Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Private Sir Edward Des Voeux

On this day, 19 December, seventy-eight years ago in 1941, Private Sir Edward Des Voeux was killed in action aged seventy-seven. Two things immediately come to mind. Firstly there is the juxtaposition of high title and low rank. He was a baronet, but he was serving with the militia as an ordinary soldier.  Secondly, one is surprised that at the age of seventy-seven, he was fighting in battle. He must have been the oldest combatant to die in the Battle of Hong Kong. To me, both these things are remarkable and worthy of our respect and admiration. Anybody who lives, or has lived in Hong Kong, will also be drawn to his name as they will be familiar with Des Voeux Road which was named after Sir George William Des Voeux, a former Governor of Hong Kong from 1887 to 1891.  Sir Edward was his nephew. 

Source: UKNA


Edward Des Voeux was the 8th Baronet of Indiaville, an Irish Baronetcy that had been created in 1787. The 1st Baronet, Sir Charles Des Voeux, had made his fortune in India. I assume that Indiaville was his country estate in Ireland. One can almost picture a rambling country house furnished with memorabilia from distant India. After Sir Edward was killed so gallantly during the Battle for Hong Kong the baronetcy passed to  Major William Richard Des Voeux who served with the Grenadier Guards. He was killed in action at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944 and left no progeny, and as a result,  the baronetcy became extinct. 
   Sir Edward, an exchange broker, succeeded to the baronetcy in 1937. His uncle, shown below, Sir  G. W.  Des Voeux,  the former Governor of Hong Kong, was the grandson of the 1st Baronet. 

Sir George William  Des Voeux, Governor of Hong Kong (1887-1891)
Sir Edward was born in India in 1864. It appears he never married. I have been unable to trace any photographs of him, and I know little of his life. On guided battlefield tours that I conduct, I  always mention his name and his death in battle when talking about the Hughes Group in action at the power station.  It seems we know more about his death than his life. He first appears on Jurors Lists in 1915 at the age of 51 at which time he was Secretary of the Hong Kong Club. He continues to give his occupation as Secretary of the club until 1921. From 1922 until 1925 he gave his occupation as an Exchange Broker. According to Alec Hutton-Pott's diary, he lived at Fan Ling, which was a popular location for European retirees with its large villas replete with gardens and close to the golf links. I assume that he lived in Hong Kong since 1915 when he first appeared on the list of jurors. I have no idea where he was before that, perhaps in India where the family first made their fortune, or perhaps in London. A search of old Hong Kong newspapers only comes up with references to the former  Governor (the 10th Governor of Hong Kong) and the road that bears his name. 
    Sir Edward joined a unit known as the Hughes Group, which was part of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC). Compulsory service had been introduced in 1939, under the terms of the ordinance British men between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five were required to enrol in the HKVDC or its naval counterpart (the HKRNVR) although some were categorised as being in Essential Services and were expected to remain in their civilian employment for the continued efficient functioning of the colony.
    The men serving with the Hughes Group had previous military experience, some having served in the First World War, some having served in the Boer War, but they were over the maximum combatant age limit of fifty-five. The Hughes Group was established to cater to these older soldiers who still had something to offer if only blood and courage. The unit was set up as a special guard to defend against sabotage by fifth columnists. On 18 December 1941, the Hughes Group were deployed to guard the Hong Kong Electric Company (HEC) power station at North Point. 
   The Japanese chose that night to effect a landing on Hong Kong Island. Three infantry regiments, each utilising two of their three battalions, landed on the northeast shore of the island. Two battalions of the 230th Infantry Regiment landed at and around North Point and the power station. The unit ended up unexpectedly in the front line of a fierce battle. The Hughes Group were named after their founder Arthur William Hughes of the Union Insurance Company of Canton. After A. W. Hughes was transferred to Australia, Major J. J. Paterson, the Taipan of Jardine Matheson, took command of the unit. The Second-in-Command was Captain R. T. Burch. The Hughes Group were known as the Hughesliers, and sometimes, less charitably, as the Methusaliers. They received training from NCO's drawn from the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots. In December 1941, the Hughes Group numbered 70 men, including four officers.  These were comprised as follows:


                                            Officers              Other Ranks
Hughes Group                         2                          14
HKE Staff                                                             22
China Light & Poer Staff                                      17
TaiKoo Engineering Staff                                       7
Free French contingent           2                            6   
                                                4                            66

