70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries
- Submitted by Admin on Fri, 2011-12-23 14:55Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
Ordered to move 9AM & found new position on top floor Stanley Dance Hall commanding same outlook. 11.30AM shelled out & our poor old stewpot was shattered & the contents lost. Returned pm & occupied the dance floor itself. (Lyle & McGrath ((probably John Lyle & G. W. McGrath)) wounded during a.m. shelling)
All quiet during the night.
Four R.E.s swam from Repulse Bay to Stanley Village 9PM.
- Submitted by Admin on Wed, 2012-02-01 19:19Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
Sid phoned me at Dina House, now on first floor of Hong Kong Hotel (now a convalescent hospital); he had lost the tips of two fingers on left hand. I already knew that, as had had a note from Mabel telling me. I careered down to hotel and found Sid lying on a 'biscuit' on the floor ((with dozens of others)). He looked a bit wild and woolly. He had seen Mabel that morning at the Military Hospital where he had been first taken. They had become engaged! Sid talked of marriage too, but I didn't seriously think anything could be done then. Over the past few months they had paid off some $50 at Windsor's Jewellers for an engagement ring. His finger stumps were paining him alot, he lost them at Wanchai Gap; he saw Arthur before sent to hospital the second time.
I put my name down to help at hotel hospital after 3pm each day but the sister in charge said they had enough help so far. I felt superfluous at Sid's side, knowing he wanted Mabel all the time.
- Submitted by brian edgar on Thu, 2012-08-23 17:26Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
The suffering of the soldiers wounded or trapped in Kowloon is even greater than that of the civilians: four doctors (Newton, Uttley, Hargreaves and Gosano) are taken by the Japanese from the Kowloon Hotel to the internment camp in Argyle Street where there are about 150 wounded troops (out of roughly 950 in total). There's no operating theatre, no instruments, few dressing materials, almost no drugs, and no nurses, but they do everything they can.
On Hong Kong Island it's obvious things are nearing the end, and some are having dark thoughts.
In her diary entry for today Phyllis Harrop describes a number of killings and rapes and concludes:
I fear the same thing will happen on a large scale if they get full control of the island. This is only the beginning.
People are eating what they can get hold of, as Mabel Redwood's diary - with her later comments - illustrates:
Breakfast - toast and jam. (This should read 'scorched bread and jam' - we had a lot to learn about the art of toasting on a chatty, but the bread was several days old and would have been inedible without some disguise).
Tiffin that day was 'meat paste from a tin'.
A Japanese party visit the French Hospital and take away the Irish Jesuit Father Fitzgerald and three English doctors. They're put in the refugee camp at North Point - the place where some of the survivors of the Power Station siege are being held:
There were about two hundred persons in the camp, most of them captured in the neighbourhood. Some had been there already for two days, and they had spent the time in putting the place into some appearance of order.
There are no cups, plates, bedclothes or other necessities, so the Japanese allow a party out to search the local houses. They find some useful items, but these houses have been thoroughly looted so many people have to hunt in garbage heaps to find empty tins in which to wash and hold their food.
Meals are served at eleven and five, each consisting of a large cupful of rice and a minute amount of butter or sugar. At the same time they're given tea without milk or sugar.
Under the headline CANADIAN TROOPS PLAY HEROIC ROLE AT HONG KONG the Winnipeg Free Press carries a number of front page stories about the fighting.
One of them is about 'two Canadian nursing sisters' Anna May Waters of Winnipeg and Kathleen (Kay) Christie of Toronto. They are described as the first (Canadian) nursing sisters to serve in 'actual battle areas' during the war.
The Daily Mirror - citing the British Embassy in Chungking - reports on page 1 that Sir Mark Young will hold out until the end and be taken prisoner.
