|George R. Horridge
ICI Employee and World War II Internee
George Redvers Horridge, 1900 - 1981, a biography by John Horridge July 2015.
George Redvers Horridge was born in 1900 and grew up in Wardle, a hamlet near Rochdale, Lancashire, England. His father was supervisor or manager in
a local company printing textiles. They lived at No 7 James St in a 'terrace' or 'row' house surrounded by open fields - the row of houses still stands with
little surrounding development. The row is at right angles to the main road with only a footpath in front of it, at the end of the footpath there is a bowling
green. It seems that James St and any further development was never completed.
George started work at 16 and studied at ’night school’ (higher education) while working for Brunner Mond, a dye manufacturing company in Manchester,
Lancs. He continued working for Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I Ltd.) in Manchester, a part of the massive Brunner Mond merger of four companies in
1926 (Wikipedia). The I.C.I. offices and plant were located in a heavily industrial environment.
He was offered a chance to work in China for I.C.I China Ltd. and took the opportunity to escape the 1930's depression. He travelled extensively setting up
dye works and selling I.C.I. dyestuff products throughout China and Manchuria.
He met Joan Kendall, also working for I.C.I. China, and they got married in 1935 in Hankow, China. They both continued working for I.C.I. China Ltd. and
were posted to various places in China and Manchuria, including Harbin.
At the outbreak of the Pacific War, Joan was evacuated from Hong Kong, travelling by ship for Australia with her daughter Margaret, while pregnant with
her son John. Her parents, both old 'China hands', had retired to live in Cammeray, Sydney. Her father after a life at sea had worked for the Chinese Postal
George followed the family by ship from Shanghai to Hong Kong where he changed ship, however he then only got as far as Manila where all passengers
were sent ashore, the Japanese bombed the harbour and his ship was hit. Trapped in Manila with many others he was first interned at Santo Tomas
University in Manila, then transferred to Los Banos 25 miles from Manila (both civilian POW camps).
He and the 2100 other POWs were liberated by the combined Filipino guerrilla army and American army (air and amphibious) operation at 7 am while the
guards were exercising on 23 February 1945. All prisoners were evacuated from behind enemy lines across Laguna de Bay in amphibious Amtracs. The
operation is said to be perhaps the best planned and executed operation of W.W.2. It is said that the prisoners were in immediate danger of being
massacred by the guards that day after roll call (Wikipedia). It seems he was taken first to an army base on the west coast of the USA for a checkup and
treatment, then repatriated to Sydney where he joined his family.
His knowledge of chemistry and nutrition proved useful in the kitchen gardens to supplement the dwindling food rations; one of his possessions is the
Asia Pacific Ribbon in it’s original box. Officially it was only intended for American military and citizens so it is unclear how he came to be given it since he
was a British subject. From some firsthand accounts it was handed out to POWs (including non-American citizens) in Manila or after repatriation to the
USA. The terrible price of the rescue operation was that 1800 of the local Filipino population who did not evacuate as advised by the guerrillas were
massacred in a brutal Japanese ’reprisal’.
After some prompting and sometime shortly after the war he wrote about his internment in a 5 page typed document ‘My experiences in Manila’. Apart
from this account he spoke very little about his wartime experiences, and avoided rice. There is a certificate signed by 3 members of the Internee
committee on 1st March 1945 confirming his internment and release.
In 1946 he worked for a short time with I.C.I. Australia Ltd. in Sydney, then returned with his family to Shanghai, he continued to work there for I.C.I. China
Ltd. in the dyestuffs division until the entry of communist troops into Shanghai in 1949. He and the family left Shanghai by ship (in a typhoon) for Hong
Kong, where he worked for a number of years before retiring from the China office and returning to work for I.C.I. in Blakley, Manchester where he had
The family lived in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England - about half an hour by road from Manchester. He died peacefully in 1981 followed by his wife Joan in
1996. His daughter Margaret lives in upper New York state and son John in Sydney, Australia.
References: Wikipedia: Raid at Los Banos
MY EXPERIENCES IN MANILA by George R. Horridge.
So many people have asked me about life in an internment camp and if the Japanese ill-treated us, that I have decided to try and give a brief description of
the civilian internment camps as I found them in Los Banos and Manila during my three years of internment also a few notes on how I came to find my way
into internment in Manila.
