Monthly Archives: May 2013

Frederick William Bradley

Frederick William Bradley

Note: This WordPress blog is is now unreliable in uploading photos and preserving italic and other type instructions, while leaving out footnotes, so I’m transferring my blog here:

http://brianwedgar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/frederick-william-bradley.html

The next few posts will be on both sites, thereafter on Blogger only.

Frederick William Bradley was one of those courageous men and women who, in spite of the huge risks involved, took part in Hong Kong’s anti-Japanese resistance.

He was the son of Isabella Fraser from Inverness and Charles William Bradley. As he was 50 at his death in 1943,[1] he was presumably born in 1893 or thereabouts. He had a sister, Gertrude, and two adopted brothers, Harry and William.[2]

I know nothing about his experiences in WW1 but he was clearly of military age.

He seems to have begun work in Hong Kong’s Sanitary Department in 1924: ‘conveyancing’ expenses are recorded for him as a ‘Second Class Overseer’ and it’s described as a ‘new appointment’.[3] He was transferred to the Public Works Department, returning to the Sanitary Department on the first of April, 1925.[4]

I have found nothing more in the record until 1940, when, like his eventual resistance contact, Alexander Christie Sinton,[5] he was listed as authorised to perform vaccinations.[6] From a relatively early stage in its history, the Hong Kong authorities had conducted a vigorous vaccination programme to attempt to improve the Colony’s public health situation, and ‘lay’ vaccinator were an important part of this programme.

In the same year he was assigned to the Key Posts (B) Group of the Hong Kong Defence Reserve in the section for those aged 41-55.[7]

His work at the outbreak of the war is described as ‘Senior Health Inspector’.[8] The intercepted Japanese trial document (see below) suggests that this might mean ‘the’ (rather than ‘a’) senior health inspector. He seems to he had responsibility for Central Market.[9] His assignment to the Key Posts Group means that he almost certainly acted as a health inspector during the fighting, when shortage of water for flushing toilets, the breakdown of the system for disposing of ‘night soil’ (excrement) and the large number of dead bodies lying unburied created increasing challenges.

Two main factors seem to have drawn him into the resistance. Before the war he’d been acquainted with Alexander Sinton, and in Stanley he worked in the canteen and therefore had regular contact with the ration lorry. Mr. Sinton was one of those kept out of Stanley to carry out public health work under Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, and at some point he became an agent of the British Army Aid Group, a resistance organisation which first made contact with Hong Kong in June 1942. Sinton set up a route for sending secret messages into Stanley through the ration lorry drivers of the Kowloon Bus Company, and Frederick Bradley was one of those who received the messages at the Stanley ‘end’.

In February 1943, the Kempeitai (Military Police) began a ‘strike-back’ against all the forms of illegal activity that had sprung up in Japanese Hong Kong.[10] A number of British nationals – all of them involved either in illegal humanitarian relief work or in espionage, or both – were arrested in May, and the network of Chinese drivers which had carried communications between the BAAG and the Hong Kong camps was penetrated. On June 28, 1943 the Kempeitai came to Stanley Camp and made 6 arrests, including Mr. Bradley and Frederick Ivan Hall, who had been carrying out similar work. Both men were arrested at about 6 p.m. after what must have been a terrifying period of waiting – the first arrest had been at about noon.

He and the others were taken first to G Block of Stanley Prison for questioning,[11] then in August moved to B block to be kept awaiting trial. It’s probable that interrogations no longer took place in B Block, but life was still tough enough: miserable rations, and most of the day spent sitting cross-legged facing the wall, contemplating the ‘crimes’ that had brought them into the cell. Those left behind in Stanley would have tried to get Mr. Bradley extra food, but so little was given to prisoners that Sir Vandeleur Grayburn died after 5 months on those prison rations even though he was sent supplements by both legal and illegal means.

