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

W J Carrie's wartime diary: View pages

Though Italy does not appear to be out of the war yet it is clear she is nearly finished. We have had raids here 3 days running but yesterday it clouded over and this morning  we had a thunderstorm so they may stay away again today. It is a real tonic to see them.  Of course they do only "slight" damage  according to the HK News and are chased away by AA fire - which so far as we can see is never anywhere near the planes!  They apparently have no planes here to send up and fight them.
I've been busy the last few days finishing up my quarter's accounts as Treasurer for the I.Q. - we started in February so we are always rather out of  step with the calendar but that doesn't matter.  So I am ready for my auditors tomorrow!
  Next room they want to borrow this pen so I'll' shut up for the present.        A.I.A.W.      B.B.

Another month started - we've been 18 months in durance vile.  It could be a lot worse but it is horrible enough.  We have had blackouts too - punishment ones for 2 nights - no light from 7pm to 6am.  So we just have to sit in the dark, smoke, talk and think.  I'm quite glad of old de Martin's company then.  Normally we are blacked out  from midnight only but "lights out" is at 10 every night so we are early to bed.        No news Honey and so weary!  
 All my love     Billie.

One man writing home to try and describe our food situation and yet get past the censor, wrote "We have tiffin at 11am and washup at 5 past."      We have had another meatless day today - but we had 50 lbs of pork  left from yesterday - 50 lbs among 750 people! - so tonight I was washing up at 5.15pm - and I have no more chow till tomorrow.  I had however an egg this morning.  Eggs cost 80 sen each! ie 11 pence each at the exchange we get our allowance. So 20 Y a month, or even 25 as it ought to be doesn't go far.
No more news - still waiting.  No more bombing here either - the rumour is that leaflets were dropped warning Chinese to leave H.K. especially those in the dockyards, and that real bombing is to start in 10 days.  We'll see next Monday - the 9th as the 10 days will be up then.       Cheerio Darling.  B.

Another I.R.C. letter form came today - of 11/2/43 - lovely - I now know how you were less than 6 months ago.  Ian has had rapid "promotion" - he was in the 3rd XV when he wrote  on 11/10/42  so he must be some lad at rugger.  I find we can send replies to these forms [(the following written above) - wrong again - No can.] so I'll think one out tonight.  How to express all you want to say into 25 words! Of course Joy's exams would go well and I'm so glad Ian got the necessary credits in his O. and C. Certificate.  I was speaking to a man today and he said "Fancy another 2 years of this" - but you must never let your mind dwell on such thoughts - hope on always for an early release.  I hear Dora had a letter but I haven't seen her yet.  I'll write on later.    B.
I've seen Dora - it was the same form  from Ernie Spence - she wrote that he had seen you and that you were "elated  by the good news" -  D.O.K. what that was at the end of January - probably repatriation and you'll long ere this have got weary of waiting - like us - but hope on.   A.I.A.W.   B.

4pm - just 7am with you - another week you will be saying.  I am sorry if you were all buoyed with news of repatriation away back in January for these things take a very long time to settle.  Weather has been very wet and dreary lately but we hope it is going to clear up now.  Great news of the German retreat from Orel has cheered us.  No other news however.                  Cheerio Honey.   B.

Terrible weather - it has rained continuously for over a week.  No cigarettes either so we are all fed up!

The weather has at last cleared up and it is hot and clear.  A bunch of planes came over today, very high, but I think they were Japs as the Fort didn't fire at them.  No news yet though we all think that repatriation is getting nearer - probably the Canadians will get away first - it doesn't matter if the boat brings us food.  They have started a meatless day on top of our low rations  - they just can't get the food, no one will sell for worthless paper Yen and ships take stuff  to Macao instead where they are still paid in H.K. dollars.
The newspaper is obviously not giving us all the news but we can see that things are going well - Sicily  nearly cleared  up and Russia going strong.  I think it will be over in Europe this year and another year or even only 6 months should finish Japan.
 I had a blood count yesterday, quite good still 4,140,000 and Haemoglobin 82% - and then I had another injection  - so I keep going.  I'm very thin however  - even Lin  called me  a scarecrow the other day  and wondered how you'll  like me!!
 CheerO Honey - I'll fatten up quickly I'm afraid!  
 AML  AML      B.B.

