film community, after which the Ray Theatre was named (from Gwulo: Address: 102 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. Truelight Building is the current occupant at the site. Ray Theatre operated during the period February 6, 1951 - March 1, 1971). https://gwulo.com/node/36570
4 Yau Sam Lo’s (see last month) granddaughter kindly sent me an account of his life. Interestingly she notes that when he was first in POW Camp: “My grandfather’s two older brothers also came to visit him every day. They knew how to speak Japanese and they paid money to the prison guards so they could bring food for him.” Her great-grandfather had been the President of Business Association for Taiwan, doing business with the Japanese, so the family knew how to speak Japanese.
3 Ivor Arthur Gale’s (RAF) grandson got in touch. Unfortunately his ‘reply to’ email address was incorrectly set so I could not reply. So Leigh Gale, if you read this then please fix it and try again! I am particularly interested as I have had so few contacts from Hong Kong’s RAF families. 3 Brian Finch sent me something I hadn’t seen before: a civilian casualty card for the Royal Marines / Royal Navy. This one was for Charles Collard’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) wife, with a rather endearing misspelling of his name. I hadn’t considered this aspect of war before, but of course servicemen would need to be informed if family were killed in air raids. Collard served on HMS Cicala, and while playing around on the web this month I came across a ‘new’ and rather good photograph of her. 3 Tai Hang Wong noted that yesterday he hiked the treacherous section of Maclehose Trail between Kowloon Pass and Sha Tin Pass which was part of the Gin Drinker Line on the south side of Lion Rock Hill facing Sha Tin Valley. He adds: “The following few pictures taken by Francis Cheung may be of interest to you. One of them shows a concrete military marker of the Gin Drinker Line. It is quite worrying to find the three original military markers in that section not being protected by any preservation measures at all, subjecting them to the damage of nature and vandalism. In fact the inscriptions on the one next to the display board that mentions the BAAG history is seriously worn out and illegible.” Of course this isn’t unusual, and generally the government is good at fixing or replacing defaced boards.
2 Today we celebrated the annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan. There was, as always, a good turnout and it was great to see many friends. Mike Babin from HKVCA was there as usual and we had a brief catch-up. Had a long chat with Bill Lake who is studying Helen Ho and her sisters. I immediately told him that I had a copy of a ‘thank you’ letter sent to her upon liberation by the senior officers in Sham Shui Po, but when I got home I couldn’t find it. I found copies for May Huang and Joan Ip, but can anyone lay their hands on Helen’s? To me the awful quality of the copies of these letters just adds to their value. The POWs owed such a huge debt to these ladies (who somehow got food and other things into the camps) that they were determined to show their appreciation whatever the technical difficulties!
1Barbara Anslow’s one hundredth birthday! I have probably noted before that thirty years ago when I first started studying this period in Hong Kong’s history, I came across Barbara’s diary quoted in secondary sources as if it was an ancient document. Little did I suspect that I would meet Barbara and her family and be corresponding with her to this day! And it’s not just me; she has generously given her time and memories to the whole community interested in those days. 1 Correspondence continues with Ken Salmon (son of Andy Salmon, RA, Lisbon Maru) who I met in Hong Kong last month. Of his father’s first wife (nee Martha Gomes) he notes of the 1940 evacuation: “she was heavily pregnant at the time and was disembarked in Manila where she gave birth to a baby daughter before continuing on to Australia, eventually settling in Sydney until after the war. Sadly, after reuniting with my father in Sydney, they returned to HK where Martha passed away in May 1950, aged 31.” Very sad, and what a challenge for a 21 year old to have a first child, by herself in a strange country like that.
December 1st, 2018 Update
Stanley cemetery damage (courtesy Philip Cracknell), William Cambridge (courtesy Alan Cambridge), High West (author)
John Weaver at the border, William Holland and friends (both via Brian Finch), Sendai POWs (via author)
Artur or Carlos Basto (via Meg Parkes), Charlie Bentham before and after (couresy Lisa Bates)
Donald Neal success in retrieving the records of an HKVDC officer from Kentigern House (see the sixteenth) is very encouraging. He has kindly sent me the contact details of the people who helped him, and I will follow up with them. Up till now I thought that these details were not available in the UK (and so far, of course, I don’t know how comprehensive they are).
27 I received notice today of a new peer-reviewed journal whose inaugural edition includes an interesting article on fifth-columnists in the 1941 fighting in Hong Kong. 27 Kai Chiu Hung’s (3 Coy, HKVDC) great nephew got in touch.
26 The Researching FEPOW History Group has announced their next one-day workshop on 19 June 2019, and a two-day conference 5-7 June 2020. 26 On my way to San Francisco today I had a very enjoyable meeting – at the airport as all parties were flying out at roughly the same time – with Viveka Melki and Chi Man Kwong.
19 Brian Edgar has written this very interesting article about wartime collaboration (and its lack). 19 Rob Weir notes: “Visited PB 14 yesterday and, probably because of the typhoon, managed to get inside for a decent look. It is a strange beast: a standard two loophole ‘bent’ front beach PB, but it has an external air void running down one side and across the back, only ever seen before on one other in a photograph, and the access on the other side being through an extension which puts the entry at the front adjacent the loophole. This ‘annex’ seen in a slightly different form on the Tai Tam Junction PB. The combination of both must be pretty unusual. This must have made life interesting for the LL crew, as they would have to cross the front of the PB to reach the access steps, which are immediately adjacent the opposite side of the PB. No way could you get around the back.” I haven’t been there since I visited with Jim Thompson and the then CEO of Ocean Park around eight years ago.
18 Martin Heyes notes that he visited Stanley Military Cemetery just after the typhoon hit and found that one tree had come down. He and Philip Cracknell kindly sent photos of the damage caused, which the CWGC is rectifying. 18 Not strictly related to the second world war, but on one of my regular trips to the summit of High West I see the government seems to be fortifying it!
16Don Neal tells me he has been successful in getting the HKVDC service records of Colonel R.D. Walker from Kentigern house. 16 On the FEPOW facebook page, Lisa Bates posted photos of Charlie Bentham, RE, who was one of the ‘hard men’ shipped to Tokyo on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong. He looks about 16 on enlistment, but considerably older and wiser when pictured as a POW.
15 Arthur Alsey’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) daughter sent a number of interesting photos of her father via Brian Finch. One of them (illustrated) clearly demonstrated the famous shorts! Normally I am not reporting Brian’s work in detail as it is all bound up in the Lisbon Maru documentary project, but Arthur’s name is so familiar to all readers of Barbara Anslow’s diary that I thought I should mention it. 15 Brian Finch continues to do sterling work on the Lisbon Maru families. Thanks to his efforts and continuing contacts through this website I now have photographs of 222 of those who were on board. Among some photos not directly related to the Lisbon Maru were a set showing Lance Corporal John Weaver, Middlesex, at the border with China, and another of Corporal William Holland, RCoS, and friends.
12On facebook today someone posted the well-known photo of Portuguese POWs at Sendai (there are similar photos of the Canadians too). I have a better quality version, but what made this special was the annotation, which read: “Top row: A.P. 'Chunky' Xavier, Henrique 'Ariri' Noronha, Eduardo A. 'Dicky' Noronha, Arthur Basto, Robert A. Souza, Leo A. Souza, Alfred J. M. Prata, E. J. 'Turibio' Cruz, J. M. Jesus, George Ablong. 2nd row: Marciano Silva, Benny Marçal, F. W. Reis, 'Tonin' Sequeira, Tommy M. Castilho, Caetano M. 'Gaita' Azedo, J. F. D. Ribeiro, Darius C. Alves, José A. Marques, Pepe Baleros. 3rd row: Carlos 'Sluggo' Soares, David Leonard, E. A. V. Remedios, Norman Leonard, Henrique Ribeiro, Richard Silva, Harry Mathias, António F.'Butter' Noronha, Freddy Rocha, Carlos 'Sonny' Rocha, Cezar A. Roza, Hugo Garcia, E. J. Figueiredo, Augusto 'Gussy' Sequeira. 4th row: Leo R. Campos (standing), C. A. J. Ribeiro (standing), Luiz Xavier, A. C. Neves, José M. 'Zinho' Gosano, Carlos 'Chodas' dos Remedios, A. M. Baptista, Dr. Patrick M. Cmeyla (U. S. Army), J. C. Remedios, António C. 'Tony' Barretto, Robert J. 'Bob' Barnes, A. Cruz, Luizito Remedios. Front row: M. A. Larcina, Roberto Silva, G. S. Edwards, 'Alichi' Ribeiro, E. S. Marques, Roque Silva, Aquiles V. Jorge, Hugo Ribeiro, Henry Souza, Cicero Rozario, A. B. 'Tony' Carvalho, Billy Wilkinson (squatting), António M. 'Smoky' Xavier (on one knee). 12 Charles Dobie kindly noted: “I found a 48-page illustrated booklet (half English, half French) published in 2005 by Veterans Affairs, Canada. It gives a short history of the Canadian Forces in Hong Kong during the invasion. If you don't have a copy I'll drop it in the mail to you. It is ISBN 0-662-68645-4.” I don’t think I have seen this before so am looking forward to receiving it.
11 A Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) shoulder flash turned up in the hills today. The only problem is that we don’t know whose it was. Of course it could have been lost pre or post-war, but perhaps most probably it belonged to an officer on the General List who was here during the fighting. But I don’t know of any of them from that Regiment (Neve, of course, was Royal West Kent, but that’s a different thing entirely).
10 Victor Branson’s (HKVDC) son got in touch. We have been enjoying researching his Great War and HKVDC progress. In the former he won an MC, with the citation: “T./Lt. Victor Cecil Branson, 13th Bn., R. Suss. R. For conspicuous gallantry near Becordel Becourt on 22nd August, 1918, on patrol. With a small party of men he entered the village of Becordel Becourt, then some 1,500 yards in front of our line, and discovered it to be free of the enemy. The same night, when the post of another company had been driven back, he immediately proceeded with two men, re-established the post, and at once pushed forward in pursuit of the enemy, obtaining a valuable identification some eighty yards in front of the post.” 10 Apparently some experts (see last month) believe that the true number of trees lost to the great typhoon could be as many as 100,000.
9 Steve Denton kindly sent this link from the Telegraph about Ron Freer (see last month). Everything seems about right except that of course he was not aboard the Lisbon Maru. 9 A reader sent an interesting question: What food did the men in the pillboxes have during hostilities? It’s not something I really know anything about. I assume the cooks would have tried to get hot food to them when it was safe to do so, and I assume they had some sort of rations stock-piled too, but if anyone knows the details I would be very interested to learn more. 9 Meg Parkes, who must be becoming the world’s leading expert in FEPOW art, let me look at ‘Tookie’ Poole’s scrapbook. Joseph Albert ‘Tookie’ Poole served in the 1st Middlesex, and like many other POWs asked his fellow prisoners to add a sketch to each page. Frustratingly I couldn’t identify all the artists, but found Nicholas Jaffer, Artur (or Carlos?) Basto, Alfonso Barretto, Francisco Soares, and Robert Barnes.
7 Yau Sam Lo’s (HKVDC 3 Coy) granddaughter contacted me, with the unexpected and welcome news that he is still with us, living in Canada, and now 93. He lied about his age and enlisted aged just 16.
5Ronald Clements, a freelance writer in the UK, has sent me a request for contact with anyone who can provide information for a biography he is writing about Dominica Deidre Danielle Taylor. Deidre was interned with her mother, Elizabeth Anatol Taylor, in Stanley Camp when around 7 months old, so aged four on their release. Elizabeth was from a Russian family with the surname Borisoff. Her husband, Alfred Taylor, was with the Royal Army Medical Corp. He was interned in Shamshuipo Camp and then transferred to Osaka on the 6th draft. The family were united after the war and came back to the UK on the Empress of Australia. Ronald believes that Leo A. Borisoff, a member of the HK police force, who was also at Stanley, may well have been Elizabeth's brother. Any information about Deidre, Elizabeth, Alfred and the Borisoff family would be gratefully received.
4 On the Stanley Group, Brian Edgar notes: “One of my cousins has given me the two 'lost' notes sent to my father's family in Windsor in early September 1945 just after he had left camp with my mother to try to get bread production going again”. The notes are here, and here are Brian’s families other cards and letters from the period.
1Continuing the great short trousers, long trousers debate, Jill Fell notes: “I've only just read the September query about short or long trousers for the HKVDC uniform in December 1941. The 1939 Christmas photo that I posted [here] shows the Signal Corps in short trousers. I assume it was taken no earlier than November. Twenty years previously, my uncle, Arthur Warren is photographed wearing HKVDC uniform with short trousers for his nephew's christening, whereas my younger father, wearing mufti, is in long trousers.”
November 1st, 2018 Update
Fran and Garfield Kvalheim (courtesy Sharon Tice), Royal Freer (courtesy Java Journal), High West trench (author)
Captured at Shing Mun (via Tim Ko), Middlesex Band around 1937 (courtesy Fiona Parkinson). Saiwan 1947 (via facebook)
Haystack, BMH Sergeants' Mess, May Road Garages (all author)
The Hong Kong War Diary website dates back to 2000, but took its current form in October 2003. This month is therefore, believe it or not, the fifteenth anniversary of this blog in its current form. I believe it is one of the oldest (possibly even THE oldest) continuously updated monthly blogs in the world. Readers from day one have seen 340,000 words of text (equivalent to three typical novels, and all free of charge!) and 1,800 photographs.
So this extra-long edition will consist of two things: the usual monthly update, followed by a special round up of some of my favourite stories and photos from the last fifteen years. I thought I would choose one per year, just as a reminder of all that I have learned – and present it as a thank you to the now thousands of people who have kindly contributed to my knowledge of Hong Kong during the wartime years.
29 Peter Loughlin’s (HKPF, Lisbon Maru) great niece got in touch, kindly sending a photo. There were very few police on board, but by chance I had a copy of a POW post card he had sent his wife and young son, plus details of his career with the police force. I was able to give these to the family, but sadly after some research they informed me that the son (who they did not previously know about) had died at around the same time as Loughlin was lost on the vessel. 29 This evening I had a very pleasant dinner at my local with Ken Salmon (whose father Andy Salmon was on the Lisbon Maru) and Brian Finch and his wife Gillian.
28 Beautiful weather for my usual walk this morning. Among other things I photographed the May Road garages that Lube Estes had recently mentioned on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, the strange trench near the top of High West, and Haystack, a pre-war house on the Peak which is now the residence of the Japanese Consul. Also saw the first wild pigs of the season! 28 A very well preserved Royal Scots shoulder flash turned up in the hills today.
26 Robert Gibson kindly let me know about a new exhibition called Three Years and Eight Months: Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation, at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Lee Shau Kee Library which will run from October 4, 2018 – March 31, 2019. Details here. 26 The local press today carried stories of yet another Japanese grenade turning up. The quantities of ordnance that have been found over the years always amazes people, but when I remind them that shortly before hostilities commenced in Hong Kong the British issued an extra million rounds of .303 to each infantry battalion (i.e. six million more) then the scale becomes clearer.
22Philip Cracknel has posted a short blog on Stanley Internee Robert Grindley Southerton.
19 William Ure’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter got in touch, kindly sending many photos. One of them looks like it was taken in Singapore in about 1937, of the Middlesex Band (Ure is fourth from right).
18 Today I received a copy (via Brian Finch) of Andy Salmon’s personal diary and unpublished book ‘Remember My Face’ about the Lisbon Maru, co-written with Christine Henderson.
17Alex MacDonald asked for more information on Theodore Leslie Bell and Charles Mycock. This was a useful reminder, and I took my notes on Bell and added a few further findings before sending it back to Alex. Like the case of Mrs Hollands, sometimes it takes years to sort these things out and get official recognition, but there is now no doubt that Bell is an undocumented British fatality of the war – and deserves a medal for helping Father Percunas when he was wounded. In the words of Father Tohill: “One man never to be forgotten was a Mr. Bell who welcomed us to the Valley and had hoped that we could help in the construction of huts for the refugees. He had been put in charge of the work; he was not well and suffered from dysentery. He showed much goodwill and set about his work with zeal. After the war Fr. Perkumas [sic] told me how good Mr. Bell had been to him when he helped him leave the hut where he had been wounded by a Japanese bullet. Bell had supported him, and even when confronted with a Japanese machine-gunner who wanted them both to raise their arms, he had hesitated to obey, not wanting Fr. Perkumas to fall helplessly to the ground. For this reason, or probably because he was wearing khaki, the soldier did not hesitate to shoot him. The two of them lay on the ground for quite some time. Bell still tried to assist Perkumas to reach the red house. Before dying he spoke of God’s goodness, and asked the priest to forgive him for not having been of more help.”
16 I asked (on Elizabeth Ride’s sage advice) Audun Urke if he knew any details on the murders of the ‘five Swedish nationals’. He pointed out that the true number was three, adding: “the episode is mentioned in depth by the Norwegian Seaman's Mission pastor, Mr. Johan Nielsen in his account published in 1946. Unfortunately it is published only in Norwegian with the title "Av en sjømannsprests loggbok" (Den norske sjømannsmisjons forlag - Bergen 1946). Pastor Nielsen's church was an important meeting place for Scandinavian sailors in the period between December 1941 and February 1943. The three Swedish sailors came from the MS Ningpo, a Swedish Merchant ship scuttled by the crew in December 1941. They celebrated Christmas, Easter and other holidays together with the stranded Norwegian and Danish sailors at the Seaman's Mission in Chatham Road 2, Kowloon. According to Pastor Nielsen the three were: Anton Wilhelm Forsberg from Ljung, Paul Ingvar Lindquist from Stockholm, and Carl Wilhelm Anderson from Gothenborg, (The Swedish sources writes his name Karl, without mentioning the middle name - and you will also find Andersson with an extra ‘s’ in it).”
15Bill Lake kindly sent a cutting from the Hong Kong Telegraph of 9 December 1941 reporting on donations to the bomber fund. What struck us was the familiarity of the names of the donors: Bicheno, Cautherley, Hyndman, MacGregor, Wylie – all well known to anyone who has studied Hong Kong in the period.
12 Since last month’s big typhoon I have noticed how many new views there are in Hong Kong. Great swathes of trees and brakes of bamboo have gone, and opened up new vistas. Walking back from the office today along Bowen Road I noticed how clearly visible the old sergeants’ mess at the Bowen Road Military Hospital has become, without the cover of the blown down trees.
11 Several people reported that Barbara Anslow’s book is mentioned at length in a Daily Mail article today. 11 Brian Finch kindly sent several photos of Charles Haviland (RN, Lisbon Maru).
10And talking of mega fauna, the South China Morning Post today carried two stories about our wild pigs. In one they apparently attacked a couple of elderly people in the New Territories. In the other, three little pigs apparently went on a very orderly shopping expedition.
