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
Twentieth Anniversary montage, original October 2003 news (both author), Lisbon Maru memorial at NMA (courtesy Brian Finch)
Stanley Passport (courtesy Peter Weedon), Arthur Gomes (author), HK War Crimes Trials (Time)
New HK WW2 Museum? (courtesy Jameson Gong), coming Spatial History features, Potato Jones at Fanling (both courtesy HKBU Spatial History Project)
October News Today is not just Halloween, but also the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong War Diary in its current model of monthly updates incorporating 10 annotated photos. Surprisingly, that actually makes it one of the oldest continuously updated monthly blogs on any topic in the world – though the site itself is a little older, dating back to 1999 or 2000. So those reading from day one would have seen 2,400 photos and over 500,000 words of text – essentially the volume of material contained by five typical books! To celebrate this milestone (it’s been an interesting two decades…) I have added a special anniversary exhibition which will be found below the normal monthly update. Originally I planned to have a story for each year, rather as I did on the 15th anniversary, but in the end I just chose twenty of what I thought the most interesting stories, and arranged them in very roughly chronological order. As well as creating a montage of photos for this special exhibition, I have also reproduced the first page of the October 2003 news section. It’s perhaps not surprising how familiar the topics still are. 30 The HKVCA have announced: “Join in to hear from the HKVCA’s webmaster extraordinaire, Jim Trick and his colleague Lori Atkinson Smith, as they take you behind the scenes of the HKVCA’s information-packed and incredibly useful website and Facebook page. Bring your questions (you can submit them in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish)! Event begins at 7:30pm ET Nov 6 [which is Nov 7, 08:30 AM in HK]. Our web and social media presence, along with our newsletters, are vital in preserving the legacy of ‘C’ Force, communicating with our members and supporting our mission of educating the Canadian public. Join us for a talk with our webmaster, Jim Trick, and one of our Facebook Admins, Lori Atkinson Smith, as they take you on a tour of our sites and Facebook group. Bring your questions about using our web site and Facebook group! Jim and Lori will try to answer them all.” Register here for Zoom.
30Peter Weedon posted something very interesting to the Battle of Hong Kong 1941 group today: “This was a completely random pick-up at a militaria fair today. It is a proof of identity document issued in 1943 at Stanley Internment Camp to Kenneth John Douche, who served in the Police. It is stamped on the reverse by Immigration at Southampton. I bought it because it is signed by Franklin Gimson.” I had heard of these, but I think it’s the first one I have seen. 29 While chatting with Annemarie Evans the other day, she reminded me that today is the eightieth anniversary of the infamous 33 executions on Stanley Beach. Brian Edgar tells the story well here. 28 While searching for something else entirely (as so often happens), I came across a very interesting article in Canadian Military History, Volume 30, Issue 2, Article 6, 2021. The article is entitled: “Brigadier J. K. Lawson’s Diary: October to December 1941” by Tyler Wentzel. 26 Today the Spatial History team shared a couple of screen shots of forthcoming (hopefully) functionality, merging map and topological / satellite data more closely. The level of detail is becoming more and more helpful. 25 John Lee’s address today added some detail about the ‘new’ museum. As quoted in HKFP: “The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence will be ‘converted’ into the Hong Kong Museum of the War of Resistance – presenting China’s battle against Japan during the Second World War. Lee said the move is ‘to cultivate a stronger sense of national esteem and patriotism’, adding that the authorities will work with the Shenzhen Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau to show Hong Kong and Shenzhen’s joint efforts during the war.” On the surface it seems perhaps a wasted opportunity. The HKMCD was just fine as it was, and could easily have had an extra hall or two dedicated to the Sino-Japanese war. But a more central location, an integrated approach, and a broad focus on the Second World War as a whole – and especially the story of Hong Kong’s people themselves - would have been appreciated. There is, of course, no reason why we shouldn’t develop both over time. 24 Tooti Begg’s family got back in touch, a coincidence in a way, as Eileen’s story is one of those I tell in this month’s special section. 22Today I received an email from someone considering doing a PhD on Hong Kong’s war crimes and the trials that followed. It’s an interesting idea. Obviously Suzannah Linton’s work set the bar pretty high, but there is still plenty of useful fresh research that could be done. I was reminded of the Time photographs taken at the time. 21Today Annemarie Evans invited me to the FCC to record an episode of Hong Kong Heritage to mark the twentieth anniversary of this blog. It was transmitted the following day and can be accessed here. We also discussed other episodes she had recorded, including this one with Arthur Gomes. It was great to hear his voice again. Arthur passed away on 22 April 2007, and was a fine man. As I wrote at the time: “Arthur Gomes, HKVDC, passed away today. He was a great favourite of all of us who study Hong Kong history, and of my children too. My favourite memory of Arthur – though there were many who knew him better – was of a lunch at his ‘club’ (really Zetland Hall), where I turned up with a list of historical questions for him, and instead spent the whole hour listening to his account of how he passed his driving test in pre-war Hong Kong! It honestly won’t be quite the same without him. (My older boy and Arthur – in a photo taken a few years ago now – illustrate).” Unfortunately I couldn’t find the original photo, only one in which I had cut my son out! 21 Today the Bury Historical and Heritage Society held their Conference on the Military History of Bury and its surroundings. Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish (who signed up to the Royal Rifles of Canada in Bury), recorded this personal account of his research for the occasion. (The wounded chap with the rum, described right at the end, was Rifleman Arnold Pryce.) 20 Robert Lapsley’s (HKVDC) son (who was also nephew of Tony and Ferdinand) got back in touch asking for details of his father’s internment in both Hong Kong and Japan. Robert is still with us; one of just two surviving veterans of the battle who I still know of. 17 Henry Wong posted an interesting item on facebook, covering the story of a Chinese American nurse. It’s an unusual story, and well worth reposting here: “Elsie Chin Yuen Seetoo was born in Stockton, California, in 1918. When she was 12 years old, her father closed his grocery store due to constraints from the Great Depression and moved the family to Xinhui in the Guangong Province in China. In October 1938, she started nursing training at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong. On December 10, 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong, nursing school administrators issued each third-year student a Certificate of Training from the Medical Department of the Government of Hong Kong. These certificates were on par with diplomas and conferred the title Registered Nurse. British and Canadian forces defended Hong Kong during two weeks of fierce fighting. Facing overwhelming Japanese forces, the allies surrendered on Christmas Day, 1941. By then, Queen Mary Hospital was full of casualties. Seetoo, alongside hospital staff and fellow student nurses, worked tirelessly caring for the wounded soldiers. On December 26, 1941, Japanese Army troops entered the hospital, interned the foreign patients and staff, and turned the hospital into a Japanese Military Hospital. After the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, Seetoo left Hong Kong and joined the Chinese Red Cross Medical Relief Corps in Guiyang; she spent eight months there before leaving to serve in India. She returned to China in 1943 and was stationed in Kunming in China’s southern Yunnan Province where she continued her medical training. In 1944, Seetoo joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and was commissioned as a first lieutenant. She was first assigned to the 14th Air Force as a member of the Air Service Command. She was then assigned to the 95th Station Hospital Kunming and Chengdu. In 1945, she was stationed with the 172nd General Hospital in Shanghai and continued serving there until the end of World War II. She returned to the United States in February 1946 and was discharged from the Army.” 16Jameson Gong kindly posted a newspaper article to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. Headlined: “Fighting Story To Be Told”, it describes a new initiative to set up a Seond World War museum for Hong Kong. Interestingly, during lockdown I wrote a business plan for just such a venture. In my case, though, I proposed it should be twofold: an integration of all existing World War Two heritage, museums, and other assets, plus the construction of a new Education and Research Centre. So I sent said business plan to John Lee, and received a polite note saying that it had been: “relayed to the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau for reference and follow-up as appropriate.” It would be nice to think that they might indeed follow up. My email in full was: Dear Mr Lee,
I was extremely interested to read that you are considering dedicating a Hong Kong museum to the Second World War. I am a long term Hong Kong resident who has studied this topic for 35 years, written many articles and books about it, and worked with the Hong Kong government previously on the Wong Nai Chung Gap Historical Trail and other projects. My PhD covered Hong Kong during that period, I am the founder of the Hong Kong War Diary project, a member of the Baptist University 1941 Spatial History Project, and am also the editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong.
During the lockdown I worked on a plan for just such a museum and a set of related activities, which I termed The Hong Kong Second World War Experience. I believe this could be the basis of a valuable educational resource, while also being a major new draw for foreign tourists. I have attached a rough draft for your interest. I would be more than happy to discuss this further with anyone you recommend.
Thanks & Regards
Dr Tony Banham
12 Today I finished another general review of the Lisbon Maru documentary. I understand that there are likely to be further refinements, and then possibly a full premiere of the final version at some point in 2024. 9 Geoff Emerson asks: “Have you ever heard of a memorial stone being placed in/around St Andrew's Church on Nathan Road for those parishioners who were on the Lisbon Maru?” The short answer is no, I haven’t. I believe there would have been very few Hong Kong or Kowloon permanent parishioners on board as the vast majority were regulars from the UK. But I would be interested to hear if anyone else has hear of this – which may simply have been a proposal. 6 The Lisbon Maru’s name continues to appear in unexpected places! 3 I received some interesting photos today, of an engraved metal matchbox cover belonging to Private Mario Francisco Alarcon, 4053, HKVDC (illustrated). This sort of ‘trench art’ isn’t particularly unusual, but it’s nice to see something so clearly identifiable. Mr Alarcon was stationed at Taikoo when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong Island, so it makes sense that his POW Index Card states he was captured on the 20th of December (as the Japanese forces landed in that area) rather than the 25th when Hong Kong itself surrendered. According to my records, he was a POW in Hong Kong throughout the war, and was not transported to Japan like many others. He was in Shamshuipo, and was a violinist in the camp orchestra. One of the camp diaries I have states: “We also had concerts and full credit to Nanelli Baptista, his helpers and the Royal Engineers crew for the stage setting - to Eli Alves, Reinaldo Guiterres and Alarcon for very sweet violin music - to the ‘girls’ - Sonny Castro, Eddie and Gussy Noronha, Robert Pereira and a few more. (You wouldn't say they were not girls unless you disrobed them.)” I am no expert on matchbox holders, but I have seen that type before and believe it was mass produced. When POWs had time on their hands, it would have been an obvious choice of canvas for engraving. My correspondent notes: “Mr. Alarcon was an American at the time of his passing. My dad worked with his wife, Ruby, in California. She passed the information onto my dad and is how he came to be in possession of the matchbox.” 2 Brian Finch organized a memorial service for the Lisbon Maru at the National Memorial Arboretum today, which was well attended. He kindly sent a photo. A video can also be viewed here. 2 I was very surprised to see the sinking of the Lisbon Maru feature in a general list of ‘events this day’. 1 Professor Kwong Chi Man shared a very interesting photo with me today (a photo sponsored by Tung Wah Group Hospitals). It appears to show Potato Jones and other Royal Scots from the Shing Mun Redoubt (and I think one or two other people) being transported by road by the Japanese. My guess is that they are being transferred from Fanling to Shamshuipo. 1 It’s been a real slog, but this month I finally finished creating the index for the entire set (63 Volumes in total) of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. While the contents are rightly very broad – an attribute I am determined to encourage while I am editor – there is a remarkable amount of high quality content (in the form of both articles and book reviews) relating to the Second World War. There will probably be a formal launch of the index sometime early next year, and I’ll post a link to it then. It should make accessing this information much easier. Meanwhile Journals Vols 1-43 and 44-57 can be seen, page by page, here and here. Those with access to JSTOR can more conveniently download full .pdfs of each article.
SPECIAL TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY FEATURE
1 The Golden Age
My timing was good. This website was registered in either 1999 or 2000, and the first ten years of its existence truly were the golden age. Firstly, I benefitted hugely from the fact that there were no other websites at that time focusing on the broad experience of Hong Kong in WWII.* That meant that anyone typing “Hong Kong in World War Two” into the search engines of the time (Altavista was the main one then) would be taken to my site. They would contact me and ask for help, I would provide it but ask for information in return. It worked; it was almost a monopoly. Secondly, there were still many veterans around in those days, and a surprising number were computer literate. I had thousands of exchanges with (among many others) Barbara Anslow (civilian), Deedee Bak (civilian), Bunny Browne (HQ), Phil Doddridge (Royal Rifles of Canada), Jack Etiemble (RA), Arthur Gomes (HKVDC), Ross Lynneberg (RN), Dennis Morley (Royal Scots), David Parsons (HKVDC), Ed Shayler (Winnipeg Grenadiers), Ray Smith (Royal Rifles of Canada), and so forth. These and many more were people I’d only been able to write to before, and my efficiency was suddenly an order of magnitude higher. The point is that the site gave me an unfair (but very welcome) advantage, which led to me finding all sorts of information and so forth, ranging from letters and diaries to more substantial artefacts, one of which being the example I’ve used to illustrate this section: the original manuscript of Bowie’s book.
* Though Richard Hide’s site about the MTB escape of 1941, and the HKVCA’s site focusing on C Force, were already online at the time.
When I first moved to Hong Kong in the late 1980s, war detritus could be found on the surface all over the place. I have often told the story of reading Oliver Lindsay’s book ‘The Lasting Honour’ and next day visiting Wong Nai Chung Gap – which he correctly described as an area of severe fighting – to see if I could find anything. Within minutes I found an expended Japanese 6.5mm rifle cartridge hanging out of an earthen bank. And that’s how it started. Later, the metal detector boys moved in. I did not encourage them, knowing how much dangerous material was out there, and some – Japanese ordnance in particular – gets less stable with age. Aside from that, there’s the archaeological aspect. Now, let’s be honest, most of this material has no historical or intrinsic value. I recall in around 1968, driving through northern France with my family when my father stopped to answer a call of nature. I dashed out of the car, through a hedge, into a ploughed field, picked up two well-preserved French Lebell 8mm rifle cartridges, retraced my steps, and was sitting in the car again before my father was finished. These things were made in the billions. And yet sometimes their positions, and the things found with them, can tell us a great deal. ‘Yes’, agree the detectorists, ‘but if we don’t find them now they will soon decay into nothing’. So I see both sides. I have never owned a detector myself, but have worked with ‘ethical’ detectorists who record and share their finds. One such was our late family friend Toby Brown, who appears in the photo above. He called me late one day saying he’d found a big hit and would like me to help extract it when no one was around. So we met at 06.00 on an extraordinarily hot and humid morning. We dug down to a metal dome until we’d uncovered enough that – with some trepidation – we lifted it. There was an instant fresh smell of woodsmoke. What we had found was a Japanese helmet in a cremation site. We both felt quite disturbed, but were too far in to stop. In the end Toby offered it to several local museums who showed no interest. As our researches pointed to it belonging to Lieutenant Umino of the 229th Regiment from Nagoya, I believe the helmet ended up in their regimental museum. In recent years a number of live Japanese 240mm shells have been found, plus American bombs of 1,000 and even 2,000 pounds, so my advice is still to stay well clear.
I always loved writing, and my writing project for 1999 was a set of thirteen ghost stories, in the style of the most excellent M.R. James, set in the little North Norfolk village where I had been brought up, and where my parents still lived; it was to be their Christmas present. Then, in 2000 I looked at the voluminous notes I had made (over the preceding ten or more years) on the Battle of Hong Kong, and decided that a book on that topic would be my project for that year. And so it was. And 2001. And 2002. In 2003 I had both a decent draft and the good fortune to contact the then publisher at Hong Kong University Press. A British polymath who had spent most of his career working in the United States, was probably a good person to take this rather idiosyncratic (and naïve, unpolished…) project to, and he kindly took me on board. I owe Dr Colin Day quite a debt. This first book, Not The Slightest Chance, covered the Battle of Hong Kong and the resulting British casualties in excruciating detail. The name came from a communication from Winston Churchill to General Ismay on 7 January 1941. “This is all wrong. If Japan goes to war with us there is not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or relieving it. It is most unwise to increase the loss we shall suffer there. Instead of increasing the garrison it ought to be reduced to a symbolical scale. Any trouble arising there must be dealt with at the Peace Conference after the war. We must avoid frittering away our resources on untenable positions. Japan will think long before declaring war on the British Empire, and whether there are two or six battalions at Hong Kong will make no difference to her choice. I wish we had fewer troops there, but to move any would be noticeable and dangerous.”
While writing that book, veterans and families who helped me constantly referred to the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and that became the inescapable focus of my second book. Not long after it was published I explained the story to a well-known Hollywood scriptwriter, What caught his attention was the funnel: into it were poured the Hong Kong Garrison of 1941. Many were killed in the fighting, then hundreds died of disease as POWs in 1942. That September 1,816 were squeezed into the Lisbon Maru, and 828 died in the sinking. A further 200 exhausted and malnourished men died as POWs in the next two months, and yet more in the ensuing years of captivity. And some even died, liberated, as the American aircraft taking them home ran into typhoons and crashed. Their lives were ‘frittered away’ he said, and ever since I have kicked myself for not using that name for the book. The third book, covering the remainder if the POW experience, became We Shall Suffer There. And the fourth (based on my PhD thesis) was published as Reduced To A Symbolical Scale. I still have another book in me, about those who evaded and escaped from Hong Kong and continued the fight elsewhere, which one day (I hope) will be published as Noticeable and Dangerous. And The Big For? That was a light-hearted children’s book that I privately published – as light relief while struggling to finish my PhD.
4 The Missing
Every now and then, ever since the founding of this site, I receive emails of the type: “My father disappeared in Hong Kong during the Second World War. Can you please tell me what happened to him, and where he was buried?” I keep files of all of these. These are not the neat cases of clearly recorded deaths and commemorations, but those that somehow fell through the cracks. Interestingly, the first I came across (some 30 years ago), was someone named in primary sources. Jessie Holland - together with another nurse, Mrs Sando - had volunteered to serve on a launch in the evacuation of Kowloon on 12 December 1941, and had been shot and mortally wounded. I found four mutually supporting accounts of this in primary sources, but she was not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Eventually, with help from many people, I found her unmarked grave, and was able (thanks to In From The Cold) to get her name formally added into CWGC records.
Theodore Leslie Bell is now my oldest unsolved file. He was a locally-hired man at HSBC, whose wife died shortly before the evacuation, leaving him alone with a small daughter. And then he was killed when the Japanese came, leaving the little girl orphaned. She – at the time she contacted me, quite elderly – was desperate to know what had happened to her father, who didn’t even have a death certificate let alone a CWGC entry or a grave. Eventually I found two primary sources stating that he was in Essential Services and was helping out at the refugee centre near Woodside. There he was carrying a colleague wounded by shell fire when Japanese troops appeared, and he was too slow to drop his comrade and put his hands up, so they shot him. I was able to provide the daughter with a full report before she passed away, but have still not managed to get CWGC to accept his name.
