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.
  • 18 Dec 1941. R. E. Jones Wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    (Many Happy Returns of today pal, under happier circumstances)

    Japs got the Electric Works during the night. The coal stove will come back into its own once more.

    Electric on again at noon, good work somebody.

    Japs bombarding North Side plenty of black smoke visible.

    They bombed the Fort 12.50 – 1.00PM but missed.

  • 18 Dec 1941, Barbara Anslow's diary

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    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    Bombs fell in vicinity of the tunnel. The concussion made our hair go up on end and wave backwards and forwards. The CSO garages were burnt out and or bombed.  A lot of Indian policemen were injured and carried into the tunnel.  I wished so much that I knew something about first aid, to see these great bleeding people groaning.  All I could do was tear up a sheet some one produced into bandages.  Bombing in the middle of Garden Road and Volunteer HQ as well.

    ((My colleague Barbara Budden in the tunnel was looking terrible as her father had phoned a little earlier saying he was on his way to the tunnel to see her, and she feared he had been caught in the bombing. But he hadn't.))

    Uncle Sidney and I had a hectic time going back to Macdonnell Road, that evening. Shells were concentrated on the Garden Road district so we took shelter in a Military Post under the Peak Tram Station for a while. Avoiding the road, we went up the steps up to Macdonnell Road  but they were in a blasted mess, sticky red clay all over the place.  I was always scared of making that journey at dusk, and when Mum rang me (from Jockey Club Hospital) and said she'd feel happier if I didn't stay up at Macdonnell Road, I decided next day I would move back to Dina House, so I did.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    The Jap bombers have been over on three occasions today, and really caused havoc with our bread production. Although there was no damage to persons or property. We now hear some very disgusting rumours that Jap assault troops have landed on the Island. According to GHQ the situation is well in hand. We take this with a pinch of salt, because of similar assurances before the mainland was evacuated.

    Some of my bakers are now very “jittery”. During the air raids a few of the older hands stay with me until the last minute, but others bolt at the least sound of a Jap plane. Without the help of Hammond, Tuck and Bonner we would produce very little bread. The bread is being issued as fast as we can bake it. There are all sorts of lorries and cars arriving during the day and night to collect bread and supplies for the fighting troops.

    There is now a peculiar feeling about that something is going to happen. It is a tension that is very hard to explain. The 9.2 guns of the Artillery keep up a continuous barrage all through the night. I find it very difficult to get any sleep. I have also noticed that the labourer coolies employed here at the Supply point have gradually disappeared, not a good sign.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    After heavy preliminary shelling on the 18th. December Nipponese forces landed on the Island. Some at the Refinery Wharf and Dockyard quickly passed up the road through the camp en route to Stanley or Wong Nee Cheong. The staff at Woodside spent the night in the basement. At daybreak numerous bodies of troops were watched on the road. I saw one officer whose name I do not know fire deliberately five shots presumably at refugees.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    Tony Banham sets the scene:

    It is Hong Kong's last morning of siege. The defences are in place, waiting for the inevitable invasion, as the artillery and aerial bombardment reaches a new intensity.


    In Central Market the Jesuit Father Ryan is helping with the distribution of rice to the poor. It's about 13.15:

    There was an appalling crash and a thunderous roar and a shivering of glass, and in an instant everyone was flat on the ground. The chance in a million had occurred: a bomb had fallen in the central space in the very heart of the market.

    Yet even that was not the end. The plane evidently dropped three bombs, for two other explosions were heard in the street outside, and after the sound of their thunder there was still heard the noise of crashing walls and the piercing wail of screams.

    Father Ryan is unharmed, but six people inside are killed and many others outside; hundreds are injured.


    During the twelve or so daylight hours, more than 200 shells fall in and around the French Hospital (St. Paul's) in Causeway Bay and the associated buildings - probably because there were British guns in the playing fields at the back of the hospital.

    One shell hits the Hospital direct, and Dr. Dean A. Smith, who's in charge, has arrived to inspect the damaged wards when a second shell explodes at his feet causing him multiple injuries and seriously wounding the nurses accompanying him. Franklin Gimson and Dr. Selwyn-Clarke are summoned by phone, and they decide that another doctor must take over and that no new casualties will be received at the hospital, while as many patients as possible will be transferred elsewhere.

