Sunday, 26 March 2017

Monthly Blog - March 2017

Marie Gwendoline Paterson 


In December 1941, the Hong Kong Jockey Club grandstand at Happy Valley race course was being used as a Temporary Civilian Hospital. A number of European and Chinese volunteer ANS nurses worked there during the Battle for Hong Kong. As the fighting drew closer the hospital found itself on the frontline of the fighting, and on Christmas morning when Japanese soldiers entered the hospital a number of the terrified nurses were abused and raped. One of the nurses working there was Marie Peterson. She was forty-five years old and worked as a teacher at Queen's College. She managed to escape from the hospital, whilst the abuse of the nurses was going on. She darkened her face, by smearing herself with dirt, and used an Amah's robe and hair covering to disguise herself. Although the colony had surrendered on Christmas Day, the rape and abuse at the Jockey Club hospital carried ion that day and night. In the middle of the night she got out of the building, avoiding the Japanese sentries, and crossed the road into the Colonial Cemetery opposite the Jockey Club stands. She crawled through the cemetery avoiding Japanese patrols and made her way up the steep hillside and eventually reached Bowen Road and the British Military Hospital where she reported to British Authorities what had happened at the hospital. Gwen Dew in Prisoner of the Japs (1942) described her admiration for this brave nurse.
"To this woman who risked death to bring help rather than submit to degradation, I offer my highest homage - Marie Paterson, I commend you to the list of heroines of the war."
Marie is also mentioned by Mabel W. Redwood in her autobiography It was like this (2001). Mabel Redwood was an ANS nurse at the Jockey Club Hospital. She recalls the Japanese entering the hospital on Christmas morning with a hostage who they recognised as a well known Anglo-Indian doctor. 

The Jockey Club Grandstand and the cemetery (Source: Racing Memories HK)
Jockey Club Stands and Cemetery (Source: Pinterest)
Marie Da Roza, a young Portuguese nurse recounted the arrival of the Japanese in a deposition she made after the war.
"I was standing at the Jockey Club entrance when Dr Arculli was brought in at the point of a revolver, the Japanese soldier had tied a rope round his waist and was using him as a shield. We were taken into the tote and guarded at both ends. Japanese soldiers came pounding in, all day they were taking Chinese nurses upstairs on the first and second floors and when the girls came down alone, one by one, they were crying their eyes out, they had been raped. The nursing sisters did all they could to help them but it was impossible to do anything to prevent them being taken up again and again."
Marie Da Roza testified how the European nurses rolled bandages, whilst some carried on nursing, but all were terrified by what was happening in the hospital and dreading that they would be next. She described how one nurse carried a dead baby for hours in the hope that the Japanese would leave her alone. That night being Christmas night several of the European nurses were dragged away and raped. Marie Da Rosa managed to hide under a camp bed and from her hiding position she could see the Japanese shining torches and dragging girls from under the tables. The ordeal lasted all day and all night. As a result of Marie Paterson's escape, the Director of Medical Services, Dr Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke organised, through liaison with the Japanese medical authorities, ambulances to evacuate the hospital including the nurses on 26th December. The nurses were taken to Queen Mary Hospital.  

So who was Marie Paterson and what became of her. I was not able to find out very much, but I discovered she was born in Grenada in the British West Indies. Her parents lived there and I believe her father worked there a medical doctor. She became a school teacher, teaching in Singapore and Hong Kong before the war. She was interned at Stanley Camp until liberation in 1945. In August 1946 she is recorded on passenger lists as travelling from Mombassa to Liverpool. She then appears to have resided in Middlesex from 1946 through to 1953 and appears on electoral rolls during that period. On 31st December 1953 there is a report of her marriage at the Scottish Church in Grenada to war hero, Air Commodore Frederick Laurence Pearce, RAF (Rtd), CBE, DSO, DFC, MiD. He retired from the Air Force in March 1952. She was fifty-seven years old at the time. I believe they settled in Grenada. Frederick Pearce died in December 1975.


John Christian Boldero

I had an email from William ("Bill") Anderson who served as a HKVDC dispatch rider during the Battle for Hong Kong.  He published a book about his life in Hong Kong and China before the war, his experiences in the Battle for Hong Kong, and his post war career with NCR. He later became the CEO of NCR. His book is titled "Corporate Crisis - NCR and the computer revolution" by William S. Anderson with Charles Truax (Landfall Press, Dayton, Ohio 1991). 

After having been liberated from POW Camp in Japan, Bill Anderson was repatriated to UK in 1945.  It was difficult getting back to Hong Kong in 1946, and all such passages were controlled by the Ministry of Transport. Bill eventually took passage on the SS Samsoaring which was a general cargo liner bound for Shanghai from the Port of London. The vessel had room for three passengers. One of these was forty-six-year-old John Christian Boldero, who being the most senior of the three had a cabin to himself.  The other was Donald William Jarrett Clark, an employee of Jardines, heading out to Asia for the first time. 

The SS Samsoaring was a former liberty ship, which were mass produced in wartime and used by the United States and also provided to UK as part of the lend-lease assistance to Britain who needed to replace freighters sunk by German U-boats. Samsoaring was slow with a speed of less than ten knots and Bill describes the journey in his book as being a "slow boat too China."

This prompted me to do some more research into John Boldero. I found he was born on 28th December 1899 in Caterham, Surrey. He was the son of Tempe Stanley Drew and Richard Christian Benedictus Hamel Wedekind who had married in 1897.  Richard Wedekind, died in 1899 without ever seeing his son John who was born in December of that year. Tempe had been married previously to Harold Montague Browne in 1893, but her first husband had  died in 1895. She had one son from this previous marriage. John Boldero was born John Christian Wedekind, but at some stage he and his mother must have changed their name to Boldero which was his mother's grandfather's name on the maternal side.

John Boldero joined the Royal Navy during WW1. He was a sixteen-year-old Midshipman at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 serving tin the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible.

Battlecruiser HMS Inflexible
In 1921 he married Marjorie Agnes Wise (1899-1994) at Battle, in East Sussex. They had two daughters Cynthia Madeline (1923) and Priscilla Mary (1927). In 1922 as a result of cuts to the services Lt John Boldero left the Royal Navy then aged twenty-two. His naval record is not very complimentary as to his abilities,  but nevertheless he won the DSC at the age of nineteen for his gallantry and leadership during the engagement with the Bolshevik fleet at Kronstadt. 

