Shortly after midnight one of the Ordnance men dosed off with his finger on the trigger of his rifle with the inevitable result, which was somewhat alarming but fortunately caused no damage.
At six-fifteen just before dawn I announced I was going out to have a look around. ‘Davy’ Gow immediately said he would come with me. We opened the steel door cautiously and went slinking down the passage like a couple of gunmen till we reached the grill at the outer end. We peered out, fully expecting to find a sentry or in any case Japanese around in the magazine compound. No sentry was there! No one up or down the roadway!!
We examined the car which by some miracle was still there and by a greater miracle undamaged.
Sending Davy back to call the others, I got into the car and touched the starter button. She sprang to life immediately and I was thankful we had taken Larry’s Studebaker and not my Morris. There is no question American cars are the ones for quick starting.
The others came out from the magazine and hastily piled in. Larry and Gow in front with me, each with a revolver and the Ordnance men and the ancient police reservist in the back with their rifles pointing out of the windows. It must have looked for all the world like a gangster’s getaway!
Off we went, but I couldn’t see the roadway and very nearly ruined everything by almost driving into a ditch, so I stopped the car and broke the windscreen with the butt end of a rifle. Then we were off like the wind, up the hill to Lyemun barracks which were strewn all over the roadway from the recent shelling. Threading our way through the debris we reached the main gates. Again no sentry! Luck was with us.
Down the military road I drove at a dangerous pace, the car going right down on her springs as we ploughed through the two big craters – till we reached Shaukiwan hill.
The light was still bad and I misjudged the turning and rammed my right front wing against the hillside. Fortunately no damage was done other than force the wing against the tyre and we soon had that pulled out and were streaming up Shaukiwan hill. I put my foot right down on the accelerator as the light improved and the big car well laden moved along like a train. If we came across Japs it would have been just too bad for them unless they had a barricade, we should have gone slap through anything. Our road block at the top of Shaukiwan hill which had been manned the previous night was deserted when we reached it and we saw neither our troops nor the Japs until we reached Tytam Gap which the Canadians were holding.
The gates across the road were closed and heavily guarded. The Canadians knew about the landing and were all on the alert. We passed through the gates and then drove on more slowly, past Stanley and Repulse Bay where the roadblocks were still in operation till we came to the RASC Supply Depot at Deepwater Bay which we found deserted ((as explained in Sheridan's diary for today)). The Golf Club house was still piled high with tinned goods and there were also great piles of goods stacked all over the course.
We went into the clubhouse and helped ourselves to some bread and tinned goods wondering what had happened to the personell. Whilst we were eating and discussing the situation we heard machine gun fire coming from Wongneichong Gap which is right above the golf course.
We decided to turn round and go up there to see what was happening. Accordingly we proceeded up the Repulse Bay Road till we reached a corner just short of the gap where a lorry driver stopped us and advised us not to proceed any further as the Japs had already got possession of the Police Station and we should be under fire,
There is a ridge slightly further down the road which commands a clear view of the gap; on this ridge Eu Tong Sen, a multimillionaire from Singapore where he had made his money in tin mines, had built five houses. Housebuilding was a fetish with him and he is supposed to have been told by the priests that he would live so long as he built; however he is dead now and a good … [I will have to check this at HKU] between the priest and house contractors is also finished. These five houses stand some fifty feet above the road and are reached by an approach road. The first house is a smallish one, then come two large semidetached houses, next a large house and finally a smaller single house. There is a good deal of space between the houses in the shape of tennis courts and gardens.
The first house is built against the hillside from which the ridge on which the five houses are built juts out. Some hundred feet above the level of the houses, up the hillside is a water conduit running from Repulse Bay to Wongneichong gap.
On getting up to these houses we found they were occupied by the Ordnance Corps who had their HQ in the first house, the two semidetached and the large single house were full of stores and the last smaller house was occupied by the other ranks. There were also great piles of stores stacked all over the tennis courts.
On our arrival, I noticed there were a few men lying down with rifles behind the stone parapet of the approach road leading past the houses till it reached the end house, but no one was firing. Looking across to Wongneichong gap I could see the Police Station was in the hands of the Japanese and they were engaged in attacking Tinson’s house, a beautiful home belonging to a solicitor who was a great friend of mine. He was attached to the ARP but was killed whilst leaving his house for his post on the morning of 19th.
The Japanese were also attacking the pillbox at the foot of the bridle pass leading from the gap up Mount Nicholson. This pillbox had a lot of bare hillside with no cover at all surrounding it and I could see the Japanese scrambling about on it quite clearly.
The Police Station, Tinson’s house and the Pillbox were all approximately the same range (about 1000 yards), so I was surprised that no effort was being made to assist them.
