Inmates in both the military and civilian prisoners in China were sternly warned at the beginning of their confinement of the serious consequences of attempting to escape.


         For example, upon entering Stanley Camp in Hong Kong each internee had to sign an affidavit, "I hereby swear that I will make no attempt to escape while in the custody of the Japanese Government." This was a reasonable formality, but the regulations in other camps went a step further, making fellow internees jointly responsible for a person's escape. Clause 7 in the Camp Regulations of Longhua Camp required that a leader be appointed for every group of 20 internees, and Clause 11 provided corporate responsibility for any escapes ― "As all members of each section shall be held responsible and punished for the running away of its members, caution should be taken by each of them to prevent such an occurrence."


         The Geneva Convention of 1929 (which had been signed by Japan, but never ratified by its Diet) forbade collective punishment of P.O.W.s for individual acts. But this renouncing of collective responsibility cut across the strong communal structures of the Orient, especially the system of "bao jia" (explained in chapter 7 under "internal administration"). When Japanese War Minister Hideki Tojo was giving instruction to the Commandants of military and civilian camps, he insisted on Japan having a different approach to prisoners than that of the West. He said, "In Japan we have our own ideology concerning P.O.W.s which should naturally make their treatment more or less different from that of Europe and America."


         With this rejection of international conventions went a harsh approach to the handling of attempts to escape. Thus the military prisoners at Shamshuipo Camp were warned by Colonel Tokunaga, Commandant of all the Hong Kong camps, "You are forbidden by the Japanese authorities to escape. If you are recaptured, you will be tried by Japanese military laws. Reprisals may be taken against your comrades."


         In the China camps there were a number of escapes, as well as attempts at escape; and these incidents brought mixed reactions among the inmates. On the one hand, they broke the monotony of camp life, and there would be animated discussion and speculation about the event. Also, most escapes led to the outside world being advised of the urgent needs in the camps, and representations were made at government level to improve their lot. But on the other hand the punishments meted out to fellow internees could be quite severe. After an escape from the Longhua Camp, Peggy Abkhazi recalls the following deprivations ― "No newspapers, no canteen or library, no chatties (stoves) or entertainment, no garbage coolies ... All private books and gramophone records to be turned in. Two meals a day, and all occupants to be confined to their huts or rooms until further notice." In spite of these harsh punishments, the internees welcomed the excitement associated with such escapes.




         As imprisonment commenced in Hong Kong before other parts of China, it is understandable that the first escapes took place here. In March 1942, barely a few weeks after internment, two separate parties escaped from Stanley Camp by a secluded section of fencing, which had been badly secured. Both groups reached Chongqing and brought with them lists of names and addresses of those in the camps, and relatives overseas were duly advised of the prisoners' whereabouts.


         But in April 1942, just a few weeks later, four men escaped by the college Science Building, and were recaptured only a short distance from Stanley Camp. The Japanese paraded them through the streets of Hong Kong, and then gaoled them in the nearby Stanley Prison. At the end of 1944, more than two years later, they were brought back to Stanley Camp.


         At the same time as the above attempted escape, four prisoners successfully escaped from Shamshuipo Camp. David Bosanquet describes this graphically in his book Escape from China. One night when the guards were not around, a manhole cover was lifted, as planned beforehand, and the four men crawled through the pipe the 80 yards to the sea, facing the Hong Kong harbour. They swam a distance and then climbed the Kowloon hills in pitch darkness.


         Their luck was in when they met a pro-Chongqing guerrilla group, which was glad to assist them. They travelled by foot and by sampan past small villages and rice paddy fields east of Kowloon, and across the New Territories. Some villages afforded shelter, but some harboured Japanese collaborators. They went on by junk to Guangzhou in Free China. Here they were carried by Chinese on the back of bicycles and by barge up the East River. At Kukong, Guangdong's wartime capital, they met Gordon Grimsdale and John Keswick of the British Embassy staff in Chongqing.


