R E Jones' diary goes home | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

R E Jones' diary goes home

Yesterday I met Rae at her home in England, and delivered her father's diary:

Handing R E Jones' diary to Rae

Rae first got in touch two weeks ago [1]. By coincidence I'd already booked a flight to London for last week, so I asked if I could pay her a visit. That was arranged, then on Tuesday she mentioned that St Stephens College, who currently hosted her father's wartime diary in their museum, were planning to send it to her. Would it be posible for me to bring it by hand instead?

Yes - but only if they hurried, as I was flying out the next day! I received a call from Cortia at St Stephens first thing the next morning, and by lunchtime they'd delivered the diary to me. It went in to my hand-luggage, and I set off to the airport, feeling rather paranoid about losing it...

Yeterday I took a train from London out to meet Rae and her family. We had a good long talk about Hong Kong and Stanley, with Rae answering lots of questions. One question I'm always interested in is the long-term effects of life in camp, and whether those effects also ripple down to the internee's children and grand-children. It's a private matter, but Rae very generously answered that as well.

Rae has already told us that her father left camp a very different man from the one who began internment [1]. People who knew him before the war described him as a charming, loving and witty man. After the war he was still a popular and charming man at work and in social events, but at home he was very different - silent, morose and impatient.

As you'd expect, that made it very hard living in the same house. Rae's mother, Marjorie, would tell her "He wasn't always like this". Perhaps the memories of her loving husband helped her cope with the difficult home environment, hoping that somehow they could bring back that side of him. But Rae didn't have any happy memories to rely on. Indeed one of Rae's first memories of her father is from the day after his homecoming. Aged just 5, she picked up a strong sense of his dislike for her, that she'd done something wrong.

As she grew to a teenager, she felt he blamed her. That if she hadn't been born, he'd have carried on his relationship with Gwen. As she grew older and stronger she knew that one day she'd have to confront him, and ask just what was the problem. Unfortunately there was never a chance for her to ask these questions. Her father was diagnosed with cancer in 1957, and died just a few months later, with Rae still a teenager.

So for R E Jones, internment had a major, and damaging impact on his life.

His closest family also suffered, but fortunately not permanently. Rae's mother never married again, declaring she'd only ever loved one man. But she loved her daughters well, and lived to see Rae have her own, happy family, and become a leader in the local community.

Then what about the effects on later generations? I got the answer without asking. During my visit her son popped in, and later in the day we saw both grandchildren at different times. It was lovely to see their interest in the diary, and their care for Rae. The diary is an interesting part of their family history, but the events in it are just that, history.

A few words from Rae to wrap up:

You asked me to put into words how the discovery of the diary has affected me. It's brought back vividly all those feelings and emotions of long ago but not in a negative way. It's uncanny that my father's action in rescuing the diary from destruction and passing it on for safekeeping led it to arrive in the right hands.  Someone could well have come across it, not realised what it was and disposed of it.  As it was it was discovered by Alison's family who knew exactly what it was because of their own family's history relating to Hong Kong and to someone with interest enough to transcribe, contact the right people, and treasure it. Uncanny.  To me it's an unintentional gift from my father.

And it is a gift because it has opened up so many avenues with more to come.

If you knew the Jones family in Hong Kong, I'm sure Rae would be very pleased to hear from you.

Regards, David


  1. Daughter reads father's diary of wartime Hong Kong for the first time - after a 70-year wait. 


1920sR E Jones serves in the Royal Navy, including serving on submarines.

R E Jones meets Marjorie, and begins a long-distance campaign to woo, and eventually marry, her. She initially declines, as she is living with her widowed father, and feels he needs someone to look after him.

1935March. R E Jones begins work as a Prison Officer in Hong Kong.

Marjorie relents, and agrees to marry Jones. She sets up a housekeeper to look after her father, then after marrying Jones in England, they return to Hong Kong together.

1940British women, including Marjorie, are evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia. She is pregnant.

1st January. R E Jones begins writing his diary.


22nd January. R E Jones' daughter, Rae, is born in Sydney

19418th December. The Japanese invade. Hong Kong is at war.

25th December. Hong Kong surrenders. R E Jones becomes a prisoner at Stanley.

194530th August. At the ceremony in Stanley Camp celebrating their liberation, R E Jones raises the Union Jack that he's kept hidden in his mattress throughout the internment.

