Shanghai 1937 Japanese Attack

This collection of 51 photographs was once owned by the Hong Kong historian, artist and author, Arthur Hacker. The photographs are laid down on five sheets of black card enclosed in a modern white card folder with the label Shanghai 1936 – Photographs. Although some photographs may have been taken in 1936, the scenes of the Japanese bombing of Chapei, north of the International Settlement, for example, would have been taken in the Summer of 1937. It is unlikely that Hacker was responsible for the modern folder and misleading label which are probably the work of an earlier owner. The words “Hong Kong” are barely visible written in pencil on the bottom of the last sheet (img647-651). Indeed, the terrain in the background of img647 clearly cannot be in Shanghai.

Three photos are a little stained (img644-646), one tissue guard stained, and the first card leaf chipped at fore edge; but the majority of photographs are in good or very good condition. The first photograph is large (20.8 x 26.8cm) showing a winning team from one of the many international naval vessels stationed in Shanghai (img601). The other 50 photographs are smaller, mostly 6.5 x 9 or 8.5 x 13cm.

Several photographs capture the Japanese bombing in the Summer of 1937 (img606-615) and its aftermath (img602). Img603-605 show military preparations – barbed wire and sandbag emplacements. Img604 shows what looks like North Station, repaired after the 1932 Japanese attack and for the moment undamaged but surrounded by barbed wire, and there are people walking around.

Img605 shows the Joint Trust Ware House (Sihang Warehouse) which is located on Guangfu Road beside Suzhou Creek opposite the International Settlement. Today the building is a museum. From 26 October to 1 November 1937, 432 Chinese soldiers of the 88th Division held out against waves of Japanese attacks while covering the retreat of the Chinese army heading to the west. This defence of the warehouse was a big morale boost for the Chinese. The 432 defenders are known as the Eight Hundred Heroes. Their commander, Xie Jinyuan, gave an exaggerated number to a girl guide named Yang Huimin to announce to the public, not wanting the Japanese to find out their true strength. The girl guide had brought food and a Republic of China flag to the besieged troops. Source and further information:

There are photographs of several naval ships stationed in Shanghai at the time (img618 & 625-632) and submarines in Hong Kong (img647-648). Five of the British submarines can be identified as L20, L33, L19, L8 and L2 in img647 and Img648 shows submarine L2 in drydock.

Amid growing tensions and fear of Japanese aggression, a troop ship (img619) brings additional British forces to Shanghai in the Winter of 1937 (img620). A Sikh military band wearing overcoats (img621) leads the troops across Garden Bridge (img616) and onto the Bund (img617).

Img623 shows a magnificent view of Nanking Road look west, possibly from the Wing On Towers (the Seventh Heaven Hotel today). From the left, can be seen the Park Hotel, the International YMCA Building, the United China Apartments, the Sun Company department store and the radio tower of the Sun Sun department store. This view shows the extent of the various levels of rooftop entertainment spaces in the Sun Company department store.

There are three photographs with snow during the Winter of 1937 in Shanghai (img636, 638 & 646). The Suzhou Creek, the spire of the Union Church and a sign advertising Hall & Holtz Limited on Nanking Road can be seen in img638. Hall & Holtz was one of the English department stores in Shanghai along with Weeks & Co., Lane Crawford & Co. and Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co.

A bridge across the Suzhou Creek is shown in img633, possibly the Zhejiang Road Bridge built in 1908 and restored in 2015. In the photograph, the bridge appears to be damaged, perhaps in the Japanese attacks.

The Cathay Mansion on the corner of Rue Cardinal Mercier and Rue Bourgeat in the French Concession is the subject of img634. The building opened in 1929 and was part of the Sir Victor Sassoon property empire. It had 279 apartments, a bakery and rooftop garden, with shops at street level. The architects were the Hong Kong based Palmer & Turner – the architects of the Wing On department store on Nanjing Road, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank at 12 on the Bund and the Mercantile Bank of India, London & China at 3 on the Bund. The lead architect was George Leopold “Tug” Wilson who designed many of the art deco wonders in the Sir Victor Sassoon property empire including the Cathay Hotel which also opened in 1929, the fourteen-storey Metropole Hotel and the Hamilton House and Embankment House apartment buildings all opening in 1932 as well as Broadway Mansion which opened in 1934. The Consulates General of Mexico and the Philippines were both located at Hamilton House in the 1930s. In 1938-39, at the peak of the Jewish refugee influx, Sassoon converted part of Embankment House into a reception centre offering food and temporary accommodation. There is a good article by Taras Grescoe, author of Shanghai Grand, about the Sassoon properties:

Img637 shows a canal in the suburbs. A man is collecting water. On the right bank are a number of rickshaws and on left there are several makeshift shacks one of which is used to store pots. There is a view of the Bund (img644) and Garden Bridge (img645).

Img649 shows sampans in Hong Kong and barefoot Chinese children are photographed in img651. The staff of a Hong Kong firm pose for a photograph outside their office in img650.

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