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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    Collected all arms & amm. Billeted in Sgts. Mess (You have been there too darling Marj but I didn’t expect to see it under such circumstances) Had some beer. Frank ((possibly fellow prison officer E S Franks)) & I went to Sgt. Dick’s place for food etc. Rum PM. Stevens turned up wounded. Although capitulation is not so good it feels nice to know that the likelihood of being shot or blown apart is gone.

  • 26th/27th Dec. 1941. Barbara Anslow's diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941 to Sat, 27 Dec 1941

    We weren't allowed out of Dina House. We had some tinned food and pooled it.  Japanese officers moved peaceably into Dina House.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941 to Sat, 26 Dec 1942

    In the Kowloon Hotel they don't need to be told about the surrender; Arthur Hansom writes to Edith:

    Beloved all is quiet. There has been no guns firing since yesterday evening and we are all of the opinion that it must be because HK has surrendered. We had about 100 people brought over here from HK last night most of them were from Stanley way and they had very depressing news with them. {This was presumably the group from the Repulse Bay Hotel.}


    At Argyle Street Camp, Dr. Newton writes in his diary reflections that probably many would have echoed:

    The surrender is probably for the best as it saves more slaughter, but goodness knows it means a prettty grim prospect for us until this war is over.


    Marie Paterson ('Pat'), the nurse who slipped out of the Jockey Club yesterday night, has alerted Dr. Selwyn-Clarke:

    In rushed one of the girls who had been raped during the night, crying 'Hide me quickly!' Before we could do so, a dishevelled soldier ran in and grabbed her, saying 'Go Jap.' She tried to cling to me, crying piteously. I motioned to the soldier to release her, saying 'No can, plenty work to do.' But he dragged her away, and they were halfway down the ward when there was a sudden shout from the entrance. He let go of the girl and dashed away. Released, she ran back to us. Then we saw why - a group of officials were {coming} into the ward. We recognised, with overwhelming relief, our Director of Medical Services, Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, with another European and two Japanese offficers.

    It's agreed that the Jockey Club post will be evacuated with the nurses going to Queen Mary Hospital and the patients being distributed between two other hospitals. Marie Paterson's courageous escape has brought help just in time.


    The Maryknoll Fathers and a few other Catholic ecclesiastics - thirty four in all - have been locked in a garage with their hands tied behind their backs. Two men, considered neutrals, are not tied up, and they help some to loosen their bonds, while others manage to do so themselves. But some spend the whole night tied in this increasingly painful way. Two have dysentery and no-one's had anything to eat. They start trying to get food from the sentry at 10 a.m. and eventually Father Toomey trades a valuable watch for a half-full water canteen. Later another canteen is handed in and at 4.30 they get their first meal since 11 a.m. on the 25th. - hardtack biscuit and evaporated milk.


    For many of Hong Kong's civilians today will be the day when they encounter the conquerors for the first time. Even the Chinese-army general and hard-bitten adventurer Morris 'Two-Gun' Cohen feels 'more frightened than I'd ever been in my life'. He's in his favourite haunt, the Hong Kong Hotel, and he and the others there are dozing on chairs or on the floor of the hotel lobby. At about midnight there's a rattling and a banging on the doors and a Japanese officer with a pistol followed by two soldiers with rifles at the ready enter and ask for Cohen. T. B. Wilson, who's in charge this evening, hesitates to answer, so Cohen reveals himself. He's taken to a temporary HQ in a near-by office block and politely asked for the whereabouts of a number of prominent Chinese Nationalists. He replies that he doesn't know, and is released. Realising that he's been set free in the hope that he'll lead the Japanese to his associates, he gets messages to everyone to keep away from him. He returns to the Hong Kong Hotel and stays there, growing more and more 'frantic', until  the January 5 assembly on the Murray Parade Ground.


    Bill Ream is at Queen Mary Hospital:

    On 26 December my grave-diggers failed to turn up. Two of us had the very unpleasant task of burying five Canadians who had been blown up by a hand-grenade tossed into a pillbox.


    Soldier's wife Jean Mather is with her mother at the Gloucester Hotel. They watch the large dining room fill up with Japanese soldiers - 'a stunned and somewhat bedraggled looking set of "guests"'.


    The bakers - Patrick SheridanJames Hammond, Thomas Edgar and Serge Peacock -  are in the Exchange Building. Captain Tanaka, the Japanese officer in charge of communications, takes control of the building. Nobody is allowed to enter or leave, but Tanaka treats his prisoners humanely, providing them with good food and eventually arranging English-language film shows in the Café Wiseman.


