Saturday, 3 August 2019

What happened at No. 2 Battery, HKVDC during the Battle for Hong Kong - December 1941

No. 2 Battery, HKVDC, was mobilised on Sunday 7 December following the announcement of a State of Emergency triggered by Japanese troops having been observed massing in villages north of the border. This time it looked more serious, notwithstanding, that the threat of a Japanese invasion had been hanging over Hong Kong since Japanese troops first appeared on the border in 1938. On Sunday evening, at HKVDC HQ the battery mustered 3 officers and 61 Other Ranks on Sunday night. More reported the following week. In addition, there were assignments of personnel from and to the battery from other units. The battery was commanded by thirty-three-year-old Captain Douglas James Smyth Crozier, who in civilian life had been a teacher at the Central British School. His officers were Lt Henry Buxton and Lt Sydney Burt. Thirty-eight-year-old Lt Buxton was posted to No 4 Battery, at Pak Sha Wan, on 17 December to relieve Lt Sleap. No. 4 Battery had been under continual bombardment from 13 to 18 December. The Japanse landed close to the battery at Pak Sha Wan battery and Buxton was ambushed and killed while leading a party of gunners through Lye Mun Barracks. His wife, Alberta, was a volunteer military nurse. She was raped and killed by Japanese soldiers when they broke into the temporary hospital at St Stephen's College, Stanley. 
   No 2 Battery was equipped two 6-inch coastal defence guns located at Bluff Head on the southern extremity of Stanley Peninsula within the Stanley Fort compound. The battery formed part of Eastern Fire Command. The battery personnel arrived at Bluff Head at 1815 hours on Sunday evening 7 December, and by 1900 hours the guns were ready for action. At 0645 hours on Monday morning, they were informed that war with Japan had commenced. 

Battery Location
The Bluff Head 6-inch Battery was located on the southwestern end of the Stanley Peninsula. Stanley 9.2-inch Battery was located nearby on the southeastern end of the Peninsula. 

Pre-war map showing Bluff Head Battery

1945 - Aerial Photograph
The battery lies inside the Stanley Fort restricted area. The fort is now occupied by the Peoples Liberation Army. The modern map below shows one of the gun emplacements. The other may have been converted into the Signal Station but there is no other obvious sign of the second emplacement on the map.
Gun emplacement
Dennis Rollo, writing in The Guns and Gunners of Hong Kong (1991) stated that some of the battery buildings remain, but they were very overgrown and in a visit he made in 1991, he was unable to find either of the gun emplacements. 
   
