Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation. This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: email@example.com
Tin Hats and Rice (author), "Monkey's" Court medals (courtesy Fiona Crabbe), Gowland Family (courtesy the late Janis Hollis)
Grayburn grave (courtesy Sandy Wynd), Ohashi POWs (courtesy Mark Clayton), First draft sample Index card (courtesy Steve Denton)
Lisbon Maru (survived) index card, Lisbon Maru (died) index card, Third Draft index card (all via Steve Denton)
There are not enough hours in the day. Sometimes my own projects (Hong Kong civilian deaths during the war, BAAG and irregular forces, POW diaries, awards and decorations, etc.) seem permanently put on hold as I help other researchers and give as much assistance as possible to the Lisbon Maru documentary! The latter is going well. Several hundred families of those on board are in touch, and the next steps are (hopefully): A second shooting trip to the UK (early September), An investigative trip to Japan (early October), Meeting with survivor William Beningfield in Canada (mid-October), A third large-scale interview in the UK (late October), A trip to the US (in early November), Filming in Zhoushan, including underwater shooting of the wreck (in late November), A trip to Australia and New Zealand (to be confirmed). Meanwhile, the director is storyboarding the entire documentary, starting the preparation of the film reenactment part (script, art direction, creating the ship model, studying costume props, casting, and so on), hopefully finishing this part before the first half of 2019. In the second half they will focus on editing, music, colour matching, dubbing etc. If all goes well it will premiere in London in late October 2020, but let’s see.
30 I heard today that Janis Hollis (daughter of Cuthbert Gowland, HKVDC) had passed away on the fifteenth. She gave me a great deal of help in writing Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, and the hard times she experienced during the war often made me realize how lucky I (and many of my generation) have been in comparison. I dug out a photo that Janis had sent me of the family. Her father is at the back, and she is far right at front. 30 My copy of Barbara Anslow’s book was waiting for me when I returned from San Francisco. I’ve actually had an indexed copy of her diary since she sent one to me at least ten years ago, but it’s still very nice to see it in book form. I believe David Bellis of Gwulo deserves a lot of the credit for facilitating its publication.
27Sandy Wynd kindly sent me a photo of Vandeleur Grayburn’s grave taken recently. He notes: “It was the 75th anniversary of Grayburn’s death last week and in line with every year HSBC places flowers on his grave. I took this photo on Saturday and they were already wilting under the sun.” 27 For many years I have wanted to track down the family of Lieutenant Colonel ‘Monkey’ Stewart of the Middlesex, who not only commanded (arguably) the most professional force in Hong Kong’s wartime garrison, but also masterminded the epic defence of Wanchai, but was then the senior officer on the Lisbon Maru – passing away just days after reaching Japan. Today – thanks to Brian Finch’s sterling work – his granddaughter sent me a file full of photos and information. There’s a lot to process, but one image was of his Court medals (from both wars). The family also have the originals of his WWII medals, but not the WWI ones. Most likely these were either lost in Hong Kong or went down on the Lisbon Maru, but I thought I should check and see if anyone has ever heard anything about them?
26 Thomas nelson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
25 Mark Clayton posted a photo of POWs at Ohashi (Sendai #4 Branch Camp) at liberation. It looks to me to be George MacDonnel top row fourth from left, and it’s Richard Keays is in the second row from the front, sitting third from the right.
25 Having fielded lots of questions about Hong Kong POW Index Cards I thought it might be useful to post examples of four of the most common, relating to the first three drafts.
24 Today I met with Joseph Gregory S.Y. YU, a D.Phil Student at the University of Oxford who is studying non-governmental museums, with a particular interest in St Stephen’s College’s Heritage Gallery. His alma mater is Queen’s College, a number of whose teachers served during the war or were interned in Stanley. I’ll help research them properly when I have a moment. 24 Someone kindly pointed to a Leonard Birchall video on YouTube. While the link between ‘The Saviour of Ceylon’ and Hong Kong may not be obvious, he was an officer in Tokyo #3B, to which many of Hong Kong’s ‘hard men’ (the tough first draft) were taken. From We Shall Suffer There: James Ford: “September 15: Disembarked Yokohama. Capt. Otway, R.E., Lieut. Price, R.A.M.C., myself and some 200 men posted to Stadium Camp (originally Camp 2, later Camp 3B, Tokyo Area) in which we found Squadron Leader Birchall and W.O. Onyette, both of the R.C.A.F., and about half-a-dozen men, all of whom had come from Ofuna that same day. About a month later, Capt. Kauffman, U.S.M.C., and 72 Americans arrived from the P. I.” Leonard Birchall recalled: “Then, suddenly, in came this great big influx of these guys who had been on these hell ships coming up from Hong Kong, and starved and beaten and what‑not as well. But just full of hate. Not just [towards] the officers, but the Japanese, everybody ‑‑ they were still fighting. God! These officers ‑‑ Cecil Otway from the Royal Engineers and Jimmy Ford from the Royal Scots ‑‑ they got me on the side and said, they told me, they said, ‘If you go out there, if you say the wrong thing, you’ll be out behind the sheds and dead inside of 5 minutes. We tell you now.’ And they meant it. I knew, after I met them, after I stood up in front of these guys, that it was true. I said [to myself], ‘You’re going to have to fight like a hawk to get these guys to have any respect for anything. There’s no way of enforcing discipline – you’re in real trouble.’ So I had to go out, and we had the food dished out. It was the first food they’d had in I don’t know how long. It was just a bowl of rice and some soup. We said, ‘All right, you guys dish the soup and the rice out. Here are the officers’ bowls.’ There were six of us. I said, ‘Here are six bowls. You guys put the food in, divy it out as you can, and we’re not going to touch it; you go ahead and do it ‑‑ our bowls are there. Now, anybody thinks that we got more than you did, you change it. We’re not going to touch ours until everybody has been served and is happy. We’re going to do this every meal from here on out.’ ” 24 Ron Taylor (HK) was kind enough to let me know that Alexander ‘Shura’ Shivarg has passed away. He was a White Russian from Harbin, who fought in the HKVDC and became a POW in BMH Borrett Road and North Point. After the war, he was given a British Passport and settled in the UK where he opened a popular northern Chinese restaurant in Knightsbridge, the Good Earth. He was married to Joan Wyndham, the famous author, and lived in Chelsea, where they were both members of the Chelsea Arts Club.
22I received this query from a fellow researcher: “I am looking for information on a member of the British Armed Forces by the surname of Wilson who either died in HK, was MIA, or maybe was taken POW and died elsewhere. The only other information I have is that he had an Irish wife from Kilmihil County Clare and a small daughter. They were in Australia during the war, presumably evacuated.” I can’t find anyone in my evacuation records who fits this. Can anyone help? 22 Barbara Anslow’s book is available! Tin Hats and Rice can be purchased here.
20Very welcome news today from Chris Harley, that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is seriously considering Mrs Jessie Holland’s case (see January). I have provided two more documents that they requested. As she was a serving member of the ANS I am hopeful that her current unnamed headstone in the Colonial Cemetery (now called the Hong Kong Cemetery) will be replaced with a standard CWGC stone. 20 Frank Charles Hinge’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. 20 I asked Ron Taylor (HK) about the location of HKVDC service records (see the fifteenth). He kindly replied: “All HKVDC records were lost during the occupation and after the war many were recreated by WO2 Rakusen of the Pay Section so that HKVDC members could be paid correctly. I don’t know to what extent these records went as I never saw any of them. In the 1970s (I think) the Headquarters at Happy Valley was flooded and some of the records were damaged; again I am not aware of the extent. All personal records of HKVDC members and members of the subsequent formations (HKDF, RHKR(V) etc) were all sent to the UK prior to the handover in 1997. I believe that they went to a disused RAF hanger (Hendon or Hayes, Middlesex if I recall). I heard that while there some were again damaged by water! It seems that no one really regarded them as important so never took any simple protective measures! My recollection is that when the Army decided that it needed to centralise their records of past members, the HKVDC records were sent to the main storage depot somewhere in Derbyshire! When seeking the record for a past HKVDC member (which I never obtained) I was told that this depot comes under Kentigern House, Glasgow from where I had directed my enquiry; they say what box they need for the record of interest and the next day the box arrives in Glasgow. Presumably it is sent back as soon as the relevant record has been copied. This struck me as typically bureaucratic procedure and no doubt was thought up by a civil servant as a cost saving measure! My last communication was that the HKVDC record which I had sought was not in the box which it should have been. As far as I can understand Glasgow closed the file at this stage! It would thus appear that the HKVDC and quite possibly the RHKR(V) records are in a mess, and no one seems inclined to spend time and resources to try and sort them out.”
19Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Harry Mace (RA, Lisbon Maru) as a youngster wearing Sea Scouts uniform (illustrated). 19 Wilfred Drew’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending photos.
18Ron Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of George William Hutchinson (RN, Lisbon Maru).
17Ming let me know today that Fang Li will shortly be advertising in Japan for anyone with knowledge of the Japanese side of the Lisbon Maru story, and in the US for anyone with connections with the USS Grouper. I emailed my old contacts (family of Garfield Kvalheim who helped me write the book), but have still not found his children.
15 The gentleman who thought he had the medal group to Major Victor Cecil Branson (see last month) has now concluded that in fact the recipient was Lieutenant Colonel Reginald David Walker OBE, MC, ED. He is seeking his HKVDC records, but I will need to take advice about that.
10 Another typically top quality blog from Philip Cracknell, this time featuring Douglas Baird of the Royal Scots (and also Lisbon Maru). 10 Thomas Baker’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) got in touch via Ronnie Taylor in the UK. 10 Arthur Basto’s (HKVDC) son-in-law got in touch.
9 Colin Standish let me know that he had finally – after searching for six months – found the transcript of the Valour and the Horror’s interview with his grandfather CQMS Colin Standish, DCM, Royal Rifles of Canada. He was kind enough to send me a copy. Regular readers would know that I am not a fan of ‘historians’ who try to sell through making their works as controversial as possible – and the V and the H fall firmly into that category. However, the interview was a fascinating read.
8 I was contacted by the Air Historical Branch and sent them my annotated list of RAF personnel in Hong Kong during the war.
7Brian Finch, via the family, sent a number of interesting photos of Jim Fallace who escaped from the Lisbon Maru. Ming, who is the director of the documentary, translated the words on one of the photo thus: "On the 31st National Day of the Republic of China, Mr. Johnstone, Mr. Evans, Mr. Fallace, was rescued by the Chinese Allies from the East China Sea in Dinghai, they are out of danger. Take a photo to memorize it. Wang Jineng, director of the garrison of the Dinghai County, Zhejiang Province October 14, the 31st year of Republic of China 1942.”
6 With all the focus on the Lisbon Maru at the moment it’s important to also remember the Volunteers, the Indian army, and the Canadians (none of whom were on this draft). For the latter, I hear that as of this writing there are just eleven C Force Veterans still with us. One Brigade HQ, Horace Gerard, one Winnipeg Grenadier, George Peterson, and nine Royal Rifles of Canada: Phil Doddridge, George MacDonnel, Fred Cooper, William MacWhirter, Ralph MacLean, Doug Rees, and three others. 6 Philip Cracknell kindly sent me a photo (via the family) of Captain Kenneth Allanson who was on the Lisbon Maru. He has written another of his excellent blogs about him.
5 The Lisbon Maru documentary has soaked up most of my spare time this month. The two open searches are for anyone on the Japanese side who might have family connections with those in the Imperial Japanese Navy who witnessed the end of the vessel, and for any family members of the USS Grouper’s (SS214) crew. When I wrote The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru I was very lucky in finding Garfield Kvalheim from that boat (and his lovely wife Fran) but I never contacted any other crew members. Does anyone else have any knowledge of them? 5 I had an interesting discussion with Philip Cracknell about Hong Kong’s batteries. The three medium batteries in HK 3rd, 4th and 25th each had a troop of four 6-inch in two sections, but one battery would normally have two troops of four guns each. Why were Hong Kong’s batteries under strength? And what exactly is the definition of a ‘heavy’ battery?
3This is a little unusual. It appears to be a British 9.2 inch shell accidentally moved from one part of Hong Kong to another as a ‘natural’ part of land reclamation!
2 Author and historian Dr Bernice Archer contacted me to see if I would be interested in speaking at the 2020 RFHG Conference. I’m certainly interested (I spoke at the 2008 and 2010 conferences – though I can’t see the latter mentioned on their website), but it’s a little far out for me to be certain I’m free from other commitments at that time.
August 1st, 2018 Update
More Lisbon Maru photos (via author), Umbrella seat (courtesy Elizabeth Ride), Birthday card (courtesy Luba Estes)
Dixon card (courtesy Patricia O'Sullivan), Eighth Army Letter and full New Osaka Hotel list (both courtesy Brian Watmore)
This summer (and this is why the July update is a little late) I have spent six solid weeks traveling, first on business and then holiday – twenty-two airports later I’m home. At the end of the holiday we spent a few days on Malta. It’s a fascinating comparison. Both Hong Kong and Malta are small, hot, islands (the former more dry and Mediterranean in style, compared to Hong Kong’s verdant humidity), but both saw war in very different ways. But Malta is preserved in time; those buildings totally destroyed have been replaced with modern equivalents but all old wars bear scars. Hong Kong maintains physical scars too – but in contrast they are only visible for those who know exactly where to look.
31Alan Bayram’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch, kindly sending a number of photos. Bayram was one of the ex-POWs who volunteered to stay behind in Japan after liberation to assist the American forces in administering the evacuation of the others. They all stayed at the New Osaka Hotel. I had spoken to one other of this group (Charles Jordan, RA) before, but these photos included a letter of thanks from the US Forces, and a full list of the volunteers – neither of which I had previously seen. 31 Keith Grant (see April) kindly sent me a photo of Stanley internees Archie McAlpine, Elizabeth McAlpine. Annie Thomson (nee Organ) and Archie Thomson.
30Harold Bater’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great grandson got in touch. 30 Harry Howard’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) great granddaughter got in touch. 30 Barbara Anslow let me know that her book (a published version of her war time diary) is now ready for pre-order here.
25 Sandy Wynd points out that Major Shields’ grave in Stanley Cemetery (he died in Stanley camp aged 62) bears the incorrect age of 45. I think this must be one of those cases of the number slowly morphing over the years of being repainted.
24 Philip Cracknell has posted a new blog about the pre-war building 23 Coombe Road. 24 Today, my birthday, I saw a very kind card from Luba Estes on the battle of Hong Kong facebook page! 24 Martin Heyes notes that he gave a tour to Margaret Whyte (the niece of William Stirton McHardy, who was a HK Police Sergeant in charge of Cheung Chau at the time of the Japanese invasion of HK). Bill was interned in Stanley and Margaret has fond memories of her favourite uncle and his wife, Mona. Mona spent the war in Australia, having been evacuated in 1940. Martin also passed me a soft copy of the Hong Kong Government’s official Stanley list.
23Robin Fabel had earlier contacted me asking for suggestions of where to lodge his father's (Fred Fabel, Royal Army Educational Corps) POW Hong Kong and Japan papers. I suggested they might well find a home in his regimental museum. He has now let me know that there is no RAEC museum as such, but the Museum of the Adjutant General's Corps has welcomed them.
21 Steve Denton was kind enough to show me that Major John Vickers, Royal Corps of Signals (who is in my lists with a question mark) was not actually in the Hong Kong garrison. I suspect he died in Taiwan and was simply reinterred here.
20Brian Finch has been doing a great job, constantly sending me questionnaires and photos resulting from the Lisbon Maru advertisements in the Telegraph, Times, Spectator, and other publications. I’m not even trying to count them at the moment, but will do so when the flow slows down a bit. My feeling is that we have amassed at least 160 photos now.
19Gonville Jones’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 19 The HKVCA have a very nice tradition of posting ‘individual reports’ on facebook of members of C Force. Today they included a very nice colourised photo of Ferdinand Poitras (illustrated).
18 Chris Bilham, hearing of my studies of Hong Kong’s awards and decorations, notes that he has four medal groups to sailors who took part in the defence of Hong Kong: E.T.A. Davis, CERA HMS Tern (and Lisbon Maru survivor), A.J. Selman, A/P.O. HMS Tamar, KIA 25.12.1941, A.L. Downey, AB MTB 09 who escaped with Chan Chak, and F.W. Mitchell, Lt Cdr, HMS Robin. He also formerly had the medals of Lieutenant Scott-Lindsley (but sold them before discovering that his diary and sketches are in the RN Museum) and for the liberation has the DSO of V. McLaughlin RN, Captain of HMS Swiftsure.
17Fred Cowley’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch.
15Martin Heyes notes that he has recently helped Audun Urke write a paper on Norwegian sailors during the battle for HK and the subsequent Occupation. 15 Edmund Hutton’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch, kindly sending a photo. 15 The Telegraph ran a Lisbon Maru story today. 15 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me an old photo of the Umbrella Seat at the corner of Mount Austin Road on the Peak. While not strictly World War Two related, the structure obviously predates the war and I pass it every Sunday when I walk to High West and the Peak.
14 Today the BBC released their new Lisbon Maru story, which included a photo of one of Gong Li’s scans of the ship where it currently lies. 14 Robert Chilcraft’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 14 Jack Green’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) daughter in law got in touch, kindly sending letters and photos.
13The BBC contacted me asking if there were any other known survivors from the Lisbon Maru still around aside from Dennis Morley (Royal Scots). I mentioned William Beningfield (Middlesex), who is the only other one I am currently aware of.
11 A researcher has found a group of unattributed miniature medals with a Territorial efficiency decoration bearing a clasp for Hong Kong, and an M.B.E. & M.C. plus campaign medals including a Pacific Star and a G.S.M. bearing a clasp for South East Asia 1945-46. He is still researching, but believes this may have been the group to Major Victor Cecil Branson, HKVDC.
8Here is the link to the extract from Mary Monro's Stranger In My Heart, published in the Post Magazine today.
7James Burns’ (Royal Scots) and Tommy Burns’ (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) great nephew got in touch, kindly sending photos and newspaper reports. 7 The Daily Express notes that Sidney Charles medals are for sale (showing a photograph of him which was given to me by his family, and presumably simply lifted from my website).
6 Lieutenant Colonel Fred Field’s (RA) grandsons got in touch, kindly sending his account of the battle and a number of images, including a show program for ‘Nuts & Mayhem’. I have been collecting as many of these camp entertainment programs as I can, but this one was new to me. I believe another photo is unique: it shows a row of RA officers taken at the HKSRA Centenary celebrations September 1941. From left to right: Ian McGregor ADC, Mrs Macleod, Major General Maltby, Jack Yale, Brigadier Macleod, Webb Temple, and standing, Field, Tony Atkinson and Geoff Proes. Yale and Temple would be killed at Wong Nai Chung Gap in December.
4Steve Denton kindly sent me a set of Canadian War crime affidavits, many referring to the executions of local Chinese civilians witnessed from the camps.
1 I heard from Patricia O’Sullivan who has been looking at the CO 1070 card collection at TNA. She found a card for Henry Dixon, an Irish-Portuguese, born in 1865 the son of the first Inspector of the naval Dockyard police. However, it states that he was out of camp and ‘Under camp diet and doing camp duties every day’. I’ve never seen that before. Anyone know what it means?
July 1st, 2018 Update
Final Lisbon Maru advertisement, and placing in The Telegraph (courtesy Ming Fan), the First 100 (author)
Donald Furzer (courtesy Andrew Furzer), James Gow (courtesy Iain Gow), Ken Hodkinson (courtesy Jean Clements)
Jessie Rachel Taylor (courtesy Fiona Tuck), book signing (courtesy Mary Munro), Bell diary page (author)
Obviously the big news of the month is Laurel Films and their serious initiative to film a comprehensive Lisbon Maru documentary. For the last year I’ve been hearing about their work (and all positive), but this month I took a day off as they were in Hong Kong and spent it with them. They seem to have the hoped for combination of finance, competence, and passion. After all these years I think it might actually happen! I have now reached out to all the Lisbon Maru families I have spoken to over the years (something over 200) to see what we can pull together. One thing the team would love to do is trace the family of the ship’s master, Kyoda Shigeru. I have tried all the avenues I can think of both here and in Japan but without success.
Note: Extensive travel for the next three months may result in site updates for August to October being a few days late. Of note, the October edition will celebrate 15 years of this blog being published in this format, which will make this site one of the oldest continuously published monthly blogs in the world.
30 A number of Lisbon Maru families I contacted sent me ‘new’ photos of men on board, and I decided to feature three of the best on this page. At this point I have amassed 151 photographs of those on board.
28Andrew Furzer kindly sent me a link to an IWM recording of George Bainborough speaking about his wartime experiences, including the Lisbon Maru.
26Ravi Scout notes that the: “SCMP recently published an article titled ‘French navy memorial in Hong Kong for five sailors who died in great typhoon of 1906 gets overdue restoration’, about a heritage monument which is presently located within Hong Kong Cemetery: the ‘La Fronde’ obelisk. The Consulate General of France is organising a ceremony to unveil the renovated memorial at Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley. The event is at 11AM on 05 July 2018.” While not of course a Second World War monument, readers may still be interested.
