|Fourteen internees died in an air raid - January 16th 1945|
|Died following a shark attack at Tweed Bay Beach|
Amongst these graves is that of another internee from a prominent Jewish family in Hong Kong. The granite block has been replaced by a modern style grave made of marble - probably in the years immediately following the war.
|Leontine Ellis who died whilst incarcerated at Stanley Camp|
Miss Leontine Ellis died of cancer in August 1942 only 6 months after the Camp opened. A look at the Stanley Camp Log held by the Imperial War Museum in London shows the following Ellis surnames :
Name Occupation Date of Birth Billet
Charles Oswald Ellis Cable Censor 15 July 1893 Block 3, Rm 11
Frederick Ellis Retired Broker
(Ellis & Edgar) 29 Aug 1885 Block 10, Rm 19
Grace Ellis (Miss) Cafe Owner,
(Sister of Fred Ellis) 12 Dec 1895 Block 10, Rm 19
Sophie Ellis (Miss) Cafe Owner,
(Sister of Fred Ellis) 28 Oct. 1897 Block 10, Rm 19
Leontine Ellis (Miss) Hotel Proprietress Age 49
(Died 17/8/42) Block 10, Rm 19
Maud L Ellis (Mrs) Wife of F. M. Ellis
(HKVDC POW) unclear Block 5, Rm 5
Robert Rudolf Ellis Police Sgt (A149) 18 June 1902 Block 12, Rm 34
From this we can surmise that Frederick Ellis had three unmarried sisters being Grace, Sophie and Leontine all of whom were in business. Fred Ellis a retired stock broker shared a room with his three sisters in Stanley Camp. A search of billeting information shows that no other internees were in that room.
I can not be sure if any family relationship exists between Charles Oswald Ellis, Maude Ellis who was married to Felix Morris Ellis a soldier in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) and Rober Rudolf Ellis who served in the Hong Kong Police.
We know that all three Ellis sisters were members of the Nursing Detachment (N.D.) of the HKVDC. Many women joined the volunteer nursing services to avoid compulsory evacuation of women and children in 1940. The evacuation was a sore point for many wives and husbands who wanted to stay together despite the prospect of hostilities with Japan. Those women employed in essential services and nursing were able to avoid the evacuation to Australia that took place in June 1940.
It was reading the war diary of Regimental Sergeant Major Enos Charles Ford that I came across a reference to Miss Leontine Ellis as being the proprietress of the Cathay Hotel where he was staying. I was able to make contact with the family of RSM Ford who told me that he was always known as "Henry" I guess an army nick name for somebody with the surname Ford after the famous Henry Ford.
RSM Ford was with 12th Coast Regiment, 24th Coast Battery of the Royal Artillery. He was stationed at Mount Davis also known as Fort Davis with its powerful 9.2 inch guns. It was a principal target for Japanese warships, artillery and aircraft and was probably the most bombarded place in Hong Kong.
|9.2 inch guns|
RSM Ford was born on 15th April 1909 at Strattan St Margaret in Wiltshire. He married Edith Rose Dando (1909-1971) in January 1934. She was always known as Rose. Not long after that they moved to Hong Kong and in June 1940 Rose and her daughter Dorothy were evacuated to Australia in view of impending hostilities with Japan.
The photograph below shows RSM Ford in military attire (seated) celebrating with Rose their silver wedding anniversary.
|RSM Ford in uniform seated with Rose|
He looks immaculate in his uniform every inch the professional soldier and an uninhibited laugh and this from man who had come through a war and three and half years in a Japanese concentration camp where large numbers died from sickness and malnutrition and where brutality was the order of the day.
These are edited extracts from his diary as his words speak better than mine.
Monday 8th December:
"Alexander dashes in to waken me at 8:15 am and to say they are bombing the hell out of Kowloon. The Davis AA (Anti Aircraft guns) section completes the awakening and in pyjamas I watch Kai Tak Aerodrome being bombed and machine gunned from low altitude".
