Translation of ''Russels Mathematical Tables''

P.J. Aston

Department of Mathematics
University of Surrey
Guildford GU2 7XH

Introduction

The Japanese attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941. Seventeen days later, on Christmas day, the brave but outnumbered defending forces surrendered and were put into prisoner of war camps in which many died. A young squadron leader in the RAF, Donald Hill, kept a diary of events during the battle for Hong Kong and for a while during his captivity. In order to keep it secret, he wrote it in a numerical code which, according to the cover of the book in which he wrote, was supposedly ``Russels Mathematical Tables''. Donald survived the camp and brought the diary out with him. However, his experiences were so traumatic that he did not like to talk about them. The diary was never translated before his death in 1985. I decoded the diary in 1996 revealing, for the first time in nearly 55 years, this first hand account of the battle for Hong Kong and life as a prisoner of war.

The book The Code of Love tells the story of Donald and Pamela Hill and how Donald's diary was finally decoded. The full text of the diary (below) is also included in the book.


A sample of ``Russels Mathematical Tables''.

The Diary

Sunday 7/12/41. Much talk about war with Japan but no one seems to think anything will happen. We, the RAF in Hong Kong, are a very small crowd: seven officers and sixty men with five aircraft, two Walrus and three Vildebeeste. Group Captain Horry sails for Singapore on the Ullyses leaving Wing Commander Sullivan as our CO. I have the doubtful honour of being IC of our one and only flight and have three other pilots FO Gray, or Dolly, who is also signals officer, FO Baugh, or Whimpey, equipment officer, PO Crossley, or Junior, a New Zealander just arrived from Singapore and with very little flying experience. PO Thomson the Colonel, our adjutant, is a VR who came to Kai Tak with me from Singapore last June. Finally we have an Australian, PO Hennessy, just arrived from Singapore to start a fighter operations room. The joke is that everything is being prepared for the arrival of fighters but they are not expected for a month. With only five obsolete aircraft and one aerodrome our prospects are not rosy and it looks as if we might finish up in the army if war comes to Hong Kong. During the day the news gets worse and all precautions are taken, everyone being confined to camp. I take a Vildebeeste with full bomb load on a test climb during which I try to imagine where would be the best place to drop them and what would be my chances if attacked by fighters. But everything is peaceful and Hong Kong looks quite beautiful far beneath. We park the Walrus on the water and disperse the Beests but what wonderful targets they make. The 2nd Battalion Royal Scots and two battalions of Rahjputs and Punjabis are in their positions in the New Territories, the island being defended by two battalions of Canadians raw recruits, and, only just arrived, the Middlesex Battalion man the coast defences. Finally the volunteers, four thousand Europeans, Chinese, Portugese etc. Our Navy has one destroyer, ten MTB's and a few gunboats. Not a very formidable force especially as we shall be completely cut off from outside help and our food and ammunition supply is only sufficient for a hundred days. Still everyone seems cheerful. I am duty officer and wonder if I shall get any sleep.

Monday 8th. I am disturbed early as the Colonial Secretary rings up to say that war with Japan is imminent. Hell there goes my sleep and I wake the other officers. Over breakfast we are told that we are at war with Japan. We dash down to flights just in time to hear an ominous roar of planes and nine bombers escorted by over thirty fighters appear heading our way. There's no time to do anything except to man our defence posts. The bombers pass overhead but the fighters swoop down on us and pour a concentrated fire into our planes. We give them all we've got which is precious little. Some Indian troops get panicky and rush into a shelter, in their excitement they fire their Lewis gun. There is a mad rush for safety and by a miracle no one is hit. After twenty minutes of concentrated attack by the fighters the Beeste with bombs goes up in smoke and the two Walrus are left blazing and sink. Finally they make off, not unscarred we hope, and we inspect the damage. Both Walrus are gone, one Beeste is ablaze, another badly damaged, leaving one plane intact. We attempt to put out the fire praying that the bombs won't explode. The blaze is too fierce and she is completely burned with two red hot heavy bombs amongst the ruins. One aircraft left but no casualties to personnel. Eight civil machines are burnt out including the American clipper. In the afternoon, bombers come over again bombing the docks and Kowloon, one stick dropping on the aerodrome. Heavy fighting reported on the frontier, the Japs said to be using one division with another in reserve.

Tuesday 9th. After a quiet but sleepless night comes a hectic morn with rumour and counter rumour. Heavy bombing of docks and shipping and a big blaze is started in Kowloon. The Japs make a breakthrough on the Castle Peak Road. Chang Kai Shek's army reported to be coming up behind the Japs and we realize it is our only chance of holding the mainland with two brigades against two divisions. Oil dump at Lai Chi Kok set ablaze by bombs.

