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The C.R. Boxer Affaire: Heroes, Traitors, and the Manchester Guardian

Author: Kenneth R. Maxwell, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
March 16, 2001
Noticia e Opinio

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Heroes come cheap these days. The word is bandied around so promiscuously for high-priced sports stars and short-lived celebrities, that when a real hero appears he or she makes people uncomfortable. The recent U.S. presidential election saw a real hero enter the competition—Senator John McCain—not a popular figure among his fellow senators, but a truly exceptional man who survived long years of solitary confinement and torture as a POW in Vietnam to emerge as a leading advocate of reconciliation with his former tormentors. Charles R. Boxer was such a man, both a victim and an admirer of the Japanese, and resented, like Senator McCain, by some of his former colleagues for his magnanimity. But if heroes come cheap, so too do accusations of treachery. This is the rub of the current C.R. Boxer affaire, a concoction of old resentments, gossip, and jealousies from a lost colonial world served up now to impinge the reputation of a truly remarkable and complex individual.

"Charles Boxer was a fine soldier and a brilliant historian. But … was he also a traitor whose information prolonged the second world war?" So began the headline of an article in the British newspaper The Guardian on Feb. 24, 2001 by Hywel Williams. In his article Williams asserts that Boxer "may" have been a "traitor" who betrayed "… his fellow officers in a Japanese-run POW camp in Hong Kong in a way that undermined the entire British intelligence system in south east Asia." Boxer, Williams goes on, was "a globalist intellectual before his time" whose work "framed the assumptions of the post-colonial and anti-western elites in Brazil, west Africa and Japan, where he was read, translated and feted."

Williams claims that Boxer had fallen "under the spell of the Japanese cultural style, its combination of intellectual-aesthetic refinement and power politics." It was, he continues, just like "the Philby-Burgess-Maclean-Blunt generation of English intellectuals [who] embraced Marxist communism in Soviet form." Boxer, he says, like "other members of his [social] class had found another country and another cause in the east." After the war "collaborators everywhere got off lightly." Boxer’s case, writes Williams, could be "a spectacular example of wartime temptation."

These were dramatic charges against one of the twentieth century’s greatest historians, coming in one of Britain’s most respected newspapers. Once known as the Manchester Guardian, this newspaper since its founding in 1821 has been Britain’s strongest liberal voice, independent, non-conformist, and a stalwart champion of unpopular causes. It is the one British newspaper I have read diligently over the years, and I have long admired its writing and reporting. Its pioneering Manchester Guardian Weekly incorporates selections from Le Monde and The Washington Post.

Charles R. Boxer died last year at the age of 96. This protects the newspaper from the risk of a charge of libel. In its March 10 edition The Guardian published a detailed refutation of Williams’ accusations against Boxer by the American historian Professor Dauril Alden. Fortuitously, Alden has just finished a biography of Boxer soon to be published in Lisbon by the Fundação Oriente. Professor Alden is a meticulous scholar of the old school for whom solid documentation is the core of historical scholarship. His detailed rebuttal of Williams’ charges against Boxer can be read on The Guardian’s website, www.guardianunlimited.co.uk, where the newspaper originally posted and still retains a reference to Williams’ attack, though now under a modified and less insidious headline.

Curiously, however, the Williams article itself has been removed from the website archive, thereby making it inaccessible. Such stealth in cyberspace is despicable—if the Guardian is ashamed of what it published in the first place, it should say so. It is hard to understand the lapse of editorial judgment that led the Guardian to lend its pages to such a scurrilous attack, filled with innuendo, inaccuracies, and undocumented aspersion on the honor of the most honorable of men. And it in no way relieves the Guardian from the moral obligation to apologize to Boxer’s family and its readers for this grotesque breach of its own high journalistic standards. One assumes that under English libel law if any of the individuals attacked in the Hywel Williams article were still alive, the Guardian would be facing the probability of funding several academic chairs in Portuguese imperial history named in Boxer’s memory.

