Sheridan's diary of the hostilities: View pages

However, we have just had two Regiments of Canadians arrive to help out in the defence of the Crown Colony. ((The Canadians came on November 16.)) Two Canadian Army Service Corps Sgts. are attached to the Supply Depot. I show them round the Bakery. ((The RASC Supply Depot and Bakery were on Queen’s Rd., the latter opposite the Naval Dockyard entrance.)) They are surprised to see 33 Chinese bakers working so hard. The Canadians arrival means extra bread production, it is now about 12 to 14000 lbs per day, not bad for a bakery with only a mechanical dough mixer and all the remainder hand work. If we move out the dough mixer will be left behind, it is cemented to the floor and needs electric power to drive it.

We read in the local papers that large landings of Japanese troops have been sighted up the coast towards Bias Bay and Waichow area. Also in the same papers it states that Mr Kurusu and Admiral Nomuru of the Japanese Navy are in Washington as a peace mission. I am roped in to escort civilian lorries from the Dairy Farm cold storage at East Point to the various food stores and to some private houses in the Shouson Hill area. ((There were food stores at various locations around the island. We've found mentions of them at Quarry Bay, Wanchai Gap, and Stanley.)) They are loaded with tinned commodities, flour, sugar, tea, etc. We work from early morning until darkness sets in and move many tons of foodstuff with the aid of hundreds of coolies.

((Note: Staff-Sergeant Sheridan's task if war breaks out will be to evacuate the Queen's Rd. Bakery and set up a Field Bakery on the Deepwater Bay Golf Course - hence his interest!))

Today is a beautiful sunny morning, we start off early on the same work as yesterday and keep going until darkness fell. All troops are ordered to standby. We see the Canadians marching to their positions on the Island defences. The Royal Scots and the two Indian Regiments are in position on the Mainland near the border with China. It is obvious they will catch the brunt of any attack. As I pass by Deepwater Bay golf club the golfers are on the lovely green in front of the club house, while others are sipping their drinks on the verandah. Some people are enjoying a swim with no thought of war being imminent. There must be something in the wind, G.H.Q. staff are preparing to move into Battle HQ, a huge underground structure just behind the Garrison Sgts. Mess.

S/Sgt. Merrifield, my room mate who now works in the transport office has had a very tiring day. We both turn in early, I am sound asleep as soon as my head touches the pillow.

((Note: Today’s entry describes the start of hostilities and the setting up of a Field Bakery on the golf course at Deepwater Bay.))

 My room mate is called at 4.30a.m. so I get up and dress and report to the Bakery. Pte. Campbell the clerk on duty tells me that a state of emergency exists and that we are to carry out the dispersal order as soon as the transport arrives. I go and fetch Sgt. Hammond ((James Hammond, another Master Baker)) out of bed. I contact the Transport Officer, Major Dewar about our transport and coolies, he says he will do his best to get them to us. Meanwhile Hammond and I with some of the Chinese bakers decide to start getting the (Priority A) bakery equipment out of the store. However, the keys are held by an officer who lives over in Kowloon. So I decide to break the lock in order to enter the store. Meanwhile some coolies turn up and we put them to work carrying the stores down some very narrow awkward steps outside the store. A few lorries turn up about 6.40a.m. and we commence to load. About 7a.m. we notice some planes over Kai Tak Air Force base and thought this was rather unusual as we knew there were only three RAF planes. Then the AA guns opened up on Stonecutters Island. We could see the white puffs of the shells in amongst the plumes, as well as hearing the explosions of bombs. We now realised they were Japanese bombers attacking Kai Tak aerodrome. The coolies now started to panic and I got Hammond to shut the Depot gates and stand guard with his rifle. We kept them working hard to load the first three lorries.

I leave for Deepwater Bay with the first three lorries and some coolies. Pte. Edwards is left to see the remainder of the equipment is loaded, whilst Sgt. Hammond goes to the Naval Dockyard with a lorry and some coolies to collect a Perkins oven which had been in for repair. On arrival at Deepwater Bay whilst some of the coolies unload the lorries, I set others to work building the 1st 10 Aldershot ovens. It seems a shame to dig up the nice green turf on the green in front of the clubhouse. There are no golfers about now. Good progress is made as I use the verandah as my Bakery with all the dough troughs set out in a convenient way.

The Hong Kong Volunteer Defence force have been mobilised. Sgt. Jan ((actually Ernest)) Tuck and Cpl. Bonner ((Ernest Tuck and Horace Bonner had previously been attached to the RASC Bakery as part of their HKVDC duties)) report to me and are a great help. Both can speak a fair amount of Chinese. We get the ten ovens erected and fired before dark, also one Perkins coke oven was erected on the verandah. We use army blankets to black out the verandah. It is quite spacious with good room to work, dough making and moulding. The front of the Perkins oven rests on the parapet of the verandah. I am hoping to be able to erect two more the same way. The Aldershot ovens are about 15 yds away from the verandah. We have a good supply of wood and I see no reason why we should not be able to keep the supply of bread to all the troops. We manage to grab some food during the day as best as we can. The coolies have to be given some rice and bread. We keep working until midnight then get down to sleep on the verandah.

I am up before daylight and map out a programme for another busy day. The Aldershot ovens have to be dried out, and it is late evening before we can manage the first batch of bread. It turns out really good considering the inexperience of the Chinese bakers who have not much practice at this type of work. The Queens Road Depot bakery has now been completely evacuated, so my staff consists of Sgt. Hammond, Pte. Edwards, Sgt. Tuck, Cpl. Bonner, Leung Choy No. 1 baker, and 34 Chinese bakers. We get another five Aldershot ovens built and fired making a total of 15. As the soil is very sandy, sandbags have to be used as insulation round the ovens.

The Supply Depot is also being set up using part of the Clubhouse as offices. As tents cannot be used all the stores are being stacked in amongst the trees on each side of the Golf course. It is a big operation and some chaos reigns at times. It is a bit crowded in the clubhouse as it is being used as a bread store, rum store, offices, etc. and the upper floor to be used as sleeping area. But it is not bad for active service conditions. Everything is very quiet around here, the sea is calm, the beach deserted, it looks inviting for a swim as it is quite warm. But that is not possible as the Sappers have mined the beach. Some small naval gun boats are anchored in Deepwater Bay. It is a sheltered spot.

