Thursday, 23 May 2013

Frederick William Bradley

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Frederick William Bradley was one of those courageous men and women who, in spite of the huge risks involved, took part in Hong Kong’s anti-Japanese resistance.

He was the son of Isabella Fraser from Inverness and Charles William Bradley. As he was 50 at his death in 1943,[1] he was presumably born in 1893 or thereabouts. He had a sister, Gertrude, and two adopted brothers, Harry and William.[2]

I know nothing about his experiences in WW1 but he was clearly of military age.

He seems to have begun work in Hong Kong’s Sanitary Department in 1924: ‘conveyancing’ expenses are recorded for him as a ‘Second Class Overseer’ and it’s described as a ‘new appointment’.[3] He was transferred to the Public Works Department, returning to the Sanitary Department on the first of April, 1925.[4]

I have found nothing more in the record until 1940, when, like his eventual resistance contact, Alexander Christie Sinton,[5] he was listed as authorised to perform vaccinations.[6] From a relatively early stage in its history, the Hong Kong authorities had conducted a vigorous vaccination programme to attempt to improve the Colony’s public health situation, and ‘lay’ vaccinator were an important part of this programme.

In the same year he was assigned to the Key Posts (B) Group of the Hong Kong Defence Reserve in the section for those aged 41-55.[7] 

His work at the outbreak of the war is described as ‘Senior Health Inspector’.[8] The intercepted Japanese trial document (see below) suggests that this might mean ‘the’ (rather than ‘a’) senior health inspector. He seems to he had responsibility for Central Market.[9] His assignment to the Key Posts Group means that he almost certainly acted as a health inspector during the fighting, when shortage of water for flushing toilets, the breakdown of the system for disposing of ‘night soil’ (excrement) and the large number of dead bodies lying unburied created increasing challenges.

Two main factors seem to have drawn him into the resistance. Before the war he’d been acquainted with Alexander Sinton, and in Stanley he worked in the canteen and therefore had regular contact with the ration lorry. Mr. Sinton was one of those kept out of Stanley to carry out public health work under Dr. Selwyn-Clarke, and at some point he became an agent of the British Army Aid Group, a resistance organisation which first made contact with Hong Kong in June 1942. Sinton set up a route for sending secret messages into Stanley through the ration lorry drivers of the Kowloon Bus Company, and Frederick Bradley was one of those who received the messages at the Stanley ‘end’.

In February 1943, the Kempeitai (Military Police) began a ‘strike-back’ against all the forms of illegal activity that had sprung up in Japanese Hong Kong.[10] A number of British nationals – all of them involved either in illegal humanitarian relief work or in espionage, or both – were arrested in May, and the network of Chinese drivers which had carried communications between the BAAG and the Hong Kong camps was penetrated. On June 28, 1943 the Kempeitai came to Stanley Camp and made 6 arrests, including Mr. Bradley and Frederick Ivan Hall, who had been carrying out similar work. Both men were arrested at about 6 p.m. after what must have been a terrifying period of waiting – the first arrest had been at about noon.

He and the others were taken first to G Block of Stanley Prison for questioning,[11] then in August moved to B block to be kept awaiting trial. It’s probable that interrogations no longer took place in B Block, but life was still tough enough: miserable rations, and most of the day spent sitting cross-legged facing the wall, contemplating the ‘crimes’ that had brought them into the cell. Those left behind in Stanley would have tried to get Mr. Bradley extra food, but so little was given to prisoners that Sir Vandeleur Grayburn died after 5 months on those prison rations even though he was sent supplements by both legal and illegal means.

Mr. Bradley and 26 others were tried on the morning of October 19, 1943. Alexander Sinton was asked by prosecutor Kogi:

‘Why did you send a chit into Stanley camp for Bradley with the coolie on the ration lorry?’
‘Because if I sent it through the Japanese official channels it would take six weeks to get there and a further six weeks to get a reply. Since these chits dealt with essential drugs, etc., for camp use speed was necessary. I had a reply within 24 hours through the ration lorry coolies’.
To which Kogi yelled, ‘Nevertheless you fooled the Gendarmes. You are guilty. Next one.’[12]

A captured Japanese summary of the trial verdicts gives more details of Mr. Bradley’s activities:

Although he knew it was forbidden to introduce articles into the camp, or send them out without the permission of the appropriate official, he nevertheless made use of the accused LEUNG HUNG[13] on about ten occasions to exchange messages with the accused SINTON between March and June 1943. In April of that year he was asked by the accused HALL to hand to the former police chief SCOTT a message concerning W.T.[14] code from the British organisation in WAICHOW,[15] which LOOIE FOOK WING[16] was getting in through SINTON. Knowing quite well the import of what he was doing, he agreed to this and some days later delivered the message to SCOTT.[17]

The verdicts had been decided in advance,[18] and he was sentenced to death – it was that involvement in handling a message from the BAAG that probably sealed his fate, as the other messages all concerned health matters. He and 32 others were beheaded on Stanley Beach on October 29, 1943. Mr. Bradley was survived by his wife Grace Helen of Stirling. His parents are described on his memorial stone as ‘of Charlton, Kent’.[19]

The seventieth anniversary of the death of this brave man and his fellow resistance workers falls later this year.

[3] HKGRO, Quarterly Return of Excesses on Sub-Heads Met BY Savings Under Heads Of  Expenditure, (For the 3rd Quarter of 1924), 66.
[4] HKGRO, Sanitary Report Hong Kong for the year 1925. page 4.
[5] See:
[6] Hong Kong Government Gazette, December 20, 1940, 1778.
[7] Hong Kong Government Gazette, February 23, 1940, 201.
[10] Philip Snow, The Fall of Hong Kong, 2003, 185.
[11] George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 170.
[12] Wright-Nooth, 1994, 181.
[13] Driver and BAAG agent.
[14] = wireless telegraphy.
[15] The ‘advanced HQ’ of the British Army Aid Group.
[16] Also known as David Loie, one of the most important BAAG agents. He committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the Kempeitai HQ in the former Supreme Court building in order to avoid naming others under torture.
[17] Ride Papers, AWM 2/57/15 – kindly sent to me by Elizabeth Ride.
[18] Wright-Nooth, 1994,  179, 184.