When war broke out I was on my way from Shanghai to Sydney via Singapore. I left Shanghai on the Anhwei which was one of the last ships to leave and
carried about 500 passengers, most of whom had British passports. The bulk of the passengers were housed in the holds of the ship and slept on bunks
set up in tiers. In Hongkong I transferred to the Anshun, also bound for Singapore, with 200 Chinese deck passengers on board, but with more cabin space
available for European passengers. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour we were south of Haiphong and were instructed by the British Naval
Authorities to make for Philippine waters, which we did.
We arrived in Manila Bay about 8 a.m. and found the Harbour crammed with shipping and more streaming in all the time. At one o'clock the Japanese raided
Cavite Naval Yard with a flight of 27 bombers and a few minutes later another group of similar size sprinkled the harbour with light bombs. Our ship, the
Anshun was hit by two bombs and set afire, three people were killed, and about a score wounded. The next day all passengers were discharged, and the
ship went out into the Bay again. I heard later that this ship sailed the next night along with many others, and finally reached New Guinea. It appears that
she was sunk in Milne Bay and has just recently been raised.
After leaving the Anshun, I managed to get accommodation at the Bay View Hotel where I stayed until the Japanese entered Manila on January 1st. The
American troops evacuated the city and withdrew to Bataan where they held out against the Japs until May 1942. This gave the Japs a free entry into
Manila, which they took over in a perfectly orderly manner. All citizens were asked by the Mayor to destroy stocks of liquor and this order was carried out
by the majority of Europeans.
About 150 of us were confined to the Hotel for 3 days and were then taken to Vlllamore Hall. There we spent one night sleeping on the floor or sitting up on
school benches whichever one preferred. We were given one tin of soup during the 24 hours. Next day we were transferred to St. Tomas University, which
place had been designated as the main civilian internment camp in the Philippines.
St. Tomas was built as a day university and as such was ill suited for the accommodation of 3500 boarders, men, women and children. It cannot be
compared in general layout with universities in Europe or America. Toilet facilities were inadequate, and there were no showers or baths except in the
gymnasium, until we installed them ourselves, and no cooking facilities except those in a small cafeteria which normally supplied ices, cakes, coffee etc. to
the students. There was also no dining room and people had to eat off their beds until dining sheds could be built outside.
One of the worst features was the overcrowding and the lack of privacy. Eighteen inches between beds was the order in the men's rooms, but the women
managed to get a little more room, although even so there was little room in which to dress.
Fortunately for some of the Internees, certain filipinos with an eye to business brought a number of camp beds and odd mattresses to the railings round
the camp and found no difficulty in finding buyers. The Japanese made not the slightest attempt to provide any beds or bedding whatsoever, and many
internees slept on the concrete floor for weeks until sufficient wood could be brought into camp to make rough beds. The fortunate ones were those who
had Spanish, filipino, or neutral friends in Manila, who were later able to send in proper mattresses to their internee friends.
I feel that we were lucky in that for the first eighteen months the camp was run by the Department of Japanese External Affairs, which meant that civilians
were in charge of the running of the camp. The commandants and general staff were reasonable in their attitude towards the internees, but the daily
allowance to cover food, lighting, gas and medical expenses was always inadequate, and therefore only two meals a day were served for months.
This was no particular hardship for those who brought money with them or were able to get money smuggled in(and the latter ran into hundreds of
thousands of pesos, much of it borrowed at very high rates of interest), because a daily package line was organised at the main gate of the camp. As you
can imagine, this system was of tremendous assistance in spite of the fact that every package was thoroughly searched. Liquor was strictly forbidden, but
even so quite a few bottles were smuggled into the camp. This was always a source of possible trouble between the internees and the guards, and so the
Internees organised their own strong arm squad and detention room.
A canteen was set up inside the camp for the sale of soap, tobacco, medicinal products and sundries, and a number of selected natives were allowed in
the camp to sell fruit and vegetables. The canteen did a brisk business during the first twelve months, but as. stocks of almost everything began to run
out, prices rose, and business dropped considerably. It should he remembered that before the war the Philippines manufactured practically nothing
except cigars and cigarettes, and even in foodstuffs, including meat, milk, butter and cheese, their imports were enormous.
Nobody was allowed outside the sleeping quarters between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., but later this was changed to 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Roll call was taken
every day by the monitor of each section who was responsible for each man in that section.
All the work in the camp was done by the internees, this included all cooking and kitchen work, handling of garbage, gardening etc. With reasonable food
this work was not over-strenuous, and many people had lots of time on their hands for the study of all manner of subjects. Schools were started for the
children, with afternoon and evening classes for adults. It did not take the internees long to organise small variety shows and concerts, and these,
together with gramophone records which were broadcast through a loud speaker in the grounds of the college, were a great help in killing the boredom of
Softball, soccer, and a modified form of American football were regularly played (except in the wet season) in the college grounds, which boasted two
football pitches. The bulk of the internees were American nationals, but there were also something like 500 Britishers, 30 Dutch and a few other odd
nationals interned in St. Tomas.