This is going to be one of our busiest days as we have to produce 12000lbs of bread. As daylight is not until 6.45a.m. this delays an early start as we are not allowed to light up our Field ovens until daylight., Hammond, Tuck,, Bonner and myself have to keep an eagle eye on every move the Chinese bakers make as they are still not familiar enough in the operation of Field baking. Leung Choy is a very harassed man as he has to interpret many of my orders to all the Bakers, but he is a loyal worker and gets the best of co-operation. We are drawing our last batch well after dark and produce the required figure of 12000 lbs. I am still working at 11p.m. preparing next days’ details and production figures. Mr Wood ((The Warrant officer Master Baker)) is attached to the Supply Depot, he comes round the Bakery often and is quite pleased with the set up. He also remarked on the excellent quality of the Bread. In fact it looks and tastes better than the bread turned out in the Queens Road bakery. Aldershot ovens using wood as fuel and with the oven sealed up during baking seem to give the bread a nutty flavour. We are now supplying the H.K.V.D.C. and other auxiliary forces as well as the Army, Navy and Air Force. It is estimated that within the next day or two bread production will reach at least about 14000 lbs daily. ((For comparison: the modern Lane, Crawford Bakery in Stubbs Rd. where all bread for civilians was produced until December 21 baked 16,000-22,000 lbs per day.))

Sgt. Hammond goes to East Point with a lorry and some coolies to collect another of our Perkins ovens which had been for repair. It is not ready and he had to leave in a hurry as the Japs were shelling the place from across the harbour.

We have had a Jap reconnaissance plane over here this morning, the gunboats in the Bay opened up with no hits. No doubt the Jap bombers will be along shortly. Some of the newly formed local Chinese Regt. have arrived as protection for the Supply Depot. A Middlesex Regt. officer and some NCOs are in charge. The Chinese have not had much training and it is debatable how they would combat trained fighters like the Japs.

The Hong Kong Volunteers are of mixed races, British, Australian, New Zealand, Dutch, Chinese, Eurasians, Indians, Malays, etc. Quite a lot are attached to the Supply Depot as drivers, clerks, storemen, etc. But some do wander about in a bit of a dream.

The Bakery is operating efficiently and turning out 14000 lbs of good bread every day. I only hope that it is getting to the men who deserve it i.e. the fighting. I get told off by a Security officer for lighting up the ovens before daylight. I told him it was either that or there would be some people short of their bread ration. I think he understood the situation.

Today I make a trip into the Queens Road Depot with a lorry and some coolies to collect some more coke and wood for the Field ovens. I also pay a visit to my room in the Sgts. Mess to collect some underclothing. I have to leave my nice camphorwood box, filled with all sorts of items, i.e. two tennis rackets, two cameras, two albums, one grey suit white drill shirts, slacks and shorts, etc, Soon it will be looted no doubt.

The Chinese citizens seem bewildered. No trams are running, and the only transport moving belongs to the Military. The only person left in the Supply Depot is old Ip Fak and his family, he worked for the Barrack stores.

We load up with as much coke and wood as possible and set off for Deepwater Bay. Through Wanchai, the native district shows signs of shelling, but nothing very serious as yet. The normal teeming population of this area has disappeared off the streets. I expect a lot of them will be living in the air raid shelters. At Wong-Nei-Chong gap on the Repulse Bay road there are a series of concrete Pill boxes, these are manned by some Canadian troops. I stop and have a few minutes chat with them. They do not seem to know what’s happening and have not been here long enough to know the layout of the Island of Hong Kong.

We hear rumours that the Mainland is being evacuated and that the Royal Scots, Middlesex Regt. and the Indian Regts. are fighting a rearguard action back to Kowloon. Other rumours are that looting and rioting by Chinese agitators is taking place in the city of Kowloon. Police have opened fire to stop the looting.

I have a very busy day, cajoling and driving the Chinese bakers to get a move on in order to keep up the bread production. I beat down and set the Aldershot ovens, as the Chinese wearing shorts find it too hot on their legs. In fact my No.2 Baker Tam Tong gets his legs burned. So I give him a pair of my Army slacks to protect his legs.

Hammond, Tuck, and Bonner also get stuck in and do a lot of the work.

Aldershot ovens consist of two segments of half circle metal laid end to end. They are set up in a row (in our case 15) the rear is sealed off, the sides and back are built up with turves or sandbags. A trench is dug in the front and about 1ft of soil is placed on the top to keep in the heat. Firewood is placed inside the ovens and when burnt down to the embers the bread on metal trays is set on top of the red hot embers. The front is then sealed off with a metal door and mud to keep the heat and steam in. It takes about 1 hr to bake the bread.

Just a week ago today I saw the golfers enjoying their round of golf, or sitting on the verandah enjoying their cocktails. Now the grass is cut up by numerous lorries and the green in front of the Clubhouse is marred by the unsightly hump of 15 Aldershot ovens.

The weather could not have been better, it is warm and sunny all day and nice and cool at night.

We can hear the 9.2 guns from Stanley, Mt. Davis and Collinson((There weren't any 9.2-inch guns at Collinson Battery. Perhaps they heard guns of Bokhara Battery at Cape D'Aguilar.)) Also the AA guns when the Japs come over on their bombing raids. So far we have escaped. Normally we could be playing hockey, tennis or football or even in the sea for a swim, as it is still warm enough for it.

The gun boats have moved out of Deepwater Bay although HMS Cicala comes in and anchors at night.

All the yachts and boats in Deepwater Bay have been sunk including our little Snipe class boat. It is sad as we have had some great times sailing in it.

During the night there was a hell of an explosion. It shook the Clubhouse and some of the windows facing the beach were shattered. It happened about 2a.m., I got up to investigate. One of the patrolling sentries told me that some of the mines on the beach had gone off with a mighty blast.

We hear on a portable radio that a Japanese party flying a white flag came across the Harbour from Kowloon in a motor launch. They came to discuss surrender terms. They were met by a Major Boxer for GHQ who speaks Japanese.

