Frank Angus (and a note on the Angus family)

One of the best documented of the workers who stayed out of Stanley to help Dr. Selwyn-Clarke with his public health measures – and in all or almost all cases with his humanitarian smuggling – is Frank Angus.

Mr. Angus seems to have acted as Selwyn-Clarke’s ‘front of house man’ and general assistant. Ellen Field, who’d avoided internment by claiming to be Irish, had a husband and father in Shamshuipo, so she naturally did all she could to get food to them. During the fighting she’d been helped by a couple of Canadian soldiers, and on her visits to the Camp she was moved by the plight of these men who’d come to Hong Kong so recently that in most cases they had no friends or lovers to ease the harsh conditions of military internment by gifts of food and other essentials. She’d heard about Selwyn-Clarke’s relief work, so decided to try to enlist his assistance in her plans to help them out:

I would need a personal interview. I knew that Frank Angus, a former school friend was attached to the skeleton staff which together with Dr. Selwyn-Clarke was exempted from internment in order to do welfare work under Japanese supervision.

I went along to his office, on the top floor of the former National City Bank Building.

‘Anything I can handle?’ asked Frank pleasantly, when I was shown into his office.

‘No, Frank,’ I answered stubbornly – ‘I must see Doctor Selwyn-Clarke himself!’

‘Well,’ said Frank smiling, ‘in that case I’ll see what I can do.’

He came back in a few moments to say that the Doctor would see me.[1]

In 1957 the National City Bank Building was on Queen’s Road Central between Ice House Street and Duddell Street.[2] The meeting was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between two extraordinarily courageous and resourceful people.

The Colliers, two Canadian missionaries who remained out of Stanley due to a mix-up, were told about Selwyn-Clarke by a Norwegian colleague, interviewed by one of his assistants – almost certainly Dorothy Lee[3] – and helped by the doctor to get a pass that allowed them to leave the flat in Kowloon where’d they’d been effectively prisoners. Round about October 1, 1942, they needed to see him in person and went to his office:

The doctor was not in and we had to wait a couple of hours for his return, but he had a young Englishman as office assistant who made the time pass quickly and pleasantly for us. He gave us very much news of the outer world which we had not heard and told us much about the conditions in the various internment camps. He had himself been released from Stanley to help Dr. Selwyn-Clarke but was so thin and pale that we imagined he could have hardly endured the camp conditions much longer.

From him we learned much of the splendid work that Dr. Clarke was doing and the terrible handicaps under which he was working, flouted and hindered by the Japanese, who were all the time suspicious of him, or jealous of every effort he made to relieve the sufferings of the soldiers and civilians in the camps.[4]

Frank Angus played an important role in these efforts:

(H)e {Selwyn-Clarke} kept with him a youngster called Frank Angus.

And Frank would come over and I would hand him ten thousand dollars and  just put it on the passbook, ‘ten thousand’. I didn’t know who it came from. Then he would bring in receipts for mosquito netting, blankets, peanuts, rice, and anything he could get hold of. Some of the stuff was (put) into sand bags and taken by the ladies of the bank up to Bowen Road Hospital. Some were sent to Kowloon where people like Sophie Odell and Susie Potts would take it on and deliver it to the hospitals there….that went on all the time we were in the Sun Wah Hotel.[5]

Frank Angus was sent to Stanley probably on May 7, 1943, alongside Thomas and Evelina and 15 other people from the French Hospital.[6] He lived with his mother and brother in Block A1, Room 10. There are two glimpses of him in camp in the sources available to me. The first is from the autobiography of Dr. Selwyn-Clarke himself. The Medical Director was brutally tortured after his arrest on May 2, but he steadfastly refused to incriminate a single person, withholding all information about Frank Angus’s money couriering activities and the myriad other things that had gone on in that brave network of humanitarian smugglers. He was eventually imprisoned in Stanley Goal next to the internment camp:

In the last few months of my imprisonment I myself became too ill to take any exercise, or move without assistance. Once in a while, a guard would help me to a concrete plinth just outside the cell-block, to sit for a short time in the sunshine. The plinth was visible from a hill in Stanley camp beyond the prison-wall, and there a watch was kept for my appearance. So soon as I was seen, the watcher would run as fast as he could to the bungalow where Hilda Mary shared a very small room,[7] used in peace-time by a Chinese Amah, with Margaret Watson, my chief almoner and our dear friend. Mary would be hurried to the hill, where two brothers, Ginger and Frank Angus, would pretend to throw her from one to the other to make her laugh. Her joyous laughter came to me over the prison wall and did me a world of good.

