Memories of Hong Kong, 1947-51

Submitted by Rhiannon Cohen on Mon, 04/06/2020 - 16:59

Though I have lived in Australia since 1952 much of my heart is in my native Wales and in the Hong Kong of 1947 to 51.

I was sent out (having joined the Colonial Nursing Service) by air - in a Flying Boat. Twelve passengers only, and taking six days – such luxury. Comparing it – I have not been much impressed by many future flights !!!!  

I initially worked at the pleasant Kowloon Hospital – where our nurses were all delightfully pleasant and friendly local girls, while the sisters were mainly from U,K,  The domestic staff in theSisters’ quarters did have nick-names for us I found out, and I was referred to as Tso Jai. When I asked for an explanation  - well Sister Roberts as I was then – could  be termed as rabbit.

The four years were great joy – there, and later at the Queen Mary Hospital, with wonderful medical staff: Chinese, English Canadian, and an anaesthetist from Macau.

I was introduced to some local families, and had great hospitality from George and Irene Lee (Lei Gwock Ing) in Kowloon Tong, and was made welcome by their friends and relatives.  There is so much more !!

It was late in 1948 that I met the love of my life--- the *go-between” being being his beautiful yellow Labrador. David asked me to marry him on a beautiful starlit night at Repulse Bay.  We went to see the rector of Kowloon – but he refused to marry us though I was a regular attendant at his Church – he consulted the Bishop with the same result.

David had left the Admiralty Works dept. (after Madras and Singapore stints) and now worked for the Kadoorie firm as their civil engineer – the Jewish club being one of his projects. 

HK Engineering Construction Co.
HK Engineering Construction Co., by Rhiannon Cohen


However, the Jewish community gave us great support –we had a great wedding – the ladies had decorated the Synagogue with the loveliest flowers, and Mr (later Sir) Horace Kadoorie  walked me down into the service (I have photos of the present Sir Michael as a ten-year-old admiring our ‘going away” car with his sister Rita).

Sir Horace Kadoorie walks the bride down the aisle - 21.8.50
Sir Horace Kadoorie walks the bride down the aisle - 21.8.50, by Rhiannon Cohen


A wedding at the Ohel Leah Synagogue 1950
A wedding at the Ohel Leah Synagogue 1950, by Rhiannon Cohen


Laurence and Horace Kadoorie
Laurence and Michael Kadoorie, by Rhiannon Cohen


Dear  Mr..J. R. Jones of the H.K. S Bank proposed the toast to our future.

J. R. Jones, legal adviser to HKS Bank - Aug 1950
J. R. Jones, legal adviser to HKS Bank - Aug 1950, by Rhiannon Cohen


You recently featured Edgar Laufer – a good friend that was at our engagement party (in David’s house – 59 Kadoorie Avenue) and I had also “crewed” for him on his boat. He was also at our wedding.

Mr Edgar Laufer
Mr Edgar Laufer, by Rhiannon Cohen


I send kind regards, sincerely,

Rhiannon Cohen

Great pix, Rhiannon! I'm on the board of the Jewish Historical Society of HK and we'd love to hear more about your time here as it relates to our community. Can you please contact me at Thanks!

Thanks for your post Rhiannon. Did you ever come across a nurse named Lily Poon. She had worked as a nurse in Hong Kong prior to the war before going to Free China after the Japanese occupation. I understand she returned to Hong Kong after the war and had a successful nursing career.

Thank you for your story and photos!  I also did not know about the Kadoorie family, so thank you for this introduction to them.  My father grew up in Hong Kong, and I spent only a few years of my early childhood there.  But I am always interested in the Jewish culture and history of any place I visit - I am in fact married to a Cohen!




My name is Jan Harald Eriksen. My grandmother Florence Haugland lived in Hong Kong for many years and maybe You came across her? I am trying to find out the names of her mother and siblings. I know that Florence was born in Baghdad, Iraq, Her maiden name was Sayce. I found that on her wedding certificate. She married in Shanghai 1922, and her fathers name was stated as Jacob Sayce. She lived in Shanghai up to 1927 and later in Hong Kong. She was married to a Norwegian, Harald Fredrik Haugland. He died in Marseilles, France on the 4th of July 1927. I know that my grandmother and mother went to England, Derby, after the second ww. My grandmother said her cousin was a Sassoon, and I remember my mother said she was related to Vidal Sassoon.
My interest is to find the parents of my grandmother, and maybe the name of an elder brother she had. I have been told that Kelly Sayce (aka Kadourie Cohen), born in 1875 in Baghdad and died on the 14th of December 1932 in Hong Kong is their elder brother. This was written in the newspaper South China Morning Post. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Hong Kong on the 16th of December 1932. He arrived in Hong Kong 1902.

My grandmother was born on the 15th of December 1901, and my mother Ester Ruth Haugland was born in Shanghai on the 21th of april 1924. Fanny Sayce Butt, Florences sister, was born on the 14th of august 1895. she died in Vancouver BC, Canada on the 11th of April 1988. I am also told that they might have another brother and a sister , she lived in Israel.

In the probate of Fanny Sayce Butt I was mentioned together with her nieces and nephews living in Israel. I think they could maybe the relatives of her sister who lived in Israel.

Living in Israel:
Shasha Sasson, Holon, Israel
Shasha Gourdji, Holon, Israel
Shasha Abraham, Tel Aviv, Israel
Shasha Yeheskel , Holon , Israel
Shasha Nazima, Holon, Israel
Zbeda Naima, Hertzelia, Israel
Shaoul Yubel, Holon, Israel

I do not know but they could maybe be relatives of her unknown sister or brother.
One of my daughters, Hanne Marie Malmedal Eriksen, born on the 12th of June 1984, has taken a DNA test (MyHeritage) and she had match with three people living in Israel. They are Sion Sasson, Etty Sasson and Shira Sasson.

So I am hoping You may have some knowledge of my relatives or maybe You know anyone who might.

Best wishes
Jan Harald Eriksen


Hi Rhiannon. Wondering if you remember a nurse at Queen Mary Hospital by the name of Lily Poon. She worked in the casualty ward during the Japanese attack on HK in December 1941 then escaped into Free China. I understand that after the war she returned to HK and to the Queen Mary Hospital. Richard Horsburgh