Sheridan’s Escape: His own Account

Elizabeth Ride, daughter of Sir Lindsay Ride, the founder of the Hong Kong resistance organisation the British Army Aid Group, has kindly sent me some documents from theRide Papers that throw interesting new light on the wartime experiences of Thomas and Evelina. One of these is the escape statement (dated July 1, 1942) of RASC Staff-Sergeant P. Sheridan. I can now correct the account I gave in

Sheridan was one of two RASC bakers who were sent to help Thomas during the fighting at the time when he took over baking for the Army when their own bakery fell on December 19. After the surrender they were interned in Exchange House, and started baking bread for the hospitals on January 9, alongside Thomas; when they were transferred to the French Hospital on February 8, Captain Tanaka ordered them to leave behind their army kit and ID. I’ll discuss this remarkable development in a future post; there’s  a story that shows militant hostility to the idea of letting a POW out of camp,[1] so my guess is that Tanaka was humanely trying to make sure that the bakers could carry on their work, while keeping them out of the terrible conditions in Shamshuipo. I’m sure he didn’t mean to be laying the groundwork for Sheridan’s escape.

 The Japanese had taken over the Lane, Crawford Bakery, so the hospital  bakers were using the Qing Loong bakery in Wanchai: a 1913 directory gives the address as 93, Queen’s Road East,[3] Sheridan’s statement as 41 Queen’s Rd – this location in is in Central (then Victoria) not Wanchai, so he must mean Queen’s Road East. The two possible addresses are just 1.1 kilometres apart, and might of course reflect the fact that the bakery had moved.

 Sheridan’s statement tells us that until April 15 he was living in Hong Kong on an enemy pass, but when the time came for renewal he claimed to be Irish. According to the story I reported earlier, he produced a passport in Gaelic, but this story seems to get many details wrong, and he doesn’t mention producing any evidence to support his claim in his statement. The Japanese reclassified him as neutral and in late May he asked for permission to go to Kwong Chow Wan. This was a French enclave on the south China coast in an area not occupied by the Japanese army and therefore part of an escape route to Chungking, the capital of Free China. The Japanese put an end to this by occupying the territory in February 1943.[2] At this time the Hong Kong authorities sometimes gave neutrals permission to go there or to Macao because they wanted to reduce the population they had to ration. Sheridan got permission to go on June 4 and sailed the next day. G. B. Endacott thinks he probably travelled via Macao or even Lantau, but he himself makes no mention of any stop before Kwong Chow Wan (Hong Kong Eclipse, 1978, 192), and I’ve found evidence of direct sailings at this time.

Before his escape, he was loaned $500 by Mr. Ng, ‘manager’ of the bakery. Mr. Ng. and his children became life-long friends of Thomas and Evelina, family members visiting them in England on more than one occasion. Every year the Ngs sent over Christmas cards and gifts. Evelina told Brian this was because Thomas had treated them fairly over a bakery when he could have taken it for nothing. Sheridan’s statement establishes this was the Green Dragon – I think Mr. Ng was owner rather than manager – and it’s most likely that the fair treatment relates to this period in 1942-1943. Thomas almost certainly took over the bakery during the fighting, but this was only for four or five days after the Lane, Crawford facility in Stubbs Road became unviable. Thomas praised the devotion to duty of the Qing Loong’s staff in the article he wrote for the British Baker in September 1946, and it seems that it wasn’t only the workers who deserve praise – that loan was an act of courage on Mr. Ng’s part, as no Chinese person could have been in any doubt as to the consequences of being caught in such an act. On February 16, 1947 the Hong Kong Sunday Herald (page 10) announced that Ng Yin-cheung would be presented with a certificate of merit for the assistance rendered to S-S Sheridan in his escape. In the post-war years the Ng family gradually moved to the West; one member became a doctor, another an art historian at a distinguished American university.

 At Machoung (probably the small town now called Machong in Guandong Province– there is still a customs post nearby) Sheridan received a further loan from Mr. Hopcroft, the Commissioner of Customs, who also entrusted him to two Chinese customs officers travelling to Chungking. He reported to the British Military Mission at Kweiyang (now Guiyang) and, when he wrote the statement, he was being helped to proceed to Chungking (now Chongqing).

 As I stated in a previous post, he was awarded the Military Medal for this escape and his subsequent exploits.



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4 responses to “Sheridan’s Escape: His own Account

  1. Pingback: Dr. Frederick Bunje | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  2. Pingback: Levkovich As Driver, Selwyn-Clarke As Boss | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  3. Pingback: Early Days in the French Hospital: The Evidence of Staff-Sergeant Patrick Sheridan | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  4. Pingback: The Third Escape From The French Hospital: Dr. Gerard Griffiths | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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