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15 October 2014
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Life in Occupied Shanghai - 1941icon for Recommended story

by CovWarkCSVActionDesk

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Norman Douglas Shaw & Freddie May.
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Contributed on: 
18 April 2005

At about 4am in the morning, we heard heavy gunfire from the Japanese cruiser H.I.J.M.S Izumo which sank the American gunboat U.S.S Wake and H.M.S Petrel, it was the signal that the Pearl Harbour attack was on.

The Japanese army, now not only controlled their own little sector, but the whole of Shanghai except for the French Settlement as the French were now under the Vichy Govenrment which was allied to the Axis Powers, Germany, Italy and Japan.

All the allied nations were not permitted to work or go to places of entertainment and had to wear a red arm-band with a number and intial of their nationality so they could be picked up if they caused any trouble.

I remember a Chinese Tailor had the contract to supply all the British with clothing, which was a corduroy lumber jacket and trousers only in two shades! So all the British were dressed alike.

Many Japanese soldiers and their officers were assinated by the Chinese underground, so at the end of every street there was a barbed wire barricade ready to close off any street to stop assasins escaping, but very few got caught.

I remember after he shot a Japanese Officer, an assasin ran into a huge apartment block, mainly European occupants. The Japanese gave chase, locked up the whole area, and emptied all the occupants at 8.00am into an adjacent park - still in their night clothes! Which was very humiliating for the Europeans, but the assasin had got away somehow.

So many Japanese sentrys were being shot that they had to put steel plates and sand bags around the sentry boxes.

Many times on the way to school, they would close off the streets because of some shooting, so we were happy not to be able to go to school that day!

When I ran away from home, I was a child of eleven, and had the silly notion to go to the next large city, which was Naking, some 300 miles away. I just followed the railway tracks far out into the countryside, where there was nothing for miles and miles, not even a flicker of a light could be seen.

After walking for many hours, I was stopped by a Japanese rail worker, who manned the signals. He searched me, found my identity card with the red band on it - the sign of an enemy national. He then made me take off my woolen sweater, which he kept, and told me to go on my way. I went on for a few hours more and then saw some lights in the distance, which I though was a Chinese village. It was a cluster of bungalows built on stilts, about twelve in all, which housed Japanese troops!

As I got up to one, in the dark, I saw a man on the porch, so I dived under the bungalow, but he saw me, shone a torch and fished me out. I was terrified as it was a Japanese Officer with his huge Samurai Sword!

He searched me, got my identity card out and saw I was British, so he practised his English on me, with a few questions. He took me inside and gave me something to eat and a cup of tea. Then he got some English children's book out and got me to teach him to read. He was quite kind to me and told me to go back home.

In the morning he put me on the train back to Shanghai but I got off at the next stop and carried on my adventure on foot. I kept walking and it was soon dark again and you had to watch your footing otherwise you would be in the paddy fields. As I kept going I heard voices in the distance where there was a convoy of Chinese farmers all carrying sacks of rice and grain - men,women and children. I joined them on their journey to Shanghai city, they were smuggling their goods to the black market.
They really took a risk not only to their cargo but to themselves as the Japanese were always keen to use their bayonets on one's belly for smuggled goods.

As we got to the outskirts of Shanghai I left them and went to stay with a school mate. His father was a US Marine and his mother was Japanese. His father was in the US at the time. His name was Freddie May one of my best friends who never hesitated to put me up. One day he suggested we go on a hike in the countryside. His mother had a relative who was an officer in the Japanese army and he loaned us his water bottle for our hike. When we got into the countryside a Japanese sentry stopped us when he saw this army water-bottle, questioned us and relieved us of the bottle and said the owner had to report to them to get it back and he would be in trouble too.

As a runaway from home and school the school informed everyone to notify them or my parents of my whereabouts if seen or contacted. Later I found out my father was in deep trouble with the Japanese for not producing his family for interment. He told them he could not find me so they thought he was stalling his confinement. I then went to stay with another friend who was Spanish, from my school. His father then notified my father to come and pick me up.

We then presented ourselves for interment, a lorry came to pick us up with our belongings and took us to what the Japanese termed as Lungwha Assemble Centre for enemy nationals near the airport. We were interned for almost three years, the best years of my young life.

I was released at the age of fifteen. I went to look up my old pal Freddie May and as I got to his home I sensed something unusual. The man servent was performing some ritual on the doorstep. I asked to see Freddie and he took me to his mother, who seemed distressed. She said "You Freddie's friend, who been in Camp." I said "Yes?" and with that she gave me a handful of money and said "Freddie not here any more." I later found out that as his mother was Japanese, he was conscripted into the Japanese army, and killed in the war. That was a very sad day for me.

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