Dr. Frederick Bunje

Doctor Frederick Bunje, another member of Selwyn-Clarke’s ‘team’, came from what seems to have been a well-established Hong Kong family (for a note on the family, see a future post).

I’ve not been able to find much about his early life. On January 1, 1917 The Hongkong Daily Press announced that Mr. F. Bunje was one of two men appointed Public Vaccinator. The title ‘Mr.’ and the position awarded might suggest he was in medical training at this time but not yet qualified  You didn’t need to be  a doctor to become a Vaccinator. He became qualified to practise in Hong Kong on February 25, 1927 (http://hongkongsfirst.blogspot.hk/2011/11/notable-doctors-from-first-100-years.html).

My sources relating to the inter-war years deal with non-professional matters. In September 1936 Dr. F. Bunje was one of three judges in a Hongkong Telegraph photographic competition, giving a talk on the winning entries at the Gloucester Hotel[1] In 1939 he visited South Africa, spending more than two months travelling widely in Cape Province; The China Mail for March 21, 1939 reports his return on the steamer Boissevain.[2] He was greatly struck by ostriches and ostrich farming; he talked on this subject to a Rotary luncheon on May 2.[3] One incident during a visit to an ostrich farm led him to mention the old saying about ostriches sticking their heads in the sand when they wished not to see something unpleasant, which may or may not have been a comment on Hong Kong’s reluctance to face up to the inevitability of a Japanese attack! Towards the end of his talk the doctor advocated a revival of the ostrich feather industry, purportedly killed because hats big enough for such adornments couldn’t be easily carried in motor cars.

Tony Banham’s website, Hong Kong War Diary, has two listings that probably refer to him. The first places him, plausibly, as a senior member of Lindsay Ride’s Field Ambulance Unit:

Bunje, F. Major[4]

It seems he was appointed Major on May, 19, 1941  (http://hongkongsfirst.blogspot.hk/2011/11/notable-doctors-from-first-100-years.html)

The second suggests that after the surrender he was held at St. Paul’s Hospital (aka The French Hospital):

Bunje, F. 44, Doctor SPH[5]

This entry is from the Nonuniformed Civilians list, but this isn’t necessarily a problem, as the Japanese were surprisingly relaxed about the distinction between combatants and civilians, at least in the days following the surrender, and sometimes status was determined solely by being in or out of uniform at the surrender. Ironically his wife seems to have been classed as a combatant nurse, as she’s on the Uniformed Civilians list:

Bunje, Mrs. M.L. (St. Paul’s Hospital)[6]

She was in the Auxiliary Nursing Service, stationed at St. Paul’s. On the BAAG list of Britishers living there in December 1942, Mrs. Bunje is the only recorded wife, apart from Hilda Selwyn-Clarke, so it might have been the case that the the Bunjes found themselves together there at the start of the years of occupation.

According to a British Army Aid Group report, Dr. Bunje was a Eurasian and therefore allowed some freedom while living at St. Paul’s. He applied for a permit to go to Kwang Chow Wan – for escapes by this route see the post on Staff-Sergeant Sheridan –  but unfortunately while waiting he was approached by his chauffeur, who asked for a certificate saying that he (the chauffeur) had served as a volunteer driver during the war. Bunje refused, presumably because he knew this to be untrue, and in revenge the chauffeur went to the Japanese and said that Dr. Bunje had paid $8,000 for an escape. Bunje was arrested and for two days wasn’t allowed to sleep; instead, he was beaten with a baseball bat, chased with dogs, and forced to run around. Dr. Fehilly said that at the time of his own departure from Hong Kong Bunje was waiting for his September pass to be renewed, and ‘it would be necessary to help him out’ – presumably to assist his escape rather than give him financial aid (Ride Interview with Fehilly, 18 December  1942).

On June 7, 1943, a BAAG report listed those who’d recently been arrested. Dr. Bunje is reported to have been taken by the Kempeitai from the French Hospital on May 2, the day of Selwyn-Clarke’s arrest:

The first 3[7] were taken to the Gendarmerie H. Q. Bunjee (sic) was manhandled and fainted.[8]

The H.Q. was in the former Supreme Court Building. The fact that he was taken there means he was probably tortured, but I have so far not been able to find any details of his interrogation, trial and sentencing.

