Sunday 31 August 2014

Captain Andre Kella & Ethel Kella, Sheila Haynes & Patrick Cullinan in Hong Kong in time of war

Captain Andre Kella and his wife Ethel and their niece Sheila Haynes were in Hong Kong in December 1941 when war broke out. The Japanese Army crossed the border on 8th December and after a short and brutal battle they captured the Crown Colony of Hong Kong one hundred years after it had first been established.

Andre Kella was  born in Lausanne, Switzerland in July 1885. His father was a teacher and a musician as were most of his family. His grandfather had founded the College of Music. Andre himself was something of a musician but he had a stronger calling. Somewhat surprisingly coming from a landlocked country, he knew from an early age that he wanted to go to sea.

In 1902 at the age of seventeen he left Switzerland for Marseilles where he signed on as part of the crew of a small British coaster which started him on his career in the British Merchant Navy.  In 1908 he passed the exams to become an officer.

Two years later, during a typhoon and whilst his ship was anchored in Sydney Harbour he slipped on the wet deck and badly injured his back and neck. This resulted in hospitalization and a prolonged convalescence in Sydney. It must have been around this time that he met Ethel Recarder Frost and they were married on 31st December 1912 at the Church of Our Lady Immaculate and the marriage was registered at Manly in New South Wales, Australia.  We don't know how they met - perhaps Ethel may have been a nurse caring for him whilst he was hospitalized. I believe Ethel was registered as a nurse (Auxiliary Nursing Service) in Hong Kong in 1940/1941 (although this needs verification but if correct would explain why she was not subject to compulsory evacuation in June 1940). 

Captain Andre Kella (Courtesy:  Judy Bercene)
At some stage after becoming a naturalized British subject,  Andre changed his name from the original Andre Koella by simply dropping the 'o' and going by the name of Andre Kella which sounded less Germanic and perhaps this was done around the time of WW1.

During WW1 (1914-1918) he served in the Royal Australian Navy. He was wounded in action at the Dardanelles. After the war he was appointed as Military & Civil Administrator of the Bismarck Archipelago (formerly German New Guinea) from 1919 to 1922. His German language ability being an obvious advantage.

Map of New Guinea showing the Bismarck Archipelago

The islands were annexed as part of the German Protectorate of German New Guinea in 1884. During WW1 the islands were seized along with other German possessions in New Guinea by the Australian armed forces. They remained under Australian administration until Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975 except during the period of Japanese occupation in WW2 and their subsequent liberation by Australian and US forces.

After completing his three year assignment in the Bismarck Archipelago, Captain Kella worked in China, initially in Shanghai  (in charge of the port) and later in Woosung and Canton and then moving to Hong Kong. Ethel accompanied him on all these travels and so it was that they found themselves in Hong Kong when war began.

I am not sure of the date that Andre and Ethel arrived in Hong Kong but it must have been prior to August 1936 when Ethel's niece Sheila Haynes attended a wedding detailed below as a bridesmaid. Ethel had offered to look after one of  her sister Irene's children after she died tragically as a result of an accident in 1928.  It was decided that it should be Sheila who went to Hong Kong to live with her Aunt as she was the oldest child.

Irene Maria Haynes (neƩ Frost) - Ethel's sister had been on holiday in Perth from Broome where she lived with her husband Dr Arthur Richard Haynes and their five children, the oldest of which was Sheila Haynes born 12th July 1915. Irene had been cooking a large pot of soup and accidentally spilled it over herself incurring severe burns. She passed away in hospital as a result of these injuries.

At some stage Ethel came to Australia to bring Sheila back to Hong Kong with her via the Philippines.  We think this may be around 1931 by which time Sheila was sixteen years old and at that time Sheila applied for a passport. At any rate we know that Sheila spent her  late teenage years in pre-war Hong Kong and what a glamourous and exciting place it must have seemed to her.

We see her next, as a very attractive young lady aged twenty-one, acting as a bridesmaid in this 1936 wedding photograph. The wedding is that of John Luke,  News Editor of the South China Morning Post and May Coghlan a good friend of Sheila's.

