By Jim BRUCE
The Oatlands Park Hotel, Weybridge,
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
On Friday evening, Oct. 21, Norman Cliff had arranged a special Weihsien
Reunion - within the framework of the larger
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
Douglas Sadder brought a
carload of Old Chefusians from the north of
The Weihsienites present included Jennifer Barker and Janet Northcott the two daughters of Ted Mclaren,
the Chairman of the Discipline Committee. Mclaren -
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
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
"On the table lay a big
thick cudgel. I was asked why I had gone to
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
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
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
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
In time, however, the Camp appreciated that the
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
On Sunday morning (Oct. 23) coaches took us to
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
A fitting ending to a fabulous Weekend.