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.  

................


  







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 



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Monthly Blog - December 2016

Monday 5th December 


Visit to Stanley Internment Camp area 
I accompanied Geoff Emerson (Author of Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945) and Nic Snaith and his family into the former grounds of Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. Nic Snaith's mother, Beryl June Booker (known as June), was incarcerated in Stanley Camp together with her parents and sister during WW2. The internment camp was located (1) in the grounds of  St Stephen's College, and (2) in the grounds of Stanley Prison. In the prison area  the internees were crowded into former prison officers accommodation. In the college the school buildings, classrooms and staff bungalows were used to accommodate internees.

Myself and Geoff Emerson at St Stephen's College

The Snaith family at St Stephen's College
In 1941, St Stephens College was known as the "Eton of the East,"  it was founded to provide English public school type education for Chinese children. The main school building can be seen in the background of the above photographs. In December 1941 it was being used as a temporary military hospital. The fighting raged all around the college on 24/25 December. On Christmas morning the Japanese broke into the hospital and in an orgy of appalling violence bayoneted patients in their beds and raped a number of the European and Chinese nurses. Three of the European nurses were raped, mutilated and killed.

Nic's grandfather on his mother's side was Frederick Edward Evelyn Booker who was born in 1890. He joined the Army in 1904 as a boy soldier, and served in South Africa just after the Boer War had  ended. In 1911 he joined the Hong Kong Police. When WW1 started in 1914 he returned to England from Hong Kong to fight for his country. He was enrolled as a Sgt in the King's Royal Rifles. He was wounded during the Battle of Loos in 1915. The following year he was commissioned as a subaltern in the Somerset Light Infantry after being selected for, and completing an officer training course.  He married Daisy (née Stubs) in 1917 in Esher. He survived the carnage of WW1, and returned to Hong Kong in 1919 with his new wife and daughter Joy, to resume his career with the Hong Kong Police. His marriage to Daisy produced five children including two sets of twins.

Joy Booker (1918)
Neville Booker (1919)
Noel Booker (1919)
Beryl June Booker (1921)
Maureen Dorothea Booker (1921)

When war came in 1941 Frederick, Daisy and the two twin daughters (June and Maureen) by then twenty-years-old were interned in Stanley Camp. At that time Frederick was a Police Superintendent. He was incarcerated in Block 12 (Indian Quarters) with other police officers. These were quarters used by Indian wardens and their families in pre-war days. Of the original seven blocks that made up the Indian Quarters only three remain today. They are inside the Correctional Services compound and not easily accessible to outsiders. We had lunch at the former Prison Officers Club which is still used as as a Correctional Services Officers Club. We then went to see Block 12 (see the photo below) which is still used as accommodation for Correctional Services Staff and families.


Block 12 - Indian Quarters

Prison Officers Club (wartime) with Indian Quarters in background
The photograph of the Prison Officers Club (above) was taken just after the war ended. One can see the large white letters 'PW' (denoting prisoners of war) on what was the bowling green. Today the area that formed the bowling green is used as a swimming pool. The building on the left is the Dutch block holding Dutch and Norwegian internees. In the background you can see the seven blocks that made up the Indian Quarters. The three on the left remain, whilst the four on the right have been demolished and replaced with high rise accommodation for Correctional Services staff families. In the distance you can see Cape D'Aguilar across Tai Tam Bay. The gap in the hills was known as Windy Gap.

Daisy and her twin daughters were incarcerated in Bungalow B. This building is part of St Stephen's College and likewise still remains. We were were able to wander around the outside of the bungalow but we were not able to see inside it. We did however go to a similar bungalow (Bungalow A) which now accommodates a small heritage museum. The nearby Bungalow C was accidentally bombed by American naval aircraft in January 1945 and fourteen internees were killed and many wounded. Today the bungalow is the home of the college Chaplain.