Marjorie and Rae sail to the UK.


October. R E Jones reaches the UK, and is re-united with his family. A parcel arrives from Gwen, a lady he'd been in a close relationship with in Stanley Camp. It includes a letter breaking off their relationship, and telling him he should stay with his wife and child. The family believe that R E Jones' diary is destroyed at this point, but somehow he managed to keep it.

1945-1957At some unknown date, R E Jones passes his diary to a third party. It ends up with Alison McEwan's father.

R E Jones, Marjorie and Rae return to Hong Kong

1952R E Jones and Marjorie have a second daughter

April. R E Jones is having trouble swallowing, he is sent for medical tests and is diagnosed with cancer. He is sent back to the UK for treatment, accompanied by all the family.


July. R E Jones dies. The family would have liked to continue living in Hong Kong, but all their possessions had been sent to the UK. They settle in the UK.

2010Alison McEwan's husband is looking through her father's papers and finds this diary. She types up its contents and posts it to the Stanley Camp discussion list. She tries to trace Rae, but is unable to.
2012David begins serialising the diary, posting it here on Gwulo.com

7 Jun. Rae is playing with her new iPad. She writes "I searched on Google for 'Rae Marjorie Jones Hong Kong' and up popped R E Jones War Diaries.  I froze!". She posts a comment on Gwulo.com and David contacts her by email.

Alison had passed the diary to St Stephens College to display in their museum. She contacts them to arrange its return.

201322 Jun. David visits Rae in England, and the diary is returned to the family.


What a fascinating story from start to end.  Reminds me of all those love & war movies made by Hollywood.  Thanks to David and Gwulo.com (and the internet) for such a intimate story played out right in front of us.

Wow! what a fantastic story...I can just imagine this being the subject of a film....

It has held me spellbound as it all progressed.....well done David...you must feel proud to have been involved in such a wonderful story, and to have had the pleasure of meeting Jone's' daughter Rae.

Can we possibly expect some further comments from Rae ?   I feel sure that she will have more to say when has read and absorbed the contents of the diary

Bill Griffiths

There have been so much interest in this extraordinary story and I will certainly keep everyone updated on what is happening. Thank you for taking the time to comment. The South China Morning Post are doing an article for their Sunday magazine on 14 July and The Telegraph are planning to do something after that. On Sunday 7th we are having a family gathering so that we can have a photo of 3 generations with the diary. The reaction of the younger generation has been so interesting and quite moving. I have now read the diary twice and learned so much more about my father. It has been an extraordinary opportunity to understand him a bit more - but still some unanswered questions! My father could never have anticipated the powerful affect his diary would one day have on his daughters. The diary will keep the secret of its survival! Rae

Hi David

I am Rae's sister, and the younger daughter of R E Jones.

Firstly thanks to Alison and her family for the safe keeping of the diary and her heroic task in transcribing it.  Mummy regretted destroying the letters and wedding photographs but she was clearly heartbroken at the time.  She would be delighted that the diary survived.

My memories of Daddy are few as I was 6 when he died.  I remember trips to the beach, learning to swim in the South China Sea, the boat to Stonecutters Island where Daddy took part in rifle shooting competitions. Our house with big verandahs and fans and mosquito nets around the beds.

We lived opposite Happy Valley racecourse and it was possible to see the horses racing around the track on race days.  The garden had a huge Pointsettia tree and a chicken coup for Charlie my pet hen - bought at the market when I accompanied GaSo on shopping days - she would buy sugar cane for me to suck.  GaSo was like one of the family - she was with my parents pre war - so kind - at Christmas she even gave the turkey brandy before its execution so that "it would die very happy".

I remember visiting Daddy in hospital in London - in the days when young children were not allowed on the wards - obviously a blind eye was taken and I walked along the corridor holding Mummy's and Rae's hands but walking behind them - feeling rather nervous.  Daddy clearly knew it would be the last time he saw me which must have been very hard.  I was in the bedroom of the flat we rented in Wimbledon when Mummy told me he had died, it is like a frozen snapshot of time, the beds had pink candlewick bedspreads.

It is important to me that Mummy said if she could have the time over again, she would do exactly the same - she clearly loved him very much. What a pity their plans to retire to Christchurch, New Zealand never materialized.   Daddy I think was a lucky man - he married a real lady who was full of grace.

