Sunday 16 November 2014

The strange case of Mr Kennedy-Skipton

When the Pacific War began in December 1941,  forty-three-year-old George Stacy Kennedy-Skipton was a senior civil servant (they were known as Cadet Officers) working for the Hong Kong Colonial Government. An article in the Hong Telegraph dated 19 December 1940 reports his promotion from Cadet Officer Grade 2 to Grade 1. He had married an American lady, Helen Tow, of Scandinavian descent who was born to a Quaker family in Iowa on 15 October 1892. 
   George Kennedy-Skipton ('K-S') was born on 31 August 1898 in Cheltenham, England. He was six years younger than Helen. He was of Irish descent and had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin. Their two daughters Anne Laetitia Daphne K-S (b. 9/11/1930) and Enid Conolly K-S (b. 1933) were respectively aged  11 and 8 on the outbreak of war.
   It seems that George K-S had a secret love – he had a Chinese mistress with whom he had a son Henry whilst still married to Helen. How widely known that was I don’t know, but it would have been frowned upon in colonial Hong Kong especially given that he was a very senior civil servant and notwithstanding that it was not actually that uncommon for married expatriate men to have Chinese mistresses especially after the evacuation of wives and children in June/July 1940. In Chinese society having a concubine was not unusual.
   In June 1940 there had been increased concern that war with Japan was imminent,  a compulsory evacuation order was issued and British women and children were somewhat hurriedly evacuated firstly to Manila and then on to Australia. This was unpopular with many of the wives who wanted to stay with their husbands many citing the fact that the women of London had stayed with their husbands during the blitz. Many of the 'bachelor husbands' formed protest groups and there were well-attended protest meetings that were held right up to the start of the war. 
   Many women had avoided the compulsory evacuation order by joining either the Auxiliary Nursing Service (ANS) or the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) which was part of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC). Some occupations were exempted for example Government stenographers. Certainly, the compulsory evacuation order was unpopular with many and created a lot of heated protests from the husbands who wanted their wives and children back. They were angered by the fact that so many wives had managed to dodge the compulsory evacuation order. However, once the war started those same husbands must have been very glad that their wives and families were safe in Australia and not having to suffer the dangers and terror of the period of hostilities and the privations of subsequent internment.
   Helen had not reported for evacuation or had otherwise avoided the evacuation process. Although born in America she had a British passport and accordingly should have been evacuated in June 1940. The Hong Kong Telegraph for 26 October 1940 reports on an 'impassioned appeal' by Helen K-S to the Evacuation Advisory Committee against the compulsory evacuation order. I wonder why she was so determined to stay on especially given the fact that she had her two young daughters to think of. It is true that a number of people felt that compulsory evacuation was an over-reaction and that Japan was blustering. On the other hand, it may be that she was concerned that her marriage to George was already breaking down and perhaps she was aware of her husband's distractions with another woman and felt by staying on she may be able to save their marriage.
   In her appeal against evacuation she cited the fact that she was American by birth although she admitted that she travelled on a British passport, she cited racial discrimination in that the order did not apply to Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and others nationalities but I think her main objection is found in her comment that 'it is a serious matter to break up families….' Her case was dismissed but she managed to remain in Hong Kong probably because from about this time there were no further compulsory evacuations. She could have applied to become a volunteer nurse. If she had joined either the ANS (civil) or VAD (military) nursing service she could have legitimately avoided compulsory evacuation. It must have irked senior members of the Government that the wife of a senior Government official was making such a public protest to the Government's evacuation policy. Indeed Sir Grenville Alabaster, the Attorney General, in his diary recalls that in a heated exchange between George K-S and the Colonial Secretary and members of the Executive Council at Princes Building on 11 February 1942 (i.e. after the British surrender but before these senior officials had been interned) the Hon. Mr Henry Robert Butters Financial Secretary rather harshly accused Kennedy-Skipton of :
'having suborned his wife to put forward a put up case of opposition to the Government's evacuation of women and children policy.' (1)
After the war ended Helen returned to the UK with her two daughters on the SS Highland Monarch arriving in Southampton 9 November 1945, whereas George K-S returned to Hong Kong and as far as I can see they lived apart ever after.  She never remarried, I suspect she always loved her husband, I am not even sure they actually ever divorced. As far as I can tell he looked after both his Chinese 'wife' and his son from that relationship and Helen and her two children who lived in London following repatriation from Hong Kong.
   The South China Morning Post for 24 April 1934 reports that George K-S had bought a plot of land at the far end of Middle Gap Road. He built a bungalow there with the address being No. 565 The Peak. Its location can be seen in the 1938 road map depicted below. Bob Tatz who was there as a ten-year-old orphan in December 1941 still recalls the long drive (shown in the map extract and 1945 aerial photo below) leading to the Kennedy-Skipton family home. At the time George K-S bought this property he was Senior Assistant Treasurer at the Colonial Treasury. He applied for a mortgage and papers relating to this application which are held at the Hong Kong Public Record Office (HKPRO) indicate that he also owned a holiday bungalow on Sunset Peak, Lantau.

No 565 The Peak (Middle Gap Road) the home of the Kennedy-Skipton family                                                              (Source: HK Govt. Maps Office - 1938 Road Map of Peak District)
The same cluster of houses can be seen in the 1945 aerial photograph below:

The cluster of five houses at the end of Middle Gap Road - Centre right (Source: HK Govt. Maps Office)
Middle Gap Road is still a narrow road ending in a cul-de-sac that hugs the slopes of Mount Cameron and is little changed since 1941 except the houses are perhaps more grandiose.
Grandiose houses in Middle Gap Road today - the site of  No. 563 The Peak then known as 'Cranbrook'    (Writers Collection)

Impressive entrance of No 19 today but the site of No. 565 The Peak where G. S. Kennedy-Skipton had the family home (Writers Collection) 
It is accessed from Wanchai Gap where the Winnipeg Grenadiers had their Battalion HQ.  Mount Cameron is still full of the signs of war, there are firing pits and trenches left over from the fighting in December 1941. Only last week (in October 2014) a metal shoulder flash with the wording Canada was found, a stark reminder of the fighting which took place in the neighbourhood of the Kennedy-Skipton family home. 

