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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    Raids began early & continued off & on till 2.00PM. Dr’s house & rest of K Block hit at 2.05PM. No one injured.

  • 9 Dec 1941, Barbara Anslow's diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    2 false alarms, 1 last night and one early this am, and 6 more throughout the morning.  Not much damage, mostly propaganda leaflets dropped, which means I fear that we may expect heavier raids in due course.  Tonight misty.

    Mabel is at Women's International Club in town  ((for wartime billet, not far from CSO)).  Olive staying overnight on 4th floor of Gloucester Hotel  ((her Food Control Office nearby)). Olive phoned me and I rang Mabel, she heard there is one Royal Scot in Military Hospital. 

    Japs are said to be at Taipo, according to the London news.  Also some Japs were ambushed and mostly annihiliated on Castle Peak Road - where the boys are. Can't properly imagine it.

    Wrote to Arthur, though have little hope of his getting the letter, expect they're too busy to see about such things.  Topper called at flat but none of us in.   Mr Bendall also called, and Mr. Hall came home for a few hours.  ((Mr. Hall was a colleague of my Dad's; his wife, evacuated to Australia, had written and asked Mum if he could lodge with us, which he did. We left a writing pad on the table in our flat, so that any one calling while we were out could leave a message.))

    Libya and Moscow news brighter.

    Singapore/Malaya news not good, and raids at Manila.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    As British forces withdraw from the northern New Territories to the Gin Drinkers Line, order is already starting to break down on the Mainland.


    Edith and Arthur Hamson and their children Mavis and Richard are in a warden's house in Kowloon where they've fled to escape the bombing.

    Late in the evening they decide to return home, walking past looters - one 'brazen' pair pushing a grand piano down the street.

    They arrive to find that their servants, Ah Moi, Ah Ching and Ah Lee, have just managed to hold off some 'bandits'. Arthur spends an uneasy night constantly having to chase off more would-be looters.


    Dr. Isaac Newton, at the Kowloon Hospital, records that yesterday was the 'most hectic 14 hours' of his life. He's sharing a ward with {Dr. J. P.} Fehilly and {the Rev. H. A.} Wittenbach at night, and they have taken over {Dr. K. H.} Uttley's house as a mess by day - Uttley is organising a relief hospital at the Peninsula Hotel.

    This afternoon Kowloon hospital is visited by the Director of Medical Services (Selwyn-Selwyn-Clarke) and the Governor (Sir Mark Young). Newton shows them round in the intervals between operating. He finishes the last operation at 10.50 p.m.


    Twins Aileen and Doris Woods spend the morning packing and arranging for their pet cats to be destroyed. Then they go to withdraw emergency funds from the Kowloon Branch of the HKSBC in the east wing of the Peninsula Hotel. They try to get a pass to cross to Victoria (now Central): Doris is given one because she's a bank worker, while Aileen is refused because her work isn't regarded as important enough.


    On Hong Kong Island Phyllis Harrop is up by 6.30 and the first air raid is 15 minutes later. During the course of the morning's work she discovers that she's now 'attached to the Chinese secret police' - her pre-war work involved close contact with Chinese people, and she speaks the language.

    Early in the afternoon she realises that she has had no food since breakfast yesterday apart from a cup of tea in the morning, so she goes home, reaching her flat at about 4 p.m., and has a meal. She's soon in bed, exhausted but unable to sleep.


    Joseph Alsop, an American writer working with the Flying Tigers, is trapped in Hong Kong while on a supply mission for the aviators. He's in a bungalow in Kowloon, giving up hope of finding a flight out. He rings up fellow American Emily Hahn, who suggests he works for Selwyn-Clarke. He becomes a stretcher bearer - 'he did good work'.


    Hahn herself is one of a number of people living in the Selwyn-Clarke's house in a vulnerable position on the Peak:

    The first day was child's play, but the second day we had more than air raids; we had shelling from the approaching Jap forces across the bay and from a few of their ships that had stolen up close to the island. It's probably an idiosyncrasy of mine, but I prefer bombs to shells. I'm more used to them. You can see the plane they are coming from, and you can hear the bomb coming down, and you know where you are...(and) once a bomb has popped, it has popped, and the plane can't stay in one place pegging away at you. Shells are different. Shells keep coming and hitting at the same spot. Shells are the devil.


    In the UK the situation makes the front page of today's Daily Express (which of course reports yesterday's events):

    ‘Hongkong blockaded’

    HONGKONG, Monday. — Hongkong had two air raids today. The Japs dropped 1,000 pamphlets and a few bombs in the morning, begging the Chinese to attack us, and a few more bombs in the afternoon, causing some damage and casualties.

    The raiders—there were about a dozen—scattered as soon as they were fired on. One is reported to have been shot down over Green Island, off the western entrance to the harbour.

