Monthly Archives: March 2012

Alexander Christie Sinton

A number of people have surfed into my blog seeking information about Alexander Christie Sinton, so here’s the little I know.

He was born in Edinburgh on December 3, 1897.[1]  He served throughout WWI in the navy, and then on the Russian expedition in support of the anti-communist forces. This led to the was award of  the Distinguished Service Medal in November,1919 for an action or actions (unknown) during his service as a signalman with the Altham Flotilla; here’s the citation:

Sig. Alexander Christie Sinton, O.N. J25874 (Dev.)[2]

That Dev means he was based in Devonport (Devon). The Altham Flotilla was a collection of naval vessels that took part in the British intervention in Russia.[3] The DSM is awarded ‘for bravery and resourcefulness on active service at sea’.[4]

He married Lilian Frost in Manchester on November 2, 1932 (she’d been born in that city on February 12, 1915).

His work after WW1 is unknown, but it probably involved public health: there’s a reference to him of some kind in the Journal of the Royal Institute of Sanitation of 1928.[5] He’s located at Sham Shui, probably the Kowloon district of Shamshuipo, suggesting he was in Hong Kong well before 1941.  Mr. Sinton was one of about 150 Allied men, women and children who were allowed by the Japanese to stay out of Stanley Camp and live uninterned in town. During his time in occupied Hong Kong he was attached to the Health Section of the Japanese Governor-General’s[6] Department.

He was one of those courageous people who undertook highly risky activities on behalf of the resistance organisation, the British Army Aid Group. He almost certainly carried out a number of acts, but the one thing that I know for certian is that he arranged for a Chinese man called Leung Hung, who drove the ration truck Stanley, to carry 20 secret messages.[7]

He was arrested at the French Hospital, on May 2, 1943. Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, who was effectively his boss, was taken into custody at 5 a.m. and, according to one BAAG report, Mr. Sinton followed at about noon. I’ve discussed the events of that day in detail in another post;

https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/the-french-hospital-arrests-a-synthesis-of-sources/

May was the month when most BAAG agents outside Stanley Camp were rounded up.  On June 28 the arrests reached Stanley,[8] including two people at the Camp end of Mr. Sinton’s message smuggling network.

On June 29 a group of the men arrested the day before were sent to ‘G’ Block in Stanley Prison. One of them, William Anderson, was able to communicate by sign-language and tapping both with Mr. Sinton and Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, who were in cells close by.  Mr. Anderson saw him being slapped by the Chinese guard Sar Yuen Chi when he complained of being ill.[9]

Most of these prisoners were tried on October 9, 1943. Mr. Sinton was in the first group along with 26 others. He was asked by the public prosecutor, Kogi:

Why did you send a chit into Stanley camp for Bradley[10] with the coolie on the ration lorry?

Mr. Sinton replied:

Because if I sent it through the Japanese official channels it would take six weeks to get there and a further six weeks to get a reply. Since these chits dealt with essential drugs, etc. for camp use speed was necessary. I had a reply within 24 hours through the ration lorry coolies.

To which Kogi yelled:

Nevertheless, you fooled the Gendarmes. You are guilty. Next one.[11]

Mr. Sinton was one of those sentenced to death, and he was executed on Stanley Beach alongside 32 others on October 29, 1943.  He’s buried in Stanley Military Cemetery, and the tombstone describes him as a Sergeant-Major in the BAAG.[12] To the best of my knowledge, none of the other Hong Kong civilians have this rank recorded, so this suggests a degree of seniority. His wife, Lilian, is described as from ‘Brighton,Victoria’ on his memorial – which probably means she was evacuated to Australia in 1940.

That’s all I’ve been able to find out about this courageous man.  I hope that in due course I’ll learn more.

Update:

Just after finishing this post I clicked on to Tony Banham’s excellent Hong Kong War Diary site, and co-incidentally the March news gives us a little more information about A. C.  Sinton’s resistance work. It’s provided by Lawrence Tsui, who tells us that Mr. Sinton was part of ‘Group M’:

Group M had several non-Chinese affiliates: W. J. White (age 40, Portuguese) & A. C. Sinton (age 48) who worked at the Public Health Department. They used the Ration Truck & Coolie Leung Hung (Age 31) to pass messages to Stanley Internment camp. They were also connected to C.F. Hyde & Luis Souza & others of HK Bank who were not interned and doing HK Bank liquidation work.”  He went on to describe how Group M was accidentally discovered after a communication with the British Consul in Macau.

http://www.hongkongwardiary.com/

This seems to confirm my suggestion that Mr. Sinton was involved in a lot more than passing messages to Stanley, as Charles Hyde, the subject of a forthcoming post, was one of the most active and wide-ranging agents in Hong Kong.

Second Update:

Ruth Sale has kindly informed me that Mr. Sinton took an Inspectors of Meat and Other Foods exam in Leeds in June 1937 alongside her father Leslie Macey. Both men are listed on the certificate as living in Hong Kong, and both men ended up living in the French Hospital.


[1] Information from Captain W. A. Sinton in a comment on another post on this blog. The same source also kindly provided information about Lilian Sinton. See also http://www.bob-sinton.com/ft_main.php?rin=1760e

[6] Thus in Lindsay: I’ve also seen it called the Government-General’s Department.

[7] Oliver Lindsay At the Going Down of the Sun, 121.

[9] George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 170; 176.

[10] F. W. Bradley, a former public health inspector, worked in the canteen and was also part of the ration truck message network.

[11] Wright-Nooth, 181.

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Thomas’s Work (3): Outside Stanley

In  the early evening of December 25, 1941 Thomas and many of his fellow Lane, Crawford employees assembled at the Exchange Building, the company headquarters in Des Voeux Rd. The Japanese took over Hong Kong the next day; control of the Exchange Building was assigned to Captain Tanaka, who treated those interned there well.[1] Nevertheless, no Allied citizen was allowed in or out of the building in late December and early January.[2]

On January 4/January 5, 1942 enemy civilians were summoned by the Japanese to present themselves at the Murray Barracks Parade Ground in Victoria(now Central). From there they were taken off to hotel-brothels on the waterfront and interned there while their long-term future was decided. Thomas was one of those exempted from this process; he stayed a prisoner in the Exchange Building. It’s possible  that already on January 4/5 someone had the idea of keeping him out long term to make use of his skills as a baker. If so, perhaps the Colony’s former Medical Director, Dr. Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, who was one of those allowed to carry on his work outside Stanley, was involved – we know he was in contact with Captain Tanaka at about this time,[3] and he was indefatigable in identifying needs and putting in place plans to meet them. However, as the Telephone Company workers also seem to have been kept in Exchange House at this time, it’s more likely that there’s some other explanation.