 I haven't written all week - I have been a little depressed -  I had such high hopes first that I'd be home for the 31st and then when  that hope passed that at least it would be very soon.  The Yanks seem to have got in first again and the C.S. was informed the other day that a boat would leave Japan on the 15th and after calling at Shanghai, and perhaps elsewhere, be here before the end of September to take Americans and Canadians.  I still have a sneaking feeling that the women and children and perhaps sick men may also get away then; if not then the boat will be back by November for them and perhaps for us all.  So we may be home for Christmas.  I do so hope we are.   We (Govt.) may of course only go as far as India but I think we must have holiday at home before we can tackle  the problems of re-occupation.
We had our I.Q. elections the other day - Pentreath and Bevan stood down and also Miss Ward.  So we had only 4 nominations for 4 seats and voting was unnecessary.  We now have Perdue as Chairman (I declined), Rev Alton as Vice, and  Mackenzie Dow   Saunders (Police) and [?Tully Wood] Sec.   Terry and I are members ex officio as members of the B.C.C. Now elections for that are to be held.  Terry has retired, funked it I think  because Pentreath is standing.  I thought of retiring and consulted the C.S. and as he apparently wants me to stand I consented. The only other candidate is Markar who was a member of the Bolshy B.C.C. at the beginning.  I hope he's not elected. 
Some more of the anti-Govt., and especially anti-Gimson lot are standing for the other Blocks so we may have fireworks in the B.C.C. in future.  The Japs have said that on repatriation we may not take letters with us so how I'm going to smuggle this out D.O.K. but I hope to manage it some way.      All my love.  Billie.

I didn't write on Sunday as I was lazy! I have since had two hectic days. Yesterday I had to go and get Sir Vandeleur Grayburn's body out of the Prison. He had died on Saturday night and I suppose there had been great discussions how or whether they could hide the fact but they eventually decided to let us bury him. The body was in a terrible state of course - he is said to have died of beriberi, a sufficient condemnation, but I saw no signs - leg swelling for example. Lady G. was never informed he was ill - Gimson had to go and tell her. She insisted on seeing the body. The whole cemetery was pervaded by the smell - there was a very large turnout, of course. My duties were most unpleasant but I am in charge of all burials etc.
Then today we had the initial B.C.C. meeting - then a very long meeting of the I.Q. Commitee. I have at last persuaded them to meet in future in the evening - we sat from 12.30 to 2.20 and I was exhausted - it's very hot these days. Then I had to up to the godowns just outside bounds but on the main road. I have at last got our little camphor wood box which was in the Dairy Farm Cold Storage - it was brought out here months ago and has lain there since. I had no key but I managed to force it open without damaging the box in the slightest. Inside is your fur coat - you must have missed it when you got home from Singapore on 25th February - I hope you got another one. Then also a nice little brown evening cape, a little necklet (of Joy's?) and fur lined gloves and of course our lovely eiderdown quilt. I had to take everything out to let the Gendarmes see them. Now I have aired them for a little and put them back. They all look and feel perfectly fresh, dry and in good condition. I now hope I can get them safely away from here. So we have our excitements. No money came in yet so the whole Camp is penniless - it's to be in in a day or so       AML AML.     BB
Dearest -     Another lovely letter arrived yesterday 26/8 - No 31 of Jan 10th. My last letter was No 20 of 25/10/42 so there is a long hiatus. I had of course your I.R.C. forms of 23/12  20/1  and 11/2. I was so glad to get it and hear all your news - soon I ought to hear more about the letter or form Jimmie got in Dacca. I am sorry to hear Edith has been so unhelpful but she is old maidish - she can't help it, I suppose. Don't let it worry you - our Aunt Jane was just the same. I am glad Michael is turning out well. Joy and Alastair dinner dancing at the Caley! - my word - you and I never got that length!! Joy says she wishes you could get a resident maid - I do too - these daily maids are never very satisfactory but I suppose it's almost impossible to find one these days.
I see I said I didn't write on Sunday because I was lazy - I had forgotten the reason. I was very busy - I spring cleaned the flat as it was the last day on my own - Fisher came back on Monday evening after 7 weeks in hospital - he had an operation for hernia. - delayed several weeks as they couldn't get sterilised dressings from town. The money came in at last on Wednesday so I was busy yesterday paying out 18,050 Yen. I got it all done in one day - I must be better for I didn't feel nearly so tired after it all as I have on previous occasions. I am to have another blood count tomorrow.                             No more tonight.  Cheero       L.O.      B.

