Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Rocky Start...

But it's a start nonetheless! I've landed safe and well and managed to get in to the hostel I wanted which is good, considering a slight mix up on the booking...

Not so good was the bad news at Heathrow that they've stopped issuing visas for China in the UK apparently unless you have an 'invite'. There's loads of visa places over here though, so I'm not so fussed. The result of this was that I had to buy a GBP1200 (!) one way HK-LHR ticket when I checked in yesterday as they couldn't let me go to HK without an onwards ticket - which I intend to buy tomorrow, and then promptly refund the former.

I had two seats on the plane all to myself and did that crazy - sleep ten minutes, with ur legs in some mad position, wake up with a crick neck, move again, repeat the whole process again etc.

It's 2315 over here, still 25'c and a muggy 85% humidity. The view over the water to Hong Kong island is awesome at night - just a sea of high rise office buildings, all with different logos in huge, bright neon lights on top. It looks kinda cool in a sci-fi sort of way, and then it hit me - this was the spot where the Japs invaded! Some of them even swam the couple of hundred metres to get there - I bet it looked so different then...
dinner cost me $110 dollars, that's about GBP7.33! Unlimited Green tea, chicken fried rice with cabbage and shredded beef with broccoli - yum! Massive dishes though and should've just ordered one - that would've been more than enough.
So, what's it like? Takes a bit of getting used to, but not so different. It's mega efficient and organised as you'd expect, really nice and clean, no graff, litter, gum etc, but there's a haze from the pollution which obscures the view a little. Oh, and they drive on the left.
I took a walk along the promenade tonight - Chakie Chan's handprints are in concrete and they've got a life size bronze of Bruce Lee which I took a cheesey photo next to.
As I mentioned before, it's skyrise central which is quite different from London. There are not only shops on street level, but there are obscure doorways that lead you into the heart of the building, along winding passages and down shady stairwells and then it will open out into a rather nice hotel/restaurant/cybercafe area which is always a nice surprise.
So, lots for me to do tomorrow - ie organise my train back, China visa etc otherwise I'm going to have a very expensive and not massively productive trip over here...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Skyped up

After a conversation with Richard Hide, he convinced me in the benefits of Skype and I have since signed up!

So, the plan is to take a webcam with me around china and then when (if!) I hit the internet cafes, I'll log on and hopefully be able to converse with you lot for gratis!

Skype is FREE to download
Skype is FREE to call Skype to Skype and obviously it's video phone

So, if you've got relatives on the other side of the world (or China) then it's a great idea!

Not only that, but you can conference call as well, so Mum, Dad, Grandparents or siblings can all get online at the same time.

So, if and when you're skyped up, why not add me: russell.joyce77

It would be nice to hear from you.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


I´ve just finished reading the excellent diary lent to me by Tim Luard, the son in law of a guy called Colin McEwan, a special ops guy to planned and led the escape as far as Waichow. Firstly, Alison, I certainly know where you get your looks from - you´ve got your dad´s cheeks, smile and eyes! It´s fascinating to read someone elses account of the same experience and to be able to recognise the similarities between to the two accounts.
Colin´s diary is much more comprehensive than my grandfather´s, but a few points stood out to me:
1) Colin talks about being on watch on MTB 11 one night (that was grandad´s boat) and how lots of the men spoke to him like and old friend and opened their hearts and spilled their feelings to him. I wonder if my grandad and Colin had one of these conversations and what they would´ve talked about?
2) Colin also mentions the packing of kit by inexperienced sailors who loaded 50lb packs on to their backs and then had to shed it after a few hours when the going got tough - grandad talks about all this as well. Wonder if he was overloaded and what kit he shed?
3) Colin refers to Mike Kendall´s (fellow SOE member) (in)famous cry each morning of "Ready to March". Grandad mentions in his account of how he grows to hate to hear this call! I guess all the guys were fed up of walking by then. They were sailors after all and not used to land based `tabbing´.
4) Finally there´s also the account of scuttling (making unusable) the MTBs. They had to take axes to them and to load the boats with rocks to sink them.
This has shown me just how much information can be gleaned from these type of diaries and why it is so important that the more that are found are shared. They´re so interesting to read too.

Saturday, 12 April 2008


Hi readers!

