Identiy of a poem & poet, HK newspaper 1941 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Identiy of a poem & poet, HK newspaper 1941

I wonder if one of your readers could help me give some kind of identify to the following poem that appeared in the SCMP (I think) on approximately 5 December, 1941. The poem will appear in my forthcoming book (Asia Betrayed, from Earnshaw Books) about the days leading up to the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. I'd like to credit the author. I believe I found the poem in the newspaper archives of HK University library many years ago.
It's possible the poet was from Canada...but that's just a guess. 
Best regards,  
John Bell Smithback 


Almond eyes a-twinkle

in the dance’s sway,

Blood and Tears and Sweat

ten thousand miles away.


Bold and urgent captions

stare across the street,

“Pacific Crisis Looming;

Russians in retreat.”


Brightly floats the music

on the midnight air,

“If you were Ginger Rogers

... and I were Fred Astaire.”




Poem, by SCMP

Hi John - 

Through the HKU digital archives I've retrieved what seems to be the original facsimile. There is no mention of the full name of the poet; as such, I would only assume that the author wanted to remain anonymous. This was published in the POET'S CORNER section of SCMP, on November 17 1941. Hope this is helpful nonetheless!

Kind regards

Hi John,

I saw your note that you think the poet's author might be William J Lee. I don't think it's likely as the poem was printed in the SCMP on November 17 1941 but the HKVCA website says Lee would only have arrived in Hong Kong on November 16th.

Regards, David

Thank you for that David.I totally overlooked the dates, but in the back of my mind I was thinking to doublecheck that.  You're right, of course. So I still have an undentified poet..!

 Many thanks,



I agree with David that it's unlikely that William Lee could have seen what the poem describes, written the poem and then got it to the editor in time for publication on November 17th.

I don't have access to the SCMP Historic Archive at the moment but their free searching facility suggests that there was no Astaire-Rogers film showing in Hong Kong on November 16, although an Astaire film without Rogers seems to have been screened earlier in the year. In fact they stopped making regular films together in 1933, although they did re-unite for one more before the end of the decade. This means that the last lines refer to a generally known Hollwyood couple rather than to a particular film showing at the time. 

But thanks to John and Grace for putting this poem on here. I really like it.


I wonder if someone can help me find the exact source of the following communique, dated just prior to Japan's surrender, from Count General Terauchi in Saigon to all POW camps in his southern region.  “On the day the Allies begin an invasion on any area in this command, every last prisoner of war, whether military or civilian, will be executed, and all visible signs of their internment camps will be destroyed and evidence of the existence of the camps will be eradicated from the earth. After the duty is performed, every officer and man responsible for this action will join an active fighting unit or, if that is not possible, will go into the jungles and continue the war by conducting guerrilla activities against the enemy.”



I wonder if soeone can help locate a story that appeared in the SCMP on or about 11 September 1945 -- The article states that in Java there were 6,000 military and 62,000 civilians doomed to be executed by an order from General Terauchi when the Allies began landing. The order itself would have been dated late July or Early August 1945.  General Terauchi was in command of all Japanese forces from Hong Kong to the south.  His order was directed to all POW camp commanders, including those in Hong Kong . 

Hi John, General Terauchi was the commander of the Southern Expeditonary Army, while troops in Hong Kong were under the China Expeditionary Army. Did the SCMP article provide any source of the information? Such an order would have been evidence in war crime trials.

Thank you, C.  I should have phrased that as "all troops to the south of HK." However, apart from Terauchi's order, there was a general order to kill all POWs, HK included: > 

Imperial Japanese Vice-Minister of War Shibayama's on 11
March 1945 issued a "Kill All" order regards Allied prisoners
who might fall into the hands of liberating Allied forces.

See: === International Military Tribunal for the Far East Judgment Chapter VIII Conventional War Crimes (Atrocities)

"A general order was issued by Vice-Minister of War Shibayama on 11 March 1945. The order stated: "The handling of prisoners of war in these times when the state of things is becoming more and more pressing and the evils of war extend to the Imperial Domain, Manchuria and other places, is in the enclosed summary. We hope you follow it, making no mistakes." The enclosed summary to which reference was made began: "The Policy: With the greatest efforts prevent the prisoners of war falling into the hands of the enemy. Further for this purpose carry out a transfer of the place of confinement for those prisoners of war for whom it is necessary." The Ranau Death Marches, which began at about this time between Sandakan and Ranau in Borneo, to which we will refer presently, conformed ot the policy indicated by the order just quoted"

And this >
Tennozan: The Battle ofOkinawa and the Atomic Bomb by George Feifer, states at page 573:
 “After the fall of Okinawa, Field Marshal Count Hisaichi
Terauchi issued an order directing his prison camp officers
to kill all their captives the moment the enemy entered his
southeast Asia theater. That would have been when those
200,000 British landed to retake Singapore, less than three
weeks after the Japanese surrender. There was a real chance
that Terauchi’s order would have been carried out, in case up
to 400,000 people would have been massacred.”

Tragically, General Shibayama's order was acted upon in China where >

  The death rate of Chinese POWs was much higher because—under a directive ratified on August 5, 1937, by Emperor Hirohito—the constraints of international law on treatment of those prisoners was removed.[41] Only 56 Chinese POWs were released after the surrender of Japan.[42] After March 20, 1943, the Japanese Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea.[43]



Thank you, John, for providing information on the order. The Shibayama order was issued two days after the Tokyo bombing in which 100,000 died.