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Mamie Porritt: bombed out

June 26, 1940 -- Well, Jim, never a dull moment in Loiwing. Last night they found bubonic plague infested rates in the workmen's barracks and today everybody is running around in circles. All the workmen walked out of the factory. It's like a dead city. There are about three of us at office. Matty and Chuck are all excited and nervous and don't know whether they are coming or going. My, my, how we need Doc. He would be as excited as they are but no one would ever know it. They are digging trenches around the workmen's barracks preparatory to burning them down about 5 o'clock this afternoon. Everybody is being injected but it will be ten days before we know what the outcome will be. They are going to fly serum in to take care of everyone. This place would give anybody the willies -- the way they react to epidemics, rumors, fears, etc. It makes me sick. Take your shot and forget about it. If it gets you -- you can't do anything about it anyway. Why the factory has to close down I don't know. It's the worst thing they could do to let the Chinese congregate and talk about it.

[The women went down to Maymyo in Burma for three weeks to wait out the plague.]

July 26, 1940 -- The factory is back at work but with the closing of the Burma Road goodness only knows how long we will be able to do anything. We can't even bring in gasoline.... I had a grand three weeks' rest in Maymyo and every one says I am looking fit. Got all my clothes in order and now have nothing to worry about in that direction. Got two new evening dresses, a black and white silk print, blue linen, two woollen dresses that I got in Bradford, a pair of flannel slacks, two play suits, a blue knitted sweater and coat -- like my brown slacks -- that I wear with the gray flannels, two or three blouses, and all my underwear repaired. What I need now is an amah to press all of it.

August 5, 1940 -- Gertrude Hunter has been quite sick. She had a slight operation and doesn't seem able to get over it very quickly. Chuck is running around like a chicken with its head off and has aged about ten years in the eight months I have been down here. All the old boys still despise the sight of George Arnold and everything seems shot to hell to me. I've never known the spirit of the boys to be at such a low state. In the place of the old spirit of comradeship, they seem totally uninterested in the place. Of course I think they are afraid Doc won't come back. If Mr. Pawley knows what is good for the money he has sunk in here he will get Doc back as fast as he can. I know I shall certainly be much happier when he gets back. Matty is all right but he has never tackled anything like this and knows absolutely nothing about the Chinese and tries to handle them like he would an American factory.

Aug. 5 1940 -- Well, I've just about reached a settlement re my salary and goodness I am glad to have it over. I am not so particularly steamed up about it, but it's not too bad. I am to have my salary from October to July in Hongkong dollars at the prevailing rate of exchange for each of those months. From July 1st I am on flat US $175 per month -- but, in addition, I get my expenses, and that includes all the time I am here. Expenses to include everything, laundry, tips, cigaretts, beer, etc. So I suppose I can't complain. I haven't many outstanding bills and when the final payment is made to me I should have a little cash in hand. I will send you a draft as soon as I get my check. And I want you to buy some new suits, etc. There isn't much here for me to spend my money on. I'll probably have to refund the amount I spent for clothes in Maymyo and I should think for poker bridge etc $25 a month will do -- although at present I am far ahead of the game at both bridge and poker. So I should be able to save $150 a month, if everything works out right. Now I am feeling much better about things in general and I suppose I'll have to start being cheerful about all this hard work I am putting out.

Aug. 19, 1940 -- Things around this place are in a continual state of upheaval. I some times wonder if we will ever settle down again to peaceful living. There are dozens of visitors here now, government auditors, Dr. Sellett, Ed Pawley and goodness knows who all. They get under your feet and in your hair. Matty is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to get the annual audit finished and ship out a couple of spare auditors. Then he has to take over the Government auditors. I scarcely ever see him and in the meantime his desk looks like a cyclone had struck it. I suppose I could get busy and answer some of his mail, but with the situation as it is I should probably make more mistakes than anything else, and I don't feel inclined in that direction.

Sept. 24, 1940 -- Saturday night Ailene Felio had a party -- buffet dinner -- and afterwards dancing at the Club. We didn't have our usual late Saturday night, but I stayed in bed until about 10:30 Sunday. There were some visitors in the camp so I had to get up to be polite. After lunch Matty and I drove to Namkham to buy some gasoline. It certainly is "precious liquid fuel" now that the British won't allow any to come into China....

Now that the Japanese have got Indo China, we may all be going soon. I don't know whether they will bomb us out or just walk in and take us over. We are all sitting on a volcano to see what happens. I think Hitler must have given up the idea of barging into England. I was very pleased to hear the other day that America is turning over the [B-17] Flying Fortresses to England -- all she has -- because those babies are just what their name implies. Our armament man has flown in them and he says they can really go to town.

October 28 1940 -- Well, darling, the long expected day arrived Saturday. Just after lunch with no warning at all the Japanese came in with 35 planes and dropped 150 bombs. And what a mess. So far we have found 38 dead, 120 workmen's houses destroyed and considerable damage to the plant. I was in the bathroom at the time and rushed out just in time to get the last car. Ed Pawley jumped out of the grunt seat to give me his place and as the bombers were right above us at the time he swung onto the side and Matty gave the car the gun. Turning the corner Ed fell off. Another man jumped off to look after him and yelled to Matty to keep going, which Matty did. As I looked back I saw him rolled over in a ditch and just at that moment the bombs started falling. We rushed over across the bridge to Burma but on the way several cars in front of us had stopped and the people had run into the grass and ditches, so we had to do the same. It didn't take the little devils long to do their dirty work and we were soon back in the car and long gone. After reaching the Club House Matty turned immediately round to come back. We had already seen the flames from the 100 houses and knew there had been big loss of life. Soon as Matty left Andy Sargeant decided he would come back and I jumped in the car with him and we rushed to the hospital. You know how I hate the Japs -- well since that afternoon in the hospital it has doubled. I don't know the first thing about hospital work but I learned a good deal quick....

