Welcome to Hong Kong War Diary - a project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation.
This page is updated monthly with a record of research and related activities. Pages on the left cover the books that have spun off from this project, and a listing of each and every member of the Garrison. Comments, questions, and information are always welcome. Tony Banham, Hong Kong: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Thompson in Japan (courtesy Susan Crawford), Gorman and colleague (via Brian Finch), Geoff Clarke (courtesy Anthony Clarke)
Stanley from The Twins (author), Japanese map of Wanchai Gap (via facebook), HK under fire (via Jonathan Ho)
Japanese recce of North Face (courtesy Sven Erik Jørgensen), Baptista medal group (courtesy Peter Campos), Ricci Hall HKVDC memorial (courtsey Ricci Hall, HKU)
I recall as a young man being utterly terrified of public speaking. That’s not unusual, but I had that fear in spades. Then, after I moved to Hong Kong more than thirty years ago, I found a job which – in part – required me to teach technical skills. I became interested in the science of that, and then became more confident, and within ten or so years was running PR (among other things) for the APAC arm of a large multinational. I did my hostile media training with Channel 9 in Australia and started teaching presentation skills myself. I did live TV and spoke on big stages in front of thousands, feeling very pleased with how far I had come until I overheard someone saying: “Oh, him. He’s too polished to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t trust anything he said.” I realised then that I had to unlearn all my PR smarts, and try to return to authenticity (if you can fake that, as the comedians say, you’re made!) So when Craig McCourry invited me to speak on camera in the middle of the month (see the 20th) I was very happy to get back into practice, it being my first opportunity to do so since shooting ‘My Grandfather’s War’ with Sir Mark Rylance two years ago.
30 ADFA contacted me today, kindly passing on an email they had received for me from a relative of Gilbert Alexander Harriman, HKRNVR, who had read by PhD thesis online.
29 I received an email from a Czech PhD student at HKU researching Czech members of the 1941 HK garrison. I list these four men as being in 2 (Scottish Coy HKVDC): Ladislav Břežný, Alois Jiříček, Jaroslav Krofta, Alois Pospíšil – with thanks to my correspondent for correcting the accents! He notes that there is an online article here (in Czech), which he roughly translates as: “Krofta arrived in Hong Kong in 1934 and since then he worked as a manager in the Baťa company. In 1938, Krofta founded the Czech Club (Český kroužek) of expats living in Hong Kong. The Club had 30 men and women. In 1938, these Czech citizens protested against the Munich Agreement and 12 of them volunteered for service in the British Army. All these 12 Czech citizens were accepted for the service. Seven of these 12 Czechs were assigned to the HKVDC, the rest to other units (the article mentions anti-aircraft guns and guarding units). When Hong Kong was attacked, the defenders were pushed back to Hong Kong Island. The article says that Alois Pospíšil died on 24 December 1941. He was 23 years old. The article also mentions another Czech who died when guarding the local power plant (no other details included). Jaroslav Krofta miraculously survived a direct hit of his shelter, only lightly wounded, while two of his comrades in the shelter died (the article does not say if these two comrades were Czechs or not). After the capitulation of Hong Kong, Krofta was taken prisoner and went through North Point Refugee Camp and Sham Shui Po Camp. Then the article describes Krofta’s life in these camps and says that he survived and returned to Czechoslovakia”
27 Anthony Clarke posted a photo on the FEPOW Family page: “Taken in Hong Kong between late 1938 and the invasion Christmas 1941. My uncle Geoff Clarke is on the front row far left wearing a hat. It says on the back: D. I. S. Staff Supply Depot.” Private Geoffrey Clarke, RASC, was on the first draft of POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, and unfortunately passed away 29 October 1942 at Tokyo Main Camp Shinagawa of blood poisoning. With the renumbering of the Army in 1920, RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), [Horse Transport], M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). Clarke was in Supplies, and I would have expected it to be Director Of Supplies (DOS), but I could be wrong. 27 Ricci Hall of HKU have created a very nice poster of the six lads they lost in the HKVDC in the Battle of Hong Kong. 27 Not exactly World War II related, but I was delighted to see no fewer than fourteen pigs (three sows and eleven piglets) near The Peak this morning. It looks like the Hong Kong government’s effort to spay the majority of sows didn’t exactly work.
26 Peter Campos sent a photo of his great uncle’s (CSM Naneli Baptista, HKVDC) medals asking for their identification. I know very little about this so sent the photo to Steve Verralls who kindly replied: “MBE (post war); 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals, 1935 Jubilee Medal and Territorial Efficiency Medal (HK) with 3 long service clasps”. 26 A researcher has been asking for information regarding “Mr. Lo Tung Fan - son of a solicitor’s interpreter who formed a HK special constabulary in 1941, engaging in intelligence activities against the Japanese, caught in 1942 and subsequently executed.” Elizabeth Ride has kindly provided some details. Her website continues to be updated, with new entries visible here.
20 Today Craig McCourry, to whom I recently gave some minor assistance for his new film ‘Battlebox’, invited me to be interviewed on camera about Hong Kong’s Second World War experience and my thoughts on history in general. It was a lot of fun – despite being soaked on the way there by a passing typhoon, and again on the way back! 20 As many regular readers of this site will be aware, for several years now a Chinese documentary team has been doing serious research for a film about the Lisbon Maru. When Covid hit they naturally went a bit quiet, so this week I asked them whether – bearing in mind the unfortunate cooling of international relationships – they still intended to finish their work. They replied: “Yes, although having been delayed by many factors for quite some time, this documentary will still go ahead. We don’t think the current political ‘arguments’ will affect our film, but we do need more time in the post-production stage to put things together. Thank you for your consistent efforts in helping us. I think we all need more patience at this point.”
19 Susan Crawford on the FEPOW Family facebook page, posted then and now photos of her father, Ben Thompson, RASC, who is still with us and has just celebrated his one hundredth birthday! Every time a ‘new’ ex-HK POW turns up I am amazed and declare him to be the last who we will ‘find’, and then another one shows up. In this case, uniquely, Thompson has his own rather good blog! 19 Stacey’s famous history of the Canadian army, including Hong Kong, is now available online here.
16 Sven Erik Jørgensen sent me a very interesting email. He notes: “I am the editor of Dykkehistorisk Tidsskrift published by Historical Diving Society, Denmark. The attached picture is from the book ‘Die Wekrmacht – Das Buch de Krieges 1941/42’ page 82. The German text for the picture says: ‘The swimmers from Hong Kong’ who in the strait between Hong Kong and the mainland neutralized enemy mines to pave the way for Japanese landing crafts.” The garish illustration purports to show the Japanese pioneers, led by an Olympic swimmer, who checked and cleared the landing areas on Hong Kong Island before the invasion of December 18. I showed him the passage from Eastern Fortress (by old friends Rusty Tsoi and Kwong Chi Man) which explains that this raid had indeed been planned by the Japanese, but was cancelled when the swimmers were hit by British shells.
14 The Java FEPOW Club published their latest newsletter today. Interestingly it referred to the War Illustrated Magazine, which had at least one Hong Kong article here.
13 Craig McCourry has created a new video of military historian (and ex gunner, and ex martial arts movie star!) Bill Lake talking about the Battle of Hong Kong. 13 It looks like the Grenville Alabaster book is just about ready to go. We have a cover photo, and the three of us involved in putting it together have signed the contract. (No, I’m afraid that doesn’t imply we will make any money! It’s just a legal agreement.)
12 Walking past the High West rifle range (the butts end) this morning, I looked down and saw a large pure lead hollow based bullet lying in the mud. I recognized it as a Martini-Henry bullet (illustrated) of the Victorian era (in British service from 1871 to 1889), and the first non-.303 bullet I have found there. 12 Brian Finch kindly sent some good photos of Thomas Henry Gorman (Royal Naval Yard Police, Lisbon Maru). Gorman returned to Hong Kong after the war and ended heading up the RNYP as Chief Inspector. I looked up my correspondence with the family from 15 or so years ago and noted that they had said: “he gave a gold ring to the Chinese fisherman who saved his life but he thinks the Japs took it off him.” I immediately thought (as did Brian when I told him this) of the deputation from the Zhoushan islands that visited us in Hong Kong in 2005, bringing a monogrammed gold ring that they said had been given to a villager by a rescued POW. At the time I did some basic research and discovered that it was a 9-carat ring made at Chester, England, in the year 1912 by the goldsmiths ‘J.N.W.’ I found a photo of an identical ring made around 20 years earlier, so they were probably quite common. However, the monogram looked like FG. Perhaps it really is TG?
9Phil Cracknell has published a new blog: “This is a brief analysis of the F2 Gun at Mount Davis, its underground magazine and hoist system and an exploration of the layout of the underground bunker which contained the Fortress Plotting Room and HQ for Western Fire Command at Mount Davis. Click the link to read the story.” 9 On facebook someone added this useful link to Hong Kong 1945 images on Wikimedia. Most are well-known, but it’s still a convenient collection.
8 I was sorry to learn today that John Lawson, Brigadier Lawson’s son, passed away on Saturday. We had corresponded for many years, and I met his daughter in Hong Kong not too long ago. 8 Today I did one of my regular but infrequent (perhaps three or four times a year) longer walks, from Mid-Levels around the hills to Stanley for lunch. That last view of Stanley from The Twins before taking the steps down is almost map-like and gives a good impression of the peninsular as it was during the war. 8 Jonathan Ho posted an American photo of Hong Kong under air attack. I have seen it before, but the resolution seems better this time. A few days earlier someone (I regret to say that I didn’t note who) posted a Japanese battle map of the Wanchai Gap area. This one is particularly interesting for me as I have passed through that area on foot many hundreds of times.
7 I was quite surprised to hear that Bill Anderson of the HKVDC has just passed away. I have his book about NCR, and for some reason incorrectly thought he had passed away a while back.
4Today I received an unexpected but very welcome email from Portugal: “My name is António Fragoeiro and I hope everything is well with you. We are investigating the ‘Portuguese HKVDC forces’ during world war two, and would like to inform you that your website has been one of our most important sources of information, therefore we will be using some of your data, if you don’t mind. We will be placing and credit your name, work as ‘source material’ and a direct link to your website. This is our website.” I must admit that I tend to think of the Macanese as being almost their own unique nationality (nossa gente), being a mix of Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and all other areas that the home country had colonised. But it is still good to see them being remembered like this in the mother country.
2 Brian Edgar notes (see last month): “One of the former Lunghua internees who supported Mr. Hiyashi was the father of the novelist J. G. Ballard, who flew to Hong Kong from Shanghai to help him. Ballard claims that his father actually testified in his defence and he was ‘justly’ acquitted, but your new evidence suggest this was a mistake. I lectured on Ballard's Lunghua novel Empire of the Sun at a couple of Open University Summer Schools in the 1990s, and after one of them I spent the rest of the evening talking to two women who had been in Lunghua. Some former internees had obviously kept in touch with Mr. Hiyashi as they told me how hurt he had been by the portrayal of the camp in Ballard’s novel (1984). They spoke very highly of Mr. Hiyashi and thought his reaction was completely justified.”
1 Steve Verralls was kind enough to let me know that: “the medals of the following Officer are up for sale at GBP650... 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence & War Medals in box of issue with issue and condolence slips. 38495 Major Leighton William David Walker, Second in Command of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots who was killed in action on the 1st of October 1942 whilst a Prisoner of War on board the Japanese Troopship Lisbon Maru. Apparently he took over as 2 i/c when the previous committed suicide.” Royal Scot Dennis Morley told me that he had seen Walker on deck, giving his life jacket away. I mention it in the book, but for some reason didn’t attribute it to Dennis. ’The Lasting Honour’ includes the same detail. Walker took over after Major Burn shot himself on Conduit Road, apparently as a result of finding himself unable to prevent the rout in the New Territories. The medals of another Lisbon Maru survivor, Able Seaman Victor Vulcan Stainer, were also sold.
July 1st, 2021 Update
Joyce Carroll and Alan Collinson (courtesy Alan Collinson), Stanley Gap AA position (both author)
Argyle Street area (courtesy Rusty Tsoi), Barker Road Station, 1955 (via author), High West range (via Historical Walk HK)
Hong Kong, 1949 (via facebook), Evan Stewart's medals (via Martin Heyes), POW Post (courtesy Ben Dalgleish)
I’m not a great fan of facebook, but I have to say that technically speaking it’s not a bad platform for discussion groups. Luckily with the Battle of Hong Kong, and the Stanley Camp group, and the various FEPOW groups (such as this one, and this one) we have a useful exchange of information and research. But what really bugs me is that on so many such military groups, all intelligent discussion is completely swamped by thousands of self-indulgent comments like “Stand down sir, your duty’s done”; “We salute and thank you”; “We will never forget”; “May you rest in peace”; “Heroes all.” This sort of superficial sentimentalisation trivialises military service and has no place on British and Commonwealth sites (in my opinion). Leave that for our colonial “Thank you for your service” cousins so that the rest of us can get to work!
29 I’ll end the month with a bit of a laugh for Hong Kong based friends: On 2 July 2005 we applied for ordinary membership of the Ladies’ Recreation Club. Today, sixteen years later almost to the day, they finally phoned my wife… Unfortunately, with our then young children now grown up and fled the nest, there’s not much point in joining today, even though we’re just five minutes’ walk away. I suppose these clubs tend to chase nice big corporate debentures rather than focusing on serving the locals.
28 The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society’s Spring-Summer 2021 POW Society newsletter ‘Never Forgotten’ is up on their website now.
27 I watched a fascinating 1955 Hollywood film called ‘Soldier of Fortune’ over the weekend. Film of Clichés would have been a more appropriate title, but most of it is either filmed in 1955 Hong Kong or has 1955 Hong Kong on a back projection so it was pretty interesting. Two scenes feature the Barker Road Peak Tram stop (the Peak Tram has been in the news recently as it just closed for a six month enlargement and renovation). I was surprised to see how little the station had changed.
25 I have a tradition, at around this time of year, of walking from Discovery Bay to Silvermine Bay with two of my oldest friends in Hong Kong. This time we took a pretty circuitous three-hour route, but interestingly it enabled me to visit the silver mine itself for the first time.
24 On Hong Kong Past – The Early Years someone posted a 1949 Time photo of Hong Kong Island from the air. Among other things, at bottom middle is a clear view of PB63 at the end of the Vehicular Ferry, from which Corporal Heather fired the shots that detonated the barge-full of dynamite that Jeanette’s barge was carrying. When searching for photos of that Pillbox which I took nearly 30 years ago, I found all my photos of wartime editions of The South China Morning Post, including the Christmas Day 1941 one (illustrated). 24 The subject of this evening’s Royal Asiatic Society Online Lecture was the Battle of Hong Kong 1941, by Dr Chi Man Kwong. This was Chi Man’s introduction of the online dynamic interactive map of the battle, which I have been helping with. It went very well and gained positive feedback. Hopefully it will be live and available to the public towards the end of the summer.
22 Every time I see a mention of singer KT Tunstall I recall that she is the granddaughter of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru.
21 Today I finished my proof reading of the second draft Volume 61 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Now Colin Day will add my corrections to his and we’ll proceed to the third proofs
19 I’ve been contacted by a family friend of Tomohiko Hayashi, the first commandant of the Lunghua civilian internment camp in Shanghai. Apparently he was taken to Hong Kong post war for the war crimes trials. However, because of vocal support from the internees, he was released before the court sat. I was hoping to ask Suzzanah Linton if she had any further information on him, but unfortunately her old Bangor email no longer works. I guess she has move on.
17 Today I sent the final set of mini-biographies for this version of Kwong Chi Man’s interactive battle map. That’s forty in all. I have been greatly enjoying myself going through the map and checking all the movements of units.
14 Mike Babin sent me a question relating to Thomas Thomasson H6778, a Winnipeg Grenadier who was apparently wounded in the battle and hospitalized for four months – initially at Queen Mary’s Hospital and then at Bowen Road Hospital. He perished of diphtheria in (we think) Shamshuipo Camp Hospital in October 1942. But this question again raises the question of whether there is a ‘seam’ of unmined hospital data somewhere. All I have are the details from the HK PRO (ranging from quite good, to scraps, but generally running out towards the end of January 1942). But every now and then I see mention of extremely detailed individual records, and I still don’t know where they come from! 14 Hilary Dyson kindly sent me some detailed information about the early life of Digby Menhinick, the only Royal Marine to have been killed in the Hong Kong fighting. 14 Brian Finch kindly reminded me that we are still planning to dedicate the Lisbon Maru Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum on October 3, Covid and restrictions permitting. I really hope I’ll be there.
11 On facebook today someone posted some very interesting photos, from Historical Walk HK, of the High West shooting range. I know the butts very well and have picked up many bullets that overflew it, but had always wanted to know where the shooting itself was done from. Although not directly linked to Hong Kong’s wartime experience, I imagine many HKVDC men would have used that range.
10 Rusty Tsoi found a very interesting photo on eBay of Prince Road, Kowloon, which he has marked up to show many of the local landmarks of wartime interest.
8 Today I walked over the hills (for those who like details: Hornsey Road, May Road, Chatham Path, Barker Road, Peak Road to Magazine Gap, Coombe Road to Wanchai Gap, Black’s Link to Wong Nai Chung Gap, Tai Tam Reservoir Road) on a wild goose chase to buy a frozen turkey at the Park View supermarket! They didn’t have any, but I took the opportunity to check the old AA position diagonally opposite. I was surprised to see that a lot of trees have been cleared from the top-most block house, and it (and its battle damage) is far more visible than it was. 8 Evelyn Theodora Oswald’s niece got in touch. I believe Evelyn Oswald, an evacuee from Foochow, was evacuated once again from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940. Her husband John Lee G. Oswald stayed, and became an Acting Battery Sergeant Major in 1st Battery of the HKVDC. It’s astonishing that he survived as 50% of that battery were wiped out in the defence of Stanley. After capture he was held at North Point POW Camp, then Shamshuipo, and was then on the fifth draft of POWs to Japan. In 1945 he was liberated from a camp at Nagoya.
7 On 31 December 2020 I wrote:
‘Looking forward to 2021 with a new brother - unbelievable.’ And there we are. Yes, it is indeed somewhat unbelievable that in 2020 we are still finding and reuniting people separated by the Second World War, but yes, there we are.” And “The two people I referred to rather mysteriously last month – a half-brother and half-sister separated by the war – reunited today. ‘Thanks for everything. I owe you a drink or two. Just having a whiskey myself to celebrate’ says one, and ‘looking forward to 2021 with a new brother – unbelievable’, says the other.
Today their photo (Alan Collinson and Joyce Young) gets pride of place in this monthly report. Their mother was Margaret Young (nee Kerr). William Young, Petty Officer Stoker on HMS Redstart was killed in Hong Kong on 24 December 1941 aged 32. Joyce was their daughter, and Alan was born in 1943 thus they are half-brother / half-sister. They met virtually through this website, not previously knowing of each other’s existence, and then physically this year. 7 Elizabeth Wright Brown’s (Stanley internee, in fact born in camp) grandson got in touch.
4 Ben Dalgleish made an interesting find of a couple of POW/Internee mail pieces. One was sent to Corporal Harry Elliott Drew HKDDC, and the other to Jean Mathers in Stanley (the wife of Captain David Mathers of the Punjabis, and herself author of Twisting the Tail of the Dragon).
3 Peter White, whose brother George White was a sergeant under Lieutenant Field of 3 Coy HKVDC and showed great tenacity at PB1 in Wong Nai Ching Gap, got back in touch. He was asking after Anne Ozorio, and I had to pass him the sad news that Anne passed away in the UK in August of last year. 3 I’ve been telling everyone that this is the driest spring I ever recall in Hong Kong, and I learned today that we had the hottest May on record. (Since then, I admit, we've had little but rain).
