Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Major Edward 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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2 comments:

  1. Hi, I thought you might be interested in this extract from my book (see https://unbound.com/books/stranger-in-my-heart) about my Dad, Maj John Monro MC RA, talking about his last conversation with Ted Hunt on 19 Dec '41:
    “Ted Hunt came in this evening. He had led a counter attack against Wong Nai Chung and had recaptured it almost single-handed. As he got near the enemy his Battery just melted away. Though the gunners are steady under shellfire, they will not face the enemy at hand to hand fighting. I don’t really blame them. They have had very little training in the use of infantry weapons and so few of our young officers can make themselves really understood in their language. Jack Fielden was killed in this attack and Colonel Yale badly wounded. Ted could tell us nothing of Tim Temple, Geoffrey Proes, or Jack Fox. Ted is looking very wild and woolly. He is wearing an extraordinary assortment of uniform, he has 3 or 4 day growth of beard and is carrying a Tommy gun which he swears is the finest weapon ever invented. He has had no sleep for the past two days. The C.R.A. had ordered him to go back to Stanley and rest. About this time news came through that the Japs had reoccupied Wong Nai Chung. Just as Ted was leaving I warned him of this and told him to go round by Pok Fu Lam but he replied “Bugger the Nip I am going back that way anyhow”. And with that he dashed up the stairs out of the Battle Box”.

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  2. Dear Mary: Thank you for that interesting extract. I actually do have Major Munro's war diary (hard copy) from Imperial War Museum and I found it incredibly useful. I saw the section in his diary about Ted De Vere Hunt coming to the Battle Box which is quite incredible and then going back and getting killed. I regularly arrange guided battlefield tours battlefield tours around WNC Gap and am in closing stages of a book on the Battle for Hong Kong. The counterattack by HKSRA on 19th Dec actually resulted in them recapturing the police station (albeit briefly). I have been meaning to incorporate this information from Brigade Major John Munro in the story and will do so soonest. I would love to read your book. Philip

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