Tag Archives: VJ Day

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Naomi’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Naomi Walton Smith – Young single woman in Stanley Camp. H.K.

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

On August 14th the Japanese told us to assemble. The commandant of the camp then came down from his headquarters and announced that the Japanese had surrendered.

Delight was an understatement.

We were allowed to move freely around the camp for the next few weeks and rations increased enormously. There was a general display of Chinese colours and even a Union Jack and the American Flag. The Japanese took exception to this premature display as the British Navy still had not arrived to release us. Those few weeks were the longest of my life. We were told not to go to town because there was a lot of rioting and looting. We could not believe it would take the British so long to reach H.K.

When the British did finally come into camp the National Anthem was played.

On 30th August the British Navy anchored in H.K. Harbour.

I remember being told that it was my turn next to be taken back to H.K. I was billeted at the Gloucestershire Hotel and was allotted a room which I shared with someone who had also been interned in Stanley.

 “I have no bitter feelings towards the Japanese and I have been back since to visit. I lived in such terrible uncertainty that I just never knew what was going to happen to me. We all had such an uncertain life. One lived from day to day… All I want to do now is to forget everything to do with it”.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Marjory’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Marjory Fortescue – a young married woman in Stanley Camp H.K.

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer.)

There was a lull for several days and then suddenly planes came over – not Japanese planes – all the Japanese had left the camp. Next thing we know planes coming over and dropping crates of food – not all that carefully but as carefully as they could! All the children were terrified because they had been bombed before by the Americans (accidentally) and so they were frightened. Luckily the crates fell open and there was food inside… but still nobody came.

We were not allowed out of the camp as the Colonial Secretary (Franklin Gimson) did not want to have responsibility of women milling around H.K. not knowing quite what was going to happen. So, I went straight from Stanley onto this minesweeper and then onto a boat and onto this aircraft carrier and straight to Ceylon, so I never went to H.K. proper immediately after the war till I went back a year later.

We stopped on the way home in south Jordon and were given clothes. When we landed in England we went by a train from Southampton to London and Adrian (her 4-year-old son) saw a swan and said “is that a cow?” … not any cows in H.K. too dry!!

We were home (her mother’s home in Cambridge) for Christmas.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Hilary’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Hilary Hamson, aged 8 in Stanley Camp Hong Kong.

(Correspondence with Dr. Bernice Archer)

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.

The pennant Hilary was given by the Captain of the HMAS Freemantle

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.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – John’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

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.

Liberation of Stanley Camp, Hong Kong – Rosemary’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Stanley Camp, Hong Kong  1945

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Liberation of Stanley Camp H.K.

The actual surrender ceremony in Hong Kong was delayed from day to day and it was not until everything was ready on 16th September that the British authorities officially fired a twenty-one-gun salute from the war ships. Later that evening the British fleet performed a searchlight and firework display.

Rosemary Murray (nee Barton) aged 11 years when interned with her family in Stanley Camp Hong Kong remembers:

(Interview with Dr. Bernice Archer)

On August 15th 1945 I was playing schools. I had just expelled Roger (her brother) from my class. Before long he returned he said ‘The war is over – it’s true the gates are open’ within minutes everyone appeared to have heard the news and were running around jubilantly calling out ‘The War is over’.

We were compelled to carry on living normally until our repatriation could be arranged. My birthday on 29th August is probably my most memorable birthday. I was eleven years old on that day. Coloured mushrooms fell from the sky, as relief goods were parachuted into the camp. Once they had fallen we ran to retrieve the coloured silks….

Peacetime brought with it all the responsibilities of normal life. My father was called upon to re-establish the Treasury in Hong Kong, my mother and all but three of us sailed back to England on the SS Empress of Australia, a new life in a new community had just begun.

It was not easy fitting back into the normal swing of life. The children at school used to stare at us thinking we were some primitive creatures from China, because we came from China we must be Chinese – that was their logic.

After spending one year in Baginton Fields Hostel, a refugee camp in Coventry, we returned to Hong Kong to resume the colonial way of life.

In 1947 Jacqueline (her sister) and I went to boarding school…I felt more a prisoner there than at any time in Stanley. The rules, silence, discipline and censorship soon changed my personality. From a spirited youngster I became a withdrawn adolescent, frightened, lonely and always pining for home.

Liberation of Weihsien Camp, China – Ron’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Weihsien Camp, China

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

Ron Bridge, interned with his grandparents, parents and younger brother in Weihsien civilian internment camp Shandong province China at the age of 8.

(Ron Bridge; No Soap, Less School. Chillies Oast Publishing 2019.) pp.146-150 (Used with kind permission of the author)

Ron records: On the morning of 17th August the drone of aircraft could be heard. A lot of people rushed out and suddenly a large American aircraft appeared from the sky and out of the rear dropped seven parachutes. We ran down the sloping road and through the gate, the guards made no attempt to stop us. As we approached the paratroopers emerged from six foot high kaoliang with guns at waist height. When they realised that they were being approached by schoolboys, women crying and gangly thin men they relaxed….One of my friends grabbed a parachute and we passed the silk around. Anyone got a knife. A knife appeared and the panels of the parachute were soon mutilated and our heroes asked to sign before they disappeared into camp. The good natured soldiers obliged us…I got all seven signatures. When I got back to our hut, I told mum what had happened and asked her to look after the precious piece of silk…She promised faithfully to look after it. So much so that seventy years later I still have it and the names of the Duck team.

On This Day

17th August 1945

  • The Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issue a formal ceasefire in Manchuria.
  • General MacArthur issues General Order No. 1 .
  • Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni becomes Prime Minister of Japan and orders the Imperial Japanese Army to obey the Emperor’s ceasefire.
  • Proclamation of Indonesian Independence issued beginning the Indonesian National Revoloution.
  • Chinese Civil War: Battle of Tianmen, results in a Communist victory.

