British major served as judge and prosecutor in Hong Kong tribunals

Before his death last year, retired British major recalled for author his part in over half the trials

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 7:57am

Of all the people Suzannah Linton interviewed for her book on military tribunals in Hong Kong after the second world war, it was retired Major Murray Ormsby who made the greatest impact.

Ormsby, who died late last year at the age of 93, served as both judge and prosecutor at trials. He was a hugely influential figure during the proceedings.

Recruited in Burma while he was waiting for a new posting, Ormsby took part in 27 of the 46 trials held in Hong Kong.

"I was so lucky to be put in touch with the late Major Murray Ormsby, whom I interviewed in 2011 and whose interview is in my book. I have not met anyone else who was so closely engaged with the trials," Linton said.

"We had an extraordinary series of interviews, as his memory was extremely clear at that time. Sadly, he passed away but part of our interview was used in his obituary in [Britain's] The Daily Telegraph and The Times. It is so fortunate his memories are now preserved."

When interviewed in 2011 by Linton he gave a lucid account of his experiences of 65 years ago. He had no regrets about his actions, but remained upset by the memory of one case: on the last day of the war, August 15, 1945, sub-lieutenant Fred Hockley, a 22-year-old Seafire pilot, was shot down in Tokyo Bay. He was then executed - nine hours after Emperor Hirohito had announced the surrender - by Japanese officers whom Ormsby later prosecuted. Ormsby was so concerned about Hockley being forgotten that for years he placed an annual In Memoriam advertisement in The Daily Telegraph.

Linton created the Hong Kong War Crimes Trials database and hopes that this will continue to preserve the past.

"Memories are so important - several amazing people have shared, or are sharing their memories. My former student researchers, who are now qualified lawyers in Hong Kong, are still engaged in helping to interview survivors, and will shortly be interviewing an elderly lady who is willing to share her remembrances of those times in Hong Kong. All of this will go on the database," Linton said. "Here in the UK, a survivor of the POW camp system in Taiwan is working on a statement for me for it as well."


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