Captain Pritchard's memoirs: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Captain Pritchard's memoirs: View pages

I was 15 years old in the year 1893, a Farmer's son looking always away to sea watching the Portmadoc Schooners daily setting sail from Portmadoc. It was much against my father's and mother's will that I should take up the sea as a career, however I was bent on going and had made up my mind. So one fine afternoon Captain John Evans Gegin Abererch came to see me having heard that I wanted to go to sea (a strong boy). He offered me to go away with him in the Fishguard Lass - a small thing of about 60 to 80 tons, however I joined her at Portmadoc. Captain Evans, his son, and myself were all the crew. After being laid up at Portmadoc for six weeks we got a cargo of slates for Cardiff. We made a fairly good trip and safely arrived at Cardiff, discharged the cargo and loaded coal for Aberdaron, discharged there and sailed for Pwllheli at which place we arrived safely. At Cardiff I had a letter from my mother and never answered it - I distinctly remember her asking me when I got home why I did not reply to her letter, of course it was just thoughtlessness on my part.

Fishguard Lass
Fishguard Lass, by Captain Pritchard


I left the "Fishguard Lass" and joined a Schooner named "Twelve Apostles" under Captain Williams Clogwyn Bach - made a voyage to Statein Germany back to England and returned to Pwllheli. I rather think I made another voyage in the “Twelve Apostles".

Twelve Apostles - Schooner
Twelve Apostles - Schooner, by Captain Pritchard


Then went away in the full-rigged ship "Cambrian Monarch" under Captain John Richards a friend of my father's. I joined him in London docks (East India Dock I think) when I arrived in London and joined the ship. The Captain's wife was there.

Cambrian Monarch
Cambrian Monarch, by Captain Pritchard


We sailed for Melbourne Australia, with a general cargo for Melbourne and went to Geelong to load grain for Cape Town, from Cape Town sailed for Port Germain Australia ((StephenD: Port Germein)) and loaded grain for home (Europe), called at Queenstown for orders and safely arrived and got our orders for Limerick. After a long voyage, all the crew were paid off at Limerick and I went home for a holiday. I joined the Cambrian Monarch in Cardiff for my Second Voyage in her. There was a new mate and new Second mate but the same Captain, and Messrs Thomas Williams & Co, had been bought over by Messrs William Thomas & Co however everything seemed new again to me. This trip we loaded coal for Macassar Dutch East Indies we made a very long voyage out to Macassar. The voyage became very difficult towards the end of the voyage when we arrived among the Islands of Dutch E. Indies there were hurricane squalls and thunder storms N,W.monsoon. We finally got a Dutch warship to tow us in, we had coal for the Dutch Navy. We arrived there and discharged our own cargo in the sweltering heat and monsoon rain, when I caught malaria.

From Macassar we sailed for Newcastle New South Wales to load coal for Callao after waiting three months through a coal strike - during those three months some of the world's finest sailing ships were laid up there, never since did I see such a gathering of the world's finest sailing ships, namely, (some of them ) "King David" "Windermere" "Cape Clear" "Bendraggon Castle." "Rhyddlan Castle" " Cambrian Hills" "Kerchubreshire" ((StephenD: Kirkcudbrightshire)), "Loch Lomon". Several more that I cannot now bring back to mind, we sailed for Callao and arrived there safely, discharged our cargo, sailed for Talcuano ((StephenD: Talcahuano)) and loaded grain for home Queenstown for orders. Arrived after a long passage and got our orders for Fleetwood where we arrived safely - crew paid off and I went home for a holiday - after which I went to London to the Navigation School Captain Nicholas School in East India Road - King Ed,Nautical College - but found when I went to put my papers in to sit for exam I was several months short of time to allow me to sit for exam so I had to go to sea again. Left School and went home in a brig named the Fleetwing, got to P'madoc and left her.

Money was short by this time , however I had a friend Captain Jones "Eglwysfa", he got me a job in the Steamer "North Cambria" then at Barry Dock. Mostly Nevin people in this ship - we sailed for Gibraltar Coal cargo, from there to some place in Sweden to load iron ore from there to Newcastle where I left the ship and went to London to School again. Went up and passed after the 2nd try, went home then feeling a great man. I afterwards got in touch with Mr. Wm. Thomas through Colonel Lloyd Evans Broom Hall. I interviewed them so they offered me the Cambrian Monarch (2nd, Mate) on her return.

