Sketch by Jack Chalker

Dairy 1941

Staff Sergeant James O’Toole



Where the writing is not clear the word is shown in gold


      The Japanese land and are in possession of Wong Nui Chong2 Gap, Inft Bde HQ, the last stand situation, built to withstand a siege.  Taken by a handful of Japs who came over Mt Parker and attacked it at the back door with m/c guns mortars and grenades.  Capt Barklay3 MO was killed here Pacey & Quinnell escaped.  All small cumtis were taken away from their regular work, banded together under a common commander Col Fredrick R.A.S.C. and taken or rather straggled to Bennetts Hill just beyond Aberdeen.  We left Shouson Hill about 10.30am with officers Capt Bonney Lieut Wilson Lieut Wallington and all the Shouson Hill staff except QMS Nichol who was away on a special job; finally landing up in charge of the R.A.S.C. at university.  No one knew what it was all about and thought that we would come back to the w/shop again so nothing was destroyed at all.  Arriving at Bennetts Hill we dragged Ammunition, Rifles, Bren Guns, Food to the top and spread out in some sort of a line to check the foe when he showed up.  It started to rain and as most of us only had K.D. pullovers etc. it didn't look too happy.  Capt Hanlan was there and Col Smith showed up for a short time.  After about one hours wait orders came to proceed to the Ridge; so down we carried all the gear, piled it into cars, lorries etc.  Hell of a job to prevent people saying oh ???? the ammo and just leaving it.  By the time we set of it was pitch dark.  Col Fredrick, Lieut Willson, Wallington and SM Read lead the way.  I came next in a truck with Whiteman & Thomas.  Then Capt Bonney in his car Meeking driving.  Later Bonney felt ill and decided to walk.  My van somehow punctured both front tyres. The pace was very slow due to Blackout and Road Blocks.  I transferred to Bonney's car with Meeking, and we at last got to the Ridge and waited for rest of column.  When they came orders were given to march on Wong Nui Chong and Route (sic) out the few remaining Japanese who were supposed to be making a last stand.  But Capt Bonney still felt ill & insisted on Harvey and myself going with him up to the Ridge House, to see if he could get some food & rest.  Nothing loathe we did this and Corp Stow gave us some sausage sandwiches and sweet tea, was it good.  We then all three went upstairs and layed down.  Lieut Markey was the only officer we saw up till then.  I slept in Col MacPherson's bed, fully clothed with Harvey and a loaded 3.8 under the pillow.


      At 5.30 am Col MacPherson woke us up and told Capt Bonney to go at once back to Shouson Hill and get the workshop going again.  The Japanese had been rounded up except one or two trapped in a pill box.  This Wong Nui Chong is only a stone's throw from the ridge.  We set off in Capt Bonney’s car; Reg Neale was with me on the way down to the car, but I had to slip back for my respirator so lost him.  That was the last I ever saw him4.  Away we went Bonney, Meeking and myself on the running board gaily talking about a good B'fast etc.  At the junction of Repulse Bay Rd and Deep Water Bay Rd there was always a road block.  So we were not surprised when some Figures appeared out of the gloom and held us up; we just shouted "OK ORDNANCE (sic), Tika, Can ko" etc.  But the only answer was loud grunts and a bayonet jabbed against my chest; we had run into an ambush of about 20 Japanese; they made us get out, go around the corner, searched us, pinched all the watches and anything of value, tied us up, about 20 men of various units.  The main body coming down the road behind us some 200 strong, turned back after firing a few rounds some of which damned nearly hit us; they no doubt thought they had run into half the Japanese army, as it was still dark, they couldn't see much.  Frank Haynes in this party stopped a grenade in the legs but recovered some weeks later.  We were still crouching tied up around the bend.  We were searched by anyone who happened to have a fancy that way, and anything they did not want in most cases was slung on the road; they had no use for our money.  They did not beat us up, but we had been told the usual bloody fool yarns about not taking prisoners, so can guess our feelings.  Capt Bonney was untied being the only officer there, Mr Wilson had a mac on so they did not know about him much to his relief.  Of our unit there was Capt Bonney Mr Wilson S/M Read, S/S Meeking, S/S O'Toole, Capt Glass, Cpl Banford.  The who (sic) ambush was possible through the guard on the road block, comprised of MX, being surprised by the enemy about half an hour before we came along; the Guard were asleep.

      We spent up till 4.00pm sitting by the side of the road between the road junction and Deep Water Bay Golf Course; they handed round our own cigarettes and a few Army Biscuits.  Had a narrow escape once; our Captors left us at one period to go and report no doubt as by this time there was only about six of them with us.  About half an hour went by when to our horror, another party of Japanese appeared around the corner of Golf Course.  They couldn't see that we were tied up and were going to open fire.  We managed at a distance to convey to them that we were very harmless; so they slowly approached at the ready.  Luckily there was an officer with them so again we escaped abuse.  This party took us up a nullah5 (still tied) hard going believe me.  Across the Repulse Bay Road, up another nullah, full of their troops plus a few wounded, right to the top of the hill overlooking Repulse Bay Road.  We ran the gauntlet through the troops, and got an occasional kick or a blow with a rifle and more searching of pockets.  But no serious damage was done.  We came at last to the path that runs around the range to Violet Hill above Repulse Bay.  Many times have I walked along it with Alan6.  There they took Capt Bonney away and we never saw him again, he had up to then been quite fit and helped us along when ever possible7.  We were then marched along the track toward Wong Nui Chong Gap. Collecting prisoners on the way mostly Indians some Volunteers.  Arriving at the gap we stood for about four hours all huddled together whilst it rained and blew like merry hell.  Never felt so miserable and down hearted as at this time, if they had started shooting us, I for one wouldn't have cared much; it was Bloody.  We numbered about 80 and some of us had managed to work our hands free.

