Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Erinville and Cash's Bungalow

On 21st December Brigadier Wallis, commanding East Infantry Brigade, launched a brigade level counterattack from Stanley along Island Road with the intention of seizing the Tai Tam X-Roads ('First Objective'). Once having reached the Tai Tam X-Roads they were to turn left on Mount Parker Road (now Tai Tam Reservoir Road) into Gauge Basin and drive up past the reservoirs to Stanley Gap Road and thence to Wong Nei Chung Gap ('Second Objective'). The overriding task was to reach and relieve the beleaguered troops of West Infantry Brigade still holding out near West Brigade HQ. 

The counterattack was to  be achieved by utilizing 'D' Battalion (Royal Rifles of Canada), and units of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp (HKVDC), which included Bren Gun carriers and Motor Bike Combinations, which consisted of a motorbike with a sidecar equipped with a mounted Vickers gun. The main body of the attacking force were to advance along Island Road and a flank party would be sent up to seize the hills (Notting Hill and Bridge Hill) on the left flank.

Albeit with the benefit of hindsight, this was an overly ambitious set of objectives. The second objective could not possibly be achieved. The British command seriously underestimated the number of Japanese troops on the Island. The Japanese had by this time landed thousands of troops and many of these were positioned around Wong Nai Chung (WNC) Gap. They had dug in and were resisting a series of British counterattacks aimed at trying to recapture the all important gap. For the British there were insufficient troops, insufficient mortar and insufficient artillery support. Attacks were put in bravely by different units, but they were rushed and as a result sometimes poorly coordinated, and most of these counterattacks were made against numerically superior Japanese forces who were well supported by artillery and mortar.

By 21st December, the Japanese forces owned the high ground of Mount Parker, Mount Butler, Jardines Lookout, Violet Hill and Mount Nicholson. They controlled the strategic gaps at Tai Tam and Wong Nai Chung. Although at the latter they were being held up by a mixed group of Canadian and British troops who were still holding out at 'D' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers shelters located opposite West Brigade HQ, near where the cricket club is today. Brigadier John Lawson, who had commanded West Infantry Brigade,  lay dead outside his HQ. He was the most senior officer to be killed in action in the Battle for Hong Kong.

The counterattack by Brigadier Wallis along Island Road failed. They did however succeed in capturing the high ground on the left flank and even today the summits of Bridge Hill and Notting Hill are littered with ammunition and other relics left over from the fighting that occurred that day. The attacking force reached the X-Roads but they were not able to hold the position partly because they never managed to clear the Japanese from Red Hill on their right flank or from area around the Tai Tam X-Roads including a mound to the north-west and the lower slopes of Bridge Hill.  After sustaining heavy casualties and failing to secure the X-Roads, the attacking force was withdrawn and the troops fell back to Stanley - although some including the Bren Carriers were despatched to Repulse Bay with the intention of driving up Repulse Bay Road to attack Wong Nai Chung Gap from the south. 

This story is about two houses which are mentioned in the war diaries relating to the fighting around Red Hill and the Tai Tam X-Roads. One of these was Erinville and the other is referred to as Cash's Bungalow, both these houses ended up on the battlefield, and they have a story to tell. Erinville was located at Turtle Cove and Cash's Bungalow was located on the mound north-west of the cross roads.   The wartime map below shows the area including Red Hill, Island Road, Bridge Hill, Notting Hill, the pumping station and the Tai Tam X-Roads. The second map extract shows the location of these two villas. 

1938 Map showing the Tai Tam X-Roads, the ridge Notting Hill-Bridge Hill  and Red Hill
Map showing location of Erinville and Cash's Bungalow
Erinville was a large and beautiful house built above Turtle Cove. The house was built by Albert and Delores Simmons shortly before the war on the site of a previous building. This was to be their home in retirement, and it was for awhile, until interrupted by war.

Post war photograph of Erinville (Courtesy: Alan Proulx)
Albert Simmons died following a heart attack whilst incarcerated in Stanley Camp in April 1942 at the relatively young age of sixty.  Gwen Dew wrote about his death in her book "Prisoner of the Japs" which was published in 1943 following her repatriation with other US Nationals in the summer of 1942.

