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You Keep Me Hangin' On - The Supremes [1]

PublicationsEdit

Some of the feedback from readers: (from Professor Tombs at Cambridge University UK) “I have received the Journal and have just read it from cover to cover. It is a brilliant success, and I do congratulate you”; (from Professor Urwin at Temple University, Doylestown US) “If you will forgive me for lapsing into an American colloquialism: “Wow.” That has to be the most complete telling of Captain Charles Asgill’s scrape with death to ever see print – and also the most accurate and complete account”; (from Richard Levengood, one of LancasterHistory’s longest-serving members) “That’s the best thing that’s ever appeared in The Journal”; (from the Agent of a well known British actor) “many thanks for your interesting email. I will certainly spread the word, who knows, one day!”, and (from an Oscar winning film director) “Hopefully this will provide a wonderful tool towards the making of the film.” (fingers crossed!)

With permission from the Editor I am putting this here. It is from Rosemary Krill, who is on the Board of Directors of LancasterHistory. "Mike and Martha, Tom and Robin, Now that the holiday decorations are being put away, I gave myself the treat of reading "Saving Captain Asgill." What a wonderful piece of work! Who knew that there was something else to learn about George Washington*, probably the most studied character in US history? The story of the choosing of lots had an immediacy that I've rarely seen in history writing. And the story of the centuries-late publication of Asgill's letter has that air of mystery that fascinates people about historical research, imo. Your organization and good, clear writing have made a very complicated story understandable. Thank you!"

  • Rosemary is referring to the fact that, contrary to popular belief, Washington did not publish all his correspondence on The Asgill Affair - he held one letter back. I have been advised to refrain from mentioning this on the George Washington page (lest I be lynched, but you heard it here first)!

In due course I will add some press articles. I heard today that there will be a piece coming out in The Washington Post. Well, here it is! Vis-a-vis Asgill, it is the 'same old, same old' - Dr. T. Cole Jones clearly hasn't read the Journal, which was rushed to him, at his request, hours before his deadline! Restraint not Revenge

I hope that this article from Lancaster Online - History journal publishes 233-year-old-letter, appearing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on 26 January 2020, will be a game changer, because excerpts from Asgill's letter have now been printed online.

Having spent 18 years researching Sir Charles Asgill I have forgotten what my other hobbies used to be! I am, by nature, a gregarious communicator – a skill for which I have been thanked many times – especially at tedious diplomatic functions. I am a history changer too. I’ve enjoyed being both. My job here is almost done now, but I will not be finished until the film is made. I leave for others to fiddle about with the three articles I created: General Sir Charles Asgill, his mistress Mary Ann Mansel and his dearest friend Lieutenant Colonel James Gordon. I also enjoyed being able to add to the images on the Solomon Islands page, which brought back lots of happy memories (I met my husband there - we now live in what is my 64th abode, having been in perpetual motion my entire life)!

Professional membershipEdit

Association of Royal Navy Officers

Photograph AlbumEdit

England's Lost House of HorrorsEdit

I've just found, and watched, this film about Underhill House - England's Lost House Of Horrors. I wish I had found it sooner - or better still before it was made. My father commanded the Royal Sussex Regiment at Shorncliffe Barracks from November 1961- September 1962 and Underhill House was his married quarters (although his name, then Lt. Col. Philip Newton, does not appear on the list of occupants). I was training at St. James's Secretarial College in London at the time, but visited at weekends. My parents were often out in the evenings, attending various functions, so I was frequently alone in the house. I later discovered that my parents were acquainted with the various murders and suicides and ghostly occurrences at the house, and were aware that the 'butler' murdered the 'parlourmaid' in the 1930s - they even knew in which room this event had happened. Years later, I often wondered why, then, they allocated that as my bedroom. One night, when alone in the house, I had just turned off the light to go to sleep, when I heard a very definite disturbingly loud 'thud'. It was very alarming, to say the least. Had I had my eyes open I think I would have witnessed a ghostly manifestation of May's murder. I turned the light back on, wondering if my thick felt dressing gown had fallen to the floor. No, it hadn't. I wondered if tree branches had knocked on the window, but there was no wind. It was such an eerie sound I had heard, and so loud too, but nothing could explain it. I couldn't sleep after that and remained cowered, covered by my blankets, with the light on until my parents returned home. I told them what had happened, but still they revealed nothing of what they already knew. It was only some years later that they confessed to knowing they had allocated me to the haunted bedroom - which in the 1930s had been the parlourmaid's room. I was 17 years old at the time, so not a child, but the house was so scary that the Batman was terrified of being there alone, and always had his revolver with him. I am 75 years old now, but remember the events of that night as though they happened yesterday. The following cine film, recorded by my late father in 1961/2, is a brief glimpse of our time as residents. It shows 5 descendants of General Sir Charles Asgill - 2 of his g-granddaughters, 2 of his g-g-granddaughters and 1 g-g-g-granddaughter.

My thirty-year search for a book has come to nought, in spite of thinking it had been foundEdit

I’m putting this here for a reason, so bear with me please! There’s no obligation to read this of course!

