|Born||December 21st. 1899.|
Gordon Campbell was a Butterfield and Swire man, until transferring to John Swire and Sons in London, in July 1951 when he was involved with the recruitment and transportation etc. of the C.N.Co. Floating Staff. As he was the first contact for all new employees, and contact for those on leave it is appropriate that a resume of his career is include here.
Attended the Royal Naval College Greenwich, School of Economics, University of London.
1917. Employed by Dodwell & Co. London.
1917 - 1919. Royal Naval Air Service & R.A.F.
1919 - 1922.. Indian Army.
1922 - 1924. Employed by H. Campbell & Co. London.
February 1924 to June 1924. Employed in the Shipping Office of John Swire & Sons. London.
May 1924. Passed the London Chamber of Commerce, Senior commercial Grade.
July 28th 1924. Joined Butterfield & Swire in Shanghai, on Agreement. Employed as C.N.Co. Shipping Assistant.
January 26th.1925. At Tsingtao as C.N.Co. Shipping Assistant.
May 18th. 1926. Based at Tientsin. Appointed on sugar inspection duties with Taikoo Sugar Refinery.
March 6th. 1927. Temporarily employment by C.N.Co. at the freight desk for the duration of Yangtse disturbances.
September 17th. 1927. Assistant shipping agent with C.N.Co. at Shanghai.
January 27th 1928. Freight Desk C.N.Co. at Shanghai. He proved to be a good conscientious worker, a bit slow but steady and reliable.
April 1928, In the Chinese language, Mandarin, at the intermediate level it was reported that he was "Fairly Good"
March 16th. 1930. Appointed Shipping Agent at Wuhu.
March 16th. 1931. Appointed Shipping Agent at Nanking.
March 27th, 1933, Appointed Shipping Agent at Chefoo. Whilst in Chefoo it was noted that he had "plenty of guts" and was not afraid to stand up to people. Proceeded on leave on March 30th. 1935.
March 5th. 1936, Returning from leave, Appointed Agent at Swatow.
July 27th.1939. Arrived in Hong Kong, Duties were as a private secretary and Floating Staff Controller.
December 8th. 1941. Left Hong Kong by ship arriving in Australia on December 23rd 1941.
March 23rd. 1942. Arrived in Calcutta. No.3 in C.N.C. Shipping Control while in India.
April 27th 1942, Arrived in Bombay by train from Calcutta.
August 16th. 1944 Went on 3 months leave in Kashmir.
December 20th.1945. Left Bombay for Hong Kong on the Tsinan II arriving on January 29th 1946.
May 8th 1947 Proceeded on leave to the U.K. returning to Hong Kong on January 29th. 1948 to the position of C.N.C. Floating Staff Control and the Chinese Staff.
July 1951. Left Hong Kong to take up the position of C.N.C. Floating Staff Control in the London Office, holding this position until his retirement on July 31st 1964.
Events / Stories
Gordon Campbell provided the following for an article that appeared in SwireNews, the magazine of the Swire group.
“Anticipating an attack on Hong Kong, a few of our staff were sent out of the Colony to look after our ships wherever they might be operating. Although they were under requisition by the Ministry of War Transport, Butterfield & Swire was still “ships’ husband”. A number of ships had been detached by the MOWT for service in the Indian Ocean area, and under the Koo-Leathers Agreement, our Chinese crews were accommodated ashore - Lascar crews taking over the ships. We arrived in Calcutta towards the end of March 1942, but on account of naval activity in the Bay of Bengal, we moved in May to Bombay, where we shared with Jardine Matheson a vacant floor within the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank’s office.
A number of ships were employed on the Bombay, Karachi and Persian Gulf routes, taking stores out and loading oil and/or petrol for Red Sea ports, Alexandria and North African ports. At Tobruk, Kiungchow discharging petrol caught fire, and at different times Shuntien II and Szechuen I were sunk by enemy action on returning to Alexandria. Kiungchow, however was salvaged and subsequently employed in the Mediterranean. Regrettably, Hunan II was torpedoed and sunk en route from Mauritius to Durban with total loss of life except for a Lascar fireman and a male passenger, who, many days later were rescued from the only surviving ship’s life raft. Newchwang was on the West African coast and Shengking was employed on hush-hush RAF work, ferrying staff, stores, munitions etc between Ceylon and the Chagos Archipelago. In April 1944, Fort Stikine, berthed at Victoria Docks and loaded with high-power explosives, caught fire and blew up. Our Kingyuan was berthed opposite and the explosion blew her upper works to kingdom come.”
N.B. Re the Koo-Leathers agreement, Frederick Lord Leathers was the Minister of War Transport 1941 - 1945. and Dr. V.K. Wellington Koo was the Chinese Ambassador to the U.K. 1941 - 1946.