In 1922 after having been laid-off from the Navy he took passage to Vancouver, Canada where he found work as a skipper on the Vancouver ferry. He returned  to UK in 1924 and then found employment in Shanghai with the Shanghai Waterworks where he was employed from 1926 until 1939 by which time he had become Company Secretary. On the outbreak of war in 1939, at the age of thirty-nine,  he was recalled for service in the Royal Navy in Hong Kong  and given the rank  of Lt-Commander. Initially he was appointed  commanding officer  of the MTB flotilla. In 1941 he lost his right arm in an accident when one of the MTBs collided with the destroyer HMS Thracian. In July 1941 he was appointed as commanding officer of the gunboat HMS Cicala.  This small,  but well armed ship fought very gallantly throughout the battle of Hong Kong until she was sunk by Japanese aircraft. John Boldero survived incarceration and was repatriated back to England after liberation in 1945. 

In 1946 John Boldero received a bar to his DSC. He was demobilised after the war.  Then we see him with Bill Anderson and Donald Clark heading back East in July 1946 on the SS Samsoaring. He  returned to his old job in Shanghai, but not for long as China became involved in a civil war that led to formation of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. There is a record of him returning to UK in October 1948. He may have remarried as passenger manifests after the war show him travelling with Emily Boldero.  He died in 1984, at the age of eighty-four, near Weymouth in Dorset. 

Boa Vista


The Japanese landed on Hong Kong Island during the night of 18th/19th December 1941. A Canadian platoon (No. 5 Platoon HQ Coy Royal Rifles of Canada) commanded by Lt Gerard Williams was deployed on Boa Vista. I assume this was their pre-arranged war station. Boa Vista is a hill top 846 feet above sea-level and commanding the strategic Tai Tam Gap with its military HQ. The military complex at Tai Tam Gap included East Infantry Brigade HQ and Royal Rifles of Canada Battalion HQ. Boa Vista allowed access along a path to Sanatorium Gap (aka Quarry Gap) between Mount Parker and Mount Butler. On the night of the landings, the Japanese battalion that landed at Aldrich Bay proceeded up the north face of Mount Parker, and  then moved in a north westerly direction, counter clockwise around the upper levels of Mount Parker to arrive at Sanatorium Gap. After overcoming No. 1 Platoon of No. 1 Coy HKVDC they continued uphill to occupy Mount Parker, which was their principal objective. Lt William's Platoon  was ordered up to Mount Parker  from their position on Boa Vista. They followed the  path to Sanatorium Gap where they met up with guides sent from HKVDC positions at Sanatorium Gap. However, when they arrived at the gap there was no sign of the HKVDC, who by that time had been overrun. The Canadian platoon proceeded up Mount Parker only to find the Japanese in occupation and in much greater strength. The platoon was destroyed. A second platoon (No. 9 Platoon) from 'A' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada under the command of Lt Collison Blaver was ordered up to Boa Vista to replace the previous platoon. Blaver's  platoon was later ordered up Mt Parker, where they  ran into entrenched Japanese positions and withdrew after suffering a number of casualties.

Map extract showing Boa Vista, Mt Parker and Tai Tam Gap
Boa Vista was a strategic position, and I had always assumed that there would be some evidence of splinter proof military accommodation shelters for a platoon size force of 25 to 30 men. However I had never found any sign of military structures. I then had a call from my friend Sergio Marcal who had found a military structure at Boa Vista. He had also found a Royal Rifles of Canada cap badge near the wartime military structure.

Cap badge of the Royal Rifles of Canada 
Stuart Woods and I arranged to meet with Sergio Marcal on top of Boa Vista. We climbed up from Tai Tam Gap and Sergio showed us the military structure that must have been used by Lt Williams and later Lt Blaver.

My friend Sergio at the military structure.

The splinter proof shelter on Boa Vista
The steel door and shutters had been hacked off the structure, no doubt long ago and sold for scrap.  A building like this could usually sleep a section of nine men  (three retractable bunks on three walls).    The building is hidden in the undergrowth and not visible from the nearby trail. It seemed to be facing the direction of Mount Parker (northwest). Oddly within 20 metres or so was another structure which was brick built and did not look like a typical WW2 military structure, this remains a mystery.

The brick built structure

Sai Wan Military Cemetery


The most senior Allied officer to be killed in the Battle for Hong Kong was Brigadier John Lawson. He died at his HQ bunker at WNC Gap after having been shot in the legs by machine gun fire, whilst trying to extricate from his surrounded HQ on 19th December 1941. Lawson was given a battlefield burial at WNC Gap, but after the war his body was one of many, with known graves, which were exhumed and given a military burial in one of  the two military cemeteries in Hong Kong. These are at Sai Wan and Stanley. Brigadier Lawson was buried at Sai Wan and I had assumed he was the most senior officer buried there, but I was wrong, there are two Major-Generals buried at Sai Wan Military Cemetery and both were decorated veterans of WW1, who died during WW2.

Firstly there was Major General Lancelot ("Lance") Ernest Dennys. He was an officer in the British Indian Army. He was born at Simla in India in 1890. He won the Military Cross in WW1. The citation records his gallantry in action.
"On 20th September, 1918, he led his company through an intense cross machine gun barrage and took his objective with the utmost determination and dash. His personal gallantry and disregard of danger greatly inspired all ranks. Although severely wounded. he endeavoured to crawl and continue commanding but finally had to be carried back by his orderly."
 General Archibald Wavell & General Lance Dennys (Source: findagrave.com)
He had a distinguished career with the Indian Army between the wars, and in 1941 he was acting as Head of the British Military Mission to China based in Chungking. He died aged 51 on 14th March 1942 when a CNAC DC-2 that he was a passenger in crashed at Kunming.

The other high ranking officer buried at Sai Wan was Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith. He too was a veteran of WW1 and had been awarded the DSO and MC and Mentioned in Dispatches four times. Like Dennys, he too was born in 1890, and served with the Brigade of Guards. He commanded 1st Guards Brigade in WW2 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. His brigade acted as rearguard in the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. He was then given command of the 18th Territorial Division and sent out to Singapore with the division. He became a Prisoner of War (POW) when Singapore fell in February 1942. He was transhipped to Formosa (now Taiwan) in August 1942.  Whilst in POW Camp in Formosa, in a weakened state, he was severely beaten by a Japanese guard and became ill as a result. He contracted diphtheria and died in November 1942. 

Major-General Beckwith-Smith
His granddaughter Anne Honor Beckwith-Smith was for many years  (1981 to 1997) Lady in Waiting to Princess Diana.


Vandalism at  Brigadier Lawson's Bunkers


After the evacuation of the Mainland, Brigadier Lawson was placed in command of West Infantry Brigade and Brigadier Wallis was placed in command of East Infantry Brigade. The Japanese landed on the Island on the night of 18th December 1941. The next morning Brigadier Lawson found that his Brigade HQ bunkers had become part of the front line and his HQ was surrounded by Japanese troops who had seized Wong Nai Chung Gap (WNC Gap) earlier that morning. The bomb proof shelters that were used as his HQ still remain beside a petrol station on WNC Gap Road. I often go there because it is part of the WNC Gap "Battle Trail" and I periodically conduct guided battlefield tours along this trail.  For a long time these bunkers were strewn with rubbish and other junk, but the Antiquities & Monuments Office (AMO) have finally got round to tidying up the site. They deserve praise for doing a very good clear-up of this historic site. 