25 Derek Hill’s (RA) son got in touch. He notes: “He was selected for transportation to mainland Japan on the Lisbon Maru and was placed on board. Shortly before departure however, he and three others were diagnosed with diphtheria, taken off the boat for fear of bringing disease into Japan, and returned to the camp. Good fortune comes in many guises.”
23 Long-time correspondent TK Wong notes that he: “just finished reading a book titled Double Threat by Ellin Bessner, 2018 New Jewish Press. She encompasses 17,000 Jewish Canadian soldiers who fought in WW2. A chapter is on HK and has 13 pages. It vividly describes the ten following soldiers. Lt. David Golden (WG-POW), Private Max Berger (KIA-the Ridge), Sgt. Robert Macklin (died in Shamshuipo, 22-12-42), David Schrage (WG, died on Awatea on way to HK), Hymie Greenberg (Signal Corp-KIA 19-12, Wanchai Gap), William Allister (Signal Corp-POW), Sgt. George Harrison (WG-POW), Jacob Rose (Signal Corp-POW), Louis Brown (RR-POW), and Frederick Zaidman (WG-POW). It is great to see more thematic books on the battle.” 23 The first Lisbon Maru documentary advertisement appeared today, on the back page of the Telegraph. The next will appear in The Times on July 9.
22Martin Heyes notes that he has found for sale in the UK: “the medals of Pte. Albert Leonard Edward of the 1st. Bn. Middlesex Regt., who was wounded and captured on 25 Dec 1941. He died in captivity in early 1942.” He can put any interested party in touch with the vendor. 22 My copy of Stranger In My Heart arrived! I have some long flights coming up soon, so will read it then and review it in the July edition.
21 The latest edition of The Java Journal, newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoner of War Club 1942 was published today.
19 Mary Monro kindly sent me a few photos from the launch of her book Stranger In My Heart, in Bath. I believe it will be featured in the South China Morning Post Magazine on Sunday 1 July. 19 Henrique Gonsalves’s (HKVDC) nephew got in touch. 19 Brian Finch very kindly sent me a copy of Captain Man’s, Middlesex, papers. At first glance I believe they will answer many questions.
18In creating my gold standard database of the complement of the Lisbon Maru, today I finished processing the first 100 photographs of those who were aboard. I made a little montage of them as they seemed quite impressive on my computer screen! I’m not quite sure how many more I have in my files, but my guess is another 50 or so. (And to find them, I have to trawl through tens of thousands of image files, and tens of thousands of emails).
15 Laurel Films today sent me the latest version of their newspaper advertisement, which I helped edit for them yesterday.
11Norman Cuthbertson, Royal Scots, who was on the Lisbon Maru and died in Japan apparently had a fiancée in Hong Kong called ‘Peggy’. Does anyone know who she was? 11 The HKVCA’s latest edition of their newsletter is out.
10Steve Denton sent me something very interesting: A letter to Brigadier Crockatt that originally enclosed the ‘smuggled list’ of British POWs in Hong Kong, suggesting that “D.P.W. write a letter of congratulations to Col. L. T. Ride, O.B.E., on this achievement.”
8Steve Denton kindly sent several files relating to Peter Moddrel, James Stewart Fancy, and Clifford George Webber. 8 While looking for a particular name, I went through the whole of RAOC WOII Fred Walter Bell’s amazing diary again. There are so many great pages there that I was originally planning to feature my three favourites this month, but in the end – as the Lisbon Maru rather dominated things – just chose one featuring a note by the RN Chaplain Charles Strong.
6 On the HKVCA facebook page, Colin Standish posted: “Our Hidden History... in my possession: When in Hong Kong this past February I noticed a gravestone which had a name I recognized. Alfred Wonnacott. It appears I have some dog tags from a man who died in the Battle. I do not know how my Grandfather came to have them. My family has had them since 1941. For 77 years. I called some of his relatives out-of-the-blue, spoke to them and will hopefully return the dog tags to them. It is incredible what stands the test of time…” CQMS Standish would of course have been responsible for returns, and would have been the right man to hand such dog tags to; my guess is that those responsible for Wonnacott’s original burial on Stone Hill gave Standish the tags in camp.
4 I took the day off and spent the whole time with Laurel Films, meeting their boos (Fang Li) and directors and discussing – both in our home and in Stanley – their ideas for a proper documentary about the Lisbon Maru. We came to an agreement, and I am signed on as a voluntary co-producer. They have access to needed funds, and seem serious.
3 Steve Denton kindly sent me the POW Index Card for Coder Peter Paget, RN. It is the most complex I have yet seen from ex-Hong Kong POWs, with at least nine changes of POW camps.
2 Fiona Spencer kindly sent me a photo of her great great aunt, Miss Jessie Rachel Taylor (see last month): “who was a missionary for more than twenty years, having previously been the headmistress of a major Girls School in England and then having run a VAD hospital during the First World War. Following her retirement, she held a post at St Stephen's College from 1939 and was then interned in the Stanley camp from 1942-1945; she was 69 when she was interned, although she seems to have given her age as 60 at the time. We know from an article in a Church Missionary Society periodical that she was ill when the camp was liberated and evacuated to Australia where she made a full recovery, returning to England where she then lived until her death in 1957. I wondered if anyone had come across any records relating to her during her period of internment or subsequent evacuation. We know that she subsequently made a substantial donation to the founding of St Stephen's Chapel, but not much else, though a note on the receipt also suggests that she had sent other papers there. Any help gratefully received.” 2 I was interested today to see a Hong Kong story on the CWGC web site. I am in touch with the Ablong family. 2 Elizabeth Ride, knowing of my research into civilian refugees into Mainland Chine kindly sent me the pages from the National Archives WO343 covering the ex-British forces Hong Kong people received by BAAG. 2 Today I received a complete list of all British Merchant Seamen captured by the Japanese.
1 I am working on a paper for the Royal Asiatic Society on the reduction in Hong Kong’s civilian population, between December 1941 and the end of August 1945, of around one million people. It seems odd to me that no one seems to have addressed this before. 1 Philip Cracknell has published an interesting account of the Tai Wai bunkers. As our younger son is currently studying in that part of Hong Kong (Island School is temporarily Mainland School…) it’s of particular interest.
June 1st, 2018 Update
6 Coy HKVDC (courtesy Camille Bishop), Salesian Mission, Shouson Hill Well (both via Mark Sweeney)
HMCS Vancouver, RCN Wreath Laying (both author), Harvie POW Index Card (courtesy Keith Brown)
Saitoh Letter (via Nona Langley), Petro Pavolovsky identification (courtesy Steve Denton), RAS book talk (courtesy Marin Heyes)
Whatever happened to Hideo Wada? He was the Japanese officer who the Lisbon Maru’s captain accused of ordering the hatches battened down as the ship sank. He also ordered the shooting of the first men to escape the vessel. And a few months before the Lisbon Maru he had ordered the shooting of four Canadian POWs, Sgt. John Payne, Lieutenant Corporal George Berzenski, and Privates John Adams and Percy Ellis who had been caught escaping. The Japanese medical officer Saito remembered that: “the four Canadians were lined up and shot under the command of Lt. Wada. I think they were blindfolded at that time. Also as I saw it their hands were tied behind their back. The riflemen were standing at a place on a higher level than the place where stood the four Canadians. The distance between the place where the riflemen were standing and the place where four Canadian were standing was about 5 meters. I think that Lt. Wada gave the order to fire, the riflemen aimed at the hearts of the POWs, immediately after the firing the four POWs fell down, then a short time later I went to the four Canadian to see whether they were dead or not. After I found out that they were dead I reported this to Lt. Wada, he ordered one of the soldiers to have the bodies buried on the spot.” (See the 8th for the source of this quote). He was also, I suspect, responsible for the shooting of four of the seven British POWs who escaped at the same time. Oddly enough, in the latter half of the war he was one of the better remembered POW guard officers, but he certainly would have been tried as a war criminal had he survived. However, it is generally accepted that he died right at the end of the war, or even after the Japanese surrender. Was he lynched? Did he commit suicide?
(Apologies for the late posting of this month’s blog. This was caused by an operating system error on my iMac on May 31, which necessitated the restoration of a terabyte of data from backup).
30 Jessie Rachel Taylor’s (Stanley internee) great grandniece got in touch.
29 A correspondent asks: “Do you know the meaning of TOPS in relation to Royal Navy in Hong Kong in 1940?” I don’t. Can anyone help?
29 Nona Langley posted a collection of Donald Bowie's papers to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. Most of this was familar to me, except an interesting letter from the Japanese medical officer, Saito (or 'Saitoh' here), explaining the loss of POW medical histories and papers.
27 Steve Denton kindly sent me John Maher’s two-page account of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. In part, he noted: “I swam for 10 hrs until I reached a small island. On reaching the shore I was just in time to see Major Officer of the R.A.M.C. getting battered to death on the rocks.” Many men reported seeing this; clearly, even by the standards of their experiences, it was traumatic. Steve also managed to sort out the drafts of five of the eleven men in my records who are simply marked as TJ (To Japan) because the original Shamshuipo records were too damaged to tell which draft they were on. Following his lead, I was able to find which ships five of the others were on – leaving just one to complete. However, as that one was a professional criminal who enlisted under a false name to escape justice, it may be hard to resolve!
26 To help with some research I am currently doing, Elizabeth Ride very kindly sent me a copy of Volume VII of her invaluable work on BAAG.
24 Dave Deptford sent me something unique today, an auction entry for Ma San Auctions Bath (specialist orientalists): A Chinese 18th Century Qianlong vase allegedly presented to C. Coull Sgt A126 enlisted HKP in 1939, who was a Stanley Internee. Estimated price, GBP20,000 plus!
23 Today I received a very interesting approach from another documentary making company. I will post updates on this site as the story develops. 23 Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of the MBE citation for Captain John Carvell, for service as Garrison Engineer, DCRE Perak, 1956-1959! Carvell had been an RE Sergeant in Hong Kong during the war, stationed at the Bowen Road Military Hospital when it was used as the POW hospital. I am currently recording all the wartime awards and decorations, but I don’t know if it would be practical to find all the post-war ones such as this, tempting though it is. 23 Ron Rakusen, son of Manassah Rakusen of the HKVDC Pay Detachment, got back in contact. Ron – just in case you read this, your email system is rejecting mine!
22 Today I had formal contact from Laurel Films, who are working on the Lisbon Maru film project. Hopefully I will be meeting them in Hong Kong early next month.
19 Wayne Carew (son of Duncan Boag Izatt of 3 Coy HKVDC) kindly sent me a copy of a letter from Bevan Field to Wayne’s mother on the passing of his father. Among other things, Field noted: “I remember Duncan as one of my most valuable supporters by his leadership and quiet courage in a really difficult situation. It is not too much to say that I would not have lived through that day without such loyal and courageous support.”
14 Lionel Bolland contacted me. He is part of the well-known Witchell family. His mother was secretary to Charles Drage (head of MI6 in HK until he moved to Singapore shortly before the invasion). She moved with him, but the rest of the family stayed in HK and were interned in Stanley. His aunt Norah married Desmond Stutchbury and lost her life in a post-war communist ambush in Malaya in 1950. And another aunt, Violet May, married Professor Lindsay Ride of BAAG fame.
12 Another interesting find from Steve Denton, a letter from Maurice Prendergast to his father T. Prendergast immediately after liberation (6 September 1945): “But it was not until the 21/8/45 that we were officially informed that the war was over. You can imagine our feelings, it seemed too much to believe, the end of being chased, slapped & starved by a horde of uncouth, little sadistic animals which is what the Nips are, all tourist authorities’ (sic) books to the contrary… I’ll tell you tales which you will not believe, tales which I can hardly believe myself now that it is all over… During the last 3 months of the war we were living on 1 ½ lbs. rice or rice & beans latterly (this weight includes stones & dirt which was considerable), & two or three ounces of vegetables per day. Once a week we had a special treat of 2 buckets of fish heads & tails between 300 men. One special treat we had was a few bones which we boiled into 3 stews & then topped off by eating & enjoying the bones.”
11George Boote kindly alerted me to the sale of Sergeant Harman’s trunk (which now appears to have been removed from eBay). Although the context implied he was a Hong Kong POW, he does not appear in any of my records. Perhaps he was involved with the Japanese POWs rounded up after August 1945? Last time this item was sold, no connection with HK or POWs was mentioned.
10 Yet another American one thousand pound bomb was found in Wanchai today. This one was apparently especially tricky to disarm, but as usual Tony and Andy and the boys did the job with their typical skill.
9 Camille Castilho Bishop put an excellent photo on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. It shows five men of 10 and 11 Sections, of 6 Company HKVDC. They are arranged thus: A B C
and so far we have identified: A Private Thomas Castilho (Camille’s father) , B Private ? , C Private Delano Lopes (or Lopez) , D Lance Corporal Noel Barretto , and E Corporal Guilherme Augusto Noronha . Can anyone help with the identity of Private B? The other known members of these two sections were: Private Luis Antonio Barros, Private Thomas M. Castilho, Private Alberto C. Soares, and Private Francisco M. Soares. 9 Keith Andrews kindly sent me the POW Index Card of Robert Harvie, Royal Scots, showing that I had spelled his name incorrectly on both this website and the Lisbon Maru one. I have now corrected both.
8Following from last month’s discussion about the possible finding of remains in a Shouson Hill well post-war, TK Wong notes: “They could be Br. or Canadian. Even their numbers were not exactly known. Page 115-page 117 of a PhD thesis by Mark Sweeney (U of Waterloo 2013) mentioned the incident. The title of the thesis is THE CANADIAN WAR CRIMES LIAISON DETACHMENT. It has a picture showing a man of the CWGC checking the well where the bodies were dumped.” The text stated: "The final geographic stage of Puddicombe’s case homed in on two incidents near Deep Water Bay. The first involved the killing of three officers at Shou Shan Hill and second the slaughter of a company of Winnipeg Grenadiers at Little Hong Kong. Puddicombe had a local Chinese farmer describe to the Court the murder he witnessed and then take everyone to the location where he claimed the bodies were dumped. Lai Kwong testified that he saw Japanese soldiers lead three European officers from a residence on 25 December. Lai described the scene: 'the Japanese soldiers took the officers to this place, and then they shouted, one – two – three - and made the officers raise their hands and then they swung their swords - as I demonstrated - and slashed it into the officers body.' Lai showed the Court the well and gully where the soldiers had disposed of the bodies. Defence counsel Mr. Sakai cast considerable doubt about Lai’s story and character. He underscored variances in Lai’s statement and testimony, including the number of Japanese soldiers involved and the weapons used in the killing. Lai also claimed that the officers had worn crowns on their shoulders, and that the man thrown down the well had worn a gold ring on his finger. Major Cross of the 14th WCIT testified they found neither ring nor crowns when they exhumed a skeleton from the well, but they had found British .303 ammunition clips and empty corned beef tins. Further muddying the story, the medical officer who examined the bones declared that they 'were those of an oriental,' basing his opinion on the smaller size of the bones. Another defence witness, Captain Diggens of the Graves Concentration Unit, noted that investigators had also found Japanese bullets in the well, and that he and the Medical Branch of Land Forces, Hong Kong believed the body in the well was Chinese based on the weight of the bones and the bridge of the nose. Puddicombe sought to dispel the notion that the body was not an Allied officer, arguing that the presumption of heritage based only on size was worthless legal evidence. He noted pithily: ‘there are small Europeans. This Court has had before it on one or two occasions, a certain Lt. Col. of the WINNIPEG GRENADIERS who is certainly no giant.’ "
7 Today I accompanied Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier (Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy) Commander Christopher Nucci (the captain of HMCS Vancouver), and a dozen or so other officers to the Sai Wan war cemetery for their formal wreath laying. Dr James Boutilier also accompanied the party, and we stopped and spoke about a number of graves as we passed by – including those of the four executed Canadian escapers. 7 Richard Moddrel (son of Peter Moddrel, Royal Corps of Signals) kindly sent me photos of his father’s medals, together with the formal Records of Awards in his pay book (or, more formally, Army Book 64, Soldier’s Record and Pay Book).
5 Steve Denton raised an interesting question. In my HKRNVR files I list a Sub Lieutenant W. Petro. Steve has shown that his full name was probably W. Petro Pavlovsky, though as yet I have been unable to find out anything more about him. 5 Martin Heyes kindly sent some photos from last month’s talk on Reduced to a Symbolical Scale.
4 The Canadian Consulate kindly invited me to the deck reception aboard HMCS Vancouver this evening. The weather was a very overcast and humid and I admit I was sweating under my suit on the crowded ship!
3 Based on a very helpful suggestion from Henry Langley, I have updated the tabs on the left hand side of this page, The Books. I have added a page for Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, and also updated the ‘Future Research’ page. Over the last few years the pressure of work has necessitated that I just update the monthly blog on a regular basis, but I must do more to keep the remainder of the site in shape too. 3 I gratefully received a very interesting copy of a report by Cyril Bucke, giving a great deal of data on the Lisbon Maru deaths post-sinking, and the fates of all officers aboard. Had I had this in 2006 it would have saved me a great deal of research!
2Philp Cracknell has a very interesting new post about Group Captain Thomas Horry was commanding officer RAF, Kai Tak until Sunday 7th December, when he handed over command to Wing Commander Ginger Sullivan, and sailed out of Hong Kong on the ill fated SS Ulysses to take up a new role in RAF, Singapore. My research revealed he was a WW1 Ace with eight accredited "kills" and the holder of the DFC and AFC. http://battleforhongkong.blogspot.hk/2018/05/group-captain-thomas-horry-commanding.html
1 Ronnie Taylor (UK) kindly sent me a photo of Edward Phillips (Middlesex, illustrated), who was lost in the Lisbon Maru. 1 Steve Denton kindly pointed out that Richard Alderbridge (see last month) was simply a figment of my poor typing. His real name was Richard Aldridge, 8th Coastal Regiment RA, and he actually was part of the Hong Kong Garrison.
May 1st, 2018 Update
Cars at Magazine Gap (author), Musto memorial (courtesy Alan Knight), Parkin note (courtesy Martin Heyes) Stranger in my Heart, Signapore Civilian Memorial, Oh Silent Cross (all via author) Elmer Smith's cap (courtesy Frazer Smith). Stanley Gap AA position (via facebook), St Stephen's staff and students (courtesy St Stephen's College, Stanley)
While I have no special interest in medals, it has always struck me as odd that no one (to the best of my knowledge) has created a full register of all the awards and decorations relating to the Hong Kong campaign and the POW years that followed. So I have started to compile one using both the London Gazette (for official announcements) and WO373 (for recommendations) as sources. Where possible I intend including the current location of medals, or any details of sales that I am aware of. I have 284 on the books so far, but don’t yet know what percentage that represents of a whole. Interestingly, it’s a pretty diverse list. Every unit involved (from nurses through to pay corps) seems to be represented.
29 I went for my usual walk in the hills today, and I’ve never seen the watercourses so parched. I suspect this has been the driest April on record. The waterfall on the Peak has water (and a few tadpoles turned up about two weeks ago) but all the others are virtually dry.
28 This evening, thanks to a suggestion from Martin Heyes, I gave my first talk about Reduced to a Symbolical Scale. Originally I had expected it simply to be for the OMRS, but happily the RAS also became involved, and Gwulo, and thanks to Ron Taylor and the Volunteers the venue was their Club Room at the Happy Valley Stand. Rather than the seven or eight people I had expected we had over forty and it was very enjoyable. Instead of just talking about that book, I tried to put in the context of the other books I have written and hopefully will write, and after I had rambled on for forty minutes or so there was an interesting discussion about various facets of the evacuation. 28 Angela Swanney, who first contacted me in 2013, kindly sent some pages from the diary of Corporal Douglas Thomas Smith, HKVDC, who was at Shamshuipo and Nagoya #8B. 28 Barbara Anslow reports that she has received the proofs of the book of her diary, provisionally entitled Tin Hats and Rice. I will of course announce publication details later.
26 Alan Knight notes that he: “recently visited Bredwardine in Herefordshire, to which my mother was evacuated in 1940. In the small church was a memorial plaque with three names on it. One was ‘Sgt. Stanley Musto. Drowned as a Prisoner of War in Far Eastern Waters (1942)’ ”. Musto was of course in the HKSRA and was lost on the Lisbon Maru. Alan kindly sent a photo of the plaque.
25 Tan kindly sent this very high-quality newsreel excerpt about the liberation of Hong Kong. 25 The wartime Hong Kong facebook page has been discussing the incident in which a British soldier’s body (possibly an officer’s) was thrown into a well at Shouson Hill. There were some reports of this in the papers in 1947, but does anyone have any more detail?
24 A Major’s Crown was found in the hills today. Interestingly, we may know exactly which major this belonged to. More on this as it develops.
23 Mary Monro reports that Stranger in my Heart, covering her father Major Monro’s experiences as an escaped Hong Kong POW (among other things) should be available in June. 23 Bill Lake reports that: “Yesterday I was taken to the East River Guerrilla Museum in Dalingshan, Donguan by the history section of the East River Group and Dave Kerr.” It sounds very interesting.
22Steve Denton kindly sent me a complete copy of Homeward Bound, the official publication of the POW repatriation voyage of the USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA13). I already had a copy of the cover, but not the contents.
