Sketch by Jack Chalker

Stationed Hong Kong

Aerial View2Hong Kong, “La Perla Del Orient”, the finest station, to which a regiment of the British Army could be posted to.  The Royal Scots (R.R.) 2nd Battalion, were now part of Hong Kong’s garrison.  The defence forces were pretty formidable at this particular time, consisting of five infantry regiments - Punjabis, Middlesex, Royal Scots, Rajputs and Kumaon Rifles, plus artillery.  The naval units consisted of an aircraft carrier, several cruisers, destroyer squadron, gunboats, torpedo boat squadron, submarines and submarine supply ship.  Life in the colony was like living in paradise.  The cost of living was within a soldier’s meagre pay of 2/- Shillings per day.  There was enough sport and entertainment for everyone.  One thing that was not quite right, was the fact that tropical disease, mainly malaria was prevalent and special precautions were enforced.  Military training was pretty strict, and regular training exercises was common to all in the garrison.  I, myself, was in the signal section of the Royal Scots.  We were very busy in the field, laying lines of communication to various outposts, most of the time.  The  main training camp was at a place called Lowu, very close to the Shum Chun river and bridge 47 which crossed the river, and was the border with China.  At Fanling, a village near Lowu, there was a telephone switchboard which was manned by myself and Jock Marshall.  This was a plum posting away from barrack duties on our own.  We had a Chinese woman to do all the chores and our food was brought out to us every day.  Life in the colony was rolling along very smoothly except for the constant inflow of refugees from China which was at war with Japan.  This was the year before the war with Germany started, and the news started to get bad.  The local newspaper was supplying us with up to date information on German take overs in Europe, but Europe was that faraway that it did not affect us in any way, at that particular time, life carried on as normal.  Events over the border in China were being monitored very closely as the Japanese Air Force had started bombing and strafing the Chinese town of Shum Chun.  Troop movements were often noted from our observation posts, probably training manoeuvres for the Japanese soldiers.  There was no threat to Hong Kong at the time.  1939 had started with rumours flying thick and fast, news was bad, seemingly Germany was being more belligerent and getting away with it, ignoring warnings from Britain and France.  During the year, we read about the takeover of Sudetenland, the Saar and Austria.  One morning we woke up to the news that Germany had invaded Poland.  We later learned that Britain and France had given Germany an ultimatum to cease hostilities or war would be declared by Britain and France.  The ultimatum had been ignored by Hitler, World War II started and we were now on a war footing.  As the months passed, life in Hong Kong did not change very much, the war seemed that faraway.  Training was being stepped up and we were out in the field more often than we were in the barracks.  During this period of training, I copped a right dose of Malaria and was hospitalised.  After I was cured, I was posted to the telephone switchboard at Fanling, along with Jock Marshall as I mentioned previously.  Over the next few months, our defence forces were badly weakened by the withdrawal of our naval force to the European front.  Hong Kong was now defenceless, with no Air Force or naval power.  There was no way we could defend the colony for a prolonged period if the colony was attacked, it seemed like we would be sacrificed in the event of an attack.  Reinforcements were called for but none was forthcoming as Germany seemed to be carrying everything before it in Europe.  It was all bad news on the war front and Japan was now sabre rattling.  The refugee problem was growing, as the Japanese war machine was threatening our border with China.  Our observation posts were reporting of constant Jap troop movements.  There was no movement on our part to man the border.  There seemed to be a lack of danger, or a belief that our movements were not being monitored by the Japs.  As the months passed by, we sensed a new danger.  The newspapers were now bombarding us with the news that Japan was arming and troops were massing.  There was a general mobilisation in full swing in Japan.  We now realised that it was just a matter of time before Japan entered the war, there was no urgency yet from the U.K. or from our military headquarters in Hong Kong.  The border with China was still not manned and this fact was giving us a false sense of security, as we went about our daily duties.  Finally, about the end of October 1941, reinforcements in the shape of two Canadian regiments arrived in Hong Kong but no heavy equipment.  These two regiments had not had much training in Canada and were pretty raw.  It was very noticeable that there was a constant stream of refugees from China, it seemed like the Japs were deliberately trying to create confusion and problems in the Colony.  In the past two years, the Colony had doubled in population, of course, accommodation could not be found for such vast numbers.  The people used the footpaths, under the alcoved streets for shelter.  The month of December 1941 started off with rumours galore that the Japs were on a war footing, and would enter the war at any time, but still no panic was noticed.  The Royal Scots were out training in the New Territories, the signal section was still laying communication lines to various places, and I was still manning the telephone switchboard, at Fanling, the border was still not manned.  Troops had taken up position at the Shing Mun Redoubt, manning the pillbox there as a precaution.  The troops now sensed that the balloon would burst at any time but there was still no urgency or worry at Headquarters, we now knew, that the garrison was to be sacrificed in the event of a Jap invasion.

 

Next Chapter

Siege of Hong Kong

 

 

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[J. McHarg Miller] [Stationed] [Siege] [Internment] [Lisbon Maru] [To Japan] [Notogawa] [War is Ended]

 

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