70 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries
- Submitted by Admin on Tue, 2013-01-08 17:55
- Submitted by Admin on Sat, 2013-03-23 16:41Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Fri, 1 Jan 1943
New Year's Eve deadly quiet. Contrast against noisy crackers and revelry of other years. Bleak weather. Cold. Using more electricity. Firewood is wet, heavy and hard to burn.
Eating plenty corn these days. Everybody buying corn mixing with flour. $1.35 catty. Later price rises to $1.60, then to $1.80. Word spreads and profiteers quick to take advantage of any demand.
- Submitted by brian edgar on Thu, 2013-12-12 18:15Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Fri, 1 Jan 1943
Maryknoll Sisters Mary Christella and Mary Eucharista, who stayed behind to help Fathers Hessler and Murphy (see September 12, 1942), are released from Camp some time between Christmas and the end of January. Sister Mary Eucharista described the situation outside:
Their truck passed Wanchai, and they noticed the absence of cars or buses on the road. At the foreign affairs office, the Sisters received temporary passes and applied for regular passes. In the beginning, Mary Eucharista was not sure how much freedom she could have though she was released. Soon, she realized that, 'if you walked alone as if you were sure no one would question your right to do so, there was much less danger of being troubled than if you looked the least bit uneasy or frightened.' Only once when she was out on the street she was asked for her pass. There were more damages of war in Wanchai than Central. The further 'along the water front toward St. Paul's Hospital and North Point, where the Japanese made their first landing on Hong Kong, the more war scars there were.' On the Kowloon side, it was a tragic scene. As described - 'Shells of once lovely houses now stand stripped of doors, window frames, floors, not to mention furniture.'
It's a grim picture of a crime-ridden, neglected, dying city - one which tallies with almost every other description of the occupation. Nevertheless, as the new year begins, the 100 or so 'white' Allied civilians still living in Hong Kong - most of them health workers at St. Paul's Hospital or bankers at the Sun Wah Hotel - are still probably a little better off than the internees in Stanley, as they have a small degree of freedom and access to a larger black market to supplement supplies. One of the bankers, Andrew Leiper, reports that about this time (December 1942 or January 1943) they use the excuse of needing a reserve of workers because of illness to get 6 of their fellows out from Stanley 'so that they might benefit from our slightly better conditions'. They try to get 6 men out from Shamshuipo too, but the Kempeitai are furious: these men killed many brave Japanese and shamefullly surrendered - they will not be released.
Maryknoll: Cindy Yik-yi Chu, The Maryknoll Sisters in Hong Kong, 2004, 58-59
Bankers: Andrew Leiper, A Yen For My Thoughts, 1983, 158-159
- Submitted by Barbara Anslow on Wed, 2016-05-11 20:52Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Fri, 1 Jan 1943
During 1943 and 1944, my diary became very sketchy, as from late 1942 our Catholic priess were gradually organising a kind of RC parochial life for us, and encouraging us to organise it for ourselves. There was a short daily Mass at 8.15am in the Prison Officers' Club on weekdays; this had to be finished on time as that hall was used in the mornings as a junior school.
Study Clubs meeting weekly were started for each age group and sex. I belonged to the one for 'young ladies'; it was here I became friends with Peggy Barton, who was 4 years younger than me. The meetings were held wherever convenient, sometimes in the Redwood room Block 3 Room 19 if the rest of the occupants could arrange to be out at that time, sometimes out in the open air in the grotto, sitting on old Mimi Laus (breeze blocks.)
Initially Father Hessler was in charge of the groups and attended all the meetings, though later we were encouraged to run things ourselves without Father; we sometimes discussed some religious book or subject, also current affairs and problems in the camp. We Young Ladies sometimes had social meetings with our opposite group, the Young Men, with games and eats to which we all contributed. We were also affiliated with the younger groups. In due course I became an adviser to the Older Girls' Group and attended their meetings. They were a charming lot between the ages of 13 and 16, of all nationalities. British, Norwegian, Eurasians; I got a lot out of being with them.
