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.

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?


I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.

Teton Sioux

On the night of 1st February 1942 Dad escaped from Sham Shui Po camp in Hong Kong and set off towards an uncertain future in China. He might have felt that he was taking back control of his destiny and in some senses he was. But he was heavily dependent on having companions for support and points of safety, resupply, information, healthcare, transport and finance along the way. He was escaping into an allied country, supported by British and American military missions. For all that, he and his companions were still destitute refugees who had to successfully navigate territory occupied by enemy troops, who would certainly have killed them if they had been discovered.

Interconnected and interdependent

The choice to escape must balance the possible hazards along the way with the likelihood of reaching the desired outcome. And what might be the cost of staying put? We know that many of Dad’s colleagues who remained in the camp had a miserable time and some did not survive. The worst outcome of both choices was death, but the best outcome of escape was freedom and agency.

The diminished, demoralised and degraded group of men who remained in the PoW camp were to become Dad’s mission when he was appointed Assistant Military Attaché in Chongqing. Their appalling treatment in camp meant that they were no longer fit to escape – it would have to be mass liberation. Sadly, the fate of Hong Kong PoWs was not a strategic priority and Dad’s rescue plan – although agreed at the most senior levels as part of a bold strategy to win the Pacific War – was not actioned. An arrogant personality clash among the military leadership led to a different strategy, the consequent suffering of many and the loss of millions of lives.

1950s Hong Kong

I’ve just been to the Regimental HQ for 19RA, who Dad commanded from 1955-1957, to look at the Regimental Diary for his time in command. It makes fascinating reading, as the regiment was in Korea during 1955, keeping the peace – or at least a truce – after the Korean war. At the beginning of 1956 the regiment moved to Hong Kong and Dad was busy training troops all round the Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. I wonder how he felt, revisiting the sites that had been battlefield during the Second World War? These days we would be concerned about PTSD but I have no record of his response to finding himself back at the site of the deaths of many of his colleagues.

At the end of 1957 Dad was leaving command of the regiment and they threw a party for him that is delightfully recorded in the Regimental Diary:

leaving party 1957

5 November 1957: Lt Colonel and Mrs JH Monro were dined out of the regiment at a Ladies Guest Night. The Colonel’s car was met outside of camp by two motorcycles who escorted his car into camp where he was invited to inspect a special quarter-guard composed of representatives from all sub-units of the regiment. During dinner Major W Hamilton RA delivered a speech on behalf of the hosts to which Colonel Monro replied.

After dinner Colonel Monro was towed, sitting on a trailers artillery, hooked into a gun, by the officers to the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess. His journey was accompanied by the noise of the horn of every vehicle in camp, the procession being led by the band of the 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment and illuminated by the lights of the regiment’s vehicles. The band played the regimental quick march “The British Grenadiers”.

After Colonel and Mrs Monro had been entertained by RSM Shepherd and the members of the Sergeants Mess, the colonel was returned safely to the Officers Mess. Again the conveyance was the trailers artillery and gun, propelled this time by the motive power of members of the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess. The evening continued with an informal dance held in the Officers Mess, the music being delivered by the dance band section of the band of the 1st Bn East Lancashire Regiment. This made a very fitting end to a very memorable occasion.

Many thanks to Col Peter Beaumont, CO XIXRA, for his kindness in giving me access to this snippet of Dad’s military history.

Stranger News

It is almost a year since Stranger In My Heart was launched. I have recently received my royalty statement from Unbound which said that, in the 9 months from June 2018 to March 2019 I sold about 1,000 copies, half e-book and half paperback edition. I’m told that I should be pleased about this, even if it seems small reward for the blood, sweat and tears that went into the project! It also means that I have over £800 to donate to the Riding for the Disabled Association. I am figuring out how to donate it for maximum impact and will keep you posted.

The TV company that are making a documentary series to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 have told me that they won’t be filming me after all, but it will still be great to have the Hong Kong story told on prime time TV. The show will air in the autumn and they have said they’ll tell me when it is on.

