Charles Hyde’s Resistance Work

In a previous post I wrote:

 ‘Ginger’ Hyde was one of those bankers kept outside Stanley to help liquidate their own banks, and he’d had been taken by the Kempeitai on suspicion of a whole raft of ‘crimes’. He was, to his immense credit, guilty of them all: he’d been raising money to provide extra food and medical supplies to be smuggled into Stanley to help meet the desperate needs of the internees. He’d been listening to an illegal radio with another banker, Mr. L.  Souza, and probably passing the news around the community of uninterned Allied civilians. He’d been ‘running’ Chester Bennett and the Portuguese solicitor Marcus Da Silva, two of the most effective of the British Army Aid Group’s agents in occupied Hong Kong. And he himself had been in contact with the resistance.

(https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/the-reign-of-terror-conclusion-on-the-stanley-peninsula/)

I’ve now got hold of a copy of Frank King’s history of the HKSBC (Volume 3) which reveals that there was even more to Hyde’s work than I’d guessed:

 In addition to his intelligence work Hyde had been collecting drugs from secret rendezvous and helping to arrange the escapes for certain Indian officers who were being threatened with mutilation by the Japanese.[1]

 Following Edwin Ride, King dates his arrest to some time in April (I gave the date provided by John Stericker, May 3, although I was aware that it was dubious) and attributes it to the interception by an Indian informer of a letter Hyde wrote to an inmate in Matauchang Camp (which contained a number of Indian POWs).[2] Ride gives the name of the addressee of Hyde’s letter as the courageous Captain Mateen Ansari;[3] both men were to die together on Stanley Beach on October 29, 1943.

 It seems that Hyde was also involved in the Talbot affair: he, as well as Grayburn and Streatfield had given Talbot money to smuggle into Stanley[4], but Grayburn, no doubt anxious to keep Hyde out of the hands of the Kempeitai, claimed responsibility for Hyde’s 1000 Yen contribution. Hyde managed to get a cover story to Talbot, which, although imperfect, passed muster with the gendarmes.[5]

Ride, basing himself on his father’s papers, writes:

 C. F. ‘Ginger’ Hyde passed particularly valuable  intellgence to the BAAG. Reports from Hong Kong indicated, however, that these valiant acts were carried out with a certain amount of openness, and there was concerning Waichow {BAAG field HQ} that they would end in disaster.

The context makes clear that it wasn’t just Hyde who acted too openly, but he was certainly the one whose resistance activities covered the greatest range. Another of the bankers, G. Lyon-Mackenzie wrote to the HKSBC Number 2 David Edmonston urging him to rein in Hyde. Lyon-Mackenzie was obviously concerned for his own safety and that of the other bankers. He was himself an extremely brave man: illness kept him out of Stanley, and even after the deaths of Grayburn and Edmonston in prison (aggravated malnutrition) and the execution of Hyde he continued to smuggle supplies into Camp.[6] King quotes what he calls Lyon-Mackenzie’s ‘blunt’ judgement:

Hyde definitely asked for it.[7]

King suggests that it was in part at least the strongly anti-Japanese atmosphere of occupied Hong Kong that led to the relative openness of the resistance network:

The atmosphere in Hong Kong was everywhere hostile to the Japanese, and thus the opportunity to conceive plans and attempt their execution using amateur methods and depending entirely on good fortune and loyalty made certain operations appear, as it were, too easy.[8]

This is plausible, but King goes on to make a rather ambiguous claim about the eventual arrests:

It was this betrayal of Hyde which led also to the arrests of D. C. Edmondston and Dr. P. S. Selwyn-Clarke.

I think his source for this is again Ride’s book, which puts it more clearly:

In the wave of arrests that followed the betrayal of contacts with Matauchang Camp, Edmonston was imprisoned, as was Dr. Selwyn-Clarke.[9]

In the accounts I’ve read, no-one whose name was given to the Japanese under torture ever blamed the victim, but I would like to make it clear that the record, insofar as I know it, does not support any claim that Hyde named anyone, even though he was subjected to more than usual brutality. We know that Hyde definitely did not name the two men who he was ‘running’ as espionage agents: one of them, the Portuguese lawyer Marcus da Silva, survived to become both witness and prosecutor at war crimes trials, and in 1946 he told the journalist Hal Boyle that his fellow agent, the American Chester Bennett, was executed in spite of the absence of either a confession or hard evidence as to his espionage activities, evidence that Hyde’s testimony would have provided.[10] The courageous and resourceful da Silva was arrested but managed to get himself released – a remarkable story which I’ll tell in another post.

