25 Dec 1941, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

25 Dec 1941, Chronology of Events Related to Stanley Civilian Internment Camp

Date(s) of events described: 
Thu, 25 Dec 1941

The hostilities come to a bloody and rather chaotic end. The surrender's at about 3.30 p.m. but The Japanese insist the Governor Mark Young make his way to the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon to sign the Instrument personally. Not everyone learns of the capitulation immediately - and Brigadier Wallis, commanding East Brigade which is preparing to make a last stand on the Stanley Peninsula, refuses to stop fighting until he gets a signed order.

Before the hostilities come to an end around midnight some of the grimmest events of the Hong Kong war have taken place.

 

At about 6 a.m. the Japanese enter the emergency hospital at St. Stephen's College at Stanley. Over the course of the day, doctors, patients, St. John's Ambulance men and nurses are killed. Some of the nurses are raped first.

 

At 6. 30 a.m. Second Lieutenant Muir (HKVDC) is leading a desperate defence of Bungalow C in the St. Stephen's grounds. Attacks are beaten off until the Japanese bring up a flame-thrower. The section falls back, then re-takes the Bungalow after bitter hand-to-hand fighting. The Japanese get the Bungalow back 'through sheer weight of numbers'. Muir's section fights to the last man.

 

The celebration of mass has just finished at Maryknoll when Japanese soldiers enter:

'Kill,' they snarled, lunging with their bayonets. 'We kill'.

Father Bernard Meyer stands his ground. He explains in Cantonese, which they understand, that this is a house for men of the church. They discuss this amongst themselves, then push Father Meyer aside, force the missioners into one room and proceed to loot the building. When it's noticed one priest - Father Murphy - is wearing khaki trousers under his cassock, the Japanese suspect they are soldiers in disguise and discuss killing them. Instead they are bound tightly and imprisoned in a garage. Outside the 'Maryknoll massacre' of at least eight captured soldiers takes place.

 

Japanese soldiers enter the hospital in the Happy Valley Jockey Club.  A terrifying ordeal begins.  The young Chinese girls working for the Red Cross are raped. In the evening some of the nurses are raped - soldiers threaten to kill everyone if they don't go with them. Late that night one of the nurses - she's been sharing a bed with Mabel Redwood - dons an old Chinese outfit and slips out into the darkness.

 

Meanwhile, Major C M. Manners and A. L. Shields arrive at Fortress Headquarters soon after 9 a.m. They've been escorted through the Japanese lines from the Repulse Bay Hotel to give Major-General Maltby an account of the Japanese forces and equipment they've seen in the hope that this will persuade him to surrender. Maltby consults his staff and decides to fight on.

 

William and Mary Sewell and their family are with the Kennedy-Skipton and Refo group at a house 'just under the shelter of Mount Kellet'. The day begins with a hopeful rumour - the Chinese armies marching to the relief of Hong Kong are approaching. In spite of this, some of the company are close to despair:

But we made a special Christmas effort. Kate ((Shelley -see note)) had a present for everyone....Amidst the whistling of the shells, the thud of exploding bombs, we ate our Christmas midday meal in a sheltered corner of the house. But a stick of bombs falling on the hillside brought down so much plaster that we abandoned the games we had planned.

 

Gwen Dew and others captured at the Repulse Bay Hotel are taken to 'the Kowloon Hotel, a very second-rate hostelry behind the Peninsula ((Hotel))'. At 6 p.m. they are brought their Christmas dinner - rice and water.

 

During the late afternoon and evening news of Hong Kong's surrender spreads amongst the Allied civilians still at liberty.

Phyllis Harrop is at the Gloucester Hotel:

I have never felt anything like I went through in those moments, nor have I ever seen so many people show their feelings so openly, and weep, even the men.

 

Gwen Priestwood is with Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn . The two women take some alcohol from the house of Helen and Gustl Canaval (with their permission) and drink it at the Queen Mary Hospital where Boxer's being treated for wounds:

Nothing marred our simple enjoyment of the day until three in the afternoon, when Hilda ((Selwyn-Clarke)) ran in. Her hair was mussed up and there were tears running down her cheeks, and a break in her voice.

'Do you know the news, Charles?' she blurted. We've surrendered. The firing is stopped. There's a white flag on the police station across the road. Selwyn just phoned me'.

 

Ellen Field leaves her sanctuary in May Road and joins other wives of Hong Kong Volunteers streaming down the Peak to Volunteer Headquarters in the hope of seeing their husbands:

We walked along that line of utterly defeated and dispirited men. Whenever I saw a face I recognised, I called out, 'Where's Frank?' but all I got was a shake of the head. I saw women suddenly break away from the road and with a glad cry dart towards tired men struggling to rise from the ditch, to kiss and hug and weep unshamedly. After I had been trudging for more than a hundred yards, I suddenly saw Frank...I broke into a run while I was still twenty yards away. Then his arms were around me, and I was crying.

 

John Stericker is in the Gloucester Hotel, where a team of police, assisted by volunteers, pour away (or drink) all of the liquor in the hotel for fear that it might further inflame the conquering army.

 

Thomas Edgar hears of the surrender about 5 p.m. He and other employees of Lane, Crawford report to the company headquarters, the Exchange Building in Des Voeux Rd. Here Edgar takes part in the pouring away of  the company's alcohol supplies.

 

The Telephone Exchange is also in the Exchange Building, so the telephone company workers remain there.