1 Martin Heyes notes: “In March this year Ron Taylor very kindly sent me the attached photograph of the medals awarded to Col. Evan Stewart, Honorary Colonel of the HKVDC. The photograph had, in turn, been forwarded to Ron by Col. Stewart’s son, Col. R.M. Stewart OBE TD DL, (Michael), who had recently had his father’s medals framed. As I know I do not really need to mention, Major Evan Stewart (as he then was) commanded No. 3 Coy of the HKVDC during the 1941 battle. His Company fought with great tenacity, inter alia, in the WNC Gap area during the battle.” A couple of medal experts who saw this photo immediately spotted that the original medal ribbon in the frame was that of the OBE (Civil), whereas Evan Stewart was clearly awarded the OBE (Military). Michael has now had the mistake rectified. Apparently the chap who did the framing was ‘mortified’ at his error! Oddly enough I posted a much lower resolution version of the same photo to facebook last month, in answer to a query about HKVDC medals.
June 1st, 2021 Update
Boxer & Oda (courtesy Kwong Chi Man), Swiftsure at Causeway Bay (via Facebook), possibly John Lander (courtesy Philip Cracknell)
Haider Rehman Khan (author's collection), Chattey grave (via Project Nova Past & Present), Walter Richardson Scott (courtesy Richard Morgan)
With the publication of the Bearman book (see 25), and with the new New Zealand book (see 4), the Sykes diary, and the Alabaster diary all on the way, it seems that the stream of modern works about Hong Kong’s wartime experience is never ending. On top of that I am aware of at least one more factual book and one more novel in the works, not to mention a number of films in their various stages of pre and post production. When I used to talk to survivors they almost always thought of themselves as ‘forgotten’. Not anymore, it seems. PS, following on from last month’s editorial, at the end of May the South China Morning Post ran the following article: 4 dead, 243 injured among Hongkongers going hiking from January to April.
30 The Researching FEPOW History Group have announced that they hope to have their next conference in June 2022 in Liverpool. 30 A friend of the family of James William Feather (Royal Marines) got in touch.
28 The HKVCA are advertising a free Virtual Event on June 21 at 19:00 ET entitled “Canadian Nursing Sisters in the Battle of Hong Kong, and RCMI Virtual Tour”. Registrations are accepted here. 28 I have mentioned Jean Bird (cousin of Hong Kong POW Captain Godfrey Bird, RE) before. Although she has no direct connection with wartime Hong Kong (despite having been born here in 1912), the family shared a new site about her today and it’s well worth a read.
27JP Bear, a US Army Vietnam Veteran who has written a screenplay about Sergeant Gander (the dog mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada) reports that he has now created a trailer which he is using to pitch his idea to various film professionals.
26 The other ex-policeman I asked about photos of Walter Richardson Scott very kindly replied to me today with an amazing photo of Hong Kong Police CIS staff in November 1932 with names. That of course included Scott, but for potential use by other researchers the other names are: ASI Whant*, SI Carpenter, Sergeant Kennedy, Sergeant Ellis*, Sergeant Byron, Sergeant Fowlie, Sergeant Allen*, Sergeant Kinnear*, Sergeant Goodwin+, SI O’Connor+, SI Baker+, Sergeants Fitches, Russel*, Thorpe*, Meadows, Hemsley*, Carruthers*, Moran, Hill*, Clemo, Edwards, MacDonald*, Dixie, Baker*, Glassoonoff*, Gould and Mottram*, SI Dorling, SI Carey+, Insp. Vincent, Insp. Marks, Chief Det. Insp. Reynolds*, Mr W.R. Scott+, ASP, Mr L.H.V. Booth, DCI, Mr T. Murphy, ADCI, (P), Mr A.R.S. Major*, ADCI (C), Insp. W. Shannon, Insp. J. Murphy, SI [illegible], [Illegible]. (* means that a policeman of that name was still in HK at 8 December 1941, and + means they lost their lives in the war).
25 George Boote kindly pointed out that there’s a new book out which covers the life of George Bearman, HKDDC, and his family’s evacuation from Hong Kong to Australia. I had been in dialogue with Bearman’s granddaughter some years back so knew that research was going on, but lost touch. I have ordered a copy. 25 On the Stanley Camp facebook group Siobhan Bland Daiko posted a photo of: “My grandmother, Doris Walker's passport renewed in Stanley Camp.” It’s interesting that it was signed by Gimson. 25 I left our flat early this morning for my daily perambulation around Hong Kong’s hills, and within minutes (on Chatham Path, a Mecca for this species) had bumped into two mating Greater Green snakes. A Chinese gentleman tried to shoo me away, explaining how dangerous they were, while I in return tried to show him how to distinguish the utterly harmless and docile Greater Green from the Bamboo Pit Viper they are often mistaken for. In the end I got the snakes safely off the path. 25 As far as I can see, this Guardian article about the forced repatriation of Chinese merchant seamen at the end of the Second World War has nothing to do with Hong Kong residents, but it is still a shocking read. 25 Bill Lake kindly sent a copy of the whole HMNZHS Maunganui Newsletter of 24 September 1945, and I though its editorial was so good that it’s worth repeating here in full: “Our cruise of the China Seas is over. At the moment we are southwards bound with nearly four hundred patients, and another small contribution has been made to the enormous task of repatriation. It is well for our own peace of mind to remember that it is only a small contribution, almost an infinitesimal contribution. There has never been any stage in the world’s history when such enormous movements of men and women were necessary. It overshadows the movements of armies in the days of conflict. In Germany alone more than 10,000,000 slaves from other countries were imported. All the combatant nations held vast numbers of prisoners. The end of the war found combatant troops in millions far away from their homes. If the problem were one of transport only, it could be fairly efficiently organised by any joint council of pre-war tourist agencies. But it is infinitely more complicated. Of the prisoners and refugees found in enemy hands an abnormally large number are sick and their evacuation is slow, tedious and costly. Naturally they all want to return to their homes, but often their homes had disappeared and their friends and relatives are difficult to locate. Alternative destinations have to be selected with great care. In every country of the world the housing problem is acute. One home in every five in Britain has been destroyed or damaged, and in countries that have escape actual destruction of houses the war effort has precluded a normal building plan. There is probably no country in the world at the moment that is ready to receive comfortably a large expansion of temporary residents with their necessities of accommodation, food, clothing and transport. However, the difficulties of repatriation do not offset its urgency. No one has a greater claim on all the resources of the Allies than the ex-POW or Internee, and to no one else will be given more. That more expedition and more indulgence to personal preferences is not available it is not because of blindness to their desirability, but because of the limitation of resources that were sacrificed without stint to the cause of victory. The collapse of Japan was one of many occasions during this war where the Allies were caught unprepared. Their planning had been directed towards further invasion of enemy territory, but they expected to go in with offensive weapons and not with medical supplies. When peace came quick decisions had to be made. On one there was general agreement - that by all means possible and at the very earliest opportunity their compatriots should be removed from enemy control. That was the first phase and it is now almost completed. Hereafter the pace must necessarily slow. Many details of the consequent plan are still in the making, but it is taking shape and its form will be determined not by the individual desires, but by the common good of the greatest number. The brave new world that was promised will become a fact, but it has first to be made. So, as the ship plunges on in the direction of Australia it is wise to remember that it is only one very small unit among the thousands that at the moment by land, sea and air are redistributing mankind over the face of the earth. Fortunately the task is simplified by the forbearance of the ex-POW. In general we believe he is conscious of the major difficulties and by exercising a little more of that patience without which he would not have survived his captivity, he will continue his journeyings with equanimity and eventually realise an even greater gratification on reaching his final destination.”
24 One of my ex-Police contacts felt that there might be a photo of Walter Richardson Scott in Alexander Grantham’s biography “Via Ports” (future Hong Kong Governor Grantham and Scott were good friends and brothers-in-law, having married two American sisters). I ordered a copy from HKUP and it arrived today, and lo and behold it does have a photo! It’s not the best quality, but it’s a great deal better than nothing. The only photo I am missing now is that of Flying Officer Norman Lee ‘Whimpey’ Baugh, MC, RAF. I can’t find one anywhere (but note the MC – a very rare decoration for an RAF officer).
23 Keith Andrews kindly pointed out that according to what looks like a credible website, the Washington Maru / Shinsei Maru No. 1 was not the Shinsei Maru which took the Lisbon Maru survivors from Shanghai to Moji. For background, those Lisbon Maru survivors always said that the Washington Maru was just another name for the Shinsei Maru that they were on. I am not yet fully convinced that this is incorrect, as the whole of the year 1942 is missing from the Washington Maru data. Steve Denton pointed out that, among other things, Percy Chittenden seemed certain when writing in 1945 that the Washington Maru and Shinsei Maru were one and the same.
22 It seems we’ve just about put all the pieces of the next Volume of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong, together. Now will come the typesetting and proof-reading before it goes to publication.
21 Chi Man Kwong sent me a fascinating photo, taken around 1940, of Charles Boxer with the Japanese consul Oda (who helped manage the Stanley Camp). He notes: “Oda was Boxer's kendo teacher”. 21 While searching my horribly over-crowded bookcase for a lost book, I found one I lost so long ago that I’d forgotten I ever had it! This was a copy of the very rare (though, to be honest, tiny and not terribly useful) ‘How Did The Japs Treat You’ by W M Burnside. It measures about 7cm by 12 and has just 15 pages. (Interestingly, I was given this booklet some years back by Kelly Stuart of Austin, Texas who bought it at an estate sale, looked up the name ‘Burnside’ on this website, and kindly posted it over).
20 Jennifer Dobbs kindly sent over another 25 or so copies of Arthur Gomes’s newsletters.
18 While researching Lieutenant Power of the Royal Rifles for the mini-biography series, I recalled that there was a question some years ago when his medals were up for sale. Firstly, no one could find his MC mentioned in The Canada Gazette, and secondly the medal itself had strange plating and engraving (illustrated). While I can’t explain the latter, I was finally able to find the former by ploughing through lots of old copies. It is dated 2 April 1946, and follows on from the gazetting of Osborn’s VC. 18 Elizabeth Ride has added two new posts to her website covering activities in POW camps, and the Hong Kong George Crosses.
17 I heard very good reviews on Craig Mitchell’s talk on battlefield finds to the HKVCA today, and fortunately it is available to watch here. I recommend it! 17 Academia sent me “A historiographical review of Hong Kong's military history” by Pok Man Seung today. 17 I finally finished the Foreword for Leonard Sykes’s POW diaries. I will post publication details here when they become available. 17 Elizabeth Ride called, to help me clear up a few issues with the mini-biography I am writing of her father. As I suspected, his current Wikipedia entry has a few errors, which I will correct when we’ve finished. Lady Ebury (Sue Ebury, of Weary Dunlop fame) was working on a full-length biography of Ride shortly before she passed away, but it seems it was never completed and she didn’t want the incomplete version shared.
15 I am back in touch with relatives (in the States) of Walter Richardson Scott. I was hoping they would have a photograph of him for the mini-biographies project, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear that they have. They suggest I try the HK Police, so I have emailed a couple of ex-Police contacts.
14Meg Parkes kindly sent me photographs of Geoffrey Coxhead, HKVDC, which I needed for my mini-biographies project.
11 Researching the famous career of ‘Crumb’ Chattey (Middlesex), I posted a query on the FEPOW family Facebook group. Someone very kindly replied with a photo of the Chattey grave in Mundsley, Norfolk, noting: “This will be cleaned in the near future as part of the Project Nova Past & Present Programme. We are recording every CWGC headstone in England and any private markers noted whilst researching the CWGC in each location.” Chattey’s brother was also in the Middlesex and (unusually for that regiment) became a POW on the Railway.
10 Bob Da Silva notes: “Recently I acquired the attached document. It was written by my uncle Ricardo da Silva’s brother in law (my uncle together with my dad, his younger brother Roberto) ended up in Sendai. Richards wife’s name was Hazel and she is mentioned in Ted’s memoirs on page three, third last paragraph.” Ted (Edward Harris) ended up in Stanley with his family: Harris, Ann Mrs British 17.01.95 F Housewife Stanley 9/33 2041 Harris, Edward British 29.10.24 M Apprentice Engineer Stanley 9/33 2042 Harris, Rose Miss British 15.10.28 F Student Stanley 9/33 2043 It’s always good to receive these personal accounts which can be added to the overall picture.
8 Philip Cracknell noted: “For Battle of Hong Kong aficionados: Glancing through 'Eastern Waters Eastern Winds' (History of the Royal HK Yacht Club) I spotted this photograph which shows PB 16 and its searchlight LL 16. The boat crew in the foreground are bringing a boat ashore on Middle Island. The ruin of the Lyon Light (LL) structure is still extant but only the concrete base of the pill box (PB) remains.” The chap in the middle looks very like John Lander to me.
7 I heard from The Java FEPOW Club today that: “The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre Museum is in need of urgent support now due to the COVID pandemic. The Museum was re-opened last September after 6 months of closure, and they have only had a few local visitors living in Thailand since re-opening. This has seriously undermined their income and they have had to substantially cut their operating costs by reducing salaries. So far they have managed to keep all their staff by living on their reserve funds, but these are now running out. Those of us who have visited the Museum and had such wonderful support from the Staff there – Rod Beattie, Terry Manttan, Andrew Snow and all the local Thai staff – know how much work has gone into the research of each and every man who worked on the Railway. We know how well the Cemeteries are looked after, particularly when Rod was in charge of them. Those of us whose fathers or relatives are buried there may have a special reason for wanting to help the Museum in their hour of need, but I am sure that every one of us with a FEPOW relative would wish to help as well.” If anyone would like to donate let me know, and I will send you a form that TBRC gave me which shows all the ways to do it. 7 The Facebook Battle of Hong Kong page today featured a rather nice image of Swiftsure steaming west past Causeway Bay on its way to liberate the Colony.
5 It’s really sad that we know so little about the vast majority of the Indian servicemen who fought in Hong Kong in the war years. We have their names and the ‘official’ unit histories, but almost no personal accounts or photographs to put faces to names. One I’m particularly interested in is the highly decorated Subedar-Major Haider Rehman Khan of the 2/14 Punjabis. I mentioned him to Kamal Prasad (Kumta Prasad’s son) today, and he noted: “The Subedar and my father exchanged festive greetings each year till 1960-61, (which showed the high esteem they had for each other) when the Indian intelligence Dept intercepted one of these greetings from Pakistan and created a ruckus. Dad was called to GHQ in Delhi - we were in Bombay - and asked about this. The Chief then intervened and saved him from an official reprimand for communicating with the enemy!! Dad threatened to resign as this was the second incident, the first being in 1955 as a brigade commander in J&K… The Subedar was really an exceptional leader of men. Dad used to speak very highly of him and his strength of character, discipline, integrity and sheer Will power in holding the men together in the face of the huge pressure from the Japs to defect to the INA. This especially after the murder of Captain Ansari of the Rajputs. This upset the rank and file of the Punjab immensely, and many turned rebellious. Haider Rehman was a large landholder in undivided Punjab, a ‘Raja’ who joined as a ranker because of poor English which precluded his passing the examination for entry to the officer cadre. Besides this he was a true soldier, with a very strong sense of loyalty to the Regiment. Nigel Forsyth, whom I met in Dunedin spoke very highly of him. Haider was a recipient of both the IOM and MC after the War. Dad used to say he was a tower of strength both during the battle and as a POW, earning respect by personal example to the men.” The son of another Punjab officer – Captain James Flynn – sent me an excellent photo of Haider Rehman Khan some years back.
4 I received a very interesting manuscript from a New Zealand publisher today, which they asked me to read for historical accuracy. It concerns a unique story from Hong Kong in the early days of the war. More about this later!
1 Woke up with a big rash on my left arm. One of the hidden dangers of Hong Kong! I must have brushed against a Lacquer Tree on Mount Davis on yesterday’s tour of the Coastal Battery site there.
May 1st, 2021 Update
Robert Lapsley's 100th (courtesy Philomena Lapsley), HMS Whelp (courtesy IWM), Waterfall Bay defences (author)
PB14 and Lyon light (courtesy J.C. Echizen), ARP Warden (via YouTube), Macpherson family (courtesy Emma Pruen)
TDKY staff at Gulangyu, TKDY staff 1937 (both courtesy of Swire Archives), Unusual shelter (courtesy Tan)
I have walked in Hong Kong’s hills every day for as long as I can recall, even if it was just over the top from mid-levels to my old office in Causeway Bay. In 2019 I walked to the top of High West and the Peak most mornings, and if I saw anyone on the former it was generally the same two regulars. Now, everyone is at it! Not necessarily with the right experience or footwear (the ASR helicopter was called out twice as many times as normal in 2020), but they are all out walking. Even my wife and her friends are now looking for new places to go and are including Second World War hikes as ‘places of interest’. I don’t know how long this new-found enthusiasm will last but am enjoying it while I can.
30 Walked with a friend to Mount Davis battery today. I had completely forgotten just how much was still left to see, but unfortunately you can no longer get into the Plotting Room (scene of the famous unexploded shell incident). We then walked back to Central along the shore line, which is much more pleasant than it used to be. 30 I received this from the HKVCA: “Live from Hong Kong! Discover how amateur historian Craig Mitchell and his colleagues search the battlefields to find relics of the Battle of Hong Kong, trace their history, and return them to their owners’ family members.” Time: May 17, 2021 07:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada). Register here.
27 Academia.edu is sending me some interesting theses. The Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong; The Strategic Importance of Hong Kong and the Details of the Japanese Military Rule is a good example. Another is The Sum of All Fears: The Evacuation of British Subjects from pre-war Hong Kong.
25Elizabeth Ride contacted me, discussing her research into how the Japanese knew about the illegal radio being operated in the Argyle Street Camp. 25 Justin Ho, who has been researching his step grandfather Raymond Chiang Lee Hai, notes: “In 2019, A Malayan-Chinese veteran by the name of Ho Weng Toh (Captain Ho) published his memoirs called Memoirs of a Flying Tiger. Captain Ho is a former HKU student who later joined the Chinese Air Composite Wing (CACW), and later settled down in Singapore. Coincidentally, he was one of the 23 people to escape from HK to the Guangdong Province from 5th - 14th August, 1942 (mentioned in previous correspondence). The operation was led by [Raymond Chiang Lee Hai] and Lo Teng Kee, who were guides. The details of the escape is covered in pages 21-32 of the book. Uncle Ray was also referred to as an ‘agent’, very likely his affiliations with the BAAG.” I hadn’t recalled that any of the HKU escapees joined the Flying Tigers, but Ho went on to pilot a B25. 25 The South China Morning Post ran a story about Jubilee Battery today.
24 Ken Blackmore kindly alerted me to this auction of old Hong Kong photos. It only has an indirect connection with the topic, but it’s all good background. 24 ABC in Australia ran a story about James Kim (BAAG) and his brothers today.
23 Jennifer Dobbs in the States kindly sent me an almost complete set of Arthur Gomes’s famous newsletters, from 1998 to 2004. I had perhaps half a dozen odd copies already, but nothing as comprehensive as this. It will take me a while to go through them. To some degree this blog, which began in this form in October 2003, was intended to continue Arthur’s newsletter.
22 Kwong Chi Man sent me a fine photo of a knocked-out 60 pounder at North Point. This must be Winter’s gun (which was used to sink three freighters in the harbour, suspected of being Japanese OPs). I had seen the photo before, but in poor resolution.
21 Working on a short biography of Digby Menhinick, the only Royal Marine to be killed in the battle of Hong Kong, the family kindly sent me a wonderful photograph of him. (Illustrated). 21 Karen Swan Lapsley noted on facebook: “My uncle, Robert Lapsley, 100 years old, at the Anzac Memorial service today at the RSL Anzac Village… Wounded December 24, 1941. Imprisoned by Japanese until August 1945. Now resides in Sydney. Nulli secundus in Oriente.” Robert Lapsley was also featured in this newspaper article.