Bungalow 'B' and garage (a family lived in the garage)
Frederick and Daisy's son Noel served in the RAF in UK during WW2. His twin brother Neville served in the HKVDC and was incarcerated in POW Camp. Joy, the oldest daughter was already married and had been evacuated with her daughter Susan in 1940 following the Compulsory Evacuation Ordinance. Daisy and her two daughters were VAD Nurses and were therefore exempt from the compulsory evacuation of women and children in 1940. After the war ended Maureen married Mike Carruthers in Lockerbie, Scotland, in January 1946. He was an employee of HSBC and had served with distinction as Commanding Officer of the HKVDC Armoured Car Platoon. June Booker married Nic's father Arthur Linton Snaith, known as Sammy Snaith, in December 1946 at St John's Cathedral in Hong Kong.

Friday 9th December


RAS Lecture on Japanese Occupation
I went with my son Chris to this Royal Asiatic Society lecture given by Kwong Chi-man. He is a History Department Professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University. He co-wrote with Rusty Tsoi Yiu-lun the very well written and researched book Eastern Fortress a Military history of Hong Kong 1840-1970. He and Rusty are active contributor to the Facebook site "Battle of Hong Kong." Their research has included a lot of Japanese material, which in some cases has provided new information  not generally known and new photographs, including one posted recently, showing the bombardment and destruction of Pinewood AA Battery on the Peak.


The lecture was titled "The Mirage of Hong Kong Fortress: Failure of the Japanese Military in and around Hong Kong, 1942-1945." One of the things that came across was the lack of trust and cooperation between the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy. In Hong Kong their brutality during the occupation turned many against them and they lost the opportunity they once had of creating a new order in Asia based on the concept of Asia for the Asiatics. Instead it became Asia for Japan, based on a harsh and brutal authoritarian control. 

RSA lecture: Kwong Chi-man and Michael Broom RAS President on stage
It was particularly nice for me to meet in person Rusty Tsoi and Kwong Chi-man who have always been very helpful in answering questions and providing information and who I have known by email and social media but until then had not met in person. Other historians and history enthusiasts spotted in attendance included Bill Lake, Geoff Emerson, David Bellis, Franco David Macri, Gillian Bickley and Peter Cunich.

Saturday 10th December

Metal detecting trip up Stanley Mound
It was a sunny day so I decided to take my metal detector up to Stanley Mound. Several days previously I had been hiking off trail when I noticed a flash of blue on the ground. I knew what it was immediately  - a cobalt blue WW2 army water bottle - just lying on the ground. Found without a metal detector. Its blue veneer slightly faded by having lain exposed for almost exactly 75 years ! 

Cobalt blue WW2 Army water bottle
I wanted to look around the same area where I had found the water bottle if I could remember how to get there. I went up the hillside on what I call the "back trail" a faint trail that was used in WW2 as a path between Stanley View and the crest of Stanley Mound. The path follows a shallow trench which I think contained a telephone cable. Unfortunately there were no very interesting finds to be able to report, just a lot of Canadian 303 live rounds which were left where found.

Writer with metal detector heading up Stanley Mound
303 Canadian rounds on Stanley Mound

Sunday 11th December

Alfred Horace Steel Steele-Perkins and the ARP Scandal in 1941
The SCMP Magazine today had an article written by features writer Stuart Heaver about Horace Steel Steele-Perkins who was Director of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Dept in Hong Kong. He was caught up in a high profile procurement scandal in 1941. Although he was not found to have acted  dishonestly, his relationship with an attractive young Chinese girl named Mimi Lau was questioned. She happened to work for one of the suppliers to ARP. His wife Gwendoline (Gwen)  and their two daughters had been evacuated to Australia 1940. In September 2014 I wrote an article in my blog about AH Steele-Perkins (click the link below to see article).

