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Passages in italics are linking narrative provided by the editor. Passages in italics and ((double brackets)) are explanatory notes. Staff-Sergeant Sheridan’s diary of the hostilities can be read in full at:



All extracts from his post-war Memoir are published with the kind permission of Helen Dodd and her sisters.


Stage 1: Working With the Civilian Bakers

 On December 22 Staff-Sergeant Patrick Sheridan and his fellow RASC baker Sergeant James Hammond received orders to leave Stanley Fort and proceed to the Pier. After an eventful journey they end up at Lane, Crawford’s headquarters, the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Rd., to find Thomas Edgar – a friend of Sheridan’s – in an anxious meeting with Food Control officials. Sheridan soon discovers that Edgar has been forced to abandon the Lane, Crawford bakery in Stubbs Rd, where he’d been producing bread for the civilian population until December 21, and now needs his and Hammond’s help to open up small Chinese bakeries.

Thus Staff-Sergeant Sheridan and Sergeant Hammond found themselves working alongside civilian bakers for the last three days of the fighting, and after the December 25th surrender they accompanied them to the Exchange Building and waited to find out what would happen the next day. The Staff-Sergeant slept well that night:

On going downstairs I find a Jap captain and a group of soldiers in conversation with ((A. W.)) Brown the Manager and some of his henchmen. The Jap Captain speaks fairly good English, his name is Tanaka, he is a communications officer and all his men are technicians. He has come to take over the Telephone Exchange and spends a lot of time with the staff on the top floor. Meanwhile he tells Brown to make out a list of names of all the people in the Building. As we look out the windows on to the street we see Jap sentries at every corner, no one is allowed to move about other than Japs. We see some men of the HK Signals being marched out under escort to Murray Barracks. I go and see Brown and he explains to Capt. Tanaka that Hammond and I are also Military and wish to go to Murray Barracks. Tanaka orders us to stay where we are. There are two sentries on the front door, and the side doors are locked, no one is allowed to enter or leave the building. We are stuck in the building for a few days with no interference from the Japs.

It is of course a very boring existence, but we manage to get at least two meals a day, but the shortage of water is very acute and we are beginning to smell a bit.


The two RASC bakers have made no attempt to disguise their military status, but for the time being they’re held in the Exchange Building. Lane, Crawford manager A. W. Brown gets Captain Tanaka’s permission for them to do something useful:

There are thousands of loaves of bread in the main store in the basement going stale. Brown makes a suggestion to Tanaka that it be distributed to the Hospitals before it becomes unfit for consumption. Tanaka agrees and provides a lorry and armed escort. Edgar, Hammond and myself load up the lorry. We set off up Garden Road and pass hundreds of British troops all lined along the roadside all carrying what kit they could. There were hundreds of Japs with rifles and bayonets fixed, acting as escorts. They call out to us and say they are going to Queens Pier en route for Sham-Shui-Po, which is the former barrack camp of the Middlesex Regiment. It was the most disheartening sight I have ever seen. A lot of these men were comrades I had soldiered with for nearly five years. They called out to Hammond and I, and begged some bread, but we dare not give them any as the two Jap escorts on the back of the lorry made it clear they did not like us even talking to them. The Jap soldiers are very quick to use the rifle butt or the bayonet if they do not like your attitude, or if you do not conform when they give any orders.

We distributed some of the bread to the Canossa Convent in Caine Road, and the remainder between St Joseph’s College in Kennedy Road and the French Hospital at Causeway Bay, all were badly in need for the many sick and refugees they were caring for.

We notice the bomb damage, the deserted streets, only Jap sentries at crossings or street corners. Tram wires, bricks and debris litter the streets, some dead bodies about also. We pass a large batch of Japanese Infantry carrying the ashes of dead comrades in white sacks strapped to their chests.

In the next few days we distributed all the remainder of the bread that was in store. On two more occasions Hammond and I reminded Tanaka that we were military bakers and ought to go to a military internment camp. We were again told to remain as we were.


Soon the bakers move from the distribution of undelivered bread to baking fresh supplies. In an article he wrote for ‘The British Baker’ in September, 1946 Thomas Edgar dates Captain Tanaka’s permission for the  resumption of baking to January 9, 1942.