    When Dr. Philip Court, the new head, arrives he decides to abandon the main building and convert the large church in the middle of the grounds into a hospital, as it's the strongest and most spacious of the compound buildings. The work of moving the patients, under continuing shellfire, will carry on until tomorrow.


    An entry from the Police War Diary:

    1930 hrs ex-sergeant Jessop, watchman at the Tai Koo docks, reported Japanese landings.

    The first wave of the Japanese 228th. Regiment has begun the assault on the Island. Landings will continue throughout the evening and all the first wave troops are over by midnight. The land assault on the Island has begun.


    Hong Kong is back on the front page of The Daily Mirror. The theme for the day is the Governor’s ‘no surrender’ stance:


    SIR MARK YOUNG, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Hong Kong, sent this telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies yesterday:

    “After some further bombardment, I have received another letter signed by Japanese military and naval commanders-in-chief, asking me to confer about surrender on considerations of humanity.

    The following is the text of my reply:

    ‘ ‘ ‘The Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Hong Kong declines most absolutely to enter into any negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong, and he takes this opportunity of notifying Lieutenant-General Takaishi Sakai and Vice-Admiral Masaichi Niimi that he is not prepared to receive any further communication from them on the subject.‘ “

    The Secretary of State ((Lord Moyne)) replied:

    “Your refusal to consider the Japanese commanders’ request to negotiate terms of surrender of Hong Kong commands the respect and approval of his Majesty’s Government.

    “Your resolute leadership, and the stirring conduct of all defenders of the fortress, are being watched with admiration and confidence by the whole Empire and by our Allies throughout the world.”


    Last morning: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 95

    Ryan: Thomas F. Ryan, Jesuits Under Fire In The Siege of Hong Kong, 1944, 135

    Time, casualty figures: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 99-100

    French Hospital: Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, Footprints, 1975, 67; Thomas F. Ryan, Jesuits Under Fire In The Siege of Hong Kong, 1944, 76, 132-133

    Diary: George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 55

    Japanese landings: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 108

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

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    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    I picked up another car around noon and returned to Shouson Hill, where I found Major Dewer in a huddle with Lt. Andrews R.A. on my scheme.  Twenty lorries had been allotted and Major Dewer was coming along himself and would control the traffic from the rendezvous at Tytam.

    I was to go as usual to Lyemun and Andrews was coming with me.  I felt delighted that my visit to GHQ had materialised and looked forward to clearing the greater part of the six inch shells lying in Lyemun, that night.

    Andrews and I set off for Lyemun shortly before dusk.  We drove in a big Studebaker car he had, in preference to the small Morris which was the only car I had been able to get to replace my wrecked ‘Champion’.  To reach Lyemun we went via Repulse Bay, Stanley and Tytam as we had been informed that Kings Road was impassable, having been very heavily shelled and the APC installation at North Point set on fire.  This fire went on for many days and formed a perfect smoke screen to cover the Japanese landing.

    We found the various roadblocks along our route all functioning normally, so I was surprised when we arrived at Lyemun to find the gates open and unguarded.

    When we reached the magazines Corpl. O’Connor met me in a very nervous state;  he told me they had been subjected to a terrific shelling all day, which had only just stopped and that all the guards had cleared off.  He also said the pier had not been blown up and that the light across Lyemun was still out of order.

    Whilst we were speaking, the shelling started again and became so heavy that we had to take shelter in a small disused magazine which the five Ordnance men, who were the only personnel at Lyemun Magazine barring an ancient police reserve sergeant, had fixed up with bunks and tables and chairs and were using it for their accommodation.  I told O’Connor of my scheme for clearing the magazines but he expressed great misgivings as to whether we should get a single shell out that night as he felt convinced the terrific barrage, to which they had been subjected all day and which had now recommenced, was the prelude to a landing.

    The barrage was indeed terrific;  we counted the number of shells which fell during the space of a minute several times and found they averaged fifteen or one every four seconds, none of it was very big but quite enough to keep anyone away from Lyemun and anyone who was there under cover.  All our batteries remained silent during this bombardment which began shortly after eight o’clock and continued till half past nine when it ceased abruptly.

    I then went out with Andrews and Corpl O’Connor to see if there was any sign of the first lorries, for that was how we intended to work so that there would never be a great many lorries standing in the magazine compound at one time.