Bread for the Hospitals

But all that we know for certain is that on January 9 Tanaka gave permission to resume the baking of bread for the hospitals, and, as Lane, Crawford’s Stubbs Rd. Bakery had been taken over by the Japanese, Thomas opened the Green Dragon Bakery at 93, Queen’s Rd. East, Wanchai, in his opinion the biggest and best of the Chinese owned bakeries. Whatever the exact sequence of events leading to this development, Thomas firmly credited Tanaka with allowing the hospitals to receive bread.[4]

Chinese workers at an unknown bakery

 Production was 590 lb. of bread per day, and later this was increased to 3,000 lbs. per day. According to Thomas, at first, the bread was mainly for ‘emergency hospitals in the Hong Kong Hotel’. My guess is that these would have been shut down as quickly as possible, as the Japanese made full use of the main hotels for their own purposes. If I’m right, Thomas would soon have been baking for other hospitals and, until May 1942, for Stanley Camp (see below). In his escape statement, RASC baker Staff-Sergeant Sheridan mentions the Bowen Rd. Military Hospital and ‘a few other civilian hospitals’ as well as the Hong Kong Hotel civilian hospital.

On February 8, 1942 Thomas and the Volunteer (Drivers) Unit (see below) were moved to the French Hospital.[5] Later that year a British Army Aid Group document records him as living at the French Hospital with two other bakers: Hammond and Peacock.[6] Hammond, who was  a soldier passing for a civilian, had worked with Thomas during the fighting,[7] but all I know about Peacock is that his first name was Serge (Greg Leck’s Stanley Roll in Captives of Empire so lists him) and that Sheridan described him as a ‘confectioner’ and ‘pastry cook’.

At about the time he was moved, the supply of yeast allowed by Captain Tanaka ran out, so they asked the Medical Department to buy a supply, and from this made yeast, using about one gallon of water to an ounce of hops.[8] Soon flour became a problem, especially as by this time they were baking for the internees in Stanley camp as well: the flour issue grew less every day, and there was an urgent need to find a way to bake bread with less flour. The answer lay in the fortunate fact that the French Hospital had been a Government war time rice depot:[9]

(A)s 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.[10]

 This bread – 60% rice, 40% flour – didn’t taste bad, as we shall see later. The account in the British Baker article adds that the type used was ‘red rice’, and that this method enabled enough bread to be baked for each internee to get a slice of approximately one ounce per day.

Thomas describes the method used to grow the yeast:

The yeast we 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.

 However, in the already harsh conditions of early 1944, when Thomas had been in Stanley for about 9 months, the hop supply ran out:

 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.[11]

The bakers used 13-15 hours straight doughs because they had to be back in their quarters by 6 p.m. and weren’t allowed out until 7 a.m. the next morning. They would prepare the mixture in the last part of the day, leaving it overnight and then finish their work in the morning:[12]

This produced a loaf that was very short and crumbly and took quite a good heat to colour; in the Hong Kong climate it soon went mouldy, but served its purpose as everybody got a little which would otherwise have been impossible.[13]

Bread for Stanley

Geoffrey Emerson, basing himself on Camp Secretary John Stericker’s manuscript Captive Colony, tells us that there was a flour issue in Camp from the early days, but that baking bread was not possible because of the absence of yeast. He adds that the flour issue was increased in April.[14] This means that from January 21, when most internees were sent to Stanley, to some time in April, the bread baked in the Qing Loong bakery was either the only bread in Camp or at least the only bread available in any quantity.

In fact, it would seem that bread was sent to the internees in the period (January 5-January 21 for the majority) when they were confined in the hotel-brothels on the waterfront before it was decided to send them to Stanley: Barbara Anslow recorded in her diary for January 12:

Medical Dept (?) have started to send bread daily – one slice each with butter or jam.[15]

 AndJohn Stericker credits Selwyn-Clarke with getting ‘bread and other supplies into these ghastly hotels’.[16]

 Writing much later, Barbara Anslow also remembered the bread that was eventually sent into the Camp:

How welcome was the meagre bread ration we received in Stanley in the early days.   It used to be delivered to the hospital office where I worked, and the doughy SMELL was like a meal itself.[17]

Escaped internee Gwen Priestwood mentioned this bread in her account of her short time in Stanley:

At this time Dr. Selwyn-Clark (sic), director of Civilian Medical Services, managed to get us a ration of bread, and the small piece each of us received tasted – to me anyway – better than cake.[18]

My guess is that she was right and the whole enterprise of the bakers remaining outside Stanley and sending in one slice per internee every day was due to Selwyn-Clarke. As the bulk of the bread went to the hospitals, and Thomas gives the figure of 2,515 Stanleyites[19] to provide for, this means that either the patients got more than a slice each or that there were a lot of them.

As to it tasting ‘better than cake’: we must remember that many internees report real difficulties in switching to a rice diet. Some regarded it contemptuously as ‘coolie food’ but even many of those with no such prejudices seem to have disliked rice and found it difficult to digest. The familiar taste of bread was important to the internees. Camp Secretary John Stericker:

The Japanese supplied us with limited rations each day….Above all, there was some bread. This enthusiasm regarding the latter will not appear so strange when it is realised that we came to the stage at which all meat, bread, and electricity ceased until the end of the war.[20]

Both the bread supply and the distribution of flour in Camp were not always reliable in these first months.  Wright-Nooth attests to the ‘scarce and erratic’ nature of the flour deliveries,[21] and it is not surprising given the difficult conditions of distribution reported by Gwen Dew (above); Thomas is probably describing this early period when he writes about the problems involved in production:

At this period, before the baking was properly organised, we were often reduced to our last bag of flour and last pound of firewood or we ran out of hops. If it had not been for the loyalty of Qing Loong’s staff, we could never have produced bread regularly. Later the volunteer unit managed to get permission for the regular supply of materials.

Barbara Anslow’s diary for Friday, January 16, 1942, reads:

No bread supplied today, but Tony had some and shared it.

 Fellow diarist R. E. Jones reports on Wednesday, January 28:

 Got bread for two days and it is as much as we had for one day yesterday.

And on Tuesday, February 24 he noted that an extra bread ration was received, whereas a month later on March 24 there was no bread at all, and the next day it was ‘rye bread’.  April 7 was another breadless day.

Repatriated American  Marion Dudley attests to both the erratic supply of the bread and the low quality of the materials that the bakers were sometimes forced to work with:

Tiny half slices of bread came from town spasmodically, sometimes whiskered with mould.

(Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Years, 1982, 35.)

However, the Maryknoll Fathers (also American) seem to have had a more regular bread supply, recording in their diary entry for April 13, 1942:

The quality of our food seems to have increased slightly but the quantity is still meager. Our one piece of bread, issued daily or every other day, seems also to be dwindling in size, and becoming darker in color. At present our piece of bread is about three inches long by about one inch wide. Incidentally, the bread which we have been getting is being baked at the French Hospital, and we are getting it through the good offices and hard work of Dr. Selwyn Clark, the fotmer head of the Hong Kong Medical Department, who has been allowed his freedom, so far.

