Monthly Archives: August 2017

Internee Burials in Stanley Military Cemetery: A Tentative Reconstruction

For me, and I’m sure many others, the most resonant area in what was once Stanley Civilian Internment Camp is the small cemetery where the internees buried their dead  and marked their graves with stones hewn and inscribed by a Russian police officer.

The cemetery was used in the early years of the Colony to bury British military personnel and their families, most of whom had succumbed to Hong Kong’s harsh (for Europeans) climate and the diseases it brought. It had been closed for a long time by 1941, but was re-opened to house those who died in Stanley. In this post I want to try to reconstruct the way in which the internees used the space available for burials. It is important to remember that the current cemetery is enlarged, added to and modified in various ways. And what are now CWGC stone memorials were wooden crosses as late as 1953. In the immediate post-war years the small cemetery must have made an even more powerful impact on visitors.

Let’s start by orientating ourself. This is the path that leads from St Stephen’s College down into the graveyard:

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Bungalow C (more of which later) is just the other side of this path. All future directions as to left/right are from the perspective of someone walking down this path from the school. That means the sea is on your right; and here’s the view back up the path from a little way down: the curved graves are Victorian, the tall stones post-war:

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A little further down we see two areas containing  graves of children who died in Stanley Camp:

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All of the memorials are post-war, expect for the one marking the grave of Brian Gill, which is the first of the 1942-1945 stones we’ve encountered:

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Brian died tragically in a drowning accident in May 1944, which, as we shall see, means his grave is not where we would expect it. My theory is this: children who died had their graves marked with a cross not a stone, and were all buried in this area – Brian Willey, who is commemorated on the stone to the (viewer’s) left of Brian Gill died on January 24, 1942, so was probably the first internee of any age to pass – his burial at this point might have established the area as one for the internment of children. After the war, the crosses were replaced with stones, which is why Brian Gill’s is the only original marker.

These two photos of one of the children’s areas in 1945 (courtesy of the Imperial War Museum’s non- commercial licence and kindly drawn to my attention by Sandy Wynd) support this theory (and show how different the cemetery was at that time):

Cemetery 1945

Cemetery 1945 2

The photos show Juan (or possibly Duane) and Dennis Clarke, who were interned with their parents, at the grave of their brother Anthony, who died on December 14, 1942 at the age of 12 days. If the IWM account is correct, this was one of the most poignant deaths from malnutrition in the camp.

My guess is that the original plan was to bury everyone starting from Brian Willey’s grave and moving downhill, but for some reason it was decided to continue a little bit further down. This is the view from the children’s graves to what was to become the main part of the cemetery:

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The memorial (the large cross on a rounded plinth) is post-war, as is the white building on the left.

These are the first adult graves (you can see the white building again):

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We are now going to see graves moving generally speaking down the hill (and keeping to the left side of the path), but Charles Bond died before John Shephard, and there was never an attempt to bury people in geometrical progression. There was plenty of space (the death rate in Stanley was remarkably low), so later graves could be dug in front of earlier ones:

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Grayburn was never in Stanley. He died of malnutrition in the prison next to the camp, and because his wife was an internee (sharing Bungalow D with my parents and about 20 others) he was brought to the cemetery for burial. He was head of the HSBC and well-known throughout East Asia. He had been sent to prison for trying to smuggle money into camp – he and his fellow bankers had raised millions of pounds in today’s terms for relief work all over Hong Kong. His funeral probably saw the largest ever gathering in this cemetery.

In 1944 the ‘layering’ of graves on the left side of the path continued. This one had not only a short quotation, but an unusual visual adornment:

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But that’s not the only reason for examining this photo. If you look to your left and go behind the grave of William Kershaw you will see two wartime stones, one marking the grave of Sgt. White of the Volunteers, and the other that of Abdul Haq, a gunner in the Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery who was killed on December 25, 1941. I think that Sergeant White was Norbert Leyburn White, who died on December 22nd.

