Howard G. RHOADS [1900-1983] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Howard G. RHOADS [1900-1983]

Howard G.
Birthplace (town, state): 
Philadelphia, PA
Birthplace (country): 
c.1983-12-31 (Month, Day are approximate)

Edward Rhoads writes:

My father, Howard G. Rhoads, was one of the Americans interned at Stanley and then repatriated on the Gripsholm.

[...] My mother was Chinese (for which reason she was not interned but rather fled, with me, into the interior of Guangdong) and her father was educated in Hong Kong (at St. Joseph’s, I believe) and lived on and off in Hong Kong down to the 1950s. I’m wondering if perhaps he appears on the Jurors Roll. Probably not, but it’s worth wondering about. He went by at least a couple of names: NGAN Heung Cho and NGAN Sai Wing.



Henry Refo was a missionary repatriated on the Gripsholm. Once out of Hong Kong, he wrote to his friend George Kennedy-Skipton enclosing a note from Dr. Rhoads to his wife and asking him to telephone her to arrange collection:

{She is} an old True Light {a Canton mission school} student and friend of ours...She has been in the Dairy Farm twice before to see me, and is the Chinese woman who brought your two servants...down to the Dairy Farm that day to see you. Please tell her that her husband will be sending letters to her in care of the D. M. S. {Director of Medical Sevices, Dr. Selwyn-Clarke} from time to time and for her to go there say twice a week to get them. She may leave letters for him with them also. In case you cannot get her on the phone ask Ah Chau of Tai Loi to send word to her. The phone of the number given {sic} is on the ground floor of a Lingnan building and Mrs. Rhoads lives in Dr. Frank's apartment on the fourth floor. Perhaps it would be better to ask a Chinese person to call for you and simply leave the message for Mrs. Rhoads.


I have not been able to identify Ah Chau or Dr. Franks of Lingnan.


Source: Letter of H. B. Refo in HKRS158-3 (12)

This is a fascinating letter about my father and mother. But I believe it dates from an earlier time than stated, i.e., after Refo was repatriated on the Gripsholm. Why? Because by that time my mother had left Hong Kong and gone to Kukong in Free China. Has Brian Edgar misinterpreted Refo's letter that is his source?

My guess is that the letter dates from the month between the Japanese order to congregate at Murray Parade Ground (4 January 1942) and Refo's entry into Stanley (early February). At the time of the Japanese takeover of HK my mother and my father (and I) were staying at Henry Frank's apartment near Hong Kong University. (See Wenzell Brown, Hong Kong Aftermath.) It would have been around this time - after my father had been interned in one of the waterfront hotels and then at Stanley - that this scheme for staying in touch would have been hatched.

Dr. Frank was Henry Frank, Chemistry Professor at Lingnan, and senior colleague of my father's. Ah Chau may have been one of Refo's servants (see his Midwest China Oral History Interview, p. 53). 

I would like to know more about the source, "H. B. Refo in HKRS158-3 (12)." And what do the references to "Dairy Farm" mean?

By the way, my father's birth and death dates are 1900 and 1983.

-- ed rhoads

Thanks for the extra information.

The reference "HKRS158-3 (12)" refers to a document in the Hong Kong Record Series at the Hong Kong Public Records Office. Here are the results of a search for that reference.

Dairy Farm probably refers to the farm for dairy cows out at Pokfulam, run by the company "Dairy Farm". In his entry for 8 Jan 1942, Brian writes that "George Kennedy-Skipton and Henry Refo will agree to do 'constructive work' for the Chinese in Hong Kong to avoid internment", and so may have ended up working at the farm.

Hi, Ed, good to learn more.

I can remember puzzling over the chronology of that letter at the time, and that was before I knew about your escape, so I may well have got it wrong. When I have a moment, I'll go though my notes and dig out the full reference and see if I wrote down anything else that might help clarify.

I agree with Davids's comments on the Dairy Farm  reference.


The full reference is:

File  HKRS158-3-12 MR. G.S. KENNEDY-SKIPTON - COMMITTEE OF ENQUIRY ,   03.08.1943 - 28.05.1947

Ed, Thomas has made a page for your grandfather at

I've now checked the original document and you are quite right - the letter was clearly written from Stanley. Thanks for the correction. I have emailed a copy of the page to David - if you want it, please contact him and I'm sure he'll be kind enough to forward it to you.

Thanks, Brian, for checking the original document. And David, may I have a copy of the page that Brian says he sent you? At your convenience, of course. -- ed rhoads

email sent.

born 27 July 1900 Philadelphia PA

address in US at repatriation 108 Dartmouth Road, Bala-Cynwyd Pennsylvania

hi, annpake: Thanks for the recent posting re my father, Howard G. Rhoads. May I ask the source of your information (which, incidentally, is correct)? -- ed rhoads

I checked the Passenger List for the Gripsholm - all passengers gave their birth date and place where they were headed.