‘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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5 Comments

Filed under Chester Bennett, Hong Kong WW11

5 responses to “‘Guaranteeing Out’: The Evidence of the Maryknoll Diary

  1. Pingback: ‘Guaranteeing Out’ 3: The Evidence of Greg Leck’s Captives of Empire | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  2. Pingback: The French Hospital Arrests: A Synthesis Of Sources | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  3. Pingback: The Free French in Hong Kong (2): Raoul de Sercey | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  4. Pingback: Chester Bennett – ‘The American Hero of Hong Kong’ | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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