Thomas Christopher Monaghan’s Resistance Work


I’ve recently been able to update this post using material kindly supplied by Mr. Monaghan’s son Gerald and his grandson Michael. They provided me with documents, photos and information that have enabled me to completely re-shape this post. Michael Monaghan prepared a five page statement on his grandfather’s life in 2004 and I have drawn heavily on this for the period before the war.

I would also like to acknowledge the great help given to me by Sandra Neal, another descendant of Thomas Monaghan.

Elizabeth Ride, daughter of Sir Lindsay Ride, kindly sent me BAAG documents relating to the subject of this post. The Ride Papers are held at the Hong Kong Heritage Project.


Thomas Monaghan was one of thirty three people executed close to Stanley Beach on October 29, 1943. Mr. Monaghan was a Canadian who, after the surrender of Hong Kong, kept himself out of Stanley by claiming Irish nationality. As the war developed, he chose to run huge risks to help others and to further the Allied cause; as the police net grew closer, he refused to escape and stayed in Hong Kong to continue his work.  These choices can only have come from a courageous sense of duty and a humanitarian desire to help others. Both are attested directly and indirectly in the documents that relate to him.

Before The War

Thomas Christopher Monaghan was born in Quebec City, Canada, on December 12, 1890. His father, Michael Monaghan, was a professor at Dublin University; he taught Latin, Greek and French. One of his students – he also became a friend – was Eamon De Valera,[1] the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland in 1942, a fact of some relevance to his son’s activities in Hong Kong, as we shall see. Michael Monaghan emigrated to Canada, where he carved out a new career in life insurance; it seems that this strong-minded but sensitive man had a great influence on the development of his son.[2]

In 1913 Thomas went to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway at their Montreal headquarters. He was promoted to Banquet Manager at the Chateau Frontenac, a CPR owned hotel in Quebec City. While there he met and married Mary (‘May’) Bagmann on June 25, 1918.[3] Michael Monaghan tells us something about the background of his grandmother:

May was born February 6, 1894, in Pierre, South Dakota, USA. Her parents were German immigrants. Her only sibling, a younger sister, mother and father died in a Flu epidemic just before the turn of the century, leaving her an orphan at age 5. An older childless couple, friends of her parents, took her in. Their name was Huntsley and she was renamed Mary Dorothy Huntsley.

When they met she was the secretary to the American Consul in Quebec.  Their first child, Frank, was born in 1921.[4]

Another promotion took Mr. Monaghan to the post of Assistant Manager of the Chateau Frontenac.[5]  This must have been a responsible position; the Hotel catered for luxury travellers and it was a large and impressive building, as can be seen from this 1910 postcard:

File:Chateau Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace postcard.jpg

Image: Wikimedia

His work obviously impressed his employers, as in 1921 he was tasked with the establishment of crucial elements of the CPR cruise-line program in the Far East.  On leaving his job at the hotel in October 1921 he was presented with a handsome wardrobe trunk and a ‘well-filled’ purse of gold.[6] Mr. Monaghan expressed regret at leaving so many good friends, but said, ‘The Far East is a land of opportunity, awaiting further development’.

A new cruise route was being planned: from Vancouver through Hawaii and Japan and on to Hong Kong and other ports.[7] His job title is given by a number of sources as Provision Superintendent, but it seems to have been a lot more comprehensive than this might suggest. It took Mr. Monaghan almost three years to make all the necessary arrangements: warehouses for storage were acquired, contracts for docking, coaling and servicing were agreed – and the new Superintendent had to give his attention to something rather more surprising to modern readers.  The South China Sea was a lawless place at the time, and anyone sailing to or from Hong Kong ran the risk of pirate attack. The pirates were after loot and possible ransom money, and their predations sometimes resulted in deaths. Mr. Monaghan needed to establish good working relationships with the military in order to make sure the cruise ships would be protected. During the course of his negotiations – which resulted in British soldiers sailing on each ship – he made contact with the Consulate in Macao,[8] another fact that will be important later. The new cruise route wasn’t inaugurated until early1924.[9] It also seems that Mr. Monaghan’s work was of wider significance to the Company, whose chairman claimed that ‘through a recent re-arrangement of the ports of call in the Orient’ the Hong Kong-England route was now four days shorter.[10]

Mrs. Monaghan followed her husband to Hong Kong in late 1921, bringing their infant son, Frank. In 1924 their second son, Gerald, was born, and in 1928 their daughter Constance. Both were delivered by Dr. Black,[11] who was murdered on Christmas Day, 1941 while attempting to defend the staff and patients of the emergency hospital at St. Stephens College, Stanley.

