|1938 Xmas Party (courtesy of Strellett family)|
|Mount Kellett in 1930s (Flicker)|
|Road map of the Peak District (Govt Maps Office)|
|Mount Kellett as at 15th February 2018 (PGC)|
|Numbered Photograph with identification key (Strellett family)|
|RE-8 Pilot and Observer/Gunner (IWM)|
|RE-8 briefing (IWM)|
After completing his military service, he at some stage trained as a Chartered Accountant. We know that at the age of 25 he took passage to Hong Kong where he worked initially for the Union Insurance Society of Canton Ltd. Bill Anderson, who served as a Dispatch Rider in the HKVDC during the war, wrote to me after reading this article, to say that he recalled that Allister Sommerfelt worked for the firm of Linstead & Davis, Chartered Accountants. Allister worked under Henry Russell ("Rusty") Forsyth, a partner in the firm, and the commanding officer of No 2 Coy HKVDC. It was when Allister was called up in 1939 for service in the HKRNVR that Bill Anderson was invited to join the firm of Linstead & Davis. The firm were auditors to Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation before the war.
In October 1926 Allister married Edith Dorothy Lillian Birchall at St John's Cathedral, Hong Kong. The wedding is reported in the Hong Kong Telegraph for 6th October 1926. They took their honeymoon at Fan Ling. Their son David, who is shown in the photograph was born in 1931. Allister Sommerfelt joined the Hong Kong branch of the RNVR (HKRNVR) and was mobilised in 1939. He served as a Paymaster Lt-Commander, which must have been a natural fit given his profession as a Chartered Accountant. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Allister sent Edith Dorothy (known as "Dolly") and David back to the UK. Allister never saw Edith again because she contracted pneumonia and passed away in Lyme Regis in March 1945, whist David was only thirteen, and whilst Allister was still incarcerated in POW camp. After release from a brutal internment in 1945 and repatriation to the UK, Allister married forty-five-year-old Edith Louisa Grave, known as "Judy", in Chelsea in 1946. She had previously worked as a Nursing Sister at the War Memorial Hospital and was in Hong Kong during the battle and subsequent Japanese occupation. She had been interned at Stanley Camp where she was billeted in the European Married Quarters block and shared a room with four others, three of whom were nurses at the War Memorial Hospital.
The naval party, on finding the house was occupied by the Army, decided to check another house, called Holmesdale, which was situated across the road. The house still remains today, now known as No. 4 Repulse Bay Road. As they left the house they came under machine-gun fire and grenades were thrown at them. They returned to the house which was put into a state of defence. The house found itself on the frontline and heavily attacked throughout the day. The garrison at the house consisting of the HKRNVR party, and the Royal Artillery group, were joined by some of the RN contingent from Aberdeen who had been ambushed whilst driving up to WNC Gap to reinforce West Brigade HQ. George Tinson, the homeowner, was shot and died in his home from his wounds. A number of the garrison, both Army and Navy were killed in action whilst defending the house. The house was destroyed by explosives, and the surviving members of the garrison escaped down a steep slope at the back of the house. After escaping from the besieged villa, Allister Sommerfelt and other members of HKRNVR were deployed to fight as infantry in the hills behind Aberdeen and in the Shouson Hill area. Allister passed away in 1989 in Yeovil, Somerset aged 90. Edith Louisa (Judy) passed away in 1994. Allister's son David passed away in November 2012.
No. 10 in the photograph is a mystery. David Strellett, who took the 1938 photograph, has written Ralph, which is likely to be the first name but could also be a surname. There is an annotated note that he worked for the Education Department, possibly a school teacher. A search of the government yearbooks provided no elucidation. Perhaps a reader might recognise him from the photograph and solve the mystery, of who he is and what became of him.
|As an officer in the Great War (Strellett Family)|
DLS as an ex-Army officer was quick to join the HKVDC, and he became a Captain with the Army Service Corp (ASC) Company. The photograph below shows DLS, standing at left, with the Acting Governor Lt-General Felix Norton and other senior Army officers, mostly from HKVDC.
|Captain Strellett standing at left (Courtesy Strellett family)|
Rear Row (left to right): Capt. David Strellett, (ASC Coy), Capt. Cedric Blaker, (ASC Coy), Lt Cyril Jones (2/RS) and Capt. Fred Flippance (ASC Coy)
Front Row: (left to right): Capt. Sydney Batty-Smith, (ADC to Governor), Lt-Col Black, (Field Ambulance), Lt-Col Felix Norton (Acting Governor), Lt-Col Mitchell, (Second-in-Command HKVDC), Capt. Eric Thursby, (Adjutant, HKVDC), Lt Thomas Parkinson, (Quartermaster, HKVDC)
DLS was awarded the MBE (Military) for his services and conduct during hostilities. The citation refers to his organising the movement of RASC stores and equipment from the heavily bombarded North Face of the Island to the RASC depots at Deep Water Bay (DWB) Golf Course and Shouson Hill. The RASC depot, under the command of Lt-Col Frederick, was ordered to evacuate the golf course and the workshops at Shouson Hill on Friday 19th December. They were ordered to proceed to the Dairy Farm in Pok Fu Lam and await further orders. They were to be used as a mobile reserve, and to fight as infantry. During the night of 18th/19th December, the Japanese had landed thousands of troops on the north shore of the Island between North Point and Shau Kei Wan. The Japanese moved quickly inland seizing the high ground of Mt Parker, Mt Butler and Jardine's Lookout. During the early morning on 19th December, the Japanese captured the police station at WNC Gap. Throughout the day a series of counterattacks were made to try and dislodge the Japanese from this critical position in the centre of the Island. However, the Japanese were there in overwhelming strength, and the counterattacks although gallantly prosecuted, proved unsuccessful in dislodging the Japanese.
