5 Jan 1942, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp

Submitted by brian edgar on Wed, 01/11/2012 - 00:43

Between 1000 and 1500 civilians gather at the Murray Parade Ground.

A number of people living in outlying areas are not present because news of the order never reached them, while others decide to risk ignoring it.


After chaotic scenes, most of those present are marched off to low quality hotels on the waterfront where they will be kept for more than two weeks. Historian Oliver Lindsay writes:

This 'accommodation' was chosen by the Japanese with a view to destroying what little remained of British 'face' or prestige.

Similar thoughts seem to have gone through the minds of some people on the day. American missionary John Bechtel and his party are drawn up in front of a 'dreary-looking, red-brick, five-story structure' - the Ta Kwan (Tai Koon) Hotel.

A 'wave of indignation' passes along the line as it's realised they're going to be confined in such a 'disreputable' building. With so many 'European-styled' hotels in town, why confine them in what most of them believe is a 'Chinese brothel'? They stumble up the 'narrow, gloomy, dirty, dusty staircase' but are told on the first floor landing there's no room and they must go higher. After finding their rooms, they're so unhappy with them they ask if they can go to a still higher storey, but they're told that all floors are the same, and on the fourth floor are Germans who've been billetted there even though they're allies of the Japanese (they have, though, been given passes so they can enter and leave freely).


Wenzell Brown is in the South Asia Hotel:

This had been a waterfront brothel before the war....

The six of us were taken up the stairs and led into a room. It had no windows and there were no lights. It was about seven feet long and six feet wide and contained one bed....A trickle of water seeped into the room at one corner. I explored and found the toilets adjoined the room. The water supply had broken down long ago. Well water had been thrown into the toilets and had spread out over the floor. Already the odour was sickening, and it would get steadily worse.


John Stericker is in Room 312 of the Tung Fong Hotel:

(W)e drew up at a gloomy and decadent looking building that called itself a hotel. It had been part brothel, part boarding house for impoverished seamen and the employees of the chicken boats. Into this miserable hovel, devoid of all light and ordinary amenities, one hundred and fifty 'hotel guests' continued marching...four people slept on one bed seventy-two inches by thirty-six.

At the top of the staircase was a small opening to the outer air and a railed passage led to the dirtiest water-closets it is possible to imagine. There were two of them for one hundred and fifty of us...

On the floor below was the kitchen. This was almost as unsavoury as the lavatories. Its walls were black with soot.


The bankers are divided into groups: those who are needed to help with the liquidation of their own banks are sent to the Sun Wah Hotel, the rest to the Nam Ping Hotel.


Numbers: John Stericker, A Tear For The Dragon, 1958 142-143

This 'accommodation': Oliver Lindsay, At The Going Down of the Sun, 1981, 34

Bechtel: John Bechtel, Fetters Fall, 1945, 166-167, 169

Brown: Wenzell Brown, Hong Kong Aftermath, 1943, 54-55

Bankers: Frank King, History of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Volume 3, 1988, 573

Note: How many of those who were sent to Stanley were in the hotels?

The two weeks or so in the squalid and sometimes rat-infested hotels on the waterfront were possibly the worst part of the captivity as far as discomfort and privation went, so it's worth trying to establish roughly how many of the soon-to-be-internees experienced it.

1) Let's start with the middle figure of Stericker's range for those on the Murray Parade Ground: 1250.

2) As Barbara Anslow's diary shows, some people were already in hotels.

3) On January 6 the police were added, as were a number of those who'd been sent away on the first day (see tomorrow's entry).

4) Conditions in the Kowloon Hotel were similar to those on the waterfront, and the escaper R. B. Levkovich estimated that about 400 people ended up there, including those captured at the Repulse Bay Hotel and well-known Hong Kong 'character' Edward Gingle and his party. However, by no means all of these people were sent to Stanley, and there are much lower estimates - I think 200 would be a reasonable guess putting them all together

5) Staff-Sergeant Sheridan's Memoir suggests that Lane, Crawford staff were taken from the Exchange Building at some point after January 9 - this suggests that the Japanese carried out 'sweeping up' operations after the bulk of those they wished to confine were already in the hotels.

6) Many or most of the medical staff seem to have stayed in their institutions unless and until the Japanese wanted to take them over, when they were typically sent to another institution or straight into Stanley after it was set up.

7) Groups of people on the Peak went straight into Stanley, as did most of the employees of Hong Kong University who remained on Campus. 

8) I'm aware of a number of smaller groups who avoided the hotels and I'm sure there are many groups, large and small, I'm not aware of. One group worth mentioning is those in the North Point Camp/French Hospital - about 100 people who experienced conditions similar in some ways to those in the hotels.

In summary: my best estimate at the moment is that between 1500 and 2000 people were in the hotels, either on the waterfront or in Kowloon. That's about 60% of the total, and a quick run through of internee memoirs on my shelves comes up with the same figure - about 60% were written by people who were in one or other of the hotels.

Date(s) of events described


William Anderson - later the Quartermaster of Stanley Camp - stated that there 1630 people interned in the hotels. This figure was verified by the Japanese when they presented a bill on February 28 - $12,930-60 for boarding fees for the 'guests'.

  W. J. Anderson, ‘In The Matter Of War Crimes And Atrocities’, British National Archives.