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
Shamshuipo in around 1935 (courtesy "George Best"), Shamshuipo in 1946 and Photo alignment (author)
Filter beds? (author), RRoC badge (courtesy Colin Standish), Aberdeen Industrial School (author)
Manning HKDDC (courtesy Eve Castillo-Jones), Manning in Argyle Street (via author), Unveiling Saiwan Memorial (courtesy Bill Lake)
An old friend turned up out of the blue this afternoon and very kindly gave me three examples of battlefield memorabilia preserved and mounted in a most professional style. One of them was particularly evocative as – although not a personal item – it could only have come from a particular place at a particular time. Now the thing is that I knew that, and my friend knew that… and that’s what’s got me slightly worried. You see, the Hong Kong Government’s initiatives for the Hong Kong Chronicles and the ‘open museums’ of the Second World War (both mentioned below) are to be applauded. But will they be created by the right people, with that necessary blend of deep knowledge and passion? If you visit Hong Kong’s museums, for example, you immediately realise they are well budgeted and the contents are professionally displayed, but you also feel (with a few exceptions: The Maritime Museum springs to mind) that they are managed and run by people with Museum Studies degrees, rather than a true fascination for the topic. Still, I suppose we’re fortunate to even be in a position to have such a discussion.
28I have been corresponding with Jennifer Dobbs again. Her father - Francis Dobbs who lost his life in Hong Kong during the fighting – worked in China for the Salt Gabelle. I am surprised how little seems to have been written about the latter. There are a few articles online under the name “Salt Administration”, but not a great deal.
27 Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish, Royal Rifles of Canada, has been amassing a useful collection of RRoC artefacts. Today he showed me what appears to be a strange one: a ’slung bugle badge’. That motif is common enough in the British Army, but most notably associated with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. And yet as far as I know Volens Et Valens has only ever been used by the RRoC. As for the 8… I’m no expert but I associate such insignia with regiments rather than battalions. Has anyone seen one of these before?
25 I have been helping a fellow researcher with some details of concerts held in Shamshuipo POW camp. I have quite a number of images – probably at least 25 – of programmes, cast lists, sketches of scenes, and even reviews, most of which are from individual diaries. But it is interesting that I only seem to have one from Argyle Street, and as far as I can see none from Stanley. Does anyone have these? At some point I’ll write an article on the topic for the Roya Asiatic Society.
24 In today’s budget announcement the Hong Kong Government stated that: “money will also be used to convert some wartime relics into ‘open museums’ to ‘enrich visitors' experience and enjoyment at the countryside’.” Interesting. 24 I received an email from the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, working on the Hong Kong Chronicles. They were looking at the paper I wrote for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society a couple of years ago covering Chinese civilian deaths in Hong Kong during the war years.
23 There was some discussion on the internet today about whether 2 (Scottish) Coy HKVDC wore glengarries or not. I have seen photos of them in plain black caps with the HKVDC cap badge, but also have two photos which appear to show some of them wearing glengarries. I believe that on occasion they did.
21 I received the latest Researching FEPOW History Group newsletter. It began: “Have you seen the new series we are running on our blog? The ‘Sharing Research’ series has already featured posts from Jon Cooper, Louise Reynolds, Toby Norways, and Edgar Jones. A new post goes live every Wednesday at 10am which you can view on the RFHG website. Alternatively click the link below to view everything we have posted in the series so far!”
20 “George Best” has been placing (on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) a large number of very useful photos of Shamshuipo as a pre-war barracks. It seems that the majority, or perhaps all, were taken when the second battalion of the East Lancashire regiment were stationed there 1933-1937. As such they give a very good idea of what it would have looked like as a POW Camp just a few years later. I lined up one of his photos with one of mine (from 1946) on a map of the camp to show people the general layout.
18 Major Charles Joseph Manning’s (HKDDC) great great granddaughter got in touch. I was very pleased, as Manning was the wartime commander of the unit and she kindly sent a number of photos. The family lived at 14a Magazine Gap Road, a short walk from where I am writing this. In reply I sent her a sketch of Manning drawn in camp by fellow POW Lieutenant Mervyn Scott-Lindsley, RNVR. I knew that Manning’s wife and two daughters had been evacuated to Australia before hostilities, and now I have learned their names (Ursula, Jennifer, and Sheila). 18 I went for my annual medical checkup at the Matilda Hospital today, and when I left I looked over the slope to its west to try to find the AOP which Kwong Chi Man had told me was there. Although a lot of vegetation had been cleared away, I couldn’t make it out and didn’t fancy scrambling down.
17 On the question of Ivor Patterson (see last month) the CWGC today replied: “We have failed to find a reason in our records why BAAG was being shown as part of Pte. Patterson's record. It appears to have been added in error. We have now removed it.” 17 I walk up High West at least once a week, and on facebook in a discussion about Japanese tunnels someone wrote: “I found with ease this gem hidden just a few footsteps from the main path to Mount High West. The access couldn't be possibly easier. Just before the first flight of stairs heading up the mountain you follow the ribbon trail veering off to the left. The tunnel with two entrances will show on your right within 20m. There's also trenches just S of it or left of the trail.” In fact I firstly took the wrong trail, right at the start of the steps, later discovering the right one at the point just up the steps where they level out and lots of .303 bullets are to be found from the old butts. And then I came across the tunnels much as advertised.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent two photos of Jack Benson, Royal Scots.
14 Today I visited the island of Po Toi for the first time. We took the ferry from Stanley and walked over the top (Trail 3) and back into the village. I have often wondered if this was one of the uninhabited islands where the Japanese dumped Hong Kong people during the Occupation, but apparently it has always had a small population.
13 I heard today from Stephen Hutcheon, a journalist working with ABC in Sydney. His mother (now aged 98) was living in Hong Kong at the time of the Japanese invasion and was whisked away to Macau during the occupation to keep her out of harm's way, his late aunt Hilda Greaves (a nurse) was interned in Stanley, and his late uncle Stanley Greaves died fighting for the volunteers to defend the colony in December 1941. 13 David St Maur Shell notes that his mother: “found this photo of Admiral Harcourt greeting Sir Grenville Alabaster... It is from a group of photos cut from papers and some seem to be originals from the surrender period given to the family by a friend who was on HMS Euryalus one of the navy boats in Harcourt’s fleet.” Something about the edging of the photo looks very familiar but I can’t put my finger on it. I was wondering where it might have been published.
11 Sandy Wynd was the first person to let me know that The Telegraph had published Dennis Morley’s obituary today. I confess to not being a huge fan of the paper, but I think their cartoonist (Matt) is the best in the business, and their obituaries are the Best of British, so I was very glad to help with this.
9 Bill Lake notes: “I think this will be of interest to you. Anthony Charter’s parent’s saved this order of service for the unveiling of the Sai Wan Bay Memorial. Anthony in turn passed it on to me, along with the Chimes of St. John’s and the Liberation Service at Stanley… The reason that the Charters would have been there is that they were both members of St. John’s Cathedral Choir at that time.” He kindly attached the programme.
8 George Patterson, the last of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who were in Hong Kong, is one hundred today (illustrated).
5 A friend and I walked to the top of Lion Rock today, oddly enough the first time I have done that in more than thirty years in Hong Kong. One of the many interesting things along the route are the concrete pillbox ‘maps’ which are seen at several places, showing distances and directions to nearby PBs of the Gin Drinkers Line. Recent research by Kwong Chi Man and others has clarified what a complex ‘line’ this really was, with more than one hundred pillboxes in multiple lines and groups covering all aspects of the hills. 5 Brian Finch dropped me a useful note. “As you know, we’ve spent some time over recent months sorting out details for the [Lisbon Maru Memorial], including badges, order of precedence and other delights. One specific point we have discovered is that the Army Dental Corps did not become Royal until after the war.” It turns out that this is absolutely correct and I will amend my records accordingly.
4Frank Leslie Macey’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 4 After dropping my wife off at the French International School at Wong Nai Chung Gap this morning, I walked down to the covered water reservoirs by Blue Pool Road. I wonder if this could have been the area of “Filter beds” referred to in the Royal Scots’ account of the fighting in that area? Unfortunately most of it was out of bounds.
3 From Christopher Allanson (of the family of Captain Kenneth Allanson RA, Lisbon Maru) I heard today that: “After much work formal approval for the [Lisbon Maru] memorial and its siting near the Far East POW area has been given by the [National Memorial Arboretum] and the formal dedication and memorial service is scheduled for Sunday 3rd October next at noon subject to movement restrictions having been lifted.” I will attend if I possibly can. 3 Jim Trick asked Philp Cracknel and me to critique this video about the Battle of Hong Kong. We both agreed that there were many, many errors in detail, yet the presentation (as a continuous 3D graphic simulation) was very compelling and – overall – educational.
2 T.K. Wong reminded me today that all three of his almost 104 year old mother’s three younger brothers were killed during the war, being sent to work as forced labourers on Hainan Island. Sadly, this can’t have been an unusual experience. 2 I received the following email today: “I saw an email from a person related to Jack Smith, in which they said he was in camp Nigatta and he knew Ralph McClean and was a good friend. My dad Hercules Ralph Buchanan RRC also was very good friend of Ralph McClean. I was hoping that person could e-mail me as I would like to talk to them. Thankyou his son Richard Buchanan.” I replied, but heard nothing back. Alas, yet another spam filter has apparently done the wrong thing… 2 While searching for details of Alfred Cecil Houghton, RE, for another project, I discovered that his son Sub Lieutenant (A) George Alfred Houghton had been killed in a crash in the Clyde while serving in 846 Squadron FAA flying from HMS Tracker on 10 January 1944. The squadron was flying Grumman Avengers at the time, and it appears that Sub Lieutenant E.B. Dixon and Leading Airman R.F. Gates were killed with him(as was a passenger, Ordinary Signalman George A Smith), though I can see no report of this crash in HMS Tracker’s history. But perhaps that explains why the Houghton family have never contacted me. (Houghton himself, of course, was one of those lost in the September 1945 B24 crashes whilst being flown home as an ex-POW).
1 Today I heard the good news that the Grenville Alabaster Wartime Journal project has been approved for publication by the HKUP editorial board. 1 Last month I completely forgot to report on Aberdeen Industrial School. While walking from the Wong Chuk Hang MTR station to the site of the BattleBox filming I finally took the opportunity to photograph this building. It was of course the local headquarters for the defence of this region in December 1941, with RAF personnel manning machine guns on its roof.
February 1st, 2021 Update
Dennis Morley at 101 (courtesy Denise Wynne), Devonshire's Helmet (courtesy Hazel Dolan), Routledge (courtesy Leslie Kiehlbauch)
Bob Lapsley at 100 (courtesy Philomena Lapsley), Joint Hospital (courtesy Carol Campbell), Whyte Family (courtesy Brian Simpson)
Thomas Hewson (via Brian Finch), Carruthers reunion (courtesy Michael Carruthers), James McDougall (courtesy Mark Collins)
“Looking forward to 2021 with a new brother - unbelievable.”
And there we are. Yes, it is indeed somewhat unbelievable that in 2020 we are still finding and reuniting people separated by the Second World War, but yes, there we are. And, conversely, we are still losing people. Good old indestructible Dennis Morley of the Royal Scots is gone. I honestly thought he’d outlast me, but at the age of 101 having survived the fighting on the Gin Drinkers Line and Golden Hill, the battles of Wong Nai Chung and Mount Nicholson, the surrender of St Albert’s Emergency Hospital, the diphtheria and dysentery epidemics of Shamshuipo, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, the years in Osaka #2B (Kobe House) POW camp, the American fire bombing of that city, and the journey back in which several of his comrades lost their lives when B24s carrying them home flew into a typhoon - Dennis was finally killed by Covid-19.
31 Anna Rozario kindly sent a link to a nicely-done web version of Shadow Lights of Shamshuipo. Fortunately I have a hardback copy which I found some 15 years ago, but I wish more rare books were available in this form.
30 George Boote has been rereading his collection of some 70 FEPOW Forums. In the Christmas 1981 forum he found a story written by Michael Giblin of 7 HAA Regiment. It mentions the escape (from Shamshuipo) and recapture of Sergeant Thomas Salisbury, 7th HAA, Bombardier Evans (presumably David Evans), and Sergeant Fuller (presumably Geoffrey Fuller). I don’t believe I have heard of this escape before.
28 Today I heard via Philomena Lapsley that her uncle, Robert Lapsley HKVDC, who was a POW in Shamshuipo and Innoshima, celebrated his 100th birthday on January 19. 28 The South China Post ran a good article about Dennis Morley today.
26 Dennis Morley’s funeral took place today at 12.00 noon (8.00pm in China and Hong Kong) at Gloucester Crematorium. 26 William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter Carol Campbell notes: “I have been scrolling through your updates on the War Diary web page today, (I've got a few to catch up on!), and came across the group photo sent to you by Walter Hodgkinson's son in June last year. You state on the website: 'I wonder if the photo of Caucasian and Indian personnel is in fact of a joint RAMC/Indian Medical Service (IMS) group? Perhaps all the staff of the Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon?' I realised that I have a very similar photo, which is annotated on the back 'British and Indian Staff, Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Jan 1939' (copies attached for you). This would suggest that you are right and that this might be an annual staff photo.”
23 Today the filming starts for Battlebox. Unfortunately I am not free to visit the set for the next few days.
22 Today I walked, as I do most Fridays, with my old friend George Bush. That isn’t his real name of course, but when I first knew him he was a very successful headhunter (now he’s one of Hong Kong’s most successful psychotherapists), and to get past my then secretary’s defences and get put through to me, he would (successfully, again) claim to be that particular American president… This time he proposed a trip to the top of Brick Hill. I had always assumed the whole mount was wired off as part of Ocean Park, but not at all. We walked to the summit (quite a trek for me, from Conduit Road to Bowen Road, up Wanchai Gap Road, down Lady Clementi’s Ride all the way to Aberdeen, crossing a busy corner of the latter to get to Nam Long Shan Road, walking up that road past the Singapore International and then the Canadian International schools, and then up steps to the left, many, many, steps to the summit. From there we had tremendous views, including some south towards Ocean Park and some of the wartime shelters there. An old friend of mine, Gordon Fairclough, had been based there during the fighting, a period he describes well in his book Brick Hill and Beyond. Next time I’ll explore further.
21 This morning I left home early to walk over the hills to Waterfall Bay. I don’t know why I never did this route before, but it was pretty straightforward and exactly 1.5 hours door to ‘door’ at full speed. Unfortunately access to the waterfall itself is currently locked. It would have been simple enough to jump over the low fence, but there were so many people around that I felt embarrassed to do so. But I’ll do it next time, as I could see one or two wartime shelters around its base.
20 Jon Reid kindly sent me a review of his book from Literary Review of Canada. Unfortunately it seems to be behind a firewall, but some readers will hopefully have access. Here’s an excerpt, concerning Reid’s journey home from POW camp: “He reached her from Pearl Harbor: Reid’s low-key, almost cross-sounding murmurs were hard to understand, and what Jean could make out wasn’t what she was longing to hear. His voice was clipped, giving the basics of where he was, how he was coming home, handling this surreal reunion, hindered by technical difficulties, the best he could. ‘Say something nice to me,’ Jean finally blurted. Reid’s questioning garble was lost on her, so she said again, ‘Please, say something nice to me.’ Her husband never managed that simple act. Although he had married the young woman he adored - although he returned to her in Toronto and although they had two children - something had shattered inside him. He never really managed ‘nice’ again.” The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto also asked Jon to do a Zoom talk on the book on the 19th, which he has kindly uploaded to YouTube here.
18 Albert Devonshire’s old tin hat finally reached his daughter in the UK today. The helmet was found by Timothy Rankin in the spring of 2020, but delays caused by Covid, and our changing family travel plans, and then a death in our family and other distractions, led to me not dispatching it to the UK until mid-December. And then air transport was disrupted yet again, and despite being sent by air the helmet took a full month to make the trip. Luckily it seems to have arrived in good shape. Since then, Timothy has also found the key and tag for Devonshire’s pillbox, and – as mentioned last month - it has been written up by Philip Cracknell. 18 Mark Collins kindly sent a photo of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru (and was KT Tunstall’s grandfather, see June). 18 Ken Skelton kindly pointed out that a copy of Shanghai Lawyer (see last month) is available from Abebooks. I hope I have managed to secure it! 18 A number of newspapers have run the story of John Carley’s (965 Defence Battery) medallion, including the Manchester Evening News and the Lancashire Telegraph.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Gunner Thomas Hewson, lost on the Lisbon Maru.
14 There has been considerable coverage of Dennis Morley’s passing, including in the Stroud News and Journal and the Daily Mail. 14 Long term correspondent George Boote notes: “This is interesting, not my cup of tea to purchase, and I never trust this sort of thing unless it has provenance.” I immediately notified Maltby’s grandson who said: “Looking at the seller's location, Preston Lancs., I suspect this was in the possession of Ann Halam who was Maltby's first daughter who lived there. She was an archaeologist and her house was full of surveying and draughting equipment as well as samples and reports. When she went into a home, we let other members of the archaeological community come and take what they thought to be important or useful.” and put in a bid for this item himself.
13 Today I had lunch with the President of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr Helen Tinsley, to discuss points pertaining to the annual Journal.
12 Elizabeth Ride phoned again to further discuss the BAAG names she is chasing up. Afterwards I wrote to her: “I just searched CWGC again with every combination of the name I could think of, but with no luck. However, I did find this quite comprehensive write-up of Operation Minerva and Lau Teng Kee’s role. The book - you probably know it - is Special Forces Operations in South-East Asia 1941 - 1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks / Creek by David Miller, Jan 20, 2016. Unfortunately I cannot read Appendix C online, but apparently it has something about Lau’s family.” Elizabeth replied: “It was at Millar's request I wrote to the CWGC in his attempt to have Lau recognised. Lau is of course definitely on my BAAG Roll of Honour. It would have been nice to know, but not necessary for my R of H, if there had been any developments.” It’s frustrating to note that all the other men lost on Lau’s mission are already recorded by the CWGC. I have also contacted the CWGC for help in the case of Ivan Patterson.
11 I received copies of the latest Java Journal today. I see that Shanghai internee Ron Bridge passed away on 27 September 2020. Ron helped a lot with recording civilian internees all over the China region. The Journal also included George MacDonell’s article about POW Camp sabotage in Japan, and a mention of Victor Ient’s book ‘These Valiant Men’. Finally it recorded “Civilian Internee Dee Larcombe from Kent, who was born in Hong Kong in 1941 just before the Japanese invaded and held there throughout captivity. Please see the books section for her book ‘The Girl in the Drawer’. Her father was Alfred Taylor of the RAMC who was taken on Hong Kong and held at Shamshuipo and Osaka no. 1 camp, Japan.” I have covered the latter book earlier, but have yet to read it myself.
10 Michael Carruthers (HKVDC) nephew got in touch. He noted: “My late uncle, Nigel Carruthers was a POW when Singapore fell and survived the war in Changi. One of his brothers, Andrew, was taken prisoner in Sumatra where he died, and a third brother was Michael (Micky) Carruthers, who we understand, was in the HKVDC and was awarded the MC for his part in the defence of Hong Kong. So far we don't know any more about his time there. I have read that there were 19 decorations awarded to those who fought in the battle, so I am assuming that Michael was one of those. Do you have any information about him? I have attached a newspaper cutting from 1968, showing Michael with his mother and four surviving brothers. I should explain that our family connection was through Nigel's wife Margaret, my mother's younger sister. She also had quite an eventful war, having been working for the Malaya broadcasting service and was one of the last to leave Singapore before it fell. She had a hair-raising escape by sea ending in Colombo, and later went to live in the States, before returning to Singapore after the war, where she met and married Nigel. Afterwards, Nigel and Maggi returned to Scotland to take over the Dormont estate after Nigel's father died. At that time, my parents were based in India so my brothers and I would often spend our school holidays at Dormont which was where we got to know the Carruthers family well.” Michael Carruthers was of course a highly respected member of the HKVDC, commanding the Armoured Car Platoon, and is well remembered. 10 I have not yet had a chance to look at this properly, but I was very interested to see a new PhD thesis about RAPWI.
9 Justin Ho notes: “I was recently browsing old books and booklets online, when I came across these two yearbooks of the 14th Punjab Regiment (a 1940 and 1948 one) currently being bidded on. The 1948 one has a brief mention of the 2nd Battalion playing a ‘prominent role in the Defence of Hong Kong’ in one of its pages.”