Mr. Bradley and 26 others were tried on the morning of October 19, 1943. Alexander Sinton was asked by prosecutor Kogi:

‘Why did you send a chit into Stanley camp for Bradley with the coolie on the ration lorry?’
‘Because if I sent it through the Japanese official channels it would take six weeks to get there and a further six weeks to get a reply. Since these chits dealt with essential drugs, etc., for camp use speed was necessary. I had a reply within 24 hours through the ration lorry coolies’.
To which Kogi yelled, ‘Nevertheless you fooled the Gendarmes. You are guilty. Next one.’[12]

A captured Japanese summary of the trial verdicts gives more details of Mr. Bradley’s activities:

Although he knew it was forbidden to introduce articles into the camp, or send them out without the permission of the appropriate official, he nevertheless made use of the accused LEUNG HUNG[13] on about ten occasions to exchange messages with the accused SINTON between March and June 1943. In April of that year he was asked by the accused HALL to hand to the former police chief SCOTT a message concerning W.T.[14] code from the British organisation in WAICHOW,[15] which LOOIE FOOK WING[16] was getting in through SINTON. Knowing quite well the import of what he was doing, he agreed to this and some days later delivered the message to SCOTT.[17]

The verdicts had been decided in advance,[18] and he was sentenced to death – it was that involvement in handling a message from the BAAG that probably sealed his fate, as the other messages all concerned health matters. He and 32 others were beheaded on StanleyBeach on October 29, 1943. Mr. Bradley was survived by his wife Grace Helen of Stirling. His parents are described on his memorial stone as ‘of Charlton, Kent’.[19]

The seventieth anniversary of the death of this brave man and his fellow resistance workers falls later this year.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gingle Becomes Tweedie – Ernest Gann’s Soldier of Fortune

Acknowledgement:
I was made aware of Gann’s account of his meeting with Gingle by the poster IDJ on the Gwulo website.
http://gwulo.com/node/2623

Note:
Gann always calls him ‘Gingles’ but the best sources have ‘Gingle’. I’ve kept Gann’s references as they are while using ‘Gingle’ in my own text.

In my last post I quoted Ernest Gann’s autobiography to show that he decided to use Gingle’s restaurant as a locale in his novel because he found it provided the right colour for a story of intrigue, romance and double-dealing. I also suggested that consciously or unconsciously he’d decided to get his revenge on Gingle for the reception he’d accorded him – it seems that the restaurateur suspected he was an agent of the American Government sent to spy on him, and threatened him with dire consequences if he didn’t leave Hong Kong fast. Gann had stayed around, but first arranging for a police bodyguard to protect him from any harm that Gingle might have tried to make come his way.

In Soldier of Fortune Gingle is called Tweedie and his restaurant is therefore Tweedie’s Place. Fiction enables Gann to rewrite the real-life plot – which a hostile reader might describe as ‘genuine Yankee hard man sees off thinks-he’s-tough aviator who runs blabbing to the Brit police and gets himself babied around until he slinks out of Hong Kong’! Seriously, Gann obviously was a courageous man, and an accomplished writer (although I think this is best seen in his autobiography rather than his novels, if Solider of Fortune is anything to go by). He was obviously sensible to take Gingle’s threats seriously, and few writers have been above using their fiction to take their revenge on insults dished out in real life. In the novel this revenge comes when Tweedie/Gingle meets his nemesis: the super-tough eponymous Soldier of Fortune Henry (‘Hank’) Lee.

Hank had deserted from the American Navy in the last months of the war and drifted into Hong Kong where he makes an excellent but risky living selling embargoed ‘strategic materials’ to the Reds. He’s so tough everyone’s scared of him and so clever the police can’t touch him. But he has a heart of gold underneath and he’s bringing up two children as a single father. Then a lady walks into his life.

Jane Hoyt is very different from Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson in most ways, but she’s like her in one big thing: without being conventionally very attractive, she effortlessly makes almost all men fall in love with her. Which is lucky, because without Hank and other admirers she’d have no chance of fulfilling the mission which brought her to Hong Kong – rescuing her husband Louis, a photographer held by the Reds after he slipped into China in search of career-making shots.

‘Tweedie’s Place’ lies almost hidden on a side street off Kowloon’s main thoroughfare, Nathan Road, and like its real-life counterpart enjoys a ore than local fame – Tweedie’s place catered for sailor men and flying men and so was known all over the world.

There are no fights here – anyone who raised a fist was banned and this was the ‘worst thing’ that could happen to a sailor or flyer in search of ‘easy company.’ Tweedie always points out it’s ‘a gentleman’s place’, and he keeps a ‘two-by-four’ (a piece of lumber of those dimensions) behind the bar to make sure it remains so.