20 Richard Whittington contacted me, researching William and Jean Sayers in Stanley Internment Camp. I gave him the little I know, adding: “I also wonder if Murdo William Sayers might have been their son, despite his rather bare CWGC record saying his parents were in the UK?” Richard kindly replied showing that: “there is a memorial in Rosskean Parish Churchyard for Murdo, who was William's son, killed on 25 Dec 1941 aged 21 and for William's wife Jane (not Jean) Rena (nee Kelt) who died 29 OC 1946 aged 51.” Clearly my suspicion was well founded.
19 Bob Tatz notes: “Recently I saw in your monthly diary that Tony recently celebrated his 100th birthday. It was about 2005 that I visited both Tony and Bill in Sydney in Australia… I spent a good afternoon with both of them reminiscing about the times we were all with Jardine’s and they were my Chief Engineers. Sadly Bill was killed in a car accident shortly after this. Tony is mentioned in my book (also photographed) on pages 188, 192, 199 and 220. Bill is mentioned on pages 233-236, 239, and 265. I have pictures of Bill, though not in the book. I would like somehow to convey my congratulations to Tony Lapsley for reaching such a milestone in his life. I do not have his address or connection with his family.” 19 Eloise Butler let us know that Vincent Young, BAAG, passed away today. He lived not far from me, though I only met him once. This was Doc Ride’s view of him: “Before and during hostilities in Hongkong, Vincent Young was a Sergeant in the Chinese section RA. After the capitulation, he evaded capture and reported to the BAAG in China for further service. He was immediately employed in a civilian capacity (having been discharged from the army according to WO instructions) and sent back to Hongkong on a scheme which eventually resulted in the escape of a large number of Indians. He remained in Hongkong for some months as our inside Indian contact but when it was found that there was too large a price on his head he was withdrawn and employed on the no less dangerous job of runner between our post in the New Territories and AHQ. After this post was withdrawn, he was a member of the ill-fated coast watching station that was captured by the Reds, but fortunately he was not at the post at the time of the capture. He subsequently took a prominent part in the negotiations which lead up to the safe return of those members captured. Owing to his outstanding bravery and value in field operations, he was transferred to Force 136, but after a period of training during which he again proved to be a man of outstanding qualities, the operation was abandoned. He then returned to the BAAG and was engaged on an operation in Hainan when hostilities ceased. He displayed outstanding ability and exemplary courage throughout all his service and was of inestimable value to us in our escape and evasion work.” Signed: L T Ride, Colonel.
17 I had often puzzled over the oft-repeated claim that the Japanese war memorial was built on Mount Cameron. The site is clearly not on Cameron, but on an isolated spur the other side of the road at Magazine Gap. Today I finally learned that this is called Bowen Hill! 17 Reading Squadron Leader Donald Hill’s diary yet again, I noticed that: “Group Captain Horry sails for Singapore on the Ullyses leaving Wing Commander Sullivan as our CO.” I had forgotten that this extra last-minute change in the top brass took place. 17 Ruy Barretto very kindly sent me a USB with a copy of R.J. Everest’s notebook detailing the fates of members of the HKVDC. I will have to go through it carefully as there are certain details (dates of promotions in camp, for example) which I am not sure are preserved elsewhere.
16 Today I received the latest edition of The Java Journal. The only Hong Kong related story (aside from a nice obituary of Dennis Morley) was another mention of the return of John Carley’s sports medal from 1935 to his nephew (see January). However, it may be of general interest that it also mentioned that three sites on Dover's iconic White Cliffs are being considered for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn, who died last year. Former Beatle Sir Paul, writing to Vera Lynn’s daughter said: “Dear Ginny, I think it is a great idea to have a statue put up on the White Cliffs of Dover so your lovely mum, Vera Lynn, can welcome people forever.”
13 Sandy Wynd notes: “I was browsing and came across this colour video which really made Hong Kong in 1945 come to life if you haven’t seen it.” I found it fascinating because although the clapper boards confirm this was shot in September 1945, you would think the war had been over for ages.
12 Rusty Tsoi notes: “Recently I got a copy of the Official Programme of the Victory Celebrations on 8 June 1946 held in London, and finally we can be certain which units represented Hong Kong to participate in the Celebrations, namely the HKRNVR, HKVDC, HKVC, Hong Kong Pioneer Company and ‘civilian services’ (including Hong Kong Police and ARP at least). The following link was a video in YouTube, which was one of the footage of the Celebrations. I guess you may have seen it as well... The gentleman speaking in Cantonese at the end of the footage was an ARP warden, but we could not figure out who he was at the moment, still...” I have to say he looks very familiar!
10 Tan notes that the shelter at the junction of Shek O Road and Cape Collinson Road is a very different design from others. Does anyone know why?
9 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, passed away today. It’s not generally appreciated in Hong Kong that he was involved in Liberation here. Prince Philip was First Lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Whelp, which with HMS Wager was part of the escort for Admiral Fraser’s (Commander of the British Pacific Fleet) flagship Duke of York in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. On 9 September, ten days after Harcourt’s fleet arrived in Hong Kong, the three ships left Tokyo to bring Fraser to Hong Kong for the local surrender. The IWM has a wonderful photo of Whelp and Wager ‘topping’ up with oil from Duke of York, from which I cut the photo of Whelp above. 9 Burke Penny kindly sent me a photo of William Allister which I needed for the Baptist University project. 9 Professor Stephen Davies helped solve a minor mystery today, by putting me in touch with the family of Frederick John Jeacock (a shipwright with Taikoo Dockyard in 1941). I confidently told them that Jeacock had left Hong Kong immediately before the invasion in a vessel called Pakhoi which had been intercepted by the Japanese at sea, all on board being interned in China (as related in Greg Leck’s excellent book Captives of Empire). Stephen pointed out that this was somewhat unlikely, as Pakhoi was elsewhere at the time. Fortunately Jeacock’s daughter was able to check and noted: “My father sailed from Taikoo with other Taikoo employees at 2am on the morning of the 8th December (they were previously meant to sail at 2am on the 7th) on board the SS Kiangsu bound for Singapore.” So it was the Kiangsu after all. What makes me interested is that while researching the 1940 evacuation from Hong Kong I noticed a lot of Dockyard families where the husband/father was no longer in Hong Kong by the time of the invasion, I had speculated that they may have been sent to the new Dockyard at Singapore in the interim, but checking against the Chinese internment camps, the majority were on the same ship. I see they were spread over the Great Western Road Camp andHaiphong Road Camp (JR is Hong Kong Jurors’ Role): Beeken, David William - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp -1940 JR
Beeken, Edith Dorothy – Great Western Road Camp - wife of David in Haiphong Road
Camp Bell, Robert Barr - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR
Cunningham, William S. - ? - Great Western – 1940 JR Dryburgh, John Clunnie - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Hope, Stewart - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Jeacock, Frederick John - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Keown, Richard McArthur - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Lyle, David Laird - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Maybe - JR 1940
Main, Robert - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Moir, Archibald Black - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - JR 1940
Moir, Sarah Black (ANS) - wife of Archibald - Great Western Road Camp - died 22 Dec 44
Munro, Donald - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Nimmo, James - Taikoo Docks - Great Western Road Camp - Yes - JR 1940
Norrie, Robert Brown McGover - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR
Peoples, David - Butterfield & Swire - Haiphong Road Camp - 1940 JR
Pollock, Samuel James - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes -1940 JR
Thomson, John Butler - ? - Haiphong Road Camp - Yes - 1940 JR Wallace, Robert Cooper – Taikoo Docks – Great Western – Maybe – 1940 JR Stephen also got the Swire archivists involved, and they very kindly let me use the 1937 photo of the Dockyard men (Courtesy of Swire Archives). Of the other photo of the POWs while still in Amoy, Mary Rose Pulvercraft notes: “Card table, left Pattinson, R B Bell, Cunningham, another. Standing, R C Wallace, Jap, Mrs Moir, Mr Moir, Jap, Norwegian, Jeacock, Breckin, Norwegian, Stewart Hope, Dryburgh, two Norwegians. Sitting, middle row, Keown, Lyle, Mrs Breckin, Mrs Bell, Captain Bell, Peoples, another.”
8 Philip Cracknell notes: “This is a series of photographs from a very recent walk I took among the ruins of war on Mount Davis. The structures photographed include the three 9.2-inch gun emplacements (F1, F2 and F3), the AA section position (2 X 3-inch) and the impressive remains of the Royal Navy Port War Signal Station later used as Western Fire Command after the original position was destroyed. I have interspersed the description of the recent walk and current photographs with extracts from RSM Enos Ford's hand-written diary held at the Imperial War Museum. He served at Fort Davis throughout the battle and the terrific bombardment. Click [the link] to see the post.”
7 I was again contacted by the family of Terence Claude Hill. This is another search going back fifteen or more years. Apparently he lived with his two sisters in Kowloon pre-war, and they perhaps left for Australia as evacuees before the invasion. Either way, it seems the family got separated and his descendants really know nothing about their family’s roots. Aspects of the story don’t really add up, and I have made no real progress. All help, as ever, would be gratefully received.
5 I’ve been in touch with Lieutenant Colonel Macpherson’s family again. They kindly sent me this link to a video they made ten years ago to mark his ‘100th birthday’. They also sent me a photo of his: “legacy. Even though he only made it to 30 years of age this is what he left behind. Attached is a picture of Malcolm Macpherson celebrating his 80th Birthday, with his 3 children (plus husbands/wife) and 6 grandchildren. From left to right: Felix Macpherson, Jo Macpherson, Hector Macpherson, James Macpherson, Caroline Macpherson, Malcolm Macpherson, Charlotte Macpherson, Peter Durgerian, Rae Durgerian, Flora Durgerian, Ishbel Amyatt-Leir, Emma Pruen née Macpherson, Poppy Pruen and Matthew Pruen.” I’ve seen several such family groups of men who survived the war, but I think this is the first I have seen from one who died.
4 Today my wife and I walked over the hills to Waterfall Bay. For some unclear reasons you’re not encouraged to visit, but we climbed over the fence and had the place to ourselves until a few kayakers beached themselves there. It’s a nice spot with some interesting defences. 4 Steve Denton kindly sent me an article by Christopher Man (in The Die-Hards), which refers to seven POWs who volunteered as medical orderlies in Kobe House and did a fantastic job. They were: No. 6201000 Corporal Frank Wookey No. 6199800 Lance Corporal William Puddifoot No. 6202309 Private S. Mitchell-Gears No. 6213478 Private Percy Chittenden No. 6201452 Private Leslie Lansdell No. 6213496 Private Albert Green No. 6200321 Bandsman Joseph Nolan
2 Henry John Joslin’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch through the kind services of Keith Andrews.
1 J.C. Echizen posted several fine photos of PB14 and its Lyon Light on facebook today. I just finished writing a short biography of Sergeant Rich, the PB’s final commander, which made it particularly timely.
April 1st, 2021 Update
Two shots from BattleBox (courtesy Craig McCourry), 2/14 Punjabis (courtesy Kamal Prasad)
Devil's Peak Redoubt, City Hall Memorial, Gough Battery (all author)
James Flynn (courtesy Patrick Flynn), Jubilee Battery views (courtesy Tan), Richard Walker Mills (courtesy Michael Martin)
After much deliberation I have finally launched my own boutique agency, Reyner Banham Consulting, offering historical PR consulting, research, and writing. In fact, of course, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for many years but have now decided to make it my focus. The website is far from perfect (and I know it doesn’t support mobile devices well yet), but all feedback would be gratefully received. Meanwhile, all historical research proceeds as usual!
30 I heard this evening (from her son Lawrence) that Mrs. Paul Ka-cheung Tsui passed away peacefully in Hong Kong today. She was married to Paul Tsui of the British Army Aid Group in January 1944, at the St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Wai Chow (Huizhou) where BAAG had its Advance HQ. Ronnie Holmes and Dick Hooper were among the many well-known names at the wedding ceremony.
29 While looking through the diaries of Captain Christopher Man of 1st Bn The Middlesex Regt, I found a note entitled: DRAFT SENT BY 1 MX TO BURMA NOV 41, which I don’t think I’d seen before. It’s widely known that a large number of their NCOs went back to the UK, but clearly this draft to Burma would likely still have been there when the Pacific War started. The note read: “The u/m Officers, NCO’s & Men were sent to BURMA at the end of November 1941 for Training. It has been thought advisable to add their names to this record as all details of this party were lost in HONG KONG. Lieut. G.C. DAWSON 2/Lieut. P. JAMES Sgt PRIDDY Sgt. POINTER Cpl. SETON Cpl. McGRADY PTE THOMPSON (80) PTE THOMPSON (39) “ CUNNINGHAM “ HILL “ McALHATTON “ MORAN “ GEIST “ EATON “ DORMER “ CHACKSFIELD “ MARTIN (56) “ HOWE I looked for the names in CWGC files, but only Dormer seems to have been lost in Burma (though a possible Moran was lost in Italy).
28 An interesting find in the Chai Wan area today. It looked to me like a British 3-inch AA shell (unfired, but case less. Perhaps someone, a long time ago, took the latter as a souvenir. I recognized the time fuse as it seemed identical to one I found on an unexploded 3.7-inch AA shell in the UK as a child). And just a few days ago, in an area I walked past on Friday, we had this.
27 Joseph Henry Newman’s (Royal Military Police) nephew got in touch. 27 Martin Heyes shared a link to a well known British Gaumont newsreel of Hong Kong’s defences, but it’s well worth watching again.
25 Jon Reid gave an online presentation about his book The Captain Was A Doctor today. The recording can be found here. 25 Steve Denton kindly sent me this. It seems to be a partial listing of Red Cross cards documenting POW telegram communications. I tested a few Hong Kong names, but at least with the set I tried I only found records for the deceased. But it is interesting stuff.
24 I wandered down to City Hall this morning to get some photos of the Shrine and HKVDC memorials for the Dobbs family. I was concerned to see that some parts of the area are now a little overgrown. Regular readers will know that sometimes a search for the fate of an individual (or their burial place) can take years or even decades, and this is one of those. Francis Edward Litton Dobbs worked with the China Salt Gabelle and lived in Kunming with his American wife Alice and their three children. 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. Perhaps he went up into the New Territories and was killed when a boiler exploded in a building there (possibly used to store military materials, and possibly a school-type building) early in the fighting. The Stanley list has a date of death of 12 December. His body may or may not have been brought back to Hong Kong. His death certificate states he was killed in a boiler explosion on December 25, but as this wasn’t signed until 1946 it may be dubious. Suffice it to say that Dobbs’s name is in CWGC lists (as dying on 22 December), but he has no known grave at the moment and his exact fate is still uncertain. He is referred to in passing in at least three books, but so far – having been looking into this case for fifteen years - that’s still all I have. STOPPRESS: Just before posting this month’s blog I noticed that someone at the ever-helpful gwulo.com had recently posted a Probate Record giving location of death as the Kwong Sang Hong premises 192 Hennessy Road Hong Kong, 22 December 1941. This could be the breakthrough I’ve been hoping for.
22 Bob Tatz emailed me today to say that he is expecting to release a second revised edition of his book very soon. He notes: “The changes are not significant, the major item being the addition of about 20 photographs after Chapter 15, and some minor editing in the Introduction and Afterthoughts at the ending.“
21 This morning my wife and I took the MTR over to Yau Tong and walked up the hill to Gough Battery and Devil’s Peak Redoubt. I hadn’t been there for years and was amazed to see how popular it was. I had also forgotten how much was left. When the current hiking craze dies down I’ll go back for a better look.
20 Perth Academy in Scotland contacted me today about an old boy, John Dickson, who was lost in the Jeanette explosion in Hong Kong harbour. They would like to make a wooden memorial for him, and I wonder if anything from Jeanette was preserved? My correspondent also noted that: “I was taking photos of headstones in East Wemyss cemetery, Fife. In the background was a family dedication to Eli Westwood.” Gunner Westwood, 8th Coast Regiment, died of meningitis as a POW in June 1942. There’s no way to collate all these private memorials in the UK to men lost in Hong Kong, but I probably hear about two or three each year. 20 On facebook I saw someone advertising the free download (from Amazon) of a new book: “Three Years Eight Months: The Forgotten Struggle of Hong Kong's WWII”. I downloaded and read it. It would be charitable to say it was worth pretty much what I paid for it.
18 Not directly pertinent to the subject in hand, but I had my first BionTech jab in Hong Kong today. A good reminder of how lucky we are in Hong Kong these days to have easy access to modern medicine. 18 I was alerted to two older documentaries about Hong Kong on YouTube. The first, a 2014 piece covering the entire history of Hong Kong, I quite enjoyed (the Second World War segment begins at 29.30). The second is in Chinese, though with subtitles, and includes the words of a number of Chinese veterans I used to know.
17 Craig McCourry reports that his Battlebox movie has now finished shooting and is in post-production. He also shared some quite credible images from the film. 17 I discovered today that the once hard-to-find history of Victoria Barracks is now available online here.
14 In connection with the Royal Mail stamp featuring liberated POWs at Omori (see May 2020), Ian Quinn notes: “There is another HK ‘connection’ in this group also. Glenn McConnell, the pilot of the B-24 ‘Sweepy Time Gal’ shot down 18/04/44 is at the back framed by the outstretched arms. Glenn was exceptionally tall hence he stands out.” 14 On the subject of concert parties at Stanley, Michael Martin posted some sketches on facebook of: “[Richard Walker] Mills in Stanley Camp. All painted by AJ Savitsky. I've actually never seen these before and found them here”. Clearly there were many plays!
13Tan notes: “I mentioned before about British officer locked by Japanese inside Jubilee battery underground magazine. Here is photo of the brick room inside No. 2 gun magazine. It possibly built by Japanese used as jail.” I superimposed the photo on his scanned image which shows the brick room more clear inside the magazine (note the shadow image on the wall shows a rack was added in there). Does anyone know anything about this?
12I received the latest FEPOW75 newsletter today and noticed that the website has been much improved. 12 For anyone interested in the weapons used in Hong Kong during the war, there are now many useful and knowledgeable videos available. This one shows the technical aspects of the Bren gun (note the shot at 24.30 demonstrating the unique oblong shape of firing pin, a shape well-known to anyone who has picked up spent .303 cases in Hong Kong), and this one demonstrates the training for the weapon.
11 I was going through some old emails and found this one from 2004 from Kamal Prasad (son of Kamta Prasad, CO B Coy, 2/14 Punjabis): “My father is seated 3rd from left, next to Sub Maj Haidar Rahman Khan (with the cap & long beard) In the centre is Lt Col GE Grey, the CO, followed by Sub Mohd Khan & Capt IJ Blair. Behind Blair is, I think, Nigel Forsyth. I do not know the others. The title to the pic is ‘Officers & VCOs of the 2/14th Punjab Regt after liberation in HK, Sept 1945’." As photos of the Indian Regiments are so rare, I thought I’d post it this month, together with a rather fine photo of Major James Lough Flynn (who I believe was the CO of D Company) which I received from his son Patrick about ten years ago. 11 I have been assisting a gentleman writing a biography of Christopher Man of the Middlesex, and excellent choice of subject. Fortunately I have a small collection of photos of the Mans, the Weedons, and Geoffrey Cadzow Hamilton taken immediately post war (and lent to me by Hamilton’s daughter). One question that has come out of this is when exactly did the Middlesex leave their barracks at Shamshuipo, and which barracks (presumably on Hong Kong Island) did they move into at that time?
