John Cecil CONDER (aka Jack) [1907-1976] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

John Cecil CONDER (aka Jack) [1907-1976]

John Cecil
Alias / nickname: 
Birthplace (town, state): 
Plaistow, Essex
Birthplace (country): 

Notes from contributor 1314:

John Cecil CONDER aka Jack Conder, born Plaistow,Essex in  1907,served with HM Forces in Shanghai and then 1928 - 1931 as member of the Shanghai Municipal Police.

See also which has a photo - Google has a chinese article which alludes to him being an employee of Butterfield's in China in 1944.

The HKPL have an RTHK interview with him, recorded in 1968. The most remarkable part is where he says he escaped from Japanese internment camp to get away from his wife! Some highlights from the interview:

  • Born the 13th child of 13!
  • 1925 - Joined army, RAMC
  • 1927, 28th Jan - Embarked on ship from UK to HK. Stayed in the Peninsula Hotel for a few days, then boarded another ship to Shanghai. ((Between completion of the structure of the Peninsula Hotel, and its final fitting out and opening as a hotel, it was temporarily used to accomodate British troops.)) British army was protecting the International Settlement in Shanghai. Aged 19.
  • 1928, Oct 1st. Finished Army service, joined Shanghai Police.
  • c. 1931 After three years, left police and joined Shanghai Gas Company. Stayed with them for over 8 years.
  • 1939 Left Shanghai and went to Australia, but didn't stay. Returned to Asia, joined Butterfield & Swires and back to Shanghai.
  • c.1943 Interned with his wife, son & daughter. He stayed in camp for 6 months and 10 days then escaped. Said the reason he escaped was because he was experiencing "domestic friction", but the Japanese refused to allow him to move to another camp.
  • Met nationalist guerillas and stayed with them for several months.
  • 1944, April. Arrived in Kweilin and met the BAAG. Became a Captain with the BAAG.
  • c.1946 After WW2, first job was as manager of Red Lion pub in Kowloon where he learned to run a pub. 
  • 1957. Went home to UK for first time in 30 years. Saw mother, brothers & sisters. Visited Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark and Guinness Brewery in Dublin.
  • ???? Opened a bar in Queen's Road Central.
  • ???? Had to get out of old establishment. Bought the new place in Kowloon, and it came with extra land. So set up a bowling alley there.

The full recording is at:

Photos that show this person


[Update, 2019:  Much of the information in part 2 about Conder's internment and escape from Lungwha camp originally appeared in Greg Leck's book, Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945.]

Thanks to Brian Coak for this write-up of Jack Conder's life. Amazingly, Brian was able to locate a copy of the letter that Conder wrote to the Japanese commander of the internment camp he was in at Shanghai, explaining why he had to escape!

Here is Brian's introduction:

[Conder's] escape from the Shanghai Lungwha Japanese Internment Camp is well known. It is also known that before Jack went AWOL over the wire he wrote a letter of apology left with the Japanese Commandant. When I was researching Conder's history of internment and the escape the only thing missing was a copy of the letter of apology. It took me about seven years before I could find the letter of 1943! Eventually I tracked it down! A copy of the letter is shown in the escape story and more is in four parts "Escape from Shanghai 1943".

And here's the story:

As a great niece of Jack who never met him (his mother was my great grandmother on my father's side; Jack's father was her second husband; Jack's half brother William Bryant was my grandfather) I have been utterly fascninated to read about Jack and listen to his voice.  My father met him once when he visited England in the 50's and as children we  heard about his restaurant in Hong Kong.  My sister (who found the link) and I were doing some research into my father's relatives and we were so amazed to find out how famous Jack was.  Many thanks for this fascinating story.

Thanks Frances, I'm very glad you found this page and enjoyed learning more about Jack. I'll let Brian Coak know too.

Regards, David

These photos ( modified screen grabs from Google Maps) have the site of the former CONDER's Bar marked on them.

CONDER'S Bar ,Kowloon - Former Location - Luen Wan St.
CONDER'S Bar ,Kowloon - Former Location - Luen Wan St., by Chinarail



CONDER'S Bar ,Kowloon - Former  Location as seen from Argyle St.
CONDER'S Bar ,Kowloon - Former Location as seen from Argyle St., by Chinarail

 The site of the former CONDER'S Bar located on Luen Wan St. near the corner of Argyle Street, Mon Kok.  The open site was owned by the KCR Corporation, which granted a lease to John Cecil "Jack " Conder . On the opposite side of Luen Wan Street was a row of terraced cottages provided for KCR workers . 

The entrance to the bar was through the building's side entrance ,which was immediate adjacent to the large Banyan tree still in situe. To the right of the bar was the kitchen and toilets and beyond this was the bowling alley, worked manually by young boys .

There was always plenty of free parking around the building in the early 1970s. It was one of my favourite pubs because they sold Bulmer's English cider. ( it was rare for bars to stock cider in those days) 

Following Jack's death his wife was unable to renew the lease on the premises because Mong Kok Station ( now Mong Kok East) was under redevelopment and it was stated that the site would be needed. As we now see, the site has never been developed and is still occupied by a temporary public car park. So sad to see the demise of a fine "Institution" . After Jack's wife was booted out, the family initially leased a nearby  property on Argyle Street at the corner of Victory Avenue , if my memory serves me correctly ; it was named "KADOORIE LOUNGE" . Many of the  smoke-stained army and naval shields, which had graced the original Conder's, reappeared in the new premises as did the stuffed alligator. However, the rows of cut-off beer-stained neck-ties removed with a pair of scissors from inebriated customers, which Jack used to hang above the bar didn't make the move.  I went to the new place once in the 1980s but the lounge never captured the essence of the original bar. 

After the War Grace Susan Conder is shown on several passenger lists travelling to and from Hong Kong unaccompanied.

Passenger List 1952 she travelled from Hong Kong to London arriving 18 July 1952 aged 46 tourist

Passenger List 1955  Southampton  to Hong Kong arriving 4 March 1955 stating her future permanent residence to be Hong Kong

Passenger List  1958 London to Hong Kong arriving December 1958. She gave her home address as 22 Queens Way Wallasey

Passenger List 1959 Hong Kong to London Grace Susan Conder  date of birth 15 September 1906 married country of future pemanent residence Hong Kong   

UK Death Index Grace Susan Conder born 15 September 1906 died  in 1999 in Birkenhead Cheshire.         

Birth registered Quarter 2 1907 West Ham Essex

Baptism  13 August 1907 St Gabriel's Church Canning Town Essex. Date of birth recorded as 27 July 1907

1911 Census Poulton with Seacombe Cheshire

John Cecil Conder age 3 born Plaistow Essex living with parents and 5 siblings and 3 step-siblings