Report on conditions in Macau

Submitted by emride on Tue, 10/06/2015 - 21:44

Report made by (Captain) G.A. McCaskie on 18th June, 1942.

Report on Conditions in Macau

Period spent in Macau:
1. April to June 1940 inclusive
2. November 1941 to May 1942.

The population.

1. The Portuguese. The Governor, Texeira, is a strong Salazar man, and privately pro-British. Most of the Portuguese and Macanese are anti-Jap; some are however pro-Axis (Martins the PMG and Vascenelles the Bank manager are included by rumour in this group); a considerable group is friendly enough, but impressed by German military efficiency, and is fairly critical of our methods to date, e.g. Service people - the occupation of Timor made our position difficult, being a considerable blow to the strong national feeling growing under the Salazar regime; while consistent rumours of a possible American occupation of the Azores have also worried the Portuguese. A very small group is almost hysterically pro-British.

The continuation of fighting in Hong Kong after the Jap offers for surrender was bitterly resented by some (even British subjects) who had families and relations there, and the fall, although a blow, was met with the attitude, born probably of inferiority complex vis-a-vis Hong Kong and its colonial society, that "This should teach the British a lesson". The arrival of refugees and their tales of the occupation have altered this viewpoints considerably.

There is a strong desire to keep out of the war, but on the whole great hopes for an Allied victory, as apart altogether from other implications, the Portuguese African colonies will be safe.

With the exception of a few people, there was little change in the attitude of Portuguese friends and acquaintances to me personally, much less than in 1040 at the time of Dunkirk.

2. Government. Most of the officials appointed from Portugal are unpopular, especially the DPWD and the Governor's ADC. Some of the Macanese are privately anti-Salazar as being Fascist. Unfortunately, the Governor though generally respected has incurred a certain amount of odium because of the actions of his ADC. Freedom of speech is forbidden. There has been no interference by the Japs with the machinery of government. One of the main reasons for the unpopularity of Salazar is the attempt of his regime to degrade the status of the Macanese.

3. Navy. The sloop Joao de Lisboa left for Lisbon in the middle of May. She had been in Macau for perhaps 15 months. Little comment was made on her departure. Cabral, the captain, could not allow any propaganda literature, save Axis, on board, but members of the crew applied to HBM Consul for some of our propaganda. He was distinctly unfriendly after Timor, but had recently become more pleasant. One officer on board was "punished" for "talking too much" against Salazar.

4. Air Force. Continues with two seaplanes to do a certain amount of patrolling over Macau.

5. Army. There has been some trouble with the white Portuguese troops, but none with the Africans (the total force is about 1500). There was dissatisfaction over red rice being supplied in the rations instead of white. The Police were fully mobilised on several occasions in anticipation of serious trouble. in one instance, due to the "punishment" of the O.C. Captain Viera Branco by detention in the fortress for 3 days over a singularly petty question, only the personal intervention of the Governor kept the troops in hand (in this case, the black troops gave moral support). After this incident, a Jap general offered his services to the Governor "in the interest of maintaining order" but the offer was refused. The O.C. in question was transferred to Green Island and later to Coloan. His adjutant, Lieut Leal (strongly anti-Salazar) was also transferred to Coloan for "talking too much". Nineteen of the soldiers considered to be troublemakers were enticed on board the sloop for return to Portugal; it is interesting that two others , local Macanese, were left behind for fear of local reactions.

6. Police. Reinforced by troops and refugees, their duties have been increased and rendered extremely difficult by general conditions and lighting restrictions. Several have already been murdered; armed robberies have recently increased; but on the whole, order is maintained. I personally have heard nothing of Jap advisers on the force, and the Police launches still have freedom to move about the harbour, despite Jap control of the surrounding waters.

The Indian members of the force, British-protected subjects mostly, have organised under Jap instigation, an Independence League, similar to the League in Hong Kong. The Japs are known to have offered posts in Hong Kong to several. Those who refused to join the League were subjected to threats, but finally at the suggesti0ns of HBM Consul, Sgt Munshi Ilban went to the committee, as did Mooza, a shop-owner and important figure in the Indian community. These two have supplied information to HBM Consul, who is of the opinion that their activities are harmless. The two Italians in Macau, Conchi and Venoni, are very friendly with one of the civilians Indian leaders in this League.