Major Paterson recalled that after the Japanese occupied Kowloon, North Point came under heavy artillery fire. The pillbox (PB) in front of the power station in an area called McKay's Wharf had been knocked out by accurate shelling.  The Rajput crew occupied nearby alternative positions.  The PBs that had not already been put out of action became less effective once the Japanese had got ashore, and once they were able to get behind the PBs because their machinegun loopholes faced seaward. The intense artillery fire before the landings had cut telephone lines and the power station was out of communication with both battalion and brigade HQ. The military commander, Major-General Maltby, had no clear information about what was happening on the north shore. They underestimated the numbers of Japanese that had got ashore. During the night of 18/19 December, at least 8,000 Japanese troops including 6,000 infantry, had landed and moved inland and uphill to secure the high ground. The defenders on the north shore included three rifle companies from the 7th Rajput Regiment, one Canadian infantry company, the Hughes Group and Royal Artillery personnel. They amounted to at most 800 men. They were outnumbered by the invading Japanese by more than ten to one.
   The British commanders sent a mobile platoon from the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment's HQ located in the Causeway Bay/Happy Valley area to patrol along King's Road and establish the whereabouts of the Japanese. The mobile platoon in three trucks proceeded past the blazing Asiatic Petroleum Company storage tanks, and as they entered the road cutting by the power station, their trucks were hit by a Japanese anti-tank gun established on King's Road. The survivors, some of whom were wounded, joined the Hughes Group and the remnants of 'D' Coy  Rajput Regiment at the North Point power station.  Next, an armoured car was sent to patrol down King's Road and report on enemy positions and numbers. The vehicle was put out of action by the same anti-tank gun. The vehicle was disabled, and the driver was killed. The Armoured Car Platoon commander, Lt Mike Carruthers, who had joined the recce patrol made it back to British lines as did three other members of the crew including the vehicle commander, L/Cpl Harry Long, who was seriously injured. 
   During Thursday night and Friday morning, the defenders at the power station held off repeated Japanese attacks. They faced point-blank artillery fire from the high ground to the south of King's Road.  The bulk of the Japanese force had already moved uphill and followed a path known as Sir Cecil's Ride which led directly to Wong Nai Chung Gap. At around 1000 hours on Friday morning, a number of the Hughes Group together with a small group of civilians tried to extricate westwards from the power station towards Causeway Bay. However, the Japanese had picketed and surrounded the power station.  The escape party came under fire and faced bayonet charges. A number were killed, and others took shelter in nearby tenement blocks. Sir Edward was reportedly in the government stores area to the west of the power station. Sir Edward decided that rather than dashing out he would stay where he was and fight it out from there. He was reportedly killed by shrapnel from Japanese mortar fire. He died in action, in uniform, facing the enemy. He has no known grave. There was no next-of-kin to grieve for him. He is, however, one of the best-remembered not just because of his gallant action in battle, but because of his willingness to fight to the death notwithstanding age and frailty. 


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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Captain S. H. Batty-Smith


Captain Batty-Smith was aide-de-camp (ADC) to both Sir Geoffrey Northcote (1937-1941) and to Northcote's successor, Sir Mark Young,  as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Hong Kong. Sir Mark was Governor from September 1941 until his imprisonment by the Japanese on 25 December 1941. He resumed the role of Governor from 1946 to 1947. Captain Batty-Smith, moustachioed, booted and spurred, looks back at us from a dozen photographs where he is seen accompanying the Governor to formal events. 

HKVDC officers (Courtesy Susan Lange) 

In the photograph above, we can see Batty-Smith, in darker uniform with a riding crop in hand, seated on the left-hand side of the front row. Seated next to him is Lt-Col Black, he was the commanding officer at St Stephen's College Relief Hospital when the Japanese broke in and bayoneted patients in their beds, killing patients, medical orderlies, doctors and nurses. George Black, a long term resident of Hong Kong and in peacetime a well-known doctor in private practice, was one of the first to be cruelly put to death. One's eye is drawn to the officer ramrod-straight, wearing battledress, standing in the centre of the back row. This was Captain Cyril ('Potato') Jones, 2/RS a flamboyant officer who commanded 'A' Coy Royal Scots and who was blamed for the loss of the Shing Mun Redoubt. In front of Potato Jones, seated in the centre, is Lt-General Edward Felix Norton. At the time he was Acting Governor of Hong Kong in the absence of Sir Geoffrey Northcote who was on medical leave. Batty-Smith was accompanying Lt-General Norton. Norton was an accomplished mountaineer who had participated in the British Everest expeditions in 1922 and 1924.