Doctors: Dr. Newton's Diary, cited in Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Christmas, 1979, 149
Harrop: Phllis Harrop, Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 84
Redwood: Mabel Winifred Redwood, It Was Like This, 2001, 85
French Hospital To North Point: Thomas F. Ryan, Jesuits Under Fire In The Siege Of Hong Kong, 1944, 164-165
- Submitted by brian edgar on Wed, 2012-10-31 18:07Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
Before dawn this morning we find some of the monks (Italian Order) are still in some part of the building. One of them brings round mugs of teas which are very welcome. There is no sign of any chance of breakfast. In one of the corridors I meet my friend PO Flynn of the Naval Medical staff, he looked all in and had been up all night tending the wounded. I enquired about the wounded from the White House. He said all had been brought in by ambulance and were as well as could be expected. After several attempts on the telephone I manage to get through to Battle Headquarters and spoke to my Officer Commanding Colonel Andrews-Levinge. He instructed Hammond and I to report to a Lieut. Ponting at a place called Stone Manor which was a few miles further on, or failing that to go to the Hong Kong University. We set off on foot, but are lucky to get a lift on a lorry as far as the food store at Pokfulam. On the way we see some RAF lads carrying rifles and a Lewes gun going up to defend the hillside above the Industrial School. There is a lot of shooting going on but it is very difficult to tell where exactly the fighting is. But it is quite obvious that the Japs have now got most of the key points on the Island bottled up. At the food store we meet WO2 Tomlinson, Sgt. Stennett, Ptes. Hudson and Hewitt and two Canadian ASC Sgts. issuing tinned rations. We make our way to the Stone Manor, a big house just off the road and report to Lieut. Ponting.
He sends us further on to the University where we meet Major Grieve R.A.S.C. The University looks as if it is going to be a last stand. Piles of supplies, lorries and cars, and troops and people of many different nationalities are here. Not a very good situation if the Japs decide on a bombing raid, casualties would be high. Major Grieves explains that Hammond and I are to collect some Chinese bakers and report to the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Road in the city of Victoria. This building is a department store owned by Lane & Crawfords, the same firm who own the Bakery in Happy Valley where Tom Edgar was Master Baker. The idea is that the Army bakers co-operate with Edgar in producing bread for troops and the Hospitals.((From the start of hostilities Edgar and four other European bakers had been working with Chinese staff at the Lane, Crawford bakery in Stubbs Rd. producing bread for the civilian population; they'd been forced to abandon this bakery on December 21.))
Eventually six Chinese are rounded up and are loaded on a small bus, and we escort the bus to Des Voeux Road. We arrive in the middle of an air raid. I leave Hammond outside the Exchange Building to hold the bakers, while I go to see the manager, a Mr Brown.((A.W. Brown)) I find him down in the basement which is the Café Wiseman. He is in conference with some Government Food control officials, also Tom Edgar was present, stripped to the waist ((He'd used his shirt to bind the wounded and didn't get another one until after the surrender.)) They all look worried, but I am introduced as the Army Master Baker by Tom Edgar. The position was now explained to me that owing to the Hong Kong Electric power station being put out of action, Lane & Crawford’s bakery in Stubbs Road, Happy Valley had to be abandoned. They had already taken over two Chinese bakeries, i.e. the Ching Lung Bakery, 41 Queens Road East and the Yoke Shan Bakery a few doors away. Both these bakeries were only producing a fraction of the bread required. The idea was to open some more Chinese bakeries in the western district. This was where Hammond and I were to help. Meanwhile as the bombs were dropping quite near, Hammond had to get the bakers out of the bus and into a shelter, where two of them disappeared.