RECOLLECTIONS OF SOME ASPECTS OF EARNING A LIVING IN CHINA BETWEEN THE WARS
(Written by Gordon Campbell November 1968)
After service with the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during 1917 - 1919, followed by a course at the LSE, I unexpectedly found myself accepting a short service commission in the Indian Army, with postings at Jullundur, Lahore, a torrid tour in Mesopotamia, then Meerut, Lucknow and Cawnpore, so that on return to the UK when it came to looking for a job in civvy street, I was rather older than the 'youngsters' from the universities, but when I applied to Swires, with their customary percipience, they agreed to try me out. Thus commenced a working association of over 40 years.
This started in February 1924 in London Office and by June of that year accompanied by W.H. Lock in the Blue Funnel "Troilus", I set out for China arriving at Shanghai on a very warm August morning. I was met by Teddy McLaren and after reporting to the Taipan, Mr. E.F.Mackay, was introduced round the office and by 10 a.m. was seated at a desk with J .S. Scott, from whom I was to learn about 'pidgin snatching' which meant visiting the C.N. Co. ships at their loading/discharging berths to weigh and/or measure random samples of cargoes to ensure that shipping order declarations were correct and, if not, either to arrange for seizure of such shipments or collection of additional freight, also of course, to look for and seize (snatch) cargo that was unmanifested and had been smuggled aboard in excess of shipping order declarations. Newly arriving juniors were put to this ploy which was in fact an excellent way of meeting the ships' officers and learning about types of cargo (coffin w.c. was one of the puzzles to the uninitiated and turned out to be 'coffin with corpse') and the internals of a ship and the intricacies of loading and discharging. By the afternoon the bills of lading had been prepared and these had to be checked and signed before sailing time. As this job went on late into the evening, including Saturdays of course, it was taken in turn 'on deck' by the junior staff to deal with this overtime work as a normal part of one's duties.
As an interesting sidelight, our contract salaries were quoted in sterling; in China they were exchanged to taels which was not a currency but a weight of silver, which in turn was exchanged by the bank into dollars - $100 = taels 72. Later on (?1927) exchange rates became so erratic that Swires introduced their own fixed rate, sterling to dollars, so until more normal times returned we were paid in the 'Swire $'. Another normal, but extramural expectancy, was enrolment in the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, formed in Shanghai's early days to defend and police the settlement in times of stress and within a fortnight of my arrival I found myself in uniform again, this time kilted, with a gun in my hand on night duty protecting salient points and disarming stragglers and deserters from the armies of Generals Chiu and Liu of Chekiang and Kiangsu Provinces, fighting for control of the wealthy Shanghai city. These activities, however, did not normally interfere with the next day's work in the office, though probably still attired in uniform to be ready for emergencies. In 1927 the Corps was fully mobilised for a week or ten days until relieved by units of the regular army (Shaforce) sent up from Hong Kong and out from OK to cope with Chiang Kai Shek's menacing armies advancing down the Yangtse towards Shanghai, leaving death and destruction in their wake. It is pleasant to record that the Shanghai Scottish company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps wore the Hunting Stuart tartan kilt with a balmoral; its marching tune Highland Laddie played amongst a few others in 1924-25 by Leading Piper J .S. Scott. He was elsewhere in 1927 when the Scots Guards came out from UK and took our company under their wing.
Reverting to normal office routine, we had an hour's break for lunch, provided for staff in the office dining room and then we hopeful juniors chased along to the Chamber of Commerce for half an hour's direction in the study of Chinese in the Mandarin dialect under a delightful old missionary named J.B. Grant. Subsequently we had to take a viva voce examination which carried a small cash prize and later on, after more advanced studies, including a knowledge of Chinese characters, a stiff examination in conversation and unseen translation from a Chinese text, when success netted a good cash prize, but that took me nearly 3 years to achieve. 1925 I spent in Tsingtao as Shipping Assistant and saw a lot more of our coastal shipping at close quarters in competition with I-C S.N. Co. and the Chinese and Japanese lines. It was also my introduction to working Blue Funnel Line ships and their local export cargoes, mostly ground nuts, ground nut oil in bulk and egg yolk in kerosene tins. The big import cargo was in soda ash, but instead of going to help condition the soil of Shantung, a lot of it got sidetracked to condition the 'mantows' of the coolies who said it gave rise to their form of bread, so called.
In 1926 I was moved to quite a different job, that of 'sugar traveller' which involved travelling around one's allotted territory to inspect and report on the market and the Chinese Agencies who received consignments of Taikoo sugar in its various grades for sale in their towns and localities. Being on consignment, a payment was not remitted to main port until sales were made, but this simple procedure lent itself to manipulation and it was remarkable in many cases that with the approach of a sugar inspector commendable sales appeared in the Agent's books and remittances made. Sometimes, however, money from sales was not available for remittance and this needed particularly close investigation, especially when it came to checking the stocks in godowns and verifying whether or not hollow stacking had been indulged in.
