Gerard H Gandy R.N. - Escape from Hong Kong


Admiral Chan Chak in Kukong   
  Click here to read more ©Lt-Cdr G H Gandy RN © Admiral Chan Chak and party arriving in Waichow;  
  Click here to
  Photo from Admiral Chan Chak's collection ©.

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1896 - 1987Lieut-Cdr G H Gandy removed his Mauser handgun from its wooden holster which doubled as a stock for greater accuracy. 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©


Left: Lieut-Commander Gerard Horace Gandy with his naval guerrilla force in Waichow

Mentioned in Despatches

Click here for more information on Lt-Cmd Gandy RN (Retrd)

Lt Gerard Gandy RN (Ret) enlisted with the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force, HKNVF, on 19th February 1936. 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.

Gandy retained his rank in the Imperial Royal Navy.

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]

Gandy commanded the 645 ton West River Flotilla gunboat HMS Cicala before taking over as S.O. of the 2nd MTB Flotilla in MTB 10 in May 1941.

MTB 10 was scuttled along with the remaining boats of the 2nd MTB Flotilla deep behind enemy lines off NanAo in Mirs Bay in the early hours of 26th December 1941.

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", peppered with 97 holes and two dead bodies in the engine room, back to base. The flotilla had lost 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."

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]

On the 21st December nine planes of the Japanese airforce flew lazily over HMS Cicala.

Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) "The Senior Naval Officer Aberdeen, Commander Montague RN, signaled to evacuate the Cicala ships company and sink her by depth charge; the latter job i delegated to MTB 09 while I took off the crew in MTB 10. This was when my First Lieutenant (Sub-Lt Ralph Goodwin NZRNVR) got wounded by a stray piece of shell." [15]

Lt Kennedy: "Near Aberdeen (East Lamma Channel) the “Cicala” was doing yeoman service with her two six-inch guns bombarding enemy positions, and in consequence came under repeated attack from the air. The value of her work was confirmed the next morning by the determination of the Japanese to silence her. The “Cicala” was steaming slowly near the coast continuing the bombardment when the air attack began. Nine planes circled high above her and one by one peeled off leisurely into a dive. Eight times the water rose up like a curtain round the ship, and eight times it fell to reveal the “Cicala” still sitting there firing at the land. It was agonising to watch, but after the bombs had gone from the last aircraft and the fountains of spray subsided, her guns were silent and smoke was coming from the ship.
MTB 10 rushed out to take off survivors, and although the last stick of bombs had fallen squarely along the centre of the ship almost the whole crew was saved. But the old lady was settling very slowly, and MTB 09 was detailed to sink her with depth-charges in case she should drift ashore into enemy hands. I dropped three charges alongside her, then three more, but each time she reared amidships and settled back on an even keel. The “Cicala” was a fighter, but she was gradually going and after half-an-hour had disappeared.
It was a sad end for a gallant ship which had seen service in North Russia after the last war, and had survived over fifty bombing attacks in this.‘And now there were five!’ Five naval vessels left, all of them MTBs."

Gandy was nick-named Mahatma by ratings throughout the Colony and was a founding member of the HKNVF (Feb 1936) as well as the former Provost Marchal, Hong Kong. He gave his number one uniform and only cap to Admiral Chan Chak who wore it throughout the escape, hence there are no photos of Gandy with his cap on. With his orders to operate as a guerrilla force behind enemy lines his ratings named themselves "Gandys Guerrillas".

Lt-Cmdr Gandy RN (Rtrd) leading the flotilla accross China ©

Lt-Cmd G H Gandy RN led a party of officers and ratings through the Japanese lines and 3000 miles overland through China and Burma arriving in a deserted Rangoon after escaping from Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941. After five weeks he left onboard the Heinrich Jessen bound for Calcutta along with Lt-Cmd Gandy, Lt Collingwood, Lt Ashby & the few remaining ratings from Hong Kong. From Calcutta it was a thirty six hour train journey across the Indian sub-continent to Bombay where they boarded HMT "Narkunda" bound for Durban where they took onboard 657 Italian POW's before shaping course for Cape Town.