But in the meantime I went into their steamer "Hemisphere* to await the arrival of the “Cambrian Monarch". She, (C.Monarch) eventually arrived in Rotterdam where I joined her where I found there was a great objection on the mate's part to my coming there he said he would not carry me if he was going master. The reason why I found out - he wanted his Brother there instead, however when the ship arrived in Liverpool he had to leave the ship. I remained. A new Captain named Thomas (Sth. Wales), a new mate named Evan Owen from Pwllheli, his family I knew well and between the two of them (Captain & mate) the treatment I received from them was not too nice until they fell out with one another on the way home. At Liverpool we loaded general cargo for Melbourne discharged the cargo and went to Newcastle Australia to load coal for Valparaiso, arrived safely there and loaded Saltpetre at Caleto Bueno ((StephenD: Caleta Bueno)). Sailed for Queenstown for orders, arrived at Qstown and got orders for Ostend Belgium discharged and left Ostend for Barry dock. Arrived there safely and I left for home.

After a short holiday went to London to School and passed for 1st. mate in about 4 weeks. Then reported myself ready for duty to Messrs. Wm. Thomas & Co, Liverpool and was appointed 2nd. mate to the full rig ship “Boadicea" and to join her at Hamburg.

Boadicea - Full rigged ship
Boadicea - Full rigged ship, by Captain Pritchard


I arrived at Hamburg and found there was already a Captain and mate already standing by the ship. The ship was towed from Hamburg to Cardiff but after towing for a couple of days the tug's funnel broke and rolled over the side - (name of tug, Sir John Lewis) there was nothing we could do but set sail and let go the tug which was useless to us. Captain's wife was on board. Captain R. Roberts belonging to Conway - we loaded for Cape Town (time Boar War 1901 -). From Cape Town to Newcastle New South Wales loaded coal for Valparaiso sailed from Valparaiso to Pugets Sound Seattle loaded grain Queenstown for orders - 5 months homeward passage - orders for Cardiff, (I left and went home and went to London passed for master -this story is written later -)

We arrived in Cardiff in due course Captain's wife was on board - on arrival in Cardiff the crew were paid off and I went home for a short holiday and then went to London to go to School and prepare for my Master's Certificate, I went up after about three weeks at School and passed at first attempt (1902 - July). After spending a few weeks holiday at home I went to Liverpool after having having been offered a mate's job on the "Cambrian Warrior" which I refused to accept, I was offered 10/- more per month but I rejected the offer. My intentions were to go to Steam - however I went to Liverpool with a letter of introduction from Captain Richards son-in-law to the Harrison Line Co. Ltd. which was a first-class line. I interviewed at the office and they promised me a 3rd officer's job in a week's time (3rd Office.) I intended to wait but there was such a demand on young officers in Liverpool at that time there were offers from everywhere. In a couple of days I accepted a 2nd Mate job in a Steamer named the "Darlington" and sailed in her for Cardiff, on the way to Cardiff I regretted joining her with a chance of losing my position in the Harrison Line, which was a good Company, so as soon as we arrived with her at Cardiff I left her and went back to Liverpool. On arrival in Liverpool I appeared at the M.M.S.A. and they wanted a 3rd officer for one of Hall Line Ltd, they pressed on me to take it which I did s/s "Rydal Hall".

We loaded Cargo in several places on the coast and finally finished loading in Liverpool (Birkenhead) and sailed for ports in South Africa Durban being our first port I think - a fairly good Company but being straight from Sail there seemed to be nothing to do on a Steamer (a shame to take the money). From the coast of Africa we went to Calcutta and loaded there general cargo and sailed for Liverpool was transferred to the s/s “Horsley Hall" as Chief Officer. I made one voyage only I could not get on with the Captain he was a very old man and could not get about much, he several times nearly put his ship on shore due to his bad navigation and he would have no help so sooner or later we expected disaster in consequence I was given a couple of weeks holiday so I went home and refused to return to the ship.