I felt quite outraged to find that the site had been vandalised by teenagers, who are most probably from the nearby French International School. Some of these teenagers hang out at the bunkers leaving litter, beer cans and cigarette ends, but more recently have spray-painted graffiti on some of the internal and external walls including on at least one of the original steel doors. The graffiti is in French and I have seen (and photographed) students from the nearby French International School at this location.  See the vandalised buildings in the photographs below. 


A bomb proof structure that I think may have been a garage. 

What I think was Lawson's bunker protected by the blast wall. 

Spray-painted graffiti which is difficult to remove
The next set of photographs (courtesy of history enthusiast Alexander Macdonald) show the messy state of the site before the Antiquities and Monuments Office  (AMO) clear-up.


The garrage full of junk
Litter and junk filling up the passageway

What a mess and this is a historic site.
What a difference was made after the the tidy up by AMO - see the photographs below marred only by the mindless graffiti and fresh litter.


After the clear-up by AMO

After the AMO clear-up but sadly after the vandalisation
I posted several of these photographs on my Facebook (FB) page and on the Battle of Hong Kong FB page. The Hong Kong Free Press wrote a story about it, and there was quite widespread outrage and protest that these historic buildings, which in someways are like a war shrine because so many died at this spot, had been vandalised in this way.  Brigadier lawson was buried at this site (later exhumed and reburied at Sai Wan military cemetery). Lawson, and those who fought here, and those who died here, deserve better than this. I wrote to the Headmaster of the French International School (FIS) and to the Executive Secretary of the AMO. The French International School and the French Consulate were also appalled, and have been very responsive. The AMO have also responded positively. I am working with FIS and AMO to restitute the damage to these buildings.  I met the Headmaster of FIS and a number of teachers in the history faculty both for French stream and English stream. I met some of the FIS students  who that morning had been across to the site and tidied up the discarded litter. They did this of their own volition. They too were upset by what had happened and also by the negative publicity for their school caused by the thoughtless actions of a very small handful of people who are thought to be involved. The school is anxious to work with AMO to restitute the damage and the AMO is consulting conservators to seek guidance how to remove the spray-paint without damaging the structures.  The school are also looking at adopting the site, which is just across the road from their WNC Gap Road entrance, and keeping it clean and tidy and reporting any damage. This would give the students a sense of ownership of the site and the school have readily agreed to undertake some class-group guided battlefield tours which I will lead around the WNC Gap area i.e. to tell them about the battle and what these war ruins are and what happened there in the vicinity of their school.  Another military historian Bill Lake will do a presentation on WW2 in Hong Kong to the school after the Easter Holidays. I think the publicity may do so some good because it highlights the need to protect and preserve these war ruins that still remains in many places around Hong Kong. It also shows Government departments that people care about these structures and these are locals, expats and people in other countries. Another positive is that  the students at FIS will have a much better understanding of what these buildings are and what happened in the Battle for Hong Kong in the area around their school and hopefully these war ruins will be spared further damage and littering. 


Battlefield Tour

On Saturday 25th March I took a group of around twenty Hong Kong Club members on a guided walk on what I describe as the Stanley Perimeter. We started at Stanley View and went straight up Stanley Mound and then to Stone Hill, Notting Hill and finally Bridge Hill and then down to the Tai Tam X-Roads. It was a rigorous hike all of which was off main trail, and although short in distance, it involved many steep ascents and descents through quite dense undergrowth. I was so impressed with this group for doing such a demanding hike in difficult terrain at a good pace. The whole route including a lunch stop took over five hours. The oldest participant was eighty-one, and walked very energetically and well.  I just hope when I reach that age - I can do a hike like this. 

War Walk - the Stanley Perimeter
There had been fighting on all these hills from 21st to 23rd December. Some of the hills had changed hands a couple of times like Stanley Mound and Stone Hill. We found a number of bullets and spent cartridges which were left in situ. This line of hills from Stanley View to Notting Hill formed a defensive perimeter in front of Stanley and was manned predominantly by the Royal Rifles of Canada.


On the battlefields

During the month we made a number of forays from the ridge path either side of the crest of Jardines Lookout, looking for evidence (Canadian spent rounds and Japanese grenade fragments) of the route taken by 'A' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers on 19th December 1941, during their fighting retreat towards Stanley Gap. We have found a lot of Japanese spent rounds and chargers on the ridge path area, but we are yet to find large amounts of Canadian rounds in positions which demonstrate the route taken by this Canadian infantry company.  The whole company was destroyed, their commanding officer was killed in action, and their CSM was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The company fought from dawn to mid afternoon.  I was accompanied by  military history enthusiasts Stuart Woods and Dave Willott. Each foray was off trail, and involved crashing through thick vegetation. The terrain is difficult and you don't realise until you are in it. There are deep ravines and boulders. The photograph below is taken in one of the less overgrown areas.

Stuart Woods with metal detector - looking for 'A' Coy route
Although we did not find what we were looking for, we did find the rusted remains of a WW2 helmet. Not much of it was a left other than the steel rim around the helmet and the strap holders on the side of (inside of) the helmet. These items we left in situ.

Rusted remains of a helmet (note the steel rim) 
Buckle holding strap to helmet

An intact helmet showing buckle and steel rim  
There are a number of bomb proof WW2 toilets that remain in Hong Kong. The one below is the smallest I have seen. It's a toilet for one with thick reinforced concrete walls. Steps lead down to it from the Command Post at Stanley Gap (near the AA Battery).

Bomb proof toilet, for one,  at Stanley Gap (near Command Post).
Steps lead down to this small splinter proof toilet structure
Dennis Quong, military history enthusiast, on the roof of the Command Post
The splinter proof toilet below is in a different location. It's at Stanley View which was a the meeting point for the HK Club walk described above. This one may be bomb proof but it's not tree proof. The tree is literally devouring and destroying the concrete structure.

Sic gloria transit mundi







Sunday, 26 February 2017

Monthly Blog - February 2017

Captain Eric Philip Wiseman, RASC 

On 7th February, I was delighted to receive a copy Hong Kong: Recollections of a British Prisoner of War published by Veterans Publications in Canada (2001) and written by former Captain E. P. Wiseman, RASC. Eric Philip Wiseman, always known as Bill Wiseman, was born in December 1917 in Kuala Lumpur. He attended Kings School Canterbury, and whilst there and whilst "fooling around on a train," he was involved in an accident that resulted in the loss of a foot. Notwithstanding this he was a able to join the Territorial Army as 2nd Lt in the RASC. He was mobilised in 1939 following the outbreak of war in Europe. In 1940 he was posted overseas to 12 Coy RASC, China Command, Hong Kong.

