John Yorath R. N. (Rtrd) - Escape from Hong Kong

 

Adm Chan Chak in Kukong. Photos from the Ashby, Chan Chak & Collingwood collections ©

 

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Lt-Cdr John H Yorath
    Click here to return to the Waichow photo.     
    Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©Lt-Cmd John Humphrey Yorath R. N. 59

1898 - 1980

Survived by daughters Felicity and Sonia

Born 9th November 1898 Newport. Mon. [56]

John Yorath at Waichow 30th December 1941

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Yorath joined the RN as a Midshipman 15th March 1917

Click here for more information on Lt-Cmd Yorath RN (Retrd)

Like his fellow navy colleagues he was a keen yachtsman.

Lt-Commander Yorath of the XDO staff along with Norman Halladay of the Merchant Navy rowed out by skiff from Aberdeen under shell fire round Ap Lei Chau to instruct Cmd Gandy R. N. to "GO" and then elected to join the escape party with the MTB's.[15]

Lt-Cmd Gandy RN (Rtrd): "Adm Chan Chak was said to be hiding in a cave wounded and without his artificial leg and Commander Hsu Heng (Henry) with able seaman A L Downey ST D/J109308 went in a skiff into enemy's field of fire to pick him up, but could not find him and returned: Lieutenant-Commander John Humphrey Yorath RN (Rtrd), and Mr Robinson finally taking the skiff in the dark and succeeding in finding the Adm who had climbed from his original hiding place to another." [15]

Cmd Yorath: "The Adm was practically at the top of the hill, although it was a difficult climb. I think he must have gone up there to die - Chinese like having their graves on hillsides. We lugged him down and got him in the boat. He must have suffered agonies. As we rowed back, he sat facing me in the stern and crossed himself which rather surprised me." [80] & [42]

Lt-Cdr John Yorath RN & 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) CN, 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.

 

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 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"

PO 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.

Shaoguan [Kukong]

Lt-Cdr John Yorath & Cdr Hugh Mantague at Shuikwan [Kukong] 6th Jan 1942 
    Photo from Admiral Chan Chak's collection ©

 

 

 

Left: Lt-Cmd John Yorath RN (Rtrd), Major Arthur Goring Probyns Horse, Commander Hugh M Montague RN [Senior Naval Officer Aberdeen, & the escape] with Mrs Muriel Jones of the "Methodist Mission" wearing a Chinese favour on her  lapel, and Adm Chan Chak's ADC Lt-Cmdr Hsu Heng (Henry) CN. Police Supt Bill Robinson of the Indian Police is behind with the white neck scarf.

Photo from Adm Chan Chak's collection ©






The New Zealand Presbyterian Church Methodist Mission at Shaoguan was run by Mrs Jean Martin & her Irish born husband known by his Chinese name Mooi with a staff of six missionaries and their wives. It was here that Adm Chan Chak finally had the bullet removed from his wrist by Dr S H Moore at the "Ho Sai" hospital. The Adm kept the bullet and had it mounted on a gold chain which he wore from his left lapel. Adm Chan Chak also had a blood transfusion here after his gastric ulcer flared up with Muriel's husband Peredur Jones donating his blood.

Lt-Cdr John Yorath & Officers relaxing with Dr Robert Lim at the Chinese International Red Cross headquarters near 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 ©



















John Yorath was a former pupil of the Tonbridge School, Kent, where it also transpired that Sub-Lt-Legge HKRNVR also attended, both are featured in a newly published book A Duty to Serve: Tonbridge School and the 1939-45 War

Lt-Cdr John Yorath with officers & ratings At the Red Cross Centre near Guiyang.  
      Run the curser over to identify individuals       
      Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

Guiyang Medical centre 25th January 1942

Left: ??, ??, Lt-Cmd 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 ©








Huaxi Park near Guiyang

Lt-Cdr John Yorath & RN party in Huaxi Park, Guiyang 25th January 1942 ©






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

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]

Photo from the Hide collection ©




















Read more on Lieutenant-Commander John Yorath RN (Rtrd)

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

 

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 by David Walsh

 

 

 

 

Audio by Lion Rock Films

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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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