Major John Monro MC RA diary of the Battle of Hong Kong

Submitted by Smartyhands on Sat, 12/11/2021 - 20:35

Extracts from the diaries of Major John Monro MC RA

The complete diaries, covering the period before the battle of Hong Kong, the battle itself, its aftermath, my father's internment at Sham Shui Po and his escape across China to Chongqing are available at the Imperial War Museum, London. My book Stranger in My Heart  (Unbound, 2018) tells the story of the Battle of Hong Kong using these eye-witness diary entries and my research. In 2013, I retraced my father's escape route from Hong Kong to Chongqing and the book includes my voyage of discovery. There are also further extracts from my father's letters and diaries, describing his daring escape and his experiences as Assistant Military Attaché in Chongqing.


Sunday 7th December

Yesterday afternoon I went down to the airport for a flying lesson.  I thought it went rather well and was very disappointed with Baugh for not letting me go solo.  After it got dark we went into the bar and met some of the C.N.A.C (China National Aviation Corporation) pilots.  They had about a dozen planes leaving for Nam Yeung that night.  The first two Douglasses went off at about 7:15 and were expected back shortly after nine.

Baugh and I had intended going out together to dine.  First of all we went up to his mess for a wash.  When we got there we found there was a flap in progress.  A message had just been received from the RAF Singapore putting them on No.1 state of readiness.  “Horrid” Horry rang up Newman to find out if he had had any further news, but was told that headquarters far from having had any fresh cause of alarm, were thinking of relaxing their precautions.  All the same to be quite sure I rang up my office to find out whether I was wanted.  George Cross, who was on duty at the time, seemed quite offended and assured me that all was quiet, and that he could deal with any situation which might arise.

About this time the two Douglasses which had left earlier in the evening returned to the aerodrome long before they were expected.  For some reason they had turned back.  One landed in such a hurry that it broke its undercarriage.

There was an air of expectancy and excitement in the mess where I stayed to dinner as Baugh was now confined to barracks.

As I went home after dinner everything seemed quiet and normal.  There were the usual Saturday night crowds in the main streets and on the ferries.  Hong Kong was illuminated as usual. This morning when I went to the office, I found that the situation had worsened.  I don’t really believe that anyone thinks that it will come to anything.  We have had so many flaps and lived in a state of tension for so long that we have become blasé.  We live only for the day when the rather annoying precautions that interfere with our private amusements are once more considered unnecessary.  This is more serious than most.  The Hong Kong Regiment have been ordered to get their ammunition onto their mainland positions.

I will here attempt to outline the plan for the defence of the colony.

For General Maltby’s account of the defences of HK and the battle go to

For the past two years the intention had been merely to deny the use of the harbour to the enemy and to hold the island at all costs.  It was realised that it was impossible to hold the colony in sufficient strength to enable it to be used as a Naval Base.  No attempt was to be made to hold the mainland or Kowloon.  A small force consisting of Bu of infantry (Punjab Regt) with some armoured cars of the H.K.V.D.C. (Hong Kong Volunteers Defence Corps) were to cover the demolition parties and fight delaying actions on the Taipo and Castle Peak roads, eventually withdrawing more or less intact to the island.  A company of the Rajputs were to fight a delaying action on the Devil’s Peak Peninsula.  No artillery was to be deployed on the mainland.  The infantry would get such artillery support as was possible from the C.D. guns (Stanley Battery could reach targets a little beyond Shatin Station) and, in the latter stages during the withdrawal from Kowloon, from the 6” Hows of the Hong Kong Regt. 

On initial deployment all the guns of the Hong Kong Regt. went to prepared positions on the island.  The Rajput Regt. occupied the N.E and S.E sectors, the Royal Scots occupied the S.W sector while the N.W or city sector was to be occupied by the Punjabs on withdrawal from the mainland.  There was a very small general reserve, consisting, so far as I remember, of two companies, one from the Scots the other from the Rajputs.  They were also responsible for internal security!  The Middlesex Regt. a Machine Gun Battalion, occupied pillboxes built on the beaches all round the island.  In addition there were the Coast and AA Artillery Regiments who manned positions already prepared and finally the Hong Kong volunteers, who provided the officers and men for four improvised C.D. Batteries, one section of heavy A.A., numerous light A.A. machine guns, armoured cars, various pill boxes, local defence platoons, medical and engineering units.

The arrival of the Canadians entailed great changes in this plan.  In addition to the island, Devil’s Peak Peninsula was now to be held at all costs.  The “inner line”, a great belt of pill boxes and wire, constructed in the time of General Bartholomew, on the northern slopes of the ring of hills encircling Kowloon, was to be held in force by three Battalions for about six weeks, whilst the island would be held against any attack from the sea by the Coast Defences in which I include the B.D Bty and the two Canadian Battallions.  For artillery support on the mainland there were two four gun 3.7 How Btys in pack; one four gun How Bty with so negligible a quantity of M.T. that it was almost immobile and one four gun 6” How Bty which was in a somewhat similar state.  Some 60 pdr guns of a very old mark and some ammunition was found in the ordnance depots.  These were emplaced on Stonecutters Island but came under the orders of H.Q. mainland R.A.