Gingle was still alive when the novel was published, so, to provide a defence to a possible libel charge, Gann changes the restaurant owner’s striking appearance by squeezing upwards: the fat becomes an elongated neck, and he’s known to his intimates as ‘the Giraffe’ – a name given him when he was a cook in the barque ‘Penang’, which he ‘jumped’ in the 1920s, staying in Hong Kong ever since. (For the varying accounts of Gingle’s arrival in the 1930s after a career as a naval cook see https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/edward-gingle-at-war/).

Gann seems to have confused ideas about the fate of Hong Kong civilians during the war, but his account does seem to echo Gingle’s experience of the Ma Tau Wai in Kowloon:

The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong was a particularly difficult time for Tweedie, who, along with all held prisoner with all other white civilians was held prisoner in the compound on Nathan Road.
Ernest K. Gann, Soldier of Fortune, Companion Book Club, 1956 (first published 1954), 43.
Hereafter Soldier.

Gingle, of course, was first in Stanley and then had a couple of years ‘free’ before internment in Kowloon (https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/edward-gingle-at-war/)

I’m not sure how far the description of Tweedie’s place reflects its real life model. It’s got wicker chairs to make any fights that do break out less lethal – a photo on this sight shows this wasn’t the case at Gingle’s in 1949:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=gingle+source:life&sa=N&start=0&ndsp=20&biw=1366&bih=617&sei=5RiOUeCSHaPy0gX9voG4Bw&tbm=isch#imgrc=yDwsLahZB-dKrM%3A%3BnVkZoExYk8RaZM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.gstatic.com%252Fhostedimg%252F4780b8ad86b86058_landing%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimages.google

But, we’re told that Tweedie used chequered table cloths – because he thought they were homey and they cut down on the laundry bill because you could spool a lot without having to change it – and such a cloth can be seen in the photo (from the late 1940s) I put at the head of the last post (https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/edward-gingle-in-jerome-ganns-autobiography/). I suspect that the table in that photo is the original of Tweedie’s personal table, at which he holds court to invited guests only from mid-afternoon to late at night. (All these details, Soldier, 43)

We’re also told that there’s a smaller more intimate room with photos of ships and autographs of the famous and near famous who have frequented the restaurant. This sounds highly likely to be based on fact, but I’ve not yet been able to find any proof that such a room existed at Gingle’s.

The two tough bar staff that Gann encountered in real life have become three, and they serve as odd jobs men and intelligence gatherers for Tweedie. They’re always there, relics of his ‘lustier days’ and not liking his increasing preference for ‘respectability’. They’re called Gunner, Big Matt (who was an ex-marine guard at the US legation in Peking) and Icky (a man whose age cannot be pinned down more precisely than between 55-75 years). They collect rent from his three tenant farms – we know the real Gingle had one in the New Territories, presumably the Sunnybrook Farm on which he died.

In the old days merchant seamen and sailors from battleships were his only customers, now Tweedie going upmarket, welcoming airmen and their wives. (Soldier, 45-46) Unaccompanied women are not welcomed, though – Tweedie thinks all women are ‘whore’, forced by circumstances to go after men whether through marriage or direct prostitution. He understood this, and thought there was nothing wrong with it, but just didn’t want them seeking such ‘employment’ in his ‘Place’ (Soldier, page 46) So when he sees Jane Hoyt there on his own, he goes to expel her, his reluctance being tribute to her extraordinary attractiveness. Luckily, another admirer the chancer Marty Gates interveners, and Jane now has a companion who can give her useful knowledge of Hong Kong’s shadier circles. (Soldier 47-49).

Tweedie tells Jane her husband’s dead and when she meets Inspector Rodman (a tribute no doubt to one of the real life British police officers who kept Gann safe from Gingle’s attentions) he can’t understand why she can talk about the matter so calmly – Tweedie has good sources and, although he didn’t know everything, there was ‘a great deal he did know’. He hadn’t Rodman thinks, (Soldier, 75) made all that money running a restaurant. It’s worth noting that the Marine Police sent a wreath to the real Gingle’s funeral! (http://gwulo.com/node/2623) Either this was a joke, he’d mended his fences in later life, or Gann’s account of him is inaccurate.

