London: When Japan invaded Hong Kong in
1941 during World War II, more than 60 British servicemen and
a one-legged Chinese admiral, Chan Chak, managed to slip out
of the island to freedom.
Now, 70 years on, descendants of the sailors, special
operations agents and intelligence officers involved in the
escape have pieced together their fathers` diaries and letters
to create a compelling account of what happened.
The story of their escape has been stitched together
in a new book, `Escape from Hong Kong`, by Tim Luard, a former
BBC correspondent whose father-in-law was a special operations
agent and a part of the escape team.
"The decision to prepare some means of escape
for the Admiral was taken `at the highest level`," `The Sunday
Telegraph` quoted Luard as saying in his book.
In fact, the plan to flee Hong Kong was hatched in the
run-up to Christmas 1941, as tens of thousands of Japanese
soldiers overwhelmed the colony`s meagre defences and were
poised to take the island, says the book.
And, as the enemy approached, the British government
realised the importance of getting Chan Chak, a redoubtable,
if diminutive, wooden-legged Chinese admiral to safety as he
was the most senior Chinese official on the island.
"The escape was so dangerous they thought they would not
survive. I remember when we made it to the mainland ourselves
and met up with him how exciting it was. My father was a
really tough guy," remembered Donald Chan, the admiral`s son.
After boarding the boats, the escape party slipped across
the straits at night, landed at Nanao, and then began a march
across the Chinese countryside with the admiral put in command
-- the first time a Chinese in-charge of a British force.
"My father never really talked about it. The story
only came out when we saw the scars on his back when we went
swimming, but it was my mother who told us," said Sheena
Recaldin, the daughter of David MacDougall, an escapee who
became Hong Kong`s first post-war acting governor.