W J Carrie's wartime diary: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

W J Carrie's wartime diary: View pages

Darling,

What a day I’ve had- my back’s broken!  And my feet ache but I have got things going.

I sent off a letter today but D.O.K. [devil only knows] when it will reach you - I’m so glad I got my parcel off – it would go on the same ship as N.L. is on.  I do so hope it will arrive safely – there is a wee extra [?HK10 Straits] in my letter today for Ian.  I don’t know when that will arrive - it will just equalise things with Joy.  But you mustn’t worry now darling if you don’t get letters - I’ll send a wire soon - I didn’t try to send one today - it seemed rather futile and perhaps a little unpatriotic for the wires are clogged with official messages. But I will send one soon.

I am going to start a diary  - on this paper – and will send it to you when I can but it will be just  be dry  stuff so I will keep it separate from my letter.

We had [?L.G.] this afternoon  - just the swearing in of the C.S. [Colonial Secretary] and a few nice words from H.E. [His Excellency] about the war.  I had a talk with Gimson - he hasn’t changed much, and I think is rather nice.

I have just heard that they have landed at [?Singora] and also perhaps in Borneo.  Here we had another raid at 1.30, and the planes sailed back and forward - they were really only on reconnaissance – not a shell went near them and they were quite low.  I hope our guns shoot a bit better soon, and that we will get a few planes to meet them in fair combat.

Wireless is on “The Very Thought of You” – means everything – the longing Dear for you – my love.

Well Darling- anyway I am thankful now that you are not in H.K. – at least the bairns – you and I would face anything together but then Darling we couldn’t be together all the time and you would worry more than ever. And you’ve had casualties in Singapore too. The only ones reported to me so far are 28 Chinese in Singapore. I have heard lots of stories but no reports have come through yet. The telephone system has of course been chaos all day. But I have manned most of my posts. I have had lots of good assistants – Sedgwick, Naismith, Teesdale and now Barnett – they made marvellous plans but went off and left me with the plans and no staff to carry them out. I’m 50% short but I called on my Clerks to fill the gap until I can recruit additional staff. They are as splendid crowd and not a man fell out – all they ask for was steel helmets – I promised them at once and being friendly with Puckle – Ian B??’s successor – I got them at once. But there are no “conveniences” in the Tunnels yet and I got a frantic message this morning to open up the Pen shelters which we had had to lock up to prevent them from being used as latrines! I have 6,000 buckets on order and 1,000 large containers for “wee wee” but none have been delivered yet and my order went in a month ago.

Oh Darling it is grim but we must try and see the humour of things or one would go “bats”.  I was making a joke today (I’ve been told that 17 persons will be billeted on me) that when I went home tonight I expected to find 17 blondes all ready!!  I had told Julius Ring that I was partial to blondes!!  None have arrived so far!  I think you can trust your ‘old man’- anyway tonight if they had been here I am definitely too tired!!  I hope, Loved One, you will laugh with me over this – one must just joke on.

I think they will have a smack at us tonight - there is a moon – at least after midnight, and if they don’t try to smash the power station at North Point - then I’ll be surprised.  But really on the Peak we are absolutely safe except from a mistake.

Da - the phone went there – its been going every 5 minutes or so, but this was Ralston.  He was all alone - would I come over?  I said –No - I can’t leave my phone.  Could he come over?  Of course I said Yes - so he was here - till after 8.   Amah came here with the books - a bit worried - I said she could bring up as many of her relations as she liked.  So long as they kept quiet and didn’t show any lights at night.  I think Amah will look after that.  Have packed up a lot of stuff and I’ll do a lot more tomorrow before I go to office.  I’ve gone right off this diary idea – best forget the rude realities when they come along - I’ve told Amah not to be afraid - for it does no good. So too Darling – keep smiling.  I adore you as I have always for more than 30 years.


Darling - I talked a lot last night about our bombing but never thought you’d get any yet but I think it was a long way from Goodwood.  I hear the C.N.A.C. planes arrived and got away again last night so perhaps my letters will get through. T.G. [Thank God] I’ve abandoned the Clipper or my last letter would be at the bottom of Kowloon Bay!

Another pretty terrible day - what tires me is having to go into the Supreme Court when the alert goes, and hanging about there.  I’ll learn to sit still some day but at present I hang around and so get very tired. But we’re getting some of the [?snags] put away and I got 50 bags of rice for my coolies who were nearly starving  - rice shops have closed and restaurants have not been functioning properly.

When I got home - I found the blow had struck!  Hamilton - acting Auditor rang me up and said he was coming to stay with me tomorrow. I cursed like H for he is an utter bore but when I got home Amah gave me the list.  Here they are -  G.H. Piercy Jardines - the nicer one of these boys and a Mrs D.W. Piercy – possibly wife – like Mrs A.B. instead of Mrs W.J.  Then Buckle - Instructor in Marine Eng in the Trade School -  Waddell  and Woodman - both P.W.D. Engineers and C Rogers – can it be the great Cyril?

I mentioned Mrs D.W. Piercy – there is also a Mrs H.E. Campbell – D.O.K., a Mrs C.T. Forbes manageress of Au Petit House I see from the Dollar Directory!! - then two Misses  E Hobbs and J.M. Reynolds – D.O.K. - but no Hamilton – so he can go and stew in his own juice. But Loved One what am I going to do with that bunch?