10 Today I was contacted by the great granddaughter of George Findlay Andrew. Andrew was in China during the war, working for Force 163. His son George Leslie Andrew was interned in Stanley where he met his wife to be, Gladys Collard. Both being classified as Canadian they were repatriated in 1943. George Leslie Andrew then continued to the UK to join up and was posted to India where (according to a newspaper article) he was “engaged in special work which took him twice over ‘the hump’ into China.” Gladys volunteered for nursing service in Italy, and when the European war ended transferred to India where they would be reunited. Elizbeth Ride also kindly supplied a couple of BAAG documents confirming George Findlay Andrew’s role in China.
9 I had an interesting email from the family of two British children who were interned in Stanley but repatriated. To complicate matters, although their first names were Elizabeth and John, their surnames were at various times Fitzgerald (that being their mother's maiden name), Soo (as their father was Chinese) and McGowan (their stepfather's surname). After marriage Elizabeth would be Chin Yu Williams, but that is another matter. The Stanley list shows them twice: Fitzgerald Elizabeth Evelyn Miss Canadian 14.12.24 F Clerk IWM
Fitzgerald John Allan Canadian 05.07.27 M Student IWM
With the note "Repatriated Canada 23.09.43”, and:
McGowan B E Miss F Stanley NomRollMar42 McGowan J A M Child Stanley NomRollMar42 It seems that someone managed to get them listed as Canadian and thus repatriated.
8 Alan Sloan posted a photo of his father John Kane Sloan (illustrated) on facebook. Unusually, Sloan’s POW Index Card lists him as a civilian whereas his Shamshuipo record shows him as a Private in the HKVDC. He was captured at the North Point Power Station, and possibly as a civilian (the Japanese were consistent in recognizing civilians captured on the front line as being military POWs).
3 EOD disposed of a three-inch mortar in Shek O today. There seems to be a lot of stuff turning up at the moment, and I’m not sure if it’s the earth crumbling after this extended dry spell or just the pigs nosing things up!
1 Sandy Wynd kindly replied to my question about Stanley Concert programmes (see last month), pointing me to examples here and here. 1 Thanks to both Justin Ho and Ken Skelton for identifying the Royal Rifles of Canada item (see last month). It turns out it is a collar badge of the then 8th Regiment Royal Rifles of Canada (the name of the RRoC from 1900-1920), which was authorized in 1904 and worn until c.1920.
March 1st, 2021 Update
Shamshuipo in around 1935 (courtesy "George Best"), Shamshuipo in 1946 and Photo alignment (author)
Filter beds? (author), RRoC badge (courtesy Colin Standish), Aberdeen Industrial School (author)
Manning HKDDC (courtesy Eve Castillo-Jones), Manning in Argyle Street (via author), Unveiling Saiwan Memorial (courtesy Bill Lake)
An old friend turned up out of the blue this afternoon and very kindly gave me three examples of battlefield memorabilia preserved and mounted in a most professional style. One of them was particularly evocative as – although not a personal item – it could only have come from a particular place at a particular time. Now the thing is that I knew that, and my friend knew that… and that’s what’s got me slightly worried. You see, the Hong Kong Government’s initiatives for the Hong Kong Chronicles and the ‘open museums’ of the Second World War (both mentioned below) are to be applauded. But will they be created by the right people, with that necessary blend of deep knowledge and passion? If you visit Hong Kong’s museums, for example, you immediately realise they are well budgeted and the contents are professionally displayed, but you also feel (with a few exceptions: The Maritime Museum springs to mind) that they are managed and run by people with Museum Studies degrees, rather than a true fascination for the topic. Still, I suppose we’re fortunate to even be in a position to have such a discussion.
28I have been corresponding with Jennifer Dobbs again. Her father - Francis Dobbs who lost his life in Hong Kong during the fighting – worked in China for the Salt Gabelle. I am surprised how little seems to have been written about the latter. There are a few articles online under the name “Salt Administration”, but not a great deal.
27 Colin Standish, grandson of CQMS Colin Standish, Royal Rifles of Canada, has been amassing a useful collection of RRoC artefacts. Today he showed me what appears to be a strange one: a ’slung bugle badge’. That motif is common enough in the British Army, but most notably associated with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. And yet as far as I know Volens Et Valens has only ever been used by the RRoC. As for the 8… I’m no expert but I associate such insignia with regiments rather than battalions. Has anyone seen one of these before?
25 I have been helping a fellow researcher with some details of concerts held in Shamshuipo POW camp. I have quite a number of images – probably at least 25 – of programmes, cast lists, sketches of scenes, and even reviews, most of which are from individual diaries. But it is interesting that I only seem to have one from Argyle Street, and as far as I can see none from Stanley. Does anyone have these? At some point I’ll write an article on the topic for the Roya Asiatic Society.
24 In today’s budget announcement the Hong Kong Government stated that: “money will also be used to convert some wartime relics into ‘open museums’ to ‘enrich visitors' experience and enjoyment at the countryside’.” Interesting. 24 I received an email from the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, working on the Hong Kong Chronicles. They were looking at the paper I wrote for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society a couple of years ago covering Chinese civilian deaths in Hong Kong during the war years.
23 There was some discussion on the internet today about whether 2 (Scottish) Coy HKVDC wore glengarries or not. I have seen photos of them in plain black caps with the HKVDC cap badge, but also have two photos which appear to show some of them wearing glengarries. I believe that on occasion they did.
21 I received the latest Researching FEPOW History Group newsletter. It began: “Have you seen the new series we are running on our blog? The ‘Sharing Research’ series has already featured posts from Jon Cooper, Louise Reynolds, Toby Norways, and Edgar Jones. A new post goes live every Wednesday at 10am which you can view on the RFHG website. Alternatively click the link below to view everything we have posted in the series so far!”
20 “George Best” has been placing (on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page) a large number of very useful photos of Shamshuipo as a pre-war barracks. It seems that the majority, or perhaps all, were taken when the second battalion of the East Lancashire regiment were stationed there 1933-1937. As such they give a very good idea of what it would have looked like as a POW Camp just a few years later. I lined up one of his photos with one of mine (from 1946) on a map of the camp to show people the general layout.
18 Major Charles Joseph Manning’s (HKDDC) great great granddaughter got in touch. I was very pleased, as Manning was the wartime commander of the unit and she kindly sent a number of photos. The family lived at 14a Magazine Gap Road, a short walk from where I am writing this. In reply I sent her a sketch of Manning drawn in camp by fellow POW Lieutenant Mervyn Scott-Lindsley, RNVR. I knew that Manning’s wife and two daughters had been evacuated to Australia before hostilities, and now I have learned their names (Ursula, Jennifer, and Sheila). 18 I went for my annual medical checkup at the Matilda Hospital today, and when I left I looked over the slope to its west to try to find the AOP which Kwong Chi Man had told me was there. Although a lot of vegetation had been cleared away, I couldn’t make it out and didn’t fancy scrambling down.
17 On the question of Ivor Patterson (see last month) the CWGC today replied: “We have failed to find a reason in our records why BAAG was being shown as part of Pte. Patterson's record. It appears to have been added in error. We have now removed it.” 17 I walk up High West at least once a week, and on facebook in a discussion about Japanese tunnels someone wrote: “I found with ease this gem hidden just a few footsteps from the main path to Mount High West. The access couldn't be possibly easier. Just before the first flight of stairs heading up the mountain you follow the ribbon trail veering off to the left. The tunnel with two entrances will show on your right within 20m. There's also trenches just S of it or left of the trail.” In fact I firstly took the wrong trail, right at the start of the steps, later discovering the right one at the point just up the steps where they level out and lots of .303 bullets are to be found from the old butts. And then I came across the tunnels much as advertised.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent two photos of Jack Benson, Royal Scots.
14 Today I visited the island of Po Toi for the first time. We took the ferry from Stanley and walked over the top (Trail 3) and back into the village. I have often wondered if this was one of the uninhabited islands where the Japanese dumped Hong Kong people during the Occupation, but apparently it has always had a small population.
13 I heard today from Stephen Hutcheon, a journalist working with ABC in Sydney. His mother (now aged 98) was living in Hong Kong at the time of the Japanese invasion and was whisked away to Macau during the occupation to keep her out of harm's way, his late aunt Hilda Greaves (a nurse) was interned in Stanley, and his late uncle Stanley Greaves died fighting for the volunteers to defend the colony in December 1941. 13 David St Maur Shell notes that his mother: “found this photo of Admiral Harcourt greeting Sir Grenville Alabaster... It is from a group of photos cut from papers and some seem to be originals from the surrender period given to the family by a friend who was on HMS Euryalus one of the navy boats in Harcourt’s fleet.” Something about the edging of the photo looks very familiar but I can’t put my finger on it. I was wondering where it might have been published.
11 Sandy Wynd was the first person to let me know that The Telegraph had published Dennis Morley’s obituary today. I confess to not being a huge fan of the paper, but I think their cartoonist (Matt) is the best in the business, and their obituaries are the Best of British, so I was very glad to help with this.
9 Bill Lake notes: “I think this will be of interest to you. Anthony Charter’s parent’s saved this order of service for the unveiling of the Sai Wan Bay Memorial. Anthony in turn passed it on to me, along with the Chimes of St. John’s and the Liberation Service at Stanley… The reason that the Charters would have been there is that they were both members of St. John’s Cathedral Choir at that time.” He kindly attached the programme.
8 George Patterson, the last of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who were in Hong Kong, is one hundred today (illustrated).
5 A friend and I walked to the top of Lion Rock today, oddly enough the first time I have done that in more than thirty years in Hong Kong. One of the many interesting things along the route are the concrete pillbox ‘maps’ which are seen at several places, showing distances and directions to nearby PBs of the Gin Drinkers Line. Recent research by Kwong Chi Man and others has clarified what a complex ‘line’ this really was, with more than one hundred pillboxes in multiple lines and groups covering all aspects of the hills. 5 Brian Finch dropped me a useful note. “As you know, we’ve spent some time over recent months sorting out details for the [Lisbon Maru Memorial], including badges, order of precedence and other delights. One specific point we have discovered is that the Army Dental Corps did not become Royal until after the war.” It turns out that this is absolutely correct and I will amend my records accordingly.
4Frank Leslie Macey’s (Middlesex, Lisbon Maru) niece got in touch. 4 After dropping my wife off at the French International School at Wong Nai Chung Gap this morning, I walked down to the covered water reservoirs by Blue Pool Road. I wonder if this could have been the area of “Filter beds” referred to in the Royal Scots’ account of the fighting in that area? Unfortunately most of it was out of bounds.
3 From Christopher Allanson (of the family of Captain Kenneth Allanson RA, Lisbon Maru) I heard today that: “After much work formal approval for the [Lisbon Maru] memorial and its siting near the Far East POW area has been given by the [National Memorial Arboretum] and the formal dedication and memorial service is scheduled for Sunday 3rd October next at noon subject to movement restrictions having been lifted.” I will attend if I possibly can. 3 Jim Trick asked Philp Cracknel and me to critique this video about the Battle of Hong Kong. We both agreed that there were many, many errors in detail, yet the presentation (as a continuous 3D graphic simulation) was very compelling and – overall – educational.
2 T.K. Wong reminded me today that all three of his almost 104 year old mother’s three younger brothers were killed during the war, being sent to work as forced labourers on Hainan Island. Sadly, this can’t have been an unusual experience. 2 I received the following email today: “I saw an email from a person related to Jack Smith, in which they said he was in camp Nigatta and he knew Ralph McClean and was a good friend. My dad Hercules Ralph Buchanan RRC also was very good friend of Ralph McClean. I was hoping that person could e-mail me as I would like to talk to them. Thankyou his son Richard Buchanan.” I replied, but heard nothing back. Alas, yet another spam filter has apparently done the wrong thing… 2 While searching for details of Alfred Cecil Houghton, RE, for another project, I discovered that his son Sub Lieutenant (A) George Alfred Houghton had been killed in a crash in the Clyde while serving in 846 Squadron FAA flying from HMS Tracker on 10 January 1944. The squadron was flying Grumman Avengers at the time, and it appears that Sub Lieutenant E.B. Dixon and Leading Airman R.F. Gates were killed with him(as was a passenger, Ordinary Signalman George A Smith), though I can see no report of this crash in HMS Tracker’s history. But perhaps that explains why the Houghton family have never contacted me. (Houghton himself, of course, was one of those lost in the September 1945 B24 crashes whilst being flown home as an ex-POW).
1 Today I heard the good news that the Grenville Alabaster Wartime Journal project has been approved for publication by the HKUP editorial board. 1 Last month I completely forgot to report on Aberdeen Industrial School. While walking from the Wong Chuk Hang MTR station to the site of the BattleBox filming I finally took the opportunity to photograph this building. It was of course the local headquarters for the defence of this region in December 1941, with RAF personnel manning machine guns on its roof.
February 1st, 2021 Update
Dennis Morley at 101 (courtesy Denise Wynne), Devonshire's Helmet (courtesy Hazel Dolan), Routledge (courtesy Leslie Kiehlbauch)
Bob Lapsley at 100 (courtesy Philomena Lapsley), Joint Hospital (courtesy Carol Campbell), Whyte Family (courtesy Brian Simpson)
Thomas Hewson (via Brian Finch), Carruthers reunion (courtesy Michael Carruthers), James McDougall (courtesy Mark Collins)
“Looking forward to 2021 with a new brother - unbelievable.”
And there we are. Yes, it is indeed somewhat unbelievable that in 2020 we are still finding and reuniting people separated by the Second World War, but yes, there we are. And, conversely, we are still losing people. Good old indestructible Dennis Morley of the Royal Scots is gone. I honestly thought he’d outlast me, but at the age of 101 having survived the fighting on the Gin Drinkers Line and Golden Hill, the battles of Wong Nai Chung and Mount Nicholson, the surrender of St Albert’s Emergency Hospital, the diphtheria and dysentery epidemics of Shamshuipo, the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, the years in Osaka #2B (Kobe House) POW camp, the American fire bombing of that city, and the journey back in which several of his comrades lost their lives when B24s carrying them home flew into a typhoon - Dennis was finally killed by Covid-19.
31 Anna Rozario kindly sent a link to a nicely-done web version of Shadow Lights of Shamshuipo. Fortunately I have a hardback copy which I found some 15 years ago, but I wish more rare books were available in this form.
30 George Boote has been rereading his collection of some 70 FEPOW Forums. In the Christmas 1981 forum he found a story written by Michael Giblin of 7 HAA Regiment. It mentions the escape (from Shamshuipo) and recapture of Sergeant Thomas Salisbury, 7th HAA, Bombardier Evans (presumably David Evans), and Sergeant Fuller (presumably Geoffrey Fuller). I don’t believe I have heard of this escape before.
28 Today I heard via Philomena Lapsley that her uncle, Robert Lapsley HKVDC, who was a POW in Shamshuipo and Innoshima, celebrated his 100th birthday on January 19. 28 The South China Post ran a good article about Dennis Morley today.
26 Dennis Morley’s funeral took place today at 12.00 noon (8.00pm in China and Hong Kong) at Gloucester Crematorium. 26 William Tyner’s (RAMC) granddaughter Carol Campbell notes: “I have been scrolling through your updates on the War Diary web page today, (I've got a few to catch up on!), and came across the group photo sent to you by Walter Hodgkinson's son in June last year. You state on the website: 'I wonder if the photo of Caucasian and Indian personnel is in fact of a joint RAMC/Indian Medical Service (IMS) group? Perhaps all the staff of the Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon?' I realised that I have a very similar photo, which is annotated on the back 'British and Indian Staff, Combined Military Hospital, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Jan 1939' (copies attached for you). This would suggest that you are right and that this might be an annual staff photo.”
23 Today the filming starts for Battlebox. Unfortunately I am not free to visit the set for the next few days.
22 Today I walked, as I do most Fridays, with my old friend George Bush. That isn’t his real name of course, but when I first knew him he was a very successful headhunter (now he’s one of Hong Kong’s most successful psychotherapists), and to get past my then secretary’s defences and get put through to me, he would (successfully, again) claim to be that particular American president… This time he proposed a trip to the top of Brick Hill. I had always assumed the whole mount was wired off as part of Ocean Park, but not at all. We walked to the summit (quite a trek for me, from Conduit Road to Bowen Road, up Wanchai Gap Road, down Lady Clementi’s Ride all the way to Aberdeen, crossing a busy corner of the latter to get to Nam Long Shan Road, walking up that road past the Singapore International and then the Canadian International schools, and then up steps to the left, many, many, steps to the summit. From there we had tremendous views, including some south towards Ocean Park and some of the wartime shelters there. An old friend of mine, Gordon Fairclough, had been based there during the fighting, a period he describes well in his book Brick Hill and Beyond. Next time I’ll explore further.
21 This morning I left home early to walk over the hills to Waterfall Bay. I don’t know why I never did this route before, but it was pretty straightforward and exactly 1.5 hours door to ‘door’ at full speed. Unfortunately access to the waterfall itself is currently locked. It would have been simple enough to jump over the low fence, but there were so many people around that I felt embarrassed to do so. But I’ll do it next time, as I could see one or two wartime shelters around its base.
20 Jon Reid kindly sent me a review of his book from Literary Review of Canada. Unfortunately it seems to be behind a firewall, but some readers will hopefully have access. Here’s an excerpt, concerning Reid’s journey home from POW camp: “He reached her from Pearl Harbor: Reid’s low-key, almost cross-sounding murmurs were hard to understand, and what Jean could make out wasn’t what she was longing to hear. His voice was clipped, giving the basics of where he was, how he was coming home, handling this surreal reunion, hindered by technical difficulties, the best he could. ‘Say something nice to me,’ Jean finally blurted. Reid’s questioning garble was lost on her, so she said again, ‘Please, say something nice to me.’ Her husband never managed that simple act. Although he had married the young woman he adored - although he returned to her in Toronto and although they had two children - something had shattered inside him. He never really managed ‘nice’ again.” The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto also asked Jon to do a Zoom talk on the book on the 19th, which he has kindly uploaded to YouTube here.
18 Albert Devonshire’s old tin hat finally reached his daughter in the UK today. The helmet was found by Timothy Rankin in the spring of 2020, but delays caused by Covid, and our changing family travel plans, and then a death in our family and other distractions, led to me not dispatching it to the UK until mid-December. And then air transport was disrupted yet again, and despite being sent by air the helmet took a full month to make the trip. Luckily it seems to have arrived in good shape. Since then, Timothy has also found the key and tag for Devonshire’s pillbox, and – as mentioned last month - it has been written up by Philip Cracknell. 18 Mark Collins kindly sent a photo of James McDougall, HQ Company, Royal Scots, who survived the Lisbon Maru (and was KT Tunstall’s grandfather, see June). 18 Ken Skelton kindly pointed out that a copy of Shanghai Lawyer (see last month) is available from Abebooks. I hope I have managed to secure it! 18 A number of newspapers have run the story of John Carley’s (965 Defence Battery) medallion, including the Manchester Evening News and the Lancashire Telegraph.
15 Brian Finch kindly sent a photo of Gunner Thomas Hewson, lost on the Lisbon Maru.
14 There has been considerable coverage of Dennis Morley’s passing, including in the Stroud News and Journal and the Daily Mail. 14 Long term correspondent George Boote notes: “This is interesting, not my cup of tea to purchase, and I never trust this sort of thing unless it has provenance.” I immediately notified Maltby’s grandson who said: “Looking at the seller's location, Preston Lancs., I suspect this was in the possession of Ann Halam who was Maltby's first daughter who lived there. She was an archaeologist and her house was full of surveying and draughting equipment as well as samples and reports. When she went into a home, we let other members of the archaeological community come and take what they thought to be important or useful.” and put in a bid for this item himself.
13 Today I had lunch with the President of the Royal Asiatic Society, Dr Helen Tinsley, to discuss points pertaining to the annual Journal.
