Roberta Marjorie Crerar MATHESON [c.1903-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Roberta Marjorie Crerar MATHESON [c.1903-????]

Roberta Marjorie Crerar
c.1903-01-01 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)

DoB from John Black's list, which lists "Miss R C M Matheson" and gives her occupation as "Manageress".


[Document in the Ride Collection].

To the Managing Director, The Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd.

Report of Miss M Matheson, the Manager of the Repulse Bay Hotel, upon events at the Hotel from the outbreak of hostilities on December 8th until December 24th 1941.

         On December 7th 1941 both  Mr. Kalazhny, my sub-manager, and Mr. B. Gellman, Night Reception Clark, were mobilized for duty in the fighting forces - other members of the foreign staff were called up for A.R.P. duties on December 8th, and Mr. Leung Fat, the Chinese Number One, was mobilised as a Police Reservist.  This left me very much understaffed, but I fortunately received the assistance and co-operation of the guests living in the Hotel, who were all most anxious to help in any way possible.  I would particularly mention in that connection the invaluable assistance of Mr. J.H. Marsman, Mr. G.C. Dankworth and Mr. R. Wilson, who amongst other activities arranged the very satisfactory air raid shelter in the deep storm water nullah, thus alleviating the anxiety of mothers with young children when the bombing commenced.

         The two Bamboo Lounges were turned into a sick bay with Sister Mosey in charge, ably assisted by Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Raymond, and Mrs. R.L. Longworth - one can say that they worked a 24 hour day under most difficult conditions.

         The Hotel was completely full - in some cases guests were "doubling up" in rooms.  We held large provision stocks in cold storage to chamber capacity, and also increased stocks over normal of dry goods.  Extra supplies of rice were also stocked to meet the feeding requirements for our Chinese Staff.

         During the first few days of the hostilities the ration truck from town maintained its usual schedule, but soon disruption took place due to the state of the roads and military requirements;  further it became difficult to obtain transportation from the Government Food Control Department which had requisitioned all the Company's ration trucks.  After the 18th December our contact with town by road ceased entirely, and we were forced to subsist upon the stocks of food remaining at the Hotel, which I issued upon a severely rationed basis.

         Laundry work after the commencement of hostilities was carried out on the premises by the Hotel amahs, as deliveries from the Steam Laundry Company ceased after the second day of the war.  I am indebted to Mrs. Logan, the Housekeeper, for her excellent organisation and co-operation in carrying out many extra duties which made possible the smooth working attained.

         In addition to the guests of the Hotel, we housed, on requisition, in the Bar and Drawing Room, about 120 A.T.S. Drivers (Chinese) and accommodated three of its foreign officers and a Chinese clerk in the New Wing.

         During the period I also supplied food to large numbers of British Troops who were operating in the neighbourhood - as often their own rations failed to reach them.

         Five members of the Army Signals Corps took up quarters in the building as soon as hostilities reached the neighbourhood of the Hotel.  They ran a line to room 109 which remained as their headquarters until the Hotel was vacated by the British military personnel.

         Actual hostilities around the Hotel increased in intensity by the 19th December, and fighting for possession of the Hotel Garage took place on the 20th December when the Japanese occupying it were dislodged.  Then certain British units manned the Hotel with Mortars, Machine Guns, and various small arms (windows, verandahs, rooms, and roof being utilised).  Interchange of fire took place continuously until the British troops left the Hotel during the early hours of the 23rd December just prior to the Japanese forces entering the Hotel at dawn on that day.

         The Commander of the Japanese forces who took possession of the Hotel confined us to the interior of the premises and during the morning the Japanese conducted a search of everyone except children.

