Sunday 31 August 2014

Captain Andre Kella & Ethel Kella, Sheila Haynes & Patrick Cullinan in Hong Kong in time of war

Captain Andre Kella and his wife Ethel and their niece Sheila Haynes were in Hong Kong in December 1941 when war broke out. The Japanese Army crossed the border on 8th December and after a short and brutal battle they captured the Crown Colony of Hong Kong one hundred years after it had first been established.

Andre Kella was  born in Lausanne, Switzerland in July 1885. His father was a teacher and a musician as were most of his family. His grandfather had founded the College of Music. Andre himself was something of a musician but he had a stronger calling. Somewhat surprisingly coming from a landlocked country, he knew from an early age that he wanted to go to sea.

In 1902 at the age of seventeen he left Switzerland for Marseilles where he signed on as part of the crew of a small British coaster which started him on his career in the British Merchant Navy.  In 1908 he passed the exams to become an officer.

Two years later, during a typhoon and whilst his ship was anchored in Sydney Harbour he slipped on the wet deck and badly injured his back and neck. This resulted in hospitalization and a prolonged convalescence in Sydney. It must have been around this time that he met Ethel Recarder Frost and they were married on 31st December 1912 at the Church of Our Lady Immaculate and the marriage was registered at Manly in New South Wales, Australia.  We don't know how they met - perhaps Ethel may have been a nurse caring for him whilst he was hospitalized. I believe Ethel was registered as a nurse (Auxiliary Nursing Service) in Hong Kong in 1940/1941 (although this needs verification but if correct would explain why she was not subject to compulsory evacuation in June 1940). 

Captain Andre Kella (Courtesy:  Judy Bercene)
At some stage after becoming a naturalized British subject,  Andre changed his name from the original Andre Koella by simply dropping the 'o' and going by the name of Andre Kella which sounded less Germanic and perhaps this was done around the time of WW1.

During WW1 (1914-1918) he served in the Royal Australian Navy. He was wounded in action at the Dardanelles. After the war he was appointed as Military & Civil Administrator of the Bismarck Archipelago (formerly German New Guinea) from 1919 to 1922. His German language ability being an obvious advantage.

Map of New Guinea showing the Bismarck Archipelago

The islands were annexed as part of the German Protectorate of German New Guinea in 1884. During WW1 the islands were seized along with other German possessions in New Guinea by the Australian armed forces. They remained under Australian administration until Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975 except during the period of Japanese occupation in WW2 and their subsequent liberation by Australian and US forces.

After completing his three year assignment in the Bismarck Archipelago, Captain Kella worked in China, initially in Shanghai  (in charge of the port) and later in Woosung and Canton and then moving to Hong Kong. Ethel accompanied him on all these travels and so it was that they found themselves in Hong Kong when war began.

I am not sure of the date that Andre and Ethel arrived in Hong Kong but it must have been prior to August 1936 when Ethel's niece Sheila Haynes attended a wedding detailed below as a bridesmaid. Ethel had offered to look after one of  her sister Irene's children after she died tragically as a result of an accident in 1928.  It was decided that it should be Sheila who went to Hong Kong to live with her Aunt as she was the oldest child.

Irene Maria Haynes (neƩ Frost) - Ethel's sister had been on holiday in Perth from Broome where she lived with her husband Dr Arthur Richard Haynes and their five children, the oldest of which was Sheila Haynes born 12th July 1915. Irene had been cooking a large pot of soup and accidentally spilled it over herself incurring severe burns. She passed away in hospital as a result of these injuries.

At some stage Ethel came to Australia to bring Sheila back to Hong Kong with her via the Philippines.  We think this may be around 1931 by which time Sheila was sixteen years old and at that time Sheila applied for a passport. At any rate we know that Sheila spent her  late teenage years in pre-war Hong Kong and what a glamourous and exciting place it must have seemed to her.

We see her next, as a very attractive young lady aged twenty-one, acting as a bridesmaid in this 1936 wedding photograph. The wedding is that of John Luke,  News Editor of the South China Morning Post and May Coghlan a good friend of Sheila's.

