Saturday, 26 September 2015

The “Admiral C.F.Hughes” eventually went to Canada. They arrived in Victoria B.C. on 9th October and crossed Canada on the train. Throughout their time in Canada they were marvellously well looked after. On 24th October they left Halifax for a boring crossing of the Atlantic (“nobody is enjoying it one little bit – or is it that we are all suffering from suppressed excitement”), but the final day, coming up the Channel, was different:

30.10.45. The Bishop hove in sight immediately after breakfast & the sun began to get through. Lovely view of the Scillies & I was able to pick most of them out. Could just see Lands End. The plane from Scilly flew round us. Saw the Wolf very clearly & passed close to the Lizard at 11.15. How lovely it all looks, & how lucky we are to have this pleasant, sunny, calm day to come up the Channel & at last see our own country. Grand. Too excited to take tiffin. Abreast Eddystone at 12.45 & could see the white line of Plymouth itself. Later could distinguish Rame Head & the Mewstone. And so on up Channel past Start Point & later Portland Bill. Entered the Solent from the East after picking up pilot at E end of Isle of Wight & anchored about 8pm. And so to bed.

They docked in Southampton the following day, 31st October 1945, where he was reunited with Carrie. The following day they returned to Plymouth and he met his daughter Jenifer again – just in time to celebrate her 8th birthday a few days later.


This is the finish of our “end of the war” blog. The diary from which it has been taken is extensive and covers the period from February 1942 to his homecoming. We welcome any enquiries and will be happy to provide relevant extracts where appropriate. We hope to publish the whole diary in due course.


Earlier on we mentioned Tony Banham’s website and we recommend it again as an invaluable source of information and news for anyone who is interested in what happened in Hong Kong during the war.


Jenifer (née Sprague) & Philip Burton.

Friday, 25 September 2015

26.9.45. Slept well on deck. Good breakfast of Krispies, sausage meat & fruit. Tiffin of ham & sausage meat sandwich. Drew £2 pay this afternoon. Shall need money to buy in the States things to take home. Soap, scent, food & chocolates I reckon. Lord knows how we shall carry everything eventually. Bully & cabbage hash for dinner – & a free packet of cigs. Rain in afternoon.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

25.9.45. Felt like nothing on earth after a bit of a nap on one blanket on the steel upper deck. But I should have fainted down below. It will be a great treat to go out of the tropics. Breakfast was fine – grapefruit, omelette, bread, cereal & milk & coffee & jam. Wonderful how they push it out. Journeying between islands till mid afternoon. Some rain. More or less smooth sea. Nowhere to sit down is the trouble. Captain said over the loud speaker that he is making a trip direct to San Francisco, & expects to arrive there on the morning of October 9th. Good shooting. Looks I shall be home in good time for Jenifer's Birthday – but we may get snags yet. Tiffin was a snack of sausage sandwich & fruit. Dinner of sausage & mixed tinned stuff. Bit of everything I must say. Have talked with many Americans but not one has been of the “newspaper” variety. All quiet, decent, & without brag, what a mixture they are though. Gambling schools on deck. Got a spot to lay out my bed on deck & had to listen to the sound part of a film I couldn’t see. What tripe. Everywhere there is the blare of this accursed canned music.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

24.9.45. Finished packing. Hell of a job.  Also got a good breakfast, after which things got moving. All the luck in the world – it was a fine day. Adequate arrangements had been made to shift a big crowd of us. Working alphabetically things seemed muddled & cumbersome at first, but actually all went fine. Lorries 15 men each moved out in convoys of 10. I liked the Philippine landscape en route – green with hills in the distance. Manila sure looks as though it had been fought through. Embarked on “Admiral C.F. Hughes”, Compt 63. As you stepped on the gangway you received from a lady a packet of Wrigley's gum & a packet of Lucky Strike cigs from American Red Cross. Very fine. Quarters were clean & I got a top bed – but little choice. Look round ship which is a sizable boat, lots of welding, & obviously designed for the job of trooping & at the same time easily cleared & rebuilt for passenger work after the war. There are plenty of GIs returning home plus us – about 4000 on board. Moved off about 5pm & soon gathered way. Organisation for feeding is rather marvellous. Each compartment called in turn & one “combined dish” you slide along the counter & the chow whacked into the depressions. Damn fine meal which you eat in a separate mess hall standing at tables. The whole thing is hustle but a good show. The ship washes dishes. Drinking water fountains in all compartments & heads etc right aft. So washing, living & eating are all quite separate – & very right too. You can't do that in a liner converted to troop carrying. I tried hard to get to sleep in my bunk but had to give up the attempt for the heat which is made worse by proximity to hot steam pipes. Very pleasant sail out of Manila Bay & surprised we then turned south to pass into the Pacific via southern end of the island. So that is the end of a short stay during which we have received much kindness & had lots very willingly done for us.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

