The Battle of Hongkong
It was a sunny morning on Monday, 8th December, 1941, the siren of Air Raid Alarm sounded. Was it at 8.00 am or was it 9.00 am, I do not now remember. It woke me up from my bed in Room No.6 on 1st floor of May Hall, the extra large room, for the Chairman of the Hostel's student-body. Along with many others in the hostel, I went down to the fore court of the hostel, trying to find out what might have happened. From the low parapet wall in front of the hostel, we soon heard a few "Boom ...boom...", sound of explosions at the distant towards the north-east. Quickly we identified the sounds to have come from Kai Tak Aerodrome, near Kowloon City, over which we could see two or three aeroplanes flying low towards the aerodrome. Soon we realized it was no ordinary "air raid precautionary exercises".
I exclaimed quietly to myself. "What shall we do ?" I asked myself. I then turned towards the Warden's quarters at the eastern end of the Hostel, and pressed the bell. After a long time, his houseboy came out to say: "Mr. MacKenzie is not in. He had not come home last night. After answering an urgent telephone call on the day before, he went out in his military uniform. I don't know where he might have gone ! He did not say when he might come back"
Then suddenly I remembered some five weeks ago, there was a recruitment drive at the Great Hall (renamed Loke Yew Hall after the War) of the University, to recruit university students for essential services in readiness for "Emergency". Most of the medical undergraduates enrolled for the Field Ambulance of the Hongkong Volunteer Defence Corps, which came under the command of Prof. Ride, who was its Commanding Officer, with the rank of a Lt. Col., other joined the Machine Gun Unit. Many others joined the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautionary Service). Some enrolled as Despatch Riders, some joined the Food Control, and a few joined the Essential Engineering Service. There were a few other recruitment desks in the Great Hall, whose identities I have since forgotten. However, there was one desk at the north-west corner of the Great Hall, which attracted no volunteers. It was already after 5.00 pm when I got there that afternoon, and I had an appointment with a girl friend at 6.00 pm. I did not have the patience to wait for my turn in several of the queues. Partly because of my impatience on account of the appointment, and partly for curiosity, I walked to the corner recruitment desk to find out what they might be selling. I then discovered, it was the recruitment desk put up by the Auxiliary Fire Service. It then occurred to my mind, it might be quite romantic if not exciting to be a fireman. For as a child, I had always been fascinated by Fire Engines,- ringing their bells, when speeding down the streets, claiming priority over all other forms of traffics. There and then I put my name down for the A.F.S., and off I went to keep my date with my girl friend. Two weeks thereafter, I received a letter from the Chief Officer, Fire Brigade, inviting me to have an interview with him. In response, I had an interview with a European Officer in the Fire Brigade, who was delighted to note that my goodself, a University undergraduate, was willing to join the A.F.S. which his view would have a boosting effect on the morale of his newly formed Auxiliary Fire Service. He offered me an appointment to the rank of a Sub-Officer, and requested that I report for training as from Monday 15th December, 1941. He mentioned in the passing, that the then top ranking Soccer Player, ( ), had already joined the Auxiliary Fire Service. Others in the service, included a Major Churn, the Taipan of the China Provident Godowns. He mentioned also, amongst others already in the officers grade was one, whom I knew quite well as a family friend. He was ( ) who was formerIy a Divisional Officer of the Regular Fire Brigade, but had since resigned to become a local distribution agent for Fire Prevention Equipments (e.g., Fire Extinguishers, etc.) making a lot of money. I then decided to report for duty with the Auxiliary Fire Service. So I made my way, on foot (as there was no more buses running that morning), to the Fire Brigade Headquarters at the Fire Brigade Building down in Central.
Arriving at the Fire Brigade Headquarters, no one had the time even to look at me. I first sat in the European Officer's ( the one who interviewed me some 3 weeks before) waiting room for about an hour, but could not get any attention. Then suddenly, another siren of the Air Raid Alarm sounded. In response, every one in the building instinctively sought cover under the desks or other forms of shelter, as a precaution. I did the same. The Air raid lasted about ten minutes. If I remembered correctly, the aircraft dive-aimed at the Central District. They first dropped a few bombs; with one landed (I believe) in the courtyard fronting the Central Police Station. The whizzing sounds which preceded the explosion, sounded quite close to where we were, about a hundred yards or so down hill, in front of the Central Police Station. Following the dropping of the few bombs, thousands of leaflets were released from one of the aircrafts. A few of the leaflets actually landed right at the Quadrangle inside the Fire Brigade building, where the Firemen usually had their daily drills. I must say, I was really scared. I quickly muttered my "Hail Mary" and my "Act of Contrition", just in case ! I was quite sure that others in the building, were just as scared as I was.
