Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Baag Lists (2): ‘Guaranteed Out’

I ended my previous post with a question:

But what of the non-religious of other nationalities –  is it possible to identify any people ‘guaranteed out’? I’ll take up this issue in future posts. (See this post for an explanation of the system whereby some people were ‘guaranteed out’ of internment at Stanley.)

First of all, it’s worth noting that there seem to have been a number of different sets of conditions for those allowed to leave camp, and the Japanese might not have thought in terms of one single process of ‘guaranteeing out’#. Raoul de Sercey notes that Doris Cuthbertson was not required to promise not to act against Japanese interests – this implies that such a promise was usual. The terms of Chester Bennett’s release required home to engage in no business and generally stay close to home. (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19460130&id=GQBGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hukMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1613,2037668)

Some of the names on the BAAG list of Britishers In Town might be of people who had been ‘guaranteed out’. Such people should also appear on the list given by Greg Leck (in his fine book Captives of Empire) as ‘released’, usually to ‘Hong Kong Victoria’. However, some people known to have been ‘in town’ are not marked in any way on Leck’s list. Three people I discussed in a previous post[1] are in this category: the Halligans and Eric Humphrey; as I pointed out there, they might have been guaranteed out or sent/kept out so that the occupiers could make use of the engineering skills of the two men.

Here are more names on the ‘Britishers’ list and some brief notes about them:

G. K. Hall-Brutton, 75

Mrs. A. G. Jefford, 57

A. Morris (in Un Long), 68

R. Tatz, 10

W. O. Nodes, 53

C. W. L. Shearer, 64

George Kingston Hall Brutton was born on 7 Nov 1866 in Yeovil, Somerset.[2] This is the entry for him in a Far Eastern ‘Who’s Who’ published in 1906-1907:

BRUTTON, George Kingston Hall  (HONGKONG), Solicitor ; b. 1866 ;  2nd s. of Joseph Brutton, of Yeovil,
Somersetshire, and Parkholme,  Eastbourne ; iti. Marie Louise, e. d. of Thomas Hart, F.S.A., Polbrean,  The Lizard, Cornwall ; one child,  Margaretta (Meta) Hall. Educ. : Sherburne School ; 1st XI. and 1st  XV. Admitted to Bar, 1891. Clubs :  Hongkong, Shanghai Country.  Address: The Castle, Hongkong;  Parkholme, Eastbourne, England
.[3]

According to another source, he and Marie Louise had a son Neve in about 1897.[4] Margaretta is reported married in 1912 or 1916 by different sources.

As a young man he became an officer in a West Country rifle regiment:

1st (Exeter and South Devon) Volunteer Battalion,

I fie Devonshire Rtgiment, George Kingston Hall Brutton, Gent., to be Second Lieutenant. Dated 9th July, 1887.

He seems to have been an adjutant in the Hong Kong Volunteers during WW1.[5] He’s recorded by Leck as having been released to the French Hospital,[6] so if the BAAG got their facts right he probably went there first for treatment and wwas then allowed to live somewhere in town because of old age and continuing weakness, perhaps after being guaranteed out by a neutral friend. He survived the war but diedo n 14 Sep 1947.

Mrs. Alice Gertrude Jefford is described by Leck (633) as British and 61 in 1945. He notes that she was released toVictoria, and she seems a likely candidate for having been ‘guaranteed out’.

Alfred Morris, a retired Schoolmaster, is recorded by Leck as having died in July 1945 after release to Hong Kong, so he’s another person who was most likely ‘guaranteed out’

Robert Tatz had a remarkable wartime experience: he was really in the situation that James Ballard only pretended to be in for fictional purposes – a child alone in the Japanese occupation. Tatz was 10 years old in 1942 and both his parents were dead. During the fighting he was looked after for a time by Quaker Missionary William Sewell and his family. He was in Stanleyfor a time but was released to the Canossian Convent.[7] There’s ample evidence that the Japanese treated children well, and my guess is that they would have accepted whatever arrangement promised him the best care, so he might not have needed to be ‘guaranteed out’ in the formal sense.

William Oliver Nodes, British and an undertaker working for Brown, Jones and Co. Funeral Undertakers is described by Leck (640) as ‘released’ to Victoria so he’s another good candidate for having been ‘guaranteed out’.

Captain Charles William Linklater Shearer, a retired Master mariner, was released to Victoria on September 5, 1942 (647), so he’s my third candidate for ‘guaranteeing out’ from the ‘Britishers’ list  (with the two Halligans and Eric Humphreys as also possible).

There are also some names of people who might have been guaranteed out on the BAAG list of patients, which is on the same page as Britishers In Town and is headed In St. Paul’s French Hospital. It seems that the Japanese allowed patients who needed serious medical treatment to enter the French Hospital at all stages: Paul Oscar Peuster is recorded as dying there on June 5, 1942 and the Reverend George Charles May in December 1944.[8] Such releases are not to be confused with the permission given for less serious cases to leave Stanley for X-Ray, which was withheld after the escape of R. E. Stott in August 1942[9] and presumably came to an end after the arrest of Dr. Talbot for money smuggling in February 1943.[10]

Leck records release direct to the Hospital for a number of patients on this list. Three examples all called White and as far as I know unrelated:

Geoffrey Charles Patrick White, 72 in 1945, a marine engineer for the Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co. Ltd.

Thomas White, 59 in 1945, on the office staff of the Sino-Foreign trading Corp.

Francis William White, 76 in 1945, estate and finance broker.[11]

It seems that these people and  a few others on thi list went straight from Stanley to the French Hospital, but there are two people on the list of patients who might have been guaranteed out before becoming sick and moving into the Hospital.

Alfred Edward Murphy, an overseer, is recorded as having moved to Victoria. Leck gives his age in 1945 as 53,[12] but in fact he died in late 1944 or early 1945 after having been arrested by the Kempeitai. I’ll post about him in the future.

Joseph Edgar Joseph, 63 in 1945, is described as a retiree and released into Hong Kong. I think that like Murphy he was probably guaranteed out.[13]

Everyone else on the patients list is either not on Leck’s list or is recorded as having moved to the French Hospital, which I assume involved a different process to being guaranteed out.

In a final post on this subject I’ll discuss those people who are recorded by Leck as having left Camp for Hong Kong but aren’t on any of the BAAG lists of the uninterned in my possession.


[6] Greg Leck, Captives of Empire, 2006, 619.

[8] Leck, 642, 638.

[10] For a discussion of the date see http://gwulo.com/node/10950

[11] All three Whites are listed on page 652 of Captives of Empire and described as moved to the French Hospital.

[12] Leck, 640.

[13] Leck, 633.

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‘Guaranteeing Out’: The Evidence of the Maryknoll Diary

Note: The diary of the Maryknoll Mission can be read online at http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/hkjo/view/4401414.pdf

Some internees were able to leave camp through a scheme known as ‘guaranteeing out’. Emily Hahn explains:

There were around town quite a few British and or two Americans who had been, as we called it, ‘guaranteed out’ of Stanley by neutral friends. At one time Oda had had seemed quite eager to get as many people out of camp as possible, and if a Swiss or Portuguese or French citizen would sign a paper promising that his friend would not work against the Japanese and that his expenses would be met, these enemy nationals were permitted to come into town and live comparatively freely, as I did.[1]

Hahn goes on to say that most of these people were eventually arrested by the Kempeitai, some being released quickly, some held long term. I’ll discuss this claim in a future post.