12 Elizabeth Ride phoned again to further discuss the BAAG names she is chasing up. Afterwards I wrote to her: “I just searched CWGC again with every combination of the name I could think of, but with no luck. However, I did find this quite comprehensive write-up of Operation Minerva and Lau Teng Kee’s role. The book - you probably know it - is Special Forces Operations in South-East Asia 1941 - 1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks / Creek by David Miller, Jan 20, 2016. Unfortunately I cannot read Appendix C online, but apparently it has something about Lau’s family.” Elizabeth replied: “It was at Millar's request I wrote to the CWGC in his attempt to have Lau recognised. Lau is of course definitely on my BAAG Roll of Honour. It would have been nice to know, but not necessary for my R of H, if there had been any developments.” It’s frustrating to note that all the other men lost on Lau’s mission are already recorded by the CWGC. I have also contacted the CWGC for help in the case of Ivan Patterson.
11 I received copies of the latest Java Journal today. I see that Shanghai internee Ron Bridge passed away on 27 September 2020. Ron helped a lot with recording civilian internees all over the China region. The Journal also included George MacDonell’s article about POW Camp sabotage in Japan, and a mention of Victor Ient’s book ‘These Valiant Men’. Finally it recorded “Civilian Internee Dee Larcombe from Kent, who was born in Hong Kong in 1941 just before the Japanese invaded and held there throughout captivity. Please see the books section for her book ‘The Girl in the Drawer’. Her father was Alfred Taylor of the RAMC who was taken on Hong Kong and held at Shamshuipo and Osaka no. 1 camp, Japan.” I have covered the latter book earlier, but have yet to read it myself.
10 Michael Carruthers (HKVDC) nephew got in touch. He noted: “My late uncle, Nigel Carruthers was a POW when Singapore fell and survived the war in Changi. One of his brothers, Andrew, was taken prisoner in Sumatra where he died, and a third brother was Michael (Micky) Carruthers, who we understand, was in the HKVDC and was awarded the MC for his part in the defence of Hong Kong. So far we don't know any more about his time there. I have read that there were 19 decorations awarded to those who fought in the battle, so I am assuming that Michael was one of those. Do you have any information about him? I have attached a newspaper cutting from 1968, showing Michael with his mother and four surviving brothers. I should explain that our family connection was through Nigel's wife Margaret, my mother's younger sister. She also had quite an eventful war, having been working for the Malaya broadcasting service and was one of the last to leave Singapore before it fell. She had a hair-raising escape by sea ending in Colombo, and later went to live in the States, before returning to Singapore after the war, where she met and married Nigel. Afterwards, Nigel and Maggi returned to Scotland to take over the Dormont estate after Nigel's father died. At that time, my parents were based in India so my brothers and I would often spend our school holidays at Dormont which was where we got to know the Carruthers family well.” Michael Carruthers was of course a highly respected member of the HKVDC, commanding the Armoured Car Platoon, and is well remembered. 10 I have not yet had a chance to look at this properly, but I was very interested to see a new PhD thesis about RAPWI.
9 Justin Ho notes: “I was recently browsing old books and booklets online, when I came across these two yearbooks of the 14th Punjab Regiment (a 1940 and 1948 one) currently being bidded on. The 1948 one has a brief mention of the 2nd Battalion playing a ‘prominent role in the Defence of Hong Kong’ in one of its pages.”
8 The two people I referred to rather mysteriously last month – a half brother and half sister separated by the war – reunited today. “Thanks for everything. I owe you a drink or two. Just having a whiskey myself to celebrate” says one, and “looking forward to 2021 with a new brother – unbelievable”, says the other. 8 The whole community of interest (led by Philp Cracknell in this case) was involved in this story.
7 Today Annemarie Evans from RTHK came to our flat to interview me about the life and times of Dennis Morley. I will put a link on this blog when the resulting program is broadcast. 6 Brian Finch kindly sent me a number of files relating to Lisbon Maru survivor and escapee Bill Evans, who was accidentally murdered in Vietnam shortly after the war. ‘Accidentally murdered’ sounds rather odd, but unfortunately he was mistaken for someone else in an otherwise well-planned assassination.
5 This afternoon from 12.00 to 16.00 I joined film maker Craig McCourry on his set on the twenty-seventh floor of an industrial building in Aberdeen for rehearsals for his new film Battlebox. It’s an interesting dilemma for a historian: it’s a work of fiction, so really I should give it a wide berth, and yet because it’s based on fact I’d rather be involved and hopefully help ensure it doesn’t stray too far from reality. So the upshot is that I have been assisting as ‘script consultant’ and ‘additional dialogue by’ and thoroughly enjoying myself. It is fascinating (and rather impressive) to see professional actors taking your words and adapting them to their characters. 5 Tan notes, of the Second Battalions Scots Guards emblem: “The emblem is still safe so far. Here is a video. Will check again few months later.”
3 Dennis Morley passed away peacefully in hospital at 12.30 today. I heard belatedly that the only other known survivor from the Lisbon Maru, William Beningfield of the 1st Middlesex, had passed away in Canada the Sunday before Christmas, so Dennis was – to the best of my knowledge - the last of them all. I corresponded with him for years, and he visited us twice in Hong Kong. 3 I have had a request for any paperwork relating to Operational Orders or Defence Plans for Hong Kong. My correspondent notes: “I can't see them listed at Kew but they may be under an obscure heading. The reason I am looking for them is because I want to see what plans had been drawn up for the Defence and who/where/what, the perceived threat was. This would have been the basis for drawing up Operational Orders that would then have been brought into play if and when the threat became a reality. For example, at sometime a decision had to have been made about building those pill boxes and tunnels on the mainland, it would have been laid down why they were deemed necessary. Details of how they were to be used, manned etc would also have been written down, all sorts of likely scenarios would have been addressed. These plans would have been reviewed and any identified changes written in. The maintenance of them would also have been written down, to what level etc depending on their importance. They were likely classified documents.”
1 To clarify from last month: Elizabeth Ride’s criteria for her Roll of Honour: “is that there should be proof of working for BAAG and proof of death during the war.” She is currently struggling with three names on her brother Edwin’s list: Patterson, Wong For Yau and Wong Kwong Sheung. I am pretty sure that Patterson is the gentleman I mentioned in We Shall Suffer There: “The CWGC lists Private Ivan Patterson, 7536265, RADC, K 10.2.43 as being ‘BAAG’, and this is echoed in Edwin Ride’s book. However, there seems to be no evidence that Patterson was involved in BAAG, and in fact he was a POW in Taiwan who was re-interred in Saiwan post-war.” But I have no idea yet on the other two gentlemen. A fourth gentleman, Lau Teng Kee, definitely lost his life on BAAG service, but it isn’t yet clear how to get him recognised by CWGC. 1 Brian Edgar kindly sent several newspaper clippings about James Whyte (see last month), and I have posted a photo of the Whyte family in case it jogs any memories. He also found another newspaper article about Father Robert Jacquinot which stated: “After the fall of Hong Kong he arrived on the island in the hope of being able to organise relief services.” I still find it very unlikely, but as always would be happy to learn more. 1 Ronald J. Routledge’s (Royal Canadian Corps of Signals) daughter posted an excellent photo of her father on facebook. She noted: “My (late) father told us almost nothing about his experience, so I'd been hoping to see something relevant here. I do know he was wounded in Hong Kong on Dec. 8 1941, captured on Dec. 25th and taken to Shamshuipo POW camp. Later, however, he was removed to Stanley Prison, tried for espionage and incarcerated in a Canton Military prison for the duration of the war. If anyone can provide more information about him, or especially photos, I'd be grateful.” Of course his activities in camp are quite well known, but I didn’t have any other relevant photos.
1 A Japanese soldier's dogtag has been found in the hills (illustrated). It's only the second I have heard of in the last ten or twenty years. 1 David Bellis from Gwulo kindly noted (see last month): “Here are a couple more of boundary stones to see around High West (scroll down the page to see the map)”.
January 1st, 2021 Update
Wheelbarrow full of Lewis Gun drums, Key to PB31 (both courtesy Timothy Rankin), Luba Estes (via facebook)
Marjorie Smith (courtesy Robert Sears via Martin Heyes), Book handover (author), Pilot's Cup (via Steve Denton)
Lisbon Maru sinking X 2 (Middlesex & Royal Scots Museums), Winnipeg B Coy 9 Plt (Joyce barker via facebook)
What a month. At a little over four thousand words, this is the longest monthly update in this site’s twenty year history. I just noticed that at some point, I think in October, the total number of words published on this monthly blog exceeded the 400,000 mark. Not bad for something that started (in this format) as a transient idea in October 2003. I believe it is now one of the oldest continuously updated blogs on any subject in the entire world. Readers who have been following this site from day one – and believe it or not, there actually are a few – have had the equivalent of four average-sized books worth of information for free! Though, at the same time, the feedback and information I have received from readers in return have enabled me to write four books on the topic of Hong Kong and the war, and lots of articles and papers and innumerable other stuff, so I have nothing to complain about.
But wait, there’s more! This month my older son discovered the Christmas Present for the man or woman who has everything! I would have been quite tempted to get one myself except that I believe all you actually get is a massive jpeg file which you need to print out yourself…
31 I heard today that Lisbon Maru survivor Dennis Morley has just become a great great grandfather!
30 A correspondent is asking for more details on Stanley Internee James Jardine Whyte. The Jurors’ Roll lists him as Timekeeper at the Taikoo Docks, but (aside from the Stanley information itself) that’s all I could find. His interest is this: “He was interned by the Japanese at the Stanley internment camp until released and returned to his Hong Kong residence. The direct link with my family goes somewhat deeper. In 1946 my father [Archibald Mackenzie Simpson] whilst still in the RAF was seriously injured in Hong Kong. This may or may not have been the result of a flying incident at Kai Tak or from previous injuries in Burma. Unfortunately I do not have these details. He was hospitalised in HK for a number of weeks. When Jimmy was informed by my grandfather he took my father into to his home and helped nurse him back to health before he was allowed to return to the UK on a hospital ship.” Can anyone add anything more?
29 Elizabeth Ride phoned today to discuss three problematic names which need checking for her final BAAG Roll of Honour. 29 Arthur William Ferrall’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) grandson got in touch.
28 As long-term readers of this blog will be aware, pretty much every year I get at least one request to help repair families broken apart by the Second World War. It seems almost unbelievable that such services should still be needed 75 years after its end, but they are. Today I received one of those emails. At the moment I don’t know if I will be able to report upon it in any detail, as obviously such things are by definition very personal. One or two of these have not turned out so well, but I am hoping that the thirty years experience I have now had of navigating such delicate situations will bring a satisfactory resolution. 28 Martin Heyes kindly sent a number of photos from Robert Sears: “Robert, as you will see, is related to Mrs Marjorie Smith, one of the British nurses who were members of the HKVDC murdered by the Japanese in St Stephen’s College on 25 Dec 1941.” The photos included her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Walter John Lindley Smith, RAOC, who she married in 1923 and who was a Hong Kong POW. 28 Michael Hurst, MBE, announced that: “that the long-awaited book on the Taiwan POW camps and the POWs titled ‘Never Forgotten…The Story of the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps in Taiwan during World War II’ has just been released and the information and details for purchasing a copy are now up on our website.”
24 Tom Middleton Junior (the son of Leading Stoker Tom Middleton of HMS Tern, who was featured by the British post office on one of the ‘collection of eight Special Stamps featuring evocative photographs capturing the relief and jubilation that followed the formal end of the Second World War in 1945 stamps’ - see April) notes: “I went to my local post office in Faversham, Kent this morning and bought the last set. I’ve emailed my kids, and they too are excited that we have a ‘Middleton’ on a UK postage stamp. I’ve asked one of my boys to enquire about somehow getting the original colourised print.” He also kindly sent me a family-made biography of his father. 24 The National Post in Canada today carried an article by Jon Reid concerning his book about his father Captain John Reid.
23 Today I finally managed to fulfill Bob Tatz’s request to donate a copy of his autobiography, Lost In the Battle For Hong Kong, to Vivian So (the librarian of the Royal Asiatic Society). Vivian had pointed out that the library was also missing one of my books (Reduced to a Symbolical Scale – the account of the evacuation of British women and children from Hong Kong to Australia in 1940), so I handed over a copy of that at the same time. 23 Steve Denton reports of an exchange with the Royal Scots museum: “Interestingly earlier this week I came across a newspaper article from the 50s, it was telling the story about a couple of officers wandering around a market in Hong Kong when they spotted the 2nd Battalion Colours last seen at the Hong Kong surrender, they got them back (not sure if they bought them, need a bit more research) but the article was the Colours being handed over at the barracks, here in Edinburgh, very close to where I live. These Colours are now in the museum. We know the Battalion buried a lot of stuff, just at the surrender. I don't know if there was a record kept of where exactly or if they tried to retrieve them and found them gone or not. One item that appears to be missing is The Pilot’s Cup. We touched on this previously because both Sgt Fraser and Sgt Alsey won it. I checked this Cup out and it is named after a Lt who served with the 2nd Battalion. He was a very popular officer. He was returning to the UK before the war to attend a training course. On the last night at sea, he dined with the other officers on the ship and was left reading a book when they went off to bed. In the morning he had disappeared and was never seen again. His devastated parents presented a Silver Cup to the Battalion, to be awarded to the best all round sportsman. The Cup is named The Pilot’s Cup because that was the Lt's, nickname. He was a great sailor and himself an all round sportsman. I am not suggesting for one second that this Cup may still be around, probably melted down by now. I merely mention this because it was a very plain Cup, we do have a photograph, that few would understand the significance of, especially to the Royal Scots.” As usual I have my same old question: Does anyone know more, including the lieutenant’s full name? 23 Winston Smith reports from Canada: “In my memoirs I include a story of a colleague who was a Hong Kong Veteran of some significance. After the war he became a Canadian National Park Warden and the story is written in that context. But it does contain as much of his background and war experiences as I could determine.” Those memoirs are well written and very readable, and the HK veteran in question is Warrant Officer Class II Harold Shepherd, MBE, Royal Rifles of Canada – who was clearly a very interesting and impressive individual. Winston kindly sent me the full coverage of Shepherd and it makes for compelling reading.
22 Ian Gill (born in Stanley Internment Camp) emailed me, asking: “Did you know Minja Ivanovic, a well-known character in Manila? Anyway, Minja had an English nanny she knew only as Nanny Hardy who had been working with an English family in Hong Kong and was evacuated to Manila. She got stuck in Manila and ended up in Japanese prison camps in Laguna and Baguio. Any chance of looking up her full name? Hardy was her family name, she was English.” It’s interesting how the ‘racial profiling’ of nannies and helpers has changed over the years. My Hong Kong friends are often amazed to hear that pre-war American families in the Philippines often preferred to import nannies from Hong Kong (because many had been in service with British families and spoke some English, and they trusted them more than ’the locals’). And of course an English nanny has been a thing since The King and I / Mary Poppins.* Unfortunately I can’t find a Hardy in my evacuation lists, and I have never seen an official list of British internees in the Philippines. Does anyone recognise that name? Later, Ian noted: “I have been going through old videos I made and in one where I interviewed Minja she said Nanny Hardy had been in these prison camps in Laguna and Baguio and had told her they would not have survived had Filipinos, at great risk to their lives, not brought them food and milk through the wire. That's the entire story but it makes a touching vignette. Minja died of lung cancer a couple of years after I made the tape of her life.” * Thirty-five years ago I had dinner with the ninety-year-old ‘Momchou Prince’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As son of one of the young princes tutored in ‘The King and I’ he introduced himself as “Yul Brynner’s grandson”.
21 Today Elizabeth Ride reminded me of a famous Christmas question from BAAG. In early 1943, Colonel Ride signaled (C/115) Major Clague to ask if it was true – as the Red Cross had apparently reported from Shanghai – that POWs had had as Christmas celebration: “Primo – distribution about 600 letters which had arrived from Home. Secondo – several hundred gift parcels donated by local residents. Tertio – decoration of trees outside barracks in true Christmas style music being supplied by POW Band and carols sung on Christmas eve and during night by groups of POWs. Quarto – Dinner roast turkey, cranberry, vegetables, mincepies, coffee, cigars - plenty for all. Quinto – one package candy for each POW with greeting card signed by an American or British lady. Sexto – huge Christmas Cake baked by POWs themselves – ingredients value about one thousand yen donated by Japanese authorities. Septimo – Religious services on Christmas Day stop. Real Yuletide spirit prevailed. POWs unanimously delighted.” Clague’s reply: “Douggie 90 dated 30/4(.) Reference your C/115 dated 19/2(.) Alfs say all balls no (repeat) no hbs gifts(.) Details following(.)” In BAAG open code, Alfs was Shamshuipo POW Camp, and hb was the Japanese (hissing bastards). 21 On facebook Joyce Barker notes: “My Dad Robert Gordon Utech had joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. I am including a picture. The inscription at the bottom of this picture is as follows: ‘9 Platoon, B Company, 102nd CA(R)TC, Lieut. T.C. Crawford, Co. Commander J.T. Thomas, August 12, 1941.’ I haven’t yet worked out where this fits in, but clearly it’s before they deployed to Hong Kong.
18 It’s amazing how fascinated people (like me…) can become about a small amount of corroded metal! Robert MacFarland found the bottom half of a strange cartridge case in Junk Bay. Following exhaustive investigation (involving people from at least three continents) we think it is most probably from a Japanese Type 96 25 mm Hotchkiss AT/AA Gun.
17 Detector expert Timothy Rankin reports finding the key to Pillbox 31. Not only is this the first such key I have heard of, it also neatly brackets Philip Cracknell’s new blog below. 17 Elizabeth Ride asked: “Can you give me some help about the fate of Rustam Master? I have what I need about his HKVDC background, his connection with the Ansari case, his arrest and detention. But then there are two versions: one that he was executed, the other that he was set free. Have you any proof of his date of death or burial place?” I list him as Private Rustam Jehangir Master, Field Company Engineers, HKVDC (CLP Argyle) with no record of death. Interestingly, Gwulo.com mentions him and notes: “Carl Smith card #160669 notes: Parsee Cemetery: Rustam Jehanger Master, b. H.K. 11 Sept. 1907 d. 27 Mar 1953, aged 45 yrs.” So it seems that he did survive the war.
15 I received an interesting email from a historian in France: “I am an historian and I am preparing a biography of a Jesuit priest, Robert Jacquinot de Besange who was highly involved in the defence of refugees in Shanghai in 1937. I found in different newspapers that he went to Hong Kong in May 1942 to help British prisoners in Hong Kong. I found information but not very specific in newspapers such that in a Canadian newspaper or in Australian newspapers but I'd like to know more about what he did concretely. How long he stayed in Hong Kong. How and when he returned to France, since he was in Paris in 1943.” There is nothing in my files about this, so I asked the always helpful Elizabeth Ride in Norway; if Jacquinot was in HK in the war years I can’t imagine the BAAG not being aware of him. Sadly Elizbeth told me that there was no mention of him in BAAG’s voluminous archives, so I suspect those newspaper articles (which I inspected myself) were purely hearsay. Unless, of course, any reader can correct me?
13 My CBC article has generated a certain amount of correspondence. One email, which I received today, was from Elmie Saaltink who saw what I had produced and sent me several interesting things written by her father, Hendrik Jan Saaltink (Indonesian born, though of Dutch parentage). Captured in Indonesia he had no direct connection with Hong Kong, but he had been a POW in Burma and then Japan. One thing he wrote echoed my article very nicely: “There is some human decency at work that even a war cannot wipe out!!!!! This is the first thing that young children of all races should know. And furthermore they should understand that war is not a humane and effective way to settle international arguments.”
