Patten pays tribute to war veteran

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 August, 2006, 12:00am

Former governor Chris Patten yesterday added his voice to tributes to the late Jack Edwards for his campaign to seek justice for British prisoners of war.

Lord Patten sent a message from his London home to the British consulate in Hong Kong to commemorate Edwards, who died last Sunday aged 88.

'I was sad to hear the news. He was a brave and dedicated campaigner for British prisoners of war, servicemen and their widows. Jack was the best of British,' he said. 'He loved Hong Kong and Hong Kong will, I am sure, miss him.'

The ex-prisoner of war dedicated more than 60 years of his life to fighting for justice for the thousands who died at the hands of the Japanese in the second world war. A Welshman, he came to Hong Kong in 1946 as part of the war crimes investigation team and decided to settle here in 1963. He was a fluent Cantonese speaker.

As well as helping families in Britain and the Commonwealth locate the remains of missing relatives, Edwards - who was decorated with the OBE and MBE - gained recognition of and pensions for POWs in Hong Kong.

His greatest achievement was winning British passports for POWs and their wives and widows on the eve of the handover.

A secret arrangement the last colonial governor made with Edwards before the handover will see his coffin draped with a historic Union Flag during his final journey.

Symbolising patriotism and resistance, the flag was discovered by former POW Arthur May in rubble on the slopes of The Peak in December 1941, as Japanese troops were advancing. It was the first Union Flag raised after the liberation of Hong Kong in August 1945, and the last lowered at Government House on the night of the handover. The flag, which will be retired to a museum after Edwards' funeral, was raised in mourning after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, to celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and to mourn the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

British Consul-General Stephen Bradley echoed Lord Patten's comments. 'Jack Edwards was a courageous and noble soul who fought hard for justice throughout a life that should be an example for us all,' he said. 'The Queen honoured him in life and we honour his memory in death. He will not be forgotten.'

Edwards is survived by his wife Polly Tam So-lan, a former People's Liberation Army dancer he married in 1990, and her daughter by her first marriage.

A memorial service for Edwards will take place at St John's Cathedral in Central at 11am on Friday, September 1, followed by a private cremation.