23.9.45.Sunday. One draft left at 3pm. Hobbs lucky & on it. Very heavy rain midday. Wrote letters to Elsie, boy Arthur & Marion. Expecting draft as two go tomorrow via San Francisco. On Draft for tomorrow & drew winter trousers & zip blouse. Draft supposed to go today waited all day to embus but returned to huts late at night. Confusion. Saw stars.

Monday, 21 September 2015

22.9.45. Rain morning. Two men in this tent on draft today. Lucky. They have cut down the grub issues a bit & the camp is getting full. The Red Cross hut, or canteen, is quite impossible with the big queues for free tobacco, soft drinks & hot tea, cakes etc. Just crowded out & noisy with the loud speaker “music” superimposed. It is an all day job to get three beers – & I cease to bother. Later in the day we gathered that 4000 UK bound people will move off in the next three days in Aircraft Carriers to San Francisco. Well we ought to be in that crowd alright. I only want half an hour's notice. Wrote poor letter to Carrie.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

21.9.45. Miraculous sunshine in morning, but heavy rain all evening. Terrible climate this. Good feeding, but camp getting very full. It is an all day job to queue up for meals baccy & beer. When not in a queue you feel at a loose end. Impatient to go. Wrote to Carrie. Seen nearly all former Argyle St batmen. No mosquitoes or flies in this camp – remarkable.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

20.9.45. Dry morning. Big arrivals from Japan overnight including various HKVDC & also the Argyle St batmen. Birkenshaw, Pickles, & one other are dead. A matter of will to live when it came to the last I gather. Roads dried up a bit thank goodness. Wrote letters to Evans & Parkyn.


Friday, 18 September 2015

19.9.45. Same good feeding & comforts. Letter from Alf – rather a good effort that they delivered a letter addressed Camp N Hong Kong. Whoops! Nice part of letter from young Elsie & I gather Ronald is OK. Thank God. Later got letters from Mother & Charles, & looks I am to get a great welcome. Seems rather undeserved to me. Haven't done anything. So glad Ronald safe – good luck to him. Rain & deep mud all day. Dentists snowed under so no dentures for me.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

18.9.45. Horrible weather & mud. Eggs & butter breakfast, meat veg & all the rest for tiffin & tea. Drew pay book at last. My vaccination has “taken” & is sore. Should be glad to get on draft now. Wrote letter to Carrie – properly marked on envelope etc. Hope the others got home as well. Chaps in from Korea – some got quite good time up there. I still think POWs in Formosa had worst time. In Japan, for many, there were good opportunities for stealing grub at the godowns.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

17.9.45. Two eggs bacon & porridge & fruit for breakfast. Am obviously putting on flesh all over – surprised myself in the showers to see it all. Roast beef & veg for tiffin. All the time you can get cold drinks or tea with cakes & biscuits in the Canteen. During the medical exam recently we took TAB & cholera injections as well as vaccination. Have only the pay book & a little pay to draw to be ready for the road. Would like to get a cable from Carrie. Returned Rolls razor to Sgt Walker on Hammy’s behalf.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

16.9.45.Sunday. Early breakfast & packed kit bag. Wandered round & did this & that. Four fried eggs for breakfast. Packing & poking about camp, meeting up with various old acquaintances etc. Rumoured that a big draft is to go on the “Empress of Australia”, & we hope to miss that anyway. Still no pay books or pay but I got my full ration of three canned beers for the first time. Played a game of chess & lost. Reading various magazines & articles – evidently Europe is full of problems. Shall try to take home everything I can that is short in England. Nights cool here, but rain threatens all the time.