Another American, Norman Briggs, also reported an extremely erratic bread supply, which leads me to a speculation: Briggs claims that the Maryknoll Fathers, and the Sisters who followed their lead in everything, formed the core voting block that kept in power the businessman William Hunt, the effective but unscrupulous leader of the Stanley Camp American community. Hunt is known to have used food supplies to reward his supporters, and perhaps the bread sent into camp was distibuted so that Hunt loyalists got more than their fair share!

In March a new problem arose: the desire of the Stanley Supervisor, a Chinese called Mr. Chen, to make as much money as possible from the internees:

Bread ration has slumped – it no longer comes direct to us, but via the Chinese Chief Supervisor.[22] 

 No doubt Mr. Chen was holding back some of the bread supply and selling it on the black market. At one point, in his mercifully brief tenure of office, he tried to bill the internees for all but the most basic rations, and for their food and lodging during the nightmare period in the hotel-brothels![23]

It seems that there was a gradual phasing out of the Qing Loong bread supply to Stanley taking place in April and May. In her summary of recent events written on April 9 Barbara Anslow (then Redwood) records that more flour was coming into Camp but less bread, suggesting that the switch was underway. On April 27 she notes ‘heaps of flour’ coming in, and in an entry spanning May 5-8 she records her success in bread making using yeast. By May 17-19 ‘bread making’ is one of Anslow’s regular activities. Fellow diarist R. E. Jones presents a similar picture. He made his first ‘attempt’ at baking ‘small loaves’ on April 5, but without yeast or baking powder his efforts not surprisingly did not meet with much success! On Saturday April 25, he tells us that 11 ozs of flour were issued, which went up to a pound on May 1, fluctuating thereafter: 11 ozs on May 9 and 16 ozs on May 14. Jones also records occasional additional issues of sour bread in May, and this was probably baked in camp.

One more point about the bread sent into Stanley: on April 1 Barbara Anslow’s sick mother had her bread rusked at the Diet Clinic, a service usually provided for babies and toddlers but offered to her due to illness.

Thomas implies that he stopped baking for the Camp on May 7, 1942, as then a flour issue was made in Stanley. The evidence available to me at the moment suggests that what actually happened was that at about that time the increased flour issue of April could be turned into bread because of the success at growing yeast cultures. May 7 was the date in 1943 on which Thomas and Evelina were finally sent into Stanley Camp – this is possibly just a coincidence, but it might mean that he got the date slightly wrong by ‘contamination’ from the bigger event in his life.

In nay case, it seems that after this date (or one close to it) the bakers at the French Hospital were now baking only for the hospitals. This apparently small change might have saved the lives of Thomas and Owen Evans: messages were sent in and out of Camp using the drivers of the truck that took in the Japanese rations, and two internees – one of them, Frederick Hall, had been in the same company bowls team as Thomas – were executed for their role in the system. It’s likely that if bread deliveries to Stanley had continued those delivering and providing the supplies would have been implicated: a truck loaded under British supervision and driven by a British driver would almost certainly have seemed a safer bet for smuggling than one sent in by the Japanese.

The system of baking in the Camp using whatever flour was sent in by the Japanese continued until January 9, 1944, when the flour issue was stopped as conditions in wartime Hong Kong and hence the supply of food to Stanley deteriorated. I’ll discuss Thomas’s work in the Camp in a future post.

The Drivers

At first, Thomas and his fellow baker were escorted to work by a Japanese soldier, but later they were driven there by a driver from the largely American unit.[24] Thomas mentions Owen Evans (British, and later to be his best man), Dr. {Robert} Henry and Charles (Chuck) Winters (who was to write to his parents from the repatriation ship the Gripsholm giving them the first news that their son was alive – and on the brink of marriage!).

This relaxation is reflected in the case of the bankers, the other main group kept outside Stanley, who were at first marched through the streets under guard but after a few weeks – during which their chief, Sir Vandeleur Grayburn, got the transfer of one rather brutal soldier – they were allowed to walk through the streets unaccompanied, although they couldn’t deviate from the route without a pass.[25]

On February 8, 1942 Thomas and the drivers (and presumably the other bakers) were moved from the Exchange Building to the French Hospital, where Selwyn-Clarke and his medical team were either living or were about to be sent. The telephone company internees were sent to Shamshuipo on February 23,[26] and at some point Lane, Crawford was given to a Japanese company and re-opened as the Matsuzakaya.[27]

This is Gwen Dew’s account of the kind of thing likely to have been seen by the truck drivers who delivered Thomas’s bread in the first half of 1942:

They were free from camp – free to see two hundred Chinese die on the streets each twenty-four hours, from cholera, small-pox, dysentery, starvation, and Jap bullets.[28]

Dew also tells us:

They were threatened and mistreated many times, but bravely carried on in face of all obstacles.

They were brave men indeed, as some, perhaps all of them, were also involved in smuggling into Stanley; John Stericker records that radio parts were brought into camp in an ambulance. Emily Hahn records such parts being hidden in lard. Although it’s not clear if that was the method used in the ambulance or on a separate occasion.[29]

Dew mentions four other drivers, all Americans: John Norton, Carl Neprud, Eugene Pawley and Charles Schaefer; she also names Albert Fitch as a supply truck driver, although in a separate context. As Thomas doesn’t list these men, it’s possible they were not involved with bread delivery. As everyone but Owen Evans was repatriated on June 29/30 1942, either new volunteer drivers were sent out or Owen Evans work was supplemented by that of Chinese drivers. According to the historian of the Friends’ Ambulance Service, Owen Evans had nine months of ‘freedom’ (during which he was also involved with a Chinese children’s orphanage) before being sent into Stanley.[30]

Note: for more on the drivers see https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/thomass-work-6-more-on-the-delivery-drivers/

Collaboration?

In the early days at Stanley, Selwyn-Clarke and ‘the few others left “outside”…were termed “pro-Japanese” by some short-sighted internees’.[31] Dew thought that such people did not understand that the doctor and ‘the others who live din Hong Kong in the shadow of the ruthlessness of the Japs, were actually taking their lives in their hands daily to help their fellow-countrymen who were prisoners and could not help themselves’. She believed that these ‘stay-outs’ were ‘better understood and appreciated’ by the time she was repatriated at the end of June 1942.

