John Alexander FRASER [1896-1943]

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Barbara Anslow:

J. Fraser was the Defence Secretary in Hong Kong before WW2. He was executed by the Japanese.

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John Alexander Fraser, born in Edinburgh, February 12, 1896.

Came to Hong Kong in 1919 and worked mainly as an administrator in the New Territories during the 1920s. 1930-31 he retrained as a barrister and in the 1930s occupied important roles in the Governement legal service. Became Defence Secretary in Aril 1941.

Main organiser of resistance activities in Stanley Camp, for which he was executed on October 29, 1943.

More information:

BAAG Roll of Honour.

Extract from Japanese Court Martial., 19.10.1943:   “ Walter John Frazer was a major on the reserve list and was Assistant Public Prosecutor-General in the former Hongkong government.  On the fall of Hongkong he was placed in the Internment Camp, and acted as representative of the British Internees.  Up to about April 1942 he caused the accused Waterton and Rees to listen in secretly to broadcasts from London and other places on a radio set they had and to report to him on what they heard.  About May 1942 he caused a certain American (who has since returned to America on exchange) secretly to introduce a radio receiving set into the camp.  About April 1943, acting on information received from the above-mentioned Loie Fook Wing, he conspired with Scott to have Rees arrange a liaison between the camp and the British organization at Waichow.”

Executed by the Japanese on 29th October 1943.

Extract from statement by W J Anderson, Government Stores Controller, dated October 1945:

"... About [5th July 1943] I saw from my cell opening [in Stanley Gaol] I saw the arrival of J A Fraser [and others]  ... Fraser and I were let out the following morning to empty our night soil buckets at the same time ... and had time to talk. ... One day ... I missed Fraser and a fortnight passed before I saw him again. ... I noted the arrival of a European who was put in cell No 10.  I was able to have a good look at the European but hard as I tried I could not recognise him.  I spent days worrying who he might be.  I can never forget his as I saw him on that Sunday.  He was of small stature, wore a blue-ish badly torn shirt and a pair of shorts also torn.  He had long hair, a grey beard, eyes were sunk in his head, xheeks hollow, and an emaciated body.  "Poor Devil" I thought, I dont inow where you have come from but you ssure have had a hell of a time". 

[A female Chinese fellow prisoner] [Gladys Loie/Lau Tak Oi] told me all she knew about him.   The European had been in a filthy makeshift "cell" in a garage adjoining the Stanley Village Gendarme Quarters.  For fourteen days Mrs Loin and her brother [Lau Tak Kwong] were in a similar adjoining cell, separated only by loose boarding.  The European, she said, was ine if the bravest persons she ever knew  Some times he was questioned in the cell, never talked, and each time he was beaten.   Other times he waas taken away during the night and returned bleeding.  On one occasion the Gendarmes tid him to a board and beat him several times during these two days.  Some days he got no food, and when food was given it was rice only in a small ball and never more than twice daily.  Water, when given, was in a dirty jam tin.  Mrs Loie said she talked a lot with the European when alone, mostly about their families and about Hongkong people whom they knew. ... The "little man" said he had a house at Taipo.  I knew then who the European was ... and each time he left his cell I tried to pick out the features of my old and long-time friend.   ... We had daily talks until our trial on 19th October.

... ... Fraser, the morning of our trial, was beaten unmercifully with a truncheon by an Indian guard ... We were all squatting on the floor washing our faces and hands.  Fraser, who was next to me, took off his pants and sponged himself down - he was very sick and had dysentery - and for this offence he was beaten.  I will long remember the look of contempt on Fraser's face as he was forcibly pushed into his cell.

... Fraser was I think, treated by the Japanese as the 'king-pin' in the case.  More questions were put to him than any other prisoners.  He was questioned about his official position in  the Hongkong Government Service.  When he was asked if he had been a judge there was a display of smiles from members of the Court.  He was questioned about his duties in the Camp.  He was asked why he contravened the Japanese Militry Law and arranged for wireless news to be received.  He was questioned about the receipt of a secret note from enemy spied in Waichow and why he gave instructions to Waterton and Rees to receive a wireless message from the enemy.  He was asked why he arranged these matters and not Mr Gimson.  Did he, in fact, take instructions from Mr Gimson.  Fraser replied, loudly and clearly, his voice ringing resonantly through the Courtroom, that he was alone responsible, That he had acted soleley on his own judgement,, and as the Senior British Government Official in the Camp he had the right to act as he thought fit and in the best interests of British Nationals interned in Stanley,  (All Survivors agreed that Fraser came out of the trial honorably,  and as a great man)."

Fraser came to Hong Kong in 1919 as a government cadet.

He was the District officer of Northern District and Southern District and one of the people who sponsored for the construction of Heung Hoi Ming Shan Archway.

He was sent to the Middle Temple and got a qualification of barrister-in-law there. Later on, he took up the posts of the acting attorney general and defence secretary.

The award was announced in The London Gazette, Publication date:25 October 1946, Supplement:37771, Page:5307.


St. James’s Palace, S.W.I, 29th October, 1946.

The KING has been graciously pleased to make the undermentioned awards of the GEORGE CROSS: —


John Alexander Fraser (deceased), lately Assistant Attorney-General, Hong Kong.

Fraser was interned by the Japanese in the. Civilian Internment Camp, Stanley, and immediately organised escape plans and a clandestine wireless service. He was fully aware of the risks that he ran but engaged continuously in most dangerous activities and was successful, not only in receiving news from outside, but also in getting important information out of the Camp. Eventually he was arrested and subjected to prolonged and severe torture by the Japanese who were determined to obtain information from him and to make him implicate the others who were working with him. Under this treatment he steadfastly refused to utter one word that could help the Japanese investigations or bring punishment to others. His fortitude under the most severe torture was such that it was commented upon by the Japanese prison guards. Unable to break his spirit the Japanese finally executed him. His devotion to duty, outstanding courage and endurance were the source of very real inspiration to others and there can be no doubt the lives of those whom the Japanese were trying to implicate were saved by his magnificent conduct.