Wing Commander Alfred Horace Steel Steele-Perkinsbattleforhongkong.blogspot.com

I was interviewed by Stuart Heaver for his excellent story in SCMP magazine. You can see his article by clicking the next link below:

Sex, lies and bribery: 1941 scandal that rocked Hong Kong on eve of Japanese invasion

Stuart's article also contained quotes from Barbara Anslow (née Redwood), now aged 98 who in 1941 was AH Steele-Perkin's secretary. In his article Stuart referenced a recently published e-book by AH Steele-Perkins daughter Mary Tiffin titled Testimony to Love

The e-book cover Gwen's story 
When I wrote my blog I mainly focused on AHS Steele-Perkins and his life and career.  The book published by Mary Tiffen is an edited version of an unpublished manuscript written by Mary's mother Gwen. It tell's the story from Gwen's perspective. The tragic loss of her first child John aged only 18, a powerful vision of God that she had in a near death experience which gave her strength and comfort and helped her deal with the loss of her much loved son. Her husband turned his back on his faith after the loss,  and took solace in affairs with other women. Mary Tiffen's book is available on Kindle and is well worth reading. 

AHS Steele-Perkins (National Portrait Gallery)
AHS-SP with Gwen + John and their two daughters (Courtesy Mary Tiffen)
AHS Steele-Perkins in ARP uniform (SCMP)

Monday 12th December

Revisionism and Denial
This is is the anniversary of the fall of Nanking 12/12/1937 in which hundreds of thousands of surrendered Chinese nationalist soldiers and civilians were killed. Many were tortured, some were buried alive others used for bayonet practice. Women were mutilated and raped. It was an appalling atrocity and it is all the more galling that some Japanese conservatives today deny the massacre took place or claim the numbers are exaggerated or that civilians were not killed or ill-treated. The article in SCMP for 10th Dec (shown below) reports how Japanese conservatives still blame America for starting the Pacific War and blame China for starting the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. They deny that there was any massacre of civilians in Nanking and say that the  comfort women were willing well paid prostitutes. This is very hurtful and insulting to many people in Asia. How does one move on in the face of such revisionism and denial !




Tuesday 13th December

Victor Thomson 'D' Coy Royal Scots in the Battle for Hong Kong.
I was contacted today by Allan Thomson whose grandfather Victor Thomson fought with 'D' Coy 2/RS in the Battle for Hong Kong. This Coy was commanded by Captain David Pinkerton who was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry but many thought should have been awarded the Victoria Cross for his consistent gallantry and leadership throughout the battle. Captain David Pinkerton continued his Army career after the war and was killed by a sniper's bullet in 1956 during the Suez incident. 'D' Coy fought with absolute distinction and were always in the thick of action. Allan writes that his grandfather fought at Golden Hill, Wong Nai Chung Gap, Mount Nicholson and Mount Cameron. He  survived the brutal incarceration in POW Camps and he survived the tragedy of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru in which so many British POWs lost their lives. Allan sent these photos of his grandfather.  I publish these photographs as a tribute to a brave soldier.  The Royal Scots bore the brunt of the action on the Mainland and their attacks against much stronger enemy forces on the Island were nothing but gallant.

Victor Thomson joined a territorial battalion of Argyll Sutherland Highlanders before joining the Royal Scots.

In fighting order

Post war - serving with the Royal Engineers

Thursday 15th December

'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada Coy HQ shelters at Obelisk Hill
I met up with Martin Heyes today at Tai Tam Gap in order to visit 'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada war shelters at Obelisk Hill. The site consists of a string of accommodation shelters, a kitchen shelter and two military grade toilet blocks. The area is very overgrown and as usual a lot of rubbish is strewn around the site. 'D' Coy RRC was commanded by Major Maurice Parker. These shelters accommodated his Coy HQ and Platoon 16 and 17. His No. 18 Platoon was at Tai Tam Tuk nearby and No 18 (R) Platoon was attached to 'C' Coy in the  Lye Mum Gap area. In addition 'D' Coy 1/Mx also utilised these shelters and reported to Major Parker. The 1/Mx Coy personnel were based in pillboxes around the coast from San Wan Bay (near Pak Sha Wan Battery) and around D'Aguilar promontory to Tai Tam Tuk /Tai Tam Bay Area opposite Red Hill.