The site of Stanley Camp had seen some of the bitterest fighting of the war. One of the things the internees had to do to make their new home livable was to find and bury the bodies that lay inside or just outside their perimeter. These are clearly the graves of two soldiers who fell in the defence of the Stanley area – the Japanese were fighting their way to Stanley Fort, where many soldiers from other units had retreated, and which would have been the centre of a ‘last stand’ if the British hadn’t surrendered. My guess is that these burials took place in late January or early February 1942 – most internees arrived on January 21. This is quite a way down the hill from the children’s graves, so it’s probable that at this early stage there was no consistent policy as to where people should be buried. I think that begins with the graves of Bond and Shephard (above).

The layering policy continued into 1945: here are two graves from that year close to one from 1944:

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‘F. A. Sutton’ was better known as One Arm Sutton, a general in the Chinese army who died of malnutrition and some would say despair. Interestingly, only three British men ever became Chinese generals: the best known is Gordon of Khartoum (aka ‘Chinese Gordon’) and the other two were in Stanley (Morris ‘Two-Gun’ Cohen was repatriated with the Canadians in September 1943).

When Bungalow C was accidentally bombed by the Americans in January 1945 the victims were buried on this side:

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Nevertheless, at some point in 1944 burials began to take place on the right side of the path as well:

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J. S. Anderson had also been in Bungalow D with my parents, but by the time he died he had moved (there was a big change around in the Bungalow in late 1944, something that made my parents’ lives a bit easier – I’ll explain why in a future post). I think the building in the background (also visible in the next photo) was the one where the American diplomats were housed before joining their co-nationals in the June 1942 repatriation.

The right side continued to be used in 1945:

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John Owen Hughes was a member of both the Legislative and Executive Councils. In the background you can see the grave of David Charles Edmondston, Grayburn’s Number 2 at the HSBC, who also died of malnutrition, about a year after his boss. Edmondston had also been part of the banker’s fund-raising effort, but in his case was imprisoned for being in contact with Consul John Reeves in Macao.

In summary, we can see that there was a general tendency to move down hill as the months went on, and to keep to the left hand side of the path. Some time in 1944 burials began on the right hand side, while continuing on the left – those on the right hand side were at roughly the same level as those on the left.

L. A. Collyer, who was in charge of Hong Kong’s mental hospital, noted in his camp diary that the graveyard was almost full by August 1945. On the face of it, there’s lots of space at different points – but I wonder if this is an illusion caused by post-war enlargements?

I’ll end with another question. This memorial to those murdered in the Christmas Day massacre at the St Stephen’s emergency hospital (which took place in another part of what was to become the camp) is to the right of the path (going downhill, as always) and close to the entrance to the College:

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If it dates from the war, it is the largest structure to have been erected. But would the Japanese have allowed it, even with the uncontroversial wording? And the other stones are thought to have been pre-war markers – what was this larger one? Did it go up very soon after liberation?

Note: Those interested in the Cemetery might wish to consult Philip Cracknell’s carefully researched account of those who are buried here

 

 

 

 

 

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It is always necessary to say that ‘old Hong Kong’ was racist!

In a number posts on this blog I’ve presented evidence that some portraits of the racism of pre-war Hong Kong are exaggerated. In this one, for example, I show that it was NOT possible for Europeans to murder Chinese people to minimise their financial outlay after causing a car accident. And here I show that the Colony’s social life did not entail an apartheid-style separation in which  ‘Europeans’ (a rough synonym for ‘whites’ in pre-war texts) never came together with men and women of other ethnicities to relax and enjoy themselves.

