Friday, August 21, 2015

WW2 survivor’s search for Bahau, and closure

WW2 survivor’s search for Bahau, and closure

A war survivor and POW camp baby, Christina McTaggart-Tie Kim Nyong, 66, continues to research and spread the word about the Bahau POW camp in Malaysia during WWII. Jo Lo from Auckland City Libraries attended Christina's talk and interviewed her later about Bahau, where hundreds died from starvation, hardship and disease.
The rain was pounding down hard last Friday (21 May) as I beelined my way into Avondale Library to listen to Christina McTaggart's World War 2 experiences.
Christina McTaggartChristina was the first baby to survive Fuji-go (‘Fuji Village’), a Catholic resettlement colony (also known as a prisoner-of-war camp) in Bahau, West Malaysia, during the Second World War.
It was a fearful time, and Christina’s immediate family members decided to move north from Singapore to the Malaysian settlement to escape ill-treatment by the Japanese.
Despite high infant mortality rates in Bahau, Christina was born healthy. She was only 18 months old when the war ended, so her stories have been handed down by her mother Hilda, now 91.
The colony, split into ‘camp 5’ for the Chinese and ‘camp 6’ for the Eurasians, offered protection and safety to its people.
“Otherwise you were ‘outside’ and risked being captured and tortured by the Japanese.”
Many men were interrogated and suffered a terrible fate, and one of Christina’s uncles was arrested, tortured and killed because he worked for the British government.
Starvation and malaria were the biggest killers in Bahau, claiming between 300 and 1500 lives. However, the settlers were allowed to roam freely as long as they behaved and stayed well within the boundaries.Bahau resettlement camp
“We were treated well as long as we worked hard to grow food – it was a time of survival.”
While it’s notoriously difficult to get war information out of the elderly Chinese, Christina has been documenting her mother’s stories for 20 years.
Christina’s uncle was 10 when they were in the camp. Now 76 and living in Melbourne, it was initially impossible to obtain any information from him.
“It was a very sad time. Whenever I asked, he always said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ He always wanted to forget about that part of his life.”
Christina and her cousin have been tenacious with the questioning, and the uncle has only begun to open up, in part due to the cousin having started researching the family’s history.

Beyond Gallipoli, and reliving history for future generations

Keeping people informed, and history alive, are the reasons behind Christina’s speaking engagements about Bahau. She wants to hand down her mother’s courageous stories of survival – not only to her own two children and six grandchildren – but to anyone who wants to know about the war heroes and survivors beyond Gallipoli and WWI.
“There were lots that happened to other people all over the world during the Second World War too.”
She wants to get people like her uncle “to come out of the woodwork.”
Compared with the Holocaust or China's Nanking massacre -- dubbed ‘the forgotten Holocaust’ by the late Iris Chang 
in The Rape of Nanking -- the horrors in South-East Asia during the Japanese invasion are not as well known.
How the younger generations are being told about Japan's WWII involvement in its schools is still controversial. This significant chunk of history has, for decades, been hugely distorted or whitewashed in the country’s high school textbooks to the point that some Japanese are clueless about the war crimes which occurred.
“When I went to Japan and stayed with the families, I was given VIP treatment. But if you ever said anything [about the war], they would say to me, ‘No, it can’t be.’ It’s because they were not told.”
Christina will be doing two more talks in Auckland before heading off to Malaysia and Singapore at the end of June. She’ll be visiting her mother who’s turning 92 soon, and meeting up with a historian, Fiona Hodgkins, whose mother was also at the Bahau camp.
My jaw dropped when she admitted she’d never once been back to Bahau since 1945.
“I’ve always wanted to go! They [sic] have opened up so much more about Bahau. I’ll be taking photos and finding out all about camp 5 – Mukim 5 – my camp.”
She will dig deeper about other settlement camps – for instance, the whereabouts of camps 1 to 4 in Bahau if they existed – in her quest to piece together the Bahau jigsaw.
“I want to write about Bahau and the war. I have memoirs from a priest who was at the camp. He’s dead now, but I’ve got 80 pages and would like to get this documented.”
And hopefully, what Christina unearths will soon be turned into a valuable source of information about what happened in South-East Asia during the Second World War.