8 The two people I referred to rather mysteriously last month – a half brother and half sister separated by the war – reunited today. “Thanks for everything. I owe you a drink or two. Just having a whiskey myself to celebrate” says one, and “looking forward to 2021 with a new brother – unbelievable”, says the other. 8 The whole community of interest (led by Philp Cracknell in this case) was involved in this story.
7 Today Annemarie Evans from RTHK came to our flat to interview me about the life and times of Dennis Morley. I will put a link on this blog when the resulting program is broadcast. 6 Brian Finch kindly sent me a number of files relating to Lisbon Maru survivor and escapee Bill Evans, who was accidentally murdered in Vietnam shortly after the war. ‘Accidentally murdered’ sounds rather odd, but unfortunately he was mistaken for someone else in an otherwise well-planned assassination.
5 This afternoon from 12.00 to 16.00 I joined film maker Craig McCourry on his set on the twenty-seventh floor of an industrial building in Aberdeen for rehearsals for his new film Battlebox. It’s an interesting dilemma for a historian: it’s a work of fiction, so really I should give it a wide berth, and yet because it’s based on fact I’d rather be involved and hopefully help ensure it doesn’t stray too far from reality. So the upshot is that I have been assisting as ‘script consultant’ and ‘additional dialogue by’ and thoroughly enjoying myself. It is fascinating (and rather impressive) to see professional actors taking your words and adapting them to their characters. 5 Tan notes, of the Second Battalions Scots Guards emblem: “The emblem is still safe so far. Here is a video. Will check again few months later.”
3 Dennis Morley passed away peacefully in hospital at 12.30 today. I heard belatedly that the only other known survivor from the Lisbon Maru, William Beningfield of the 1st Middlesex, had passed away in Canada the Sunday before Christmas, so Dennis was – to the best of my knowledge - the last of them all. I corresponded with him for years, and he visited us twice in Hong Kong. 3 I have had a request for any paperwork relating to Operational Orders or Defence Plans for Hong Kong. My correspondent notes: “I can't see them listed at Kew but they may be under an obscure heading. The reason I am looking for them is because I want to see what plans had been drawn up for the Defence and who/where/what, the perceived threat was. This would have been the basis for drawing up Operational Orders that would then have been brought into play if and when the threat became a reality. For example, at sometime a decision had to have been made about building those pill boxes and tunnels on the mainland, it would have been laid down why they were deemed necessary. Details of how they were to be used, manned etc would also have been written down, all sorts of likely scenarios would have been addressed. These plans would have been reviewed and any identified changes written in. The maintenance of them would also have been written down, to what level etc depending on their importance. They were likely classified documents.”
1 To clarify from last month: Elizabeth Ride’s criteria for her Roll of Honour: “is that there should be proof of working for BAAG and proof of death during the war.” She is currently struggling with three names on her brother Edwin’s list: Patterson, Wong For Yau and Wong Kwong Sheung. I am pretty sure that Patterson is the gentleman I mentioned in We Shall Suffer There: “The CWGC lists Private Ivan Patterson, 7536265, RADC, K 10.2.43 as being ‘BAAG’, and this is echoed in Edwin Ride’s book. However, there seems to be no evidence that Patterson was involved in BAAG, and in fact he was a POW in Taiwan who was re-interred in Saiwan post-war.” But I have no idea yet on the other two gentlemen. A fourth gentleman, Lau Teng Kee, definitely lost his life on BAAG service, but it isn’t yet clear how to get him recognised by CWGC. 1 Brian Edgar kindly sent several newspaper clippings about James Whyte (see last month), and I have posted a photo of the Whyte family in case it jogs any memories. He also found another newspaper article about Father Robert Jacquinot which stated: “After the fall of Hong Kong he arrived on the island in the hope of being able to organise relief services.” I still find it very unlikely, but as always would be happy to learn more. 1 Ronald J. Routledge’s (Royal Canadian Corps of Signals) daughter posted an excellent photo of her father on facebook. She noted: “My (late) father told us almost nothing about his experience, so I'd been hoping to see something relevant here. I do know he was wounded in Hong Kong on Dec. 8 1941, captured on Dec. 25th and taken to Shamshuipo POW camp. Later, however, he was removed to Stanley Prison, tried for espionage and incarcerated in a Canton Military prison for the duration of the war. If anyone can provide more information about him, or especially photos, I'd be grateful.” Of course his activities in camp are quite well known, but I didn’t have any other relevant photos.
1 A Japanese soldier's dogtag has been found in the hills (illustrated). It's only the second I have heard of in the last ten or twenty years. 1 David Bellis from Gwulo kindly noted (see last month): “Here are a couple more of boundary stones to see around High West (scroll down the page to see the map)”.
January 1st, 2021 Update
Wheelbarrow full of Lewis Gun drums, Key to PB31 (both courtesy Timothy Rankin), Luba Estes (via facebook)
Marjorie Smith (courtesy Robert Sears via Martin Heyes), Book handover (author), Pilot's Cup (via Steve Denton)
Lisbon Maru sinking X 2 (Middlesex & Royal Scots Museums), Winnipeg B Coy 9 Plt (Joyce barker via facebook)
What a month. At a little over four thousand words, this is the longest monthly update in this site’s twenty year history. I just noticed that at some point, I think in October, the total number of words published on this monthly blog exceeded the 400,000 mark. Not bad for something that started (in this format) as a transient idea in October 2003. I believe it is now one of the oldest continuously updated blogs on any subject in the entire world. Readers who have been following this site from day one – and believe it or not, there actually are a few – have had the equivalent of four average-sized books worth of information for free! Though, at the same time, the feedback and information I have received from readers in return have enabled me to write four books on the topic of Hong Kong and the war, and lots of articles and papers and innumerable other stuff, so I have nothing to complain about.
But wait, there’s more! This month my older son discovered the Christmas Present for the man or woman who has everything! I would have been quite tempted to get one myself except that I believe all you actually get is a massive jpeg file which you need to print out yourself…
31 I heard today that Lisbon Maru survivor Dennis Morley has just become a great great grandfather!
30 A correspondent is asking for more details on Stanley Internee James Jardine Whyte. The Jurors’ Roll lists him as Timekeeper at the Taikoo Docks, but (aside from the Stanley information itself) that’s all I could find. His interest is this: “He was interned by the Japanese at the Stanley internment camp until released and returned to his Hong Kong residence. The direct link with my family goes somewhat deeper. In 1946 my father [Archibald Mackenzie Simpson] whilst still in the RAF was seriously injured in Hong Kong. This may or may not have been the result of a flying incident at Kai Tak or from previous injuries in Burma. Unfortunately I do not have these details. He was hospitalised in HK for a number of weeks. When Jimmy was informed by my grandfather he took my father into to his home and helped nurse him back to health before he was allowed to return to the UK on a hospital ship.” Can anyone add anything more?
29 Elizabeth Ride phoned today to discuss three problematic names which need checking for her final BAAG Roll of Honour. 29 Arthur William Ferrall’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch.
28 As long-term readers of this blog will be aware, pretty much every year I get at least one request to help repair families broken apart by the Second World War. It seems almost unbelievable that such services should still be needed 75 years after its end, but they are. Today I received one of those emails. At the moment I don’t know if I will be able to report upon it in any detail, as obviously such things are by definition very personal. One or two of these have not turned out so well, but I am hoping that the thirty years experience I have now had of navigating such delicate situations will bring a satisfactory resolution. 28 Martin Heyes kindly sent a number of photos from Robert Sears: “Robert, as you will see, is related to Mrs Marjorie Smith, one of the British nurses who were members of the HKVDC murdered by the Japanese in St Stephen’s College on 25 Dec 1941.” The photos included her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Walter John Lindley Smith, RAOC, who she married in 1923 and who was a Hong Kong POW. 28 Michael Hurst, MBE, announced that: “that the long-awaited book on the Taiwan POW camps and the POWs titled ‘Never Forgotten…The Story of the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps in Taiwan during World War II’ has just been released and the information and details for purchasing a copy are now up on our website.”
24 Tom Middleton Junior (the son of Leading Stoker Tom Middleton of HMS Tern, who was featured by the British post office on one of the ‘collection of eight Special Stamps featuring evocative photographs capturing the relief and jubilation that followed the formal end of the Second World War in 1945 stamps’ - see April) notes: “I went to my local post office in Faversham, Kent this morning and bought the last set. I’ve emailed my kids, and they too are excited that we have a ‘Middleton’ on a UK postage stamp. I’ve asked one of my boys to enquire about somehow getting the original colourised print.” He also kindly sent me a family-made biography of his father. 24 The National Post in Canada today carried an article by Jon Reid concerning his book about his father Captain John Reid.
23 Today I finally managed to fulfill Bob Tatz’s request to donate a copy of his autobiography, Lost In the Battle For Hong Kong, to Vivian So (the librarian of the Royal Asiatic Society). Vivian had pointed out that the library was also missing one of my books (Reduced to a Symbolical Scale – the account of the evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940), so I handed over a copy of that at the same time. 23 Steve Denton reports of an exchange with the Royal Scots museum: “Interestingly earlier this week I came across a newspaper article from the 50s, it was telling the story about a couple of officers wandering around a market in Hong Kong when they spotted the 2nd Battalion Colours last seen at the Hong Kong surrender, they got them back (not sure if they bought them, need a bit more research) but the article was the Colours being handed over at the barracks, here in Edinburgh, very close to where I live. These Colours are now in the museum. We know the Battalion buried a lot of stuff, just at the surrender. I don't know if there was a record kept of where exactly or if they tried to retrieve them and found them gone or not. One item that appears to be missing is The Pilot’s Cup. We touched on this previously because both Sgt Fraser and Sgt Alsey won it. I checked this Cup out and it is named after a Lt who served with the 2nd Battalion. He was a very popular officer. He was returning to the UK before the war to attend a training course. On the last night at sea, he dined with the other officers on the ship and was left reading a book when they went off to bed. In the morning he had disappeared and was never seen again. His devastated parents presented a Silver Cup to the Battalion, to be awarded to the best all round sportsman. The Cup is named The Pilot’s Cup because that was the Lt's, nickname. He was a great sailor and himself an all round sportsman. I am not suggesting for one second that this Cup may still be around, probably melted down by now. I merely mention this because it was a very plain Cup, we do have a photograph, that few would understand the significance of, especially to the Royal Scots.” As usual I have my same old question: Does anyone know more, including the lieutenant’s full name? 23 Winston Smith reports from Canada: “In my memoirs I include a story of a colleague who was a Hong Kong Veteran of some significance. After the war he became a Canadian National Park Warden and the story is written in that context. But it does contain as much of his background and war experiences as I could determine.” Those memoirs are well written and very readable, and the HK veteran in question is Warrant Officer Class II Harold Shepherd, MBE, Royal Rifles of Canada – who was clearly a very interesting and impressive individual. Winston kindly sent me the full coverage of Shepherd and it makes for compelling reading.
22 Ian Gill (born in Stanley Internment Camp) emailed me, asking: “Did you know Minja Ivanovic, a well-known character in Manila? Anyway, Minja had an English nanny she knew only as Nanny Hardy who had been working with an English family in Hong Kong and was evacuated to Manila. She got stuck in Manila and ended up in Japanese prison camps in Laguna and Baguio. Any chance of looking up her full name? Hardy was her family name, she was English.” It’s interesting how the ‘racial profiling’ of nannies and helpers has changed over the years. My Hong Kong friends are often amazed to hear that pre-war American families in the Philippines often preferred to import nannies from Hong Kong (because many had been in service with British families and spoke some English, and they trusted them more than ’the locals’). And of course an English nanny has been a thing since The King and I / Mary Poppins.* Unfortunately I can’t find a Hardy in my evacuation lists, and I have never seen an official list of British internees in the Philippines. Does anyone recognise that name? Later, Ian noted: “I have been going through old videos I made and in one where I interviewed Minja she said Nanny Hardy had been in these prison camps in Laguna and Baguio and had told her they would not have survived had Filipinos, at great risk to their lives, not brought them food and milk through the wire. That's the entire story but it makes a touching vignette. Minja died of lung cancer a couple of years after I made the tape of her life.” * Thirty-five years ago I had dinner with the ninety-year-old ‘Momchou Prince’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As son of one of the young princes tutored in ‘The King and I’ he introduced himself as “Yul Brynner’s grandson”.
21 Today Elizabeth Ride reminded me of a famous Christmas question from BAAG. In early 1943, Colonel Ride signaled (C/115) Major Clague to ask if it was true – as the Red Cross had apparently reported from Shanghai – that POWs had had as Christmas celebration: “Primo – distribution about 600 letters which had arrived from Home. Secondo – several hundred gift parcels donated by local residents. Tertio – decoration of trees outside barracks in true Christmas style music being supplied by POW Band and carols sung on Christmas eve and during night by groups of POWs. Quarto – Dinner roast turkey, cranberry, vegetables, mincepies, coffee, cigars - plenty for all. Quinto – one package candy for each POW with greeting card signed by an American or British lady. Sexto – huge Christmas Cake baked by POWs themselves – ingredients value about one thousand yen donated by Japanese authorities. Septimo – Religious services on Christmas Day stop. Real Yuletide spirit prevailed. POWs unanimously delighted.” Clague’s reply: “Douggie 90 dated 30/4(.) Reference your C/115 dated 19/2(.) Alfs say all balls no (repeat) no hbs gifts(.) Details following(.)” In BAAG open code, Alfs was Shamshuipo POW Camp, and hb was the Japanese (hissing bastards). 21 On facebook Joyce Barker notes: “My Dad Robert Gordon Utech had joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. I am including a picture. The inscription at the bottom of this picture is as follows: ‘9 Platoon, B Company, 102nd CA(R)TC, Lieut. T.C. Crawford, Co. Commander J.T. Thomas, August 12, 1941.’ I haven’t yet worked out where this fits in, but clearly it’s before they deployed to Hong Kong.
18 It’s amazing how fascinated people (like me…) can become about a small amount of corroded metal! Robert MacFarland found the bottom half of a strange cartridge case in Junk Bay. Following exhaustive investigation (involving people from at least three continents) we think it is most probably from a Japanese Type 96 25 mm Hotchkiss AT/AA Gun.
17 Detector expert Timothy Rankin reports finding the key to Pillbox 31. Not only is this the first such key I have heard of, it also neatly brackets Philip Cracknell’s new blog below. 17 Elizabeth Ride asked: “Can you give me some help about the fate of Rustam Master? I have what I need about his HKVDC background, his connection with the Ansari case, his arrest and detention. But then there are two versions: one that he was executed, the other that he was set free. Have you any proof of his date of death or burial place?” I list him as Private Rustam Jehangir Master, Field Company Engineers, HKVDC (CLP Argyle) with no record of death. Interestingly, Gwulo.com mentions him and notes: “Carl Smith card #160669 notes: Parsee Cemetery: Rustam Jehanger Master, b. H.K. 11 Sept. 1907 d. 27 Mar 1953, aged 45 yrs.” So it seems that he did survive the war.
15 I received an interesting email from a historian in France: “I am an historian and I am preparing a biography of a Jesuit priest, Robert Jacquinot de Besange who was highly involved in the defence of refugees in Shanghai in 1937. I found in different newspapers that he went to Hong Kong in May 1942 to help British prisoners in Hong Kong. I found information but not very specific in newspapers such that in a Canadian newspaper or in Australian newspapers but I'd like to know more about what he did concretely. How long he stayed in Hong Kong. How and when he returned to France, since he was in Paris in 1943.” There is nothing in my files about this, so I asked the always helpful Elizabeth Ride in Norway; if Jacquinot was in HK in the war years I can’t imagine the BAAG not being aware of him. Sadly Elizbeth told me that there was no mention of him in BAAG’s voluminous archives, so I suspect those newspaper articles (which I inspected myself) were purely hearsay. Unless, of course, any reader can correct me?
13 My CBC article has generated a certain amount of correspondence. One email, which I received today, was from Elmie Saaltink who saw what I had produced and sent me several interesting things written by her father, Hendrik Jan Saaltink (Indonesian born, though of Dutch parentage). Captured in Indonesia he had no direct connection with Hong Kong, but he had been a POW in Burma and then Japan. One thing he wrote echoed my article very nicely: “There is some human decency at work that even a war cannot wipe out!!!!! This is the first thing that young children of all races should know. And furthermore they should understand that war is not a humane and effective way to settle international arguments.”
12 I have been spending a lot of time this autumn walking around the High West area. Today, just off the path from the top of Hatton Road to the High West AOP, I happened to see a concrete block – typical of those that mark city boundaries and War Department property – marked WD11 (illustrated). Poking around, with the undergrowth being at its seasonal low at this time of the year, I soon found two more. I wonder what it was that they marked? 12 Justin Ho kindly sent me a photo of the jacket of the book ‘Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939–45: Campaigns in South-East Asia 1941-42’. I was about to reply “yes, I have a copy”, when I noticed that mine is actually: ‘Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45: Medical Services - Campaigns in the Eastern Theatre. Combined InterServices Historical Section, India and Pakistan. Delhi: Orient Longman, 1964.’ When I looked into it I discovered that these two volumes are simply part of a multi-volume series that also included: India and the War; East African Campaign 1940-41; The North African Campaign; Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organisation, 1939-45; Campaigns in South-East Asia 1941-42; The Arakan Operation 1942-45; Campaign in Western Asia; Post-War Occupation Forces: Japan and South-East Asia; and probably several more.
10 Today I learned of the existence of the book ‘Shanghai lawyer’ by Norwood F Allman, published 1 January 1943. Allman was an American Stanley internee thus, as my aim is to have a copy of every book on Hong Kong during the war years, this one is now on my shopping list.
9 A discussion on facebook has revealed a host of Japanese documentation online for the Battle of Hong Kong. These maps, for example, and more – including POW lists – here. 9 For a while now I have been assisting film maker Craig McCourry in pursuit of his upcoming film BattleBox, which covers the tensions and challenges of the British top brass in the Battle of Hong Kong. Craig has actually already completed two other films on the subject: Christmas in the Royal Hotel, and Hong Kong 1942. While I was not involved in either of these I have high hopes for this new film, for which I will be billed as both ‘additional dialogue by’ and ‘historical consultant’. 9 I received a welcome email from Canada: “My dad Jack Smith was a prisoner of war in Niigata alongside Ralph McLean. In fact Ralph was a close friend. Sadly my dad passed away on June 17, 2010. Prior to his death, the CBC did a really nice interview to capture all his stories. We have this on CD.” I was immediately interested in this because Jack Smith has been on my list of unresolved issues for years. At some point his records in Hong Kong seem to have been confused with someone else, but my correspondent helped to confirm that the chap I had listed as having a ‘compound fracture of right ulnar’ at Queen Mary Hospital was the right man. “Yes his broken arm plagued him all his life. Couldn’t play catch for more than a few minutes. In the hospital the British doctor looked at his arm and said ‘take the arm’. Dad reached behind his cot, grabbed his bayonet and said no damn way. A Hong Kong doctor took over his care and saved his arm.” The issue was a rare mistake in the Smuggled List of POWs, which claimed that he had stayed the war in Shamshuipo whereas in fact he had been shipped to Japan. 9 Michael Hurst announced the publication of the Fall-Winter 2020 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten".
8 And yet more turns up… Today’s news was about some twenty British grenades and several thousand rounds of ammunition being dug up ‘in the hills’. The finder kindly posted videos to a closed facebook group, showing perhaps twenty full Lewis Gun drums, and some six or more Vickers Gun ammunition boxes full of web-belted ammunition. Photos also showed individually wrapped .303 chargers for SMLEs. Unfortunately although some of the ammunition looked in good condition, most of the other bits and pieces were rotten or rusty. They were (correctly) reported to the police, and no doubt the authorities had to destroy them all. As I often remind people, each battalion in Hong Kong was given an extra 1,000,000 rounds of .303 alone when hostilities started, so there must be plenty still around. Generally I avoid posting photographs of ordnance on this site as I do not want to encourage people to dig for such things when so much is still live and dangerous. But in this case I believe the photo serves as a potential warning. 8 This evening I had a long and enjoyable chat with Elizabeth Ride. While we were primarily discussing a specific Indian member of the BAAG (variously named as Grewal or Garewal, who alas lost his life), we also delved into the minutiae of Elizabeth’s website. It has grown enormously since I last took a serious look and is well worth spending some time on. And by the way, if anyone knows more about Grewal/Garewal then we would both be grateful for more information. 8 I received an email today: “While studying Chinese in Hong Kong in 1963, I married a local European girl, Louisa Huntley. Her father served in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots, and spent his war years in a POW camp in Japan after the fall of Hong Kong. After his release, he returned to Hong Kong. Huntley, Stanton Sergeant 3053689 (XD1).” Alas, there was no response to my reply. 8 David St Maur Sheil passed me and Professor Chi Man Kwong an interesting seven page letter written by an unknown person travelling on the SS Narkunda in September 1942. I am pretty sure I know who the author was.
