Lt Laurence D Kilbee HKRNVR VRD MBE


MTB 08. Photos from the Collingwood & Hide collections ©


Lt Laurence D Kilbee 2nd MTB Flotilla Hong Kong

1914 - 2006


Lt Laurence D Kilbee HKRNVR MTB 08 China Station.   
  Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection &copy

Laurie's father, Dudley, was a Master Mariner employed by Jardine's in Hong Kong on the China coastal runs. Following his education at boarding school in Kent Laurie returned to Hong Kong. In his leisure time he was a keen and competitive sportsman excelling on the cricket field. In the early thirties he gained employment with Reiss Bradley in Shanghai selling adding machines. Along with the majority of ex-pats living in Shanghai he moved to Hong Kong following the Japanese occupation of south-eastern China in 1937. Laurie enlisted into the Hong Kong Naval Volunteer Force on 16th November 1937, just seven days before Ron Ashby. 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. 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 including their Honorary Captain His Excellency Sir Geoffry Alexander Stafford Northcote, K.C.M.G. [106]

Left; Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection ©

Laurie met Evelyn Martin who was visiting her sister in Hong Kong, they married in St John's Cathedral on 1st July 1940 setting up home on the Peak. At the cessation of hostilities and subsequent surrender to Japan Laurie was taken as P.O.W. While there he kept a diary and recorded the events of the battle of Hong Kong.
His wife aged twenty four and young daughter Dorothy aged five months were interned at the War Memorial Hospital for the duration of the Japanese occupation.

Following the Japanese surrender in 1945 Laurie and his family repatriated to England where he continued his naval career, now in the Imperial RNVR. Laurie retired with the rank of Commander and was awarded the Volunteer Reserve Decoration on completion of twenty years service in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Laurie and family returned to Hong Kong in the early sixties, again setting up home on the Peak, in Plantation Rd, now employed with Gilmans. Laurie eventually retired to Eastbourne in England where I was most fortunate to get to know him.

For more information on Laurence Kilbee click here.



Lt Laurence D Kilbee H.K.R.N.V.R. [MTB 08 & late of MTB 27]

MTB 08 Crest. Caudae Spiculum Caveo (Beware the sting in the tail)


One of two ships crests salvaged from the 2nd MTB Flotilla.
MTB 08 blew up on the slip at Aberdeen when hit by a bomb splinter as the IJA targeted HMS Thracian in the dry dock on 16th December 1941

The ships crest was salvaged by Lt Lewis Bush HKRNVR who in turn gave it to the Coxswain W Mitchell in Japan. It was sold by David Bond, an ex Clearance Diver in Hong Kong and now specializing in maritime artifacts.

The other crest was salvaged from MTB 09 by Sub-Lt Brewer HKRNVR on 26th December during scuttling off Nanao in Mirs Bay.













MTB motto: Caudae Spiculum Caveo (Beware the sting in the tail)

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 motto was "Be Just and Fear Naught" led the flotilla in MTB 07 with Jix Prest & Buddy Hide at the controls, pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, suffering heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back to base 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]



Lt Kilbee & MTB 08 Crew in Oct 1941 ©



Left: Lt Kilbee with his dog and crew. Sub-Lt Lewis Bush with his dog, Joan, is also front row 2nd from the left.

Lewis William Bush was married to a Japanese woman, Kaneko and spoke fluent Japanese himself having previously been a teacher in Japan. Lewis stayed behind in Aberdeen and liased with the Japanese for the surrender. He wrote the book "The Road to Inamura" which details his life. Lewis also featured in the acclaimed documentary "The World at War" episode 6 Banzai!

Lewis also left an oral recording at the British Imperial war Museum














MTB 08 covering the measured mile in East Lama Channel 1941
    Photo from the Hide collection ©

Lt Kilbee transferred as C/O to MTB 08 on the 27th April 1940 after having been the C/O of MTB 27. After 08 blew up on the slip at Aberdeen on the 16th December 1941 he briefly took over as MTB Officer in Aberdeen and Officer Commanding the RASC launch ML French before joining MTB 10 as 1st Officer.

He had a long discussion about the escape with his C/O Lt-Cmd Gandy and expressed his desire to stay with his wife, a military nurse at the Mount Kellett Army Hospital on the Peak, and young daughter of six months. Laurenence Transferred to MTB 11, just as Chan Ckak's advance party came over Aberdeen Island, and was taken to Telegraph Bay where MTB's 07 & 09 were alongside, and put ashore where he climbed up to the Peak.
The Kilbee family home was up on the peak.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

For more information on Laurence Kilbee click here.

Lt L D Kilbee's account of the battle, written shortly after captivity while POW.

Laurence Kilbee and fellow officers referred to the highly tuned thoroughbred boats of the Hong Kong Coastal Forces as the "Hong Kong Costly Farce"




MTB 27 ex Kuamintong CMB Kuai 20, XDO inspection. Photo from the Hide collection ©




MTB 27, a 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 Kilbee as her C/O.

MTB's 26 & 27 were 55' Thornycroft CMB's bought back from the Chinese Navy on 4th Sept 1939

Photo from C J Collingwood's collection ©








Lt Kilbee leaving harbour on MTB 27 for exercise in March 1940 &copy




MTB 27 under way with Lt Kilbee in command in March 1940. Laurence made it clear to me that the 55' foot Thornycroft CMB's were fast than the British Power Boat MTB's.

Photo from the Hide collection ©





MTB 27 on patrol

Photo from the Hide collection ©








MTB 27 alongside  HMS Robin in Mirs Bay
    Photo from the Hide collection ©





MTB 27 alongside HMS Robin in Mirs Bay

Photo from the Hide collection ©










MTB 27 alongside HMS Robind 
	Photo from the Hide family collection ©



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

Photo from the Hide collection ©







MTB 27 & crew 
    Photo from the Hide collection ©




MTB 27 with crew members alongside the Camber in Kowloon

Photo from the Hide collection ©







MTB 08 as drawn by Lt Kilbee in 1945 after being released from POW.     
    Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection ©.



MTB 08 painted by Lt Kilbee after being released from Japanese POW in 1945

Laurence painted many sea scenes especialy tall ships under full sail.






The 2nd MTB Flotilla on patrol painted by Lt Kilbee in 1945 after being released from POW.     
    Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection ©



The 2nd MTB Flotilla on patrol painted from memory by Lt Kilbee after being released from Japanese POW camp in 1945.

Laurence was a keen photographer and artist catching many sea scenes on canvas. All his pre-war works were lost after the fall of Hong Kong.

Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection ©




MTB 08 alongside HMS Vernon



MTB 08 on sea trials and fitting out for Depth Charges and Torpedos at HMS Vernon, Portsmout, UK in 1937 before being shipped out to Hong Kong.










MTB 08




MTB 08 undergoing sea trials at HMS Vernon, Portsmouth after being completed on 3rd September 1937 prior to being shipped out to Hong Kong.









Lt L D Kilbee HKRNVR China Station
    Photo from the Hide collection ©




Lt L D Kilbee in 1940.

Photo from Lt Collingwood's collection ©







MTB 27 launching a torpedo ©




MTB 27 launching a stern torpedo while under way.

The Scott-Paine MTBs had to be stationary to launch their stern torpedos for fear of the engine room flooding through the open stern ports.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

Christmas Dinner menu in Shamshuipo POW camp 1943

Lawrence Kilbee and his crew spent nearly four years interned under the brutal Japanese regime as Prisoners of War.

The Christmas Dinner menu Shamshuipo POW camp 1943

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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