70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

Shows diary entries from seventy-one years ago, using today's date in Hong Kong as the starting point. To see pages from earlier dates (they go back to 1 Dec 1941), choose the date below and click the 'Apply' button.
  • 10 Dec 1941. R. E. Jones Wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    Quiet day for Stanley. Heavy gunfire from Kowloon. Stonecutters heavy guns bombarded Japs on Castle Peak. Landings expected so our platoon got ready for action. How are you Marj old pal?

  • 10 Dec 1941, Barbara Anslow's diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    Sid has been wounded.  Bullet through shoulder.  He told Hospital to phone Mum at the Jockey Club  ((we didn't have a phone at home)) and she went to see him.

    In afternoon I had a few hours off: went into town; alarm signal  on way, I went into Battery Path tunnel - more orderly than I had expected ((despite large numbers of interested rather than frightened Chinese)), and quite cool.

    I left clothes at International Club for Mabel, where met Virginia Beaumont ((VAD friend of Mabel's)) and we got lifts to Bowen Road Military Hospital and I was able to get in to see Sid.  He is very shocked and upset, and didn't look like his old self.  He's worried about the 2 men he had with him - no news of them - they went on ahead when he got entangled in a creeper plant and was sniped.   He says Arthur is at HQ.

    Peaceful last night, but 3 raids in afternoon.  News that Japs have sunk 'Prince of Wales' and 'Repulse' by bomb - hard to believe.

    Jap seem to be starting well, though here we sunk boats of an attempted landing at Tide Cove.

  • 10 Dec 1941, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    The Shing Mun Redoubt, the key to the Gin Drinkers Line, is taken and the Royal Scots fall back to inadequate defensive positions on Golden Hill where they come under heavy attack. Indian regiments are fighting hard, and some of the young Canadians are sent into the battle, but as the fighting approaches urban areas, civilian casualties, mainly Chinese, start to mount.

     

    The food situation in Kowloon's deteriorating. Yesterday the missionary Reiton family bought 'twelve large two and one-half loaves of bread'. Today their son-in-law Robert Hammond, also a missionary, finds that it's impossible to buy any bread at all.

     

    Ellen Field goes to the Recruitment Centre and is told to leave Kowloon for the Island. She refuses:

    I had the most fanciful notion of what would happen to me if I did remain where I was. I thought, for instance, that the Japanese would simply come up to me and say, 'We've won or something like that.' I believed they would behave decently towards British people.

     

    After a heavy night of shelling, Arthur and Edith Hamson and their family decide to take refuge in the Kowloon hills for a few days. They head towards Lion Rock, passing other terrified families. Their servants Ah Moi and Ah Lee find them and bring food. Night falls 'and with darkness came the most spectacular light show'. From their elevated position they see Hong Kong Island covered in thick smoke, 'which took on an orange glow from the flickering light created by the bombs'. Lion Rock isn't comfortable, but at least it's safer than the city.

     

    Diary of Dr. Isaac Newton:

    Today has been one of the most trying that I have ever experienced. When I got to the hospital after breakfast, I found that there was a general air of tension and the nursing staff, sisters as well as nurses, had decided that in no circumstances would they stay put if the Japanese occupied Kowloon. As they had all agreed previously to do so when asked and our plans about stores etc. were based on that it was something of a blow to me.

    Newton decides to cross to the Island and discuss the situation with the Director of Medical Services: on arrival he finds that  Selwyn-Clarke has just seen the Governor, and he tells him that it is his (the Governor's) wish that all the hospital's medical personnel remain in Kowloon:

    It was the first time I have ever seen S-C really moved. He obviously felt that he was deserting us and he really minded it, particularly as we have borne the brunt of the whole thing up till now. However, we settled all the details we could and he followed me out and said goodbye. There were tears in his eyes and he couldn't control his face or let the words out and in the end he gave it up and just walked back to his office. I felt really sorry for him. Then {Dr. D. J.} Valentine came up and said goodbye too.

     

    On Hong Kong Island Phyllis Harrop describes the problems faced by Food Control:

    Something has gone radically wrong with the organisation. Reports are coming in that men have had no food for forty-eight hours. Office staff have walked out due to lack of supplies and messengers are threatening to follow them. The food is there but transport seems to be the difficulty. Conferences have been held to settle the matter.