Sheila (on the left) as a bridesmaid aged 21 in August 1936 (Courtesy Judy Bercene)
The Best Man in the light suit standing behind the Bride and Groom is Norman Stockton an Australian journalist also with the South China Morning Post. He was killed whilst working as a war correspondent having been shot down whilst flying with a Lancaster bomber crew in 1943 in the skies over Berlin.

Judy Bercene a relative of Sheila Haynes who has been researching her family history, found in newspaper archives an engagement notice  in the "West Australian" dated 5th February 1935 for Sheila Haynes and Norman Stockton. They must have separated around this time because Norman married Maree Patience Bishop  in 1937 just a year after the above mentioned wedding took place. This was his second marriage, his first being to Jean Atherton in 1929 from whom he was divorced in 1935.

Sheila Haynes as a Bidesmaid in 1936  (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Sheila's occupation before the war is given as a stenographer working for Goddard & Douglas (Marine Surveyors). To have avoided compulsory repatriation in June 1940 she must have been a nurse or otherwise involved with Essential Services. We discovered that she had joined the St John Ambulance Association  (SJAA) as the family found a SJAA medal/badge amongst Sheila's belongings. This is depicted (front and rear) in the two photographs below.

Front of SJAA Medallion (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Reverse of  SJAA medallion with Sheila's name engraved (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)
Geoff Emerson, Author and Historian contacted the St John Ambulance and takes up the story:

" I sent them the photos of the medal and they sent some information.  They said it's called a medallion and not a medal, awarded for three years of service.  For every year after, a small copper plate with the year awarded would be given.  If a member had passed the home-nursing re-examination, a small copper plate with HN and the year would be added.  This was suspended in 1962 and reinstated in 1991, but with 5 years and not 3 required.  The copper plate was cancelled also.  It is still issued to those who attain 5 years of efficient service".

From the above we can assume that Sheila must have joined SJAA in 1937 - the medallion being awarded after three years service in 1940 and the bar with date being added in 1941. We don't yet
know where she was employed with SJAA during the period of hostilities and where she was before going into Stanley Camp.

The capitulation of Hong Kong came on Christmas Day 1941. Shortly thereafter on 5th January, British, Dutch and American citizens were ordered to report to Murray Parade Ground at the bottom of Garden Road to be registered and interned. They were then hoarded into cheap hotels and brothels on the Western waterfront. They were crowded into very small rooms often sharing with complete strangers in squalid conditions. Andre and Ethel were put into Room 425 of the Mee Chow Hotel.

Here's a description of what initial incarceration was like in a different but no doubt similar hotel in the same area.  This one was the Stag Hotel and the report was made by Don Robbins a Canadian national following the repatriation of Canadians in September 1943.

"We were packed in like sardines, in badly ventilated, vile smelling rooms, in some cases  there being as many as eleven persons in a room 9' x 8', and containing one Chinese divan, one straight backed and one easy chair, and a filthy looking wash basin. Sleeping in such rooms  was almost an impossibility, and only managed in relays. For the first few days , only one bowl of rice was served  per person , however , on the third day , a vile smelling and equally vile tasting soup was poured over the rice, which we were later informed was duck soup. Every morning we were awakened to the howls and screaming of dogs being beaten to death in the ground floor restaurant.  From 5am until midnight there was continual queueing for the one and only bathroom on our floor housing ninety eight persons of different sexes and ages. Those who had the foresight or had been lucky enough tobring in sums of money with them did not have to rely on the rations and were able to obtain foodstuffs by squeezing the Chinese or Indian guards on the main door. Others simply had to rely on what they were given by the management of the hotels.  Physical exercise was out of the question, the roof was available  to only about fifty persons at a time, and even the beams creaked and threatened to cave in. The building itself we were informed was erected  in 1900 under the name of the Stag Hotel, and in later years had been sold  to Chinese interests who had let the place go to decay. It was a veritable death trap , and if a fire had broken out, with the guard seldom on the iron door, which was always locked, I doubt if one person would have been able to get out of that hell hole alive. Naturally every precaution against fire was tajen by us all. After seventeen days of this life, finally on the morning of January 21st , we were told to pack and were marched to the Macau Steamship Wharfs, where we boarded tugs, tenders etc and departed for Stanley. During our march to the wharfs, several exhibitions of Japanese brutality  were staged  especially for our benefit, in the form of beating Chinese coolies to death on the street, either for some infraction of the law, but we were all inclined to believe  it was unwarranted. The sight was sickening , and one or two ladies  in our group fainted, which is possibly the very thing the Japanese wished for". The Stag Hotel was infested with rats…."