Lt-Col Frederick was ordered to proceed to the Aberdeen naval base, which had been established at the Aberdeen Industrial School, and augment the RASC contingent with any available troops from the naval base. He formed a composite company, consisting of some two hundred RASC, RN, RAF and other unattached troops. They were deployed to defend both Bennet's Hill, directly behind Aberdeen, and the water catchment running from Bennet's Hill to Deep Water Bay Road. The catchment emerged on Deep Water Bay Road about a kilometre from Wong Nai Chung (WNC) Gap. During the evening they were ordered to attack WNC Gap. They proceeded in trucks up Repulse Bay Road stopping at the Ridge, a cluster of five houses on a spur facing WNC Gap and about 1 km south of the gap. The five houses had been commandeered by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) who were using the Ridge as a depot. Having arrived at the Ridge they were ordered to counterattack WNC Gap at dawn the next day (20th December). These orders were then countermanded and they were ordered by Lt-Col Andrews-Levinge, the Commander RASC, to reoccupy the RASC workshops at Shouson Hill.
At dawn on the 20th December, the RASC contingent left the Ridge in trucks and some in marching column. DLS and Captain Fred Focken were with the marching ranks. However, earlier that morning, the Japanese had seized the road junction (Repulse Bay Road/Island Road) near to a house called Overbays. The RASC was ambushed at the junction and forced to withdraw back to the Ridge. DLS and Capt. Focken came under fire around the entrance drive to Overbays. During the next two days, the Ridge came under heavy fire from mortars and machine guns. The Japanese were able to fire from a water catchment running above the Ridge on the slopes of Violet Hill. On the 21st a Canadian rifle company under the overall command of Major Templer, Royal Artillery, attempted an attack on WNC Gap. This was unsuccessful and the Canadian troops joined those at the Ridge and at an adjacent house called Altamira, close to the Ridge on Repulse Bay Road. All this time the Ridge was heavily besieged. On the night of 22nd/23rd December, an effort was made by troops at the Ridge to attack and seize both the road junction and the water catchment that the Japanese were using as the main supply route. Troops at the Ridge were divided into three companies. One remained at the Ridge, which included DLS, these troops were commanded by Lt-Col Macpherson, RAOC, and the other two companies were designated to attack the road junction and the catchment.
The attack failed, and many of the troops took refuge at Overbays which was soon surrounded. That evening Major Templer gave orders for the troops at the Ridge and at Overbays to try and reach Repulse Bay Hotel before midnight. The military garrison at the hotel was planning to evacuate the hotel that night and make their way to Stanley. DLS left the Ridge with a party that included Major Flippance and Cpl Charles Colebrook. Their group went down a nullah at the back of the Ridge which led down to Repulse Bay Road. They spent the night avoiding Japanese patrols but were unable to get through to Repulse Bay Hotel. As dawn broke on 23rd December, they saw a Japanese flag flying from the hotel. The garrison had left during the night allowing the civilians to surrender the hotel that morning. DLS, and the group he was with made their way to a villa called Twinbrook which had been used as a Naafi Store and was full of supplies including chocolates and cigarettes. Colebrook recalls that the first thing DLS did was to get a razor and have a shave. The next morning, 24th December, they found the house was surrounded, the Japanese shouted out to them to surrender, they had no choice other than to comply. They were lucky because other troops captured in that area were killed either where found, or at Eucliffe, a house built like a castle at Repulse Bay, where many were held before being executed by firing squad or bayonets.
During the day on 22nd, Lt Col Macpherson decided to surrender the position at the Ridge which was now completely surrounded. The officers and senior NCOs were less willing to surrender and unhappy about the commanding officer's decision. House No. 5 occupied primarily by Canadian troops had been heavily mortared and the Canadian troops had gone outside to fight it out. Colonel Macpherson ordered a ceasefire and went out with a white flag, but was fired on. DLS hoisted the flag on a pole out of a window, but it was shot at. DLS left it dangling from the window. Macpherson ordered the front door to be opened at House No 1, as a further sign of their intent to surrender. During a lull in the firing Macpherson went out with the intention of hailing the Japanese. He was shot at and badly wounded in the leg. The Japanese were simply not willing to accept a surrender. When the Ridge was evacuated that evening, 22nd/23rd, the wounded including Macpherson remained behind and when the position was overrun by the Japanese the next morning (23rd December), the wounded were all put to death by bayonets and rifle butts.