Rodman, of course, ends up doing what he can, but all this had been leading up to the big meeting been the irresistibly feminine Jane and the ‘real man’ Hank. Rodman tells Jane about the man she’s heard might be able to help her – ‘Your Henry Lee is a brigand, a pirate, a smuggler and a traitor. He will do anything to make a dollar, and has’. When Jane asks the obvious question as to why he wasn’t in jail then, Rodman replies ‘I neglected to say that he is also extraordinarily clever’. (Soldier, 74.) What woman could resist such a modern-day Lord Byron? And Hank hardly makes even a token effort to avoid falling prey to Jane’s attractions, and is soon on board as Captain of the team being gathered to rescue Louis from the clutches of the Reds. The first thing he needs to do is to get the truth out of Tweedie – why is he so confident the missing man is in fact dead? Hank knows all about Tweedie’s activities, and for a deserter who smuggles forbidden items to the communists, takes a rather high-minded attitude to them:

Tweedie is the worst of the lot, with his racket. The Commies have a sure way of getting American dollars by simply putting the bite on Chinese families in the States. Pay up…. or goodbye to your relatives. Taxes they call it. But a couple of years ago the U. S. government wised up and made such pay-offs illegal. That’s when Tweedie moved in with his messenger service. They send the money to Tweedie and he supposedly gets the relatives in China off the hook. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. If he finds out the relatives are already liquidated he keeps the money. Whatever happens, he takes his cut. He’s a crook and that restaurant is only a blind.
Soldier, 104-105

Gann had heard similar things about Gingle and his remittances service – ‘by the time (he) took his cut….very little of it ever reached the relatives’ (Hostage, 481) I should stress that no other account of the real life Gingle mentions such an operation. In any case, I very much doubt that the restaurant was anything other than a legitimate and profitable business; he’d been running a ‘place’ in Kowloon before the war, long before it was possible to make money from remittances sent home by Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong.

Hank decides that he’s going to rescue Louis so that he can take Jane from him man-to-man. By now we would expect no less of him. His first move is to go to Tweedie’s Place and find out from the owner why he told Jane that Louis was dead. Luckily Tweedie’s been scared of Hank ever since he beat up Big Matt – causing $HK3,000 damage to the restaurant in the process. Matt had been sent by his boss to look over Hank’s godowns with a view to extracting information that might give ‘leverage’ to Tweedie in future negotiations about joining Hank in business, but Hank saw this reconnaissance expedition as mere spying (Soldier, 137). Now, this reverses the situation in which Gann was suspected of spying for the US Government by Gingle and is forced to get police protection. Gann’s fictional surrogate is going to get ample revenge for the less than heroic figure cut by his creator.

What’s Tweedie up to while his reputation is being so foully besmirched by the moralistic smuggler? Well, there’s one of Hong Kong’s many typhoons raging outside, and while everyone’s stuck in doors, the aging Madame Dupree and Tweedie’s sidekick Icky find love and, most conveniently, an (albeit defrocked) Methodist minister is on the premises to marry them. (Soldier, 134). Tweedie discovers ‘new-found paternal emotions’ at his protégées improvised wedding. (Soldier, 136). But this softening does him no good. Trouble is on the way.

Hank erupts into Tweedie’s place – HE’S not kept waiting as Gann was – and as part of his generally uncompromising interview technique throws at the hapless restaurateur the leading question, ‘Are you still swiping money?’. This elicits a denial of any ‘swiping’ and a self-delivered tribute to the ‘humane’ nature of the remittances operation. To justify his ‘cut’ Tweedie points to the expenses involved in keeping up his network of informants, and Hank tells him that it’s indeed information he’s after. (Solider, 138-139).

When Tweedie proves rather reticent about Louis Hoyt, in best tough-guy fashion Hank lifts him two inches off the floor and shakes him until his eyes pop. (Soldier, 140). It’s what I would have done, and it has the desired result. Tweedie admits that he set up Hoyt with a junk owner, and that it was the owner who’d reported him dead. He doesn’t know if the report’s true or not, and Hank gives him two days to find out, while refusing to pay for this service – ‘use the dollars you got from Louis Hoyt’ (141). Tweedie, assaulted and humiliated as he’s been, is forced to admit to himself that ‘Hank Lee (is) one hell of a man’. He sets about his task, even enjoying the competition provided by a man of this quality and hoping that nay information he might acquire might also be used to ‘skewer’ him (142).