Next week I have the first of several talks to Women’s Institutes in Wiltshire. As it is a lovely sunny day I thought I’d go and sit in the garden and read my book! As in read MY book. I’ve become so focused on my work in progress that I’ve forgotten the details of Stranger In My Heart and I don’t want to look an idiot by not being able to answer questions about it!

I just heard from the Commanding Officer of 19RA, the Regiment that Dad commanded in the 1950s. They have a scrapbook detailing what they were doing throughout his Command, including their activities in Korea and Hong Kong. I am going to go over to Larkhill in a few weeks to have a look at it. It will fill in an annoying gap in my knowledge of his army career. Here he is in front of his troops in Korea. It says it’s the Queen’s Birthday Parade, but 9th June is also Dad’s birthday.

19RA, Korea 1955
Dad in Korea with 19RA, 1955

Escape Anniversary

On the night of 1st February 1942, Dad escaped with two colleagues from Sham Shui Po PoW camp in Hong Kong. They took some supplies with them to see them through the next week as they walked at night across the New Territories towards the Chinese border:

8 Tins Bully Beef, 1 Tin Mutton, 2 Tins Carnation Milk, 1 Packet Army Biscuits, 2 Emergency Rations, 2 Pints of Sugar (half in a tin; half wrapped in a piece of gas cape), 1 Tin of Salt, 7 Oxo Cubes, 80 handful of Dry beans stored in containers made by tying up the ends of the sleeves of a gas cape, 1 Jar Virol (malt based health drink).

From the Medical Officer: Some Biozygen (vitamin supplement), Quinine Tablets, Aspirin, Iodine, Pot Permang Tablets, Chloride of Lime, a very small bottle of brandy.              

An oil Prismatic compass, 4 Field Dressings, H.K.$ 180 in cash, 50 Camel Cigarettes, a 1/250,000 map of the Country to Waichow.

Quite a comprehensive list considering the camp conditions, but not much given that they had no idea where, when or how they would resupply. It was a bold move to escape into the unknown, not knowing if they would be recaptured, killed by the Japanese or betrayed by the Chinese. Dad was 27 years old.

A TV production company from London called, asking if I would contribute to a show they are making about Sham Shui Po and the Battle of Hong Kong. Not sure what that will mean just yet but will keep you posted. Exciting!

Blog Tour Reviews

Review Highlights

SIMH poster

I simply loved it so, so much it was just beautiful. Secret World of a Book Blog

Throughout the book I was always impressed with the care and fine attention to detail. Jaffa Reads Too

Stranger in my heart is a well written and fascinating story…

Her writing drew me in and held me connected to the story throughout… This remarkable little book is one you should read. Books are my Cwtches

A revealing testament to wartime bravery and one’s place within the generations Books Life and Everything

This book has everything you would want from a memoir and packs so much in addition to this. Bibliobeth

If you liked Dadland about Tom Carew’s escapades in World War II then this is another book that will appeal and that fills in the patchwork of personal stories about a war that changed the world. Halfman Halfbook

An easy, gripping read.

This is the first book that Mary has written and I hope she was write more as she has a great style of writing that makes history very interesting. Over the Rainbow Book Blog

Stranger in My Heart is a beautiful book, both personally insightful and rich in historic detail. The Literary Shed

Reviews in Full (click the link to see the original review for each blogger)

The Secret World of a Book Blog

This book is my favourite now of the year. I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and affection put into the writing. Mary picked me up and carried me throughout her journey through China and you follow in her father’s footsteps. I was full of emotion both happy and sad but most of all just felt that he was a true hero and his endeavours should never ever be forgotten. Lieutenant Colonel John Monro’s story should and must be shared. All stories from the war should be shared and we need to learn from them.

Mary’s writing was so passionate but respectful towards the dignity of not only her father, his friends, colleagues, Chinese people and Japanese people. I simply loved it so so much it was just beautiful. I hope Mary does not mind but I have both shared the book and have told pretty much everyone I know that they need to read this book as it has really touched me and I don’t think it’s a story that will ever leave me. Thank you Mary, you should be proud of this amazing book.

