Escape from Hong Kong

Ron Ashby - Escape from Hong Kong

Escape from Hong Kong


Admiral Chan Chak in Kukong;  
  Click here to read more ©MTB 07. Photos from the Ashby & Ross collections © Admiral Chan Chak and party arriving in Waichow;  
  Click here to
  Photo from Admiral Chan Chak's collection ©


Lt R.R.W. Ashby DSC VRD HKRNVR MTB 07, 2nd MTB Flotilla, Hong Kong Coastal Forces

Lt Ron Ashby HKRNVR MTB 07 China Station




Lt Ron Ashby HKRNVR 1911 - 1998

Family motto "Be Just and Fear Not"

MTB 07 with Lt R R W Ashby HKRNVR

Click here for a short movie on how the Scott-Paine MTB's (07, 08, 09 10, 11 & 12) were born

Click here to see a short movie on the role of the MTB's

Ron Ashby and crew of MTB 07 on patrol.  
    Run the curser over to identify individuals.  
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©



Ron Ashby enlisted with the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force, HKNVF, and was appointed the rank of Lieutenant on 23 November 1937. The Imperial Royal Navy loaned HMS Cornflower to the HKNVF, the forerunner of the HKRNVR, for use as their headquarters and was moored south-west of Kellett Island where the RHKYC transferred to from North Point in October 1940. Yachting and boating clubs were the traditional recruiting grounds for navy volunteers with basic seamanship skills. There was also a shore-based office in the York Building on the north side of Chater Rd by Pedder St. As the clouds of war began to darken the HKNVF was mobilized into the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HKRNVR in August 1939 with just one hundred and ten officers. His Excellency Sir Geoffry Alexander Stafford Northcote, K.C.M.G. was the Honorary Captain. [106]

DSC "For daring and resource in Far Eastern waters"

Ron sailed with C.J Collingwood on his gaff rigged cutter on a regular basis as well as sharing C.J's passion of duck shooting.

Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

Lt Ron Ashby H.K.R.N.V.R. on patrol in MTB 07 in Hong Kong 1941

Ashby transferred from TB 26 to MTB 07 on the 26th April 1940.

Ron Ashby and crew of MTB 07 on patrol.  
    Run the curser over to identify individuals.  
    Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Lt Ron Ashby and crew

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Guns to the left, guns to the right, guns in front and cannon from above, on they sped into the fiery jaws of the oriental dragon itself. This was the maritime equivalent of the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea.

MTB 07, with PO's John Prest and Buddy Hide at the controls, under fire.  
	Photo from Hong Kong 1941-45 published by Osprey Publishing. 
	Illustration by Giuseppe Rava. 
	Click here for more information

The flotilla took a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and expend all ammunition shooting up everything in sight. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point.
Guns to the left, guns to the right, guns to the front and cannon from above, on they sped into the fiery jaws of the oriental dragon itself. This was the maritime equivalent of the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea.
Lt Ronnie Ashby whose family motto was "Be Just and Fear Not" led the flotilla with Jix Prest & Buddy Hide at the controls of MTB 07. Pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, they suffered heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back and come alongside HMS Robin in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07" back to base. MTB 07 was peppered with 97 holes and two dead bodies in the engine room. The flotilla had lost over 40% of its attacking force. The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."


Ron Ashby gained a bar to his DSC while commanding eight flotilla's of ML's during the Arakan Campaign. As Commander of coastal Forces in the Arakan he played a most significant part in the re-taking of Rangoon, Singapore and Hong Kong from the oppression of the Japanese. To this end the Arakan Campaign, led by Adm Lord Mountbatten and General Sir William Slim, was of vital importance.




1920 to 1927 Educated at King's School, Canterbury.

Left the UK bound for Hong Kong 6th Sept 1929 on board the RMS Macedonia of the P&O line traveling 1st class. On arrival Ron made his way to Canton where he joined Deacon and Co. (Importers and exporters - shipping agents, consular representatives, etc.,) living and working in Canton for 3 years; he then left to join Dodwell & Co as head of their motor division importing American Chrysler Corpn. trucks, armoured cars, etc. for supply to the Chinese National Govt., living and working in Canton, Swatow, Foochow, Amoy, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

23rd Nov 1937  Appointed Lieutenant in the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force (HKNVF) .