I found the semi-detached houses contained a great many guns of all sorts in addition to all sorts of stores including field glasses and telescopes. I got hold of a telescope just to make sure they were in fact Japs scrambling around the Police Station and pillbox and being quite satisfied they were, I got out a couple of Lewis guns with ‘Davy’ Gow, cleaned them up, got some chaps to fill up the drums and when we were ready started firing. A sergeant of the Ordnance said to me “Thank God you’ve come Sir, we haven’t done a thing to help those chaps till you came”.
Davy and I were making good shooting amongst the Japs around the Police station and the ones on the bare hillside around the pillbox were scampering back to shelter like jack rabbits. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves when an officer came along and told us to stop firing. I pointed out our target informing him, when he told me those were our Indian troops, that I had ascertained they were Japanese before opening fire by employing one of his good telescopes and invited him to look through it himself. He took a look and said he wasn’t certain and therefore we were not to fire and in any case I had no business to open fire without permission from his OC. In other words, he clearly indicated that our presence at “The Ridge” was not welcome and they were quite capable of looking after themselves – presumably by lying low.
As it wasn’t our show there was nothing to be done but pack up and move on. It was sickening as some timely assistance to the chaps up at Wongneichong gap might have helped a lot. We got into the big car, this time only Larry, Davy Gow and myself for we left the Ordnance men with their own outfit also the old police sergeant; he poor fellow was overjoyed to be out of Lyemun safely and kept on saying “Bless you, my darling”. He worked like a trump up at “The Ridge”, as I know when we returned there later that day and stayed till 21st, but I lost touch with him and am afraid he was killed.
We turned down Repulse Bay road and went back to Deepwater Bay which was still deserted so decided to drive on towards Aberdeen.
Here we got news that the whole of the RASC both Supply and Transport had retired to Sassoon Road at Pokfulam.
We found them around noon and got a great welcome as we had already been posted as missing as it was presumed we had all been killed or captured at Lyemun.
I discovered that in the rush of leaving Shouson Hill most of my kit and Mr Bones had been left behind. I went off to see Susie at the Queen Mary Hospital which is at the top of Sassoon Road, only a quarter of a mile from where we were. I found her very tired but cheerful and Uncle Pat much improved. As we were likely to be at Sassoon Road for some time, I decided to dash back to Shouson Hill and collect Mr Bones and my kit.
When I arrived at Grimble’s bungalow I found the servants still there but very apprehensive. I told them not to be alarmed as no harm would come to them even if the Japanese arrived. Mr. Bones was delighted to see me poor fellow, I’m sure he realized he had been deserted. Thank goodness they hadn’t shot him. I also collected a small suitcase I had containing razors, soap, brushes etc etc and a bottle of whisky, box of chocolates, pipe tobacco, cigarettes and oranges and apples, in fact a veritable treasure chest. I left hanging in Grimble’s wardrobe a good Jaeger dressing down, a suit of overalls and my spare jacket and shorts.
On my return to Sassoon Road I was informed that we were to move our personnel to some position up in the hills just beyond Aberdeen, but that the vehicles would remain at Sassoon Road. I placed Mr Bones and my kit in charge of Corpl. Sleap who was to remain behind with the vehicles.
We drove off, Larry and I still together in his car at the rear of the convoy of some six trucks till we reached a point on the road about a mile beyond Aberdeen where we got out and walked about five hundred feet up the hillside where we were to take up position for the night, but we had no sooner got up than we were ordered to come down again as we were to go up the Repulse Bay Road and join the Ordnance people at “The Ridge” and assist them to give covering fire to an attack which was going to take place that night on Wongneichong Gap. It was said that we still held the Pillbox and Tinson’s house and that the position was well in hand so everyone felt somewhat braced.
After our first encounter with the Tramway wire down Kings Road I had equipped my Ammunition Column lorries with heavy wire cutters but unfortunately none of them were in our convoy for just at the junction of Island and Repulse Bay roads the leading lorry got entangled in the concertina wire at the road block there. This was simply damned carelessness as the car leading the convoy had already passed through the gap in the wire safely. We found there were no wire cutters of any description amongst the convoy and the lorry had to be cut out with a file which was a long and tedious business to say the least.
However it was clear at last and we proceeded up the Repulse Bay Road without farther delay, till we reached the approach road leading up to “The Ridge” where we got out and the lorries returned to Sassoon Road.
When we got up to the houses we found all quiet and nothing doing; there was no sign of an attack being made on Wongneichong Gap and no preparations being made by the Ordnance to give covering fire. Our presence did not seem to be very welcome, however we distributed ourselves amongst the five houses and settled down for the night.
I selected the last house where the sergeants were and they fixed me up with a good hot meal which was the first I had eaten since tiffin time the day before and also produced some whisky which had been left in the house by the owner. I then settled down for a much wanted sleep on a couch.