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

24 Jul 1944, Escape from the Japanese

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Date(s) of events described: 
Mon, 24 Jul 1944

It was around midnight when Goodwin reached the summit of the frontier road, then made his way down a spur towards China, heading to what he hoped would be his freedom.

His hopes were soon dashed however, when he ran into coils of barbed wire in the long grass that made progress impossible. There was nothing to do except to return to the road, and head back towards Shataokok. Half a mile down the road he found an entry to a deep gorge that carried rushing water, and he slipped and slithered down to find a secluded resting place.

He could not proceed until daylight, and as dawn approached he was pleased to enjoy a view of the pattern of diffused daylight in the eastern sky, giving rise to a series of colours in the sky that would have given inspiration to a painter such as Turner.  However, he was soon confronted with the reality of finding a hiding place for the day and planning his move at nightfall.  He could see that the stream beside him continued down to the sea at Shataokok and following it down to its confluence with another stream he found a perfect lair with a good cover from trees, and a bed of soft grass. He dried his belongings again, and finding a pool in the steam, had a lazy if not luxurious bath.

He managed to gather a large ripe pandanus fruit which looked like a four-pound pineapple but proved to be most difficult to eat.  It had no flavour at all, but he ate what he could, and hoped for the best. He wrote an entry in his diary that afternoon that read:-

"Am feeling rather weak; a good sleep would make a lot of difference. With any luck this should be the last of my most anxious nghts.though do not know how far the 'Nips' hold."

Very soon he noticed a storm building up and before long lightning struck in the gorge, the thunder was deafening, and a deluge of rain fell for an hour before the storm moved away. Goodwin surveyed the scene and comments:-

"Alas! for my brief comfort. Everything was completely saturated again, and my only wish was that darkness would come quickly."

However, as the stream in the gorge was rising rapidly, he crossed to the other side where the track was and waited for the night.  At dusk he had to make his way carefully down a washed-out track until the valley opened out and the track improved. As the lights of Shataokok came into view he proceeded very much on the alert.  While approaching some houses, he saw a sentry flashing his torch about fifty yards ahead, so he went back to leave the track and found a path leading to paddy fields where rolls of barked wire had to be negotiated.  He crawled through or under these, for more than one hour, then had to make another detour away from the built-up area. The area near Shataokok was alive with action, with many gaurds and troops in evidence. Obviously something unusual was taking place, so he headed away in a southerly direction through the paddy until he came to a vertical drop to a river below. As it was too steep to descend there he followed the paddy down to a point where  he realised that he was well clear of any buildings but there was a bank about eight feet high ahead with bushes and thorny undergrowth growing on it.  With effort he forced his way through the thorns and to his surprise found he was standing on firm sand.

"There at last was the coast, and after crossing a hundred yards of dunes I saw surf breaking on the seashore.  Again the sea was to befriend me.".