Maurice Frederick KEY [1886-1969]

Submitted by Suziepie on Wed, 02/22/2012 - 14:22
Maurice Frederick
(Day & Month are approximate.)
Birthplace (town, state)
Chester, Cambridgeshire
Birthplace (country)
(Day is approximate.)

M.F. Key,   O.B.E. - Secretary to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce - was an internee in Stanley Prison Camp during WWII. For some time he shared a room with the Vice-Chancellor of the University - (who was giving lectures at the camp on English literature for two years, twice a week).

Mr Key published a small, 12 page, soft-cover booklet/pamphlet initially in Kaplee, Kapunda, Australia, in November 1945.  Because of heavy demand, he re-produced the booklet in Hong Kong in June 1946.

The booklet is titled:


Before, During and After the Pacific War

Being chiefly an account of the


Click here to read the booklet.

Photos that show this Person



I detail below the following extracts from the booklet:

This paragraph is taken from 'The Introduction' to the booklet:

   "This account of the Stanley Civilian Internment Camp in Hong Kong, [is]written for the information of relatives and friends" ................"the first edition of this pamphlet was almost exhausted in Australia and now a demand is found for it in Hong Kong. Apparently many ex-internees will find this narrative useful to supplement their own accounts of the experience in Stanley"........M.F. Key, Nov. 1945 & June 1946

The following extracts are taken from the various sub-headings:

Precautionary Measures

Public expenditure had also greatly increased. Air raid tunnels - though incapable of sheltering more than a tithe of the teeming population - had been constructed at a cost of $8,000,000. Further large expenditure built up a food and fuel reserve, large enough to furnish a siege ration for 150 days for two million people. More than $1,000,000 was needed to build decentralised stores (58 in number) for this vast quantity of food. Government borrowed $20,000,000 and took over the rice import trade......

The Blow Falls!

.....But the scanty troops were unable to guard all possible landing places. The Japanese shelled and bombed the city heavily, pressed into use the large number of launches and ferries available in a busy harbour, and soon over-ran the Island, though they lost some thousands of men in the process. The British garrison numbered 10,000 (comprising Home, Canadian and Indian troops). It is estimated by the British General-Officer Commanding that the Japanese brought to bear a better equipped force of 60,000 men........


On the afternoon of Christmas Day, 1941, came the surrender. The houses of those away from home on active or public service were immediately looted - principally by the Chinese, but also by the Japanese soldiery........the looting must be seen to be believed. The 'have nots' left nothing behind. When every stick of furniture and every article of personal effects had gone, they started on the woodwork and metal fittings. Doors, window frames and floor boards all went, houses being reduced to empty shells. Wood and food were of equal value - for the latter is useless without the former - rice cannot be eaten uncooked........

.....the Japanese.... rounded up British, Americans and Dutch, told them to parade with what they could carry and without opportunity to make their houses secure (if not already looted), crowded them into a number of Chinese hotels and brothels in such density that three or four had to sleep sideways on the beds, using chairs to support their legs. Sanitary arrangements were indescribable; a hundred persons of both sexes to one toilet. No food for 48 hours, and then only rice. No arrangements for cooking, beyond such as the prisoners could devise for themselves.

The Internment

After three weeks of this incarceration without any opportunity for exercise, the prisoners (comprising 1,100 men, 1,000 women, 340 children and 80 infants), were conveyed to a remote part of the Island (known as Stanley Peninsula) and housed at the rate of one per 36 square feet in school buildings and premises formerly the quarters of the prison staff......

.......the 'Foreign Affairs Department of Greater Nippon,' in March 1942, presented to the camp a bill for $86,000, $9,000 of which represented 'hotel charges' for the filthy accommodation in which internees were herded before the opening of Stanley Camp; the remainder was the cost of fish and vegetables, the Japanese blandly explaining that rice and salt only, is a prisoner's official ration, as recognised by them, and anything else must be paid for by the victim.......

Indications of the End

...The great majority of internees had no contacts with the Japanese. Sporadic face-slappings and beatings-up occurred, but the worst incidents were: The execution of several, it is believed in connection with the alleged possession of wireless sets, though the Japanese refused to divulge particulars of the charges; and the doing to death by slow stavation of the Hong Kong Bank's Chief Manager (Sir Vandeleur Grayburn), and the Hong Kong Office Manager (Mr D.C. Edmondsten), apparently for refusal to collaborate in currency matters. The Japanese were so reckless as to deliver the bodies of these two gentlemen to the camp for burial, so that medical reports on their shockingly emaciated condition are available..........

NOTE - This is a very interesting and informative little booklet, but the extracts take time to type. However I would be happy to gradually add further extracts, that is, if readers would be interested-? 

According to the 'Introduction', many copies of this booklet were printed in Nov 1945 and June 1946 (the 2nd edition) - so presumably there must be several still around in people's possession - though I have not seen any mention of the booklet on this site.  Q: Do any readers have copies of this booklet?


Hi Suziepie, Thanks for typing this up. I haven't seen this before, and am interested to read more.

