1924 - Bodyguard "Two-Gun" Cohen.jpg

Sun, 05/29/2022 - 13:15

Morris A. “Two-Gun” Cohen A.D.C.

Michael Alderton (essarem) notes that the above image titled: Bodyguard ‘Two-Gun’ Cohen: ‘hell on wheels with a brace of revolvers’, is a mid-1990’s reworking, by Alan Flett, of a mid-1950’s illustration by the popular English illustrator, Cyril Webb. The subject of the portrait is dressed in civilian clothes - a suit and tie - with a wide, heavy belt supporting a pair of leather holsters clearly visible under the line of the suit jacket. Each holster holds the British Smith and Wesson .455 calibre Service Revolver (1917 design). This bulky revolver, with its exposed hammer, is characteristically holstered on the hip, and used in the field of battle. Differing from its American manufactured Smith and Wesson .45 calibre cousin, the British equivalent is chambered for the slightly larger, more powerful .455 British Service Eley cartridge. It is a swing-out cylinder revolver of 6 chambers, which can take two clips of 3 cartridges for quick reloading. It has an accurate range of 50 yards.

Michael Alderton (essarem) further adds that it is perhaps somewhat unfair to refer to General Cohen as being a “bodyguard”. In this context, his acquaintance, Mr R. Gould, makes the observation that: General Morris ‘Two-Gun’ Cohen kept himself employed by and close to the Chinese. He took pride in this and was careful to preserve a sound professional status, though he didn’t let this interfere with his being amusing company. One thing could make him huffy, and that was when some new acquaintance thought to display familiarity with his record by speaking of him as bodyguard to Sun Yat-sen. It could be that his name of ‘Two-Gun’ dated from the Sun Yat-sen period, but Morris felt that such a role as bodyguard was far below the dignity of a general. He preferred the designation ‘aide-de-camp’.

Date picture taken
1 Jan 1924 (day and month are approximate)


An example of Bodyguard ‘Two-Gun’ Cohen in action - Moishe Schwarzberg recalls: “Shanghai, early 1923. Dr Sun Yat-sen was getting ready to move south to Hong Kong. It took me some time to meet Dr Sun. His bodyguards were on the lookout for enemy agents; but one day, while I was waiting for Dr Sun to come out of his Shanghai residence and enter the car, flanked by tough-looking guards who eyed me suspiciously, one crossed the street and approached me. I could see he wasn’t a Chinese, but could not have known that he was ‘Two-Gun’ Morris Cohen, Sun Yat-sen’s chief bodyguard and, later, a famous general in the Chinese Nationalist Army. “Who the hell are you, and what the hell do you want?’’ he barked.”

Extracts from the world's press selected by Michael Alderton (essarem):

Canton, 1923. Canton Assassination Dangers. In Canton, always a hotbed of intrigue, the most prominent local leaders frequently lead rather anxious lives. They always take an armed bodyguard about with them, and whenever they travel in motor cars bodyguards are required to stand on both running boards, clinging on with one hand and holding a semi-automatic Mauser pistol in the other. Sun Yat Sen has to be cautious and, according to credible reports, he has engaged as his personal protector a Canadian named Cohen; and when President Sun made his triumphal entry into Canton the only other passenger in the automobile of state was none other than a certain M.A. Cohen. Harry A. Franck confirms that the inseparable companion of Dr Sun is a Canadian gentleman of the family name Cohen, reputed to be a 'two-fisted, two-gun man' of high speed and large calibre. “Rarely during my months in Canton,” recalls Mr Franck, “was Generalissimo Sun seen even in semi-public without the belligerent, or at least highly protective, face of Mr Cohen in the immediate background. When I had the honor to call upon Dr Sun at his headquarters and residence on Honam Island, his Canadian shadow, at the entrance to the Doctor's study, scrutinized me as if to make sure that I had not come to wreak mischief on his chief. But at least Dr Sun had no one else apart from Mr Cohen with him, which was a great change from the mob of guards who mill incessantly about one trying to talk to almost any other of the big military-political men of China.”

COHEN and the CANTON CUSTOMS CRISIS: 30 Days at the Storm Centre of Events in China

Michael Alderton (essarem) notes: Following the recent military victory on the East River front, Generalissimo Sun, accompanied by Adjutant-General Cohen, returns to Canton General Headquarters and immediately commences his campaign to demand his government’s rightful share of the customs revenues collected by the foreign powers at the port city of Canton.

