"The Empire Strikes Back"
Noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
Sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
Hos opus, hic labor est.
It is easy to descend into Hell;
Day and night, the gates of Dis stand open;
But to climb out, and to regain the heavens,
That's work, that's a real struggle.
(Virgil, Aeneid, my translation)
Japan surrendered on the 15th of August 1945; there were no Allied naval forces near Hong Kong but a Royal Navy squadron was despatched to Hong Kong post haste. It arrived on the 30th - 19 ships, seven of which were Australian, complete with Admiral Harcourt, the battleship Anson and the aircraft carrier Inflexible.
For the previous fortnight the situation had been a bit uncertain - the Governor, Sir Mark Young, had been interned by the Japanese in Manchuria and the Colonial Secretary, Sir Franklin Gimson, (who had had the misfortune to arrive in Hong Kong to take up his post one week before the Japanese invasion!) proclaimed himself Acting Governor whilst still in Stanley internment camp, on instructions from the British Ambassador in Chungking, who knew that the Nationalist Government were expecting that the place was about to be given to them by the Americans.
The Taipan of the Great and Ancient Hong walked out of the gates of Stanley camp and found that his company's business empire was intact; the Compradore, who as a Chinese citizen had not been interned, had paid salaries out of his own pocket, ruining himself in the process, to keep things going, as well as bribing the camp guards to get food parcels in to his colleagues.
"The Empire Strikes Back" - the cruiser HMS Swiftsure enters a bomb damaged Hong Kong, 30th August 1945 with Admiral Harcourt aboard - she is off North Point so she has has just passed taikoo Docks, the location of the previous photograph...
We are looking at the Cenotaph, in 1945. I have, after a bit of homework, put a date to this picture. It's the 9th October 1945, and we are seeing a combined celebration of Victory and Chinese National Day. New carving on the Cenotaph, adding the words "1939-45" to the original insceription, which simply read "The Glorious Dead", is about to be unveiled.
(The Chinese text on the Cenotaph reads "May their martyred souls be immortal, and their noble spirits endure" and it was added in the Sixties. The Cenotaph itself is identical to the one in London, which I think makes it unique. It is now (2009) a scheduled ancient monument, but ceremonies are no longer held there.)
This picture was probably taken from the balcony of the old Hong Kong Club. Rea-Admiral Harcourt is taking the salute.
Note the two flagstaffs, both temporary, and erected for the event. We see the Chinese Nationalist flag, flying alongside the Union Flag. Such a sight would be unthinkable at any time after 1949, but in 1945 Britain was seriously considering handing Hong Kong back to China and talks about this were starting between the British and the Chinese Governments.
The Band of the Royal Marines have just played both National Anthems and the modern battleship HMS Anson is about to fire a seventeen gun salute. also present are Major-General Pan of the KMT, Admiral Buckmaster of the USN and Lady Mountbatten.
The structure in the middle distance is the old Queen's Pier; the harbour is a good deal further away, now.
The provisional administration of Hong Kong was carried out by the miltary with assistance from officers of the BAAG, who were in an unusually good position to know what was wanted.
Hong Kong bounced back from wartime conditions with lightning speed - rationing was ended in November 1945, six years ahead of Britain. People deported to China moved back and by February 1946 the population was over a million once more.
Something must have happened to Mark Young (who was reinstated as Governor) and to Franklin Gimson, during their time in captivity, because they both, independently, recommended a democratic franchise for the Legislative Council - Sir Mark went so far as to specify that a majority vote in Legco could not be overturned by the Governor's veto.