Dr. Kenneth McAll

Dr McAll knew Eric Liddell from school and university and later worked with him in Siaochang hospital during the war.

Eric Liddell and I had known each other for many years having been at the same school and university so I was delighted when in 1939 he left his safe job as Chemistry teacher in the Anglo-Chinese College in Tientsin to join me, officially as business manager, in the London Mission hospital in Siaochang. At that time this village was at the centre of the war zone where the Japanese and the 8th Route Chinese communist armies battled for control. Bandits also abounded.

Eric had long wanted to work as an evangelist and wearing a Red Cross armband to show he was attached to the hospital made it possible for him to visit outlying areas with less likelihood of being shot at or arrested. As Britishers we were not popular with the Japanese who suspected us of spying and as Christians we were unpopular with the Communists who only tolerated our presence because they could use our hospital for their wounded. However, it was always possible to get caught in the crossfire. On several occasions he and I, when cycling across open fields to visit sick or needy people in another village, would have the sudden thought to get off our bikes and take cover only to hear bullets flying over our heads. God’s guidance, very real to both of us, became a matter of life or death.

A friend once offered me a very attractive little pistol to protect myself particularly agains bandits. Eric, who happened to be there at the time, shouted, “Don’t touch it!” If you have that in your pocket you will depend on it rather than God and I would refuse to travel with You”.

One day we were told of a wounded man in a village some miles away. With one of the hospital male nurses Eric took the mission mule-drawn cart to the village where he was told of a Japanese ambush in which several 8th Route soldiers had been captured. They had been made to dig their own graves, kneel down and were then decapitated. One, a tall man at the end of the line had refused to kneel. A Japanese soldier had taken a swipe at his neck and the man had fallen into his grave. When the villagers came to see if there was anything worth taking from the bodies, they found this man still alive so had carried him to a nearby derelict temple and had hidden him behind one of the idols. He had been lying there for ten days.

Having done what they could for him on the spot, Eric and the nurse loaded him on to the cart which made its bumpy way back to the hospital. We sewed up the wound as best we could but it took many weeks for home to recover. One day he called out to me in English. H told me he was a graduate of the Beigjing College of Fine Arts and had been on his way home when he had been caught by the Chinese guerrillas and forced to join them. As he refused to carry a gun he had been used as their secretary. He said he was so interested in what he had heard from Eric and others and was so impressed by the care he had witnessed that he wanted to know more about his Jesus they talked about.

When another doctor was free to join me, Eric returned to his job in Tientsin. His coming to me had given support when I needed it most with his solid faith, challenge in absolute standards, quiet humour and companionship.

When Japan entered World War II he was interned in Weishien along with his colleagues and having given totally of his energy and much of his meagre rations to the children in the camp, had died there from a brain tumour. Sadly we were in another camp so we never met up again.