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The Weihsien Story - Author unknown


In 1943 the Chefoo School was transferred from Temple Hill where they had been kept by the Japs for about a year, to the Civil Assembly Centre at Weihsien, a small provincial town in the middle of Shantung Province some 200 miles south of Peking.

The camp at Weihsien was situated in a large Presbyterian Mission Hospital and School compound some two miles east of Weihsien town. It was surrounded by a six foot high grey brick wall beyond which could be seen the red tiled roofs of the buildings among which were scattered some trees. A slope lead up to the main gates over which was written "Courtyard of the Happy Way". It was in this compound that Henry Luce long time Editor of Time magazine was born and from here he went as a boarder later to the Chefoo School run by the China Inland Mission. Inside the compound was a large High School consisting of four or five big buildings and numbers of smaller rooms for resident students. There was also a hospital and a Church, three kitchens and bakery ovens and of course ablution blocks for the use of the students. The southern part of the compound was reserved for the homes of the foreign missionaries who worked in the schools and hospital. As a concentration camp this part was occupied by the Japanese guards, while the main school and hospital compound became home for some 2000 civilians from every area of life in North East China.

Weihsien and some 20 miles surrounding it had been in the hands of Chinese puppet troops since 1937, and was supported by a large Jap garrison at the railway town of Fangtse, some 5 miles SE of the camp. Beyond that circle were other groups — communists, semi-puppet units and pro-nationalist forces the strongest and nearest of them all being a communist unit 20 miles NW of Weihsien.

Because of being in puppet territory an at least nominal diplomatic relationship was maintained with Japan and because of this the camp at Weihsien came under the Consular service rather than under either the Army or the Military Police. The guards were part of the consular guard rather than being soldiers in the regular army, and for this reason conditions in Weihsien camp were very different from those in other camps which came directly under the Army and where reports of atrocities and brutal treatment were common. To us who had children in that camp till the end of the war it was in the mercy of God that our children were in Weihsien and not in some of the other Japanese concentration camps in other parts of China. Langdon Gilkie in his book "Shantung Compound" which is the story of his own internment at Weihsien says "With the exception of a few cases where black marketeers were beaten up, generally decorum & good discipline marked their relations with us. Some of the guards were gruff and cruel, arrogant or mean, but no one was tortured or killed in our camp, and indeed many of the guards were courteous and kind to us. The average internee saw little of the Japanese Commandant or his Staff as he left the running of the Camp almost entirely in the hands of the Camp Committee, the two main members of which at the beginning were Billy Christian and Ted McLaren of Butterfield and Swire. Billy Christian was repatriated at the end of 1943 but McLaren remained till the end of the war. To these men (the Camp) the Commandant issued orders & from them he received requests or complaints.