Hammond and the other four were brought into the Café Wiseman where the situation was explained to them. We were then treated to some much needed breakfast by the Café Manager, a Greek named Patara. After which we set out in a Bedford van which I drove to find some more bakeries. We visit half a dozen pokey holes of places and finally decide on two, at No. 62 and 84 Queens Road East. They were about a hundred yards apart in a street which would normally be teeming with Chinese, but now the street was deserted. The owners of the Bakeries were not too happy about our intrusion, but in spite of having no official authority we went ahead and requisitioned both places. Both places contained a fair sized wood burning brick oven, but no other equipment. After a discussion with Edgar we decide to risk a trip to the Bakery at Stubbs Road in Happy Valley to try and get some supplies and equipment. We returned to the Exchange Building where Hammond, Edgar and I were joined by a Russian musician. He decided to take over the driving of the big Bedford van. We set off and ran into a series of shell explosions on the way. It was now obvious that the musician could not drive a wheelbarrow not to mind the Bedford, besides he was also shivering with fright. I tried to take over the wheel but he would not move over, and it was too dangerous to stop. However, we reached the Bakery which was up a very narrow passageway. He jammed the van in it so in the end I had to use the butt of my rifle to make him let go. I managed to get the van in position for loading, but now the shrapnel was flying about. We loaded up with dough troughs, scales, knives, scrapers etc. and any other useful equipment we could find. The musician had started a small van which belonged to the Bakery. We put some stores in it and sent him off to the Exchange Building. I take the wheel, Hammond and Edgar are in the back of the van. We set off and go cautiously on to the Happy Valley Road. The Japs are on the opposite side of the Racecourse and shells are falling on the Cricket Club ((probably the Civil Service Cricket Club, as explained here)), Stubbs Road and the surrounding area. Some Middlesex Regt. men are firing back at the Japs from behind the Cricket Club. I recognise one of them as Cpl. Bright a very fine footballer. They are having a pretty hot time as mortar shells are falling on the road opposite the new ARP Headquarters. I put my foot down on the accelerator and drive at a fast speed through Tin Lok Lane and then past the Cathay Cinema in Wanchai. There is not a soul to be seen about, tram wires, slates, bricks and debris are strewn everywhere.
We distribute the equipment and supplies of flour, yeast, etc. to the two bakeries and get everything ready for a start next day. Edgar manages to recruit a few more bakers. We decide to put Hammond with seven Chinese in No. 62 and a chap named Mortimer ((G. W. Mortimer)) with another seven in No. 84. Edgar and I with the van will keep supplies, and collect the bread from all four bakeries. Water is now a problem, so we have to enlist the help of the Fire Brigade to keep us supplied. Space for working in these little poky holes is very limited. Also we have to have Tilley lamps on all day in order to see. The standards of hygiene are not up to the Army requirements.
- Submitted by Admin on Thu, 2012-12-06 18:44Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
The next day (23rd) I rang up both HKVDC and RASC Adjutants reporting my whereabouts and condition. They had already heard about it from Larry’s report and were quite complimentary. Capt. Crewe the RASC Adjutant told me to remain at “Alberose” till my feet were quite healed and said he would send some uniform for me to the University, where I could pick it up when ready to report for duty. I was unable to put on a shoe till 28th, so had no chance of reporting again for duty before the show was over.
- Submitted by Admin on Mon, 2012-12-10 20:41Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
A dud shell which had hit a house in King Kwong Street behind us, lay yesterday in the gutter there. This morning it had been moved to the gutter at our own back door. We took an indignant view. A coolie wandered along and looked at it. We asked him to take it away, and he demanded forty cents which we paid. Later in the day the shell was back at the door of our next neighbour. The same coolie wandered along and looked at it. We decided to ignore it and him.
For several days we had with binoculars been watching a sentry near Warren's Castle on Broadwood Ridge across the Valley ((Happy Valley)). He was usually an Indian, and always reassuringly he was looking intently towards the hills. This morning he was looking the other way and he wore a conical steel helmet; he was a Japanese.
The impending conquerors sent aloft in Kowloon a huge captive balloon, drab green, with wide streamers hanging from it. These bore big Chinese characters in red, exhorting the Chinese on the Island to rise against the British. The Japanese propaganda was always naive.
Later in the forenoon a new clatter in Village Road drew us to the front verandah - troops who had climbed down from Wongneichong Gap through Fung Fai Terrace opposite us; they hugged the retaining wall of the terrace and disappeared up town. In the afternoon, a silent file of soldiers walked slowly down Shan Kwong Road behind us - some wounded, with white flesh showing through torn uniforms, one with a boot gone and a bloodily bandaged foot. Dejected, they symbolised all the frustration and tragedy of our useless little war.
