20 Jul 1944, Escape from the Japanese | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

20 Jul 1944, Escape from the Japanese

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Date(s) of events described: 
Thu, 20 Jul 1944

Goodwin made good progress along his chosen track beside the Shingmun River, but came to a halt at around midnight where a stream joined the river. He went into the river and waded and stumbled over shingle banks in heavey rain and complete darkness.

"I continued until the bank rose to a vertical cliff, and the river became a deep wide stream that could be followed only by swimming."

He decided against swimming into the unknown, and retraced his steps to a point where he was able to climb out of the river and to walk up a hill that he had noted from his hiding place of the previous day. There were trees and a grave on that hill, and a tall flagpole, and he crossed over the hill to find that there was only a large area of rice paddy there, too open for him to cross, as daylight was approading.  With torrential rain falling, and a gale blowing he was feeling very cold and dejected.

"Lack of sleep, an extremely meagre diet, and the desperate physical effort of the journey were beginning to take their toll. There was possibly an hour to wait for daylight, and that gave me a bitter taste of a feeling that persisted throughtout my escape, when every day became and agony of waiting for the night, and every night became an agony of waiting for the day."

Increasing light determined that he should take a path that he had thought led to the river, and he felt very conspicuous as he went over a rise to see the windows of a house only a hundred feet away.

Luckily there as a thick clump of bamboo beside the path, and he hid in there without being seen. He forced his way through bamboo stems growing closely together and found a safe but uncomfortable resting place on knobs and spikes of bamboo that gave him little comfort.

"Having settled down gently into that sodden couch I became aware of an increasing throng of people passing, and there only a few yards away was the road, my goal of the past four nights. The smooth tar-sealed surface looked wonderfully inviting, and it was a tremendous relief to see it so close."

He had mistaken the wet surface of the road for the surface of the river in the darkness, but now he was able to relax in his bamboo hideaway and reflect on what lay ahead of him.

"There would be a definite route to follow after the heart-breaking cross-country struggle, in which I had maintained little sense of direction, and throughtout which, even in the daytime, I had little idea of my exact location."

He had settled down in the bamboo to wait for dusk when a Chinese woman arrived on the path opposite his hiding place, and started cutting the bamboo in front of him. Slowly but surely she cut towards him until there were only a few stems and leaves between them.

"With eyes glued on hers and fingers pressed to my lips to enjoin silence at the moment of recognition, I watched her every glance intently. Not until she swept away the very last row of stems did she see me.  Then she received a terrific fright.  Her eyes opened like saucers and she sprang away."

Her fright at the sight of Goodwin, grimy and emaciated must have been great, but luckily she just picked up her working equipiment and walked away. Goodwin wondered if she might return, so he picked up his pack and headed for another clump of bamboo sixty feet away. Fortunately he was not seen, so he waited there until dark, when traffic on the road stopped completely.

He set of at a fast pace along the road, and walked through Shatin village. He lost some time at the Shatin Railway Station, as he passed along the tracks. He hid at the end of the station where he could hear some Indian guards talking about him as they mentioned Shamshuipo and a price of 50 yen, which he assumed could have been the payment for his capture. Leaving the station he quickly regained the road, and walking quickly made good time along a deserted road by the seashore.  He felt he was finally moving at a satisfactory pace