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First entry

[Right page] Mrs Grace… Left my home… Dec 8th when… broke out…sent up…Peak…on the 12th …

Stayed there…Jan. 24th…was then [sent to (?)] Stanley… Chan [was sent (?)] away in… so I was [left]… all alone…

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Diary - pages 7-8

[Left page] Was carried down in a chair by Captain Basham, Mr Crofton [?] and his [?] son. They said I looked like the Queen of Sheba. Met with very kind people and settled in comfort. Thank God for that.

[Right page] 8th October 194[2]

Food very tight. My weight has gone down to 114 pounds.

Here are a few of the prices:

Duck eggs $2.00 [illegible]
Sugar $4.00 a [pound?]
Margarine$8.60 per [illegible]
Tea $10.00 per pound
/XL Jam 12 ozs $7.20
Butter $
No fat at all to be got Dripping $16.00 per [packet?]

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Diary - pages 13-14

[Left page] A Long Lapse:

12th Feb 1943

Long lapse since I last wrote. Went into hospital 10 days before Xmas. Came out 14th Jan.
Another bad dose of dysentery which left me very weak. Food very scarce and I am always
hungry. Continually…

[Right page] …dreaming about cold ham. Red Cross allowing us ¥20 a month. Have received ¥15
other ¥5 still to come. Prices in canteen exorbitant:
¼ margarine ¥2.40
Sugar ½ lb ¥1.05
Jam 12 oz ¥1.70
Money does not go far.

My grandparents came from Taishan/Toishan  (台山), a region on the southern coast of Guangdong province of China and about 140 kilometres west of Hong Kong.  Both the two words above refer to the same region, and Toishan’s English pronunciation is closer to how the people there call their home.  Some of the villages and towns in their time no longer appear in today’s maps after they became a part of a large municipal entity. 

When in their home town, my grandparents spoke Taishanese -  a safe guess since I was not yet born.  After they moved to Hong Kong, they continued to speak the Taishan dialect.

During my time in Kong Kong, I lived with Grandparents Chan in their rental flat in Sham Shui Po.   Stepping outside our home, I found people around us spoke Cantonese which was, and still is, the most commonly spoken dialect in Hong Kong.  So, learning both dialects was a natural process.


2.1 Grandparents (Maternal) On Mother’s Side

Grandpa* Chan /  陳凙雲 CHAN Chak Wan (1898-1966).  Ah Gong in Taishanese.
Grandma* Chan- 麥翠亭 MARK Chu Ting (1898 – 1978).  Ah Po in Taishanese.

1A  Grandparents CHAN (mother's side).jpg
Photo 1A Grandparents CHAN (mother's side)

Their home town -  廣州省 台山 斗山 江華村 Guangdong Province, Taishan, Doushanzhen, Jiangning, Gong Wah Village.

They moved to Hong Kong sometime in the 1930s. Grandma was fluent in her Taishan dialect, and skillful in her writing which was exceptional at the time when most women did not have access to education.  Her writing ability enabled her to write letters in Chinese for friends and neighbours who could not.

Grandpa worked as an accountant in an import-export company 英盛隆 (Yin Sing Lung) at 83 Connaught Road West, First Floor (Level 2), a job he held until his death in 1966.  To go to work, he took a rickshaw from where he lived (Ki Lung Street) to the Sham Shui Po ferry pier at Pei Ho Street and Tung Chau Street junction.  After landing on the Hong Kong side, it was a short walk to the office.

Central, Connaught Road Waterfront
Photo 2   Hong Kong Waterfront - Junks Carrying Goods (1957)  Source: Andrew Suddaby ​​​​​​​


Like grandma, grandpa was also well-educated, and his writing using the traditional Chinese brush-pen demonstrated exceptional penmanship.  I was impressed one day when I visited him and saw him recording the shipments of goods going out and coming in, the payments, all in Chinese.   He worked six days a week to verify the accuracy of goods shipment, and often came home late. 

2.2 Grand-Parents (Paternal) On Father’s Side

Grandpa Yee -  余淙和 / YEE Dong Woo (1892-1952).  Ah-Yah in Taishanese.
Grandma Yee -   甄裕秀 / YAN Yee Sou  (1894-1963).  Ah-Ngin in Taishanese.

1B  Grandparents YEE (father's).jpg
Photo 1B Grandparents YEE (father's side)

Their home town - 廣州省  台山  荻 海  北山村  Guangdong Province, Huohai, Beishan Village, Taishan County (now part of Kaiping), on the south shore of Tanjiang River in Kaiping just west of Sanbu Residential District. 

3   Beishan Village, Kaiping, Guangdong - Entrance (1991)
Photo 3 Beishan Village, Kaiping, Guangdong - Entrance (1991)


4   Beishan Village, Kaiping, Guangdong - Farms (1991)
Photo 4 Beishan Village, Kaiping, Guangdong - Farms (1991)


When he was a young man, grandpa went to Saskatchewan, Canada to work, which was common that time for young men in the Taishan region.  Grandpa must have worked and saved hard, for he sent enough money home to support his wife (my grandma), their children one of them my father and father's attendance at university in Guangzhou.  His savings also enabled grandma to buy a house in Guangzhou where he planned to live in his retirement.

Grandma grew up in an era when people had/followed different ideals and cultures. She had bound feet and had very little education.  To help her with house chores – cooking, laundry and site maintenance,  she had a young assistant living at the house, and we called her by her given name Yeu San.   Some of these servants were orphans and I believe it was also true for her.  She stayed with grandma until the latter left Guangzhou for Hong Kong in 1953.  When she became an adult, she started her own family and eventually they also moved to Hong Kong.

Grandpa passed away in 1952 in Canada.  I never met him but perhaps he had, on one of his  home visits, patted me on the head when I was a baby.   Here, I pay tribute to his courage and foresight going alone to a foreign place to work to support his family.

Mother -  陳玉屏 / CHAN Yuk Ping / Lena Yee (1922-2003) "Ma Ma"
Father – 余欽美 / YEE Ham Mee (1915-2008), Ham in Taishanese dialect "Ba Ba"


Maryknoll-C1937- Gathering of Primary School Classmates
Photo 5   Mother And Her Classmates (1937)​​​​​​​

Mother (first on the left, standing) and her classmates and teachers.  Mother has started her schooling at the new Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong.  The girls in different uniform continued their schooling in Chinese school.


6   Parents (1954)
Photo 6 Parents (1954)

My parents were born in their respective home villages.  My mother and her parents moved to Hong Kong when she was young.  She attended Chinese primary school and next Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  Because most subjects at Maryknoll were taught in English, she became fluent with the English language.  She also attended classes at other institutions about human health.  I remember her giving injections to grandparents when they got sick.   In those days, people believed, and I think it is true, that injections cured the sick faster than oral medicine.  Luckily, I escaped her needles.

My father completed his university education in January 1943  at Kwong Tung Kuo Min University in Licki Wan, Canton (Guangzhou), major in Political Science.  Licki Wan does not show in today's map but the present Liwan District might have been at one time called Licki Wan.  While his main subject would later earn him a civil servant job with the provincial government, his main interests were also Chinese history, literature and poems.  In later years, ball-room dancing was added to his list of interests.

Father passed away in 2008.   By his bedside was a photo of him and mother at Hong Kong's Royal Botanical Garden.

Botanical Gardens 1940
Photo 7  Parents at Hong Kong Royal Botanical Garden (c. 1941)​​​​​​​

He also kept several books close to him.  One of them was 300 Tang Poems / 唐詩三百首 - a collection of 300 popular poems from the Tang Dynasty.  

Another book was a collection of quotes and phrases about how we govern ourselves as individual, as parents, when dealing with friends and neighbours, in business.  One chapter is about governance - how government works, its relations with citizens, the good and the bad, how to earn trust and support from citizens, why some governments succeed and others fail.  This book (or similar books) is a good read regardless of time and place.    

8  Father's Two Favourite Books
Photo 8 Father's Two Favourite Books

We learn from our parents at some point in time when and where we were born.  In my case, I learned about it in 1950, one year after our family moved from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  There wasn’t much space for this active five-year old boy to play in grandparents flat.  But I made the most of it.  When father heard me playing, he would say “你 個 馬 壩 仔! (You Maba baby!)”  I could see his smiling face and sense of relief.  Mom didn’t say anything, perhaps father’s words had already covered it, not until many years later.  

I had no idea where Maba was.  We children were not encouraged to be inquisitive.  One thing is certain – they never told us children about WWII and the subsequent civil war.  It was their decision, I believe, to not burden us children with the memories of those horrible years.

From over-hearing their conversations with relatives, I learned about their wartime evacuation.  One day,  my uncle (to be precise, my grandpa Yee's younger brother’s son*) and mother were talking about them running from advancing Japanese soldiers.  Mom said she was lucky and thankful of his loud warning “Auntie, duck down quick!”, for bullets from the invaders were flying just above them.  Some relatives reached Shaoguan / 韶關, which was made temporary provincial capital during the war.  Mother, carrying me at the time, travelled not as fast or as far.   It was in a refugee camp in Maba where I was born, on November 9, 1944.   Maba is located, in flying distance, about 270 kilometres north of Hong Kong.  It must have been a very long and difficult journey using primitive roads and trails in those days.

*Uncle Joe Yee, first on right of photo.  Mother third from right.

Relatives in Kamsack, SK (1968)
Relatives in Kamsack, SK (1968), by OldTimer

After WWII, our evacuation ended and we returned to the Guangzhou house.  Father started his civil servant job in the provincial government.  His work took him to many places to meet with local authorities.  Every time he travelled, he carried a declaration issued by his superior.  The declaration stated that he is on government business, and that no inspection of his luggage contents is necessary.  Later, I learned the reason why.  For his protection and safety, he carried a hand gun, so that paper made going through local police check point a simple process.

9  My Earliest Photo, Guangzhou - Front Left (1946)
Photo 9   My Earliest Photo, Guangzhou  (1946) Peter (left front)
​​​​​​​with sister, parents and Grandma Yee​​​​​​​


I lived in our Guangzhou home about the first four years of my life.  It was at 23 錦 榮街 / Gum Wing Street, and was several minutes walk from the current site of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Memorial Hall / 中山紀念堂.  The 3-storey building was made of concrete, and our home was on the ground floor with a yard with a flower garden and a detached kitchen.  There was a large iron gate wide enough for a car to drive through although they did not have a car.   Levels 2 and 3 each had two flats rented out to tenants.

As a young boy, I ventured out to play with other children.  I walked through a quiet neighbourhood with single houses on large lots similar to the atmosphere of the 1950s Kowloon Tong estate in Hong Kong.  Next, I walked through rice paddies to join with my friends.   Grandma was assisted by her daughter (my aunt) and subsequently her grandson in managing the property.

Seventy years have passed, and the area is now part of a dense busy metropolis.  Tall buildings  are everywhere, and amazingly, our three-level former home remains standing but I don’t know for how much longer.

The year 1949 was a pivotal point for China and by extension my family.  The civil war on the mainland had ended and this time my parents needed to make another decision.  Father kept this education and some work papers for memory's sake, and left his civil servant job.  Next, the whole family including me and my two sisters took a ferry to Hong Kong.  I was four years old at the time.  Grandma Yee stayed behind in Guangzhou and would join us in Hong Kong in 1953.

After our ship reached in Hong Kong, we stayed several days at Grandpa Chan's work office on Connaught Road West.  There was not much to do except waiting and watching grandpa work.  They used an interesting method to record the goods delivered and received.  As a coolie was leaving the junk carrying a sack of rice on his back, he was given a short bamboo stick by a man standing on the water's edge.  After crossing the road, he gave the stick to another man who was sitting at the entrance to the warehouse.  Next, he entered the warehouse to drop off the load.

A few days later, we loaded our belongings onto a small truck with uncovered bed. I remember sitting on a piece of our luggage as the Jordan vehicle ferry sailed towards Kowloon.  As our ferry was inching towards the Jordan pier ramp, the scene was unforgettable. 

Hong Kong Harbour, Jordan Road Ferry
Photo 10 Jordan Vehicle Ferry Pier, by pauline


The last stop was Grandpa Chan's flat at 111 Ki Lung Street, 2nd floor meaning level 3 counting from the ground.  It had a walkout uncovered balcony we called 騎樓.

This week's newsletter is a guest post from Peter Yee, an extract from his colourful memories of growing up in Hong Kong in the 1950s.

7.1 My Neighbourhood 

Ki Lung Street was quiet with almost no car traffic during my early years in Hong Kong.  It was two city blocks from the wider Lai Chi Kok Road which handled the bulk of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Ki Lung Street view from Portland Street (1965)
Photo 11 Ki Lung Street viewed from Portland Street (1965), by OldTimer


This photo was taken from the east end (first street block) of Ki Lung Street looking west.  My home was two blocks up and on the left.  Although it was taken in 1965, the scene on the left side was very similar to that in 1949.  The street had no parked cars on my block.  By the early 1960s, taller buildings have replaced some of the pre-war shophouses as shown on the right of the photo.

On our walk-out uncovered balcony, father had a large aquarium built for his collection of tropical fish.  He kept pigeons as pets at one time.  He spent a long time making and improving the water-feeder for the birds, which is typical of him trying to improve whatever he was interested in.  After my parents left for Canada, I continued to use the aquarium although it had developed a small leak.

There were very few private residences at ground level in my neighbourhood.   Shops and restaurants were everywhere making it convenient when buying grocery and dining out.    Everything we bought were fresh - meat, vegetables and fish.  There were two Dai Pai Dong's few shops from us to the east, one serving assorted beef needle soups and the other hot drinks and sandwiches.  Later, ice cold coffee was added to their menu when they bought a large refrigerator.  One block away from our home, on Poplar Street, there was a street market.

Across the street from our balcony was a small primary school 國䧏小學 occupying levels 2-3  and the rooftop.    At street level was 東如茶室 a dim-sum restaurant.  Both their signs were visible from our balcony, and I always looked at them whenever I looked outside.  After a while, their word-strokes got etched in my mind and never left me.  Below our flat at ground level was a tin-box factory with machinery and motor-belts moving along their ceiling.  And on the other side of our staircase was a bicycle shop 順安單車 where arc-welding using sticks and acetylene torch were their main business.  Because of my interest in both, the young workers there became my street-friends.  These business are all long gone, only memories of them remain.

There were three street scenes that, though with no significant ramifications, had a lasting impression on this boy:


Police and Fish Sellers (1952)

In the early 1950s at the Poplar Street market, street vendors operated their business on the street and removed their belongings at closing time.  Fruit and vegetable vendors were mainly women.  Fish sellers were young men with minimal set up, for good reason.  Occasionally, the police showed up unannounced, so the young men had to outrun them.  One time, I saw a policeman walking with a young man he just caught, no handcuffs, no use of force, just a walk to the police vehicle and next no doubt to the police station several blocks away.  The young man likely spent a few hours, or one night at most, at the station.  Poor folks, they both had to work to support their family!


Two Gamblers Fighting But Not For Food (1955)

At Tai Nam Street and west of Boundary Street, there was a public washrooms building.  It was not the most pleasant place to go to unless you have to go.  Across from the service lane on Tai Nam Street was a Mahjong parlour with about ten tables inside making one combination of smell and sound, and with and unusual sight added one day!

Outside the Mahjong parlour and next to the shophouse pillar, a man sold/served sweet porridge (congee).  His set up consisted of two large clay pots, one for red beans with dried orange peels and the other mung (green) beans with a herb call rue.  He kept them hot with two small charcoal burners, and sat on his little low stool all day.  There were also two stools for customers.  His business survived because he made very tasty sweet food.

One day, I was walking by his business when two men ran out of the Mahjong parlour.  Next, they started to fight on the sidewalk.  The vendor immediately placed himself between the fighters and his business.  Facing his two clay pots, he spread his feet, bent his knees to lower the body, his hands above the two pots while the two men fought behind him.  What a sight to watch!  After about 30 seconds, the two men walked away in different directions.    


Run For His Life (1956)

Apliu Street near the Maple Street Playground was a quiet street with a T-junction at both ends.  One late evening, I looked out from Grandma Yee's rental room and saw no one on the street.  A moment later, I saw a man running and crossing the street to the other side towards Cheung Sha Wan Road.  Another man was chasing him.  Before the first man disappeared around the corner, he called out desperately " 救命啊!" (Save life please!).  Next, his pursuer also disappeared around the corner.  There was then complete silence, but only for about 30 seconds.  Curious faces started to show up, adults and children about 30 of them, looking and wondering what had happened.  Had the chaser caught up with a knife, I would have been the only crown witness.  I wonder if they were the same two men who ran out of the Mahjong parlour.


7.2 My First Cigarette (1950)

Grandparents Chan's relatives often came over to play Mahjong.  In those days, adults smoking cigarettes was a common sight so one day in 1950 it lit up this 5-year old's imagination.  While they were concentrating on Mahjong, I rolled up a small piece of newspaper and put it in my mouth.  Next, I lit it with a match, eye-lip-hand coordination just like what adults did.  But this quickly turned bad as the flame moved towards my mouth.  The semi-moist paper had glued to my lips.  I screamed prompting the adults to rush over and put the fire out.  They didn't say much.  I guess that I was too young to be scolded.   I went to bed to rest and shortly after that, I could feel several blisters on my lips.