Diplomatic life lends itself to many a story to reflect upon, but I’ll confine it to one! When I was living in Tonga (1985-1987) my mother wrote to me with news of a novel just published, in 1986, based in and around Tonga. “Oh, I must read that” I thought and purchased it in Sydney during our mid-tour leave that year. There were no retail outlets of note in Tonga in those days, even basic provisions, such as potatoes, were a rarity if the supply ships hadn’t arrived. I set about reading the book on our return. The theme was ‘underwater’ – very deep ‘underwater’ – we’re talking here about the Tonga Trench – some of the action was scary as a consequence. The characters in the story came ashore and even stayed at the Dateline Hotel, well known to us at that time. Imagine my astonishment, when, near to finishing the book, I came across my real-life uncle, Captain Robert Newton, as large as life, and accurately described. My uncle had served in the 5th/7th Rajput Regiment in World War II and was killed in action, during the Battle of Hong Kong, on 19 December 1941. His death at 24 years old was heroic and he fought to the end. There were not many of his regiment still alive after that battle. Everything about his death was accurately described in the book – the book being a novel based in and around Tonga – so you see how extraordinary this was. I had been so surprised, and more than a little delighted about this, that I lent the book to a very senior Tongan, carefully placing my name and address label in the front of the book before doing so. The book was never returned to me, in spite of making a point of asking for it before my departure at the end of 1987. I had naturally wanted to tell my family about it when next I saw them. We took a sick four-year-old son back to New Zealand, after leaving Tonga, and it was a few years before we got him back on an even keel. I had no time to think about missing books during that period of our lives. When everything settled down to a steadier pace once more, it occurred to me to try to find another copy of the book and buy it again. To my astonishment and dismay I realised I could not remember the title of the book, nor the author’s name! My mind was a completely blank page on the matter. All I could remember was “Tonga”, “Tonga Trench”, the “Dateline Hotel” – and, of course, deep sea drama.

All that happened in approximately 1990. I have been searching this impossible search ever since. I’ve had to buy and read an awful lot of trash in the meantime, hoping it might have been “the one”! Today, 29.11.19, I finished reading The Phoenix Odyssey by Richard P. Henrick and for at least two thirds of this novel I was totally convinced I had finally found my missing book once more, (and it could not be described as trash either – rather, a cold war novel). In the intervening years I have been in touch with the High Commission of Tonga, London; Tony Banham, (who wrote Not The Slightest Chance) in Hong Kong, who is an authority on the Japanese invasion; and even the present Rajput regiment in India today. Nobody could help me. Not even the Friendly Islands Bookshop which now exists in Tonga. I’ve had ‘ads’ in newspapers, hoping someone would know the book, and posted on all sorts of internet websites. It’s all taken 30 years so far! It would not have been possible to get anywhere with this search without the wonderful members of Abe Books who have been known to find author-less and title-less books before now! When I got my most recent notification I thought, “Oh, here we go again – another rubbish book I must track down and read”! As I mentioned, The Phoenix Odyssey is not a rubbish book, but obviously I haven’t kissed enough frogs yet and the prince is being very slow to turn up!

I visited my uncle’s grave in Hong Kong’s Sai Wan War Cemetery in 1963 on my own; in 1978 with a WRNS friend stationed at the Naval Base in HK; in 1984 with my husband and in 2016 with my daughter. During the latter visit I discovered that Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, had placed a poppy on his grave the day before. I took with me (and had buried in the soil under the bush by his gravestone) pebbles from Brighton beach - Brighton having been his hometown. My American grandmother, (who was so proud to be a member of DAR – so I had ancestors fighting on both sides of the Revolutionary war), was informed that her son was missing in action, presumed dead, on 28 January 1942. A full year passed before the India Office in London wrote again to confirm they had to “conclude” that her son was dead and enclosed a death certificate stating he had been killed in action on 19 December 1941. What an agonising year that must have been and no wonder she never wanted to celebrate Christmas ever again. But it wasn’t until 1945 that his parents received a letter from their son’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson, (who had been in Sham Shui Po Barracks, a Japanese run Prisoner of War Camp for British, Indian and Canadian troops for three and a half years but had nonetheless somehow managed to write on 7 October 1942, his letter taking three years to arrive), expressing his regret at the loss of such a good officer who had shown “first class leadership” and a “fine example”, giving them details regarding his death. He had furthermore submitted his name to be awarded the Military Cross for an earlier episode, on 9 December on the Mainland, where he had “put up a very fine show”. This medal is not awarded posthumously though. Bob was, however, Mentioned in dispatches for “gallantry and extreme devotion to duty in the defence of Hong Kong” (Supplement to the London Gazette 4th April 1946 p.1672).

Weirdly, of all the dozens and dozens of books I've had to buy in my search for the missing book, Dennis Wheatley's Bill for the Use of Body does actually mention my Uncle Bob on p. 24, but, no, it is not the right book. Again, another of my purchases, Dennis Wheatley's The White Witch of the South Seas mentions The Dateline Hotel on p. 140. There has to be a hidden message here, doesn't there - one I've not fathomed out yet!

My uncle died before I was born, but I have always tried to ensure his memory stays alive. My greatest regret is that his brother, my late father, was denied the opportunity to know the name of the book. Film: Savage Christmas, Hong Kong, 1941

Contact details
I welcome contact from anyone interested in the Asgill story. I can be contacted either by using the "Email this user" button within Wikipedia or alternatively using the following email address: anne dot ammundsen at aol dot com (Mobile, on WhatsApp, +44-(0)7724833803)
  1. ^ a b c Vanderpoel, Ambrose E., (1921) History of Chatham, New Jersey. Charles Francis Press, New York, Chapters 17-20.