Sheila (on the left) as a bridesmaid aged 21 in August 1936 (Courtesy Judy Bercene)
The Best Man in the light suit standing behind the Bride and Groom is Norman Stockton an Australian journalist also with the South China Morning Post. He was killed whilst working as a war correspondent having been shot down whilst flying with a Lancaster bomber crew in 1943 in the skies over Berlin.

Judy Bercene a relative of Sheila Haynes who has been researching her family history, found in newspaper archives an engagement notice  in the "West Australian" dated 5th February 1935 for Sheila Haynes and Norman Stockton. They must have separated around this time because Norman married Maree Patience Bishop  in 1937 just a year after the above mentioned wedding took place. This was his second marriage, his first being to Jean Atherton in 1929 from whom he was divorced in 1935.

Sheila Haynes as a Bidesmaid in 1936  (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Sheila's occupation before the war is given as a stenographer working for Goddard & Douglas (Marine Surveyors). To have avoided compulsory repatriation in June 1940 she must have been a nurse or otherwise involved with Essential Services. We discovered that she had joined the St John Ambulance Association  (SJAA) as the family found a SJAA medal/badge amongst Sheila's belongings. This is depicted (front and rear) in the two photographs below.

Front of SJAA Medallion (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Reverse of  SJAA medallion with Sheila's name engraved (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Geoff Emerson, Author and Historian contacted the St John Ambulance and takes up the story:

" I sent them the photos of the medal and they sent some information.  They said it's called a medallion and not a medal, awarded for three years of service.  For every year after, a small copper plate with the year awarded would be given.  If a member had passed the home-nursing re-examination, a small copper plate with HN and the year would be added.  This was suspended in 1962 and reinstated in 1991, but with 5 years and not 3 required.  The copper plate was cancelled also.  It is still issued to those who attain 5 years of efficient service".

From the above we can assume that Sheila must have joined SJAA in 1937 - the medallion being awarded after three years service in 1940 and the bar with date being added in 1941. We don't yet
know where she was employed with SJAA during the period of hostilities and where she was before going into Stanley Camp.

The capitulation of Hong Kong came on Christmas Day 1941. Shortly thereafter on 5th January, British, Dutch and American citizens were ordered to report to Murray Parade Ground at the bottom of Garden Road to be registered and interned. They were then hoarded into cheap hotels and brothels on the Western waterfront. They were crowded into very small rooms often sharing with complete strangers in squalid conditions. Andre and Ethel were put into Room 425 of the Mee Chow Hotel.

Here's a description of what initial incarceration was like in a different but no doubt similar hotel in the same area.  This one was the Stag Hotel and the report was made by Don Robbins a Canadian national following the repatriation of Canadians in September 1943.

"We were packed in like sardines, in badly ventilated, vile smelling rooms, in some cases  there being as many as eleven persons in a room 9' x 8', and containing one Chinese divan, one straight backed and one easy chair, and a filthy looking wash basin. Sleeping in such rooms  was almost an impossibility, and only managed in relays. For the first few days , only one bowl of rice was served  per person , however , on the third day , a vile smelling and equally vile tasting soup was poured over the rice, which we were later informed was duck soup. Every morning we were awakened to the howls and screaming of dogs being beaten to death in the ground floor restaurant.  From 5am until midnight there was continual queueing for the one and only bathroom on our floor housing ninety eight persons of different sexes and ages. Those who had the foresight or had been lucky enough tobring in sums of money with them did not have to rely on the rations and were able to obtain foodstuffs by squeezing the Chinese or Indian guards on the main door. Others simply had to rely on what they were given by the management of the hotels.  Physical exercise was out of the question, the roof was available  to only about fifty persons at a time, and even the beams creaked and threatened to cave in. The building itself we were informed was erected  in 1900 under the name of the Stag Hotel, and in later years had been sold  to Chinese interests who had let the place go to decay. It was a veritable death trap , and if a fire had broken out, with the guard seldom on the iron door, which was always locked, I doubt if one person would have been able to get out of that hell hole alive. Naturally every precaution against fire was tajen by us all. After seventeen days of this life, finally on the morning of January 21st , we were told to pack and were marched to the Macau Steamship Wharfs, where we boarded tugs, tenders etc and departed for Stanley. During our march to the wharfs, several exhibitions of Japanese brutality  were staged  especially for our benefit, in the form of beating Chinese coolies to death on the street, either for some infraction of the law, but we were all inclined to believe  it was unwarranted. The sight was sickening , and one or two ladies  in our group fainted, which is possibly the very thing the Japanese wished for". The Stag Hotel was infested with rats…."