As a military wife and with many of my family members having fought in wars, I have certainly learnt a lot and will always share their stories to anyone willing to listen.

Jaffa Reads Too ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In order to know where we are going, we need to know where we have come from and in this interesting biography of Lieutenant Colonel John Monro, his daughter, the author, has given us a glimpse into the life of a courageous man who was caught up in the events leading up to, and during, WW2. Lieutenant Colonel Monro was heavily involved in the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 but was captured by the Japanese and interred as a prisoner of war. In 1942, he made a successful escape, travelling over 1200 miles of hostile country to reach China’s wartime capital at Chongqing.

When the author was growing up her father was a Shropshire farmer and she had no reason to be curious about his wartime exploits. However, as is so often the case, we never really know someone until they are gone from our lives, and following his death, the need to discover more about her father’s past life turned into this fascinating biography. Putting together the missing pieces of Monro’s life meant that some considerable research was needed, and by following in his footsteps and travelling across China, the author has written an intricately detailed portrayal of what made Lieutenant Colonel Monro into the person who was awarded the Military Cross for courage.

I read this biography over the course of several days, reading a chapter here and a chapter there, as the narrative is complex and intricately written, so to do the book justice I found it best to take my time with it, and not rush through it at top speed. Throughout the book I was always impressed with the care and fine attention to detail which gives so much fascinating information about a period in world history of which I knew absolutely nothing.

Researching the life of her father must have been an emotional journey for the author and, to her credit, she has succeeded in doing so in a meaningful and thoughtful way.

Books Are My Cwtches

Stranger in my heart is a well written and fascinating story of a Mary Monro’s journey to discover the mystery of her father’s early life. Colonel John Monro died before she could really get to know him and so this book is as much about her own journey, as it is about the his brave role in the Second World War. Having lost my own father at a young age, I understand the need to fill in the gaps left by the death of a beloved parent and so I instantly felt an emotional connection with her incredible journey to discover her father’s fascinating story. Her writing drew me in and held me connected to the story throughout.
The history element of the book is absorbing and the writer has written it is such a way, you can hear not just her voice and thoughts, but also those of her father. This is done by the insertion of parts of his diaries which make fascinating reading. It is the perfect combination, because it is almost like you’re taking the journey with Mary Monro, as she took it in real life, discovering the man behind the father she thought she knew when he died. As he is revealed to her, he is to us through his words and her provision of back information and feelings.
If you have any interest in history that this remarkable little book is one you should read.

Books, Life and Everything

This is a book which you just know has been written straight from the author’s heart. Mary tells the story of her father, Lieutenant Colonel John Monro and his imprisonment, escape and endurance in the Far East during the Second World War. Mary has pieced together his story from his own writings- his diaries, letters and reports and taken it a stage further by retracing his steps across China. There is so much background detail included, so this biography is best read slowly, so as not to miss anything out.

The most powerful part of the biography is when you hear John’s own accounts and you get a sense of his understatement of the bravery needed. He has respect for the Chinese as human beings and a real sense of his humanity comes through. It is most telling that he did not like to speak of his exploits, particularly with reference to Burma and it reminded me of my own Grandfather who never spoke of his War Service in The Great War at the Battle of Gallipoli.

Mary’s journey into China is interesting in its own right. There is a sense of sorting out one’s place within the family and re-evaluating relationships. She comes to appreciate similarities between herself and her father and it is a very reflective and self-aware account.

In short: A revealing testament to wartime bravery and one’s place within the generations.

Bibliobeth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The subject of this memoir, Lieutenant Colonel John Monro was a considerably quiet, private and stoic man and the author of this book, his daughter Mary, knew surprisingly little about his struggles and the danger he faced as a soldier during the Second World War. It is only after he passes away that Mary makes a real effort to dig into his past, reading his diary entries from Hong Kong, marvelling at his escape from a Japanese prisoner of war camp and admiring his bravery as he faced a long trek through China, just to get to a place of safety. Moved by her father’s experiences, Mary takes it upon herself to attempt to carry out the exact same trip as her father, despite many place names in China having changed in the last seventy years. As she walks in her father’s footsteps, Mary feels that she connects with her father in a deeper manner and has such memorable encounters with people and places that can only be described as life-changing.

