Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp: View pages

The year begins with the Colony's British community obsessed with a war that's confined to far away places. The Hong Kong Daily Press headline announces apparently promising developments on the Greek front; but in the top right hand corner there's a reminder of another war, one much closer to home - an article about 50,000 Japanese soldiers massed in Canton, and a report of a possible attack on Hong Kong as part of 'a new Axis move in Europe' and a Japanese assault on French Indo-China. Later in the paper readers will encounter a stirring New Year's statement from the China Defence League:

From guerrilla strongholds on hill and plain China's defenders look upon a world in flames....Only China, more people will admit now than ever before, stands between themselves and a sudden violent extension of war in the Pacific.

The signatories are T. V. Soong, Madame Sun Yat-sen and the League's tireless secretary, Hilda Selwyn-Clarke, the radical wife of the Colony's Director of Medical Services.

But Hong Kong life apparently goes on pretty much as normal. The HKDP for today reflects the Colony's vigorous sporting scene. Page 7 also includes details of the Hong Kong Cricket Club's squad - Lindsay Ride captaining - for Saturday's game against Craigenower. Page 2 reports that the University is to play a 'Past' vs. 'Present' Cricket Match, while Scotland's footballers have pulled off a Christmas Day surprise against the 'all-powerful Chinese eleven' in the semi-final of the Sunday Herald International Charity Cup.

There's plenty of irony in store in the unlikely event that anyone still had a copy of the paper a year later. Page 5 reports a talk to the Rotarians 'weekly tiffin meeting' by American writer Emily Hahn on her experiences in the air raids on Chungking, the war-time capital of the Chinese Nationalists - Doctor Arthur Woo, a radium expert, is in the chair. Miss Hahn likens the experience of sheltering through an attack to that of a man who doesn't like music forced to listen to a symphony concert. Professor Robert Cecil Robertson proposed the vote of thanks. On the same page is a long account of how to send mail and parcels to Prisoners of War.

The next page features letters from Major Dorothy Brazier thanking those whose kindness has enabled the residents of the Salvation Army Home For Women and Girls to enjoy such a happy festive season, and a similar thank you from Gerald Gardiner of the St. Andrews Fellowship to all those who enabled his organisation to throw such a splendid Christmas party - 'complete with decorated tree and Santa Claus' - for the babies at Muriel Dibden's Baby Home in Fanling.

Of course, to those who'd been living in Hong Kong for four years and more, very little was really normal. The streets were full of refugees, most of them having fled the fighting in south China - and there would be over half a million of them when the Japanese attacked, about 13,000 living in Government camps, and many of the rest crowding into already bursting tenements. Almost 4,000 of the Colony's women - or at least the 'pure European' ones - had been evacuated to Australia in the summer of 1940. Eurasians were turned back at Manila because the Australian Government was determined to keep their country 'white', and the Chinese population was rightly indignant that a scheme largely paid for by their rates ignored them almost completely. There was a vocal 'Batchelor Husbands' movement, demanding the return of their wives - and, more reasonably, complaining about the blatant unfairness that meant you could see some of the most prominent women in the Colony carrying on as normal - Hilda Selwyn-Clarke, for example.  Most of the men left behind were spending their weekends training with the now misnamed Volunteers - conscription for the British was introduced in July 1940 - while a multi-ethnic team of Air Raid Precaution Wardens was preparing to marshal citizens into the controversial new shelters, by force if necessary- 'under no circumstances are other than the improved canes permitted' (HKDP, page 11).

Whatever the future held on this first day of 1941, the present was abnormal and unsettling.


Evacuation and conscription: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 6

All else: Hong Kong Daily Press, January 1, 1941, as cited

Today's Hong Kong Telegraph publishes (page 3) a picture of Chief Justice Sir Atholl MacGregor who's recently been made a Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in recognition of his work for the St. John Ambulance Association. With him are his sponsors, Sir Robert Ho-tung and Ho Kom-tong.


There's a performance of Twelfth Night by the YMCA Amateur Dramatic Club - the first Shakespearean effort in Hong Kong for a number of years'. Alice Winifred ('Winnie') Cox played Olivia:

Winnie Cox, who really held the performance together, looked most charming with her long hair and in the stately robes of a 16th century Countess. Her intonation was clear and every word in her lines was weighed.

After some minor criticisms of Ms. Cox, the reviewer went on to praise Nora Witchell's Viola, whose 'beautiful voice was a delight to listen to'.

Betty Drown played violin in the orchestra.


MacGregor: Hong Kong Telegraph, January 6, 1941, page 3

Twelfth Night: Hong Kong Telegraph, January 13, 1941, page 3


For Winnie Cox see Chronology, February 28, 1942.