Found on Mt Cameron (Courtesy: David Willott )
I once found a cobalt blue army water bottle on Mt Cameron which probably had been stashed as it had been covered by small rocks. When pulled up from the ground I found the cork was welded by age into the top of the bottle but amazingly it was still full of 1941 water!  I can't say I drank it but I was curious to find out whether it contained rum as I knew some soldiers added rum to their water bottles and service issue rum flasks have been found on Mount Cameron. After freeing the cork  -  I put the bottle to my lips - it tasted of water, not rum ………………………..but it was a taste of history!
   There was intense military activity in this area during the brief but brutal fighting which followed the Japanese landings on the Island, during the night of 18 December 1941. However, due to its position on the reverse slopes of Mount Cameron, it was relatively sheltered from the shelling and bombing that took place elsewhere on the Peak and the lower levels. The Kennedy-Skipton family continued to live in their house under Mount Cameron throughout the fighting and generously invited a large number of other refugees from the fighting to stay in their home.
   Even after the surrender, George K-S remained out of camp living with his family at their home in what is today called Middle Gap Road. This was allowed because he claimed Irish nationality which would have enabled him to avoid civilian internment, and he had agreed to help the Japanese with amongst other things, the administration of night-soil collection, storage and conversion for use as a fertilizer for farmers in the New Territories. This was an area in which he had had prior experience before the war. He was later accused by some of collaborating with the Japanese. He was sacked by the Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson with the support of the Executive Council on 11 February 1942 for disobeying orders to cease working/co-operating with the Japanese and for refusing to report to Stanley for internment with other government officials. Kennedy-Skipton believed it was a wrongful dismissal or that it was 'ultra vires' as the Colonial Secretary was no longer in office at the time and was a prisoner of the Japanese. He spent the next ten years trying to appeal that decision, to clear his name and seek compensation for salary foregone.
   It is true that some others like Dr Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke the Director of Medical Services also remained out of camp during 1942 and part of 1943 until he was arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese but he had the support of Government officials and was undertaking medical and relief work. In January 1943,  George K-S escaped to Free China leaving his wife Helen and two children in occupied Hong Kong until they were repatriated to the United Kingdom following liberation in 1945. His Chinese 'wife' and son also managed to flee Hong Kong for the relative safety of China and survived the war although they must have endured much hardship.
   In 1947 George K-S returned to Hong Kong and defended himself in an enquiry that was held in private in 1948. At least one newspaper report criticized the fact that the enquiry was held behind closed doors and reported the details such as they had under the banner of 'The Strange Case of Mr Kennedy-Skipton'.
  As this story unfolds, I will show that he was a brave man who was constantly putting himself in harm's way crossing the heavily shelled Wanchai and Magazine Gaps to work in the Billeting Office in town or to collect food for the those many people for whom he and Helen had offered refuge in their family home. Was he a victim unjustly treated or did he bring this down on himself by disloyalty and disobedience to his new boss Franklin Gimson who only arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday 7 December the day before the war began to take up the role of Colonial Secretary. I think actually it is a bit of both but let us go back to the beginning.
To 'begin at the beginning' as Lewis Carroll put it - is always a very good place to start. Records show George K-S was born in Gloucestershire in 1898 and in the 1901 census he is listed aged two years old as the youngest of  several siblings living with his parents in Cheltenham. He and is siblings are listed under the surname of Skipton but his father is listed as Henry S Kennedy Skipton. On passenger lists and newspaper reports, he is shown by the double barreled name of Kennedy-Skipton.
   There is a record (see below) of 23 year old George K-S traveling from Liverpool to Hong Kong on the blue funnel liner SS Pyrrhus on 31 December 1921 almost exactly twenty years before war visited Hong Kong and changed his life for ever. The passenger list shows his address as being Trinity College, Dublin and his occupation as Government Civil Servant. I assume therefore that he had just graduated and passed the examinations for the Civil Service and was now on his way out to Hong Kong to take up his career with the Colonial Government.

Passenger List SS Pyrrhus December 1921 (Source: 
I am not sure when and where George and Helen married and where they met. I assume he married Helen sometime between 1921 when he arrived in Hong Kong and 1926. We can deduce this because Helen, using her married name of Helen Tow Kennedy-Skipton, appears on a passenger list for Empress of Canada sailing from Hong Kong to Victoria, British Columbia - arriving in Canada 26 July 1926 - perhaps visiting her family in Iowa. She seems to have served as a missionary in Hong Kong and or China and I assume through this they met in Hong Kong.
   In a letter dated 3 August 1943 from Miss Ruth Mulliken an American missionary teacher who was repatriated from Hong Kong in June 1942 and who was one of the refugees staying at the K-S family home, she writes:
'I have known Mr Kennedy-Skipton for a long time. He married a friend and co-worker. Their home was my second home in China'.
In 1931, George, Helen and Laetitia are listed on the passenger manifest for the SS Asama Maru en route to Los Angeles, perhaps again to see her family. She is described as American by nationality and Scandinavian (Norwegian) by race whereas he puts down British nationality and Irish by race. This will be important later when we look at his claiming neutral (Irish) nationality in order to avoid internment. It seems he was a British national, born in England but indubitably Irish by descent.
   In a letter dated April 1941 from the Governor at that time, Sir Geoffrey Northcote, to Mr G.E.J. Gent of the Colonial Office - there are references to George K-S having done a very poor job whilst responsible for Food Control and being under investigation as a result of 'mismanagement'.
'General Norton did splendid work in getting the Food Control business on to a sounder basis. I had left it in the hands of a very capable business man Mr J.H. Taggart but unfortunately he went sick and had to leave the Colony. It was then put in the hands of the unfortunate Kennedy-Skipton, who, of course, has had no business training and was in any case a bad choice. Some months later it was discovered that the stocks were far below what was required and for the most part, were in a bad condition. The result is an enquiry by Committee. I do not know how the enquiry into Kennedy-Skipton's mismanagement of the food stocks is progressing. Happily, that is only by a committee which is sitting in private.' (2)
So I think reading between the lines he had perhaps already blotted his copy-book before the war began and before his dismissal by the Colonial Secretary in February 1942. We learn a lot about the Kennedy-Skipton family's experience during the fighting from a letter written by Sarah Alice Refo whose husband Henry Refo was a Chemistry teacher at True Light School. The True Light School was a Presbyterian school established in 1935 in Caine Road.  Sarah Refo's letter was written from onboard the Swedish repatriation ship SS Gripsholm in August 1942 following the release and exchange of US civilian internees for Japanese internees held in America.
   The Refo family lived at No. 14 Bowen Road in the mid-levels facing the harbour. Their house was near the Bowen Road Military Hospital in an exposed area that was heavily shelled. One of their four daughters was good friends with Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton and had told her about the severe shelling they had experienced during the night of Wednesday 10 December. Sarah writes how as a result of this, Helen Kennedy-Skipton suggested they come up to her house which was more sheltered from the bombing and shelling and bring with them their house guests Gladys Lynn and her daughter Ann.
'Helen Skipton, Laetitia's mother, phoned me and suggested that we come up and sleep in their living room that night. The Brownells and Ruth Mulliken were already refugees in Helen's home. I told her that Gladys and Ann were with us but she promptly said to bring them with us. Then I remembered that I could not leave the servants and she generously included them. Later Peggy got permission to take the dog. Helen offered to come for us in her car but we decided it was safer to go by the pedestrian road. We had never carried so much up the steep hill  before but the shells gave us great strength and we went up in record time.' (3)
From this description they may have made their way up Peak Road to Magazine Gap and then down Stubbs Road or Coombe Road to Wanchai Gap and thence to the K-S family home in Middle Gap Road.  This route would have involved going through both these gaps which were being heavily shelled. The other alternative and the better route would have been for the family to walk along Bowen Road until they reached the intersection with Wanchai Gap Road then a steep climb up to Wanchai Gap and Middle Gap Road. Sarah refers to the family in her missive as the Skiptons rather than their correct name of Kennedy-Skiptons.
'Helen and her servant met us and helped us up the last half of the way before dark. Henry had agreed to go to the Skiptons for one night but the situation was so bad and the Skiptons so cordial that we decided to move in for the duration. ... Counting the four Skiptons, three Brownells, two Lynns, one Mulliken, six Refos, their two servants, the Skipton's servants and their dependents, we were now twenty-six. Then our numbers began to increase. Dr Kirk phoned Helen and asked if she would come to the hospital for Mrs Laird (who was recovering from a serious operation ) and take her to his house, quite near Helen's house, and help her and her husband get food. Helen agreed. That afternoon Dr Kirk phoned again and asked her to go down to town and get the Sewell family of five and Mrs Raymond to add to the Lairds in his house. She came back with one extra, an orphan child who had been in the Diocesan School  and really had nobody to take care of him (this being ten year old Bob Tatz). We were now thirty-five. Then Marion Dudley our YWCA friend from South Carolina, called me and asked if we could help her find a safer place. She had spent a bad night in an air raid tunnel. I consulted Helen and we decided we could manage some way, so we phoned Mr Skipton to bring her up. With them came Miss Shin, the YWCA General Secretary  and her adopted child of eight and Marion's servant and the servant's little sister. We now had forty bodies and all food had to be brought up from town by car.' (3)
Dr Kirk was a hospital doctor working at the War Memorial Hospital at Mount Kellett. He lived at 564 The Peak almost next door to the Kennedy-Skipton family. The description of people at his house fits a description of a list of persons residing at 564, The Peak held at Public Records Office (PRO HK) as follows:

