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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    Got 300 rounds from a lousy piece of work named Templar & so returned & took up position on a hill W. of Prison. Japs took Prison Rd & H.Q. Retired to Fort at 6.30AM where we scrounged breakfast & was billeted behind No1 Block (Some Xmas). Odd units trickled in all day. Fort bombed & shelled. Last night Murphy & Crossan were shot by our own men. McLeod, Carr, Gowland killed. Cottrell*, Foster*, Pearce, Stevens* missing. Winterton lost right hand. 7PM Posted as B.H.Q. guard ready for the final stand but it never materialized. Terms of surrender discussed & all was over for us at about 11PM. (The civil population’s position became acutely distressing due to lack of water etc in town). We are now prisoners of war.
    *Turned up later. Stevens wounded.

  • 25 Dec 1941. Barbara Anslow's diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    ((Diary doesn't say anything about my working part of this day.. an anxious time as we knew Jap troops were advancing towards Central where we were, and heard that our a.a. guns were to be set up outside the tunnel we were working in.))

    Mr Bendall took photos outside the CSO Tunnel ((where we were working) in morning of Mr Garton, Mr Skinner and me.  ((These photos were developed and printed post-war, and one of them still exists:))

    Photo: Christmas Day, 1941

    Left work at 3pm. Spent Christmas Day with Sid at the hospital, sitting beside him on the floor. No question of going to Mass, duties sacrosanct now.  While I was sitting on floor beside Sid, Mrs Johnson a friend who was helping the wounded, came over to us and said 'I have bad news for you - we've surrendered.' She was half-crying, and wouldn't look at us.

    Sid shouted to his neighbour 'Did you hear that?  We've surrendered!'   The news passed about quickly, and everywhere up popped bearded faces, because every one naturally queried it, especially as shelling still going on and plane overhead; and a news bulletin was circulated just afterwards, giving heartening news about our defences.  But then we heard confirmation of surrender, and still could hardly believe it.  We'd all laughed so much at the Peace Mission that had come a few days earlier and been rejected.
    My sister Olive phoned me at the hotel and told me to go back to Dina House ((where I was billeted)), so I did, but not before going first to the Parisienne Grille ((nearby)) for a meal... had turkey but no dessert.

    In Dina House ((where we ARP folk were billeted)) we all wondered what was going to happen to us.  Mr Bevan (Deputy Director of ARP) said there was talk that we might be sent to barracks in Tsingtao.

    In Evening Mr C. Bailey came into our girls' room wearing a paper hat and asked me to go along to the men's room for a party.  But the other girls weren't feeling like celebrating - ((most of them were married women who didn't know where their fighting husbands were, or even if they were alive)) and I didn't want to spoil their mood, so said No. But Mr Bailey came back again, paper hat askew, and gave me a bottle of eau de cologne from him and Tony Cole, so I went.  Mrs Vi Evans was there, Mr Hyde Lay, Lillian Hope, Janet Broadbridge and Tony Cole.   We had Xmas pudding ((heated on a primus)) absolutely delicious, and chocolate and sweets; and played games.

    ((Mrs. Evans died during an operation in Stanley Camp.  Mr Hyde Lay (and his wife Betty) were both killed in Stanley during an air raid by the Allies on 16th January 1945)) 

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    The hostilities come to a bloody and rather chaotic end. The surrender's at about 3.30 p.m. but The Japanese insist the Governor Mark Young make his way to the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon to sign the Instrument personally. Not everyone learns of the capitulation immediately - and Brigadier Wallis, commanding East Brigade which is preparing to make a last stand on the Stanley Peninsula, refuses to stop fighting until he gets a signed order.

    Before the hostilities come to an end around midnight some of the grimmest events of the Hong Kong war have taken place.


    At about 6 a.m. the Japanese enter the emergency hospital at St. Stephen's College at Stanley. Over the course of the day, doctors, patients, St. John's Ambulance men and nurses are killed. Some of the nurses are raped first.


    At 6. 30 a.m. Second Lieutenant Muir (HKVDC) is leading a desperate defence of Bungalow C in the St. Stephen's grounds. Attacks are beaten off until the Japanese bring up a flame-thrower. The section falls back, then re-takes the Bungalow after bitter hand-to-hand fighting. The Japanese get the Bungalow back 'through sheer weight of numbers'. 


    The celebration of mass has just finished at Maryknoll when Japanese soldiers enter:

    'Kill,' they snarled, lunging with their bayonets. 'We kill'.

