Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Fleda Jones, the young African American in this photo is not longer of this world. She has recently died in her mid-nineties.

The picture looks relatively recent but in fact it was taken in 1949 outside the North Point Relief Camp in Hong Kong and is of Friends Ambulance Unit workers waiting to fly into Chungking. The story is told in my book, A TRUE FRIEND TO CHINA, in which Fleda as the lab technician in Jack Jones' peoples' clinic played an important role.

What courage it must have taken for a young woman to travel alone to Hong Kong and to plunge into the vast unknown of China, facing civil war and the communist takeover, risking her life in harsh conditions in the hope of helping people and saving lives. She made an exceptional contribution but as the book will tell you her presence there led to dramatic and far-reaching consequences. This blog will not spoil the story which reads better than fiction and which strangely was later translated into fiction. Novelists always write from experience and Jack Jones as author drew on this tumultuous time in Chungking in writing his best-selling novel, A WOMAN OF BANGKOK.

About three years ago I tried tracing Fleda Jones in her home country, the USA. All I had was an address for her in the sixties. Miraculously she was still there and I managed to get her phone number. We had a long and warm chat on the phone and this personal contact meant a lot to me though I leaned little from her. She was 'busy busy' and still learning Chinese, ever optimistic in her tenth decade.

Subsequent attempts at contact failed so I sent in the sleuths. A good friend was in New York and he most generously went out of his way to visit her apartment block. but the news was not good. It seems that not so long after I had spoken to her she was taken ill and hospitalised. When she died a memorial service was held but there were no relatives which seems sad. After a life-time of medical service she had friends but they knew little about her except that she was strong and resilient, a 'tough broad'.

So finally a line is drawn under one more of Jack's co-workers in Chungking. Remarkably though, Dorothy Reuman (on left of picture) is still in close contact with me and living in West Hartford, Connecticut, while Howell Jones, standing at the back has just sent me a Facebook friends request from his home in Newfoundland.

What remarkable survivors these Friends Ambulance Unit China Convoy people were. They didn't need my book to make them somehow immortal.

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