The Oatlands Park Hotel, Weybridge, Surrey, is sited in spacious gardens and parklands where Henry VIII had a Royal palace, where Charles I collected paintings and Art treasures, and where Prince Rupert mustered his cavaliers for the advance on London during the English Civil War.


         The original Tudor mansion - rebuilt on neo-Gothic style on 1794, and remodelled twice more by a “Regency Rake” and a Victorian syndicate - became a hotel on. 1856. Twenty years later the Gentry could hire a sitting, room at seven shillings and sixpence per day and eat a table d'hôte dinner in the coffee room for five shillings and sixpence.

         This was the elegant pied à terre chosen by Mrs. Renée Cumberbatch, an enterprising Shanghai lady, for a once-in-a-lifetime, three -day, weekend Reunion for all Civilian Internees of Japan 1941-1945. Half a dozen different camps were represented, including Lungwha in Shanghai - used by J.G. Ballard as the setting for his novel, “Empire of the Sun” - and Weihsien, where the Chefoo School was interned.

         On Friday evening, Oct. 21, Norman Cliff had arranged a special Weihsien Reunion - within the framework of the larger Reunion - on a Weybridge churche hall. Chefoo was strongly represented and a number of Weihsien Chefusians, unable .to attend the full weekend, put on an appearance for the Friday evening only.

         It was marvellous to see so many past members of staff and/or their families; - Mr Gordon Martin and John; Mr-Reg. Bazire, Theo and Peter; Mrs Ruth Pryce (tee Greening); Mr Jo Cotterill (husband of the late Jeannie Hills-Cotterill); Sister Mary- Brayne; Isabel (Harris) Herron; Henry Lack; Sylvia (Welch) Long and Theo, Bernard (Bunny) and Beryl - and. many other Chefusians and Weihsienites and spouses, over 100 in all. It was, wonderful to see so many familiar faces, not seen since Weihsien or early post-war reunions.

         Many of us were: from England, Wales, Scotland and a few from Belgium and France; others had come from further afield Barbara (Harlé) Monsma from America, Estelle (Cliff) Raath from South. Africa, Rupert Hoyte from Australia and so on …

         Douglas Sadder brought a carload of Old Chefusians from the north of England. In the course of the evening, Douglas told some of us the story how he and another - who were among the Chefoo group moved to the top of the Hospital after the Tipton/Hummel escape - discovered inside the wall of their dormitory, a radio, obviously used by the previous occupants. They sealed up the wall and. never breathed a word about their find until the war was over.

         The Weihsienites present included Jennifer Barker and Janet Northcott the two daughters of Ted Mclaren, the Chairman of the Discipline Committee. Mclaren - formerly North China Manager of Butterfield and Swire - was the key figure in the Committee of Nine which ran the camp. My father often went to see him in connection with Chefoo School affairs, so I was able to tell Jennifer and Janet how much, 'Pa' had respected their father's quiet authority and total integrity. Pa and Mclaren shared a mutual love of Rugger - in which Mclaren had played for Scotland alongside Eric Liddell. He spoke publicly of his memories of Liddell at the latter's Memorial Service. Mclaren, I told his two daughters, had always seemed to me to epitomize the “strong, silent Englishman", of Fiction! - in spite of his Scottish antecedents!

         Jennifer, the elder daughter, had been well trained in camp, to see nothing and hear nothing of the many highly secret and confidential meetings and conversations that went on in her presence. She does, however, remember accompanying her father on special visits to a cell in the Japanese Quarters, bringing breakfast to Father Patrick Scanlan, the Trappist monk who was caught by the Japanese in. 'Black Market' activities i.e. the clandestine purchase and smuggling into camp of extra food supplies.

         Other Weihsienites included Lt. Col. Fred Buist of the Salvation Army and several of his family; L'Abbé Emmanuel Hanquet, one of the popular group of Catholic clergy; Gill Hartigan (nee Pryor), the daughter of  Weihsien's respected Education chief and a whole tribe of Broomfields – plus spouses - the Broomfield mob were the children of Chefoo's Lighthouse Keeper. The girls were at the G. S. but Tom was taught by his father.

         Tom and I, together with Norman Cliff and John Hayes, were part of 'Roz' Warren's Cookhouse shift at No 1 Kitchen - very much a Chefoo shift - 'Roz' was the little Australian who had worked in the C.I.M.'s Business Department before Internment. He bustled about No 1 Kitchen, bossing his little team with jokes and cheerfulness and constant good humour.

         John Hayes - Old Chefusian and Rhodes Scholar - was of course an asset to any team. I always loved to see his tall, smiling figure - pink Boating scarf flung carelessly round his neck - striding about the camp. He was a man with a brilliant mind, a profound wisdom and a wonderful breadth of sympathy for all sorts and conditions of men. He took a great interest in our Chefoo Debating Society (C.I.M. B.S. L&DS) which he constantly attended and encouraged.