When war started in Hong Kong on Monday 8th December it was Wiseman's 24th Birthday. He was responsible for the Vehicle Collection Centre (VCC) at Happy Valley. Two days after the Japanese landings he was ordered to relocate the Transport Pool to Sassoon Road, Pokfulam. Here he was shot in his un-amputated leg by friendly fire. There is a reference to his being wounded in the RASC war diary.

"During this night of heavy rain (20th/21st December), fire from Tommy Guns of Indian units on Sassoon (Road) was sporadic especially on the occasion that a visit to Miramare’s  telephone was necessary and in the house itself Capt Wiseman was wounded". (Source: Lt Howell, RASC War Diary).

Cover of Bill Wiseman's book (Veterans Publications, 2001)

Captain Bill Wiseman (from the book)
Wiseman's book contains an account of his experiences during hostilities and subsequently as a POW. It has interesting bio details on some of his fellow POWs including Major Boxer and Lt-Cdr Boldero. It also has some interesting sketches including one of the gallant gunboat HMS Cicala. This warship was in the thick of action until she was sunk in the East Lamma Channel. She was small but powerful, her armament consisted of two 6-inch guns (forward and aft), a 3-inch high angle gun and a 2-pdr pom-pom AA gun. She was commanded by Lt-Cdr. John Boldero who had served at the Battle of Jutland in WW1 and had left the Royal Navy during post war down-sizing. He was recalled for service in September 1939 on the outbreak of war in Europe. He lost his right arm during a collision between an MTB and Cicala. Here's a pre-war photograph of Cicala in dry dock.

HMS Cicala in dry dock (Writer's Collection)
Another interesting sketch was of WDV French. This launch was one of the WD (War Department) vessels operated by the RASC, under the blue ensign. French was used in the evacuation of troops from Devil's Peak Peninsula and throughout the period of hostilities.

A fine looking launch - WDV French (From Bill Wiseman's Book)
After being wounded, Bill Wiseman was admitted to the nearby Queen Mary Hospital. In the next bed was Major Charles Boxer, the Head of the combined forces intelligence unit. Boxer, a Japanese linguist, was well known to the Japanese from his liaison role with the Japanese Army. He received visitors from senior Japanese officers who were impressed when Major Boxer introduced Captain Wiseman and implied that he had lost one leg and been wounded in the other during the fighting. Impressing the Japanese officers and one can almost imagine the sucked-in breath and the "so desu-ka."


Stanley Internment Camp Notes

From Bill Wiseman's book I discovered that Captain John ("Jack") Gordon Whitaker Adjutant of 5th AA Regiment, Royal Artillery,  had married Wendy Winnifred Willcocks in Hong Kong shortly before the war. He was held in military POW camps and she was incarcerated in Stanley Camp with her parents Major James Lugard Willcocks and Muriel Kathleen Willcocks. A quick search of old Hong Kong newspapers revealed that the marriage between Jack Whittaker and Wendy Willcocks took place at St John's Cathedral on 25th October 1939. A reception was held at the Hong Kong Club Annex and the honeymoon was in less than exotic Fan Ling. H.E. the Governor was represented at the wedding by his Aide-de-Camp Captain Sydney Batty-Smith. Batty-Smith died in February 1945 whilst interned at Stanley Camp. 

Major Willcocks was born in India the son of an Indian Army officer. Major Willcocks had served with the Black Watch in WW1 during which he was awarded the DSO and MC. He married Muriel Price in 1916. Their daughter Wendy was born in Bermuda in 1919. She was 22 years old when she was interned at Stanley Camp. Major Willcocks was serving as Commissioner of Prisons in 1941 and was a member of the HKVDC. He commanded the Stanley Force and was the right hand man for Brigadier Wallis in the Battle for Stanley.

Bill Wiseman also mentions Lt. Michael H. Turner who was married to fifty-three-year-old Daisy Turner who was incarcerated in Stanley Camp with her married daughter Beryl Daisy Skipwith (nee Turner). They shared a room in the Indian Quarters with Joyce Bassett.  Bill Wiseman writes that Lt Turner was known as "Pop" in POW Camp on account of his age (thought to be around 55). He had been the Head of prominent law firm Deacons before the war and the family had lived in a villa at Skek-O. He had been called to serve as a 2nd Lt in the 5th AA Regiment, Royal Artillery in 1941. His daughter Beryl Daisy had married Captain Patrick Skipwith, Adjutant of 8th Coast Regiment based at Stanley Fort.

Joyce Bassett had been a secretary working for the Colonial Secretariat. She had been based at Government House during hostilities. Her widowed mother Florence Eva Thornhill was also in Stanley Camp. Her bother Sub-Lt John Thornhill was serving with HKRNVR and was incarcerated in POW camp. 


War Walk with HK Club

On Saturday 11th February in delightfully cool and sunny weather I took a group of twenty members of HK Club on a guided battlefield tour of WNC Gap area. We started at the Stanley Gap 3.7-inch Howitzer Battery and  finished at a pillbox above Blacks Link (PB 3). PB 3 was not manned when the Japanese stormed WNC Gap early in the morning on Friday 19th December. The crew from Winnipeg Grenadiers were proceeding up to gap to man the PB when they found Japanese troops in possession of the area around the police station knoll. PB 3 is still in good condition. The machine gun mountings and swivels can still be seen. Sadly the inner walls have been vandalised and daubed with red paint and graffiti.


Battlefield tour (courtesy Mark Peaker)
Inside PB 3 at Blacks Link 

Bungalow 'C'  at St Stephen's College, Stanley


On Sunday 12th February I had lunch at Bungalow 3 at St Stephen's College.  It used to be called Bungalow 'C' or simply as Barton's Bungalow taking the name of the pre-war family occupants. Today it is the home of the College Chaplain. There used to be six of these bungalows. Today five remain.  They were originally built as staff bungalows. St Stephen's College was once known as the Eton of the East.  One of the bungalows (Bungalow 'A') has been converted into a heritage museum. All these bungalows have a war history and especially Bungalow 'C'.

During the Battle for Stanley the area was held by members of the HKVDC and the Mx Regt. As the fighting grew close some of the troops took up positions inside the bungalow. The Japanese used a flame thrower killing many of the defenders. One or two survived although suffering from burns and were not spotted by the Japanese who took possession of the the three bungalows (A, B and C). By this time the Main School building (used as a temporary military hospital) had been occupied by the Japanese. A large number of patients, orderlies and nurses were killed when the Japanese broke in. Many patients were bayoneted in their beds. Three of the European nurses were raped, mutilated and killed. All this on Christmas Day. Later that morning 'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada attacked the ridge where the three bungalows were located. They attacked across the nearby military cemetery and briefly reoccupied the bungalows before being driven out by Japanese reinforcements.