Andre and Ethel would have been moved to Stanley Camp on or around 21st January 1942. They were billeted in Block 5 Room 4. It's possible that Sheila came in later, especially if she was working in one of the hospitals in her SJAA capacity, at any rate she was billeted in a different room than her Aunt and Uncle.

Barbara Anslow (nee Redwood) mentions in her diary that Sheila Haynes was involved in putting on productions like Peter Pan in 1944 which did so much to raise the moral of the internees. She also mentions Sheila winning a prize in a lucky draw:

"There was a draw for a cock - from surplus cocks owned by an enterprising internee who somehow had a few chickens. Sheila Haynes won one".    (Barbara Redwood's Diary 24th Dec 44)

Despite the hardship, the crowding, the lack of food and medicine, Sheila found romance again whilst still incarcerated at Stanley Camp. She fell in love with Patrick (Pat) Cullinan a member of the Police Force who had been ill with TB during his time at Stanley Camp. I don't know how they met perhaps Sheila was caring for him whilst he was in the Camp Hospital or perhaps through her activities with the Roman Catholic Church and Catholic groups. She was always a devout Catholic, keeping her faith despite the hardships she had to endure.

Pat Cullinan's Police ID Card (Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Pat Cullinan's Police ID Card dated Sept. 1939 (Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Patrick and Sheila were married in Camp on 11th August 1945 shortly before liberation. Sheila's wedding ring had been fashioned out of a silver coin.

Barbara Anslow recalls the wedding in her diary:

"they were married in the American Block in two rooms that had been occupied by the Barton family. Father Bernard Meyer officiated. Mr Joyce was Best Man, and Sheila was given away by Quentin Mcfayden. Pat looked nervous but Sheila most serene in her dark blue taffeta dress. Others present at the reception in the afternoon were Hugh Goldie, Miss Paterson, Rosaleen Millar and Eileen Grant. At the reception in the afternoon Mrs Kella was there, Mr & Mrs Barton and Marie Paterson".  (Barbara Redwood's Diary Aug 1945)

Sheila and Patrick returned to Australia after liberation. Patrick was originally planning to return to England to introduce his new bride to his family. The photograph below may have been taken in 1946 or at least in happier times when they enjoyed a brief period together before fate intervened again.

Pat Cullinan & Sheila Haynes in happier times  (Courtesy Judy Bercene)
In March 2013 Barbara Anslow (nee Redwood) who as a young lady was interned in Stanley Camp wrote to Judy and I on on the Stanley Email Group:

"It is very interesting to read about Sheila Haynes and Pat Cullinan, as I was friends with both of them, especially Sheila; she and I met up with each other almost every day in Stanley as both of us were involved in R.Catholic events, especially with the R.C. youngsters.   I attended their wedding early on the morning of 11th August 1945" (Barbara Anslow)

Pat Cullinan had been plagued by ill health whilst in Camp with bouts of TB and malaria. After liberation and returning to Australia Pat was taken ill again with TB and admitted to hospital. He passed away on 24th May 1947 aged only 34. Sheila kept her promise to Patrick. She went back to England in 1948 to meet Patrick's family returning to Australia in 1949.

