16 Nov 1942, John Charter's wartime journal | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

16 Nov 1942, John Charter's wartime journal

Date(s) of events described: 
Mon, 16 Nov 1942

A meeting for these men ((the single men who had to spend the night in Stanley Prison - see Charter's previous dary entry)) that afternoon had been announced, and Gimson and Yamashita (by interpretation), addressed the men – there were about 240 of them. Yamashita announced that owing to air raids on Hong Kong and the consequent blacking out of the Colony, the Japanese military authorities thought it likely that the younger men in camp might take the opportunity to de-camp and that, therefore, these men would have to spend the nights of the next three weeks in prison. He regretted this etc. etc. and made quite a nice little speech, which was quite well received. Everyone (except the 240 men) was delighted! Why three weeks? Obviously they must be expecting an attack on the Colony within the next three weeks…………or perhaps the Japanese were going to clear out within that time! A lot of unlikely guesses were made.

Married men of military age were not included in the gaol squad because, (Gimson convinced the Japs of this), the married men would not want to escape and leave their wives behind (off stage caustic comments by the married men) and Yvonne is already throwing in my face the fact that she saved me from gaol! Policemen up to the age of 40 are included in this squad. They are allowed to take in books, playing cards, musical instruments etc., and they are allotted a cell each (they have to provide their own sleeping gear and have to use the plank beds unless they have camp beds) but are not locked in and can move about any of the three floors of their prison block. They profess rather to enjoy themselves, but they admit it is a compound nuisance. They do at least have some privacy – an almost unheard of thing in this camp. They spent four nights in prison (Nakasawa spent the first night with them and told Yamashita it was good fun so Yamashita went along on the second night!) and then, on Wednesday, when they were congregated in front of the prison, waiting to be let in, Yamashita came down to tell them they need not go in that night as there had been no serious raids in Hong Kong and no blackout would now be necessary. He thanked them all for being, “Very sporting gentlemen”, which remark was hailed with an ironical cheer! But alas for the authorities and gaol birds, there were two raids that very night and back they all went again on Thursday night and have slept there ever since – 10 of the 21 days.

There is one amusing, if slightly shabby incident connected with this gaol which I might mention here. Some weeks or months ago Gray Dalziel was granted a divorce from her husband, Freddie. She has a divorce ‘Nisi’ but not yet ‘Absolute’. Freddie, who is under 35 was counted unmarried and included in the list of those who have to sleep in the goal. He came to the C.S.O. on the afternoon of the first day and was very abusive to Tim – who happened to be on duty – stating that in the eyes of the law he was still a married man! That the CSO had no business to include him in the squad, and that he refused point blank to go in while other married men remained outside and that he demanded to see the C.S. Tim mildly pointed out that married men were not included because the presence of their wives would act as a deterrent to their urge to escape, while the same could hardly apply in his case!  But he stuck to his point and being, I believe legally in the right he was allowed to remain put. But the funny part was the indignation of Mrs Dalziel when she found, as she said, that Freddie was using her to keep himself out of prison!