R E Jones' diary goes home
Yesterday I met Rae at her home in England, and delivered her father's diary:
Rae first got in touch two weeks ago . 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 . 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.
|1920s||R 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.
|1935||March. 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.
|1940||British 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
|1941||8th December. The Japanese invade. Hong Kong is at war.|
25th December. Hong Kong surrenders. R E Jones becomes a prisoner at Stanley.
|1945||30th 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.
|1945-1957||At 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
|1952||R 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.
|2010||Alison 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.|
|2012||David 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.
|2013||22 Jun. David visits Rae in England, and the diary is returned to the family.|