George Henry WHITE [1894-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

George Henry WHITE [1894-????]

Names
Given: 
George Henry
Family: 
White
Sex: 
Male
Status: 
Deceased
Birth
Date: 
c.1894-06-01 (Month, Day are approximate)
Birthplace (town, state): 
Brighton
Birthplace (country): 

"Captain White was one of two officers who for 12 months ran an evasion and intelligence post in western Kwangtung and for most of this time the post was isolated behind the enemy lines.  In May 1944 a sudden enemy invasion of the area necessitated a rapid evacuation of the post and the safety of the Chinese staff and all our records on that occasion was solely due to the bravery and cool-headedness of Captain White.  With the Chinese officials in a panic and amidst torrential summer rains, Captain White moved the whole party away 20 miles to safety and then im­mediately set up overland communications by runners with his commanding officer who had remained behind with the guerillas.  This area still being threatened by enemy columns, he decided to move his whole party back to Wuchow, a journey of over 100 miles on foot through most difficult mountainous country.  En route he collected a party of American Maryknoll Sisters and took them to safety also.  At Wuchow he contacted our HQ, collected supplies and cash enough for some months and made the difficult journey back to his post alone.  On two subsequent occasions he had to take charge of similar evacuation operations and on each occasion he carried out his duties fearlessly and with complete success.  For 2 months in 1945 he was in command of our post at Yanping where he was responsible for evasion in an area of over 50,000 sq miles and during his excellent work 4 parties of American evaders were rescued and brought to safety".

Col. L.T.Ride

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Rough summary of career in BAAG:

1944    

  • April 13th: joined in Kweilin
  • April 26th: left for Samfou
  • May 4th: Arrived Samfou and reported to OC Capt McEwan
  • Early June: self with staff, files and WT equipment          evacuated to Yanping accompanied by Major Hinton, Capt McEwan and 1 of the Staff remaining at Samfou.
  • Early July: Capt McEwan with Capt Lee, Hospital Staff and equipment from Toishan joined us at Yanping.
  • Late July: Major Hinton and various unwanted members of the staff proceeded to HQ.  Self proceeded with them as far as Wuchow to try to sell medicines to raise funds, local bank unable to get money through from Chungking.

While at Yanping my duties were: encoding and decoding signals, Accounts, advise OC on geography of our area and assist in briefing contacts.  We evacuated Yanping twice for Tatien due to uncertain conditions, once in August for 3 days and once in September for 8 days.  Paid monthly visits to the Yeungkong Customs for advances of money.

1945 

  • May 8th: was picked up by Seaplane off Huiling Island and flown to Kunming thence by RAF plane to Calcutta for medical and dental treatment.
  • June 5th: returned to Kunming by CNAC plane
  • June 20th: in company with Capt R. Choy, Corporal Butt RS and Mr Chan W/T operator, left Kunming for Yanping over­land.
  • July 19th: on arrival at ??????? met Yanping Staff who had evacuated there, under charge of Capt Egerton.  The OC being away on a visit to ??? K??? (where Capt Reynolds was in charge). Self took over charge of Yanping office.
  • July 21st: due to Japs advancing evacuated ?????? for Sunhing, there I met Major McEwan.  He remained at Sunhing with Capt Egerton, joining us two days later.  I with rest of Staff etc proceeded on to Tientong.
  • August 8th: Major McEwan left for HQ
  • August 25th: self with Staff etc proceeded to Sunhing to await the Japs evacuating the area south.
  • September 28th: Received instructions to proceed to Hongkong.  Left the following day via Canton.
  • October 5th: arrived in Hongkong
  • November 11th: Left Hongkong for England per SS Arawa for demobilisation.

Colin McEwan to LTR - Notes on George:

“Apart from the terrific amount of straight work he got through I think his work in the various evacuations with which we were cursed was the outstanding thing.  On two occasions of evacuation too he had only just arrived.

On top of that when we decided to get all superfluous staff and stores back it was George again who took them overland to Wuchow, a lousy trip in lousy weather (that was when Hinton cracked up on us).  You havent seen the country but it is real mountain and George dragged that mob over the hills plus a gang of Maryknoll Sisters he picked up en route.  He got the most fearful dose of sunburn on the trip too but got back again with cash which ha had acquired in Wuchow.

