D F Davies's report on the escape from Shamshuipo POW Camp in Jan 1942
REPORT ON AN ESCAPE FROM SHUM SHUI PO (KOWLOON) , HONG KONG PRISONERS' OF WAR CAMP, MADE ON 9th JANUARY, 1942.
The camp was actually the NANKING and HANKOW Barracks, KOWLOON, which were believed to be evacuated at the outset of the Japanese war.
Our Party consisted of:-
- Colonel L.T. RIDE (HONG KONG VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS), Senior Medical Officer of the Camp.
- Lieutenant (E) D.W. MORLEY, (H.K.R.N.V.R.)
- Sub-Lieutenant D.F. DAVIES -do-
- Private LEE (Chinese) - (Field Ambulance)
In civil life, Davies, Morley, and Ride were all on staff of H.K. University, and Lee was a clerk to Colonel Ride.
The plan of escape was evolved by Colonel Ride and owed its success largely to the loyal aid given by Lee.
The following report is taken from the Diary of Sub-Lieutenant D.F. Davies, H.K.R.N.V.R.
((Several maps of the escape route are available online at https://gwulo.com/node/35232))
8th January, 1942.
From Morley's attached plan of the camp, It is seen that the corner "A” was loosely guarded.
On the night of the 8th January, Lee left by this corner having already contacted a sampan which would, for a consideration of 10 dollars a head, take him from "A" across the stretch of water and land him near the Castle Peak Road. Lee was to don Chinese clothes and see if there were Japanese troops in that area, and also to enquire if WAICHOW for which we were eventually to make, was in Japanese or Chinese hands. He was to return 24 hours later on the night of the 9th, and if his return was uneventful, and his news satisfactory, the remaining three were to leave with him immediately in the sampan which had brought him back to camp.
9th January, 1942.
Morley and I spent the day of the 9th in preparation, haversacks, clothes and a small supply of tinned food, a little of which certain Units had brought with them from Kong Kong.
On the afternoon of the 9th, Ride brought the disconcerting news that he had been present at the main gate when a soldier had been brought hack to camp after an attempted escape (under the wire?), and that the Commander of the Japanese Guard had then issued an order threatening all future escapees with shooting on capture. In addition, the British Camp Authorities were ordered to send in numbers, etc., in the different Units, on the following morning. This had not been previously done, although we had occupied the camp since the 30th of December, and if, as arranged, our escape plan bad been privately reported to our Commanding Officer, then Morley and I would never have existed officially. The case of Colonel Ride is more difficult as he was known by sight to some of the Japanese Medical Officers. In any case, it should not be too difficult for future escapes to be reported, by the British Camp Authorities, as having died from dysentery.
Lee was successfully contacted at "A" at about 2000. We all had piled into the bottom of the sampan by 2030, the sampan then containing with its crew, six people, (the maximum number for its size, an obvious limitation on the number of future escaping parties).
There were searchlights playing from the Hong Kong side, but these did not appear to be in the nature of a definite search; otherwise it was quite dark, the moon being due about 0200 on the following morning, and only the phosphorescence betrayed any movement. I gather, however, that there is now a possibility that KOWLOON will be reasonably well-lit.
We disembarked in about 20/30 minutes at a point which seemed to be a berthing place for sampans, hurried across the Castle Peak Road, and then scrambled up the hill-side making for the newly improved Reservoir (TAIPO) Road above.
Our night observations had shewn that there was almost continuous motor traffic on this road, chiefly away from KOWLOON and so more care was needed here. The plan adopted was to wait in a hollow on the camp side of the road until a truck had passed to light up the road and then dart across, singly, soon after. This was done by about 2230. Then began a cross-hill hike in the general direction of KAI TAK with the camp’s boundary lights still visible below us.
This was carried on, with only short intervals of rest, until dawn of -
10th January, 1942.
We were practically above KAI TAK aerodrome some little time after dawn.
The rest of the day was spent in rain, drizzle or fog, and we met no one since we avoided anything like a main road and kept to the almost invisible hill paths. Chinese help seems almost imperative for this kind of work, and Lee was particularly good in picking up these paths.
Many pill-boxes were passed en route, some damaged, but the majority intact apart from apparent looting. These then contained plenty of .303 ammunition but no food. Night found us completely lost in a mist on the top of a hill with a village below us. Colonel Ride's map was too small a scale to be of very definite help and a larger scale map with pill-box numbers on it would have been of incalculable help since these reference numbers would have helped us to fix our position accurately,
11th January, 1942.
With moonrise and the dissipation of the mist we stumbled down a ravine to the village arriving just at dawn. Ride, Morley and I went into hiding near the village and Lee went to the village to get information and food. A glance at Ride's map and Lee's information confirmed that we were on the opposite side of the water to the SHATIN Straight, a position which it was our original intention to avoid at all costs!
Our intention was then to follow the easy coast path from the village to any convenient sampan base in TOLO Harbour but frequent groups of villagers and more particularly, two Japanese in rowing boats, caused us to change our minds and make overland for such a base.