1/Mx Guard of Honour (Source IWM)

In the photograph above, we see Batty-Smith looking towards the camera during the inspection of the guard of honour drawn from the Middlesex Regiment on the occasion of the departure of Sir Geoffrey in September 1941. 
   
Sir Mark Young with Brigadier Lawson (Source IWM)

In this photograph (above), we see Sir Mark Young talking with Brigadier Lawson and Captain Battty-Smith in the background. This photo was taken in November 1941, only a few weeks before the outbreak of war.  Captain Batty-Smith, born in October 1890, was fifty-one-years-old at the time. In 1909 he was an undergraduate at  Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. 
   Army records show him serving as a 2/Lt in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (The Loyals) in 1912. In 1913 he attended the Vickers Flying School and obtained an Aviator's Certificate. 


Photograph attached to Aviator Certificate (Courtesy Nigel Batty-Smith)


He fought on the Western Front in 1914. He was reported as missing in December 1914. In fact, he was wounded, captured, and became a Prisoner of War. He seems to have left the Army around 1922 and become a teacher. In 1937, he was reinstated in the rank of Captain from the Reserve of Officers and acted as ADC to Northcote. After the Christmas Day surrender and following a short period spent with other government officials in Prince's Building, Batty-Smith was interned at Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. 
   There is no record of Batty-Smith having ever married. There are some records of his having travelled with his mother, Lilian Emily Batty-Smith. In Stanley Camp, he shared a room in Block 2  (the former European Married Quarters) with Mrs Simon White, the wife of Lt Col Simon White, the commanding officer of the 2nd  Bn Royal Scots. Also in that room were three members of the Colonial Government, Henry Butters, Financial Secretary, John Deakin, the Custodian for Government House, and Ronald North, Secretary for Chinese Affairs.  
   John Stericker, writing in an unpublished manuscript entitled Captive Colony, held at the Special Collections Library HKU, describes Batty-Smith's POW experience in the last war.
As a prisoner of war in the First World War, his name will be found amongst those who took part in various exciting attempts to escape from certain prison camps in Germany about which several books have been written. (John Stericker)
Barbara Redwood wrote in her diary for 4 January 1945:
Captain Batty-Smith lectured in our room most interestingly on experiences in POW camp in Germany for almost four years in WW1 (Barbara Redwood)
One month later, on 12 February, Batty-Smith died aged only fifty-four.  He died following a cerebral haemorrhage.

The grave in Stanley Military Cemetery

His simple grave can still be seen in Stanley Military Cemetery. The inscription includes a line taken from Rupert Brooke's famous poem - The Soldier.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth, a richer dust concealed..... (Rupert Brooke)





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Addendum

The photograph below was taken from Diana Fortescue's The Survivors (2015), a family history centred on her parents, Tim and Margery Fortescue, who moved to Hong Kong just before the war. The photo is taken at St John's Cathedral on the occasion of their oldest son's christening. Standing behind Margery (wearing the floral dress) and Tim (in white suit) is Captain Batty-Smith. 

Captain Batty-Smith in civilian uniform (Courtesy: Diana Fortescue) 

The christening, held on 15 August 1941, was attended by the out-going Governor, Sir Geoffrey Northcote, the Colonial Secretary N. L. Smith and Captain Batty-Smith. Tim, a young Government Cadet officer was appointed as Assistant Private Secretary to the Governor on his arrival. He worked closely with these officials at Government House. Diana Fortescue's research also revealed that he attended Bradfield Collge along with several of his siblings. The school's roll of honour for those who died in WW1 lists Francis Clive Batty-Smith, and under WW2 lists Sydney Harry Batty-Smith.


Art Collection at Government House

The Chater Art Collection was bequeathed to the Hong Kong Government after the death of Sir Paul Chater (1846-1926). These were held at Government House. After the outbreak of war in December 1941, Sir Mark Young ordered that the paintings be listed and stored, some of these were stored in the basement and cellars of Government House.  These were discovered by Japanese troops during the occupation, perhaps when the Japanese rebuilt the main house. Some of the art was buried in the grounds of Government House. Three men were involved, these were Thomas Harmon, Furniture Inspector with Public Works Department, and Mr Von Kobza-nagy a Hungarian art expert and restorer, and the redoubtable Batty-Smith. The paintings were removed from their frames, and folded into metal tubes before being buried in the garden. Only these three men knew the location of the buried tubes. Batty-Smith (deceased 1945) and Harmon (deceased 1943) died in Stanley Camp and  Kobza-nagy died out of camp in 1944. The secret perished with them. Although a number of searches were made after the war the buried items were never recovered.



