Eurasian burial during Japanese occupation, Nov, 1944 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Eurasian burial during Japanese occupation, Nov, 1944

Ellen Hunter:

I am wondering about the events occuring at the time of my relative's death in November of 1944. She was buried at the Catholic Cemetery, and an inscription was added to her mother's grave which is also located there. They appear to both be in Section 3 of Saint Michael's. Her mother, Emma Hunter is in grave #5877 and is listed in the register as James Hunter, Female, age 56 ( assuming Mrs ) interred June 15 1933. Her daughter Ellen was interred Nov 21 1944. and is registered as grave #9347 but she buried with a Chinese name. The two graves are cross-referenced to each other in the register book. Ellen Hunter's obituary lists both her English name and a Chinese name. Strangely, the obit has just three characters, but the register at the cemetery has four. I am told that the extra character represents her married name "NG" but she was not married. Her obit lists her as a spinster with out the "NG" character. I wonder, and I am somewhat amazed that a record even exists today, since Nov of 1944 Hong Kong was under Japanese control. She does not appear on the internment list for Stanley Camp as far as I know, at least not as "Ellen Hunter" So, where was she living? Her father and other family were dead or in camps in Shanghai. I say that she was "Eurasian" but that is an assumption due to her name. Her father was James Hunter, ( now confirmed as probably having Asian blood ) and one of the four children of "Anne Hunter" alias Goot Choy, Kot Choy, etc who appears under a seperate heading on this website. The four children are all assumed to have had some Asian genetics as it has been passed down the line in a significant enough percentage to leave little doubt. This search has turned into a real mystery and I go many months without any clues at all. I recntly stubled across a couple of clips from the South China Morning Post again, and that's what got be back in the driver's seat. The cemetery regisrty books are on Any help that anyone can offer would really be appreciated. I will try to add some clips if I can remember how.

Thanks so much,

Brian Hunter Beesley

Ellen Probate notice.JPG
Ellen Probate notice.JPG, by Seemex
Ellen Hunter Record entry crop.jpg
Ellen Hunter Record entry crop.jpg, by Seemex
Emma Hunter crop.jpg
Emma Hunter crop.jpg, by Seemex




Hi Brian,

You certainly have plenty of mysteries to follow!

You asked where she was living - would it be the address in the probate notice you found, 11 Shelley Street on the 2nd floor?

The 1941 Jurors list has a couple of people giving that street as their address. They'd give an idea of who her neighbours were:

c   Law Thack-man Assistant, Gibb, Livingston & Co., Ld. 25 Shelley Street.
c   Ko Yau-kong Clerk, Java-China-Japan Line 29 Shelley Street.

Thank you for your input. The probate notice said that she died at 11 Shelley Street. That seems to have been the family residence for many years, back into the late 1800s anyway. Her father James Hunter also lived there, but I'm not sure if it's the address he died at in 1937 but it  likely was. Also, her grandmother was the registered owner and died there in 1937. I wonder how Ellen, would have been allowed to remain free at home during the Japanese occupation? Was she considered Chinese? If so, one would think she'd have been worse off than a British. How were they able to keep the home and live what looks to be quite freely? Maybe "Ng" fit into this equation? A common-law arrangement? A source of protection? 

Hello there, I am just a little confused about whether you are actually referring to two people, because the Chinese names you gave are similar but different.  The Supreme Court notice gives FOK SHUK WAH, and the other with the NG is FOK SHUK CHAN.  In Chinese they are female names alright, but they sound like two related people instead of the same person?

I must be confused?


"I wonder how Ellen, would have been allowed to remain free at home during the Japanese occupation?"

During the Japanese occupation there were members of Eurasian families in Stanley Civilian Internment Camp, and in the POW camps, but many continued to live in their homes in Hong Kong. In some cases families would have members in all three.

