Holger Christensen - Escape from Hong Kong

 

Kukong HERO  RosetteAdmiral Chan Chak in Kukong;  
  Click here to read more ©Holger Christensen & escape party at Waichow 
  Photos from the Chan Chak & Ross collections © Admiral Chan Chak and party arriving in Waichow   
  Click here to read more   
  Photo from Admiral Chan Chak's collection ©HERO

 

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Holger Christensen at Waichow 30th Dec 1941  
    Click here to return to the Waichow photo  
    
    Photo from the Hide collection ©Holger Edwin Burt Christensen

24th September 1920 - ??

Born in Copenhagen, Holger was the son of Ove Andreas Christensen and Australian born Maggie Evelyn Martyn Wipan.

By early 1945 Holger is listed as Chief Mate on the United States lines Company ship Sea Tiger. Holger arrived in Australia on board the SS Marella and settled in Watsons Bay, Sydney with his mother in 1948. The last known record of Holger is as a ships officer on board the 20,565 ton Nederland Line MS oranje departing Southampton UK on 7th September 1959 bound for Sydney, NSW. The MS oranje was the regular Amsterdam to Sydney passenger service, sailing via Southampton, England.

Mentioned in Despatches "For skilful and courageous services which enabled a party to make a daring escape from Hongkong"

Holger was drafted into the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps HKDDC under the auspices of the Royal Navy. He was assigned to the Naval Armament Tug 'Gatling.' On the 16th December the IJA targeted HMS Thracian in Aberdeen with high altitude bombing, crippling Thracian and doing much damage to the Aberdeen dockyard. MTB 08 on the slip was hit by a bomb splinter and blew up, while the Gatling was set on fire and sunk in Aberdeen harbour with the loss of six HKDDC personel. Christensen along with Chief Engineer Gunn were the only survivors from a crew of eight. In spite of this ordeal Holger continued to volunteer for service.

On 25 Dec he volunteered to man the motorboat Cornflower II, which took Adm Chan Chak's party down Aberdeen Channel.  Soon they came under heavy machine-gun fire and abandoned the launch. He was one of the eleven survivors who reached Aberdeen Island by swimming under heavy fire. While some attempted to climb up from the rocky coast Holger scrambled over the rocks in and out of the water after hearing the roar of powerful boats on the other side. On reaching the tombolo ajaoining Aberdeen Island with Ap Lei Chau he spotted three MTBs, one at anchor and two going out to sea. After hailing the craft he swam out to it.
He along with the remainder of the Cornflower party who had survived the shooting made good their escape under cover of darkness in the MTB's making landfall at NanAo on the Dapeng Peninsula in Mirs Bay deep behind enemy lines in mainland China.His prompt action in swimming off to the MTB's did much to ensure the escape of his companions.

W-O Morley-Wright HKRNVR: "Was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Lt Pittendrigh RNR Cadet Holger Christensen being Mentioned in Despatches for skilful and courageous services which enabled a party to make a daring escape from Hong Kong" [105]

Commander H M Montague R. N. (Retd) "I consider Mr Christensen to be a young gentleman of outstanding courage and would recommend he be granted a commission in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve."

HERO Crest Beware the Sting in the Tail 
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The 2nd MTB Flotilla which extracted the Aberdeen Island escape party out under cover of darkness had taken a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese started to invade Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and shoot up everything in sight, and to expend all ammunition in the process. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point. Lt Ronnie Ashby whose motto was "Be Just and Fear Naught" led the flotilla in MTB 07, pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, suffering heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back to base in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07" back to base.The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Sea.by Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."

Lt Kennedy RNVR: "MTB 11 returned alone from the harbour with her coxswain wounded. There was a long silent pause as we strained our ears to catch the sound of distant engines, but none came. It was a dark day for the flotilla, and for the whole island." [9]

Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) had prevailed against all the odds, and triumphed over adversity to deliver his people back to the UK without loss of life or serious injury after evading capture and escaping from Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941.

PO Prest: "We travelled by cycles, lorries, junks, and donkeys, but mostly we walked. It was a case of march or die"

Buddy Hide: "On the whole, the moral, spirits, and courage of the party was magnificent. I think it was the shear thoughts of beating the Jap's, and the prospects of getting home after three years, some of us four years from home, that made us carry on."

Two days after arriving in Kukong Holger was admitted to the Mission hospital with malaria along with Norman Halladay, Frank Penny, Arthur Goring, and Fred Quixall. A part time trainee nurse knew Christensen's chum Sub-Lt Legge's mother Alice (Dotsy) in Shanghai and agreed to write to her, in Chinese for added security, informing her that both Christensen and his chum Legge were safe and due to continue westwards. Dotsy, a widower had married a Danish sea captain Jens Elster.

