My first big air raid
My brother and I had the misfortune to be caught up in the very first air raid which the Americans launched against Hong Kong. I was five at the time, and my brother was seven. We had gone to visit a Russian family called the Smirnoffs, whose daughters were all older than us.

They lived in Kowloon a few blocks away from Nathan Road. Their home was an entire flat on the top floor of a three storey block of flats. This block consisted of two sections of three stories each, joined by a party wall, with two entrances side-by-side. Our friends lived on the left-hand section of the block.

We were sitting in their dining room, idly chatting with the girls. Then, far in the distance, we began to hear explosions… quiet, rumbling ones at first, but steadily getting louder and louder. Suddenly there was an almighty crash close by and the girls quickly jumped to their feet, and, without saying a word, they started running down the stairs towards the front entrance.

My brother and I watched in amazement as the girls disappeared from view. We remained frozen on the sofa. Then another explosion erupted nearby and the whole flat shook. Plaster and dust rained down on us. My brother jumped up, grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the stairwell. We ran down as fast as our tiny legs could carry us.

When we arrived on the ground floor there was a noisy argument going on about the front door. Some wanted to shut the door to save us from the debris flying around outside. Others were afraid that shutting the door could cause us to die from concussion caused by the bomb blasts. The doors remained open, for better or for worse.

Across the street I saw an old Japanese woman opening the door of her house. There was a whistling sound, she looked up at the sky and quickly shut the door. The bomb hit the house and I saw the roof collapsing. Suddenly her house was just a pile of rubble.

Minutes later, we heard that hideous whistling sound again but this time, instead of an explosion, there were just four muffled thumps. We all wondered what that meant. It was only days later that we discovered that an American bomb had gone through the roof of the adjoining flats, and had then crashed through the third, second and first floors, landing without exploding onto the ground floor. The unexploded bomb lay just a few feet away from us on the other side of a thin dividing wall. My guardian angel must have been working overtime on that day.

When there appeared to be a lull in the bombing, my brother and I decided to make a dash for home. For some silly reason we thought it would be safer for us to run rather than stay with our friends. Perhaps we had had enough of the arguments in favour of closing or opening that front door.

We had just made it to the first corner when something horrific stopped us in our tracks. A motor car was burning in the street and the driver had got out. He was covered in flames and he must have been in agony, but I can't remember him screaming. All I can recall is that he was lurching silently towards us. My brother and I were like two timid mice hypnotised by a cobra. We couldn't move as he came closer and closer. Then he collapsed about 6 feet away from us and we were instantly released from his spell. We turned the corner and started running as fast as we could towards Nathan Road.

Halfway down the street, a Chinese woman jumped out of a doorway and grabbed the two of us by the collar, and quickly dragged us into the safety of her building. I turned around and saw a Japanese officer, his samurai sword slapping on his thigh, running down that same street. An American plane must have been strafing the street because the officer's stomach seemed to erupt in a mass of red. He had been hit several times in the back.

We waited there for several more minutes until the sounds of the aeroplanes and the bombs slowly faded away. When we arrived home we discovered that the area near our house had hardly been touched by the bombs. The district where the Smirnoff girls lived had been the epicenter of the attack. They and their parents were obliged to live elsewhere for a few days while the unexploded bomb was safely removed.

I have no idea where the American planes had come from so early in the Pacific War since it would have been dangerous waters for a carrier task force. Perhaps they were a squadron of the Flying Tigers. The air raid came as a huge shock to the Japanese. I had mixed feelings about it because I wanted the Americans to win the war but I wasn't too happy to have their bombs dropped all around me.

Our family came through the war intact, though not without considerable hardship. During that first air raid, a family my parents knew well were walking along Nathan Road in Kowloon when they received a direct hit from an American bomb. The mother, the father and the two children died instantly. A huge hole in the road was all that served as a memorial to them.