Wednesday tenth. News of fighting on mainland bad and we are ordered by the GOC, Major General Maltby, to evacuate to the island. We smash up all valuable equipment and burn all secret papers. All arms and ammunition to be carried with us, parties taken off by lighters proceed to Aberdeen and thence to the AIS. I left late in the afternoon on the last lighter with twenty men and all the arms and ammunition. Aerodrome strewn with all kinds of obstacles to prevent use by the enemy. Chinese loot our mess as the lighter leaves. When just off the waterfront bombers appear and our skipper takes fright, have to use force before he will proceed. Heavy shelling and bombing of Stonecutters which is bombarding the Japs advancing down Castle Peak Road. We are fired on by our coast defences after rounding Davis but we run up a Union Jack and all is well. Arrive Aberdeen and get everything off just before dark. The AIS is full of naval personnel all trying to find accommodation and food. After a mad scramble, manage to find a bed and retire early, tired and hungry.

Thursday eleventh. Commander Millet OC AIS asks me to form antiaircraft and defence posts for Aberdeen as RAF only people with machine guns. I fix up four posts on the roof with tommy gun posts on the verandahs. The AIS makes a wonderful target being only half a mile from the naval dockyard. A hospital has been set up next door to the armoury. For breakfast we get one slice of bread and a little butter and tiffin is the same. For supper, if we're lucky, we get hot stew. Intensive bombing of Aberdeen harbour causing heavy casualties. How we curse the bombers and wish we had a few Gladiators which would make short work of them. Jap fighters are quite slow.

Friday twelfth. Up early and drive in to HK. Buy food, cash a cheque and have a steak at Jimmies. Send cables to Pam and Mother. HK shelled from Kowloon. All our troops evacuated from Mainland. Hear that Walter Rosa, Dick Stanton, Houston Boswall and Bell who messed with us at Kai Tak have all been killed. Small party of Indians still fighting on Devils Peak. Royal Scots fired on in Nathan Road by Chinese fifth columnists using automatic weapons but Scots wipe the whole lot out. Chinese reported assisting Japs on large scale. Amazed at sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, also Jap successes against Americans. No one however doubts the final outcome and we realize that HK is only small fry in a tremendous issue.

Saturday thirteenth. I set up antiaircraft positions on Bennetts Hill and Reservoir Hill w RAF personnel. CO goes to battle hqrs leaving me in charge. Dolly goes to Little Saiwan and the Colonel to Stanley. After much sweated labour get guns etc. in position. Whimpeys is in charge of Reservoir Hill and I of Bennetts Hill. I return to AIS for the night and at midnight there's a hell of a commotion and everyone is roused as the Japs are supposed to have landed on Aberdeen Island. Whole thing a farce and return to bed.

Sunday fourteenth. Set up positions on Bennetts and start digging holes in side of hill for billets. Junior and I dig like mad but, owing to rocks, make little progress. Quiet day except for a few air raids. Bed extremely hard and rain comes in.

Monday fifteenth. Contact Canadians who have positions at foot of Bennetts. They are very helpful bringing us hot tea and helping us in our digging. Am now in the army without a doubt and under the orders of Major Baillee of E Battalion Winnepeg Grenadiers with hqrs at Wanchai Gap. More heavy bombing of Aberdeen harbour, heavy casualties to Naval personnel caused by explosions of torpedoes and depth charges.

Tuesday. Japs attempt landing at Lye Mun but party wiped out by six inch guns. Heavy shelling by Japs of Wanchai Gap and Stanley bombed. Driving the staff car into HK I have a lucky escape as a stick of bombs meant for the Thracian in Deep Water Bay drops on the road just behind me.

Wednesday. Hennessy goes to Canadian hqrs on Col Sutcliffs staff. Intense bombing and shelling of island defences. One stick aimed at us misses. Another day of hard work and very little food. During the night enemy warships shell the island and shrapnel shells burst right over our heads giving us an uncomfortable time. Two cruisers and one destroyer had been seen the previous night. One six inch shell of British make struck the AIS and knocked a large hole in the wall of MTB repair shop, also completely writing off my car.

Thursday. Enemy succeeded in landing on island last night and forced their way into Happy Valley despite heavy casualties. Scots and Canadians fail in attempt to drive them out. Japs in large numbers assisted by fifth columnists. Landing covered by intense artillery and naval bombardment. News muddled and rumours of all kinds are rife.

