A Volunteer in the Battle for Hong Kong

December 1941

 

One of the vivid memories I have is that of leading a fighting patrol of 7 men from our pillbox in Pokfulam at the foot of Mount Davis. I had to report to the Adjutant - Capt Neville Thursby of the KSLI. The HQ at the time was on the Murray Parade Ground in Garden Road - what was to become the Hilton Hotel.

On arrival at the HQ, I met the Adjutant. He was a man who commanded respect - he was short tempered and had a habit of rolling his eyes heavenwards as though seeking patience or inspiration - or both. He had a slight stutter and on this meeting, I stuttered as well in my nervousness. As we both stuttered, he laughed and broke the tension. He then told me that I was to lead a patrol up May Road to where the Volunteers' and other families were billeted for safety in Tregunter Mansions. The ration party had reported that there were suspicious movements in the area and that lights had been seen - possibly 5th columnists signalling the Japanese in Kowloon. The Japanese had a small but powerful gun hidden in the Kowloon Godowns where Ocean Terminal is now. My task was to investigate and flush out any intruder from where the families were and make contact with the QM who was in charge of supplies to the families. To men who had not had a regular meal for some time, the thought of meeting a supplies officer was indeed heart warming! We headed up hill towards our destination - and our next meal.

We proceeded towards Tregunter Mansions with utmost caution and minimal noise up the hillside in single file; some looking left some right and others straight ahead. In fact our heavy leather boots on the gravel and rocks made the patrol sound like a herd of wild elephants. No wonder we encountered no-one on our way. At any rate the disturbances - 5th Columnists or whatever - were cleared and our task complete. It was there that I met my wife and other families for the first time since 5th December and I was able to bring back news of them to the men in my pillbox.

We stayed with the families overnight and the next day we were ordered back to report to Capt Chris D’Almada at our Company in Pokfulam.

 

Epilogue. I subsequently read that there was a meeting on the night of the l2th December between the Triads and Insp Shaftain, Admiral Chan Chak and his Chief of Nationalist Police. As a result of the negotiations and in return for payment of a certain amount of money, the "Celebration of the l3th" was called off. This was to be a massacre of all foreigners by the 60,000 Triads in Hong Kong. This explained our sudden dispatch on the fighting patrol to the families but we too could have been wiped out that night if the negotiations had failed.

 

Arthur E Gomez