There are others. George William Cooper, of Kowloon Riding School, another Essential Services man, has now been accepted by CWGC. Alfred Rough Fullerton of the Hong Kong Club was killed in action helping civilians into an air raid shelter, has not; I have his death certificate, but it is unsigned. Francis Edward Litton Dobbs worked with the China Salt Gabelle. Just before the invasion, Dobbs and his wife visited Hong Kong to see the dentist and do some Christmas shopping. They were trapped by the attack, and Dobbs volunteered. He was killed when a boiler exploded in the Kwong Sang Hong premises 192 Hennessy Road Hong Kong on 22 December 1941. His body was identified, his death has been commemorated by CWGC, but I’m still looking for his grave – if it exists.
5 Fixing Families
But it was often not that ‘simple’. I was naïve, and learned the hard way that the phrase ‘daddy was killed in the war’ could be used euphemistically by mothers and other relatives. The war was enormously hard on families. Some husbands were so traumatised by the POW experience that after September 1945 they never looked back, and simply made new lives for themselves. Some women, evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940 – often with children in tow – not only survived the experience, but thrived in their new independence; independence that sometimes they didn’t want to lose. And of course in Stanley Internment Camp the two sexes were thrown together, close together, in frightening circumstances for nearly four years. It's no wonder that so many pre-war families disintegrated. And like a bull in a China shop, here I was (sometimes accidentally) putting them back together again. Mostly it went well. Twice it really did not. It reached a stage when if I received one of these emails, I asked the sender if they were sure they wanted my help, and warned them that they may not like what they learned. But I put families back together, reintroduced friends, in one case reunited a famous gentleman with the young lady who saved his life, and so forth. I won’t name names, for obvious reasons, in this section. It was the most satisfying and pleasing part of my work, but also one of the most stressful.
At time of writing there are only two known veterans of the Hong Kong Garrison still with us, Hormidas Fredette of C Force and Robert Lapsley of the HKVDC. Both are over 100 years old. Of course it is always possible one or two might still be around somewhere, having never made contact, but if so it must be vanishingly few. Children of the conflict are still around, but not adults. But I was lucky enough to meet many, either when they visited Hong Kong or when I made trips abroad. For example: Barbara Anslow, Flash Clayton, James Dignan, Phil Doddridge, Jack Etiemble, Taffy Evans, Gerry Gerrard, Arthur Gomes, James Hart, Charles Jordan, George MacDonell, Dennis Morley, Alan Nichols, Doug Rees, Wally Scragg, Ed Shayler, Maynard Skinner, Jim Wakefield, and Arthur White. One way or another I must have met, spoken to, written to, or communicated in some way, with a few hundred. And what a privilege that was. It’s still a privilege today to work with their families instead, but somehow it’s not quite the same.
Dear reader, I was born in an asbestos hut. The year was 1959, and the location, Morley, England. The hut in question was a prefabricated building erected as part of an United States Army Air Force Hospital in the county of Norfolk, England, in the Second World War. It had a design life of five years. After peace came, the site was converted to a school. My father arrived to teach French, and became Deputy Head Master. He (we) were given accommodation there in said hut – which had originally been erected for an American surgeon charged with repairing wounded USAAF aircrew returning from raids on Germany and occupied Europe. So… we weren’t exactly posh. On the other hand, I spent much of my professional career dealing with CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs of some of the world’s major corporations and (through no fault of my own, I assure you) ended that career reporting directly to the world’s seventh richest man. But it gave me great pleasure that my ‘hobby’ opened so many doors. When the great economist Larry Summers visited Hong Kong and his handlers wanted him to see an unexpected aspect of the place, they invited me to take him on a battlefield tour. When a huge surgical conference came here, I was invited to give local colour by presenting on the topic of POW medical issues. And when Canadian prime ministers came calling, from Paul Martin, through Stephen Harper, to Justin Trudeau, they dusted me off to greet them. Trudeau was the most interesting as the weather changed constantly during his visit, and he ended up with a 15 minute vacant slot which I was asked to fill by taking him on a one-on-one tour of Sai Wan Cemetery. (By the way, that photo of me and Paul Martin: I’d like to make it crystal clear that I am the light-haired, possibly balding, middle-aged and somewhat overweight man in the gray suit, wearing a poppy. Paul Martin is obviously the other chap).
8 Murders & Massacres
It’s probably fair to say that of all the actions that British Forces were committed to in the Second World War, Hong Kong resulted in the greatest percentage of deaths due to massacres and murders. Even today I occasionally take people on a walk I call ‘The Travelling Massacre’ which follows these deaths from the north coast of HK Island, through Wong Nai Chung Gap, to Stanley: the Salesian Mission, the Pillboxes on Jardine’s Lookout, the houses from Postbridge to The Ridge, and south to Overbays, and Eucliffe. In almost all cases I have been able to identify who was lost at each point, except Stanley. I’m still working on it. This most infamous of massacres is hard to pin down, partly (I think) because when the bodies of the victims were cremated - on Japanese orders – many ‘legitimate’ bodies from the surrounding fighting were burned too. But there is no doubt that Eileen Begg (whose photo is above) was raped and murdered here, with a number of other nurses. Her family are understandably bitter about the circumstances to this day. Years later I learned that someone had salvaged buttons and decorations and watches from that cremation site, and I finally tracked them down to a museum in New Zealand. They very kindly photographed those artefacts for me.
9 POW Diaries
When I first told people, 35 or so years ago (and a bit arrogantly in retrospect), that I was going to write new histories of Hong Kong’s Second World War experience using primary sources, they were instantly dismissive. “Impossible”, they said, “all the paperwork was lost or destroyed or simply burned to boil rice in the occupation”. And of course not only were they generally correct, but the world’s museums and archives were also relatively bare of such material. But the Internet changed everything. When families of the Hong Kong Garrison of 1941 reached out to me for help, I would always do everything that I could. And in return I would always ask them: “and did your brother / husband / father / uncle / grandfather / great uncle leave any documents from the period?” And time after time I was amazed to receive the reply, “No, just the letters… and the diary”. Now, ‘diary’ is a strong word. What was being referred to was everything from a few scraps of paper listing the odd days when Red Cross parcels were delivered to POW camps, to volumes of 1,000 or so pages of detailed information. Most, though, were more like scrapbooks of drawings, ditties, signatures, poems, and so forth. I have perhaps 50 or 100 in my collection now. Some are published, others in public archives, but the majority are unique. I have promised to write a proper scholarly article about them at some point, to get them the visibility they deserve. Meanwhile my favourite is that of Fred ‘Dingy’ Bell, which I placed on long term loan at Crown Wine Cellars in Hong Kong in 2009. Dingy was born on 3 September 1897 in London and served in 12 Company Royal Army Service Corps. I have been unable to determine what happened to him after Liberation, but a schoolboy found his diary in about 1958, in amongst a pile of rubbish left outside a house in Goole, East Yorkshire that had been vacated by the occupants. Eventually he passed it to me. It’s long and full of amazing artwork, by Dingy and others, and has plenty of coverage of their in-camp entertainment.
As a youngster I was a typical computer guy. I was quite happy spending all day programming and interacting as little as possible with other people. In my late twenties my job changed to the point where I had to stand up and speak to people, and I found the experience terrifying. No one could have been more surprised than I, when in later years I discovered a penchant for public speaking and PR. That led to me doing such activities professionally, and taking all sorts of Corporate training – including doing Hostile Media Training with Channel 9 in Australia. Later still I repurposed those skills for history, and have conducted many interviews with newspapers, radio shows, and TV channels / documentaries. The photo above is from My Grandfather’s War with Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance. I did most of the research for the Hong Kong segment (his grandfather being Osmund Skinner of the HKVDC), as well as interviewing him on camera at the Peninsula Hotel. I enjoyed his company, and the following day we walked together (without cameras) through the heart of Hong Kong Island. But there have been numerous other examples, from many interviews with Annemarie Evans on RTHK (here's an old one, about that helmet again), to working with many newspapers and Canadian and British TV channels. But by far my favourite examples was this, shot on a horrendously wet day in 2019 (there was a typhoon: I was soaked getting to the studio, and soaked again leaving), by film-maker Craig McCourry.
11 Japanese Sources
My greatest weakness in this subject is that I speak neither Chinese nor Japanese. That puts many primary sources off limits to me, to the point where I often have to explicitly state that I haven’t studied the Japanese point of view at all (and only the Chinese where sources are bilingual). Fortunately others have far better language skills! Tim Ko really pioneered this, with his epic effort to get copies of the Mainichi Shimbun’s photo archives of wartime Hong Kong, which he kindly shared with many of us. More recently, Kwong Chi Man and team have been finding the most incredible (and apparently privately taken) photo albums belonging to ordinary Japanese soldiers. And there is also a very interesting official Japanese history of the Battle of Hong Kong, but unfortunately I don’t believe anyone has translated it yet. On top of this, there is a growing co-operation with Japanese researchers. One example: no one knew the name of the Japanese ship that transported the first British POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. Some families told me it was the Maru Shih (or Shi), others the Shih (or Shi) Maru, and James Ford, MC, of the Royal Scots told me the men called it the Fukyu Maru – but he thought they were joking. But it turned out to be pretty close to the right answer. I quickly discovered that the name Maru Shih had been invented by an American author writing an (otherwise good) book about the hellships. It was the fourth that he couldn’t identify so he simply named it ‘fourth ship’ in Japanese – and families reading the book thought it was the real name. In 2021 Yoshiko Tamura in Yokohama kindly went through the records and definitively identified it as the Fukken Maru. The mystery was solved. And the photo at the top was taken by the Japanese during the great bombardment of Pinewood Battery on 15 December 1941. If you look very closely, you can clearly see one of the British guns.
12 The Man Who Wasn't
I got one of those calls from the Hong Kong Police: “We’ve found a body. We want you to identify it”. I joined their search team one April morning, scraping about under an old pumping station on Argyle Street. They had recovered a British-style helmet (what they now call a Brody, though I never heard that name from anyone who served in the war), some bones, a tooth, and what might or might not have been shrapnel. There was a long deep dent in the helmet. The name John Gray (of Langruth, Manitoba) immediately came to mind. There weren’t many men missing in the urban part of Kowloon, and Gray was the obvious candidate as he and Private Shatford had become separated from the company of Winnipeg Grenadiers sent over to Kowloon just before the mainland was evacuated. They reappeared at the Star Ferry terminal, where Lieutenant Forsyth was in command of the final evacuation. He ordered them to remove cars that were blocking the road nearby, which could otherwise give cover to both the Japanese and looters. As the final ferry left the docks, Shatford reappeared with his Thompson submachine gun and jumped on board. But Gray was never seen again. I was sure it must be him; even the damage to the helmet looked consistent with being attacked by looters. I pestered people until DNA tests were done. Now, in those days DNA tests were very expensive, and they had to try several times before they got a sample that could be tested against Gray’s family. And it wasn’t him. I felt awful for the hope of identification that I must have given his family, but the test was clearly negative. What’s more, the helmet turned out to have been manufactured in Hong Kong, probably for use by local uniformed units. I saw the confidential reports, and have an idea of who it might really be, but I am far from certain. If that family ever contacts me, perhaps I’ll reopen the case. Meanwhile, there’s always the possibility this was simply an unrecorded fatality from the ARP or similar. Anyway, whoever it was, he was buried with due ceremony at Stanley Military Cemetery some years later with many of us in attendance.
13 The Bizarre
As you might imagine after nearly four decades of research, I have heard some pretty bizarre stories relating to the war: ghosts and mysterious coincidences, surprising appearances and disappearances, luck both unbelievably good and bad. But perhaps the oddest is that of Herbert Edgar Baptiste. According to the authorities, this Winnipeg Grenadier was lost in the fighting of 19 December 1941 and his body was never identified. And so we all thought until in 2007 an H. Edgar Baptiste published a book called The War Bonnet, telling how he was born on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan in 1919, was injured during the fighting in Hong Kong, and lost his memory. He had been a POW at Sham Shui Po, and at the end of the war, not knowing his true identity he made a new life for himself in England. He wrote that gradually his memories started to come back, and in 1994 he returned to the Red Pheasant Reserve where he says he was recognised by old friends and relations (including his first wife) and because he had knowledge of the Reserve and past events which only he could have known, he was welcomed ‘home’ by his people. But… the Shamshuipo POW list doesn’t mention him. Had he survived, even if he had lost his memory, wouldn’t his comrades have recognised him? And even if not, there’s no record of a John Doe or anyone under an assumed name. Neither he nor any unknown POWs are mentioned in hospital records, and no one is recorded with amnesia. Nor was he identified at Liberation, and neither is his name on any repatriation list I have seen. But then again, why would anyone make up such a story, and if this H. Edgar Baptiste isn’t ‘our’ H. Edgar Baptiste, then who is he? It’s quite a story.
14 Trails & Tribulations
In around 2003 I received an introduction to Duncan Pescod of the Hong Kong Government. He kindly agreed to a meeting, where I sat opposite him at his desk and proudly told him that I had designed a historical trail taking in the World War Two remains at Wong Nai Chung Gap. Silently he reached into a drawer in front of him and extracted a very similar plan (written, I believe, by Bill Greaves). As I recall, it was pretty much the same as mine, but went up hill where mine went down! Either way, I ended up working with six or seven government departments for around two years before we had the trail and its associated signboards up and running in time for a 2005 visit from a Canadian delegation (there were also three separate plaques dedicated at the same time). My colleagues Tim Ko and Tan worked on the signboard photos and plans respectively, while I concentrated on the text. The bad news is that we were all so burned out by the experience (I was told that the signboard text even had to be signed off by Beijing) that we never did another. The good news is that in 2023 the aging signage was modernised and replaced, and other similar signs are now being erected elsewhere across the HKSAR.
15 The Book That Never Was
Over many years I took the Hong Kong Club walkers out for guided strolls over the battlefields. These ranged from sedate tours around St Stephens’ College and Stanley Cemetery, to proper hikes encompassing the summits of Mount Nicholson and Mount Cameron. We covered Violet Hill, the Shing Mun Redoubt, Wong Nai Chung Gap, the Wanchai area, and pretty much everything else. And in those days when my children were young I had plenty of time sitting, waiting at football practice and games, writing the stories pretty much as I told them – and illustrating them with my own maps and photos taken on the walks, together with photos of the various artefacts I had found on the paths and hills over the years. I found a possible publisher, and his team prepared drafts of a few chapters, and I thought I might get the Hong Kong Club interested in some sort of joint publishing. I forget now where it all broke down, but the project was never finished and I’m just left with the manuscript and memories.
In my opinion the greatest untold story of World War Two is that of the liberation of Allied POWs in Japan. The Americans had assembled a monstrously powerful fleet offshore, ready for the predicted bloodbath of invasion of the Japanese homeland. The Marines and others on board had honed their vicious and effective methods of attack down to a fine art; they were the most efficient killers on Earth. Suddenly – with no warning at all – the atomic bombs ended the war and this murderous killing machine was instantly tasked with saving the tens of thousands of Allied POWs there instead. And with no warning or preparation whatsoever, they performed this task with utterly astonishing levels of confidence, competence, and compassion. No POW rescued by these men ever had a bad thing to say about America (even when sorely tempted in their latter years!) I’ll write that book one day, but, dear reader, imagine my astonishment when the British post office suddenly, in May 2020, released a set of eight stamps to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, based on archive photographs, and one of them used a colourised version of a photo of the liberation of Omori camp. And there, sandwiched at knee-hight between a gentleman waving the Stars and Stripes and another waving the Union Jack, was the unmistakeable face of ex-Hong Kong POW Tom Middleton, Royal Navy! I alerted the family, and last I heard they were applying to the post office for the original art work.
17 The First Battalion The Middlesex Regiment
One shouldn’t have favourites, but I’ve always liked the Middlesex. I’m sure they weren’t quite the bunch of lovable rogues that their stories described, but they certainly had some characters amongst their ranks. There was one (an ex-convict) who – they say - while a POW in Japan was caught stealing a Red Cross parcel, and put in solitary confinement. While there, he stole another 14. He was said to have made an invisible compartment in the cell’s wall in which he stored food for the next inhabitant. Then there was John Frelford, who came across a wounded Japanese soldier early on Christmas morning when trying to link up from Stanley to Deepwater Bay. Separated from his colleagues, he bound the soldier’s wounds with a shell dressing. When the Japanese found them, an officer interrogated him. In Frelford’s own words: “He seemed to be puzzled by such behaviour. I explained that I thought the man was dying and did for him what I hope he would have done for me if the situation was reversed. But I also told him that if he had not been wounded I would have tried to kill him. The officer’s face brightened. ‘For that answer,’ he said, ‘your life is saved’.” Frelford ended up in Stanley rather than Shamshuipo, and the British even considered him for a medal post-war. (To be fair to the Royal Scots, it was Corporal Laird from their ranks who as a POW in Japan received a Japanese medal for jumping into the sea to save the daughter of the harbourmaster from drowning). And then there was Charlie Heather of 247 Ladbroke Grove, London W10. He was the commander of PB63, the pillbox which destroyed the lighter Jeanette on 11 December 1941. He was found wandering about near the Helena May Institute after the explosion; probably dazed, he thought the Japanese were invading. Somehow he survived the sinking of Lisbon Maru despite being so sick he was detained at Shanghai. Known to his friends as Charlie ‘Ever, he was always in the centre of things, and on Liberation is said to have persuaded the Americans to fly him to Calcutta, where he jumped on a Sunderland flying boat which landed him at Poole on 19 September 1945. This marvelous photograph is of him in hospital in London the following day with his parents visiting. There, rightly or wrongly, he was proclaimed the first British ex-FEPOW to return to the city.
18 The Fourth Plane
Regular visitors to this site will be familiar with the names Ginny, Les Misérables, and Liquidator. At war’s end, America instantly switched from destruction to recovery. Realising that tens of thousands if freshly-liberated Allied POWs needed repatriation from camps in Japan, they quickly modified a large number of B24 bombers to carry men rather than explosives. Liberated POWs were concentrated in Okinawa, from where the USAAF would fly them to Manila. Unfortunately, in the middle of this operation a typhoon appeared, and the three named B24s – loaded with British, Dutch, and Australian ex-POWs – flew into it. Ginny simply disappeared. No trace of the aircraft or those on board has ever been found. Liquidator crashed on a remote peak in Taiwan – the incident and the dangerous recovery of bodies has been well documented, including on this site. The father of entertainer Clive James had been on Liquidator, and his remains – with the other Commonwealth ones – were eventually reinterred in Hong Kong. And Les Misérables stayed airborne long enough for crew and passengers to bail out into the sea by the British destroyer Ursa, but many of the passengers perished. Ten or fifteen years ago I tracked down and interviewed the captain of that plane, Bob Armacost, in the States. A nicer gentleman would be hard to find, but obviously the experience had been very traumatic. Many of those lost on Ginny and Les Mis were ex-Hong Kong, and some had even survived the Lisbon Maru. But that’s not all… Every now and then there have been clues to at least one more aircrash. Veteran Taffy Evans of the Middlesex himself told me of surviving such an accident and – I think, as I wasn’t focused on this story at the time – said that he swam ashore. And every now and then in CWGC records I find other deaths: Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 3rd officer Robert Millar Brown, and Gunner Ernest John Bampton, for example, all apparently died on 24 September 1945 in another aircraft that crashed taking off from Okinawa. Initially they were all buried there, before being reinterred in Yokohama; Hart was an ex-Hong Kong POW (which may explain why the card above incorrectly shows his location of death as Hong Kong). But I have yet to track down the plane and the story.