Nov 27, 1923 – Telegram from the U.S. Ambassador at Peking, Schurman, to the Secretary of State, Hughes, at Washington: “Sun Yat-sen is seriously considering attempt to sieze Maritime Customs at Canton.”

Dec 4, 1923 – Letter from Sun Yat-sen to Sir Reginald Stubbs, Governor of Hong Kong: “I am informed that if any action be taken to enforce my Government’s claim to its share of the Customs revenues, ‘forcible measures’ will be adopted, presumably, in the nature of either a naval bombardment of Canton, or an economic blockade of the City directed from Hong Kong. This threat leaves me unmoved. I am resolved that nothing shall prevent me from securing my Government’s just share of the Customs revenue”

Dec 5, 1923 – Sun Yat-sen’s reply to December 1 telegram from Sir James Jamieson, British Consul General and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps at Canton: “In reply I have to draw your attention to the fact that Chinese Maritime Customs is first and last a Chinese Government service and, as such, subject to the orders of the Government with jurisdiction and control over the southern ports. As customs revenues collected in Southern ports have been remitted to Peking, and Peking has been sending against the South one military expedition after another, which are financed indirectly by these Southern revenues, this Government intends to order the Commissioner of Customs at Canton to cease such remittances and to retain funds for local use”

Dec 5, 1923 – Memo from Schurman, U.S. Ambassador at Peking to the Secretary of State, Hughes, at Washington: “Local Canton authorities today delivered to the British consul general at Canton their reply to note from diplomatic corps. Reply states that at the expiration of two weeks, all payment of money collected by Maritime Customs at Canton and forwarded to the Peking Government must cease”

Dec 5, 1923 – Memo from Secretary of State, Hughes, at Washington to President Calvin Coolidge: “My Dear Mr President. I have the honor to inform you that a situation has recently arisen at Canton, China which appears seriously to threaten the Chinese Maritime Customs. The local Canton Government under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen is threatening to seize the Canton Customs House and to collect, for local official purposes, the Customs revenues of that port.”

Dec 6, 1923, “Prevent Sun Yat Sen From Seizing the Customs House. French and British intervened today to prevent Sun Yat Sen, who now is warring against the government of the north, from seizing the customs house at Canton. The southern general has announced intention of taking over the customs, which are under foreign control, although the money is paid to the northern government. British marines joined a French landing party which fortified the customs building. Foreign gunboats stood by, supporting the landing” – U

Dec 8, 1923 – Telegram from Jenkins, U.S. Consul General at Canton to Schurman, U.S. Ambassador at Peking: “In my opinion Sun intends to carry out threat to seize customs. Sun has just given statement declaring Canton Government intend to require Commissioner of Customs at Canton to hold all revenues collected within its territory.”

Dec 10, 1923 - Dispatch from Jenkins in Canton to Schurman in Peking. “All information reaching me tends to show Sun will order Customs Commissioner at Canton to turn over surplus customs revenues and, upon the Commissioner refusing, Sun will send his own appointee Cohen to demand possession. I doubt if Sun will go to the extent of using force. Vice Consul Collins is on fairly intimate terms with Cohen and tells me that, since the present crisis developed, Cohen has repeatedly said that Sun would not under any circumstances give up his determination to get hold of the customs. Cohen has intimated to Vice Consul Collins, however, that Sun ‘will not fire a shot’. In view of the fact that he has frequently given Collins information that proved to be correct, I am inclined to rely to some extent on what Cohen has said.”

Dec 17, 1923, “Hong Kong. Sun Yat Sen Warned. Must Not Force the Canton Customs. There is a report that Sun Yat Sen has notified the Commissioner of the Canton Customs that    he and his staff should leave, since the Canton Government does not recognize them, and intends to supersede them with men of its own selection” – B

Dec 19, 1923, “Presence of Foreign Flotilla Develops Strong Feelings. Sun has been presenting his side of the controversy over the customs surpluses to American residents in Canton through appeals being made through his agents” – U