Geoffrey Emerson tells us that about twenty people, including some Americans, left Stanley in April 1942.[2]  He notes another batch in the period after the June 30 repatriation:

 Following the American departure from Stanley camp, four Americans, one Dutch national and eleven British nationals were allowed to leave camp to reside in the city. They had guarantees from free neutrals.[3]

This second group must have included Edward Gingle, ‘Doc’ Molthen, and ‘Red’ Sammon(s) and Miss Dorrer, whose cases I discussed in a previous post.[4] They left Camp on August 5 alongside ‘some Britishers’, the group totalling 18 in all according to the Maryknoll  diary (Emerson’s tally is 16). The April group noted by Emerson is probably the one mentioned in the Maryknoll diary for April 17:

Two American women internees are called up on the “Hill” today and told that having been vouched for by someone in Hong Kong, they would be allowed to leave Camp within four days.

The Fathers themselves are keen to get out of Stanley as the first step towards reaching their mission posts in China:

Not to be outdone in the matter, we Maryknollers write a letter requesting that we be allowed to return to our residence in the Missions.

On April 20 they report:

A few Norwegians allowed to leave for Hong Kong; also the two American women previously mentioned.

Most Norwegians were treated as neutrals and allowed to stay out of Stanley until two of them escaped; the rest of them were sent into camp in February 1943. So perhaps these few Norwegians didn’t need to be ‘guaranteed out’ in the way Hahn describes. In any case, the diary for April 21 has four ‘neutral’ Maryknoll Sisters being allowed into town and going there about noon on the returning ration truck, which is probably the way most such people leftStanley.

On May 25 the diary reports two ecclesiastical departures:

His Excellency, Bishop O’Gara, finally gets permission to leave the Camp, as also Father Chaye, a Belgian M. E., and quite a crowd gather to see them off.

The Belgians were another group whose treatment varied: at first their bankers were held in the Sun Wah Hotel alongside the Allied nationals carrying out liquidation work for the Japanese, but they petitioned to be considered as neutrals and were allowed to live at places of their own choice as long as the Kempeitai approved of such residences.

The Maryknoll diary for June gives us the names of some more churchmen:

 1 — Father Haughey and Brother Bernard Toohill, Salesians, sign their papers and are allowed to leave Camp.

 5—Father Haughey and Brother Bernard and three Maryknoll Sisters, Sisters Clement, De Ricci and St. Dominic, leave Camp for Hong Kong and freedom, secundum quid.[5] Also six others.

On June 25 the Maryknollers are optimistic:

Rumor hath it that our papers or forms are now on “The Hill,” and that we may get final word any day now to pack up and leave for Hong Kong. Mr. Gunn, an American, and seven others, British and Portuguese, are advised they may leave Camp tomorrow.

 The Portuguese were another group who were usually treated as neutrals,  although they suffered terribly in a Kempeitai crackdown in 1943-44. Most of the Americans in town sailed away on the Asama Maru on June 29/30, so Mr Gunn must surely have left intending to stay in Hong Kong for the duration. One American who definitely did stay on after June 30 left camp on August 10:

Mr. Chester Bennett, our present Council Chairman, and three Britishers get permission to leave the Camp.

Chester Bennett carried out his official duties as a food purchaser while )muggling money back into Stanley and providing information to the British Army Aid Group. He was executed on October 29, 1943. (See https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/?s=chester+bennett )

On August 20 the Maryknollers signed their papers:

Seven months in Camp today and at last the good news has come: we get our call to sign our papers on “The Hill” at 9:30 a.m. These papers merely say that we shall do nothing against His Imperial Majesty’s Japanese Government if we are paroled, and we gladly accede to such a request. Accordingly, promptly at the appointed time, we:13 Maryknoll priests, Brother Thaddeus and two of the remaining four Maryknoll Sisters, Sister Dorothy and Sister Henrietta Marie, sign the required papers and are informed  that we may leave in a “few” days. Fathers Meyer and Hessler, with Sisters Eucharistia and Christella, will remain in the Camp to look after the Catholics.

 But things don’t happen as they expect them:

{August} 25—Usually after signing one’s papers for release, one is allowed to leave within four days, but to date we have received no further word, so we sit and wait until the Foreign Office gets good and ready to allow us to walk the streets of Hong Kong as free men again.

They have to wait until September 12 for the celebrations to begin:

What a day! We are to be released from our confinement and go back to civilized life! We toted our baggage in the morning down to the American Club Block A-4, and there at 10:00 a.m. it was examined, not too minutely, by the gendarmes. Nothing was confiscated, however. At about eleven o’clock the truck which brings the food out to the Camp backed up and the first group, consisting of Fathers Toomey, Troesch, Downs, Keelan, Siebert, Walter and Knotek, Brother Thaddeus and Sisters Dorothy and Henrietta Marie, got in. At the Depot were many of our friends to see us off and to wish us well. At 2:30 in the afternoon the second group, consisting of Fathers Tackney, Madison, Moore, McKeirnan, Gaiero and O’Connell, and most of our baggage, left.

 My guess is that their description of how they felt would apply to most others in their position as well:

 As we in the first group sped out of the Camp and on our way over the familiar winding road to Hong Kong, it was hard to analyze our feelings. We regretted leaving our many friends in Camp, yet were glad to get out to freedom. What would we find in Hong Kong?

But even now things don’t quite go according to plan and there’s what must have been a heart-stopping complication:

All went well until our truck reached the top of the Wongneichong Gap on the Happy Valley Road. Here there was a barrier and we were stopped by a gendarme, who demanded that we get out of the truck and have our baggage inspected and examined.

We were preparing to do this, when Mr. Yamashita, the young Japanese gentleman in charge of Camp affairs, who was sitting with the driver, got down and tried to explain the situation. It seems that the gendarmes had not been informed by the Foreign Office that we were being released, and the officer in charge of this post gave Mr. Yamashita an unmerciful tongue lashing while he, Mr. Yamashita, being a civilian, stood at attention, bowed repeatedly and never answered back a word. At length, when the officer ran out of breath, we were allowed to proceed, without having our baggage examined.

According to some reports that was the gendarme post at which Dr. Harry Talbot was searched on his way back into Stanley in February 1943. He’d been getting X-rays at the French Hospital and was smuggling money back into Stanley. The discovery of his cash – some say hidden under his bandages – led to the arrest and imprison of the bankers Grayburn and Streatfield, and the eventual death of the former from malnutrition.[6] But the Maryknollers get through safely, and we’ll follow them a little further to see the final stage in the process of being ‘guaranteed out’:

We then went into the city, stopping finally at the Queen’s Road entrance to the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, one of Hong Kong’s newest and most imposing structures, and now occupied by the Japanese Foreign Office.

 Here they are given passes which will enable them to move with some degree of freedom around Hong Kong. Those passes secured by Dr. Selwyn-Clarke for the Protestant missionaries Mr. and Mrs. Collier said (in translation)  that the bearer was  ‘an enemy of good behaviour and therefore permitted to go about on the streets’.[7] The Maryknollers then have ‘tiffin’ at the Holy Spirit School – they’re overwhelmed at eating at a real table with real dishes – and then proceed to their new home, Bethany,[8] the establishment of the French Fathers at Pokfulam, where they meet the Belgian Father Chaye again. What was probably a pretty Spartan establishment seems luxury itself after Stanley:

Ourrooms were all prepared and we lost no time in getting under realcovers and settling down to rest, after such an exciting and memorableday.