There are a number of reports of Mr. Monaghan’s activities in the sporting pages of the China Mail. They suggest a talented all-rounder, particularly formidable as a tennis player and golfer.[12] It’s slightly strange that the first of these comes in 1930, as it’s hard to believe that after nine years in Hong Kong he suddenly began to make his mark on the sports field!

Mr. Monaghan’s initial assignment with Canadian Pacific in Hong Kong was for 5 years (1921-1926) and in 1926, he accepted a second 5-year assignment.[13] In 1929 he was ready to start making preparations to return home, but the Great Depression, which began in October 1929, wiped out job opportunities in the United States and Canada, making it his best option to stay in Hong Kong,[14] which was, of course, affected by the depression, but whose economy remained in reasonable shape. One of these effects was to lead to an important war-time contact, as we shall see.

The family were now committed to Hong Kong, but it was common at the time to send children to the home country to be educated. In 1930, Frank and Gerald were sent back to Canada to be educated at boarding school; Constance joined them in 1937. In late 1939 Mr. Monaghan sent his wife home for safety: the war in Europe had started, and the possibility of a Japanese attack was obviously real. Mrs. Monaghan lived in Montreal and the three children switched from boarding school to day school. Mr. Monaghan returned to Canada on leave in the spring of 1940, and moved his family to New York City before returning to Hong Kong in the autumn.[15]

The massive downturn in world economic activity that marked the nineteen thirties significantly cut foreign donations for the educational and charitable activities of Hong Kong’s Jesuits. The Irish Jesuit Fr. Thomas Ryan was one of the leading social activists in the pre-war Colony.[16] Mr. Monaghan came to know him, and agreed to provide his Order with surplus food and medical supplies from the CPR warehouses. I suspect that some or all of this was to help feed refugees from the Japanese war:

When Guangdong fell to the invading Japanese in 1938 and refugees began to  pour into Hong Kong, the task of providing relief for the refugees fell  largely on a four-member Refugee Committee. One of the members was Father Ryan, who was chiefly responsible for organising food and shelter.[17]

In any case, the two became friends, and once again this pre-war link was to become important during the occupation.

It’s worth pausing on the eve of the Japanese attack. The documents available to me paint a clear picture: Mr. Monaghan had been successful in his career and achieved a good measure of prosperity– the house he lived in from 1936 onwards was close to the top of the Peak, Hong Kong’s most prestigious residential area.[18] His aid to the Jesuits shows a willingness to use his authority for humanitarian purposes. In his spare time, like many others in Hong Kong, he took part in the Colony’s vigorous sporting programme and relaxed at one of the bathing beaches with friends: this photo was taken at Repulse Bay and it shows Mr. Monaghan with one of the daughters of Lindsay Ride, the eventual founder of the British Army Aid Group:

 T. C. Monaghan in 1937 – at Repulse Bay with one of the daughters of Lindsay Ride, the founder of the British Army Aid Group(Photo supplied by Elizabeth Ride)

None of this marks him out particularly strongly, although we might note the humanitarianism of his help to Fr. Ryan, and perhaps his early decision to send his wife out of the danger zone shows he was a little more perceptive than some. After the compulsory evacuation of summer 1940, many ‘bachelor husbands’ campaigned to get their wives back, although, to be fair, they were inspired to  some extent by the injustice whereby a number of prominent men seem to have managed to get round the evacuation order and kept their wives by their side. The literature is full of later expressions of gratitude from the ‘bachelor husbands’ for the safety of their wives.

But every person in Hong Kong was about to be tested by the Japanese attack and the events that followed. Some responded magnificently, but few can have shown anything like the courage, determination and capacity for sacrifice shown by Mr. Monaghan.