7. Chinese. Have been very quiet, and the anticipated rice-riots have not occurred. The Governor has publicly expressed his gratitude for their attitude. Many are in very poor circumstances; the number of beggars has increased tremendously (no satisfactory move has so far been made to deal with this problem); some of the Chinese schools, financed from Hong Kong or the USA, are in a difficult position. Chinese charity, directed through its own organisations and through the churches, has been active. There has been no great movement of the local Chinese population over the border to the Shekki area, but a considerable number of wealthy Hong Kong Chinese have settled in Macau. It is remarkable however to notice how many Chinese have started to study in the Japanese language.

8. Refugees. There must be well over 2000 Portuguese refugees from Hong Kong, the bulk of them British subjects (their passports have however been taken by the Japs) in Macau, billeted in various centres, or staying with friends or relations. Those outside the centres are given an allowance (they may also draw rations from a nearby centre), and shoes, spectacles, and the like are supplied as the need arises. This allowance is, I think, $30 and ¤15 per mensem respectively for adults and children, and according to poorer Macanese, compares favorably with their own living conditions. The Macanese are of course unaware that negotiations are under way for the British Government to shoulder most of the financial burden. But various small instances of shiftlessness and petty thievery, especially for rations, on the part of the refugees have created a bad impression on the local people, and the refugees as a class are unpopular.

Conditions in the centres have varied, but recently have been rather bad, and on the appointment of Doctor Ozorio of Hong Kong as Refugee M.O. and as a result of a straight talk he had with the Governor, the heads of the centres have been removed (one was proved to be indulging in peculation) and new ones appointed. The Governor promised Ozorio to deal with the refugee question personally. A committee of responsible refugees has been formed to assist in reorganisation. HBM Consul and Mrs Reeves, who arrived in April from Hong Kong, have made one centre their special charge. HBM Consul visited the centres regularly, and maintains that morale on the whole was good (I personally do not entirely agree); attempts to organise games were sometimes successful, sometimes not, but the Macanese were generally unwilling to co-operate. Although a few have been recruited to the police force, lack of work is the big problem; schooling is also causing difficulty. Quite a number of the refugees are making claims, fraudulent and otherwise, on HBM Consul for Volunteer and ARP back-pay, and also on the grounds of being Hong Kong Government servants.

Certain neutral refugees have arrived, including Sven Johannsen and several women and children (Norwegian) and Mrs Rudroff (Polish). They have been financed from London, and some of the women and children have already left for Chefoo. Belgians are still interned in Hong Kong.

9. The Axis. There are two Italian families in Macau, Conchi and Venoni, connected with Yung (a Formosan who is a building speculator among other things, and has recently taken out Jap papers, now working in the Hong Kong Food Control) and managing his property. They appear harmless enough.

There are several Germans. Dehler has a drugstore in Canton, and at the moment is well-off. Korner is a merchant, and is rumoured to be the chief Gestapo agent. Warnicke is also in business (nature unknown) and makes fairly frequent trips to Canton. Lucas (once of Defag's) entered Hong Kong with the Japs in Nazi uniform as Transocean correspondent; it is rumoured however that he was so disgusted with the measures taken after the fall that he sent an unfavourable report to Berlin - this may account for the fact that although he is known to be anxious to return to Hong Kong, he has so far been unable to obtain a re-entry permit.

Wagner, now in Canton, had extreme difficulty in obtaining a permit for Macau when he wished to come down from Canton to take his wife (violently anti-Nazi) back with him. Rosch (?) is an Austrian refugee doctor, at one time connected with a mission hospital in Shekki. Nothing is really known of him, save that he was friendly with Cabral of th sloop, whom he was tutoring in German, and was rumoured to have several Jap patients. He has been in Macau for several months now.

The general situation.

1. Money. Speculation is the key-note, local silver being the basis. At one time free ($13 to $18 for HK$ 10 or Macau patacas 10), later pegged at $12; on the outbreak of war it was fixed at par, and later at $7, i.e. selling notes for silver, but it fluctuated tremendously, the great volume of business being in $10 notes. In the past few months, dollars have been higher than patacas in this denomination, though lower in others, whereas at first dollars would not be accepted, save at a discount. Large notes were heavily discounted, but there was little rhyme or reason to it, and rates literally varied from hour to hour. When rice shipments came on the market, and when the annual taxation period fell due, notes appreciated; this was the position before our departure.