7 Philip Cracknel notes: “Tomorrow (8 December) is the 79th anniversary of the start of the Battle for Hong Kong. This month's blog is about four of the beach defence units manned by 'D' Coy 1/Mx on the east side of Tai Tam Bay.” This story (one of Philip’s most interesting, in my opinion) mentions PB31, whose commander was Cpl Albert Devonshire. 7 Today I had my first meeting, via Zoom of course, with the RAS top brass. I have to say that I was impressed. Years in the Corporate world have taught me that meetings are events to be avoided, as there are always individuals who are a little too fond of their own voices, or who see meetings as platforms for other agendas. But this was crisp, productive, and business like. Phew!
6 Philip Cracknell notes: “I had an inquiry on my blog article on the subject of 965 DB (see link) about BSM John Carley who was lost on the Lisbon Maru. The inquiry was from a Bryher Bell who has a sports medal awarded to John Carley whilst at Aldershot and he would like to return it to his family. I wondered if you may have a family contact from your work on Lisbon Maru families.” Unfortunately I do not. Can anyone help? STOP PRESS On December 30 we heard that a nephew of Carley had been found. As, according to my evacuation files, his wife was evacuated to Australia without children, that would be the best we could hope for. 6 The HKVCA have published their winter newsletter.
2 While finalising my broad initial edit of the Sir Alabaster Grenville diaries I was fascinated to read this paragraph from 1945: “The 4th was fine, warm and sunny. Roll-call was held outside, and in the afternoon Tweed Bay Beach was opened to bathers. I was told many went down to it but I did not. Papers for two days came in reporting the death of Hitler and that Admiral Doenitz was Fuhrer, with Count Schwerin as the successor to Ribbentrop. Von Runstedt was reported captured and Goebels had committed suicide. Berlin had fallen on the 2nd and it looked like the end of the war.” In other words, even to someone interned in a camp in Hong Kong, Germany’s defeat was considered ‘the end of the war’. 2 I was discussing the famous sketch, drawn by Lieutenant W.C. Johnson (US Navy) of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, with Ronnie Taylor. The latter had kindly given me a copy twenty years ago, but it has since become clear that there are many such copies. Each regiment who had men aboard seems to have their own, with their regimental crest at the top. What’s more, in the sketches I have, I see at least three different angles! And all, most probably, are based on Japanese photographs of the sinking. So over to you, dear readers. I have displayed two such images at the top of this page; how may more are you aware of?
1 My next walk with the Hong Kong Club should have been on the fifth, with The Travelling Massacre. Today, unfortunately, we decided we had to cancel it thanks to the HK Government’s new Covid restrictions. 1 Someone, and I regret to say that I did not note who, kindly sent me this article from Macleans in 1968. The meta history of the battle of Hong Kong has always fascinated me. This is a useful marker in its evolution. There is a lot here that is wrong, and shows bias, but it is all part of the story of the story.
December 1st, 2020 Update
HK Club on Mount Butler, Butler tunnels (author), Arthur Turner (courtesy Todd Turner)
HK Police grave (courtesy Gloria Aboo), Mabel Redwood's wedding ring (courtesy Janet Hayes), BAAG wreath (courtesy Bill Lake)
Maskin Shah's medal (courtesy Peter Weedon), Crest Hill and D'Aguilar destruction (courtesy Tan)
Two or three times per year I pick a fight with the CWGC (in the nicest possible way of course, as I have nothing but respect for them) about their Hong Kong records. Despite their efforts immediately after the war and since, there are a lot of errors and a number of omissions. If the problem is just that a date of death is off by a day or two then I don’t bother them with it, but sometimes it’s a misspelled name or something more serious. Recent victories have included getting a man who was lost on the Lisbon Maru moved from the El Alamein memorial to the missing to the one in Saiwan, and getting Jessie Holland recognized as a war casualty. But even with the usual valuable help from In From the Cold I seem to be stumped by the Fullerton case (see the 21st). It’s very frustrating in that there is no doubt he was lost to enemy action.
30 Bill Lake notes: “These have just been sent through to me by David Kerr (Donald Kerr’s son), I think you will find them at least interesting. I know many of the people on the video’s due to the fact they are all from the East River Guerrilla History group that I am attached with.” He attached a number of links, one of which I am sharing here (for Mandarin practice!) 29 Today I finished editing the third book of Alabaster’s diaries. Just two more to go.
26Peter Weedon posted an interesting Hong Kong Indian medal group on facebook. He noted: “This is an enigmatic medal group which is wrong in several respects. The group consists of 1939-45 Star, War Medal and India Service Medal and is named to 8692 Naik Maskin Shah, 2nd Bn, 14th Punjab Regiment, a PoW who died in captivity in 1945 and is buried in Sai Wan Cemetery. The naming is Indian style impressed. So what’s wrong? The group is missing the Pacific Star which would have been awarded for service in Hong Kong and also the Defence Medal. The recipient was not entitled to the India Service Medal which was awarded for home service in India. So why keep it? Complete groups to Indian who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong are fairly rare. Casualty groups rarer still. Maskin Shah died in May 1945, having endured three and a half years in captivity only to die three months short of liberation.”
23 Tan kindly sent a link to an article (in Chinese) describing the destruction of the emblem of the second battalion the Scots Guards at Crest Hill. I foolishly responded by saying that I cared more about Second World War items, and Tan replied: “The emblem was there long before WWII. There are many emblems around there before WWII and many disappeared. [Many] damages are unnecessary and completely avoidable if planned ahead. I recently found the OP and shelters of D'Aguilar battery were disappeared. I visited the site some years before and all structures still in good condition at that time. People living there told me the Telecom company demolished those structures because they need to ‘restore the site to original condition’ to return the land. That's the most stupid reason I heard to destroy the historical structures. Those structures where there long before Telecom company arrived. I marked demolished structures with X on the 1960s map as reference.” He also kindly sent me some photographs.
21 Unfortunately today I heard that the CWGC will not accept my paperwork for the death of Alfred Rough Fullerton (see last month) in action in Hong Kong. The issue is that his Death Certificate is not signed, so I’m not quite sure what to do next.
20I saw an interesting newspaper article today about a Royal Scot, killed in Hong Kong 21 December 1941, finally having his name added to his local war memorial in the UK.
19Today I received an invitation to the annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan, only this year it is to be virtual. The invitation read (English version): “The Consulate General of Canada cordially invites you to the live broadcast of the Canadian Commemorative Ceremony in Hong Kong. Sunday, December 6, 2020 10:00 a.m. (Hong Kong Time). In order to comply with the COVID-19 regulations of the Hong Kong Department of Health, the ceremony is open only to invitees (no exceptions) and attendance will be limited this year. The Consulate General of Canada will live stream the ceremony on its official Facebook pages, so would-be spectators can join in the commemoration virtually. You are also welcome to pay your respects at the Sai Wan War Cemetery, the Stanley Military Cemetery and the Commemorative Plaques in Hong Kong at any other time. Thank you for your understanding. For further updates on the live streaming, please stay tuned to this page.”
16 Bill Lake reported back from Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, which I and many others did not attend this year, following the Covid rules: “As you know, we keep to the understanding that only direct descendants of B.A.A.G. Agents and Operatives are to lay our wreath but due to the Covid rules which we had to abide by, no people were allowed in our cordoned off area. Even Consul Generals and Govt. Officials were not allowed in to lay their wreaths. So, not only do I get the privilege of being the MC, I also had the great honour to lay the BAAG wreath.” Bill also kindly sent a number of photos.
15Today I finished the editing for Book 2 of Grenville Alabaster’s wartime diary. It reveals aspects of the politics in Stanley Internment Camp which have not been covered elsewhere. But I’m getting worried about length. The first two books together are already around 90,000 words, and there are three more to go. 15 Gloria Aboo kindly sent (via facebook) some photos of Hong Kong wartime police graves which she took at Happy Valley Muslim Cemetery. She notes: “They were sleeping at Muslim Cemetery at Happy Valley. Young policemen defended Hong Kong.”
14This morning I took the Hong Kong Club Walkers on a route I call ‘Cadogan Rawlinson’s Last Stand’. The route starts at Park View, and I walked there (it’s an hour exactly, door to ‘door’) to meet them. We walked past Osborn’s Memorial (nicely and rightly decorated with wreaths and poppies) then up to the top of Jardine’s Lookout, down again to the col and catchwater between JLO and Mount Butler, then up to the top of Butler where we looked at the tunnels. Then down again, eventually – via Mount Parker Road ending up in Quarry Bay. I left home at 07.30 and returned at 13.00. In Hong Kong’s typically comfortable autumn weather it made for a pleasant day out. 14 Today I received an invitation from the “Souvenir Français de Chine” and the Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macao to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 4th at 2:30pm. I attended last year and it was very worthwhile, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend this year. The event is by invitation only, but if anyone would like to attend please let me know and I will put you in touch with the organisers. STOP PRESS: On November 30 I heard that because of the Covid resurgence this event has been postponed. 14 I had an interesting correspondence with Philip Herbert about: “another Shirburnian HK resident, Peter Weatherdon Grant CAMERON (or Peter Weatherdon GRANT-CAMERON), who… was with the HK Police, then a stockbroker. He is listed in the 1934 jurors list as Grant, Cameron Peter Weatherdon of 14 Bowen Road.” It seems he was given an emergency commission in the Indian Army on 5 May 1941, though that happened is not yet clear. He is listed in Sherborne School's Book of Remembrance as a Major with 10/19 Hyderabad Regiment, wounded in Burma, and died in HK of effect of wounds in 1947. He is not mentioned in the CWGC, and according to family actually died of at the young age of 36 (though perhaps his war wounds were a contributing factor in his death.)
13 Chris Beard kindly sent me a write-up of his Wilkinson and Pereira family members of the HKVDC (namely William Robert Josiah Wilkinson Jnr, Augusto Pedro Pereira Jnr, Cornelius Charles Pereira, Jose Antonio Pereira, and Henry Walter Wilkinson who were POWs, and Joseph Nelson Wilkinson who was killed in action.
12 Philip Cracknell posted another blog today: “There were four Fallon Brothers. Three of them served in the HKVDC. The other brother wanted to join but was not allowed to because three had already enrolled. It was a case of 'saving Private Fallon'. Their father, brother and a sister ended up in Stanley Camp. Their Chinese mother was in Rosary Hill Red Cross Home. The three brothers were interned initially at SSP Camp and later at Innoshima, near Hiroshima. The whole family were separated and interned - but they all survived and made it home.” I corresponded with Pat for a while, around 20 years ago. 12 Roger Townsend of FEPOW 75 penned this article in the Daily Echo today. 12 Todd Turner posted on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. He notes: “The photos are of my father Gunner ACL Turner whom was stationed in Hong Kong [in] the Royal British Artillery 8th coastal regiment. Captured Christmas day and relocated to Stadium Camp Yokohama in Sept 1942. Lt Birchall was the new CO and was instrumental in the tenacity of preservation of life for the internees and through good leadership saved many. The photos are of his POW #26 mug shot, 1940 prior to war at Stanley and a couple pictures of Sham Shui Po prison with his mates, but don't know their names.”
11 Today someone (my apologies, but I didn’t note the name) posted a photo of the four Reed brothers lost in the war, from their school. (Illustrated). It seemed very appropriate to remember them on this date.
10 Alex MacDonald let me know about this article. Fredette was in A Company, and I don’t know the structure of that Company well enough to be sure who his CO was - and I don’t recall hearing about an argument (except that with Major Young, but he survived the fighting). So my guess, and that’s all it is, is that the officer mentioned might be Lieutenant Franklin N. Lyster. He was found dead, and was then buried, in the Stanley View area on 24 December 1941.
9 Via the services of Google I maintain a listening watch on a number of topics, including the Lisbon Maru. Today I received notice of a letter pertaining to that vessel. 9 Janet Hayes (niece of Barbara Anslow) posted a photo of her mother’s wedding ring on the Stanley Camp facebook page.
8 Today I heard about a very interesting call for papers. Canadian Military History state: “To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, Canadian Military History will be publishing a special issue in fall 2021. We invite submissions that examine the Battle of Hong Kong from multiple perspectives. Canadian and non-Canadian perspectives are welcomed.” I may even see if I can rustle something up myself.
2 Philip Cracknel has published another historical blog today. He notes: “This is the story of a charming colonial house called The Lookout situated on South Bay Road. It is still there today but in December 1941, it was the home of William and Isabella Ritchie. One night a Canadian soldier, who had escaped from a house called Overbays and swum from Repulse Bay to South Bay, knocked at the door.”
1 Today I completed the editing work for Book I of Grenville Alabaster’s wartime diaries. I am happy to report that the writing (perhaps unsurprisingly) is excellent, and aside from formatting and correcting some mainly OCR-induced typos, my work was minimal. 1 TK Wong notes (see last month for context): “I have one update about the Mule Corps. According to Arnold Warren's book: Wait For The Waggon - the story of RCASC, page 174, [on 21 December 1941] they used mule transport to carry food to an exposed hilltop. That means that the Mule Corps still functioned, and the exposed hilltop was most probably Mt. Gough or Mt. Cameron.” I agree, and we both think that Mount Cameron is most likely as they received food on that day.
November 1st, 2020 Update
Austin Godson at the Pyramids (via Brian Finch), Fall of HK video (courtesy Isabella Robertson), Billie Gill's billet card (courtesy Ian Gill)
PB107, Rajput shoulder flash, Richardson trunk (all courtesy Alexander MacDonald)
Anneka Offenburg (courtesy Michael Martin), October Tides, The Captain Was a Doctor (author)
Early this month I finally started my new role as Honourary Editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong. It’s quite an undertaking, especially as I am ‘replacing’ the irreplaceable Professor Stephen Davies (Stephen is the sort of irritating person who continually says things like: “No, I don’t really know anything about Sudanese fish farming in the period March 1465 to February 1466, but…” and then goes on to demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of it). But while this will be a lot of work, it is also (of course) an honour, and will help me broaden my horizons and explore a far broader swathe of local history.
31 I heard today that Albert Jones, RAMC, is still with us.
29 Steve Denton spotted another error in CWGC files today. The entry for Norman N. Campbell, Royal Scots, used to list his death as 19 December 1941, adding (mistakenly) that he was lost on the Lisbon Maru. However, instead of correcting the latter, they have now updated the date of death to reflect the sinking instead! 29 Going through the Alabaster diaries I noticed a mention of the death of Fullerton of the Hong Kong Club. He is still missing from CWGC records, though I reported this to them as long ago as May 2017. Interestingly, there is even a death notice for him in The Argus (Melbourne) published on 24 December 1941: “DEATHS On Active Service FULLERTON - Alfred Rough Fullerton killed In action In Hong Kong dearly beloved husband of Mary Maude Fullerton and father of Evelyn Maude Fullerton, of 11Ardoch 328 Dandenong road East St Kilda aged 73 years.” 29 Yesterday I read an interesting note on facebook that a copy of Not The Slightest Chance was on sale on eBay for the unusually reasonable price of ten pounds. This was updated later with a note stating that someone had bought it. It was a blustery wet morning in HK today so instead of going for a long walk, I just traipsed round the Peak. Soon I bumped into a friend from the HK Club who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. “I just bought a copy of NtSC”, he said. “It was going on eBay for only ten quid!” Quite a coincidence.
26 A medal collector living in Cape Town contacted me with regards to the medals of L/AC Frederick Wilson, RAF. He received the BEM for gallantry in the defence of Hong Kong and was a POW at Oeyama Camp in Japan at the end of the war. What I hadn’t realised was that in the UK as a member of the Air Sea Rescue Force he was awarded the Military Medal in 1940. The citation reads: “Aircraftman Wilson was a member of the crew of a high speed launch which rescued some 14 injured men from three Ships of a convoy which were burning furiously. Later, when attempting the rescue of personnel from two planes, which had fallen into the sea, the launch was attacked by nine enemy single engine biplanes. The enemy raked the launch with machine gun fire and three fires were started by incendiary bullets. The wireless operator was killed, the man at the wheel had two bullets through his clothing and the master was knocked unconscious. Aircraftman Wilson seized the wheel and kept control of the launch in the heat of the action, until the master returned. During the-action a line fell overboard and fouled the propellers. As they could not be cleared, Aircraftman Wilson, in spite of the rough sea, went over the side with a bowline and endeavoured to clear them. This Aircraftman behaved in a most praiseworthy manner under the most difficult conditions.” I know he is mentioned in the official history of Kai Tak as ‘Tug’ Wilson, but I can’t find ,y copy of it.
24 Patricia O’Sullivan noted that at the Naval Dockyards Society Conference: 31 October 2020 “Where Empires Collide: Dockyards and Naval Bases in and around the Indian Ocean” she will be presenting a paper entitled: Out of the Shadows - the Police Force of Hong Kong’s Royal Naval Dockyard. It’s a shame that neither she nor I had an earlier warning of this. 24 An interesting press release today mention the use, in 2017, of an unmanned drone to survey the wreck of the Lisbon Maru.
22 A chance mention of a FEPOW by the name of Peter Newsome on facebook led to something useful. I pointed out that he wasn’t a Hong Kong POW, and thanks to some help from the UK learned he was on the crew of MV Tantalus. That name immediately rang a bell as two other crew members from this vessel are buried in Sai Wan. It turns out that Tantalus was sunk in Manila harbour and its British crew were captured there. Two of the crew:
Fletcher, Thomas Henry (Harry) 3rd Officer MV Tantalus KCfBC K 15.2.42 Weeks, Henry Edward A.B. MV Tantalus K 15.2.42
escaped, together with a third man. Unfortunately they were recaptured, badly beaten, and executed. Post-war they were reinterred in Hong Kong. But a third crew member, Thomas Edward Williams, died there of pneumonia and was somehow missed by the CWGC. Now we have the data, I’ll add him to the list of cases I need to resolve with them. Peter Newsome, it transpires, also escaped towards the end of the war. As a very young man at the time, with Fletcher and Week’s fate in mind, that must have taken a lot of guts. 22 Jon Reid kindly sent me a copy of The Captain Was a Doctor, which arrived today. 22 Today I received Book One of the OCR’ed Alabaster Memoir. 22 Jill Fell notes: “One of my SCMP finds last week was the attached article on the death of my uncle, Leslie Warren in India. I think I've previously sent you a group photo of him in the Signals Corps of the HKVDC. After closing down his company in HK he got a job in Penang in about October 1941. He was then at the Fall of Singapore and in one of the ‘stay behind’ groups. He got to Ceylon in a fishing boat, signed up with the Royal Engineers and was immediately posted to Meerut. I've read in a recent obituary that Meerut was the SOE advanced training centre for signals, which might explain why his war record was sealed for 75 years. He was sent out to the garrison at Muradnagar. His grandchildren have sent me copies of his last aerograms, in which he says he can't talk about his job. His final illness must have happened very quickly as he was writing about putting beer on ice for a brigadier's visit only 17 days before.” In fact an Ordnance Factory was established at Muradnagar in 1943, and I think it is more likely he was involved in this. Of course this has no direct impact on the Battle of Hong Kong but I have a continued interest in the fate of those who left Hong Kong in the war years to serve in other theatres.
19 Today Professor Stuart Christie invited me to lecture his literature students at Baptist University. They have been reading Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and he wanted both a local Hong Kong view of the period, and a ‘different’ style of history telling! So we discussed my recent paper on Hong Kong’s wartime civilian fatalities.