7.3 Return Visits To Guangzhou (1949-1953)

Grandma Yee from Guangzhou visited us in Hong Kong several times.  She took me back to Guangzhou when I asked.  I still remembered the streets and the rice paddies so I ventured out and found several of my street friends.

To travel to Guangzhou,  Grandma and I took an early bus to the Tsim Sha Tsui train station.   The sight of the platform protective bumpers at the end of the tracks was the start of an exciting journey.  On our first return trip, the border-crossing process was long.  We waited in a queue inside a building.  On the second return trip, we waited in a yard under hot sun.  A female border guard wanted to check my pockets.  I got nervous so grandma quickly said to me that it was ok.

Border Rail/Pedestrian Bridge at Lo Wu,  c. 1950s
Photo 12  Crossing the Border (1950s), Source unknown


13  Long Wait at Border in Yard, Lo Wu
Photo 13  Long Wait at Border in Yard at Lo Wu, Source unknown


News I heard about that time was that the financial situation of her grandson back home was in poor shape, and that people did not have enough to eat following the civil war.  On another trip, grandma packed a cooked chicken for her grandson back home.  Like all other return trips, it started in the early morning, and ended in the early evening when our 3-wheel-pedal taxi reached our Guangzhou home.  After reaching home, she retrieved a piece of jewellery hidden inside the cooked chicken.

In 1953, Grandma Yee left Guangzhou and moved to Hong Kong.  She rented a room near our Ki Lung Street flat, and changed address several times, every time making sure the flat owner could speak Taishanese the only dialect she spoke.  At one time her rental room was on Apliu Street several shops from the Maple Street Playground.

The Maple Street Playground was about two minutes walk from my home.  Its playground had a sand surface.  Every Chinese Lunar New Year, they set up a temporary stage to present Chinese operas and music. 

As a result of the 1953 Shek Kip Mei fire, many refugees from China lost their homes.  The local community centre and Hong Kong government set up emergency assistance services at the playground.  Tents were set up at the playground to house the refugees.  A few tents remained in the summer of 1954, and I think they too left at about the end of the same year.

Shek Kip Mei after the fire, 1953
Photo 14  Maple St Playground after 1953 Shek Kip Mei Fire, via Moddsey


7.4 Family Outdoor Activities

Watching movies in theatres was a popular outing.  Father took us siblings to the theatres in Mong Kok.  We went to swim at Lai Chi Kok Beach, and the amusement park's swimming pools.  Father was a good swimmer.  He walked at the pool bottom like a hippopotomus and let  us ride on his back.

One time, my parents and their friends visited Stanley, which was then a small town but with a good sandy beach.   We stopped at what is now the southern end of Cape Road, where houses were few and the country-like road was quiet.  There, while the adults were talking, this boy kept looking over the sea to the southern part of the Stanley peninsula.

One family activity we children did not want to miss was during the Lunar New Year.  The children received new clothes and the family visited relatives and friends.  Adult guests gave red pocket money to the visiting children, and adult visitors did likewise to the host's children.  The typical amount I received was one dollar, a few in five dollars, and none in ten dollars. 


7.5 Schooling

My parents knew early that I was more a playful boy than a book-reading intellectual.  Whenever mom heard me playing around home, she would call out from a distance "Pak Foon, finished your school home work?"  I replied every time with a "Finished already."  The next thing I heard without exception was "Read Books!".  That made the whole place quiet!


Primary 1 (1950-1951)  華南小學  Wah Nam Primary School

Like my father, some of his friends in Guangzhou also moved to Hong Kong.  Some became teachers and one of them taught at 華南小學 / Wah Nam Primary School - my first school.

The school was on the west side of Wai Ching Street about eight units north of Jordan Road.  It had a staircase from ground level and classrooms on Level 2 and up.  My class had about 30 students, and the large floor area gave us ample space.  No serious events happened so I guess I had a successful year.  A few days into our school term,  the teacher assigned several students (not including me) to stand and wait in the staircase if and when they were instructed to do so.  He did not tell us why, but I knew the reason.  It was devised to make the class size not exceeding the maximum allowable, if and when an inspector showed up.

Initially, father travelled with me to and from school.  Not long after that, I began to ride the bus alone using Bus Route No. 12 which terminated at Jordan Ferry Pier.

This is the only photo available related to my school.  In the background is the start of Wai Ching Street and the school was about 8 shops past that corner.  The corner shop's awning was one thing I looked up at every time on my way to and from school.  I remember it well, there to keep the hot sun out from their fruits and vegetables.

Gas Precautions Training in pre-war Hong Kong
Photo 15  Wai Ching Street & Jordan Road Junction, by Mary Tiffen


Primary 2 (1951-1952) 三育小學 Sam Yuk Primary School

In the summer of 1951, my parents learned about a new school near our home.  I knew nothing about the school - 三育小學 - until in later years when I learned about its founder and principal Pastor Chung Wai Poh*.  In addition to his service at the church, Pastor Chung started a class to teach the youth in the area.  So, that summer day mother and I went there for a visit.  We stood at their large entrance on Fa Yuen Street and admired their playground.  Behind us on the north side of Fa Yuen Street, it was open field.  One school staff came out to greet us and showed us the classroom.

Sam Yuk was much closer to home compared to my first school.  To cross Nathan Road we needed good eye-and-feet coordination.  There were no traffic lights or designated pedestrian crossings, and car and truck drivers never stopped for pedestrians who wanted to cross.  You had to time your walk at the right moment between two moving cars.

* The biography I read states that when WWII broke out, Pastor Chung moved to Wai Chow 惠卅 and next to Qujiang 曲江 when the former fell to the Japanese army.   About the same time, my parents evacuated inland from Guangzhou to also Qujiang 曲江.  So this was likely another school connection.


Primary 3-4 (1952-1954) 德貞小學 Tack Ching Primary School

I changed school again.  Since my father had started teaching at Tack Ching Secondary School, my parents decided that I should attend their primary section 德貞小學.  It was also a very good school.  As with the previous two, class subjects were taught in Chinese.  At that time,  primary classes were in the building on the north side of Un Chau Street, and secondary classes  on the south side.

Like the previous two schools, my two years at Tack Ching were happy time.  One unforgettable sight was the metal staircase that ran from ground level straight up to level 3.  It had a cover overhead but when there was rain storm, our clothes would still get wet.  

Tack Ching Primary was the first school I had to write exams.  It was a serious occasion and parents would, instead of having their children come home for lunch, prepare meals for them to bring to school, or gave them lunch money.  Two interesting subjects I learned were making soda drinks and weaving wicker baskets.

Tack Ching Girls Secondary School (c.1935)
Photo 16  My Tack Ching Primary School Building c.1935. (It housed the Girls Secondary section when this photo
was taken), by OldTimer


Primary 5 (1954-1955) Tak Yan College 德仁書院

In 1954, my parents applied for immigration to Canada.  They planned to bring with them the two youngest children.  They were concerned that if all five children were included, they would not be able to support all five with their expected earnings.  I and my two sisters would continue to live with Grandparents Chan in Hong Kong. The second arrangement was for me to attend Tak Yan College德仁書院 on Neilson Street, Mong Kok.

Tak Yan was considered one of the well-known English schools.  But it was a big change for me now that I have to listen to all teachings in English, which was completely foreign to me.  The class size was much larger, all boys, hence strict discipline.  On the teacher's desk, there was a thick wooden ruler, and I saw it used once on a student in front of the class.  I had almost no vocabulary in my inventory, when the teacher asked the class "Do you understand?" (she asked half a dozen times), the students answered loudly in unison "Yes".  What is the meaning of the word "understand"? I asked myself.  Primary 5 was a struggle.   I was promoted to Primary 6 barely.

Original Wah Yan College, Kowloon
Photo 17  Tak Yan College On Neilson Street (c.1970),
Source: Lawrence Tsui


Thanks to Peter for writing down these memories of his childhood, and for sharing them with us. For more from Peter you can also read his earlier chapters, and Chapter 8 which ends "This was the beginning of my sad years." Further chapters to follow as they are posted to Gwulo. 

Beginning in early 1955, adult conversations in the family were hinting that my parents would soon be emigrating to Canada.  It did not mean much at the time.  One day, father packed his belongings into a suitcase.  He looked at a pocket knife for a few seconds, then gave it to me.  I didn't say anything, and bobbed my head slightly as a sign of thanks.

On the day of my parents departure, the whole family travelled by taxi to Kowloon Wharf.  I was assigned to carry father's camera.   For my grandparents, this was the last time they saw their son and daughter, a scene duplicated numerous times at home and Kowloon Wharf.

In those days, friends and family members were allowed to tour the ship.  It was a crowded place like busy sidewalks on Nathan Road.  People were walking around and then at that moment, I realized my parents were really leaving me behind.  I started to cry, though for a short duration.   This was the beginning of my sad years.  Many children in my situation could cope with the change, it took me longer to adjust.

18  Parents and Young Siblings Emigrating to Canada (1955)
Photo 18  Parents and Young Siblings Emigrating to Canada (1955), by OldTimer


19   Visiting  Mother's Classmate (1955)
Photo 19  Visiting Mother's Classmate (1955), by OldTimer

In a previous newsletter, Peter Yee described his childhood in Hong Kong up to the year 1955. That was the year he turned 11, and the year his parents and two younger siblings emigrated to Canada. In this issue he continues the story, taking us up to 1964 when he made his own emigration to rejoin his family in Canada.

9.1 Ki Lung Street, 111, 2nd Floor (Level 3) 

My daily routine at first remained unchanged, as I still went to Tak Yan College on class days. The big change is that there are now two elderly persons caring for me, and no more family outings like movies, swim at a beach, and visiting my parents' friends. Adult supervision was minimal and no more reminders to read books. Communications with grandparents were infrequent, and when it happened they were short. There was not much in common that we would talk about, and our age gap did not help. Besides, grandpa often came home late from work.

Grandpa Chan worked six days a week year-round except during holidays. The loading and unloading of goods at junks across the street (Connaught Road West) took place almost year-round, so too was he with his brush pen and abacus. Grandma was home all time except when shopping for grocery and visiting friends. Their friends came over occasionally to play Mahjong but she never went out to play Mahjong.

Whenever friends came to play Mahjong, I would sit close next to grandpa watching his every move. They played for fun and the chips were very little money. Each players monitored how the other three played and responded accordingly. That's how I learned to play Mahjong.

The staircases to level 2 and level 3 our flat were straight up. The lower one had 24 risers on account of the high clearance at the street level flat (factory). Above the lower staircase was a small landing where we turned 180 degrees to climb 18 steps to reach home. Without lights and windows, the upper staircase was always in complete darkness. And the handrails were not in the best of shape. Whenever grandpa took me out late at night to fill his hungry stomach after work, I was in front of him as we walked down the stairs, and behind him on our return trip. I figured I would stop him from falling further if he missed a step.

Grandma made sure my clothes fit as I grew. She took me to street vendors on Yu Chau Street near Maple Street Playground. There, I tried to get the right size while grandma discussed the price with the vendor.

One day grandma took me along on her trip to the landlord in Tsim Sha Tsui. The old lady was polite and friendly. She took out a receipt, filled in the blanks, and handed it to grandma as grandma was giving her $55 HK for one month. The rent rarely increased, grandma told me later, they have been living there for a long time. (My mother told me that when we'd first moved to Sham Shui Po in 1949, I could not pronounce correctly our street number, 111. She said I could only utter "knock-knock-knock"!)

Dental and eye care were my shortcomings when I was young. I ate a lot of candies. A small cavity first appeared about the time my parents left Hong Kong, of all places, between the two upper front teeth. Then the cavity got bigger, and bigger. One adult neighbour and good friend asked me to say 漏風 in Cantonese, meaning "leak air" and pronounced "laou fong". The air came out through the cavity. He laughed, no offence, and I laughed too. As the cavity got bigger, I became more self-conscious, and did not want to talk in school unless I had to. When one teacher talked with me, I answered her with my upper lip closed. A smile did not look like a smile. The cavity was too big to hold a filling. The problem was resolved a few years later when my aunt from Guangzhou took me to the dentist 牙醫馬明德 / Dentist Mah Ming Tak on Nathan Road near the Astor Theatre. The $170 HK fee was too much for the partial upper plate, she paid without me asking. I started to show my smile again.

Eye care was another problem. Like the teeth cavity, I kept it to myself. In early 1958, the teacher's writing on the chalk board began to look blurry. I found out I could correct my vision, though by a small amount, by looking through a plastic ruler held at the correct incline or angle. It would be two years after that I got my first prescription glasses. It cost $15 HK examination (very quick) and glasses in plastic frame (heavy), an amount I could afford.

During my time in Hong Kong, we had several typhoons. Before they arrived, I moved our potted plants off the balcony railing to the ground. The clay pots were heavy, and became more manageable as I grew bigger and taller.

Water shortage was a recurring problem. When water rationing was in effect, our building got running water for about four hours beginning in late afternoon. As ground level was a factory and level-2 had several families, we on level-3 had low water pressure especially during cooking time. Grandma Chan was skilful and diplomatic, she set up with the neighbours a schedule for each level to fit in with the four-hour window.

There was a bank run when people got nervous and tried to withdraw their money only to find out they could not, or could withdraw only a small amount. Grandpa and grandma were not affected, as they had very little money in the bank.

In 1963, we got news that the owner was selling to make way for a new and tall building. Grandpa stayed home to meet with the landlord's representative, an aggressive agent. I listened to their conversation about compensation. Grandpa, as always, was polite and soft-spoken. After the man left, he turned to me and said "I think we did alright."


9.2 Time With Grandma Yee

During her time in Hong Kong (1953-1963), Grandma Yee rented a room near my home, and changed places several times. One of of them was on Apliu Street a few shops from the Maple Street playground. The flat's owner also came from Taishan, a requirement since grandma spoke only Taishanese. I visited grandma often and slept there. After learning how to ride a bicycle, I circled repeatedly around the playground's inner perimeter. The next morning, she told me I was riding bicycle in my sleep. 

In 1956, a riot broke out. The following day I walked to Cheung Sha Wan Road between Maple and Poplar streets. There, a shop that sold goods from China had been looted and looters were still there gathering the last few remaining items from the floor.

As a result of the riot, the government imposed a curfew. People were ordered to stay indoor, and streets and sidewalks became totally empty. I was on grandma's balcony tall enough to look down to the street when riot police marched by. Her landlady's son was more curious and leaned over the railing. He ignored the police captain's order to move back inside. Within seconds, the captain pulled out his handgun and pointed in the direction of the young man. He quickly backed off.

The following day, grandma had to visit a new relative - the mother of a young woman who was about to marry her grandson from USA. I doubt that she was aware of the seriousness of the situation. Like a caring grandma, she took me along. When the two of us crossed Tai Po Road, we were all alone and no other people on the street in all directions. Several riot police appeared a block away and I could see their guns and shields. They ignored us - an old woman walking slowly on bound feet accompanied by a boy. After the visit, our return walk was just as lonely, but this time, no riot police.

Grandma found out I loved grass jelly. One day she made grass jelly using natural ingredients. Obviously it was the best grass jelly I have ever had. She passed away in 1963.

20  Shek Kip Mei Village, Home of Relatives (1950s)
Photo 20 Relatives' Level 2 home in Shek Kip Mei 1950s
Source: Harrison Forman


21  Hong Kong Identity Card - Back
Photo 21 My Hong Kong Identity Card - Back



22  Hong Kong Identity Card - Front
Photo 22 My Hong Kong Identity Card - Front


9.3 Hobbies and Favourite Pastime 

9.3.1 From Marbles to Kites

My earliest street game began in 1952 corresponding to Primary 3 at Tack Ching School. We boys collected discarded empty cigarette packets. We cut out the front cover which had an attractive picture and folded it to form a small triangle. We placed our triangular pieces on a straight line on the ground and took turns trying to knock them off the line from a distance by flicking our fingers on an empty bottle cap. The caps had candle wax inside made to increase its travel distance and accuracy. If succeeded, the boy retrieved the piece that got knocked off. It was a very affordable game. A few years later, I played another game on sandy ground, this time placing marbles in a circle. The rules of the game were essentially the same. And after that, we added coins to the circle.

I could walk from our level-3 flat to the roof top. In fact, all five staircases in our city block provided unimpeded access from street level to the roof. In those days, it was very rare to see a gate at street level in Sham Shui Po. Starting in 1955, kite-flying was my hobby. On the first day, all attempts to keep the kite in the air ended in failure. Then I found out that to keep the kite from falling, the forward release and pull back of the string must be timed at the right moment as the kite turns. Kites came with different colours decorations and two basic structural designs. I learned how to make glass-power coated string for kite-fighting.


9.3.2 Firecrackers and Fireworks

The opportunity of playing firecrackers, we call it 燒炮仗 in Cantonese, came once a year when we celebrated the Lunar New Year. It was very popular for boys and adult men in the 1950s. The street gutters below my home were covered with red burnt papers. New Year Eve, we called it 年三十晚 (Year 30 night), was the peak of the firecracker activity. The popular brands of firecrackers at that time were the Rooster, Elephant, and Swallow. They all made very loud sound.

