Kenny Holmes arriving in Kukong. 
  Photos from the Chan Chak & Collingwood & Ross collections ©

Kenneth Holmes - Escape from Hong Kong - The Final Hours

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Kenneth Holmes MTB 11 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla, Coastal Forces Hong Kong

A/B kenny Holmes MTB 11. 
    Click here to return to the Waichow photo.     
    Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

 

 

Stoker A/B Kenneth Holmes D/JX93823 [MTB 11] (Harrogate)

Click here to return to the Waichow Photo

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

 

 

MTB 07 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 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.
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 Naught" 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 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]

After 3000 miles travelling overland through China and Burma he arrived in a deserted Rangoon. After departing Rangoon for Calcutta and a thirty six hour train journey to Bombay he proceeded to the UK.

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]

The 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-Cmdr 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 the "Narkunda."[15]

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.

Ken was promoted to Petty Officer. In 1946 while based in Pymouth he searched successfully for his best chum L/Stoker Eric Small who he last saw two days before Ken escaped from Hong Kong. Eric was taken POW and was transported to Japan for slave labour on the fifth mass transport from Hong Kong. Info from the "Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror" 7th February 1946

MTB 11 patrolling with the 2nd MTB Flotilla.     
    Photo from the the Hide collection ©

 

 

MTB 11 patrolling with the 2nd MTB Flotilla

Photo from the Downey family collection ©

The MTB Incident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 11 alongside HMS Vernon ©

 

 

 

MTB 11 at HMS Vernon before being shipped out to Hong Kong ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 11 laying depth charges 
    Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

MTB 11 laying depth charges

Photo from Lt C. J. Collingwood's collection ©

Log entry:

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

 

 

 

 

A/B Kenneth Holmes & crew of MTB 11 in 1940 
    Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

 

Lt C J Collingwood and crew in 1940

Photo from Lt Collingwood's collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 11 loading the torpedos 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©







Loading torpedo's

Photo from Lt Collingwood's collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ken Holmes & the crew of MTB 11.  
    Photo from Jack Thorpe's collection ©

 

 

 

 

The crew of MTB 11.

Back row: A/B Jack Thorpe, PO Rob Stonell ?, A/B Alf Burrows ?, A/B Alex Kelly ?.

Front row: A/B Lew Whatley ?, A/B Ken Holmes ?, A/B ? ?

Photo from Jack Thorpe's collection©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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