Friday nineteenth. News still confusing but Japs push into Wong Nei Chong Gap. My positions were designed against attack from the West not East and we have to improvise a new line. Lt Campbell takes a party of men to go to the assistance of Canadians trapped in Wong Nei Chong, their place being filled by Chinese volunteers. Major Giles RM arrives with a small party. Eventually the Chinese go, much to our relief, as they are much too jumpy. Junior now in charge of Bennetts with Giles and myself commanding a sector running from the foot of Bennetts to Mt Nicholson. Situation very tense and we spend a sleepless night. Pours with rain all night and bitterly cold. Everyone soaked through and half dead by the morning as we had no protection against the weather. Spend half the night pouring rum into semiconscious men who are dead tired after sleepless nights with very little food. We have no reserves and everyone has had a gruelling time. A Canadian sergeant from Campbells party returns to our pillbox at midnight in a state of mental and physical collapse and reports that all his party have been killed. A few hours later another Canadian arrives in a similar condition and with the same story. Worst night I can ever remember and never was the dawn more welcome.

Sunday twenty first. Naval personnel recalled by the Commodore for defence of the dockyard, leaving us seventy Canadians. We all carry a good supply of grenades as the Japs are very skilled at getting to close quarters without being spotted. The Jap soldiers wear rubber shoes and are as stealthy as cats. They carry a bag of grenades, automatic weapons and a light rifle of quarter inch calibre. They always attack at night and from all directions. Their snipers seem to be everywhere. Japs now using their mortars and artillery much more, being firmly entrenched on Shu Shun Hill. Our artillery do some excellent shooting at Shu Shun and Japs run in all directions. No one seems to know where the Japs are or how many there are. The High Command, whose daily communiques reveal nothing, seem to know less than anyone else. Chang Kai Shek's army reported attacking Japs in the rear and we are told to hang on as they will be with us in a few days.

Monday. Japs break through Middle Gap and are now very close to us. Scots take a heavy toll and retake some positions but Japs always come back in strength. There is no doubt now that the Japs have a very large force on the island, well equipped and experts in this guerilla warfare. Spend the night on continuous watch. The men very jumpy as every sound has to be investigated. If only one could see them instead of this hide and seek. In several cases the Japs have crept up to pillboxes and dropped grenades down the airshaft, killing everyone inside.

Tuesday twenty third. Several Canadians who had been given up as lost return with amazing stories. Many wounded Indians come through our lines kitless but not broken. Heavy shelling of Bennetts. Just before dark enemy start terrific bombardment of our positions. Hundreds of shells whistle just over our heads. Major Baillee rings up constantly and seems very jumpy about our positions. At two am he orders us to evacuate our positions and retire to Aberdeen. We are amazed at such an order but apparently the Japs have broken through over Mt Nicholson turning our left flank. We collect our small force and start our retirement. Heavy firing coming from Wanchai Gap where fierce fighting is going on. What a forlorn sight we make groping our way back through the hills in the dark. Finally reach Aberdeen, the Canadians going to Mount Gough and I take my men to the AIS. Atmosphere depressing and everyone falls to sleep through exhaustion. Up early, lucky for me, as a bomb lands on my bed just as I leave the room wrecking everything including my kit. AIS heavily shelled causing many fires and casualties.

Wed twenty fourth and Thursday Xmas day. The retirement order was a mistake and back we go to Bennetts with guns and equipment. Just as we reach the top the Japs open up on us with mortars. We have no protection and lie flat. The shells land right amongst us. Man next to me hit, also several others. Piece of shrapnel glances off my helmet and am half buried in flying debris. If we stay we shall all be killed so order the men to disperse and dash for cover and miraculously we make it. During the barrage I had noticed that one of our previous posts was still manned by Canadians who obviously had not received the order to withdraw. Cpl Blueman AC, Canadian, volunteers to go with to try and get them out. We climb on our bellies through the thickest undergrowth but are fired on several times. Finally we get within hailing distance and get them all into a pillbox. We collect all the arms and equipment which we can't carry, pile them into the pillbox, and throw a couple of grenades into the pillbox. As we start back everything goes off at once and we have to duck flying bullets. Eventually we arrive intact at the AIS.