      At last came the order to move, and we were marched right over Mt Parker thro the reservoir of Taitam. Down to the Quarry Bay road near Taikoo Sugar Factory along the road to the Ritz in the Ball Room of which we were stabled.  The Ritz is right opposite the Cathay Hotel where Chris8 and I stayed for our first week in the colony.  The Japs lit great fires in the centre of the floor to dry themselves although the ant didn't worry them in the least.  We did our best around the fires when they had finished, but it was hopeless the Indians pushed and barged so we huddled close together on the floor to get some protection from the wind blowing in the blasted windows, as the Ritz had copped some of the shelling when they were destroying the pill boxes along the waterfront.


      Very stiff and partly dry, {words blacked out}9 marched to a school near Taikoo Dock, managed to catch a little water running off the rocks.  Kept in a room altogether for 4 hours, then marched along the road down to the waterfront the Hong Kong side of the North Point Internment Camp.  Barges were waiting to be unloaded, so we had to hump 6" shells and ammo; packed into the barges when empty and taken across to Kowloon.  Mr Wilson was looking rather forelorn, had sustained a nasty crack over the head from a sentry the night before, the blood made a mess of his tunic.  Marched to Mary Knoll Prince Edward Rd.  Japanese flag was flying from all the Chinese windows as we marched along, and occasionally the Chinks laughed and jeered at us, the Bastards.  At Mary Knoll Convent we were put into a large room and managed to keep the Blasted Indians out.  Issued with a packet of biscuits each, and later a Blanket.


      Wake up more or less dry, more prisoners had come along.  Had a look around the Convent.  The Indians had answered calls of nature all over the place, on the verandah, in the rooms, anywhere they thought fit, a filthy mob and as Bolshi as hell, had to be most careful to prevent trouble with them.  Had a small cup of sweet milk lovely.  Met a German down from Canton, decent chap but got little news from him.  Gathered together in the quad while photos and newsreels got busy, we looked a motley crew.  Any articles left about the place or in the rooms were looted by the Indians and our troops.  Only saw one Sister and one Priest who gave communion to some of the Portugese prisoners.  This Convent belonged to the American branch of the order of St Dominic.  I took a work bag with needles and silks it was a great boon in after times.  Marched to Argyle St internment Camp just across the way.  Started to clean up, this place had not been looted by the chinks.  A meal of rice was cooked in Chinese “lows” or woks, a large bowl like saucer with a fire underneath.  Broke up the wooden bed frames for fuel kept the bed boards to sleep on.  This was the first of many many rice meals.  Slept on the boards that night in a large hut with the rest of the white prisoners.


      Started to clean up the place and get some sort of order going, they promised us a special meal for Christmas.  More rice twice a day.


      {Words blacked out} Our Xmas fare was rice pork.  We have two meals a day one at 10am other 5pm do we get hungry.  The war officially ended today at 3pm, and the Garrison layed down their arms the 9.2 VII at Stanley had to be handed over without damage and the surrender was unconditional.  Up to this time there had been two 2 gun batteries about 60 pounders, blazing away each side of the camp and nearly shaking our huts about our ears.


      Major Paterson of Jardines a (Vol) was the senior in camp and therefore became Camp Commandant with Lieut Barnet (Vol) as adjutant (he had a typewriter).  They did all possible to run the camp as per King's Regs but didn't know too much, the Indians were absolutely bastards, and to make them keep clean habits was some job they just went back to what they had come from.  An Indian officer Ansari was there but he didn't do very much, or perhaps couldn't.

      Our strength was now 1000 of which 700 were Indians, they squabbled and argued over everything especially over the splitting up of the rations.  They discovered they could eat meat, even pig, an unheard of thing in peacetime.  Dysentery broke out & several people died usually those with wounds.  It was a very mild type, and although we had no drugs the Japanese took stool tests and rectum slides of the whole camp and then sent in some salts.  {words blacked out} Doctor Newton did great work among the wounded also Doctor Casano.  They scrounged some ether and did operations by the score, one after the other with practically no kit.  Lieut Wardle had now joined the company but didn't mix too well with the Vol Officers, in fact he and Wilson were always outsiders.


      2  - Ibid.

      3 - The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) record that Captain Beauchamp D’Epinay Barclay, RAMC died on 19Dec41 age 30.

      4 - WO1 Reginald Arthur Neale RAOC died on 22Dec41 age 36. (CWGC)

      5 - A storm drain.

      6 - This is presumed to be Alan Barwell, whose brother Claude Barwell was married to James’s sister Joan.

      7 - Captain Robert John Ball Bonney RAOC died on 20Dec41. (CWGC)

      8 - Chris is James O’Toole’s wife.

      9 - In a number of places in the diary words have been blacked out.  This appears to have been done using the same ink as that used for writing the diary.  Who, when, or for what reason the blacking out was done is not known.

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