If you would like to get in touch with Christina McTaggart-Tie about her experiences or research on the Bahau camp, please email her at

Recommended books about Singapore, Malaysia and WW2

Related links

Articles on Christina McTaggart:
Ebook containing information about Bahau:

Migrant works to honour war heroes

Migrant works to honour war heroes

Christina McTaggart was born in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Christina McTaggart was born in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Photo / Brett Phibbs
An Auckland widow born in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp has made it her mission to highlight New Zealand World War II heroes of the Pacific.
Christina McTaggart, 66, gives regular talks about her family's war time ordeal "to keep it real" for Kiwis.
Her next talk will be at the Avondale Library tomorrow morning, where she will share her story of being the first baby to survive the jungle hell in Fuji-go, a resettlement camp set up in what was then Malaya in 1943 by the Japanese military authorities.
A recent AUT University study suggests interest in Anzac Day is likely to decline over time.
Historian Professor Paul Moon found that an increase in the number of immigrants, without an understanding of the significance of Anzac Day, would also contribute to that decline.
Mrs McTaggart, originally from Singapore, said treating Anzac Day as "a day we honoured all Kiwi heroes who fought in all wars" would make the day more meaningful, especially for new migrants who knew little about Gallipoli.
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She said it was important for Kiwis to learn about what happened in other wars our soldiers have fought, including in Malaya.
Mrs McTaggart said she was too young to remember or understand anything about what went on, but her mother never stopped telling her stories about the war.
One that was often told was about the time Singapore fell to the Japanese and the interrogation of men that followed.
"They were tortured, burned with cigarettes, their heads held under water and they were beaten until they talked. If they worked for the British, they were taken away and killed."
But she remembers one happy tale her mother told.
"It is about how the New Zealand and Australian forces came, as bearers of good news, bringing food to the village and the news that the Japanese had surrendered," Mrs McTaggart said.
"Since young, I have always had a warm feeling about the New Zealand and Australian Army because of that story. I think those who died in Malaya should be remembered just as much as those who fought in the battle of Gallipoli."
Mrs McTaggart's mother, Hilda Wee, now 91, still lives in Singapore.
During the Japanese occupation, at least 300 people in her village died, mostly from malnutrition, beri-beri, malaria and other insect-borne diseases.
"I don't think many in this new generation can imagine the horrors of war," Mrs McTaggart said.
"Death is just an integral part of it, and those who were not killed or tortured to death died of starvation because there was not enough food," she said.
"My family did not starve, but the less fortunate people had to eat whatever they could find, such as wild fowl, snails, frogs and cats. My mother had to enter the jungle to catch monitor lizards, which were a delicacy."
Mrs McTaggart moved to New Zealand in 1971 after she married naval architect Daniel McTaggart. He died six years ago.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Constable Tess is top of the cops

Constable Tess is top of the cops

Being a star nothing new for top recruit

Last updated 05:00 07/10/2011


Enter Your Zodiac Sign to Find Out Your Future. So Accurate its Scary!
Success is nothing new for Tess Kai Fong, 18, who has again risen to the top, beating 268 police recruits to take top spot at their graduation.
Constable Kai Fong received the Minister's Prize from Police Minister Judith Collins at Porirua yesterday for being top of her wing, as well as the Ericsson Practical Prize for overall winner in practical assessments, skills files and fingerprinting.
The Auckland-born-and-bred teenager, who was deputy head girl and deputy dux at Rangitoto College, was given the chance last year to visit Harvard University.
But she is certain her future career is back home with the police, saying it was officers who inspired her. "To be honest, it was every police officer I talked to said it was the best job. You become a well-respected part of the community."
With the full support of her family, she applied for police college while still in high school and was recruited to start training in May.
She said the 19-week training had been intensive and it was different coming from school into a police environment. "You come into a predominantly adult environment. You have to be mature: you can't get anywhere, otherwise."
She was looking forward to learning the various aspects of the job, but said there would be areas that would be challenging.
"Probably the hardest for a younger person to understand is domestic violence, and we have an astonishingly high rate of domestic violence."
She will start work on the North Shore but hopes one day to become a detective.
- © Fairfax NZ News