The water supply failed. To complete the severance a shell has hit the meter on the pavement at our front entrance.
At dusk suddenly a fireworks show. The enemy just above the Jockey Club stables at the top of Shan Kwong Road, firing a machine gun with tracer bullets down that road into the racecourse, past our back door. The mountain guns went past again, leaving us, and disappearing towards Central.
- Submitted by Admin on Wed, 2014-12-03 18:47Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
- Submitted by Admin on Thu, 2015-03-26 15:15Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
((The Japanese forces entered the Hotel at dawn on the 23rd December.))
The Commander of the Japanese forces who took possession of the Hotel confined us to the interior of the premises and during the morning the Japanese conducted a search of everyone except children.
- Submitted by fdremeaux on Mon, 2015-12-07 16:52Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
((Original text)) ((Jill Fell's translation)) La situation, à en juger d’après les communiqués officiels, et surtout d’après les dires des soldats qui viennent au repos pour quelques heures dans nos sous-sols, a l’air de s’aggraver. On entend dire couramment que ça ne pourra pas durer bien longtemps désormais. Les Anglais ne sont pas assez nombreux et ils n’ont pas de réserves, très peu d’artillerie mobile. Les combattants, toujours sur la brèche, sont épuisés de fatigue. Dans ces conditions, on ne voit pas comment la résistance pourrait se prolonger bien longtemps. To judge from official communiqués and particularly word of mouth reports from soldiers coming to snatch a few hours of rest in our basements, the situation is getting worse. The word is that things can’t go on like this for much longer. There aren’t enough of the British - they haven’t got any reserves and very few field guns. The combatants, fighting continuously, are worn out. With things as they are, we can't see how the resistance can last for very long.
- Submitted by emride on Mon, 2017-12-18 19:23Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
On the 23rd, at Leighton Hill, the withdrawal of the Rajputs had exposed the flank of the garrison holding the Hill ...
((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))
- Submitted by pxb09 on Sat, 2019-08-24 16:18Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
8.30am Darling - I wouldn't have forgotten this year but Happy Valley is cut off and I can't go there. I may be able to go later. It's the 21st Anniversary. ((This refers to visiting the grave of their firstborn son, Tony. He was born on 23/12/1920 and died on 24/12/1920. He is buried in Happy Valley cemetery.))
News not so good this morning - the Japs are pushing us back I'm afraid but worst position for us just now is that no water is coming through. They may have seized Taitam. We lost lot through broken mains. The problem of flush w.c.s now arises - I am trying to arrange something for here - we have bad luck always - a tank lorry which we used for flushing streets is of course in Kowloon! But will surmount the difficulty. But nobody knows anything about anything now - all my old Inspectors - Frith and Brewer are retired, Reid is on leave - are gone and I have to tell them where there are wells and [?nullah] supplies. Well I must see about things. Latest report is that our tanks are filling up so we are all right for today. I'll write on later. B
5.pm. Quite busy but still thwarted at every turn. It's terribly difficult - we just can't collect bodies when shelling is going on. and they say the road past the Jockey Club Stands is thick with bodies - we can't get near it. We have I think solved our water problem here - we can get water (and it is good water) from the spring at H.K.D.S and we shall use it for washing purposes. We wash our hands when necessary, and we are always getting grubby, in the w.c. cistern and then flush it at the end of the day!