21Went up to Magazine Gap this morning, and finally pretty much found the right place for the car photo. I don’t think there can be any real doubt that these are the cars mentioned last month (“On the 20th (of) December, [George Palmer], his Chinese driver, in the front seats, and [Eddie Hyndman], safely in the back seat of their staff car, made their way under fire from Japanese planes to the Peak. When they arrived at Magazine Gap Road they received heavy strafing from one of the planes, followed by a bomb which hit the back of the staff car. George and the driver were blown free… and landed on the road, unhurt... but poor Eddie… received severe injuries and was rushed to the War Memorial Hospital.” He died of his wounds eleven days later.) The position is the corner of Magazine Gap Road and Peak Road, outside number 40. 21 Conner Hackett, via Phillip Cracknell, sent a photo showing ex-Stanley internees boarding the Empress of Australia from Stanley Camp. It’s the first such photo I have seen. Philip also sent another photo of Postbridge – apparently just after it was built in the late 1930s. This is only the second existent photograph of the house that we know of.
18Well, Fang Li must have some decent PR help! This morning Google alerts sent me notice of three new articles on the Lisbon Maru (the first two are behind paywalls, but the Express is free): Plan to recover 828 PoWs from wreck of the Lisbon Maru (The Times) The horrific story of 1,800 British prisoners of war battened into three cargo holds of a torpedoed Japanese transport ship is so little told that the dead are known by historians as the forgotten boys. Some scrambled to freedom even as the Japanese guards shot at them. Many could not. In one hold… Forgotten boys: plan to reclaim 838 PoWs from war wreck (The Australian) In one hold, hundreds lost their chance of survival when the only ladder snapped. Survivors recounted hearing the singing of It's a Long Way to Tipperary as the boat sank. Now a Chinese-American businessman is planning to bring the remains of the 828 who drowned in the Lisbon Maru to the surface… Forgotten men: Extraordinary plan to RECOVER 828 POWs from WW2 shipwreck (The Express) Some 1,800 British PoWs crammed into three cargo holds of the Lisbon Maru in 1942 but the vessel was shot down by Japanese guards, with the 7,000-tonne vessel sink to the bottom of the East China Sea. Most scrambled to safety but in one hold, hundreds lost their chance for survival when their only… I’m glad to report that the Lisbon Maru families who Fang Li and his crew have interviewed are so far unanimous in reporting positive experiences.
16 Philip Cracknell has two nice new articles on his blog, relating to very well known Hong Kong wartime figures: Major J.J. Paterson, MD of Jardine Matheson and Commanding Officer of the Hughes Group, HKVDC, and Lt-Col Eustace Levett, Chief Signals Officer - China Command.
15 Today I happened to see again the well-known Canadian post-war photo of Stanley Gap. For the first time I realised that the concrete stove (the square shape just above the words ‘up to’) of the ‘black hole’ was still undamaged at that date. Today – aside from the trees that are now all over the site – the structures look much as they do in this photo, except that the stove is badly damaged on the far side. I had always thought that damage was done by a shell, but obviously not. 15 Steve Denton kindly sent me a copy of the COFEPOW newsletter for April. It included lots of letters about Fang Li and the Lisbon Maru. I hope to meet him in Hong Kong in May.
14Today I saw a fascinating photo on the St Stephen’s College website. It shows pupils and teachers from around 1938, and in the middle of the front row are, I believe (from left to right): Arthur Ernest Job (killed 19 December 1941 at Sanatorium Gap with 1 Coy HKVDC), headmaster Ernest Martin, Mrs Kathleen Martin (who would both be interned at Stanley, Kathleen passing away in camp on 19 January 1945) and Harold Asche. I didn’t recognize the latter and discovered from this obituary – from Trinity College Melbourne - that he had left Hong Kong before the invasion: “HAROLD CARSTEN JOHN ASCHE came to the College in 1911 from Melbourne Grammar School, where he had been equal Head of the School in the previous year. He read Engineering and obtained a Blue for Lacrosse. During the First World War he served with the A.I.F. abroad from 1916 until 1918. After demobilisation in the United Kingdom, he returned to Melbourne, where he successively graduated in Civil Engineering (1919) and in Science (B.Sc., 1921; M.Sc., 1922) and obtained the Diploma of Education (1922). For the next twenty years he was a teacher at St. Stephen's College, Hong Kong, with the Church Missionary Society and as Financial Secretary to the South China Mission. Returning to Melbourne in 1942, he joined the staff of Caulfield Grammar School. In 1949 he became Senior Mathematics and Science Master at Brighton Grammar School, where he remained until his death on 21st January, 1958.” 14 First thing this morning I charged up Chatham Path today to get to the junction of Barker Road and Peak Road to photograph the location of the picture of the destroyed cars. All went well until I returned home and eventually realized that the pictures I had just taken didn’t really align. I was too far west; the position that I had thought was the end of Barker Road must really have been Magazine Gap. I will have to try again later.
12 Cortia Chung at St Stephen’s College notes: “Our Heritage Gallery has received a donation of memory box including some medals of Lance Serjeant Murray Thomas Goodenough (Royal Rifles of Canada). Mr. Goodenough was born July 5, 1925 in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and died on December 22, 1943 in Japan. He is buried at Yokohama. The son of Tom and Hilda Goodenough, he was the youngest Canadian soldier in the Battle of Hong Kong. Before he was taken prisoner of war at Stanley when Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day in 1941, he had been wounded twice at Sugar Loaf Hill. He was 18.” I contacted the family and discovered that Goodenough’s cousin’s niece had donated the medals. Cortia wanted assistance in identifying them and finding the citation for Goodenough’s Military Medal, so I asked the OMRS for assistance. They reported the medals as being: Military Medal (King George VI) 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Services Medal 1939-45 clasp Hong Kong, and War Medal 1939-45. I then downloaded the citation from the IWM’s website for a small fee. As I had suspected, the MM was for his recapturing of two Vickers Guns that had been lost to the Japanese on Sugar Loaf Hill.
11Five live Japanese grenades turned up today off Sir Cecil’s Ride. Two surprising things: firstly, I used to walk all over that path thirty years ago, picking up all sorts of things (before it was paved), and then when the metal detectorists arrived I told them to try that path and they found a whole lot more (grenades, mortars, fuses, water bottles, canteens, live ammunition, spent bullets, cartridges, shrapnel, buttons, and at least one helmet); after all these years I thought all had been found. And secondly, it wasn’t reported at all in the mainstream media. I guess that all the recent news of huge American bombs being found makes tiny little grenades like these seem irrelevant!
10 George Henry Calvert’s (HKVDC) grandson got in touch! He had read last month’s blog. He notes: “My mother, Helen Bourke (nee Calvert) was an evacuee in 1940, aged 14, with her mother (George’s wife) and two younger siblings, on the ‘Empress of Japan’ firstly to Manila and then in another ship to Sydney. She is now 91 living in Sydney… She remembers coming home from school and the Amah telling her to pack one suitcase for her and her younger brother and sister because the driver would be coming soon to take them to the docks. She remembers camping on the deck of the Empress of Japan all through the typhoon to Manila and being greeted on arrival by US Army men, one of whom threw her over his shoulder and carried her to the trucks. And being a young teenage girl, she remembers well the embarrassment of using the rows of army toilets that had no doors or walls.” 10 My copy of ‘Oh, Silent Cross’ arrived. One chapter of this large volume concerns Sergeant Robert Lytle, Winnipeg Grenadiers, but also has a lot of information (almost one hundred pages) on other Winnipeg Grenadiers and the battle as a whole, presented in what I would describe as a ‘scrap book’ style.
9 Kai Lau-Thomas, whose father was Lau Yam Choi (a veteran who became well-known in the Hong Kong police post-war), got back in touch. It seems that Mr Lau was in BAAG, and I am trying to work out where he is in my records. That can be a challenge as the transliteration of Chinese in those days wasn’t standardized, and also sometimes British-style Christian names were used instead of Chinese. Matching names from the period is often challenging.
6 Sylvia Midgett put the well-known picture of strafed cars somewhere near the Peak on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today. I have been looking for the location of these for some time, believing the photo to have been taken somewhere on Barker Road looking up towards Magazine Gap, but James Barnes identified the location as near Magazine Gap itself, looking west towards the Peak. I will have to go up and have a look. That spot is no more than thirty minutes walk from where I live.
5 With Thursday being a holiday, I took Friday off and flew with the family to Singapore for a long weekend. We stayed at the Fairmont next door to Raffles, but although until about fifteen years ago I was a very regular visitor to Singapore, I just could not get my bearings. The development of that area is astounding. One of the few places I recognized (even Raffles itself was behind barricades for rebuilding) was the Civilian War Memorial. I walked over to it one wet afternoon, wondering yet again why Hong Kong never built one itself (ignoring the old gate in the Botanical Gardens: a Great War memorial which simply had a little new text added after the Second.)
5Frazer Smith, son of Elmer Smith (Royal Rifles of Canada) got back in touch, kindly sending me copies of a number of documents relating to his father. One was a photo of Sai Wan Cemetery taken in 1980, nine years before I moved to Hong Kong (Illustrated). That was just before all the tall buildings between the base of the cemetery and the sea were built, and it looks more like it did in 1947 when it was first established. Elmer Smith lost his cap during the battle, and remarkably it was returned to him by Clyde Cook, the son of Mrs. Archibald Cook, when they were repatriated in 1942 – a story which Frazer related in The Advocate of Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Elmer Smith is far right, front row, of the photo here.
4Steve Denton kindly sent several documents relating to George Henry Calvert (see last month). I am wondering if George Harry Calvert really existed, or was simply a product of poor administration. 4 The Hong Kong Museum of History got in touch, asking the source of the Japanese propaganda leaflet which I out on this website last month, as they would like to feature it in an exhibition. The source was Colin Standish, so I put them in touch.
2Percy Suckling’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. He was Managing Director of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels. Born on 12 December 1890, he was thus 51 when the Japanese captured Hong Kong. He was in the Hong Kong Hotel at the time of surrender, and then held in Stanley Internment camp in room A1/6 which he shared with five others.
1 TK Wong, writing of The Hong Kong Independent Battalion (see last month) notes that the book I referred to: “has a picture of the house which served as the headquarters (actually hiding place) of the Chinese anti Japanese fighters in Saikung area. The ownership of the house had changed since December last year.” The new owner is a relative of TK, and apparently he will not demolish it since the external walls are made of granite blocks instead of cement. He will renovate the building for his own use, and I hope to visit at some point. 1 According to Steve Denton, the R. Aldridge reported on last month was most probably Richard William Aldridge 1058464, Royal Artillery, who was not from the Hong Kong garrison. 1 Martin Heyes took a Norwegian couple to Stanley today. The gentleman’s uncle, Guttorm Stensen, was a merchant navy seaman whose ship visited HK just before the Japanese invasion and initially he was not interned, though later he went into the Camp with other Norwegians. Martin notes that: “We then went to the cemetery and visited the grave of those killed in the Christmas Day massacre in St. Stephen’s College. Whilst there I noticed that somebody had placed the note below with some roses at the base of the headstone of the grave.” The note was in memory of William Parkin, RAMC, who was killed in the massacre.
April 1st, 2018 Update
Scott-Lindsley (courtesy the National Museum of the Royal Navy), Osaka Report (courtesy Steve Denton), Jeffrey W. Morris (courtesy Len Asplin) The Independent Battalion (author), Indian propaganda flyer, wartime cigarette packet (both courtesy Colin Standish) xxxx on Gosper (courtesy Matthew Roman), Narumi and Omori camp (both courtesy www.mansell.com)
Perhaps the most unexpected thing this month was Colin Standish’s discovery of his grandfather’s collection of POW Camp cigarette packets! In our climate paper doesn’t usually last very long, so their preservation in Canada possibly makes them unique. And there is something particularly approachable about historical artifacts simultaneously so fragile and mundane. While cigarettes were of course currency in camp and thus important, the packets themselves really were not and in most circumstances would have been discarded or burnt. But even the excitement of seeing these was surpassed by tasting a vintage port bottled some twenty-seven years before the invasion of Hong Kong.
30 In correspondence with John Asome about the four Lims (Private A. Lim, Private, Private J. Percy Felix Lim, Lance Corporal Kim Huan Lim, and Private Seang Teik Lim) lost with 3 Coy HKVDC on 19 December 1941, he mentioned that: “all four of them were teachers at St. Joseph's College [and] all four of them were originally from Malaya” (although I had previously heard that Thomas was from Singapore). He also kindly identified ‘A. Lim’ as ‘Anthony Lim’.
29 Steve Denton found an interesting letter from a Robert Millar Brown, Merchant Navy, formerly of the Osaka#1 POW Camp office. Although not an ex-Hong Kong POW himself, he names nine other members of the POW Office Staff including four ex-HK (Chief Petty Officer Writer Reginald Arthur King, RN, Lance Bombardier R Aldridge [possibly Robert Alderbridge, according to Steve], RA, Leading Writer Donald Frank Furzer, RN, and Leading Writer C. Cook [probably Leading Telegraphist Clifford Montague Cook], RN). The letter is headed ‘New Osaka Hotel’, which is where the Americans formed their HQ for the purpose of sorting out the locally recovered POWs.
28The latest edition of The Java Journal, the Newsletter of the Java Far East Prisoners of War Club 1942, has just been published. Despite the name, this organization has become a very credible ‘home’ for all Far East POWs and Internees. I was rather humbled to see my recent South China Morning Post article featured (see last month). More importantly, under the title: “Missionary Survived Prisoner-Of-War Camp”, they wrote: “Muriel Archer, a missionary who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War, has died aged 96. Ms Archer smuggled bibles into countries where preaching Christianity was forbidden and was dedicated to prison teaching and fellowship in Bermuda. She revealed little of her experiences as a prisoner of war. A close family friend, who asked not to be named, said Ms Archer was ‘treated very badly, but survived’ after being captured in Hong Kong. A member of St John’s Church, Ms Archer belonged to the Christian-based group Educational Services International, and taught English overseas, particularly in China. She had extensive teaching experience in Russia at a time when the activities of foreigners were strictly monitored. Ms Archer told The Royal Gazette in 1995: ‘We are not allowed to preach the gospel there. But I did find that people wanted me to teach them how to pray.’ Ms Archer worked with the downtrodden in countries all over the world, particularly people addicted to drugs. She traced her ‘second life’ as a missionary and charity worker back to the death of her only son, Christopher, to leukaemia when he was 19, as well as the early death of her husband William ‘Bill’ Archer. Ms Archer decided to ‘go where I am needed’, including Bermuda’s prison, as a member of the Prison Fellowship. Born in Britain, she spent much of her childhood in China, where her parents were missionaries. Her missionary work there was often conducted undercover. Her friend said: ‘She was a very understanding, smart, educated and worldly woman who had suffered and been around, and she was great at getting on with people. Anyone in need here in Bermuda could come around to her home and she would help them.’ “ However, even Barbara Anslow couldn’t work out which ‘Muriel’ this was, and I wonder if the original article (which appeared in the Bermuda Royal Gazette) was in error? We can’t find a Muriel in the Stanley records who matches the expected 1920s birth year.
25On my regular Sunday walk to the top of High West I noticed what appears to be a robust trench system facing roughly east. The vegetation hasn’t started growing back after winter yet, so next week I hope to take a better look.
23Bill Lake kindly sent me a copy of The Hong Kong Independent Battalion. Originally written in Chinese in 1999, this version has been translated into English by Catherine Man. It is a short book but includes one thing I have not seen elsewhere: a roll of honour for the forty-four guerrillas who were lost during the war. 23 Colin Standish has found something else unique in his grandfather’s papers: his collection of wartime cigarette packets. Cigarettes were of course currency in Camp, so perhaps that’s why he kept them. But I have never seen the equivalent. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a great new article. He notes: “The 1st Bn Middlesex War Diary refers to a civilian, Herbert Howell Beddow, being blown to bits during a bombardment of Leighton Hill on 16 December 1941. After doing a little research I found he was employed by the Education Department as a Maths teacher… but he was not just a Maths teacher… he had served in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1 and was an Ace with ten recorded kills.” I was totally unaware of his background, and of course immediately visited the London Gazette to find his decorations and citations and was amazed to find there were none. In the Second war, for ten kills you would expect a DFC at a minimum. 23 I learned from Ian Gill today that the RAOC Sergeant I have listed as Alfred Cromer Mitchell actually had the middle name ‘Cromar’. I have fixed this.
21 Today I was kindly invited to a dinner, with a number of others, with Admiral Harry Harris, the new US Ambassador to Australia. It was very interesting, especially as he used to command the US Pacific Fleet, whose history from 1944-45 I have recently been studying. As his father had been born in 1914, and the hosts had a bottle of port from that year, they kindly gave him a glass of it. And as I was sitting next to him he let me try it. It was quite amazing to try a drink bottled in the first year of the Great War.
20 A friend has a strange note in his mother’s diary from Sunday 7 November 1943. Being a Eurasian, she was able to stay out of internment and lived in the city through the occupation in Hong Kong. But on this day she wrote: “[a friend] was here when [we] flew home on airplane from church”. What could this have meant?
19 I managed to put two wartime evacuees together again today. Always nice when that happens!
17 A nice HKVDC cap badge was found up in the hills today (illustrated). 17 This weekend I dedicated to starting a proper consolidation of my RAPWI (Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internee) files. What I hadn’t previously realized was that this was purely a British / Commonwealth phrase. It seems the Americans – although they did all the heavy lifting at the Japanese mainland camps – didn’t use it, though some of their documents refer to RAMP (Recovery of Military Personnel), but not very consistently. Interestingly – but not surprisingly considering the number of liberation rosters there - the late Roger Mansell’s website has a number of very useful documents and photographs illustrating the American side. One typical photo was of Narumi, with signs painted on the huts saying: “Yank, Thanks, Wasp”, “Britain CA”. “Men from Corregidor, Bataan Thank Wasp”, “Hong Kong men thank you”. Another clear one was of Omori. Also, the National Archives of Singapore have done a good job in compiling references to relevant RAPWI documentation in WO203.
15 Alan Knight contacted me again. He was neighbour to Sgt. Leslie Edward Johns, 2315049, 40 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, who was liberated 15 September 1945. He notes that the liberation was carried out by a US Navy unit headed by the first husband of Mrs. Wallis Simpson, Earl Winfield ‘Win’ Spencer.” 15 Iain Gow kindly sent me the MI9 form of his father, James Gow, Royal Scots. Like many young men, he had lied about his age and joined up at 16. The form includes the ‘pretend’ date of birth.
14Annemarie Evans notes: “In a full Hong Kong Heritage, (Broadcast Feb 3 & 4), I hear about WWII bombs from war historian Tony Banham after two are found in one week in Wan Chai; then go to Hong Kong Maritime Museum for a beautiful exhibition of export silver; conservationist Katty Law talks of her concerns about a plan to build a 25-storey hospital on Bishop Hill; and I salute the late amateur historian Chan Sui-cheung, author of East River Column: Hong Kong Guerrillas in the Second World War and After. In an excerpt from an earlier programme SJ talks about his childhood during the war.”
13 Steve Denton kindly sent me John Hardy’s (Middlesex) MI9 form. Apparently Hardy was one of several POWs who made half-hearted spur of the moment escape attempts in the very early days of the POW Camps, and was quickly recaptured with no serious repercussions. I don’t think anyone has studied these in any depth, but I have probably come across half a dozen examples by now.
11 I was contacted by a former army physiotherapist researching into the history of Physiotherapy in the army. He notes: “At present I am researching 1939 to 1945. In 1941 there were four RAMC Nursing Orderlies in the Colony who had qualified as masseurs at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley. Cpl Jeffrey Morris was one of these; he survived the St Stephen’s college massacre, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and Tokyo POW camp(s). On repatriation he became the assistant instructor at the Army School of Physiotherapy at Netley.” He kindly sent a photo of Morris, and his POW Index Card. is one of the most complex POW Index Cards I have seen. I won’t pretend I can read it all, but in summary: - He was captured in Hong Kong on 23 December 1941. That’s quite unusual and might mean he was working at St Albert’s Hospital, which was captured that day. This would mean he probably wasn’t at the St Stephen’s massacre. - On the back it states he was received in Japan on 10 October 1942, which is standard for those on the Lisbon Maru. - The interesting part is the second line, which moves him to a Tokyo POW Camp on 15 May 1945. This turns out to be Tokyo #13B Omi and he was the only ex-Hong Kong POW there. However, RAMC men were obviously very important to POWs and it is not unusual for them to be the only ex-HK POWs in a particular camp. - The last line (and again this is typical) is the date of his handover to US troops. He was repatriated on the Admiral Hughes. He does not appear to have filled in an MI9 interview, but not every man did. 11 Jill Fell contacted me, asking about Lieutenant George Calvert, HKVDC. According to my records, he was a POW in Stanley throughout the war, but there is also a George Calvert who was in Stanley Internment Camp. The latter was released to Victoria at some undated point, but I don’t know why. As some records show a George Harry Calvert, and others a George Henry Calvert, could they have been two different men?
9 The South China Morning Post carried a good article about Brian Finch today, mentioning his interest in the Lisbon Maru.
