Monthly Archives: December 2013

Charles Ernest ‘Chuck’ Winter

Charles Ernest Winter was one of the American truck drivers who volunteered to stay outside Stanley camp to help the Medical Department in its public and community health work.

He was a Seventh Day Adventist missionary and teacher:

Mr Chuck Winter is an American Seventh Day Adventist missionary school teacher and ran a school over on the mainland near Clearwater Bay

This school was presumably the forerunner of today’s Hong Kong Adventist Academy and the Hong Kong Adventist College for older students, both in Sai Kung.2 Seventh Day Adventist educational efforts in south China go back to 1903, and by 1935 there was a successful ‘Canton Training Institute’ in the city now known as Guangzhou. As a result of the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the school was moved to Hong Kong, first operating in Shatin. It merged with another Adventist institution to become the ‘China and South China Training institute’ and 40 acres of land were bought at Clearwater Bay. After the Japanese invasion, the school returned to Guangdong province.3 (For more on Seventh Day Adventist Schools see

The Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. It wasn’t long before the British ran short of drivers, and this shortfall was made up by American volunteers,4 keen to do something to help but forbidden by their constitution to enlist in a foreign militia. Mr Winter was one of a ‘brave group’ who worked for the Medical Department and ‘drove throughout the war under shell- and machine-gun fire and continued as drivers up to the time of repatriation’.5

Mr Winter was delivering bread when he fell into enemy hands and made a spirited escape:

Charles Winter, one of our drivers, was captured. One morning as he was delivering bread to the French hospital in the Happy Valley area he was suddenly surrounded by a platoon of Jap soldiers who told him politely, ‘You are captured; prease (sic) stay here.’ Then in a hurry to join their advance they did not stop to tie him up, just left him sitting in the truck with the threat, ‘We come back.’ Winter waited just long enough for them to march out of sight beyond a bend in the road, then turned and drove like a bat out of Hades back to town.6

After the surrender (December 25, 1941) and internment of most ‘white’ Allied civilians (January 21, 1942) Mr Winter and his fellow drivers agreed to stay outside Stanley to carry on their work. Patrick Sheridan, an RASC baker, who was initially held in the Exchange Building with my father and two other bakers, describes the situation in early January 1942:

The Japs have allowed a sort of Medical or Health Dept. to be set up to help the local hospitals and homeless refugees of many nationalities. The man who formed it is the former Director of Medical Services of Hong Kong, a Dr Selwyn-Clarke. He has the assistance of a Mr Owen Evans, an Englishman, and two Americans – a Dr Henry DD and a Mr Chuck Winter. They have an ambulance and operate very much like the International Red Cross.7

After the surrender, the Medical Department seems to have regrouped at Queen Mary Hospital in Pokfulam:

Evans, Winter and Doc Henry were formerly based at the Queen Mary Hospital but the Japs took it over for their own sick and wounded and turned everybody out. They are taking over all the best and modern hospitals for themselves and not concerned where the patients go when they throw them out.8

American writer Emily Hahn, who was sheltering there with her baby, dates the expulsion to January 20 or 21.9 The Japanese wanted the uninterned Medical Department personnel all to live under the same roof, and the next we see of them, they’re in St Paul’s Hospital (aka the French Hospital) in Causeway Bay, which had a huge ‘compound’ of associated buildings, including one of the island’s two French Convent Schools:

Evans and co. are now accommodated at the French Hospital at Causeway Bay. They live in the former girls’ school in the Convent grounds.10

The bakers joined the drivers there on February 8,11 and Mr Winter’s work brought him into regular contact with them:

We are now producing bread for all the Hospitals including Bow(e)n Road Military Hospital and also some for Stanley Internment camp. Evans(,) Winter and Doc Henry bring us supplies of materials. They also collect and distribute the bread, and ferry the bakers to and from the Bakery. They also distribute milk, rice, beans and fuel to the Hospitals. In fact they are three conscientious, hard-working, unselfish men.12