Finally, on May 7, 1945 Barbara Anslow recorded a piece of camp bartering:

Bought 4 ozs. tomatoes from the Anguses for a pound of rice.

 Barbara confirmed in a recent note that this was from Mrs. Angus and both her sons, and gives Frank’s age at his time as 36.[8]  It’s probable that the Angus’s had a ‘garden’ in which they grew the tomatoes, and even on day in which rumours of German collapse and of Hitler’s death circulating in Stanley the ordinary business of getting something to eat had to go on.

Towards the end of the war, he was obviously planning to set up in business on the arrival of peace, as he asked Barbara Anslow to be his secretary in a new venture; the offer was declined. A shipping manifest shows him returning to England in 1957, possibly on leave, and giving his address as teh Effingham Golf Club.

Frank Angus died in Sydney in 1987.[9]

Note on the Angus Family

Frank’s brother Herbert Alexander (‘Ginger’) and his wife and mother are on a Stanley Camp Roll that was probably drawn up about June 1942; Frank himself isn’t there, so he was taken out of Stanley before that, perhaps back in January or February. On January 1, 1946 Herbert was honoured for ‘services during internment’,[10] probably on account of work he did in the office of Franklin Gimson, the leader of the internees. In 1947 he was awarded the OBE for ‘conduct and devotion to duty in Stanley’.[11] After the war he married an Australian woman, Sue. In the late 1950s he became the director of the Hong Kong Government Commerce and Industry Department, a position he held until 1962. [12] At some point he was awarded an MBE.[13] There’s a story in Emily Hahn’s China To Me[14] about Mrs. Angus having been the object of the attentions of a Japanese soldier soon after the surrender. Hahn gives her age as 65 and doesn’t give a first name; she appears on the Camp Roll as Mrs. M. (in fact Mathilda[15]) Angus, and Barbara Anslow gives her age (presumably in 1945 – see below) as 72 but this is certainly the same woman: Hahn also tells us that ‘Chrissie Angus’ had her wrist watch stolen by a Japanese soldier, who gave her a can of peas in exchange, and this must be her daughter, Christina. Mathilda and Christina were also present at a terrifying New Year’s Eve celebration at the home of the Weill family, which was interrupted by a group of perhaps Formosan ‘camp followers’ masquerading as Japanese soldiers, who tied up some of the participants, including Christina, while they searched the house, slapped Mrs. Weill, and made threats. Christina married the architect W. W. C. Shewan, and she appears on the Camp Roll as his wife, profession ‘secretary’.  She died in the late 1970s; another brother, George, a field company engineer with the HKVDC,[16] died in Nagoya POW Camp in Japan on January 29, 1945[17]. George’s wife, Hilda, a nurse, was also in Stanley. Finally, Mathilda’s husband Peter, an inspector with the Hong Kong Police, had died in 1925 at the age of 51, and she herself died on October 1, 1947.[18]


This post was updated with information kindly supplied by Barbara Anslow and Phillip Cracknell:

[1] Ellen Field, Twilight in Hong Kong, 1960, 86-87.

[4] F. D. and H. F. Collier, Covered Up In Kowloon, 1947, 69-70.

[5] Testimony of S.W.P. Perry-Aldworth, cited in Frank King, History of the HKSBC, Volume 3, 1983?, 613.

[7] Bungalow D6. Thomas and Evelina were in D1.

[11] China Mail, April 16, 1947, page 2.

[14] Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 287; 297-299.


Filed under Hong Kong WW11, Selwyn-Selwyn Clarke, Stanley Camp

2 responses to “Frank Angus (and a note on the Angus family)

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

  2. 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

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