June 1944 to August 1945




     ONE Saturday morning towards the end of May 1943, we received a number of Japanese English-language newspapers which the Japs let us have from time to time, and there, on the middle page of one issue, was a half-column account of a successful Japanese mopping-up operation against this very unit with whom we were negotiating. It claimed that Japanese planes had completely demolished the Headquarters of these "bandit troops" whose forces had been routed by a Japanese expeditionary force. Ammunition and clothing depots had been destroyed and the leader of this band, Wang Shang-chih, captured.


         This at least seemed to prove beyond doubt the existence of such a unit. Resigned to yet another failure, we were amazed when a few days later we received a letter from Mr. Chen. He apologised for the delay due to the large-scale Japanese attack on their Headquarters at Suncheng, during which their Commander, Wang Shang-chih, had been captured and taken as a prisoner to Tsingtao. The new Commander, Wang Yu-min, was still entirely in agreement with our plans and if we would advise them of the date on which we proposed to leave the camp, the necessary preparations would be made and plans communicated to us in due course.


         We consulted Tommy Wade as to the most suitable place to get over the wall, and it was decided that a small watch-tower in the middle of the west wall was the ideal spot. An indentation in the line of the wall obscured this section from the direct rays of the searchlight on the north-west corner of the athletic field. It was, however, exposed to the search-light on the watch-tower at the southern end of the wall in the Japanese residential section of the camp. The guard was changed at 9 P.M. and it was customary for the new guard to make a tour of inspection along the alley-ways in this section after coming on duty. This usually took about ten minutes. During those ten minutes we would have to make our get-away. It was essential that there be no moon, but on the other hand we felt that a moon would be of considerable assistance to us once we had got clear of the camp ; such ideal conditions would prevail on the 9th and 10th of June, which would give us exactly one week in which to prepare. Having decided on these two alternative clays, we replied to Mr. Chen and advised him that the rendezvous would be at a thickly-wooded cemetery a little over a mile north-east of the camp between nine and midnight on the 9th or 10th of June.


         The suspense of the ensuing week was unbearable. The knowledge that within a few days we would have finished with this futile existence made us pity the other internees who would have to endure it for the duration ; the excitement and the anticipation made us long to tell the world. Each day passed like a week and each night a month of rest-less tossing and turning. As part of our plan to help exonerate our room-mates, we started to sleep outside, as many people did during the summer months. This would at least clear them of the blame for not reporting our absence if our beds were found empty at the ten o'clock lights-out. I resigned from my cooking job and, having worked for four months on a stretch, asked the Labour Committee for a few days' rest. We did all we could to make our absence as inconspicuous as possible.


         On the evening of 8th June we received the reply. Every-thing had been arranged, a posse of plain-clothes soldiers would meet us at the appointed place and escort us to a point two miles to the north, where a mounted detachment would be awaiting us with ponies; we should he at their Head-quarters by dawn. A postscript was added, requesting that we bring a typewriter with us, as the only one the unit possessed had been destroyed in the recent bombing, and a watch and a fountain pen for the correspondent were also required!


         There was little more to be done. We went to see McLaren and told him we would be leaving the following night. Although he agreed, he did not seem now to be so enthusiastic about the scheme. The next morning he asked us to go over to see him again. He wanted us to call it off. The new Chief of the Japanese Guards, who had only just taken up his position, was an unknown quantity; he appeared to be rather a tough customer. There would doubtless be reprisals. We had discussed this angle long ago and it had been decided that any consequences visited upon the internees would be more than outweighed by the advantages derived from established connections with a reliable pro-Chungking unit. But since then this change in the Chief of the Guards had been made and McLaren was not now in favour of the scheme. That afternoon we had a further talk with him.


