Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong – December 1941

The day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, they entered Hong Kong, winning final control of the city when the British surrendered on Christmas Day. The invasion and occupation was very rough on the city and its environs, which had been controlled by the British since 1842. Many British and Canadian soldiers lost their lives defending the Crown Colony, their were significant numbers of civilian casualties, and foreigners (particularly nationals of countries fighting Japan) were rounded up and imprisoned. One such man was Jan Henrik Marsman, a Dutch born industrialist, whose world wide operations were headquartered in Manila and had renounced his Dutch citizenship and become a citizen of the Philippines. Marsman told the story of the invasion, his imprisonment, and his escape from Hong Kong, by water and land into non-occupied China. His story became a book, “I Escaped From Hong Kong”, published very quickly, in 1942. The story is interesting, both as a first hand report on what was going on in Hong Kong, and as an extraordinary and unpleasant adventure story as he, with the help of native Chinese underground entrepeneurs, and accompanied by a half dozen others, were secreted across Japanese infested waters in a sampan boat, and then hiked over the mountains for days upon end to freedom.

Because the book was written during the war, Marsman had no idea what was going to become of China, although he at least pretended to have no doubt as to the outcome of the war. The idea of a Communist revolution in China was unthinkable at the time. Nor was the extraordinary economic success that the then devastated and increasingly abandoned Hong Kong would become after the war, in part because of the defeat of capitalism in the remainder of mainland China.

An interesting book.

5 thoughts on “Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong – December 1941

    • Hello Dorothy,

      My father, Wilhelm Rawitz, who died in 1950, was Managing Director of Marsman Hong Kong Ltd. Our family survived the hardships of the occupation of Hong Kong. As was the case with many others, Father did not fully recognize the imminent invasion of Hong Kong by the Japanese. He was actually at work on Victoria, the day the Japanese overran Kowloon and heavily bombed the harbor. Mother and I were at our residence on Kadoorie Avenue. A neighbor kindly drove us through the chaos of looters and vandals, to the Peninsula Hotel.

      We emigrated to the United Sates in December of 1951.

      • hi Kelly,
        I think you have contacted me before but I fail to remember where I put your info. I have very little information. I’m looking to find more about my grandfather Marsman. Did he have family in Holland? That whole side of the family is a big ?.

        I can be reached at dorothy.drysdale@mac.com

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