As the bread had now run out we had a discussion and it was suggested that Brown approach Tanaka to allow the Bakers out under escort to the Ching Loong Bakery in Queens Road East ((This was the biggest and best of the Chinese bakeries used by the bakers in the last days of the hostilities)) to bake bread for the inmates of the Exchange Building and for a lot of wounded troops and civilians in the Hong Kong Hotel which was being used as a temporary Hospital. Tanaka agreed to provide transport and escort. The party was Edgar, ((George)) Mortimer, Hammond, Leung Choy, Leung Tim, ((two RASC bakers)) myself and ((Serge)) Peacock (Russian) naturalised British and his father Piankoff. The son had changed his name to Peacock by deed poll.

We are all pleased at being allowed out to do some work. With Brown’s permission Edgar and I enter the large food store in the basement and full up a large basket with tinned food, tea, sugar, butter, etc, as well as yeast for breadmaking, We know that there was a certain of flour left at the Ching Loong Bakery on Xmas Day, we hope it is still there. Before we leave the Exchange Building Tanaka gives each one of us an armband to wear, it has Japanese characters on it. Leung Choy can read the characters, but does not speak Japanese. He says the characters describe us as the servants of Tanaka. We are escorted on a truck to the Bakery and given strict instructions not to leave the building until the escort arrives about 6p.m. The weather had now turned quite cool and as Hammond and I were in KD ((Khaki Drill – standard army issue at the time)) slacks and shirt, Brown gave us a green woollen pullover each to wear. We also dispensed with our Army headgear so that now we looked like any other civilian, although we both wore army boots.


They find that they are able to resume work at the Qing Loong and word soon gets around to a hungry and bread-starved European population:

There were quite a number of different nationalities who up till now had not been interned by the Japs, i.e. Swiss, Portuguese, French, Irish and others. It soon got round that we were making breads, and as it had not been possible to get any for weeks, some visited the Bakery and were prepared to pay any price for a loaf. We did our best to discourage their visits as it may mean the loss of our jobs. Some were friends of Edgar’s whom he helped at great risk to us all, but he never took a cent in payment.



Although Staff-Sergeant Sheridan and Sergeant Hammond have quite properly informed Captain Tanaka three times that they are military personnel, they are now uninterned, out of army gear and working alongside civilian bakers while their former comrades are already in Shamshuipo Prison of War Camp, or on their way there.  But soon the civilians too face being rounded-up....


On this day, or hereabouts, policeman Norman Gunning, his wife Nan, their 6 month baby Richard and others in their party are expelled from their quarters by the Japanese. They seek refuge for the night in the house of an important Government official on the Peak, but they are turned away. They are welcomed into 357, the Peak, a former HKSBC house  which has been taken over by an American family, the Larsons.


The bulk of the police are confined to their stations awaiting a Japanese decision on the organisation of policing. George Wright-Nooth finds it hard to feed his men, but his friend Lance Searle (at a different station) does manage to get a pass from a Japanese general for this purpose.


The Maryknoll Fathers are still confined in a garage. They finish yesterday's meal of hardtack biscuits and evaporated milk for breakfast. During the morning they're given a few more biscuits and a pail of water from a nearby well. In the afternoon the guards untie their hands for an hour so they can eat their biscuits and drink their water. They are also allowed an hour's exercise and given permission to send a party to the well for more water and another party to their House to get clothing and blankets. After supper their hands are tied again, this time in front, so they sleep more comfortably.


The two day Christmas break spared the British press from having to report the fall of Hong Kong. On the front pages today the Daily Mirror both laments and celebrates The Heroic Tragedy Of Hong Kong, while the Daily Express notes the surrender of the 'gallant garrison' . Page 4 of the latter carries reports from both Japanese and British sources. The British report is a history of the fighting provided by the War Office. The Japanese is understandably more vivid:

A Japanese cable from Hongkong yesterday said that “Sir Mark Young and the commander of the garrison surrendered unconditionally at 7.5 p.m. Their parley with the Japanese military and naval authorities had begun at the Peninsular Hotel at Kowloon at 6.50.

Sir Mark stayed at the hotel overnight under the protection of Japanese troops, and returned to Hongkong, to prevent the destruction of establishments and materials in the colony, with the Japanese staff officer Tada.”

But my guess is that it's the Daily Mirror's page 2 columnist Cassandra who, if he could have been read in Hong Kong, would have found himself speaking for most of the defeated:


The defenders of Hong Kong put up a brave show. The Governor takes his place in history and many courageous soldiers died in the same tradition that is honoured by the name of Calais.

I suppose this loss of life was unavoidable.

The British Government advised Sir Mark Young to "hold on," and then after a week's desperate fighting, they told him to let go. It seems a pity that we couldn’t have made up our minds some time ago as to whether Hong Kong was a reasonable defensive position.

The Japanese provided a sharp and cruel answer.

We never stood a chance.