         Arthur and I felt that the arrangements had gone too far for us to back out now unless we wished to lose connection with this unit altogether, and in the end Mac eventually admitted that if he were in our position, he would most probably go. He left it to us to decide, on the understanding that if we did go, then we must arrange with either Wade or de Jaegher to let him know once we had got clear of the wall, so that he would at least be prepared for the rampages of the Chief when he got to hear about it the following morning.


         That evening I told my room-mates; they of course had been aware that some such move was in the air. I knew it would put them in an awkward position the next morning when we were found to be missing and it was only fair to give them warning. Arthur Hummel also told one of his room-mates and it was agreed that if they could get by with-out reporting our absence at roll-call, they would not do so till later in the morning.


         By eight, Tommy Wade and his scouts were out on the job on the west wall, checking the activities of the guards.


         At eight-thirty I pulled on "the Bishop's Jaegers" and a black Chinese jacket, and joined Arthur in the vicinity of the wall. The guard was changed but he did not leave his post for the customary walk around. We waited anxiously — eventually he strolled away, but there were two people sitting outside their room directly facing the spot from which we intended to leave. By the time they were out of the way, the scouts had lost track of the guard! We decided to take a chance. In a moment we were up in the tower and had let ourselves carefully down the wall till our feet touched a pile of conveniently placed bricks. Tommy Wade followed with a small stool. From the stool I stepped inadvertently on to Tommy's bald head instead of his shoulder, and with a hand on the post of the electrified fence, vaulted over. Arthur followed and our knapsacks were thrown to us. We saw Tommy on his way back up the wall and then made a dash for a graveyard some fifty yards away and flung ourselves behind the nearest grave.


         A pause to collect our breath, and we made another dash which took us out of range of the searchlights, and, taking our bearings from the camp, we headed directly north over ploughed fields, through wheat crops, stumbling over ditches and sunken roads until we reached the stream that flowed north of the camp. Wading across this, we headed in the direction of the cemetery.


         The moon was rising. In less than half an hour we could make out the dark mass of trees within the cemetery and by the time we reached the walls there was sufficient light from the moon to see quite distinctly. We followed a path that led directly to the elaborate gateway surmounted by a triple-tiered roof and supported by carved stone pillars thrown into deep relief by the moonlight. It appeared to be deserted. We scouted round the wall and turning the south corner facing the camp, we saw the glow of a cigarette and a group of figures huddled against the wall in the shadows. A figure detached itself and approached us; as he drew nearer; we saw he had a pistol directed against us. We stood still, away from the shadow of the wall, in the moonlight. Approaching, he asked who we were and we replied: "Friends." He peered closely at our faces and lowering his pistol, called to the others, "Yes! It is they," whereupon the other four gathered around us, smiling and shaking our hands in an enthusiastic welcome. One of them unrolled a couple of triangular white cloth banners on which was inscribed in English: "Welcome the British and American representatives! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! "They invited us to sit down and, producing cigarettes, started to question us, apparently in no hurry to move. Having discussed our family status, the camp, the war and the high cost of living, one of them suggested that we might as well get along.


         Like us, they were all dressed in black, and each carried a cocked German Mauser. One of them went on ahead about fifty yards, three of them kept with us and the fifth followed about fifty yards behind ; we were evidently making for another rendezvous where we were to meet the sixth. There, we thought, we should no doubt meet the mounted detachment. We walked for three or four miles in a north-easterly direction, skirting some villages and passing through others to the accompaniment of yelping dogs, but this did not seem to worry our guards. Once or twice, on a signal from the scout ahead, we hid behind a clump of bushes or pancaked in the grass. Finally we came to a halt outside a small village into which one of the men proceeded. Here there was some delay. We gathered from the conversation that we were to pick up someone here, who from their remarks was "an opium-smoking son of a bitch". In about an hour the guide returned and we moved on. Skirting around the village, we climbed an embankment which I recognised as the Weihsien–Chefoo motor road. From the shadows of a small wayside hovel we were joined by a tall thin man, slow of speech and equally slow of action. He was immediately greeted by all hands with a string of abuse relating to his mother's and grandmother's reproductive organs for producing such a turtle's egg who would wear a white coat on a night mission.