         The group then broke up, and Bosanquet travelled with the two officials by train to Hengyang and on to Guilin. He drove by car to Guiyang in Guizhou in west China, and then had the difficult task of driving a military truck through the mountain gorges and hairpin bends to Kunming in Yunnan. On 18 June 1942, nine weeks after leaving Shamshuipo Camp, Bosanquet arrived by air in Chongqing, where he commenced work in the British Embassy, assembling records of all who were in the Hong Kong camps. Returning to his camp after the war, Bosanquet learned of the reprisals taken for the escape of his group ― ten were arrested, beaten and interrogated about the escape, and one prisoner was beaten to death.




         The escape of Laurance Tipton and Arthur Hummel in the Weixian Camp was carefully and scientifically planned. The writer recalls seeing them deep in conversation, their heads shaven and their skins tanned, during the weeks leading to their escape on 9 June 1944.


         The countryside surrounding the Weixian Camp was a patchwork quilt of competing military units. The immediate environs of the camp was in Japanese Puppet country, controlled by Chinese working with the Japanese. Further south was a Communist controlled area, and to the north, beyond the Puppet-controlled area, was another Communist area. But to the north east and east of the camp, beyond the surrounding Puppet area, was a large area controlled by Nationalist guerrillas.


         It was with the last group that Father Raymond de Jaegher (who was originally to escape with Tipton, but was restrained by his Catholic superior) had established regular contact. The planning in advance included the strategy of escaping at the time of the full moon, studying the timing of the changing of the guards on the watchtower, and the fixing of a rendezvous with Chinese guerrillas at a point near the camp.


         And so it was that on 9 June 1944, as the guards were changing at 9 p.m. and the sentry was doing his ten minute tour of inspection, that Tipton and Hummel slipped into and through the tower, and were helped down the high wall outside by fellow internees. With a hand on the post of the electrified fence, they each vaulted over, and then their knapsacks were thrown to them.


         A small group of Chinese were waiting for them as arranged, at a cemetery two miles from the camp. The journey to the headquarters of General Wang Yumin's guerrillas at Suncheng, less than a hundred miles to the north east of the camp, included walking and travelling by wheelbarrows and bicycles. They were to stay in this area for the remaining fourteen months of the war. They found themselves in a large military establishment, which included a munitions factory, home industries and adult educational classes.


         They immediately sent reports to Chongqing, giving statistics about the internees, a report on current conditions in Weixian, and a request for funds, vitamin tablets and medical supplies; and finally to ensure the safety of the internees in any political changes which might take place. The reports were delivered personally by two Chinese, and the messages were sown between the layers of the cloth soles of their shoes. The response from Chongqing came in December, six months later, when a plane one night dropped the two Chinese by parachute and twelve packages of supplies. They included a radio transmitter and receiver for regular contact in the future with Chongqing. The money and medical supplies were conveyed to the Swiss consul in Qingdao, and he brought them into camp on his next official visit.


         Tipton and Hummel kept in regular touch with the camp through a Chinese carpenter, who went in regularly as a worker. The messages were written in fine silk and folded into a small pellet, which the workman stuffed up his nose. This strategy defied the most exacting body searches. The messages were written in a special code in case they fell into the wrong hands. They were discharged from his nose near a camp toilet where de Jaegher was already waiting.


         At the time following the escape of the two men, Ted McLaren, head of the camp Discipline Committee, reported their absence in the middle of the day after their departure, thus giving the two men a good start. The Japanese Commandant naturally reacted angrily to the news of the escape, and the men sharing their bachelor dormitories were arrested, placed in the church building for ten days and fiercely interrogated. Accommodation in the camp was rearranged so that the bachelors on the top floor of the hospital, with its view of the countryside, were moved nearer to the officers' quarters; and the boys and girls of the Chefoo School moved to their rooms. Rollcalls were now prolonged and the numbers present more carefully computed before the bell was rung for dismissal. To the internees the monotony of life had been broken by this dramatic escape. Soon the punishments were withdrawn and normal life resumed.