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Gallery

Hong Kong Daily Press 12 March 1941
Hong Kong Daily Telegraph 1 March 1941

Aviator certificate details


Acknowledgements:

Diana Fortescue
Nigel Batty-Smith

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Pillbox No. 22 - Beach Defence Unit

As part of preparations for the defence of Hong Kong, during the late 1930s and early 1940s, some seventy-two beach defence pillboxes were constructed around the shoreline of Hong Kong Island.  PB No. 1 was located at Sandy Bay and the PBs were numbered in ascending order in an anticlockwise direction from Sandy Bay to the shoreline below Mount Davis (PB No. 72). These first and last of these PBs can be seen in the pre-war map extract below.

The map shows PB 1 (First) and PB 72 (Last) of the littoral PBs
The red numbered squares on the map represent a beach defence PB. The unnumbered PBs (like those shown at the top of Mount Davis Road) are line-of-gap or other PBs but not beach defence units. Those that have not been coloured-in on the map (see the north shore) were uncompleted when the map was drawn up circa December 1939.
In December 1941, most of the beach defence PBs were manned by 1st Battalion Middlesex (1/Mx). The PBs on the northeast shore were manned by the Royal Scots (2/RS)  and then after the evacuation of Kowloon, they were manned by 5/7 Rajputs.  The PB shown below is No. 22 at Chung Hom Kok. 

PB 22

PB 22 from the beach

LL 22 (Lyon Light) 50 metres from PB 22

PB 22 relative to Lyon Light 22
In the photo, you can see the loopholes (firing apertures) and the steel shutters. Much of the stone cladding that gave it camouflage has come off, but some of it still remains around the loopholes and the commander's observation tower. Also visible are the spoked horizontal ventilation ducts on the roof. The vertical ventilation shaft is not visible. Rob Weir a former Flight Engineer with Cathay Pacific made an in-depth study of Hong Kong's wartime fixed defences when he lived in Hong Kong.  He is the go-to man for anything to do with Pillboxes, batteries and other defences. He has visited most of the extant PBs in Hong Kong.  I asked Rob whether most of the Island beach defence units were 2-loophole-type PBs. He wrote:
The majority of the known beach defence PBs were 2-loophole type (27), the second in number were 3-loophole (11), and there were also 4 loophole (3). I specify known because most of those along the northern edge of the Island, in the built-up area, are unknown, and there are no survivors. PB 59 on the Royal Navy Yard north arm was 4 loophole, but it was different in shape to all other known ones, and also had two Lyon Lights on the roof. PB 63 at the Vehicular Ferry appeared to be a 3-loophole type.
The 1939 map extract with military annotations shows PB 22 situated on the west side of Chung Hom Kok (then referred to as Chung Am Kok) facing Stanley Bay.

Map showing the location of PB 22
In December 1941,  PB 22 was manned by 'B' Coy 1/Mx under the command of Captain Weedon. The PB had a crew of 8 men under Sgt Robins. In addition to their two Vickers guns, they had one 0.45 Thompson sub-machine gun (TSMG), six .303 Lee Enfield rifles, two .455 Webley revolvers. They had 10,000 rounds of 303 ammunition and 750 tracer rounds. They had 1,000 rounds for the TSMG and 54 rounds for the two revolvers. They also had twelve hand grenades. (See weapons  inventory for 'B' Coy in Addendum below). 'B' Coy was responsible for PBs 21 (West Bay on Chung Am  Kok Beach) to PB 30 (Turtle Bay Beach at Red Hill).
   Each PB had a telephone with which it could contact other PBs and their Coy HQ. Most of the PBs had a single separate Lyon Light (searchlight) in a reinforced concrete structure normally within 50 metres of the PB. In some cases, the Lyon Light was on the roof of the PB, as below (PB 33a on Cape D'Aguilar).