I haven’t been caught [?bending] – I have got this room and I’m going to stick to it - I have our bed in here now – only changed over today.  Amah is a real l??  - I told her she had to get two chair Coolies to help - and left $1 to pay for them. She and the Coolie did it all herself – including taking out the frightfully heavy settee.  So I’m set – I’m going to lock this room up when I leave in the morning and if there is any fuss I go straight to the Governor.  I’m finding it quite tough enough - I’m no chicken - and I must have my evenings free and quiet.  They can have the run of the rest of the house. But I’ve got all our nice stuff away - chair covers, curtains etc.  I’ve got practically everything locked away in boxes in the hot room - well Honey we must just hope for the best.   I’m going to tell them all straight that they are billetees, not my guests.  They’ll have to share gas and electric light – I’ll read the meters tomorrow.  But Adored -think of them - I can’t describe them in our house.  Well we can only say – c’est la guerre!

I have heard a lot of rumours today – we may hear something definite later - so I’ll leave that just now My Love. One is a wee bit het up but never forget Darling that always in all ways I love you. B.

Just a few moments later – poor Betsy knows there is some trouble on and when - as I did just now put the lights out to try out some darkening of a torch I got today she creeps under my desk. Poor Betsy she will have to get used to the bunch of folks coming tomorrow.

Still later

Sweetheart - I can’t get over poor Betsy - she won’t leave me alone tonight – she’s curled up on my wee mat under my desk - she is so sweet and has helped me keep my sanity.  I hate to think what she will think of the bunch arriving tomorrow. But I’ll see that its all right.  News on now in a few minutes so I’ll stop again. B.


A rotten night - the guns were going all the time and poor Betsy was very perturbed.  I remember she went through the Shanghai bombing and is nervous of sharp noises. But she’ll have to stick it out.

I didn’t have continuous sleep but I had quite a good rest and I’m gradually hardening up.  No sore back tonight but we only had one real alert today.  Feeding is the real snag - my 50 bags of rice last night saved me a lot of trouble.  I have now engaged Glover Man. Director of Kelly & Walsh to be my assistant – I just can’t do it all.

News on now – news is not coming through so I write on.

I got your lovely cable today - I thought of wiring at once but thought of waiting till I could report  about my billettees. But I must do it tomorrow. No casualties here yesterday that I had to deal with -   70 on Monday - but we’re settling down.

I rang up Ben Evans at once - he was very glad to get the message - I can’t contact Farmer but I have sent a chit up to H.K.V.D.C. H.Q..  Ben told me of a horrid business - I hope it is not a tragedy.  I think it was foolish of him but I don’t criticise - he sent Heywood and Starbuck, his two assistants, out to Au Tau on Monday morning to bring in very valuable - but what is the value of anything these days -instruments from the magnetic observatory out there which is really my child.   They have never returned.  I don’t know Heywood but Starbuck is an awfully wee cheery soul who broadcasts a “[P??] Corner” and things like that.  Poor lads - I hope they are only captives but even at that they will have a miserable time,

Later.

I was going to write on and then the second news came on - and I’m just flattened - the Prince of Wales and the Repulse - how could it happen? We were so happy thinking they were there – what hope is there for us now? - how can we ever be relieved?  Well we must stick it out some way.  I know how depressed you must be - but Hope On always.  Goodnight Adored. B.


7.45a.m. I can’t get any news on my wireless in the morning - I don’t know why – London just won’t come through.  I slept all night – Win however rang  up in the middle of the night - to say they were shelling us.  Like Frank I said it was miles away and probably our guns.  But one heard the whine of the shells and then a crunch.  Now back to work again. So my food problem – how to feed my 4,000 coolies!  So Cheerio. Billie.

HOME 6.45 p.m.  Girlie - what a day!  They did shell us last night and hit the Military Hospital and we’ve been shelled all day.  But after really a terrible day there is one bright spot – no billettees yet. Lisa rang up and said she wanted to come here.  I wasted a lot of my time trying to fix it up.  I have grave doubts about it – she would boss everybody and there would be a row in no time. But she would run things well.  I got Julius Ring’s permission – she is down to go to 376 – Gilmour’s (Chartered Bank) old house – Dawson there now, and I think little Mrs Rickett “living in sin”!!  When I told Lisa that she’d be in one room and Frank in another - she cried off!!  But I will not give up my den or our bed.

Well the news from Home - for the first time since the war began - means very little to us.  Of course I would be rung up on the phone just when London started to talk about H. K. so I don’t know what was said but I am sure it was [???] –  it was - I heard it at 9.30.

Kowloon is evacuated and D.O.K. what the night and tomorrow will bring us.

I sent you a cable today L_C. to be quicker and I hope it gets through soon.  Sweetheart - I wonder when you get it if you will realise  that I thought it might  be our last  communication together. But that was my feeling Darling - I have no hope of this going out tomorrow but I’ll post just it in the hope.  Though how any plane can come or go when we have evacuated Kowloon I don’t know.  I heard that the ship N.L. was, I think on was either sunk or captured.

But we are now in for a really tough time - I am not going to stay in little huts in the middle of Statue Square any more. I’ll move up to my Burials H.Q. in the basement of  the newly built Northcote Training College and leave the damn huts to be plastered with shrapnel or blown up with H.E.  Then I’ll be quite safe. For we are really  in for something  stiff if we don’t give in.  Our local communique  was equally non-committal but why not?