Fireworks were not as popular as firecrackers. It seems to me that people wanted a bigger sound than a colourful sight. Every New Year, I spent most of my red pocket money on firecrackers.


9.3.3 Children's Pictorial Story Books

While reading school books was not my interest, comic books were. We called them 連還圖 or 公仔書. They contain a short story with hand-drawn pictures on every page, and few words on the outer margin as the story is already partly given by the illustrations. Across from Grandma's room on Apliu Street, there was a book stand operated by a man who I believe came from northeastern China. He was a quiet man. I spent a lot of time there reading his books. When I gave him ten cents, he gave me a tiny piece of cardboard paper with a stamp mark on it, which I used to sign out the books. He supplied several small wooden stools for his young customers.

My aunt (father's older sister) in Guangzhou found out I loved reading these story books. She was a very wise person and well educated. Being concerned that the books would have a bad influence on me, on her next visit to Hong Kong she gifted me a small story book. Like other books, it too had a story and hand-drawn pictures, but there was one difference. It was a condensed and simplified version of Chapter 35 in 三國演義 / Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a historical novel covering the 169-280 AD warring period among the three kingdoms, namely the north led by 曹操 / Cao Cao, in the west 劉備 / Liu Bei, and in the east 孫權 / Sun Quan.

The story was about Liu Bei's first military and political adviser named 單福. Before they first met, Liu was travelling one day when he saw a boy riding an ox and making music with his短笛 / short flute. Liu stopped, and the boy and his music stopped too, and next came their conversations:

Boy: Are you not Liu Bei, the general who defeated 黃巾 / Yellow Turbans (Rebellion)?

Liu: Little village boy, how do you know my name?"

Boy: I don't know, but when people come to visit, my teacher always talks about Liu Bei, who stands seven feet five inches, his hands can reach below the knees while standing, eyes placed such that they can see the ears. One current hero! What are you thinking about now?"

Liu: Who is your teacher?
(The boy answered his question)

Liu: Yes, I am Liu Bei. Take me to your teacher.

When they met, the teacher agreed to serve Liu in his political and more importantly his military campaign. His strategy helped Liu win one battle. Shortly after that, he decided to travel north to join with his mother who, according to a fake letter sent to him, had been taken hostage by Liu's opponent Cao Cao. At the end of their farewell moment, he advised Liu to visit another advisor, later known as諸葛亮 / Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei's brilliant military and political strategist and a character admired by readers of the novel.

Rural and palace settings, political and military strategies, field battles, master-and-servant interaction, mother-and-son relationships and their belief, all put together to make one romantic read! I loved reading it, and next Chapter 35 in the original novel, and after that, the entire novel. There were words for places and names that I didn't learn, so I looked at the word as a picture, and assigned it a sound that best matched it.

The chapter recounting the debate between Zhuge Liang and Sun Quan's advisors was part of the Chinese literature taught in my Form 2 at St. Francis Xavier's College. 

I have very few regrets in my life, and one was related to the novel. One day Grandpa Chan found out I had been reading the novel. He smiled and said "That's good. Have you read 諸葛亮火燒新野?". It was about one of Zhuge Liang's early battles where he directed soldiers to burn a place as part of his strategy to distract the opposing army. I knocked my head several times, but said nothing to grandpa. Here, we have something in common and I miss the opportunity to extend our conversation.


9.3.4 From Radio to Records 

In the early 1950s, radio stations in Hong Kong played Chinese and Western music. I listened to both. In my early years, we listened to Chinese Cantonese operatic songs, solo and duets some of them my favourite - 長片粵曲 and 時代曲 / Long Cantonese and contemporary songs. To receive a good broadcast signal, some people ran their antenna to the top of the roof. There were posts and wires making some rooftops not an ideal place to fly kites.

Our radio was placed about five feet above the floor. So when the grandma played Mahjong with visitors and I did not want to miss the program, I stood on a wooden stool to have my ears close to the radio. One time, my classmate made me a crystal radio receiver. It used only the power of the received radio signal to produce sound. It did not need battery. I was thrilled when he demonstrated it in his home. When I got home, it did not work. I kept buying replacement crystal thinking they were defective, but still no sound. Then I realized there were too much obstructions and concrete walls between our flat and the radio stations.

It was popular for people to call in to radio stations asking them to play a song "to dedicate to" someone. One time I heard some George dedicated to Peter "Broken Hearted Melody" sung by SarahVaughan. I don't think it was a coincidence since I told George two days earlier I liked the song. When radio stations played Pat Boone's "April Love", I knew it was spring time. Besides the vocal music, our generation liked instrumental music from Henry Mancini, Lawrence Welk and Billy Vaughn "... And His Orchestra." I liked Mantovani and collected several of his LP's, and an Acker Bilk Long Play containing his famous song "Stranger on the Shore". Bilk's LP cover had a beautiful drawing of an English countryside with a quiet little creek.  

I followed one radio story-reading program. Once a week Chan Po Wai read out a part of the Chinese novel 七俠五義 / Seven Heroes and Five Gallants. His program started with a short music note sung by a rooster. It took him about a year to read the entire novel.

We also listened to Western music in tea rooms. They had jukeboxes for you to insert your money and make your choice. Those played often were The Ventures, The Shadows, North to Alaska, Telstar, and other popular songs of the 1950s. My father had a 78 record theme song from the movie "High Noon".


9.3.5 Bird Companions

At the service lane on the west side of Shek Kip Mei Street between Yu Chau and Apliu streets, there was a man in his 40s operating a small bird shop. His set up consisted of a few long bamboo sticks fastened to a wall, and about 1~2 dozen birds and their cages, most of them green singing finches which I heard were bred in farms in South Africa. Another kind he was selling was 相思 / Japanese White-Eyes. Later on, more exotic birds showed up. I often stopped and talked with him, as he was friendly. I don't think he had a family. He slept at night with his birds. By 1962, he managed to close in his shop with wooden panels making it more home-like and out of the cold winter. His was a very small cramped place. 

23   Japanese White Eye 相思
Photo 23 Japanese White-Eyes Bird 相思
Source: Pinterest.com


My grandparents did not object to me keeping birds. They thought a bird companion would do me good. I once also kept a Myna bird. Some times, I let the birds out of their cages. This required first closing all the windows. They liked perching on our peach tree during the Lunar New Year.


9.3.6 Hiking And Exploring 

The first time I hiked to Lion Rock and Amah Rock was in 1957, then a few more times after that. In 1957, the approach trail to Amah Rock was fairly barren with low vegetation. One time, my classmate and I descended Amah Rock on her left side - the side facing Shatin. There, the slope was very steep and covered with many small rocks. It was so steep that standing still on them was almost impossible.

Sha Tin 1957.
Photo 24 Amah Rock (1957)
Source: Bryan Panter


To hike from Kowloon Tong to Shatin, one needed proper shoes. For me, there was no such need. I stayed with my Japanese outdoor slippers which were amazingly tough. They never failed. On the north slope of Lion Rock, my classmate showed me where to find an interesting plant with furry roots. We pulled out a few and took them home. It was believed that they would stop bleeding from a cut. Harvesting the plants was likely not allowed, and such regulations, if existed, never entered our mind.

Streams and water always interested me. On the north side of Cornwall Road and just west of the Canton-Kowloon train tunnel, there was a small reservoir, likely some kind of storm catchment basin. It actually had two basins in series. I swam there several times with guppies by my side. Sadly, child drowning occurred occasionally. Less dangerous places were the stream under Boundary Street that flowed to the nullah, and the one beneath Clear Water Bay Road just below Good Hope School.


9.3.7 Martial Arts

In 1962, I started taking Martial Arts lessons taught by Wong Hon Fun 黃漢勛, after being introduced to him by my bird friend Ho Ying Gwai who was already his student. In Cantonese dialect, we addressed him 師傅 / Sifu a title for a skilful person or a master. Sifu taught Praying Mantis, a style of Martial Arts which has its origin in China. The lessons I took were not designed purely for fighting purposes, for some body, hand, and feet movements act as connector or transition between offensive and defensive movements. It was a pleasure to watch someone who displays a lesson he has perfected, similar to reciting a poem you have memorized and you also put your best effort and feeling into it. The lessons took place in the early evening once a week, and the fee was $15 HK a month.

Because the students started their training at different times, they were at different levels (or progress). This required Sifu to teach us on a one-to-one basis. On my first day, he showed me a short series of body, hand and feet movements. He would call out gently the name of each movement. He wanted me to remember their names because some of them would appear in subsequent lessons.

At the beginning, I thought one movement was odd. It required you to stand with knees bent, your back straight, and imagining you are sitting on a chair. He also taught me how to pose using my five fingers, a pose identical to the arm of a praying mantis about to strike. He would then ask me to repeat what he had demonstrated, and corrected me when needed. I would then repeat the short series I just learned, over and over again.

The second week, while I was watching other students practising, Sifu tapped on my shoulder and continued to teach me where we left off the previous week. I did not need to remind him, he knew, by memory or by pen I could not confirm which. After a month or so, I completed learning one lesson. In subsequent weeks, I would practise all lessons learned, and waited for Sifu to tap on my shoulder. He was a dedicated teacher, kind and treated all his students with respect. His students ranged in age from mid-teens to late 40s.

Praying Mantis Sifu Wong, Aug 13, 1963
Photo 25 Peter with Praying Mantis Instructor


Praying Mantis Class (1963)
Photo 26 1963 Class Photo, Peter Standing Behind Praying Mantis Instructor


9.4 Street and Playground Bullies

I never encountered a bully in my schooling. However, I had the misfortune of running into, or rather them coming at me. The events took place in three consecutive years.

In late 1955, I was playing goalie and my Tak Yan College Primary 6 classmate the shooter at MacPherson Playground in Mong Kok. Behind me was Shantung Street and a chain-link fence. Two boys about my age walked by and they started to taunt me, saying that I was lucky to attend school and play. I turned my head and got a glimpse of them. As I turned to focus on the ball, I heard someone behind spitting and next something landed on my neck. The smell was bad. I was shock, too afraid to look at them a second time.

In 1956, I was playing with sand at Maple Street Playground when three boys walked up to me. One boy tried to destroy what I had built so I tried to stop him. By this time, a second boy was already behind me and he hit me on the back with a stick. With two boys my age and size, and their leader older and taller, fighting back never entered my mind. This was a more frightening situation than the first. I hurriedly ran back to my grandma's place and did not say anything. For a while after the incident, I dreaded using Maple Street to visit her.

In the summer of 1957, I attended an evening English class at the St. Francis of Assisi's Primary School. The school and the church were located on Shek Kip Mei Street next to the former shanty town which subsequently became 7-storey resettlement area following the 1953 fire. One evening my classmates and I were talking at the entrance when three boys about my age showed up. One boy wanted to start a fight with me. It was one shocking surprise, and I ignored him. When he persisted, one of my classmates stepped in and said "I will fight you." The aggressors backed down and left. I never forget that Gan Wei Ho came to my defence. After the incident, I carried a pocket knife (given by father) when I went to attend class there. It was likely of no use because I would never think of taking it out. When children bring knives to school, I would suggest they are more likely a victim than a bully. 


9.5 Schooling

Primary 6 (1955-1956), Tak Yan College 德仁書院 (Incomplete)

In September 1955, I started Primary 6 at Tak Yan College. It did not turn out well. The class subjects were getting more difficult, and I could not get help with my homework. After my parents left Hong Kong, I felt lonely and helpless. After the bullying incident, I dreaded going to school every morning. One cold and damp morning in late 1955, I decided to stay in bed and not to go to school anymore.

I began to play in the streets, some times alone and other times with street friends. By this time, our roof top was occupied by refugees from the mainland. It was like a small shanty town. Flying kites was no longer possible, but I managed to befriend the children my age up there.

The level 4 above my flat was a shoe factory with workers from the mainland, and we became friends too. They were men in their 20s and remarkably well-mannered. Like the welder below me at street level, they spoke a dialect somewhere between Taishanese and Cantonese but closer to the former. They called me 小個 / The Little One. For leisure after work, they set up a ping-pong table on the roof and I was one of their regular visitors. The retail shop, called 九龍鞋廠/ Kowloon Shoes was on Boundary Street across from my home.

In a recount told by my sister years later, it took grandma several weeks to find out I had dropped out of school. Grandma decided not to inform grandpa for fear that the news would upset him. As grandpa was fully occupied with his work, he did not notice the change.


Primary 6 (1957) School Name Unknown (Incomplete)

In early 1957, grandma placed me in one of the roof-top schools in Shek Kip Mei. All subjects were taught in Chinese, and the class size was small. I quit that school after attending it for several weeks. There was no compelling reason to drop out except for lack of interest and self-discipline.


English Night Class (summer 1957) at St. Francis of Assisi Church 玫瑰夜校

華姐 (Big Sister Wah) was one of Grandma Chan's congregation friends at the St. Francis of Assisi Church. At the request of grandma, she enrolled me in Good Hope Anglo-Chinese School the same school she was attending. Since it would be all-English, to prepare for it, she also placed me in a night English class held twice a week at the Church.

The class was designed to teach students to speak and write English at a basic level so we could converse with friends and in workplace. Grammar was important, but the school wanted a proper balance between speaking and grammar.

I made friends with classmates during recess. The workers were friendly and they organized a hiking trip to Shatin - my first of several trips.


Primary 5 - Primary 6 (1957-1959), Good Hope Anglo-Chinese School德望學校

In September 1957, I resumed full-time schooling. In 2016, the school invited her past students including me to write about our memories of the school on the occasion of "Anchor of the World II for the Diamond Jubilee" celebration. My memories of the school are best expressed in the submission I gave the school, repeated below with some minor edits:

"Sixty-one years ago (1955), this boy dropped out of school and started to play in the streets. Life was fun at first then gradually became aimless. A year and a half later, a family friend enrolled me in Good Hope.

The school was built a few years earlier on the side of a hill facing Kai Tak Airport. The scenery and tranquility were unmatched. There were no other buildings nearby. Much of Clear Water Bay Road was still undeveloped and wooden houses on large lots dotted along a short stretch of the road close to the airport. Traffic on the road was very light then, and I saw only a few cars during my walk to school. From the school, I could see the airport and planes taking off, and was awed by the sight of Kowloon Peak.

Good Hope provided me an excellent environment to learn. I noticed the class size, the quality text books, and soon her dedicated teachers. My teacher Miss Chan* (1957) was kind and patient with me noting that I needed help to catch up. I didn’t have an English first name and neither my grandma nor I could think of one. So during class, Miss Chan asked if I would like to be called Peter to which I promptly agreed. With the help from teachers and my extra effort, I managed to catch up.

The playful nature in me remained strong. After school, we boys sometimes walked downhill to the airport where we switched to city bus. The walk uphill was just as enjoying and George Leung and I arrived very early at the foothill to start our walk. So quiet and free, the whole country side was there for us to explore. The walk through 維記牛奶 / Kowloon Dairy pasture was unforgettable.

After P5, most of the boys went to other schools. Henry Butt and I missed the opportunity to change so we were the only two boys in P6. Being out-numbered by girls, one can feel lonely at times. In those days and at our age, girls and boys seldom talked with each other and I was too shy to start a conversation. Looking back, the extra year with Good Hope enabled me to stay another year with the finest school I have ever attended.

In my P6 final report card, it reads “Promoted to Form 1 on condition leaving”. The message was expected. It was a moment of pride but also a sense of sadness. One teacher worried about Henry and me so she wrote a letter of recommendation to St. Francis Xavier’s College.

After leaving Good Hope, one night I took a city bus to the foothill to see my beloved school one more time. From the bus, I could see her lit up cross. Since then, whenever I think of that sight, these words come to mind - "The school that has given me more than hope."

* Two weeks after class started, Miss Chan noticed one problem I had. So during a recess on a Monday, she came to me asking if I knew the word "remind". I replied "No". She asked me to look up its meaning in a dictionary, which I did and reported back to her later that day. She said to me with a soft voice - "Peter, can you remind me this coming Wednesday to make an announcement to the class? "Yes, Miss Chan!" That was the first one-on-one assistance I have ever had in all my primary schools. Came Wednesday morning, I reminded her and got a "Thank you!" that came with a smile. One word, she has restored my confidence!  

Seven different schools to complete six primary grades, if not a record in Hong Kong, I think I am close. They were part of my story, no regret, no shame. Sometimes, one needs failure to achieve success. I think there is a saying for this in every language.

In 1957 when I entered Primary 5, the surroundings looked very similar to this photo including the erosion along the edge of the road.   

27   Good Hope School (1954)
Photo 27 Good Hope School - Construction Completed (1954)
Source: Good Hope School Year Book


From the school, we could see airplanes taking off from the airport. From Clear Water Bay Road (name in that period of time) we could see the school, and at night its lit up cross.

Old Kai Tak
Photo 28 Good Hope School - view from Kai Tak Airport


From left: Henry Butt, Paul Wu, Peter Yee, George Leung, Michael Chau, Henry Tong, David Wong. Not in photo is Ronald Tam.