PB 33a with ruined Lyon Light structure on the roof
The Lyon Light structure normally had a crew of two men. They were in contact with the PB by voice pipe. The searchlight was powered by a petrol engine. Cans of petrol and paraffin were stored in the PB. The paraffin was used for the hurricane lamps. These oil lamps would have provided a faint light, no doubt producing some fumes but the PBs were well ventilated. The searchlight structure also had a hurricane lamp. In the PB the men slept on canvas collapsible bunks with a metal tubular frame. Mosquito nets were available and mosquito veils and gloves were available for those on sentry duty. One single army blanket was issued for each bunk. Latrine buckets were provided as well as washing buckets. Drinking water was held in large  2-gallon and 4-gallon containers. Washing was done using seawater and saltwater soap was made available. Rations were delivered by truck from Coy HQ. The PBs had stores of kettles, spades, maps, prismatic compasses, binoculars, sandbags and other equipment.   
   A beach defence unit (BDU) was defined as the PB and its Lyon Light structure.  Each BDU would post two sentries at night, one outside the PB and one inside. The outside sentry was mainly expected to act as a shore watcher but also to keep watch on the landward side. At PB 17 on Repulse Bay  Beach sentries were killed by infiltrating Japanese.  The sentries were equipped with red and white  Verey gun cartridges. A red flare was fired if a suspected landing was taking place. The inside sentry would watch from the loopholes and would man the telephone. Lyon lights were not to be exposed - other than briefly except when landing craft were within the arc of the Medium Machine Guns (Vickers Guns).

Entry to Lyon Light structure at PB 14 at Brick Hill

Vickers mounting at PB 3 at WNC Gap

PB 17 buried at the back of  Repulse Bay Beach
In PB 21 you can see the metal frame of the collapsible bunks - they would have had a canvas base between the poles

PB 6 at Waterfall Bay the Lyon Light was in the tower to the left of the PB

Returning to PB 22:  After the Japanese effected a landing on 18 December and after East Brigade withdrew to the Stanley Perimeter, the crew of PBs 21, 22, 29 and 30 were redeployed to Stanley. PB 23 was moved to a new alternative position on a rocky promontory near Stanley Village. 'B' and 'D' Coy were combined into Middlesex Detachment with their HQ at St Stephen's Prep school. They took an active part in the brutal and close-quarter fighting during the Battle for Stanley.  Sgt George Robins was injured during shelling at Bungalow 1 near the Y-junction (which separates the 'Prison Road' from the 'Fort Road') at  Stanley Village.

Addendum


'B' Coy PBs - weapons inventory 


Pte William Beningield was stationed at PB 22 as per his son David Beningfield on FB 18 July 2020.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

No. 2 Battery, HKVDC during the Battle for Hong Kong - December 1941

No. 2 Battery, HKVDC, was mobilised on Sunday 7 December following the announcement of a State of Emergency triggered by Japanese troops having been observed massing in villages north of the border. This time it looked more serious, notwithstanding, that the threat of a Japanese invasion had been hanging over Hong Kong since Japanese troops first appeared on the border in 1938. On Sunday evening, at HKVDC HQ the battery mustered 3 officers and 61 Other Ranks on Sunday night. More reported the following week. In addition, there were assignments of personnel from and to the battery from other units. The battery was commanded by thirty-three-year-old Captain Douglas James Smyth Crozier, who in civilian life had been a teacher at the Central British School. His officers were Lt Henry Buxton and Lt Sydney Burt. Thirty-eight-year-old Lt Buxton was posted to No 4 Battery, at Pak Sha Wan, on 17 December to relieve Lt Sleap. No. 4 Battery had been under continual bombardment from 13 to 18 December. The Japanse landed close to the battery at Pak Sha Wan battery and Buxton was ambushed and killed while leading a party of gunners through Lye Mun Barracks. His wife, Alberta, was a volunteer military nurse. She was raped and killed by Japanese soldiers when they broke into the temporary hospital at St Stephen's College, Stanley. 
   No 2 Battery was equipped two 6-inch coastal defence guns located at Bluff Head on the southern extremity of Stanley Peninsula within the Stanley Fort compound. The battery formed part of Eastern Fire Command. The battery personnel arrived at Bluff Head at 1815 hours on Sunday evening 7 December, and by 1900 hours the guns were ready for action. At 0645 hours on Monday morning, they were informed that war with Japan had commenced. 

Battery Location
The Bluff Head 6-inch Battery was located on the southwestern end of the Stanley Peninsula. Stanley 9.2-inch Battery was located nearby on the southeastern end of the Peninsula. 