19 The Lisbon Maru Documentary
I’m not J.K. Rowling. I don’t have the imagination to come up with so much creative brilliance. Yet I know a good story when I come across one. The story of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru hit all the marks, and listening to the survivors’ stories, and hearing from the families of those who perished, had a huge impact on me. The book that resulted meant much more to me emotionally than Not The Slightest Chance. For years I tried to interest Hollywood, the British Government, anyone, in making a film about it. But I couldn’t have been more surprised when a Chinese entrepreneur and scientist, Fang Li, contacted me out of the blue saying that he wanted to make a major documentary on the topic. He was serious and professional and built a team – of which I am a small part as historical advisor. Covid interrupted development and made things much harder. Not long ago I even thought that the while project had been abandoned, then unexpectedly I received notice that a Special Screening of the current version would be conducted at the British Film Institute on the South Bank in London in mid-August. The timing was terrible from a personal point of view, as I was in the UK on holiday in July when I heard, returning at the end of the month. But it meant so much to me that I bought another ticket and flew back to London. And I was very glad I did. 450 members of the families of the men on board were there. It was in effect the biggest memorial to those lost in the Battle of Hong Kong and its aftermath since 1945. And I was very touched to see my book in so many shots. In fact in the still above, Ron Brooks (who lost his father, Master Gunner Charles Brooks, Royal Artillery, in the sinking) has both The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru and Reduced To A Symbolical Scale on his desk.
20 The Modern Age
There has been a fine tradition in Hong Kong, of university academics doing useful work in recording our wartime history. Lawrence Lai springs to mind, and Stephen Davies and others, and before them Endacott and Birch. But it only gets better. Now we have Wallace Lai (at PolyU) and team leading in ground-breaking LiDAR and remote sensing research into battlefield remains, and Kwong Chi Man and team at Baptist University building their Spatial History system for the battle and the occupation. To me, the latter is a complete game changer in history. Up till now, historical data was available in books (like mine) or individual computer files (like mine), or piles of uncatalogued papers (like mine). But those books, once published, cannot be corrected or added to. And those computer files are simply inaccessible to others - half the time I struggle to find things myself. And my hardcopy files are a disaster. But the approach at Baptist University is based around a database of all the historical information available to them. And while most of the focus has been on the clever visual displays and user interfaces they have built around that database, it is the database itself which has changed the paradigm. From now on, as this database of Hong Kong Second World War information is maintained for the long term by an institution, the data included can be constantly refined, corrected, improved, and added to. There is no single ‘publication date’ at which all the data becomes fossilised and dead, it has the potential to live and evolve for generations. I can imagine all sorts of future individual research and group projects adding to it over decades to come. On the computer on which I am typing this, for example, I have files on every single member of the Hong Kong garrison of 1941. In some cases it is no more than their name and fate, in others pages of data. But if all that, plus photographs, relevant documents, and so forth can be added to that database then we start to build an entire multi-dimensional long-lived model of the conflict and everyone (and everything – pillboxes, equipment, buildings can follow the same model) involved. This changes everything.
October 1st, 2023 Update
Kobe POWs (courtesy Bruce Waldron), Boon Trial (courtesy China Mail), SS Takliwa (courtesy Patrick Flynn)
James Flynn (courtesy Patrick Flynn), Fred George (courtesy Mikalha George), Douglas Ferguson (courtesy Heather Ferguson-Piggott)
St John Hospital (author), George Egan's concentration record (courtesy CWGC), Japanese Soldiers in NY (courtesy 1941: A Spatial History project)
September News This month I was reminded of the unique set of Kobe POW photos which I received from Bruce Waldron (whose father - Sergeant Albert Edward Waldron, 6201203, of the 1st Battalion the Middlesex Regiment - was a POW there). What makes them unique is that they were taken during hostilities, and show the POWs going about their daily lives – work parties, barracks, canteens, and so forth. The full set can be seen here, and I think are worthy of further study. (See 24). 28 “1941年香港戰役空間史研究計劃 The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project” continue to publish amazing and (at least to me) new photos from Hong Kong’s wartime history. Today’s shot of Japanese soldiers in the New Territories is unique as far as I know. 27 Further conversations with Chris Bilham about Small, revealed that he also has the medals of PO Selman of HMS Tern. Something that has puzzled me for years is that CWGC records show nineteen Royal Naval fatalities on 25 December 1941. Eighteen have no known graves, and one of those eighteen is PO Bowden who in fact was lost on MTB26 on December 19. There is also one man - George Egan - who has a known grave, but looking at CWGC’s online concentration details we can see that in fact they say he also died on the 19th, and was originally buried in the Colonial Cemetery. I now suspect that all these men except Bowden were in reality killed in the attempted Naval counterattack at the southern end of Wong Nai Chung Gap on the 19th. These missing men were probably reported by Naval authorities en masse on the 25th, and that became recorded as their date of death. Cremen, John Leading Stoker, HMS Redstart UP Andrews, Cornelius Able Seaman, HMS Tamar UC Bowden, Leonard A. Petty Officer Tel., HMS Tamar UP Corpse, William Chief Petty Officer, HMS Tamar UP Little, Walter John Engine Rm. Artificer, HMS Tamar UP Selman, Albert James Petty Officer, HMS Tamar UC Shipp, John James Able Seaman, HMS Tamar UC Welsh, Francis Petty Officer, HMS Tamar UP Whapshare, Stanley Shipwright 3rd Class, HMS Tamar UP Williams, John M. Able Seaman, HMS Tamar UP Deakin, Herbert T. Petty Officer Stoker, HMS Thracian UP
Egan, George Able Seaman, HMS Thracian K Greig, Henry Dollar Ordinary Seaman, HMS Thracian UC Harrison, George Ordinary Seaman, HMS Thracian UC Henderson, Robert Ordinary Seaman, HMS Thracian UC Keith, Robert John Ordinary Seaman, HMS Thracian UC Kendall, James L. Stoker 1st Class, HMS Thracian UC Kingham, John Able Seaman, HMS Thracian UP Thomas, Frederick G. Stoker 1st Class, HMS Thracian UC 25 I heard today from the Java FEPOW Club that the Researching FEPOW History Group are planning to raise funds for repairs to the Liverpool Repatriation Memorial.
24 Many years ago I was kindly given a unique set of Kobe POW photographs by Bruce Waldron. I had always assumed they were mainly ex-HK Lisbon Maru survivors (like Sergeant Albert Waldron himself), but Steve Denton has done some digging. He found a listing of Australian Kobe POW serial numbers taken from ‘The Story of J Force’. He cross checked them with numbers that he already had, and although there are a couple of anomalies, the majority of them check out with the numbers given on Houghton’s report of deaths in Kobe. Checking the numbers against those visible on the work clothes in my photos, he found these (at least, on the example photo above) that clearly seem to be Australian J Force (i.e. not related to Hong Kong): 626, Goodall, Jack 817, Dixon, Russell 801, Rumann, H. 807, Craig, Edwin J. Note the surreptitious V for victory from Russell and his oppo, clearly aware they were being photographed! 23Chris Bilham got back in touch having just bought the medals of Stoker Petty Officer Eric Small (KX.80043) of HMS Thracian. He kindly attached Small’s service record. 22 I visited Cheung Chau with an old friend today, the first time I’ve been to that island for several decades. Wandering around, we found a large pre-war building which turned out to be the St John Hospital. According to Wikipedia, it: “was founded by the St John Ambulance Association. The foundation stone of this Victorian-style construction was laid by the tycoon brothers Mr Aw Boon Haw and Mr Aw Boon Par in 1932. In November 1934, it was donated to the Hong Kong St John Ambulance Association, and officially called St John Ambulance Association Haw Par Hospital after the names of the donors. In 1946, it was converted to a tuberculosis sanatorium. On 22 January 2010, it was confirmed as a Grade 3 historic building.” I shall have to see what it was used for during the war. 18 Unfortunately I received notice too late to publicise it here, but today the HKVCA had a session described as: “Michael Petrou, Historian of the Veterans' Experience at the Canadian War Museum, will present on 'In Their Own Voices', an oral history project of the Canadian War Museum that explores the enduring effects of war and military service on veterans and their loved ones from the Second World War to the present day. Petrou has so far interviewed nearly 200 veterans and family members for the project, which will result in an online exhibition, material for classrooms, a conference and a book.” As the advertisement included a photo of one of the two Canadian nurses who arrived in Hong Kong with C Force, I assume the latter was covered. The replay can be viewed here. 17I am continuing to correspond with Captain James Flynn’s (Punjabis) son, who reminded me of the photo of the Takliwa he sent some time back. This was the vessel which returned all of Hong Kong’s Indian POWs to their homeland, and was wrecked on the last day of the voyage. According to the Madras Weekly of 20 October 1945: “Eight hundred prisoners of war from Hong Kong who were rescued from the ill-fated S.S. Takliwa which caught fire and was abandoned off the coast of the Nicobar Islands last Monday while on its way to India, arrived in Madras Harbour this evening…” The ship had been carrying 516 men of the Punjabis, 109 of the HKSRA, 153 of the HK Mule Corps, 19 men of the Rajputs, and 5 of the IMS. Although all published histories state that everyone was rescued (including the ship’s cat), I have my doubts. There are at least five possibly related deaths recorded in CWGC files, with no known graves, late in 1945. 17 Justin Ho was kind enough to tell me that a whole lot of letters sent from Roger Rothwell (Middlesex) was available on eBay. Justin has also finalized his draft transcription of the 2 Coy HKVDC war diary – which Philip Cracknell generously provided him with. It turns out to be specifically for 7 Platoon, but is still very valuable. 17 Boom Engineer Fred George’s (RN, Lisbon Maru) great granddaughter posted a photo of him on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. 15 Xinhua carried another Lisbon Maru story today. 12 I saw today that Tom Hickox’s Lisbon Maru song, which is used to great effect in the new documentary, is available here on YouTube. 9 Today I heard from Dr Steven K. Bailey (Chair | Department of English Language & Literature at Central Michigan University – actually we correspond quite often as he is a contributor to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society HK) who is working on his book “Target Hong Kong” – a USN follow up to the USAAF stories in “Bold Venture”. 9 Today Justin Ho kindly sent me the transcribed memoirs of HKVDC members Ladislav Brezny and Jaroslav Krofta, and a newspaper cutting about the escape of M. Ciardi after the fall of HK, but am not sure of his actions during the battle. He states that he was at North Point (presumably at the Power Station) with other French nationals, and although I think this is quite credible, he isn’t mentioned (as far as I know) in any account of that fighting. To be fair, this could well be because he wasn’t a Hong Kong man, and thus wouldn’t have been known to the others. 7 The HKVCA have published their autumn newsletter. 7 Today I was contacted by a Canadian researcher interested in the life of Francis Woodley ‘Mike’ Kendall of the HKVDC’s Z Force. Apparently Kendall was instrumental in cementing the post-war rights of Chinese Canadians, and he is researching into this. 6 It looks like, later in the year, I’ll be talking to the kids at Island School about Hong Kong’s wartime experience. I used to do this sort of thing a lot before Covid and all the restrictions, so am glad to be invited again. 6 While messing about trying to find something else entirely (as one does), I found an interesting China Mail article about POW remains from Taiwan being reinterred in Hong Kong (illustrated). Knowing that Justin Ho was interested in ‘foreign’ burials there I sent him a copy. In return, Justin asked me if 2 (Scottish) Coy HKVDC had their own war diary. I recalled that they did, and suggested that he contact Philip Cracknel who I believe found a copy at the IWM some years back. Oddly enough, in the same copy of the China Mail (29 August 1946) there was an article about Major Cecil Boon. I have no real interest in dwelling on stories or who was or was not a collaborator, but often wondered what became of him later. 5 I’ve been having a chat with the producers of the Lisbon Maru documentary. At the end of the film, as the credits roll, two Rolls of Honour appear. The first includes the names of all who perished during the sinking itself, and the second lists all who survived. However, just over 200 of the latter perished later – either before VJ Day or on the way home – and I’m not sure that calling them ‘survivors’ is truly appropriate. We’ll work something out. 4Brian Finch reminded me that in his book The Lasting Honour, Oliver Lindsay noted that: “In February, 1949, thirteen survivors returned to the Island and witnessed the Governor of Hong Kong presenting a motor fishing launch to the Islanders, who had saved so many lives.” I used to know one of the survivors who attended (Taffy Evans), but am also pretty sure I have seen a newspaper clipping – including a photo – covering the event, I would be grateful if anyone could supply a copy, as (typically for my hardcopy records) I can’t find it! What Taffy said was: “After the war, in February 1949, Captain ‘Micky’ Man MC (later Major-General) organized a fund among the survivors as a token of gratitude. We held a party at Queen’s Pier, Hong Kong. Present were, His Excellency the Governor, Micky Man, Hargreaves Miles Howell MBE, Geoffrey Hamilton, Frank Kekewick Garton, J. Hill, Andy Salmon, William Taylor, William Johnstone who escaped from the island, Thomas Gorman, myself Tom Evans, James Robson, J. McDougall, A. Woodhead, and J. Campbell.” (Specifically these were: Campbell (Police), Evans (Tom himself, ex-Middlesex, and at this time Hong Kong Dockyard Police), Garton (HKRNVR), Gorman (Dockyard Police), Hamilton (Royal Scots), Hill (Police), Howell (RASC), Johnstone (HKRNVR), Man (Middlesex), Robson (Middlesex), McDougall (Royal Scots), Salmon (Royal Artillery), Taylor (Hong Kong Signals Company), and ‘A’ Woodhead was presumably Fred Woodhead of the Police.) 1 I am glad to say that I am back in contact with Ron Parker, son of Maurice Parker who commanded D Company Royal Rifles of Canada during the fighting. 1 I am continuing to correspond with the daughter of escapee Sapper Ferguson who is kindly helping fill in much detail of her father’s life and career. She provided me with a very good photograph of her father. 1 It was good to see the Lisbon Maru documentary story from last month finally appearing in the British press.
