In December 1941, forty-three year old Scotsman, Archibald (Archie) Cook was employed as the captain of the Hong Kong-Canton steamer the SS Fatshan. He had been working on the China coast for some twenty years. He was married to Frances, an American from a missionary family who had been born in Shantung and spent much of her life in China. The family lived at Felix Villas near the intersection of Mount Davis Road and Victoria Road on Hong Kong Island. The outbreak of war in the Pacific would see the family split up. The three oldest children, Calvin (14), Luther (13) and Athene (10) were in Chefoo northern China where Frances's mother lived. The three youngest children, Clyde (6), Celene (5) and Van Dyke, still an infant born in 1941, were in Hong Kong. Frances and her three youngest children were interned at Stanley Camp. Archibald Cook had sailed his steamer up to Canton and was there when war began. His vessel was seized and he was placed under house arrest. The family survived the battle and were eventually reunited again in Lourenco Marques in August 1942. Their reunion was all too brief because Archibald Cook, a master mariner, was called back for sea-service in the South Pacific. This was at a time when merchant navy officers were in short supply. This is their story of war and separation on the China Coast against the backdrop of the Pacific War.
SS Fatshan plying the river route from Hong Kong to Canton (Source: Wikipedia)
"I went to meet the boarding party and stop any possible incidents. Our Indian anti-piracy guard of six Sikhs immediately threw a cordon around me. They were willing to give their lives, if necessary, to save me. I motioned them aside and told them not to interfere with the Japanese. The boarding party was led by a Naval Reserve officer, a former Nippon Yusan Kaisha (NYK) Captain of a merchant man." (1)
We had been repeatedly told we would not surrender, but fight street by street. We were also told by radio every day that the situation remained unchanged. The power station was latterly put out of action. There were no telephones or radios, but the news sheet was still printed and the news here was the same. The following day we saw the Japanese flag flying from the Peak.An old sea captain who returned to his home at Felix Villas told me in the internment camp... that at first he had managed to live without much interference but later armed Chinese looters came in hordes and he was forced to leave his home to them.Our neighbour Germaine returned on December 26 and later her body was found on the road and taken to hospital for identification. Her husband, who had just passed his final medical examinations in December, was killed at his post. Whether either knew the other was dead I do not know. They had been married about a year. (2)