Wednesday 10th December

About 6:00am on Monday 8th I was woken up, called to the telephone and told that war was imminent with Japan.  By the time I got to H.Q. we were at war.  About 8:00am the first Japanese bombers came over.  They did a lot of damage at the Aerodrome, destroying 7 C.N.A.C. planes, The Clipper, most of the RAF planes and the two Walruses.  They were unopposed.  The volunteer A.A. platoon had drawn no ammunition, I suppose because the day before was a Sunday.  The gunboat supposed to be in the seaplane anchorage was being used for something else.  The Japs made rapid progress down the Taipo Road, and by the evening we were back in Shatin.  H.Q. were gravely disappointed with the Stanley guns.  They have shot too big a line, boasted that they could get almost to Taipo, in actual fact they can only reach about 1500 yards beyond Shatin Station.  We were unable to answer several calls for fire as the targets have been out of range.

All the demolitions were successful though we were asked to shoot at the Brothers Point “blow” as the slide had been checked by a retaining wall.  Mt. Davis fired five rounds but with what effect we could not tell.

On Tuesday general skirmishing took place on the main approaches to the inner line, to which by nightfall all our forces had retired.  During the night Tuesday/Wednesday the Japs surprised and captured the Shing Mun Redoubt.  This is a severe loss.  Today there has been heavy fighting all along Smugglers Ridge and up towards Golden Hill.

This morning I went round the mainland positions with the C.R.A. (Commander Royal Artillery, Brig T Macleod).  It rained last night and though the men looked a little bedraggled and the positions were very muddy, they seemed quite cheerful.  1Bty (Customs Pass) had occupied quite a reasonable alternative position.  They have not had very much to do.  Polo Bty (25) were in their main position and had done quite a lot of firing onto Smugglers Ridge.  The concrete blocks they have used instead of sandbags for revetting their position are not standing up to the blast.  I met Crowe at Filters; the situation on his front is very obscure.  He did not know where Atkinson had got to.  At Tai Wai position there was only an I.0 (Md Khan I think) and I thought their position was in a bit of a mess, equipment lying about all over the place, but the position is damned cramped and awkward.

Podge Walkden took us round in a commandeered car.  He is a pleasant, able chap.  I wish we had had him longer for training; he would make a damned good officer.  All the poorer Chinese from Kowloon were out on the hillside by the Taipo Road cutting down the trees for firewood.  None of the police are available to stop them.  They may as well get it while they can; there will be no more imported into the colony for many a day.

Thursday 11th December

Last night the enemy began shelling the town with a long-range gun.  They didn’t do much damage, what there was mostly at the hospital where one man was killed, two more and a nurse wounded.  It was my night off duty.  I was in bed and woken up by one of the first shells they sent over at about 1:00am.  I tried hard to sleep but it is an unpleasant feeling to lie still, while periodically in the distance you hear the first whisper of a coming shell, rising in a crescendo to shriek and ending in a tremendous crash.  There is the feeling that this one may be going to get you.  However after a few have exploded harmlessly, so far as you are concerned, you become quite fatalistic. Buzz was very puzzled by the whole affair.

Things have gone badly for us on the mainland.  Two companies of the Scots holding the line in front of Golden Hill more or less broke and ran, the Japs getting as far as Lai Chi Kok.  No one seems to know quite why they ran.  They were subjected to a preliminary bombardment of heavy mortars before the Japs attacked but such a bombardment is almost to be expected before any attack and is no reason for running.

Stonecutters has been heavily shelled all day.  There are not many casualties.  A Havildar (Indian NCO) and two men were killed on the 60 Pdrs down on the parade ground.  Alan Mills has been doing damned well.  The Sikhs were rather shaken by the death of the Havildar but Alan by his example, has steadied them.  So far as I know no one has been hurt in West Fort though the O.P. has been badly knocked about and one shell landed in a cartridge recess, setting them off but fortunately without doing any damage.  This afternoon orders were given for the evacuation of Kowloon and Stonecutters tonight.  We started getting over the guns straight away.  The H.Q. of the Hong Kong Regt. and the 6” Hows got away early and easily.  It took rather longer to get the 4.5 Hows out as it took time to collect the transport but Tai Wai battery had a bad time.  They were told to retreat through the tunnel.  On their way to its northern entrance they were caught in the open by the Jap gunners and shelled.  They lost one subsection complete and a few mules and men from the others.  I suddenly realised that 1Bty who were rather “cats that walked by themselves” jealous of their own property, might not have sent over their section books to the island.  Fortunately I managed to get hold of Troy Atkinson at Gun Club Hill.  He and Crowe spent a long time trying to open 1Bty’s safe by shooting into the keyhole with their revolvers.  They failed to open it but Duncan tells me that he has got the books.  I might have known that Ted Hunt would not be so stupid as to leave them behind.

Colonel Yale and Jack Fox visited the Battle Box on their way to Wong Nei Chong.  Daddy Yale is in a bad way, his nerves have completely gone.  Jack tells me that it has been impossible to get any decisions out of him.  He is obviously, at the moment, in no fit state to command so the C.R.A. has sent him off to Stanley for a week’s rest and put Tim Temple in command instead of him.