Andre Kella had also been ill during his time in Camp and never really recovered.  He must have been too ill to attend Sheila's wedding as he is not mentioned as being among the guests and Barbara mentions in her diary that Quentin McFayden gave the bride away - a role that Andre would have done but for ill health. When liberation came shortly after the wedding he was repatriated on the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire arriving in Sydney on 22nd Sept. 1945. Andre was admitted  to the Royal Naval Hospital at Herne Bay but sadly he never fully recovered from the privations and illness that he had suffered from during his time in Stanley Camp and he passed away aged sixty in January 1946. He was given a Naval funeral in recognition of his service. 

After returning to Australia in 1949 Sheila and her Aunt Ethel now both widowed settled in New South Wales. Sheila returned to work as a stenographer/typist working for the Dept. of Defence (Army) in Paddington, NSW. She married again in 1968 to Thomas  (Tom) Conway. They enjoyed twenty years together until he passed away in 1989 leaving Sheila a widow once again. Ethel had passed away in 1970. After retiring from the Dept. of Defence Sheila continued to be very active with charity work especially with St Vincent de Paul Society in Paddington in recognition of which she was awarded the BEM. Through out her life she had been popular, devout and always doing things for other people. She passed away aged 78 in August 1993. 

Andre, Ethel, Sheila and Pat found themselves caught up in a short but brutal war in Hong Kong. Then incarcerated for three and half long years in a Japanese concentration camp. They survived and made it home,  although Andre and Pat never really recovered with Andre passing away in January 1946 and Patrick still young,  passing away aged thirty-four in May 1947.

Photo Gallery

Ethel Kella & Sheila Haynes (1937) - (Courtesy of Judy Bercene)

On Repulse Bay Beach in the background the Lido, and what I think is the Dairy Farm Kiosk.  Ethel standing on left and Sheila kneeling on right.  (Courtesy of Judy Bercene)

Sheila as a Bridesmaid in 1936 (Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila Haynes and Norman Stockton's mother at Kai Tak in 1936
(Courtesy Judy Bercene)

Sheila's 21st Cocktail party. Ethel and Andre seated middle row on left and John Luke seated on floor (right)
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila in 1937 (Courtesy: Judy Haynes)

Sheila Haynes aged nineteen with Norman Stockton in 1934
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Sheila Haynes seated in Chatham Road (1939)
(Courtesy: Judy Bercene)

Artifacts Gallery

Judy Bercene and the family are donating a number of documents and artifacts to the Heritage Gallery museum at St Stephens College, Stanley which is located in Bungalow 'A' which was one of the original bungalows which housed up to 50 internees in a building that was originally designed for one family. I believe (and this needs verification) that this bungalow was the home of Dr George William Pope and family immediately before the war. Assuming this is correct it was the Battalion HQ for the Royal Rifles of Canada during the fighting at Stanley.

Here are photos of some of these items :

Engagement Book
This is a self crafted notebook belonging to Sheila presumably for her appointments in Camp . She was a popular person and was involved in a lot of things going on at Stanley Camp through the Catholic Church and putting on shows like "Peter Pan". The page shows her appointments/engagements for January 1945.

Drawings by Ian Highet
Ian Highet was an employee of the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation. He was interned at Stanley Block 8 Room 4. They are drawn in pencil and were apparently drawn in December 1945. Highet was repatriated on the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire together with Andre Kella and Pat Cullinan.

Post Card from F H Kelly to Sheila Haynes dated 12 July 1943

Frederick Henry James Kelly was a Police Officer interned at Stanley. He made this postcard look like one sent in to camp. Mail and postcards were treasured things for the internees. It's dated 12th July 1943 being Sheila's 28th birthday. Fred Kelly's diary is held at the Imperial War Museum, London. The diary is addressed and written to his wife Ruby who had been evacuated to Australia in June 1940. The diary ends in November 1943. Fred Kelly was Secretary of the Catholic Action Group and a member of the choir together with his room mates Charles Mottram and Claude Byron

Wedding wishes from Elizabeth Archer to Sheila Haynes dated 11th Aug 1945

Mrs Elizabeth Ellen Archer was a Nursing sister billeted at the Hospital (Tweed Bay) at Stanley.  I believe she was a retired British nurse looking after the children  in the Ho Tung family residence immediately before the war. She writes in pencil "with warmest and sincerest wishes for your happiness"  and is date 11th August 1945 being the day of Sheila's wedding to Patrick Cullinan.


