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
** The August edition will be posted mid-month due to travel and associated quarantine. Thank you for your patience. **
Propaganda poster (courtesy Mark Hammett), Zimmerns in the HKVDC (from Recollections Of My Life), Military Structures (author)
Two internal shots of Rosary Hill (IRC via Antonio Fragoeiro), The Royal Navu 1941 (The Telegraph)
RBL mini-histories (author), RBL 100th anniversary dinner (courtesy RBL), 229th Memorial in 2009 (author)
1940 saw the forced exodus of thousands of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia, followed in 1941 by the one hundredth anniversary of the Colony. There have been mass leavings of Hong Kong since, post-1945 for example, then after the 1967 riots, and then prior to 1997. Now we have just experienced – thanks to Hong Kong’s Covid travel restrictions – the biggest exodus of people in my 30+ years here. And tomorrow, 1 July 2022, sees the 25th anniversary of the handover. In those years we have also had the Asian economic crisis, SARS, the 2008 global financial meltdown, Occupy Central, the troubles of 2019, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Say what you like about Hong Kong, but it’s never dull! It’s a good place to study history, because history constantly happens all around you. As I always say to people here: “Don’t worry! This time next year we’ll be talking about a different crisis entirely.” And it’s always true.
27The July Java Journal was published today, but for once didn’t include any Hong Kong stories.
26 Today I received a rather unexpected email from a neighbor in the UK village where I grew up. It turns out their brother in law is a member of the Millington family from Hong Kong. Grandfather Henry Millington and three uncles (Harry Millington, Leslie Millington and Victor Millington) all served in the HKVDC. As both Henry and Harry are officially called Henry James Millington in the files, I had always been a bit confused about them. Now I can confirm that Sergeant Harry Millington was killed in 1 Bty in the defence of Stanley, while Harry senior, Leslie, and Victor all became POWs. Three further siblings (including the mother of the person concerned) were evacuated to Australia with their mother in 1940.
24 Walking with a friend, we were discussing the fact that at the start of the Second World War, the Royal Navy was still the largest and most powerful in the world. I then recalled seeing a sketch (originally created for the Telegraph newspaper) of the whole navy in 1939, including ships expected to be at sea by 1941 but excluding all those already ordered which wouldn’t be launched till ’42 or later. Most of the smaller vessels represent a number of that class (including the Scout class destroyer, with HMS Scout herself oddly enough being in Hong Kong and escaping to Singapore on 8 December 1941). It’s well worth a look. And if you’ve ever seen the gigantic HMS Belfast on display on the Thames in London you might be surprise to see that it wasn’t considered very significant then, and is hidden away in row D at the back (number 15).
22 In an email conversation with David St Maur Sheil (great grandson of Sir Grenville Alabaster) the Kotewall family came up for discussion, and whether the Kotewall sisters were related to ‘the Kotewall who was executed’. I recalled I had a book written by a Kotewall, and I finally found it. It’s called “Recollections of My Life” by Cicely Winifred Zimmern (nee Kotewall, the daughter of Robert and Edith Kotewall). Unfortunately it doesn’t have much about the war years, but does mention Alabaster. It was of course the Kotwall brothers who were executed with BAAG, rather than Kotewall - yet I am sure they were originally all one family! I can’t now recall the cause of the split and name change. But one of the photos in the book is interesting. The original caption says: “The Hong Kong Volunteers, back row: Archie [Zimmern], far right; Ernie [Zimmern], 4th right; Andrew [Zimmern], 4th left.” Although Andrew Zimmern is labelled, I suspect that this is actually Francis and that the photo is of 7 Platoon, 3 Coy. The Kotwalls were in the same company, though different platoon. (The right hand man of the two gentlemen in the middle looks like Alec Itenson to me, also 3 Coy).
21 Justin Ho kindly sent me this article about conserving ‘orphan heritage’ in Hong Kong and Malaysia, looking at British battlefields.
20 Mark Hammett, on a facebook page, posted a photo of a World War Two poster he had in Hong Kong as a child. I had always wondered if the British had any Allied propaganda aimed at showing that China and the UK were aligned against a common enemy, and this is a good example. The Chinese text roughly translates to: British Army, Navy, and Air Force unite with China to fight public enemy.
19 Alexander Kennedy’s book “Full Circle” came up in conversation. I still have two copies (only 500 were printed, so they are good for swaps), and in the discussion we concluded that probably all 500 were signed by the author, as all the ones we possess have that honor. 19 Steve Denton kindly sent me some biographical details of Hong Kong escapee David Bosanquet.
18 Today was the dinner (at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club) in honor of the 100th birthday of the Royal British Legion. It had been postponed a couple of times because of Covid, but went well with around 100 attendees. The usual crowd were there, with Douglas Haig’s great grandniece (who happens to live in HK) being a special guest! Lindsay Ride and Douglas Clague were also honoured for their role in restarting the RBL post-war. The photo above shows (L to R) Captain Albert Lam, Professor Kwong Chi Man, Haig’s great grandniece, author, and Bill Lake. The RBL also kindly gave every attendee copies of four historical booklets: A History of the World War II Veterans Association, A History of the Hong Kong Locally Enlisted Personnel (LEP) Trust, A History of the Royal British Legion Hong Kong & China Branch, and A History of the Hong Kong Ex-Servicemen’s Association. These were all prepared under the direction of Nigel Collett, who was also responsible for their huge Book of Remembrance.
16 I visited Professor Kwong Chi Man at Baptist University today, discussing other maps and data to be added to the Spatial History Project. He kindly gave me a copy of the book “WWII Military Structures of The Southern District”. This is a bilingual and comprehensive account, generously illustrated with colour photos and maps (very handy for any hikers with an interest in the period). We also discussed the fate of the memorial to the Japanese 229th division, which I was shown in Chung Hom Kok around 12 years ago. At the time I wrote: “Visited Chung Hom Kok to investigate rumours of a memorial to Japanese soldiers who blew themselves up at the end of the war rather than be captured. I had heard this story thanks to the kindness of two members of the Hong Kong Club. The truth turned out to be different, but at least equally interesting. It was in fact a ‘Toba’. The exact wording is: ‘Memorial service stave to pray for the repose of the war dead, the foot soldiers' No.229 regiment No. 10 company, for the 50th anniversary. From No 10 company volunteers’. These staves are left at graves or burial sites in a Buddhist ritual 1, 2, 6, 12, and 49 years later (and then 50 years after that, in theory). The question is, are there others like this still dotted around Hong Kong?”
15 Had lunch today at Crown Wine Cellars, courtesy of Greg De’eb. The Little Hong Kong Ordnance Store that the club is housed in is still a great piece of Hong Kong’s heritage. 14 Today I had my traditional annual walk with two friends from Discovery Bay to Silvermine Bay, ending at The Kitchen. Each time we do this I think that I should explore Lantau more, and try to come to grips with its wartime history better.
13 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced that their next conference, hosted by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), will take place 10 – 11 June 2023. Updates will follow on their website in August. 13 I have Google set up to alert me to any mention of the Lisbon Maru, and received this link today. It’s not bad, but just an old rehash of well-known information, combined with the incorrect (but common) statement that Canadian POWs were on board.
12 Today Antonio Fragoeiro posted a photo – taken in October 1944 - of the Rosary Hill Red Cross Camp, showing many of its inhabitants in their Dining Room. My initial thought was that I hadn’t seen such a photo before, but then I recalled that Vaudine England wrote an article about Rosary Hill in Volume 57 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong. For some reason I had completely forgotten (which is disappointing, as I am now the editor of that Journal!) It even has the same photo, and 11 more all taken on that same October 1944 date.
9 On eBay, Justin Ho “managed to acquire a postcard supposedly showcasing the HMS Thracian, likely taken between 1925-1930.” It certainly looks like Thracian to me (illustrated).
3 Metal detectorist Timothy Rankin has been finding a lot of ordnance recently. Some looks like expended shrapnel shells, and others have possibly been defused and left, but clearly there’s still lots of potentially dangerous items in the hills.
1 Ken Skelton kindly let me know that the Japanese Marines (in the photo I published here last month) should properly be called their Special Naval Landing Force.
June 1st, 2022 Update
Gilman's Motors and US Bombing Damage (both via 'George Best'), Japanese Marines in HK (courtesy Jon Reid)
Marjory Braga's pass (courtesy Stuart Braga), HMS Tamar book (courtesy Stephen Davies), the Vincent Broom book draft cover (courtesy Awa Press)
On the last day of the month I finished reconciling the causes of POW deaths in JA177, 178, and 179, with my original lists. There were 615 names, and although there was plenty of duplication, and mistakes in names and dates and so forth, I now have a pretty good record with at least 95% of British and Canadian deaths now explained. But the Indian data is much sparser. For example, for the Punjabis alone there are 21 POW deaths with no known grave or cause, and a further 11 with a grave but no cause. My guess is that these men were out of the POW Camp system and its administration. Also, I wonder what happened to the American POWs who died in the camp (generally from the American Merchant Service)? Their deaths are recorded in these documents, but I can’t yet find their graves.
27 I heard today from the family of Private John D. Minhinnett, ASC Unit HKVDC (lost on 22 December 1941) and Private Ronald Douglas Maxwell, 3 Coy, 9 Platoon (lost on 23 December 1941 and uniquely buried in the grounds of St John’s Cathedral).
24 QM Coy posted on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page: “Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda of Japan Royal Family visited Hong Kong in January of 1942. He was then Lt. Colonel of IJA during WW2. This picture is seen in the Japanese Pictorial World magazine dated 1st of March, 1942.” I wonder if this was the prince who knew the Price family, who ran a major lumber business in Canada? Scions Major John Herbert Price and Captain Charles Edward Price both served in the Royal Rifles of Canada and at some point early in the occupation the brothers were visited in POW camp by a Japanese prince the family had once hosted in Canada. He asked if there was anything he could do for them. They quite rightly refused help themselves, but asked for medical assistance for Major Charles Boxer who otherwise would have lost the use of his arm.
23 Ron Taylor in the UK posted this link to an interesting interview with Robert Barter, Royal Rifles of Canada.
21 Justin Ho pointed out that as well as the HMS Cicala Christmas Card (see last month) an HMS Rainbow card is now on eBay too. This rather implies that these cards were normal practice, at least in this time and place, and thus it should be possible to find similar for Thracian, Tern, etc. (Rainbow was one of HMS Medway’s submarines, which left HK in 1940. The boat was lost during the war when rammed by an Italian merchantman).
20 Francis Cheung kindly sent this video link to Professor Kwong Chi Man talking about the 1941年香港戰役空間史研究計劃 The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project (in Cantonese).
19 One of the unsettling discoveries from JA177: two Royal Rifles of Canada riflemen, who died of diphtheria just one day apart: Allen Benjamin Welsh, died 07 October 1942 aged 29 (son of Ruben and Sarah Welsh, of Entry Island, Magdalen Islands, Province of Quebec), and Delbert William Louis Welsh, died 06 October 1942 aged 21 (son of Philip and Hester Welsh, of Entry Island, Magdalen Islands, Province of Quebec; step-son of Leonard Chanell, of Entry Island). Entry Island is just a little fishing island which even in those days couldn’t have had a population much more than a couple of hundred. They must have been from the same family.
16 QM Coy posted an interesting magazine article about Phyllis Harrop (including a photo) on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. I have seen her signature on a number of documents in the PRO in London, so clearly she had some sort of governmental job after returning to London, but I have yet to learn the details.
14 I heard today the welcome news that the book covering the story of Vincent Broom’s rescue of his wife Marie and their four young childrenfrom wartime Hong Kong should soon be published.
13 Apparently the Sir Mark Rylance episode of “My Grandfather’s War” was broadcast in the States today, and I received several emails commenting on it.
11 Stephen Davies’s book Transport to Another World: HMS Tamar and the Sinews of Empire is now available.
9 Regular readers of this site will be well aware that during the construction of the new tunnel for the Sha Tin to Central link, no fewer than three unexploded American 1,000 pound bombs were uncovered. One is now on show at Exhibition Station, and several people sent me their photos of it. 9 I came across another relevant facebook page today: Hong Kong Veterans Tribute.
8 Robert Parkinson’s (Royal Navy, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. He notes: “My Grandad wrote a short account of his experiences on the Lisbon Maru and I wondered if you would be interested in reading it? He mentioned his life being saved, by someone called Casterton, though doesn't state which service he was from unfortunately. I had heard the story from my Grandad about him being hauled out the water by someone on many occasions and seem to recall him saying that his rescuer was Canadian, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me.” In fact it was seaman Gunner Reginald Gaze Castleton HKRNVR who was born in TsingTao, China 16 September 1909. Unfortunately I don’t know what nationality he claimed (though he was certainly in Canada at some stage), I just know where he was in the fighting for Hong Kong, and that his wife and either one or two children were evacuated from HK to Australia in 1940 (I suspect it was one child, and his wife was pregnant and had a second in Oz). Castleton had worked as an assistant at Butterfield & Swire in HK before the war, and survived till liberation. He passed away on 30 November 1950 in The General Hospital, Saffron Walden, Essex, England. Parkinson’s account read, in part: “After swimming around for a while, I teamed up with an Able Seaman named Chilcroft who I think was a Londoner. We had a small piece of wood between us and we seemed to be making headway towards a group of islands. Some fantastic things happened during our long spell swimming. I remember seeing a raft with a bloke called Mickey Miles of the Scots sitting in the middle with about 10 others hanging on to the sides. He was singing ‘Pull for the Shore Boys’. Two other chaps both former members of the Royal Navy water polo team were throwing a water bottle to each other as if they were warming up before a match. Incidentally both were never seen again. After another period of time Chilcroft and I joined up with a fellow called Casterton and a WO Jupp of the HKRNVR who had a hatch board.” Neither Chilcraft (his actual name, he was on HMS Cicala) nor Jupp survived.
6 Stuart Braga notes: “Have you ever wondered what happened to the silk top hat worn by Sir Mark Young? No? Well here is the answer. It may be an invention, but you never know.” He included a newspaper clipping quoting Bob Hammond as saying that, a few days after the fighting ceased in Kowloon, he saw a dustman dressed in rags, but with the Governor’s hat on his head! “I note that the American, Bob Hammond laughed. A British subject, if any had not yet been rounded up, is more likely to have been scandalised in that era. Hammond’s memoirs strike me as being exaggerated at several points. I am going through a box of papers from my uncle, Tony Braga, who kept an incomplete file of the historical series that the ‘Post’ used to put out from time to time.”
5 Local battlefield guide Martin Heyes has been accepted into the Guild of Battlefield Guides, and has the tie (illustrated) to prove it! He notes: “Nice tie…not when I will ever get to wear it though!”
4 Geoff Pickard notes: “Forgive me for contacting you but I spotted your email address whilst researching the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. I do have a small piece of background information about one of its tragic victims: D/MX 53857 Leading Sick Berth Attendant Ronald Howson RN. As a small boy in the 1970s I would visit our local cemetery with my family to pay respects at my grandfather’s grave. Directly on the row behind was a family plot to the Howson family. Very often Ronald’s father, Mr Howson, would be there and place chrysanthemums on the grave. My father would tell me that Mr Howson’s son died in WW2 as a POW. There is an inscription on the headstone which states ‘Our Beloved son Ronald Howson Died as a prisoner of war whilst in Japanese hands’, followed by the date of death. The plot was always immaculately kept and all year round there would be a big display of chrysanthemums on it. The choice of the most Japanese of flowers was very poignant and moving. Why he chose it we can only speculate all these years on. It must have been particularly hard for him to lose his only son, because also named on the headstone is his daughter who was killed in an accident in childhood before the war. When we saw him he was also already widowed but would go on to reach 98 years of age. The headstone was laid down a few years back by our local council along with many others on the grounds of health and safety. Now exposed to the weather, in time the wording will fade away. The grave does not now seem to be visited and I do not know if there are any family descendants who survive in the area to pay for the headstone to be returned to its correct upright position. I intend to make inquiries and if it’s possible would pay for it myself in honour of Ronald and his father.” The cemetery is in the village of Brierley in Yorkshire.
3 Stuart Braga notes: “You are probably aware of the passes issued to about 600 people, including many members of the Braga family, early in 1942. I did not think that any had survived until my cousin Maurice Braga in Cornwall sent me photo of his mother's pass which he found recently in her papers. Have you seen one of these passes?” Actually I had not, and he very kindly sent me copies. These were issued by Francisco Soares, Hong Kong's acting Portuguese Consul. I believe they would have permitted travel to Macau. 3 The Alabaster book is finally in – at least some of - Hong Kong book stores! 3 Jon Reid in Canada sent me a fascinating photo, asking where it was taken. I was a bit put off by the fact that it clearly shows Japanese marines, so reached out to Kwong Chi Man who identified the location as the Kadoorie familyhouse at Kadoorie Beach near Tuen Mun.