My territory was in North China, based on Tientsin, including the provinces of Chihii, Shansi, North Honan and Shantung and my modes of travel, apart from a lot footwork, included train from first class down to coal truck, Pekin mule cart (a 2-wheeled unsprung vehicle with canopy), single wheeled barrow, mule litter (the one in front continually polluting the atmosphere and the one behind nibbling your hair or headgear), sailing sampan and paitse (a small 2-man sledge on the frozen rivers) a perishingly cold form of torture: me sitting in front and the owner at rear, balanced on the runners, propelling the horror punt-like with a pole. My accommodation varied from first class Wagon-Lits Hotel in Pekin to bug-ridden rooms in the Agency or in a village shakedown and to sharing a kang (a raised platform of mud or earth) with local noisy roughnecks in a village inn, also tenanted by bats, rats, enormous spiders and man-eating bugs and hungry mosquitos. The variations in temperature were from about 100 - 115°F in summer and 10 - 20°F or lower in winter, when my supplies of precious bottled water would freeze solid, often breaking the bottles. Apart from the Wagon-Lits in Pekin, sanitation was an unknown refinement, but the functional need remained and unless there was a handy field, places for its disposal just beggar description.
These inspection trips were usually of 3 weeks' or a month's duration, with a break of about a week in Tientsin office to report on the last and prepare for the next expedition. Bread was a problem too, the Chinese did not normally eat it, nor was it made in the country districts, so that on starting a trip my bread supplies had to last accordingly and by the end of 3 - 4 weeks it got progressively harder and greener. Another, but more menacing, problem was the fear of bandits who were active in most country districts. On one occasion, arriving at a village half way between Paoting and Tientsin, the Agent was most surprised to see us as a bandit gang was laying up in the hills just outside the village. However, after consultation, we decided to move on next day as the bandits would reveal their hideout in the deep snow covering the country.
My travelling companions were a Chinese interpreter, who was really mentor, guide and friend, and a servant who did his best to look after us both, arranging transport, haggling with the coolies and generally seeing that we were not over-charged, being well-to-do looking strangers, but he was mainly nurse to me in unfamiliar surroundings and also cook, when that could be managed, otherwise I lived largely on tinned food which could be heated up as necessary. At Tangshan, however, (where occurred the recent (1975) earthquake), he was very elated at placing a large fried steak in front of me which was a great treat in spite of its toughness. Subsequently, enquiring if it had been to my liking, I said "Yes, thank you very much", to which he revealed that he was glad about that as it was from a cow that had died only yesterday.
Living amongst the Chinese helped me in my study of Mandarin and so did my interpreter, but often he himself had to obtain the help of a villager to interpret local dialects to him and vice versa. Everywhere I was received with traditional Chinese courtesy and when I was able to converse with my hosts in my halting Chinese, there was obvious pleasure that I was taking the trouble to learn their difficult tongue and it also helped our business relationships. Rough and tough as the going was, I gained an appreciation of the Chinese and a sympathy with them that would have been difficult to acquire living only in the treaty ports.
Back in Shanghai I had a go at C.N. Co. statistics for a time with a relief job at Amoy for some weeks, an interesting and useful experience, and then a year in the Accounts Department, which after the initial fright was quite pleasant and about the only period I could leave the office regularly on time. I took over this job from a C.A. and at 8 p.m. one evening the balance of the books had not been reached until suddenly I remarked "Damn my eyes, here is the trouble after all" Pause. "Do you know" my staunch R.C. colleague said "you have consigned your eyes to perdition?" After that we turned the lights off and went our ways and I do not think I have used that expletive since.
Well, after 5 years 'hard', I was given leave and travelled home via Canada and in July married the girl I had been engaged to for the previous 5 years' spell and we are now approaching our golden anniversary. Even so, the event was not all that simple as my salary was not up to the firm's marriage limit, but as my father guaranteed the deficit, the required 'blessing' was given. However, as the minimum marriage salary was again raised, we lived in 'financial sin' for quite some time afterwards.
