Courtesy of Barbara Anslow:
RELEASED PRISONERS OF WAR AND CIVILIAN
INTERNEES IN HONGKONG.
Headquarters, British Army Aid Group, China.
31st August, 1945.
After your long internment without accurate news you will want to learn a thousand things about happenings and conditions in the world at large and particularly about Britain.
At short notice it is impossible to answer more than a fraction of the things you want to know about. Attached however is a very brief summary of events from 3rd September 1939 until today.
The following also are some points of interest about Britain:—
The people of Britain are fit and well-fed in spite of wartime difficulties, and the hard work done by all under a mobilization scheme for women as well as men, unprecedented in history, has not affected the health of the nation. British women have played a vital part in all three Services, in factories, on farms and in every aspect of the war effort. Bus conductresses and women porters are the rule rather than the exception. Much of the work of the voluntary Defence Services, such as the A.R.P. and the National Fire Services, has been done by women.
Rationing of food and clothing though severe has been efficient. It is, however, unmitigated by the end of hostilities in Europe because of the millions of displaced and starving people in Europe for whom food and clothing must be contributed by all the victorious Allies alike according to their ability, and is not likely therefore to be relaxed to any great extent for some time.
Cosmetics, silk stockings, beer (increasing now in strength!) and luxury items of food are limited but available in some measure, and after some search through the shops. Prices generally are higher all round, as is only to be expected, but wages also have been high. Income tax has risen to 10/-in the pound. The countryside is being cleared of road blocks, defensive positions and wire, and the beaches at seaside resorts are being restored to normal.
One of the most urgent tasks in England today is the building of houses, 2,750,000 of which have been destroyed or damaged by enemy bombing, V-l flying bombs and V-2 rockets since the war started. Accommodation is therefore scarce, particularly in London and the Southeast of England which suffered most from enemy action.
Return to peacetime production and the conversion of war industries is under way as is the release of men and women from the Services. There are, however, still large forces required for Armies of Occupation, and to allow of the release of men on a combined age and length of service basis the calling up of age groups for the Services has to be continued for a time.
The emergencies and stress of war and the inter-dependence of all classes and types of people have made for a friendlier and less reserved people. Conversation in railway carriages is now habitual ! The presence of vast numbers of allies of different nationalities—about two million Americans alone were in England before D-Day—has also helped to break down British reserve and make everyone more helpful and friendly.
People also are very orderly and used to organizing themselves quickly to save time and trouble for each other. At all bus stops orderly queues two deep can be seen. Queuing for food, transport, etc. is a habit now and has long ceased to be a “standing” joke.
Wartime communications were difficult and people not on business travelled as little as possible. Greater facilities are now becoming available as train services are freed from troop and supply requirements and small rations of petrol (enough for 120 miles a month introduced on 1st June) become available to the public.
Theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc. are crammed and booking ahead saves queuing and the possibility of being unable to get a seat.
Cultivation of the land has been enormously intensified and great areas of idle land used to grow food.
The country as a whole needs a new coat of paint to brighten it up, and some devastated areas are forlorn and grey. This applies particularly to London and Southeast England and the various cities singled out for special “blitzes” by the Germans. The National Fire Service and Civilian Defence Service have already done much to clear up the mess.
Scotland has been far less affected than England, and even in matters like the variety of food there is a difference, though clothing is equally limited by rationing.
The people of England are noticeably tired. The strain of the V-l and V-2 bomb attacks after a period of respite and the successes following D-Day was very great on those living in Southeast England, who show their exhaustion most. In shops, impatience brings a short reply. Politeness and consideration is appreciated and brings out the universal friendliness and humour of the people.
The beauty of the countryside remains and the people have never lost heart. With victory the chief feeling is one of relief, and thoughts turn to a brighter future but are tempered by the realisation that rationing and restrictions of various kinds will continue for some years and that total warfare brings continued hardships to victors and vanquished alike.