         Little perturbed, he retired to the back of the hut and reappeared with a bicycle and accompanied by an old man with a wheelbarrow.


         The Chinese wheelbarrow differs from ours in that the wheel is much larger and is placed in the middle of the frame rather than at the forward end. A framework is built over this wheel, thus forming two bench-like seats on either side. Politely we were invited to sit, one on either side. We explained that we were not in the least tired and could well wait until we met the ponies. After much argument we gave in and, with our knapsacks, settled ourselves on the padded seats and took our place in the procession, swearing by all the gods that word of this must never get back to camp. Escape in a wheelbarrow, when we should have been galloping across country on ponies accompanied by a platoon of mounted guerrillas! It was not long before we were walking; riding in a wheelbarrow is even more degrading than being pulled in a rickshaw.


         By dawn we had travelled about twenty miles and were approaching the first outpost of the unit to which we were going. We stopped a quarter of a mile from the village, and one of the guides went ahead to give the password to the advance sentry. The village at that hour was deserted except for sentries and groups of soldiers asleep in doorways. We were taken into one of the bigger courtyards and ushered into a small dark room with the usual brick bed or "k'ang" taking up most of the room. We had tea and cakes, a bowl full of poached eggs and some Chinese bread, and then slept for a couple of hours. By eight we were again on our way accompanied by our thin friend and the plain-clothes guards, this time all equipped with bicycles. Arthur and I were adorned with panama-style straw hats, both too small but apparently the fashionable thing amongst itinerant tradesmen, for whom it was hoped we would be taken; we were also supplied with dark glasses but there was little that could be done to disguise our western noses! We pedalled and pushed over sandy roads, keeping mainly to the smaller side-paths. At one point we again crossed the Weihsien–Chefoo motor road, and only just in time! Hardly had we done so when a Japanese truck passed loaded with soldiers. From the slow pace at which they were going and the attention they were paying to the surrounding country, they appeared to be looking for something or someone. We just prayed it wasn't us and kept on pedalling in what we hoped was a nonchalant manner. As the sun mounted we became more and more hot and exhausted. At three in the afternoon we were still pedalling, but our goal, a distant hill, came nearer as the road twisted and turned through the wheat fields. By four-thirty we had arrived at a large village surrounded by barbed-wire entanglements, a moat and a huge mud wall.


         Sentries saluted smartly as we passed over a crude wooden drawbridge and through the massive wooden gates. Our guide led us to a large reception-room where we were given hot towels and tea. We were surrounded by a curious but friendly group and inundated with questions and congratulations on our successful escape. As the word spread that we had arrived, so more people came. The Commander was advised of our arrival and he instructed that we should be taken to the reception-rooms set apart for visitors, where we could rest; he would call upon us later in the evening.


         A couple of orderlies preceded us with our knapsacks and we were accompanied by a Mr. Chang, who was under the impression that he could speak English. We were shown into a large room, sparsely furnished but clean. More hot towels, tea and cigarettes and then Mr. Chang left us with the suggestion that we should rest. By the time we awoke, it was dark. Again more hot towels — and we sat down to a table laden with steaming dishes and enjoyed the best meal that we had had since leaving Peking. Later someone came to us and said that the Commander had no time to see us that evening, adding in an undertone to Chang words to the effect that he was disappointed with being sent " only a school teacher and a business man " when he needed engineers, mechanics and electricians; there was considerable discussion and then we were told to collect our gear and be ready to move.


         Led by Chang and a couple of orderlies, we left Head quarters. After walking for about half an hour we entered a small village. Twisting and turning through many alleys we at last climbed over a broken wall at the back of a large one-storied house and entered through the window. It was pitch dark inside and smelled musty. One of the orderlies lit a candle, revealing three or four wooden-frame trestle beds completely bare, a table, here and there a window with torn paper, others with no paper at all. An unpleasant contrast to the reception-rooms at the headquarters.