Persons Residing at 564, The Peak

Dr  Edward Wilfred Kirk ( the householder).
Mr Clinton N. Laird  (61American  (Vice Chancellor Lingnan University).
Mrs Mary Soles Laird  (62)  American.
Mrs Iris Spice-Raymond (54) Australian (elderly tourist from Shanghai)
Prof.  William Gawan Sewell (43)  (Missionary and Chemistry Professor at Chengdu University)
Mrs  Hilda Sewell  (43)
Ruth Sewell  (8)
Daphne Sewell (6)
Roger Sewell  (4)

Robert Tatz  (10)

Prof. William Sewell later wrote an interesting little book called Strange Harmony about his family experiences during their time at Mount Cameron and subsequently during their incarceration at Stanley Camp. It was first published in 1946. Unfortunately he does not use actual names but the tale is a reasonable rendition of their actual experiences. Bob Tatz is a good friend of mine now living in Canada and is currently writing a book about his life experiences including his experiences during World War 2 in Hong Kong. His father had died in 1932 and his mother passed away following an illness in 1939 leaving Bob an orphan. He was ten years old attending the Diocesan School when war broke out and bombs started falling at Kai Tak and nearby Sham Shui Po. He somehow made his way to Star Ferry where he attached himself to Prof. Sewell who had come over to Kowloon on some business and they were very lucky to be able to get a ferry back to the Island, as not long afterwards passage across the harbor was restricted to those with passes and many got stranded on the wrong side of the harbour.
   As far as I can see the fort-odd people spread themselves over these two houses (564 and 565 The Peak). Dr Kirk was mostly at the War Memorial Hospital and probably seldom if at all made his way back to his home. At the end of Middle Gap Road there were a cluster of five houses  - of the other three at least one was occupied by a Swiss family. Dr Kirk's house was called Ballamacleog. As an aside it interesting to note that after the war it became the home of Col. Douglas James Clague who was one time Managing Director of John Hutchison and who had fought in Hong Kong during WW2  as a Lt in the Royal Artillery. He had escaped into Free China from Sham Shui Po POW Camp and joined the BAAG (British Army Aid Group). He was involved in George K-S's escape from Hong Hong in January 1943.
   The others making up this group centered around the Kennedy-Skipton home included:

Mr. George Kennedy-Skipton (43)
Mrs. Helen Kennedy-Skipton  (49)
Anne Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton (11)
Enid Conolly Kennedy-Skipton (7)
Miss Marion Dudley (46) American  (National Secretary South China YWCA)
Miss Ruth Ethel Mulliken  (66)  American
Mrs. Gladys Lynn  (30) American
Ann Lynn (6) American
Prof. Henry Chase Brownell (54)  American (Professor at Lingnam University)
Mrs Jane Menut Brownell  (53)
Betty Jane Brownell (14)
Henry Barron Refo   (43) American (Teacher)
Mrs. Sarah Alice Refo
Alice Anne Refo  (14)
Sarah Margaret  Refo (11)
Harriett Refo  (9)
Burney Refo  (7)

Sarah Refo writes of Helen K-S:
'Helen is a good Quaker and has more courage, physical strength and resourcefulness than any other woman I know.  We made out huge orders for food and Helen (K-S) and Henry (Refo) drove down amid shot and shell and brought back load after load. Mr Skipton daringly drove out to a food depot near the Naval Dockyard, probably the hottest spot in Hong Kong and got 200 pound sacks of rice.' (3)
George and Henry were involved in war work, they were working in the billeting office in town. In a letter dated 6 February 1948 the former Commandant of the Auxiliary Quartering Corp (responsible for billeting) Mr Julius Ring praises the work done by George K-S:
'Mr Kennedy-Skipton joined the Corps a few days after the outbreak of hostilities and remained with it up to the surrender. He was one of my Peak Quartering Inspectors with all of whom I was in touch right up to the fall of Hong Kong on 25 December 1941.  All the Quartering Inspectors had to report regularly at my Headquarters in Marina House as required in accordance with the work assigned to them. In Mr Kennedy-Skipton's case this was nearly every day. Mr Kennedy-Skipton's work was entirely satisfactory to the end, moreover he displayed considerable bravery.' (4)
We can see George and Henry are clearly the leaders in the group and George, Henry and Helen are constantly exposing themselves to danger whether by running the gauntlet of the heavily shelled Gaps  in order to fetch food or to help others in need. At one stage after the British capitulation George K-S brought in an injured Chinese man who had been bayoneted by the Japanese at Wanchai Gap. At great risk to themselves they hid him in their house and treated his injuries which consisted of multiple bayonet wounds.
   Interestingly Henry and Sarah Refo's landlord of their home at No 14 Bowen Road was W. J. Carroll who had been suspected of espionage before the war and when hostilities began was interned at Stanley Prison with other enemy aliens. After the war ended he was tried for collaboration. In a report by Staff Sgt. Sheridan RASC who escaped from Hong Kong on 4 June 1942 he wrote about Carroll :
'He was in possession of an Irish pass, said to be Eurasian. Now working for theJapanese, nature of work is not known. Entertains Japanese officers a lot in his house. His son is a POW in Sham Shui Po. He tried to get him released. No success in this line.' (5)
With regard to George Kennedy-Skipton, Staff Sgt. Sheridan wrote:
'Irish Pass - actually Irish descent. Former Food Controller but made a mess of it, was kicked out on the advice of Brigadier Peffers (in charge of Administration). Nature of work with Japanese is not known.' (5)
After the capitulation various Japanese would enter the houses at the bottom of Middle Gap Road  some were hostile and menacing - others more friendly. Sarah Refo describes one Japanese officer Captain Ikeda as being particularly helpful and sympathetic :

'He knew our landlord, Mr Carroll, who had been suspected by the British and interned with the Japanese on December 8. We waited for another week before he came back with Mr Carroll and lots of food, including waffles for the children. The Japs asked Mr Skipton and Henry to go down to their office with them. They asked us each to make a statement of what we were willing to do. We agreed that we were willing to do any constructive work  for the Chinese in Hong Kong, and Mr Skipton specified that he would  like to help with agricultural work or disposal of night soil, work which he had done for the Hong Kong government before. They gave us all passes  and Henry and Mr Skipton went down to the Japanese office every day as guarantors for the group.' (3)
I think the involvement of Carroll who was a suspected traitor led many to be suspicious of George Kennedy-Skipton's loyalties. In a letter from Henry Refo to the Colonial Office written on 18 October 1943 after he had been repatriated with other US nationals - he explains how Carroll got involved with their group.
'Recently I received a second letter from Mr Kennedy-Skipton written in Calcutta. In it he states  that during an interview with a (British) official  it was intimated  that during the period of hostilities in HK  he had visited some of those interned  by the HK authorities in Stanley Prison. Since I was with him practically  every hour of the day and spent the nights at his home………such a charge is not only untrue but in some ways extraordinary. Prof. Brownell and myself were with Mr Kennedy-Skipton in the Billeting Service and were in the office and up and down and around the Peak together daily right up until Christmas afternoon. Neither of us have any recollection of any sort which would lead us to believe he made such a trip. It would seem extraordinary that he could have made such a trip  without the knowledge  of the Superintendent of Prisons.

It was apparently intimated also  at the same interview  that Mr Kennedy-Skipton knew Mr Carroll (one of those interned) before the outbreak of hostilities. If so he concealed that fact very well.  However, it was really through  the fact that at the outbreak of war my family and I were  renting a house  on Bowen Road  that belonged to Carroll Brothers, that the contacts with the Japanese were made. I was living with my family  at No 7 Stubbs Road when I received  notice of an increase in rent  beginning 1 Sept 1941. Carroll Brothers advertised No. 14 Bowen Road  (an old government house) at a very reasonable rate. Arrangements were made and we moved on 4 Sept. I saw Mr Carroll once  when I went to his office to sign the contract  and pay my first rent. Thereafter I sent him a cheque monthly through the post. Perhaps two or three times he stopped by the house to see if we were in need of any repair work.

