Jack Holt - Escape from Hong Kong

 

MTB alongside HMS Robin. Photos from the Chan Chak & Hide collections ©

 

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Stoker A/B Jack Holt; D/SSX13894 (Burnley Lancs)

5th March 1915 - 25th March 1963

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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 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 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]

John (Jack) joined MTB 27 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla after training at HMS Defiance, the Royal Navy's torpedo school at Plymouth on 14th february 1939.

After 3000 miles traveling 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-Cdr 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.

 

 

 

 

 

John (Jack) joined the Royal Navy in 1933.

Photo from John (Jack) Holt's collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guiyang Medical centre 25th January 1942

Left: ??, ??, Lt-Cmd Yorath RN (Rtrd), Lt Ashby, Warant-Officer Morley-Wright, Sub-Lt Brewer, Lt Collingwood, with ratings. A/B Jack Holt is 3rd from left with A/B Ed Brazel front row right.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB's 26 & 27 were 55' Thornycroft CMB's bought back from China 4th Sept 1939

 

MTB 27, ex Kuamintong CMB Kuai 20 leaving harbour for exercises in March 1940 with Lt Kilbeee as her CO.

Photo from the Hide collection©

 







 

 

 

 

 

MTB 27, Thornycroft 55 foot ex Kuamintong CMB Kuai 20 completed 10th September 1938 loaded with depth charges and torpedo's getting an XDO inspection in February 1940 with Lt Kilbeee as her C/O.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 









MTB 27 underway with Lt Kilbee in command in March 1940

Photo from the Hide collection ©









 

 

 

MTB 27 in Mirs Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 27 alongside HMS Robin the 226 ton MTB mothership launched in 1934 and armed with a 3.7 inch howitzer. Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 27 on patrol Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 27 loaded with depth charges in lieu of torpedo's alongside HMS Robin.

Photo from the Hide collection ©













 

 

 

 

John with Edith his wife in the 1950s.

Photo from Jack Holt'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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