Aug 1939 HKNVF was mobilised and renamed Hong Kong Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve HKRNVR

12th June 1942 Transferred to Imperial RNVR12th June 1942

Click here for more information on Ron Ashby

Lt Ronnie Ashby HKRNVR & senior Sino-British navy officers and nursing staff at Waichow ©

The Sino-British escape party Naval Officers with nursing staff at Waichow 30th December 1941

Senior Sino-British Naval officers with nursing staff at Waichow

Back Row: Lt Kennedy RNVR, Lt-Cmd Hsu Heng (Henry) ROC, Lt-Cmd Gandy RN (Rtrd), Lt-Cmd Yorath RN (Rtrd), Cdr Montague RN (Rtrd), Lt Parsons HKRNVR, Lt Ashby HKRNVR, Lt Collingwood RN,

Front Row: Sub-Lt Gee HKRNVR, Sub-Lt Brewer HKRNVR, Sub-Lt Legge HKRNVR, and nurses at Waichow.

In 1943 while Commanding the 33rd MTB Flotilla he was responsible for sinking two German U-boats 180 nautical miles west-north-west of Cape Finisterre, Spain on the 4th May 1943 when the U-Boats fired on the flotilla thinking they were a convoy. The flotilla caused such high speed mayhem round the U-boats causing them to crash dive and collide. It was only when some of the twelve survivors that he picked up did not all know each other that he realized that two U-Boats were sunk, U-439 and U-659.
Both U-boat captains went down with their boats. One of the survivors of U-439 said that the first watch officer was so remorseful of the collision, or so fearful of a Nazi court-martial that he gripped a bridge stanchion and went down with his boat.

11th April 1946 Promoted to Temp Commander RNVR.


Capt Colin McEwan, at the BAAG  
    AHQ, Wai On Mission in Waichow Dec 1943 ©

Colin McEwan SOE agent in Waichow.

Quote  from the diary of SOE agent Colin McEwan : Wednesday 24th December 1941:

“One last feat of gallantry worth recording is that of that gallant sailor Lieut. Ashby who, when a shell burst, instead of going flat, bowed gracefully showing a shiny polished blue serge ‘bottom’ as his means of all round defence. Again, though, one had the feeling that it was good to be with such people.”

Published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch Vol 45 2005

Click here to read Ron Ashby's obituary

The crew of MTB 07 in Kowloon 1940

MTB 07 crew in Kowloon 1941
      Run the curser over to identify individuals
      Photo from Budyy Hide's collection ©

  • Lt: R.R.W. Ashby
  • Sub-Lt: A.E. Gee
  • P.O. Coxswain: John.W. Prest P/JX.128494
  • Telegraphist: T.G. Duckworth [killed 19th Dec 41
  • A/S.P.O.: S.J. Hide P/KX.82873 Joined MTB 07 on 1st January 1940
  • Leading Stoker: R. Barker [Killed 19th Dec 41]
  • A/B: Albert E Rutter
  • A/B: Pawley
  • A/B Stoker: G. [Bones]Arnold [C/JX.154986]

Photo from the Hide collection ©

onmouseout="MM_swapImgRestore()" onmouseover="MM_swapImage('Image19','','./images/HK/Prest_003.jpg',1)">P.O. John (Jixer) Prest homeward bound on the SS Narkunda. Photos from Lt Ashby's collection ©.

Coxswain Petty Officer John W Prest was too ill to attend the Waichow group photo. These photos were taken on the way back to the UK from Bombay onboard HMT "Narkunda" which sailed from Bombay on the 26th March 1942 at 15:30 hrs.

On the back he had written "SS Narkunda 1942. To the finest Skipper Ive served with. Jix --- To Lt Ashby.







8th May 1942 (Fri)

HMT 'Narkunda' arrived in Freetown Harbour in Sierra Leone.
After two days re-victualing the Narkunda shaped course for the UK.

15th May 1942 (Thur)

A concert, "The Killjoys," arranged and organized by Lt-Cdr Gandy, Lt Ashby, PO Stonell, & L/S (Pony) Moore was performed by the ships companies of HMTB's, HMT "Narkunda", HMS "Ranchi", "Cilicia," "Cockchafer," & "Birmingham" The performers from the MTB's were (Pony) Moore, Al Rutter, & Eddie Charleson.