The Battery in December 1941
The battery consisted of the two 6-inch naval guns in their concrete emplacements, a searchlight in a concrete emplacement and an Anti-Aircraft Lewis Gun position which were usually mounted in a circular concrete pit or firing bay. The ammunition consisted of 250 shells and 194 cartridges.  This was considered inadequate. As a coastal defence battery, most of their shells would be armour piercing suitable for use against surface vessels but less effective for landward shooting against infantry targets. 
   The Army Act was read out at the manning parade on Monday morning 8 December. In the afternoon Japanese aircraft were observed and an attack was made on British patrol vessels in the channel to the south of Stanley Peninsula. On 10 December slit trenches were dug around the battery to give protection against air raids or counterbattery fire. On 12 December the battery was augmented by HKVDC Corp Artillery HQ staff including BSM Arthur Gillard and CASM J. M. Jack and CAQMS  W. Hewitt.  This was in addition to BSM William Walker and BQMS Thomas Carr from No.  2 Battery.
   During the period before the Japanese landings, the battery was not involved in any shoots. They spent time improving their defences and camouflaging the gun emplacements. Efforts were made to obtain more ammunition from Belcher's Fort at Kennedy Town but to no avail. Partly because it was difficult getting transport provided from the Vehicle Collection Centre, partly because Belchers had been coming under heavy bombardment, but mainly because at about this time, on the night of 18/19 December, the Japanese landed on the Island. During the 18 and 19 December, there were heavy air raids on Stanley Fort. The Japanese aircraft being at high altitude were well out of range of the AALG.
   On 19 December the infantry, mobile artillery, and coastal defence batteries in the eastern sector of the Island were withdrawn to Stanley with the loss of all guns except one 3.7-inch howitzer successfully brought back to Stanley Fort from Tai Tam Fork Battery.  Major Watson, Commander of the HKVDC Artillery Corps was stationed with No. 2 Battery at Bluff Head. On 19 December he gave orders for any battery personnel in possession of a private car to assist in the evacuation of No. 1 Battery from their 4-inch coastal defence battery at Cape D'Aguilar. After the destruction of their guns, No. 1 Battery was ordered to standby and be ready to fight as infantry. The mobile artillery  (HKSRA) without their howitzers were sent to the front-line on the evening of 19 December and incurred very high casualties in counterattacking WNC Gap. On 19 December, an ammunition party supervised by Sgt George Sherriff was sent by truck from Bluff Head Battery to Belcher's Battery. The battery had been badly damaged from the sustained bombardment in that area. The ammunition party was only able to recover 14 cases of 6-inch cartridges. On this day, 2/Lt George Wilby, from No. 3 Battery, based on Aberdeen Island, was sent to Bluff Head on attachment. All leave was stopped from 19 December. James Bertram must have been one of the last to be granted leave.
Pinky Higgins and I piled into a red Fiat belonging to Carlos Arnulphy, who was French. It was typical of the international composition of Second Battery that the fourth member of the party should be Oleg Peresypkin, who with a Ukranian father, a Polish mother, and education by the Jesuits in Paris, yet remained Russian of the Russians. (Beneath the Shadow (1947) by James Bertram) 
The Battery went into action on 20 December when No. 2 Gun was ordered to fire at Japanese troops on Middle Spur. The battery incurred its first casualty when Gunner Berg was wounded during an air raid, and incurred its first fatality when Gunner France who had been reported missing was found dead. The war diary describes him as being accidentally killed but does not elaborate. Bertram was one of the burial party. 
We buried him down by the gates of the fort, where rough crosses were already sprouting in the sandy soil. Peri and I carried one end of the stretcher - how heavy he was, under a grey blanket with its rusty stain! An officer mumbled a brief field service while The Japanese howitzers began to open up from the hills. (Beneath the Shadow - James Bertram) 
On 21 December, the No. 2 Gun engaged targets on Violet Hill and the Twins. On 22 December they fired on  Japanese positions on the summit of Stanley Mound. Hits were observed by the Battery Observation Post. On 23 December the battery fired at Japanese troops who had reoccupied Stanley Mound. On 25 December, a  Japanese field gun located at Stanley View, the junction of Island Road and West Bay Road (now called Chung Hom Kok Road), was destroyed by the No. 2 Gun.
Second Battery had one brief chance to distinguish itself. Desperately operating the single gun that could be trained on a land position, and firing by gun control, we managed to knock out a Japanese field gun on the nearer foothills. (Beneath the Shadow - James Bertram)
On the night of 24 December, No 1 Battery was moved to St Stephen's College to man the Support Line (second line of defence ) situated some 500 metres behind the front line in Stanley Village.  Later that night, on 24/25 December, the Japanese attacked the front line in Stanley Village with light tanks and massed infantry. They eventually broke through the front line and attacked the support line, manned by No. 1 Battery, HKVDC, and the Middlesex Regiment. No. 1 Battery had a fatality rate of over 50 per cent during the early hours of Christmas Day. At 0015 on 25 December orders were given that all troops in No. 2 Battery, other than those required to man the guns, were to fight as infantry and take up positions on the newly created third line of defence. This was the last line of organised defence in front of Stanley Fort. The gunners from No. 2 Battery included James Bertram and were under the command of Lt Sydney Burt. The third line of defence consisted of trenches stretching east and west from Wong Ma Kok Road (also known as the Fort Road) from a position near the two pump houses. These two structures still remain. In one of these two pump houses, Major Robert Templer, commanding the third defence line had established his HQ. 
   James Bertram recalls going up the hill to the right of the road and finding a rocky parapet on the hillside which offered some protection. Here they mounted their Lewis gun with a line of sight over the college grounds, the prep school and St Stephen's Beach. They continued to man the trenches throughout Christmas Day. Bertram recalled seeing a party of HKSRA gunners trying to manhandle their guns from the open area outside the prison to the Fort Road. He witnessed the attack by 'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canda to try to recover the ridgeline including the three staff bungalows that had formed part of the second line of defence. During the day they had fired on Japanese troops around the prep school and at the staff bungalows. At 1800 hours on 25 December No. 2 Battery were relieved by the Royal Rifles of Canada. Hong Kong had already surrendered in the afternoon, but this information could not be relayed to Brigadier Wallis at Stanley because the telephone lines had been cut. Two staff officers had been sent to Stanley Fort to inform Brigadier Wallis that Sir Mark Young, the Commander-in-chief and Major-General Maltby, the military commander, had agreed to an unconditional surrender. On satisfying himself that the order to surrender was genuine, Brigadier  Wallis surrendered his command. No. 2 Battery lost two men killed in the fighting and a further ten died during the period of incarceration in Hong Kong and Japan.