Just had my weekly bath with warm water and all clean clothes - so I feel nice and fresh. It's been very hot the last week or so but it's better than rain. We have had several raids and the Japs are getting cross and have threatened us with gaol even if we don't take cover - we show our delight too much! Pennefather Evans and [?Wilmont} were released yesterday - very thin and shaken - they have been threatened with detention again if they talk so they are not saying anything. It's quite clear they have had a rough time of it. Election day tomorrow - I'm not worrying - I don't really care nowadays - there would be nothing personal in not being elected - Markar the third man is working hard to get in but I don't think he'll succeed.
CheerO.  Darling.     B.

Wifie Mine,
The Day of Days - it is hard to be separated but I feel sure it won't be so very long now. The Canadians have been told they leave on 23rd Sept. - if they the same ship it ought to be back here, up to Japan and again here by the end of November. Then we'd be in Goa by the middle of Dec and if I could fly home I might be home for Christmas -at least soon after the New Year.
Two lovely letters arrived yesterday 33 & 34 of Jan 24th and 31st. You'd had a "message" from Jimmie but where oh! where is the little letter I sent out with Mrs Anderson inside a cigarette! I think she must've funked it. You had written to her so perhaps you have heard what happened. How horrible Joy having her instruments stolen -you mention that Geoffrey Thatcher has been "newly equipped too" but I don't know why! You must have got some sort of written message for you use the phrase "material losses" which I know is one I used. I am so glad always to see the children's "fists" - Ian asks about Betsy in this one.
So Pam's marriage is off!
It is just after 4 - 7am with you - you'll be getting up and I know thinking of me this morning.
I was knocked out in the election yesterday - I am really profoundly glad but sorry the anti Gimsonites (1 here and 1 in the Married Qrs) have got in. I'll tell you all about it someday.                        A.M.L.    A.M.L.     Your  B.B.


Dearest,   Still today.  It is now 9pm - 12 noon with you.  I have been thinking of you all evening - wishing - longing to be with you.  Dora came along and gave me a "peck" and wished me many Happy Returns.   She is terribly thin.  I had my last Committee meeting tonight  and am now a gentleman of leisure- still  L.C. on Wednesdays and I may have to continue on the Canteen Cttee (I'd like to) but I have no other fixed  engagements.  I'll spend my time reading.        So CheerO Darling.     A.I.A.W.      B.

I sent off our August p.c. yesterday -  I hadn't seen any instructions and so I mentioned  "exchange" or repatriation.  This I am now told is forbidden so it may be torn up.  Perhaps Bill Faid will stop it but I feel I'd like to risk it.  In any case I feel sure I'll be almost on its heels - we'll be out of here by the end of November.  I was depressed the other day to think there was still 3 whole months to go but we hope it will be true then.
There was a big air raid yesterday and they hit the petrol tanks at Lai Chikok and Tai Kok Tsui.  An immense column of smoke rose up which we could see and at night the sky flickered with light.  So today we were told that there is no petrol for the ration lorry - tomorrow in any case is a meatless day but after that D.O.K. what is going to happen.
 No news and rather depressed so I'll shut up.        A.I.A.W.     B.

