CHINA - Commander Roderick Larken MOORE (b.1895)
[Three autograph manuscript diaries kept by Moore during his service on the H.M.S. Cockchafer on the Yangtze Flotilla]
Mostly along the Yangtze: 4 October 1935 to 25 December 1937. 3 volumes, tall 4to. Approx. 440 pages. Illustrated with newspaper clippings (mostly from the North China Daily News or Central China Post), maps, banquet menus, theatre programs, Chinese postage stamps and more. [With:] Approx. 50 letters written to Moore, mostly Jan. 1930, congratulating him on his promotion to Commander; approx. 40 typed or partly-printed commissions from the Admiralty spanning the course of his naval career; a typed letter signed from Admiral Arbuthnot appointing him Commander of the Military Division of the Order of the British; a group of certificates of naval service; and other ephemera.
Various original cloth bindings.
Life of a British naval officer on the Yangtze Flotilla in the years leading to the Second Sino-Japanese War.
As a young naval officer, Moore saw significant action in WWI at the Battle of Heligoland and the Battle of Jutland, later serving aboard the H.M.S. Marlborough. (Interestingly, Rudyard Kipling makes specific reference to Moore's action at the Battle Jutland in Sea Warfare. See Bilham, referenced below, which gives a brief biography of Moore's military career.) Following the war, he served as a navigation officer aboard several ships and as an instructor at the H.M. Navigation College at Portsmouth, steadily being promoted to the rank of Commander in December 1929. The diaries begin in October 1835, with Moore about to sail aboard the T.S.S. Aeneas for Shanghai. The passage through the Suez is uneventful, though includes much news of the Italian-Abyssinian conflict as the ship passes Eritrea. He records a leisurely life aboard ship, where he is made Chairman of the shipboard Sports Committee, recording the results of deck tennis, skittles and quoits. By mid-November, as he nears his destination and command, his thoughts turn to the political situation in China: "I believe there is some more trouble brewing in N. China, as the Japanese are said to have demanded autonomy for [Xinjiang] & 2 other provinces." He arrives in Shanghai on 16 November, proceeding upriver toward Hankou, and on November 24 assumes command of the H.M.S. Cockchafer. Over the next two years, Moore travels up and down the Yangtze as part of the British Flotilla, charged with protecting British interests along the river. His diary entries record numerous meetings with local officials and a detailed recording of the British, American, Russian and Japanese ships encountered. Although much of his time seems to be spent socializing at golf and dinners at towns along the river, it would seem that his charge was maintaining good relations with the locals of the region. He details a refit of his ship, various navigation and military exercises with his crew, impressions and descriptions of towns, businesses and officials he encounters, and the news of the day, including the death of George V, the ascension and abdication of Edward VIII. Given his position and access to first-hand intelligence, Moore's diary entries concerning the deteriorating Chinese-Japanese relations and the challenges faced by the Nationalist government and Chiang Kai-Shek are particularly interesting. 6 June 1936: "... Discussed the North China situation & also a new development on the southern Nanking / Canton border where rumours of preparations for civil war between the central government at Nanking & the Cantonese faction have apparently been circulating ... The Consul & I have been warned to see that combatives, in the event of an anti-foreign outburst arising ... can be effected without delay..." 9 June: "Today developments in the S. of Hunan take the centre of the picture ... Kwantung / Kwanzsi troops entreed Hunan at 2 points on the 7th & advanced northwards. It is said that they carry anti-Japanese slogans..." 10 June: " ... 5 divisions of Central Gov't troops to the S to oppose Canton. Aircraft to be seen too. Rumours of a skirmish away to the S. At last Nanking is acting & the situation is getting clearer & a bit easier. CKS is not going to take this lot lying down." 17 June: "Rumours going round but unconfirmed that the Cantonese are trying to form a new autonomous SW government ... One sees the hand of Japan behind this..." 24 Sept: "... News today of the shooting of 1 & wounding of 2 Japanese sailors in Hangkew on Tues. night. This on top of the shooting of a Jap. policeman in Hankow a few days ago is d-d serious. The central govt. will have to do something soon..." 18 Dec.: "Much talk in the news of the detention of Chian Kai-Shek by the young marshal ... If CKS is bumped off in the process it would mean a great set back from which it would take China many years to recover ..." 26 Jan. 1937: "The Sian situation which has been simmering over since CKS left there a month ago, seems to be deteriorating ... It looks like a fight soon, in spite of the snow." 9 July: "The Chinese & Japanese troops have been fighting outside Pekin. Nobody seems quite to know why." 16 July: "The N. China crisis was the chief topic & sounded not too good. All the Chinese Govt officials have hurried back ... to Nanking ... the Japs realize that if they wish to attack China they must do it soon before she has organized. Many think that the Japs mean to have a war now ..." 29 July: "Fighting up north has started in earnest. The Japs have attacked Pekin.." 18 Sept: "There is a big battle in progress w. of Tsientsin. Can the Chinese stand up to the superior equipment of the Japanese?" On November 1, 1937, Moore finishes his term as commander of the Cockchafer and relinquishes command to return to England, and on his voyage home learns of the Japanese attack on British and American ships on the Yangtze (i.e. Panay incident). By mid-December, Moore has returned home and closes his diary on Christmas day.
cf. Chris Bilham, "An Active Acting Sub-Lieutenant," Kipling Journal (September 2011), pp.34-43.