Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hong Kong, December 24

Thursday, Christmas Eve

It's another sunny morning, and I find a couple of hours to finish buying Christmas presents in Pacific Place, just below the Marriott. Today's big event is the 3pm opening of "Escape from Hong Kong: The Road to Waichow" at the Museum of Coastal Defence in Shau Kei Wan. This unique museum was created from an old fortified position at Lyemun, overlooking the channel at the northeast of Hong Kong Island which the Japanese crossed to invade the island in 1941.

Roxana at the Museum of Coastal Defence entrance

We were thrilled that the museum agreed to host a special exhibition with HERO. We have brought together for the first time diaries, letters, old uniforms, medals and other memorabilia loaned by HERO families, to tell the story of the escape to a wider public. Everyone on the HERO committee has contributed to making the exhibition a success, but it's our museum liaison, Alison McEwan, and her husband Tim Luard, who've been absolutely tireless in working with the wonderful staff of the museum to create the narrative for the show and assemble all the items in it. Tim has put together a marvelous audio diary of the escape, traveling far and wide to record a dozen different descendants reading extracts from their relative's letters or diaries. Warwick Ross has created a stunning 12-minute video, which will run in the display area, and (as we soon discover) is also an enormous attraction. HERO Chairman, Richard Hide, has overseen the faithful construction of a scale model of MTB 07, another highlight of the show.

Committee members arrive an hour before the official opening to be available for the local press. We're delighted by the turnout of photographers and reporters - here I'm being interviewed in the tunnel at the entrance to our show by a radio Hong Kong reporter.

It's an exciting moment to get our first glimpse of the exhibition which we've been planning for a year. It'll be on display until December 31, 2011 and we hope that lots of people go and see it.

It's equally exciting to enjoy the opening ceremony among a large crowd of HERO members and the Hong Kong friends we've invited. Our 'officiating guests' are Neale Jagoe, the British Deputy Consul-General (who's been a great support all along), and Kay Collingwood, who at nearly 90 is the only first generation participant in the re-
enactment. Her husband, Lt. C. John Collingwood, was the captain of MTB 11. Joining them on the platform to make the opening speeches are HERO President, Donald Chan and the Chief Curator of the HK Museum of History, Esa Leung.

Opening ceremony in the redoubt

Guests stay long after the formal opening to explore the exhibition and chat. It's great to see old friends who've made a special effort on a busy Christmas Eve to come to our event, and it's also the first chance for me to meet HERO members like the Admiral's daughters, Paula, Anita and Diana.

We get taxis back to Central, and our family enjoys a Christmas Eve dinner at the Kee Club in SoHo - an exquisite meal. Then it's back to our temporary home at the Marriott for Mike and me to wrap presents and play Santa, while Roxie and Gina meet up with all the other young HEROs for a night of revelry in Lan Kwai Fong. The streets and bars are packed, with a heavy police presence to keep order, and everybody (so I hear) has a great time!

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