Thomas Monaghan In The War: Relief and Resistance

During the fighting, Mr. Monaghan served with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force. Here’s the entry from Tony Banham’s Hong Kong War Diary website:

Monaghan, T.C. Private 770 BRH[19]

As a Canadian citizen, he was a genuine volunteer – service had been compulsory for the British since July 1940,[20] although of course many men had signed up before that. And that’s not all. A Certificate of Service dated 8th, August 1947 records his period with the Volunteers as lasting from December 7, 1941 to May 6, 1942.[21] This suggests that he joined up just before Hong Kong was attacked (at 8 a.m. on December 8, local time). Barring a huge coincidence, Mr. Monaghan must have realised that war was imminent and decided to take on the risks of uniformed service. He was in the ‘unallocated’ section of the Volunteers, which unfortunately means that we can only find out what happened to him if there’s a specific reference in some source to where he was sent, and I haven’t yet found one.

BRH in the entry above means Bowen Road Hospital, and that’s where he was held after the surrender, which might mean he was injured and treated there. The hospital was heavily shelled so it was only in use as a casualty clearing station and as soon as patients were fit to move they were transferred elsewhere.[22] This would suggest that Mr. Monaghan’s injury occurred towards the end of the war. It’s also possible, of course, that he wasn’t a patient at all but was on Volunteer duty at the Hospital on December 25.

A post-war newspaper article claims that Mr. Monaghan was in Stanley Camp when he fell ill and was sent outside for treatment; while in hospital, ‘a priest’ helped him obtain a neutral’s pass and freedom.[23] I regard this story as highly plausible and I think it establishes he manged to assert civilian status and get sent to Stanley after his time in Bowen Road Hospital.[24] Michael Monaghan tells us that the man who arranged the Irish documentation was Mr. Monaghan’s friend, Father Thomas Ryan.[25] The Jesuits did not give out Irish documents to anyone who wanted them,[26] so we might ask ourselves the reason for this assistance. As we’ve seen, Mr. Monaghan had helped Father Ryan before the war, and it’s possible that his father’s close association with Eamon De Valera also played a part. Sandra Neal, Mr. Monaghan’s great grand-daughter, has kindly sent me a copy of a statement by her grandmother, Connie Monaghan Coleman,[27] which tells us that he obtained forged documents with the help of his Chinese aide and the Bishop of Hong Kong (Eamon de Valera’s help is also mentioned). It’s certainly possible that these helped in some way too (if so the bishop was probably the Catholic one, Enrico Valtorta, who was a fellow Canadian).

It’s possible that the date of May 6, 1942 on the Certificate of Service marks the time he was accepted by the Japanese as an Irish citizen, as technically the Volunteers remained called up for the duration of the war and remained under military discipline even in the period following liberation in August 1945. That’s speculation, but however he came to finish his time in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, he had other forms of service in mind, as we shall see.

Mr. Monaghan was now in a strong position: with a neutral’s pass and relative freedom to move around Hong Kong, he had excellent prospects for getting out of the Colony – I know of at least four ‘Irish’ escapers, two of whom went in the first half of 1942. However, after contacting John Reeves, the British Consul in Macao, he was persuaded to remain in Hong Kong.[28]

It seems that Mr. Monaghan was probably carrying out intelligence work at Reeves suggestion even before the establishment of the British Army Aid Group by Colonel Lindsay Ride – another friend, who was probably somewhere close when the 1937 photo above was taken. The first BAAG agents reached Hong Kong in June 1942 and Mr. Monaghan was certainly carrying out relief (at least) operations by that time. He wasn’t the only one, so it’s worth considering the context for his efforts.

About 100 adults who met the criteria for being sent to Stanley – being ‘white’ enemy civilians – were kept out of the Camp for one reason or another. Most of them were doing work useful to the Japanese, while others, like Mr. Monaghan, were claiming neutral nationalities. It soon became clear to the leaders of this group that unless something was done to help the people in Stanley, Shamshuipo and Argyle Street Camps, many would die of malnutrition and disease. Led by Sir Vandeleur Grayburn (the senior Hong Kong banker) and Dr. Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke (the former Medical Director) they began a courageous campaign of fund-raising, drug purchase and medical smuggling.[29] Mr. Monaghan clearly contributed to this illegal relief effort: my guess is that he began to work on his own but soon forged links with the other operatives. He certainly co-operated with the banker Charles Hyde later in the war.

But the Chinese majority were suffering far more than the ‘whites’ inside Stanley, where rations in early 1942 were pathetic, but at least were guaranteed. Almost from the start of the occupation, Chinese people were starving to death on the streets. There are reports of cannibalism as early as the spring of 1942. Connie Monaghan Coleman tells us of an activity that was almost certainly designed to help the Chinese:

He ran a soup kitchen with Ann Costello.[30]

Ann Costello was the godmother of Mr. Monaghan’s second son, Gerald.[31]  Her husband George (see above) is on my 1942 Stanley Camp Roll, but although there is a ‘Mrs. Costello’ on the Hong Kong War Diary list, she’s not on the Camp Roll. This suggests that either she managed to establish Irish nationality and he didn’t, or that they decided it would help them to have one in and one out of camp.