         The orderlies returned with the headman of the village and a bundle of cotton-padded quilts, two for each of us, and a round hard pillow stuffed with wheat husks. It was quite warm and we stripped to our underpants and bedded down for the night, but not for long! Within half an hour we were being tormented with lice and fleas. After hours of tossing, turning and scratching, worn out by the unequal struggle, we slept and did not wake until noon the next day, when, feeling stiff but rested, we took stock of our surroundings. We were in a long narrow room; with the windows bare of paper and with the door open, there was plenty of air. There was nothing in the room but our three beds and the one table. Mr. Chang was drowsing amongst quilts which from their appearance must have been as bug-infested as ours. When we returned from a look around the courtyard which ad-joined the village ancestral temple, Chang was putting on his clothes. He apologised for the inadequacy of the accommodation but said that during the day this would be remedied. The Commander wished us to remain hidden here until the hue and cry, bound to be raised by the Japanese at our escape, had died down. Very few people knew that we were here and of course we would not be allowed to go out for the time being. We had only to ask him for anything that we needed and he would get it if it could be obtained.


         We were quite content to spend the first two days eating and sleeping. The food was good, plain Chinese country fare and there was plenty of it. On the table stood a wicker container full of hot, steamed white bread, and with this we ate two or three kinds of vegetables which had been fried, with chopped meat, in peanut oil. The northern Chinese are essentially a wheat-eating people and bread, in one form or another, is their staple diet. If in good circumstances, they will eat one or two bowls of vegetables and perhaps a dish of fried meat cubes with their bread; if not, then salted pickles. After dark we accompanied the tall, skeleton-like figure of Mr. Chang for a short walk on the village wall or alongside the river which flowed past the south gate. On first acquaintance he appeared to be rather a charming person; his English was not good, but by combining English with Chinese, we were able to converse freely. He was anxious to talk and answered our numerous questions willingly.


         Our first visitor was Mr. Chen, with whom we had corresponded prior to our escape. I do not know quite what we had expected, but whatever it was, he was disappointing, and immediately brought to mind McLaren's remark after he had read his letters: "This man is either a dope fiend or a patriotic maniac.” He was dressed in well-cut khaki shorts and stockings and a khaki military shirt over which he wore a light-coloured alpaca jacket, and a panama hat. He was thin to the point of emaciation, his hair was grey and rather thick and he wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. His English was good, as we had anticipated it would be from his letters, and he appeared to be genuinely pleased to see us. We thanked him in the name of the camp and for ourselves for the part he had taken in effecting our escape.


         "It is nothing," he replied: "I have a great number of foreign friends many of whom are in the camp. Until recently I was employed by the Kailan Mining Administration in Tongshan, but unable to suffer the indignities to which one is exposed in working for the Japanese, I resigned my position and have since devoted my time, energy and money to the furtherance of plans for the rescue of my many friends in Weihsien camp. It is most dangerous work but I have no doubt that with your assistance we can successfully carry through my scheme. Commander Wang Yu-min is in agreement with my proposals and I shall be leaving for Chungking in a few days to take your report and recommendations to the British and American Embassies."


         We spent the rest of the evening, in fact late into the night, trying to convince him of the foolhardiness of such a scheme. It did not take many hours to convince us that he was nothing but an unpractical dreamer of the most fantastic dreams.


         We were just wondering how to end this rather useless discussion until such time as we could see Commander Wang Yu-min, when we were interrupted by a penetrating shout from the door. "Report!" said the voice in Chinese, which we later learned to be the recognised method for a soldier to attract the attention of his superior officer. The door was opened to admit two well-built and smartly-turned-out soldiers, armed to the teeth, each with a bandolier of ammunition-clips around the waist, hung on either side with automatic pistols from diagonally-crossed straps over the shoulders, and with a large Mauser in a wooden case on their buttocks. Yet another strap supported a leather dispatch-case. A couple of tooth-brushes stuck into the leather trappings, one on each side of the chest, and a towel looped through the belt completed their kit. They were dressed in dark-grey uniforms of coarse cotton material, cloth shoes and cotton puttees.