In drawing attention to such matters I’ve been putting a hand on the tiller, reacting to what I perceive as the biases of my immediate predecessors. In this case I’ve been correcting what I regard as the excesses and inaccuracies of a position I’m in substantial agreement with. In the first period after the war, the endemic racism of pre-war Hong Kong tended to be ignored or downplayed by much of the work published in English. In the second period historians quite rightly exhibited and emphasised that race structured, or at least influenced, almost all aspects of life. Philip Snow and Gerald Horne are two historians whose work, published in the early years of the new millennium, played an important role in bringing about this understanding, and I discuss some aspects of Dr Eddie Gosano’s eye-witness account (1997) of Hong Kong racism below.  I regard myself as in the ‘third stage’, building on and replying to those writers – not attempting to deny, disguise, or minimise racism in old Hong Kong but to describe it more precisely.

Nevertheless, an ebook has come my way which makes me realise that I shouldn’t take the advances of the ‘second stage’ for granted.

Three Years Eight Months: The Japanese Occupation by Jenny Chan and Derek Pua is published by Pacific Atrocities Education and has an introduction by Sarah Kleeb, who is connected with Toronto-based Alpha Education. This is their Mission Statement:

ALPHA Education is an educational NGO, non-profit, and registered charity in Canada that promotes a critical-historical investigation of the events of World War II in Asia. Our mission is to foster awareness of an often overlooked aspect of World War II history, in the interest of furthering the values of justice, peace, and reconciliation, both for survivors of the past and for those who shape the historical narratives of the present and future.

This is admirable, and I support these goals 100%. How far the book under discussion contributes to these aims is a question I shall consider on another occasion.

As I’ve indicated above, the matter I want to discuss in this post is different. Here is what Chan and Pua have to say about the Hong Kong that the Japanese attacked:

Under the rule of the British, Hong Kong was transformed from a series of insignificant fishing villages into a booming centre of international commerce. By the 1920s, Hong Kong was a rather urbanised city with modern style buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbor. (Location 134)

Up until this point the account of the history of Hong Kong has, although necessarily brief, been judicious. They don’t fall for the ‘barren rock’ myth but describe it  as ‘a small coastal settlement of the Qing Dynasty’ – tiny, but not completely undeveloped and part of a much greater whole whose culture it could draw from. There were, in fact, villages, markets and even schools – the authors could strengthen their account by drawing on the work of Ko Tim-keung, but given the space at their disposal, what they say is reasonable enough and I think we should still emphasise the remarkable transformation brought about under British rule (often by Chinese enterprise, of course). And the authors don’t disguise the fact that Hong Kong was filched – in the first of the ‘unequal treaties’ – in a war fought partly on behalf of opium merchants, while also mentioning that broader issues of ‘trade’ were also relevant.

So far so good; but if we have space for the up-to-date buildings of Victoria (now Central) and Kowloon then we also have space for the racism of those who ruled over them.

Both authors are, I think, partly or wholly of Chinese ethnicity, and both have links to Hong Kong, so I’m not accusing them of ignorance or of a sinister cover-up. But I think it was an error of judgement to leave out the racial realities of pre-war Hong Kong. In my view, any account that aims to introduce people to the colonial order that came to an end in December 1941 needs to at least mention this.

Why?

Because, although the Colony was not racist in every single aspect, racism was prevalent enough for it to be an unavoidable daily issue for the 98% of its citizens who were Chinese, and for members of the other non-European nationalities. If we want to understand the history of the Japanese occupation we should not forget this.

Let me give two examples of that racism. The first relates to the ‘structure’ of Hong Kong life, the second is what is sometimes called ‘anecdotal evidence’.

The Hong Kong Government, for all its commitment to a modified version of ‘laissez faire’ capitalism, was inevitably a major employer of labour, and as such it operated a cynically racist pay system. Dr Eduardo Gosano, a Portuguese medic who performed heroic work during the hostilities and the first part of the occupation, left for Macao in June 1942 where he showed a different kind of courage, joining and for a period of time leading, the British Army Aid Group’s cell in the Portuguese colony. He was one of those on the BAAG Mission that left Macao for Hong Kong to carry a message to Franklin Gimson instructing him to set up a provisional British administration in the wake of the Japanese surrender.