September 1st, 2023 Update
Three views of the Lisbon Maru documentary screening (all author)
Author with Ted Green (couresty Iain Gow), William Beningfield and wife (courtesy the late Bill Beningfield), Centre Street builidng (author)
Hormidas Fredette (courtesy Colin Standish), Costeley Smith BC (couresty Iain Gow), Stanley collection (eBay, via George Boote)
August News In the middle of this month, in fact on VJ Day itself, I attended the ‘special screening’ of the new documentary “The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru” at the British Film Institute on London’s south bank. It was a full theatre of 450 people, mainly relatives of those who had been on board, but also representatives of service associations, the film crew, musicians, and others who helped in making the film. Attendees included Chinese media from both China and the UK, and members of the Chinese Embassy in London - headed by the Ambassador Zheng Zeguang. Fang Li, the Chinese businessman who financed and directed the documentary, introduced the film and explained that he wanted feedback from the relatives. I believe he plans to incorporate any useful suggestions and then fine-tune the work to create a final version which hopefully will go on general release. You can read my account of the day below, but meanwhile take a look at this interview. Personally I only appear in the last thirty seconds or so but it gives you some idea of the scale and meaning of the event. 31 As I finalise this month’s update, we are awaiting the arrival of what might be (in the worst case) the most destructive typhoon to hit Hong Kong in many years. That’s the bad news. The silver lining is that torrential rain sometimes washes interesting artefacts from the hills… 28 Douglas Ferguson’s (Royal Engineers, escapee) daughter got in touch. This is very useful as I’ve been trying to find more details of his escape. He and Sapper Howarth were the last out of the camps, to the best of my knowledge, except for Goodwin (and of course excluding the three escapees from the Lisbon Maru). 26 Patrick Flynn, son of Captain James Lough Flynn of the 2/14 Punjab, got back in touch. He noted: “After some years of searching for this book (and paying the price!) I managed to acquire a copy of General Brodie Haig's history of the regiment. Published in England by Lund Humphries. Maybe even self published because this copy was sent by General Brodie – ‘Will you send the price of the book (L1-0-3) to me at the above address.’ The history does have a four page section on the 2nd Battalion in Hong Kong along with a list of the officers (including my father) who served there.” He kindly sent me a scan of those pages. 25 Sem Vine got in touch, noting: “Someone who lives quite near me happened to post something on social media about her great grandfather, Arthur William Bright. He was a Leading Stoker in the Royal Naval Reserve, who was killed on the Lisbon Maru, and very recently I found out that she went to the showing of the new film ‘The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru’ in London on VJ Day this year. Since then a facebook group has been set up, still in the introduction stages, but you may be interested to join. I did find my grandfather on your site, who survived the sinking and the camps, but unfortunately he has a minor typo – Royal Engineers: Unallocated: Daniel, Frak J. W.O.II. 1863059.” I have fixed that unfortunate typo, and took a look at the facebook page. It’s a good idea. 23 Colin Standish kindly sent me a photo of Hormidas Fredette, Royal Rifles of Canada, who he recently visited. He may well be the last survivor of all the veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong. There are now no British or Hong Kong veterans alive that I know of. Of course, I can’t prove that they have all passed away, but I think it is likely (the British, in particular, having a higher average age than the Canadians as the great majority were pre-war regulars). It is always possible that one or two Indian veterans survive, but I have never had much luck making contact with them. 22 George Boote: “A press copy of the famous Stanley raising the Union flag photo has come up on eBay, along with an interesting typed out article, which looks like it was also a press release, quite interesting and I wonder the story behind the lot.” I don’t think it’s actually a press release, and in fact the writing seems so familiar that I feel I should be able to immediately say who wrote it. 18Referring to last month’s question about the correct spelling of Costley Smith’s name, Iain Gow kindly noted: “Attached is a birth certificate which may be of interest - I’ve an account on Scotland’s people and was poking around as I need to use up credits before they expire, and came across the birth of a C Smith, who may be the Private Smith in your blog!” The details match his POW Index Card, so it must be him – and yet the birth certificate seems to spell the name “Costeley”! 17 The China Daily has already started printing stories about this week’s event, see here and here. 15 Whilst in the UK for a holiday last month, I heard that there was to be a ‘special screening’ of the new Lisbon Maru documentary in London on August 15. That was awkward as we would be back in Hong Kong by then, but after a deal of soul-searching I decided that I had to return to London for it so flew back on the 13th. The location was the BFI on the South Bank (an area I know quite well as my family had something to do with its post-war development and the Festival of Britain). I was only able to give the organisers a few days’ notice that I would be attending, so assumed that I would simply be a member of the audience. Far from it! When I arrived at the venue wearing an unaccustomed suit and tie - and thirty minutes early - the first person I bumped into was Iain Gow (illustrated), son of James Gow of the Royal Scots. As I was saying to him that I probably wouldn’t recognise anyone else there, who should turn up but Ron Brooks, son of Master Gunner Charles Brooks RA. Then Ted Green, son of Edward Ernest ‘Dodger’ Green (Royal Corps of Signals) arrived, and so it went on. As soon as Fang Li (the producer and director of the film) saw me, he said that he’d like me to say a few words immediately after the film. And then we sat down for the showing. The moment it started I heard muffled sobs from the audience – the vast majority of them being families of those on board. And though it continued like that for the next two hours, it honesty felt more like just 45 minutes. William Beningfield of the Middlesex, the last known survivor from the ship, was a particularly effective interviewee, being both totally honest about the experience and then devastatingly funny. Finally, after the film and speeches ended, I was led away for an intimate pre-reception reception with just twelve of us and the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James (amongst the other attendees was of course Major Brian Finch – who did a sterling job organising the event – and his wife, plus Hilary Hamilton and husband, and Mark Weedon and wife). After that came the main reception at which I would dearly have liked to have had a beer or two, but instead bumped into friends old and new, and various members of the media who demanded interviews. I did my best, despite it now being about three in the morning by my biological time! Other people I met included Shirley Bambridge, daughter of Sergeant Gerald Frances Taylor, Royal Army Dental Corps (and her son and grandson), Mark Fielding-Smith, grandson of Private Arthur Betts, Middlesex, and Sheila Stone, daughter of Signalman William T McCormick. Finally we wrapped up at 19.00 (the event having started at 13.00). As I extricated myself and left to return to my hotel (the idiosyncratic but excellent Hoxton ten minutes walk away in Southwark) I bumped into the family of Lieutenant Kenneth Heywood, Royal Scots. Eventually I popped into a supermarket on the way back and grabbed a sandwich and a couple of bottles of beer for my dinner, rather stunned by the realisation that after thirty years of living the battle of Hong Kong and its aftermath, finally I had attended (what was effectively) a Memorial Service of appropriate size and solemnity. Quite a day. 13 Justin Ho notes: “The 2023 VJ Day Memorial Ceremony was at City Hall today, and was held successfully - the rain stopped precisely at the beginning of the ceremony! Afterwards, we had a nice gathering at the RHKR Association.” 12 BQMS ‘Busty’ Dicks’ (RA, Lisbon Maru) grandson got in touch. This is a name I know very well, as Dicks was remembered by many of those in the third hold of the Lisbon Maru as the NCO who did the most to keep spirits up as the gunners did their best to pump out the ever-encroaching water and keep the ship afloat after it was torpedoed. Jack Etiemble, for example, as a young gunner on that ship, wrote to me twenty or more years ago saying: “Tony, although there was no panic in No.3 hold someone had to take control of the pumping, and in my opinion this is just what `Q` Dicks did, as well as organising and making sure the pump was fully manned at all times, he tried to keep up morale cracking jokes and stating ‘keep it up lads we’re gaining’ as he placed a bit of wood in the water knowing full well the reality was just the opposite… My last memories of ‘Q’ Dicks is just after the war ended, he was running what passed as our cookhouse and trying to salvage food from the 44 gallon drums that the Americans had dropped without parachutes, and had finished up flat as pancakes.” 11 Today – and this is my other excuse for being late publishing the July edition of this blog – I completed the final proof read of Volume 63 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch and cleared it for publication. This is my third Volume since assuming the role of editor, and finally I feel I know just about what I’m doing. I think it genuinely takes three years to settle into something like this, and perhaps I’ll continue in the role for something like seven more years. Ten is enough, then someone else can come in with new ideas and fresh thinking and take it further. This year I fully intend to finish an index of the first 63 volumes, and that will be my legacy! 10 Today I had a good chat with Robin Love, who is researching the life and death of her great uncle, Signalman Henry Villiers Dixon. Unfortunately his is one of the cases that I never got to the bottom of. All I can say is that the diary of the commander of the Hong Kong Signals stated that Dixon was Killed in Action at Stanley, and the CWGC implies that he was buried there during the fighting (their concentration page confirms that they recovered his body from Stanley Cemetery). And the diary of Signalman Peter Moddrel states that he was shot. If that is so, then a date of death between 21 Dec and 25 Dec 1941 would be most likely (with the last date most likely as the biggest losses occurred then). 7 Walking to Sai Ying Pun market today, I happened to notice a very old (and seemingly well-preserved) local-style building on the corner of Centre Street and Des Voeux Road West. It’s certainly pre-war, but I can’t find any information about it. 5 I was contacted by a research group in China: “Zhejiang International Maritime College, which is a public college located in Zhoushan City, Zhejiang Province, China. From the August of last year, our research team has been doing research on the sinking of Lisbon Maru, and collected a lot of materials. We have finished the translation of these materials and now want to compile them into a book and may publish the book.” Unfortunately my emails to them can no longer get through. 1 I heard that Dr James Hayes had passed away in Australia. Ex-President of the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong, he was enormously knowledgeable on all aspects of old Hong Kong’s history. A tribute can be read here. 1 Apologies for the late posting of the July news. For a variety of reasons I made three trips to the UK over the summer, and posting was also delayed by the need to finalise Volume 63 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
August 1st, 2023 Update
Old BMH Postcard (unknown), Embankment shrapnel damage (author), Jameson in Firefly (via The Telegraph)
Allan of the HKDDC (both via Martin Heyes), Peckham of the HKDDC (unknown)
Alan Turing statue, War Blind statue, Rutherford memorial (all author)
July News It’s a short report this month. For family reasons I had to spend almost the whole of July in the UK, and that followed ten days there in June. However, at least I was able to spend some time in London looking at some forgotten wartime damage over there. I am returning to London again this month for a Special Screening of the new Lisbon Maru documentary, and will provide a full report on that at the end of August. 31 Both Sandy Wynd and Martin Heyes were kind enough to send me The Telegraph obituary of Lt Cdr Ralph Jameson, a Fleet Air Arm pilot who helped repatriate PoWs from Hong Kong in 1945. Jameson embarked in HMS Venerable to join the British Pacific Fleet for the assault on Japan when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The article noted that then: “Venerable sailed for Hong Kong where she assisted in the liberation of the colony and repatriated hundreds of prisoners-of-war. Jameson remembered ‘so clearly, aircraft ranged on deck and the hangar laid out with camp beds for the PoWs. They were in very poor health. We took hundreds onboard; many were Indian nationals, who we took home to Madras’.” (The article also noted Jameson’s rare Exceptional pilot assessment, and that: “During his 15 years’ service, Jameson had clocked 1963 accident-free flying hours and flown 28 aircraft types.”) In the photograph he is sitting in a Fairey Firefly, one of the types my mother regularly flew in as a Wren. 31 Today I finished a final proof-read and review of the English sub-titles on the new Lisbon Maru documentary. I shall be attending a ‘special screening’ of it in London next month. 30 Ian Quinn posted on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today, covering the rather odd story of the bombing of Stanley Internment Camp on 24 July 1945. This is a short quote, but it’s worth going to the page to read the whole thing, and see a photo of the aircraft’s captain (Sy): “After a tour flying Catalina's out of Guadalcanal Lt Sy Goldklang was now in command of a PBM Mariner with VPB-25 based in Lingayen Bay operating from a tender, the USS Currituck. Up until now, they had only flown the South China Sea at night, but with no Navy PB4Ys available, daytime patrols in the lumbering and vulnerable Mariners had started as interception by Japanese aircraft was now becoming very unlikely. Flying the daytime patrol in PBM # 59335 at the unfamiliar high 1,500 feet above sea level made Sy ‘a little uneasy at first’, undoubtedly, because he was accustomed to flying low to the water under the cover of darkness for safety reasons and this was his first daylight mission. After patrolling in the area of ‘Macao Island’, he headed for Hong Kong. As they were flying over Kowloon, ‘admiring the hillside's beautiful white buildings glistening like diamonds’ they were startled by heavy bursts of anti-aircraft fire almost hitting them and ‘decided to get the hell out ASAP.’ Sy… ‘The most direct route from Kowloon was to fly over the bay, cross over Hong and head for the open sea. In order to rid the plane of weight and thereby gain speed, dropping our bombs made a whole lot of sense. I was about to dump them in the bay when I spotted a large freighter unloading cargo at a Hong Kong pier and it became a logical target. Therefore, I turned towards it, aimed our bombs at the freighter, deliberately dropping them a little long so that if I missed hitting the ship, the bombs would hit the pier and adjacent warehouses.’ The bombs did indeed miss the pier and went into the ‘warehouses’, which were the Internment Camp. Two went through the roof of bungalow A and another dropped on a room in St Stephen’s which injured Noel Croucher. Others injured were Leila Woods, Mavis Hampson, Rev. Myhill, and Mr. Murray. Some came close to the Japanese camp Headquarters.” I’m really hoping that Ian will one day publish a book of all the research he has done into the air war over Hong Kong. 24 Ian gill notes that the Amazon publication date of his book Searching for Billie has been delayed from August 1 to October 1. 21Martin Heyes notes that there is: “A group of medals awarded to a man who served in the Royal Navy Dockyard Police during the Battle for Hong Kong, being sold at auction by Spinks in London.” The gentleman concerned was Divisional Inspector Alexander Bruce Allan. Philip Cracknell noted: “The photograph must be after 1917 when Gordons changed head-dress from Glengarry to TOS. He served with Gordon Highlanders. As far as I know this unit (RN Dockyard Police) served in the dockyard from start to finish. Tony I suppose the RN Dockyard Police were automatically part of the DDC?” That is actually a good question. RN Dockyard Police fatalities are listed by the CWGC as HKDDC, so I believe it is the case. But it is a poorly-documented area (and in fact as far as I know I am the only person to have published on that topic). 19 Having dropped off my wife at Fortnum and Masons on Piccadilly to go shopping with a friend, I had a whole day off in London to myself. Having arranged to meet my older son on the South Bank for a slow lunch time / afternoon pub crawl, I first went to the British Museum to see the amazing (and mainly East Anglian found) treasures in their rooms 49 and 50 (I had vaguely hoped to see the Morley Hoard there, found just six months and fifty-seven yards from where I was born – on the site of a Second World War USAAF hospital - but had forgotten that it was displayed in Norwich instead). I then took the tube to Embankment to photograph some Blitz shrapnel damage that I vaguely recalled seeing as a boy, but had never seen documented anywhere. If anything, it was bigger and more impressive than I had recalled (and occupying a far greater area of stonework than visible in my photo). 17 Proud father syndrome: Today our younger son (illustrated, with his long-suffering mother still trying to dress him) graduated with a First Class Hons degree in Aerospace Engineering at Manchester. But I have to say that what affected me most was the fact that from our Manchester hotel room window we could see the building where Rutherford first split the atom! The end of the Second World War was – in effect – architected right there. And then a short walk away was a statue of Alan Turing – without whom the war in Europe would at minimum have lasted longer with more casualties. Then, at Manchester Piccadilly railway station, there is a powerful statue of the returning war blind from the Great War. What a wonderful place Manchester is. (Another slight aerospace connection is that this young man’s great uncle Reyner Banham worked on the design of the Bristol Centaurus aeroengine during the war.) 15 Today I found a picture of an old postcard of the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road. Unfortunately as I was traveling I was too busy to note the provenance, but it was too good to miss (even though it is confusingly captioned 'Victoria Hospital'). 11 Originally I believe it was hoped that the new Lisbon Maru documentary would be ready in time for this years’ Cannes, but in fact they’re still finalizing a few points. Today we are checking the Rolls of Honour. 8 I heard from Anne Ammundsen today: “About a different war, but at least my two-decade struggle to get published finally paid off! Now I am a published author. I still haven't found the Hong Kong / Tonga book. It will never happen now, which is distressing.” Long term readers of this website may recall that Anne is still: “desperate to find a book I purchased in Sydney in 1986, whilst staying at the Wentworth Hotel (23 August 1986 to 9 September 1986)… I’ve forgotten the title and the author, making the 35-year search so difficult… It was a novel/thriller, about Tonga (Tonga Trench, undersea action) where I was living when I visited Sydney that year. Extraordinarily, this novel had a passage in it about my real life uncle (Captain Robert Newton, Royal Scots), who was killed in Hong Kong in 1941 when the Japanese invaded.” She really would like to find another copy of that book if anyone can help! 7 Today my wife and I flew to the UK for three weeks, visiting Norfolk, Manchester, and London, having a holiday and catching up with various friends and neighbours. We return on July 29. 6 I just heard that Hong Kong historian James Hayes passed away in the early hours of this morning in Sydney at the age of 92. He joined the British Overseas Civil Service in 1956, being posted to Hong Kong. He spent most of his career in the New Territories, first as a District Officer (1957-62), then as a District Officer and Town Manager (1975-82), and finally as Regional Secretary (1985-87). In 1966 he joined the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, becoming Honorary Editor of the Journal the following year (in other words, my job today). He was responsible for the next fourteen issues (1967-1980). He became a Vice-President of the Society in 1970 and served as President of the Society from 1983 to 1990. Like me, he achieved his PhD later in life, in his case in 1975 at the University of London’s School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS). He wrote an extraordinary number of articles papers, and books, all based on his intimate knowledge of Hong Kong’s village culture and his unparalleled acquaintance with various forms of Chinese-language documentation. He retired to Sydney in 1990 but continued to publish numerous articles and four major books: Tsuen Wan: Growth of a 'New Town' and its People (1993), Friends & Teachers: Hong Kong and Its People, 1953-87 (1996), South China Village Culture (2001) and The Great Difference: Hong Kong's New Territories and Its People, 1898-2004 (2006). Fortunately (if you know what I mean), we just had time to include his obituary in Volume 63 of the current Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, which I am currently finalizing. 3 Today I was interviewed, as a stakeholder, for a “Study on setting up of an open museum for historical relics appreciation in the country parks of Hong Kong.” This is being carried out by Mott Macdonald in Ngau Tau Kok, Kowloon. They have been commissioned by the HK Government to conduct a consultancy study into the feasibility of establishing one or more “Open Museums” in some of HK’s Country Parks with WW2 connections. The two locations shortlisted are the Shing Mun Redoubt and Pinewood Battery. I gave them my opinions, and provided a few old photos which I hope will help. 1 At the end of June I was sent a photo of a cemetery memorial to Leslie Peckham of the HKDDC. Unusually, he is buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery. He died as a POW in Shamshuipo of Hydrocephalus Avitaminosis (lack of vitamin B). I apologise that I did not note the name of the photographer.
July 1st, 2023 Update
Inside 41a Conduit Road (courtesy Hong Kong Reminiscence), Joseph Joseph's grave (author)
WNCG Trail Station 2 old and new, Station 8 in the rain, Station 4 (author)
John Bottomley HKVDC (courtesy Robin Bottomley-Smith), Manchester War Blind Memorial, Prish grave (author).
June News I had originally always intended that my four-part history of Hong Kong’s war years (Reduced to a Symbolical Scale, Not the Slightest Chance, The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and We Shall Suffer There) should in fact comprise five volumes. Unfortunately my publisher – at least at that time – lost interest, and the fifth volume, which focused on the fates of all the escapees and evaders who broke out of Hong Kong after 8 December 1945, was never completed. Since then I’ve focused more on helping other people with their researches and books, doing various pro bono and paid historical consulting work, running this website and so forth. But now I’m tempted to complete it anyway. After all, I have all the research in hand, much of it unique and unavailable to others, and if I don’t publish then sooner or later all will be lost. Stay tuned! 28 Robin Bottomley-Smith posted a number of interesting diary entries, and a photo, from his grandfather Major John Hubert Bottomley of the HKVDC Engineers, on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. 28 The Java FEPOW Club published their latest newsletter today. It included a good article on George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada, who passed away the other day. 27 I saw a photo of the Canadian grave of Roland Lapalme, Royal Rifles of Canada (illustrated) which Colin Standish had posted on facebook. I’m always interested in the final resting places of Hong Kong’s veterans so asked him about it. He said: “Brookbury cemetery is a very beautiful place - fork in a back road that was once a thriving community. Steps away from a beautiful lake and barn. Many Royal Rifles came from the area, my own Grandfather having signed up in Bury. It’s known for having the highest per capita volunteer ratio in Canada in WW2. Interesting story: I went to their recent military display in March. A man next to me said, ‘Are you a Standish?’ I said yes. He was the son of Arnold Pryce, who was found by my Grandfather bayoneted in a hut on the march from Stanley to Sham Shui Po. He drank rum hidden by my Grandfather there and survived the war, the rum somehow keeping him with sustenance, pain relief and antiseptic properties to keep him alive! It's one of those legendary stories from the battle.” 26 I was pleased to hear today from Dene Lynneberg, the son of Ross Lynneberg, a New Zealand survivor of the Lisbon Maru who helped me with my researches. Apparently Dene’s younger son (thus Ross’s grandson) now works in Hong Kong. 25Justin Ho, looking at some old data on my website, pointed out that the relevant POW Index Card says that Shamshuipo POW #1224 (Private Smith of the Royal Scots) has the Christian name Costey. Although this Index Card (and one other document in Kew) indeed claims it is ‘Costey’, it is in fact pretty much unknown as a Christian name. He is also in other records as Costly and Costley. ‘Costly’ seems to appear most often, which although still odd for a Christian name, might have been intended as a parent’s joke… Also interesting is that fact that someone has added a note (by hand) to his index card which seems to say ‘Costly the Cracker’. I wonder if that was his trade? Certainly a couple of the Middlesex lads had been professional safe breakers before joining the forces to (presumably) escape the law. 20 I heard today that Goods of Desire are selling a Second World War ‘Defend Hong Kong’ T-shirt. Their shop in Central was closed during Covid, though, and it doesn’t seem to be available on line yet. 20 The celebration of the life of George MacDonnel took place today, and was streamed here. 15 Henry Villiers Dixon’s (Royal Corps of Signals) great nephew got in touch. Unfortunately his was one of the deaths I never really sorted out, but everything indicates he died of gun shot wounds in Stanley on or shortly before December 25. 14 I had to fly to Manchester today because of a family emergency. Once urgent items were taken care of, I had a day or two in which I could spare a few hours to look around. While not directly related to Hong Kong’s wartime experience, I was very impressed by the way they integrate historical content with the city centre, in particular the memorial (outside Manchester Piccadilly Station) to those who lost their sight in the Great War, and the simple and understated bronze of Alan Turing. Of course we in Hong Kong have our repurposed Great War Tommy statue from Eucliffe, which now represents CSM Osborn VC, and the new sculptures outside the Museum of Coastal Defence, but we could still do more. 11 I hear that the Premiere of the new documentary film ‘The Sinking of The Lisbon Maru’ will be in London on 15 August. I’m not yet sure if I will be able to attend as I’ve been in the UK in June already and will be over there again in July. 9 Following a report by Martin Heyes that there were issues with the improvements to the Wong Nai Chung Gap Historical Trail, I finally took a look this morning. Although I had to miss inspecting the last two signboards because of a sudden heavy rain storm, I was able to view the remainder. The good news is that the new signboards are in place, and in general are an improvement on the old; the supports have been faced with rough local stone, much more fitting with the environment. The bad news is that Martin was absolutely correct. There are a number of cases of direction indicators being incorrectly placed (being 180 degrees out of alignment in three cases, and slightly less wrong in a few others). This has now been reported to the relevant authorities, who I believe are taking action. I’ll take another look in July. 7 LegCo had a discussion about war time relics today. 7 The HKVCA published their summer newsletter today, as did the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society. 5 Continuing the focus on remaining pre-war buildings in Hong Kong, I was interested to see that the Haw Par Mansion (Tiger Balm) is being reopened to the public. 4 Today I joined a very enjoyable guided walk of the Jewish Cemetery in Happy Valley, under the knowledgeable leadership of Howard Elias. While the cemetery is home to many members of famous families such as Kadoorie, Belilios, Sassoon, and Odell, I was more interested in the second world war graves. For example, Georgorie Prish who died 23 May 1945 and was father of Sapper Reuben Prish of the wartime HKVDC Engineer Corps. I also saw the grave of Joseph Edgar Joseph who I am pretty sure was the father of Harry Joseph of 41a Conduit Road, who of course lost his life during the fighting as described last month. 2I doubt it is coincidence that following my mention of 41a Conduit Road last month, the facebook page Hong Kong Reminiscence had an exceptionally interesting post about the property.
