29 Oct 1943, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp

Date(s) of events described: 
Fri, 29 Oct 1943

Thirty three people are executed on Stanley Beach soon after 2 p.m. All have been involved in one way or another with resistance activities organised by the British Army Aid Group.

The Stanley internees among that number are:

Frederick William Bradley

John Fraser

Frederick Ivan Hall

Stanley Rees

Walter Scott

Douglas Waterton

The condemned are taken out of solitary confinement and assembled inside Stanley Prison. They are refused a visit from a priest, but are allowed five minutes together to compose themselves Captain Mateen Ansari gives an impromptu talk:

We will die strong and healthy for an ideal; not as traitors but nobly in our country's cause

Wong Shiu Pun, who had worked at St. Paul's College, leads prayers. Then it's time to go.

As well as the six men arrested in Stanley, there is at least one other whose fate is of deep personal concern: the wife (Florence) and son (Michael) of Charles Hyde are living in Bungalow D. And Thomas Monaghan, who sent in relief to Irish policemen and smuggled in medicines for Tweed Bay Hospital, is also in the execution party.

Former Camp Quartermaster W. J. Anderson has heard the rumours about impending execution that swept the prison in the morning and has managed to get himself on gardening duty so as to witness the condemned starting on their final journey.

The van sets off on the short drive to Stanley Beach soon after 2 pm.

Chester Bennett was briefly interned in Stanley before being released to buy extra food for the Camp. War reporter Hal Boyle tells the story from Bennett's perspective, starting with the American's last moments in his cell:

He gave the note ((a final message to his wife)) to a friendly guard and soon it was time to go. The crowded black van pulled out from the steel gates of Stanley Prison and moved slowly down the rough, narrow road leading to the small bay where British redcoats had planted the empire flag more than a hundred years before.

As the van passed a number of internees toiling up the slope someone put his face up to the rear wire grill and called out: "Goodbye boys. We shan't be seeing you again." ((Believed to be Scott or Fraser.))

At the bottom of the hill the prisoners were forced to dismount and follow a trail winding around the edge of the bay. It must have been torture at every step to Chester Bennett. Rope burns on his left leg had become badly infected, the leg had become gangrenous and needed amputation. But he walked upright and limped only slightly. To all outward appearances he was utterly calm. The prisoners marched in single file to a small clearing. Ringing the hills around them were scores of Chinese gravestones. Before them in the center of the clearing the prisoners saw two trenches dug by Indian warders and knew how they were to die.

The beheadings begin, but the executioner tires and the swords lose their sharpness: some of the victims have to be finished off with bullets - Anderson hears these shots from the prison garden, as do some internees, leading to the idea that the prisoners have all been executed by firing squad.

Anne Ozorio describes the unflinching demeanour of Wong Shiu Pun, who does his best to pray with and comfort the victims, as these dreadful events play themselves out:

By the time it came to him the swords were blunt. But he kept praying.

There were 33 victims in total: seventeen Chinese, eight British, four Indians, one Canadian, one American, one Portuguese, one Eurasian. 32 were male; Lau Tak Oi, the wife of resistance leader David Loie, was the only woman.

Rumours fly around the Camp, but official confirmation of the deaths is not given until November 2.

 

Dorothy Jenner is lying in her cot; she believes she sees Walter Scott appear in the doorway and say, 'I'll see you again'. A quarter of an hour later a friend tells her that Scott has been executed and gives  her, at Scott's request, a small parcel containing his police uniform, badge and arm-tags.

Sources:

Ansari's talk, Wong Shiu Pun: George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 186.

Anderson: rumours and garden: Deposition, page 24, points 211-213, shots: 215; some of Wright-Nooth's account is based on points 212-215 - this (HK Public Records Office 163-1-104) and Hal Boyle's account (below) are the most reliable near contemporary sources for the executions;

Hal Boyle: http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/part-4-of-hal-boyles-series-on-chester-bennett/ (Boyle's source was Bennett's friend and fellow BAAG agent Marcus da Silva, who made it his business to find out what happened; Anderson and da Silva give substantially the same description and I believe all other accounts to be inaccurate. Some details are different though, and there are a number of possible versions of the exact wording and circumstances of the farewell message from the van).

Anne Ozorio: https://www.facebook.com/groups/308617469269780/

33 victims: this is the best estimate of nationalities and ethnicities I have been able to arrive at so far. I suspect that it underestimates the number of Eurasians who gave their lives; for a list of names see http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/the-executions-of-october-29-1943-update/

Jenner: Dorothy Jenner and Trish Sheppard, Darlings, I've Had A Ball, 1975, 214

Note:

I'm gradually writing posts on my blog about all of the 33 victims. For some of the people mentioned here see:

http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/alexander-christie-sinton/

http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/thomas-christopher-monaghans-resistance-work/

http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/charles-hydes-resistance-work/

http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/chester-bennett-the-american-hero-of-hong-kong/

http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/lau-tak-oi-gladys-loie/