Submitted by chris kilbee on Tue, 01/04/2022 - 09:59

Lt Laurence Kilbee was in command of MTB 08, Motor Torpedo Boat 08, during the short 19 days of the war in HK. The diary was buried before capture and retrieved after the war, during which he was a POW at Argyle Street Camp for 3 and three quarter years.

MTB 08 - Painting by LD Kilbee
MTB 08 - Painting by LD Kilbee


Here is a short video of MTB 27 in Hong Kong harbour in 1940, under the command of L D Kilbee:



W A R     D I  A R Y






“If found please send to one of the following addresses



Capt. & Mrs. D.R. Kilbee

Ide House, Penwinnick Road,

St. Austell, Cornwall,



1st DAY - 8th December 1941.

The enemy attacked at dawn. I was awakened by the sharp ringing  of the telephone, and on answering heard the familiar voice of the duty officer, telling me to report to base at earliest opportunity.

After a hurried breakfast I kissed Evelyn and our darling Dorothy  goodbye and left the house as if nothing unusual had taken place. I thought it was the best way. Walking from the lower tram station to Blake Pier, the quiet of early morning was rudely shattered by the screech of the air raid sirens fol1owed shortly by the drone of enemy planes and the crump of bombs as they exploded somewhere on the Kowloon side.                 

The roar of the planes continued as they dived on Kai Tak Aerodrome.

The staccato "rat-a-tat" of their machine guns and cannon echoed and re-echoed in the surrounding hills. Away to the north I saw several planes, finally losing sight of them as they disappeared over in the direction of Tai Mo Shan. (I heard later the enemy had 'shot up' the aerodrome, destroying the few obsolete planes we had there).

Al1 harbour craft had stopped and there was no cutter to take me across the harbour, however, after much haggling I succeeded in persuading

a walla-walla to take me to our base.

Reported to the C.O. and given orders to proceed to the new base   at Aberdeen when ready.

My crew were in good form and worked like Trojans all morning.

Had tiffin in the boat.

As Flotilla Navigation Officer I collected all charts, instruments, and A.F.O.'s Notices to Mariners and took them with me to Aberdeen, arriving there at 1530 hours after an uneventful trip. (These were deposited in the M.T.B. office in the Aberdeen Industrial School being subsequently destroyed together with certain confidential books on receipt of orders at a later date).

Aberdeen was an amazing sight, not the usual picturesque scene   of native fishing craft - instead a bedlam of auxiliary war craft from Gunboats down to Naval launches and cutters, all packed like sardines.

A perfect target for enemy aircraft!

Hardly had these thoughts left my mind when the air raid warning sounded. At once cast off and made straight for a snug berth on the north shore of Lamma.

Spotted three enemy aircraft bearing Red 45, distance 2 miles height 3000 feet. Ordered crew to action stations. One plane detached  from the formation and dived on us. At 1500 feet gave the order to "fire" and for a few seconds let him have all we had. At 800 feet he banked sharply and pulling out of his dive disappeared into  a cloud. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

We had five Lewis guns, blazing away and if we didn't wing him, we probably put a few holes into the blighter. Returned to base When the “all clear" came through by W/T. No damage at Aberdeen.

Spent the evening looking around the base and checking up our various berths, fueling places etc.

At sunset moved out to sea with No. 10, leader of our Sub-division, and took up position as striking force. Set deck and W/T watches for the night. no alarms during the night and returned to base at dawn.

So ends the first day.



2nd DAY — 9th December  l941

Busy morning — refuelling, checking engines, depth charges, torpedoes,   bilges,  ammunition. Made arrangements for collecting rations from base food store. Two air raids in vicinity during  morning.

Two casualties brought in by 26 from “Indira“. Obtained paint from dockyard, finished up with effective camouflage using combination  of browns, greens and yellows plus some old fishing nets.

Enemy opened up dive bombing attack on vessels in Aberdeen Harbour.

Few casualties minor damage only - mostly to “Cornflower“.

Enemy planes fighter-bomber type - radial engine - retractable under carriage. Not very fast but quite maneuverable. Temptation  to open up before plane in range. Considerably hope to get over this soon, once we get used to sighting and gauging planes distance. Bombs dropped smallish and could be seen leaving the plane.

Can't get any news of the fighting on the mainland except from daily paper, which says we are doing well - somehow doesn't seem convincing enough. Off to sea at dusk with 10, taking up position  as striking force. 

Set deck and W/T watches. Quiet night though gun fire could be seen and heard away to the North.

Returned co base at dawn . So ends the second day.

(Note: Before proceeding to sea at dusk, receive recognition signals  and letter for the day).


