19 Aug 1945, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp

Submitted by brian edgar on Tue, 12/18/2012 - 16:32

At Ma Tau-wai Camp Hilda Selwyn-Clarke raises a Union Jack provided by Arthur May. The Japanese guards tell Dr. Selwyn-Clarke to take it down, but he beats off their requests. The flag will fly until tomorrow when an order arrives from the Miitary Governor at 2 p.m.insisting that only the Japanese flag should be flown; in response Selwyn-Clarke keeps the Union Jack raised until dusk, explaining that this is the British custom. Then he reluctantly tells Arthur May to take it down.


Many Stanley internees are finding today a time of great joy and not a little pain.

Jean Gittins:

Sunday, 19 August, brought our first visitors from town. We had been told to expect them at around ten o'clock in the morning. Our police-officers donned what was left of their uniforms and erected a light barricade across the main road a short distance from the entrance to the camp. Internees decked themselves in their pre-war finery: suits and leather shoes for the men; women replaced their shorts and suntops with dresses - one or two even put on their hats.

The bus from town pulls up, and Gittins' sister Victoria and her husband M. K. Lo are among the first to approach:

Our visitors hesitated uncertainily at the sight of the barrier and smiled wanly at us through the lines of weary anxiety so clearly drawn across their faces. Their smiles broadened as we shouted a greeting, but the pallor of their complexion spoke more eloquently than words could have done. In a flash we saw how deeply they had suffered.

Jean Gittins is unable to contain her feelings. She slips under the barrier and embraces her sister and brother-in-law. She does not yet know her own husband has died in Japan.


In Canton Prison the European civilian and military prisoners are ordered out of their cells and addressed by a captain of the prison staff who tells them the war is over.


Ma Tau-wai: Documents in the Selwyn-Clarke Papers (Oxford) and the Arthur May Papers (University of Hong Kong). In his autobiography Selwyn-Clarke claims the flag was flying on August 16th-17th, but documentary evidence persuades me that the later dates are more likely to be correct. This issue was first raised by Ronald Taylor in his indispensable The Arthur May Story.

Gittins: Jean Gittins, Stanley: Behind Barbed Wire, 1982, 151-151

Canton Prison: Ralph Goodwin, Passport To Eternity, 1956, 75

Date(s) of events described