         Kaye Postuma (née Allen) was another Old Chefusian present, together with her sister Jean Raitt. Their pictures later appeared in the Daily Telegraph of Oct. 28 with a good report of the main Reunion, by Fiona Eberts. Their father was a Chefoo businessman and he, together with Mr MacMullan, Mr Rouse and my father were part of the small group imprisoned by the Japanese in the Astor House Hotel after Pearl Harbour. 'Pa' later wrote:


"On the table lay a big thick cudgel. I was asked why I had gone to Japan --- in recent years --- there must have been some report on what I had seen in Japan given to the British Govt. I said: there'd been none at all ----“


         It was a great honour to me to be asked to read out extracts from several letters of greeting from a number of well-known absentees. One message was from that same Father Scanlan, already mentioned. He is now 92 and still keeps in touch with the senior American officer who liberated him.          There were also messages from, Arthur Hummel and Laurie Tipton, the famous duo who escaped from Weihsien in 1944. The latter, who now lives in India, invited any old Weihsienites, who might find themselves in the sub-continent, to visit him in Bombay.

         Best of all was a letter from Jimmy Moore, the Old Chefusian who was one of Major Staiger's 'magnificent seven', the O.S.S. parachute team who liberated us after VJ Day-. He wrote:-


"The biggest thrill of my life was jumping into your camp at the end of the war, and seeing so many of my old professors and' friends from the C.I.M. School. As I grow older I think more and more frequently of my Chefoo days and how lucky I was to have grown up in such a loving, and caring community ---- "


         We were all looking forward to hearing Professor Langdon Gilkey (author of Shantung Compound) speak to us. But it was not to be. The Professor was taken ill shortly before he was due to fly to England. It was a special disappointment for me as I well recall listening - in utter fascination - to a Gilkey lecture in camp on the meaning of Original Sin, a theme he returned to in his book. He also gave me some Tennis coaching, which served me in good stead in later years.

         In Langdon Gilkey's absence, Mr Gordon Martin nobly stepped into the breach. His quotes from a Weihsien poem delighted everyone. He reminded us that Chefoo's arrival at Weihsien was not, initially, looked on with any great enthusiasm. The Camp had suffered a blow by losing the services of 400 strong, hardworking Catholic fathers. Then to add to their woes, came the arrival of 300 from the port of Chefoo - one third of whom were children and one third elderly -.

         In time, however, the Camp appreciated that the Chefoo School more than pulled its weight - in many different areas. Chefoo, for its part, found Weihsien an educative experience. We learned not to stereotype people. Mr Martin also mentioned John Hersey's novel, ‘The Call’, (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1985) which described Weihsien Camp in fictional terms.

         Father Hanquet also gave a short talk, telling us about his involvement in the De. Jaegher / Tipton escape plans. Father De Jaegher had masterminded the escape, but at the last moment he had been banned by his superior, Father Rutherford, from participating. The young American teacher, Arthur Hummel, future Ambassador to China, took his place. The revised plan envisaged Father Hanquet as a third escapee, but this was also discovered and thwarted by Father Rutherford. Father Hanquet, now aged 73, has been for many years the General Secretary of the Société des Auxiliaires des Missions to which several other Weihsien priests belonged. He and Father Palmers are now the only Weihsien survivors of this society. Recently he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination.

         It was great to find copies of David Michell's new book, 'A Boy's War’, (O.M.F. Singapore, 1988) on sale in the hall and I bought one while the going was good. I also distributed some leaflets about the embryo Eric Liddell Centre in Scotland - at Holy Corner, 15 Morningside Road, Edinburgh.

         Four-different church buildings are to be found at 'Holy Corner', including the Congregational Church where Eric himself worshipped and the former Church of Scotland building. The latter is now being reconstructed as the Eric Liddell Centre. It is to be an ecumenical tribute and a permanent Memorial to his name. Service to the public is the central theme of the Centre with a Chapel, a Sports Centre, Counselling Services etc. I hope Weihsienites will give it support.

         A delicious Buffet Supper was provided by Soroptimists International and afterwards we all posed for a special group photo. We also sang lustily the Scouting Campfire song, which some of us had sung in Weihsien:-


By the blazing Council firelight

We are met in fellowship tonight

Round about the whispering trees

Guard our Weihsien memories.

And so before we close our eyes in sleep

Let: us pledge each other that we'll keep

Weihsien friendships strong and deep

Till we meet again.


         Norman Cliff and I were both members of the 1st Weihsien Rover Scout Troop. Others included Robin Hoyte, Lawson Barnes, Ray Costerus, John Andrews and Dick Vinden and we operated under the relaxed, tactful and efficient leadership of Mr McChesney Clark. Our moment of glory came after VJ Day, when Mr Chilton of the Labour Committee assigned us to special duties assisting our liberators. We helped to receive the 'drops' of food supplies at the official drop zone outside the wall - a perilous task dodging some of the huge drums which sometimes descended without benefit of parachute a few feet from our heads - and also went on special trips to the local airport.

         A vote of thanks was given by Mike Calvert, a former Tientsin Grammar School boy, who added some reminiscences. I remember Mike and his fellows as doughty opponents on the Hockey field against our victorious Chefoo XI. Henry Lack and I were the only representatives of that team present at the Reunion. Others included Ray Costerus, John Andrews, Gordon Savage etc, etc.