They engaged another Chief Officer gave me a reference for the time I was in the Company and I joined the White Star Line of Liverpool as a junior officer my 1st ship being the s/s "Victorian" carrying cargo and cattle from New York and Liverpool Beautiful Steamer. From Victorian I joined R.M.S. "Oceanic" afterwards the s/s "Runic" on the Australian run.

Liverpool White Star liner
White Star liner, by Captain Pritchard

I joined the R.N.R. In 1907 applied to the Company for time off to do my R.N.R. training which was granted me so I joined H.M.S. "Illustrious" (Battleship) at Portsmouth and was given a 1st. certificate in gunnery after 4 weeks training, also promoted to acting Lieutenant from Sub-Lt. R.N.R. I left H.M.S. Illustrious in some place in Ireland and proceeded to Devonport to go through a 3 months gunnery training. I obtained my gunnery Certificate which consisted of big gun training, machine gun training including Squad and Battalion drill, also field gun - ammunition instruction in detail. After completing the gunnery course I was forthwith sent to H.M.S. Defiance for a three month torpedo and electric course I obtained a Torpedo Course certificate (2nd. Class) and went home to await appointment to a ship to do 12 month training in a Battleship. My appointment arrived in due course and I was to join H.M.S. Commonwealth at Portland as Lieut. R.N.R. I arrived on board that ship at 4 p.m. some afternoon. When I stepped on her quarter deck it looked like a big field. She was a first line Battleship carrying 4, 9" guns 12, 6" guns (6 each side). Her Captain was The Hon. Horace Hood fairly young for a Captain (about 38) he was quite a smart officer, this was in 1908 when there was quite a talk and a scare about the German High Sea fleet and the war which was bound to come before long.

I was given charge of the 6" Battery of 6 guns, kept day watches in port and watch on the Bridge when out at sea with the fleet, - my life as a Ward Room Officer turned out to be very comfortable after I had got to know Naval Routine etc. I had heard that the Naval officer as a rule did not behave very friendly towards the R.N.R. officer but I experienced it quite the reverse. I found them very agreeable towards me. I was really sorry to see the end of my term in the H.M.S. Commonwealth (note in Margin on this page “Battle of Jutland“) Among the officers were Commander Samson (Flying man later) and the midshipman Kennedy - also afterwards a flying man Lieut. Acton (Gunnery) Commander Lowndes Ship's Commander - also Commander Hyde (Navigation Officer). After completing 18 months Naval Training I went home on leave, they gave me a moving send-off and made me guest of the evening at dinner Captain Hood being present.

After having a couple of weeks leave I reported to the White Star Line that I was ready to take up my duty again. I was ordered to join the "Celtic" then in dry dock as 3rd, Officer. There was then a shipping slump and many out of employment. The Celtic sailed for New York and then on a Mediterranean Cruise calling at the Islands on the way. It was a lovely run in a lovely ship. I think we made another trip to the Mediterranean on our return to New York - our usual calls were Gibraltar, Genoa and Naples I went to see the ruins of Pompeii. We returned to the New York - Liverpool run and I was shifted to the "Cedric" Captain Bartlett R.N.R. was the Captain afterwards Commodore Bartlett RD RNR. 

After many trips across the Atlantic I got in touch with a Liverpool Company (Dun & Co.(chals)) who had a Steamer trading between New York and the west coast of South America, they eventually offered me to go Chief Officer of their new ship then building in Glasgow. The American Steel Corporation of New York had a lot of interest in these ships the name of the steamer was the "Howick Hall" two funnels of about 8000 tons (carrying) quite a fine vessel about 11 to 15 speed. I was promised a master's position after doing one trip as mate - which turned out correct however the west coast was a hard coast and rough we handled a good deal of shifting weights I was not too keen on it and always away from home. I was made master of the s/s Howick Hall after my first trip, on my return to New York home leave for which I was pleased, this would be in 1912 when the Titanic was lost on her maiden trip after hitting the ice-berg with over 1000 passengers lost. I went home in the s/s "Celtic" (1st Class), and was interviewed on arrival by M/s. Dunn & Co. Then I went home to Bryn Coch my beloved home with my dear mother, father, a sister, and a brother still there. On leave this time I met my wife to-be, then Miss M.E. Davies; daughter of the Rev. H. Davies. We were married in Sept. 1912.