    Father Bernard Meyer stands his ground. He explains in Cantonese, which they understand, that this is a house for men of the church. They discuss this amongst themselves, then push Father Meyer aside, force the missioners into one room and proceed to loot the building. When it's noticed one priest - a Canadian, Father Murphy - is wearing khaki trousers under his cassock, the Japanese suspect they are soldiers in disguise and discuss killing them. Instead they are bound tightly and imprisoned in a garage. Outside the 'Maryknoll massacre' of at least eight captured soldiers takes place.


    Japanese soldiers enter the hospital in the Happy Valley Jockey Club.  A terrifying ordeal begins.  The young Chinese girls working for the Red Cross are raped. In the evening some of the European nurses are raped - soldiers threaten to kill everyone if they don't go with them. Late that night one of the nurses - she's been sharing a bed with Mabel Redwood - dons an old Chinese outfit and slips out into the darkness.


    Meanwhile, Major C M. Manners and A. L. Shields arrive at Fortress Headquarters soon after 9 a.m. They've been escorted through the Japanese lines from the Repulse Bay Hotel to give Major-General Maltby an account of the Japanese forces and equipment they've seen in the hope that this will persuade him to surrender. Maltby consults his staff and decides to fight on.


    William and Mary Sewell and their family are with the Kennedy-Skipton and Refo group at a house 'just under the shelter of Mount Kellet'. The day begins with a hopeful rumour - the Chinese armies marching to the relief of Hong Kong are approaching. In spite of this, some of the company are close to despair:

    But we made a special Christmas effort. Kate {Shelley -see note} had a present for everyone....Amidst the whistling of the shells, the thud of exploding bombs, we ate our Christmas midday meal in a sheltered corner of the house. But a stick of bombs falling on the hillside brought down so much plaster that we abandoned the games we had planned.


    Gwen Dew and others captured at the Repulse Bay Hotel are taken to 'the Kowloon Hotel, a very second-rate hostelry behind the Peninsula {Hotel}'. At 6 p.m. they are brought their Christmas dinner - rice and water.


    During the late afternoon and evening news of Hong Kong's surrender spreads amongst the Allied civilians still at liberty.

    Phyllis Harrop is at the Gloucester Hotel:

    I have never felt anything like I went through in those moments, nor have I ever seen so many people show their feelings so openly, and weep, even the men.


    Gwen Priestwood is with Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn . The two women take some alcohol from the house of Helen and Gustl Canaval (with their permission) and drink it at the Queen Mary Hospital where Boxer's being treated for wounds:

    Nothing marred our simple enjoyment of the day until three in the afternoon, when Hilda ((Selwyn-Clarke)) ran in. Her hair was mussed up and there were tears running down her cheeks, and a break in her voice.

    'Do you know the news, Charles?' she blurted. We've surrendered. The firing is stopped. There's a white flag on the police station across the road. Selwyn just phoned me'.


    Ellen Field leaves her sanctuary in May Road and joins other wives of Hong Kong Volunteers streaming down the Peak to Volunteer Headquarters in the hope of seeing their husbands:

    We walked along that line of utterly defeated and dispirited men. Whenever I saw a face I recognised, I called out, 'Where's Frank?' but all I got was a shake of the head. I saw women suddenly break away from the road and with a glad cry dart towards tired men struggling to rise from the ditch, to kiss and hug and weep unshamedly. After I had been trudging for more than a hundred yards, I suddenly saw Frank...I broke into a run while I was still twenty yards away. Then his arms were around me, and I was crying.


    John Stericker is in the Gloucester Hotel, where a team of police, assisted by volunteers, pour away (or drink) all of the liquor in the hotel for fear that it might further inflame the conquering army.


    Thomas Edgar hears of the surrender about 5 p.m. He and other employees of Lane, Crawford report to the company headquarters, the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Rd. Here Edgar takes part in the pouring away of  the company's alcohol supplies. There's also a telephone exchange in the building, so the telephone company workers remain there.


    Andrew Leiper, doing double duty as both Volunteer and Essential Worker, is at the American Club in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Building:

    Now that it was all over many of us felt drained of any emotion, and as the nervous tension which had kept us going with little sleep or rest relaxed we felt and looked desperately tired.


    Wenzell Brown goes to the Cafe Wiseman in the Exchange Building for a free Christmas dinner 'great slabs of turkey and spoonfuls of cranberry sauce' - and then goes off in search of a place to sleep, ending up with a fellow university lecturer.


    One hour after the surrender nurse Peggy Scotcher marries Royal Scots Intelligence Officer Lieutenant T. D. Hunter. Both are to survive the war - he in Shamshuipo, she in Stanley - to be reunited.


    Anyone moving around Hong Kong needs to be careful. In Wenzell Brown's words:

    Little gangs of looters roamed the otherwise deserted streets. They held up and robbed any single pedestrians who passed.


