Born in captivity, raised in freedom

Updated: 2015-08-27 07:36

By Chitralekha Basu(China Daily)

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Taste of freedom

Born in captivity, raised in freedom

Cautherley with his parents Dorothy and George, a British couple, during their years of internment during World War II. Provided to China Daily

Life was still hard. It was a test of resilience and true grit, pitted against a stack of odds. Soap was scarce. Food contained rat feces. Anslow's diary - which she has since turned into a novel called The Young Colonials - was mostly written on toilet paper.

Yet there were probably only a few occasions when the internees seriously feared for their lives.

"In January 1945, an Allied plane dropped a bomb on the camp and killed 16 internees," Anslow recalled. "This reminded us that if the Allies decided to invade and retake Hong Kong, we would be in the thick of it, and might be killed by our captors."

Cautherley has faint memories of his mother clutching him as they watched fellow internees die in that explosion. The other time they were scared was immediately after the announcement that the Japanese had surrendered.

"Those two weeks were the most trying," said Cautherley. "The Japanese were still around. The internees were relieved to be told they were free, but they could not show it. It was feared that the Japanese might shoot everybody and commit mass suicide."

The tension remained until, and even after, a British Royal Navy fleet arrived on Aug 30 commanded by Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt signaling that the war was well and truly over. Freedom remained just a notion until the internees managed to step outside the perimeters for real and walk free.


On Aug 15, Barbara Anslow attended a "Victory over Japan Day" event at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall to commemorate those who died in the war. She read a poem - A.E. Ogden and V. Merrett's The Fepow Prayer, a eulogy for the "Far East Prisoners of War".

Dennis Clarke and George Cautherley will meet again in Hong Kong in December. They will be joined by about 20 others from across the world with links to the Stanley Internment Camp - a mere fraction of a fraction of those who were interned there, but good enough to keep the flame of memory burning.

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