In my last post I wrote about some of the excellent work done by the Red Cross in Stanley– work that Thomas and some of the other internees either weren’t fully aware of, or discounted. I think that one of the best ways of appreciating the value of this organisation is to look at the statistics for deaths in Shamshuipo (the POW Camp in Kowloonwhere both professional soldiers and members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force were interned).
The three months April-June 1942 saw only 6 deaths in all, but in July the effects of malnutrition began to show, as weakened bodies were not able to resist disease and further deprivation: 21 men died in that month, 28 in August, 38 in September and 52 in October. In November the Camp received Red Cross supplies and the effect was immediate: only 26 men died in that month, falling to 19 in December, 7 in January 1943, and 1 each in February, March and April. There were no deaths in May and July with just one in June – which I would guess is a more or less normal peace time mortality rate.
These figures are testament to a remarkably effective intervention, even when we bear in mind that conditions in Shamshuipo improved generally in 1943.
Major Victor Ebbage, whose recently published typescript is the source of these figures, sums up justly:
Indeed, we are all so deeply indebted to the Red Cross that no action of ours can ever repay. (191)
Source: Major Victor Stanley Ebbage (edited by Andrew Robertshaw), The Hard Way: Surviving Shamshuipo POW Camp 1941-45, 2011