7I referred Meg Parkes (see last month) to the artwork included in Mervyn Scott-Lindsley’s prisoner of war sketchbook, held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Meg notes: “To date we have uncovered the contemporaneous work of over 40 previously unknown British military, amateur and trained, documentary artists. This work will be the subject of an exhibition here in Liverpool to showcase this hitherto unseen aspect of the history. From October 2019 to June 2020 the Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M) will host the exhibition entitled, ‘The Secret Art of Survival: the hidden documentary art from WWII Far East captivity.’ ” And this exhibition will now include examples from four Hong Kong POW artists: Bird, Coxhead, Poltock and now Scott-Lindsley. It’s also a good excuse to republish Scott-Lindsley’s excellent self-portrait. And oddly enough he was repatriated on the Gosper!
6 Matthew Roman, whose grandfather Pharmacist Mate 2nd class Arthur R. Hultz served on the USS Gosper (APA170) and contacted me a year or so back, notes that when his grandmother passed away recently they found some photos. They aren’t the best quality, but he’s kindly offered to look for better ones. Gosper was of course involved in RAPWI, taking 157 ex-HK POWs (according to Steve Denton’s research) to freedom. 6 I heard today from a researcher trying to track down the relatives of Ying Boswell, wife of Able Seaman Cyril L Boswell. Ying was a Chinese lady, one of the few wives of British servicemen originally evacuated to Australia in 1940.
2 The South China Morning Post today published an interesting video about Lamma’s wartime Japanese tunnels. 2 Amdad Ali’s (HKSRA) family got in touch. I especially welcome contact from the sub-continent as they provided so many of Hong Kong’s defenders and have historically been so under-documented. I sent them the three documents I have concerning his wounding and hospitalization.
1 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent me a copy of ‘The Macanese at War: Survival and Identity among Portuguese Eurasians during World War II’ by Roy Eric Xavier, Ph.D. The role of Macau and the Macanese has often been overlooked in post-war writings, so this was a refreshing read. Three excerpts particularly took my interest. The first was: “The youngest volunteer was, in reality, a fifteen year old student named Eduardo (Eddie) Hyndman. A mature youth, Hyndman was the only son of Eduardo and Laura Hyndman, whose families were Dutch and Portuguese originally from Macau. He was not among those in Kowloon at the time of the invasion, but enlisted following the first attack after telling recruiters he was seventeen. Alarmed by her son’s plans, Hyndman’s mother convinced Lt. George Palmer, who was married to her cousin, to transfer him to Palmer’s Engineer’s Unit to keep the boy near the family in Hong Kong. An account of Hyndman’s service follows: On the 20th (of) December, George, his Chinese driver, in the front seats, and Eddie, safely in the back seat of their staff car, made their way under fire from Japanese planes to the Peak. When they arrived at Magazine Gap Road they received heavy strafing from one of the planes, followed by a bomb which hit the back of the staff car. George and the driver were blown free… and landed on the road, unhurt... but poor Eddie… received severe injuries and was rushed to the War Memorial Hospital. Eduardo Filomeno Hyndman died of his wounds eleven days later. At fifteen, he was the youngest defender of Hong Kong to perish.” The second was a throwaway line about the last ferry to leave Kowloon for Hong Kong: “A woman standing next to Vincente on the ship was shot and died before reaching Hong Kong.” One has to wonder if this was a reference to Jessie Holland (see January). And the third was: “Reports of mass burials on Taipa, a neighboring island, of up to 400 bodies a day began to surface, leading to post-war estimates of 50,000 deaths during the war years.” As readers of this site will understand, I have long wondered about the uncounted civilian deaths of Hong Kong during the war (which, minimally, would have been some 250,000), so it is fascinating to see a number proposed for Macau. 1 Colin Standish sent me several more of his grandfather’s copies of Japanese propaganda leaflets, confirming that this must be the most complete collection in existence. One of the most extreme shows a turbaned Indian soldier being pushed into his position by a cowardly British soldier behind him. The caption reads: “We can’t shoot if you stand in the breach there”, with Japanese bullets flying around the Indian chap. It continues: “What rot that you lose your life far in Hong Kong in the battle predestined to be lost! If you want to sever your disgraceful connection with the Englishman, liquidating the relations between the white and coloured races, bring your rifles to bear upon them at once. Think over the matter; that is the natural and wise conduct.” While the author is to be congratulated on the correct use of the semicolon, even by 1941 standards it’s pretty dire. (And the Indian soldier’s right foreleg got a bit messed up, making me wonder if these were done in rather a hurry). Colin also sent copies of his grandfather’s notes about the deaths of fellow Royal Rifles, and his post-war correspondence with A Japanese Sergeant (a wartime guard) Yasouki Kamada. As I mentioned to Colin on his visit to Hong Kong last month, sergeant to sergeant friendships in the camps were not uncommon. As mature men, I suppose they sometimes recognised each other’s situation and simply made the best of it.
March 1st, 2018 Update
Low Keat Soo, medals, and newspaper article (all courtesy Joseph Low) Osaka POW list (National Archives), young McCallum Bell (courtesy Roddy Brown), Xmas day (courtesy Strellett family) Fisher envelope (courtesy Raymond Mo), 1942 deaths, Ashton Rose chit (both courtesy HK PRO via Colin Standish)
Sadly, I have to admit that I am now older than all but a few of the most senior of officers captured in Hong Kong in December 1941. And while my health has traditionally been excellent (right up until January I had been boasting about not having had a cold of any sort for six years…), in the middle of that month I came down with something that left me with a major sinus infection that took me five weeks to shift. And that was with the help of antibiotics that didn’t exist in 1941, and (of course) a more than adequate diet. I remember discussing health with Denis Morley (Royal Scots) years ago, and he told me that he simply didn’t get ill in the camps. Essentially, those who survived were fortunate enough to have the strongest constitutions and anyone with any sort of physical weakness (and I fear I would have been one) succumbed.
28Martin Heyes was kind enough to give me the bad news that: “Chief Superintendent Walter (Wally) Scragg, CPM, of the HK Police died in Sydney, Australia, on 20 Feb this year.” I had met Wally several times over the years (in fact he was a guest at our house warming party when we moved to our current flat some twelve years ago), but had been out of touch for a while.
27 I am just finishing David Hobbs’s excellent book The British Pacific Fleet, as I am working on both RAPWI and the liberation of Hong Kong, each of which require understanding local naval assets in August/September 1945. I came across this great piece: “On 28 August 1945 a US Navy patrol boat came alongside HMS Duke of York at her anchorage at Sagami Wan at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. She delivered Private Edgar Campbell [RASC] and Marine John Wynn, both of whom had been taken prisoner on Christmas Day 1941 when Hong Kong fell. On hearing that Japan had surrendered and Allied warships were visible off the coast, they had set off from their prison camp when the gates were opened, walked thirty miles to a beach at Sagami Wan and then swum out to an American warship, all this despite the debility caused by spending over three years in a succession of prison camps. They were the first British prisoners to be recovered from Japan.” Needless to say, they were both ‘hard men’ from the first draft to Japan. I notice that the Omori Camp list has them both as simply ‘walked away’!
26McCallum Bell’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch. He was killed just south of Wong Nai Chung Gap on 19 December when his Bren carrier was hit by a mortar, and the family would like to have a photo of him in uniform if anyone has one. All they have (which they kindly sent me) was one of him as a boy scout.
24 Patricia O’Sullivan gave a talk today at the Maritime Museum about the early history of the Naval Dockyard Police Force. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, but there is little written about the Dockyard Police and I would have been very interested.
23Raymond Mo kindly sent me a photo of the envelope of a letter to William Diego Fisher, HKVDC, autographed by other ‘Genki Boys’ at Innoshima. All the names are clear except what looks like Boris A Gel, which I think must be Boris A Gellman of 1 Coy. Interestingly he was one of the last of the garrison to escape from Kowloon to the Island after the former was evacuated. He swam across the harbour from Kai Tak.
22 Philip Cracknell notes of his new blog: “It is a moment in time. It is 3pm on Christmas Day 1938. Who are the people captured in this pre-war photograph taken in happier times, and what became of them. Some of them fought in the Battle for Hong Hong, some of them were wounded or killed, some of them were interned in Japanese concentration camps. This is an attempt to briefly tell their story.” We had actually corresponded about this as I had the same photograph in my collection (sent to me by the Strellett family), and had also been in touch with the majority of the families represented here.
21 The Researching FEPOW History Group note: “Future Memories Workshop University of Leeds, 19 March 2018, 9.30am - 5pm. There are only five places remaining for next month's FREE workshop. We have a great range of talks, covering POW art, second-generation experiences, escape attempts, the perspectives of perpetrators, Hong/Kong China, Makassar... Speakers include Clare Makepeace, Terry Smyth, Toby Norways, Nigel Stanley, Meg Parkes and more. It is sure to be a really interesting day.”
18A very kind soul has passed me copies of the Osaka #1B and Osaka #2B (Kobe) POW lists. I have been looking for these for years. It appears they were released in 2005, just after I was searching for them while writing the Lisbon Maru book. Finally I have a complete view of which Lisbon Maru survivors were in which camp. 18 Thomas Ritson Hetherington’s (Royal Scots) family got in touch.
17 I met Colin Standish in his hotel on Hollywood Road and we had a good chat about his researches and plans. 17 I received this communication via Meg Parkes: “Please could you help the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in its bid for HLF funding for the FEPOW art exhibition by sharing the Facebook link as widely as possible.” Scroll down to their entry of February 16, and on some PCs you may have to click on ‘See more’ in the third paragraph of the post (just above the image) to see the link to the survey.
16 Brian Finch kindly let me know that: “Laurel Films are in the process of producing a documentary about the Lisbon Maru Incident. They have already started filming and expect to release the film within 2 years. Their aim is to gather as much data as they can from a wide range of sources so as to produce a comprehensive and authoritative account, to be shown in English on the international market and also distributed in other languages, principally in Asia.”
12 Harry McFee contacted me to let me know that his new book Oh, Silent Cross is available. This is “a ‘collage’ of stories including maps, letters, newspaper articles and photos… in all, 726 pages of Second World War personal and ‘official’ information”. Harry assures me that it has a lot of Hong Kong C Force content so I have ordered a copy and will report back when I receive it.
11Colin Standish sent me the most complete set of December 1941 Japanese propaganda fliers I have yet seen, including a couple that were completely new to me. He has also – with the help of colleague Ryan Zade - tracked down the elusive Shamshuipo and Stanley Camp hospital records! Long known about, the last copies I was aware of were at HKU but no one seemed to know where. Now copies have arrived at the POW. They are: HKMS81 (medical records of Shamshuipo POW Camp), HKMS82 (Christmas Day Menu for Shamshuipo Prisoner of War Camp Isolation Hospital – it says signed by Sergeant Ahable, RAMC in charge of the kitchen (no such person exists, and my best guess is that in my files this is ex Corporal Albert Noble), HKRS42 (Records of Stanley Internment Camp and Hospital), and HKRS42-1 with the same description. 11 Steve Denton has found records indicating that Lance Corporal Arthur David Smith (Middlesex – attached to the Military Police, and a Lisbon Maru survivor) was a Canadian serving in the regular British army. While not unheard of, these are relatively uncommon.
6 Derek Nickson’s (Stanley Internee) family got in touch. 6 On the ‘menu’ published last month, Ken Skelton notes: “It is indeed an American Ration Menu - I have Menu #5 that my father brought back that was in the food drops done by B29's at Omine Camp. (He also brought back pieces of the coloured parachute silk that were attached to the drums). I also have the metal ration box that held the cardboard ration cartons which was dropped inside 50 Gal drums.”
5 Commenting on the photo of Joan Wood last month, Barbara Anslow noted: “Left to right: me; Dr Mark Erooga who did valuable service in Stanley Camp hospital; Joan Wood who passed away last month; (I can't remember this lady with long fair hair); Dermot McMahon of Postwar HongKong Police, who died last year, husband of the late Peggy (nee Barton) who was in Stanley; my late elder sister Olive Darby; one of the children in camp, have forgotten his name.”
4Today we had the last Hong Kong Club walk of the season, Violet Hill to Deepwater Bay via Repulse Bay. I call this one the ‘Travelling Massacre’ as it follows the route of the Tanaka Butai as they rampaged down Wong Nai Chung Gap Road. We had a good turnout of around sixteen people, and set off with a temperature of just five degrees! When I returned home I checked what the War Crimes files had to say, and it makes interesting reading: The Accused was the Commanding Officer of the 299th Regiment (“Butai”) of the 38th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, also known as the Tanaka Butai. This case concerned the fall of Hong Kong Island on the night of 18 December 1941. Three Regiments of the Japanese Army attacked – the Tanaka Butai on the right (landed at Sau Ki Wan); the Doi Butai in the centre (landed at Tai Koo Docks) and the Shoji Butai on the left (landed at North Point). They were to proceed to Wong Nei Chong Gap, after which they had separate objectives. The case concerned only the first Butai. It had the objective of reaching High West. It proceeded through Sau Ki Wan, to Stanley Gap after Wong Nei Chung Gap, then to Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay, and reached High West after fighting through Brick Hill and Shou Shan Hill… A number of specific incidents were highlighted: 1. Lye Mun and Sai Wan Fort at Sau Ki Wan: Bayoneting captured soldiers. 2. Salesian Mission (medical post): Butchering male military and civilian personnel. Women were taken away. 3. Pryce Incident at Island Road (Lye Mun): Two Canadian soldiers were made to work all day then bayoneted. 4. Murder of a wounded Hong Kong Singapore Artillery officer and the bayoneting of other captured soldiers. 5. Eucliffe at Repulse Bay: A number of soldiers who had surrendered were executed. 6. Wong Nei Chung Gap to Repulse Bay: Murder of personnel at various places. 7. Post Repulse Bay: The killing of 3 officers on Shou Shan Hill; the bayoneting of the remnants of a grenadier company at Little Hong Kong. … The Prosecution argued that ‘while isolated instances may occur which are not in the power of the Commander to prevent, when the abuses are widespread it argues that properly effective measures have not been taken’ (citing and later quoting Yamashita, United States Supreme Court). It was argued that the Accused failed to take proper steps to prevent and also punish his subordinates for illegal acts. Given that it was clear that atrocities did take place, whatever instructions/order/speeches/warning given were insufficient in such instances.”
3 Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch via Ron Taylor (UK), kindly sending a photo (illustrated). 3 Colin Standish’s (Royal Rifles) grandson got in touch. 3 Harold Relph’s (Royal Artillery) son got in touch. 3 Having seen the CNN article about the two 1,000 pound bombs found here last week, I now regret that we weren’t able to arrange an interview. It was probably the best of the lot, with the only minor mistake being that there are no bullet holes in the HSBC lions – just shrapnel ones.
1 After yesterday’s radio spot (see last month), today I was inundated for requests from radio stations and newspapers, and had to turn them all down as I was working. That’s probably a good thing, as there are plenty of other people just as qualified to talk about the American bombing. 1 Discussions continued with Low Keat Soo’s family (see last month). He was one of the Malayan students at HKU who after release from POW Camp (in late 1942, as ‘locals’) stayed at May Hall because they had no families to go to. There they were forced to work in the Anti-Epidemic Squad of the Sanitary Department. Eventually he escaped with colleagues, joined up with BAAG and worked in Counter-Intelligence under Hall-Caine. He also served with the Americans in China, and the family kindly sent a photo from that period (plus others of his medals, family, and a newspaper article). His son notes: “As it turns out, my father working as part of the Sanitary Department when he was a POW in Hong Kong, met my mother I think at the Central Market where they did inoculations. After the war, he returned to Hong Kong and married my mother and so a bit of happy ending.”
February 1st, 2018 Update
Jessie Holland's grave, Oil Street (both author), Douglas Burns' neckercheif (courtesy Don Burns)
Joan Wood (third from left, courtesy Barbara Anslow who is first left), Percy Chittenden, Percy Chittenden's diary (both courtesy Ken Blackmore)
A Cruel Captivity cover (courtesy Ellie Taylor), Mount Davis 9.2 (via Steve Denton), 7 Bty 5 HAA in 938 (courtesy Andy Salmon, via Facebook)
Jessie Holland. I first came across her twenty years ago, discovering that a lady of that name had volunteered to serve on a launch in the evacuation of Kowloon on 12 December 1941, and had been shot and mortally wounded. In NTSC I wrote: “Two accounts, (Hong Kong Aftermath, Brown, page 15; Prisoner of the Japs, Gwen Dew, New York: Heinemann, 1943, page 45), mention a British nurse being killed on the last ferry from Kowloon, though they disagree on some details and provide no name. A more accurate account is probably Sui Geng, Ward, page 146, which describes a nurse called ‘Mrs Hollands’ as being ‘lightly wounded’ on this day while serving as a volunteer on a harbour launch under police control, recovering British troops (Lt. Forsyth and his Punjabis) from Kowloon. The Royal Hong Kong Police, Crisswell and Watson, page 174 specifies that she was wounded in the stomach, and was accompanied by another nurse, Mrs Sando. Hong Kong Police War Diary records: ‘In spite of the two European ladies being made to lie flat on the deck Mrs Holland received a bullet wound in the abdomen.’ But the Queen Mary Hospital records (which state that she lived at 6, Minden Avenue, and give her age as 45) are unequivocal: she was admitted and was pronounced dead on the same day. Correspondence with her family confirms her death, but she is not recorded in Commonwealth War Graves Commission files. This month (see the 12th) I finally stood at her graveside. The next such case that I am very keen to solve is that of Theodore Leslie Bell, who was shot and killed by the Japanese exactly one week later, and again has no known grave and no entry in the CWGC files.
31Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) son got in touch. 31 Michael Wright, ex-3 Bty HKVDC, has passed away at the age of 105. I corresponded with him briefly around twenty years ago. I also heard a rumour that another Hong Kong stalwart had passed away, but I will reserve comment until I hear further. 31 Yet another bomb (probably another ANM-65) has been found in Wanchai, in close proximity to Saturday’s. I suspect both fell in the harbour, but had been covered up by later reclamation. This afternoon as I walked back from work I was interviewed by Annemarie Evans for RTHK on this subject.
30Today Barbara Anslow passed the bad news to David from Gwulo and me that: “my dear friend Joan Wood passed away in New Milton, a few days before her 99th birthday. Pre-war we had been colleagues as Stenographers with the HK Government. During the battle for HK, Joan was a VAD nurse at Bowen Road Military Hospital. Her father was killed by the Japanese soon after they landed on the island. Joan had married Reggie Wood before our war: Joan and her mother ended up in Stanley Camp. Reggie served in the Wavy Navy HKong and was a POW in Kowloon.” Barbara and Joan had been close friends for all these years. Joan’s father was William Seath of the ARP, killed by the Japanese on Mount Parker Road.
29 Low Keat Soo’s (HKVDC Field Ambulance, BAAG) son got in touch. This is leading to some very interesting correspondence as Elizabeth Ride is now helping the family understand what he did. It appears he was in counter-intelligence under Hall-Caine, but as with all such men he told his family very little. I shall report on this more fully next month. 29 Yesterday an American 1,000 pound HE bomb was uncovered during excavation work in Wanchai. The South China Morning Post covered the epic defusing process here. EOD tell me that it was painted with a black band, meaning armour-piercing. 29 Philip Cracknell has a new blog post about West Brigade HQ at Wong Nai Chung Gap.
28Frederick North’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
27 Steve Denton found two more very interesting MI9 forms. The first was from Cyril Henry James, RASC, who noted that he: “Was tried by Japanese court-martial at Shamshuipo, by Colonel Commandant of POWs Hongkong for refusal to sign no-escape form. Was told that refusal to sign form would be regarded as mutiny and that I would be shot. I signed form.” He listed CSM Albert Fred Wood, Private Ernest James Gothard, Sergeant John Erskine MacDowell, and Driver Charles Henry Fitzgerald (all RASC) as co-defendees. The second was Kenneth Frederick Sawyer, RAVC, who wrote: “Attempted escape from Hong Kong island on Dec 25th 1941 after cessation of hostilities. As air raid in progress - stole sampan and attempted to reach coast of mainland but winds made it impossible. Landed on island of Lantau. Total concealment difficult; Chinese reported presence to Japs who sent out patrols which chased us for six days. On one occasion we were under fire but had no arms in our possession. Also without food. Re-captured by unit of Jap navy on the beach Dec 31st. He states he was with Private George Pape Middlesex and Driver Wheatley RASC, and continues: “Chinese inhabitants of the island reported our presence to Japs who gave chase. On Dec 31st we were pocketed and surrounded under the beach. We were without arms. Ran along beach in an endeavour to break through enemy lines but were seen by Japanese minelayer working off-shore and captured by them.” I have a note I wrote in 2007, frustratingly without any provenance. It reads: "Sawyer, RAVC, describes an attempted evasion by sea with Middlesex G. Papes, Horse Ambulance Driver Wheatley RASC, Private Jacobs, RAMC, and three Americans (Swannye, Billy, Casey) from 'an American cargo vessel that had been sunk in the harbour'. Took boats. Separated from the Americans after landing on Lantau north of Cheung Chow. On the 28th, met a Chinese man who described three dead men (presumably the Americans). Recaptured on the 29th.” George William Pape died on the Lisbon Maru. Driver Leslie Alfred Wheatley survived the war, being on the first draft to Japan. Mike F.K. Jacobs RAMC escaped with Whitehead in 1942. 27 Apple Daily today ran a nice article (in Chinese) and video about George Cautherley.