Another hour gone by, still no one had the spare time necessary to attend to me. My trouble was, although I was promised an appointment to the sub-officer's rank, I had yet to comply with the requirements of the proper recruitment procedures; and I had not been formally initiated, nor had attended any training class or drill whatsoever. I had yet to be assigned to a specific post in a specific unit. Soon it was lunch time, everybody in the HQ of the Fire Brigade appeared to have gone away for luncheon. I sat alone in a corner of the verandah on the 3rd floor of the building. A kindly middle age store keeper took pity on me, and gave me a slice of bread spread with butter and a cup of luke warm tea for lunch, for which I was really grateful. Shortly after 2 pm. people began to return to their work. It was not until after 3.oo pm, when I caught hold of my friend, and told me about my plight. Whereupon, he instructed the Store keeper to issue me with a blue drill overall, a pair of wellington boots, 2 pairs of woollen socks, a red helmet, a leather belt, a fireman's axe and a piece of rope. So instantly I became a Fireman, with nothing to indicate my rank. He then thought for a while, and muttered unto himself, saying : "You have yet not had any training, so I better post you to a team where you have a really competent Leading Fireman to assist you, and also a team of Firemen who would know what to do in the event of a fire." He pondered for a while, and then he uttered: "I have it. You better take a "Trailer Pump" with a team of good firemen, with so and so (I have since forgotten his name) as your Leading Fireman. Your station would be in the Garage at 18 Caine Road, mid level, where you are unlikely to have a fire. A "Trailer Pump Unit" meant a "Trailer Pump" drawn by a commandeered "Taxi cab" manned by a team of 5, inclusive of 2 firemen, l Leading Fireman, a driver, and a sub-officer. A telephone had already been installed at the Garage. I was then told to proceed immediately, with my Pump, my Taxi-cab, and my team, which was already waiting down stairs in the Quadrangle. to the given address. I was then told I would be relieved later in the evening, by another team, headed by another Sub officer, Mr. ( ), whom I also happened to know as old boy of Wah Yan College. Thus without much ado,
Although I knew nothing about fire fighting, I nevertheless treated my work with dedication and dead seriousness. I personally guarded the telephone installed in the mid level Garage. I allowed no one else to use the telephone except for official business. I reported regularly to Fire Brigade Headquarters, once every half an hour. I sought proper guidance and obtained expressed permission before taken any step. That went on for at least 10 days. Once, when the Kowloon Wharfs and Godowns had a direct hit resulting in a huge fire. My Leading Fireman, who could watch, from a gap near our garage, the fire burning furiously across the Victoria Harbour, began to shed teas. I asked him why, and he answered saying, "Mr.Tsui, to be honest with your, in civic life, I am a Foreman working for the Kowloon Wharfs and Godowns. I have hidden all my private valuables in a certain corner within the Godowns for safe-keeping. With huge fire in such a scale, all my private valuables would have perished with the Godowns. I would have nothing left for the rest of my life !" It reminded me of the story I had previously read, where a gunner was ordered by his superior officer to aim his gun more accurately and fired at a house across the field. After hitting the house, the superior officer praised the gunner : "Good shot, my boy !" Whereupon the gunner responded in a loud voice saying, "Yes Sir", and then muttered in a low voice, "It was my own house !"
One evening in the 2nd week at about 10 pm. It was cold and the night was pitch dark. When suddenly, two European, in uniforms of a sort, smelling full of gin, passed by our station. On seeing our Tax-cab parked in the Garage, insisted that it should take them to the Naval H.Q., down Queensway. I tried very hard to argue with them that our Taxi cab was no longer a Taxi cab for hire, and that it was a war time make-do Fire-engine and that we were on duty. They would not take heed. They were threatening to use force. Whereupon, I phoned to H.Q., for instructions. They then grabbed the telephone, and spoke to the Officer on Duty at the other end. Eventually, they had their way, HQ gave me permission to detach the Taxi cab from the Trailer Pump and to escort the two Europeans to the Naval Dockyard down Queensway. It was a risky sort of affairs. The night was pitch-dark, and there were several sentry posts on the way. One in front of Government House, another one outside Victoria Barracks, one at the Murray Barrack, and then passing another one above our head at the Flag Staff House, where the General Lived, before we came to HMS Tamer. We had no pass words, nor any credential to show our identities or our intentions. Fortunately, the trip was completed without an incident. I gathered on the say that they were fairly senior Naval Officers, who had to walk all their way from Aberdeen, simply because they could not get any transport from the Transport Pool.