Pre-war map showing Bluff Head Battery

1945 - Aerial Photograph
The battery lies inside the Stanley Fort restricted area. The fort is now occupied by the Peoples Liberation Army. The modern map below shows one of the gun emplacements. The other may have been converted into the Signal Station but there is no other obvious sign of the second emplacement on the map.
Gun emplacement
Dennis Rollo, writing in The Guns and Gunners of Hong Kong (1991) stated that some of the battery buildings remain, but they were very overgrown and in a visit he made in 1991, he was unable to find either of the gun emplacements. 
   
The Battery in December 1941
The battery consisted of the two 6-inch naval guns in their concrete emplacements, a searchlight in a concrete emplacement and an Anti-Aircraft Lewis Gun position which were usually mounted in a circular concrete pit or firing bay. The ammunition consisted of 250 shells and 194 cartridges.  This was considered inadequate. As a coastal defence battery, most of their shells would be armour piercing suitable for use against surface vessels but less effective for landward shooting against infantry targets. 
   The Army Act was read out at the manning parade on Monday morning 8 December. In the afternoon Japanese aircraft were observed and an attack was made on British patrol vessels in the channel to the south of Stanley Peninsula. On 10 December slit trenches were dug around the battery to give protection against air raids or counterbattery fire. On 12 December the battery was augmented by HKVDC Corp Artillery HQ staff including BSM Arthur Gillard and CASM J. M. Jack and CAQMS  W. Hewitt.  This was in addition to BSM William Walker and BQMS Thomas Carr from No.  2 Battery.
   During the period before the Japanese landings, the battery was not involved in any shoots. They spent time improving their defences and camouflaging the gun emplacements. Efforts were made to obtain more ammunition from Belcher's Fort at Kennedy Town but to no avail. Partly because it was difficult getting transport provided from the Vehicle Collection Centre, partly because Belchers had been coming under heavy bombardment, but mainly because at about this time, on the night of 18/19 December, the Japanese landed on the Island. During the 18 and 19 December, there were heavy air raids on Stanley Fort. The Japanese aircraft being at high altitude were well out of range of the AALG.
   On 19 December the infantry, mobile artillery, and coastal defence batteries in the eastern sector of the Island were withdrawn to Stanley with the loss of all guns except one 3.7-inch howitzer successfully brought back to Stanley Fort from Tai Tam Fork Battery.  Major Watson, Commander of the HKVDC Artillery Corps was stationed with No. 2 Battery at Bluff Head. On 19 December he gave orders for any battery personnel in possession of a private car to assist in the evacuation of No. 1 Battery from their 4-inch coastal defence battery at Cape D'Aguilar. After the destruction of their guns, No. 1 Battery was ordered to standby and be ready to fight as infantry. The mobile artillery  (HKSRA) without their howitzers were sent to the front-line on the evening of 19 December and incurred very high casualties in counterattacking WNC Gap. On 19 December, an ammunition party supervised by Sgt George Sherriff was sent by truck from Bluff Head Battery to Belcher's Battery. The battery had been badly damaged from the sustained bombardment in that area. The ammunition party was only able to recover 14 cases of 6-inch cartridges. On this day, 2/Lt George Wilby, from No. 3 Battery, based on Aberdeen Island, was sent to Bluff Head on attachment. All leave was stopped from 19 December. James Bertram must have been one of the last to be granted leave.
Pinky Higgins and I piled into a red Fiat belonging to Carlos Arnulphy, who was French. It was typical of the international composition of Second Battery that the fourth member of the party should be Oleg Peresypkin, who with a Ukranian father, a Polish mother, and education by the Jesuits in Paris, yet remained Russian of the Russians. (Beneath the Shadow (1947) by James Bertram) 