12 I have been spending a lot of time this autumn walking around the High West area. Today, just off the path from the top of Hatton Road to the High West AOP, I happened to see a concrete block – typical of those that mark city boundaries and War Department property – marked WD11 (illustrated). Poking around, with the undergrowth being at its seasonal low at this time of the year, I soon found two more. I wonder what it was that they marked? 12 Justin Ho kindly sent me a photo of the jacket of the book ‘Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939–45: Campaigns in South-East Asia 1941-42’. I was about to reply “yes, I have a copy”, when I noticed that mine is actually: ‘Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War 1939-45: Medical Services - Campaigns in the Eastern Theatre. Combined InterServices Historical Section, India and Pakistan. Delhi: Orient Longman, 1964.’ When I looked into it I discovered that these two volumes are simply part of a multi-volume series that also included: India and the War; East African Campaign 1940-41; The North African Campaign; Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organisation, 1939-45; Campaigns in South-East Asia 1941-42; The Arakan Operation 1942-45; Campaign in Western Asia; Post-War Occupation Forces: Japan and South-East Asia; and probably several more.
10 Today I learned of the existence of the book ‘Shanghai lawyer’ by Norwood F Allman, published 1 January 1943. Allman was an American Stanley internee thus, as my aim is to have a copy of every book on Hong Kong during the war years, this one is now on my shopping list.
9 A discussion on facebook has revealed a host of Japanese documentation online for the Battle of Hong Kong. These maps, for example, and more – including POW lists – here. 9 For a while now I have been assisting film maker Craig McCourry in pursuit of his upcoming film BattleBox, which covers the tensions and challenges of the British top brass in the Battle of Hong Kong. Craig has actually already completed two other films on the subject: Christmas in the Royal Hotel, and Hong Kong 1942. While I was not involved in either of these I have high hopes for this new film, for which I will be billed as both ‘additional dialogue by’ and ‘historical consultant’. 9 I received a welcome email from Canada: “My dad Jack Smith was a prisoner of war in Niigata alongside Ralph McLean. In fact Ralph was a close friend. Sadly my dad passed away on June 17, 2010. Prior to his death, the CBC did a really nice interview to capture all his stories. We have this on CD.” I was immediately interested in this because Jack Smith has been on my list of unresolved issues for years. At some point his records in Hong Kong seem to have been confused with someone else, but my correspondent helped to confirm that the chap I had listed as having a ‘compound fracture of right ulnar’ at Queen Mary Hospital was the right man. “Yes his broken arm plagued him all his life. Couldn’t play catch for more than a few minutes. In the hospital the British doctor looked at his arm and said ‘take the arm’. Dad reached behind his cot, grabbed his bayonet and said no damn way. A Hong Kong doctor took over his care and saved his arm.” The issue was a rare mistake in the Smuggled List of POWs, which claimed that he had stayed the war in Shamshuipo whereas in fact he had been shipped to Japan. 9 Michael Hurst announced the publication of the Fall-Winter 2020 POW Society newsletter "Never Forgotten".
8 And yet more turns up… Today’s news was about some twenty British grenades and several thousand rounds of ammunition being dug up ‘in the hills’. The finder kindly posted videos to a closed facebook group, showing perhaps twenty full Lewis Gun drums, and some six or more Vickers Gun ammunition boxes full of web-belted ammunition. Photos also showed individually wrapped .303 chargers for SMLEs. Unfortunately although some of the ammunition looked in good condition, most of the other bits and pieces were rotten or rusty. They were (correctly) reported to the police, and no doubt the authorities had to destroy them all. As I often remind people, each battalion in Hong Kong was given an extra 1,000,000 rounds of .303 alone when hostilities started, so there must be plenty still around. Generally I avoid posting photographs of ordnance on this site as I do not want to encourage people to dig for such things when so much is still live and dangerous. But in this case I believe the photo serves as a potential warning. 8 This evening I had a long and enjoyable chat with Elizabeth Ride. While we were primarily discussing a specific Indian member of the BAAG (variously named as Grewal or Garewal, who alas lost his life), we also delved into the minutiae of Elizabeth’s website. It has grown enormously since I last took a serious look and is well worth spending some time on. And by the way, if anyone knows more about Grewal/Garewal then we would both be grateful for more information. 8 I received an email today: “While studying Chinese in Hong Kong in 1963, I married a local European girl, Louisa Huntley. Her father served in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots, and spent his war years in a POW camp in Japan after the fall of Hong Kong. After his release, he returned to Hong Kong. Huntley, Stanton Sergeant 3053689 (XD1).” Alas, there was no response to my reply. 8 David St Maur Sheil passed me and Professor Chi Man Kwong an interesting seven page letter written by an unknown person travelling on the SS Narkunda in September 1942. I am pretty sure I know who the author was.
7 Philip Cracknel notes: “Tomorrow (8 December) is the 79th anniversary of the start of the Battle for Hong Kong. This month's blog is about four of the beach defence units manned by 'D' Coy 1/Mx on the east side of Tai Tam Bay.” This story (one of Philip’s most interesting, in my opinion) mentions PB31, whose commander was Cpl Albert Devonshire. 7 Today I had my first meeting, via Zoom of course, with the RAS top brass. I have to say that I was impressed. Years in the Corporate world have taught me that meetings are events to be avoided, as there are always individuals who are a little too fond of their own voices, or who see meetings as platforms for other agendas. But this was crisp, productive, and business like. Phew!
6 Philip Cracknell notes: “I had an inquiry on my blog article on the subject of 965 DB (see link) about BSM John Carley who was lost on the Lisbon Maru. The inquiry was from a Bryher Bell who has a sports medal awarded to John Carley whilst at Aldershot and he would like to return it to his family. I wondered if you may have a family contact from your work on Lisbon Maru families.” Unfortunately I do not. Can anyone help? STOP PRESS On December 30 we heard that a nephew of Carley had been found. As, according to my evacuation files, his wife was evacuated to Australia without children, that would be the best we could hope for. 6 The HKVCA have published their winter newsletter.
2 While finalising my broad initial edit of the Sir Alabaster Grenville diaries I was fascinated to read this paragraph from 1945: “The 4th was fine, warm and sunny. Roll-call was held outside, and in the afternoon Tweed Bay Beach was opened to bathers. I was told many went down to it but I did not. Papers for two days came in reporting the death of Hitler and that Admiral Doenitz was Fuhrer, with Count Schwerin as the successor to Ribbentrop. Von Runstedt was reported captured and Goebels had committed suicide. Berlin had fallen on the 2nd and it looked like the end of the war.” In other words, even to someone interned in a camp in Hong Kong, Germany’s defeat was considered ‘the end of the war’. 2 I was discussing the famous sketch, drawn by Lieutenant W.C. Johnson (US Navy) of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, with Ronnie Taylor. The latter had kindly given me a copy twenty years ago, but it has since become clear that there are many such copies. Each regiment who had men aboard seems to have their own, with their regimental crest at the top. What’s more, in the sketches I have, I see at least three different angles! And all, most probably, are based on Japanese photographs of the sinking. So over to you, dear readers. I have displayed two such images at the top of this page; how may more are you aware of?
1 My next walk with the Hong Kong Club should have been on the fifth, with The Travelling Massacre. Today, unfortunately, we decided we had to cancel it thanks to the HK Government’s new Covid restrictions. 1 Someone, and I regret to say that I did not note who, kindly sent me this article from Macleans in 1968. The meta history of the battle of Hong Kong has always fascinated me. This is a useful marker in its evolution. There is a lot here that is wrong, and shows bias, but it is all part of the story of the story.
December 1st, 2020 Update
HK Club on Mount Butler, Butler tunnels (author), Arthur Turner (courtesy Todd Turner)
HK Police grave (courtesy Gloria Aboo), Mabel Redwood's wedding ring (courtesy Janet Hayes), BAAG wreath (courtesy Bill Lake)
Maskin Shah's medal (courtesy Peter Weedon), Crest Hill and D'Aguilar destruction (courtesy Tan)
Two or three times per year I pick a fight with the CWGC (in the nicest possible way of course, as I have nothing but respect for them) about their Hong Kong records. Despite their efforts immediately after the war and since, there are a lot of errors and a number of omissions. If the problem is just that a date of death is off by a day or two then I don’t bother them with it, but sometimes it’s a misspelled name or something more serious. Recent victories have included getting a man who was lost on the Lisbon Maru moved from the El Alamein memorial to the missing to the one in Saiwan, and getting Jessie Holland recognized as a war casualty. But even with the usual valuable help from In From the Cold I seem to be stumped by the Fullerton case (see the 21st). It’s very frustrating in that there is no doubt he was lost to enemy action.
30 Bill Lake notes: “These have just been sent through to me by David Kerr (Donald Kerr’s son), I think you will find them at least interesting. I know many of the people on the video’s due to the fact they are all from the East River Guerrilla History group that I am attached with.” He attached a number of links, one of which I am sharing here (for Mandarin practice!) 29 Today I finished editing the third book of Alabaster’s diaries. Just two more to go.
26Peter Weedon posted an interesting Hong Kong Indian medal group on facebook. He noted: “This is an enigmatic medal group which is wrong in several respects. The group consists of 1939-45 Star, War Medal and India Service Medal and is named to 8692 Naik Maskin Shah, 2nd Bn, 14th Punjab Regiment, a PoW who died in captivity in 1945 and is buried in Sai Wan Cemetery. The naming is Indian style impressed. So what’s wrong? The group is missing the Pacific Star which would have been awarded for service in Hong Kong and also the Defence Medal. The recipient was not entitled to the India Service Medal which was awarded for home service in India. So why keep it? Complete groups to Indian who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong are fairly rare. Casualty groups rarer still. Maskin Shah died in May 1945, having endured three and a half years in captivity only to die three months short of liberation.”
23 Tan kindly sent a link to an article (in Chinese) describing the destruction of the emblem of the second battalion the Scots Guards at Crest Hill. I foolishly responded by saying that I cared more about Second World War items, and Tan replied: “The emblem was there long before WWII. There are many emblems around there before WWII and many disappeared. [Many] damages are unnecessary and completely avoidable if planned ahead. I recently found the OP and shelters of D'Aguilar battery were disappeared. I visited the site some years before and all structures still in good condition at that time. People living there told me the Telecom company demolished those structures because they need to ‘restore the site to original condition’ to return the land. That's the most stupid reason I heard to destroy the historical structures. Those structures where there long before Telecom company arrived. I marked demolished structures with X on the 1960s map as reference.” He also kindly sent me some photographs.
21 Unfortunately today I heard that the CWGC will not accept my paperwork for the death of Alfred Rough Fullerton (see last month) in action in Hong Kong. The issue is that his Death Certificate is not signed, so I’m not quite sure what to do next.
20I saw an interesting newspaper article today about a Royal Scot, killed in Hong Kong 21 December 1941, finally having his name added to his local war memorial in the UK.
19Today I received an invitation to the annual Canadian Memorial Service at Sai Wan, only this year it is to be virtual. The invitation read (English version): “The Consulate General of Canada cordially invites you to the live broadcast of the Canadian Commemorative Ceremony in Hong Kong. Sunday, December 6, 2020 10:00 a.m. (Hong Kong Time). In order to comply with the COVID-19 regulations of the Hong Kong Department of Health, the ceremony is open only to invitees (no exceptions) and attendance will be limited this year. The Consulate General of Canada will live stream the ceremony on its official Facebook pages, so would-be spectators can join in the commemoration virtually. You are also welcome to pay your respects at the Sai Wan War Cemetery, the Stanley Military Cemetery and the Commemorative Plaques in Hong Kong at any other time. Thank you for your understanding. For further updates on the live streaming, please stay tuned to this page.”
16 Bill Lake reported back from Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, which I and many others did not attend this year, following the Covid rules: “As you know, we keep to the understanding that only direct descendants of B.A.A.G. Agents and Operatives are to lay our wreath but due to the Covid rules which we had to abide by, no people were allowed in our cordoned off area. Even Consul Generals and Govt. Officials were not allowed in to lay their wreaths. So, not only do I get the privilege of being the MC, I also had the great honour to lay the BAAG wreath.” Bill also kindly sent a number of photos.
15Today I finished the editing for Book 2 of Grenville Alabaster’s wartime diary. It reveals aspects of the politics in Stanley Internment Camp which have not been covered elsewhere. But I’m getting worried about length. The first two books together are already around 90,000 words, and there are three more to go. 15 Gloria Aboo kindly sent (via facebook) some photos of Hong Kong wartime police graves which she took at Happy Valley Muslim Cemetery. She notes: “They were sleeping at Muslim Cemetery at Happy Valley. Young policemen defended Hong Kong.”
14This morning I took the Hong Kong Club Walkers on a route I call ‘Cadogan Rawlinson’s Last Stand’. The route starts at Park View, and I walked there (it’s an hour exactly, door to ‘door’) to meet them. We walked past Osborn’s Memorial (nicely and rightly decorated with wreaths and poppies) then up to the top of Jardine’s Lookout, down again to the col and catchwater between JLO and Mount Butler, then up to the top of Butler where we looked at the tunnels. Then down again, eventually – via Mount Parker Road ending up in Quarry Bay. I left home at 07.30 and returned at 13.00. In Hong Kong’s typically comfortable autumn weather it made for a pleasant day out. 14 Today I received an invitation from the “Souvenir Français de Chine” and the Consulate of France in Hong Kong & Macao to the Remembrance Ceremony in honour of the Free French Forces on Friday, December 4th at 2:30pm. I attended last year and it was very worthwhile, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend this year. The event is by invitation only, but if anyone would like to attend please let me know and I will put you in touch with the organisers. STOP PRESS: On November 30 I heard that because of the Covid resurgence this event has been postponed. 14 I had an interesting correspondence with Philip Herbert about: “another Shirburnian HK resident, Peter Weatherdon Grant CAMERON (or Peter Weatherdon GRANT-CAMERON), who… was with the HK Police, then a stockbroker. He is listed in the 1934 jurors list as Grant, Cameron Peter Weatherdon of 14 Bowen Road.” It seems he was given an emergency commission in the Indian Army on 5 May 1941, though that happened is not yet clear. He is listed in Sherborne School's Book of Remembrance as a Major with 10/19 Hyderabad Regiment, wounded in Burma, and died in HK of effect of wounds in 1947. He is not mentioned in the CWGC, and according to family actually died of at the young age of 36 (though perhaps his war wounds were a contributing factor in his death.)
13 Chris Beard kindly sent me a write-up of his Wilkinson and Pereira family members of the HKVDC (namely William Robert Josiah Wilkinson Jnr, Augusto Pedro Pereira Jnr, Cornelius Charles Pereira, Jose Antonio Pereira, and Henry Walter Wilkinson who were POWs, and Joseph Nelson Wilkinson who was killed in action.
12 Philip Cracknell posted another blog today: “There were four Fallon Brothers. Three of them served in the HKVDC. The other brother wanted to join but was not allowed to because three had already enrolled. It was a case of 'saving Private Fallon'. Their father, brother and a sister ended up in Stanley Camp. Their Chinese mother was in Rosary Hill Red Cross Home. The three brothers were interned initially at SSP Camp and later at Innoshima, near Hiroshima. The whole family were separated and interned - but they all survived and made it home.” I corresponded with Pat for a while, around 20 years ago. 12 Roger Townsend of FEPOW 75 penned this article in the Daily Echo today. 12 Todd Turner posted on the Battle of Hong Kong facebook page. He notes: “The photos are of my father Gunner ACL Turner whom was stationed in Hong Kong [in] the Royal British Artillery 8th coastal regiment. Captured Christmas day and relocated to Stadium Camp Yokohama in Sept 1942. Lt Birchall was the new CO and was instrumental in the tenacity of preservation of life for the internees and through good leadership saved many. The photos are of his POW #26 mug shot, 1940 prior to war at Stanley and a couple pictures of Sham Shui Po prison with his mates, but don't know their names.”
11 Today someone (my apologies, but I didn’t note the name) posted a photo of the four Reed brothers lost in the war, from their school. (Illustrated). It seemed very appropriate to remember them on this date.
10 Alex MacDonald let me know about this article. Fredette was in A Company, and I don’t know the structure of that Company well enough to be sure who his CO was - and I don’t recall hearing about an argument (except that with Major Young, but he survived the fighting). So my guess, and that’s all it is, is that the officer mentioned might be Lieutenant Franklin N. Lyster. He was found dead, and was then buried, in the Stanley View area on 24 December 1941.
9 Via the services of Google I maintain a listening watch on a number of topics, including the Lisbon Maru. Today I received notice of a letter pertaining to that vessel. 9 Janet Hayes (niece of Barbara Anslow) posted a photo of her mother’s wedding ring on the Stanley Camp facebook page.
8 Today I heard about a very interesting call for papers. Canadian Military History state: “To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, Canadian Military History will be publishing a special issue in fall 2021. We invite submissions that examine the Battle of Hong Kong from multiple perspectives. Canadian and non-Canadian perspectives are welcomed.” I may even see if I can rustle something up myself.
2 Philip Cracknel has published another historical blog today. He notes: “This is the story of a charming colonial house called The Lookout situated on South Bay Road. It is still there today but in December 1941, it was the home of William and Isabella Ritchie. One night a Canadian soldier, who had escaped from a house called Overbays and swum from Repulse Bay to South Bay, knocked at the door.”
1 Today I completed the editing work for Book I of Grenville Alabaster’s wartime diaries. I am happy to report that the writing (perhaps unsurprisingly) is excellent, and aside from formatting and correcting some mainly OCR-induced typos, my work was minimal. 1 TK Wong notes (see last month for context): “I have one update about the Mule Corps. According to Arnold Warren's book: Wait For The Waggon - the story of RCASC, page 174, [on 21 December 1941] they used mule transport to carry food to an exposed hilltop. That means that the Mule Corps still functioned, and the exposed hilltop was most probably Mt. Gough or Mt. Cameron.” I agree, and we both think that Mount Cameron is most likely as they received food on that day.
November 1st, 2020 Update
Austin Godson at the Pyramids (via Brian Finch), Fall of HK video (courtesy Isabella Robertson), Billie Gill's billet card (courtesy Ian Gill)
PB107, Rajput shoulder flash, Richardson trunk (all courtesy Alexander MacDonald)
Anneka Offenburg (courtesy Michael Martin), October Tides, The Captain Was a Doctor (author)
Early this month I finally started my new role as Honourary Editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong. It’s quite an undertaking, especially as I am ‘replacing’ the irreplaceable Professor Stephen Davies (Stephen is the sort of irritating person who continually says things like: “No, I don’t really know anything about Sudanese fish farming in the period March 1465 to February 1466, but…” and then goes on to demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of it). But while this will be a lot of work, it is also (of course) an honour, and will help me broaden my horizons and explore a far broader swathe of local history.
31 I heard today that Albert Jones, RAMC, is still with us.
29 Steve Denton spotted another error in CWGC files today. The entry for Norman N. Campbell, Royal Scots, used to list his death as 19 December 1941, adding (mistakenly) that he was lost on the Lisbon Maru. However, instead of correcting the latter, they have now updated the date of death to reflect the sinking instead! 29 Going through the Alabaster diaries I noticed a mention of the death of Fullerton of the Hong Kong Club. He is still missing from CWGC records, though I reported this to them as long ago as May 2017. Interestingly, there is even a death notice for him in The Argus (Melbourne) published on 24 December 1941: “DEATHS On Active Service FULLERTON - Alfred Rough Fullerton killed In action In Hong Kong dearly beloved husband of Mary Maude Fullerton and father of Evelyn Maude Fullerton, of 11Ardoch 328 Dandenong road East St Kilda aged 73 years.” 29 Yesterday I read an interesting note on facebook that a copy of Not The Slightest Chance was on sale on eBay for the unusually reasonable price of ten pounds. This was updated later with a note stating that someone had bought it. It was a blustery wet morning in HK today so instead of going for a long walk, I just traipsed round the Peak. Soon I bumped into a friend from the HK Club who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. “I just bought a copy of NtSC”, he said. “It was going on eBay for only ten quid!” Quite a coincidence.