I didn't write yesterday (Sunday) - I was in a real Slough of Despond.  A typhoon was blowing hard, we had exceeded our current quota so the electricity was off and it was dull and dismal indoors all day.  The food situation is grim in the extreme.  They sent in rations yesterday - some fish and veg. But we're all losing weight and will be in a sorry plight soon if extra food doesn't come.  And even if we are exchanged or repatriated that will not affect the military prisoners - a good many have gone to Formosa or Japan - but those that are left will soon have nothing unless regular supplies are sent in.  Bertie is in the huts at Argyle Street - all officers there - and there are still men at Shamshuipo and it is not a nice prospect for them.  The Canadians are lucky - they are to be off on the 23rd. 
No more tonight.     CheerO Darling.    B.

Much cheerier today - we have just had a great raid - the planes flew quite low and machine gunned the H.Q. of the Gendarmerie who guard us.  I hope they killed a few.  I don't think they dropped many bombs - they were escort fighters and I think staged a little celebration for Italy's capitulation.  That is one real milestone passed and I think we are well on the way now - we'll get strong naval reinforcements out here I expect and soon the Japs will feel the pinch.  It might be over by the Spring of next year.
I was awake very early this morning - Fisher is really very quiet but he clumps on his heels when he walks and wakes me up.  I thought of you - Saturday night at home.  Soon I think I'll be with you.
  On that happy thought I'll shut up              AMLAML.     B.

I was up seeing Win this afternoon - she'd had a letter from you dated 9/11/42.  It told her of Ken's death (now nearly 2 years ago).  Win had been in hospital for 4 days with malaria - there's quite a lot about the Camp as we can do nothing in the Village or outside the barbed wire and the Japs do nothing or next to nothing.  I hope I escape - we are practically free of mosquitoes in the Indian Quarters, so I'm hopeful.
The Canadians are off this week - lucky people - they sail on the 23rd.  I've been working out a schedule; if the same boat is used the women - and perhaps myself also - should be away by the 10th of December and be free before the end of the year.  Oh! to be free once more - we may get I.R.C. supplies (more food) by the middle of November (say 8 weeks more) and we shall need them.  We are all half-starved but funnily enough we don't feel terribly hungry - at least not all the time. But it is awful as you pass your hands over your body - washing yourself - to feel every bone. I hope I fatten up a little before you see me or else you will have a shock!
 I am feeling all right - and one gets tired doing the smallest thing - no one has any energy.  I am off all Councils and Committees now so I can take my ease.  My blood count keeps up too - I had another injection on the 13th but I had had none since 14th August.  It's no wonder I'm run down - I've been out nearly 5 Years and the longest tour I'd done before was under 4 years; 1922-1925 was the longest.  But when we get good food again we'll soon pick up.  It will be so nice to be free - no lights out at 10 sharp, no queuing up for chow, a clean bed, clean pillows! Sugar and milk in one's tea! - a sharp razor blade (why didn't I bring my electric razor in with me?! - it's lost now.)
I've been reading your letters again - I still haven't got Nos 21-30 (Lin's is dated just what 22 should be so perhaps some of them will come in soon).  Ian says on 10th Jan he hopes to get into the 1st XV (later confirmed) "but I won't get my Colours until next year."  So he'll be back at the Academy this Autumn.  I've been worrying a bit thinking he might be in the Navy already - I suppose he'll stay at school till his 18th birthday.  So if I get away soon I might see him play for the Academy yet - I'd love to. 
I won't write more tonight.       D.O.K. how I'll get this out - the Gendarmerie have been very strict - no written stuff is to be taken out.  They base their rule on what was done in America as regards the Japs being sent in exchange - I see the American point of view - who could read their hieroglyphics and there might be any amount of secret information in it  but letters in English seem so different - but not to the Japs.  I think I'll try to smuggle it out - if not you'll not see this until after I'm back in H.K. and can recover it and send it to you.
              CheerO Darling.        All my love.    Billie.