In fact, Hank finds out that Louis is alive and where he is from other sources, but Tweedie does give him the information that Jane’s probably in Macao and in trouble. The villainous Fernand Rocha has proved strangely impervious to her charms, and has in fact drugged and robbed her when she went over to the Portuguese colony in search of information. He’s been seen cashing her traveller’s cheques at the casino in Central Hotel owned by a powerful figure called Lobo (Pedro Lobo was in fact a real and important figure in Macao). In return for this information, Hank makes what for him is an effusive speech of gratitude and reward:

All right. Thanks. You’re off the hook, Tweedie.
Soldier, 213-214

Hank rescues Jane, administering a well-deserved beating to the villainous Fernand in the process, and packs her off to safety to wait for her husband to be delivered to her. His team consists of a loyal and resourceful Haka (usually Hakka) crewman and a British policeman, Inspector Rodman, who he rather implausibly kidnaps in order to get the help he needs manning the bofors gun with which he’s thoughtfully equipped his motorised junk. Rodman’s presence – he’s jolly sporting about being kidnapped and expected to take part in a life-and-death battle with the Chinese navy – enables Gann to assure his American readers that, although the British are forced to deal with the commies, they are not in fact Red themselves and CAN be relied on if it comes to a fight. Rescuing Louis, who’s naturally facing execution that very day, from a Canton (Guangzhou) prison is a piece of cake, and so is seeing off the pursuing gun-boat. Louis has always known that Jane, although a loving and faithful wife, would one day meet her real soul mate, graciously concedes to the better man, but not without surprising him first: he refuses to eat because he’s saving himself for a steak at Tweedie’s – ‘He may be a crook, but he serves the best food in Hong Kong’ he explains to the incredulous Soldier of Fortune (271).

There’s a final kick at Tweedie in the book’s closing review of the main characters; he sits with Gunner and Big Matt the long table staring at the ceiling and mourning the ‘loss’ of Icky. (286) or all his dreams of ‘skewering’ Hank, Tweedie ends as one of the novel’s losers.

Soldier of Fortune was extraordinarily successful and immediately (1955) made into a Twentieth Century Fox film starring Clark Gable and Susan Hayward( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048640/). This adaptation didn’t leave out the character of Tweedie, who was played by Tom Tully. So, to the best of my knowledge, Edward Gingle is the first person from the Hong Kong war to have been portrayed (albeit indirectly) on the big screen!

Leave a comment

Filed under Hong Kong WW11

Edward Gingle in Ernest Gann’s Autobiography

Dad, Gingles et. al 001
Acknowledgement:
I was made aware of Gann’s account of his meeting with Gingle by the poster IDJ on the Gwulo website.
http://gwulo.com/node/2623

Note:
Gann always calls him ‘Gingles’ but the best sources have ‘Gingle’. I’ve kept Gann’s references as they are while using ‘Gingle’ in my own text.

In a previous post I brought together all I knew about restaurateur, Stanley Camp cook and friend of my father Francis Gingle (the large man at the head of the table in the photo above):
https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/edward-gingle-at-war/

In this post I’ll give an account of the representation of Gingle in Hostage of Fortune, the autobiography of American flyer and novelist Ernest K. Gann, who visited him in his Hong Kong restaurant in the early 1950s and decided that he would make his ‘colourful’ restaurant a major locale in his next novel, the best-selling Soldier Of Fortune.

Gann got such an unpleasant reception that I suspect he also felt impelled to revenge himself in the way he portrays the Gingle character, Tweedie – that portrayal will be the subject of my next post.

Gann heard about Gingle before he got to Hong Kong. He was headed there to research the novel when he met Commander Cornell, ‘just out of Hong Kong where he had served in {American} Naval Intelligence:

‘You must see a man called Gingles,’ Cornell insisted. Gingles is the key to the Hong Kong you’re looking for.’
Would you give me a letter of introduction?’
‘To Gingles?’ A wry smile crossed his face. ‘No. You’ll be better off with Gingles if you never heard of me.’
Gingles? The name itself was to send me off at once in his general direction.

A Hostage To Fortune, Ballantine, 1980 (originally 1978), 478. Hereafter Hostage.

The novel Gann was incubating concerned an American photographer who had entered China illegally in search of exciting pictures but found himself arrested and in need of rescue.