No one seems to know where the Japs are so back we go to a new position guarding the bridge over Aberdeen reservoir. My party consists of twelve Canadians and ten RAF. Up to midnight all is quiet although every sound indicates Japs to the men. Soon after midnight heavy firing starts just across the bridge. The Japs weird war cry is plainly heard and soon a small party of Canadians retire over the bridge. They report a heavy attack by Japs who crept up on them and broke through. We open up with everything we have across the bridge. The Canadians are badly rattled, even their officer seems to have lost control of his men. The Japs start shelling us and confusion sets in and the men start leaving their posts. A scene I never wish to see again. I am in an awkward position as I have no command over the Canadians. Just as they start moving back the road Major Baillee advances down the road waving a revolver and shouting to his men to get back to their posts. Some obey and some don't. The Major is highly excited and his voice rings out through the night calling his men all the names he can think of. The Japs must have a good idea of our positions. He calls his officers and men all the names under the sun and shouts for volunteers to cross the bridge. The Canadians refuse to budge so I, more of a desire to back the Major than of any thought of heroics, go across with him. We reach the other side safely whereupon he is violently sick and I realize he is drunk. Through overwork he worked himself into a state of complete collapse and should have been releaved of his command earlier. We retire still intact. We can hear the Japs wild animal calls and they appear to have gone another way. Most of the Canadians have disappeared and with the few left we set up a mortar which fires its first shell into a nearby tree, explodes, blowing the operators right arm off and another man nearly loses a leg. Get the wounded into a dugout where there are some others badly wounded and try to stop their bleeding. We only have bandages and several of them are in danger of bleeding to death. Their moans are terrible and although I keep ringing up for an ambulance, none arrives. What a horrible mess and I try to restore some kind of order. After a good talking to the men pull themselves together and go back to their posts. Thank God the ambulance arrives at last, also Lts Campbell and Park. Campbell threatens to put the Major under arrest and Baillee threatens to put every Canadian under arrest. Comes the dawn and most of the Canadians have disappeared.

What a Xmas day, empty stomachs, tired out, and heaven knows what is going on. At ten am a message arrives saying their is a truce until midday. This news is immediately followed by a terrific bombardment of our positions. Not my idea of a truce. More Canadians melt away leaving our line practically undefended. I gather the few remaining men together a proceed to climb Mt Gough hoping to join up with our main forces. When we reach the top and strike the main road we run into several hundred Canadians retreat from Wanchai Gap. Wanchai Gap is th most vital sector of all and this means the end. We are told that the island surrendered at three thirty, over an hour ago. The troops have no arms and are completely worn out. A scene I will never forget with ammunition dumps going up everywhere and the Japs pouring hundreds of shells just over our heads into blocks of houses across the road. Finally the barrage stops and white flags appear from all the houses. The troops have got hold of quantities of beer and are singing to releave their shattered nerves.

I am too stunned to describe my own feelings but decide to try and escape. The Japs are reputed never to take prisoners. With Junior and three of my men we grab an Austin Seven and decide to make a dash for Aberdeen to try to get a boat. The engine won't start but its all downhill. By now its dark and the road is very narrow and tricky. We throw away our arms and get aboard. What a ride, crashing through barbed wire and road blocks in the dark but the old Austin showed her worth and we finally coasted into Aberdeen without seeing any Japs. We go straight to the AIS and get hold of a Chinese boy who says he will try to get us a boat with food and water. Then, to our horror, we discovered that the building had been locked and we could not get out as the Japs were outside. What a disappointment and we had nothing to do except find somewhere to sleep not having had a real one for ten days. My old room was a complete shambles so slept on the floor.

Friday twenty sixth. Woke to a beautiful morning being unnaturally quiet and peaceful so that the last few weeks seemed as a nightmare. We were all under orders for the dockyard. Spent most of the morning smashing up thousands of bottles of beer and spirits for fear the Japs would get drunk and run amuk. Got a car and set off for the dockyard passing hundreds of Chinese laden down with loot. On arrival at the dockyard we're told to go to the detention barracks, the men being locked up in the cells and we went to China Command. Had a real wash and shaved off my fortnights growth of beard. The Colonel was in hospital having received a bullet through the neck, eight of our men were dead, and several missing. We had no kit so I decided to try and get back to the AIS. The only transport I could find was an old dairy farm lorry. Whimpey and Frank came with me. Soon we ran into several thousand Japs marching along the road looking tired and ragged. An officer signalled us to stop made me turn the lorry while troops climbed in the back. He indicated by signs that I was to drive them to HK. The troops seemed baffled by our blue uniforms but were quite friendly. Dropped our load and once more set off for the AIS. Passed hundreds more Japs but after some nasty moments finally reached our destination. Found most of our kit and got safely back.

