Wednesday 23 November 2022

Josef Abosch and family in Stanley Internment Camp

On the Stanley Camp Register of Civilian Internees, held at the Imperial War Museum in London,  the first three names are Mr Josef Abraham Abosch , his wife Rosa and their son Ralph Frank. 



Given Names

Date of Birth

Date of Death

Camp No.



Joszef (sic) Abraham




Block 13/Room 73








Ralph Frank






I am always interested in the personal stories. Who were they and what happened to them ? I set out to do a bit of investigation. I found that they were Jewish and of Polish nationality. Josef (sometimes written as Jozef or Joszef) appears to have been born in Berlin and likewise Rosa. 

How long had they been in Hong Kong ? Were they escaping persecution with the growth of extremism in Germany and with Poland under threat of German invasion ?

Why were they interned  given they were not  British, American or Dutch ? Were other Poles in Hong Kong interned ?   

The Prison Officers' Club in late 1945 with the Indian Quarters at the rear

The Abosch family were billeted in Block 13 part of the Indian Quarters.  They occupied Room 73 which they had to themselves, at least at the time the register of internees was compiled.  Not everybody wanted to share a room with a toddler and Ralph Frank was barely two years old. 

Block 12 and 13 of the Indian Quarters as they appear today

Josef describes himself as a 'merchant' or salesman working for an import/export firm called A. Vago. In another document he describes himself as a medical attendant. Was he involved in Civil Defence during the battle ? Was medical attendant his wartime role? When did he first come to Hong Kong? and what was the company referred to as Vago? Did he form it in Hong Kong or was he posted to be the agent in Hong Kong. So many questions and so few answers.

Josef Abosch 

The fact that they were billeted in the Indian Quarters, together with their high camp number, suggests that they came into camp with the so-called Peakites. The Peakites were residents or people billeted or otherwise staying with Peak residents. They were lucky in that they avoided the initial incarceration in the cheap short-stay brothel hotels in the western area of town where most others were initially interned before moving to Stanley. They were unlucky, as late comers to Stanley Camp, to be allocated the least preferred accommodation at the Indian Quarters. 

During the battle, Mrs Rosa Abosch was listed as being admitted to Matilda Hospital on 23 December 1941 with Ralph, her infant son. Mothers with infants were being given shelter there. The Matilda Hospital being situated on the Peak, also provides further credence that she was staying on the Peak - perhaps billeted there rather than a resident of the expensive and exclusive Peak District.

After liberation in September 1945, the family were given passage to the UK on the Empress of Australia. The ship, carrying many former civilian internees, arrived at Liverpool on 27 October 1945. Josef Abosch appears to have got a job as an interpreter (I assume German/English) with the US Army in postwar Britain and Germany.

In April 1947 he married Ruth Cocklin, a US Army nurse stationed in Europe. They married in Hendon, Middlesex. Did he and Rosa get divorced and what happened to Rosa and Ralph ?  In July 1947, Josef Abosch migrated to the United States to start a new life, perhaps facilitated by his work with the US Army and his having, by then, an American wife.  The couple appear on the manifest of the Sobieski sailing from Cannes and arriving in New York in July 1947.  They had taken a holiday in France before proceeding to the United States.

Josef settled in the United States but he and Ruth were soon divorced (I don't have a date but I think after 1950 as the 1950 census shows them still under the same roof). At that time he was working as a furniture salesman. Around this time he  appears to have married Anna Deutsche. He passed away in 1976 in Baltimore, Maryland. His grave (sourced on records his wife as Anna ('Kiki') Abosch (22/9/1911 - 3/4/1981). There is of course no mention of Rosa, Ralph or Ruth. 

The memorial stone

Perhaps, somebody, possibly a family member, will know the story and help to fill in some of the blanks by commenting below or emailing the author at:


Addendum 1 (24 November 2022):

I contacted a family member (Ruth Cocklin's family) who informed me that Ruth and Josef were indeed married in 1947 but they divorced and Ruth never or seldom spoke of him after that and she never re-married. The family member thought that she (Ruth) felt she had been hoodwinked. A sad story in itself. There is still a mystery over what happened to Rosa and her son. Did they return to Hong Kong ? The third wife, Anna, was mother to four children. Were the four children from a previous marriage as she would have been nearly 50 when she married Josef Abosch. There is at least one resident in Hong Kong bearing the name Abosch - I wonder whether related to Josef and Rosa. I am trying to contact him ......but I already feel like an intruder. I try not to be judgemental but I suppose history and research can become an intrusion even long after the events in question. 


  1. As usual, great research, Philip

  2. I was struck by your sentence near the beginning of this very interesting post: "Were other Poles in Hong Kong interned?" At least one of my (Jewish) grandparents immigrated from Poland to the US in the early 20th century, and I was later brought up to completely "disregard" any ties to Poland - "We're Jews, not Poles." Poland was not good to its Jews....I wonder about a related question to yours: "Were other Jews in Hong Kong interned?"

    1. There were a number of Jews interned at Stanley Civilian Internment Camp and a number of Jews served in the HKVDC and HKRNVR (militia) - some were killed in action and others who survived the battle were interned in the military POW camps.