25 Elizabeth Ride today sent the Netherlands Red Cross all the BAAG documentation on Dutch POWs in Hainan, and I followed up by sending them a copy of the letter (see the fifth) which had sparked this conversation. 25 A correspondent notes: “I recently purchased an Army Long Service medal named to 1866149 W.O.2. F. Quinnell. R.E, (on eBay from a seller in Omaha, Nebraska. One can only guess how it got there). I have been able to gather quite a bit of information about him. He was a POW in Hong Kong for the entire war... He is mentioned 3 times in O’Toole’s POW diary, including in the opening entry as being with him (and escaping) at Wong Nai Chung Gap on the 19th.” Does anyone have any more detail? I list Frank Quinnell as being in the RE Services, but aside from that can add very little.
24 The Dutch Red Cross responded to me about the Hainan letter saying that they had very little detail on their Hainan POWs and would be grateful for whatever we could give them. I pinged Elizabeth Ride in Norway to see what she could do to help. She kindly sent them her files, including this note from her father's report to Whitehall after the war (Report on the Activities of an MI9/19 Organisation... etc - NA WO 208/3260): “(a) On the 17th August our HAINAN operation was cancelled as the Americans stated that they did not need our help and assured the Commandant that they had everything planned for that area. After the surrender it was found they had done nothing at all, and a Naval vessel had to be sent from HONG KONG to rescue the escapers and prisoners.” 24 Martin Heyes reports that Private Leonard Rimell’s (Middlesex) medals are for sale. I still don’t know whether Rimell was killed in Stanley on the 25th or earlier around the North Point Power Station.
23Elizabeth Ride notes: “I have recently posted my father's SSPo diary on Gwulo.” 23 Simon Cheung tells me that they have identified the first ‘old boy’ from St Paul's College who was lost during the war. This was Private Leung Tak Chiu of 3 Coy HKVDC. 23 Philip Cracknell has written a new blog about Lt Colonel Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson, the commander of the 5/7th Rajputs. He notes: “His role in the Battle for Hong Kong is reasonably well known. He was commanding officer of the 5th Battalion - 7th Rajput Regiment who faced the Japanese onslaught on the north shore during the night of 18th December 1941 - but what of his personal life? And what became of him?” The reminded me that in 2005 I was able to help return to the family a book that RC-R had written to his two sons. One of them had lost it in 1959, with other family papers, during his move from Birmingham to New Zealand. In fact he had left it in a flat which he shared with a friend. That friend’s son had fortunately retained it, and I put them in touch. 23 Through the kindness of Mary Monro I am now in contact with the daughter of John S. Whitehead, escapee and author of ‘Escape to Fight On’. 23 The Researching FEPOW History Group had revamped their website rather nicely. Well worth a visit!
22 Steve Denton (again! He is fast becoming the uber-researcher of the period) was kind enough to send me the MI9 form of Signalman Strangeways O’Leary. This contains an eyewitness report of the death – during the 1941 fighting - of two fellow signalmen, which more than anything else is what I am always hoping to find. Extremely useful. Steve also sent a copy of Geoffrey Hamilton’s three-page affidavit from the War Crimes trials.
21 Craig Mitchell today very kindly presented me with three wartime Japanese beer bottles. These are almost certainly from the occupation period rather than the battle, being found near a tunnel system built by local labour under Japanese supervision in 1944. No doubt the supervisors were enjoying a tipple while others worked… But I am very glad to have them and (when my wife declares them clean enough) I intend filling one with Sierra Nevada’s finest IPA and becoming the first person to drink beer from it since (I believe) 1944. That will surely be a photo opportunity.
20Steve Denton kindly sent me Godfrey Bird’s MI9 form. 20 Today the South China Morning Post article came out (see the fifteenth). Very positive, I thought. I may have made one little error, though (it was a long interview all off the cuff so I hope I can be forgiven). Looking again I think the Red Cross parcel menu (illustrated) I mentioned is actually from an American ration box parachuted into the camp shortly after the Japanese surrender. Not that this alters my point in any way. Interestingly, though, this article resulted in more emails coming my way than anything else the SCMP has published about Hong Kong War Diary. 20 Yay! Today my annual royalty cheque arrived from Hong Kong University Press. I have told them very openly that the way this thing works is as follows: they give me a royalty cheque, I use it to buy a small present for my wife, she then agrees to me pursing this hobby for another twelve months. This year’s cheque (and remember that this is for four books currently in print) is the equivalent of US$220. I have been told that JK Rowling and Dan Brown are feeling very intimidated, and I feel quite sorry for them. 20 An old school friend turned up in Hong Kong today, staying with his wife at the Harbour Grand in Oil Street, North Point. I volunteered to pick them up and give them a tour of HK (actually we had a great time), but as I walked down Oil Street I noticed that although a lot of the old buildings on the east side of the road seemed to have gone, a number on Electric Road (including the former clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club?) are being actively restored.
19 Stephen Verralls mentions that he is researching Henry Thomas Buxton and Alberta Buxton (he has Henry’s medals). I had often wondered about their daughter Patricia, and he notes: “the HK PRO has a file on Patricia’s (Patricia Walton using her father’s name) enquiries about the death of her mother and step-father (HT Buxton). This and other research I have shows that Patricia left HK in July 1940 with her grandmother to Manila, later to be joined by her grandfather who opened a business to support them. All 3 were interned by the Japanese and suffered as all internees did. They were repatriated to USA in 1945 and spent 4.5 months in USA recovering. They were then sent to Durban where Alberta’s only brother was resident. It seems that Alberta (nee Pearce) was originally married to a Mr Walton and married Henry around 1939/40. Patricia is from the first marriage. I have no idea who Walton was, but the grandparents were George and Madge Stanley-Lovett, he being a fertiliser manufacturer.” In my research for Reduced to a Symbolical Scale I had found this mention of their visit to Australia in 1941. 19 George Boote noted: “Today Peter Wyngard passed away, he was a Shanghai internee, and is mentioned in JG Ballard's autobiography, they were interned in the same camp at Lunghua. It got me thinking of a Stanley internee Lewis Morley who was a 1960s well know photographer. In Lewis's autobiography there are about 10 pages on his stay in Stanley, including a couple of drawings.” I had no idea this book existed, so have ordered a copy. Morley was in Stanley with his father (also Lewis; a government pharmacist), mother, and sister.
18 Well, after all that the CWGC has once again rejected our request for Jessie Holland to be recognised! This time because of ‘lack of evidence that her death was due to enemy action’. On our next attempt I will include the report from the Police Diary which states that she was shot in the abdomen and see if that does the trick. So at this point our evidence consists of: - An entry in the Police War Diary mentioning a “Mrs Hollands” being shot in the abdomen on a ferry on Dec 12. - An eye-witness report of a nurse being shot in this manner In Wenzell Brown’s ‘Hong Kong Aftermath’. - A file from the HK PRO showing that Mrs Jessie Holland, ANS, was a civilian fatality. - An unsigned HK Death Certificate for Mrs Jessie Holland, stating she died ‘on or about’ 25 December 1941. - A registry entry from the Queen Mary Hospital showing that J. Holland had been admitted on 12 December 1941 and had died the same day. - An entry from the Colonial Cemetery burial register for 13 December 1941 showing that Mrs Jessie Holland was interred in grave 10027 with Frank Short officiating. - A document from the HK Government showing that Frank Short was recognised as a Reverend. - A page from the Aberdeen Weekly Journal of 6 August 1942 stating that her death had ‘already been reported’. - A photograph of grave 10027 today.
16 Martin Heyes kindly sent me this obituary of Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, born in Hong Kong in 1946 and a naval surgeon during the Falklands War. It appears his father was Lieutenant Commander James Jolly, RNR, Harbour Master in 1941, and his mother was a F.A.N.Y. Nursing Sister.
15The South China Morning Post interviewed me today, with a wide-ranging set of questions about Hong Kong War Diary; everything from the genesis to the philosophy, the artefacts to the people. They also took at least 200 photos of yours truly!
14 Ellie Taylor notes: “Just a brief update about my book, 'A Cruel Captivity', due to be published at the end of May… I've set up a page on fb so that those involved with the book are able to keep up with its progress.” The reason for my involvement is that one of the men featured in the book, Crown Sergeant William Gordon Wilson, was a Hong Kong POW from the Royal Naval Dockyard Police. One can see a photo of Shamshuipo POW Camp on the spine.
13 Ron Abbott informs me that two Royal Scots who I list as Privates (Thomas Byrne, 3055362, and Adam Hunter, 3050308) should actually be Pipers. I have made the corrections in my off-line files though it will be a while before they are propagated to the website. 13 I am now in touch with Christine Thomas. She notes: “It was from the mid 1980s to mid 1990s that I completed my own project. Most weekends and public holidays would see me in the cemetery with hand held tape recorder trying to decipher the headstones. My day job was as a Police Research Officer at PHQ. I spend my retirement researching stories of some of the everyday folk who found themselves in HK back in the 19th & early 20th centuries and presenting my findings as talks to Family History Societies and Archives etc. – and writing various blogs.” The dates would explain why the photograph she had of Jessie Holland’s grave seemed very open, whereas when I visited yesterday it was extremely overgrown. But how grateful I am for her work!
12 So finally today as I walked home from the office I made the slight detour to the old Colonial Cemetery (now the Hong Kong Cemetery). At exactly the position that Christine Thomas had said, I found grave number 10027 - that of Jessie Holland. I placed a poppy in front of it and took a few photos, well aware that I was probably the first person since her burial on 13 December 1941 to visit that spot in the full knowledge of the identity of that grave’s occupant. It was simultaneously satisfying and melancholy; an odd moment.
11 Douglas Burns’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch, kindly sending a number of documents and a photo of his father from the time. He noted: “I also have a red cross neck kerchief that my father embroidered (self taught) with the names of all of his mates who were killed while he was captured. I can send you a photo if interested.” I was very interested! 11 Richard Horsburgh reported: “Brian Edgar sent me the attached report on the situation in HK post Japanese occupation written by Mavis Ming after she arrived in Chungking and began working at the British Embassy in about May 1942”. The four-page report showed a very sophisticated understanding of the situation in early-occupied Hong Kong. Interestingly, the last image also showed the first page of Major Munro’s report! Apparently this was among a file of ‘escapee reports’ sent from Chungking to the UK during that period. 11 The Java Journal linked to the Ient family website. I gave a member of that family a little assistance perhaps ten years ago, but clearly a lot of work has gone into it since then, covering Albert Ient’s (Royal Signals) and his comrades’ experience on the Lisbon Maru and elsewhere.
10 Mary Monro tells me that her book about her father (escapee Major John Monro, RA) is getting close to publication). 10 Steve Denton kindly sent two entries from Arthur Alsey’s Diary for 1942 about James Donnelly (see last month). 10 On Facebook, Andy Salmon placed a very interesting photo of 7 Bty 5 HAA on parade at Lyemun in 1938.
9 While, as usual, searching for something else altogether I accidentally found the 1941 ordinance specifying the circumstances under which the Hong Kong police force could be sworn in as a militia.
8 Ian Brown sent this exciting (at least, to me) email: “I am indebted to Christine Thomas for information she has given me regarding the burial of Jessie Holland which appears to have taken place on 13 December 1941 under the auspices of Frank Short. This would indicate that she was buried in the former Colonial Cemetery, the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley, a stone marks her grave, No 10027 in Section 18 of the cemetery near the old fountain.” I shall visit the cemetery on Friday when I walk home from the office – it’s only five minutes out of my way. Apparently Christine worked for around twenty years in the Royal Hong Kong Police, in archival records management. She is now retired in the UK, has extensive cemetery records, and gives talks and presentations on life in the former colony while she continues with her research.
7 Again while searching for something else entirely I found an interesting article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 60 [May 19, 1953] entitled “Neurological Sequelae in Repatriated Prisoners of War from Hong Kong: a Follow-up”. 7 Bill Lake asked a very interesting question: What’s the story of the repatriation of Japanese POWs after their surrender in 1945? I can only find little bits and pieces and it would be good to learn the whole story.
5Robert Chan emailed me a link to the display at the front door of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. That looks like Nurse Kay Christie to me. 5 Elizabeth Ride emailed me to say: “I have the original of a letter written on Nederlansche Roode Kruis paper by an escaped Dutch POW on Hainan to the BAAG asking for help”, and asked my help in finding parties who might be interested in a copy. I will contact the Dutch Red Cross and see what they can do. 5 There was a fascinating article in the South China Morning Post today, concerning the fate of Staff Sergeant Jack Flegg, PWD, who I recorded as being “Bayoneted, ‘with his assistant’, at Tai Tam reservoir” on 22 December 1941.
2Steve Denton kindly sent Marcel Doiron’s (see last month) repatriation records. He also included a short digitised coloured cine clip of one of the Hong Kong coastal batteries – I think it was Mount Davis – firing a 9.2, and I was able to extract a decent still. 2 While searching for something completely different (as often happens) I found the IWM’s complete collection of four videos of the liberation of Hong Kong. 2 One of the most interesting finds when cataloguing the first couple of boxes of my archives at the end of last month was a high resolution photo of Private Percy Chittenden, Middlesex. It was labelled: “Private Percy Chittenden… tries to compose a cablegram to send to the folks back home as the ship which is carrying him in the first stage of his return to England docks at Honolulu.” The ship was the USS Admiral Dickman, and the photo was credited to the US Army. But as soon as I recalled it I recalled a story from 2005 when I was contacted by his family who told me: “We have found some more papers that my uncle brought back from Japan… There is one item which has amazingly survived from Hong Kong, a diary for 1941 with entries on every day from Jan. 1st to Dec. 17th.There are no entries after Dec.17th. It looks like the diary was returned to him after the war. He had written his name and address in it. It is inside a bag inside an airmail envelope. Written at the back of the diary is: 'This was found in 1942 (summer) in our garden of No.8 Broadwood Road, Hong Kong when we went home. Everything lost. We lost four brothers. Very sad. B. Reed… Written on the bag is: 'Can’t locate please return this to his family if possible. Mrs B Reed, 244 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hongkong'. I was able to pass photos of the diary to Mrs Reed’s daughter, Angela Niles, who knew nothing about the incident. The four brothers were of course the four Reed brothers killed in the HKVDC, Arthur, Edgar, Francis, and Stephen.
1 Geoffrey Emerson notes: “Lawrence Ziegler, a child in Stanley Internment Camp, passed away in November 2017 in St Louis, Missouri, at age 87. A missionary family, his mother and six children were in the Camp. They were repatriated in June 1942. His younger sister Laura Ziegler Darnell attended the Stanley Camp Reunion in 2011 organized by Geoff Emerson. She and one older brother, Theodore A Ziegler, are now resident in the United States.” 1 Ron Abbott is continuing his researchers into pipers in Hong Kong. In 1941, the Sergeant Piper (Ron notes: “for some unknown reason, the HKVDC appears to have continued using the term 'Serjeant-Piper' rather than Pipe-Major despite the British Army officially having reverted to the term 'Pipe-Major' in 1921) of 2 Scottish Coy HKVDC was William Craigie Keith Mackie. He continues: “Mackie was last seen (and heard) alive in the vicinity of the old Stanley Police Station in Hong Kong on 24th December 1941. He was purportedly playing ‘Heilan’ Laddie’ and ‘Cock O’ The North’ at the time.” He also identified George Nesbit (‘Nisbit’ in my records, though Nesbit sounds more credible) of 2 Coy as a Piper. He also pointed out that the Royal Scot I have as “McHattey, Stanley Private 3053696 (LM)” is in fact Drummer Stanley McHattie, sending me his POW Index Card as solid evidence. 1 Continuing the story of Sergeant John Carvell (see last month), Steve Denton notes: “it’s not much but it’s pieces of the jigsaw. I found his MI9 on the COFEPOW site and also tracked him down on the HMS Implacable for his return home.” His MI9 interrogation form confirms he was based at the BMH for the duration, which interestingly he refers to as ‘Camp A’.
January 1st, 2018 Update
View of Happy Valley, September 45 (courtesy Robert Ferris, via Charles Dobie), French commemoration at Stanley (courtesy Geoffrey Emerson), Visit to St Stephen's (courtesy Martin Heyes)
Different unknown grave styles (author), Yen payments to camp funds, Possibly Fourth Bty HKVDC (both courtesy Briony Widdis)
Causeway Bay under fire (courtesy Tai Hang Wong), Bowie's maunscript cover (author), Unknown trio from Mavis Ming's collection (courtesy Richard Horsburgh)
The Donald Bowie story (see the 28th) tells me that I have a problem (which was also pointed out to me by Dr Colin Day in an email earlier this month, and has actually been mentioned many times before by Dr George Cautherley and others): I am not really in control of my archives, and a great deal of what I have is unique. Sims’ report doesn’t exist anywhere else, and I have countless letters and papers from veterans of Hong Kong’s war and unique papers (hard copies) from Hong Kong in 1941, from Stanley Internment Camp, the POW Camps in Japan, etc. I suppose when I retire I will have time to catalogue it all properly but for the moment it’s a bit of a liability. Still, over the holidays I decided to at least get started. The first box I went through (it took an afternoon) contained, among many other things: An original copy of the South China Morning Post for 10 December 1941, and the Daily Express for 20 December 1941, around 100 pages of unpublished POW memoires by John Quinn (Royal Marines), documentation relating to William McCombe (HKVDC - including an original drawing of him sketched in Shamshuipo), a pre-war photo of Francis Crabb (HKVDC), Jim Fallace's 10 December 1942 account of escaping the Lisbon Maru, W.J. Anderson's statement of the 'trial' and executions in Stanley in 1943, Holroyd's unpublished escape account (80 pages), F.W. Wright's account of his escape (6 pages), Howarth & Ferguson’s escape report (3 pages), John Morrison's escape report (18 pages – this and the previous two all being from Elizabeth Ride), letters from Taffy Evans (Middlesex), Luiz Gosano and Francis Crabb (HKVDC), Gordon Fairclough (RA) Marilynn & Bob Armacost (the USAAF pilot of B24 Les Miserables that ditched carrying POWs), and Grant Shepherd (RN). And it isn’t as if things are slowing down! This month’s blog is the longest of any month since I started it in this format in October 2003. (And, oddly enough, that might be long enough ago for this to now be the oldest continuous blog still in existence on the entire web. I’ll revisit that topic on its fifteenth birthday).
31A beautiful last day to the year. Cool, but bright and sunny with good visibility. Left the house at dawn and walked up the Peak, then up to the top of High West. Nothing specifically history-related, but great views down to Pinewood and Mount Davis batteries, Stonecutters Island, Aberdeen, etc.
30Martin Spurrier’s paper on Bevan Field (wartime commander of 9 Platoon, 3 Coy HKVDC, and later the boss of Hong Kong Land) is almost ready.
28 A very interesting post appeared on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today: “On this day in 1941 my Uncle, then Sgt. John (Jack) Edwin Carvell (RAMC, BRH) was captured on HK. He and another engineer were hiding out and continuing their war against the Japanese, after the formal surrender, when a local told the Japanese their location. He spent the rest of the war in Sham Shui Po. I used to stay with him on Shaftesbury Ave in the 70's and was hugely affected by his wartime experience and the effect it had on him. I've tried to research his past, but hit a bit of a wall, I did find him listed on the HK War Diary page. Any information anyone can provide, or directions on how to research deeper, would be greatly appreciated. Jack ended his career as a Major and received an MBE for his services to the Empire, I greatly admired the man. He also tried out for Tottenham Hotspurs in the 30's before joining up and being shipped to HK. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, and have a great 2018 everyone”. Well, this is really annoying. I know that Carvell was a Royal Engineer attached to the Bowen Road Hospital, so thought I could help with details. I found my Bowie manuscript (of his book, Captive Surgeon in Hong Kong – I bought it on the interweb before so many people became interested and prices started going up) easily enough, but MSM Eric Sims' eleven-page account of the RE at Bowen Road Hospital (which came with it) is no longer there. However, Bowie confirms that Mr Carvell served at the hospital both at Bowen Road and when it reopened 24 March 1945 at the Central British School (so he would in fact only have been at Shamshuipo POW Camp between the two hospitals). But here’s the problem: while searching in vain for Sims’ account I found so many papers that I’d forgotten I had. Copies of PRO files, many letters from ex-POWs, bunches of papers from their families, genuine copies of the South China Morning Post from December 1941, wrappers from Red Cross parcels from the camps in Japan, original official papers from the Japanese administration in Stanley, all sorts of wonderful things. I suppose that’s what happens when a thirty-year hobby accumulates items in the hundreds every single month, but it’s worrying.
27 Hugh Dulley notes: “You might be amused to hear that last year I wrote to the BBC History Magazine re the 75th anniversary of the invasion as they pride themselves on marking anniversaries. They published my letter and this year they wrote a short article to mark the anniversary and published a full page photo of the Battle.” I checked the BBC History Magazine’s website, but unfortunately the HK article isn’t visible. I guess they want people to buy the magazine.