I would like to express my special thanks to Judy Bercene and her family for allowing me to use the photos and information contained herein, and for helping me to craft this story of a family caught up in war and surviving the hardships of a Japanese Concentration camp

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Mrs Elizabeth Appleton Fidoe and the massacre at St Stehens College

Mrs Elizabeth ('Emma') Appleton Fidoe was was working as a volunteer military nurse at St Stephen's College Temporary Hospital in  Stanley.  There had been close-quarter fighting all around the grounds of St Stephens College and the nearby Prep School throughout 24 and 25 December. Early in the morning on 25 December, the Japanese troops burst into the hospital killing the doctor in charge, Lt-Colonel Black and his Second-in-Command, Captain Witney. They then charged into the wards bayoneting patients in their beds in a scene of absolute horror and carnage. This is one of several appalling massacres committed by Japanese troops in the Battle for Hong Kong.

Although these war crimes happened a long time ago one can still feel a sense of outrage for what happened. This is not helped by the failure of Japan to adequately apologize or even admit that these things happened at all.  They have not managed to come to terms with their war history, in the way for example 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. 

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 the Japanese coming into to the hospital very hard, but this would not justify bayoneting wounded patients in their beds or 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. Emma Fidoe survived the massacre, but she was raped, beaten and abused by Japanese soldiers.

Statement of Sister Miss Amelia Fleming Gordon  Territorial Army Nursing Service

On the evening of 23 December, Mrs Fidoe and I and all the VADs returned to Sisters Quarters (Dr Pope’s House) to find that it had been taken over as the HQ of the Canadian troops. Lt Col Home, Royal Rifles of Canada was surprised to see us and advised us to return to the hospital. However, we stayed there for the night and returned at crack of dawn. On the road down to the hospital, I noticed that the whole route was trenched and occupied by troops with machine guns.

December 24 was a dreadful day  - we were shelled, machine-gunned and dive-bombed throughout the day. However, we were so busy that I had no time to actually notice what was going on outside.  Dr Hackett arrived from the Prison Hospital with a view to taking our worst cases, eventually taking twelve. He also took with him Captains Lynch and Spence, Lt Ashton-Rose, Dr Balean and several orderlies.

All staff remained in the hospital on the night of 24/25 December.  I, Mrs Fidoe and five VADs lay down in the Pack Store of the hospital (main building adjacent to the office). The noise was so terrific and the bombing so disturbing that we all returned to the Main Hall. Here there was complete chaos - everyone all bunched together in the darkness with Lt Col Black and Captain Witney.

Just before dawn there was a terrific howl and shortly afterwards Japanese arrived in large numbers at the front entrance where I was standing with the VADs, the later ran into the Main Building whilst I remained with others in the main hall. Captain Scotcher was pulled out  and shortly afterwards he instructed me to come out and put my hands above my head. They took my steel helmet  and cracked me over the head with it, searched my pockets, took off my red cross band and removed any valuables (watch)  that I had. They shouted for everyone to come out and everyone did except Sgt Parkin, RAMC, who attempted to run past but was shot dead instantly. 

