23 Dec 1941, Sheridan's diary of the hostilities

Submitted by brian edgar on Wed, 10/31/2012 - 18:07

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.

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