War Correspondent Has Thrilling Experiences - By William Stewart, Canadian Press War Correspondent
Daitak (sic) Airfield, Kowloon, China, 1 September 1945 (CP Cable)
With Lieut. Peter Morris of Stratford, Eng., and Sub-Lt. Nigel Glendenning, of Edinburgh, I spent a nervous hour and a half in the Japanese Kytak (sic) Airfield last Wednesday (29 August) when our aircraft had burst a tire during its landing.
I was in one of a pair of Avengers which flew to Kowloon to pick up Douglas Craven, a liberated prisoner of the Japanese and a person only identified as "One Hour" but who turned out to be a Japanese envoy.
As it was with the crews of the two planes which landed and the four Hell Cats which flew as a protective cover, it was the luck of a draw for places that gave me a spot in the observer's cockpit for the trip from the deck of the British carrier Indomitable to Kytak.
We touched down at 5:10 p.m. guided by the smoke of fires, and spotted our flat tire as we came to a stop before a Japanese lieutenant, who greeted us in English, and 14 unarmed Japanese ground crew.
While Lieut. Morris conferred with Lt. Cmdr. William Steward, pilot of the first Avenger, and Lieut. Glendenning took pictures holding his camera in one hand and a tommy-gun in the other, I worried about the Japanese who poked curiously about our plane.
The airfield was deserted of Japanese operational aircraft, though the wrecks of perhaps a dozen enemy planes were scattered around the field's perimeter. At intervals of about a 100 yards about the perimeter there were Japanese patrolling with rifles and fixed bayonets.
The airfield had an abandoned look about it and we could see little activity at Hong Kong (Island) across the harbour. Smoke was coming from a big industrial building at the water's edge but little traffic could be seen.
Craven and the Japanese envoy strapped on Mae Wests before boarding Lt. Cmdr. Steward's plane and started on their trip back to the Indomitable within a few minutes. Steward decided to have the carrier send another Avenger to the airfield with a new wheel and tire, though Lieut Morris was willing to chance a take-off and deck-landing with the flat wheel because it was getting late.
When Lt. Cmdr. Steward and his party took off, Morris, Glendenning and I were left here with the Japanese. A Japanese lieutenant offered us ice-cold lemonade which was served by an orderly who brought the tray of lemonade and glasses from a camouflaged administration building about a quarter mile away.
Some of the Japanese ground crew drove off in one of two American model automobiles at the field to get a jack which they brought in about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, we talked to the lieutenant about the bombing of Hong Kong and the location of prison camps and the condition of prisoners about which he said he knew nothing.
We smoked Japanese and English cigarettes and asked about Hong Kong which the lieutenant said was about the same during peace-time. As a black cloud started to gather over the hills surrounding the airfield, we discussed spending the night at Hong Kong.
I decided if we were to stay the night at Hong Kong, I would ask to be taken to the prison camp to stay with the Canadians who would be as glad to see me as I would to see them.
With more than a dozen Japanese helping, the plane's right wheel was jacked up, but it was not high enough to remove the wheel. Just about that time, four Hell Cats appeared over Hong Kong Island followed by an Avenger.
The Avenger and one Hell Cat landed while the other three stayed overhead. Po. John Turner from the Indomitable, hatless, and wearing blue overalls which contrasted with the neat Japanese uniforms, came walking over rolling a wheel and carrying a jack and other tools.
During the half-hour it took to change the wheel the weather began to look worse and when we climbed aboard at 6:55 p.m. it was raining. But there was still a good size gap under the black ceiling at the North entrance of the harbour for which we headed as soon as we got off the ground.
The flight back, at just above the wave-tops, took little more than 15 minutes altogether and visibility was sometimes extremely short. But we had no trouble in finding the fleet and though the Indomitable flight deck looked like a postage stamp as we approached, there would be no more welcome sight.
(SCMP 28 August 1996 - Commander Douglas Hugh Craven was the senior British naval officer in Hong Kong during World War II. He was taken prisoner when Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese in 1941. Post-war he resigned from the Navy and emigrated with his family to Canada where he joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and taught navigation at Royal Roads Military College. Craven passed away on 15 August 1996, aged 94.)