Saturday Live

I was thrilled to be a guest on BBC R4’s Saturday Live show this weekend. You can listen to it on BBC Sounds if you missed the live show. It gave me a great opportunity to mention the forthcoming 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, as well as talking about Dad’s story and my book. Sadly, they didn’t give me time to talk about Dad’s role as Assistant Military Attaché in Chongqing and his efforts to support and liberate the PoWs he’d left behind in Hong Kong.

My friend Joanna nominated me as a guest for the show, unbeknown to me. She rang me when the producer got back to her and said they were interested. I remember saying WHAT??!! several times, as it came totally out of the blue. I wish I’d thought of it myself when the book was first launched but it seemed over ambitious at the time.

As you can imagine I was quite nervous about appearing on the show. The BBC sent me a headset to use and we did sound checks beforehand, so far, so good. Then at 3 minutes to 9am Zoom dropped me out of the meeting. I had to force quit Zoom, reload it and then rejoin the meeting in time to go on air at 09.02am. By this time my heart was pounding in my chest and my system was flooded with adrenaline and cortisol! They’d told me I would be first guest but I was very relieved that in the end they interviewed me just before the 10am news. Safe to say that’s the first time I have spoken to an audience of 2.4 million listeners.

Rev Richard Coles and Mary Monro, Saturday Live 28/8/21
Interview with Rev Richard Coles on BBC R4 Saturday Live

I had a photograph of Dad next to the computer screen to remind me that talking to people on the radio requires less courage than escaping across China during a war. He smiled at me encouragingly and I hope he’d think I did a good job.


It’s the 76th anniversary of VJ day on Sunday 15th August 2021, and the end of the Second World War. This year there are going to be actual live events, after the pandemic induced difficulties of VJ75 in 2020.

This December it will be the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, 8-25 December 1941. The Chinese government is unlikely to have an appetite for commemorations but I have been in touch with Professor Kwong Chi Man at Hong Kong Baptist University. He is creating an interactive map of the battle, showing the “Faces of War”, to which I have contributed a summary of Dad’s story. The map will be available to view in English and Chinese. As soon as there is a live link I will post it here.

It was the 40th anniversary of Dad’s death on 25 July 2021. I happened to be in England that weekend so I visited my mother at her nursing home on the anniversary. She has severe dementia and doesn’t recognise me, not helped by the fact that I haven’t seen her for a year and covid precautions meant I had to wear a mask, gloves and an apron. I must have been quite an alarming stranger to find in her room! I showed her a photo of my father in dress uniform, taken in 1952 when they were first married. Sadly she didn’t seem to recognise him either. It was very distressing for me to see her oblivious to the love of her life. I understand that memory recedes to further and further back in someone’s life, but I thought she might still have Dad in her mind. She lost the grandchildren first, then us children and now her husband and brother. It’s unbearably sad to witness and it must be very lonely for her.

John Monro 1952
Lt Col John Monro MC RA, 1952

This just strengthens my view that we must preserve the stories of our loved ones as they may otherwise vanish with the death or memory loss of those who knew them personally. What do you know of your parents’ lives? Your grandparents and other relatives? Find out and write it down! Research what they can’t tell you or remember – it’s never been easier with all the resources of the internet at your disposal. I promise you, there will be some amazing stories in there.