Slice of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2006, 12:00am

From the pages of the South China Morning Post this week in 1941

In spite of seven air raid alarms, the second day of the war with Japan found the locals so calm that a warning had to be issued to civilians to take proper shelter during raids.

Japanese planes appeared over the colony during some of the alarms but did little damage.

They were greeted with earnest anti-aircraft fire, which caused them to break formation and many made off without dropping their bombs.

They also failed to hit any warships on defence duty and at least one of the 'raiders' was reported to have been crippled.

People had difficulty buying food and other provisions when many shops closed their doors and did business through peep holes. Large crowds were seen outside rice shops and bakeries, struggling to make purchases.

Fish and meat were also hard to come by.

Shop closures were the result of customers rushing shops to obtain food. In some outlying areas, people stole from shops as shop keepers tried to keep things under control. The result was the loss of hundreds of dollars worth of foodstuffs.

Quite a few rice shops remained closed the next day despite a gazetted order compelling every food shop to stay open daily until sunset.

The communal kitchen behind the Violet Peel Health Centre was opened and thousands were given free food.

Newspaper hawkers in Kowloon indulged in profiteering, selling papers at 'fantastic' prices - with as much as 20 cents being asked for some Chinese newspapers. (The Post was selling for 10 cents at the time.)

Two days later it was officially announced that all troops and supplies had been evacuated from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.

'We have retired within our 'fortress' and from the shelter of our main defence we will hold off the enemy until the strategical situation permits relief.'

As the reality of war closed in on Hong Kong, the British High Command issued a reassuring communique: 'A large force of the army of the central government of China under the direct orders of Marshal Chiang Kai-shek is advancing to cut off and attack the Japanese troops in their rear and flank.

'The Japanese now find themselves in the unenviable position of being trapped between an impregnable fortress and a large force of our allies, while the enemy power to manoeuvre is being rapidly diminished.

'Their lines of communication and means of retreat are being cut off by the advance of the Chinese army and we may, by way of holding on, confidently look forward to the complete destruction of the Japanese aggressors in this area.'

News that Generalissimo Chiang's army was advancing towards Hong Kong was received with great jubilation.

War meant facing new and different charges in court. Magistrate Macfadyen found 20 such cases before him in South Kowloon Court.

The defendants were there to answer summonses for blackout offences relating to the striking of matches, flashing of torches and imperfect screening of house lights.

All Italian Catholic priests in the colony, with the exception of the Vicar Apostolic of Hong Kong, were interned. The parishes and educational centres they vacated were taken over by the Jesuit and Maryknoll fathers.

Two days after the Japanese invaded, the Hong Kong Jockey Club advertised a 12th extra race meeting to be held, weather permitting, on Saturday, December 13.

It went on to remind punters that badges for non-members could be obtained at HK$5 for gentlemen and HK$3 for ladies, provided a member applied to the secretary for them.

And: 'Tiffins are obtainable at the Club House provided they are ordered in advance from the No1 Boy.'

From the Classifieds: Buy a badge and support the Bomber Fund. HK$10 each. On sale at Linstead & Davis, Exchange Building; leading garages, SCM Post, Ltd. Issued by the HK Automobile Association.


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