“Dear Mrs. Elster, I am again writing this letter to tell you that I have very safely arrived at my destination. I am now living at this place engaged in teaching a girl in the forenoon and in learning nursing work at the local hospital. I am sure you are very glad to know that David and his friend, Holger have arrived here. I have already seen them several times. The are all very well. They will go westward in the near future. They will send you a letter after they have arrived at their destination. We are glad to be able to meet David and his friend. We are very unwilling to see them leave so quickly. The had a very shocking experiences before their arrival here. Please send my best wishes to my friends. May God have blessing on you. Yours faithfully Eteli (?).” [107]

When the escape party arrived in Kunming towards the end of January Mr Urquhart, the agent for the international traders and shipping agent Jardine Matheson & Company in their Kunming office took on Eddie Brazel and Eric Cox-Walker along with two other former employees. They were needed to staff new inland regional offices being set up due to the loss of China's southern ports. The demand for silk was at an all time high, not for the luxury hosiery market, but for air force parachutes.[80]

Holger Christensen dived overboard as The Admiral calmly took to the waves 
	Photo from Maj Goring's  article on the escape © 
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Adm Chan Chak: "The Danish steer man was the first one shot, then the engineer. MacDougall and others were wounded. Most of the stray bullets had hit the boat and even some had hit my helmet.
Hsu was very wary about me the “One Foot Admiral of 50” swimming such a far distance.
I insisted to carry my own gun and passport. Yeung could not swim and he suggested that we should go back to Hong Kong. “Going back means surrender. I would rather die!” I said.
I took off my life preserver (which was the last one on board) and gave it to Yeung. As I raised my hand, a stray bullet went right through my left hand.
Yeung didn’t say anything anymore, he just jumped into the sea, followed by MacDougall with his wounded back.
YeeSiu-Kee and 2 other British soldiers had to remain on the boat. Yee could not swim and the 2 soldiers were badly wounded.
We were all sitting ducks in the water and non-stop bullets were flying everywhere.
I finally swam ashore on the small island right next to Apliechau."
[6]

Left: Photo from Maj Goring's daring-do article on the escape published in 1949. [17]

Along with S.K. were two severely wounded volunteer crew left in the boat, the tall forty seven year old Jutlander, Alec (Alexis) Damsgaard, late Master of the C.S. Store Nordiske, & Sub-Lt J. J. Forster HKRNVR from Northern Ireland. After drifting all night S.K. bribed a junk man to take the two wounded to a hospital.

S.K. Yee: "I put the two others on a junk, asking the fishermen to take them to a hospital on the mainland in Kwangtung Province.
I was kept some days at Pak Sha wan and subsequently I had to return to the church at Apliechau, which was under the Reverend Cheng. I took shelter at the church for some days before making my final escape to Free China."
[62]

Of the sixteen who set out on "HMS Cornflower's" launch, two were killed, one taken prisoner, another made good his own escape while the remaining twelve made it to the MTB's.

S.K, wearing Hsu Heng (Henry)'s shoes and clutching his bible, sought refuge with the Reverend Cheng in the Harbour Mission Church on Ap Lei Pai opposite Aberdeen. He eventually made his way to Kukong in free China where Chan Chak was still recovering. SK arrived on 5th February 1942 still wearing Hsu Heng (Henry)'s shoes, only to leave two days later as mysteriously as he had arrived after falling out with Chan over the allegedly missing $40.000 (£2,500 GBP) They remained bitter opponents for the rest of Chan's life.


Waichow

 

 

 

Back row: Supt. Bill Robinson, W. O. William M Wright HKRNVR, Capt. Peter Macmillan R. A., Capt. Reginald Guest 1st Mdsx, Coxswain Yeung Chuen CN, Ted Ross MoI>

2nd row: David MacDougall MoI, Adm Chan Chak CN, Major Arthur Goring Probyns Horse, Sq-Ldr. Max Oxford RAF

1st row: Cadet Holger Christensen, Lt-Cmd Hsu Heng (Henry) CN.

Photo from Chan Chak collection ©

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) had prevailed against all the odds, and triumphed over adversity to deliver all his people back to safety without loss of life or serious injury after evading capture and escaping from Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941.

PO Prest: "We travelled by cycles, lorries, junks, and donkeys, but mostly we walked. It was a case of march or die"

Buddy Hide: "On the whole, the moral, spirits, and courage of the party was magnificent. I think it was the shear thoughts of beating the Jap's, and the prospects of getting home after three years, some of us four years from home, that made us carry on."

It is unprecedented in the annuls of the Royal Navy, that a Flotilla evaded capture to escape across an entire continent to fight another day.

Holger was Mentioned in Despatches for skilful and courageous services which enabled a party to make a daring escape from Hong kong. [ 2646 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 16 JUNE, 1942]



Banknotes signed as souvenirs by escape party members in Liuchow





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

 

 

 













 

 

 

 

Holger Christensen at Waichow 30th December 1941

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©
















Henry Hsu, Hsu Heng 2006





Left: Hsu Heng (Henry) in 2006 recounting the 1941 Christmas Day machine-gunning of the Cornflower launch in 1941. "The shooting was like rain. If they kept shooting, we would definitely be shot"

Heny was the last known living escapee and was accorded a full state funeral in Taiwan when he passed away in 2009.













Not an Earthly Chance by Frode Z Olsen













Ikke en Jordisk Chance (Not an Earthly Chance) by Frode Z Olsen.

The story of the Danish community fighting alongside the British in Hong Kong in December 1941.


















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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