Dec 19, 1923 – Morris A. Cohen recalls: “At tiffin time, I walked into the Victoria Hotel on the Shameen and found the bar full of American naval officers drinking highballs. I tried to explain the customs situation, and to put the Chinese side of the case. On the following day I picked them up, all in their best clothes, piled them into a couple of cars, and drove them out to meet Dr Sun at his headquarters. Dr Sun treated them as he treated any other callers, high or low. He put his side of the case fully and fairly just as if they had been envoys and ambassadors. When they left, one of them said: ‘Doctor, I’m right glad we know where you live. If we have to bombard Canton City, we’ll take care nothing comes in your direction.’ ‘Gentlemen,’ said the Doctor, ‘I realize that this little province can never win by force of arms against your mighty fleets, but whatever happens I believe that right is on my side and that the verdict of history will one day acknowledge this.’”

Dec 25, 1923 – Commander Charles Drage recalls: “We first met during the Canton Customs Crisis of Christmas 1923 when I was First Lieutenant of H.M.S. Bluebell. Morris Cohen was then a romantic and mysterious but somewhat equivocal figure in the service of the great revolutionary figure, Dr Sun Yat-sen. We found ourselves in opposing camps, relations between which were severely strained, and our acquaintance had little chance of developing. The foreign powers were deeply concerned and a numerous international flotilla assembled off the city. Dr Sun remained unmoved by this show of force and provisionally appointed Cohen as his Commissioner of Customs”

Dec 25, 1923 – Morris A. Cohen recalls: “On our side there was a perfectly sound common-sense claim to the cash – at any rate to some of it. On the other, the Western Powers had their own treaties and agreements and protocols and so on. Then one fine day we woke up to find that we were committed to seizing the Customs House by force, which would have meant certainly a blockade and quite probably a war with the West. The Doctor sent for me in his office. ‘Morris, I’ve been studying the original Maritime Customs Agreements and I see that the post of Commissioner in Canton can only be held by a Britisher. So if we seize the Customs I’ve got you down for the post’”

Dec 26, 1923, “Canadian Is Storm Centre In China’s Troubled Sea. Marines of Great Powers to Land in Canton if Dr Sun Ousts Customs Official. Allied naval forces are anchored off Shameen and will occupy Canton if the present customs controversy reaches a more acute stage. Dr Sun Yat Sen demands that the diplomatic corps instruct the Peking government to deliver a share of the customs surplus to Canton. Dr Sun’s next move will likely be the appointment of his own local customs inspector. Should he attempt to eject the present officials in the customs office, he will be forced to use strong arm methods. Foreseeing such a contingency the allied forces are ready to land. Dr Sun asserts that he will appoint a British subject customs inspector if his demands are denied. Morris Abraham Cohen, Dr Sun’s British escort, is believed slated for the job. Cohen is said to be favoured for the position by Dr Sun. Cohen, who is the storm-centre of the controversy, was born in London and served in France during the war. He is a citizen of Edmonton, Alberta” – C

Dec 26, 1923 – Harry A. Franck memoir: “For some time the Canton Government of Sun Yat-sen had been demanding in vain that those portions of the maritime customs receipts collected by foreigners within his territory be turned over to him rather than to the putative Central Government of Peking. It was not an unreasonable demand; yet it was one to which the powers could not agree however unjust it was that customs duties which Canton citizens paid on their imports and exports should be made available to finance wars against them. This was because those same powers still recognized Peking as the Government of China, and they had no legal relationship with Dr Sun’s Government at Canton. Sun threatened to take over the customs-house and its receipts by force; there was even talk of making Mr Cohen commissioner of customs in place of the recalcitrant British incumbent. Such a move would not have been wholly unjustified.”

Dec 26, 1923, “Allies Prepared to Occupy Canton. Foreign Naval Forces off Chinese City Expect Crisis, by Junius B. Wood. The allied naval forces are anchored off Shameen and will occupy Canton if the present customs controversy reaches a more acute stage. Sun Yat-Sen demands that the Peking government deliver a share of the customs surplus to the Canton government. Dr Sun asserts that he will appoint his own local customs inspector if his demand is denied. Morris Abraham Cohen, Dr Sun’s British escort, is favoured for the position by Dr Sun. Cohen has become the storm centre of the controversy. Seventeen allied ships are anchored in the river, and one hundred marines have been sent from Manila to join the forces” - U

