James HILL [1905-1984]

Submitted by alhill on Fri, 02/28/2014 - 03:54
Birthplace (town, state)
Birthplace (country)

James Hill, A93. He was one of three Japanese language translators used by Franklin Gimson during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. He could speak Cantonese (3 certificates), Hakka (2 certificates), Hoklo (1 certificate) and Japanese (4 certificates).
Born 4th April 1905 in Dundee, Scotland.

Died 14th February 1984 at Harefield Hospital Middlesex. His ashes were placed on the grave of his deceased wife, Nora Hill (nee Jack) on her grave at Barnhill Cemetery, Broughty Ferry, Scotland.

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Andrew Hill writes:

Here is a little more information about my grandfather, James Hill. After the liberation of Hong Kong, he applied to go to Japan but I think ill health prevented him from doing so. 

After the war, he worked at various times in Hong Kong, Melbourne Australia, London and Edinburgh. As well as Japanese, he was fluent in Cantonese and also knew some Hakka and Hoklo (Hokkien). He was mostly employed by government departments, but was also a sergeant major in the Australian Army after the war (he was a Scots Guardsman prior to joining Hong Kong Police).

Andrew also sent documents from when James Hill was applying for the post in Japan:


Defence Security Office,
12th September, 1945.

G.E. Gent, Esq., C.M.G., D.S.O.,
O.B.E., M.C.,
Colonial Office


Sub-Inspector Hill of the Hong Kong Police is known to me personally as an efficient police officer with whom I was in contact when he was employed in the Special Branch. He was employed as interpreter in Japanese at Stanley Interment Camp, Hong Kong, and gave entire satisfaction. I have no hesitation in recommending him for employment with the British Army of Occupation in Japan.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient servant

Sgd. M. PERDUE Defence Security Officer.


H.K. & S'hai Bank Building,
12th September, 1945. 

G.E. Gent, Esqr.,
Colonial Office

Dear Gent,

It is probable that Sub-Inspector James Hill, of the Hong Kong Police, who has spent the duration in Stanley Camp, will approach you with a request for his secondment as Japanese Interpreter with the Military Forces in Japan.

He will bring with him a letter from the Hon. Mr. Gimson, which will explain his qualifications and the type of officer he is.

If there is any chance of sub-inspector Hill's request being granted, I should like you to knew that I should be very sorry to stand in his way, and should like to sea him granted the appointment. The object of my writing this note is to avoid, if possible, the need of any reference by you to Hong Kong before making your decision.

The position here at the moment is quite fantastic, but taking things all in all it is far more satisfactory then any of us could have hoped. I hope that by now the work in your Office has eased off a little bit, end that you are managing to get an hour off now and then.

Yours Sincerely,

sgd H. SANSOM, Col.
C.M.G., O.B.E.


Colonial Office,
29th September, 1945

Mr. JAMES HILL was employed as a Japanese interpreter in the Military Internment Camp, Hong Kong where he was interned from january 1942 to August 1945. He performed his duties with great efficiency and displayed tact and courage in circumstances of exceptional difficulty. I had occasion frequently to express my sincere appreciation on the manner in which he had to face the most trying conditions.

I have every confidence that he would display these same qualities even more markedly if he was called upon to perform duties involving patience, discretion and courage.

sgd. F. C. GIMSON, C.M.G.
Colonial Secretary, Hong Kong
(Formerly Camp Commandant and 
representative of internees,
Military Internment Camp, Hong Kong)

Dr. Andrew Hill visited HK a few years ago, and I was honoured & privileged to be able to take him to Stanley & show him some of the internment camp while he was here.

After Andrew returned to Australia, he forwarded to me some of the correspondence to which he refers in his post. He also sent me some photos, including one of the European CID contingent of the HKP in the late 1930's, which included James Hill.

The latter comes across as an amazing man, based on the voluminous amount of correspondence, letters, HQ Orders and other "bumph" which he kept throughout his service.

I was just re-reading Andrew’s Post about his grandfather, James Hill, and in particular the documents which he forwarded regarding his grandfather applying for a position in Australia.

The Colonial Office official to whom Mr. Perdue addressed his later was a Mr. Gent. My goodness me, what an impressive set of orders (decorations) the gentleman held! The D.S.O., the M.C., together with the O.B.E. and C.M.G. (The latter sometimes irreverently refered to as “Call Me God!”).

I’m sure a short history of Mr. Gent’s life would make fascinating reading.