To generations of historians of the Portuguese-speaking world C.R. Boxer was a true colossus. His highly original, pithy, and path-breaking books, monographs, and articles flowed forth with seeming effortlessness. Boxer’s works covered the history of early European intrusions into Japan and China during the sixteenth century, and splendid accounts of the opulence and decline of Goa, seat of Portugal’s empire in Asia. In over 350 publications, all of the highest order of scholarship, Boxer wrote on sixteenth-century naval warfare in the Persian Gulf, the tribulations of the maritime trading route between Europe and Asia, a sparkling overview of Brazil during the eighteenth century in the age of gold strikes and frontier expansion, magnificent syntheses of both Dutch and Portuguese colonial history, as well as and many pioneering comparative studies of local municipal institutions in Asia, Africa, and South America, race relations, and social mores. Famously in the 1960s at the height of Portugal’s colonial wars in Africa, he took on the "Luso-tropicalist" propaganda of the Salazar dictatorship by unraveling its roots in Gilberto Freyre’s assertion of Portuguese colonial non-racialism and was thoroughly vilified for it by the regime and its apologists.

In my view Boxer’s magnificent account of the career of Salvador Correia de Sá Benevides (1602-1686) is one of his very best books. This "notable old stickler" as Sir Robert Southwell called Salvador de Sá in a letter to Lord Arlington in 1667, played a decisive role in the titanic seventeenth-century struggle between the Iberian powers and the Dutch for hegemony in the South Atlantic. The inscription for his now lost tomb at the Lisbon convent of the bare-footed Carmelites praised Salvador de Sá as "the Restorer of the Faith of CHRIST in the Kingdom of Angola, Congo, Benguela, São Tomé and conqueror of the Dutch." As Boxer demonstrated, to this accolade should have been added the savior of Portuguese-speaking Brazil.

Remarkably, Boxer had only formally entered academic life when middle-aged. Without a university degree, but on the strength of his outstanding scholarship, he was appointed in 1947 to the prestigious chair at King’s College, London, named in honor of the great Portuguese poet, Luís de Camões, author of Os Lusíadas. He got the job at King’s College, he said, because there was no real competition: "it’s like the duckbilled platypus. I’m the only one of my kind."

Boxer’s attainments were so intimidating that when I wrote to him from Lisbon in 1963 to ask how one should prepare for the field I was then thinking of entering, he almost stopped me in my tracks. The basic qualifications, he said, for anyone studying the Portuguese empire were a combination of languages that encompassed Dutch and French and Italian on the European side, in addition to Portuguese and Spanish, and for studying Asia, Japanese and Chinese at the minimum and the paleographic skills to be able to read archival documents in as many of these languages as possible from 1500 on. A strong foundation in the classics was advisable as well, as was a thorough knowledge of the religious literature and theological controversies within the Catholic Church, and between Catholics and Protestants since the Restoration. He said this not to boast: he had no tolerance for pretension. He was only reciting some part of skills he possessed himself and used so effectively to do his work. Boxer despite his eminence was extraordinarily generous with his time and advice to those of us with lesser attainments.

Although it was well known that Boxer had been a soldier until his forties, there was another Boxer about whom we—or at least I—knew very little. This was Boxer the spy and Boxer the lover. Monsignor Manuel Teixeira, the nonagenarian Portuguese priest who is Macau’s premier historian, once asked Boxer about his religion. It was well-known that, as a prisoner of war of the Japanese for almost 4 years in Hong Kong and later Canton (Guangzhou to the Chinese), he had rejected the Bible in preference for the complete works of Shakespeare, a decision that troubled the redoubtable old priest, with whom Boxer had long retained a friendly rivalry. Boxer, whose penchant for bawdy jokes and barrack-room doggerel was notorious, answered: I am an Episcopalian from the waist up and a Mormon from the waist down. In the case of the Mormons, he was evidently thinking of polygamy and not the Salt Lake City Tabernacle Choir. Boxer’s Hong Kong affair with the American journalist Emily Hahn was one of the twentieth century’s most publicized romances. For seventy years Hahn, known to her friends and family as "Mickey" was one of The New Yorker’s most prolific contributors. Like Boxer, her literary output was astounding—52 books and hundreds of articles, short stories, and poems. Their wartime affair in Hong Kong was fully laid out by Hahn herself in the best-seller China to Me: A Partial Autobiography. She predeceased Charles Boxer in 1997 at the age of 92.

