The Suitcase is my first novel in a trilogy following the story of my grandparents, who met and fell in love in the glamorous colony of Hong Kong in World War 2. Following the Battle of Hong Kong, where the island was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Army, and the subsequent British surrender, they were sent to separate Prisoner of War camps. The story has been based on two diaries, letters, notes and photographs all preserved in a little brown suitcase kept by my Gran for all those years.
That little suitcase and her story was my grandmother’s gift to me. We had always known the same funny stories that she told of the friendships and camaraderie that got her through, but she never told any of the horror stories that I uncovered once I started researching this little-known part of our history. I spent hours going through the suitcase after she had died and what I realised was that my lovely, smiley Gran was actually a pretty amazing woman.
She had joined the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) 1939 and was posted to Hong Kong along with her best friend Brenda. The Suitcase is their story and it takes us to when Joan is being sent to Stanley Prisoner of War Camp. Prior to the attack, Hong Kong is blissfully ignorant of the war going on around them and the nurses lived the champagne lifestyle most ex-pats were enjoying. As a Colony, they were unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the force of the Japanese Army. Amongst the horror and the chaos that followed, the strength of the women in the story is awe-inspiring. What those young nurses had to endure at the hands of the Japanese is unimaginable. What got them through, was each other.
To say that I am proud of my Gran and her friends is an understatement and I feel privileged to be able to tell their story.