In the spring of 1930 I took my wife from home to Wuhu. I had never been there myself so could not tell her what to expect. It is in the rice-growing flatlands of the Yangtse and our new home was to be a hulk, on approaching which our mutual reflections were "Good God - have we got to live here - and in that?" A year later we were almost sorry to say goodbye. Apart from my work, the sort of life one experienced in the outports depended largely on the other European employees in the place (Jardines, Shell, BAT, Standard Oil, ICI, banks, Consuls, Customs, missionaries and visiting RN Gunboat officers). Normally relations were quite cordial in the club and private entertaining. Our hulk was the ex-paddle steamer Pekin, built at Glasgow in 1873, retired from active service and converted to a hulk in 1912 and served as such until she was sunk in a Japanese air-raid in 1937. The Agent's living quarters were on the forward part of the upper deck and were really very spacious and comfortable, while the office block was at the after end. In the spaces below were the holds into or from which the cargo was discharged or loaded from or into the vessel alongside, one of which called or bumped us awake early every morning en route up and down stream between Shanghai, Hankow and beyond. We were however spared the pandemonium of along-side ship working for a few weeks as during a heavy storm and freshet the hulk dragged her anchors downstream for some 50 yards, shattering our bridge connection with the shore and also our normal means of getting to or therefrom. The repairs and replacements were quite a job but work did not stop as we had a working pontoon a little further downstream from where the ships supplied us with our daily domestic water requirements by means of a buckets gang. The Chinese authorities were always having a wordy go at Opium suppression and as ships were an obvious means of moving the stuff about, (even HMS "Bee" the RAY's flagship was once involved), we cooperated with the authorities as best we could, but naturally the smugglers cared nothing about Queensbury Rules. Sleeping on the deck of the hulk, we were suddenly aroused very early one summer morning by tremendous shouting and on looking over the ship's rail, we saw 2 sampans rowing like hell up-river between us and the shore. As they approached our position the occupants of the first sampan let fly at us with hand guns. The second sampan may have contained police, but I need hardly say we withdrew as targets in a flash and on later enquiry we learned that the unfriendly types were indeed smugglers of opium from our ship at the pontoon, and that they got away. We had already been invited to attend, a few days later a lunch party given by the Chief of Police for the Wuhu District and I thought the question of opium suppression might well be raised. The lunch went on for hours but I noticed Chinese guests were leaving the food tables from time to time and eventually I was invited to another room where the Police Chief offered his guests a pipe of opium. That is not quite how I had expected the subject might be raised and it was with some difficulty that I excused myself, incidentally losing some interest in opium suppression into the bargain.
At Wuhu, and at all my subsequent outport appointments where ships and shipping were of main importance, I was also an Insurance Agent for Fire, Household and Marine risks, Wuhu being my first experience in handling such matters. Marine insurance was a more natural corollary to shipping but I had to get my head down to dealing with fire business brought in by our Chinese brokers especially as most of this concerned shops in the native cities. It meant my physical inspection and assessment of risks and their environment and, of course, very close investigation in cases of actual fire and subsequent adjustment of losses, of which we had our share.
Promotion of our Taikoo Sugar business was also an interest to be given close attention through our Chinese connections - and sales were not inconsiderable.
I would like to think my next appointment as Agent at Nanking, with a fine house within the city walls, was promotion but the world depression was upon us and we all had to take a 10% cut in our salaries. The Americans in our midst expressed sorrow for us, but they had far worse coming to them by 1933. Nanking was then Chiang Kai Shek's capital and the to-ing and fro-ing of visitors (wished on to us for our hospitality) for appointments at the various Ministries were legion, so there was a political inheritance to nurture in my appointment. The British Boxer Indemnity Commission was also in session during the year, the British members of which, N.S. Brown, Sir William Hornell (Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University), Calder-Marshall and Mr. Adams (Fellow of All Souls Oxford), paid us monthly visits for sherry and lunch to revive them from the morning's endeavours and fortify them for the afternoon's verbosities. Mrs. Cecil Chesterton and Gerald Yorke were others who stayed with us at different times to forage for material to include in books they were writing, which finally did not exclude some leg-pulls we gave them. Not only did we experience the terrible Yangtse floods of 1932, but the Japanese were also very troublesome and stationed their cruiser "Imidzu" just above our berth hulk, which also contained our offices. For some weeks this vessel intermittently bombarded the city of Nanking and its riverside suburb of Hsia Kwan, where our Chinese staff quarters were hit. The shelling got so dangerous that wives were evacuated to Hogee (Inter-national Export Company) whose property was some distance downriver and where the Manager and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. McCartney, so kindly cared for our ladies. In the meantime we were doing record business with shipments of bullion and silver to Shanghai for safety and subsequently on its return when the "Imidzu" had departed.
We too departed the following spring to Chefoo and as it was B. & S's turn to take the office, I was immediately installed as Chairman of the Foreign Chamber of commerce; in itself no sinecure, but I was thrown in at the deep end for a battle between the ship-owning interests and the shipping merchants. The trouble was that a Dutch harbour works company had persuaded certain shipping merchants and some government (Chinese) officials that it would be a good thing to build a longer breakwater out into the harbour with berthing piers and wharfage with godowns built out therefrom - the enormous cost to be recovered from expensive berthing and wharfage dues. The existing arrangements were that vessels anchored in the harbour, the discharge and loading of cargo being dealt with by a fleet of lighters to or from godowns on shore, and these arrangements were far more suitable for quick turn-round of ships considering Chefoo was a wayport with a minimal attraction for cargo support. The committee dealing with the problem consisted of the Commissioner of Customs (British), Superintendent of Customs (Chinese), The Senior Consul (originally American, subsequently British), the Chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Chairman of the Foreign Chamber of Commerce. At our early meetings only the first and last named above were against the harbour proposals and though we each took a lot of 'stick' from some of our respective constituents, we managed to eke out delaying tactics. When the American Consul was eventually transferred and was replaced by the British Consul, we were able to convince him of the correctness of the shipping interests' standpoint and finally the harbour proposal was quashed, but it was a 2-year battle.
