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Harold Clitherow Margrett OBE

Born 25 May 1899
Occupation, Director and General Manager GEC Hong Kong.
Married Ethel Winnifred Kate Thompson 19 June 1925

Harold Clitherow Margrett was born in Sparkbrook, Birmingham in 1899 the only son of Fredrick and Minnie Margrett. Amelia (as she came to be known) was Fredericks second wife. Harold adored his parents and had a happy childhood in Birmingham with his much older half brothers and sisters around him although being so young compared to his siblings felt slightly marginalised. The closest family member was his brother Edwards daughter Barbara and her daughter Judith of whom he was extreemly fond.

After the war he joined GEC in 1921 and became Assistant Manager of the Southampton Office meeting his wife Ethyl Winifred Thompson (9 years his senior) and marrying her in Birmingham in 1925 when he was 26 and she was 35 years old. In 1936 he was called up for an interview offering him the position of GEC Manager Far East Branch (he already knew the reason due to the office grapevines!). With his wifes agreement he accepted the appointment and prepared to leave for Hong Kong where they lived in some style at 160, The Peak, a highly sort after residential area, with the usual chauffeur, gardener, cook and cleaners. In December 1938 having served there for 2 years a cable arrived informing him his father, now 85, was gravely ill. WIth company agreement an Imperial AIrways flying boat brought him home. The journey took him a week, since travel was by daylight with a maximum range of 500 miles and with the need to land on water. There was a blessing in this because there were overnight stops in Bangkok where Harold had dinner with his cousin Frank Weaver Margrett and in Calcutta where his half brother Philip was the local GEC member. He finally arrived in London on Boxing Day and although wanting to get to Birmingham as swiftly as possible was obliged to spend some time with Lord Hurst (who had just lost his wife) before taking the train to Birmingham. His father was still alive but because the doctors could give no idea of how long he had left Harold was forced to take his leave and retrace his steps back to the Far east. On arrival at Kytak airport Hong Kong he was greeted by Winnie with a telegram informing them of Fredericks death.

Late in 1940 Harold and Winnie deserved a holiday and the company agreed to a trip to Durban, South Africa because of the war now raging in Europe. Whilst there a telegram arrived warning European ladies would not be allowed to return to the colony because of an increasing risk of Japenese invasion. Winnie insisted she not be separated from her husband and a special permit was granted.

Japenese troops were against the borders of Hong Kong in November 1941 and the defending garrison of 10,000 men, many of whom had only just arrived within the last few days was overrun and the Colony surrendered on Christmas Day.

A proclamation required that, along with many others, Harold and Winnie report to the main square the next morning after packing what they could carry to go to prisoner of war camp. After supper Winnie expressed the concern that a silver tea service, given to her as a wedding present from her mother, would be lost for ever; so Harold, armed with a spade and under cover of darkness, buried it in the garden. before they left they gave presents to the staff and his gardener, a tall gaunt chap, wanted above all harold's tailed coat and top hat (but not the trousers!) and was last seen walking down the road proudly wearing them. They were interned for 4 years in Stanley Camp Winnie again showing her stubborn streak by refusing to be taken off with the other women to a much nicer camp and instead staying with her husband. Harold was a Food Distribution Officer and he and Wynn had a small space under some stairs just large enough for their 2 cots which they cleared away for some sitting space during the day. They set up a small drama group with the other inmates which passed away some time but conditions were ghastly with many people dying and Winnie getting berry berry from mal-nutrition. In Harolds words ' you wouldnt stand if you could sit and you wouldn't sit if you could lie down' some of the Hong Kong people who had worked for him would occasionally bring them in the odd couple of eggs or fruit which had been passed through the wire. when the Americans arrived the Japanese guards suddenly became very friendly, fearful of what might happen to them. The Americans advised none of the Europeans to leave the camp until they gave the say so, but Harold being Harold decided he wanted to go and visit his old office, both in the city and at Macow, and he walked off leaving Wynn behind. He must have looked rather bizarre because all his clothes were very ragged and worn after so long in internment. like his home his office was derelict so he walked down to the harbour and started talking to a British Naval officer. A ship was about to sail to Macow. 'Hop in' they said. SO he was taken to Macaw wearing his frayed shorts and ragged shirt with NO money. In Macow he decided to call in on the club, of which he had been a member in the old days, where he met an old friend who invited him for dinner; having dined he had to get back to Hong Kong and Wynn.

When he got back, again courtesy of the Royal Navy, he found he was too late and Wynn had already left on a ship bound for England. Not disheartened he found out their first port of call and went off to see the military personel for help ... here he had an amazing stroke of luck. Lord Mountbatten had a plane set aside for his use which was to fly off almost immediately for this particular destination so off Harold flew and by the time Wynn arrived harold was there to welcome her! When they arrived in England they were given a change of clothes by one of the voluntary services before disembarkment and while Harold de briefed at head office Wynn went off to buy a hat and gloves (essential items in those days)

On liberation UK leave was arranged and after 12 months rehabilitation GEC asked Harold where he would like to be located and to the suprise of everyone he said he would like to return to Hong Kong eventually achieving the position of Director and General Manager.

The old house was reduced to bricks but the tea service was still there and after taking it to be mended he was still drinking from it up to his death in 1997. His opinion of his staff, mainly Chinese, was very high and on finally leaving the island in 1953 as he and Winnie left the harbour an officer came down to his deck to give him a 'bon voyage' message that had been flashed from the nearby island.

He and his wife settled back in England in Guildford Surrey where he again worked for GEC until his retirement in 1960 and lived there until his death aged 98, Winnie had died about 7 years before and Harold missed her terribly asking to be reunited with her soon in his prayers each night.