My heroine, Kate, falls in love with Charles when she is fifteen and has been interned with her parents by the Japanese in the Stanley Internment Camp. About 2,800 men, women, and children were held at the non-segregated camp for 44 months from early January 1942 to August 1945 when Japanese forces surrendered. My own grandparents were interned in the same camp.
On 8 December 1941, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong, marking the start of the Battle of Hong Kong. Seventeen days later, on Christmas Day of 1941, which came to be known as “Black Christmas”, the Hong Kong government surrendered, and Hong Kong came under Japanese occupation.
The Stanley site was chosen by the Japanese through consultation with two Hong Kong government officials, the Director of Medical Services, and the Colonial Secretary. Located on Stanley Peninsula, which was about nine kilometres from the city at the time, the camp consisted of St. Stephen’s College and the grounds of Stanley Prison.
The Japanese forces had not made plans for dealing with enemy civilians in Hong Kong. As such, the camp was provided with few necessities, and the internees were left to govern the camp themselves. Committees were formed for such matters as housing, food, and medical care.
The biggest concern was food; ensuring there was enough food occupied most of the internees’ time. Little food was provided by the Japanese authorities, and it was of poor quality — frequently containing dust, mud, rat and cockroach excreta, cigarette ends, and sometimes dead rats.
St. Stephen’s College was re-opened in 1945 after the war. St. Stephen’s Chapel was built on the grounds of the school in 1950; the memorial window over its west door was a donation, serving to remember the suffering at Stanley Internment Camp.