"One death in particular made me feel very sad, that of a Mr Simmons, who had been with us on the long trek from Repulse Bay, at the Kowloon Hotel, and then in Camp so he seemed like a part of my whole Hong Kong experience. He would sit on a hillside in camp looking across the bay at his fine home on the opposite hill, which he had built to enjoy in his old age. One morning he got up, looked out the window, sat back on the cot and died. I think he died of a broken heart."

Albert's wife Delores and step-daughter Florence Proulx were released from Stanley Camp in August 1942 with Florence's two children Roger and Michael on grounds of their having Irish (neutral) nationality. They later moved from Japanese occupied Hong Kong to Macau where they remained until the war ended in 1945. Florence's husband Benny Proulx served in the HKRNVR and was stationed at the  Mine Control Station at Chung Am Kok. After the Japanese landings he had telephoned his father-in-law to warn him to  leave Erinville immediately, with the family, and come straight to Repulse Bay Hotel, which they did and not long before the Japanese arrived in that area. Benny later escaped from North Point POW Camp with two Dutch submariners and in his book "Underground from Hong Kong Kong" (1943) he describes sneaking back into his battle scarred home  after his escape but  whilst still at large on the Island.

"Shortly before midnight I left my companions well hidden in a safe place and struck out on an excursion of my own. ... Sneaking through a pet ravine of mine, I came out on a small plateau overlooking a bay. There was a house on the plateau and I gazed at it for a long time in silence for it was my home. It was here that we stayed during the summer months. ... The house was in absolute darkness. ... I crept in behind the garage. ... I walked around to the back door and found it open. ... I walked through my desecrated home and started to go out through the front door. There were several bodies lying on my front lawn in swollen, wry positions like big rag dolls."

After the war the Proulx family must have sold the house, or what was left of it, to Jardine Matheson as a later occupant Janice Anderson recalls that a bachelor from Jardines lived there with his mother and several servants having fled the troubles in Shanghai, and therefore presumably in 1948/49. Bill Anderson who had served in the Signals Coy, HKVDC, during the Battle for Hong Kong bought the house in 1957 from Jardines Group for his company NCR (National Cash Registers). He and his American wife Janice lived at Erinville briefly in the late 1950s.


Erinville in 1960s (Courtesy: Allan Proulx)
The above photograph of Erinville was probably taken  in the late 1960s, not long before the house was finally demolished in the 1970s, and replaced with four or five town houses. In the photo you can see the pipeline, leading from the reservoir on the hill-top, which at the time was under construction. 

Here's a much earlier photograph taken before the war. It's a rather grainy photo but shows the house and grounds before post-war refurbishment.

Pre-war photo of Erinville at Turtle Cove (Courtesy: Alan Proulx)
Janice Anderson and her husband Bill never saw the ghost of a soldier who was killed in the house, but her Chinese servants did see it on the upper floor and one of the maids would not go upstairs. It was supposedly the ghost of a New Zealand soldier, so probably a member of No 1 Coy HKVDC. I wonder if the ghost still haunts the town houses that now stand there.
Bill Anderson relaxing on the verandah at Erinville  in March 1959
(Courtesy: Janice Anderson)
What about the other house referred to and known as Cash's Bungalow and who was Cash ?  I found there was a file held at the National Archives in Kew, and so on a recent trip to London I popped in and had a look at the file which related to his SOE service during wartime. There were other bits of information from which I learnt that Albert Iveson Cash had lived in Hong Kong for some ten years from 1930. 

Albert Cash was born in November 1902 in Birkenhead, Cheshire. At the age of eighteen he joined the  Welsh Guards (1920-1923) rising to the rank of Sergeant in a relatively short time. After leaving the Army in 1923 he joined the Birkenhead Fire Service from 1923 until 1930. He was then posted to Hong Kong as Divisional Officer Hong Kong Fire Service, a role he occupied from 1930 until 1938. He was married to Stella Ada. In 1938 he took on a new role as Inspector of Works in the Hong Kong Public Works Dept. It was then that he lived in the bungalow near Red Hill. In 1940 he was transferred to the Public Works Dept. in Sierra Leone.

Researcher Nicola Davies discovered that he made a return trip to Hong Kong in September 1941, as he is recorded as traveling from Hong Kong to Los Angeles on SS Pleasantville, on the same ship as Ronald Hall, Bishop of Hong Kong, both leaving Hong Kong months before war erupted. Albert Cash spoke fluent Cantonese and although around forty-years-old had applied for military service. On the strength of his Cantonese language ability he was taken on by SOE and posted to  India where he is listed as being a Captain. Nicola found passenger records which show him traveling with Stella between London and Hong Kong in 1948 and 1951. He died in 1988 at  Birkenhead at the age of eighty-five.

Albert Iveson Cash (National Archives Files)
There is a mention of Cash's Bungalow in Evan Stewart's "A record of the Actions of the Hong Kong Volunteers in the Battle for Hong Kong December 1941" 
"Captain Penn took his LGs [Lewis Guns] forward to where he could bring fire to bear on Cash's Bungalow,  from which the enemy were quickly driven."  
Another reference to Cash's Bungalow is found in the Brigade (East Infantry) Diary. 
"The left Platoon of 'D' Bn (Royal Rifles) were working very slowly up Notting Hill. They were coming under fire from Cash's Bungalow".
In a further reference to the counterattack at Tai Tam Brigadier Wallis writes:
 " that he found Major Macauley trying to get his troops on and working hard. He was operating two 3-inch mortars against enemy holding Cash's Bungalow and the X-Roads ".
Rob Weir sent me the 1949 aerial photo showing Cash's Bungalow, which looks like a large property commensurate with Cash's senior position in PWD,  the property itself was most likely owned by PWD. 
1949 Aerial photo showing Tai Tam X-Roads lower centre and the  location for Cash's Bungalow (Courtesy: Rob Weir)
The black line running lower centre to right is the catch-water. The reservoir is in the left lower quadrant. I am not sure what the structure is shown in the upper part of the photo but maybe a tennis court.  The property was situated on a flat area on the summit of the mound with views to the rear  over Tai Tam Harbour towards Obelisk Hill, and to the front the views looked towards Bridge Hill and Notting Hill (see previous map extract).

On Tuesday 21st I went with fellow history enthusiast Stuart Woods to take a look at the site, which is quite overgrown. The photo below shows the same photo orientated north-south, zoomed in and I have added annotations. 
Marked up Photo of Cash's Bungalow (Photo - Stuart Woods)
I knew that the Japanese had been occupying the house on the 21st December when East Brigade tried to break out from Stanley to capture the X-Roads, and then drive up Mount Parker Road to link up with West Brigade at WNC Gap. Only two days earlier, on 19th December, East Brigade had withdrawn from the eastern sector of the Island and fallen back on Stanley and the Stanley perimeter (the line of hills from Stanley View (junction of Chung Am Kok Road and Island Road) to Palm Villa (current location of American Club at Tai Tam). The Japanese also occupied the lower slopes of Bridge Hill, above the X-Roads, and Red Hill including the abandoned British 4.5-inch Howitzer position. They had occupied the pumping station and bayoneted the two British waterworks engineers, Donald Davidson and Jack Flegg. Eyewitnesses said they were shot and bayoneted with their hands tied. They would have been known to Cash. I knew there was a machine gun at Cash's Bungalow that was causing problems for the British and Canadian troops in capturing the X-Roads. I expected not to find much, other than perhaps some Japanese bullet casings, and the ruins of the villa, but I think we found the actual machine gun position that had caused so much trouble on 21st December 1941. We found nearly 60 rounds of Japanese 7.7mm machine gun spent cartridges in one spot. There were too many to pick up. The spent rounds photographed below were left at the site where found. 