After the British surrender the grounds of St Stephen's College were used to accommodate civilian internees. As many as fifty men, women and children were crowded into each of the the bungalows. On 16th January 1945 Bungalow 'C' was accidentally bombed by an American aircraft and fourteen internees were killed and a large number wounded. Today it is beautiful and peaceful spot, the bungalow has shrugged off its tragic past, and has a pleasant ambience with beautiful views across the bay and the surrounding hills. 

Bungalow C 
Retracing the route taken by CSM Hamlen, RASC, with Peter Weedon

On 15th February I joined Peter Weedon, a Facebook friend and military history enthusiast, for a 'war walk' around the battlefields and military ruins at WNC Gap, and thereafter we followed part of the route taken by CSM Frederick Hamlen, RASC, from the Deep Water Bay RASC depot to the RAOC depot at the Ridge, his escape to a house called Overbays following an ambush, and his capture at Eucliffe. Many of the  troops captured around Repulse Bay, who had attempted to reach Repulse Bay Hotel during the night of 22nd/23rd December, were put to death in the grounds of Eucliffe.

CSM Fred Hamlen was tied up and made to kneel on the grass slopes facing Repulse Bay together with three other Canadian soldiers with whom he had been captured. A firing party came out from the house and shot them. However Hamlen turned as he was shot and the bullet entered his neck and exited through his face and he survived. He rolled down the hill and the bodies of the other soldiers landed around and on top of him. He recalled that one died instantly and the other two must have bled to death. After the fighting ended more than fifty bodies of British and Canadian troops were found at the bottom of the slope, all having been shot  or bayoneted. Hamlen escaped along the foreshore in the direction of  Deep Water Bay, where he joined Major Young and a group from 'A' Coy Royal Rifles who escaped by boat and made their way to the beached destroyer HMS Thracian on nearby Round Island. They used the destroyer's Carley Floats to reach Lamma Island and were captured after the British capitulation after having landed in Telegraph Bay on Hong Kong Island. Hamlen survived the war, and later gave evidence at war crimes trials held in Hong Kong after the war. He remained in the Army and retired as a Major in 1962. He passed away aged 81 in 1991 fifty years after his close brush with death.

Peter Weedon  entering PB 1 through the machine gun aperture
The bunker at Stanley Gap which served as QM Stores for HKVDC No. 3 Coy

Inside the QM Stores at Stanley Gap

Light AA position on top of the Command Centre (Battery HQ) Stanley Gap AA Battery

At West Brigade HQ Shelters

Major Edward (Ted) de Vere Hunt 

I did some research on Major Edward de Vere Hunt. I knew of him and his role as commanding officer of 1st Mountain Battery and I knew that he had been killed in action at WNC Gap on 19/20th December 1941.  The research into his family, his schooling, his military career, his sporting success and his marriage to Nancy made it all the more personal.

Major Edward de Were Hunt, HKSRA
I published a short post about him on 14th February. He died as he lived his life, utterly fearless, a strong leader, admired and respected by all. You can read the story by clicking the link below:

Major Edward William Francis de Vere Hunt - Killed in action 20th December 1941battleforhongkong.blogspot.hk


On the Battlefields  - Stanley Mound

On Saturday 18th February, I met history enthusiast Stuart Woods on Chung Hom Kok Road near the site of West Bay AA Battery.  The battery splinter proof shelters still remain, but have been lived in for many years by a family who run a garden nursery. There are a string of four or five of these war shelters as seen in the photograph below. They are on the south side of a mound and on the north side are a ring of several more war shelters that were destroyed long ago to prevent illegal squatting.

West Bay AA Battery war shelters now being used as a garden centre
We struggled up Stanley Mound with our metal detectors and were later joined by Craig Mitchell. Apart from shrapnel I found nothing and went back leaving Stuart and Craig detecting around the crest of Stanley Mound, There had been fighting on Stanley Mound and the hilltop had changed hands twice. After I left,  Stuart found a Japanese artillery shell case  (75mm) and a Japanese mess can  set (see below).

Japanese mess cans (Courtesy Stuart Woods)

On the Battlefields - Tai Tam X-Roads

On Tuesday 21st February I went with Stuart Woods to check out the ruins of a house known as Cash's Bungalow located on a mound immediately north-west of the Tai Tam X-Roads. Japanese troops occupied this house around 21st December 1941 and at least one machine gun located at this bungalow was firing at Canadian troops (Royal Rifles of Canada) and detachments from HKVDC as they seized the high ground of Notting Hill and Bridge Hill, and as East Infantry Brigade advanced towards the Tai Tam X-Roads. Fighting also took place around Red Hill and close to another villa called Erinville. In the ruins of Cash's Bungalow we found the machine gun position as evidenced by dozens of Japanese spent 7.7mm machine gun spent rounds. We found the position close to the remains of a garden wall  which would have provided some protection for the  machine gun crew.

Spent 7.7mm machine gun rounds found at Cash's Bungalow
I updated an old blog I had written about these two houses Erinville and Cash's Bungalow. It tells the story of who lived there and what happened around these two villas in December 1941.  Join me for a walk through history in the Battle of Hong Kong by clicking the link below.

erinville-and-cashs-bungalow-at-redhill.html


Stuart on what was the drive running up to Cash's Bungalow


Stanley Gap 3.7" AA Battery

Peter Weedon posted on the Facebook Battle of Hong Kong site a copy of a  Japanese artist's rendition of the capture of the two 3.7-inch AA Guns at Stanley Gap (near Wong Nai Chung Gap). I labelled it to show the crest of Jardines Lookout,  the battery accommodation shelters and the Command Post (also referred to as Battery HQ).
Labelled version to show orientation

Post-war Aerial photo showing location of AA Battery relative to WNC Gap
The AA battery was overrun and captured early on Friday 19th December 1941 by Colonel Shoji's 230th Infantry Regiment, who had landed at North Point the previous evening, and advanced from Braemar reservoir along the track known as Sir Cecil's Ride, which they followed to Wong Nai Chung Gap in an anticlockwise direction around Jardines Lookout.