Before the war Dr Gosano was paid significantly less than his ‘white’ colleagues, and, after the war, in spite of all his work for the British and the good intentions of many in the new Government, equal pay was not achieved before he left, with some understandable bitterness, for the USA. His autobiography, published in 1997, the year of the handover to China, was entitled Farewell to Hong Kong.

It wasn’t just the medical services that paid people according to their race.

Chief of Police in 1941 was John Pennefather-Evans, a man of the old school who believed that if a European police officer married a Chinese or Eurasian woman (the police were all male) he should lose his job.  Pennefather-Evans produced a report while in camp that explained that one reason for recruiting the  Russian police contingent in the 1930s – long before he came to Hong Kong himself – was that, as refugees, they could be paid less than other ‘whites’. Indians and Chinese, of course, were on still lower scales. Again, we need to be fair: Pennefather-Evans  recommended that non-Europeans be paid more generously after the war, although not on the same scale as ‘Europeans’, who should also be given a raise.

And what of the ‘anecdote’? It is important when analysing racism – or anything else – not to rely on such evidence, which can be used to ‘prove’ almost anything, but to offer as much statistical or analytical material as possible. Nevertheless, some stories can help us get to the heart of an issue in a way that statistical information alone cannot do.

Chemistry Professor Clifford Matthews was a science student at the University of Hong Kong before the war. Already a man of wide culture, he loved European classical music, worked behind the scenes on productions of George Bernard Shaw and enjoyed discussing the Romantic poets with friends studying the arts. As a British subject he was conscripted into the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force, and when war came he and his younger brother were in the largely Eurasian No. 3 Company. The Volunteers generally acquitted themselves well in the 18 day defence of Hong Kong, but many sources, including the commanding officer, Major-General Christopher Maltby, single out No. 3 Company for its unshakable determination in defending the crucial pass of Wongneichong Gap against a much larger Japanese force.

Matthews was an enthusiastic cricketer before the war, and he’d already experienced racism when he was allowed to play at, but not to join, the Hong Kong Cricket Club. At some point during the hostilities he encountered it again. He showed up at the Matilda Hospital to ask for treatment for a wound and he was given an admission form to fill in. When he returned the form with the word ‘Eurasian’ on it, he was told to seek medical help somewhere else.

That story leaps out and grabs me by the throat over seventy five years later. Of course, I too am a Eurasian and an academic, but I’m sure that’s not the only reason. To me it’s a potent reminder that even in a brief survey we should point out the racism that characterised Hong Kong society on the eve of the Japanese attack.

Note on sources:

The story of Clifford Matthew’s wartime experience is told on page 15 of Vicky Lee’s excellent Being Eurasian: Memories Across Racial Divides; Matthew’s own account of his life, which does not mention this incident, can be found in Dispersal and Renewal: Hong Kong University During The War Years.

J. P. Pennefather-Evans’s ‘Interim Report on the Hong Kong Police’ is in HKMS149 1/5 (Royal Hong Kong Police Force Historical Records) in the HK PRO.

I read Dr Gosano’s Farewell To Hong Kong at the London Imperial War Museum. It doesn’t seem to be available to purchase at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

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‘One picture is worth a thousand words’ – that’s putting it too strongly, but…

This photo was taken at Cecil Carr’s housewarming party in March 1939:

Sammy Carr Party

I discussed the photo with regard to the host and some of the guests in this post.

Recently another photo taken on the same occasion was kindly sent to me by a cousin:

Housewarming March 1939

This new photo forms an interesting commentary on the vexed question of the nature of the relations between different ethnicities in ‘old Hong Kong’.