23 The South China Morning Post posted a very interesting video today, featuring Craig Mitchell and the other ‘ethical detectorists’ and their findings in the hills. While it’s good to see the interest, I remain extremely concerned that one day someone will stick a spade in something nasty and we will all regret it. However, both Craig and the narrator emphasised this point several times at the end of the piece. 23 Bruce McNamara reminded me of his International Witness to War Project: “The International Witness to War Project is a collaboration between the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Canadian International School of Hong Kong, and Chinese International School. The project required secondary school students to interview survivors of the Second World War. Recordings and transcripts of these interviews were then deposited in the university archives for permanent storage and protection where they are available to researchers. To date more than 300 transcripts have been added to HKU's archives in this way, making it the largest collection of publicly available interview transcripts on the Second World War in East Asia. An annual ceremony recognised both students and interviewees for these valuable contributions. In 2012 the project was awarded the 'University of Hong Kong Faculty of Arts Knowledge Exchange Award', which recognizes efforts that make outstanding social and cultural impacts on the Hong Kong community.” It sounds interesting, and I must take a look.
22 Richard Horsborough sent a couple of interesting photos from Mavis Ming’s collection. Can anyone identify the two soldiers?
21 I received another request for information about a Lisbon Maru survivor, Sapper Jim (James) Donnelly, 22 Fortress Company, RE. 21 An email today read: “I’m trying to find out about Freddie Knightly who was a survivor of the Lisbon Maru, and subsequently Deputy Chairman of HSBC (my father worked with him in Hong Kong in the 1960’s and 70’s). This is only reference I can find of him (apart from a photo taken of him and my father)”. But when I checked it appeared that the reference is incorrect. Knightly was not on the Lisbon Maru, but was instead interned as a civilian in Haiphong Camp, Shanghai (moving to Fengtai in June 1945).
20 Today I had a request from St Paul's College: “As you are aware, one of our ex Principals, Mr Evan Stewart, was the OC of No 3 Machine Gun Company, HKVDC. Fighting alongside him were a number of students from St Paul's. Three or four of them, sadly, lost their lives at Jardine' s Lookout.” They would like to raise a memorial to them. Unfortunately, although I have lists of all who were killed there, they don’t have any lists of old boys from pre-war so for the moment we cannot match them up. However, when letting them know where Lieutenant James Anderson of that Company was buried, I noticed for the first time that he is in a communal grave with other 3 Coy men. The information on the CWGC web site shows that their bodies were all found at the Jardine’s Lookout AA site, and that some were identifiable and others not. As they were buried in a collective grave I imagine their remains could not be separated.
19 Barbara Anslow kindly sent Christmas greetings to all the readers of Hong Kong War Diary: “Dear Tony and all members and those connected with HKong’s history during the war, wishing you all a happy Christmas and a good New Year. Tony's newsletter continues to be one of the highlights of my month, thanks so much for it. David Bellis' gwulo daily input on line of various war diaries seems to expand every year, great! Through Philip's and Brian's contributions I have learnt so much history of the war. Love to you all, and God bless, Barbara.” 19 Ron Taylor (UK) notes: “A while ago I was sent by Andrew Templer a transcription of a talk by Douglas Bertram and Brigadier Cecil Templer in 1985. This talk is now added to the Far East Heroes web site.” 19 Martin Heyes kindly sent a photograph taken on one of his tours of St Stephen’s, Stanley. This was for the family of Quentin Jones (second from the right), grandson of William Ernest Jones who was a senior draughtsman in the Public Works Department (PWD) of the HK Government at the outbreak of the Pacific War, and who was interned in Stanley. Martin himself is on the far left. 19 Elizabeth Sinn and Christopher Munn have a new book out, Meeting Place: Encounters across Cultures in Hong Kong, 1841–1984. While not about the war time period explicitly, it looks like interesting background reading.
18Briony Widdis (Douglas Crozier’s, HKVDC, granddaughter) sent a very interesting photo of what I think must be her grandfather’s payments to the Camp hospital. POW officers were paid a few Military Yen each month, and volunteered contributions to the Camp hospital to pay for a little extra food for the men there. I have not seen one of these before. She also sent a photo of what I think might be Fourth Battery HKVDC, although her father commanded Second. 18 Bob Tatz tells me he’s now editing the second draft of his book.
12Michael Stewart (son of the highly-respected Evan Stewart who commanded 3 Coy HKVDC) who I had recently put in touch with his childhood friend Richard Neve (son of Gordon Neve who was killed during the fighting) let me know the sad news that Richard had just passed way. Richard gave me a great deal of help in writing Reduced To A Symbolical Scale. 12 An interesting newspaper cutting (illustrated) appeared on facebook. Last month, and several times previously, I have commented on the number of marriages between British soldiers and their local Cantonese girlfriends immediately before hostilities. The letter noted: “Sirs: Hong Kong, facing constant threat of attack, has recently seen many war marriages between British soldiers and Chinese girls, formerly rare occurrences, In this recent wedding the lance corporal of the famed Royal Scots (left) was bridegroom, while a private of his regiment acted as best man. Note the background of sandbags.” Unfortunately neither bride nor groom are named. The author of the letter, however, I can identify as Vincent Hubert Charles Jarrett, who won an efficiency medal in the HKVDC as a private in 1935. He was an Assistant Editor of the South China Morning Post in 1941, and became a Stanley internee. Aged 46, he was class C in the Hong Kong Defence Reserve. 12 Robert Chan notes: “Please share the Christmas story of Marcel Doiron, or other of his records.” He passed this link, which is fascinating and well worth a look. It’s pretty much a full set of typical POW records. Doiron (MiD) served in the Royal Rifles of Canada. 12 I am in touch with Jessie Holland’s family again. She, as readers will know, was the nurse who was killed during the evacuation of Kowloon. She had volunteered to help on a launch, and was shot in the stomach, expiring at the Queen Mary Hospital. Her husband Adam Holland was later killed in the accidental bombing on Bungalow C in Stanley Internment Camp in 1945, and that’s probably why she has no record in the CWGC (their three children, Isobel, Alistair and Joan appear to have left Hong Kong before hostilities, so no family member was here in 1945 to do the paperwork). And yet, as she died on 12 December 1941, surely she would have been formally buried somewhere? If we could find her grave there would be more chance of having her properly added to CWGC records. 12 Charles Dobie notes: “I've had another batch of photos sent to me from the voyage of HMCS Ontario in 1945. Included are several Hong Kong photos, all official Canadian Navy photos, which weren't included in the two previous collections of that voyage which are on my website. Robert Ferris sent me photos belonging to his father, Edmund Ferris, who made the voyage. Edmund is still alive, is 92 years old and in good health. A few of the new photos show details of the celebration parade as well as individual Hong Kong people.” There were indeed some great ones there, with one of a Jeep overlooking Happy Valley being especially evocative.
11 Bill Lake emailed me to say: “I have been asked if I knew which Artillery Battery finally sank the ship HMS Tamar after she refused to sink when being scuttled.” It’s a great question, but although I know that this indeed happened, I have never seen any formal documentation. Bill – himself a former RA man – reckoned that a Bofors would make the most sense, and I can’t argue with that. A Bofors rolled up to the waterfront firing point blank into the old ship’s waterline would certainly have done the job. (For any of our younger readers, the Bofors L60 was a fast-firing 40mm cannon designed for AA, but capable in many other roles). 11 Karen Wespi (Edie’s daughter) kindly emailed me to say: “Just a quick note to let you know my Mom, Edith Badger (Mason), passed away this morning. She died peacefully in her sleep.” Edie and I corresponded in great volume and detail over a number of years, about her father Joseph Mason (who passed away in Stanley Internment Camp) and his possible involvement in hiding Hong Kong’s gold from the Japanese during the occupation. Edith spent part of the war years under house arrest in 4, Dorset Crescent, Kowloon Tong, part in Rosary Hill, and the last few months in Macau. Later she became one of Cathay Pacific’s first air hostesses.
8On the Stanley Group, Barbara Anslow drew this fascinating review of ‘The Suitcase’: “I have greatly enjoyed reading 'The Suitcase' which gives a vivid portrayal of life in Hong Kong 1940-41. However I think you gave the impression there were few 'ordinary expatriates' around then, only Peakites: whereas there were vast numbers of ordinary people like my family! My younger sister Mabel was also a VAD in Bowen Road Hospital during our war. You mention her in your book as one of the VADs who was sent in to Stanley some months before all the other nurses. Mabel was then 18; she became ill soon after arriving in Stanley, with thyrotoxicosis (spelling!). She is now 94 and lives in a Home near her son in New Zealand as she has very little sight and can't walk unaided. Our mother was also called Mabel Redwood. Perhaps you have read her memoir called 'It Was like This..' Which is mainly about the HK war and internment. It is often available on Amazon, hardback in large print, also in paper back. My Mum was an auxiliary nurse in the wartime hospital in the Jockey Club throughout the battle. When the Japs entered that hospital and raped some of the younger nurses, Marie Paterson hid beneath my Mum’s camp bed and escaped that fate. The camp beds were jammed closely together. It was feared that more Japs would come for the other girls, but Marie was freezing on the concrete floor, so she squeezed into Mum's bed with her, she was a slight person but my Mum was about 170 lbs then. When more Japs came in with their torches, Marie kept her head beneath the covers. When all was quiet again, Marie got up, saying she had to go... my Mum was puzzled and anxious, not knowing then that Marie intended to get out of the Jockey Club to tell our authorities what the japs had been doing there. I have never before heard of one of the Chinese nurses dying there after the raping - it doesn't appear in my Mum's long account of that time (now in the Imperial War Museum), although she does mention that the young St Ambulance girls were badly used. You might be interested in my novel called 'The Young Colonials' which includes the Battle for HongKong and Stanley Camp. Although the characters are fictitious, the HK background is authentic. It is sometimes available on Amazon, it's much longer than my Mum's memoir. You mention VAD Joan Wood in your book, she is almost 99 and we speak on the phone now and again. Her father, surname Seath, was killed soon after the Japs landed on HK island. My HK war diaries are in throes of being published in HK.”
7 Further to the below, Don Ady noted: “On December 3, I and my daughter were invited to dinner by Janice and Bill Anderson in Palo Alto, California. Bill in  at age 18 in December served in the HKVDC. Now he is a truly remarkable age 98, who still walks easily! Subsequent to the Battle of Hong Kong, Bill was a POW in Hong Kong, then in Japan. Post war he testified at the War Crimes Trials. There he referred to his ex camp commandant as ‘Rat Face’. This drew vociferous complaints from the defense team. But, he was only was reusing the prisoners' name as they had not been introduced nor had they been told of the actual name. Bill subsequently joined in National Cash Register in Hong Kong. There he had a truly remarkable career. After rising to head the Hong Kong office, he was transferred to Japan to be number one there. In culmination he ended up as NCR's international president in Toledo, Ohio, USA.” Bill was the author of Corporate Crisis: NCR and the Computer Revolution. 7 There was an interesting discussion on the Stanley Group about dentist Harold ‘Sammy’ Shields who practised in Stanley Internment Camp but apparently was not qualified. However, the work done there was so good that post-war he was allowed to practise in Hong Kong. Don Ady recalled: “I can attest, personally, to Sammy Shield's dedication to his dental work. As a 9 year old in Stanley, six of my baby teeth were rotted and needed to be extracted to protect the permanent teeth. When the chloroform went on my nose I did a natural childish thing - tried to hold my breath. This created a detriment to the operation, but not to myself. I had been put over the edge of deep unconsciousness but not all the way under. Upon awakening, I remembered nothing at all. Sammy, however, appeared a bit rattled and a bit angry. He had a very good reason for that. I had, he said, been constantly screaming like a banshee! Yet, obviously he had kept up the good work and taken out six teeth. That can not have been easy with the effort required when he was no doubt fatigued from hunger.”
6 The Fall-Winter 2017 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten" is up on the POW Taiwan website now.
5 Martin Heyes mentions that Quentin Jones, the grandson of Stanley Internee William Ernest Jones is in Hong Kong to sell his grandfather’s Chinese stamp collection. Philip Cracknell noted that this link refers to Jones helping design a peace stamp after the war.
3 Being the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the invasion, this morning the Canadian Consulate hosted their annual memorial service at Sai Wan. I sat with Geoffrey Emerson on the bus to the cemetery and he mentioned a book called Hong Kong French Connection - from the 19th Century to the Present Day, 2012, edited by Francois Dremeaux, which has 10 pages of interesting photos and writing about 1941-1945. I have ordered a copy. We all arrived a little early, so I spent some time photographing graves, and especially comparing the three main types of Unknowns (A Soldier of the War, An Allied Soldier of the War, and A Soldier of the War [regiment]). But it was a well-attended service, with a number of Canadian parliamentary dignities attending. Unfortunately there was a slight mix-up as that delegation left, and that led to the busses being a little delayed. Fortunately Bill Lake was on hand with his car and provided both Geoff and me with a lift back to Central! 3 A lot more finds turned up in the hills today. I expect there will be more to relate on these in January. 3 Steve Denton kindly sent me Thomas Charles Cunnigham’s (RAMC) MI9 file. In it, Cunningham has written: “Captured with A.D. Station, Wongneichong, about 20/12/41. Escaped 21/12/41 during hostilities. Recaptured 25/12/41.” Under the title: “Give Regimental particulars of anyone who accompanied you on each attempt” he wrote: “Capt B De Barclay RAMC (went different way. I think was detected as shooting started). Pte Evans RAMC (Believed killed - did not see him when we walked into ambush), L/Cpl Linton, 1/Mx.” Barclay and Evans were never found. Linton was taken to the Queen Mary Hospital on the 22nd, and survived the Lisbon Maru. However, he perished in Osaka #2B (Kobe) of cardiac beri beri on 21 December 1943. Steve also provided the MI9 files of Private Thomas Scott, Royal Scots; Gunner Bert Garradley, RA; Gunner George Haywood, RA; Lance Corporal William Taylor, Hong Kong Signals Company; Private Bill Spooner, Royal Scots; Sergeant Henry Jeffree, Middlesex; Sidney Croft, Royal Marines; and W/O John Seaby, HKRNVR. He also included Ramp Bowen’s ‘The Lisbon Maru’. I knew Bert and Bill, and it’s always a little strange seeing ‘ancient documents’ that were penned by people you knew. 3 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent me a Japanese photo (shot from Braemar Hill looking westward) showing Lee Garden Hill on the centre left with the dome of Lee Gardens Theatre clearly shown (I remember it. It was demolished in 1991 at the junction of Percival Street and Leighton Road). Part of the hill existed up to the late 70s. Stubbs Road and Gap Road are on the North West corner of the photo. Parish Hill is on the left of Gap Road while Morrison Hill is on the right. Barbara Anslow lived in the building on the left margin of the photo. Leighton Hill is out of the left side of the photo, and today’s Excelsior Hotel should be at the extreme right of the waterfront. Tai Hang Wong added for clarification: “1. The wide 'street' running up on the right side of the photo behind the ICI complex is the section of Hennessey Road between the current East Point Road and Percival Street. 2. The small hill with a lot of trees below (i.e. east of) the dome of the Lee Theatre was the Lee Garden Hill. Judging from the rising smoke the large building at its northern end just got a hit. 3. A small portion of the eastern end of Sugar Street can be seen left of the large residential building at the southern edge (i.e. left) of the ICI complex. This residential building was knocked down in early 1970s.”
2 Today I heard directly from Dennis Morley (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) for the first time in a while. He notes: “I don’t think I would recognise the boys now. The last picture I saw one of them was about 12 ft tall. I would love to do the Hong Kong trip, but I’m under petticoat government so I am not allowed. I think I could do it if I could get a wheel chair or something like that to move around. Unfortunately my legs are giving away. My mind is willing but my body is not. Two to go until the tonne so I can get the queen’s birthday card (if she’s still around then).” Indeed, our older son – who walked around the Wong Nai Chung battlefield with Dennis when he was around five - is now 6’5! More to the point, I very much hope that Dennis makes his ton.
1Help needed: On 8 September 1942, 134 Hong Kong Chinese POWs were foolishly released from Shamshuipo by the Japanese (foolishly, because the great majority quickly rejoined the fight against them). But I have not been able to find a complete list. I can figure out perhaps 100 of them, but if anyone had the actual list it would be very helpful. 1 Steve Denton noted: “I got a surprise visit from my Grandma last night and she brought me some newspaper cuttings that she’s saved from the daily mirror in 1962.” The first cutting was a letter signed “Kobe House” from a Lisbon Maru survivor in Corsham, Wiltshire. He was asking if there was any official record of the loss, and the paper gave a surprisingly accurate answer. The second was an answering letter from Major ‘Dick’ Smith, historian of the Middlesex Regiment. Steve also kindly passed me Lieutenant Colonel F.D. Field’s (RA) MI9 file, reporting the escapes of Wedderburn, Passmore, Fairclough, Clague, White, and Pearce of the RA, and Bosanquet of the HKVDC. 1 While it’s not strictly relevant to Hong Kong, I heard today that Bill Marshall, President of The Java FEPOW Club, passed away peacefully yesterday, 30th November 2017, just nine days after his 100th birthday. As one of the most active FEPOW groups, the Java club had been kind enough to ‘adopt’ a number of their Hong Kong brethren in the last few years. 1 Today the Remembrance Ceremony for the Free French Forces was held at Stanley. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but Geoffrey Emerson did, noting: “Eric Berti, Consul General of France spoke. It was held by the large stone monument and brief biographies were given of the six Free French fighters whose names are on the monument and who died in Hong Kong. Students from the French International School recited poetry and sang a chorale, ‘Le chant des partisans’. And of course La Marseillaise was sung.” He also kindly supplied several photos.
December 1st, 2017 Update
Arnold Forster (courtesy Peter Forster), Banham at Crown Wine Cellars (SCMP), Weaver letter (courtesy Lindsey Archer)
Canadian delegation at Sai Wan (author), Mavis Ming & Billie Gill (courtesy Richard Horsburgh via Ian Gill), The Ridge from Violet Hill (author)
Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and BAAG Wreath (author), Signals Reunion (courtesy Nick Metcalfe)
The writing season is finally upon us. I don’t know why, but I do at least 75% of my research and writing work from autumn to spring. So it’s time to finally get a proper grip on BAAG and everything else that sprang from Hong Kong’s escapees and evaders. It’s a big project, and probably the biggest challenge will be to try to compress it into a single volume. I may well have to carve sub-subjects out for future papers for the Royal Asiatic Society.
29I left the office this afternoon and went to the Pullman Park Lane Hotel to pick up visitors from the Parliament of Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, and accompany them to the Sai Wan War Cemetery. They were an interesting bunch, and while walking down to the Canadian graves with them I saw that the grave of Colonel Pigdon, RAMC (an Australian captured in Singapore and transferred to Mukden) had been decorated with some little inscribed crosses from Epping North Public School (in New South Wales), St Mary’s, and one more that I couldn’t read, each saying ‘Their Spirit Our Pride 2014-2018’ thus looking more like a Great War memorial.
26This morning saw the second of this season’s Hong Kong Club walks. Our route was that taken by the surviving POWs from the Black Hole of 20 December 1941, as they walked over the hills from Stanley Gap to North Point POW Camp. It was perfect cool weather for it, and took almost exactly three hours.
25 Yet more finds in the hills today, including a watch and Canadian prismatic compass. 25 I saw on facebook that someone had kindly posted a newspaper article from 11 March 1942 quoting Anthony Eden’s statement about the Hong Kong POWs. He gave their numbers at the end of February – from Japanese figures - as British 5,072, Canadian, 1,689, Indian, 3,829, and others, 357; a total of 10,947. If you add in the 1,500 members of the garrison who were killed in the battle you get 12,447. Adding in the HKVDC members (including nurses) who were interned in Stanley, the Chinese and Eurasian members of the forces who melted away into the local population at surrender, and ignoring the police force who were only militia for a short period, it sounds pretty accurate. 24 This evening I attended Brian Finch’s talk for the Royal Asiatic Society at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. He covered his new translation of A Faithful Record of the Lisbon Maru Incident and was kind enough to give me a copy. At the same time I finally picked up a copy of the RAS Journal Volume 57 and was able to read Vaudine England’s very interesting summary of Rosary Hill, and Brian Edgar’s coverage of Irish stay-outs in occupied Hong Kong and the challenges they faced. I also enjoyed the article about the bombing of Bungalow C, but still disagree with the conclusion that it was deliberate. I have all the documentation from the carriers (thanks to Craig Mitchell) and while it is certainly true that a ‘Japanese barracks’ at Stanley was one of their targets, I find it much more likely that the American pilots would have thought the new Stanley Prison was the barracks. So whether they were aiming for that, or the lighter off shore, or the Japanese AA gun near the bungalow (all common theories), hitting Bungalow C was still an accident. And, with the technology of the day, even with low level bombing, deliberately hitting a target as small as that Bungalow would have been a remarkable piece of airmanship.