18 Ian Gill notes: “I attach my mother billet's card that she received around the time the Japanese started bombing HK on Dec 8, 1941. She arrived at the Chinese Government Information Office in the Hongkong & Shanghai HQ soon after the first bombs fell on Kai-tak. She went to see David MacDougall, of the Hong Kong Government's Information Ministry, who told her to report to Colonel Rose (head of the HKVDC) at Peak Mansions, which was being used as the HKVDC headquarters. The one thing that puzzles me slightly is the date stamped on the billet card which is not 100% clear but looks like December 11, 1941. I had the impression she had moved into Flat 2, Peak Mansions, as early as Dec 8 or 9 but the stamp suggests it wasn't till Dec 11.” I think Dec 11 makes sense as that was the day when many people fled from Kowloon and needed help finding places to stay. And I think this is the first time I have seen reference to the Auxiliary Quartering Corps! The level of organisation in Hong Kong at that time was quite startlingly thorough.
16 My copy of October Tides, kindly sent to me by author Chris Ogborne, arrived today. It covers the experiences of her uncle Thomas John Stone, RN, who perished on the Lisbon Maru. 16 Michael Martin posted a sketch (on the new Stanley Camp facebook page) of internee Anneke Offenberg drawn by his grandfather.
15 A correspondent is asking about James Hunter, who was a surveyor in the Harbour Department in 1941. He is listed in the list of Civilian War Dead as being lost on 10 December, and I have always assumed he was one of those lost when the Jeanette’s load of dynamite was detonated in the harbour that night by fire from PB63.
14 The excellent Stanley Camp Yahoo Group, established by Michael Martin (grandson of Hong Kong internee A.J. Savitsky) many years ago closed down today as Yahoo decided to discontinue their group business. It has now moved to this facebook page, which has given it a new lease on life. Doug Ward, for example, posted about the famous Stanley photo of all the kids taken just after liberation: “I was interned in Stanley when I was just two years old together with my parents and older brother… My father RG Ward, mother EM Ward and elder brother RF Ward. My younger brother Gerald was actually born in the camp after the list was prepared. My younger brother and myself appear in the photo ‘Children on Stanley Camp’. My young brother is the small baby in the front row. I am identified as 3b (3rd row centre). Sadly I am the only surviving member of our family that were interned.”
13 The Limerick Leader had an article about Forged in Blood and Music today.
12 The October Java Journal – VJ75 Edition – was published today. It included an account starting: “The suffering of a Prisoner of War, who went on to become Bishop of Sherwood, has been recalled form the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. The Japanese surrender, on August 15, 1945, marked the end of the Second World War. It also brought to an end Richard Darby’s time in captivity in Japan, as told by Mike Kirton, chairman of Southwell and District Local History Society. The Right Rev Richard (Dick) Darby was born in February 1919 to William and Miriam Darby, who were Salvation Army officers. Aged ten months he accompanied his parents when they went as missionaries to China to help children affected by floods and famine in the region. In 1939 he enrolled with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC), rising to the rank of sergeant, in charge of one of their two Bren guns. His older brother, William, joined the British army and his sister, Grace, became a nurse.” Dick was wounded by a shell in his left leg and back. A second story in the same newsletter concerned Gunner John McClure Scullion of 7 Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery. After surviving the fighting in Hong Kong and camps in Japan, tragically on 12 May 1978 “he was hit by a car while walking his faithful Alsatian, Jason, in Newton Lane, [Darlington].” A third Hong Kong related story concerned Norman Colley, 22 Fortress Company RE, Lisbon Maru. Fourth, William Benningfield, Middlesex, who also survived the Lisbon Maru and is still with us today. The same newsletter also included a version of George MacDonell’s story which I reproduced here in the August edition.
11 Alexander MacDonald reports someone finding a metal trunk in the UK stenciled: “SERGT. F.S. RICHARDSON, RASC, HONG KONG, BY S.S. DILWARA SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS”. Dilwara had been launched in 1936 as a purpose-built troop ship for India and the Far East, but what immediately caught my attention was that a Captain Frederick Stanley Richardson, Royal Scots, was killed Kowloon side very early in the battle of Hong Kong. Could it have been the same man? Transferring from unit to unit certainly happened, but it seems unlikely that someone could have arrived as an RASC sergeant in (say) 1936/7 and been a Captain by late 1941. Interesting, though. Relatively unusually for an officer, his army number was in the CWGC records and I wondered if that might be a clue. I found this: “Up to 1920 there was no such thing as an ‘army number’. men had numbers issued by their regiment or Corps. With each regiment having its own scheme, numbers were inevitably duplicated and in some cases dozens of men had the same number. In 1920, all that changed. Army Order 338 of August 1920 stated that army numbers would now be issued from one continuous series, to all men then serving in regular or Territorial units (with the exception of the Labour Corps), to all men then on Army Reserve, to all recruits into the regular army, TF, Special Reserve and Militia; to all men who re-enlisted if they had not had one of the new numbers before, to all men transferred to the army from the Royal Marines, and to all deserters who subsequently rejoined, if they had not had one of the new numbers before. Once issued, the man would retain the same number irrespective of his transfers and postings within the army. If a man (who had been given one of the new numbers) left and re-enlisted, he would retain his old number. Generally the new numbers did not have prefixes but the Royal Army Service Corps was an exception. RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). The blocks of numbers allotted were as follows (examples): 1 294000 Royal Army Service Corps 1842001 2303000 Royal Engineers 3044001 3122000 Royal Scots 6188001 6278000 Middlesex Regiment.” This was fascinating new knowledge for me. Eventually, though, I found a note in the London Gazette showing that Richardson had been in the Royal Scots as early as 1918 so could not have been the same man. 10 Brian Finch kindly sent photos of two Lisbon Maru fatalities, Austin Godson, Royal Scots, and Edward Gale, Royal Corps of Signals (illustrated).
7Alexander MacDonald reports finding a 7th Rajputs shoulder flash at PB 107. An unusual find in that area. 7 A correspondent notes: “I am working on a story for the Hantsport & Area Historical Society about Capt. Alexander Ramsay.” Ramsay, of the Mercantile Marine, and his wife were internees at Stanley. 7 The FEPOW 75 organisation, which was established to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Repatriation of Far East Prisoners of War 1945-46, has launched its website.
6 This morning I attended a meeting at Hong Kong University Press to discuss the possible publication of Grenville Alabaster’s internee diary.
5 Today I formally took over the role of Honourary Editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong. I have started going through the files, seeing where we stand for next year’s issue (Volume 61). It’s going to be quite a lot of work, but of course it’s also very interesting.
4 It’s the end of an era. Ng Sai-ming, who was Hong Kong’s last local known Second World War veteran, passed away today. Born in 1922 in the village of Sha Po, he was the 26th generation of the Ng Clan in Nga Tsin Wai. He joined the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong to train as a gunner at the same time as Peter Choi (the penultimate local veteran), shortly before the Japanese invasion. They had not even completed their training when the attack came, by which time Ng Sai-ming was stationed at Brick Hill. Post-war he would join the police who presented him with a long service medal when he retired in the 1970s, to add to his wartime gongs: the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, and Victory Medal. He will be given a military funeral here on October 31.
3 Isabella Robertson, daughter of Sergeant Rowland Cox McCall, Royal Scots, sent me a very interesting letter about a video, shot in Hong Kong in 1987, featuring her father. I have not seen it, but I found it in the Imperial War Museum’s collection. 3 Joseph Arnold Miller’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) family got in touch.
1 Philip Cracknel notes that his latest blog covers Donovan Benson, the Manager of the Mercantile Bank of India in 1941. He notes: “The Mercantile Bank was one of the three note-issuing banks in HK. This article looks at the Mercantile Bank what happened to their management team in December 1941 and follows the career of Donovan Benson in WW1, and from 1919 with the Mercantile Bank and from 1953 as Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “ 1 In relation to last month’s question about the barracks of the Hong Kong Mule Corps, Rob Weir notes: “Like others, I know the Mule Corp was barracked in Whitfield Barracks, but can’t find a reference. They weren’t high on my lists of interests. Having said that, I do know the Mule Pool West was in shelters on Mt Gough, and Mule Pool East in shelters at Tai Tam Reservoir.(That is as planned in the Interim Defence Plan. Considering the losses of mules in the withdrawal to the Island, Tai Tam would be logical as the 3.7’s were concentrated in the east of the Island, but I’m not sure whether they would be any use around Mt Gough as it had mainly howitzers requiring motor vehicle towing.) For useless information, mules came in two sizes. Large Pack Mule, suitable for Pack Btys could carry approximately 300 lbs. Small Chinese Mule could only carry 160 lbs. (WO 106/111).” 1 Steve Denton let me know that the COFEPOW 2020 October Newsletter includes an article about the proposed new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. 1 One of the many interesting men in Shamshuipo was The Lord Merthyr, who acted as camp cobbler. I finally got round to looking up his details today: “Major William Brereton Couchman Lewis, 3rd Baron Merthyr, KBE, TD, PC (7 January 1901 – 16 April 1977), styled The Honourable William Lewis between 1914 and 1932, was a British barrister and politician. Lewis was the son of Herbert Clark Lewis, 2nd Baron Merthyr, by Elizabeth Anna Couchman (d. 1925), eldest daughter of Major-General Richard Short Couchman, of Victoria Street, London. He succeeded his father in the barony in March 1932. He served in the Second World War as a Major in the Pembroke Heavy Regiment of the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Hong Kong from 1941 to 1945. After the war Lord Merthyr served as Chairman of the Committees in the House of Lords from 1957 to 1965 and as a Deputy Speaker from 1957 to 1974. In 1964 he was admitted to the Privy Council. He was also Chairman and Vice-President of the National Marriage Guidance Council, of the Magistrates' Association and of the Family Planning Association as well as Honorary Treasurer of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Lord Merthyr married Violet Meyrick, third daughter of Brigadier-General Sir Frederick Charlton Meyrick, 2nd Baronet, in 1932. He died in April 1977, aged 76.” In Hong Kong he was second in command of the 12th Coast Regiment, RA.
October 1st, 2020 Update
Fraser with ex-POWs (facebook via Richard Hartley), Normand pipe (courtesy Frank Normand), Japanese War Memorial (facebook via Zafrani Arafin)
Everest by Barretto, Everest Paybook, Everest nurses' memorial (all via Ruy Barretto / Jessica Carr-Walker)
Alabaster diary Part 2 (courtesy David St Maur Shell), HKMC shoulder flash (courtesy Justin Ho), Harbour fireworks Sept 45 (facebook via Doug Price)
Diaries, diaries, diaries. More than ten years ago a publisher suggested I write a paper about Hong Kong’s wartime diaries – thinking that all that existed had been found and published. Today I’m rather glad I didn’t, as more and more are still being discovered, transcribed, and sometimes published. And many of these are hundreds of pages and over a hundred thousand words long, full of absorbing new detail (see the mentions below of two more forthcoming diaries). Others of course are primarily in note form, or illustrations and scrap books. The publisher was clearly right – it’s a very interesting sub-topic in its own right – so perhaps I’ll follow his advice at some point. And by the way, families always believe that diarists took incredible risks in writing and preserving these in camp, but I wonder. I’ve yet to come across any real evidence that the Japanese considered diary writing a crime. But two questions: In this latest diary I have come across two terms, ‘leggy’ as in ‘leggy rice’, and ‘jeep’ referring to a Japanese guard. I am sure I have come across both before but cannot remember where. Does anyone know?
29 Today I received an apology from an organization for ‘borrowing’ images from my website. That’s a rare thing in this day and age, and it’s good to see people taking the issue seriously.
27 Roland McCall’s (Royal Scots) daughter got in touch via Brian Finch.
26 Steve Denton has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the CWGC’s reckoning: Webster, George Private 6201463 U 21.3.44 Webster, George Alfred Private 6201926 K 21.3.44 Y Is wrong. Webster 6201463 in fact went down with the Lisbon Maru, hence the Unknown grave, and somehow his date of death was muddled with the other George Webster (both Middlesex).
25 Philip Cracknell announced a new story on his blog: “This is the story of a house. 'Caronia' at No 17 Bowen Road. It was built in 1923. This is about the people who lived there, who were they and what happened to them.” I walked past that house every day for years and had no idea of the (slightly mysterious) Fidoe connection. 25 A PhD student at HKU has contacted me about a project studying Poles in the HKVDC.
24 Thomas Steed’s (Royal Navy, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
22A correspondent asks where the Hong Kong Mule Corps was barracked. We both guess Whitfield Barracks, but does anyone know for certain?
18 Last month I noted the unexpected death of Mike Broom, and today the Royal Asiatic Society has set up a page in his memory.
17 David Murphy kindly noted that Philip Cracknell’s book stated that it was Private Kenneth Bridge, Middlesex, who was evacuated by ambulance from Pillbox 14 on 22 December 1941. Lucky man. He avoided the fate of all those left behind. He then also managed to survive the Lisbon Maru and the end of the war. 17 David St Maur Shell kindly sent over the rest of the Alabaster diaries.
16 I think I’ve seen it before, but Doug Price put a photo on facebook (taken by Norman K. Walton, who came to HK with the Red Cross) of the festivities in Hong Kong Harbour on 16 September 1945.
15Ruy Barretto (whose father Corporal Alfonso Orolando Barretto was HKVDC and mother Gloria Barretto was NAAFI) kindly shared some of the contents of a leather notebook owned by the daughter of CSM Robert John Vincent ‘Bobby’ Everest, and apparently created by her grandfather RSM Robert John ‘Bob’ Everest. Not only is the booklet of use, as it includes – among other things - what looks like details of pretty much the whole wartime HKVDC complement), but it has pointed out an error in my records. As both men were Robert John Everest I had assumed they were one and the same man. Now I have corrected my notes. Interestingly – and it’s funny how this always happens – the diary I received immediately below mentions both men at length. For the leather notebook Jessica notes: “FYI, the various pages/chapters are entitled: Killed in Action p1-7; Missing (Believed Killed) p8-10; Wounded p11-14; Missing p 15: Missing (believed demobilised) p16-17; Deserted p18-20; Demobilised p21-31; Escaped p32; Struck Off Strength p32; Commissioned in Reg Army p32; Released p33 - 37; Chinese Civilians (S.J.A.B.) released on 8.9.42 P38; Personnel of the Chinese M.G. Bn released on 8.9.42 p38; Drafted 19th January 1943 p39-42 (here appears CSM Everest R J V); Drafted 15th August 1943 p42; Drafted 15th December 1943 p42-50; Civilians Drafted 15th December 1943 p50; Drafted 29th April 1944 p50 - 54; Civilians Drafted 29th April 1944 p55; Drafted 4th August 1943 (written by hand) p55; Handwritten tables entitled “Hong Kong Casualties 8/12/41 to 25/12/41” (incl HKVDC) p56-57; Some original signatures with their home addresses appear on pages 60-63; Prisoners of War, Hong Kong p65-82 (here RSM Everest RJ appears - the senior). Also a Barretto HJ and a Barretto NC appear here. Civilian and Regular Army Personnel attached to HKVDC in Hong Kong Prisoner of War Camps p82; Deaths Whilst Prisoners of War p83-p90 (also includes cause of death eg cardiac Beri-beri); Promotions and appointments etc whilst prisoners of war p93-98. Summary tables listing numbers of those mobilized, killed, missing etc for each corp/company p104-107 ; Back page 110 is the RIP listing the three nurses murdered.” Ruy also shared a drawing of Everest senior by his father. HJ Barretto above is Private Horacio Joao, and NC is Lance Corporal Noel Conde (both HKVDC).
15 Janet Sykes has shared with me her carefully typed-up version of her father’s (CQMS Leonard Sykes, HKVDC Engineers) POW diary. I am now going through it doing proofing and adding notes where necessary. 15 A correspondent has asked for help from anyone who knows more about his family history. He notes: “My grandparents in Stanley camp were Fred Hamblin, his wife Vi and their son John. My grandfather had completed 25 years in the British Army (Royal Engineers) which he left in Hong Kong and Joined the China Light and Power Company as an electrical engineer. They had a bungalow in Fan Ling and he was working on the installation of the power transmission in the New Territories. My mother grew up there, she had gone to HK as a young girl and lived there until she met my father and they married. My father trained in England as an electrical engineer, worked for two years in Persia on the oilfields then went to HK as an engineer with the China Light and Power Company in their power plants. He met my mother there, they married and lived in a company apartment until 1939 when they returned to England. He had decided that the situation there was looking unstable so he broke his contract to return. Apparently, He tried to persuade my grandparents to return but to no avail. When HK fell to the Japanese, Christmas 1941 they were rounded up on HK island and taken to Stanley camp, so they lost their house and possessions and had a very hard time for four years. My grandmother’s health declined and when she was back in England she was never in good health. My grandfather survived the ordeal better so was able to cope with the shopping and chores quite well. My aunt Patricia Hamblin was interned in Manila and had a harsh time there but eventually returned there to work for Shell.” I see their names in my records (with the exception of Patricia as I don’t really cover Santo Tomas) but little else.
11 Frank Normand, son of Rifleman Andrew Normand, RRoC, posted a photo on facebook, noting: “This is a picture of a pipe my father made probably while in North Point HK before he was transferred to Niigata. The tips are made of .303 casings.”
10 The HKVCA published their fall newsletter today. 10 I found a link to Meg Parke’s show, The Secret Art of Survival, today.
8There are many photos of the Japanese War Memorial at Magazine Gap, but today Zafrani Arifin shared a ‘new’ one as far as I am concerned.
6 Elizabeth Ride is asking where in the King’s Regulations is the text defining a captured soldier’s duty to escape? This is one of the things that we’ve all heard of, but I can’t find it actually documented anywhere and am now wondering if it’s a myth.
3 The family of Assudamal Hashmatrai Vaswani, Proprietor of Utoomal & Assudamal Co of 7 Garden Road, and his colleagues D. S. Dinga (Manager) and Mr. R. Jaggia (accountant) of Uttoomal & Assudamal Co. would like to know more about their wartime experiences. They note: “They were accused and imprisoned at Stanley Prison by the Kempeitei for assisting European Companies with the local currency which was paid back to his company in India.” Can anyone help? They actually originally asked me the same question fifteen years ago, but I was unable to find anything. 3 Steve Denton kindly alerted me to this Lisbon Maru story in the Ballymena Guardian. 3 For some reason the Haddock brothers came up in conversation with Dr Stephen Davies (who knows everything about everything). Sub Lieutenant Joseph Robert Haddock, HKRNVR was a POW in Hong Kong, while his brother Warrant Shipwright C F Haddock of HMS Swiftsure was in Harcourt’s liberation fleet. They met again when the latter arrived in 1945 (illustrated). Stephen notes: “Both Haddocks ended up in Gladstone in Oz. CF was listed as an architect in 1968 and it looks like he may have had family - not sure though. He seems to have been in Oz c.1948 initially in NSW until last trace in the deep north in 1977. JR seems to have got to Gladstone c.1972 living in a different house but close, and last trace I found was in the ‘80s I think, but no idea what JR did between 1945 and then. It’s possible they were Aussies by origin, though my gut sense is not. CF was promoted warrant chippie in 1943.”
2 I have mentioned this story before: in David Hobbs’s excellent book ‘The British Pacific Fleet’ 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’!” And today Richard Hartley (a relative) kindly posted a photo of the two men, apparently in conversation with Admiral Fraser, the Commander of the British Pacific Fleet.
1 Justin Ho notes: “Recently I came across this brass title HKMC from Arctic medals. The provenance is it was part of WGT Tuppert’s collection.” This is the collection I referred to last month, which appears to have been split up and sold individually. This is the first Hong Kong Mule Corps shoulder flash I have seen. Yet another under-researched unit! This whole set was originally offered to me for C$200. I wish I had bought them, but was knee deep in family issues at the time and didn’t pay enough attention. 1 Barbara Harding broadcast an interesting note: “Thanks to all friends who made contact with memories of Jimmy’s Kitchen (Mulligatawny Soup! Crabmeat Cannelloni! Baked Alaska!) Anyone remember Jimmy’s when it was in Theatre Lane, Central, up to 1975? Those post-war years were really the heyday of this much-loved Hong Kong restaurant… Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and other celebrities dined there at Jimmy’s; they all paid their bill except for Orson Welles who would say ‘Put it on the slate’ and then disappear when it was time to pay. Actor William Holden – ‘Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing’ (1955), ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ (1960) – was a regular and would sometimes stay the night at our family apartment on MacDonnell Road. Not every Hong Kong schoolgirl wakes up to find a Hollywood movie start fast asleep on the living room sofa…”
September 1st, 2020 Update
Alabaster journal (courtesy David St Maur Sheil), Vic Ient's new book (author), Cogbill news cutting (courtesy Jennifer Schaible)
Fred Moore (courtesy Stephanie Coleman), Stanley Greaves, Martha Staple & family members (via facebook)
Levett's war diary (via Jennifer Schaible), Punjabis at the Shing Mun Redoubt, the Joe Denton book (author)
This month was of course dominated by being the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day (which I learned for the first time is known as VP [Pacific] Day in Australia). As well as receiving (or seeing on social media) a large number of photos of members of Hong Kong’s garrison, as promised I was honoured to publish some unique new content – an article by Sergeant George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada. If you haven’t seen that already, please page down to the July update and you will find it at the top.