File:HK Béthanie Front.JPG

Image: Wikimedia (see alsohttp://gwulo.com/node/7360)

 To sum up: as our main source has been the Maryknoll Diary, not surprisingly most of the names of people ‘guaranteed out’ are ecclesiastical, and all of them are American. The secular names are Gingle, Molthen, Sammon(s), Dorrer and Bennett: Chester Bennett was executed on Stanley Beach on October 29, 1943 for his courageous and wide-ranging resistance activity and Gingle ended up re-interned, this time at the smaller and slightly more tolerable Ma-Tau-wai camp in Kowloon. I don’t know what happened to the other three, but Mythen and Sammon survived the war, as they are reported either attending or sending wreaths to Gingle’s funeral in 1960.[9]

But what of the non-religious of other nationalities – it is possible to identify any such people ‘guaranteed out’?  I’ll take up this issue in future posts.


[1] Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 388.

[2] Emerson, Hong Kong Internment, 1973, 63.

[3] Emerson, 1973, 64-65.

[4] https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/edward-gingle-at-war/

[5] ‘Secundum quid’ refers to a type of logical fallacy. The Fathers are suggesting that the ‘freedom’ in Hong Kong was strictly qualified.

[9] Accounts of Gingle and of his funeral are to be found in the China Mail editions of June 20 and June 23, 1960.

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Some notes on the BAAG ‘Uninterned Lists’ (1)

The Hong Kong resistance organisation the British Army Aid Group compiled lists of those British civilians who, like Thomas, were not interned in Stanley during 1942 and early 1943. Information on these lists was provided by Dr. Court and Dr. Selwyn-Clarke (Agent 13) at the French Hospital, the bankers Hyde and Fenwick, and the Chinese agent Raymond Wong (Agent 99, who also worked for the communist resistance movement, the East River Guerrillas).[1]

 Thomas’s name is on two of these lists: he appears on one headed Free Europeans (Contd.), under the sub-heading Medical Department:

 Tommy Edgar (he has a bakery in Wantsai[2])

He’s one of those described explicitly as living at the French Hospital. Evelina isn’t on this list, although other wives are mentioned. 

 I don’t think that this list came directly from Dr. Selwyn-Clarke. It gives us these names:

 J. G. Hooper

E. C. Kerrison

F. W. Warburton

L. W. R. Macey

J. Fox and wife

 Someone (presumably the list compiler) has bracketed these names and typed Thought to be S. D (=Sanitation Department). Leslie Macey’s daughter Ruth Sale has kindly made available to me a letter he sent home soon after the Japanese surrender which makes it clear he was in the Sanitation Department and that he was almost certainly living at the French Hospital; I think it’s safe to assume the others were too (just beneath these names but not included in the bracket comes that of A. C. Sinton, another public health worker – he was executed on October 29, 1943 for smuggling messages in and out of Stanley[3]). If this list had originated with Selwyn-Clarke he would have known for certain these men were in the Sanitation Department as he was organising their work and living alongside them. I think that Dr. Court would have known this too, so my guess is that the information comes from one of the bankers Hyde and Fenwick, or from Raymond Wong.

The second list includes the two other bakers and Thomas’s name is repeated for completeness:

 Baker’s at St. Pauls (French Hospital).

 Edgar (Name given in previous list).

Hammond.

Peacock.

 Sgt. J. Hammond was an RASC baker.[4] I know nothing about Peacock except the details provided by Staff Sergeant P. Sheridan after his escape from Hong Kong: Mr. Peacock (no initial given) was a confectioner and pastry cook working for Lane, Crawford. I suspect this means he provided delicacies for the Café Wiseman, the restaurant in the Lane Crawford headquarters, the Exchange Building. Before the opening of the Stubbs Rd.premises in 1938 the Cafe had its own bakery – I’ve not yet been able to find out if this continued once the new and much more modern facility was opened. In his September 1946 article for the British Baker Thomas mentions Hammond, Sheridan and the three delivery drivers, but not Peacock. It’s possible that like so many others forced into close proximity by the conditions of the occupation they ended the war preferring to ignore each other’s existence! In any case, Leck’s book (see below) gives his Christian name as Serge and his age in 1945 as 39.

Just above the list of the three bakers is one headed Britishers in Town (Not Interned)

 The list begins:

 Dorothy Brazier, 53

Harold Fethirstonhaugh Collier, 52

Mrs. Francis Dorothy Collier, 55

Miss Alice Nora Dillon, 36

Miss Margaret Aileen Jennings, 58

Doris Grace Lemon, 36

Miss Ruth Little, 28

Miss Iris K. Critchell, 29,

Miss Mildred Dibden, 37

 As far as I know, these were all missionaries, and I’ll write about them in due course. None of them are in the Stanley Camp List given by Greg Leck in his excellent study of civilian internment in China,[5] and my guess is that most of them remained ‘out’ throughout the war – although the Colliers were part of the Canadian repatriation of September 1943.[6] Their presence on this list makes me fairly certain the information this time came from Selwyn-Clarke: the Colliers were confined to their flat in Kowloon from June to October 1942 after missing being interned due to a mix-up. In June they were told by a Kempeitai Colonel they’d be shot if they left home, but in October a fellow missionary alerted Selwyn-Clarke to their existence, and he arranged for them to be given passes which allowed them some freedom.[7] I doubt that any of the other possible sources of information knew about this pair.

The next three names on the list are those of people in a different category:

 George Halligan, 30

Ivy May Halligan, 32

Eric Gordon Humphrey, 26

 George Halligan and Eric Humphery (Leck’s spelling is Humpherey) were engineers. The BAAG list has a separate category detailing, for example, Gas Company employees, but these two are put in the ‘miscellaneous’ category of ‘Britishers in town’, so it’s not clear why they were kept out of Stanley. It’s possible that the Japanese were making use of their professional knowledge, or that they were ‘guaranteed out’, a process I shall describe in a future post. Halligan is an Irish name (and the Halligans were Catholics) but this couple ended up in Stanley, which suggests they probably didn’t claim Irish nationality to avoid internment. George Halligan is described by Leck as an engineer with Far East Motors.[9] He was one of the ‘technicians’ who, in what must have been an unnerving late development, were sent out of Camp on August 10, 1945, heading for an unknown destination but ending up in Kowloon. No-one really knows why this group was taken out of Stanley, but one popular theory was that it was done to deny the Allies their expertise in the event of an assault on Hong Kong – if this theory is correct, then it suggests that the Japanese did not plan to massacre the internees rather than see them freed.[11]

 Once in Stanley, the Halligans adopted a very young girl, Jean Clark, because the birth mother seemed unable to look after her under Camp conditions, but were compelled to return her a few weeks later after a change of heart.[12] They were witnesses at a wedding just after the end of the war, one for which Thomas baked the cake.[13]

 Leck gives Humphrey’s Christian names as Eric Gordon Knowles and his job as Electrical Engineer for the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company.[14] He too ended up in Stanley. When the departure of the technicians was announced, he quickly married Sheila Bruce; however, although the more established wives like Ivy May Halligan were allowed to accompany their husbands, the new Mrs. Humphreys wasn’t.[15]

 The list continues:

 G. K. Hall-Brutton, 75

Mrs. A. G. Jefford, 57

A. Morris (in Un Long), 68

R. Tatz, 10,

W. O. Nodes, 53

C. W. L. Shearer, 64

 I’ll provide notes on these people in a future post.