They gave me the impression they did not think this was a hospital that it was more in the nature of a fortress. We were all marched in single file into one of the adjacent classrooms, the patients also being brought in. Here we remained for about an hour or two, crowded and huddled together with no room to lie or sit down. One of our patients Rfm Sweet, suffering from a wound in the back received another wound in the left elbow and bled profusely. Several of our patients (between 50 and 60 I would imagine) were killed during the day. After two hours (about 9am)  we were marched in single file upstairs – dead bodies and blood covered the stairs – and at the top of the landing several Japs hit us as we passed. We were then put into different classrooms, I went into a small room with four VADs (Mrs Smith, Mrs Begg, Mrs Buxton, and Mrs Simmons) where there were five Chinese women (wives of British soldiers). We remained here all day. We were given a tin of bully beef and a tin of milk between us; the Chinese women, who had more freedom, managing to get some water. A particularly bad lot of Japanese soldiers (five in all) came in at 4:30pm and removed Mrs Smith, Begg and Buxton – these three we never saw again. One of the Chinese girls told Mrs Simmons that they had taken out the three VADs to kill them and they would return for us shortly; moreover, they informed us that the Japanese intended killing all British (men and women) if Hong Kong did not surrender that evening. Half an hour later several Japanese ordered us out  and we joined up with Mrs Andrew-Levinge and Mrs Fidoe and were taken to a room at the end of the corridor. One of the Japanese informing us that Hong Kong “now belong Japanese.

It was a clean room and there was a mattress and blanket on the floor for us and a similar one for the Chinese girls. Five minutes later we were ordered by a Japanese soldier, speaking English, to come and bandage wounded Japanese soldiers. They took us to another room overlooking the tennis court, where there were five dead bodies of Red Cross personnel. We were made to sit down on these bodies (it was beginning to get dark). A little later two soldiers removed Mrs Fidoe and two removed me. I was taken to another room, where there were two dead bodies, and made to take off all my clothes whilst they removed theirs. Before touching me they apparently became afraid someone was coming and made me put my clothes on again and I was returned to the room were Mrs Simmons and Mrs Andrews-Levinge still were. Mrs Fidoe joined us almost immediately in a weeping state and told us she had been raped. We were all hurried back to the original room with the mattresses but the Chinese girls had now gone. We were left in peace for a short time only – three soldiers came in and took me to a small adjacent bathroom, knocked me down and all raped me one after the other, and then let me return. Mrs Fidoe was then taken and underwent a similar experience. Both Mrs Fidoe and I were then taken out a second time and raped as before. Mrs  Simmons and Mrs Andrews –Levinge remained untouched. We were all now desperate and discovering there was a Yale lock on the door we pulled it locking ourselves in. They returned several times during the night but did not force an entrance.

At 8 am on 26 December two officers and some troops ordered us downstairs where everyone was assembled. Here we were given a tin of bully beef each and some milk and were counted and checked. We four women were then detailed to sweep up all the feathers.

Five Japanese officers later allocated rooms for patients and allowed orderlies to get everything fixed up for the dressing of wounded. We were busy all morning doing dressings the Japanese providing food. One of the Japanese asked Sgt Major Begg to come and identify the bodies of three women to see if one were his wife. The Canadian Padre with Sgt Peasegood, RAMC went out and identified them as the bodies of Mrs Smith, Mrs Begg and Mrs Buxton.

Early in the afternoon, a Volunteer British Officer (Captain  Stoker) arrived from Stanley Fort with a patient and I asked him if he could possibly have us four women removed from St Stephens. In the evening about 6 pm the same officer arrived and said he would smuggle us out at once if we were quick. We returned to Stanley Fort in the ambulance he had arrived in.

 Statement by Sgt. Herbert Peasgood, RAMC

I was posted to St Stephen's College, Stanley on the 18 December and commenced to open up a medical store and dispensary the same day. There was accommodation for about 200 patients in the main hall and gallery of the College. The following day more patients and staff arrived from the Military Hospital, Bowen Road. At that time the College was in telephonic communication with the rest of the Island.

During the following few days patients, both British and Indian were being received from Wong Nei Chung Gap, Tytam Reservoir and Shouson Hill and members of the RAMC were drifting in from various evacuated collecting posts. I was informed by an Officer of the RA at about 7 am on the 19 Dec that the Japanese had landed on the Island.

