11 May - 3 Jun 1942, Sheridan's Escape - His Own Account
Stage 4: Preparing to Go
Meanwhile I make all possible preparations for the trip. I visit ((Carl)) Neprud the American, several times in the French Hospital and get all the information about the area I will be travelling to in South China.
On the 21st May 42 I again visit Kempeitai HQ and get a very rough reception from a sentry on the main door who does not understand English. As I stand at the bottom of the steps outside not knowing what to do, and feeling rather nervous, a Jap officer who had witnessed the sentry pushing me around, came forward, and in good English asks me what is the trouble. I explain, and he tells me to wait, and goes in the Main Office. He returns a few minutes later and tells me the offices are being reconstructed and no business would be done for a week. He advises me to wait and return then. I thank him and return to the French Hospital.
I have a talk with Father Joy, the Jesuit priest, who has been representing the Irish community since the occupation. ((On May 24, 1943 Father Patrick Joy was arrested by the Kempeitai at Wah Yan College where he was then living.)) He agrees to give me a letter certifying that to the best of his belief I am Irish, in case I am questioned by the Kempeitai. He tells me most of the Irish who are being treated as neutrals have no other proof of nationality.
I now have to gather some bits and pieces of kit. I manage to get a rucksack to carry a spare vest and pants, socks, spare KD ((Khaki Drill)) shirt and slacks. I had a good pair of walking shoes, and would be dressed in khaki shirt and slacks, which was normal summer dress here. It was now very warm and Neprud had told me it would be warmer as I travelled south. Dr Court gave me a small bottle of tablets to use in case I contracted dysentery.
On the 3rd June 1942 I again visit the Kempeitai HQ in Happy Valley. I had to join a large queue and whilst waiting one of the Jap officials behind the counter looks up and recognises me. He comes forward with a form with my photo attached and gives it to me with no further questions. I walk out of the main door and down the steps in a daze. I can hardly believe that what I hold in my hand is my ticket to freedom and being able to leave Hong Kong.
I get Leung Choy to accompany me to the shipping office. He finds out that a boat leaves next day for Kwong-Chow-Wan. He books a single ticket for me at a cost of 30 dollars (about £2.12p). On returning I decide to visit the French Consul, where I saw Monsieur Reynaud. I explained my position to him and showed him Father Joy’s letter and the Jap form for permission to leave for Kwong-Chow-Wan. I did not tell him I was a former British soldier as I did not know whether he supported De Gaulle or Vichy French. ((In fact Louis Reynaud was a committed supporter of the Free French; he died at the French Hospital on July 6, 1943.)) He wrote out a letter in French to the authorities at Fort Bayard in Kwong-Chow-Wan granting me the facilities to pass through to Macheung to Mr Hopstock’s residence.