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I came across a book I had not read before, "Children Of The Camps" by Mark Felton published by Pen And Sword Military in 20111. Wonder if any of you have read it. It details conditions leading up to internment in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. There is a reference to an incident in Weihsien that I had never read anywhere. During a long roll call, the Salvation Army Band played lively tunes to entertain the inmates. As the prisoners were allowed to disperse, the band played God save the King. Immediately the prisoners stoped moving, stood to attention and waited as the guards screamed at them. Since we were all children at the time in Weihsien, this has some relevance to what we experienced although the stories of situations in other camps make it obvious that we were treated far better.
From Leopold to his sister
Je doute vraiment que cette histoire soit réelle. Cela ne ressemble absolument pas à l’ambiance de tout ce qui se passait à Weihsien. Aucune allusion de ce genre dans tout « notre » site internet, rien de Pamela Masters, Chefoo, Norman Cliff, Père Hanquet, faudrait demander à Albert de Zutter … What « long roll call » ? Le seul dont je me souvienne était celui qui avait fait bouger tout le camp dans la nuit, en représailles… On ne s’en sentait pas si fiers déjà comme ça, alors au point où tout un orchestre, sorti de nulle part, comme ça tout d’un coup (après n’importe quel roll call d’ailleurs) commence à entonner God Save the King… ! Plus des enfants au garde à vous… ! Well, je n’y crois pas.
From Leopold to Weihsien_camp
A granddaughter of Lionel Howell (one of two great-great uncles of mine who were at Weihsien and whom I am trying to find out more on; the other being William Howell) kindly sent me a transcript of the diary maintained by Lionel’s wife Gwen Howell. There is an entry on 23 July 1944 … "Heard the (?) had collapsed and there was revolution. While watching the ‘ball game’ I went and looked over the wall and distinctly heard ‘God Save the King’ being played by a large band.”
To Leopold, Janette, Brian et alia,
My immediate reaction upon reading the passage quoted by Brian was disbelief. Janette's response in French pretty well expresses my own thoughts about that passage. The most memorable general roll call in my memory had no such Hollywood ending. It was fraught with tension, as we were summoned to the playing field for a general roll call at 1 a.m. That was in retaliation for a prisoner having climbed to the tower that housed the bell and ringing it at midnight in celebration of the news that Germany had surrendered. In my memory, there was no frivolity during the entire, seemingly endless, experience that was marked by such things as drunk Japanese guards "counting" people by pointing their pistols at them instead of their fingers. I was four months short of my 13th birthday that day, and my memory of that incident is vivid.
I recall an instance in the Tsingtao internment camp when I was 10 years old. I was in the common dining room in the former Iltis Hydro Hotel where there was also a piano. I was going through some of my music on the piano, and I started playing "America," which is the same music as "God Save the King." A British subject (male) hissed at me, "Are you crazy? Stop playing that!" That would have been in November of 1942, long before things turned sour for the Japanese, yet that full-grown British man, father of one of my peers, was terrified of what the Japanese might do if I continued playing that tune. Imagine the reaction of half-drunk, armed Japanese military personnel if "God Save the King," played by a Salvation Army brass band, had burst out in the tension of that ball-field! It is much more likely, if that incident happened at all, that someone conflated the incident I described above with something that happened in Chefoo before the Chefoo school was brought to Weihsien.
I remember that dining area and the piano. My late father, Elden Whipple (1905-2004), was a gifted pianist who played and accompanied many in both the Tsingtao and Weihsien camps. I particularly remember one day after a meal in the Tsingtao dining area lagging behind and poking the keys of the piano and then looking out a window down into a courtyard and seeing a Chinese boy being beaten by the authorities. Indelibly etched in my mind. I was six years old.
It was after two or three days of heavy rainfall. We were up to our ankles in standing rain water. What caused the jubilation was the fact that the perimeter wall crumbled in what was left field (in baseball terms) of the playground/general roll-call field, and that happened on July 4, Independence Day. The significance of our prison wall crumbling on that day was immediately apparent to all of us. Unlike the night-time roll-call on the occasion of Germany's surrender the next spring, there were not dozens of half-drunk armed guards present and it was full daylight.