Well Honey I’ll run down for chow now and write on later – though one doesn’t know if it will ever get through. 

I forgot to tell you - Betsy is in rather a flat spin and I may have to get rid of her. With two howitzers on Purvis’s and Alabaster’s tennis court going hell for leather now and then- she just goes “bats”. Mackenzie drove me up tonight - I am very grateful for the lift but it wasn’t all altruistic as I may tell you some time.  We were just coming round the corner at Ho Tung’s house when the howitzers  went off and poor old Mac. nearly had me over the hillside – he’s a wee bit nervy these days.  We are none of us as young as we used to be.

Win rang up again - she has just gone to bits and I am glad she is not coming here.  I gave in much against my better judgment though Lisa might have been very useful.  But now I suppose she is very sorry she ever came back to H.K. and a lot of women are sorry they ever stayed. Lisa is now in 376. Well Honey I could go on writing till midnight - it gets me that way!  But as you may never see this letter - I think I’d better go to sleep so long as it is quiet. 

So Goodnight My Lovely Little One.

You have always been my ideal little wife and sweetheart and if I go out I hope you will get this letter and know that I love you and long for you more today than even 30 years ago.

 All my love always Billie


Dearest - home at last.  Before I forget - I have heard a rumour that the ship N.L. was on – I think my parcel for Christmas was bombed and sunk.  I’ll be so disappointed if that is true.

 I’ve been reading over this letter - I am tremendously glad that you too – as well as the bairns – are not here.  It is not nice to hear the whine of the shells and not know where they are going – but more later.

People will ring up when the news is on - I’ve missed most of it but I’ll get some at 9.30.  Dora rang up – Bertie’s been hit but has got off fairly lightly.   He was sent on fire by an incendiary bomb - he has lost the two small fingers of his right hand and has been burned a bit - but not seriously on his chest.  He was somewhere near the Matilda Hospital - climbed up the hillside with his clothes aflame and got first aid there.  He is now in the Military Hospital.  If I possibly can I must go and see him.

Today started badly - the drivers of the Peak Tram deserted last night - so I had to walk down the Peak with Harry, Megarry and Himsworth.  I haven’t felt it much so far, but I expect I’ll be stiff tomorrow.  When I got to office - I stripped to my waist – I was just soaking - and dried myself and put two towels  round my shoulders while  my office Attendant dried everything  in front of my electric fire.  So I’m O.K. - we really are toughening up.  I’ve got Roe back - I insisted - I told Purves I wouldn’t have it.  I let him off when we thought we’d be in Kowloon for quite a while yet and he could be near his wife and family.  He only got them away in time.  The trouble yesterday was not the Japanese - but Fifth Columnists – Chinese supporters of Wang Ching Wai and the Nanking puppet Government. But today we really have evacuated part of Kowloon but we keep cheery thinking that possibly it is time Chiangkai Shek’s troops have re-captured Canton and are advancing down to cut off the retreat of the Japs.  We can only hope so.  For we have to hold on to this island no matter how much bombing we get and shelling from the Kowloon Hills.  I don’t know if we can do it.  One of our shells hit the Bank Flats above Mt Austin Barracks and it was found that they were in the line of fire- so they have been demolished.  A bomb or shell fell just behind the Peak Garage and 2 in the open space at the back of Hill Crest. Our inner front door had nearly every pane cracked but nothing blown in yet.  I certainly don’t like the whine of shells coming over but we must get used to it! They have really been fairly decent – one can imagine that they are trying for a military objective.

Well I had to stop – and have chow. I’ve had a lovely dinner – mince cake, potatoes and a lettuce – the first from my own garden – sago without milk but with strawberry jam –a little piece of toast and butter and a ”coolie” orange –what more could anybody want? But I think we’ll have much shorter rations soon - I had my “spot” tonight and I still have 1 bottle Gin and 1 ½ bottles Whiskey but I doubt I’ll get any more and cigarettes are difficult to get. The Club boys walked out today and so I had to tiffin in Gloucester and had a splendid tiffin for [?H 1.50]. Well Honey Darling – I must close down –I am tired. It would have done me a world of good – as Glover advised me to – to have had a nice warm bath whenever I got it. But I put off – I may have one yet.

                           So Goodnight Loved One. A.L.A.W.     BB

Later       It is utterly amazing – just now it is absolutely quiet – and here in this room one could imagine that there is peace everywhere. But what it will be like an hour or so on   D.o.k..    News now on.  B.


7.45 am   A perfectly quiet night – and so a lovely sleep. A bit stiff this morning but otherwise fine – now to my new office to organise it.

Another very busy day but quiet – the blitz however is coming. We have really been experiencing an armistice today. I was told by W.J. that 3 Japanese Officers accompanied by 2 European women, one the wife of Rene’ Lees who is acting P.S. at Govt House and a Mrs Macdonald.  The papers say she is pregnant.  The launch bearing the party had a large banner on it with the word “Peace”.  Well I suppose they had a conference some place and I think they were just told “nothing doing”.  Sometime later the general message came through that an intensified bombardment was considered imminent. Well 6.45pm – it hasn’t come yet.  We are blessed – the first time I think I’ve ever blessed a Peak fog! – with really thick weather -  it’s clammy again - so perhaps it won’t come off.   But I saw my first casualties today.  I came up in the Peak Tram as I didn’t want to take my driver all the way up to the Peak if I could avoid it. I don’t know what caused them – shrapnel probably – in Kennedy Road just near the bridge there were two poor coolies.  We have been thrown terribly out of gear because no ordinary burials are taking place so besides “catering” for war casualties I have to bury everybody who is so inconsiderate as to die just now.  Bad taste in humour I know, L.O., but only stern realities these days – and so we have no sentiment.