The newly-elected Labour Government has a huge majority and will be put to a stern test in coping with the aftermath of war and reconstruction—not only of housing and amenities, but foreign trade. Britain is now a debtor nation and must strive to regain her foreign trade under the handicaps resulting from a mobilization for war work greater than any other Allied nation and the consequent enormous task of changing to peace time conditions and needs. Pre-war luxuries and facilities should not be expected but everyone gets a fair share of what there is.
You have never been out of the thoughts of those at home, and His Majesty the King in his recent broadcast on V-J Day referred early in his speech to his joy at the thought that the surrender of Japan meant the early release from your privations and the speedy re-union with your families.
We close this Newsletter with copies of recent messages from His Majesty the King and the Secretary of State for the Colonies:
THE KING’S MESSAGE:
“Now that final victory over the forces of aggression has been achieved, I send to my peoples and the peoples under my protection in the Far East who have suffered the horrors of Japanese oppression, a message of warm sympathy and heartfelt thanksgiving on their deliverance. The thoughts of the Queen and myself have been constantly with you during your years of suffering so bravely borne, and with the dawn of the day of liberation we rejoice with you that the ties which unite my peoples everywhere will now be fully restored. I know full well that these ties of loyalty and affection between myself and my Far Eastern peoples have never been broken, but they have been maintained in darkness and in suffering. The time has now come when their strength and permanence will again be displayed in triumph before the whole world. The traces of a cruel and ruthless oppression cannot be wiped out in a day, and the work of restoration will be long and heavy, but it is a work in which we shall be united in pride and confidence, sure in the faith that peace, security and happiness will with God's help be soon restored.”
Message of Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. George Hall:
“It is a source of great relief and pleasure to me that one of my first tasks as Secretary of State should be to send to the peoples of British Territories and those under His Majesty's protection which have been under Japanese occupation, a message to celebrate final victory over the aggressor. It is little more than three months since the surrender of Germany. We all knew then that the capitulation of Japan was only a matter of time and that your great tribulations were drawing to an end. But little did any of us think the end was so near. Let us humbly thank God that complete victory has brought to an end the years of violence and destruction, and let us together set about the heavy task of reconstruction with all the unity, energy and despatch that we can command."
MILESTONES TO VICTORY
(By Courtesy of the Press Attache's Kunming Office, British Embassy)
- Sep 1 Germany invades Poland.
- Sep 3 Britain and France declare war on Germany.
- Sep 27 Fall of Warsaw.
- Apr 9 Germans invade Denmark and Norway.
- Apr 15 British land in Norway.
- May 10 Germans Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister.
- May 15 Organised resistance in Holland ceases.
- May 23 Belgium surrenders.
- June 4 British evacuation from Dunkirk.
- June 10 Italy declares war on France and Britain. British evacuate Norway.
- June 17 Germans enter Paris.
- June 25 France accepts German armistice terms.
- Aug 8 Battle of Britain begins—60 German planes shot down on first day.
- Sep 15 Germans lose Battle of Britain—2,375 Nazi planes destroyed against 375 British pilots lost
- Sep 27 Germany, Italy and Japan sign Tripartite Pact.
- Oct 28 Italians invade Greece.
- Nov 11 British carrier-borne planes attack Taranto.
- Dec 9 Wavell begins offensive in Libya.
- Mar 11 Roosevelt signs Lend-Lease Bill.
- Mar 28 Battle of Cape Matapan.
- Apr 5 British forces enter Addis Ababa.
- Apr 6 Germans invade Yugoslavia and Greece.
- May 20 German airborne invasion of Crete. Italian army in Abyssinia surrenders.
- June 22 German invades Russia.
- July 12 Anglo-Russian Pact of Mutual Assistance.
- Aug 14 Atlantic Charter drawn up by Churchill and Roosevelt.
- Oct 16 Fall of Odessa.
- Nov 18 British 8th Army launches new offensive in Libya.