There was heavy speculation in National Currency, the notes being divided into 3 groups, red, green and white. The latter are Bank of China and Central Bank, 25th and 28th years, and can be used in the occupation areas. I was informed that at one time the Bank of Communications was discounting its own notes, according to their condition.

Owing to actual lack of currency (normal circulation being I believe in the neighbourhood of 2 million Macau patacas and 13 million HK dollars) due to hoarding of £1 and $10 notes, Government issued 50 and 20 cent notes in great quantity. One had the impression that a settled financial policy was lacking, and Government was apparently helpless. It was further rumoured that the Japs demanded payment for rice shipments in silver. The Banco Nacional Ultramarine gave no assistance (it was rumoured to be speculating on the silver market), and was occasionally obstructive, e.g. re HBM Consul's remittances, and remittances to Portugal by Macanese.

2. Food, etc. Rationing was introduced properly by the beginning of January, but the list of commodities supposed to be obtainable was farcical, unless one was a Government servant. I myself had to go to the black market for everything except bread, until HBM Consul managed ( after considerable opposition) to institute a scheme whereby the rice ration could be drawn at the Consulate. Latterly, the drawing of rice through firms and large groups began to work fairly smoothly. But the size of the rice, bread and sugar queues, the uncertainty as to method of distribution and amounts distributed, made obtaining of these commodities difficult and occasionally impossible. All compradors' stocks of certain essential commodities were supposedly taken over at the outbreak, but it was done in a muddled, piecemeal fashion according to the bribes forthcoming.

There was no lack of flour on the ration basis (it came from Canton) but the bread was bad (the flour having been adulterated), and the official bread shops must have been selling to outsiders. The rice was of extremely poor quality, save for some glutinous rice and Grade A rice which was smuggled in and sold on the "free" market. No Shekki rice has come in these last few months; there have been a few shipments from Amoy; but the bulk came from Indo-China, whether by Jap steamer of by transshipment to the "Wing Wah" at Kwongchowwan, and entirely at the caprice of the Japs. This latter ship is of Portuguese registry, but sails as the Japs permit or under Jap charter. Permission for the entry of rice seems to be dependent on the receipt of various quid pro quo, but prices have increased greatly. The last shipment, of 30,000 bags, cost Government $185 per picul, and was sold at $40 to Government servants, $60 to the "poor" (sic) two catties buyable at one time, and $100 to others. Black or "free" market rates were usually up to 30% more, but as they were quoted in silver money, the actual difference in price was very great. A considerable amount of government rice found it way on to the "free" market.

The price of fish, vegetables, meat and eggs, where there was no obstruction to supply, followed the price of rice. At odd times, the entry of those foodstuffs from Shekki could be partially stopped by the Japs. Beef, pork, eggs and native sugar also came in from Kwongchowwan. Fuel was another difficult problem.

Strictly foreign articles of diet can be obtained at a price, as can medicines. There are two shops (recently opened) which deal entirely in miscellaneous goods smuggled in from Hong Kong. There has been no attempt to flood the market with Jap goods, and the Japs are not, to my knowledge, taking a great deal out of Macau, save cotton yarn in small quantities.

3. Communications. Mail posted in early December began to arrive from Hong Kong in early February, and Chinese and Portuguese can now communicate with Hong Kong, not of course to the camps; a certain amount of mail has also arrived from Shanghai, in both cases via Canton. Telegraphic communication is similar. Mail from the interior, under Chinese cover, can come through Kwangchowwan.

Telegraphic communication with the outside world has to go through Lisbon, and is subject to delays depending on its volume. I received an answer to a cable to Glasgow within 72 hours; some waited 2 or 3 weeks for replies; others received no answers at all. It is possible that certain cables of a business nature were never transmitted. On various occasions it was rumoured that Macau was cut off., but HBM Consul was reasonably satisfied with present facilities. He now has a "collect" agreement, arranged through the Governor, which will obviate the previous heavy drain in his funds.

