In two recent posts I referred to Madame Natasha du Breuil who was active in Hong Kong in the 1950s writing about aquaria and local reptiles**. Thanks to the archives of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the London Gazette, Wikipedia in Russian and Google Translate, I have been able to find something about her and her remarkable history. In doing so, I uncovered black deeds in China between the two world wars, and her later life in Hong Kong with a retired British army officer who operated in intelligence and special operations in China in the 1930s and early 1940s.
|From a 1936 Shopping Guide to Peking
|Madame du Breuil in 1953.
I have blacked out the wife of
the Chief Justice
Her activities reflecting her wide interests in the culture and history of China to natural history, in Hong Kong included the YWCA, Biological Circle (Committee, 1952) and later the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) as a member of council of the Hong Kong branch after it had been resurrected in 1959. For example in May 1950 she gave a talk at the YWCA on Chinese silk; in 1953 she gave talks for children at the same venue on ‘Fish, newts and tortoises’ and on ‘Preparing an aquarium’. In the same series, Burkhardt spoke on butterflies and J.D. Romer on snakes.
|Natasha du Breuil and Valentine Burkhardt at the Luk Kwok Hotel, Wanchai, Hong Hong.
For a companion photograph (with the name of the restaurant on a table cloth) see the article on
Burkhardt. Photograph probably circa 1965
|Some of the jade items from Natasha du Breuil's
collection sold at Christie's in 2012
**Her letters as part of a correspondence group, Aquarists' Internationale, were reported in Water Life magazine. In previous posts are recorded her interests in fish and reptiles. Further extracts on her keeping marine fish and geckos were reported in Water Life June-July 1953 (volume 8, No 3), February-March (volume 10, No 1) and June-July 1955 (10, No 3), June-July 1956 (11 No 3). She also wrote about breeding White Cloud Mountain Minnows (April 1952). The earliest record I have is from the August issue of 1948. It was reported she had written to a friend asking for her subscription to the magazine to be paid (she had seen an advertisement for it in an American magazine). She said she was looking forward to the revival of the Hong Kong Aquarium Society and wrote: 'I hope that by now you know that I am among your constant readers and that Water Life is coming to Hong Kong regularly'. He correspondent in U.K. was R.W. Andrews, an aquarist whose name appears regularly in Water Life and was a fellow member of Gene Wolfsheimer's Aquarists' Internationale but of whom I know nothing else other that in 1948 he was living at 42 Endymion Road, Harringay, London.
Last updated 5 February 2018