Just as I was congratulating myself on a good days work, a Jap officer came up and ordered me back into the lorry. Whimpey and Frank got off. He directed me by hand signs to drive to Courtlands Hotel which had been taken over by the Japs. The few remaining residents looked pretty scared. More troops piled in and, after a very trying drive through Kennedy Town, we finally reached the St Louis Industrial School where they all got out. We had passed hundreds of troops and the streets were littered with dead Chinese. I was beginning to think my work was done when several officers started arguing and kept pointing at me and looking aggressive. Suddenly one of the officers whipped out his sword and I thought they had decided to bump me off but to my amazement he produced a bottle of beer, nipped the top off with his sword, and handed me the bottle. I was then given a loaf of bread. Apart from one or two soldiers, they had treated me very well. My wings seemed to fascinate them. By now I wanted to call it a day but another officer got in the lorry and off we went back to the hotel. He had some beer with him and handed me the bottles to open. I stopped the van and wedged the tops off on the mudguard. This seemed to amuse him and he tried to do the same on the dashboard with drastic results. Once more the van is loaded up with troops. Another officer takes over who is not so pleasant and I get half an inch of bayonet in my bottom for being too slow. Back to the School where another terrific argument starts. I want to go back with the van but two officers decide to drive me back in a Ford Ten. They don't use any lights and we have several narrow escapes from hitting lamp posts. Suddenly I see we are heading for one of the islands in the middle of the road and shout a warning. Too late and there's a terrific crash and we finish up on our backs. By now I am fed up so, bowing politely, I leave them and walk the two miles to China Command.

Saturday. Five of us sleep in a small office. All our water has to be drawn from a stream nearby. No one knows what is going to become of us and everyone tries to guess at our future destination. Some Jap officers inspect us.

Sunday twenty eighth. More troops arrive from Stanley and report that Japs raped and bayonetted nurses in St Stephens hospital, also killed the wounded. Colonel Smith, whose wife was one of those killed, goes nearly mad and tries to get at the nearest Jap. Several atrocity stories come to light and atmosphere becomes very tense. Two destroyers and one cruiser anchor off the dockyard followed by a victory parade including a flypast of sixty bombers and fighters. All very galling.

Monday twenty ninth. News is that we are to be moved to the mainland at dawn tomorrow and that we will be given no transport and can only take kit that we can carry. The GOC and Commodore are treated the same as everyone else. Obviously we are going to be humiliated. For dinner we open all the tins in store and eat royally, washed down with beer and champagne. Pack what little kit I have, also any tinned food left over.

Tuesday. At dawn we prepare to move off. Frank and I sling our kitbags on a pole coollie style. We sling blankets round our neck. We are determined to bear our humiliation without a murmur, our day will surely come. We form into units and after two hours waiting move off, over six thousand strong. Arrive at the ferry and, after another long wait, are ferried across to Kowloon where we form into units again. Off again but where, no one knows. After a mile or so we come back into Nathan Road. By this time we begin to feel the strain and have to rest frequently. Each unit has its own guard. Thousands of Chinese line the streets, a few jeering, but mostly quiet, and some are in tears. It would appear that we are going to Sham Shui Po, several miles away. Our guard is a decent fellow and, seeing we are having a tough time, allows coollies to carry our kit. Eventually reach SSP barracks eight hours after leaving China Command. A battle for billets commences. The whole camp has been stripped of every useful article by looters and had also been bombed. All doors, windows, furniture, and fittings had been taken leaving just hulks of buildings. Even in peace time it was an awful dump, but now it looked as if a typhoon had hit it. We found a small hut and then a tremendous hunt started for anything resembling a bed. Found some horse hair and wrapped it into one of my blankets. Several men had been here for days, being captured earlier on. Two WO's had been tied up with wire, stripped of everything, and left for three days without food or water after having seen several of their comrades bayoneted. We get rice twice a day which tastes foul and does not alleviate our hunger.

Wednesday thirty first. Moved to a slightly bigger hut, the Wing moving in with us, the men are in another hut close by. There are over six thousand men in the camp with no sanitation and rotten food. We have no lights and go to bed soon after dusk. We have one meal at nine and another at five consisting of soggy rice and are permanently hungry. And so ended nineteen forty one.

Jan first. A new year which we hoped would see the end of the war. We hear no news, only wild rumours, and we all wonder what our people at home are thinking as we are unable to tell them of our safety. Soon adapted ourselves to our surroundings and began fixing our rude quarters into some sort of shape. Bits of wood and attap made windows and no kind of scrap was wasted. Had no eating utensils, any old tin had to suffice. Cigarettes very scarce but luckily we had brought some with us.

Second. Our camp adjoins the main road and the Chinese sell us food stuff at exorbident prices. We have three hundred dollars and add considerably to our stock of food. My boy, Ah Cheung, brings a basket of food and I slip him some money to get some more.

Third. Take it in turns to go the wire. Often the Chinese, usually boys, grab the money and run away without giving anything in return. Junior put in charge of messing and we open a tin a day.