8 Today I received the October Java Journal (the newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoner of War Club 1942 – though for many years it has been open to every FEPOW). I was amazed and delighted to learn that Sergeant Ron ‘Royal’ Freer, of Hong Kong’s 8th Coastal Regiment RA, became 103 this month. I had no idea he was still around. He notes that he was stationed at Fort Stanley in Hong Kong, where he was in charge of the Plotting Table and Table Fire Director. He was then a POW in North Point before transferring to Shamshuipo where he stayed until liberation. 8 I took my new walk today, where instead of going Chatham Path, Barker Road, The Peak I go Chatham Road (cross Barker Road), Hospital Path, Severn Road, Plantation Road, Findlay Path, The Peak. As I neared the end of Findlay Path I saw a trio of young people gathered around a small animal. It turned out to be a dying masked civet cat; I think it had been attacked by dogs. Saddened by this I continued my walk to High West, and eventually came down via Old Peak Road. There, opposite the Ladies Recreation Club, I saw two young women standing over a large animal in a ditch. It turned out to be an adult porcupine, hit by a car. Lovely to see Hong Kong’s mega fauna, but very sad in this context. 8 Avery White’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter kindly shared many of her father’s photos and letters. The photos included one of Monkey Stewart, apparently proposing a toast at some pre-war celebration. The most interesting letters were written in defence of Japanese war criminal Hiroshi Morita. Most men actually felt that he was reasonable (in comparison to the majority of POW guards at Kobe), and actually helped the POWs from time to time. They felt that his sentence of twenty years was extreme, and tried to help his attorney reduce it. One 1951 letter, in good but imperfect English, was to White from Morita’s wife, thanking him for his efforts and confirming that Morita’s sentence had indeed been reduced. She asked for further help with Morita’s petition for release after serving five years. Unfortunately I don’t know the result.
6 Brian Edgar found this thesis concerning the Norwegians In Hong Kong before and after their February 1943 internment (Chapter 5). One thing that it notes: “The most relatable act of lawlessness to the Norwegians must have been the murder-looting of five Swedish nationals on Victoria peak, like them, the Swedish were third nationals, and strictly neutral in the war.” Brian added that in the book ‘Taken in Hong Kong: December 8, 1941: Memoirs of Norman Briggs World War II Prisoner of War’ by Carol Briggs Waite he found the quote: "One of the saddest instances of looting happened much later. When we were all sent to internment camp, we asked the three Swedish officers, as third party nationals, if they would like to move into the house. They were living in one room downtown in very cramped quarters. The proposal was put to them that if they lived there and kept the property out of the hands of the Chinese looters, the Company would make a settlement with them for the expenses they had in holding on to the Company property. They moved in about two weeks before we left. On April 10th they were informed by the Japanese that they would have to get out on April 15th, as the Japanese governor of Hong Kong was coming there to live. The reason for this was that it was about the only livable house left on the Peak. On the night of April 14, a gang of fifteen Chinese looters showed up, entered the house, murdered the three Swedish officers, and then went through the house and made a shambles of it. It was very sad, as we knew them quite well and knew they all had families at home in Sweden. The looters knew that it was their last night and, after the governor moved in, there would be an armed guard on the place. After the destruction, of course, the Japanese governor couldn't move in either." The location of the incident was 459 The Peak, also known as Altadena. I believe it is 27 Barker Road today. 6 I have been trying desperately to find the families of the crew of the USS Grouper, SS-214, the American submarine that sank the Lisbon Maru. None of the British POWs on board ever blamed the Americans; it was a Japanese ship carrying Japanese troops and war materials, thus a valid military target. I used to be in touch with crewman Garfield Kvalheim who passed away some years back, and today niece Sharon Tice sent me a wonderful photo of Gar and his wife Fran. Unfortunately I have not been able to contact any other of the families.
4 When I wrote the book about the Lisbon Maru I was lucky enough to find in the archives the now famous photograph of the sinking ship. It was clear, though, that originally there had been two photos. Andy Salmon’s family – perhaps twelve years ago – sent me a photocopy of the now missing second photo. It was taken perhaps thirty minutes after the first, and shows the vessel settling stern first, with the figures of POWs on the bows. Today the Salmons, via Brian Finch, kindly sent a clearer version.
3 Philip Cracknell posted a short but interesting new blog about Lisbon Maru survivor Henry Ross, RAMC, who perished in Japan. He notes: “This is a very short piece, mainly because I could find so little about him, but it's written as a tribute to S/Sgt Henry Ross, Royal Army Medical Corps. He died, aged twenty-six, from starvation/malnutrition whilst in a Japanese prisoner of war camp… He is remembered for always putting others before him, and even when the stricken Lisbon Maru started to sink, instead of trying to save himself he stayed on the ship, as long as possible, trying to save others and tend for the wounded and disabled. Captain Martin Weedon, 1/Mx believed he owed his life to S/Sgt Ross who tended him whilst Weedon was very ill with diphtheria.“ 3 Rob Weir, the expert on Hong Kong’s fixed defences, kindly wrote to me noting: “The purpose of this missive is to correct a minor point. The reference to the Cape Collinson Observation post in the September News opening paragraph should be Cape Collinson CASL (Coastal Artillery Search Light) Installation… There are two, separated by roughly 100 metres, their purpose being to illuminate targets for the Battery guns at night. The Engine House, which contained engines and generators to supply the electricity for the lights, is on the hillside roughly above this installation, but on the opposite side of the road.”
2Bill Lake noticed my mention of the special anniversary edition of the Hong Kong news of December 1942, and kindly sent me a copy of the entire newspaper! This is, I think, the first full edition of a Hong Kong News that I have seen. 2 I have had several interesting replies to my question (see last month) of whether Hong Kong’s defenders in 1941 wore long or short trousers. Ken Skelton in Canada reports Captain E. L. Hurd's, Royal Rifles of Canada, diary reporting on 16 December 1941: "During the morning of Dec. 16th the Imperial Troops raided our store house at Lye Mun and pillaged battledress. I complained to the O.C., Middlesex in our area and many were returned." Which is interesting but inconclusive as (no offense) the Middlesex were inveterate pilferers. I also looked up contemporary photos such as the one of Royal Scots captured at the Shing Mun Redoubt, and they are all wearing long trousers, and of the Canadians landing in November and marching to Shamshuipo all apparently wearing shorts. And then Barbara Anslow kindly let me know that: “my diary of 18.12.41 records that Sid Hale of Royal Scots who had been in Military Hospital with wounds, called to see me on his way to rejoin his unit 'wearing khaki shorts and tin helmet’.” So perhaps men wore a variety.
1 Brian Finch has reported something very unusual: the record of the funeral service of William Fraser, Royal Scots, in Kobe, 1943. As death in POW Camps was sadly on an industrial scale, I had previously assumed funeral services would have been almost robotic. Not so, it appears. This service, conducted by an American Naval Officer, Commander Harrison, was personal and sincere. 1 Another one from Brian Edgar. While Augusta Wexham and her husband (Robert Wexham, RN, who perished on the Lisbon Maru) appear in the records, there is no mention anywhere of a son, and of course it is nonsensical to suggest that a child was on the Lisbon Maru. 1 Brian Finch kindly sent me several photographs of Martin Weedon, commander of B Company of the Middlesex. One of them (illustrated) was a particularly fine portrait. 1 At the end of last month, Brian Edgar found an article from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, May 27th 2002. It read: “Schools Honour the Memory of PoW Campaigner. A CONCERT has helped a fund in memory of a wartime prisoner of the Japanese who died from a rare disease. A show by Catholic schools in Coventry raised pounds 975 for the Amyloidosis Research Fund in memory of Florence O'Grady, of Daintree Croft, Styvechale, who survived a Japanese PoW camp and went on to win compensation for inmates. She died, aged 63, last May, from degenerative disease amyloidosis. The concert was held at St Mary's RC School, in Lansdowne Street, Hillfields, where she was a teacher for 30 years. The proceeds have taken the total of the research fund to pounds 5,700, which has delighted her husband, Gerard. He said: ‘I'm very very touched by the way people have responded and it's most generous. It shows the esteem in which she was held because she really was an exceptional person.’ Mrs O'Grady was just three years old when her family was captured by Japanese troops who marched into Hong Kong in 1941. She was held in Stanley Camp on the island for almost four years. The tireless campaigner won pounds 10,000 compensation from the government last year as part of a payout to all former prisoners and their widows to recognise their suffering. Mr O'Grady, aged 61, said the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, where the amyloidosis research fund is based, is the only place in the country which is researching the disease. He is campaigning for greater awareness of the rare condition which kills up to 300 people a year. He said: ‘They're now trying out drugs on people which will hopefully control the condition, which they're very positive about. I feel the more awareness is raised, the more things can be done in the long run.’ “ Researchers in the Stanley group believe she was Florence Roberta James, born 1 Dec 1937. Probably Florence’s mother was married to Private James Ivor James of the Middlesex who died on the Lisbon Maru. His POW card has Mrs James 368 The Peak HK. Barbara Anslow mentions a little girl Flossie James a couple of times in her recently published diary, she was a fairy in Peter Pan in August 1944 and was confirmed in May 1945. Oddly, James’s CWGC entry mentions no wife. 1 The HKVCA facebook page showed a very interesting set of photographs entitled ‘Officers of the British Forces and the Canadian Forces visits the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Chai Wan, Hong Kong, 1947’. I hadn’t seen these before. In fact I thing these pre-date the earliest Sai Wan photos I have in my archives, showing the top section of the cemetery bare of graves. 1 After my notes about last month’s typhoon and the number of trees lost, I see that number has now been upgraded to an unbelievable 46,000 (upgraded yet again at the end of the month to 60,000). The South China Morning Post reports that the old runway at Kai Tak is now being used to store them. The same edition also noted the coming retirement of Tony Chow Shek-kin, who has headed EOD in Hong Kong for many years and certainly deserves a long and happy retirement.
Fifteenth Anniversary Memorial
2003 These were real people…
“Hello Tony. I've found a photo of the Royal Scots Regiment in my husband's old family photo album. His father, Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant George Trinder (No 3049835) is in the front row, 7th from the left. I've attached it in case it is of interest to you. I have assumed that the two men whose photos are attached to the railing of the verandah were the officers. Do you think that is possibly correct? Aileen Trinder.”
It’s very easy when considering history to forget that the objects of our interest were real people. Mr Trinder was lost in the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and I was immediately struck by the obvious character of the man in this outstanding portrait.
2004 … and some of them were children.
“My name is Karen, my mother Julia Bonner was a prisoner of Stanley Internment Camp, taken on her 12th Birthday 19th December 1941. Her nickname was Blondie, her mother Raquel Bonner was of Spanish decent, she married Captain William Worral in Stanley Internment Camp. He was well known in Hong Kong as a salvage Captain ‘Tug Boat Bill’. My blood grandfather Corporal Horace Bonner was in the Hong Kong Defence corps, when the island fell to the Japanese, he reported to headquarters and my mother never saw him again. He was the security guard at the Hong Kong Dock yards when it fell. I know that he was killed at war, however would like to know anything about his final days, if anyone can give me a clear indication of how to find any information about him I would gratefully appreciate it. When he died so did all the ties that my mother had with his family in England as all the records were destroyed. We know that he had 2 sisters and that is about it. Mum is the third from the right. The one laughing. She thinks this photo was taken around the 19th/20th December 1941. She remembers the date as the 19th, the day she was captured, was her twelfth birthday. She actually went to the French Convent School as a student before the war.”
I think the impact here is the combination of the exact place and time (North Point Camp, 19 December 1941) and the resilience of children. I used to know several kids who had been taken to North Point on that day, and although Julia is laughing here, what they saw – especially when wounded Canadians were brought in – stayed with them forever. Raquel and her two daughters were in Room 15/15 in Stanley with the Eagers and Worrals.
2005 Hong Kong was a prime posting…
“Tony, As requested photo which was taken in the Sergeants mess in Hong Kong. From left to right ‘Pop’ Ayers, Bill Poulter, Jim Ramsey, Dorothy Poulter, and Ivy Ramsey. I do not know who the two other men were. I know that Jim Ramsey, one of Dad’s friends, went down with the Lisbon Maru. Mum and Ivy remained great friends until 1993 when Ivy died. Regards, Robbie Poulter.”
Between the wars, Hong Kong and Shanghai were considered prime postings. A humble soldier could do very nicely in cities which (though it’s hard to believe now) were then very poor. This photo epitomises the high life, though all three men would see the lows of the Lisbon Maru with only Poulter surviving.
2006 … and women served too.
“Tony, Thank you so much for replying so quickly. The details below confirm some of the information we have found from her diary. I will continue to try to find more information on my grandfather. If I do I will pass it on. I have attached a photograph of my grandmother and one taken on the ship on their way to Hong Kong. I have also attached a beautifully illustrated poem written by one of the POW's. We found a number of sketches that my grandmother was given, some of them with notes attached thanking her for her kindness which is lovely. There was obviously a lot of talent around and evidence that people still managed to keep a sense of humour. We have found an original copy of a 'Special Edition' of 'The Snake & Staff' dated January 1942 which is very funny. I think it must have been distributed around Bowen Road Hosp as it mentions Norman Leath amongst others. If I can scan it well enough for you to read, I will pass it on. Thank you again. Kind regards. Jo Price.”
Joan Whitely was one of many women serving in Hong Kong. She was interned in Stanley, but left there soon after the Japanese surrender to work at the Central British School (now KGV) hospital.
2007 Families were destroyed.
“Hello Tony, Thank you for your email. I thought that as you were in touch with the Reed family that they may like to see the diary entry and envelope etc (photos attached). I suppose that there is no memory now of the diary being found. I expect that my uncle wrote to Mrs Reed at the time. Congratulations on your book. Regards. Ken.”
Middlesex soldier Percy Chittenden’s diary was found on Leighton Hill just after the fighting, and was kindly sent to him by the Reed family post--war. Sadly, that family lost four sons in the HKVDC during the war. Gunner Francis Oswald Reed, Private Edgar Vincent and Private Arthur Augustus Reed were all killed in the December fighting, and Private Stephen Arnold Reed died of wounds early in the New Year.
2008 It has been a real privilege to meet the veterans…
“Ok, Tony, here goes!! Kind regards, George”.
This photograph – taken during Barbara Anslow’s visit - is (from left to right) Geoffrey Emerson, my good friend the late Toby Brown, Barbara Anslow, Barbara's daughter (I believe), my wife, and a bearded George Cautherley (who was born in Stanley Internment Camp). Barbara was showing us round and explaining the story behind each headstone. Later we retired to Stanley for lunch. I have another treasured photo of Barbara and I giggling like teenagers, but I have no recollection why.
2009 … and to stay in touch with them.
“Dear Tony. Good morning! As spoke, the photos are also for you too. Those images are already deleted in our camera. Your website is a very interesting resource for study. I would view it and recommend to students. Best, Yours sincerely, mo-ching.”
Now, to most people that would mean very little. But to me it means Elizabeth Ride’s (daughter of Brigadier Ride, the founder of BAAG) annual visit to Hong Kong. We always met up, and I learned great deal. And our kids loved her visits too because their own grandmother was too poorly to travel by then, and Elizabeth would bring them little gifts; they called her ‘stunt nana’.
2010 Interest continues to grow…
“The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:”
This is one of Robert Gibson’s excellent photos of our Hong Kong Club walks. I started taking the Club for historical walks many years ago, when no one else seemed much interested. Now at least one of those who accompanied me then conducts walks of his own, and many more people – local and foreign – are passionately interested. The research by the younger generation today exceeds the little I was able to do then, and no one is happier to see this than me.
2011 … and finds, one way or another, keep turning up.
“Dear Tony, A W B Strachan, my father, was in Hampshire R 151358. He was a POW at Shamshuipo. I have a medical case, Japanese Issue and some provenance - drawing by A V Skvorzov and by Bird. I attach some photos, is this of interest? Regards, James Strachan.”
It seems that every month people find things in Hong Kong’s hills and are kind enough to let me know. I could have filled each one of these years with photos of shells, grenades, guns, magazines, bombs and so forth – but I chose not to as these things are dangerous and I don’t want to encourage people to search for them. But sometimes other, safer (perhaps? I’m not sure in this context!) items turn up too.
2012 They had skills that later generations lost.
“Hi Tony. My father was a 'guest of the Emperor' in Argyle Street during WWII, having served with the Middlesex Regiment. (I've found his name on your website.) He was captain of A Company. He was heavily involved in the Argyle Street POW Association for many years before his death in 1998. We've got some odds and ends of his adventures during this time which you may be interested in and also a detailed map of HK and surrounding areas reportedly drawn in the camp during his stay. We would like help in identifying the author/artist of this incredible artifact, not least because it would surely be of great interest to his family. We're visiting HK in November and wonder if we could meet up. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards, Philip Hudson.”
Captain John Hudson, Middlesex, family sent me this map (among many). I believe it was drawn by Lance Corp Ken Sawyer, Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Judging from the scrapbooks kept in POW Camp, everyone then could sketch and write poems that put our modern generations to shame.
2013 Not every project pans out.
“Dear Tony, Just finished the whole text in time, please see attached medium quality PDF from p.1-18. There are 3 photos and one logo embedded in the Microsoft Word document that you did not email to me. They are images from p.1 (one pic and the HK Club logo), p.3, p.17. Please email files to me so that I could improve the photo quality. Thanks. Au Yeung.”
Aaargh! I spent years (literally) writing Walking The War, a book of illustrated war walks – and drawing the maps by hand - and for one reason or another it never got published. What a shame. Maybe one day. These were the ten carefully researched walks I put together over the years for the Hong Kong Club.
2014 It happened here…
“Hi Tony, I see you try to combine the old and current photo together. Here is the result I did with a photo on your site. It's a very powerful image when combine the pass and current image together. Also a new way to tell the story. It will be very interesting to make a book or exhibit with this kind of images. How do you think? Regards, Tan.”
Hong Kong, perhaps more than any other city, has changed dramatically since 1941. Sometimes so much so that it is hard to grasp that the events we read about really happened in our streets and hills. This merging of ‘then and now’ helps fix those events in our times.
2015 … and reverberates to this day.
“Tony, Here are some more photos you might consider for your website. One, the whole group in Stanley Cemetery - 1 Dec. Union Jack - in St Stephen's Chapel, 2 Dec. Ian Gill presented this flag, which was said to have been hidden and raised in a POW camp in Indonesia in 1945, later given to his mother, Billie Gill, and he draped her coffin with it in 2006. The people in the photo were children, born or conceived in Stanley Camp, except Cortia Chung and Winnie Wong of St Stephen's College and me. Geoff.”
Geoffrey Emerson’s photo is worth a thousand words. All these people started their lives in Stanley Internment camp and revisited Hong Kong in 2015 for the reunion which Geoffrey organised.
2016 The foundation is intergenerational respect…
“Tony, Once again thank you. It was great to meet you in person. Attached are some photos of today for you. Sincerely, Ben.”
Ben Dalgleish’s grandfather was Ip Kwong Lau, a member of the Hong Kong Chinese Regiment. He escaped from wartime Hong Kong, joined up with BAAG, then became a Chindit. Uniquely (to the best of my knowledge) he later became the only member of Hong Kong’s wartime garrison to join the SAS. (Winnipeg Grenadier John McCoy, an American, joined the Rangers post war and was killed in Vietnam. He may well have been the only other Hong Kong veteran to have joined Special Forces). So it’s not surprising that Ben joined Watershed for their uniformed re-enactment of 1941 marking the seventy-fifth anniversary in December 2016. But the fact is that most of the emails I receive are also from current generations trying to understand the experiences of their ancestors.
2017 … and we’re not finished yet.
“Dear Tony, I am happy to attach the full cover of ‘Reduced to a Symbolical Scale’ for your perusal. Can you please give it a thorough review and confirm that it is ready for press? If there is anything else that requires attention, please let me know by Monday, 12 June. We will prepare the files for printing as soon as we have heard from you. Thanks and with very best wishes, Clara Ho, Managing Editor, Hong Kong University Press.”
So that’s the most recent book done and dusted. But there’s lots more to do. I have half a dozen potential articles for the Royal Asiatic Society at least half finished, and two or three more books I’d like to complete before I too leave this mortal coil. But of course I’ll report back on all of that in 2033 when Hong Kong War Diary celebrates its thirtieth anniversary!
October 1st, 2018 Update
Monkey Stewart (courtesy Colin Crabbe), Note from Monkey to Wallis (via The Lasting Honour), Kai Yuen in 1939 (courtesy Tai Wong)
Japanese propanganda leaflet (courtesy Colin Standish), HK News (courtesy Tommy Wong, via facebook), East Brigade HQ (courtesy Burke Penny)
Andrew Thomson and friends (courtesy Charlie Middleton), Sunday Post (courtesy Iain Gow), Cape Collinson then and now (courtesy Carly Yu, via Facebook)
Egad, what a typhoon. The winds of Sunday 16 September were stronger than anything I have previously experienced. It was the most intense typhoon yet recorded in Hong Kong’s history, and – for those of you lucky enough not to be here – to be honest the most frightening. The authorities tell us we lost 17,000 trees, but I think those are just the ones on the built up areas; those lost in the hills are uncountable. And even our heritage suffered: the up till now perfectly preserved observation post at Cape Collinson was wrecked by the winds; thus we lose 2nd battery’s history.
30 For the first time in two weeks I was able to do my full Sunday hill walk of Hornsey Road, May Road, Chatham Path, Barker Road, round the back of the Peak, up and down High West, back up to Mountain Lodge, then down Mount Austin Road, Old Peak Road, and home. The smaller paths still had a few trees I had to walk under or over, but it’s mostly clear. What’s also clear is the amount of broken limbs on the surviving trees; now they have all turned brown, and on the east facing slopes of the hills there’s as much brown as green. 30 Anne Ozorio posted a very interesting link to a blog by Ben Thompson, who I believe is Private Ben Thompson, RASC. It describes Shamshuipo and his transportation to Japan on the third draft.
29 Andrew Thomson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family kindly sent me photos of him with two unidentified companions. I wonder if anyone can identify either of them? 29 I was a little shocked today looking at Amazon, to see copies of The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru advertised at GBP 851.99 and even GBP 1,589.33! I must ask HKUP to ship Amazon another edition at normal prices.
28 Here’s an interesting question: Which member of the HKVDC had the serial 4038? Whoever it is, something has been found in the hills that might once have belonged to him. 28 I had an enquiry today about British uniforms of December 1941. Would the men have worn short or long trousers? As the December weather tends to be cool I had always assumed the latter, but that is just a supposition. Does anyone have any concrete evidence?
27Brian Edgar has found yet another interesting newspaper report! This one concerns Canadian civilian nurse Mary Fairburn, who was initially evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940 but returned before hostilities. She was the wife of Thomas Fairburn, RNR. It was in November 2011 that I had a question from a journalist asking who nurse ‘G C Fairburn’ was. I replied: “I think she must have been Mary Constance Fairburn, born 06 - May - 1900. She was at the University Relief Hospital, and was a Canadian. She was interned at Stanley Civilian Internment Camp after the fall of Hong Kong, and was repatriated to Canada 23 - Sept - 1943.” Until now I had no idea what had resulted from this conversation.
25 Brian Edgar has found a newspaper report on the passing away of Audrey J. Casey (née Barton. She was one of the big Barton clan in Stanley).
21This is a long shot, but since my submariner friend Garfield Kvalheim passed away I have lost contact with all families of the crew of SS-214 USS Grouper – the submarine which sank the Lisbon Maru. Does anyone have any contacts with the families of any of the Grouper’s wartime crew?
20I learned today that my latest book, Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, has been reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong, Volume 58 (2018). I found it a very balanced and fair review, and loved the comment: “For the data, we have Banham”! The conclusion noted: “Banham’s work over many years on exactly this kind of meticulous enumeration of copious personal detail is always impressive. Unfortunately, the current management of Hong Kong University Press has allowed this work to languish under an odd title, a clumsy cover design and the kind of pricing that will prevent most people interested in this subject from being moved to buy it.” But I have to come clean; the price is out of my hands, but the title and the photo on the book’s cover were entirely my idea. While personally I actually quite like the cover, I have to accept that the title was more than a little self-indulgent. A previous reviewer had made a similar criticism. My thinking, of course, was that Winston Churchill’s famous comment: “This is all wrong. If Japan goes to war with us there is not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or relieving it. It is most unwise to increase the loss we shall suffer there. Instead of increasing the garrison it ought to be reduced to a symbolical scale. Any trouble arising there must be dealt with at the Peace Conference after the war. We must avoid frittering away our resources on untenable positions. Japan will think long before declaring war on the British Empire, and whether there are two or six battalions at Hong Kong will make no difference to her choice. I wish we had fewer troops there, but to move any would be noticeable and dangerous”, would give me the titles for all five of the books in this series. Alas, I screwed up on the Lisbon Maru book (which should of course have been entitled Frittering Away). Noticeable and Dangerous – the story of BAAG, the Hong Kong column of the Chindits, and all the other late war contributions of those who escaped Hong Kong’s garrison – is not yet complete.
19Captain John Reid’s (RCAMC) son got in touch, with the welcome news that he is writing a book about his father. Uniquely of all the Canadian officers, Reid went to Japan.
17 Reginald Spencer and Geoffrey Spencer’s (both RE, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
16George Mose’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) great grandson got in touch. 16 Typhoon day. We had noticed this one on the satellite data as far back as Tuesday when it was forming over Guam. Even then it looked like it might make a direct hit on Hong Kong as a Super Typhoon. At the height of the winds of Sunday afternoon we barricaded our French windows with our heavy teak dining table, locked ourselves in the kitchen (our Safe Room, sheltered from all directions), and listened to trees being torn down all around the house. When you see the destruction and rain fall on a scale like this, it’s amazing that so many relics from 1941 still get found up in the hills. And I suspect some of the old tree roots now brought to the surface may bear interesting bits and pieces.
15 Steve Denton and I have been straining our brains over Private William Mackay, 2927763, Royal Scots. Different documents both muddle him up with someone of a similar name, and show him as both being on the third draft and surviving Osaka #3B, and being on the Lisbon Maru and losing his life.
13Major Brian Finch has continued to collect many family stories for the Lisbon Maru documentary, This one, which for obvious reasons I shall leave anonymous, is one of the most moving and I will make no further comment: “My father never lived a normal life after the war. His head wound and physical injuries were a constant torment. He battled demons daily. His relationship with our mother broke down to a point where he tried to murder her and take his own life. Consequently, he was gaoled and found guilty with diminished responsibility and held in a psychiatric institution at 'Her Majesty’s Pleasure' for life. He was finally released into my custody shortly before his death aged 65.”
4Barbara Anslow’s book Tin Hats And Rice was waiting for me today when I returned from a business trip to San Francisco. Although Barbara had been kind enough to give me an indexed photocopy of her diary many years ago, I had never read it from end to end until today. What an experience! I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Hong Kong during the period.
3Martin Heyes reports taking the family of Bill McHardy (Hong Kong Police) for a tour of Hong Kong. He notes: “and what a fascinating career he appears to have enjoyed! He was in the Water (Marine) Police and also served in the New Territories. (I believe that pre-WW2, Water Police & NT were one and the same). In 1938 Bill was awarded the CPM for gallantry, together with a small group of other policemen including one Chinese coxswain. Despite spending an afternoon in the Public Records Office with the very efficient and helpful staff there, I have not been able to ascertain the details of the incident which led to this award. All I have been able to glean is that is was an incident on the border.” He also kindly sent a number of photos.
2Chris Harley gave me the good news that Jessie McDonald Holland has now been accepted into the Civilian War Dead list maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Unfortunately the Auxiliary Nursing Service does not warrant a standard CWGC headstone, so perhaps we can raise one locally. (See January). 2 George Boote kindly sent me a scan of a Lisbon Maru article in Britain At War magazine. 2 Joseph Yu notes: “I have just found in our College Museum archives today, which might be of interest to you. It was written by Mr Harry Norman Williamson, a teacher at Queen's College prior to the war, on 30 Dec 1941 (days after surrender) in Stanley, Hong Kong. Mr Williamson [was a gunner] of 2nd Battery HKVDC and was stationed and captured at Stanley Fort.” 2 Mike Butterworth kindly sent me a scan of the Sunday Post article about the Lisbon Maru featuring Iain Gow and his father. (Note that a number of versions of this editorial give the caption: “Chinese fishermen watch as the Lisbon Mari lists and sinks beneath the sea” to a photo that clearly shows Imperial Japanese naval personnel.) Iain himself sent me a scan from the print version too.
1 We are now well and truly in contact with the family of the renowned Henry William Moncrief ‘Monkey’ Stewart, Commanding Officer of the first battalion the Middlesex regiment. They note: “We have located two of HWMS’s photo albums which have pictures and a lot of written detail against these and go from around 1908 on wards covering school, Sandhust, First War postings, second war postings, all the way through to just a few of Hong Kong... You can see from one of these that HWMS was on leave in the UK up till May 1939 and we can’t find anything after that. So one has to assume that like the First war Medals any information after this was lost in Hong Kong.” Most excitingly, they sent some excellent photos of Monkey, including the lead photo for this month. 1 Michael Ryan’s (Middlesex) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a photo (illustrated). Ryan was one of the ‘hard men’ sent to Japan on the first draft. They note that: “Michael, son of Timothy and Margaret, came from Knockbarry, Co. Cork, Eire. He joined the British Army before 1937, joining the Middlesex Regiment, the 'Die Hards'... He fought in the defence of Hong Kong and was captured on Christmas day 1941. He was imprisoned in Sham Shui Po camp. He was later transported by hell ship to Japan where he laboured in the docks. He survived his captivity and returned home. He died on 30th June 1977 at Chadwell Hospital, Ilford.” 1 TK noted that he was quite delighted: “to come across several good photos of Kai Yuen ([which] means Perpetual Garden in Chinese) lately. I am sure you have seen the captioned letter before. Lt General Tadayoshi Sano (commander of the 38 Division, IJA) set up his divisional headquarters in Kai Yuen after landing on the morning of 20-12-41. He allowed Stewart to use a sheet of paper bearing the Chinese characters of Kai Yuen to inform Wallis to surrender in Stanley and it was dated 25-12-1941. You can see this letter in page 114 of Lindsay's book: The Lasting Honour. Benjamin Proulx (Canadian served in HKRNVR) vividly described Kai Yuen in his book (Underground From Hong Kong - page 175) after he emerged from the sewer pipe and the fountain. The captioned photos clearly show the fountain and the surrounding scenes.” Very useful! I have known of that photo for 30 years, but never before realized the significance of the Chinese characters. Obviously I immediately sent a copy to Stewart’s family. 1 Wayne Carew is trying to find the family of his mother’s cousin Veronica Thirlwell (Willey) who passed away in 2008 in Sao Paulo Brazil. He has sent numerous messages to Natalia Ramos who he believes might be her granddaughter but has had no reply (possibly because of the language barrier as they only speak Portuguese). 1 The granddaughter of 1940 Hong Kong evacuee Olive Tyner (who was married to William Tyner, RAMC, who died as a POW in Japan less than a week before the end of the war) contacted me to ask if anyone had a copy of the radio 3AR Hong Kong broadcast which I mentioned in Reduced to a Symbolical Scale. I have never heard of one, myself. 1 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, Tommy Wong posted a copy of the HK News edition ‘celebrating’ the first anniversary of the fall of Hong Kong. 1 Colin Standish kindly sent me copies of more Japanese propaganda artwork. 1 Burke Penny (author of the useful book Beyond The Call) notes that he is: “gradually starting to work on finding more information about the activities of the RCCS at East Brigade HQ.” He has written a blog post on the topic, and kindly also sent me four photos that his brother had taken on site.
September 1st, 2018 Update
Tin Hats and Rice (author), "Monkey's" Court medals (courtesy Fiona Crabbe), Gowland Family (courtesy the late Janis Hollis)
Grayburn grave (courtesy Sandy Wynd), Ohashi POWs (courtesy Mark Clayton), First draft sample Index card (courtesy Steve Denton)
Lisbon Maru (survived) index card, Lisbon Maru (died) index card, Third Draft index card (all via Steve Denton)
There are not enough hours in the day. Sometimes my own projects (Hong Kong civilian deaths during the war, BAAG and irregular forces, POW diaries, awards and decorations, etc.) seem permanently put on hold as I help other researchers and give as much assistance as possible to the Lisbon Maru documentary! The latter is going well. Several hundred families of those on board are in touch, and the next steps are (hopefully): A second shooting trip to the UK (early September), An investigative trip to Japan (early October), Meeting with survivor William Beningfield in Canada (mid-October), A third large-scale interview in the UK (late October), A trip to the US (in early November), Filming in Zhoushan, including underwater shooting of the wreck (in late November), A trip to Australia and New Zealand (to be confirmed). Meanwhile, the director is storyboarding the entire documentary, starting the preparation of the film reenactment part (script, art direction, creating the ship model, studying costume props, casting, and so on), hopefully finishing this part before the first half of 2019. In the second half they will focus on editing, music, colour matching, dubbing etc. If all goes well it will premiere in London in late October 2020, but let’s see.
30 I heard today that Janis Hollis (daughter of Cuthbert Gowland, HKVDC) had passed away on the fifteenth. She gave me a great deal of help in writing Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, and the hard times she experienced during the war often made me realize how lucky I (and many of my generation) have been in comparison. I dug out a photo that Janis had sent me of the family. Her father is at the back, and she is far right at front. 30 My copy of Barbara Anslow’s book was waiting for me when I returned from San Francisco. I’ve actually had an indexed copy of her diary since she sent one to me at least ten years ago, but it’s still very nice to see it in book form. I believe David Bellis of Gwulo deserves a lot of the credit for facilitating its publication.
27Sandy Wynd kindly sent me a photo of Vandeleur Grayburn’s grave taken recently. He notes: “It was the 75th anniversary of Grayburn’s death last week and in line with every year HSBC places flowers on his grave. I took this photo on Saturday and they were already wilting under the sun.” 27 For many years I have wanted to track down the family of Lieutenant Colonel ‘Monkey’ Stewart of the Middlesex, who not only commanded (arguably) the most professional force in Hong Kong’s wartime garrison, but also masterminded the epic defence of Wanchai, but was then the senior officer on the Lisbon Maru – passing away just days after reaching Japan. Today – thanks to Brian Finch’s sterling work – his granddaughter sent me a file full of photos and information. There’s a lot to process, but one image was of his Court medals (from both wars). The family also have the originals of his WWII medals, but not the WWI ones. Most likely these were either lost in Hong Kong or went down on the Lisbon Maru, but I thought I should check and see if anyone has ever heard anything about them?
26 Thomas nelson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
25 Mark Clayton posted a photo of POWs at Ohashi (Sendai #4 Branch Camp) at liberation. It looks to me to be George MacDonnel top row fourth from left, and it’s Richard Keays is in the second row from the front, sitting third from the right.
25 Having fielded lots of questions about Hong Kong POW Index Cards I thought it might be useful to post examples of four of the most common, relating to the first three drafts.
24 Today I met with Joseph Gregory S.Y. YU, a D.Phil Student at the University of Oxford who is studying non-governmental museums, with a particular interest in St Stephen’s College’s Heritage Gallery. His alma mater is Queen’s College, a number of whose teachers served during the war or were interned in Stanley. I’ll help research them properly when I have a moment. 24 Someone kindly pointed to a Leonard Birchall video on YouTube. While the link between ‘The Saviour of Ceylon’ and Hong Kong may not be obvious, he was an officer in Tokyo #3B, to which many of Hong Kong’s ‘hard men’ (the tough first draft) were taken. From We Shall Suffer There: James Ford: “September 15: Disembarked Yokohama. Capt. Otway, R.E., Lieut. Price, R.A.M.C., myself and some 200 men posted to Stadium Camp (originally Camp 2, later Camp 3B, Tokyo Area) in which we found Squadron Leader Birchall and W.O. Onyette, both of the R.C.A.F., and about half-a-dozen men, all of whom had come from Ofuna that same day. About a month later, Capt. Kauffman, U.S.M.C., and 72 Americans arrived from the P. I.” Leonard Birchall recalled: “Then, suddenly, in came this great big influx of these guys who had been on these hell ships coming up from Hong Kong, and starved and beaten and what‑not as well. But just full of hate. Not just [towards] the officers, but the Japanese, everybody ‑‑ they were still fighting. God! These officers ‑‑ Cecil Otway from the Royal Engineers and Jimmy Ford from the Royal Scots ‑‑ they got me on the side and said, they told me, they said, ‘If you go out there, if you say the wrong thing, you’ll be out behind the sheds and dead inside of 5 minutes. We tell you now.’ And they meant it. I knew, after I met them, after I stood up in front of these guys, that it was true. I said [to myself], ‘You’re going to have to fight like a hawk to get these guys to have any respect for anything. There’s no way of enforcing discipline – you’re in real trouble.’ So I had to go out, and we had the food dished out. It was the first food they’d had in I don’t know how long. It was just a bowl of rice and some soup. We said, ‘All right, you guys dish the soup and the rice out. Here are the officers’ bowls.’ There were six of us. I said, ‘Here are six bowls. You guys put the food in, divy it out as you can, and we’re not going to touch it; you go ahead and do it ‑‑ our bowls are there. Now, anybody thinks that we got more than you did, you change it. We’re not going to touch ours until everybody has been served and is happy. We’re going to do this every meal from here on out.’ ” 24 Ron Taylor (HK) was kind enough to let me know that Alexander ‘Shura’ Shivarg has passed away. He was a White Russian from Harbin, who fought in the HKVDC and became a POW in BMH Borrett Road and North Point. After the war, he was given a British Passport and settled in the UK where he opened a popular northern Chinese restaurant in Knightsbridge, the Good Earth. He was married to Joan Wyndham, the famous author, and lived in Chelsea, where they were both members of the Chelsea Arts Club.
22I received this query from a fellow researcher: “I am looking for information on a member of the British Armed Forces by the surname of Wilson who either died in HK, was MIA, or maybe was taken POW and died elsewhere. The only other information I have is that he had an Irish wife from Kilmihil County Clare and a small daughter. They were in Australia during the war, presumably evacuated.” I can’t find anyone in my evacuation records who fits this. Can anyone help? 22 Barbara Anslow’s book is available! Tin Hats and Rice can be purchased here.
20Very welcome news today from Chris Harley, that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is seriously considering Mrs Jessie Holland’s case (see January). I have provided two more documents that they requested. As she was a serving member of the ANS I am hopeful that her current unnamed headstone in the Colonial Cemetery (now called the Hong Kong Cemetery) will be replaced with a standard CWGC stone. 20 Frank Charles Hinge’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. 20 I asked Ron Taylor (HK) about the location of HKVDC service records (see the fifteenth). He kindly replied: “All HKVDC records were lost during the occupation and after the war many were recreated by WO2 Rakusen of the Pay Section so that HKVDC members could be paid correctly. I don’t know to what extent these records went as I never saw any of them. In the 1970s (I think) the Headquarters at Happy Valley was flooded and some of the records were damaged; again I am not aware of the extent. All personal records of HKVDC members and members of the subsequent formations (HKDF, RHKR(V) etc) were all sent to the UK prior to the handover in 1997. I believe that they went to a disused RAF hanger (Hendon or Hayes, Middlesex if I recall). I heard that while there some were again damaged by water! It seems that no one really regarded them as important so never took any simple protective measures! My recollection is that when the Army decided that it needed to centralise their records of past members, the HKVDC records were sent to the main storage depot somewhere in Derbyshire! When seeking the record for a past HKVDC member (which I never obtained) I was told that this depot comes under Kentigern House, Glasgow from where I had directed my enquiry; they say what box they need for the record of interest and the next day the box arrives in Glasgow. Presumably it is sent back as soon as the relevant record has been copied. This struck me as typically bureaucratic procedure and no doubt was thought up by a civil servant as a cost saving measure! My last communication was that the HKVDC record which I had sought was not in the box which it should have been. As far as I can understand Glasgow closed the file at this stage! It would thus appear that the HKVDC and quite possibly the RHKR(V) records are in a mess, and no one seems inclined to spend time and resources to try and sort them out.”
19Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Harry Mace (RA, Lisbon Maru) as a youngster wearing Sea Scouts uniform (illustrated). 19 Wilfred Drew’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending photos.
18Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of George William Hutchinson (RN, Lisbon Maru).
17Ming let me know today that Fang Li will shortly be advertising in Japan for anyone with knowledge of the Japanese side of the Lisbon Maru story, and in the US for anyone with connections with the USS Grouper. I emailed my old contacts (family of Garfield Kvalheim who helped me write the book), but have still not found his children.
15 The gentleman who thought he had the medal group to Major Victor Cecil Branson (see last month) has now concluded that in fact the recipient was Lieutenant Colonel Reginald David Walker OBE, MC, ED. He is seeking his HKVDC records, but I will need to take advice about that.
10 Another typically top quality blog from Philip Cracknell, this time featuring Douglas Baird of the Royal Scots (and also Lisbon Maru). 10 Thomas Baker’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) got in touch via Ronnie Taylor in the UK. 10 Arthur Basto’s (HKVDC) son-in-law got in touch.
9 Colin Standish let me know that he had finally – after searching for six months – found the transcript of the Valour and the Horror’s interview with his grandfather CQMS Colin Standish, DCM, Royal Rifles of Canada. He was kind enough to send me a copy. Regular readers would know that I am not a fan of ‘historians’ who try to sell through making their works as controversial as possible – and the V and the H fall firmly into that category. However, the interview was a fascinating read.
8 I was contacted by the Air Historical Branch and sent them my annotated list of RAF personnel in Hong Kong during the war.
7Brian Finch, via the family, sent a number of interesting photos of Jim Fallace who escaped from the Lisbon Maru. Ming, who is the director of the documentary, translated the words on one of the photo thus: "On the 31st National Day of the Republic of China, Mr. Johnstone, Mr. Evans, Mr. Fallace, was rescued by the Chinese Allies from the East China Sea in Dinghai, they are out of danger. Take a photo to memorize it. Wang Jineng, director of the garrison of the Dinghai County, Zhejiang Province October 14, the 31st year of Republic of China 1942.”
6 With all the focus on the Lisbon Maru at the moment it’s important to also remember the Volunteers, the Indian army, and the Canadians (none of whom were on this draft). For the latter, I hear that as of this writing there are just eleven C Force Veterans still with us. One Brigade HQ, Horace Gerard, one Winnipeg Grenadier, George Peterson, and nine Royal Rifles of Canada: Phil Doddridge, George MacDonnel, Fred Cooper, William MacWhirter, Ralph MacLean, Doug Rees, and three others. 6 Philip Cracknell kindly sent me a photo (via the family) of Captain Kenneth Allanson who was on the Lisbon Maru. He has written another of his excellent blogs about him.
5 The Lisbon Maru documentary has soaked up most of my spare time this month. The two open searches are for anyone on the Japanese side who might have family connections with those in the Imperial Japanese Navy who witnessed the end of the vessel, and for any family members of the USS Grouper’s (SS214) crew. When I wrote The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru I was very lucky in finding Garfield Kvalheim from that boat (and his lovely wife Fran) but I never contacted any other crew members. Does anyone else have any knowledge of them? 5 I had an interesting discussion with Philip Cracknell about Hong Kong’s batteries. The three medium batteries in HK 3rd, 4th and 25th each had a troop of four 6-inch in two sections, but one battery would normally have two troops of four guns each. Why were Hong Kong’s batteries under strength? And what exactly is the definition of a ‘heavy’ battery?
3This is a little unusual. It appears to be a British 9.2 inch shell accidentally moved from one part of Hong Kong to another as a ‘natural’ part of land reclamation!
2 Author and historian Dr Bernice Archer contacted me to see if I would be interested in speaking at the 2020 RFHG Conference. I’m certainly interested (I spoke at the 2008 and 2010 conferences – though I can’t see the latter mentioned on their website), but it’s a little far out for me to be certain I’m free from other commitments at that time.
August 1st, 2018 Update
More Lisbon Maru photos (via author), Umbrella seat (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Birthday card (courtesy Luba Estes)
Dixon card (courtesy Patricia O'Sullivan), Eighth Army Letter and full New Osaka Hotel list (both courtesy Brian Watmore)
This summer (and this is why the July update is a little late) I have spent six solid weeks traveling, first on business and then holiday – twenty-two airports later I’m home. At the end of the holiday we spent a few days on Malta. It’s a fascinating comparison. Both Hong Kong and Malta are small, hot, islands (the former more dry and Mediterranean in style, compared to Hong Kong’s verdant humidity), but both saw war in very different ways. But Malta is preserved in time; those buildings totally destroyed have been replaced with modern equivalents but all old wars bear scars. Hong Kong maintains physical scars too – but in contrast they are only visible for those who know exactly where to look.
31Alan Bayram’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch, kindly sending a number of photos. Bayram was one of the ex-POWs who volunteered to stay behind in Japan after liberation to assist the American forces in administering the evacuation of the others. They all stayed at the New Osaka Hotel. I had spoken to one other of this group (Charles Jordan, RA) before, but these photos included a letter of thanks from the US Forces, and a full list of the volunteers – neither of which I had previously seen. 31 Keith Grant (see April) kindly sent me a photo of Stanley internees Archie McAlpine, Elizabeth McAlpine. Annie Thomson (nee Organ) and Archie Thomson.
30Harold Bater’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great grandson got in touch. 30 Harry Howard’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) great granddaughter got in touch. 30 Barbara Anslow let me know that her book (a published version of her war time diary) is now ready for pre-order here.
25 Sandy Wynd points out that Major Shields’ grave in Stanley Cemetery (he died in Stanley camp aged 62) bears the incorrect age of 45. I think this must be one of those cases of the number slowly morphing over the years of being repainted.
24 Philip Cracknell has posted a new blog about the pre-war building 23 Coombe Road. 24 Today, my birthday, I saw a very kind card from Luba Estes on the battle of Hong Kong facebook page! 24 Martin Heyes notes that he gave a tour to Margaret Whyte (the niece of William Stirton McHardy, who was a HK Police Sergeant in charge of Cheung Chau at the time of the Japanese invasion of HK). Bill was interned in Stanley and Margaret has fond memories of her favourite uncle and his wife, Mona. Mona spent the war in Australia, having been evacuated in 1940. Martin also passed me a soft copy of the Hong Kong Government’s official Stanley list.
23Robin Fabel had earlier contacted me asking for suggestions of where to lodge his father's (Fred Fabel, Royal Army Educational Corps) POW Hong Kong and Japan papers. I suggested they might well find a home in his regimental museum. He has now let me know that there is no RAEC museum as such, but the Museum of the Adjutant General's Corps has welcomed them.
21 Steve Denton was kind enough to show me that Major John Vickers, Royal Corps of Signals (who is in my lists with a question mark) was not actually in the Hong Kong garrison. I suspect he died in Taiwan and was simply reinterred here.
20Brian Finch has been doing a great job, constantly sending me questionnaires and photos resulting from the Lisbon Maru advertisements in the Telegraph, Times, Spectator, and other publications. I’m not even trying to count them at the moment, but will do so when the flow slows down a bit. My feeling is that we have amassed at least 160 photos now.
19Gonville Jones’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 19 The HKVCA have a very nice tradition of posting ‘individual reports’ on facebook of members of C Force. Today they included a very nice colourised photo of Ferdinand Poitras (illustrated).
18 Chris Bilham, hearing of my studies of Hong Kong’s awards and decorations, notes that he has four medal groups to sailors who took part in the defence of Hong Kong: E.T.A. Davis, CERA HMS Tern (and Lisbon Maru survivor), A.J. Selman, A/P.O. HMS Tamar, KIA 25.12.1941, A.L. Downey, AB MTB 09 who escaped with Chan Chak, and F.W. Mitchell, Lt Cdr, HMS Robin. He also formerly had the medals of Lieutenant Scott-Lindsley (but sold them before discovering that his diary and sketches are in the RN Museum) and for the liberation has the DSO of V. McLaughlin RN, Captain of HMS Swiftsure.
17Fred Cowley’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch.
15Martin Heyes notes that he has recently helped Audun Urke write a paper on Norwegian sailors during the battle for HK and the subsequent Occupation. 15 Edmund Hutton’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo. 15 The Telegraph ran a Lisbon Maru story today. 15 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me an old photo of the Umbrella Seat at the corner of Mount Austin Road on the Peak. While not strictly World War Two related, the structure obviously predates the war and I pass it every Sunday when I walk to High West and the Peak.
14 Today the BBC released their new Lisbon Maru story, which included a photo of one of Gong Li’s scans of the ship where it currently lies. 14 Robert Chilcraft’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 14 Jack Green’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) daughter in law got in touch, kindly sending letters and photos.
13The BBC contacted me asking if there were any other known survivors from the Lisbon Maru still around aside from Dennis Morley (Royal Scots). I mentioned William Beningfield (Middlesex), who is the only other one I am currently aware of.
11 A researcher has found a group of unattributed miniature medals with a Territorial efficiency decoration bearing a clasp for Hong Kong, and an M.B.E. & M.C. plus campaign medals including a Pacific Star and a G.S.M. bearing a clasp for South East Asia 1945-46. He is still researching, but believes this may have been the group to Major Victor Cecil Branson, HKVDC.
8Here is the link to the extract from Mary Monro's Stranger In My Heart, published in the Post Magazine today.
7James Burns’ (Royal Scots) and Tommy Burns’ (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending photos and newspaper reports. 7 The Daily Express notes that Sidney Charles medals are for sale (showing a photograph of him which was given to me by his family, and presumably simply lifted from my website).
6 Lieutenant Colonel Fred Field’s (RA) grandsons got in touch, kindly sending his account of the battle and a number of images, including a show program for ‘Nuts & Mayhem’. I have been collecting as many of these camp entertainment programs as I can, but this one was new to me. I believe another photo is unique: it shows a row of RA officers taken at the HKSRA Centenary celebrations September 1941. From left to right: Ian McGregor ADC, Mrs Macleod, Major General Maltby, Jack Yale, Brigadier Macleod, Webb Temple, and standing, Field, Tony Atkinson and Geoff Proes. Yale and Temple would be killed at Wong Nai Chung Gap in December.
4Steve Denton kindly sent me a set of Canadian War crime affidavits, many referring to the executions of local Chinese civilians witnessed from the camps.
1 I heard from Patricia O’Sullivan who has been looking at the CO 1070 card collection at TNA. She found a card for Henry Dixon, an Irish-Portuguese, born in 1865 the son of the first Inspector of the naval Dockyard police. However, it states that he was out of camp and ‘Under camp diet and doing camp duties every day’. I’ve never seen that before. Anyone know what it means?
July 1st, 2018 Update
Final Lisbon Maru advertisement, and placing in The Telegraph (courtesy Ming Fan), the First 100 (author)
Donald Furzer (courtesy Andrew Furzer), James Gow (courtesy Iain Gow), Ken Hodkinson (courtesy Jean Clements)
Jessie Rachel Taylor (courtesy Fiona Tuck), book signing (courtesy Mary Munro), Bell diary page (author)
Obviously the big news of the month is Laurel Films and their serious initiative to film a comprehensive Lisbon Maru documentary. For the last year I’ve been hearing about their work (and all positive), but this month I took a day off as they were in Hong Kong and spent it with them. They seem to have the hoped for combination of finance, competence, and passion. After all these years I think it might actually happen! I have now reached out to all the Lisbon Maru families I have spoken to over the years (something over 200) to see what we can pull together. One thing the team would love to do is trace the family of the ship’s master, Kyoda Shigeru. I have tried all the avenues I can think of both here and in Japan but without success.
Note: Extensive travel for the next three months may result in site updates for August to October being a few days late. Of note, the October edition will celebrate 15 years of this blog being published in this format, which will make this site one of the oldest continuously published monthly blogs in the world.
30 A number of Lisbon Maru families I contacted sent me ‘new’ photos of men on board, and I decided to feature three of the best on this page. At this point I have amassed 151 photographs of those on board.
28Andrew Furzer kindly sent me a link to an IWM recording of George Bainborough speaking about his wartime experiences, including the Lisbon Maru.
26Ravi Scout notes that the: “SCMP recently published an article titled ‘French navy memorial in Hong Kong for five sailors who died in great typhoon of 1906 gets overdue restoration’, about a heritage monument which is presently located within Hong Kong Cemetery: the ‘La Fronde’ obelisk. The Consulate General of France is organising a ceremony to unveil the renovated memorial at Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley. The event is at 11AM on 05 July 2018.” While not of course a Second World War monument, readers may still be interested.
25 Derek Hill’s (RA) son got in touch. He notes: “He was selected for transportation to mainland Japan on the Lisbon Maru and was placed on board. Shortly before departure however, he and three others were diagnosed with diphtheria, taken off the boat for fear of bringing disease into Japan, and returned to the camp. Good fortune comes in many guises.”
23 Long-time correspondent TK Wong notes that he: “just finished reading a book titled Double Threat by Ellin Bessner, 2018 New Jewish Press. She encompasses 17,000 Jewish Canadian soldiers who fought in WW2. A chapter is on HK and has 13 pages. It vividly describes the ten following soldiers. Lt. David Golden (WG-POW), Private Max Berger (KIA-the Ridge), Sgt. Robert Macklin (died in Shamshuipo, 22-12-42), David Schrage (WG, died on Awatea on way to HK), Hymie Greenberg (Signal Corp-KIA 19-12, Wanchai Gap), William Allister (Signal Corp-POW), Sgt. George Harrison (WG-POW), Jacob Rose (Signal Corp-POW), Louis Brown (RR-POW), and Frederick Zaidman (WG-POW). It is great to see more thematic books on the battle.” 23 The first Lisbon Maru documentary advertisement appeared today, on the back page of the Telegraph. The next will appear in The Times on July 9.
22Martin Heyes notes that he has found for sale in the UK: “the medals of Pte. Albert Leonard Edward of the 1st. Bn. Middlesex Regt., who was wounded and captured on 25 Dec 1941. He died in captivity in early 1942.” He can put any interested party in touch with the vendor. 22 My copy of Stranger In My Heart arrived! I have some long flights coming up soon, so will read it then and review it in the July edition.
21 The latest edition of The Java Journal, newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoner of War Club 1942 was published today.
19 Mary Monro kindly sent me a few photos from the launch of her book Stranger In My Heart, in Bath. I believe it will be featured in the South China Morning Post Magazine on Sunday 1 July. 19 Henrique Gonsalves’s (HKVDC) nephew got in touch. 19 Brian Finch very kindly sent me a copy of Captain Man’s, Middlesex, papers. At first glance I believe they will answer many questions.
18In creating my gold standard database of the complement of the Lisbon Maru, today I finished processing the first 100 photographs of those who were aboard. I made a little montage of them as they seemed quite impressive on my computer screen! I’m not quite sure how many more I have in my files, but my guess is another 50 or so. (And to find them, I have to trawl through tens of thousands of image files, and tens of thousands of emails).
15 Laurel Films today sent me the latest version of their newspaper advertisement, which I helped edit for them yesterday.
11Norman Cuthbertson, Royal Scots, who was on the Lisbon Maru and died in Japan apparently had a fiancée in Hong Kong called ‘Peggy’. Does anyone know who she was? 11 The HKVCA’s latest edition of their newsletter is out.
10Steve Denton sent me something very interesting: A letter to Brigadier Crockatt that originally enclosed the ‘smuggled list’ of British POWs in Hong Kong, suggesting that “D.P.W. write a letter of congratulations to Col. L. T. Ride, O.B.E., on this achievement.”
8Steve Denton kindly sent several files relating to Peter Moddrel, James Stewart Fancy, and Clifford George Webber. 8 While looking for a particular name, I went through the whole of RAOC WOII Fred Walter Bell’s amazing diary again. There are so many great pages there that I was originally planning to feature my three favourites this month, but in the end – as the Lisbon Maru rather dominated things – just chose one featuring a note by the RN Chaplain Charles Strong.
6 On the HKVCA facebook page, Colin Standish posted: “Our Hidden History... in my possession: When in Hong Kong this past February I noticed a gravestone which had a name I recognized. Alfred Wonnacott. It appears I have some dog tags from a man who died in the Battle. I do not know how my Grandfather came to have them. My family has had them since 1941. For 77 years. I called some of his relatives out-of-the-blue, spoke to them and will hopefully return the dog tags to them. It is incredible what stands the test of time…” CQMS Standish would of course have been responsible for returns, and would have been the right man to hand such dog tags to; my guess is that those responsible for Wonnacott’s original burial on Stone Hill gave Standish the tags in camp.
4 I took the day off and spent the whole time with Laurel Films, meeting their boos (Fang Li) and directors and discussing – both in our home and in Stanley – their ideas for a proper documentary about the Lisbon Maru. We came to an agreement, and I am signed on as a voluntary co-producer. They have access to needed funds, and seem serious.
3 Steve Denton kindly sent me the POW Index Card for Coder Peter Paget, RN. It is the most complex I have yet seen from ex-Hong Kong POWs, with at least nine changes of POW camps.
2 Fiona Spencer kindly sent me a photo of her great great aunt, Miss Jessie Rachel Taylor (see last month): “who was a missionary for more than twenty years, having previously been the headmistress of a major Girls School in England and then having run a VAD hospital during the First World War. Following her retirement, she held a post at St Stephen's College from 1939 and was then interned in the Stanley camp from 1942-1945; she was 69 when she was interned, although she seems to have given her age as 60 at the time. We know from an article in a Church Missionary Society periodical that she was ill when the camp was liberated and evacuated to Australia where she made a full recovery, returning to England where she then lived until her death in 1957. I wondered if anyone had come across any records relating to her during her period of internment or subsequent evacuation. We know that she subsequently made a substantial donation to the founding of St Stephen's Chapel, but not much else, though a note on the receipt also suggests that she had sent other papers there. Any help gratefully received.” 2 I was interested today to see a Hong Kong story on the CWGC web site. I am in touch with the Ablong family. 2 Elizabeth Ride, knowing of my research into civilian refugees into Mainland Chine kindly sent me the pages from the National Archives WO343 covering the ex-British forces Hong Kong people received by BAAG. 2 Today I received a complete list of all British Merchant Seamen captured by the Japanese.
1 I am working on a paper for the Royal Asiatic Society on the reduction in Hong Kong’s civilian population, between December 1941 and the end of August 1945, of around one million people. It seems odd to me that no one seems to have addressed this before. 1 Philip Cracknell has published an interesting account of the Tai Wai bunkers. As our younger son is currently studying in that part of Hong Kong (Island School is temporarily Mainland School…) it’s of particular interest.
June 1st, 2018 Update
6 Coy HKVDC (courtesy Camille Bishop), Salesian Mission, Shouson Hill Well (both via Mark Sweeney)
HMCS Vancouver, RCN Wreath Laying (both author), Harvie POW Index Card (courtesy Keith Brown)
Saitoh Letter (via Nona Langley), Petro Pavolovsky identification (courtesy Steve Denton), RAS book talk (courtesy Marin Heyes)
Whatever happened to Hideo Wada? He was the Japanese officer who the Lisbon Maru’s captain accused of ordering the hatches battened down as the ship sank. He also ordered the shooting of the first men to escape the vessel. And a few months before the Lisbon Maru he had ordered the shooting of four Canadian POWs, Sgt. John Payne, Lieutenant Corporal George Berzenski, and Privates John Adams and Percy Ellis who had been caught escaping. The Japanese medical officer Saito remembered that: “the four Canadians were lined up and shot under the command of Lt. Wada. I think they were blindfolded at that time. Also as I saw it their hands were tied behind their back. The riflemen were standing at a place on a higher level than the place where stood the four Canadians. The distance between the place where the riflemen were standing and the place where four Canadian were standing was about 5 meters. I think that Lt. Wada gave the order to fire, the riflemen aimed at the hearts of the POWs, immediately after the firing the four POWs fell down, then a short time later I went to the four Canadian to see whether they were dead or not. After I found out that they were dead I reported this to Lt. Wada, he ordered one of the soldiers to have the bodies buried on the spot.” (See the 8th for the source of this quote). He was also, I suspect, responsible for the shooting of four of the seven British POWs who escaped at the same time. Oddly enough, in the latter half of the war he was one of the better remembered POW guard officers, but he certainly would have been tried as a war criminal had he survived. However, it is generally accepted that he died right at the end of the war, or even after the Japanese surrender. Was he lynched? Did he commit suicide?
(Apologies for the late posting of this month’s blog. This was caused by an operating system error on my iMac on May 31, which necessitated the restoration of a terabyte of data from backup).
30 Jessie Rachel Taylor’s (Stanley internee) great grandniece got in touch.
29 A correspondent asks: “Do you know the meaning of TOPS in relation to Royal Navy in Hong Kong in 1940?” I don’t. Can anyone help?
29 Nona Langley posted a collection of Donald Bowie's papers to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. Most of this was familar to me, except an interesting letter from the Japanese medical officer, Saito (or 'Saitoh' here), explaining the loss of POW medical histories and papers.
27 Steve Denton kindly sent me John Maher’s two-page account of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. In part, he noted: “I swam for 10 hrs until I reached a small island. On reaching the shore I was just in time to see Major Officer of the R.A.M.C. getting battered to death on the rocks.” Many men reported seeing this; clearly, even by the standards of their experiences, it was traumatic. Steve also managed to sort out the drafts of five of the eleven men in my records who are simply marked as TJ (To Japan) because the original Shamshuipo records were too damaged to tell which draft they were on. Following his lead, I was able to find which ships five of the others were on – leaving just one to complete. However, as that one was a professional criminal who enlisted under a false name to escape justice, it may be hard to resolve!
26 To help with some research I am currently doing, Elizabeth Ride very kindly sent me a copy of Volume VII of her invaluable work on BAAG.
24 Dave Deptford sent me something unique today, an auction entry for Ma San Auctions Bath (specialist orientalists): A Chinese 18th Century Qianlong vase allegedly presented to C. Coull Sgt A126 enlisted HKP in 1939, who was a Stanley Internee. Estimated price, GBP20,000 plus!
23 Today I received a very interesting approach from another documentary making company. I will post updates on this site as the story develops. 23 Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of the MBE citation for Captain John Carvell, for service as Garrison Engineer, DCRE Perak, 1956-1959! Carvell had been an RE Sergeant in Hong Kong during the war, stationed at the Bowen Road Military Hospital when it was used as the POW hospital. I am currently recording all the wartime awards and decorations, but I don’t know if it would be practical to find all the post-war ones such as this, tempting though it is. 23 Ron Rakusen, son of Manassah Rakusen of the HKVDC Pay Detachment, got back in contact. Ron – just in case you read this, your email system is rejecting mine!
22 Today I had formal contact from Laurel Films, who are working on the Lisbon Maru film project. Hopefully I will be meeting them in Hong Kong early next month.
19 Wayne Carew (son of Duncan Boag Izatt of 3 Coy HKVDC) kindly sent me a copy of a letter from Bevan Field to Wayne’s mother on the passing of his father. Among other things, Field noted: “I remember Duncan as one of my most valuable supporters by his leadership and quiet courage in a really difficult situation. It is not too much to say that I would not have lived through that day without such loyal and courageous support.”
14 Lionel Bolland contacted me. He is part of the well-known Witchell family. His mother was secretary to Charles Drage (head of MI6 in HK until he moved to Singapore shortly before the invasion). She moved with him, but the rest of the family stayed in HK and were interned in Stanley. His aunt Norah married Desmond Stutchbury and lost her life in a post-war communist ambush in Malaya in 1950. And another aunt, Violet May, married Professor Lindsay Ride of BAAG fame.
12 Another interesting find from Steve Denton, a letter from Maurice Prendergast to his father T. Prendergast immediately after liberation (6 September 1945): “But it was not until the 21/8/45 that we were officially informed that the war was over. You can imagine our feelings, it seemed too much to believe, the end of being chased, slapped & starved by a horde of uncouth, little sadistic animals which is what the Nips are, all tourist authorities’ (sic) books to the contrary… I’ll tell you tales which you will not believe, tales which I can hardly believe myself now that it is all over… During the last 3 months of the war we were living on 1 ½ lbs. rice or rice & beans latterly (this weight includes stones & dirt which was considerable), & two or three ounces of vegetables per day. Once a week we had a special treat of 2 buckets of fish heads & tails between 300 men. One special treat we had was a few bones which we boiled into 3 stews & then topped off by eating & enjoying the bones.”
11George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale of Sergeant Harman’s trunk (which now appears to have been removed from eBay). Although the context implied he was a Hong Kong POW, he does not appear in any of my records. Perhaps he was involved with the Japanese POWs rounded up after August 1945? Last time this item was sold, no connection with HK or POWs was mentioned.
10 Yet another American one thousand pound bomb was found in Wanchai today. This one was apparently especially tricky to disarm, but as usual Tony and Andy and the boys did the job with their typical skill.
9 Camille Castilho Bishop put an excellent photo on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. It shows five men of 10 and 11 Sections, of 6 Company HKVDC. They are arranged thus: A B C
and so far we have identified: A Private Thomas Castilho (Camille’s father) , B Private ? , C Private Delano Lopes (or Lopez) , D Lance Corporal Noel Barretto , and E Corporal Guilherme Augusto Noronha . Can anyone help with the identity of Private B? The other known members of these two sections were: Private Luis Antonio Barros, Private Thomas M. Castilho, Private Alberto C. Soares, and Private Francisco M. Soares. 9 Keith Andrews kindly sent me the POW Index Card of Robert Harvie, Royal Scots, showing that I had spelled his name incorrectly on both this website and the Lisbon Maru one. I have now corrected both.
8Following from last month’s discussion about the possible finding of remains in a Shouson Hill well post-war, TK Wong notes: “They could be Br. or Canadian. Even their numbers were not exactly known. Page 115-page 117 of a PhD thesis by Mark Sweeney (U of Waterloo 2013) mentioned the incident. The title of the thesis is THE CANADIAN WAR CRIMES LIAISON DETACHMENT. It has a picture showing a man of the CWGC checking the well where the bodies were dumped.” The text stated: "The final geographic stage of Puddicombe’s case homed in on two incidents near Deep Water Bay. The first involved the killing of three officers at Shou Shan Hill and second the slaughter of a company of Winnipeg Grenadiers at Little Hong Kong. Puddicombe had a local Chinese farmer describe to the Court the murder he witnessed and then take everyone to the location where he claimed the bodies were dumped. Lai Kwong testified that he saw Japanese soldiers lead three European officers from a residence on 25 December. Lai described the scene: 'the Japanese soldiers took the officers to this place, and then they shouted, one – two – three - and made the officers raise their hands and then they swung their swords - as I demonstrated - and slashed it into the officers body.' Lai showed the Court the well and gully where the soldiers had disposed of the bodies. Defence counsel Mr. Sakai cast considerable doubt about Lai’s story and character. He underscored variances in Lai’s statement and testimony, including the number of Japanese soldiers involved and the weapons used in the killing. Lai also claimed that the officers had worn crowns on their shoulders, and that the man thrown down the well had worn a gold ring on his finger. Major Cross of the 14th WCIT testified they found neither ring nor crowns when they exhumed a skeleton from the well, but they had found British .303 ammunition clips and empty corned beef tins. Further muddying the story, the medical officer who examined the bones declared that they 'were those of an oriental,' basing his opinion on the smaller size of the bones. Another defence witness, Captain Diggens of the Graves Concentration Unit, noted that investigators had also found Japanese bullets in the well, and that he and the Medical Branch of Land Forces, Hong Kong believed the body in the well was Chinese based on the weight of the bones and the bridge of the nose. Puddicombe sought to dispel the notion that the body was not an Allied officer, arguing that the presumption of heritage based only on size was worthless legal evidence. He noted pithily: ‘there are small Europeans. This Court has had before it on one or two occasions, a certain Lt. Col. of the WINNIPEG GRENADIERS who is certainly no giant.’ "
7 Today I accompanied Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier (Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy) Commander Christopher Nucci (the captain of HMCS Vancouver), and a dozen or so other officers to the Sai Wan war cemetery for their formal wreath laying. Dr James Boutilier also accompanied the party, and we stopped and spoke about a number of graves as we passed by – including those of the four executed Canadian escapers. 7 Richard Moddrel (son of Peter Moddrel, Royal Corps of Signals) kindly sent me photos of his father’s medals, together with the formal Records of Awards in his pay book (or, more formally, Army Book 64, Soldier’s Record and Pay Book).
5 Steve Denton raised an interesting question. In my HKRNVR files I list a Sub Lieutenant W. Petro. Steve has shown that his full name was probably W. Petro Pavlovsky, though as yet I have been unable to find out anything more about him. 5 Martin Heyes kindly sent some photos from last month’s talk on Reduced to a Symbolical Scale.
4 The Canadian Consulate kindly invited me to the deck reception aboard HMCS Vancouver this evening. The weather was a very overcast and humid and I admit I was sweating under my suit on the crowded ship!
3 Based on a very helpful suggestion from Henry Langley, I have updated the tabs on the left hand side of this page, The Books. I have added a page for Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, and also updated the ‘Future Research’ page. Over the last few years the pressure of work has necessitated that I just update the monthly blog on a regular basis, but I must do more to keep the remainder of the site in shape too. 3 I gratefully received a very interesting copy of a report by Cyril Bucke, giving a great deal of data on the Lisbon Maru deaths post-sinking, and the fates of all officers aboard. Had I had this in 2006 it would have saved me a great deal of research!
2Philp Cracknell has a very interesting new post about Group Captain Thomas Horry was commanding officer RAF, Kai Tak until Sunday 7th December, when he handed over command to Wing Commander Ginger Sullivan, and sailed out of Hong Kong on the ill fated SS Ulysses to take up a new role in RAF, Singapore. My research revealed he was a WW1 Ace with eight accredited "kills" and the holder of the DFC and AFC. http://battleforhongkong.blogspot.hk/2018/05/group-captain-thomas-horry-commanding.html
1 Ronnie Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of Edward Phillips (Middlesex, illustrated), who was lost in the Lisbon Maru. 1 Steve Denton kindly pointed out that Richard Alderbridge (see last month) was simply a figment of my poor typing. His real name was Richard Aldridge, 8th Coastal Regiment RA, and he actually was part of the Hong Kong Garrison.
May 1st, 2018 Update
Cars at Magazine Gap (author), Musto memorial (courtesy Alan Knight), Parkin note (courtesy Martin Heyes) Stranger in my Heart, Signapore Civilian Memorial, Oh Silent Cross (all via author) Elmer Smith's cap (courtesy Frazer Smith). Stanley Gap AA position (via facebook), St Stephen's staff and students (courtesy St Stephen's College, Stanley)
While I have no special interest in medals, it has always struck me as odd that no one (to the best of my knowledge) has created a full register of all the awards and decorations relating to the Hong Kong campaign and the POW years that followed. So I have started to compile one using both the London Gazette (for official announcements) and WO373 (for recommendations) as sources. Where possible I intend including the current location of medals, or any details of sales that I am aware of. I have 284 on the books so far, but don’t yet know what percentage that represents of a whole. Interestingly, it’s a pretty diverse list. Every unit involved (from nurses through to pay corps) seems to be represented.
29 I went for my usual walk in the hills today, and I’ve never seen the watercourses so parched. I suspect this has been the driest April on record. The waterfall on the Peak has water (and a few tadpoles turned up about two weeks ago) but all the others are virtually dry.
28 This evening, thanks to a suggestion from Martin Heyes, I gave my first talk about Reduced to a Symbolical Scale. Originally I had expected it simply to be for the OMRS, but happily the RAS also became involved, and Gwulo, and thanks to Ron Taylor and the Volunteers the venue was their Club Room at the Happy Valley Stand. Rather than the seven or eight people I had expected we had over forty and it was very enjoyable. Instead of just talking about that book, I tried to put in the context of the other books I have written and hopefully will write, and after I had rambled on for forty minutes or so there was an interesting discussion about various facets of the evacuation. 28 Angela Swanney, who first contacted me in 2013, kindly sent some pages from the diary of Corporal Douglas Thomas Smith, HKVDC, who was at Shamshuipo and Nagoya #8B. 28 Barbara Anslow reports that she has received the proofs of the book of her diary, provisionally entitled Tin Hats and Rice. I will of course announce publication details later.
26 Alan Knight notes that he: “recently visited Bredwardine in Herefordshire, to which my mother was evacuated in 1940. In the small church was a memorial plaque with three names on it. One was ‘Sgt. Stanley Musto. Drowned as a Prisoner of War in Far Eastern Waters (1942)’ ”. Musto was of course in the HKSRA and was lost on the Lisbon Maru. Alan kindly sent a photo of the plaque.
25 Tan kindly sent this very high-quality newsreel excerpt about the liberation of Hong Kong. 25 The wartime Hong Kong facebook page has been discussing the incident in which a British soldier’s body (possibly an officer’s) was thrown into a well at Shouson Hill. There were some reports of this in the papers in 1947, but does anyone have any more detail?
24 A Major’s Crown was found in the hills today. Interestingly, we may know exactly which major this belonged to. More on this as it develops.
23 Mary Monro reports that Stranger in my Heart, covering her father Major Monro’s experiences as an escaped Hong Kong POW (among other things) should be available in June. 23 Bill Lake reports that: “Yesterday I was taken to the East River Guerrilla Museum in Dalingshan, Donguan by the history section of the East River Group and Dave Kerr.” It sounds very interesting.
22Steve Denton kindly sent me a complete copy of Homeward Bound, the official publication of the POW repatriation voyage of the USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA13). I already had a copy of the cover, but not the contents.
21Went up to Magazine Gap this morning, and finally pretty much found the right place for the car photo. I don’t think there can be any real doubt that these are the cars mentioned last month (“On the 20th (of) December, [George Palmer], his Chinese driver, in the front seats, and [Eddie Hyndman], safely in the back seat of their staff car, made their way under fire from Japanese planes to the Peak. When they arrived at Magazine Gap Road they received heavy strafing from one of the planes, followed by a bomb which hit the back of the staff car. George and the driver were blown free… and landed on the road, unhurt... but poor Eddie… received severe injuries and was rushed to the War Memorial Hospital.” He died of his wounds eleven days later.) The position is the corner of Magazine Gap Road and Peak Road, outside number 40. 21 Conner Hackett, via Phillip Cracknell, sent a photo showing ex-Stanley internees boarding the Empress of Australia from Stanley Camp. It’s the first such photo I have seen. Philip also sent another photo of Postbridge – apparently just after it was built in the late 1930s. This is only the second existent photograph of the house that we know of.
18Well, Fang Li must have some decent PR help! This morning Google alerts sent me notice of three new articles on the Lisbon Maru (the first two are behind paywalls, but the Express is free): Plan to recover 828 PoWs from wreck of the Lisbon Maru (The Times) The horrific story of 1,800 British prisoners of war battened into three cargo holds of a torpedoed Japanese transport ship is so little told that the dead are known by historians as the forgotten boys. Some scrambled to freedom even as the Japanese guards shot at them. Many could not. In one hold… Forgotten boys: plan to reclaim 838 PoWs from war wreck (The Australian) In one hold, hundreds lost their chance of survival when the only ladder snapped. Survivors recounted hearing the singing of It's a Long Way to Tipperary as the boat sank. Now a Chinese-American businessman is planning to bring the remains of the 828 who drowned in the Lisbon Maru to the surface… Forgotten men: Extraordinary plan to RECOVER 828 POWs from WW2 shipwreck (The Express) Some 1,800 British PoWs crammed into three cargo holds of the Lisbon Maru in 1942 but the vessel was shot down by Japanese guards, with the 7,000-tonne vessel sink to the bottom of the East China Sea. Most scrambled to safety but in one hold, hundreds lost their chance for survival when their only… I’m glad to report that the Lisbon Maru families who Fang Li and his crew have interviewed are so far unanimous in reporting positive experiences.
16 Philip Cracknell has two nice new articles on his blog, relating to very well known Hong Kong wartime figures: Major J.J. Paterson, MD of Jardine Matheson and Commanding Officer of the Hughes Group, HKVDC, and Lt-Col Eustace Levett, Chief Signals Officer - China Command.
15 Today I happened to see again the well-known Canadian post-war photo of Stanley Gap. For the first time I realised that the concrete stove (the square shape just above the words ‘up to’) of the ‘black hole’ was still undamaged at that date. Today – aside from the trees that are now all over the site – the structures look much as they do in this photo, except that the stove is badly damaged on the far side. I had always thought that damage was done by a shell, but obviously not. 15 Steve Denton kindly sent me a copy of the COFEPOW newsletter for April. It included lots of letters about Fang Li and the Lisbon Maru. I hope to meet him in Hong Kong in May.
14Today I saw a fascinating photo on the St Stephen’s College website. It shows pupils and teachers from around 1938, and in the middle of the front row are, I believe (from left to right): Arthur Ernest Job (killed 19 December 1941 at Sanatorium Gap with 1 Coy HKVDC), headmaster Ernest Martin, Mrs Kathleen Martin (who would both be interned at Stanley, Kathleen passing away in camp on 19 January 1945) and Harold Asche. I didn’t recognize the latter and discovered from this obituary – from Trinity College Melbourne - that he had left Hong Kong before the invasion: “HAROLD CARSTEN JOHN ASCHE came to the College in 1911 from Melbourne Grammar School, where he had been equal Head of the School in the previous year. He read Engineering and obtained a Blue for Lacrosse. During the First World War he served with the A.I.F. abroad from 1916 until 1918. After demobilisation in the United Kingdom, he returned to Melbourne, where he successively graduated in Civil Engineering (1919) and in Science (B.Sc., 1921; M.Sc., 1922) and obtained the Diploma of Education (1922). For the next twenty years he was a teacher at St. Stephen's College, Hong Kong, with the Church Missionary Society and as Financial Secretary to the South China Mission. Returning to Melbourne in 1942, he joined the staff of Caulfield Grammar School. In 1949 he became Senior Mathematics and Science Master at Brighton Grammar School, where he remained until his death on 21st January, 1958.” 14 First thing this morning I charged up Chatham Path today to get to the junction of Barker Road and Peak Road to photograph the location of the picture of the destroyed cars. All went well until I returned home and eventually realized that the pictures I had just taken didn’t really align. I was too far west; the position that I had thought was the end of Barker Road must really have been Magazine Gap. I will have to try again later.
12 Cortia Chung at St Stephen’s College notes: “Our Heritage Gallery has received a donation of memory box including some medals of Lance Serjeant Murray Thomas Goodenough (Royal Rifles of Canada). Mr. Goodenough was born July 5, 1925 in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and died on December 22, 1943 in Japan. He is buried at Yokohama. The son of Tom and Hilda Goodenough, he was the youngest Canadian soldier in the Battle of Hong Kong. Before he was taken prisoner of war at Stanley when Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day in 1941, he had been wounded twice at Sugar Loaf Hill. He was 18.” I contacted the family and discovered that Goodenough’s cousin’s niece had donated the medals. Cortia wanted assistance in identifying them and finding the citation for Goodenough’s Military Medal, so I asked the OMRS for assistance. They reported the medals as being: Military Medal (King George VI) 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Services Medal 1939-45 clasp Hong Kong, and War Medal 1939-45. I then downloaded the citation from the IWM’s website for a small fee. As I had suspected, the MM was for his recapturing of two Vickers Guns that had been lost to the Japanese on Sugar Loaf Hill.
11Five live Japanese grenades turned up today off Sir Cecil’s Ride. Two surprising things: firstly, I used to walk all over that path thirty years ago, picking up all sorts of things (before it was paved), and then when the metal detectorists arrived I told them to try that path and they found a whole lot more (grenades, mortars, fuses, water bottles, canteens, live ammunition, spent bullets, cartridges, shrapnel, buttons, and at least one helmet); after all these years I thought all had been found. And secondly, it wasn’t reported at all in the mainstream media. I guess that all the recent news of huge American bombs being found makes tiny little grenades like these seem irrelevant!
10 George Henry Calvert’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch! He had read last month’s blog. He notes: “My mother, Helen Bourke (nee Calvert) was an evacuee in 1940, aged 14, with her mother (George’s wife) and two younger siblings, on the ‘Empress of Japan’ firstly to Manila and then in another ship to Sydney. She is now 91 living in Sydney… She remembers coming home from school and the Amah telling her to pack one suitcase for her and her younger brother and sister because the driver would be coming soon to take them to the docks. She remembers camping on the deck of the Empress of Japan all through the typhoon to Manila and being greeted on arrival by US Army men, one of whom threw her over his shoulder and carried her to the trucks. And being a young teenage girl, she remembers well the embarrassment of using the rows of army toilets that had no doors or walls.” 10 My copy of ‘Oh, Silent Cross’ arrived. One chapter of this large volume concerns Sergeant Robert Lytle, Winnipeg Grenadiers, but also has a lot of information (almost one hundred pages) on other Winnipeg Grenadiers and the battle as a whole, presented in what I would describe as a ‘scrap book’ style.
9 Kai Lau-Thomas, whose father was Lau Yam Choi (a veteran who became well-known in the Hong Kong police post-war), got back in touch. It seems that Mr Lau was in BAAG, and I am trying to work out where he is in my records. That can be a challenge as the transliteration of Chinese in those days wasn’t standardized, and also sometimes British-style Christian names were used instead of Chinese. Matching names from the period is often challenging.
6 Sylvia Midgett put the well-known picture of strafed cars somewhere near the Peak on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today. I have been looking for the location of these for some time, believing the photo to have been taken somewhere on Barker Road looking up towards Magazine Gap, but James Barnes identified the location as near Magazine Gap itself, looking west towards the Peak. I will have to go up and have a look. That spot is no more than thirty minutes walk from where I live.
5 With Thursday being a holiday, I took Friday off and flew with the family to Singapore for a long weekend. We stayed at the Fairmont next door to Raffles, but although until about fifteen years ago I was a very regular visitor to Singapore, I just could not get my bearings. The development of that area is astounding. One of the few places I recognized (even Raffles itself was behind barricades for rebuilding) was the Civilian War Memorial. I walked over to it one wet afternoon, wondering yet again why Hong Kong never built one itself (ignoring the old gate in the Botanical Gardens: a Great War memorial which simply had a little new text added after the Second.)
5Frazer Smith, son of Elmer Smith (Royal Rifles of Canada) got back in touch, kindly sending me copies of a number of documents relating to his father. One was a photo of Sai Wan Cemetery taken in 1980, nine years before I moved to Hong Kong (Illustrated). That was just before all the tall buildings between the base of the cemetery and the sea were built, and it looks more like it did in 1947 when it was first established. Elmer Smith lost his cap during the battle, and remarkably it was returned to him by Clyde Cook, the son of Mrs. Archibald Cook, when they were repatriated in 1942 – a story which Frazer related in The Advocate of Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Elmer Smith is far right, front row, of the photo here.
4Steve Denton kindly sent several documents relating to George Henry Calvert (see last month). I am wondering if George Harry Calvert really existed, or was simply a product of poor administration. 4 The Hong Kong Museum of History got in touch, asking the source of the Japanese propaganda leaflet which I out on this website last month, as they would like to feature it in an exhibition. The source was Colin Standish, so I put them in touch.
2Percy Suckling’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. He was Managing Director of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels. Born on 12 December 1890, he was thus 51 when the Japanese captured Hong Kong. He was in the Hong Kong Hotel at the time of surrender, and then held in Stanley Internment camp in room A1/6 which he shared with five others.
1 TK Wong, writing of The Hong Kong Independent Battalion (see last month) notes that the book I referred to: “has a picture of the house which served as the headquarters (actually hiding place) of the Chinese anti Japanese fighters in Saikung area. The ownership of the house had changed since December last year.” The new owner is a relative of TK, and apparently he will not demolish it since the external walls are made of granite blocks instead of cement. He will renovate the building for his own use, and I hope to visit at some point. 1 According to Steve Denton, the R. Aldridge reported on last month was most probably Richard William Aldridge 1058464, Royal Artillery, who was not from the Hong Kong garrison. 1 Martin Heyes took a Norwegian couple to Stanley today. The gentleman’s uncle, Guttorm Stensen, was a merchant navy seaman whose ship visited HK just before the Japanese invasion and initially he was not interned, though later he went into the Camp with other Norwegians. Martin notes that: “We then went to the cemetery and visited the grave of those killed in the Christmas Day massacre in St. Stephen’s College. Whilst there I noticed that somebody had placed the note below with some roses at the base of the headstone of the grave.” The note was in memory of William Parkin, RAMC, who was killed in the massacre.
April 1st, 2018 Update
Scott-Lindsley (courtesy the National Museum of the Royal Navy), Osaka Report (courtesy Steve Denton), Jeffrey W. Morris (courtesy Len Asplin) The Independent Battalion (author), Indian propaganda flyer, wartime cigarette packet (both courtesy Colin Standish) xxxx on Gosper (courtesy Matthew Roman), Narumi and Omori camp (both courtesy www.mansell.com)
Perhaps the most unexpected thing this month was Colin Standish’s discovery of his grandfather’s collection of POW Camp cigarette packets! In our climate paper doesn’t usually last very long, so their preservation in Canada possibly makes them unique. And there is something particularly approachable about historical artifacts simultaneously so fragile and mundane. While cigarettes were of course currency in camp and thus important, the packets themselves really were not and in most circumstances would have been discarded or burnt. But even the excitement of seeing these was surpassed by tasting a vintage port bottled some twenty-seven years before the invasion of Hong Kong.
30 In correspondence with John Asome about the four Lims (Private A. Lim, Private, Private J. Percy Felix Lim, Lance Corporal Kim Huan Lim, and Private Seang Teik Lim) lost with 3 Coy HKVDC on 19 December 1941, he mentioned that: “all four of them were teachers at St. Joseph's College [and] all four of them were originally from Malaya” (although I had previously heard that Thomas was from Singapore). He also kindly identified ‘A. Lim’ as ‘Anthony Lim’.
29 Steve Denton found an interesting letter from a Robert Millar Brown, Merchant Navy, formerly of the Osaka#1 POW Camp office. Although not an ex-Hong Kong POW himself, he names nine other members of the POW Office Staff including four ex-HK (Chief Petty Officer Writer Reginald Arthur King, RN, Lance Bombardier R Aldridge [possibly Robert Alderbridge, according to Steve], RA, Leading Writer Donald Frank Furzer, RN, and Leading Writer C. Cook [probably Leading Telegraphist Clifford Montague Cook], RN). The letter is headed ‘New Osaka Hotel’, which is where the Americans formed their HQ for the purpose of sorting out the locally recovered POWs.
28The latest edition of The Java Journal, the Newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoners of War Club 1942, has just been published. Despite the name, this organization has become a very credible ‘home’ for all Far East POWs and Internees. I was rather humbled to see my recent South China Morning Post article featured (see last month). More importantly, under the title: “Missionary Survived Prisoner-Of-War Camp”, they wrote: “Muriel Archer, a missionary who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War, has died aged 96. Ms Archer smuggled bibles into countries where preaching Christianity was forbidden and was dedicated to prison teaching and fellowship in Bermuda. She revealed little of her experiences as a prisoner of war. A close family friend, who asked not to be named, said Ms Archer was ‘treated very badly, but survived’ after being captured in Hong Kong. A member of St John’s Church, Ms Archer belonged to the Christian-based group Educational Services International, and taught English overseas, particularly in China. She had extensive teaching experience in Russia at a time when the activities of foreigners were strictly monitored. Ms Archer told The Royal Gazette in 1995: ‘We are not allowed to preach the gospel there. But I did find that people wanted me to teach them how to pray.’ Ms Archer worked with the downtrodden in countries all over the world, particularly people addicted to drugs. She traced her ‘second life’ as a missionary and charity worker back to the death of her only son, Christopher, to leukaemia when he was 19, as well as the early death of her husband William ‘Bill’ Archer. Ms Archer decided to ‘go where I am needed’, including Bermuda’s prison, as a member of the Prison Fellowship. Born in Britain, she spent much of her childhood in China, where her parents were missionaries. Her missionary work there was often conducted undercover. Her friend said: ‘She was a very understanding, smart, educated and worldly woman who had suffered and been around, and she was great at getting on with people. Anyone in need here in Bermuda could come around to her home and she would help them.’ “ However, even Barbara Anslow couldn’t work out which ‘Muriel’ this was, and I wonder if the original article (which appeared in the Bermuda Royal Gazette) was in error? We can’t find a Muriel in the Stanley records who matches the expected 1920s birth year.
25On my regular Sunday walk to the top of High West I noticed what appears to be a robust trench system facing roughly east. The vegetation hasn’t started growing back after winter yet, so next week I hope to take a better look.
23Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of The Hong Kong Independent Battalion. Originally written in Chinese in 1999, this version has been translated into English by Catherine Man. It is a short book but includes one thing I have not seen elsewhere: a roll of honour for the forty-four guerrillas who were lost during the war. 23 Colin Standish has found something else unique in his grandfather’s papers: his collection of wartime cigarette packets. Cigarettes were of course currency in Camp, so perhaps that’s why he kept them. But I have never seen the equivalent. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a great new article. He notes: “The 1st Bn Middlesex War Diary refers to a civilian, Herbert Howell Beddow, being blown to bits during a bombardment of Leighton Hill on 16 December 1941. After doing a little research I found he was employed by the Education Department as a Maths teacher… but he was not just a Maths teacher… he had served in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1 and was an Ace with ten recorded kills.” I was totally unaware of his background, and of course immediately visited the London Gazette to find his decorations and citations and was amazed to find there were none. In the Second war, for ten kills you would expect a DFC at a minimum. 23 I learned from Ian Gill today that the RAOC Sergeant I have listed as Alfred Cromer Mitchell actually had the middle name ‘Cromar’. I have fixed this.
21 Today I was kindly invited to a dinner, with a number of others, with Admiral Harry Harris, the new US Ambassador to Australia. It was very interesting, especially as he used to command the US Pacific Fleet, whose history from 1944-45 I have recently been studying. As his father had been born in 1914, and the hosts had a bottle of port from that year, they kindly gave him a glass of it. And as I was sitting next to him he let me try it. It was quite amazing to try a drink bottled in the first year of the Great War.
20 A friend has a strange note in his mother’s diary from Sunday 7 November 1943. Being a Eurasian, she was able to stay out of internment and lived in the city through the occupation in Hong Kong. But on this day she wrote: “[a friend] was here when [we] flew home on airplane from church”. What could this have meant?
19 I managed to put two wartime evacuees together again today. Always nice when that happens!
17 A nice HKVDC cap badge was found up in the hills today (illustrated). 17 This weekend I dedicated to starting a proper consolidation of my RAPWI (Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internee) files. What I hadn’t previously realized was that this was purely a British / Commonwealth phrase. It seems the Americans – although they did all the heavy lifting at the Japanese mainland camps – didn’t use it, though some of their documents refer to RAMP (Recovery of Military Personnel), but not very consistently. Interestingly – but not surprisingly considering the number of liberation rosters there - the late Roger Mansell’s website has a number of very useful documents and photographs illustrating the American side. One typical photo was of Narumi, with signs painted on the huts saying: “Yank, Thanks, Wasp”, “Britain CA”. “Men from Corregidor, Bataan Thank Wasp”, “Hong Kong men thank you”. Another clear one was of Omori. Also, the National Archives of Singapore have done a good job in compiling references to relevant RAPWI documentation in WO203.
15 Alan Knight contacted me again. He was neighbour to Sgt. Leslie Edward Johns, 2315049, 40 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, who was liberated 15 September 1945. He notes that the liberation was carried out by a US Navy unit headed by the first husband of Mrs. Wallis Simpson, Earl Winfield ‘Win’ Spencer.” 15 Iain Gow kindly sent me the MI9 form of his father, James Gow, Royal Scots. Like many young men, he had lied about his age and joined up at 16. The form includes the ‘pretend’ date of birth.
14Annemarie Evans notes: “In a full Hong Kong Heritage, (Broadcast Feb 3 & 4), I hear about WWII bombs from war historian Tony Banham after two are found in one week in Wan Chai; then go to Hong Kong Maritime Museum for a beautiful exhibition of export silver; conservationist Katty Law talks of her concerns about a plan to build a 25-storey hospital on Bishop Hill; and I salute the late amateur historian Chan Sui-cheung, author of East River Column: Hong Kong Guerrillas in the Second World War and After. In an excerpt from an earlier programme SJ talks about his childhood during the war.”
13 Steve Denton kindly sent me John Hardy’s (Middlesex) MI9 form. Apparently Hardy was one of several POWs who made half-hearted spur of the moment escape attempts in the very early days of the POW Camps, and was quickly recaptured with no serious repercussions. I don’t think anyone has studied these in any depth, but I have probably come across half a dozen examples by now.
11 I was contacted by a former army physiotherapist researching into the history of Physiotherapy in the army. He notes: “At present I am researching 1939 to 1945. In 1941 there were four RAMC Nursing Orderlies in the Colony who had qualified as masseurs at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley. Cpl Jeffrey Morris was one of these; he survived the St Stephen’s college massacre, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and Tokyo POW camp(s). On repatriation he became the assistant instructor at the Army School of Physiotherapy at Netley.” He kindly sent a photo of Morris, and his POW Index Card. is one of the most complex POW Index Cards I have seen. I won’t pretend I can read it all, but in summary: - He was captured in Hong Kong on 23 December 1941. That’s quite unusual and might mean he was working at St Albert’s Hospital, which was captured that day. This would mean he probably wasn’t at the St Stephen’s massacre. - On the back it states he was received in Japan on 10 October 1942, which is standard for those on the Lisbon Maru. - The interesting part is the second line, which moves him to a Tokyo POW Camp on 15 May 1945. This turns out to be Tokyo #13B Omi and he was the only ex-Hong Kong POW there. However, RAMC men were obviously very important to POWs and it is not unusual for them to be the only ex-HK POWs in a particular camp. - The last line (and again this is typical) is the date of his handover to US troops. He was repatriated on the Admiral Hughes. He does not appear to have filled in an MI9 interview, but not every man did. 11 Jill Fell contacted me, asking about Lieutenant George Calvert, HKVDC. According to my records, he was a POW in Stanley throughout the war, but there is also a George Calvert who was in Stanley Internment Camp. The latter was released to Victoria at some undated point, but I don’t know why. As some records show a George Harry Calvert, and others a George Henry Calvert, could they have been two different men?