Andre and Ethel would have been moved to Stanley Camp on or around 21st January 1942. They were billeted in Block 5 Room 4. It's possible that Sheila came in later, especially if she was working in one of the hospitals in her SJAA capacity, at any rate she was billeted in a different room than her Aunt and Uncle.

Barbara Anslow (nee Redwood) mentions in her diary that Sheila Haynes was involved in putting on productions like Peter Pan in 1944 which did so much to raise the moral of the internees. She also mentions Sheila winning a prize in a lucky draw:

"There was a draw for a cock - from surplus cocks owned by an enterprising internee who somehow had a few chickens. Sheila Haynes won one".    (Barbara Redwood's Diary 24th Dec 44)

Despite the hardship, the crowding, the lack of food and medicine, Sheila found romance again whilst still incarcerated at Stanley Camp. She fell in love with Patrick (Pat) Cullinan a member of the Police Force who had been ill with TB during his time at Stanley Camp. I don't know how they met perhaps Sheila was caring for him whilst he was in the Camp Hospital or perhaps through her activities with the Roman Catholic Church and Catholic groups. She was always a devout Catholic, keeping her faith despite the hardships she had to endure.

Pat Cullinan's Police ID Card (Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Pat Cullinan's Police ID Card dated Sept. 1939 (Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Patrick and Sheila were married in Camp on 11th August 1945 shortly before liberation. Sheila's wedding ring had been fashioned out of a silver coin.

Barbara Anslow recalls the wedding in her diary:

"they were married in the American Block in two rooms that had been occupied by the Barton family. Father Bernard Meyer officiated. Mr Joyce was Best Man, and Sheila was given away by Quentin Mcfayden. Pat looked nervous but Sheila most serene in her dark blue taffeta dress. Others present at the reception in the afternoon were Hugh Goldie, Miss Paterson, Rosaleen Millar and Eileen Grant. At the reception in the afternoon Mrs Kella was there, Mr & Mrs Barton and Marie Paterson".  (Barbara Redwood's Diary Aug 1945)

Sheila and Patrick returned to Australia after liberation. Patrick was originally planning to return to England to introduce his new bride to his family. The photograph below may have been taken in 1946 or at least in happier times when they enjoyed a brief period together before fate intervened again.

Pat Cullinan & Sheila Haynes in happier times  (Courtesy Judy Bercene)
In March 2013 Barbara Anslow (nee Redwood) who as a young lady was interned in Stanley Camp wrote to Judy and I on on the Stanley Email Group:

"It is very interesting to read about Sheila Haynes and Pat Cullinan, as I was friends with both of them, especially Sheila; she and I met up with each other almost every day in Stanley as both of us were involved in R.Catholic events, especially with the R.C. youngsters.   I attended their wedding early on the morning of 11th August 1945" (Barbara Anslow)

Pat Cullinan had been plagued by ill health whilst in Camp with bouts of TB and malaria. After liberation and returning to Australia Pat was taken ill again with TB and admitted to hospital. He passed away on 24th May 1947 aged only 34. Sheila kept her promise to Patrick. She went back to England in 1948 to meet Patrick's family returning to Australia in 1949.

Andre Kella had also been ill during his time in Camp and never really recovered.  He must have been too ill to attend Sheila's wedding as he is not mentioned as being among the guests and Barbara mentions in her diary that Quentin McFayden gave the bride away - a role that Andre would have done but for ill health. When liberation came shortly after the wedding he was repatriated on the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire arriving in Sydney on 22nd Sept. 1945. Andre was admitted  to the Royal Naval Hospital at Herne Bay but sadly he never fully recovered from the privations and illness that he had suffered from during his time in Stanley Camp and he passed away aged sixty in January 1946. He was given a Naval funeral in recognition of his service. 

