on 8 January 2014
As someone who was born in Hong Kong a few years after WWII ended I was keen to read this book because some of my parents' friends had spent time either in Sham Shui Po or Stanley camps. Most were reluctant to tell their stories though a few tales were gleaned from them on very rare occasions. I wanted to read especially about the Japanese invasion of HK from someone who experienced it first hand and Victor Ebbage was closer to the front line than I would ever like to be. The years do dull our memories but the author was incredibly clear about what had happened yet when he was vague about some things he admitted that he was less certain. He also had made notes - well hidden from the Japanese - to which he was able to refer.
It was fascinating to learn about how the men improvised; how they repaired clothes, shoes, spectacles, built ovens from odds and ends. He also made a point of telling us that the Japanese weren't feasting on tons of fancy food while the prisoners ate minute quantities of scraps and slop. He also said that not all the captors were vindictive.
I did find a couple of minor errors in the book though these were the editor's doing. For example, Victor was captured by the Japanese at Stanley a few days after the invasion and was taken to Sham Shui Po. Between his capture and entering the camp he was in Murray Barracks in Stanley, according to the editor. In those days the Murray Barracks were located in Central (not far from St John's Cathedral). The barracks building was demolished carefully and rebuilt in Stanley on the south side of HK island towards the end of last century. Don't let this minor point stop you reading this as it is an amazing insight into the day-to-day life of POWs as well as the "interesting" behaviour of their detainers. I found it difficult to put down.
on 14 December 2014
Thus account is historically invaluable, in that it describes the daily domestic business in a FEPOW camp. Whilst not avoiding the unspeakable horrors, these are detailed in other excellent books, while this work gives us an insight into how the challenges to make life as tolerable as possible under the conditions were tackled.