In the meantime normal business pursuits were anxiously enlivened by the result of the piracies of our ships Tungchow II / Hsin Peking II and Shuntien II. The Tungchow II / Hsin Peking II was en route northbound from Shanghai with a large contingent of school children returning from holidays to the big China Inland Mission School at Chefoo whose boys and girls came from secular as well as missionary families from all over China. Anxiety arose as soon as the ship was overdue which increased to very serious proportions as day succeeded day with lack of news. It turned out that after leaving Shanghai the ship was taken over by armed pirates who had boarded her as passengers and ordered her southbound to finish up at the notorious Bias Bay (just north of Hong Kong) where the cargo including a shipment of currency notes was ransacked and taken ashore. The happy ending was that there were no casualties and the school children subsequently returned to their school as triumphant heroes. The Shuntien II, on the other hand, was taken over by armed passenger pirates after leaving Tientsin southbound for Shanghai via Chefoo and Wei Hai Wei. On this occasion a number of the passengers were taken ashore as hostages for ransom into the marshlands surrounding the delta of the Yellow River, between Chefoo and Taku Bar, but the pirates did not get away from the ship without a fight in which the Third Officer suffered a fractured skull, subsequently to be landed to hospital at Chefoo where he made a remarkable recovery, but most unfortunately was declared unfit for further sea service. Two of the hostages were young naval officers from HMS "Eagle" lying at Wei Hai Wei, from whence aircraft were despatched and subsequently located the pirates' hideout and eventually were successful in securing the release of the hostages, among whom one of the naval officers, Lt. Luce, eventually rose to the rank of Admiral during service in the last war.
After home leave I was appointed to Swatow as Agent in March 1936, not I might say without some trepidation, but after the first month I felt settled in. The intricacies of the coolie emigrant trades to Malaya, Java and Bangkok, with their jealously competitive shore side broking establishments, was a new and interesting field for me, but what went on between the brokers, the emigrant boarding houses and the Swatow Municipality was always a matter for speculation and concern. On one occasion, when the latter got so dominant and demanding on the trade, through the broking organisations, the shipping companies concerned decided, as a warning to the grasping officials, each to blank one Straits sailing in turn. This was certainly an expensive gesture, but seemingly it proved salutory. Prior to sailing of the coolie ships there was always a hotting up of apprehension and activity occasioned by the count and medical inspection of the emigrant passengers, men, women and children, say up to 1500 or more of them, while replacements were waiting in lighters alongside in case of medical or other rejects. The count and search of the ship were made as heavy fines were imposed on the ship for any illegal immigrants discovered at destination. So for the search apart from
the ships' officers were present the British Consul, the Port Health Officer, the senior Company1s broker and the B. & S. official, while there were also Chinese to interpret all five different dialects concerned among the emigrants from Foochow, Amoy, Swatow, Hakka and Cantonese. Even so, on the day after my arrival at Swatow, acute alarm and consternation was aroused by the arrival of a telegram from Bangkok stating that the "Kweiyang" had arrived with 437 stowaways on board. Although searching enquiries were made all concerned at the Swatow end denied knowledge of the stowaways or how they could possibly have escaped detection on board. No wonder I was a bit shaken to take over that problem and the apprehension of a recurrence in spite of all reasonable care. One could only wonder if it was a figment of one of those 'inscrutable's' imagination, but a heavy fine was levied at Bangkok in any case.
A year or two later the same ship was again in trouble at Swatow when fire was discovered in the forward hold, but as the seat of it could not be discovered, the emigrant passengers had to be taken ashore and the ship brought alongside the lower pontoon where seacocks were opened and the holds flooded. The operation was successful and after discharge of cargo and much telegraphy, a General Average, with its accompanying headaches, was declared. Which reminds me, the daughter of the Port Pilot and Lloyds' Agent at Swatow was my secretary, with whom a young American ensign in the USS "Ashville" (which visited the port occasionally) fell in love which was not unrequited and marriage followed. In due course the young ensign got promotion and in 1942 was responsible for getting General McArthur out of the Philippines by motor patrol boat to Australia. The young man prospered in his career and my ex-secretary's husband is now an Admiral in the US Navy and they always visit us when Washington sends him to the UK, which is quite often.
In the summer of 1936 the Japanese recommenced their attacks on China which they euphemistically termed the China Incident, in which Swatow became involved in September by the first air-raids on the town by sea planes from a carrier anchored off the port. Subsequently these became almost monthly affairs, the pattern of bombing being 8 a.m., 12 noon and 3 p.m., each attack followed by machine-gunning the buildings along the bund and the small craft in the harbour. On the first mid-day raid bombs were falling in close proximity to our properties, C.M. Customs and the English Presbyterian Mission Hospital, which received direct hits. Kakchioh, across the harbour, was not bombed and so the foreign houses there became refuges for the European families from the Swatow (Kialat) side, while Claymore (B. & S. house) also accommodated families of our Chinese staff.
