16 Jan - 7 Feb 1942, Sheridan's Escape - His Own Account

Submitted by brian edgar on Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:14


((Staff-Sergeant Sheridan’s ‘Memoir’ gives the only detailed account I know of life inside the Exchange Building in January 1942 – for more on this see - https://jonmarkgreville2.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/sheridan-exchange-bui…))


 The Allied civilians (Lane, Crawford staff, Telephone Company personnel and people who ended up in the Exchange Building due to the fortunes of war) are well-treated:


The telephone staff are still in the Exchange building but don’t seem to have anything to do. Tanaka gets one of the engineers to fit up the film and sound equipment from the Film Censor’s office. We have a few film shows at night in the Café Wiseman. They are quite modern films, some of which had not as yet been released by the Censor. There were some Japanese films also (not propaganda), Tanaka gave a commentary on the story.

 The bakers get drawn into Dr. Selwyn-Clarke’s public health organisation:

A new set up has come into being and we the bakers have become part of it.

The Japs have allowed a sort of Medical or Health Dept. to be set up to help the local hospitals and homeless refugees of many nationalities. The man who formed it is the former Director of Medical Services of Hong Kong, a Dr Selwyn-Clarke. He has the assistance of a Mr Owen Evans, an Englishman, and two Americans – a Dr  Henry DD ((Doctor of Divinity)) and a Mr Chuck Winter. They have an ambulance and operate very much like the International Red Cross. Tanaka now tells us we are no longer to be escorted, but will be picked up in the ambulance each morning and be brought back at night. However, we are still not allowed on the streets, and Tanaka says he is trying to obtain permits from the Kempetai to replace the armbands. We all like the new set up, and having heard of the grim conditions in the internment camps Hammond and I decide to do our best to stay out as long as possible.

We are now producing bread for all the Hospitals including Bowen Road Military Hospital and also some for Stanley Internment camp. Evans, Winter and Doc Henry bring us supplies of materials. They also collect and distribute the bread, and ferry the bakers to and from the Bakery. They also distribute milk, rice, beans and fuel to the Hospitals. In fact they are three conscientious, hard-working, unselfish men. At times there are great problems getting the Japs to release the supplies, even through there are large warehouses stocked with food stuffs. Tanaka’s influence has been a godsend at times, as he has been able to secure the bread making ingredients in order to keep us working.

Evans, Winter and Doc Henry were formerly based at the Queen Mary Hospital but the Japs took it over for their own sick and wounded and turned everybody out. They are taking over all the best and modern hospitals for themselves and not concerned where the patients go when they throw them out.

Evans and co. are now accommodated at the French Hospital at Causeway Bay. The live in the former girls’ school in the Convent grounds. Mr Owen Evans is an active member of the Friends Ambulance Unit, a well known Quaker organisation which does a lot of relief Medical work in China. He was transporting medical supplies from Rangoon up the Burma road to Kungming, but happened to be in Hong Kong on business when the Japs attacked.

Mr Chuck Winter is an American Seventh Day Adventist missionary school teacher and ran a school over on the mainland near Clearwater Bay.

Dr Henry, (the degree is an American Doctor of Divinity), he is an old China hand and has spent many years on missionary work in China. Another American named ((Carl)) Neprud was also part of the unit. He was a former Chinese Customs man, but was ill in the French hospital. There were four other Americans named Morton, Schafer, Fitch, Pauli ((John Morton, Charles Shafer, Albert Fitch, Eugene Pawley – see https://jonmarkgreville2.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/thomass-work-6-more-o… )) living in a place in May Road doing relief work but had no connection with the bakers.

Dr Selwyn-Clarke and his team are doing a fine job, but the Japs on the whole are not very co-operative. Men like Cpt. Tanaka are very rare indeed, very few Japanese hold his humane views towards their enemies. The Dr. and some of his team have been made to bow and scrape in order to get any concessions for the sick and needy and indeed at times have been subject to face slapping by the Japs.


An ‘unfortunate incident’ takes place – strangely enough it probably made Staff-Sergeant Sheridan’s escape possible:

We hear that the Telephone Exchange staff are leaving soon for internment at Stanley. Tanaka realising that they are civilians in uniform because of the war, makes arrangements for them and their families to be moved to Stanley camp. He also tells them to get into civilian clothes. We have a bit of a concert one night before they are due to leave, also a meal in the Café Wiseman. Patara the Greek and his Chinese cooks turn out a splendid meal….

An unfortunate incident happened as the Telephone Staff were about to leave for Stanley. The “Kempetai” arrived and searched their baggage and some sam brown belts and uniforms were found. The Kempetai said these men Army must go to Sham Shui Po. There being no argument about it they had to go, whereas their wives and families went to Stanley. Tanaka was very upset about this. It seems he got a dressing down from the Chief of the Kempetai for favouring Britishers.

One source dates the sending of the Telephone workers to Shamshuipo to February 23, but I think this account shows it happened before February 8 when the bakers left the Exchange Building. 

In any case, Captain Tanaka’s now been in trouble with the Kempeitai once over an issue related to the soldier/civilian distinction, and he won’t want it to happen again….

Date(s) of events described