Boadicea CHURCH (aka Betty) [1906-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Boadicea CHURCH (aka Betty) [1906-????]

Alias / nickname: 
c.1906-09-18 (Day is approximate)

Betty Church was mentioned in a recent post asking about the location of Oliver's Mount.

The MMIS has a rather warbly recording of an interview with her from 7th July 1968. She describes a remarkable life. I made the following notes:

  • Father sent to China to build railways
  • Mother followed, and gave birth to Betty in the 1906 typhoon, on board ship between Singapore & Hong Kong
  • Mother died two days later
  • Brought up in Tianjin by Amah, then Shanghai. Accompanied Father on many trips from 4 years old.
  • Speaks Shanghainese, Putonghua, and Cantonese
  • 1812, aged 6 went to school in Shanghai.
  • 1914, aged 8 went to boarding school in England - The Convent of the Visitation, Walmer, Kent
  • Her name was Boadicea
  • Father killed in 1918
  • Her guardian was consul in Amoy. She went to Amoy with her friend, his daughter. Sent to work in HK.
  • Worked in DBS at Breezy Point as a teacher, aged 16/17. Lived at Helena May.
  • Got extra work reading proofs at HK Daily Press. Then started selling advertising from the newspapers.
  • Started writing society column in the newspapers
  • Moved to selling advertising for the Directory & Chronicle
  • Earned enough to travel to UK. Grandmother was ill.
  • 1924 aged 18 Became an advertising agent in UK for Ladies Home Journal, working under Sir Charles Frederick Higham
  • 1925 Started her company in Hong Kong. Became limited company in 1927.
  • First husband worked with Deacons, a lawyer. Left DBS as was pregnant. Child born, and died a year later. Worked as court reporter. Pregnant again, and returned to England to give birth at her parents house in Yorkshire. Gave birth to twins in July, husband died in August on board ship. Worked in London to earn passage back to HK. When twins were two, took them to the convent and they grew up there. Then started her company.
  • In 1927 won a sweepstake ticket for the Shanghai Champions. Won 150,000 Shanghai dollars, or appx 40,000 pounds sterling.
  • Reported in Canton. Saw Europeans tortured by the Chinese. Took photos ad sold them - they were syndicated around the world.
  • Visited UK every two years.
  • 1932. Formed a Friends of China committee
  • Had a Hong Kong stand at Olympia. Prince of Wales.
  • In Singapore with her twins in 1941. Escaped on Friday 13th Feb, 1942 shortly before the surrender on 15th. Boat hit and sunk. Rescued by a submarine and reunited with twins in Batavia.
  • Went to Mr Puckle in Delhi and worked there for 4 months. Then to Bombay, then spent rest of war in South Africa.
  • Husband had been made a POW in Singapore. Married him in New Zealand in 1934. He spoke Japanese. They had a son, but left him in New Zealand. The son re-joined them in Singapore in 1941/2, but he was killed by a Japanese shell during the fighting there.
  • Loves music. Composed and wrote commercial jingles in English & Chinese.

If you can add any more memories of Betty Church, please let us know in the comments below. I'm also curious to know if "Church" was her original surname, or from one of her husbands.