    Later that day Gwen Priestwood goes to the Gloucester Hotel, her thoughts 'full of the probable coming horrors'. While sipping gimlets in a friend's room on the fifth floor:

    We lived over again all the terror stories we had heard for years on the China coast.


    Even more optimistic people like Ellen Field - who at the start of the fighting had been expecting decent treatment for the British - must have gone to bed wondering what lay in store.


    But on the Stanley Peninsula fighting continues until the evening. Captain C. J. Norman of the Stanley Platoon (prison officers) conducts the final surrender of the Stanley area. A Japanese officer asks him if he and his men will continue prison duties until the Japanese are able to take over - he's worried about the 500 'hard core' criminals in Stanley Prison. Norman agrees to do so if ordered by Brigadier Wallis and as long as all the men he guards are sentenced under British law. Wallis gives the necessary order, and the Jones diary records that the prison officers are moved from the Fort to the prison on December 27 and resume duties the next day. {See note below.}


    Back in England they know the news before the day is out. Colchester diarist Alwyne Garling recorded:

    Morning mild 50 degrees and some rain. Then turned bright and cooler with North wind and temperature fell to 42 degrees by tea time. Went for a little walk...The Governor of Hong Kong reports that no further useful resistance can be offered. Japs say they ordered cease fire at noon to-day.



    Events at Stanley: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 254-263

    Maryknoll: Mabel Winifred Redwood, Catholics In Internment, typescript kindly supplied by Barbara Anslow, 1960, 35-36

    Jockey Club: Mabel Winifred Redwood, It Was Like This, 2001, 89-96

    Manners and Shields: John Luff, The Hidden Years, 1967, 146-147

    Sewell: William Sewell, Strange Harmony, 1948, 21-22

    Dew: Gwen Dew, Prisoner of the Japs, 1943. 73

    Harrop: Phylis Harrop, Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 87

    Priestwood et al: Emily Hahn, China For Me, 1986 edition, 284

    Field: Ellen Field, Twilight in Hong Kong, 1960, 48

    Stericker: John Stericker, A Tear For The Dragon, 1958, 131

    Edgar: British Baker article viewable at http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

    Telephone: Les Fisher, I Will Remember, 1998, 36

    Leiper: Andrew Leiper, A Yen For My Thoughts, 1982, 93-94

    Brown: Wenzell Brown, Hong Kong Aftermath, 1943, 36-37

    Scotcher: Oliver Lindsay and John Harris, The Battle For Hong Kong, 2005, 78

    Prison officers at Stanley: John Luff, The Hidden Years, 1967, 156

    Alwyne Garling: http://www.ww2incolchester.com/default.asp?page=showall&year=58453930785


    1) I think Kate Shelley is based loosely on Helen Kennedy-Skipton. But, if  so, she's a composite figure, as Kate goes into Stanley, which Helen never did.

    2) Many members of the Stanley Platoon (prison officers) seem to have been interned at Stanley Camp, including the diarist R. E. Jones, inspite of having served in the HKVDC. However, some went to Shamshuipo (and some of this group died on the Lisbon Maru). It's possible that those sent to the civilian camp were being rewarded for their service at the prison after the surrender - but Bill Hudson (see yesterday's entry) doesn't mention doing any work after being sent to Stanley Prison on December 27 and he was one of those in Stanley. At the moment, the reason for the different fates of the prison officers is unclear (to me).

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    This must be the most extraordinary Xmas Day. The bombing and explosions could be heard all night. We have a quick breakfast at dawn and I set out with the bakers in the van just as the air raid siren commences. We can hear the bomb explosions but cannot tell where they are falling. Leung Choy finds some more of my former Chinese bakers, so we decide to open up two more Chinese bakeries in the Central area of the City. On one of my trips I stop and talk to a police Sgt. He tells me that from the roof of the HK & Shanghai Bank building a clear view of the Japs invasion can be seen. They are using every type of craft and are landing at North Point and Lyeemun seemingly without any opposition. We need more equipment for the two additional bakeries and consider a last attempt to visit Stubbs Road bakery. Edgar and I set off in the van and get as far as Ventris Road ((Sheridan appears to have made a mistake with the road name here - more details the comments below)) but have to make a rapid about turn as the place is swarming with Japs, we were lucky to get away. We saw some Middlesex Regt. lads making their way back with mortars and Vickers machine guns. We knew there were no further visits likely now to Happy Valley. The Racecourse stand had been used as a temporary hospital, treating wounded civilians and servicemen. When the Japs over run Happy Valley they entered the race course stand and broke into a well stocked Bar. A number of wounded servicemen were shot and bayoneted. A lot of the nurses, European and Eurasian auxiliaries had a bad time. Leung Choy came to me and said he was very worried about his wife and children whom he thought were somewhere in the Wanchai area, also some of the other bakers were also worried about their families. I knew that whilst they were worried we would not get the best out of them so I promised to take them in the van to Wanchai to try and find them and bring then out if at all possible.

