Monday, 26 September 2011

Amanuensis Monday - letter from Bill Hudson to Peggy September 14, 1945

My grandfather Bill Hudson worked as a prison officer in Hong Kong from 1921 to 1941. He was still in Hong Kong in December of 1941 when the Japanese invaded and occupied the colony. My grandmother Peg and my father Peter had been evacuated to Australia in July 1940. Peg kept the last couple of letters Bill wrote from Hong Kong prior to the Japanese invasion, along with the letters he wrote immediately after liberation.

Most of the letters are long, so I'm serialising them. The last letter was written immediately after liberation on 30 August 1945 and described his time in the internment camp. Following liberation it took several increasingly frustrating weeks to get the internees out of Hong Kong and on the way home.

Manila, Monday 14. 9. 45

Have been four days and still no signs of sailing. I am fed up with it all, as it is far from comfortable seeing that we are travelling on the Troop Deck in the bowels of the ship away down on E Deck when we have our meals down there, you must undress and only wear a Fanduski or loin cloth even then the sweat pours out of you. Night time I slept on deck on the hard wood with only 2 blankets. They gave us hammocks to sleep in, only half of them have no rope to sling, also on the top deck there is no place to tie them to. The food is good, but any food would be good after 3 1/2 years of rice and Chinese vegetables.

I have so much to say my Dear, I do wish this damned ship would get a move on. I got your Red X letter the other day, so I definitely know that you are in England, so get plenty of coal in, as it is going to be cold for Willie, seeing that the last Christmas I spent in England was 1920. Only thing wrong with this ship is that it is dry - being a troop ship they did not carry any. As usual all the women have the Cabins - most of them being the Black and Tan Brigade, it certainly makes my blood boil, then after all the Military and Naval Officers left us on Thursday evening, their cabins when vacated were given to the aged in some cases, but mostly to the HK Taipans, its about time this class distinction stopped. I hope they don't count this as our leave, as they make us work on board, normally the troops did all the work, being now purely a troop ship, we draw food for our meals, then washing up the pots and pans afterwards, then sweeping out the mess deck. Others more fit do the recreation and reading rooms, at first we had to sweep the decks, but the crew are doing that now.

I listened to a talk on conditions in England last night, and I may say it put the wind up me, the price of things etc etc, think I will go back to HK. Before I left I told Norman I would not be returning, as I am well over pension age, Willoak who is on board with us, told me he would make me A.C.O. as from 1.1.42, but I must wait and see if that is going to be pensionable, if so it's Good Bye to HK.

It's a wonderful sight sitting here, over 600 ships are in the Bay and Harbour, guys here say 800 and 300 sunk here one can see scores of sunken craft, they are lying everywhere, the Yanks or Jap Airmen must have had a holiday here knocking them down. We are not allowed in the Town, from here all big buildings look alright, but they say the walled city is in ruins.

Rumours have it that we are not sailing before Wednesday, if so that means nearly a week here. We are getting lots of Red X stuff, cigs, towels, old dresses for Ladies, boots and slippers, soup, and of course the kids are always getting chocolate and other food. I would like to cut some of their throats, the noise they make, more so as most of them are Black and Tans, little B's.

The Boys who left as Volunteers and Regulars from HK are having a good time ashore. Beer, cigars, but no Dames we have them all here, yet I would sooner wait for you. I write on route, giving you some idea when and where we will land, hope its soon Peg, just dying to hold you in my arms, its been a hell of a situation for all of us, the fears of hell, not knowing what the next day would bring from those little maggots. 

Am putting on weight, and already despite the sweating here I have lost my haggard Stanley look, for 3 1/2 years rice and Chinese Veg, sometimes a little meat or salt fish, often starving, and pleased to eat anybody sour rice they could not eat, bread finished January 1944, then we made rice bread, but no yeast, so please Peg if you want to keep me home, don't give me a rice pudding!

All my love Sweetheart, Peter and Mother 

Always Bill.


  1. Your series is very moving and reminsicent of the letters my father wrote to my mother during the war. They are lovely treasures to have. Thank you for sharing them.