Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (Signals) Christmas photo 1939 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (Signals) Christmas photo 1939

Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (Signals) Christmas photo 1939

This photo is taken from the 1939 Christmas card sent by my uncle Leslie Warren to his family in England. He has drawn a cross over his head. I don't know where the photo was taken but there seems to be a church behind. I also don't know if this photo is already on line, but thought it important to post it in case it contains family members of people who consult the Gwulo site and who may not have survived the war. There must be a list of the names of the people in the Defence Corps, similar to the list of names of people in the Reserve, posted a few days ago. I have had help with enhancing the photo to make the faces clearer.


Names supplied by Peter Braude: Some names for the above photograph from my Father's (Capt A N Braudé) personal records:

Back row, standing on bench:

  • 1a   ?
  • 1b   L Glendenning
  • 1c   N J Booker
  • 1d   G F Walker
  • 1e   G May
  • 1f   K Baxter
  • 1g   J Rose
  • 1h   T Suiter
  • 1i   C L Salter M.M.
  • 1j   L Warren
  • 1k   J Fountain

MIddle row, standing:

  • 2a   Edward Eu
  • 2b   J W Yee (Initially identified as J R Lee, but corrected in the comments below)
  • 2c   B K Yip
  • 2d   R Tam
  • 2e   D W Yee M.M.
  • 2f   G Carr
  • 2g   V Bourne
  • 2h   J Mitchell
  • 2i   S McNider
  • 2j   B Wilson
  • 2k   W S Gegg
  • 2l   C Semellman
  • 2m   N L Smith
  • 2n        ?
  • 2o   S B Tan
  • 2p   W G Poy M.M.
  • 2q   William Eu
  • 2r   K P Wong
  • 2s   J M Chen

Front row, seated:

  • 3a   Sgt W Hirst
  • 3b   Sgt J J King
  • 3c   CSM R Meadows
  • 3d   Capt A N Braudé
  • 3e   CQMS V C Labrun
  • 3f   Sgt A D Coppin
  • 3g   Sgt D Rathmell
  • 3h       ?
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Saturday, November 25, 1939


I think the photo was taken at HKVDF HQ near Lower Albert Road. The distinctive Tower of St. John's Cathedral can be seen in the background. See here

Hi Jill, thanks for uploading this. I've annotated it to make it easier to identify people. Please can you let us know which person is Leslie Warren?

Tony Banham notes that the Corps Signals had two officers and 38 men. There are 38 men in this photo! He also lists a few of the names, see: http://www.hongkongwardiary.com/searchgarrison/hkvdc.html#_Toc113344208

I agree with Moddsey for the location.

Regards, David


Thank you for inserting the annotations.

Leslie Warren is 1j in the top row. You can see the little cross he has marked in the frame above his head. 


Ignorant as I am of military matters, could someone tell me what is protruding from the pockets of signalmen 2p and 2q? At first this article looked to me like a bristly mine, but that must be impossible. Is it a large cable for a radio set? What else did they have to carry?


Hi Jill, I guess it's their gas mask, especially as everyone has one. I think that's the corrugated tube we can see, as shown here: http://www.rjmilitaria.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=18&products_id=121&zenid=jqnfrdqf96pd5d8ruh4aj4v243

Regards, David

Yes-those are the gas mask hoses. I also note that a couple of the men have goggles around their necks-I would guess these men would have been the motorcycle Despatch Riders.

Thank you David and Doug. It's easy to forget that chemical warfare has been around for 99 years. Some of the pouches seemed to me to be bulkier than others, but maybe they had been badly packed. I wasn't sure if 3d was even carrying one. Perhaps he has some sort of seniority that lets him off. 3c to 3f look rather more casual than the rest - perhaps because they aren't balancing guns. Are they normal rifles? I'm not an expert on guns.


I'd say 3C is an officer-that's a "swagger Stick" he has in his lap. Officers, and specialized occupations like those Despatch Riders would only be armed with pistols.


David's earlier reply speculates that this photo represents the full head count of 38 members of the Signal Corps recorded by Tony Banham without the two officers. I'm told that a staff sergeant would be entitled to carry a swagger stick. Philip Cracknell has copied a note from Bill Anderson that answers my question about the unwieldy-looking guns: We were trained to shoot the 303 WWI rifle and that was all.