I was in the Chefoo group and 15 at the end of the war. I never heard the episode of the band playing the national anthem at roll call but I do remember being really scared the time we were called at night of VE Day. It was my sisters boy friend who rang the bell. I was extra scared when our neighbour in block 57 said we were all being taken out to be shot. We had to file through the guards who had the searchlights on us and they were mad. We heard that the end result of counting us that no one was missing but they were a couple extra! Peter Bazire from Chefoo would know about anything going on with the band
The quote from “Children Of The Camps” is attributed to Mrs. K. S. Snuggs and is archived in http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/35/a2350135.shtml
I have quoted it below. It is copyrighted but the provision with that copyright allow it to be used for our group. It is not for commercial use and it must acknowledge the author. Mrs. Snuggs was a British teen at the time.
I was only three at the time so I am afraid I cannot confirm the details.
"Joe and Joyce said there was never a whole camp roll call on the field, just the six separate roll call sites..." That statement is incorrect. There definitely was a whole camp roll call on the field following the German surrender, as I related in an earlier email. A camp resident rang the assembly bell at midnight in celebration of that surrender. The Japanese rang the bell summoning the entire camp to the field at 1 a.m. That roll call lasted a long time -- perhaps an hour and a half to two hours. As for the "six separate roll call sites," our Block 2 turned out every morning to line up in front of our rooms, as did every other block in the row houses. People who lived in Block 24 (which housed the bell) and others who lived in other dormitory sites (single men and women, sisters, Catholic priests, etc) may have had other arrangements, hence the perception of "six sites." But ordinary roll calls took place in many more than six sites.
On VE day I was 14 and in block 57. We always had roll call in the field between ourselves and the hospital. There would be exceptions in the winter I dont remember how often and my grandparents in block 57. did not have to go out. Mr Jennings in Block 57 was our warden. I believe that Joe Cotterill and Jeannie Hills had been married that day Am I right Joe?! VE night is one of my clearest memories of camp and we had to file one by one between 2 guards with the searchlight on us and they were pushing and shouting and we were very scared. It was in our usual roll call field but I do not know how many met there that night. Those of us who were old enough to remember are all well over 80
I remember that midnight roll call very well. We girls (I was 15) had to put on our dressing gowns and pin on our ID cloth badges, and go down to the area outside the hospital. We were housed on the first floor (US second floor) and the boys were in the attic. This was our normal roll call "field" - it was a former double tennis court. We lined up for ages, and then had to individually go between two guards with their weapons crossed.
There were two frightening things: 1) the Japanese always had their bayonets attached to their rifles, and 2) we were taller than they were, so we had to stoop down between the bayonets while they checked our names from our ID badges against the camp list. This was in the light of the corner searchlight which had been turned around to face inward, instead of outward. My badge said Miss E Cliff. I wore it to a garden party at Buckingham Palace at the 50th anniversary in 1995.
I have just been in touch with a number of people who, like me, had our daily roll call outside the hospital. Like me, they all clearly remember that midnight roll call occurring at our usual place. So there was not a whole camp roll call on the field that night. A minor point: it was Block 23 that housed the bell, not 24. Yes, in the earlier period of the camp people did line up for roll call outside where they lived. Later some or all the roll calls occurred at a limited number of sites. I don’t know where Blocks 2 to 22 assembled for their roll call.
Tous ceux qui avaient leurs logements dans les blocks de part at d’autre de Tin Pan Alley s’alignaient deux fois par jour devant leur chambre, le long de leurs blocks respectifs.
From Christine: July 4, 2017
Excerpt from Ida Talbot's diary September 5, 1945
"On Saturday 5th, the bell in the Tower of No 23 was rung at about 11.10. The Japanese became panic stricken, so much so that King Kong, our Police Captain, started sounding the siren. The rushing around was terrific and finally at 1 am Maria Marsh knocked on the door and told us to be on the ball field for roll call at 1.10. It was a job to awaken & dress Peter. Christine too wouldn't awaken. We laughed & joked, as we heard on the ball field that someone had rung the bell in sheer jubilation. Many cracks were made at the expense of the newly weds – who were married that pm. Finally we returned home at 2.20. The Russians were jubilant, the first time in three years for the Easter bell to ring."
From Anne, July 9, 2017 ...
With my sister Louise de Jongh I have discussed the roll-call issue. She remembers and so do I,