80 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

Police officer Harold Matches writes home:

Dear Dad,

Mail is coming into Camp every day but I have not received any. How are you keeping? You and mother are always in my thoughts...I am keeping very fit and doing a lot of swimming.

Thomas Edgar has been a little luckier:

Dear Mum and All,

Was very worried about you all as I had not heard from anybody for two years until your letter dated October just received. So glad to know everybody alright. Lena and I are keeping very fit. Hoping to see you all soon.

Lady Mary Grayburn, recently arrived in camp from the Sun Wah Hotel, has also had long-awaited news. She writes to her step-daughter:

Elizabeth darling,

So glad to hear from you this week first time since October 1941. Been here since May 19. So far all fairly well. Have had news  of you through others...Long for all family news...


Police Officer Charles Leslie Smith's card will arrive at Christmas and provide his parents with the first proof that he's still alive. And he passes on good news for another family - 'Tom Hemsley is o.k.'


In town the Kempeitai 'strike back' against the resistance continues.

David Loie (Loie Fook Wing), the British Army Aid Group's leading agent in Hong Kong, is arrested. As the gendarmes are taking him to be tortured, he jumps to his death from the balcony of their headquarters in the Supreme Court building, thus avoiding the possibility of betraying his fellow agents.

Loie, a former officer of the Police Reserve, was posthumously awarded the King's Colonial Police Medal for gallantry.


Matches: Full text of card and much other material from the Matches archive viewable at: http://battleforhongkong.blogspot.hk/2013/11/harold-thomas-matches-police-officer-in.htmhttp://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/from-the-dark-worlds-fire-thomass-cards-from-stanley-camp/l

Edgar: http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/from-the-dark-worlds-fire-thomass-cards-from-stanley-camp/

Grayburn: David Tett, Captives in Cathay, 2007, 297

Smith: Kent and Sussex Courier, 31 December 1943, 5

Loie: George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 145, 152; Philip Snow, The Fall of Hong Kong, 2003, 186


Diarist George Gerrard tells us that towards the end of the first week in May the Japanese authorities allowed the internees to send home a card pre-dated April 30. They would then be allowed to send a second card in late May. The Edgar and Grayburn card are simply dated 'May' but the Matches card has 'May 31' which I've taken as the real or notional date for all of them.

((Following text not dated:))

End of month Arthur Woo out. Told hold tongue. Condition of release anyone who asks questions to be reported. Dorothy Lee out and several others. Apparently Scamp's case closed. Henry Ahwee ((stock broker)) tells Fred tell me keep away. He being investigated. All brokers being gone over.

Early in month weight up to 115 but sleeping badly, rash and rheumatism. Little fever, but puffy. By end of month weight 118.

Rain & wind all day.


This month did Chinese & plodded away at German. Swimming helped too.