After returning to Australia in 1949 Sheila and her Aunt Ethel now both widowed settled in New South Wales. Sheila returned to work as a stenographer/typist working for the Dept. of Defence (Army) in Paddington, NSW. She married again in 1968 to Thomas  (Tom) Conway. They enjoyed twenty years together until he passed away in 1989 leaving Sheila a widow once again. Ethel had passed away in 1970. After retiring from the Dept. of Defence Sheila continued to be very active with charity work especially with St Vincent de Paul Society in Paddington in recognition of which she was awarded the BEM. Through out her life she had been popular, devout and always doing things for other people. She passed away aged 78 in August 1993. 

Andre, Ethel, Sheila and Pat found themselves caught up in a short but brutal war in Hong Kong. Then incarcerated for three and half long years in a Japanese concentration camp. They survived and made it home,  although Andre and Pat never really recovered with Andre passing away in January 1946 and Patrick still young,  passing away aged thirty-four in May 1947.

Photo Gallery

Ethel Kella & Sheila Haynes (1937) - (Courtesy of Judy Bercene)

On Repulse Bay Beach in the background the Lido, and what I think is the Dairy Farm Kiosk.  Ethel standing on left and Sheila kneeling on right.  (Courtesy of Judy Bercene)

Sheila as a Bridesmaid in 1936 (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila Haynes and Norman Stockton's mother at Kai Tak in 1936
(Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Sheila's 21st Cocktail party. Ethel and Andre seated middle row on left and John Luke seated on floor (right)
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila in 1937 (Courtesy: Judy Haynes)

Sheila Haynes aged nineteen with Norman Stockton in 1934
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila Haynes seated in Chatham Road (1939)
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Artifacts Gallery

Judy Bercene and the family are donating a number of documents and artifacts to the Heritage Gallery museum at St Stephens College, Stanley which is located in Bungalow 'A' which was one of the original bungalows which housed up to 50 internees in a building that was originally designed for one family. I believe (and this needs verification) that this bungalow was the home of Dr George William Pope and family immediately before the war. Assuming this is correct it was the Battalion HQ for the Royal Rifles of Canada during the fighting at Stanley.

Here are photos of some of these items :

Engagement Book
This is a self crafted notebook belonging to Sheila presumably for her appointments in Camp . She was a popular person and was involved in a lot of things going on at Stanley Camp through the Catholic Church and putting on shows like "Peter Pan". The page shows her appointments/engagements for January 1945.

Drawings by Ian Highet
Ian Highet was an employee of the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation. He was interned at Stanley Block 8 Room 4. They are drawn in pencil and were apparently drawn in December 1945. Highet was repatriated on the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire together with Andre Kella and Pat Cullinan.

Post Card from F H Kelly to Sheila Haynes dated 12 July 1943

Frederick Henry James Kelly was a Police Officer interned at Stanley. He made this postcard look like one sent in to camp. Mail and postcards were treasured things for the internees. It's dated 12th July 1943 being Sheila's 28th birthday. Fred Kelly's diary is held at the Imperial War Museum, London. The diary is addressed and written to his wife Ruby who had been evacuated to Australia in June 1940. The diary ends in November 1943. Fred Kelly was Secretary of the Catholic Action Group and a member of the choir together with his room mates Charles Mottram and Claude Byron

Wedding wishes from Elizabeth Archer to Sheila Haynes dated 11th Aug 1945

Mrs Elizabeth Ellen Archer was a Nursing sister billeted at the Hospital (Tweed Bay) at Stanley.  I believe she was a retired British nurse looking after the children  in the Ho Tung family residence immediately before the war. She writes in pencil "with warmest and sincerest wishes for your happiness"  and is date 11th August 1945 being the day of Sheila's wedding to Patrick Cullinan.


I would like to express my special thanks to Judy Bercene and her family for allowing me to use the photos and information contained herein, and for helping me to craft this story of a family caught up in war and surviving the hardships of a Japanese Concentration camp

No comments:

Post a Comment