Home of Francisco Paulo de Vasconcellos Soares

This is a photo of the home of my maternal grandfather Francisco (Frank) Paulo de Vasconcellos Soares at 2 Liberty Avenue, Homantin, Kowloon, Hong Kong. It was a very large house with a substantial garden. His whole family including my parents, my siblings and I lived there.

At the outbreak of the Pacific War on 8 December 1941 he was the Acting Consul for Portugal in Hong Kong. When the Japanese attacked Hong Kong he transferred the Consulate from the Bank of East Asia building in the Central District of Hong Kong island to his residence in Homantin as the majority of Portuguese residents lived in Kowloon. When the British abandoned Kowloon on 10 December and fell back to the island there was no law and order in Kowloon. Marauding gangs of armed looters took advantage of the situation and broke into businesses, shops and private homes to pillage them. Portuguese and other foreign residents in northern Kowloon sought refuge in the Portuguese 'enclave' in Homantin. My grandfather took in 398 refugees in our home; our neighbours also took in their relatives and close friends.

To this day I am in awe as to how, just a month short of his 73rd birthday and semi-crippled, he was able to cope with this crisis. He had to organise the accommodation of so many people, feed them, arrange for sanitary facilities, find fuel for cooking, etc., as gas, electric and water supplies as well as telephone communication were cut off. He also had to arrange for security to protect the district against the looters by establishing a Street Guard made up of Portuguese men. This situation continued until the arrival of the Japanese. He went out to meet these shock troops who were in camouflage uniforms and ready for a fight and informed them that the district was a neutral zone and requested the Japanese to protect its residents, which they did. His interpreter was my cousin Mario Augusto Correa Guterres who had been born in Yokohama, Japan and was fluent in Japanese.

Those were very difficult and extraordinary times and my grandfather rose to the occasion!

J. Bosco Correa 2016

Collection J Bosco Correa