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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Major Edward William Francis de Vere Hunt - Killed in action 20th December 1941

Edward de Vere Hunt was born 12th December 1908. He was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford, and, from age thirteen, at Rugby School. He was remembered as an outstanding sportsman.  He excelled at cricket, hockey, football, rugby and boxing. At school he was a known as "Bunch" but in later life simply as "Ted." At the age of nineteen, in 1927, he left school and attended the Royal Military Academy (RMA) Woolwich. After passing out from RMA in 1929 he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Artillery. In 1935 he was serving in the Royal Horse Artillery firstly in Egypt and later in Palestine where he was promoted to Captain. In 1938 he was posted to Hong Kong  where he served  with the coastal defence batteries. He was promoted to Major and in 1940 transferred to the Hong Kong Singapore Royal Artillery (HKSRA) with whom he fought very gallantly both on the Mainland and on the Island. He was killed in action at Wong Nai Chung Gap during the night 19th/20th December 1941.


Major de Vere Hunt (Source: Dragon School Memorials)
He played rugby for a number of major teams including Hampshire, the Army First XV and the Barbarians. At the age of twenty-five he married Nancy Amore Fleetwood Rudkin, who was aged twenty-one. They were married on 5th May 1934 at St Nicholas Church, Compton, near Guildford and close to her  family home at Brook House, in Compton. Her father was a retired Army Officer. A search of the internet revealed her charming family home.


Brook Hose, Compton (Source: Geograph.org.uk)
In the Battle for Hong Kong Ted Hunt commanded No. 1 Battery, HKSRA. This unit were equipped with four 3.7-inch howitzers which can be stripped down and transported by mules. In addition, they had four 4.5-inch howitzers which required lorries to tow them in and out of their battery positions.  The 4.5-inch guns were located at Red Hill and Tai Tam Hill. The two guns at Red Hill were inadvertently put out of action when the battery commander misinterpreted  an order to "get out of action" as meaning to put the guns out off action; demonstrating how important it is that orders be given clearly and unambiguously. For this reason many officers required important orders to be issued in writing. The two 4.5-inch guns at Tai Tam Hill were also abandoned by the battery personnel when they came into the front line following the Japanese landings during the night of 18th/19th December 1941.

The four 3.7-inch Howitzers were initially deployed on the Mainland at Customs Pass and provided artillery support for the two Indian infantry battalions on the centre and right flank of the Gin Drinkers Line (GDL). During the evacuation of the Mainland, his battery supported the fighting retreat and rear-guard action by 5/7th Rajputs. Major Hunt's guns took a heavy toll on Colonel Tanaka's 3rd Battalion of the 229th Infantry Regiment. His barrage of observed fire was deadly accurate and broke up a battalion level attack and thereby helped achieve the successful evacuation of the two Indian battalions. The Royal Scots and supporting artillery on the left flank had been evacuated from Kowloon City and the vehicular ferry at Yaumatei.  

After the evacuation to the Island, two of the 3.7-inch howitzers were moved to Gauge Basin and put out of action when the battery came under infantry attack on 19th December. The remaining two howitzers were deployed at Tai Tam Fork Battery. One of which was sent forward to Lye Mun Barracks to fire on Japanese positions on Devil's Peak peninsula. This gun was overrun and lost on 18th December when the Japanese landed in that locality. The one remaining gun at Tai Tam Fork Battery was the only howitzer in East Group sector that was brought back to Stanley. On the 19th December, 1st Mountain Battery lost all its guns except for the one 3.7-inch howitzer which was extricated to Stanley. The  2nd Mountain Battery lost three 3.7-inch guns at Stanley Gap and two 6-inch guns positioned midway along Stanley Gap Road. The 3rd Medium Battery lost its four 6-inch guns which were located at (Mt) Parker battery (on Island Road) and Sai Wan. It was a tragic set-back to lose sixteen howitzers and it left East Infantry Brigade with inadequate artillery support. The mobile artillery ended up not being very mobile because of insufficient transport and insufficient mules, and the rapidity of the Japanese advance.

On the night of 19th/20th, the HKSRA,without their guns, were the only available troops to launch a counterattack. Fighting as infantry they were ordered to counterattack WNC Gap. The Indian Other Ranks (IORs) proceeded up Repulse Bay Road in bare feet to reduce noise and two of the HKVDC armoured cars led the way clearing the road up to the gap. The Japanese were strongly entrenched and had superior numbers. The gunners managed to recapture the police post on the knoll but it was later retaken by Japanese reinforcements from Stanley Gap. During the night-fighting around the gap Major de Vere Hunt was killed as was his fellow officer Captain Feilden, and their commanding officer, Lt-Col Yale, who although in poor health, had insisted on accompanying his troops into battle.


Major de Vere Hunt's body was not retrieved. His wife Nancy placed an advertisement in the Times in March 1942 seeking information on her husband's whereabouts. She was not officially informed of his death until June 1944. In 1946 she remarried to Geoffrey Dean. Her parents both died two years later in 1948 and she died prematurely in 1972, at the still early age of sixty.

Ted de Vere Hunt died as he lived his life, utterly fearless, a strong leader, admired and respected by all.  

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Monthly Blog - January 2017

Captain Ian James Blair 2nd Battalion 14th Punjab Regiment

In early January I was  in contact with Mark Burch whose grandfather Captain Ian James Blair served with 2nd Battalion 14th Punjab Regiment in the Battle for Hong Kong. The photograph below shows Captain Blair after liberation with a captured Japanese military sword.

Captain Ian Blair (Courtesy Mark Burch)
Ian Blair was born in Gisborne, New Zealand on 5th May 1915. As a young man he made his way to British East India, where in 1937, he was employed by one of the  sugar plantation companies operating near Chakia, in Bihar State. He joined the local Planters Light Horse militia and was later called up to serve in the British Indian Army.

In March 1938, at the age of twenty-three, he was commissioned into the Central India Horse (21st King George V's Own Horse), a regular British Indian Army cavalry regiment. He later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Punjab Regiment. In October 1940, his battalion, which in 1941 was commanded by Lt-Col Gerald Kidd, was sent to Hong Kong.

When the Pacific war started in December 1941, Ian Blair was serving as a Captain in 'C' Coy which was commanded  by Major George Gray. 'C' Coy were designated as Forward Troops and were based at Fan Ling to watch over the frontier also referred to as the "outer line." Their role when war started was to guard the Royal Engineers demolitions teams who were carrying out demolitions at the frontier and on roads, railways, cuttings and bridges leading from the frontier towards Kowloon and the "inner line" of defence known as the Gin Drinkers Line. These demolitions were intended to slow the Japanese advance and buy time on the mainland to facilitate the destruction of infrastructure, oil facilities, ports and factories in Kowloon. In addition to guarding the demolition teams 'C' Coy were to harass, disrupt and slow the enemy. Captain Blair's company of Punjabis were the first British troops to go into action against Japanese ground forces. One battalion of Colonel Tanaka's 229th Infantry Regiment advanced from the frontier, at Sha Tao Kok, towards Fan Ling but decided to take a short cut to Tai Po by way of hill tracks through the Sha Lo Tung Hills.

