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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10 responses to “Alexander Christie Sinton

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