Later at about 7:00pm Tony and Crowe came in to report that after a very long wait they had at last got the three remaining guns of Tai Wai with their mules across the ferry.  I gave them each a bottle of beer.  It was a pleasure to watch them drink it.  About 11:00pm as Bramble and I were officially off duty we went down to the dockyard to direct the ferry loads of men coming from Kowloon to their unit assembly positions.  Actually we found that very few were coming, the bulk having already got safely across, but the Navy were still sending “touring” ferries to cruise slowly by the embarkation points and pick up any stragglers they could find.  I stayed down to meet the Stonecutters party.  Arthur Goring was down there and we had a long discussion on the reasons for the Scots to break.  He put it down to the Celtic temperament.  Perhaps so, but I am a Scot myself.  He reckons that only the Cockney or English county Regiments are sufficiently stolid to be invariably steady in battle.  He himself comes from the depths of Sussex.

The Stonecutters party came in about 1:00am.  The British seemed alright, the Sikhs a little shaken but the Chinese mess servants were in a pitiable state of fright.  Their one idea was to collect their bundles, baskets of chickens and bedding and disappear into the homes of their relatives in the town.  They plainly thought that if the end of the world had not exactly arrived something quite as bad had come upon them.  I wonder what atrocities are being perpetrated in Kowloon tonight.  I hear reports that our men as they retreated through the streets were shot at from the Chinese quarters by 5th Columnists arrived with rifles and Tommy guns.  At present it is quite dark, very occasionally there is a shot but I imagine that behind this impassive façade the criminal elements in the Chinese population are looting, raping and murdering their wealthier fellow countrymen.

Friday 12th December

I met a very angry George Neve this morning.  The F.O.P. at High Junk and Port Shelter had been ordered to evacuate their positions.  They were told to bring with them instruments that they could carry, smash those that had to be left behind, and rendezvous at midnight at a little village in Junk Bay.  They were to show a light when they heard a launch approaching.  George had gone out to pick them up and after wandering a long time up and down the coast looking for them, had found the whole lot lying asleep on a beach.  What bad junior N.C.Os we have.

Saturday 13th December

Yesterday there was a tremendous battle on the Devil’s Peak Peninsula.  Twice in the afternoon we were asked to put down big concentrations of 6” How 9.2” guns on enemy advancing to the attack.  We beat them off and by evening were still holding our original line, but the General decided that the peninsula must be evacuated.  We got the guns across safely, but the lighters to take the mules were sunk and the entire lot, about 100, were lost.  We must have very badly weakened the Japs yesterday because the final boatloads of men only got away shortly after dawn this morning.  I believe Thracian (our only destroyer) and the M.T.Bs (motor torpedo boats) only left the Lyemun Pass at 7:00am. About 9:00am the Japs sent across a boat with a white flag demanding our surrender.  I saw the demand itself shortly afterwards in the intelligence office where the interpreters were busy translating it.  It was a scroll, unfolded, right to left about a foot wide and 10 feet long. There were three of them working on it, it was spread out between them, There was plenty of room for each to work on his own portion.

Sunday 14th December

Last night there was a false alarm that the Japs had landed.  It arose in this way.  It was decided to bring over all the explosives, chiefly dynamite, from the government Magazine on Green Island.  The navy arranged to send a launch to fetch it last night, and the pillboxes along the Praya were warned about it.  However the navy instead of sending one of the little launches which used to operate between the dockyard and Stonecutters and which is the average troop’s mental picture of a launch, and which individually would have been much too small, sent a ferry.  About midnight, on its way back, it was spotted by one of the pillboxes, the troops of which seeing a ferry approaching the island supposed that the Japs were attempting a landing and opened fire.  The ferry detonated with a colossal explosion and a panic seems to have started amongst the pillboxes along the Praya.

I was asleep at Courtlands at the time and even slept through the explosion.  Someone woke me up and called me to the telephone. Bramble was at the other end. “The Japs have landed” he said, “come down to H.Q at once”. Courtlands was one of the H.Q messes. I thought that probably quite a number of officers were sleeping there and it would be hardly fair to leave them all unsuspecting if the Japs had landed so I woke them up.  As I went round two civilians, a man and a woman, sitting in the passage, heard me.  The woman gave a gasp, clutched my arm and whispered “God bless you”.  What a grim lookout there is for them.  Still, in many ways it’s their own fault, they would not obey the evacuation order.

As soon as every one was ready I led them down to H.Q.  The harbour was lit by the blaze from the burning godowns (warehouses) in Kowloon.  The water was calm with scarcely a ripple, except for the intermittent surge of a machine gun fire in the distance, all seemed quiet.  On our way down we met not a soul.  The Battle Box was packed with people in a great state of excitement.  The C.R.A seized on me “Did you see anything on the way down?  Any boats coming across?”  I told him that I had seen nothing and that I had had a good view of the harbour.  “I bet it is a false alarm” he said.  Then Peffers got hold of me and I volunteered to go on a patrol to find out really what was happening.  Ian Macgregor the A.D.C and a small party of military police came with me.  We went down to Queen’s building then along to the club where we were challenged by a party of the Punjab Regiment, then along the Praya keeping to the arcade in front of the shops, to a point about ¼ of a mile west of the Fire Station.  Every window in the place seemed to have been completely shattered.  The road is a mass of broken glass.  We met a mobile patrol of police but of the Japs there was no sign.  We came back via Des Voeux Road to the club from where after waking up the cooly in charge of the telephone I reported to H.Q.  So ended the great Dynamite Flap.

