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After the War in Hong Kong

The war in the Pacific ended on August 15, 1945. The Japanese had surrendered after the dropping of two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Peace in Hong Kong meant no more air raids and lots of food to eat. During the war we survived on starvation rations and I still remember the physical pain in the stomach from lack of food.

When the British Fleet sailed into Hong Kong harbour, they brought back the rule of law. We no longer had to fear the arbritrary and savage behaviour of the Japanese army. To this day, the Chinese have not entirely forgiven the Japanese for the many atrocities committed during the long war and the occupation of much of China. This second Sino-Japanese War began officially in 1937 and ended in 1945.

My brother and I were enrolled in the Central British School when it reopened soon after the war. The school was later renamed the King George V school (KGV). It was a pretty good school at the time, but I was a lousy student. I think that was mainly due to the fact that I was, and still am, a lazy person. Mind you, I was about two years younger than most of my fellow students in my class and that could have been a problem. Two years difference in age at that stage of life was critical. When most of my coed fellow students were experimenting in the bushes, I was still reading "Biggles".

Some of our teachers were brilliant. I remember with great pleasure our English teacher, Conrad Watson; our French teacher, Mrs. Crosier; and our Math teacher, Gamble. I can only hope that I did not cause them too many heartaches with my poor behavior. I played hooky regularly, and was often in the art room, drawing and painting, when I should have been in geography or chemistry lessons. It was my last art teacher who put the apparently ridiculous idea into my head that I could study to become an artist, and for that I'm truly grateful. He told me that he could have arranged a place for me at the Central School of Art in London, but I explained to him then that our family was headed for Australia. Continue reading on Paul's website...

Mr. Pederson died after operation.

Feeling a little better. Spent most of morning at hospital, trying to get medicine.

June Cheape asked me to do duplicate bridge with her, but I haven't the guaranteed time.

3 cards from Auntie.

News of the new Labour Government: school-leaving age to be raised; no one allowed to earn over £2,000 annually; essential services - railways etc. to come under Govt. control; unemployment benefits altered; expectant and nursing mothers to be fed and housed etc. It all sounds idealistic.

Meeting in Bartons' room. Mum came and other guests.  I'm now President, Elsie Bidwell vice.  Brother F. Grimshaw talked about papal  infallibility,  

Alice, Mum, Peggy and I played bridge.

Olaf Pederson dies after a major operation for an illness caused by malnutrition. He's the only Norwegian to die in Stanley.


American planes attack Japanese patrol boats and the Japanese respond with 'fierce rifle fire' from the camp. It seems that yesterday morning's peace rumours were ungrounded. Tomorrow Franklin Gimson will go to Kadowaki to protest that the firing has put the internees in danger. Kadowaki blames the Americans for breaking international law, but Gimson gets the impression he's embarrassed by the affair.


Kiyoshi Watanabe, newly re-employed as an interpreter by the Japanese administration after being abused and dismissed by Colonel Tokunaga, already knows about the destruction of Hiroshima, where his wife Mitsuko and two children were living. Today he hears the Emperor's surrender broadcast on the radio, and weeps.


​The Emperor's speech is broadcast at noon Tokyo time and marks the end of WWII. Rebellious army officers had spent the night trying to find and destroy the recording to prevent the surrender. At a camp close to Nagasaki 16 American flyers are murdered by diehard elements and there are tense scenes all over the former Japanese empire - New Zealander James Bertram, one of the defenders of Hong Kong drafted to Japan, notes that 'For another forty eight hours it was touch and go around Tokyo, and on the night of the sixteenth a group of drunk NCOs will make an unsuccesful attempt to break into the barracks of Omori camp where the American B-29 crews were being held segregated.

Nevertheless, most members of the armed forces accept the Imperial Rescript and lay down their arms.


In the evening George Wright-Nooth hears rumours that the peace has been signed. It comes, by way of his fellow policeman Lance Searle, and because it's attributed to Father Bernard Meyer, who they regard as a rumour-monger, neither of them believe it. But later that night one of the guards, worried about his own fate, comes round and confirms the story.


