Harry Ching's wartime diary: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Harry Ching's wartime diary: View pages

Twenty-five elderly internees from Stanley admitted to the French Hospital in Causeway Bay.

Whole family out riding tram along Praya to Kennedy Town. Along western waterfront some godowns intact. Further west many warehouses destroyed in the shelling and bombing. Distressing sight bodies of soldiers drifting near Praya. Counted five close in, of which two clearly Japanese and three startlingly white in contrast. Had been moving out and back with tide for two months, and no one's business to collect and give burial.

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Promise of resumption of electricity service. Minimum four light points, for which deposit five yen required. We have twenty points, so much tearing out of sockets necessary. Finally apply late in February for eight lighting points only. $20 to have rest of twenty points put out of commission.

Gas man called to say service being resumed. Fuel increasingly hard to get so signed up for gas, but never materialised. Our electricity allowance too small and too expensive to permit of cooking. I devised means of by-passing meter with simple device quickly and easily removed.

Family to church and made acquaintance of a fine man, Pastor Johan Neilsen, formerly head of Norwegian Missions to Seamen in Shanghai. We see him often, and obtain much spiritual comfort from him.

A memorable kai yim ((curfew)) lasted all afternoon. Nobody allowed to move; tram passengers sat for hours.

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The rice ration suspended off and on as supplies fail. By mid-March the ration reduced from eight taels per head daily to 6.4 taels. By then also box of matches costing 50 cents, salt $1.40 a pound, peanut oil for cooking $3 a catty.

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One day mid-March we walked to town via Tin Lok Lane. Raining and failed to see sheltering sentry until his harsh "kurrah!" awakened us, whereafter had to stay where we were until released to go home.

New passes for Third Nationals to be applied for. All over ten must have passes.

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Cars being taken from racecourse. Paper says being returned to owners, but rumour forty being shipped to Canton daily.

Street names being changed to Japanese. Happy Valley becomes Aobadani.

Julie Rakusen said goodbye. Going Shanghai. Many people talking going. Fare officially $60. Black market $1,000.

Inoculation squad dirty, unshaven, three were university students. One very bullying and bad mannered. Japanese silent throughout. Chinese always perform in their presence.

On several occasions have sold eggs - six hens give three eggs daily which sell for $1. Sold rooster for $6 but failed sell two more.

Telephone rental $9 monthly. Last month's electricity bill $13.68. So far using half kwh nightly, but later got it down to one-tenth. Market prices include chicken $5.80 a catty, beef $4.80 a catty, pork $5 a catty, fish $2 a catty, potatoes 75 cents a catty. Paid $2.10 for 3 catties of rice. Tried "Shanghai oil" for cooking $2 a catty, made us ill. Neighbour says it's wood oil.

Eurasian meeting held at St John's Hall. Fellow named Sykes, half Indian, running relief scheme. Apparently got rice in beginning with Septic's help. Financed by Shanghai Chinese. Later, when ration started, continued to get extra rice. Those who couldn't pay in full paid what could afford or nothing. Our meeting is to regularise Eurasian position. Sykes calls his show Eurasian and may prejudice us all. Fair attendance at meeting. I preside. Sykes Fund and Welfare Fund causing confusion. George She will try get Welfare Fund for us. Perhaps $12,000. Agree form Welfare Committee. I become Vice President, Greaves President. Sykes apparently annoyed with our move, later strikes Eurasians off his list. His list now only Anglo-Indians. Dot Lo later says Sykes seems all right. He and not Septic raised the money for relief. 200 Chinese, mostly Shanghaians, pay him $1 a day.

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Story of boy kidnapped from mother's side and head found in air raid shelter. Alleged cannibals blamed. Story of hawker selling excellent jook (('jook' is a Cantonese word for a rice-porridge, or congee)). Customers include police. He absent, they investigated, found him cooking human flesh.

Banks paid divvy. Only up to $500. I was paid with one $500 note. Tried to buy necessities and get change. Won't take big notes at all. Friend changes for me at $65 for $100. 

Price of soya beans down from $3 to $1.90. Now is time to stock up. Milk at 60 cents a bottle prohibitive. Soap $2 a bar. Earlier in month some fish cheap $1 per catty, but stingray. No fish in market lately, and we can't afford meat. Only rice and greens for supper.