Missionaries of all creeds were allowed to live in Manila and suburbs, provided they signed a document promising to co-operate with the Japanese
authorities, and kept more or less to their various institutes and compounds. In June 1944, however, about 500 of these, including nuns and priests, were
interned in Los Banos, and in this respect they were rather fortunate, because many of those who remained outside the camps lost their lives in the final
battle for Manila, many being murdered in cold blood.
One of the big concessions by the authorities, which eased the crowded living quarters, was that of allowing internees to build wood or bamboo shacks in
the college grounds at St. Tomas, and some 300 were built These shacks had to be vacated by 7 p.m., but were nevertheless a boon to families as the
dormitories occupied by women and children were at times something akin to a bear garden.
Clothing became a problem after the first year or so, but the climate is friendly in this respect, and only light clothing is necessary. It also means that cold
baths and showers can be taken with real pleasure all the year round. The minimum night temperature in Manila is about 71 deg F, and the maximum day
temperature 97 deg F.
We were fortunate in having a number of civilian doctors interned with us and they soon started operating a small hospital in a building formerly occupied
by Catholic sisters adjacent to the camp. One shipment of medical supplies arrived from the International Red Cross and this proved most useful,
particularly as it contained a large quantity of vitamin tablets, which came in very handy towards the end. We were also lucky in having with us about 30
American Army and 12 Navy nurses, who were taken prisoner on Corregidor Island in May 1942. When they came into camp they were in good health and as
far as I am aware had not been molested.
The size of the whole college compound was about 250 yards by 300 yards.
During the first eighteen months the Japanese interfered very little with the life of the internees, but little by little more pressure was brought to bear by
the military authorities, who finally took complete charge and from then onwards the conditions became very much worse, particularly as regards food and
supplies. The package line was stopped, and no contact with the outside world was permitted except in the form of very infrequent messages.
I think the lack of news from friends and relatives was one of the worst features, and in the three years of internment I received only 3 letters from my
wife, although she wrote regularly. In the first 2 years we were only allowed to write 3 letters, but during the last 8 months we were allowed 25 words per
month in messages. Some people received rather more letters, but they were anything up to 18 months old.
One problem which cropped up and which caused a considerable amount of trouble, was that of internees recognising all Japanese officers in the camp
with the customary bow. Time and time again the internees were accused of deliberate discourtesy in that they failed to recognise and in many cases
deliberately turned away when Jap officers approached. The internees always pleaded ignorance and argued that the custom was foreign to them, but in
the end it became evident that we had to comply with the Japanese ideas or lose some privileges. St. Tomas was always more sticky than Los Banos in this
matter, and all internees had to bow when lined up for roll call in the morning.
One Japanese-sponsored newspaper, published in Manila in English, was allowed in the camp during the first 2 years, but this was so full of badly written
propaganda as to be practically useless. As can be well imagined, rumour in the camp was rife, and although correct news did come into the camp in
devious ways, it was difficult to sort out the good from the bad. Nevertheless, in spite of the lack of proper news the general spirit and morale of the camp
during the first eighteen months was extremely high and it must have surprised the Japanese somewhat. Part of this was due to the feeling of confidence
that the Allies in the long run would finally blast the Japanese to pieces, once things really got under way. The only difference was about the length of time
necessary to carry this out. There were a number of optimists who went about with the slogan "Help is on the way" and were quite sure that the Philippines
would be retaken in three months.
As most people are aware, there were two groups of civilians repatriated from the Far East, and a number of these came from St. Tomas camp in Manila.
The Japanese merely announced a list of names, practically all American, and there was nothing that could be done about the aged and sick. The first ship
took quite a number of consular employees, and this was understandable under international law, but the second took mostly business men and their
wives, some of whom had lived in Manila all their lives and had never been to the States. Public indignation in the camp was at fever pitch, as it was
generally realised that strings had been pulled in Washington on behalf of certain individuals by big business interests, and there was also strong
suspicion that others had stooped to boot licking and bribery with the Japs in order to get out.