Gerald Horne’s lurid account of the ‘horrendous treatment accorded “Eurasians”‘ forms part of his attempt to show that British racial pride played an important role in fostering wartime support for the Japanese – the simple response to that claim is that the pride was real enough, but as the Japanese were, on the whole, much more arrogant and, unlike the British, murderously so, justified Chinese and Eurasian resentment at pre-war mis-treatment played little role in the history of the occupation. (The actions of the various Indian communities, where ethnic resentment worked alongside support for independence is another matter, although even here it is easy to over-estimate the extent to which Indian POWs and civilians fell for the Japanese claim to be liberating Asia from western imperialism.)

This is part of Horne’s indictment:

Henry Lethbridge, leading sociologist of prewar Hong Kong, has written that “Eurasians in a European social gathering created a climate of unease and psychological tension….”

Let’s look at the new photo again (in a different shading, for variety):

Sammy Carr Same Party

Judging by dress and appearance I think the woman seated on the sofa to the right of the viewer is Eurasian. I’m not sure about the woman on the left or the one standing. Either or both could be Eurasian – or European. But, at a minimum, we have one Eurasian woman and the Chinese man at the front (who was also in the original photo). All the other men are European: my father is standing behind the sofa, drink in one hand, the other on the shoulder of ‘Sammy’ Carr. His close friend Tommy Waller is sitting on the arm of sofa on the viewer’s right. The man on the left sofa arm and the one in between the women on the sofa have yet to be identified, although I suspect that one of them is Frederick Hall, another Lane Crawford employee who lived in the same apartment block.

Can anyone see unease in those men? Does anyone seem aware that this is ‘old Hong Kong’ and they’re meant to be obsessed with race? In fact, if we examine the one piece of white male anxiety we’ll see just how race-free this photo is.

Tommy Waller does, in fact, look a bit tense. But why? It’s nothing to do with the fact that he’s next to a Eurasian – his leg is resting easily against her arm, squashing it a little in fact. All of the muscular effort is in his upper body and it’s because he’s trying to lean in to what was about to become the photo (perhaps he’s also worried about falling on to the sofa). And the reason he’s leaning in rather more than he strictly needs to is that the scene has been very carefully composed. If he were sitting more naturally the gap between his shoulder and the edge of the photo would be much smaller than on the other side, and part of his upper body needs to be behind the seated woman’s so as to balance the situation at the other end of the sofa and to stop him appearing separate from the rest of the group:

Housewarming March 1939

Everyone is positioned so that as much of their body is visible as possible while the whole ensemble maintains a dynamic symmetry – not perfect, because that would look wooden as well as leading to some people being unnecessarily obscured. To take one example: move the man seated on the floor along a bit so that his position lines up with that of the woman between my father and Sammy Carr and you not only obscure the man behind him but you create an artificial ‘perfection’ of alignment that detracts from the liveliness of the scene. I’m sure this photo was taken either by a professional (and therefore probably Chinese) photographer or by a talented amateur.

In either case, the total effect has been carefully planned. And it’s obvious that gender is one of the ‘building blocks’ of that plan. The women form a pleasing triangle, and have been carefully placed so no two men are next to each other. But what about race?

Sammy Carr Same Party

It’s hard to be certain until the ethnicity of all the women has been established, but, if race is a ‘building block’ at all, it is so to a rather trivial extent.

The centre of both the photo and the group falls between the heads of the man on the sofa and the woman standing behind. The man is certainly ‘white’ but if the woman isn’t then race really isn’t a factor. True, the Chinese man is seated on the floor, lower than everyone else, but in the other photo he’s also on the floor and next to him is the host ‘Sammy’ Carr. And any idea that he’s being humbled by the placing is taken away by the fact that he’s the only one making an expansive gesture in which his arm moves away from his body. That gesture, inviting the viewer into the photo, is just a much the centre of the scene as the man and woman already referred to.

Perhaps the role played by race in composing the picture is down to the fact that the photographer was Chinese or Eurasian? That’s certainly possible, but even if that was the case, everybody in the photo had to agree to do what they were asked.

