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The Lone Flag

Memoir of the British Consul in Macao during World War II

John Pownall Reeves, edited by Colin Day and Richard Garrett

Publication Year: 2014

When Hong Kong fell to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941 Macao was left as a tiny isolated enclave on the China Coast surrounded by Japanese-held territory. As a Portuguese colony, Macao was neutral, and John Reeves, the British Consul, could remain there and continue his work despite being surrounded in all directions by his country's enemy. His main task was to provide relief to the 9,000 or more people who crossed the Pearl River from Hong Kong to take refuge in Macao and who had a claim for support from the British Consul. The core of this book is John Reeves' memoir of those extraordinary years and of his tireless efforts to provide food, shelter and medical care for the refugees. He coped with these challenges as Macao's own people faced starvation. Despite Macao's neutrality, it was thoroughly infiltrated by Japanese agents and, marked for assassination, Reeves had to have armed guards as he went about his business. He also had to navigate the complexities of multiple intelligence agencies—British, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese Nationalist—in a place that was described as the Casablanca of the Far East.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Introduction

Colin Day

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pp. ix-xviii

John Pownall Reeves was British consul in the beleaguered Portuguese colony of Macao from 1941 to 1946. Immediately aft er leaving Macao for home leave and during his next posting (in Rome), he wrote an account of his extraordinary years in that neutral enclave, which was surrounded by Japanese-held territory...

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Macao during World War II

Richard Garrett

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pp. xix-xxviii

In early 1942, the British consulate in Macao stood alone as the only British mission between India and Australia. Th e Japanese were in control of the Far East and despite claims to be freeing Asia from European oppression, they had become the oppressors. John Reeves was the sole British offi cial left in the area...

The Lone Flag

John Pownall Reeves

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pp. 3-8

After I had written some chapters of this book of very personal reminiscence I showed them to a friend in the Embassy where I was serving, sufficiently a friend to be really candid. He said he found it interesting but made this criticism. “You take”, he said, “the Consular Service for granted...

The Song of the Second Secretary

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pp. 9-10

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Chapter I: The Beginning

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pp. 11-14

The unbelievable had happened, the unbelievable inevitable, and Japan had attacked. True enough we had all realized that she would, sooner or later, but I, for one, had placed the attack inaccurately; I had expected it between Christmas and New Year 1941 when, I argued wrongly, the Japanese would...

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Chapter II: Getting Going

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pp. 15-20

This state of coma lasted quite a long while broken only by the arrival of SS Perla,1 a Portuguese vessel which was given permission by the Japanese to evacuate some Portuguese citizens from Hongkong to Macao. The Governor, who had issued instructions to that effect, had told me that my...

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Chapter III: “The Situation”

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pp. 21-30

The situation was now not a little interesting. My flag, floating next door to the Japanese Consul’s, was the only Allied flag, apart from Chinese, for some distance, west to Yunnan and Chungking over 700 miles, north to Vladivostok 1,800, east into the Pacific some 4,000(?) miles, southeast to...

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Chapter IV: Organization

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pp. 31-40

Things soon started moving and we had a foretaste of what was to come when we had a request from the Red Cross for a list of all casualties and internees in our district. Our “district” was by then no small one but we set to work as best we could be questioning refugees and anyone else we could...

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Chapter V: Parochial

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pp. 41-48

Supposing we change the subject and get right out of the office. Macao has been variously known as the gambling hell of the Far East or the Pearl of the Orient. Similarly there has been great play on the subject of its opium “dens” almost as, with more modern habits, one might refer to a chemist’s shop as an aspirin “den”; the third industry of Macao facetiously...

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Chapter VI: Relief

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pp. 49-60

Let us return to our refugees and their problems and see how they were looked after. Some of them, I am afraid, would deny, or try to deny that they were looked after at all but it is the lot of the public official, all over the world, sometimes to have to take unpopular decisions, sometimes against...

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Chapter VII: Medical

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pp. 61-70

The Clinic had a hard career. It moved so many times that I was never quite sure till the end where it was. And it started, like everything else, almost by chance. It was obvious from the beginning that the Government medical service could not possibly cope with the problem with the best will in the world. It must be remembered that there were not many doctors and these were...

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Chapter VIII: Other Countries’ Interests

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pp. 71-78

The biggest individual group of nationals was, not unnaturally, the American, apart from the British; the majority were from the Philippines or from Hawaii though there were a few continental Americans divided between the religious denominations of missionaries and Pan-American employees...

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Chapter IX: Morale

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pp. 79-90

This is a difficult subject to tackle but obviously needs a chapter to itself since it plays such an enormous part in the well-being of refugees. It is, further, entertaining in that it covers so many facets of existence. Imagine yourself as a refugee arriving in a place that is strange to you, where you...

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Chapter X: Thrills, More or Less

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pp. 91-108

There were times when I was, as it were, half buried; that is to say that part of my activities were underground while the rest were open for all to see. There was quite an atmosphere of espionage and counter-espionage in Macao, some of it purely comic opera and the rest in deadly earnest. This...

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Chapter XI: Odds and Ends

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pp. 109-120

Naturally various things happened during these years which do not exactly come under any of my chapter headings. So this chapter will be what service signallers would call “unclassified”. There was, for instance, the Milk Board, started by my wife to try and get the children adequate supplies of milk. For this, since it was chiefly the...

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Chapter XII: Post-War

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pp. 121-138

I had a nice new big flag.1 I had let it be known that this flag would go up only when Victory was confirmed, by which I meant when the B.B.C. announced it (and that is the way the whole population felt; “If the B.B.C. says so, it is so.”). And then at 7.45 Macao time came the announcement...

Appendix 1

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pp. 139-140

Appendix 2

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pp. 141-142

Appendix 3

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pp. 143-146

Appendix 4

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pp. 147-150

Appendix 5

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pp. 151-152

Appendix 6

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pp. 153-154

Appendix 7

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pp. 155-158

Appendix 8

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pp. 159-160

Appendix 9

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pp. 161-162

Appendix 10

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pp. 163-164

Appendix 11

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pp. 165-166

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About 'The Lone Flag' and John Pownall Reeves

David Calthorpe

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pp. 167-180

Time is a great healer, so it is said, but it is so oft en the case that healing, and the march of history, obliterates many memories of valiant works. So it has been for John Pownall Reeves, His Britannic Majesty’s Consul in Macao, during the dark days of World War II. His lone flag had fl own from the consular roof, only to be...


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pp. 181-198


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pp. 199-214

E-ISBN-13: 9789888268375
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888208326

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 8 b/w & 7 colour illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1