Dec 26, 1923, “Canadian in Storm Centre. Morris A. Cohen, Canadian war veteran, whose proposed appointment as chief customs officer at Canton in place of the present Peking officials is being opposed by representatives of the great powers, including Britain and the United States, who are backing their demands with a squadron of warships” – C

Dec 26, 1923, “Edmonton, Canada. Chinese of Edmonton Protest Demonstration. Members of the ‘Chinese National League’ in Edmonton, which includes practically all of the local Chinese, are protesting against the demonstration of allied warships at Canton where the customs houses have been protected by marines from ships of several of the nations. At a meeting of Chinese nationals here, a resolution of protest was unanimously passed and telegrams dispatched to President Coolidge and Secretary of State Hughes of the United States” - C

Dec 28, 1923 - Telegram from U.S. Consul General Jenkins at Canton to Ambassador Schurman at U.S. Legation, Peking: “Expect crisis tomorrow when it is understood Sun appointee will demand customs be turned over to him. Reported Sun will appoint Canadian named Cohen commissioner. Cohen is now acting as Sun’s bodyguard and go-between.”

Dec 29, 1923, “Allied War Ships Remain at Canton, Waiting for Crisis. Dr Sun asserts that he will appoint a British subject customs inspector. Morris Abraham Cohen, Dr Sun’s British escort is believed slated for the job, and favoured for the position by Dr Sun. Cohen, who is the storm centre of the controversy, was born in London” – U

Dec 29, 1923, “South China Will Separate Customs. Sun Yat Sen, South China dictator, has announced he intends to appoint Morris Cohen commissioner of a separate customs department for the Independent South China government. The department will be entirely free from control of the Peking government which Sun Yat Sen is fighting. If the threat is carried out it presumably will be a final step in the South China customs war” - U

Dec 29, 1923 - Secret and Confidential Correspondence from C in C Asiatic Fleet to the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Navy: “At present Sun will appoint as Commissioner a Canadian named Cohen and demands turn-over of Customs.”

Dec 30, 1923, “Separate Customs is Aim of Sun Yat Sen. Sun Yat Sen has announced he intends to appoint Morris Cohen, Canadian Commissioner of Customs, to establish a separate customs department for Independent South China ports. Cohen is at present an adviser to the South China government. The South China customs war has threatened to involve the foreign governments, headed by Great Britain, now administering customs in the South China ports” – U

Dec 31, 1923, “By Charles Dailey From Peking. Dr Sun Yat Sen has chosen Morris Cohen, a Canadian, the present bodyguard of Dr Sun, for the collector of Canton customs, which are under threatened seizure. The powers are also prepared to take direct action against South China” – U

Dec 31, 1923, “Powers Watch Dr Sun. The powers are jealous of any inroads on maritime customs, particularly because Dr Sun Yat Sen has chosen Morris Cohen, a Canadian, for collector of the Canton customs, which are under threatened seizure” – U

Jan 2, 1924, “Morris A. Cohen, Canadian war veteran, may be appointed chief customs officer at Canton by Dr Sun Yat-sen. The proposed appointment is opposed, however, by the great powers” – C

Mid-Jan, 1924 – Morris A, Cohen recalls: “Luckily, the Canton Customs Crisis never came to a show-down. There were level heads on both sides. Dr Schurman, the American Ambassador at Peking, turned up in Canton. He called right away on Dr Sun and extracted a promise from him to take no precipitate action until he (Schurman) had had a chance to bring his case before the diplomatic body in Peking, who had hitherto only heard the northern government’s point of view. From that time, Dr Sun abandoned any idea of seizing the Customs by force. He’d made his point clear that he wasn’t going to have Canton revenues used to finance a military expedition by the northern government against the south. The controversy went into slow gear, and dragged on and on.”

U – Extract from the U.S. press.

B – Extract from the British press.

C – Extract from the Canadian press.

The above comprises 4 consecutive pages taken from: Alderton, Michael, 尚武精神 - Noble Ideals, Martial Spirit: A Life Chronology Outlining the Chinese Politico-Military Career of London-born Major General Morris Abraham Cohen (1889–1970), Essarem Associates, Katoomba 2024 (530 pages; 280,500 words). 2020 - Maj.Gen. M.A. 'Two-Gun' Cohen - a 496 page life chronology..jpg | Gwulo