29  Good Hope Primary 5 Boys, Kai Tak In Background (1957)
Photos 29  Good Hope Primary Boys 1957​​​​​​​


This creek flows under Clear Water Bay Road, about 2 minutes walk downhill from school. It is about mid way between the current Po Leung Kuk Centenary School and Fung Chak House.

30  Stream Under Clear Water Bay Road Below Good Hope School (1957)
Photo 30 Playing By Creek​​​​​​​


31 Peter (1954 and 1957)
Photo 31 Peter (1954 and 1957)​​​​​​​


Form 1 - Form 5 (1959-1964) St. Francis Xavier's College / 聖芳濟書院

The building housing St. Francis Xavier's College was four years old when I entered Form 1 in 1959. The classrooms were on the first three levels and the Catholic Brothers lived in Level-4. Connected to the building was a covered area with a canteen operated by a Chinese family, and several ping-pong tables. There was a small open area on the southeast corner enough to park two cars and few Vespa mopeds. Along the south wall there was a covered area for bicycles.

32  St Francis Xavier's College (1957)
Photo 32 St. Francis Xavier's College - Construction Completion in 1955


33 SFX Brother Leo
Photo 33 Top: Peter, John Chan Cho Hung (later a SFX teacher) and Joseph Luk.
Middle: John Chan, Dominic Fong and Peter
Bottom: Class with Brother Leo. Peter on front row third from right. 


The college had five Form 1 classes each about 45 students. By the time I reached Form 5, there were three classes. Along the way, some including my friends left. One Form 1 friend surname Lum was good at playing soccer. His parents operated a roadside stall selling fruits two blocks west of the school. When I reached Form 2, he did not show up. I went to their stall where he, standing beside his mother, told me that he forgot to register to continue his schooling. I always suspect the reason was about tuition fees. 

We had very good and dedicated teachers both Brothers and hired teachers. They were approachable in class and during recess. The subjects were taught in English except one for Chinese literature at lower forms. Mr. Wong our physical education teacher came from Tack Ching Primary School where he was also my teacher. In his Form 1 session, he led us on a run around, and next stretch. After that, he threw out a few soccer balls for us to play. Starting in Form 2, it was only stretch and run and no fun. I guess the sight and noise were too distracting to the classes in process.

While in Form 5, some classmates were talking about final general exams. In early 1964, I saw two students studying and holding notes in their hand, of all places and times, in the playground during recess. That got me nervous!

My five years at SFX was the longest span of all the schools I attended. It was a period where I transitioned from boy to teen. I left holding dear the memories of the Brothers, teachers, and classmates.


Thanks again to Peter for his open and honest sharing of his memories of his early years. To find out what happened next, please continue reading:


People's memories of their lives in Hong Kong are a very valuable part of Gwulo, helping to bring the site's photos, facts, and figures to life. We have a selection of other diaries and memoirs available to explore: https://gwulo.com/list-of-diaries?order=field_book_doc_date&sort=asc

If you can add any more, your contribution will be very welcome. An easy way to share a story is to post it to the forum: https://gwulo.com/node/add/forum/2

Good weather in afternoon. 

Issue c.beef, M+v. & 2 lbs. sugar

Classical concert  (Barton, Bicheno, Heasman, Goodban, W??? ((illegible)) Nobbins, - Pudney ((spelling?)))

cigs, 2 pkts, 45 sen each

Issue oil, sugar


EASTER  Martin / Dow

“Paracels shelled”

((Following text not dated:))

Downstairs Japs ready to hop any time. Frequent false starts.

Clear & bright.

Sunrise service 7.30am.

Tried unbung Sant’rm.lav.

Steve gave me an egg & I gave to Gwen X.

Started sun-tanning.

On double rations for 15 days.

Montgomery going for Hamburg& Berlin? & Patten for Munich & Vienna. Pratas Islands bombarded.

((Although his family was denied entry to Hong Kong, Paul was born here in 1937, just before the great typhoon that hit Hong Kong that year.))

My brother Viacheslav was born in Shanghai in September, 1935, and I must have been conceived there sometime in December, 1936. It was a difficult time for my parents, Tonia and Ivan Atroshenko. The global economic depression of the 1930s had not affected Shanghai too badly but jobs were scarce for White Russians like my father. Social security did not exist for Stateless emigres like him.

To make matters worse, on August 13th, 1937, the Japanese military attacked the Chinese controlled sections of Shanghai causing widespread confusion and misery amongst the Chinese population. The Japanese expected a quick victory and had boasted that they would occupy Shanghai in just three days and that China itself would surrender to Japan in three months.

To everyone's surprise, the poorly equipped Chinese Nationalist army under Chiang Kai-shek put up a determined resistance and the battle for Shanghai lasted for three months. Although the Chinese eventually lost their sections of Shanghai, suffering some 200,000 casualties, the fact that they had held out for so long was a great morale booster for them. The Foreign Concessions within the city continued to be administered by various European Powers, such as the French and the British.

The Japanese never managed to conquer the whole of China, although they did inflict immense suffering upon the Chinese population in the years to come.

My father hated the Japanese. He had been a boy soldier in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 and had witnessed atrocities committed by the Japanese army in that conflict. Not wishing to live under Japanese military control, he somehow managed to obtain passage for his family and himself on a tramp steamer to Hong Kong.

When the ship arrived in the British Crown Colony, my family was informed by the authorities that they could not remain there. They had to return to China and apply for proper visas to gain official entry to the Colony. They were advised to sail with the ship to Canton (now called Guangzhou).

Because of the Japanese military aggression which had spread south, thousands of Chinese were desperate to enter Hong Kong hoping to be protected by the British. Thanks to the huge influx of people, typhoid and cholera epidemics were raging throughout the colony and the British authorities were at their wits end trying to sort out the problems brought on by the flood of terrified refugees.

No sooner had my father been told that he and his family had to go back to China, my mother began to experience the pains of childbirth. I was about to make my entrance. She was rushed to the Matilda Hospital which is close to Victoria Peak. My father and brother remained on the tramp steamer in Hong Kong Harbour.

The Chinese believe that the number four is unlucky. On the fourth day of my existence, Hong Kong was hit by the worst typhoon in its history. In the harbour itself, normally protected from severe winds, about thirty ships dragged their anchors and were swept ashore. It was later estimated that eleven thousand people died in the colony during the storm. A tidal wave 18 foot high swept away the village of Tai Po in the New Territories. Hundreds of junks from the fishing village of Aberdeen were smashed to pieces by the huge seas and their crews perished without a trace.

Just before the typhoon hit Hong Kong with maximum force, the doctors and nurses at the Mathilda Hospital decided to unite all the babies with their mothers and leave them unattended in the maternity ward. They reasoned that it would be better for the mums and bubs to perish together. The medical staff then wisely went to the safety of the small typhoon shelter.

The typhoon was so severe that the Morants (a French family who befriended us during the Second World War) told us several years later that their garage door, which was made of solid iron and which sat on open hinges, was lifted from its position by the wind and tossed away like a paper plate. Their car, which had its parking brake on, was sucked out of the garage and flung down the slope.

The maternity ward in Mathilda Hospital was devastated by the powerful gusts of wind. All the windows were smashed and there was utter chaos in the ward. But when the doctors and nurses emerged from the typhoon shelter a day later they discovered that all the mothers and their tiny infants had miraculously survived. It was my first lucky break.

Dearest,       Another month started and we can't see the end yet - it may be a long time yet but still we hope on.  I've started to write separately a synopsis* of our first 6 months (*insert [I never got on with this] above line) - it can only be headings as it's quite impossible to write  here - lack of privacy and really I'm not able to sit up at table for very long at a time.  Glover's going has made things more comfortable here but it has made me much more lonely - if I start to think too much then I can't sleep at night!  I was very depressed yesterday but I'll soon perk up again.  I do wish I could hear from you or about you.  Glover is going to try from Shanghai.  I would give anything to know where you are and how you are faring.  

Cheero just now.      Billie

Christine Ross died two days ago - I arranged everything of course and had a Cadet bearer party.

Well at about 5 p.m. I posted up to Maudie to say we would be unable to come that evening.  While we were talking we heard a drone of planes and some explosions. The paper on Monday had said there would be AA practice in this locality between 10 and 12 a.m. on Tuesday, and at first we thought it must be this practice starting off a bit behind schedule. Then we saw people opposite at St Stephens pointing excitedly at the sky; so we flew downstairs to see what was afoot. The sky was full of puffs of smoke as scores of shells burst at a considerable height. Then high up we saw a formation of 6 big bombers! They were very high as we could tell by the atmospheric haze between them and us, for though there were clouds about, the atmosphere seemed pretty clear. For all their height we could see they were really big chaps – probably American ‘flying fortresses’. Their shape was different from any Japanese planes we had seen and the drone of their engines was different too. We had heard the crump of heavy explosions when we were upstairs in the building and when we saw the planes I think they had just finished their attack and were just sailing off in perfect formation with the AA shells bursting nowhere near them and feet below them: in fact, except for the far greater quantity of stuff put up by the Jap guns, I thought their shooting was just as ineffective as our own during the blitz! The American planes this time had indulged in high altitude bombing and had not done any diving. When I got back to our block I was told that this flight of planes had two tiny fighter planes escorting them.

Before I returned, Maudie gave me two pieces of cake from Peg’s birthday cake which she had made the day before. Very good it was too. Well, that certainly was an exciting day – naturally we expected (and got) a complete blackout that evening. Still, we didn’t mind so much this time, for there was plenty to sit and talk about in the dark.

The next morning I was standing in the queue outside our block clinic, waiting to consult Dr Smalley about a rash I had developed. This was about 10.00 a.m. Suddenly I heard the distant drone of planes and immediately rushed outside Block 2 to have a ‘Look see’. Soon the AA guns were popping away, the shells again bursting high in the sky and far away to the north, presumably over the New Territories. (On the Monday the planes had flown over the harbour and dock area). In fact we saw very little of the firing and caught no sight of planes, (at least I did not), but Harold said he saw them and heard the thud of bombs. He said there were six of them, as before.

The paper, that day, referring to the raid on the previous day said: - The attackers were driven off by our anti aircraft fire. All the bombs dropped fell into the harbour, so no damage was done – “driven off”!  They jolly well sailed off when and as they liked with complete impunity. And I find it hard to believe they did no damage. The only worrying thought is for our friends still in town and the unfortunate Chinese whose lives are endangered by these raids. One imagines the planes were concentrating most of their attention on the Tai Koo Docks, Naval Dockyard, military barracks and, in the New Territories, the railway perhaps and possibly oil dumps.

Another month started - we've been 18 months in durance vile.  It could be a lot worse but it is horrible enough.  We have had blackouts too - punishment ones for 2 nights - no light from 7pm to 6am.  So we just have to sit in the dark, smoke, talk and think.  I'm quite glad of old de Martin's company then.  Normally we are blacked out  from midnight only but "lights out" is at 10 every night so we are early to bed.        No news Honey and so weary!  
 All my love     Billie.

OBJECTIVE: Staggered single-aircraft night raids to harass Canton airfields and prevent JAAF from flying night bombing missions

RESULTS: Due to cloud cover, B-25 #405 fails to find the target and does not release its bombs.  B-25 #403 bombs Tien Ho and White Cloud airbases, but damage is unknown.

TIME OVER TARGET: ~7:55 to 10:20 p.m.

AMERICAN UNITS AND AIRCRAFT: Two B-25s from 11th Bomb Squadron (341st Medium Bomb Group)


  • B-25: #403: 1st Lt. Stanley A. Johnson; 2nd Lt. Boyd A. [last name illegible]; 2nd Lt. Warren Curtis; 2nd Lt. Philip [last name illegible]; Sgt. Frank L. Gaines; Staff Sgt. Roy A. Jones; Staff Sgt. Frederick T. Kaveney
  • B-25 #405: 1st Lt. Gordon R. Francis; 2nd Lt. Harry G. Charles; 2nd Lt. William G. Pauger; Staff Sgt. Charles A. [last name illegible]; Staff Sgt. Ervin B. Terwilliger; Sgt. William Cullen.

ORDNANCE EXPENDED: 20 x 100-pound bombs



SOURCES: Original mission reports and other documents in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

Showery, overcast, hot.

Odd jobs.

Saw Dr. Smalley again. Heart OK more Dig. & Strych.

Tea 1.4oz & Shark liver oil (1 teaspoonful for 10 days) issued.

Toothbrush to G & ground salt & beans.

(No reply to Peace Terms offered to Japan, Gov’t still debating same) ∴

Another month gone. Thank goodness we never knew in February that we should still be here in December, or I think we should have died straight away!

OBJECTIVE: Bomb Tai Koo dockyard and HK & Whampoa dockyard

TIME OVER TARGET: ~2:00 p.m.


  • Six B-25s from the 11th Bomb Squadron (341st Medium Bomb Group)
  • Six B-25s from the 2nd Bomb Squadron (1st Bomb Group, Chinese American Composite Wing)
  • Eight P-40s from the 74th Fighter Squadron (23rd Fighter Group)
  • Six P-51As from the 76th Fighter Squadron (23rd Fighter Group)
  • Seventeen P-40Ns from the 3rd Fighter Group (Chinese American Composite Wing)


  • P-40s (74th FS): Col. Rouse; Lt. Colonel Norval C. Bonawitz; Major Denney; Captain Bell; Lt. Lundy; Lt. Hendrickson; Lt. Morello; Lt. Morin
  • P-51s (76th FS): Lt. Col. David L. “Tex” Hill; Captain James M. “Willie” Williams; 1st Lt. Dale Bell; 1st Lt. Robert T. Colbert; 1st Lt. Harry G. Zavakos; Flight Officer Wilson
  • B-25s (2nd BS): Lt. Colonel Branch; Captain Conrad; Captain Harper; Captain Carson; Captain Churchill; 1st Lt. Seacrest; Sgt. C.C. Wei
  • B-25s (11th BS):
    • B-25 #38: Flight Officer Richard M. Gramling; Flight Officer William R. Monroe; Sgt. Rafael C. Arellano; Corporal Everett F. Hamilton
    • B-25 #46: 2nd Lt. John M. Overstreet; 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Johnson; 2nd Lt. Ralph Kamhi; Sgt. Frederick C. DeWitt; Private Charles J. Wilder
    • B-25 #57: 1st Lt. Edgar N. Gentry; 2nd Lt. Harold E. Sparhawk; 1st Lt. Paul J. Diekman; Sgt. William H. Johnson; Staff Sgt. Robert D. Shaak; Corporal E.Z. Mann
    • B-25 #68: 1st Lt. William A. Brenner; 2nd Lt. Delwyn F. Ritzdorf; 1st Lt. Frank H. Gibson; Staff Sgt. Ray T. Hamilton; Sgt. Alvin A. Stainker
    • B-25 #88: 1st Lt. George T. Grottle; 2nd Lt. Harold Rochelle; 2nd Lt. Robert B. Fischborn; Staff Sgt. Golden U. Gallup
    • B-25 #92: Lt. Col. Joseph B. Wells; 1st Lt. William M. Henry; 1st Lt. Charles J. Bethea; 2nd Lt. Herbert I. Robinson; Sgt. Joe D. Josserand; Sgt. Harold J. Coleman; Corporal Arbun K. Griffen

ORDNANCE EXPENDED: 72 x 500-pound bombs

RESULTS: Bombs hit the Tai Koo and HK & Whampoa dockyards.  At Tai Koo, the 2,645-ton Teiren Maru is damaged beyond repair.

JAPANESE UNITS, AIRCRAFT, AND PILOTS: Ki-43 and Ki-44 pilots from the 85th Sentai


  • Pilots of the 85th Sentai shoot down two P-51As (pilots Colbert and Williams) and damage a third (pilot Hill)
  • One B-25 gunner claims to shoot down one enemy fighter and Lt. Col. Hill damages one Ki-44

SOURCES: Original mission reports and other documents in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

((Following text not dated:))

Rosary Hill sung to be cut out. Rice supplied only. Other food cook your own in basement 

Upstairs burgled. We didn't know. Bag of rice and charcoal worth Y5,000. We now sleep worse. 

Alerts almost daily during December. Mostly daytime. 

Heavy rain early am.

Another new officer arrived. Supposed to be an ex R.C.Padre.

Roll-call 8.30am weather cleared, colder & overcast.

Paper up to 80sen.

Tokyo raided early 30th Nov. No Euro news.

Pork 88Y per catty in town. 2 oz Suk yin issued Y7.

Painted name on Mary’s suitcase aft. 

Oil 4oz & sugar 1.09oz issued.

Water on.

North’s notes tell us that air-borne troops landed in Baden in the Black Forest & that at some points our troops are about 60mls inside Germany. The pipeline from India to China is now in operation.

Lorry arrived with fresh fish & canteen gear.

Another month started - Dora and the University crowd came in yesterday, so I gave D and M a cup of tea this morning for which they were  very grateful.  We have settled down all right - but what an existence!  I wonder all the time where you are - if you got to Dacca you will I am sure be comfortable - even with the heat - but I didn't know if you got away or not.  I wish I knew. 

The C.S. was down today - he had a motor accident and has a chip fracture of his ankle so now he has to have his foot in plaster.  I am very sorry for him.       

Love from B

Musicale (Goodban, Bicheno, Corra, Brenchley).

1 lb flour issue.