(Note that this month I have changed the font to Geneva in an effort to make the text more readable).
31 The month ended with welcome news via facebook, that Sir Chaloner Grenville Alabaster’s family are considering publishing his four-volume account of life in Stanley Internment camp. Oddly enough he has two different Wikipedia entries! 31 My copy of Victor Ient’s book arrived today (see the tenth below).
30 I heard today the sad news that John Penn, son of Harry Penn (the wartime commander of 1 Company HKVDC), passed away on the 21st.
27 Here’s an interesting question: Did the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps (HKDDC) have their own cap badge? They fell between two stools in terms of which force they were part of, with both a naval connection and an army one (they were associated with the HKVDC when hostilities commenced). I have photos of members in which I can certainly see cap badges, but unfortunately not clearly enough to identify. 27 Professor Chi Man Kwong and colleagues at Baptist U have created an interactive map, entitled "Hong Kong Resistance: the British Army Aid Group, 1942-1945".
26 William Robertson’s (HKRNVR) grandniece got in touch. As far as I can see, Robertson (who worked for Hong Kong Bank) hadn’t spent much time in HK before the war, in fact he had recently been in Singapore.
25 Chris Potter (son of John Potter of the HKVDC Air Arm) corrected one of my records. I had Robert Jeffrey Parker, but he has corrected it to Robert Geoffrey Parker noting that he: “was an architect like my father, although I don't know the company he worked for.” He also showed that Parker was quite an artist, kindly attaching some cards he had sent Chris’s mother.
25 Martin Heyes notes: “I don’t know if you have seen this short video, which I thought you might find of interest. [I see] that a number of the old boys served in No.3 Coy of the HKVDC.” It is about DBS during the war years, created as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations last year, and is rather good. The interviews with many familiar names are very valuable.
23 This evening we were delighted to announce the go live of the new BAAG website. This site went live today, 23 August 2020, at 18.00 Hong Kong time. The significance of the date is that it is exactly seventy-five years since the British Army Aid Group smuggled the authorisation to resume British sovereignty over Hong Kong, to the Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson in Stanley Internment Camp. The new site hosts a growing and welcome fraction of Elizabeth Ride’s BAAG archives. It is primarily intended to be a permanent memorial to the members of BAAG, but of course it also commemorates Brigadier Sir Lindsay Ride’s wartime role, and Elizabeth’s years of hard work in collecting and organising the records, and kindly making them available to a broader audience. 23 Patrick Whelan’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch.
22 I heard the sad news that Anne Ozorio passed away in the UK today. She was a very helpful and knowledgeable member of Hong Kong’s historical community, and I wish she had written more. Her The Myth of Unpreparedness: The Origins of Anti Japanese Resistance in Prewar Hong Kong is perhaps her best known work. (It was mistakenly published with the editor’s unresolved comments included. For those not familiar with academic publishing, it is typical to go through such a process, and it is also perfectly normal for such comments to be concise to the point of bluntness. But it is not normal to publish them). But in parallel, Anne was also a highly respected and knowledgeable critic of music with her own well-known blog. One of her friends created an informal obituary here.
21 Elizabeth Ride called from Norway, with news to be released on the 23rd.
18 Jon Reid tells me that: “The Captain Was A Doctor is now at the printer and the pre-publication stage is getting underway. If I haven't sent it to you, this publisher link will show the six reviews (edited by Dundurn to fit) the book has already received.” 18 For reasons too early to divulge, I have recently become interested in Tigers in twentieth century Hong Kong. We all know the two famous stories (including the Stanley Internment Camp one), but CNN says there have been others. And Luba Estes on facebook noted: “On weekends, my family drove to the 12-mile beach where we had a shed and on Sundays we spent the day in Castle Peak. In 1940 driving home, both my mother and I saw and stared as my father slowly drove by a large tiger sitting proudly on the embankment while observing the road we were on. My sister and father missed it.)
17 Robert "Bob" Cogbill’s (Hong Kong Signal Company) daughter got in touch, kindly sending me copies of pages from the Prisoner of War Diary of Chief Signal Officer China Command, Hong Kong 1941-1945 (Eustace Levett). She also sent photos from POW camp, of an ex-POW reunion, and a nice local newspaper article about her father.
16Fred Moore’s (RE) niece got in touch. Fred was one of six ex-Hong Kong POWs who very unfortunate drank poisonous industrial alcohol shortly after liberation in Japan. They were: Bent, Howard N. Rifleman F/40828 RRoC (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Cyr, Clement Rifleman E/30414 RRoC (XD3) K 7.6.45 Y Al Devaney, Peter Gavin Sapper 1880606 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Moore, Fred Sapper 1874085 RE (XD5) K 7.9.45 Y Al Morris, James Stuart Sapper 1874306 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Pemberton, George Lance Corp. 1871779 RE (XD3) K 8.9.45 Y Al The Van Allen affidavit on the late Roger Mansell’s site covers the story. Tape 1, side B, of this American POW’s memoirs also describes the incident (about twenty one minutes in).
15 Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day, so I posted George MacDonell’s excellent article as promised, and then sat back to read the news. Rather nicely, many relatives of FEPOWS posted stories and photos of their family members on all the relevant social media sites. Many were already familiar to me, but new photos included George Oliver, RE, Stanley Greaves, HKVDC, Sidney Cottiss, RAMC, George Hodgson, Middlesex, Isabella Warbrick, Nurse, Martha Staple, Colonial Nursing Service, and Frederick Wilson, RAF. Perhaps the most memorable was the one of the two nurses and their two brothers. The was posted by Debby Coxon who noted: "My grandmother, Martha Jane Staple (top left) and great-aunt Isabella Warbrick, who both worked as government nurses through three years, eight months, five days in Stanley Camp, Hong Kong. Top right, William eldest brother, killed in Great War, bottom left, youngest brother Robert, died of wounds December 1944, Belgium, while they were still interned." On top of these were two more Lisbon Maru men, Christopher Warren, Royal Corps of Signals, and John Edwards, RN. 15 It was good to see The Edinburgh Reporter focusing on Second Royal Scots in a VJ article today, and another article appeared in the Louth Leader the following day, with a further one (primarily about the Joe Denton book) in Wales Online a few days later. 15 Ian Gill notes: “Today is VJ day and Adrian Chiles of BBC Radio 5 called to ask about my parents’ unusual love story in Hong Kong’s Stanley internment camp. Our chat, part of a three-hour show, starts at the 1:14.30 mark and lasts 20 minutes.” (This may not be available in all countries). 15 Edward Butterfield’s (RS, LM) great great niece got in touch. 15 I hear that Joe Denton’s (who survived the Battle of Hong Kong in the Royal Artillery, and the Lisbon Maru) first great great granddaughter was born today. She should have appeared on the eighth, but apparently waited for VJ Day!
13 Today I discovered that a new reprint of Evan Stewart’s classic account Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle is available. This is essentially the 2004 extended version of the 1954 softback original, with new cover art. 13 Colin Standish kindly told me that someone in Canada is selling an old wartime leather belt, studded with cap badges and should flashes from Hong Kong. The seller notes: “It's a Middlesex Regiment officer's belt with badges, nearly all British I think, was brought back by a former Canadian P.O.W., Cpl. W.G.T Tuppert of the Royal Rifles of Canada, taken prisoner on Christmas Day, 1941.” More on this later.
10 There must have been a fourth air crash involving ex-HK POWs being repatriated from Japan. All Hong Kong buffs know about Les Misérables, Ginny, and Liquidator, but there are so many indicators of a fourth. Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 3rd officer Robert M. Brown, and Gunner Ernest John Bampton all apparently died on 24 September 1945 in another aircraft crash taking off from Okinawa, and at least one of the Lisbon Maru survivors (Taffy Evans, Middlesex) stated that he had survived such a crash – and yet his name is not on the MACRs of any of the three known B24 accidents. 10 Vic Ient notes: “At last the printed version of my book is published!” 10 Philip Cracknell noted: “Two stories in one but related. The first is about ZBW the radio station in Hong Kong broadcasting under fire in December 1941. A programme of dance music and the news from Daventry. Daventry calling. The second is about Frank Kekewick Garton a Wireless Engineer based at the transmitter station at D'Aguilar. He was ordered to evacuate the station and return to GPO HQ in town. He made a mistake by driving up Repulse Bay Road to WNC Gap in the morning of 19 December, but how was he to know the Japanese had taken the gap. His wife was shot dead and their Chinese Amah shot through the chest. I just realised they were the two civilians found in No 4 Repulse Bay Road - a house that still stands at the top of Repulse Bay Road but what happened to Garton.”
9 Rob Weir, who knows more about Hing Kong’s fixed defences than pretty much anybody asks: “After reading the comments about PB 14 on the August diary I’m confused. The nominated crew of that type of PB, with LL, was 9. As one wounded was evacuated by ambulance on the 22nd, where did the other three come from?” Good question. 9 I’m not entirely sure if I have seen this before, but while searching for something else entirely (as one does) I found this rather nice article about my fourth book.
8 I had an email from Annemarie Evans, who runs the RTHK radio show ‘Hong Kong Heritage’. She noted: “Sorry for short notice - you'll be this weekend's Hong Kong Heritage. I'm looking to do a few programmes to mark the 75th in different ways or at least include related subjects. So you you're up this weekend. First the WWII bombs and then I'm going to add in our 2009 interview on the unknown soldier - the body found in 2004 and the WWII helmet.” Fair enough. She also advertised the show on facebook (illustrated). In the end the helmet was sent to the Canadian War Museum who identified it as one of a batch made in Hong Kong itself for local defence. The interview can be listened to here.
6 I had an interesting email from Denmark today. “The Olsens were born in China. Escaped to Hong Kong (how I do not know) and were Danish volunteers in Hong Kong. They escaped from there to India via Singapore (again a blank) where they served with the British forces. Do you by any chance have any information on my father, Alexander (Olly) and his brother Francis Olsen?” This is one for Frode. I don’t have any record of these people in my files and suspect they were in Singapore before hostilities commenced. 6 Hong Kong veteran Peter Choi passed away today at the age of 98. The last surviving veteran here that we know of is now Ng Sai Ming. Oddly enough both men were local recruits in the regular Royal Artillery.
5Today I was sent a link to a video of Indian soldiers in Hong Kong, populating a brand-new Shingmun Redoubt. I created several useful stills from it, and it proved what I had always believed – that the area was totally treeless at the time. 5 Today I had a request for more information about Hong Kong POW Harry Odell. I have parceled up all I have, but if anyone else has more details I am sure they would be welcome. 5 Iain Gow kindly sent me copies of two post-war letters from Lieutenant Jim Ford, Royal Scots, to his father. 5 While looking for something else, I came across this rather emotive photo. 5 Bridget Harris notes: “It’s been really interesting having your insight into the drawings and I hope you don’t mind me sending you a question about my Uncle’s WWII diary but it would be so helpful if you could shed light on this. In September 1945 there are two entries which I’m trying to find out more about: ‘2nd September” I took another photograph or two and anxiously awaited the Sp.Br. Commander who I thought was in camp and would come to look at my drawings. No luck. 3rd September… as luck would have it the Sp.Br Commander of the News Service came in and promised to send off my Drawings by Air Mail. I got them all packed up and handed them to him; a weight left my shoulders. He was up for more photos of camp and with his P.O & another Sp Br. Fellow was busy all morning snapping and filming Sonny Castro as a girl the band and small town groups of Canadians.’ Do you have any idea who this Special Branch Commander might have been?” I don’t but I can confirm that the Royal Navy had a Special Branch, which included photographers.
4 My copy of Robert Widders’s book Forged In Blood And Music arrived today. 4 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a new look and feel for their website. Unfortunately for the moment this has stopped their Grave Concentration (and other) records from appearing, but they tell me they are aware of this and are working on a fix. They note: “We hope to have all functions on the website back up and running ASAP. Unfortunately some of the original features are taking a little longer than anticipated to transfer over to the new website. Thank you for your patience and we hope this has not been too much of an inconvenience.”
2 Corresponding with well-known researcher Meg Parkes (who is working on an article about artist POW M.E. Scott-Lindsley) we noticed that one of Godfrey Bird’s excellent paintings is mis-labelled as La Salle College instead of Central British School (now KGV). 2 I received an interesting email today: “I am writing a book about Chartered Surveyors in Singapore 1868-2018, and one Chartered Surveyor (who was also an architect) was George Willis Grey, who moved to Hong Kong from Singapore in the late 1920s. I have seen his name in your website as someone who joined the HKVDC but I have no idea what happened to him. Do you know anything about him during the War years, that I can make reference to in the book?” Unfortunately all I could confirm was that Hong Kong government records showed that he was added to the List of Authorized Architects published in 1924 and 1931.
1 Soldier Magazine has now published the results of my interview of last month. Nice to be featured in the same edition as Captain Sir Tom! ‘My’ part starts on page 39, but in fact the whole magazine is worth reading. It’s very professionally put together.
August 1st, 2020 Update
Saiwan Cross of Remembrance (courtesy Lori van Gemert), James Murphy, and with family (courtesy David Murphy)
Joe Denton's birthday card (courtesy Steve Denton), Reid book cover (courtesy Jon Reid), Albert Carter (courtesy Lori van Gemmert)
Royal Scots Museum (courtesy Tai Hang & TK Wong), Kobe Bombing (via Steve Denton), PB14 crew concentration (courtesy CWGC).
VJ Day 75th Anniversary Supplement
As promised, I am extremely honoured this month to present a new paper from Sergeant George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada, covering his experiences of the end of hostilities. I have had the honour of meeting Mr MacDonell and have the deepest admiration for him as a gentleman an example to us all. The fact that he is still producing articles of this quality is a wake up call to 'youngsters' such as me! To read his paper, please click on the icon below.
I am also pleased to present Burke Penny's blog which he originally wrote to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of VJ Day. Burke's uncle Don Penny also served in the Battle of Hong Kong, with the Canadian Signals.
STOP PRESS: There will be a special extra edition of this website on August 15 to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day. I am very much hoping it will for the first time include unique content from a true VIP of the Battle of Hong Kong.
30 Two newspapers, The Star and Sussex Live, covered Robert Widders’s new book about POW Joe Denton and his experiences (including the Lisbon Maru). My copy is on its way.
29 Kenneth Selwyn Mould’s (Royal Army Service Corp) family got in touch. 29 I received the sad news via Richard Hide that that Alick Kennedy, son of Lieutenant Alex Kennedy HKRNVR (of MTB escape fame), passed away following a short illness on the 18 July 2020.
25 Peter Campos notes: “I was just on your site and was delighted to see the photo from Shamshuipo; the shirtless man on the left is my godfather, Luis G. Gosano (we called him Luigi). He passed away in 2013. He was married to my aunt, Socorro (Mimi) Baptista, who died a few months later.” See last month.
24Soldier Magazine (see last month) notes that the result of my interview will be: “in the August Edition, published Aug 1.” The interviewer, and assistant editor, noted: “When you do your update please mention too if you like that I'm the great nephew of L/S Charles Alfred Caswell (RN) of HMS Tamar, who is buried in Stanley Military Cemetery.” (Illustrated). 24 I was sorry to hear today that Mike Broom of the Hong Kong branches of the Royal Asiatic Society and Orders & Medals Research Society has passed away. 24 How in God’s name can I possibly be 61? In my mind’s eye, on this, my birthday, I am around 32 years old, still galivanting around like an idiot. Anyway, I started the day with a fantastic walk to the top of the Peak, but then on the way down I saw something unusual: The door and windows of the old Mountain Lodge gate house were wide open because the building was being renovated. I spoke to the workers there and had a quick look inside: The walls were adorned with large black and white photos of Mountain Lodge and the general area in pre-war times. There was, to be honest, very little space inside, but it was still nice to see.
22Having taken note of the research done by John Mundie (with a little help from me, and rather more from Richard Towey, Curator of The Museum of The Royal Regiment of Canada) the CWGC have confirmed that the single Saiwan headstone (IX. D. 17.) bearing the legend ‘The Royal Regiment of Canada’, is incorrect. It should be Royal Rifles of Canada. The CWGC note: “I have also placed a headstone amendment request into our works programme which will be assessed by one of our works teams when they are next on site. If an amendment in situ is possible this will be carried out in due course however if a replacement stone is required this will add some time to the process (anything up to 18 months). Given the present situation, I cannot provide you with any sort of definitive timescale but I have requested a photograph of the completed work which can be forwarded on to you once received, if required.” In my experience the CWGC are totally reliable once a decision like this has been made, and I’ll keep an eye on progress from the Hong Kong end. (See April news for background).
20 Today I had an interview with RTHK concerning the 100-pound bomb found at Kai Tak the other day. I am told that it will be broadcast on Saturday August 1 at 7.30am, and Sunday August 2 at 6.15pm, for people listening live, and then there will be a permanent podcast link after that. Annemarie, the interviewer (who knows what she’s doing) did a great job, while the poor suffering interviewee tried to recall the AN-M numbers of various American bombs! I hope I said that the 2,000 pound variety was an AN-M66, but we’ll see; or hear, I suppose.
19 Dave Deptford kindly noted: “For D.N.W. on 20.08.2020, not yet lotted but in Preview; WW2 Group 4, D.C.M, 39-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal A.D Manning, Sgt Middlesex Regt, Captured on Fall, died 2.9.1942. Estimate GBP5,000 to GBP 7,000.” Manning actually died on the 3rd, not the 2nd as in CWGC records, of diphtheria.
18This date, 18, is lucky in the Chinese calendar, and an anonymous donor kindly sent me the passenger manifest for HMS Colossus on its repatriation voyage to Hong Kong 5 October 1945. What I hadn’t realized until now was that the aircraft carrier continued to Singapore and then India, taking ex-POWs to both – and most surprisingly for me, Brigadier Cedric Wallis was on the India list. (My contact also happened to mention the outstanding work done by SSAFA [the Armed Forces Charity], so in return I’m giving them a mention here too.)
16 Oh calamity! Another old American bomb has been found, this time at Kai Tak. I don’t want to underestimate the potential damage from such devices, but EOD know what they’re doing and if we just let them get on with it, they’ll do what’s needed.
14 Derek Beningfield writes: “In July of 1920, the First World War had been over for less than two years, women under the age of 30 could not vote, the first solo Trans-Atlantic flight was still seven years away and the Royal Navy ruled the waves. July of 1920 also saw the birth of William Charles Beningfield, who will be turning one hundred years old on July 14, 2020. To say he has experienced a lot over the course of one century would be an understatement.” See more about this Lisbon Maru survivor here. 14 George Boote kindly pinged this one over. These early post-war deaths have always interested me. How did young Mr Bell lose his life?
11Here’s a book I want to read. This is the story of the POW experience of a certain Joe Denton, RA, the grandfather of the Steve Denton who has been so often mentioned on this site. 11 Today (just one day before deadline) I finally sent Jon Reid the foreword I wrote for his biography of his father, The Captain Was A Doctor. It’s a fine book and it was an absolute honour to be asked to help. 11 Meg Parkes notes: “I’m writing about my good friend Lt Scott-Lindsley again. I’m researching a VJ Day 75 article I’m writing for the Naval Records Society’s online magazine and I was wondering if you can give me any further insights about him?” I was able to pass her a few details, and a few more kindly forwarded by Isabella Herd. At some point, presumably on VJ Day, the results will be published here.
10Steve Denton kindly sent me a set of photos of the American bombing of Kobe (including the POW Camp area). I had seen one or two before, but there were some quite amazing ones showing the scale of the fires and damage done.
9Colin Standish kindly sent me a copy of The Gingras War Amps report on Hong Kong Veterans in Canada.
6 This morning, following a week resting from walking with a bad knee, I joined two friends on a walk from Discovery Bay in Lantau to Silvermine Bay, followed by a very welcome pizza and a few beers. It reminded me that I still need to do more research about Lantau during the war years, and this tourist-free period is probably as good a time as any.