Fourth. Our chief danger is flies which swarm everywhere, spreading dysentry and the added menace of cholera. We have practically no medical supplies as the Japs have taken them all for their own wounded, which run into thousands. Just as we get to bed a lorry arrives and we are disturbed by the squealing of pigs. Thirty for six thousand men. We all assist in chasing them and put them in a hut.

Fifth. Each receive a small lump of fat with our rice, very unappetising.

Sixth. My batman Cpl Moulton, who was my fitter, is a great little scrounger and handyman. Manage to buy a camp bed for ten dollars at the fence. Sheer luxury but the canvas is rotten and during the night it collapses and lands me on the floor.

Seventh. Moulton fixes my bed but breaks my rice bowl. Buy a tin of coffee and some vegetables. We make a stew in a bucket and do we enjoy it. Many of the troops have Chinese wives and girlfriends who bring them food. Japs get very strict about buying food at the wire and many Chinese get beaten up, women being stripped naked in full view of everyone. Indians are getting unruly. Several deaths from dysentry.

Eighth. Florrie and her amah arrive with more food. She tries to cross the road but I signal her back. No parcels get through as a General is expected to visit us. My boy also arrives. What a disappointment.

Ninth. Jap General arrives with an escort of twelve cars and troops manning machine guns in lorries. He drives to the gods hut, steps out, has his photograph taken, and drives off without a word. What a farce. Many wild rumours but as usual no truth in them.

Tenth. Bed collapses again during night. Our roof leaks from the effects of a bomb but so far the weather has been perfect. The flies swarm everywhere due to the filthy condition of the camp. All buying at the fence stopped, the Japs torturing any Chinese who come near the fence.

Eleventh. Florrie arrives again and I receive a parcel of bread, butter, milk, and tomatoes. What a treat and the six of us make short work of it. Rumours even wilder: Tokyo reported bombed, Japs suffer severe naval defeat, Hitler committed suicide, and Japs evacuate Malaya. Have grand supper of coffee, bread, butter, and jam.

Twelfth. All buying definately stopped, many Chinese beaten up.

Thirteenth. Many sick with tummy trouble. One feels fairly fit but completely lacking in energy. Twenty Scots arrive from Fan Ling, amongst them being Potato Jones, who commanded the company at the Shing Mun Redoubt, and Lieut Thompson, who was hit by a grenade and is practically blind. Japs refuse to take him to hospital which will probably cost him his sight. Florrie brings another parcel. I throw a message to her across the road screwed up in a cigarette holder.

Fourteenth. Everyones stock of food running low. Rumours still wild but always good news and we think things are going well.

Fifteenth. Florrie comes again but Japs won't allow parcels through. Get some soya beans which help the rice down. Junior falls down and nearly breaks his leg.

Sixteenth. Start Japanese lessons. Florrie arrives again and this time I'm lucky. Whimpey gets a blue mood and refuses to talk to anyone.

Seventeenth. Florries amah arrives with more food.

Eighteenth. Sentries wire up streets facing camp and shoot a man and a woman for trying to sell food. Florrie turns up again but can't get her parcel through, what a girl. Two Chinese bodies washed up near fence. Everyone feeling weaker due to lack of proper food. Rumours and counter rumours so contradictory that I don't believe anything. Some real news would make such a difference.

Nineteenth. Now get three meals of rice a day but quantity the same. Rice by itself is awful muck, but we save our small stock of milk and sugar for our evening tea. Over hundred men arrive from Queen Mary's hospital.

Twentieth. More men arrive in lorries, some unable to walk, and dressed only in pyjamas and socks. Troops give a concert including dance band. Cigarettes very scarce.

Twenty first. Fight between Middlesex and Indians. Rice ration very short.

Twenty second. All Indians moved out of camp, Canadians being moved tomorrow, destination unknown.

Twenty third. Disturbed early by troops detailed for work at Kai Tak, a three mile walk, wonder how they will make out on the diet.

Twenty fourth. Navy are moved from the camp and we are going into Jubilee Buildings. Usual mad scramble for accommodation. Wing gets peeved with Brigadier McCleod and tells him a few things. News is that we have withdrawn in Malaya and that there's a rumpus at home about HK and Malaya, and quite rightly too as both places were very weak in defences, especially aircraft, and men have had to fight against overwhelming odds. We all hope these blunders will soon be rectified.

Twenty fifth. Move into Jubilee which is much more comfortable and on the waterfront. The six of us have three rooms and even a bathroom. What a relief after our squalid hut. Junior has planned to escape with several others. They hope to get to Mirs Bay in a junk and then fifty miles over land to Wai Chow which is still in Chinese hands.