    We set off about 4.30p.m. in the van in the middle of an air raid. The siren had been wailing for a long time but no bombs had dropped near us. We were just opposite the Garrison Sgts. Mess in Queens Road when I noticed a lot of our troops straggling towards us from the Wanchai area. I stopped and asked one of them what was wrong, noticing that none were carrying any weapons. He said “it’s all over, the white flag is up and a cease fire order had been given”. I feel a bit stunned and cannot quite grasp the situation. Another chap seeing my rifle and bandolier of ammunition, tells me to get rid of it as the Japs are shooting anyone with weapons. I swing the van round and tell Leung Choy it is no use continuing to Wanchai we would only get shot. I drive back to the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Road and find a lot of people shocked and dazed at the news of the surrender. Mr Brown, the manager tells me that there is an order from the Chief of Police to hand all weapons into the Gloucester Hotel next door. After doing this, I go with the van to the bakeries to collect Hammond and Mortimer. The air raid is still in progress and explosions can still be heard, but it seems the Japs have not had a cease fire order yet. From the Exchange Building I make contact by telephone to Battle HQ and speak to our Colonel Andrews-Levinge and tell him the situation. He instructs myself and Hammond to remain where we are and keep off the streets. After dark a lot of shooting and explosions can be heard from the Central district. Looting of shops and buildings is now taking place. An order comes through from the Police Chief Pennefather-Evans to get rid of all liquor. Mr Brown the manager calls all the men in the Exchange Building and explains that there is a large stock of liquor, wines and spirits stored in the basement. He asks for volunteers, so we set to work opening hundreds of cases of whisky, gin, brandy, port, wines, champagne, etc. smash the neck of each bottle and pour the contents into buckets and carry them up to street level and pour it down the drains. Mr Brown tells everyone that if they want a bottle or two to drink take it now. Amongst the 15 males were quite a few noted boozers, but they were so shocked at the surrender I saw nor heard of one taking as much as a bottle. I think it was a reaction or kind of daze of not knowing what was going to happen tomorrow, and the fact of seeing so much good liquor go down the drain.

    However, we were a lot more fortunate than a lot of people as at least we have a place to sleep and can still get a reasonable meal in the Café Wiseman.

    There are now a lot of people in this building including some women and children. There are quite a number of different nationalities, who must have taken refuge here when the air attacks were on. Some are people who normally live over in Kowloon City but had fled across the harbour before the Japs overran Kowloon. This is a large Department store on the lines of say Lewis’s or Harrods. It has seven floors plus a basement. The top floor being the main Hong Kong telephone exchange, which employs quite a number of European engineers, etc. The Mezzanine floor which is the main furniture and bedding dept. is now occupied by a large number of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor. There is a grave shortage of water, and the toilets are in a dreadful state at present.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    I reported about the medical supplies at Woodside and on the 25th. December, under escort, we visited there but nothing had escaped looting. The houses were occupied by Nipponese troops. The wounded who had, under compulsion, been left behind were all gone with the exception of Father Perkunas and two Chinese watchmen. We carried Perkunas down and left the others behind. Bell had been buried in the garden.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Laura B Ziegler's wartime memories

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    Before dawn on Christmas morning, I heard little Elaine Buuck say, “Mother, Santa Claus is out by the tree.” Her brother, Leonard, told her to be quiet lest she frighten him away. My young children had heard him too, making it very trying to have to remain in bed for an hour or more before it was light enough to see anything. It never took us long to dress during the war because we only took off our shoes at night.

    When the blanket on the side window was drawn back, Laura Lou found her gifts of a candy bar, a new dress for her doll, a glass of jam and an old lady’s purse. We all got food of some kind which made us all happy because we already seemed to realize the value of food. 

    Christmas day we tried to have our Christmas service three different times, but we were always disturbed by bombs or shells. There was usually a lull for about half an hour just before dark so we decided to have our service at that time. We had just taken our places and Reverend Buuck drew the quilt away from the window to read a sermon when we heard an airplane power dive above our heads.

    We all rushed for our places but before we reached them the bombs burst around us. We heard three distinct explosions, one closer than the next. We were quite certain that at least one had hit our house and expected the house to fall on us any second. As the little ones ran past me I took one and leaned over her thinking that if the rafters would fall they would hit me and our smallest girl wouldn’t be so badly hurt. But when the dust cleared up a little, I noticed I had Reverend Buuck’s little girl and not my own.

    I called the children asking if they were all right and when they all answered I was very thankful. Upstairs, there was such a cloud of dust. When it cleared we saw so much glass broken, plaster fallen and furniture broken upstairs that we thought our house had received a direct hit.

