This page contains information to aid in researching the POW history of individual members of the December 1941 Hong Kong Garrison.
Harry Davies as a POW
This page will later be the book page of "We Shall Suffer There" (working title), a study of the Hong Kong POW/Internee experience that hopefully will be published in 2008.
This book will combine the best of the styles of Not the Slightest Chance and The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru, by providng the most accurate possible chronology of the POW/Internee experience, and populating it entirely with the words of the people who were there. No secondary works will be quoted; all will be primary.
Hong Kong Camps
North Point Camp Map
Hong Kong Camps
Most people imagine that, at surrender, the garrison was taken prisoner en masse. In fact, prisoners were taken from the very start of the fighting, with Graham Heywood of the HKVDC being first (he was checking rain gauges on the border when the Japanese crossed). At the fall of the Shing Mun Redoubt, he was followed by a number of Royal Scots – primarily from 8 Platoon, A Company – and others.
Few, if any, further men of the garrison were captured on the mainland. One Winnipeg Grenadier, John Grey, disappeared, but there is circumstantial evidence that he was set upon by looters.
These early prisoners were taken to Fan Ling, and did not rejoin their comrades until mid January.
The next batch to be captured were rounded up during and after the fighting in Wong Nai Chung Gap on December 19th. On the 20th, they were marched to North Point refugee camp, which then started its short career as a POW camp. Men were captured in skirmishes between then and the surrender, and in the main seem to have been taken to North Point. There are rumours of some being sent to Shamshuipo at this time, but the West Brigade POWs sent there after the surrender claim that it was empty at that time.
The first capture of civilians was at the Repulse Bay Hotel. These were marched through Wong Nai Chung Gap to a paint factory in North Point.
Soon after the surrender, some 2,000 men of East Brigade, captured at Stanley, joined their comrades at North Point. At the end of December, the men of West Brigade were ferried to Shamshuipo, which was to be the main Hong Kong camp during the war.
In January, the camps were rationalised. North Point became the Canadian and Royal Navy Camp, Shamshuipo became the British Army and HKVDC camp, Ma Tau Chong was opened as the British Indian Army Camp, and ‘enemy’ civilians were sent to Stanley Internment Camp. Other civilian internment camps were opened at Rosary Hill and Ma Tau-wai.
In April 1942, the Argyle Street Camp was opened for officers, who were accompanied by 100 Other Ranks who primarily acted as cooks and batmen.
This was the situation until early September 1942, when the first transportation of POWs to Japan took place. In late September, the Lisbon Maru sailed. Between them, these ships had removed nearly 2,500 men – primarily from Shamshuipo. This opened enough space for the remaining POWs in North Point to be moved there; North Point was then closed. In 1944, Argyle Street was closed too, with the officers moving to Shamshuipo (which was then split into camps ‘N’ and ‘S’). The situation in Hong Kong then remained unchanged – apart from the continual shipment of men to Japan – until the end of the war.
Note 1: Although the Stanley Camp was for civilians, a number of older members of the HKVDC were interned there, as was Rifleman Riley of the Royal Rifles who had been captured at the Repulse Bay Hotel where he had been passed off as a civilian. The Hong Kong Police force was also interned there, minus a few of their number who had been captured during the short period that the police officially acted as a militia force against the invaders.
Note 2: A number of hospitals were also used by POWs during the years of occupation.
By C.L. Rozario, via his daughter Anna
Having decided that it made more sense to turn the POWs into slave labourers so that more Japanese might be freed up for the armed forces, a series of transportations to the Japanese homeland began.
The first, the Shi Maru, left Hong Kong in September 4th 1942 with 620 POWs aboard These were the ‘hard men’, many of whom had refused to sign the ‘no escape’ chit. The majority came from the Royal Scots, the Middlesex, and the Royal Artillery, with a handful from the Royal Navy and other units.
The second, the Lisbon Maru, sailed with 1,834 men on September 27th and is well documented elsewhere. These men were sent to Osaka No. 1 and Osaka No. 2 (Kobe) camps, minus a handful who were left in Shanghai after the sinking and eventually ended up in the Tokyo area.
The third transportation was on January 19th 1943, and included 1,180 men. This was also the first draft that included Canadians, although only one officer accompanied them.
The fourth left Hong Kong on August 18 1943 with 473 men.
The fifth was on Dec 15th 1943 and included 563 POWs.
The last occurred on April 29th 1944 with just 221 men.
There was also a ‘special’ draft of 13 senior officers to Formosa (Taiwan) in August 1943.
Note1: Transliterations vary for many of the ships’ names.
Note 2: All numbers listed here are the actual counts of the names of the men listed as being on each vessel in the ‘Search Garrison’ section.