Gunnings: Norman Gunning, Passage to Hong Kong, 2009, 126-127

Police: George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner Of The Turnip Heads, 1994, 69-70

Maryknoll: Maryknoll Diary, December 27, 1942

Reveille was called at 6 and after breakfast and the usual orgy of washing and teethbrushing (razors having been already packed away) – we readied to march at about 8. We were still fortunate with the weather and with a pleasant mild morning and easy going over padi spirits rose and it was a very cheerful party which strung out over the padi fields. At Wong Mo Hoi we were soon to have our first view of what J. occupation means to a village; burnt out houses being at a premium in what was, or rather had been, obviously a fairly prosperous market village. A few hours steady going saw us over the level and into the hills – a twisty trail being quite visible winding over the first range. The crossing of this proved a strain and packs which that morning had been carefully re-packed as a comfortable amount to carry grew too heavy and our following train of coolies grew still larger as overcoats, blankets and odds and ends proved to belong to the class of “not wanted on voyage”. The sun by this time was hot and it certainly was no joke climbing and Tai and I in our recognised position kept getting farther and farther in the rear. Everyone however was whipped up and after a rest proceeded down the other side in the manner of born mountaineers. Tea supplied by a neighbouring village revived us somewhat and our procession proceeded – via another smaller hill to the Tai Fung Hang Valley well in the hills. The whole countryside was lovely walking country although it was noticeable how little the fields were cultivated – again our J. friends.

After tiffin at Tai Fung Hang (Bully beef) and a general survey of the body – by now we boasted 3 sedan chairs – we went for our last hill, a short but decidedly steep one. This proved enough to stretch our party out and after crossing it and in the descent the party had stretched out to something over 1½ mile in length. On reaching the next valley this distance was more in the region of 2 miles and when we reached Tong Po, our last point before crossing the J. lines, the vanguard had been fairly well rested. A quick meal and in dusk we moved off – now in three parties each comprising two boats’ crew. Mike in the lead – myself in the middle – and Tai with the rearguard. Orders had been given for no smoking or talking and for our first time arms were carried ready.

Over the hill and then into what seemed an interminable plain through which ran the main road – which we had to cross – linking Tamshui and Lungkong. The feeling that we actually were in J. territory had given most of us a feeling of excitement although we could not help but feel that it would be a fairly unlucky patrol which came across us.

After an hour of this and fording a river we halted – it was getting cold now –then started across open moorland – crisscrossed with paths and tracks. During this stretch our nerves received a jolt when suddenly a shot clipped the silence followed by our guerrillas arguing fiercely with what we took to be one of their sentries. Nothing happened and after another hour suddenly we found ourselves crossing the road to carry on over more moorland. There was a slackening of tension now, although we were by no means clear. Gradually the moorland changed into low foothills and another river was forded. The scene here reminded me of photos of Dunkirk – the long line of men stretching from the beach into the river. Following this ((about 2 miles (?) A scribbled note says:See attached sheet, and on another copy this place in annotated: Page Omitted – I can’t find it anywhere, and the original diary starts with the following mid-sentence and a note on the manuscript saying: Dec 28th –  I fear some of the 27thand most of the 28this missing for now.

Have now found in the original “Field” Diary one loose page headed ‘OMITTED’ and initialled as ‘Original’ by Pop. Transcription follows:

…about 2 miles landed us into a village for rest. This order changed to sleep and that night we slept – or rather lay on the ground – it was bitterly cold - & shivered & cursed the inhospitability of the villagers.))

         Sister Mosey, ((who had stayed at the Repulse Bay Hotel to attend to two seriously wounded British soldiers)), was afterwards taken to Stanley Prison together with the two wounded by the Japanese on the 27th December.

We still have to solve our water problem; the neighbours have begun to resent our drawing on their wells. There is still no electricity, and we made an oil lamp using peanut oil and candle ends. There is also the garbage menace. It is now over a foot deep in the streets all around us and is continuously being augmented despite our shouted protests. A great pile of it graces our front entrance. The flies are becoming a disturbing nuisance. In addition to their rubbish, our neighbours are discarding everything that would connect them with our fighting forces. Steel helmets are being thrown away and sent clattering down the streets. In the nullah in front was the complete outfit of a European police officer - spiked helmet, puggaree, cap and all.