Elizabeth Drown was to become the best known of the Stanley musicians.



Hong Kong's one hundreth anniversary celebrations get under way shortly after 8 p.m with broadcasts on ZBW from the Acting Governor Lieutenant-General E. F. Norton and community leaders.

Sir Robert Kotewall talks on 'Anglo-Chinese Co-operation -  Past, Present and Future', praising the healthy and friendly rivalry that exists between the two communities in all spheres of public life and stressing Hong Kong's great industrial potential.


Hong Kong Telegraph, January 20, 1941, page 3

The China Mail publishes a special number to celebrate the centenary of Hong Kong's status as a British colony.

'Centenary messages' are offered by a number of prominent citizens (page 22).

We owe it to those whose foresight first saw the possibilities of Hong Kong and its importance to the British Empire to see that their good work is carried on through the coming years. Only by the concerted efforts of all sections of  the community can the next hundred years show greater progress.

V. M. Grayburn

For a hundred years Hong Kong has been the meeting place for two great and ancient civilisations. During that period their contact has served to spread knowledge which, if rightly used, can add immensely to the welfare and prosperity of all nations.

Is it too much to hope that the coming century will see East and West combine to discover and to teach one another how that knowledge can best attain its proper purpose?

R. A. C. North

Let us resolve to make the coming years of true progress and prosperity; to make Hong Kong a better place, to overcome the barriers of caste, prejudice and privilege, to abolish our slums and to establish justice, health, happiness and contentment for all in this beautiful colony.

Atholl MacGregor

North was Secretary for Chinese Affairs and MacGregor Chief Justice; both were to be future internees. Grayburn, head of the HKSBC, was to remain uninterned and lead efforts to raise money for the relief of the camps. Grayburn would not survive the war, and MacGregor not outlive it for long.

The Scottish Society celebrates Burns Night in the Rose Room of the Peninsula Hotel - there are about 250 members and guests present. While proposing the toast to 'the immortal memory'', Professor Walter Brown of Hong Kong University speaks about Burns as a man and as a poet, dwelling on his services to freedom

The dinner is served in traditional style with the Barley Bree and the Haggis (piped to the Chieftain's table by the St. Andrew's Society honorary pipers).

The Chieftain is SCMP journalist Ben Wylie and also in attendance are past Chieftain G. D. R. Black, Charles E. Terry (President of St. Patrick's Society), L. C. F. Bellamy (Vice-President of St. George's Society), Sir Atholl MacGregor, French Consul-General Louis Reynaud, C. G. Perdue and Dr. Selwyn-Clarke.


Hong Kong Telegraph, February 3, 1941, page 3


Professor Brown taught mathematics. He would devote some of his spare time to going through books in the University Library and, where appropriate, crossing out 'English' and writing 'British' in the margin.



G. S. Kennedy-Skipton, the Controller of Food,  declares in an interview that no shortage of flour is anticipated. However, the Government is watching the situation as irregularities in shipping might affect supplies in the future.

It's also learned that the Government is acquiring a reserve stock of peanut oil and soya beans which, with white rice, should provide a minimum diet in an emergecy situation.


Hong Kong Daily Telegraph, February 10, 1941, page 3


Kennedy-Skipton had been appointed Controller of Food with effect from April, 1940 and then re-appointed with effect from September 2, 1940 (HK Government Gazette, April 5, 1940, 551 and August 30, 1940, 1333). He was demoted to Deputy Controller of Food on February 21, 1941 (Gazette, February 21, 1941, 232) and both he and the new Food Controller, D. L. Newbigging, had lost their jobs by the outbreak of hostilities, allegedly over a faulty consignment of beans - see

Almost the entire staff of the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Telegraph assemble at the desk of SCMP editor Henry Ching, who's given presents to mark his 25 years with the paper.

Ben Wylie, the SCMP's General Manager, gives Mr. Ching an inscribed gold watch and an album with the names of all the staff. In his speech Mr. Wylie recalls the day in 1916 when the editor first applied for a job - as junior reporter - and mentions that he took over the senior position in 1924.

In his reply Mr. Ching states that he's glad to have passed his 33 years as a journalist in a time of 'two great wars and many world changes'.


Hong Kong Telegraph, February 17, 1941, page 3

David Locke Newbigging is appointed Controller of Food, with George Stacy Kennedy-Skipton his deputy.


Hong Kong Government Gazette, February 21, 1941, 232


A visit the local papers have been heralding for months finally begins: Ernest Hemingway and his wife, the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, arrive amid dreary weather on a Pan-Am Clipper piloted by Captain S. Bancroft. They tell journalists that they’re staying at the Repulse Bay Hotel but in fact head off to the Hong Kong Hotel and Hemingway is ‘immediately swept up by the bustle and gaiety of Hong Kong’.