Moving amid scenes of great horror, Mr. Monaghan and Mrs. Costello did what they could to ease the suffering.  It should also be remembered that almost all the accounts of the uninterned Allied nationals and neutrals make it clear that even Europeans could not easily get enough to eat. Some understandably chose to concentrate on their own welfare. And, in fact, we have evidence that Mr. Monaghan did not find it easy to meet his own needs, which makes his commitment to helping others even more striking. George Kennedy-Skipton,[32] who’d also adopted Irish nationality after the surrender, escaped in January 1943, and while in the Chinese wartime capital Chungking reported on Mr. Monaghan’s situation to the British Embassy. The information was passed on to Mrs. Monaghan by the Canadian External Affairs Department:

Since then, {gaining freedom as an Irish national} Mr. Monaghan has been carrying on a miscellaneous retail goods business in an office he is allowed to have as treasurer to the Irish Association. His business consists chiefly in the selling of furniture and golf requisites, for which there is no great demand, so he makes just a bare living, and the future is uncertain.[33]

The letter goes on to mention yet more relief work:

 He also buys supplies for interned Irish policemen and Irish prisoners-of-war.[34]

The soup kitchen must have been Japanese-authorised, and they might well have known about his assistance to Irish POWs (in Shamshuipo) and police (in Stanley) as well. But Mr. Monaghan didn’t confine himself to authorised activity. A post-war newspaper article states that he smuggled ‘food, clothing and comforts’ into Stanley Camp and that at one point he received money to help in his work from the British Consul in Macao.[35] We have a further record of his illegal work in the testimony of Connie Monaghan Coleman:

He bartered to get money to buy needed medical supplies which were then smuggled back to those imprisoned in dire need of them.[36]

David Tett, in his postal history of the Pacific War, reproduces a postcard sent by Swiss national Vic (probably a woman) Naef to her friend Vera Armstrong in Stanley Camp. It’s dated September 8, 1942, and it begins:

Dear Vera,

Monaghan took sewing machine and carpets away, but could not sell any yet.[37]

There was an uninterned banker named P. J. Monaghan (no relation), but given that description of how T. C. Monaghan made a living, this is almost certainly a glimpse of him at work. It seems from the evidence that his bartering/reselling activities provided him with a living while also constituting a source of extra funds for his relief work. And some speculation: travelling around Hong Kong to inspect and purchase miscellaneous articles would provide the perfect cover for spying or making contact with people in his escape network. So would his position as Treasurer of the Irish society. His business card tells us that the Office was number 1c in the former Whiteaway-Laidlaw Building, called the Tamaya  Building during the occupation, and that the official name of the Society was the Hongkong Irish National Committee; it seems to have been connected to the Red Cross.

At some point Mr. Monaghan went to live at Wah Yan College[38] This was a Roman Catholic School run by predominantly Irish Jesuits. Both Junior and Senior branches had closed early on in the war, but the Junior school, located high on Robinson Road, looking across the harbour to Kowloon, re-opened with a smaller roll in May, 1942,[39] so it must have been after that Mr. Monaghan went there to live. Father Ryan, by the way, had left Hong Kong with Japanese permission in April.[40]

The Irish stockbroker W. J. Carroll, who was charged with collaboration after the war, claimed at his trial that he had given the use of his office to the Irish Society after Monaghan’s arrest so that people could draw rations from the Irish Red Cross there.[41] This suggests that Mr. Monaghan’s office had been the previous ration collection point; most people in Hong Kong were forced to live from a ration card, the details of which varied according to nationality.

Again, it’s useful to pause at a point six months or so into the occupation. Mr. Monaghan has gained a degree of freedom (relative of course – no one, certainly not a non-Japanese, could go just where they liked in occupied Hong Kong, and the Kempeitai were always on hand to ask you to justify your movements.) He could have used this freedom to escape, but instead he devoted himself to carrying out what seems to have been a wide-ranging programme of relief work. And it’s likely that even at this early stage he was providing military intelligence. It seems that in June 1942 he turned down the perfect opportunity to leave Hong Kong.