His arrest and subsequent imprisonment mean that he was very likely helping Selwyn-Clarke in his medical smuggling operation, but I think that everyone in the French Hospital was playing a part, and I don’t know why he was one of those suspected by the Kempeitai.

Those not arrested – including Mrs. Bunje, already no doubt traumatised by her husband’s arrest – were subjected to a terrifying ‘lock down’ as the Kempeitai searched the Hospital for evidence of spying. Those not implicated, 18 in number, were sent to Stanley on May 7, bringing news of the arrests:

Frid 7th

Fine. People from French Hosp arrived 2 PM. Drs Selwyn-Clark & Burgie/Bungie [?] detained in town in connection with money swindle?[9]

Perhaps R. E. Jones was being cautious. Or perhaps his informants from the Hospital were, as some at least of those arrested were suspected of espionage, something the Japanese took much more seriously than financial irregularities. Mrs. Bunje seems to have been allowed to carry on living out of camp, as I can find no record of her in Stanley.

Japanese Medical officer Colonel Saito said at his war crimes trial that there were three doctors in Stanley Prison: Selwyn-Clarke, Talbot and Bunje.[10] I think this means that Dr. Bunje was the ‘well-known’ Hong Kong doctor who befriended imprisoned banker Andrew Leiper, as Talbot wasn’t in prison for long enough to match the account, and there are a number of reasons for ruling out Selwyn-Clarke. Saito also said that he made as much use of the doctors as possible, but that might have been because he was  accused of criminally neglecting his medical responsibilities. Leiper was able to share in some of the benefits acquired by the doctor for his occasional medical assistance to the Japanese.[11] He notes that his friendship with the doctor continued for several years after liberation.

Dr. Bunje resumed his practice after the war. When policeman Norman Gunning wanted to return to the UK, it was Dr. Bunje who examined him and declared him healthy for travel. He was practicing on the fourth floor of the York Building in Chater Rd.[12]  The China Mail for August 24, 1950[13] announces a forthcoming talk by him on the subject of euthanasia. Interestingly, in an audience containing a number of clerics, Dr. Bunje makes no religious arguments in his opposition to euthenasia, (sic) but claims, as many doctors still do today, that legalisation would ‘strike at the very heart of our medical profession’. He felt that morphine could control pain and that soon science would have the cure for all diseases anyway.[14]

So far, that’s all I know.


[1] The Hongkong Telegraph, September 29, 1936, page 7 and October 27, 1936, page 23.

[2] The report seems to be on page 1, but it’s listed as page 25.

[3] Hong Kong Telegraph, May 3, 1939, page 5. See also The Hongkong Daily Press, May 3, 1939, page 7.

[7] Doctors Selwyn-Clarke, Bunje and Nicholson. Nicholson is documented in Stanley Camp later in the war so he was presumably released without charge or served a relatively short sentence.

[8] Tony Banham, We Shall Suffer There, entry for June 7, 1943.

[9] Diary of R. E. Jones.

[10] China Mail, April 12, 1947, page 3.

[11] G. A. Leiper, A Yen For My Thoughts, 1982, 209-210.

[12] Norman Gunning, A Passage to Hong Kong, 203.

[13] Page 3.

[14] Hongkong Daily Press, November 8, 1939, page 6.

6 Comments

Filed under Hong Kong WW11, Selwyn-Selwyn Clarke

6 responses to “Dr. Frederick Bunje

  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

  3. Pingback: Conditions at the French Hospital: More Evidence From The Ride Papers | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  4. Pingback: How Did The Kempeitai Treat British Civilians In Hong Kong? | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

  5. I knew his Son Dr Henry Bunje. I think Dr Fred was a founder member of The Sports Cub HK 1928…At this time the HK club would not admit Chinese or eurasians and was formed to address this situation by having everthing half chinese and non chinese I joined in 1959 and at that time it was a busy club with its own box over the finishing line at RHKJC. I recall Henry showing me his dads farewell gift from the members a silver mug.. Alas I heard thhe club is no more Dr R A Duncan

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