On January 4, 1942 notices appeared around town telling enemy nationals to report to the Murray Parade Ground on the next day. From there were taken to squalid hotel-brothels on the waterfront and held there until the last 10 days of January when they were shipped to the camp at Stanley. Many people didn’t see the notices or risked ignoring them, but it’s not clear why those in the Exchange Building, not far from the centre of things, weren’t affected. And if Thomas Edgar’s dating of the resumption of baking to January 9 is correct, it took the Japanese a few days to round them up – which is in accordance with the generally rather improvised nature of the operation. So my guess is that the people at the Exchange Building were taken some time about January 12 (they ended up in the Mee Chow Hotel) In any case, this extract from Staff-Sergeant Sheridan’s ‘Memoir’ shows how he avoided being sent either to Shamshuipo or Stanley through the kindness of Captain Tanaka - who can be seen in this picture -
Tanaka is also the subject of Emily Hahn’s story ‘Silicon Dioxide’ in ‘Hong Kong Holiday’ (where he’s called Yamaguchi).
Now the Kempeitai (Military Police) similar to the German Gestapo have now taken control. All British, Dutch and Americans have been rounded up and interned in Chinese Hotels on the waterfront. On that day while we were working the Bakery, Mortimer who was feeling sick stayed in the Exchange Building and was interned with the others.
When we got back to the Exchange Building we found that Brown, the manager and all Lane & Crawfords staff had been interned. Hammond, Edgar and I went to see Tanaka about our position. He said, “you stay here make bread I fix”. During the time we were at work the mezzanine floor had been cleared out, and all our blankets and bedding had been removed by the Jap troops. Edgar and I went to see Tanaka about this. He gave out camp beds and blankets to everyone who had lost theirs. A small suitcase belonging to a Russian named Preobajensky had been taken. Tanaka took the Russian into the room where the Jap troops were billeted, and when he pointed out the suitcase, Tanaka took it off the soldier, kicked him hard up the backside and gave him a telling off.
We are beginning to realise what a contrast Tanaka is compared to what we already know about the Japs’ treatment of British citizens, he is an exception and a very kind man. So far he has treated everyone very humanely, we have received reasonably good food and fair treatment. Tanaka is not a regular Army Officer, but a civil Telecommunications engineer in uniform. He speaks reasonably good English and has travelled quite a bit in England. At a guess he would be about 45 to 50 years old, but it is not easy to tell the ages of Asiatics. He wears large horn rimmed spectacles, but appears to be a fit man.