I wonder what’s coming tonight – fog stops bombing but they have accurate plans and shelling can take place in any weather.  Like Win I do not like the whine of shells.  You’ll probably never hear the one that hits you and I’m told that when you hear the whine the shell has long passed you.  As sound travels slowly. Still it isn’t nice to listen to!  I haven’t the wind up, Loved One, but I don’t want to take any risks.  If I can be completely safe - though I’d have no comfort - in the basement or first floor of Northcote Training College - why stay here just to look after the house? – and our goods.  I have offered Win to come here and have the whole place, and she has refused – ok by me!   News now on and I can’t think what the reaction will be on the English speaking population of H.K. We know where the Japanese are – right in Kowloon –everywhere - and yet London scoffs the Tokyo report that they are where they are!

Well Honey I’ve had chow now – compradore will no longer supply anything and I am trying to see where I can get stuff now.  We should be able to draw rations but the Food Controller - though he is not just a mere civil servant - but a banker with a staff of “business men” has failed to do his stuff.  I don’t blame him in the slightest – he had an impossible task when the Military pinched every lorry he had expected to have to sort out his stores.

Wireless out here is of course quite impossible now - the Japanese are in control in Shanghai and they are blanketing everything.

Well  Adored    I think I must tuck down now – I’m not making up my mind tonight. I don’t want to leave 152 if it is safe and if I can have a car up and down, but I really can’t go on with this feeble sort of transport.  Goodnight Adored      Billie


Well Darling it is very difficult to think of this as a Sunday – for we have had our first taste of blitz.  Reports have been very slow in coming in and so I fear that it means buildings down and nobody  knows what the casualties are.

But I’ve had a very busy day.  We had a quiet night but I didn’t sleep very well because I was worrying and thinking all the time.  I felt that my organisation was breaking down.  The whole Chinese civilian population is skulking in basements and in the tunnels we built costing millions  - and refusing to do any work.  Of course my men, scavengers and so forth drawn from the lowest strata of life are just the same.  I can’t get a job done.  It’s amazing what a bolster to morale a steel helmet is  - though actually I think they are of very little use. Well eventually I had a big confab with Macleod, Pope and the Chief Inspectors – Septic wasn’t there but we fixed up everything.  I won’t go into details.  So tonight though there is no more organisation really in existence yet I feel much happier for I know the beginnings are well laid.

I’m beginning to draw rations too – I got chow today without paying for it!

And this is a good job I have done today – I have scrounged a car – a beautiful Plymouth - belonging to Dr T.Y Li.  It is now mine for the duration.  The only difficulty is that it has the new gear change with the handle on the steering wheel shaft.  I’m not into it yet but I’ll learn.  Still even motoring won’t be easy soon.  The Central Police Station was heavily bombed today and there is a big crater at the top of “Old Bailey” in Caine Road.  I got past it and then at Magazine Gap there were 3 small craters but I negotiated them and so home.

Bertie is home – 2 fingers lost but otherwise not so bad.  I am glad he has come off pretty lightly.  I don‘t quite understand how it happened yet - Dora is rather incoherent these days.

Well Honey -  I am sure when you get this scribble you won’t be in any way critical of the culprit -  so  I’ll shut down now.

I am still terribly stiff and sore from my walk down the Peak – I was a mutt - why didn’t I ring for a car and wait?  But I wanted to get down quickly.

So Goodnight Loved One.     BB


7am

Well we’ve been at it for a week now – another quiet night but they must be planning something – they’ll try to land on the island of course.

No gas this morning - I think they hit the gasworks yesterday.  Well I‘ve still got my electric kettle – what we’ll do when they hit the Electric Power Station – DOK.

((Here, Billie draws two heavy lines to indicate a break in his letter writing half way down a page; leaving the office to go home to 152))

((New sheet of paper, continuing writing having arrived home from work to 152 on 15/12/41))

152

15/12/41

Darling,

It is very late and I am very tired but I must write a few lines - on the last night – for a while at least that I shall be in 152.  I don’t know if they tried for this house though it looks like it.  One bomb fell just at the wall of the Villa’s Compound - another just on the back of the Peak School and the third just on the road halfway between 152 and 153 and just above the B.A.T. house.  Every window on that side and the next is completely shattered - not only glass but frames as well. I shall have a lovely souvenir to show you when you get back.

I was downtown of course and the coolie rang me up.  I came up at once and while I am sleeping here tonight my den is practically O.K.  I am moving out tomorrow.  Amah was of course in a complete flat spin - she was ironing at the time and her room faced that way and was wrecked too.

So we are all moving down tomorrow to Northcote Training College.

I’ve been packing all evening and am just about done in.  Of course I have to leave an awful lot and can just hope for the best.  If I have time I’ll remove it all later – if I have time and if I have transport and if the road is still clear.

So Goodnight Loved One.  These are thrilling days.       Billie


6.15am.

