Shanghai, August 1937: Ernie and Florence Allison at the outbreak of war

Ernie Allison

While Moon Chin and the others were escaping upriver (adventures I’ve recounted in recent posts), Ernie Allison and many of CNAC’s other personnel were still in Shanghai. Here are some of their experiences:

The Grovernor House, Shanghai

In Shanghai, Ernie Allison lived with his wife, Florence, in room 402 of the Grosvenor House, an eighteen-story apartment building next door to the Cathay Mansions and the French Club in the heart of the French Concession. They had a phenomenal view from their tenth floor veranda. Firelight flickered over the battlefields north of Soochow Creek all through the night of August 15-16, 1937, backlighting the Park Hotel and the Broadway Mansions. Booming artillery cannonades and the crackle of light caliber weapons sounded through their open bedroom window.

The Grovenor House

Florence lay awake in Allie’s arms, quivering. She was eight months pregnant, and she’d already lost several babies to miscarriages. Both Allisons badly wanted a child. If something happened to this one, so near term, Florence didn’t think she’d another opportunity. Finally, the sun rose. Their Chinese cook brought them waffles at 8:30 a.m. Chinese and Japanese warplanes took to the skies. Allie grabbed his binoculars and dashed to the veranda to watch the dogfights. Florence begged him to come inside, but Allie couldn’t tear himself from the action. A tremendous explosion shook the building. Florence leapt from her chair and ran into the living room, shaking from head to toe. Allie scurried back inside, “It’s nothing to be alarmed about,” he soothed.

Allie sat down, scarfed his waffles, and told his wife that he was going downstairs. Florence didn’t think he had any reason to do so. She asked their houseboy where the shell had hit. “Middle entrance,” he said.

Florence insisted on being taken to look. A stray anti-aircraft shell had blasted a divot in the driveway. A piece of shrapnel had sliced through a parked car. Looking up at the building, the Allisons saw shattered windows on all the floors from three to nine, and again in a row on the twelfth.[i]

Nancy Allison Wright

[Florence’s pregnancy ended well. Here’s a picture of their delightful daughter, Nancy Allison Wright, holding a copy of Yankee On The Yangtze, a book she wrote about her father’s pioneering aviation career. Nancy was incredibly helpful to me through the process of researching and writing China’s Wings.]


[i] Florence Allison diary: Monday, August 16, 1937, entry provided to the author via email by her daughter, Nancy Allison Wright, November 15, 2005.



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