Harry Ching's diary is a good source to get a view of a Eurasian family trying to work out how they would be considered by the Japanese, eg this entry from 4th Jan 1942:

Notice orders all enemy civilians assemble ((at)) Murray Parade Ground to be interned, must make own arrangements for protecting homes and take only personal belongings.

What to do? No-one we can leave in charge of our home. Debate exhaustively, and read notice over and over. "Enemy subjects in this order include British, American, Dutch, Panamanian and other nationals whose countries are at war with Japan, exempting Chinese and Indian." Japs could not possibly intern all British subjects. We decide do nothing.

Smith family across the road of Irish ancestry. Father in Naval Dockyard, son a Volunteer and son-in-law a police officer - all now prisoners-of-war. Mother and daughter walk out bravely, abandon their flat, wave goodbye to us and step into rickshaws for two mile ride to assembly point. Back half hour later, advised call themselves Irish and thus neutral. 

First of all, thanks for responding to my post. All help is very much appreciated. As to the two names, I believe that they are one and the same and that the difference is from the one character, and is possibly due to the transcription pertaining to WAH or CHAN. I've spoken with people who speak both Cantonese and Mandarin dialects and the way it is pronounced is discernable even to my untrained ear. I think also that the record may have been written by or dictated to someone who spoke neither. It could also have been copied from other records so there is room for error. The dates, age, sex and similarity of name and having the same address, makes it hard to conceive it being two people. Add to this, the cross-reference to her mother's grave. The NG name I am told, can be her father's name if she wasn't married, but I can not resolve that at all. Her father was James Hunter who is also buried at Happy Valley, but not in the Catholic section. Obits and grave inscriptions support the family relationships. 




She lived at 11 Shelley Street as is mentioned in the probate notice. The Hunter family all lived at that address, since the late 1800's. Her grandmother Anne Hunter ( alias Kot Choy) , and her father and mother, James and Emma Hunter after her death, and she Ellen ( alias Fok Sok ( Shuk) Chan or Wah ) until her death.

I suppose it could also depend on what one looked like too? If one was Chinese looking t may have gone worse for them. Many did not have paperwork or proof of nationality and who knows how they made do, but the Japanese were firstly at war with China, so that was a long standing part of the overall horror that befell so many of them. I have an uncle ( British ) who's wife was Russian. She and their son were interned in Shanghai in 1943 ( the uncle was in the UK ) but released after only about 6 months when she somehow convinced them she was Irish! Must have been quite the actress!

I don't understand why the Chinese and Indians would be exempted. I thought the Japanese were also at war with China and other accounts tell of extremely bad treatment of Chinese by the Japanese troops during this period and especially in the first days of the invasion. Did the European population in Hong Kong pose a bigger threat and they just chose to ignore the Chinese and Indians? Please excuse my questions if I seem ill-informed on that period. I'm really trying to piece it together and find out what hapened to some members of my family. I have a lot of mysteries to solve.



Hi Brian,

Do you mean why were they exempted from internment? In theory the Japanese were liberating the Chinese, Indian and other Asian races from Western opression, and they'd become happy members of the Japanese-led Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Of course the reality was very different from the propaganda! A good book to read for more information about this time in Hong Kong is "The Fall of Hong Kong" by Philip Snow.

Regards, David


              I hadn't heard of that, but it sounds plausible! I'm sure I have much more to learn about what went on during that period. It's all interesting and I sometimes have trouble staying focused on the task at hand, which is to gain info on my elusive family. I'll get that book today and hopefully discover a few new paths. Thanks for the tip.



            I'm not sure whether to thank you or not for your latest recommentation. I got the book and you're right about it being informative, but there's a lot that I wish now that I hadn't read! It was a very brutal time! I guess thats the price one pays for seeking the truth! I wonder if similar conditions existed in the treaty ports, like Foochow, Shanghai, and Tientsin as far as East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere? I know my grandfather remained free in Shanghai until quite late in the occupation, mid 1943, but he'd carried on busines up until then. This is good information. Thanks,




I'm answering this after a considerable length of time but was just reading it over again today. I think that Shelley Street was likely an area of multi story buildings at that time and probably many were used as rooming houses, as seems to be indicated by there being quite a few names associated with each address. My "Hunter" abode at #11 was no doubt one of these. Interesting that the Shelley Street numbering all seems to be odd...21, 25, 29. 



