W J Carrie's wartime diary
After hearing Barbara Anslow speak to the Hong Kong Society last year, I contacted Barbara to see if she remembered my grandfather, William (Billie) J Carrie and to let her know that I have his own wartime diary that he started on 08/12/1941 when Hong Kong Island was first shelled by the Japanese. I am happy to say she instantly remembered him from their days in Stanley Internment Camp.
This spurred me onto digitising my grandfather's diary. The diary was written in the form of letters intended for his wife Beatrice (Bee), and covers c.245 pages until his liberation. At the time, initially he did not know where Bee or my mother Joy or uncle Ian were.
My grandmother (Beatrice Carrie dob 16/01/1892), mother (Beatrice Joy Carrie, known as Joy, dob 04/02/1924) and my uncle (Ian Carrie dob 22/03/1926) were evacuated from Hong Kong to Singapore. I don’t know the date of this evacuation nor their subsequent evacuation from Singapore to the UK. I do know they were in Singapore when it was under attack because my mother told a story of jumping into an air raid shelter/ditch whilst being bombed and getting a millipede caught under her blouse and being badly bitten/stung. Family folklore has it that they were on one of the last boats out of Singapore. For part of the voyage they were tracked by a Japanese submarine and had to wear their lifejackets and stay as silent as possible 24/7. The ship had an Indonesian crew and the story was that at some point the propellers were sabotaged. This necessitated lying offshore either at Durban or Port Elizabeth for a repair to be carried out. They were not allowed to dock. They returned to the UK and spent the rest of the war living in Edinburgh where my mother studied medicine and my uncle went to the Edinburgh Academy and then on to study medicine as well.
After Stanley camp was liberated my grandfather returned home to Edinburgh. He and Beatrice returned to Hong Kong until he retired sometime around 1953. They came back finally to Edinburgh but then moved to live in Dumfries nearer their son Ian who was in general practice in the town. In retirement he attended Dr.Sircus, a gastroenterologist at the Eastern General Hospital, for treatment of his legacy health issues from his time in captivity.
He did not talk much to me about his time in Stanley. He did however tell about making marmalade and peanut butter from the contents of the Red Cross parcels. Prior to captivity he had buried valuable belongings e.g. family silver and a large stamp collection in the family garden on the Peak, but these had been discovered and looted whilst he was in the camp.
Sadly the diary mentions cemetery visits, which were to visit the grave of their first born son Tony. He was born on 23/12/1920 and died on 24/12/1920. He is buried in Happy Valley cemetery, see https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152502951/tony-carrie. Beatrice didn’t attend Tony’s funeral. Whether she wasn’t physically capable of being present or whether due to custom at the time I do not know.
I hope this helps give readers some background information on my grandfather, W J Carrie. I've also uploaded a newspaper cutting about him at https://gwulo.com/comment/48575#comment-48575
- Before the war, Carrie lived at 152, The Peak, one of a group of flats and houses built for civil servants on the site of The Homestead.
- 'Lin and Frank' are mentioned several times, and may be Madeline and Frank Haynes.
Abbreviations used in the letters:
- A.I.A.W. - ???
- A.M.L. - All my love
- B.I. - Bacteriological Institute
- C.S. - Colonial Secretary, ie F C Gimson
- D.O.K. - devil only knows
- H.E. - His Excellency, ie Governor M A Young (though on at least one occasion "H.E." is used to mean "high explosive")
- L.O. - Loved one
- Q.M.H. - Queen Mary Hospital
- T.G. - Thank God
- W.M.H. - War Memorial Hospital