[1] Information kindly supplied by Elizabeth Ride. I thank Elizabeth and Tony Banham for sending me scans of the lists themselves.

[2] Sic. Thomas’s bakery was the Qing Loong in Wanchai; Wantsai is the name of a completely different part of Hong Kong. I’m not sure of the significance of this mistake.

[5] Greg Leck, Captives of Empire, Shandy Press, 2006.

[6] Their book Covered Up In Kowloon (1947) although grimly pietistic is a fascinating source for life in Kowloon during the first half of the occupation.

[7] Colliers, 67-70.

[9] Leck, 629.

[14] Leck, 632.

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Edward Gingle At War

Note: All photos in this post are post-war and from Thomas’s archive. There are more photos of Gingle at: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=gingle+source:life&sa=N&start=0&ndsp=20&biw=1311&bih=445&sei=ELGwT8-KBoml0QXe6fSjCQ&tbm=isch

One of the Hong Kong people Thomas talked about in later years was a restaurateur he called Gingles.[1] He used to speak with admiration of his ability to hold his drink. Gingle could, Thomas claimed, drink a crate of beer before breakfast, and often did.

The size of the man in the photos[2] gave this story some credibility, but Brian doubted it even then.[3] It seems now that Thomas was one of those creating ‘the Gingle legend’.

Edward Francis Gingle, like Thomas, was out of Stanley at a time when few other Allied citizens were, although in his case he was freed after a period in the Camp. I was intrigued by a reference to him in one of the war crimes trials, and this post is the result of the subsequent research and speculation.

According to one account, Gingle was born on August 17, 1884[4] in the small town of Ashland, Wisconsin[5]  (population in 2010, 8,695), but that he grew up in Junction City. Another source describes him as ‘Junction City’s best known native son’[6] – perhaps not such a huge achievement as in 2000 it had only 440 inhabitants.[7] Still another links him with the rather larger town of Green Bay,[8] and it’s also claimed that he reached beer drinking age in Milwaukee.[9] It seems that the family moved around, but only within Wisconsin. Gingle joined the Coast Guard when he was 17, migrating to the navy at the start of WW1, during which he was chef on the USS MacDougal, crossing the Atlantic in convoy.[10] After the war he sailed with the Pacific Fleet, and saw service in China. There’s a record of him, probably from 1934, as Chief Commissary Steward on board the Black Hawk, with a formidable reputation throughout the navy as a cook and disciplinarian.[11]

In one version of a story that, like many of those concerning Gingle has probably lost little in the telling, he came ashore in Hong Kong some time in 1936 planning to celebrate his discharge from the navy and imminent return to the USA. He woke up the next day having lost his ticket home and with a receipt for the 60 room Palace Hotel in Kowloon mysteriously lodged in his pocket.[12]

Other accounts challenge the year 1936 or leave a gap between his settling in Hong Kong and opening a hotel/restaurant.[13] [14] The truth is probably lost in the mythology that seems to have been created partly by the man himself, partly by journalists eager to entertain readers with accounts of a ‘colourful’ character or to boost local pride with claims about a small-town boy become a ‘legend of the Far East’.

Whatever the exact date and circumstances of his entry into the Hong Kong hospitality business, he first shows up in the jurors list for 1938.[15] The war found him with a wife and a young child- Susan and Mabel. Susan was Chinese, and one account has her as wealthy. Gingle is listed by Tony Banham as held in the Kowloon Hotel in January 1942[16], and all three are on record as interned in Stanley:

Record SERIAL NUMBER NAME SERVICE CODE STATE OF RESIDENCE AREA STATUS DETAINING POWER CAMP
sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high sort low to high
View GINGLE EDWARD F CIVILIAN Asiatic Theatre: China Returned to Military Control, Liberated or Repatriated JAPAN Stanley Camp (Civilian) Hong Kong 22-114
View GINGLE MABEL CIVILIAN Asiatic Theatre: China Undefined Code JAPAN Stanley Camp (Civilian) Hong Kong 22-114
View GINGLE SUSAN MRS CIVILIAN Asiatic Theatre: China Undefined Code JAPAN Stanley Camp (Civilian) Hong Kong 22-114

Source: http://aad.archives.gov/aad/display-partial-records.jsp?dt=466&mtch=3&q=gingle&cat=WR26&tf=F&bc=,sl,sd&rpp=10&sort=11660%20desc

Gingle did the cooking for those Americans living in the American Club, and his ability to turn the sparse rations provided by the Japanese into delicious meals was much admired:

Food preparation was immediately taken over by Gingles, an ex-navy man who had had restaurants in Hong Kong for years. Because food was his hobby and he was cooking for such a small number, he could get better results with the rice and pull tricks with the small amounts of extras that were issued.[17]

Dew may well have known but wisely doesn’t mention that one of the ways he created his (relatively) tasty meals was to use his splendid network of Chinese food trade contacts to get things into the Camp[18] – some of this could have been done through legal means, but it’s possible that some smuggling was involved as well. Repatriated journalist Richard Wilson claimed that these efforts were so successful that they saved the Americans from the beri beri that had broken out in the British community.[19]

Gingle himself became diabetic in camp, and Dr. Talbot – British but attached to the Americans managed to get him some insulin (statement of George Baxter, information kindly provided by Philip Cracknell).

On June 30 most of the Americans sailed home in an exchange with the Japanese. About 40 stayed on, some of them because they had Chinese wives.  Dew (Prisoner of the Japs, 146) seems to suggest that it was the ‘restrictive’ laws of the Americans that kept these out of the repatriation. Gingle had both Chinese wife and Eurasian daughter, as well as business interests to keep him in Hong Kong, although he told Richard Wilson that he was staying behind to carrying on cooking for the remaining Americans.[21]

The members of the Maryknoll order, who also remained behind, seem to have provided the bulk of his new ‘customers’, and the Maryknoll Diary for July 2 shows Gingle taking over his duties:

Father Meyer turns the cooking job over to Mr. Gingles. Formerly, Mr. Gingles, a retired American Navy man, had a number of restaurants in Hong Kong and a hotel in Kowloon, and while in Camp he did the cooking for the group of Americans in the American Club building. His fame as a cook spread through the Camp and now that he is living with us, he has kindly consented to do the work again.[22]

Father Meyer’s meals had been popular, but not surprisingly the Maryknollers appreciated Gingle’s professional touch:

(July 3) Under the new hotel management, our meal hours undergo somewhat of a change. We Maryknollers (when we have the wherewithal) have coffee, bread and cereal about 8 a.m., then Mr. Gingles gives us tiffin at 12 and dinner follows as usual at 5.

Having heard a lot of our new chef’s abilities, we naturally looked forward to something different, and for our first tiffin, we were not disappointed. While we had only rice and a thick soup, the soup was chicken, and very delicious. It seems there must be some community stores still extant, hence this chicken soup. For supper, he gave us fried rice and a little pork. At the present time, for 41 people, we get from 9 to 11 pounds of meat, bones and fat included, mostly beef, and probably water buffalo at that. Our present issue of green vegetables consists of a few sweet potatoes  some very poor, wormy water spinach and chives, which Mr. Gingles frowns upon and usually throws away as unfit for human consumption.