Photos from the Hide collection ©

MTB 07 crew with Lt R A M Hennessy ©

Lt Robert Angus Martin Hennessy RN and crew of MTB 07

26/09/1914 - 01/07/1996

Hennessy was O.C. of 07 September 1938 -April 1940
A/B Kenneth Holmes is front row right
Lt Hennessy went on as Senior Officer of the 7th MTB Flotilla [MTB 59] from mid 1942 to May 1943.
From there he went as S.O. of the 8th MTB Flotilla 

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Click here to read more on Lt Hennessy RN

Robert Angus Martin Hennessy was born in Rye, Sussex in September 1914. Became a Naval Cadet in January 1932 and appointed a Midshipman in September 1932. Promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in October 1935 and Lieutenant in June 1938. In the 1930’s he served in the Mediterranean on the battleships Revenge and Queen Elizabeth, before joining Vernon for M.T.B’s. in May 1938. O/C MTB 07 (Hong Kong) 7th Sept 1938- April 1940. During the Second World War, commanding M.T.B.69, he was mentioned in despatches for the destruction of an enemy trawler in the Dover Straits, October 1940. Then commanding M.T.B.77 in the Mediterranean he was mentioned again for an attack on an enemy convoy, February 1943. He was advanced to Acting Lieutenant-Commander in November 1944 and confirmed in that rank in June 1946. Commanded the escort destroyer Lammerton, February 1945-early 1946. Promoted to Commander in December 1951. During the Korean War, he served on the destroyer Comus and was mentioned in despatches and awarded the D.S.C. As Commander of the frigate Suprise he was created an M.V.O. 4th Class at the Coronation Review 1943. With some copied research.


Ex D.N.W. 25 February 1998.

M.V.O. London Gazette 16 July 1953

D.S.C. London Gazette 23 May 1952

M.i.D. London Gazette 3 December 1940

M.i.D.15 June 1943

M.i.D. 2 February 1951

For more information on Ron Ashby click here.

Lt Ron Ashby HKRNVR & Sub-Lt McGill of MTB 07 on patrol.      
    Photo from the Ashby-Hide collection ©

Lt Ron Ashby with S-Lt McGill on the bridge

Note the depth charge racks each side

Photo from the Ashby-Hide collection ©

John (Jix) Prest on board MTB 07 alongside HMS Robin in Mirs Bay 1941.    
    Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

MTB 07 alongside HMS Robin in Mirs Bay

Photo from the Ashby-Buddy Hide's collection ©

A 1/24 scale model of MTB 07 takes to the water in 2009 in memory of Ron Ashby & the crew. MTB 07 on patrol in Hong Kong


MTB 07 in Hong Kong

Photos from the Hide collection ©

MTB 07 dropping depth charges in Hong Kong
	Photo from the Hide collection ©



Ships Log MTB 07 2nd July 1941:

10.36; Dropped depth charges; 9 seconds.
10.40 -11.10; Fishing








lt Ron Ashby HKRNVR &crew of MTB 07 picking swimmers.       
    Photo from the Ashby-Hide collection ©



Ships Log MTB 07

Tues, 21st October 1941.

1804. Stopped, cut engines to pick up 4 Chinese from smashed and overturned junk. Chinese said they were bound from N of Taishan Bay to Hong Kong with a cargo of sweet potatoes when they were stopped by a Jap trawler, their cargo stolen and themselves beaten before Jap's wrecked junk and left them.

1818 Proceeded into Deep Bay.

1828 Stopped to put 4 Chinese on a junk.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

MTB 07 & 09 under camouflage in Telegraph Bay

MTB 07 & 09 under camouflage in Telegraph Bay by day  prior to the escape on Christmas Day 1941.     
    Photo from the Hide collection ©

MTB 07 alongside the stone pier with 09 under camouflage in Telegraph Bay on the day of the escape, Christmas day 1941. 07 still has a full complement of depth charges on deck.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

Lt Ashby with officers & ratings at Guiyang during the escape.  
	        Run the curser over to identify individuals.       
      Photo from the Hide collection ©