    We then went outside to see if the Japs had used an incendiary bomb. They had been using them the last few days as we had seen several houses burning on the mountain side. We saw that our house was still standing but it was so dusty we couldn’t see where the other bombs had landed.

    We had just gone back into the basement when two British police came in. They said they had been on the way up to tell us there was no need to worry about any more bombs or shells because Hong Kong had surrendered at 3 o’clock. This was hard to believe because it was already 6 o’clock. The big British gun below us kept firing for almost half an hour more, and then everything was very quiet except for occasional machine gun or rifle fire.

    We expected to see the Chinese looters come in during the evening and steal our food and other things. We also expected the Japanese soldiers to come in sometime during the night. We tried to save some of our food by hiding it in different parts of the house. We also left something in the cupboard hoping that the looters would take what they found there and hurry on.

    It was very quiet that night. It was almost midnight, and we decided that surely if the Lord could protect us during the war, he could also protect us from the Jap soldiers. So we had our evening prayers, asking for His protection in the trying and difficult days to come.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Don Ady's wartime memories

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    We had some close misses as far as shells and bombs are concerned, but the only casualties were a couple of scratches I received, when I was out picking up shrapnel in an areaway with the road up above. But not knowing there were any planes overhead I quite surprised to hear a plane diving quite close. So I dashed for a hallway because I was nearer to it than was to the door. But being used to planes diving just as and hearing heavy guns of some kind going off and thinking they were the bombs, I made a dash for the door, and the real bomb went off on the road just above, and a rain of glass fell on me (not mentioning some pieces of window frames although none hit me) and you should have seen me leap inside. And so we went through shot and shell, although Dad and Mr. Pommerenke probably got the worst of it because they worked up at the hospital filling sand bags, and wore A.R.P. helmets.

    And I was glad I didn't have to go through any more fighting Christmas day because probably I had eaten something that upset me, and had a trifle of a fever. But almost everybody had bad digestion on account of the fighting.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    Heavy boots down Village Road, past our front door, early in the morning. Some rifle and machine-gun fire. Then horses galloped past - race ponies from the Jockey Club stables at the top of Shan Kwong Road. We sneaked to the roof to reconnoitre, to find that a shell had hit the building next door and strewn its penthouse all over my garden. At about noon the noises swelled again, and later we had our first close view of Japanese troops. A score or more of them in close formation up King Kwong Street towards our back door, their steel helmets festooned with leaves. They swung left at Shan Kwong Road and went uphill towards the stables.

    We ate our Christmas lunch (bully beef and some oranges) walking about nervously, while distant bombs, shells and machine guns rattled on. About 4 p.m. the telephone rang, and hurriedly a discreet voice said, "It's all over; we've surrendered." I phoned the office to tell Ben Wylie. Unbelieving, he snooted indignantly. "Sounds like fifth column talk," he said. I assured him cautiously that it came from a most reliable quarter. Later, he phoned and apologised, warning also, "Keep out of sight. I've been talking to a friend. He says you're on the black list." The friend was an English journalist who had been employed in a Japanese news agency. Gunfire and explosions continued, however. Then suddenly our district became full of Japanese troops, tough looking, cocky, a few bandaged, one carried on a stretcher. I had one more thing to do. I had telephoned an editorial that morning, exhorting our readers to a final display of spirit. Now it had to be scrapped, and in its place we put some soothing syrup, accepting our fate and advising calm and restraint. 

    All quiet at sundown. We rested in blessed relief from the shelling. We planned our conduct as far as we could, speculating when their Kempetai would come for me. My wife borrowed a Chinese gown in which I was to disguise myself. But in it I looked less Chinese than before, so abandoned it. We heard the B.B.C. informing the world that the position in Hongkong had become obscure. The children had their first good sleep in weeks.

  • 25 Dec 1941, South China Morning Post

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-25 December 1941-pg1.jpg
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-25 December 1941-pg2.jpg


  • 25 Dec 1941, Events at the Repulse Bay Hotel

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    ((On)) the 25th December, we were removed by launch to Kowloon and placed in the Kowloon Hotel where we remained until our transfer to Stanley on the 23rd January 1942.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Father Biotteau's wartime diary

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941
    ((Original text)) ((Jill Fell's translation))

    Voici une date que nous n’oublierons pas de sitôt.

    A peine sommes-nous entrés dans la maison que nos confrères nous apprennent la grande nouvelle : Hong Kong est aux mains des Japonais. Le Gouverneur s’est rendu, les forces combattantes ont mis bas les armes, le drapeau blanc flotte, ici et là. Déjà les fusils et munitions sont déposés en tas sur le terrain de Béthanie ! Nous avons peine à réaliser la chose. Ainsi cette « forteresse » qui était soi-disant capable de résister longtemps, sinon toujours, à l’attaque des Japonais, cette fameuse « noix » qui serait, nous assurait-on, si difficile à casser, a tenu une douzaine de jours !

