Cecil ‘Sammy’ Carr

In February 1939 my father Thomas Edgar went on an outing to Shaukiwan with some friends from Lane Crawford (he’s the balding one behind the woman):

shaukiwan-outing

On the back of the photo, which he sent home to his family, in Windsor, he identified the others as Jean {Miller Whyte}, Charlie and Sammy.  The next month he attended a housewarming party at ‘Sammy Carr’s’ with ‘all the fellows from the store’:

march-1939

I think that makes the man sitting at he front left of the photo Sammy Carr as he’s the only one apart from my father in both photos. The (unidentified) man seated next to him looks to me Eurasian, or possibly Chinese. Tommy Waller – who was in fact with Tramways not Lane Crawford – is seated next to my father (to the  left of the photo). The two men (unidentified, but see below) on his other side look to me rather like brothers.

Who was Sammy Carr? Those who know old Hong Kong’s ex-patriate community’s love of nicknames won’t be surprised to learn that actually wasn’t his name.

Cecil Carr  was born in Buxton, Derbyshire on August, 14, 1912. [1] His father was described in the 1911 Census as  a ‘chauffeur’ working in a ‘public garage’. I don’t know if that means he drove a bus, but, in any case, this would have been a link with  Thomas, as his father Herbert was also a driver – for the army in 1911, for an Indian businessman after the war. Not many people drove professionally at this time.

At some point Cecil moved to Cheltenham where he worked for the retailers then known as John Sainsbury. His mother died  in June, 1923, and as the death was recorded in the Gloucester District he might have been caring for her.[2] In any case, on August 11, 1936 Cecil sailed to Hong Kong on the Ranpura. On the manifest his age is given as 23 and his job as ‘shop assistant’.  He was leaving John Sainsbury to work for Lane Crawford.

I can’t be sure of the address of the house where the March 1939 party took place, but the most likely location was 76, Morrison Hill Road,  where, according to the Jurors List, Mr. Carr  was living in 1941.[3]  Another Lane Crawford employee, Frederick Ivan Hall, is also listed as living at No. 76.[4] By 1941 my father had moved to live with Tommy Waller in Broadwood Road, but in 1939 he was living close by – at 82 Morrison Hill Road, an address also given to William Walter Miles, a butcher with the Dairy Farm. According to his friend Patrick Sheridan – who was to win the Military Medal for escaping from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong –  my father was living in a company flat, so I guess number 76 was too. I’m not sure if these flats really had double occupancy, but in any case Frederick Hall – who was to be executed by the Japanese on October 29, 1943 – is an obvious possibility for one of the two unidentified men sitting on the sofa.

At Lane Crawford, the most important department store in Hong Kong, Mr. Carr was known for his knack of remembering customers’ names and their likes and dislikes. [5] Outside work, like most ‘white’ (and many ‘non-white’) Hong Kong  males, he enjoyed sport: he was a keen lawn bowls player and always took an interest in Hong Kong Football Club for which he played in his early days.[6] The interest in bowls continued until the war and was  a further link with my father, as they both played for the Lane Crawford  company team, matches being reported in January, February and July 1941.

I have not been able to find any record of Mr. Carr’s activities during the Japanese attack (December 8-25, 1941); it’s most likely he was assigned to work for Food Control, whose job it was to try to make sure the entire population got fed. By this time he’d risen to the position of Grocery and Provisions manager, so this would have been a natural appointment. He almost certainly was not in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, because, if he’d served in uniform he would have been held during the occupation in Shamshuipo POW Camp, not Stanley Civilian Internment Camp. Before being sent to Stanley he was kept for a couple of weeks in Room 401 of the Mee Chow Hotel. Lane Crawford manager A. W. Brown and another company employee were in the same room and others in 403, so this might have been the location of some of  the Lane Crawford contingent in Food Control.[7]

It was  A. W. Brown who made the farewell presentation to Mr. Carr when he left the company in the summer of 1949. He stated that, while in Stanley, Cecil had paid so much attention to the comfort of others he found himself eventually without even a bed space.[8] Anyone familiar with conditions in the camp will understand the significance of such unselfishness. Brown’s praise for his ‘excellent work’ is all the more telling because he himself was awarded an OBE for his services in Stanley, where he ran the canteen. The only other thing I’ve been able to find out about his time in Stanley comes in a diary entry: on July 23, 1945 Barbara Anslow records that one ‘S. Carr’ attended a meeting of the tiny group of pacifists.[9] This was probably him, as he seems to have been generally known as ‘Sammy’, but I don’t know if he was a pacifist himself or just an interested observer.

Mr. Brown’s speech -which accompanied the presentation of a solid gold cigarette case – tells us that Carr played a role in restoring food supplies after the British fleet arrived on August 30, 1945, but I’ve not yet been able to find out  more about this. On December 12 he was called for repatriation on the Highland Chieftain, which was to sail about December 20.  This ship was delayed and he probably returned to the UK for recuperation leave on another vessel. On September 14, 1946 he left London to return to Hong Kong on the Otranto. He’d been living at an address in Knustford, Cheshire.

By the time he left Lane Crawford in June or July 1949 he was manager of the Food Department. He was planning a two month holiday in South Africa before returning to the UK,[10] and he set sail on August 10, 1949.[11]

Cecil Carr died in Stockport, Cheshire in October 1996. He was 84.

 

 

[1] http://person.ancestry.co.uk/tree/11293790/person/815921112/facts

[2] http://person.ancestry.co.uk/tree/11293790/person/815901701/facts

[3] http://gwulo.com/jurors-list-1941

[4] http://gwulo.com/jurors-list-1941

[5] ‘Farewell Gift’, SCMP, July 1, 1949, p. 5.

[6] ‘Farewell Gift’, SCMP, July 1, 1949, p. 5.

[7] http://www.hongkongwardiary.com/searchgarrison/nonuniformedcivilians.html

[8] ‘Farewell Gift’, SCMP, July 1, 1949, p. 5.

[9] http://gwulo.com/node/12331

[10] ‘Farewell Gift’, SCMP, July 1, 1949, p. 5.

[11] SCMP, August 11, 1949, p. 4.

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Cecil ‘Sammy’ Carr

  1. Les Bowie

    As always, Brian, your research is impressive and provides deeper insight of the lives and culture of the place and people of Hong Kong before, during, and after the war.

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