    At dawn several hundred Japanese approached the frontier, but found we had already blown up the strategic positions.

    A Tokyo broadcast picked up here claimed the destruction of 12 planes on the ground. It was also said that the Japanese Navy was blockading Hongkong.


    Withdrawal: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 33

    Hamsons: Allana Corbin, Prisoners of the East, 2002, 72

    Newton: Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Christmas, 1979, 17-18.

    Woods: John Luff, The Hidden Years, 1967, 45

    Harrop: Phyllis Harrop, Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 68-69

    Alsop: Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 280

    Hahn: Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 261

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    I am up before daylight and map out a programme for another busy day. The Aldershot ovens have to be dried out, and it is late evening before we can manage the first batch of bread. It turns out really good considering the inexperience of the Chinese bakers who have not much practice at this type of work. The Queens Road Depot bakery has now been completely evacuated, so my staff consists of Sgt. Hammond, Pte. Edwards, Sgt. Tuck, Cpl. Bonner, Leung Choy No. 1 baker, and 34 Chinese bakers. We get another five Aldershot ovens built and fired making a total of 15. As the soil is very sandy, sandbags have to be used as insulation round the ovens.

    The Supply Depot is also being set up using part of the Clubhouse as offices. As tents cannot be used all the stores are being stacked in amongst the trees on each side of the Golf course. It is a big operation and some chaos reigns at times. It is a bit crowded in the clubhouse as it is being used as a bread store, rum store, offices, etc. and the upper floor to be used as sleeping area. But it is not bad for active service conditions. Everything is very quiet around here, the sea is calm, the beach deserted, it looks inviting for a swim as it is quite warm. But that is not possible as the Sappers have mined the beach. Some small naval gun boats are anchored in Deepwater Bay. It is a sheltered spot.

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

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    On the 9th. December 1941, I was appointed Commandant of the Taikoo Braemar Dispersal Area for Refugees. This consisted of ten camps with essential buildings about the Mt. Parker Road leading from Quarry Bay to Stanley. Headquarters were at the two houses, Woodside, half a mile up the road overlooking the China Sugar Refinery and Taikoo Dockyard. The main kitchen was clearly marked with the Red Cross observable to low flying enemy planes.

    ((Mycock has mixed up the names of the sugar refineries. The China Sugar Refinery was over in Causeway Bay. He means the Taikoo Sugar Refinery, which was next to the Taikoo Dockyard.))

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

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    I remember on the night of the 9th six lorries were required to proceed to Wongneichong Gap to collect some Canadians and take them to the Yaumati Ferry – it took almost three quarters of an hour before six drivers could be located.

    On 9th I was sent up town to try and get the keys for the APC and Texaco petrol pumps situated at Happy Valley, but on calling on the offices no one knew where they were and no duplicates could be found.  We were filling up lorries from gallon tins and a small hand operated tank which was of course a very slow and tedious business.  I noticed most shops had their doors and windows barricaded and there was a tense atmosphere in the streets.  However, on looking in at the Hongkong Hotel I found the lounge doing a roaring business and what surprised me in particular was the large number of Army Officers present.

    That afternoon, I went over to Kowloon with Capt. Strellet HKVDC to get some stores for Stanley Fort from the Hongkong & Kowloon Wharf godowns.  These stores, cigarettes, tinned milk and chocolate, could have all been moved weeks before and thus our lorries could have been much more usefully employed.  We were engaged on this work also on the 10th.

    Up till this time there had been very little sign of enemy activity, barring two or three air raids a day, which I must say were all directed at military objectives and the bombing was very accurate, largely due no doubt to the fact we had no planes to send up against the Japs and the very inaccurate aim of our anti air gunners.

    Our troops were established on the Kowloon line and we heard everything was going well when suddenly news came that the Shingmun Redoubt which was the strong point in the line had been captured.  Some say a phoney message which the recipient failed to check back was the cause of this.

    The road blocks which had been so carefully prepared from Fanling to Kowloon along both the Taipo and Castle Peak roads and which were expected to hold up the Japs for many days were either not blown or proved quite ineffective for they advanced along both roads, meeting it would seem very little if any opposition, till they reached the main line of defence in the neighbourhood of Shatin on the Taipo Road and the Hongkong brewery on the Castle Peak road.

    They advanced through the mountain paths, empounding the peasants to drag their light field guns up seemingly impossible hills so that all our carefully placed pillboxes were overlook or outflanked, and we knew the end of the mainland defence was fast approaching when we heard they had scaled down Lion Rock above Shatin which was considered impossible, and had reached Tsun Wan on the Castle Peak Road.

  • 9 Dec 1941, Don Ady's wartime memories

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    Tuesday we went out to see some of our friends in Kowloon Tong on a bus, but we walked back in spite of the air raid overhead. On the way home we passed an air raid siren that went off about the reached it. Ane we hadn't gone more than a few blocks, when some friendly people invited us inside until it was over. But once the planes started to fly away, and the all clear sounded, but no sooner had it sounded than the mean things turned around and flew back. But pretty soon the all clear sounded again and we went home.