Although it’s not relevant to the immediate topic of this post, it should also be noted that, contrary to Ride’s claim, Selwyn-Clarke’s arrest (May 2, 1943) is unlikely to have had anything to do with attempts to arrange escapes from Matauchang. Firstly, that was exactly the kind of ‘military’ activity he consistently refused to have anything to do with – his own conscience, and the need to stay free for as long as possible, dictated that he take part in purely humanitarian illegalities. Secondly, Emily Hahn – a friend of Hilda Selwyn-Clarke – implies that the Kempeitai were simply waiting for the doctor’s main ‘protector’, Japanese Medical Officer Colonel Eguchi, to be transferred from Hong Kong before arresting him – they struck within a week of Eguchi’s leaving.[11] They had begun arresting and torturing Selwyn-Clarke’s associates in February, 1943, trying to make someone link him to Allied espionage, as such a link would have enabled them to ignore Eguchi and arrest him anyway.[12]

Finally, what are we to make of the claim that Hyde was ‘asking for it’? Hyde’s fellow conspirator Marcus da Silva is a useful witness. After Hyde’s arrest, he and Chester Bennett were told that their names were on a Japanese ‘blacklist’ and advised to go into hiding:

(When) British bank accountant and ring leader of this small group of amateur volunteer espionage men was taken into custody by the Japanese, a Chinese secret agent employed by the gendarmerie came to Bennett. The Japanese have prepared a blacklist in Hong Kong of people they suspect, he warned, and you and Da Silva are both on it. You had better stay hidden.

Bennett and Da Silva talked it over soberly. They knew the odds were stacked heavily against them and that to continue their activities meant almost certain arrest. And they felt that arrest would almost as surely result in execution because the Japanese were growing sterner as the tide of war turned against them. But they decided the stakes were worth the gamble. Every ship they cost Japan was a step toward Allied victory. And hundreds of Stanley Camp internees would face lingering starvation if they failed to send in money for extra food raised by selling promissory notes to wealthy Indian and Swiss merchants.[13]

I think Hyde felt the same. Expecting arrest, torture and execution, he felt impelled to continue to do as much good as possible before the trap closed on him.

Tony Banham is currently working on the Lindsay Ride papers and I hope that the full story of Hyde’s activities will one day emerge. My guess is that they were even more extensive than I’ve been able to indicate here.  Alastair Sinton’s group, which is known to have smuggled messages in and out of Stanley, was linked with him,[14] as was Thomas Monaghan, a Canadian involved in helping escapers:

Mr. Hyde and others thought it their patriotic duty to form a branch of the British intelligence service… (and) Mr. Mongahan had joined.[15]

I suspect that there were few activities of the Hong Kong resistance that he didn’t take part in, give advice to, or at least know about.

I’ve been able to find out very little about the rest of Charles Hyde’s life.

He joined the HKSBC in 1924. In 1935 the Bank opened a Kowloon Branch in the Peninsula Hotel and he was working at the this branch in 1941.[16] At that time, the Bank operated a ‘ten years in the East before marriage’ policy;[17] Hyde’s age at death was 45,[18] and the age of his son Michael at the time was 5,[19] which fits with a relatively late marriage.

Before the war he used to go yachting, sometimes sailing with telephone engineer sLes Fisher and James Anderson in the ‘Tern’ – he ‘was always full of fun’.[20]

After his arrest, his wife, Florence Eileen, and their young son Michael were interned in Bungalow D alongside Thomas and Evelina. Thomas (and probably Evelina) was with Mrs. Hyde on the day of her husband’s execution.

Mrs. Hyde died of bowel cancer on September 7, 1944.[21] After his mother’s death, Michael Hyde was adopted by Lady Mary Grayburn, so he stayed in Bungalow D. He died in a freak firing range accident on his national service in 1956.[22]


[1] Frank King, History of the HKBSC,Volume 111, 1988, 624

[2]For George Kotewall another man arrested as a result of this betrayal see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stanley_camp/message/133

[3] Edwin Ride, British Army Aid Group, 1981, 205.

[5] King, 621-622.

[6] King 621, 624.

[7] King, 624.

[8] King, 612.

[9] Ride, 205.

[11] Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 404.

[15] Father Burke, cited in Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Years, 1982, 103-104.

[16] King, 626.

[17] King, 285.

[19] D. O. B. given as 2.2.38 on the Stanley Camp Log, IWM MISC 932.

[20] Les Fisher, I Shall Remember, 229, 240.

[21] IWM MISC 932.

[22] Tony, Banham, We Shall Suffer There, Kindle Location, 5049.

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8 responses to “Charles Hyde’s Resistance Work

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