Tuesday 16th December

For the past three days the Japs have been shelling us very heavily indeed.  Mt. Davis have had the worst of it.  One of the A.A guns has been knocked out.  About 11 men were killed when the enemy scored a direct hit on one of the shelters.  A dud shell hit the muzzle of the upper 9.2” gun and it appears to be slightly bent.  The plug gauge bore will no longer pass through it.  A shell (9”) came in through the old canteen along the passage into the plotting room and came to rest under the command exchange.  The lights and the ventilating plant have been put out of action.  We are only through to them by one line which goes through their Regimental H.Q. at Felix Villas which they have had to move twice.

Courtlands has been lucky so far.  It is very close to the Peak Tramway which the enemy base succeeded in putting out of action.  The houses all round have been totally knocked about.  At breakfast this morning the base of a 150 millimetre shell came in through the window and landed under the table.  Buzz is standing up better than I expected.  He is puzzled, rather startled but so far not really frightened.

We have reorganised the command of the troops on the island.  East Inf. Bde. remains much the same.  Brigadier Wallis commands with H.Q. at Tytam Gap.  He has what is left of the Rajputs and the Royal Rifles Canada.  East Group R.A. remains the same and consists of the remnants of the Scots, Punjabis and the Winnipeg Grenadiers who are more or less intact.

R.A. West at Wanchai Gap have been closed down except for the exchange, and H.K. Regimental H.Q. are in support of West Inf. Bde.  Geoffrey Proes has been made C.B. Officer, he is being assisted by Crowe, Atkinson and Platts.  The Counter Battery office is at Wong Nei Chong on the opposite side of the road to the Regimental H.Q.  Up to now H.Q.R.A have been getting most of the shelling reports and have been swamped with information about suspected hostile batteries, all of which we have had to pass on to the Hong Kong Regt.  The new arrangement will work much better though really the C.B. office ought to be at H.Q.  However there isn’t room for it and the flash spotting exchange is already at Wong Nei Chong. 

What a pity it is that we never had a Counter Battery exercise in peace.  The present arrangement is a good improvisation but it is an improvisation.  It has done good work and we have knocked out quite a number of Japanese guns in what is a rather one-sided Artillery Duel.  None of our mobile guns have been knocked out.  The trouble has been to get the exact location of the 24 mm guns or Hows which are somewhere near the Japanese golf course at Shatin. Oh that we had some air to spot for us.  Yesterday, I think it was, we did put down a concentration of thirty rounds from Stanley which appeared to stop them for the time being, but they are busy again today. 

A day or two ago, I find I rather lose track of time in the Battle Box, I had to go round to Pok Fu Lam to warn the B.D. gun at Belchers point that a gunboat was coming in to lie off Green Island that night.  At the time nearly all communications had been put out of action by a bomb which cut the main cables at Magazine Gap.  I went round by Wong Nei Chong and Deepwater Bay, which was looking very peaceful and pleasant.  The turf is rather burnt up as it hasn’t been watered but I could see little of the supply depot or the Field Bakery which have been successfully hidden in the trees surrounding the golf course.

At Pok Fu Lam I found them all in good spirits despite having been shelled out of their H.Q. At Jubilee I was told that the damage to Belchers was much less than had been reported at first.  I was in rather a quandary as to what to do.  There were plenty of men in Jubilee (Stonecutters Personnel).  I hesitated to whether to order them to man Belchers or not.  They were bound to be heavily shelled in the morning if the Japs saw signs of life in the fort.  On the other hand there was only one Beach Defence gun in that sector.  However after a certain amount of dithering I remembered the gun boat and decided not to give any orders.

On my way back to H.Q. I nearly fell into a bomb crater.  There was the usual blackout.  I stopped the car when the road surface didn’t seem quite right, got out to look and found the front wheels on the very edge of a hole about twenty feet across and ten feet deep.  It was a small car and fortunately I was able to squeeze by on the right hand side.

Today the Japs sent over another demand for surrender.  They claimed to have destroyed by bombing or shellfire every military objective in the colony.  If we still refused to surrender they threatened to bring down the place about our ears.  The demand was summarily rejected.

Thursday 18th December

We have been very heavily shelled by the enemy for the past two days.  As the newspaper says “An artillery duel has been raging”.  The Jap heavy mortar is a damned good weapon.  It appears to be about 6” in calibre, throws a large sized brick and has a range of about 4000 yards.  It is particularly annoying to us with its very high trajectory, even higher than a How’s and a small propellant charge which gives little flash; it can be used from positions in the streets and behind the houses of Kowloon and is quite impossible to locate.  They have brought up a high velocity gun which they are using with tremendous effect against the pillboxes on the N.E. shore.  They bring it up to a street entrance near the water front, fire a few rounds over open sights which completely smash up the pillbox and withdraw before we have time to get onto them.