Then in July when I, as usual, was away in Yeungkong came the scare when the Nips got to within 10 miles of Yanping overnight and George evacuated the whole shooting match again, this time in a short afternoon.

Lastly came the time in ‘45 June when he came back from his Indian leave to find Yanping falling when the Nips came up from Yeungkong.  If he hadnt come Heaven knows what might have happened as the local Chinese hadnt a clue (that was the time Lee Kong nearly lost his pants) and Pip [Egerton] who was in charge hadnt the experience to get the transport coolies etc.  Again George went for a walk and when you think of George’s age I think it is an amazing effort.

In addition during our time down in Yanping, especially when we were on our own, he did all accounts, all ciphers, paid agents, checked their statements, did the naval side of intel­ligence and I cant imagine anyone who would have got through the amount George did without grousing or beating me over the head once a week.  His knowledge of the country too and even more important of the people who dwelt therein was invaluable.

I could go on for hours on the same George but you know as well as I do what I think of the man.  Certainly if I had to go back to Yanping and had the choice of one man he would be my bet every time as apart from the work he can get through you can always depend on him, and I never saw him get flustered and God knows he had plenty of occasions when he had every excuse for so doing.”

The notes suggest that Mr White was already very familiar with China, so I asked Elizabeth why that might be. She replied: "George White seems to have been in the Maritime Customs before BAAG, and replaced F W Wright at Yanping."

The BristolU lists confirm he was with the Chinese Maritime Customs for many years, joining in Nov 1917 as a Probationary Tidewaiter, given the Chinese name "韦铁". They say he was "Compulsorarily
retired" in March 1944, at which point his title was "总监察长兼港务长".

George White photo.jpg
George White photo.jpg, by EMRide

George Henry White age 32 occupation Chinese Maritime Cutoms travelled from London to Shanghai in 1927 with his wife Mrs Winifred White 24

In 1939 there is a record of a George Henry White age 46 customs officer born Brighton. He was travelling from HK to the UK. Birth records show George Harry White born Brighton June Quarter 1894.

An extract from Colin McEwan's memoirs, about George White:

Before I left Kweilin Doc had promised me that if things developed he would do what he could to get some help before Shiner returned so I took him up on this in a series of signals which, I felt, would melt his heart.

I still remember clearly the morning that the door of my so-called office opened and a very tall, very erect English officer walked in, solemnly saluted me, and reported for duty as my 2 i/c. This was my meeting with George who figures so much in my later tales. Considerably my senior in age, George White had been invalided out of the Royal Marines after Zoebrugge and then, despite the after-effects of a back injury suffered there, joined the Chinese Maritime Customs. At the time of Zeebrugge I was about one year old but somehow what is referred to nowadays as the generation gap never cropped up between us except when George felt that through my ignorance of Chinese affairs and customs I was going to put my foot into it and his judgement of an occasion when I needed a fatherly talking to was seldom misplaced. There was an additional bonus as George had been, some years previously, the senior outdoor customs officer in that area, spoke fluent and very workable Cantonese and most of the local guerilla big names had, in their early smuggling days, been customers of George's. His wife and two children were in Japanese hands in Shanghai and, of course in the days that followed and our camp contacts developed, George became 

only too well aware of conditions in P.O.W. camps. He must have had many a harrowing thought, never slept well (funnily enough, for a man of his background he did not care over much for Chinese food) but his fund of sheer commonsense especially towards Chinese problems saved me from many a monumental mistake.

His arrival was excellent for my morale. I had met most of my guerilla commanders in a haze of Shiner's farewell parties and by now I was realising that I need not feel too embarrassed by having to consult with a group of officers, none of whom wore the badges of rank of anything less than full colonel. Still when you, as a captain, have been introduced to a man as General So and So, you do feel a bit impressed even when you know that he adopted the rank he thought was fitting when he bought the Sam Browne which was de rigueur amongst those who had graduated from smuggler / minor gangster roles to official guerilla status. After George's first dinner given by me to introduce him to all my colonels and generals from the 'forward striking echelon of the bosom baring, death defying West River group of war heroes' he and I had a glorious session by ourselves when George gave me a thumbnail life history of the leading figures. Recognition was mutual; there were no hard feelings and many a so-called staff conference disintegrated as one of them would tell George just how they had got a load of salt through under his nose in the Canton delta in the late 20s or would ask George just how he had nabbed them in that lonely creek near Macao when, by the rules of the game, they should have been safe.