         Internment in Longhua Camp had commenced in March 1943, and before the year was out there were two incidents of escape, one successful and one unsuccessful.


         On 25 September, after only half a year of internment, Jack Conder, an ex-soldier in Longhua, made an escape about which there are few recorded particulars. In order to deter further attempts, the Commandant announced to the camp that Conder had been caught and shot, but in fact he had got away, for three months later his wife received a Red Cross letter from him written in London.


         Then on the last day of 1943 the internees had a New Year's Eve dance and Fancy Dress party. Among the revellers was a Miss MacDonald, who arrived at the party dressed in the simple garb of a Chinese peasant woman. She was in fact also dressed in this way for a planned escape. Before the night was out, she and two Anglo-Indians had made their escape. But the attempt was amateurish, and the three were soon captured and imprisoned in the much-dreaded Ward Road Gaol.


         Roy Scott, in his manuscript Five from Lunghwa, describes his escape from Longhua Camp; but he first recounts his feelings beforehand. He was deeply aware of the serious risks involved ― of being shot at by Japanese guards while affecting the escape, as well as the possibility of being recaptured, and facing torture and imprisonment in far worse conditions than those in Longhua. He speaks of the intense mental strain in the last few days prior to departure, comparing it with his experience in World War I of "going over the top", which he points out was not so prolonged as waiting to escape.


         Five men took part in the getaway ― Louis Murray-Kidd, Roy Scott, Tom Huxley, Michael Levy and Reg Ulrich (who could speak both Chinese and Japanese) ― and in their planning they had to take cognisance of the obstacles which they would have to overcome. The grounds of the camp were surrounded by ten strong rows of barbed wire eight feet high, and also a tidal creek eight feet wide. The items the five men procured for the venture included wire cutters, a rubber raft, various tools, tinned food and $6,000 CRB (smuggled into the camp in a Municipal Council water cart). Each person had his own equipment in case they were separated. One of their last actions before departing was to write a letter to the Japanese Commandant, saying that they were escaping as a protest against the bad treatment and poor conditions of the camp.


         They met as planned on the night of 22 May 1944 at 11.30 p.m. They cut the double thickness of wire, crossed the tidal creek which was at low tide, and made their way along a path. During the first night they were challenged by Chinese police; they informed them that they were hikers, and their appearance with heavy ruck sacks gave credence to their story. Then they ran into a Japanese post; and Ulrich, their interpreter, told the Japanese that they were four Germans and a Russian from Shanghai. The Japanese soldiers advised them to be careful of Chinese guerrillas, and helped them on their way. During the day following their escape, they could see Japanese planes searching for them.


         As they proceeded, they met some pro-Chongqing guerrillas, who helped them with food, hospitality and money, and directed them on to the next guerrilla stronghold. Each military group, both guerrillas and Kuomintang, was to do the same for them, escorting them on to the next contact by truck, ferry and junk. At Wucong, where they arrived on 4 June, they learned that Jack Conder had escaped along this same route, and been given hospitality by the same groups. From this base they sent a telegram to the British government in Chongqing, advising of their escape and plans to reach that town.


         A week later, on 4 June, the men sent a further telegram to Chongqing from Tianmoshan, which ended with the sentence, "Conditions in Lunghwa deteriorating rapidly". They hoped that, in spite of the repercussions in the camp arising from their escape, their departure would also bring benefits to the internees through drawing attention to their plight. It was also at Tianmoshan that they learned that Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Doolittle, after his raid on Tokyo, had bailed out in this neighbourhood two years earlier, and received hospitality at this same military camp for two days.


         Their next stop was Shanjao, where they stayed in the C.I.M. compound with Mr. and Mrs. Dunn and Miss P. Loosley. Here they had their first three-course English meal in fourteen months. While here, on 24 June 1944, they received a telegram from the British Embassy at Chongqing which said, "Congratulations on your courage and resourcefulness in escaping. Have requested the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs to remit to you by telegraph $50,000. We are arranging onward transport to Chongqing."


