And boy did it not disappoint.
This has to be one of the most exciting wartime escape stories–and probably the most underreported one.
To start, the cast of characters couldn’t be more fascinating. As the title states, it was Admiral Chan Chak who led the escape. But Chan wasn’t just another career military man.
He was stationed in Hong Kong and presided over the Chinese (Nationalist) Navy’s southern forces. Oh, and he only had one leg.
Chan’s aide-de-camp was the dashing, devout Christian, six-foot-three-inch Henry Hsu, born in southern China, trained at the famed Whampoa Military Academy, and educated in the law in Shanghai.
The British Navy agreed to help Chan, Henry Hsu, and Chan’s bodyguard escape Hong Kong as soon as the colony fell to the Japanese because the Admiral couldn’t be captured, what with all the classified information he possessed. Plus, he had excellent connections in southern China, even in the Japanese-occupied areas just north of Hong Kong, and could be of great help to the top British Navy personnel (which included a Canadian, a New Zealander, some Scots, and a Russian Jewish refugee by way of Shanghai)–and others who tagged along for the ride.
But the escape didn’t start off as planned. When a boat carrying the Admiral, Henry Hsu, his bodyguard, and Colonel SK Yee was attacked by the Japanese, the three men stripped to their underwear and jumped overboard while the non-swimmer Colonel Yee stayed on the boat–with Chan Chak’s wooden leg (and a couple hundred thousand Hong Kong dollars stuffed inside the leg).
After the trio met up with five British torpedo speed boats, they made their way north to Mirs Bay. In all, more than sixty men escaped together in this group. They walked and rode overland through occupied China, dodging Japanese patrols and wading through paddy fields, until they reached Free China–all guided by Admiral Chan and his guerilla devotees north of Hong Kong. Many of the escapees made their way to Chungking and some on to Burma, where they once again fled the Japanese.
For more about this harrowing tale, check out the Escape From Hong Kong blog at http://www.hongkongescape.org/.