About 24 December, to relieve congestion in the hospital a number of the more seriously wounded patients were evacuated to Stanley Prison Hospital. A Machine Gun post was opened up about 100 yards from the hospital and later several new MG posts were placed even nearer to the hospital.

Our food supply was fairly good as we were getting supplies from the food dump on the Repulse Bay Road and later from Stanley Barracks. The water supply until about 22 December was also good but about that date, it was cut off and we had to make do with the water in the tanks.

On the night of the 24 December, I heard an officer shouting to our MG posts to stop firing as the Canadians were retreating and there was a lull for a short time. Them machine guns went into action from the College Hospital verandah and continued throughout the night.

About 6am on 25th December I was lying fully dressed on my bed when I heard a rifle shot. I jumped up and opened the door to see a Japanese soldier with fixed bayonet about to enter the room. He shouted out something in Japanese and I  put my hands above my head and then he bundled me through the entrance hall to the verandah where I saw several other members of staff with their arms raised. After an interval of perhaps half an hour, during which time the remainder of the staff and the majority of the patients had been gathered there, everybody was moved into the same room from which I had emerged and I saw the body of Sgt Parkin RAMC lying full length on the floor in a pool of blood. He appeared to be dead when I glanced at him. We were kept in this room for about 2 hours and then we were all taken upstairs and after receiving one or two hits from steel helmets and swords by the Japanese who were waiting at the top. I was put into a room about 10’ by 15 ‘ with approximately 90  other men at least 30 of which had leg injuries and could not stand. Immediately after, a Japanese soldier came and attacked those in reach with a leather strap, while another proceeded to throw live ammunition about the room hitting quite a number of people including myself from which I received a slight head wound. Every time a Japanese soldier appeared at the doorway we were all told to kneel down which was quite impossible owing to the number of people crowded into the room and those nearest the door who could not possibly conform to this demand received a hit from a strap or rifle.
As time wore on and our position was becoming unbearable owing to the congestion several people fainted  and we did at last, after several appeals, arrange to obtain water. This was all we received during our stay in that room until about 9pm. To cope with the needs of nature during this long day necessitated the use of boots as urinals and later people just had to relieve themselves on the floor. About midday there was great activity in the adjoining rooms which sounded as if MGs were being mounted and one or two walls seemed to be blown down.

About 2pm what sounded like a fresh battle began in the grounds of the college and from accounts of people by the windows the Canadians were trying to recapture the College. This battle lasted a considerable time and it was at this stage that patients were being dragged out from our room and screams could be heard and then a shot. The following morning I saw the bodies of people taken from the room laying either on the stairs or in the corridor. About 4pm after several people had tried to jump out of the window, we were told to close it.

Things quietened down about 4pmm and remained so until about 9 pm when the noise of MGs being dismantled could be heard. I also heard the word “surrender” from one of the adjoining rooms. A few minutes later about 40 of us were moved to a storeroom and were given water and cigarettes. We then made ourselves as comfortable as possible for the night.

The following morning a Japanese officer fell the staff in and detailed us of to various jobs such as collecting the dead bodies, removing the blood from the stairs and corridors and piling rifles, steel helmets and respirators out in the grounds. Later on in the morning, I went with Sister Fidoe and the Canadian Padre in the company of a Japanese officer, to the rear of the kitchen where I saw a pile of something covered by a blanket. I removed the corner of the blanket and found three bodies huddled together, these I identified as Mrs Begg, Mrs Smith and Mrs Buxton three of the VADs of the hospital staff.

We were allowed to collect drugs and dressings etc from the stores and a treatment room was opened upstairs and patients allotted to other upstairs rooms

On the 30 Dec ember the force at Stanley, minus a few RAMC  who remained to care for wounded in the fort, were all marched into Hong Kong as far as North Point Camp where the RAMC and AD Corps personnel were told to board a lorry and we were brought to BRMH".

Statement by Sgt. John Herbert Anderson, RAMC

Towards midnight on Dec 24th machine gun and mortar fire increased and numerous machine gun 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 cookhouse 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 near dawn but it was too dangerous to go outside to see what the position was as the roads and verandahs were caught in a crossfire. 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.

