SHARK ENDS SERGEANT’S STORY
This first appeared in issue #1 of 'History Notes', compiled by the late Phillip Bruce. It is reproduced here on Gwulo by kind permission of Mr Bruce's family.
While in the United Kingdom in 1983 I purchased from a London dealer a group of medals consisting of a 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal and War Medal. The medals were loose without ribbons but were all engraved "A/178 H.W. Jackson" and were accompanied by a note indicating that Jackson was a Hong Kong policeman and a casualty.
Initial research at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) revealed that their records contained a A178 Lance Sergeant Herbert Winkfield Jackson, Hong Kong Police, who is recorded as having died on April 5, 1942, and as having been buried at Stanley Military Cemetery on Hong Kong Island. I assumed that Jackson was one of many who had died while interned during the Japanese occupation and I therefore decided to continue my research on my return to Hong Kong.
My first task was a visit to Stanley Military Cemetery where I found Jackson’s grave with little difficulty. I was surprised to find that his headstone was not the standard CWGC type but a simple granite stone. I was even more surprised to see that the date of death on the headstone was September 23, 1945 - some three weeks after the liberation of the colony and three and a half years after the date recorded by the CWGC. Subsequent research was made difficult as virtually all pre-war police records were either lost or destroyed during the occupation. However, through local sources, ex-internees and ex-Hong Kong Policemen, I have managed to piece together the following tragic story.
Herbert Winkfield Jackson was born on October 27, 1912, in Somerset, England, the son of a Buckinghamshire farmer. In 1935 at the age of 23 years he enlisted into the Hong Kong Police as a European Constable. On arrival in Hong Kong he was posted to the Police Training School to commence a one-year training course. This first nine months of the course consisted of Part A training at the school followed by three months Part B training at a Divisional Station. On completion of his training in 1936 Jackson was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant and posted to general Uniform Branch duties.
Lance Sergeant Jackson is remembered as a quiet person who was well read and enjoyed life. He was a keen sportsman, a strong swimmer and played rugby for the Force. His other pasttimes were photography and driving his "little blue sports car."
His time in uniform was short lived as he was soon posted to CID and then to Special Branch, where he was still serving when the Japanese invaded the colony on December 8, 1941. Little is known of Jackson's part in the fall of Hong Kong, however, being in Special Branch his duties were probably gathering intelligence and rounding up enemy aliens and fifth columnists. Following the surrender on Christmas Day 1941 all police officers were ordered to gather in the Gloucester Hotel from where they were taken by the Japanese to Chinese hotels and boarding houses in the Central and Wanchai areas. This accommodation was of only a temporary nature and on January 21 the Japanese commenced moving the internees to Stanley camp. On arrival at the Internment camp most internees were housed outside Stanley prison in the warders' quarters. Jackson, along with several other single men, was allocated Room 11 of Block 12.
During the years of internment Jackson became friends with a White Russian officer from the Water Police named Vic Veriga. They spent a lot of time together and Veriga began to teach Jackson to speak Russian. Apparently, by the end of the war Jackson was quite proficient in the language. A colleague described Jackson as one "who could be included in the group who did not allow the situation to lower their standards."
On August 17, 1945, news was received that the Japanese had surrendered on August 14 and the guards were withdrawn. However, it was not until August 29 that Admiral Harcourt's fleet was seen off Stanley. The fleet anchored in Hong Kong harbour and at 5pm Admiral Harcourt drove to Stanley Internment Camp. The National Anthem was sung and the flags of all nations represented in the camp were raised. A bugler sounded the Last Post in memory of those who had died. The hymn, "0 God Our Help in Ages Past" was sung.
With Liberation those police officers that were fit were allocated duties pending repatriation. Jackson was still quartered at Stanley during this period and took the opportunity to take a daily swim in the fine weather. In early September he was booked on an RAF flight out but, being a bachelor and enjoying the weather, he gave up his place to another officer who was anxious to get home to his wife and family. On September 22 the Royal Navy put on a film show at the Queen's Theatre where Lance Sergeant Norman Gunning met Jackson who told him that he was again booked on an RAF flight out the next evening, September 23.
The next day Jackson returned to Stanley to pack his kit and to have a last swim at Tweed Bay, near the internment camp. As he was taking his last swim Jackson was attacked by what was assumed to have been a shark. Captain Braude, HKVDC, and Inspector Nolloth heard Jackson's shout and went into the water to assist: him. When they pulled him out he was still breathing but he died seconds later on the beach. A subsequent inquest heard that Jackson's injuries were "consisting of two-thirds of a circle torn from the right buttock. In the upper part wounds extended to abdominal cavity and Intestines were hanging out the back." The official cause of death was "shock and haemorrhage."
Lance Sergeant Jackson had served 10 years without leave, survived the fall of Hong Kong and the subsequent internment and was only hours away from a flight that would have started his journey home. He had accumulated over 400 days home leave.
- Steve Verralls.