     

    But action is being taken to improve the food situation: to alleviate the shortages caused by rice and other food shops shutting down at the start of the fighting, the Government orders every undertaking selling food to keep open from 8 a.m. to sunset. A Food Control official broadcasts an assurance that there's plenty of food in Hong Kong, and to prove it food kitchens are opened.

     

    Jesuit Superior Father Patrick Joy needs to keep his priests moving about the city, as some of them, although Irish and therefore neutral, are volunteering with Essential Services, while others are continuing to carry out spriritual duties - from early on they note an increase in people wanting baptism, confession and communion. But there are new problems:

    To move about the city now required police permits, and a large part of Fr. Joy's time on the third day of the war was spent in arranging for these.

    One of the Jesuits, Fr. Paul O'Brien, is sent over to Kowloon to open an office of the Billeting Organisation, as so few people have been rehoused in the first two days - only 200-300 on the whole of day 2. He considers the building completely inappropriate as it's made mostly of glass and is the office of a Taxicab Company with an assembly yard outside that's likely to attract bombing as a transport hub. It's rocked for three hours during the day by the explosions from a nearby air raid. No-one comes there anyway, and he finds out later that notices were not issued until after the Japanese had taken Kowloon.

     

    The London press is doing its best to stay positive. These reports seem to give an idealised account of developments on the 8th and 9th:

    Japanese trying to cross Hong Kong’s mainland frontier have been halted by our artillery fire, it is announced officially.

    The border was manned by British troops at 5.30 a.m. yesterday and we started the demolition of roads and bridges.

    Berlin adds that two Japanese Divisions are attacking Hong Kong.

    Sources:

    Shing Mun etc.: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 40-42

    Reiton: Robert B. Hammond, Bondservants of the Japanese, 1957 ed., 16

    Field: Ellen Field, Twilight in Hong Kong, 1960, 20-21

    Hamsons: Allana Corbin, Prisoners of the East, 2002, 73-74

    Newton: Alan Birch  and Martin Cole, Captive Christmas, 1979, 24-25

    Harrop: Phyllis Harrop, Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 70

    Action is taken: Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Christmas, 1979, 23

    Joy: Thomas F. Ryan, Jesuits Under Fire In The Siege Of Hong Kong, 1944, 23

    O'Brien: Ibid, 25

    Press: The Daily Mirror, December 10, 1941, page 1

  • 10 Dec 1941, Sheridan's diary of the hostilities

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    This is going to be one of our busiest days as we have to produce 12000lbs of bread. As daylight is not until 6.45a.m. this delays an early start as we are not allowed to light up our Field ovens until daylight., Hammond, Tuck,, Bonner and myself have to keep an eagle eye on every move the Chinese bakers make as they are still not familiar enough in the operation of Field baking. Leung Choy is a very harassed man as he has to interpret many of my orders to all the Bakers, but he is a loyal worker and gets the best of co-operation. We are drawing our last batch well after dark and produce the required figure of 12000 lbs. I am still working at 11p.m. preparing next days’ details and production figures. Mr Wood ((The Warrant officer Master Baker)) is attached to the Supply Depot, he comes round the Bakery often and is quite pleased with the set up. He also remarked on the excellent quality of the Bread. In fact it looks and tastes better than the bread turned out in the Queens Road bakery. Aldershot ovens using wood as fuel and with the oven sealed up during baking seem to give the bread a nutty flavour. We are now supplying the H.K.V.D.C. and other auxiliary forces as well as the Army, Navy and Air Force. It is estimated that within the next day or two bread production will reach at least about 14000 lbs daily. ((For comparison: the modern Lane, Crawford Bakery in Stubbs Rd. where all bread for civilians was produced until December 21 baked 16,000-22,000 lbs per day.))

  • 10 Dec 1941, Charles Mycock's report of his wartime experiences

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    From the 10th. December 1941 onwards refugees living in huts and temporary quarters ((at the camp above Quarry Bay)) varying from 1,000 to 5,000 were fed two meals a day.

  • 10 Dec 1941, A. H. Potts' wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    By this time it was necessary for civilians to have a pass to cross the harbour and many found themselves stranded on the wrong side according to where they lived.

    I had a Studebaker “Champion” at my disposal and as I was free to move around provided I saw the stores safely delivered, I got the chance to pop home for a quick tiffin with Susie on the 10th, who was working (far too hard because of her bad legs) at the Queen Mary Hospital.  They all say she did splendid work as almoner which meant she stood in the reception hall all day taking people’s valuables and recording them;  casualties were flowing in by this time and she was hard at it all day, but it was too much of a strain and she had to go into the hospital as a patient herself after the surrender.