Such sentiments, though, had been anticipated even by the Japanese. Selwyn-Clarke’s Japanese ‘boss’ had obtained the permission of the Colony’s former Governor, Sir Mark Young, to continue his work as Medical Officer for the good of everybody remaining in Hong Kong.[32]  This protected Selwyn-Clarke from accusations of collaboration, which were none the less made by some, including Lindsay Ride, Head of the British Army Aid Group.[33] The same ‘permission’ probably covered Thomas’s work, most of which involved baking for the hospitals.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t just the unnamed ‘short-sighted’ internees who felt that Selwyn-Clarke had acted wrongly. Colonel Lindsay Ride, former Dean of Medicine at Hong Kong University, who had quickly escaped from Shamshuipo Camp into Free China, where he founded a resistance organisation, the British Army Aid Group, arranged for a dossier to be compiled on a man he regarded as a ‘Japanese helper’, someone who was ‘clever, cunning, crooked and unscrupulous to a degree’ whose motivations for his work under the occupation was ‘to save his own skin’ and avoid the discomforts of internment in Stanley.[34]

In a letter[35] to Thomas’s parents from the repatriation ship the Gripsholm, Charles Winter says that Thomas had been offered his old job at Lane Crawford’s back but hadn’t yet decided what to do. Winter was communicating this information as part of his general plan: a kindly attempt to picture Thomas as getting on with his life in conditions of near normality. But such an offer was probably the last thing Thomas wanted now that Lane Crawford had become the Matsuzakaya. Baking for the hospitals was one thing, working outright for the enemy another. One of the few people to be charged with collaboration after the war was one Mr. Grover, who, amongst other things, stayed in his post at the Dairy Farm  (a retail food outlet in Peak Rd.) when the company was taken over by the occupiers. How difficult things were for those in town, and for those who later tried to call them to account, can be judged from the fact that one prosecution witness stated that Grover had drunk a toast to Japan when Singapore fell, while she (and others) had merely  stood up, while A. F. May, who described Grover’s work for the Japanese at the Dairy Farm, admitted under questioning that he’d installed water supplies for the occupiers on two occasions (one of them to the Dairy Farm), and that this might have been the reason he was allowed to ‘run loose’ (he was sent to Ma Tau-wai Camp in August 1944, one of the very last to be formally interned – in a future post I’ll describe the interesting role he played after the Japanese surrender). In the end, although Grover was committed for trial, the prosecutor abandoned the case,[36] and it seems that no-one was actually tried unless they’d willingly helped the Kempeitai in their campaign of arrest, torture and execution.

Luckily Thomas managed to avoid a transfer, otherwise the disapproval he seems to have encountered over his wedding invitation to Captain Tanaka[37] could have been a much more serious affair.

In any case, Thomas’s time in Hong Kong city came to an end soon after the arrest of Selwyn-Clarke.[38] On May 7, 1943 he, Evelina and 16 others were sent into Stanley. At first, they were without any assigned work, but soon he was baking again, under conditions that got more and more difficult as the months wore on.


[1] https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/thomas-and-tanaka-2-the-man-in-the-photo/

[2] Article written by Thomas in the September 1946 issue of his trade journal, The British Baker (hereafter BB). Viewable at: https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

[4] BB.

[5] BB

[6] BAAG document, information kindly supplied by Tony Banham.

[7] https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/thomass-work-2-the-fighting/

[8] BB.

[9] BB.

[10] Unpublished manuscript version of British Baker article (hereafter UBB). Viewable at: https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

[11] UBB.

[12] BB.

[13] BB.

[14] Geoffrey Emerson, Hong Kong Internment, 1973, 88.

[15] Anslow Diary, March 12. This important diary is being published day by day on the Gwulo website: http://gwulo.com/node/9710

[16] John Stericker, A Tear for the Dragon, 1958, 146.

[18] Through Japanese Barbed Wire, 1943, p. 52

[19] BB.

[20] Stericker, 159. However, Emerson, cited above, follows Stericker’s manuscript in mistakenly suggesting that no bread was issued in the early days, so the book, written many years later, might be referring only to camp-baked bread, or might reflect a renewal of memory.

[21] George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 96.

[22] Anslow diary, March 9

[24] BB.

[25] Frank King, History of the Hong Kong And Shanghai Banking Corporation, Volume 111, 1988, 574.

[26] Les Fisher, I Will Remember, 1996, 36.

[27] Paul Gillingham, At The Peak: Hong Kong Between The Wars, 1983, 14. The Café Wiseman became the Fuji Café  – Snow, 159.

[28] Dew, 117.

[29] Stericker, 180; Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986, 416.

[31] Gwen Dew, 120.

[32] Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, Footprints, 1975, 70.

[33] Philip Snow, The Fall of Hong Kong, 2003, 178-9.

[34] Snow, 178-179.

[36] For all these details see China Mail, August 15, August 17, September 20.

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A Slip in Selwyn-Clarke’s Autobiography?

In his autobiography, Footprints, Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke describes his arrest at the French Hospital early in the morning of May 2, 1943. He hints at the prolonged torture he was subjected to in order to make him confess (falsely) that he was head of British espionage in Hong Kong. He writes:

The first series of treatments was followed by something that passed for a trial, though it was merely a sentence of execution; and to this I could only reply: ‘The sooner the better. I’m extremely tired of your methods of investigation’.[1]

The Japanese felt affronted by Selwyn-Clarke’s suggestion that he would welcome the work of the executioner, so continued their ‘investigations’, while keeping the death sentence in place.

At some point, he was transferred from his cell in the former Supreme Court Building to Stanley Prison:

In Stanley Prison, some sixteen months after my first trial, I was given another. It was more formal this time, in the sense that there seemed to be two judges, assisted by an advocate-general, all in military uniform…My prison sentence, which had never before been delimited, was extended for another three years, but the capital charges had been dropped.[2]

Selwyn-Clarke was tried as part of a group of about 40, one of whom was the former editor of The Hong Kong Daily Press, Neil Esmond Hunter.[3]  The Japanese refused to intern Hunter – who’d asked them to do so – because, although a British subject he had Singhalese nationality. On January 12, 1944, he was arrested, and soon accused of being a British spy, which he denied, in spite of brutal torture. The Kempeitai then changed the accusation to ‘spreading anti-Japanese propaganda’, and it was presumably on this charge that he found himself being tried in the same group as Selwyn-Clarke. According to Hunter, this trial took place on August 29.[5] (He claims that Selwyn-Clarke got two years; it’s not impossible that, speaking almost exactly a year later, he was right – Selwyn-Clarke was writing after thirty years had gone by, and the exact length of his sentence was academic, as both he and Hunter were amnestied in early December 1944.)

Assuming Hunter’s dating is correct, then Selwyn-Clarke’s first trial would have taken place on April 29, 1943, which was a few days before his arrest on May 2. Of course, he writes ‘some’ 16 months, which allows a degree of latitude, but I think it more likely that his second trial was 16 months after his arrest.

Update:

While on leave in the UK after his ordeal in the war, Dr. Selwyn-Clarke gave a talk at the annual dinner of the Isle of Wight Medical Association held at Ryde Town Hall. The report of this speech in the BMJ Supplement of June 8, 1946 states that the formal trial took place ‘Sixteen months after his original incarceration‘ (italics mine).