Mr Winter was involved in one of the earliest documented episodes of smuggling by outsiders into Stanley Camp:

{Captain}Tanaka13 hands out another kindness, he sends for Mr Evans and Chuck Winter and tells them to load the ambulance with food stuffs, i.e. tea, sugar, butter, tinned goods etc. and take it to the Beach Hospital for the patients. This is a godsend as they have been living on a small rice ration and a slice of bread a day. Evans and Winter manage to smuggle some of the food into Stanley Camp where it is needed just as badly.14

This must have been before February 8 when the bakers were living at the Exchange Building with Captain Tanaka in charge. Mr Winter continued to drive into Stanley with bread baked at the Ching Loong Bakery in Wanchai:15

Evans, Chuck Winter or Doc Henry make a daily trip to Stanley internment camp to deliver bread, milk, etc. 16

Bread deliveries to Stanley were gradually replaced by an internee flour ration in April/May 1942 but the drivers continued to take bread to the hospitals.

The drivers didn’t always find their work easy; we hear of another team of drivers (former American pilots living in May Road) getting rough treatment and slaps during Japanese searches, and this almost certainly happened to the French Hospital group as well:

{Charles} Schafer and four other American citizens managed to escape internment by securing passes to work for the Hong Kong Medical Dept. During the next six months, they trucked 350 cubic tons of food and supplies to the internees and 800,000 lbs of firewood to Hong Kong’s hospitals. But though they had a form of freedom, they never knew when they would be slapped or kicked, or their loads confiscated by the Japanese. Once, a guard slapped Schafer so hard his head rang for hours. They lived on the internee’s rice-beans-salt rations, and managed to avoid catching beriberi only by buying other foods outside at enormously inflated prices.18

Mr Winter made a mark on life at the Hospital that survived his repatriation:

Conditions at the French Hospital are not bad, and as we make friends with the young children and the older girls, Chuck Winter introduces games of soft ball in the evenings before it gets dark. There are ten small children of various nationalities aged between 6 to 11 years, four older girls aged about 16 to 20 years.19

Henry Ching, the young son of the former editor of the South China Morning Post, remembers joining in these games in 1944.20

We get a final glimpse of Mr Winter in early June, 1942 as Staff-Sergeant Sheridan is about to make his escape from Hong Kong (for which he was awarded the Miitary Medal):

I say farewells to Dr Selwyn-Clarke, Dr. Henry, Chuck Winter and Mr Evans and hope they will be able to continue the fine relief work they are doing.21

On June 29, the day of my parents marriage, the Americans in town were driven to Stanley to board the repatriation ship, the Asama Maru. In late July they were transferred to the Swedish ship the Gripsholm for the rest of the voyage home. On August 18, Charles Winter, still on the Gripsholm, typed a letter to my father’s parents in Windsor. It was the first news they’d had of his survival, and it also told them of his marriage.22

My knowledge of Mr Winter’s activities after the war is sketchy in the extreme. At some point he became the chair of the Department of Microbiology at Loma Linda, a Health Sciences university in Southern California with Adventist affiliations ( In 1963 he was Activities Committee Chairman (

That’s all I know at the moment, but I hope to learn more in future. This is the letter that Mr Winter wrote to my grandparents from the Gripsholm. It tells us that his first destination in the US was Homer, Minnesota;



1Patrick John Sheridan, Hong Kong Memoir (unpublished), 89.




5Norwood Allmann, Shanghai Lawyer, 1943, 265. See also,2075440

6Allmann, 1943, 266.

7Sheridan, 88.

8Sheridan, 88.

9Emily Hahn, China To Me, 1986 ed., 307-308.

10Sheridan, 89.


12Sheridan, 88.


14Sheridan, 91.


16Sheridan, 93.

17Sheridan, 100.

18 Ian Johnson, in a Pan-American in-house journal of 1942 – passed on by Tony Banham

19Sheridan, 94.


21Sheridan, 105.

22The letter can be read at


Filed under Captain Tanaka, Hong Kong WW11