Letter: A chance missed in Hong Kong

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was glad to read the letter from Drummond Hunter (30 June). The fact that Hong Kong has been handed over to China by Britain and not by some other power is due to the action of one relatively unknown man at the end of the war in the Far East.

The Rev J Ernest Sandbach, a minister of the Methodist Church, went as a missionary to Hong Kong in 1938 and, in addition to his church work, he was responsible for the Sailors' and Soldiers' Home and was officiating minister for Services personnel.

Following the invasion by the Japanese in 1941 he organised hospital supplies and then, with other civilians, was interned in the camp on the Stanley peninsular in 1942. He continued his missionary work as far as possible in the camp and was appointed chairman of the camp committee and, as such, represented the internees in negotiations with the Japanese authorities, often at great personal risk to himself.

Hearing of the imminent surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945, he marched out of the camp with the Colonial Secretary and a Chinese coast skipper and went to the Japanese officer in charge and told him he was taking over Hong Kong as a British colony. Very soon after he was told by the Allied HQ to take over Hong Kong in the name of the four Allies. He replied, informing them that he had already taken over Hong Kong in the name of Great Britain and "so it has remained" he told me with a smile years later. He stayed in Hong Kong until 1960 and for his work there he was awarded the OBE on his return to England.

I had known his name for years before I met him in 1974 when I came to Selsey and found he had retired here. We became very good friends and he gave me willing help in my work until I retired in 1987. Later I had the privilege of giving thanks to God for his life and work at his funeral in May 1991.


Selsey, Chichester