         There are eight casualties buried in the Hotel grounds;  6 Europeans; 1 Indian, and 1 Chinese.  3 are in the upper lawn in front of the West Wing adjacent to rooms 107-8;  four in the rose beds at the back of the Hotel close to the Garden Office;  one in the small patch of ground close to the new wing first floor service room.  I do not know the names of all the casualties, and the extent of the knowledge I have gleaned concerning them from the various persons who carried out the burials is as follows:

Lt. Slay       Hongkong Naval Volunteers        Outside New Wing pantry

Lt. Grounds          Middlesex Regt.              Back of Hotel

Sgt. Miller   H.K.V.D.F                      Back of Hotel

Unknown     Canadian soldier           Back of Hotel

Unknown     Indian soldier                Back of Hotel

Unknown     H.K.V.D.F (Grenovitch?)    Front of Hotel

Unknown              H.K.V.D.F                      Front of Hotel

Chinese coolie from the Lido              Front of Hotel

         On the morning of the 24th December the Japanese took a roll call on the lawn in front of the Hotel of all occupants of the Hotel including third nationals. 

On completion of the roll call we were ordered to our rooms to await examination of belongings etc.  We were told at the roll call that we should be vacating the Hotel.  We were not told our destination, but we were instructed that we should be allowed only one suit case each as we would have to walk to our destination wherever it was.

         Sister Mosey elected to remain upon the premises to attend to two seriously wounded British soldiers who had been brought in during the hostilities to the sick bay.  (She was afterwards taken to Stanley Prison together with the two wounded by the Japanese on the 27th December).

         At 10.a.m. on the 24th December we were again paraded with our baggage and walked off.  We proceeded by the Repulse Bay Road to North Point.  We halted outside the Commercial Press premises at North Point at about 2.30 p.m., and remained there until 6.30 p.m., when we were lodged for the night in the Duro Paint factory premises.  Next day, the 25th December, we were removed by launch to Kowloon and placed in the Kowloon Hotel where we remained until our transfer to Stanley on the 23rd January 1942.

         When I left the Repulse Bay Hotel the majority of the windows there had sustained breakage or other damage, and many doors were cracked and split, but the structure of the building was intact.

         With regard to the contents of the Hotel, stocks of food had completely run out.  Our stocks of wines, spirits, etc., were destroyed on the 22nd December.  Linen Stocks, crockery and glassware and silver stocks were of normal quantities as per stock sheets, and were intact when I left the Hotel.  Furniture, carpets and other fittings to the rooms were also all there.

         In conclusion, I would state that the Chinese staff without exception behaved magnificently throughout the period in spite of the fact that the staff quarters were under fire continually for several days.  In addition to those members of my staff I have already specially mentioned, I acknowledge the splendid manner in which Miss Marques, Miss Cordeiro and Chen Wah Tai, telephone operators, coped with the very heavy duties imposed upon them of a nature outside their usual work.  This commendation applies also to Mok Cheong, my No. 1 cook, who carried on continuously and loyally with heavy work in trying circumstances.

Thanks Elizabeth, a very interesting read. I've posted extracts from this in diary format (, so that they'll be sent to next year's wartime diaries subscribers.

Regards, David

Thank you, David.  I add the only other report I have from Miss Matheson to the Managing Director of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, dated 10th June 1942 - "concerning the Hotel Safe, customarily utilised for custody of Guests Deposits and hotel takings".

 "On the 24th December 1941, about 10 am, when I, my foreign staff and the Hotel Guests were compelled by the Japanese Military authorities to leave the Hotel, and were taken by the Japanese to North Point, the safe situated in the Manager's Office contained all the guests' property which had been deposited with me for safe custody;  also certain cash receipts of the Hotel and the Lido.  To the best of my recollection the following comprises the property referred to:

A H Langston       Cash Box containing HK$15.

H W Flanagan       Parcel or envelope. ((There is an H J R J Flanagan in the list of Stanley internees who may be the same person.))

E A Spedding        Cash - HK$500. ((There is a T A Spedding in the list of Stanley internees who may be the same person.))

R Wilson               Currency, US$105, Currency Pesos (amount unknown).

G B King               Cash - HK$327.

L E Mladivich         Cash - (amount unknown).

Miss M Matheson   Gold Key, HK$350, envelope of Bank receipts.

Mrs Ferrier              Wooden jewel case containing Pearl necklace and odd pieces of Jewellery valued at £50.

Mrs E S Longworth  Cash in envelope HK$580.

J H Seth                  Envelope containing HK$300, envelope containing HK$200.