- Dec 7 Japanese attack Pearl Harbour, Wake, Guam, Hongkong, Philippines and Malaya (Dec 8 East Longitude time).
- Dec 8 Britain and United States declare war on Japan.
- Dec 9 8-month siege of Tobruk raised.
- Dec 10 Battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk.
- Dec 25 Fall of Hongkong.
- Jan 1 United Nations sign fight-to-finish pact.
- Jan 2 Japanese occupy Manila.
- Jan 23 Japanese land in New Guinea and Solomons.
- Feb 15 Fall of Singapore.
- Mar 9 Rangoon evacuated. Java, falls to Japanese.
- Mar 15 Battle of Java Seas.
- Apr 9 Fall of Bataan.
- Apr 18 First bombing of Tokyo.
- Apr 30 Japanese cut Burma Road.
- May 6 Fall of Corregidor.
- May 8 Japanese fleet beaten in Battle of Coral Sea.
- May 27 Germans launch new offensive in Libya.
- May 30 Cologne bombed in first R.A.F. 1,000-plane raid.
- July 1 Fall of Sevastopol.
- Aug 7 Americans land on Guadalcanal.
- Aug 17 First all-American raid on Germany.
- Aug 19 Canadian commandos raid Dieppe.
- Oct 23 British 8th Army launches final offensive in North Africa.
- Nov. 3 Australians take Kokoda, in New Guinea.
- Nov 4 Germans in full retreat from Egypt.
- Nov 7 Allied forces land in French North Africa.
- Nov 11 Germans overrun Vichy France.
- Nov. 15 20 Japanese warships and transports sunk in Battle of Guadalcanal.
- Jan 14 Churchill and Roosevelt confer at Casablanca.
- Jan 18 16-month siege of Leningrad raised.
- Jan 23 8th Army enters Tripoli.
- Feb 2 German army capitulates at Stalingrad.
- Feb 9 Americans completely occupy Guadalcanal.
- Mar 2 Heavy Japanese losses in ships and planes in Battle of Bismarck Sea.
- May 12 Axis collapse in Tunisia.
- May 23 Operations of Wingate's commandos behind Japanese lines in Burma made known.
- May 29 Americans take Attu Island.
- July 10 Allies invade Sicily.
- July 25 Mussolini resigns.
- Aug 10 Allied leaders confer at Quebec.
- Aug 15 Americans and Canadians occupy Kiska.
- Aug 25 Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten appointed Supreme Commander, Southeast Asia.
- Sep 3 Allies land in Italy.
- Sep 8 Italy surrenders.
- Nov 1 Americans land on Bougainville.
- Nov 22 Churchill, Roosevelt and Chiang Kai-shek meet in Cairo.
- Nov 23 Americans capture Makin Is.
- Nov 28 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin meet at Teheran.
- Jan 4 Red Army crosses 1939 Polish frontier.
- Feb 1 Americans invade Kwajalein Atoll, in Marshall Is.
- Feb 10 Australians and Americans complete Huon Peninsula campaign.
- Mar 18 British and Americans land airborne forces behind Japanese lines in Burma.
- Mar 23 Japanese invade Manipur, in Northeast India, via Burma.
- Apr 2 Russians enter Rumania.
- June 4 Rome liberated.
- June 6 Allies invade Western Europe with mass landings in Normandy.
- June 13 First German flying bomb attack on Britain.
- June 15 Americans land on Saipan, in Marianas Is. Carrier task forces strike at Bonin and Volcano Islands.
- June 16 First land-based raids on Japan Proper made by Superfortresses from China.
- June 20 Japanese lose 18 warships in First Battle of Philippine Sea.
- June 23 Russians launch great summer offensive.
- July 21 Americans invade Guam.
- Aug 3 Mytkina fall to Chinese and American troops.
- Aug 15 Allies land in Southern France.
- Aug 23 Paris liberated.