I've had a couple of emails (you know who you are - thanks) about it being difficult to post a comment - I've changed some settings now, so hopefully this should be easier - try it out and let me know.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Grandad's Diary

OK, I can't upload word files to this site, but have created a google group and uploaded it there.
Click this link to read Les' diary he kept during the escape DOWNLOAD FILE

On a more positive note

I found out about a couple of other excellent sites this morning - I'll add links to them from here too, but as well as Richard Hides' Mwadui site, there's also 'hong kong war diary' and a site dedicated to Maj. Maurice Parker of the Royal Canadian Rifles - maintained by his son. The latter wrote a book on the defence of Hong Kong and the absolute battering that all the 'green' Canadian soldiers (as well as the British) took and I've just ordered Tony Banham's 'Not the slightest chance' - another authoritative account of the defense of Hong Kong.

Budget Airlines...

Well, I'm back from Morocco - awesome time over there trekking in the High Atlas Mountains, White Water Rafting down the Ahannsel River and then spending some time chilling in the Erg Chebbi desert - all good stuff only to be spoiled by an awful flight back with easyJet... It was late departing and arriving, arrived at the wrong terminal and they also ran out of the food they charge extortionate prices for on board. Very unimpressed. They haven't responded to my first letter to them, perhaps they'll respond to my second, but I won't hold my breath.

So, whilst we're on the subject of budget airlines, I thought - Hong Kong, £200, oasis airlines, booked on the 1st May - great!
Not great.
They went into liquidation on Wednesday 9 April - good job I heard about it then! And this morning they've sent me this:
As you may have heard of our recent situation, it is with much regret that we have applied to the Hong Kong Court to appoint a provisional liquidator on 9 April 2008. The Court has appointed Edward Middleton and Patrick Cowley of KPMG as the provisional liquidators.
Our flight operations have been cancelled until further notice. We would like to take this opportunity to offer you our immediate and sincere apology for the disruption caused by the sudden flight cancellations. We are doing what we can to help customers make alternate travel arrangements as quickly as possible. However, owing to our current situation, you will need to meet the cost of these alternate flight arrangements yourselves. We thank you for your patience and understanding."

Yeah, Whatever, just give me my money back, oh, and thanks for being so prompt about letting me know too.

I've now booked a new flight with Cathay Pacific on the same date, but at £150 more expense... Hopefully this isn't an omen of things to come.

Monday, 7 April 2008


Today I met a lovely couple - Tim and Alison - for lunch at the Royal China restaurant in Westferry Circus in the Docklands in London. If you're ever over that way, I can highly recommend it!
Tim originally contacted me through the website on Chan Chak, but it was Alison's father who was involved in the escape. Colin McEwan, of the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E. 136 Z Force) was one of three special forces operatives that led the party to Waichow. He's identified in the group photo (and is standing about three to the left of grandad, just peering between two others), but remained there after the bulk of the party moved on and worked on relaying information from and to the POW camps as well as assisting further escapes - pretty exciting stuff.
Tim very kindly lent me a copy of Colin's diary, which I look forward to reading with interest before I go. He's also alerted me to diaires of other people on the escape at the Imperial War Museum in London, so one of my tasks this week is to get in touch there and have a read of those too.
I say exodus because Tim and Alison are also thinking of retracing some of the escape party's steps, but only as far as Colin himself went - to Waichow. They've lived, worked and studied in Hong Kong (Tim as a correspondent/radio producer/editor/broadcaster for the beeb) and can speak Chinese, yet they're treating me as a guinea pig! I guess I am in a way...
I also met mum's boss, Siobhan, who never fails to amaze me at just how well travelled she is. She's visited some of the cities I intend to travel to and has also been to Burma, handing her passport in (for a receipt) to a border crossing in the middle of the sea from Thailand!
It's dawning on me now, just how far away I'm going to be from it all and how long I'm going to be away and I know I'm going to miss my friends and family massively. Chezza, has therefore very kindly allowed me to take the unit's 'satellite phone' (don't get excited it's not a briefcase with a fold out satellite dish - more like an old school nokia with a big rubber pull up ariel) which will work anywhere in the world. I'm not going to give you lot the number as it costs £2.50/min for calls and a similar amount for SMS, but it's reassuring to know I'll be able to get in touch no matter where I am or what I'm doing.