Stranger In My Heart

By Mary Monro

Retracing her father’s heroic escape across China in World War Two leads his daughter on a gripping voyage of discovery about him, China and, inevitably, herself.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Intimate portrayal of battle

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This is an excerpt about the battle of Hong Kong, in December 1941, which was part of Japan's initial assault, along with the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Malaya and Singapore. Dad's diary entries give a vivid picture of what it was like on the ground, at the time, without the perspective of hindsight:

The Island bisects neatly into a western half and an eastern half. The road that runs from north to south down the middle goes over a pass between the hills called Wong Nei Chong Gap. The Allies had to hold the Gap to have any hope of retaining control of the Island.

Friday 19 December 1941: “I rang up to ask Jack Fox what the position was at Wong Nei Chong.  I could hear the machine gun fire down the phone.  He had been manning one himself.  “Tell Pat” he asked me.  Quarter of an hour later I rang up again, this time I got Tim (Temple).  He said that they were surrounded and fighting a tremendous battle with small arms: “What else is there to do” he said in a rather humorous, resigned tone of voice.  That was the last we heard of them.  Wong Nei Chong was taken.  It was the key point of the island”.

 “Ted Hunt came in this evening.  He had led a counter attack against Wong Nei Chong and had recaptured it almost single-handed.  As he got near the enemy his Battery just melted away.  Though the gunners are steady under shellfire, they will not face the enemy at hand to hand fighting.  I don’t really blame them.  They have had very little training in the use of infantry weapons and so few of our young officers can make themselves really understood in their language.  Jack Fielden was killed in this attack and Colonel Yale badly wounded.  Ted could tell us nothing of Tim Temple, Geoffrey Proes, or Jack Fox.  Ted is looking very wild and woolly.  He is wearing an extraordinary assortment of uniform, he has 3 or 4 day growth of beard and is carrying a Tommy gun which he swears is the finest weapon ever invented.  He has had no sleep for the past two days.  The C.R.A. (Commander Royal Artillery) had ordered him to go back to Stanley and rest.  About this time news came through that the Japs had reoccupied Wong Nei Chong.  Just as Ted was leaving I warned him of this and told him to go round by Pok Fu Lam but he replied “Bugger the Nip I am going back that way anyhow”.  And with that he dashed up the stairs out of the Battle Box”.

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