Orchin, Michael

Accession Number PR05328
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 2 wallets: 5cm
Object type Documents
Maker Orchin, James Michael ('Michael')
Place made Australia, China
Date made c 1937-45
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying permitted subject to physical condition

Documents relating to the house arrest and internment of the Orchin Family, Tsingtao and Lunghwa Civilian Internment Camp, Shanghai China, by the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. Includes a range of identification papers and curfew passes for Alfred Cecil ('Copper') Orchin, his wife Agnes ('Peggie') Orchin and their children, Pamela and James Michael (Michael); the 'Martial Order to Foreigners by Nippon Commanders' and similar papers, 8 December 1941; Michael's school reports from Lunghwa Camp; a range of papers issued by the British Relief Committee Tsingtao and Shanghai relating to the Orchin's unsuccessful attempt to repatriate to England; the oath not to escape; a range of papers issued by the British Resident's Association of China relating to the Orchin's impending move to Lunghwa Internment Camp; Michael Orchin's message to his old schoolmaster at Chefoo School; Michael's 2nd place athletics certificate, Lunghwa, 1944; a complete listing of the internees of Lunghwa and a breakdown of residents by huts, recovered by Peggie Orchin from the Camp Commadant's office after the Commandant had fled at the end of the war; a Day of Remembrance service for the victims of the war in China, November 1948, which includes a reference to the death of Pamela Orchin and a message from the King. Also included is a a magazine 'Oriental Affairs' from 1937, containing article 'Shanghai in Torment'; and a copy of the book 'Destination Lunghwa - My youth in the largest Japanese civilian interment camp in China 1942-1945' by Orchin.

History / Summary

Relating to the wartime internment of James Michael Orchin (preferred name ‘Michael’), born 2 June 1927) and his family in China by the Japanese. Michael Orchin was a schoolboy who was born in and living in China with his father Alfred Cecil (known as ‘Copper’, due to his red hair), mother Agnes Emma (‘Peggie’) and sister Alfreda Pamela (‘Pamela’, born 1921) in Tsingtao when the Japanese took over.

Cecil had served in the First World War with the Leicestershire Regiment and later the Royal Flying Corps – he met and married Peggie during the war. With times tight after the war, (they had settled in Manchester) and with a new child (Douglas), Cecil received a job offer from a fellow officer from the Royal Irish Hussars, Douglas Larkins, whose father ran a company in the port city of Dairen in China. He immediately accepted the offer and sailed via the USA and Japan aboard the Mauretania. Soon after their arrival, baby Douglas died from pneumonia age 2.

Cecil Orchin did well with the company and the family upgraded their housing twice, each time to a larger house. They had Chinese gardeners, cooks and house boys. Michael attended Tsingtao British School and later, from 1937, Chefoo School (also known as the China Inland Mission School), north of Tsingtao, which Pamela had already attended. In January 1935 the family returned to England to visit relatives, and to settle Pamela in the Leicester Collegiate School for Girls. After the best part of a year in England, the family sailed back to China, less Pamela. Michael started at Chefoo (now known as Yantai) in 1937 as a border, his parents remaining in Tsingtao where he returned during holidays. His housemaster was Gordon (‘Stan’) Martin. His final view of the school was late November 1941 when he sailed home to Tsingtao for the holidays, arriving there on 2 December 1941. By the end of December the school had been taken over by the Japanese Navy. His sister Pamela had already returned from finishing school and was now working in Shanghai.

As a result of the US and British Declaration of war against Japan after the Pearl Harbour attack, the Japanese began asserting control over foreigners in China and a proclamation (Martial Order to Foreigners by Nippon Commanders) was issued by the local Japanese commander urging foreigners to exercise restraint or bear the consequences. The Orchin family was placed under House Arrest on 8 December and many of their possessions were confiscated and most of their servants fled. Guards were placed permanently in the home and each family member was required to wear a red armband. Michael’s was B2517. Each also had to carry an identification card with photo and fingerprints, allowing only people over 16 years of age to leave the house for shopping between midday and 2 pm only; those younger than 16 were allowed an extra hour outside. Cecil Orchin was given a three hour pass to allow him to continue attending his office.

The Orchins placed their name on a list of foreigners to be repatriated and by August 1942 it appeared they were not far from this point. They boarded a ship from Tsingtao to Shanghai but delays in leaving Tsingtao meant they missed their ship (the Kamakura) and their places were instead taken by some local residents. They were sent to the nearby Columbia Country Club to stay and wait for the ‘next ship’, due to leave in six months, but this never eventuated. They joined almost 400 others housed communally in the Columbia Country Club Sports Hall in Shanghai. During this period, Michael attended the Cathedral School where he continued playing sports (hockey and cricket). Peggie Orchin helped organise committees at the Columbia Country Club. Each person was allowed to send one message – Michael sent his to his old housemaster from Chefoo, Gordon Martin, mainly because he couldn’t think of anyone else to contact.

