01 Jan 1943, Barbara Anslow's diary | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

01 Jan 1943, Barbara Anslow's diary

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Fri, 1 Jan 1943

During 1943 and 1944, my diary became very sketchy, as from late 1942 our Catholic priess were gradually organising a kind of RC parochial life for us, and encouraging us to organise it for ourselves.  There was a short daily Mass at 8.15am in the Prison Officers' Club on weekdays; this had to be finished on time as that hall was used in the mornings as a junior school.  

Study Clubs meeting weekly were started for each age group and sex.  I belonged to the one for 'young ladies'; it was here I became friends with Peggy Barton, who was 4 years younger than me.  The meetings were held wherever convenient, sometimes in the Redwood room Block 3 Room 19 if the rest of the occupants could arrange to be out at that time, sometimes out in the open air in the grotto, sitting on old Mimi Laus (breeze blocks.)

Initially Father Hessler was in charge of the groups and attended all the meetings, though later we were encouraged to run things ourselves without Father; we sometimes discussed some religious book or subject, also current affairs and problems in the camp.  We Young Ladies sometimes had social meetings with our opposite group, the Young Men, with games and eats to which we all contributed. We were also affiliated with the younger groups.  In due course I became an adviser to the Older Girls' Group and attended their meetings.  They were a charming lot between the ages of 13 and 16, of all nationalities.  British, Norwegian, Eurasians; I got a lot out of being with them.

I wrote a play for these girls to perform; called The New girl in the Fourth; every one had a part, rehearsals were  usually in the open, due to lack of other facilities.  It was produced in July 1943 in the Prison Officers' Club ie. It wasn't intended to be one of the main camp entertainments.  To my delight, it was considered such a success that Bill Colledge who was very involved with camp entertainments, and Dick Cloake, a Catholic contact, worked on it professionally, and it was then performed at St Stephens for 3 nights, the set designed by Mr. T.A.L. Concannon.

Bill enlarged the part of the Ticket Collector played by Clifton Large, the only male in the cast. As a result Mabel and I became very friendly with Clifton, and we spent most evenings with him, lounging out on the grass near the casurina tree in the grounds of the Married Quarters. Before long, though Mabel and Clifton were an item and I became superfluous.

Fathers Meyer and Hessler also set up small groups dedicated to Catholic Ation, which not only involved some aspect of religion, but also practical application to camp matters.  We members were given specific assignments to contact some Catholics known to have problems, and to give practical assistancesuch as helping mothers with young children, and also try to persuade them to come to church. Additionally there was a group to study Apologetics.  All these church groups made life really busy if you wanted to get involved.   

My daily routine was roughly as follows:-

  • 8am  Congee. (This innovation lessened the gap between the two main meals; some of our rice ration was cooked into a mush and served hot round the rooms; usually eaten without sugar if Red Cross parcel sugar was finished:  there was an occasional small issue from the Japs which only lasted for a few days; also no milk unless you had been able to save the tin of milk powder from your Red Cross parcel.)
  • 8.15am  Mass.
  • 9 am to 12.30pm  Worked in hospital office (or from 1.30 – 5.00pm)
  • 1 pm  Lunch at hospital  (the other quarters' meal was at 11am)
  • 5pm   Supper at hospital (also 5 pm in other quarters)
  • 8pm   All had to be within their accommodation block area
  • 9pm   All had to be in our rooms.

When off duty at the hospital, I went to church club meetings or choir practice; miscellaneous lectures (some in our room by candlelight.)   I also went to language classes, - French and German, though I didn't last long at the latter.  Lots of swimming in warm weather.

I spent a lot of time at rehearsals for the children plays which I continued to write.  We discovered that Mary Rogers, a pretty Eurasian girl of about 12 had a pure sweet singing voice.; also a small boy Philip Murray captivated us when he sang 'Over the hills to Skye.'.  Another highlight was the singing of the young Wilkinson sisters ((listed on their mother's page)) and Delia Mejia in harmony of 'Teddy Bears' Picnic. We had our own pianist -  18 year old Pauline Beck.

Mabel looked after babies and toddlers, and re-made clothes for them out of oddments.  Mum (and room-mate Mrs K) mended clothes for the men whose wives weren't in camp.

There were rumours that we British might be repatriated – mainly children and poorly women,  but nothing concrete until one day I heard a buzz of conversation in the courtyard below, so rushed down to investigate.  John Stericker a camp councillor was in the middle of a large crowd, reading out names – from the repatriation list.  A friend there congratulated me on being on the list, but I knew this was unlikely as I was in good health, and rightly guessed that the Redwoods named were Mum and Mabel, which was wonderful, though no date was given.