Many people we know have left. Eddie Ho Tung going to Shanghai, also Jas Hall. Paper says walking parties for Shanghai still being formed. But on road everyone gets robbed or gypped. Must pay protection money. American internees are leaving on exchange. Some American Chinese also going. 

People cutting up furniture for firewood. A shop sold us 10 piculs for $1. Authorities trying to stop it. Gendarmes patrolling Central because looters still stripping empty houses of woodwork. Rumour possession of tree wood punishable. Much police shooting at night at tree cutters. Paper says plenty firewood. Official price one dollar for 12 catties which lasts a day and a half.

Beggars being arrested. Seems all badly dressed and bare-foot people rounded up for deportation. Many arrests in kai yim. Some taken allegedly for blood transfusion. Rumour 20,000 people wanted for blood transfusions. Chinese paper advises people not to go out for a few days because of arrests. Streets empty.

Whole blocks Wanchai houses being taken over. Residents suddenly ordered quit. Include Faure's family. 

To town to Eurasian Welfare Committee meeting. Greaves gave more details of Sykes set up. Began before rice ration bureau opened when he helped Chinese buy rice from authorities. After ration bureau opened the recipients continued to get help thus getting extra rice for which they paid 60 cents. 

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To Wanchai. Junk everywhere spread out on footpaths for sale. Children's playground a great junk market. Some of the stuff pathetic. Vendors evidently arrived late at scenes of looting.

Mysterious air raid sirens in afternoon and night.

Alleged two U.S. planes flew over at noon and dropped pamphlets. Another version of story that Japanese planes went up and dropped reassuring pamphlets. Omar says plane story all hooey, seems was cinema stunt, but rumourists insist.

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Luigi Souza says Portuguese getting monthly rations flour and sugar at 75 and 60 cents catty respectively. Bill Shea says flour ration is also for Eurasians. At civil affairs bureau told flour ration available, but given only to groups. To office to consult Greaves. Decided to try and organise group. Told Duggie Laing about flour but he afraid may mean no rice. Discussed further with Bill Shea and Greaves. Pat Brown and Jas Hall suggest already formed Eurasian Welfare Committee handle flour. Bill Shea and I don't agree fearing be involved in relief scheme without funds. I suggest to Greaves we form separate Eurasian mutual aid league and apply for flour at once leaving others to come in and possibly amalgamate with or terminate Welfare Committee. This agreed. Calling ourselves Mutual Aid Society. Committee Greaves, self, Hall, Brown, later Grace Ablong and Kitty Fox roped in.

Kowloonites angry we didn't proceed as original Welfare Committee. Dot Lo also peeved because we went ahead alone. Advised them make separate application. At later meeting Greaves says Kowloonites unsuccessful. He explains Fujita of foreign affairs bureau now in Kowloon and claims Hongkong breaking rules. Flour ration should have proportionate reduction rice ration. If so we don't want it. Much argument at meeting on responsibility regarding repudiation rice ration. Greaves said was told at bureau flour ration won't affect rice ration. Resolved try get flour for Kowloon. Meeting delayed owing Dot Lo not turning up. Was detained by gendarmes two hours for investigation of file he was carrying containing committee minutes. Our application eventually approved. 

Police allegedly confiscating firewood above 50 catties and rice above 30 catties. 

Population according to registration about 1,100,000, regarded as under-estimate.

Story of woman at Italian Convent who bought pork. It jumped in the pan and scared her. They say human flesh jumps. 

To town to bank to get divvy. Collected $2,000. Fred gets big note changed for me at $75. To town for Eurasian flour ration, No sugar or oil. Sugar available at official shops on production of rice cards. Quarter catty per head monthly. Eurasians likely to get no more sugar in view of shop scheme. Oil at depot $2.80 per catty. Flour ration to be six catties per head per month. For several days nothing in market again. Kotewall warned me conditions would worsen. Meat in market all dark coloured and uninviting.

Sold bottle black label whisky at Y18. Shop prices double that. Also sold small electric fan at Y6.

Rumour Britons at Stanley circularised re evacuation. Radio says evacuation 1,400 Britons from Far East a month hence to Lourenco Marques. Japan, Thailand, Manchuria, China mentioned but not Hongkong or Singapore. Seems confirm no evacuation for British territories. To Septic to enquire. Little chance for us this being British place. Want people on spot. 

