BAAG Research

A new piece of research on the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) has been published by the Hong Kong Baptist University. The BAAG both supported the PoWs in Hong Kong and supplied intelligence about Hong Kong to China Command in the wartime capital at Chongqing. Dad worked closely with BAAG founder, Col Lindsay Ride, during his time as Assistant Military Attaché, from August 1942 to January 1944. The HKBU research provides masses of interesting maps and images to give a visual history, from the Battle of Hong Kong to the founding of BAAG and its activities throughout the war.

BAAG was also known as MI9, acknowledging its intelligence role and its connection with Allied intelligence units in Europe. Dad’s plan to liberate the Hong Kong PoWs was predicated on BAAG’s intelligence as a support to General Chennault’s USAAF. Without US air power and local intelligence there was no hope of success. Unfortunately political shenanigans scuppered the plan, and with it the entire strategy for the Pacific War. See Stranger In My Heart for more details! For more about BAAG go to the Elizabeth Ride Archive, which contains a wide range of documents, from official reports to notes on strategy, personal diaries and links to further information.

The chief researcher at HKBU has kindly sent me a photo of 8th Coastal Brigade, who dad commanded for a time before the war, his Chinese troop. Unfortunately Dad isn’t in the photo but it is wonderful to see his men. I’m not sure when this photo was taken, possibly 1941.

8th Coastal Brigade, Hong Kong, 1940?

Remembrance 2020

There’s a sense of looking back and looking forward in the title ‘Remembrance 2020’ isn’t there? As always, we remember and honour those who fought and died for us. When I saw a poppy seller on the street a couple of weeks ago I thought ‘oh, no, I have no cash!’ So many retailers are card only now that I don’t carry any. I needn’t have worried. I approached the veteran and he showed me a text number (text POPPY to 70020 to make a £3 donation) and said I could also donate online at the Royal British Legion website.

golden light on rice terraces, China
Light in the darkness

Our knowledge of their sacrifice and suffering has become our lived experience this year, when we have all been at war with Sars-CoV-2. So many people have suffered loss, or have died alone and apart from their loved ones. Our elderly and vulnerable citizens have been prisoners of this war, cooped up at home or in care homes, including my poor old mum, isolated and with an uncertain future. We have all experienced deprivation – of connectedness, of liberty and, for many, of their livelihoods.

Our experience in 2020 has been valuable in highlighting what is really important in our lives: friends and family, community, the value of the unsung heroes in our workforce – not just the frontline workers but people like the delivery drivers, the shelf stackers and the café workers. What helped me to get through some of the moments of anxiety and dread was reading, watching the series of plays offered online, for free, by the National Theatre, and catching up on TV and movies. Nature played her part too, reminding us of the continuity of life in spite of it all, and feeding our souls with beauty and joy.

The terrible suffering of the Second World War has been redeemed by 75 years (so far) of peace in Europe and amicable relationships in the Far East. As we look forward, Covid is steering us toward a different relationship with nature. And a stark realisation that poverty and inequality leave people vulnerable to deadly disease. And an appreciation of the value of the arts. Hope begins today, when Covid has contributed to the ousting of Trump. I saw on Facebook a post that said “Make America Kind Again” and that is a meme for this side of the pond too. Let’s pray for a new era of kindness during the silence for Remembrance 2020.