Pederson:  J. Krogh-Moe, 'A Brief Report of Stanley Internment Camp From A Norwegian Point of View', in Hong Kong PRO, HKRS163 1-104  

Air raid: Gimson Diary, p. 168 (recto), Weston House (Oxford)

Watanabe: Liam Nolan, Small Man of Nanataki, 1966, 146

Bertram: James Bertram, Beneath the Shadow, 1947, 210

Wright-Nooth: George Wright- Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 244


According to John Luff (The Hidden Years, 1967, 224) Kiyoshi Watanabe took the news of the surrender to an unnamed camp. This isn't mentioned in Liam Nolan's biography, which moves straight to his internment alongside the other Japanese in Hong Kong.


Pederson gravestone.jpg

Note: The June dating is a mistake, and I suspect the correct spelling is Olav Pedersen.

If the war is not over then the end is not far away if the stories we hear from the Formosan guards have any semblance of truth. They are running round in circles and trying to be friendly.

Death - August Olaf Pedersen (53)

Up and down all night listening to radio. Early broadcasts said Jap reply not received. At 5 a.m. San Francisco said reply received in Switzerland decoded, but did not contain the reply for which world was hoping. Meanwhile Japan being heavily raided all day from noon.

Rumour that B.B.C. announced Japs accepted demands. Went to town with Maurice Fung, by tram. Told kids stay in lest crazy ones show excesses in behaviour. To Ken Chaun's. Say all over. But red flag goes up for air raid! Example of sturdy independence of departments which has characterised the administration throughout.

With Charlie ((Wong)) and Henry Ahwee to hear important announcement. Gloucester corner big crowd mostly Japs looking grim. Seem to know what's coming. Tokyo relay, much static. Emperor's voice deeper boom than expected. Long spiel. Japs look sad, but no outburst. Women near tears.

Ask Lum arrange meeting for me with Japs in office. No excuse not transferring soon as can. But Lum says they addressed staff, said worked together long time, friends, but soon going; meanwhile carry on as before. ((Harry Ching had been the editor of the SCMP before the war. The SCMP office had been used by the Japanese during the occupation, now Harry is keen to get it back.))

The rumours of peace are still persisting! I feel, as usual, it is just another rumour. I do not think anything will happen till the end of September at the earliest. At least I have schooled myself to that thought – beginning October the earliest; more probably during Nov. or Dec. If it happens earlier, well so much the better, but now that I have ceased to worry about our speedy release and have managed to get back into my rut again I feel less restless.

During the last few days I have been thinking of producing ‘Hiawatha’ in the form of a choral reading. I have read through the poem and made a selection of the parts that are more or less necessary for the story and have made out a rough list of people I should like to ask to take a part. I think 6 or 8 sopranos, 6 contralto; 4 or 6 tenors and the same number of basses – unless I had two groups of basses on opposite sides of the stage, for there are quite a number of parts which would sound well if spoken by basses and it would perhaps, give added interest if these parts were spoken by two separate groups. I have cut it down to about 1/3 of its full length, for the whole thing would take about 4 hours to read and I don’t think a Stanley audience could stand more than about 80 minutes actual reading with a 10 minute interval. The metre and rythem in which the poem is written might become monotonous after a time, but one could avoid all monotony with choral reading where you can have all the soloists of different parts speaking separately or in unison.

I have never before attempted anything of this kind, but I think there are great possibilities in it and a narrative poem like ‘Hiawatha’, I think, would be especially suitable. The advantage would be that it would not need so much rehearsing as a play and the rehearsals themselves would be less tiring. Getting the parts copied out would be the chief difficulty. People would have to provide their own paper for it. Well, if nothing happens soon I must really see if I can collect together enough interested people to do it.

We were medically examined again yesterday and I am now 130 lbs – just a little underactually – my lowest in camp. My blood pressure was only 108 over 60 which is also lower than my usual here. But the blood pressure guage has sprung a leak now and the readings are only approximate.

Fine, light SE wind, showery.

Odd jobs.

Rec. Sept.43 from Marj.

(Russians penetrated Manchuria to a depth of 150 mls by 10th. New bombs use [sic] by US on Jap. caused Japs to appeal to Geneva & US against their use. The reply they got was, “There are plenty more, we have only used them twice”) 

Lorry at 4pm with cigs & toilet paper, wong tong & soap. 34 cigs 5Y10 issued. ∴