In POW Camp DLS, a self-taught pianist was able to entertain his fellow prisoners and bring some light relief to what was a very brutal incarceration. There was a shortage of food and medicine. Prisoners of war suffered from malnutrition and from infectious diseases from which so many died. DLS remained in Sham Shui Po Camp until liberation in August 1945. He was repatriated to Canada where he was reunited with his wife Eve and his two daughters Jane and Susan, from whom he had been separated for so long. He returned to Hong Kong in May 1946, aged 54, and resumed his work as a solicitor and as the Senior Partner in Brutton & Co in Hong Kong. The family lived at Hillcrest on the Peak. His personal interests included philately and photography and he was very involved in charitable work. He was one time President of the Rotary Club, a Director of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Chairman of the Building Committee for the Grantham Hospital in Aberdeen, Chairman of the Street Sleepers' Shelter Society, and a member or advisor on several other such committees. In 1953 he was appointed Chevalier in the Order of Orange-Nassau for his services to the Dutch community in Hong Kong. He was legal adviser to the Dutch Consulate. DLS could trace his family origins to Poland and later to Holland before they migrated to England in the late 19th century. The SCMP photograph showing DLS wearing the insignia of the Order of Orange-Nassau captures Harry Penn in the background.
|DLS to mark his investiture in the order of Orange-Nassau|
|Harry Penn as an Infantry Officer in WW1|
The following year, on 24th June 1940, Rene, John and Patricia left UK to join Harry in Hong Kong, by this time the Suez Canal was closed, so they sailed across the Atlantic to Montreal on the SS Duchess of Bedford. They then went by rail to Vancouver with the intention of taking passage across the Pacific to Hong Kong. However, by the time they reached the west coast, the Compulsory Evacuation Ordinance had been issued. This required women and minor children, other than women employed in essential services, to evacuate Hong Kong. Those that were evacuated were sent first to Manila and then to Australia. As a result of the ordinance, they would not have been able to land in Hong Kong. The family, therefore remained in British Columbia still hoping to be able to return to Hong Kong at some later stage. Once the war started in the Pacific in December 1941, this became impossible, and the family moved to Toronto on the east coast, in the summer of 1942, hoping to find a passage back to the UK.
|Rene, John and Patricia Penn in Canada|
"Eastbourne broke up on 19th and my mother collected me. We eventually arrived back at Belmont Station late that evening, and were approached on a very dark platform by a man who said 'may I carry your bags madame' - AHP ! A complete stranger to me!"AHP's infantry company was in the thick of the action in the Battle for Hong Kong. Initially, his two infantry platoons and the Bren gun carrier platoon were deployed around Kai Tai airfield. The Bren gun carriers and Medium Machine Gun (MMG) sections were ordered to facilitate the withdrawal of the Royal Scots on the left flank of the Gin Drinkers Line following the decision to effect the military evacuation of the Mainland. After the withdrawal from the Mainland, AHP had one platoon deployed at Repulse Bay View and one platoon deployed to defend Sanatorium Gap. The carrier platoon was based at Windy Gap on the Shek-O Road. AHP established his Coy HQ at the Tai Tam Bungalow located on a knoll at Gauge Basin. On the night of the Japanese landings, AHP went up to Sanatorium Gap to join his No. 1 Platoon. The platoon had a section of men defending pillbox (PB) No. 45 on the north-facing slope of Mt Butler. The rest were located at the gap, forming a line running east to west. The platoon defending PB 45 and Sanatorium Gap ended up being in the path of two Japanese battalions. They were involved in a fierce firefight before being pushed back to Gauge Basin. The Japanese troops having overrun the defences continued straight up the path to the crest of Mount Parker. What was left off No. 1 Platoon formed a defensive line around the howitzer battery at Gauge Basin. In mid-morning on 19th December all troops in the eastern sector of the Island were ordered to withdraw to the Stanley Perimeter.
AHP's company was involved in the battle around Notting Hill, Red Hill and the Tai Tam X-Roads on 20th and 21st December. During a brigade counter-attack on the Tai Tam X-Roads on 21st December AHP was shot in the face whilst engaging enemy troops on Red Hill. He was taken to St Stephen's College Hospital at Stanley, but he discharged himself and re-joined No. 1 Coy. He discharged himself just before the massacre of patients and medical staff by Japanese soldiers which occurred on 25th December at St Stephen's College Hospital. He survived the period of brutal incarceration and stayed on in Hong Kong after liberation to get the Bank Line's Hong Kong office up and running. AHP was repatriated by air to UK flying in an RAF Dakota.
Following repatriation leave, demobilisation, and having spent some time at The Bank Line's Head Office in London, AHP and Rene returned to Hong Kong in 1946. In 1948 AHP became Chairman of the Hong Kong Club and Steward of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, a position he retained until he left Hong Kong in 1963. He enjoyed golf and captained the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club for two periods. He retired from The Bank Line in 1957, but stayed on in Hong Kong for a few more years, finally leaving for the UK in 1963. They settled at Effingham in the picturesque Surrey Hills. Harry passed away in 1972 and Rene in 1982. John Penn followed in his father's footsteps into the shipping business, and like Harry worked in Hong Kong for many years. John and Patricia currently live in Australia.