However today we have done much the same thing.  There were a number of ships still un-sunk in the Eastern part of the harbour.  I believe they were Russian and as they belong to an ally I suppose we felt we couldn’t destroy them at the time the rest of the shipping in the harbour was sunk.  Now as possible jumping off points for Japanese raids they are a menace, and must be sunk.  Kendall has sunk one, he went out at night in a small boat and (his SOE Colin McEwan) stuck a “limpet” to its stern port.  A very gutsy action.  John Vinter set the other on fire and left it sinking.  He took a 60 Pdr with the few remaining rounds of its ammunition that we have down to North Point.  At dawn he manhandled it up into a street entrance and loosed off 40 rounds at point blank range.

We have had another false alarm of a Jap landing.  The volunteer battery at Pakshawan thought they were swimming across and using rafts.  Everything in the neighbourhood opened up.  Half the trouble is that the troops whenever they see this red tracer they think that it is a red verey light.  Still there is no need for all this firing at nothing in particular.

Today the Japs managed to knockout both the B.D. guns at Braemar.  I suppose we should really have withdrawn them by day.  Movement was bound to give away the position where the Japs have such good close observation.

Stanley have had a number of prematures with land ammunition.  The I.O.O. has been out and as a result of his examination 70 rounds of land service ammunition have been condemned.  This means that we will very soon have to use anti-ship ammunition against land targets.

The Navy sent over a launch to Green Island to bring back the Sapper Personnel who work the A.A. light.  Unfortunately the gunners working the C.D. lights thought they ought to go too, so they have smashed the lights and the engine room and evacuated the place.  These were most important lights.  The only ones that could bear round towards the north.

Ted Hunt has been doing very well at R.A. East.  He has got a 3.7 How up on Sai Wan Redoubt to try and deal with the enemy guns and troops on Devil’s Peak.  Sai Wan has had the hell of a pasting today.  The A.P.C. oil tanks at North Point have been hit and are now in flames.  An enormous cloud of black smoke darkens the whole atmosphere (people go about with a worried, scared look on their faces).  It reminds me of pictures I have seen of the last day at the end of the world.

Friday 19th December

The Japs landed last night, at Sai Wan, Lyemun Magazines and North Point.  I suppose it was obvious they would land there from the amount of artillery preparation they have carried out in these areas.  For a long time we refused to believe it in the Battle Box.  There have been so many false alarms from this area that the attitude was rather “Those bloody windy buggers! At it again”.  they took Sai Wan Redoubt during the night.  Bompas made a counter attack and retook it but most of his troops melted away and he was pushed off again.  By daybreak we had to evacuate Sai Wan 6” How position.  The Japs were up on the top of Mt. Parker and beginning to trickle down into the Tai Tam Valley.  Then we had to evacuate Parker How position; after that came news that they had captured most of the guns in the Tytam Valley and were attacking Wong Nei Chong.  It looked as if Tytam Gap would go at any minute, so the C.R.A ordered the destruction of the guns at Collinson, D’ Aguilar, Bokhara and Chung Am Kok.  The men had to go to Stanley for use as infantry.  The controlled mine fields in the Tathong and East Lamma Channels were blown up. 

I rang up to ask Jack Fox what the position was at Wong Nei Chong.  I could hear the machine gun fire down the phone.  He had been manning one himself.  “Tell Pat” he asked me.  Quarter of an hour later I rang up again, this time I got Tim.  He said that they were surrounded and fighting a tremendous battle with small arms: “What else is there to do” he said in a rather humorous, resigned tone of voice.  That was the last we heard of them.  Wong Nei Cheong was taken.  It was the key point of the island.

Ted Hunt came in this evening.  He had led a counter attack against Wong Nei Chong and had recaptured it almost single-handed.  As he got near the enemy his Battery just melted away.  Though the gunners are steady under shellfire, they will not face the enemy at hand to hand fighting.  I don’t really blame them.  They have had very little training in the use of infantry weapons and so few of our young officers can make themselves really understood in their language.  Jack Fielden was killed in this attack and Colonel Yale badly wounded.  Ted could tell us nothing of Tim Temple, Geoffrey, or Jack Fox.  Ted is looking very wild and woolly.  He is wearing an extraordinary assortment of uniform, he has 3 or 4 day growth of beard and is carrying a Tommy gun which he swears is the finest weapon ever invented.  He has had no sleep for the past two days.  The C.R.A. had ordered him to go back to Stanley and rest.  About this time news came through that the Japs had reoccupied Wong Nei Chong.  Just as Ted was leaving I warned him of this and told him to go round by Pok Fu Lam but he replied “Bugger the Nip I am going back that way anyhow”.  And with that he dashed up the stairs out of the Battle Box.

John Trapman has done very well today.  With the capture of Wong Nei Chong the whole of the H.Q. of West Group R.A. appear to have been wiped out.  He has reopened it at Wanchai Gap and has carried on magnificently.  Later we sent Lundy Duncan to take over from him.

