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

25 Jul 1944, Escape from the Japanese

Book / Document: 
Date(s) of events described: 
Tue, 25 Jul 1944

Goodwin stood on the beach near Shataokok with his spirits soaring. It was probably around midnight, and he had to move quickly along the coast in a westerly direction to get as far removed from Shataokok as possible by sunrise. Walking along the beach was out, as he could see the torch of a patrolling sentry in the distance. He decided to walk in the sea as far out as possible from the shore. Putting on his shoes to protect his feet from sharp shells and coral growths, he walked out until the sea was at neck level, carrying his pack on his left shoulder. If sighted from the shore it would have looked like a square bag floating over a glassy sea.

There were sampans out to sea engaged in fishing, and one of these gave him concern as it seemed to be tracking him, but it eventuated that they were just chasing fish. Well past the danger of a sentry on the beach he left the water and walked along the beach. He found then that the sole on one of his shoes had almost come off due to the stitching being cut in the sea, so his shoes were returned to their usual position round his neck. As it had been for most of his trek, he continued bare-footed.  He walked on in increasingly bad weather to a headland where small trees and bushes provide a hiding place from the rain and wind.  He was protected by a steep bank , and while the gale-force winds tore branches off the overhead trees, nothing stopped the rain from finding his resting place, and filling his shallow bed with three inches of water. He remained there as he found the submerged areas of his body warmer than the rest.

He spent the rest of the day in his hiding-place, devoting some time in shoemaking, fixing the sole of his shoe with hempen chord.  This was a task he had to repeat again later. By late afternoon the wind and rain squalls had abated, and he saw a group of men passing along an inland track. He decided he would take that route himself when darkness fell.

The storm had blown itself out by nightfall and he set off along the track in a brighter mood. However, his progress was slow, as the track was washed away in several places and he had difficulty with a gruelling climb up a steep and damaged path. He reached the summit and began a gradual descent. When the track came to a junction he rested for a while, then took the right-hand path which he assumed would descend to the shore. But the track levelled off to show a wide expanse of paddy stretching out in the blackness.

"Behind me was a very hard climb, while in front the way was at least level and, thinking I would eventually reach the shore, I started of across the fields. Time and distance no longer had any meaning and I had not the vaguest idea how far I had gone since dark or how near to dawn it might be."

It was probably around midnight at this time, and when a large village on rising ground came into sight, he stopped to consider his options.