Rudolf Zindel is back in Stanley - he wasn't allowed to visit in January, although he did manage to pay 'pocket allowances'. He interviews a number of internees and holds lengthy discussions with Franklin Gimson.

He reports to the Red Cross that conditions in the camp are unchanged from his previous visits, except that he found military guards for the first time. He notes that he's been told the flour ration has been replaced by an increase in the rice ration - which is also upgraded in quality, and that he hears favourable comments about the quantity of vegetables.

He also tells Geneva  that he paid 2249 British internees their monthly 'pocket allowance' and made his usual monthly grant of M. Y. 3,000 to the Camp Relief Fund. He notes the payment of pocket allowances to 16 American internees - 3 more than last time.


Zindel to the ICRC, General Letter No. 32/44, 28 March, 1944, Archives of the International Red Cross (Geneva)

((Following text is not dated:))

We made our own entertainment during the years of captivity using makeshift props.  Mosquito netting was soaked with a variety of medicines from bright mercurochrome to methylene blue, and made into frilly skirts.  Jam tins were saved for helmets and crowns, with silver cigarette paper stuck on cardboard to resemble armour and shining swords.  Japanese guards watched these performances, and didn't entirely approve of the mosquito netting.  Rehearsals could not go on for too long, as it was so weakening.

Betty Brown, ((sic., actually Betty Drown)) Radio Hong Kong's pianist, provided music on the camp piano, composing and improvising for all the ballet shows, pantomimes, and vaudevilles which we put on at intervals.   Carol Bateman, from Shanghai, put on the ballets; we were fortunate to have her...she gave Margot Fonteyn her first ballet lessons!  The Japanese would not allow us to sing the National Anthem, but we were permitted to sing Rule Britannia!  (We sang it with gusto accenting the never, never.)  Perhaps we were allowed to sing it because the Japanese greatly admired the British Navy, and modelled their own on it.

Overcast, wind dropped.

Workshop, odd jobs.

Weather beautiful aft. onwards.

Lorry with veg & fish 5.30pm.

Planes & “thumps” heard but no A/r warnings.

SAFE IN HONG KONG AGAIN... or so it seemed.

Somehow my father managed to obtain visas for the family to return to Hong Kong. Apparently, having a child in the family who was British by birth was an advantage in obtaining visas for all of us.

While my mother established her dressmaking business in Hong Kong, my father was soon successful in prospecting for minerals. With both my parents gainfully employed, this was a short period of considerable comfort and stability for us. We lived in a spacious flat in Kimberley Road, Kowloon, and I vividly recall the tricycles that my brother and I rode around the flat.

Since my mother was very busy with her dressmaking salon, I had my own baby amah to care for me. I became very attached to my amah as I spent most of my time with her. In this respect, my early upbringing was similar to the very wealthy children in Europe who had little contact with their parents, and became very close to their nannies. My father was away a great deal in the New Territories, as he spent most of each week supervising the operation of the mines which he had prospected there.

Although my father had little formal education, apart from his studies for the priesthood in Ukraine, he had acquired valuable lessons in prospecting for minerals from his elder brother. This brother had been responsible for diamond prospecting in Siberia during Tsarist times. He was so successful in this endeavour that, after the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks put him in charge of diamond prospecting in the Urals as well as Siberia.

It turned out that my father was an apt pupil. Several of the mines in Hong Kong and its New Territories owed their existence to my father's talent for discovering minerals of various kinds.

By the early Forties, the British authorities in Hong Kong were well aware that the Japanese posed a threat to the Colony in the near future. Since Britain itself was under siege from the Nazis and fighting for its very survival... this was the time of the Battle of Britain as well as the Battle of the Atlantic... there were few military resources which could be spared for the defence of Hong Kong.

Furthermore, in 1921, the British had agreed to limit the fortifications of the colony and this had increased its vulnerability. The government began a program to build air raid shelters in the colony and my father was employed by the Marsden company to supervise the construction of some of them. ((Jurors Lists show that Paul's father was actually working for the mining company "Marsman".))

By late 1941, the Japanese controlled most of the area in China just to the north of Hong Kong. For the defence of the colony the military commander of Hong Kong, Major-General Maltby, had only 14,000 troops. The force was made up of Canadian, British and Indian regiments as well as Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. Maltby only had five antiquated aeroplanes at Kai Tak aerodrome. These were no match for the Japanese Zeros which were among the best fighters of their day. In the Harbour, there was only one destroyer, a few gunboats and a small flotilla of motor torpedo boats.

The Japanese attack began on December 8th, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. They had massive superiority on land, sea and air. The Allied troops resisted bravely, suffering severe casualties and inflicting punishment on the Japanese invaders, but after 17 days of brutal fighting General Maltby advised the Governor that further resistance was futile. The American fleet had been decimated at Pearl Harbor and the British had lost two of their capital ships, the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, to Japanese bombers off Malaya. There was no prospect of relief from the sea. The defenders of the Colony were on their own.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Hong Kong surrendered.

January 1st to 9th inclusive, Namo Trip (Nam O = South Cove, at Dapeng Bay)

Contacting our old friends the guerrillas we met our new mentor Ye – our interpreter and were soon on our way, and, by means of bicycle taxis pushed by willing little slaves, who sang and whistled all the way, made Tsuen Loong (previously Tsuen Lung?) (Chun Lung) in about 2½ hours. The time we made was good and we had visions of making Tong Po, through the “Nip” lines, the same evening. We were doomed to disappointment however, and had to spend the night in the local hotel, where, after listening to our guide’s recital of his previous wealth, travels, cellar, and bravery (all this after his consumption of two bottles of Chinese gin) and eating a meal prepared by him of pork chops and fried potatoes we were in bed by 6pm.


Very bright clear day.  N.W. still blowing. Inspected camp and found it for the most part in filthy condition.  Latrines terrible and drains blocked.  1st Mx easily the best. 

Nips did not come today as they promised, to take the cases away, nor did they bring the equipment.  They are full of empty promises but never intend to do anything. 

Arranged to feed with Winnipeg Grenadiers.  Opened Isolation Hosp for dysenteries and put Albert in charge.  Had long talk with Coombes re moving [escaping] and took 1st step and had Lee transferred over here so that he can slip away easily.  Told Brigadier Peffers of the plans and he approved.  Had water fixed up, and enjoyed a good wash.

Much buying going on through the fence 3 buns for a dollar 1 bottle of beer $2 or 2 for $5.  Purves bought kettle for $5 and then we found it had a hole in it.  Had some pork with our rice this evening so put some bully with it and had quite a good feed.  Breakfast we had some of our own rice and made it with remnants from last night.  We had this at 10 a.m.  At 12 we had the rice issued to us for breakfast along with biscuits and some tea.

Had walk round after dark and think best way is by boat from the pier after full moon.  Scrounged an iron bed today and hope it will be more comfortable than the concrete.  Had Lee transferred to us today ostensibly to cook rice for patients but actually to make get away easier.

A Happy New Year to you and I am sure it is going to be a happy year. Such news as we have been able to glean sounds almost too good to be true but we have had it confirmed and believe it. (all bunkum of course) We feel sure that our captivity won't last more than a few months and then the whole business will be cleared up and we can all be together again. Here's hoping anyway!
 All my love always       Billie

During 1943 and 1944, my diary became very sketchy, as from late 1942 our Catholic priets 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.

Mabel looked after babies and toddlers, and re-made clothes for them out of oddments.  Mum (and room-mate Mrs K) mended clothes for the men whose wives weren't in camp.

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.

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.

The start of another year and still here, but we are more hopeful of release than we have ever been. We are moving rapidly on all fronts and this we gather from the meagre news that is in the daily rag and reading between the lines sort of thing. At any rate we feel more confident that our day of freedom is not so far distant now.

The chow put on by the kitchen was quite good considering the small and poor rations we get, however to supplement we made another pie of corn mutton and vegetables and has helped to fill the empty places.

I received three small parcels from Lo Fung I, Lam Chang Wei and Mei Lee Ironworks and these were very acceptable and helped to replenish our impoverished stocks. There is still no further news of repatriation, but continue to hope.

Camp became Military Internment Camps. HK (C.C. Hattori; D.C.C. Meijima. Rep. of Internees – Gimson)

X (Alun Thomas, E. Grant ((sp.?)), S Mackinlay ((sp.?)), J??? (("Jenner"?)), ??? (("Betty Twidale"?)), D. Wilson ((spelling?)), C.J. Norman (C), Betty Tebbutt,??? ??? (("Peggie Hunter"?), J. Matthew / ((or "Mathers"?)), Scantem ((spelling?)), Harry Tyler, McDermott.)

Quite a few saw the New Year in, bells were rung & Auld Lang Syne sung. Everyone full of optimism!

Overcast, dry. N wind.

Started bricking up Dentists window.

Drink & pkt cigs with Steve.

Oil & sugar issued.

Mrs Brown gave me a tie. ((MW Brown?))

Excellent meal pm. Soup, fried potato cakes & fried vol au vent filled with egg yolk and wong tong.

Talk with G.F. & V.P. till 7pm.

Air-raid alarm 7pm to 7.30pm.

((Dates are approximate))

Brutal Episodes during the Occupation

During the war, the Japanese military behaved brutally, especially towards the Chinese. But remarkably, as a little blonde boy, I was often shown great kindness by both Japanese officers and soldiers. I was constantly patted on the head for good luck.

On one occasion, my parents and I were walking past a Japanese sentry who became annoyed because my mother and father did not show him sufficient respect by bowing very low. At bayonet point, he forced them both to kneel for over an hour on a hard concrete surface. Several Japanese officers saw what had happened and came over to me bringing cakes and a cold drink. While my parents kneeled in great discomfort, I was entertained by them on the lawn. It was a strange feeling seeing my parents suffer for such a long time, while I was having my head constantly patted. Kindness and brutality wrapped up in one package.

When I was just five, I used to spend a lot of time just roaming around the streets of Kowloon. For some reason, I always felt safe on the streets, and my parents never objected to my adventures. One day I saw a large crowd obviously witnessing some interesting event and I pushed my way through a dozen adult legs until I broke through to the front of the crowd. There was a quick movement and then a human head rolled past me. I had witnessed my first summary execution. A Japanese officer had used his samurai sword to chop off that head. I was told later that the victim had been caught stealing. He had been tried, found guilty, and executed in a matter of minutes. That kind of rough justice was apparently common during the occupation.

On another occasion, I was making my way home and was about to cross Nathan Road in Kowloon. There was a string of Japanese soldiers with fixed bayonets in the middle of the road, each standing about 10 feet apart. Their job was to ensure that nobody crossed the road. A senior Japanese officer had just arrived from Japan and a procession of cars was about to carry him past us on his way to his new headquarters. Since he was regarded as an emissary of the Emperor of Japan the route he was taking to his headquarters was regarded as a sacred passage. No foreigner was permitted to soil that passage by crossing the road before the eminent person had passed. And when he was passing us we were supposed to bow respectfully towards him.

Since I had already witnessed several acts of brutality by Japanese soldiers, I took their threat seriously and waited patiently by the kerb.

A Chinese woman approached the road, saw the soldiers and started to walk towards one, explaining in Cantonese that her children were waiting for her at home. Could she please cross the road?

Without a word, the Japanese soldier rammed his bayonet into her stomach. Two other soldiers came out of the side street, casually grabbed a leg apiece and dragged her body away.

We all watched silently as the soldiers did their gruesome work with calm efficiency. When the procession of cars carrying the emissary of the Japanese Emperor passed us, we foreigners bowed very, very low.

Police move to Am. Block

Move changed to Bl. 12+17 Indian quarters

Life in the Italian Convent

We lived for the last two years of the War in the Italian Convent, half way up the peak of Mt Victoria. This gave me a dress circle view of the air war. Sometimes the American planes would come diving over the top of Mt Victoria, passing just a few feet away from where I crouched on the roof terrace. I would wave frantically to the pilots and other air crew and sometimes they would wave back. By today's standards, the planes flew very slowly and many were easy targets for anti-aircraft fire. If any of the pilots were captured, the Japanese would treat them very badly indeed, before executing them. In my view, those American pilots early in the War were the first kamikazes.

A new month and no further on!  We have had some trouble in camp - six men arrested by the Gendarmerie - D.O.K. what for - but I expect  they'll have a rough time.  It is horrid to think there must be some informer in Camp.       No news.    Good night L.O.   B

((Following text is undated:))

Owen, my husband, was taken out of the camp one morning at nine-o-clock, by the Japanese for interrogation concerning the airport, and, as the day wore on, and he did not come back, I was in a dreadfully anxious state and wondered whether I would ever see him again.  Thankfully, at nine-o-clock at night he returned, but I will never forget that day.

OBJECTIVE: Block Pearl River channels with anti-ship mines

RESULTS: B-24s drop anti-ship mines into the Pearl River


AMERICAN UNITS AND AIRCRAFT: Three B-24Js from the 308th Heavy Bomb Group


ORDNANCE EXPENDED: Twelve anti-ship mines, most likely a mix of Mark 13 and Mark 13-5



SOURCES: Original mission reports and other documents in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

Five years today since we were evauated from HK and last saw Dad.

Bridge, we played Dr Selby and Shields ((either Sammy Shields or A L Shields)), went down 16.

Worked in afternoon.  

Visited various people, including Mr Charles Poyntz.

Peg & I played June Cheape and George Halligan in evening, we lost.

Lovely meat pasty.

Sandbach (quoted from “Invitation to Live”, “Out of the night” / Myhill

Meat pastie & stew

((following text undated, but on page for July)) J. only allowing 2 concerts a month.

((Following text not dated:))

Margaret Guttinger ((a neighbour living in Fung Fai Terrace)) sends word peace talks. Privileged to have short wave. Peace sensation.

Spend freely on pork and buns for dinner, Y3,000. Glad not more. Account book looks like lasting just long enough. For first time in years had coffee at own expense in restaurant, for three of us. Coffee and two small cakes each, Y372 plus tip = Y400

NE wind, warm, showery.

Slight temp 101’ this am but normal by 10am on G’s thermometer.

Workers’ sugar.

Spring-cleaning finished.

We all hope for a happy month, for something to happen for our good. 

Lorry with veg 7pm.

Mrs Harrison barging about 10pm.

Booze party at Franks. ((Probably fellow Prison Officer, E S Franks.))

Beach open & a pm ∴

"Kenya" (Willcocks) ((J L Willcocks had likely given a talk about Kenya, as he'd been Assistant Commissioner there.))

Roll call 9.20. L.O. 10 pm.

Issue of 5 pkts. M.B. cigs


Wedding - Robert John Minnitt and Peggy Christine Sharp (AP. Rose)

Since writing about the bracelet, Y has sold her lovely Chinese brocade housecoat for MY30 for the purpose of buying me as many tins of bully beef as possible from the canteen. Maudie says she has written to Capt. Min to ask him to send me Y20 per month if possible, which is most awfully kind of her. So it looks as though I should manage to survive if all these things materialise.

When we hurriedly left our flat in January 1942, we sent over a trunk full of our silver to the French Consulate in the hope that Devaux would be able to look after it for us. Now that Y will be leaving HK we want to write and ask him to send it in here (through the Japanese Civil Administration) so that Y can take it with her. The snag is that, apart from the risk of having the contents tampered with in transit, we may be instrumental in getting Devaux into trouble. 

Some time ago apparently, third nationals were ordered to report to the Japanese if they were looking after any property belonging to internees, and we do not know if Devaux reported our things or not. If he has not and we send him a card asking for them, it may get him into trouble. If we leave our things with him, there is always the chance of losing everything during the second spate of looting that will probably ensue during the transition period when HK returns from Japanese to British or American occupation. It would help a lot if Devaux would send a guarded message of advice.

Beach reopened (pm's only)

8 a.m. parade roll call.

Prof. G.T. Byrne M.Sc., F.H.C. ((sp?)), J.P., Prof. of Chemistry HKU (59) died suddenly at I.Q.

(Day 887 of captivity).      The beginning of a new month thank God. Time passes wearily along. One day is so exactly like another that it is extremely difficult to fix the dates of events in one’s memory. I suppose I may read this diary one day and it will bring back many things I have already forgotten about. Incredible it is to think we have been in this place for over 2 years 4 months now! If we are still here, (as I fear we shall be) by July 8th of this year, I shall by that day, have spent just half my sojourn in Hong Kong in this camp.

Since the beginning of this year there have been some quite radical changes in the camp. In the first place, this camp is no longer designated ‘Stanley Civilian Internment Camp’ but is now ‘The Military Internment Camp HK’. We are no longer under the control of the Civil Administration and Gendarmerie but under the control of the Japanese Army. We have no definite information concerning this change; I cannot think that the whole of HK is now under Military administration. It is thought by many that the change is due to a request made by the British Govt that we be treated as prisoners of war in order that we should enjoy all the privileges laid down in the Geneva Conventions appertaining to such persons.