On the fourth day of the war we had notice to evacuate our house but without instructions as to where to go (the house being requisitioned by the authorities. It was after this that Helen K-S made the offer for the Refo family to come and join them at their home on Mt. Cameron) After the surrender Japanese of all descriptions wandered into the Kennedy-Skipton house. One day a group came and I approached one of them (Capt. Ikeda) that spoke English and seemed friendly about a pass for me to go  down to my house on Bowen Road. Immediately he said he was living on Bowen Road and asked which house was mine. I informed him it was No. 14. He then said he was in No 13. Then he asked  if I knew Mr Carroll (Nos 13, 14, and 15 were owned by Carroll Brothers). I replied that I did and that he was my landlord. Before he left he asked about our food supply and intimated  that he would be back in a few days. A week later three cars drove up laden with food and accompanying the Japanese officers was Mr Carroll. Before they departed  it was suggested  that Kennedy-Skipton and I  as representatives for the group should go down the next day to the Japanese Office and make arrangements for remaining at the house, obtaining passes, food etc. While there we were required to sign statements to the effect that we would be responsible for the entire groups behavior. That Mr Kennedy-Skipton had bitter enemies in the Hong Kong Govt  long before the outbreak  of hostilities needs no argument. It follows that they would use every possible  means to besmear his name. It was finally decided  that we should all be interned  (Feb 7) . However Mr Kennedy-Skipton had sufficient grounds for claiming Irish citizenship and like a number of others took advantage of it. The rest of us were interned. However the Japanese allowed us two trucks for transportation and were thus able to take with the assistance of Mr and Mrs Kennedy-Skipton into camp some one hundred Canadian Army bed cushions (known as biscuits) and blankets, clothing, books, coal, food, medicine and other useful articles some of which were turned over to the British Camp.' (6)
Sometime after the surrender, the group at the Kennedy-Skipton house began to disperse but eventually, all of them ended up in Stanley Internment Camp with the exception of the Kennedy-Skipton family members who were allowed to remain out of camp on the basis of their being third nationals (Irish) and the fact that George K-S was helping the Japanese.
   Some of the large group that took refuge in the Kennedy-Skipton home in Middle Gap Road at least avoided the initial internment in January 1942 when civilian internees (British, American and Dutch) were herded into overcrowded and squalid hotels, boarding houses and brothels in the western district of town. The Refo family finally went into Stanley Camp on 7 February 1942 a couple of weeks after most others enemy civilians had been interned there. 
   The Kennedy-Skiptons remained in their house throughout 1942. On February 11 Franklin Gimson the newly appointed  Colonial Secretary suspended George K-S for disobeying orders to cease working with the Japanese and to intern himself with his family in Stanley Camp with other government officials and their families. 
   George K-S escaped from Hong Kong into Free China on 26 January 1943. Helen was then left alone with her two daughters living in the family home on Mount Cameron. Emily Hahn, the writer, was an American who had also contrived to remain out of camp claiming to be Chinese by her marriage to a Chinese man with whom she had lived with before coming to Hong Kong although the Japanese knew full well that she had had an affair with Major Charles Boxer the Head of British Military Intelligence and that her child (Carola) was from her relationship with Boxer who at that time was still married. Emily Hahn writing to a friend of Helen's following her repatriation in September 1943 writes:

'Helen Kennedy-Skipton has been my best friend since the surrender, as we were both left outside when the other Europeans were interned. She lives with the girls alone in their own house on Mount Cameron, not too much alone as there is a Swiss family in a nearby building and in case of emergency she could always call on them. They walk down to town at least three times a week to collect their rations and to go over to Kowloon where the girls have piano and other lessons. Enid and Laetitia are beautiful girls and, of course, perfectly enormous! One old woman stays with them as servant.

Helen is a brave woman, and is doing what she is convinced is the right thing. I think she was a little disapproving that I decided in the end not to stick it out. I felt guilty, though, because we are all lonely in Hong Kong and my departure left her with fewer friends than ever. It is a strenuous and monotonous life, but they are not in actual want. Somehow she has found a place to borrow money and when I suggested leaving some with her she assured me she did not need it. They came just before I embarked, to get such of my books as they wanted and to say goodbye, and I think we both cried. But she has never wanted to leave the house and has refused any chance of coming  away. They are much better as they are than they would be in camp, and you need not worry about them. I am sure they will be alright.' (7)

George K-S went to great risk in escaping from Hong Kong in January 1943. His escape was arranged by a smuggler by the name of Miss Cheung Yin Hang.  I assume this to mean a 'smuggler of people' across the border. The escape party consisted of five people. The following are extracts taken from Miss Cheung's statement about the escape.

'In Nov 1942 a certain Wong Kwong introduced me to Mr Skipton. Wong Kwong was in the same business of smuggling goods as I. One day Wong Kwong asked me if I had the courage  to take a Westerner out of HK.

I had first to go to Waichow and sound the English BAAG there. On 10 January 1943, I left Hong Kong arriving in Waichow on 15 January. Outside the city I met a British officer, Captain Hooper  and asked him if he knew Mr Skipton. He said he did and asked me to go to his office the following day. The next day I went there and met Major Clague. I at one presented to him Mr Skipton’s letter.

I asked for a token of proof to take back to Mr Skipton so that he would trust me. Captain Hooper then took a piece of blank paper and wrote some words on it telling me to give this paper to Mr Skiptom. In fact they were from the same school and the words were from the school song.
It was Sunday 24 January 1943 when we escaped. Afterwards I returned to Hong Kong. Mr Skipton  asked me to take a letter back to his wife. He told me that if his wife was willing to leave Hong Kong and escape to Waichow he wished me to find the means to help her and her two daughters escape. Mrs Skipton however did not want to escape.' (8)

A telegram from the British Ambassador in Chungking to the Colonial Office in London dated 26 March 1943 states:
'Kennedy-Skipton who is now in Kweilin has forwarded a diary and detailed reports regarding his activities after the surrender of Hong Kong. He offered his services to the Japanese  and was taken on to the staff of the Investigation Bureau of Civil Administration of the Japanese Army. His work consisted of finding a suitable  house for the Japanese Governor, collecting books from various libraries for universities, piecing together large scale maps of the colony and trying to persuade the Japanese to adopt his scheme for use of night soil and for local production of fuel spirit from molasses.He resigned Dec 11 and escaped on 24 Jan.  He states  that he had arranged for Mrs Kennedy-Skipton and her two daughters  to follow him but that instead Mrs Kennedy-Skipton reported his departure to the Gendarmerie and is still in HK with the children.
He appears to have cooperated with the Japanese further than was necessary but the work he did had little if any result. I propose to send him to India.' (9)
I think Helen must have reported the escape to the Gendarmerie in order to protect herself and her two daughters and this was probably done by mutual agreement.  I think Helen K-S declined to escape either with George K-S or later because it would have been difficult to do this with two children and it would expose them to unnecessary risk. Before escaping George K-S had written a letter to the Colonial Office dated 11 June 1942 which Henry Refo had smuggled out when he was repatriated with other American nationals in late June 1942.  In his covering letter, Henry mentions that he had recently seen George K-S at Hongkong Shanghai  Bank. Perhaps this was when the letter was passed to Henry.