String of accommodation shelters at Obelisk Hill

A seldom used trail led down hill from the bunkers towards Tai Tam Tuk - which would have been the route taken by No. 18 platoon back and forth from Coy HQ. Each Coy would have had one or two  Cooks and a Sanitation orderly. The Cooks would have prepared meals in the kitchen shelter (see below).

Kitchen shelter

Military grade toilet block

Tai Tam Gap Military HQ
We explored the war shelters at Tai Tam Gap. These had accommodated Royal Rifles of Canada Battalion HQ, East Infantry Brigade HQ and East Group Royal Artillery. Particularly striking was the underground bunker which contained the (disused) Fortress Plotting Room which was used by East Brigade as Brigade HQ. Here is the entrance to the underground bunker.

Entrance to underground bunker containing FPR
We followed a series of corridors until we reached the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR) which was used as Brigade HQ. When we reached the Fortress Plotting Room - it was wet with what I assumed to be bat droppings and there were a lot of bats hanging on the roof. Not being very keen on bats we did not properly explore this room or the tunnel leading off (visible in the photo below) or the side room to the left of the tunnel. The tunnel seems to have been an emergency exit and possibly a ventilation feature. The concrete pillars were supports for the large steel plotting table. It was pitch dark and the light in the photo is from our torches and the flash of the camera.

The Fortress Plotting Room (with bats roosting on the ceiling)

Looking towards the emergency exit and ventilation tunnel and the room off to the left.

Here is what Captain Peter Belton (Staff Captain) had to say about Brigade HQ in the FPR at Tai Tam Gap, which commenced operations on Sunday 14th December following the Brigadier's withdrawal from the Mainland on Saturday 13th December.

"The Brigade Office was located in the Plotting Room at Tai Tam in shell and bomb proof accommodation. It consisted of one large room and some twenty yards of tunnel. The latter I decided to use as sleeping accommodation for troops and arranged for bunks to be fitted. The officers were to be in outside shelters. The staff, both officers and men, were messed by the  Royal Rifles of Canada." (Captain Belton - Brigade Staff)

Here is Brigadier Wallis commenting on the underground Operations Room at Tai Tam. (Appendix D East Brigade War Diary and courtesy of Rob Weir).

"This room was largely occupied by a huge steel table which was useful to work on with maps , but hampered movement. In this room were located:

Brigade Commander
Brigade Major
Staff Captain
2 Operators - Brigade Signals Exchange
Brigade Intel Officer
Three Brigade Clerks.

In a tiny side room was the large telephone exchange. In another small room was the emergency lighting plant. The room was reached by a long winding narrow passage into which the Sappers were busy fitting sleeping bunks for staff and Signals personnel. This passage was very dark and crowded at night and it took me some six minutes to leave my maps and numerous telephones and reach East Group RA and 'D' Bn HQ in the shelters up above mine, after threading my way through a maze of camouflage nets and nervous RRC sentries. The atmosphere (in the Brigade office) was heavy and even with the emergency plant working and the air vent open (emergency exit) the air was unhealthy and oppressive and made clear thinking difficult. One became flushed and had bad head aches."

Above the underground bunker that contains the FPR are two or three tiers of splinter proof bunkers used by RRC as Bn HQ and by East Group Royal Artillery.

Kitchen shelter

2nd tier of shelters

3rd (upper) tier of shelters

Overgrown lower tier shelters
Lower tier shelters - neglected and overgrown
To the south is a line-of-gaps pillbox and between Tai Tam Gap military HQ structures and 'D' Coy positions at Obelisk Hill was a group of two shelters one of which is shown in the photo below, which I think was an ADS (Advanced Dressing Station).