We later hear that there is to be no surrender. But many of us know that the Japs have a great advantage in superior numbers and resources. They have control of the main water supply from the Shing Mun Dam over on the Mainland and which is piped across the harbour. In the present dry season the small reservoirs on the Island would not keep this teeming population going for long.

Jap planes fly over and drop propaganda leaflets printed in English, Chinese, Urdu and Hindustani. They are very crude affairs and cause a lot of amusement. I notice the Chinese have thrown them on the oven fires. The Jap planes have been over again today. Two Navy torpedo boats had entered the Bay and were spotted. The Japs dropped a few bombs but no hits, the boats were away out to sea rapidly. When the air raids are on I have told the Chinese to watch me when to run for cover, but they always beat me to it. Considering that they are non-combatants they have stuck to the job, whereas many of the Supply Depot labour have faded away.

We hear that the Japs have started shelling the waterfront by Causeway Bay and North Point, also we know that the Royal Artillery gun positions at Lyeemun, Pakshawan and Collinson are being heavily shelled. The distance across the harbour varies between a mile and a half and three miles at its widest point so it is quite easy for the Japs to get the range, now that they are in full control of Kowloon and the Mainland. We have some more air raids. The Jap planes are after the small gun boats anchored in Deepwater Bay. They are only about 500 or 600 yds from our bakery and cause a lot of disruption of the work. I have a bad time trying to hold my bakers to their work. Hammond, (Sergeant James Hammond, also an RASC Master baker) Tuck, Bonner (Ernest Tuck and Horace Bonner, members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps assigned to the Bakery) and myself waste a lot of time rounding them up when they take shelter in the nearby bushes which incidentally would not be much protection in the event of a bomb landing. So far the nearest bomb landed on the beach about 400 yds away. There were no casualties.

The 9.2 guns at Stanley and Mount Davis have been firing salvoes all day and all through the night, the noise is deafening. It keeps me awake most of the night so I was up at 4.30a.m. and got quite a bit of paperwork completed working behind a blacked out screen.

As we seem to be running low in firewood and coke, I obtain a lorry and some coolies and make a trip into the Queens Road Supply Depot. I drive the lorry myself. What a contrast from a week ago. Plenty of signs of bombing and shelling. Damaged buildings, wrecked cars and lorries everywhere. The tramline wires are strewn across the road. Some dead bodies lie about on the roadways and not a living soul in sight. On reaching the Supply Depot I find it has been shelled. Ip Fak ((He worked for the Barrack Stores at the RASC Queen’s Rd. Depot.)) and his family are gone, there is a big shell hole in the roof of his little house. There is no one in charge of the place now. The stores are wide open, one with hundreds of bottles or rum still there. I have no interest or time to take a bottle. The coolies are frightened and are liable to bolt at any moment. A few shells explode nearby, so I get them loading wood and coke as fast as possible. Then I drive like hell for Deepwater Bay. At Wong-Nei-Chong Gap I stop and speak to the Canadian troops. They want to know what is happening towards the City of Victoria. I tell them what I can about it. They are all fine looking young fellows and have no idea what it is going to be like if the Japs land on the Island. They tell me that they had been stationed in Bermuda before coming to Hong Kong.

The Jap bombers have been over on three occasions today, and really caused havoc with our bread production. Although there was no damage to persons or property. We now hear some very disgusting rumours that Jap assault troops have landed on the Island. According to GHQ the situation is well in hand. We take this with a pinch of salt, because of similar assurances before the mainland was evacuated.

Some of my bakers are now very “jittery”. During the air raids a few of the older hands stay with me until the last minute, but others bolt at the least sound of a Jap plane. Without the help of Hammond, Tuck and Bonner we would produce very little bread. The bread is being issued as fast as we can bake it. There are all sorts of lorries and cars arriving during the day and night to collect bread and supplies for the fighting troops.

There is now a peculiar feeling about that something is going to happen. It is a tension that is very hard to explain. The 9.2 guns of the Artillery keep up a continuous barrage all through the night. I find it very difficult to get any sleep. I have also noticed that the labourer coolies employed here at the Supply point have gradually disappeared, not a good sign.

((Note: In the long entry for today Staff-Sergeant Sheridan describes the evacuation of the Field Bakery at Deep Water Bay and the chaotic conditions as the crucial struggle for the Wong Nai Chung Gap Came to an end.))

No sleep whatever during the continuous firing racket all night. Twice during the early hours we had a stand to. Heavy automatic and rifle fire can be heard from the direction of Wong-Nei-Chong Gap where the Canadians are being attacked. It is only a quarter of a mile away from the Golf club. Before daylight tracer bullets zoom over my Aldershot ovens. I get the bakers on mixing doughs in the shelter of the club house verandah. As soon as it is light we fire up the ovens. There is a lot of mortar explosions from the direction of the Gap. Tracers still go flying past. With the help of Leung Choy ((‘No. 1 Baker’)) we calm the Chinese bakers and keep them working.

Some wounded Naval men limp into the ((Golf club's)) club house. We give them first aid. They had been in a convoy of trucks taking food and ammunition up the Repulse Bay road to the Canadians at the Gap. The convoy had been ambushed by the Japs, some of the sailors had been killed and wounded. We were now in the line of fire, as tracers and mortars began to explode everywhere.