    Ce soir, en regardant flamber le dépôt de pétrole qui est en bas du cimetière chinois, nos pensées sont vides.

    Que nous réservent les jours qui vont suivre ?

    This is a date we shan't forget in a hurry.

    We had no sooner entered the house than our colleagues tell us the big news: Hong Kong is in the hands of the Japanese. The Governor has surrendered, the fighting forces have laid down their arms, white flags are fluttering all over the place. Guns and ammunition have already been put in a heap on the ground at Bethany! We have difficulty taking it in. Thus the "fortress" that was apparently capable of resisting the Japanese attack for a long time, if not for ever, this famous "nut" that we were assured would be so difficult to crack, held for a mere dozen days!

    This evening we watched the blazing oil depot below the Chinese cemetery, our minds are blank.

    What do the days ahead hold for us?

  • 25 Dec 1941, INTERNED - DECEMBER 1941

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    ((The following text is undated:))

    We lost so many friends during the war in Hong Kong; one of them was stepping out of his front door when he received a direct hit from a bomb.  A very dear friend of mine, who was one of the sweetest and gentlest souls one could ever meet, had a dreadful death.  She was looking after the wounded at a makeshift hospital at Repulse Bay. ((Kathie has mixed up two different events. Her friend was at the temporary hospital in St Stephens in Stanley, not at the Repulse Bay Hotel.))  Amongst many others, her husband was brought in.  When the Japanese captured Repulse Bay, the soldiers came into the hospital and bayoneted every bed.  She tried to save her husband by putting him under the bed, but to no avail.  Dr. Black, a well known and delightful man, was in charge of the hospital, and had a bayonet put through him straight away.  Then all the nurses were raped so badly by all the soldiers that their bodies were burnt for fear of reprisals by the officers.

    My husband had survived, and came with a jeep immediately the war was over and took Mary (an old friend of the family's) Carmen, and myself to the Gloucester Hotel which was inundated with people.  There we stayed with little to eat and no fresh water as the pipes had burst.  We awaited the arrival of the Japanese who entered the town the next day.  We had no idea what they were going to do with us, but soon found out.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Additional notes

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    On Christmas Day the enemy bombardment and aerial attacks continued, but the Stanley Guns were able to answer them back. We felt the situation to be difficult but not hopeless, with 2500 men and enough ammunition, food and water.  There were many gallant actions at Stanley by Volunteers - to name only two, the Scottish Platoon at Chung Am Kok, and the men of the first Battery between Prison Road and Fort Road.

    in the north, by 6.30 on Christmas Morning the defenders were fighting in O’Brien Street and Wanchai Market.  As the day wore on the enemy drive along the north shore was decisive, and at 3.15 p.m. the defending forces surrendered.

    “The Garrison of Hong Kong has surrendered.  All fighting will cease and you will hoist the white flag.  All arms and ammunition will be collected and stored under guard.  Officers in charge of units are responsible for the discipline of their troops.  Officers will retain their revolvers.  Further orders will be set out dealing with dispersal areas.”

    At Stanley, the news was not received until 8 o’clock on Christmas night.  The Brigade Commander there would not surrender without written instructions and so Stanley held out until the early hours of Boxing Day, when all forces in the Colony laid down their arms.

    ((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))

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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    CHRISTMAS 1941   10.30am    Loved One, many many more may we see together.

    Amah has deserted us - I am so angry - she came and told me last night she wanted to sleep downtown as her sister couldn't sleep on the floor - and I said yes.  I didn't see her take her box away or I'd have known.  Wait till I see her!  Things don't seem to be going very well.  and I'm afraid I'm a wee bit down in the dumps  on this of all mornings.  But you can't help it.  H.E. sent out an encouraging message but things look rather  black for us at present.

    Later - 6pm.  Darling - I heard about 4 - just before I went off to see Bertie - oh!  the humiliation and I am so sorry for you  hearing about it for you will think it will be much worse than I expect it will be.  I'll carry on in the next.   B.B