Twenty sixth. Junior gets up at five to contact the Chinese who is escaping and is going to arrange for the junk to pick the rest of the party up tomorrow.

Twenty seventh. Junior up at five and contacts the junk but doesn't get away. Frank and up at six and go down to the jetty which is now the only place one can buy food. We get seven lbs of sugar. It is pitch dark and we have to wade some distance to the junk. The Chinese are very cunning at avoiding sentries but several have been shot.

Twenty eighth. GOC talks to all officers and NCO's about morale, which is very low, and warns us against disease. We are all staying up late tonight and are having a late meal to feed the escapists: Junior, Capt Scriven and Capt Hewitt. Whimpey is also due to go but one of their party backs out and upsets their plans, which is to swim to the mainland and then walk to Wai Chow. A perfect night with a bright moon and as still and quiet as a graveyard. We all sit up until two o'clock playing cards by the light of the moon. Finally they go and we get some sleep.

Up to thirty first. Junior and Whimpey's escape don't come off due to the junk not turning up and Whimpeys raft collapsing. Many Chinese escape and some Europeans, many being captured and brought back. Japs machine all junks moving by day. Many cases of dysentry and typhoid.

Feb first. Japs stop all food coming into the camp. Whimpey and Junior due to try again tonight. Four of us get up at two to wait for the trading junks. Several hundred in queue. Sampan arrives at four and we buy sugar, milk, and sardines. Whimpey goes just before midnight, it being very light. Shortly after, we hear rifle fire and we pray that he made it. Bullets fly past our verandah. Junior gets off at two am in one of the trading junks.

Second. We feed well today as we get rations for six. We are all a bit on edge wondering how they got on.

Third. Frank and I up at four and go down to the jetty. The Japs have locked the gates but we make a hole and get through. Japs hold a parade to count us as they caught three gunners last night. On parade the Japs spot that we are two short and ask the Wing why. He says he has no idea but they were with us last night. They seem perturbed about escapes.

Fourth. Up at three and down to the jetty but the sentries are awake and shots start whistling nearby, this happens every half hour and we take shelter. After two hours and no sampan turns up and bullets getting too close we retire to bed.

Fifth. Japs now wise to escapes and we have to parade again at eight for two hours. Another parade at one which takes over four hours, all very annoying and they don't seem very clever at counting us. They don't take precautions to prevent escapes but seem surprised when it happens. In the Jap army, to escape is to desert.

Sixth. Wake up to find the others busy dressing and packing. They have been ordered to be ready to move at short notice but I am not included. No one knows what its all about. Just time for brief farewells and they are gone, driven off in a car and what luggage they follows in a lorry. I am now the only RAF officer left. A sad day for me to lose such grand companions in distress, especially the Wing. Someone brings me a parcel which Florrie had brought me. The Japs have started to allow a limited number through. A large tin of cocoa, tomatoes, milk, butter, soap, and biscuits. How the others would have enjoyed it. I go down to the fence and see Florrie and have quite a long chat with her. She has been interned at Stanley for a fortnight. She seems very cheerful and is coming again tomorrow. What a girl. Sentry offers me ten cigarettes for my gold wristwatch, a twenty first birthday present from Billie. When I refuse he indicates my gold signet ring given to me by Pam. I would not part with either for the world so no business is done. Roy Haywood and Ken Glasgow come and have evening cocoa with me. Spend hours these days thinking of home and family, especially Pam, they probably think I am dead and I pray to God that the Japs will get news through. Thank God for you Pammy darling, your memory is ever with me. I still have your photograph, signet ring and cigarette case. I will never lose them.

Seventh. Eight officers move into the flat including a Chinese called Evans. In my room I have Captain Chippywood and Lieut Tressider. Ian Blair and Mathers of the Punjabis bring along some chapatties which go down well with butter and marmalade. Roy Haywood and Glasgow join us and spend a pleasant evening. Ken had been to Kai Tak on a working party and been roughly handled by a sentry but an officer apologised and gave him a tin of plums which he brings along.

Eighth. Shave my beard off and feel a new man. Florrie turns up and I get another good parcel. I had told her if she wanted to get a note to me to bore a hole in a bar of soap and put the note inside. She has made a good job of it. Poor kid, the Japs have turned her out of her home. I keep trying to stop her bringing me parcels but she tells me to mind my own business.