26 A medal collector living in Cape Town contacted me with regards to the medals of L/AC Frederick Wilson, RAF. He received the BEM for gallantry in the defence of Hong Kong and was a POW at Oeyama Camp in Japan at the end of the war. What I hadn’t realised was that in the UK as a member of the Air Sea Rescue Force he was awarded the Military Medal in 1940. The citation reads: “Aircraftman Wilson was a member of the crew of a high speed launch which rescued some 14 injured men from three Ships of a convoy which were burning furiously. Later, when attempting the rescue of personnel from two planes, which had fallen into the sea, the launch was attacked by nine enemy single engine biplanes. The enemy raked the launch with machine gun fire and three fires were started by incendiary bullets. The wireless operator was killed, the man at the wheel had two bullets through his clothing and the master was knocked unconscious. Aircraftman Wilson seized the wheel and kept control of the launch in the heat of the action, until the master returned. During the-action a line fell overboard and fouled the propellers. As they could not be cleared, Aircraftman Wilson, in spite of the rough sea, went over the side with a bowline and endeavoured to clear them. This Aircraftman behaved in a most praiseworthy manner under the most difficult conditions.” I know he is mentioned in the official history of Kai Tak as ‘Tug’ Wilson, but I can’t find ,y copy of it.
24 Patricia O’Sullivan noted that at the Naval Dockyards Society Conference: 31 October 2020 “Where Empires Collide: Dockyards and Naval Bases in and around the Indian Ocean” she will be presenting a paper entitled: Out of the Shadows - the Police Force of Hong Kong’s Royal Naval Dockyard. It’s a shame that neither she nor I had an earlier warning of this. 24 An interesting press release today mention the use, in 2017, of an unmanned drone to survey the wreck of the Lisbon Maru.
22 A chance mention of a FEPOW by the name of Peter Newsome on facebook led to something useful. I pointed out that he wasn’t a Hong Kong POW, and thanks to some help from the UK learned he was on the crew of MV Tantalus. That name immediately rang a bell as two other crew members from this vessel are buried in Sai Wan. It turns out that Tantalus was sunk in Manila harbour and its British crew were captured there. Two of the crew:
Fletcher, Thomas Henry (Harry) 3rd Officer MV Tantalus KCfBC K 15.2.42 Weeks, Henry Edward A.B. MV Tantalus K 15.2.42
escaped, together with a third man. Unfortunately they were recaptured, badly beaten, and executed. Post-war they were reinterred in Hong Kong. But a third crew member, Thomas Edward Williams, died there of pneumonia and was somehow missed by the CWGC. Now we have the data, I’ll add him to the list of cases I need to resolve with them. Peter Newsome, it transpires, also escaped towards the end of the war. As a very young man at the time, with Fletcher and Week’s fate in mind, that must have taken a lot of guts. 22 Jon Reid kindly sent me a copy of The Captain Was a Doctor, which arrived today. 22 Today I received Book One of the OCR’ed Alabaster Memoir. 22 Jill Fell notes: “One of my SCMP finds last week was the attached article on the death of my uncle, Leslie Warren in India. I think I've previously sent you a group photo of him in the Signals Corps of the HKVDC. After closing down his company in HK he got a job in Penang in about October 1941. He was then at the Fall of Singapore and in one of the ‘stay behind’ groups. He got to Ceylon in a fishing boat, signed up with the Royal Engineers and was immediately posted to Meerut. I've read in a recent obituary that Meerut was the SOE advanced training centre for signals, which might explain why his war record was sealed for 75 years. He was sent out to the garrison at Muradnagar. His grandchildren have sent me copies of his last aerograms, in which he says he can't talk about his job. His final illness must have happened very quickly as he was writing about putting beer on ice for a brigadier's visit only 17 days before.” In fact an Ordnance Factory was established at Muradnagar in 1943, and I think it is more likely he was involved in this. Of course this has no direct impact on the Battle of Hong Kong but I have a continued interest in the fate of those who left Hong Kong in the war years to serve in other theatres.
19 Today Professor Stuart Christie invited me to lecture his literature students at Baptist University. They have been reading Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and he wanted both a local Hong Kong view of the period, and a ‘different’ style of history telling! So we discussed my recent paper on Hong Kong’s wartime civilian fatalities.
18 Ian Gill notes: “I attach my mother billet's card that she received around the time the Japanese started bombing HK on Dec 8, 1941. She arrived at the Chinese Government Information Office in the Hongkong & Shanghai HQ soon after the first bombs fell on Kai-tak. She went to see David MacDougall, of the Hong Kong Government's Information Ministry, who told her to report to Colonel Rose (head of the HKVDC) at Peak Mansions, which was being used as the HKVDC headquarters. The one thing that puzzles me slightly is the date stamped on the billet card which is not 100% clear but looks like December 11, 1941. I had the impression she had moved into Flat 2, Peak Mansions, as early as Dec 8 or 9 but the stamp suggests it wasn't till Dec 11.” I think Dec 11 makes sense as that was the day when many people fled from Kowloon and needed help finding places to stay. And I think this is the first time I have seen reference to the Auxiliary Quartering Corps! The level of organisation in Hong Kong at that time was quite startlingly thorough.
16 My copy of October Tides, kindly sent to me by author Chris Ogborne, arrived today. It covers the experiences of her uncle Thomas John Stone, RN, who perished on the Lisbon Maru. 16 Michael Martin posted a sketch (on the new Stanley Camp facebook page) of internee Anneke Offenberg drawn by his grandfather.
15 A correspondent is asking about James Hunter, who was a surveyor in the Harbour Department in 1941. He is listed in the list of Civilian War Dead as being lost on 10 December, and I have always assumed he was one of those lost when the Jeanette’s load of dynamite was detonated in the harbour that night by fire from PB63.
14 The excellent Stanley Camp Yahoo Group, established by Michael Martin (grandson of Hong Kong internee A.J. Savitsky) many years ago closed down today as Yahoo decided to discontinue their group business. It has now moved to this facebook page, which has given it a new lease on life. Doug Ward, for example, posted about the famous Stanley photo of all the kids taken just after liberation: “I was interned in Stanley when I was just two years old together with my parents and older brother… My father RG Ward, mother EM Ward and elder brother RF Ward. My younger brother Gerald was actually born in the camp after the list was prepared. My younger brother and myself appear in the photo ‘Children on Stanley Camp’. My young brother is the small baby in the front row. I am identified as 3b (3rd row centre). Sadly I am the only surviving member of our family that were interned.”
13 The Limerick Leader had an article about Forged in Blood and Music today.
12 The October Java Journal – VJ75 Edition – was published today. It included an account starting: “The suffering of a Prisoner of War, who went on to become Bishop of Sherwood, has been recalled form the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. The Japanese surrender, on August 15, 1945, marked the end of the Second World War. It also brought to an end Richard Darby’s time in captivity in Japan, as told by Mike Kirton, chairman of Southwell and District Local History Society. The Right Rev Richard (Dick) Darby was born in February 1919 to William and Miriam Darby, who were Salvation Army officers. Aged ten months he accompanied his parents when they went as missionaries to China to help children affected by floods and famine in the region. In 1939 he enrolled with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC), rising to the rank of sergeant, in charge of one of their two Bren guns. His older brother, William, joined the British army and his sister, Grace, became a nurse.” Dick was wounded by a shell in his left leg and back. A second story in the same newsletter concerned Gunner John McClure Scullion of 7 Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery. After surviving the fighting in Hong Kong and camps in Japan, tragically on 12 May 1978 “he was hit by a car while walking his faithful Alsatian, Jason, in Newton Lane, [Darlington].” A third Hong Kong related story concerned Norman Colley, 22 Fortress Company RE, Lisbon Maru. Fourth, William Benningfield, Middlesex, who also survived the Lisbon Maru and is still with us today. The same newsletter also included a version of George MacDonell’s story which I reproduced here in the August edition.
11 Alexander MacDonald reports someone finding a metal trunk in the UK stenciled: “SERGT. F.S. RICHARDSON, RASC, HONG KONG, BY S.S. DILWARA SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS”. Dilwara had been launched in 1936 as a purpose-built troop ship for India and the Far East, but what immediately caught my attention was that a Captain Frederick Stanley Richardson, Royal Scots, was killed Kowloon side very early in the battle of Hong Kong. Could it have been the same man? Transferring from unit to unit certainly happened, but it seems unlikely that someone could have arrived as an RASC sergeant in (say) 1936/7 and been a Captain by late 1941. Interesting, though. Relatively unusually for an officer, his army number was in the CWGC records and I wondered if that might be a clue. I found this: “Up to 1920 there was no such thing as an ‘army number’. men had numbers issued by their regiment or Corps. With each regiment having its own scheme, numbers were inevitably duplicated and in some cases dozens of men had the same number. In 1920, all that changed. Army Order 338 of August 1920 stated that army numbers would now be issued from one continuous series, to all men then serving in regular or Territorial units (with the exception of the Labour Corps), to all men then on Army Reserve, to all recruits into the regular army, TF, Special Reserve and Militia; to all men who re-enlisted if they had not had one of the new numbers before, to all men transferred to the army from the Royal Marines, and to all deserters who subsequently rejoined, if they had not had one of the new numbers before. Once issued, the man would retain the same number irrespective of his transfers and postings within the army. If a man (who had been given one of the new numbers) left and re-enlisted, he would retain his old number. Generally the new numbers did not have prefixes but the Royal Army Service Corps was an exception. RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). The blocks of numbers allotted were as follows (examples): 1 294000 Royal Army Service Corps 1842001 2303000 Royal Engineers 3044001 3122000 Royal Scots 6188001 6278000 Middlesex Regiment.” This was fascinating new knowledge for me. Eventually, though, I found a note in the London Gazette showing that Richardson had been in the Royal Scots as early as 1918 so could not have been the same man. 10 Brian Finch kindly sent photos of two Lisbon Maru fatalities, Austin Godson, Royal Scots, and Edward Gale, Royal Corps of Signals (illustrated).
7Alexander MacDonald reports finding a 7th Rajputs shoulder flash at PB 107. An unusual find in that area. 7 A correspondent notes: “I am working on a story for the Hantsport & Area Historical Society about Capt. Alexander Ramsay.” Ramsay, of the Mercantile Marine, and his wife were internees at Stanley. 7 The FEPOW 75 organisation, which was established to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Repatriation of Far East Prisoners of War 1945-46, has launched its website.
6 This morning I attended a meeting at Hong Kong University Press to discuss the possible publication of Grenville Alabaster’s internee diary.
5 Today I formally took over the role of Honourary Editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong. I have started going through the files, seeing where we stand for next year’s issue (Volume 61). It’s going to be quite a lot of work, but of course it’s also very interesting.
4 It’s the end of an era. Ng Sai-ming, who was Hong Kong’s last local known Second World War veteran, passed away today. Born in 1922 in the village of Sha Po, he was the 26th generation of the Ng Clan in Nga Tsin Wai. He joined the Royal Artillery in Hong Kong to train as a gunner at the same time as Peter Choi (the penultimate local veteran), shortly before the Japanese invasion. They had not even completed their training when the attack came, by which time Ng Sai-ming was stationed at Brick Hill. Post-war he would join the police who presented him with a long service medal when he retired in the 1970s, to add to his wartime gongs: the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, and Victory Medal. He will be given a military funeral here on October 31.
3 Isabella Robertson, daughter of Sergeant Rowland Cox McCall, Royal Scots, sent me a very interesting letter about a video, shot in Hong Kong in 1987, featuring her father. I have not seen it, but I found it in the Imperial War Museum’s collection. 3 Joseph Arnold Miller’s (Winnipeg Grenadiers) family got in touch.
1 Philip Cracknel notes that his latest blog covers Donovan Benson, the Manager of the Mercantile Bank of India in 1941. He notes: “The Mercantile Bank was one of the three note-issuing banks in HK. This article looks at the Mercantile Bank what happened to their management team in December 1941 and follows the career of Donovan Benson in WW1, and from 1919 with the Mercantile Bank and from 1953 as Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “ 1 In relation to last month’s question about the barracks of the Hong Kong Mule Corps, Rob Weir notes: “Like others, I know the Mule Corp was barracked in Whitfield Barracks, but can’t find a reference. They weren’t high on my lists of interests. Having said that, I do know the Mule Pool West was in shelters on Mt Gough, and Mule Pool East in shelters at Tai Tam Reservoir.(That is as planned in the Interim Defence Plan. Considering the losses of mules in the withdrawal to the Island, Tai Tam would be logical as the 3.7’s were concentrated in the east of the Island, but I’m not sure whether they would be any use around Mt Gough as it had mainly howitzers requiring motor vehicle towing.) For useless information, mules came in two sizes. Large Pack Mule, suitable for Pack Btys could carry approximately 300 lbs. Small Chinese Mule could only carry 160 lbs. (WO 106/111).” 1 Steve Denton let me know that the COFEPOW 2020 October Newsletter includes an article about the proposed new Lisbon Maru memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. 1 One of the many interesting men in Shamshuipo was The Lord Merthyr, who acted as camp cobbler. I finally got round to looking up his details today: “Major William Brereton Couchman Lewis, 3rd Baron Merthyr, KBE, TD, PC (7 January 1901 – 16 April 1977), styled The Honourable William Lewis between 1914 and 1932, was a British barrister and politician. Lewis was the son of Herbert Clark Lewis, 2nd Baron Merthyr, by Elizabeth Anna Couchman (d. 1925), eldest daughter of Major-General Richard Short Couchman, of Victoria Street, London. He succeeded his father in the barony in March 1932. He served in the Second World War as a Major in the Pembroke Heavy Regiment of the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Hong Kong from 1941 to 1945. After the war Lord Merthyr served as Chairman of the Committees in the House of Lords from 1957 to 1965 and as a Deputy Speaker from 1957 to 1974. In 1964 he was admitted to the Privy Council. He was also Chairman and Vice-President of the National Marriage Guidance Council, of the Magistrates' Association and of the Family Planning Association as well as Honorary Treasurer of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Lord Merthyr married Violet Meyrick, third daughter of Brigadier-General Sir Frederick Charlton Meyrick, 2nd Baronet, in 1932. He died in April 1977, aged 76.” In Hong Kong he was second in command of the 12th Coast Regiment, RA.
October 1st, 2020 Update
Fraser with ex-POWs (facebook via Richard Hartley), Normand pipe (courtesy Frank Normand), Japanese War Memorial (facebook via Zafrani Arafin)
Everest by Barretto, Everest Paybook, Everest nurses' memorial (all via Ruy Barretto / Jessica Carr-Walker)
Alabaster diary Part 2 (courtesy David St Maur Shell), HKMC shoulder flash (courtesy Justin Ho), Harbour fireworks Sept 45 (facebook via Doug Price)
Diaries, diaries, diaries. More than ten years ago a publisher suggested I write a paper about Hong Kong’s wartime diaries – thinking that all that existed had been found and published. Today I’m rather glad I didn’t, as more and more are still being discovered, transcribed, and sometimes published. And many of these are hundreds of pages and over a hundred thousand words long, full of absorbing new detail (see the mentions below of two more forthcoming diaries). Others of course are primarily in note form, or illustrations and scrap books. The publisher was clearly right – it’s a very interesting sub-topic in its own right – so perhaps I’ll follow his advice at some point. And by the way, families always believe that diarists took incredible risks in writing and preserving these in camp, but I wonder. I’ve yet to come across any real evidence that the Japanese considered diary writing a crime. But two questions: In this latest diary I have come across two terms, ‘leggy’ as in ‘leggy rice’, and ‘jeep’ referring to a Japanese guard. I am sure I have come across both before but cannot remember where. Does anyone know?
29 Today I received an apology from an organization for ‘borrowing’ images from my website. That’s a rare thing in this day and age, and it’s good to see people taking the issue seriously.
27 Roland McCall’s (Royal Scots) daughter got in touch via Brian Finch.
26 Steve Denton has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the CWGC’s reckoning: Webster, George Private 6201463 U 21.3.44 Webster, George Alfred Private 6201926 K 21.3.44 Y Is wrong. Webster 6201463 in fact went down with the Lisbon Maru, hence the Unknown grave, and somehow his date of death was muddled with the other George Webster (both Middlesex).
25 Philip Cracknell announced a new story on his blog: “This is the story of a house. 'Caronia' at No 17 Bowen Road. It was built in 1923. This is about the people who lived there, who were they and what happened to them.” I walked past that house every day for years and had no idea of the (slightly mysterious) Fidoe connection. 25 A PhD student at HKU has contacted me about a project studying Poles in the HKVDC.
24 Thomas Steed’s (Royal Navy, Lisbon Maru) family got in touch.
22A correspondent asks where the Hong Kong Mule Corps was barracked. We both guess Whitfield Barracks, but does anyone know for certain?
18 Last month I noted the unexpected death of Mike Broom, and today the Royal Asiatic Society has set up a page in his memory.
17 David Murphy kindly noted that Philip Cracknell’s book stated that it was Private Kenneth Bridge, Middlesex, who was evacuated by ambulance from Pillbox 14 on 22 December 1941. Lucky man. He avoided the fate of all those left behind. He then also managed to survive the Lisbon Maru and the end of the war. 17 David St Maur Shell kindly sent over the rest of the Alabaster diaries.
16 I think I’ve seen it before, but Doug Price put a photo on facebook (taken by Norman K. Walton, who came to HK with the Red Cross) of the festivities in Hong Kong Harbour on 16 September 1945.
15Ruy Barretto (whose father Corporal Alfonso Orolando Barretto was HKVDC and mother Gloria Barretto was NAAFI) kindly shared some of the contents of a leather notebook owned by the daughter of CSM Robert John Vincent ‘Bobby’ Everest, and apparently created by her grandfather RSM Robert John ‘Bob’ Everest. Not only is the booklet of use, as it includes – among other things - what looks like details of pretty much the whole wartime HKVDC complement), but it has pointed out an error in my records. As both men were Robert John Everest I had assumed they were one and the same man. Now I have corrected my notes. Interestingly – and it’s funny how this always happens – the diary I received immediately below mentions both men at length. For the leather notebook Jessica notes: “FYI, the various pages/chapters are entitled: Killed in Action p1-7; Missing (Believed Killed) p8-10; Wounded p11-14; Missing p 15: Missing (believed demobilised) p16-17; Deserted p18-20; Demobilised p21-31; Escaped p32; Struck Off Strength p32; Commissioned in Reg Army p32; Released p33 - 37; Chinese Civilians (S.J.A.B.) released on 8.9.42 P38; Personnel of the Chinese M.G. Bn released on 8.9.42 p38; Drafted 19th January 1943 p39-42 (here appears CSM Everest R J V); Drafted 15th August 1943 p42; Drafted 15th December 1943 p42-50; Civilians Drafted 15th December 1943 p50; Drafted 29th April 1944 p50 - 54; Civilians Drafted 29th April 1944 p55; Drafted 4th August 1943 (written by hand) p55; Handwritten tables entitled “Hong Kong Casualties 8/12/41 to 25/12/41” (incl HKVDC) p56-57; Some original signatures with their home addresses appear on pages 60-63; Prisoners of War, Hong Kong p65-82 (here RSM Everest RJ appears - the senior). Also a Barretto HJ and a Barretto NC appear here. Civilian and Regular Army Personnel attached to HKVDC in Hong Kong Prisoner of War Camps p82; Deaths Whilst Prisoners of War p83-p90 (also includes cause of death eg cardiac Beri-beri); Promotions and appointments etc whilst prisoners of war p93-98. Summary tables listing numbers of those mobilized, killed, missing etc for each corp/company p104-107 ; Back page 110 is the RIP listing the three nurses murdered.” Ruy also shared a drawing of Everest senior by his father. HJ Barretto above is Private Horacio Joao, and NC is Lance Corporal Noel Conde (both HKVDC).