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:1sNtbsOF9L0J:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2059077/pdf/brmedj03836-0041.pdf+selwyn-clarke+isle+of+wight+medical&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh8erwzL3BfVHXcjNl4Dy6gmze1a2WAZRxXxOQ0pyhOUwVxm9jb-ZD1v61j-Nfl5Q4Hp6HzGDeE-yFTNIiTYxthnCwN4lozoUFfLtnGX7D-0ppLyIMnHqFdYIjX6qgQAUIZxDJx&sig=AHIEtbQTRgOeMDiIZ_yVvBGU6V-9zDP7CA


[1] Footprints, 1975, 85.

[2] Footprints, 91.

[3] Russell Clark, An End To Tears, 137-142.

[5]Clark, 145.

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Thomas’s Work (2): The Fighting

Note: this account of the activity of Staff-Sergeant Sheridan during the hostilities and before his escape is now known to be inaccurate. Most of the story, as told by Sheridan himself is now on Gwulo, e.g. at http://gwulo.com/node/13844

It seems that Thomas was in the Stubbs Rd. Bakery on Sunday, December 7, the day before the Japanese attack: Dr. Geoffrey Herklots records that on that day he succeeded in producing an improved version of his nutrition-packed ‘siege biscuit’,[1] and this almost certainly meant the involvement of Thomas and his bakery. And he was probably back at the Bakery the next morning before 8 a.m. when the air raid on Kai Tak airport announced to most Hong Kong residents the start of hostilities. Before the end of the day he’d been appointed Deputy Supply Officer Bakeries, putting all the civilian bakeries of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon under his control.[2]

Thomas had been making war plans since November 1938.[3] His first big decision was to use the Stubbs Rd. Bakery to produce all the bread required – between 16,000 and 22,000 pounds. This worked well at first:

The various groups – Hospitals, A. R. P., Police etc. called at the bakery for their rations, while the store in town sold to the individual, and we ourselves made delivery to the various units unable to collect.

The ‘store’ was Lane, Crawford’s Des Voeux Rd. premises.

Kowloon fell in an unexpectedly short time – evacuation was completed early on December 13[4] – and the Japanese brought up guns to shell positions on the Island, while the defenders replied in kind, sending shells whizzing over the bakery on their way to the new enemy forward positions. Either from this point or from the start of the war the 70 Chinese staff and five Europeans never left the bakery: for the first week of the war, Thomas slept in his office chair and the others on bits of sacking – thereafter some at least had camp beds.[5] If it was for the whole period of the fighting that Thomas never left the bakery, then Evelina must have been taken there for the meeting that was to determine her fate for the rest of the war and beyond.[6]

On December 15 the bakery discontinued production of the ‘siege’ biscuits,[7] presumably because staff and machinery were needed for the more immediate task of producing the day’s bread. On December 19 the army bakery at Deep Water Bay was captured and Thomas was ordered to increase production by 4000 pounds. The repatriated American Charles Winter wrote to Thomas’s parents, he was ‘baking for practically the whole population of Hong Kong and also the army’[8] – this was true of the last 6 days of the war, at least for that part of the population not in Japanese hands.

Unfortunately the bread didn’t always get to the people. According to one French observer, Food Control was one of the three emergency services that were ‘inefficient beyond description’ (the other two were the Air Raid Precautions and the Police).[9] This seems a harsh judgement: major problems for food distribution were created by the desertion of many Chinese drivers – some out of a perfectly understandable fear and reluctance to risk their lives for a racist and discriminatory regime, others because they were fifth columnists, in some cases infiltrated into Hong Kong from southern China amongst the refuges who flooded into the Colony in the years before the attack. Partly as a result of this, the system began to break down even during the first four or five days of the war (before the evacuation of Kowloon on December 11-13) when Thomas thought all was working smoothly. Government worker Phyllis Harrop wrote on December 10:

Something has gone radically wrong with the organization. Reports are coming in that men have had no food for forty-eight hours. Office staffs have walked out due to lack of supplies and messengers are threatening to follow them. The food is there but transport seems to be the difficulty.[10]

When Thomas was told to bake for the Army, two Royal Army Service Corps bakers were sent to assist him: one, Sergeant Hammond, stayed with him throughout the war, baking alongside Thomas from the FrenchHospitaland in Stanley.[11] Which raises the question: why was a soldier interned in a civilian camp? My guess is that, with Thomas’s active or passive co-operation,Hammond claimed to be a civilian baker. The story of the other army baker suggests that they weren’t baking in uniform:

When the Japs had captured HK, Corporal [Paddy Sheridan] was working in the bakery (he was a baker). He was asked to produce his ID and an escort was sent with him to collect it. Paddy concealed his Army ID and instead produced an Irish passport that was in Gaelic. The Jap officer could not understand it and took it away for examination. Some days later a very polite and humble Jap asked to speak to him and told him that as Ireland was neutral, he was free to leave the colony. Paddy sold all the food in the bakery and with the help of Jesuit priests got a ticket to [Macau] after several days in hiding an agent took him to the border with China.[12]

Hammond probably persuaded the Japanese he was a civilian, and Tony Banham has confirmed from British Army Aid Group documents that he was living at the French Hospital later in 1942 alongside Thomas and another baker called ‘Peacock’ about whom I know nothing. Perhaps he was one of the five ‘European’ staff who worked at Stubbs Road.[13]

In any case, it’s good to know that the food left in the bakery at the surrender was put to good use! On November 10, 1942, Staff Sergeant Sheridan was awarded a Military Medal for his courageous actions.[14]

On December 21 the bakery was abandoned.

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.[15]

Perhaps it wasn’t just the collapse in the water and power supplies that led to the decision: early in the afternoon of the twenty-first the Japanese won the battle for Mount Nicholson in Happy Valley, and this meant that a Japanese assault along Stubbs Rd. was imminent (they were in possession of it by December 24[16]).  Thomas describes what happened next:

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.[17]

One of these bakeries was almost certainly the Qing Loong (Green Dragon) Bakery at 93 Queen’s Road East: Thomas considered this the best of the Chinese-owned bakeries and it was the one he used to bake for the hospitals between February 1942 and May 1943 (forthcoming post). And it was to the west of thee Stubbs Road bakery, further away from the Japanese who were advancing onVictoria from the east. But conditions were not ideal in any of the five smaller bakeries:

(Lane, Crawford’s had four oil and four gas ovens) (w)hereas in the various Chinese-owned bakeries that we opened there were only wood-fired side-flue ovens, and space was so limited that we had to chop the wood outside the front of the shop.[18]

This photo from Thomas’s archive probably illustrates conditions in a pre-war Chinese bakery, although not necessarily one of those he opened on December 21:

These must have been exciting but frightening times. Thomas was moving from bakery to bakery, probably in the western parts of Wanchai, at constant risk of shelling or aerial bombardment. But it seems that production was maintained until the surrender.