3rd DAY  -  1Oth  December 194 I

The weather is fine  and clear,  more helpfuI  to the enemy than us. His air force so far has only operated during the day. No naval craft reported so far. 

Managed to get a bath in one of the craft in dock, followed by  a good breakfast.

Left 1st. Lieut. in charge with instructions to check engines, ammo, guns, D.C.s and torpedoes etc. while I pushed off to the office  to see what was doing.

Discussed various points with C.O. and Captain, re efficiency of Flotilla etc.

Orders to destroy certain C.B.s - carried out.

News not too encouraging - we seem to be withdrawing on the mainland. Increased enemy aerial activity. Three boats ordered (including 08) to Naval Yard and report to S.O.O. for instructions. Proceeded via Sulphur Channel. Received following order - “patrol western limit of harbour and approaches to Yaumati Anchorage - prevent movement of junks”

Patrolled for two hours - enemy aircraft active over the Island.  Went alongside "Tern" for a few minutes and then took the opportunity of fueling from the A.P.C. Installation (the last time).

Tried to get some news from our old friend there, but he seemed to know no more than ourselves. Returned to Kowloon naval yard remaining there with No. 10 until 1600 hours.

Had tiffin in the boat, a jolly good one - full marks to the cook. I have a big appetite these days and nothing like a full stomach if one is fighting.       

Enemy guns on the mainland opened up with renewed vigour, with Stonecutters as the target. First salvoes were all over-landing in the seas to the South, but they soon shortened the range and were hitting the gun positions on the west side with monotonous regularity. One shell appeared to make a direct hit, followed immediately by a burst of flame - the fire continued burning for some time.

Enemy planes dive bombing something on the other side of Tsing Yi  Island. It was "Cicala" - for she appeared through Rambler Channel - zig-zagging - being shelled and bombed at the same time. Poor  old  John,   the enemy seem bent on sinking his   ship — he is   putting up a fine show and deserves a decoration. Suddenly all is quiet

and once again "Cicala" pulls through - the planes have gone (probably back to their base to re-load) and she seems to be out of range of the guns.

Returned to Aberdeen at 1630 hours, all quiet. 0ff to sea at  dusk, lay close in shore with No. 10 on west side of Poi Toi. Set  watches, W/T watch with No. 10. Had a good supper and discussed war with C.O.



Depressing news came over the air shortly after 2100 hours -

the Admiralty announced the sinking of "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse"

- a very very sad blow.

      Patrolled southward reported searchlight bearing 135° N.E. Head below horizon.

Received signal addressed to Striking Force - “proceed to investigate  suspicious vessel 135° N.E. Head - and attack if enemy war vessel”.

Now for some action - set a course to intercept and proceeded at full throttle

      All hands advised to Action Stations - Torpedoes ready to fire

- D.C.'s set - guns ready - quite exciting this is what we have been waiting for. Pray God everything works out well.

It's not to be - just received signal - cancelling previous one and return to patrol area - rather an anti-climax.

No more excitement during the night and returned to base at dawn.       

So ends the third day.


4th DAY — 11th December 1941

Refueled, inspected bilges  engines ,  torpedoes,  D.C. s,  guns     and ammo  0.K .

      Had breakfast and lay in South Channel.

Went over to the Office during the morning and returned to boat  for lunch.

Planes quite active.

Just finished tiffin when the air was rent by the sound of gun fire - ran up on deck just in time to see the H.K.R.N.V.R. Fleet of A.P.V’s steaming out to sea from Deep Water Bay - their 6 pounder guns blazing away.                                         I cou1dn't see what they were firing at as the shoulder of land on the S.E. corner of Applichau obstructed my view.

Signal came through that fleet of junks believed carrying enemy troops was approaching the Island from the direction of Lamma - A.P.V.s  to intercept and sink them.

Heard later that our ships played merry hell with them - they definitely had troops onboard - not a single junk got away. "Thracian"     was in the party as well - shelling enemy positions on Lamma Island.

The who1e Flotilla was ordered to Kowloon Bay to await further orders. Arrived about 1530 hours. Doesn't look too good - it appears we are to evacuate the mainland and retreat to our Island fortress.

The Bay is a beehive of activity - all kinds of ships - "Thracian", "Indira", M.T.B.s, gunboats, A.P.V.s, launches, tugs, ferries, etc., the enemy air force should be over any minute - but wonder of wonders, not a single aircraft came over from the time we arrived to dark.


Detailed to embark Commodore and remain under his direct orders for rest of the day.

Escorted him to "Thracian", "Cicala", "Indira" and "Tern", and returned to Naval yard just before 18OO hours.

