Chinese escaping to mainland China in 1942

Submitted by theprofessor on Sun, 05/16/2021 - 21:47

My mother, 6 month old sister and grandmother moved to Mongkok in 1939 from Toishan. They fled back to their village in Jan 1942 shortly after the British surrender of the Battle of Hong Kong. Does anyone have any knowledge of what it would have been like, first hand or otherwise, to undertake this escape?

Your family were probably among many others making similar journeys. In an entry in Harry Ching's diary, undated but from early February 1942, he writes:

Officially estimated that by 1st February 450,000 Chinese had left. In first week of February a ship took to Macau first contingent of Hongkong residents. These mostly local Portuguese numbered 947, and a second contingent of about 400 followed next day. The ship made a trip later to former French port, Kwong Chow Wan. All French nationals advised go there. Those remaining in Hongkong estimated 70, including priests and nuns. One by one friends slipping out, mostly for Kweilin via Macau and Kwong Chow Wan. Each departure leaves us lonelier. 

My grandfather has mentioned this part of history. He was borned in a village around Guangzhou, came to HK before the Japanese occupation. He worked in a bakery and settled in Sham Shui Po. The deportation was organised by the Japanese government, due to the over population in HK, and insufficient food supply. Chinese migrants were foced to move back to their hometown. My grandfather started his journey from Sham Shui Po through Tai Po Road to Shenzhen on foot. There were food supply and shelter along the way. And he spent another 2 days from Shenzhen to Humen 虎門. Then he took a boat from Humen to Guangzhou. 

During the war 1942-44 my father was the British Consular Agent responsible for Hong Kong refugee affairs at Kukong, Kuangtung. Unfortunately he did not leave a diary or any record I have access to. The pandemic has unfortunately interrupted my chances of doing any research in the records of his service in the Foreign Office archives in London.

Frances Wong has written several books on her experiences of leaving Hong Kong for China during WWIi and again after 1949 when she went to China to aid the revolution. 'China Bound and Unbound' from HKUP is the easiest to access. Frances is in her 90s but still alert and answers email. If you wish I could ask her if she would mind my giving you her email.


Colin Day

I hope you don't mind me jumping in on this topic.

My interest is a little different. My eurasian uncle was in the Volunteers even though Tony Banham has not been able to track him for me. I have been trying to trace his movements after being called up on 7 Dec 1941. He must have escaped to India via China - how? He was called up in Calcutta in Sep 1942 to join the Indian Army Corps of Clerks. Then I remember seeing him in his RASC  army uniform alongside a British vehicle with HK Govt roundel on the door immediately (just days) after the war.

At the risk of antgonishing some readers I ask if anyone could further this discussion by enlightening me on his possible route to India and how and when British Army units were waiting to reoccupy HK so quickly. Again I presume they were waiting just across the border in China.

I have been fruitlessly searching the internet for a long time, and now hope the opening of this topic may help me in my search.

Many thanks in advance.



Thank you AH. I presume my uncle went through Kukong, and that the BAAG helped him on his way to India. But I am not clear as to how quickly the BAAG became engaged in this operation. Do you know how your father got to Kukong?

That might help theprofessor too.



Not 100% but the most likely and popular route was sea journey to Macau, then land journey to Kukong via many towns for operational reasons  Kukong was the wartime capital of Kwangtung Province and headquarters of the Chinese VIIth war zone  My father left very early before the fall of Hong Kong. 

BAAG operatives in Hong Kong would have provided assistance to foreigners escaping from Hong Kong after the Japanese occupation, of course covertly, to go behind enemy line in China and eventually repatriated to India.

According to the book written by Edwin Ride, son of Sir Lindsay Ride CBE, founder of BAAG, the order for Sir Ride to operate as a representative of M.I. 9 was dated 16 May 1942. BAAG was formally named as operational on 21 May 1942. My father commenced working as a volunteer for BAAG on 20 May 1942. If you can get hold of this rare book, you should find all the details about their operations including repatriation of foreign POWs escaped from Hong Kong. Oxford University Press ISBN 0 19 581325 1. I bought mine from Times Booksellers of Victoria, Australia. Website

In my forthcoming book from HKUP, War and Revolution in South China, I describe three escape routes from Hong Kong to Kukong (Qujiang) in Free China. One, the circuitous Guangzhouwan route, was by ship from Macao to Kwang Chow Wan, then overland to Liuzhou, then northward by rail on the Hunan-Guangxi railroad to Hengyang, and finally by rail southward on the Guangzhou-Hankou railroad to Qujiang. The second route was via Canton (Guangzhou). And the third, the East River route, was overland from Hong Kong to Waichow (Huizhou), then by boat up the East River to Lo Lung, and finally by truck or bus to Qujiang. All three routes were widely used.