A family tradition stemming from Mr. Monaghan’s wife Mary, states that he had the promise of a place in the American repatriation from Hong Kong of June 1942, but he was persuaded by Colonel Ride to stay to help in their efforts – as we’ve seen, the two were friends before the war. After his escape from Shamshuipo POW Camp, Ride founded the British Army Aid Group, which sent its first agents into Hong Kong in June 1942. They obviously contacted Mr. Monaghan at an early stage, and he agreed to work for the new organisation, turning down his chance of sailing to safety on the Asama Maru (which took people out of Hong Kong to be picked up by the Swedish ship, The Gripsholm at Lourenco Marques).

Mr. Monaghan – code name Mysterious – [42] supplied intelligence to the BAAG on at least one occasion; it’s almost certain that he did this regularly, but I only have one example at the moment: a document dated March 23, 1943 states that Mr. Monaghan provided confirmation that the Norwegian community, previously allowed to remain uninterned, had been sent to Stanley.[43] This internment was the result of an escape that Mr. Monaghan himself had helped to organise (described below), and it seems that the most important part of his resistance work lay in helping people get out of occupied Hong Kong.

The first record of his involvement in an escape is a comment by Major Douglas Clague of the BAAG to the effect that Mr. Monaghan was the ‘direct’ European contact for the Chinese agent who arranged the flight of the bankers Fenwick and Morrison – ‘with Hyde behind the scenes’.[44] This escape began on October 18, 1942,[45] so it obviously didn’t take Mr. Monaghan long to make his presence in this field felt.

We get some details of Mr. Monaghan’s work on escapes in the memoirs of the BAAG agent Paul Tsui. This is the start of an account of a successful escape made by Ragnar Brodersen and a fellow Norwegian:

The Norwegians were then {after the fighting} officially neutral as far as the Japs were concerned, so we were allowed to “go home”. ……The building I had been staying in had several direct artillery hits, and I lost everything….I teamed up with some other Norwegians ….Things got worse and worse, and there was every indication that sooner or later we would be interned. Captain Halfdan Kvamso and I knew Mr. Monaghan, a Canadian of Irish descent, who claimed Irish neutrality so that he could accomplish the work as a go-between for people who wanted to escape, and he certainly did a magnificent job. He told us that he could not at that stage give exact details, as it was all hush-hush, but he arranged for a Russian, William Vallesuk, Chief Radio Engineer of China Electric Co. Ltd. (whom the Japanese would have liked to get their hands on because of an important invention he had made), and Kvamso and myself to be met by two Chinese in Kowloon on a certain afternoon in February 1943. {February 10[46]} We were not to speak to our guides, but to follow them.[47]

It seems that arrangements were made first for William Vallesuk’s escape, and Charles Hyde bemoaned the fact that no other Europeans wanted to take the opportunity to get out of what he called the ‘hell hole’ of occupied Hong Kong, but then the two Norwegians made their contact and were later included in the party.[48]

Mr.Vallesuk has also left an account of the episode. He was introduced to Mr. Monaghan by a young student friend, Mr. Zaitzeff; Mr.Vallesuk praises the Canadian for his caution and professionalism – he wasn’t told until the last minute what the escape route would be and which companions would accompany him.[49]After some hair-raising adventures the escapers were delivered to a BAAG forward post:

It was here that I met Major Clague and his team. I gave him a secret letter which Monaghan had asked me to hand over on arrival….

Mr. Brodersen claims that Mr. Monaghan stayed uninterned in order to help with escapes; this suggests that resistance work was the centre of his life, which was probably true, but, as we’ve seen the process of the development of his activity was more complex than this suggests.

Another account of Mr. Monaghan’s organisation of escapes comes from a completely different source: Father Burke,[50] one of that group of Jesuits who kept the Wah Yan College open during the occupation:

Mr. Hyde and others thought it their patriotic duty to form a branch of the British intelligence service. They’d enrolled some Chinese and, without our knowing it, Mr. Monaghan had joined. What their activities were I don’t know, but later we found out that occasionally some military escaped from the camps and there was some kind of organisation which directed them to Shaukiwan where they were able to get boats and make their way to some island with guides to lead them to Free China. It seems that Mr. Monaghan had something to do with these arrangements.[51]