In the afternoon, three more soldiers called upon us. Surly and suspicious, they brushed me aside. To our anxiety a young Russian woman who had been living with the Indian family downstairs had decided that our flat seemed safer. Fair and attractive, she sat on our sofa, pretending to read a book but nervously trembling, while we hoped for the best; but the Japanese ignored her. One helped himself to a pair of my socks, leaving his own stiffly filthy pair in exchange. Another went down the hall to the kitchen and the servant's room. I followed, but one of the trio with his rifle barred my way. In a little while the first man returned, and later our amah came in muttering and telling her beads. She would not say what had happened.

Soon afterwards, a better type of caller presented himself - a bright young Japanese, self-conscious in a brand new uniform. He asked for the Chinese resident upstairs, who had apparently at one time worked in his father's firm. He gave the Chinese resident his card and promised him protection, adding that the foraging might continue for ten days more. On leaving, he stuck a paper on the front door downstairs so that we would not be further bothered.

((Date is approximate))

The Shell House Episode

The company which had employed my father in the construction of air raid shelters had carefully selected a good one for the families of their employees. We were evacuated from Kowloon to Victoria Island.

Before that evacuation, I had seen what I thought was a British warplane being shot down by a Zero in a dogfight. This must have impressed me greatly as I had reason to recall that event soon after with considerable effect.

After the surrender of Hong Kong, the Japanese quickly began the process of deciding what to do with the European population they had captured. I was only four years old at the time (that unlucky number again) but I still have vivid images in my mind from that time.

We were taken to Shell House on Victoria Island for processing. I recall a large room filled with nervous Europeans, several in uniform. Reports had filtered through that the Japanese had committed various atrocities such as bayoneting wounded soldiers in hospitals. What happened next I recall only vaguely, but the story was told to me later by my parents and confirmed by several others who were at Shell house at that time.

A day or two after Christmas, a squad of Japanese soldiers led by an officer carrying a large samurai sword burst into the room. The soldiers seemed to be a little drunk, perhaps having celebrated the fall of Hong Kong. They were furious that the British had resisted effectively for 17 days and seemed to be in a mood for revenge.

Just as it seemed likely that a massacre may occur right there and then, I apparently walked up to the Japanese officer in charge and said to him, “Japanese plane go up, English plane go down”. I had remembered the dogfight which I had seen a few days before.

The Japanese officer was delighted. “Sodaska”, he exclaimed. He then put me on his knee, patted my blond head, and barked out an order to his troops. Two of them left the room and returned soon after with three gigantic walking and talking dolls which were presented to me. They had taken them from a department store which had been full of Christmas gifts.

When the Japanese left, many of the British in uniform came over to me and also patted me on the head. They believed I had helped to avert a massacre of the civilians of Shell House, and they politely ignored the fact that I may have belittled the British Empire and its air force, which was close to treason for a little British chap like me.

Shortly after, two of the dolls given to me by the Japanese were taken by other, bigger children. I quietly wished that the Japanese would return to kill these nasty, thieving bullies! There is little mercy to be found in the heart of a swindled four year old.

The Japanese sent all the British to Stanley, which became a prisoner of war camp. Those Europeans who belonged to neutral countries were allowed to remain free in Hong Kong. Some Americans were sent to the USA in a prisoner exchange, and among them were friends of our family.

Since my mother, father and brother were stateless aliens, they were freed. Although I was a British citizen, having been born in Hong Kong, as a four-year old I must not have been considered a security risk by the Japanese and I was permitted to remain with my family.

Years of hardship and danger had begun.

There is an embarrassing postscript to this story. Much to my father's dismay, when I was little my mother had insisted on giving me the nickname of “Pussy”. He had lived in America for 10 years and knew what the word pussy stood for there. Many years after the war, well-meaning strangers would come up to me on the Star Ferry or on a bus, address me as Pussy, and thank me for my treasonous act in Shell house. It was mortifying.

I couldn't write more last night  - we were on the go  the whole time. Another posse came and said they would soon bring 500 men - I bargained with them and they agreed to leave us half of the accommodation we previously had so we had a busy evening.  Then this morning I wasn't sure if they would let us leave with all our stuff but we got away and are now in the Bacteriological Institute. I don't know how long we'll be able to stay here - we have ample water from a good spring - but can get no food.  We have been in twice first for some sort of news and I, first of all, thought of going to our old offices - they are empty  but I  don't think they are suitable.  Septic invited me to go into his place at the Bank but I prefer to stay here.  I won't be able to write much now so I'll stop just now.    B.

Stanley Platoon returned to Prison at 10AM & occupied what had been the Day Guard Qtrs. Allowed to our own qts for 20 mins to collect essential gear (Marj pal, what a mess our place was in, everything ransacked & a bomb had been thrown at the bedroom window) (Blackie had been put to sleep Wed)