Well the Canadians got away yesterday - a horrid wet day and all their hand luggage lay on the jetty for an hour or more in heavy rain so it would be sodden.  I'll only have 2 rattan baskets and my attache case when I go on board - ALL the rest will go in the hold.  I have the camphor wood box with your fur coat etc; my big leather suitcase and my dirty linen bag with blankets.  The ship now called the Teia Maru is the old Messagerie Maritime "Aramis" (or Felix Roussell) - with squat square funnels - latest additions to the M.M. fleet - they are said to be nice boats.  The other day the Italians scuttled the Conte Verde at Shanghai - a pity but necessary.
Gillespie (Jack Coopers successor in I.C.I.) may send you a message telling you how I am; he hopes to get by air to London from India and not have to go to America first. Mrs Fairburn may write too - she was Constance Bonnell - and was Secretary to the Helena May - do you remember her?  She's a very decent sort - has been in the same room as Dora and Margery.
We are expecting news now of our departure - someone will surely come in today or tomorrow.  We want our allowance for Sept. too - I am penniless!   But we keep smiling!       A.M.L.    B.

I had a lovely long lie this morning - till 7.30am - the hot water for tea was late. I didn't get to sleep till at least 2am so I slept on.  Just now I am "a'oot in a" having had 3-4 cups of hot tea - I can drink tea much hotter now than I used to.  No news about our local affairs yet but the news of the fighting in Russia and Italy too is magnificent.  We really are getting on and Germany will have to give in some time.  She may hold out through the winter but I rather doubt if she will.  Then we hear that things are moving out here and so quite a lot of people think we shall not be repatriated after all.  I think we will - even though we (Govt. people) may only have a month or so at home.  I pray and hope we are. I was very angry the other day - in one afternoon about 6 people commented on my loss of weight.  So I weighed myself next day - 118 lbs now!  I knew I was down and the shortest of walks makes one tired but I wish people wouldn't talk about these things.  It doesn't help!  I went to see Lin yesterday - she gave me a nice bookmark - just a slip of khaki cloth, frayed at the edges and W.J.C. sewn on it -very nice.
                          CheerO Darling for another day.       Billie.

Dearest, I haven't written for 10 days or so but I've no news of any kind - the whole camp is rather depressed these days. Some more letters came in recently but none later than 31/1/43 which I received over a month ago. I've had nothing since - a whole month with no word. I keep more optimistic - I am sure the women will be away by the beginning of December and perhaps everybody by the end of January. The war news is good and cheering. I am sure there is a lot we never hear at all. I had a blood count on Saturday - down a bit but perhaps it's only Begbie's different technique - Greaves - got off as a Canadian. So I had another injection today. CheerO Darling - I wish I knew how you all are and how you spent the summer. All my love. Billie. Food has been a bit better but we are on a very low scale.

Absolutely no news and rather fed up - no money either. I spent 2 hours tonight grinding 1 lb of peanuts into butter - you roast them and salt them and then put them through a very fine mincer. I have got a rare lot of butter now - it is very tasty and full of vitamins and protein which we lack. Goodnight Darling. I think of you all the time B.


A lovely "Apple of Discord" was dropped the other day.   The C.S. reported that the that the Jap No 2 in the F.A. Dept. stated he hoped to have news of repatriation soon and that it seemed likely that the list of repatriates would be very different from that originally contemplated.  So now the Camp has given itself over to speculation as to what that means. It would indeed be poetic justice if the women - who did nothing during the blitz but be a nuisance, who stayed here in defiance of Govt. - were to be left behind.  They had their chance to go in July 1940 and a hundred chances in the 17 months up to Dec'41 so why should they get a chance now before men who sent their wives and families away? I really hope that the Home Govt. have so decided - though I am sorry for a few old people - like Mrs Owen Hughes for it may mean their deaths in the end.  We are on very low rations these days and hope that something will come to us when the ship comes back from Goa about the end of the month. I had another blood count today - I haven't heard the result yet. It looked red enough! AML. B.B