Sandra Kai Fong

 Sandra is currently serving her second term as a trustee of the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust. She also served eight years as a Rotorua trustee on BayTrust, from 2002 to 2010. She was Chair of the Investments Committee for most of that period and also chaired the organising committee when BayTrust hosted the 2004 Community Trusts Annual conference at Taupo.
Sandra spent 26 years as a lawyer, specialising in civil and commercial litigation. She was a partner in the law firm McKechnie Quirke and Lewis for 22 years.
She has also been involved in several business initiatives to promote economic growth in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty, and was the regional Business Club Co-ordinator for NZ2011 during the Rugby World Cup. She was director of the Forest Industries Expo in 2011, and is currently director for the SICS Sports Health and Lifestyle Expo at the 50th Rotorua Marathon 2014.
She also runs an e-commerce company selling merino fabric around the world.

Sandra Kai Fong


Local solicitor, Sandra Kai Fong, was elected to the Rotorua Trust in November 2010.
Well-known and respected in the local business community, Sandra practised law in Rotorua for 26 years. Specialising in civil litigation, she retired from practice in October last year. A member of the Bay of Connections Governance Group, which is responsible for the Bay of Plenty regional economic development strategy, Sandra represented Rotorua on the BayTrust from 2002 – 2010 and was an inaugural member of Rotorua’s Bright Economy Board.
Born and raised in Rotorua, she was educated at Rotorua Girls’ High School and Otago University, where she studied law and economics.
Sandra is married to Tim Rigter and they have two teenage children.


Get behind chopper

Jeff Kai Fong of Orewa is among those urging holidaymakers heading north to spare a thought for the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter as it celebrates its 25th year in operation.
He spent a week in a coma after his quad bike crashed into a pine tree on Christmas Eve while holidaying in Pipiwai, Northland, in 2000.
The speedy rescue by the service saw him airlifted off steep rural land and likely saved his life. He's one of the faces of a new campaign encouraging donations.
Virtually every helicopter rescue carried out at the Mangawhai Surf Club is for an Aucklander, with Aucklanders making up a big chunk of property owners in the coastal village.
The Northland population swells by around 35 per cent with the tourist influx over summer, most from Auckland.
The Northland Electricity rescue helicopter and Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter service operations regularly overlap, with the northern helicopters attending car smashes and other emergencies in Rodney and the broader Auckland area.
But the funding options for the northern service are limited and it is a constant challenge to raise funds from northern businesses and individuals to cover an area nearly three times that of the Auckland region but with just a 10th of the population.
"So this year, I would dearly love to see visitors to Northland donating money to this very worthwhile cause," trust spokesman Steve MacMillan says.
People can donate at any Northland ASB Branch, or make an internet banking donation to ERH Appeal: ASB - 12 3106 0046000 00.
Those who donate $5 or more can be in to win one of 60 rides in a Northland Electricity rescue helicopter.
See land.rescuehelicopter. © Fairfax NZ News

Get behind chopper

Last updated 05:00 24/10/2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The making of Chinese New Zealanders

by Manying Ip

This is the story of Chinese New Zealanders -

The Chinese have been in New Zealand for over 130 years, from the days of the Otago gold-rushes. Since then, this largely self-contained community has flourished and established itself successfully in its country of adoption. It became 'the Model Minority' - law-abiding hard working humble and inoffensive.

This is their story -

First published 1996

by Tandem Press