So it seems from a number of sources that the main part of Mr. Monaghan’s resistance work involved escapes.[52] I’m sure he understood how dangerous all this was. At any time an escaper could have been caught and forced to reveal the names of all those who’d helped them, or the Japanese could have arranged for someone to pretend to want to escape so as to penetrate and unmask the organisation. In fact, it seems that it was something of the kind that led to the arrest of Charles Hyde and his associates, who were planning to help Indian POWs escape from captivity, and I know of at least one escape attempt that also met its doom due to the divided loyalties of the Indian community.[53]

After the arrest of Charles Hyde, which was probably on or about April 30, 1943,[54] Mr. Monaghan must have known that it was only a matter of time before the Kempeitai came for him too. He could have escaped using the routes he was himself operating,[55] but he courageously chose to continue his important work.  A BAAG document of June 7, 1943 records his arrest.[56] Evidence at a 1946 war crimes trial (see below) suggests he was interrogated alongside Charles Hyde, Chester Bennett and David Edmonston, whose arrests probably spanned the period late April to late May 1943. The testimony of Mrs. Coleman suggests that many of his friends had been arrested before him, so perhaps it came towards the end of this period – some support for this is given by William Carroll’s claim, at the trial mentioned above, that his arrest came in ‘May or June’, while a BAAG source gives late May. More recently, Lawrence Tsui, whose father was a BAAG agent with links to Wah Yan College, has given the date of May 24 for the arrest of Mr Monaghan, and of two Jesuit priests (Patrick Joy and Gerard Casey) on different charges ( The banker David Charles Edmondston was also arrested on May 24, which lends support both to the dating and to the hypothesis that Edmondston was also involved in organising escapes.

In any case, he was held for questioning at the former Supreme Court Building, which was then the headquarters of the Kempeitai. When the Japanese searched his lodgings on his arrest, they found his Canadian documents hidden in the fireplace.[57]

It emerged at a post-war trial that a member of the Portuguese community, Mr. E. D. d’Almeida, had been in communication with him aftre his arrest. Mr. d’Almeida said that this had been during April 1943 at ‘Stanley’.[58]  This must mean Stanley Prison. My guess is that ‘April’ is a slip of memory for ‘May’ or even ‘June’. Nothing is known about the nature or purpose of this contact.

His trial was in a group of 15 on the afternoon of October 19. If court procedures were the same as for the larger morning group, this was a brutal affair for all concerned: the accused were made to stand at attention for hours on end and hit if they moved. At one point Mr. Monaghan and Charles Hyde were beaten with a sword scabbard for whispering to each other. The judge fell asleep for half an hour, but that didn’t really matter as the verdicts were almost certainly decided in advance.  Mr. Monaghan was among those sentenced to death.[59]

He was executed by beheading alongside 32 others on Stanley Beach on October 29, 1943. His body was buried with the other victims in a communal grave close to the place where they were executed.

Developments After The Execution

After the war a memorial gravestone was erected in Stanley Military Cemetery; it records his age at death as 52 and the name of his wife as May Monaghan of New York City.[60] Mrs. Monaghan had been  informed of her husband’s arrest in a letter from the Canadian External Affairs Department dated July 28, 1943. The letter cited as its source ‘unofficial information’ emanating from the Refugee Relief Bureau, British Embassy, Chungking and passed on by telegraph by the Consul at Macao. The date given for the arrest is May. The same body also wrote on June 13, 1944 to tell her of her husband’s death. A death certificate was issued by the Colonial Office in London on April 14, 1945.  When news of the circumstances of his death was reported in a Quebec paper in May 1946, his parents were still alive and other relatives lived in the city.[61] His personal effects arrived in Vancouver on June 24, 1946 (presumably) en route to his widow in New York.[62]

Mr. Monaghan’s treatment seems to have been investigated by a Canadian Army War Crimes Liaison Detachment in 1946.[63]  Between August 2 and August 9, 1946 three men associated with the Kempeitai headquarters at the former Supreme Court were brought to trial, charged with the brutal interrogation of a number of BAAG agents, including Mr. Monaghan. Their names were Yabuki Rikie, Takemoto Otojiro and Ohtsuka Sekitaro. The first and third of these were cleared of this particular charge, while Takemoto Otojiro was convicted. He received a sentence of three years, later reduced to one year.[64]

2013 will see the seventieth anniversary of the execution of this extremely courageous man and his comrades in the Hong Kong resistance. The Canadian people in recent years have become much more aware of the achievements of the young soldiers who fought to defend Hong Kong in December 1941. I hope that this anniversary year will see many more Canadians come to take pride in this civilian hero, who stayed in his post until the end, and that freedom-loving people of all nationalities will  learn the story of Thomas Christopher Monaghan and his fellows, and honour the work they carried out under such fearsome conditions.

tcm (2)

Appendix One: The Jurors Lists

Mr. Monaghan first appears in the Jurors List for 1922, described as a Catering Superintendent; the address given is the Hong Kong Hotel – this was probably a postal address.[65] I give the locations in the Lists for the succeeding years, and it should be remembered that these too might be postal addresses or even second homes.