Of course, one photo proves little, but it is enough to cast further doubt in my mind about some representations of the racism of pre-war Hong Kong (and not just Gerald Horne’s). That picture, though needs to shaded, not jettisoned. Other photos in my father’s pre-war archive show more typical interactions between Europeans and Chinese. I’ll discuss these in a future post in which I tackle the question of Hong Kong racism head on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Strange Force?

Some time later in the 1940s my parents found themselves tracking their wartime experiences.

They went to live in Happy Valley at 79 Wongneichong Road (my mother’s spelling, which seems to reflect contemporary practice – now it’s Wong Nai Chung Road). This was either next door to, or one or two buildings away from, Le Calvaire, a convent run by French nuns:

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As readers of this blog will know, they sent the most terrifying period of the occupation in one of the buildings in the compound of St Paul’s Hospital in Causeway Bay – also known as the French Hospital because it was run by the same order of nuns as Le Calvaire.

The Convent had been taken over by the Kempeitai (‘the Japanese Gestapo’) at the start of the occupation, and they had  begun torturing Chinese prisoners there while the building was still being converted to its sinister new use. The prison that they created at Le Calvaire was the ‘black hole’ where the bankers Sir Vandeleur Grayburn and Edward Streatfield were held after their arrest in April 1943. Other inmates were journalist Cyril Faure and Harry Ching, the former editor of the South China Morning Post, as well as innumerable Chinese prisoners, generally treated worse than the Europeans. Some people thought this prison to be ‘foulest and most crowded’ of all those in wartime Hong Kong. Some time around September 1944 it had been knocked down and a new prison block erected in the Convent grounds.

But more significant from my parents’ point of view was another development that occurred while they were in Stanley Camp (they were interned there on May 7, 1943 in the wake of Dr Selwyn-Clarke’s arrest).

The School at the French Hospital had been forced to close by the accidental American  bombing (April 4, 1945) of the Hospital and in September 1945 plans were in place to start it up again at Le Calvaire. This means that for my parents moving next door was like returning to the situation that they’d been in during the first stage of the the war (for my father from February 1942, my mother joining him after their marriage on June 29, 1942). In fact, they might even have lived in the school building at St Paul’s: that’s certainly where my father was billeted alongside three fellow bakers when he was single.

How close was Number 79 to the Convent? Unfortunately that’s impossible to ascertain. The current neighbour is a restaurant that wasn’t there in the late 1940s:

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Number 79 itself is definitely a modern building:

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In fact, when I sent my photos of that part of the pavement to David Bellis of Gwulo, one of the leading authorities on Hong Kong’s streets, he was sure that all of the buildings were too recent to have been the one my parents lived in.

There can be no doubt that they were close to the Convent, though. And in October 1950 they went up the road from Happy Valley to Causeway Bay and back to the French Hospital itself. Surrounded by nuns (‘Push, Mrs Edgar, push!’) some of whom she’d almost certainly known during the occupation, she gave birth to her first child in the now demolished maternity section.

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Chapel of Christ the King at St Paul’s Hospital, where my mother and the nuns of the Convent would have attended services led by the Jesuit Fr Gallagher.

Today the conventional wisdom is that everybody should seek to ‘move on’ from traumatic experiences. Most people felt the same after the war, but some strange force inside my parents knew better and impelled them to stay close – in this case literally – to the dreadful experiences they’d been through. When they returned to England in the early 1950s they lived with my grandparents, and then in a flat provided by the NAAFI. As soon as they were able to buy a place of their own, my father designed a bungalow which strikingly resembled the one they’d lived in for over two years in Stanley Camp.

They remained there until his death in 1985.

That strange force was still present on his death bed and powered his last act as himself: after spending two days in morphine-induced sleep he suddenly woke and, ignoring my brother and myself, looked with full consciousness at my mother and invited her one last time into the relationship that had begun in the early days of the Japanese occupation. The lucidity of his gaze shone from a spirit that had finally comprehended the deprivation, fear and horror of those unimaginable years. One could say, I suppose, that he had moved on.

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