Stranger In My Heart feels like the reader is given access to a detailed account of the struggles of a very unassuming soldier by means of his diary entries. It was an honour to be a voyeur into John Monro’s life and the incredible journey he made through China, all the while in danger of losing his life. The memoir was all the more touching and authentic for the inclusion of the diaries and for Mary’s own individual trip, many years later. I particularly enjoyed her quiet humour of the author as she described a sign posted at a hotel she stayed at briefly:

“Lecherous acts, prostitution, drugs taking and trafficking, smuggling, gambling, wrestling or any other outlawed activities are strictly forbidden.”

Like Mary, I had to have a little chortle to myself. Wrestling?? This book has everything you would want from a memoir and packs so much in addition to this. As I mentioned, the diary entries are incredibly thorough and so intriguing to read – straight from “the horse’s mouth,” so as to speak. Moreover, we also get a brief history of China (which I particularly loved as a Chinese history enthusiast!) and finally, snatches from the author’s own trip to try and recreate her father’s journey which read remarkably like a great travel book. I had great fun reading it and really appreciate the efforts Mary Monro made in researching her father’s life and recounting it for the interested outsider. By the time I got to the end, I couldn’t help but think that it’s almost as if this journey/book has given Mary peace with both her father’s life and his death and it was a pleasure to be taken along for the ride.

Halfman Halfbook ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When her father died, Mary was only 18. She never really knew him as a person, just as a slightly remote father figure who had loved running the farm where she and her three siblings lived. She had a happy childhood, grown up fairly self-reliant, had a love of horses and freedom, but his death left a void in all their lives. Mary would never have the opportunity to ask the questions that she wanted too. It was a few years after when she was at a party an old family friend of hers said that he was one of the great war heroes, that she realised that she knew so little about him. This book is the answer to the question; who is my father.

John Monro was born in 1914, at the dawn of the Great War and was schooled in Switzerland of all places. He joined the army as a Gentleman cadet in 1932 and was commissioned in 1934. In 1937 he was posted to the British colony of Hong Kong in the 8th Heavy Brigade of the Royal Artillery and was put in command of a troop of Chinese men. He had an interpreter called Cheung Yan-Lun who was born in Guangdong. They got on so well they were to become lifelong friends. Further appointments and promotions were made and he ended up at the HQ in Hong Kong with the rank of Brigade Major. This was early in 1941 and with the war in Europe there were even more rumours about a possible conflict in the far east but nothing had happened so far.

By the end of the year everything had changed; Japan had invaded and Monro was heavily involved in defending Hong Kong, but it was to no avail and the colony surrendered to the Japanese. Monro was one of those captured and sent to a POW camp. It classic English fashion, it wasn’t long before he escaped by swimming over to the mainland. This was the first in a series of dramatic events as he takes a long and convoluted route over 1200 miles to reach China’s wartime capital at Chongqing where he was once again involved again in the war effort.

All of these details Mary found out in the large envelope of letters and other documentation that was forthcoming from her mother. It was quite a job to collate and organise it, but possibly slightly harder to read his handwriting! To really get a feel for the places that he travelled through whilst evading capture would mean a trip out to China. Even though China is far more open than it used to be and there are the well-worn tourist trails to the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace, there are parts of it that are still not easy to travel around, but thankfully she found a company and guide who were willing to help her see the place that her father once travelled through and her mother paid towards the trip as she was equally curious as to what had happened in his past life.

These personal histories of family members add so much more to history than the slightly tedious and dry military reports and official histories of events. Not only do you get to see the person in a different light, but the author’s emotional involvement makes for much better reading. It is the same with this journey to uncover the stories of her father John, a private man who like so many of his generation, did his duty and thought no more of it, let alone want to talk about it.