Commodore said little, carrying on in his usual quiet and completely unruffled way which he has. Just the man to have in command in a tight corner - a perfect Cruiser captain when in action I should imagine.

Remained alongside F.M.O. steps for further orders.

Naval yard seemed quite deserted - the basin empty without its pre-war hum of activity. It is now within range of the enemy's guns - and will be in for a pasting before long.

At 1900 hours Flag Lieut. came aboard with orders to proceed to Stonecutters and embark wounded.

Arrived at dusk, to hear enemy had kept up a heavy bombardment of this Island for the last 48 hours. I gathered the Island

(Stonecutters) of no strategic importance now and evacuation of personnel would take place that night after all guns etc. had been completely



destroyed. Embarked 3 stretcher cases and several minor casualties and returned to Naval Yard - disembarking wounded on arrival.

Remained at F.M.O. Steps for further orders.

Received order from S.O. 0. to sink “Tamar" by torpedo. Got under way - a foul night - black as ink with a strong N.E. wind which whipped up the sea, making it uncomfortable and wet.

Several large junks about carrying no lights. Did two dummy runs. Not much room to manoeuvre - however, by steaming close up to Holts Wharf before running in to fire, just managed to fire at the minimum range of 50Q yards. S.T. reported stbd. torpedo ready to fire and handed me the key and stops. Set depth at 8 feet.

Ran in at 1250 revs and fired - increased to full throttle – turned  away to Port - narrowly missing one of the harbour buoys. Waited for the explosion but nothing happened (while running in was fired on by machine gun somewhere in direction of China Fleet Club).

Dreadful thought that I had miscalculated and failed to hit the  target, however, the probable answer was that the torpedo had hit bottom and buried itself in the soft mud.

Returned to F.M.O. to report to S.O.O. expecting a minor rebuke- however, Cdr. Craven was relieved to hear that the torpedo failed to explode - soon after leaving he had been frantically endeavouring to contact me by V.S.  to  cancel  his  order  -  so al I  ended successfully

-  both parties being satisfied.

Received order to embark two officers ex U.S. vessel in Cosmopolitan Dock - proceed and disembark at dock - re-embark and return to Naval yard. Strict order from Commodore not to endanger my boat in any

way and to return immediately if enemy troops were in vicinity.

Wet passage across harbour, very dark. On approaching shore in vicinity of dock fired on by rifle, from buildings on water front, could not be certain if by enemy or rioters, however, decided risk too great to go alongside and returned to Naval Yard. Soon after 2200 hours received instructions to proceed towards Stonecutters and endeavour to contact ferry evacuating personnel, which was long overdue.

Picked up ferry half way across - hailed her and enquired if all was well - on receiving a reply in the affirmative returned to Naval Yard to await further orders.

Beginning to feel weary. No wonder, for we have been on the

go day and night since the show began with very little sleep.

Half an hour after midnight told to return to base. Arrived Aberdeen dock at O1OO hours and for the first time had several hours sleep. Quite a hectic day, on the move since early morning.

So ends  the fourth day.

5TH DAY 12th December l94l

Used up considerable amount of fuel yesterday - so refueled early - went up to the office after breakfast leaving instructions with 1st. Lieut. to check over bilges, D.C.s, guns, ammo etc. (also had mechanics and stokers change oil) while I made arrangements to embark one torpedo to replace one fired yesterday.

Heard other boats spent busy night evacuating troops near Lye Mun - No. 11 damaged prop and towed round to Aberdeen - hoisted up on slip this morning. At last got some idea of the fighting which has been going on, from one of the Army Officers evacuated. Apparently, we have been carrying out a systematic withdrawal since the first

day - apparently with success - inflicting considerable losses on the enemy while ours were almost nil.

What next? Having returned to our 'island fortress'. Presumably we hold out as long as possible, or until we receive aid from elsewhere. No news from the other fronts - I wonder how we are doing in Malaya?

No alarms during the day, in fact there seems to be a lull – enemy  aircraft (at least in the vicinity) conspicuous by their absence.

At sunset proceeded to sea as striking force - quiet night and  returned to base at daylight.

So ends the fifth day - a day of comparative quiet.

6th DAY - l3th December 1941

Fueled at daybreak. We always made a point of fueling daily so that boats were always "topped up” at the beginning of a day, also did our fueling as early as possible so as to be completed before enemy aircraft were about. (Right through the war they only operated by day). At 0800 took over duties of Flotilla Duty M.T.B.

Remained alongside dock so as to be in touch with X.D.O. by telephone. Checked our orders re C.B.s all of which were to be destroyed except one special code and signal book.

Took all the rest ashore and burnt them.