    Frederick Ivan Hall of Lane, Crawford manages to get out a cable to his family back in England:

    Quite well: home soon.


    Alex Summers of MI6 sends his last radio message out of Hong Kong. He will go to Stanley Camp where he will succesfully maintain his cover as a local businessman throughout the war. He later noted that the Japanese displayed a definite interest in the wherabouts of the former MI6 head Charles Drage (see  below).



    Kowloon Hotel: Allana Corbin, Prisoners of the East, 2002, 113

    Dr. Newton: Oliver Lindsay, The Lasting Honour, 1980 ed., 164

    Jockey Club: Mabel Winifred Anslow, It Was Like This, 2001, 97-98

    Maryknoll Fathers: Maryknoll Diary, December 25-26

    Cohen: Charles Drage, The Life And Times of General Two-Gun Cohen, 1954, 287-288

    Ream: Bill Ream, Too Hot for Comfort, 31

    Mathers: Jean Mathers, Twisting the Tail of the Dragon, 1994, 18

    Bakers: Thomas Edgar, article in The British Baker, September 13, 1946 (see also today's entry in Sheridan's hostilities Diary)

    Hall: Derbyshire TImes and Chesterfield Herald, 14 September 1945, 5

    Summers: Keith Jeffrey, MI6, Chapter 17.


    Charles Drage's book on Cohen quotes its subject to the effect that 'On Boxing Day we knew it was all over. In the afternoon the news of our surrender was broadcast'. This chronology is followed by Cohen's later biographer Daniel S. Levy, and if it is correct the events described above took place on the night of December 26/27. However, I think it's probable that Cohen's memory was deceiving him and that they really took place on the night of December 25/26.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    From here on it was not possible to keep a day to day record of events. I can only give the outstanding occurrences in my mind and in sequence as near as I can remember. I must have slept sound during the night but everything seemed very quiet on waking. No shooting or bombing. No chance of a wash or shave. On going downstairs I find a Jap captain and a group of soldiers in conversation with Brown the Manager and some of his henchmen. The Jap Captain speaks fairly good English, his name is Tanaka, he is a communications officer and all his men are technicians. ((Captain Tanaka is mentioned in this and three other sources for his acts of kindness to the defeated.)) He has come to take over the Telephone Exchange and spends a lot of time with the staff on the top floor. Meanwhile he tells Brown to make out a list of names of all the people in the Building. As we look out the windows on to the street we see Jap sentries at every corner, no one is allowed to move about other than Japs. We see some men of the HK Signals being marched out under escort to Murray Barracks. I go and see Brown and he explains to Capt. Tanaka that Hammond and I are also Military and wish to go to Murray Barracks. Tanaka orders us to stay where we are. There are two sentries on the front door, and the side doors are locked, no one is allowed to enter or leave the building. We are stuck in the building for a few days with no interference from the Japs. 

    ((Note: This is the final extract from Staff-Sergeant Sheridan's Memoir in this document. Extracts relating to his escape from Hong Kong will soon be available on Gwulo. For a full account of his time in the Exchange Building see


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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    When we awoke the next morning ((the 26th.)) it was light in the basement because everything had been blown out of the windows the night before. It was 8:30 in the morning and we had heard or seen no one all night. The sun was shining brightly and we could go upstairs and eat our breakfast, which was a nice change from eating in the dark basement.

    We went upstairs and helped clean the house. We could see now that the first bomb had blown the top floor off the house next door, also the corner nearest us. Nobody was living there at the time. The people who had been there had moved out a few days before because they were afraid of all the bombs and shells. They wanted to try to find a safer place to live. The second bomb had landed in the street in front of us and the third to the left of us, demolishing the house.

    We saw the first Japanese soldiers at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, December 26, a group of officers came in and, after looking around, they came up to us and pointed at the door, and said, “Five o’clock out.” They seemed to know only three words. That gave us about two hours to move all our things and also find a place to move into.

    Reverend Buuck and his boy went over to see a friend of ours living about a block away while the rest of us gathered our things together. Reverend Buuck came back in about a half an hour saying we could move in. 

    We were glad to find a place so close even if it was badly shell shattered. The window and door frames looked like they would fall out any minute, and most of the glass was broken in the windows. Nearly all the plaster was down. We put cloth or paper over the openings. This kept out the cold somewhat.

    While we were moving, the Japanese soldiers were swarming around in the house. One went to sleep on our bed. We were told we couldn’t take the beds, but they did let us take our army cots. They watched us work and laughed at us if we carried heavily, but they didn’t try to stop us. We were glad that we were left alone. (Doris remembers Eunice and she were hidden in the closet.)