Some of the Japanese machine gun rounds fired on 21st  Dec.   
The spent rounds were found by what we think were the ruins of a stone built garden wall. At first we thought they may have been firing outwards (away from the house) in the direction of Obelisk Hill, but soon realised that this could not have been the case, because British and Canadian troops had withdrawn from that area on 19th Dec. The Japanese machine gunner(s) must have been positioned on the outside of the garden wall and in a position to fire (protected by the wall) at Canadian troops going up Bridge Hill and at British and Canadian troops approaching the X-Roads along Island Road from the driveway to Erinville.  It was all starting to make sense, tying the archival research and war diaries to the evidence on the ground  - like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. 

"The left Platoon of 'D' Bn (Royal Rifles) were working very slowly up Notting Hill. They were coming under fire from Cash's Bungalow".  [East Infantry Brigade War Diary]

Here's a view of Bridge Hill taken from the mound near Cash's Bungalow. Bridge Hill is the steep hill in the foreground to the left beyond the reservoir. Notting Hill is out of the photo to the left of Bridge Hill. 

Bridge Hill
In 1941 the hills were unwooded and had low vegetation. The Canadian and British troops going up  Notting Hill and Bridge Hill would have been clearly visible to the Japanese at Cash's Bungalow.  

In 1941 there was a narrow drive which led up to the bungalow from Island Road. Here's Stuart on that overgrown drive.

Stuart on the narrow drive leading to Cash's Bungalow (wide enough for 1941 vehicles)
Further up the drive we came across this rusted steel casing which might have been part of a vehicle. The steel at the bottom and top was thick (like armour plating).

Mystery item. The writer beside the rusted steel casing. 
We came across this brick built structure with air vents in the brickwork and a concrete rectangular  basin at the bottom. The bricks inside were blackened so we thought it might be an incinerator, but if so why build something so elaborate for such a simple function. It was located in what we thought was the garden area.

Unknown structure in the grounds of the former bungalow
The area is very overgrown and inhabited by wild pigs which we heard rather than saw.  The footpath north towards the dam is still evident but clearly seldom used.  There was little left of the ruins of the house, except some bricks and granite blocks as one might find in a stone built house, strewn around the site. Most of the bricks and stone blocks must have been salvaged for use in other construction work.

We spent an afternoon exploring the ruins of a home and discovering a bit more of its history, and we chanced on the position of the Japanese machine gun, found the remains of the garden wall and could ascertain the direction of fire which fitted with the archival research. We picked up machine gun rounds that were last touched in December 1941 and brought history alive for a moment in time.


Acknowledgements:

  1. Alan Proulx for photos of Erinville.
  2. Nicola Davies for research relating to Albert and Stella Cash.
  3. National Archives for info on Albert Cash (including photos).
  4. Bill & Janice Anderson for information relating to Erinville.
  5. Rob Weir for grid reference of Cash's bungalow and aerial photo.
  6. Stuart Woods photos and field work. 



What happened to 'A' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers on the night of 18th/19th Dec 1941

I have been interested in what happened to 'A' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers when they were sent up towards JL/Mt Butler in the early hours on the night of the Japanese landings from their base around Little Hong Kong. The Coy was destroyed and suffered a large number of casualties. SM Osborne won the VC in the fighting retreat. 

In reading survivors accounts a lot of them had no idea where they were and some cite Jardines Lookout, some Mt Butler and some even suggest Violet Hill. However on the morning of 19th December they were seen by Lt Birkett's Platoon Sgt (Sgt. Tom Marsh) withdrawing down the hill to the right of his position at the AOP on top of Jardines Lookout. An officer from A Coy came over to find out who they were and complain that Birkett's platoon had fired on them. However by this time Birkett's platoon was also under attack from Japanese troops coming up the north face of Jardines Lookout.

This sighting by Birkett's Platoon put 'A' Coy on the ridge between Lt. Birkett (Jardines Lookout) and Lt French (the col between the two massifs of JL and Mt Butler). I went up to this spot with a friend equipped with metal detectors to seek evidence of this positioning and sure enough quickly found on the ridge line three Japanese 6.5 spent rounds and three charging clips. We also found parts of Japanese grenades. 


