Russell Alfred Ernest WATSON [1910-1974] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Russell Alfred Ernest WATSON [1910-1974]

Russell Alfred Ernest
Birthplace (country): 
c.1974-12-31 (Day is approximate)


Could this be him?

UK Allied POWs

R A E Watson Gunner 1st Battery HKVDC born 27 October 1907 Boroughbridge Yorkshire

WO 345 Japanese Index Cards of Allied POWs 1942-1947 has his birth as 1927 [highly unlikely]

It looks likely. He's also on the list, 02. Prisoners Of War - Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Forces:

Watson R A E HKVDC Gunner 4094 13

 I'll change the initials from R A S to R A E.

From POW card

Son of Ernest Watson and Ana Clementina da Roza (her name crossed through in red)

Destination of Report: E Watson Horsefair Boroughbridge Yorkshire




I have researched extensively and cannot find an R A S Watson or a R A E Watson anywhere

I have come to the conclusion that the R A could refer to Royal Artillery and that he is plain Ernest Watson. 

I will search further to see if I can find supporting proof.

Over at, Tony has this man listed as a member of the HKVDC's 1st Battery:

Watson, Russell A.E. Gunner 4094 NP (37)(52) (XD5)

First name: Russell Alfred Ernest

Surname: Watson

Date of capture: 25/12/1941

Date of Liberation: 02/09/1945

Rank: Gunner

POW Camp: Tokyo

Service number: 4094

Service: British Army

Sources: WO392/26 and WO 361/1970 and WO 361/1984

Interestingly in the document WO 361/1970 his POW number in that typed document was 3461 and pencilled in was 'Released on 21-01-1944'

Russell A.E. Watson's birth was registered during the period 1906-10 at the British Consulate in Chinkiang, China. He was born 27th October 1910 and died in December 1974.

More information here



WATSON - DA MOTTA - On Tuesday, October 16th, 1945, at Rosary Church, Russell Alfred Ernest, son of Mr. and the late Mrs. Ernest Watson, of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, to Thelma, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Motta, of Hong Kong."

Source: The China Mail, page 2, 17th October 1945

I am Christopher Watson, the son of former POW Russell Watson. I was greatly moved to find Dad mentioned in your newsletter. What tremendous research you do. It took a while but you got it right in the end. Dad was born in China. It was his father Alfred Ernest Watson, who was born in Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. I was born in HK in 1954.

Dad was a journalist and worked for Reuters in China and Singapore before settling in HK before the War. He famously obtained an interview with George Bernard Shaw in 1933. Shaw was asked about the future of China and he replied in a hand written note which I still have. I would be pleased to EM to Gwulo if you would tell me the best way to do so. Dad got the interview with the notoriously reticent Shaw, by going on board ship, finding Mrs Shaw and charming her so much that she brought Dad to their state room and informed Mr Shaw that he was to spend some time with this young man, which he did.

Dad also worked for the China Mail and the SCMP where he was Editor of the Sunday paper until his retirement in 1967. He died in his sleep at the much too young age of 64. He took very good care of his health, having given up alcohal and tobacco, adopting a good diet and getting plenty of exercise with long walks. When he went for his afternoon nap that Saturday, there was no indication that he would never wake up.

 There appears little doubt that his early death was due to the treatment he recieved during his captivity in Japan. When he returned to HK, he had lost over half his body weight and his hair had turned gray. He told my mother about it and added that he would never speak of it again. He never did. Despite this, he bore no ill will to the Japanese people. He visited Japan some time in the mid 1960s and had Japanese friends. One was a Japanese businessman to whom Dad was giving English lessons. He adored my father and when I had to tell him of Dad's death he broke down and sobbed.

My father was a man of great principal who was angered by the racism so common in Colonial HK. While at the SCMP, he hired and promoted many local Chinese journalists, one of his many acts which did not endear him to the hierarchy of the Paper. 

I hope this is of interest to your readers and I would be delighted to hear from any of them either on this forum or at

Thanks to you all at Gwulo for the extraordinary work you do. Best regards, Christopher Watson.


Christopher, thanks very much for getting in touch, and telling us more about your father and his life here in Hong Kong.

Here's a 1933 photo of Geroge Bernard Shaw in Hong Kong, which must have been taken around the same time your father met him:

1933 Sir Robert Ho Tung and George Bernard Shaw at Idlewild
1933 Sir Robert Ho Tung and George Bernard Shaw at Idlewild, by


A copy of the note would be good to see - just follow the steps at to upload a copy to the site. It'll also be good to see a photo of your father if possible. (And of course any other old Hong Kong photos are always very welcome!)

Regards, David