Ordered to proceed to Kowloon Bay and contact 4 A.P.V.s, (long overdue) and inform them to return to Deep Water Bay. Passed through Sulphur Channel and found two of the missing A.P.V.s there - passed on X.D.0.’s message.

Went through the harbour at 30 knots keeping to the Island side.

Fired on by enemy Machine-Gun positions in vicinity of Holts Wharf

  • received one or two hits but no casualties.

Reached Lye Mun pass before spotting the two remaining A.P.V.s

  • told them to return to Deep Water Bay via Tai Hang.

Harbour was a depressing sight - sunken vessels scattered all over the place a definite menace to navigation at right.

Engine break down when off Collison - nothing serious, but engine  certainly not behaving at all well - must get it seen to on my return.  Aircraft alarm - crew to action stations - formation of nine planes approaching island from 225’.

Stopped and lay off D'Aguilla. Passed over island and disappeared    towards Lye Mun direction.

Got under way and stopped again off Round Island when 3 enemy planes sighted over Lamma.

Keeping on a course they bombed "Thracian” lying over the entrance to South Channel Aberdeen. They dropped three bombs,  one of which missed the target. Got under weigh and arrived back at base, reported to X.D.O.

1630 hours ordered to Green Island to evacuate personnel, No.

27 came along with me.

Went alongside small pier on South Side - sent party ashore to find if anyone there. Climbed to top of island to see if anyone on North side - not a sign of anybody. Returned to base and reported to  X.D.O.               Not satisfied, and ordered me to return and make absolutely  certain - little did I think that this second trip (or rather the unfortunate incident which happened) was to lead eventually to the sad loss of my boat


        During the first trip we had a fine view of the shelling of Mount Davis.             It was getting a      

        hell of a pasting - and incidentally            every fifth shell seemed to be a dud - that is 20% of        

          their ammo was    dud - an incredibly high percentage. During the second trip the

shelling increased and several were passing over Mount Davis and hitting the sea in our vicinity. Had a good look around and made sure no

one on the island. Collected several turkeys, (which we subsequently  had for supper a few days later) which were roaming about the place. Had a job getting off the pier - there was a strong tide and the wind had freshened considerably blowing strongly through the Channel.

Had to use what little stern gear left - it had little if no effect against the tide.

When I thought I was clear, gave the order hard a port ahead starboard engine - the boat swung round but the tide plus wind carried  my stern in towards the shore and the starb'd prop touched the rocks.  However, drifted clear and went ahead on all three engines hoping that what damage there was, was slight. Opened ug to 1450, but the vibration was considerable - however, no damage to the hull - probably      a bent prop. shaft which could easily be fixed in a day. It was most annoying and I was browned off by the whole incident, particularly    as I knew the second trip was unnecessary. One enemy shell landed quite close - close enough to lift the boat when it exploded.

"Thracian" asked me to investigate suspicious craft in East Lamma Channel when passing her at entrance to Aberdeen - had to refuse owing to damage.                Returned to base and reported to X.D.O. (Incidentally heard later that personnel from Green Island had been evacuated before X.D.0.'s order).

Tried to ascertain damage under water - as far as we could make out - only bent prop and shaft - however, meant lying up until No.11 was finished - before I could be hoisted. Just before evening plane came over and from only 1500 feet dropped a stick of four bombs. The first landing in the cemetery, the second in the power house at the dock gate, the third near a stack of oil drums in the dock, and the fourth on Chinese houses along the east side of the Aberdeen Yard. The second  bomb was only 70  yards away,  and  smashed  the   roof of the Power house (reinforced concrete job) and damaged the engine. the blast shattered the work shops all around the dock, but fortunately where I was - and the boat - we were low down below ground level -

we were unaffected.

The third bomb set the oil drums alight, and they soon started burning with gusto. There was quite a strong wind blowing which fanned the flames with sparks flying everywhere. I got my crew together and we worked 08 out of the dock and with the help of an A.P.V. ( I think the "Parla") towed her out to mid stream. After half an hour the fire was under control and we moved back to the dock.

No more excitement that night and so ends quite a hectic day or the sixth day of the war.

What next? So ends the sixth day.

7th DAY    l4th December 1941

Felt refreshed after several hours sleep.

Spend morning ascertaining damage seems certain only bent

prop and possibly shaft, however, can't do anything until No.11 comes   off the slip. Most annoying a sheer waste of time.

Went up to the office and had tiffin in the school. Not very good - they don't seem keen to dish out too much food - why!? God only knows - the storeroom is crammed full of the stuff.

Just before sunset, enemy plane diving low over the dock dropped a  bomb which landed in the boat yard on the West side oi Aberdeen dock -Immediately setting a junk on fire, which burned for some quite considerable time. At the time we had five boats lying all together at the end of the dock – (they were just about to move out as striking  force).