 Moving away from the ridge towards the south I was expecting to pick up Canadian rounds and I did - the one pictured is a 303 Bren gun fired Canadian spent round with the ejector mark obliterating the DAQ (Domnion Arsenal Quebec) but the 1940 showing up clearly. 


The hillside is very overgrown and difficult to get through but I believe if one can follow it down to Stanley Gap it will unfold more rounds and grenade parts along the line of withdrawal of 'A' Coy from the ridge. I think this demonstrates that 'A' Coy were not lost on Violet Hill but that they got to the watershed or ridge-line between Jardines Lookout and Mt Butler but as daylight broke found themselves face to face with a large body of Japanese troops just to the north of the ridge-line. 

One company and two platoons from the Winnipeg Grenadiers facing fearful odds.

"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods."

                                                                                    (Thomas Macaulay - The Lays of Ancient Rome)


…………………..

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Able Seaman John "Jack" Siddans

In January 2015 local history enthusiast Dave Willott was using a metal detector to look for war relics in a ravine beside what is now called Tai Tam Reservoir Road but which back in December 1941 was known as Stanley Gap Road. The ravine had a number of trenches and dug outs, so it was probably a section or platoon position who were responsible for manning a nearby road block on Stanley Gap Road. The troops would have been drawn from ether the Winnipeg Grenadiers or No 3 Coy HKVDC which were operating in that area.

In this ravine beside the road Dave came across a number of buttons, shoulder flashes, bits of military webbing, buckles, ammunition and even what was left of a military boot. The shoulder flashes belonged to different units like 7th Rajput Regiment and one was from HKVDC. However the most exciting find was an ID bracelet belonging to a British war time Naval Rating. In an earlier blog I described this as the "holy grail of military metal detecting" as we seldom find anything which we can link to an individual.

John ("Jack") Siddans ID bracelet found in the hills of Hong Kong in January 2015 (Courtesy: Dave Willott)
Now we had something with a name on it that we could link to an actual person who was here during wartime. Perhaps he still had direct family, a child or grandchild that we could find and reunite with this personal item that John Siddans would have worn on his wrist in the short but but brutal battle for Hong Kong back in December 1941.

The ID tag bore the inscription :

J Siddans  Q.O.
D/J 115494
C of E
   
A quick check of the garrison list maintained by military historian Tony Banham on his web site (www.hongkongwardiary.com) showed that John Siddans was listed as an Able Seaman serving with HMS Tamar.  HMS Tamar had been a troopship launched in 1863 back in the days of wooden sailing ships and at a time when sail was reluctantly giving way to steam.  It had been "hulked" and in 1941 it served as the Royal Navy Receiving Ship a base ship providing accommodation and offices for naval personnel. The ship was moored alongside the west wall in the Naval Basin until 12th December 1941 when it was towed out into the harbor and scuttled a few days after the Japanese Army had crossed the border to seize Hong Kong.

HMS Tamar alongside the west wall of the RN Basin in pre-war days  (Source: Naval History Society of Australia)
The initials Q.O. on the ID bracelet signify "Qualified in Ordnance work" and indicate that John Siddans was in the Gunnery Branch of the Royal Navy. 

The bracelet also identified his service number and his religion as Church of England. 

In war diaries and other accounts of the fighting I was not able to find any reference to Siddans, other than a rather unusual reference to him in a book called "The Rising Sun" (2002) by Stanley Wort who also served as a Royal Navy Rating during the Battle for Hong Kong.

"On my second day aboard HMS Tamar I went for a shower. There were banks of shower heads situated in a spacious area on the lower deck of the forecastle. As there was no air-conditioning aboard they were well used. When I arrived with my sponge bag and took out a piece of Lifebuoy Carbolic Soap which I had always used in England, an old (at least he seemed  old to me at the time for he must have been at least forty) three-badge AB named Jackie Siddans shouted, 'Don't use that stuff, it will take your skin off. Here, catch, borrow this'. What he threw me was a tablet of pink Camay toilet soap popular among ladies at home. For awhile I wondered  what kind of outfit I had joined. Two weeks later when I had my first experience of prickly heat I realized  that the old sailor's action was kindly meant and when I went ashore I bought myself some pink Camay."