1923 – 13, Humphreys Building, Kowloon.

1924 – 4a, East View Building, Kowloon.

1925  – 5, Queen’s Gardens

1926 – 5, Queen’s Gardens

1927 – 5, Queen’s Gardens.

1928/29  – 292,  The Peak.

1930 – 303,  The Peak

1931 – 453,  The Peak.

1932 /33/34, – 456 The Peak.

1936/1937/1938/1939/1940 – 54, The Peak, (now Mt. Kellett Road).[66]

Appendix 2: Was T. C. Monaghan in Stanley Camp?

A post-war newspaper article claims that Mr. Monaghan was in Stanley Camp when he fell ill and was sent outside for treatment. While in hospital, the article tells us, ‘a priest’ helped him obtain a neutral’s pass and freedom.[67] I regard this story as highly likely, although there is no other verification of his presence in Stanley, as its source seems to be Mr. George E. Costello. Mr. Costello was in Stanley himself, and he was a fellow CPR employee.[68] As we’ve seen his wife Anne was close to the family before the war – which probably means he was too – and she worked with him in occupied Hong Kong.

As a uniformed Volunteer Mr. Monaghan should have been sent to Shamshuipo POW Camp, but there are a number of cases in which members of the HKVDC posed as or were treated as civilians. Mr. Monaghan had plenty of opportunity to ‘lose’ his uniform while he was in the Hospital.

Another factor that makes the story convincing is that the priest who helped him, Father Ryan, is known to have been living at the French Hospital, where Mr. Monaghan would most likely have been sent for treatment, in early 1942.[69]

A report sent on June 30 1943 from the Canadian External Affairs Department to Mr. Monaghan’s wife in New York states only that he was a prisoner in Bowen Road Hospital ‘until about January 20’, but this too fits into the chronology neatly, as most internees were sent to Stanley in the 10 days following January 20th. The source of this report, George Kennedy-Skipton, another figure who claimed Irish nationality to avoid internment, was never in Stanley so if Mr. Monaghan was in the camp he wouldn’t necessarily have known.

Appendix 3: Some Sources

It’s worth noting that G. E. Costello (see) worked for the CPR in New York after the war,[70] and I think it highly likely if not certain that he provided information about her husband’s wartime activities to Mrs. Monaghan. Assuming Anne Costello survived the war (I have no evidence either way, but most Canadians did), she would have been an even better source of information.

It’s also believed that correspondence from Mr. Monaghan to his wife was smuggled out of wartime Hong Kong: this is perfectly plausible, and the letter referred to in Mr.Vasseluk’s account could even have been such a missive. Mr. Gerald Monaghan had long conversations with his mother on his return from his own participation in the Pacific War, and much of the information in this post comes ultimately from these conversations, kindly passed on to me by his son Michael. Mr. Gerald Monaghan was also generous enough to answer my questions and help me in this way also to understand his father’s story.

[1] Information provided by Mr. Michael Monaghan – henceforth MM.

[2] MM.

[3] Information taken from a document drawn up in 2004 by Mr. Michael Monaghan – henceforth MM 2004.

[4] MM 2004.

[5] The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, May 29 or 30, 1946.

[6] Quebec Daily Telegraph, October 15, 1921; Quebec Chronicle of about that date.

[7] MM.

[8] MM 2004.

[9] MM 2004.

[10] China Mail, July 21, 1923, page 7.

[11] MM 2004.

[12] China Mail: March 10, 1930, page 3; April 9, 1935, page 5; September 5, 1941, page 14; Hong Kong Daily Press, April 9, 1935, page 10; Hongkong Telegraph, March 19, 1930, page 8.

[13] MM 2004.

[14]MM 2004.

[15] Everything in this paragraph from MM 2004.