 

Andrew Leiper, doing double duty as both Volunteer and Essential Worker, is at the American Club in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Building:

Now that it was all over many of us felt drained of any emotion, and as the nervous tension which had kept us going with little sleep or rest relaxed we felt and looked desperately tired.

 

Wenzell Brown goes to the Cafe Wiseman in the Exchange Building for a free Christmas dinner 'great slabs of turkey and spoonfuls of cranberry sauce' - and then goes off in search of a place to sleep, ending up with a fellow university lecturer.

 

One hour after the surrender nurse Peggy Scotcher marries Royal Scots Intelligence Officer Lieutenant T. D. Hunter. Both are to survive the war - he in Shamshuipo, she in Stanley - to be reunited.

 

Anyone moving around Hong Kong needs to be careful; in Wenzell Brown's words:

Little gangs of looters roamed the otherwise deserted streets. They held up and robbed any single pedestrians who passed.

 

Later that day Gwen Priestwood goes to the Gloucester Hotel, her thoughts 'full of the probable coming horrors'. While sipping gimlets in a friend's room on the fifth floor:

We lived over again all the terror stories we had heard for years on the China coast.

 

Even more optimistic people like Ellen Field - who at the start of the fighting had been expecting decent treatment for the British - must have gone to bed wondering what lay in store.

 

But on the Stanley Peninsula fighting continues until the evening. Captain C. J. Norman of the Stanley Platoon (prison officers) conducts the final surrender of the Stanley area. A Japanese officer asks him if he and his men will continue prison duties until the Japanese are able to take over - he's worried about the 500 'hard core' criminals in Stanley Prison. Norman agrees to do so if ordered by Brigadier Wallis and as long as all the men he guards are sentenced under British law. Wallis gives the necessary order, and the Jones diary records that the prison officers are moved from the Fort to the prison on December 27 and resume duties the next day. ((See note below.))

 

Back in England they know the news before the day is out. Colchester diarist Alwyne Garling recorded:

Morning mild 50 degrees and some rain. Then turned bright and cooler with North wind and temperature fell to 42 degrees by tea time. Went for a little walk...The Governor of Hong Kong reports that no further useful resistance can be offered. Japs say they ordered cease fire at noon to-day.

 

Sources:

Events at Stanley: Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 254-263

Maryknoll: M. W. Redwood, Catholics In Internment, typescript, 1960, 35-36

Jockey Club: Mabel Winifred Redwood, It Was Like This, 2001, 89-96

Manners and Shields: John Luff, The Hidden Years, 1967, 146-147

Sewell: William Sewell, Strange Harmony, 1948, 21-22

Dew: Gwen Dew, Prisoner of the Japs, 1943. 73

Harrop: Phylis Harrop, Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 87

Priestwood et al: Emily Hahn, China For Me, 1986 edition, 284

Field: Ellen Field, Twilight in Hong Kong, 1960, 48

Stericker: John Stericker, A Tear For The Dragon, 1958, 131

Edgar: British Baker article viewable at http://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

Telephone: Les Fisher, I Will Remember, 1998, 36

Leiper: Andrew Leiper, A Yen For My Thoughts, 1982, 93-94

Brown: Wenzell Brown, Hong Kong Aftermath, 1943, 36-37

Scotcher: Oliver Lindsay and John Harris, The Battle For Hong Kong, 2005, 78

Prison officers at Stanley: John Luff, The Hidden Years, 1967, 156

Alwyne Garling: http://www.ww2incolchester.com/default.asp?page=showall&year=58453930785

Notes:

1) I think Kate Shelley is based loosely on Helen Kennedy-Skipton. But, if  so, she's a composite figure, as Kate goes into Stanley, which Helen never did.

2) Many members of the Stanley Platoon (prison officers) seem to have been interned at Stanley Camp, including the diarist R. E. Jones, inspite of having served in the HKVDC. However, some went to Shamshuipo (and some of this group died on the Lisbon Maru). It's possible that those sent to the civilian camp were being rewarded for their service at the prison after the surrender - but Bill Hudson (see yesterday's entry) doesn't mention doing any work after being sent to Stanley Prison on December 27 and he was one of those in Stanley. At the moment, the reason for the different fates of the prison officers is unclear (to me).

Comments

Hi Brian,

I've just been reading "Nobody said not to go", the biography of Emily Hahn. It says that Boxer had been seriously wounded in the fighting, and was in Queen Mary Hospital at the time of the surrender:

News of the governor's decision to surrender was greeted with shock and disbelief at the Queen Mary Hospital. Mickey ((ie Emily Hahn)) and Charles ((Boxer)) had been celebrating the day with a bottle of whisky when Hilda ((Selwyn-Clarke)) burst into the room. She was in tears, her voice breaking. Hilda reported that her husband had telephoned to say Sir Mark had surrendered.

That conflicts with the description from Gwen Priestwood you quote above:

Gwen Priestwood is with Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn at the house of Helen and Gustl Carnaval:

Nothing marred our simple enjoyment of the day until three in the afternoon, when Hilda {Selwyn-Clarke} ran in. Her hair was mussed up and there were tears running down her cheeks, and a break in her voice.

'Do you know the news, Charles?' she blurted. We've surrendered. The firing is stopped. There's a white flag on the police station across the road. Selwyn just phoned me'.

I've read elsewhere that Boxer was wounded, so I think the Hahn description is likely to be the more accurate one.

Regards, David

Thanks, David. This was sheer carelessness on my part: they'd taken alcohol from the Canavals' house (with their permission) and they drank it with Charles Boxer at the Queen Mary. I'll change the entry.