  • 9 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    There was thankfully a heavy fog and drizzle to-day, which reduced visibility; but there were seven air raids. 

    The rice shops closed. The Government ordered them to reopen. The rush to buy food continued, with prices rising steeply and shelves becoming mysteriously empty. There were complaints of shortage of currency. There were many $100 notes about, but the nimble tens and fives were scarce and the shops would change the large denominations only at a heavy discount. To help the poor, communal food kitchens have been opened everywhere.

    The Chinese newspapers caused some hopeful excitement, announcing that Canton, lost to the Japanese in 1938, has been retaken!

  • 09 Dec 1941, South China Morning Post

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941
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  • 09 Dec 1941, Father Biotteau's wartime diary

    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941
    ((Original text)) ((Jill Fell's translation))
    Je vais en ville pour voir si je ne pourrais pas trouver quelques provisions, car notre stock n’est pas considérable. Mais en ville, tout est fermé. Comme je reviens à pied, je suis arrêté successivement par trois alertes aériennes entre Wing On et le Hong Kong Hotel. I go into town to see if I can’t find some provisions, as we don’t have much in stock to fall back on. But everything in town is shut. As I walk home, I’m brought to a halt by air raid sirens three times in succession between Wing On and the Hong Kong Hotel.
  • 09 Dec 1941, W J Carrie's wartime diary

    Book / Document: 
    Date(s) of events described: 
    Tue, 9 Dec 1941

    Darling - I talked a lot last night about our bombing but never thought you’d get any yet but I think it was a long way from Goodwood.  I hear the C.N.A.C. planes arrived and got away again last night so perhaps my letters will get through. T.G. [Thank God] I’ve abandoned the Clipper or my last letter would be at the bottom of Kowloon Bay!

    Another pretty terrible day - what tires me is having to go into the Supreme Court when the alert goes, and hanging about there.  I’ll learn to sit still some day but at present I hang around and so get very tired. But we’re getting some of the [?snags] put away and I got 50 bags of rice for my coolies who were nearly starving  - rice shops have closed and restaurants have not been functioning properly.

    When I got home - I found the blow had struck!  Hamilton - acting Auditor rang me up and said he was coming to stay with me tomorrow. I cursed like H for he is an utter bore but when I got home Amah gave me the list.  Here they are -  G.H. Piercy Jardines - the nicer one of these boys and a Mrs D.W. Piercy – possibly wife – like Mrs A.B. instead of Mrs W.J.  Then Buckle - Instructor in Marine Eng in the Trade School -  Waddell  and Woodman - both P.W.D. Engineers and C Rogers – can it be the great Cyril?

    I mentioned Mrs D.W. Piercy – there is also a Mrs H.E. Campbell – D.O.K., a Mrs C.T. Forbes manageress of Au Petit House I see from the Dollar Directory!! - then two Misses  E Hobbs and J.M. Reynolds – D.O.K. - but no Hamilton – so he can go and stew in his own juice. But Loved One what am I going to do with that bunch?

    I haven’t been caught [?bending] – I have got this room and I’m going to stick to it - I have our bed in here now – only changed over today.  Amah is a real l??  - I told her she had to get two chair Coolies to help - and left $1 to pay for them. She and the Coolie did it all herself – including taking out the frightfully heavy settee.  So I’m set – I’m going to lock this room up when I leave in the morning and if there is any fuss I go straight to the Governor.  I’m finding it quite tough enough - I’m no chicken - and I must have my evenings free and quiet.  They can have the run of the rest of the house. But I’ve got all our nice stuff away - chair covers, curtains etc.  I’ve got practically everything locked away in boxes in the hot room - well Honey we must just hope for the best.   I’m going to tell them all straight that they are billetees, not my guests.  They’ll have to share gas and electric light – I’ll read the meters tomorrow.  But Adored -think of them - I can’t describe them in our house.  Well we can only say – c’est la guerre!

    I have heard a lot of rumours today – we may hear something definite later - so I’ll leave that just now My Love. One is a wee bit het up but never forget Darling that always in all ways I love you. B.

    Just a few moments later – poor Betsy knows there is some trouble on and when - as I did just now put the lights out to try out some darkening of a torch I got today she creeps under my desk. Poor Betsy she will have to get used to the bunch of folks coming tomorrow.

    Still later

    Sweetheart - I can’t get over poor Betsy - she won’t leave me alone tonight – she’s curled up on my wee mat under my desk - she is so sweet and has helped me keep my sanity.  I hate to think what she will think of the bunch arriving tomorrow. But I’ll see that its all right.  News on now in a few minutes so I’ll stop again. B.

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