5 While looking up something concerning C Force today, I was reminded of the one member who left Canada but did not arrive in Hong Kong - Rifleman David Schrage, a severe diabetic who had hidden his condition and overdosed with insulin. He is often forgotten, so I thought I would mention him here. As he was buried at sea he has no known grave, and is commemorated in Saiwan.
4 Tai Hang Wong kindly shared photos from the Museum of The Royal Scots in Edinburgh Castle (concerning its 2nd Battalion in the Battle of Hong Kong), taken on a visit that he and his brother TK made last year.
2 Justin Ho notes: “Recently, I saw the updates for July on your page regarding the Bartlett medals. It ended with a sold price of 15,370 HKD. Months ago, there was an auction regarding an HKVDC Scottish Company Plaque. It was eventually sold to a good friend of mine - a collector who collected HKVDC, Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC) and other Chinese-themed militaria of the late-19th and 20th century. What made the plaque interesting was a name was found at the plaque's rear (even the eBay seller and my collector friend had failed to spot it initially!) The name was spelled as ‘J. R. LEITCH’. I remember seeing the name Leith, James Rea Corporal 2564 in your War Diary Database, who was part of the HKVDC Scottish Company.” Unfortunately there was no room in this month’s edition to include the photo, but it’s an interesting find. 2 Albert Edward Carter’s (Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) granddaughter got in touch. She notes: “I am the granddaughter of Albert Edward Carter, born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on January 13, 1898. Albert was a private #B83222, during WW2 and he died in Hong Kong on April 22, 1942 and is buried in the Sai Wan Cemetery. My sister and I had the good fortune to be able to visit the grave site in 2015. I was able to reassure my mother that her father was resting in a beautiful location and the site is well taken care of. It had always been her wish to visit the site, but she was never able to do so. I am attaching a copy of the only picture I have of my grandfather. It was taken either before he left Canada or somewhere else, possibly Hong Kong. I'm wondering if you might be able to identify where this picture was taken? I know there isn't a lot to look at, but it's possible that you might be able to identify the barracks in the background? I have recently learned that Albert's mother was a child of the British Home Children and sent to Canada in 1888. I've also come to believe that Albert's real father was not the man we believed him to be, but I am still working on finding out more about that. These, of course, are all side stories, but they do make Albert's ancestry intriguing.” Carter died of pneumonia at the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road. As well as the photo of her grandfather, she also sent me a very evocative photo of the Cross of Remembrance at Sai Wan Cemetery, with two black kites doing sentry duty above.
1 Concerning the photo of the initial British surrender (see last month) TK Wong notes: “The captioned photo seems to be taken during night time but the initial surrendering talk took place in the afternoon in St. Paul's Hospital, Causeway Bay. Unless it was taken indoors and without light the photo should not be so dark in the background.” That’s a good point, though the tram tracks at the lower left of the photo should also be taken into account, and I believe the actually discussions took place at 18.00. This year (I checked with the Hong Kong Observatory) sunset on 25 December will be 17.47 – which is not too far off. 1 James Michael Murphy’s (Middlesex) grandson got in touch. He notes: “On your website ‘Hong Kong War Diary’ you have him listed as unallocated and in your book – Not the Slightest Chance – you have him detailed as being killed in the Bennetts Hill area (page 245). However I believe he was part of the platoon who were all killed in Pill Box 14 – this is based on information provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who list a total of eleven casualties.” This is absolutely correct. The Graves Concentration reports I referred to last month make it clear that the complement of PB14 was ten men (actually they say eleven, but the ‘Wood’ they list appears to be there in error, as is Murphy’s name which is here typed Murray). He adds: “For your reference my grandfather joined the 2nd Middlesex Regiment as a Bandsman in 1929 (at 15 years old) and was discharged from the Army after 6 years service with the colours in 1936, under Article 1073 RWt 1931 and Para 383(ix)(a) Kings Regulation 1935. He re-enlisted with the Middlesex in April 1940 arriving in Hong Kong in May 1941. His father (my great grandfather), also served with the Middlesex Regiment during both the second Boer War and through World War One.” In the Murphy family group photo the lady my correspondent’s grandmother (Rose Mary), the little boy in the middle at the back is his father (John Michael), the little boy to the left front is his uncle - James Michael. and the little girl on her father's lap is his Auntie (Joan Ann).
July 1st, 2020 Update
Surrender party (via Kwong Chi Man), Vincent Young and friend (courtesy Eloise Butler), POWs at Moji (Greater East Asia War Graphic)
RAMC Form B157 (Wellcome Library, via Steve Denton), Site of Menhinick's wounding (courtesy Hilary Dyson), Shamshuipo (courtesy Mrs Vilma Sequeira, via Jim Trick)
Sykes diaries (courtesy Janet Sykes), Norman Harding and colleagues (courtesy Deborah Coatsworth). Bartlett medals (via eBay)
I learned this month that singer/songwriter KT Tunstall is the granddaughter of Lisbon Maru survivor and Royal Scot, James McDougall. It’s interesting how many artistic people have such a connection. I helped on a documentary last year with the Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance whose grandfather was also a POW here. And if you remember the film Saving Private Ryan, the actress who played Mrs Ryan was Amanda Boxer (daughter of POW Major Charles Boxer). Also, Jessica Tandy, who won an Oscar for her role in Driving Miss Daisy, had a brother (Edward ‘Tully’ Tandy) who was a Hong Kong POW. The famous tenor Sir Peter Pears’s brother, Arthur Pears, commanded HMS Thracian and was interned throughout the war. There may well be many others…
25 I heard today that Ron Freer had passed away on 29 April aged 104. Ron was a Sergeant in 8th Coastal Regiment, Royal Artillery, and spent the war years in Shamshuipo. 25 As is often the case, while searching for something totally different I found The Diaries of the Maryknoll Sisters in Hong Kong, 1921–1966 pp 97-119, covering “Japanese Occupation And Internment, 1941–1942”. Unfortunately it’s only an introduction. 25 Colin Standish sent two very interesting Camp IoUs from his grandfather. One was ‘selling’ a loaf of bread in October 1944, for the price of “my Xmas Dinner, no matter what it is.” 25 Martin Heyes let me know that he has paper on the VC and GCs awarded to Hong Kong recipients during the fall of Hong Kong and the Japanese occupation, published in the latest OMRS Journal. It can be found here.
23 Sergeant Edward Curtis’s (HKVDC) old school got in contact. They note: “Edward Curtis attended St. Michael's School (1919 - 1921) in Victoria, BC, Canada when a boy. He is on the school's Roll of Honour, of those former students killed in WW2. I have been trying to identify him in school photographs without success, but in searching for him on the internet discovered your comprehensive website. Edward was a member of No. 1 Coy, Hong Kong Defence Volunteers. He was born in the U.S. and is listed in some references as an American, but was adopted by his aunt who immigrated to Canada and ended up in Victoria in 1908, shortly after Edward was born. Do you have any information about Edward, particularly (a) a photograph of him with his company, and (b) how he would have ended up enlisting in the HKVDC? (Interestingly, there were at least three other boys who subsequently attended St. Michael's who were evacuated from Hong Kong because of the war. One went on to become the Taipan of Jardine Matheson.)” I don’t have a photo so checked with Company Commander Harry Penn’s son, but unfortunately he didn’t have one either. Interestingly, Curtis’s CWGC entry states that his wife lived in the States. 23 Colin Standish notes: “There is a new CBC show featuring the Battle of Hong Kong by Mark Sakamoto (author of Forgiveness) who is the grandson of the recently deceased Ralph MacLean of the Royal Rifles of Canada from the Magdalen Islands and HK veteran. My Grandfather's photo is pictured in the introduction.” Unfortunately it seems that this can only be viewed In Canada.
21 Kwong Chi Man kindly sent me a copy of a photo of the original surrender discussions at Causeway Bay between Lt. Cols. Stewart and Lamb, and senior Japanese officers. There is also an interpreter present, at least one more senior British officer, and a couple of other unknown Caucasians. I sent a copy to Lamb’s family to see if they could identify him but unfortunately all the British officers have their backs to the photographer. 21 George Boote kindly let me know that “a medal group belonging to Sapper Bartlett are up for sale on Ebay”. According to the listing: “Bartlett subsequently saw service with a Bomb Disposal Company, and qualified for the rare Bomb & Mine Clearance 1945-49 clasp to the General Service Medal 1918. The qualification for the Bomb & Mine Clearance 1945-49 clasp was an aggregate of 180 days active engagement in the clearance of bombs and mines in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, during the period 9th May 1945 to 31st December 1949. The term of 'active engagement' was taken to mean the process of digging down to a bomb or its removal and final disposal. In the case of mines, it meant the entering of the perimeter of live minefields, disarming the mines or acting as a water jet operator. It should be noted that being a member of a unit so employed did not, in itself, count as a qualification. To be eligible, the recipient must have been personally engaged in one or all of the processes from the reaching to the final disposal of the bombs or mines.” I’m always interested to learn what the POWs did post war. 21 Jim Trick kindly sent me scans of various documents and photos acquired from Mrs Vilma Sequeira, widow of Vicente Antonio Sequeira, HKVDC. These included a shot taken in wartime in Shamshuipo. It rings a slight bell. I may have seen a lower resolution copy before, but photos like this are very rare. 21 Norman Harding’s (RA) granddaughter kindly sent me a photo of him (on the left) and a ‘J. Black’ who I think may have left the Colony before invasion.
20 Janet Sykes notes (see last month): “Great to see that you included a snippet in the diary this month – thanks. I had the insane thought when I started the ‘snippets’ that I might do this with every day of the diary – but that was when I’d only done 50 pages of transcribing, and it soon got pretty hard. You’re exactly right in your post, I was aiming for ‘poetic’ and even read them at the local library on world poetry day last year – quite well received I think.” She attached a photo of the diaries and other bits and pieces. 20 Cec Lowy contacted me, saying: “My son called me last week and asked if I could find any information about Father Bernard Tohill. His brother John is a friend of my son and knows little about his wartime experiences. He has asked me to try and get some info and I knew you were the man. Any info or links on him would be appreciated by his brother.” Fortunately I have Father Tohill’s memoirs of 1941/42 which I was able to send him.
18Tom Dempster, son of Henry Dempster, Dockyard Police, reminded me today of the 1949 letter petitioning against the fact that the Royal Naval yard Police were still bound by regulations stating that members of the force could only marry a ‘European of a type approved of by the Commodore’. This was out and out discrimination as many of these men were already married to non-Europeans, and none other of the British forces were bound by such archaic and stupid rules. At least two of the signees (David Curry and Arthur Manwaring) were of the wartime unit.
16Today I was interviewed by the British Army magazine Soldier. They had some very sensible questions (and rather a good website, in my son’s opinion – and he knows about these things). Later I’ll publish a link to the resulting article. 16 I had a very enjoyable discussion at Nose in the Books today with the tenured Professor Kwong Chi Man of Baptist U. On the way home I paused at the old Colonial Cemetery to pay my respects at the grave of Jessie Holland. We really must get a proper headstone for her at some point. As a nurse killed in the service of her country while volunteering for a dangerous mission, she deserves at least that. All it says today is still the location reference ‘10027’. 16 I had an interesting email today relating to Frankie Shaftain: “I am wondering could you provide me with information about Frank Shaften / Shafton. He lived beside my grandfather after he retired and either he or his wife passed some artefacts of the era to my father. I have been told he was a chief of police but from my limited research it appears he was in Hong Kong C.I.D. One of the artefacts we have allegedly relates to the surrender of a Japanese soldier at a prisoner of war camp.” Apparently he was given a silk smoking jacket, a ceremonial belt, and a ceremonial Japanese sword.
14 James McDougall’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. I learned from them that after liberation from Osaka #2B, McDougall returned to Hong Kong and married a Mimi Susan Fung who lived at 340 Jaffe Road. Robert, their eldest son, was christened at the English Methodist church and they had three further children: Stuart, Carol-Anne, and Meemee. James was one of the twelve survivors that attended the fundraiser at the Queen’s pier for the Chinese islanders and fishermen who helped save them from the Lisbon Maru. He worked post-war for Star Ferries. They apparently fled Hong Kong in 1949 (family stories imply gambling debt) and James and family returned to Leith, Edinburgh experiencing rejection due to his Eurasian children and Mimi’s Chinese heritage (which family stories link to a Chinese war lord). Mimi's granddaughter went on to be the successful recording and song writing artist KT Tunstall, albeit after adoption as her mother Carole-Ann gave her up. James passed away in 1991, and seldom spoke of any of his experiences. He was actually born James MacDougall, but when he failed his medical he returned as McDougall… James was extremely well liked at home and was a big family man. He later remarried Sheila Montgomery and had several other children.
9 I had a question from Taiwan about the US Army Air Force B-24 bomber, nicknamed ‘Liquidator’, that crashed in south eastern Taiwan on September 10, 1945. I have the MACR for this, and for the two others that I know crashed that day (Les Miserables, and Ginny). Liquidator was the only one not carrying ex-HK POWs, though the Commonwealth troops on board were re-buried in Sai Wan in 1947 (most famously Clive James’s father). The question is whether anyone has details of the mission to recover the bodies from the mountainous crash site? There are several accounts on the web, but somewhere there must be an official record of the reputedly American-led recovery. 9 YK Tan has written two good papers for Surveying & Built Environment. One is called “Company Headquarters along Gin Drinker’s Line and Other Places in the New Territories”, and the other “Gin Drinker’s Line and Other Types of Marker Stones in Hong Kong.” 9 Mike Babin enquires: “I have a question for you: we received an inquiry about a Canadian soldier, Patrick Vermette. He is listed as being buried at Sai Wan War Cemetery (VIII. F. 20.). However, there is a record of his burial at Argyle St Cemetery here. I haven’t been able to find anything else about his situation, but I’m assuming that his remains were relocated to Sai Wan after the war. Would that be correct, do you think?” This is an excellent question. Many people may not have noticed that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – though dint of hard work and long hours (because I know they are quite underfunded for the scale of work they do) – have in recent years expanded the information shown on their website. Their ‘grave concentration’ and similar records answer this sort of question, and give us a granularity of information which was previously missing. 9 Discussing the famous Japanese photo of ex-HK Lisbon Maru POWs (said to have been taken on the dock at Moji) with Steve Denton, we now think these are all the senior officers. From left to right our best guess is: X, Monkey Stewart, X, X, X, X, X, Joshua Pollock, Sydney Horswell. It would be nice to fill in all those blanks…
8 Liz Smith notes: “I just wanted to say how lovely it was to find these records and look up my great uncle… Michael Flaherty and his wife Lily (Wong) Flaherty who were in Stanley. The records for Mrs Flaherty mentions the address... 21 Seymour Rd, Ground Floor... so I will add this to my family tree info! Michael has a grave and I hope to visit HK one day!” I was in the cemetery this month and took a photo (illustrated) of his headstone. 8 Geoffrey Emerson kindly let me know of the passing of Jessie Stewart. He notes that she was: “A very nice lady who attended most RAS talks and went on many RAS overseas trips, as well as other activities. Vicky Lee of BU is planning to write a longer article about her life. Her father (Chinese Maritime Customs) was an internee in Japan during the war.” 8 I found a rather interesting paper on Hong Kong’s military heritage, called “Reuse of Fortifications”.
7 A correspondent asked: “Do you know how Japanese use Whitfield Barracks during the occupation?” I gave an answer based on BAAG’s reports, but I wonder if anyone else has details? Elizabeth Ride notes reading: “KWIZ #56, which mentions the Barracks. So it looks as though it was simply used to barrack Jap troops.” But which battalions were based there when the invasion began? Traditionally Muslim troops (such as the Punjabis) were in Whitfield, and I know the 5/7th Punjabis maintained a battalion HQ there early in the fighting. So I think it’s very probable they were barracked there. And the HKSRA were at Gun Club Hill. But I don’t know about the Rajputs. Can anyone help?
6 Sergeant Menhinick’s (Royal Marines, see last month) family kindly sent an annotated photo with a cross showing where they believe he was mortally wounded. Maltby’s dispatch reads, for December 24: "At 0915 hours the enemy had reinforced the northern portion of Mount Cameron where he was about 300 strong. The small party of Royal Marines (q v. para 117) was now patrolling the spurs South of Mount Parish in touch with the 5/7 Rajput Regt. who had collected hospital discharges, etc, and formed a third platoon which had been positioned on the Mount Parish spur.” Unfortunately 117 (Dec 22) isn’t very useful. It simply states: "A new R A. (West) H.Q. was being established at Victoria Gap. At this critical time the Royal Navy offered valuable help—1 officer and 40 men of the Royal Marines—who were ordered to Magazine Gap to report to the senior officer there (Lt.-Colonel F. D. Field, R.A.) for the purpose of clearing up the situation at Wanchai Gap, now out of touch.” But the spur of Mount Parish is just to the right of the original photo, so this is likely to be the action in question.
5John Cairns notes: “I found your monthly Hong Kong War Diary blog while searching for any online information about my grandfather, Donald Gordon Cairns. He and his younger brother Colin were both [internees at Stanley Camp, having worked at the Harbour Department at the time of the fall of Hong Kong.] My father Peter (born in Hong Kong in 1928 and evacuated to Australia with his mother and aunt prior to the invasion) told me of a story about my grandfather rescuing his brother from a drunken Japanese guard in Stanley Camp. Apparently, the guard had forced Colin to his knees and was threatening to shoot him and upon hearing about this, my grandfather ran to the building, switched off the light and knocked the guard unconscious. I believe that the guard had been so drunk that there was no subsequent follow-up to the incident.” This story sounded very familiar, but I’ve not been able to put my hands on it. Does anyone have any ideas? He also added: “I watched Mark Rylance’s episode of ‘My Grandfather’s War’ just after sending you my original email. It was a fascinating and very moving account, and quite a coincidence to see your interview having just contacted you.” That documentary seems to have had quite an impact (I’m glad to say).
1 Steve Denton kindly shared the “Monthly distribution returns, and nominal rolls by station, of No. 27 Company, RAMC, in Hong Kong, Jan-Nov 1941”, courtesy of the Wellcome Library. I have used the October returns to improve my RAMC list. I wish I had a Form B157 for every army unit here at the time!
June 1st, 2020 Update
Beattie and son with 2 Coy (courtesy Mo Beattie), A Section roll (courtesy Lilian Lorraine), Attack on A Section (via author)
RAMC in 1940 (courtesy Chris Hodgkinson), Menhinick MiD (courtesy Hilary Dyson), Dodwell's grave (courtesy Bill Lake)
Lady Clementi splinterproof shelter and Pillbox (author), Alan Potter (courtesy John Potter via Brian Finch)
The research on A Section, 7 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (see the 6th), is the sort of work I particularly enjoy. The location of their loss is little changed from 1941, and we have information in many dimensions: Japanese photos and paintings, artefacts I’ve found on the site, the remaining buildings, the British account, and now a reliable list of the men themselves. I’ll put the research together as a potential paper for some publication or other.
28 Today I had a long and interesting chat with film maker Craig McCourry, the Hong Kong film maker whose successes have included Christmas at the Royal Hotel.
25 Robert Gibson kindly sent me this interesting link to a description of Hong Kong Harbour’s war time defences. 25 Giving some minor assistance to Jon Reid on his forthcoming biography of his father (the highly respected Captain John Reid, RCAMC) “The Captain Was a Doctor”, I looked a little deeper into the other two officers who accompanied Reid on the third draft to Japan. With valuable help from Steve Denton, I now know a little more about Major Hamish Gordon Robertson, RAMC, and Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander John Allison Page, RN.