I left my pen in office yesterday and am writing this with a new one I got.  Amah has got me up early – O.K.  I have a lot to do still - and of course the car has gone back on me – the battery is dead. Well I’ll just have to get somebody to push it.

I’ve been thinking – I don’t suppose the Jap flyer tried to hit this house or 151 – he was going for the road junction – Jardine’s Corner – the Bridge and so forth. If he had got that it would greatly dislocate traffic – though it would soon be cleared again. Water mains have been burst in several places and the great fear today is that W.C.s will have to stop. I’m having enough trouble with the dry system that is left and  the tunnels – if everybody has to use it we’ll be in a nice position.      B.

Still a nice cup of tea in the morning – electric kettle has been a boon. In the N.T.C. – there is a lovely kitchen – the Domestic Science lecture room!


Now 16/12/41 but next page gives you what I wrote last night in amazing circumstances.  I came home yesterday about 3 – I meant to go back but I kept in touch with Roe by phone and decided to stay.  I had left these pages in my desk so started a new sheet.

You have never seen such a scene of desolation as I saw in 152 yesterday.  Every window starting with Amah’s room,  [(?red)] dining room, drawing room verandahs  - verandah door  with typhoon bars up  - blown in - every pane of glass broken - right round  to our little dining room and even there with all the shutters shut or  perhaps the double window wasn’t shuttered – only one pane broken but the catches to the window wrenched right off. The communicating door was shielded by half of the ping pong table but the two bars that go up and down are bent right over. The upstairs even worse – in Ian’s room a piece of the grille on the middle window was flung against the opposite wall of the room – not just the verandah – and made a distinct impression like this. I’m keeping it to let you see it. Then something knocked a hole right through the little parapet over the semicircular part of the downstairs drawing room verandah.

The front door was even blown open – breaking off the lock but funnily enough the big hall window wasn’t affected at all – probably because it was a little open.

I am thankful all our stuff was safely away. Now of course while I have my den door and the hotroom door locked anyone could get into the house. I saw Feltham P.W.D. this morning and he has promised to board up all the downstairs windows first and perhaps later on upstairs too. I’ll try and run up tomorrow or next day.

Later  at N.T.C.

Well the car didn’t fail me after all - I got Amah and all her stuff – you what that’s like! And some of mine and off I went about 8.20. I got her safely here – wrote a short report – back to CSO and then up the Peak again. The car was packed coming back with the little market coolie’s stuff and mine. We got safely down so now I’m here for the duration. I’ve not been very busy today so I got my unpacking and tidying don – we have to have dinner at 6 in the last of the daylight so we’ll be early to bed. But it’s dark until 7.30 or so so it will be a long night. But I’m quite safe here which is the only thing that really matters. I have got my office blacked out so that I can sit alone in the evening and write to you. I sent you a cable today – I wonder when it will reach you.

So Goodnight Darling    Love from Billie


Dearest – another day with a nasty blitz in the morning and then another peace offer. The HK Bank was hit twice – one shell going into the office next to the one used by Septic but he wasn’t there. They have moved Medical H.Q. again. Another hit a room in Gloucester next to one used by the Rings but they weren’t there either – they hit the clock too. But the damage is infinitesimal. They have undoubtedly got up some bigger guns however and we expect some heavy shelling tonight or early tomorrow morning. I run along to the C.S.O. - in a tunnel every morning, hand in my report, and I’ve usually some other things to do and then back here. That is the only time I’m out - though today with the armistice on again I went in at teatime or so and also (I nearly forgot) ran up to the house just before tiffin. It is just the same and Feltham says he can do nothing just now. But as there is a curfew order on and the A.R.P. wardens and Police regularly patrol the Peak there is little chance of anything being stolen. At any rate we just have to risk it – the place might be bombed to bits some day, or go on fire. I can’t get our stuff down now.

When I was in the C.S.O. tunnel - the blitz started – dive bombing and so forth - and twice the tunnel seemed to shudder and once a hot blast swept in. I stayed there for nearly an hour until the bombing stopped and the gunfire shifted.

Beddow of the Education Dept. was killed yesterday - at Leighton Hill. They had all been warned not to go out on the lawn in front which was in constant observation from Kowloon - he was killed about 3 and there was a bit of a schemozzle because I didn’t get the report till 6.40 and I refused to send out my men to collect his body until dawn today. The military backed me up.

Well I’ve had nice chow today – perhaps we’ll get down that “[?bow] window” before it’s all over. There is a paragraph in the papers tonight which we feel rather applies to us. viz: ((There follows a small, pasted in, newspaper cutting)) 

“It is preferable to lose outlying possessions, however rich, than the heart of the entire East Asia military system, and the Allies should be willing to gamble heavily for the defence of Singapore.”

Unless the Chinese can relieve us and I doubt very much if they can – we need not expect relief from Singapore for many a long day. But we’ll stick it out. So Cheerio Darling. All my love. B.


