Escape from the Japanese - The Amazing Story of a PoW's Journey from Hong Kong to Freedom, Lt. Cmdr Ralph Burton Goodwin

Escape from the Japanese - The Amazing Story of a PoW's Journey from Hong Kong to Freedom, Lt. Cmdr Ralph Burton Goodwin

Lt. Cmdr Ralph Burton Goodwin was a Royal Navy officer who was recovering from an injury in hospital when Hong Kong surrendered, and was thus unable to take part in the final Naval escape from the colony. He was then held in captivity in the Hong Kong area for two and a half years, before a chance to escape finally occurred. After escaping from the camp, his next problem was to cross the incredibly difficult terrain around Hong Kong, crossing mountain ridges in the dark and rain.

The camp escape section is fairly familiar territory, although with a twist in that the camp was on the coast, so he was able to swim to relative safety. The evasion section is very different to the standard European version. Quite close to Hong Kong the author reached an area controlled by the Chinese Communists. Many European escapers also found their way into the hands of the local Resistance, but they were still in occupied territory. Here the Communists controlled entire areas close to Hong Kong, so although there was a chance of recapture on occasion, it wasn't as severe as in German-occupied Europe. Within three weeks of escaping from the camp, Goodwin had reached the British Army Aid Group, and was thus back in Allied hands.

This didn't end his journey, as the final Japanese offensive in China forced the group to move him west quite quickly, but it does give a very different feel to this part of the story. Instead of the normal tales of close calls, Gestapo men on trains and so forth, we get an account of a journey across wartime China, ending at the distant Nationalist capital of Kunming. Goodwin was very impressed with almost everyone he met, with the exception of the senior Nationalist leadership, who he found to be corrupt and incompetent.

This is a truly fascinating read, with three separate areas of interest - an account of the terrible conditions within the POW camps at Hong Kong, the escape itself and finally the journey across China - and provides some valuable insights into the war in China.

1 - War Comes to Hong Kong
2 - Prisoners of War
3 - Shamsuipo Camp
4 - Escape
5 - Shamsuipo to Shatin
6 - Shatin to Shataokok
7 - Shataokok to end of Solo Journey
8 - The East River Striking Force, Kwangtung Peoples' Anti-Japanese Guerilla Unit
9 - Pingshan to Waichow: The British Army Aid Group
10 - Waichow to Kukong
11 - Kukong to Kweilin
12 - Kweilin to Kunming
13 - Kunming to New Delhi
14 - Kandy, Australia and Home

Appendix I: Escape Kit
Appendix II; Anglicised Chinese words

Author: Lt. Cmdr Ralph Burton Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2015 edition of 1953 original

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