Once in Hong Kong, Gann asks his cicerone René Lim – daughter of a pioneer Chinese aviator and ‘the unofficial Empress of the Peninsula Hotel Lobby – about Gingle:

I’ll take you to Gingles’s place, but he probably won’t be there, since he’s been ill recently and he rarely comes to town. He has a nice house in the country….
That evening we went to Gingles’s Place, a checkered tablecloth restaurant and bar with a boisterous international clientele. René knew many of them, particularly the pilots, who acted cheerfully as her multiple liaison with people throughout the Far East and who seemed to have made Gingles’s Place a second home.

Hostage, 481

Gingle’s arthritis, his relationship with the pilots and his home (or at least farm) in the country are all confirmed by other sources (see https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/edward-gingle-at-war/).

Gann notes two bartenders, one doubling as a rather nonchalant maitre d’ – both men were middle-aged, tattooed about their powerful forearms, and of formidable appearance’ (Hostage, 481-2)

Gingle himself proves ‘elusive’ but after two weeks he sends word from his ‘country retreat’ that he will meet Gann at noon of the next day at his ‘Place’. But Gann must come alone:

I asked René why she had not been invited. She only said that Gingles was known for his eccentricities.
Hostage, 484

Gann arrives for his twelve o’clock appointment. He’s the only customer there – he eventually remembers the restaurant’s evenings only – and he has to wait:

I smoothed the red-checkered tablecloth at the small table for two I had taken, and in my little sketchbook made a small drawing of the salt and pepper shakers and
glass of toothpicks clustered with the sugar bowl.
Hostage, 485

Gann gets a chance to observe Gingle approaching without being seen himself:

For approaching me, head bent until the brim of his straw hat covered his face, wearing a rumpled white suit and leaning heavily on a Malacca cane, was the composite of all the devious and dangerous characters who populated Grade B melodramas – ‘Surely,’ I whispered to myself, ‘Sydney Greenstreet in the flesh’.
Hostage, 486

There is indeed some resemblance to Greenstreet:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Greenstreet

Gann continues:

I watched his slow progress along the passageway and saw that he must indeed have been ill, for there was considerable hesitancy in his step, and once when he raised his head slightly I saw he was wearing very dark glasses. For a moment I thought he might be going blind, yet he used the cane more as a physical support than as an aid to sight. He had obviously been a big man, but now the white suit hung loosely upon him as if he had lost considerable weight.
Hostage, 486

A little is added to the description later – ‘a rather large nose protruding from heavy jowls…big liver-spot mottled hands’.

When Gann asks for a coke – he wants to keep his head clear and enjoys building up a thirst to be quenched at sundown – Gingle acts in ‘B Movie Villain’ character:

‘For Christ’s sake, what kind of man is Rene sending round here? I thought she had better judgment. What do you drink at sundown?’
‘Rum…if I can get it.’
Gingles turned his head approximately one quarter inch in the direction of the bartender. ‘Bring him a rum.’
Hostage, 487

Gann asks if Gingle can help him find a junk, and when asked what for he raises suspicions by hesitating and comes up with an unconvincing story about wanting to paint things that can’t be seen properly from land – he doesn’t feel he can tell a man like Gingle that he’s ‘feeling my way toward a book’. Gingle’s tough-guy response is right in the character he’s by now established or been given:

The orbs of black glass remained fixed on me, the lips pressed tighter. ‘Bullshit,’ Gingles said flatly. ‘You work for the U. S. government.’
‘I do not. What gives you that idea?’
‘What gives any of the U. S. government agencies the idea they can send some guy like you over here to check up on Gingles? This is British territory and you people can’t do a goddamned thing about anything. Now you go back to Washington or wherever in the hell you came from and tell them that. Tell them they can goddamn well leave Gingles alone.’
Hostage, 488

Gann soon comes up with a theory as to what’s behind this rather frosty reception:

Now I remembered when Rudy Webber’s friend had told me Gingles was the most valuable contact Naval Intelligence had in Hong Kong, he had not told me why. Obviously someone had offended Gingles and I had run into the recoil.
Hostage 488

Gann is expelled from his ‘Place’, but when he tells René of his experience she has a different explanatio:

‘I know Gingles could have fixed things if he wanted to,’ she said unhappily. ‘I think his illness has made him a little senile.’
Hostage, 489

A few days later Gann receives a phone call:

Without so much as a please the voice demanded raspily for my name. I gave it.
‘This is Gingles.’
I caught my breath. Bless his gruffness, he was going to come through after all….

