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



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