Later in the day they’re taken to Happy Valley Race Course as the guest of U. S. Consul Addison Southard, who Hemingway first met in 1933, but the races are cancelled because of the rain.

The couple have come on the way to cover the Sino-Japanese War, but Hemingway has also been asked by the State Department to gather intelligence about the Kuomintang, who were receiving money and supplies from the USA. Gellhorn will spend most of her time gathering copy in the Colony’s streets, while Hemingway is learning from the tales of a colourful circle of drinking companions in the bar of the Hong Kong Hotel, a circle that includes policemen, Chinese criminals, and Morris ‘Two-Gun Cohen’.

Cohen becomes a particular favourite with Hemingway, who considered writing a book about him – ‘Cohen was the type of rough-edged raconteur that Hemingway adored’. It was Cohen who arranged for the couple to meet Madame Sun Yat-sen (Soong Ching-Ling).

At some point Hemingway and Gellhorn will meet fellow writer Emily Hahn and her lover Major Charles Boxer. Soon after learning she’s pregnant by Boxer – who was still married at the time – Hahn bumped into Hemingway sitting outside the Hotel sipping a bloody Mary. He asked her what would happen to Boxer – ‘Won’t they kick him out of the army?’ Hahn says that would be impossible as ‘he’s the only man they have who can speak Japanese’:

Hemingway looked doubtful for a moment. ‘Tell you what,’ he finally told her. ‘You can tell ‘em it’s mine.’

Hahn later credits Hemingway with introducing Bloody Marys to Hong Kong.

See also the entries for March 1 and May 3 1941.



Peter Moreira, Hemingway On The China Front, 2007:


Arrival and Races: 27-29


Cohen as raconteur: 32


Cohen and Madame Sun ; Hahn’s baby: 57


Bloody Marys: 34



David MacDougall gives a lunch party  for Ernest Hemingway, who he describes as 'the simplest most direct human being I've met' and as 'the best drinker I've ever seen'. The object of the lunch is 'to put Hemingway wise to the China situation' before he goes to China and, MacDougall believes, will be entertained at 'official banquets and revelries' in an attempt to divert him from the truth.

Hemingway was later to become godfather to his second daughter, Sheena.

Also present were Agnes Smedley, a left-wing journalist and supporter of China in its war with Japan, American writer Emily Hahn, and two Chinese he can't name for security reasons - one is a very high 'undercover' politician from Chungking and the other 'the ablest Marxist analyst in China'.


Letter from MacDougall to his wife Catherine, MacDougall Papers, Oxford

American Consul-General Addison Southard hosts a dinner party for Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. It's a  black tie event, and Southard finds it hard to locate a dinner jacket that will fit Hemingway's huge frame - 'Every jacket he tried on had sleeves that barely reached the elbows'.

Guest of honour is Lauchlin Currie, a member of President Roosevelt's inner circle. Currie tells Hemingway that the US Government want to read nothing in his and his wife's articles that would inflame tensions between the Communists and the Kuomintang. Certainly unknown to Southard and perhaps to each other, both Hemin gway and Currie are possibly KGB agents: Hemingway is agent 'Argo' and Currie has been suspected of being an agent codenamed 'Vim'. There is some doubt though as to how much, if anything Currie, who will later help convince Roosevelt to include China in the Lend-Lease Program and head the Chinese branch of its administration, actually told the Russians.

One of the men who set up Hemingway's mission to China and who received his reports was Harry Dexter White, who is also believed by some to have been a Soviet agent ('Jurist'). However, at this time, when America was still not in the war, White and his effective boss US Secretary to the Treasury Henry Morgenthau (definitely not a Russian agent!) were organising international opposition to the Axis, including getting help to the Chinese war effort. Hemingway was judged a useless 'asset' by the KGB but his reports might have been helpful to the Chinese and eventually the Americans.

In spite of all the uncertainties that inevitably accompany claims that a particular person was or was not a Soviet agent before the war, this meeting at a Hong Kong dinner party provides yet more evidence of the falsity of the claim that the Colony at this time was a sleepy place that the great events of the world were passing by!


Peter Moreira, Hemingway on the China Front, 2007, 39, 15;; ...

Stanley Boxer, the Registrar of Hong Kong University, writes to a friend in Canada:

All goes well here, and there is surprisingly little jumpiness considering all that is happening not very far away. We are all very busy of course and Camps ((presumably HKVDC training)) periodically claim members of the staff for a week at a time.