"Gray alerted his rear guard commander, Captain Ian Blair. Quickly Blair sited every available machine gun to bear upon the thin, rocky trail. Still oblivious, the Japanese marched boldly into range of Blair's guns. Nearer and nearer they approached, while Blair waited. The target area filled with men and animals [mules]. Finally he gave the order: Fire ! For two minutes every rifle and Bren gun in 'C' Company poured fire into the trapped Japanese column.............Slowly the dust and din of fire abated. The air filled with the cheers of the Punjabis. They'd drawn first blood."  (Season of Storms Robert L Gandt (1982) p.52).

The Forward Troops achieved their objective of guarding and facilitating the demolitions and engaging the advancing Japanese troops. At Tai Po it was one company facing a battalion. Major-General Maltby wrote in his Report on Operations that they had "fulfilled their role admirably, and had inflicted some one hundred casualties to the Japanese at no real cost to themselves."

After the surrender Captain Blair was incarcerated at Sham Shui Po (SSP) Camp from 29th December to 20th April 1942, and at Argyle Street Officers Camp from April 1942 to May 1944 and then back to SSP Camp from 1944 until liberation in August 1945. He was repatriated to New Zealand in very weak condition, but he had survived the fighting and the brutal incarceration and he made it home.

He had joined the Army aged twenty-three, fought in the Battle for Hong Kong aged twenty-six, and after nearly fours years incarceration was released aged thirty, having given most of his twenties to the service of his country. He died aged eighty-three in 1998. The captured sword, which he holds in the photograph,  is now in the proud possession of his grandson, Mark Burch. 


On the battlefields of Hong Kong

In cool weather on Wednesday 11th January I joined history enthusiast Stuart Woods for a trek up towards the Twins, which are shown in the pre-war map below, and are located in the hills behind Stanley. These hills formed a perimeter of defence around East Brigade troops at Stanley. They were defended by Royal Rifles of Canada and HKVDC. The prewar map shows the terrain and hill names and is marked to show the approximate route we took which was most probably the route taken by the Japanese Army up to the Twins before they attacked Stanley Mound.  

Route taken up towards the Twins
We first came across an area of dugouts lower down the trail but high enough to have a commanding view of  both Tai Tam Reservoir and the dam and road up to Tai Tam Gap. At first I thought these might have been Canadian positions, but on second thoughts I now think they were Japanese as the nearest Canadians on the night of 19th December were deployed at Sugar Loaf ('B' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada), Stone Hill and Stanley Mound and the Canadians were deploying from the south, i.e. from (1) Stanley View (junction of Chum Am Kok Road and Island Road), (2) Stanley and (3) Palm Villa (near the current day American Club at Tai Tam). As we proceeded higher up the hillside we found a considerable number of dug-outs and trenches. This was on or close to the Twins, and were most likely Japanese positions. Here we found Japanese bullets and chargers (see below). 

Japanese 6.5 rounds and chargers for loading. 
The presence of large numbers of Japanese troops in this area on 22nd/23rd December 1941 must have been observed as they were fired on by British artillery using anti-personnel (shrapnel) shells. We found evidence of this shelling by finding large sections of shell casing and numerous shot balls, two of which are shown in the photographs above and below. The photograph below also shows the inside of the casing from two of these shells. They were most probably fired by one or both of the two 18-pounder guns  at Stanley belonging to 965-Defence Battery. These would have been in a position to lay down fire in this area.

Courtesy: Stuart Woods
After identification, the above items were left in situ where they were found. Perhaps the most interesting find was a tube of "Kolynos" tooth paste. This was found by Stuart close to one of the dugouts. This was a popular brand in the 1930s. In the enlarged photograph you can still make out the yellow colour and the wording "Scientific Dental Cream."


Courtesy of Stuart Woods

This is what it may have looked like in 1941. It was an American brand although this tube (below) was manufactured in London.  It was manufactured in a number of other countries before the war.




Here's an advertisement for the product probably from 1940/1941.

Sourced from internet
What was it doing around Japanese dugouts? Had these dugouts at some stage been occupied by Canadian troops, had it originally belonged to a member of the HKVDC or Royal Rifles of Canada?  Perhaps purchased in Hong Kong? Perhaps relieved from a captured or dead British or Canadian soldier by a Japanese soldier ? We can only speculate.


Guided battle trail walk for Aberdeen Marina Club 

On Saturday 14th January I took a group of members of the Aberdeen Marina Club on the battle trail  around Wong Nai Chung Gap. We started at the 3.7-inch howitzer battery at Stanley Gap. We went inside one if the several splinter proof shelters used as accommodation for the battery personnel. Then we went up the road to the spot where an ID bracelet was found which belonged to RN rating Jack Siddans. See the story by clicking the link:

Able Seaman John "Jack" Siddansbattleforhongkong.blogspot.com

ID bracelet found on what was called Stanley Gap Road 
We then went up the road to the QM stores at Stanley Gap, and the mess hut (also referred to as the "black hole" of HK). We visited the site of the 3.7-inch AA Battery and PB 1 and PB 2 on the western slopes of Jardines Lookout. This was a very brave group as most of them went inside a Japanese tunnel, and crawled through the narrow machine gun apertures at PB 1 and 2 as well as clambouring up the slope to PB 3 at Blacks Link and going inside the PB.

With the AMC group inside PB 1
The inside of the main compartment is badly scarred by grenade fragmentation damage, also visible on the  roof (see photo above).
With the AMC group inside PB 2
This was the first time I had been in PB2. What surprised me was that there was grenade fragmentation damage to the area around the main door and in the area of the commander's observation tower. After the small number of effectives from PB 1 and PB 2 had surrendered on Friday afternoon 19th December, only the dead and non-walking wounded were left at PB 2. The fragmentation damage suggests that after the position had been surrendered the Japanese threw grenades through the main door and down the observation posts before entering and finishing off the wounded.

PB 3 at Black's Link
Machine gun aperture with mounting and swivel at PB 3

Patrick Fallon who served in the HKVDC and was a POW  in Hong Kong and  Japan

An old friend, Tim Gibbs, put me in touch with Tony Fallon who kindly provided me with information about his grandfather Christopher Patrick Fallon and his family which included Tony's  father Patrick Fallon who served in the HKVDC, and was subsequently incarcerated in prisoner of war camps in Hong Kong and Japan.

Patrick Fallon as a POW in Japan (courtesy of Tony Fallon)

Patrick Fallon (seated second from left) (courtesy Tony Fallon)
Tony's grandfather Christopher Fallon was born in Ireland in March 1888. After initially serving with the Royal Irish Constabulary, he joined the Hong Kong Police in November 1912. His Police  No. was 140. During his 21-year career with the Hong Kong Police he was awarded the Merit Medal  in 1919, he was commended by H.E. the Governor in 1928 and by the time he retired in June 1933  he had been commended six times and had reached the rank of Chief Inspector. After retiring from the Hong Kong Police, Christopher Fallon served as a Probation Officer.

