Monday, 17 October 2011

Amanuensis Monday - letter from Bill Hudson to Peggy October 14th 1945

My grandfather Bill Hudson worked as a prison officer in Hong Kong from 1921 to 1941. He was still in Hong Kong in December of 1941 when the Japanese invaded and occupied the colony. My grandmother Peg and my father Peter had been evacuated to Australia in July 1940. Peg kept the last couple of letters Bill wrote from Hong Kong prior to the Japanese invasion, along with the letters he wrote immediately after liberation.

The last letter was mailed from Aden, one of several ports of call after leaving Hong Kong. Following liberation it took several increasingly frustrating weeks to get the internees out of Hong Kong and on the way home. This letter was written in Aden but posted 4 days later from Marseilles.

Passenger for SS Empress of Australia

Bill Hudson, 
Chateau D'if

Oct 10, 45


Wasting time here, we don't seem to be taking on anything, in the way of oil or water, all I have seen come on board since we arrived at 11 am, are ranks of all services and a few civilians, but the amount of launches with Navy, Air Force and Army personnel, has been one long stream all the time. Young Frith late of Billzy Point came on board, now a Squadron Leader, Air Force, his sister Irene is on board on her way Home to England.

I suppose and hope after the Red Sea it will get cooler, its not too bad on the deck here, but its terrible where we get our food on D Deck, its just like a furnace at times, with all Portholes closed.

The food here at first was wonderful to us, no fancy dishes, just soup, roast and sweet, but now it appears to taste all the same and everybody complaining it was only last week they put sauce and pickle (a little of each a week) on the table, and they are between 10 of us.

I understand we are getting double ration coupons when we land. I am also buying soap on board, I hear you can't get it back home, both washing and toilet, so I hope they don't make me pay duty on it, it will be too bad if I have to. I sent you 2 lbs of tea home from Colombo, duty will have to be paid on that, yet it won't arrive until after I do, I also have 1 lb with me, and we were told in Colombo that another lb was sent to the ship for every P of W and Internee and as I am allowed 2 lbs duty free, we are sure of a cup of good tea when I do get Home "Cooker Police"

They say we get Winter clothing at Port Said, wonder what it will be. I would look nice in Battle Dress and Bowler Hat. Don't envy me Peg, when measured the other day, chest 38", waist 31", how is that for slimming around the waist line, rice diet is fine to get ones weight down, of course you must leave out red meat, a little salt fish and Chinese vegetables, water spinach mostly. 

Everybody seems to be out sailing at present, small sailing boats with Europeans, &c are everywhere. Sitting in shade of one of the Ack Ack guns on the Boat Deck writing this, its quiet, and out of bounds to women and kids, they swarm the Promenade Deck like Bees, half castes, chinese and whites, all one big happy family, I don't think. Looks as though we are not sailing before tomorrow, Thursday seems to be our favourite day for sailing, as we left Manila, Singapore and Colombo on Thursday. This dammed old tub is only doing about 350 a day, yesterday at noon it was only 319. They say one of its Boilers has gone fute, I think they all have, by the speed we are doing. The Ship that arrived in Southampton the other day, had roast beef and yorkshire puddings well I expect I will be home in time to get some Xmas pudding, don't care much for Turkey!

All my love Dears, another 14 days should bring me nearer to you, and after 3 years and 8 months it is not long is it?

Love to Mother and Peter, hoping you can give him a swell birthday. Will post this at Port Said

All Love

Ever your


Bill finally arrived back in England on 27 October 1945, almost two months after liberation. 

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