7 Jun 1942, Sheridan's Escape - His Own Account
Stage 6: Into Free China
7th June 1942
This is Sunday morning and I am up before 5a.m. after a bad night. It was exceedingly hot and although I had a mosquito net, the mosquitoes managed to get inside it and give me a bad time. Everyone rises early here, but have a siesta during the noon heat. After a wash down and a shave I went to 6.30a.m. mass in the church, which was packed. It was strange to see the French women and children all in their colourful dresses and hats. I had coffee and a roll in the café and went to the Police Station to report at 8a.m. I was given my papers and wished “bon voyage”.
I said goodbye and thanks to Father Moran, who told me I may get a bus part of the way to the Chinese border. I set out for the bus stop carrying my rucksack and kit bag, but find that no buses are running today. As the border is about 30 miles away I was debating whether to set off on foot, when some of the Chinese who were on the boat and whom I had met the previous day came on the scene. On telling them my predicament they asked if I would like to share a hired car with them as they were going to Chekam which was six miles from the border. As the currency here is in Chinese national dollars, they took me to a shop where I was able to change some HK dollars at the proper rate of exchange in order to pay my share. I thought this was a stroke of luck meeting them again, otherwise I would have been in for a long hot walk. The car, an old French Citroen driven by a Chinese arrived and we packed in like sardines with bags and baggage. One of the girls was a former Chinese student of the Italian Convent in Hong Kong. She spoke perfect English as was a great help to me. When we arrived at Chekam, she hired a rickshaw for me and gave the rickshaw puller instructions where to take me. She also told me how much to pay him. I thanked her and said goodbye to her and the others. I set off and reached the border post about noon. It is now sweltering hot. I see my first glimpse of the Chinese Army since Shanghai 1937/38 they control the border post. But here I meet my first disappointment. As I have no British passport or visa for China they will not let me pass and I dare not show them the Jap permit. This is a serious set back to my plans and I really feel down in the dumps. A Chinese stall owner gives me a rattan chair to sit in the shade and also some juicy sliced pineapple to eat which was very welcome. A Chinese dressed in shorts and bare feet comes and says in English “Young English soldier from Hong Kong”. Not knowing whether to trust him I do not reply. He then says “I can help you”. I asked him if he knew Mr Hopstock. He said he knew him quite well and would take a message to him from me. I gave him the note which had been written in Norwegian by Mr Neprud in the French hospital. He set off across the border without any difficulty. It seems Chinese cross and recross here without any restrictions. As it was sweltering hot I was glad to rest in the shade. After waiting about 45 minutes I saw a tall European and two Chinese approaching the border post. They went inside and came out a few minutes later with the Chinese Army officer who beckoned me towards him. Mr Hopstock introduced himself and the two Chinese and shook hands and we passed into China. My pack and bag were carried for me while I told Mr Hopstock who I was and where I intended to travel to Chungking. His house was about 30 minutes walk from the border post. It was two storeys in its own grounds and quite modern. It is a great luxury to have a bath and a change of clothes, a cool drink and later a nice meal.
I meet a Mrs Olsen, she is an English woman married to a Dane. I had met her previously in Hong Kong, she worked for Pan American Airways and was waiting for her husband to return from Macau. I spend a nice quiet evening on the verandah talking to Mr Hopstock. He is very interested in what I can tell him about Hong Kong, and asks many questions. I am sure he needs to verify that I am a genuine British soldier. I enjoy a most comfortable night’s sleep in a well sprung bed.