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Escape from Hong Kong - A Definitive Account of Adm Chan Chak's Final Hours

 

About the Author Buddy Hide Jr

I grew up on the tale of this most extraordinary escape from Hong Kong and and life within the MTB Flotilla on board MTB 07 and my fathers colleagues Ashby, Kennedy and Gandy etc. Living in post war Gosport before my family emigrated to East Africa I was constantly in the company of my father's navy colleagues from Hong Kong, many of whom were based in Portsmouth. Later I was to meet fellow sons of Hong Kong escapees at school. To me and my siblings the green and white Gosport ferry was the “Star Ferry,” and over the water, Portsmouth was our imaginary “Hong Kong Island.”

Years later when I came back to the UK to go to boarding school, I met yet more of the escape party, who were parents of fellow school chums, again I listened to their tales of the escape. With my father keeping his copy of the iconic Waichow photo hanging in the family home I was never going to forget this amazing event.

After my father's untimely death years later, and the first stirrings of a public internet system I decided to see if I could utilize it to to bring the iconic Waichow photo to life by tracing any of my father's former Hong Kong colleagues, or their descendants. I published a one page web site back in 1997, and, to my amazement I was getting enquiries from descendants.

In 1999 I received an Email from Admiral Chan Chak's great grandson offering to arrange a meeting with his grandfather, the son of Chan Chak. This was the start of a lifelong friendship with the Admiral's twin sons Donald and Duncan Chan.
We met and became firm friends and I was offered exclusive access to the journals meticulously written up by their father. That first day we spent an entire afternoon and evening discussing the escape, along with our shared dreams of retracing the route to Waichow. Under the watchful gaze of a portrait of Adm Chan Chak we pledged a solemn oath to find descendents and retrace the route. This we achieved in 2009 along with nearly one hundred other descendants. We also put on an exhibition of escape artifacts in the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence attracting a total of 400, 991 paying visitors over three years and three month's duration.

Over the years I have tracked down and obtained copies of every known first-hand account of this escape, now numbering nearly thirty, including the Fair Log of MTB 07 and Admiral Chan Chak's journals. I have yet to read a published account that is factually accurate. I have passed on some copies of those accounts to others who went on to publish their interpretation of the events. With the first-hand information I have, I believe this account is the closest that can be achieved after such a long gap from the time of those extraordinary events that started on Christmas Day 1941 in Hong Kong.

This account is the written words of Chan Chak’s journals along with the Log book from MTB 07, diaries, letters, Journals, official reports, interviews with escapees and  publications.
Admiral Chan Chak, had been invaluable to the British in minimising fifth Column activities among the estimated 1.5 million Chinese in the Colony. It was essential that the British delivered him and his Military Mission safely back to Free China to retain the confidence of Generalissimo Chiang-Kei-Shek.

Left: The author with Adm Chan Chak's twin sons Donald & Duncan Chan in Aberdeen Channel, Hong Kong 2008.

The plucky one legged Chinese Admiral, further hampered with a bullet lodged in his left wrist was revered by the Navy party. Those that I met years later all spoke of him with the highest of respect, almost elevating him to a God-like status.
I visited Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009/10 and stayed for a week in Argyle Street, Kowloon, where the officers of the 2nd MTB Flotilla had their apartments before the Japanese invaded. This area is still very Chinese and much the same as it was in 1941. I was fortunate in having Admiral Chan Chak's twin sons take me on guided tours of Hong Kong, visiting the principle sites relating to the escape with their accounts, as told to them by their father. I even visited the Admiral's former office on the 4th floor of the Pedder building, following in his footsteps when he took his final flight down the external stairs to Pedder street. They drove me down Queens Road following the route to the very building in Aberdeen where their father Chan waited just opposite the wooden jetty that once stood just west of Staunton Creek while the other members of his party searched for provisions for the launch they would get away in. On a boat trip down Aberdeen Channel they showed me the inlet where Chan waited and eventually climbed up after the others went over to the other side of the islet that they had fetched up on.

And of course, I prefer to cross over to Kowloon on board the "Star ferry," rather than the newer road tunnels, or underground MTR when I am in Hong Kong. There is something about it that stirs me, reminding me of my innocent youth in Gosport dreaming of it.

Much has been written about those momentous events that occurred on Christmas Day 1941 in Hong Kong. The British Colony succumbed to the overwhelming forces of the Imperial Japanese Army as a most audacious breakout was being planned. No one person has been in possession of the full facts, which has lead to books being published by authors speculating on what happened.

Lieutenant-Commander Gerard H Gandy RN (Rtrd) pulled off this most audacious escape right under the noses of the Japanese conquerors.
Prevailing against all the odds, Gandy marched his ships company three thousand miles overland through mountainous terrain to freedom without serious loss or injury.

What were the motives of the Battle HQ staff officers who volunteered to escort the Admiral to the rendezvous with the Motor Torpedo Boats.
Were they team players and heroes, or just a bunch of self-opinionated Public school Hooray Henry types, whose only concern was for themselves.
Coming under fire they were quick to abandon the Admiral, leaving him and his colleagues to fend for themselves on the bullet riddled launch. Read on and work out your own theory.

This is just the words of those who escaped, you decide.

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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