David Pauncefoote-Legge - Escape from Hong Kong - The Final Hours



Sub-Lt David Pauncefoote-Legge H.K.R.N.V.R. 2nd MTB Flotilla, Coastal Forces Hong Kong

1916 - 2007

Sub-Lt David Pauncefoote-Legge H.K.R.N.V.R. [MTB 11]

Sub-Lt David Legge in Waichow 30/12/1941 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©

Sub-Lt Legge had lived and worked in Shanghai since 1933 where his widowed mother Alice, a school cookery and Swedish gymnastics teacher, had married a Danish sea captain, Jens Elster. David was fluent in Cantonese, acting as one of the interpreters during the escape. When David arrived in Kukong he met a part time trainee nurse who knew his mother Alice (Dotsy) in Shanghai. She wrote a letter in Chinese for added security to his mother confirming David's arrival in Kunming, and that of his chum Holger Christensen.

“Dear Mrs. Elster, I am again writing this letter to tell you that I have very safely arrived at my destination. I am now living at this place engaged in teaching a girl in the forenoon and in learning nursing work at the local hospital. I am sure you are very glad to know that David and his friend, Holger have arrived here. I have already seen them several times. They are all very well. They will go westward in the near future. They will send you a letter after they have arrived at their destination. We are glad to be able to meet David and his friend. We are very unwilling to see them leave so quickly. They had a very shocking experiences before their arrival here. Please send my best wishes to my friends. May God have blessing on you. Yours faithfully Eteli (?).” [107] 

While in Kunming, David, along with Lt Pittendrigh and Sub-Lt Gee received orders to fly to Chungking and report to the British Embassy to work in the cypher department. "Then I found what a mistake I had made. The Embassy grabbed me without so much as a by your leave and shoved me into their cipher office. There was of course no naval authority to whom I could complain. I was stuck there for two months before I made such a nuisance of myself that they let me out".

A/Sub-Lt Legge had joined the HKRNVR 5th January 1941, spending three months training in Navigation, signalling, seamanship, mine laying and gunnery. Davo then spent the following six months on converted tugs on minesweeping duties before he transferred to MTB 11. The Imperial Royal Navy had 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. His Excellency Sir Geoffry Alexander Stafford Northcote, K.C.M.G. was the Honorary Captain. [106]
He was commissioned into the Imperial R.N.V.R. in 1943 and joined the Naval Intelligence Division, Admty [HMS President] 1943-1946.

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 informationThe 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]

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 his people back to freedom 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 Royal Navy history, that an entire Flotilla company evaded capture to escape across an entire continent to fight another day.

Sub-Lt Legge HKRNVR & 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-Cmd Hsu Heng (Henry) ROC, Lt-Cmd Gandy RN (Rtrd), Lt-Cmd 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.

To read more on David click here.

Davo was born in Hayes, Kent, England in 1916, and aged just two months he was sent to join his father in Bangalore, India. In 1924 he entered the Heathfield Preparatory School, in Sussex before going to the Cheltenham College Military training school for one year. He then went to the Tonbridge School, Kent, as a day pupil where it also transpired that Lt-Com Yorath RNR (Rtrd) also attended. Upon leaving he emigrated to Shanghhai where Davo enjoyed Rowing along with Ted Ross, and Rugby. Davo played for the "Armoured Car Company" at the Shanghai RFC junior division from 1935 through 1937. [101]

Davo passed away aged 90 on the 19 March 2007 in Auburn, California. Davo was a California resident for over 50 years. After long careers with British-American Tobacco and B.O.A.C. (British Airways), he was widowed (no children) and remarried at age 62. Davo was an active boater and traveller, and a docent at California Academy of Sciences in S.F. He became a US citizen at age 64.

Davo along with fellow escapee Lt-Cmd Yorath RN are featured in a newly published book A Duty to Serve: Tonbridge School and the 1939-45 War


MTB 11 at HMS Vernon ©

The MTB Incident.

MTB 11 being worked up at HMS Vernon after completion in July 1938

laying depth charges on exercise in 1940

Log entry:

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

Sub-Lt David Legge with the ships dog Brucey ; 
    Photo from Lt C J Collingwood's collection ©

Sub-Lt David Legge with the ships dog Brucey.

Photo from Lt C J Collingwood's collection ©

David Pauncefoote Legge ; 
    Photo fom David Pauncefoote Legge's collection ©

Davo back in China May 2006

Photo from the DPLfamily collection©

Click here for Sub-Lt D P Legge Obituary

Guiyang 23rd - 26th January 1942

Sub-Lt Legge and officers at Kweiyong 26th January 1942
    Run the curser over to see individuals identified ; 

Photo fom Alex Kennedy's collection ©

Some of the Officers enjoying a day out in Kweiyang with their female hosts including Dr Lim's 15 year old daughter Effie in the tartan kilt. Sub-Lt 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."

26th January

Photo from Alex Kennedy's collection ©

Sub-Lt Legge & the Royal Navy party at Guiyang 24th Jan 1942
Run the curser over to identify individuals.

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Ships Log: 24th Jan 1942 "Visit to Governor in the morning. Conducted tour of the centre in the afternoon, followed by tea & a 'movie' after dinner." [5]

Photo from the Hide family collection ©

Huaxi Park near Guiyang
David Legge & some of the RN party in Huaxi Park, Guiyang 25th January 1942 ©

Ships Log: 25th Jan 1942: "Visit to park in the morning. Soccer match in the afternoon, lost 6-1. Dinner in the evening given by the Governor." [5]

Lt-Cmd Yorath with officers & ratings visiting Huaxi park.

Sub-Lt Legge is standing on the left wearing a boiler suit and sporting a head bandage.

Dr Lim organized a seven-a-side football match against his training school team.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

Davo with his head bandaged after the truck he was traveling in turned over two days earlier.

Sub-Lt's Legge & Gee in Guiyang

25th January 1942

Sub-Lts Legge & Gee with Effie Lim and friend,

Ships Log: Fri 23rd Jan 1942: "Truck with Lt Collingwood overturned some 90Km from Guiyang. Three or four casualties --- none serious." [5]

Sub-Lt David P Legge HKRNVR

Photo from the DPL family collection ©

David Pouncefoote Legge rowing at Shanghai Henli 1st Nov 1936

Shanghai Henli 1st November 1936 [101

Newly published book featuring old boys Lieutenant-Commander Yorath RN and Sub-Lieutenant Legge HKRNVR

A Duty to Serve: Tonbridge School and the 1939-45 War




A Duty to Serve: Tonbridge School and the 1939-45 War by David Walsh

Born in Hayes, Kent, England, he lived in Bangalore India as an infant, where his father was a paper importer. Most of his schooling was in England; he attended Heathfield Preparatory School near Hayes, Cheltenham College, a military training school near Gloucester, and Tonbridge School in Kent. He spent summers with cousins, working at farm jobs. He excelled at swimming and rowing, and enjoyed soccer, rugby and mischief.

Click here for Sub-Lt D P Legge Obituary

David passed away aged ninety in 2006, his ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay (as were those of both his wives)

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.

Contact | Mwadui | Guest Book | Top | © MCMXCVI Hamstat Integrated Systems | Escape from Hong Kong

Site maintained by Hamstat Integrated Systems Inc

© Hong Kong Escape.org  2019