Lady Luck must have been exceedingly kind to me. Through out my 18 days service with the Auxiliary Fire Service, I never had to actually fight a fire. Twice bombs were dropped within my beat, but twice it happened after I went off duty. Had I to actually fight a fire, I would not know what to do, or would I know how to go about doing it. To be on duty at such a made-do Fire Station could be quite boring. Caine Road did not have much of a heavy traffic before the war. When the War broke out, all buses stopped, Taxis were not available. Even rickshaws and sedan chairs seemed to have disappeared. Caine Road was in fact deadly quiet. Even pedestrians to and from the Cathedral or the Botanic Gardens seemed to have stayed at home. I was mighty glad when noticing someone passing by, particular some one whom I happened to know personally. I recalled once, in mid- morning, when Fr. T.F.Ryan, my former teacher in Wah Yan, passed by, wearing an Arm Band of a sort, indicating that he was working for a certain Unit. He dropped in to say hello to me, which made me feel really good. I also recalled another occasion, when Bashid Ahmed, my class mate, passed by riding a motorized bicycle, when he greeted me. He was a Despatch rider. However, it was the last time I ever saw him. Some two years's later, I learnt from Subadar Mengha Singh in the B.A.A.G. that he was arrested by the Japanese, and was subsequently executed, for (?)political reasons. Poor Bashid Ahmed ! My station at 18 Caine Road, was right next door to the Catholic Cathedral. I needed only to walk a flight of steps to go to say a few prayers in church. This I did, very piously, almost every day, before and after my shifts of duty. Never before had I prayed so hard as I did in those days of uncertainties.
I did not return to my hostel in the first few days of the "War". When I did in the 2nd week, I was shocked to find that May Hall had already been turned into a "Hospital" with wounded people lying on Camp beds. My personal effects, which I left in Room No.6, had been removed. I later learnt that they had been removed to Lugard Hall, to make way for Doctors and for War Casualties. I later recovered them and placed them in the Servants Quarters for temporary safe keeping. Half of the 18 days of "war", I slept in the Station on "Night Duty", the other half I slept all over the places, sometime in my sisters house in Mosque Street, some time in my friends' house along Bonham Road, some time in my relative's place in the Campus of Kau Yan Church ( ) on High Street. My sister and her mother-in-law together with a maid servant, stayed in door most of the time. My brother-in- law, who was an Air Raid Precaution (A.R.P.) Warden, was "on duty" in the war time post established in the Teachers' Common Room of Wah Yan College in Robinson Road, most of the time. He wore a greenish yellow uniform and a yellow helmet. He took a very serious attitude towards his war time duties. Prior to the outbreak of the war, quite a few "Black Out" exercises had been mounted. People in Hongkong didn't take them too seriously. However, after Hongkong had had its air raids on 8 December, 1941, the attitudes of the people changed. They certainly seemed to have observed the "Black outs" orders at night very seriously. Not only were all shutters at the doors and windows down, but that heavy and long black curtains were fully drawn. Should one of the A.R.P wardens notice a slight ray of light coming out from any house of flat, all he or she needed to do was to knock at the door, and drew the occupier's attention, the "curtains or shutters" would have been attended to. "Black Outs" therefore, meant that not only all the street lights and outdoor lights were "off", but that all lights which could be seen from outside of a house, would have been covered. (For people who are so used to the multi-million lights of Hongkong, could they imagine how Hongkong would be like without a single light at night? ). Nonetheless, throughout the 17 days of war, the chief worry of my brother-in-law, who was at that time working for a Chinese Investment Firm, was what might happen to his job, after the fightings were over.
