Alex Kennedy - Escape from Hong Kong


MTB 11 Lewis-Gun  
  Click here to read more © Admiral Chan Chak and party arriving in Waichow;  
  Click here to
  Photo from Admiral Chan Chak's collection ©.


Lt Alexander Kennedy VRD R.N.V.R. 2nd MTB Flotilla, Coastal Forces Hong Kong

02/09/1917 - 12/06/1999


Lt Alex Kennedy RNVR at Waichow 30th Dec 1941  
Click here to return to the Waichow group photo 
Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©



Lt Alexander Kennedy RNVR at Waichow 30th Dec 1941

Mentioned in Despatches

Click here for Kennedy's Obituary

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

The MTB Incident.

26.08.1937 Joined RNVR (Clyde Division) as a Midshipman [106]

Promoted Sub-Lieutenant 19.08.39

6th October1939 arrived in Hong Kong on board HMT Ettrick to join the China Station as Acting 1st Officer on MTB 10 under Lt-Cmdr D G (Nobby) Clark RN the senior officer of the flotilla. With the European war theatre ratcheting up the Imperial Royal Navy officers were recalled. Lt-Cmdr Boldero RN (Rtrd) who gained a DSC for his part in torpedoing the the Bolshevik battleship Andrei Pervozanni under heavy fire in the famous CMB attack on the Bolshevik Fleet in Kronstadt harbour 18th Aug1919 now took over as S/O. Shortly afterwards in 1949 Kennedy was appointed as senior officer of MTB 09, succeeding Lt K A Watson RN. Lt Kennedy was Mentioned in Despatches for his action while commanding MTB 09 in what became known as and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Sea, in Kowloon Harbour on the 19th 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."


HMS Cicala

Lt Alexander Kennedy had an astonishing coincidence. His wife to be left Hong Kong onboard the SS Ulysses of the Blue Funnel line on the morning of Sunday 7th December bound for Australia and the USA. The "Ulysses" was torpedoed and sank off the coast of South Carolina on the 11th April 1942. The entire crew and passengers were rescued by a US Destroyer. After some weeks of American hospitality they departed from New York onboard the SS Myrmidon bound for Glasgow arriving on the same day as the 2nd MTB Flotilla crews on board the "Narkunda" arriving on 22nd May.

Failing eyesight prevented Kennedy from watch keeping and he was posted to HMS St Christopher, the Coastal Forces training base at Fort William. As the base was being wound down for decommissioning in December 1944 Kennedy applied for and was accepted to attend the Staff Officer training course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. On completion he joined the staff of Rear-Adm Rivett-Carnac at the Admty with the rank of Lt-Cdr RNVR, planning an advanced Pacific base. In April 1945 Kennedy flew out to Sydney, Australia as ADC to the Adm. He then transferred to the staff of Commodore Murray-Smith on board the aircraft carrier HMS Pioneer, with the title Lieut-Cmdr Staff Officer (Logistics) Pacific Fleet, Despatches.

The Pioneer was later attached to Adm Harcourt's task force to re-occupy Hong Kong. Back in Hong Kong Kennedy met fellow escapee MacDougall, now with the military title of Brigadier Colonial Secretary. He also met Colin McEwan again. Kennedy made sure was ashore in Hong Kong when the formal Japanese surrender took place on 16th September, thus completing his full circle.

"I have been a sort of Marco Polo in reverse."

Kennedy was awarded the was awarded the Volunteer Reserve Decoration on completion of twenty years service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Kennedy wrote Hong Kong Full Circle 1939 - 1945 in 1949 but could not get it published, he eventually self published with 500 copies in 1969.



One of a number of Yuan banknotes signed as a suvenenir to celebrate traveling the Burma Road. © name=

Banknotes signed as souvenirs by escape party members in  Liuchow on 20th January 1942 while waiting for a train.

Among the signatures on this 10 Yuan banknote belonging to Lt Parsons HKRNVR are;

D S Pethick

E Cox-Walker

H Christensen

A Pittendrigh

E H Brazel

A Kennedy

A L Marchant

Photo from the Hide family collection ©

The banknote under belonging to Lt Kennedy RNVR is signed by;

A Pittendrigh

R R W Ashby

C J Collingwood



MTB 09 smoko in Aberdeen Channel

Ships Log MTB 07 9th Dec 1941
07.00 Proceeded back to base with 09
07.30Secured in Aberdeen base
08.45 Air Raid: Slipped
08.55 Secured on lighter 261, entrance to Aberdeen Channel. [5]

Some of the crew of MTB 09 taking a smoko in Aberdeen Channel 9th December 1941 during the battle for Hong Kong.