         Entering the room, they sprang smartly to attention and saluted. In short, business-like sentences one of them announced to Chang that there was an alarm. Word had just been received at Headquarters that Japanese troops were assembling on the border and that Commander Wang Yu-min had instructed him to take us to a certain village where «'e were to hide and await further orders. We must leave immediately.


         Within five minutes we had gathered our possessions and were on our way. We were challenged at the village gate by the local Self-Protection Corps, which we learned was a regular feature of all the villages in which soldiers were not stationed. The Corps was comprised of the able-bodied men of the village who guarded the gates and patrolled the walls awned with flint-locks or crude rifles. As we passed out of the gates, Chang's orderly took the lead, following narrow footpaths across the open country. The night was cloudy and it was hard going over the uneven paths.


         We headed south and just before daybreak arrived at another walled village, where we were again challenged. Chang called for the village headman and told him to requisition the best room in the village, and after some consultation he led us through several winding alley-ways to a small courtyard and we were ushered into a room which consisted almost entirely of a large brick bed. The garrulous Mr. Chen was particularly exhausted and, mumbling some excuse, disappeared. After a glass of tea, Chang, Arthur and I wrapped ourselves in the cotton quilts that were folded at the side of the k'ang and went to sleep.


         We were awakened by the orderly at about half-past ten with a tray of steaming noodles. After we had eaten, Chang went off to investigate the situation and returned with the news that the Japanese appeared to be heading north-west to attack the Communists. In any case, we were in no danger but we would have to stay in the room, as it was necessary to keep our whereabouts a secret.


         Mr. Chen, thoroughly refreshed, was in a very talkative mood. After a couple of hours his enthusiasm waned and he took great pains to explain how seriously ill he had been and how his doctor had prescribed small doses of heroin as the only antidote. Of course he knew it was a foul drug, but, on the other hand what was the use of paying a doctor unless one followed his prescription? Would we excuse him while he took his medicine? Producing a packet of "Three Castles" cigarettes an unheard-of luxury amongst the guerrillas, he offered them round. Rolling the cigarette in his fingers to loosen the tobacco he tapped it on the packet and, producing a small phial from his inner pocket, carefully measured the grains of white powder on to the loose end of the cigarette Holding it vertically so as not to spill any of this precious life-giving drug, he lay down on his back, lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply. Three times he repeated the operation, Arthur and I watched, anxiously expecting some rather startling effect, but nothing happened. The conversation continued, Chen was in excellent form and discussed freely, perhaps rather too freely, certain aspects of guerrilla activities.


         After an hour had passed he informed us that this damp weather was extremely bad for his health and necessitated added precautions, whereupon he repeated the treatment.


         We noticed that old Chang was watching the proceedings with great interest, never removing his beady eyes from the precious phial. Soon he too began to talk about his health and to complain of the pain he suffered in the damp weather. Unable to resist any longer, he eventually asked Chen for a little medicine. From then on all pretence was dispensed with and the party developed into a regular heroin jag. It seemed to have more of a mental than physical effect, notice-able particularly in the high state of nervous excitement which it produced, resulting in a great deal of loose talk and general overstatement.


         In a short while Mr. Chen excused himself for a visit to the latrine. Chang, with a knowing twinkle, bent over and whispered: "That old son of a bitch! Sick! Suffering! Why, he is just a dope fiend. Here he is with a whole phial supplied free by the Commander just to keep him alive and yet the bastard begrudges me a few grains when he knows that I only take it for medicinal reasons." Presently it was Chang's turn to leave us and Mr. Chen opened up: "It is regrettable that Commander Wang has seen fit to put you in the care of our companion. You can see for yourself that he is entirely untrustworthy. Anyone who takes heroin other than for medicinal reasons as I am forced to, cannot be trusted. If I were not going to Chungking on an important mission, I myself would look after you. Chang is a worthless scoundrel."


