Dr Robert Kho Seng Lim and the Escape from Hong Kong


Captain Peter Macmillan with fellow Hong Kong escapees in Waichow. Photos from the Chan Chak & Hide collections ©



Dr Robert Kho Seng Lim

The Father of Modern Medicine in China

15/10/1897 - 08/07/1969

Lt-Gen Robert Lim

Lieut-General Dr Robert Kho Seng Lim known to all as Bobby at the Red Cross centre in Tuyunguan was the Surgeon-General of the Republic of China.

Horace W Davenport: “Robert K Lim organized medical relief corps and trained doctors, nurses and technicians to meet the needs of China at war. He supervised medical services on the field of battle from the Great Wall to the retreat with Stilwell through the Burmese jungle. He built hospitals and medical schools on Mainland China and on Taiwan, and after the war he rebuilt his country’s medical education and medical research. He was “one of the great men of China,” the abundantly decorated Lieutenant-General in the Army and Surgeon General to the Republic of China.” [99]

Left: Lt-Gen Dr Robert Lim 25th January 1942

Dr Grindlay 1st Lt US Army : "About 2 p.m. great excitement - the 40 refugee sailors & Officers who escaped Xmas day from Hong Kong arrived - 32 in the first bunch. Rain & mud on road & one truck had skidded off & turned on side - resulting in several injuries -- lacerations. Nearly all bearded." [36]

Adm Chan Chak's influence had preceded the party and his friend and former golfing partner the Surgeon-General of the Republic, forty four year old Lietenant-General Dr Robert Lim, known by all as Bobby met the party as they arrived at Tuyungan the largest Red Cross medical centre in all China, four thousand feet up in the mountains near Guiyang.
Bobby had drawn up a schedule of events from official functions, cinama shows, boating in the local beauty spot to football for their three day stay.

Bobby Lim was born on October 15, 1897 in Singapore, as such he was a British subject of Chinese parentage. Lim studied in Scotland and had been one of over one hundred thousand Chinese who had departed from Ramsgate after volunteering for service supporting the British Army during the Great War. Lim served in the Indian Army Medical Service incorporated within the "Army Service Corps" on the Western Front during the great war of 1914-18. He earned his M.A. (1919), Ph.D. (1920) and D.Sc. (1924) degrees from Edinburgh University in Scotland. He began his professional career as a lecturer at Edinburgh University. He travelled to the United States of America as a Rockefeller Fellow and was associated with the University of Chicago. He became a professor of physiology at Peking Union Medical College in 1924. During World War II Lim was called on to organize the Chinese Red Cross Medical Relief Corps.

From his military experience in the two World Wars he became interested in pain-relieving drugs. He discovered that pain receptors are chemo-sensitive, that pain-producing agents such as bradykinin peptides are produced when tissues of the body are injured. Additionally, he discovered that aspirin and other analgesic drugs relieve pain by combining with the pain-provoking chemicals (bradykinin peptides) and altering their function.

Following World War II, Lim established numerous hospitals in China before leaving to accept a position with Miles Laboratories in the United States of American. Robert Kho Seng Lim is the father of modern medicine in China.

Lim was elected a member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher (1932), the United States National Academy of Sciences (1942), the American Gastroenterological Association (1946), and the American College of Surgeons (1947). He died on July 8, 1969 in Elkhart, Indiana at the age of 72.


 Dr Robert (Bobby) Lim with Lt C J Collingwood RN 24th Jan 1942
Run the curser over to identify individuals. 
Photo from Buddy Hide's collection © ???? 
Photo from Buddy Hide's collection © Lieut-Major Dr Bobby Lim
	Click here to read more on Bobby Lim     
    Photo from Buddy Hide's collection © Lt C J Collingwood  RN  
Click here to read more on Lt Collingwood
Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Lt C J Collingwood RN with Dr Robert Lim, a Lieutenant-General in the Nationalist army who ran the Chinese Red Cross medical centre four thousand feet up in the mountains at Tuyunguan, near Guiyang.

