I can’t remember being told the war was over. My recollection is that everything went quiet, bonfires around the Japanese quarters. maybe as they destroyed files? I was kicking my heels one day and I saw this ship coming into Tai Tam Bay. I raced back and found my dad. He went around the barbed wire to Stanley village and asked someone to take us out to the ship. We were the first on board HMAS Freemantle and were welcomed aboard by the captain. (HMAS Freemantle was a minesweeper ahead of the British fleet coming into H.K) The captain took us down to his cabin and I remember the taste of soft white bread and also trying to eat an orange, peel and all! I was given a present (a pennant) from the ship which I still have.
At some point supplies were dropped by parachute. My brother ran down to the green thinking he could catch this ‘little box’ but soon realized that the box would squash him if he didn’t get indoors…. Later the good looking, healthy Australians arrived.
My next memory is a party on HMS Swiftsure. We were loaded on buses and taken down via Happy Valley to the harbour. We saw Mickey Mouse cartoons, ate jelly and ice cream, sat on huge gun barrels and were generally made a great fuss of.
I don’t remember much about the journey to the U.K on the Empress of Australia. I know the crew fixed up a canvas swimming pool. The men had to sleep on deck – fine when the weather was warm but cold as we arrived in Liverpool in November. I don’t know how my father coped. Somewhere along the way we were kitted out with clothes. I think we were lucky to have that six – week recovery time.
I remember two things on the journey home from Liverpool – cows from the train windows and traffic lights in the fog of November evening in Exeter.
John Barton (Brother of Rosemary Murray) in Stanley Camp H.K. aged 12 at beginning of internment.
(Written by John Barton and copy given to Dr. Bernice Archer)
Rumours were rife…we lived in constant hope. On 15th August a Formosan guard told a group of us ‘war over’. We looked at him incredulously. The next day the colonial Secretary set up a table and stood on it and informed the internees that Japan had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. Frenzied ecstasy is the only way I can describe the days that followed. Rations improved, the Japanese gave us buffalo meat and butter and chocolate, it was wonderful to have good nourishment again. Days later the American planes began dropping food.
On the horizon we could see signalling lights of the Royal Navy as they swept the approaches to H.K. (Hong Kong) for mines. One morning three weeks later HMAS Freemantle glided into the bay at Stanley and anchored some 500 yards away. I ran to the beach and was joined by a 12 year – old girl. Chinese sampan sculled us to the Freemantle where we were treated like royalty. We finally left the mine sweeper loaded with fruit and tinned food.
A few days later the British soldiers arrived in camp. We were impressed by their healthy-looking bodies, they in turn were amazed at the emaciated internees in their bedraggled shorts and no shoes or shirts.
In mid-September we were ferried to the SS Empress of Australia. Women and children were quartered in cabins, men and boys on the troop desks. When we arrived in Manila British POWs were mustered and ready to embark. We looked over and there was Bernie (Bernard their older brother was a member of the H.K. Volunteer Defence Corps) waiting to board. He had survived!! We were all overjoyed.
I had entered the camp aged 12 and left aged 16 and at that age it seemed like a lifetime.
Remembering captivity across Southeast Asia and the Far East during the Second World War