         Soon after dark Commander Wang sent one of his body-guards to inform us that the alarm was over and that we were to return to our quarters. Arthur and I were rather perturbed over the day's experience. We both felt that it would be most unwise to entrust Mr. Chen with our dispatches for Chungking. Even for the most discreet person the route was hazardous enough, but for one of Mr. Chen's loquacious trend it would be just plain foolishness.


         First thing the next morning we asked Chang to call on Commander Wang Yu-min, present our compliments, and request an interview. After some beating about the bush, he came to the point and asked us not to mention anything about the smoking incident of the previous day. Personally, he never touched the stuff, but as host he had felt it his duty to make Mr. Chen feel at ease and for that reason had taken a few puffs. We assured him that we quite understood his social obligations and at the same time expressed our doubts as to whether Mr. Chen was a suitable person to go to Chungking on our behalf. It was already obvious to us that Chang was jealous of Mr. Chen. It was also equally obvious that he was greatly relieved that we were evidently prepared to over-look his own shortcomings. If we kept our part of the bargain, we felt sure that he would relish putting a spoke in Mr. Chen's wheel.


         Chang returned just before the afternoon meal; we were having two meals a day, the morning one at about ten and the afternoon one between four and five. He brought news that Commander Wang Yu-min would probably come over to see us that evening after dark.


         The first intimation of his arrival was in the form of the same two bodyguards who had come to warn us of the alarm two nights before. They stayed in the room and busied themselves preparing tea whilst Chang went out to the front gate to await Yu-min's arrival. As we heard footsteps approaching, Arthur and I took our positions at the front door to receive him. As he entered he stood to attention and saluted, then stepping forward, shook our hands warmly. He seemed delighted to see us. He was accompanied by half a dozen heavily-armed bodyguards. He himself was dressed in the same regulation grey cotton uniform with no insignia whatsoever; around his waist was a leather belt to which was strapped a small automatic in a leather holster. Without the slightest formality he motioned us to be seated, himself sitting on one of the beds.


         He congratulated us upon our successful escape, and we in turn praised the efficient organisation that had made it possible. He asked numberless questions in regard to the camp and expressed no little concern for the welfare of the internees: "Although the tide of war has now turned in our favour, the hardest part is yet to come. With the devils (the Japanese) fighting a losing battle in the Pacific, we must be prepared for repercussions of the vilest nature upon those of our brothers who are unfortunate enough to be in their hands. I consider myself highly fortunate in being in the position to be of service to my allies, the British and Americans. I and my soldiers will fight and die with happiness in our hearts if we can render service to our brave allied brothers." A most encouraging little speech, we decided.


         Changing the subject to more practical affairs, we discussed the proposed plan to rescue the camp. He did not seem to be at all perturbed by our discouragement of this plan and passed it off with the remark that it could be left to the discretion of the authorities in Chungking to decide.


         Yu-min reminded us that his messenger was awaiting our report to the British and American Embassies before setting off for Chungking, and that he expected us to give a full account of conditions within the camp and at the same time report on the ability of his unit to protect it, not only because of their military prowess but also because of their strategic proximity to the camp. He regretted that for obvious reasons it would not be possible for us to be taken on a tour of inspection of the regiments, munitions factories, clothing depots, schools and so forth, but we were at liberty to ask himself or Chang for any information that we considered necessary. Arthur remarked that we should certainly be in need of accurate information. Yu-min laughed and said that he had already had a word with Chang to this effect.


