|Country of Origin||Ha Wang Chun, Wang Sui Heung, Toishan, China|
|Date of Birth||Dec 7,1882|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1898|
|Submitted by||Peter Liu OAM|
The remarkable stories of Lew Nam and his son Dr Eddie Liu OAM, OBE, Hon.D. Qld Univ. Part 4.
The only way to secure a berth was to have priority status. With this worsening situation, Eddie thought it timely to leave Hong Kong in the face of mounting Japanese hostility.
The USS Panay served as part of the U.S. Navy’s Yangtze Patrol in the Asiatic Fleet and was responsible for patrolling the Yangtze River to protect American lives and property. After invading China in the summer of 1937, Japanese forces moved in on the city of Nanking (Nanjing). USS Panay evacuated the remaining Americans from the city on December 11. The following day, while upstream from Nanking, USS Panay and three Standard Oil tankers, Mei Ping, Mei An, and Mei Hsia, came under attack from Japanese naval aircraft. USS Panay was hit by two of the eighteen 60 kg bombs dropped by three Yokosuka B4Y Type 96 bombers and strafed by nine Nakajima A4N Type 95 fighters. The USS Panay sank; three men were killed, and forty-three sailors and five civilians were wounded. The HMS Ladybird took survivors onboard and was fired on by Japanese shore batteries.It was, therefore, understandable the SS Taiping was at maximum capacity for its December, 1939 voyage to Australia. However, there is a God and the Church of England Missionaries called Eddie at 4 pm on the day of the scheduled sailing to inform him there was one no-show passenger and that they could get him onboard.
The Director of the Church of England Missionaries, Mr. Ng, was a Toishanese relative of Lew Nam and promised to look after his sons. It should be noted that Lew Nam’s family were Roman Catholics. That’s the way religion should be – ecumenical.
Mr. Ng told Eddie to make an instant decision as the ship was sailing at midnight. Eddie knew that Someday is not a day of the week, so he did not procrastinate! Eddie instantly packed his basic belongings, said goodbye to his lonely and worried mother, and dashed to the dock. Eddie was the only Chinese passenger onboard.
A prudent man turns chance into good fortune.
Had Eddie not made the boat, he might have perished with his mother. The Toishan people have a spirit like a rubber ball; the harder you throw it to the ground, the higher it will rise!
At precisely midnight, the SS Taiping set sail for Australia with the first port of call Manila. The ships in Manila Harbour were under the protection of the American Navy that was well aware of the Japanese expansion and escalation of hostilities. The ship was quarantined for roughly ten days for its own safety and that of its crew and passengers. As the risk of death and destruction got higher, the Captain announced that if any passengers wanted to abandon their voyage, they could go ashore because of the Migration Laws in the Philippines. No doubt, families discussed this option but Eddie sat alone in his cabin at times shaking in fear and sadly soaked in the tears of a teenager in terrifying trouble. The captain personally briefed Eddie and explained the dangers of continuation. Eddie said after careful reflection of the frightening facts, ‘If you die Captain, then I will die with you.’ Eddie had created a bond of friendship with the caring captain.
A true friend never gets in the way
unless you happen to be going down
The perplexing paradox of courage is that an individual must be a little careless with his life even in order to keep it. The American Fleet Commander advised the Captain of the SS Taiping not to follow the regular route because of encroachments of Japanese forces and the harassment from their fighter aircraft. The American Navy ordered one of their destroyers to accompany SS Taiping until the ship reached Borneo. At night, the ship sailed under a blanket of darkness and passengers and crew were forbidden to smoke because of the risk their position might be compromised.
Eddie was cocooned in his cramped cabin day after day – week after week – unable to communicate with the other passengers, engulfed in darkness the whole night through, and with his only resemblance of comfort being Yeung Chow Fried Rice! After a harrowing and gut-wrenching ordeal, the SS Taiping berthed in Fremantle on the West Australian coastline on Christmas Day, 1941. On the 31st December 1941 the SS Taiping triumphantly terminated its voyage in Sydney. Before Eddie had regained his land legs, he was swiftly shunted onto a train destined for Melbourne to join his father in time to welcome the Chinese Year of the Water Horse. It is rightfully said Toishan people are like powerful dragons that can survive crossing the river into foreign territory without losing effectiveness.
Nothing will improve your lot
If you yourself do not!
See part 5.