    I found Uncle Pat at my house very sorry he had not taken my advice, for he has nothing but a suitcase, but he was in good spirits.


    On 10th Kowloon was being evacuated of all European civilians and many who were already over in Hongkong were unable to get back to their homes and collect any clothes or other belongings.  Consequently there were many when the time came to be interned who had practically nothing more than what they stood in.


    I was over at Kowloon again on the 10th clearing the same stores for Stanley.  Many sampan folk were making a fortune taking wealthy Chinese across the harbour who were unable to get a pass to travel on the ferry.  The atmosphere in Kowloon was tense and there was the most appalling stench which came from the sewers for the Japanese had cut the water off from Shingmun reservoir.

    Major Manners, manager of the HK and Kowloon Wharf Co, told me the Japs were already up to Tsun Wan and the advance units had reached Laicheekok;  he expected they would be in Kowloon the next day (11th).

    Whilst I was over at the godowns, Sir Mark Young, our recently appointed governor, arrived on a tour of inspection.  We worked late to clear the stores as we didn’t expect to get across to Kowloon again and arrived back in Hongkong after nightfall which made us realize for the first time what a complete blackout was like.  The streets were deserted as we drove to Happy Valley through the usually crowded Wanchai district, and I was particularly impressed that the war was really on when we passed our bowling alleys and saw they were quiet as the grave in comparison with the usual noise and bustle going on there at that time of day.

  • 10 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    Shattering news that the Royal Scots have been driven from the important Shing Mun Redoubt and Golden Hill, threatening collapse of the whole Gin Drinkers' Line. Also supply lines to the front line are breaking down. It is apparent that withdrawal from the mainland is imminent.

    Except for some heavy long-range artillery bombardment the night is quiet, broken in Happy Valley only by the ping of a rifle bullet as a curfew breaker is chased home. The Japanese planes made no night raids.

  • 10 Dec 1941, South China Morning Post

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941
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  • 10 Dec 1941, Additional notes

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    " ...it was not until the news of the sinking of the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse off Singapore on the 10th December 1941 was flashed to Hong Kong that the fate of these capital ships presaged our fate, devoid of air cover. Our faith in our requirement to hold out for 90 days was based on our relief by such ships, and now they were gone, it began to dawn even on the most optimistic of us that our position was hopeless. It was against this background ...  that the battle of Hong Kong island was fought, and it is against this backcloth ... that the record of the garrison should be judged. To be able to maintain any fighting morale at all under these conditions was only possible on a foundation of general heroism, and this made all those separate acts to which I have referred all the more heroic."

    ((Source L.T. Ride))

  • 10 Dec 1941, W J Carrie's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Wed, 10 Dec 1941

    A rotten night - the guns were going all the time and poor Betsy was very perturbed.  I remember she went through the Shanghai bombing and is nervous of sharp noises. But she’ll have to stick it out.

    I didn’t have continuous sleep but I had quite a good rest and I’m gradually hardening up.  No sore back tonight but we only had one real alert today.  Feeding is the real snag - my 50 bags of rice last night saved me a lot of trouble.  I have now engaged Glover Man. Director of Kelly & Walsh to be my assistant – I just can’t do it all.

    News on now – news is not coming through so I write on.

    I got your lovely cable today - I thought of wiring at once but thought of waiting till I could report  about my billettees. But I must do it tomorrow. No casualties here yesterday that I had to deal with -   70 on Monday - but we’re settling down.

    I rang up Ben Evans at once - he was very glad to get the message - I can’t contact Farmer but I have sent a chit up to H.K.V.D.C. H.Q..  Ben told me of a horrid business - I hope it is not a tragedy.  I think it was foolish of him but I don’t criticise - he sent Heywood and Starbuck, his two assistants, out to Au Tau on Monday morning to bring in very valuable - but what is the value of anything these days - instruments from the magnetic observatory out there which is really my child.   They have never returned.  I don’t know Heywood but Starbuck is an awfully wee cheery soul who broadcasts a “[P??] Corner” and things like that.  Poor lads - I hope they are only captives but even at that they will have a miserable time.

    Later.

    I was going to write on and then the second news came on - and I’m just flattened - the Prince of Wales and the Repulse - how could it happen? We were so happy thinking they were there – what hope is there for us now? - how can we ever be relieved?  Well we must stick it out some way.  I know how depressed you must be - but Hope On always.  Goodnight Adored. B.

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