To many who had followed her adventures over the years, Emily Hahn was the star and Charles Boxer was the handsome military bit player. Her U.S. obituaries hardly mentioned him or his achievements as a scholar. For Emily Hahn’s public Charles Boxer was for ever the British major from Hong Kong who became her lover, father of her children, and then her husband for over fifty years. Boxer and Hahn settled down at his country seat in Dorset in the late 1940s, but Hahn was ill-suited to the role of chatelaine in a drafty English manor during the pinched conditions of the postwar British countryside. Her all too accurate commentary on British mores and foibles in England to Me published in 1949 was not appreciated by her adopted countrymen. After 1950 her marriage to Boxer became a transatlantic commute. Hahn avoided taxes in Britain by brief sojourns, while Boxer, after a stint at Yale University, when in the United States checked into the Yale Club on Vanderbilt Avenue behind Grand Central Station in New York City.

Emily Hahn was born of Jewish-German ancestry in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1905. In 1926 she earned the first degree in mining engineer awarded to a woman by the University of Wisconsin. During the early 1920s she had driven across America in a Model T Ford dressed as a boy and settled briefly in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her letters to friends in Chicago, where her family had moved, provided the material sent to but initially rejected by The New Yorker. She worked as a screen writer in the early days of Hollywood, took graduate studies in geology at Columbia University in New York, and had her first The New Yorker piece published in 1929. When a California love affair went wrong she took off in 1930 for Africa, settled among the pigmies in the Belgium Congo and became attached to gibbons. At least one of these slender-bodied long-armed arboreal apes thereafter accompanied her everywhere perched on her shoulder.

In 1935 she stopped off for a few days at Shanghai. "It had become clear to me from the first day in China that I was going to stay forever," she wrote later. In China she met the Soong sisters. The eldest was wed to Dr. W.H. Kung, a wealthy Shanghai banker and China’s prime minister in the late 1930s. Another Soong sister had married Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese republic, still revered by both Nationalists and Communists as the founder of modern China. The third sister married Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leader.

Hahn wrote the stories of these remarkable women in her book The Soong Sisters, published in 1941. In Shanghai Hahn had a long affair with one of China’s leading intellectuals and poets, Zau Sinmay, and became an opium addict. She was a friend of such luminaries of the Shanghai scene as Sir Victor Sassoon, and C.V. Starr, publisher of the American Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury and backer of Sinmay’s abortive attempts to establish a bilingual literary journal. She met the young Communist insurgent leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. All the while she was filing reports for The New Yorker as its China correspondent, recording in vivid autobiographical detail life in China against a background of civil war and revolution and the Japanese invasion.

When Emily Hahn became Charles Boxer’s lover in Hong Kong in 1940 he was already "an old Asian hand" as the saying went in British colonial circles. Boxer, who was working with British military intelligence, had in 1939 married Ursula Tulloch. Hywel Williams, in his The Guardian article, claims Tulloch, known as the "most beautiful woman" in Hong Kong, was also one of the most promiscuous. Her ambition, Williams asserts, "was to sleep her way through the entire intelligence community in the far east." A marvelous English euphemism the word "sleep" in this context. Sleep was presumably the last thing, Williams implies, that Ursula Tulloch, Boxer, or anyone else was thinking of when they went to bed in Hong Kong. Boxer and Ursula Tulloch were the colony’s prime "swingers," Williams asserts.

Alf Bennett, one of Boxer’s old friends, who arrived in Hong Kong in 1939 to join the Far East Intelligence Bureau and after the headquarters was moved to Singapore later that year, remained in Hong Kong and worked in adjacent offices to Boxer and saw him every day. Alf Bennett was kind enough to share with me his reaction to the Guardian article. He says that "whatever the author wished to convey by ‘swingers,’ not a word of that time, this is complete nonsense." Boxer was a hard drinker and enjoyed a good party, but as Alf Bennett says, "Charles was soon back to his books to write an erudite article."

Ursula Tulloch was also evacuated from Hong Kong to Singapore. It had been assumed, inaccurately as it turned out, that Singapore would be safer from attack by the Japanese and was in any case impregnable. When this confidence proved disastrously misplaced, Ursula managed to escape when Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, making her way to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where she chose to stay working as a cryptographer. In 1947, after divorce from Boxer, she remarried I.A.R. Peebles, a journalist at the London Sunday Times and a well known sportsman. Following Peebles death she remarried again. Ursula Tulloch, of course, like Charles Boxer and Emily Hahn, is no longer around to refute Williams’ assertions. She died in 1996 at the age of 86.