Monday, 14 September 2015

15.9.45. Fine-ish day & the mud caked harder. Four excellently fried eggs for breakfast, fried potato & porridge, bread & butter. Pork chops, veg, fruit coffee etc for tiffin & tinned stuff for supper. Had our interrogation as to place of capture, places & condition of imprisonment, & a description of any atrocities or cruelties we had actually witnessed. I hadn’t much to tell, but named Col Tokunaga, Nomura & Dr Saito. There are Australian & British women, flown out at high speed, helping in the canteen & doing a splendid job of work.  Saw Coates & Ellison, also Gregory & Tate of the Armoured Cars; Chopper Earnshaw who went with the GOC from Argyle St. They did not have the easy time in Formosa that we had all imagined. Evidently over there everybody from Generals down had to work. British staff said to have arrived to do the work here. More red tape is prophesied. Draft away today bound for San Francisco by American cruisers. Would like to be on my way too, well as they treat us here. Wonder what to take home for Jenifer – canteen girl recommends a doll, such being scarce at home – or a handbag. This camp sent clothing & stuff to the Empress today, so presumably the Stanley crowd are going on in her. Read that HK dollar is fixed at 1:3. Sat in the canteen awhile in the evening with Jumbo & Hobbs & Earnshaw & Chalky White.  I am not fond of noisy crowds though.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

14.9.45. (Early morning) Arrived at the camp about 2.30am. Marshalled & told by an Australian Officer that it was the aim to get people into this camp, processed & away in not more than six days. Tipped us off a few things, registered us, drew bedding, had a meal & into our tent by about 4am. Camp beds. It was all night service, God bless them. Up quite early to a good breakfast of real flapjacks & syrup, in a U.S. army mess tin. Nice hot water washing up arrangements in big drums over oil fires. This is an enormous camp, rough but tons of everything here. Met various chaps back from Japan – Hopkins, Needham & co. They had been flown out to Okinawa & then to here. All look reasonably fit now. I think after talking with many that the prisoners in Formosa had the poorest time. Some of them are still phenomenally thin. Poor devils. Challis & Dyson of the Middx are here, & it is thought Dick Overy died a fortnight before the Armistice. Heard George Angus died of malnutrition –  sorry for Hilda. They got lashings of supplies dropped in the Japan camps. Drew whacks of kit this morning lots of which will be useful in England. Cigarettes & cigars are issued daily. Surely we are in a land of plenty. Pork chops & veg & fruit, bread & butter for tiffin, & tinned beef & veg for supper. I find I can eat plenty without any sign of tummy or other trouble. Some are developing boils by the richness of the food. Organised medical examination this afternoon & I am quite OK thank goodness. Marked urgent for a new set of dentures. Examination was quite thorough. Fit to travel is the verdict. Wrote a note to Carrie for air mail. There are Australian nurses and women canteen workers here. They all work hard for us, & it is quite touching. Jap prisoners here working about the camp – well fed & well clothed & with real good tools for the jobs on which they are employed. So different to our case. Early to bed. Heavy rain at mid-day.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

13.9.45. Hot fine day. Passed Corregidor in early daylight – there is no obvious sign of hostilities there – no chunks knocked off. Manila Bay simply full of merchant shipping, mostly cargo types. What a spectacle – about 150 I should say. All flying Yank flag apparently. We are anxious to know what happens to us next. Lots of sunken shipping in the harbour too. Excellent food. Lots of chatter & grumbling & rumours all day, particularly a story that no-one in Manila had been forewarned of our arrival. Things moved in the early evening however when we were told the ship was going alongside & that all service personnel including HKVDC would be disembarked this evening. A big rain storm came up to help matters. Disembarkation turned out to be a very slow business, Canadians first, then Navy & then Army with Volunteers last. An American military band on the pier tried to liven things up a bit – a stout effort. Life on the ship was naturally wholly disorganised, & nobody could get to sleep on the decks. I talked with John. Civilians it is rumoured will go ashore tomorrow. Asked him to call on Carrie if he arrived home first. No word of our demobilisation, so I go on as a POW. It was well after midnight when we went ashore. Hospital patients had previously left in many ambulances. After half an hour’s wait in an army truck a convoy of us set off to some clearing camp 17 miles out. I did not enjoy the drive, driving on right hand side of greasy poor roads. Great deal of damage in Manila. Enormous American dumps en route. Sure enough they are organised in a big way.

