Tuesday 20 December 2016

Stanley Internment Camp -Visit to grounds of the former civilian internment camp

I accompanied Geoff Emerson (Author of Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945) and Nic Snaith and his family into the former grounds of Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. Nic Snaith's mother, Beryl June Booker (known as June), was incarcerated in Stanley Camp together with her parents and sister during WW2. The internment camp was located in two main areas: (1) in the grounds of  St Stephen's College, and (2) in the grounds of Stanley Prison. In the prison area  the internees were crowded into former prison officers accommodation. In the college the school buildings, classrooms and staff bungalows were used to accommodate internees.

The writer and Geoff Emerson at St Stephen's College

The Snaith family at St Stephen's College
In 1941, St Stephens College was known as the "Eton of the East,"  it was founded to provide English public school type education for Chinese children. The main school building can be seen in the background of the above photographs. In December 1941 it was being used as a temporary military hospital. The fighting raged all around the college on 24/25 December. On Christmas morning the Japanese broke into the hospital and in an orgy of appalling violence bayoneted patients in their beds and raped a number of the European and Chinese nurses. Three of the European nurses were raped, mutilated and killed.

Nic's grandfather on his mother's side was Frederick Edward Evelyn Booker who was born in 1890. He joined the Army in 1904 as a boy soldier, and served in South Africa just after the Boer War had  ended. In 1911 he joined the Hong Kong Police. When WW1 started in 1914 he returned to England from Hong Kong to fight for his country. He was enrolled as a Sgt in the King's Royal Rifles. He was wounded during the Battle of Loos in 1915. The following year he was commissioned as a subaltern in the Somerset Light Infantry after being selected for, and completing an officer training course.  He married Daisy (née Stubs) in 1917 in Esher. He survived the carnage of WW1, and returned to Hong Kong in 1919 with his new wife and daughter, Joy, to resume his career with the Hong Kong Police. His marriage to Daisy produced five children including two sets of twins.

Joy Booker (1918)
Neville Booker (1919)
Noel Booker (1919)
Beryl June Booker (1921)
Maureen Dorothea Booker (1921)

When war came in 1941 Frederick, Daisy and the two twin daughters (June and Maureen) by then twenty-years-old were interned in Stanley Camp. At that time Frederick was a Police Superintendent. He was incarcerated in Block 12 (Indian Quarters) with other police officers. These were quarters used by Indian wardens and their families in pre-war days. Of the original seven blocks that made up the Indian Quarters only three remain today. They are inside the Correctional Services compound and not easily accessible to outsiders. We had lunch at the former Prison Officers Club which is still used as as a Correctional Services Officers Club. We then went to see Block 12 (see the photo below) which is still used as accommodation for Correctional Services Staff and families.

Block 12 - Indian Quarters

Prison Officers Club (wartime) with Indian Quarters in background
The photograph of the Prison Officers Club (above) was taken just after the war ended. One can see the large white letters 'PW' (denoting prisoners of war) on what was the bowling green. Today the area that formed the bowling green is used as a swimming pool. The building on the left is the Dutch block holding Dutch and Norwegian internees. In the background you can see the seven blocks that made up the Indian Quarters. The three on the left remain, whilst the four on the right have been demolished and replaced with high rise accommodation for Correctional Services staff families. In the distance you can see Cape D'Aguilar across Tai Tam Bay. The gap in the hills was known as Windy Gap.

Daisy and her twin daughters were incarcerated in Bungalow B. This building is part of St Stephen's College and likewise still remains. We were were able to wander around the outside of the bungalow but we were not able to see inside it. We did however go to a similar bungalow (Bungalow A) which now accommodates a small heritage museum. The nearby Bungalow C was accidentally bombed by American naval aircraft in January 1945 and fourteen internees were killed and many wounded. Today the bungalow is the home of the college Chaplain.

Bungalow 'B' and garage (a family lived in the garage)
Frederick and Daisy's son Noel served in the RAF in UK during WW2. His twin brother Neville served in the HKVDC and was incarcerated in POW Camp. Joy, the oldest daughter was already married and had been evacuated with her daughter Susan in 1940 following the Compulsory Evacuation Ordinance. Daisy and her two daughters were VAD Nurses and were therefore exempt from the compulsory evacuation of women and children in 1940. After the war ended Maureen married Mike Carruthers in Lockerbie, Scotland, in January 1946. He was an employee of HSBC and had served with distinction as Commanding Officer of the HKVDC Armoured Car Platoon. June Booker married Nic's father Arthur Linton Snaith, known as Sammy Snaith, in December 1946 at St John's Cathedral in Hong Kong.