Lt Col Black and I went out to meet them followed by Capt Witney. Cpl Noble and Pte Mooney  RAMC were already outside under guard. The two officers, after their equipment had been removed, were taken around the corner of the building but the rest of us were lined up against the wall and had our armbands inspected.

One of the Japanese was sent back, apparently to report to some others who soon arrived, entered the main hall, and shepherded all the nurses and some of the patients out. As this was going on Sgt Parkin, RAMC, who had been asleep in one of the rooms, made a dash for a window and was shot through the head. There were sounds of shouting and shooting as the Japanese ran down the main hall amongst the patients and any patients who were too slow in getting out of bed, or who could not move owing to wounds were bayoneted or shot. Some of the HKVDC  tried to escape and others put up a bit of a struggle  but they were mostly bayoneted or shot. The SJAB (St John's Ambulance) men were all put in one room and systematically butchered, one only remained alive to tell us what happened. All staff and patients were, first of all, herded into one of the storerooms and later as all survivors were collected by the Japanese and daylight came, they were taken upstairs and put into the small student's dormitories. The women were in one room with some Chinese girls.

86 patients and staff including myself were in a room which was 9’ by 12’. After threatening us with hand grenades and warning us not to escape the Japanese set up an MG  in the passage outside. After numerous appeals, one of the Japanese fetched us a large jug of water and some dry oatmeal. That was all the food and drink offered to us until 10 pm.

During the day at intervals, parties of Japanese came along and peered in at us, on most occasions seizing one of the men and dragging him out to the corridor. The bodies of four of these men were afterwards found bayoneted and tortured, and sounds of this going on could be heard in the corridor. Up to about 7 pm, we could still hear the women talking.

About 10pm a junior officer arrived and allowed us to move out some of the walking wounded to other rooms still leaving about 40 people to spend the night of 25/26 December in the original small room, in which there was insufficient space to lie down properly. At our request the officer allowed us to bring up buckets of fire hydrant water but there was no sign of food.  SM Begg (a patient) whose wife was a VAD asked me to try and find out something about the ladies.

As soon as it was light on the morning of 26 Dec the Japanese collected all persons capable of walking and set them to cleaning up. They allowed myself and a patient to go down and get more water. During the cleaning up we found the bodies of the SJAB and HKVDC. The bodies of Lt Col Black and Capt Witney were found in the staff lavatory and sitting rooms respectively, both had been searched and bayoneted or cut with swords

The bodies of three missing women were found in the grounds covered by a blanket. They had been cut to pieces – Mrs Begg’s head was almost severed from her body. Altogether about 60 to 70 bodies of patients and 25 bodies of the staff were collected. Under orders from the Japanese, a huge bonfire was built for the burning of the bodies.

In the afternoon of Boxing Day, the Japanese told us we could have the whole top floor of the hospital east wing. This was occupied and as much medical material as possible was collected. There was no Medical Officer left. Late that evening Capt Stoker arrived from Stanley with some HKVDC and just before dark they returned with a small van and succeeded in smuggling the remaining ladies out to the fort. Also, they promised to send water and food the following day.

By Saturday 27th the water situation was desperate. For some reason, the promised supplies from Stanley had not arrived, but enough food had been salvaged from the wrecked stores to give everyone something to eat.

On the evening of the 29 December, Japanese officer offered us a lorry to take us to Stanley Fort with the remainder of the wounded patients.

Most of St Stephens Hospital RAMC  were left at Stanley Fort and the remainder 12 ORs marched back to NP Camp via Lyemun Gap eventually arriving at Bowen Road (Military Hospital)".

Here's a photograph of the College Main Building today - looking peaceful and serene - it was here that the temporary hospital was situated and here that the rape, mutilations and bayonetting of patients in their beds occurred.

St Stephens College 

In my research at the 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 the 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 Stephen's 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

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 wartime. 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 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.