15 Janet Sykes has shared with me her carefully typed-up version of her father’s (CQMS Leonard Sykes, HKVDC Engineers) POW diary. I am now going through it doing proofing and adding notes where necessary. 15 A correspondent has asked for help from anyone who knows more about his family history. He notes: “My grandparents in Stanley camp were Fred Hamblin, his wife Vi and their son John. My grandfather had completed 25 years in the British Army (Royal Engineers) which he left in Hong Kong and Joined the China Light and Power Company as an electrical engineer. They had a bungalow in Fan Ling and he was working on the installation of the power transmission in the New Territories. My mother grew up there, she had gone to HK as a young girl and lived there until she met my father and they married. My father trained in England as an electrical engineer, worked for two years in Persia on the oilfields then went to HK as an engineer with the China Light and Power Company in their power plants. He met my mother there, they married and lived in a company apartment until 1939 when they returned to England. He had decided that the situation there was looking unstable so he broke his contract to return. Apparently, He tried to persuade my grandparents to return but to no avail. When HK fell to the Japanese, Christmas 1941 they were rounded up on HK island and taken to Stanley camp, so they lost their house and possessions and had a very hard time for four years. My grandmother’s health declined and when she was back in England she was never in good health. My grandfather survived the ordeal better so was able to cope with the shopping and chores quite well. My aunt Patricia Hamblin was interned in Manila and had a harsh time there but eventually returned there to work for Shell.” I see their names in my records (with the exception of Patricia as I don’t really cover Santo Tomas) but little else.
11 Frank Normand, son of Rifleman Andrew Normand, RRoC, posted a photo on facebook, noting: “This is a picture of a pipe my father made probably while in North Point HK before he was transferred to Niigata. The tips are made of .303 casings.”
10 The HKVCA published their fall newsletter today. 10 I found a link to Meg Parke’s show, The Secret Art of Survival, today.
8There are many photos of the Japanese War Memorial at Magazine Gap, but today Zafrani Arifin shared a ‘new’ one as far as I am concerned.
6 Elizabeth Ride is asking where in the King’s Regulations is the text defining a captured soldier’s duty to escape? This is one of the things that we’ve all heard of, but I can’t find it actually documented anywhere and am now wondering if it’s a myth.
3 The family of Assudamal Hashmatrai Vaswani, Proprietor of Utoomal & Assudamal Co of 7 Garden Road, and his colleagues D. S. Dinga (Manager) and Mr. R. Jaggia (accountant) of Uttoomal & Assudamal Co. would like to know more about their wartime experiences. They note: “They were accused and imprisoned at Stanley Prison by the Kempeitei for assisting European Companies with the local currency which was paid back to his company in India.” Can anyone help? They actually originally asked me the same question fifteen years ago, but I was unable to find anything. 3 Steve Denton kindly alerted me to this Lisbon Maru story in the Ballymena Guardian. 3 For some reason the Haddock brothers came up in conversation with Dr Stephen Davies (who knows everything about everything). Sub Lieutenant Joseph Robert Haddock, HKRNVR was a POW in Hong Kong, while his brother Warrant Shipwright C F Haddock of HMS Swiftsure was in Harcourt’s liberation fleet. They met again when the latter arrived in 1945 (illustrated). Stephen notes: “Both Haddocks ended up in Gladstone in Oz. CF was listed as an architect in 1968 and it looks like he may have had family - not sure though. He seems to have been in Oz c.1948 initially in NSW until last trace in the deep north in 1977. JR seems to have got to Gladstone c.1972 living in a different house but close, and last trace I found was in the ‘80s I think, but no idea what JR did between 1945 and then. It’s possible they were Aussies by origin, though my gut sense is not. CF was promoted warrant chippie in 1943.”
2 I have mentioned this story before: in David Hobbs’s excellent book ‘The British Pacific Fleet’ I came across this great piece: “On 28 August 1945 a US Navy patrol boat came alongside HMS Duke of York at her anchorage at Sagami Wan at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. She delivered Private Edgar Campbell [RASC] and Marine John Wynn, both of whom had been taken prisoner on Christmas Day 1941 when Hong Kong fell. On hearing that Japan had surrendered and Allied warships were visible off the coast, they had set off from their prison camp when the gates were opened, walked thirty miles to a beach at Sagami Wan and then swum out to an American warship, all this despite the debility caused by spending over three years in a succession of prison camps. They were the first British prisoners to be recovered from Japan.” Needless to say, they were both ‘hard men’ from the first draft to Japan. I notice that the Omori Camp list has them both as simply ‘walked away’!” And today Richard Hartley (a relative) kindly posted a photo of the two men, apparently in conversation with Admiral Fraser, the Commander of the British Pacific Fleet.
1 Justin Ho notes: “Recently I came across this brass title HKMC from Arctic medals. The provenance is it was part of WGT Tuppert’s collection.” This is the collection I referred to last month, which appears to have been split up and sold individually. This is the first Hong Kong Mule Corps shoulder flash I have seen. Yet another under-researched unit! This whole set was originally offered to me for C$200. I wish I had bought them, but was knee deep in family issues at the time and didn’t pay enough attention. 1 Barbara Harding broadcast an interesting note: “Thanks to all friends who made contact with memories of Jimmy’s Kitchen (Mulligatawny Soup! Crabmeat Cannelloni! Baked Alaska!) Anyone remember Jimmy’s when it was in Theatre Lane, Central, up to 1975? Those post-war years were really the heyday of this much-loved Hong Kong restaurant… Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and other celebrities dined there at Jimmy’s; they all paid their bill except for Orson Welles who would say ‘Put it on the slate’ and then disappear when it was time to pay. Actor William Holden – ‘Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing’ (1955), ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ (1960) – was a regular and would sometimes stay the night at our family apartment on MacDonnell Road. Not every Hong Kong schoolgirl wakes up to find a Hollywood movie start fast asleep on the living room sofa…”
September 1st, 2020 Update
Alabaster journal (courtesy David St Maur Sheil), Vic Ient's new book (author), Cogbill news cutting (courtesy Jennifer Schaible)
Fred Moore (courtesy Stephanie Coleman), Stanley Greaves, Martha Staple & family members (via facebook)
Levett's war diary (via Jennifer Schaible), Punjabis at the Shing Mun Redoubt, the Joe Denton book (author)
This month was of course dominated by being the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day (which I learned for the first time is known as VP [Pacific] Day in Australia). As well as receiving (or seeing on social media) a large number of photos of members of Hong Kong’s garrison, as promised I was honoured to publish some unique new content – an article by Sergeant George MacDonell, Royal Rifles of Canada. If you haven’t seen that already, please page down to the July update and you will find it at the top.
(Note that this month I have changed the font to Geneva in an effort to make the text more readable).
31 The month ended with welcome news via facebook, that Sir Chaloner Grenville Alabaster’s family are considering publishing his four-volume account of life in Stanley Internment camp. Oddly enough he has two different Wikipedia entries! 31 My copy of Victor Ient’s book arrived today (see the tenth below).
30 I heard today the sad news that John Penn, son of Harry Penn (the wartime commander of 1 Company HKVDC), passed away on the 21st.
27 Here’s an interesting question: Did the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps (HKDDC) have their own cap badge? They fell between two stools in terms of which force they were part of, with both a naval connection and an army one (they were associated with the HKVDC when hostilities commenced). I have photos of members in which I can certainly see cap badges, but unfortunately not clearly enough to identify. 27 Professor Chi Man Kwong and colleagues at Baptist U have created an interactive map, entitled "Hong Kong Resistance: the British Army Aid Group, 1942-1945".
26 William Robertson’s (HKRNVR) grandniece got in touch. As far as I can see, Robertson (who worked for Hong Kong Bank) hadn’t spent much time in HK before the war, in fact he had recently been in Singapore.
25 Chris Potter (son of John Potter of the HKVDC Air Arm) corrected one of my records. I had Robert Jeffrey Parker, but he has corrected it to Robert Geoffrey Parker noting that he: “was an architect like my father, although I don't know the company he worked for.” He also showed that Parker was quite an artist, kindly attaching some cards he had sent Chris’s mother.
25 Martin Heyes notes: “I don’t know if you have seen this short video, which I thought you might find of interest. [I see] that a number of the old boys served in No.3 Coy of the HKVDC.” It is about DBS during the war years, created as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations last year, and is rather good. The interviews with many familiar names are very valuable.
23 This evening we were delighted to announce the go live of the new BAAG website. This site went live today, 23 August 2020, at 18.00 Hong Kong time. The significance of the date is that it is exactly seventy-five years since the British Army Aid Group smuggled the authorisation to resume British sovereignty over Hong Kong, to the Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson in Stanley Internment Camp. The new site hosts a growing and welcome fraction of Elizabeth Ride’s BAAG archives. It is primarily intended to be a permanent memorial to the members of BAAG, but of course it also commemorates Brigadier Sir Lindsay Ride’s wartime role, and Elizabeth’s years of hard work in collecting and organising the records, and kindly making them available to a broader audience. 23 Patrick Whelan’s (Royal Scots) son got in touch.
22 I heard the sad news that Anne Ozorio passed away in the UK today. She was a very helpful and knowledgeable member of Hong Kong’s historical community, and I wish she had written more. Her The Myth of Unpreparedness: The Origins of Anti Japanese Resistance in Prewar Hong Kong is perhaps her best known work. (It was mistakenly published with the editor’s unresolved comments included. For those not familiar with academic publishing, it is typical to go through such a process, and it is also perfectly normal for such comments to be concise to the point of bluntness. But it is not normal to publish them). But in parallel, Anne was also a highly respected and knowledgeable critic of music with her own well-known blog. One of her friends created an informal obituary here.
21 Elizabeth Ride called from Norway, with news to be released on the 23rd.
18 Jon Reid tells me that: “The Captain Was A Doctor is now at the printer and the pre-publication stage is getting underway. If I haven't sent it to you, this publisher link will show the six reviews (edited by Dundurn to fit) the book has already received.” 18 For reasons too early to divulge, I have recently become interested in Tigers in twentieth century Hong Kong. We all know the two famous stories (including the Stanley Internment Camp one), but CNN says there have been others. And Luba Estes on facebook noted: “On weekends, my family drove to the 12-mile beach where we had a shed and on Sundays we spent the day in Castle Peak. In 1940 driving home, both my mother and I saw and stared as my father slowly drove by a large tiger sitting proudly on the embankment while observing the road we were on. My sister and father missed it.)
17 Robert "Bob" Cogbill’s (Hong Kong Signal Company) daughter got in touch, kindly sending me copies of pages from the Prisoner of War Diary of Chief Signal Officer China Command, Hong Kong 1941-1945 (Eustace Levett). She also sent photos from POW camp, of an ex-POW reunion, and a nice local newspaper article about her father.
16Fred Moore’s (RE) niece got in touch. Fred was one of six ex-Hong Kong POWs who very unfortunate drank poisonous industrial alcohol shortly after liberation in Japan. They were: Bent, Howard N. Rifleman F/40828 RRoC (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Cyr, Clement Rifleman E/30414 RRoC (XD3) K 7.6.45 Y Al Devaney, Peter Gavin Sapper 1880606 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Moore, Fred Sapper 1874085 RE (XD5) K 7.9.45 Y Al Morris, James Stuart Sapper 1874306 RE (XD3) K 7.9.45 Y Al Pemberton, George Lance Corp. 1871779 RE (XD3) K 8.9.45 Y Al The Van Allen affidavit on the late Roger Mansell’s site covers the story. Tape 1, side B, of this American POW’s memoirs also describes the incident (about twenty one minutes in).
15 Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day, so I posted George MacDonell’s excellent article as promised, and then sat back to read the news. Rather nicely, many relatives of FEPOWS posted stories and photos of their family members on all the relevant social media sites. Many were already familiar to me, but new photos included George Oliver, RE, Stanley Greaves, HKVDC, Sidney Cottiss, RAMC, George Hodgson, Middlesex, Isabella Warbrick, Nurse, Martha Staple, Colonial Nursing Service, and Frederick Wilson, RAF. Perhaps the most memorable was the one of the two nurses and their two brothers. The was posted by Debby Coxon who noted: "My grandmother, Martha Jane Staple (top left) and great-aunt Isabella Warbrick, who both worked as government nurses through three years, eight months, five days in Stanley Camp, Hong Kong. Top right, William eldest brother, killed in Great War, bottom left, youngest brother Robert, died of wounds December 1944, Belgium, while they were still interned." On top of these were two more Lisbon Maru men, Christopher Warren, Royal Corps of Signals, and John Edwards, RN. 15 It was good to see The Edinburgh Reporter focusing on Second Royal Scots in a VJ article today, and another article appeared in the Louth Leader the following day, with a further one (primarily about the Joe Denton book) in Wales Online a few days later. 15 Ian Gill notes: “Today is VJ day and Adrian Chiles of BBC Radio 5 called to ask about my parents’ unusual love story in Hong Kong’s Stanley internment camp. Our chat, part of a three-hour show, starts at the 1:14.30 mark and lasts 20 minutes.” (This may not be available in all countries). 15 Edward Butterfield’s (RS, LM) great great niece got in touch. 15 I hear that Joe Denton’s (who survived the Battle of Hong Kong in the Royal Artillery, and the Lisbon Maru) first great great granddaughter was born today. She should have appeared on the eighth, but apparently waited for VJ Day!
13 Today I discovered that a new reprint of Evan Stewart’s classic account Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle is available. This is essentially the 2004 extended version of the 1954 softback original, with new cover art. 13 Colin Standish kindly told me that someone in Canada is selling an old wartime leather belt, studded with cap badges and should flashes from Hong Kong. The seller notes: “It's a Middlesex Regiment officer's belt with badges, nearly all British I think, was brought back by a former Canadian P.O.W., Cpl. W.G.T Tuppert of the Royal Rifles of Canada, taken prisoner on Christmas Day, 1941.” More on this later.
10 There must have been a fourth air crash involving ex-HK POWs being repatriated from Japan. All Hong Kong buffs know about Les Misérables, Ginny, and Liquidator, but there are so many indicators of a fourth. Gunner William Henry Edward Hart, 3rd officer Robert M. Brown, and Gunner Ernest John Bampton all apparently died on 24 September 1945 in another aircraft crash taking off from Okinawa, and at least one of the Lisbon Maru survivors (Taffy Evans, Middlesex) stated that he had survived such a crash – and yet his name is not on the MACRs of any of the three known B24 accidents. 10 Vic Ient notes: “At last the printed version of my book is published!” 10 Philip Cracknell noted: “Two stories in one but related. The first is about ZBW the radio station in Hong Kong broadcasting under fire in December 1941. A programme of dance music and the news from Daventry. Daventry calling. The second is about Frank Kekewick Garton a Wireless Engineer based at the transmitter station at D'Aguilar. He was ordered to evacuate the station and return to GPO HQ in town. He made a mistake by driving up Repulse Bay Road to WNC Gap in the morning of 19 December, but how was he to know the Japanese had taken the gap. His wife was shot dead and their Chinese Amah shot through the chest. I just realised they were the two civilians found in No 4 Repulse Bay Road - a house that still stands at the top of Repulse Bay Road but what happened to Garton.”
9 Rob Weir, who knows more about Hing Kong’s fixed defences than pretty much anybody asks: “After reading the comments about PB 14 on the August diary I’m confused. The nominated crew of that type of PB, with LL, was 9. As one wounded was evacuated by ambulance on the 22nd, where did the other three come from?” Good question. 9 I’m not entirely sure if I have seen this before, but while searching for something else entirely (as one does) I found this rather nice article about my fourth book.
8 I had an email from Annemarie Evans, who runs the RTHK radio show ‘Hong Kong Heritage’. She noted: “Sorry for short notice - you'll be this weekend's Hong Kong Heritage. I'm looking to do a few programmes to mark the 75th in different ways or at least include related subjects. So you you're up this weekend. First the WWII bombs and then I'm going to add in our 2009 interview on the unknown soldier - the body found in 2004 and the WWII helmet.” Fair enough. She also advertised the show on facebook (illustrated). In the end the helmet was sent to the Canadian War Museum who identified it as one of a batch made in Hong Kong itself for local defence. The interview can be listened to here.
6 I had an interesting email from Denmark today. “The Olsens were born in China. Escaped to Hong Kong (how I do not know) and were Danish volunteers in Hong Kong. They escaped from there to India via Singapore (again a blank) where they served with the British forces. Do you by any chance have any information on my father, Alexander (Olly) and his brother Francis Olsen?” This is one for Frode. I don’t have any record of these people in my files and suspect they were in Singapore before hostilities commenced. 6 Hong Kong veteran Peter Choi passed away today at the age of 98. The last surviving veteran here that we know of is now Ng Sai Ming. Oddly enough both men were local recruits in the regular Royal Artillery.
5Today I was sent a link to a video of Indian soldiers in Hong Kong, populating a brand-new Shingmun Redoubt. I created several useful stills from it, and it proved what I had always believed – that the area was totally treeless at the time. 5 Today I had a request for more information about Hong Kong POW Harry Odell. I have parceled up all I have, but if anyone else has more details I am sure they would be welcome. 5 Iain Gow kindly sent me copies of two post-war letters from Lieutenant Jim Ford, Royal Scots, to his father. 5 While looking for something else, I came across this rather emotive photo. 5 Bridget Harris notes: “It’s been really interesting having your insight into the drawings and I hope you don’t mind me sending you a question about my Uncle’s WWII diary but it would be so helpful if you could shed light on this. In September 1945 there are two entries which I’m trying to find out more about: ‘2nd September” I took another photograph or two and anxiously awaited the Sp.Br. Commander who I thought was in camp and would come to look at my drawings. No luck. 3rd September… as luck would have it the Sp.Br Commander of the News Service came in and promised to send off my Drawings by Air Mail. I got them all packed up and handed them to him; a weight left my shoulders. He was up for more photos of camp and with his P.O & another Sp Br. Fellow was busy all morning snapping and filming Sonny Castro as a girl the band and small town groups of Canadians.’ Do you have any idea who this Special Branch Commander might have been?” I don’t but I can confirm that the Royal Navy had a Special Branch, which included photographers.
4 My copy of Robert Widders’s book Forged In Blood And Music arrived today. 4 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a new look and feel for their website. Unfortunately for the moment this has stopped their Grave Concentration (and other) records from appearing, but they tell me they are aware of this and are working on a fix. They note: “We hope to have all functions on the website back up and running ASAP. Unfortunately some of the original features are taking a little longer than anticipated to transfer over to the new website. Thank you for your patience and we hope this has not been too much of an inconvenience.”
2 Corresponding with well-known researcher Meg Parkes (who is working on an article about artist POW M.E. Scott-Lindsley) we noticed that one of Godfrey Bird’s excellent paintings is mis-labelled as La Salle College instead of Central British School (now KGV). 2 I received an interesting email today: “I am writing a book about Chartered Surveyors in Singapore 1868-2018, and one Chartered Surveyor (who was also an architect) was George Willis Grey, who moved to Hong Kong from Singapore in the late 1920s. I have seen his name in your website as someone who joined the HKVDC but I have no idea what happened to him. Do you know anything about him during the War years, that I can make reference to in the book?” Unfortunately all I could confirm was that Hong Kong government records showed that he was added to the List of Authorized Architects published in 1924 and 1931.
1 Soldier Magazine has now published the results of my interview of last month. Nice to be featured in the same edition as Captain Sir Tom! ‘My’ part starts on page 39, but in fact the whole magazine is worth reading. It’s very professionally put together.