What gets me down is the waiting - there seems little now that I can do.  I don't go out unless I have to -   I had to see the Controller of Food today.  I went first to the C.S.O. tunnel and for the first time went to the upper part where H.E. and the C. S. are.   They sleep and live there all the time.  The heat and atmosphere generally was awful I thought.  In the lower tunnel it's not so bad.  Then I went to the Food Controller - I had to park outside the Cheero Club - and just at the Bank I saw Harry and Timson with H.E.   H.E. went into the Bank.  He was all alone walking about.  Not long after I got into Holland House - you remember the new building at the corner of Ice House Street and Queens Road - just opposite the bottom of Battery Path - the alert went.  They dive-bombed and scored a direct hit on the Architectural Office of the P.W.D. - one of the so-called temporary buildings erected near the C.S.O.   I was on the second floor of Holland House - we felt the blast and then a shower of stones came down.  Another one fell some way along Queens Road and the third hit the miniature rifle range at Volunteer H.Q.   When at last the all clear went I tried to get back here - up Garden Road but found it was impassable.

They got the A.P.C. installation at North Point too, and a lot of our kerosene has been lost.  The sky has been thick with smoke all day and it is floating over the Peak.  There was another fire near the Power Station - probably coal but it is out now.  But the electric power went off just after we had tiffin.  It went on again about 3 but has gone off again as another alert is on.  I am writing this by candle light as my office is pretty well blacked out - though it's only 4.30 in the afternoon.  

They are your candles.  I have also brought down all the stuff you left for me - we call it our iron rations and they are not to be used unless we are forced to do so.   We have had plenty decent chow so far but cooking is going to be difficult if the electric power stays off.  Still we have a fairly good stock of firewood and in the end will burn all the parallel bars and so forth in the Gym - there are some packing cases there too and shavings.  We'll have to use "chatties" of course.

 Glover is such a decent fellow and pampers me like blazes.  Well I'll stop now and write on later if the light goes on.

I have never mentioned your affairs - things don't seem to be going too well around Kedah and Penang - but they've a long way to go yet.  I was wondering however, whether you would be able to go - or risk going - to Alice in Dacca.  I tried to fix up that you shall get your money as usual from the Bank -   I must try and find out if the wireless got through.  If not   you will have to get some from Alice.  Cheerio just now.  B.

6.30 - dinner over but no light yet.  Not quite such a good meal.  We get too much bread.  I'll try and write later.  B.

8.20pm. No light - so I'm off to bed.  It's the only place - I'm not going to sit downstairs where they have hurricane lamps with the Inspectors and Chinese clerks.  Roe and Glover go down but I don't.   So Goodnight L.O.  B.


Sweetheart - I wonder what you're hearing about us - they made a landing on the Island last night.  Kerfoot, one of the lads who came up from Singapore with me last January got a grenade thrown into his Bren carrier from above and he was killed. We have had a much quieter day - probably because they don't know where their own troops are. I am very afraid we won't be able to hold out long.

I went down town this morning again to see the Controller of Transport and to go to the Bank about small money - I drew H 1000 in H 1 notes and 10 cent notes. I went along and saw Bertie at teatime - he is looking pretty well but obviously shaken a good bit. I couldn't do with that bunch of women round me - Dora and Margery of course, Mrs. Mike Turner, Beryl Shipworth (Fair that was) and another woman. I had a cup of tea and promised to cash a cheque for Bertie. It is only 5.30 but dinner is ready so I must run.

Now ten to 7 - all quiet - so we had a walk along the road to the corner - just at Upper Levels Police Station - just beyond Euston. The fire at the A.P.C. installation at North Point is still burning and some house on the upper levels is also on fire.

Dora was of course asking for you and I could only tell her I'd had one wire and had tried to send two. They were talking about N.L who was on the Ulysses - and so I fear was my Christmas parcel. On the 9th she reported she was being bombed half way between here and Singapore. I am afraid she would be sunk. But of course she might have escaped.
Well Honey - I can't write more - I must try and write by day in the future.          Goodnight Loved One.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Billie.


N.T.C.
Saturday 20/12/41

Sweetheart,

This was the day on which I was going to win a "packet" at the Races and fly to see you at dawn tomorrow! 

I suppose you are still hearing London wireless - with no electric power  we can hear nothing  and in my case  whenever ZBW  went on the air  the Japs could  at once accurately  determine its site - by direction finders -  and then they shelled it.   I hear that last night London said something like this "We have no news from H.K. but Tokyo claims that 3,ooo men have landed on the Island and its capture will therefore  only take a few days."    Some men have landed but not 3,000 I think and we are I believe beating them back. I think they captured the Power Station having landed nearby and they were in Tai Hang village yesterday and near Caroline Hill today.   It will be very serious if they get to Taitam.  But we keep hoping on.  Conditions are all right here, in fact we have had a very quiet day, no bombing or shelling.  I suppose they expect now to capture us intact.  It is funny we've never heard where the Canadians are - they were on Kowloon side of course - and the Royal Scots too.  D.O.K. how many got back.  There is a story that Chinese planes dive bombed the Japanese in Kowloon this morning.  I think of you three so much and feel so sorry for you in all this worry and if we have to give in - you will worry all the more.  But we can't help it.  I do so hope you are still fairly comfortable in Singapore - how I wish now you had gone to Australia.  It is 4.30 now and I am writing by daylight - it is no use trying to write later.  Cheerio Darling - you are always in my thoughts.       Billie.