The Japanese strategy was based on cutting the Island in two by taking the Wong Nai Chung Gap, conquering the British heartland, Victoria, in the north, while also attacking the south of the island so as to engage the forces based at Stanley Fort and eventually capture this stronghol.

On Christmas Eve Hong Kong was in flames, the streets were stinking (without water the sewage system had broken down) and it was obvious that the battle was lost. Late in the afternoon, the Middlesex Regiment, attacked from three sides and outnumbered ten to one, abandoned its stubborn defence of Leighton Hill, one of the few remaining positions keeping them from Victoria. The survivors joined with men of the Rajputs and formed a new defensive line. At about the same time, members of the Hong Kong Volunteers, some of whom would undoubtedly have been known to Thomas, perhaps even his friends, were sent to the Stanleya rea as reinforcements. That night, and into the next day they battled alongside young Canadian soldiers in a heroic final resistance;[19] some of this fighting took place in what was to become Stanley Internment Camp, and the first internees found plenty of evidence of the carnagee.

At 1 p.m. on Christmas Day the men of the Middlesex and Rajput regiments were still holding on to Wanchai Market, about half a kilometre from the Green Dragon Bakery. By 3.15 the fighting in Wanchai was officially described as ‘confused’: [20] the courageous defence of the routes into Victoria was crumbling, and, wherever Thomas was, the fighting was getting near. Thomas says that Hong Kong surrendered at 5 p.m., which suggests he heard the news soon after that time – the official surrender was 3.30[21]. He and the rest of the Lane, Crawford staff walked through streets filled with looters to the company Head Quarters Exchange House (14 Des Voeux Road) to face a new kind of terror. Now they could only wait helplessly to find out what would become of them.


[4] Tony Banham, Not the Slightest Chance, 2003, 69.

[5] British Baker.

[10] Hong Kong Incident, 1943, 70.

[11] French Hospital: information from BAAG records kindly supplied by Tony Banham. Stanley: British Baker.

[12]Information kindly provided by Mr. Govier, RASC and passed on by Tony Banham: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stanley_camp/message/1194

[13] British Baker.

[15] Unpublished manuscript of British Baker article: transcription at https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

[16] Banham, 237.

[17] Unpublished manuscript of British Baker article.

[18] British Baker.

[19] Banham, 241-242, 259.

[20] Banham, 262.

[21] Banham, 262.

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Thomas’s Work (1): Preparing for War

In a letter that I’ve provisionally dated to October or November 1938, Thomas tells his family that on the day of writing he’d received a letter telling him not to join the Volunteers – a kind of Territorial Army – but to focus on making sure his bakery is ready for any ‘emergency’.[1] As membership of the Volunteers was not compulsory at this time, he might have written offering them his services, or perhaps the movement of Japanese troops in China close to the Hong Kong border, which is the main subject of Thomas’s letter, had prodded the authorities into action. The bakery was the new Lane Crawford facility in Stubbs Rd. opened sometime in 1938 – the advertorial was probably part of an initial campaign to introduce it to customers.[2] In an ‘advertorial’ of November 26, 1938 published in the Hong Kong Telegraph, the company assured the health consciousness Hong Kong consumers that the entire process of baking had been mechanised in a way to guarantee the highest standards of hygiene. [3]

But hygiene wasn’t on Thomas’s mind in this roughly contemporaneous letter: in an attempt to reassure his family he adds, ‘Everywhere is gas proof so we are not worrying at all’ – although it is not clear if Thomas is stating that the bakery is gas proof or if he is expressing a general confidence in Hong Kong’s anti-gas precautions, or both.

It is not known if Thomas made any changes to the bakery in the three years leading up to the Japanese attack, but it is clear that he did use the time to devise a ‘war plan’, one that he was able to put into effect in December 1941: if possible, he would use the Lane Crawford bakery to produce whatever quantity of bread the authorities should demand, but if this exceeded the bakery’s requirements, or if the course of the fighting made the bakery untenable, five smaller bakeries would be stocked and prepared to be brought into action. One of these was almost certainly the Qing Loong (Green Dragon) bakery at 93, Queen’s Rd. East, Wanchai.

As war drew closer, he was given another responsibility: the Colony’s Medical Officer Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, a man who was to play a crucial role in Thomas’s life, asked Lane Crawford to bake a large supply of ‘siege biscuits’[5] – it was believed that even if the mainland parts of Hong Kong fell, the Island should be able to hold out for three months at least (Selwyn-Clarke gives the figure of 130 days as the period for which Hong Kong had been provisioned[6]).

One of my first encounters with helpfulness from a Japanese officer concerned the reserve of four-gallon tins of biscuits, made of soya bean and wheaten flour with the addition of thiamine hydrochloride powder (against beri-beri), which I had had baked in the leading department-store of Lane Crawford against the anticipated siege.[7]

Captain Tanaka, the officer in charge of Lane Crawford’s, allowed Selwyn-Clarke to take and distribute these biscuits[8] (although as I’ll show in a future post this wasn’t the whole story).

The man in charge of developing a biscuit that would contain the necessary nutrients and also be palatable to the taste of the Chinese majority was Dr. G. A. C. Herklots, the reader in biology at Hong Kong  University. Herklots thought carefully about the needs of the Hong Kong population if they should be besieged, and these biscuits were part of a broader nutritional strategy. In 1937, worried by the disruption in supplies of fresh fish caused by the Japanese war on China,[9] Herklots and the Superintendent of Fisheries Lin Shuyan had begun to create a reserve of salted fish – known as ‘siege fish’ – as an emergency supply.[10] In the following years he would take this work much further, as an attack on  Hong Kong itself became more and more likely.

It was the intention of the authorities that the siege reserves would actually improve the health of the population; they were aware that many of the Chinese would start the war in a ‘bad condition’ and they wanted to improve this:

The less the medical authorities were to be worried with malnutrition the more time and skill could they give to the treatment of casualties. The ideal aimed at was a correctly balanced diet, one that would improve the vigour and health of the people during the dreary months of the siege.[11]

Some people argued that a rice reserve alone was adequate, but Herklots reasoned that this would only be the case if an adequate supply of green vegetables was also available, and this was not likely: only one fifth of Hong Kong’s vegetables were locally grown, and the expected blockade and occupation of the New Territories would reduce this fraction still further. Rice would always be the basic food, though, so a government rice monopoly was established and run by a special department largely independent of Food Control.[12]

In order to provide additional nutrients, Herklots created a ‘bean pool’ for soya and other beans, including the Tientsin bean and the red bean. There was also an oil pool (mainly peanut oil) and a salt reserve. But even a diet based on these supplies wouldn’t provide enough vitamins:

To meet vitamin requirements large amounts of thiamine chloride were purchased and sent to Hong Kong by air, nicotinic acid was ordered in England but did not arrive prior to hostilities and three hundred tons of red palm oil were imported from Malaya. Arrangements were made with the fishing fleets to bring in the livers of all the large sharks caught, and shark liver oil, rich in vitamins A and D, was extracted and stored in sealed tins.[13]

Herklots adopted a ‘simple technique’ for extracting a solution of Vitamin C from the island’s abundant pine needles, and experiments designed to produce a supply of yeast were underway when the war broke out. But he wanted something more, a biscuit that would be full of vitamins and other nutrients and would be palatable to the rice-eating Chinese majority.  That’s where Thomas and his bakery became involved.

