Thomas Edgar: Some Documentation

In the previous post I wrote about my father’s experiences as a baker in wartime Hong Kong. This post presents some more documentation of that period.

Firstly, I found in my father’s archive a tattered and decaying copy of what would now be called an advertorial  for the firm he worked for, Lane Crawford, placed in The Hong Kong Telegraph of November 26, 1938. It’s too big to scan easily so I’ve divided it into 6 parts (1-2-3 goes down the page, a-b-c goes across). What I’m particularly interested in is that in scan 3b you can see the words Exchange Building clearly there in the original – this is where my father was shown films by the humane Japanese oficer, Captain Tanaka (see my original post, and the further discussion on the  Gwulo Website:

http://gwulo.com/node/9038?page=0#comment-18795)

1a

1b

2a

2b

3a

3b

Secondly, here are three photos of bakeries from his archive. They don’t seem like the Stubbs Rd. bakery; it’s possible they’re the old Lane Crawford Burrows Street premises, but it’s just as likley they’re of a Chinese bakery my father visited:

 

 

 

Thirdly, here’s a letter sent by the repatriated American Mr. Charles Winter to Thomas’s parents:

And here’s an article from his family’s local paper, the Windsor and Eton Express, which contains the same information and is a little easier to read. According to David Tett (Captives in Cathay, 2007, 144) letters sent from Hong Kong via the Gripsholm arrived in New York on August 5, 1942 and were then sent on to the UK; one letter he’s examined received a British postmark on October 12. The article on the Royal Berkshire’s Christmas away from home that’s visible in the cutting suggests a date in late November or early December; if so, it was just over six weeks before the paper were contacted with (or got to hear about) the news from Hong Kong.

Fourthly, here’s Thomas’s article in The British Baker. He’s wrongly called ‘E’ Edgar and the title is neither a quote nor an accurate representation of what he says. Sensationalism and inaccuracy aren’t confined to today’s tabloids! 

 

There’s an alternative version of this article with more about baking in Stanley amongst his papers:

Alternative unpublished version of ‘We Baked Bread to Japanese Orders’

 Typescript:

 Prior to the outbreak of the Far Eastern War I was working with Dr. G. A. C. Herklots in producing a cheap siege biscuit that would contain the essential Vitamin (sic), would keep at least one year and be palatable to the Chinese and European population. In this we were very successful in that the biscuits when we came out of Stanley Internment Camp in 1945 were in excellent condition and 2 * ½ oz. biscuits contained enough B.1, B.2, Iron and Roughage for one day.  On the outbreak of war I was made Deputy Supplies Officer Bakeries, which actually meant that all bakeries in Hong Kong and Kowlooncame under my jurisdiction. After a few days I also took over the R. A. S. C. Bakery. My own firm {Brian’s note: Lane Crawford} were already responsible for the Navy bread, having held the Navy contract for (I think) over 75 years. Up till 21st December my firm’s bakery produced over 20,000-lbs. bread daily. The Japanese having landed on the Island of Hong Kong on the night if 18th December by the 21st December had made our bakery untenable. They had also taken the Power Station, thereby cutting off all electricity and water. I then decided to open five smaller bakeries and decentralize. I had already stocked various bakeries with wood, flour and hops (Yeast would not keep out of a refrigerator in such a hot climate). The Fire Brigade delivered water to the bakeries twice a day in a fire float. After the surrender on Christmas Day 1941 we were interned in Exchange Building.

 We received permission on 8th. January 1942 to produce bread for the hospitals. Later on we were interned in the French Convent (sic – in fact the French Hospital) and as we had plenty of rice I got a dealer to grind some on a Chinese Stone Mill and added ground rice up to 60% of the flour. The yeastw e were using was made by boiling 1g hops in 1 gallon of water for forty minutes then adding the mixture to 1-lb. flour that had already been slackened down  with cold water. This we kept going for about two years until our stock of hops ran out. Then we made quite a good yeast from sweet potatoes using the same method only using 1-lb sweet potatoes instead of 1g hops. We obtained the best results by using 60% of the rice flour and 20% of the wheat flour and 33% of the slat in a sponge.

 When we were interned in Stanley the flour ration was 4.22 oz. per person. We made 4 –ozs. Into bread, the remainder being used for kitchen work. We made straight Doughs (sic) until the flour was about 9-12 months old. After this the doughs used to go slack over night so I started using the sponge principle using 1/8 of the flour in the sponge and once again produced quite a good loaf. After the flour was two years old when the flour was added in the morning we had to mould it straight away as the dough used to crack and have a sour appearance. We could not cut down our sponge time as we had to be in our rooms before 8pm. and we could not leave them till 8am.

 We produced bread until 29 January 1944. Then all flour, meat and fish to the camp finished. We made for Christmas 1945 (sic) and 1st January a loaf for the people from an emergency stock that the Camp had managed to save. This flour was then nearly four years old. The wastage, weevils etc. was 3-5%. The Australian flour had kept a lot better than the American flour and the wastage was lower. The colour of the dough and bread being greyish and even in a very hot oven we had difficulty getting colour on the crust. At one time we managed to obtain rice polishings which we added to the bread at the rate of 1/8 oz. to 4 oz. flour. From time to time we managed to get maize and Soya beans which we roasted and added to the dough, obtaining the best results by using ¼ oz. to 4 oz. flour.

 Because of the poor food the health of the Camp generally was steadily getting worse and people started suffering from all sorts of minor ailments, one trouble being “CampEyes”. Again in conjunction with Dr. Herklots we experimented with six cases giving them doses of 2-oz. yeast (Hop) daily and in every case they showed an improvement. Thereafter 1-oz. yeast became a daily issue to the Camp.

 The last oven that we built I tried to make on the Hot Air principle, and although we had no cement, the top of the firebox being a manhole cover and the bottom of the oven roof tiles, our wood consumption was 6-ozs. for every 1-lb. of bread.

 After flour finished in the Camp we made a substitute bread from rice flour (ground in the Camp on Stone Mills). Although not very good it was better than nothing at all.

 Fifthly, here are two letters he sent home soon after the war came to an end:

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Filed under Hong Kong, Hong Kong WW11, Stanley Camp

22 responses to “Thomas Edgar: Some Documentation

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  20. Pingback: The Lane, Crawford Bakery In Stubbs Road (1): Before the War | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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  22. Pingback: Charles ‘Chuck’ Winter | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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