SERVICE IN OLD SHANGHAI
This first appeared in issue #2 of 'History Notes', compiled by the late Phillip Bruce. It is reproduced here on Gwulo by kind permission of Mr Bruce's family.
In the previous edition of this journal I produced extracts from the publication 'Notes of the China Command 1932' which was printed in Hong Kong and issued to all service officers who were to be posted to the China Command during 1932-33. The publication was divided into three sections, these being Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tientsin.
An interesting general note on page five of the publication makes the following observation:
"The Command includes Indian units and even a Chinese unit among its regular troops, while there are American, Russian and Portugese companies among its Volunteer organisations."
"British units in the course of their duties come into contact with troops of the United States, Japan, Italy and France.
"Just as conditions differ widely, so do the duties that the troops may be called upon to undertake. Thus they may be on antipiracy duties on a merchantman far up the Yangtze River or on duty in a Pill Box at Shanghai or even co-operating as Marines with the Royal Navy in the defence of British interests anywhere in China..."
In respect of service in Shanghai, the following extract gives rules relating to dress for officers who were destined to serve there:
"...Dress regulations are strictly enforced with certain modifications consequent upon extremes of climate. Dates on which changes in dress are made are normally as follows:
"Tropical dress with topees is taken into general use during the second half of May; white mess kit 1st June, and the resumption of Service dress for all purposes at the end of October. "Ordinary winter clothes as worn at home should be brought..."
The section dealing with accommodation sets out the type of accommodation that the new arrival can expect:
"...Accommodation. The British Infantry battalions are accommodated in hutted camps, one battalion having two companies detached one-and-a-half miles away in another hutted camp, and the second battalion having one company accommodated in a stone building over the Race Course stables.
"Area Headquarters, RASC, Royal Signals, and attached personnel are similarly accommodated in hutted camps. The RASC have an Officers' Mess. The RAOC are accommodated in a converted garage, which also forms an admirable Ordnance Depot. The Hospital and RAMC personnel are accommodated in a fine modern building, designed for flats and converted for its present use.
"Officers' Messes and quarters are not equipped or furnished -officers being compensated by the issue of a Field Allowance.
"As married officers are not officially recognised, except in the case of certain Staff and Departmental personnel, no married quarters are provided for officers, except for the Brigadier.
Single officers quarters are mainly in huts, except at the Great Western Road Camp and Kiaochow Road Camp, where houses have been hired for the Officers' Mess and rooms for most of the officers of each battalion. These are also unfurnished.
"Married officers are advised to go to an hotel or to 'all in' boarding houses or service flats for the first month and look around for a suitable house or flat... married officers who bring their wives to Shanghai at their own expense can be accommodated at local hotels with complete board and lodging and one double room for about $350 to $600 a month...
"Good and comfortable accommodation can be found at the Cathay Mansions (Service Flats), at approximately $500 to $600 a month for an officer and his wife."
The question of the provision of a suitable servant is also covered in the handbook with the paragraph on this subject reading:
"Chinese servants in Shanghai, like those further north, are, on the whole, good. A married officer should be able to run a house with four servants, with a monthly wage bill of $100."
The handbook also deals with the various sporting activities that were available, which included cricekt, football, hockey, golf and, of course, polo. The question of shooting posed a problem and the advice given on this subject was as follows:
"...Shooting. Shooting is poor in the immediate vicinity, and, owing to the general unrest of the surrounding countryside, officers are not normally permitted outside a seven mile radius of the settlement boundary unless they are members of a party of at least three persons including a foreign resident of Shanghai who has had considerable experience of local conditions. Consequently there is not much shooting to be obtained."
Unlike the glowing recommendation given to the officer destined for service at Hong Kong the 'general comment' in respect of Shanghai was less enthusiastic. It reads:
"...Shanghai is a unique and interesting station. Both officers and other ranks have the opportunity of mixing with, and getting to know, the armed forces of other nations and are received with marked friendliness by all those they meet. Very considerable kindness and hospitality is shown to the British Garrison by the British residents who run for them a recreation centre at which dances and entertainments are given in the winter and a garden where tenns and swimming are provided in the summer..."
In the future I will deal with the dress regulations, accommodation and sporting facilities that were available to those officers who were posted to Tientsin.