My only reason for leaving the White Star Line was the slow promotion. It made me sad to leave the Company; the finest steamers the world has ever known including the R.M.S. Oceanic were built by them. She was the most luxurious, cost over £1,000,000 to build and a speed of 21 knots. They were beautiful sea-boats and floating palaces, but I felt that I had better leave - the Company was later almost swallowed up by the Cunard and called the Cunard White Star Line Combine and hundreds of Officers lost their jobs. 

After my marriage I lived at my wife's home and from there I was called to join the S.S. Santa Rosalia at New York as soon as possible. On arrival the vessel was already waiting for me, loaded, and at anchor, however there was no captain - mate and 2nd and 3rd officers were already by the ship, and all the crew, who were all almost belonging to the Roman Catholic Religion whom turned out to be very awkward as time went on I discovered they were all against me to such an extent that I had to take drastic action (The story is a long one). I sailed in this vessel the following morning with cargo for Buena Ventura Bolivia Victoria and Vancouver and Prince Rupert, and on the return journey we picked up cargo at Portland Oregon and San Francisco tin and case goods also called at St. Rosalia in the lower Gulf of California loaded 2000 tons of Copper for France the remainder of the cargo was for the British Isles, Avonmouth, Swansea and Harwich. We paid all the crew off. All the officers were compelled to get out on account of their disobedience and new officers were appointed in their place. Some cargo of tin was loaded at Swansea and when ready we sailed for New York where we loaded again for the same ports in British Colombia and Prince Rupert. We had a British crew and they gave me a lot of trouble - drunk and off duty in every port returned again to England - owing to my Reserve training being due I left on our arrival hoping to rejoin in some 6 months time.

I went through my Gunnery and Torpedo courses and then joined for a Fleet Test Mobilisation. I was appointed to the H.M.S. "Hannibal" an old Battleship all manned by R.N.R. officers except the Gunnery and Torpedo officers. The ships were ammunitioned and stored up to war necessity. We eventually sailed for the grand review which was to take place at Spithead (Portsmouth) for H.M. Inspection, the gathering of the whole fleet gathered together off Spithead in the early part of August. I was in the H.M.S. Hannibal fully stored with ammunition and on war footing the same as the remainder of the fleet. Commander Samson R.N. was then a flying man and was flying above the fleet for the best part of the day accompanied by two other airmen. Flying in those days was a very tame thing but constantly improving. The Fleet broke up and cleared out to sea and carried out manoeuvres. H.M.S. Hannibal's propeller was damaged by one of the other ships in Barging ahead whilst in station of single line ahead - which meant that she had to go into Plymouth (Davenport) to have the propeller fixed.

During all this period Europe was rapidly moving towards war. Serbia was supposed to be the cause the Grand Duke of Austria had been assassinated - Austria was mobilising and declared war against Serbia in consequence Russia mobilised and declared war against Austria in support of Serbia - due to that Germany mobilised her troops and Navy and threatened war against Russia, France on account of Germany threatening Russia mobilised and lined all her frontiers with troops and warned Germany - and Germany immediately started to march against Russia and France and invaded Luxemburg and Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th this started the Great War. I was already in a ship and my appointment was confirmed Lieutenant on H.M.S. Hannibal. We proceeded out to sea with other ships of her class, we protected the Transports crossing from the English Coast to France with troops. That lasted for about three days then the ships separated again H.M.S. Hannibal proceeding up North of Scotland guarding the entrance of Loch Ewe where half the British fleet was based. Later on submarines were reported to have gone up the Harbour of Loch Ewe - so the place as a Base for the fleet was abandoned and "Hannibal" sailed up north to the Orkneys and then came south and called in the harbour of Newcastle-upon-Tyne - from there after a spell and rest for the crew we proceeded to the Humber where we remained for a some time moored outside the Boom defence to guard the Harbour. 