2 Sandy Wynd was kindly also looking for information on Michael Hyde, and in his researches: “drew a blank but I did find a three part series of the memories of Jock Morrison of HSBC who escaped occupied Hong Kong. Nothing really new – but what a great story.” The three articles can be seen here, here, and here.
1 ‘George Best’ posted two interesting photos of Wanchai and the scene around Gilman’s Motors (Monkey Stewart’s forward HQ in the defence of that area). They show the same pillbox, with one photo being taken immediately post-war demonstrating the American bombing damage very well. 1 I have been wading through the POW causes of death in JA177, 178, and 179 (see last month) and updating my records accordingly. I have found just five that I cannot reconcile with my garrison records: Ram Singh, 23.8.44, concussion of the brain. Fateh Mohd, 26.5.42, Punjabis, appendicitis. Thakur Singh,15.6.42, aged 55, TB. Abdullah, 15.3.43, bronchial pneumonia, wet pleurisy. Ibrahim, 10.12.43, amoebic dysentery. 1 There are a number of cases of fathers and sons both being lost in Hong Kong, and I identified one more today: Private Frederick Austin Rapp, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps R.A.S.C. Coy, died 22 December 1941 (so presumably the massacre), and Private Frederick Christian Rapp, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, died 12 August 1942 aged 59. Trying to research the family I see in the Rosary Hill files under lists of ‘Eurasian and British Subject by Marriage’ a Mrs Catherine Winnie Rapp (Fred junior’s mother, and senior’s wife. Constance Gertrude Rapp and Donald Christian Rapp are also listed as ‘Eurasian Race but unknown nationality’ – presumably Fred junior’s siblings? But then who was ‘A Rapp’, listed by the CWGC as a wartime civilian fatality? Theoretically I have all the Death Certificates for the period, but not this one. 1 Brian Edgar very kindly sorted out the Michael Edward Hyde question (see last month). Probate records show that Michael Edward Hyde of Corunna Barracks at Aldershot Hampshire died on 6 May 1958 at Wheatley Military Hospital Oxfordshire leaving effects of £9147, 5s, 1d Administration to George Nether Burgess (a builder – Michael’s mother’s maiden name was Burgess). He kindly attached two newspaper reports: Headline: Death of Officer Shot on Range. Lieutenant Michael Edward Hyde, aged 20, of The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, died yesterday in the Wheatley Military Hospital, Oxfordshire, from gunshot wounds in the head. On March 20 on the rifle range at Aldershot he was struck in the head by a ricocheting bullet. His home was at Meadows Cottage, Staplefield, Sussex. (The Times, Wednesday 7 May 1958). Headline: Coroner to Protest to War Office. The Oxford coroner, Mr Harold Franklin, waited an hour yesterday for a number of the Army witnesses summoned to attend an inquest. Finally he had a call put through to Aldershot. He was told that the Aldershot police had been asked to inform him that the men were flown to Cyprus at short notice. Adjourning for a month an inquest on 2nd Lieut. Michael E. Hyde, 20, of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, attached to the Parachute Regiment, the coroner said he would protest to the War Office at not being informed that the witnesses were unavailable. Lieut. Hyde died in Wheatley Military Hospital, near Oxford, after being shot in the head during firing practice at Aldershot. (News Chronicle, Thursday 19 June 1958). The key point was the address: this was Lady Grayburn’s UK address, which implies that the adoption of Michael was not just for the duration of the war at Stanley, but continued post-war in England. 1 A number of wartime explosive devices were found this month, this one reported under the name “Bomb Hunter”.
May 1st, 2022 Update
HMS Cicala (via eBay, courtesy George Boote), 13mm examples, Life and the Press poster (both author)
Little Boy pit on Tinian (via Internet), HKPOWA badge (courtesy Fender Taylor), HKPOWA newsletter (author)
Hongkong sappers (via Kwong Chi Man), Ishitake (courtesy The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project), HMS Ruler (author's collection)
The depth of outrage I felt when President Putin, simply to feed his imperial fantasies, ordered the invasion of Ukraine is interesting. Growing up after the Second World War it always seemed that that conflict – a fixed part of our shared history - must have been inevitable, but of course it was not - and people living at that time were probably just as outraged as I am now. Full-scale warfare like this has no place in the twenty-first century.
29 Mucking around on the web I came across a ’new’ photo of Little Boy in Hiroshima Pit #1 which I thought worth sharing.
26 This evening saw the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong. The highlight for me was Dr Colin Day’s presentation on the history of the Ride Fund and the 35+ essential books on Hong Kong history which it has so far helped sponsor, and which would probably never have been published in its absence. I have been lightly or heavily involved in many of them – as many cover the war years one way or another - and the full list (constantly updated as new titles are added) can be seen here.
25 Stuart Braga (the well-known academic and historian) in Australia kindly let me know that: “I was pleased to see the Hong Kong Volunteers in today’s Anzac Day March in Sydney. They were led for many years by Dr Solomon Bard, that truly outstanding man who made an enormous contribution to so many aspects of life in Hong Kong. I feared that his passing might mean the end of their participation, but there would have been between 12 and 15 beneath the banner today. It bears, as you probably know, the Battle Honours of Hong Kong, Stanley, Wong Nei Chong Gap and Repulse Bay. I hope that I am not the only person today who knew something of the grim significance of those names.” 25 I helped my wife take some things to work at Jardine’s Lookout and then walked back (as I quite often do) via Sir Cecil’s Ride and Black’s Link. Near the eastern end of Black’s Link I passed – yet again – an odd spanner-shaped steel device stuck in the concrete (illustrated). Some time ago I saw a photo of something very similar in the UK which was identified as part of an old rifle range.
23 Harold Downing’s family (see below) kindly sent me some pages from his memoires. The pages they selected covered the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and it’s interesting that yet again he described the kindness of the Japanese navy in stark contrast to the army. 23 Reading (and enjoying) Kwong Chi Man’s new book “Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces 1860-1997”, I couldn’t resist copying a photo of Hong Kong Sappers of the Royal Engineers shortly before the war.
22 Every now and then that well known photo of HKVDC ex-POWs being brought to HK from Australia on HMS Ruler surfaces, and I am able to refine the names again. I now have: Front Row, L to R: Gunner Douglas Geoffrey Allen, Gunner Barry O’Meare Deane, Signalman James Joseph King, Private Bill Lowe, Lance Corporal Edgar George Mathias, Private Walter Duffield, Gunner John Ken Fitzhenry, Gunner George Ronald Ross, Private Alan Esra Goldenberg. 2nd Row, L to R: Sergeant Ernest Hillas Williams, Soos Knox, Lance Corporal Lyall James Glendinning, Gunner Ernest Oswald Butler, Silo Fisher, Private John Kempton, Private Freddie J.D. Clemo, Signalman Charles Barry Le Patourel, Private Douglas G. Day, Private William Murray Wilson, Private Douglas Haig Hamilton, Private Kenneth Lynn Keen. 3rd Row, L to R: Jim Fisher, ...?..., CQMS Edward Fincher, CSM Victor Harold White, Warrant Officer Fred Arthur Fabel, Sergeant Robert John V. Everest, CQMS Leonard Sykes, Private Anthony Wilfred Lapsley, Private Robert Henry Lapsley. 4th Row, L to R: Corporal George Cottrell, Private Arthur Cecil Tinson, Private Fred Cullen, Private Ernest Allen Fowler, Private William Graham Lamb, Private Reggie Thomas Broadbridge, Private Victor Charles Bond, Private Ferdinand Lapsley, Private Charles Joseph Manson, Private Brian Hailstone, Charles Tandien?, Private Boris Gellman, Private Herbert Otto Kees, Private Leslie Fred Coxhill. 5th Row, L to R: ...?..., Gunner Norman Mackenzie, Signalman Albert William Rowe, Private Ian Gordon Dixon, Private Alfred Leonard Eastman, Lance Corporal Norman Broadbridge, Sergeant George Dodds, CSM Leslie Charles Millington, Private John W. McDonald, Private Eric Neville Matthews, Private Raymond Walter Smith. I am not sure if ‘Soos’ Knox was Corporal William Thomas Knox or Private Douglas Haig Knox. ‘Silo’ Fisher and ‘Jim’ Fisher could be any two of Private Edward Joseph Fisher, Private John Arthur Fisher, or Private William Diego Fisher. ‘Charles Tandien’ might be Gunner Edward Tandy. Note that Norman Mackenzie was a professor, and Ernest Hillas Williams was a famous judge! 22 William Shaw’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. I was able to provide them with the circumstances of Mr Shaw’s death but as I have had no reply I assume that – yet again – my email is holidaying somewhere in their spam folder!
19 On the Facebook Battle of Hong Kong page, Fender Taylor posted a photo of the Hong Kong POW Association badge. I don’t recall much about that Association, except that Arthur Gomes wrote a monthly newsletter for it until shortly before his death. I have around a hundred copies, mostly kindly supplied by Jennifer Dobbs, and in some ways these monthly updates on my site keeps this going. 19 I had a very interesting email from the Broaddus family in the States today. The Broaddus’s were a family of missionaries based in Hong Kong. An American citizen, Mr Emmett Broaddus’s second wife was Canadian (his first wife Margaret died very young in 1930 and is buried in Happy Valley), so apparently she and their many children were evacuated as ‘British’ citizens in July 1940. But they elected to stay in the Philippines and were thus interned in Santo Tomas. Emmett stayed behind in Hong Kong, and ill health caught up with him shortly after the invasion. I was fascinated by the fact that I had never come across his name until now, even though he died during the Occupation. I have put them in touch with an expert on Santo Tomas who can hopefully answer their questions.
15The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project is growing by leaps and bounds. Recently they have started publishing fascinating images from the diary of Sergeant Shiro Ishitake of the Artillery of the Imperial Japanese Army. They note: “The first page of the album shows the photographs of the owner of the album, Shiro Ishitake, a Sergeant Major of the Imperial Japanese Army. The photos were taken in August 1942 and Jan 1943, both in Beian, Heilongjiang, Manchukuo (now part of China). We know very little about his life before the war and what happened to him after January, except that he belonged to the 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment (1FeA), part of the 1st Heavy Artillery Group (thereafter as 1AG) during the period covered by the album. On closer inspection, however, the erased cover shows that it is ‘volume two’ of his album. Given the fact that he is already a Sergeant Major when he joined 1FeA, it is of little doubt that Ishitake served before 1940.”
12 In recent weeks while coming up the Mid-Levels escalator I have noticed a large sign advertising an exhibition called ‘Life and press under the Japanese Occupation’. I took a photograph today. Unfortunately it gives no real details, but sounds interesting. The location is the HKNE on the south side of Bridges Street. 12 Royal Rifles of Canada veteran Hormidas Fredette celebrated his 105th birthday today, an event fortunately captured by CBC.
11 Tan and his fellow researchers have kindly released their excellent Gin Drinkers Line book. 11 Fellow researcher Steve Denton has found a very useful document comprehensively showing causes of death for POWs in Hong Kong. The first section covers these few: MacCulloch, David M. Corporal 7588090 K 9.1.45 Brain embolism Williams, Herbert J. SSM S/13005 12 Coy K 16.1.45 Heart failure / malaria Lumby, Walter Ernest Private BRH K 17.1.45 Hardening of liver Munshi Khan Jem 3169 HKSRA U 21.1.45 Forehead crushed Mubarak Ali Gunner 5240 K 21.1.45 Chest injuries / heart Goldman, Harry Chief Eng. US Merch Serv UX 18.2.45 Arteriosclerosis Sukh Ram Singh Sepoy 13854 MiD K 28.2.45 Fracture of cranium Cullen, Fred Solomon Private 64 BRH K 2.3.45 Hardening of liver Bala Singh Sepoy 7232 K 26.3.45 Bullet wound in head Hansen, Thornwald Sailor Suicide (haemorrhage) Sheo Raj Singh Sepoy 14445 K 6.4.45 GSW in abdomen Sai Khan Sepoy 18821 K 5.6.45 Pulmonary TB I just had ‘Cirrhosis of Liver’ for poor Lumby, and ‘Killed in air raid (WMH or Matilda Hospital)’ for the unfortunate Munshi Khan (which both fit well), but nothing solid for the others. I didn’t even have a date of death for Mr Hansen. Later Steve sent me the whole file, but it will take a while for me to reconcile the entries with my own records as there are several hundred of them. Very welcome nevertheless, especially as they confirm the names of 15 forgotten Indian soldiers killed when the USAAF bombed the Hong Kong docks on 1 December 1943. But I have to admit that some of it makes for very miserable reading, such as the case of 19 year old Rifleman Gordon Garnet Kellaway of the Royal Rifles of Canada who was wounded in the fighting (gunshot wound to leg and rectum), admitted to Queen Mary Hospital on 28 December 1941, and died of blood poisoning on 18 March 1942
10 Today a Japanese mortar bomb was found (and three more turned up later in the month). According to one source: “When Japanese forces were about to assault Hong Kong Island on the evening of 18 December 1941, the 21st Mortar Battalion was deployed near Devil's Peak to shell Chai Wan and Aldrich Bay. The unit was equipped with Type 94 Mortar (90.5mm). It is possible that the bomb was one of the many fired by this unit.” 10 This afternoon the Hong Kong Maritime Museum hosted a Zoom seminar by Geoffrey Charles Emerson entitled ‘Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945: Life in the Japanese Civilian Camp at Stanley’. They note: “2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the Mukden Incident, as well as the 80th anniversary of the Asia-Pacific War, and the devastating dark period of the Fall of Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation, also named as “Three Years and Eight Months”, a metonym of the occupation. Starting from November 2021 to May 2022, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum will organize a series of seven talks using cross-disciplinary approaches and various perspectives such as war-related historical sites, archives, oral history, medical science, history, visual culture, literature, and film to reveal more about this neglected Hong Kong history. In addition, this talk series will be the prelude to the new special exhibition entitled ‘Hong Kong’s Maritime Miracle: The Story of Our City Since 1945’ organized in mid-2022, that will introduce the rebirth of this port city and her development after World War II.” Unfortunately they don’t yet appear to have put Geoff’s presentation online.
9 My collection of POW Index Cards for Chinese personnel released from Shamshuipo is growing. Corporal Lau Sheung Lai, HKVDC 960, and Gunner Hoy Lee, 8 Coast Regt RA 5112 were kindly added this month.
5 Steve Denton in the UK has been trying to discover, among other things, the oldest POW in Hong Kong. For a while William Forrster, Master Mariner, born 17 March 1876 looked like the record holder, but now we think it may well be Thomas Jones, Master Mariner, born 5 June 1873. On a personal note it’s amazing to me that I used to know quite a lot of ex-POWs, yet their oldest member appears to have been born 13 years before the first car was built! History contracts as one ages. 5 Florence Eileen Hyde’s (nee Burgess, Stanley internee) family got in touch. Florence was married to Charles Hyde. The story is well known: both died in Stanley, and their son Michael was adopted in camp by Lady Grayburn. But they would like to know what happened to Michael between leaving Stanley at Liberation, and his accidental death on national service.
4 Lance Corporal Harold Downing’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) son-in-law got in touch. He notes: “an unpublished book has come into my possession. It is the wartime account of [H Downing] who was captured in Hong Kong and was aboard the Lisbon Maru, and was one of the survivors. The account, which is of his wartime experience, is very anodyne, but nonetheless you may be interested in some of the extracts from his book. It bears the title ‘The Road to Kobe House by F.E.P.O.W. 283’.” 4 Sylvio Sylvester Souza’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch.
3 Unfortunately I didn’t get early notice, but today the HKVCA advertised an event entitled ‘GANDER in Hong Kong’ for the 18th. They note: “Gander was a large, black Newfoundland dog who struck fear into the Japanese soldiers attacking his human companions in Hong Kong in December 1941. Gander was not only fearsome to look at, but every bit as brave as the Canadian soldiers he went into battle with. Together, against a vastly superior force, they demonstrated the determination and grit of Canadians in battle. George MacDonell, one of only four living Canadian veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong, and writer/researcher Sue Beard tell the fascinating story of this most unusual soldier.” Fortunately it was recorded and can be watched here.
1 Someone reported finding a Japanese 13mm bullet. These turn up from time to time (I think I’ve seen four or five) and are often mistaken for American .50-cals. The key differences are that the Japanese rifling goes counterclockwise rather than clockwise, the 13mm has no (or virtually no) cannelure whereas the .50-cal has one (or sometimes two) clear ones, and the 13mm is slightly longer.