‘I thought I told you to get out of town….You’ve had three days. That’s enough. There’s a Pan American flight leaving for Manila at two o’clock this afternoon. You’d better be on it. There’s a ticket in the airport in your name. I say again if you like your good health be on the airplane.’
Hostage, 490

Gann starts to protest, but of course Gingle puts down the phone.

This suggests that either Gingle or Gann has been watching too many gangster films. But the author takes the threats seriously and gets the invaluable René to take him to a friend in the Water Police. Surprisingly, to me at least, Gann is provided with two body guards; the English officer is, in the finest traditions of our police service at the time, unarmed, but please don’t worry his Chinese sidekick (known only by his number One-Three-0-Three) has a gun for each of them. And Inspector Debbs takes the threat seriously too:

Of course we’ve known Gingles for years, although generally he keeps shy of us and we have no reason for direct contact.’
‘Do you think he means what he said?’
‘Quite.’
Hostage, 491

It is fashionable to stress the ways in which ‘real’ interactions are structured by fictional conventions and Gann is upfront about ‘seeing’ Gingle as a B Movie villain. I think B movie is unfair – I’ve heard worse dialogue in perfectly respectable gangster films, and Greenstreet’s most famous roles were in Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, A List movies in anyone’s book. But Gingle’s phone call, which Gann describes as the only ‘very real’ thing about the interactions, is pure Hollywood, right down to the ticket out of town waiting at the airport (through which the tough guy shows he’s rich, reasonable and Means What He Says). But my point at the moment isn’t the way in which fictional conventions are active in real life – both in conversation speech and autobiographical writing. Instead I want to follow up the implications of Gann’s being told, by seemingly reliable sources, that Gingle was in possession of an excellent information-gathering network, and that he had contacts with the American Naval Intelligence, which probably ended in tears in the early 1950s.

Although I didn’t have a copy of Hostage to Fortune when I wrote my first post on Gingle I used IDJ’s account (acknowledged above) to suggest that this post-war activity was one of the ‘straws’ that hinted at Gingle’s involvement with the war-time resistance in the period between his being guaranteed out from Stanley Camp (August 5, 1942) and his re-internment in Ma-Tau-Chung (date unknown but probably after August, 1944). I found another ‘straw’ in Tony Banham’s fine book on the tragic sinking of the Lisbon Maru (with loss of hundreds of POW lives). Banham tells us that James Patrick Mulligan of the Royal asrtillery walked out of North Point Camp in the chaotic early days of Japanese rule and was sheltered by Chinese sisters until his eventual escape to Shanghai in 1942. Mulligan operated as an intelligence-gatherer and was told one day by a young Chinese girl that British POWs were being loaded on to a ship (the Lisbon Maru). He immediately went to a place where observation could tell him if the previously unknown informant’s story was true. Mulligan’s son takes up the story:

He then went to his contact who seemed very uninterested in this updated information. He implied to me that his contact was a ‘Yank’ and he definitely said that the ‘Yank’s ignored his information and the ship was torpedoed.
Tony Banham, The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru, 2006, Kindle Edition, Location 1051

The son provides more circumstantial detail to suggest that his father had more than occasional contacts with American intelligence, and tells us that he never mentioned the British Army Aid Group, adding that his father was disenchanted with the British army at the time and probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them, so I need to
revise my suggestion that Gingle worked for the BAAG. American Intelligence, perhaps Naval Intelligence, is more likely.

One American who’s likely to have been living in or at least sometimes present in Kowloon at this time (late September 1942) is Edward Gingle, who’s main pre-war business was this side of the harbour. I think it likely that his ‘sidekicks’ – his former manager ‘Red’ Salmon and chiropractor Frank Molthen – were also there, or at least had a good reason to visit, so here are three possible candidates for Mulligan’s contact.

The portrait of Gingle in Gann’s autobiography, taken with the section on Mulligan in Banham’s history, has done nothing to put an end to my speculation as to Gingle’s role during the occupation! After the war he had a first-class network of ‘contacts’ on the south China coast and Gann strongly hints he was using them (no doubt for payment) on behalf of American Naval Intelligence. There was an American in Kowloon in 1942 getting information from a British soldier and passing it on to people who could have prevented the torpedoing of the Lisbon Maru….

I hope that one day a document that reveals the truth one way or the other will emerge.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized