Ida Florence Andrews- Levinge 1892-1965
Nurse, Prisoner of War and West Sussex resident.
Ida Andrews- Levinge (nee Levinge) was born and spent her youth on the edge of Lough Ree, near Athlone, Co Westmeath, Ireland.
During WW1 she was a VAD nurse in various Irish military hospitals, served time in France in a field military hospital, before being transferred to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich, a military hospital which had been built as a restorative facility for British veterans of the Crimean War. After the war she worked as a meteorological clerk for a short period with the Women’s Royal Air Force.
In December 1922 Ida Levinge married Keble Andrews, a soldier who was to have a long military career with the Royal Army Service Corps. With Keble Andrews, Ida had two daughters, Patricia (1923-1982) and Betty (1926-2020) and together they travelled the world arising from Keble’s posts in Londonderry, Dorset, Portsmouth, Kent, Egypt … and then Shanghai and Hong Kong in the late 1930’s early 1940’s. Keble was a RASC Major in Supplies and Transport Shanghai (1939-September 1940 ) and then Assistant Director of Supplies and Transport (in December 1941 in Hong Kong?).
In a letter Lt Col GCE Crewe, Keble Andrew’s adjutant in Shanghai and later DADST (?) in Hong Kong, writes “we worked alongside each other both in peacetime and during the battle. At the fall to the Japanese together we marched into the PW camp at Shamshuipo and then into Argyll Street. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. In Shanghai, where we both served before he left for Hong Kong, we had a remarkable affinity for getting the job done. Your mother and he were so kind to young subaltern, just arrived from Palestine and looked after my own young family just as if they were part of their own”.
Keble Andrews-Levinge was awarded an OBE in 1946 for services in Hong Kong.
During her time in Hong Kong Ida Andrews-Levinge sporadically kept a diary of these tense times, which is transcribed below in full as written by her. This was handwritten, in pencil, often in note form and in a ‘copy' book.It is not always clear as to which year the entries relate to as the dates do not always include the year. There are also many blank pages between entries.
(Occasionally I have changed some of the alliteration to make for an easier read and if words, particularly names of people, are difficult to decipher I have put a question mark, in italics, after the word.)
Diary of Ida Andrews Levinge 1941-1945. Hong Kong and Stanley Camp.
HK hotel opened on 22nd.
Dec 8th 1941 Ros?- Vol Headquarters to collect gas masks etc. VAD’s mob 7.30.
War declared Dec 8th 5.30. Stretcher cases to shelters. 2 Air raids (1 at 8 am) Kai Tak etc. Other raid sometime in pm. Naval Yard shelled lunch time. VADs lunch in sisters quarters. VADs left hospital at 5pm to go to homes. Governor broadcast at 5pm.
9th December 1941 (Headquarter at am. V.A.D.s I at BR.) Air raids in am. Did not go to shelters. Fighting in Kowloon. Looting heavy. Sheds destroyed by us to prevent Japanese hiding within. Japanese and Chinese looters, fighting in Kowloon we fire at both sides ( N territory). All Kai Tak planes destroyed. Kowloon evacuated (including ‘clipper’).
Shops and Banks Closed.
10th December 1941 Top floor evacuated to Ward 2. All stretchers to Ward 4 sent to ground floor. Chinese Drs came in in evening. Lunch again at Sister’s Q’s. Our houses not ready yet. H.K Hotel filled with people to be billeted. Heavy shelling at night. Ist shell 11.30 pm fell in Cailne(?) Rd destroyed two houses. Woman buried (Chinese). Came out smiling. Chinese (?) hits and boy killed outside hospital.
11th December 1941 Shelling heavy on west side of island. Helena may (?) occ. Ward 4 hit by shell. Before lunch shell fell bomb fell between SQ and hospital. I in dugouts. Lunch in quarters. No one goes home. All sleep in quarters. 8 Chinese nurses all. Ward 2 & theatre. Slept in Anderson Shelters. I in house. Heavy shelling. Jiny? Yee attacked. VAD hysterics. Yee attended to VAD. (whiskey) Resps on the alert.
12th December 1941 Ate in QT’s, slept in A shelters. A few in houses. Matron orders all to get out of whites. VADs issued with navy slacks. Mrs Hall gave me nice grey pair never worn.
13th December 1941 Slept in A shelters. Sisters in own shelters. H Lamps used in wards. No electricity. Ist Peace Letter (rejected). Many Indian casualties ( about 15). Malaria Pats (Patients?) to Albert’s.
14th December 1941 Sunday. Shelters divided among 3.
