Edith May (May) Guest's Account of Japanese invasion
Personal Account of the Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong by E.M. Guest.
Our home was on the Mainland, Kowloon, about 20 minutes by bus and 10/15 minutes by ferry from the Island of Hong Kong.
Bertie was in charge of Radio and Telecommunications in the British Government and appointed to the Essential Services (which was attached to the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp.) before the war started. Hong Kong itself and the Mainland of Kowloon had been blacked out since Japan became an ally of Germany and Italy, and rumours were around that Japan intended to by-pass Hong Kong and move further up the Coast.
However, just as we finished breakfast one morning early in December 1941, Japanese planes flew over our house and we soon heard heavy bombing of the Airport which was about 1 1/2 - 2 miles away. Our 5 children aged from 6 1/2 to 14 years old were getting ready for school and Bertie had already left for work. I kept the children home from school that day and from then on we could hear the bombs whistling overhead from the British on Hong Kong Island and the Japanese Forces on the Mainland.
Britishers were supposed to be taken over to the Island to billets, but the invasion was so sudden overland from Canton, we were left. I must confess that I was upset being left with my little family and Bertie not being able to come to us. However, he knocked on the door very late one night, having to catch the last ferry that was leaving Hong Kong to evacuate our remaining troops (wounded and dead) from the Mainland. He was warned by the Army Officer it was suicide, but Bertie told him he had to get over as his family was still there. God was with him, and hiding in the hills and lonely roads to avoid the rioters, he was brought home safely. I might add here, on that same night, buses were commandeered by the rioters earlier and visited several homes in our street, but did not come into ours or the Salvation Army Home (2 English ladies in charge).
During the Occupation of the Colony by the Japanese Military we were often ordered out of the house onto the driveway to be questioned, and on one occasion we were given half an hour to take what we could carry and get out of the house. We took refuge with some Norwegian friends (Norway was neutral). Most of our furniture and belongings were taken out of the house on to the lawn and burnt. The house was then occupied by the army troop until they were moved up the Coast for further fighting. As soon as we saw the house empty we went back home to what was left for us.
One day Gendarmes arrived at the house and arrested Bertie - no explanation was given - they just took him away just as he was. We heard later quite a number of Britishers had been arrested and taken to a torture prison in Kowloon. I was left in our house with my 5 children and during this time, a small white terrier and a little leghorn chicken entered our garden and the children begged me to let them keep the two little strays. There was not much food for us, but the little dog had been kicked and injured and I just had to keep them. Strangely enough each time I sat down the little chicken would climb on to my shoulder and the pup would climb on to my lap. You may think I was stupid, but it meant Bertie was being tortured then and needed my prayer.
During the time Bertie was away in prison I found a small Hessian bag filled with rice and a few tins of food left on our porch and a small note "IN THE NAME OF JESUS". It was left at the risk of the donor's life and I do not know to this day who that donor was.
I forgot to mention that before Bertie was arrested and the Japanese Military were in charge, the Swiss Red Cross had opened an office in Kowloon to help all Britishers and Neutrals, and we were allowed a small quantity of rice per person and a few Japanese Yen to buy food with. Bertie had gone up for our allowance once and during his visit there was an air raid which demolished quite a few houses not far away, and as we had friends living in one of the houses he managed to get through the debris and found our friend. It was too late, she died in his arms.
It was not long before a Civilian Internment Camp was opened in Kowloon, between the Japanese Army Headquarters and the Kai Tak Airport, and I was ordered to take my family to be interned and told what I was allowed to take as baggage. I was also told my husband was a very sick man and could not live, and that he was at Stanley Prison in Hong Kong. My prayer was, if Bertie was to die, please God let him come and be with us. After a few weeks Bertie and two other British friends were brought into the Camp from Stanley. Bertie was like a skeleton, could not speak and could hardly walk, I thanked God for answering my prayer -we were together. The following day we each received a Red Cross Parcel containing butter, sugar, milk etc, etc. and being 7 in our family we had 7 parcels with which to help bring Bertie back to life.
We have so much to thank God for - we are both in our 80's. all our family have reached their 50th birthdays, and God is still watching over us.
Poem by Helen Steiner Rice.
So, Instead of reading headlines that disturb the heart and mind,
Let us open up the Bible and in doing so we'll find
That this age is no different from the millions gone before,
But in every hour of crisis God has opened up a door
For all who sought His guidance and trusted in His plan,
For God provides the answer that cannot be found by man...
And until man comes to realise he must live and still obey
The Commandments that God handed down way back in Moses' day,
He will never find contentment and his search will be in vain
For what he thought was pleasure will return to him in pain