He married a Chinese lady and they had four sons PatrickJohn, William and Peter and two daughters Mary and Alice (Alice died at birth). Three of Christopher Fallon's sons (Patrick, John, and Peter) joined the HKVDC. Patrick was the oldest son born in April 1922 and was nineteen-years-old when war started in Hong Kong in December 1941. His youngest brother Peter was only sixteen-years-old, and was the second youngest soldier to serve in the HKVDC during WW2. Patrick joined the Field Ambulance section, and John and Peter served in Field Coy Engineers.

Patrick Fallon recalled "I had another brother (William) who wanted to volunteer, but they would not let him because there were already three of us joining. I should have recommended this to be a film 'Saving Private Fallon.' During the battle for Hong Kong, I was in action only once, exchanging fire across a long valley in darkness when I fired a maximum of five shots. However, I did come near to death when I was visiting my parents during the fighting, walking along the street I heard a loud clanging noise and this piece of smouldering shrapnel from an artillery shell landed right in front of me."  (Source: extract from a speech made by Patrick Fallon at the British Embassy in Tokyo during a visit to Japan in April 2005)

The Royal Engineers together with Field Coy Engineers (HKVDC) were responsible for demolitions at the frontier and on routes leading from the frontier to the Gin Drinkers Line - the defensive perimeter around Kowloon which was defended by the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, 2/14th Punjab Regiment and 5/7th Rajput Regiment. The demolitions were carried out on road bridges, cuttings and tunnels. Patrick's brothers John and Peter were involved in these demolitions before being withdrawn to the Island.

After the British capitulation, Christopher Fallon was incarcerated at Stanley Internment Camp together with his seventeen-year-old son William and fourteen-year-old daughter Mary. They were billeted in Block 11 which was formerly the Science Block at St Stephen's College. His wife was able to get away to neutral Macau. His three sons serving in the HKVDC were incarcerated in POW Camps initially at Sham Shui Po and later in Japan.

Patrick and his brothers had another brush with death when in September 1942 they were loaded on to the ill-fated Japanese freighter Lisbon Maru to be shipped to Japan to work as slave labourers in dockyards, mines and factories. They were amongst one hundred POWs who were taken off the ship because it was overloaded. The ship was sunk by an American submarine, not realising that it was carrying British POWs as well as Japanese troops, and over 800 British POWs lost their lives as a result.

Patrick and his brothers were sent out to Japan in December 1942, where they worked in a dockyard at Innoshima some thirty miles from Hiroshima. All three brothers-in-arms made it back home having survived the battle and the brutal incarceration in Hong Kong and Japan. In 2005 at the age of eighty-three Patrick Fallon returned to Japan on a reconciliation trip organised by Keiko Holmes.

Keiko was born in Japan in 1948. She married Paul Holmes in 1969 and later returned to London with her British husband and two children. Paul was killed in a plane crash in 1984. Keiko had become a devoted Christian after her marriage. She always recalled the memorial in her home-town of sixteen British POWs who had worked as slave labourers in a nearby copper mine. The memorial   which bore the name of each POW was lovingly and respectfully cared for by local civilians even long after the war. This memory, and in grief for her husband, prompted her to set up a charity that would arrange reconciliation trips for former POWs to Japan and other parts of Asia. Many POWs found it difficult to forgive the Japanese for their brutality and still harboured much resentment for the atrocities, killing, beating and appalling treatment that they were subjected to in Japan and Japanese occupied parts of Asia.  On these trips POWs would sometimes meet their former guards and foremen from the factories and mines where they had been forced to work. Patrick Fallon summed up his thoughts at the time.

"For me I have forgiven but I shall never forget. For others who have been Japanese Prisoners of War it is not so simple and I ask you to respect that as well." (Source: Patrick Fallon's speech at the British Embassy in Tokyo in April 2005)


Courtesy Tony Fallon

Radio Programmes

I participated in two radio programmes which were produced and presented by Annemarie Evans of RTHK. They were broadcast over Christmas and year-end. They focus on the Battle for Wong Nai Chung Gap on 19th December 1941. This was the crucial battle. A lot of the broadcast was recorded on the Wong Nai Chung Battle Trail. The programmes are each about thirty minutes and you can listen to them by clicking the links below and clicking on "Programme." This will take you to RTHK web site then click the "Listen" button.

Part 1

http://programme.rthk.hk/channel/radio/programme.php?name=radio3/hongkongheritage&d=2016-12-24&p=520&e=408930&m=episode


Part 2 

http://programme.rthk.hk/channel/radio/programme.php?name=radio3/hongkongheritage&d=2016-12-31&p=520&e=410065&m=episode


On the battlefields of Hong Kong

On 18th January I went for another trek with history enthusiast Stuart Woods on the battlefields around Stanley. We started at a water course leading uphill from near the American Club at Tai Tam. We made our way up this rocky watercourse until it petered out, after which we were forced to crash through the thick vegetation, ascending until we reached Notting Hill. At Notting Hill we found over 30 rounds of spent 303 ammunition which had been fired from units of HKVDC and Royal Rifles Canada who had been sent up from Palm Villa (the home of M.K. Lo located near where the American Club is situated today) to clear the ridge-line Notting Hill-Bridge Hill on 21st December 1941. These troops acted as left-flank guard  for the brigade attack that day by East Infantry Brigade on the Tai Tam X-Roads (1st objective). The  2nd  objective was WNC Gap by way of Gauge Basin and Stanley Gap Road.

On Notting Hill we found over 30 rounds of spent 303 ammunition both Canadian (Royal Rifles of Canada) and British (HKVDC). We also found two mortar bomb caps with writing on ("remove before firing"). It is interesting to discover that at least one 2-inch mortar was deployed on this ridge-line. These weapons were in short supply and likewise ammunition for both the 3-inch and 2-inch mortars. one or two 3-inch mortars were deployed by the main assault force moving up Island Road towards the Tai Tam X-Roads.

The Canadian troops and Volunteers were firing from this position on Notting Hill at Japanese troops on and around Bridge Hill, and possibly although at long range at Japanese troops on Red Hill. The photo below shows our approximate route from Island Road (1941 nomenclature) up to Notting Hill, Bridge Hill, Sugar Loaf and down a steep and rocky ravine back to Island Road.

Our route shown in black

Looking from Sugar Loaf to Bridge Hill (the bump in the mid-ground)


Two-Inch Mortar bomb cap
Mortar bomb and screw-off cap