GUESTS OF HONOUR I was born in 1922, in Hong Kong, the third of 11 children, and I grew up on Hau Wo Street, in Kennedy Town. My father worked in a factory making ropes for ships. At the age of 13, I went to work as a pitch boy at the Repulse Bay Hotel. I would do small errands, like deliver newspapers and letters to guests such as Soong Tzu-wen (brother of the Soong sisters) and Lawrence Kadoorie. My monthly salary was HK$450, and the hotel not only had a dormitory for us to live in, but also offered English classes so we would be able to communicate better with guests.
DAYS OF WAR At 17, I started working with my father in the rope-making factory. It wasn't tough work, just tedious. I decided to join the British Army in August 1941, three months before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese bombed the airport. I was at the Lei Yue Mun barracks eating breakfast at the time. Three minutes later we got the call to be at our post at Tai Po Kau, near Chinese University. I had to be on the lookout for Japanese ships and we had to defend ourselves in case the Japanese landed there - they never did. I wasn't scared - we were psychologically prepared to face the situation. Later I went to Wah Fu and, as an anti-aircraft gunner, I had to shoot Japanese planes down. We had two shifts, Chinese soldiers were the first group, Indians the second.
FEEDING THE BLACK MARKET When the British surrendered, on December 25, 1941, we were instructed to take off our uniforms and go to the Dairy Farm in Pok Fu Lam, to catch a truck back home to become civilians. By the afternoon, the Japanese had arrived in Western district, where they set up a sentry post in Kennedy Town. Whenever we passed that post, we had to bow. There were several godowns there, storing foodstuffs, like salt, oil and rice. The Indians taken prisoner were ordered to guard the godowns. During the occupation, food rations weren't enough and we had to go to the black market to buy food. Our family had to sell clothes and fabric for money. We would buy rice then resell it on the black market.
I SPY Around this time I met Mr Lau, an intelligence officer with the British Army Aid Group. He asked me to work at the naval dockyard in Admiralty as a repairman, pounding metal plates. But the real mission was to monitor Japanese vessels - whenever they went back to sea, I had to inform Mr Lau. He was later captured by the Japanese and, because people knew I had worked for him, I fled to the mainland. I went through a mountain pass in Shenzhen. Eventually, the Japanese surrendered and I returned to Hong Kong.
DRIVING MR HENDERSON The British asked me to sign a five-year contract to become a full-time soldier, but I didn't because the salary was too low. There was a pay discrepancy depending on if you were Chinese or British so I left the army in 1945. My first job out of the army was to look after rental cars at the Hong Kong Hotel. Then I became a driver for the chief executive of Coca-Cola, Mr Henderson. I was paid HK$360 a month and another HK$360 for expenses. Henderson was transferred and a new boss came in. He didn't like me and accused me of stealing petrol. Three months later, Henderson came back, felt bad for what had happened and gave me a generous monthly subsidy. I used the money to buy a Leica camera and became a freelance photographer.
WORST OF TIMES In 1951, I was living in Shau Kei Wan and I decided to marry a woman I had met through the St John Ambulance Brigade. Her job as a nurse was to board ships to give sailors injections for small pox. In 1963, she passed away. We had seven children, the oldest was 11 years old, the youngest was a newborn. I raised them. Then, in 1968, Typhoon Wendy hit. At the time I was handling a construction project to move stones from a mine to Quarry Bay. I also had to take care of the bamboo scaffolding. During the typhoon, all the bamboo scaffolding was destroyed and I went bankrupt from the cost of replacing it.
SHENZHEN CALLING When the riots began in 1967, I was recruited by the Hong Kong government to be a driver for a Scotland Yard intelligence officer, who was gathering information on the KMT (Kuomintang) and the Communist Party. He was posted to Hong Kong to learn Chinese so I drove him from The Peak (where he was staying) to Wan Chai, to go to Chinese class. The riots ended and my assignment did, too. From 1968 to 1991, I worked for an association which organised taxi drivers. I retired in 1991, but then I went to Shenzhen to open a northern Chinese restaurant. We started selling dumplings and then expanded the menu. Everyday at 2pm one of the staff would take me swimming. It wasn't stressful doing business there.
LIFE IN THE 90S In 1980, I helped establish the World War II Veterans' Association in Hong Kong, and I have been chairman since 2000. My children are concerned about my well-being. They worry something might happen to me while I'm travelling (to the meetings). But I live at home in Wah Fu by myself and at the association I (get to see) people. I don't eat much, nor do I exercise. I still smoke periodically, but I try to follow what my doctor says.