         The five men arrived in Guilin, Guangxi Province, on 8 August 1944, ten weeks after their departure from Longhua; and from Guilin they proceeded to Chongqing.


         Back in the camp which the men had left, the guards had been angry about the escape, and become short-tempered, resorting to face-slapping the internees. Also, Rollcalls had become protracted, and had been summoned at irregular times of the day and the night; and camp lights were being turned off earlier. But the punishments soon died away.


         Three months after this escape from Longhua Camp there was another from the same camp. This was led by W.C. Henry, who has written an unpublished account of his experience. The author of this story had been a mechanic in the Shanghai Gas Company, and on 12 March 1943 had been interned in the Pudong Camp. Initially Henry's wife remained free, as she was a Swede and was working in the Swedish Consulate.


         Subsequently Mrs. Henry was interned in Longhua, and W.C. Henry was able to transfer to her camp. He found that conditions in Longhua at this time were an improvement on those in Pudong.


         Later Mrs. Henry was given her freedom, and she returned to work in the Swedish Consulate. At this stage W.C. Henry, K. Pate and Tom Crossthwaite began to make plans to escape. They managed to obtain a compass, maps, wire-cutting pliers and tinned food, and packed them into rucksacks.


         On the night of 19 August 1944 the three men cut a hole in the wire fence at Longhua, crawled through it and put on their well packed rucksacks. In the first few days they made little progress, having to change their course and return to where they had started.


         There were severe thunderstorms followed by heavy rains. Weighed down by soaking rucksacks, they decided to discard one, including some tinned food. They found their way to Hungjao Road in Shanghai, in order to contact a white Russian, Captain Navyrosky, who gave them food, washed and dried their clothes and hid them in his garden. Henry gave the captain a message for his wife, and the three proceeded on their long journey to west China.


         They travelled by ferry and walked many miles. They found that they were in territory controlled by Japanese and Chinese puppet troops, so they chose their route carefully, walking across paddy fields, wading knee deep in slimy mud, and then travelling by sampans.


         When they reached Kashing on 1 September their feet were swollen from walking for so many miles. Here they were given hospitality by guerrilla troops. They learned from the captain that this unit had also helped Roy Scott and his colleagues a few months earlier. The three men spent two days here, and were each given $2,000 for the journey. They were passed from the care of one military group to the next, and given accommodation, food and funds. Through drinking creek water they were all suffering from dysentery. In the province of Zhejiang they had to traverse mountainous country.


         W.C. Henry's notes end with the three men near to Hangzhou. The three men eventually reached Kunming in Yunnan. But their successful escape, following within a few months of the previous five, had repercussions in the life of Longhua Camp. Hayashi, a fairly reasonable Commandant, was replaced by a tougher individual, Yamashita.


         As a reprisal, the internees were confined to their billets. There were drastic cuts in food, reducing their already low rations still further; and there were midnight Rollcalls. Those who had been in the same rooms as the three escapers were arrested and cross-examined; and all pleaded ignorance of the escape.


         One incident associated with the escape of the three men caused a tense situation. A young man of twenty was being questioned about the escape, and on giving a confused answer was struck by a guard. He ran out of the guard room across the football field pursued by three guards. He fell and the guards kicked him with their heavy boots, and hit him with their revolvers. Internees rushed to the scene to assist him; and there was a confrontation for two hours as prisoners protested at his treatment. Guards then prepared to fire into the crowd. But Dean A.C.S. Trivett intervened and calmed both sides down, and a serious crisis was averted.


         Japanese guards faced discipline or demotion when prisoners under them escaped, and had to account to their seniors for their failure to avoid such escapes, and so there was understandably tension and anger when such incidents occurred.


End of Chapter.

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