There’s another glimpse of Gingle at work in the next day’s entry:

Mr. Gingles’ kitchen is a model of cleanliness and order, and everything is absolutely shipshape. No one is allowed in the galley and he takes great pride in his work. It is easily seen he has had Navy training. His clarion call for meals is: “Come and get it or I’ll throw it on the deck!” and that brings us all running with our plates and cups.

The diary at this point is devoted largely to food, perhaps under the impact of Gingle’s culinary skills – he’s the main topic of the July  5 entry as well

We are just getting on to Mr. Gingles’ method of feeding us. Our ordinary fare seems to be just rice with a thick gravy or soup, but every few days we get quite a delicious meal. It seems he saves up the best pieces of meat and vegetables for a few days and then gives us  a square meal, served in an appetizing manner. Today we had such a meal, with a real slice of meat, a whole sweet potato, some spinach, cooled in the refrigerator, and, of course, rice. For supper just rice and stew but stew with a flavor. It seems he darkens the gravy by the addition of a little burnt sugar.

However, it doesn’t look as if Gingle really stayed behind to do the cooking: the diary for July 6 records:

Rice and gravy for both meals, and there are “seconds” for those who wish. Mr. Gingles is certainly generous with what he has.

We try a little mint in our tea. Today, Mr. Gingles, Dr. Molthen, Mr. Salmon and Miss Dorrer, all Americans, sign papers for release, so we are going to lose our good cook!

These ‘papers’ were those necessary to be ‘guaranteed out’, and the diary records that British as well as American prisoners benefitted from this scheme in the summer of 1942. An internee had to get a neutral friend to promise that they wouldn’t work against Japanese interests and guarantee that their expenses would be met. [23] At no point does the diary mention that his wife Susan and daughter Mabel left with him; this might have been because they were considered Chinese and didn’t have to go through the same procedures to leave Camp, or that they stayed behind.

Meanwhile the other Americans who stayed behind were trying to get out too:

(July) 13—All Americans, except Maryknollers, are to report to “The Hill” tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. The four Americans who have already signed up are still waiting for final word.

14—The Americans called up were asked why they wanted to go to Hong Kong, and how they could support themselves.

Gingle carried on cooking while waiting to hear if he’d been successful. On July 8 he made ‘another good meal’ with meatballs, spinach and deelicious gravy, and the next day served up a treat of cinnamon buns. The diary references to Gingle tail off at this point: as David Bellis suggests, the Maryknollers probably got used to the high standard of his cooking – or perhaps the rations became too poor for him to do very much. There’s a final flourish towards the end of the month:

(July) 26—Sunday. Another Gingles meal of a real slice of meat, fried sweet potatoes, spinach and rice, with some Philadelphia rice scrapple for breakfast.

On August 4 he finally received the good news:

(T)he four Americans, Mr. Gingles, Dr. Molthen,[24] Mr. Salmon[25] and Miss Dorrer, are to leave Camp tomorrow at 10:00 a.m….We naturally regret losing our genial and efficient cook, but we rejoice with him in his good fortune.[26]

On August 5 Gingle left Stanley never to return. He was accompanied by three Americans and 14 others, presumably British.

On September 12 the Maryknollers were themselves released from camp, and moved to Bethany, a religious establishment in the Pokfulam area in the east of Hong Kong Island, and in October they recorded a visit by ‘our genial chef, Mr. Gingles’ and ‘his side-kick, Dr. Molthen’. That’s the last mention of him in the Maryknoll Diary, but it seems to suggest that he was reasonably free to move around Hong Kong.

The end of the war found Gingle re-interned, this time in the smaller and rather more comfortable Ma Tau-wai Camp. He was the cook and, after his release from prison on December 8, 1944, Dr. Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke was the Medical Officer. We know Gingle was there because once again his meals proved memorable. The daughter of one internee notes:

My mother says it was a blessing to be put in the camp because they were literally starving when they were on the outside.

She also tells us

My mother remembers an American cook (‘Mr. Jingle’).[27]

Mau Tau-wai (formerly Ma Tau-chung/chong) was used to house Indian soldiers until some time in 1944; the Indians were moved out, and Tony Banham thinks a BAAG report that 100 civilians were interned there between August 13 and August 15 refers to the first of the new type of internees,[28] so it’s most likely that Gingle was ‘free’ for the last five months of 1942, all of 1943 and part of 1944.

According to Tony Banham, not all the Americans in town were re-interned in Ma Tau-wai, but it’s not known why Gingle was sent there. He could have asked for this to happen, because he too was finding it hard to survive, or the authorities might have suspected he was up to something, but, unable to marshal any concrete evidence, decided to put him where he could do them no harm (contrary to a common belief both at the time and today the Gendarmes didn’t arrest or torture Allied civilians without plausible evidence of ‘illegal’ activity).

So what was Gingle up to in the period between his two internments, living as part of the small community of Allied civilians at large in Hong Kong? At some time or another all his businesses were destroyed. The Palace Hotel was destroyed by the United States Fourteenth Air Force during the occupation as the Japanese had used it as a military headquarters. During the three years and eight months two experiments in American food provision, Gingle’s Dixie Kitchen and Gingle’s Little Spot, were confiscated and wrecked. [29]

So he didn’t make a lot of money, but was probably trying to earn a living in one way or another, whether through these businesses or some other enterprise. The only hint as to his activities that I’ve been able to find comes in a fleeting reference in the committal proceedings for Fakir Mohammed Arculli, an Indian journalist who was eventually given three years hard labour for working as a Kempeitai informer. One of the witnesses was William Albert Shea, who said that on two occasions he took money to ‘Gingle’s’ for his boss (or business associate) Victor Needa. Shea said he wasn’t acting in a work capacity, and he was clearly giving some support to Needa’s story that he’d helped the Allies in various ways even though he’d been trading with the Japanese military.[30] Shea denies knowing anything about Needa’s claims to have taken part in other resistance activities or to have given financial assistance to particular individuals, so it’s possible that the money taken to Gingle’s restaurant was for the owner himself or for general relief purposes. Shea started with Needa at an unspecified time, although not right at the beginning of the occupation when he lived by selling his possessions, and stayed with him ‘until 1944’, so it’s impossible to know when the cash was delivered. The China Mail report is as I quoted it – ‘Gingle’s’ – so it’s possible that the money was taken to the restaurant but not to the man himself. However, it seems from the article quoted above that when he wasn’t running his businesses himself, Japanese people were, so I’ll discount that possibility.

Now comes the speculation. I mentioned above that while in camp Gingle used his contacts with the Chinese community to get nutritious food for the Americans. Another American in ‘hospitality’, Chester Bennett, left Camp on or around May 8 and, with Japanese permission, spent some Red Cross money that had been allocated to buy the Americans extra food.[31] Chester Bennett was part-owner of a number of bars and restaurants and had seventeen juke boxes scattered around Hong Kong.[32] He returned to Camp, announcing that he’d got married in town, was elected new chairman of the American community  on June 2, and on August 11 left Camp to carry on his work as a food purchaser.[33] At the request of Franklin Gimson he’d turned down the chance to be repatriated to stay and help the internees.[34] In an article based on interviewing Bennett’s wife, journalist Hal Boyle tells us that the basis of Bennett’s ability to act as an effective spy was the need to ‘circulate’ to carry out his task of food buying.[35]

Bennett joined the bankers in raising for and smuggling money into Stanley. Towards the end of the year he was approached by the Portuguese solicitor Marcus da Silva and the two began a courageous programme of spying and other resistance activities.