This rather banal reference suggests that he was known as "Jackie" by his shipmates although to his family he was always known as "Jack" and that was how he signed himself off in cards and letters home. The reference also confirmed that he was a three badge seaman. Most junior ratings would be around 18 to 20 years old whereas Jack was born around 1900 and was already over 40 years old when war began. 

The three badge seamen were the older and more experienced hands. Three stripes was the maximum number of chevrons and denoted service with good conduct of more than 12 years although by the time war broke out in Hong Kong Jack had already served for more than 20 years. Commanding officers always liked to have a sprinkling of three badge older and more experienced sailors amongst their crews for the steadying effect on younger Ratings especially during action. These older sailors with their years of experience were well respected by their ship mates. The chevrons were worn on the left arm of their naval tunic.


long service with good conduct stripes
Whilst not everybody craves advancement, for whatever reason Jack had not advanced beyond the rank of Able Seaman. I guess Jack was happy in his job, I am sure he did it well and after more than twenty years of service he could look forward to retirement and a Naval pension but this was interrupted by war.  He survived the fighting and he survived incarceration in appalling conditions in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps at North Point and Sham Shui Po. In late September 1942, he was shipped with other POWs to Japan to work as slave labourers in factories, ports and coal mines. 

The Japanese freighter named the Lisbon Maru, in which he was traveling was torpedoed by an American submarine not realizing that it was carrying British POWs. The POWs had been battened down in the holds but those from one hold were able to escape and release others. However many were unable to get out in time and drowned whilst others were machine gunned in the water by the Japanese  escort vessels. Later they must have been ordered to start picking up survivors. 

Tony Banham who wrote "The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru" (2006) has seen official records which confirm that  that Jack must have managed to get off the sinking ship and that he had been picked up by one of the Japanese escort vessels and that he died on the way to Shanghai. The survivors were left on the upper decks of the escort vessels with little or no clothing, no blankets were provided and little or no food and drink. John died of exposure and his body was thrown over the side along with others who died after being picked up. 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records indicate that he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, his date of death is given as 4th October 1942 and his parents are recorded as being Harry and Susannah Siddans. He was married to Florence Siddans (nee Richardson) who was from Alderley Edge in Cheshire.  We then found that John Siddans was also commemorated on the War Memorial at St Philips Church, Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

War Memorial St Philips Church, Alderley Edge (Source: ww.carlscam.com)
Armed with all this information we started a search for Jack's family. An article appeared in the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong as a result of which I got some help from David Webb, Margaret Martin and others familiar with family history research which enabled us to come up with a family tree. Then after posting a brief description  about the hunt for Jack Siddans family on the 'Forum' of local web site Alderleyedge.com  I was contacted by Lisa Reeves a reporter who wrote up the story and published it on Alderleyedge.com local news site as a result of this a member of the family Arthur Faux contacted the newspaper who put him in touch with me. He and his sister Norma remembered stories about Jack Siddans from their mother whose own mother Jessie Clarke was a cousin of Jack  Siddans and had gown up together in the Clarke family home. Arthur sent me some photographs including two photographs of Jack in his naval uniform. This brought things to life  so to speak as now we had a real person, a family, a face, and not just an ID tag and a name in the records. 

Jack Siddans (Courtesy of Faux family)
In this photograph (above) two stripes are evident suggesting some eight years service with good conduct, so probably in the late 1920s.

Jack as a younger man with cap ribbon of HMS Valiant (Courtesy of Faux Family)
In the photograph above Jack is wearing his cap at a jaunty angle pulled down on one side. There are no long service stripes visible on his uniform. At the time he was serving on HMS Valiant and I suspect this was in his early twenties which also happened to be the early 1920s since he was born at the turn of the century. 