Friday, 11 September 2015

12.9.45. Dull rainy day. Excellent food all the time. Yesterday we drew £2 each & I find myself with a very mean attitude towards spending it. It is a “dry ship”, so I later stood John a bottle of lemonade & bought some ’baccy. Civilians moved up from E14 to C deck. Lucky beggars. Talking with many today – tired of hearing about camp life. Hate painted women with artificial expressions more than ever. All kinds of rumours as to where the ship is going & conditions under which we shall travel. Gives the gossipers plenty of scope. Wrote to Carrie & posted in Air Mail bag. Something will have to be done about the condition of the troop decks. They were filthy when we came on board & are getting worse. There is dirty water from the showers & the utensil wash-ups all over the place. Nothing on board apropos the demobilisation of we Volunteers.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

11.9.45. Fine day & we steamed away from H.Kong at breakfast time. Convoy of one cruiser, two transports & an Aircraft Carrier passed us going in. Looked good. Trying to get organised a bit. Very mixed company on board. Crude but good living. Breakfast of porridge, egg, scones, butter cheese in plenty. Tiffin of barley broth, meat stew & veg, stewed fruit & more scones cheese & lashings of butter. Good. But do we sweat down there with the ports closed. Issue of 20 Players, & soap & a bar of lovely frozen Rowntree’s Chocolate after tiffin. We are going to Manila – not at great speed. Saw Mrs Sandbach. She frankly said Ernest is staying behind a while to look out for Methodist property. He, she says, is the only one worrying as all the others, though they have each been on leave since Ernest came out, are just getting out on this boat. Lots of grousing about the accommodation, more particularly by the Civilians at E deck aft. Nobody worries about the poor old soldiers of course. They are born to take it, and sure do. Big chunk of a chicken for supper. I am sure I am putting on pounds in weight in spite of the cold, & the tummy seems to handle efficiently all I can cram into it. Good.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

10.9.45. Up early & finished “packing”. Am ignoring the official advice not to take anything as “all will be supplied”. Helped myself therefore to three blankets & also took my camp bed. Good breakfast, saw Joney & at 9am sharp went by lorry to Stanley. Found out John is going in this ship. Saw the Gellings & they hope to be en route soon. All wish to be remembered to Carrie. We went on board HMAS “Broome”, a minesweeper. Excellent tiffin including my first roast potatoes. Bread butter & apples I enjoyed too. Stanley Bay looked fine with about five of these vessels riding at anchor. The crews worked hard for us, humping the Stanley baggage etc. We steamed round to the Empress of Australia in Junk Bay at tea-time & went on board. I was prepared for a rough voyage, & sure it is going so to be. “Berthed” in E12, troop deck. Really quite grim. Hammocks but precious little deck space to sleep out on. Good supper roughly served. Troops from S’suipo including Canadians are on board. Sweltering heat down below, but I stuck it out on the camp bed, which I am glad I brought. Very heavy catarrh & cold.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

9.9.45.Sunday. Fine day. Bacon fried bread & tomato for breakfast, sliced meat soup & veg for tiffin. Warned now to be packed & ready to proceed to Stanley tomorrow & join the ship with the internees there. Shall travel light. Fresh meat for evening meal. To Gloucester & saw Swan evening, & said thanks & cheerio to Mr & Mrs Lambert.

Monday, 7 September 2015

8.9.45. Beautiful fine day. Porridge & sausage meat breakfast, fish & stew tiffin with chicken soup, & an excellent evening meal of similar kind. Busy in store. Wattie Gardner delivered a letter for me to Dairy Farm making enquiries about my box there & I hear my name is on list for a package with China Provident. It is pretty useless visiting the godowns because of the chaos. In the evening got news that permanent Civil Servants not required on essential services will go on the Empress tomorrow & can opt to be demobilised immediately & travel as civilians. Did so – with Dick. A good rescript day, & there is I imagine quite a chance of being home for Jenifer's birthday. Hurrah! My gums are very sore these days, because of the unusual fact of having to chew one’s food after so much slop. My face is already much fuller in appearance. Feeling fine.