April 1st, 2022 Update
Collossus Hangar deck (via Antonio Fragoeiro), Cohen grave (Joe King, via Bill Lake), PB29 (courtesy Ricci College, HKU)
Ferguson POW Index Card (author's collection), Steenwijk POW Index Card (via Justin Ho), Devonshire autograph (courtesy Sheila Forsyth)
Japanese HK medals (Chao Hui, via facebook), Alabaster book (author), Britnell & Stanton (author's collection)
I’m pleased to say that The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project was the winner of the Digital Humanities Awards in the category Best DH Data Visualization. The reason I think this is so important is that books, by definition, are static. Once they are published, they can never evolve. But the database approach used in this project allows data to be constantly added to, corrected, and refined. In practice it creates a dynamic repository of knowledge which will only grow and evolve over time, modelling and representing the Battle of Hong Kong better and more completely than could possibly be allowed by any other approach. It will become the dynamic interactive encyclopedia of the battle, and many other theatres may follow its lead.
29 The Royal British Legion (Hong Kong & China Branch) kindly sent me a copy of their latest revision of Volume 3 of the Branch’s Book of Remembrance.
25 I have been helping a TV company with photos for a film about Hong Kong POW Harry Odell, HKRNVR.
23 I had a very interesting email from Eursal Kaine’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) daughter who I met in 2000 when she and others visited Hong Kong. She notes: “I am working on the story of my father, his brother, and as it turns out several cousins and relatives in the Hong Kong battle and POW in Japan. My dad was Eursal Kaine, Platoon 17 D Company RRC, (E30003) and his brother John (E30211). And as you probably know, there were a large number of men from the Mann Settlement area in Quebec who were all related (Irvines, Lyons, Mann, and Kaines) in some way. Over 30 as far as I can tell. My father was wounded (head and leg) on the last battle in the Stanley Cemetery on Christmas Day (I recall you pointing out grave markers there), and was in hospital for over a year, was only in Sham Shui Po for a few weeks before he was sent to Japan. I have a few interesting things from his time in Japan. As you mentioned, there were a lot of little diaries from those days. I have three. One is a hand-made affair with a cardboard cover and a shoestring binding, another is a small maroon soft-covered notebook and another is one of the autograph books you mentioned. I have typed out the contents of these if you are interested in them at some point… He and John were on the Tatuta Maru draft in January 1943, and they ended up in Omine… John was injured in a mine cave-in and was a paraplegic for the rest of his life. My Dad used to have to carry him around the camp on his back.” Eursal’s head injuries were severe; he was taken to Queen Mary Hospital three days after the battle, where he had surgery to insert metal plates into his skull. He was moved to Bowen Road Hospital on 21 January 1942 and stayed there (with other seriously wounded men) until 26 November of that year when he was finally moved to Shamshuipo. The autograph book contains identified entries from: Captain Ernest Harry Padwick, Hongkong Dockyard Defence Corps (HKDDC) Captain Joseph Charles Gavey, Royal Rifles of Canada Private William E.F. Collins, RAMC A.B. Samuel MacQuay, Royal Navy (served aboard the destroyer HMS Thracian) Private Edward Thomas Johnson, Winnipeg Grenadiers, died 25.2.44 in Japan CSM James Thomas Emo, Canadian Provost Corps Staff Sergeant Charles Albert Clark, Canadian Postal Corps Private Isaac Sanderson, Winnipeg Grenadiers Private Harvey Lawrence Berry, Winnipeg Grenadiers Corporal Clarence Earl Burgess, RCOC Private John Spikula Smith, Winnipeg Grenadiers Rifleman Raymond Elliott, Royal Rifles of Canada Captain Charles Edward Price, Royal Rifles of Canada Rifleman Reginald Samuel Taylor, Royal Rifles of Canada. Died 23.12.43 in Japan. CERA Ernest Richard Morris, RN (served on HMS Thracian) Lieutenant Richard Queens-Hughes, Winnipeg Grenadiers Lance Corporal Leslie Caulfield-Kerney, C Coy, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regt. Corporal Albert Devonshire, Middlesex (whose helmet was found in HK last year) Rifleman Percy H. Wilmot, Royal Rifles of Canada Rifleman Seymour G. Allison, Royal Rifles of Canada Corporal George Nelson Peterson, Winnipeg Grenadiers. Sergeant Lancelot Ross, Royal Rifles of Canada Rifleman Valmont Lebouef, Royal Rifles of Canada Private Herbert Bowman, Winnipeg Grenadiers Rifleman Matthew D. MacKenzie, Royal Rifles of Canada (lost an arm at Stanley) Leading Seaman Robert Edward Halfyard, RN, HMS Thracian, died 2.6.43 Rifleman Louis Brown, Royal Rifles of Canada Marine Fred Moxham, Royal Marines Sub-Lieutenant Walter Nash, HKRNVR Private Reginald Joseph Banks, HKDDC Lance Corporal George Thomson, Corps of Military Police Private John Glassey, Royal Scots Sergeant William Dyson Hawke, Royal Rifles of Canada Rifleman James Richard Patterson, Royal Rifles of Canada Lance Sergeant Alan Everest Murray, RAPC Private Leslie Robert Gregory, HKVDC Private James Keddie, Royal Scots SPO Albert John James, RN, HMS Tamar Corporal Oliver Ray Sauson, Royal Rifles of Canada CQMS Thomas William Smith, Royal Rifles of Canada Randy Steele, Royal Rifles of Canada Rifleman Harold Albert Baker, Royal Rifles of Canada Along with many sketches and ditties. 23 My “author’s” copies of “More Than 1001 Days and Nights of Hong Kong Internment” arrived today. It is available from HKUP.
22 Today Martin Heyes and Julien Lehoux gave an online presentation to the HKVCA. It was entitled ‘The WW II Civilian Internment in Hong Kong’ and described as: “Beginning in December 1941 well over 100,000 Allied civilians across China and Southeast Asia were taken prisoner by the Japanese, including entire families. Although at the outset these civilians were in general not treated quite as harshly as were military POWs, their internment was extremely unpleasant, and for many, deteriorated drastically later in the war. Some 2,800 civilians, among them a number of Canadians, were interned in Hong Kong. Our two speakers, Martin Heyes of Hong Kong and Julien Lehoux of Montreal, will tell you about Hong Kong’s civilian internees and how they lived during their imprisonment, the complex negotiations to repatriate the Canadians among them, and the impacts on their lives after their return to Canada.” I heard very good feedback about it (but I’m not going to tell them that!) A recording can be watched here.
20 Justin Ho sent me a fascinating photo of a 1937 kit inspection at Shamshuipo Barracks. I think it might be of wide interest to modern researchers for the details it includes (illustrated). 20 Antonio Fragoeiro posted a well-known photograph, but in high-resolution and colourised. He notes: “One of the interior decks of HMS Colossus, prepared for housing former allied POWs. Aboard on arrival in Hong Kong, were also Portuguese ‘SSVF’ (Straits Settlements Volunteer Force) and ‘HKVDC’ elements. An original photograph by Teresa da Rosa, now enhanced and colorized.” I have a copy of the black and white original, but this version is far better. The carrier was of course used to bring liberated POWs back from Japan. 20 Bill Lake kindly forwarded two interesting ‘then and now’ videos, here and here, and a colourised version of the famous Japanese film of the invasion of Hong Kong. The colours really bring it to life! Who was the mystery Scotsman filmed marching? Bill believes he may have been an engineer captured at the Kowloon Reservoir.
19 My arrival anniversary. It was 33 years ago today that I moved permanently to Hong Kong (having previously only visited the then Colony once, in 1987). Today when meeting young Hong Kong people I confess I get a great deal of childish delight, when asked “How long have you lived here?”, by answering: “Longer than you!”
18 Jessica Park (and Gordon Andreasand) very kindly sent me a soft copy “of the original Winged Dragon originally published in hardback in 1996 and now republished as a PDF just at the end of last year”. Of course I have a hardcopy somewhere, but my office is such a mess (compared to everyone else’s except, obviously, the infamous Professor Kwong’s!) that I can’t find anything - and thus a soft copy is far more practical.
17 Alex Macdonald had a query about the Mulvaney brothers (Leonard and Thomas of the Winnipeg Grenadiers). “According to a post from Winnipeg Free Press dated 19 Oct 1946 it was reported that on 8 Mar 1943 Leonard carried his brother Thomas into a Japanese Prison Camp Hospital at Hong Kong.” He would like to know why. I am sure that the Shamshuipo medical records survived the war, but unfortunately I don’t have them. 17 Philip Cracknell wrote a blog about Brigadier Cedric Wallis today. One day I’d like to write a full biography of him!
14 I saw this, with the attached photo, on facebook: “Aside from the dedication and excellence in sports, Riccians are also passionate in heritage conservation. A team of Riccians, while abiding strictly by the pandemic countermeasures, made an expedition to Pillbox 29, Tai Tam Bay to assist conservation work. Professor Lawrence Wai-chung Lai (Riccian 1978), of HKU’s Department of Real Estate and Construction, and his team have devoted himself to the study of Hong Kong’s military relics. Pillbox 29, as part of the coastal defense system during the Battle of Hong Kong, was deserted, and the pathways nearby have been obscured by overgrown vines and weeds. In light of this, Riccians took up the initiative to conserve the site, thereby, also has ensured tourists’ safety. Professor Lai , Mr Nixon Tit-hei Leung (Riccian 2011) and other experts also stressed the value of these monuments and the importance of heritage conservation. It is hoped that Riccians’ efforts would inspire others to follow and participate in heritage conservation efforts, playing their part in passing the baton to following generations.” Text: Sam Liu (Riccian 2021), Jeffery Wei (Riccian 2021), Elijah Tong (Riccian 2018) Photo: Rick William So (Riccian 2021). 14 Colin Standish kindly sent this modern clipping about the famous Stanley Tiger.
12 A fellow researcher has been studying released Chinese POW Index Cards and sent me those for the following: Lance Bombardier Chan, Charles, HKVDC 2659, 13 Lee Tung St (Top Floor) Hospital Coolie Chan Cheong, SJA, 3129, 15 Cheung Lok St, 2nd floor (24th) Lance Bombardier Chan, Hoi Kee, HKVDC 3740, 297 Hennessey Road, 1st Floor Gunner Chan Kam Tong, 8th Coast Regt. 5135, Hong Hom Village - Chindit Private Chan Kan Ming, SJA, 3131, 40 Johnston Rd, 3rd Floor (24th) Sapper Chan Kong, RE 560, Shanghai Street Lance Corporal Chan Ping Sing, RE, 63 Sapo Road (1st Floor) (20th) Private Chung Hui On, SJA, 3104, 2 West Street, top floor, Western Market. (24th) Lance Corporal Cheung, Thomas, HKVDC 3373, 792 Nathan Road, 1st Floor Private Cheung Yan Sing, 4th Bty HKVDC, 169 Hennessey Road, Ground Floor Sergeant Kim Toon Goh, HKVDC 2882 Private John Cecil Fenton, HKVDC DR277, Field Ambulance This is interesting as a number of these men, like Chan Kam Tong, went on to serve with the Chindits and other units. Also, it confirms that the SJA used serial numbers. He also kindly sent me the POW Index card for Douglas Ferguson, RE, who quietly escaped with his mate Howarth. I think it’s the first escapee Index Card I have seen. There are also a couple which give home addressed in Japan! A surprising number of HKVDC personnel had some sort of connection to the country, and even spoke Japanese. 12 Alex Macdonald was asking where Lieutenant Commander William K.L. Lore, RCN, (reputedly the first Allied officer to land in Hong Kong at liberation in 1945) was interred. I recall that his post-war office was in Central and he passed away in Hong Kong, but I don’t recall where he was buried. 12 “QM Coy” noted on facebook: “Mr. Chao Hui (赵晖先生),one of my old friends in Beijing published an excellent pictorial reference / guide book for badge and medal collectors on the subject of Medals and Badges Collection during World War 2 in China. It’s interesting to see some rarely seen Japanese medals issued for invading and occupation of Hong Kong in 1941 including one to commemorate some Japanese soldiers KIA (with names) in war fighting in Stanley of Hong Kong. He really did a great job.” (He also posted two Japanese invasion photos, showing light tanks and a ‘knee mortar’). 12 Walked along New Street again today, and I think my speculation about the air raid shelter (see last month) was wrong. On second glance it seems more likely that whatever it is, was built for HK Electric.
7 Bill Lake kindly sent a copy of a short biography of Two-Gun Cohen, which included a photo of his grave that I don’t think I’ve seen before. 7 Justin Ho is continuing to look at the Dutch POW graves in Hong Kong. I’ve given a little help on a few of them, and Justin is planning to write a paper explaining the circumstances of the deaths of all 72.
6 The HKVCA published their Spring 2022 newsletter today. 6 Steve Denton in the UK has been doing some interesting research into POW Index Cards from Hong Kong, and reckons Leonard Ackerman, RASC, was the first POW death recorded by the Japanese. His official date of death was 3 January 1942, but (for reasons I don’t currently recall) I thought he died on the 13th.
1 Justin Ching Ho notes: “I just saw your post regarding the Dutch gravestones. I believe I can help answer some of the queries. Some of these were reinterred from other places, such as Hainan Island, with Kah (the photo you have) being an example.” See last month.
March 1st, 2022 Update
Air raid tunnel (courtesy HK Urbex), PB36 now and then (courtesy Rob Weir)
Edwin Husband's medals (courtesy Ken Williams), James Logan's medals (via Martin Heyes), Mike Babin's photo (courtesy Mike Babin)
Albert Etherington (courtesy Andy Lockley), Shamshuipo Barracks (courtesy 'George Best'), New Street ARP entrance? (author)
It’s quite surreal writing a blog about a conflict that ended in 1945, while the largest scale warfare in Europe since that date suddenly flares into life. Those who study history are doomed to watch those who don’t, repeat it. And while it is easy to compare Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler, the truth is somewhat more complicated – and vastly more dangerous with nuclear weapons are at stake. I am infamous for telling people, in whatever trouble we find ourselves: “don’t worry, we’ll be facing entirely different problems this time next year”. I have seldom hoped so much to be right.
26 Mosie McElroy’s (Royal Navy, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. McElroy served on HMS Thracian.
25 My wife and I enjoy walking from our home on Conduit Road to the Centre Street market in Sai Ying Poon, and we take different routes through the fascinating little streets in between. Today we walked most of it along the length of Staunton Street, which continues as New Street. On the corner as New Street turns through ninety degrees to intercept Queen’s Road West I noticed a possible air raid shelter entrance I hadn’t seen before.
24 “George Best” continues to post interesting photos to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. Today’s was of Shamshuipo barracks, presumably taken shortly before the war.
23 Yet another good blog post from Philp Cracknell, who appears to be working overtime this month! This one covers Pillbox 9.
20 The Dutch graves at Sai Wan came up in conversation today, thanks to a photograph (illustrated). There are 72 of them: 60 army, 10 navy, and 2 merchant navy. But who were they and why are they here? One was from the Dutch submarine O-20 (the captured crew was held in North Point and then Shamshuipo), and Michael Hurst in Taiwan confirms that 10 were deceased POWs reinterred from there post-war. He kindly provided this table: ALLIROL, J. LT./COL. ROYAL NETH. INDIES ARMY 13.06.45 BAIER, LOUIS N.E. TEL. ROYAL NETHERLANDS NAVY 28.08.45 DE BOER, HENDRICK C. MARINE ROYAL NETHERLANDS NAVY 20.06.45 ELZENGA, LUCAS F. MAJ. ROYAL NETH. INDIES ARMY 12.06.44 HIDMA, GERBEN SGT. ROYAL NETH. INDIES ARMY 09.06.45 JONKMAN, MARTEN MACH. NETHERLANDS MERCH. NAVY 05.10.42 NEERINGS, SIMON TEL. NETHERLANDS MERCH. NAVY 22.11.42 POSTHUMUS, RIMKE COL. ROYAL NETH. INDIES ARMY 22.09.44 PRINS, PIETER LS. SLD. ROYAL NETH. INDIES ARMY 12.09.42 SCHULTZ, GEORGE L. S/LT. ROYAL NETHERLANDS NAVY 10.01.43 The reason for the remainder being in Sai Wan is still a mystery. 20 I heard today that Jennifer Dobbs has finished writing a book about her parents’ time in China and Hong Kong (her father Francis Dobbs was killed in the fighting in Causeway Bay and his body has never been located). 19 HK Urbex (Hong Kong Urban Exploration) “an anonymous, grassroots collective that seeks to unearth and document hidden sites in and around Hong Kong” posted some quite good photos clearly taken in old air raid shelters. 19 Ken Williams (Edwin Husband’s – RCoS, Lisbon Maru - grandson) posted a photo of Husband’s medals.
