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Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945
Life in the Japanese Civilian Camp at Stanley

This book tells the story of the more than 3000 non-Chinese civilians: British, American, Dutch and others, who were trapped in the British colony and interned behind barbed wire in Stanley Internment Camp from 1942 to 1945. From 1970 to 1972, while researching for his MPhil thesis at the University of Hong Kong, the author interviewed twenty-three former Stanley internees. Long regarded as an invaluable reference and frequently consulted as a primary source on Stanley Camp, the thesis is now published with a new introduction and fresh discussions that recognize later work and information, including a new map and photographs as well as an up-to-date bibliography. The book is in its third printing.

"Geoffrey Emerson has written a careful and detailed study of a much-neglected topic in the history of the Second World War - Japan's treatment of enemy civilians in one of its occupied territories. Solidly grounded in research and enlivened by pictorial sketches of camp life as well as interviews with former internees, the result is a story of human endurance and survival amidst terribly trying circumstances," Edward Rhoads, Professor Emeritus of Modern Chinese History, University of Texas at Austin (son of a Stanley internee).

"Numerous personal memoirs and narrative accounts have appeared about Western civilian internment by the Japanese during the Pacific War, but few original academic studies have so far appeared. This important overview of Stanley Camp offers a fresh dimension to our understanding of a much-mythologized period of Hong Kong's history. First researched in the early 1970s when memories were still fresh, Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945 offers numerous valuable insights into the camp's internal administration, politics and personalities, as well as fascinating glimpses of day-to-day life as a civilian internee." - Jason Wordie, author of Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island.

Geoffrey Emerson has lived in Hong Kong for more than forty years. He retired from St Paul's College, where he taught history and English and served as Vice Principal and Careers Master. From 1984 to 1986, he was Sinologist and Cruise Director for Lindblad Travel on the Yangtse River. He was President of the Hong Kong History Society (1974-1984) and has been a Council Member of the Royal Asiatic Society (Hong Kong Branch).

Hong Kong Internment 1942-1945

A review which appeared on Amazon.com 2008:

"A completely engrossing and thoughtful insight into the lives of the people interned in Stanley Camp in Hong Kong.  It brings into sharp focus the hardships suffered and the ingenuity of the internees as they tried to maintain some sort of order and dignity under trying circumstances.  The much maligned director of the camp apparently did his best in a situation over which he had little or no control.  This is a must read for Second World War history buffs."

Readers’ comments:

  • "…I never knew that a history book could be so interesting…"
  • "…absolutely wonderful…any reader with even a glimmer of curiosity about the period will find it fascinating."
  • "…it is splendid…I got a lot from your book…a valuable work…it reads well…thoroughly enjoyed it…"
  • "…a wonderful way of preserving history…"
  • "…a gem of research … with so many photos…"
  • "…a fascinating story…"
  • "…very handsome…fascinating…great job…"
  • "…it really is very good looking…"
  • "…it looks great…very nice…"
  • "…it looks wonderful…"
  • "…I read with great interest your changed perceptions about people and events after a gap of 30 years…"
  • "…the underlying sadness is masterfully relieved by the occasional unexpected humour…"
  • "…excellent presentation and comprehensive work…"
  • "…I was fascinated from start to finish."
  • "A completely engrossing and thoughtful insight into the lives of the people interned in Stanley Camp in Hong Kong. It brings into sharp focus the hardships suffered and the ingenuity of the internees as they tried to maintain some sort of order and dignity under very trying circumstances. The much aligned director of the Camp apparently did his best in a situation over which he had little or no control.  This book is a must for Second World War history buffs!"
  • From The Asian Review of Books – "...a readable and convincing account of life in the Stanley Camp...a glimpse of camp life well worth having".
  • From Adam Williams, author of three acclaimed historical novels set in China – The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure, The Emperor’s Bones and The Dragon’s Tail and whose grandfather was an internee in Stanley Camp.  Adam wrote, "In early 1942, after the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, pampered foreigners who for decades had lived in luxury on the China Coast, were squeezed into the confines of the Stanley peninsula, where for the next three and a half years, they were reduced to semi-starvation, a life reduced to basics, with pitiful supplies of food and medicine to sustain them – and always under the threat of punishment from their captors. Geoffrey Emerson, in his exhaustively researched and beautifully illustrated history, Hong Kong Internment 1942-1945, tells how this civilian enclave coped.  Meticulously, he investigates every aspect of camp life, from food, clothing, education, diseases, death by execution or by accident to entertainment, the black market and sex.  In doing so he paints a picture of how a group of selfish individuals learn to coalesce into an organised society.  There is a human drama behind every fact he reveals in his taut, objective prose. His book, covering a previously little researched area of the Pacific War, will appeal to those interested in the wider conflict of which this was a small and poignant part, but the theme underlying it is a larger sociological one, a story of survival and how the most unlikely elements of human society will react with courage and resilience to adversity.  For those like myself, whose grandfather was one of the internees, it brings to vivid life experiences in our family history which those who participated  in them often wanted only to forget. It was a moving experience for me to read this book."