Wendy Rossini's autography

Wendy Pamela Rossini

Everything I tell you about today happened 50 years ago so any connection between reality and what I say is purely fortuitous: memory is not a camcorder.

Firstly – why was I in Hong Kong in December 1941 when Japs arrived?

My mother, my sister and I were, like most of the families evacuated to Australia via the Philippines in 1940. However not long after our arrival in Melbourne my mother was diagnosed as having cancer and given 3 months to live. As my father couldn’t leave Hong Kong as he was attached to the Naval we returned here. Incidentally the Doctor was a little out! My mother survived till 1953 by which time Peter and I were married. I volunteered for the ANS and was called up on the morning of the 8th December 1941.

Now just a few reminiscences:

FOOD: We dreamt, talked about food, we queued for it, we longed for it, even though our daily ration – as you saw in the photo was a handful of rice and some stew for 5 people. What was left from breakfast today would have lasted our room a month. But, there were bright spots: Money from my father in Argyle St Camp enabled us to buy some extras and there were even a couple of food parcels over the time we were in Stanley. We could see the prison where they put the airmen shot down. Some times the screams were really piercing.
MORALE: In my star sign today it says my moods will rise and fall uncontrollably – nothing has changed since 1941. At frequent intervals my mother and I, who were both ill, were told by Jimpson camp leader that we were soon to be repatriated, but we remained till the end. The occasional concert lifted morale and I particularly remember one man singing “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes” – a song I felt sure he was singing to my mother and also “Sail Away”.

Six months before it all ended a stray American bomber dropped a random bomb and, unhappily, killed some of the people, including a child in a bungalow.

One day we saw ships on the horizon and planes overhead and soon a stream of plump healthy looking men – including Army, Navy, Air force, medical, Press – poured into the camp.

Our internment was over my sister married a fellow prisoner from St Stephen’s block and rehabilitation started.

​Jones' Diary

Tues 16th (16 January 1945)

Clear, cold, wind stronger. Air-raid 8.45 – 11.15am by many single engined US planes. All districts strafed, big fire Taikoo direction. All clear noon. Planes over again 12.45pm. 2 planes collided 1 pilot parachuted OK the other went with his plane. Local spots machine gunned & bombed. Prison, Prep School. 3 Jap vessels took refuge in bay close by Camp. C Bungalow hit, 14 killed, 4 injured. All clear 6.30pm. Balfour 39, O. Eager 57. S. Thompson 41, M. Davis 35, Bishop 51, Mrs I. Johnson 54, A. Guerin 37, A. Dennis 56. Mr & Mrs Searle 53 54, Mr & Mrs Lay 51 45, G. Willoughby 36, A. Holland 53.

Wed 25th (25 July 1945)

Bright, hot. Window panes in Ward 7. Saw Dr. Smalley & he put me on Digitalis & strychnine with orders to ease up on heavy labour. B.P.125. Jap flying boat dropped practice bombs on St. Stephens & A. Bungalow area. 4 persons injured 12.15pm. The effort would appear to be deliberate, flying & bombing weather being perfect & the plane flew slowly & low. The Camp Japs blew the A/r alarm and quickly dived into their A/r shelters. St. Stephens area placed out of bounds until the undamaged missiles were salvaged. Many theories by Camp “experts” re type of bomb, depth charge, identity & type of plane & reasons for the event.

Thurs 2nd (02 August 1945)

Humid, overcast, showery. Finished Sewing shop window. Repaired “A” Bungalow roof. To lecture on Phycology with C.

Fri 3rd (03 August 1945)

A little cooler. Showery. W wind. Outside roll-call. Repairs to A. Bungalow. St. Johns Is. evacuated by Japs. Splendid abend mit G und netting stitch. [Splendid evening with G and netting stitch?] ∴ Some Canteen gear arrived. Inspection of Camp by locals.

