Yan Cheuk Ming (James Kim)

Yan Cheuk Ming (James Kim, James Kun) was an Australian-Chinese agent of the British Army Aid Group. He was executed at Stanley Beach. His wife, Annie Choi (Annie Kim, Annie Yan) avoided imprisonment, torture and perhaps death alongside her husband as a result of a rare act of compassion on the part of a member of the Kempeitai (Gendarmes).

A Japanese trial summary captured by the BAAG after the liberation of Hong Kong, gives us an account of Mr Kim’s ‘crimes’:

The accused YAN CHEUK MING was employed as a clerk in the harbour department by the former HONGONG government and was a section leader in the Reserve Police Force. After the fall of HONGKONG he worked as the manager of a building firm. About April 42, he attended a meeting of former members of the Reserve Police held by TSO TSUN ON1 and after TSO TSUN ON had gone into the interior for consultation with the British organization in China,2 when informed by LOIE FOOK WING3that he should maintain liaison with the British organization in the interior, he agreed. He then collected funds to help carry on their activities, and in March 1943 he illegally went to the British organisation in WAICHOW4 and reported on conditions in HONGKONG. From April to June of the same year, on five or six occasions, he received documents from the British organisation in SHIU KWAN (KUKONG5) via the British organisation at WAICHOW for transmission to Capt. FORD and Lieut. GREY in the SHAMSHUIPO P.O.W. Camp, and to Colonel Newnham in the KOWLOON Fort P.O.W. Camp6. He employed the P.O.W. Camp truck drivers LEE LAM7 and LEE HUNG HOI8 and others to deliver these messages and to bring out replies In this way he strove to maintain liaison between the British organisation and the P.O.W. Camps.9

In other words, he was one of those Police Reservists who played a crucial role in forming and maintaining an effective resistance, and his role seems to have been particularly wide-ranging and important. More can be read about communications with the P.O.W. Camps in my posts on Lee Lam and Lee Hung Hoi, and a detailed account is contained in Passport to Eternity by Ralph Goodwin (1956).

His arrest came on June 5, 1943, in the wake of that of Loie Fook Wing (David Loie), the leader of the Police Reservist group. The Gendarmes came for both him and his wife Annie, but one of them allowed her to remain in their flat because she had a four month baby.10 She was held under house arrest for a month, but seems otherwise to have escaped retribution – it seems highly likely that she too played a role in the resistance, as the Japanese did not always arrest the wives of agents..

Some of the words were rendered illegible on the orders of a pro-Japanese Indian warder. At the top is written:

I LEAVE ALL TO MY DARLING WIFE ANNIE CHOY YUK YITY
JAMES M KIM
23 x 43

1943

And beneath we find:

GOD BLESS MY WIFE ANNIE (KIM) (YAN)
AND OUR BABIES BETTY {word in brackets illegible but given by Henry Ching as ‘Cissy’}
DIANA EDMOND, FRANKLIN,
I LOVE YOU ALL DARLINGS

GOOD BYE DADDY JIM

The date is repeated, there are a few Chinese characters, some of them illegible, and the address of Annie Kim. The message ends:

LOVE TO EVERYONE GOODBYE ALL
(obliterated) FOR EVER (obliterated)
CHINA ALWAYS (circled)
He was tried on the morning of October 19 and sentenced to death. On October 23 he scratched on the wall of his cell what George Wright-Nooth calls ‘both a will and a final touching message of love ….to his family’.11

(The original can be viewed at http://brianwedgar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/yan-cheuk-ming-james-kim.html)

This document is not only deeply moving but also an inspiring testimony to the unbreakable spirit of James Kim. We can only imagine what he must have suffered under interrogation (the physical pain magnified by the inevitable worry as to the fate of his wife and children), while on October 23, the date of the inscription, he was imprisoned in dreadful conditions and under sentence of death (which was carried out six days later). But his mind is filled with love for his family, and the ‘handwriting’ is clear and strong, showing no traces of the effects of his past or present ordeals. Those final circled words (‘China Always’) show that his resistance work was motivated by his Chinese patriotism as well as his support for the British.

Mr Kim was from Casterton in the Australian state of Victoria.12 At the time of his arrest he was living on the second floor of 60, Nga Tsin Wai Road in Kowloon.

On October 29, 1943 James Kim was executed alongside 32 others on Stanley Beach. He was 44 years old.

1https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/tso-tsun-on/

2The resistance organisation, the BAAG.

3 Also known as David Loie, probably the most important figure in the Hong Kong resistance. He committed suicide before he could be interrogated and thus avoided giving any information to the Japanese.

4BAAG field HQ.

5Another BAAG HQ.

6Argyle Street Officers’ Camp.

7https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/lee-lam/

8https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/lee-hung-hoi/

9Captured Enemy Document, Page 5 – part of the Ride Papers and kindly sent to me by Elizabeth Ride.

10Testimony of Annie Kim, China Mail, March 12, 1946, page 1.

11Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 185.

12 Henry Ching, ‘Australians in Hong Kong in the Pacific War’. Hong Kong Volunteers and Ex-POW Association of New South Wales, Occasional Papers 8. This is also the source for ‘Cissy’ (see above).Link http://www.rhkrnsw.org/publictn.htm

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Filed under British Army Aid Group, Hong Kong WW11

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