15 Richard Gibson’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 15 Philip Cracknell published a blog about PB14. As is well known, all the crew were killed. Philip believes (probably correctly) that the bodies found at PB15/LL15 were likely them. A war crimes trial deposition by Lt-Col John Crawford WG stated: “We proceeded to the south coast of the Island and visited several machine gun pillboxes along the coast. In two of them I saw the crew of the six lying dead near the pillbox but outside of it. The bodies of these men had their hands tied together with rope. They had all been bayoneted. One body had the head severed from the body as if it were from a sword cut. These men were all members of the Middlesex Regiment.” But Philip has another quote, which seems familiar to me too, for which neither of us can put our hands on the source: “On the steps leading to Lyon Light No. LL15 by the roadside, west of Deep Water Bay, were the bodies of 6 Middlesex ORs, recognisable by their ????. Their hands and feet were still tied. There were large blood stains on the cutting and the roadside on the opposite side of the road, and streaks of blood stretching from this, across the road to the steps where bodies lay in a heap. Their heads had been almost completely severed by sword cuts." (By the time that PB14 fell, all the nearby pillboxes had already been evacuated, with many of the men moving to positions on Bennet’s Hill).
14 Today I was contacted by the family of Stanley internee Lucille (Lucy) Dianne Eichenbaum. Unfortunately I don’t know much about her aside from the fact that she was Polish and a friend of Margaret Jay. Post-war she married Albert Victor Currie was a Gunner in 2nd Battery, HKVDC, and spent the war as a POW in HK and then Japan. In Stanley she shared a servants’ quarters with one other: Eichenhaum, Lucie Miss, British 26.08.14 F, Teacher, Stanley A3/SQ4 Smalley, Grace Mrs, British 1903 F, Housewife, Stanley A3/SQ4 (the latter being the wife of POW Sub Lt W. N. A. Smalley, HKRNVR). However, this article notes that Eichenbaum was interned in one of the bungalows before the Americans were repatriated.
13 Mike Babin of the HKVCA notes: “Here is the registration link for the upcoming HKVCA virtual event, ‘The WW II Civilian Internment in Hong Kong’. The event is on Tuesday, March 22 at 7:30am in Hong Kong (Monday, March 21 at 7:30pm in Toronto).” 13 Yet another blog from Philip Cracknell, covering the Stone Hill Shelters and Pill Boxes. 13 Geoffrey Emerson notes: “Going through some old files concerning my Stanley Reunion 2015, I came across some correspondence from Rita Phipps, daughter of Royal Artillery Gunner Reginald Samuel Richardson, Number 860044.” He kindly sent a number of photos and other documents.
12 Andy Lockley wrote a post on The Battle of Hong Kong 1941 To 1945 facebook page: “Pictures of my grandad Albert Etherington who died at home in Lancaster in 1980. I believe he was based in middle-east somewhere before war but then ended up in Hong Kong until capture where he spent rest of war in a POW camp. Trying to do some research to find out more so any good info source suggestions would be really appreciated.” Etherington was in A Coy 2nd Royal Scots and was on the third draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. He was liberated by the Americans from Nagoya #9B (Toyama Nippon Express), having previously been at Narumi. 12 I was contacted today by a Russian researcher living in Zhoushan who has a deep interest in the Lisbon Maru. He notes that although some accounts of the incident state that fishermen from the islands Miaozihu, Qingbang, and Xifushan were involved in rescuing British POWs, in fact this is incorrect as Xifushan island is and was uninhabited. 12 I heard from Researching FEPOW History today that their delayed 2020 conference is being delayed again (because of Covid) until 2023.
7 Thomas Castle’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch and I was able to provide them the information that he was i/c Pillbox 9 and died in Hiroshima Military Hospital shortly after the sinking.
5 Mike Babin sent me a photo, asking whether I thought the troops were Canadian and the photo was taken in Hong Kong. My guess is a) yes, and b) no. To me the trees look like firs rather than Hong Kong’s more tropical vegetation.
4 With reference to my mention of PB1 (see last month), Rob Weir notes: “Sometimes the elements turn up strange things. I did a trip to Big Wave Bay after that typhoon in late 2018 for no particular reason other than to get out of the house. I had searched for PB 36 and the LL for years but, like PB 1, came to the conclusion it had been demolished for a building that is there now. There had been some damage to the beach area from the typhoon and I was surprised to find myself standing in the middle of the PB. I had been in that exact area several times over the years and it wasn’t apparent then. Nor was the remains of the LL, the base of which now had also been exposed by an apparent landslip. The grass tussocks in the PB make me think it might have been exposed sometime earlier but the point is that what you think has gone, might just be hiding. Bring on PB 1!”
3 Martin Heyes notes that he took I took Joyce Logan and her family on the Wong Nai Chong Trail yesterday. “Her paternal grandfather, James Bartholomew Logan, married a Chinese lady and they had two boys. He was a serving soldier with the RASC and was killed, probably at Overbays”. Martin included a photo of Logan, and continued: “Her maternal grandfather (surnamed Kelly) was also serving in the Army here when he married his Chinese wife. He served with B Coy, 2 Royal Scots and was a Lisbon Maru survivor.” On his return to the UK after liberation, Kelly apparently remarried an English lady bigamously. This seems to have been a relatively common story. Marin also added a photo of Logan’s medals, noting: “Some of the handwritten notes next to them are incorrect. The top one is the 1939 / 45 Star, although it could be issued with the clasp ‘Battle of Britain’ to those eligible. The War Medal shown has no Oak Leaf clasp (which would signify that the recipient was Mentioned in Despatches). I have no idea if Logan did receive an MiD. The lower medal is the Pacific Star, to which Logan was entitled. The Burma Star is a separate award. It may be that Logan was also entitled to the Defence Medal - not shown here.” I realised afterwards that I had been in touch with the family in 2016.
2 I had another one of ‘those’ emails today. Every year it seems I get one or two emails which lead to people discovering things about their families – issues of one sort or another created by war – which they never knew of. This is definitely one of those. I will report as much as I can, later, within the limits of privacy. 2 Way back in 2015 I wrote about a cocktail shaker presented to John Edward Potter on the occasion of his marriage by the members of the HKVDC Air Arm on 29 November 1939, noting that it: “has an amazing survival tale to tell. It was looted by Japanese soldiers from my parents' house on the Peak and made its way to a post-war market somewhere in the East where it was bought by an Englishman who happened to recognise some of the names on it. By then we were living in New Zealand, but on a brief and rare visit back to England (her birthplace) my mother met the said Englishman, who enthusiastically returned the shaker to her. Each name on it has a story: W.E. Peers – Killed in 58 Squadron, 15 January 1941. S. Grove – Possibly the auditor Stephen Grove? No war record found. R.G. Parker - Possibly in my records as R.J. Parker, who served in the HKVDC. A.F. Walkden – Transferred to the HKSRA as Lieutenant. Died in Japan, 23 February 1943. K.W. Forrow – Served in the HKVDC and survived. D.H. Stewart – A Douglas Harrison Stewart was killed in the RCAF, 15 October 1942. G.H. Fowler – Was killed in an accident at Kai Tak, 25 August 1940. B.M. Hynes – Brian Maurice Hynes was killed on 28 October 1944 over Germany. L.M. Wylie – Killed in 1 Coy HKVDC, 19 December 1941. P.E. Bedell (Instructor) – Probably Patrick Edwin Bedell, killed in the Singapore campaign, 205 Squadron, 7 December 1941. John Potter himself, of course, was lost with 1 Coy HKVDC in the defence of Stanley, 25 December 1941.” Now Gordon Andreassend of the HK Historical Aircraft Association has added: “Stephen Grove left HK in 1940, and served in the RAF in Singapore, Java and Colombo. From 1943 he flew in the UK until 1945, as a Flt Lt. Post war he returned to work in Hong Kong.”
1 For last month’s photo of policeman Lance Searle, Dave Deptford kindly noted: “I think this photo is of the HQ New Territories Staff, most likely at a farewell. The Officer on the left, with moustache, looks like McHardy. Venue looks to me like the old Tai Po, the one on the hill.”
February 1st, 2022 Update
Joseph Melius Blaquiere (courtesy Richard Blaquiere), Neve portrait (via RAS), Indian Arty officer (courtesy Justin Ho)
HMS Tamar (via Mast in Victoria), Jitts's medals (couresty Martin Heyes), Quarry Bay rice cookers (courtesy Rowena Banham)
Police Training School (courtesy Jonathan Searle), HKVDC Cricket Team (via 'George Best'), HK Shooting team (via Dale Gordon)
I had forgotten about the communal kitchens up in the hills above Quarry Bay for years, until my wife’s trip there this month reminded me. They’re well worth a look, as they are a reminder of a very different Hong Kong: a Colony full of starving refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom probably perished by the end of the war. As the excellent information board there states: “Newspapers in 1941 detailed the 10 proposed sites of communal kitchens along the streams of Taikoo Reservoir, which included the provision of canvas shelters and 40 brick stoves in large and small sizes each. Based on 1960s maps and aerial photos, the sites of 9 groups of wartime stoves can be identified to the south of Taikoo Reservoir and Woodside. Today the wartime stoves still survive in three locations, with workbenches down either side of the stoves and a larger stove possibly used for boiling water. The brickwork of these facilities is still well preserved. Another site retains only two original stoves, while none survive at four of the sites. The condition of one site is unknown due to the coverage of dense vegetation over a prolonged period of time.”
31 While looking at the South China Morning Post online this morning I saw this Jason Wordie article about Stanley that I missed earlier.
27 This morning my wife went for a hike in the hills with friends and brought back a number of photos of the various al fresco rice cooking facilities built in the hills around Quarry Bay to feed the refugees there (who were in the camps managed from Woodside under Charles Mycock). One included a very good new (since I was last there, at least) sign board displaying a clear explanation. Each time I see these stoves I think of Theodore Leslie Bell, a civilian working under Mycock who was shot and killed when the Japanese arrived, but whose name I have so far failed to have added to CWGC records.
26 As a result of yesterday’s talk I received a number of interesting emails. One of the topics which came up in questions was the passport-size photos that seem to exist for all Canadians (at least) shipped to Japan, and yet I’ve never found the ‘mother lode’. Joseph Blaquiere’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son kindly emailed me with just such a photo of his father. This one has an October 1943 date written on the back, which implies it was taken in Japan rather than pre-embarkation in Hong Kong.
25 This morning (though still the 24th in Canada) I gave my ‘Shipped to Japan’ presentation – which can be watched here - to some 100 or so members and guests of the HKVCA. I wanted to come up with a topic which would be of interest, might not be common knowledge, and which covered the garrison as a whole rather than just C Force, so spoke about the seven drafts of POWs from Hong Kong to the mines and docks and factories in Japan. It was a lot of fun (if I might use that word for a rather serious topic).
24 It’s worth keeping an eye on the Portugal 1939-1945 web site as they are adding quite a few of the Hong Kong garrison to it. See this example.
22While searching for something complete different (as always…) I found a photo of Derek Bird’s (son of Godfrey Bird, RE) christening. The names of the celebrants were listed as: Back row: Tony Lomax, Pat Skipwith, Sandy Godley, Margaret Whyatt, Front row: John Whyatt, Godfrey Bird, Daphne Bird with baby Derek, Valda Godley, and unknown, at the christening of Daphne’s new baby [Derek], on 24 Oct 1939. See the 18th for more detail on the Godleys. 22 Philip Cracknell published a new blog entry today, covering the experiences of Private Donald MacDonald, Royal Scots.
21 Dale Gordon put a wonderful annotated photo on Facebook: “Hong Kong Shooting Team, picture taken from The Royal Scots Bulletin, April 1941.” As always, I went through the names: Lieutenant T. Drummond Hunter, Royal Scots. WIA but survived the war. I spoke to him a number of times. CSM James Charles Mead, Royal Scots. Lost on the Lisbon Maru. Sergeant Frank Cole, RM. Survived the Lisbon Maru and the war. Lieutenant-Colonel Simon White, MC, Royal Scots. Commanded the battalion in the fighting and survived the war as senior officer in Shamshuipo. Sergeant Thomas Frederick Baker, Middlesex. PB33a. Lost on Christmas Day 1941. Lance Sergeant Frederick Green. Lost on the Lisbon Maru. Sergeant Puran Singh, HKP. Possibly the Puran Singh who died as POW 15 March 45. Sergeant Walter Nunn, RE. Wounded in the fighting and lost a leg. Survived the war. Sergeant Pan, HKPR. Uncertain. Private Scott. Uncertain (three possibilities with that surname). I searched the London Gazette for the whole of 1941/42 to try to find the gazetting of Simon White’s promotion from Major to Lieutenant Colonel (when he replaced Lt. Col. Douglas James McDougall – who was posted to Burma halfway through 1941 – as CO of 2nd Royal Scots) but to no avail. 21 This is far from Hong Kong, but this story from the sea off my hometown in the UK illustrates the continuing serious dangers of unexploded ordnance.
19 Martin Heyes kindly sent a photo of Geoffrey Clayton Jitts’s medals. Jitts was the 3 Coy HKVDC man who crawled into the catchwater by JLO PB2 (LPB9, to give it its correct number) and intercepted the Japanese crawling towards him. He killed them with his Thompson but was mortally wounded in doing so (though whether he died of his wounds or was executed when the Japanese took PB2 is uncertain). 19 Today we received a copy of the final cover for the new Chaloner Alabaster book. 19 Jonathan Searle kindly sent me three photos of his father (wartime Hong Kong policeman Lance Searle) and recruits at the Police Training School in 1949. The gentleman to Searle’s right (our left) might be Wright-Nooth. Searle of course – who Wright-Nooth described as “one of the bravest men I have known” (Turnip Heads, page 77) - transferred to Malaya Special Branch in Johore in 1950 where he joined the Communist Section. He was shot by communists in April 1954 and died at the General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, on the twentieth of that month.
18 Anne Amundsen reminded me that she is still: “desperate to find a book I purchased in Sydney in 1986, whilst staying at the Wentworth Hotel (23.8.1986 to 9.9.1986)… I’ve forgotten the title and the author, making the 35-year search so difficult… It was a novel/thriller, about Tonga, (Tonga Trench, undersea action) where I was living when I visited Sydney that year. Extraordinarily, this novel had a passage in it about my real life uncle (Captain Robert Newton), who was killed in Hong Kong in 1941 when the Japanese invaded.” She really would like to find another copy of that book if anyone can help! 18 I received an email from the Royal British Legion today, on the subject of a multi-volume Book of Remembrance they have created, listing the names of all those who are known to have died during military service in the China theatre. I can see that Volume 3 (which covers the Second World War) is in need of some additions and corrections, and we are now discussing how best to facilitate that. 18 ‘George Best’ posted on Facebook: “A truly historical photo from the file of HK Public Records Office dated December 1940 and it was taken before a cricket match between the HKVDC and Royal Scots at the So Kon Po Playground with Causeway Hill in the background. Many familiar faces and names.” There’s nothing as valuable as names on a photo, so I went through it as: Back Row (from L to R): Private Marshall, RS, (it’s a common name, so there are five possibilities). Private Peter James Cheyne, RS, died as POW 19 October 1942 A Zimmern, HKVDC (could be Andrew or Archie. Archie survived the war, Andrew did not). Private Jack Renton Newsome, RS, MIA 23 December 1941. Private Norman Alec Mackay, survived the war (he was actually HKDDC). Captain Alsey, RS, (probably Sergeant Arthur Alsey, and thus team captain rather than rank captain?) Ronald Hannan Griffiths, HKVDC. Killed at Stanley 25 December 1941. David Orchard Parsons, HKVDC Z Force, survived war. I corresponded with him for years. Signalman Ken Mackenzie Baxter, Fortress Signals Coy, HKVDC, survived the war. Second Lieutenant Brian Alfred Fargus, posted back to UK March 1941. Became full Colonel. Second Lieutenant James Ford, RS, survived war. Nice chap. Awarded MC. Private Chares Henry Peacock, RS, (three possibilities). D. Hone. Uncertain. There was an A. Hone in the garrison. Cyril Edwin Ganhagan, HKVDC, survived the war. Seated: Private Frank Bateman, RS, survived the Lisbon Maru and the war. Lieutenant Donald James Anderson, HKVDC, killed at Jardine’s Lookout 19 Dec 1941. Lieutenant David Mclellan, HKVDC, survived the war. Captain Patterson, (three possibilities, if team captain). Lieutenant Colonel Lindsay Ride, HKVDC, escaped and formed BAAG. Survived the war. Major Alexander Shepstone Godley, posted to UK in March 1941. His wife Valda Godley died on 6 June 1944 at Sumatra POW Camp. Godley remarried, and died 17 October 1980 in Zimbabwe. Sergeant Neville John Booker, HKVDC, POW in Japan, survived the war. Captain D. A. Duke, posted to to Staff College, Quetta half way through 1941. Lieutenant Arthur Edward Perry, HKVDC, survived the war. Gunner Ken John Attwell, HKVDC, survived the war as POW in Japan. On ground: Sergeant Taylor, RS, (two possibilities). Sergeant John Devereux, shot in face, survived the war as a POW in Japan. He is the subject of the book Escape To Pagan which unfortunately contains a number of inaccuracies such as claiming that he was on the Lisbon Maru. (For the Royal Scots, note that on March 1941 the following officers sailed for the UK: Major A.S. Godley, Captains R.B. Freeman-Thomas, A.C.F. Drew-Wilkinson, Lieutenants J.A.H. Douglass, F.W.A. Glossop, K.I.M. Buchanan, D.G. Gibson, B.A. Fargus. Between April and December the following left the Battalion: Lt. Col. D.J. McDougall to Burma, Captain D.A. Duke to Staff College, Quetta, Major H.C. Harland as Brigade Major, Lt. A.C. Patterson to UK, Lt. G.D. Dunlop to Burma, and Lt. (QM) J.R. Pirie to a Staff appointment. In addition the Battalion lost many NCOs when they were accepted for commissions. These included Campbell, Niven, Graham, Ross, Green, Bremner and Stephenson. Sergeants Nealen, Robertson and Taylor went with Dunlop to Burma.)
12I received January’s Java Journal today, and there was quite a lot relating to Hong Kong. 12 Last month Justin Ho sent me a number of photos presumably relating to BAAG – and certainly relating to special forces in wartime China. I have posted one above to see if anyone can identify this Indian Artillery officer.
11 Indirectly – via the Royal Asiatic Society - I had a very interesting query today from a branch of Major Neve’s family who I hadn’t spoken to before. They are trying to locate a portrait that hung in the Neves’ quarters when the Japanese invaded. There is surely a 99% chance that it was destroyed, but you never know. They note that: “It is believed that this portrait may have been in the quarter / hiring they occupied. If so, as Mrs Neve and the children were evacuated in April ‘40, the portrait remained with Maj. Neve and upon his death in the house / flat. Our present assumption is that it was subsequently stolen / destroyed during the remaining years of the war.” 11 Mast in Victoria posted a very good image of HMS Tamar in 1922 today. It’s a shame they put their watermark on it, but understandable.
7 Mick Newbatt let the FEPOW Family group know that today the CWGC posted photos of the first snow at Yokohama cemetery for four years (illustrated).
6 Thanks to Tan’s (et al’s) book, I had a better poke around at the site of PB1 today, looking further downslope and nearer to the sea. And this time I spotted various lumps of concrete both on the hillside and the beach below that may well have belonged to the PB or its Lyon Light.
5 According to Brian Edgar, Eric Percival Hunt was the brother of Peter Norman Hunt of the BAAG (who served as Rosario – see last month). Their father was Sergeant Hubert James Hunt, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, who died as a POW 31 May 1944, and Julia Gertie Hunt, of Kowloon, Hong Kong. As Eric was Eurasian he could presumably pass as a local civilian, and most likely dumped his uniform to evade capture and internment. Brian found this detail in ‘Statement made on 17 April 1943 by Karminder Singh’, WIS No. 28, 25th April 1943, Ride Papers, WO-343-1-189, part 2, p. 12. Thanks to Philip Cracknell I also know now that Eric had the serial T/215977 (next to Peter’s T/215978), so presumably they joined up together. Interestingly, Philip also had a record with ‘date of will’ 24 March 45, stating that Eric Hunt was no longer missing. Clearly there’s a story there. 5 I received an invitation today to speak to the kids at Kowloon True Light School who are currently studying the Battle of Hong Kong. I hope we can arrange something, though the current Covid rules make it unlikely to be face-to-face.
Guterres medals (via Anthony Correa), French Stanley ceremony (courtesy French Consulate), Japanese POWs in Shamshuipo (courtesy Canadian War Memorial)
The eightieth anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Hong Kong has gone past relatively unnoticed, and yet I would argue that there is more interest in the period locally than ever before. But with Covid and other events dominating life and discourse so much, the dice were loaded against any large-scale commemorations. But there were many smaller-scale or private memorials, and perhaps the most interesting was the series of facebook posts called “The Battle of Hong Kong in Rare Photos, 8-26 December 1941” from The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project. I have chosen three of my favourites as illustrations this month. But the biggest celebration was surely discovering that Yeung Ming Hon of the HKVDC Field Ambulance was still with us! To the best of my knowledge he is the sole surviving member of the Corps today.
29 Correspondent Roy Delbyk noted that he had purchased a rare printed edition of the famous (infamous?) Duff report about C Force. It is also available online here.
25 Andrew Holland kindly sent a copy of a 1944 Shamshuipo Christmas card from Majors Ernest Hodkinson, Henry Hook, and John Bailie of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. 25 I was one of several interested parties interviewed for this article which appeared on Nikkei Asia today.
23 Today I went for a regular physiotherapy session in Sandy Bay and got there a bit early to see if I could find any remans of nearby PB1. I searched – as far as I could – between Victoria Road and Sandy Bay Road but found nothing. I checked with Rob Weir and he said that he had had the same experience. I suspect it was removed when the new water pumping works were built at the location in 1964.
22 Today Steve Denton kindly sent me a copy of “The Lisbon Maru Massacre: a dramatis personae” by Steve Denton and Robert Widders. As a listing (with some biographical details where available), of every participant in a Second World War incident, it may well be unique.
21 Anthony Correa put a photo of the medals of Lieutenant Joaquim J. Guterres, HKVDC, on facebook. He notes: “His medals here kept proudly by his son Peter Guterres and daughter in law Yolanda Guterres”. Guterres commanded 19 Platoon, 5 Coy, HKVDC and died in St Theresa’s Hospital on 26 July 1942 of dysentery.
16 Jon Reid kindly sent a link to his interview: “WW2: The Canadians Who Fought for Hong Kong | The Agenda”. It included a very unexpected photo from within a Shamshuipo POW Camp hut, showing what appeared to be Asian POWs. When I checked with Jon he noted that the producers got it: “from the Canadian War Museum. On the back of the photo is written: ‘Japanese living in the same prisoner quarters the Allied prisoners had been kept in, within HK, post surrender’.” That makes sense!
15 Albert Sellers’ (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch via Philip Cracknell. 15 The South China Morning Post today carried an interesting article about the Watershed group, who are now leading tours to wartime sites, sometimes in period uniforms.
9Emile Bertulli’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch. 9 I have been working with Peter Cundall and Yoshiko Tamura in Japan on confirming the identities of some of the lesser-known ships that took POWs from Hong Kong to Japan during the Occupation. I will report back in this in January. 9 Doug Smith kindly let me know that Geoffrey Clarke’s, RASC, name is on the City Of Birmingham Tramways Department War Memorial as he was a member of the Head Office Staff. 9 And on a lighter note: Owning your own internet domain always attracts a certain amount of spam, but this is the first to have made me laugh out loud. Apparently I just fired myself:
“Dear Tony, Employee at hongkongwardiary.com Company,
We are deeply saddened to inform you that your term of employment at hongkongwardiary.com company has come to an immediate end. Due to the affect of covid-19 epidemic in our company, we have no choice but to end your employment with us because we cannot service all the employees anymore. This decision is effective immediately and the original documents for the cancellation of your employment will be given to you in three days time. Note! this is just like a redudant leave. Find attached your 2 months salary receipt. We thank you for your service and we wish it didn't have to end this way.
Human Resources Manager cc: email@example.com” (It included, of course, an attachment ridden with viruses).
8 For its fall 2021 issue, Canadian Military History has published a special issue to commemorate the Battle of Hong Kong’s eightieth anniversary. This issue explores various aspects of the battle, its aftermath and its memory. Very kindly they have added all the .pdf files for download here. There was a bit of a surprise in the article Objects Relating to the Canadian Experience in Hong Kong: the ‘bullet fragment’ is quite clearly a .45 fired from a Thompson! 8 Bill Lake and David Kerr gave an online talk to the Royal Asiatic Society, Beijing. This evening, which I joined online. It was called: “Legacy, WWII Allies and the Battle of Hong Kong”, and covered both the Chan Chak escape and Donald Kerr’s rescue after being shot down over Hong Kong in his P40. 8 Stewart Sloan published an interesting article about his father, Charles (Chucky) McConnell Sloan, HKVDC. 8 The Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association, in conjunction with the Hong Kong Prisoners of War Association, held a simple wreath laying ceremony at the Shrine in the City Hall Garden of Remembrance at 11.00 today to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Battle for Hong Kong.
7 Here’s a mystery that I have been discussing with Professor Kwong Chi Man. A certain Eric Percival Hunt of the Royal Army Service Corps married a Mabel Suen immediately before the Japanese attack on Hong Kong. And yet there is no record of a man of that name being killed in the fighting, being a POW, or having escaped. I really do not know who he was. 7 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society has just published their Vol. 22, Number 2 Fall-Winter 2021 newsletter. 7 Those with a deep interested in the Battle of Hong Kong have often discussed the case of Swindon man John Frelford of the Middlesex. It was said of him that he was interned as a civilian in Stanley (rather than as a soldier in Shamshuipo) because he had saved the life of a Japanese soldier in the heat of battle. I have to apologise as I didn’t keep note of who sent this, but it is an article by Frelford, Swindon published in the Daily Sketch of 1 July 1964 in their “great war stories for £1,000 series”: “The machine guns crackled in quick staccato barks. They seemed to be so near I could almost hear the spent cases tinkling on the ground. The mist that had protected us from observation all night had lifted and we – the survivors of ‘D’ company of the 1st battalion Middlesex Regiment – were on an exposed hillside in the Stanley Peninsula, Hong Kong, pinned down under a murderous fire. It was one of the most miserable days in my life. Tired, hungry, our uniforms in rags, we had been 17 days in the field, trying to stem the Japanese attack. But the night before they had attacked, carrying everything before them. The main impetus had passed us and we were now trying to link up with ‘B’ company on our left. It was 6.30 a.m. on Christmas morning in 1941. At home in England, even in wartime, people would be wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Children would be undoing wrappings on such presents as could be got during the war. Like Henry V’s soldiers said before Agincourt: I would rather be up to my neck in freezing Thames water, if only I could be home. We in the seven-man section that had set off to climb the hills towards Deepwater Bay, to try the link-up, had not even a cigarette between us, let alone any food. And now our cover was gone and we were exposed to the full weight of the Japanese guns. It was not exactly the time for peace on earth and mercy mild. To escape the machine-gun fire I crawled forward in the open to a crevice in the rock. The machine-gunner followed me. He fired burst after burst at the crevice, sending chips of rock flying around, as well as the ricocheting bullets. I squeezed down as much as I could by the dead Canadians and Japanese who were sharing my shelter. And to make things worse my move to apparent safety had attracted the attention of a jap sniper. He fired methodically and at regular intervals. His shots cracked past my head like metal bees. Then a Japanese soldier I took to be dead with a shot in the head, slowly opened his eyes. Was he wounded enough to be harmless? Should I kill him? The questions flashed through my mind. Then I noticed that he gestured with his hand to his helmet and then mine. I decided to take mine off. I had nothing to lose. No sooner had I done so and squeezed down beside the Jap than the sniper, who obviously couldn’t see very well, left me alone. But the machine-gunner continued firing. The Jap kept saying a word in Japanese. Over and over again. He wanted water. We were both in the same boat. He had saved my life. It was Christmas Day and I was very likely going to die, so what the hell. I gave him all he wanted. I bound up his head with a shell dressing. Moving around tying the wound brought me very close to the machine-gunner’s shots, but I was past caring. I just thought that if I was killed at least I’d done something decent on that terrible Christmas Day. By pointing at himself and saying the word ‘Gota’ over and over again, I gathered it was his name. I told him mine – John. We both then settled down to get what rest we could. But 17 days in the field had worn me out. I fell into a sleep like death. I was awakened by a foot on my chest and a bayonet against my throat. Dizzy with fatigue I saw a Jap standing over me. He pulled back his bayonet and made as though to lunge, to finish me off. But Gota had also woken up. He shouted something to him. The soldier paused, puzzled, then grounded his rifle, motioning me to get up. For the second time that day Gota had saved my life. I was now a prisoner of the Japs, but at least I was alive. And as the soldier walked me away I looked over my shoulder and waved to Gota. He waved back. I never saw him again. I was taken before an interrogating officer, who tried to bully and bluff information out of me. But I gave none. Then he asked me about Gota. He seemed to be puzzled by such behaviour. I explained that I thought the man was dying and did for him what I hope he would have done for me if the situation was reversed. But I also told him that if he had not been wounded I would have tried to kill him. The officer’s face brightened. ‘For that answer,’ he said, ‘your life is saved.’ I had a lot of time to think about things in the prison camp. I often wondered what had happened to the enemy who saved my life twice. Without the chivalry of an unknown enemy soldier I would be lying in some war cemetery in the Far East.”
6 Anthony Yeung kindly let me know that his father, Yeung Ming Hon (98 years old and still healthy) was a private in the HKVDC Field Ambulance and was captured at Stanley. He notes: “As this year is the 80th anniversary of the defence of Hong Kong, it piqued my interest in the HKVDC. My father, now with dementia, did talk about the war and said the HKVDC fought gallantly. I was informed by Ronald Taylor of HKVDC that my father is probably the oldest living member of the HKVDC who saw action in the war.” To the best of my knowledge, he is in fact now the last surviving member of the wartime Corps. 6 Cecilia Burroughs published, on facebook, an interesting six-page account of her personal experiences during the Battle of Hong Kong. 6 Surveying & Built Environment, of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors today published “A Special Commemorative Issue Marking the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, 8 December to 25 December 1941” (illustrated).
5 Justin Ho kindly sent this link to the medals believed to be (but not certain) of Corporal Herbert Stockham, R.A.F, who was killed on 19 December 1941.
4 My Zoom talk “Shipped to Japan” for HKVCA is now confirmed for 24 Jan 2022 19:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) / 25 Jan 2022 08.30 Hong Kong time, and anyone interested can register here. 4 Peter Weedon kindly let me know: “This medal group appeared on a dealer’s list today and is now heading my way - which I would not have been able to afford had I bought the dockyard group. The critical point from a medal collector’s perspective is that there are two named medals.” The medals – to 6202309 Corporal Sidney Robert Mitchell–Gears, Middlesex, were: 1939/45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal, General Service Medal E2 clasp Malaya Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Regular Army E2. He was “born in Lambeth, London 12th October 1914, serving with the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment in Hong Kong, he was taken prisoner of war when the colony surrendered to Japanese forces 25th December 1941, his next of kin (presumably his father) recorded as Mr Edward Hope Mitchell–Gears of 20 West Square, St Georges Road, London. The War Office casualty list recorded he was missing 25th December 1941 TNA WO417/37 and later confirmed prisoner of war in War Office casualty list WO417/37. Private Mitchell–Gears survived the sinking of the Japanese Transport Ship Lisbon Maru 1st October 1942 whilst enroute to Japan. He is recorded as being a member of the second draft to Kobe POW camp, Osaka, Japan when the list was compiled in 1943 TNA WO361/1780.” He also notes: “The Malaya clasp on the General Service Medal represents post-1952 service. It’s likely that the recipient was a pre-war Regular not a conscript who continued serving after captivity.” He was one of seven named prisoners of war at Kobe who voluntarily gave their services as Medical Orderlies in the Camp Hospital (which had upwards of 240 patients - mainly suffering from dysentery - in the charge of a Staff Sergeant RAMC as there was no Medical Officer). Mitchell–Gears remained in the Army, he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal 1st June 1953 and served with the now amalgamated Queen’s Regiment in Malaya. He married in 1967 and died in 2001 aged 86 years. 4 The Consulat Général de France à Hong Kong et Macao posted a photo of their event at Stanley Cemetery today.
3 Roy Delbyk kindly sent me two items: a July 1938 assessment of the fighting capabilities of the Japanese army (possibly written by Charles Boxer?) and two interesting letters relating to IOUs in Stanley. These have been widely discussed, but I believe they are the only examples I have actually seen.
2 Mike Babin kindly let me know that Sam Chiu has recently published the article: “Adding new knowledge: Canada’s C-Force in Hong Kong” in The Canadian Philatelist, the Official Journal of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. Unfortunately it is not available online. 2 Peter Weedon let me know that for the believed Serwar Khan Dockyard Police medal auction mentioned last month: “The group hammered for £1,500 so with commission and VAT probably near £1,900.”
December 1st, 2021 Update
Colourised Japanese fighter (courtesy Chris Whitehouse), Lisbon Maru Roll (courtesy Steve Denton), Royal Scots (via eBay)
Vermette brothers (via CBC CA), Beacom's POW tags (courtesy Elias van der Pol), Remembrance Day (courtesy Cardin Chan, via Bill Lake)
On Remembrance Day, Hong Kong University Press posted a photo montage of their published Second World War histories which I rather liked (illustrated). It just shows how many books are still being written about what is, in all fairness, a rather small niche in the great scheme of things. And long may this continue! I know of at least four further books on the topic which should see the light of day between now and mid 2022, and I suspect there are a number of others.
27 This morning I received an email from Perth Academy in Scotland, concerning their old boy John Dickson who was lost in the friendly-fire explosion of Jeanette in Hong Kong harbour on 12 December 1941. They are planning a video memorial for their Roll of Honour, and as luck would have it I was planning a trip to IFC anyway. While there I took some videos of the harbour around where Jeanette must have been destroyed, and also tried to find the exact location today of PB63, from which the fatal shots were fired. I reckon it must have been somewhere near, and probably just below, the Sandro fashion boutique. I recall seeing it before it was demolished in 1994, but there is literally nothing left in the area to get your bearings by.
26 Today I started sending the first articles for next year’s Volume 62 of the Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, to be peer reviewed.
24 Sandy Wynd sent me this interesting IWM film of Hong Kong from 1946. The shots of Wanchai bomb damage are useful, and almost at the end there’s what looks like the ‘Black Cat Club’ in the background. Presumably that was some pre-war dive, but I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere.
23 Archibald Elston’s (HK Police) granddaughter kindly sent me a large set of her grandfather’s documents from or about wartime Hong Kong. They included Sir Mark Young’s despatch – which oddly enough I’m not sure I had ever seen before, George Baxter’s account, and many other interesting bits and pieces.
22I heard that early today in Canada, Signalman Charles Barry Le Patourel, HKVDC, passed away. Unfortunately I was unaware that he was still with us, and therefore never made contact. He was on the third draft of POWs to Japan, and emigrated to Canada having been liberated via Australia.
22 Elizabeth Ride called me this evening to ask if I had had any news of Vera (Lo) Hui, but unfortunately I couldn’t help.
21Project Avenger kicked off today, the formal archaeological project to investigate the crash site of Grumman Avenger which collided with another Avenger over Tai Tam on 16 January 1945. I visited the site once, with the original discoverer Craig Mitchell, and can confirm that it’s not easy to get to! 21 On a personal note, my wife and I walked up to the top of the Peak today, for this first time since I broke my left ankle. Three and a half months is not a bad recovery time considering what a serious break it was.
19 I received another invitation today: “The Consulate General of Canada invites you to the live broadcast of the Canadian Commemorative Ceremony in Hong Kong - Le consulat général du Canada vous invite à la retransmission en direct de la cérémonie commémorative canadienne à Hong Kong - Sunday, December 5, 2021 10:00 a.m. (Hong Kong Time) | Dimanche le 5 décembre 2021 10h00 (heure de Hong Kong). In order to comply with the COVID-19 regulations imposed by the Hong Kong SAR Government, the ceremony is strictly open only to invitees (no exceptions) and attendance will be limited this year. The Consulate General of Canada will live stream the ceremony on its official Facebook pages, so would-be spectators can join in the commemoration virtually.”
18 Today I received the annual invitation from the «Souvenir Français de Chine» and the General Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macau to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 3rd, but unfortunately will not be able to attend this year.
17 We had a great example of international research collaboration today when George Boote in the UK kindly alerted me to the sale of three original Savitsky portraits on eBay. I immediately alerted Savitsky’s grandson who successfully negotiated a price and bought them. When he asked me to assist in identifying the subjects, I suddenly realised that they were Stuart ‘Tootie’ Begg, HKVDC, and Joan Armstrong (who in 1946 would become his second wife). Begg’s previous wife Eileen sadly lost her life in the Stanley massacre.
16 Today I saw a rather good colourisation, by Chris Whitehouse, of the well-known photo of a Japanese fighter curving up to intercept USAAF bombers that had just attacked Kai Tak.
14 Kwong Chi Man and I spoke this morning as a panel at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. The session was advertised as: “On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong with a panel discussion between military historians with a breadth of understanding from different perspectives. HKBU academic Kwong Chi-man popularises history to his students and the public alike, with books including Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840-1970 and tools such as an interactive online map of the battle. Tony Banham is the author of four books on the Hong Kong experience during the Second World War and founder of the Hong Kong War Diary project, which studies and documents the 1941 of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. Their conversation is moderated by former FT journalist Lucy Colback, who is writing a book about WWII based on first hand accounts by veterans worldwide. Join them to revisit and gain new understanding of a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.” It was a lot of fun, and at least thirty people attended, asking some pretty good questions. Unfortunately, though, it meant that we were unable to attend the memorial service at the Cenotaph which occupied the same time slot. However, luckily several people (including Cardin Chan via Bill Lake) supplied photos of the latter. The reason I chose to display that particular image is that it shows the now traditional multi-denominational clergy (I hope that’s the right term) who attend. 14 John William Melton’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch.
13 Rifleman Joseph Napoleon LeBlanc’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch.
12 Today my copy of the Lisbon Maru Roll of Honour booklet, and the memorial unveiling memorial service program , arrived courtesy of Steve Denton. The booklet is far more formal and professional looking than I had expected! Steve kindly gave credit to: “the Queen’s Regimental Association, in particular Alasdair Goulden, the secretary”.
11 Stephen Hutcheon posted on facebook: “An interesting story about Leslie James Quon Keen who later changed his last name to Channing. Born in Australia in 1906, he was adopted by a Chinese woman who migrated to Hong Kong in 1919. He joined the HKVDC in 1925, but during the Battle of Hong Kong was seconded to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. He escaped to Macau after the surrender and return to the colony after the war. After working for a while at the China Mail, he eventually received permission to return to Australia with his family.” More details in a newspaper article here.
9 Elias van der Pol posted photos of the POW serial tags of Michael Francis Beacom, who was in the Akenobe POW camp. He was a member of the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps. 9 Colin Standish and others were kind enough to forward a link to this newspaper story of Urban Vermette, a Winnipeg Grenadier who also served in Korea.
8 Corporal Anatole Nicholas Tonoff’s (HKVDC) son got in touch with the welcome news that he had scanned his father’s wartime diary. More on this, hopefully, in the near future. 8 For sale on eBay: a photo of three Royal Scots, (named as left to right Private James Duncan, Private Robert Inglis, and Private James Stuart – but I think the middle man is actually Robert Ingols, in which case all three were survivors of the Lisbon Maru) pictured at the Air Force Club New York, 20 October 1945, before sailing home on the Queen Elizabeth. It’s a shame about the watermark on the photo, but I guess that’s how they make their money.
5 The HKVCA today publicised their next Virtual Event, “The Fence” - A Discussion for 22 November. “The Fence, a feature-length documentary produced by Tortuga Films, powerfully tells the story of one of the longest incarcerations of WW II - at Sham Shui Po POW camp - with personal accounts from Canadian veterans George MacDonell and George Peterson. Meet the film’s director, Viveka Melki, and hear from survivor Luba Estes, who witnessed unspeakable war crimes watching and waiting for her imprisoned father from outside the fence of Sham Shui Po POW camp, and Dr. Kwong Chi Man, East Asia military historian and Associate Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.” Unfortunately I did not hear about it in time to include in my October update. However, we have agreed that from now on they will give me an early tip-off about these talks so that I can advertise them in the previous month’s update of this blog.
1 The family of Leonard Verdun Owen (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) got in touch. Interestingly he was one of three men I know of in the wartime Hong Kong garrison, all born during the Great War, with the middle name ‘Verdun’. 1 I have accepted an invitation to give a Zoom presentation to the HKVCA on Tuesday, January 25 at 8:30am Hong Kong time (7:30pm Monday Toronto time). More details in the 1 January 2022 update!
November 1st, 2021 Update
Lisbon Maru service in Zhoushan (via Kent Shum), Lisbon Maru memorial back and front (courtesy Steve Denton and Brian Finch)
Henry Fox in RCoS uniform (courtesy Elaine O'Neil), Tamar Boys (IWM via facebook), Lancerary Newnham (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
Alabaster book cover (courtesy HKUP), HKILF Flyer (courtesy HKILF), Hongkongers book (courtesy Chi Man Kwong)
Obviously the big news of the month was the unveiling of the new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK. It was an extraordinarily well-attended event in remarkable sunshine. I received a dozen or more emails from attendees, all expressing their thanks to the organisers. Clearly it was a memorial whose time had arrived. I was also kindly sent fifty or more photographs, and a link to a high-quality video of the event. And on October the second, the anniversary itself, the usual small but very dignified group of young people in Zhoushan held their annual waterside memorial service.
29 Philp Cracknell notes: “I was tidying up my files when I came across the citation for Lance-Corporal Walter Cook, ‘D’ Coy 2/RS. He was born in Chile, an Anglo-Chilean, and when war started in 1939 he returned to the ‘mother country’, a country he probably barely knew, in order to enlist and serve. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry on the battlefield. Although wounded by rifle fire, he survived the close-quarter fighting at Golden Hill. He rescued a wounded solder from ‘A’ Coy who was 500 yards in front of ‘D’ Coy positions. He brought him back through artillery fire. He survived the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and he survived the prison camps in Hong Kong (Sham Shui Po) and Japan (Osaka). I paid this small tribute to him on my blog.”
26 In yet more book news, Martin Heyes notes that “Children of the Massacre; the Extraordinary Story of the Stewart Family in Hong Kong and West China,” by Linda and Robert Banks is available now. Evan Stewart was of course CO of 3 Coy HKVDC. 26 Good news from my surgeon today. I can walk unaided again. Of course, after 12 weeks either non weight bearing or partially weight bearing, that’s easier said than done!
25 Iain Gow notes that he was shown what was: “said to be a pencil sketch of the Lisbon Maru from a survivor, I’d never seen this one before but likely you have! Angle is wrong when comparing with the existing photograph and the other sketch, so I suspect may not be the Lisbon Maru, though wondered if it may have been another Hellship instead?” It’s a good question. Aside from the angle and unclear provenance, it looks quite like the Lisbon Maru.
22The proof reading of “More than 1001 Days and Nights of HK Internment” is done, and we have received the first draft of the book’s cover (which could of course change).
19 I see that a collar badge of the HKVDC’s ANZAC Company has been sold on eBay at a relatively high price for such an item. I also hear that this item is so unusual as to be a source of suspicion. Caveat emptor, as they say.
18 I heard today that Dr Kwong Chi Man will give a talk about the Battle of Hong Kong Spatial History Project on 1900-2030 5 November 2021 (PDT time) or 1000-1130 6 November (Hong Kong Time). The webinar is organized by the UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative of the University of British Columbia. Register here. 18 The HKVCA held a Virtual Event today called “We Remember Hong Kong: A Hong Kong Time Capsule.” Unfortunately I received details too late to publicise it last month, but the description read: “Join us for a look back at the life-changing and heartwarming story of the student pilgrimage to Hong Kong in 2005. These young people, accompanied by teachers and parents, travelled to Hong Kong to show their gratitude in person to the Canadian soldiers who lie buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery. The students participated in the creation of the “We Remember Hong Kong Memorial Capsule Project”. Every student who made the pilgrimage to Hong Kong, and those from across the country who also participated in the project, contributed a short story, a biography, a poem, a song or an artistic piece to be included in the memorial capsule enshrined at Sai Wan Cemetery on December 4th, 2005. A number of Hong Kong Veterans accompanied the group. This presentation is a tribute to the Veterans and the students who collaborated to bring attention to these brave and valiant soldiers of the Second World War.”
17 On facebook Henry Wong posted a photo with the caption: “These ex-prisoners of war drink their first tot of rum since 1941. Left to right: PO Leonard Soper, captured in HMS TAMAR when Hong Kong fell on Christmas 1941; PO Callohane, of Skibbereen, Eire; Yeoman Frederick Mitchell of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs; PO Geoffrey Josey, of Newbury, Berkshire; and PO William Mitchell of Milton, Southsea, Hants. (IWM)”. Josey was Thracian. Fred Mitchell Tamar. Bill Mitchell was MTB08. All, including Soper, were on the first draft of Hong Kong POWs to Japan. I don’t have a record for ‘Callohane’ and suspect it’s not his correct name.
14 Today I received the Java Club’s latest newsletter. 14 Kwong Chi Man has done a great job of starting a list of just-pre-war marriages between Hong Kong’s garrison and local ladies. This is something that has always interested me, and the current list is 50+.
13 Philip Cracknell posted a very interesting photo of Maltby together with another senior officer who we believe to be Lanceray Newnham (who would later be executed by the Japanese). If so, and I’m 90% sure it’s him, it’s the first photo I have seen.
9 I heard today that Kwong Chi Man’s new book, Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997 is on Amazon already, though it won’t be available until the new year.
7 The Watershed team kindly sent me the recommendation for Sepoy Resham Khan, 13914, 2/14th Punjabi’s Military Medal. It’s great to see people studying the Indian Army in Hong Kong, as they have always been severely underrepresented in the literature.
5 I’ve been invited to take part in this year’s Hong Kong International Literary Festival: “History and Heritage LIVE Venue: The Jockey Club Studio Theatre, The Fringe Club Sunday 14 November 2021, 12:00 – 13:00 The Battle of Hong Kong - 80 Years On 香港戰後那些年 On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong with a panel discussion between military historians with a breadth of understanding from different perspectives. HKBU academic Kwong Chi-man popularises history to his students and the public alike, with books including Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840-1970 and tools such as an interactive online map of the battle. Tony Banham is the author of four books on the Hong Kong experience during the Second World War and founder of the Hong Kong War Diary project, which studies and documents the 1941 of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. Their conversation is moderated by former FT journalist Lucy Colback, who is writing a book about WWII based on first hand accounts by veterans worldwide. Join them to revisit and gain new understanding of a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.” The organisers also created a flyer, showing our most recent books, to publicise the event. 5 Rusty Tsoi noted on facebook: “When we studied the Battle of Hong Kong, we used to be puzzled about the actual figure of the Japanese casualties, and here is some clue. In this book ‘The Eternal Victory: Hong Kong - Manila – Singapore’ published by the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in February 1942, showed that while they had captured 11,241 prisoners of war and found 1,555 bodies (possibly excluding those who were killed and occasionally cremated after atrocities) of the Hong Kong Garrison, they had suffered 675 deaths and 1,404 wounded.” It’s hard to know what to say. The figure of 1,555 bodies is extraordinarily accurate, and yet intuitively 675 Japanese fatalities – bearing in mind known high losses on Sir Cecil’s Ride and the St Stephen’s areas – seems improbably low.
4 George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale of Private Downs’s (RAMC) medals. There are a few mistakes on the listing. Downs was one of those killed by ‘friendly fire’ when Kamaishi was bombarded from the sea on 10 August 1945, though for some reason the CWGC list his date of death as 20 August. I have no idea why they claim he was ‘liberated’ on the tenth.
3 Today the new memorial to the Lisbon Maru was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in front of a crowd of around 650 people representing families, the military bodies that those on board came from, and other groups. The weather was fine, and I hear that everyone appreciated the event – including the introductory speech which I co-wrote with Brian Finch. Thanks to the following for sending photographs and other details: Ian, Inglis, Iain Gow, Pete Starling, Brian Finch, Steve Denton, and Ron Brooks. It was written up in several newspapers including The Times, Edinburgh News, and LichfieldLive. Some papers also mentioned the new Royal Scots Memorial unveiled at the same time. 3Elaine O’Neill kindly sent me a companion photo of Henry Fox in his Royal Corps of Signals uniform (see last month). He is perhaps the fourth or fifth member of the garrison I am now aware of who switched from the navy to the army.
2 Volume 61 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society – the first for which I have been editor – was delivered today (illustrated). Now for Volume 62!