Orders are now given for everyone to be ready to move out at a moment’s notice. The Bakery carries on working until about 10a.m. then we get orders to leave everything and move out at once. I enquire of the Senior officer if we are to take any equipment. The answer is no. Empty lorries, cars, and me all leave like lightedning. I dash up to the first floor of the Golf Club to collect some small kit, but when I return I find everyone had left. I take a last look at the doughs in the verandah in the wooden mixing troughs. In a few hours they will be rotten. The makings of about 8000 lbs of good bread gone west. Hammond, Tuck, Bonner and all the bakers are gone. I make my way along the road towards Pokfulam. I meet some Ordnance Corps men who have also evacuated the Shouson Hill area which is the underground ammunition storage area. I meet up with all the others on the roadside near Bennets Hill. We are all piled along the side of the road, R.A.S.C., R.A.O.C., H.K.V.D.C. nearly all technical personnel. No one seems to know for what purpose. We hang about here until evening, then we all muster by the food store at the bottom of the Pokfulam road. The R.A.O.C. are ordered back to Shouson Hill. The R.A.S.C. and H.K.V.D.C. and all others who are armed with rifles and bayonets make their way to Bennets Hill which we are supposed to defend against the Japs. As much ammunition and grenades as we can carry are issued. We climb up the steep hillside, and are supposed to find positions to defend this hill. It is thickly overgrown with scrub bushes. No one seems to know in what direction the Japs are likely to attack from. An unusual weather feature for this time of the year is that it has started a light drizzle of rain. Hammond, Tuck, Bonner and I find a place with a forward view of the land sloping down to the road. We also find some Canadians and Naval men in similar positions, but there may be others above and below us on the hillside. We are worried about the situation when darkness sets in. If any firing starts then we could be shooting at each other. We are all very inexperienced men at this type of warfare and are no match for the Japs who have been fighting a war in China since 1937.

However orders come through for us to move back to the road where after a short wait some lorries arrive which we board and set off back towards Deepwater Bay. It is pitch dark and no lights are allowed. It is a nerve wracking job for our driver. He is a man of 60yrs (H.K.V.D.C.) named Mr Sleap. ((Probably Corporal Sydney Alfred Sleap, who was aged 55.)) We nearly crash over the side of a bridge and further on hit a parked car, with no serious damage. We pass within 30yds of the Golf club, I can smell the doughs which would now be rotten. No sign of anyone about the Golf Club area. The Japs could be there, but we do not stop to investigate, but continue on up the Repulse Bay road towards Wong-Nei-Chong Gap. Our destination is a house called The Ridge which is well off the road. ((On December 22/23 The Ridge became the scene of one of the worst massacres of the Hong Kong war – Tony Banham estimates that at least 47 people were killed.)) We disembark about ½ mile from the house and set out to walk the rest of the way. Everyone is warned to keep quiet, no cigarettes are allowed, and we walk on the grass verge to deaden the sound. Sgt.Tuck, Sgt. Hammond and I stick together, we seemed to have lost contact with Bonner. ((Horace Bonner was killed at Overbays on December 22)). We can hear a lot of automatic firing going on up towards the Gap and an occasional tracer bullet passes over our heads.

Just as we near the entrance to the house called The Ridge we hear a Naval man enquiring for any R.A.S.C. men. I tell him we are from that unit. He asks for volunteers to go up the road towards the Gap to help with some wounded Naval men. These would be the men who were ambushed that morning with the convoy of ammunition trucks to the Canadians at Wong-Nei-Chong Gap. Tuck, Hammond, a Pte. Kingsford and I volunteer. We set off up the road in the company of the Naval man. We find our Naval men lying in a typhoon nullah (drain) by the side of the road, they are calling for water. We stop and give them some. They are all badly wounded and we discover they have been there since about 8a.m. and it is now 10p.m.

It seems no ambulance could get up this road during daylight. One of the men had been shot through the throat and when we gave him a drink the water ran out through the wound. We made them as comfortable as possible and left them a full water bottle. We continued up the road towards the gap and found several lorries still loaded with small arms, ammunition and grenades slewed across the road. Some dead Naval men are in the cabs, others lie on the road or in the back of the lorries. There are also dead and wounded coolies. This is the result of the heavy firing we heard this morning. They must have been sitting ducks for the Japs’ ambush. We continue on, but as there is no grass verge we are making quite a bit of noise on the roadway. All of a sudden a voice calls out of the darkness “Halt, stand where you are”. I answer “friend” and a Canadian officer emerges from the bushes at the roadside. He is armed with a Tommy gun and warns us to go quietly as the Japanese are dug in above the road and may open up at any moment. He says he is trying to get back to the Gap to his men and accompanies us as far as the house where the wounded Naval men are. This is a large house on the left hand side of the road about 400 to 500 yds short of Wong-Nei Cheong Gap. It is known as the White House.

Hammond and Tuck stand guard outside while Kingsford and I and the Naval man enter the house. We find about 15 people wounded, mostly Naval men, some civilians, and two women, one a Chinese shot through the chest, the other a European was dead. We could see most of the wounded needed urgent attention. I call Kingsford and the Naval man outside to discuss what could be done to get these people to Hospital as soon as possible. The Naval man suggested starting some of the cars which were parked outside the house. However, some were damaged by shell fire, and none had any ignition keys. But then a vital thought struck me, that if we managed to start a car or two and put the wounded in, the noise would alert the Japs and there would be more casualties. We decided that lorries or ambulances were needed to transport the wounded. So Tuck and Hammond decide to go back down to the house called The Ridge to see if any transport could be arranged.

Kingsford and I remain outside the house listening to sporadic automatic fire up towards the Gap, which was now only a few hundred yards away. Then we heard the same Canadian Officer calling softly, I answered and went towards him. He said there was a wounded sailor lying in the middle of the road further up and would I attend to him.

Although I was carrying a Lee Enfield 303 rifle and about 300 rounds of ammunition slung in bandolier fashion, I thought it best to get down and crawl towards the wounded man.  It was about 50yds and I found he had a smashed hip and was unable to move.  He had been in the first lorry and his mate had been killed in the cab of the lorry.  He had been lying there all day and had feigned death when he heard the Japs talking during the day.  I asked him if he could bear me lifting him on to my back to carry him to the White House.  He replied he would stick any pain to get off the road way.  After a struggle I managed to get a firemans lift across my shoulders but he groaned with pain.  He must have weighed about 12 or 13 stone but I got him as far as the door of the White House.  Just as the door was opened from inside, a shot ran out in the still night air, and a bullet hit the wall of the house above my head.  I rushed in and dropped the poor devil on some more wounded men inside the door.  I rushed out and got down prone on the ground with my rifle cocked, when Kingsford came running towards me.  He said he had been jumped on by two Japs and that he had dropped his rifle, which was cocked with the safety catch off.  It had gone off and it was the bullet from it that had hit the wall of the house above my head.