Ninenth and tenth. A Jap general is due to arrive and after a two hour wait on parade he arrives and goes in a few minutes. Florrie turns up again and I get within ten yards of her. She appears to be in tears. I get a note to her and tell her not to bring any more food but she just smiles and says she will be here again on Sunday. News bad, Japs having landed on Singapore Island. Things look grim.

Eleventh and twelfth. Another parade and we are kept standing for two hours and nearly freeze to death, several men pass out. One has to go to bed fully dressed to keep warm. Chippy keeps us constantly amused with his antics.

Thirteenth. Electricity is turned on and we find a bulb. What luxury. Still very cold and news still bad. Had slight attack of stomach poisoning. Give men a lecture on discipline as some troops in camp, not RAF, are getting unruly. GOC says he will hand control over to Japs unless men snap out of it. My men behaving very well. On the evening parade camp commandant if I miss the others and says that perhaps in two months I shall be with them. Bitterly cold, difficult to keep warm.

Fourteenth and fifteenth. Florrie brings a huge parcel including a Chinese mingtoia blanket, sheet and pillow case, and food. What an angel and one I hope to repay her. Another death from dysentry and many more sick.

Week ending twenty second. Slightly warmer but was thankful for that blanket. Singapore has fallen which is a severe blow. Cholera outbreak in colony and we fear it will reach the camp as sanitary conditions are awful and men in very low state, especially Scots. Two men killed at Kai Tak by a landslide. At GOC's conference he gives us the daily news from BBC as there is still a set working. Japs shoot two Chinese who were marched through the camp onto the jetty where they were shot in the back. Food bad and little of it but worst of all, practically no medical requisites.

Week ending twenty nineth. Florrie turns up every few days and tells me the Japs have turned her out of her flat and pinched all her jewellery. I wish I could help her and I tell her to leave the Colony. Governors chief of staff and retenue visit the camp. Another two hours on parade. Much warmer and Chippy, Tressider and I cut each others hair off. We look extremely funny but it feels cool. Two Scots escape and Japs have rigid check on evening parade. Wet and cold again and running short of footwear. Owing to fifth columnists in the camp Japs suspect we have a wireless so GOC orders it to be destroyed. A three hour parade in the rain and Japs search our rooms. They find a couple of wireless sets. No more BBC news now, just wild rumours. Two Scots who escaped have been shot. A proclamation is read to us forbidding escapes, all who are caught will be shot and severe reprisals taken against our comrades. Malnutrition very noticeable. Personally I feel very fit thanks to Florries parcels.

Week ending seventh March. Japs interview my wireless people but I had prepared them for it and the Japs get nothing out of them. Florrie still sending parcels, Chippy also gets one from his wife. The women of HK are doing grand work, little do they know the difference their presence and gifts of food make to us. Usual two parades a day and life is becoming a little monotonous. Japs send for me and I am escorted out of camp by George, the Jap WO, and a Portugese interpretor. I am taken to the camp commandants office where the officers are very pleasant and give me some cigarettes. I ask the English speaking guard commander about the RAF officers and he says they will soon be back, being in Canton or HK. The WO takes me to his flat where he proceeds to question me through the interpretor about the RAF, where we kept our stores, and how their Air Force compares to the RAF. He wants me to write my answers down on paper. I refuse to answer most questions but I give my opinion of their Air Force which is far from complimentary. Am also asked if they could have

The last block of the diary was incomplete. A possible partial translation of this block is as follows:

reduced HK earlier by bombing indiscriminately. I write lines of nonsense about raids on London e??. Manage to pinch a handful of cigarettes before I go back to camp. Cigarettes run out and we smoke dried tea leaves which are pretty foul. Another parcel including cigarettes and curry.

Week ending fourteenth. Getting warmer and diet beginning to have effect. Many men with beriberi or swelling of ankles and have difficulty in walking. Feel fairly fit but lack energy. Common sight to see several dead bodies in sea. George orders all ranks to salute him ?a?sh??ep??sent??hem?k??o?we

Twenty first. Florrie turns up in her best effort looking charming. Suspect Rangoon has fallen and Japs have a big celebration. Outlook looks decidedly grim. Troops put on an excellent concert and George attends. Have started brewing wine from raisins. Japs say officers are to be paid so shall be able to send some to Florrie. Wtrs hot and acquire quite a tan. ??e?ow???t?n?f?ur??sm??tada??ith?u??i?ex???a?f?n?as??cr??ours started to malign our people in the camp. Make most of a pair of wooden clogs as I only have one v old pair of shoes.

Thirty first. Japs have another search and confiscate all electrical kit including Chippys immersion heater. No meat for over a week and everyone gets one rice pot. Celebrate the twenty fourth birthday of Ray and T


© P.J. Aston, 1996.


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