MTBs 07 & 09 spent all day together dodging bombs. [5]

From the left Stoker A/B Charlie Foster, Coxswain Bill Schillemore, and A/B Bob Hempenstall

Photo from the Ashby collection ©

Alex Kennedy and fellow senior officers jokingly referred to the highly tuned thoroughbred boats as the "Hong Kong Costly Force" rather than Coastal Force




Lt Alex Kennedy & 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-Cmdr Hsu Heng (Henry) ROC, Lt-Cmdr Gandy RN (Rtrd), Lt-Cmdr 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.

The Crew of MTB 09 at Waichow on 30th December 1941

Lt Kennedy & MTB 09 crew at Waichow 30th Dec 1942
    Run the curser over to identify individuals.     
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

MTB 09 Crew at Waichow,

Back Row: A/B Penny, A/B; Leslie [Lofty] Gurd, Tel; Harold.P. Hill, A/B Robert Hempenstall

Middle Row: Stoker A/B Charles Foster, L/S; Coxswain William Schillemore, L/St; P.O. Ronald J.C. (Jez) Priestley,

Front Row: Sub-Lt; Tommy Brewer, Lt; Alexander Kennedy, O/C

Photo from the Hide collection ©





MTB 09 covering the measured mile in East Lama Channel spring of 1940 ; 
    Photo from Lt C.J. Collingwood's collection ©

MTB 09 was scuttled along with the remaining 2nd MTB Flotilla behind enemy lines off Nan'ao, Mirs Bay, China 26th December 1941.

Photo from Lt Collingwood's collection ©




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

Under camouflage in Telegraph Bay on Christmas Day 1941 just hours prior to the escape that evening

MTBs 07 & 09 under camouflage in Telegraph Bay by day  prior to the escape that eve on Christmas Day 1941  
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

MTB's 07 & 09 under camouflage alongside the stone pier in Telegraph Bay hiding from enemy aircraft just hours before the escape, on Christmas Day 1941. 07 still has a full complement of depth charges on deck.

Photo from the Ashby collection ©









Lt Alex Kennedy RNVR     
    Photo from Lt Alex Kennedy's collection ©

Lt Alex Kennedy RNVR on the bridge of 09.

Photo from the Kennedy collection ©





Lt Alex Kennedy by the Sea Palace at Kukong in Jan 1942.     
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

Lt Alex Kennedy at the Sea Palace in Kukong 6th-16th January 1942

Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

The Sea Palace was a floating brothel moored with the hundreds of houseboats. Lt-Col Owen Hughes arranged with the owner to have it had cleared out and rented to accommodate the escape party while at Shaoguan [Kukong].
The Sea Palace was also used later by the BAAG after it was formed by Lindsay Ride at the Methodist Mission in Kukong for a short while.

Lt Alex Kennedy & Officers in Guiyang.   
    Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

Guiyang 26th January 1942

Some of the Officers enjoying a day out in Guiyang with their female hosts including Dr Lim's 15 year old daughter Effie in the tartan kilt who spoke her native tongue with a Glasgow accent. Sub-Lt's Gee & Legge were both brought up in Shanghai and spoke Mandarin.

The officers left to right are Sub-Lt Gee [MTB 07], Sub-Lt Brewer [MTB 09], Sub-Lt Legge [MTB 11], Lt Parsons [MTB 27], & Lt Alexander Kennedy of MTB 09, the author of the self published book "Hong Kong Full Circle 1939-1945."

Photo from Lt Alex Kennedy's collection ©

MTB 09 Crest salvaged 26th December 1941. 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©



One of two boats crests salvaged from the 2nd MTB Flotilla. Kennedy bribed a rating to carry the bronze crest of MTB 09 all the way across China and back to the UK after his 1st Officer Brewer had removed it, but decided it was too heavy to carry.

The other crest was salvaged from MTB 08 by Sub-Lt Bush HKRNVR after it blew up on the slipp in Aberdeen during an IJA bombing raid on 16th December 1941.

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©


Hong Kong Full Circle 1939-45 by Alexander Kennedy.     
    Photo from the Hide family collection ©

Hong Kong Full Circle 1939-1945 by Alex Kennedy. Self published with 500 copies printed by Harrison & Sons Ltd. London 1969

Alex also recounted the escape in the "Press & Journal 29th June 1942.

For more information on Alexander Kennedy click here.










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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