In May 1943 we were told that 800 men would have to go to Los Banos to start a new camp. This camp was later extended to 2000, and included wives and
families. The site was part of an agricultural college 40 miles south of Manila, and we were housed at first in the Gymnasium (500), some in wooden
bungalows and wooden cottages. We had to build our own outdoor kitchens, where we cooked rice and stews. No flour was supplied and we had no
ovens. It is surprising what can be done in a large open iron pan. One can fry rice and make a good pot roast, if the meat is available.
Soon after we arrived the natives started to build a number of native-type barracks, wooden frames with palm leaf roofs, matting sides. No proper toilets
and showers were provided. We protested strongly, and these last two were rectified. Even so, the typhoon risk was ever present, In fact, the first barrack
was blown down as soon as it was built. The only point in our favour was that the barracks were cool and families were allowed to live together.
We had plenty of food at first, and we had a canteen where we could buy fruit, eggs, peanut butter, rice flour, oil etc. This was all right as long as one was
able to get money, but this was not easy. Contact with Manila and the outside was cut off completely. Then, of course, prices started to rise rapidly
because of the huge circulation of Army notes, and to crown all our canteen purchases were cut severely, although there seemed to be plenty of
foodstuffs in the surrounding districts. Coconuts were the most useful of these. The meat was grated for breakfast, this same meat was pressed to get
milk for cereals and coffee, and oil was extracted for cooking and for soap making. The alkali for this process came from wood ashes. People became
expert at frying cold porridge, making hot cakes from rice flour, and sundry other makeshift dishes.
Unfortunately things became more and more restricted, food became scarce, prices continued to soar, eggs went up to 17 pesos each, coconut oil 66
pesos per litre etc. Our money was confiscated and given back to us at the rate of 50 pesos per month, (l pesos = 3/-d.) This meant that one could buy
practically nothing in the canteen. We were always hoping for comfort boxes from home, but these only came once a year. However, when they did arrive
they were usually fairly big and with care lasted quite a time. What a sight for sore eyes to see six cans of bully-beef, two of salmon, six little tins of butter,
two half-pounds of cheese, raisins, prunes, etc., and, of course, chocolate.
At this same time we had a change of personnel, who thought we were getting too much food for war prisoners, so our regular camp food began to get
less and less. About July it was around 900 grams a day (100 grams = 3 1/2 ozs.), including 200 grams of vegetables, 100 grams of coconut. There should
have been 100 grams of meat also, but this was only on the list, and never appeared except on rare occasions and then was just enough to make a watery
soup. 40 lbs. of meat amongst 2000 people doesn't go very far. (Early in 1943 this was the number in Los Banos). The pity of it all was that there was room in
the college grounds for us to keep a few cattle, ducks, hens, pigs etc., and the college had a dairy farm running all the time we were there, but the milk
was not for us, or the babies, or our hospital. The only livestock we were allowed to keep were pigs, and these were starved for want of proper food. Food
was so scarce that there was literally not enough garbage to feed these pigs properly.
The food ration was reduced again and again on the grounds that transportation was difficult and prices high. Our total ration of grain dropped to 300
grams per day (10 1/2 ozs.), and coconuts dropped to practically nil. This grain ration was finally reduced in February to 200 grams (7 ozs.) per day. No corn,
no oil, eggs, meat, nothing except some potato tops (sweet potato); which we used as greens and such additional greens as we were able to grow in our
limited garden space.
Forced labour scheme - Our boundaries in Los Banos camp were constantly being changed. The Japs took all the permanent buildings including the
Gymnasium and the larger part of our gardens, saying that these were wanted for a military hospital. This meant that we also lost our playing field. Food, as
stated above, had become a very real problem, and the Japs, knowing this, offered us new unbroken ground in the dry season for gardens, and suggested
that we supplement our food ration. We pointed to the physical condition of the internees in general, and told them that many were simply unfit to do
heavy manual labour, (our wood choppers at this stage had to be given a mid-day meal out of our own small rations in order to keep them going.) The Japs
replied that they would offer all gardeners an extra 100 grams of rice a day for 5 hours work breaking new ground. There was nothing much that we could
do about it, and about 150 tackled the job, although the doctors warned us that we would use up much more energy than the extra rice would provide. I
tried it out for 3 weeks on the argument that it was better to be out in the open doing something to kill time, rather than sit in the barracks waiting for the
4.30 meal which seemed like an age. The extra 3 1/2 ozs. of rice did at least provide some sort of a lunch.
Fortunately this unhappy state of affairs was ended by the timely arrival of U.S. rescue party who risked their lives in getting us out of this spot which at
the time was 26 miles behind the Jap perimeter, south of Manila. I take off my hat to the officers who planned this raid and to the men who carried it out,
also the filipino guerrillas who overpowered the guards around the camp at the right moment and gave them no chance to turn on the internees.
