Saturday, 23 February 2008

Read this first...

Picture this - Christmas Day, 1941, Hong Kong. You're in the Royal Navy defending the British island, and the allies have just surrendered to the overwhelming invading Japanese force.

Would you want to become a prisoner of war in a Japanese labour camp or escape? That's exactly the decision my Grandad was faced with nearly 70 years ago. He was smuggled through the jungle (by Chinese guerillas and a one legged Chinese Colonel called Chan Chak - seriously) in Southern China, into Burma and then into India before catching a ship home three months later.

When he died, we found a handwritten diary. It was a diary he'd written secretly during his escape and had kept secret during his living years - the escape party were all sworn to secrecy.

It was the discovery of this diary that has inspired me to take a trip to China and re-trace his steps. This will be the blog of that trip.

Since the deaths of these men, the kids and grandchildren have collated a selection of these diaries and assembled a website -

Have a look at the Escape List. Grandad - Leslie S Barker - was on Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) 11.

There's a portrait photo of him (see any similarity between him and I?) if you click on his name on the list, which is taken from the escape party photo at Waichow. He's in the third row from the front, about 7 in from the right as you look at it. He's got a rifle under his arm and is wearing a white roll neck, issued jumper.

That's the reason for my trip to China and the man that has inspired me in so many things in life.
I'm not going to 'hardcore' the trip like he did - middle of the Chinese winter on half a tin of mini sausages per day, but I will re-trace the route so that I can find out the places that he visited and see if there is anything from his diary that I recognise all these years later...

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