It is beyond my comprehension how anyone can be cruel enough to cause such human suffering as I witnessed on Saturday. I can't write you about the details. I'll have to wait and tell you -- there are too many and too harrowing. But if I never see another Jap it will be too soon. I wish America would do something about it. One girl in camp had a portable radio and heard the broadcast from Hanoi which said Loiwing had been completely wiped out and that the aircraft plant was jointly owned by Chinese and British. Naturally they would say that. They dared not say it was American owned. We are hoping to high heaven that the State Department will just add it on to the score against Japan. But I don't know. If America waits much longer it will be too late, I fear me.

Nov. 18 1940 -- I hardly know where to begin to tell you all the news. At right this minute I am sitting in a garage where we have set up an office. Chuck, Matty three Chinese and I in a one-car garage and we are trying to work. We have moved out of the Club House and I am living in a grass shack in Manwing. Its really lots of fun right now but I know I'll freeze in another few weeks. We have a communal sitting room and dining room and then Murph, Walter Sobol, Al Anderson, Matty and I each have a little grass shack of our own. Matty is leaving the 15th of December and Doc Walsh is due back about the 5th of December. I didn't think Doc would come back especially after being bombed out of Loiwing. I haven't heard what the eventual decision will be about the factory. Dr. Sellett is still in India....

The eventual count after the bombing was 40 dead, of whom five were Shan coolies, and 60 injured. Many of them are still in Dr. Seagrave's hospital as we had to dismantle our hospital. One bomb fell only fifty feet from it. We have had two or three air raid alarms since the big day but so far they have not been back. We have a much better network now and except for one big gap Doc and Chuck think we will get at least a half hour's warning. We certainly had a close call on October 26th and I don't think any of us would care to repeat the performance. How it happened none of us were hurt is simply staggering to the imagination. Andy Sargeant -- who knows a lot about these things -- says they missed it by three seconds. Had they pulled the bombs three seconds later the entire factory, hospital, runway and Club House were right in the line of flight. As it was, they (the bombs) fell in the workmen's huts, the staffmen's houses, two or three factory buildings, and just missed the hospital. The Club House was next in line and a dud fell back of it. And I stopped to brush my teeth. Can you beat it. Of course, I never for a moment dreamed that we wouldn't have a few minutes warning....

What of yourself, Jimmie darling? Thirteen years ago tomorrow we were in Shanghai and being married. What a life we have led since that day ...and this seems to be the climax. I know I am weary of this existence and feel that you must be even more so. The years are taking their toll all too rapidly and I can't see any end to it all.

Jan 7 1941 -- Well, a New Year and I wonder what it will bring to us. I am not too enthusiastic at the moment and I suppose another long year of waiting for better times. We are carrying on but what a struggle. In the early mornings there is a trace of ice and believe me it is cold climbing out of bed and dressing in a grass shack and then coming to work in one. We have now dug a hole in the ground and have charcoal burning but with all the sides propped up it is almost useless -- except I can warm my fingers when they get too cold to type any more. Doc and I and some of the boys are planning on moving back to the dormitory but Chuck has put his foot down and I suppose we will have to carry on as we have been for the past two months and a half. I am keeping quite well though....

New Year's eve we had a party at the Club House since it wasn't moonlight and had our usual dancing and singing. Dr. Sellett was here at the time and he seemed to quite enjoy it. He had got back from the Indian trip the day before. That was the trip I was supposed to take with him and which he told me would last about ten days. Actually it lasted two months. New Year's day was full of conferences although most of us went to a cocktail party at the Giles and I later had dinner over at the other bachelor mess. Thursday I didn't come down in the morning but did work in the afternoon. That night we all had dinner with Gertrude and Chuck. Dr. Sellett left at 4 o'clock Thursday morning and had Al to drive him to Maymo for an interview with the Governor. They came back to Lashio Friday morning and he caught CNAC there about 3, arriving here at 3:30. After an hour's conference here, while the CNAC pilot was biting his fingernails, he left for Chungking. I wont see him again for some time as he is leaving for America as soon as he makes a trip to Shanghai. He came back from India looking better than I have ever seen him and the first night he slept in the grass shack he got a terrible cold. When Al got him to Maymyo he had to go directly to the doctor before he could see the Governor and immediately to hospital for the night after the interview. Apparently his India trip was successful -- as is usual with him. There is a distinct possibility that I may be transferred to India. If so, I shall be in Bangalore which I am told has the finest climate in India.

Doc isn't settling down too well. He hates the conditions under which we have to work and live. Being a fiend for work, it is difficult for him to knock off at 5 -- which we are compelled to do -- and he hates coming down early. Says there is no use as it is too cold to work. He suffers from the cold more than any of us I think.

continued in part 4