24 Steve Denton is continuing his great RAPWI work and has now identified 157 ex-Hong Kong POWs repatriated on the USS Gosper. 24 Brian Edgar sent the Stanley Group this very interesting email: “I've just come across a story in the South China Morning Post for December 12th, 1945 that casts an interesting light on the Stanley resistance. Douglas Waterton was a radio operator involved in the reception of illegal news and messages from outside. One night in 1943 he went to H. F. (‘Sammy’) Shield’s Dental Clinic and asked him to create a hiding place for a sheet of paper, foolscap size, containing important information. Shields took out two top teeth as an excuse for an upper denture; he made the vulcanised plate deeper than usual so it could include a sliding panel covering a recess where the paper could be secreted. Shields told the reporter that he feared that if the hiding place was discovered, the trail would lead back to him, so he must have been terrified when on July 7th, 1943 Waterton was arrested. The radio operator was one of those executed on Stanley Beach on October 29th, but the denture was never discovered and somehow Shields got hold of it and demonstrated its operation to the reporter. It’s sometimes said that the Hong Kong resistance was amateurish, but a lot of evidence, including this story, makes me think otherwise. And Mr Shields was just an ordinary internee doing his job when out of the blue he was asked to risk torture and perhaps execution to help the resistance. There must have been internees who, in such circumstances, refused their services - and who can blame them? But in all the cases I’ve read about, they went ahead, as did Mr Shields.”
23 Dan Bond wrote: “I am wondering if you could possibly assist in finding info on Pte Barker of the 1st Battalion Middlesex. In my research for my Uncle Tommy Burgess I have received from family members his last letter home dated 24th Oct 1941 and also a letter from a Pte Barker dated 7th Mar 1946. It is addressed to Tommy's mum, my great nan, and it explains he was a Japanese P.O.W and how he had promised Tommy he would find her and tell her what happened to him.” He kindly attached the letter, and after a little investigation, this turned out to be Private J. Baker (either Jack Baker 6201138 or John Baker 6203298) of the Middlesex rather than Barker.
21 Diana Hall (daughter of Eric Hall, HKVDC) got back in touch asking about the fate of her grandparents, Robert Hall and Jeannie Silver Hall who were imprisoned at Weihsien Internment Camp in China – they had emigrated from Scotland to Tientsin, China in 1920. Although they were both liberated, family lore had it that Robert died on the journey home, possibly in a hospital ship and possibly in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was pleased to be able to tell her that he died on 9 January 1946 aged 68 at Ranchi Military Hospital, India, as the result of illness contracted whilst in Weishien. Ranchi is the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, in the area that used to be known as Bihar Province. Unfortunately I don’t know where he is buried. There is a British Military Cemetery in Ranchi, but no civilians appear to be buried there. Possibly there was a colonial cemetery in Ranchi; can anyone help?
20 Nick Metcalfe notes: “As a consequence of my piece about the Hong Kong Signal Company and the Lisbon Maru, I was contacted by the son of Arnold Topliff BEM, who was awarded his medal for saving the life of Captain Christopher Man. He provided for me a wealth of information and photos that I thought you’d be interested in. Notably a super photo of 35 members of the Signal Company at their first reunion in 1969. All of those who attended were sent a copy of the photo and a ‘decode’ sketch that lists all who were there. Anyway, it allowed me to add a new story to the Royal Signal Gallantry Awards website, which you can see here.” The gentlemen here are Victor Ient, Henry Liley, Monty Truscott, Eustace Levett, Harold Copsey, Eric Rumford, R. Hood, Norman Lester, James Dignan, George Busby, Harold Roelich, Mathew Fraser, A. Binniglsely, (unknown), William Bevan, F. Ashford, Harold Bates, B. Harrison, William Holland, Alec Hunt, William McCormick, F. Bennett, David Howell, Peter Moddrel, Fred Latter, Robert Coghill, Arnold Topliff, William Devlin, Fred Carter, James Murphy, G. Nation, John Whitehead, A.A. Austin, George Caroll, and L. Parry. (Those names with initials only do not match any of my Hong Kong POW records). 20 The Mavis Ming research (see last month) had an outstanding result today. Ian Gill wrote: “After Stanley, my mother, Louise Mary “Billie” Gill arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, in the lavender housecoat that my father George Giffen had made for her from a blanket. At Lower Hutt hospital, where she delivered me on October 25, 1945, New Zealanders she had never seen before would come in and drop off gifts, mainly for the baby, on her bed. It was Christmas every day. Still, she lacked cash – and her own clothes. Before she left for the UK, the New Zealand government gave her 10 pounds and a friend slipped her another five pounds. She went shopping but could not find shoes small enough to fit her. At Sydney, Mum was met off the boat by her friend and former Hong Kong flat-mate, Mavis Ming, who took her to David Jones shopping mall where Billie finally found two pairs of child-size shoes -- and much more besides, I’m sure. And there the story would have ended -- until Tony Banham contacted me to say a Richard Horsburgh was doing research on Mavis Ming and could he pass on my email? It turns out Richard married Mavis’ daughter, Siaoman, and they are writing a book on Mavis. Yesterday, Richard sent me the attached photo of Mavis Ming in Sydney with the caption “Mavis with an unknown woman,” asking if I had any idea who the other woman might be. I took one look -- and jumped out of my chair. Not only was the woman my mother but the photo is one of the best I have ever seen of her, showing her in full plumage as a true Shanghailander: elegantly garbed in new hat – and what a hat – jacket, gloves and purse. Above all, she smiles with a quiet self-confidence that was lacking in the worrisome weeks after Liberation. She still hadn’t fully recovered physically from Stanley’s meager diet – despite appearances, she was still rail-thin – but at least she looked something like the smartly dressed woman she had been before the war. She was finally emancipated from the tired, demeaning garb of prison camp. Footnote: The radiantly reconditioned Billie returned to the ship and, known as a dab hand at bridge (a game she learned at Stanley from Henry Kew, an Australian who devised his own system), she was approached by another ex-internee, Dr. Helen Canaval, who asked to partner her. Billie confessed she had blown the last of her money. Helen, wife of the surgeon who had removed Billie’s appendix in Stanley by candlelight -- was so keen to partner Billie that she offered to spot her with a loan. That evening, Billie could hardly pick up a hand without bidding six or seven No trumps. It got so that she became embarrassed to look at her cards. Anyway, she made enough money to repay Helen and last her for the rest of a long journey.”
19 Martin Heyes reports meeting the nephew of Lieutenant Commander John Boldero of HMS Cicala. 19 As it was a quiet day I walked from home (Conduit Road) via Chatham Path, Barker Road, Magazine Gap, Coombe Road, Wanchai Gap, Blacks Link, to Wong Nai Chung Gap. Then walked along the Violet Hill catchwater until The Ridge where I took a photo of what I think must be the route (down a stream) that the Japanese used to attack The Ridge. But over the years I have found very little evidence of fighting round there, though quite a lot on Violet Hill itself.
18Steve Denton bought an old copy of Martin Weedon’s Guest of an Emperor and found it inscribed “Val, from Martin, 10 November 1949”. Such inscribed copies of printed memoires are not unusual, but I have sent a photo to Weedon’s son in case it is of interest. 18 As everyone knows, the Japanese advance along the North Face of Hong Kong Island to get to Victoria was blocked at the North Point Power Station by a bunch of grumpy old men who had fought in the Great War. I’ve always been interested in what happened next; at what stage did they decide to turn south along Wong Nai Chung Gap? I asked TK Wong his opinion and after reviewing his Japanese material he said: “The Japanese army used the experience they learned in the New Territories to fight in the battle for the island of Hongkong i.e. avoid coastal flat areas with paved road, and fight through hilly or mountainous areas in night times. The easy way is to attack westward through [Causeway Bay and Wanchai] to Central after landing in [North Point]. But in a divisional level meeting held at 2 p.m. 17-12-1941 at MaTauWai, the Japanese decided that it was too dangerous to use the aforesaid tactic because the route would be heavily defended and surrounded by high grounds (Leighton Hills, Morrison Hill, Lee Garden Hill).” He notes that the last directive ordered by the commander of the 38 Division to attack HK Island was made at 08.00 (18-12-1941) at Shatin. It ordered the 230 Regiment to, after landing, move uphill to occupy the hills east of Tai Hang (hills behind So Kun Po, Cemetery Ridge, and NW slopes of JLO, overlooking Causeway Bay, Leighton Hill and Happy Valley areas). Then move west to attack Mt Nicholson and Mt Cameron in order to occupy the hills east of Magazine Gap. The 228th regiment would attack eastward to Tai Tam areas and the 229th would move up Mount Parker and then attack westward to Violet Hill. “So when Col. Tanaka reached the summit of Violet Hill at around 5p.m. of 19-12-1941, he moved south along the catchwater on the western slope of Violet Hill (avoided using the Repulse Bay Road). He had already known that the 230 and 228 regiments were fighting around the WNCG areas. That shows the Japanese army fought according to their plans and they used their experience acquired in the New Territories. But part of the 230 Regiment - Suzakwa Butai (engineer soldiers) still fought from NP toward Leighton Hill and they met resistance near the NP power station.” So in other words they had always planned to occupy Wong Nai Chung Gap, thus being stopped at the Power Station was not the cause. 18 There were a number of interesting finds in the hills today, including a set of Canadian buttons (illustrated).
17 Dave Deptford alerted me to an Aberdeen Medals sale of a group of five Second World War medals to Sub Commodore Walter Fred Field, RAOC: 39-45, Pacific, Defence, War, and Army Long Service. Estimated price GBP160+. 17 I have often been asked which of the Lisbon Maru POWs ended up in Osaka #1B, and which in Osaka #2B (Kobe). I don’t know of any rationale for the split, so have only been able to answer for the few individuals who either told me or recorded the fact elsewhere. Now Steve Denton seems to have made a bit of a breakthrough by isolating around 200 who were in the latter (which was also known as Kobe House).
15Arnold Forster’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch, kindly sending a great photo of his uncle - who was lost in the sinking 0 riding his motor bike.
12 Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph started cheerfully (despite the context) with the meeting of many old friends, but as we chatted the heavens opened and – aside from a handful of better prepared individuals who had thought to bring umbrellas – we were soaked. Elizabeth Ride had asked Sandra Lau (Lau Tak Kwong's granddaughter), to lay the BAAG wreath, and she did so together with David Loie (grandson of David Loie Foo Wing). Lau Tak Kwong was executed on 29 October 1943 and David Loie took his own life when captured to avoid betraying his comrades. I noticed that David Loie’s CWGC entry is incomplete, giving his date of death as simply 03-09-1939 – 31-12-1947.
11 There’s been an interesting discussion in the Stanley group about the fact that no photos of the Naura Maru (the sixth and final draft from Hong Kong on 29 April 1944) can be found online. I now strongly suspect that the name is incorrect, and it was either the Inaura Maru or the Naruo Maru.
9 Steve Denton has found two more MI9 Interrogation forms (Sergeant Alfred Bright, Middlesex, and WOII Frank Daniel, RE), which show that Daniel was not only on the Lisbon Maru but was a Block Leader in Osaka #2 Branch Camp (Kobe). He was not marked as a Lisbon Maru survivor on this website, but that turned out to be my mistake. 9 I heard today that the electronic edition of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale should be available next year. 9 The papers today are claiming that a wartime shell was found during construction work, but a cursory look shows that it has studs rather than a driving band and is clearly much older. I checked with EOD, and they conformed hat it is a Palliser shell.
7 I have been invited to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces, jointly organized by the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong & Macau and the Souvenir Français History Society. It will take place Friday the 1st of December at 4pm, at the Stanley Military Cemetery, though unfortunately I will not be able to attend. 7 I heard today that a human skull had been found in Tai Tam near HKIS, and a British M36 grenade too (though I don’t know if the two incidents were related). The police took care of the former, and EOD the latter.
6 Today I recorded a radio show about Reduced to a Symbolical Scale with Annemarie Evans for RTHK. 6 Hong Kong Land kindly gave me a copy of their book 125 Years of Hong Kong Land, which of course features Bevan Field and has some excellent photos.
5 Jim Trick from the HKVCA asked if I could identify the location of this photo of Canadian POWs. I’m pretty sure it’s Shamshuipo. It took a while to decode the words on the wooden box on the left, but it’s “Indian Broken Pekoe”, a type of tea.
4An interesting contact from Ronnie Taylor in the UK: “My grandparents were Alf Martin, who was born in Kennington in 1893 but moved to Hong Kong probably in 1902. He died there in 1940 and is buried in the Protestant cemetery in Happy Valley. I visited his grave last week as we were in Hong Kong over half term. My grandmother was Enid Craik, born in Hong Kong in 1899. Her father (John Robertson Craik) is buried next to Alf Martin in the Protestant Cemetery. Enid was interned in Stanley during the war, where she married John Michell, who worked for the Hong Kong police. My father and his sister had by this time been sent to live with their aunt (my grandmother's sister) in Shanghai, hence why my father was interned in Yangchow. My father was born in Hong Kong in 1928 and christened in St John's Cathedral, where his parents had married in 1923.” 4 Joyce Wilkinson’s (Stanley Internee) grandson got in contact.
3 Responding to last month’s post regarding Mavis Ming, Ian Gill kindly responded: “Mum and Mavis were great friends and shared a flat in Hong Kong.” I have put the two in touch.
1 Kenneth Allanson’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. 1 The Dobson in the photograph (see last month) is probably Sub-Lieutenant Charlie Dobson, RNVR. 1 Brian Edgar responded to the request last month for more information on Mavis Ming, showing that there were 22 entries for her in the SCMP historic archives. The final one was actually published on 8 December 1941, which read: “Physical displays of a high quality were provided by the student of Belilios Public School, Wah Yan College, and Chung Wah Middle School, and members of the League of Health led by Miss Mavis Ming. The students went through their exercises with precision. Miss Ming’s troupe carried out a series of difficult movements with ease.” 1 I finally brought home my copy of the South China Morning Post for October 20th and photographed it! (See last month). 1 Following up from the story of John Weaver, Middlesex, lost on the Lisbon Maru and his marriage just pre-war to a Chinese lady, the family were kind enough to send me a set of photos of the couple and the post-war letters as the authorities tried their best to help. As I mentioned last month, although such marriages were quite common at that time, these letters are – in my experience – unique.
November 1st, 2017 Update
Boxer Magazine (courtesy Tai Hang Wong), Hong Kong Club Walk (courtesy Howard Tsang), Tai Koon Hotel list (author)
Sidney Picton in Sri Lanka (courtesy Nyree Penycate), Middlesex Drums (courtesy Simon Pervis), Dobson, James, Oswald, Morley (courtesy Stuart James)
Lisbon Maru London service (both courtesy Ron Brooks) Lisbon Maru Zhoushan service (courtesy Kent Shum)
A particularly busy month. Of course that’s not unusual in a subject closely associated with a Christmas Day surrender; it naturally becomes more intense as the year progresses. And even more so with this year being the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. Articles on that topic have appeared in many different newspapers, with the ‘hook’ being a certain Chinese film-maker and entrepreneur ‘Fang Li’ who wants to raise the remains of the vessel. But, as I explain below, I think this is a misunderstanding compounded by a degree of creative license. That being as it may, it was good to see appropriate attention finally being paid to the incident, and wonderful to be reminded that survivor David Beningfield is still with us as well as, of course, old friend Dennis Morley. No, I don’t think it was Japan’s greatest-ever war crime, but it truly was one of the greatest losses of life at sea in British history.
28John Weaver’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch, with the story of a young Chinese lady (from what appears to be quite a wealthy family) that he married shortly before the outbreak of war. Alas, he did not survive the sinking and in 1947 the British authorities tracked his widow down in China to tell her the bad news – the first such case that I have come across of a local bride being informed in that way. 28 Steve Denton has completed his monumental effort to document all the ex-Hong Kong POWs (500+) repatriated on the USS Joseph Dickman.
27Today I was honoured (and I mean that quite seriously) by a lunch with the Canadian Consul General, Jeff Nankivell, together with Consul Derry McDonell, and co-ordinator Carol Cheung. It’s the first time I have visited the new official residence, and I was very impressed. We spoke of various potential initiatives that could be developed in the spirit of living memorials to C Force. And, in case anyone is interested in such details, the food was excellent!
26William Ingram’s (Royal Artillery, Stanley Internee) granddaughter got in touch via the Stanley Group. He mother and (twin) aunt evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940 when her grandfather was still in the Royal Artillery. He must either have retired prior to December 1941 and was thus interned as a civilian, or used his Irish nationality as a neutral. Either way, I now know this is the same man, so another minor mystery solved!
24I received an enquiry about the unofficial Osborn Memorial – the unstructured pile of granite blocks around 50 metres east and a little south of the Osborn plaque by the path to the summit of Jardine’s Lookout. I told them what I knew, and that I had first visited 15 or so years ago. But does anyone know exactly who initiated it? 24 Hong Kong Land kindly sent me a soft copy of their book: A Short History 1889 – 1964. 24 A number of people pointed me to this Daily Mail article about the Lisbon Maru. This one reads like a review of my book on the subject (and quotes from it extensively), but having made enquiries I am now 90% sure that ‘Fang Li’ does not exist. I think this is a muddled reference to my old friend, filmmaker, and entrepreneur Frank Lee. But I don’t know the source of the rumour about a desire to raise the wreck. It is in fact not raisable. It was no spring chicken when sunk, and 75 years in hot turbulent water has rendered its fabric useless. With tens of thousands of tons of wet silt below decks, it would split like sodden paper were anyone to try to raise it today. 24 Jo Price notes that she has: “finally finished my first novel about my Grandparents and their experiences in the lead up, and during the Battle of Hong Kong. My Gran, Joan Whiteley, was a QA nurse at Bowen Road and later was a POW interned at Stanley (that is Book 2!) I feel so nervous sending this email to this group as you are all so knowledgeable and passionate about this part of our history. I only hope that I have done this part of their story justice. I would really welcome any feedback. I am thrilled that some of the reviews and feedback so far have been so positive and have made people think about and research what happened during the fall of Hong Kong. I hope that my grandparents would be proud. It is currently available in paperback - (ignore where it says out of stock - that is a temp error)”
23 Alan Knight notes: “I have just received the catalogue from Wellington Auctions, which lists a medal group awarded to Corporal A. Goodman, Middlesex Regiment, who died when ‘Lisbon Maru’ was sunk. The price of the medal is Pounds 260, and the Item # is 10/17/287.” 23 Tai Hang Wong noted, in a message to Elizabeth Ride: “The new Shui Chuen O Estate of Shatin mentioned in the enclosed report was completed between 2015 and 2017. Its location is the former Sugar Loaf Peak that Colonel Ride's Escape Group walked past sometime between 0430 hours and daybreak on 11 January 1942 during their southward descent from Kun Yum Shan toward the shoreline of Siu Lek Yuen at Tide Cove. The new development of Hong Kong has obliterated one more legacy of your father's escape route. Two of the pictures show the scars left by the hill fires which occurred earlier this year. Dr Banham's site has a marvelous video taken by a drone revealing the unfilled war trenches near the hill tops in that area after the fire. I wish I could visit and study the disposition of those trenches before they are covered by the scrub again.”
22 A researcher contacted me about an Australian Eurasian called Mavis Ming who was caught in Hong Kong when the invasion occurred. It appears that she registered on the Murray Parade Ground as ordered, was interned originally at the Tai Koon Hotel, and then escaped to Mainland China (probably on the grounds of ethnicity) by March 1942. It was very interesting looking at the Tai Koon (and other hotels) lists again. Lots of good information there.
21 This morning saw the first Hong Kong Club Walk of the season. Last year I took a sabbatical because firstly I was so busy that I was getting concerned that I was burning myself out and being a bit of a burden to the family, and secondly the admirable Philip Cracknell had stepped in to conduct his own walks for the Club – and it’s very healthy to have that new perspective. But today’s walk was so enjoyable I wondered if I’d rather shot myself in the foot last year! We had twelve attendees (probably the perfect number) and simply did the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail, the very first walk I ever did with the Club fifteen or more years ago.
