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  • Christina Drummond

Captain Douglas Ford GC, the Royal Scots; Colonel Lanceray Arthur Newnham GC, MC, the Middlesex Reg

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1943, Captain Douglas Ford GC, the Royal Scots, Colonel Lanceray (Lance) Arthur Newnham GC, MC, the Middlesex Regiment, and Flight Lieutenant Hector Bertram Gray GC, Royal Air Force, were executed by the Japanese at Sham Shui prison camp after the fall of Hong Kong. They had been interrogated, starved and tortured over a period of several months before being shot together by firing squad. They are buried in the Stanley Military Cemetery in Hong Kong. (Captain Ford’s photograph required attribution:

Captain Ford was a chartered accountancy student and a member of the O.T.C. at Edinburgh University when war broke out. He joined the Royal Scots, was commissioned and sent to Hong Kong, where he served with his older brother, also a captain with the Royal Scots. They were taken prisoner by the invading Japanese in December of 1941, and during his captivity Captain Ford made contact with British agents and planned, with other officers, a major break-out. The Japanese became suspicious and interrogated him, yet even though mistreated for months he refused to give them any information whatsoever. He was therefore sentenced to death and forced to dig his own grave before being shot. He was awarded the George Cross posthumously, the citation noted: “Throughout his terrible ordeal, the behaviour of Captain Ford was superb. He refused to implicate any others. He maintained his spirits and those of his fellow prisoners until the end. His self-control, superb heroism, and self-sacrifice in face of the most brutal torture cannot have been surpassed.” King George VI approved the award “in recognition of the most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.” Douglas, from Galashiels, was 25 years old.

Colonel Newnham was born in India during his father’s British Army service there in the 1880s. He had served in the Great War, first being deployed to France to join the British Expeditionary Force as a Captain with the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own) in August of 1915. Six months later he was appointed as the Brigade Major, 169th (Infantry) Brigade, 56th (London) Division, Territorial Force. He held that post through the Somme Offensive in 1916, and the Arras Offensive of 1917, after which he served for several months as General Staff Officer 2nd Class at the New Zealand Divisional Headquarters. In January of 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross for service during the Great War. At the start of the second world war he was serving with the British Army Aid Group in British Hong Kong and was taken prisoner when the Japanese invaded. He assisted with the organization of a mass escape and thus bravely faced the same treatment as Captain Ford in Stanley Prison before being executed, having refused to give up his comrades. Lance, from Finchley, was 44 years old and married.

Flight Lieutenant Gray, the son of a musician, had joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraft apprentice. In November of 1938 he was a Sergeant Pilot with the RAF Long Range Development Flight and the radio operator/mechanic in one of three Vickers Wellesley bombers that flew non-stop for two days from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin, Australia, setting a world distance record. The Wellesley's record remained unbroken until late1945 but it remains the longest by a single engined aircraft. He was awarded the Air Force Medal for that flight. He was also awarded the posthumous George Cross “in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.” He had been smuggling medicine into the prisoner-of-war camp for the many seriously ill prisoners there, and he also provided them news from the outside world. When this was discovered he was taken prisoner, interrogated and tortured for several months, refusing to divulge any information whatsoever, before being executed. Hector, from Gillingham in Kent, was 32 years old.

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