|303 Oiler and spent ammunition (Writer's collection)|
|Oiler after cleaning (Writers collection)|
|On opening there were traces of 1941 oil still inside (Writers collection)|
|Stuart Woods with the 303 Rifle (just the metal parts left)|
Spent rounds can be cleaned up with a wire brush to reveal whether they are Japanese, British or Canadian. The head-stamp on British and Canadian rounds will show the date of manufacture, the name of the manufacturer and the type of ammunition. The imprint from the firing pin can indicate whether it was fired from a rifle or from a machine gun.
|DAQ for Dominion Arsenal Quebec 1940 (Writers collection)|
This happened twice in the last two months. A Japanese dog tag was found in the hills behind Stanley and a British dog tag was found in Stanley Gap Road (now known as Tai Tam Reservoir Road).
|Japanese ID tag - (Courtesy of Dave Willott)|
In the Japanese Imperial Army it seems a soldier was not accorded a name on his ID tag - just a number. Although ID tags for officers do seem to carry a name. This particular ID tag denotes his regiment or 'butai' and the company he belonged to and his own military number. Each Infantry Regiment or Butai involved in the invasion of Hong Kong had three battalions of around 1,000 men supported by separate artillery units. The accompanying artillery moving with the infantry and equipped with mountain guns and/or anti-tank guns. I assume the 2nd Company would belong to the 1st Battalion.
The 230th Infantry Regiment was commanded by Col. Shoji Toshishigi and was referred to as the Shoji Butai. His infantry regiment (less one battalion retained in Kowloon) landed on the North Shore between Braemar and North Point on 18th December 1941. That night three infantry regiments consisting of six infantry battalions supported by their attached artillery landed between North Point and Shaukeiwan. The Island Fortress was irrevocably breached as over six thousand Japanese troops landed on this stretch of shore line which was defended by just one Indian Infantry Battalion (5th/7th Rajputs) and one company from one of the two Canadian infantry battalions (C Coy Royal Rifles of Canada). The Japanese moved quickly inland and only a few days later soldier No. 125 may have died in the hills behind Stanley as the Imperial Japanese Army closed in on Stanley peninsula where Brigadier Wallis was making his last stand in the Battle for Hong Kong. It is possible that he may have simply lost it and survived the war. We don't know - all we can be sure of is his ID tag lay there all these years. The ID tags known in Japanese as 'ninshikihyo' were secured by fabric tape rather than a metal chain and were either worn round the neck or like a sash around the neck and under the arm.
|Ninshikihyo (Source: WWW.Forum. Axishistory.com)|
A short while later in January 2015 military history enthusiast Dave Willott found the ID tag of a Royal Navy Rating. This is a rare find and now we had a name, rank and service number of a combatant who served in the Royal Navy during the Battle for Hong Kong.
|The ID tag of Naval Rating - John Siddans (Courtesy: Dave Willott)|
The tag still with the metal chain reads :
We know that John Siddans survived the fighting in Hong Kong but we know little else about him. Tony Banham author and historian confirmed that he died following the sinking of the Japanese ship the Lisbon Maru which in October 1942 was transporting prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Japan in appalling conditions. The ship was sunk by an American submarine unaware that it was carrying Prisoners of War from Hong Kong to Japan where they would be made to carry out slave labour. Tony has established from his records that AB John Siddans survived the actual sinking but may have died in one of the rescue boats on the way to Shanghai no doubt from the extreme cold, the lack of clothing, and the lack of food and drink.
In the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records, his date of death is given as 4th October 1942 and his parents are recorded as being Harry and Susanna Siddans. He was married to Florence Siddans (nee Richardson). They were married in 1934 in Cheshire. He was born in 1900 making him 41 years old when war erupted in Hong Kong which was rather old for an Able Seaman.
What was his ID tag doing up there in what was called Stanley Gap Road now part of Tai Tam Country Park. I can only assume he was transferred to the Royal Navy base at Aberdeen which was housed in the Aberdeen Industrial School and close to the Aberdeen Royal Naval dockyard. RN officers and ratings were used to counter attack Wong Nei Chung Gap on 19th December 1941 after it had fallen to the Japanese who had only landed on the Island the previous evening. The RN were sent up in lorries, driving up Repulse Bay Road from Aberdeen. The sailors stood out in their blue uniforms and steel helmets and perhaps unfamiliar rifles. As they neared the gap they were ambushed by machine gun fire from Japanese troops on the hillside above the road.
I have no evidence he was in this party but its possible. A number were killed, wounded and captured. Some were able to get away. It's possible that he was captured around the Gap. Most prisoners of war taken at Wong Nei Chung Gap were marched up Stanley Gap Road and down to the reservoirs in Guage Basin and then up Mount Parker Road to Sanatorium Gap (also known as Quarry Gap) and then down to North Point refugee camp which served as a POW Camp. It could be that his dog tag was ripped off his neck by Japanese soldiers who would have kept valuables such as pens and watches and discarded other things. It was found with other items such as webbing, buttons and shoulder flashes and these may have been ripped off uniforms of surrendered soldiers at the collection point before they were marched off towards North Point and incarceration.
I noticed a somewhat unusual reference to John Siddans , in a book called "Prisoner of the Rising Sun" (2009) by Stanley Wort who served as a Royal Navy Rating in Hong Kong during WW2.
"On my second day aboard HMS Tamar I went for a shower. There were banks of shower heads situated in a spacious area on the lower deck of the forecastle. As there was no air-conditioning aboard they were well used. When I arrived with my sponge bag and took out a piece of Lifebuoy Carbolic Soap which I had always used in England, an old (at least he seemed old to me at the time for he must have been at least forty) three-badge AB named Jackie Siddans shouted, 'Don't use that stuff, it will take your skin off. Here, catch, borrow this'. What he threw me was a tablet of pink Camay toilet soap popular among ladies at home. For awhile I wondered what kind of outfit I had joined. Two weeks later when I had my first experience of prickly heat I realized that the old sailor's action was kindly meant and when I went ashore I bought myself some pink Camay."
So far I have not found other references to him and I'm still trying to find out more about his life which was so tragically cut short and lost at sea.
Dave Willott who found the ID tag would like to return it to John Siddans family if we can trace surviving family members. This way we may learn more about him and it would be a fitting reunification of something personal that belonged to one that served his country and fought in the defense of Hong Kong and ultimately gave his life in such service.