W H J BETHELL (aka Bill / Billy) [c.1930- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

W H J BETHELL (aka Bill / Billy) [c.1930- ]

Alias / nickname: 
Bill / Billy
c.1930-01-01 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)


Many years ago I had the pleasure of taking Bill (not "Billy" by then), and his wife, around various places in Hong Kong which he remembered from his childhood days, including Stanley Internment Camp.

Bill told me an interesting story about his surname, which was not originally Bethell. That was his step-father's surname, which he adopted officially in the camp as a young lad. He entered the camp under his birth father's surname, (I don't have that detail), together with his mother, sister and step-father. His mother was Macanese, surnamed Noronha.

Bill actually went in front of Franklin Gimson in Stanley and requested the name change. Gimson allowed it, and altered Bill's passport to that effect - which Bill was able to show me.

Before the war Bill's mother ran a beautician's in Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Bill recalled being taken for tea at the Peninsula periodically. Apparently some of his mother's clients were high society ladies in Hong Kong.

Bill told me an interesting story as to how his mother met his step-father. He was a HK Police Sergeant before the war and was attached to the Traffic Branch, being nicknamed "Traffic" Bethell. On one occasion he had fallen off his motorcycle and had been admitted to hospital. In the bed next to him was one young Bill Bethell, who had also been admitted to hospital following a traffic accident. (Bill has fallen out of a car during a drive in the New Territories one day. I guess pre-War cars didn't come with child locks)!

Bill's mother made the acquaintance of the man she was later to marry whilst visiting her son and the rest, as they say, is history! As a third national (Macanese), she did not have to go into Stanley, (her sisters stayed out), but she insisted on going in with her husband and children. This was her way of ensuring that the family stayed together - not the first internee who held such views.

Bill's step-father was not able to resume his Police career after the war and fell on hard times. He died not many years after the war and was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Hapoy Valley. I'm pleased to say that we were able to find the grave, (he is buried in the Noronha family plot), and Bill was able to visit it for the first time and sprinkle holy water which came from Lourdes and had papal blessing on it. Bill has been sent to the U.K. to complete his education soon after the British took back Hong Kong, and never returned here until his visit when I met him.

The last point I would make is that Bill's aunts, (his mother's sisters), were very brave in providing assistance to the Bethell family in the Camp during the Occupation - under the noses of the Japanese guards. After the war they  received written acknowledgment (thanks) from the authorities for their efforts, which Bill showed me.