I think I am correct in stating that we (the civilians here) are the first British subjects, in the history of the British Empire, to be interned in British Territory. Had we been allowed to live in HK in our own houses, I suppose the Japanese could not be held responsible for our welfare; now, however, that they have interned us we are their responsibility. But as this is the first time that civilians have been interned by an enemy power in their own territory, there is no precedent to follow and no international conventions to be used as guides as to the treatment of us by the Japanese. Actually, as the Japanese were not signatories of the Geneva Convention, concerning the treatment of prisoners of war, they deny any obligation to be bound by the convention although they have stated that, in actual fact, they are treating us according to the rules of the convention.

In reply to requests from Mr Gimson that our rations be improved the Japs have stated that we are receiving the same rations as the Japanese territorial soldiers. I presume this means the Japanese private. I cannot believe this statement to be true; or if it is, then God help the territorial soldier! It is true that the diet of the Japanese nation is more largely vegetarian than our own, but we can barely subsist on these rations, let alone fight on them.

One benefit that we have derived from this take over by the Military Authorities is that they have prior claim to all supplies entering the Colony and that though the rations are gradually becoming poorer and poorer, they would, in all probability, be poorer still were we still under the civil authorities when our rations were supplied by a contractor who obviously would not supply more than he could possibly help. So we derive what small comfort we can from that.

Following the change in administration here the Japanese gendarmerie were replaced by Formosan military guards. This change took place at the beginning of Feb and, as it is customary (evidently) in POW camps for the prisoners to salute their guards on meeting or passing them, the internees here were instructed by Mr Gimson either to say, “Good morning” (O-hi-o in Japanese) or raise their hats or make some gesture of salutation. This we endeavoured to do to start with, but the guards (especially the one stationed in the main road) seemed rather surprised at all this friendly greeting and grew so tired of acknowledging hundreds of salutations that the formality in a general way was soon dropped!

Another sequel to this take over by the Military was the declaration we were all obliged to sign on the 24th or 25th of Feb. We were ordered up the hill in groups, at specified times on those days and there we had to sign a form to the effect that, “I declare on oath that I will not attempt to escape or divulge any military information on my release by the Japanese Military Authorities”.

It further stated that any contravention of this oath would be severely dealt with and would, if necessary, include the sentence of death. We were informed that pressure would be put upon any who refused to sign and people would be coerced by such methods as being made to stand for an indefinite period holding, say, a weighty tome in either hand; or being made to sit up in a straight backed chair all night etc. Those refusing to sign would probably be kept in solitary confinement in the gaol. Gimson pointed out that no useful purpose could be served by refusing to sign and advised everyone to do so. Everyone did sign the declaration, though most, if not all, made the inward reservation that since we had signed under duress we were not morally bound to honour the oath.

This, I imagine the Japanese realise and the only object of the whole business is to give them some sort of right or excuse for imposing the death sentence, if they feel like it, should anyone try to escape. Actually they have no right to do this thing in the first place, or to sentence a person to death for attempting to escape in the second.

Bidmead, Fay, Morrison and Randall will have completed their 2 years imprisonment by 20th June and Maejima has stated they will then return to this camp. Poor devils, I’ll bet they are on their best behaviour just now. I also bet, like the other few prisoners who were lucky enough to get back here alive from the gaol, they will be forbidden, under penalty of dire punishment, to say anything of conditions in gaol. I believe when a prisoner is once convicted, he is handed over to the prison authorities, his treatment is infinitely better than while he is in the tender care of the Gendarmerie awaiting trial.

The bankers who went in some months ago, Foy, Cruickshank of the HK Bank, Leper and Camiage of the Chartered Bank, are still, apparently, awaiting trial. Selwyn-Clarke is in prison, for how long I do not know. The remand periods are generally very long, but they do not count towards the sentence.

Another inconvenience which we suffer as a result in the change of administration is a weekly parade and stricter rules regarding roll-calls. Roll-calls take place between 8.00 and 8.15 a.m. and at 9.30 p.m. every day at which time everyone must be in their rooms. The Block Representatives come round at those times to check up. Every Thursday at 8 a.m. the camp parades. This means that all internees form up outside their own blocks in groups – five rows of four people per row, then the next group. These parades were held at 2.00 p.m. at first, but at that time the sun was so hot that the Japs were prevailed upon to change it to the mornings. If it is wet the parade is held next morning or next. At these parades the Japanese from the hill come round and just check up the numbers. We usually sit and read for half an hour, except when the officer arrives, when we stand (unless he has had a good breakfast, when he motions us to remain seated!). It doesn’t take long but it is rather a nuisance.

The other great change that has overtaken the camp is gardening fever. Y and I started our garden last Sept and very glad we are that we did, for we are able to get some beds in the old Married Quarters Garden beside the prison. This garden was cultivated in the early days of camp by a squad of gardeners from these Married Blocks, with Cox in charge. All the communities had their various gardens at the beginning of camp and then, for various reasons, one by one they dropped off. Either there was no nearby water supply; or (as in the case of the Indian Quarters) the area was put out of bounds; or the stuff was stolen; or (as in our case) the gardeners were taken off the list of labourers receiving extra rations at the time when the IRC parcels had been finished and Jap rations were very bad, and the Block Committee decided to eliminate as many extra rations as possible in order to make the ordinary queue rations as large as possible. This question of extra rations has always been a thorn in the flesh, but of that anon. Our community gardeners, who had never received a great deal of encouragement, decided their efforts were not appreciated and decided to give it up.

The garden was, however, kept for Married Quarters people and Cox agreed to remain in charge as his piece of community work. He and the Committee drew up rules and regulations which were briefly: only gardeners were allowed in the area (no friends or children); no tools whatever were to be taken from the area; rules regarding the use of the tool shed etc. (Incidentally, the tool shed is used as the mortuary and the coffin is kept in the shed so we cannot use the tool shed on the day someone dies – all a trifle grim, but these things just cease to worry one in a place like this). Cox has kept a few beds for the community where he grows chilies for the kitchen and a few for residents if they like to pep up their own food. He also looks after the plantain trees – last year every resident received about three or four bananas during the year. There are some guavas but, without lots of sugar, these are not much use. There are some papaya trees there too and these fruits he distributes amongst the people who have gardens in this area. So far, we have had only two little green fruit which blew off in a gale, so we don’t look to this source for any great supply of edibles.

By about the end of last Oct all the available beds in the Married Quarters gardens had been allocated to private gardeners. We asked the Bidwells if they would like to join us in our enterprise, but they decided it was not worth while. However, by Nov they had changed their minds and as there was no space left in the MQ gardens, Mr Lammert selected a site on the hill above the old tennis lawn in front of this block and finding quite good soil there they proceeded to dig up the ground. Watering in the dry weather is their difficulty, and Harold has to carry water up the hill in buckets from a tap that has been laid onto the tennis court. By this time various other people had started cultivating patches of the hillsides.

Just before the end of the year the football committee finally decided that even if the IRC parcels did arrive, no one, would be fit enough to play football, and so it was decided to make this field (or most of it) available for gardens. It was divided proportionally between the three A Blocks and our four MQ Blocks and applications were invited for plots. People whose names were on the repatriation list were debarred from applying. In the end the whole plot was divided into about 120 small allotments measuring approx 9’ x 17’. Married people had double plots; families of four could have four adjoining plots if they wanted them. Then the ‘gold rush’  started. Such activity was never seen!  It was limited only by the scanty supply of spades and hoes available and the gardeners’ small reserves of surplus energy!

When these Prison Warders Quarters were built about 6 years ago, this lawn had been surfaced with about 1’ of black earth, or no lawn could have been produced; for most of the soil round about is just red, disintegrated granite. So these plots have comparatively good soil, though the beds are not really deep enough. In the mean time all the slopes round the Indian Quarters, St Stephens, the bungalows etc., began to change from scrubby hillside into little, terraced garden plots. In many cases the soil is very poor and water must be a problem. Many water pipes have been laid however. As none of the domestic water pipes in any of the buildings are used here, the pipes and the corresponding taps were stripped out of the buildings by amateur plumbers and were laid to convenient spots of the garden areas. In areas where no water is anywhere near, people have planted chiefly sweet-potatoes, which, in the summer, look after themselves. Anyway, there is usually enough rain in the summer weeks to make watering unnecessary, but from Oct to Feb, when hardly any rain falls it is the biggest and heaviest item in garden cultivation.

((Following text not dated:))

Girl in street with all flesh torn from legs. Wild dogs blamed. 

Cucumbers in roof garden green and white not so bad after all. Four pumpkins survive but long time ripening. Long beans not bad. Peanuts livening up.

Early June all quiet for a week.

Here we are in June. I am behind with my entries and must mention facts briefly. During April the Japanese cut us down to one water day in five. That was very trying, especially for washing as the weather had already become hot and sticky. Crowds of people used to take their clothes down to the pool in the Married Quarters garden and wash them there. A second pool had been constructed which held the overflow water from the first pool or tank (used for drinking purposes) and people were allowed to draw water from the second pool for personal use though no one was allowed to use the actual pool for washing. If only I had a camera! It was no uncommon sight to see someone trying, after they had soaped and lathered a sheet, to rinse it out in a small 1’ diameter bowl. In fact I myself washed a small white blanket in our precious aluminium container which is about 5” deep and 10” in diameter. It was no small undertaking and involved at least a dozen changes of water.

However, shortly after the beginning of May the Japanese supplied us with water every other day and that made a vast difference to life in general, even though the water is anything but clear. In fact, when you have a few inches in a pan you can no longer see the bottom of it. Still, we were recently inoculated against cholera and we are careful about drinking water so I don’t think anyone is likely to suffer. One is apt to use the tap for cleaning one’s teeth however, and that is not wise.

The weather turned hot during April, and in May it was very humid and terribly tiring – Hong Kong’s worst period of the weather calendar, May and June. It seems hard to believe that a month or two ago we were shivering  and praying for hotter weather. Still, for these conditions the hotter weather is more bearable. For one thing we are now less hungry than during the cold weather and that is a great blessing. Then, the clothes and shoe problem is less acute during the hot weather. Still, no doubt the cold weather was better for us really.

Mosquitos are very bad this year. Y and I have had to take down the net curtains from our windows. Y has sewn them together down their length and from this we have concocted a mosquito net. We pin one edge to the head of our bed and then drape the curtain over a cord which stretches across the bed and is fixed about 2’ from the head and 2’ above the bed. The loose end then falls on the bed just below our chests.  We crawl under this to get into bed and have to keep the lower portions of ourselves covered with the sheet, but our faces and arms can remain exposed. It is like playing tents. The others have followed suit and made themselves bags of various kinds which they suspend from above and pin to their sheets. Isa’s bag is made from some green chiffon trousers that Yvonne wore for the ballet! Mr Lammert is the only one in our room who has not indulged in a home made mosquito net. He prefers to be bitten. It certainly is much hotter sleeping under a skimpy net – unbearably hot at times and I often wake in a bath of perspiration.

This seems to be a bad Spring for flying cockroaches and the foul things come zooming in at night through the windows. They are just unpleasant and our nets provide some protection against these too, although they sometimes crawl under. On several occasions I have had them crawl over my pillow and my violent reaction nearly scares Y out of her wits.

At the beginning of May the Japanese opened the beach again. It is opening in the afternoons only now. I was quite surprised that they consented to open it at all with the threat of air raids and invasion and so on. Perhaps they don’t wish to admit to us the possibility of such things. Quite a lot of people go down. Y and I have been once so far. It was certainly very delightful but we felt a bit tired out when we got back. It just shows how much below par we are, for we just sat and had tea on the beach, read for a while and then had a gentle bathe. I wonder what it will feel like to be full of energy again. We have by now, become quite accustomed to our enfeebled physical state. I never run upstairs! 

There has been a slump in the black market jewel trade during the last few months. The German and Japanese civilians who had been buying up all the jewellery have, apparently, all but left the Colony now and this has caused a big drop in the price of gold, platinum, diamonds etc. One girl had been offered Y24,000 (pdv £36,000) for a diamond pendant (a family heirloom) but had thought she could probably get more if she waited a little. She waited just too long and eventually when necessity drove her to sell it she received less than Y6,000  (pdv £9,000) for it. She must have kicked herself.

The cost of food has not dropped much but money is very scarce in camp now and where a little while ago a man with good credit could cash a cheque at Y30 or Y35 to the pound, one can get only Y20 or Y25 per pound if you can get it at all. Y and I were lucky to have sold her ring when we did. We had two minor triumphs lately however: I sold a palm-beach suit which had shrunk and was too small for me anyhow for Y300 (pdv £450 at Y30 to £1) and Y sold a bottle of bath salts for Y200 (pdv £300)! We hear a Formosan bought it for his lady love!! But money is getting very difficult again. If I could get Y20 or Y25 I would cash a cheque for 50 pounds. I hope the Govt will give me some of my back pay when this is over!

At the beginning of May the Japanese Camp Commandant Lt Hara and the interpreter, Mr Watanabe, were replaced by two new officers; I forget their names at the moment. Watanabe was a very nice man, as I may have mentioned elsewhere. He visited Maudie quite often and spoke to her of Capt. Minhinnick whom he had got to know in the Argyle St Camp: said he was always cheerful and always had a cigarette in his mouth – a very good description of Capt. Min.

In peacetime, Watanabe was a Methodist or Presbytarian Minister and at Xmas he asked if he could attend our childrens’ party and he sang some songs to them in Japanese. I hear, fortunately, the children behaved themselves well – they seem often to have the unhappy knack of tittering at the wrong moment! His son came through HK in a crowded troop ship which lay in HK harbour for four nights. It was only on the fourth night that he learnt his son was on board and was able to obtain permission to spend the night with him. Apparently all the deck space was occupied at night for sleeping purposes, so the Japs must be very short of transports and the ships must be packed tight with troops. His son is a tank driver and Watanabe, apparently does not expect to see him again. Such is war. 

Since the new commandant has arrived there has been some trouble in the blackmarket and dealers have had to go carefully. However, things seem to have settled down again now, so I presume the new man has agreed to his rake off and business is progressing smoothly!

The issue of cigarettes to the camp this year has been very uncertain. The quota now is 2 per man per day, but actually we have received 1 per man per day and as the camp distributes evenly between men and women we actually get only one every two days. It is felt that the issues are held back deliberately, because the black market does a good trade in cigarettes. Graffe, a Dutchman, sold a piece of jewellery to a black market agent, and then heard, somehow, that the agent had received double the price from a Formosan. With (as he fondly imagined) the intention of protecting others who wished to sell things he reported the matter to Japanese HQ – a perfectly mad thing to do. The Formosans, it appears got into trouble - their leave and pay was stopped for a week or something like that. This, of course, made them furious and a day or two later, as Graffe was walking along the road by our blocks, he was assailed by three Formosans who worked themselves into such a rage that they nearly killed him. Two of them, one with his rifle butt and the other with a bamboo pole, beat Graffe over his head and arms till he sank to the ground when the third joined in, kicking him in the stomach while the other two continued to lambast him. He would certainly have been a case for the hospital, if not the cemetery, had not Vera Armstrong, with a great deal of courage, rushed down from her room where she witnessed the occurance, and almost forcibly intervened. She speaks Japanese fluently, lucky for Graffe. He was a fool even to have thought of doing such a thing. He had accepted the price and what happened thereafter was no concern of his. He appeared in public some days later with his head in bandages but is alright now.

I believe I am right in saying that no woman in this camp has, so far, been struck by a Japanese, though one or two have been made to kneel down if the Japs have disbelieved what they have said. There has been a good deal of face slapping amongst the men however. This is done with the knuckles and not the open hand.

There has been no bombing here for some time now, though there is almost daily and nightly patrol activity – usually by one large bomber which cruises about the Lamma Channel. Why they come so constantly we do not know. Occasionally we hear cannon fire from the plane as it cruises over Po Toi Island but there never seems to be any answering fire and certainly the fort never opens fire. Blasting still goes on and we can see sandy patches growing on some of the islands where they are either digging tunnels or constructing gun emplacements. 

People from Bungalow ‘C’ (which, by the way, has been quite well patched up with bricks and set in mud!) and S. Stephen’s hear a good deal of transport activity at night on its way to and from the fort, and some weeks ago people saw two guns, about 30’ long being taken up to the fort. They seem to think they were 6” guns. At present a lighter is tied up to the Prep School pier. It is equipped with a derrick and the other night they saw a big gun, brought from the fort and loaded onto the lighter. They think it may be one of the two big 9.2” guns we had at the fort and that the lighter may now have returned for the other one. They may be erecting these big coastal guns elsewhere and replacing them with smaller ones. So much the better for us if this is so.

The Japs have laid a boom right across the mouth of Tytam Bay and it stretches across our promontory to Tweed Island, some 500 yards off the shore. We can just see the line of bouys which are almost completely submerged. They are evidently taking what precautions they can against landings here. A few nights ago people saw night exercises in progress on the headland that juts out between Stanley Bay and Repulse Bay. For some reason too they have reinforced the barbed wire barricades around the godowns in which our rice and oil are stored. We heard rumours of further food riots in town and it may possibly be a precaution against attempted looting by Chinese from the village.