15th December 1941 Tonoff(?) married. Huge bomb over 3rd house. (I under bridge dodging*) about tiffen time. I going to house. Air warning on. Firing and planes over. 3 large bombers sailing over. I stay under bridge peering up. See bombers. Hear crash. Bomb. Realise more to come. Seek for a safe place under bridge. Dodge up and down like a rabbit (Hat on & gas mask ready). Lie flat against side of bridge in niche. Just in time. Bomb whistles down damn close. Bits of things sprinkle down outside bridge. Dust and smoke. Smell of bomb.
16th December 1941 R Judah shrapnel wels(?) VADs mess at Alberts shelled. (S.) Morgan and dog killed. Sister Thompson wounded.
It is notable that her diary of December 1941 ends as the violence and the atrocities committed by the Japanese troops increase. She was witness to the Christmas massacre in St Stephen’s Temporary Hospital, Stanley where some of her medical colleagues were abused, raped and murdered. She was 49 years old at this time.
Stanley. October. No Year
Sunday. V & Shawe (?) gone to church. I chow. Breakfast. Rainy skies. Umbrellas out last night. Milk in tin gone sour- open a week! Thank goodness for grapenuts! Tough little guys: they have not turned a hair since someone picked them up for us in England near 2 yrs ago.
No year is included in the following entries
June 16 No year K.S M.R. heard they were to go to Stanley. I may not go yet. Not finished. What job? Any movement is of interest in our dull monotony of apparently senseless days.
July 3rd No Year Tokunago came & RedX delegates 11am. We stood inside door of Ward 2. 2 sisters facing them, the orderly (Cpl Dodds) & self. All bowed.
July 29th No year Have been one week on night duty. Not bad except for typhoon flap one night when 40 men were in my ward and it stank to high heaven. Symes (orderly) & I sat in bunk and the smell floated out. Curry is nice and we drunk cocoa together at 1 am & chat. Food for the last week bad. Only get bread, rice, veg ( ie water, spinach & onions & radishes (Chinese) & a little sugar). Absolutely nothing else except sweet potatoes, bad now, at teatime.
Breakfast: bread (2 slices)-teaspoon sugar.
Tiffin:Rice-veg-1 slice of bread.
Evening 6 o’clock meal: small sweet potatoes, sugar, 2 slices of bread. Rice.
That’s all. Luckily those with money are able to have jam or sardines or honey, grape nuts etc. All very dear. Today they put some curry on the vegs which helped them down. Hard for the orderly and workers to carry on or patients to recover. Wish we could have that stew again! It is now 3.30 am. Time C came round. I want to have a dose ( doze)….
Aug 3rd No year Food today bad ie. Potatoes (sweet?) Rice! Bread that’s all. Simpson gave curry for the potatoes. Hard to get it down. Mary and I share a tin of tongue, made paste of it. T’will last 2 days on bread. No news.
Aug 4th No year Nothing of note today except fish, an event after 2 weeks rice & veg-no sugar for the last 3 days. S Currie a very nice night sister.
Ida’s diary, from Stanley Camp, resumes in August 1944 and ends in June 1945. The entries are somewhat sporadic.
19th August 1944
B. I.R.C.(Irish Red Cross?) Bran
1.6 oz Rice 1 oz
Tiffin 11 am
Hotwater ¾ pt. 4 oz Rice
2oz Rice. Veg Soup + 4 oz Dry Rice
Fish allowance. 2lb…..gross weight (per person) with ice, heads etc- with no ice 1 lb per month-i.e. 3 or 4 sprats each. This has been our allowance for about 4 or 5 months.
Sept 15th Friday 1944: Over to C.S.O to state whether N or S Irish. Water very short. 1 Bucket only. Trying to keep carrot seedlings alive and Pack Choy. Roll call 8 am. Parcels came yesterday. 2 each and 1 for children between 2-10.
Mine contained: Powdered Milk 1lb. Butter 1lb. Corned Beef 12oz Kam (Pork..?). Salt & Pepper. 1oz Sugar. 6oz Sardines. Salmon. Cheese 4oz. Raisins. Prunes. Tea 4oz. Jam 1lb. Choc 5oz. 1lb Biscuits. Soap 2oz- Both my parcels identical. Some had coffee instead of tea-& marmalade. Ate choc and biscuits at once. Marvellous even tho’ chocolate mouldy. After rice-bread only for so long. Biscuits with real flour. Wonderful. Choc being mouldy didn’t matter either. Cheese very dry & (some mouldy powder). Best I’ve opened so far is the powdered milk. What a difference on our rice with a little Wong Tong. Feel so different, relaxed, milk as good as bromide any day! How starved we must be. That light nervousness-strain, is going away. Thank goodness. (Awful feeling-no control and molehills towering into veritable Himalayas!) These stupid doctors are all wrong. It’s Stanlyitis my trouble. In other words overcrowding & slow starvation.
September 16th 1944
Saw piano being taken ‘up the Hill’. Lt Hara San wants to play. 6 men sweating profusely. Very heavy weather with it. Water came in. Supper Mary.
September 17th 1944
Congee bran 7.30 - Taro potato soup - Rice. Mary cooked us some chow. Egg powder scrambled, Potatoes tops - a little S Potato. Teasp. milk powder on my rice & Wong Tong good- feel better- no water except basement. No light. Watered garden with dirty water- 1 bucket all can save. Carrots one inch and some coming up. Pak Tsoi 20 plants out! Hara San has lost face-started to play & notes stuck. H. San said “O bad piano” They sent for Lt Lay ( or ALay) - who played beautifully! Nomarin(?) San very angry. Lt H.Ss’s pr (purple?) face!- slapped face of A Lay. P. wheals afterwards. Day before B. slapped over the pinching of rice by our unloading police- (Hash 5pm).
September 18th 1944
7 oc. No water comes on. Good start!- Gt drop in temp. Almost wanted small blanket last night. Dry wind.
Liver soup? Stew? What you will. Even tho’ anything smelling of meat so rare. Block 10 had spoilt bitter water. Other Blocks had theirs fired(?).Rumour of 3rd parcel.
September 19th 1944
Congee 7.30. Various rumours- Liver soup.
September 20th 1944 Rumour no parcels. Grimson wants for reserve! Will there be a riot? We were expecting them- Pritchard says to G ‘You’ve no right’ Parcels sent us by Red X. Need them now. Chairman of blocks threaten to resign. To be told today G’s decision. (Were’nt ). A bad day. Put in 4 tomatoes. Hoping can get water, Where? Looking like rain- Made tobacco & cigs from pumpkin leaves, guava leaves, Ginger leaves with Babs. No real cigarettes have come in since Sept 6 (about). No news of anymore owing to war. No electricity in Hong Kong.
Roll Call 8am & 7pm. Have to be in room at 6.45 after can go on tennis court till 9pm. If don’t go out then must sit in darkness noise and heat. Silence hour at 10pm.
Dawn at 6.45-7. So long in the dark, awful, no cigs. Think this darkness almost worse than the long endured shortage of food & malnutrition. Whole thing is hell on the nerves now I’m finding. Sometimes I feel I’m really going crazy. Think it better if mind? goes now. Don’t care it would be better than this “on the nerves feeling” _Rain has come.
Mary to Bung B ( later)
October 17th 1944 Taiwan Battle. Rumour troops moved to Japan. Americans take Leyte Island. Big raid H.K. ( Monday)
October 26th 1944 “Ran” for Griffith(?). Electricity off again. Awful. Rumour C has congratulated Nimitz(?) on his success off Taiwan & Leyte. Japs say Taiwan a great victory for them? Got 4 pkts of G Leaf cigs after long time. 2 months without any. Got two lots Suk Yin last week, also for first time. Nice after pumpkin leaves. Very hungry. Rations turnips & rice. Taro & a little fish. Spoon of oil & egg spoon of sugar.
Aachen? Fell last week. Nerves better.
November 1st1944 Opened butter. Bought kerosene ( about now).
November 11th 1944 Water went off. We to be allowed only-per day- 2 pints (boiling) 3 pints for all other purposes i.e. washing up, washing self-etc. Access to sea at Indian Beach ¼ mile at least away. How can we keep clean and gardens finish-
All wash clothes. Latrines started.
November 14th 1944 Not so bad yet. They’re giving us water every 3rd day. Latrines awful , no roofs or partitions. Men’s just Hibiscus shielded. Ours inclined to blow down.
November 15th 1944 Planted S Potatoes bottomside. Ky Choi also Cauly 36(?)
November 17th 1944 Finished planting S Potatoes. Air raid warning evening. Bran.
November 18th 1944 Sunday Water on.
November 19th 1944 I drew rice. Rumours Germany out of war. Manilla fallen. 400 Russian planes raid Japan. ( Aus parcels!!) No water on. Ground rice.
November 20th 1944 Rumours Grace(?)decisions about postwar. Churchill?. Trouble between Germany and Sweden over Gulf of Bosnia. Temeriase(?) & other in Manilla bay. Believe it or not. We might be next. Oh for a square meal with as much as one could eat of anything. Always here one feels that there’s not one item except Pak Choi that one could really fill up on not even since & not have to starve for it later. Made spread. Onions. Oil, eggy curry. Salt. Quite good if enough of it & bread to put it on.
December 8th 1944 Icy cold and rain. Water on every 3rd day. Couldn’t keep warm with 3 blankets, coat & groundsheet on. Wind whistling through cracked panes. Got slight cold. First for 2 years. Awful life. Washing up in dirty little cold puddles of water in Flaherty’s chicken basin. Which is also my wash basin as being small save water. Food terrible. Cabbage soup & 4 oz rice 11 o’clock. 5 pm Cabbage and turnip soup, 2 oz rice. Am Congee 8 oz best meal, 2oz rice and some bran. I made chow for dessert of egg yolk (dried) teasp oil. Onion tops. Fried a little (4 oz) sweet potatoes. IRC butter finished. Put some of the paper in Congee. Good.
Japs giving 4 oz oil, 1 1/2 sugar every 10 days. Salt fish 1oz every 4 days if lucky. M sent denaro yesterday ( 200 each). Hope t’will go. Very exciting if can get. Couldn’t live on Japanese ration. Going to roast 1/2lb beans on chatty and then grind them. Cuts in rice makes it difficult to make pancakes big enough.
Our planes machine 2 ships which come into Stan Bay and unload ( 2 wounded).
June 10th 1945. Take up pen! again. So much older are we so much worse. No meat or fish now for over 8 months. Rice Rice Rice. Now. Water spinach, Rice a few beans.
1 ½ oz oil. 7 tea (?) sug.
That’s all. New inhabitant comes Monday tomorrow.
Dreamt of bomb on house. Children’s chimney. Called KT (Ida and others called her husband Keble Andrews-Levinge KT). He ans “Allright”
DIARY ENTRIES END
It is not known when exactly Ida was released from Stanley Camp or where and when she met up again with her husband Keble Andrews-Levinge. He also spent the war as a POW mostly in Shirakawa Camp... and this is another story.
On release from Stanley it seems she was at The Hong Kong Hotel. A letter of 28th December 1965 from a friend Margerat Spurr ( a vicars wife from Chester-le-Strut, Durham) to Keble on hearing of Ida’s death says “I don’t know whether Ida had told you how we had first met. It was at the Hong Kong Hotel where I had been sent from Bowen Rd & she was later sent, having been at Stanley. You will know all about that so no need to repeat it. I had been in China & was on the Q.A Reserve & had not been in H.K. for very long. She was a grand friend to me during those early, hard days. I think also I am right in saying that we were able to help each other over some pretty tough spots. After we returned to Bowen Rd the two of us set to work to make a vegetable garden on the bank behind the reservoir and working in the earth, working the beds and seeing things grow did a lot for us. Ida would tell me about the garden at home and how the two of you had made it what it was. She always referred to you as ‘himself’. She talked about the two girls and we talked on all manner of subjects. She was also very generous to me and every now and then, after money had been sent in, I would find a tin of jam tucked into my bed, for I did not know anyone outside of Hong Kong.”
What is clear is that the years in Stanley took its toll “I suppose all that ghastly time in Jap hands did leave its mark” letter from Lady Eva Gairdner a long time friend from Ireland ( wife of Sir Charles Gairdner, Governor of West Australia & also Tasmania) to Keble on hearing of her death in 1965.
Another letter from Bats Fredericts? says “we became very good friends during the years in Stanley Camp & I got to understand & admire her ‘Irishness’”.
Another letter from a very great friend Mary ( no surname) “ Ida was so vital, so generous of herself and so understanding. I think she was the nearest and dearest friend I have ever had. Perhaps because we were thrown together in the strange experiences of camp and we had the time to talk and grow into a closer companionship than in more ordinary surroundings- I don’t know- but it was such an enriching and rewarding experience just to have known dear loveable Ida” and “when the rest of us were scudding about on the surface, Ida had found the heart of the matter” and ‘she was a jewel- her spirit shone through the dark days of the camp”.
After the war Ida and her husband lived for a short period near Athlone, Co Westmeath, where she had spent her youth, before settling in Stoughton, West Sussex. Her days were spent in the garden, cycling the lanes of the South Downs with her dalmations and exploring the archaeology of her meighbourhood.
Ida Andrews Levinge died 23rd November 1965 aged 73 years.
A photograph of Ida Andrews-Levinge taken in Shanghai before the war by the fashionable white Russian émigré photographer Skvirsky.