The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China
& Hong Kong, 1941-45


   On the morning of December 8th, 1941, thousands of American, British, Dutch, and other civilians of the Allied nations living in China awoke to find their countries at war with Japan.  A hemisphere away from their homelands, they were cut off, isolated, and faced an uncertain future.  The Japanese advance created an empire from the Aleutian Islands in the far north to the southern regions of New Guinea, and from western Burma to the mid Pacific Ocean.            

   Japan soon held some 125,000 civilian prisoners, approximately ten percent of which were in China and Hong Kong.  Their prisoners included the first American civilian to be captured on American soil since the War of 1812, and Britons in China became the single largest British contingent under enemy occupation outside of the Channel Islands.  As the rigors of life under the occupation increased, they were eventually herded into internment camps known as Civil Assembly Centres.  There, accommodation was overcrowded, frequently squalid, and with few amenities.  Poor treatment and lack of food contributed to the death rate, and internees suffered many privations, as well as occasional cruelty, torture, and execution.  Yet despite an absolute lack of many of the essentials of civilized life, the internees rose to meet the challenge of survival.  They organized kitchens and hospitals, started libraries, engaged in subtle forms of resistance, educated their children, and placed their hope in the future.  In internment, they were an example of the strength of human endeavor in the face of adversity.

   Between 1941 and 1945, Japan held over 13,500 civilian men, women, and children as captives in China and Hong Kong.  Each one has a story to tell.  Captives of Empire is their story.

   Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945  fills a major gap in the annals of World War II and that of prisoners of war.  Here for the first time is a definitive history of the internment of Allied civilians in China.  Private papers, diaries, letters, and official reports, many long hidden, were utilized to bring a complete picture of internment to light.  In preparing to write this book, Greg Leck combed through thousands of pages of documents from archives located in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan.  In personal interviews he listened to scores of internees describing their experiences.  He researched, in depth, the histories of each camp, as well as the stories of many internees.  Through first hand accounts and photographs, paintings, sketches, newspapers, cartoons, entertainment programs, maps, bulletins, posters, and other illustrative materials, a portrayal of what daily life was like for internees under the Japanese emerges.  Common themes of the internees struggle are reviewed.           

   Together with Desmond Power, an Old China Hand and ex internee himself, information was organized and sorted to produce a database of the over 13,500 internees held in China and Hong Kong.  An overview of each camp and a nominal roll completes the picture.  The result is a revealing and immensely fascinating look at the world of the internees.

   Captives of Empire gives you an inside look at the internment experience.  From the idyllic life of the expatriate, to the shock and surprise of the Japanese victories and rule, to imprisonment and eventual liberation, it covers the panoply of this little known chapter of the Pacific war.  Utilizing internees own voices, we see the food, the housing, the work, as well as the entertainments, games, escapes, births, lives, and deaths of the camp.  Profusely illustrated with maps, photographs, drawings, and scarce and rare internment camp related ephemera, this is a monograph that will serve as the definitive reference work on the subject.           

   Greg Leck is one of the foremost experts on Japanese internment camps in China.  The grandson of an Old China Hand who served in the Chinese Maritime Customs, and the son of a woman who was one of the last Britons to leave Shanghai, he grew up hearing stories of China and internment.

Table of Contents

     Foreword                                                                            ix            

      Acknowledgements                                                         xi            

      A Note on Transliteration                                               xii            

      Glossary and Abbreviations                                          xiii           

      A Note on Currency                                                        xiv            

      Introduction                                                                     19

1    Halcyon Days                                                                  27    

2    While Storm Clouds Gather                                          37

             The Shanghai Volunteer Corps                             42

             The Badlands                                                           44

             Showing the Flag for Empire                                 48    

3    8 December 1941                                                          55

             Last Boat out of China                                           58

             The SS President Harrison Crew                          64 

4   Under the Shadow                                                          73      

             The Pao Chia                                                           76    

             The BRA                                                                    82

             Santo  Tomas Transfers                                        87             

             Stranded in Shanghai                                             96         

             The Italians in China                                               98    

5   Bridge House                                                                 105  

6   The Best Possible Home                                             121    

7    Housing                                                                         137

              Pets in Camp                                                        142    

8    Food                                                                               153      

              The Food Queue                                                   158    

9    Work                                                                               177    

10   Medical Care and Health                                           187

                A Trip to the Dentist                                           194   

                Bedbugs, Mosquitoes, and Pests                     201

11   The Authorities                                                            205            

                Guards                                                                  209  

                Roll Call                                                                224    

12   The Red Cross                                                             229    

13    Law and Order                                                            239              

                The Black Market                                               248    

14    Sports and Activities                                                 255    

15    School and Education                                               261    

16    Entertainment                                                             273    

17    Repatriation                                                                283           

                  From Within the Empire                                  296           

                  The Amazing Saga of Edgar Whitcomb       301    

18    Newspaper, Mail, and Communications               307    

19    Religious Life                                                             317    

20    Escapes                                                                      323    

21    Resistance and Collaborators                                347           

                  The Lunghwa Riot                                           350    

22       Humor                                                                     367    

23       Children                                                                  375           

                   Families Divided                                            376    

24    Liberation                                                                  385    

25    Last Moments of a World                                       407    

26     Epilogue                                                                    419    

27    The Camps                                                                427            

               Ash Camp                                                           428

               Canton Camp                                                     434              

               Chapei Camp                                                     438

               Columbia Country Club                                    444            

               Haiphong Road Camp                                      448             

               Lincoln Avenue Camp                                      456              

               Lunghwa Camp                                                 460

               Pootung Camp                                                  466             

               Shanghai Religious Centers                            474       

               Stanley Camp                                                    478                

                      The Stanley Tiger                                       480    

               Weihsien and the North China                        484                         

               Yangchow A Camp                                           498               

               Yangchow B Camp                                           502          

               Yangchow C Camp                                           506              

               Yu Yuen Road Camp                                         512

28    Nominal Rolls                                                           519                      

               Ash Camp                                                           521                

               Canton Camp                                                     528                          

               Chapei Camp                                                     529                          

               Columbia Country Club                                    549                      

               Haiphong Road Camp                                      550                  

               Lazarist Procuration                                         555                 

                Lincoln Avenue Camp                                     561                     

               Lunghwa Camp                                                 567                      

               Peking British Embassy                                   592               

               Pootung Camp                                                  593         

               Sacred Heart                                                      613                    

               Senmouyeu Nuns’ Residence                          614                    

               Stanley Camp                                                     615                          

               Weihsien Camp                                                  655                      

               Yangchow A Camp                                            685                    

               Yangchow B Camp                                            690

               Yangchow C Camp                                            696

               Yu Yuen Road Camp                                          705

               Zikawei                                                                 718            

Bibliography                                                                        721            

Index                                                                                    731            

Credits                                                                                 738

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