A H Compton            Envelope containing HK$2.500.

W G M Wilson            Important papers.

I E Roberts                 2 parcels containing waistcoat buttons, cuff links, 3 gold studs (valued at £25).

J H Marsman              Travellers Cheques, about HK$500, US currency (amount unknown), HK currency (amount unknown).

Miss G Dew                US currency in envelope US$150, Kodak flash camera with reflector (US$400), 15 rolls coloured movie film (US$300), 10 rolls still film (US$40).

Mr Jephson                 HK$400.

A S Hill                       HK$200.

Indian employee          1 silver watch ($30).

Mons Ohl                    Currency in envelope (HK$5,000).

Mr Puckle                   2 gold cigartte cases valued at £15 each, case containing odd jewellery (£5).

The Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd - currency and cheques to approximatly HK$3,750.

Before leaving the Hotel I had closed and locked the safe which has a combination lock, the combination of which was only known  to me and to my Sub-Manager, Mr Kaluzhany, who was mobilized in the fighting forces.

On the 7th June 1942, whilst an internee in the British Civilian Internment Camp at Stanley, I was taken by Mr Yamashita, the Japanese superintendent of the Camp, (accompained by Mr Mladivich, Mr G B King, and Mr T C Westbrook, who were guests at the time we were all removed from the Hotel) to the Repulse Bay Hotel for the purpose of opening the safe and removing therefrom the deposits belonging to guests etc who were living in the Internment Camp at Stanley.

On reaching the safe, which I found in its usual place in the Manager's office in the Hotel, I noticed that it was not locked, the door being slightly ajar, and from a search I made of the contents I saw that the safe did not contain any of the property mentioned above.

The Gendarmerie officer who was present questioned as to whether I had not had previous access to the safe since the Japanese Military had entered the Hotel.  To this I of course replied that until then I had not entered the Hotel since we were ejected on the 24th December 1941.

Mr Yamashita was visibly distressed at the position and expressed extreme sorrow at our visit having proved abortive.

(signed) M Matheson, 10th June 1942."

Died July 22nd 1972 aged 70 years, resided Dina House, Duddell Street.

The Helena May are trying to find out if this lady ... of Repulse Bay fame ... is the same Miss Matheson as was matron of the Helena May until about 1960.  So far the usual sources have drawn a blank, but her death is recorded in the Carl Smith cards.  She is described as a 'British widow' but Miss Matheson (in brackets) is inserted after her full name.  


Hi Patricia,

Her full name and connection with Repulse Bay is confirmed by her application for a Liquor License in 1941:

How much of her name is shown in the Helena May records?

Regards, David

As I understand it, she was only ever Miss Marjorie Matheson at the Helena May ... which is why they are trying to work out whether they are one and the same person.

I am Miss MCarol Bateman's daughter. My mother's well-known ballet school was and still is on the premises of the Helena May. According to a book on the Helena May that I received as a gift due to a recent visit back to Hong Kong, as of 1946, Miss Marjory Matheson "who had wide experience in hotel management in the Colony" was appointed Manageress. As a little girl, I was forever in and pout of the Helena May and often got into trouble. For this, I was sent up to Auntie Marge's (as we called her) office to be reprimanded.

The two documemnts reproduced above are signed by Miss Matheson.  If you have any documents signed by your Miss Matheson, Patricia, it should be possible to see whether or not they are the same person.  Regards, Elizabeth.

I do hope this doesn't sound a bit macabre, but does anybody know what happened to the bodies of the combatants whom Miss Matheson reports were buried in the grounds of the hotel?

Were they interred in Stanley Military Cemetery after the war, as I would suspect?

UK Foreign and Overseas Records

Roberta Marjorie Crerar Matheson born 25 April 1902 in Wei Hai Wei China

Father Robert J Matheson Mother Charlotte G L Gray

Carl Smith Card 124877

1855 December 5th Death of Mrs Matheson wife of Mr Matheson M.P. for Inverness. She was the sister of Lady Beaumont

[and on the same card]

24 July 1872  SCMP  died Roberta Marjorie Crerar (Miss Matheson) 22 July