Sunday 26 March 2017

John Christian Boldero

I had an email from William (Bill) Anderson who served as a HKVDC dispatch rider during the Battle for Hong Kong.  He published a book about his life in Hong Kong and China before the war, his experiences in the Battle for Hong Kong, and his post-war career with NCR. He later became the CEO of NCR. His book is titled Corporate Crisis - NCR and the computer revolution.

After having been liberated from POW Camp in Japan, Bill Anderson was repatriated to the UK in 1945.  It was difficult getting back to Hong Kong in 1946, and all such passages were controlled by the Ministry of Transport. Bill eventually took passage on the SS Samsoaring which was a general cargo liner bound for Shanghai from the Port of London. The vessel had room for three passengers. One of these was forty-six-year-old John Christian Boldero, who being the most senior of the three had a cabin to himself.  The other was Donald William Jarrett Clark, an employee of Jardines, heading out to Asia for the first time. 

The SS Samsoaring was a former liberty ship, which were mass produced in wartime and used by the United States and also provided to UK as part of the lend-lease assistance to Britain who needed to replace freighters sunk by German U-boats. Samsoaring was slow with a speed of less than ten knots and Bill describes the journey in his book as being on a "slow boat too China."

This prompted me to do some more research into John Boldero. I found he was born on 28 December 1899 in Caterham, Surrey. He was the son of Tempe Stanley Drew and Richard Christian Benedictus Hamel Wedekind who had married in 1897.  Richard Wedekind, died in 1899 without ever seeing his son John who was born in December of that year. Tempe had been married previously (1893) to Harold Montague Browne. He died  in 1895. Tempe had one son from this marriage. John Boldero was born John Christian Wedekind, but at some stage he and his mother must have changed their name to Boldero which was his mother's grandfather's name on the maternal side.

John Boldero joined the Royal Navy during WW1. He was a sixteen-year-old Midshipman at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 serving tin the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible.

Battlecruiser HMS Inflexible
In 1921 he married Marjorie Agnes Wise (1899-1994) at Battle, in East Sussex. They had two daughters Cynthia Madeline (1923) and Priscilla Mary (1927). In 1922 as a result of cuts to the services Lt John Boldero left the Royal Navy then aged twenty-two. His naval record is not very complimentary as to his abilities,  but nevertheless he won the DSC at the age of nineteen for his gallantry and leadership during the engagement with the Bolshevik fleet at Kronstadt. 

In 1922 after having been laid-off from the Navy he took passage to Vancouver, Canada where he found work as a skipper on the Vancouver ferry. He returned  to UK in 1924 and then found employment in Shanghai with the Shanghai Waterworks where he was employed from 1926 until 1939 by which time he had become Company Secretary. On the outbreak of war in 1939, at the age of thirty-nine, he was recalled for service in the Royal Navy in Hong Kong  and given the rank  of Lt-Commander. Initially he was appointed  commanding officer  of the MTB flotilla. In 1941 he lost his right arm in an accident when one of the MTBs collided with the destroyer HMS Thracian. In July 1941 he was appointed as commanding officer of the gunboat HMS Cicala.  This small,  but well armed ship fought very gallantly throughout the battle of Hong Kong until she was sunk by Japanese aircraft in the East Lamma Channel. John Boldero survived incarceration and was repatriated back to England after liberation in 1945. 

In 1946 John Boldero received a bar to his DSC. He was demobilised after the war.  Then we see him again with Bill Anderson and Donald Clark heading back East in July 1946 on the SS Samsoaring. He  returned to his old job in Shanghai, but not for long as China became involved in a civil war that led to formation of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. There is a record of him returning to UK in October 1948. He may have remarried as passenger manifests after the war show him travelling with Emily Boldero.  He died in 1984, at the age of eighty-four, near Weymouth in Dorset.