Wednesday 24th December

Since the 19th the fighting has been very confused.  It was on the 20th I think that we tried to make a counter attack in Wong Nei Chong from two directions simultaneously.  One attack was to be made by the Canadians from Repulse Bay the other by a scratch collection of troops from the direction of little Hong Kong.  The first attack never started because the Canadians and their Commander were drunk.  The General sent Temple out from Stanley to take charge of the situation.  I think that because the Canadians could not attack the other was cancelled.  From that moment the fate of the island was sealed.  If we had been able to recapture Wong Nei Chong it is just possible, though most improbable, that we would have been able to clear the enemy off the island.

We, gunners, have been having great difficulty with our communications.  All the Hong Kong Regiments O.P’s (observation post) were officially sited for their view over the beaches; For fighting on the island itself they are in many cases quite useless.  As they and the section positions are all connected by buried cable to the group exchanges, the Hong Kong Regiment were never supposed to hold more than their peacetime quota of field cable.  We have had to put out new O.Ps and we should have more than we have now got but it is impossible to find any more cable.  All the reserve stocks were held at the “Ridge”, which was surrounded when Wong Nei Chong fell.  It held out for two days but since then nothing has been heard of them and they must have been captured. 

Another trouble is this problem of crest clearance.  The number of possible positions on the Island are very limited.  I honestly think that we are already occupying the lot.  Our line is now so close to our position that it is extremely hard to find guns to clear down to certain targets.  During the fighting at Wong Nei Chong we were continually being asked to put down fire on the police hut, but were unable to do so as not a single gun still remaining in our hands was able to clear down to it.  Paddy had been unhelpful by destroying, in an excess of zeal, the traces for Austin which is still in action.  I haven’t been able to control him as much as I should have liked.  He is much older than me, he was doing the job temporarily for two months before I took over, and in some respects he certainly knows more about it than I do, though in others he was not a quarter of the knowledge.

We have been doing a number of shoots with infantry observers.  When they know the procedure, which is not invariably the case, they have been most successful.  One shoot which resulted in the destruction of an enemy gun had an extraordinary chain of communications.  The observer I think was Henry Marsh of the Middlesex Regt., who had his O.P. in a private house and used the civil telephone to one of the “g” duty officers in the “g” ops room.  They sent the observations over to me, and I passed them out to Lundy Duncan at East Group, from there they were passed on to the section.

At Stanley we appear to be holding a semicircular line about 500 yards north of the police station.  Though the Japs hold all the intervening country between there and Wong Nei Chong gap they have made no attempt to cut the cables and we are still in telephonic communication.  The Stanley guns have given us in the west the most effective artillery support we have had.  Dewar, who is in the Little Hong Kong Magazines which are also surrounded, has directed the fire of Stanley guns with great effect whenever he has seen the Japs massing in Black Link for an attack on Mt. Cameron.  As the Magazines are surrounded the ammunition situation would have been very serious if it had not been for Barman, B.Q.M.S of 4Bty, who night after night has taken a convoy of lorries down to Little Hong Kong, fought his way into the Magazine, collected sufficient ammunition to last the guns on the Peak for about a day, and then fought his way out.  We have been running out by M.T.B., ammunition for their only 3.7 How at Stanley.

In the west we hold Aberdeen.  Brick Hill is cut off.  We hold a few localities with Naval and RAF personnel rather west of Shouson Hill.  Some sort of a line then runs up to Wanchai Gap and then down to Causeway Bay.  There is street fighting on the outskirts of Wanchai.

A few days ago Bird, Neve and Boxer went down to look at the position at Aberdeen.  While they were there they took it into their heads to lead a local counter attack.  Now all three are wounded in hospital.  One of them might have done such a thing, but three staff officers together is folly.

The other night Andrews, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, who used to be an emergency reserve officer of the Hong Kong Regt, came into H.Q.  He appeared rather shell shocked but he had a tremendous story to tell.  On the night of the Jap landing he was down at Lyemun Magazines drawing ammunition.  He took shelter with some others in the magazines.  The Japs lobbed in a few hand grenades but did no damage.  Early next morning all seemed quiet.  He crept out, saw no sign of the Nip, found his car where he had left it and drove off towards Tytam Gap.  Halfway there he met a company of Canadians by the side of the road.  He told them his story and suggested that they reoccupy the place at once.  They didn’t take much notice of him being far too intent on getting their breakfast.  He went on to Tytam Gap; apparently he didn’t get much sympathy there.  He went on round to Headquarters, but found Wong Nei Chong occupied and found himself with a number of other men besieged in a house at the lower end of Repulse Bay road.  They tried to break out but going down the road they were ambushed.  They took refuge in another house.  He himself got out at night, swam across Deepwater Bay and then made his way to Aberdeen. 

I have shot Buzz.  Up to now the bombardment has only puzzled and startled him; it has never really frightened him, but yesterday and today he has been terrified by every exploding bomb or shell.  It is obvious that very soon we shall all be dead or will surrender.  He is better off out of the way though I don’t suppose I shall have another dog his equal. I have paid Ah Tong his wages up to the end of the month and have given him his annual cumshaw (tip). He has stood by me very well.  This place has been heavily bombed and shelled, unlike the other boys he has not run away.  Whenever I come in he always produces a meal for me and usually water for a wash or a bath.  He was fond of Buzz and looked after him very well.