Communication with the internment camps depended entirely on the goodwill of individual Chinese connections, though there were frequent rumours that the Japs would finally allow it. Nomasco (Persian) also helped until he left for Tokio and Iran in early May due to the severance of diplomatic relations. Mrs Mitchell and Mrs Wilson have got letters through, and Mrs Mitchell believes that a parcel for her husband did reach Sham Shui Po.

4. Press and Radio. The Portuguese paper Voz da Macau give prominence to Transocean and Domei cables. The Chinese papers are Jap-owned and controlled, with the possible exception of the Wah Kiu Po. The Macau Radio Club is neutral, and its bulletins are very fair, giving news under the headings Allied, Axis and Neutral, with no comment.

5. Electricity and Water. Run by Melco and Watco, British managed and financed concerns. fuel stocks are low, and rationing has been in operation for some time, the penalty for excess being loss of supply for a month. These decisions were made with practically no reference to the Company, and orders were given by the ADC over the telephone, not in writing. Unfortunately, little attempt has been made to obtain proper confirmation. In the case of water, there was a good case (put privately to the 2nd Secretary in the Leal Senado) against rationing, the only move made was a request that permission be given to increase rates to compensate for loss of revenue. Daylight saving (2 hours when I left, with 3 hours threatened) was helping to conserve fuel.

At the present, a turbine is being erected (the cement for the cradle sold by Government to the Company for a high price) to use coal as fuel, but once available supplies are exhausted, the Japs will have to be asked for additional supplies. This. combined with the shortage of oil fuel, has led to the suggestion that the companies should be taken over by the Portuguese , but so far nothing definite has been done, and attempts to get in touch with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in London have failed up to the end of April; P J Gellion, the general manager, is in San Francisco . K P Fletcher (Canadian), the business manager, and Sr Senna Fernandes, the technical manager, (Portuguese), are carrying on.

6. Medical. Supplies of drugs are low, cholera serum now being made in the hospital laboratory.

7. Jap quid pro quo. include the hire under pressure of one of the Portuguese Harbour Department dredgers; an attempt to take over the dredger belonging to the Dutch Harbour Works - two Jap officers were put on board, the Honorary Dutch Consul, Sr Henrique Nolasco, making no effective protest, and the manager applied to HBM Consul for assistance, but nothing has so far been decided; and a determined effort to buy the "Sai On", a British-registered Hong Kong ferry steamer. The company directors are Chinese with interests and families in Hong Kong, and it was suggested that if they were unwilling to accept the $900,000offered, it might go hard with them. The small stocks of gasoline and kerosene seized by Government at the outbreak are supplied cheaply to the local Japs. No known attempt has been made to obtain control of PAA's small stock of aviation gasoline, or of the radio and aircraft spares lying in their building, The PAA radio station was closed by the Portuguese at the start of hostilities, and certain essential radio parts from the transmitting sets were removed, and placed in the Central Police Station for safe custody.

Random jottings.

a. The Japs in Hong Kong are worried? It is definite that they are evacuating their women and children to Macau: a considerable number of houses in the Taap Shek area have been rented.

b. They are making a big effort to cut down the size of the population of Hong Kong.

c. Jap troops proper in Hong Kong now number 3000 and are of a poor type.

d. Hong Kong is being heavily fortified?

e. There is a curfew in Hong Kong. Law and order is absent? Armed robberies and sniping at Jap sentries are common?

f. All British Army and Navy officers have been moved to the Argyll Street camp? Control is much stricter, and the barbed wire round the camps have been electrified?

g. Sir Robert Ho Tung came to Macau, returned to Hong Kong after a short stay under Jap honorary escort, and has since appeared in Macau again.

h. Aw Boon Haw was caught in Hong Kong. His son, accompanied by W H Choy, came to Macau in early May, but is kept under Jap surveillance and was closely questioned.

i. The Japs are well-informed of and take a close interest in the movements of allied nationals in Macau. They did in the case of Donald Fletcher, son of the Melco manager, who arrived from Hong Kong shortly after Miss Harrop.

j. The Macau Dairy Farm relies entirely on the Japs for supplies of fodder, but has so far managed to obtain the minimum necessary to carry on.