In April 1943 they were moved to the Lunghwa Civil Assembly Centre Area with the rest of the refugees (an eventual total of over 1,900 people) where they spent the remainder of the war. Among the numbers were 1,700 British, 24 Canadians, 37 Americans, 62 Belgians, 11 New Zealanders and 32 Australians. This camp was established in the Shanghai Middle School and was fenced by barbed wire; it was one of a number of such camps in the Shanghai region.

Before entering the camp, they were given a list of material they were allowed to bring with them and a small allowance to buy it; post-war, Michael retained his enamel tin plate and cup lid. Once in camp, people were allocated accommodation and the British contingent formed work committees (medical, kitchens, camp service, cleaning and gardens) to run the camp, (‘thus taking the initiative away from our captors’ writes Michael). Upon entering the camp, Cecil was 48, Agnes was 45, Pamela 21 and Michael 15. Initially the family was placed in separate accommodation blocks, but later the elder Orchins were allowed to live in the same black (6 to 8 couples to a small room). After the escape of 5 young men, single young men were housed together in Block E away from their families and Michael ended up in Room 202 of Block E. Three of his friends from Chefoo happened to be with him in this room; Ronnie Slade, Theo Jordan and Allan Ludbrook, along with 15 others. Some 300 young men were accommodated in Block E. There were roll calls at unexpected hours and frequent curfews.
Michael writes ‘During this period I had two long-standing jobs , first with others of my own age, we ran the drinking water stations, where we gathered wood, lit the fire under a succession of 50 gallon drums and when boiling, ladled out the meagre ration of a pint and a half per person per day. This job entailed getting up early, around 6 am in all weathers and thus to be ready to serve by 9am. Father was in the kitchen most of the time; Pamela was in a hut helping the ladies and ‘doing hair’ and Mother was in mending and other assorted jobs.’

A school was established in the camp by Mr Herbert Huckstep (Shanghai’s former Director of Education) with the help of teacher and missionaries who were also held. In this way, Michael was able to complete his Cambridge School Certificate, but admits his first love was sport. He was moved from hot water stoking to food inspection, enabling him to join his father in the same building, boiling up and serving rice. ‘Working conditions in the kitchen were horrible, sweltering hot in summer and freezing in winter. .. I was on early morning shift and required to get there at five in the morning’. Michael contracted both bronchiectasis and hernias from the lifting and weather.

His great love was playing the in Camp football team - ‘I was part of a team from ‘Hot Water’. The ladies had made small badges for us to wear. … We had a small league and his all helped to lighten our days a little and gave the older folks something to look forward to as well.’ Michael’s badge bore the initials HWD, for ‘Hot Water Department’, the symbols representing the ‘Hot Water’ theme, and the Latin legend ‘In Omnibus Calidus’ (Always Hot).

Pamela died from the effects of malnutrition on 16 December 1944 aged 23, despite being moved by the Japanese to a hospital in Shanghai; the elder Orchins kept this episode to themselves for a long time before sharing it with Michael.

The sight of more and more US planes overhead cheered the inmates and within 5 or 6 days of the end of the war, Flying Fortresses dropped ‘veritable supermarkets out of their bomb bays on parachutes’. Michael kept an American P-38 tin can opener which he grabbed from these drops.

Peggie raided the abandoned Camp Commandant’s office and found bundles of papers everywhere; she grabbed what now turns out to be the Roll of all inmates of the camp relevant to the late 1944 period. Michael and his friends explored the bombed and abandoned airfield next door, where he souvenired a Japanese Navy Air Force rank badge. Shanghai was in chaos for weeks.

The family left China aboard the landing LSI (landing ship infantry) HMS Glenearn (which had repeatedly landed troops on D-Day before sailed to the Pacific), and on reading a local Leicester newspaper lent by a sailor also from Leicester, discovered the news of the death of Cecil’s father. They were re-clothed in Hong Kong, and changed ships in Singapore, boarding the Highland Monarch, a large banana trade ship, and sailed via the Suez Canal to Southampton where they disembarked on 19 November 1945. Agnes had been in the ship sickbay since Colombo and was taken by ambulance to hospital. Cecil Orchin died in 1959, aged 64 in poor health; Peggie lived until 98 and died on 30 October 1995. Michael Orchin immigrated with his wife Pauline, son Jeremy and daughter Wendy to Australia in March 1971. He visited China and the camp in 1997, and was able to view many of the original sites and meet some old Chinese friends; he died on 31 May 2001. His memories of the camp are recorded in the book ‘Destination Lunghwa’, published in 2012 by his widow Pauline.