Donald Hill 1921-85 wrote a diary about his time in a Hong Kong prisoner of war camp. The diary was written in code. It was only after Hill's death that a mathematician - Andro Linklater at the University of Surrey - decoded it, and published Hill's story as 'The Code of Love'. The book weaves together the story of Hill's romance with Pamela Kirrage who he met months before being stationed in Hong Kong in 1939, the diary itself, and his own efforts to unravel the code. The code was devised by Hill because officers abroad were not allowed to keep diaries or records. When Hong Kong fell, Hill was captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. After the war, on his return to Britain, Hill married Kirrage. But, the union was not to be a happy one, since Hill was psychologically damaged by his incarceration. The couple divorced in 1978, but remarried a year before Hill's death.
Christmas Day 1941 Wed twenty fourth and Thursday Xmas day.
The retirement order was a mistake and back we go to Bennetts with guns and equipment. Just as we reach the top the Japs open up on us with mortars. We have no protection and lie flat. The shells land right amongst us. Man next to me hit, also several others. Piece of shrapnel glances off my helmet and am half buried in flying debris. If we stay we shall all be killed so order the men to disperse and dash for cover and miraculously we make it.
During the barrage I had noticed that one of our previous posts was still manned by Canadians who obviously had not received the order to withdraw. Cpl Blueman AC, Canadian, volunteers to go with to try and get them out. We climb on our bellies through the thickest undergrowth but are fired on several times. Finally we get within hailing distance and get them all into a pillbox. We collect all the arms and equipment which we can't carry, pile them into the pillbox, and throw a couple of grenades into the pillbox.
As we start back everything goes off at once and we have to duck flying bullets. Eventually we arrive intact at the AIS. No one seems to know where the Japs are. So back we go to a new position guarding the bridge over Aberdeen reservoir. My party consists of twelve Canadians and ten RAF. Up to midnight all is quiet although every sound indicates Japs to the men. Soon after midnight heavy firing starts just across the bridge. The Japs weird war cry is plainly heard and soon a small party of Canadians retire over the bridge.
They report a heavy attack by Japs who crept up on them and broke through. We open up with everything we have across the bridge. The Canadians are badly rattled, even their officer seems to have lost control of his men. The Japs start shelling us and confusion sets in and the men start leaving their posts. A scene I never wish to see again.
I am in an awkward position as I have no command over the Canadians. Just as they start moving back the road Major Baillee advances down the road waving a revolver and shouting to his men to get back to their posts. Some obey and some don't. The Major is highly excited and his voice rings out through the night calling his men all the names he can think of. The Japs must have a good idea of our positions. He calls his officers and men all the names under the sun and shouts for volunteers to cross the bridge.
The Canadians refuse to budge so I, more of a desire to back the Major than of any thought of heroics, go across with him. We reach the other side safely whereupon he is violently sick and I realise he is drunk. Through overwork he worked himself into a state of complete collapse and should have been relieved of his command earlier. We retire still intact. We can hear the Japs wild animal calls and they appear to have gone another way. Most of the Canadians have disappeared and with the few left we set up a mortar which fires its first shell into a nearby tree, explodes, blowing the operators right arm off and another man nearly loses a leg.
Get the wounded into a dugout where there are some others badly wounded and try to stop their bleeding. We only have bandages and several of them are in danger of bleeding to death. Their moans are terrible and although I keep ringing up for an ambulance, none arrives. What a horrible mess and I try to restore some kind of order. After a good talking to the men pull themselves together and go back to their posts.
Thank God the ambulance arrives at last, also Lts Campbell and Park. Campbell threatens to put the Major under arrest and Baillee threatens to put every Canadian under arrest. Comes the dawn and most of the Canadians have disappeared.
What a Xmas day, empty stomachs, tired out, and heaven knows what is going on. At ten am a message arrives saying their is a truce until midday. This news is immediately followed by a terrific bombardment of our positions. Not my idea of a truce.
More Canadians melt away leaving our line practically undefended. I gather the few remaining men together a proceed to climb Mt Gough hoping to join up with our main forces. When we reach the top and strike the main road we run into several hundred Canadians retreat from Wanchai Gap. Wanchai Gap is the most vital sector of all and this means the end.
We are told that the island surrendered at three thirty, over an hour ago. The troops have no arms and are completely worn out. A scene I will never forget with ammunition dumps going up everywhere and the Japs pouring hundreds of shells just over our heads into blocks of houses across the road. Finally the barrage stops and white flags appear from all the houses. The troops have got hold of quantities of beer and are singing to relieve their shattered nerves. I am too stunned to describe my own feelings but decide to try and escape.
The Japs are reputed never to take prisoners. With Junior and three of my men we grab an Austin Seven and decide to make a dash for Aberdeen to try to get a boat. The engine won't start but its all downhill. By now its dark and the road is very narrow and tricky. We throw away our arms and get aboard. What a ride, crashing through barbed wire and road blocks in the dark but the old Austin showed her worth and we finally coasted into Aberdeen without seeing any Japs. We go straight to the AIS and get hold of a Chinese boy who says he will try to get us a boat with food and water.
Then, to our horror, we discovered that the building had been locked and we could not get out as the Japs were outside. What a disappointment and we had nothing to do except find somewhere to sleep not having had a real one for ten days. My old room was a complete shambles so slept on the floor.