List of Battery Personnel

No 2 BtyHKVDC
Ref:Last NameFirst NameService NoRankLocationDate of Death
ArnulphyCarlos4688GunnerNo 2 Battery
AssesserowWadin  Fedor3296BdrNo 2 Battery
AtwellKenneth  John4165GunnerNo 2 Battery
Baker-Carr D'Arcy5310SgtNo 2 Battery
BebbingtonNorman  James2664SgtNo 2 Battery
BergSvere4353GunnerNo 2 Battery
BertramJames5260GunnerNo 2 Battery
BlakeR  H4329GunnerNo 2 Battery
Bosman Albertus4981GunnerNo 2 Battery
BruceHugh DalrympleDR297GunnerNo 2 Battery
BurtSidney John GeorgeLtNo 2 Bty
BuxtonHenry  ThomasLtT/F to No 4 Bty18-Dec-41
CarrThomas William2611BQMSNo 2 Battery
ChengPo Yee5180GunnerNo 2 Battery
CherrillRichard Ingoldby4869GunnerNo 2 Battery
ChristensenJorgan Vibe4689GunnerNo 2 Battery
ChristensenNeils  Orskov 4354L-BdrNo 2 Battery18-Dec-42
CoatesWilliam (Bill)  George3837GunnerNo 2 Battery
CorraHenry H3491BdrNo 2 Battery
CoxheadGeoffrey S 4286GunnerNo 2 Battery
CrozierDouglas James  S CaptC.O. No 2  Battery (Bluff Head)
Currie Albert  Victor4497GunnerNo 2 Battery
DavreuxGeorge  Maurice4718GunnerNo 2 Battery
DeaneBarry O'Meare3310GunnerNo 2 Battery
DodwellMichael Carr4856GunnerNo 2 Battery15-May-44
DreyerHolger4355GunnerNo 2 Battery
DybdahlPer ("Happy")5283GunnerNo 2 Battery
EllisonEdward4832GunnerNo 2 Battery
FergusonJohn  Steven3181GunnerNo 2 Battery25-Nov-42
France Norman HooleGunnerNo 2 Battery20-Dec-41
GardnerAubrey  George 3317GunnerNo 2 Battery
GauntJohn Arthur4664GunnerNo 2 Battery4-Jan-44
Gill  Antonio Herculano3564PteNo 2 Battery
GouldTrevor  Jack4633GunnerNo 2 Battery
GundesenJacob C A4823GunnerNo 2 Battery
HarropGordon4754GunnerNo 2 Battery
Hart-DavisJohn  Anthony Vivian4315L-BdrNo 2 Battery
HigginsJames Joseph  ("Pinky")3111BdrNo 2 Battery21-Feb-43
HoustonThomas  Jackson3051GunnerNo 2 Battery4-Dec-42
Howell Ian Harrington5311GunnerNo 2 Battery
HuttemeirErik  Edvard4356GunnerNo 2 Battery
JonesJ  G4991GunnerNo 2 Battery
KhorSuan  Sin5187GunnerNo 2 Battery
KingThomas  Henry2953GunnerNo 2 Battery
Lam  Yun JaakGunnerNo 2 Battery
Lee Chun Chung 3423GunnerNo 2 Battery
LloydNorman Duplan 2969SgtNo 2 Battery25-Apr-42
Lloyd-JonesEdward4184GunnerNo 2 Battery
LongWilliam Garland 4045L-BdrNo 2 Battery
LowThomas Buchanan4287GunnerNo 2 Battery
MabbArchibald4370L/BdrNo 2 Battery
MacfaydenAlbert  James2051SgtNo 2 Battery
MartonOliver   Egerton 3648L-BdrNo 2 Battery
Mathieu Pierre Benjamin 4681GunnerNo 2 Battery27-Aug-43
MaughanStanley Lawrence4717GunnerNo 2 Battery
Mok  Kah KeeNo 2 Battery
MosesErnest Steinberg 1324SgtNo 2 Battery
NaessE R Berger4527GunnerNo 2 Battery
Nguyen Louis 5128GunnerNo 2 Battery
O’ConnorWilliam3437BdrNo 2 Battery
OliverGastin  Henry3466GunnerNo 2 Battery
PeakerArthur James3086BdrNo 2 Battery
PeresypkinOleg P4344GunnerNo 2 Battery
PullenWilliam  PDR 284GunnerNo 2 Battery
Quie J L Asst QMNo 2 Battery
ReynoldsJames4419GunnerNo 2 Battery
Riertsen, Ragndald 4360GunnerNo 2 Battery
RoseHenley  Hembdon2667BSMNo 2 Battery
RossGeorge  Ronald DR 67GunnerNo 2 Battery
SherriffGeorge H2948SgtNo 2 Battery
SmebyNils M4316GunnerNo 2 Battery
SoleckiJan5222GunnerNo 2 Battery
TomesKarl  J4369GunnerNo 2 Battery
WalkerWilliam  Laird2691BSMNo 2 Battery3-Mar-44
Wan Hok Nin 5223GunnerNo 2 Battery
WebbRobert  Leslie3539GunnerNo 2 Battery
WeilLeonard  (Leo)3688GnrNo 2 Battery27-Apr-44
WilbyGeorge2/LtT/F from No 3 Bty
WilliamsonHarry NormDR 113GunnerNo 2 Battery
Wong Choy PakNo 2 Battery
YaholkovskyGeorge5227GunnerNo 2 Battery


N.B.  (1) BSM Gillard, CASM Jack and CAQMS Hewitt were assigned to the battery from Corps
               Artillery HQ.
          (2) 2/Lt George Wilby was assigned from No. 3 Battery to No. 2 Battery on 19 December.
          (3) Lt Buxton was assigned to No. 4 Battery on 17 December.

Key

Officers and Volunteers KIA or DoW
POW at Surrender of Japanese
Released by Japanese 
Did not enter Camp or escaped