    We heard the noise of a lorry descending the hill, from Lyemun barracks, in low gear;  at the same time I noticed a red flare fired from the Pillbox near the pier.  The lorry came up to us and I heard the voice of ‘Davy’ Gow enquiring in his broad Scotch if anybody was about.  I made my presence known and he got down and told me that he and three other lorries had been caught at Lyemun barracks in the barrage.  He said it had been absolute hell and that all the coolies, there were ten on each lorry, had jumped off and beaten it.  He had therefore sent the other three lorries back to Major Dewer at Tytam to bring on fresh coolies and had come on himself to report to me.

    He had just finished telling me this when we heard a burst of machine gun fire from the Pillbox and another red flare went up.  We stood watching and I was just on the point of taking ‘Davy’ into the magazine to give him a drink, when I saw a lot of figures running towards us.  I turned to ‘Davy’ and said “There are your coolies” and then I suddenly realized it was the Japanese.  I exclaimed “My God, it’s not, it’s the Japs, get inside the magazine quick!”

    I fairly pushed Gow, Andrews and O’Connor into the passage and hastily followed them.  The magazines at Lyemun have a grill gate at the entrance to the passage which leads to the magazine chamber, at the entrance to which there is a steel door;  the passage between the grill and the door is some thirty yards long and about two yards wide.

    As I got through the grill I turned and closed it;  the Japs, some fifty odd, were on my heels and I had been spotted.  One of them ran to the grill and fired two shots from a revolver.  I was making all possible haste to get inside the magazine and was already some yards down the passage so he had nothing much to assist his aim which was lucky for me or I should not be telling this tale today.

    I felt a sharp stinging sensation on my right leg about a foot above the knee which I knew must be merely a graze so I pushed on with redoubled haste to get the steel door between myself and any more odd bullets which my friend outside might feel like firing.  I reached the steel door and closed it as I passed through.

    I ordered the candle to be blown out and everyone to keep quiet and do nothing unless the door was opened, in which case everyone was to fire, rush out and make it up the hill.  Our armament consisted of six rifles and three revolvers.  The Ordnance men only had a few rounds each for their rifles.  Gow had fifty and I had only six spare rounds for my revolver, for Larry Andrews had discovered the bullets in his revolver were dud when he had tried it out shortly after our arrival at Lyemun so I had given him some of mine.

    So it was a pleasant predicament we were in.

    We stood still listening in the pitch darkness of the magazine.

    We heard the grill gate at the far end of the passage being opened and then the explosion of a hand grenade in the passage.  A few seconds later another grenade exploded and then we heard two or three men advancing down the passage very cautiously.

    After advancing a short distance they fired a burst from some sort of automatic and then crept up again till they were right up to the door and we could hear them feel it.

    We stood still expecting the door to open at any minute, but after some short discussion they went off.  I suppose they were scared to open the door for which I don’t blame them but it was curious they didn’t bolt it, but that would not have bothered us as there was an emergency exit.

    I thanked my stars I had left Mr. Bones at Shouson Hill for he would have been in a fine state of jitters after the heavy bombardment and would no doubt have added to my worries.

    After the Japs had moved off I asked Larry to switch on his flashlight and then arranged everyone in a semicircle facing the door, seating them on the beds which lined the walls so that each got a clear view of the door and ordered everyone to sit tight and not move unless the door opened.

    I then looked at my wound and found it was little more than a graze and scarcely bleeding which was just as well as nobody had a field dressing.  Field dressings were supposed to have been issued on mobilization together with iron rations and various other things but this had not materialized.

    I discussed the situation with Larry Andrews and Gow, the others were in such a state of jitters that their opinion was worthless.  I pointed out that it was no use our leaving the magazine whilst the Japanese were still landing at the pier and coming up the road - which we knew was the case for we heard another party running past the entrance to our magazine some fifteen minutes after the first - for we couldnt put up any sort of a show with the arms we had.

    Our shells, but unfortunately very very few, were now passing overhead and exploding over Lyemun Pass so evidently warning of the landing had been given so we could rest easy on that account.

    It was reasonable to suppose this might be only a raid to test the strength of our defences and that the party that had landed would be withdrawing shortly.  It was also reasonable to suppose we should be sending a force to Lyemun to repulse the landing.