Nothing happens for a few minutes, then we hear the Canadian Officer calling again.  He came out of the bushes near the roadside and enquired who had fired the shot.  I told him that Kingsford had been jumped by two Japs and that his rifle had gone off.  The officer said that they were not Japs but two scouts in their bare feet from one of the Indian Regiments.  We search about and recover the rifle. The real danger now is that we have alerted the Japs and anything could happen.  Se we decide we can do no good here and that it would be best to return to the Ridge. 

We set off down the road, and meet an armoured vehicle trying to manoeuvre between the ammunition lorries.  It is accompanied by a British Officer and some Indian troops all in their bare feet. They are about to stage a raid on the Jap positions near Wong-Nei-Cheong Gap.  Further on we meet a Naval surgeon and two RN ambulances.  He enquires how far to the White House and how many wounded.  We give him all the information, and ask if he requires any help.  He said he had sufficient in each ambulance and continues up the road.  We also find he had attended to the wounded men on the roadside near the entrance to the Ridge and would pick them up on his way back. 

Kingsford and I made our way up the drive to the house called the Ridge.  We find hundreds of men there, all from the technical branches of the Services.  No one seems to know what is going on.  I sincerely hope the Japs do not attack here as it would be mass slaughter.  After a search round the grounds in the dark we come across Hammond and Tuck.  It starts to drizzle rain and as it is now midnight we shelter under a large tarpaulin. 

About an hour later I hear Lieut. G. Wood ((Warrant-Officer Master Baker in the RASC )) calling my name. He says we are to report to Fort Stanley to issue rations which are stored there. The party consists of Capt. Escott, Lt. Wood, Sgts. Martin, Hammond, Tuck and myself. Sgt. Martin drives the truck with no lights showing, a very risky business, where there are steep drops on one side of unfenced roads. We decide to take a chance and return to the Clubhouse at Deepwater Bay to collect some hurricane lamps and some of our kit. We find that the stores have been looted and scattered about the place. We wasted very little time in collecting what we needed, as we were not certain whether the Japs were in the vicinity or not. I could smell the bread doughs that had been mixed that morning and were now spewed all over the Golf Club verandah. We set off for Stanley, everything was very quiet, no firing or explosions, even the R.A. guns were silent. We picked up a Canadian soldier, who asked for a lift into Stanley Fort.

     On reaching Stanley ((Fort)) we settled down on the verandah of one of the married quarters and slept until dawn. As soon as it is daylight, all hands set to issuing tinned rations, etc. which have been stored in the quarter’s, I drive the lorry accompanied by Hammond and Tuck to the WO’s ((Warrant Officer’s)) quarters which overlook the sea, to fetch some cases of tinned rations. As we have no keys we have to break a window to get in and open the front door, but we later find a window broken at the rear and signs that someone else had been in. As we were carting some cases from an upper bedroom I discovered a body in a cupboard at the top of the stairs. He had slumped down with a rifle between his knees and his brains had been shot out. Whether it was an accident or not we could decide. However, Tuck recognised the man as Professor France of Hong Kong University, a member of the H.K.V.D.C. ((Norman Hoole France was noted for his great love of China and before the war was active in the China Defence League which organised relief and aid for those fighting the Japanese. There is a tribute to him in James Bertram’s The Shadow of a War and he’s one of the dedicatees of Israel Epstein’s The Unfinished Revolution in China.)) We reported the facts at the guardroom and our next trip rolled the body up in a blanket and took it to the guardroom. In the afternoon we get some more lorries and some Indian troops to help to transport stores from the concrete food store at Chung-Am-Kok into Stanley Fort. ((Can anyone confirm the location of this food store?))  I drove a lorry until darkness set in. It was evident that stocks of food were to be built up at Stanley, in case of an attack by the Japs.

From daylight to darkness I have been driving a lorry carting cases of tea, milk, jams, veg, sacks of sugar and flour and many other tinned commodities from the food store at Chung-Am-Kok to Stanley Fort. The married quarters and barrack block verandahs are stacked up with tons of supplies. We have several air raids but the AA guns have kept them up high and very little damage has been done. One plane strafed the road in front of the lorry I was driving towards the fort, I thought it best to keep going at a good pace and so escaped being hit.

The 9.2 guns at Stanley have been firing out to sea. The shock waves rattle the doors and windows of the Quarters and Barrack block. In the afternoon the Japs got the range of the 9.2 guns and began dropping anti-personnel shells right on target. I saw the ambulance go to the gunsite and pick up some casualties.

I have six Indian troops at the food store helping to load the lorry. They are Sikhs and wear a turban. One speaks good English so I warn him to keep a good look out for any Japs.

We discover that the Japs have now cut the road leading to the Tytam Reservoir about a mile from the Tytam Villas. No traffic can move down towards Repulse Bay further than the food store where I am loading especially during the daylight hours. Several vehicles attempting it have been machine gunned by the Japs.

The Canadians are fighting a losing battle against the Japs on Stanley Mound, and the neighbouring peaks. The Japs have superiority in numbers. I find this out when I come across a party of wounded Canadians on the road. I give them a lift into Stanley Fort, they are all walking wounded. Further on we meet an ambulance which is collecting stretcher cases being brought down the hillside, a very difficult job in such rough terrain. I talk to one of the wounded who travels in the cab with me. He tells me the Japs’ mortar fire is most devastating and that it is very difficult to see the Japs in the green foliage as their camouflage is so good. The Japs are also using pack animals to transport their heavy mortars up the steep hillsides, leaving them fresh to move about in their soft soled cloven hoof shoes. These young inexperienced Canadian troops have had to carry equipment, ammunition, as well as food and water, up the steep hillsides through thick scrub bushes and then fight against a fanatical type of soldier. A lot of servicemen and civilians are trapped in the Repulse Bay Hotel. ((For the siege of the Repulse Bay Hotel see Volunteers attempt to transport food and water at night but are ambushed on the way back.

Today the emptying of the Chung-Am-Kok food store continues with additional lorries and more help. It looks as if very soon the Japs will overrun the road to the Fort. So it is essential to get as many stores in as possible.