June 1st, 2023 Update
Kai Tak Station Flight (courtesy Justin Ho), Dewar's DSO (author's collection), Kaufmann card (via eBay)
Splinter Proof Shelter, Douglas Castle (both author), James Murphy and family (courtesy Philip Cracknel)
King letter (via eBay), SCMP for 30 Aug 1945 (author's collection), Holden's death (RASC History)
May News With so much going on in the world, there are perhaps higher priorities than saving our Second World War heritage. However, the wholesale looting of wartime wrecks (which are almost always war graves too) in the Pacific and South China Seas leaves a bad taste. That pre-atomic bomb steel isn’t even that valuable anymore, as atomic bomb tests ended long enough ago that most radiation is already out of the system. In Europe, before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, vast quantities of material was being looted from Eastern Front battlefields and sold on eBay (though to be fair, other groups did a good service in retrieving, identifying, and formally burying thousands of sets of human remains). Hong Kong, too, has seen the battlefields scoured in recent years, but generally the finders seem to either keep the (safe) artifacts they find, or present them to schools and museums – and in a few cases even track down the families of the owners, and return them. 31 Today I visited PolyU’s geophysics department for a briefing on their various geophysical surveys of Hong Kong. Interesting stuff, especially LIDAR images of trenches and so forth with the vegetation stripped away. I expect I’ll have more to report on this later. 30 A Chinese-registered vessel has been detained by Malaysian authorities after possible illegal salvage of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. I’m not sure why they use the odd term “cannon shell”, but the photo could be a 6-inch shell (these were not QF). 28 Elizabeth Ride has a document from 19 November 1945, showing a large number of men – including Captains Rudy Choy and Chan Ying Hung – being transferred from S Section BAAG to “DSB”. The question is: What is or was DSB? I can’t find anything. 26 Talking of pre-war Pok Fu Lam properties, I see that the one hundred year old Villa Ellenbud has just been sold. This was at one stage the accommodation for nurses at QMH. 25 I heard today that there will be a Celebration of Life for George MacDonell in June at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church, 1 Greenland Rd, ON M3C 1N1. I won’t put all details here, but if anyone wants to attend and has not received an invitation, let me know and I will put you in touch with the organiser. 24 Wes Injerd asks: “Would you happen to have any info on Lewis Bush? I noticed his name on the roster for the ‘secret’ Bunka Camp (Radio Tokyo) and wondered what he did there.” It’s a good question. Of course I know Bush well, as he was involved in the surrender of “Crown Wine Cellars” (or the Little Hong Kong bunkers), and was captain of MTB08. But in his book “The Road To Inamura” he only mentions Bunka twice, and in both cases the context is fellow officer POWs (British and American) being sent there. If I can find my copy of his other book “Clutch of Circumstance”, perhaps I can learn more. The context is that Wes has just published a page about Bunka on the Mansell website (which he maintains). 22 For the first time in a few years, I heard from Yoshiko Tamura of the Japanese POW Network. She has a list of five men with Chinese names, interred at Yokohama, and wanted more details on ethnic Chinese in British service. The names are: Bong Sye Chong (Netherlands, East Indies), Kwek Tuck See (Malaya), Ng Hong Seah (?), Tan Geok Hye (Malaya), and Tan Teik Wah (Penang). It’s clear that they were captured in Malaya so I was unable to help. While playing with the CWGC website so that I could explain to her that the CWGC distinguishes by nationality of force, rather than ethnicity, I happened to notice for the first time that five US servicemen are buried in Sai Wan: Cigoi, Lay, Miller, Sturges, and Uphoff. Fortunately I was able to find this description of the loss of Cigoi, which explains (at the end. It is quite long) how he went from being captured in the Philippines, to dying in Taiwan, to being interred in Sai Wan. Clearly the headstones in these cases do not actually mark the individual remains. 22 I received a link to this “Canadians in Hong Kong” document today. I can’t work out how to navigate to it through their menus, which may explain why I didn’t find it earlier!
19 I learned this morning that the revitalized CLP Clock Tower in Argyle Street (a grade one historic building) reopens to the public today with three museum exhibition galleries. The Kadoorie family has always been keen on heritage, but this is the first I have heard of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage Office”! 17 I was sent a link to a ten-minute video of Hong Kong in 1938. The soundtrack seems very familiar, but not the footage. I think that I may have seen a black and white version, but this one has been colourised - which of course brings it to life in a new way. It is fascinating to see locations like the Cenotaph and the Chinese Memorial Gate in the Botanical Gardens, before they received their Second World War Damage. 16 Martin Heyes confirms that the “enhancement” of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail is being actively worked on. I shall have to wander over and take a look. 11 Two people were kind enough to let me know that papers relating to Private King of the Middlesex were for sale on eBay. King was one of those lost in air crashes when the Americans kindly tried to evacuate them from Japan. It was a terrible business. It took the Americans a long time to work out exactly what had happened (as one of the three planes lost that day wasn’t reported overdue for 48 hours). Even now I think it’s possible that a fourth aircraft carrying POWs may have gone down on the same day. While King’s poor father (Captain P. King - his letters are naturally painful to read) desperately tried to find out what had happened to his son, the MACR so easily available to us today clearly shows King as a passenger on a crashed aircraft, and his fellow POW Robert Wright confirmed this in his autobiography. I have never been in touch with the family, so was surprised to learn that the Kings had been unique in - for a while - having a father and all three sons serving in the army during the war. 11 The HKVCA note that later this month they will release a new design for their website. 11 I was invited to talk at a dinner at Crown Wine Cellars this evening. It’s always a great location for a talk, and I covered the local PBs (especially 14 and 15), and the happenings at the Little Hong Kong Ordnance Store itself – especially Major Dewar, who really wanted to blow up the whole place to prevent its capture! (This is the sane Dewar who is also mentioned in the RASC history page about Holden, and his DSO citation is worth a read. Incidentally, so is Philip Cracknell’s account of PB14 and those lost there, such as family man James Murphy.)
10 I joined an interesting walk around Pokfulam this morning. While it became a real hike later, it started as an exploration of some of the older properties around Queen Mary Hospital: Jessville, Douglas Castle (now renamed and used by HKU, I believe), Old Alberose (see February 2023), and Béthanie. We also passed quite a few splinter-proof shelters as we headed towards Aberdeen. 10 Talking to Ian Gill today I discovered that he has finished researching the fascinating story of his mother and has already found a publisher. “Searching for Billie” will be available in August. He also reminded me that his father, George Giffen, had written the whole 30 August 1945 issue of the South China Morning Post single-handedly! (This was of course the first edition since 26 December 1941). 10 Kaufmann’s family say: “I noticed one letter from my Nan whom I was very close to (C.E. Kaufmann). Regarding the name Koeppen: a lady of that name gave my Grandad a bible which is now my own!!!” 9 Justin Ho notes that: “Not sure if you have seen these, but some correspondence of Fred Kaufmann’s are auctioned on ebay. Interestingly, the dealer mentioned your work on the HKDDC.”
8Justin Ho notes that an: “RAF Gau Lung magazine (illustrated) is up for auction on ebay. Fortunately, most of the image resolutions were good enough for two selected articles to be extracted, studied and referenced. In addition, a rare photo was seen featuring a Vildebeeste and RAF personnel, taken in 1939.” The legend to that photo says: “K2940 Vildebeeste – Early 1939 Back: ?, Davis, Corporal David C. Highlands, Corporal John David James, Corporal George H. Stewart, Corporal Derrick L. Dickenson, Corporal Hubert Charles Henley, Sergeant Cecil Chapman, ACI Gillespie, ?, ?, LAC Albert Edward Hughes, ?, ?, LAC George Wilson Brass Front: Sgt Observer J. Ogden, F.S. Aikman, Plt Off ?, Flt Lt Wright, Plt. Off Difford, Sgt Pilot Forbes, Sgt Pilot Howe” This was the Station Flight at Kai Tak in 1939. The photograph was: “found in the wallet of a former member of this Flight who died in Japanese captivity”. The deceased man was Brass, who died 1 March 1944 at Osaka No. 3 (Oeyama) of cardiac beri beri. For the remaining men: James died 14 February 1942 of gunshot wound suppuration. Dickenson was killed during the Battle of Hong Kong on 19 December 1941, and Chapman on 20 December, and they have no known graves. Hughes was wounded (he was ex-HKVDC). The others on the list weren’t in HK on 8 December 1941, and had almost certainly been posted back to Europe for operations. As pre-war regulars their chances of surviving the following years of war would not have been high. As the names are incomplete, it is hard to match them with RAF records: for example two Sergeant J. Ogdens were lost in Europe and North Africa. We can be more certain, however, of the fate of Flying Officer Ivor Benison Difford, who was killed in a 607 squadron Hurricane in a collision during the Battle of Britain. 7 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced the final confirmed list of speakers for their June conference.
5 I heard from Harold Holden’s family again. Holden was killed as a civilian master. Initially he was working for the RASC in command of French, but apparently (and according to the RASC history) he was lost somewhere on Hong Kong Island fighting as infantry. With his Death Certificate and a mention in the RASC’s Official History I was able to get him added to CWGC files about six years ago, but still don’t know exactly how, where, and when he was lost. I wish I knew more.
May 1st, 2023 Update
George MacDonell (lower right) at St Stephen's college (author), Evacuation at Hue (John Olson), Francis Hardy (courtesy Debbie Tighe)
Wong Nai Chung Gap, Harry Joseph and pals, Little's POW Index Card (all author's collection)
Sir Cecil's Ride (author), Madar's grave (courtesy Kitty Lam), Fenwick Street damage (courtesy 'George Best')
April News Much of this blog for the past twenty years has been about the tangible impact of the Second World War on modern Hong Kong. From there, this Easter and for the first time, my wife and I decided to visit Saigon. I was 16 when Saigon fell and that awful war finally came to an end, and to an adolescent in ‘quiet’ Norfolk in the UK – who had been aware of the conflict his entire life – it had all seemed so terrible and exotic. Indescribable footage on the 6 o’clock news, double-page colour spreads in the Sunday supplements, napalm explosions, fleets of helicopters, jungles that could have been from another planet; the sheer glamour (to use Tim Page’s unfortunate but accurate word) was overwhelming. And then only ten years later I was spending time in northern Thailand, and there were so many people in uniforms with weapons (fantasists, some of them, I now suppose), and Hueys and Broncos flying around, and even – if one went up to Three Pagodas – sometimes gunfire and mortars while refugees straggled over from Burma. It seemed that the war had never ended. For some reason I had thought that Saigon would still have the echoes of all of this, but not a bit of it. Not at all. Saigon is essentially Taipei (or Reading…) with banh mi. Yes, there are museums with all the hardware of the time displayed, but it seems no more relevant there than if it had been in Rome or Exeter. We stayed at the Continental, the unchanged hotel that features so prominently in Michael Herr’s Dispatches, but the war has gone. Completely. And that’s probably very healthy and correct. It just isn’t quite what I had expected. (John Olson’s famous Hue photo was to have been the lead image this month, but was usurped by the passing of George MacDonell). 30 The story about pre-war buildings and their occupants (see last month) stirred some interest, so I dug out a photo of Harry Joseph (third from left) and his HKVDC ASC colleagues. Harry lived at 43a Conduit Road and although he lost his life in the Ridge area massacre, the building still stands. His last letter home to his family – less than two months before his death - read: “43a Conduit Road Hong Kong November 3rd 1941 My dearest mother, Received your letter in which you say that you are expecting to arrive here about the end of January. I am glad dear that you have finally managed to get passage and I hope that you will use your discretion when the time comes as politically the news seems to change from day to day – anyway I personally don’t think that it is as bad as it looks – I don’t think that the Japs have the nerve to make any moves just at present – believe me they will have plenty to contend with once they start anything. There doesn’t seem to be any particular news from this town, except that on Sunday night I listened to the broadcast of the Hong Kong wives to their husbands in Hong Kong – if these women don’t hurry back they’ll find that all these boys here have Chinese ‘sweeties’, and you should see the way they are dressing now. I mean the women as there are no young foreign females here. Pat and I are keeping very fit, and go to practically most of the shows. I haven’t seen Grace for some time, I suppose she must be keeping pretty fit and still looking after orphans. Ritchie’s arm is better now and out of the sling – she wishes to be remembered to you. I am placing a trial order with Ellis for oranges and jam for some dealers here. If it is good then their next orders will be large ones. I am also writing to Naomi today as I am sure she would like to know how we all are getting on. Reading newspapers with startling headlines doesn’t help one to feel any too good. How is Fran and Walter getting on. It’s a long time since we’ve had any decent pictures of you all – how about it. We are getting some snaps taken and shall forward them when ready. Well dearest this is all I have to say for the time being. Lots of love kisses and hugs to you all from us both, Very lovingly your Harry” 28 Walking along Sir Cecil’s Ride early this morning I was amazed how much damage the wild boar have caused. I was surprised that they didn’t seem to have dug up anything interesting, bearing in mind that path’s history! 26 Kitty Lam posted a fascinating photo on facebook, of the grave of Lavinia Madar, killed during an American air raid on Kowloon. I suspect such graves are reasonably common, but no one has compiled a list. Paul Astroshenko, for example, once told me that most of the Komaroffs family were killed by an American bomb on Nathan Road in the first American air raid in Hong Kong, but the total deaths were in the thousands. It would be good to identify and catalogue those graves, where they are still known. The Madars were an Indian family. I have five members listed in my wartime files, including Thomas Madar, of 3 Coy HKVDC. 25 I was discussing Captain Alex Warrack, RAMC, with his son, who mentioned the “My Bed Space” painting, which was painted by Godfrey Bird in the Argyle Street POW camp in Hong Kong as a birthday present for his father (illustrated). This was lent to Meg Parkes for the Secret Art of Survival ‘Creativity and ingenuity of British Far East prisoners of war 1942-1945’ exhibition in Liverpool which ran from October 2019 to June 2020, 24 Unfortunately I received notice too late to include this in last month’s blog, but today Dr Brad St Croix presented “Canadians at Hong Kong: Myths and Memories” to the HKVCA. The blurb read: “This presentation will examine how the Battle of Hong Kong’s negative legacy developed in Canada, the topic of Brad St Croix's PhD dissertation. Many individuals, including historians, journalists, and authors have contributed to the negative legacy’s creation and propagation, starting from the Second World War and continuing today. This discussion is separated into two halves. The first part will focus on the history of the battle by exploring several myths that plagued our understanding of the Canadians at Hong Kong. Myths surrounding why the Canadian troops were sent to Hong Kong, the relationship between the British and Canadian armies from 1914 to 1941, the defence planning of Hong Kong from 1841 to 1941, the selection of the units of “C” Force, and their training will be explored. The second part of the presentation will focus on the memory of the battle. The 1942 Hong Kong Inquiry and the 1992 television miniseries The Valour and the Horror will be discussed as the factors relating to the battle’s legacy since the Second World War.” I believe it will be posted here later. 23 Not for the first time, I found a photo in my own archives that I didn’t know I had. It is one of a well known set of 1946, and shows Wong Nai Chung Gap from the north looking south. It’s worth reproducing here as it shows so many important wartime features. 22 I heard today that Veronica Needa had passed away. She was Victor Needa’s daughter. As many will know, Victor was a Shanghai-based jockey who happened to get caught up in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded. Half Japanese himself, he was extraordinarily useful during the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel. By coincidence, post-war the family lived in the building where I am writing this, and in fact we used to rent the flat they had lived in. I was in contact with Veronica from time to time, and she visited us once or twice. 22 As the Lisbon Maru was the only ‘hell ship’ from Hong Kong sunk during the war, I naturally focus on it. But the discovery of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru this week highlights that – taking the Pacific War as a whole – it was just one of many. 19 By coincidence, today I was sent this link to an excellent Gwulo article, combining many valuable documents about Hong Kong’s fixed defences. Interesting that the first few were all from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, which pretty much justifies my point below! 18 The evening I joined the first face-to-face AGM of the Royal Asiatic Society for several years, and walked away very enthusiastic. The society’s Journal – of which I am editor – is a great resource of local history (including, but going way beyond, the Second World War). Unfortunately it us underutilized because, although articles can be found on JSTOR, there is no single searchable index. So I resolved to complete one!