Now, I have no proof that Gingle knew Chester Bennett. But I think it very unlikely that two Americans in the same line of business were ignorant of each other in the small world of pre-war Hong Kong. Gingle was selling ‘Americanness’ as well as food, and at the very least it must have occurred to Bennett that here was someone who might be interested in renting a juke box.  But my guess is that they knew each other much better than that.

Similarly, I’ve no proof that when Bennett joined Gingle in town in August 1942 the two met, but I find it inconceivable that they didn’t: I think there were probably under 20 non-ecclesiastical Americans outside camp in late 1942, and probably fewer than 80 adult British.

If they did meet, it must have struck Bennett that Gingle would have been an ideal helper in both his legal and illegal campaigns. His knowledge of the food trade and his Chinese contacts would have made him the right man to consult about purchases of supplies for Stanley. I think it possible, although not of course certain, that the money Needa sent through Shea was not for Gingle himself but for buying food to be smuggled intoStanleyor for some similar purpose. As for spying: an ex-Navy man knew what was important militarily in the vicinity of the harbour and dockyards. And that network of Chinese friends and acquaintances could have been helpful for more than just the provision of condiments; finding reliable Chinese agents was a major task for any BAAG operative, as the Chinese community was split, some siding with the Japanese for reason of ideology or self interest.

I’m not suggesting that Gingle was a BAAG agent in the formal sense, but that Bennett might well have asked him to keep his eyes and ears open, to recommend trustworthy Chinese, or to use his contacts to get things into Stanley. As we shall see, Gingle doesn’t seem the kind of man to decline to serve the Allied cause.

There’s an intriguing although very tenuous link in a rumour recorded in the diary of Prison officer R. E. Jones:

Sat 15th {Jan 1944}

5 more Es {Europeans} ex. {executed} in town. Gingles, Chester-Woods, Pascoe, Da Silva & soares?

Marcus Da Silva was a Portuguese solicitor who worked as a BAAG agent with Chester Bennett. There was a senior police officer in Stanley called Chester-Woods, who, as far as I know, was never in town, and at one stage the rumour probably concerned Chester Bennett – he was executed on October 29, 1943, but it’s possible some internees didn’t know this as his name wasn’t on the official list released by the Japanese on November 2 as he wasn’t in Stanley and nor was his wife. In any case, Marcus Da Silva was undoubtedly Chester Bennet’s ‘partner’ in spying and smuggling; he was arrested in May 1943, but managed to talk his way out of prison. Boris Pasco was a bookseller who was arrested in 1943 for his role in illegal relief work, while  ‘Soares’ might have been F. X. Soares, a banker who was certainly involved in some resistance activity but managed to escape to Macao before being caught.[36]

What kind of a man was Gingle? Does he seem the type to have been involved in the resistance? Most of the evidence is post-war, but we do get a glimpse of his attitude during the war years. When soon-to-be-repatriated journalist Richard Wilson asked Gingle if he had any message for the American people, Gingle reply was in effect ‘Send over some bombers as soon as possible’.[37] This suggests his fighting spirit and some willingness to take risks, although he was probably right in calculating that the chance of the Japanese in Hong Kong getting to learn of anything reported in an American local newspaper was rather small!

After the war he contributed assiduously to the creation of his own legend, so it’s best to take any story about him as suggestive rather than definitive, but those that do exist suggest both a ‘tough guy’ attitude and links with the American military and intelligence services.

Gingle’s restaurant was frequented by American fliers, with whom he seems to have had a special affinity.[38] He also enjoyed contact with soldiers from the British garrison.[39] The restaurant had a ‘nickel jukebox blasting cowboy ballads’.[40]  According to the same source (page 11) Gingle’s best friend after the war was the pilot James McGovern, and it was Gingle who gave him the nickname ‘Earthquake McGoon’. When McGovern was captured by the Chinese communists in 1949, one article claims that Gingle withdrew his savings and mortgaged his restaurant and presented Chennault with $100,000, telling him to get ‘my boy out’’.[41] McGovern died while on a CIA mission to get supplies to the beleaguered French legionnaires in Dien Bien Phu (he wasn’t the only aviator who passed through Hong Kong who had links with the CIA or its predecessor the OSA). More importantly, it was said that Gingle himself was the best source for intelligence as to what was happening on the south China coast. He was also supposed to have made a lot of money through commission on funds smuggled out of Communist China.[42]

Gingle seems to have liked to act the part of a tough-guy bar owner.  The book Hostage to Fortune an autobiography by the well known author and aviator Ernest Gann describes his encounter late in the life of Gingle.[43] Gann describes how he was kept waiting by Gingle at his restaurant while being looked over by an ex-Marine barman with snake tattoos on his arms.  We also learn that later Gingle told Gann by phone to leave Hong Kong – and a ticket in Gann’s name was already at the airport for the next day’s Pan American flight. Gann ignored Gingles “get out of town” injunction and carried on looking for inspiration for a new novel, but such was the force of Gingle’s threat that he hired bodyguards. Sadly the online sources don’t reveal what made this friend of American aviators turn against Gann to such an extent.

All this proves nothing, of course. Mixing with CIA men before or after the war is no proof of spying during it, and the belief that Gingle was the best source of intelligence on the south China coast might have been one propagated by himself for reason of personal or commercial aggrandisement. And Shea’s reference to having taken money to Gingle’s might mean no more than the charitable Needa was helping out someone he’d known before the war. But I’d be surprised to ever come across definite proof that he never passed information on to Bennett or another agent and that he absolutely refused to have anything to do with smuggling money or medicines back into Stanley.

According to his mother, Gingle eventually gave up running the restaurant in favour of farm management because of arthritis,[44]  and the one man who knew the truth behind the stories died on the morning of Monday, June 20, 1960 at Sunnybrook Farm, Sheung Shui.[45]


[1] The best sources tend to call him Gingle. This is probably the correct form and I’ll use it from now on except when quoting directly.

[2] One source gives his post-war weight as 300 pounds – http://www.unz.org/Pub/Colliers-1951sep08-00020

[3] This site has a photo which looks as if Thomas’s claim came from Gingle himself: http://www.gstatic.com/hostedimg/60759d8d16606d45_large

[4] http://www.unz.org/Pub/Colliers-1951sep08-00020

[7] Information on Wisconsin towns from the Wikipedia entries.

[17] Gwen Dew, Prisoner of the Japs, 1943, 236-237. See also the comments in the Maryknoll diary – link at http://gwulo.com/node/2623

[22] There’s a link to the Maryknoll Diary at http://gwulo.com/node/2623

[23] Emily Hahn, China To Me, 388

[24] One of Hong Kong’s first chiropractors, and a man who at the end of the fighting displayed an unexpected talent for scuttling large numbers of ships. He might have been one of the two ‘doctors’ who Wilson reported to be among those assisting Gingle in camp cooking:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=U9RhA5fRgf4C&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=hong+kong+dr.+molthen&source=bl&ots=UWtYTwXdN7&sig=YQRq2JaPL4PvOAYXdaAUIBE5a7k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HoCuT8yUOIi90QXIwMW7CQ&ved=0CF4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hong%20kong%20dr.%20molthen&f=false

[25] Presumably Gingle’s manager E. P. (‘Red’) Sammon or Sammons.