I arrive at the food store as soon as it is daylight. The store had been unlocked as the door had been damaged. I could see that some Canadians had been in during the night. Some tins of milk and bully beef had been used, but they must have been surprised in the act of shaving. I noticed a stump of a candle, a mirror and a safety razor with hair in it. Also lying about are some antigas capes, respirators, two pairs of boots (Canadian) and two sets of identity discs. There was also a fully loaded Japanese magazine from an automatic weapon similar to our Bren gun. The Indian troops were very nervous, so I had a good look round the areas and found nothing else suspicious. The lorry was loaded in quick time but the Indians refused to stay and returned to the Fort with me. On the way I met two more lorries, so I stopped and warned them to be cautious. I took the Jap magazine, the boots, gas cape, respirator and identity discs to the guard room in Stanley Fort. Before I could return the two lorries I had met came tearing into the Fort and said they had been fired on at the food store. So that was the end of any more visits to Chong-Am-Kok that day. Somehow I have a feeling that there are Japs roaming about in Canadian battledress.

I am kept busy with Hammond and Tuck and Mr Wood sorting out and issuing rations until late afternoon. Then an order comes through by telephone from GHQ for Staff Sgt. Sheridan and Sgt. Hammond to report at Stanley Pier at 6p.m. We gather up what little kit we have and get one of the drivers to take us near the Pier. It is now almost dark as we reach the Pier. It is a wooden structure about 50 yds long and is guarded by two concrete Pill boxes. The concrete boxes are manned by men from the Middlesex Regiment. I obtain permission from the officer in charge for Hammond and myself to go on to the Pier. But first he warns the Pill box men not to fire on us. We hang about on the Pier until about 9p.m. and watch and hear a lot of tracers, very lights ((Very lights were used for night-time illumination of combat areas)) and machine gun fire from across the other side of Stanley Bay. An RA Sgt. Major and some Sikhs from a mountain Battery arrive and are waiting to unload Howitzer gun ammunition which is expected on two MTBs ((Motor Torpedo Boats)) from Aberdeen, a fishing village on the south side of HK Island. We hear the noise of two Motor Torpedo boats approaching the Pier. Our own searchlights focus on the boats and give their position away. As soon as the two boats pull along side the Pier the Japs open up with tracers ((illuminated bullets)) from across the Bay. The former Coxwain of HMS Cicala ((This ship had been sunk in Lamma Channel on December 21; the former Coxswain, transferred to MTB 10, was Chief Petty Officer Gilbert 'Tom' Thums, who took part in the 'great escape' involving Admiral Chan Chak on December 25)) whom I knew from playing hockey against their team, was in charge of MTB No. 10. A tracer clips him across the back of his hand, but he wraps his white scarf around it and gives orders to Hammond and myself to jump on and lie down in the shelter of the wheelhouse. The Howitzer gun ammunition is quickly dumped off and we pull away from the Pier. There is a lot of shrapnel and tracer bullets flying about but no one else gets hit. The other boat follows us out into the Bay, and we have a good view of a lot of noisy activity on the hillside above Chung-Am-Kok. Although we are still lying prone on the deck a sailor comes and gives us a bottle of beer each. Talking to him I find he comes from a place near Cloyne Co. Cork. ((Staff-Sergeant Sheridan attended school in County Cork.)) Just as I am about to have a drink of my beer a hand appears through the Cabin window and a voice says “Give us a swig mate”. I pass the bottle in, and it is returned half empty.

The speed of the Torpedo boat slackens and we make our way cautiously into Aberdeen Bay. It is pitch dark and needs expert navigation. When the boat is anchored, we are taken below deck to a very tiny cabin and are treated to an excellent meal, which both Hammond and I enjoyed as it was the first meal of the day since breakfast and it was now about 10.30p.m. About 14 of us sat round the table in the sailors’ mess. This crew have been going day and night since the attack started. They have had a few attacks on the Japs invasion boats, and inflicted plenty of casualties, but they are in the best of spirits.

About 11p.m. a sailor escorts us ashore, this is quite a feat as the little harbour is choc-a-bloc with Chinese junks and hundreds of sampans all moored side by side. We climb over and through about a dozen to get ashore. The occupants of some were not too pleased, being asleep and woken up by us.

We were taken to a Boys’ Industrial school which was being used as a temporary hospital, Naval HQ and a sort of rest centre for troops. There were a lot of wounded here being tended by Naval sick berth staff.

It is not safe for Hammond and myself to go any further in the darkness. I try to telephone GHQ but no success, so we settle down on the concrete floor, but later we are assigned a bed with no mattress in the former boys’ dormitory. Parts of the building had been shelled so we remained on the ground floor. We were not allowed to divest of any clothing or equipment. Mortar shells kept us awake and during the night we had two stand-tos, when we had to get outside, but they were false alarms.

Before dawn this morning we find some of the monks (Italian Order) are still in some part of the building. One of them brings round mugs of teas which are very welcome. There is no sign of any chance of breakfast. In one of the corridors I meet my friend PO Flynn of the Naval Medical staff, he looked all in and had been up all night tending the wounded. I enquired about the wounded from the White House. He said all had been brought in by ambulance and were as well as could be expected. After several attempts on the telephone I manage to get through to Battle Headquarters and spoke to my Officer Commanding Colonel Andrews-Levinge. He instructed Hammond and I to report to a Lieut. Ponting at a place called Stone Manor which was a few miles further on, or failing that to go to the Hong Kong University. We set off on foot, but are lucky to get a lift on a lorry as far as the food store at Pokfulam. On the way we see some RAF lads carrying rifles and a Lewes gun going up to defend the hillside above the Industrial School. There is a lot of shooting going on but it is very difficult to tell where exactly the fighting is. But it is quite obvious that the Japs have now got most of the key points on the Island bottled up. At the food store we meet WO2 Tomlinson, Sgt. Stennett, Ptes. Hudson and Hewitt and two Canadian ASC Sgts. issuing tinned rations. We make our way to the Stone Manor, a big house just off the road and report to Lieut. Ponting. 