The Eastern side of Shelley Street was the 'Even' side but at No 21 etc the eastern side was the Mosque so no houses were there. There are some even numbered buildings on Shelley street lower down closer to Hollywood Road. I have some photos of the area of No 21 Shelley Street which I will post when I am back in HK

I'd love to see pics of Shelley Street as I've never been to HK myself and I'm always trying to find pics of old locations that have some relevance to my family search. 

I did make one mistake...and that was I said Hunters were at #21 Shelley when I meant #11. I'll edit it if I can. Sorry about that,; I'm not a very accurate typist.



     I'm so sorry if I didn't answer you way back. I go away from things sometimes and then re-read later and find I've not responded. Please accept my apologies. As to your question, I'm not sure but as far as the dates and graves being the same, it would be too much for a coincidence tto have seperate women buried at the same grave and date so I asume it is the same person but is mis-transcribed. My family in Hong Kong is a mystery still. I'm trying to find the origin of the lady I assume is my great grandmother, since she is listed as my grandfather's mother in her obit and he was one of her heirs along with his two brothers and a sister. The woman in this post is the only daughter of my great uncle Jame s Hunter and his wife Emma. Everyone is buried in Honk Kong, either at Happy Valley main cemetery or St Michael's Catholic Cemetery. Unfortunately I think the English written record was transcribed from Chinese entries in a different book, so there are errors. Anyway, I'm reasonably certain that the two names represent one woman


The picture of her actual grave inscriptions definitely says "霍淑華", matching the obituary.

The logbook, as you say, registers "吳霍淑珍", with dates and cross references to Ellen's mother (Emma Hunter's) grave, as you have said:

Ellen Hunter (霍淑華) 12 Jun 1899- 21 Nov 1944 (Grave 9347 Sec 3).jpg
Ellen Hunter (霍淑華) 12 Jun 1899- 21 Nov 1944 (Grave 9347 Sec 3).jpg, by Vanessaf



This is a very wild guess:

It is odd that she was not registered under her English name "Ellen Hunter", but "Ng Fok Suk Chan". Maybe whoever came to register for her did not speak English. Keep in mind that Ellen did not marry and probably had no children, so this is likely a neigbour or friend who came to register for her? And when the scribe asked him/her for the name, this person, speaking Cantonese, hesitated, and wasn't quite sure of Ellen's Chinese name either, so he/she said something like "Mmmmm, Fok Suk...Chan" (recalled the last character incorrectly). The "Mmmmm" and "Ng" sound similar in Cantonese, and maybe that just got mis-transcribed to "Ng Fok Suk Chan", when he/she should have said "Fok Suk Wah".

Otherwise, I agree with you Brian, that these two names belong to one lady (Ellen Hunter) here.

Hi Vanessa,

                      I agree that it is probably a transcription error. Besides there's a chance of an initial mistake involving dialect, or as you say, information being given by a friend who may not have known her exact details. Also, that registry looks to have been all written in te same handwriting, which indcates it is a handwritten copy of a previous book, which again leaves more room for goofs. I have no idea how these Chinese aliases come about. Ellen Hunter was the daughter of James Hunter ( we think he was mostly caucasian ) and his wife Emma, who we have zero information about. Emma seems to have been caucasian but who knows? She died in 1933

Emma Hunter Obit.jpg
Emma Hunter Obit.jpg, by Seemex

I've just been looking at the photos taken of this grave and I had a thought. As she was the last family member and died in 1944, who ordered the inscription on the grave?  Her only other family were interned in Shanghai at the time. Though it was added to the existing grave of her mother who died in 1933, someone had to have placed the order locally?