Wearing a dark blue drill overall, with a Fireman's Axe and a Fireman's rope, hung on a leather belt around your waist, and with a pair of wellington boots on you feet, gave you a sense of pride if not of confidence. I walked along Bonham Road, especially after duty at night, proudly and confidently, even when there was a "Black Out" and I was walking all alone, by myself. I climbed up the steep Shelley Street and Mosque Street to my sister's house in just the same way. But one thing I missed. I recalled one night, I spent the night in a friend's house, on the ground floor in Bonham Road, I got there after dark, wearing my uniform. There I saw, not just one, but 4 families, a Great-uncle, a mother, a father, 2 uncles, 2 aunts, a sister, a brother, 5 cousins sat closely together, on mattresses spread on the floor, with blankets covering their legs, in one single room, situated right at the centre of the flat, in a sort of "group therapy", comforting and reassuring one another. I asked why chose to crowd themselves in one single small room, and they responded saying this was the safest room in the house, as far as bombing or shelling were concerned. I asked why so many of them, they said if ever they had to perish, they might as well perish together. They felt less afraid, in the company of a greater number. They were glad indeed that I came to join them in the house, and they were glad to see me in uniform, which to them was quite reassuring. One regret I had was that I never really learnt the rope regarding my feeding arrangements. I had my first indifferent evening meal of half cooked rice and a dish of soya beans and corn beef each, as "shung", in the Ko Shing Tea House at Queen's Road, Central. We waited for a long time, before the meal was ready, because the staff in that restaurant had not been properly trained to prepared meals for mass feeding. However, my brother Mark and his pal, Mr.James Lee, who were enrolled with the "Food Control" Unit, had their luncheons and dinners "in style" at the Hongkong Hotel. It made me feel wise after the event. I swore then that I would never again join the Auxiliary Fire Service in the next war; instead I would join the "Food Control" to ensure that I would be properly fed and would not be starved, nor would I have to taste the poorly prepared rough meals, which were so unpalatable. By the end of the first week, I actually received my pay, I was paid a total of $28.-, being 7 days' pay @ $4.- per day. The bank notes were not the ordinary Hongkong Government Legal Tender notes, but new printed crisp notes, originally intended for circulation in China. The printed denominations on each such note, were in the Chinese National Currency, but an overprint in indelible red ink, superimposed on each such note, made it plain that the Hongkong Government had authorized it to be accepted as Temporary Legal Tender in Hongkong currency. Had I kept a few of them in tact up till to day, I am sure the collectors would offer me a good price for each such notes.
Air raids on the first few days were very scaring, as it was a new experience never before tasted. Aeroplanes moved quite fast from one part of the sky to another. The planes they sent were small ones, and they must "ä„é„ö„å„" in order to drop their bombs. When they ä„é„ö„å„¬„ they made a wheezing noise, which itself was quite scaring. Standing or sitting on the ground, one could not predict where and when the plane would drop its bombs, and when they do, one would not know how many or how big or how powerful the bombs might be, and you prayed hard that it would not hit you. When the Japanese invaded Hongkong, it seemed that they did not rely too heavily on Air attacks. On the average, the Japanese seemed to send only a few aircrafts at a time, twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, dropping two or four bombs each, to be followed by a brief firing of the machine guns, and then releasing bundles of leaflets. Soon we got more used to it, and we began to find it not so scaring as they were on the first few days. The intense pressure applied on Hongkong by the Japanese invading forces was its systematic artillery bombardment, firing apparently close range from Kowloon Peninsula on to the Island of Hongkong. The continuous artillery bombardment began in the 2nd week. Shells hitting buildings, one by one, and exploding on the targets, on the northern phase of Hongkong Island, could seen in fact could be anticipated as from the beginning of the 2nd week - round about the 15th Day of December. Not a single house, up at the peak or half way up the hill at mid levels, which over the beautiful Victoria Harbour was spared. I recalled, personally watching the Clock Tower of the Main Building of the University being hit. At least half a dozen shells hit and exploded right on the target. It gave me an impression that the Japanese must be using the Clock Tower as a target for their shooting practice. The first shell hit the pinnacle of the clock tower and exploded, but it did not hit the clock directly. The 2nd shell hit the northern face of the clock, knocking the glass face into several pieces. The 3rd shell knocked away both the minute-hand as well as the hour-hand of the clock, thus replacing the time-telling face of the clock with an ugly gaping hole Then the eastern face of the clock, was similarly hit and exploded. The job of destroying the clock was complete within a matter of Ten minutes, but the clock tower remained standing, despite being knocked some 6 to 10 times by exploding shells. The shelling caused a few scars just below the position of the clock. Thereafter, a few shells began to hit the other parts of the Main Building. They started of by hitting "Room K", where I used to attend my lectures on Bernard Shaw in English Literature and on formative arguments in Logic, breaking a few pieces of glass, then tearing the bamboo blinds, and then damaging the tall teak wood windows. Next was the turn of "Room L", where the Engineering students worked on their drawings; and then "Room M", Prof. Simpson's Office, at the far end of the Main Building on the top floor. Thereafter, it was the turn of Prof. Brown's house half way up the hill, right next to the U Tung Sen Gymnasium, where we had had a few dance parties. Then it was the turn of he V.C's Lodge further up; and then Professor Simpson's quarters one along the University foot path at Lyttleton Road level; and then the house next door, the living quarters of Prof. Robertson, and so on and so forth. I was able to watch all these, feeling quite safe, from the students dining room of St. John's Hall, which was located below the Bonham Road level.
The bombardment went on ceaselessly, day and night, day after day, solidly for well over a week, and right up to Christmas Eve. By the end of the 2nd week, there was hardly a single building, which was exposed towards the north on the Hongkong Island, which had not been so hit. However, the lower buildings, whose Views of the Harbour had been blocked by higher buildings "in front", like the Fung Ping Shan Library, or the St. Johns's Hall, were spared. Prof. Ma's house, hidden behind the St. Stephen's Church on Pokfulum Road was also spared. The noises of the bombardment, a loud explosion following a long drawn wheezing sound caused by travelling at high speed of the shells, were deafening. I recalled hearing them persistently passing right over my head, when, on night duty, while lying down on the Garage floor of my Station, trying to get some sleep. I could hardly sleep. However, noisy though they were, the shells, when hitting a building and exploded, did not seem to do too much damage. I recalled when one such shell directly hit a wall on the balcony at the back of my sister's house at 10 Mosque Street, it exploded and made a terrific noise. When the explosion was over, we went out to inspect the damage. We were somewhat consoled to find, it only scratched the surface of the soft plaster on an old brick wall. Even the bricks of the wall, adhered by soft mortars, were î nor was the then already deteriorating woodwork of the back window ä„á„í„á„ç„å„d, neither did it catch fire. One could only conclude that the systematic bombardment was intended, more as a form of the Psychological Warfare, designed to scare the inhabitants on the Island, rather than to kill or to injure the populace. In all, tens of thousands (if not more) rounds of shells must have been fired on to the Hongkong Island. The Japanese Artillery must have had hell of a time, practicing their target firing. However, it was nevertheless significant, that the big gun, installed at right in front of the newly opened ‚ along Pokfulum Road, was quickly put out of action - within the first day or two. The new Science Building suffered pretty heavy damage. Every window was broken, and the equipments in every room therein were damaged or destroyed, presumably, simply because it was located right behind the Big Gun at Belcher Fort (the very site at which the subsequent Belcher Gardens Housing Scheme was located.)
The sights of huge columns of heavy, thick, black smoke billowing up from familiar landmarks, such as the Kowloon Wharfs and Godowns, the China Provident Godowns and the Socony, the Texaco or the Shell Oil Installations, left so deep an impression in my mind, that even now, almost half a century after the event, I could still vividly visualize the sights every now and then by simply closing my eyes. The first such sight presented itself, when the No.3 Godown of Kowloon Wharfs and Godowns at Tsimshatsui, on being hit, caught fire. The next such sight came to the scene when the Socony Oil Installations at Lai Chi Kok was hit and caught fire. Then it was the turn of the Texaco Oil Installations at Tsun Wan. In the 2nd week, it was the turn of Shell Oil Installations at Causeway Bay, followed by the Hongkong Electric Power Plant next door, and then the China Provident Godowns further north. The fire at the Shell Oil Installation at Causeway Bay preceded shortly, the Japanese Landing at North Point. Fighting such huge fires were not a task for a small potato in the AFS, like me. The Godowns and the Oil Installations had their own fire fighting equipments and the necessary experienced manpowers to deal with their own problems. The Regular Fire Brigade would render such support as practicable or necessary. I for one needed only to watch, and from a safe distance away. In point of fact, there was nothing much any one can do, when one of the Oil Tanks at an Oil Installation caught fire ! All that one could do was just wait patiently until all the oil had burnt itself out; but unfortunately, it took days. Even a Godown fire took days to burn itself out.
Right up to about the 20th day of December, the morale on the Island was quite high, and discipline was quite good, and the people were still in good humour. However, following shortly after the explosion and the fire at the Shell Oil Installations at Causeway on Hongkong Island, rumours began to spread to the effect that the Japanese Army had already landed on Hongkong Island. An atmosphere of uncertainty began to grow, and an untold feeling of fear began to spread. First I noticed was a sign of uncertainty at my command headquarters, with which I continued to maintain contacts by telephone. The O.C. had apparently changed. Soon I began to hear contradicting orders regarding my movements. On the 22nd December, 1941, the Winter Solstice Day, I was told to move my base from 18 Caine Road, to the new Fire Brigade Building at the junction of Hennessy Road and Cannel Road in Causeway Bay. This I did, only to find no one there was responsible. The next I heard was that my Divisional Command had moved to the Garage of the Star Taxi Co. at the bottom of Blue Pool Road, in Happy Valley. To there I next moved my team, but again I found no one there was really responsible. Then one of my brother sub-officers came my way, and he told me then that the Command Post of the AFS, had just moved to the St. John's Hall of the University on Bonham Road. Thus with him I took my Trailer Pump Team, towed by my commandeered Tax-cab, to St.John's Hall that evening. True there was assembled, outside the campus of St. John's Hall, a few Fire-engines, half a dozen Trailer Pumps towed by Taxi-cabs, and a few Command Unit vehicles, parked outside the perimeters of St John's Hall. In the Common Room inside the St. John's Hall, was assembled, all the top brass of the Auxiliary Fire Service, apparently holding a sort of solemn conference. I was too junior to participate at the conference, and I could not make out what exactly were the subjects being discussed. In any case, I was tired, having had my full day's shift duty. I was only too glad to hand over the team, to my colleague who came in just in time. Thereafter, I went off duty, and walked my way on foot to my 2nd cousin's home in the campus of the Kau Yan Church at High Street nearby. It is still a mystery to me, what the Conference of the AFS at St. John's Hall was all about. (I believe it was a conference to discuss and decide whether or not to disband the A.F.S. For on the following day, 23 Dec 1941, I could not find my men nor my trailer pump, - not in any place near or around St.John's Hall, nor at the Garage at 18 Caine Road).
My 2nd cousin, the Rev. Tsang Yan Wai ( ), was the Lutheran Minister of Kau Yan Church at High Street. After my shift of duty, I went there for a meal. I anticipated it would be a good meal because it was the Festival of the Winter Solstice. Indeed I remembered it was, not because his wife prepared any exotic good dishes, but simply because I was very hungry that night. I have 3 bowls of rice. After dinner, there was assembled in the parochial room next door to my cousin's office, about 10 to 12 heads of families, all members of the same Lutheran Community belonging to the same church, indulged in a sort of "group Therapy" - comforting one another in those days of uncertainties. I recalled, one, Mr. ( ), who sold matches, and was one of the most successful businessmen in the midst, who did most of the talking. He had a good number of "true stories" to tell, beside a few "long yarns" to pull. I was not too impressed by his stories, but I suffered a lot because he was the only one present who smoked, and the smoke of his cigarettes smelt so good that I nearly wanted to grab one from his mouth. For I have not had a cigarette for quite a few hours. and had finished my packet without an opportunity of buying a new packet. I was desperately wanting to smoke a cigarette, but that damned bastard Wong Yan Sang, he was happily smoking one cigarette after another, but did not even bother to be courteous enough to offer me (or any one else therein presence) a cigarette from his packet. It was, as far as I could recall, the only time in my life, I felt I suffered from a sort of "Withdrawal Symptom" for wanting to desperately smoke a cigarette. I have never forgotten the craze ever since.
On Christmas Eve, I went to the Cathedral for mid night Mass. It was well attended. After Mass, I returned to my sister's house at Mosque Street. Soon thereafter, rumours came our way through the bamboo wireless to the effect that the then Governor, Sir Mark Young, was about to broadcast a Surrender. I did not believe it at first, and I was not sure whether it was true or false. We noticed that the artillery bombardment seemed to have thinned down if not actually stopped. We went to bed quite peacefully that night. When we woke up early next morning, we heard a lot of noise. It was the noise of people. Yes hundreds of people with their loots, looted the houses of the Rich and the Famous up at the Peak Area or in the Upper Levels of May Road, or Conduit Road and above. Some were offered for sale as they were too heavy to have to drag down all the way. I saw a real good piece of mahogany furniture, worth probably more than $500.- a piece, being sold, on the way, at say $10. The looters moved their ways down Robinson Road, Mosque Street..and further down, literally like ants moving their nests. A sight I have never been able to forget. Up at mid levels, the situation wasn't too bad, but down town at below the Staunton Street and at Hollywood Road level, shops and households had organize themselves in a sort of "Self Protection Patrols" to protect their private properties from being looted. Triad elements as well as pseudo Triads, began to go round, house to house, demanding "protection moneys" from the householders, particular the shops. Those who had paid, were issued with a piece of paper, marking the name of the Tong which claimed to have collected the "protection moneys"; such papers might be stuck outside the doors to indicate that they had been "patronized". In certain streets, such as the "Piece-goods street" (Wing On Street), they constructed barriers of timber poles at both ends, and mounted guards at both gates, to prevent looters and other "undesirables" from getting in. What was important was that one must keep watch on one's own properties, otherwise the looters would just help themselves. There were not that much "robbery" as there were simple "looting", when the law enforcement machinery broke down.
Following after the capitulation of Hongkong, the Japanese Forces staged a Triumphant Marching In to the City. I do not remember the exact date it was; most probably it was on Boxing Day of 1941, if not on the New Year Day of 1942. The marching column was headed by a solitary mounted officer in khaki, with his sward drawn. He was followed by rows of Japanese foot soldiers, 4 or 6 abreast, marching westwards, along Queen's Road Central. They did not look smart to me - certainly not spit and span, as the toy soldiers I used to play as a child, nor the colourful solders as shown in Janette MacDonald's Film: "March of the Grenadier Guards". In fact they looked shabby to me, as I stood watching, outside the Queen's Road Entrance of the newly completed Central Market Building. It was the first time in my life, that I saw with my own eyes, the unique shape of the Japanese soldier's cap, and the much talked about Japanese Officers' swords. However, the seeing of a "conquering army" marching into one's own home town, sent a shudder down my spine. I certainly did not enjoy it. The sight of sudden flying of many make-shift Japanese Flags all over the city gave me a funny sort of mixed feeling. A very strange phenomenon suddenly appeared in the streets in Hongkong, particularly in streets like Wellington Street. Suddenly the entire length of Wellington Street was converted into a hawker bazaar over night. You found the least expected people you knew, suddenly became a hawker, selling something you least expected. I recalled seeing a shop assistant of a book shop, the Commercial Press, selling tins of coffee in one of the stalls half way up Wellington Street, and I also saw a former teacher of mine, selling an assortment of clothings in another stall near by. Áƒæƒôƒåƒòƒíƒáƒôƒèƒ My home was in Fanling, New Territories, some 20 miles from down town Kowloon. There was then no cross harbour ferry running until late in January, 1942. I was desperate trying to find out what might have happened to my folks at home - my father, my mother, my brothers, and my recently married sister-in-law, who was expecting a baby. Daily I went to the water front trying to negotiate a trip across the harbour. The junks, which came over from the Typhoon Shelter at Mongkok were forever elusive. The Japanese patrol boats were actively patrolling the Harbour. Then one afternoon, the proper date on the calender for which I could not longer remember, I succeeded in negotiating a passage on board a small junk, which would take me across the Harbour from West Point, by passing the Green Island, to Kowloon. for $20.-. There were about 12 or 15 passengers on board. As the boat was being rolled away from the waterfront to a distance of approximately 50 yards away, a Japanese Sentry came and tried to stop the junk. The junk master refused to take heed to the Japanese Sentry's call; instead he raised the sail to increase the speed of the boat. Whereupon, the Japanese Sentry was so angry that he fired a few shots from his rifle at us. That Japanese Sentry must be a crack shot. One bullet hit one of the passengers on board our boat. He was in fact sitting right next to me. He was killed instantly. Without much ado, the Junk Master simply pushed the dead victim over board. We never saw him again. Every time I recalled that incident, it still gives a shudder down my spine. The point was, it could have been me, who sat right next to him. That was the closest shave I have had in the whole of my life. Well, about half an hour later, we landed at Tai Kok Tsui. From there I walked to the house of another cousin of mine, who lived in Nathan Road at Mongkok. It was about 4 pm in the afternoon. That night I slept in my cousin's house. Early next morning, I joined the hundreds of "refugees", who were to march their ways through Lo Wu, into China for their respective villages. I started at 8 am in the morning. Along Taipo Road, there was an endless stream of refugees making their ways on foot, towards Sham Chun. I recalled encountering only one truck, carrying a load of Japanese soldiers, moving its way towards Kowloon, apparently returning from a working party. They were not armed, and they did not bother us going the opposite way. Half way down hill towards Shatin from the reservoir, there was one newly completed wooden monument (about 5 ft high and 4 inches square, with Japanese and Chinese characters written on it, to indicate that it was the spot at which, a Sergeant was killed in action. I vaguely recalled there was a check point at the lower end of Taipo Road (near where the Magistracy now stands), manned by about half a dozen Japanese solders. There was another check point near the railway station, the old Equine Club at Shatin. There was another check point near Island House at Taipo. The other check point was at the Cross Road in Fanling (where the N.T. Magistracy now stands). As refugees we were allowed to pass by quite freely. At some of the villages on the way, some women could be seen selling "drinks" or "cakes" for the passers by; otherwise, I do not recall noticing much activities in the villages on the way. I arrived at my house in Fanling at about 4 pm that afternoon. The shock I had, on arriving at my house was, no one was at home. The house was in absolute chaos. It had been raided by Japanese soldiers, who had apparently helped themselves, indiscriminately, with anything which had a look of being useful or usable, leaving behind, pieces of heavy furnitures, like beds, wardrobes, bookcases, dining tables, etc.too heavy to pick up and go. Our clothings were thrown and spread all over the floors, my books were all over the places, waste papers and rubbish mixed with useful items of household goods were in heaps. The scene reminded me of the scene I had earlier seen in the Film : "Gone