At Hull or Grimsby was appointed to the H.M.S Iphigenia (2nd Class Cruiser) to go to Russia (North Russia on the Murmansk coast) where I remained for 14 months. Severe weather in the winter months ice & snow dark almost day and night but in summer hardly any nights with a midnight sun. We found the Russians on this station very helpless to us. We left the Russian coast after 14 months there - arrived at Harwich and paid off given home leave and after a while I was appointed to H.M.S. Armadale Castle - Union Castle Liner but now an armed cruiser on the Northern Patrol - as 1st. lieut., and Gunnery Lieut. She was armed with 8, 6" guns 4 or 5 other smaller guns including anti-aircraft guns.
In 1917 Russia made peace with Germany and a Revolution broke out in Russia "Armadale Castle" was then put on Convoy Escort and I was often made Commodore of Convoys - I was later transferred to the Convoy Office at Quebec Canada a beautiful place with its Chateau Frontinac overlooking the St, Lawrence river. Population in Quebec are mostly all French Canadian. Whilst there the war ended the German army was smashed on the Western front and there was soon wholesale demobilisation going on, I went home with the Alsation and spent a few weeks holiday at home. (By the way while I was stationed in the Humber on the 4th March 1915 our little daughter Ellen was born).

From home I went to Davenport and went through a course of Gunnery and Torpedo this ended some time in the middle of the summer when that was completed I was appointed to an ex-German ship at Singapore and was given a passage out on a Blue Funnel steamer (Emlyn was born in September 1919 I was on the way out). Master appointment when I arrived out there, I found there were about 34 ships there and more to come over from Java, However it took about 5 months to repair the ships before they were ready for sea. 
I first went in command of the Kleist large passenger steamer, then in one of the febs called (the Black Feb).

Later I was shifted to the s/s "Machew" small steamer of about 2000 tons dead weight and trading between the Straits Settlements and Indian ports, also on the Indian coast and Burma - a very comfortable boat, but old and had been a fine little steamer in her day the Scottish oriental first then bought by the N. German Ltd, and were under the North German Lloyd trading between Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1922 she was laid up in Bombay because she was due for a load line certificate - and the Ministry of Shipping did not think it worth while spending money on her. There was a shipping slump setting in all over the world. I made good money in that little vessel and could have made more if finished.

s/s Machew
s/s Machew, by Captain Pritchard


I got tired of waiting in Bombay, although I was on full pay all the time however Neinazee had bought a steamer in Bombay called the “John Saunderson", an old thing, and I got acquainted with a gentleman named Major Clark who was in his office and they offered me this vessel to take her round to Hong Kong. I considered it and took the job 2nd year China Coast pay and 4 months pay and 1st Class passage home if my service was terminated at Hong Kong.

I arrived in Hong Kong after loading sugar in Java and making other two trips on the China Coast when I was informed that on account of having ships and the masters out of a job I would have to be relieved. In that case I informed them that I was entitled to 4 months Master's pay (2nd Year China Coast pay) and 1st. Class passage home - which I got and took passage in Japanese steamer arriving home about the end of 1922, when I saw Emlyn for the first time a fine big boy and a difficult boy to look after as he had been getting too much of his own way by all accounts and little Ellen was not too strong - however on the whole we were not too bad. In 1923 I bought Tan-y-Fron (farm) for £1360 and went there to live in the beginning of 1923. Richard was born 30 March 1923. Father died 3rd April at the age of 84. We shifted to Tan-y-Fron in May it was quite nice there in the summer months but not in the winter. I could do nothing much with it in the way of farming, however in the summer 1923 I had a number of visitors called to see me including Captain Morris of Singapore, and he strongly advised me to go out with him to Singapore as he saw I could do no good with the farm, and I agreed to go and caught the same P. & O. steamer as him. Sailed from London sometime in November.

I arrived in Singapore in December 1923, sailed again the next day for Hong Kong and took a B.I. Steamer to H.Kong, arrived in Hong Kong sometime in January 1924 and put up in the St. Francis Hotel - and immediately went about looking for a job. I was offered a Junior Officer's job in Jardine's, but there was a good demand for me elsewhere, however. I took a Chief Officer's job in the "Wing Hong" Williamson's ship but only made two trips in her then left and went Captain of the s/s Halyard Woo Fat Sing's Steamer only for one voyage went to Singapore and back to Hong Kong and finished with the Halvard and was offered a mate's job which I would not take although not a bad company being entirely Chinese owned. 

