The Long Voyage Home - Jack and Kathleen AllanOn June 25, 1942 the Canadian External Affairs Department in Ottawa announced the twenty-eight names of Canadian nationals reported to have sailed from Japanese occupied Hong Kong, and various parts of China, including Shanghai, for Lourenco Marques, Portuguese West Africa, en route to Canada. The were expected to reach the North American continent in early September.Included on the list were Jack Wilmer Allan and Kathleen Mary (Mahoney) Allan. Kathleen was born on May 10, 1901 and grew up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Jack, the son of Charles Pasedag Allan was born in Shanghai, China in May 1902. Charles Allan, Jack’s father, was a stock broker and accountant and lived in Yarmouth. In 1901 he was living in Shanghai, working as an accountant. Jack’s mother and father were married in Shanghai, and the family travelled between there and Victoria, BC. until Jack’s father died in 1914. Relatives of the Allan family lived in Yarmouth, NS.In 1921 Jack began working as a Junior Assistant with the Shanghai Municipal Council and was serving as a Deputy Secretary with the Municipal Council as the time of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. During his various trips to Canada he visited relatives in Yarmouth.Jack, a Deputy Secretary with the Shanghai Municipal Council and Kathleen, a Nurse, were married and living in Shanghai when Japan declared war on the Allies in December of 1941. Life in Shanghai was precarious from 1931 when Japan first began its incursion into Chinese territory. In 1937 China began to fully resist Japanese encroachments into her territory and Shanghai came under attack by the Japanese in that year. Britain and the US both maintained small naval forces on the Yangtze River in order to protect their interests in China that included the Shanghai International Settlement, an autonomous district of the city inhabited by Westerners. It was originally protected by British soldiers, US Marines, Royal Navy and United States Navy gunboats, but most of these had been withdrawn by December 1941. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 was followed by an attack against British and US warships at Shanghai. The Imperial Japanese Army entered and occupied the British and American controlled parts of the city. The United States first proposed the repatriation of the Japanese and American diplomats on December 13, 1941. In May 1942, Japan and the US agreed to exchange interned diplomats and other citizens and three ships were chartered, the Conte Verde, the Asama Maru and the Gripsholm. This exchange included 28 Canadian diplomats and their families. The Conte Verde and Asama Maru were sent by Japan, and the Gripsholm by the US. Two exchanges were arranged, the first in 1942 for diplomats and the second in 1943 for missionaries and businessmen. On the first exchange, 1,097 Japanese diplomats boarded the Swedish liner Gripsholm in New York and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil before sailing for Lourenco Marques, Portuguese West Africa, (Mozombique) chosen as the closest neutral territory to Japan where they were exchanged for Allied diplomats from Japan and occupied China.Jack and Kathleen Allan boarded the second exchange ship, the Conte Verde and travelled from Shanghai with some 600 passengers. Their ship stopped at Singapore where it was joined by the third exchange ship, the Asama Maru that had sailed from Yokohama. The two ships arrived at Lourenco Marques, on July 23, 1942. These two vessels carried 1,500 diplomats and their families from Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Saigon. The actual exchange occurred on July 23 in Lourenco Marque and the Gripsholm sailed for Rio de Janeiro and then to New Jersey in the United States were the repatriated American and Canadian citizens were landed. For Jack and Kathleen Allan the voyage that started in Shanghai lasted about two months and covered a distance of some 15,000 miles. It was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where Jack and Kathleen were able to finally send word of their safe arrival to relatives in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. They arrived in Yarmouth in August 1942 and visited with Jack’s aunts for a vacation after their ordeal. The couple expressed satisfaction on their safe arrival in Yarmouth after the somewhat hazardous journey but shared little, except perhaps with close family, about their experiences during internment and the voyage. They were very much relieved to get home. Jack and Kathleen Allan eventually lived in British Columbia. Jack Wilmer Allan died on December 12, 1988, aged 86, in Victoria, BC. Kathleen Mary (Mahoney) Allan died August 13, 1996, aged 95, in Victoria BC.Their wartime experience and their story serves as one unique example of Yarmouth’s many world connections during World War II.