The hospital was naturally very concerned about its patients and after consultation with Dr. Worth, the Superintendent, it was arranged to move them across to Kakchioh, where they could be bedded down in a small church and a small isolation unit. From early evening till after midnight following the first day of bombing, all hands available helped in carrying patients from the hospital to our lighters to be towed by the tug "Taikoo Hang" across to the Kakchioh jetty, whence they were again carried to their temporary quarters. The isolation unit was of particular value as there were a number of cholera, typhoid and other infectious cases to be looked after. When I came down to breakfast next morning, I found there were 21 additional white women and children in the house to be cared for and numberless Chinese families in the grilled space below the house which was raised some 5 ft. above the ground level foundations. Later in the day an enormous rice boiler was installed in our kitchen to supply boiled rice for the erstwhile hospital patients and, I expect, our Chinese guests below the house as well. I inspected their accommodation every day, which was always commendably clean while the guests were well-behaved and grateful. At this distance of time I forget how long this particular refugee service lasted, but when the bombing pattern became more or less established, the pilot station at Masu on the high hills surrounding the entrance to Swatow Harbour always gave warning of the Japanese carrier's arrival, so our friends from across the harbour came over to see their Kakchioh friends for the day, returning home in the evening. Large numbers of Chinese also spent bombing days in and around Kakchioh for safety. Our offices, of course continued to function during bombing days, but what really angered us was the strafing of the sampans working in the harbour. Eventually, however, in July 1939, trade was brought to a standstill when the Japanese took over Swatow after heavy bombardments by air and from a number of warships which had entered the harbour. In the midst of it all our s.s. Tsinan II (Captain '''James Kennedy Clark ) berthed at the pontoon opposite the office while an unfamiliar destroyer dropped anchor just off. I went on board to see Captain Clark, who was in a very voluble state of excite-ment(not that any of us were nerveless under indiscriminate bombardment) but a stiff glass of whisky each helped both of us. "Tsinan" had arrived off Swatow to find the Japanese fleet there and was signalled to "clear off", but H.M. destroyer turned up and signalled Tsinan II to "disregard the Japanese instruction and follow me". The Japanese threatened both ships with their guns and signals and though they did not open fire, Captain James Kennedy Clark did not feel it was much of a picnic party. In fact the Japanese were very very angry at being thus snubbed and even while I was talking to Captain Clark, they placed a couple of machine gun squads on the pontoon, allowing no-one to board or leave the ship. Obviously the ship could not work cargo and the next question was how she could get away from the pontoon if no hands were allowed to release her moorings. The only thing was to jettison them. My next move was by Jacob's ladder from Tsinan II to visit Captain Sim of the destroyer H.M.S. "Scout" to discuss the situation. He said he would be sailing shortly, but I suggested that as he had brought Tsinan II into the harbour, the least he could do in the circumstances was to take her out again. This was agreed, and a time for leaving: 3 p.m. He asked about "Tsinan's" casting off and I explained the difficulty about no hands being allowed on the pontoon and that Captain James Kennedy Clark would jettison his wires. "What" said Captain Sim "and make a present of them to those ... Japs? I will put an armed party on the pontoon at 3 o'clock to release the wires." This was done, Captain James Kennedy Clark having been informed, of course, and both ships left as arranged with no further
incident apart from further loss of face for the Japanese. As a result of all this the Japanese fenced in the shoreline of the Company's property and posted armed guards, while I was sent for by the Japanese Kempatei Commissioner and given a right old going over for bringing the Tsinan II into port for one thing and allowing units of the Chinese army to use our British properties from which to fire on H.I.J.M's ships and landing parties. "A pretty senseless complaint" I answered, but in fact a number of Chinese soldiers were killed on B. & S. property in attempting to repel the Japanese.
It was unfortunate that a day or so before the Japanese attack on Swatow, H.B.M's Consul had been suspended from duty and was under examination by the Commercial Counsellor from the British Embassy so that any support or backing from that source was disgracefully absent.
However, a day or two after the "Tsinan" incident, I was again requested to attend the Kempatei Commissioner (Mr. Matsudeira), but this time in view of H.B.M. Consul's suspension, I requested Lieut.Cmd. Graham de Chair, an old friend, whose 'D Class' destroyer had now arrived in the port, to accompany and support me. He did so in style, full summer uniform, medals and sword, and after allowing Matsudeira a bit of insulting rope, de Chair shut him up good and hearty, slammed the table and instructed me to leave with him. The ensuing weeks were not without their troubles and anxieties, but I had received notification of my transfer to Hong Kong private office, and after two attempts, my relief, James Tandy, arrived to take over what was left of a thriving port and Japanese unpleasantness. With my wife I left Swatow at the end of August, somewhat stealthily below decks in H.M.S. "Dainty" for Hong Kong, only to find ourselves at war with Germany a few days later and enrolling once again in a volunteer force, the HKVDC.