This week's newsletter is an extract from Captain Thomas Pritchard's memoirs. He wrote them, and drew the sketches, while interned by the Japanese in Stanley Camp. Sadly he died in the Camp in 1944, but a friend kept the document safe, and delivered it to Captain Pritchard's family in North Wales after the war. If you're interested in ships and the sea, I recommend you read the full memoir, which starts with him working on sailing ships in the 1890s.

In June 1924 I joined the Hong Kong Canton & Macao Steamboat Company River Steamer but considered to be the best (one of the best) Company on the coast - home leave every five years, the wages similar to B.&.Swires ((Butterfield & Swires)), safe navigation money, etc to the Captains. There were five steamers two on the Hong Kong Macao run and three on the Hong Kong, Canton run, running in conjunction with the B.& S. Co. In fact B. & S. controlled it and their Superintendent supervised the ships. I joined the Paddle Steamer Honam to commence with, an old Steamer but she could travel about 16 knots. I was 2nd Officer but the ships were well kept and good food, bed linen, towels etc. - in fact - as good as being in a 1st. Class Hotel.

S.S. Honam. Hongkong , Canton & Macao Steamers (advertisement)
s.s. Honam, by Chinarail


It did not take me long until I was promoted to Chief Officer of the “Kinshan" and later to the s/s "Lung Shan" under Captain Bell Smith. The vessel was almost a new ship when I joined her fitted up like a 1st Class hotel hot & cold water throughout.

In 1925 (about June) a strike broke out in Hong Kong, all Chinese servants and workmen came out, all the Coast and River steamers were laid up from Shanghai to Canton - the ?????? (some of them) started to run up in the North in the month of October.

In July I had very bad news from home my little girl Ellen aged 10 passed away after an operation for peritonitus a sad blow. The death of my mother soon followed and later Miss Bannerman, Fron, Abererch passed away. She had been a  great friend and help to me for many a year. Seeing everything was upset at home I went home on shore leave. I found my wife very low spirited and decided to have her shifted to Pwllheli to live before going away again so I bought "Talarfor" South Beach and shifted there as soon as possible- although the house was much too big for such a small family however I stayed home for two months and went away again.

Sailed from Liverpool in a Blue Funnel Steamer for Hong Kong and when I arrived in Hong Kong the strike was still on and some of the ships laid up. I was put on the "Kin Shan" on the Macao run the "Honam" by this time had been sold and broken up and the s/s "Taishan" had been launched and was running to Macao. A beautiful steamer, but had very bad luck to start with running to Macao was poor trade for her running, of course, at a great loss - however the strike continued until until 1927. Capt. McKinnon went home sick, and I was shifted to s/s Taishan as Chief Officer.

s/s Taishan
s/s Taishan, by Captain Pritchard


In 1927 strike eased down a bit and the ships "Lungshan" and "Taishan" commenced to run to Canton but could not carry passengers or cargo either way and the situation was very delicate, the Chinese had all turned Bolsheviks through the Russian Red propaganda only by slow strides the position had become normal and the people had found that they had made a mistake having lost their jobs etc. Chang Kai Shek had advanced from Canton to the Yangtse taken all the chief cities on the river including Shanghai however things gradually became normal and Europeans were again respected and Chang Kai Shek threw all the Russians out and did away with Red propaganda. However trade with Canton was never the same again and the ships continued to lose money no foreign cargo due to the high tariff on the Foreign goods.

In 1931 our Secretary Mr. J. Arnold retired due chiefly to the Company having passed into the hands of Sir Robert Ho Tung and his other Chinese directors they thought that they could do better than the European directors but it soon proved they could not as good as European companies such as the P. & O., Blue Funnel, and C.P.R. stopped almost altogether to send their cargo by one Company. Our European Directors were the heads of the P. & O. heads of B. & S. heads of Union Insurance head of Dodwells & Co. and were people of influence. Not only that the new directors started to meddle with our home leave and pay and instead of the pension they adopted the provident fund which I hold but little hope in now.