This decision involved the ascent of TURRET HILL, which was done towards the middle of the afternoon, and then we passed through a series of villages en route to our "base". The first village was SAN UK where Lee reported the absence of Japanese and food. If questioned en route through these villages it was our intention to describe ourselves as Germans. This precaution was unnecessary as the villagers were not too inquisitive since Japanese had not penetrated so far at that time. Probably, in future, all such villages would have to be avoided. This means more food and a billy-can for boiling river water. A similar reception was obtained at the next village.
Finally, near the village of MAU PING we met a group of villagers who attached themselves to us and obtained for us a Chinese meal at MAU PING.
Some of the same villagers then offered to guide us to SAIKUNG, our "base”, and bargain there for a sampan to take us out of TOLO Harbour. Lee and one such guide went on ahead to make preliminary enquiries while we three and another guide followed at a slower pace, this time on the main path to SAIKUNG as the villagers believed correctly that we would not meet Japanese en route.
We reached SAIKUNG before dark and were left outside the village.
After two hours wait we contacted Lee who quickly ushered us away from the village because of known NANKING sympathisers there, and out on to the hills where we spent a miserably cold night.
12th January, 1942.
With the dawn we found a more sheltered spot in a nearby wood about two miles from SAIKUNG. Lee then returned to SAIKUNG to look for a boat. He returned with three pieces of bad news:-
- (a) that the only offer of a boat that he had received was for 500 dollars;
- (b) that NANKING sympathisers in the village had had word of the arrival of three Europeans, and
- (c) that his original MAU PING guide had warned us to be on the look-out for a band of robbers known to be operating in that neighbourhood.
The last two pieces of news caused us to retreat still further into the wood just in time, for there began a ten hour search for us by these robbers, whose tramping and crashing around us did nothing to relieve our difficulties. Lee again returned to the village to bargain for a cheaper boat and returned about 1700 with a startling piece of news that our "robbers” were guerillas who had received news of our arrival and who were looking for us in the wood, shouting, "where are our friends of the A.B.C.D. front", though at the time these words were not distinct.
Leaving our hiding-place we were met by the “Sergeant" in charge of the guerillas and taken to a nearby village where we were feted.
After dinner we were taken back to SAIKUNG where we met the local guerilla Liaison Officer, at the schoolroom, who told us that the guerillas had been operating in that area for a week.
Later that night we were hurried, for our protection, from our beds in the schoolroom, to sampans and rowed for an hour in the pitch blackness to the head of a bay near SAIKUNG end there spent the rest of the night in a large house, presumably some sort of base for the guerillas.
13th January, 1942.
About 1700 we were moved some miles across the peninsula to another base where we spent the night. This was, I gather, the local Headquarters of the Guerillas.
Here we received an hour’s propaganda on the work of the guerillas and, indeed, such propaganda was repeated from time to time on route and, of course, must be accepted in all sincerity as it was my impression that these people are in deadly earnest.
14th January, 1942.
We were awakened early and set off at a smart pace for the nearby port of SAIKUNG near which we we re embarked with guards on a sampan. There seemed to be an assortment of arms among these guerillas and these seemed to be entrusted to anyone, irrespective of rank, if, indeed, distinctions of rank, or age existed, since most of the guerillas seemed to be less than 20 years’ old.
Some six to seven hours later, having met no Japanese patrols, we approached the village port of TAI YUEN in "occupied" China. We arrived just after this village had been looted of food and valuables by bandits, apparently from a neighbouring village, but in spite of this, the influence of the guerillas was strong enough to obtain us a good meal in an apparently barren village. In spite of lack of official support and recognition (see "Notes on Guerillas") these guerillas seemed to have plenty of money and in fact, plenty of money would seem to be an absolute necessity on these trips, unless, as happened in our case, all expenses were paid and guaranteed by the guerillas.
The village of TAI YUEN then had an Italian Priest, Father Caruso, who entertained us with tea and hospitality during our waits. His position was a most invidious one as his source of supplies from Hong Kong had been cut off by the surrender and he was hardly likely to prove acceptable to any "free" Chinese Authorities, who were interning Italian subjects. He realised that we were escapees but no information was passed to him by us though undoubtedly he would get all details later from his flock!
The night was spent off-shore in the sampan.
15th January, 1942.
After breakfast we left TAI YUEN at noon our guards now being reduced to two guerillas the rest of the party apparently following later with the supplies of arms and ammunition which had been brought with us in the sampan.
On this part of the journey no attempt was made to hide us or to disguise us, in fact, some two hours later we clattered into the town of KWAI CHUNG where we rested.