Lt Kennedy: "The 'Laconia' was followed into harbour by another troopship, the 'Narkunda', and to our surprise Gandy and the other half of the M.T.B. party were on board. We were ordered to transfer and so all joined forces again after an interval of two months. The 'Laconia' party received a warm welcome, perhaps not so much as old ship-mates but as extra hands to share duties of guarding the six hundred Italian prisoners-of war being taken to England in the ship. On board the 'Narkunda' the MTB party was almost complete." [9]

HMT Narkunda set sail again on the 19th April, but had to return due to engine trouble. This time we anchored in Table Bay with no ships boats for a run ashore. We finally got under way on the 28th with a ten-day passage to Freetown.
After two days in Freetown re-victualing the Narkunda shaped course for the UK. A concert called "The Killjoys" had been arranged and organized by Lt-Cmd Gandy, Lt Ashby, PO Stonell, & L/S (Pony) Moore and performed by the combined ships companies onboard of HMTB's, HMT "Narkunda", HMS "Ranchi", "Cilicia," "Cockchafer" & "Birmingham" on Thursday 15th May 1942. The performers from the MTB's were (Pony) Moore, Al Rutter, & Eddie Charleson. As they headed north frequent life boat drill exercises were carried out and the order to sleep fully dressed was given as they negotiated the U-boat packs in the north Atlantic continuously zigzagging en route for the UK. Gandy, Ashby, & Kennedy along with 22 ratings finally arrived in the King George V dock, Sheildhall, Glasgow late afternoon on Friday 22nd May 1942 onboard 'HMT Narkunda." [15]


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 ©



Lt-Cdr Gandy RN giving a speech in Goiyang accompanied by Pittendrigh & Brewer ©

Lt-Cmd Gandy RN accompanied by Lieut Pintendrigh RNR, and Sub-Lieut Brewer HKRNVR giving a speech in Guiyang.

Lt Collingwood stayed onboard the Danish ship "Heinrich Jessen" and proceeded to Akyab, eventually flying out from Chittagong to Calcutta on the 18th April. From there he went on to Ceylon before returning to the UK.

The remaining nine ratings in Akyab eventually left Bombay on 14th April and arrived back in the UK 1st June1942.

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.


Senior Sino-British navy officers and nursing staff at Waichow ©

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.

1908-1911 Cadet, RN College, Osborne House IOW.

1911 Cadet, Dartmouth

1913-1915 Midshipman HMS Thunderer [106]

1915-1916 Acting Sub-Lt HMS Arabis (Sunk in night action 10th February 1916)

1916-1918 Sub-Lt & Lt HMS Victory. (POW in Germany) Promoted Lt R. N. September 1917

1919 Lt HMS Renown

1919-1920 Lt (N) HMS Hearty (4th class surveyor) [106]

1920 Lt (N) HMS Flinders (3rd class surveyor) Retired Voluntarily as Lt RN with gratuity May 1920. Promoted Lt-Commander RN (Retd) September 1925.

193? Appointed Land Surveyor Hong Kong

1933 ppointed Sub-Lt RN within the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force, HKNVF

19th Feb 1936 Promoted Lieutenant. Ceased active training, remaining on emergency list

1939 Called up for service HMS Tamar

13th May 1940 Promoted Lt-Cdr RN.

1940 O/C HMS Cicala

MTB 10 at Kowloon


May 1941, Lt-Commander Gandy RN HMMTB 10 as Senior Officer 2nd MTB Flotilla in Hong Kong gained a "Mentioned in despatches" for his action while attacking the Japanese invading forces in Kowloon Harbour on the 19th December 1941.

Left: MTB 10 proceeding out of the Kowloon camber.
Royal Navy etiquette of the day required the flotilla leader to wear a darker colour without a Pendant number on the hull.

Gandy relieved Lt-Commander Boldero who had been the flotilla SO since 1st December 1940.and had lost an arm in an accident.



Escaping as ordered after capitulation with remainder of Flotilla on 25th December. Then scuttling deep behind enemy lines in Mirs Bay and bringing MTB party of 45 across China to Rangoon.