k. Four Jap rice-ships coming to Hong Kong were sunk by Allied action? Allied MTBs and submarines are operating against Hong Kong shipping? A Jap convoy, loaded with loot from Hong Kong, lost several ships, and the rest are now afraid to move? Chinese sabotagers have destroyed large quantities of ammunition?

l. A Jap cruiser was sunk near Repulse Bay during the fighting?

m. A Police escape from Stanley - 3 versions:

  1. Thompson escaped, one killed, one fate unknown. Bidmead and Fay captured and punished (after hiding in Shaukiwan for a fortnight in the and being betrayed by some Chinese) in the camp pour encourager les autres.
  2. Similar, save that Bidmead and Fay beheaded.
  3. Similar, save that the name Morrison was added, and Bidmead and Fay were brutally treated, being seen at Wongneichong Gap, in rags and without shoes, almost unable to walk.

n. A large amount of varied types of shipping is lying in the river up to Saigon. Informant Sr Henrique Nolasco Jr, pro-British Portuguese, eyewitness. Figure given at 200,000 tons, mixed French and Jap, navy and merchant ships.

p. Jap patrol boats are still active at night in examining water-borne traffic, but smuggling into China continues from Hong Kong dealing in such goods as gasoline tins, rubber and metal. Return cargoes may be rice for Macau, or wolfram from the Japs. Only once did I see a Jap destroyer, running westerly opposite Macau; the Kowloon ferry was seen similarly. Occasionally Jap freighters (possibly transports) could be seen leaving or entering the Pearl River.

Jap activity in the delta ((Pearl River)) area.

1. Troops at Shekki, Kong Moon, the aerodrome at Sam Chau and San Wui (lookout post on the hill above the city). Considerable number of suicides in the San Wui area have been rumoured. There was also a story that two Jap officers in command of puppets in the Kong Moon area were murdered by their troops who then changed their allegiance. There have been persistent rumours recently of disagreements among the puppets in the Shekki area. It appears fairly certain that a big proportion of the troops in this area are puppets, and not Jap troops proper.

2. uniformed troops at Macau are a rare sight. On several occasions, groups in Chinese clothes are supposed to have been seen, but this I personally disbelieve. It appears to be used as a place in which to take leave, and is popular with the gendarmes.

3. Air activity varied. Early on, judging by sounds, Sam Chau was used considerably, but not recently. In April and May, flights of bombers (7-12 in number) flew over occasionally, in a northerly direction. Twice, reconnaissance planes flew low over Macau and the surrounding waters, as if looking for something.

4. Chinese fishing junks were permitted from April onwards to fish well out of Macau waters. This was said to be on the understanding that they would sell at least a portion of their catch to the Jap patrol boats.

5. Ondo, connected with one of the Jap shipping firms, made frequent trips back and forward from Macau to Hong Kong.

6. Fukui, the Consul, appeared to have little power, and was singularly ignorant of what was going on in Hong Kong.

Escape from Macau.

A. So far as Chinese are concerned, it is simple, and there are several routes, either by land through Shekki or by sea to To Fuk, both of course infested by bandits. Kwongchowwan is another possibility, but more wealthy and prominent Chinese were rather bitter about Miss Harrop's passage through there, as they maintained that control had been tightened after she passed that way and finally arrived in rather a blaze of publicity. It is a fact that the Governor there was removed, and a strong Vichy man sent to replace him; and a Surete arrived from Indo-China to examine travelers.

As far as we were concerned, many attempts had to be vetoed for various reasons. We were perhaps over-cautions, but the line taken was that our contact should prove themselves reasonably reliable, and that risks in the actual passage should be cut to a minimum.

B. Our own arrangements.

1. I was put in touch at the end of April by Patrick Wong (reporter on the Hong ong Tai Tun Po) with Chiu Hoi Yau (merchant, rumoured guerilla leader, dealer in wolfram with the Japs (?). but of great influence in the area we crossed). He had arranged the escape of the Wierink [?] party and of the Stanley escapees. The position was complicated by the arrival in Macau of Leung and Tam, sent down by General Lee from Sam Fau to aid escapees; they had assisted the previous party when they landed, and brought letters from them. (This may prove one method of getting in touch with HBM Consul, Macau). They later produced a letter to HBM Consul from General Lee , mentioning their names along with Chiu's, stating that we must pay our own expenses to free territory, and that Tam was the man to deal with because he spoke English. Chiu had maintained that no money was necessary, but when Tam and I went to see him, he agreed. Tam received $3500, Redden and Hubbs of PAA and Knaggs and myself paying $1000 each, the 6 Portuguese Volunteers (as we later found out) paying $250 each.