Sat 4th (04 August 1945)

Showery, cooler. "A" Bungalow repairs. Camp inspected by high Jap officials & Zindel aft. Grew in Ocinawa awaiting Jap answer. To Evening Service & lecture by Prof. Forster with G. Chinese landed from Junks at Pier. Cost Y60 to wash overall & pr. of shorts. Lorry with veg & salt & fish.

​Jones' Diary Record of Life in Internment Camp

Map of Stanley Internment Camp (1942-1945)

Source: Emerson, Geoffrey Charles, Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945: Life in the Japanese Civilian Camp at Stanley, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008.

​An interview with George Haines, a former internee in Stanley Camp

Well, of course, in due course they were put in the camp. That was in January ‘42. They were all taken into Stanley where she went with the two babies, who were the two youngest entrants into Stanley. The happy part was, there were terrible atrocities. I don’t have to go through all those again. I’m sure you’ve heard lots about that, but there were no atrocities in Stanley where the women and children were. One of the reasons for that probably was because all the government servants went in the camp. All the civil servants-- they were put with the women and children. The police force were all in the camp. The firemen were in the camp. So now, what you had in the camp in Stanley, was the civil organization who administered the camp. They had doctors-- all the doctors were in the camp. The nurses were in the camp-- those who were left after not having been bayoneted. You had something like ten, or eleven thousand people in that camp. The only real thing was shortage of food (I think that was difficult for your wife for the twins.) Oh, she had a terrible time, of course.

One of the nicest things of coming on this trip is the number of ladies who were in Stanley with her, who I didn’t even know, but there are a lot of them who are on this trip, who came up to me and said, “Hey you are Joan Haines’ husband? She was a fantastic person in camp. Everybody admired her. The way she looked after those two kids.” And she used to keep the urine in buckets and she got out of Chinese tins of tomatoes which came into the camp from somewhere else, I don’t know where. She took the seeds out. They obviously hadn’t been properly cured. She planted the seeds and grew tomato plants. And they said it was a great sign to see her with a bamboo pole on the shoulder going down with two buckets full of the kids’ urine kind of water. And her saying all the way was, remember she came to China she was six, so she knew a lot about China. She used to say-- the woman would tell you this: “Look, don’t worry so much about the food. If the Chinese can live on greens, we can live on greens. Get leaves get anything.” Now when we left, when we folks were sent up to Japan, it’s the end of ‘43. From December ’43, I never heard of her and she never heard of me till the end of the war. But of course there were some amusing things happening in Stanley. Because you had the nurses and people, like my wife, who had one reason or another who were not here on the ships when the ships went away. And these policemen without their wives and fireman, young men, and, of course, while still had some food in their stomachs they were looking around what we look around for what we all look around for at that age, you see. And there were very amusing incidents. A girl came into the camp-- a Eurasian girl-- who would help anybody. And she took it upon herself to help my wife with the twins. She used to come down and help, wash them in what water they could get, help make clothes and napkins, and so on and so forth. And they got very friendly. Now about after they had been in the camp about three or four months, a meeting was called and the doctors in camp warned all the women that food is so short, you must not get pregnant. All kinds of big girls getting pregnant. There is not enough food in the camp that kids would be born with all kinds of problems. The mothers may die and so try to frighten them against this. But one day Mamie comes along to Joan. She says, “Oh Mrs Haines I am pregnant.” Joan said, “You bloody fool! You’ve been warned about it. Who was it?” She said, “The Irish policeman.” What she said was “You have been told. Why did you do it?” She said, “What else could I do? It’s his birthday.” And that is a true story. And you should have heard her when she told the story.

September ’45, before they were evacuated from here-- the ships came at the end of August for the release of Hong Kong-- she made a special trip up the peak to see what had happened to the bottles under the trees. And she found one bottle-- one bottle of dimple hay whisky. All the rest were gone. She didn’t know what happened to them. (It seems to me George that through a pretty tough time you managed to see the bright side of things) Well, I was also known, if you hear the boys talking, that’s the craziest optimist that ever lived They called me a six-month man. I always used to say, “Keep going! We will be out in six months.” And as I told them the other night that was right of me, wasn’t I? And we did get out in six months.

​Battle of Hong Kong

a. Battle of Hong Kong Timeline

27/06/1940 Japanese troops occupied part of Hong Kong Island.
30/06/1940 The Governor ordered the evacuation of women and children to Australia as Japan threatened HK.
27/10/1941 The Royal Rifles, and the Winnipeg Grenadiers set sail from Vancouver to Hong Kong
16/11/1941 Canadian soldiers arrived in Hong Kong
01/12/1941 A State of Emergency was declared in Malaya and Hong Kong was put on 'stand by'.
08/12/1941 Japan attacked Hong Kong. The Japanese Air Force bombed Kai Tak Airport.
10/12/1941 Japanese: forces rapidly breached the Shing Mun Redoubt.
11/12/1941 The British forces began to withdraw from the mainland to Hong Kong Island.
13/12/1941 Governor Mark Young rejected a Japanese demand to surrender given by Lieutenant General Sakai.
13/12/1941 -
Japanese began bombardment of Hong Kong
The HK island defenders were organized into two Brigades:
  • West Brigade, under Brigadier John Lawson (the senior Canadian officer) consisting of the Punjabis, the Royal Scots, and the Winnipeg Grenadiers.
  • East Brigade, under Brigadier Wallis, consisted of the Rajputs and the Royal Rifles. Both Brigades included elements from the Middlesex, the HK Volunteer Defense Corps (HKVDC), and supporting units.
16/12/1941 The Governor rejects the second request for surrender.
18/12/1941 By midnight, almost the whole north-eastern corner of HK island was in Japanese hands, as far south as Jardine’s Lookout and as far west as North Point.
19/12/1941 The Japanese strategy was simple: capture Wong Nai Chung Gap and continue south along Repulse Bay Road to split the island in two. At Wong Nai Chung Gap, a Canadian Sergeant Major, John Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, threw himself on top of a grenade, sacrificing himself to save the lives of his comrades.
The commander of the Canadian expeditionary forces, Brigadier John Lawson, was killed in action. East Brigade HQ at Tai Tam withdrew towards Stanley.
22/12/1941 Stanley was divided into three defence lines - the north around Stanley Mound; the middle across Stanley Village; and the area covering Stanley Hill and Stanley Fort.
24/12/1941 Fighting in Stanley became increasingly fierce.
25/12/1941 On the morning of 25 December, Christmas Day, Japanese soldiers entered St. Stephen's College, initiating the “St. Stephen’s College Massacre”.
In the city, at 9 a.m., the Japanese sent two civilians on a mission to the Fortress Headquarters, giving the British an opportunity to surrender. They allowed a three-hour ceasefire in which to decide.
By 15:15, General Maltby advised the Governor that further resistance was futile. Sir Mark Young surrendered in person at the Japanese headquarters on the third floor of the Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon. The East Brigade, since they had been totally cut off from the rest of the Island and could not receive the notice of surrender continued to fight. They surrendered on December 26 after receiving the confirmation order of surrender.

b. Japan expansionist policy in Asia

Japan played a part in World War One. Some powerful groups in Japan, especially the army, wanted Japan to have an empire. The Japanese economy was hit badly by the Depression and so it began to look for other ways to recover its economy. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria, rich in natural resources and raw materials which Japanese industry needed. Japan’s expansionist foreign policy continued and in 1937 China was attacked. This was the start of a long struggle which led to the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii in December 1941 and the attack on Hong Kong.

c. Britain’s war plans on Hong Kong before the Japanese Occupation

In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. On 21 October 1938 the Japanese occupied Canton (Guangzhou). Hong Kong was in a critical time. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his army chiefs designated Hong Kong an outpost, but they initially decided against sending more troops to the colony. By 1940, the Hong Kong Garrison was only a symbolic size. Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Far East Command argued that limited reinforcements could allow the garrison to delay a Japanese attack, gaining time elsewhere.

In July 1940, the Hong Kong government received orders from the UK to proceed with evacuation of all service families and non-service British women and children. They were evacuated to Australia. However, the evacuations prompted criticism from different groups, e.g. many evacuees, their husbands, and their employees. They felt the evacuations were premature and unnecessary. Some local Chinese were angered by their exclusion from the evacuations and condemned the moves as racist. Facing this the criticism, the government announced the evacuations were non-compulsory.

In mid-July 1941, Major-General A.E. Grasset, commander of British forces, was replaced by Major-General Christopher Maltby to command Hong Kong's garrison. In September a new Governor, Sir Mark Young, arrived to replace Sir Geoffery Northcote.

In September 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was persuaded to defend Hong Kong against a possible Japanese attack. This decision pleased the Americans and also further reassured Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shek that Britain was genuinely interested in defending the colony.

In Autumn 1941, the British government accepted an offer by the Canadian Government to send the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada (1,975 personnel) to reinforce the Hong Kong garrison. Many of the Canadian soldiers did not have much field experience before arriving in Hong Kong. From a national perspective, the choice of battalions was ideal. The Royal Rifles were a bilingual unit from the Quebec City area and, together with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, both battalions represented eastern and western regions of Canada. Command of the Canadian force was assigned to Brigadier J.K. Lawson. He was "Permanent Force" officer and had been serving as Director of Military Training in Ottawa.

​St Stephen's massacre

Christmas Day 1941 was called “black Christmas”. In the morning, some 200 drunken Japanese soldiers approached St. Stephen's Hall, a temporary hospital, now a sanctuary for nearly 100 wounded soldiers. Barring the front door was the head medical officer, Dr. George Black, who begged the Japanese not to come in as it was a hospital. A soldier raised his rifle and shot the doctor through the head. Standing beside the doctor, Captain John Whitney was also shot. Flooding into the building, the enemy soldiers repeatedly thrust their bayonets into the two dead bodies.

In the wards, the Japanese ripped the bandages off the wounded patients and bayonetted them. In half an hour, fifty-six British, Canadian and Indian wounded soldiers who were incapable of hiding, were massacred while the nursing staff looked on helplessly. Later, a second wave of Japanese troops arrived. The patients and staff who had survived the slaughter were then forced to carry the bodies and bloodied mattresses to the grounds outside where a huge funeral pyre was prepared and lit from the college desks and cupboards which had been smashed up for firewood. Other soldiers who had died in the defence of Stanley were burned with those killed in the massacre, making well over 100 altogether.

Lim, Patricia. [2002] (2002). Discovering Hong Hong's Cultural Heritage. Central, Hong Kong: Oxford University Press. ISBN Volume One 0-19-592723-0. p 73.

As the battle continued, more hospitals were opened to cope with the increased wounded. These were at the Jockey Club, the Hong Kong Hotel, St Stephen's College in Stanley and the University.
The Hall of St. Stephen’s College, located on a hill above Stanley, had been transformed into a hospital; patients were tended to by nurses, orderlies and aides under the leadership of Dr. George Black.

On that Christmas Day, Dr. Black chose to keep his patients in the school rather than evacuating them before the enemy arrived. He believed that hoisting a Red Cross flag, which symbolized that the hospital was under the protection of the Geneva Covenant, would prevent trouble. However, Dr. Black was not prepared for the Japanese troops.

Similar atrocities were enacted at the other emergency hospitals, Jockey Club, Repulse Bay, Eucliffe Castle, Salesian Mission, etc.

​Internment Camp / POW Camp

a. Stanley Internment Camp

Stanley Internment Camp was a camp for civilians in Hong Kong during World War II. The camp area consisted of St. Stephen's College, the grounds of Stanley Prison, excluding the prison itself, and Stanley Military Cemetery. The prison was used by the Japanese authorities to hold what they considered "criminals" from Hong Kong. About 2,800 men, women, and children were held at the internment camp from mid-January 1942 to August 1945.

On January 4, 1942, a notice appeared in an English-language newspaper that all "enemy nationals" were to assemble on Murray Parade Ground in Central Hong Kong. About 1,000 people eventually gathered on the grounds. They were put into hotel-brothels on the waterfront near the present-day Macau Ferry Pier. The conditions there were dirty and overcrowded, and the food was poor. On January 21, 1942, they were taken by boat to Stanley. By the end of January, most of the civilians to be interned were moved to Stanley. The Stanley site was chosen by the Japanese after consultation with two Hong Kong government officials — Dr. P. S. Selwyn-Clarke, Director of Medical Services, and F. C. Gimson, the Colonial Secretary.

b. St. Stephen’s College

Prior to the Japanese occupation, St. Stephen's was a boys’ school. Internees occupied all school facilities included classrooms, the assembly hall, bungalows previously used by teachers, and science laboratories. Over twenty internees occupied each bungalow, which was built for one family, and more than that occupied each science laboratory, living between partitions of sacking and old blankets. Almost all the buildings in the camp were used for housing.

c. Prison Grounds

On the prison grounds, certain buildings and areas had specific functions:

  1. The Prison Officers' Club was used for multiple functions; it was used as a canteen, a kindergarten, a Catholic Church, and recreation centre. Male internees lived upstairs.
  2. There were two main divisions of quarters — the Warders' Quarters and the Indian Quarters. Before the war, the Warders' Quarters housed European warders in large flats designed for one family each, and the Indian Quarters housed Indian prison guards, in much with smaller flats. An average of thirty internees lived in each Warders' Quarters flat, and an average of six internees lived in each Indian Quarters flat.
  3. A building which had housed single Indian warders before the war was turned into a hospital called Tweed Bay Hospital.
  4. Two houses, originally used as homes for the prison superintendent and the prison doctor, were turned into the Japanese headquarters for the camp.
  5. As St. Stephen's College, the only place not used for housing was the assembly hall in the Main Building. It was used for recreation, church services and a school.

​Argyle Street Camp ﹠ Sham Shui Po Barracks

Argyle Street Camp

This POW camp in Kowloon, primarily held officer prisoners. Built by the Hong Kong government as a refugee camp before the war, it became a POW camp soon after Kowloon and the New Territories were abandoned to the Japanese. In January 1942 it was emptied, with the POWs moving to Shamshuipo, North Point, and Ma Tau Chung Camps. However, after a number of escapes from Shamshuipo Camp, in mid 1942, it was re-opened as an officers' camp. In 1944 the officers were moved instead to Camp 'N' at Shamshuipo, and the Indian POWs from Ma Tau Chung Camp took up residence. Today there are no memorials of any kind on the site of the camp, which is just to the south of St Theresa's Hospital.

Sham Shui Po Barracks

These barracks were built in the 1920s in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. During World War II, they were used as a POW camp mainly for British and Canadian soldiers. It was the largest POW Camp in Hong Kong. Many POWs died here, especially in the diphtheria epidemic of 1942, and all shipments of POWs to work in Japan left from Sham Shui Po's Bamboo Pier. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the camp was used to house Vietnamese refugees. It was re-developed for housing in the early 1990s. None of the former military structures exists and only two plaques commemorating the POW camp remain, together with two maple trees commemorating the Canadians held there. These can be found in a corner of Sham Shui Po Park, part of the former barracks.


The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong ended in 1945. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and another one on Nagasaki three days later. Japan finally surrendered on 15 August 1945. The British resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong.

On August 18th a Victory Parade was held at Sham Shui Po camp and a white Ensign was hoisted up symbolizing the return of British rule. On the same day a large Union Jack was hoisted on the Peak and the Japanese authorities promised to hand over Hong Kong to the British Administration to maintain law and order. On 30th August Rear Admiral C.H.J. Harcourt arrived with units of the British Pacific fleet to take the surrender of the Japanese. At 11:00 a.m. the Admiral made his entry into Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Government issued its first communiqué since the afternoon of December 25, 1941. Late that afternoon Harcourt visited Stanley Internment Camp and a Union Jack was raised in his presence. The Surrender Ceremony was finally held on Sunday 16th September at Government House.