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


MTB 10

Left: MTB 10 on patrol


1942 February, Served under Commodore Burma Coast until evacuation by sea on 8th March

1942 April-May Lt-Commander in charge of Naval draft guarding 657 Italian POW's onboard HMT Narkunda on passage to UK

1942-1944 Lt-Commander RN HMS Osprey (Kingfisher) in command. Kingfisher employed in experimental work and submarine escort duties at Clyde and Western Approaches.

1944 February, Lt-Commander RN joined combined operations HMS Copra as squadron Commander Major Landing Craft. Training in Clyde Area under Captain MLC. Later under Rear Adm Landing Ships and Craft, unallocated, at Troon.

1945 March, Acting Commander RN serving as Squadron Commander "L" LCT Squadron in Antwerp and Holland under Flag Officer Holland Vice Adm Sir G C Dickens. Serving for relief of Holland and transportation of German POW's in North Holland. The Squadron peaked at 72 Major landing craft under Squadron Commander's Command.

MTB 10 laying off Stonecutters Island 
    Photo from the Ashby collection &copy




MTB 10 laying off Stonecutters Island

Photo from Lt Ashby's collection©


1945 July L squadron disbanded, transferred to P squadron.

1945 6th October De mobbed

1946 8th May promoted to Commander on the retired list

194? Returned to Hong Kong as head of the Survey department

195? Retired



Lt-Commander Gerard H Gandy R. N. Retired, MTB 10, Commanding Officer 2nd MTB Flotilla. His cap & No 1uniform were proudly worn by Adm Chang Chak during the escape. Lt-Commander Gandy's official reports are held by the Public Records Office and his personal diary and memorabilia can be viewed at the Imperial War Museum on request.

For more information on Gerard Gandy click here.

Lt-Cdr D G (Nobby) Clarke RN the first S/O of the flotilla ;  
    Photo from the Hide collection ©Lt-Cdr Boldero DSC RN (Rtrd) in Hong Kong  
    Photo from the Hide collection ©Lt-Cmdr G H Gandy RN (Rtrd)  
    Photo from the Hide ©

The 2nd MTB Flotilla was commissioned into the China Station in 1938 under the command of Lt-Cmd D G (Nobby) Clark RN. Nobby, along with most of the younger Imperial RN officers were recalled for action in the European theatre of war.

Lt-Cdr John Christian Boldero RN (Rtrd) replaced Nobby Clark as S/O of the flotilla. Boldero was a Coastal Forces veteran from WWI where he had served with distinction in the famous CMB attack on the Bolshevik Fleet in Kronstadt harbour in 1919. A young Sub-Lt Boldero was awarded a DSC while serving as No 1 on CMB 31 which torpedoed the Bolshevik battleship Andrei Pervozanni under heavy fire on 18th Aug 1919. He retired in 1922 taking a position as assistant secretary with the Shanghai Water Company. After twelve years John was mobilised as once again the clouds of war began to darken in 1939. That was followed with an appointment on HMS Scorpion, followed by HMS Durban, a cruiser in the Eastern Fleet based in Singapore.
During an exercise on the night of 1st April 1941, Boldero, on the bridge of MTB 26, collided with HMS Thanet, severely injuring his upper body. His right arm was amputated close to his shoulder and his left arm severely damaged requiring much continued surgery. Boldero later took over as commander of the 645 ton Insect class River Gun Boat HMS Cicala from Lt-Cmd Gandy and referred to himself as a "one-armed dug-out." [86] Boldero gained a bar to his DSC for his spirited actions defending Hong Kong, surviving over sixty bomb attacks before the Cicala finally succumbed. He subsequently spent nearly four years as a Japanese POW. [102]

Lt-Cmd G H Gandy RN (Rtrd) then took command of MTB 10 as S/O of the flotilla.

MTB 10 on patrol  
    Photo from the Hide collection ©


MTB 10 on patrol







HMS Cicala

HMS Cicala one of the twelve Insect Class River Gunboats



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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