October 1st, 2021 Update
Fukken Maru (courtesy Peter Cundall), Fukken Maru orders (courtesy Yoshiko), Pan Am Clipper (via Panam.org)
Mess 25 Block 10 (Arseny Savitsky, courtesy Michael Martin), Buglass's name (courtesy Sandy Wynd), Central Market (via author)
Po Tin Chak (via Canadian Consulate, HK), Henry Fox (courtesy Elaine O'Neill), Brad's Video (via author)
It’s a great shame that I’m missing the dedication of the new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK on Sunday October 3. However, as I can’t leave Hong Kong because of a mobility issues, and I couldn’t easily return because of draconian quarantine rules, it wouldn’t really be practical. But I helped write the introduction for the event so will be there in spirit. A lot of people have worked on this, but in particular Christopher Allanson, Steve Denton, and Brian Finch have put it all together – sometimes working on the background for many years. I hope they have great weather and a great turnout, and I look forward to sharing photos and a report next month.
29 Alan Webster’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. They are preparing to visit the NMA on Sunday for the memorial unveiling. Luckily their questions sparked the recall of a document listing which companies each of the Middlesex missing from the Lisbon Maru came from. I will now merge that data with my other listings for a better company by company roll.
27 The HKVCA presented a talk about Canada’s Indigenous peoples, their involvement in Canada’s military and specifically C Force, and stories of some of C Force’s Indigenous Veterans. Unfortunately I didn’t get notice early enough to advertise it in last month’s update.
26 Peter Cundall of http://www.combinedfleet.com/ kindly wrote to me about the Fukken Maru, attaching a photograph of the vessel. He notes that the document I was kindly sent is from JACAR, the Japan Center (sic) for Asian Historical Records. Although the chop stamps are from the Imperial Japanese Army the document is probably a B series Diplomatic Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs document. We believe the ship departed Hong Kong early on 4 September 1942, so he thinks the likely itinerary would have been: 4 September 1942 early departed Hong Kong. 5 September 1942 arrived Makung and sailed with convoy No.259. 10 September 1942: Arrived Mutsure (western roadstead of Shimonoseki Straits of which Moji was the main transport port). Possibly stopped at Moji to discharge Non-POW passengers. Late 10/Early 11 Sept 1942 sailed Moji. 12 September 1942 arrived off Kobe and likely joined coastal convoy (No details). 12 September late (or 13 September early) 1942 sailed from Kobe. 15 September 1942 Arrived Yokohama (NB document says bound for Tokyo). He continues: “It is known the Fukken Maru departed Tokyo Bay in a convoy of 4 ships escorted by minelayer Ukishima for the Inland Sea on 17 September 1942 at 1000 with the convoy sailing at 9 knots. So this corroborates at least by inference the testimony of the POWs. The ship was civilian operated which makes records on her hard to come by. On the name Fukken Maru (the name shown in almost all transliterations except Lloyds Register) can be rendered as Fukuken Maru but is regarded by purists as incorrect. To confuse matters, from 1938 the Japanese Govt adopted Kokutai transliteration in place of Romanisation and Fukken Maru was rendered as Hukuken Maru instead of Fukuken Maru in Lloyds Register(that seems to have got the original transliteration ‘wrong’). This was only maintained until about early 1943 when the Japanese returned to the previous style of romanisation.” It’s very satisfying to get some more solid leads on this draft after so long. 26 I helped out today with another South China Morning Post article, but unfortunately it’s behind a firewall unless you have a subscription. While searching for possible illustrations, I found one from (I think) 1945 immediately after the Japanese surrender (illustrated) and another nice aerial shot from perhaps 1970 which shows the atrium through which the infamous bomb fell on 15 December 1941.
20 On the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page, Deborah Chung placed a photo of her late father, Leslie Wah-Leung Chung (1917-2009), noting that as a gunner: “with the 4th Battery of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, was severely wounded in Lei Yun Fort in the Battle of Hong Kong on 14 December 1941. He facial nerve was cut by shrapnel, thus causing facial paralysis, distortion of the mouth, his left eye not being able to be completely closed, and his left ear not working very well. Here is his photo taken in the British Consulate in Guilin, China, in July 1942. There, he received Honourable Discharge. These wounds were with him for the rest of his life.”
19 Iain Gow kindly sent me this interesting link to: “an interactive map about birthplaces of WWII Royal Scot fatalities.”
17 Nikkei Asia published an interesting story entitled: “Race to save Hong Kong's wartime relics”. 17 I found this interesting article about the Baptist University Battle of Hong Kong interactive map project. 17 Michael Martin shared a number of his grandfather’s (policeman and Stanley internee Arseny Savitsky) Stanley sketches and caricatures with the Stanley Group. I am hoping that one day he will have collected enough to publish them in an annotated book! One of the many interesting illustrations was of the inmates of ‘Mess 25, Block 10’ I had assumed that to mean Room 25, Block 10, but the residents of that room: John William Fitzgerald, Civil Servant, Samuel Hodge, Prison Officer, John William Hudson, Prison Officer, James McCutcheon, Prison Officer, and Leslie John McTavish, Prison Officer, don’t seem to match the signatures on the illustration.
16 Yoshiko in Japan kindly sent me the two letters ordering the sailing of the Fukken Maru carrying the first 616 British POWs from Hong Kong to Japan in early September 1942.
14 While searching for something else (yet again…), I found a photo on the web of the Pan Am Clipper in Hong Kong shortly before the outbreak of the Pacific War. This is the plane which was sunk at anchor early on 8 December 1941.
13 Sandy Wynd kindly noted: “I was visiting Fife this weekend and, whilst passing through my old home town of Cupar, I stopped to see the addition to the War Memorial mentioned in your updates in August and you can see the excellent work done in my photographs.” See the mention of Buglass last month.
11 Brad St.Croix posted a video review of his favourite five books about the Battle of Hong Kong on YouTube. I enjoyed watching it - though with growing nervousness as I realised what the fifth review would cover... and then I had a nice surprise. The best coverage of the challenges of returning POWs is of course Chuck Roland's Long Night’s Journey into Day, and the deepest work on Canadian signalmen is Burke Penny's Beyond the Call. For Allister I once wrote: "Whether this is a ‘classic’ of Second World War literature is debatable, but it is without doubt the nearest thing to it to have emerged from the Hong Kong campaign." 11 The Winnipeg Free Press published an obituary of George Peterson today. (Thanks to Colin Standish for letting me know). An accompanying story can be found here.
10 Today I was invited by the Royal British Legion Committee to attend a small ceremony to open the History Research Room at the World War II Veterans Association clubhouse. I had originally hoped to attend, but was put off by warnings of heavy rain as I am still hopping around on one leg.
8 Henry Fox’s (Hong Kong Signals Company, Lisbon Maru) great niece kindly sent a: “photo of my great uncle Henry Fox, signal man who was on the Lisbon Maru. He was born in Clones in Monaghan in 1918, and was lost on the Lisbon Maru in 1942. Henry was called Harry in the family as his uncle was a Henry too. Henry was initially in the navy and then went to the royal signals but I am unsure when this was. He was captured Christmas day 1941. Henry’s parents were John Joseph and Margaret and his father… had served with the Royal Irish fusiliers in WW1 and lost an arm. Henry’s brothers James was in the royal air force and was also captured by the Japanese but escaped.” He is wearing his HMS Ganges cap.
6 Angela Niles (daughter of Wilfred ‘Willie’ Reed, see last month) noted that she read: “in your 8/13 entry about the Portuguese nun, Sr Cecilia Marie Carvalho who wrote that passage in the Diaries of the Maryknoll Sisters regarding the goldfish incident! She was a relative on my mother's side of the family. Her grandniece and grandnephew live here on the Eastside as well and we are in frequent touch.”
5 George Peterson, the last surviving veteran of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served in Hong Kong, passed away today.
4 I learned today, via the Canadian Consulate, that Dr Po-Tin Chak, a Second World War St. John Ambulance veteran who participated in the Battle of Hong Kong, died on 22 August at the age of 99. They noted: “Dr. Chak survived the Battle of Hong Kong, the St. Stephen's College Massacre and the Sham Shui Po Prisoners of War Camp. He eventually became a medical surgeon, and moved to Vancouver, Canada in the 1980s where he continued to take part in various events commemorating the Second World War and those who served. Last year, Dr Chak received the Second World War Tribute from Veterans Affairs Canada. Former Consul General of Canada to Hong Kong and Macao, Jeff Nankivell, also shared Dr. Chak’s story in the virtual WWII Commemoration Ceremony hosted by the St. John Ambulance Burnaby Division.” His obituary noted: “When World War 2 broke out, Dr. Po Tin Chak was transferred to the Military Division of the Brigade which was attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Hong Kong where allied forces, including Canada, fought The Battle of Hong Kong to protect the British colony for two weeks, but were outmanned and outgunned 4 to 1. The young Chak was positioned at the Collinson Battery (歌連臣角炮台), Cape Collinson in Chai Wan (柴灣), when the invaders landed there. The Collinson Battery defenders and the medical personnel were in full retreat, and even grenades were handed out to slow down the Japanese Imperial Army, but Po Tin Chak wasn’t trained in warfare, as he was trained in saving lives. They came upon a first aid station with an ambulance, and since Chak already knew how to drive, he was tasked with driving the wounded to a field hospital at St. Stephen’s College (聖士提反書院), but went to Stanley Fort (赤柱炮台) instead. That miscalculation saved his life and the wounded individuals he was carrying, as the invading army stormed St. Stephen’s College hours before the surrender, and murdered the defenceless medical staff, wounded military, and civilians. The following day, Po Tin Chak went to St. Stephen’s College to seek the wounded, but instead became one of the few who witnessed the aftermath of the bloodstained campus.”
1 William Au Yeung kindly sent details of his Hong Kong medal collection (see last month). Those for the 1941 garrison included:
Chief Petty Officer Herbert Howard Connor, Royal Navy
Rifleman Roger Cyr, Royal Rifles of Canada
Lance-Naik Allah Din, 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment Second Lieutenant Michael Forster Fenwick, Royal Scots Sapper Frank William Henry Haynes, Royal Engineers Sergeant Arthur David Manning, Middlesex Regiment Lieutenant George Wright Morrison, Royal Navy
Sergeant Harold Victor Pearse, HKVDC
Lieutenant Francis Gavan Power, Royal Rifles of Canada
Lance-Naik Ball Ram, 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment Commissioner Edward Maurice Raymond, St John Ambulance Brigade Edmund Brinsley Teesdale, Z Force, HKVDC Able Seaman Cecil Pinder Thomas, Royal Navy Lance Bombardier Albert Waddington, 7th Battery HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery Lance Sergeant Frank Woods, 7th Battery HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Cecil Pinder Tomas is especially unusual as he left Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 as part of the crew of HMS Thanet, and was lost in 31 January the following year when she was sunk off Malaya. Teesdale became Colonial Secretary post-war.
September 1st, 2021 Update
Alec Greaves (courtesy Stephen Hutcheon), Giles's grave (via Dick Yielding), Bobby, Edgar, and Stephen Reed (courtesy Anglea Niles)
August books (author), Bill Wood (courtesy Irene Warren), HMAS Castlemaine (via Henry Wong)
I am delighted to say that Professor Kwong Chi Man’s superb interactive and dynamic map of the Battle of Hong Kong is now online and publicly available in its first iteration, and I think Baptist University should be congratulated for backing this project. I’m hoping that the functionality and granularity will only improve over time (that’s the enormous advantage of digital models), but it’s already an excellent foundation. It’s well worth taking the time to drill down to certain areas or units and run the map for various time segments to see the movements. All the pillboxes, gun sites, and other fixed defences are also represented, as are a growing number of artifacts and individuals. When I first drew the daily maps for Not The Slightest Chance I dreamed that one day they could be animated, but this goes way beyond that into potentially ground-breaking territory.
On a side note: On 3 August I posted a parcel at the Wyndham Street post office in the rain, then took Pottinger Street as a short cut to Queen’s Road. I didn’t make it. I slipped on the wet granite and suffered a trimalleor fracture of the left leg. I spent a total of eleven nights in hospital, which is why I wasn’t at any commemorative event this month, and also why this month’s blog will be shorter than normal. Hopefully I’ll be mobile again within two to three months. But it was interesting lying in Queen Mary Hospital, thinking of those (Boxer, Neve, Gordon, Wiseman and so forth) who had been there before me.
31 Today I was contacted by a medal collector with the biggest collection of Hong Kong Second World War medals I have heard of. Hopefully there will be more detail next month.
29 Kwong Chi Man and the Baptist University team today soft-launched their interactive map of the Battle of Hong Kong and it is well worth a look. The South China Morning Post article about it was also published today. 29 Henry Wong posted a very interesting note about HMAS Castlemaine: “Last remaining ship of Harcourt’s fleet, HMAS Castlemaine of the Australian 21st Minesweeping Flotilla is one of sixty Bathurst class Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth Government's wartime shipbuilding program. She and her sister ships was part of Rear Admiral Harcourt’s fleet which entered Victoria harbour on August 30, 1945. In fact, HMAS Castlemaine was one of the three minesweepers that cleared the Tathong Channel ahead of the British fleet entry of the harbour. During her stay in Hong Kong between September to October 1945, she has performed various duties including minesweeping, anti-piracy patrol as well as entertaining recent released POW from Stanley camp, at one point there were 22 Australian Minesweepers busy sweeping the Hong Kong and its adjacent area in September 1945. She left Hong Kong on October 14, 1945 and decommissioned in December 1945. Later on she served as a immobilized training vessel in Royal Australian Navy until 1973 and today preserved as a museum ship in Williamstown (suburb of Melbourne), she is the only remaining ship that entered Hong Kong on August 30, 1945.”
27 Today Kwong Chi Man came to our house (as I am not very mobile) together with a reporter and a photographer from the South China Morning Post, who Interviewed the two of us for around three hours (!) on the new Battle Map. 27 Dick Yielding notes that on a Facebook Site called Military Grave Restorer he found: “An article on Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clement Giles, Royal Marines who is interred at Storrington West Sussex. He was a Royal Marine and Pilot of Supermarine Walrus L2259”. In Hong Kong of course we know him as Major Giles, RM. Interesting to see a second post-war gravestone this month!
26 Big news! Yoshiko in Japan has now definitely identified the Fukken Maru as the ship that took the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. We have been searching for that name for many years. She notes of her findings: “This is the confidential order in the name of Japanese Governor General of Hong Kong Isoya (Isotani?) addressed to the Japanese Army in Hong Kong, the POW Camp in Hong Kong and the Military Police in Hong Kong on 1st September 1942, to command the 621 POWs embark onto the Fukken Maru which leaves Hong Kong for Japan on 4th September. And to transport them under guard, 1 officer (Lieutenant Tanaka), 2 non-commissioned officers, 1 Medical Orderly and 1 interpreter should board together. The second confidential letter attached to the above is the report on 5th September about the correction of numbers of the POWs transported to Japan is 616, not 621.”
25 I received an email today from the daughter of Wilfred ‘Willie’ Reed. He was the third of the seven sons of Amaro John Reed and Marie Rita Reed. As is well-known in Hong Kong, four of his brothers (Edgar, Arthur, Stephen and Francis) were killed during hostilities. She kindly sent me many family photos.
24 Iain Gow kindly sent me this clip from Scotland: “Recently work has been taking place to insert the name of a soldier who fell during WW2 onto the Cupar War Memorial. A proposal was submitted to Fife Council for a new name plate to be added to the existing pillar, approval was then sought from the War Memorial Trust and then the Listed Building and Historic Scotland for consent. The new name plate has now been inserted onto the 1939 pillar and a blank plate inserted onto the 1945 pillar to maintain symmetry. Once the work is completed the Branch hopes to hold a brief dedication service to honour a fallen comrade, always abiding by the families wishes. The individual concerned is, Private George Buglass, son of Peter and Margaret, was killed at the age of 27 while serving with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots in Hong Kong. He was a dairyman in Dalkeith before joining the Army at the age of 20, and after a year’s home service was a year in India before being sent to Hong Kong. It was reported locally at the time that Private Buglass was first reported missing in Hong Kong in January 1942, although his entry on the Sai Wan Memorial’s roll of honour gives his date of death as December 21, 1941.” In fact Buglass was lost on 21 December ‘between Sir Cecil’s Ride and Tai Hang Road’ and has no known grave. 24 Today I received an invitation from the Royal British Legion Committee to attend a small ceremony to open the History Research Room at the World War II Veterans Association clubhouse on 10 September 2021. I hope I can make it!
23 The Hongkong Standard carried an interesting story today about the Bonham Road Government Primary School pre-war building. Unfortunately the URL they used will not link from this site so I will type it in full: https://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking-news/section/4/179177/Shelters,-pendulum-among-historic-school's-charms
21 Bill Wood’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) daughter put a fine photo of her father on the FEPOW Family page.