    Little One Darling,  
    The Cease fire was ordered at 3.25 but there is still some shelling going on - just started up and a plane has just dropped a bomb but it will soon all stop. D.O.K. what will happen to us - I should imagine we will be ordered to carry on our ordinary jobs for the present. I don't think they'll intern us or take us to Japan but you never can tell. It is no use my telling you not to worry for it will be a terrible time for you until it is all over. But we must stick it Darling and we shall have many happy years together yet. I can't write more so Goodnight Darling.   B.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Colin McEwan Diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    Christmas day saw another perfect HK winter day with warm sunshine and, sheltered as were by Ap Li Chau, there was no wind. We were indeed so sheltered that, in the afternoon, we managed to have a swim – albeit in somewhat oily water. Still, as the C.P.O. remarked, it would keep the mosquitoes away. Early in the afternoon rumours of a truce flag at Aberdeen started but stopped as quickly. It was for us the most boring day of the war. There was bombing and shelling going on over the hill but as far as we were concerned we might as well have been out of the war completely. So bored were we indeed that we welcomed a floating barge as a target for Bren and T.G. in which the crew had newly received instruction. The T.M. fire kept on intermittently each one sounding as Collingwood said “like a door slamming”, a very apt description.

    ((Note in margin: 1515 surrender))

    Everyone was thoroughly browned off and even the double issue of rum didn’t help. Later in the afternoon, however, the M.G. fire seemed closer and at 5pm the signal came “Ready”. What was on now? Were we going or was there some job on? Still it was welcome as evidently there was something doing. Soon after No.10 came alongside with the news that HK had surrendered and that we were off. During this parley, figures appeared on the skyline and Legge at once grabbed his Lewis and started in. Luckily, as it turned out afterwards, my Bren had no magazine and by the time it was fitted orders not to fire were given. Evidently they were friends, but as to their identity we were to remain in ignorance as we were ordered to Telegraph Bay to contact the other three boats. As fate would have it, this was the very time our engines would not start and only after towing did they roar into life.

    As soon as we started across the entrance to Aberdeen doors started slamming and up went a spout of water about 50 yds off our port bow. Taking the first available cover where I could be out of the way of the crew I found myself behind a depth charge with my Bren peeping coyly over. Following that doors kept slamming but each successive spout of water dropped further astern and thanks to the speed of our craft we were soon over and round the point where we rendezvoused the other two with their crews gorged on a X’mas dinner of chicken, cream etc. (The Dairy Farm was just above).

    Obviously we could not move till dusk and we settled down to waiting. Dusk came and still no signal, 7 o’clock, 7.30 and only at 8 after what seemed hours of suspense we received orders to join the others. Out we came in one of the most beautiful evenings I have ever seen in HK. To the west over Lamma there was still a purplish afterglow – the sky was steely clear with odd stars coming out and on the starboard Lantau loomed up a dark purple mass with pinpricks of light at odd intervals. Behind us a building at Pokfulam was madly alight with masses of deep smoke showing up against the sky and beyond farther flames could be seen. There was a curious feeling of tragedy abroad – HK had fallen. Only 17 days and here we were off on a trip to China – for us at least there was the selfish satisfaction of knowing that there were to be no concentration camps.

    The flotilla complete (?) we set off and at every angle up to Stanley fires could be seen. At that stage the night was by no means perfect – the moon throwing a path of glittering light, a queer crazy paving of sparkles over our courses. By degrees however it darkened and in the peculiar halflight it was difficult to discern the boat ahead apart from its phosphorescent light.

    Only one incident worth recording occurred when well on the starboard bow a searchlight was seen – possibly some Jap. destroyer. Anyway it did not pick us up and in the ever gathering darkness on we went till off Ping Chau we stopped. Mike, Tai and I with Henry Hsu went ashore for any news of any possible Jap. movements in the area and by a stroke of luck Mike and Henry contacted the local guerrilla leader. Mention of Admiral Chan’s name speeded up matters and soon we had moved across to Namo where we disembarked after some hours of packing and stripping the boat of all available gear.

    During this period of hurry and rush the most difficult task of all was to prevent the guerrillas, who seemed to have no idea of the old law of mine and thine, from grabbing all and sundry. Anything we did not want was theirs but this did not deter them from having a smack at any available articles especially arms.

    Out of all this apparent flurry – junks appeared – kit disappeared aboard them, and the work of scuttling the M.T.B.s was carried out. This proved no easy task and we had to resort to axes. Even as it was when we left they showed no signs of sinking fast. Still it was dawn now and 6.15 saw the last party aboard a very silent launch – vaguely familiar from sailing days as one of the many craft which used to slip out of HK at dusk.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Major John Monro MC RA diary of the Battle of Hong Kong

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    ((Monro was writing on the 26th, referring to the events of the 25th:))

    Yesterday from about 8.00am till 12 noon there was a truce.  So far as I could see this meant that we did nothing while the Japs Artillery continued to shell us.  They certainly did not observe it.  There was nothing for me to do at Battle H.Q. so the C.R.A. allowed me to go up the Peak and look round our few remaining positions.  I went up the path which leads from Garden Road to the Upper Peak Tram Station.  Near the top it had been shot away by shells aimed at the station.  After considerable search I found West Group H.Q. in a culvert under Lugard Road.  Crowe had been shelled out of 3 houses where he had established his H.Q. he hoped this hideout would last longer.  Fortunately the weather was dry.  Then I went to Austin. Kishen Singh was in charge.  One of the guns was at full recoil and wouldn’t run up.  I suspect that they haven’t been keeping it topped up with oil and air.  The fitters managed to right it later in the day. 