Looking back on my working years in China ports, there were many compensations in the way of comfortable firm's houses to live in and servants (paid for by me) to care for our wants; transfers to different ports, each with their own peculiar problems, and meeting new residents therein, so that life was never allowed to become monotonous. Of work there was plenty of it and this was particularly so in dealing with ships - they are like babies, always requiring attention, whether it be about documents, telegrams, supplies, working problems or other difficulties, such as being called out at 3 a.m. to cross the harbour to deal with disturbances among the coolies working ship's cargo, or battening down to wait the passing of a typhoon which in doing so might well leave death, destruction, floods and havoc in its wake.
Although living conditions in the outports were simple and pleasant enough, our leisure activities were somewhat restricted. There was tennis, but no golf, dinner parties with evening bridge, singing round the piano, or funny games, entertaining visiting fire-men, generally good walking in the country and passing the time of day with cheerful villagers, but of cultured pursuits, such as radio, concerts, theatres and cinemas with up-to-date programmes, there was an absence, so that on return to the more sophisticated environments one feels one has lost out in an education that others have enjoyed with some beneficial effect. Air-conditioning, of course, was a thing of the future and for so many months of the year we just had to make the best of the heat and humidity and the interminable sweat, both by day and by night, the latter spent under a stuffy mosquito net, from which it was impossible to exclude some of the cloud of mosquitos buzzing around outside. There were whirring ceiling fans, but so often the local electricity supply lacked power, or was shut off, while our little Delco set at Swatow had as much as it could do to produce light. Sweaty fitful sleep at night and sweaty working days just added to our joys.
There was no question of working 8-hour days or 5-day weeks, one had to be on call at all hours of the 24 and the 7 days of the week. In fact on Sundays, both at Chefoo and Swatow, we had two regular ships in port, in each case one northbound from Hong Kong, the other southbound from Tientsin, while in the Yangtse ports there were regular daily calls, both up and down stream.
In our Japanese troubles, both at Nanking and Swatow, my Chinese staff remained loyal and continued at their various jobs, but I must give special mention to the crew of our Swatow motorlaunch "Taikoo Ching" who were on 'stand'-by' at all hours and without demur ferried me between Swatow and Kakchioh and the ships in harbour during air-raids and bombardment, and through the Japanese fleet in harbour to the Shell installation, when I was prevented from landing at our own property; I was not too happy about it, but the crew seemed imperturbable.
There is a postscript to our working lives in China: it had been arranged with Hong Kong Government approval, that in the event of war with Japan; British shipping should be evacuated from Hong Kong and that in the case of C.N. Co., certain members of staff should also leave to look after C.N. Co. ships and interests wherever involved. B.& S./C.N. Co. staff consisted of the Sub-Managers from Hong Kong (F.D. Roberts and J.A. Blackwood) and Shanghai (E.G. Price), Chief Accountant (F.D. Hunter), Marine Superintendent (Captain William Lumsden), Superintendent Engineer William Bell, stores Superintendent (W. Farrell) and Floating Staff Control (myself).
On Saturday 6 December 1941, at about midnight we were telephoned to report to the office immediately, preparatory to going to Singapore to await the turn of events following the Japanese/U.S.A. peace talks going on in Washington, possibly to be back in Hong Kong in a week's time. Price and Hunter embarked in a Blue Funnel ship, but the rest of us were accommodated (with wives) in m.v. Yunnan I (Captain O. Fox) and with 17 other C.N. Co. ships, sailed at daylight on Sunday morning, 7 December for Singapore, but at midnight (this was 8 December at Pearl Harbour, being on the other side of the dateline) the signal was received that we were at war with Japan and should make for the nearest friendly port. Some of the ships went to Manila, others carried on towards Singapore. Manila proved anything but friendly as on the morning of our arrival in the harbour, flights of ,Japanese bombers came over the anchored ships to deal death and destruction. Of the C.N. Co. ships Anshun I (Captain '''Colin Percival Miller), Taiyuan II (Captain IT.D. Fraser) and "Yunnan" were anchored in line; Anshun I received two bombs, one abaft the bridge in the wing of which Chief Officer W. Bennett was killed; the second bomb in the aft accommodation filled the engine room, killing and injuring a number of Chinese passengers. Yunnan I luckily was straddled, and the Taiyuan II also received two bombs, one in her side bunkers, the other in the forward tween decks and lower hold, but for-tunately there were no casualties. After the raid the ships in the port scattered round the huge Manila Bay to reduce the target, while Yunnan I being the senior ship went round to investigate casualties. Next morning the Consul General and S.N.O. were visited ashore in Manila for information, but all they could tell us was that the Japanese were intending to blockade the entrance to Manila Bay and it would be up to us to take what