[26] [http://gwulo.com/node/2623

27] Tony Banham, We Shal Suffer There, December 20, 1944.

[28] Banham, October 20, 1944.

[30] China Mail, September 18, 1946, page 4.

[33] For Chester Bennett’s activities, see the Maryknoll Diary for the dates given. Bennett seems to leave Camp, buy food, get married and return all on one day – Saturday, May 8. This seems unlikely, although not of course impossible.

[36] Information kindly supplied by Bel Palmer. There’s a reference to Soares’ exemplary conduct during the war in Volume 3 of Frank King’s history of the HKSBC.

[45] China Mail, June 20, 1960, page 1.

[46] China Mail, June 23, 1960.

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Selwyn-Clarke’s Arrest: A Speculation As To The Timing

The arrest of Selwyn-Clarke and some of his associates at the French Hospital in Causewa Bay on May 2, 1943 was probably the most terrible event of Thomas and Evelina’s wartime experience. Emily Hahn, who was friendly with the Selwyn-Clarke’s at the time, gives us a dramatic account:

 The gendarmes didn’t wait a week after he {Japanese Medical officer Colonel Eguchi, Selwyn-Clarke’s ‘protector} had gone before they swooped down and arrested Selwyn. It happened on a Sunday morning so early that even Selwyn was not yet awake. He was given time to dress and to take some clothes with him, and then they took him away.

The job was done in really good style. They had planned it down to the smallest matter because, after all, they had been at it for a long time, for months and months. The entire hospital was closed off by police and soldiers. It happened that the former consul general, Reynaud,[1] lay dying there, but his doctor was not permitted to go in and see him. The gendarmes meant to find out everything they could about that hotbed of espionage, and no sick people were going to interfere with their work. It is not true, as some hysterical patients averred, that the soldiers came whooping over the wall as if they were attacking a fortress, but their entry must have been sufficiently melodramatic to put the fear of God and the devil into the French sisters and the rest of the staff.

We first heard it from Hilda’s {Hilda Selwyn-Clarke} cook, who brought a message from her that she would get in touch with me as soon as possible. They were all held prisoner: Hilda, Mary {her young daughter}, Helen Ho, who had been working with them and looking after Mary…and a number of others. In the course of the day Constance Lam was brought on and set down there, and a few other people showed up, Chinese doctors suspected of working in the espionage game with Selwyn and the like.[2]

 The general picture is confirmed by a British Army Aid Group (resistance organisation) report dated June 8, cited in Tony Banham’s We Shall Suffer There:

 ‘At the time of the recent arrests the French Hospital was surrounded for one week. Drs. SELWYN-CLARKE, BUNJEE, NICOLSON and other of their associates were all detained and interrogated. The first 3 were taken to Gendarmerie H. Q. BUNJEE was manhandled and fainted’.

 I suggested in a previous post[3] that the idea that Selwyn-Clarke was arrested as a result of the investigation into the plot to free Captain Ansari that cost the liberty and in some cases the lives of a number of BAAG agents was probably incorrect: the doctor kept himself away from all military operations so that he would be able to carry on with his humanitarian work for as long as possible. The Kempeitai had been trying to incriminate him since February, he always expected to be taken into custody one day, and the most parsimonious explanation is Hahn’s – they struck almost immediately after his main protector had left Hong Kong.

 In fact I think that it’s possible to speculate as to the precise reason for the timing of the arrest. It was obviously sensible to allow a day or two to pass after Eguchi’s departure, and Thursday April 29 and Friday April 30 were Japanese festivals – the Son of Heaven Festival celebrating the Emperor’s birthday and the Yasukuni Shrine Spring Festival commemorating Japanese soldiers who died in the Russo-Japanese War respectively.[4] The operation described by Hahn was a big one, involving the co-ordination of at least two services (three if by police Hahn means the civil police not the Military Kempeitai). Selwyn-Clarke’s own brief account has the raid as taking place just after dawn.[5] It’s easy to see why, given that the intended victims in theFrenchHospital were no doubt being watched carefully and weren’t going anywhere it might be better to wait a day rather than start an operation involving the assembly of a raiding party in the early hours of a day which followed a double holiday. Of course, if it had been necessary, the Japanese would have stormed into the French Hospital on the Saturday (or indeed on one of the holidays), but it wasn’t.

 Strangely the BAAG account doesn’t mention the arrest of Alexander Sinton. My guess it probably took place at the French Hospital where he’s recorded as living in December 1942,[6] as there’s no reason to believe he’d left it. Those who weren’t arrested, including Thomas and Evelina, were held prisoner and most or all of them were sent into Stanley on May 7. There’s no record of Sinton’s arrest in Stanley, and if he’d been arrested before Selwyn-Clarke he (or someone) would have mentioned it as a sign of what was about to happen. I think he was arrested on May 2 too, and, if so, he was the only one of this group to be executed.


[1] Probably the man who gave the RASC baker P. J. Sheridan a letter to help him pass freely through French territory on his escape.

[2] Emily Hahn, China For Me, 1986 ed., 404.

[4] Cheng Po Hung, Hong Kong During the Japanese Occupation, 2006, 99.

[5] Footprints, 1975, 83.

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More on Owen Evans in 1942

There are two intriguing glimpses of Owen Evans, Thomas and Evelina’s best man, in some documents kindly sent to me by Elizabeth Ride.

Elizabeth’s father was Sir Lindsay Ride, the founder of the British Army Aid Group, a Hong Kong resistance movement. The BAAG made contact with the camps and the ‘uninterned’ allied civilians sometime in June 1942. The Americans were repatriated  at the end of that month, leaving about 80 Allied nationals in occupied Hong Kong. The two biggest concentrations were bankers at the Sun Wah Hotel – kept out to liquidate their banks and perform other functions useful to the occupiers – and Selwyn-Clarke’s team of health workers at the French Hospital. Scattered around Hong Kong were half a dozen or so missionaries, some public utilities workers, a few employees of the Dairy Farm company, and a number of Allied nationals claiming to be Irish.

Owen Evans lived alongside Thomas (and eventually Evelina) at the French Hospital and delivered the bread and no doubt other things as well. He’d been a driver with the Friends Ambulance Unit, caught in Hong Kong where he’d been on a recreational break with his brother Llewellyn, who managed to get out just in time.[1] Staff Sergeant Sheridan began his escape on June 4, and in the seven page statement he made soon after arriving in New Delhi he says this:

A Mr. Owen Evans of the Friends Ambulance Unit, who was doing voluntary work for the hospitals, had, entirely on his own, got permission from the head of the Japanese Civil Administration, to proceed to the Portuguese colony of Macau to interview the British Consul about funds for relief work in Hong Kong for British nationals.

He had all necessary arrangements completed on the 4th June, and expected to leave in a day or two.

N. B. This was done without the knowledge of the Gendarmes, and should not be made public in case the Gendarmes hear of it and show resentment.

Through the good offices of Bernice Archer, I contacted Mr. Wilhelm Snyman who’s about to publish an edition of the diary of John Reeves, the courageous Macau Consul. He wasn’t aware of any mention of this visit in the diary, but he’s kindly checking. Even if the visit never took place, arranging such an enterprise behind the backs of the Kempeitai shows Evans’s initiative, courage and humanitarianism. He’s the tall man standing next to the bride in the wedding photo, and I’d love to know if he’d recently got back from an excursion to Macao! If so, he might well be unique: the only Allied civilian to make the round trip during the years of the occupation.

