Operation “Mateys” – Dock workers extraction from HK during the Japanese occupation WW2

Elizabeth Ride: Here is a transcription of an audio letter from my father, Sir Lindsay Ride, which concerns the Dockyard workers’ extraction from HK during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, World War Two.

For further details about this please see the article, WW2 – BAAG, Mateys and Allied attempts to disrupt HK Dockyards, linked below.

Operation “Mateys” was one of the other interesting operations via Waichow.  One of the amazing things about the Jap occupation was the rapidity with which they got things moving in the city.  For example, it was no time before they got the Naval Dockyard working again, and this must have been of great value to them as there must have been dozens of small repair jobs on ships that could be done in Hongkong and thus save them the long trip to Japan.

There was nothing much we could do about it excepting perhaps in some way making it difficult for the Japs to recruit trained personnel.  I first of all got Duggie to make contact with one or two of the dockyard workers who could be trusted, to find out whether any of them would be at all interested in getting out of Hongkong.  To our delight we found that many of them were very keen – especially if they could be assured of employment outside and bring their wives and families with them.  So I put up a scheme to Chungking, and in turn they sent it on to India and to the Admiralty in London.  To our joy the latter sent out for some idea of numbers involved and costs.  This, as you can imagine, was a very difficult job because as time went on more and more mateys got to hear of the plan and had to be included, as it only needed one disgruntled person to give the whole show away.

Fortunately also about this time the Japanese were more lenient in allowing Chinese to leave Hongkong.  Our greatest difficulty was to come to an agreement with the Admiralty about final costs.  From our end it looked almost impossible to settle on a fixed amount, with conditions likely to change almost from day to day, and messages taking anything from one to three months to get into Hongkong.  

The only possible solution was that if the mateys really were wanted in India, to agree to a sum “in the order of” – and this is what finally happened.  We got them all out without loss, and when their wives were settled in Kwangtung the mateys were dispatched in convoy on the long trekk across South China to Kunming whence they were flown over the Hump by American transport planes.  The families in China still remained our responsibility. And we even set up and staffed a small school for the children whose parents planned to return to Hongkong after the war and wished their children to continue to receive a Hongkong-type of education.  This school continued to be run by the BAAG until the end of the war.”

Related Indhhk articles: World War Two – BAAG, Mateys and Allied attempts to disrupt HK Dockyards

Further information:

The Index contains many articles using BAAG reports from WW2. And about industry in HK during that time.



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