2. It later transpired that Leung was genuinely appointed; that Tam was merely an interpreter picked up by him, and unknown to General Lee; that the letter was a forgery, the original letter from General Lee , which did not mention Chiu, Tam or money, having failed to arrive; that without Chiu, nothing could have been done - in a previous attempt our contact Wong Yung had applied to him for help, - but he would not spoil another man's "racket"; and that the money had been spent in arranging a special expedition by snake boar (owing to our insistence on speed) which was prevented by bad weather. A so-called financial statement was supplied. K T Williams, Commissioner CMC, Kongmoon, and Fathers North and Smith of the Maryknoll Mission traveled with us free - they were friendly with Chiu.

3. At Sam Fau I asked for the position to be clarified. General Le was extremely put out over the forged letter, showing me the copy of his original note to HBM Consul, but beyond promising to make an enquiry into Leung's actions (the latter, though badly frightened, may very well have been innocent, owing to his ignorance of English), seems unlikely to do anything. He promised further to deliver a letter I wrote HBM Consul.

4. Chiu, who accompanied us, maintained privately to Father North that we need never have paid anything, and that Tam was a swindler, but to me and publicly in front of Tam would say nothing. And the matter had to be left at that.

5. As for as future escapes from Macau are concerned, I doubt if Chiu, even if he were sill in Macau, would do anything. Assisting in escapes was a sideline to him, he said bluntly that he would never set up as an "escapist agency", and in any case he was heartily sick of the whole business in Sam Fau. The Kwangtung Provincial Government can aid escapees after they reach free territory, but with the best will in the world, they cannot guarantee passages from Macau to there (and that is the crucial point), for they have not the organisation. My conviction is that escape is dependent entirely on the good offices of individual Chinese, but expenses, unless the job is done purely out of friendship, are likely to be high.

6. The actual method - watched by a bribed Indian policeman: we went on board a small junk lying between two Jap vessels, and were later transferred by sampan to a motor junk lying in the river, where we hid, while a Jap inspector looked around. We sailed about 7 am on May 24th, flying the Jap flag the junk being heavily armed, and made a point on the coast S.W. of Macau near Wong Chung at about 3 pm. We were conducted by Leung, who took his orders from Chiu, as far as Sam Fau, being looked after extremely well. Thereafter with the aid of guides or letters of introduction, either official or private to CMC officers, we finally reached Kweilin, and arrived by plane in Chungking on June 12th.

D. Jack Braga and Warren H Wong.

Knaggs has dealt with this matter fully, and all I have to add is that HBM Consul informed me around May 22nd that he had received word that the sum of NC $ 100,000 was at the disposal of this organisation in the Kwangtung Provincial Bank. Chiu gave me the further information that Wong had at one time been connected with the Cantonese guerilla leader Yuen Tai in a subordinate capacity, but had been dropped as thoroughly untrustworthy.

G A McCaskie,
   Cadet, NCP,

I’ve previously mentioned that A Voz de Macau reported the divorce between my father’s cousin, Marjorie Cook and the Rev. John Turnbull Cook on 5 January 1942  At the time, I thought Marjorie was already in Stanley Camp, but she was still being held by the Japanese in a hotel with Barbara Anslow and others. Although Marjorie was baptized into the Catholic Church I have deduced that John Cook was not, and that he must have taken orders in the Anglican church after their marriage broke up. Can someone familiar with the law tell me how the judicial process of divorce would have worked in the absence of one or both parties? The authorities mentioned are the Clerk of 2nd office Arthur da Silva Ramos and Chief Justice Evaristo Fernandes Macarinhas. Would the process have started in Hong Kong before the outbreak of war? I find it peculiar that the divorce went through in Catholic Macau. Would Cook have had to be there at the time? I haven’t been able to find out what happened to him.