E M (John) Talan M.B.E. - Escape from Hong Kong - The Final Hours

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Captain E M (John) Talan M.B.E. MI9 Special Reconnaisance Unit

John (Monia) Talan  
    Photo from Colin McEwan's collection &copyCapt. Monia Talan (238166)


Photo from Colin McEwan's collection ©

Talan was in Mike Kendall's MI9 team.[11]

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"

Norman Halladay MN: "I finnished up with an army boot on one foot and a shoe on the other."

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.

[Emmanuel] Monia Talan/Jalan  was born on 28th May 1913 in Novonikolaevsk Siberia. He was five when the Russian Revolution occurred and his parents fled to Shanghai in 1918, where they joined the Chinese city’s tens of thousands of other poor White-Russian refugees. As a young man he joined the Artillery Company in the [Jewish Company] of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps [SVC].

Platoon Sergeant 22nd September 1932,

Company Sergeant Major [CSM].

2nd Lieutenant 15th September 1933

Lieutenant 15th September 1935

Resigned 31st October 1935

Talan returned south to Nanao with McEwan to collect the Lewis guns and stores after seeing the escape party to Waichow and observed a Japanese spotter plane flying over the half sunken MTB's followed by a warship heading for Nanao in early January 1942.

He moved to Hong Kong in 1935, joining the HKVDC in 1938. He was later recruited for the "Z Special Force Reconnaisance Unit" in 1940. After escaping from Hong Kong with the 2nd MTB Flotilla he served in southern China with the British Army Aid Group [BAAG]

As civilians in Hong Kong before the war  – Colin McEwan a PT instructor, and Monia working in the travel business both became members of the Hong Kong Volunteers and assigned to a special  group called Z Force (led by Mike Kendall, a Canadian mining engineer). The group’s role was to carry out intelligence work and sabotage  behind enemy lines. But in the event the Japanese advance was so swift that, while the rest of the group were out near the border blowing up trucks etc,  these three ended up helping with the last-ditch defence of  HK Island.   They were closely involved in rounding up spies and fifth columnists in coordination with Adm Chan Chak, Colonel Yee and the other Chinese KMT people in Hong Kong.  On the 19th Dec,   Monia and Colin took a small boat out into the harbour and Colin blew up a Japanese ship by  swimming underneath it and attaching  limpet mines.  They both moved with Kendall onto the MTB's at Aberdeen a few days before the Surrender. At first the plan was to  try and make contact with the Chinese forces supposedly on their way to relieve the siege, but when it became clear it was all over they were put in charge of ensuring Chan Chak and his colleagues got out.   Later in the war Colin and Monia were reunited in India when they took part in an SOE led underwater explosives operation in Goa --  this became the subject of a film, The Sea Wolves, starring David Niven.

He returned to Hong Kong after the war and worked again in the travel sector.  He also became director of a laundry business.  He was awarded an M.B.E. and emigrated to Australia in 1979, settling  outside Melbourne with his second wife, a Hungarian having bought 40 acres to breed horses.

Members of the Christmas Day escape who returned to help rebuild the Colonony of Hong Kong after its return to British control in 1945 included

The SOE escape team

Mike Kendall

Colin McEwan

[John] Monia Talan

London Gazette entry:

(1) 12th March 1946

(2) 22nd March 1946

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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