action we thought advisable. After conference on board "Yunnan" it was decided to leave port and that "Yunnan" would lead our available fleet out at sundown on Friday evening. This was done without loss, the coal burners goinq to Samarinda for bunkers, and the oil burners via the Sulu and Celebes Seas and Lombok Straits into the Indian Ocean and finally Fremantle. The Anshun I and Taiyuan II eventually got away from Manila, the former had suffered engine damage in the bombing and broke down after passing Lombok, but the Hanyang II (Captain S. Barling) heard her faint distress signals, located her and towed her 1300 miles to Fremantle. The Taiyuan II was eventually lost at Sourabaya after being requisitioned by the U.S. Navy. In their turn all the C.N. Co. ships arriving in Australia were subsequently requisitioned for service with the R.A.N. and U.S.N. B. & S./C.N. Co. staff were thus released for duties elsewhere, and with some of the C.N. Co. officers, I and my wife left Fremantle at noon on 2 March by the N.Z.S. Co.'s "Narbada" for Cocos Keeling Is. and Colombo. At 9.30 that same bright moonlit evening the ship was attacked by submarine, whose torpedoes missed but whose gunfire hit the "Narbada" on the bridge, the fore deck and the wireless room, fortunately missing the after deck which was loaded with gasoline for Cocos. The Master was able to keep "Narbada's" stern to the submarine and at about 4000 yards he opened fire with his 1918 4.7 stern gun and while watching from the boat deck we saw his first shell was an 'over' and the second straight into the submarine's conning tower, and that was the last we saw of her, except that at Colombo it was confirmed as a 'kill'. The call at Cocos was cancelled, but we still had another 14 anxious days solo steaming to Colombo. From Colombo we entrained for Calcutta and settled in at Shaw Wallace & Co.'s office, but in May, after all shipping had left for the west coast of India, we moved to quarters in the H.& S.B.C's office in Bombay, where we maintained touch with C.N. Co. ships employed in the Indian Ocean ports, Persian Gulf, Chagos Archipeligo, Suez and East Africa. When shipping as noted above, was ordered out of Calcutta, 35 ships formed an unprotected convoy, but off the Orissa coast a Japanese cruiser squadron intercepted them and every ship was sunk including our "Sinkiang", with very heavy loss of life. The first news we had of this was when Captain E.G. Thomas walked into our office in his bloodstained uniform, obviously distressed and requested aid be sent to the few survivors stranded ashore in a deserted country area. I immediately took him along to see the S.N.O., Commander Vibart, who disclaimed any responsibility and said that there was nothing he could do. I insisted something must be done quickly and asked if he could arrange for me and Captain Thomas to see the Governor. This he did, but the Governor staggered me by saying that as the men concerned were ashore in Orissa, he could do nothing as this was Bengal. I can normally keep my temper, but this attitude called for hard words from both of us and before we left the Governor promised he would arrange for a hospital train to be despatched to Berhampore to rescue the men. This was done and we were able to visit the injured crew members of the Sinkiang I in the Park Hospital, Calcutta, where I was able to act as interpreter between our remaining half dozen Chinese crew and the hospital staff.
Our sojourn in Bombay lasted until December 1945 when the Tsinan II carried us back to Hong Kong in order to get things going again. Our office was bare of furniture, everything of wood, even the floors, had long been removed for firewood, so that to start with we were writing letters in pencil, (ballpoint pens had not come our way yet) using the walls as writing surfaces. Furniture we had brought with us from Bombay eventually reached the office, and within a few weeks a number of our old Chinese staff turned up, and after a few months we were a going concern. So much so that a representative of the British Government who was sent out to look into the question of compensation for war losses and damage, finally declared that "they are all working so hard and seem very happy; they don't need any compensation."
Early in 1946 I paid a short return visit to Swatow in the Shengking II (Captain Donald Brotchie) to review conditions there towards reopening of trade. I must say I was most warmly welcomed by our Chinese staff who had survived the Japanese occupation - it was a case of old friends meeting again - they were only too anxious to get going once more. Our old offices were a heap of rubble, but we found a suitable corner in one of the godowns, secured a desk and chair from somewhere, and with some writing materials, declared with an enthusiastic cheer that the Swatow office was open again and a going concern.
To tidy my précis of "Forty Years On":
In the summer of 1947 we returned by ship to the U.K. on home leave after an absence of 12 years from England, home and families among whom the 'reaper' had taken his toll in the meantime.
We embarked again that year on 18 December at Liverpool for a further tour of duty in Hong Kong but subsequently, having been invited to work in the London Office, we said goodbye to the East in July 1951 and sailed home in the last voyage of the P. & O. "Corfu". Interesting as it was, life and work in London was quite a change, but after a final stint of thirteen years there I retired in good order and condition on 31 July 1964.