Elias Davies SYKES [????-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Elias Davies SYKES [????-????]

Names
Given: 
Elias Davies
Family: 
Sykes
Sex: 
Male
Status: 
Deceased

Photos that show this person

1940

Comments

Full name: Elias Davies Sykes.

I've put in a link in the January 21, 1943 entry of the Chronology. That was the day of his arrest by the Kempeitai. On April 8 he was given a ten year sentence but survived to give evidence at a post-war trial inspite of spending 8 months in the Prison Hospital where rations were even lower than in the prison itself.

Hi Brian,

Any chance you have a record of where this full name came from?

There's a gravestone in the Jewish Cemetery which seems to be for the same person, but is inscribed with the name "Edward David", see https://jhshk.org/community/the-jewish-cemetery/burial-list/sykes-edward...

I think it wasn't unusual to adopt a more anglicised name, so he may have changed his name later in life, but it would be good to double-check.

We've also heard from Howard at the Jewish Historical Society of HK, who has another copy of your parents' wedding photo, and thinks Mr Sykes is the man on the right (see https://gwulo.com/atom/31077). Would you be able to confirm that?

Regards, David

Hi, David. This is a very exciting development as the man on the far right is not named on the back of the photo which my uncle annotated with information from my parents. I also have a small photo which is not very clear but might feature the same man. I'll upload with some comments about the people in both photos.

I took the name Elias Davies Sykes from a pre-war newspaper report. Unfortunately I can't check this reference at the moment as the online newspaper website does not work well with Apple computers. When Mr Sykes appeared as a witness in the war crimes trial of Colonel Noma (head of the Kempeitai) he used the name Edward David. I think you're probably right and he anglicised his name after the war.

I've uploaded the photo I mentioned:

31105

The names of the people in the front row, starting from the left:

unknown girl, Robert Bauder (Swiss), Mrs d'Almeida (presumably Portuguese-Macanese), Thomas Edgar (British), Evelina Marques d'Oliveira/Edgar (Portuguese-Macanese), unknown woman, man now possibly identified as E. D. Sykes.

 

Standing just behind my mother, the tall man is Owen Evans, the best-man (British, from Wales). The Japanese officer is Lieutenant Tanaka, who had obtained permission from the Japanese authorities for the wedding .The 'European' man two places behind Owen Evans - one of the few people with a genuine smile - is most likely Serge Peacock, a Russian baker who was British by naturalisation. The man visible just behind him is possibly Harry Randall, but this is a very tentative identifcation.

I've just uploaded my parents' wedding certifcate:

31106

I had assumed that the man on the right of the photo - now possibly identified as E. D. Sykes - was the witness 'G. E. Almeida' and also the husband of 'Mrs Almeida' who, according to my uncle's annotation, was the maid of honour. But 'G. E. d'Almeida' might be Mrs d'Almeida. This raises the question why, if Mr Sykes led my mother to the church and  perhaps even gave her away, he didn't act as a witness? On the other hand, if the man is Mr d'Almeida why isn't he standing next to his wife? And the presence of the photo in the family and the probable identification of him by a family member does seem powerful evidence.

To add one more element to the mix: in the early weeks of the occupation my father was kept in a room of the Lane Crawford Department Store with a group that included one 'Almeida' from Goa - probably another Lane Crawford employee. I have not been able to track down any Almeida/d'Almeida definitely from Goa or a G. E. Almeida. But one possibility is that Almeida from Goa was unavailable, Mrs Almeida, the maid of honour was his wife, and the Almeidas knew the Sykes family through their Indian connections.

In any acse, many thanks to the Sykes family and to Howard for this fascinating new information.

I've now heard from one of ED's children who showed the photo to his brother and sisters.  They don't think it's their father.  It may be Mr d'Almeida after all.

Mr d'Almeida may be Carlos Eugene d'Almeida. He worked as manager 0f the United Sales Association.

Thanks for passing this on, Howard. It's still very interesting to me that Mr Sykes had a copy of this photo and that he kept it long after the war. I can think of three possible reasons:

1. He is in it - a number of people are obscured, some almost completely, by those in front;

2. He was at the wedding but not in the photo;

3. As my mother became a British citizen after the ceremony and hence lost much of her freedom of movement, she asked Mr Sykes to pick up the photos - I have about half a dozen in different versions. If this is so he was her friend - or maybe landlord - and 1. or 2. might also be true, hence his keeping one.

 

If I understand your original post correctly, the copy in Mr Sykes' family is identifiable as having been taken by the Ming Yuen studio? This is also good for me to know, as the only photo in my possession with any marking is 'on their way to the wedding', which has some annotation and a stamp, but too faint for me to make out or without obvious meaning. So that too is good to know.

Thanks again, and please keep me updated in the event of further developments.

That's a good suggestion. Moddsey.

I looked again at the certificate:

31106

 

I had thought the initial letter of the d'Almeida signature (although this might just be Mrs d'Almeida) was a 'G', but some googling of older scripts suggests it might in fact be a 'C'. 

If anyone is familiar with Macanese handwriting of the time and/or business styles I'd be grateful for an opinion.

I now have more information on Mr Sykes from the National Archive.
From an early stage in the occupation he was Chairman and President of the Eurasian Welfare League: in spite of the name, this seems to have mainly catered for Chinese and people of Anglo-Indian heritage (Henry Ching's diary shows some tension between the League and other Eurasians).

Eventually Mr Sykes was helping 550 people who would otherwise not have been able to afford enough rice to survive. He also seems to have been organising accommodation - first in Marina House, and when the Japanese took that over, in St John's Hall.

He wasn't sure why he was arrested in January 1943. He admitted that to finance the League he had been claiming 250 extra members, and a Japanese rice controller was arrested for fraudulent activity at about the same time. He was also accused of being a spy and of working for Dr Selwyn-Clarke, who the Japanese wrongly believed to be the British spy master. With huge courage and resilience, Mr Sykes refused to admit to anything himself or to incriminate Selwyn-Clarke. His ten year sentence was a long one, and perhaps reflects the fact that the Japanese thought he was a spy, even though they were unwilling to convict him without a confession.

While in the prison hospital, he was able to talk to his wife's eldest brother, George Leung, who was eventually executed, perhaps on false charges.

Happily Mr Sykes survived prison and his testimony helped convict Colonel Noma, the head of the Kempeitai, and another of the accused at the Hong Kong War Crimes Trials.