In March (12th) 1931 I had a collision with the s/s Venezia when in the s/s SuiTai bound from Macao to H. Kong and Venezia going the opposite way and in a position off Cheong Chan Leong the two met in thick fog - Sui Tai collided with her by hitting her stern on just before the Bridge on the Port side she had a narrow escape from sinking - Sui Tai's bow was badly smashed. However I won the case and the Venezia's Company had to pay his own damage and ours, (ours was about $14000). It broke them and she only ran for a short time after that.

Hong Kong-Macao Line
s.s. Sui-An & s.s. Sui-Tai, by IDJ


I vent home on leave in December 1934 - my second leave. Sailed on the 29th December in a P.& O. steamer. My first leave was in June 1929 via Canada went by Empress of Russia to Vancouver and cross country to Montreal across the Canadian Rockies a beautiful sight also across the Prairies 5 days going across just like crossing the wide ocean nothing to be seen but a farm here and there, not even a tree for hundreds of miles and the weather was fine. I had to stay in Montreal for two days to await a steamer for Liverpool. I crossed in the Militin C.P.R. Steamer and somehow think I was in her as Commodore of Convoy in the last war (I brought half of the Convoy from Halifax other half from New York). However I arrived in Liverpool on Saturday evening and got in a train for home on Monday morning, During my home leave my Father-in-law (Rev. H. Davies) died at the age of 79, buried in Abererch.

During my leave quite a lot of changes had happened in the Company. I was put in the s/s "Taishan" on my return. We gave a farewell dinner to Mr. Arnold in the s/s "Kinshan’ and a present of a model Chinese junk. Mr. Ellam was made acting Secretary and Mr. Arnold sailed for Canada on retirement. Mr. Ellam died about 1933 and Mr. Luz took his place.

Whilst on home leave (last one) in 1935 I bought a small motor car I think a Morris 7, 2nd. hand, gave £40 for it quite a good little car and was well worth it. By now I am extremely pleased that I bought it. With it I was able to see more of Wales than ever I did in my life before. I saw some beautiful places and took my family about with me and they enjoyed it. My longest run in it was to Wrexham and back the same day. Before leaving home I sold it for £45 which was I think a much better car than it was when I got it.

I left home in August (while home that time I spent ten days with my brother Jack at P. Talbot quite a nice time there and they were nice to me - on August Bank Holiday we went to Pwllheli by Jack car lovely drive [Armstrong Sidley Car] started 6am, arrived at Pwllheli 10pm, lovely drive via Wye valley that way) to sail in the P. & O. Steamer “Citral" on August 16th arriving in Hong Kong in September some time. I joined the s/s Kinshan.

Sir Robert Hotung & Captain Pritchard, by pritchah


Mr. Luz was now Secretary and he was bothered about shifting some of us on the night run as Captain Lake Was very dissatisfied. However he failed to do so until the Company made a rule that no Captain was to be on the Macao night run longer then 6 months - and I and others were shifted around, me to the Sui Tai but not for long on account of Captain Thomson resigning. There was another shift around and I was put on the Taishan again. So we were again settled down for a while until the "Lung Shan" and the "Sui An" were laid up. Officers and crews of these vessels were paid off including Captain Hadden and Captain Hales officers Macon and Bolt and some 2nd officers the names I have forgotten. However Captain Hadden died after an operation in about a month’s time.

In 1937 Japan made war on China and trade to Canton became difficult due to the Barrier thrown across the Canton River but there was plenty of cargo and big freight and the ship was paying well. In the winter of 1938 (in October) the Japanese captured Canton after having bombed it day and night for about 12 months. I was in Canton in the "Kinshan" and was held there for about 6 weeks. The city was almost all destroyed by fire, all trade from H.Kong to Canton was now stopped and when I got back to Hong Kong I was put back in the “Taishan" after her yearly docking and we carried on this run through Cap-si-mim pass until the European War broke out Sept, 1939. Then we were only allowed to use Cap-si-mim when we used the channel between Lantau Island and another small island just off it inside the Brothers - not much water in the Channel on low tide - otherwise the official Channel for Macao Steamers now was the East Lamma Channel outside Chuen Chan Island which proved to be very boisterous at tines with high running seas straining the vessel badly, besides River Steamers are not built strong enough to heavy rolling in the open sea. However every Captain protested about it and wondering why the small Channel by Lantau could not be used but of no avail.