I'm depressed tonight Darling - we are not doing well and unless relief comes by the end of the year we are done - if we are not overwhelmed before that. We have only water now for 12 days. But we'll have to stick it out as long as we can and hope for the best. Forgive me if I don't write more tonight - I am rather in the slough of despond. But will get out of it sometime soon I hope. All my love always Little One Billie
- Submitted by Alison McEwan on Sat, 2021-12-18 11:17Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
There was a general feeling of disappointment abroad this morning that nothing had happened. Their value in HK was now practically nil, fuelling was a chancy business, repairs and slipping (matters of primary importance to these delicate craft) were impossible owing to a bombed slipway, and, in addition, no new torpedoes could be loaded into the tubes. So there they were: five M.T.B.s with no work to do – one already crocked – lying about all day, a target for any Japanese “Fei Kei” (‘plane) which prowled their way and taking all the punishment without even the pleasure of having a crack back. By this time landings on the Island were in full force and the only use made of them was the use of numbers 10 and 07 as fast ferryboats to Stanley.
Similar to yesterday, we, in company with 07 (our junior ship) lay alongside the ferry again, after coming in on a most glorious morning, and spent the day striking in stores and dodging shells and trench mortars. The crews, as a land force, were naturally short of equipment and with this in mind Legge and I paid a visit to H.Q. and there ransacked a huge store of loose equipment, webbing etc., belonging to the dead and wounded. It was a ghoulish job, prowling over dead men’s effects and not a very pleasant experience but, after all, the stuff was of no use to them. There was an amazing collection of gear apart from regulation equipment; haversacks and pockets had spilled open and, in the general disorder, could be found chequebooks, photographs, letters, pipes etc. and in one corner, we had an amazing haul of eight packets of ‘Chesterfield’.
Ultimately we collected what was of use to us, and, in addition, I managed to find the webbing equipment of our snooty friend of some days previous. (Foolishly he had left it “sculling” in his office, and it only took two seconds to acquire).
The ground floor was being used as a clearing station and the mixture of battalions was some indication of how confused the fighting had become. Middlesex, Canadians, Royal Scots, Volunteers and the Royal Navy, parties of whom by this time were defending the hills looking for snipers and small parties of Japanese which had infiltrated through our lines – they were all there in varying numbers, with a Volunteer unit at the main entrance looking towards Shouson Hill. The Naval parties, as a result both of the dark blue uniforms and complete lack of training in this type of warfare were playing the role of “prey” rather than that of hunter.
T.M. fire on the road was very steady and, although having no effect on the building at all, succeeded in keeping people’s heads down. Just as Legge and I came out – we were standing admiring the general view of shell bursts – the whistle of one sounded too close for comfort – down we went – a thud only a few feet away – a dud – thank God! – The ride back down to the jetty was carried out at a speed which left one no time for wondering what was going to happen next.
In the evening we put behind Ap Li Chau again and again still no orders. It was another lovely evening and during my hour of watch I realised how communicative men become in the early morning. Men I had only just met and who knew me only as “Mac”, “Jock” or “Sir” according to their ideas of what I was or whether their officer was present, while sharing a watch, opened up, and gave one all details of their lives and ideas on the Navy and life in general. It was the same evening too, that I noticed the intense admiration and interest they all had for Mike. All of them regular sailors and accustomed to taking orders, they seemed greatly impressed by the appearance of someone who, while obviously in command of things, yet gave the impression of being able to do things and who could be called “Mike” by the very people he was commanding without any ‘loss of face’ or apparent loss of efficiency.
- Submitted by chris kilbee on Sun, 2022-01-09 10:08Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Tue, 23 Dec 1941
The war is reaching a climax - there is no doubt the enemy are closing in, the situation looks bad. Some talk of the Flotilla doing a flip. Nice thought for the rest of our chaps - but a very difficult decision for me to make. Somehow can't bring myself to go away and leave my wife and child behind. Wish I could make up my mind - however, have decided I shall leave it till the very last moment anything may happen.
Unable to use Aberdeen harbour now – enemy dominate it completely with their guns up on Cameron and near Wong Nei Cheong. Not much doing during the day - just remain close in shore under cover of Applichau, ought to be able to move into the dock during dark. Moved into Aberdeen after sunset and went up to the school with C.O. Might make trip in 27 tonight- special job - awaiting orders from X.S.O.
Nothing came of it, instead went to sea in 10 as striking force. Patrolled but quiet night returned at dawn. Refueled and lay South of Applichau.