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After providing the piece below to Julie and Mitch, I acquired from a used books dealer in Sydney the biography of Richard Hughes that had been published there in 1982, two years before his death in 1984 at the age of 78. First notice of a Far Eastern scion society of the BSI appeared in Vincent Starretta€™s Chicago Tribune column of September 14, 1947.
One of the cultural highlights of the Japanese Occupation, indeed, was the foundation, in 1948, of a still-flourishing Tokyo Chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars by Japanese, British, American, Australian and New Zealand students of Sherlock Holmes.
The historic founding meeting of The Baritsu Chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars was held at the Shibuya residence of Walter Simmons, Far Eastern representative of the Chicago Tribune, on 12 October 1948.
It was unanimously agreed the society should be named The Baritsu Chapter, in reverent reference to the use a€” rather misuse, as later established by the Chapter a€” of that word by Holmes in The Adventure of the Empty House when, explaining his return from the dead, he credited his escape from Professor Moriarty to his knowledge of a€?baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling,a€? which enabled him to hurl the master criminal to destruction in the Reichenbach Fall. In addition to Count Makino, another notable absence from this initial meeting was Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who pleaded urgent cabinet business and an appointment with General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, as reasons for a last minute cancellation of his attendance.
The Chief Banto elected that night was Richard Hughes, who continued to rollick in the role until his death in 1984.
But in truth, the expansive Hughes became The Baritsu Chapter, during those first years in Tokyo, and later, for the remainder of his life, in Hong Kong. Hughes swaggered across the landscape of the Far East, and his London Sunday Times editor, the novelist Ian Fleming, gave a vivid account in his 1964 book Thrilling Cities of what it was like to have Dick Hughes for a guide on a a€?businessa€? trip to Hong Kong, Macao, and Tokyo. So it came as a surprise to many people when they learned, some years after his death, that from the 1950s on, Richard Hughes had been an agent of the Soviet KGB. And it came as a great surprise to the KGB, no doubt, to learn that in fact Hughes had been not theirs, but a British double-agent actually working for MI6, and feeding the KGB disinformation all those years. Richard Hughes, Chief Banto of The Baritsu Chapter, Far Eastern scion society of the BSI, did so for years. As a schoolboy, a€?On the long walk back home, Hughes would make up stories for the other boys and tell them of the latest adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In November 1920, when Hughes was sixteen, a€?Conan Doyle came to Australia to lecture on spiritualism and Hughesa€™ father was involved in the arrangements for the visit.
In his first newspaper job, in 1936, a€?One of his chores was to review mystery stories and he assumed the by-line a€?Dr Watson, Jnra€™.


In 1939, with a mysterious disappearance in New Zealand in the news, his editor, a€?in a frivolous mood, said to Hughes: a€?Dr Watson, Junior, youa€™re a great authority on crime. In early 1944, while a war correspondent, a€?Hughes brought out his first book, a modest little volume called Dr Watsona€™s Casebook: [Studies in Australian Crime], which dealt with some of the great mysteries of the world.
After the war ended, Hughes was assigned to Tokyo, where his a€?lifelong love of Sherlock Holmes reached some sort of fulfillment in 1948 when he and other aficionados formed a Tokyo chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars. And there is more in the book, including Hughesa€™ anger at Communist Chinese attacks upon the Sherlock Holmes stories, some back-and-forth with Adrian Conan Doyle over whether Sir Arthur was Sherlock Holmes himself or not, Sir Arthura€™s spiritualism, Sherlock Holmes as one of Hughesa€™ favorite a€?cultural disputationa€? topics over the several decades he was stationed in Hong Kong (hea€™d have loudly approved of Robert G.
Hughes delightedly quoted the final few words, spoken after Sherlock Holmes had revealed himself to surprised readers as the counter-spy Altamont who had outwitted the German Von Bork a€” a€?the most astute secret service man in Europe.a€? It was one of Hughesa€™ favourite Holmes stories.
But, the biography continues, this was not an unusual accomplishment for Hughes: a€?His friends tried him on other Sherlock Holmes stories. Falstaff reborn, a man-mountain of wit and magnanimity, of Shakespearean eloquence and Rabelaisian humour, at home in the company of the kingly and the very common.
When the KGB had approached to recruit him as a spy, he had contacted Ian Fleming, who had been in MI6 during the war.
The codename he chose for himself in this double-agent work on behalf of Her Majestya€™s Government was ALTAMONT. His father had started him on Conan Doylea€™s hero and his love for the sardonic Holmes was to grow stronger over the years.
To his intense delight, Hughes was entrusted to pick up Conan Doyle from his hotel and take him in the family Oakland to the theatre where the great man was to lecture.
When there was a dearth of mystery stories he would make them up and review imaginary books, much to the bewilderment of Sydney booksellers. Why dona€™t you go over to New Zealand and solve this mystery for us?a€™ Hughes replied: a€?Certainly.
The pseudonym was Dr Watson Jnr and he dedicated it a€?in reverent and humble tribute to the master, Sherlock Holmes, the greatest and the wisest man I have ever known.a€™a€? (p.
He was an Australian whoa€™d become virtually the dean of the foreign correspondent corps in East Asia, based in Hong Kong and before that in Tokyo.


But The Baritsu Chapter continued to grow, and lives on today at least in the hearts of some, for Hughes over the years made many deserving individuals (even some undeserving, such as this seriesa€™s editor) members of the society. Watson, Jnr.a€? to sign mystery book reviews for the Australian press, and a 1944 collection of Australian true-crime accounts, Dr. In Macao, Hughes introduced Fleming to the syndicate that ran the vice there, took him to the a€?very besta€? brothel in town, and there taught him how to lose at fan-tan, while telling the girlsa€™ fortunes. In a short time, Hughes had received instructions to accept the KGBa€™s offer (but to demand double, so it would take him seriously), and pass along the data that MI6 would provide from time to time. Young Hughes told the author how he used to tell his school mates some of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Ia€™d be delighted.a€™a€? He did so, and came to conclusions contrary to those of the police, and wrote the news story a€?in true Sherlock Holmes stylea€? a€” and was soon proven correct. I had originally gotten in touch with him when I saw an essay of his in 1974, in the Far Eastern Economic Review, entitled a€?Confucius, Lin Piao a€” and Sherlock Holmes,a€? in order to reprint it in Baker Street Miscellanea. Watsona€™s Case Book: Studies in Mystery and Crime (dedicated a€?in reverent and humble tribute to The Master, Sherlock Holmesa€?).
He readily gave permission for that, and in the correspondence that followed, made me a member of The Baritsu Chapter, the BSI scion society (really a society of its own) that he had co-founded in Tokyo in 1948. Decades of covering war and peace in the Far East made him acquainted with the great men and villains of many nations. He had sparred with all of them without ever giving an inch, while living life to the fullest. Walter Simmons, the Far Eastern representative of the Chicago Tribune, and one of Hughesa€™ greatest friends, hosted the first historic lunch,a€? and so on about The Baritsu Chaptera€™s adventures, drawn from the chapter about it in Hughesa€™ 1972 book Foreign Devil: Thirty Years of Reporting from the Far East.



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