Tuesday 9th December:
"In the morning watched shelling and bombing of Stonecutters (Island) and the first ranging rounds on Mt Davis. Seven of us in the shelter and between whistles of shells, smutty stories and general laughter we count the duds and dispatch Sgt Wright to rescue bottles of beer for our refreshment before the mess is hit. During a quiet moment and when the beer is gone we emerge into the sunshine to find Tiffy Way’s car burning merrily from a direct hit. Ironically it had been put in the safest place of all by 0.2 Magazine. Water tanks are punctured and water everywhere. No casualties".
Mt Davis guns did deadly work in Shingmun Redoubt area. Infantry praise our gunnery during this night".
Although the Mount Davis Guns as indeed the Stanley Guns were facing to seaward which at the time of their construction was the most likely source of attack, they could in fact swivel round to some extent to engage landward targets.
Saturday 13th December:
"Now that Stonecutters is evacuated Mt Davis seems the principle target on the Island. All day planes and shells have increased the havoc in the fort. Everybody amazingly cheerful and morale is high".
"F.C. (Fire Command) post got blown out today with three direct hits from 240mm. No one killed but Major Merthyr and Capt Camp shaken up. Am lucky for should have been on duty at the time but had to do an earlier turn because Mr Camp joining us from Stonecutters and Gould taking over battery".
"Vast numbers of invasion craft assembling but no action taken by our gunners. Why ? Davis and Stanley still continue to pound the New Territories".
Sunday 14th December:
"Today the Mount has received its bitterest and most intense bombardment. The plotting rooms and barrack rooms have been blown in and at about 5 o’clock we had to evacuate under shell fire in parties of five. BSM Barlow and myself established order in the BPR (Battery Plotting Room) amid smoke and fumes . Our lights are out and blower plant disabled and daylight is visible through the roof. This roof was once of a thickness of 15ft of earth and concrete. A shell had penetrated right through this, through a steel door, ripped all the bricks from one wall ploughed through another wall and finished up in the telephone exchange without exploding . Truly a miracle. All our troops are intact except one Sgt shell shocked and one gunner wounded.
Friday 26th December:
I tied to find out more about the Hotel Cathay or Cathay Hotel but have found nothing on it apart from a reference in the diary of S/Sgt O'Toole of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps who writes in his diary that after being captured "we were marched right over Mt Parker......down to Quary Bay near the Taikoo Sugar Factory and along the road to the Ritz in the ball room of which we were stabled. The Ritz is right opposite the Cathay Hotel where Chris (his wife) and I stayed for our first week in the colony".
From the diary I can see that RSM Ford was a man who called things as they were. My impression from reading his thoughts is that he was a mans man - a professional soldier who would not suffer fools gladly. I also get the impression he was a brave man - volunteering to fight as infantry and coming through a short and bloody war and a long and difficult captivity.
Ford points to the incompetence of some officers, the lack of training of some units, the lack of naval and air units and the extent of 5th columnist activity. He strongly condemns the misinformation put out about a Chinese Army coming to the rescue. "No power on earth", he writes, "can forgive the general staff for knowingly spreading false reports of the close proximity of Chinese soldiers. It is the first time in history that British Empire forces have had to be sustained on lies". I think some of that blame may be due to the HK Government communiques rather than the general staff, but I know similar feelings were expressed by civilians after the capitulation who felt let down by the Colonial Government and appalled by the use of misinformation to maintain morale.
A plaque in the Jewish synagogue in Hong Kong lists her name amongst other from that community who wore the King's uniform and died in the battle for Hong Kong
This story has been a tribute to a civilian and volunteer nurse in the HKVDC who passed away in internment camp and to a professional soldier whose paths crossed. A soldier who fought in the most heavily bombarded fort in Hong Kong and who came through the horrors of Japanese POW Camps and made it home.
Diary of RSM Ford: "Memos of the Battle of Hong Kong" by RSM E.C. Ford taken from
HKLB 940.547252 E58 Hong Kong University - Special Collections
Photograph of RSM Ford
and additional information: Courtesy of the RSM Ford's family (Barbara Durbin)