Tuesday 18 April 2023

Henry Jemson Tebbutt

I first saw the name Henry Tebbutt in the The Hidden Years (1967) by John Luff.  One of the houses on Repulse Bay Road is captured in a sketch map on page 98 of this book and is described as Tebbutt's House. In those pre-war days, as depicted in the sketch map houses were often known by their owner's name. In the map we see Danby's House and Compton's House. Two of the villas, Altamira and Holmesdale are still extant, although now respectively referred to as Estrellita and No 4 Repulse Bay Road. Beautiful pre-war villas like Postbridge and Twin Brooks have been replaced by high-rise apartment blocks but some still retain the old names of the villa that once stood on the plot. As for Tebbutt's house, it was close to the road junction at Repulse Bay Road/Island Road. It may have been near the site of present day Pine Crest or Manhattan Tower. Here's the sketch map from that classic book on the  Battle of Hong Kong. 

Repulse Bay Road (Source: The Hidden Years (1967) by John Luff

Henry Jemson Tebbutt was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 4 July 1893. During the First World War, he served in the British infantry and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1917 in the Royal Fusiliers. At some point he qualified as an architect in UK. There is a record of him sailing from UK to Shanghai on the SS  Somali. Another shipping record shows him travelling from UK and bound for Hong Kong in October 1925 aboard the SS City of Cairo. This ship that carried him to Hong Kong was torpedoed and sunk in the South Atlantic in November 1942. At the time, the ship was carrying nearly 300 passengers and crew including a number of  women and children. The survivors took to the overcrowded life boats. They were nearly 2,000 miles from Brazil and 500 miles from the nearest land - the Island of St Helena. The German commander of the U-boat surfaced and gave the survivors a course to steer and before departing, he said "Goodnight and sorry for sinking you" ................but that is another story and the subject of a book by Ralph Barker.

In Hong Kong he was employed firstly by the well known Hong Kong architect firm Palmer & Turner and later by Davies, Brook & Gran a Shanghai based firm of architects. He married Elizabeth (Betty) Ada Hindmarsh in November 1932 at Muswell Hill in North London. She was, 22 years old,  seventeen years his junior. They returned together to Hong Kong.

He joined the HKVDC in the rank of lieutenant based on his wartime service in the First World War.  Betty joined the Nursing Detachment of the HKVDC and served as a volunteer military nurse during the battle. She may have served at both the Military Hospital at Bowen Road and the Temporary Military Hospital at St Albert's, Rosary Hill. After the battle she was interned at Stanley Camp. She was billeted in Block A3 which was part of the American Quarters and would have moved there after the Americans were repatriated in July 1942.  She shared a room with Philip and Joan Witham and their infant child and another married couple John and Emile Richardson. Henry Tebbutt was incarcerated at SSP Camp.

Tebbutt's POW Card from SSP Camp (Ancestry.com) 

The POW card shows 'next of kin' as Mrs E. A. Tebbutt and gives an address as c/o St Albert's Hospital, Rosary Hill. After liberation Henry Tebbutt was repatriated to UK on the SS Highland Monarch which docked at Southampton in November 1945. Shipping records on Ancestry.com show him returning to Hong Kong alone in 1946 on the SS Otranto with a number of other returnees. The marriage seems not to have survived their respective internment in Japanese prison camps. Betty appears to have remarried after the war to Richard McCaffery an American working for the Foreign Service. They moved to Malaga in the South of Spain. She died there in 1984 and he (McCaffery) in 1988. They were buried at the English Cemetery in Malaga. There were no known children in either Betty's first or second marriage. 

There is little information about the Tebbutt family, no photographs, no detailed record of service in the HKVDC, just a few miscellaneous records and passenger manifests and a sketch map and what first caught my attention..........a house called Tebbutt's House on Repulse Bay Road.  



Desmond Hindmarsh:

Betty Tebbutt's brother Desmond Ernest Hindmarsh was also in Hong Kong before and during the war. He served in the HKRNVR. He was the commanding officer of HMS Indira (an auxiliary patrol vessel).  It is possible that  Henry Tebbutt met Betty in Hong Kong although marrying in North London. Desmond Hindmarsh died in Hong Kong in 1951. 

Tebbutt was incarcerated in the following prison camps:

North Point  29 Dec  1941 to 23 Jan 1942

Sham Shui Po 23 Jan 1942 to 18 April 1942

Argyle Street 18 April 1942 to 4 May 1944

Sham Shui Po 4 May 1944 to 4 Sept 1945

1 comment:

  1. Another finely researched and told story, Philip. Hope you get some responses with more information.