My father's story:

He was a HKU fresh grad (War Time Degree in Dec 1941).  He and two of his borthers returned to their home in Fanling where they stayed for a couple of months.  Their father and the rest of the large family had left Fanling for the Mainland en route to the ancesteral village of Ng Wah in E.Guangdung, where Grandfather had already built a house in anticipation of the need to take refuge.  My Grandmother carrying two babies and an entoruage of families were robbed by bandits as soon as they reached Lau Shui Heung... A passing Japanese soldier took pity of one of the babies who had a high fever, and gave some medicine which saved him...

One day the three youngsters were surpirsed their father appeared at their home in Fanling, in some sort of disguise as more elderly than he was.  Grandfather instructed his youngest son on a system of how to remit money from rents of the family tenant farmers to the refugee family (套匯? to wui) in Ng Wah, using coded toliet papers...  Essentially lenders in Ng Wah would be issued with coded toilet papers cut in jagged halves; they could present these to the young man at the Fanling home, who would give them HK money without question for whatever they were doing in Occupied HK... 

Grandfather took with him father to cross the border to walk to Li Long in SE Guangdung.  They walked.  There they met up with the family staying at the Lutheran seminary.   Father did not continue to Ng Wah with the family.  He was given a little money and told to go an find a job in Kukong (Shaoguan today).  He hitched a ride from a lorry part of the way.  Armed with his HKU War Time Degree and wearing a blazer with the crest of HKU, he found Professor Lindsay Ride at the Ho Sai Methodist Hospital.  Ride recruited him into the nascent BAAG in March 1942 as Civilian Secretary.  In June 1942, he was sent forward to Wai Chow with a Field Intelligence Group for despatch to Occupied HK and to set up courier posts and runners to connect with Kukong.  Wai Chow soon became Advance HQ while BAAG HQ relocated to Kweilin... Kweilin was connected to India by RAF transport flights over the humps...

Many refugees walked across the border to Wai Chow. By the time they reached there, many were in utter destitution and hungry.  Many died along the way too.  Congee Kitchens & medical posts as well as hospitals were operated by the BAAG to aid the HK refufees. Mr. Sedgwick, later a top AO of HK was responsible for the Refugee Relief work, supported by Chinese & British relief agencies... 


Hi There,

It would seem the book is now available in some book stores.  If you are a member of Commercial Press\United Press they are now offering a discount:


Looks like the book is now generally available in book stores.  Spotted a copy at Eslite earlier tonight at listed price of HKD490/


My mother, a teenager then, and her kid sisters were living at Chi Wo Street, Yaumatei, when HK was invaded.  The place was opposite DGS and the S.Kowloon Magistracy which were used by the Japanese Kempatei and military.  One evening, some drunken Japanese soldiers knocked at their door looking for Fa Gu Neung 花姑娘 (Pretty Young Girls).  They were talked off by a cousin who was a young man having studied in Japan.  The family were afraid, and decided to leave for the home county of their father at Wong Mo Leng which was about a day's walk south of Wai Chow. The family, mother and three teenage girls, a kid sister and a baby brother as well as their nanny and other relatives in a group, set off on foot.  Along the way, they hired sedan chairs for the mother or nanny carrying the baby in turns.  Their father, a retired Chinese General turned rural entrepreneur, hence still renowned and influential in the region, sent forward some men to escort them safely to their home. They would have stayed at some inns for a night or two en route... 

The kid sister, about 10 y.o., developed some illness and was taken to the BAAG-operated St. Joseph's Hospital in Wai Chow for treatment.  Her mother and elder sisters accompanied her during hospitalisation and rented a room at the compound of the hospital. The hospital was adjacent to St. Joseph's Catholic Church where the BAAG had the confidential office of its Field Intelligence Group at the Rectory.  The girls attended Holy Mass at the church every morning.  Father and uncle working for BAAG FIGS met them...Father and mother got married at the church in Jan 1944... Not long after, the BAAG East AHQ and families evacuated to Hing Ning (Xinning) as a result of the Japanese ICHIGO Operation...   Fahter and uncle remained with FIGs under Ronald Holmes at Wai Chow... 

At the end of the War, mother & her newly born baby as well as other BAAG families were escorted back to HK by BAAG Agents led by Wu Wing... Father who was by then a commissioned officer of the BAAG had to await mobilisaton orders, and eventually returned to HK via Macau onboard a HK-Yaumatei Ferry, landing in Central...