Photo from the Hide collection ©


 Dr Robert Lim with Lt-Cdr Gandy RN & officers at Kweiyong 24th Jan 1942. 
Run the curser over to identify individuals. Dr Robert Lim 
	Click here to read more on Bobby Lim Lt-Cdr G H Gandy  RN (Rtrd) 
Click here to read more on Lt-Cdr Gandy Lt A Pittendrigh RNR
	Click here to read more on Arthur Pittendrigh Sub-Lt Tommy Brewer HKRNVR
Click here to read more on Tommy Brewer

Lieut-Commander Gandy giving a speech of thanks .

Dr Robert Lim, Lt-Cdr Gandy RN (Rtrd), Lt Pittendrigh RNR, Sub-Lt Brewer HKRNVR.

Photo from the Hide 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]

The Royal Navy party at The Chinese Red Cross medical centre at Tuyunguan near Guiyang 30 days and 1380 miles into their 2880 mile trek from Hong Kong enroute to Rangoon.

Lt Parsons HKRNVR & Officers enjoying in Guiyang.   
  Photo from the Hide collection ©





Sub-Lt Gee, Sub-Lt Brewer, Sub-Lt Legge, Lt parsons, Lt Kennedy.
Sub-Lt's David Legge and Gee had lived in Shanghai and spoke Mandarin, and acted as interpreters. Effie Lim, and the Chen sisters.
On the right is Lt Alexander Kennedy of MTB 09, the author of the self published book "Hong Kong Full Circle"

Sub-Lt Legge HKRNVR: "There were one or two pretty ex-Shanghai girls there, with whom I spent most of my time the next few days, rather, I think, to the jealousy of other less fortunate officers." [18]


Ships dog Bruce

Bruce accompanied the escape party as far as Guiyang

Bruce escaped from Hong Kong with the 2nd MTB Flotilla under the command of Adm Chan Chak C.N. on Christmas Day 1941 as the Colony surrendered to the overwhelming forces of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Bruce, the ships dog, accompanied the escape party through the Japanese lines to Waichow and beyond for one thousand three hundred and eighty miles (2,221 Km). Michael Sullivan, who went on to be a leading Chinese art historian, was driving for the Friends Ambulance Unit stationed at the Red Cross Centre near Guiyang, took over Brucey's welfare. Later in 1942 Michael settled in Chengdu working at the museum of the West China Union University. [30]

Effie Lim married Oliver Phillip Edwards, a Shanghai rugby played. He played before and after the war.
They met while he was escaping from the Japanese from Swatow where he had been posted by HSBC eventually making it to Chungking. [101]

Photos from Lt C J Collingwood's collection©

Not everybody had been happy to have the ships dog accompany the party.

Maj Goring BHQ: "We marched about fourteen miles in the dark, traveling in single file along goat-tracks, occasionally tripping over a most tiresome mongrel which someone had brought along ." [17]

The party arrived at the largest Red Cross medical centre in China, four thousand feet up in the mountains at Tuyunguan near Guiyang.
Waiting to meet them was the Surgeon-General of the Republic of China, forty four year old Lieutenant-General Dr Robert Lim, a widower known by all as Bobby. Born in Singapore he was a British subject of Chinese parentage. Bobby had been educated at the George Watson's College at Archibald Place in Edinburgh and later trained as a physiologist at University there. He married a local woman, Margaret Torrance on 19th July 1920. They had two children James and Effie who was fifteen and still wore the kilt and, like her father spoke her native tongue with a Scottish burr, much to the amusement of Sub-Lt's Brewer and Legge both of whom spoke fluent Mandarin.
Bobby had a team of european medics, among them was a German Physician, Dr Rolf Becker whose wife Joan became Bobby Lim's secretary as well as tutoring his daughter Effie. The European team were recruited in London in 1939 by the China Aid Committee.
Bobby had volunteered and was accepted into the Indian Army as a Warrant-Officer during the Great War of 1914-18 on the Western Front.
He set up the Chinese Red Cross after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1937.
Bobby was also a former golfing partner of Adm Chan Chak. Bobby Lim was arguably the greatest Singaporian of all time and was destined to become "One of the great men of China." [99]

Tuyunguan memorial to the European Physicians who worked for the Chinese Red Cross during the war. 
	Photo from the Rolf Becker collection ©



A memorial errected in 1985 commemerating the European team of physicians and nurses who volunteered to work for the Chinese Red Cross.