There happens to be a very large lake in this area which stretched to within half a mile of the camp at one point, and this was the crux of the whole plan.
For about three weeks we had received reports by devious channels that practically the whole of Manila had fallen to the United States forces, and this
was confirmed by the flashes of guns we saw in the distance at night and by the sound of heavy bombing raids during the daytime, all coming from the
direction of Manila, We also saw lots of American bombers and carrier-borne planes passing close to the camp. These pilots soon realised that the Japs
had practically no anti-aircraft guns in the vicinity of our camp, and so they dived and strafed the roads in the area with machine gun fire. What a fine sight
it was after all those months of waiting. Naturally, the temper of our captors did not improve, and it was just a question of wait and see. This is what actually
happened (23rd Feb 1945). We were all waiting around the barrack for the Jap interpreter to come and take the 7 a.m. roll call, when somebody spotted
transport planes flying low over the lake. Suddenly paratroops, began to drop out about a mile from the camp, but there were only 120 in all. This naturally
quickened the pulse a little, but this was livened up still further when somebody else saw scores of filipinos creeping down the hill behind the camp, partly
hidden in odd patches of corn.
A few seconds later pandemonium broke loose as the Jap guards spotted these lads and opened fire with rifles from their protected guard posts round
the camp. I happened to be in the topmost barrack nearest the wire and we got a real closeup of the fight which ensued. There were about six to eight
Japs in each post, but the filipinos who seemed to revel in the fight shot them up in about 20 minutes. The only safe spot was on the ground, and it is
surprising how quickly even the older folks can get down when they have to. Soon the filipinos were running in and out of the barracks, looking for
additional Japanese, They had modern rifles and their usual jungle knives, but no uniforms except a pair of khaki shorts and an odd dark-coloured shirt,
Amongst this raiding party were five internees who had managed to escape during the previous three weeks. All except one Britisher could speak the
native dialect. Not a single Jap was taken prisoner, and the quartermaster, who was responsible for our starved condition, was caught, according to the
guerrillas, hiding behind a piano. They had had many reports about this particular Jap and so they finished him off in double quick time.
An American soldier then poked his head in the barrack and told us to get whatever papers we possessed and go down to the old playing field. What a
sight for sore eyes when we got there. About 70 amphibians with open tops were lines up in rows ready to take us out and down the lake towards Manila,
As these monsters waddled out of the camp I looked around and saw the barracks in flames. There went the last of my belongings, but It didn't seem to
matter a damn.
We naturally expected that some hidden Jap guns would open fire as we got out towards the middle of the lake, but only one Jap machine gun started up
as we got to the lake side, and he only lasted about 15 seconds. Those fighter planes had done a good job and had previously bombed all the Jap gun
positions in the vicinity. They also patrolled the roads during our getaway, and so stopped any movement of Jap troops. A number of Jeeps were also put
ashore by the amphibians on the way to the camp and these stopped any local interference. It took about
1 1/2 hours to get down the lake and then we put our feet once again on friendly soil. There was real food again, real bread and butter, these we hadn't
seen for nearly three years, eggs, milk and real coffee with any amount of sugar. The sense of relief in being free again was indescribable.
We were then taken to a Base Hospital camp about 12 miles outside Manila, and fattened up for the journey home. Many of the older people were still in
convalescent wards when I left, just having a good and well-earned rest. Although there were only two certified deaths from malnutrition in the camp, a
number died from the result of ordinary operations as they had not the strength to recover. About 30% suffered from beri- beri in a visible form, that is,
swelling of feet and ankles. I only saw part of Manila on my way out, but it was badly shattered and will take a long time to rebuild. Many of the buildings
still standing were gutted with fire, and the water supply was off in half the town. There was no doubting the look in the faces of the natives. They also had
had enough of the Japanese and their co-prosperity sphere in East Asia.
ColorantsHistory.Org is grateful to John Horridge for contributing valuable information about the career of George R. Horridge with ICI and his
experiences as a WW II internee in Manila.
|New textile factory in China ca. 1930s. Perhaps it is the Mien Wha Thread Co. Ltd. in Shanghai, which the J & P Coats Co. (UK) setup in 1934.
George R. Horridge may have provided technical support from ICI on the startup of dyeing equipment. Photos courtesy of John Horridge.
ICI China Ltd. letter of July 9, 1940 advising offices in the Far East of war precautions for British staff. Courtesy of John Horridge.
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