Everyone was handy and in no time all suns were blazing away at the plane. We were certain the bullets were going into him - one could follow the tracers right into the plane. He seemed to wobble and lose altitude disappearing over Applichau in a South Easterly direction when we lost sight of him.

Later that night it was reported that an enemy plane was seen  to crash in our vicinity. One up to the M.T.B.'s!

We claimed having got him (subsequently there seemed to be some  doubt as to whether a plane had been seen to crash - I was never able  to get anything definite on this).

The C.O. gave me leave for the night so that I could get away  and see my wife. She and the baby were often in my thoughts these days, and occasionally I had been able to phone through to her and hear all was well.

Tommy was given leave too, and very Kindly gave me a lift in his father's car as far as Magazine Gap. (His father was driving).

Dropped into the house - found the boy there very worried and wondering what it was all about. Called at the War Memorial Hospital and found out Evelyn was staying in the Government Flats just a few blocks away.

At last found her - full of life and very cheery. Had a fine supper - felt very embarrassed among so many women however the dim lights he1ped no end .

They were all most anxious to know how the war was going - I of course could not tell them anything - except to reassure one and all that everything was going along fine.

Stanley was shelling the mainland that night and the whine of the shel1s as they passed over The Peak was most eerie.


Had a grand night. Sleep followed by a hot bath - and fully    refreshed- said good bye and returned to the base.

I was most surprised at the cheeriness of our women folk - key were having a pretty nasty job - a job some of them had never had to do before - and they were doing it 100% plus. Later on they  were right in the front line so to speak and put up a fine show - there was nothing but praise for the fine work done by the A.N.S. and V.A.D.s.

so ends the seventh day

8th DAY 15th December 1941

Some sad news this morning. “Thracian" ran aground during the night and damaged her stern - necessitating docking. They are preparing to move her into the dock here at Aberdeen.

Still waiting patiently for No. 11 to come off the slip - this waiting is most annoying. She may be off this evening l am told.

I don’t like the idea  of  "Thracian"  coming  here  -  The  enemy are  bound  to  blitz   the dock as soon   as they have spotted  her.  I wish they would get a move on with No. l1, the sooner I get fixed  up and away the better.

Went onboard "Thracian" after dark and had a couple of drinks.

All seem very fed up- and expect a few bombs around tomorrow. Turned

in early but- spent a restless night.

So ends the eighth day.

9th DAY l6th December 1941

Up early the dawn promised a beautiful day - not a cloud in the sky. Spent morning in the office - heard from the E.O. No. l1 due off the slip about noon, so pushed off down to the dock to prepare for hoisting. Finally hoisted about l p.m. - inspected damage with E.O. - bent propeller shaft - shouldn't take long - on

the slip for a day should do the trick. E.O. pushed off to tiffin and I likewise having mine in the shelter - we had decided that with “Thracian” in dock it would be a wise move.

 While eating heard planes about, but they flew off (apparently dropping pamphlets) about 10 minutes later they were back again, and then there was one succession of terrific explosions - the Shelter filled with dust and smoke.

Those near the entrance lifted off their feet by the force of the explosions. The place was soon overcrowded as people rushed in after  the first bombs started falling, making it almost impossible to move. At last shoved my way through and arrived at the steps just in time to give a hand with the wounded, some were pretty badly knocked about,  poor chaps. I finally got outside to be met by my stoker who told me that O8 had been hit (he was under the boat at the time and miraculously    escaped injury) and was on fire.

By the time I got to the boat she was burning fiercely, with flames shooting out of the conning tower. Hopeless to try and put it out with an extinguisher, to get the dock mobile fire pumps working as soon as possible was the only thing to do. I ran back to the shelter to telephone the school for fire fighting appliances alas to find the phone out of order. What to do next! I  had to make  a quick decision. Spotted a car at the dock gates and jumping in left word to my cox'n to keep an eye on the boat while I drove up to the school for help.

Reported to Cdr. Miller who arranged for fire fighting appliance  and ambulance, which were sent down to the dock immediately. Cdr. Miller told me to remain so that I could give an account of the bombing  direct to Commodore by telephone, which I did. Cdr. Miller asked for more details, I told him as much as I knew of what happened and returned to the Yard. Met my Cox'n outside the dock, on his way to the school. He told me that he and all persons not on the pumps had been ordered out of the dock by S.N.O.A. (Cdr. Montague). I asked him how 08 was, and he to1d me she was burning fiercely and looked a total loss. Of all the things to happen! Decided to see the C.O. and report the sad news. Took me half an hour to get out to No. 10 lying in South Channel, only to find he had left in the skimmer. Returned to the school where I met Lt. Cdr. Binney and we both pushed off down to the dock. By this time 08 was almost burnt out - she was a mass of charred wood and metal. So ended the  life of O8 - a very sad ending - I felt her loss badly and really found it hard to believe she was no more. A ship no matter what she be - if one's own or one has been in command, becomes very dear  to one, and the loss of my boat was like losing my best friend or relative.