    From there I went to the Peak School to the garden of which the 4.5 Hows from Kellet Road had been moved.  John Vinter was in charge.  He seemed rather torpid but it was hardly surprising as he had been up the whole night moving the guns.  I tried to find the O.P. which was somewhere in the direction of the Tod’s old house, but I was shelled as I went along the path which came into view of the enemy, and had to make a bolt for it.  At the Peak Club in Landales garage I found a noisy party of the food control department.  They were celebrating Christmas and were a little tipsy.  They asked me to come and join them.  I refused and went on to Gough.  Hoyland was in charge.  He doesn’t know much about field gunnery but he has run his show well.  He is slow and imperturbable, just the person for the Indians.  His were the steadiest and most cheerful that I saw. 

    Sanatorium had only one gun in action.  They had a scare the night before and abandoned the position.  One bright spark threw the L.B.M. down a borehole latrine.  They have been trying to dig it out all day.  On the way back I called in at the War Memorial to see if I could find out anything about Geoffrey Proes and to see Dinie.  Geoffrey Proes was not there.  Dinie looked fit but tired.  She was in the operating room and described herself as up to the elbows in blood.  She must be one of the few women in Hong Kong who look as well without their make up as they do with it.  I tried to reassure her but I think she knows that this end is inevitable.  She was not complaining.  She had stayed behind of her own free will and she did not regret it.

    The white flag was hoisted above the Battle Box. About 3.00pm we had the order to surrender. Immediately there was an orgy of destruction in H.Q., rifles, revolvers, Tommy guns, compasses, field glasses and the few remaining secret documents were all destroyed.  Someone suggested that our revolver ammunition had expanding bullets.  If the Japs found them we would all be shot, so they were hidden away in all sorts of queer places.  The air ducts in Battle H.Q. must hold hundreds of rounds.  Then the C.S.O. Colonel Levett came down in a great state of mind swearing that some of our guns were still firing.  He for one had no wish to be murdered after the surrender because we wouldn’t order our guns to cease fire.  He and the C.R.A  became very heated.  He was so insistent that finally Paddy and I went out to see if one really was still in action.  The cause of the trouble was a burning carrier on the Murray parade ground.  It was like a firework.  Hand grenades and small arms ammunition were exploding with the heat giving a fair imitation of a furious street fight.  Rather naturally the Japs were plastering the area with a gun the other side of the harbour, its echo from the Peak sounded exactly as if there were a gun somewhere near the botanical gardens.

    Battle H.Q. was filled with strangers, mostly Canadians.  Much beer flowed.  The Military Police mess was being looted.  It looked for a time if the men might get thoroughly out of hand.  Paddy and I were ordered to smash all the drink in our mess.  We smashed up a crate of beer and were getting busy on a crate of champagne when Andrews, Levinge and Hopkins ordered us to stop.  We went to Peffers who immediately sent for them, gave them the hell of a raspberry and ordered us to continue.  We smashed two cases of champagne and 8 or 9 cases of beer.  It went against the grain particularly breaking up the champagne.  Even so the troops were getting hold of quite a number of bottles.  Paddy and I “disarmed” several very tipsy Canadians with bottles hidden in the front of their battle dress.

    Last night an officer’s guard was placed at each entrance of H.Q.

  • 25 Dec 1941, Lt. L D KILBEE HKRNVR WAR DIARY Dec 1941

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Thu, 25 Dec 1941

    Christmas Day - and what a day - no rejoicing for us.

    Received a nice present from Santa Claus in the form of a stick  of bombs. 3 boats, 11, 27 and 10 - we were lying close in shore off the South side of Applichau eating a good breakfast, when suddenly, without warning, we heard the familiar swish of falling bombs - followed by heavy crumps as they struck the hill side and beach.     

    No damage to the boats but considerable debris fell onboard.  A very grim morning. We dare not move - from our anchorage, nothing coming over the air - it's just a case of wait and see.

    Had a talk with the C.O. after tiffin and decided to stay. He agreed with my decision and told me afterwards that he considered I did the right thing in choosing to remain.

    A very worrying day for me - thinking about the outcome of this  show - and about my crew, Evelyn and Dorothy. There is no way to get in touch with them.

    It is 1530 hours and an ominous quiet prevails.  Signal came through — to go.

Subscribe to 70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries