— Hong Kong at War ~ December 1941-1945

On December 8, 1941, the Japanese got to the Sino-Hong Kong border and I just can’t imagine how my parents would have felt.

My father was just a boy when WWI began and his father went away on his ship. Then the Bolsheviks started their revolution so his mother had to get out of Vladivostok with him and his sister, after destroying any evidence that her husband was an officer in the Imperial Navy in case the Reds decided that they were enemies of the «Proletariat» or whatever and shot them all.

After growing up in China, he went to Hong Kong hoping to find sanctuary and now the Japanese were at the front door. I don’t think I could have coped with so much war, death and destruction in my life but they managed to get through the hardships in Shanghai and the Occupation without it breaking their spirit. However it must have been especially frightening for them with a 2 year-old child to look after as well.

Click to enlarge

The Japanese attacked Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland early on December 8, 1941, and by the next day, the defenders had been forced back to the “Gin Drinker’s Line” on the Kowloon peninsula.

© IWM (HU 2780)

Despite their attempts to get across the harbour onto Hong Kong, it took the Japanese 9 days of hard fighting before they eventually crossed over, landing on the island’s north eastern side.

A week later, on December 25, the Governor, Sir Mark Young, and Major-General Maltby, went to the Peninsula Hotel, white flag in hand, to surrender to the Japanese.

© IWM (HU 2766)

Before the hostilities occurred, mom, dad and Lindy were living in a flat on Prince Edward Road but they left the flat and were put up at the Gloucester Hotel halfway through 1941.

However when the Japanese invaded the island, they left the hotel and found refuge at an Italian convent – very possibly the Canossa Convent in Caine Road. The nuns took them in and they stayed there until what could perhaps be described as “normality” resumed, only this time with the Japanese in charge.

George’s ID document which he had to carry around Click to enlarge

Being classed as “Third Nationals”, they weren’t interned but left to fend for themselves. They moved to 23 Cameron Road, on Kowloon side, and I remember mom telling me they used to kiss each other goodbye in the mornings when he went to work at the Hongkong Hotel and they’d wonder if they would see each other again at the end of the day.

The Japanese Army commandeered the Peninsula as their headquarters and renamed the Toa (East Asia) Hotel. I very much doubt dad would have played there, unless there was an Officers’ Club on the premises.

The Repulse Bay Hotel was renamed by the Midorigahama Hotel (“The Hotel of the Green Mountain”), and I’m pretty sure he didn’t play there during the war.

From the documents my father saved, the Hongkong and Gloucester Hotels were the only old places he played at, plus the other gigs he managed to get.

He started playing at the Yat Sun Ting Restaurant in December 1943 and was there on-and-off for the next two years. He also had a contract with the Taikoon Dance Hall which included a salary and – something which would have been very much appreciated – 30 catties of rice. That would have been like manna from Heaven!

I read that each person could only buy 6.4 taels (240 g) of rice per day so getting rice put in his contract must have been a fantastic coup! 😮

30 catties was just over 18kgs.  Imagine that – more valuable than gold (well, maybe not that valuable! LOL  :D) when you have to feed your family, including your mother and step-father  😮

It was such a shame that he only got the rice included with his salary in May 1945 and then again twice in July.  Hong Kong was liberated in August 1945.  Perhaps that’s why it was offered as part of his salary as everyone might have felt that the end was in sight?!

I can’t find out anything about that dance hall but, as you can see from the document below, daddy’s employer was the Chung Wah 4th Floor Amusement Hall.

George's musician's contract, front page

George’s musician’s contract, front page (Click to enlarge)

The back of George's contract

The back of George’s contract (Click to enlarge)

Lindy remembers that he played at a Japanese Officers’ Club and if he didn’t know a particular song, the soldiers used to beat his back with the backs of their swords.

She said she remembers several times he’d stagger into the flat with a bloodied back when she opened the door to let him in early in the mornings. His payment for playing at the club was a bowl of rice.

IMG_0012 (2)

Click to enlarge

May 25 1943 (2)

I think the man on the left with glasses is A Greenevitch Click to enlarge

 

As you can see from the program above, when the Japanese had concerts in HK, they liked to have “hearty” German music (or should that be spelled muzik 😉 ), as well as Japanese  😮

Mom was listed on her document as a music teacher, and I remember her telling me how she had to push their piano down Nathan Road from Prince Edward Road to their new flat on Cameron Road.

They lived on the first floor at 218 Prince Edward Road just before the war and then moved to Cameron Road after the Japanese invasion.

God know how she got the piano up to their flat, which was on the 1st floor! She must have had help from a couple of coolies as it would have been a huge task to try and do that with friends helping 😮

I remember the stairs being wooden and fairly wide up to the flat so it would have been difficult but not impossible to get the piano up there with help!

My mother’s ID which she had to carry around during the war

 

1942 – Lindy with Balia and Baba Manya (Click to enlarge)

Baba Manya and Victor Petrovich lived in the next door flat in Cameron Road for the length of the Japanese Occupation. Balia, Deda Joseph and Jenny were in Shanghai during that time but – almost incredibly – Balia came for a visit and stayed with mom and dad during that time.

I can recall the old flat so well as when I was a kid, Balia lived there and used to give piano lessons, which I had to take 😀

Mom also told me that once they heard a bomb fall down into the centre stairwell hole and she sat there with Lindy clutched in her arms waiting for it to go off. Fortunately the guardian angels were there looking after them! The bomb was a dud.

During bombing sessions, she used to put Lindy under a table which had lots of blankets and quilts over it so that if anything collapsed, Lindy would hopefully be okay.  If my memory serves me right, she put the table under the door arch for extra protection in case the room was hit by a bomb.

Bombing Kowloon_1

The above photo was taken from an American plane and shows smoke billowing from a bombing run over Hung Hom.  I’ve added numbers to help with the descriptions of the areas…

  1. Tsimshatsui, arrow pointing to roughly where Cameron Road was
  2. Kellett Island, where the Yacht Club would be built after the war
  3. Happy Valley
  4. Stonecutters Island

Here’s a map showing the same area, apart from Stonecutters.  Actually, I don’t know why I marked Stonecutters – I believe it’s no longer an island these days, all changed by reclamation and the bridge to Lantao for the airport 🙁

The red star shows the area which was being bombed …

Click to enlarge

 

****

Mom also had a chicken which she kept, and it used to lay eggs for them. I know it caused her a lot of grief when, after a particularly lean period when there wasn’t much food around, she had to wring the chicken’s neck and cook it.

Since we started having (pet) chickens in the backyard, I can totally understand how mom would have felt having to eat her chicken. They have such ridiculously cute personalities that it would have been like killing a pet dog or cat just to feed the family! My poor mother  😮

Still, it was more important that she kept the family alive so ….!

****

Balia survived the war in Shanghai but Baba Manya died of beri-beri just a couple of months before the Allies liberated the colony, and Victor Petrovich died a few months later.

babamanyaobit

Baba Manya and Victor Petrovich lived next door to my parents’ flat on Cameron Road and Lindy told me she remembers mom getting her to climb out the window with her and shuffle along the balcony ledge which got them into the flat, without having to go up and down a multitude of stairs! 😮

Imagine that happening in this day and age! Whoa! No way José … mom would have been strung up for endangering her child!! 😀

Anyway, Lindy remembers having to kiss Baba Manya on her very cold lips as she lay on the bed – poor kid!! But I guess that was what one did in those days and I’m very glad that it’s not something we do with kids now!!

Deda Josip died in Shanghai after suffering from tropical sprue which, having been left untreated, caused him to develop nutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

****

Mom didn’t talk much about the war years but I know she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and was an auxiliary nurse. She did say that one day, she and other auxiliary nurses were walking up the Peak to the hospital — I assume it was the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road, not the Matilda but can’t be  certain — and there were Japanese sentries along the way. They had to bow to these sentries and one lady didn’t do it low enough for one of these soldiers. When challenged and told to bow lower, the nurse refused and so the sentry lopped off her head with his sword.

My cousin sent me a whole lot of photos which my aunt had and one of the photos was the one shown above.  I was left scratching my head but then I saw the very same photo on Gwulo.com with the title : «Nursing Detachment, Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, 1941»!

Serendipity or what  😀

I tried to see if I could recognise my mother in this photo but no luck 🙁  I also have no idea who coloured in or who made a cross on some of the people in this picture :/

I remember mom telling me that she used to go to the camps and throw food parcels and other necessities over the barbed wire fences for her friends and other inmates.

Now I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have done that, as I understand the Japanese guards would have shot anyone throwing things over the fences.  However I do believe she used to gather whatever she could to help the inmates and I guess she would have taken those parcels to the guard house to pass on to the prisoners.

I had no idea how many White Russians were kept in the PoW camp but thanks to a Facebook friend – Richard Morgan, a retired HK Police officer – I found out the following information …

I scanned through the Commonwealth War Grave Commission database and the hard copy 1942 list of Prisoners of War and came up with the list below for probable Russian/Eastern European members of the HKDVC killed and captured during the invasion of Hong Kong. It is unlikely that it is 100% accurate, but gives an idea of the numbers involved in the HKVDC. I know there were others in various other compulsory/voluntary services, including medical, nursing, police reserve and civilian capacities.

I’ve also added a name or two to the list which I’ve come across too.

Killed

Hoselitz Rudolf
21st December 1941
Private 5169 HKDVC
Memorial – Column 34 Sai Wan Memorial
Husband of Rachil Hoselitz of Tsing Tao China, Medical Practitioner

Zahaorff Victor Isidor
22nd December 1941
Private HDVDC
Memorial – Column 34 Sai Wan Memorial
Husband of L Zaharoff of Kowloon, Hong Kong

Rudrof Wladyslaw Pawel
25th December 1941
Gunner 4413, HKVDC 1st Battery
Grave – Stanley Military Cemetery Section 1.B Coll Grave 2-9
Husband of Mrs W P Rudrof of Hong Kong

Lipkovsky Boris
25th December 1941
Gunner 3403, HKVDC 1st Battery
Memorial – Column 33 Sai Wan Memorial
Son of A J Lipkovsky of Shanghai, China

Kossakowski Z A
25th December 1941
Gunner 4301, HKVDC 1st Battery
Grave – Sai Wan War Cemetery Grave III M.3
Son of Mikolaj and Helena Kossakowski of Earl’s Court, London

Prisoners of War

Bard S M, Lieut
Berendeef E N A. Private 4621
Berendeef G  A, Private
Biriukoff Alexei, Corporal 3658
Bogoslovsky J A, Sapper 4764
Bluestone R, Private 4099
Brezny L, Private 4371
Gavriloff G J, Corporal 3857
Jelihovsky G N, Sapper 3414
Jolendovsky T A, Gunner 4229
Kaluzhny K A, Private DR115
Karpusheff G M, Corporal 3186
Koodiaroff Michael, HKVDC
Komorsky A, Private 3632
Lebedeff Alexander, Cadet Med/Officer
Napoloff A I, Sapper 2482
Nesteroff M J, Sapper
Novikoff V A, Private 4325
Ostroumoff A, Private 4706
Pavloff A V, Sapper
Persypkin O P, Gunner 4344
Petrove E M, Private 3630
Rootstein Anatol, Private 3193
Schiwarg A, Private 5003
Skvorzov A V, 2nd Lieutenant
Tonoff A N, Corporal 4698
Tsenin E A, Gunner 3182
Vargassoff N, Sergeant 2889
Vorokin D, Private ATS 2070
Voronoff C V, Gunner 3280
Yatskin M C, Corporal 3359
Yoholkovsky G A, Gunner 5227
Yourieff E G, Lce/Bombadier 4192.
Yvanovich Jnr P A, Lce/Corp 3625
Zaitzeff Anatole, Lce/Bombadier 2870

****

I also found some snippets on Gwulo which had some information about Russians during the war.

One was a card sent from Mrs Mrs E A Koodiaroff (Block 5, Room 33) to Mrs N Smirnoff, Russian, French Hospital R. 33, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong:

Dear Nina,
Hope you are well all together, Little Sasha will be a big boy since. We are well and healthy, Michael is big boy and attending his school. Wishing you and family everything best.
Best Regards,
God Bless you all
Yours E Koodiaroff
[Source: Gwulo.com]

KoodiaroffSmirnoff

Nina Smirnoff was the wife of George Smirnoff who, at the time, was living in Macao with Ira, their eldest daughter.

Sashka was their youngest child and a very close friend of both my sister and me after the war!

I never knew the Koodiaroff son, Michael, but he used to take piano lessons from Balia after the war 😉

When you look at the two letters shown at the bottom of this page, you’ll see that my mother must have been doing a lot to help her and my father’s Russian and English friends in the PoW camps!  I know for a fact that she was a very brave woman 🙂

1943 - Christmas menu for the PoWs in Shamshuipo

1943 – Christmas menu for the PoWs in Shamshuipo

I remember mom telling me that she used to go to Stanley Camp and take food parcels and other necessities to the guard house for her friends and other inmates. She used to take Lindy with her as the Japanese guards liked little children.1942MDL

Apparently the guards would offer Lindy sweets but my mother never let her take any.

Very good friends of my parents, Laurence and Eva Kilbee, were put into camps.  As Laurence was a Lieutenant with the 2nd MTB Flotilla Coastal Forces Hong Kong so he got put into Shamshuipo while Eva and their 5 month old daughter, Dorothy, were sent to Stanley.

They remained friends of my parents for many years after the war and although Dord was a few years older than me, she too was a good friend when we were both young adults in Hong Kong.

Lindy never knew about the letters that mom got and she was aghast about the fact – saying that they were starving and she had no idea how mom got all the parcels made up for her friends.

In fact, she thought it was rubbish that my mother managed to procure those parcels for the PoWs as she said there was barely enough for them to eat in their own home!

I guess she was wrong in her assumption :/

I have no idea why mom never wanted to speak about what she did to help their friends and can only imagine that there must have been a certain amount of punishment involved if and when she was discovered throwing those parcels over.

****

Gwulo has put up a number of diaries written during the Occupation and one of them, Harry Ching, has listed many interesting things which would have applied to my parents, as he too was considered a Third National. You can read his diary which is listed at the bottom of the page here 🙂

This list is from his diary entry a year after the Japanese invaded …

15 Dec 1942, Harry Ching’s wartime diary
Hear people now leaving by junk from Taipo to East River.Street sleepers and destitutes being rounded up.Searching at ferry requires people take off shoes and socks.Prices published as at 30th November:
  • Rice 30 sen a catty official (black market 67 sen),
  • flour 45 sen,
  • sugar 55 sen,
  • beans 35 sen,
  • peanuts 90 sen,
  • peanut oil Y1.40,
  • beef Y2,
  • pork Y3,
  • mutton Y2.30,
  • chicken Y3.40 (with feathers),
  • eggs 23 sen,
  • fish (wong fa) 75 sen,
  • salt fish Y1.50,
  • coal Y6 picul,
  • firewood Y4,
  • kerosene Y2.

 

The United States dropped «Little Boy» on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the next day they dropped «Fat Boy» on Nagasaki, and 8 days later Japan surrendered unconditionally. On September 1, Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt proclaimed a military administration to govern Hong Kong and on the 16th he accepted the Japanese surrender in Government House.

Lindy remembered that on the day the war was over, she and mom were eating rice with winkles and other things they found and dug up at the beach for protein, and Nellie Tkatchenko came bursting into the flat to tell them that the war was finally over!

The Tkatchenkos were Russian restaurateurs who moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong and established a very popular restaurant on Hankow Road in Kowloon.  They were good friends of my parents, as were another pair of Russian restaurateurs, Victor and Sonia Cherikoff. They, too, had a restaurant in Kowloon.  I would like to think that both theTkatchenkos and Cherikoffs would have passed on any additional food to mom to help the PoWs.  It certainly wasn’t used by my family if there was any extra provisions 🙁

© IWM (SE 4999)

© IWM (SE 4999) Japanese signing the surrender in HK

 

I came across this little snippet of info …

As World War II drew towards a close, US President Franklin Roosevelt proposed that Hong Kong be not returned to the British after the Japanese surrender but made an international port or handed back to the Chinese. Needless to say, the British disagreed and in August 1945 Colonial Secretary Gimson rushed out of Stanley Prison and quickly reasserted British rule. Roosevelt was succeeded by Truman, who was less keen on the idea, and the issue was dropped. Hong Kong quickly recovered and prospered under British rule.

[Source: Tales of Old Hong Kong]\

😮

I can’t imagine what my folks would have done if Roosevelt got his way and handed the Colony back to China!  Dear God, it really doesn’t bear thinking about! 🙁

 

 

My mother never told me that she’d received these two letters commending her for helping the PoWs – I only found them when going through her things after her death.

letter

Click to enlarge

lettertomom

Click to enlarge

 

More than battle cries: a look back at Hong Kong during Japanese occupation days reveals a city resounding with music by Oliver Chou (SCMP)

You can see the drawings which Alexander Skvorzov did in Shamshuipo PoW Camp HERE.

And for those of you who’d like to read about the Women Prisoners in Stanley Camp, click HERE to get the pdf.

 


Home » -- Hong Kong at War ~ December 1941-1945 » 1941 December 25 ~ Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong

1941 December 25 ~ Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong

Most of the pictures here were taken from a book George kept, which was issued by the Japanese government during the war. However I've added a few more found on the internet :)
0

*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.

 

Home » -- Hong Kong at War ~ December 1941-1945 » Hong Kong during the War Years

Hong Kong during the War Years

Photos of my parents and sister during the Japanese Occupation, as well as some ads and some photos taken from the HK News, the English mouthpiece for the Japanese Government
0

*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.

 

 

There are several other videos on YouTube about Hong Kong during WWII  …

 

 

There are some great blogs about the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong which are worth reading, as well as articles …

 

 

 

 

Pio-Ulski.com claims no credit for any images posted on the site, unless explicitly stated.

All copyright goes to their respective owners.