5.30pm.   Great news has come through - they are mopping up the Japs and the Chinese troops are approaching Kowloon - said to be 100,000 strong.  3 large bombers escorted by 6 fighters dive bombed the Jap positions in Kowloon this morning -   I heard this as a rumour but now it is confirmed (Later.  This was all rubbish of course)   I shouldn't be surprised if we are relieved within a week.  Oh! Darling - we could stick it out much longer but for your sake I hope it comes true.  What a relief to your worrying it would be.  That is rather the worst of this place, we are rather cut off from the centre of things.  The first few days while I was still in Statue Square we used to go into the Supreme Court and one day I had a real grandstand view of the bombing of Stonecutters!  Here we are very sheltered and can see nothing - and I go out as seldom as I can.  Dinner on so I must run.  B.


9a.m.     No more news yet but we had a very quiet night.  So we hope things are going well.
Later  12.30pm.    I got some lime juice today so I'm having a gimlet!  No more news but things seem to be developing all right.  I have authority now to send lorries to Aberdeen again and as far as Causeway Bay.  I was making a joke today and tried to take bets that we'd be all in our homes by Christmas - we might!  Here's hoping!  Well I'm told tiffin is ready so I must run - and I've hardly touched my gimlet!      Cheerio, Darling.    B.

Later 5.45       Poor Roe - I let him off this afternoon and he went up the Peak  - his wife and 2 children were in Peak Mansions until yesterday  morning,  when after a plastering  * there -  they went to 178 - then they got a frightful  plastering there this morning so he has brought them down here. 

*I had to stop there and have chow. Now it is rather dark and I am writing with my flashlight on.

We have all done our best for the Roe family - it's not quite right however, and I don't know what to do!   After all several of the Inspectors have wives on the Peak too and we can't put up the lot.  But we'll see how it pans out.

News is not quite so good tonight - I think they got some reinforcements over last night and today - well we can only hope the Chinese are coming nearer.  We hear they are at [?Sha Tanbot]  and  [?Shamchun]  and one rumour is  that they are  as near as 13 1/2 mile Beach on the Castle Peak Road.  We can only wait and see.

I saw Bertie again today - up and about - but still a good deal shaken.  I took him cigs. and cashed a cheque for him, H300 out of my imprest account. Well this is not easy going so I'll stop.  All my love  Darling.   Billie.


8.45am.  News not so good yet we can just carry on.  I'll write later       B.
11.15   Nothing much to do and very quiet today.  We have maintained our positions but we are not pushing them back - still it is said that the Chinese are shelling the Japs in Sham Shui Po so perhaps relief will come quickly  I've never mentioned Betsy -  I thought I'd have to have her destroyed but I brought her here.  She is not getting as good chow as she is accustomed to but she is getting a fair amount. With all the glass lying about that last night and morning and she would follow me everywhere she got a little splinter in one foot.  Coolie got it out next day and so far as we can see there is absolutely nothing wrong with her foot or leg but she will persist on going about on 3 legs - very annoying.
I have a certain amount of organisation and re organisation to do each morning and evening but for the rest of the day there is nothing to do.  I didn't go into town this morning - I'm going to try to stop that now. Cheerio again. Glover is just back with the rations   B.
12.15now!   I wonder all the time what you are hearing and thinking.  I am sure Ian will keep your spirits up.    But I suppose you are all working now - Joy at the wireless - D.O.K. what you'll be doing , or Ian.  I'm glad he got his exam over first - it may be of use later.  I have just had Puckle in seeing me- he is Iron Biscuit's [?Steele-Perkins] successor.  He says they never landed at Repulse Bay but in great strength at North Point and then captured Wongneichong Gap and so on to Repulse Bay and even to Aberdeen.  I hear Timson was trapped in his house on the Repulse Bay Road and either shot or grenaded.  France, lecturer in History has been killed.
Now 5.15p.m.  I had to stop there as some work came in.  I ran into town this afternoon just after 4 to see Macleod at Medical H.Q. - we fixed up some things.  It is so much easier than trying to do it by phone; it was absolutely quiet then and still is.   The roads have been damaged a good deal so it is not always easy to drive.
 Did I tell you about my lovely car?  I think I did. It is a Plymouth - at least 30 H.P. - with gear change operated from the steering wheel handle.  I am getting in to it now and it really is a beautifully running car. But it has a much longer wheel base than my Ford V8 and turning is not so easy.  Now more news yet - I must ring up [?W.J.] later. Chow will be on soon. so I'll stop  Darling.  I think of you all day long these days - what a reunion it will be now after all these days. 
Goodnight Little Lady.  All my love always    B.


8.30am   Darling - I wouldn't have forgotten this year but Happy Valley is cut off and I can't go there.  I may be able to go later. It's the 21st Anniversary.  News not so good this morning - the Japs are pushing us back I'm afraid but worst position for us just now is that no water is coming through.  They may have seized Taitam.  We lost lot through broken mains.  The problem of flush w.c.s now arises - I am trying to arrange something for here - we have bad luck always -  a tank lorry which we used  for flushing  streets is of course in Kowloon!  But will surmount the difficulty.  But nobody knows anything about anything now - all my old Inspectors - Frith and Brewer are retired, Reid is on leave - are gone and I have to tell them where there are wells and [?nullah] supplies.  Well I must see about things.  Latest report is that our tanks are filling up so we are all right for today.  I'll write on later. B
5.pm.   Quite busy but still thwarted at every turn.  It's terribly difficult - we just can't collect bodies when shelling is going on. and they say the  road past the Jockey Club Stands is thick with bodies - we can't get near it. We have I think solved our water problem here - we can get water (and it is good water) from the spring at H.K.D.S and we shall use it for washing purposes.  We wash our hands when necessary, and we are always getting grubby, in the w.c. cistern and then flush it at the end of the day!
I'm depressed tonight Darling - we are not doing well and unless relief comes by the end of the year we are done - if we are not overwhelmed before that.  We have only water now for 12 days. But we'll have to stick it out as long as we can and hope for the best.  Forgive me if I don't write more tonight - I am rather in the slough of despond. But will get out of it sometime soon I hope.     All my love always Little One    Billie 