By email from Henry Ching:

Yes, the photo of the HKVDC Corps Signals would have included the despatch riders.  I think these would have been the ones wearing knee-high boots. Amongst them would have been Cpl William George Poy who was awarded the Military Medal - a Chinese Australian, his daughter Adrienne became Governor-General of Canada. Another despatch rider was Gerald Goodban, Headmaster of the Diocesan Boys’ School, but I am unable to identify him in the photo.

In his book Bill Anderson mentions that they "we were given the venerable British .303 Enfield rifle and also were trained in the army's standard .45 Revolver (Webley) which was never issued to us". I know that other HVDC units issued side-arms to ORs for example the No 2 on a Bren Gun would have a 45 side-arm. Bill elected for Signal Section (Despatch Rider) because he liked the idea of driving a fast BSA motorcycle. 


Philip Cracknell

This one has names attached - click the photo for details:

1941 HKVDC Corps Signals at Fanling

Some names for the above photograph from my Father's (Capt A N Braudé) personal records:

1a    ?                                 2a   Edward Eu

1b   L Glendenning               2b   J R Lee

1c   N J Booker                    2c   B K Yip

1d   G F Walker                   2d   R Tam                                3a   Sgt W Hirst

1e   G May                          2e   D W Yee M.M.                    3b   Sgt J J King

1f   K Baxter                        2f   G Carr                                  3c   CSM R Meadows

1g   J Rose                          2g   V Bourne                             3d   Capt A N Braudé

1h   T Suiter                        2h   J Mitchell                             3e   CQMS V C Labrun

1i   C L Salter M.M.             2i   S McNider                             3f   Sgt A D Coppin

1j   C (L?) Warren                2j   B Wilson                               3g   Sgt D Rathmell

1k   J Fountain                    2k   W S Gegg                            3h       ?

                                          2l   C Semellman

                                         2m   N L Smith

                                         2n        ?

                                         2o   S B Tan

                                         2p   W G Poy M.M.

                                         2q   William Eu

                                         2r   K P Wong

                                         2s   J M Chen


I'll try to find the missing names and the identities of those in other photos.


That's an interesting photo.....3E is Vic Labrum of Ye Olde Printers, and is Martin's grandfather.

It just happens that Martin is over on holiday,so he will be amazed to see this.You probably remember

the book he had inherited that was made for Vic in the Shamshuipo camp.

The Magic Wok is as good as ever we had a chow there with them last week!

Regards Mike

Hello Mike,

Give my regards to Martin. Glad the photo that I posted has Vic Labrum in it. At first I thought you meant the 1941 photo, which isn't mine, but then realized that Peter's crib referred indeed to the 1939 photo.

Look forward to the next Magic Wok - maybe in the autumn? I'm travelling at the moment, so apologies to everyone if I don't respond immediately.




Dear Peter,

This is great information. Thank you very much for adding these names, and for the names on the other photos too. I've added them to the lists below each photo.

Regards, David

And thanks from me too, Peter, for putting names to nearly all the faces in the 1939 HKVDC Christmas photo. If there is already one grateful person, delighted to have his grandfather identified, there will surely be many more. It will also be a much easier task to cross reference with the 1941 photo.


2b   J R Lee is incorrect.  While this picture is rather small. I was able to identify my Uncle.  J R Lee should be J W Yee.  https://gwulo.com/node/22246

His full name is James Waymond Yee.  It is a common mistake that people mistake Yee for Lee.  Waymond is Uncle’s middle name, it was mistaken as Raymond and no one noticed it. Uncle is 3a in the ‘1941 HKVDC Corps Signals at Fanling’ picture.  He was known as Jimmy.

I used the zoom feature and I have no doubt that that 2b is J W Yee.


2e   D W Yee M.M. is correct.  This is my dad, his full name is David William Yee.  Yes, he was decorated with the Military Medal. https://gwulo.com/node/22245

He is 3i in the ‘1941 HKVDC Corps Signals at Fanling’ picture.



Thanks Ed, I've updated the main text with your corrections.

Regards, David