On This Day

16th August 1945

  • General Jonathan Wainwright, senior field commander of U.S. and Philippine forces, is released from Manchuria.
  • The Japanese cabinet resigns.
  • Emperor Hirohito issues a decree at 16:00JST ordering Japanese forces to ceasefire.
  • Winston Churchill speaks in the House of Commons and describes an “iron curtain” that has descended across Europe.
  • Chinese Civil War: Battle of Yongjiazhen begins.

Liberation of camps in Dutch East Indies – Derk’s Story

Excerpts from internees’ recollections of liberation from Java

Composed by Dr Bernice Archer

From Derk HilleRisLambers a Dutch boy interned with his mother and three sisters in Java.

My mother, botanist Dr Willemina Maria (Willy) HilleRisLambers – Coelingh, 40 yrs old, has managed to keep herself, her three daughters, and one son (me) alive from 5 June 1943, while confined in internment camps Wijkkamp in Malang, Karang Panas in Semarang, and Lampersari, also in Semarang.

My father Marius, botanist as well, survived in camps Marinekamp in Malang, 4th and 9th Bat. in Tjimahi, Baros 9 also in Tjimahi, “Mater Dolorosa” in Batavia, now Jakarta, and the Tjikini hospital also in Batavia.

My mother kept a war diary, and in her entry for 15 August 1945 she marks the Japanese capitulation. This is remarkable, because in many internment camps this news was shared only after several days’ delay.

15 August 1945

Today just 175 grams of rice, again 5 grams less! But I don’t get too much worked up because, if rumours turn out true we’ll get 500 grams rice + 1 tin + a handful of peppers, promised us by Van Mook.1 Word of mouth has it that yesterday at 4 o’clock the capitulation has taken place! I can’t believe it. Imagine, never again having to use an electric iron to cook your bits of sajur and sambal dishes, with children on the lookout, who shout “fritters” when there is danger! Never again fumbling in pitch darkness with pans with vegetables for others, that sometimes fall over because they can’t be set straight, or they cook dry because in my drowsiness in the middle of the night I don’t manage to turn the dial, or turn it too far!

No more remorse, and disgust for myself when my terrible hunger makes me lose control so much that I eat food that really should go to the children, or when I catch myself hoping that Heleen won’t be able to finish her plate. And the despair when my two youngest are still so terribly hungry after eating a small pancake of barely 40 grams of “Asia Flour” (the ration for 1 meal, for those who can’t digest cassava porridge).2

1 H.J. van Mook was acting Governor-general, he operated from Brisbane, Australia
2 Asia flour: 50% tapioca, 40% maize, 10% soya

Wil writes later, 15 August 1985 about this:

“Finally, the moment apparently had arrived. Someone still had a flag. The whole house stood around it and sang the Wilhelmus [national anthem] with voices quivering from emotion and weakness.

Derk sent additional piece from a later letter given to him by his mother:

And thus we approached the end of the war – and of our strength! At last the moment apparently had arrived. Someone still had a flag, the whole house stood gathered around it and sang the Wilhelmus with voices quivering from weakness and emotion.

On 15 August 1945 not much had changed, we were given more rice, still very white and polished, and large packages of curry powder. On one occasion a cow was shared, I got a leg with skin and hoofs and very little meat. I didn’t have any usable knife, the blades had been broken from cutting wood – I forgot how I managed.

Then some men arrived who hoped to find their families here. But no sign of Marius. (her husband)

Finally Rev. Van den Blink arrived, who said Marius was in “de Goede Herder”, in Meester Cornelis, a Batavia suburb. I put my children in the care of Truus Arends and could travel by a Red Cross train from Semarang to Batavia. We were packed three layers thick! I managed to arrive at “De Goede Herder” and … no Marius, though there were other tattered looking men. Finally an inspector of the Forest Service whom I knew said “Your husband is in Tjikini” (the big mission hospital).

A Dutch physician on his way to Carolus (The Roman Catholic hospital) took me along in his jeep, through a very turbulent and dangerous city. In Tjikini hospital I found Marius, very skinny but alive.

I was staying in Hotel Tjikini and stayed there for a week, until father’s birthday. In the hotel we were sleeping three abreast, all strangers, across double beds that had just a mattress and a mosquito net. “How much do I pay?” I asked. “Just what you care to give, between 0 and 5 guilders a day” said the owner. He had no food, but I got that in the hospital.

On the 21st of September a naval officer’s wife, with whom I shared a bed, went to Tandjong Priok: her husband was on the Cornelis Evertsen, the first Dutch warship to call in at Java. She brought me back a slice of white bread with jam (or cheese?), which became Father’s birthday present!

Back to Semarang on the train, loaded down with at least 25 notes to be delivered in Semarang, in camp Halmaheira (women), Bangkong (boys and men), also in the kampong Tjina. I borrowed a bicycle from an Indo Dutch family outside the camp; when I had delivered all letters and had returned the bicycle, we were suddenly prohibited from leaving the camp: too dangerous, and the Japs had to defend us against the Javanese! The children didn’t understand this one bit, and neither did I.

On This Day

15th August 1945

  • “Jewel Voice Broadcast” (Gyokuon-Hōsō) is aired in Japan at noon officially announcing Japanese Surrender, many are unable to accept the news due to censorship having hidden Japan’s decreasing odds in the months prior.
  • VJ celebrations break out in Allied Countries (in America this takes place on 14th August due to time differences)
  • Philippines Campaign comes to an end, resulting in an Allied Victory
  • Chinese Civil War: Battle of Baoying begins
  • British government unveils RADAR as one of their biggest secrets of the war.