Wednesday 18 September 2013

John ('Jack') Basil Smith - Sub Lt, HKRNVR

John Basil Smith was a member of the Shanghai Municipal Police Service. This force of some 4,700 men came under the Shanghai Municipal Council ("SMC"). The majority were Chinese and of the non Chinese officers the majority were British. Men were recruited from UK police forces like the Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary. The SMC also recruited young men directly in Britain through their London Agents who joined as cadets. Jack Seaby joined at 20 years old and like JB Smith joined the Hong Kong Royal Naval Reserve (HKRNVR) after war broke out in 1939.

JB Smith describes his enlistment:

"In July 1940 I was requested by the Royal Navy Liaison Office , Commander Shepherd, RN of the British Embassy staff in Shanghai, to accept a Commission  for General Service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Hong Kong). With the consent  of the British Consul  and the Commissioner of Police I was allowed to resign  from the Police without the customary six months notice. I was then able to accept the Commission as Sub-Lieutenant in the HKRNVR on 23rd July 1940, and I was sworn in on that date at the British Embassy Offices in Shanghai and was immediately posted to Hong Kong for training and duty." (1)

J B Smith was a Canadian. He was married to Lisunenko (Nina) who was a White Russian born in Vladivostok. There were many Russian refugees who had fled Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and established themselves in Hong Kong, Harbin and Shanghai and other  cities in China. The Russian community and their role in World War 2 is a very interesting study in itself. Many fought with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp (HKVDC). Many had no nationality - although others had elected to accept Soviet Russian nationality rather than remain without a passport - stateless. Those that were not interned had a hard time surviving in Japanese occupied Hong Kong and Shanghai.

JB Smith left Shanghai for Hong Kong with his wife Nina.  By this time British women and children had been evacuated from Hong Kong to Australia except those in essential services and many had joined the ANS (Auxiliary Nursing Service) or VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) to ensure they could stay in Hong Kong. Nina joined the VADs which was part of the HKVDC and was assigned to the Hong Kong Hotel Relief Hospital as a VAD Nurse.

JB Smith commenced his training and was posted to various Auxiliary Patrol Vessels (APVs) operated by HKRNVR. These were mostly converted tugs and launches which had been equipped with guns, machine guns and in some cases depth charges and were used for patrolling, minesweeping and anti-submarine warfare.

"During the war with Japan and after my own minesweeper APV Perla had been disabled by enemy action and beached to prevent sinking, I was posted to HM Gunboat Cicala until she was sunk by enemy dive bombers on the 21st December , 1941. After Cicala was sunk I was in command of a party of Naval Ratings doing infantry duty ashore. I also took over command of a portion of C Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers after their own officer, Lt. Nugent, was wounded". (1)

HMS Cicala - River Gunboat in Hong Kong Harbour
After the British capitulation on 25th December 1941, JB Smith was interned at North Point Camp and  later Sham Shui Po Camp where he remained until the Japanese surrender .

"After the Japanese surrender (Aug/Sept 1945) I served with anti-looting patrols landed from RN ships until I was repatriated via Manila, Pearl Harbour and San Francisco and arrived at my home in Vancouver on the 20th October 1945" (1),  where he was reunited with his wife Nina.

Nina had been interned in Stanley Camp  but along with other residents of Shanghai had been repatriated to Shanghai in December 1942.  In 1943 the Japanese interned enemy civilians and she was interned in Lungwha Camp, Shanghai until later in 1943 when she was repatriated with other Canadians back home to Canada via New York.  She arrived in Canada in December 1943 suffering from recurring attacks of Malaria.



(1)   Report to CO of HKRNVR dated 18/7/47 and attached report to Hong Kong Government Accountant  dated 19/9/46     (Hong Kong Public Records Office)

1 comment:

  1. Quote from Lieut-Commander G H Gandy RN (Rtrd) reort submitted 8th March 1942 Rangoon on the demise of HMS Cicala:
    21st Dec 1941: There was considerable bombing and shelling of Aberdeen and a determined bombing attack on HMS CICALA which had been firing on enemy batteries on the hills above Repulse Bay. At about 10.00 Hrs nine bombers attacked Cicala and the ninth scored hits with a straddle of 5 bombs which holed her but did not explode to any great extent. MTB 10 received signal to all MTB's from SNO Aberdeen Cicala on fire, take off crew and proceeded alongside taking off all officers and crew, and on consulting with the Commanding Officer, Lt Commander John Boldero, R.N. (retd) MTB 09 was instructed to hasten the sinking of Cicala with depth charges and this was done.