Is it roughly arranged in chronological order? If it is, I suggest we set it up in 'diary' format, then the relevant sections will be sent out to anyone who has signed up for the Wartime Diaries. I'll be happy to set up the framework for you to show how to do that.

Regards, David

Hi David

Seeing there is some interest it would be a great shame for the content of this little Booklet to disappear into oblivion, especially as the author, MF Key, took such pains at the time, in 1945 and 1946, to ensure these facts were made known.  I have thoroughly searched through the Booklet and there is no copyright mentioned, so I will be happy to type out the whole booklet - it has nine A5 size (approx) pages of small type - and 19 sub-headings.  I will do one section at a time.

I am not sure though that it should be in the form of the Wartime Diaries. I would like it to be all kept together and known as the Booklet of M F Key  - so that he remains acknowledged as the author of this work. 

And it would be good if someone could find out his full name - after all he was Secretary to the HK General Chamber of Commerce and received the O.B.E. - and was interned in Stanley - so it should not be too difficult to find out more about him - at least his full name?


Hi Suziepie,

Thanks for taking the lead on this, it'll be interesting to read.

The Diary format is a good way to keep the pages / book / author all connected - see the RE Jones diary for an example:

I found Mr Key in the 1925 Juror's List:

Key, Maurice Frederick
Lowe, Bingham & Matthews
Peak Hotel



Thank you David for finding this - it makes him more of a person! 

I wonder if anyone has a photo of him to add to the Booklet pages I will be gradually adding on?

I will do a scan - or photo - of the booklet cover and will put this on too.



He is listed in Greg Leck's Camp list with DoB 1886 (aged 59 in 1945) - there is also a Walter John Smith Key whose DoB is 1898 (aged 47 in 1945). I wonder whether they are related. I noticed his booklet is held at Imperial War Museum, London - I was planning to read it in April so interested to see this reference. I have not found a version on on-line book sellers. I have a note on my spreadsheet that his address was Rutton Building. Best rgds,  Phil Cracknell

Maurice Frederick KEY, O.B.E. is my Grand Uncle, being my Maternal Grandmother's Brother. He was the eldest son of Frederick & Alice May Heath KEY. Born in the 1st quarter of 1886 at Chester, Cambridgeshire, England. He died in April 1969 at Algeciras, Spain having spent the winter in Spain, he was due to return to England in July. I have a copy of his booklet, HONG KONG Before, During and After the Pacific War, which is a general narrative published in the "Kapunda Herald" while he was staying with my Grandparents at their property "Kaplee" during his convalescence from his Internment. Following on from this circulation, there were requests for an account of his personal experiences of the War and Internment in Hong Kong, I also have a typed copy of this 18 page narrative, a very interesting read. I do have a couple photographs of Maurice, one is a family portrait with his parents and siblings, the other I have cropped of him from a group photo taken at a function. Not sure how to add his photo on here?        

Hello Carol

Its a pleasure to meet you. I put the contents of the booklet by MF Key on to Gwulo. My father RHJ Brooks had a copy of it and also my uncle DG MacPherson had a copy. Though small I thought it was a very worthwhile publication to include on a site like Gwulo to save for future generations, rather than have the work disappear into obscurity.  

And your revelation gives more substance to Mr Key and an added insight into his life. It would be great to have a photo - or two - of M F Key included with the contents of his book!

Kind regards,


The other article I have has a lot more detail, including a rough plan of the camp and the daily routine. Will be away for awhile from the end of the week, but will try to add this info when I get a chance.



Thanks Carol, the 1940s Gallery is a good place for the photo of M F Key, and I include a copy here:

MF  KEY.jpg

I look forward to reading the other article, which sounds very interesting.

Regards, David 

Just a quick line to say that my great uncle was Maurice Key. I remember him from my childhood when he used to visit each summer. Following his internment his health was weakened so much he was unable to say in England during the winter. I have photographs of him and his family, but I am really interested in his account, in the form of a book, of his time in the camp. He told me some of the events but greater detail would be very interesting. My mother, who knew him well, is still alive and is now 92. She is the last surviving member of the key family. If you would like any more information please feel free to contact me.

Tim Crane 

Mother . Eilee Crane ( Eileen Key )

Hi Tim,

I'm not sure if you've already seen his booklet, but you can read a copy here, courtesy of Suziepie.

Here are more notes and resources about Stanley Camp, and I also recommend you sign up for the wartime diaries to get a daily account of life in the camp.

If your mother can share any anecdotes of Maurice's time in Hong Kong, and especially in Stanley Camp, we'll enjoy hearing them. Also any photos of his time in Hong Kong will be good to see.

Regards, David

PS I moved your message over to this page to keep all the conversation about Maurice in one place.

Hello Tim

My mother is Kathleen (nee GILES) daughter of Ruth S GILES (nee KEY) & met Maurice as a child when he stayed with the family at Kapunda while recovering from his internment. I have a copy of a report he typed up of his time in the camp, while staying with them & also the booklet printed at the time. I intended to put a copy of it on this site, but haven't got around to doing it as yet, will try to scan to a PDF if my Printer will behave


Carol Wheat, Australia