Martin Heyes outside what I think was an ADS

Friday 16th December

The petition to stop the Water Supplies Dept (WSD) constructing a water pipeline across the front of PB2 
The petition has attracted sign ups/support from nearly 1,500 people based in Hong Kong and overseas. The WSD have recently indicated  informally (to press reporters) that they will ask their contractor to move or bury the pipeline where it passes in front of PB 2, but they have not formally advised me of this yet. However as of today the pipeline has gone !  It has been completely removed where it runs past the PB. This is very encouraging and I commend the WSD for their responsiveness. Here are some "before and after" photos.

Before:  the offending pipeline
After: looking up the hill where the pipeline ran past the PB  
The two Pillboxes (PBs 1 and 2) and the the AOP on Jardines Lookout
On Friday afternoon driven out of house and home by the noisy renovation next door I took a stroll up Jardines Lookout. It was a cool but sunny afternoon. I followed some little used back trails to Jardines Lookout from Sir Cecil's Ride. On the crest I took some pics from the AOP. It is now a viewing platform and most people would not know that it was once a wartime AOP and scene off a bloody battle. The main compartment is still accessible below the viewing platform. A Canadian platoon (a mobile or flying platoon) from Winnipeg Grenadiers Battalion HQ at Wan Chai Gap were despatched to the AOP on the summit of Jardines Lookout on the night the Japanese landed on the Island (18th/19th Dec 1941). They arrived at the AOP on the crest by way of PB 1 at dawn on Friday 19th only to bump into a company of Japanese infantry coming up from Sir Cecil's Ride on the north side. The Platoon fought all morning  until they were all killed or wounded and blasted off that rocky crest by mortars, artillery and machine gun fire.

The route the Shoji Butai took along Sir Cecil's Ride on 19th December 1941
The inside of the AOP  looking through the shell blasted embrasure

In and out of Pillbox 1 (PB 1) 



Outside view of PB 1 

Inside view

Grenade fragmentation blast damage in the PB
In and out of Pillbox 2 (PB 2) 


Outside PB 2


Looking through the north facing aperture of PB 2

Saturday 17th December

Middle Spur AOP

Today I walked along Violet Hill Path from WNC Gap reservoir to Middle Spur  situated on a spine-like ridge between Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay. This was the route taken by Colonel Tanaka and two battalions of his 229th infantry regiment consisting of some two thousand men during the evening and night of Friday 19th December 1941. At Middle Spur there is an AOP and a splinter proof shelter (presumably to accommodate the section guarding the service reservoir in front of the AOP). There is an array of trenches and weapons pits. When I first came up here in 2012 I found a British helmet lying ion the ground beside a trench. There was a lot of spent Japanese machine gun rounds in a weapons pit  located in a position to be able to fire down on the old Repulse Bay Hotel and the road running through Repulse Bay. There was quite a lot of British and Canadian spent rounds  indicating that a firefight had occurred here when Tanaka's Butai captured the position and then proceeded down to the junction of Island Road and Repulse Bay Road thus creating a continuous line from Tai Koo to Sanatorium Gap, to   WNC Gap to Repulse Bay and driving a wedge between the British West Infantry Brigade and East Infantry Brigade.


The AOP at Middle Spur
Entrance door to AOP

Left aperture looks over Repulse Bay and right over Deep Water Bay

Fragmentation damage to roof of AOP

Nearby splinter proof shelter

Recent feature stories:

1. Re-enacting the route taken by Col Shoji and 230th Infantry Regiment from his HQ established beside Braemar Reservoir, which was situated on a plateau above the landing area at North Point.  Click the link below to see the story:

Following in the footsteps of Colonel Shoji's 230th Infantry Regiment advancing towards Jardines Lookout and Wong Nai Chung Gap 18th -19th December 1941battleforhongkong.blogspot.hk


2. A walk up Mount Davis and exploring the war ruins of the 9.2-inch Coastal Defence Battery and the Port War Signal Station.

Mount Davis - A walk among the ruinsbattleforhongkong.blogspot.hk


3. An article about General Christopher ("Mike") Maltby, the General Officer Commanding British Troops in China in 1941.

Major-General Christopher Michael Maltbybattleforhongkong.blogspot.com



...........