70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries
- Submitted by brianwindsoredgar on Sat, 2012-01-21 18:49Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Thu, 19 Mar 1942
The night of March 19 is one of the most dramatic in the history of Stanley: seven people in two separate groups begin their successful escapes from a Camp in which security is still relatively lax.
Gwen Priestwood, who drove a food supply lorry during the fighting, and the policeman W. P. Thompson wriggle through the barbed wire and strike north by land up the Tai Tam Gap Road. After many adventures, including almost being caught by a Japanese patrol while resting in an empty house, they fall in with communist guerrillas. Priestwood continues to Chungking (Chongqing), wartime capital of Free China, while Thompson decides to stay in the New Territories to help organise guerilla warfare. (Priestwood describes his arrival in Chungking just before she leaves, but this may be to deceive the Japanese).
Priestwood carries with her a full list of the British internees (but not the Dutch or American).
A few hours later an Anglo-American party of five cut their way through the barbed-wire. The leader is Israel Epstein, a Marxist journalist who's been living in Stanley under an alias because of his anti-Japanese writing, and is desperate to escape before he's uncovered. With him are the English radical Elsie Fairfax-Cholmondeley (later his wife), F. W. Wright (also English, a fluent Cantonese speaker with knowledge of the local waters), and the Americans Parker Van Ness (a seaman working as a mechanic at Kai Tak airport) and Ray O' Neil (who also had nautical experience).
This party commandeer an upturned boat on the beach - Van Ness had previously judged it seaworthy and hidden supplies nearby. Unable to steer, they head towards Lamma Island, but find its shores too rocky to land. They nearly nearly collide with a large junk without any lights, and spot Japanese pillboxes as they're about to make a dawn landing on Cheung Chau. The appearance of a Japanese patrol boat eventually forces them to land on Lantau Island. They pull the boat into some bushes and collapse into an exhausted sleep.
They wake to find themselves surrounded by a ring of fishermen. They are brought the only food these people have - sweet potatoes boiled in water. There is a reward for handing-over of escapees to the Japanese, but the fishermen hide them for two nights in a small gully while planning their escape.
Gwen Priestwood, Through Japanese Barbed Wire, 1944, 62 onwards
Israel Epstein, My China Eye, 2005, 146-149
Note: Priestwood and Elsie Fairfax-Cholmondeley had been part of a group which planned but failed to escape before actual internment took place.
- Submitted by Admin on Fri, 2012-02-10 16:24Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Thu, 19 Mar 1942
Krupps & Renaults bombed to hell. We are 5 to 1 up on Axis with planes.
Japs landed in Aust.?
Particulars taken for C.S.
- Submitted by Barbara Anslow on Thu, 2012-03-08 22:29
- Submitted by Admin on Fri, 2012-04-20 15:36Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Thu, 19 Mar 1942
We carried on and at daybreak we were not far off Cheung Chow Island. We did try to make for Cheung Chow but just as before, the wind and tide would not let us, so we tried for another island nearby and the same thing happened; by this time the sea had quieted down, so we got out the bamboo pole which was to act as a mast, and the sail which was one of our blankets. Having no place to fix this pole, O’Neil held it between his knees.
No sooner had we got the sail up then the wind dropped. At this time a Japanese patrol boat was sighted about 400 yards away and all thought that it was all up and that we would be fired on by them, we all kept very still, Miss Cholmeley and myself putting dark handkerchiefs over our heads, the remainder keeping low.
To our relief, this launch proceeded on its way to search a fairly large junk in the distance. Having worked for a short time on the launches in the Kowloon District, I told the party that we had to make for the sandy beach which was about 3 miles away and we had to get there before the launch returned. We worked harder than ever to make it, but when about 200 yards from the shore the launch was soon to be returning and it looked as though she was making for us. Again, we did the same thing, kept still and were more than happy to see her steaming past.
Our “Vanda” looked nothing like a fishing boat, what could be seen of her, as I have stated, she was overloaded and there was very little of her showing out of the water, then again the sail as stated was an old blanket, so we looked nothing like anything that does float around those waters (another stroke of luck). After fifteen hours we set foot ashore and how pleased we were!
- Submitted by pxb09 on Mon, 2019-08-26 19:38Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Thu, 19 Mar 1942
Now 19/3/42 - no more news. We had a joint meeting of XC and L.C. yesterday and passed some resolutions.
We are hopeful now that food may come to us from America. I hope Anthony Eden's speech on atrocities in H.K. did not worry you too much - there have been many and useless senseless destructions but that is all to be expected. We'll soon repair all the damage etc once we get going. Well this is just a scrap to show I was thinking of you - I do every day - every hour I am sure. A.I.A.W. B