'I saw Mr Kennedy-Skipton a few days before we left Hong Kong during a wait at the Hongkong Shanghai Bank when those among us who had safe deposit boxes  were taken into the city. He said he and his family were well though he looked under nourished and I fear that his family are too.' (10)
In a letter to the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Henry Refo elaborates on the work he and George K-S were involved with at the Investigation Bureau.
'As it turned out we did little more than sit around the Japanese office and in the end it became apparent that they had no intention of letting us do anything useful to anyone. Personally I believe  they had several motives in being lenient to us. First of all I really think that they actually felt sorry for our group of women and children and elderly folk and when we offered them tea that first day when they came, it overcame them. Then undoubtedly they thought  that a high government official such as Mr Kennedy-Skipton might prove not only directly useful  but also his apparent cooperation with the Japanese authorities might be used as excellent propaganda  among the Chinese.' (11)
In the letter George K-S sent with Henry Refo to the Colonial Office we can see his own version of events:
'I beg to report that subsequent to the surrender I have taken service under the Japanese authorities in a civil administrative capacity in order to save my home and family and dependents, the latter from internment and the danger of starvation and my home which I own  from looting and possible destruction. A guarantee was given me when taking up the post that I would not be asked to do anything against British interests. On January 5 an order was issued that all enemy aliens of European race were to be interned and that no third national was to go abroad without a pass. The following day two Japanese officers and a civilian official called and said our group need not report  for internment  until further notice but must not leave the premises. On Jan 9 they called again with a present of food. I had decided in the interval that if my agricultural qualifications could be the means of saving my group from hardship I ought to place them at the service of the new government without delay. This I did and handed them a copy  of my report as Special Commissioner for Agricultural Extension adding that I was willing  to help in any other useful civic work. A week later I was sent  for by car, brought to their bureau and my offer finally accepted. For about a month  I was taken up and down  by car

Meanwhile  the Colonial Secretary Mr Gimson had me informed through Mr Arthur May a PWD Engineer working in the same bureau with me that he wished to see me. At some risk in my opinion I visited him in his office. He demanded to know why I had taken service under the Japanese without his permission. I drew his attention to the fact that the surrender had divested him of his authority. On a second visit he refused to hear the witness I offered Mr Kobza-Nagy a pro-British Hungarian.

He suspended me for failing to apply for his permission beforehand. I had told him there was a Japanese sentry  at Wanchai Gap but he did not appear to understand where Wanchai Gap or Mount Cameron was. As regards the propriety of my work I pointed out  that Mr May of the PWD  was working in the same office as I without his objecting he replied quite simply that Mr May was not a cadet. Mr May is not a cadet but like me he has his family to consider a mother and a blind father in his case. When I persisted in my opinion that I could not have visited him beforehand the Attorney General  who was present at the interview called me a liar to my face. I made a record  of this and the whole proceedings shortly afterwards and deposited it a few days later with a high government official.' (12)
George K-S then adds a number of criticisms of the Colonial Government.
'Sixteen to eighteen  hours prior to the arrival of the Japanese forces in Kowloon the police were withdrawn. As a result there was widespread looting and bloodshed by Chinese robbers. I attach a statement on the subject  by Mr D C Silva a British resident of Kowloon twenty years in the colony during all of which he had been a salesman for Sun Life Assurance Co. The resentment of all sections of the population of Kowloon over this withdrawal of protection is deep and likely to endure. The same thing in a worse degree occurred in Cheung Chau.

Early in March I was sent under escort to the Colonal Secretariat then vacant to look for copies of the annual volumes of Administrative Reports, the Financial Secretary’s Annual Reports and the estimates of revenue and expenditure. I was astonished to observe the Secret Files Strong Room and its contents  apparently intact except for the forcing of the steel door. Apparently the Japanese soldiers being unable to read English had left the files alone in spite of their red colour.' (12)
George K-S then returned from India to the UK where he continued to lobby and press his case. In a letter dated March 1945 from Professor D.L Savory M.P. to Secretary of State for the Colonies (Col. Oliver Stanley) he makes reference to George K-S then living in Hove, Sussex.
'Mr Kennedy-Skipton came all the way up from Hove to see me at the House of Commons this afternoon and put his case again very fully before me.' (13)
A letter from Col. Stanley to Professor Savory references the lobbying efforts employed by George K-S as he fought to defend his name.
'Apart from yourself he has invoked the assistance of no few than six Members of Parliament since his return to this country. It is of course my intention that a full enquiry should be held as soon as this becomes possible but it clearly cannot take place while the principal witnesses are still in Japanese hands.' (14)
George K-S returned to Hong Kong in 1947. The first hearing was held in 1948. It was held in private although George K-S had asked that it be held in public. Sir Franklin Gimson then knighted and Governor of Singapore was a principal witness. The China Mail for 21 January 1948 reports under the headline of 'The Strange Case of Mr Kennedy-Skipton'.
'At the surrender in 1941, Mr G.S. Kennedy-Skipton at the time one of the Colony's senior local cadet officers was not interned because he was Irish. He was then living at his home on the Peak with a number of refugee families, mostly American. The Japanese officials appeared to be impressed by the number of women and children, including two invalids, in the party and told them they could stay where they were if members of the party would volunteer for civic work. In response to this offer, he and another man, an America missionary from Canton (Henry Refo) stated they were willing to do 'educational or social or any other constructive work'.

No objection has ever been raised to the action of Mr Kennedy-Skipton's American colleague in so doing.

It is to be noted that there was no question of Mr Kennedy-Skipton being guided by outside advice as his party was marooned on the peak, being forbidden to go on the roads and he himself, like most civil servants, had received no prior orders as to what to do in the event of surrender.
Just before the war, Mr Kennedy-Skipton was officially engaged in endeavoring to increase the food supply by organizing the use of the city's night soil for fertilizer in the New Territories and these preparations were already far advanced when the war came.
For that reason, according to his own story, when offering to do civic work, he drew the attention  of the Japanese to the food shortage and stated he was willing and able to carry on his fertilizer  work. They approved and gave him facilities and an office for working on his plans and putting them up to the authorities.
After a time their interest cooled and the control of agriculture and the sale of night-soil were handed over to concessionaires who were not interested in constructive schemes involving capital outlay.
Mr Kennedy-Skipton then organized his his escape, in January 1943.
A year later the Japanese changed their attitude about agriculture and arranged for the transport of night-soil and the construction of storage tanks at Castle Peak exactly as Mr Kennedy-Skipton  had proposed. These tanks supplied manure for vegetable growing through the worst years of the occupation and today they are still in use.
Mr Kennedy-Skipton is now being accused by the Government of disloyalty. The hearing of his case is to start on Thursday next, and Mr Kennedy-Skipton  has requested  that the hearing shall be public. His request has been refused.
A curious feature of the case is that the charges are based, even to the extent of quoting his own letter, on Mr Kennedy-Skipton's action in reporting to the Secretary of State under the noses of the Japanese, "a local scandal" which involved the former Government of Hong Kong. Using his liberty Mr Kennedy-Skipton says he discovered in March 1942, that many of the secret files of the Hong Kong Government, had been left intact in the strongroom of the Colonial Secretariat.
He reported this to the Secretary of State  in July 1942 by a signed letter hidden in a tin of powdered milk and carried out by an American friend (Henry Refo) who was being repatriated.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case it is obvious that questions of great interest to the public are involved in this enquiry. Such being the case the refusal of a public hearing can only be described as sinister and deserving of the strongest possible public protest.' (15)
Prior to the enquiry all the European refugees who had stayed at No. 565 and No. 564 The Peak wrote testimonials for him recounting their memories of events in particular as to how George K-S and Henry Refo had ended up working for the Japanese. They were extremely grateful to the Kennedy-Skipton family for welcoming them into their home, supplying food, protection and at least for awhile keeping them out of internment. Professor Sewell writes:

'Dr Kirk offered us hospitality in his house on Mount Cameron. Mrs Helen Kennedy-Skipton was a near neighbor and helped my wife with catering arrangements and eventually after the British surrender we moved into a garage attached to the Kennedy-Skipton house.

Mr Refo an American asked me if I would undertake relief work as it might encourage the Japanese to allow us freedom if we offered to do this. I agreed to this provided  it was genuine relief under civilian  and not military direction but I heard no more of it Mr Kennedy-Skipton and Mr Refo undertook some work which I understood to be in connection with the use of night-soil as fertilizer.