So ended a miserable  day ( for me at least ) .                     What    next!

Tried to drown my sorrows in a few drinks that night - what's  the use anyway.

10th DAY 17th December 19 41

Took over the "French" on orders from my C.O. and S.N.O.A. Fueled, checked engines and had her all ready.

Received orders during the night to be ready to proceed to Round   Island at 0900 hours to embark Capt. and Salvage party from "Thracian"   (it was decided after yesterday's bombing to move her out of the dock) which had been beached there. Carried out this order successfully returning to base.

Rest of day spent in office. When at base took over duties as Base M.T.B. Officer. This entailed routine work in the office, together with liaison between Captains, E.O., Com. Gun T, Dockyard personnel etc. Did not enjoy it but at least kept me busy. Surprising  the amount of work. Enemy activity and shelling on the Northern side of the island increasing.

Slept in boat.

So ended a comparatively quiet day. Thank God for a good night's   rest. Also found time for a shower.

11th  DAY - 18th December 1941

Had breakfast at the school - a very poor one (why this reluctance to use of food stores when there is so much of the stuff - God only knows). Embarked Cdr. Peers and Salvage party and went out to “Thracian

Remained there for over 3 hours - while party stripped guns, torpedo tubes etc. Ready for “Barlight” to take off at night. Expected to be bombed at any moment. Subsequently heavily bombed about 2 in the afternoon - just 1.5 hours after we had left. Returned to  base at 1230 hours.

Had miserable lunch in the school (if this goes on will arrange    to have my meals in one of the boats). In the afternoon proceeded to “Cicala” in Deep Water Bay - with

Boldero  —  who  relieved Cdr . G'reer   (who  assumed temporary command )

- returned to base. Several aircraft about. Heavy shelling and bombing off the North shore in vicinity of North Point and Tai Koo.


12TH DAY - l9th December 1941

During the night the enemy landed on the island - at North Point (in what strength it is too early yet to know). There is quite a racket going on at the North side of the island. A column of black smoke lying like a pall over Causeway Bay and extending gradually towards the West in the direction of the City. (I heard later the

A.P.C. fuel tanks had been hit at North Point) apparently with the object of giving their troops cover when landing along the foreshore. clever.

Onboard        “Robin" with several M.T.B.'s alongside.

Signal has just come in from Commodore - "M.T.B.'s to intercept and attack enemy landing craft- — return to base after all   ammo used up”.

No.  7 and 9 were the first in, followed short ly by 11 , l2 and 26 and later stilI by 10 and 27.

No 7 and 9 returned - 9 got away unscathed but 7 was quite badly  knocked about and almost in a sinking condition - two of her crew were killed.

Later, No. 11 returned, little damage, but the cox'n wounded

(a Machine Gun bullet passing clean through his throat but fortunately    missed all vital areas).

No. 12 and 26 never returned, both being badly shot up, and No. 12, after being hit on her C. Tower by a shell, burst into flames  and crashed into the wall along Chatham Road. Nothing about 26 and nobody seems to know how she met her end.

No. 10 and 27 did not take part.

Undoubtedly 7 and 9 were lucky to be the first - they got in a surprise attack - but the following boats had a tougher job, the  enemy were waiting this time.

In this show we lost two boats 4 officers and 14 men - heavy casualties. It was a fine effort on the part of the Flotilla, but I feel rather wasted and should have been unnecessary - a few mobile guns would have done far more damage.

One doesn't think much of the army after a show like this.

A great pity we did not attack at night.

After all, night work should really be our job. (I heard later that the reason why Commodore would not send in the M.T.B.'s at night was because of the sunken ships and wreckage in the harbour - a justifiable reason I must agree, it would have been highly dangerous   from a navigational point of view).

Why didn't the Army have their guns, every one of them if necessary, blazing away at the landing boats as they came across the harbour?

  • as it was, it was just fantastic - the enemy were virtually running  a ferry service and apart from the M.T.B.'s no one was doing a damn   thing about it.

l3th  DAY - 20th December 1941

The tempo of the enemy’s offensive is increasing - air activity  considerable, Jubilee and Mount Davis seem to be getting it. Spent morning at the office - rumours coming in thick and fast. The enemy,   it appears, have landed considerable reinforcements and are advancing somewhere near Wong Nei Cheong, also they seem to have infiltrated near Tai Tam.