Guiyang Medical centre 25th January 1942

Left: ??, ??, Lt-Cmd Yorath RN (Rtrd), Lt Ashby, Warant-Officer Morley-Wright, Sub-Lt Brewer, Lt Collingwood, with ratings. A/B Jack Holt is 3rd from left with A/B Ed Brazel front row right.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

On the road to Mandalay

Lt Ron Ashby with Dodwell trucks on the China/Burma border.  
	Photo from the Ashby-Hide collection ©

Lt Ron Ashby got a surprise when they reached the Burmese border at Wanting and found that the trucks that had been commandeered to take the party into Burma were from Dodwell and Co, whom he had worked for in in Hong Kong before it fell. At last they were entering British territory and this was "celebrated in suitable manner." The trucks then took them to Lashio, where they waited five days for a train to Rangoon.

Photo from the Ashby-Hide collection ©




Ron Ashby's medals.      
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

Ron Ashby's tally of medals including his Distinguished Service Cross gained in Hong Kong and Bar.

The medals are, from left to right

The DSC and bar
The 1939-1945 Star.
The Atlantic Star
The Africa Star, with clasp North Africa 1942 to 43.
The Pacific Star with Burma clasp
The Italy Star
The Defence Medal, for service in Southampton and Felixstowe in 1942 with the 33rd MTB flotilla.
The 1939-1945 Medal, sometimes known as the Victory Medal, with oak leaf clasp for Mention in Despatches in Arakan, 1945.
The Volunteer Reserve Decoration (VRD) for more than 20 years' service in the RNVR.

The DSC is awarded to all ranks of the armed services in recognition of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy at sea'


Ron Ashby

Ron Ashby on the bridge of the ex Scott-Paine designed British Power Boat MGB 56 named Morning Flight on the Norfolk Broads in 1955 on which he lived for forty one years.

Ron bought a boatyard on the Norfolk Broads and started Hearts Cruisers Ltd which he ran until he voluntarily wound the company up in 1968.

A legacy from his war years engaged in high speed maneuvering on MTB's, he still wore his watch on the inside of his wrist for protection.

MTB 07 was scuttled along with the remaining boats of the 2nd MTB Flotilla deep behind enemy lines off Tung Ping Chau in Mirs Bay on 26th December 1941

This epic escape proved to be the pathfinder for several thousand further Sino/British POW and civilian escapees from Hong Kong. The escapees were sworn to secrecy regarding the route and the fact that special forces were involved, and as such remained as classified information for thirty years, and was only officially released from the British National Archives in 1972.

Morning Flight (II), Ronnie Ashby's home for 41 years.

Morning Flight (II)

Named after the house-boat he used when shooting in the New Territories, Hong Kong before the Japanese invaded.

Run the cursor over to see Ronnie Ashby waving his hat on the original Morning Flight while duck shooting in the New Territories.

Ron Asby signed souvenir Yuan banknote to celebrate traveling the Burma Road. © name=

Banknotes signed as souvenirs by escape party members in  Liuchow on 20th January 1942 while waiting for a train.

Among the signatures on this 10 Yuan banknote belonging to Lt Parsons HKRNVR are;

D S Pethick

E Cox-Walker

H Christensen

A Pittendrigh

E H Brazel

A Kennedy

A L Marchant

Photo from the Hide family collection ©

The banknote under belonging to Lt Kennedy RNVR is signed by;

A Pittendrigh

R R W Ashby

C J Collingwood



Cmdr Ron Ashby studying the Arakan coast.   
    Photo from the Ashby Collection ©

Commander Ron Ashby DSC VRD RNVR as Commanding Officer of Coastal Forces in the Arakan under Adm Lord Mountbatten played a most significant part in the re-taking of Rangoon, Singapore and Hong Kong from the oppression of the Japanese. To this end the Arakan Campaign, led by Adm Lord Mountbatten and General Sir William Slim, was of vital importance.







General Stillwell, US Army, standing next to Cdr Ashby RNVR






Commander Ashby RNVR standing next to General Stilwell, nicknamed Vinegar Joe, in his trademark plain uniform without insignia.

With the establishment of the new South East Asia Command in August 1943, Stilwell was appointed Deputy Supreme Allied Commander under Lord Louis Mountbatten











Music; Wild China by  Barnaby Taylor and performed by Cheng Yu and the UK Chinese Ensemble

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Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©

The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.

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