He sends us further on to the University where we meet Major Grieve R.A.S.C. The University looks as if it is going to be a last stand. Piles of supplies, lorries and cars, and troops and people of many different nationalities are here. Not a very good situation if the Japs decide on a bombing raid, casualties would be high. Major Grieves explains that Hammond and I are to collect some Chinese bakers and report to the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Road in the city of Victoria. This building is a department store owned by Lane & Crawfords, the same firm who own the Bakery in Happy Valley where Tom Edgar was Master Baker. The idea is that the Army bakers co-operate with Edgar in producing bread for troops and the Hospitals.((From the start of hostilities Edgar and four other European bakers had been working with Chinese staff at the Lane, Crawford bakery in Stubbs Rd. producing bread for the civilian population; they'd been forced to abandon this bakery on December 21.)) 

Eventually six Chinese are rounded up and are loaded on a small bus, and we escort the bus to Des Voeux Road. We arrive in the middle of an air raid. I leave Hammond outside the Exchange Building to hold the bakers, while I go to see the manager, a Mr Brown.((A.W. Brown)) I find him down in the basement which is the Café Wiseman. He is in conference with some Government Food control officials, also Tom Edgar was present, stripped to the waist ((He'd used his shirt to bind the wounded and didn't get another one until after the surrender.)) They all look worried, but I am introduced as the Army Master Baker by Tom Edgar. The position was now explained to me that owing to the Hong Kong Electric power station being put out of action, Lane & Crawford’s bakery in Stubbs Road, Happy Valley had to be abandoned. They had already taken over two Chinese bakeries, i.e. the Ching Lung Bakery, 41 Queens Road East and the Yoke Shan Bakery a few doors away. Both these bakeries were only producing a fraction of the bread required. The idea was to open some more Chinese bakeries in the western district. This was where Hammond and I were to help. Meanwhile as the bombs were dropping quite near, Hammond had to get the bakers out of the bus and into a shelter, where two of them disappeared. 

Hammond and the other four were brought into the Café Wiseman where the situation was explained to them. We were then treated to some much needed breakfast by the Café Manager, a Greek named Patara. After which we set out in a Bedford van which I drove to find some more bakeries. We visit half a dozen pokey holes of places and finally decide on two, at No. 62 and 84 Queens Road East. They were about a hundred yards apart in a street which would normally be teeming with Chinese, but now the street was deserted. The owners of the Bakeries were not too happy about our intrusion, but in spite of having no official authority we went ahead and requisitioned both places. Both places contained a fair sized wood burning brick oven, but no other equipment. After a discussion with Edgar we decide to risk a trip to the Bakery at Stubbs Road in Happy Valley to try and get some supplies and equipment. We returned to the Exchange Building where Hammond, Edgar and I were joined by a Russian musician. He decided to take over the driving of the big Bedford van. We set off and ran into a series of shell explosions on the way. It was now obvious that the musician could not drive a wheelbarrow not to mind the Bedford, besides he was also shivering with fright. I tried to take over the wheel but he would not move over, and it was too dangerous to stop. However, we reached the Bakery which was up a very narrow passageway. He jammed the van in it so in the end I had to use the butt of my rifle to make him let go. I managed to get the van in position for loading, but now the shrapnel was flying about. We loaded up with dough troughs, scales, knives, scrapers etc. and any other useful equipment we could find. The musician had started a small van which belonged to the Bakery. We put some stores in it and sent him off to the Exchange Building. I take the wheel, Hammond and Edgar are in the back of the van. We set off and go cautiously on to the Happy Valley Road. The Japs are on the opposite side of the Racecourse and shells are falling on the Cricket Club ((probably the Civil Service Cricket Club, as explained here)), Stubbs Road and the surrounding area. Some Middlesex Regt. men are firing back at the Japs from behind the Cricket Club. I recognise one of them as Cpl. Bright a very fine footballer. They are having a pretty hot time as mortar shells are falling on the road opposite the new ARP Headquarters. I put my foot down on the accelerator and drive at a fast speed through Tin Lok Lane and then past the Cathay Cinema in Wanchai. There is not a soul to be seen about, tram wires, slates, bricks and debris are strewn everywhere.

We distribute the equipment and supplies of flour, yeast, etc. to the two bakeries and get everything ready for a start next day. Edgar manages to recruit a few more bakers. We decide to put Hammond with seven Chinese in No. 62 and a chap named Mortimer ((G. W. Mortimer)) with another seven in No. 84. Edgar and I with the van will keep supplies, and collect the bread from all four bakeries. Water is now a problem, so we have to enlist the help of the Fire Brigade to keep us supplied. Space for working in these little poky holes is very limited. Also we have to have Tilley lamps on all day in order to see. The standards of hygiene are not up to the Army requirements.

As soon as it got dark last night my job was to collect the European bakers and bring them to the Exchange Building. The Chinese bakers made their own way to wherever they lived or were going to stay the might. Some remained at the bakeries and we supplied them with rice and vegetables. My No. 1 Baker, Leung Choy had located us yesterday and brought a few more bakers with him. We can make use of them. In the Exchange building our sleeping accommodation was on the Mezzanine Floor which is normally the bedding and furniture showroom. We have single mattresses to sleep on, quite a luxury. Evening meal and breakfast in the basement Café Wiseman. There are a lot of people in the building including women and children. The top floor of this seven storey building is the Main Telephone Exchange. A lot of the European men who work in the Exchange are in the H.K.V.D.C. and I think some of the women and children are their families.