The "Lungshan” and "Sui-an" were sold to Shanghai shortly after they were laid up, and "Sui Tai" sold just after to Shanghai. The Company bought a little motor steamer named the Lee Hong afterwards renamed the "Ching Shan" which proved a failure in every way. She was no use for Cargo or Passenger on any run. From 1938 the company had only one vessel running to Macao sometimes "Taishan" and sometimes "Kinshan" was used until finally they only ran the s/s "Taishan" on the night run.

Many thanks to Captain Pritchard's grandson Huw for sharing these memoirs with us.

If any readers have family memoirs of life in Hong Kong you can share with us, they'll be very gratefully received.

Things became very difficult on December 8th Monday (1941) war broke out in Hong Kong. My ship s/s Taishan was sunk in Sai-wan Bay. I lost all I possessed including my Certificate. I was interned in this Camp on June 21st 1942 transported in a little steamer named the "Stanley" from our wharf (Macao) lost good full sextant, gold watch and chain, gold ring, two Binoculars, two Telescopes, all my papers including my Master's Certificate No. 033476 and my R.N.R. Commission and other valuable documents.

H.K. Captured Decr 25th 1941. Situation S.E.China Coast in Lat 22.00N,Long 114.00E. Length about 11 miles 2 to 5 miles wide area 32 sq,miles with Kowloon 391 sq,miles. Population in normal tines about one million - during Japan & China War about one & a half million due to refugees from China with about 2500 European population. My vessel s/s "Taishan" was lost on the morning of 16th (Dec) 1941 in Sai Wan Bay was attached to H.M.S. Robin (R.N.) off boom defence, depth water about 3 fathoms with all her cargo from Macao on board.

My wife Margaret Ellen Pritchard passed away on the 15th August 1943, she would be 52 or 53 years of age. I think she was born in October 1891 in Moeltryfan near Carnarvon. I received the sad news on May 10th 1944 from the C.S. whilst interned in Stanley Camp. DIFFICULT TO DO ANYTHING LAST LETTER RECEIVED FROM WIFE SO FAR MARCH 26th 1943. 5th to 6th June 1944 Anglo-American armies invaded Norther France in several places also using parashoot troops including Jersey Islands Cherbourg Le Havre and several other places.

John Pritchard;"Newbury"; 1 Acton Rd; Wrexham; Denbighshire; N.Wales.

((This is where Captain Pritchard ended his memoir.))

((These notes were added by Capt. Albert Jones, “Mathan”, Pwlleli, friend and fellow prisoner who delivered Captain Pritchard's memoir to his family after the end of the war.))

Capt. T. Pritchard passed away at Stanley Military – it was transferred to the military about the beginning of this year – Camp on August 10th 1944 about 4:00 AM and buried the same day at the old British Cemetery at Stanley; I arranged to have the Rev. D. M. Richards to conduct the service in Welsh and we sang that beautiful old hymn “O Fryniau Caersalem ceir gweled” wrth lan y bedd ((at the graveside)). Pall-bearers were Dr. Thomas, Glyndwr Davies, Mr Channy all Welsh. Mr Towns & Mr Hill represent the Guild & Mr Shaw one of his roommates here. It really was quite a beautiful funeral for Stanley.

Capt Pritchard was only ill a few hours, taken with pains in the stomach about 5:30am on the 9th but not very severe. I saw him at 10:00am, by that time he had seen the doctor & was taken to hospital about 11:00AM. I did not see him again but apparently that evening he got worse & passed away as stated. Of course like all of us here he had but little to east since his internment and he got triple hernia here and was suffering from Beri-beri for at least two years. The news of Mrs Pritchard’s death upset him a great deal and of course the worry about his two sons.

He left nothing behind worth moving. He came to the camp with nothing at all as he had lost everything in his ship. I gave him a shirt and a change here, and did what I could for him. Mr Hill & myself helped him to change quarters twice.

Post mortem examination was held and the result was recorded as per Death Certificate.