[18] See Appendix.

[20] Tony Banham, Not The Slightest Chance, 2003, 6.

[21] Kindly provided by Sandra Neal.

[22]Donald C. Bowie, Captive Surgeon in Hong Kong, 1975, 159.

[23] The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, May 29 or 30, 1946.

[24] See Appendix.

[25] MM.

[27] Dated 10/5/06. and kindly supplied by Sandra Neal. Henceforth CMC.

[28] MM.

[30] CMC.

[31] MM.


[33] Letter from the External Affairs Department of Canada, dated June 30, 1943.

[34] Letter from the External Affairs Department of Canada, dated June 30, 1943.

[35] The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, May 29 or 30, 1946.

[36] CMC.

[37] David Tett, Captives In Cathay, 2007, 105.

[38] Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Years, 1982, 104.

[39] Thomas F. Ryan, Jesuits Under Fire In The Siege Of Hong Kong, 1944, 4, 5, 174.

[40] Thomas J. Morrisey, Thomas F. Ryan S. J., 2010, 55.

[41] Hongkong Sunday Herald, November  10, 1946.

[42] Article in unknown Canadian newspaper, bye-line Vancouver, June 24 (probably 1946)

[43] Ride Papers, WIS 26, 7/4/43

[44] Informationn kindly supplied by Elizabeth Ride

[48] Ride Papers, 10/34/15

[49] Ride Papers, 10/34/14, page 2

[50] This is the form used in the source, but I think Bourke is more correct.

[51] Alan Birch and Martin Cole, Captive Years, 1982, 103-104.

[52] Connie Monaghan Coleman’s statement suggests that downed American airmen were also helped to freedom (American raids on Hong Kong began on October 25, 1942).

[55] CMC.

[56] Cited under that date in Tony Banham, We Shall Suffer There, 2009.

[57] MM.

[58] China Mail, February 26, 1947, page 3

[59] Details of trial from George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 177-184

[61] The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, May 31, 1946.

[62] Article in unknown Canadian newspaper, bye-line Vancouver, June 24 (probably 1946)

[67] The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, May 29 or 30, 1946.


[70] Report with byeline Montreal, May 29, probably from the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph of May 29/30, 1946.



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11 responses to “Thomas Christopher Monaghan’s Resistance Work

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  2. Gerald Monaghan just reaching out to you via his son, Michael. We love what you wrote and want to share more details with you. Can you reply back to us via e-mail at or via phone at 480-998-9592. We’d really like to connect as your story is compelling and very close to us.

  3. Again, just wanted to ensure that you understand that Thomas C. Monaghan was my dad’s dad. We’d very much like to communicate with you about your wonderful write-up. Michael Monaghan

  4. Deborah

    I have just read this with great interest. Thomas Monaghan was my mother’s favourite uncle and I grew up hearing a much simpler version of this story. It was, of course, not only dramatic and tragic but a truly remarkable tale about an exceptional human being. Thank you so much for this. I am just beginning my research into this story and this has helped me a great deal.

    • Thanks very much, Deborah. Glad this was of use.
      A truly exceptional human being indeed.
      If you would like me to send you some of the documents I used, please email me using the address you’ll find at the bottom of the About page. In any case, I’d be very interested to hear anything you come up with.

    • Hi, Deborah. We were thrilled to see your comments — and from only 2 weeks ago. Would love to exchange e-mails with you so we can share more information with each other about T.C. Monaghan (a.k.a. “Mysterious” – his undercover code name within B.A.A.G.).

      Michael Monaghan – Scottsdale, Arizona –

  5. Pingback: Seventy Years Ago Today: A Personal Account | The Dark World's Fire: Tom and Lena Edgar in War

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  7. Douglas Kerr

    Hello, I am also a descendant of Thomas Monaghan. His sister was my grandmother so I grew up hearing my mothers version of this story and his end affected my grandmother for the rest of her life. I would love to hear more about your sources with a view to read more of the documents you discovered. Regards,

  8. Hi, Douglas. Thanks for getting in touch.
    Are you in Canada? There are two relevant files at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. One is documentation relating to the war crimes investigation of Mr Mongahan’s trial and execution, the other contains material generated by his family after the war.
    There is useful material in the Jesuit archive in Dublin.
    If you email me at brianedgar20(at)yahoo(dot)com I would be happy to send you some relevant documents from the British National Archive.
    All the best,

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