Yesterday whilst we were off duty Bill Squires and I went to the Gripps for lunch.  The restaurant and ballroom is now a hospital, food is served in Mac’s Cafeteria.  Olivinsky seemed very cool, calm and collected.  The lunch was not up to the usual standard but it was only $1.50 and the times, to say the least, are unusual.  But roast pork and tinned fruit are a welcome change from bully and bread and butter. After lunch I had my hair cut.  I was greatly impressed by the barber, a Chinese.  Shortly after he had started there was an air raid.  A bomb landed nearby which put out the electric lights.  He sent for a coolly to hold a candle and carried on, quite unperturbed.

When I got back to Battle H.Q. I found that the C.R.A. was going around the Jubilee area and wanted me to go with him.  We found everybody surprisingly cheerful.  On our way back we went out to the Queen Mary Hospital to see Mrs Macleod and the George Neve/Boxer crowd who had been wounded near Aberdeen.  Mrs Macleod is recovering from a strained knee after falling down some stairs.  She is very angry with her enforced inactivity and longs to be up and working at Bowen Road.  George Neve was very cheerful, Boxer was sitting up and looked fit though they told me he had a lost a lot of blood.  Micky Hahn was dancing attendance.  Bird seemed quite chirpy.

Friday 26th December

Yesterday from about 8.00am till 12 noon there was a truce.  So far as I could see this meant that we did nothing while the Japs Artillery continued to shell us.  They certainly did not observe it.  There was nothing for me to do at Battle H.Q. so the C.R.A. allowed me to go up the Peak and look round our few remaining positions.  I went up the path which leads from Garden Road to the Upper Peak Tram Station.  Near the top it had been shot away by shells aimed at the station.  After considerable search I found West Group H.Q. in a culvert under Lugard Road.  Crowe had been shelled out of 3 houses where he had established his H.Q. he hoped this hideout would last longer.  Fortunately the weather was dry.  Then I went to Austin. Kishen Singh was in charge.  One of the guns was at full recoil and wouldn’t run up.  I suspect that they haven’t been keeping it topped up with oil and air.  The fitters managed to right it later in the day. 

From there I went to the Peak School to the garden of which the 4.5 Hows from Kellet Road had been moved.  John Vinter was in charge.  He seemed rather torpid but it was hardly surprising as he had been up the whole night moving the guns.  I tried to find the O.P. which was somewhere in the direction of the Tod’s old house, but I was shelled as I went along the path which came into view of the enemy, and had to make a bolt for it.  At the Peak Club in Landales garage I found a noisy party of the food control department.  They were celebrating Christmas and were a little tipsy.  They asked me to come and join them.  I refused and went on to Gough.  Hoyland was in charge.  He doesn’t know much about field gunnery but he has run his show well.  He is slow and imperturbable, just the person for the Indians.  His were the steadiest and most cheerful that I saw. 

Sanatorium had only one gun in action.  They had a scare the night before and abandoned the position.  One bright spark threw the L.B.M. down a borehole latrine.  They have been trying to dig it out all day.  On the way back I called in at the War Memorial to see if I could find out anything about Geoffrey Proes and to see Dinie.  Geoffrey Proes was not there.  Dinie looked fit but tired.  She was in the operating room and described herself as up to the elbows in blood.  She must be one of the few women in Hong Kong who look as well without their make up as they do with it.  I tried to reassure her but I think she knows that this end is inevitable.  She was not complaining.  She had stayed behind of her own free will and she did not regret it.

The white flag was hoisted above the Battle Box. About 3.00pm we had the order to surrender. Immediately there was an orgy of destruction in H.Q., rifles, revolvers, Tommy guns, compasses, field glasses and the few remaining secret documents were all destroyed.  Someone suggested that our revolver ammunition had expanding bullets.  If the Japs found them we would all be shot, so they were hidden away in all sorts of queer places.  The air ducts in Battle H.Q. must hold hundreds of rounds.  Then the C.S.O. Colonel Levett came down in a great state of mind swearing that some of our guns were still firing.  He for one had no wish to be murdered after the surrender because we wouldn’t order our guns to cease fire.  He and the C.R.A  became very heated.  He was so insistent that finally Paddy and I went out to see if one really was still in action.  The cause of the trouble was a burning carrier on the Murray parade ground.  It was like a firework.  Hand grenades and small arms ammunition were exploding with the heat giving a fair imitation of a furious street fight.  Rather naturally the Japs were plastering the area with a gun the other side of the harbour, its echo from the Peak sounded exactly as if there were a gun somewhere near the botanical gardens.

Battle H.Q. was filled with strangers, mostly Canadians.  Much beer flowed.  The Military Police mess was being looted.  It looked for a time if the men might get thoroughly out of hand.  Paddy and I were ordered to smash all the drink in our mess.  We smashed up a crate of beer and were getting busy on a crate of champagne when Andrews, Levinge and Hopkins ordered us to stop.  We went to Peffers who immediately sent for them, gave them the hell of a raspberry and ordered us to continue.  We smashed two cases of champagne and 8 or 9 cases of beer.  It went against the grain particularly breaking up the champagne.  Even so the troops were getting hold of quite a number of bottles.  Paddy and I “disarmed” several very tipsy Canadians with bottles hidden in the front of their battle dress.

