Britain's China Command

Chandar Sundaram's picture

Hello, 

I am seeking information on Britain's China Command, which, as far as I can tell, was formed in 1930 to protect Hong Kong as well as the British concessions in Shanghai and Tientsin (now Tianjin). I am specifically interested in the rationale behind its soundation, as well as how it was regarded by Whitehall in the lead-up to the "Greater East Asia War".

Thank you.

Categories: Query

Not directly related, but worth a look, is the recent PBS/BBC special interviewing (mostly) British actors about their ancestors' experiences in World War II. The Actor Mark Rylance's (of Wolf Hall) episode was about his dad, who was serving in Hong Kong when the war in Asia expanded with Japanese attacks. His dad became a POW.

Unfortunately the show's attempts to be evenhanded allowed a Japanese apologist scholar to make the moral equivalency argument and Rylance bought it. By that I mean equating the millions of already dead Chinese in 1941 with hundreds of thousands of dead Japanese civilians, mostly in the last months of the war in 1945 due to the bombings, conventional and atomic which contributed to the end of the war.

The British CAB series is digitized and might have some upper level stuff for you...Hong Kong was something of a setback for the Japanese Army, even though it eventually prevailed.

vr, John T. Kuehn
PS-who is reading _Tower of Skulls_ by Richard Frank, which also addresses this issue, but perhaps not in the detail you wish.

It seems to me that this issue is indirectly related to the "Tientsin Incident" in the summer of 1939. I recall reading about it when I was first casting about for a dissertation topic many years ago and led me to write about Tianjin in the late imperial period. DC Watt in _How the War Came_ would have made mention of it and I believe that Sebastian Swann treats it in a book _Japan's Imperial Dilemma in China: The Tientsin Incident, 1939-1940_ (probably a published version of his dissertation).

I am also reading Richard Frank but have not finished it and have found it interesting (I am scribbling madly in the margins). It would be interesting to have a discussion about this important book and what it highlights about our knowledge and scholarship regarding the way Western scholarship has treated the Second World War in East and Southeast Asia.

Lewis, It might come up at the Pacific War Panel on May 22 at the MacArthur Memorial session for the Society of Military History conference in Norfolk, VA. Rich Frank, me, Ted Lehmann, and Peter Mansoor are the participants, with me as commentator. Ted and Rich's papers address the Asia-Pacific War, especially the 1941 period but also the issue of World War II starting in Asia. Should be an interesting panel. Maybe someone will ask about Hong Kong. best, John