After Thomas’s death, Dr. Herklots was approached for information by his brother Wilfred:

We got on well, Tommie and I, in those hectic pre-war days[14]

Herklots started from something that was easily available in Hong Kong:

Peanut meal, after the oil has been expressed, is pressed into cakes and sold almost exclusively in Hong Kong as fertilizer. This cake is unpalatable as human food, largely because the oils it contains rapidly go rancid, but the fresh meal, straight from the press, has not this objection.

Then he brought in Thomas:

With the enthusiastic co-operation of a master baker and after about thirty trials, it was found possible to make a hard siege-ration biscuit from this meal and whole wheat flour. Each biscuit, which weighed half an ounce and cost half a cent, contained more than a man’s daily requirements of available iron, two biscuits enough nicotinic acid to prevent pellagra and four {biscuits} enough thiamin (sic) chloride to prevent beriberi on a polished rice diet.[15]

That was the problem – most of the rice in Hong Kong had the B Vitamins ‘polished’ out of them, and this was to cause problems in Stanley and even more so in the POW camp, Shamshuipo. The biscuits not only supplied many of the basic vitamins needed by the body, but also provided a day’s roughage.[16]

The biscuit was thoroughly tested:

Everybody liked the biscuits – all nationalities and all ages from six months to over eighty years – for they were tested in three hospitals (including a maternity hospital) before the scheme was placed before the Defence Council.[17]

 The Government approved of the biscuits, and a start was made in producing them at the rate of two tons a day;[18] a larger scheme for making eight tons daily was not implemented due to the outbreak of hostilities. The biscuits contained only 2 per cent water, and they were packed in petrol tins which were then sealed.[19]

Ironically, an improved biscuit was produced on December 7, 1941:

On the day before the Japanese attacked, a satisfactory biscuit was made which contained added calcium carbonate and shark liver oil.[20]

This day was a Sunday, which strongly suggests that Thomas was working overtime in the run-up to the war!

The biscuits continued to be produced until December 15,[21] when it was presumably decided more urgent work needed to be done. I’ll describe the complex history of these biscuits in a future post. The brief was to keep a biscuit that would last at least one year,[22] and, as we shall see, this requirement was more than met.

The two collaborators were separated by the fortunes of war: after the surrender, Herklots was sent to Stanley while Thomas remained outside to bake for the hospitals. But in August 1943, with Thomas and his new wife consigned to the internment camp under terrifying circumstances, the two were to come together again in a new project with the same aim: to provide people with the vitamins whose lack was slowly sapping away at their minds and bodies.


[5] Footprints, 74. Thomas’s September 1946 article  in The British Baker doesn’t mention Selwyn-Clarke but does record the role played by one Mr. Meredith of the Food Control: https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/thomas-edgar-some-documentation/

[6] Footprints, 62.

[7] Footprints, 74.

[11] G. A. C. Herklots, ‘Food and War in Hong Kong’, Nature, March 6, 1946 (henceforth, ‘Herklots’).

[12] Herklots.

[13] Herklots.

[14] G. A. C. Herklots letter of October 29, 1985,, in possession of Wilfred Edgar.

[15] Herklots.

[16] Unpublished version of the British Baker article.

[17] Herklots

[18] Thomas’s British Baker article gives a figure of 1.5 tons by the end of October 1941, with machinery for double this output installed by the end of ‘December’ – which is presumably a mistake for November.

[19] Herklots.

[20] Herklots.

[22] Unpublished version of British Baker article.

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Thomas and Tanaka (2): The Man In The Photo

In the late afternoon or the evening of December 25 Thomas and the staff of Lane Crawford’s Stubbs Rd. bakery were told to go to the company headquarters, Exchange House[1] in Des Voeux Rd.[2] That evening Thomas helped out in efforts to dispose of as much of the Colony’s alcohol supply as possible, probably at the nearby Gloucester Hotel.[3] And, then, like the rest of the Allied nationals he waited nervously for the next day when the victorious Japanese would take possession of Hong Kong Island.

Thomas discovered quite quickly that the man assigned to take charge of the Exchange Building was a reasonable and even humane one. In the last days of the fighting stories of Japanese atrocities had been circulating amongst the defenders,[4] and, although some were more optimistic than others, everyone knew the dreadful fate that might await them. Years later Thomas remembered Tanaka’s kindness:

 My shirt was badlly torn. He told me to go back to my lodgings and get another shirt.

What had happened to your shirt?

I’d had to tear it up to help bind the wounded.

I t was a cold winter by Hong Kong standards, and no doubt the trip back to 82,Morrison Hill Rd. enabled Thomas to gather together other useful items. Perhaps including his high performance binoculars: Tanaka confiscated these at some point, but gave him a chit for them, saying the Japanese army would compensate him for the loss after the war. Thomas never held this against him, telling the story in a wry, ‘but I never got that compensation, you know’ manner.

 In September 1946 when Thomas wrote an article for his trade paper The British Baker he was keen to record Tanaka’s behaviour:

 During our stay in the main building, Captain Tanaka proved both helpful and generous. Besides ensuring that bread continued to be baked for the hospitals, he gave us cinema shows in the Café Wiseman; these shows usually consisted of European films with an occasional film for his soldiers who were stationed in the building.

 Thomas gives Tanaka the rank of Captain, Selwyn-Clarke (see below) the slightly lower one of Lieutenant. The article also notes that Tanaka gave them permission on January 9th to bake bread for the hospitals and allocated them a supply of yeast.

I know of two other accounts that must be of this Tanaka because both link him to Exchange House. Les Fisher, a Volunteer imprisoned at Shamshuipo, records the arrival of some of his fellow Telephone Company workers at the POW Camp in his 1997 edition of his wartime diary. The Café Wiseman had been the centre of thee Hong Kong telephone network during the battle, so the staff of the Telephone Company were detained there to be joined by Thomas late on Christmas Day. Fisher passes on what he was told by his colleagues:

  (They had been) treated well by a Captain Tanaka who was in charge.