Had a very unpleasant task to carry out this morning - digging     a grave and reading a short burial service for two of our lads who were killed in No. 7 during the attack yesterday. Most depressing but someone had to do it. In the afternoon I drove three severely wounded Chinese to the Queen Mary Hospital. I borrowed an Austin 10 for the job - it was quite an exciting ride - as enemy planes were bombing in the vicinity of Pokfulum Road - the road was in a hell of a mess

    • bomb craters, telegraph wires down and trailing all over the place.  Handed over my passengers - it must have been agony for them at every jar and bump - and there were many during that short ride - but not a murmur from one of them. Returned to the office. Slept in the school during the night. How I am beginning to loathe the school
    • the place is just one jumble of humanity, men and officers coming and going - no one seems to know what is happening. I am going to  ask the C.O. if I can join one of the boats tomorrow, anything to get out of this place. Had a very disturbed night - had at least three “stand to's” because the enemy had been reported advancing along the road towards the building.                                         
    • Did sentry duty for two hours - outside
    • a really ridiculous situation - there I was armed with a revolver
    • with no shelter - standing out in the open. If enemy troops were          about I should have been killed long before I could have been able to raise the alarm.

14th DAY 21st December 1941

Busy morning - lousy breakfast - this holding back on food is ridiculous. Heavy bombing and shelling by the enemy — he is now shelling the Aberdeen area   — from the   direction of   Wong  Nei Cheong.  I hear he has advanced to the heights flanking both sides of Wong Nei Cheong - also he has got into the Repulse Bay area - if that is   the case, Stanley will be cut off.

Just received order to take "French" out to East Lamma Channel   and rescue crew of "Cicala" which is sinking from hits received from    enemy bombing planes. I hope John is O.K. - so at last "Cicala" succumbs to the enemy - well she put up a fine show.

Just left the pier when No. 10 returned with last of "Cicala's" personnel, so returned.

Casualties very small - 1 killed two wounded. 1st Lieut. of No. 10 wounded in the leg by shrapnel. Told by C.O. to join No. 10 as 1st. Lieut.- marvelous - how I have been longing to get back into a boat again.

Hear John is alright but sent off to hospital.

1st. Lieut. of 10 fortunately not badly wounded. Handed over keys etc. of "French" to S. N. O.A. and reported her in good running condition. My crew victualled in the school. The C.O. very kindly gave me leave for the night, so that I could go along and see my wife. I borrowed an old Morris Minor and after a very rough ride (on two flat tyres) eventually reached Queen's Gardens - leaving the car there,  I prepared for a stiff climb up the Peak Road. Heavy Shelling of Top Peak Tram Station and Barker Road. Lay under a nullah until

the shelling ceased. Met some of our troops who warned me not to

go on as they believed enemy troops were about - however, decided to risk it - eventually reached the War Memorial Hospital. Amazed at the destruction around. Heard from Evelyn that they had been having a rough time of it the last two days. Saw the youngster. doing fine, had a good meal and slept in the hospital. Returned to base - had a bite of breakfast in town on the way back. Called in the Queen Mary, saw John and Alec M - 1eft message from his wife.

15th DAY 22nd December 194 I

Aberdeen is a warm spot these days – the enemy has increased his shelling - it is out of the question to move about the harbour

  • our boats lie on the South side of Applichau and in Waterfall Bay during daylight.

Returned late in the morning - feel much happier after having seen my family - Evelyn was in good spirits and doing a fine job of work. The little one thank God is too young to know anything of what is happening. Relieved to see all the babies at Matilda in good

spirits and in a safe place.

Bit of a wrench saying goodbye perhaps the last time I shall see them for a long time.

Had tiffin in No. 10 - in the afternoon loaded ammunition from

T. Pier and took it to Stanley. Loaded again at 7 p.m. with more which we safely delivered - we were fired on by enemy but no casualties. Had hectic time loading alongside T. Pier - enemy opened up with long range mortars - had to take shelter - several near misses - only casualties - three ducks - which the crew promptly had cooked and we had an excellent roast duck supper.

Moved out to sea and took up patrol area as striking force. Quiet night and returned to base at dawn. C.O. went ashore - while I took over and refueled etc.

So ends the l5th day.

l6th DAY 23rd December 194 l

The war is reaching a climax - there is no doubt the enemy are closing in, the situation looks bad. Some talk of the Flotilla doing a flip. Nice thought for the rest of our chaps - but a very difficult    decision for me to make. Somehow can't bring myself to go away and leave my wife and child behind. Wish I could make up my mind - however, have decided I shall leave it till the very last moment anything may happen.

