A Weekend to Pack: The Fall of Hong Kong

A Bitterne family caught up in the Second World War in the Far East

Caroline Wigley

BLHS Monthly Meeting Saturday, 12th November 2022

at 7.00 pm, United Reformed Church (above Iceland), Bitterne Precinct

Caroline Wigley has been a writer and editor for over 20 years – as a journalist for the Daily Mail group, a freelance writer tackling subjects ranging from politics, to travel, to fashion, and in-house for various organisations. She has established a successful career in fiction-writing – publishing poetry and short stories, as well as having taught creative writing workshops. History remains a passion, with a degree in Politics and International Studies proving invaluable while working on her book A Weekend to Pack.

The week beginning 1 July 1940 saw 3,500 British women and children evacuated from the colony of Hong Kong, following threats of invasion from Japan. Few believed the evacuation to be necessary – the Japanese had made similar threats before, which had come to nothing – and all thought that it would be short-lived. But the evacuees, initially billeted in Manila, soon found themselves boarding ships once again, this time bound for Australia. One of the families separated by the evacuation was George Bearman’s, electrical engineer at the colony’s naval dockyard, and whose letters have recently been discovered in the proverbial chest in the attic. His letters create an engaging and compelling narrative to bring to life the wider story of this little-known period in history. George’s letters capture the colour and culture of 1940s Hong Kong, with its mix of Chinese customs and British tradition, along with that of the unique situation created by the social skew. While trying to maintain as normal a life as possible, 1940s men suddenly find themselves not only returned to bachelorhood, but having to run a home, and set against the wider background of a home country at war. The three weeks of fighting following the Japanese invasion saw thousands killed – both civilians and military. Civilians were interned and many such as George became prisoners of war.

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