slice of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2006, 12:00am

From the pages of the South China Morning Post this week in 1945

The following excerpts were taken from the first post-war editions of the combined South China Morning Post and the Hongkong Telegraph, printed by George Wood Giffen for and on behalf of South China Morning Post Ltd at 1-3 Wyndham Street, city of Victoria, in the colony of Hong Kong.

August 30: The first communique from the Hong Kong Government to the people of Hong Kong since December 1941 read in part: 'Rear Admiral Harcourt is lying outside Hong Kong with a very strong fleet.

'Admiral Harcourt will enter harbour having transferred his flag to the cruiser Swiftsure which will be accompanied by destroyers and submarines.

'The capital ships will follow as soon as a passage has been swept.

'The formal surrender is likely to follow the proceedings at Tokyo.'

August 31: 'Hong Kong, lost to the British for almost four years, was recovered in August 1945. On the thirtieth of the month the raising of the Union Jack at Stanley Internment Camp officially signalled the restoration of British control.'

The flag-raising was described as 'one of the most stirring ceremonies in the colony's history - certainly the most stirring experience in the memories of Stanley's relieved internees, numbering over 2,000'.

The national anthem was sung and the flags of the United States, China, Russia, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Greece and Poland were broken. The flag-raising was followed by three cheers for the king, another three for the admiral, and three for the air force before a decorous chorus of O God Our Health was followed by a repeat of the national anthem.

September 1: Admiral Harcourt took over military governorship of the colony.

The civil government continued to administer the affairs of Hong Kong under F.C. Gimson as lieutenant-governor, under the overruling authority and control of the military government.

A new series of the Government Gazette, in English and Chinese, would carry proclamations which would be dropped by naval aircraft over outlying districts.

Hundreds of people who had been unceremoniously packed off to internment camps in January 1942 watched with a certain amazement and some satisfaction as the roles were reversed and it was now the turn of the Japanese to be wrenched from their wartime homes on Hong Kong Island.

From Garden Road, from Wan Chai, from Central districts, streams of Japanese civilians, including women and children, converged on Queen's pier, waiting for transport to Kowloon.

The assembling of the Japanese and their departure from Queen's Pier was reminiscent of the frantic efforts to pack a few precious items prisoners of war and internees went through.

All kinds of articles of furniture, bedding, bags and suitcases were carried by hand truck, rickshaw and shoulder to the assembly point.

The unhappy people piling into the launches did not know the plans being made for their accommodation. They had been told by their own authorities to cross to Kowloon.

September 2: The evening edition of the papers carried the story of the Tokyo surrender ceremony, which took place that day on the quarterdeck of the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Mamoru Shigemitsu, the foreign minister, was among delegates who signed on behalf of the emperor of Japan, the Japanese government and Japanese imperial headquarters, committing their country to be placed under the direct orders of General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of Allied forces.

Surrounded by Allied battleships and other war craft, the historic appending of signatures to the instruments of surrender was conducted with solemnity.

General MacArthur said the conflict between the ideals and the ideologies had been decided on the battlefields and they would not have discussions or debates over them.

It was for both victors and vanquished to rise to that higher dignity which befitted the sacred purpose they were about to serve.

Speaking from the White House, President Harry S. Truman said Japan's power to destroy and kill had been taken away and her army and navy were impotent.

Hong Kong struggled to keep from falling off the face of the earth when warships in the harbour transmitting messages were overwhelmed and cable and wireless facilities were out of action for a few days.

The result was almost complete silence between Hong Kong and the outer world.

'This is evidenced by the scant references to the colony in British broadcasts despite the radio talks given by a foreign news commentator and the messages filed by correspondents travelling with the fleet.'