Last night an officer’s guard was placed at each entrance of H.Q.

This morning as we were unable to get any messages through by phone I again went up the Peak with orders for the Hong Kong Regiment.  I found all the officers asleep in Landale’s drawing room.  They offered me breakfast though they must have been on short rations for a long time.  The Chinese are looting the N.A.A.F.I. stores near the Peak Tram station.  The place is littered with burnt out lorries and trucks.

On my way down I was alarmed to meet two Chinese who had got hold of a revolver and a rifle respectively.  I was unarmed.  I don’t think that we are too well loved by the local Chinese.  Certainly at times we have given them ample cause to hate us.  Now that we are defeated they may wreak their spite upon us.  I walked by as unconcernedly as I could.  One of them came up to me and asked if I knew how Major Boxer was.  He had been his No.1 Boy.  Before returning to the H.Q. I went into Courtlands to see if I could rescue some of my kit.  My room had been occupied by 3 or 4 women and my trunks taken downstairs to one of the basement rooms.  The Japs had gone through them.  Everything was scattered all over the floor.  So far as I could see the only thing they had taken was my sword.  The No.1 Boy gave me a couple of blankets and a pillow and made sympathetic suggestions as to what I should take.  I made up a bundle of socks, underclothing, and some warm top clothes as it will soon be very cold.

 On my way back to H.Q. I meet a party of Japs but they made no attempt to molest me.  Later in the day I tried to make another foraging trip but was turned back by a sentry.  At H.Q. we have seen very little of the Japs though down in Queens Road they are having a victory parade.  Large formations of aircraft have been flying over Kowloon and Victoria scattering leaflets most of which fall in the harbour. I suppose they are trying to tell the Chinese that with the end of the British Rule and the coming of the Jap the Millennium has come.  Up here we have had one or two sightseeing parties of Naval and Military Officers.

I am trying to make up my mind whether to make an attempt to escape or not.  On the whole I think not.  Chuck Bramble tells me that the island is busy with Jap troops.  So far as I can see the only way out is to get to Shikko or little Saiwan and then take a sampan to the mainland.  But I rather doubt whether there are any available.  The Coast Defences have sunk so many there can only be a few left.  The owners of those that remain would probably cut the throat of any white man as a reprisal for the tremendous destruction we have wrought amongst the fishing fleet.  I don’t feel like getting my throat cut alone, I prefer to die, if die I must, in company.  I have asked several people to make an attempt with me.  Baugh says he is still feeling badly knocked up.  MacAlister is toying with the idea of escape but seems unwilling to come with me.  Others, whom I think would be good companions, say that they are married and must think of their families. 

I am living in my office with Chuck and Bill Squires.  Paddy and Cross are living in the I.G’s office.  The clerks are living next door.  From his experience in T.A. camps Chuck is prepared for anything.  He has got a primus stove with which he prepares tea or coffee and makes the shaving water in the mornings.  We mess in Scandal Point Hall.  A small Jewish looking Sergeant of the R.A.S.C. is in charge helped by a number of R.A.F. other ranks.  He is running a good show.  Most of the gunner officers are living in the Girl Guides hut, the troops in and around the detention barracks.  The Indians are living in the married families’ quarters by the entrance to the Ordnance Depot.   On the whole the troops seem pretty cheerful.  It is a heaven sent opportunity to wear the most outlandish clothes.  They have taken full advantage of it.  A few of the wives have managed to get down from The Peak to see their husbands at the entrance to the Detention Barracks.


Book type
Diary / Memoir
Dates of events covered by this document

Sample pages

Yesterday afternoon ((i.e. 6 Dec 1941)) I went down to the airport for a flying lesson.  I thought it went rather well and was very disappointed with Baugh for not letting me go solo.  After it got dark we went into the bar and met some of the C.N.A.C (China National Aviation Corporation) pilots.  They had about a dozen planes leaving for Nam Yeung that night.  The first two Douglasses went off at about 7:15 and were expected back shortly after nine.

This morning when I went to the office, I found that the situation had worsened.  I don’t really believe that anyone thinks that it will come to anything.  We have had so many flaps and lived in a state of tension for so long that we have become blasé.  We live only for the day when the rather annoying precautions that interfere with our private amusements are once more considered unnecessary.  This is more serious than most.  The Hong Kong Regiment have been ordered to get their ammunition…

About 6:00am on Monday 8th I was woken up, called to the telephone and told that war was imminent with Japan.  By the time I got to H.Q. we were at war.  About 8:00am the first Japanese bombers came over.  They did a lot of damage at the Aerodrome, destroying 7 C.N.A.C. planes, The Clipper, most of the RAF planes and the two Walruses.  They were unopposed.  The volunteer A.A. platoon had drawn no ammunition, I suppose because the day before was a Sunday.  The gunboat supposed to be in the…