We wonder what is in store for us. As far as is possible arrangements have been made in camp for any emergency. Actually there is comparatively little we can do, but people have been advised to prepare for an emergency. We know that in Manila the small number of civilian prisoners were rescued by an American armoured car division. (What fun!) Their exit must have been extremely rapid and they probably took no luggage at all. The road to this camp is too easily commanded from the fort and anyway, 2,500 people seem too great a number to be moved in this way. It may be that peace will be declared before any fighting develops here; maybe the Japanese will withdraw and leave us to our own devices. But we must prepare for the worst – for being in this Camp, which may become no-mans land between the fort and the island mainland. If Japanese forces retire to this peninsula and the Americans attack it, one or two things might happen: both sides may manage to keep shells and bullets from falling into the camp (though this is most improbable); a short truce may be declared during which we shall be allowed to depart from the peninsula; the Japanese may clear us out of this camp to some other part of the island before the attack on the island begins; or we may be in the thick of the fighting, with shells and bombs bursting in the camp. In this case we must be prepared to evacuate damaged buildings and dangerous vicinities while under fire and either take the best shelter possible, or try and get out of the camp. First Aid posts and stretcher parties have been organised.

I think any of the last three possibilities are equally likely to occur. People have been asked to arrange their baggage for three contingencies; where transport and plenty of time is available; where plenty of time but no transport is available; and where no time or transport is available. For this last emergency people can take only what they can easily carry, their iron rations of food and small valuables. 

The entire camp has been divided into small groups of from 10 to 15 people. Gimson will be C- in- C and under him the District Chairmen will be in charge of the Blocks. Gimson will issue instructions by runners (two have been detailed for this). In turn the Chairmen will issue instructions to the Block Representatives (each in charge of his own block) and they in turn will issue instructions to the group leaders within the blocks. In our Married Quarters Blocks each flat has been divided into two groups. In our flat Harold is in charge of one group (totalling 13) and I am in charge of the other (totalling 12). Families have been kept together. Mr Sandbach, the MQ Chairman is in my group, but as he will probably be busy about the blocks my chief concern with regard to him will be to look after Mrs Sandbach and his iron rations.

Incidentally Mrs Sandbach is suffering from appendicitis (which isn’t much fun) but they don’t wish to operate unless it becomes acute, in the hope that we shall soon be relieved and the operation can be performed outside. It is an unpleasant situation but conditions and the necessary drugs etc. for major operations in camp are so bad that operations are avoided if possible.

The others in my group are: Yvonne, Mrs Mather and Jean, Mrs Joffe and Elizabeth (aged 3), Mrs Glanville and Joan Armstrong, and Jackie and Keith Mackie. Keith is my second-in- command. Iron rations have been prepared for everyone in camp. Each person will have one 12 oz tin of bully beef (purchased some time ago, I believe, by the Welfare with I.R.C. funds); one pound of soya bean flour biscuits made in camp; and a 20 lb tin of siege biscuits to be shared, sent in some years ago by the Japs. I gather the quantity will work out at about 38 biscuits per person. These were made before the war by Lane Crawfords to Dr Herklots’ recipe and were stored in large quantities as part of the Colony’s food reserve. They are in sealed tins which must not be opened till Gimson gives the word – in case we have one or two false alarms and the tins are opened too soon. We have to devise some sort of sling so that, if necessary, one or two people in the group can carry this tin.

The camp made biscuits are made from ingredients supplied either by canteen profits or I.R.C. funds and consist of bean flour with, probably, a little rice flour, bran, oil and perhaps wong tong. Every person had to hand in a ‘Domo’ milk powder tin (which came in the Canadian parcels), clearly marked with his name, block and room, and the biscuits were made to fit into these tins (which have lids), 12 per tin I believe. Herklot’s siege biscuits are made chiefly from soya bean residue (after the beans have been crushed for oil) and four of these per day are considered sufficient to sustain life. So we have iron rations for about a fortnight. This is in addition to iron rations that people may have kept for themselves.

Y and I have a biggish tin of Ryvita bisuits (which we brought into camp with us!), a 1 lb tin of Peak Frean biscuits which came in the first parcels; and about 6 lbs of raw rice. The rice we intend to roast or toast and then grind into flour – this, in case there is no chance of boiling it during an emergency. In that case we should just mix it with water and eat it like that. We still have about 3 tins of meat left, and also some I.R.C. parcel tins of sugar, but we are gradually eating those, for we feel that no emergency here can last very long and we hope we have sufficient iron rations to carry us through such a period, and in the meantime it is important to keep ourselves in as good a state of health as possible. We also have some peanut oil in reserve, but this too we are using gradually. It depends how much longer this war lasts!

Everyone has been told to keep by them a bottle or flask of drinking water (as much as they can carry). Water may be a far more serious problem than food. Y and I have each packed a case with our most precious possessions that we hope to be able to save (not that we have much that is really worth saving). My big ‘revelation’ case we are filling with things that we will save if we have time and transport, but would not attempt to carry it with us: the same with our blankets. One blanket we propose to sew into a kind of bag or knap-sack which one of us can wear, and into this we will put our iron rations so that in the event of a serious emergency all we should bother about would be this food bag. We wondered if we ought each to have our own bag but I don’t think we are likely to be separated.

Well, that more or less constitutes the sum total of our preparations for a state of emergency. All iron rations have been distributed to the various blocks: in our blocks it is stacked in a cupboard in each block, already divided into the 12 groups per block so that the business of issuing the rations will be quite simple. In a few of the other blocks (Indian Quarters I think), owing to lack of suitable storage space, probably, the individuals have already been issued with the meat or camp made biscuits on the understanding that they must be kept as an iron ration. Needless to say, some have already eaten these rations! The Stanley mentality I am afraid: some people are just unable to keep food and not eat it if they are hungry. Maybe we shall never need our iron rations but, if we do, I feel that those who have already eaten theirs will get little help or sympathy from the others.

Fine, hot.

Outside roll-call.

We must all bow now when the rubbish arrives. (Block 15 made to stand extra ½ hour because they accompanied their bow with a laugh)

Col. arrived, left at 4pm.

Repair rubbish bin.

Rice tin for Steve.

Wrote hymns for G, pleasant aft.

Crutwell read a little German.


Spotted dick but other food not so good.  Mum had bread ration instead of rice, she isn't too well.


New block system of queueing

Indoors 3 – 6p.m. Visit of Jap official to Stanley.

((The following text is undated:))

The garages were turned into kitchens to cook the rice and spoonful of vegetables we were allowed twice a day.  We were given firewood for cooking purposes, but no containers, so that dustbins and zinc baths had to be used.  Our food was served from these containers using a ladle, but rice sticks, and some were getting a good deal more than others, and with such great hunger, this could not be tolerated, so a utensil was found which would smooth off the top of the rice, giving everyone the same amount.  We collected hot water for drinking from the garage kitchens; a huge black kettle hung over a fire.  Carmen used to say "Break your head, but do not break the flask!"  (There was no means of replacing anything.)  When some bright spark put up a menu "Honeymoon Salad", we knew we were getting "lettuce alone"!

Each of us was supposed to have received a Red Cross parcel, once a month, but we only received three over the three years and eight months that we were in the camp, as the Japanese did not recognise the Geneva Convention.  (It was quite astonishing what a difference those parcels made to the functioning of the body, as far as women were concerned.  The greater number had stopped having any periods and became enormously fat, but within a couple of days of receiving a Red Cross parcel, the periods returned.  For me, personally, my periods never stopped and I became very thin, weighing about five stone ten pounds.  I had to try to cope with the situation by cutting up flour sacks!)

Today we have been confined to our quarters from 1 p.m. till 6 p.m., because the new Japanese Governor of Hong Kong came to visit the fort at Stanley and all internees had to be off the roads during the visit.

Last Tuesday evening I was making a jug of cocoa for our supper (on the electric stove downstairs) when someone came running along the back yard shouting,

 “Put out all the lights, there’s a drunken Japanese soldier coming.” 

Lights in the various blocks flicked off, for on several occasions drunken gendarmes, who are quartered in the Prison, had come round at night, pushing their way into rooms and looking for young women. It is a beastly position to be in, for these soldiers are armed and when drunk are likely to be dangerous. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes this gendarme staggered along, escorted by a Sikh policeman who was doing his best to calm the former. The Japanese was shouting at the top of his voice and I heard him banging at some door and then there was silence for some minutes! Suddenly Mrs Greenwood ran across the yard to the flat on the ground floor where the cooks live and shouted to them at the top of her voice for assistance. Mrs Brown was in the kitchen with me, washing her baby’s’ clothes and she asked me to stay with her, so I did not join the cooks who had immediately turned out to render assistance. They disappeared into the flat which the gendarme had entered and presently escorted that gentleman out, shouting at the top of his voice. The Sikh policeman persuaded him to turn his steps in the direction of the gaol; Mrs Brown made a bolt for her room (a small Amah’s room on the ground floor which she shares with her mother and 18 month daughter; her soldier husband having been killed here during the war). I advised Mrs Brown to lock her door and not open it on any account. I then went to see what had happened and chatted with Himsworth.

Apparently the gendarme had burst into a room where 8 women lived; some were already in bed. Himsworth, who lived next door, with great courage went in to try and distract the gendarme’s attention. This he managed to do and the women fled from the room, some escaping through a window. Another man (whose name I did not get) had also gone along to help. The gendarme drew his revolver and pointed it in their faces and when Mrs Greenwood peered in she found the gendarme shouting at Himsworth, with the pistol waving about, 18 inches from his forehead. She ran back to give the alarm and when the cooks appeared (all seamen) headed by Mills, they found the gendarme had forced these two unfortunate men onto their knees and were making them kowtow to him, their foreheads touching the ground, while he shouted and waved his revolver.

Mills came up behind, seized the gendarme’s arm and hand and pointing the pistol harmlessly at the ceiling led the gendarme out of the flat and into the back courtyard, where the Indian policeman took him by the arm and led him away, still shouting and protesting. Himsworth was laughing and treating the whole thing as just an exciting adventure! However, after a few minutes, back came the gentleman, evidently determined not to be balked. He was really yelling and grunting and waving his revolver in a most dangerous looking way. We all melted away in the dark and doors were locked and bolted behind us. Vera had very courageously come down to see if she could help by talking to the gendarme and reasoning with him. She speaks Japanese fluently, having been born in, I think, Yokohama, and lived in Japan for the first eleven years of her life and returned there later. However, we dissuaded her and returned to our flat and turned off the light. I heard the gendarme hammering on Mrs Brown’s door and felt so sorry for her as she and her mother must have been frightened. However, he gave up in time and stood swaying in the courtyard, looking up and grunting and shouting and waving his revolver. He stood just below our window and when his gaze was turned to it, I judged it wisest to withdraw! Eventually the Sikh got him away and peace reigned again.

Neilson and our block representative went immediately to see Mr Cheng the Chinese Administrator appointed by the Japanese to look after the internees here. They apparently all went to the gaol and reported the matter to a Japanese officer who promised to take disciplinary action. I hope no similar incidents will occur.

Dearest - another month!  I see it's over a week since I have written.  My parcel has never turned up and I think it 's been pinched - I'm trying to find out.  I have no news Honeybun - it's just H - all the time - waiting wishing the time to pass - wishing one's life away!

All my love always - Someday we'll make up for all this.

Flour reduced 6 oz to 3 1/2 oz.

I.Q. Rice ?? ((sp)) others br. every other day.

Rice increased 6 oz to 12 oz.

St. David's Day celebration.

Concert (O'Connor, Heasman, Corra, Drown, Heath  - "That Romantic Age ((sp)) - Yvonne Charter, Nora Witchell (p. W.H. Colledge).

1/2 lb. tea issued.

I stopped again last night - it seems clear that there is no hope of relief this Spring and if we are relieved before Christmas we shall be lucky. It's a long way ahead and it is such a shame that we should be separated on Aug 31st. If we could only communicate in any way - even if I could persuade the Red Cross Delegate to send you a cable or wireless - I've no money to pay for it.

We must be patient.   Cheerio Darling   B

Elizabeth Tai writes to Hilda Selwyn-Clarke in Bungalow D:

Dear Hilda,

You will be grieved to learn that Rose and Koh passed away December first. We are living at Kennedy Terrace, not so nice, but convenient for auntie who has to get up every morning at five and deliver her food by seven thirty. We think of you and Mary and love you.

Elizabeth Tai


Selwyn-Clarke Papers, Box 1, File 1, Item 71, Weston Library Oxford


High Jap. Officials visited camp

Fresh fish arr’d in p.m.

((Following text not dated:))

First week of month loud explosions at night. Black out every night until further notice. Hawkers limited 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. because won't dim lights. Siren erected at electricity substation opposite us. Makes us nervous. Paper says siren now only for big raids and night raids. Too much dislocation. 

Overcast, warm.

Hosp. roof.

Air-raid 1PM – 3PM

Blasting still going on.

Col. arrived, left 2pm.

On 2ble [double?] rations for 10 days.

Wedding E.J.Kennard - Dorothy Deakin

To Mr. & Mrs. S.J.G. Burt, a son

Issue of 1lb. flour 

Nielson resigned as Chairman of Blocks 2 to 5.

((The following text is not dated:))

The Japanese were adept at causing us worry, as each week they would come down on us with a new rule, making life even more difficult.  The last straw was when they told us that we could only have water once in five days!  They would not give us any containers to enable us to store a little extra water.  We had to fill the bath, and be on our honour only to take a ladle full each day.  As there were eighteen of us in a flat with only two toilets (which could only be flushed with clean water once in five days), we kept the dirty water to throw in the toilets that was anything but hygienic.  The Japanese did allow us to go down to the beach to collect salt water, some of it being used for cooking, and some we drank mixed with fresh water added, which worked well as a purgative!

We had a so-called canteen run by the Japanese in which one could buy some tinned goods and other ordinary commodities at high prices.  We sold whatever jewellery we had to buy anything that would augment our rations, and would cook them with our rations on a fire in the grate.  (I sold my diamond and sapphire watch for four pounds of sugar!)    The only fuel we could find was the beautiful parquet flooring of our room that burnt extremely well.  We would cook banana skins to eat just to give us some bulk.  We were fed twice a day, at eleven in the morning, and again at five in the evening, consequently we were always very hungry.  I remember seeing Owen trying to pick up a grain of rice that had been spilt; he lost a tremendous amount of weight.  He never complained, although I knew that he was always hungry, being a big man.  There were those who went around the dustbins searching for whatever crumbs that they could find, but they had let themselves go and looked like coolies.

The Japanese produced their own news bulletins, which we made a point of reading for it gave us information as to where the war zones were and how the fighting was progressing.  The Japanese would give themselves away by reporting that the Americans had claimed that another island had been captured, but of course this was quite untrue!

Last Saturday evening we were suddenly told that there would be a blackout and we had to make the best arrangement we could which is difficult in hot weather, but even before 10 o'clock the guards came round and made us put out our lights altogether. Then the authorities got nasty with the poor results of the blackout during the next two days until we finally had to put out the lights at sunset, which made conditions rather miserable. However they finally withdrew the ban on Friday and so we are back to normal conditions again.

One of the rooms had a gramophone and kept us amused and cheered with funny records such as Max Miller etc.

Last Sunday was Easter Sunday and I went to the 7 o'clock service taken by Sandbeck and at the 10 o'clock service I was a sideman it was a special service taken by five of the ministers. Downie not preaching just now as he has had all his teeth out. ((Possibly James Downie Thomson, though he was a manager at Dairy Farm before the war, not a priest.))

D.B.B. and I went to the hospital to help H. Smith bring his clothes and bedding up here as he was discharged today. When one goes to hospital you have to take blankets and pillows with you as the hospital is so short, so your mug, spoons and plate, sugar if you have any and any tit bits of your own.

Last week a coroners inquest was held into the death of a Mrs Evans who died on the operating table due to the lack of oxygen, which the Authorities wont supply to the hospital. Dr H.Talbot has been arrested and put into the prison. It is said that he has received a sentence of 18 months and Grayburn has received 4 years. so Bidweed one of the internees who escaped a year ago and was caught with three others has died in prison. ((That sounds like Kenneth Bidmead, though in fact he survived the war and lived until 2007.))

On Monday I went to our engineering lecture on Charter Party and it was most interesting. J.F., D.B.B. and I have our usual walk at night and tonight D.B.B. and I went to J.F. for a cup of instant postain and a biscuit and had our usual yarn.

We have been told that we can write a 200 word letter which will be dated 30th April and it is expected that we will be able to write monthly and by backdating the letter we'll be able to send one for May. This is jolly nice to think about.

Rice reduced to 8.1oz per day. Flour increse to 4.22 oz. per day

5 pkts May Blossom

Issue of 2lbs. sugar

Classical concert ((see 30 April for details))

200-word letters allowed.

News of execution of Mussolini

((Following text undated:)) Lt. Kadowaki successor to Lt. Hara.

Overcast, showery, hot, humid. SW wind.

Fetched sewing machine for A room. Odd jobs. German lesson.

Lorry in 5.30pm. parcels & papers.

Gave mirror away.

Tea 1.6, sugar 1 & salt 1oz issued.

Another new month. I didn't write last week as I was disappointed - the blood count was no better despite my injection. I had another then and this time it was sore - very sore and ached all Saturday night and Sunday. This week the blood count is up to 3,340,000 with Haemoglobin a good 7%+. I'm to stay on the Diet Kitchen for another week. I didn't have another injection as Smalley thinks they haven't had their full effect yet.