         Before he left we touched on the question of Mr. Chen's suitability as messenger to Chungking. "I also realise that he is by no means a desirable person for this important mission, but on the other hand I probably know him better than you do, and in my opinion at the present juncture we are safer with him out of this area. Should he remain here it is possible that he may one day be indiscreet enough to disclose his knowledge to some undesirable third party, which would jeopardise our whole plan. If he goes away this possibility is removed. I shall not send him alone. He will be accompanied by one of my most trusted men who will carry the actual message himself, sewn into the soles of a pair of shoes."


         Shut off from reliable war information as we had been during the past year, we learned from Yu-min many interesting facts and developments and were surprised at the extensive understanding that he had of the world situation. After his departure, Arthur and I, on exchanging views, decided that we were both favourably impressed.


         The following morning we sent Chang to buy some thin white silk handkerchiefs which we pasted on to sheets of thick paper with a light mixture of flour and water. On this we typed our report, separating the silk from the paper on completion of the typing. We found Chang both patient and helpful, and after several days, succeeded in extracting from him all the information that we considered necessary.


         In compiling this report we laid particular stress upon the lack of adequate food in the camp, which had lowered the general resistance of the internees, and the consequent need of vitamins to supplement the deficient diet. We emphasised the necessity for providing medical supplies and, in particular, anti-epidemic serums. We urged that immediate steps be taken to resume the payment of "Comfort Money" in an amount that would compensate for the rising cost of commodity prices, and explained that until funds were made available to us for the camp's use, we intended to borrow from Commander Wang Yu-min, who had offered to finance any expenditure in this connection.


         But our chief concern was to try to impress upon the Allied authorities in Chungking the necessity for taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of the internees in the event of a crisis. What would happen to them when the Japanese realised defeat was inevitable? Would they be transferred to Japan as hostages against Allied bombing of the Japanese cities? How would the Japanese react under defeat? There might well be wholesale murder and rape.


         We believed that the use of Yu-min's unit was the obvious pro tem solution. Strategically placed to undertake protective measures in an emergency, they had also a sufficient force to cope with the local Japanese garrisons for a limited period, and, with no more immediate or better solution, we pressed for supplies of ammunition with which to strengthen this unit.


         A very detailed report on current conditions in camp was made, based on statistics which we had brought out with us, and we concluded with information on the local military and political situation. When completed, it was translated into Chinese for Yu-min's benefit and in due course he personally returned it to us and expressed his satisfaction. We both wrote short notes to our families and, on the off-chance that Billy Christian would be in Chungking, I wrote and asked him to do anything he could to help us.


         In a few days the new shoes were completed with the report safely sewn between the layers of the cloth soles, and Mr. "Prosperous Year" Li, Yu-min's trusted messenger, and Mr. Chen left on the long journey to Chungking: we estimated that it would take them from two and a half to three months.

In gathering the information for this report, we learned a number of most interesting facts and figures regarding the unit, and strange as it may seem, the information obtained from Chang and Yu-min proved, upon investigation at a later date when we were free to move about, to be extraordinarily accurate.


         When Yu-min had been confirmed as Commander after Wang Shang-chih's capture by the Japanese, the reorganised unit had been designated as the Fifteenth Mobile Column. At the time we joined the unit they had a strength of ten thousand fully armed men and a reserve of approximately one thousand inferior but usable rifles which were kept for emergency use and as a reserve for the village Self-Protection Corps. Yu-min had divided these troops into eight regiments and renamed them the " 43rd, 44th and 45th " and the " new 1st, new and ", etc., retaining his old 10th intact, and now known as the " 43rd " — it acted as his own personal bodyguard, consisting of two thousand crack troops. The other regiments were stationed at various points throughout the area. Suncheng had been abandoned as the "capital", and under Yu-min's command the unit had once again be-come a mobile guerrilla force. He and his "43rd" were constantly on the move, never staying in one village more than a few days at a time, perhaps a week at the most.