We are all geniuses with hindsight, you can sense her regret about not taking the time when she could to get to know him and understand what he went through during the war. This story of his life is her tribute to her father for all he stood for and all that he meant to all of his family. If you liked Dadland about Tom Carew’s escapades in World War II then this is another book that will appeal and that fills in the patchwork of personal stories about a war that changed the world.

Over the Rainbow Book Blog

Stranger In My Heart is a fascinating book that follows Mary as she tries to find out about her father’s WW2 experience and his heroic actions that he was awarded a Military Cross for.  As with many people from his generation he didn’t talk much about his war experience so, after losing him at a young age, Mary was determined to find out more about her father.

For me I loved the historical element of this story.  The second world war is one of my favourite periods in time and I’m always excited to discover new elements of it that I didn’t know much about before.  I knew little about the war in Hong Kong & China so I found the chapters detailing her father’s experience there very fascinating.  Mary cleverly breaks up the history with passages from her father’s diary which gives the narrative a much more personal feel and means that you feel like you know her dad personally.

Although this is an autobiography it doesn’t seem like one as Mary adopts an easy style of writing that isn’t too fact heavy making it an easy, gripping read.  Maps, pictures and excerpts from her father’s diary helps break up the text and increased my understanding but also my enjoyment of the story.

It would have been easy for this to turn into a gushing story about her father but Mary doesn’t do that.  Instead she just presents the facts to the reader to decide for themselves, although there is no question as to whether her father was a hero- he definitely was.  The hardships and tragedy soldiers had to go through is unbelievable to read about and I have the utmost respect for everyone who fought!

This is the first book that Mary has written and I hope she was write more as she has a great style of writing that makes history very interesting.

The Literary Shed ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“’Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of man,’ said Confucius. And they are probably the three words I would use to summarise my father. He was also conservative to a Victorian degree, patriarchal and emotionally distant. A private man who liked parties. An adventurer who stayed home on the farm. A man who lived in the moment and planted trees that would not mature during his lifetime …”

Mary Monro was 18 when her father, John, a Shropshire-based farmer, died. Yet it was only years later, in 2007, at her mother’s 80th birthday party, that her curiosity about him was piqued, following a family friend’s pronouncement that her father was one of ‘the 20th-century Greats’. 

Mary realised that she knew very little about John Monro, other than he’d been a lieutenant-colonel, had served in the Second World War, escaped from a Japanese war camp in Hong Kong and trekked across hard terrain to Chongqing, the Chinese wartime capital, after which he was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery. But was that really enough to warrant him being labelled one of the ‘Greats’? Thus began a quest to discover more about her father, one that would lead Mary first to his papers, from which she learned about his many heroic achievements, but then to China itself.

The resulting book is both personally insightful and rich in historic detail. The firsthand accounts from John Monro, a man, like many of his generation, entrenched in the day-to-day reality and brutality of war, and yet delighting in the culture and scenery of China, are interwoven with Mary’s own personal narrative, journeying to find ‘Dad and China’, ‘both undiscovered countries … both strangely familiar and impenetrably foreign’. Through following in his footsteps, Mary comes to realize just how courageous her father was, not just in escaping from the Japanese, but also in the work he did afterwards, such as with the BAAG, helping prisoners and refugees. She also begins to see how much his attitudes and mores have shaped her own, and those of her siblings.

During the course of the book, the questions Mary raises are universal: How much are we shaped by our parents? How far do they inform what we do? How we act? How we behave? For those of us, in particular, who have lost parents at comparatively early ages, young enough that we still saw them just as extensions of ourselves and not as independent people with their own personal narratives, these are important and often haunting questions.

Stranger in My Heart is a beautiful book, historically important, it’s true, but more than that, it’s the story of a woman finding her father years after his death and, in doing so, falling in love with him. And how joyous is that?