We are up and away at daylight and take the men to the bakeries. Our first job is to ask the Fire Brigade to bring water to the Bakeries. Edgar and I with the help of the Hong Kong Police break into a janitor’s shop in Queens Road central and remove two new household baths, beautiful sky blue ones to hold a supply of water on our Chinese bakeries at No. 62 and 84 Queens Road. We expect to produce about 5000 lbs of bread today, less than half of what is required. Edgar and I decide to risk a trip to Stubbs Road Bakery in Happy Valley as we need more flour, yeast and other supplies. I drive the big Bedford van. The Japs are on the far side of the racecourse. Bullets and shrapnel are flying about, and we get some through the sides of the van. An occasional shell lands on the roadway but does not do much damage as they are mostly anti-personnel shells, and only pockmark the surrounding buildings. I drive fast across any open spaces and we make the shelter of the buildings without mishap. We load up with flour, yeast, etc. and as Edgar has the keys of the cold storage, we load frozen turkeys, chocolate, Xmas cakes and sundries, including a crate of beer and cases of tinned fruit. We try and dodge the flak on the way back, and meet some lads of the Middlesex Regiment in Tin Lok Lane. We stop and give them a bottle of beer each and some tinned fruit. They look tired but are in good spirits. We make two more trips during the day, and bring out a lot of perishable goods, especially butter, meat, eggs and such like. It is all placed in the cold storage next to the Café Wiseman which is not dependent on electric power, and has a diesel generator, which also supplies light and power to the building as well as to the Telephone Exchange on the top floor. This is a very busy and exhausting day, both Edgar and I have not even stopped for a drink. On our last trip to Happy Valley we nearly had our chips. The Middlesex Regts. lads had gone and on our return we spotted some Japs behind the Cricket Club building ((probably the CSCC)). They opened up on us with a machine gun as we crossed an open space, but the Bedford was travelling so fast we were not hit. I had the accelerator hard down on the floor boards and zigzagged in and out of the debris on the roadway. Water is still a great problem, but the Fire Brigade are doing their best. I don’t know where they get it from as the main water supply from the Mainland has been cut off by the Japs.

Shells are also landing on the roadway near Garden Road, the Cheerio Club and in front of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. I put a good spurt on through this area, but still get a few holes through the bodywork of the Bedford van. While Edgar does another job I take supplies to Nos. 62 and 84 and collect some bread and take it to the Queen Mary Hospital, also to the Hong Kong Hotel which is used as a temporary hospital. Things are now becoming acute, no electric power and a grave shortage of water. Quite a number of dead bodies lying about with no one available to bury them.

This must be the most extraordinary Xmas Day. The bombing and explosions could be heard all night. We have a quick breakfast at dawn and I set out with the bakers in the van just as the air raid siren commences. We can hear the bomb explosions but cannot tell where they are falling. Leung Choy finds some more of my former Chinese bakers, so we decide to open up two more Chinese bakeries in the Central area of the City. On one of my trips I stop and talk to a police Sgt. He tells me that from the roof of the HK & Shanghai Bank building a clear view of the Japs invasion can be seen. They are using every type of craft and are landing at North Point and Lyeemun seemingly without any opposition. We need more equipment for the two additional bakeries and consider a last attempt to visit Stubbs Road bakery. Edgar and I set off in the van and get as far as Ventris Road ((Sheridan appears to have made a mistake with the road name here - more details the comments below)) but have to make a rapid about turn as the place is swarming with Japs, we were lucky to get away. We saw some Middlesex Regt. lads making their way back with mortars and Vickers machine guns. We knew there were no further visits likely now to Happy Valley. The Racecourse stand had been used as a temporary hospital, treating wounded civilians and servicemen. When the Japs over run Happy Valley they entered the race course stand and broke into a well stocked Bar. A number of wounded servicemen were shot and bayoneted. A lot of the nurses, European and Eurasian auxiliaries had a bad time. Leung Choy came to me and said he was very worried about his wife and children whom he thought were somewhere in the Wanchai area, also some of the other bakers were also worried about their families. I knew that whilst they were worried we would not get the best out of them so I promised to take them in the van to Wanchai to try and find them and bring then out if at all possible.

We set off about 4.30p.m. in the van in the middle of an air raid. The siren had been wailing for a long time but no bombs had dropped near us. We were just opposite the Garrison Sgts. Mess in Queens Road when I noticed a lot of our troops straggling towards us from the Wanchai area. I stopped and asked one of them what was wrong, noticing that none were carrying any weapons. He said “it’s all over, the white flag is up and a cease fire order had been given”. I feel a bit stunned and cannot quite grasp the situation. Another chap seeing my rifle and bandolier of ammunition, tells me to get rid of it as the Japs are shooting anyone with weapons. I swing the van round and tell Leung Choy it is no use continuing to Wanchai we would only get shot. I drive back to the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Road and find a lot of people shocked and dazed at the news of the surrender. Mr Brown, the manager tells me that there is an order from the Chief of Police to hand all weapons into the Gloucester Hotel next door. After doing this, I go with the van to the bakeries to collect Hammond and Mortimer. The air raid is still in progress and explosions can still be heard, but it seems the Japs have not had a cease fire order yet. From the Exchange Building I make contact by telephone to Battle HQ and speak to our Colonel Andrews-Levinge and tell him the situation. He instructs myself and Hammond to remain where we are and keep off the streets. After dark a lot of shooting and explosions can be heard from the Central district. Looting of shops and buildings is now taking place. An order comes through from the Police Chief Pennefather-Evans to get rid of all liquor. Mr Brown the manager calls all the men in the Exchange Building and explains that there is a large stock of liquor, wines and spirits stored in the basement. He asks for volunteers, so we set to work opening hundreds of cases of whisky, gin, brandy, port, wines, champagne, etc. smash the neck of each bottle and pour the contents into buckets and carry them up to street level and pour it down the drains. Mr Brown tells everyone that if they want a bottle or two to drink take it now. Amongst the 15 males were quite a few noted boozers, but they were so shocked at the surrender I saw nor heard of one taking as much as a bottle. I think it was a reaction or kind of daze of not knowing what was going to happen tomorrow, and the fact of seeing so much good liquor go down the drain.

However, we were a lot more fortunate than a lot of people as at least we have a place to sleep and can still get a reasonable meal in the Café Wiseman.

There are now a lot of people in this building including some women and children. There are quite a number of different nationalities, who must have taken refuge here when the air attacks were on. Some are people who normally live over in Kowloon City but had fled across the harbour before the Japs overran Kowloon. This is a large Department store on the lines of say Lewis’s or Harrods. It has seven floors plus a basement. The top floor being the main Hong Kong telephone exchange, which employs quite a number of European engineers, etc. The Mezzanine floor which is the main furniture and bedding dept. is now occupied by a large number of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor. There is a grave shortage of water, and the toilets are in a dreadful state at present.