24 I received a very interesting email from the Beattie family today. As far as we can ascertain, Thomas McCluskie Beattie (and his friend Bartholomew Sheehan) were members of 2 (Scottish) Company, HKVDC. Beattie’s wife (Gladys) and son (Rod) were evacuated to Australia, and Sheehan became a POW. But Thomas Beattie doesn’t show up in my wartime records, so we believe he must have escaped Hong Kong by boat, probably shortly before the Japanese invasion. We’re trying to find the details, but meanwhile they sent me a couple of very fine photos of Thomas and comrades, and his son. 24 Walter Hodgkinson’s (RAMC, Lisbon Maru) son got in touch. He notes that his father: “joined the RAMC at York at the age of 17 and was posted to Hong Kong late 1937/early 1938. He was at the Combined Military Hospital Kowloon when the conflict started. Dad died in September 2003. He didn’t speak very much about his experiences but we were always aware of what had happened to him. Towards the end of his life my mother got him to write a short history of himself and we are very grateful to have that. A section of this is about his war time experiences and what happened on the Lisbon Maru and has many parallels with stories in your book.” The RAMC is another unit I need to learn more about, and he kindly sent me a number of photos which we are now attempting to curate. He also included Hodgkinson’s memoirs, the first HK RAMC biography I have read. This explained that he was sent directly to 27 Coy RAMC in Hong Kong, which rather implies that all the photos were taken here. I wonder if the photo of Caucasian and Indian personnel is in fact of a joint RAMC/Indian Medical Service (IMS) group? Perhaps all the staff of the Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon? All medics were, of course, held in the greatest respect. I was just re-reading Hughieson’s memoirs, and at one point he noted: “Our Naval Sick-Berth Attendant was kept very busy all the rest of that day, cleaning and dressing wounds. He was an Irishman called Paddy McCreedy, with a great sense of humour, and tremendous faith. We all loved him. He tried on several occasions, to send one or two of them back to Base for treatment, without success. They insisted on keeping together no matter what.” (This was actually Thomas McCready from the RNH, who survived the Lisbon Maru). 24 Digby Collings Menhinick’s (Royal Marines) granddaughter got in touch. Unfortunately the Marines are a sparsely-documented force in Hong Kong’s battle, and unless a marine was with Farrington or Giles I generally don’t know what they were up to. I suspect that Menhinick was in the Wanchai/Causeway bay area as Senior NCO. All I know for sure is that he was Mentioned in Dispatches for his leadership. He was the only marine lost in the fighting, though a further 13 were lost as POWs.
22William James Howard’s (HKVDC) great nephew got in touch. While helping with a few questions I happened to revisit the late Roger Mansell’s site to check up on the Tateyama British Roster (which included Howard) and found some very cheering references to my own work!
20 Walked to the top of Jardine’s Lookout with a friend and returned by way of the Wing Nai Chung Gap Trail. While by the Black Hole of Hong Kong we were investigated by a friendly half-grown wild pig. It’s common enough now, so unfortunately I think someone is feeding them.
18Colin Standish added: “I appear to have a typed C Company of the RRC War on Japanese letterhead, my grandfather's recollections of the Battle, orders of the day from POW Camp and a pay sheet from POW Camp.” These are all interesting documents, and I’m hoping a nominal roll might turn up.
16 Brian Finch kindly emailed: “Alan Potter’s son Chris has kindly sent me four photos of his father which I have scanned and attach. 1. is a professional studio type photo, marked ‘Henry Flett & Co118-119 Cheapside, London EC2’. 2. with the same shirt and tie, looks as though it is another photo by Flett taken in the same sitting. Dates unknown but likely to be in the 1930s. 3. Alan and his wife Olive, probably at their wedding, around 1930-32. 4. Alan and young son, probably Christopher, although it might have been his younger brother. Date 1932-4. A very distinguished looking man, making his untimely death all the sadder.” I have not posted all the photos here, but as Potter’s story on the Lisbon Maru is well known I thought the details would be of general interest. 14In an email from the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society I learned that the Sir Mark Rylance episode of the Channel 4 documentary My Grandparents’ War is now viewable online. They noted that: “Members of the RASHK may see some familiar faces and locations. Oscar-winner Sir Mark explored the extraordinary World War II story of his grandfather Osmond Skinner, a banker for HSBC, who defended the territory as part of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force with little to no training and spent almost four years as a Japanese prisoner of war. You can watch [it here].” Well, I tried. But apparently it’s not available from Hong Kong.
13A friend has helpfully sent me the POW Index Card of Alex Venshou (see last month), so we’ll see if the details there can help us track down his brother (?) ‘J’ Venshou, also HKVDC. 13 Derek Bailey sent this very interesting link to a film of British forces accepting Japanese POWs in Hong Kong in 1945. Although I had seen still images from this previously, I don’t think I had seen the footage itself.
11 Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish, C Coy, Royal Rifles of Canada, is continuing his research into the latter’s wartime career. We’ve exchanged quite a few emails this month about medical conditions, Japanese propaganda, the deaths and burials of POWs, and so forth. But one of the most interesting things he has found are a number of papers documenting post-war research into Canadian ex-POWs’ health. Amongst these is: “a 1965 report by Dr H.J. Richardson [which] examined 100 Hong Kong POWs whose brothers had served in the European theatre and found that Hong Kong veterans experiences a significantly higher rate of blindness, heart disease, hypertension, and premature deaths than their brothers.” Obviously I am eager to learn more. The great expert on POW health, Dr Chuck Rolands, never mentioned this report when we corresponded on the subject for a number of years.
10 Anna Rozario (daughter of Cicero Laertius Rozario, HKVDC) kindly sent me a number of documents relating to Sendai #2B. 10 James McGillivray’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch, kindly sending a photo. 10 Walter Ferdinand Arndt’s (American Stanley Internee) niece got in touch. He, of course, was repatriated on the Gripsholm mentioned below.
9John Alexander Trapman’s (HKSRA) son got in touch. He notes that a portion of his father’s autobiography mentions Hong Kong. This might be very useful, as the HKSRA is a very under researched unit. 9 Charles Tully’s (Middlesex) son posted a picture of his father on the COFEPOW facebook page.
8 Edwin Flinter’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter placed a photo of him on the FEPOW facebook page and kindly gave me permission to publish it on this site (illustrated). 8 Iain Gow, son of James Gow (Royal Scots), kindly sent a photo of: “my dad’s rosary, which we were told was given to him when he was a prisoner in Kobe by a priest, so it’s the only thing he brought back with him as far as we know.”
7 Janet Sykes, daughter of Len Sykes (HKVDC), who I have known since 2009 kindly sent me a copy of her father’s diary which she has transcribed. She also included a file of ‘snippets’ she has produced, which is quite moving because, although deliberately simple, it’s written in a poetic style. For example, for Tuesday 30 December 1941: “On the move today Take only what I can carry One kit bag. Full One wicker basket. Full Two blankets and a cushion Two hours to walk only a quarter mile Kowloon by ferry More walking Destination reached - Shamshuipo barracks. Disorderly bungalows No windows, no doors Concrete floors Very very cold Sleeping five in 5’ x 10’ hut Tired I slept very well.” Len Sykes passed away 22 February 2009. He was Company Quarter Master Sergeant in the Engineers division, joining up not long after his arrival in Hong Kong - in September 1938 - from the UK. 7 I posted another Story from the Ride Collection (Supplemental) concerning Ride in the Great War. It consisted of a reference from Lt. Col. Hurry, formerly C.O. of 38th Batt. A.I.F. In part: “I have known Lindsay Tasman Ride during his service in 38th Battalion A.I.F. from February to August 1918 at which time I was either second in Command or C.O. of the Battalion. I attach a memo of his military history taken from his pay book and the Battalion and other military records. On his joining the Battalion in February 1918 he was soon promoted to be a scout and did good work in a particularly nasty spin in the trenches before Warneton where we were subjected to almost continuous field-gun minenwerfen and M.G. fire for eight days. A few weeks later in the rush to the Somme in March we met the Germans on the Ancre and he was one of four scouts who reconnoitered Marrett Wood and paved the way to its occupation by the Battalion forestalling the enemy in this important position by only about half an hour. The Wood was then subjected to heavy enemy fire of all sorts during which Ride received a gunshot wound in the leg and was subsequently hit by shrapnel while being carried out. Re-joining in August he was just in time to take part in the fighting of the hundred days on the Somme and was in charge of a rifle section in the actions at Sailly Laurette and Bray in the latter of which he sustained a fractured pelvis through shell fire and was hardly out of hospital again when the Armistice put an end to hostilities.”
6 Met an old friend at the start of Black’s Link today, intending to show him the path to the top of Mount Cameron and take in the famous views. Alas, the peak was covered in cloud so instead we walked the length of Lady Clementi’s Ride. I hadn’t realized till then that I had never walked the whole thing, thus found a ‘new’ splinter proof shelter and pillbox. 6 Norman Harding’s (RA) daughter Lilian Lorraine posted a number of interesting items to the FEPOW page on facebook. This included a Roll of Honour of 4 Section, 7HAA Regiment at Wong Nai Chung Gap: Lawrie, John Ferguson 2nd Lt. 221887 U Dec 19 Andrus, Leslie Bombardier 842579 U Dec 19 Hasler, Leonard Frederick Lance Bdr. 833106 U Dec 19 Barsby, John Alfred Lance Bdr. 5108975 U Dec 19 Williams, Leslie Harry Lance Bdr. 1426693 U Dec 19 Chable, Ernest George Lance Bdr. 873050 U Dec 19 Griffiths, Samuel Richard Gunner 1426871 U Dec 19 Macintyre, Samuel Gunner 887395 U Dec 19 James, Robert Gunner 863750 K Dec 19 Mullen, Thomas Gunner 3527013 U Dec 19 McCann, Arthur Gunner 3245532 U Dec 19 Delahunt, Peter Gunner 856600 U Dec 19 Idle, Jack Gunner 870467 U Dec 19 Holland, William Henry Gunner 1493022 U Dec 19 Lavelle, Ernest C. Gunner 1492815 U Dec 19 Cooper, Geoffrey Samuel Gunner 1493199 U Dec 19 Milner, Albert Gunner 1493074 U Dec 19 In fact I believe that Robert James was shot in error at Stanley (and that’s why he has a known grave, whereas the others were just left lying in the hills). On the other hand, I think it’s likely that: Aldridge, Walter George Bombardier 831552 U Dec 19 Should be added to this list in his stead. 6 Colin Standish is asking if anyone knows where the interview transcripts and notes made by Grant S. Garneau while researching his book on the Royal Rifles of Canada might be found? I was in regular contact with Grant from 2002-2005, when I believe these were still in his possession. Very unfortunately though, by 2008 he had early onset Alzheimer’s.
5 Jennifer Stutchbury – if you are reading this, a member of Norah Witchell’s family would like to make contact with you. Your email has changed since we were last in contact. 5 It had been my intention to send Albert Devonshire’s wartime helmet and dog tag (kindly found and sent to me – via the equally kind services of Bill Lake) to his daughter this month, but today I discovered that due to the virus all airmail to the UK has been temporarily suspended. Disappointing, but we’ll simply have to wait. I’ve wrapped it as best I can to prevent the humidity damaging it further.
4 Derek Bailey, who I knew as an Island School teacher in Hong Kong when our children studied there, kindly sent me a link to a very useful Life article about the repatriation of American internees in 1942. The photo of Carola Boxer is particularly interesting, though I don’t believe for one moment that she only spoke Mandarin and Cantonese! Charles, her father, was of course fluent in English, Japanese, and Portuguese.
2 Philip Cracknell has added a new blog covering 1 Battery, HKVDC.
1 From my April blog, Philip Cracknell kindly notes: “I think you have an error relating to Pte John Frelford, 1/Mx. He did not bring a Japanese wounded soldier into St Albert's (I don't know who did that). He was 'D' Coy 1/Mx based at or around Maryknoll Mission House Stanley. He gave medical help to a wounded Japanese and as a result, his life was spared. I wrote a blog on him some years back.” That’s correct, and I knew that already so the mistake was all mine. I’m sure someone once told me who carried the wounded Japanese officer to St Albert’s, but memories are not what they once were. In a similar vein, Iain Gow notes: “Just read a bit of the monthly update and noted the comment about the wounded Japanese officer at St Albert’s. My dad James Gow 2RS told my brother David about an incident which may have been this one: he recalled that he could remember the sound of a Japanese officer’s sword scraping along the ground as he was being dragged to the hospital, and said because the hospital had treated the officer, he felt that had saved them. Does that fit in with the account you mentioned?” Yes it does. And Philp Cracknell had this to add: “I recall that Edith Hills got a Mention for actions relating to the dead Japanese soldier at St Albert's... surprising in a way he was brought in mortally wounded. Edith Hills son Pete wrote ‘By Tank to Normandy’ about his experiences in France and Germany as a tank troop commander. I found a file in National Army Museum on Frelford - he ended up being blind but apparently clairvoyant and was always plagued by the fact that so many of his company at Maryknoll under Lt Scantlebury were put to death so cruelly. He ended up in Stanley rather than POW camp getting lenient treatment for his act of compassion that astonished the Japanese patrol commander.” 1 Bill Lake very kindly sent a photo of Michael Dodwell’s grave (see last month). It turns out he’s been putting poppies on it annually on behalf of another member of the family.
May 1st, 2020 Update
Omori Stamp (British Post Office), Japan POW Camps (MacArthur report), Bryant POW Index Card
MTB26 (via Richard Hide), Devonshire tag (courtesy Timothy Rankin), Naval Forces of Colonies (courtesy Isabella Herd)
Smith/Lindsay letter and Smith Family portrait (courtesy Deirdre Swanney), Pre-hostilities bus tickets (via TK Wong)
A shout out to indefatigable researcher Steve Denton. Steve’s grandfather, Joe Denton RA, was on the Lisbon Maru. For many years I struggled alone to try to sort out the details of exactly who was and was not on that ship, and what their fates were. You’d think it would be easy, but oh no. That early in the Pacific War, with communications so poor and record keeping typically untrustworthy, it was very much a case of ‘managing in uncertainty’. Originally I had thought that the Japanese report of 1,816 POWs on board was in error, but going through it name by name and document by document (and there were many, many documents, many of them contradictory) Steve managed to show that the Japanese record keeping was in fact very good. This month we’ve just – I hope – solved the last two problems. One was a Royal Scot who was mistakenly listed as missing on the Alamein Memorial rather than Sai Wan (see the fourteenth), and the last was a Middlesex lad, John Foster. I don’t think we’ve fully got to the bottom of his case yet, but he stepped onto the Lisbon Maru on 27 September 1942 and has been lost to history, and us all, ever since then. Why is this important? It’s not just the memory of these men, but also a new plan to create a Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, and naturally we want to be certain that every detail there is complete and correct.
27Robert Bluestone’s (HKVDC) niece got in touch.
25 I learned today that the Post Office in the UK is issuing: “A collection of eight Special Stamps featuring evocative photographs capturing the relief and jubilation that followed the formal end of the Second World War in 1945… The original black and white photographs have been expertly reproduced in colour for the first time.” Imagine my surprise when one of the eight turned out to be of the liberation of Omori Camp, featuring a number of ex-HK POWs. In fact the chap with his head stuck between the two standard bearers is Leading Stoker Tom Middleton, RN, of HMS Tern. Captured in Hong Kong and one of the 'hard men' (the first group of ex-HK POWs to be shipped to Japan), he passed away on 7 January 2009 in Lewisham Hospital. I wanted to tell his son – also Tom Middleton - about this (he would have been thrilled) but his email bounced back. If anyone is in contact with him, please let him know. The original caption for his photo (I have the black and white version) read: “Allied prisoners of war cheer their rescuers, as the US Navy arrives at the Omori prison camp on August 29, 1945. They are waving the flags of the United States, Great Britain and The Netherlands. Electrician's Mate 2nd Class James D. Landrum holds the American flag. He was captured after the sinking of USS Grenadier (SS-210).” I have mentioned this before, but in David Hobbs’s excellent book ‘The British Pacific Fleet’ 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’! As so few people in the UK – where other Far Eastern events were largely swamped by Changi and The Railway - seem to know that the Japanese mainland camps existed, I have also added a map from MacArthur’s account (see last month).
24Today I received a message from Mike Babin, President of the HKVCA: “The Board of Directors has decided that it will be impossible to hold our national convention in Ottawa in August of this year. Many of you have expressed concerns about attending because of COVID-19, and there are simply too many uncertainties regarding travel and group gatherings to enable us to properly plan and carry out the event. Therefore, we are postponing to next year, the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong. We expect to hold the convention the weekend of August 14/15 2021 in Ottawa. More details will be provided at a later time.”
20 John Mundie points out that the Wikipedia entry for The Royal Regiment of Canada includes a photo which appears to have been taken in Sai Wan showing the grave of an unknown soldier of that regiment. This doesn’t seem to make any sense. My immediate thought is that this is simply an error for Royal Rifles of Canada.
19 A researcher asked for more details of Sub-Lieutenant Robert Bruce Parkinson, HKRNVR. She notes that Parkinson is listed in “Naval Forces of the Colonies” as a Probationary Cadet. I was very grateful to learn this, as I didn’t previously know this publication existed. She adds: “I believe that his father [Tom Parkinson, a Stanley Internee] was working for Crown Agents in the 30s and brought his family to Hong Kong... It’s a mystery though what he did after the war.” Can anyone help?
17 Robert Grindley Southerton’s (Stanley Internee, transferred to Shanghai) granddaughter got in touch. Southerton was covered in this recent blog by Philip Cracknel. 17 Brian Finch notes that: “Simon Drakeford has written an essay describing Bill Evans’ life in some considerable detail. This was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (China) and a copy is attached.” Bill Evans was one of the three men who escaped the Lisbon Maru and were not recaptured. This paper is published in Vol 79, 2019 No 1.
15Took a friend to the summit of Mount Nicholson today. Nice walk, and one of the few places where we didn’t see any other people! Out of interest, I made him a list of the nineteen Winnipeg Grenadiers killed in the fighting round there: Private Cooper, Kenneth S. U Buried on Black’s Link. Lieutenant David, James A. V. U Probably shot in the head. Lance Corp. Eccles, Norman C. U Buried on Black’s Link. Private Edgley, Charles U Mount Nicholson. Sergeant Foster, Russel M. U Mount Nicholson. Buried by Chunchman, RAMC. Warrant Officer II, CSM Fryatt, Walter B. U Buried on hill Black’s Link. Private Girard, David K Lieutenant Hooper, Ronald Jamieson K Shot in chest by sniper, Wong Nai Chung/ Private Kellas, William A. U Last seen Jardine’s Lookout. Private Larsen, Robert E. A. U Buried Black’s Link. Private Lawrie, Keith R. U Mount Nicholson. Private Little, Francis U Mount Nicholson. Private McBride, William Ferguson U Buried Black’s Link. Private Meades, Raymond A. U Buried Black’s Link, Mount Cameron. Sergeant Rodgers, Edward Herbert K No report found. Private Wiebe, Henry U Buried Black’s Link. Private Willis, Charles U Last seen Black’s Link. Lance Sgt. Woods, Albert T. U Killed Middle Gap, Black’s Link by LMG fire. Lieutenant Young, Hugh K Buried on hill Black’s Link. In every case, of course, it’s my ambition to find eye-witness reports of their deaths. For Edgeley, for example: “I saw Edgely go down and I crawled over to bandage his leg. He was sitting up watching me. I had just ripped his pants when his body jumped up; another bullet hit him in almost the same place. The pain in his stomach told me that this one had gone much further. Bullets were flying around so I had to stay close to the ground… we pulled Edgely some distance to a tree that gave him some shade. We then escaped”, Phil Doddridge quoted in The Damned, by Nathan Greenfield, page 151.
14 Well, this is a new one. I was amiably arguing with Steve Denton over the final details of all those who were aboard the Lisbon Maru when we discovered that one of them, Private Joseph Bryant, Royal Scots – was commemorated on the Alamein Memorial rather than Sai Wan! His POW Index Card leaves us in no doubt that he perished on the Lisbon Maru. I took this up with the CWGC via a good contact (Chris Harley) at In From The Cold and they have already agreed to rectify this when resources allow. The very final detail we are looking at now concerns Private James Foster, Middlesex. He was aboard the vessel, but exactly what happened to him then is a mystery as the records are incomplete. He was either lost in the sinking, or died in Kokura Hospital nine days later. Either way, he has no known grave.
13 George Cooper’s (RE, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch. His wife, nee Barbara Lord, was evacuated to Australia with their young son Patrick. Later she remarried, and the daughter of that union is writing a book about her.