The next reference to him comes in a report based on an interview with the escaped Irish doctor J. P. Fehilly (who read through and corrected the typescript):

Owen Evans Selwyn-Clarke did a dirty trick on him, taking away his official position, because he was doing some really good work though his connections with the Quakers.

Fehilly and his wife began their escape (via Macao and Kwong Chow Wan) on October 25, 1942. Another source tells us that Evans, as well as his work as a delivery driver, had been ‘engaged in relief and Red Cross work, including the organization of a home for destitute Chinese’[2]. Exactly what Selwyn-Clarke did or why he did it is not known, but it probably relates to this relief work. The same source tells us that Evans was out of Stanley for nine months. That would tie in with his entering camp soon after Fehilly’s escape, perhaps as a direct result of Selwyn-Clarke’s actions. His name isn’t on the BAAG list of those living at the French Hospital in December 1942.


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Tanaka Again (and some speculations about the wedding)

THIS POST IS NOW OUT OF DATE – PLEASE SEE https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/early-days-in-the-french-hospital-the-evidence-of-staff-sergeant-patrick-sheridan/

 

Elizabeth Ride has been kind enough to send me the long version of the escape statement of S/Sergeant Sheridan, one of the RASC bakers who worked with Thomas during the fighting and the subsequent occupation.

Captain Tanaka seems to have had the ability to surprise the internees by his good treatment of those under his command – by showing them films and sending them on their way with a bottle of whisky each, for example.[1] But a description of his biggest surprise was waiting for me in this typescript.

I’d always assumed that Sheridan and his fellow RASC man Sgm. Hammond were baking out of uniform and simply told the Japanese they were civilians, with or without Thomas’s active co-operation. The real story is much stranger:

We had to leave the Exchange Building on the 8th of February 1942 and our new abode was the French Hospital. Before we made the change, Captain Tanaka ordered Sgt. Hammond and myself to leave what Army kit (?)[2] we had, even our pay books and identity discs, behind.

In an earlier post[3] I expressed some scepticism as to the rumour, reported by Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, that Captain Tanaka was eventually executed for his kindness to internees and POWs; this story of Sheridan’s makes such a fate much more plausible. The only motive for his action that I can think of  is a humane desire to keep the two men out of Shamshuipo, which was a hell-hole for most of 1942. The Japanese certainly could be rather casual at times about the combattant/non-combattant distinction, but they could also be fierce in upholding it: later in February 1942 a uniform was found in the Exchange Building (it could even have been Hammond’s or Sheridan’s!) and all the members of the telephone company being held there were shipped off to Shamshuipo just in case.[4]

Sheridan was now effectively a civilian. Soon he was to go one better:

Enemy passes were issued to us. They allowed us to walk (?) about as well as to proceed to and from the Bakery. These passes were valid until 31st March, and were later extended to the 15th April. When the new passes (?) were being filled in, I changed my nationality to Irish and instead of army baker (??) as occupation I put Baker. A few days later I was issued with a neutral pass.

 Sheridan waited a little before making his next move. Several words are illegible in his explanation as to why, but he presumably paused so as not to arouse Japanese suspicions, to use his greater freedom as a ‘neutral’ to gather intelligence, and to give himself time to prepare (the clearest words in the illegible passage are ‘and to provide for’). When he was ready, he made another bold move – any attempt to leave the Colony risked arousing Japanese suspicions and Tanaka and perhaps others knew that he wasn’t really a civilian baker. Luckily the Japanese attitude at this time seems to have been that everyone who left Hong Kong was one less mouth to feed:

Then I applied for permission to leave the colony for KWONG CHOW WAN to seek employment as a baker (?).  It was granted on the 3rd June, a boat left next day, on which I bought a passage. (??)

One of his preparations involved finance:

Mr. NG, the manager of Qing Loong Bakery, 41, Queen’s Road, had given me $500 HK but would not risk any receipts or IOUs in case I[5] was searched or checked up on. (??)

Mr Ng I believe to have been the owner rather than the manager of the bakery and he and his family remained life long friends of Thomas and Evelina, sending Christmas cards and sometimes gifts almost every year. There were visits to England too. At some time Evelina told me that the basis of this close friendship was the fact that Thomas had treated Mr. Ng fairly over a bakery when he could have taken it for nothing, and this almost certainly relates to the Green Dragon (Qing Loong) at this period. It’s not clear who paid: the Japanese Health Department or Selwyn-Clarke using money raised by the Grayburn team of bankers.

There’s a letter in the BAAG archives stating that the authorities can’t repay Mr. Ng for the money he lent to Sheridan at the moment because he wouldn’t take a receipt – I’m sure that nothing suited him better than having the British Army forget about the debt until after the war!

In any case, from this point Sheridan’s escape was relatively easy. Kwong Chow Wan was a  French enclave in southern China, and at this time it was, unusually, ruled by the Free French not Vichy sympathisers, probably because it was in the middle of  Nationalist Chinese territory[6] (the Japanese occupied it in February,1943). Sheridan continues:

I had already secured a letter of introduction to the French authorities in KWONG CHOW WAN from the former Consul General in Hong Kong Monsieur Reynaud which requested that I be given every assistance passing through French territory. This was afforded me by the French customs, but I was questioned by some Japanese civilians when the boat docked. They particularly wanted to know if I was English and where I was bound for. I satisfied their curiosity when I produced the Japanese Gendarmerie permit to leave Hong Kong.

The journey through Chinese held territory to an air base from which he could fly to India was slow and frustrating but not particularly dangerous. I imagine that Sheridan was thoroughly debriefed when he arrived: as far as I know, his experience as a military man who’d spent six months in relative freedom on Hong Kong Island was, and remained unique. A July 21, 1942 General Headquarters, India, memo states that he was being retained in New Delhi for a short time in case anyone wnated to speak to him personally. This memo tells us he had nine years army service, and was ‘of an intellignet type’. A handwritten recommendation for an ‘award’ is added.

But now look at the wedding photo taken on June 29, 1942:

Captain Tanaka’s there, twenty five days after Sheridan left Hong Kong. Thomas, who hadn’t been in the Exchange Building since February 8 was obviously still in touch with him, and we know from Selwyn-Clarke’s autobiography that he was too, as he reports his sudden disappearance. I wonder what the Captain felt when he learnt that Sheridan had gone to neutral territory, to a place that offered a relatively safe route to New Delhi and back into participation in the war?

It’s even possible – although this is very speculative – that the choice of delivery driver Owen Evans as best man might have something to do with this affair. Thomas mentions Sheridan’s fellow RASC baker Sgm. Hammond in his 1946 British Baker article as having been particularly helpful, and the two baked together all the way though to the end of the war. If Hammond’s in that photo at all, he’s keeping a low profile. I wonder if he stayed away to avoid reminding Tanaka of his earlier decision and its outcome? In any case, Sheridan’s account reveals that Owen Evans had a secret of his own, and that will be the subject of my next post.


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

[2] The text is hard to read in parts as it was clearly the product of degraded carbon paper. Luckily most of the important words in the relevant sections are clear, and the parts I’ve had to guess don’t alter the meaning much.

[4]  Fisher, 36.

[5] This word looks like I but the page is blotted here and he seems to make more sense.

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