         In the concluding Epilogue, Dr William Shell read Psalm 126, verses 1-3. Dr Shell was a small Weihsien urchin - then known as William Bonner - who was befriended by Father Hanquet. He is now Lecturer in New Testament Studies at the Reformed Bible School, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.

         We sang the well-known hymn;-


'Through all the changing scenes of life

In trouble and in joy,

The praises of my God shall still

My heart and tongue employ.'


         Then Father Hanquet gave the closing Prayer and the Grace.


         The following day (Saturday, Oct. 22) the official Reunion Lunch took place at the hotel. The 362 ex-internees present sat at dining tables assigned to each camp. There were 85 of us at the Weihsien tables- a creditable turnout

and there were also a scattering of Old Chefusians from other camps - five Dunachies, Mary Ruth Howes, Stewart Goodwin, Joanna (Goodwin) Crick, Alan Ludbrook, David Duguid, Irene (Duguid) Kirkpatrick and Murray Davies.

         We dined on melon, Chicken à la King and Meringue Chantilly - a far cry from the Roz stews of 45 years ago! - and there were brief speeches from various V.I.P.s including the local M.P., the Mayor of Weybridge and the President of the local branch of the British Legion.


         Then five books about Internment were formally presented to the Deputy Keeper of the Imperial War Museum:-

Evelyn Honywill:      At His Imperial Majesty's Pleasure

Faye Angus:             The White Pagoda

Norman Cliff:          Courtyard of the Happy Way

Kenneth McAll:        The Moon Looks Down

David- Michell:        A Boy's War


         The authors of the first four books each presented a copy to the Deputy Keeper and said a few words. Mr Martin - in the absence of David Michell - presented a copy of 'A. Boy's War'.

         That evening a special programme of Entertainment had been arranged. Hebe Taylor, the West End singer, who as a little girl was interned in Yangtszepo Camp, Shanghai, gave us a fine selection of popular songs of the 'Thirties and 'Forties. Her repertoire included 'The Lambeth Walk', which many of us will always associate with Chefoo days - ice-skating evenings at the Recreation Club - She also gave us 'If you were the only girl in the world' which I remember being sung in camp by Geoffrey Gardiner, an Old Chefusian and the camp's theatrical impresario. Others recall it being sung by Percy Gleed, the camp's charming Musical wizard and friend of the Bazires. Percy died a few years ago.

         Best of all, Hebe also sang one of the tunes played by the Salvation Army Band on the Day of Liberation:-


Happy Days are here again

The skies are blue and clear again....


         Major Staiger, the commander of the liberating paratroops, was so impressed that he noted the playing of this song in his official Report to O.S.S. H.Q.!

         Hebe's singing was followed by excellent slides of Shanghai, as it is today - including shots of the Bund, the former Hong Kong/Shanghai Bank, Shanghai Cathedral and much else. It was a shock to see the cathedral - where Eric Liddell's parents, like so many other foreigners, had been married - and where all our family worshipped on our visits to Shanghai, now being used as a warehouse. Christian Churches are open in Shanghai - the speaker had himself attended one - so maybe the cathedral will eventually revert to its proper role.

         After the slides there was an interlude for supper and conversation. Then Dr Kenneth McAll, who was Eric Liddell's medical colleague at the L.M.S. Mission Station at Siaochang, did some lightning sketches of Pootung Camp, each 4 illustrating some facet or story of camp life. McAll was one of a group of Christians who staged a virtual 'coup d'état' in Pootung, which took the policing and administration of the camp out of the hands of a gang of corrupt bullies - who quickly faded away - and thereby transformed the camp. The full story is told in his book 'The Moon Looks Down' (available from the author at Bignell Wood, Lyndhurst, Hants. b0 43 43  7JA, U.K.)

         On Sunday morning (Oct. 23) coaches took us to Windsor Castle for a special service in St George's Chapel. It was an Anglican Matins, with Choral Anthems, special Prayers and a special welcome for the large group of ex-internees who filled the Chapel. The Dean spoke simply and sincerely and read us a moving poem about the chapel in Lincoln Avenue Camp, composed by Mrs Renée Cumberbatch, the Reunion organiser.

         On Monday (Oct. 24) the final event of the Weekend took place when special coaches took about 100 ex-internees to the Houses of Parliament for a tour of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords, lunch at the Commons with Sir Geoffrey Pattie - the Weybridge M.P. - and a tour of Winston Churchill's wartime (underground) Cabinet Rooms.

         I myself departed that morning on the train - sadly missing the final event - But by a happy chance, my travelling companions were Mr and Mrs W. Stevens. Mrs Stevens was the daughter of Dr Grice, senior Doctor at Weihsien Hospital, where the Chefoo School occupied the upper floors, and where I my-self, in the final year of internment had worked as a stoker in the 'Diet Kitchen'.

         Other stokers included Henry Lack, John Andrews, Mr Macaulay (a Chefoo businessman) and Percy Gleed. There was much to talk about and we reminisced all the way to London.

A fitting ending to a fabulous Weekend.

Jim Bruce