12Timothy Rankin, a Hong Kong metal detectorist, found a number of items in the Stanley area, one of which bore the serial 6202157. After a bit of sleuthing around, both Rusty Tsoi and I realized it was Corporal Devonshire, Commander of PB 31. Luckily I am in touch with his daughter who had already sent me a photo of her father (illustrated). Rankin notes: “In his helmet was a gas mask, his webbings and the parts to the liner for helmet and the tag all placed inside,“ and has kindly agreed to give her these items. Hopefully she can be reunited with them as soon as conditions allow. I was wondering why Devonshire was never drafted to Japan, but his daughter notes: “He had to have his cartilage removed during his imprisonment. This went septic and they opened the other side of his knee to let the poison out and he was never able to bend his knee back fully after that.” Odder, though, was an HKVDC attendance award shield that turned up in the same area. This is made out to Sapper J Venshou. I know that another Venshou - Alexander Caesar of the Field Company Engineers - was in the HKVDC when hostilities started (his brother?), but have never come across ‘J’ before. Can anyone help? I assume it is a Russian name.
8April’s Java Journal mentioned the passing of Pat Hughieson who died on 27th March. Pat was the widow of Jack Hughieson who survived the Lisbon Maru.
7Trevor Hollingsbee kindly corrected an error I had published here in January 2018. I had noted the Telegraph obituary of Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, born in Hong Kong in 1946 and a naval surgeon during the Falklands War. I said: “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.” In fact his father was Gunner Tadeusz A. Jolendovsky, HKVDC, who presumably Anglicized his name post-war.
6Douglas Smith’s (HKVDC) daughter kindly got in contact, sending a copy of her father’s POW diary and some family photos and letters – including an interesting one from an earlier historian of the period, Oliver Lindsay. She notes: “My father, Douglas Smith, and my grandfather, Major James Smith were both in the fall of HK. Before the war, my grandfather was Chief Engineer of the HK China railway and the family lived next to the railway station. My grandmother and aunts were evacuated to Australia, where my grandfather joined them after the war. My father returned to HK and initially joined the police then a civil servant accountant with various Govt departments. My mother left Scotland to teach music in HK and was one of the founders of the HK School Music Festival, which I believe still lives on.” The caption for that family photo is: from left to right: James (Jimmy), Major James (father), Marie, Dorothy, Elizabeth (mother) and Douglas. Sadly, Jimmy accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun on a boat in Hong Kong waters and is buried on one of the outlying islands. Marie had married earlier in the war and followed her husband to Rosyth, Scotland where he was based in the navy and later was lost at sea in a submarine. I believe he was Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class Donald Marrable, lost 25 February 1942 of H.M. Submarine P.38. Marie and her new baby then journeyed by ship to join the evacuated family in Australia. Major James Smith’s grandson (D. Derek Marrable, MBE) has written a book about him and is looking for a publisher. He has kindly sent me a copy of the manuscript which I will read with interest. 6 Barbara Harding wrote to me about her uncle, Emile Landau. I found that he had a mini biography on the website of the Jewish Historical Society of Hong Kong.
5 Richard Hide notes: “I was recently contacted by a guy named Alan who supplied a YouTube link showing a wrecked boat nosed up to a wall. I have compared it with my photos of the MTB’s and can confirm it is the wreck of MTB 26 which was lost with all hands on 19 December 1941. Colin McEwan of the SOE recorded in his diary: ‘Although we missed the first pair we suddenly saw one — later found out to be Wagstaff's (MTB 26) — come racing up the harbour from Green Island in a straight line for Kowloon Bay. By this time the Jap's, were on both sides of the harbour and both M.G and T.M. fire were brought to bear on the boat while to add to the strafing she was being bombed at the same time. Suddenly she stopped, started to drift to the HK shore’.” 5 Oliver “Christopher” Marton’s (HKVDC) daughter got in touch, having watched the repeat of My Grandfather’s War with Mark Rylance’s grandfather, Os Skinner. She notes: “I have found this fascinating as my family were caught up in this period in Hong Kong. [My father] was a solicitor by trade but joined up like Os Skinner. Just before war started he married my mother, Anne Dodwell at St John’s Cathedral. My mother’s family were part of an import , export company called Dodwell’s and I believe my grandfather, Stanley Dodwell, may have been chairman of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank before the war, as nothing was ever spoken much about the war when I was a child or what my father went through. I know my father went to a camp with my mother’s brother, Michael Dodwell who died in the camp aged 21, they had to build a runway and had a very hard time. My father died when I was 3, that would be 1954, as a direct result from his captivity, he got diphtheria which weakened his heart. Most of my family were evacuated to Australia. My brother was born in the Philippines on the way to Australia where my grandparents, mother and two of her sisters along with Richard, my brother, spent the war. My other aunt volunteered as a nurse and spent the war years in a civilian camp in Stanley. She is the only one who has regaled me with her amazing experiences during that period.” Post war she lived at 9 Middle Gap Road, a most prestigious address and yes, Stanley Dodwell was Chairman of HSBC for a short period.
4 Bill Lake kindly notes: “Just came across this on YouTube. The fight for Shing Mun Redoubt. Although the video is voiced in Cantonese, it does have does have English subtitles and covers most things.” It’s actually both very good and nicely made. 4 Elaine Polglase (wife of Jorgen Vibe Christensen, HKVDC), who lives in Vancouver now, kindly emailed to tell me about Frode’s excellent book about Dane’s in the HKVDC, called Fighting for Two Kings. I was able to reassure her that I was aware of it.
3TK Wong kindly sent me copies of 1941 Kowloon Motor Bus Co. tickets preserved by Ken Skelton. He notes: “the original tickets of the attached photocopies were sent by Syd Skelton (RRC) to his wife before the war started. Ken gave the photocopies to me about 15 years ago. The ticket punching system was used in HK up to the early 70's. They represent not only the history of HK but also Canadian soldiers.”
April 1st, 2020 Update
MacLean & Banham (author's collection), Eric Calcutt (courtesy Andrew Calcutt), Lam Shui-pang (HK Government)
Lowe Bingham book, Bryden, Japanese sketch map (all via author)
Stanley comparison (courtesy TK Wong), Jitts grave concentration details (CWGC)
I wish I could recall my late mother’s original words. We were talking about her Second World War experience many years ago and she mentioned that for those years everyone’s lives were dominated by an overwhelmingly huge and frightening problem which wasn’t their fault, and which they could do nothing about (aside from follow government instructions). And in a way it was very liberating, despite the obvious dangers. All the little problems and decisions of life dropped away, becoming secondary to survival. Most things were simply put on hold. Perhaps in some ways that’s how Covid-19 feels today – a reminder of how things were 75 or more years ago.
31 Tan notes: “Not sure you aware the Siu Sai Wan stone house on news recently. It actually is a searchlight shelter built by British before war. That's the only one I know still exist in original condition.”
29 Bill Lake also notes: “Going through some of my loose papers during this spell of self isolation due to the Covid-19, I came across what looks to be an ‘in ship’ magazine for a hospital ship called HMNZHS MANGANUI. I was surprised to find something in there about the two BAAG agents with the same number 67.” This is a topic which has fascinated many people who have studied BAAG. Unfortunately there are no clues as to the author of the piece, but it reads: “You have read or heard about the patriots of many lands – people, who, not counting the price they would have to pay if discovered, continued throughout the war to play their part by means of sabotage, espionage, etc., which helped (sometimes in a small and sometimes large measure) to the defeat of our enemies. Let me introduce you to two people who worked behind the scenes in Hong Kong. Both were members of the BAAG (British Army Aid Group) – a group who worked helping the POWs in Hong Kong Camps by arranging escapes, providing guides through enemy held territory, besides obtaining information of a military nature which was of value to the Allies in the South China area. The full activities of the ‘BAAG’ will one day be told by a more versatile pen than mine – I can only relate for your interest the story of these two men. I met both in Stanley Prison, Hong Kong under the following circumstances. The first after his conviction and the second before trial. They never met each other and did not know of each others existence. One day towards the end of 1943 I was working in the Prison Garden and a Japanese prisoner, newly convicted, spoke to me. (Korean and Formosan prisoners were classified as Japanese) I had heard by prison wireless that a Japanese was on remand awaiting trial for espionage. All the prison inmates were certain he would be executed. But, here was the new prisoner having escaped the supreme penalty by a merciful providence and sentenced to 15 years. He told me that his surname was Wu and his number 67 in the BAAG. A couple of months later he was transferred to Canton en route to Japan. The last time I saw him he said ‘They will beat me again. Please pray for me every day.’ The second I met in August 1944. At this time owing to illness I had to enter the prison hospital, although the only treatment the Nips gave to sick folk was a cut in one’s rice ration. A Chinese remand prisoner was in the same ward and I recognised him as a Police interpreter before the Japanese attack on the Colony. Recognition was mutual. He told me his story. He was No.67 in the BAAG and knew what his sentence would be when he was tried. ‘I know they will give me the axe. Will you please see my wife is cared for when the war is over.’ I promised. His surmise proved to be correct and he paid the extreme penalty. These people must not be forgotten. As one 67 passed on another took his place – they knew what to expect if caught, but did not falter. I pray for you both – No. 67.” 29 Bill Lake shared three pages from what appears to be the original manuscript - or a copy of the same - of Stewart’s “Little red book” (“The Record of the Actions of the Hongkong Volunteer Defence Corps in the Battle for Hong Kong”), first published in 1953.
28Today should have been my last walk of the season with the Hong Kong Club, already postponed twice! Unfortunately on the 25th the Club – like all the main clubs in Hong Kong – was asked by the government to close for the time being to slow the spread of Covid-19. Oh well. We’ll hopefully be able to restart walks in October. 28 Sergeant Edward Bull’s (RAOC) son introduced himself on facebook and sent a copy of the citation of his father’s Military Medal: “For conspicuous leadership, initiative and devotion to duty. On evening 15 December 1941, this NCO was placed in command of one of the pill boxes on the North East face of the Island. Although this was a duty he could have little expected and one for which he had no training whatsoever, he displayed an exemplary keenness and energy in carrying it out. He had complete control of his men, was ready and willing at all times to carry out orders, and he sent in useful reports on the situation during the three days he commanded the pill box. During the period 21/25 Dec 41 when the Bn HQ was at GILMANS GARAGE and the SOLDIERS AND SAILORS HOME Sgt. BULL was indefatigable in arranging reliefs for sentries, collecting and forming new parties at short notice to man pill boxes. He showed constant cheerfulness and ability to do whatever was asked of him. All this took place at a time of extreme mental and physical stress due to casualties, lack of sleep and shortage of rations, Sgt. BULL displayed great energy and a high sense of duty. He was a tower of strength to his superiors and a shining example to his subordinates.”
27 Ronnie Taylor has put together a good page about the friendship between Bill Spooner and Mickey Myles who ‘met’ in the sea off the Lisbon Maru. 27 Elizabeth Ride is busy at the moment, so I promised I would add some “Stories from the Ride Collection (Supplemental)” posts to the Facebook BAAG page. Today I chose Anthony Eden’s statement to the House of Commons of 10 March 1942. I think it is good background for the readers, and of course the ‘eye-witnesses’ referred to are relevant to the story too: “Out of regard for the feelings of the many relations of the victims, the Government have been unwilling to publish any account of Japanese atrocities in Hong-kong until these had been confirmed beyond any possibility of doubt. Unfortunately there is no longer room for doubt. The Government are now in possession of statements by reliable eye-witnesses who succeeded in escaping from Hong-kong. Their testimony establishes the fact that the Japanese Army at Hong-kong perpetrated against their helpless military prisoners and the civilian population, without distinction of race or colour, the same kind of barbarities which aroused the horror of the civilized world at the time of the Nanking massacre of 1937. It is known that 50 officers and men of the British Army were bound hand and foot, then bayoneted to death. (Cries of “Shame!”) It is known that 10 days after the capitulation the wounded were still being collected from the hills and the Japanese were refusing permission to bury the dead. It is known that women, both Asiatic and European, were raped and murdered, and one entire Chinese district was declared a brothel, regardless of the status of the inhabitants. All the survivors of the garrison, including Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese, were herded into a camp consisting of wrecked huts, without windows, doors, lighting, or sanitation. By the end of January 150 cases of dysentery had occurred in the camp, but no drugs or medical facilities were supplied. The dead had to be buried in the corner of the camp. The Japanese guards are utterly callous and repeated requests by General Maltby for an interview with the Japanese Commander had been curtly refused. This, presumably, means that the Japanese High Command have connived at the conduct of their forces. The Japanese Government stated at the end of February that the number of prisoners in Hong-kong were:- British, 5,072; Canadian, 1,689; Indian, 3,829, and others, 357; a total of 10,947. Most of the European residents, including some seriously ill, have been interned, and, like the military prisoners, are being given only a little rice and water, and occasionally scraps of other food. There is some reason to believe that conditions have slightly improved recently, but the Japanese Government have refused their consent to a visit to Hong-kong of the representative of the protecting Power. No permission has yet been granted for a visit by the International Red Cross Committee. The Japanese have, in fact, announced that they require all foreign consuls to withdraw from all territory they have invaded since the outbreak of war. It is clear that their treatment of prisoners and civilians will not bear independent investigation. I have no information as to the condition of our prisoners of war and civilians in Malaya. The only report available is a statement by the Japanese official news agency on March 3 to the effect that 77,699 Chinese have been arrested and subjected to what is described as severe examination. It is not difficult to imagine what that entails. It is most painful to have to make such a statement to the House. Two things will be clear from it to the House, the country, and to the world. The Japanese claim that their forces are animated by a lofty code of chivalry, ‘bushido,’ is nauseating hypocrisy; that is the first thing. The second is that the enemy must be utterly defeated. (Loud cheers.) The House will agree with me that we can best express our sympathy with the victims of these appalling outrages by redoubling our efforts to ensure his utter and overwhelming defeat. (Cheers.)” Elizabeth then sent me a copy of the telephoned report from Ride, which informed much of this speech.
25A correspondent asked why Geoffrey Jitts, 3 Coy HKVDC, was buried at Pillbox 8. He was of course buried at Pillbox 2, but while gathering the appropriate documents it occurred to me that many people might not be aware that the CWGC in the last couple of years has done an excellent job of adding grave concentration details to their website. There’s a lot of very valuable information here, and I must find time to go through all the Hong Kong fatalities. In Jitts’s case it’s clear that someone simply misread the ‘2’ on the concentration document as an ‘8’. 25 Derek Bailey (whose family were interned in Shanghai, and who used to teach my children at Island School in Hong Kong) very kindly sent me this link to MacArthur’s account of the occupation of Japan. It’s huge, but I expect it will be essential reading as his ‘Special Task E’ was “Recovery, relief, and repatriation of Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees without delay.” Derek also kindly sent a copy of the “first sixteen issues of the newspaper published in the Chapei Civil Assembly Center, Shanghai, China.” Chapei was the camp his family were held in.
24 I received the first newsletter from Roger Townsend at FEPOW 75 today. It begins: “This is my first FEPOW 75 Newsletter: to tell you about our plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repatriation of 20,000 former Far East Prisoners of War to Southampton over the winter of 1945. Nor should we forget the 17,000 who returned to Liverpool – and especially those many thousands who never returned at all.” And then specifically about Hong Kong: “As an example, we have been researching the story of Lt. Jimmy Whitham of the 1st Bn Middlesex Regt, who was one of the nearly 1000 victims when the Japanese Hell-Ship ‘Lisbon Maru’ was torpedoed on 1 October 1942. He had been captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, when his only son was less than a month old and both he and his American mother were interned in Stanley Camp for the next three years. Shortly after they were released in 1944 and returned to British Columbia, that little boy also drowned in a creek. I thought that might be the end of the story, but I found out a month ago that his widow is still alive, aged 103, and living on the Welsh borders! Her story alone would make the most amazing biography, but there have been others and I would love to hear of more.” In fact the Whithams (Beatrice & Jonathan) were repatriated to the States on 29 June 1942, but I hadn’t heard that story about the son before. Whitham was not a professional soldier; he was a member of the HKVDC drafted into the Middlesex on 8 December 1941.
23 Today I received notice from the producers that Channel 4 are planning to re-run My Grandparents War with Mark Rylance on Saturday 4th April at 19.00. I must admit I still haven’t watched my copy, though I am assured it is very good!
20 Today I had a very pleasant lunch with the Hong Kong Club deputy manager and Philip Cracknel. This has become an annual ritual to ‘thank’ the two of us for the historical hikes we do with the Club.
18Doug Price posted a great photo of Eucliffe (illustrated) on facebook today. I often get asked about the building, but although it was still standing when I first arrived in Hong Kong it had unfortunately been demolished by the time I realised its importance.
16Ronald Clements notes that he has been: “writing a biography for, Deidre Taylor/Larcombe… Deidre's biography, The Girl in the Drawer, has now been published in the UK under her married name Dee Larcombe. We took the liberty of including your name and that of your website in the acknowledgement.” Deidre was of course interned at Stanley as a child. Ronald continued: “In terms of adding to the sum of knowledge of the war in HK/internment there is little, if anything, new. With Dee being so young in the camp and neither of her parents talking much about their experiences, I had to rely heavily on the accounts of others to paint the pictures of life in the camps. It does, of course, recount the lives of some of those interned - Alfred and Elizabeth Taylor, Leo Borisoff and Nadia Seraphina - and what happened to them subsequently, told through Dee's own story (making something of her life after a very difficult childhood) which may be of more general interest.” I’ll certainly buy a copy.
15 Today the HKVCA announced that Ralph MacLean, Royal Rifles of Canada, had passed away. I met Ralph just a few years ago when he visited Hong Kong with a group of Canadians. I took them for a walk around Wong Nai Chung Gap, and to my amazement he completed the whole route with us. I thought he would live forever. 15 Patricia O'Sullivan has been studying the HK Dockyard Police for some years and notes that she is: “giving a paper at a conference of the Naval Dockyards Society next month, and want to include a brief account of their role in the Battle for HK.” I hope it goes ahead. Many conferences seem to have been cancelled recently. 15 Today I finally managed a (relatively short) walk up the hills! It’s just over nine weeks since my last one. What a strange year this is turning out to be.
13 The Canadian Consulate kindly informed me today that the Hong Kong government are taking steps to prevent vandalism of Lawson’s Bunker. The area had seen some graffiti and so forth from one of the nearby international schools a while back, but I believe that has been dealt with.
11Elizabeth Ride kindly sent me a dossier of all the BAAG documents relating to the Lisbon Maru. 11 Lam Shui-pang’s son got in touch again. He is certain that his father took part in the Battle of Hong Kong in the HKVDC, but we cannot find any documentation proving it. We know he was a Clerk VIA in the Statistical Department of the government, and that he had served in the HKVDC pre-war. If anyone has any documentation covering his wartime services we would be grateful.
10The HKVCA have announced the availability of their Spring newsletter. 10 Tai Hang Wong kindly sent details of Kho Kin (高健) of the East River Guerrilla Column (東江縱隊) to me and Elizabeth Ride 10 Ronnie Taylor kindly sent me the complete WO 361/1160 for Oeyama Camp, which lists the medical condition of many ex-HK POWs. 10 Jill Fell asked for details on John Mackenzie Jack (HKVDC) who knew her uncle. I sent her what I had noted in the Gittins books.
9 My copy of The Lowe Bingham Story arrived today. Not the sort of book you might expect to have a chapter about the war in Hong Kong, but it has. Generally it retells a generic story (ably enough), and adds the names of HKVDC members who worked for that company (and some of their competitors). More interestingly, it has a photo that includes Eric Bryden (second from right), and a Japanese sketch map with an unexpected story. Who was that ‘captured Japanese officer’? We all know about the wounded Japanese officer found and brought to St Albert’s by John Frelford (Middlesex), and there was a private Japanese soldier who defected to the British just before hostilities, but the implication here is an ex-Hong Kong officer captured – perhaps – on Guadalcanal?
6 Andrew Calcutt (see last month) kindly sent a couple of great photos of his father in uniform, one solo and another with four RA mates.
2 TK Wong kindly sent me a 1987 companion photo to the pre-war one of Stanley (see last month). While the angle isn’t perfect, you can see that a number of the pre-war structures survived. 2 Steve Denton dropped me a line to say that Lieutenant Harry Spong, Hong Kong Signal Coy – according to his POW Index Card – had very famous parents! His father was William Tell, and his mother Anne Boleyn. I’m surprised this didn’t happen more often. On a more serious note, the CWGC fortunately gets his parents’ names right here.
1Yet another American bomb has been found near Queen’s Road East. The last one I reported here was uncovered on February 2014. I wonder if a whole stick might have been mis-fused? 1 I heard today that we have lost another one of our Canadian veterans. Private Robert Barter, E29987, Royal Rifles of Canada passed away peacefully on 28 February.