 It was rather a surprise when we got into the internment camp at Stanley to hear that Mr Kennedy-Skipton was criticized  as disloyal. Although I personally disagreed with his action in remaining out of Stanley Camp, chiefly as I considered it imposed an undue strain upon his wife and daughters, yet there was no solid reason, in my oinion  for suspecting his loyalty. He was sincere in his endeavor  to help the Chinese people and also  in his hope that in this way he might also assist his family and safeguard  his property.' (16)

The Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson was not acting alone when he suspended George K-S. He had the support of his Executive Council including the Sir Grenville Alabaster, the Attorney General, Mr Henry Robert Butters the Financial Secretary, and Mr Roland Arthur Charles North the Secretary for Chinese Affairs. They were also present at the interviews and now we need to hear their perspective in statements they made.

Statement by Sir Grenville Alabaster - Attorney General (1947)
    'During the period of the Japanese occupation I kept a pocket diary of events. I attach these from my diary which have relation to Mr Kennedy-Skipton.

     Mr Gimson the Colonial Secretary, Mr H. R. Butters, the Financial Secretary, Mr R.A.C. North the Secretary for Chinese Affairs and I were all interned at Princes Building.

     On the 5 January 1942 Mr Kennedy-Skipton came to Princes Building to see Mr Gimson. He asked Mr Gimson if he could work with Mr Carroll. Mr Gimson told him that he would not be required for that purpose and that he should register for internment.
     On the 7 February Mr K-S left a note saying that he had claimed neutral nationality and had entered the Japanese service as Agricultural Adviser. This was done without permission and contrary  to the instructions given him on 5 January.
     On 9 February  Mr Kennedy-Skipton came to Princes Building to explain why he had offered himself for and taken service under the Japanese Government. A long interview took place. I cannot remember exactly what was said but I am quite clear that Mr Kennedy-Skipton was required to give up his service with the Japanese and go into internment. This he declined to do. He disputed the authority of the Colonial Secretary to give him any instructions whatsoever. He appeared to take it for granted that British rule in Hong Kong was over for ever.' (17)  
The document is torn from here and difficult to read but it is clear that following this interview the consensus amongst the Executive Committee was to treat George K-S's Hong Kong service as suspended pending a decision by the Secretary of State. George K-S was told to return on the morning of 10 December. The following extracts are taken from Sir Grenville's diary notes:
'10 February: Kennedy-Skipton did not turn up to hear the decision which I suspect he must have guessed.

11 February: Kennedy-Skipton came and refused to recognize Gimson or the rest of us as representing the Hong Kong Government. He made a pathetic exhibition of lying and twisting the truth and said he was in the same position as May and Selwyn Clarke. Butters accused him of having suborned his wife to put forward a put up case of opposition to the Government's evacuation of women and children policy. He was told that his service with HK Govt was regarded as suspended  as he had offered his services to the Japanese. He said he would appeal to the Governor when he could.

15 February: Arthur May came in and reported that Kennedy-Skipton was in his Mount Cameron home with his family but the others in his party had been interned in Stanley. He (May) had not declared himself a neutral nor offered his services to the Japanese and herein he differed from Kennedy-Skipton.
3 March: In the afternoon Gregory the Armenian manager of the Dairy Farm called to ask who built Govt House and when? He said K-S had been dismissed from his agricultural job and had been put out into the street but had crept back to Windsor House next day bowing and scraping and had been allowed to stay running messages and visiting homes and offices looking for maps and taking his meals with the chauffeurs. ' (18)
Statement from Mr H.R. Butters Financial Secretary dated 24 Sept. 1947

Referring to the meeting on 9 Feb 1942 at Princes Building
'The object of this meeting was to deal with the fact that Mr Kennedy-Skipton had taken service with the Japanese. I have no doubt whatsoever that it was fully understood by everyone concerned that Mr Kennedy-Skipton was being required to cease his service  with the Japanese and go into internment.

Mr Kennedy-Skipton refused to obey and he vehemently disputed the authority of the Colonial Secretary to give him orders in this matter. The question of suspension was raised at the meeting but Mr Kennedy-Skipton remained recalcitrant.

After the meeting the Colonial Secretary and the rest of us being all members of the Executive Council  decided in view of Mr Kennedy-Skipton's refusal to obey the order to cease his service with the Japanese, his service with the British Government in Hong Kong should be suspended pending the decision of the Secretary of State.' (19)
Statement by Mr R.A.C. North  Secretary for Chinese Affairs dated 2 Nov. 1947
'On or about 30 December 1941, I attended a meeting of members of the Executive Council  held in Princes Building at which the question of collaboration with Japanese was discussed. It was then agreed  that government officers might properly continue their ordinary functions under Japanese control, provided they did nothing to facilitate the Japanese war effort. In that case they should keep the Colonial Secretary informed of their activities and obtain his concurrence. The  officers chiefly concerned  were those of Police and Medical Depts and the staff of GPO and Wireless.

I was standing in the corridor outside the offices on the top floor of Princes Building, I overheard part of a conversation between the Colonial Secretary and Mr Kennedy-Skipton. The latter was explaining  that he had been offered work by the Japanese and that he did not therefore propose to report himself for internment. The Colonial Secretary  answered "I think you should go with the rest” or words to that effect.

Questioned about his activities Mr Kennedy-Skipton said that he had explained to the Japanese the work he had been doing before the outbreak of hostilities in organizing the distribution of night soil  to cultivators in the new territories and the Japanese had allowed him to continue this work. He regarded this as a proper contribution to the welfare of the Chinese population who were without external supplies and therefore starving. He added  that being at liberty  he had been able to visit Stanley and to take with him bedding which was badly needed in Camp
The Colonial Secretary told Mr Kennedy-Skipton that he did not approve of his employment  by the Japanese and that his proper course was to join his colleagues at Stanley.
Mr Kennedy-Skipton asked on what authority he was being ordered into internment. He was told that these were instructions by his superior officer and that if he chose to disobey them, disciplinary action might be taken against him. The three officials present were all members of the Executive Council.
In reply Mr Kennedy-Skipton  said that in his view the Hong Kong Government had ceased to exist on the Japanese occupation and that its former officers had no authority to issue instructions of any kind. It was for the individual to act according to his conscience. His conscience told him that the Chinese population were starving and that it was his duty to do what he could to help them. He had put all that he had into his house on Mt Cameron and if he were interned it would be lost. He declined to give up his work or to take steps to procure his internment.' (20)
George Kennedy-Skipton's rebuttal to the charges against him was:
 'Mr Gimson gave me no instructions to cease service with the Japanese. He only asked me why I had not got his permission beforehand and refused to answer me when I asked him whether he approved or not. This was brought out in the contemporary record I made of the interview and deposited at the time with Dr Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke; it was then lost when he was arrested.

When I first joined the Investigation Bureau  Mr Kobza  informed me that I would not be asked to do anything dishonourable or harmful to British interests

As a Southern Irish National I was not liable to internment being therefore free and my services having been requested, it appeared to me at a time of public need to be my duty if I could to continue my official work of organizing the distribution of nightsoil for fertilizer to the farmers. That this undertaking was likely to help the numerous refugees at my house was a second but subsidiary consideration. As the Colonial Secretary refused to express an opinion as to the desirability of the work and was himself new to Hong Kong conditions, I saw no good reason for withdrawing from my undertaking to do this work.' (21)
The enquiry found  Kennedy-Skipton to have been not disloyal to the Crown but to the Service and the suspension and subsequent dismissal was confirmed. George K-S then took the case to court which ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to make the declaration claimed by the appellant and then he went to the Court of Appeal. A newspaper account of the time succinctly sums up Kennedy-Skipton's claims as follows:

'That on February 11 1942 one Franklin Gimson  formerly holding the appointment of Colonial Secretary but on that date a captive under detention by the enemy purported to suspend him.

