I’ve just had a very interesting conversation with my brother John. He is 12 years older than me, so he’ll be 84 currently but he’s got a good memory.
He told me about his visit to Hong Kong in the 1960s whilst he was in the army. While he was there, he had a wander round to remember the places that he knew when he was a boy just before he, my brother George and my mum were evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940. John would have been about 5 years old then. He said they lived in two places –The Peak which you access via the Peak railway and near the racecourse in Happy Valley. I think The Peak must have been their 1st home. He says he tried to find out where they lived, and he remembered they had a view down into Repulse Bay. He asked the Chinese workmen where he could see this view and he was taken a short distance and shown a view. He asked the Chinese workmen where the houses had gone and he replied, “look down”. John looked down and saw the outline of foundations of buildings.
John says he remembers being evacuated and has a memory of docking in Singapore as well as Manila in the Philippines. This seems a bit strange to me so I can only assume that in that evacuation of 1940 the ship may have gone to Singapore after the 2nd evacuation from Manila and sailed to Singapore before being redirected to Australia. I can’t be sure but maybe he’s mixing up his memory of a short visit to Singapore when the family went out to join my Dad in Hong Kong in 1938.
I asked John why Dad left the army in 1945/46. He said it was all to do with the POWs being sent to, in Dad’s case, an army camp at Pocklington Yorkshire. The men who had been in POW camp for 4 years were sent there for retraining to get them used to life back in the army. John said there was a sergeant, George Rockall who John met some years later in the mid-1950s when John was in the army serving at NATO headquarters at Fontainebleau in France. George Rockall was in charge of drilling the men on the parade ground at Pocklington in 1945. It was all to do with Dad’s reaction to this overzealous Sgt who John said looked very much like Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army. Apparently, Dad walked off the parade ground in the middle of being drilled as if he was a private soldier having just joined the army and asked for the papers so that he could resign from his service career.
After what Dad went through in the war I’m not surprised. Especially as Dad was a senior warrant officer in Hong Kong before he had been captured. He was an experienced soldier and I believe it was an insult to re-drill such men. However, as John says it was a decision which he believes Dad regretted. If he had stayed in the army, he would almost certainly have been made up to a senior warrant officer very quickly and probably would have got a commission as a major and served out probably another 15 years before leaving the army.
Sadly, Dad left the army and had to find a job. Things weren’t good after the war as there were lots of men looking for jobs as most of the service people had been conscripted into the services just for the war period and they were all on the jobs market as well. Dad had to start all over again in telecommunications. He joined the GPO telephone engineering department and began life all over again as a labourer digging holes and putting up telegraph poles. What must have added insult to injury was that he had to work through one of the worst winters in living memory in 1947 when he spent months repairing the telephone overhead wires and telegraph poles
in the Basingstoke area in freezing weather and deep snow! Dad’s decision meant that our family didn’t have much money and mum had to go out to work. Luckily, being an ex-serviceman, our family was given a council house in Aldershot. In the end Dad did make the grade and became a manager in the GPO Guildford telephone area and was a very well-respected engineer and manager.