b. 12/02/1896 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 29/10/1943 Hong Kong.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 1942 - 29/10/1943 Hong Kong.
John Alexander Fraser (1896-1943) was born in Edinburgh on 12th February 1896, the son of Thomas Fraser, a mercantile clerk and Mary (nee Duguid). Educated at the Trinity Academy, where he was head boy, and Edinburgh University, John was commissioned in the 9th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers after the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914.
Transferring to the Machine Gun Corps in March 1916, he went to France in June of the same year and served with distinction, being awarded the Military Cross for his actions in the Battle of the Somme (LG 20th October 1916) when he remained in a shell hole for over 4 hours manning a machine gun and stopping an enemy attack. He later received a Bar to his MC for reorganising defences under heavy fire when holding a newly won position. He also attended the wounded under heavy fire. His Bar to the MC was announced in the London Gazette on 17th December 1917.
In May 1918, he was appointed to the acting rank of Major and took command of a Machine Gun Company, but he was soon invalided home after being wounded in the leg in August 1918.
In late 1919, he entered colonial service in Hong Kong and was then appointed 3rd Assistant to the Secretary of Chinese Affairs in 1921. From 1922-24, he served as an Assistant Head of the Sanitary Department and then became the Assistant Superintendent of Imports and Exports. He then became a lawyer, becoming Police Magistrate at Kowloon. He became Assistant Attorney General in 1938, and became the Colony’s Civilian Defence Secretary in 1941, shortly before the invasion by the Japanese. It was about this time that his wife, Kathleen, and their children Tom and Ian, were evacuated to Australia.
Following the fall of the colony in December 1941, Fraser was incarcerated in the Civil Internment Camp at Stanley. Here, until March 1942 and the arrival of the Colonial Secretary, Franklin Gimson, he was the senior British government representative. As senior British officials, both men would share in the knowledge of clandestine camp activities, high among them the planning of escapes and the running of secret radio sets: the price Fraser paid for his part in such activities is well summarised by the citation of his subsequent award of the George Cross (G.C.), which distinction was gazetted on 29th October 1946, exactly three years - to the day - of his brutal murder.
Frank Roberts, another prisoner of the Japanese, later described in “The Journey Back” how, on his liberation, he was returned a bundle of clothing which had been taken from him at Stanley in 1943: within this bundle was clothing and a Bible belonging to Fraser and Roberts personally returned them to his widow, Kathleen, together with Fraser’s last message written on the day of his execution. His last message read “My dearest darling. This is my last letter. Loseby will look after affairs in Hong Kong. Ask Colonel Turner to advise you about things in England. Give the boys a good education and make them learn a trade or profession. You should recover at least £5,000 from Hong Kong ... Remember the only thing I cared about was you and the boys. Everything else gave way to that. My dearest love to you and Tom and Ian. From your husband John”.
His widow Kathleen received her late husband’s G.C. from King George VI at a Buckingham Palace investiture held on 27th November 1946. Her husband was laid to rest in a collective grave in Stanley Military Cemetery, Hong Kong. On 22nd July 2016 at Dix Noonan Webb, Fraser’s George Cross was auctioned, and realised a price of £190,000. It was purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust and became part of the Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: STANLEY MILITARY CEMETERY, HONG KONG. (Plot 1. C. Coll. grave 1-11.)
Picture - Kevin Brazier
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
February 2020 (Thomas Stewart)