Boxer had met Hahn first in Shanghai, startled when first greeted at the offices of Sinmay’s magazine by "an enormous ape … wearing a red cap…" This was Emily Hahn’s companion, the gibbon "Mr. Mills." Boxer told her he too was a writer, of "historical works, very dull." But as he had been given to understand [that] Emily and Sinmay "were actors in one of the great love stories of the world, so naturally I didn’t want to intrude." Hahn found Boxer a "brilliant, amusing, mad man, who had insisted on talking to me about the latest Chungking politics, of which I knew nothing, and harping on the approaching dissolution of the British Empire." After Hahn congratulated him on his marriage he said, "It always happens when one lives in Hong Kong. One either becomes a hopeless drunkard or one marries. I did both."

When Emily Hahn came to Hong Kong with Sinmay, "the Major," as she invariably called Boxer, took the direct approach. At a dinner he overheard Hahn say she could not have children. Well, Boxer told her, I do not believe that, let’s see, and the child can be my heir. The subsequent birth of Carola in November 1941 took place six weeks before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese assault on Hong Kong itself came shortly thereafter. After holding out for 16 days, the British surrendered on Christmas Day 1941, the centenary of the British annexation of Hong Kong island from the Chinese Empire during the Anglo-Chinese Opium War of 1839-1842. Boxer, who had rejected two Japanese demands for surrender on behalf of the British Governor, had been severely wounded.

The task of conveying the formal rendition of Hong Kong to the Japanese thereby fell to his friend Alf Bennett, a Japanese speaker who had also served in Japan. He was very unhappy to have been landed this unpleasant duty. But Emily Hahn gave a notable description of Alf Bennett in 1940:

Alf was an RAF officer, at once deliberately comic and knowingly glamorous. He had an incredible mustache, curled at the ends like Father’s in the Clarence Day play. He had high blood pressure and a growling voice; he roared, and drank, and knew poetry, and fancied himself a picturesque figure, as he was. Picturesque and privileged. Everybody knew Alf, and women were wistful about him, but a little afraid.

Boxer himself had no doubt about the outcome of the war, even as he lay gravely wounded in the hospital as Hong Kong fell. "In the end they can’t win. I don’t see how they can, do you? Against America, and England, and Holland and China. We must try to survive, that’s all."

Boxer came from a family with a long military tradition, and was born in 1904 on the Isle of Wight. He was educated at Wellington College, named after the Duke of Wellington, victor over Napoleon at Waterloo, and at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Linconshire Regiment as a lieutenant in 1923. Boxer’s father, who also served in the Linconshire Regiment, had been killed at the battle of Ypres in 1915. His was a typically heroic and needless death, as were so many on the dreadful killing fields of the Western Front in World War I. Seriously wounded while serving with General Kitchener in Egypt. Boxer’s father had, however, insisted on returning to active duty when the World War broke out. At Ypres he had led his men up out of the trenches into withering machine gun fire, propped up on his walking stick and resting on the elbow of his batman.

Following language and intelligence training, Charles Boxer was seconded to the Japanese army in 1930 for three years as part of an exchange of Japanese and English officers. He was assigned to the 38 Infantry in Nara. "Usually in armies the smart people were in the cavalry, but in Japan the cavalry was regarded as a lot more stupid and upper class and not nearly as good as the infantry," Boxer said in 1989 in an interview we recorded at the Camões Center at Columbia University. Boxer enjoyed Japan: "When you are young and lusty as an eagle and with a lot of money you do." He took up the Japanese fencing called kendo— "Everyone does it now, but in 1930 all the foreigners did jujitsu. I was the first one to do kendo." Boxer explained, "I was very pro-Japanese anyway and the older generation was still very pro-British … it was a man’s country and if you learned Japanese, which I did, you were fine." Not that women were absent from Boxer’s Japanese life. His housekeeper concubine was a northerner from Kakoadati on the island of Kakkaido. "There was no secret about it. She had been someone else’s concubine before and was very reliable."

It was in Japan that he expanded his interest in Portuguese imperial history, concentrating his attention on the first disastrous experiment of European incursion into Japan and its catastrophic ending when Tokugawa closed off the country to outside influence in the 1640s. The Japanese literally crucified hundreds of Christian missionaries and converts and for good measure executed a delegation of anxious envoys sent out from the Portuguese China enclave of Macau in order to make it entirely clear to the European outsiders that they meant what they said. This was the subject of Boxer’s book The Christian Century of Japan.