- Aug 24 Rumania signs armistice, declares war on Germany.
- Sep 19 Russian Baltic offensive begins. Finland signs armistice with Britain and Russia.
- Oct 6 Russians enter Hungary.
- Oct 16 British troops enter Athens.
- Oct 19 Red Army enters Czecho-slovakia.
- Oct 20 Americans land on Leyte, Philippine Is.
- Oct 25 Japanese fleet routed in Second Battle of Philippine Sea.
- Nov 5 First Superfortress raid on Singapore.
- Dec 13 British take Kalewa, gateway to Central Burma.
- Jan 9 Americans land on Luzon Is.
- Jan 17 Russians take Warsaw.
- Jan 21 Hungary signs armistice with Allies.
- Jan 23 Ledo-Burma Road opened.
- Feb 5 Americans enter Manila.
- Feb 8 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin confer at Yalta.
- Feb 13 Fall of Budapest.
- Feb 19 Americans land on Iwojima.
- Feb 22 6,000 Allied bombers give Germany biggest pounding of war.
- Feb 23 Turkey declares war on Germany and Japan.
- Mar 8 American 1st Army crosses the Rhine.
- Mar 9 British 14th Army enters Mandalay.
- Mar 17 Iwojima captured.
- Mar 23 Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group launches great offensive across Rhine.
- Apr 1 American 10th Army invades Okinawa.
- Apr 2 British 21st Army Group isolates the Ruhr.
- Apr 5 Russia renounces Neutrality Pact with Japan. Red Army reaches Vienna.
- Apr 10 British 8th Army launches final offensive in Northern Italy.
- Apr 11 Allied forces in Western Europe reach River Elbe. Spain breaks off diplomatic relations with Japan.
- Apr 12 Death of President Roosevelt ; Vice - President Truman takes over,
- Apr 16 British 8th and American 5th Armies link up in Northern Italy.
- Apr 18 Americans enter Czechoslovakia.
- Apr 22 Russians reach Berlin.
- Apr 25 Russian and American armies meet in Central Germany. British capture Burma oil town of Yenang-yaung.
- Apr 29 Mussolini executed by Italian patriots. Hitler reported dead.
- May 2 Hostilities cease in Italy. Red Army completes occupation of Berlin.
- May 4 British take Rangoon. One million German troops in Northwest Germany, Denmark, Frisian and other islands surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery.
- May 5 3 German armies surrender in Austria.
- May 8 Germany surrenders unconditionally to Great Britain, United States and Soviet Russia.
- May 23 Churchill resigns for General Election.
- May 25 Churchill forms "caretaker government." British capture Bassein, in Burma.
- May 27 Chinese recapture Yungning,, cutting Japanese lifeline from North China to Indo-China and Malaya.
- Jun 1 New British 12th Army formed to fight Japanese.
- Jun 4 Allied ground and sea units attack Borneo.
- Jun 6 Liuchow recaptured by Chinese.
- Jun 21 Battle of Okinawa ends in complete victory for Americans. Australians make new landings in Borneo.
- June 26 50 United Nations sign World Charter.
- Jul 1 Australians land at Balikpapan.
- Jul 15 Japan pounded by Allied warships for the first time in 80 years.
- Jul 17 British naval aircraft attack Tokyo area.
- Jul 19 4,000 tons of bombs dropped in biggest raid on Shanghai.
- Jul 24 Conference between Churchill, Truman and Stalin at Potsdam.
- Jul 26 Surrender ultimatum drawn up at Potsdam issued to Japan by Great Britain, United State and China. Clement Attlee becomes new British Prime Minister.
- Aug 5 6,000-ton fire bomb raid on Tokyo.
- Aug 6 First atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
- Aug 8 Russia declares war on Japan.
- Aug 9 Nagasaki hit by second atomic bomb.
- Aug 10 Japanese offer to surrender made known,
- Aug 14 Japan’s surrender officially announced.