The Battery went into action on 20 December when No. 2 Gun was ordered to fire at Japanese troops on Middle Spur. The battery incurred its first casualty when Gunner Berg was wounded during an air raid, and incurred its first fatality when Gunner France who had been reported missing was found dead. The war diary describes him as being accidentally killed but does not elaborate. Bertram was one of the burial party. 
We buried him down by the gates of the fort, where rough crosses were already sprouting in the sandy soil. Peri and I carried one end of the stretcher - how heavy he was, under a grey blanket with its rusty stain! An officer mumbled a brief field service while The Japanese howitzers began to open up from the hills. (Beneath the Shadow - James Bertram) 
On 21 December, the No. 2 Gun engaged targets on Violet Hill and the Twins. On 22 December they fired on  Japanese positions on the summit of Stanley Mound. Hits were observed by the Battery Observation Post. On 23 December the battery fired at Japanese troops who had reoccupied Stanley Mound. On 25 December, a  Japanese field gun located at Stanley View, the junction of Island Road and West Bay Road (now called Chung Hom Kok Road), was destroyed by the No. 2 Gun.
Second Battery had one brief chance to distinguish itself. Desperately operating the single gun that could be trained on a land position, and firing by gun control, we managed to knock out a Japanese field gun on the nearer foothills. (Beneath the Shadow - James Bertram)
On the night of 24 December, No 1 Battery was moved to St Stephen's College to man the Support Line (second line of defence ) situated some 500 metres behind the front line in Stanley Village.  Later that night, on 24/25 December, the Japanese attacked the front line in Stanley Village with light tanks and massed infantry. They eventually broke through the front line and attacked the support line, manned by No. 1 Battery, HKVDC, and the Middlesex Regiment. No. 1 Battery had a fatality rate of over 50 per cent during the early hours of Christmas Day. At 0015 on 25 December orders were given that all troops in No. 2 Battery, other than those required to man the guns, were to fight as infantry and take up positions on the newly created third line of defence. This was the last line of organised defence in front of Stanley Fort. The gunners from No. 2 Battery included James Bertram and were under the command of Lt Sydney Burt. The third line of defence consisted of trenches stretching east and west from Wong Ma Kok Road (also known as the Fort Road) from a position near the two pump houses. These two structures still remain. In one of these two pump houses, Major Robert Templer, commanding the third defence line had established his HQ. 
   James Bertram recalls going up the hill to the right of the road and finding a rocky parapet on the hillside which offered some protection. Here they mounted their Lewis gun with a line of sight over the college grounds, the prep school and St Stephen's Beach. They continued to man the trenches throughout Christmas Day. Bertram recalled seeing a party of HKSRA gunners trying to manhandle their guns from the open area outside the prison to the Fort Road. He witnessed the attack by 'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canda to try to recover the ridgeline including the three staff bungalows that had formed part of the second line of defence. During the day they had fired on Japanese troops around the prep school and at the staff bungalows. At 1800 hours on 25 December No. 2 Battery were relieved by the Royal Rifles of Canada. Hong Kong had already surrendered in the afternoon, but this information could not be relayed to Brigadier Wallis at Stanley because the telephone lines had been cut. Two staff officers had been sent to Stanley Fort to inform Brigadier Wallis that Sir Mark Young, the Commander-in-chief and Major-General Maltby, the military commander, had agreed to an unconditional surrender. On satisfying himself that the order to surrender was genuine, Brigadier  Wallis surrendered his command. No. 2 Battery lost two men killed in the fighting and a further ten died during the period of incarceration in Hong Kong and Japan.