Boxer returned to London for a two-year posting from 1935-36 to the military intelligence section of the War Office. Here, he told us in 1989, "I had something to do with Anthony Blunt or Anthony Burgess—one of those traitors who was in the Foreign Office because we had to liase with each other over the phone." I am glad Mr. Hywel Williams did not see this reference to the notorious Soviet moles within the British establishment—it would undoubtedly have provided more gist to his conspiratorial mill. In mid-winter 1937 Boxer was sent to Hong Kong, traveling by way of the Trans Siberian Railroad, Manchuria, Korea, Japan, and Shanghai. In Hong Kong he worked with the Far East Combined Bureau, a military intelligence unit and traveled widely in China on his spy missions as well as returning several times to Japan.

The center of Hywel Williams’ charge of collaboration against Boxer focuses on the period of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and secret transmissions between Prisoners of War held at the Argyle street camp in Kowloon for British officers and the British Army Aid (BAAG) operating out of Chongqing, former capital of Sichuan province and the base of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist army. The discovery of the "transmitter" by the Japanese in July 1943, Hywel Williams implies, was a result of Boxer’s treachery. Only a handful of officers knew of the transmitter at the time, he claims, and all were executed except Boxer.

Professor Alden takes apart these charges systematically in his March 10 refutation of Hywel Williams’ article. As Alden proves, far from being responsible for "prolonging" World War II, it was Boxer who warned that "there could be no greater error than to assume, as is so often done, that Japan’s military is too bogged down in China to prevent it being turned against us…" It was the British War Office and Foreign Office that ignored and underestimated this threat. As Alden also points out, Boxer was shot in the back by a sniper trying to rally leaderless troops against the invasion. At the Argyle Street camp in Kowloon the control of information became critical to morale as the tides of war shifted against the Japanese. For a time this news was accessible through a secret short-wave radio receiver (not transmitter). After the Japanese found it, Boxer and others were arrested, interrogated, and condemned to hard labor. Alden quotes Ralph Goodwin, a camp escapee who wrote that Boxer’s prison companions "never ceased to marvel at [his] amazing fortitude and calmness of spirit."

After the war Boxer declined a decoration from the British government (an MBE - Member of the British Empire) since he said he "had done nothing to deserve the honor." Later in 1975 he declined an honor a second time, a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). There was, he said, no empire left to be a Commander of. Boxer himself rarely, if ever, spoke of his imprisonment; nor did he want to write an autobiography. To have experienced torture, he told a colleague, was to "share the experience of many helpless people in the past." Colleagues looking at his personal files found his folders empty. "Ever the intelligence officer" was the reaction of a long time colleague at King’s College. When pressed on this period during the Camões Center interview in 1989 and asked if he was surprised or apprehensive when Hong Kong fell, he said,

No, I knew the Japanese and I saw clearly that would happen to us. I knew dammed well that if they treated their own people badly why should they treat us better. The Japanese army’s discipline was very severe, even when they made the slightest mistake. We had seen all this in Japan and I had no illusions.

Emily Hahn was less reticent about the events in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation. Her voluminous writings and correspondence give a richly detailed account of these years. Her book, China to Me, published in 1944 while Boxer was still held in POW camp in Hong Kong, dealt explicitly with the whole cast of characters—Japanese, British, Chinese, and American—Hahn met in this period. Her activities and subterfuges, negotiations and hardships, and her relationship with Boxer was shared with the over 700,000 readers who bought her best-seller. The "collaboration" Hywel Williams imputes to Boxer and Hahn was no mystery at all, nor did it involve betrayal by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact it was Hahn’s identification papers, showing her to have a Chinese husband, Sinmay, that saved her. And with the connivance of the Japanese consul in Hong Kong, Mr. Shiroshici Kimura, who knew Boxer and Hahn before the war. Hahn registered their exchange in China to Me:

"You know I’m an American. Everyone knows that. I have an American passport; you know that too."

"I know."

"According to American law this Chinese marriage does not make me Chinese."

"According to Japanese law," he said, "it does."

"And you know that’s Boxer’s baby, don’t you?"

"Of course. Your—uh—private life does not alter the law. You will not be interned, Miss Hahn. Indeed, you cannot be interned. We are ejecting all Chinese subjects from the internment camps."

One of Williams’ more bizarre inaccuracies is his "charge" that Hahn was a "feminist and a communist sympathizer," doubtless intended to reinforce his innuendoes that Boxer was like the Soviet moles within the British establishment, a man with the proclivities for treachery because of his relationship with such a woman. Ironically this McCarthy-like smear, and in The Guardian no less, parallels the suspicions of U.S. military intelligence when Hahn eventually got back to New York with Carola in December 1943, and was interrogated by eight panels of military intelligence officials and the FBI. Why had she not been interned? Had she been a Japanese spy? Why had she fraternized with such high ranking Japanese officers? Why had she received "favors" from the Japanese?