Demand for yen pushed value up to 3 to 1 in exchange, though shops don't like taking them. Later announcement says yen fixed at 4 to 1. Market prices double. General bewilderment and confusion. Shops more or less suspend business. Retailers ask before selling and if yen tendered price is higher. By end July yen situation quieter. Finance chief says money situation stabilised. 

Searchlights at night. Rumour Kamtin bombed. Doubtful, but nurses say wounded came in. Rumour also of bombs at Stanley. People in street rubber-necking Japanese plane. Not often seen lately.

Planes allegedly over Hongkong in a.m. causing much rumouring. Australian radio says Hongkong bombed four times. Hadn't noticed it.

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Eurasian meeting. Arranged relief rates. To pay for flour in yen.

To town for flour. Flour 50 sen catty. Oil ration depots to open. Reportedly 9.4 taels per head per month at Y1.40 a catty. Eggs 80 cents each. We get 70 cents from neighbours. Little house paper quite a problem. Buying cho chi at 70 cents catty. Lane Crawford selling siege biscuits 70 sen a pound. Sealed tin 28 lb for Y18. These were intended for distribution in anticipated siege.

Basins of water appear at doors of official places for entrants to wash hands. Upstairs lad fails wash going in, and slapped. Trying to be correct washed coming out. Slapped again for insult.

All Third Nationals must register again before end August. To town to register. 

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Garden plot yields over catty of peanuts.

Letter from Wylie. Any sort of paper welcome in camp. Meat gifts go bad ten days en route. 

Fish very dear about $9 per pound. Moon cakes 70 sen each. Sign of the times: you can buy half one. Price of gold fallen from $1,400 to $1,200. Pre-war $270. 

Chinese who can afford to leave urged to go. Horace Lo and three M.K. Lo daughters for Kwong Chow Wan. Arthur Woo advises staying here. No medicines and much risk going into interior. To Septic to ask about repatriation prospects. Sees little hope but suggests telegram to influential friends through Red Cross. 

Chinese Volunteers let out on condition don't talk about camp. 124 freed from Shamshuipo, Tom Cheung included. Malayans are medical students from University who were members Field Ambulance. Some to be employed health work.

Intensive searching in streets for many days. Shirt sleeves turned back seeking messages on cuffs. Searches of trams require alight and pass through barrier then scramble on tram again. Running discouraged. Story of man who ran to catch tram. Called back he ducked a slap and allegedly was bayoneted.

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Awful lot of dysentery, typhoid and dengue. 

Reportedly 10,000 Japanese in Hongkong against 500 before the war.

Fish very dear. Small fish (fry) at $4. We live mostly on beans. Shocked to discover spent hundred dollars in four days. 

To town for flour. Up five sen. North Point and Causeway Bay Eurasians refused rice because get flour. Complaint to Peter Sin who is in charge of rice rationing scheme. Says will fix. 

Reported Third Nationals now not allowed to leave. Henry Ahwee discourages going in. Says here safer and more comfortable. Going in full of uncertainty. Arthur Woo says similarly. Connie Hamson urges me try and arrange repatriation. 

Early in month panic up town. Everyone buying. Reserve food for something or other. Firewood supply exhausted says one vendor. Nothing in market. Rumour government employees given fifteen days rice and everyone asked stock rice and firewood.

Beginning second week of month high flying Jap aeroplanes up daily. Rumours protecting fleet outside. 

On roof when sudden air raid. Loud explosions, smoke and fires at Kowloon. Great fire Lai Chi Kok way. Later about fourteen Japanese planes swept about until nightfall. 

Awakened at 1.30 a.m. Bombs and gunfire. Reportedly Whitfield Barracks in Kowloon hit. Fire Lai Chi Kok way still burning. Palace Hotel said wrecked. Cameron Road where many Japanese live received stick of bombs. Bomb in Shanghai Street killed many. Percy Ismail says 1.30 a.m. raid was North Point. Bomb hit road. Tram tracks out of action. Aw Boon Haw Mansion reportedly hit. Nuisance raids. More nuisance to us civilians than to Japs. Big crater Jordan Road. House in Hankow Road demolished. Six reported killed. Ferry boat and gunboat reportedly hit.