Brian didn’t become really interested in Stanley until after a trip to Hong Kong in 1996 during which he made many visits to the Military Cemetery and was allowed by the School authorities to wander round the grounds of St. Stephen’s Preparatory School. He tried to get into the Prison, and a friendly guard at the barrier gave him a number he could ring to ask permission. He made the call from the nearby phone booth, and the understandably baffled staff of the Prisons Department passed him on from one person to another until his money ran out.
When he returned to England, he was eager to find out as much as he could about Evelina’s experiences. By this time she was not a good ‘witness’: she couldn’t remember very much – she was in her mid eighties – but didn’t like to say so, preferring to answer inaccurately rather than admit ignorance. But one day Brian knew she was telling the truth. He’d been reading about the way some internees kept up their spirits by making plans for their life once they were freed from Stanley:
What did you and dad plan to do after the war?
Evelina’s answer was quiet, matter-of-fact but not without emotion:
We never made any plans. Your dad was friendly with one of the Formosan guards. He told him that the Japanese were going to shoot all the internees the day the Allies landed on Japanese soil.
So you never thought you’d leave Stanley?
No. We expected to die.
Evelina and Thomas always believed that their lives were saved by the Atomic bomb. Many of their fellow POWs and internees felt the same: the belief in a final massacre was widespread in all the Asian Camps. Some thought, like Evelina and Thomas, it would come the day that the Allies landed on the main Japanese islands. Not only would the Japanese want revenge for this violation, but they would almost certainly want to bring all their soldiers back to defend the homeland. Shooting their prisoners would make emotional and practical sense. Others felt that the danger would come when the Allies attacked the country or the area of their imprisonment. With every soldier needed to try to beat off the assault, why would the Japanese waste manpower guarding their enemies? Or food feeding them?
No-one who had been their prisoner for four years had any doubts that they were capable of such a massacre.
Perhaps the best thing to do was to be like Evelina and Thomas and resign yourself to death.