Alexis (Alec) Damsgaard - Escape from Hong Kong

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Orlogskaptajn Alexis (Alec) Damsgaard circa 1935

Orlogskaptajn Alexis Damsgaard, Master of the CS Store Nordiske (2)

1894 - 1971

Alec (Alexis) Damsgaard, a tall Jutlander born in the small village of Bredsten, was Master of the 1,462 ton CS Store Nordiske (2), a submarine cable-repair ship of the Store Nordiskee Telegraf-Selskab (Great Northern Telegraph Company) in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded. The Great Northern Telegraph Company had a base in Shanghai with a fleet of Cable Ships maintaining the submarine cables in the South China Seas, Dutch East Indies, Singapore and Australia. Alec, along with 2nd Engineer Harley & Sub-Lt JJ Forster were hit by machine-gun fire from the pillbox (12) on the south-west base of Brick Hill while crewing the launch of HMS Cornflower taking Admiral Chan Chak and his party down Aberdeen Channel as the Colony succumbed to the overwhelming forces of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Left: Captain Alexis (Alec) Damsgaard circa 1935

Damsgaard was shot in the knee, Forster in the stomach. Those that could, leapt overboard and swam for their lives in a hail of machine-gun fire. The two severely wounded men were abandoned along with Colonel S K Yee of Admiral Chan Chak's Military Council who claimed he could not swim and drifted all night in the launch. S K bribed a junkman to take the two injured Europeans to a hospital while he took sanctuary in a church before escaping to Free China.

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CS Store Nordiske at anchor with the CS Pacific astern



Left: The CS Store Nordiske (2) with the CS Pacific astern. Alec had been master of both ships in the Far East.


Admiral Chan Chak calmly took to the waves 
	Photo from Maj Goring's  article on the escape © 
	Click here for more information

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 Adm 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."

Left: Photo from Maj Goring's published article on the escape. [17]

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."

S.K, now wearing Hsu Heng (Henry)'s shoes and clutching his bible 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.

Adm Chan Chak and Colonel S.K. Yee had led the internal war on the 5th Columnists from the front, killing hundreds personally.
Hong Kong had been ordered by the Imperial government in Londondon to extract the Chinese Military Council led by Adm Chan Chak back to Free China at all costs.

Col S K Yee

Colonel SK Yee survived the Cornfower launch machine-gunning unscathed, claiming he could not swim as the reason he stayed on board.
After drifting all night he bribed a Junk Master to take the two wounded Europeans to a hospital on Hong Kong Island.

Sub-Lt JJ Forster HKRNVR

Sub-Lt JJ Forster HKRNVR survived the Cornfower launch machine-gunning after he was shot in his stomach and survived the night but is reported to have died of his wounds later.
Remembered with Honour

The 2nd Engineer of the S. S. Yatshing, D Harley was shot and drowned.
Remembered with Honour

The Cornflower launch survivors

Admiral Chan Chak & escape party at Waichow 30th Dec 1941
    Run the curser over to identify individuals.
    Photo from the Chan Chak collection ©

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 ©

Henry Hsu, Hsu Heng 2006

Left: Hsu Heng (Henry) 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.

Audio by Lion Rock Films

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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