After a detour to avoid passing near the Japanese lines, at least that was the reason given by our guards, we arrived at the village of TIN CHUNG about 1630. I gathered that TIN CHUNG was the District Headquarters of the Guerillas, though all such statements must be treated with reserve owing to the well-known difficulty of obtaining exact information from Chinese! Here we met a Guerilla who was either the No.2. of these South China Guerillas, or the District Leader. He introduced us to the Power behind the throne in the person of a village elder who had travelled widely, particularly mentioning "DUTCHEE GUIANA”, and who had come to rest in this village. We stopped at this elder’s house overnight, but before retiring had another extensive propaganda lecture. From this I gathered that these Guerillas were:-
- (a) largely overseas Chinese;
- (b) financed by overseas Chinese, though this source had now been blocked;
- (c) that they were NOT recognised by CHUNGKING and that they were "unofficial” guerillas;
- (d) that they had communistic leanings.
16th January, 1942.
Our night's march began at 1930 as we were to walk some 15 miles largely through Japanese territory. For this purpose we formed part of-a large convoy, all wearing soft soled shoes, with advance guards, rear guards and flankers of guerillas. Actually the guerillas had vaguely offered to take us through the Japanese lines by day but later this was withdrawn as not being worth the risk.
In the unlikely event of meeting with Japanese patrols we were to carry on while some of the guerillas would draw the Japanese away with bursts of Tommy-gun fire.
We had a 5-10 minutes rest every hour, with special warnings about noise when passing near to Japanese lines and particularly when crossing the main road which I later learnt was probably the TAMSUI - LUNG HOW main road.
A little time before midnight we met the Advance Guards from our destination, who had come to meet our convoy. Owing to the size of the party, probably at least fifty, these new guards refused to take on anyone except our four selves.
17th January, 1942.
We reached our destination, the village of LO NGAH SHAN, about 0130, and spent the night in the local schoolroom. We had been told that this village was "safe" at the end of "occupied" KWANGTUNG and at the beginning of the No Man's Land terminating with "free" KWANGTUNG at WAICHOW.
Up to this very last day the actions of the guerillas in guarding and convoying us had been worthy of the highest praise but they failed lamentably at the last moment. Contrary to all previous practice the village was raided by Japanese troops and Cavalry; I gathered later that no sentries had been posted by the guerillas and the alarm was given by small boys from the village with whose help we scrambled up into the hills and worked away from the village towards the Chinese lines which we were told were "nearby". We continued cross-hill for some time until we could see the main road running through the village to WAICHOW. Unfortunately in hurried retreat, Ride's and Lee's haversacks were left behind. The former contained some evidence of his name and some anti-Japanese lectures, while the latter contained the names, in Chinese, of various guerillas etc., whom we had met. We later learnt that the Japanese had raided the schoolroom and as a result of their finds there had searched and questioned the village until 1600 before leaving.
At this point, above the WAICHOW road, we parted with our sole remaining guerilla since this apparently was the end of their "beat", and had one of the village boys as a guide for the next stage of our journey.
This really completes our "escape" as we could now travel less furtively since we were near "Free" China. We were still not considered "safe" until WAICHOW so:)- 1700 we reached DAI SHAN HA - some miles behind the Chinese outposts through which we were "officially" conducted.
18th January, 1942.
From the nearby village of SUN HEUI we embarked on the back seats of hired push-bikes which took us some 20 miles along the broken-up main road to WAICHOW. Cars could not pass owing to large and frequent anti-tank excavations and broken bridges etc., on this main road.
Two hours' run brought us to WAICHOW where we met Mr. WONG the District Administrator who informed the Provincial Authorities of our arrival.
We were put up at the Seventh Day Adventist Mission WAI ON American Hospital.
23rd January, 1942. Left WAICHOW by river-boat for LUNG CHUN about 160 miles by water.
29th January, 1942. Arrived LUNG CHUN and left by lorry for SHAUKWAN (KUKONG) wartime capital of KWANGTUNG.
30th January, 1942. Arrived at SHAUKWAN. Here we left Colonel Ride who went to CHUNGKING and Lee who probably joined the guerillas.
4th February, 1942. Left at 1800 by train for HANGYANG.
5th February, 1942. Arrived at HANGYANG.
6th February, 1942. Left HANGYANG by train for KWEILIN.
7th February, 1942. Arrived at KWEILIN.
8th February. 1942. Left KWEILIN by train for LUICHOW.
9th February, 1942. Arrived at LUICHOW.
10th February, 1942. Left LUICHOW by train for the railhead at CHING CHIANG CHING. Arrived at 1600.
By lorry from CHING CHIANG CHING to HOCHI about 27 miles away.
12th February, 1942. Left HOCHI by bus for KWEIYANG.
16th February, 1942. Arrived at KWEIYANG.
22nd February, 1942. Left KWEIYANG with a British Military Mission convoy returning to KUNMING.
25th February, 1942. Arrived at KUNMING.
26th February. 1942. Left KUNMING by plane for LASHIO (Northern Shan States). Arrived at LASHIO.
5th March, 1942. Left LASHIO by plane for CALCUTTA. Arrived at CALCUTTA.
14th March, 1942. Left CALCUTTA by train for COLOMBO.
18th March, 1942. Arrived COLOMBO.
The original document is held in the UK's National Archives, their reference ADM 199/357, document 10351.