9 The South China Morning Post carried a good article about Brian Finch today, mentioning his interest in the Lisbon Maru.
7I referred Meg Parkes (see last month) to the artwork included in Mervyn Scott-Lindsley’s prisoner of war sketchbook, held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Meg notes: “To date we have uncovered the contemporaneous work of over 40 previously unknown British military, amateur and trained, documentary artists. This work will be the subject of an exhibition here in Liverpool to showcase this hitherto unseen aspect of the history. From October 2019 to June 2020 the Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M) will host the exhibition entitled, ‘The Secret Art of Survival: the hidden documentary art from WWII Far East captivity.’ ” And this exhibition will now include examples from four Hong Kong POW artists: Bird, Coxhead, Poltock and now Scott-Lindsley. It’s also a good excuse to republish Scott-Lindsley’s excellent self-portrait. And oddly enough he was repatriated on the Gosper!
6 Matthew Roman, whose grandfather Pharmacist Mate 2nd class Arthur R. Hultz served on the USS Gosper (APA170) and contacted me a year or so back, notes that when his grandmother passed away recently they found some photos. They aren’t the best quality, but he’s kindly offered to look for better ones. Gosper was of course involved in RAPWI, taking 157 ex-HK POWs (according to Steve Denton’s research) to freedom. 6 I heard today from a researcher trying to track down the relatives of Ying Boswell, wife of Able Seaman Cyril L Boswell. Ying was a Chinese lady, one of the few wives of British servicemen originally evacuated to Australia in 1940.
2 The South China Morning Post today published an interesting video about Lamma’s wartime Japanese tunnels. 2 Amdad Ali’s (HKSRA) family got in touch. I especially welcome contact from the sub-continent as they provided so many of Hong Kong’s defenders and have historically been so under-documented. I sent them the three documents I have concerning his wounding and hospitalization.
1 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent me a copy of ‘The Macanese at War: Survival and Identity among Portuguese Eurasians during World War II’ by Roy Eric Xavier, Ph.D. The role of Macau and the Macanese has often been overlooked in post-war writings, so this was a refreshing read. Three excerpts particularly took my interest. The first was: “The youngest volunteer was, in reality, a fifteen year old student named Eduardo (Eddie) Hyndman. A mature youth, Hyndman was the only son of Eduardo and Laura Hyndman, whose families were Dutch and Portuguese originally from Macau. He was not among those in Kowloon at the time of the invasion, but enlisted following the first attack after telling recruiters he was seventeen. Alarmed by her son’s plans, Hyndman’s mother convinced Lt. George Palmer, who was married to her cousin, to transfer him to Palmer’s Engineer’s Unit to keep the boy near the family in Hong Kong. An account of Hyndman’s service follows: On the 20th (of) December, George, his Chinese driver, in the front seats, and Eddie, safely in the back seat of their staff car, made their way under fire from Japanese planes to the Peak. When they arrived at Magazine Gap Road they received heavy strafing from one of the planes, followed by a bomb which hit the back of the staff car. George and the driver were blown free… and landed on the road, unhurt... but poor Eddie… received severe injuries and was rushed to the War Memorial Hospital. Eduardo Filomeno Hyndman died of his wounds eleven days later. At fifteen, he was the youngest defender of Hong Kong to perish.” The second was a throwaway line about the last ferry to leave Kowloon for Hong Kong: “A woman standing next to Vincente on the ship was shot and died before reaching Hong Kong.” One has to wonder if this was a reference to Jessie Holland (see January). And the third was: “Reports of mass burials on Taipa, a neighboring island, of up to 400 bodies a day began to surface, leading to post-war estimates of 50,000 deaths during the war years.” As readers of this site will understand, I have long wondered about the uncounted civilian deaths of Hong Kong during the war (which, minimally, would have been some 250,000), so it is fascinating to see a number proposed for Macau. 1 Colin Standish sent me several more of his grandfather’s copies of Japanese propaganda leaflets, confirming that this must be the most complete collection in existence. One of the most extreme shows a turbaned Indian soldier being pushed into his position by a cowardly British soldier behind him. The caption reads: “We can’t shoot if you stand in the breach there”, with Japanese bullets flying around the Indian chap. It continues: “What rot that you lose your life far in Hong Kong in the battle predestined to be lost! If you want to sever your disgraceful connection with the Englishman, liquidating the relations between the white and coloured races, bring your rifles to bear upon them at once. Think over the matter; that is the natural and wise conduct.” While the author is to be congratulated on the correct use of the semicolon, even by 1941 standards it’s pretty dire. (And the Indian soldier’s right foreleg got a bit messed up, making me wonder if these were done in rather a hurry). Colin also sent copies of his grandfather’s notes about the deaths of fellow Royal Rifles, and his post-war correspondence with A Japanese Sergeant (a wartime guard) Yasouki Kamada. As I mentioned to Colin on his visit to Hong Kong last month, sergeant to sergeant friendships in the camps were not uncommon. As mature men, I suppose they sometimes recognised each other’s situation and simply made the best of it.
March 1st, 2018 Update
Low Keat Soo, medals, and newspaper article (all courtesy Joseph Low) Osaka POW list (National Archives), young McCallum Bell (courtesy Roddy Brown), Xmas day (courtesy Strellett family) Fisher envelope (courtesy Raymond Mo), 1942 deaths, Ashton Rose chit (both courtesy HK PRO via Colin Standish)
Sadly, I have to admit that I am now older than all but a few of the most senior of officers captured in Hong Kong in December 1941. And while my health has traditionally been excellent (right up until January I had been boasting about not having had a cold of any sort for six years…), in the middle of that month I came down with something that left me with a major sinus infection that took me five weeks to shift. And that was with the help of antibiotics that didn’t exist in 1941, and (of course) a more than adequate diet. I remember discussing health with Denis Morley (Royal Scots) years ago, and he told me that he simply didn’t get ill in the camps. Essentially, those who survived were fortunate enough to have the strongest constitutions and anyone with any sort of physical weakness (and I fear I would have been one) succumbed.
28Martin Heyes was kind enough to give me the bad news that: “Chief Superintendent Walter (Wally) Scragg, CPM, of the HK Police died in Sydney, Australia, on 20 Feb this year.” I had met Wally several times over the years (in fact he was a guest at our house warming party when we moved to our current flat some twelve years ago), but had been out of touch for a while.
27 I am just finishing David Hobbs’s excellent book The British Pacific Fleet, as I am working on both RAPWI and the liberation of Hong Kong, each of which require understanding local naval assets in August/September 1945. I came across this great piece: “On 28 August 1945 a US Navy patrol boat came alongside HMS Duke of York at her anchorage at Sagami Wan at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. She delivered Private Edgar Campbell [RASC] and Marine John Wynn, both of whom had been taken prisoner on Christmas Day 1941 when Hong Kong fell. On hearing that Japan had surrendered and Allied warships were visible off the coast, they had set off from their prison camp when the gates were opened, walked thirty miles to a beach at Sagami Wan and then swum out to an American warship, all this despite the debility caused by spending over three years in a succession of prison camps. They were the first British prisoners to be recovered from Japan.” Needless to say, they were both ‘hard men’ from the first draft to Japan. I notice that the Omori Camp list has them both as simply ‘walked away’!
26McCallum Bell’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch. He was killed just south of Wong Nai Chung Gap on 19 December when his Bren carrier was hit by a mortar, and the family would like to have a photo of him in uniform if anyone has one. All they have (which they kindly sent me) was one of him as a boy scout.
24 Patricia O’Sullivan gave a talk today at the Maritime Museum about the early history of the Naval Dockyard Police Force. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, but there is little written about the Dockyard Police and I would have been very interested.
23Raymond Mo kindly sent me a photo of the envelope of a letter to William Diego Fisher, HKVDC, autographed by other ‘Genki Boys’ at Innoshima. All the names are clear except what looks like Boris A Gel, which I think must be Boris A Gellman of 1 Coy. Interestingly he was one of the last of the garrison to escape from Kowloon to the Island after the former was evacuated. He swam across the harbour from Kai Tak.
22 Philip Cracknell notes of his new blog: “It is a moment in time. It is 3pm on Christmas Day 1938. Who are the people captured in this pre-war photograph taken in happier times, and what became of them. Some of them fought in the Battle for Hong Hong, some of them were wounded or killed, some of them were interned in Japanese concentration camps. This is an attempt to briefly tell their story.” We had actually corresponded about this as I had the same photograph in my collection (sent to me by the Strellett family), and had also been in touch with the majority of the families represented here.
21 The Researching FEPOW History Group note: “Future Memories Workshop University of Leeds, 19 March 2018, 9.30am - 5pm. There are only five places remaining for next month's FREE workshop. We have a great range of talks, covering POW art, second-generation experiences, escape attempts, the perspectives of perpetrators, Hong/Kong China, Makassar... Speakers include Clare Makepeace, Terry Smyth, Toby Norways, Nigel Stanley, Meg Parkes and more. It is sure to be a really interesting day.”
18A very kind soul has passed me copies of the Osaka #1B and Osaka #2B (Kobe) POW lists. I have been looking for these for years. It appears they were released in 2005, just after I was searching for them while writing the Lisbon Maru book. Finally I have a complete view of which Lisbon Maru survivors were in which camp. 18 Thomas Ritson Hetherington’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch.
17 I met Colin Standish in his hotel on Hollywood Road and we had a good chat about his researches and plans. 17 I received this communication via Meg Parkes: “Please could you help the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in its bid for HLF funding for the FEPOW art exhibition by sharing the Facebook link as widely as possible.” Scroll down to their entry of February 16, and on some PCs you may have to click on ‘See more’ in the third paragraph of the post (just above the image) to see the link to the survey.
16 Brian Finch kindly let me know that: “Laurel Films are in the process of producing a documentary about the Lisbon Maru Incident. They have already started filming and expect to release the film within 2 years. Their aim is to gather as much data as they can from a wide range of sources so as to produce a comprehensive and authoritative account, to be shown in English on the international market and also distributed in other languages, principally in Asia.”
12 Harry McFee contacted me to let me know that his new book Oh, Silent Cross is available. This is “a ‘collage’ of stories including maps, letters, newspaper articles and photos… in all, 726 pages of Second World War personal and ‘official’ information”. Harry assures me that it has a lot of Hong Kong C Force content so I have ordered a copy and will report back when I receive it.
11Colin Standish sent me the most complete set of December 1941 Japanese propaganda fliers I have yet seen, including a couple that were completely new to me. He has also – with the help of colleague Ryan Zade - tracked down the elusive Shamshuipo and Stanley Camp hospital records! Long known about, the last copies I was aware of were at HKU but no one seemed to know where. Now copies have arrived at the POW. They are: HKMS81 (medical records of Shamshuipo POW Camp), HKMS82 (Christmas Day Menu for Shamshuipo Prisoner of War Camp Isolation Hospital – it says signed by Sergeant Ahable, RAMC in charge of the kitchen (no such person exists, and my best guess is that in my files this is ex Corporal Albert Noble), HKRS42 (Records of Stanley Internment Camp and Hospital), and HKRS42-1 with the same description. 11 Steve Denton has found records indicating that Lance Corporal Arthur David Smith (Middlesex – attached to the Military Police, and a Lisbon Maru survivor) was a Canadian serving in the regular British army. While not unheard of, these are relatively uncommon.
6 Derek Nickson’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. 6 On the ‘menu’ published last month, Ken Skelton notes: “It is indeed an American Ration Menu - I have Menu #5 that my father brought back that was in the food drops done by B29's at Omine Camp. (He also brought back pieces of the coloured parachute silk that were attached to the drums). I also have the metal ration box that held the cardboard ration cartons which was dropped inside 50 Gal drums.”
5 Commenting on the photo of Joan Wood last month, Barbara Anslow noted: “Left to right: me; Dr Mark Erooga who did valuable service in Stanley Camp hospital; Joan Wood who passed away last month; (I can't remember this lady with long fair hair); Dermot McMahon of Postwar HongKong Police, who died last year, husband of the late Peggy (nee Barton) who was in Stanley; my late elder sister Olive Darby; one of the children in camp, have forgotten his name.”
4Today we had the last Hong Kong Club walk of the season, Violet Hill to Deepwater Bay via Repulse Bay. I call this one the ‘Travelling Massacre’ as it follows the route of the Tanaka Butai as they rampaged down Wong Nai Chung Gap Road. We had a good turnout of around sixteen people, and set off with a temperature of just five degrees! When I returned home I checked what the War Crimes files had to say, and it makes interesting reading: The Accused was the Commanding Officer of the 299th Regiment (“Butai”) of the 38th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, also known as the Tanaka Butai. This case concerned the fall of Hong Kong Island on the night of 18 December 1941. Three Regiments of the Japanese Army attacked – the Tanaka Butai on the right (landed at Sau Ki Wan); the Doi Butai in the centre (landed at Tai Koo Docks) and the Shoji Butai on the left (landed at North Point). They were to proceed to Wong Nei Chong Gap, after which they had separate objectives. The case concerned only the first Butai. It had the objective of reaching High West. It proceeded through Sau Ki Wan, to Stanley Gap after Wong Nei Chung Gap, then to Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay, and reached High West after fighting through Brick Hill and Shou Shan Hill… A number of specific incidents were highlighted: 1. Lye Mun and Sai Wan Fort at Sau Ki Wan: Bayoneting captured soldiers. 2. Salesian Mission (medical post): Butchering male military and civilian personnel. Women were taken away. 3. Pryce Incident at Island Road (Lye Mun): Two Canadian soldiers were made to work all day then bayoneted. 4. Murder of a wounded Hong Kong Singapore Artillery officer and the bayoneting of other captured soldiers. 5. Eucliffe at Repulse Bay: A number of soldiers who had surrendered were executed. 6. Wong Nei Chung Gap to Repulse Bay: Murder of personnel at various places. 7. Post Repulse Bay: The killing of 3 officers on Shou Shan Hill; the bayoneting of the remnants of a grenadier company at Little Hong Kong. … The Prosecution argued that ‘while isolated instances may occur which are not in the power of the Commander to prevent, when the abuses are widespread it argues that properly effective measures have not been taken’ (citing and later quoting Yamashita, United States Supreme Court). It was argued that the Accused failed to take proper steps to prevent and also punish his subordinates for illegal acts. Given that it was clear that atrocities did take place, whatever instructions/order/speeches/warning given were insufficient in such instances.”
3 Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK), kindly sending a photo (illustrated). 3 Colin Standish’s (Royal Rifles) grandson got in touch. 3 Harold Relph’s (Royal Artillery) son got in touch. 3 Having seen the CNN article about the two 1,000 pound bombs found here last week, I now regret that we weren’t able to arrange an interview. It was probably the best of the lot, with the only minor mistake being that there are no bullet holes in the HSBC lions – just shrapnel ones.
1 After yesterday’s radio spot (see last month), today I was inundated for requests from radio stations and newspapers, and had to turn them all down as I was working. That’s probably a good thing, as there are plenty of other people just as qualified to talk about the American bombing. 1 Discussions continued with Low Keat Soo’s family (see last month). He was one of the Malayan students at HKU who after release from POW Camp (in late 1942, as ‘locals’) stayed at May Hall because they had no families to go to. There they were forced to work in the Anti-Epidemic Squad of the Sanitary Department. Eventually he escaped with colleagues, joined up with BAAG and worked in Counter-Intelligence under Hall-Caine. He also served with the Americans in China, and the family kindly sent a photo from that period (plus others of his medals, family, and a newspaper article). His son notes: “As it turns out, my father working as part of the Sanitary Department when he was a POW in Hong Kong, met my mother I think at the Central Market where they did inoculations. After the war, he returned to Hong Kong and married my mother and so a bit of happy ending.”
February 1st, 2018 Update
Jessie Holland's grave, Oil Street (both author), Douglas Burns' neckercheif (courtesy Don Burns)
Joan Wood (third from left, courtesy Barbara Anslow who is first left), Percy Chittenden, Percy Chittenden's diary (both courtesy Ken Blackmore)
A Cruel Captivity cover (courtesy Ellie Taylor), Mount Davis 9.2 (via Steve Denton), 7 Bty 5 HAA in 938 (courtesy Andy Salmon, via Facebook)
Jessie Holland. I first came across her twenty years ago, discovering that a lady of that name had volunteered to serve on a launch in the evacuation of Kowloon on 12 December 1941, and had been shot and mortally wounded. In NTSC I wrote: “Two accounts, (Hong Kong Aftermath, Brown, page 15; Prisoner of the Japs, Gwen Dew, New York: Heinemann, 1943, page 45), mention a British nurse being killed on the last ferry from Kowloon, though they disagree on some details and provide no name. A more accurate account is probably Sui Geng, Ward, page 146, which describes a nurse called ‘Mrs Hollands’ as being ‘lightly wounded’ on this day while serving as a volunteer on a harbour launch under police control, recovering British troops (Lt. Forsyth and his Punjabis) from Kowloon. The Royal Hong Kong Police, Crisswell and Watson, page 174 specifies that she was wounded in the stomach, and was accompanied by another nurse, Mrs Sando. Hong Kong Police War Diary records: ‘In spite of the two European ladies being made to lie flat on the deck Mrs Holland received a bullet wound in the abdomen.’ But the Queen Mary Hospital records (which state that she lived at 6, Minden Avenue, and give her age as 45) are unequivocal: she was admitted and was pronounced dead on the same day. Correspondence with her family confirms her death, but she is not recorded in Commonwealth War Graves Commission files. This month (see the 12th) I finally stood at her graveside. The next such case that I am very keen to solve is that of Theodore Leslie Bell, who was shot and killed by the Japanese exactly one week later, and again has no known grave and no entry in the CWGC files.
31Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch. 31 Michael Wright, ex-3 Bty HKVDC, has passed away at the age of 105. I corresponded with him briefly around twenty years ago. I also heard a rumour that another Hong Kong stalwart had passed away, but I will reserve comment until I hear further. 31 Yet another bomb (probably another ANM-65) has been found in Wanchai, in close proximity to Saturday’s. I suspect both fell in the harbour, but had been covered up by later reclamation. This afternoon as I walked back from work I was interviewed by Annemarie Evans for RTHK on this subject.