That on April 24 1943 at Chungking by letter signed by one P.C.M. Sedgwick and purporting to be under the discretion of HM Ambassador at Chungking - he was informed that the Secretary of State for the Colonies purported to confirm the act of Franklin Gimson in suspending him from his appointment as a cadet officer of the Hong Kong Government.

He denies the authority of Franklin Gimson to suspend him and he denies the validity of the purported confirmation by the Secretary of State.
He alleges that on 21 January 1948 a committee of enquiry sat to consider charges of improper  behavior against him and that the committee found him guilty of improper behavior and in particular  disloyalty not to the Crown but to the Service of which he was a member and this finding was conveyed  to him on 2 April 1949.' (22)

Interestingly in 1950 during the judicial hearing government papers held at the Public Records Office in Hong Kong reveal that the Executive Council were willing to make a settlement with George K-S involving the payment of GBP4,000 and continuation of the alimentary allowance being paid to Mrs K-S and if possible the settlement would be conditional on George K-S leaving the Colony. I'm not sure whether this was ever relayed to George K-S or the lawyers representing him, I assume not as he went on to the Court of Appeal which dismissed his case in 1951.
    He had spent ten years of his life lobbying, taking legal action and fighting to clear his name but to no avail. Taking on the establishment is never easy and in 1951 having lost his efforts through the courts, George K-S remained in Hong Kong where he worked teaching English. He continued to own one of the small holiday huts on Sunset Peak in Lantau. Here he was most happy, enjoying the mountain air, the somewhat spartan existence and the hill walking. Here at least he could forget his trials and travails. What happened to his house on Mount Cameron I am not sure but I assume he sold it after the war.
   In July 1958 an article in the China Mail makes reference to his son.
'Among the passengers who left this morning by BOAC was Mr Kimmy S. Kennedy-Skipton a pupil of the Diocesan Boys School who is proceeding to Trinity College, Dublin to study Geodesy. He will also represent Hong Kong in the Empire Games at Cardiff by competing in the 100 and 200 yards sprint race.' (23)
This was George K-S's son from his Chinese 'wife' although later referred to and known as Henry. He must have inherited his father's love of sport and his strong intellect. When I read this newspaper extract I was not aware of a subject called Geodesy but according to Google it refers to:
 'A branch of applied mathematics and earth sciences, is the scientific discipline that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in a three-dimensional time-varying space.' (24)
Michael Richardson posted a comment on the blog to say that George's son, Henry, actually studied Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin. This would be consistent with his having joined the chemicals giant ICI.  After completing his degree in Chemistry he went on to study for a Ph.D. which he completed in 1965. He settled in Scotland working at the ICI facility at Ardeer.  Henry passed away in January 2019, leaving three children and two grandchildren. George K-S returned to the UK in the 1970s and passed away in Scotland  (at the time he was living with his son) in 1982 at the age of 84.
   Now allow me to sum up my thoughts on the sad case of Mr Kennedy-Skipton. BAAG reports that he had 'gone over to the Japanese' or that he was in the pay of the Gendarmerie are in my opinion without foundation. There is absolutely no evidence that he was a traitor. The Enquiry also opined that he had not been disloyal to the Crown only to the Civil Service to which he belonged. I can see how working with Carroll who was considered a traitor and perhaps the fact that Kennedy-Skipton appeared to be working too enthusiastically for the Japanese may have caused such perceptions. As a result,  he became a victim of innuendo. Mud flies and some of it sticks. 
   I think he made a bad judgement albeit for understandable reasons. He wanted to protect his family from internment, even from starvation and certainly from privation. He wanted to help the refugees he had staying at his home as best he could. He had sunk a lot of his life savings into buying his home on Mount Cameron. He wanted to protect his home from looting and destruction. He saw the opportunity to claim Irish citizenship and to work for the Japanese in a civic capacity as a means to avoid internment and to safeguard his home and family.
   He tried to get the Colonial Secretary and Government to approve this course of action which by then I think he had already committed to. He was deeply frustrated by their demand he should cease the work and report for internment. The meetings at Princes Building with the Colonial Secretary and senior members of Government were heated and vitriolic with Kennedy-Skipton questioning their authority now that they were in the hands of the Japanese. Clearly he should have obeyed the Colonial Secretary and the Executive Council Members rather than challenging their authority. He made a bad judgement and I'm sure during his 12 months of so called liberty and after his escape to Free China he must have been deeply hurt by the innuendos regarding his disloyalty and suggestions that he was collaborating with the Japanese and accusations that he was a traitor. He spent ten years fighting his case to no avail. I can't help feeling sorry for him, and at the end of the day it still remains as the 'the strange case of Mr Kenned-Skipton'.

Addendum - Information gleaned from readers or discovered after publication of posting

Helen and George's first child (Elizabeth Carlton Phyllis K-S) died as a baby in July 1926 whilst Helen was on passage from Hong Kong to Vancouver on board SS Empress of Canada. The passenger manifest simply has a line struck through her name.  (Source: Mike Hennessy)

G K-S married Helen Tow on 23 Aug. 1924 (thought to be in Hong Kong)  (Source: Mike Hennessy)

There were two Enquiries before the Court Cases. One was in 1946 (G K-S not present) and the main one in 1948. GK-S returned to HK in 1947  (Source: Mike Hennessy)

After WW2 he taught at Diocesan Boys School (DBS). After he retired from DBS he became English teacher at St. Joan of Arc School  (c. 1963-66). He was well known as a race walker participating in the Island Walkathon in the 1950s (Source: Alexander Wong)

Charles ('Ginger')  Hyde working for Hongkong Bank (out of camp with other bankers initially assisting in the liquidation of the banks) was also working for BAAG compiling reports to BAAG  and helping to organize escapes. He was eventually discovered and executed in October 1943. He reports somewhat disparagingly about  G K-S saying 'he willingly cooperated  with the enemy when there was no necessity to do so and put into their minds many ways of getting a great deal of money, which they did  in the form  of back crown rents  and such like taxes which they might not have thought of.  "Night"  (Sir Vandeleur Grayburn) and all of us here think alike on this subject' .  (BAAG Reports and Weekly Intelligence Summaries)

George K-S sold his house in 1947 to American Express - no doubt using some of the proceeds to cover his legal costs for the long and expensive litigation process. (Source: Mike Hennessy)

Don Ady who was in Stanley Camp as a 10 year old recalls George K-S at the Lantau Mountain Camp after the war. He writes that he was 'tall, quiet, sandy haired and with distinctive wild eyebrows.'  GK-S owned one of the shacks or spartan huts on Sunset Peak known as the Lantau Mountain Club. Don writes that before the war 'as a cadet officer he (GK-S) was at one time a District Officer. It seemed to me that a degree of altruism was almost a sine qua non for that post. These officers did many things. They were like social workers, county agents, census takers, historians, welfare officers soliciting what limited help was possible for roads, trails, schools, clinics and even served as magistrates. (Source: Don Ady)

It was while working as a District Officer that he met his Chinese 'wife'. (Source: Philip Cracknell)

Among GKS motivations for continuing the night soil project there was a stronger motivation - the welfare of the Chinese community. When he reported the intelligence breach  of un-destroyed classified documents, he was ignored possibly due to scurrilous false gossip of his loyalties. (Source: Don Ady)


(1)   Statement by Sir Grenville Alabaster Attorney General (1947) (HK PRO)

(2)   Letter dated 22April 1941 from Sir Geoffrey Northcote to Mr G.E.J. Gent of the Colonial
       Office (National Archives, UK)

(3)   Letter from Sara Refo to friends and relatives written onboard SS Gripsholm recounting her
       families experiences in Hong Kong following the Japanese invasion. (IWM, UK)

(4)   Letter written to Committee of Enquiry by Mr Julius Ring formerly Commandant of Auxiliary
       Quartering Corp and dated 6th February 1948.  (HK PRO)