Peter Cunich, A History of the University of Hong Kong, Volume 1, 2012, 397

There's a big send off to thank Major-General Edward Felix Norton for the seven and  half months he's spent as Acting-Governor. Taking the lead is Governor Geoffry Northcote, who's now returned to the Colony, and also present are Colonial Secretary N. L. Smith and his wife, Duncan Sloss and Geoffrey Herklots from the University, Bishop Ronald Owen Hall and Bishop Enrico Pascal Valtorta, Atholl MacGregor, Sir Shouson Chow and Sir Vandeleur Grayburn


Hongkong Daily Press, March 22, 1941, page 5

Japan and the Soviet Union sign a neutrality pact. Japan has already signed the Tripartite Pact that created the Axis (Seotember 27, 1940) and now the diplomatic system which will enable it to launch the December attacks is in place.

One of the reaons for the general (but by no means universal) tendency for Allied military personnel to under-estimate the Japanese was racism: some senior figures did indeed believe that the Japanese were an inferior 'race' with poor eyesight who wouldn't last long if they ever dared attack a modern army. But another reason was the poor performance of the Japanese army in the now often forgotten Soviet-Japanese border dispute of 1939, which arose over disagreements between Russia and Mongolia on the one hand and the Japanese on the other about the frontier of their puppet-state Manchukuo (Manchuria, taken from China in the 1931 attack.) At a battle generally known as Nomanhan (crucial stage August 25-31, 1939) the Red Army, even though many of its officers had been killed in Stalin's purges, destroyed the Japanese 23rd Infantry. Fear of Russia now became an important element in Japanese policy.

The Soviet troops were led by Georgy Zhukov, later to become one of the greatest generals of WW11, but then relatively unknown, so it was easy to assume that the Japanese, who by 1941 had failed to definitively defeat the under-equipped Chinese, were not a serious military threat to European armies.

Another consequence of the Japanese defeat was to have significance for Hong Kong: Rensuke Isogai, Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army which occupied Manchuria, who had already been involved in the Japanese defeat by the Chinese at the Second Battle of Taierzhuang, was retired from active service as a result of this new disaster. In February 1942 he was to be given one last chance to make good - as Governor of the Captured Territory of Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, in today's agreement both sides get what they want: the Russians are free to concentrate on preparing for the inevitable war with Germany, and the Japanese can strike southwards without having to worry about another brush with the Red Army.


Under-estimate of Japanese: see e.g. the assessment of the Far East Combined Bureau summarised in Tim Carew, The Fall of Hong Kong, 1963 (1960), 35; there were much cruder accounts of Japanese inferiority.

Isogai: Philip Snow, The Fall of Hong Kong, 2003, 92

John Alexander Fraser is appointed Defence Secretary with effect from today.


Hong Kong Government Gazette, June 20, 1941, 929

There's a meeting of the leaders of the British and Japanese communities to celebrate the Emperor's birthday. The Governor and the Japanese Consul-General Yano refer to their past alliance (in WW1) and express hopes for a peaceful future.


Hong Kong Telegraph, April 30, 1941, page 4

Walter, a member of the Hong Kong police force, goes shooting with Ernest Hemingway:

This Kowloon is a fine city and you would like it very much. It is clean and well laid-out and the forest comes to the edge of the city and there is very fine wood pigeon shoooting just outside the compound of the women's prison. We used to shoot the pigeons, which were large and handsome, with lovely purple shading feathers on their necks, and a strong swift way of flying, when they would come in to roost just at twilight in a huge laurel tree that grew just outside the whitewashed wall of the prison compound. Sometimes I would take a high incomer, coming very fast with the wind behind him, directly overhead and the pigeon would fall inside the compound of the prison and you would hear the women shouting and squealing with delight as they fought over the bird and then squealing and shrieking as the Sikh guard drove them off and retrieved the bird which he then brought dutifully out to us through the sentry's gate of the prison.


'Walter' and date: Peter Moreira, Hemingway on the China Front, 2007, 167

Quotation: Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream, 1970 (posthumous), 280


Islands in the Stream is a novel, but the Hong Kong section is generally acknowledged to be based on Hemingway's visit. The name of the officer and the date are given in a letter to Martha Gellhorn drawn on by Moreira.

'Walter' might be the Assistant Commissioner Walter Scott: the guard's helpfulness suggests high rank, and Scott is known to have hunted - see Further, he was an associate - probably through intelligence work -  of David MacDougall, who befriended Hemingway in hong Kong.

John Fraser becomes a full member of the Executive Council for as long as he holds the position of Defence Secretary.

University Vice Chancellor Duncan Sloss becomes an additional Official Member of the Executive Council for as long as he holds the position of Censor.


Fraser, Sloss: Hong Kong Government Gazette, June 13, 1941, 905

With effect from today George Stacey Kennedy-Skipton becomes Chief Assistant to the Secretary for Chinese Affairs.


Hong Kong Government Gazette, June 13, 1941, 905