With The Wind", when Scarlet returned to her house after the fighting was over, finding everything is disorder ! I later learnt from my neighbours that the Japanese soldiers came to the house and placed their bayonets on my father's chest, demanding moneys etc. The women and children at the time were hiding up in the hills, and later took refuge at Lau Shui Heung ( ), a village about a mile away, where a gang of robbers came and robbed away the valuables. They had since gone across the border to take refuge in Li Long ( ). News received from them since indicated that they were all well, and that I had nothing to worry about. Two days later, my brother Mark also came home. Luckily, we had plenty of rice and grains stored in the house. We then began to learn how to cook our own meals. There happened to be a tomato tree bearing hundreds of tomato fruits, which we used for our meals almost every day. We cooked tomatoes with eggs, with what little meat we could buy or even with other vegetables. Surprisingly, we had a tremendous appetite for doing nothing, we both ate a lot. During the few lonely weeks at home in Fanling, we had to participate in a sort of night shifts, watching as village guards. The idea was, it would be safer for us to be sleeping outside in the fields, or hidden in the bamboo gloves, if the village were raided by bandits, or by bands of Japanese soldiers. We have had a few very cold nights sleeping out. Apart from the night time watch duties, we had hardly anything to do during the day, except keeping ourselves warm, when there were sunshine. After a few days of loneliness at home, we indulged in revisiting friends in Hongkong a few times. Each such visit would mean walking the distance of over twenty miles each way, and we had to spend a night somewhere in Hongkong - usually in my sister's house. As we had quite a stock of rice at home, Mark and I used to carry a small bag of rice with us, and gave them to our friends in town, who had great difficulties in buying what they needed. Rice as a gift in those difficult days were most wellcomed by all. By soi doing, we soon became very popular guests to our relatives and friends in town. In the mean time, our 18 year old brother Stephen had rejoined us in Fanling, making life slightly less lonely. In one of such trips early in February 1942, we learnt that Mark and I had both been awarded our War Time Degrees, and that our Certificates were there, at May Hall, waiting for us to collect. We promptly collected them. One afternoon early in February, our 20 year old brother, Matthew suddenly appeared. He had been hiding with the rest of the Family in the mission station at Li Long across the border. He brought us the reassuring news that all members of the family had been well, and that our father had ventured back to our ancestral home up at Tsim Hang in the County of Ng Wah, to see if we could go back and take refuge there. Matthew and I revisited Hongkong the next day, and brought the good tidings to the rest of the family. In an afternoon about a week thereafter, when my brothers and I were lounging by the well, basking under the warm wintry Sun, suddenly an old man, with a long white beard (about 4 inches long) and a half and inch thick white moustache, went straight into our house, and made himself very comfortably at home. We were wondering who he might have been, who could feel so at home in our house. On careful examination, we then simultaneously exclaimed : "Oh , Pa pa ! Where have you been ? How come you look so much like Grandpa?" He smiled and said, "Should I not look like my own father?" We were very happy that night, Mark and I jointly prepared the best meal we could cook to celebrate the occasion. The next day, Papa and I revisited Hongkong. He took with him, a bundle of "Title Deeds" for his agricultural landed properties. In Hongkong, he first called on his banker the Chartered Bank, and afterwards consecutively, on two good friends, reputed to be very rich. When he returned, he said with disappointment, that neither the bank nor either of the good friends, was willing to accept his Title Deeds, for Mortgage nor for Sale. (To be wise after the event, we would now say, had they offered to buy, my father's land at the time, my father might have sold all his agricultural land at a very low price. In which case, the Tens of Millions of dollars in compensation moneys, which we received from Government on the latter resuming the land for Development in the Nineteen-Eighties, would not have been ours !) What happened thereafter, I was not too clear. Father made arrangement to hide his precious documents in someone's Safe some where for safe custody. He and I then returned to Fanling. He managed somehow to get hold of an amount of cash how much, where, and from whom, I was not told. Two days after, he suggested that Mark and Stephen should stay to look after the house and the landed properties in Fanling. Matthew and I should accompany him to join the rest of the family in Li Long. From Li Long, the entire family, would pack up and start moving - Log, Stock and Barrel - back to our ancestral Home in the village of Tsim Hang in Ng Wah County, on the North East part of Kwangtung Province. There then we would decide what next we might do. Three daysthereafter, we were on our way.
Mr. Norman H France Mr. Bashid Ahmed Mr. Algie Ho Mr. Hung Kon Chiu Dr. Luke Lim Mr.Lau Teng Ke (subsequently killed in action with Force 136 in Malaysia) Prof. Simpson (lost 2 fingers) ng shortly after the explosion and the fire at the Shell Oil Installations at Causeway on Hongkong Island, rumours began to spread to the effect that the Japanese Army had already landed on Hongkong Island. An atmosphere of uncertainty began to grow, and an untold feeling of fear began to spread. First I noticed