  • Austria (4)
  • Bulgaria (1)
  • Czechoslovakia (1)
  • Germany (4)
  • Hungary (1)
  • Poland (6)
  • Romania ( 3)
  • USSR
  • Photo from Bernard Becker ©

    Eddie Brazel (HKRNVR): "Here we stayed at the headquarters of the Chinese International Red Cross, who had a wonderful place. During our stay of three days in Kweiyang we had a marvellous time, being entertained by Governor Wu amongst others, in addition we played the training school at football." [47]

    Dr Robert (Bobby) Lim & his Daughter Effie with RN Officers at the Chinese International Red Cross headquarters in Guiyang.     
    Photo from the Hide collection ©

    Guiyang Red Cross centre

    Dr Bobby Lim, Lt Pittendrigh RNR Lt-Cmd Yorath RN (Rtrd), & Sub-Lt Brewer HKRNVR relaxing during the escape

    Photo from the Hide collection ©


    Sub-Lt Legge HKRNVR: "The Chinese Red Cross has a wonderful hospital at Tuyunguan, all mat sheds but very well run. They were prepared for us as we had arranged in advance to stay with them for a day or two.
    We all bunked in a large dormitory, which had big stoves in the center, heaven to us after the places we had been sleeping. Also we had our first foreign food up until then, and our first taste of decent liquor. They were very good to us and we were looked after like kings."

    A/B Jack Holt with Lt Ashby and officers & ratings at Tuyunguan. 
      Run the curser over to identify individuals.       
      Photo from the Hide collection ©




    Tuyunguan Medical centre 25th January 1942

    Lt-Cmdr 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 ©

    Lieutenant-General Wu entertains the Royal Navy in Guiyang

    Ships Company of the 2nd MTB Flotilla at Guiyang 24th January 1942

     Buddy Hide & 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 ©

    Sub-Lt David Legge HKRNVR with his head bandaged along with the RN party in Huaxi Park, Guiyang 25th January 1942 ©



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

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

    Photo from the Hide collection ©

    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 Collingwood RN & Parsons HKRNVR boating in Huaxi Park. 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©

    Left: Lieut's Collingwood & Parsons demonstrating their boating skills with Effie Lim.

    Lt Kennedy RNVR: "The dinner started quietly while we got to know the Chinese, but things quickly warmed up after we had been served rice-spirit in little porcelain cups. They had a pernicious habit of shouting "Kan-Pi", with great reujarity and we had to drain our cups and hold them upsidedown over the table to show that they were empty.
    The art of the game we realised too late was to call "Kan-Pi" when ones own cup was almost empty and the others full.
    One resolute member, formerly the Coxswain of MTB 10 was seen to stiffen like a ramrod during 'The King', although he was lying flat on his face on the floor." [9]

    Sub-Lt Gee & Legge with Effie Lim & friend

    Left: Sub-Lt's Brewer & Legge with Dr Bobby Lim's daughter Effie and friend.

    Lt Kennedy RNVR: "It was a somewhat jaded party which clamboured into the Red Cross trucks the following morning after repeated farewells to Dr Lim. As we bumped and jarred our way downhill into the city, each rut felt like a ditch and every pothole a subsidence." [9]

    Sub-Lt Legge HKRNVR: "We then set off for Kun Ming, about another four-day trip. It was mostly uneventful except for the dust, which, combined with the only cigarettes we could obtain, was giving us a hacking cough." [18]


    The Red Cross trucks on the high roads after the RN party left  Tuyunguan driving west to Kunming. 
	Photo from the Hide collection ©

    Left: The Red Cross trucks taking the RN party over the mountain roads to Kunming after leaving Tuyunguan.

    Photo from the Hide 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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