    It was useless to try and get away over the hills on foot as nobody knew the district sufficiently well and in any case I did not wish to leave the ancient police reservist behind and he was certainly unable to go on foot.  It was impossible to get away in the car for it was a pitch black night.  So this left the only alternative which was to wait till dawn, when I would attempt to get them all away in Larry’s big car provided we found it still outside and intact.

    Larry and Gow agreed that this was the best idea after which we again shone the flashlight to see that everyone was properly placed, told them all to sit still and watch the door.  The pillbox near the pier had been firing sporadically but at ten thirty, after another wave of Japs had gone up the road it remained silent and there was very little doubt in my mind that this was a real landing and not the raid I had hoped it might be.

    As the night wore on I wondered if I had made the right decision, wondered if I should find Larry’s car still intact if I found it still at the entrance, whether I should find they had posted a guard at the entrance to our magazine or at the main gates.  However I couldn’t think of any better plan so left it at that.

    Suddenly we heard a noise in the emergency exit, which was a square hole on one side of the room some three feet square and about six feet from the ground.  I said to Larry, “Switch on your torch”.  As the beam lit up the square we saw a head looking at us and both immediately fired.  A voice shouted “It’s me”.  It was one of the Ordnance men, he was a queer sort of chap the other Ordnance men told me, and they were suspicious of him being a fifth columnist.  He was Chinese and supposed to be very deaf.  However, he had escaped but was badly scared when we pulled him out and sat him between two of the British Ordnance men where he remained for the rest of the night, giving no further trouble.

    I have an idea he was trying to get out so as to tip off the Japs about us.  

    Towards midnight, after several waves of about fifty men, so far as one could judge, had gone up the road, we heard a big body of troops marching past our magazine wheeling some sort of handcarts;  probably light mortars which they used so effectively throughout the show.  There was much running backwards and forwards and shouting of commands but no one came down our passage nor did anyone take any notice of Larry’s car or Gow’s lorry as far as we could make out.

    We had heard scarcely any firing as the leading waves went up the road to Lyemun barracks and as I knew there were none of our troops beyond, it was safe to assume the Japanese had a clear road down from the barracks to Shaukiwan Hill on the Island Road.  If you turn down Shaukiwan hill it takes you through Shaukiwan village, Taikoo dockyards and then along Kings Road to town, uphill takes you to Tytam and then on to Stanley and Repulse Bay.  Now, Tytam Gap was very strongly held with many pillboxes and gates across the road which we noticed had all been fully manned when we passed them on our way to Lyemun that evening, on the other hand the road to town was practically undefended apart from a great many pillboxes along the waterfront, but none of these were able to fire down the roadway which lay behind them.

    I therefore thought this would be the route the Japanese would take and that by going uphill we should stand a very good chance of reaching Tytam.  The night seemed endless and after the major landing at midnight there was no further landing at Lyemun.  Our artillery had long ceased to display any interest, probably due to lack of ammunition.

  • 18 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    The heaviest shelling and bombing so far. The Island's waterfront was declared out of bounds to all unauthorised persons. It has been just a week since Kowloon was abandoned; and the final crisis is at hand. In the eleven days there have been 53 air raid alarms. This day a stick of bombs fell across Queen's Road Central, and one of them went through the roof of the South China Morning Post Building, exploding in the lift machinery.

    Harder to bear, shells or bombs hit the oil stores of the Asiatic Petroleum Company (Shell) on the waterfront at Whitfield near North Point, and started a great fire. A huge column of black smoke rose high and has blown slowly spreading - a depressing pall as the sun went down. Heavy shelling has continued into the night, then becoming intermittent accompanied by heavy machine gun fire.

  • 18 Dec 1941, South China Morning Post

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-18 December 1941-pg1-b.jpg
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-18 December 1941-pg2.jpg


  • 18 Dec 1941, Events at the Repulse Bay Hotel

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    After the 18th December our contact with town by road ceased entirely, and we were forced to subsist upon the stocks of food remaining at the Hotel, which I issued upon a severely rationed basis.

