The Japanese Army Arrives
Because our family printed the local paper and was connected to Reuters and other news services, there was a lot of war talk in our house. My father and mother tried to keep the worst news out of the dinner conversation, but I heard enough to know that Germans were doing bad things in Europe and that the Japanese army was in our part of China. On some days we could hear the very distant thud of artillery. As that army got closer to Cheefoo, my parents had no choice but to tell me that the Chinese would have to surrender and that the Japanese would take over the town. They assured me that, because we were British and not at war with Japan, we would be safe. I was only four years old, but my parents’ explanation about our neutrality didn’t seem to me like a very strong defense against people who could make the Chinese surrender without a fight.
The day finally came when the army rumbled into town. We stayed in our house, but the sound of the tanks rattling along and grinding up the pavement of the main street was easy enough to hear. The marching troops would occasionally let out a coordinated shout that even to a young child was clearly the yowl of the conqueror.