30Today Barbara Anslow passed the bad news to David from Gwulo and me that: “my dear friend Joan Wood passed away in New Milton, a few days before her 99th birthday. Pre-war we had been colleagues as Stenographers with the HK Government. During the battle for HK, Joan was a VAD nurse at Bowen Road Military Hospital. Her father was killed by the Japanese soon after they landed on the island. Joan had married Reggie Wood before our war: Joan and her mother ended up in Stanley Camp. Reggie served in the Wavy Navy HKong and was a POW in Kowloon.” Barbara and Joan had been close friends for all these years. Joan’s father was William Seath of the ARP, killed by the Japanese on Mount Parker Road.
29 Low Keat Soo’s (HKVDC Field Ambulance, BAAG) son got in touch. This is leading to some very interesting correspondence as Elizabeth Ride is now helping the family understand what he did. It appears he was in counter-intelligence under Hall-Caine, but as with all such men he told his family very little. I shall report on this more fully next month. 29 Yesterday an American 1,000 pound HE bomb was uncovered during excavation work in Wanchai. The South China Morning Post covered the epic defusing process here. EOD tell me that it was painted with a black band, meaning armour-piercing. 29 Philip Cracknell has a new blog post about West Brigade HQ at Wong Nai Chung Gap.
28Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
27 Steve Denton found two more very interesting MI9 forms. The first was from Cyril Henry James, RASC, who noted that he: “Was tried by Japanese court-martial at Shamshuipo, by Colonel Commandant of POWs Hongkong for refusal to sign no-escape form. Was told that refusal to sign form would be regarded as mutiny and that I would be shot. I signed form.” He listed CSM Albert Fred Wood, Private Ernest James Gothard, Sergeant John Erskine MacDowell, and Driver Charles Henry Fitzgerald (all RASC) as co-defendees. The second was Kenneth Frederick Sawyer, RAVC, who wrote: “Attempted escape from Hong Kong island on Dec 25th 1941 after cessation of hostilities. As air raid in progress - stole sampan and attempted to reach coast of mainland but winds made it impossible. Landed on island of Lantau. Total concealment difficult; Chinese reported presence to Japs who sent out patrols which chased us for six days. On one occasion we were under fire but had no arms in our possession. Also without food. Re-captured by unit of Jap navy on the beach Dec 31st. He states he was with Private George Pape Middlesex and Driver Wheatley RASC, and continues: “Chinese inhabitants of the island reported our presence to Japs who gave chase. On Dec 31st we were pocketed and surrounded under the beach. We were without arms. Ran along beach in an endeavour to break through enemy lines but were seen by Japanese minelayer working off-shore and captured by them.” I have a note I wrote in 2007, frustratingly without any provenance. It reads: "Sawyer, RAVC, describes an attempted evasion by sea with Middlesex G. Papes, Horse Ambulance Driver Wheatley RASC, Private Jacobs, RAMC, and three Americans (Swannye, Billy, Casey) from 'an American cargo vessel that had been sunk in the harbour'. Took boats. Separated from the Americans after landing on Lantau north of Cheung Chow. On the 28th, met a Chinese man who described three dead men (presumably the Americans). Recaptured on the 29th.” George William Pape died on the Lisbon Maru. Driver Leslie Alfred Wheatley survived the war, being on the first draft to Japan. Mike F.K. Jacobs RAMC escaped with Whitehead in 1942. 27 Apple Daily today ran a nice article (in Chinese) and video about George Cautherley.
25 Elizabeth Ride today sent the Netherlands Red Cross all the BAAG documentation on Dutch POWs in Hainan, and I followed up by sending them a copy of the letter (see the fifth) which had sparked this conversation. 25 A correspondent notes: “I recently purchased an Army Long Service medal named to 1866149 W.O.2. F. Quinnell. R.E, (on eBay from a seller in Omaha, Nebraska. One can only guess how it got there). I have been able to gather quite a bit of information about him. He was a POW in Hong Kong for the entire war... He is mentioned 3 times in O’Toole’s POW diary, including in the opening entry as being with him (and escaping) at Wong Nai Chung Gap on the 19th.” Does anyone have any more detail? I list Frank Quinnell as being in the RE Services, but aside from that can add very little.
24 The Dutch Red Cross responded to me about the Hainan letter saying that they had very little detail on their Hainan POWs and would be grateful for whatever we could give them. I pinged Elizabeth Ride in Norway to see what she could do to help. She kindly sent them her files, including this note from her father's report to Whitehall after the war (Report on the Activities of an MI9/19 Organisation... etc - NA WO 208/3260): “(a) On the 17th August our HAINAN operation was cancelled as the Americans stated that they did not need our help and assured the Commandant that they had everything planned for that area. After the surrender it was found they had done nothing at all, and a Naval vessel had to be sent from HONG KONG to rescue the escapers and prisoners.” 24 Martin Heyes reports that Private Leonard Rimell’s (Middlesex) medals are for sale. I still don’t know whether Rimell was killed in Stanley on the 25th or earlier around the North Point Power Station.
23Elizabeth Ride notes: “I have recently posted my father's SSPo diary on Gwulo.” 23 Simon Cheung tells me that they have identified the first ‘old boy’ from St Paul's College who was lost during the war. This was Private Leung Tak Chiu of 3 Coy HKVDC. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a new blog about Lt Colonel Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson, the commander of the 5/7th Rajputs. He notes: “His role in the Battle for Hong Kong is reasonably well known. He was commanding officer of the 5th Battalion - 7th Rajput Regiment who faced the Japanese onslaught on the north shore during the night of 18th December 1941 - but what of his personal life? And what became of him?” The reminded me that in 2005 I was able to help return to the family a book that RC-R had written to his two sons. One of them had lost it in 1959, with other family papers, during his move from Birmingham to New Zealand. In fact he had left it in a flat which he shared with a friend. That friend’s son had fortunately retained it, and I put them in touch. 23 Through the kindness of Mary Monro I am now in contact with the daughter of John S. Whitehead, escapee and author of ‘Escape to Fight On’. 23 The Researching FEPOW History Group had revamped their website rather nicely. Well worth a visit!
22 Steve Denton (again! He is fast becoming the uber-researcher of the period) was kind enough to send me the MI9 form of Signalman Strangeways O’Leary. This contains an eyewitness report of the death – during the 1941 fighting - of two fellow signalmen, which more than anything else is what I am always hoping to find. Extremely useful. Steve also sent a copy of Geoffrey Hamilton’s three-page affidavit from the War Crimes trials.
21 Craig Mitchell today very kindly presented me with three wartime Japanese beer bottles. These are almost certainly from the occupation period rather than the battle, being found near a tunnel system built by local labour under Japanese supervision in 1944. No doubt the supervisors were enjoying a tipple while others worked… But I am very glad to have them and (when my wife declares them clean enough) I intend filling one with Sierra Nevada’s finest IPA and becoming the first person to drink beer from it since (I believe) 1944. That will surely be a photo opportunity.
20Steve Denton kindly sent me Godfrey Bird’s MI9 form. 20 Today the South China Morning Post article came out (see the fifteenth). Very positive, I thought. I may have made one little error, though (it was a long interview all off the cuff so I hope I can be forgiven). Looking again I think the Red Cross parcel menu (illustrated) I mentioned is actually from an American ration box parachuted into the camp shortly after the Japanese surrender. Not that this alters my point in any way. Interestingly, though, this article resulted in more emails coming my way than anything else the SCMP has published about Hong Kong War Diary. 20 Yay! Today my annual royalty cheque arrived from Hong Kong University Press. I have told them very openly that the way this thing works is as follows: they give me a royalty cheque, I use it to buy a small present for my wife, she then agrees to me pursing this hobby for another twelve months. This year’s cheque (and remember that this is for four books currently in print) is the equivalent of US$220. I have been told that JK Rowling and Dan Brown are feeling very intimidated, and I feel quite sorry for them. 20 An old school friend turned up in Hong Kong today, staying with his wife at the Harbour Grand in Oil Street, North Point. I volunteered to pick them up and give them a tour of HK (actually we had a great time), but as I walked down Oil Street I noticed that although a lot of the old buildings on the east side of the road seemed to have gone, a number on Electric Road (including the former clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club?) are being actively restored.
19 Stephen Verralls mentions that he is researching Henry Thomas Buxton and Alberta Buxton (he has Henry’s medals). I had often wondered about their daughter Patricia, and he notes: “the HK PRO has a file on Patricia’s (Patricia Walton using her father’s name) enquiries about the death of her mother and step-father (HT Buxton). This and other research I have shows that Patricia left HK in July 1940 with her grandmother to Manila, later to be joined by her grandfather who opened a business to support them. All 3 were interned by the Japanese and suffered as all internees did. They were repatriated to USA in 1945 and spent 4.5 months in USA recovering. They were then sent to Durban where Alberta’s only brother was resident. It seems that Alberta (nee Pearce) was originally married to a Mr Walton and married Henry around 1939/40. Patricia is from the first marriage. I have no idea who Walton was, but the grandparents were George and Madge Stanley-Lovett, he being a fertiliser manufacturer.” In my research for Reduced to a Symbolical Scale I had found this mention of their visit to Australia in 1941. 19 George Boote noted: “Today Peter Wyngard passed away, he was a Shanghai internee, and is mentioned in JG Ballard's autobiography, they were interned in the same camp at Lunghua. It got me thinking of a Stanley internee Lewis Morley who was a 1960s well know photographer. In Lewis's autobiography there are about 10 pages on his stay in Stanley, including a couple of drawings.” I had no idea this book existed, so have ordered a copy. Morley was in Stanley with his father (also Lewis; a government pharmacist), mother, and sister.
18 Well, after all that the CWGC has once again rejected our request for Jessie Holland to be recognised! This time because of ‘lack of evidence that her death was due to enemy action’. On our next attempt I will include the report from the Police Diary which states that she was shot in the abdomen and see if that does the trick. So at this point our evidence consists of: - An entry in the Police War Diary mentioning a “Mrs Hollands” being shot in the abdomen on a ferry on Dec 12. - An eye-witness report of a nurse being shot in this manner In Wenzell Brown’s ‘Hong Kong Aftermath’. - A file from the HK PRO showing that Mrs Jessie Holland, ANS, was a civilian fatality. - An unsigned HK Death Certificate for Mrs Jessie Holland, stating she died ‘on or about’ 25 December 1941. - A registry entry from the Queen Mary Hospital showing that J. Holland had been admitted on 12 December 1941 and had died the same day. - An entry from the Colonial Cemetery burial register for 13 December 1941 showing that Mrs Jessie Holland was interred in grave 10027 with Frank Short officiating. - A document from the HK Government showing that Frank Short was recognised as a Reverend. - A page from the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of 6 August 1942 stating that her death had ‘already been reported’. - A photograph of grave 10027 today.
16 Martin Heyes kindly sent me this obituary of Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, born in Hong Kong in 1946 and a naval surgeon during the Falklands War. It appears his father was Lieutenant Commander James Jolly, RNR, Harbour Master in 1941, and his mother was a F.A.N.Y. Nursing Sister.
15The South China Morning Post interviewed me today, with a wide-ranging set of questions about Hong Kong War Diary; everything from the genesis to the philosophy, the artefacts to the people. They also took at least 200 photos of yours truly!
14 Ellie Taylor notes: “Just a brief update about my book, 'A Cruel Captivity', due to be published at the end of May… I've set up a page on fb so that those involved with the book are able to keep up with its progress.” The reason for my involvement is that one of the men featured in the book, Crown Sergeant William Gordon Wilson, was a Hong Kong POW from the Royal Naval Dockyard Police. One can see a photo of Shamshuipo POW Camp on the spine.
13 Ron Abbott informs me that two Royal Scots who I list as Privates (Thomas Byrne, 3055362, and Adam Hunter, 3050308) should actually be Pipers. I have made the corrections in my off-line files though it will be a while before they are propagated to the website. 13 I am now in touch with Christine Thomas. She notes: “It was from the mid 1980s to mid 1990s that I completed my own project. Most weekends and public holidays would see me in the cemetery with hand held tape recorder trying to decipher the headstones. My day job was as a Police Research Officer at PHQ. I spend my retirement researching stories of some of the everyday folk who found themselves in HK back in the 19th & early 20th centuries and presenting my findings as talks to Family History Societies and Archives etc. – and writing various blogs.” The dates would explain why the photograph she had of Jessie Holland’s grave seemed very open, whereas when I visited yesterday it was extremely overgrown. But how grateful I am for her work!
12 So finally today as I walked home from the office I made the slight detour to the old Colonial Cemetery (now the Hong Kong Cemetery). At exactly the position that Christine Thomas had said, I found grave number 10027 - that of Jessie Holland. I placed a poppy in front of it and took a few photos, well aware that I was probably the first person since her burial on 13 December 1941 to visit that spot in the full knowledge of the identity of that grave’s occupant. It was simultaneously satisfying and melancholy; an odd moment.
11 Douglas Burns’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch, kindly sending a number of documents and a photo of his father from the time. He noted: “I also have a red cross neck kerchief that my father embroidered (self taught) with the names of all of his mates who were killed while he was captured. I can send you a photo if interested.” I was very interested! 11 Richard Horsburgh reported: “Brian Edgar sent me the attached report on the situation in HK post Japanese occupation written by Mavis Ming after she arrived in Chungking and began working at the British Embassy in about May 1942”. The four-page report showed a very sophisticated understanding of the situation in early-occupied Hong Kong. Interestingly, the last image also showed the first page of Major Munro’s report! Apparently this was among a file of ‘escapee reports’ sent from Chungking to the UK during that period. 11 The Java Journal linked to the Ient family website. I gave a member of that family a little assistance perhaps ten years ago, but clearly a lot of work has gone into it since then, covering Albert Ient’s (Royal Signals) and his comrades’ experience on the Lisbon Maru and elsewhere.
10 Mary Monro tells me that her book about her father (escapee Major John Monro, RA) is getting close to publication). 10 Steve Denton kindly sent two entries from Arthur Alsey’s Diary for 1942 about James Donnelly (see last month). 10 On Facebook, Andy Salmon placed a very interesting photo of 7 Bty 5 HAA on parade at Lyemun in 1938.
9 While, as usual, searching for something else altogether I accidentally found the 1941 ordinance specifying the circumstances under which the Hong Kong police force could be sworn in as a militia.
8 Ian Brown sent this exciting (at least, to me) email: “I am indebted to Christine Thomas for information she has given me regarding the burial of Jessie Holland which appears to have taken place on 13 December 1941 under the auspices of Frank Short. This would indicate that she was buried in the former Colonial Cemetery, the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley, a stone marks her grave, No 10027 in Section 18 of the cemetery near the old fountain.” I shall visit the cemetery on Friday when I walk home from the office – it’s only five minutes out of my way. Apparently Christine worked for around twenty years in the Royal Hong Kong Police, in archival records management. She is now retired in the UK, has extensive cemetery records, and gives talks and presentations on life in the former colony while she continues with her research.
7 Again while searching for something else entirely I found an interesting article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 60 [May 19, 1953] entitled “Neurological Sequelae in Repatriated Prisoners of War from Hong Kong: a Follow-up”. 7 Bill Lake asked a very interesting question: What’s the story of the repatriation of Japanese POWs after their surrender in 1945? I can only find little bits and pieces and it would be good to learn the whole story.
5Robert Chan emailed me a link to the display at the front door of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. That looks like Nurse Kay Christie to me. 5 Elizabeth Ride emailed me to say: “I have the original of a letter written on Nederlansche Roode Kruis paper by an escaped Dutch POW on Hainan to the BAAG asking for help”, and asked my help in finding parties who might be interested in a copy. I will contact the Dutch Red Cross and see what they can do. 5 There was a fascinating article in the South China Morning Post today, concerning the fate of Staff Sergeant Jack Flegg, PWD, who I recorded as being “Bayoneted, ‘with his assistant’, at Tai Tam reservoir” on 22 December 1941.
2Steve Denton kindly sent Marcel Doiron’s (see last month) repatriation records. He also included a short digitised coloured cine clip of one of the Hong Kong coastal batteries – I think it was Mount Davis – firing a 9.2, and I was able to extract a decent still. 2 While searching for something completely different (as often happens) I found the IWM’s complete collection of four videos of the liberation of Hong Kong. 2 One of the most interesting finds when cataloguing the first couple of boxes of my archives at the end of last month was a high resolution photo of Private Percy Chittenden, Middlesex. It was labelled: “Private Percy Chittenden… tries to compose a cablegram to send to the folks back home as the ship which is carrying him in the first stage of his return to England docks at Honolulu.” The ship was the USS Admiral Dickman, and the photo was credited to the US Army. But as soon as I recalled it I recalled a story from 2005 when I was contacted by his family who told me: “We have found some more papers that my uncle brought back from Japan… There is one item which has amazingly survived from Hong Kong, a diary for 1941 with entries on every day from Jan. 1st to Dec. 17th.There are no entries after Dec.17th. It looks like the diary was returned to him after the war. He had written his name and address in it. It is inside a bag inside an airmail envelope. Written at the back of the diary is: 'This was found in 1942 (summer) in our garden of No.8 Broadwood Road, Hong Kong when we went home. Everything lost. We lost four brothers. Very sad. B. Reed… Written on the bag is: 'Can’t locate please return this to his family if possible. Mrs B Reed, 244 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hongkong'. I was able to pass photos of the diary to Mrs Reed’s daughter, Angela Niles, who knew nothing about the incident. The four brothers were of course the four Reed brothers killed in the HKVDC, Arthur, Edgar, Francis, and Stephen.
1 Geoffrey Emerson notes: “Lawrence Ziegler, a child in Stanley Internment Camp, passed away in November 2017 in St Louis, Missouri, at age 87. A missionary family, his mother and six children were in the Camp. They were repatriated in June 1942. His younger sister Laura Ziegler Darnell attended the Stanley Camp Reunion in 2011 organized by Geoff Emerson. She and one older brother, Theodore A Ziegler, are now resident in the United States.” 1 Ron Abbott is continuing his researchers into pipers in Hong Kong. In 1941, the Sergeant Piper (Ron notes: “for some unknown reason, the HKVDC appears to have continued using the term 'Serjeant-Piper' rather than Pipe-Major despite the British Army officially having reverted to the term 'Pipe-Major' in 1921) of 2 Scottish Coy HKVDC was William Craigie Keith Mackie. He continues: “Mackie was last seen (and heard) alive in the vicinity of the old Stanley Police Station in Hong Kong on 24th December 1941. He was purportedly playing ‘Heilan’ Laddie’ and ‘Cock O’ The North’ at the time.” He also identified George Nesbit (‘Nisbit’ in my records, though Nesbit sounds more credible) of 2 Coy as a Piper. He also pointed out that the Royal Scot I have as “McHattey, Stanley Private 3053696 (LM)” is in fact Drummer Stanley McHattie, sending me his POW Index Card as solid evidence. 1 Continuing the story of Sergeant John Carvell (see last month), Steve Denton notes: “it’s not much but it’s pieces of the jigsaw. I found his MI9 on the COFEPOW site and also tracked him down on the HMS Implacable for his return home.” His MI9 interrogation form confirms he was based at the BMH for the duration, which interestingly he refers to as ‘Camp A’.