 


Little One Darling,
No news yet this morning - a fairly quiet night - we were invaded by about 30 P.W.D men last night - I had gone over the building with Nicol and had said of course we'd do what we could for them. Purves rang up later and said 6 or 7 were coming - it was dark when they came. I was sorry for them but they were noisy! We are holding our own I think - water is the serious problem. This day last year! - what heavenly  bliss! - as I write 9.30 am I was just about getting off the ship. What excitement! Well there will be all the excitement of our next meeting and we must just look forward to that. The C.S. is coming to see us this morning.     B.
I heard from the C.S. today that the boat N.L. was on and I hope also my Christmas parcel got through safely to Singapore. I do so hope my parcel was on it - and that it has reached you - I shall think of you all tomorrow of course - I should be happier if I knew you had got it - I can only pretend that I know to hope. I think I'll try and find out. I phoned up the Post Office and after making some enquiries around the Deputy Supt. of Parcels tells me that he is sure it was on that boat. I am so glad and I shall have a much happier Christmas for I think you will like what I sent. Oh! I am cheered up. I never enquired before as we were all sure the ship was sunk!  And wondered if N.L. had survived.   Cheers!    Very little action today but a shell hit N.T.C. away up in the corner - an amazing thing - there was no explosion and only a little glass broken. We have searched and can find no fragments of shell etc. And so we are convinced that it came in and went out again. They have fired a lot of duds - one was found to have been made in Britain in 1918! I hear that 152 is still o.k. but a shell hit 151 in Ralston's flat.
What a Christmas eve this is, however, compared with last year's - next one I am sure will be gloriously happy again. Just keep hoping Darling and do try so hard to keep well. - all of you. For I need you all so much. So we must be all fit and well and we shall have some glorious years yet.
All my love for all time.   Billie.

 


CHRISTMAS 1941   10.30am    Loved One, many many more may we see together.
Amah has deserted us - I am so angry - she came and told me last night she wanted to sleep downtown as her sister couldn't sleep on the floor - and I said yes.  I didn't see her take her box away or I'd have known.  Wait till I see her!  Things don't seem to be going very well.  and I'm afraid I'm a wee bit down in the dumps  on this of all mornings.  But you can't help it.  H.E. sent out an encouraging message but things look rather  black for us at present.
Later - 6pm.  Darling - I heard about 4 - just before I went off to see Bertie - oh!  the humiliation and I am so sorry for you  hearing about it for you will think it will be much worse than I expect it will be.  I'll carry on in the next.   B.B
6pm.
Little One Darling,  
The Cease fire was ordered at 3.25 but there is still some shelling going on - just started up and a plane has just dropped a bomb but it will soon all stop. D.O.K. what will happen to us - I should imagine we will be ordered to carry on our ordinary jobs for the present. I don't think they'll intern us or take us to Japan but you never can tell. It is no use my telling you not to worry for it will be a terrible time for you until it is all over. But we must stick it Darling and we shall have many happy years together yet. I can't write more so Goodnight Darling.   B.

 


My Love,
12 noon now - I haven't tried to write - one's feelings are so upset. I was rung up at 4.30 this morning by [?Winnith] - that the General hoped I'd get busy clearing the dead and sweeping up the streets - I nearly replied B------ the General - but I just said Oh Yes. But I can't go out myself - they'd commandeer my car I am sure and I can't send the lorries out until safe conduct passes or something are fixed up. I could get no one on the phone in the C.S.O. and at last got D.M.S. He went himself to the Japanese H.Q. and has fixed up something. We must carry on of course or there will be a horrible epidemic - so we are all to work under the Red Cross now and I am to get passes for my lorries etc.  Tiffin coming on now so I'll stop.   B.
I got all my passes and so I went into town this afternoon -  I was stopped  several times but they soon passed me on  We have had a visit too from a posse - they told me they think this place will be suitable for a hospital  so we may have to turn out soon.  I have all sorts of schemes in my head to salvage our belongings - I may try  some day. Well  Darling  I can't write much these days  - forgive me. 
 I think of you all the time and wish I knew how and when you heard the news and what you felt.  But don't worry about me - we'll be all right.   So Cheerio Darling.   B.

 


I couldn't write more last night  - we were on the go  the whole time. Another posse came and said they would soon bring 500 men - I bargained with them and they agreed to leave us half of the accommodation we previously had so we had a busy evening.  Then this morning I wasn't sure if they would let us leave with all our stuff but we got away and are now in the Bacteriological  Institute. I don't know how long we'll be able to stay here - we have ample water from a good spring - but can get no food.  We have been in twice first for some sort of news and I, first of all, thought of going to our old offices - they are empty  but I  don't think they are suitable.  Septic invited me to go into his place at the Bank but I prefer to stay here.  I won't be able to write much now so I'll stop just now.    B.

 


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