20 Walter Copeland Hodgkinson’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “He was shipped out to Hong Kong in December 1938 as a hospital cook in the R.A.M.C. He was captured at St Albert’s Convent on 23 December 1941.” 20 Kevin Carr posted a photo of Rifleman Murray Carr’s grave in Sussex, Canada (illustrated). I’ve often thought it would be a very interesting project to find when and where each of the survivors of the battle ended their days. Phil Doddridge noted “I remember Murray well. We were both in D Company, and associated somewhat after the War. A good friend. We lived in the same hut in Sham Shui Po. The good natured banter between him and another POW amused everyone.” 20 Tai Wong kindly shared this coloured version of the well-known Japanese film of the invasion of Hong Kong.
18 BAAG Agent ‘Domus’, Wing-Hong Kwan (1908-1973), family got back in touch. They note: “He was an architect… He is also known as actress Nancy Kwan’s father”.
17 Stephen Hutcheon posted a good photo of Alec Greaves in his BAAG uniform, which Stephen still has. It may be the only complete ‘ordinary’ BAAG uniform in existence today.
16 I had a very welcome enquiry from Yokohama today. Some Japanese historians are attempting to find the name of the Japanese vessel that took the first ex-HK POWs to Japan. Regular readers may recall that earlier researcher Greg Michno had named this ship ‘Maru Shi’ (Japanese for ‘fourth ship’, meaning simply that it was the fourth of eight ships that he could not identify). Unfortunately many veterans and their families read his book (Death On The Hellships) and thought it was the real name, causing confusion ever since. Lieutenant Jim Ford, Royal Scots, once told me that it was called the Fukyu Maru, but I assumed he was joking. Let’s hope they are successful.
14 I heard from Philip Cracknell today that Osler Thomas’s widow Lily had passed away earlier this month. Osler was of course a medical student who joined the HKVDC Field Ambulance and was left for dead at the Salesian Massacre. Later he escaped to China, rejoined British lines at BAAG HQ and then served in Force 136.
13 “George Best” noted on facebook: “Photo from a buddy obtained in the late 70s from a government museum in Star House. It showed captured Indian and British soldiers in Kowloon dated 21-12-1941. Maryknoll Convent School and St Teresa’s Church appeared in the photo. Sister Cecilia Marie Carvalho (Portuguese) wrote in a book (titled The Diaries of The Maryknoll Sisters In Hong Kong - page 123 to page 125) vividly about how the allied POWs and Japanese soldiers behaved in the school. After they left, all the goldfish were gone, so she presumed that in their hunger they had eaten them.” He also posted a large number of interesting photos of Shamshuipo and several good clippings from the South China Morning Post over the years, including one about Wilfred Bashford, RAOC, who was inspecting a damaged Bofors when he took shelter in the Hong Kong Club and ‘liberated’ some cutlery!
8 Ho Lam Yiu very kindly took the time to explain that my Martini-Henry bullet (see last month) is no such thing! He has found similar bullets to mine at the same location and notes that: “they weighed about 250 grains each (250.9 and 247.8 grains respectively), while Martini-Henry bullets weigh in excess of 400 grains… I believe the best fit, given what we know about the history of the place, would be .455 Webley revolver ammunition (specifically, Powder Mk. I or Cordite Mk. I or II). Not only does the weight fit the two bullets I found (265 grains), but a picture of a sectioned cartridge also shows a closer fit in both length of bullet and size of base hollow, on the left of the fourth picture.”
7 Janet Sykes gave me the good news that she has put her father’s memoirs online for free viewing here. They make a full-length book which I helped edit. Well worth a look for anyone deeply interested in the POW experiences of senior NCOs. Her father was CQMS Leonard Sykes, Field Engineers, HKVDC and his memoir is called “The Waterless Days are Here”.
4 Well, that was fun. Yesterday I slipped on the wet granite steps of Pottinger Street and managed to break my left ankle in three places. Two operations later, I am now the proud owner of several strips of metal, and rather more long steel screws, holding that leg together. The prognosis is that I should hopefully be able to start putting some weight on it again within two months. Till then, once I get out of hospital I’m home bound (as we live on a hill surrounded by ramps and steps, none of which can be managed on one leg!)
2 Pavel Krejci (researching into Czechs who fought in the battle of Hong Kong. See last month), has: “identified Rudolf Hoselitz who is not listed in the papers (at least I did not see him there) but you have him on your website. This guy is apparently of Jewish origin and born in Slovakia in 1883. You can find more details about Rudolf here.” He has also now identified all nine Czechs who were in the HKVDC, namely: Břežný, Pospíšil, Krofta, Jiříček, Tomeš, Staněk, Tauzs, Wolosh, and Hoselitz. 2 My two new books, A Weekend to Pack and My Beautiful Island, arrived today. Both are unique. The former is all about the evacuee experience (of the family of George Bearman, HKDDC, who would die as a POW), and the latter is about a mother and son’s survival after the husband and father (John Potter, 1 Coy HKVDC) was killed in the battle.
Ben Thompson in Japan (courtesy Susan Crawford), Gorman and colleague (via Brian Finch), Geoff Clarke (courtesy Anthony Clarke)
Stanley from The Twins (author), Japanese map of Wanchai Gap (via facebook), HK under fire (via Jonathan Ho)
Japanese recce of North Face (courtesy Sven Erik Jørgensen), Baptista medal group (courtesy Peter Campos), Ricci Hall HKVDC memorial (courtsey Ricci Hall, HKU)
I recall as a young man being utterly terrified of public speaking. That’s not unusual, but I had that fear in spades. Then, after I moved to Hong Kong more than thirty years ago, I found a job which – in part – required me to teach technical skills. I became interested in the science of that, and then became more confident, and within ten or so years was running PR (among other things) for the APAC arm of a large multinational. I did my hostile media training with Channel 9 in Australia and started teaching presentation skills myself. I did live TV and spoke on big stages in front of thousands, feeling very pleased with how far I had come until I overheard someone saying: “Oh, him. He’s too polished to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t trust anything he said.” I realised then that I had to unlearn all my PR smarts, and try to return to authenticity (if you can fake that, as the comedians say, you’re made!) So when Craig McCourry invited me to speak on camera in the middle of the month (see the 20th) I was very happy to get back into practice, it being my first opportunity to do so since shooting ‘My Grandfather’s War’ with Sir Mark Rylance two years ago.
30 ADFA contacted me today, kindly passing on an email they had received for me from a relative of Gilbert Alexander Harriman, HKRNVR, who had read by PhD thesis online.
29 I received an email from a Czech PhD student at HKU researching Czech members of the 1941 HK garrison. I list these four men as being in 2 (Scottish Coy HKVDC): Ladislav Břežný, Alois Jiříček, Jaroslav Krofta, Alois Pospíšil – with thanks to my correspondent for correcting the accents! He notes that there is an online article here (in Czech), which he roughly translates as: “Krofta arrived in Hong Kong in 1934 and since then he worked as a manager in the Baťa company. In 1938, Krofta founded the Czech Club (Český kroužek) of expats living in Hong Kong. The Club had 30 men and women. In 1938, these Czech citizens protested against the Munich Agreement and 12 of them volunteered for service in the British Army. All these 12 Czech citizens were accepted for the service. Seven of these 12 Czechs were assigned to the HKVDC, the rest to other units (the article mentions anti-aircraft guns and guarding units). When Hong Kong was attacked, the defenders were pushed back to Hong Kong Island. The article says that Alois Pospíšil died on 24 December 1941. He was 23 years old. The article also mentions another Czech who died when guarding the local power plant (no other details included). Jaroslav Krofta miraculously survived a direct hit of his shelter, only lightly wounded, while two of his comrades in the shelter died (the article does not say if these two comrades were Czechs or not). After the capitulation of Hong Kong, Krofta was taken prisoner and went through North Point Refugee Camp and Sham Shui Po Camp. Then the article describes Krofta’s life in these camps and says that he survived and returned to Czechoslovakia”
27 Anthony Clarke posted a photo on the FEPOW Family page: “Taken in Hong Kong between late 1938 and the invasion Christmas 1941. My uncle Geoff Clarke is on the front row far left wearing a hat. It says on the back: D. I. S. Staff Supply Depot.” Private Geoffrey Clarke, RASC, was on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, and unfortunately passed away 29 October 1942 at Tokyo Main Camp Shinagawa of blood poisoning. With the renumbering of the Army in 1920, RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), [Horse Transport], M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). Clarke was in Supplies, and I would have expected it to be Director Of Supplies (DOS), but I could be wrong. 27 Ricci Hall of HKU have created a very nice poster of the six lads they lost in the HKVDC in the Battle of Hong Kong. 27 Not exactly World War II related, but I was delighted to see no fewer than fourteen pigs (three sows and eleven piglets) near The Peak this morning. It looks like the Hong Kong government’s effort to spay the majority of sows didn’t exactly work.
26 Peter Campos sent a photo of his great uncle’s (CSM Naneli Baptista, HKVDC) medals asking for their identification. I know very little about this so sent the photo to Steve Verralls who kindly replied: “MBE (post war); 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals, 1935 Jubilee Medal and Territorial Efficiency Medal (HK) with 3 long service clasps”. 26 A researcher has been asking for information regarding “Mr. Lo Tung Fan - son of a solicitor’s interpreter who formed a HK special constabulary in 1941, engaging in intelligence activities against the Japanese, caught in 1942 and subsequently executed.” Elizabeth Ride has kindly provided some details. Her website continues to be updated, with new entries visible here.
20 Today Craig McCourry, to whom I recently gave some minor assistance for his new film ‘Battlebox’, invited me to be interviewed on camera about Hong Kong’s Second World War experience and my thoughts on history in general. It was a lot of fun – despite being soaked on the way there by a passing typhoon, and again on the way back! 20 As many regular readers of this site will be aware, for several years now a Chinese documentary team has been doing serious research for a film about the Lisbon Maru. When Covid hit they naturally went a bit quiet, so this week I asked them whether – bearing in mind the unfortunate cooling of international relationships – they still intended to finish their work. They replied: “Yes, although having been delayed by many factors for quite some time, this documentary will still go ahead. We don’t think the current political ‘arguments’ will affect our film, but we do need more time in the post-production stage to put things together. Thank you for your consistent efforts in helping us. I think we all need more patience at this point.”
19 Susan Crawford on the FEPOW Family facebook page, posted then and now photos of her father, Ben Thompson, RASC, who is still with us and has just celebrated his one hundredth birthday! Every time a ‘new’ ex-HK POW turns up I am amazed and declare him to be the last who we will ‘find’, and then another one shows up. In this case, uniquely, Thompson has his own rather good blog! 19 Stacey’s famous history of the Canadian army, including Hong Kong, is now available online here.
16 Sven Erik Jørgensen sent me a very interesting email. He notes: “I am the editor of Dykkehistorisk Tidsskrift published by Historical Diving Society, Denmark. The attached picture is from the book ‘Die Wekrmacht – Das Buch de Krieges 1941/42’ page 82. The German text for the picture says: ‘The swimmers from Hong Kong’ who in the strait between Hong Kong and the mainland neutralized enemy mines to pave the way for Japanese landing crafts.” The garish illustration purports to show the Japanese pioneers, led by an Olympic swimmer, who checked and cleared the landing areas on Hong Kong Island before the invasion of December 18. I showed him the passage from Eastern Fortress (by old friends Rusty Tsoi and Kwong Chi Man) which explains that this raid had indeed been planned by the Japanese, but was cancelled when the swimmers were hit by British shells.
14 The Java FEPOW Club published their latest newsletter today. Interestingly it referred to the War Illustrated Magazine, which had at least one Hong Kong article here.
13 Craig McCourry has created a new video of military historian (and ex gunner, and ex martial arts movie star!) Bill Lake talking about the Battle of Hong Kong. 13 It looks like the Grenville Alabaster book is just about ready to go. We have a cover photo, and the three of us involved in putting it together have signed the contract. (No, I’m afraid that doesn’t imply we will make any money! It’s just a legal agreement.)
12 Walking past the High West rifle range (the butts end) this morning, I looked down and saw a large pure lead hollow based bullet lying in the mud. I recognized it as a Martini-Henry bullet (illustrated) of the Victorian era (in British service from 1871 to 1889), and the first non-.303 bullet I have found there. 12 Brian Finch kindly sent some good photos of Thomas Henry Gorman (Royal Naval Yard Police, Lisbon Maru). Gorman returned to Hong Kong after the war and ended heading up the RNYP as Chief Inspector. I looked up my correspondence with the family from 15 or so years ago and noted that they had said: “he gave a gold ring to the Chinese fisherman who saved his life but he thinks the Japs took it off him.” I immediately thought (as did Brian when I told him this) of the deputation from the Zhoushan islands that visited us in Hong Kong in 2005, bringing a monogrammed gold ring that they said had been given to a villager by a rescued POW. At the time I did some basic research and discovered that it was a 9-carat ring made at Chester, England, in the year 1912 by the goldsmiths ‘J.N.W.’ I found a photo of an identical ring made around 20 years earlier, so they were probably quite common. However, the monogram looked like FG. Perhaps it really is TG?
9Phil Cracknell has published a new blog: “This is a brief analysis of the F2 Gun at Mount Davis, its underground magazine and hoist system and an exploration of the layout of the underground bunker which contained the Fortress Plotting Room and HQ for Western Fire Command at Mount Davis. Click the link to read the story.” 9 On facebook someone added this useful link to Hong Kong 1945 images on Wikimedia. Most are well-known, but it’s still a convenient collection.
8 I was sorry to learn today that John Lawson, Brigadier Lawson’s son, passed away on Saturday. We had corresponded for many years, and I met his daughter in Hong Kong not too long ago. 8 Today I did one of my regular but infrequent (perhaps three or four times a year) longer walks, from Mid-Levels around the hills to Stanley for lunch. That last view of Stanley from The Twins before taking the steps down is almost map-like and gives a good impression of the peninsular as it was during the war. 8 Jonathan Ho posted an American photo of Hong Kong under air attack. I have seen it before, but the resolution seems better this time. A few days earlier someone (I regret to say that I didn’t note who) posted a Japanese battle map of the Wanchai Gap area. This one is particularly interesting for me as I have passed through that area on foot many hundreds of times.
7 I was quite surprised to hear that Bill Anderson of the HKVDC has just passed away. I have his book about NCR, and for some reason incorrectly thought he had passed away a while back.
4Today I received an unexpected but very welcome email from Portugal: “My name is António Fragoeiro and I hope everything is well with you. We are investigating the ‘Portuguese HKVDC forces’ during world war two, and would like to inform you that your website has been one of our most important sources of information, therefore we will be using some of your data, if you don’t mind. We will be placing and credit your name, work as ‘source material’ and a direct link to your website. This is our website.” I must admit that I tend to think of the Macanese as being almost their own unique nationality (nossa gente), being a mix of Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and all other areas that the home country had colonised. But it is still good to see them being remembered like this in the mother country.
2 Brian Edgar notes (see last month): “One of the former Lunghua internees who supported Mr. Hiyashi was the father of the novelist J. G. Ballard, who flew to Hong Kong from Shanghai to help him. Ballard claims that his father actually testified in his defence and he was ‘justly’ acquitted, but your new evidence suggest this was a mistake. I lectured on Ballard's Lunghua novel Empire of the Sun at a couple of Open University Summer Schools in the 1990s, and after one of them I spent the rest of the evening talking to two women who had been in Lunghua. Some former internees had obviously kept in touch with Mr. Hiyashi as they told me how hurt he had been by the portrayal of the camp in Ballard’s novel (1984). They spoke very highly of Mr. Hiyashi and thought his reaction was completely justified.”
1 Steve Verralls was kind enough to let me know that: “the medals of the following Officer are up for sale at GBP650... 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals in box of issue with issue and condolence slips. 38495 Major Leighton William David Walker, Second in Command of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots who was killed in action on the 1st of October 1942 whilst a Prisoner of War on board the Japanese Troopship Lisbon Maru. Apparently he took over as 2 i/c when the previous committed suicide.” Royal Scot Dennis Morley told me that he had seen Walker on deck, giving his life jacket away. I mention it in the book, but for some reason didn’t attribute it to Dennis. ’The Lasting Honour’ includes the same detail. Walker took over after Major Burn shot himself on Conduit Road, apparently as a result of finding himself unable to prevent the rout in the New Territories. The medals of another Lisbon Maru survivor, Able Seaman Victor Vulcan Stainer, were also sold.