17 Lorence Irvine followed up with details of the members of his family who were in the Royal Rifles. I’ll see what I can add from my files. 15 I heard today that George MacDonell had passed away, and in fact was touched to receive a personal message from Sue Beard with the details. George was a true gentleman who I first met on the big Canadian visit to Hong Kong of December 2005, which coincided with the opening of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. It wasn’t just George on that trip, but also Flash Clayton, Phil Doddridge, Gerry Gerard, Douglas Rees, and Ed Shayler (the latter making himself very popular with my kids by bringing them some maple syrup!) On their first day I met the group at the Conrad hotel and boarded the tour bus. First we went to Queen’s Pier from which I told the story of why the battle happened, and the battle itself up to the point where the island was invaded. Then to Wong Nai Chung Gap to talk about the fighting on the island itself. That trip ended at St Stephen’s, where, in the bus, I told the visitors the story of the massacre there – fully aware that Flash’s eyes (he was a survivor of that event) were on me the whole time. Then we walked in, and Flash told us – and the assembled students – his experiences there on Christmas day 1941 (as in the photo. George is quietly seated lower right, kindly signing a copy of his book for someone. Typical of him to give someone else the limelight!) Two days later we all met again at the annual Canadian ceremony at Sai Wan, and the following day we all went to the dedications for the Lawson and Osborn plaques. On December 6 we joined them for a farewell dinner at the Repulse Bay Hotel, sitting with George. Over the years I had introduced my wife to a number of veterans, but this was the first time I had seen her so impressed by one of them! He had more than a little of film-star James Stewart’s charm. The following morning, before they flew out, I accompanied them on a walk of the Wong Nai Chong Gap trail. A little behind schedule, we also ended up at St Stephen’s again and viewed their collection of wartime bits and pieces. I kept in touch, from time to time, ever since. This leaves only one remaining member of Canada’s ‘C’ Force: Hormidas Fredette who was 106 years old last week. 13 Justin Ho was kind enough to let me know that CQMS John Little’s (Middiesex) medals are for sale. Typical of such a senior man, he was married and his family (wife Lilian, and children Kathleen – born 9.4.29, Kane – born 29.11.31, and Daphne – born 6.9.34), had been evacuated from Hong Kong in July 1940, going to Sydney on the Awatea. 12 Justin Ho asked me to today about a British RAMC officer, recorded in some contemporary diary entries as ’Worral ‘. This was clearly Captain Alex John Warrack, RAMC, RMO of the Royal Scots. When I looked into it, I recalled that Warrack (and his family) were actually extremely interesting, and a good target for me to include in the Spatial History ‘Faces of War’. As an aside, Warrack’s cousin was the senior British Medical Officer with the First Airborne at Arnhem. 9 While in Saigon I came across Olson’s famous photo of wounded Marines being evacuated from The Citadel at Hue, and then found this educational story which perfectly illustrates the difference between serious and superficial research into conflict history. Well worth a read. 5 Debbie Tighe posted several photos of her uncle Francis Gordon Hardy (HMS Tern, Lisbon Maru) on the FEPOW Family facebook page. 4 Tan, in reference to last month’s comments about wartime heritage, made a good point: “I read you mentioned about development of war site for tourists’ attraction. PB315 and the old police station building at Kowloon Reservoir is very good site to change to visitor centre. Its location is good and easy to access. The building there can convert to small museum easily. There is good starting point to Shing Mun and Lion Rock area with more war site. Attached my paper about PB315 for your reference.” (The paper was in SEB Vol 23). PB315 is the only Gin Drinkers Line pillbox still intact today, thus is worthy of serious consideration. 3 I heard today from Lorence Irvine, who notes that 29 of his family were with the Royal Rifles of Canada in Hong Kong, I look forward to more details with great interest! 3 I received the April Java Journal today. I have nothing but respect for this organisation, but in an article about the Lisbon Maru they unfortunately repeated the falsehood (not their fault – it’s repeated on several websites) that the ship was carrying Canadian POWs. It was not. The first two drafts from Hong Kong (the Lisbon Maru being the second) took only British POWs to the Japanese mainland. It was only from the third draft onwards that Canadian were included. As a respectable organisation, they will print a correction in the next edition. 2 Unfortunately I heard just too late to advertise in March, that the HKVCA’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 25 at 2pm (Eastern Time). 1 “George Best” posted a very interesting photo to the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. It shows Fenwick Street in Wanchai, probably at the end of the war as the visible damage looks as if it’s from air raids.
April 1st, 2023 Update
NtSC cover art (author), Battle damage (courtesy The Battle of Hong Kong: A Spatial History Project), Hong Kong Minefields (courtesy Gwulo)
Pennefather-Evans (via Henry Wong), Ken Salmon and Tony Banham, Andy Salmon animation at HKMCD (both author)
9.2 inch guns (via Historical Walk HK), Robinson Road Index Card (anonymous), 15 Robinson Road (author)
March News At the start of the Covid crisis, I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and (as co-designer of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Heritage Trail all those years ago), started writing a strategy for Hong Kong to add – as the situation reverted to normal in the future, and tourists returned – its Second World War experience to the offerings to our visitors. The Hong Kong Second World War Experience which I wrote was party inspired by visits to Malta and Singapore who have taken this opportunity seriously for years. Now I see that the government are planning: “providing incentives for the industry to develop and launch tourism products with cultural and heritage elements.” (I think I saw an article somewhere in the press that explicitly mentioned the Second World War, but can’t find it now). I was also interested to find that one of the few academic articles on the topic actually refers to hongkongwardiary! But a couple of experiences this month made me think that we really haven’t yet properly addressed the opportunities presented by our museums and wartime heritage. 29 Today the Stanley Camp facebook page carried this post: “I have some sad news to share. Yvette Harley nee Whitefield who was born in Stanley camp passed away last week. She was a great friend of my parents. My mum knew her from when she returned back to HK from evacuation as their parents were friends.” As far as I can see from the family's Stanley records, though, she was not in fact born in camp: Whitefield, Florence Edith Irene British 12.08.07 F Housewife Stanley A1/4 husband John P Whitefield Whitefield, John McArthur British 08.05.32 M Student Stanley A1/4 Father John P Whitefield Whitefield, John Paterson British 14.05.02 M Inspector of Lighthouses Stanley A1/4 wife-Florence EI Whitefield Whitefield, Yvette Irene Miss British 17.07.33 F Student Stanley A1/4 Father John P Whitefield 29 Philip Cracknell has a new blog post. He notes: “I received an email from the Manager of a museum in Kent. A group of medals in a faded brown envelope had been found in the attic of a house in Minster on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. They belonged to Robert Grindley, a prison officer who served in the Stanley Platoon and fought at the Battle for Stanley. He and his wife, Marjory, were interned at Stanley Camp. This is their story.” 28 Today I met the great niece of James Alfred Maynard, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, and her husband. I have known her by email for more than twenty years, and she was making her first trip to Hong Kong to see the places her great uncle would have known (he was posted to Hong Kong in 1937, and perished on the Lisbon Maru). 22 I had a request today: “I recently posted a photo of my paternal grandmother with two of her daughters-in-law and granddaughter dated July 1943 in Macau. I was informed by a friend about the ex-POWs from Shamshuipo camp, mainly the Portuguese Volunteers, who visited Macau on a Royal Navy ship in February 1945 to visit their loved ones who sought refuge in Macau. He also informed me about a hockey match between the Volunteers and the Macau team, and said it was likely my two uncles, Bobby and Reggie Reed, were on that ship. I had no knowledge of this and wondered if they were part of that contingent and got to reunite with family members. Stuart Braga posted a response to my query about that visit and included the newspaper article naming the Volunteers who participated in the match. In that account, reference was made that the team was without the services of Reggie and Bobby Reed. I am attaching below the link to my post and Stuart Braga's comments for your reference. I am hoping you might be aware of the actual list of all the Volunteers who were on that ship to Macau, and not just those who participated in the hockey game. It would be great to know that both Bobby and Reggie were included on that visit.” The ship was the frigate HMS Parret, but unfortunately I don’t know of a passenger manifest for that trip. 22 On facebook’s Battle of Hong Kong page, Henry Wong posted a good photo of Pennefather-Evans, who arrived from Malaysia as Hong Kong’s new Commissioner of Police in May 1941, and became Singapore’s Commissioner of Police post-war. 19Bob Tatz reminded me that the book Through Japanese Barbed Wire by Gwen Priestwood stated that she arrived in Chungking (Chongqing) with a full list of British internees. Is that original list still in the archives somewhere? 19 Yet another live Japanese grenade turned up in the hills today. 18 Gwulo today carried an interesting and authoritative essay on the wartime marine mine fields around HK. 16The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: a Spatial History Project posted a very interesting photo of battle damage today. I wish I’d known about this when I visited the Museum of Coastal Defence earlier, as it is very close. The text reads: “On the way to the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence one could find Tam Kung Temple that was built in 1905 and revamped in the early 2000s. At the Temple’s front gate were some bullet marks from the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. On the evening of 18 December 1941, the 2nd Battalion of the 229th Infantry Regiment, 38th Division, landed in the vicinity of Ah Kung Ngam held by the Rajputs. At that time, the Temple was at the seaside, and the bullet marks suggest that it was fired at from a northerly direction. The pattern of the marks also suggests the involvement of automatic weapons.” This building was of course on the corner of Aldrich Bay, overlooking the Japanese landing areas. 16 I had an interesting discussion today with Brian Finch about CSM Robert Chaplin, Middlesex Regiment. He is listed in several contemporary documents as having the rank QMS, yet in the infantry there was generally no such rank – just RQMS and CQMS. And on Chaplin’s POW Index Card and so forth, he carries the more common rank of CSM. Brian’s best guess was that: “Chaplin’s appointment was as Quartermaster Sergeant (Orderly Room Sergeant), perhaps carrying the rank of Colour Sergeant, or maybe WO2, the same as a CSM’s rank.” Alternatively he thought: “RQMS is usually the most senior WO2, and can sometimes be a WO1, often the next RSM in waiting. Perhaps Chaplin was the next most senior WO2 in line for becoming RQMS and was therefore designated QMS as a kind of temporary holding appointment. In any case his actual rank would have been WO2 and equivalent to CSM, but as he was (presumably) in the orderly room and not in a company he could not be called a CSM. But on forms such as [the POW list], CSM would be a convenient shorthand and would avoid confusion, for example for the captors.” 16 Historical Walk HK posted a very interesting (and as far as I am concerned, unique) photo of two 9.2 inch guns being taken to their emplacement at what looks like Mount Davis? 15 I received two copies of interesting POW Index Cards today. One was marked “Kowloon Defence Position, Lance Corporal Robert Bankier, Royal Scots 8 Platoon, A Coy”, and was clearly of an NCO captured at the fall of the Shing Mun Redoubt. The other was for CQMS Manuel Alberto Baptista, 5 Coy HKVDC, whose card showed his wife Marie Theresa Vas Baptista then living at 17 Robinson Road. That’s a stone’s throw from where I live, and for a moment I thought I recalled that the original building was still standing. This would have been quite unusual, as there are very few occasions where I have found a direct link between wartime people and residential buildings that still exist – the ‘best’ to date being the story of poor Harry Joseph who lived at 43a Conduit Road. However, when I went to check I found that the building I was thinking of is 15 Robinson Road rather than 17. Still, it is certainly pre-war (mid nineteen thirties, by the look of it), so I took a photo anyway. I wonder what it was used for during the war, and if it has any links with HKVDC personnel? 14 Believe it or not, today is the twentieth anniversary of the launch (at the FCC) of Not The Slightest Chance. 14 I heard today that Laurel Films just received the Public Screening Certificate from the Chinese Film Bureau, meaning that the film has now been approved by Beijing. There will be two more rounds of technical checking, but hopefully there will be no significant problems. They are still working on the sound, music and animation, hoping to finish everything by May. It looks like I may soon have another credit to add to my new IMDB listing! 13I heard today that the Harry Odell documentary is finished and will be screened twice at the upcoming Hong Kong International Film Festival next month. 10 I heard today that the management of Hong Kong's Country Park is designing a series of panels for the MacLehose Trail No. 5 Section about the war relics (pillboxes, direction slabs, marker stone, and blockhouse) which can still be seen there. 8 This afternoon I met Ken Salmon (son of Andy Salmon, RA, Lisbon Maru), who I have corresponded with for many years, and we visited the Museum of Coastal Defence. I hadn’t been there since attending the re-opening ceremony which followed the recent renovations. We were both quite impressed. While the collection and exhibits are not on a huge scale, they cover the subject pretty well. Most of the relevant personal weapons are on display, together with a range of original documents and other artefacts. Ken approved of the little ‘Daily life of garrison in Lyemun Barracks’ video display, which features his father throughout the narration. Perhaps most importantly, for a Wednesday the place seemed remarkably full and lively, with at least two school parties in attendance. 7 I went walking with a friend and neighbour today, up to Wan Chai Gap. I mentioned the pillbox nearby, along Lady Clementis’s Ride (LPB 12) and he was interested in taking a look. He was keen that we should talk to the Government and get the site restored and a signboard erected. My feeling is that it’s more atmospheric and emotive to just stumble across a ruin like that in the ‘jungle’ unexpectedly, but I saw his point. Even something as substantial as a pillbox won’t last forever if it’s not stabilized and protected. This one has already been damaged since I first came across it. 7 The HKVCA published their latest newsletter today. Amongst many other things it mentions JP Bear’s video tribute to the Canadian dog Gander. 6 Some time ago I had a call from France from a company that produces video stories for the cultural travel TV program ‘Invitation au Voyage’ (City Country Culture), broadcast on the TV channel ARTE in France and in Germany. Today we met for them to shoot a small segment about the Lisbon Maru. Initially the interviewed me in Hong Kong harbour, then the Lamma ferry, and finally on the beach at Lamma itself (which stood in for the small islands where the survivors from the ship originally gathered). The team (illustrated, all two of them!) were actually shooting quite a few segments covering different topics, and it was great to feel that Hong Kong is truly opening up again and regaining the international attention it has traditionally had. 5 The same friend quoted below has discovered that at least the first four HK Signals Coy POW Index Cards state that they were captured in Kowloon rather than Hong Kong Island. That seems unexpected, but interesting. 4 Justin Ho kindly pointed out that Private William Wylie’s (Royal Scots, Lisbon Maru) medals are for sale. I believe from the wording that they don’t bear his name, but are attributed to him. 3 Ken Skelton, referring to last month’s mention of Nurse Gubbay, noted: “UK Medical Series History of WW 2 - "The Royal Naval Medical Service - Vol. 2 - Operations pp. 258 - 282-covers The Royal Naval Hospital Hong Kong - it includes a report of the Hospital PMO and a report of the Hospital Matron describing the experience of Bowen Road through a daily diary account from start of action to Surrender, then goes on to briefly describe the experience till wars end.” He notes that Naval Military Press are his go-to source for UK related official histories, and adds: “the Army Campaigns history include all the breakdown for casualties treated at Bowen Rd. by type of wound/ disease etc (my father was moved to Bowen Rd after surviving St Stephen’s atrocities Dec. 25).” 2 I had a question today which rang some bells, but I can’t find an authoritative source. My correspondent noticed that several HKVDC communications written in Shamshuipo implied that the writers were in Companies A through F. I vaguely recall Arthur Gomes saying something about a reorganistion like that, for administrative / messing purposes, in camp but can’t locate the details aside from a quote in Sykes’ POW memoirs: “The Volunteers are now divided into 7 Companies, A, B, C, D, E, F & G, we are C & today was spent trying to organise the company into working parties.” 1 A friend in the UK notes that Edward Lee’s (HKVDC 5657) POW Index Card shows that he escaped at some point – probably very early after the surrender. His HK POW Number is 10981, right next to that of Lewis Bush, HKRNVR, who of course entered camp a bit late as the Japanese forced him to act as an interpreter. Does anyone know Lee’s story? I asked Kwong Chi Man and he told me: “Lee is such an enterprising (and luck) man! He was not captured in Stanley until 2 Jan 1942 and escaped from SSP on 22 Jan. He then apparently worked in HK Breweries until being discovered (possibly by an informant as suggested by the wordings of the document ‘being reported’) in Feb 1943. The breweries was taken over from the Rutonjee family by the Japanese and continued to produce at least until 1944.”