(5)   Statement by S/Sgt. Sheridan, RASC who escaped from Hong Kong on 4 June 1942
       ( HK PRO - CO980/53)

(6)    Letter from Mr H.B. Refo to Colonial Office dated 18 Sept 1943  (HK PRO)

(7)    Letter from Emily Hahn to a Miss Jameyson (a friend of Helen K-S) ( Courtesy of Bob Tatz)

(8)    Translation of statement of evidence of Miss Cheung Yin Hang (HK PRO files)

(9)    Telegram from British Ambassador Chungking to Colonial Office dated 26 March 1943 (HK
         PRO files)

(10)   Letter from Henry Refo to Secretary of State fir the Colonies, Colonial Office of 15 Aug 1942
         written on board SS Gripsholm.  (HK PRO files)

(11)   Letter from Henry Refo dated 7 Aug 1943 to Under Secretary of State , Colonial Office (HK
         PRO files)

(12)   Letter from George Kennedy-Skipton to Colonial Office dated 11 June 1942 (smuggled out by
          Henry Refo on US Civilian repatriation).  (HK PRO files)

(13)   Letter from Professor D. L. Savory MP to Secretary of State for the Colonies dated March 1945
         (HK PRO files)

(14)   Letter from Secretary of State  for the Colonies (Col. Oliver Stanley) to Prof. D.L. Savory dated
         March 1945 (HK PRO files)

(15)   The China Mail 21 Jan 1948

(16)   Statement by Prof. WG Sewell dated 2nd May 1947  (HK PRO files)

(17)   Statement by Sir Grenville Alabaster formerly Attorney General  in Hong Kong (1947)
          (HK PRO files)

(18)   Extracts from Diary attached to above statement  (HK PRO files)

(19)   Statement by Mr H R Butters formerly Financial Secretary dated 24 Sept. 1947
          (HK PRO files)

(20)   Statement by Mr R.A.C. North dated 2nd Nov. 1947 (HK PRO files)

(21)   Rebuttal of Charges by George Kennedy-Skipton (HK PRO files)

(22)   China Mail 28 May 1951

(23)   China Mail 9 July 1958



I would like to acknowledge information and help received from Bob Tatz, Brian Edgar, Don Ady and Mike Hennessy and information on local history website which was of great assistance in framing this story.


  1. Very interesting story, Philip. Only just came across it. Ian Gill.

  2. A very interesting story. George Kennedy-Skipton was my maternal grandfather, although I only met him once, in the mid 1970's when he turned up in London unexpectedly, much to the consternation of Helen (my grandmother, who lived with us until her death in 1982) and Enid, my mother. Neither really talked about him at any point, although my grandmother did talk a lot about her time in Hong-Kong during the occupation. The impression I got as a child was that he had collaborated in some way, but no details.

    Helen went out to Hong-Kong sometime in the 1970s, presumably to help him settle his affairs (business, that is), and came back with some imposing pieces of Chinese furniture, which passed to my mother and then to my sister when Enid died in 2009. I can't remember if this was before or after he turned up in London.

    His other daughter, Laetitia, is still alive and lives in a retirement home in Maryland, USA.

    Thank you again for a fascinating story shedding some light on a hidden side of my family.

    Tom Jones
    Peterhead, Scotland

    1. Dear Tom: Thank you for your posting. It's so nice to hear from one of George and Helen's grandchildren. It must have been very difficult for Helen surviving in occupied Hong Kong. There was a note from Micky Hahn, the 'New Yorker' columnist saying that she had seen Helen and that she appeared to have access to funds and that she regularly took Enid and Laetitia to Kowloon for piano lessons. As far as I know Helen continued to live in Middle Gap Road. Thanks again for the post and for sharing your memories.

  3. I was a fellow-student of chemistry in Dublin in the early '60s with Henry (Kimmy)K-S and although we knew a little of his background in Hong Kong it is fascinating to read the full story. I was at a small lunch last week for a group of chemistry graduates and womeone was asking what had become of Henry. I used to see him and his wife May at reunion dinners in Manchester until a few years ago but have just just discovered that he died in Southport on 25 Jan this year and was buried in West Kilbride - close to where he had worked for many years at ICI Ardrossan.

    Michael Richardson

    1. Dear Michael: Thank you for your interesting post. I think a few peope had tried to contact Kimmy over the years but perhaps he wanted to leave his past in the past. I was sorry to hear of his passing so recently. I had read an account that he studied Geodesy - did he drop this in favour of chemistry. I also read somewhere that he had been an MD (but not suure of that is correct). Thanks for your information. Philip Cracknell

    2. Dear Philip. I'm pleased to see that you have posted the announcement of Henry's death .. I should have sent you the link rather than leaving you to find it for yourself ! The references to Geodesy and qualification as MD must be the result of a "Chinese whisper" ! Henry studied Chemistry at T.C.D. from 1958 and graduated B.A. with Honours in 1962. He then went on to study for a Ph.D. and after graduating in 1965 took up employment with I.C.I. Explosives Division at Ardeer in Scotland. I have a photograph of him at the back of a group outside the chemistry building in 1963 and can send this to you if you contact me at michael(dot)richardson(at)btinternet(dot)com.

      We had a meeting of the local branch of the TCD Graduates Association last Saturday and it seems that the committee were aware of Henry's death and I think that a representative attended his funeral. After the day's proceedings were finished I was asked to say a few words about Henry's family background and his time at Trinity.
      Best wishes, Michael

  4. "KENNEDY-SKIPTON Henry Peacefully at home in Southport on Friday 25th January 2019, Henry, beloved husband of the late May (née Kelly), devoted father of Andrew, Henry and Tara and loving grandfather of Emma and Steven. Henry will be received into St. Bride's R.C. Church, West Kilbride at 6pm on Wednesday 13th February, Funeral Mass will be held at 10.30am on Thursday 14th February, thereafter to West Kilbride Cemetery." (Ardrossan & Saltcoates Herald)

  5. Dear Philip,

    I just came across this, very interesting. Henry was my father and George my grandfather. I was given both their names, Henry George. My father did keep in touch with some people and there was someone he regularly emailed from his schooldays. His mind started to wander a little in his latter years and he lost contact with some people. As you say, he passed away this year, my mother in June 2018. If there is anything you wish to know, please let me know. Henry Kennedy-Skipton

  6. Henry: Thanks for your posting. It's greart to hear from a member of K-S family. Please do let me know if there is anything that you think I should add or amend. I wrote the original article in 2014 but have updated it from time to time as new informatyion arises. Best wishes, Philip

  7. I knew K.S. vaguely when I was 14-16, (1969 on). Tall, gaunt and very fit. Laan Tau Camp, referred to as is holiday home in some places. This was Laan Tau Camp, a string of isolated stone built cabins in a ridge between 2 peaks about 2000 feet above sea level. Only access was a rocky path winding around the mountainsides. No Electricity/Gas, Water came from a stream that started at the top of Sunset Peak. Not sure if all the cabins had water. Sewerage was very primitive.

    K.S. lived opposite us, about 500m. over a shallow valley. The Camp was mostly occupied by fundamental Christians. The mess hall at the centre of the saddle was where will all ate. K.S. never came near it. It was my job in the summer to carry food and gas up to the camp. K.S. must have carried as his food up himself. He roamed the mountains alone. Rumour in the camp was that he spent most of his time in his tiny cabin, alone.

  8. Yug: Thanks for your post which was very interesting to read. Yes, quite a spartan life in Lantau Camp. The stone built cabins are still there and I believe are occasionally let out. Philip

  9. I was a Chinese student study at DBS when I found a part time job in 1966 as the minute secretary of the then Hong Kong Labour Party (prominent member included J Hopkin Jenkins, Tang Hon Chai and Ma Man Fai) KS was the chairman of the Hong Kong Walkaton Society. Though I have not ask for his past history but I found him quite a gentleman but with an anti government attitude.