Having had enough of skyscrapers, shops and subways, I decided to take the ferry to Lamma Island, where my sister Kathy (1951-87) lived for a year or two in about 1980. She always chose the most low rent district to live in, wherever she was, and I was curious to see whether this was similar to the more dire parts of Cairo/Edinburgh/London. Lamma is utterly gorgeous! There are no roads, only tracks, and it is a green, hilly, haven of peace just half an hour from the madness of HK city, via a ferry that costs £1.50.

Yung Shue Wan harbour

Yung Shue Wan harbour

Everyone walks or cycles to get around. I took a trail between the two main villages, through shady groves and up and down the hills. How dreadful to find myself at an unpopulated sandy beach, with a turquoise sea and warm sunshine, and, worst of all, a cocktail bar! With Christmas decorations! I tried a Lamma Mamma, which consists almost entirely of vitamin C with a splash of vodka to sharpen it up a bit.


A kite circled more or less over my head as I paused to enjoy the view. It is the strangest thing but these birds make me feel that I am not alone – they are a sort of comforting, familiar presence watching over me.


When I reached Sok Kwu Wan village there were more kites, a heron and an egret, possibly because of the fish farming in the harbour!

The Chinese like their fish fresh (still breathing ideally) and each harbour front restaurant had tanks of live fish, crabs, lobsters, squid, prawns, sea snails, clams….. I had lobster for lunch – nice chap, very attractive purple eyes, seemed a bit quiet. Tasted delicious steamed with garlic sauce.

Nice to (m)eat you!

Nice to (m)eat you!

I headed back to HK and decided to do the uber-touristy Peak Tram. This is an insanely steep, ludicrously expensive, 6 minute ride up The Peak to where the rich folk live. The view was marred by smog and there were ‘12 caverns of tat’ to fight your way through to get out, so all in all, not brilliant.

And tomorrow I go to China. I’m feeling more relaxed about it now – HK is a good introduction to the Chinese way, but with translation into English to make it easy. I’m over the jetlag and my gut seems to have surrendered to the local flora and fauna without too much of a fight. I’ve reread Dad’s escape story and can’t wait to get to Shaoguan tomorrow where he spent ten days on a floating brothel (unintentionally!).

Good advice in any language!

Good advice in any language!


During the war and when he returned to HK in the 1950s, Dad had a Chinese interpreter to help him communicate with his local troops. This afternoon I met with the interpreter’s daughter, Jenny, who met me at the hotel. We did a bit of shopping, took the Star Ferry for a sunset ride to the Island and then went for a wander round Soho.


There followed a very long walk in search of a bus stop, a very short bus ride and then another wait for a taxi to take us to a place dear to Jenny’s heart – a karaoke bar. I had, until that moment, spent a lifetime successfully avoiding amateur singers (except drunk ones, obviously) but it seemed my luck had turned. There were several performers, a couple quite good but one who apparently sang Danny Boy, in English, but sounded more like badly oiled brakes being applied. Jenny sang several songs. I think I’ll stop there.

Me and Jenny

Me and Jenny

I pleaded jetlag and sped home on the good old MTR. It was wonderful to meet someone who has such a long connection with our family and I am only sad that the interpreter himself is no longer with us.


I went to Stanley, on the south side of the island, with Georgie Hunt, a Shropshire friend who now lives here. Once you are away from the north coast you get into lovely hilly, verdant country and the pace of life slows to the comprehensible.



We visited the war cemetery at Stanley and I found the grave of one of Dad’s colleagues, who he mentions in his story of the battle. The poor man, George Neve, died in January ’42, having been wounded in battle at Aberdeen in late December. I don’t suppose the healthcare in POW camp was up to treating wounds or fending off infection. On further investigation I find to my horror that wounded men in Stanley hospital were often bayoneted to death by the Japanese. Man’s inhumanity to man is unbearable.

George Neve's grave at Stanley

George Neve’s grave at Stanley

Most of the graves were for young men who’d died in the last 2 or 3 days of the battle. One can’t help feeling that they died in vain. They may have had a better time of it than those who were imprisoned, however, many of whom did not survive.