March 1st, 2023 Update
Kine-Theodolite (courtesy Andrew Holland), Gloucester Gathering invitation, proto-POW Index Card (both anonymous)
Ride table maps (author), Stanley gathering (courtesy Philip Cracknel), D Coy PB Equipment (author's collection)
Old Mental Hospital, Old WNGC Trail signboards (both author), Canadian Chamber walk (courtesy Elsie Chan)
February News We received the welcome news today, the last day of February, that as from tomorrow masks will no longer need to be worn in Hong Kong, inside or out. Finally we are coming out of the most bizarre - roughly three year and eight month - period of Hong Kong’s history (from the troubles of 2019 to the end of Covid) since that dreadful time 78 years earlier. Of course it makes a poor comparison, but nevertheless an interesting one. We mainly couldn’t travel, tourists couldn’t (or didn’t) come, and life was without doubt different. In some ways it was even positive; I’ve never felt so much part of Hong Kong as I have these last few years, when everyone knew that everyone here was resident, when the city seemed less crowded and busy, and people seemed to have more time for each other and for the city itself and its history. 28 Embarrassingly often I am asked a question which I can’t answer, and then find that I have a perfectly relevant document in my files. I suppose that’s what comes of collecting information on this subject for so many years, and cross-referencing it all on my computer. One document that answered a researcher’s questions this month was the partial war diary of the HKVDC Armoured Car Unit, and when I found it I also found a particularly interesting – but forgotten – document listing the commanders of each B Coy Middlesex Pillbox, together with the amount of ammunition issued (and indirectly illustrating that the Webley and Thompson used different .45 rounds!) And I wonder why PB24 had ten times as many tracer rounds as any other pillbox? 23 The China Daily, Global Times, and other outlets all ran further Lisbon Maru stories based on the Chinese Embassy’s event. 21 Raymond Walter Hill’s (RA) family contacted me. They noted that he was: “born in Whisby, Lincolnshire in 1919… His parents were Josiah Benjamin (Ben) and Elsie Hill… Raymond was a gunner in the Royal Regiment of Artillery, service number 868722, Eighth Coast Regiment. There was a short newspaper article in the Stamford Mercury with the news that he was safe in Australia. Raymond’s parents lived in Ketton at the time and he was married to Susan Wright at St. George’s church, Stamford (Stamford Mercury 14 June 1946.)” Oddly enough, the person who sent the email had studied at Homerton with my sister fifty years ago! 19 Today the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James, Zheng Zeguang, hosted a gathering in Gloucester of more than 120 relatives of POWs who were on the Lisbon Maru. Last year he gave Dennis Morley’s daughter a letter from President Xi Jinping. With the help of Brian Finch and others, the Embassy organised this event so that they could personally meet some of the relatives. The Ambassador confirmed that a memorial was being planned to be built in Zhoushan. The event is nicely covered on the Chinese Embassy’s website, and by the BBC. 19 The Researching FEPOW History Group have started confirming the speakers for this year’s conference. They will include: John Tulloch, MBE, who served in the New Zealand Army from 1965 to 1973, including a Tour of Duty in Vietnam from July 1968 to July 1969. He served in the Royal Artillery from 1973 to 2003 in the UK, Northern Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, including the Falklands in 1982. He served in the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces from 1978-80. He spent 21 years as a visiting Jungle Warfare Instructor and advisor to the UK Jungle Warfare School in Brunei. His book ‘The Borneo Graveyard 1941-1945’ which took 12 years of research, was published in March 2020 and launched in the UK in 2021 at the CWGC VJ Day 2021 Service. He was honoured with the MBE in 2003 in recognition of his service to jungle warfare training. He gives talks on Vietnam and Borneo to the military, historical groups and schools. Dr Toby Norways, a Senior Lecturer in Scriptwriting at the University of Bedfordshire. He is an award-winning writer of script and prose. His films have screened in diverse locations around the world, including BAFTA Piccadilly, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hollywood, and Iraq. Toby was awarded a PhD in English Literature from Liverpool Hope University in 2021. The PhD involved writing a memoir of his late father, Bill Norways (1918-86), a Corporal in the 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment, who spent three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese. Bill was a trained artist and brought back over 200 paintings, sketches, and photos from his captivity in Singapore and Thailand. Dr Jon Cooper, a recent graduate from the Centre for War Studies and Conflict Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, having completed his thesis on the life and times of the Scottish soldiers in Singapore in 1942. Previously Jon spent seven years in Singapore as Project Coordinator for The Adam Park Project, which looked at the archaeology relating to the defence of the Adam Park Housing by the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshires and the subsequent occupation of the wrecked estate by 3,000 POWs in 1942. Jon curates an online virtual museum which holds all the Adam Park source material, which is linked to the book ‘Tigers in the Park’. He currently works as a freelance conflict archaeologist, battlefield tour guide and a tutor at the University of Glasgow in which the Singapore campaign is given the limelight. Jon also helps with the CoFEPOW Scottish section, introducing new Scottish members to the experience of the Scots in the Far East. His ambition is to get back out to Singapore to continue the surveys along the south coast battlefields. 17 Ronald Holland’s (8th Coast Regiment, RA) son got back in touch, noting: “I found this photo of him (dad is the very young looking one holding the phone, so it was possibly taken sometime after late 1939 - when he arrived in Hong Kong - to around 1940/41) alongside what I believe is a coastal range finder (?)” What makes this so interesting is that the device is not a range finder but a Kine-Theodolite which was used to film the burst of shells (normally AA, I believe) for correction purposes. I’ve never seen one in a Hong Kong context before, and managed to find this film of one in use. I promised I would post the photo here to see if anyone can identify the location. You would think those concrete platforms would be easy to identify, but they don’t ring any bells. Holland enlisted on 14 October 1937 and arrived in Hong Kong 1 September 1938. 15 Philip Cracknell has published a new blog: “Archibald Cook was captain of the HK-Canton steamer the SS Fatshan. His ship was seized in Canton when the war started. His wife and three youngest children were in Hong Kong at their home in Felix Villas. They were interned at Stanley Camp after the British capitulation. Their three oldest children were at boarding school in Chefoo, in Northern China. They all met up again in Portuguese East Africa. This is their story.” 12 A friend in the UK sent me a very unusual POW Index Card. It is for Nurse Sallie Gubbay, HKVDC. I had actually been sent a copy in 2007 by Ron Bridge, who noted: “I was privileged to have two or three long conversations with the late Irene Braude who was Commandant of the HKVDC VAD 12 -15 years ago, she also gave me a copy of the HKVDC at the outbreak of hostilities. She told me that Sallie Gubbay had been very badly injured during the raid on Bowen Road (16 December 1941 I recall) and had remained in hospital there until she died the following May. (Somewhere I have documentary evidence of this raid, Irene did not say whether it was injury or the complications from that injury or a secondary infection.)” The CWGC recorded her as Sarah Gubbay first, and then corrected it to Sallie, but in some cases record the surname as ‘Gubby’! But what makes this particularly interesting for me is that I hadn’t previously noticed her next of kin was her daughter ‘Mrs L Kadoorie’. The Kadoories were, and are, one of the richest families in Hong Kong, and this means that Sir Michael Kadoorie (who I know slightly - he owns the Peninsula Hotel group, China Light & Power, etc.) is Sallie Gubbay’s grandson! 11 The Researching FEPOW History Group has confirmed that their June conference is going ahead. Details can be found here. 11 Woke to see thick fog all over Hong Kong – not the best start for a walking tour with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce! By the time I arrived at Wong Nai Chung Gap (around 08.15) it was if anything worse and I was afraid no one would turn up, but by 09.00 we had around 20 people assembled and began a pleasant (though largely view-free) walk. But I was shocked to see ‘my’ Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail sign boards lying demolished on the ground! Fortunately a Cantonese-speaking friend was on hand to interrogate the workers there, and they said they were simply replacing them – which is fair enough as they are old and rusty. A fair amount of vegetation also seemed to have been cleared and the view of the old mess hall’s floor (site of the terrible mortar bomb incident of 20 December 1941) was more clearly visible than usual. Later I heard that a qualified individual had ensured that the replacement boards will have a few pre-existing errors corrected. More on that when they are in position. 11 At Great Yarmouth (only a few miles round the coast from my hometown) on Monday, workmen dredging a river picked up a German 250kg HE bomb. EOD didn’t like the look of it and decided it was unsafe to move it further. After some delays while nearby gas pipes were checked, and several thousand people were evacuated, they built a massive reinforced sand berm around the bomb to direct any blast upwards if anything went wrong. Then work began with a tracked robot cutting through the casing to separate the detonator from the bulk of explosive. Meanwhile, of course, many people complained of the inconvenience and delay as surely ‘an old thing like that would never go off’. But they stopped complaining when it suddenly blew up. Fortunately no one was hurt and the berm prevented serious damage, though I don’t think the robot has turned up yet! But the serious lesson, of course, is that plenty of Second World War ordnance is still perfectly viable and anything found should be treated with respect. 10 Reginald Hildred’s (RA, Lisbon Maru) family contacted me again (see September 2014). They have discovered that he married a Chinese lady called Shirley Yau on 6 December 1941 in Hong Kong (illustrated). Hildred was lost in the sinking, so the family knew nothing about this. This marriage isn’t in the list of immediately pre-invasion weddings between the garrison and local ladies that Kwong Chi Man maintains. I traced Shirley as being sent to the New Asia Hotel with other British civilians on their way to Stanley Internment Camp, but being Chinese by birth she would have been allowed to exempt herself. Hildred’s Casualty Card suggests that his wife escaped Hong Kong, went to Guilin, and was under the protection of the British Military Attaché there, but there the trail ends for the moment. Her name does not appear in BAAG files, which were my only real hope. 9 I quite often walk to and from Sai Ying Poon market, returning via High Street. Normally I walk on the south side of the road but today crossed over – and then realized that I’d never before noticed the old walls I’d been walking by! It turns out that this was Hong Kong’s Old Mental Hospital. The walls of the lower floors were preserved when it was knocked down and a modern building was created some 25 years ago. Pre-war it was apparently accommodation for nurses, so I’ll have to see if I can find what the building was used for in wartime. 7 A friend in the UK is engaged in a very serious study on the POW Index Cards. He’s attempting to learn how and when they were created, modified, updated, stored, found at liberation, and used by the Allies to reconcile POW lists and fates. He has found some very interesting proto-cards and so forth. 7 Ken Skelton kindly looked in his copy of Stephen Davies’s HMS Tamar book to find an answer to the question about shore-based accommodation raised last week. (I am embarrassed to say that I don’t yet have a copy. I missed it when it first came out, and can’t see it on Hong Kong bookshop shelves at the moment – and Amazon say they’re out of stock). Anyway, he noted: “p255/256 - almost from the outset Tamar had never been entirely able to provide sufficient accommodation for all personnel at peak demand... other ships like Wyvern were used as accommodation ships… early years of 20th century some evidence the naval base used some shoreside bldgs. within the dockyard - which unknown.” Which pretty much supports what I had guessed. 6 I heard from Fang Li’s team today that they are “reaching a Final Cut of the [Lisbon Maru] documentary and will send this version to the National Film Bureau for a second review.” That’s good news. Obviously the production was delayed by Covid, and I was concerned that the deterioration in geopolitical relationships in the last few years might have thrown a spanner in the works. I later heard that it may be premiered at Cannes. 5 My wife had a few friends round for lunch, and decorated our dining room table with our best place mats. These are antiques depicting Chinnery paintings, and were a kind present from Elizabeth Ride when we visited her in Norway in 2019. They had of course belonged to her father, Brigadier ‘Doc’ Ride of BAAG fame. Unfortunately the Mappin & Webb box they were stored in was too big for us to take, but when I emailed Elizabeth the photo of our table she explained why they were in that box. I thought the story might be of interest, so firstly an extract from Ride's speech to the HKU Congregation of May 1950: “I should like to refer to the story of the Mace; you have all noticed the vacant stand in front of this desk: the mace that should occupy that stand was cunningly hidden in the Library in 1942 by some of the Chinese members of the staff. There it remained in safety until February 1945 when robbers broke into the library in search of paper which was a scarce and valuable commodity in those days. The mace alas was stolen from its hiding place under a pile of old paper, and since then no trace of it has been found. In an attempt to trace the maker, Colonel L.G. Bird, the brother of the designer was written to, and he has spared no effort in helping us. After communicating with many well known silversmiths in England without result, he put a notice in ‘The Times’ and a few weeks ago he received a letter from Major Penn-Gaskell of the New Forest, enclosing a cutting from ‘The Graphic’ of the 16th of December, 1916. The cutting depicted our mace, stating it was made by Mappin & Webb and described it as ‘a unique example of the silversmith’s art’. With this information to hand, Colonel Bird went to the makers and they were able to produce photographs of the original. From these photographs an enlargement has been made by our Department of Physiology, and this enlargement will be on view this afternoon in the new Engineering School. When you see it, I think you will agree it was a most excellent example of the silversmith’s art, an example too rare to be lost; for $10,000 we can have an exact replica made and it is noteworthy that on the reverse side there is a space large just large enough to record the munificence of a donor. In the meantime I should like to express our grateful thanks to both Colonel Bird and Major Penn-Gaskell for their valuable help. The University is indeed fortunate in its friends.” Next from Ride’s speech of March 1951: “For the new mace we are indebted to the munificence of Mr. Leung Yew who immediately after the last Congregation came forward and offered to cover the cost of its manufacture. During tea this afternoon I hope you will all take the opportunity of examining the mace, and although it still lacks its jade ornaments, I am sure you will agree that it is an outstanding example of British craftsmanship; combining as it does, oriental history through the medium of occidental art, it is a fitting emblem to symbolize the supreme authority of a British University set beside a China sea. On the shaft of the mace you will see four panels; on one is embossed a scene of early Hong Kong, on another a picture of this building as it was last year; the third bears an inscription recording the munificence of Mr. Leung Yew and the forth remains empty and on it later it is hoped to depict the main building as it will be when completed. On the obverse of the head of the mace is the Colony Coat of Arms, and on the reverse that of the University, both beautifully embossed, a significant reminder that we are an integral part of the Colony.” I wish we’d kept that box now, it was the one HKU’s mace came in! 3 I received notice today of another Lisbon Maru article churned out online. Yet again it incorrectly repeats the idea that Canadian POWs were onboard, though aside from that and a few typos is reasonably accurate. 2 A whole team of local historians, young and old, gathered at Stanley Cemetery today and had a good chat. There was more to it than that, but the story will have to wait. 2 It’s odd how things tend to happen in clusters. Today I was sent this link to the pre-war Colonial property called Alberose (just south of Queen Mary Hospital), and then my older son in London sent me this link to another big pre-war property. Clearly – though perhaps not surprisingly - Hong Kong’s rich and famous like to live in mansions!
February 1st, 2023 Update
First and third, Japanese attack on King's Road (courtesy Tan), second, Indian patrol on Des Voeux Road (Author)
Wong Nai Chung school party (courtesy Tim Hoffman), Cigarette case (via Jeffrey Ho), Wanchai Market, then, not long ago, and now (Author)
Deb LegCo notice (via Government reports online), Brown's bag (courtesy Sheila Forsyth), Asahi Shinbun 18 Dec 41 (courtesy Rusty Tsoi)
January News Well, I didn’t get quite as many entries for the ‘then and now’ photo competition of Hong Kong wartime scenes as I’d hoped, but I’m pleased to announce that the winner (again) is Tan with his two images showing the Japanese attack along King’s Road at Fortress Hill taking first and second place. However, I have also given myself third place for my Des Voeux Road effort showing Japanese and Indian troops on patrol, not for quality (which is poor) but for the patience required to wait long enough for a modern tram to come almost perfectly into position! But I’m also leaving the competition open for another month, just in case anyone else wants a go. I have a couple of new ideas myself. 31 Today I received an invitation to join a very interesting expedition early next month. But more about that in the next update! 28 Another question: Prior to the Second World War did the Royal Navy have any barracks or billets on shore? As far as I know, all seamen were based on their ships, on the Tamar hulk, or (for shore leave) at the China Fleet Club. And yet it seems reasonable that senior officers, and perhaps naval staff at the Royal Naval Hospital or other shore-based units, might have had urban accommodation. While searching for an answer I came across this very interesting history of the China Fleet Club (other parts can be found from the links here). It’s possible that Stephen Davies’s book on HMS Tamar has some information, but unfortunately so far I haven’t seen it in Hong Kong shops. 25 A trip to Stanley by bus today showed that the old bullet-scarred wall by Wanchai Market has now been demolished. I wish I’d taken more photos of the original while I still could! I took a quick shot as we passed, and in the sort of ‘then and now’ photo montage that I produced, the wall in question is – in the pre-war original photo – the one just behind and to the left of the lorry with the black cab and white body. Also on the topic of Stanley, I was asked whether the CWGC graves there contained human remains in coffins or not. I know that burial services there during the war itself used a reusable coffin with a fake floor, but don’t know whether post-war interments used coffins or not. The last one I attended, in 2009, certainly did. 23 With help from others, I have been looking for records of a Mr M.R. Deb. He was an Indian gentleman, perhaps originally from Malaysia, who came to Hong Kong in about 1937 to work in an anti-mosquito/malaria team under Dr Robert Best Jackson. It seems that Jackson left Hong Kong before hostilities, but Deb didn’t and – apparently – was killed in the fighting at North Point when the Japanese invaded. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t appear in the CWGC records or any of my files. For anyone not familiar with the site, it’s possible to search for Hong Kong Government reports from 1842-1941 here. 20 Jeffrey Ho posted a photo of a silver cigarette case found on the battlefields (I am continuing with my policy of not revealing the exact locations of any battlefield finds). I was able to locate an exact match. 18 I have an Arthur Foster in the Stanley internment lists with profession given as “Health Inspector”. I also have an A. Foster in my nominal roll for the HKVDC Field Ambulance. I wonder if they could have been one and the same? 18 Continuing yesterday’s conversation, Eursal Kaine’s daughter noted: “My Dad, I think because he was with my uncle John Kaine (who was a paraplegic because of a mining accident) got flown out of Fukuoka (Sept 15/45) and saw Nagasaki from the air on his way to Okinawa on an American plane (he collected the flight crew’s autographs) and then another flight to Manila (Sept 19/45) and did as you said come home on the Hughes (left Manila on Sept 24, 1945.)” The autographs read: Fukuoka-Okinawa Sept 15, 1945 Sgt. Clifford V. Adair Box 607 Reading Michigan USA Douglas C-47 4337998 3rd emergency Rescue Sq. B flight. Sgt. Anthony Forte 3rd Emergency Rescue Sq A.P.O. 245 Rfc. Allan Pensinger Portland Oregon 2317 S. W. Vermont St. 519 military police Okinawa Lt. Ivan E. Crockett Jr. 800 S Fir Ave, Inglewood California Sgt. Arthur Bird 200 Campbell St. Valparaiso Indiana Lt. James W. Ashmore 717 SE 12th St, Paris, Texas Ist Lt. D. R. Brock 705 Carolyn Ave. Austin, Texas, navigator. The third emergency rescue squadron makes sense, but the aircraft serial number is unfortunately off. 43-37998 was a B-17 which never served in the Far East. However, I managed to find records of a C-47A-30-DK with serial 43-47998. I wonder if that might have been it? 17 Eursal Kaine’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) daughter got in touch again (see March 2022) noting: “I’ve another mystery for you to send out to the group to see if we can solve it, and another interesting piece of memorabilia too. My father came home to Canada with another soldier’s duffle bag. It belonged to Louis Brown B68230. According to the HKVCA individual report (and you), he was on the same transport to Japan as my father and uncle, and also ended up in Omine. There is no further record after that. Just wondering if we can figure out how Dad ended up with Louis’s bag. On the bag, it seems Louis had been a soldier before he went to Hong Kong (the painted left side shows places like Fort York Arm, Iceland, Aldershot England. That’s an interesting story too, I’m sure. Sending you photos of the two sides of the bag, and also one of the sheets from Dad’s autograph book.” In fact there seems to have been quite a bit of gift-giving between POWs as they made their way home, but interestingly Kaine went back to North America on the USS Admiral Hughes, while Brown was on the USS Howze. Looking at the bag, Fort York Arm is Fort York Armoury, Toronto which makes sense. The odd one out here is Aldershot. However, I looked into it and I see that a Canadian Brigade (consisting of The Royal Regiment of Canada, Les Fusiliers MontRoyal, and The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa) was sent to Iceland in June/July 1940, with the first two battalions being sent to Aldershot at the end of October that year to rejoin the main body of the 2nd Canadian Division there. So that implies that Louis Brown was originally in (probably) the Royal Regiment of Canada, then joined the Royal Rifles back in Canada before they were sent to HK. 16 Craig McCourry notes that his new film Battlebox is now streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK and USA, and Tubi. There’s also a new poster (illustrated). 16 The Editors of the Close Encounters in War Journal, who I have occasionally worked with, let me know that issue number five of their journal, "Science, Technology, and Close Encounters in War" is now online. 13 Walking through Wong Nai Chung Gap with a friend, we came across a group of secondary school students on a historical tour. It’s good to see people making use of the historical trail. 12 I heard today from a French film company planning a short documentary about the Lisbon Maru. 11 Gunner Arthur Cooling’s (RA) nephew got in touch. He notes that Cooling: “was the son of a WW1 regular soldier who saw service in the Boer War aged 18 and was commissioned Warrant Officer in the field in 1915. After leaving the Army in the 1950’s Arthur & family emigrated to Australia to take up a position as a prison warder. Apparently he had a reputation with the prisoners as being a hard man. Imagining his upbringing and life as a POW it’s not difficult to understand the attitude he may have had with the prisoners.” This makes sense as Cooling was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs to Japan. 10 The Java Fepow Club (now the largest and only remaining UK Nationwide FEPOW Club, with worldwide members too) issued their January Java Journal newsletter today. It contained a reprint of an article concerning the death of Yeung Ming-Hon (see last month). 8 Rusty Tsoi notes, of the Asahi Shinbun of 18 December 1941: “it said the Japanese interviewed a corporal captured with Jones… This 23-year-old ‘corporal’ came from Bradford of Yorkshire, and he told the Japanese that the British soldiers used to spend two months training in Kowloon every year; and he had participated this kind of training twice. He didn’t really say anything bad about his military life at all. However, I’m not quite sure who was he in reality…” I don’t know either, but no doubt he was one of the Royal Scots captured with Jones at or around the Shingmun Redoubt, and held at Fanling at the time of the alleged interview. 4 Justin Ho let me know about another interesting eBay item, a POW letter/card from William Murray Mayne, Winnipeg Grenadiers. I’m surprised how much money these items sell for. 2 We flew back from Christmas and New Year in the Philippines today, which is why the December 2022 update was published a few days late. Lucky we didn’t travel on the first, as Manila airport was knocked out by a power outage and almost 400 flights were cancelled or delayed. But there’s always a silver lining. Cathay Pacific laid on an extra flight today, five hours earlier than the one we were booked on, and we managed to switch to it, getting better seats in the process and getting home at six in the evening rather than after midnight as expected! Thus the delay in publishing last month’s update was a day less than I had feared.
