John, Barbara and Maureen Fox

Another of the five people marked ‘probably S. D.’[1] on the British Army Aid Group list of those living at the French Hospital in December 1942,is John Alexander Fox, 33 years old in 1945,[2] the only one of this group to have his wife with him – if the list is accurate in this respect, which is not certain as it leaves out Evelina, who after her marriage on June 29, 1942 was a British citizen and living in the Hospital.  Mrs. Fox’s full name was Barbara Bridget Fox (30 in 1945).

Mr. Fox’s job is given as civil servant with the Hong Kong Government According to Greg Leck’s Stanley Roll[3] they had a daughter in camp, who was born in January 1945 and died in August 1945. This is wrong. Happily she did not die in Camp but lived for many years after, becoming a midwife and an active Rotarian![6]  What little I can add to these bald facts about the Fox family comes from an online article by Maureen on a Rotary Club website (published in 2011).[7]

John Alexander Fox came originally from Raphoe, in County Donegal, the smallest cathedral city in Europe. I know nothing about his pre-war experiences in Hong Kong, or of what happened to him in the war before his appearance on the British Army Aid Group list of uninterned Allied citizens. Maureen Fox tells us that her father was in ‘the Colonial Service’, and, as he’s also listed as a Civil Servant, it could be that he did not work for the pre-war Sanitation Department but nevertheless had some kind of public health related expertise that was required under occupation conditions.

After his period living in the French Hospital, he and his wife were sent into Stanley, probably on May 7, 1943.[8] They shared room D1 with Thomas and Evelina. Mrs. Fox became pregnant a year or so later:

When my mother was pregnant and while feeding me, my father gave her half of his daily ration.

What this means can best be understood by describing a typical day’s ration from 1944: about 12 ounces of rice, an ounce or so of fish, 0.4 ounces of peanut oil, a slice or rice bread perhaps, and meagre monthly issues of beans, sugar, tea, salt and curry powder.[9] The sacrifice involved in giving up half of such a starvation diet can only be imagined.

As to the ‘war after’, it’s a familiar story:[10]

(M)y parents seldom spoke of these three dreadful years.

The family was deeply rooted in Hong Kong, as Maureen Fox was the fifth generation to be brought up there. There are many people named Fox buried in Hong Kong cemeteries,[11] but I don’t know which ones were relatives.

Maureen Fox made her career in nursing, specializing in midwifery. She trained at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and worked in the nursing service for many years, retiring in 2000. Of her ‘happy years’ at the RVH she writes:

My closest friends today are the colleagues from those years in the “Royal”. They provided me with the “family” that I didn’t have in this country as my parents and relatives were in Hong Kong.

 She married an Ulsterman – becoming Maureen Magowan – and moved to Limavady in County Londonderry in 1968. She continued to visit family and friends in Hong Kong, but Limavady became her home. As well fulfilling as her professional duties, she held several positions in the Rotary Club: for a photograph of her at work for Rotary see http://ballycastlerotary.blogspot.co.uk/2012_05_01_archive.html and http://www.limavadyrotary.org/gallery.aspx


[1] Sanitation Department.

[2] Full names and ages in 1945 from Greg Leck, Captives of Empire, 2006, 626.

[3] Leck’s source is unclear but my guess is that it’s compiled from a number of documents in the National Archives.

[9] John Stericker, A Tear for the Dragon, 1958, 169. Other sources give even lower figures: e.g. the Jones diary for July 11, 1944 reads Veg (nil food value) 8.5oz per head daily.

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One response to “John, Barbara and Maureen Fox

  1. Pingback: Early Days in the French Hospital: The Evidence of Staff-Sergeant Patrick Sheridan | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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