20Simon Jervis noted: “I have recently acquired a large photograph of The Corps of Drums, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment taken at the Nanking Barracks, Shamshuipo, Hong Kong in 1940. I was researching the names when I came across your website and I thought that you might like a copy. As far as I can ascertain, every man in the photograph was either killed in action or was taken prisoner. Several died on the Lisbon Maru. There are three names that do not appear on your website, Chacksfield, Chattey and Webber, and two that I can not narrow down to an individual soldier, Hall and Wilson. I have identified the first three and I am still working on the last two.” It really is the most remarkable photo. Simon had clearly already done a great deal of research and when I checked against my records I found nine died during the fighting, and three on the Lisbon Maru (12 lost from 32): Back row: Drummer Ken D. Gage, Third Draft to Japan Private Charles Bellchambers, Fifth Draft to Japan Private Hall (could be Walter or John), both died on Lisbon Maru Drummer John Klimeke (Klimke, in my records), First Draft to Japan Private Henry S. Winsborough, To Japan Drummer Dennis Richard Ninchin (Minchin, in my records) lost 8/25 December 1941 Drummer George John Endersby, lost 19 December 1941 Private Leonards (Leonard, in my records. Could be Albert or Eric) Drummer James Harrington, Fifth Draft to Japan Drummer Chacksfield Private Albert Arthur Grover (Groves, in my records), lost 23 December 1941 Middle row: Drummer Ivan H. Abercrombie, First Draft to Japan Drummer William G. Dewbury, Lisbon Maru Private Albert W. Fielding, First Draft to Japan Drummer Charles W. Tully, Sixth Draft to Japan Drummer Albert Flood, Lisbon Maru Lance Corporal Webber Private Sidney Arthur Merton, lost 19 December 1941 Drummer Herbert Revell, First Draft to Japan Drummer Laurence Samuel Onslow, lost 24 December 1941 Drummer Arthur Walter Grossmith, lost 19 December 1941 Private Eric Lane, lost 25 December 1941 Front Row: Drummer Ernest Klintworth, lost 19 December 1941 Drummer Herbert E. Rowe, POW in Hong Kong Boy Patrick J. Cosgrove, Third Draft to Japan Lance Corporal Howard Alfred Pelham, Died on Lisbon Maru Drum Major Charles Holdford, Lisbon Maru Captain Walter Chattey, POW in Hong Kong (with Stanley Platoon) Corporal Staley Lance Corporal James Arthur Parsons, lost 19 December 1941 Lance Corporal Roy Leslie Rocker (Rooker), Died on Lisbon Maru Lance Corporal Wilson (could be Donald, John, James, Eric) In fact the odd men out are Chacksfield, Webber, and Staley who do not appear in my 1941 records (in fact there is a Webber, but he was a Captain). Possibly these three were amongst the men returned to the UK before the outbreak of the Pacific War. Chattey was of course in jail at Stanley when the war started. Released, he became the unofficial commander of the Stanley Platoon, HKVDC, and covered himself in glory. One by-product of this research was realising that I had Captain Clifford George Webber, Middlesex, incorrectly marked as ‘escaped’. It appears he was drafted to POW Camp in Japan instead – Steve Denton shows him on the repatriation roster of the USS Joseph Dickman – but, unusually, the Shamshuipo Camp records did not mark which draft he was on. 20 I would have missed this had it not been for the kindness of our office amah who put a copy on my desk! Stuart Heaver of the South China Morning Post did a good job following our discussion at Crown Wine Cellars. 20 Paul Onslow kindly sent me .pdf versions of: PB3 During the Battle of Wong Nai Chung Gap: From the Japanese Perspective, by Kwong Chi Man, and Pill Box 315 on Gin Drinker’s Lane, by Lawrence WC Lai. I had hard copies of both, but soft copies are so much easier to store and retrieve.
17 HKUP kindly informed me that my new book, Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, was reviewed in Asian Review of Books on 10 October 2017. The link is here, and (being as objective as I can) I think it’s pretty fair. 17 Last month I wrote: “7 Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter-in-law got in touch. However, I received no reply to the email I sent in return, which always makes me suspect spam filters!” In fact they were just busy and I am glad to say we are back in touch.
15 Steve Denton, as he continues to trawl through the MI9 Interrogation Forms for ex-Hong Kong POWs has sent me a number of interest. To date they are Desmond Hynes (HKVDC), George Aitkenhead (HKVDC), John Byres (RA), Edward Field (RA – of particular interest as I used to correspond with him), and Kenneth Day (Middlesex).
13Leslie Andrews’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) nephew got in touch. The family has a small treasure trove of documents from those days. They note: “I am still looking and have found over 40 letters written by Leslie, two of which are from the Hong Kong POW camp and sent via the Sce de Prisonniers de Guerre. I also have copies of the Hong Kong Fellowship newsletters from June 1943 till January 1946.” 13 Brian Finch let me know that he will be launching his English translation of A Faithful Record of the “Lisbon Maru” Incident on November 16 at the Helena May. Event details can be found here. He notes: “The 75th Anniversary of the Lisbon Maru Incident fell on 2 October this year, and was marked by commemorative events in China and London. Tony Banham has produced a meticulously researched and well-written account of this incident, called: The Sinking of the “Lisbon Maru”: Britain’s Forgotten Wartime Tragedy. Following that, the Lisbon Maru Association of Hong Kong carried out their own research in China, speaking to some of the fishermen who had taken part in the rescue and their families. They produced a book as a result, whose title translated into English is: A Faithful Record of the “Lisbon Maru” Incident. This is the book I have translated, which gives new insights, seen through the eyes of the Chinese fisheremen. The book includes a detailed account of how the Chinese hid three of the prisoners of war in a cave, under the noses of the Japanese, later smuggling them across more than 1,000 miles of China to reach the wartime capital of Chongqing. It also contains details of mainland Chinese documents not previously seen, and includes a moving account of a visit to China by one of the survivors of the disaster and his emotional reunion with those who saved his life.”
12 Philip Cracknell added a new blog post incorporating a number of annotated photos of Stanley Camp. 12 I received a query from the US television series Finding Your Roots, researching someone who was in Hong Kong during the war years. This is the second or third of these (or similar) that I have received, so clearly there’s a big market!
11 I was contacted by a representative of Hong Kong Land today. They are pulling together documentation about Bevan Field, pre-war their Assistant Secretary and post war Managing Director (Oscar Eager, the previous MD, having been killed in the bombing of Bungalow C). Field himself of course was commander of 9 platoon of 3 Coy HKVDC.
10 Kent Shum kindly sent me a selection of photographs from the Zhoushan end of the Lisbon Maru commemoration. He included this excellent video from CCTV, and a link to a Chinese news item. 10 This afternoon I met Greg De’Eb at Crown Wine Cellars for a number of press interviews about the site. We finished at around 19.30 and being shut up in the bunkers I was completely surprised to see it dark outside! Oddly enough, as I departed I looked up at the bunker wall outside and to the left and saw on its top what looked like a machine gun post rather similar to these.
9 Peter Starling of the RAMC museum sent me this interesting email: “An ex RAMC Physio has emailed me asking about four men who were masseurs, JW Morris, TC Cunningham, AJ Britnell & H Peasegood. He has the service record of Morris who went on Lisbon Maru so could have ended up in the Osaka camps but the record states he was released in Malaya. Do you think this could be a mistake or is there a chance some HK POW’s ended up in Malaya via Japan?” Morris was indeed on the Lisbon Maru but I have never heard of ex-HK POWs ending up in Malaya. I can’t rule it out 100% as RAMC POWs were of course highly valued and occasionally had the unique experience of being the sole person transferred to a particular POW camp because a medic was needed there. And in fact that seems to have been the case with Morris, as I had never previously noticed that he was the only ex-HK POW at Omi. However, he was liberated by the Americans and I know of no reason he would have been take to Malaya.
6 Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me examples of correspondence between Arthur Duff (see last month) and her father.
4 I was contacted by the Sunday Times about a Lisbon Maru article. Unfortunately as I was working in San Francisco and had no time, I couldn’t talk to them on the phone and they failed to accept my invitation to send questions via email. It resulted in this slightly odd story (see above), a version of which also appeared in the Daily Mail.
3 Tai Hang Wong contacted me to note that: “The Review of Culture Journal, published by the Cultural Affair Bureau of the Macau Special Administrative Region Government, has designated the 47th Volume ‘In Memory of Charles Boxer’ to commemorate the 110th birthday anniversary of Professor Boxer in 2014. The eleven articles in this edition (4 in English and 7 in Portuguese) have done a impressive job to highlight the academic contributions of Charles Boxer in the study of Portuguese and Dutch colonial experiences in East Asia. They also provide some useful materials of Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn after Charles resigned from the army in 1947.” 3 David Beningfield emailed to say: “Just to let you know that my father, W.C. Beningfield, 1st Middlesex is alive and well on this 75th anniversary of the Lisbon Maru sinking. Though facing mobility issues he is still very much alert and engaged and thanks to assistance from my brother and sister is still able to live in his own house with my mom, Emily in Quesnel, BC Canada.” This is excellent news. For a couple of years I thought that only Dennis Morley, Royal Scots, was still with us. David also sent a recent photo of his father (illustrated). He is 97 now, and he and his wife have been married 69 years (and in fact were sweethearts even before the war).
2 Today was of course the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. There was a well-attended memorial service at the FEPOW memorial at Camden, and Ron Brooks (son of Master Gunner Charles Brooks who was lost in the sinking) kindly sent me several photographs. There was a simultaneous service in Zhoushan, China, near the site of the sinking, and CCTV set up a live TV feed between the two sites.
1 Sydney Picton’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “My grandfather became acutely ill just before his 66th birthday, with a mis-diagnosed myocardial infarction; eventually he was hospitalised. Believing he was now recovering, indeed, the doctors had told him he was ‘on the mend’, such that he could move from ITU and into a ward the next day, my grandfather decided it was time to return to Hong Kong. He pledged to take me with him and I was so excited, for a few hours at least. However, there was a twist of fate, later that night he died of his final myocardial infarction.” He had joined as a boy (Boy's Service) aged 15 and remained in Service until 1960, the day before his forty-third birthday. She included a photo of his repatriation, which we think we have tracked down to 99 Chatham Street, Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is first right (in the shades) and Reg ‘Pedlar’ Palmer is centre. 1 Hugh Beard’s (RASC) son got in touch. 1 I was sent a photo of a sporting trophy – a silver cup - inscribed: H.K.V.A Rt Half No 2 Coy SUBn Cup 1906-1907 Gunner J.W. JAY Many may know that at the start of the twentieth century the Volunteers included the Hong Kong Volunteer Artillery, which had two batteries (1 and 2), each split into a right half and a left half. This cup (presumably sponsored by the subalterns) seems to have been won by Gunner Jay of the right half of 2 Bty (Coy). It’s before my usual period, but does anyone know what the Cup was for? 1 In response to last month’s mention of the Canadian Governmental report on their involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong, Jim Trick noted: “You may be interested in the HTML version which we've referenced on our CForce site.” 1 Captain Thomas James’s son (see last month) kindly sent a photo of his father with Lieutenant Dobson, (James), BSM John Oswald, and BSM Frederick Morley at Stonecutters. Morley died of enteritis on 17 August 1942. Dobson’s identity is uncertain.
October 1st, 2017 Update
Treenlaur, Escape to Free China, The Endless Battle (all author)
Hilary Baxter at Shamshuipo (courtesy Roger Baxter), Patricia Briggs, RAPWI (via Steve Denton), Dennis Healy - front row, far right (courtesy Rosalind Richardson, via Ronnie Taylor)
Middlesex Depot detail, 1936 (courtesy Dan Bond), Lisbon Maru first day cover (courtesy Kent Shum), Centenerary envelope (courtesy Andrew Hill)
The second of October will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and there will be commemoration events in both the UK and China. The UK event will take place at the FEPOW War Memorial in Camden, which is next to Mornington Crescent underground station. The ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. (so, if you are visiting, please arrive by 10:00). Medals should be worn. It is hoped that Viscount Lord Slim, OBE, President of the Burma Star Association, will attend and lay the first wreath. Other wreaths will be laid by representatives of units who had men on the Lisbon Maru. A short statement will be read out briefly describing the incident and expressing gratitude to the brave Chinese fishermen who rescued hundreds of the prisoners of war. A similar event is being held in Zhoushan, China, where the incident took place and it is hoped that a live Chinese TV broadcast on CCTV Channel 13 will enable them to watch all or part of the ceremony in London. The organiser of the Chinese event has written an oration thanking British soldiers for fighting with the Chinese during the Second Word War, and in particular remembering the 828 lost in the sinking. An English translation of this will be read out at the London event. The last known survivor of the sinking, Dennis Morley of the Royal Scots, who is unable to attend, has put some thoughts in writing and these will also be read out. The bugler playing the Last Post and Reveille will be Raymond Smith, the son of the late Reginald Smith of the Middlesex Regiment, who was one of the survivors. After the ceremony a room has been set aside in a local pub - the Cobden Arms at 28—30 Camden High Street - for everyone to gather.
29 Thomas James’s (Royal Artillery) son got in touch.
27 This month’s Java Journal notes: “Kenneth Shipsides died on 19th September. He had been with the Navy on HMS Tamar and was held on Hong Kong and Japan (Nagoya area). He was 103 and still lived in his own home until he passed.”
25 A correspondent notes: “I am running a project as part of the 2020 Royal Signal centennial commemoration to develop a definitive register of Royal Signals gallantry awards from 1920-2020. As part of the project I have established a small website and part of that is a blog to expose some stories about the Corps and about those who feature in the project. The next post there will be to commemorate those who died during the Lisbon Maru incident, during which one Royal Signals soldier earned a BEM for Gallantry.” The blog can be found here, and its author has given me a huge amount of help in my long-term project to document all honours and awards given in Hong Kong 1941-45. 25 A correspondent notes that he is in touch with an internee of: “Stanley Internment camp. He was transferred with about 40 others from Hong Kong on the late afternoon of the 24th December 1942 to Shanghai arriving four days later about 7pm - 28th December 1942. Reuters Bill O'Neill was on the ship too. My grandfather was on the ship. It had one funnel, the hull was a worn black and it did not travel as part of a convoy. It did not dock anywhere on its journey but at one point circled some islands off Formosa (Pescadores?)” He would like to know if anyone knows the name of this vessel.
24Daniel Bond (whose great uncle was Joseph Burgess, Middlesex) got back in touch noting: “I have just today received the attached picture that you may find of interest. Apologies for the poor quality, I am trying to find a company to do a high res scan for me and will try to send a better quality when I can. However you may like it as it shows the Middlesex regiment in 1936 and I am assuming that some of these gentlemen went out to Hong Kong and these may be some of the only images the family may have.” I blew up part of the photo and indeed many faces would be recognisable. 24 Tai Hang Wong let me know that: “The Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA) will open the Asia Pacific Peace Museum and Education Centre in east Toronto in 2019. Mr. George MacDonell and other surviving Battle of Hong Kong Canadian veterans will be invited to contribute their reminiscences of the war.” Originally I had little to do with ALPHA as originally they seemed (to me) unhealthily obsessed with Japanese atrocities, but according to Tai Hang they have now broadened their outlook and are doing more to promote knowledge of Canadian contributions in the defence of Hong Kong.
23 Finding myself with an hour to kill waiting for my wife in Central, I visited the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. I had last popped in when it was still in Stanley, and was impressed to see a much more mature and professional offering today. Unfortunately (from my perspective) there wasn’t a great deal of coverage of the war years, but they had something unexpected. This was the model of a boat called ‘Treenlaur’, constructed by Major Templer, Royal Artillery, in POW Camp! I have contacted his family to see if they are aware of this.
21 Jeremiah O'Connell’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
20 Charles Lenton’s (Royal Artillery, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. He notes: “one of the few things we knew about my grandfather's time in Japan was that he was, for a long period, sent to labour on a farm (he was born into farming stock in Cambridgeshire, which may explain his suitability). The elderly couple at the farm were quite kind to him, since he reminded them of their son (who was away fighting), and so treated him kindly; it was only when the military came for inspection that they had to beat him.” The latter part was relatively common. POWs on working parties in Japan often struck up working relationships with civilians. But working on a farm was very rare, and I’m not sure I have come across this before. 20 A correspondent asks what the exact relationship between the RA and the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery (HKSRA) was. It’s a good question. The HKSRA is a possible topic for me for a future article for the Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society, as that’s probably the best motivation to give myself to finally research this interesting but little-documented unit properly. 20 Ronnie Taylor in the UK kindly put me in touch with the family of William Fraser (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) who perished in Japan of cardiac beri beri. They kindly supplied a photo. He has also added a roll-of-honour on his website for my original hometown, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk. Oddly enough there was also a HK POW who died in Japan, Corporal John Tibbs, RE, whose CWGC entry shows his parents living in Wells (Son of Percy Ivan Browning Tibbs and of Lilian Annie Tibbs [nee Dye], of Wells-on-Sea, Norfolk), though I imagine they retired there.
16 I received my copy of The Endless Battle today. I shall review it later. 16 I finally managed to find time to meet Geoff Emerson today, and he very kindly gave me a few spare (and possibly the last) Stanley Internment Camp 2016 Reunion tote bags! At one of George Cautherley’s meetings he had noticed than mine was looking a little threadbare (I carry my dry shirt in it every day when I walk to the office) and had kindly offered to replace it.
15 Looking for a grave reference today I saw that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have a nice new look and feel on their website. I was glad to see that it still mentions Hong Kong War Diary as a partner!
14I received my copy of Escape From Hong Kong to Free China January and February 1942, today. I was unaware that its author had even been in Hong Kong at the time, as he evaded capture entirely. The only other book I have had to purchase at this sort of price was the equally rare Told In The Dark (a set of stories written down as told in Stanley Internment Camp.). 14 One very happy result of the publication of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale is that I have been able to put two of the protagonists (Michael Stewart and Richard Neve who were both school boys at the time) back in touch.
13 I received a very welcome email from Ronnie Taylor in the UK noting: “Rosalind Richardson sent me two photos of Dennis Healy who died on the Lisbon Maru. It says HMS Collingwood on the hatband. In the group photo he is front row, far right.”
12 Kent Shum, having seen my announcement about the planned London 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru commemoration, kindly sent me a note stating that there will be a: “commemorative event on the same day at Zhoushan City, this event held by the Zhoushan Ocean University and I will be there on 2 October. Besides they designed a first day cover for the event and hope to pass on this envelope as a gift to the participants in London at the day.” The first day cover notes that President Xi mentioned (at a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II last year) the sinking of the ship. I had often wondered why he knew about it, and asked Kent. He responded: “You won’t be surprised because the trip to Zhoushan on 2005 was approved by President Xi, he was the Secretary of the Zejiang provincial party committee at that time.” The trip he refers to is when my wife and I were invited by the local government to Zhejiang that year to visit the area of the sinking, It was quite a trip! Very memorable in many ways, including meeting some of the local fishermen who had risked their lives saving the lives of the POWs under the guns of the Japanese. 12 Today I briefly met Hilary Baxter (daughter of Brian Baxter, HKDDC) and her husband at their hotel as they made their way through Hong Kong as part of their ‘Middle Aged Gap Year’. It was fascinating. Brian had been one of the younger members of the unit, and post-war had gained a PhD at Durham University and become an extremely successful naval architect, working on designing the Royal Navy’s Type 21 and Type 22 Frigates. I was able to give the visitors a few pointers on what to see in Hong Kong (they visited the memorials at Sham Shui Po the next day) and was very glad to have met them. 12 Bill Lake sent me a link to an online version of the Canadian Governmental report on their involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong, My first thought was that I had seem it before, but in fact the appendices are not familiar – but they are certainly useful.
10Andrew Hill, who kindly helped with Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, sent me an interesting envelope. He notes: “The envelope contained a letter from my grandfather James Hill to my grandmother Nora Hill. It shows her Sydney address at the time, where she lived with my father Norman and Aunt Helen for a short while after being evacuated from Hong Kong.”
9 A little earlier in the month I sent a few copies of Reduced to a Symbolical Scale (as author, I only get a few free copies) to the dozen or so people who gave me the most help in the project. Now I am starting to get their responses as they read through it. So far, largely so good, though I find that in the case of the Simpsons (the mother and daughter on the front cover) I had been wrong in thinking they had had Pearl Harbour in mind as their final destination ‘to be safe’ from the Japanese. In fact it was just an extended stop over on their way to San Francisco. 9 I also sent a few copies of my Short History of Bungalow A to those who helped me. Dr Louise Law (without whom I don’t believe the bungalow would have been converted into the heritage gallery), Cortia Chung at St Stephen’s College, my old friend Dennis Clarke (born in that bungalow during the war), and Leilah Wood in Canada (almost killed in the bungalow by a Japanese bomb).
7 Dr Stephen Davies of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch today kindly sent me a .pdf copy of the final version of my Short History of Bungalow A, Stanley Internment Camp, which forms part of Volume 57 of the Journal. Apparently it also includes an article about Rosary Hill, but I have not seen it yet. 7 Hercules Buchanan’s (Royal Rifles of Canada) daughter-in-law got in touch. However, I received no reply to the email I sent in return, which always makes me suspect spam filters!
4 George Boote did me a great service today, alerting me to a book called Escape From Hong Kong to Free China January and February, 1942, by James Arthur Duff (illustrated). I had never even heard of it before. Anyway, apparently only five copies of this slender volume are known and I was fortunate enough to find and purchase a copy at a steep, but not ridiculous, price.
3Steve Denton (son of Bombardier Joseph Denton, Royal Artillery and Lisbon Maru), with whom I have been corresponding for ten years now, has done sterling work on the repatriations of ex-HK POWs. Working through all the passenger lists for the likes of USS Admiral Hughes, USS Joseph Dickman, etc. he is putting together the most complete account of their return that I have yet seen. It’s odd, though, that the embarkation rolls for the USS Joseph Dickman consistently refer to her as the Joseph Dyckman! It seems that these documents may include RAPWI details for the majority of ex-HK POWs. It also contains details of internees being repatriated from the Philippines, including Patricia Briggs (whose unfortunate story of being separated from her parents I relate in Reduced to a Symbolical Scale).
1 Brian Edgar kicked off the month with an interesting post about the layout of graves in Stanley cemetery. Also, referring to last month’s entries, he kindly sent me the following two notes: “1) you were right - Bozena Brezny, age 27, is on the Rosary Hill list for June 29, 1944.While it’s hard to prove a negative, I can’t find her on the Red Cross lists of people helped by Zindel in 1942-1943 when the Japanese allowed him to assist Third Nationals - there are three other Czechs on his records. 2) The dentist’s chair was presumably the one ‘stolen’ from a Wanchai godown by Selwyn-Clarke, Arthur May (driving) and one other volunteer from St Paul’s Hospital - it almost cost them their lives, as a Japanese patrol was heading towards them, but Naval Cdr. Takasaki saw the ambulance, realised that what was happening was humanitarian, and generously wheeled his men down a side road (Footprints, 75-6).”