Hahn kept replying that the "comparative freedom I had got out of the lie was important. It was not only that the very idea of being herded behind barbed wire was revolting. Outside, I was able to carry food and medicine to the military camp where Carola’s father was incarcerated. We all did, every week, a draggle-tailed group of women whose men were locked up. Chinese women, and Swiss and French and Danish and Eurasian and Russian, and me."

Hahn was without question a women ahead of her time in very many ways, but she scoffed at the idea of being a feminist: "feminists belong to clubs. They collect money for causes. I wish feminists well but I’ve never wanted to be one." She was too much the individualist for such collective causes, and as the late William Maxwell of The New Yorker pointed out, though it hardly needed emphasis for anyone who read what she wrote over the years: she liked men. She was also no leftist, far from it: during the increasingly bitter divisions in the United States over China during the late 1940s she spoke up for the Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek and criticized the Communist propaganda many Americans she claimed had "fallen for." She dismissed as "stay at home experts" those American leftists and liberals who supported the Chinese Communists. In fact it is probably precisely because she was not a feminist nor a leftist in the fashionable New York manner that even today Emily Hahn is not recognized as the amazing and very American original that she undoubtedly was.

Boxer of course also trespassed beyond the narrow bounds of British colonial etiquette and ingrained racism. As Hahn had written about Shanghai,

The British were not aware of the Chinese as a people. Oh I don’t mean the British didn’t see the Chinese. They did. They mentioned them often as peasants, dwellers in the picturesque villages we saw when we went houseboating or shooting. They spoke of them as servants, quaint and lovable…. The British community, however, reserved its social life for itself and those among the Caucasian groups that could be considered suitably upper class.

Boxer and Hahn were of course just the opposite. They moved in multiracial circles. Hahn had a Chinese lover. And she was an American. All these elements upset and obsessed and disgusted British Hong Kong. And the resentments have evidently not diminished over the years. It is doubtless from these poisoned roots that the tittle-tattle and gossip arose, which landed up on the pages of The Guardian. As Hahn notes at one point in China to Me, "Nobody English thought of inviting Chinese people to ‘informal parties’." Boxer had not tolerance for racism, Portuguese or British. A Japanese interrogator at the fall of Hong Kong paid him an unwitting tribute when he told Hahn, "Everybody say British bad; Boxer okay. No proud."

I asked Boxer in 1989 about how the British Army had reacted to his scholarly interest. "Provided you hunted and had a horse and that kind of thing then you were regarded as more or less all right," he replied. "Whether you took any interest in history didn’t matter at all. If you were interested in Portuguese or Dutch that was regarded as mildly eccentric, but as long as you hunted and had a horse those were the main things." In Hong Kong hunting was not enough. His Japanese connections were also no mystery: this was precisely the reason for his intelligence posting to Hong Kong in the first place. His Japanese regiment had in fact been one of those which seized Hong Kong from the British in 1941. The Japanese knew Boxer and he knew them, and he used this understanding to help his fellow prisoners survive.

Unlike Blunt, Burgess, and the Soviet moles, Boxer was no cynic. His closest friends saw him as a stoic. In his personal copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius he had marked the passage on what it is to die, how "… he can conceive of it not otherwise, than as a work of nature, and he that fears any work of nature, is a very child." And this stoicism sustained him through the ordeal of over three years in captivity, torture, and solitary confinement. Was he afraid, we asked in 1989. "No, there was no reason to be afraid. It was part of life. I feel sorry that a lot of people who died never lived to see the end of the war. My friends never lived to see this, because they were shot and killed. I was one of the lucky ones." Boxer was no traitor, nor in his own mind was he a hero. He was, as his friend Professor Peter Marshall of King College called him, a person of "granite integrity." When offered decorations he rejected them. But a title Charles Boxer might just have accepted was the one he liked to quote about Salvador Correa de Sá. For whatever else Boxer may or may not have been, he was undoubtedly like his seventeenth-century Luso-Brazilian hero: "a notable old stickler." A stickler is defined in my dictionary as a tenacious and persistent person in search of the truth. This is something once upon a time the Manchester Guardian also used to be.