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(reminder: all quotes here are fiddled, probably.)


(Stanley Military Cemetery: 6. D. Coll. grave 10-18)

Chaplain, Methodist Missionary Society.
Died on 26th December 1941. Age 35.

Son of Robert and Laura Julia Moreton;
husband of Norah Mary Moreton, of Whetstone, Middlesex.

Tony Banham, Not the Slightest Chance: The Defence of Hong Kong. (HK: HKU Press, 2004). p.381, note 180.

The CWGC originally had entries for him on 25 December as a civilian, and 26 December as a padre. His family was from Middlesex, though (150) notes that the Mr Moreton was attached to the Royal Scots. His biographical details are given as:

Born 5 October 1905, grandson of the Revd. R. H. Moreton, MMS missionary to Portugal.

1929 Didsbury College.

1932 Aux Cayes, Haiti.

1933 Returned to England and returned to life as a Methodist layman,
belonging to the Muswell Hill Circuit.

1936 Re-entered the ministry at Liverpool and then Dormanstown in
the Redcar Circuit.

1938 Accepted call to the English circuit in Hong Kong.

'With his colleague Rev J E Sandbach, he worked, not only amongst civilians, but also amongst the men of the Forces, particularly in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home. Happily married in 1939, his joy became full when a little son was born. Soon after, when the Japanese attack on Hong Kong began, Mr Moreton served as an ambulance driver, and in the performance of his duties he suffered a wound on December 18. The wound turned out to be more serious than was at first anticipated, and he died in a Christian hospital [in fact the Royal Naval Hospital in Wan Chai] in Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 1941, having laid down his life for his friends' (65: 164). Today he is buried at Stanley.

* * *
CWGC = Commonwealth War Graves Commission
(150) = Templer's Diary. Imperial War Museum, London.
(65) = Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church held in Manchester, July 1942.

* * *

For Sandbach, also see Letter: A chance missed in Hong Kong. The Independent on Sunday, Opinion.

Letter: A chance missed in Hong Kong
The Rev F R Dowson
Wednesday, 2 July 1997

Sir: I was glad to read the letter from Drummond Hunter (30 June). The fact that Hong Kong has been handed over to China by Britain and not by some other power is due to the action of one relatively unknown man at the end of the war in the Far East.

The Rev J Ernest Sandbach, a minister of the Methodist Church, went as a missionary to Hong Kong in 1938 and, in addition to his church work, he was responsible for the Sailors' and Soldiers' Home and was officiating minister for Services personnel.

Following the invasion by the Japanese in 1941 he organised hospital supplies and then, with other civilians, was interned in the camp on the Stanley peninsular in 1942. He continued his missionary work as far as possible in the camp and was appointed chairman of the camp committee and, as such, represented the internees in negotiations with the Japanese authorities, often at great personal risk to himself.

Hearing of the imminent surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945, he marched out of the camp with the Colonial Secretary and a Chinese coast skipper and went to the Japanese officer in charge and told him he was taking over Hong Kong as a British colony. Very soon after he was told by the Allied HQ to take over Hong Kong in the name of the four Allies. He replied, informing them that he had already taken over Hong Kong in the name of Great Britain and "so it has remained" he told me with a smile years later. He stayed in Hong Kong until 1960 and for his work there he was awarded the OBE on his return to England.

I had known his name for years before I met him in 1974 when I came to Selsey and found he had retired here. We became very good friends and he gave me willing help in my work until I retired in 1987. Later I had the privilege of giving thanks to God for his life and work at his funeral in May 1991.


Selsey, Chichester



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