Escape from Hong Kong

Admiral Chan Chak’s Christmas Day Dash, 1941


Tim Luard

ISBN : 978-988-8083-76-3


January 2012

384 pages, 6″ x 9″, 68 b&w illus.

  • HK$195.00

Also available in Paperback HK$195.00

On 25 December 1941, the day of Hong Kong’s surrender to the Japanese, Admiral Chan Chak—the Chinese government’s chief agent in Hong Kong—and more than 60 Chinese and British intelligence, naval and marine personnel made a dramatic escape from the invading army. They travelled on five small motor torpedo boats—all that remained of the Royal Navy in Hong Kong—across Mirs Bay, landing at a beach near Nanao. Then, guided by guerrillas and villagers, they walked for four days through enemy lines to Huizhou, before flying to Chongqing or travelling by land to Burma. The breakout laid the foundations of an escape trail jointly used by the British Army Aid Group and the East River Column for the rest of the war. Chan Chak, the celebrated “one-legged admiral”, became Mayor of Canton after the war and was knighted by the British for his services to the Allied cause. His comrade in the escape, David MacDougall, became head of the civil administration of Hong Kong in 1945.

This gripping narrative account of the escape draws on a wealth of primary sources in both English and Chinese and sheds new light on the role played by the Chinese in the defence of Hong Kong, on the diplomacy behind the escape, and on the guerillas who carried the Admiral in a sedan chair as they led his party over the rivers and mountains of enemy-occupied China.

Escape from Hong Kong will appeal not just to military historians and those with a special interest in Hong Kong and China but also to anyone who appreciates a good old-fashioned adventure story.

Tim Luard graduated in Chinese from Edinburgh University in 1973 and spent the next seven years in Hong Kong, where he wrote for local and international media. He returned to Britain to join BBC Radio News and was Beijing Correspondent for the World Service in the late 1980s, travelling widely in China and covering the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He spent a further fifteen years with the BBC as a presenter, editor and East Asia specialist. In 1997 he made an acclaimed six-part radio series on the history of Hong Kong to mark the colony’s handover to China. He also wrote an accompanying book, Hong Kong: Imperial Orphan.

“A ripping tale . . . a thriller-diller of a book.” —The Spectator

“Compelling account . . . of one of the greatest escapes of the Second World War.” —Sunday Telegraph

“An exciting narrative of the one-legged Chan Chak’s hair-raising escape to the Chinese mainland aboard a Royal Navy motor torpedo boat.” —Asian Affairs

“Thanks to Luard, this remarkable story now has the much wider audience it deserves.” —Navy News

“Mr Luard describes the escape as a rare example of British and Chinese working together. . . . His story is well told, and well worth telling.” —The London Magazine

“Tim Luard tells this exciting and little known story with great skill.” —Chris Patten, governor of Hong Kong, 1992–97

“A crisp and comprehensive account of one of the epic untold tales of the Second World War.” —Tony Banham, author of Not the Slightest Chance: The Defence of Hong Kong, 1941

“A unified narrative that is as full and balanced as it is enthralling.” —Philip Snow, author of The Fall of Hong Kong: Britain, China, and the Japanese Occupation