 The new arrivals also told Fisher about the film shows, and said that they were given ‘good food’ and managed to gather together ‘all kinds of useful tinned stuff and foods’.  Tanaka even gave each of them a bottle of whisky when they were leaving, and Fisher was also able to benefit from this kindness! As civilians they were destined for Stanley Camp, but at the last moment a uniform was found amongst them so they were sent to Shamshuipo instead, arriving on February 23.[5]

 The third account is by Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, the Colony’s Medical Officer, who remained out of Stanley to work on public health:

 One of my first encounters with helpfulness from a Japanese officer concerned the reserve of four-gallon tins of biscuits, made of soya bean and wheaten flour with the addition of thiamine hydrochloride powder (against beri beri) which I had had baked in the leading department-store of Lane Crawford against the anticipated siege. By good fortune the Japanese had put Lane Crawford’s in charge of a certain Lieutenant Tanaka, who allowed me to remove all the tins for distribution to the P. O. W. and civilian camps and to those Chinese hospitals which had not been closed by the Japanese forces.[6]

 Selwyn-Clarke adds: ‘Those vitamin biscuits were of real value’. I’ll be describing the complex history of these biscuits, devised by Dr. Herklots and baked by Thomas, in a future post!

The Japanese authorities must have been considering a role for the bakers in the days leading up to January 5 when the vast majority of the Allied civilians were assembled at the Murray Parade Ground before being consigned to squalid hotels and eventually packed off to Stanley Camp. Thomas, his fellow bakers and a team of drivers were kept back and eventually granted permission to start baking on January 9th. On February 8 Thomas and the others were sent to the French Hospital to join Selwyn-Clarke and his team of doctors and public health workers.

 Selwyn-Clarke also records the rumour that Tanaka was later executed for his kindness to the prisoners:

 Lieut. Tanaka subsequently disappeared, and rumour had it that he had been removed to Canton and there executed for displaying excessive concern for the Hong Kong prisoners.[7]

 This may, of course, be true, but I’m inclined to doubt it. The wedding photo proves Tanaka was still in Hong Kong on June 29, 1942 – on the back of one of the copies he’s specifically identified, along with the other main guests, and this information can only have come from Thomas or Evelina. The Telephone Company personnel left the Exchange Building on February 23, and after that there was no reason for him to have any dealings with internees in Hong Kong. His role was probably accidental in the first place: he took over Exchange House because he was officer in charge of communications,[8] and that’s where the telephone exchange was, as well as the Lane Crawford HQ, bringing the biscuits under his control. British civilians who remained in the city were not treated badly in the early days,[9] and it seems unlikely that in July or sometime after he was killed for actions taken in January and February: actions which, insofar as they are now known, amount to no more than some generous decisions, a few bottles of whisky and the showing of some European films. Kiyoshi Watanabe, the well-known interpreter, performed many acts of kindness for the defeated, and although he was mocked, shouted at and eventually sacked he suffered no physical punishment. Of course, the existence of a rumour of this kind makes it highly likely that much about Tanaka’s benevolence has gone unrecorded, so he might indeed have been punished as Selwyn-Clarke describes– it’s even possible that his attendance at Thomas and Evelina’s wedding was cited in evidence against him. But his execution would have been the kind of thing that Thomas would have mentioned in later years if he’d believed it had happened: it would have been a good example of the incomprehensible cruelty of the Japanese,[10] something he did mention on a number of occasions.

But – given that so much that was done and suffered in the Hong Kong war has now vanished without trace – is it possible that there was a darker side to Captain Tanaka? My knowledge of course has its limitations, but the only three sources I’ve found that without any doubt relate to this officer do not suggest so. However, it would be sad but not surprising if this were nevertheless the case. Japanese who treated the British well didn’t always extend this behaviour to other races.

 Selwyn-Clarke’s main ‘protector’ in Hong Kong was the Japanese medical officer Colonel Eguchi – the doctor was arrested within a week of Eguchi’s transfer. Eguchi knew Selwyn-Clarke from a former visit to Hong Kong– very few people had treated a Japanese man with courtesy and as an equal, so Eguchi remembered. He allowed Selwyn-Clarke to remain outside Stanley to carry on his public health work and, while Eguchi was in Hong Kong, the Kempeitai, who suspected that he was using his (extremely limited) freedom to lead a spy ring, could arrest and interrogate his associates but not the Medical Officer himself.[11]

 Eguchi was giving a dinner party one evening, when his Chinese cook annoyed him by serving the meal late or by comiitting soem otehr trivial offense: the Colonel harangued the man for 30 minutes, then beheaded him in front of his guests.[12] Right from the start of the occupation, there was a huge difference in the way the Japanese treated Westerners and Chinese (with Indians it was more complicated, as they were treated both better and worse than ‘whites’). Actually, with Eguchi (and with the Japanese authorities generally) treatment was determined by an interaction of race and class: when he met the distinguished Hong Kong Chinese surgeon Li Shu-Fan, the Japanese Colonel was extremely courteous,[13] offering his business card with both hands, in a traditional oriental gesture of respect.[14]

 Given these dual standards, it’s impossible to know if it was the Captain Tanaka we have been discussing who is mentioned twice in Russell Clark’s book An End To Tears as responsible for mistreatment of Indian soldiers. The Japanese were eager to sign up as many of their Indian POWS as possible into the Indian National Army, as each man was both a soldier and a propaganda weapon. Many refused, sometimes heroically. This incident occurred on June 16, 1942:

 On refusing to have anything to do with the Indian National Army, Lieutenant Tanaka ordered us to be confined in a very small room with four other men.

(statement of Jemadar Nawaboo).[15]

 The conditions were appalling, with excrement running on the floor, and gthe men were given no food or drink and not allowed to sleep; they still refused to join the Indian National Army, so from there they were sent to Stanley Prison.

 The second incident is more serious. In June 1942 a party of Indians were beaten up for no reason with rifle butts, one of them dying of his wounds:

 The beating up was ordered by Lieutenant Tanaka.

(statement of Jemadar Ali Akbar) [16]

 This man might have been Tanaka Hitoshi (see previous post), the Exchange House Tanaka, or an entirely different officer: Tanaka, which corresponds to a number of different Kanji characters, is the fourth most common surname in Japanese,[17] so it is quite unsafe to make any assumptions without evidence beyond name and rank (which, in any case, is uncertain in this instance).

 Whatever the truth about the Tanaka in the wedding photo, it’s possible that the invitation led to some wariness in Stanley.

Note:

For more about Tanaka see https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/another-tanaka-surprise-and-some-speculations-about-the-wedding/


[4] G. A. Leiper,  Yen For My Thoughts, 1982.

[5] Les Fisher, I Will Remember, 1996, 37.

[6] Footprints, 1975, 74.

[7] Footprints, 74.

[9] Philip Snow, The Fall of Hong Kong, 2003, 140.

[12] Snow, 163.

[13] Li Shu-fan, Hong Kong Surgeon, 1964, 112; for an example of Eguchi’s brutality, this time to a Formosan, see 118.

[14]Something the British Embassy neglected to inform Boris Johnson about before he took part in the 2008 Olympic closing ceremony during which one of his duties was to receive the Olympic flag.

[15] Russell Clark,  An End To Tears, 1946, 53.

[16] An End to Tears, 53.

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