I wrote a play for these girls to perform; called The New girl in the Fourth; every one had a part, rehearsals were usually in the open, due to lack of other facilities. It was produced in July 1943 in the Prison Officers' Club ie. It wasn't intended to be one of the main camp entertainments. To my delight, it was considered such a success that Bill Colledge who was very involved with camp entertainments, and Dick Cloake, a Catholic contact, worked on it professionally, and it was then performed at St Stephens for 3 nights, the set designed by Mr. T.A.L. Concannon.
Bill enlarged the part of the Ticket Collector played by Clifton Large, the only male in the cast. As a result Mabel and I became very friendly with Clifton, and we spent most evenings with him, lounging out on the grass near the casurina tree in the grounds of the Married Quarters. Before long, though Mabel and Clifton were an item and I became superfluous.
Fathers Meyer and Hessler also set up small groups dedicated to Catholic Action, which not only involved some aspect of religion, but also practical application to camp matters. We members were given specific assignments to contact some Catholics known to have problems, and to give practical assistance such as helping mothers with young children, and also try to persuade them to come to church. Additionally there was a group to study Apologetics. All these church groups made life really busy if you wanted to get involved.
My daily routine was roughly as follows:-
- 8am Congee. (This innovation lessened the gap between the two main meals; some of our rice ration was cooked into a mush and served hot round the rooms; usually eaten without sugar if Red Cross parcel sugar was finished: there was an occasional small issue from the Japs which only lasted for a few days; also no milk unless you had been able to save the tin of milk powder from your Red Cross parcel.)
- 8.15am Mass.
- 9 am to 12.30pm Worked in hospital office (or from 1.30 – 5.00pm)
- 1 pm Lunch at hospital (the other quarters' meal was at 11am)
- 5pm Supper at hospital (also 5 pm in other quarters)
- 8pm All had to be within their accommodation block area
- 9pm All had to be in our rooms.
When off duty at the hospital, I went to church club meetings or choir practice; miscellaneous lectures (some in our room by candlelight.) I also went to language classes, - French and German, though I didn't last long at the latter. Lots of swimming in warm weather.
I spent a lot of time at rehearsals for the children plays which I continued to write. We discovered that Mary Rogers, a pretty Eurasian girl of about 12 had a pure sweet singing voice.; also a small boy Philip Murray captivated us when he sang 'Over the hills to Skye.'. Another highlight was the singing of the young Wilkinson sisters ((listed on their mother's page)) and Delia Mejia in harmony of 'Teddy Bears' Picnic. We had our own pianist - 18 year old Pauline Beck.
There were rumours that we British might be repatriated – mainly children and poorly women, but nothing concrete until one day I heard a buzz of conversation in the courtyard below, so rushed down to investigate. John Stericker a camp councillor was in the middle of a large crowd, reading out names – from the repatriation list. A friend there congratulated me on being on the list, but I knew this was unlikely as I was in good health, and rightly guessed that the Redwoods named were Mum and Mabel, which was wonderful, though no date was given.
- Submitted by Admin on Tue, 2017-01-03 15:57Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Fri, 1 Jan 1943
- Submitted by HK Bill on Sat, 2021-05-22 12:59Book / Document:Date(s) of events described:Fri, 1 Jan 1943
A Happy New Year everybody!
This morning Yvonne and I went on our rounds and wished numerous friends a much happier year than the last. There has been quite a feeling of optimism about all day, for everyone feels that this year will see the end of this war. Even for those who lost dear ones here during the fighting, 1943 will be a happier year than 1942. It has been a great help, in many ways, for those last mentioned people that we have spent a year here in these unnatural and exceptional conditions, for it would have been far more difficult for them to sustain their loss if life had flowed on in its normal channels than it has here, where things are so abnormal and where the majority of people are separated from their husbands and wives. It has given them a year in which to slowly accustom themselves to the idea.