Sunday, 6 September 2015

7.9.45. Showery day but fining in evening. Hard day’s work on the stores, but I strolled down to the Gloucester & saw Swan in the evening. Good food today of porridge bacon & spinach for breakfast, boiled ham & various veg for tiffin, fresh roast pork & veg for tea. Excellent & the tummy standing up very well. Coffee & cheese & white bread were other delights & went to bed with coffee & pork sandwiches. I have an idea that the HKVDC will go on the Empress of Australia shortly. It is of course all very difficult on account of Chinese & Eurasians and their dependants, & of the varied requirements of service husbands & Stanley wives. I shall be doing the job of RQMS as from tomorrow as Bill Hewitt is called out by the Controller of Fuel. Wrote again to Carrie, but no inward mail yet.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

6.9.45. Showery day & very hot & humid. Went down to the office & met Jolly20. More & more rumours as to what is going to happen to us, & it is difficult to estimate the position for and against trying to choose between travelling as a civilian or as a Private in the HKVDC. I think Jolly would call me out alright, but on the other hand things can happen overnight as it were & even now we may find ourselves on the Empress of Australia which may sail on Saturday. We fed quite well. I ate six rashers of boiled smoked bacon together with a little tomato & sweet corn & a cup of oatmeal porridge for breakfast. No ill effects. Tinned veg & meat stews for tiffin & tea. We also had cocoa three times today & a bread ration with jam. It is good feeding, but we would like more milk & some fruit. Still no inward mail which is damn disappointing. Today the town was very lively with cracker firing – Chinese “Victory Day”. They can apparently afford any amount. I want to go home.

            20.Later Director of Marine


Friday, 4 September 2015

5.9.45. Showery hot day. A little real oatmeal porridge & bacon for breakfast – a civilised meal though rudely cooked. Pork sausage meat & peas for tiffin, & canned fish for tea. Good bread ration too. Worked on the supplies all morning, but cleaned up & went to Harbour Office in afternoon. Filth everywhere. Went to look at the place where I was involved in the bombing that nearly got me. Of course that was about the only bit of war mess they have bothered to tidy up. From HQ to the Bank is in the same state precisely as it was when the war ended. Bomb & shell craters, rubbish & old junk. The town looks just crummy. Rumours we shall all go away as new people come in to take over all Government & other jobs. Visited Swan at the Gloucester in the evening – all is dark & dirty. Shall be glad to get away out of it & the sooner the better. I want to go home. Wrote a poor letter to Carrie.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

4.9.45. Hot day. Typhoon has we hear moved northwards into the Formosa Channel. It has delayed the arrival of the Empress of Australia with 3000 RAF personnel until today, so Kowloon is not yet officially taken over & the Japanese troops there not yet disarmed. Looting is still brisk. The Government Regulation calling in all IOUs issued in the POW camps and Internment places is a damn good thing. Half the HKVDC & the HKRNVR paraded at 8am & got to Queen’s pier by about 10.30. Those with places to go to then left, & I went with those who had not to HKVDC HQ. I had thought of going to the Harbour Office with my newly acquired camp bed. Later I was glad I went with the lads, as I had a sentimental interest in ending my war career where I began it. We got some grub from the Food Controller, but got little more than bully & biscuits all day, but plenty of tea. Thursby asked me to help in the store. That let me in for a hell of a lot of work today – though we have coolies. I got a bit fed up with fellow Privates who volunteered no help but did a lot of grumbling. Lots of American Red Cross blankets & overcoats came up too – lord knows why the Japanese didn’t issue this stuff ages ago. Ronnie Sleap was first post-war bridegroom at Stanley today & will probably get world-wide publicity for it.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

3.9.45. Fine day, but I think typhoon in the offing. Porridge breakfast, more meat stew tiffin. For tea we had our stock of chickens & ducks killed & fried, and our first real veg stew of dehydrated cabbage potato & carrots. Oh boy. Wrote letter to Mother. More fags & trifles from the ships. Volunteers to go to Hong Kong tomorrow. Hurrah! – but it is very short notice even with the little gear we have. Jones & Hammy called to Harbour Office to assist in collection of Government launches etc.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

2.9.45.Sunday. Very hot day. Not mentioning grub – one is strangely not very interested in the matter. Chinese cooking staff are doing us quite well though with plenty fresh meat & sweet potatoes. We need vegetables. All the while odd quantities of booze & all kinds of homeside cigarettes. We get forms to fill up every hour or two about where we want to go etc. It is balls because of course I am subject to orders of the HK Government. Nevertheless things will be OK. Wrote an air mail letter to Carrie today – isn’t it good to think it may be home in a week. One is too excited to write a coherent letter though. We have a Post Office in the camp now – & Gnr York of the Bristol PO is running it. His feet are still in very poor shape. All bad sickness cases in the hospital & about the camp were taken to the hospital ship Oxfordshire today & will go straight away.