The Sloan family's memories of WW2 in Hong Kong

The Battle of Hong Kong began on 8th December, 1941. My father was one of the brave soldiers that fought the Japanese invaders. In his honour and that of the others who fought, died and survived the most terrible hardships, I am reposting this article:

Dad, the invasion of Hong Kong and prison camp

The Japanese invasion of Hong Kong started on the 8th December 1941 and lasted for 17 bloody days until the British forces, surrendered on the 25th, in the person of His Excellency the Governor, Sir Mark Aitchison Young.

Dad, as did all men over the age of 18 in Hong Kong, joined the Hong Kong Regiment and had to report to camp once a month and once a year for a two-week camp. These camps were not particularly onerous as they were piled into a truck and driven out to some location in the New Territories where a contingent of coolies would carry their kit bags up to the camp site. Their equipment also consisted of a wind-up gramophone and a box of 78s, several crates of beer and other necessities of life.

They would set up their billets and report for machine gun practice with the water-cooled Vickers Machine gun, about which, more later. Practice consisted of spotting the enemy, which was usually a collection of bone pots and blasting them to pieces. Eventually the indigenous villagers complained of this to the government and they had to find other enemies to practice on.

As the war came closer the volunteers were given training in anti aircraft guns and as it was believed that the attack when it came, would be a night time attack, they were called out at all hours of the day and night to man the guns.

1938 Sai Wan Hill Battery
1938 Anti-aircraft Gun practice at Sai Wan Hill Battery, by Moddsey

 

As a child, growing up in Hong Kong I remember hearing the air raid sirens which were still in place at late as the early sixties. The government continued to test them on a regular basis and I still remember the feeling of unease whenever I heard one go off.

Finally it was December 1941 and despite the impending war it was still the Christmas season. On the evening of the 7th

Book type: 

1950s Causeway Bay typhoon shelter

1950s Causeway Bay typhoon shelter

Where: We're looking across the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter towards North Point, with the Kowloon hills in the background.

 

Who: It's hard to imagine, but the small boats in the foreground were homes. Signs of this floating vilage's life include mother & child top-right, a passing sampan as local transport in the foreground, and families' washing all around:

Boat people

 

When: The exact location of the boat people's village had changed several times over the years, and if we follow the changes we'll get an idea of when this photo was taken.

Here's a

75 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

December, 1941.

75 years ago tensions were high as war with Japan seemed inevitable. On December 8th, those fears were confirmed when Japanese planes attacked Kai Tak, and Japanese soldiers crossed the border into the New Territories. The fighting continued until the British surrendered on Christmas Day.

The end of the fighting marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation, a time of great hardship for Hong Kong's residents. They would have to endure for three years and eight months, until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, and Hong Kong was liberated shortly afterwards.

What was it like?

Let the people who lived through these times tell you themselves.

We've collected several wartime diaries, and split them into their day-by-day accounts. Each day we send out an email message containing all the diary entries written on that day, 75 years ago.

How to sign up to receive the daily messages?

Please click here to subscribe.

You'll see another screen that asks for your email address. Once you've completed that screen, you'll be sent an email message, asking you to confirm your subscription. Click the link in that message and your subscription is activated. Then each day you'll receive an email message with today's diary entries.

It's free of charge, your details stay private, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

What do the daily messages look like?

Here are sample extracts from the messages you'll receive:

  • 30 Nov 1941: "Topper says we are as near war now as we have ever been, that Japan with her militarist Govt. can't very well back down now."
     
  • 1 Dec 1941: "Government advising further evacuation.  Only hope seems to be that Japs now say they will keep on talks with USA in hope that USA will change viewpoint - that isn't thought likely."
     
  • 7 Dec 1941: "There must be something in the wind, G.H.Q. staff are preparing to move into Battle HQ, a huge underground structure just behind the Garrison Sgts. Mess."
Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary
Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary: "war had been declared"
  • 8 Dec 1941: "I started my birthday with a war. Kowloon bombed about 8AM."
     
  • 10 Dec 1941: "Sid has been wounded.  Bullet through shoulder.  He told Hospital to phone Mum at the Jockey Club and she went to see him."
     
  • 13 Dec 1941: "We hear rumours that

7, 10, or 13 years old? A brief history of Gwulo

10

I had it in my head that this year is the tenth anniversary of Gwulo, but it turns out to be both older and younger than that.

 

2002 - The beginning: do you remember Gwulo's ancestor, Batgung.com ?

Way back in 2002, two years before Facebook appeared, blogs were the hot topic on the internet.

I was talking with a friend about blogs, and we thought it would be fun to start one about expat life in Hong Kong, so Batgung was born. Here's how it looked on 11th September, 2002. You'll see that fancy visual design wasn't (and still isn't!) a strongpoint:

Batgung.com sceen capture 11 Sep 2002.jpg

(This screenshot comes from the Wayback Machine, a great way to see how websites have changed over the years.)

We posted occasional short articles to the site, and there was also a discussion board where visitors could post messages.

 

2004 - There's an interest in Hong Kong's history

Some of the early messages on that discussion board were the first signs of what Gwulo would become. Here are the oldest four with a history theme, from thirteen years ago:

1951 View from the Peak over Central to Kowloon

1951 View from the Peak over Central to Kowloon

 

When: The date for this photo comes from the Bank of China building [1] :

gwulo A430 Bank of China.jpg

The Bank building was finished in November 1951, and here it's nearly done, so this photo was taken sometime in 1951.

 

Who: The light-coloured patches in the foreground are the tennis courts at the Ladies Recreation Club (LRC) [2]. Their swimming pool looks full, and the umbrellas are out around the pool, so I'll narrow the photo's date down to summer 1951:

gwulo-A430 LRC+pool.jpg

Though we can't make out any individuals, many

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