We have lots of cine film of 'old' Hong Kong, featuring the family as well as the beauty of the island and it was great for me to see him.

Going back to Stanley camp I must add that I have a camphorwood box that Daddy recognised and it also had their address in the lid - it was returned to him - the legs had been sawn off and lock broken and the Japanese had used it to store their rifles.  Anyway Daddy lives on in our genes - we all have a great sense of humour - or was that my Mum's!

I returned to Hong Kong many times as a BA stewardess - also with Mummy and Rae on holiday.  We also stayed with friends (Roland and Wendy Denning) when the children were young.  My last trip was in 2005 with Louisa my daughter - we went to watch Phil, my son, play for England in the HK sevens.  Lost in the final minutes of extra time to Fiji - great game.

I don't know if there is something about the place one is born - but I just love the place.

We were guardians to Lawrence Fung who went to Sedbergh school with Phil.  Lawrence's parents were HK police officers - what a contrast for Lawrence to stay in our house, half way up a Cumbrian fell in Caldbeck, watching the weather coming down the Uldale valley.  I think he was pretty amazed that we had barbecues when everyone wore fleeces because it was so chilly!  Cindy and Bill Fung came to stay in the UK - wanted to eat British food - they particularly enjoyed the Edinburgh Festival.  They took us to some lovely restaurants when we visited HK - sadly Cindy has since died and we have lost touch with Lawrence.

That diary has certainly stirred up a lot of memories!  I am so pleased Rae stumbled across your site - pure luck.  Thank you for all your work in keeping it up and running and for delivering the diary to Rae.

Kindest regards

Diana Dowson

The story appears in several of today's newspapers.

The longest version is in the Sunday Magazine of today's South China Morning Post: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1280201/love-war

Thanks to local journalist Simon Parry for the good write-up, and to Phil for putting Simon on to the story.

A shorter version of Simon's article also appears in today's edition of the UK's Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362649/My-father-PoW-adulterer-Astonishing-story-love-betrayal-marriage-defied-odds--revealed-amazing-World-War-Two-internment-notes.html

Finally another UK newspaper, the Telegraph, has published their own account of the story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10178171/The-PoW-his-lost-diary-and-a-lover-called-G.html

Regards, David

Wow ... what next ... the Movie :-)  ?

David - thanks for your work on this. I know how satisfying it can be when loose ends can be tied up after so many years.

Rae; If you are reading this, I remember you from school (KGV) where you were three years my senior. Our fathers knew each other well, being members of the HKFC, PRC, HKR and HKRNVR (where my father Bill Laishley worked). Lest I forget, both were also Freemasons - but in those days, who wasn't?

While visiting HK in 2007, I ran into Gordon (Titch) McClennan in Murphy's Pub, located in the basement of Chung King Mansions. He would have been in your year - or close to it.  Also Richard Gasten (now sadly departed in late 2008), Michele Mottu and Pierre Piry, both of whom live in the Vancouver area.

Best regards,


Dear Gerald It was good to hear from you and to catch up with news of other contemporaries. Pierre was in my class at school. With being 3 years your senior I am surprised but pleased you remember me. The discovery of the diary has been exciting and is bringing back so many memories of HK. The delay in responding to you is due to the fact I have been in Spain and my Internet access was limited. Now I'm home I 'm busy catching up with the many people who have made contact as a result of the articles about the diary. Best wishes Rae

Hello again Rae;

If you send me an e-mail addy, I can forward the info for many of your contemporaries. I can be reached at: gerald_laishley63@yahoo.com

You may also be interested to know that there is a proposed KGV reunion in Hawaii next March - still in the planning stages - but knowing this group, it will very likely come to pass.

Best regards,


Dear Gerald,

I saw your post to David and Rae and thought I would drop you a line. I was a policeman in HK and knew your dad at HKFC and Zetland Hall. We lost the PRC in the late 70s to make way for the HV flyover. If memory serves Bill took over as custodian at ZH after Guy Walker. I left HK in Dec 1998 and am now a solicitor in Sydney. I go back to HK a couple of times a year and was last there in August this year. I have a very funny anecdote about Bill which I could share if you are interested. You may contact me on p.foster@btflawyers.com.au.

Best wishes,

Paul Foster