St Stephens College and the Military Cemetery are very close to where I live - I often visit the College grounds and the nearby Stanley prison on trips organized by author and historian Geoff Emerson, for families of internees or for families of military personnel involved in the fighting at or around Stanley.
Although it happened a long time ago - I can well understand how the people in China and many other Asian countries still feel some degree of outrage for what happened. This is not helped by the failure of Japan to adequately apologize or even admit that these things happened. They have not come to terms with their war history, in the way that Germany has - instead it has been swept under the carpet, sometimes denied and many young Japanese have no idea what their armies did in the countries they invaded and why this is still a sensitive subject in many parts of Asia. Sooner or later this has to be addressed in order to move forward and to lay ghosts to rest.
As you read these depositions you may feel some outrage that such crimes were committed against civilians and soldiers who had surrendered and who were in many cases non combatants for example medical orderlies or wounded patients. I can accept there were mitigating circumstances in that machine guns were being fired from the college grounds and possibly from the college buildings, and this may explain coming into to the hospital very hard, but this would not mitigate in any way the torturing of surrendered soldiers - some of whom had their ears cut off and their eyes gouged out; nor the rape and murder of European and Chinese nurses, nor the bayoneting of patients in their beds.
Although Mrs Elizabeth Fidoe survived the massacre, she was raped, beaten and abused by Japanese soldiers.
Statement by Sgt. Herbert Peasgood, RAMC
"Towards midnight on Dec 24th machine gun and mortar fire increased and numerous MG posts were set up in the grounds of the hospital. Later on these posts actually used bales of hospital blankets and mattresses from the linen stores to build machine gun nests within 6 yards of the entrance to the hospital reception hall. Guns were also set up on the rising ground behind the cook house and another within arms reach of the flag-pole carrying the red cross. The MG outside Brigade HQ actually had to fire over the top of a large St Georges Cross flag the only other Red Cross available which had been hoisted over the end of the tennis courts. Firing and grenade fire increased until nearly dawn but it was too dangerous to go outside to see what the position was as the roads and verandahs were caught in a cross fire. Just before dawn on 25th December British and Canadian forces dropped back without warning being given to the hospital and the first sign of capture was the arrival of four Japanese soldiers at the entrance to the hospital.
|St Stephens College|
In my research at Hong Kong Public Records Office, I came across this letter dated October 1946 from Mrs Fidoe addressed to the Adjutant of the HKVDC. She had been employed as a Private Nurse and in 1936 had joined the Nursing Detachment (ND) of the HKVDC. She was mobilized on 8th December when the Japanese Army invaded the Colony.
In the letter she describes her repatriation to UK was by way of the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire in October 1949. The fact that she was repatriated by hospital ship implies she must have been in very poor health by the end of the war.
There was also a copy of a letter from Irene Braude who was Commandant of the Nursing Detachment of HKVDC to Mrs Fidoe written after the Japanese surrender in September 1945 whilst she (Irene Braude) was still in Stanley Internment Camp awaiting her own repatriation.
The letter thanks Mrs Fidoe for her service in the HKVDC and in it she refers to the abuse Mrs Fidoe experienced at the hands of the Japanese soldiery on that fateful Christmas Day in 1941.
"I should also like to say how sorry I was that you had such a dreadful experience while serving in at our Relief Military Hospital at St Stephens College, Stanley, during hostilities and trust that you will have no lasting ill effects".
I looked for Mrs Fidoe in the various lists of civilian internees at Stanley Camp. These lists included:
The Log of Internees held at Imperial War Museum
The list of internees in Greg Leck's book "Captives of Empire"
Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Internees
Official List of Internees prepared by Colonial Office (1942)
She was not listed and so I assumed she must have been out of Camp. This would suggest she was a third national possibly Irish. Japanese occupied Hong Kong was not an easy place to survive in. Perhaps she was looked after by one of the Roman Catholic institutions such as the Italian Convent. We don't know where she found sanctuary and how she survived.
Geoff Emerson responded to a posting I made by saying that on one of his Stanley lists he had the following entry:
"Fidoe, E A Mrs. British Trained Sister HKVDC , VAD - Neutral believed in HK"
This suggested that she was categorized as a third national from a neutral country and the reference to "in HK" meant in town and not in Camp.
A series of postings on the popular Hong Kong local history web site "gwulo" soon revealed more information see http://gwulo.com/node/16130
David Bellis who set up and manages the web site, advised that she was a prosecution witness in the 1948 War Crimes Trials and yet only three years later she died, no doubt due in some measure to the privations she experienced during the war time. Henry Ching (whose father Harry Ching) had been Editor of the South China Morning Post and had survived the tense period of Japanese occupation, responded that:
"Elizabeth Appleton Fidoe, also known as Emma Appleton Fidoe, died in the Queen Mary Hospital on 7th December, 1950. She was apparently living, at the time, at 17 Bowen Road. This information is on the probate application for her will".
A posting by David Bellis revealed details of her wedding to Staff QM Sgt Joseph Henry Fidoe RAOC, as detailed in the China Mail 31st December 1935
" a wedding of great interest in military circles was solemnized at St. John’s Cathedral, yesterday afternoon, when Miss Betty Dudley (Betty being commonly used short form for Elizabeth) became the bride of Staff Quarter Master Sergeant Joseph H. Fidoe of the R.A.O.C. The bride, who arrived on Sunday from Home by H.M.T. Neuralia was formerly the- Matron of the London Jewish Hospital. Her father was connected with the Royal Fusiliers for over 33 years. The bridegroom has been over 21 years with the R.A.O.C. He left England in 1931, following which he was in Egypt Tientsin and Peiping. He has been in Hong Kong for a little over a year".
Research by Nicola on Gwulo.com showed that she had been born Emma Appleton Dudley and was indeed of Irish descent. She found that Joseph Fidoe had been married twice before and that his second marriage had been to ELizabeth's sister. His two previous wives had predeceased him.
This has pieced together a bit more on Elizabeth Fidoe's life. I still wonder where Joseph Fidoe was in 1941. He does not appear under RAOC nor on other listings of the Garrison personnel. Had he predeceased Emma/Elizabeth - or had they separated and divorced - why was she here on her own in December 1941 and where did she live in Japanese occupied Hong Kong during the war years. Where is she buried following her death in Hong Kong in 1950 - presumably in the Catholic Cemetery at Happy Valley. I hope through these pages we might continue to find more about her life and times.
In some ways it is surprising that she came back to Hong Kong, not long after the war ended - one might have thought she would want to stay away from a place with such tragic and horrific memories for her. What a terrible experience she and others had to endure.