The offensive has started at last - last Sunday night the planes came for the first time. I saw nothing but lots of people saw the fireworks - "flaming onions" etc. But we all saw them on Monday - we hear they have completely knocked out Taikoo Docks and slipways which were captured intact. So now we are hopeful that the end is in sight.

We have 2 other items of good cheer - we each got H$26 from the British Residents Assoc. of Shanghai the other day (I had to pay out to all our lot being Treasurer for the "Indian Quarters" and I had to handle H$12,500.) Then Comfort Parcels are on their way and we may get them tomorrow - we hear they are full of good "eats".

Well I have to go to attend to my washing so goodnight.

AIAW. Billie

OBJECTIVE: Secret interception mission in vicinity of Hong Kong and Canton

TIME OVER TARGET: ~11:20 a.m.

AMERICAN UNITS AND AIRCRAFT:  Three P-40E1 from 16th Fighter Squadron (23rd Fighter Group, China Air Task Force, 10th Air Force)

AMERICAN PILOTS AND AIRCREW: 1st Lt. Dallas A. Clinger; 2nd Lt. Walter E. Lacy


RESULTS: Anticipated enemy aircraft did not appear



SOURCES: Original mission reports in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).



201 admissions to Tweed Bay Hospital ((This may well be a summary of the total number of admissions to the Hospital during the month.))

H.C. Service of commemoration for Faithful Departed (Brown, Rose, Sandbach (G), Forster (E) Short)

10% cut in rice

((Following text not dated:))

Upstairs admit moving out. Claim careful get Chinese tenant replace. Meanwhile ask me caretake and free phone, but then don't give me key. We nervous burglars.

Throughout November alerts almost daily. Planes heard but no bombs. Dropping mines?

Fine. E wind.

New kitchen taken over by A1-4.

Demolishing old kitchen & woodchopping.

With Steve pm.

Hertogenbosch captured 28th Nov ((should be 'Oct')).  Japs have confusing details re their attacks on Leyte air-fields. 

John Charter surveys recent events in camp:

Another month has come. September did not see the end of the war in Europe as most of us thought it might....

Today we were all given our first vitamin capsule. I cautiously bit mine and tasted a most terrible flavour of concentarted fishiness! So I hastily swallowed the rest. We are to have one capsule each, every other day, and this will suply us with the necessary amount of vitamins A, B1, B and C....

The electricity came on again last Sunday, 24th! We had never really expected it, so its advent was hailed with great delight. Unfortunately it is available only for lighting purposes, and then only from 7.30 till 9.30 p.m. each evening. We cannot use it for cooking, so we still have no bread - we shall never see bread again in this camp I think - and they cannot make yeast again. The cessation of the camp yeast supply, when the electricity was cut off, is probably a contributory factor to the increase of beri-beri for yeast is rich in vitamin B, However, these 2 extra hours of daylight are a great boon and a blessing, for it grows dark at 7.30 now and it used to be terribly dreary just sitting and chatting after 7.30. The trouble is that there is simply nothing to sit and talk about in here! We have often noticed how trivial conversation has become. War news has always been the number one topic, except for occasional spates of repatriation or parcels etc..... So now we all diligently strain our eyes from 7.30 till 9.30 under our 25 watt lights and then grope around in the dark and go to bed!

The water suppply is still very uncertain. Sometimes it flows all day and some times it comes on just for a short time in the mornings and then not again till the evenings....


Anthony Crowley Charter, The First Shall Be Last: The War Journal of John Charter and the Memoirs of Yvonne Charter, Grosvenor House, 2018, pp. 439-441.

On Thursday 21st we were notified that we could release another parcel making 3 in all. I had to get a few parcels from other blocks to make up my aggregate which was even then slightly different from the last regime in as much that the children under 4 years didn't get another parcel or they benefit from supplies of klin milk, Pallum, Homogenous Vegetables and orange juice. This issue we easily made and all are more or less pleased, tho' in a camp like this it is impossible to please everyone, some of course are perpetual and impossible grumblers. To give them the Kingdom of Heaven wouldn't be more than some expect.

Today we received the first of our new vitamin tablets which taste like burnt rubber, we are all to receive one every other day for the next few months and the Medical Authorities hope that they will greatly benefit the camp greatly.

The rations are getting very much poorer in quality and quantity and it would be very unbelievable to anyone outside to realise the inadequacies of what is handed out. Poor help rotten vegetables, salted dried sprouts and whitebait and rice, continual rice, congee and brew at 8 in the morning. Rice and hash made from vegetables, such as teroci while melon, turnip sweet potatoes etc at 11.15 am and a similar diet at 5pm with bay tea occasionally a little fried sprats or pressure cooked sprats and whitebait the poorest quality of fish well cats would rarely look at it or they would turn up their noses at the very idea.

However the war in Europe at least seems to be making real progress and the Germans are being driven back to their own borders where they are going to get it good and hard in the neck.

I've had an attack of diarrhoea for several days and with an awful lot of bleeding and plenty of pain, my haemorrhoids are becoming active again. I'll have to do something about them really. See Prof Digby during next week. 

((Following text not dated:))

Woman's body disembowelled. Hungry dogs.

Another month has come. September did not see the end of the war in Europe as most of us thought it might; but a great deal has happened during that month. The campaign in France developed at lightening speed and now our allied forces in the East and West fronts are practically on the German frontiers; in fact we are into NW German territory. Now the German armies seem to have finished retreating and they are evidently going to make their final stand. So it seems to me that they may yet hold out a month or so, or they may collapse within a week or two, for we seem to have complete air superiority and that is of great importance. Anyway, I am still hoping my date of Oct 17th will bring forth something.

I hear that our forces have now made a big landing on the Dalmation Coast. If this is true (I have not seen an official report of it) it looks as though Germany will shortly be attacked from the South, through the old Balkan routes; then she will truly be ringed round by foes. In our portion of the globe it seems that the Americans intend shortly to fall upon the Philippines; also that an American – Chinese thrust may develop from the region of Kweilin towards the coast. So Hong Kong may again come within the battle zone. Well, nothing can happen too fast for us here.

Today we were all given our first vitamin capsule. I cautiously bit mine and tasted a most terrible flavour of concentrated fishiness! So I hastily swallowed the rest. We are to have one capsule each, every other day, and this will supply us with the necessary amount of vitamins A, B1, B and C. A curious thing has happened since the parcels arrived (unexpected by most of us) and that is there has been an increase in the number of cases of beri-beri in camp. Dr Deane-Smith has explained this by saying that before the parcels arrive, most of us were receiving just sufficient of the vitamin B groups (the difficiency of which causes beri-beri) to balance our diet in that respect. The extra food, though rich in protein and carbo-hydrates, did not contain any vitamin B and, in respect to this group, our diet became more unbalanced than before! Who would have thought it could work that way!? Consequently, a lot of people began putting on weight rapidly – which pleased them very much at first – but it was the wrong kind of weight being chiefly fluid, and their legs and ankles swelled, etc. Fortunately a lot of thyamin was sent with the medical supplies and many people have been given thyamin injections. But these vitamin capsules should set most of us right. Taking them every other day they will last the camp for 15 weeks, till the end of January.

People have put on a lot of weight. Harold says he put on 5 lbs in the past 6 days! Yvonne has put on 6 lbs in the first two weeks and now, I am glad to say, weighs 111 lbs. I have not weighed myself recently. I feel I have put on some weight though I shall be satisfied if it is only 1 lb per week, for we are not just wading into our parcels. We aim at making a 1 lb tin of butter last us a fortnight (i.e. about 1/3 of the amount we normally ate in peacetime), also a 1 lb tin of milk and jam last 2 weeks. A 12 oz tin (340 grams) of bully-beef lasts for 4 days, the luncheon rolls for three days, the 8 oz salmon for two days and the 3½ oz sardines for one day. In this way these latter tins will last for about 60 days, so after we have finished a tin we wait a day or two before opening the next. In this way we plan to make our parcels last till the end of the year. If only we had a date to work to it would make it so much easier! It is a depressing thought to think of finishing our parcels and then going back to the old starvation diet! Surely something will have happened by then. It would be almost more annoying though to be suddenly retaken here and find we had eaten only half our food!! It is all very difficult!

The electricity came on again last Sunday, 24th! We had never really expected it, so its advent was hailed with great delight. Unfortunately it is available only for lighting purposes, and then only from 7.30 till 9.30 p.m. each evening. We cannot use it for cooking, so we still have no bread – we shall never see bread again in this camp I think – and they cannot make yeast again. The cessation of the camp yeast supply, when the electricity was cut off, is probably a contributory factor to the increase of beri-beri for yeast is rich in vitamin B. However, these 2 extra hours of daylight are a great boon and a blessing, for it grows dark at 7.30 now and it used to be terribly dreary just sitting and chatting after 7.30. The trouble is that there is simply nothing to sit and talk about in here! We have often noticed how trivial conversation has become. War news has always been the number one topic, except for occasional spates of repatriation or parcels etc. Just now it is: “My Dear! Isn’t the war news marvellous? How much of your parcels have you eaten? Wasn’t the play good last night?” and that’s about all! 

So now we all diligently strain our eyes from 7.30 till 9.30 under our 25 watt lights and then grope around in the dark and go to bed! This 7.30 till 9.30 applies to town as well. That is all the current they get too. So we are thankful for small mercies. 

The water supply is still very uncertain. Sometimes it flows all day and some times it comes on just for a short time in the mornings and then not again till the evenings. Now, if anyone wants a bath, we have first to go to the kitchen tap (which is off the rising main) and make sure that the main is still on. If it is off we have to wait for it to come on again before we can have a bath or a shower, for the bath is always kept half filled as a reserve supply for washing and flushing purposes and nowadays one fills the bath after one has bathed instead of before!

Cooler, E wind, cloudy.

Very poor rations. Issue of vitamin tablets commenced.

Tiffin coffee with Mrs. Brown. ((MW Brown?))

Altered wheelbarrow for C. Jones.

No lorry, no news, no smokes.

With Steve pm.

Full moon.

Dutch complain re woodchopping in quiet hour. 

((Not sure who C Jones refers to.))

OBJECTIVE: Fly a series of staggered single-aircraft night raids to harass airbases at Canton and prevent JAAF pilots from flying night bombing missions against American airbases in China.

RESULTS: Six B-25s bomb White Cloud airbase and three B-25s bomb Tien Ho airbase.  One B-25 returns its bombs to base after it encounters a thunderstorm over the target and is unable to complete its bomb run.  Damage to targets is unknown.

TIME OVER TARGET: ~6:35 to 9:20 p.m.

AMERICAN UNITS AND AIRCRAFT: Ten B-25s from the 11th Bomb Squadron (341st Medium Bomb Group)


  • B-25H #43-4989: 1st Lt. Kenneth N. Martindale; 2nd Lt. Philip J. Holman; Staff Sgt. Lester W. Helrigle; Staff Sgt. Bazil E. Murray; Sgt. Gene O. Gorup
  • B-25H #43-5072: 2nd Lt. Arthur E. Thomas; Flight Officer John J. Hanley; Corporal Oscar G. Jones; Staff Sgt. Jerome J. Krasowitz; Tech Sgt. Robert E. Mongello
  • B-25H #43-4272: 1st Lt. Charles S. Nichols; 2nd Lt. Charles G. Fredricks; Staff Sgt. Frederick J. Reyer; Staff Sgt. William C. Zimmerman; Staff Sgt. Merrill B. Hewitt
  • B-25H #43-4165: 2nd Lt. Charles N. Buchtel; 2nd Lt. William D. Easter; Corporal Archie E. Hollabaugh; Corporal William O. Hogaboom; Corporal Chester E. Jones
  • B-25H #43-4902: 2nd Lt. Peter W. Petersen; 2nd Lt. George E. Doyle; Corporal Walter Paslowski; Corporal William C. Chandler; Sgt. Earl M. Hathfield
  • B-25J #43-3884: 1st Lt. Simpson D. Huffaker; 2nd Lt. Daniel M. Hill; 1st Lt. Ernest L. Painter; Staff Sgt. Alfred J. Weber; Staff Sgt. Manivel A. Coronado; Staff Sgt. Leo P. Demarais
  • B-25J #43-28807: 1st Lt. Harry G. Charles; 1st Lt. Winthrop W. Dada; 1st Lt. Charlton W. Doyle; 2nd Lt. Edward Tempest; Sgt. Frederick E. Benesch; Staff Sgt. Harold J. Toornburg; Sgt .Edward J. Hnilica
  • B-25J #43-3949: 1st Lt. James C. Talley; 2nd Lt. Murray T. Brown; Flight Officer Lawrence J. Corsa; Sgt. Thomas C. Cushing; Staff Sgt. Arthur E. Blain; Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Loso
  • B-25J #43-4091: 1st Lt. Henry D. Wagner; 2nd Lt. G.F. Bogue; 2nd Lt. Emil A. Zogheib; Tech Sgt. Lindon W. Oliver; Sgt. Glen C. Maynard; Corporal Charles G. Edelman
  • B-25D #43-3614: 2nd Lt. Leander L. Smith; 2nd Lt. John J. Wise; 1st Lt. Thomas S. Ackley; Staff Sgt. Joseph E. Bowles; Staff Sgt. Bertram Schwartz; Staff Sgt. Howard F. Avent

ORDNANCE EXPENDED: 175 x 100-pound fragmentation bomb clusters


AIRCRAFT LOSSES: None, though one B-25 is hit by a single machine-gun bullet

SOURCES: Original mission reports and other documents in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

OBJECTIVE: Fly a series of staggered single-aircraft night raids to harass Tien Ho airbase at Canton and prevent JAAF pilots from flying night bombing missions against American airbases in China.

RESULTS: Due to weather conditions, no B-25s hit Tien Ho airbase.  Instead, they strike alternate targets that include the town of Wuchow (six aircraft), river traffic (one aircraft), and White Cloud airbase (two aircraft).  The bombing ignites large fires in Wuchow.

TIME OVER TARGET: ~6:40 to 8:30 p.m.

AMERICAN UNITS AND AIRCRAFT: Eight B-25s from the 491st Bomb Squadron (341st Medium Bomb Group)


  • B-25H #43-4159: 1st Lt. F.O. Cullen; 1st Lt. R.K. Shaw; Staff Sgt. W.S. Faulkner; Staff Sgt. S.W. McDonald; Staff Sgt. M. Bogel
  • B-25D #43-3291: 1st Lt. E.M. Hexberg; Lt. Col. J.K. Hester; 1st Lt. S.D. Brown; 2nd Lt. H.S. Olson; Staff Sgt. W.M. Gornik; Tech Sgt. R.W. Hirtle; Staff Sgt. O.A. Harper; Capt. E.L. Carey
  • B-25H #43-4361: 1st Lt. J.E. Andrews; 1st Lt. F.J. Belot; Staff Sgt. G.A. Penney; Tech Sgt. J.W. Schmitt; Staff Sgt. W.R. Green
  • B-25H #43-4602: 1st Lt. J.H. Shields; 2nd Lt. R.V. Zaloudek; Staff Sgt. L.C. Jones; Tech Sgt. H.E. Gordon; Staff Sgt. R.D. Driscoll
  • B-25H #43-4319: 1st Lt. K.R. Bridges; 1st Lt. A.J. White; Staff Sgt. J.T. Young; Tech Sgt. J.H. Starling; Staff Sgt. H.R. Lehmann
  • B-25J #43-3904: Captain R.G. Hunt; 2nd Lt. G.G. Mann; 2nd Lt. S. Mazer; 1st Lt. R.E. Allen; Staff Sgt. M.E. Vollmer; Tech Sgt. J.B. Clark; Staff Sgt. A.L. Matos
  • B-25D #43-3288: 1st Lt. P.J. Ley; 2nd Lt. W.R. Briggs; 1st Lt. W.W. Merrill; 1st Lt. H.R. Edelman; Staff Sgt. F. Norkus; Tech Sgt. R.L. Koenig; Sgt. G.D. Tanchum
  • B-25J #43-4604: 1st Lt. R.M. Blake; 2nd Lt. A.E. Armstrong; 1st Lt. R.J. Kacik; 2nd Lt. T.F. Jordan; Staff Sgt. F.W. Konkolics; Staff Sgt. W.C. Cheverie; Staff Sgt. A.J. Quinn

ORDNANCE EXPENDED: 152 x 100-pound fragmentation cluster bombs (M1-A1)



SOURCES: Original mission reports and other documents in the Air Force Historical Research Agency archives at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Information compiled by Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945 (Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

((Following text dated from other accounts of arriving at Colombo:))

On reaching Colombo we were billeted with such a lovely young couple in their beautiful home, which we almost felt afraid to enter!  Our bedroom was so pretty, and I couldn't get over the fact that we would be sleeping in beds that night.  On the dressing table were all the cosmetics we could wish for, and in the wardrobe two dainty dresses that fitted perfectly.  (I had not worn a dress since before camp days.)  I cried over such kindness.  We spent about a week in Colombo before being put on the P&O Chitral bound for London.

As for yesterday. Nil sighted. Noon distance 321 mls. 3 Pkts Camel issued & some odds & ends of clothing.

Big raid, Sleepless night. Yaumati houses hit.