List of Battery Personnel

No 2 BtyHKVDC
Ref:Last NameFirst NameService NoRankLocationDate of Death
ArnulphyCarlos4688GunnerNo 2 Battery
AssesserowWadin  Fedor3296BdrNo 2 Battery
AtwellKenneth  John4165GunnerNo 2 Battery
Baker-Carr D'Arcy5310SgtNo 2 Battery
BebbingtonNorman  James2664SgtNo 2 Battery
BergSvere4353GunnerNo 2 Battery
BertramJames5260GunnerNo 2 Battery
BlakeR  H4329GunnerNo 2 Battery
Bosman Albertus4981GunnerNo 2 Battery
BruceHugh DalrympleDR297GunnerNo 2 Battery
BurtSidney John GeorgeLtNo 2 Bty
BuxtonHenry  ThomasLtT/F to No 4 Bty18-Dec-41
CarrThomas William2611BQMSNo 2 Battery
ChengPo Yee5180GunnerNo 2 Battery
CherrillRichard Ingoldby4869GunnerNo 2 Battery
ChristensenJorgan Vibe4689GunnerNo 2 Battery
ChristensenNeils  Orskov 4354L-BdrNo 2 Battery18-Dec-42
CoatesWilliam (Bill)  George3837GunnerNo 2 Battery
CorraHenry H3491BdrNo 2 Battery
CoxheadGeoffrey S 4286GunnerNo 2 Battery
CrozierDouglas James  S CaptC.O. No 2  Battery (Bluff Head)
Currie Albert  Victor4497GunnerNo 2 Battery
DavreuxGeorge  Maurice4718GunnerNo 2 Battery
DeaneBarry O'Meare3310GunnerNo 2 Battery
DodwellMichael Carr4856GunnerNo 2 Battery15-May-44
DreyerHolger4355GunnerNo 2 Battery
DybdahlPer ("Happy")5283GunnerNo 2 Battery
EllisonEdward4832GunnerNo 2 Battery
FergusonJohn  Steven3181GunnerNo 2 Battery25-Nov-42
France Norman HooleGunnerNo 2 Battery20-Dec-41
GardnerAubrey  George 3317GunnerNo 2 Battery
GauntJohn Arthur4664GunnerNo 2 Battery4-Jan-44
Gill  Antonio Herculano3564PteNo 2 Battery
GouldTrevor  Jack4633GunnerNo 2 Battery
GundesenJacob C A4823GunnerNo 2 Battery
HarropGordon4754GunnerNo 2 Battery
Hart-DavisJohn  Anthony Vivian4315L-BdrNo 2 Battery
HigginsJames Joseph  ("Pinky")3111BdrNo 2 Battery21-Feb-43
HoustonThomas  Jackson3051GunnerNo 2 Battery4-Dec-42
Howell Ian Harrington5311GunnerNo 2 Battery
HuttemeirErik  Edvard4356GunnerNo 2 Battery
JonesJ  G4991GunnerNo 2 Battery
KhorSuan  Sin5187GunnerNo 2 Battery
KingThomas  Henry2953GunnerNo 2 Battery
Lam  Yun JaakGunnerNo 2 Battery
Lee Chun Chung 3423GunnerNo 2 Battery
LloydNorman Duplan 2969SgtNo 2 Battery25-Apr-42
Lloyd-JonesEdward4184GunnerNo 2 Battery
LongWilliam Garland 4045L-BdrNo 2 Battery
LowThomas Buchanan4287GunnerNo 2 Battery
MabbArchibald4370L/BdrNo 2 Battery
MacfaydenAlbert  James2051SgtNo 2 Battery
MartonOliver   Egerton 3648L-BdrNo 2 Battery
Mathieu Pierre Benjamin 4681GunnerNo 2 Battery27-Aug-43
MaughanStanley Lawrence4717GunnerNo 2 Battery
Mok  Kah KeeNo 2 Battery
MosesErnest Steinberg 1324SgtNo 2 Battery
NaessE R Berger4527GunnerNo 2 Battery
Nguyen Louis 5128GunnerNo 2 Battery
O’ConnorWilliam3437BdrNo 2 Battery
OliverGastin  Henry3466GunnerNo 2 Battery
PeakerArthur James3086BdrNo 2 Battery
PeresypkinOleg P4344GunnerNo 2 Battery
PullenWilliam  PDR 284GunnerNo 2 Battery
Quie J L Asst QMNo 2 Battery
ReynoldsJames4419GunnerNo 2 Battery
Riertsen, Ragndald 4360GunnerNo 2 Battery
RoseHenley  Hembdon2667BSMNo 2 Battery
RossGeorge  Ronald DR 67GunnerNo 2 Battery
SherriffGeorge H2948SgtNo 2 Battery
SmebyNils M4316GunnerNo 2 Battery
SoleckiJan5222GunnerNo 2 Battery
TomesKarl  J4369GunnerNo 2 Battery
WalkerWilliam  Laird2691BSMNo 2 Battery3-Mar-44
Wan Hok Nin 5223GunnerNo 2 Battery
WebbRobert  Leslie3539GunnerNo 2 Battery
WeilLeonard  (Leo)3688GnrNo 2 Battery27-Apr-44
WilbyGeorge2/LtT/F from No 3 Bty
WilliamsonHarry NormDR 113GunnerNo 2 Battery
Wong Choy PakNo 2 Battery
YaholkovskyGeorge5227GunnerNo 2 Battery


N.B.  (1) BSM Gillard, CASM Jack and CAQMS Hewitt were assigned to the battery from Corps
               Artillery HQ.
          (2) 2/Lt George Wilby was assigned from No. 3 Battery to No. 2 Battery on 19 December.
          (3) Lt Buxton was assigned to No. 4 Battery on 17 December.

Key

Officers and Volunteers KIA or DoW
POW at Surrender of Japanese
Released by Japanese 
Did not enter Camp or escaped