         Twenty armament and munitions factories were now operating, employing over two thousand men and producing mortars, light machine-guns, rifles, hand - grenades and ammunition. An immense system of home industries provided cloth for uniforms for at least twenty thousand men attached to the various branches of the organisation. Clothing and shoe factories operated by over a thousand employees made up this material into light summer uniforms and thick cotton-padded uniforms and overcoats for the winter. A widespread and efficient Civil Government was now collecting stabilised taxes and controlling, within reason, prices of staple commodities. Two middle schools and fifteen hundred Primary schools were opened. A daily newspaper was issued with up-to-the-minute radio news from Chungking and a Francisco. Gambling, opium, whoring and cigarette-smoking had been prohibited, but although this was strictly enforced amongst the common people, there was still some laxity amongst the governing classes and advantage was taken of the visit of any official to entertain in the approved manner.


         When Yu-min took over the command of the Fifteenth he went out of the way to establish friendly relations with neighbouring units and with the exiled Provincial Government at Fuyang, on the northern borders of Kiangsu province. The Governor sent a resident military attaché, Colonel Huang, to act as observer and military representative for the Shantung Government. Later, we got to know Huang very well indeed. He was a military man by profession and had taken part in the battle of Taierchuang, and later commanded a guerrilla unit in southern Shantung. He was a very suave and polished man, entirely at home in the net of intrigue spread throughout the guerrilla areas. He reported favour-ably to the Provincial Government on Yu-min's activities, not because he was impressed, but rather with an eye to the future. But Yu-min was not very successful in promoting his "friendly neighbour" policy. Domineering in character and exacting in his demands for a co-operative bloc against the enemy, he made nearby leaders fear submersion and loss of their individual power should they co-operate too closely with him.


         Practically all the surrounding units were now "grey" units, that is, although not entirely under the Japanese régime, they co-operated with them to a certain extent, inasmuch as most of them had secret «non-aggression «pacts. This had the advantage of leaving them free to cope with the Communists and for this reason they were not unduly frowned upon by Chungking, in spite of their alliance with the enemy. The Fifteenth was now the only unit in northern Shantung which had an absolutely clean record, having had no dealings with the Japanese, and for this reason the other units were jealous of the Fifteenth's reputation.


         It was Yu-min's ambition to wean these puppet units from Japanese contacts and to form a strong and active anti-Japanese bloc. He persisted, although with little success at first, because he felt that as the war progressed in favour of the Allies, so his chances of success would become greater. A second and equally important reason for the formation of this bloc was the constant threat of the Communists. His relations with the puppet troops on his western boundary, under the command of the puppet Commander Li Wen Li at Weihsien, were on a basis of mutual understanding. The Japanese would not allow these puppet units to operate armament factories, and Yu-min came to an agreement with this particular unit whereby he allowed them to open a small factory for the manufacture and repair of rifles. In return he was allowed to smuggle supplies of ammunition and raw materials from Weihsien without interference from the puppet forces.


         The area under the control of the Fifteenth was approximately two thousand square miles and had a population, as near as we could estimate, of between 750,000 and a million. To the west the Wei River formed a natural boundary, on the other side of which were the puppet troops of the Weihsien Garrison Commander Li Wen Li. Through this territory ran the Weihsien–Chefoo motor road, providing the Japanese with a quick communication line from Weihsien to the city of Changyi on the west bank of the River Wei, where the Japanese maintained a strong garrison which was a constant threat to the Fifteenth. From Changyi, this motor road cut across the northern section of the Fifteenth's area towards Chefoo, but this section had been destroyed. The Gulf of Chili formed the northern border, and to the east the Chiao River, although not an actual boundary, made a useful natural inner defence line for the heart of the area. The southern boundary was the Tsinan–Tsingtao railway on which the Japanese had three garrisons. Forty miles from the heart of the area to the cast, the Japanese had a large garrison at the prefectural city of Ping-tu. Japanese garrisons therefore surrounded the Fifteenth on three sides.

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