25 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

25 Dec 1941, Harry Ching's wartime diary

Book / Document: 
Date(s) of events described: 
Thu, 25 Dec 1941

Heavy boots down Village Road, past our front door, early in the morning. Some rifle and machine-gun fire. Then horses galloped past - race ponies from the Jockey Club stables at the top of Shan Kwong Road. We sneaked to the roof to reconnoitre, to find that a shell had hit the building next door and strewn its penthouse all over my garden. At about noon the noises swelled again, and later we had our first close view of Japanese troops. A score or more of them in close formation up King Kwong Street towards our back door, their steel helmets festooned with leaves. They swung left at Shan Kwong Road and went uphill towards the stables.

We ate our Christmas lunch (bully beef and some oranges) walking about nervously, while distant bombs, shells and machine guns rattled on. About 4 p.m. the telephone rang, and hurriedly a discreet voice said, "It's all over; we've surrendered." I phoned the office to tell Ben Wylie. Unbelieving, he snooted indignantly. "Sounds like fifth column talk," he said. I assured him cautiously that it came from a most reliable quarter. Later, he phoned and apologised, warning also, "Keep out of sight. I've been talking to a friend. He says you're on the black list." The friend was an English journalist who had been employed in a Japanese news agency. Gunfire and explosions continued, however. Then suddenly our district became full of Japanese troops, tough looking, cocky, a few bandaged, one carried on a stretcher. I had one more thing to do. I had telephoned an editorial that morning, exhorting our readers to a final display of spirit. Now it had to be scrapped, and in its place we put some soothing syrup, accepting our fate and advising calm and restraint. 

All quiet at sundown. We rested in blessed relief from the shelling. We planned our conduct as far as we could, speculating when their Kempetai would come for me. My wife borrowed a Chinese gown in which I was to disguise myself. But in it I looked less Chinese than before, so abandoned it. We heard the B.B.C. informing the world that the position in Hongkong had become obscure. The children had their first good sleep in weeks.