Monday, December 15, 2014




Now, I remember why I omitted this Chapter in my original Book, "From China to Borneo,"I couldn't find any reference to Captain Fong. As my book was Facts, Non fiction, I decided not to  add my grandfather's and my father's story to my book..

It was only after my discussions with my brothers and Larry that bro Joseph, a lawyer suggested that Captain Fong was an alias, then it clicked. Captain Fong or Roger Cheng was a great hero. He should be celebrated. He was the pride of the Chinese, he was the pride of the Chinese-Canadian.

With the Head-Hunters in Sarawak
Sarawak, in northern Borneo, had been occupied by the Japanese since early 1942. When the first S.O.E. team landed in this wild, jungle-covered land, they took great risks to enlist local mountain tribes in their fight against the Japanese. Fortunately, these local people detested the Japanese and became loyal and indispensable allies to the S.O.E. agents. The Ibans, one of the most aggressive of these head-hunting tribes, were a considerable help to S.O.E. in clearing this area of Japanese.
The small, black-haired, brown-skinned Ibans had adapated perfectly to their lush and unchanging environment; they could move effortlessly through either the dense jungle or along the sinuous river with equal skill. The Japanese gradually withdrew down the river, the head-hunters spreading terror among the debilitated enemy.Footnote 10


Captain RK Cheng Portrait.jpg

It was into this situation that 29-year-old Roger Cheng and four other Chinese-Canadians, Jimmy Shiu, Norman Lowe, Roy Chan and Lewis King, were flown on August 6, 1945. Cheng was the first Chinese-Canadian to become an officer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, a rare accomplishment in those days. He was an electrical engineering graduate from McGill University and spoke fluent Cantonese, making him a natural to head this team. Upon arrival, the group joined a small British team which was gathering information on the movements of the Japanese as well as about conditions in prison camps in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, where about 25,000 British prisoners of war were being held.

For someone who worked with the headhunters  at the war time earns my admiration.

Chan Kee Seng, born 1882 in China

My Ah Kung (Grand father Kee Seng) used to tell me about the war stories from the 1880’s. He told me that the Japanese used to have an army camp in Upper Lanang Road by Tai Kuon School not far from our house. It was probably five minutes walk. He recalled the time when the Allies landed soldiers from Kapit by parachute and the allies enlisted the locals and they swept aside the Japanese all the way down to Sibu. The leader of the Allied troops was an American Chinese Captain Fong. The Ibans called him Capitan Jina (Chinaman) The Allies used to strafe the local school by plane to scare the Japanese. He also told me when he and the clans in China had to fight the bandits attacking the village. He said we were landlords in China and very wealthy. He proudly said that our family had 2 big silos to store the grains. My Ah Kung and I shared a bed and he tells me his stories every night when we go to sleep. Mother put an end to that when she told him that I was still a school boy and needed my sleep!***Charles

I heard that he was Canadian Chinese Captain. He was big boy and with a bit of exaggeration he became a towering Chinaman and bigger than any white soldiers. He could be Canadian Chinese! Ah Kung said that in those days all persons of authority were Europeans and never a Chinese. The Chinese has to kow tow to Europeans. This Chinese captain commanded a company of white soldiers (about 100 soldiers to a Company). Ah Kung said whenever the Chinese captain gave orders to the white soldiers the white soldiers will stand to attention and give a big "da bag! (salute) and scream " yes captain sir!" That was why the locals were very impressed and the Ibans called him Capitan Jina! The Chinese would clap hands when they see the white soldiers take orders from this Chinaman! Fancy white people give a "da bag" to a china man! So this man must be very very powerful! I believed that from that time the Ibans started to give the Jina (Chinese) more respect! ****Joseph

Father's story: Ah Kung and others were surprised to hear from the Ibans of a Tuan Cina. Tuan, "Sir" was only meant for the white man. To the Iban: Cina, Chinese then were only farmers, and lowly coolies whom they encountered on the boats. So this Canadian Captain of Chinese origin was really a somebody being called a Tuan. So Ah Kung was so proud to be associated with the Sir. In jubilation, Ah Kung and his fellow villagers of Kwong Tung ba rushed to Tai Kuon School to welcome the arrival of their Canadian Chinaman Captain. They wanted to witness the triumphant victory of the Allies led by their own tall Cina captain over the shameful defeat of the short abominable bespectacled Japanese. The Chinese spat “Phui!!!” in disgust and shouted curses and “Bangsai go do a shit.” The onlookers including the Ibans cheered vigorously. There were peals or claps of thunder, but these didn’t come from the sky.  They came from ripple after ripple of applause as the Japanese surrendered their rifles, long swords, scabbards and short knives. The villagers sneered and jeered. They said they were told that a Japanese soldier never gave up his weapon, unless he admitted defeat, a Japanese soldier would rather die than surrender. Ah Kung and his friends were like blood hounds waiting to watch the Japanese commit Seppuku or hara-kiri. One couldn’t blame them for their jingoistic euphoria, after all these Japanese were men from hell. But these were cowards, they didn’t commit Seppuku to the disappointment of the spectators.  Instead they chose to become PoWs***Henry

The above three narration of the same event were by my three brothers told to them by my Grand Father Kee Seng or by my Father Hiu Fei.  

 Captain Fong is likely to be an alias of Roger Cheng. I am pleased that we could piece together Captain Fong, and validate Ah Kung's story. I am so excited that with our connection, we can dare say Captain Fong wasn't a figment of Ah Kung's imagination.

Larry Wong, curator of Canadian Chinese Military Museum.,_Roger_K

Roger Kee Cheng served as a member of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during the Second World War. He saw service in Ottawa prior to undertaking commando and guerrilla training for his subsequent service in the Molucca Islands and Borneo.

No comments:

Post a Comment