Unable to use Aberdeen harbour now – enemy dominate it completely with their guns up on Cameron and near Wong Nei Cheong. Not much doing during the day - just remain close in shore under cover of Applichau, ought to be able to move into the dock during dark. Moved into Aberdeen after sunset and went up to the school with C.O. Might make trip in 27 tonight- special job - awaiting orders from X.S.0.

Nothing came of it, instead went to sea in 10 as striking force.    Patrolled but quiet night returned at dawn. Refueled and lay South of Applichau.

17th DAY 24th December 1941

Don't know what is going on - we are completely cut off from the land fighting - and our only means of communication is by W/T. Enemy aircraft active - particularly over Mt. Davis and Pokfulum.

We can only conjecture, the general feeling is that the situation looks ominous - we are busy preparing for a flip when the time comes.  I hope my crew are keeping in touch. It's very difficult to get into communication with them.

Might be able to do something tonight. All codes, C.B.'s etc. destroyed (just using simple one now). M.T.B.'s and "Robin" appear to be the only craft afloat now - the rest, "Tern", A.P.V.'s have all been scuttled. A pity. Have yet to make up my mind (re going). The temptation to go is very strong and I know one's duty - but in this case there are several reasons which counter that.

It will be very hard to have to leave my dear wife and child behind virtually in the hands of the enemy, while I am away and unable  to know what has happened - it will be a terrible weight on my mind.

There is my crew also - if they are left I think I shall remain, anyway I am still hanging on - and will reserve my final decision until the final order comes through. Must have a word with my C.O. and see what he thinks.

No luck tonight, unable to get to Aberdeen - remained in Waterfall  Bay as Striking Force.

Night passed without mishap and returned to South Applichau at dawn. Dispositions 10, 11, 27 South Applichau. 09, 07 at Waterfall Bay.

Just remembered it is Christmas Eve.


18th DAY —25th December 1941

Christmas Day - and what a day - no rejoicing for us.

Received a nice present from Santa Claus in the form of a stick  of bombs. 3 boats, 11, 27 and 10 - we were lying close in shore off the South side of Applichau eating a good breakfast, when suddenly, without warning, we heard the familiar swish of falling bombs - followed by heavy crumps as they struck the hill side and beach.     

No damage to the boats but considerable debris fell onboard.  A very grim morning. We dare not move - from our anchorage

     nothing coming over the air - it's just a case of wait and see.

      Had a talk with the C.O. after tiffin and decided to stay. He agreed with my decision and told me afterwards that he considered   I did the right thing in choosing to remain.

A very worrying day for me - thinking about the outcome of this  show - and about my crew, Evelyn and Dorothy. There is no way to get in touch with them.

It is 1530 hours and an ominous quiet prevails.  Signal came

through — to go.



Book type
Diary / Memoir
Dates of events covered by this document

Sample pages

The enemy attacked at dawn. I was awakened by the sharp ringing  of the telephone, and on answering heard the familiar voice of the duty officer, telling me to report to base at earliest opportunity.

After a hurried breakfast I kissed Evelyn and our darling Dorothy goodbye and left the house as if nothing unusual had taken place. I thought it was the best way. Walking from the lower tram station to Blake Pier, the quiet of early morning was rudely shattered by the screech of the air…

Busy morning — refuelling, checking engines, depth charges, torpedoes,   bilges,  ammunition. Made arrangements for collecting rations from base food store. Two air raids in vicinity during  morning.

Two casualties brought in by 26 from “Indira“. Obtained paint from dockyard, finished up with effective camouflage using combination  of browns, greens and yellows plus some old fishing nets.

Enemy opened up dive bombing attack on vessels in Aberdeen Harbour.

Few casualties…

The weather is fine  and clear,  more helpfuI  to the enemy than us. His air force so far has only operated during the day. No naval craft reported so far. 

Managed to get a bath in one of the craft in dock, followed by  a good breakfast.

Left 1st. Lieut. in charge with instructions to check engines, ammo, guns, D.C.s and torpedoes etc. while I pushed off to the office  to see what was doing.

Discussed various points with C.O. and Captain, re efficiency of Flotilla etc…


Thank you for this insightful memoir. My husband's Aunt and Uncle were in HK at the time of the invasion. Charles (Medley), a young Canadian from Victoria BC, was a member of the Hong Kong Marine Police. Both were interned at Stanley, and we heard many interesting (and frightening tales) about this time in history  

In reading so many memoirs from that very difficult time, we have often happened upon the term "tiffin". We speculated that this meant "lunch" or "snack", but were fascinated when we happened upon this (very thorough) article.