  • 18 Dec 1941, Father Biotteau's wartime diary

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941
    ((Original text)) ((Jill Fell's translation))
    Nuit tranquille. Mais la canonnade a repris dès le matin. Le journal n’arrive pas. Vers 11h du matin, une énorme fumée noire a commencé de s’élever par delà le Peak. A 6h du soir, cela continuait encore et tout le ciel en était assombri. Toute la soirée, canonnade intense. Quiet night. But the gunfire started again with the daylight. The newspaper doesn't arrive. Towards 11am a huge plume of black smoke began to rise beyond the Peak. At 6pm it was still going and had caused the whole sky to go dark. Intense gunfire the whole evening.
  • 18 Dec 1941, Additional notes

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    "The night was the darkest I have ever seen.  ... overcast, cloudy, rain at intervals, otherwise mostly drizzle.  In addition, the enemy had set alight the oil tanks near North Point, and the smoke drifted over the island. ... Three landings were made, each in two waves, and seven battalions, or about 7000 men, landed in all during the night.  On the East, Colonel Tanaka with two battalions landed in the Shaukiwan area.  He sent one battalion against Lyemun and Sai Wan, the other over Quarry Gap into Tytam Valley.  Colonel Shoji with three battalions landed somewhere near North Point and plugged straight inland for Jardine’s Lookout and Wongneichong Gap.  Another two battalions, under Colonel Doi, landed west of the docks.  Their job was to take care of the bridge-head, and when possible push troops forward to support Shoji’s men."

    ((Source - a dramatization of the history of the Hong Kong Volunteers, which was broadcast over Radio Hong Kong on 31st May 1954 as part of the HKVDC Centenary Celebrations))

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

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    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 18 Dec 1941

    What gets me down is the waiting - there seems little now that I can do.  I don't go out unless I have to -   I had to see the Controller of Food today.  I went first to the C.S.O. tunnel and for the first time went to the upper part where H.E. and the C. S. are.   They sleep and live there all the time.  The heat and atmosphere generally was awful I thought.  In the lower tunnel it's not so bad.  Then I went to the Food Controller - I had to park outside the Cheero Club - and just at the Bank I saw Harry and Timson with H.E.   H.E. went into the Bank.  He was all alone walking about.  Not long after I got into Holland House - you remember the new building at the corner of Ice House Street and Queens Road - just opposite the bottom of Battery Path - the alert went.  They dive-bombed and scored a direct hit on the Architectural Office of the P.W.D. - one of the so-called temporary buildings erected near the C.S.O.   I was on the second floor of Holland House - we felt the blast and then a shower of stones came down.  Another one fell some way along Queens Road and the third hit the miniature rifle range at Volunteer H.Q.   When at last the all clear went I tried to get back here - up Garden Road but found it was impassable.

    They got the A.P.C. installation at North Point too, and a lot of our kerosene has been lost.  The sky has been thick with smoke all day and it is floating over the Peak.  There was another fire near the Power Station - probably coal but it is out now.  But the electric power went off just after we had tiffin.  It went on again about 3 but has gone off again as another alert is on.  I am writing this by candle light as my office is pretty well blacked out - though it's only 4.30 in the afternoon.  

    They are your candles.  I have also brought down all the stuff you left for me - we call it our iron rations and they are not to be used unless we are forced to do so.   We have had plenty decent chow so far but cooking is going to be difficult if the electric power stays off.  Still we have a fairly good stock of firewood and in the end will burn all the parallel bars and so forth in the Gym - there are some packing cases there too and shavings.  We'll have to use "chatties" of course.

     Glover is such a decent fellow and pampers me like blazes.  Well I'll stop now and write on later if the light goes on.

    I have never mentioned your affairs - things don't seem to be going too well around Kedah and Penang - but they've a long way to go yet.  I was wondering however, whether you would be able to go - or risk going - to Alice in Dacca.  I tried to fix up that you shall get your money as usual from the Bank -   I must try and find out if the wireless got through.  If not   you will have to get some from Alice.  Cheerio just now.  B.

    6.30 - dinner over but no light yet.  Not quite such a good meal.  We get too much bread.  I'll try and write later.  B.

    8.20pm. No light - so I'm off to bed.  It's the only place - I'm not going to sit downstairs where they have hurricane lamps with the Inspectors and Chinese clerks.  Roe and Glover go down but I don't.   So Goodnight L.O.  B.

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