    The Buuck family and our family lived in the front room. Twelve people lived in this small room about 12’ x 18’, with a bay window on one side. Other people moved into the other rooms. For the next ten days this was our home.

    We didn’t dare go outside because Jap soldiers were everywhere. We didn’t know what the Japanese would do with us. We put up our cots every night and folded them in the morning. We thought we might be interned, but we had no idea when or where, so we made rolls of our bedding every morning and tied it to carry easily. We also put some clothing and food into pillow cases. We tied two pillow cases together so that the children could carry them over their shoulders.

    While we were living here the Jap soldiers could walk in at any time. They would usually notice the children first and start playing with them. They would ask the little ones if they could count the bullets in their belt and lift the gun. They told them to be careful not to cut their fingers on the bayonet. Most of them said they had children in Japan two or three years old that they had never seen. We are sure that the Lord protected us here too, because we were never mistreated by any of them.

  • 26 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    Boxing Day dawned fair and quiet. I peeped through a back window shutter to discover a machine-gun post at the Shan Kwong Road corner, fifty yards away, with a young Japanese soldier keeping silent guard. To avoid seeming furtive, I banged open the shutter noisily. The wrong thing to do; he sprang into action and swiftly brought his rifle round to cover me. I grinned; he turned to his pals and laughed, and I breathed again.

    At the front of the house an amusing little scene. A Portuguese neighbour, an air raid warden, sauntered up and down the roadway, in full uniform and smoking a cigar. I called to him. Had he not heard that the battle was over? He had not, had just come on duty from his flat further up the road. He registered indignation and doubt. I assured him it was unhappily true. Suddenly realizing his position, he shed his equipment and scuttled off home.

    Later in the morning many Japanese soldiers appeared in the streets. Some Chinese youths helped them to start up cars parked in the streets, and they set off on joy rides. They perched all over the cars, laughing gleefully, and some sitting in the open boots. Their progress was a crazy jerking and swerving. In the middle of the road was a small shell hole, a foot deep, and most of them hit it with a terrific bump and much hilarity. They soon tired of their fun. Some of the men looked clean and neat, but some were shabby and dirty as though they had been campaigning for months. Some were very young. Some urinated shamelessly in the gutters. Then with a clatter of hooves more soldiers went by, coming from the stables, mounted on race ponies and army mules which they had found at large.

    Two soldiers knocked at our street door, and the family panicked. I took my wife and the children upstairs to join the kind Chinese family there. The callers, one a decent-looking young officer, the other a ruffianly ranker, inspected the flat. They helped themselves to cigarettes, a tin of tomatoes, a cake of chocolate and the last of our oranges. We had carefully put all watches, cameras, fountain pens out of sight. They went upstairs, where the householder gave them a fountain pen and let them take a valuable watch in exchange for their own cheap one.

  • 26 Dec 1941, Roland H J Brooks' War Diary - Stanley Internment Camp WWII

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    7.30am: Sat on street for about one hour. Marched to Jarolen Road.

    Found house robbed by firemen on return.

  • 26 Dec 1941, South China Morning Post

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-26 December 1941-pg1.jpg
    Hong Kong-Newsprint-SCMP-26 December 1941-pg2.jpg


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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Fri, 26 Dec 1941

    My Love,

    12 noon now - I haven't tried to write - one's feelings are so upset. I was rung up at 4.30 this morning by [?Winnith] - that the General hoped I'd get busy clearing the dead and sweeping up the streets - I nearly replied B------ the General - but I just said Oh Yes. But I can't go out myself - they'd commandeer my car I am sure and I can't send the lorries out until safe conduct passes or something are fixed up. I could get no one on the phone in the C.S.O. and at last got D.M.S. He went himself to the Japanese H.Q. and has fixed up something. We must carry on of course or there will be a horrible epidemic - so we are all to work under the Red Cross now and I am to get passes for my lorries etc.  Tiffin coming on now so I'll stop.   B.

    I got all my passes and so I went into town this afternoon -  I was stopped  several times but they soon passed me on  We have had a visit too from a posse - they told me they think this place will be suitable for a hospital  so we may have to turn out soon.  I have all sorts of schemes in my head to salvage our belongings - I may try  some day. Well  Darling  I can't write much these days  - forgive me. 

    I think of you all the time and wish I knew how and when you heard the news and what you felt.  But don't worry about me - we'll be all right.   So Cheerio Darling.   B.

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