From: ALISON LIVESEY Sent: Monday, August 17, 2015 5:38 PM
To: B, Melanie
Subject: Mary Previte
I read with extreme interest your article on Mary Previte who had been interned at Weihsien , the Japanese concentration camp, that was liberated 70 years ago today. My Great Aunt, Edith Livesey, was also interned there. She was a teacher with the China Inland Mission. My grandfather left a copy of one of her letters, which I enclose,
kind regards Alison Livesey Chichester UK
WEIHSIEN: “a dream in the night”
8,Erh T'iao Hutung, Tung Tan Pau Lou,
November, 28th, 1945.
After 2½ years in an internee camp I am back in old Peking, and camp already feels like a dream in the night.
It was quite an experience. It was in a beautiful compound belonging to the American Presbyterian Mission where there was a large College for Chinese boys before the Ch-nan-fu University was built.
The part I disliked in camp life was having to live in a dormitory. I longed like so many others for a tiny cubicle for myself. The rest did not worry me. We all had to help with community work - all work being done by the internees - stoking, baking, cooking, serving meals, washing up, scrubbing tables, serving hot water and tea, carpentry, shoe mending, etc. etc.
We had to stand in queues for so many things - meals - hot water and tea - washing water - canteen - wood - coal (making our own coal balls - chopping our own wood).
There was a very nice hospital with four English men and one woman, and two American ladies. The camp was very well organised by a committee of internees.
At first the Jap guards came round to the houses for roll call each-morning, but after two men escaped over the wall, we all had to go in groups to various ball fields inside the camp for roll call morning and afternoon, and there we had to stay from to an hour till the guards had all reported and the numbers found to be correct.
There was great excitement when on August 17th American aeroplanes flew over, and then dropped nine [sic] parachutists in the fields outside. They were not quite sure if it were the camp or not, until they saw foreign women coming close to the kaoliang among; which they were hiding. We had never been allowed outside the gate, but now a large number of people had streamed out and brought the parachutists in with great thrills.
Our food by this time was beginning to get thin, but soon planes arrived and dropped piles of army rations for us. Quite a lot got free from their parachutes and got smashed, and the Chinese must have got a lot of this. The parachutes were of brilliant colour, blue, blish green, red, white, yellow, such a sight against the back ground of the sky.
One day quite a lot of the
parachutes dropped on to trees and houses in the camp and even after the slightest sound of an aeroplane drove some of the tiny tots crazy with fright.
Two or three days after, 2 planes of sick and old were taken away including old Mr.Herbert Taylor, son of Hudson Taylor, the Founder of the
China Inland Mission. It was said at first we were all to be cleared out in a few days. This did not happen. About the middle of September it was decided to take us all by rail to the nearby port of Tsingtao, those wanting to go overseas to go first, the rest in two parties with two days between. The overseas people
after two or three attempts, finally got off and wrote glowing letters back, of the beauty of the place, and their good time to rest from work. But alas, the
other departures did not materialise for three weeks or more. Then the second party, after various notices to be ready, we got thoroughly tired of packing and unpacking last moment luggage. Our heavy luggage had gone soon after the first party at last really thought they were off. Two truck loads got to the station only to be told they could not go, as the line was again up in various places. I was just locking my door to go up to the truck when I saw someone coming back with his baby's basket. On asking him was he not going, he said, No,
and someone just behind him said the line was up. So again we waited in uncertainty. Then at last they decided to fly us straight to Tientsin and Peking. I was
at last told to weigh in on October 21st, I think, at 12.30 leaving by truck at 2. But at 11 I was told to hurry up, get my things and weigh in at once, and off
we were hurried to the airfield without lunch. We saw one or two planes leave for Tientsin, and then we waited till 2.30 or so, they decided to send my truckful in the last remaining plane which had not been meant for Peking. The second truck and two others arriving after us, had finally to go back to camp, another unpacking which I fortunately missed. I was very sorry for one mother with a two months' old baby.
Our plane arrived here at 4.45 and then I was taken with others by truck to the College of Chinese Studies by 6 o'clock. We were all ravenous, but supper was late owing to our arrival. Here about 80 of us were fed and housed free for 4 weeks, (by American Red Cross) to give us time to look round
for something. We also had a rehabilitation sum given to us by the Jap laison
office, and a sum for coal, a great help, but with prices as they are will not go very far for wanting to buy furniture.
I was offered a room and a little wash room in a big Chinese house (used by a Rug Company before) by an American lady and I moved in 10 days ago. It is on a very sunny courtyard. I am quite by myself, the American lady and her sister (who is head of the American School here) are in a courtyard farther back and in another one near theirs there is an American with an Italian husband and two children. They all have to pass by me to get out on
to the street. It is in a nice central position, so I am very glad to have got it. I only wish it had faced South to get all this lovely sunshine in through the big windows which fill up the east side of the room. There is a verandah along them, otherwise I should get the sun till about mid-day.
I am sitting out in the courtyard writing this. I have been out here since 11 o'clock or earlier and it is so warm in spite of its being the last Sunday in November.
Yunching University opened again in October.
I had had no word from home since the news of my Father's death which arrived in February, so I was very glad to get a letter today from Peggy. She says so many letters they wrote were returned after 2 weeks by the Foreign Office. I felt sure they had written although I did not get them.