January 1st, 2023 Update
75th Memorial Service (author), Arthur Turner, RA (via Facebook), Vleeschouwer letter (eBay via Justin Ho)
Old HK in Colour images (courtesy OldHKinColour), Wanchai then and now (courtesy Tan), Duane and Dennis Clarke (IWM)
Winnipeg Tribune (via Henry Wong), Fraser's medals (courtesy Daily Mail), WIlfred Miles's new stone (courtesy Christine Lindgren)
December News I’ve been very impressed by recent colourisations of old Hong Kong photographs, often in a ‘then and now’ pairing. Obviously I’m most interested in the wartime period, so I thought we’d kick off the new year (the twentieth anniversary year of Hong Kong War Diary in this format) with a competition. Who can create the best Then & Now photo using an original from (let’s say, to add more possibilities) 1940-46? No prizes, of course – just the glory and honour! All entries (if there are any…) should please reach me no later than 28 January 2023. I have included in this month’s photos an example done by Tan in 2014, of bomb damage in Wanchai following an American raid in 1945. 30 An interesting conversation (about the Supermarine Walrus) between Martin Heyes and Philip Cracknel led to a number of useful finds. The former provided this nice clip of Walrus operations, and the latter the records of two Walruses (one, two) lost in Hong Kong waters shortly before hospitalities. A further two were of course destroyed in HK on 8 December 1941 by the Japanese attack. 26 I have known anecdotally that a number of ex-HK POWs, who returned home post-war via Canada, fell in love with the country and emigrated there later. I read about one in more detail today on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page: “Arthur Turner… was a gunner with the 8th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery…When he was liberated in 1945, he was hospitalized with dysentery, beri beri, malaria, and severe malnutrition. While being repatriated to the United Kingdom he travelled by train from Esquimalt, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He fell in love with Canada and vowed to return and find work as a policeman. In 1947, he did just that by joining the Toronto Police Department where he eventually rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant at 12 Division. A respected leader, Turner was elected President of the Metropolitan Toronto Police War Veterans Association in 1974. He retired in 1983, and sadly died of a heart attack less than four years later.” 24 Antony Yeung, son of the last known survivor (in Hong Kong) of the Battle of Hong Kong, kindly gave me the bad news that his father – Yeung Ming Hon of the HKVDC Field Ambulance - passed away today. The press also carried the story. 23 John Patrick Maher’s (965 DB, Lisbon Maru) granddaughter contacted me. Fortunately I had in my files (thanks to Steve Denton) her grandfather’s own first-hand account of the sinking. 19 Henry Wong posted an interesting front page from the Winnipeg Tribune on facebook today. The main photo is well known, but I’m not sure that I’ve seen the one of Sutcliffe (bottom right) before. 18 Martin Heyes notes that he has just had his second paper (on the subject of Colonel Evan Stewart of the HKVDC) published in the respected Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society in the UK. He is working on a third paper which I will mention when it is ready. The Orders and Medals Research Society, HK Branch December 2022 Newsletter has also been uploaded to the Branch website and can be seen here. 15 Rather surprisingly, the Gibraltar Chronical today mentioned three of Hong Kong’s wartime soldiers. One of them (Gunner Joseph Viotto) had married Chow Tai Choy in Hong Kong on 1 November 1941 (the same day that two other Hong Kong gunners – James Brown and Ernest Bedford – also married their local girlfriends). 14 Today I helped the Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project with a special facebook post remembering internee baby Anthony Clark who died 80 years ago to the day, at the age of twelve days. It read: “Stanley Cemetery, 1945. A snapshot of the complexity of wartime family life. Dennis Clarke and his half brother Duane Liu, at the grave of Dennis’s brother Anthony Clarke who died 80 years ago today at Stanley Internment Camp aged just 12 days, having been born prematurely. His father was policeman Goscombe Goddard Clarke, and his mother was American Mildred Liu. Duane was born in Beijing in 1936, his sister Gardenia Liu was born in Hong Kong in 1940, and Dennis in Stanley in 1944. The children and their mother were interned in Bungalow A. Goscombe Clarke’s wife Joyce and their two children (Goscombe junior and Ann) had been evacuated to Sydney in 1940, while Mildred Liu had fled to Hong Kong that year leaving her husband in Beijing. After the war, Goscombe Clarke moved to the UK, and the Liu children didn’t make contact with their father (then in Taiwan) again until 1970. Goscombe passed away in Great Yarmouth, UK, in 2003, Mildred and Duane passed away in Los Angeles in 1979 and 2008 respectively, and Gardenia in Sherman Oaks, California, in 2018. Both Goscombe and Mildred remarried other people after the war. Dennis retired in 2010 after 45 years with Hilton Hotels, initially in the US but with his last eleven years as VP of Operations for Conrad Asia Pacific and Managing Director of Conrad Hong Kong. Despite Anthony’s name being correctly spelled in the original gravestone photographed, today he is recorded by the CWGC as Anthony Clark. We are currently working to rectify that.” 14 Today I was able to show Andy Salmon’s son Ken the animation that Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence made of a gunner’s life in pre-war Hong Kong, based largely on his father’s account. It’s clearly aimed at the younger viewers, but seems quite successful in that! Ken approved, which was what mattered. 13 A couple of good Old HK in Colour ‘then and now’ photos were shared on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page today and I noticed that both had the same British warship in the background. HMS Anson, I believe. It got me to thinking that there really aren’t a lot of good then and now mash-ups from the period, which is a shame. Admittedly they are challenging as not too many photos have survived from 1941-45, but at the same time they are extraordinarily useful because the territory has changed so much since. 11 Tan was kind enough to let me know about the new SBE issue which (fortunately for us!) seems full of Second World War articles again. (Illustrated). 11 Unfortunately I have lost my notes for this one, but today I was sent a link to a Daily Mirror article about the sale of John Fraser’s George Cross a few years back. 7 The HKVCA Winter newsletter was published today. They also let me know that “the next HKVCA virtual event will be on January 17 at 08:30am (Hong Kong) / January 16 at 7:30pm (in eastern Canada). It will feature Dr Kwong Chi Man speaking about his Spatial History Project, and a complementary project presented by Nathan Kehler of the Canadian Research and Mapping Association, speaking about his group’s virtual mapping project to tell the story of the Canadian involvement in the Battle of Hong Kong.” The Zoom registration link is here. 6 I received a welcome email today: “I have read some of your writing about historical Hong Kong with great interest. My Grandparents and Great Aunt and Uncle were in Hong Kong when War broke out. My grandmother and her sister were evacuated to Australia and my Grandfather and my great Uncle were Japanese POWs and both families returned to Hong Kong after the war, continued bringing up children and living there until their retirement from the prison service when both families left for UK. I have just started thinking more seriously about the two sisters’ experiences as evacuees in Australia and how this impacted their lives. I have arranged to talk to my Mother’s cousin who remembers life at that time. So I just wanted to touch base and say hello! I'm just about to buy your ‘Book 4: The Evacuation’ on Amazon - really looking forward to it!” After a few questions and some research, I found that the grandmother and her sister (Connie and Floss) had both married men in the Prison Service, and this is what I have in my evacuee files:
Rosen, Robert S. Prison Officer Constance CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. Shirley A. 4 CH M Winterton, Frederick T. HKVDC Stanley Plt. Florence A. June A. 1 CH M (i.e. Connie and Floss, and Floss’s two young daughters Shirley and June, were evacuated from Hong Kong, and then onwards from Manila on the Christiaan Huygens, disembarking in Melbourne - though unfortunately I lose track of them once they disembark). My notes say that Constance returned to Hong Kong on the Duntroon in August 1946 (together with Robert, who had joined her in Australia for convalescence after the Japanese surrender), and Florence and daughters returned on the SS Eastern in the same year. Fred Winterton’s right hand had been shattered in the fighting outside the police station in Stanley, and later had to be amputated. While discussing their experience, I pointed out that it’s also worth bearing in mind that quite a few evacuated women clearly found the experience liberating. In the pre-war years, life as a married western woman in HK could be quite stifling and dull. Some flourished when they had to take charge of their own lives in Australia, and many marriages failed because of this - and also, of course, the long separation and the fact that many of the menfolk were either killed or suffered what we’d now call PTSD. From my researches it seems that a bit more than half the evacuees stayed in Australia post war, one way or another. 5 I heard today that Christine Lindgren had dedicated a new memorial stone to her father (HK POW Wilfred Miles, RA). He is buried in St Non’s Church, llannon, Wales. She is intent that he should not be forgotten, so I thought I would mention him here. 5 I think I may have posted this before, but when I was searching today for something completely different I accidentally stumbled upon Kyoda Shigeru’s (master of the Lisbon Maru) fan at the National Army Museum. It’s amazing what turns up! I also found, under Apprehension of Suspected War Criminals, the following note about him: “Presently employed as pilot in Tokyo Harbour. Probable home address: 279 Jiyugaoka Meguro-Ku, Tokyo-To.” 4 Today we had the first Annual Canadian Memorial service at Sai Wan since 2019 (in fact I believe they had some form of ceremony in the two years in between, but because of Covid restrictions we were discouraged from attending). The attendance wasn’t huge, but that’s only to be expected after such a long break. It was good to see a high-level deputation from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission themselves there, including Sir Bill Rollo. I was also able to finally introduce myself to the new Canadian Consul, Rachael Bedlington. It didn’t dawn on me – despite the flurry of email confirmations in which it was clearly stated – that this was the 75th such memorial, until I read it on the programme when I arrived! As always, I walked around the cemetery taking photos of various graves as we waited for formalities to begin. 1 Justin Ho found some interesting letters (from Belgian Stanley internee Ernest-Pierre de Vleeschouwer) on eBay. Apparently the dealer specialises in 19th-20th century letters sent from and to China or Hong Kong. (One, two, three, four).
December 1st, 2022 Update
Statues at the HKMCD (both author), HKVDC Armoured Car (courtesy The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project)
Geoffe Clarke, RASC (courtesy Anthony Clarke), Cloake at Stanley and newspaper report (via Stephen Hutcheon)
November News I generally think of Hong Kong government-run museums as being wonderful big buildings in locations that would be worth a fortune, manned with abundant staff, budget, and resources, and containing just half a dozen exhibits and twenty or more colourful explanatory posters. And I compare that to when my sister was curator of the Wisbech & Fenland Museum in the UK in the 1980s, as the only member of staff, presiding over an ancient crumbling building crammed with amazing things (Napoleon’s tea set captured at the battle of Waterloo, a Zulu warrior’s kit – still crawling with parasites that had somehow survived since Victorian days, Dickens’s original ‘Great Expectations’ manuscript, a many-thousand-year old Egyptian bronze of Anubis the jackal-faced god of war, and so forth). But the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence falls nicely in the middle of these two extremes, and I was delighted to be invited this month to its reopening ceremony following post-Mangkhut repairs. They have done an excellent job! 30 Annemarie Evans today reminded me of her 2005 interview with Jack Etiemble about the Lisbon Maru. Apparently her programmes (such as this one) are available on MMIS. 29 Returning to DBS again, Debbie Lee Jiang posted a page from “Perpetuation”, their 120th anniversary booklet: “5) There have been many reports of Japanese soldiers seen sitting in corners and corridors. Many students also caught fleeting glimpses of dismembered heads of soldiers hanging in mid-air. The sounds of some strange march of perfect unison have often been heard in the dormitory. 6) Previous to 1968, there had been numerous sightings of a figure dressed in white standing motionless in front of the garage. In 1968, when the swimming pool was under construction, two sets of skeletons were found together with some Japanese swords (now in display). The sets of skeletons were removed and since then no more sightings were reported.” I don’t think anyone has yet compiled a full set of Hong Kong’s second world war related ghost stories, but they would make a pretty large volume: DBS, St Stephen’s College, Nam Koo Terrace, The Hong Kong Country Club, Dragon Lodge, there are no shortage of candidates. 27 I received a regular email update from Researching FEPOW History today. The book Captive Fathers, Captive Children sounds very interesting. This sort of research has often been discussed by the families of FEPOWs, but as far as I know it’s the first of its kind to be published.
24 Today the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, presented a Zoom talk about Project Avenger. Even though I was quite familiar with the story (Craig Mitchell took me to the crash site shortly after finding it, together with a small posse from EOD to detonate some Japanese ordnance located nearby), I still enjoyed hearing the details. It’s worth keeping up with the RAS as they have quite a lot of interesting talks, with Kwong Chi Man covering “Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997” next, on Tuesday 6 December. 24 As usual, while looking for something else entirely I found this fascinating colourised footage from towards the end of the Great War. It’s not, of course, directly related to this site’s subject, but may be of general interest.
23 Thanks to Franco Yeung, today I was invited to the re-opening ceremony for the Museum of Coastal Defence. It had been quite badly damaged in the Mangkhut typhoon of 2018, but clearly they have taken this as an opportunity for a major upgrade and overhaul. Strikingly, as you emerge from the lift to walk to the rotunda, various bronzes of soldiers loom out of the mist (it was a dirty grey evening), which gives a nice atmosphere. The building itself seems more spacious than it was, and despite of the attendance of numerous dignitaries, they had the kind good sense to give a single crisp speech, and then let a young a cappella group (who were very good) sing a few songs. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long enough for a proper look round, but I’ll be back. I bumped into Bill Lake and Rusty Tsoi there, and Admiral Chan Chak’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter. 22 On The FEPOW Family page, Anthony Clarke posted photos and details of his uncle Geoff Clarke, RASC. Clarke was one of the ‘hard men’ on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan. He died of blood poisoning later in 1942 at Tokyo #2 Hospital. 21Justin Ho reports finding a ‘new’ veteran from the wartime HKVDC. More on that at the appropriate time. He also kindly passed me a link to the late Mr. Seah Tin Toon's (1922-2001) Interview, done by the National Archives of Singapore. It has five parts plus a transcript viewing option. 21 Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to follow (when I can) the careers of descendants of Hong Kong’s wartime garrison. Here’s an update on singer KT Tunstall (granddaughter of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru.) 20 Keith Andrews in the UK kindly put me in touch with Arthur Paul Glanvile’s (Stanley internee) daughter again. She was evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia in July 1940 together with her mother and two sisters. On release from Stanley, not realising that his family had already retuned to the UK, he asked to be sent to Australia hoping to be reunited there. They were finally reunited late in 1945 in the UK. Sadly he died of TB (which he had whilst in the camp) in 1955. In Stanley he had the unique room identifier as ‘Lep.’ I wonder if this could have been the old ex-leprosarium, which might have made a makeshift TB sanatorium? 16 The Battle of Hong Kong 1941: A Spatial History Project today posted a good Japanese photo of a knocked-out HKVDC armoured car. I think it’s probably Bill Lowe's car: No. 1 Car (lost at Wong Nai Chong Gap, December 19th). The crew were: Walker, Charles Douglas, Sergeant Labrousse, Ernest Denys, Corporal Marriott, Henry Ernest, Private Lowe, William, Private Schouten, Klaus, Private. All survived, with Schouten (who was Dutch) being interned at Stanley, and repatriated with the Americans in June. 15 Today I was invited by the « Souvenir Français de Chine » and the General Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macau to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 2nd at 2:30pm. I believe it is invitation only, so interested parties should contact the Consulate. 15 Leading Seaman Moses McElroy’s (HMS Thracian, Lisbon Maru) daughter-in-law got in touch. 14 Walking in the Peak area this morning I took Governor’s Walk to get a photo of how the Mount Austin Barracks area looks today. The modern buildings are certainly a good deal less impressive than the Victorian monoliths they replaced. 13 Unfortunately a family commitment meant that I couldn’t join the Memorial Service at the Cenotaph this year, though I was told it was well attended. 13 DBS held their Garden Fete today, and Sunny Liu kindly posted a photo of their Roll of Honour. 10I downloaded the Recommendation for Award for John Pearce of BAAG from The National Archives in the UK (Catalogue reference: WO 373/101/397) free of charge today. That’s pretty good service! 9 Stephen Hutcheon on the Stanley Camp facebook page mentioned: “Here’s a photo I found on an Australian museum site showing Australians meeting at the Stanley Internment Camp after the Japanese surrender in August 1945. The caption on the back of the photo is partly removed”, but the legible part reads: “Countrymen meet. Australian journalist R.J. Cloake, xxxx Stanley Camp, Hong Kong, meets another Australian, J.H. Adams of Sydney with the coming of the reoccupation forces. Mr Cloake was on the staff of the South China Morning Post and brought out an issue of the paper day [sic] after the surrender to the Japs. He is nxxxx the job, ROYAL NAVAL OFFICIAL PHOTGRAPH”. With a good piece of detective work, he also found a newspaper column written by this journalist on his visit, published Tuesday 4 September 1945. 3 With reference to Mount Austin Barracks (see last month), my note reminded Rob Weir of “pictures I had of the Barracks, from one of my Kew visits… They cover both the ground and first floor but unfortunately a couple of the pictures are blurred. There are a couple of others showing overall plans” (Illustrated). So clearly Kew would be a good place to find further details. 1 Justin Ho found some interesting HKVDC signatures in the book The Portuguese Community in Hong Kong.