|Captain Ian Blair (Courtesy Mark Burch)|
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.
|Route taken up towards the Twins|
|Japanese 6.5 rounds and chargers for loading.|
|Courtesy: Stuart Woods|
|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.
|Sourced from internet|
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|
|With the AMC group inside PB 1|
|With the AMC group inside PB 2|
|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)|
He married a Chinese lady and they had four sons Patrick, John, 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|
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.
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|