HMS Valiant was a battleship launched in 1914. The ship saw service in both WW1 and WW2

HMS Valiant (Source: Wikipedia)
Jack's mother Susannah Siddans (nee Catherall) died in 1908 at the young age of 48 at which time Jack was only eight years old. He was sent off to live with his aunt Esther Clarke (nee Catherall) who was his mother's sister and who had married one William Henry Clarke. Esther and William had six children of their own including Jessie Clarke who was Arthur and Norma Faux's grandmother and was a cousin of Jack. The Clarke family lived at 21, Chorley Hall Lane, Alderley Edge. This was where Jack grew up with his cousins before joining the Royal Navy. Interestingly members of the Clarke family lived at this address for more than a hundred years.

Jack married in 1934 to Florence Richardson. They had no children and I don't know whether Florence  ever joined Jack in Hong Kong when he was posted there some time in the late 1930s. Florence was born in 1903 and was slightly younger than Jack. In 1953 several years after the war ended Florence remarried to John Hulme from Alderley Edge. They married late in life she being 50 and he being 64 and accordingly there were no children from this marriage. On the wedding certificate she describes herself as a Housekeeper resident in Woodford, Cheshire and her father as a retired farmer. John Hulme was a widower and retired Foreman. It is good to think they found happiness later in their lives each having been bereaved.

This all started with an ID bracelet belonging to a war time sailor found in the hills of Hong Kong. How did it get to be there ?  This is speculation on my part albeit based on research but the Royal Navy were used as infantry after the Japanese landed on the Island of Hong Kong on the night of 18th/19th December 1941. During the day (19th December) the Japanese captured Stanley Gap Road and the nearby Wong Nei Chung Gap, a strategic point in the centre of the Island. 

A number of counter attacks were initiated to try to regain this important road junction. In one of these counter attacks, Royal Navy sailors were sent up in three or four trucks to Wong Nei Chung Gap from their base in Aberdeen.  HMS Tamar had by this time been scuttled and the Navy was using Aberdeen Dockyard rather than the RN Dockyard at Victoria. It is highly likely that Jack was transferred to the Aberdeen Naval Base housed in the Aberdeen Industrial School. 

It is possible (especially given that he was in the gunnery branch) that he was included in the Naval party sent up to relieve Wong Nei Chung Gap. The sailors still wearing their blue uniforms, steel helmets and with unfamiliar rifles were ambushed as they approached the Gap and many were killed or wounded. Some managed to escape and some took refuge in nearby houses. Jack may have been captured in this area. Those that were captured in the area, many of which were badly wounded, were initially held in a building on Stanley Gap Road. They were later tied together and marched down Stanley Gap Road and then up Mount Parker Road and finally to North Point. They were tied in such a way that some had to walk sideways or backwards. Those that fell by the wayside from exhaustion or from their wounds were bayoneted by the Japanese guards and their bodies thrown over the road parapet. You had to march or die. 

When they started the march they may have been initially corralled close to the ravine and the road block.  Here they may have been searched before commencing the long march to North Point. The Japanese soldiers would have stolen watches, pens or anything of value. Many were forced to remove their boots and had to march in bare or stockinged feet. Cap badges, buttons, shoulder flashes or anything metal would have been ripped off their uniforms and I think this included Jack's ID bracelet. It had no value so it was discarded in the ravine where other items like these were found. This is a theory but it would explain why his ID bracelet was found in that spot - perhaps further research might throw more light on this.

The finder of the ID bracelet plans to donate it to a museum in Hong Kong which will help commemorate Jack's life and his role in the defense of Hong Kong. As I write this I reflect on what an an amazing find it was and to think that it had lain undisturbed in that ravine beside the road all these years since December 1941. In fact most likely since 20th December 1941. 

A lot of people have helped me to piece this story together and I would like to thank them for their help and especially to Arthur Faux for information about the family and the photographs. It has been a discovery about a man's life or at least a part of it. It is sad to think that he survived so much hardship, the fighting, the brutality of the Japanese captors, the privations of  POW Camps, the nightmare of the "hell-ships" and the the sinking of the Lisbon Maru only to die on a far off sea a long way from his home in Cheshire.

I would like to think of this story as a tribute in a small way to one among many who served his country in time of war, played a part in the defense of Hong Kong and who ultimately gave his life in the service of his country that we may enjoy the freedom that we now have and which we should cherish because that freedom was hard fought for. 


……………………...