John Gerald Heath Lander was born in Liverpool in 1907 to Gerald Heath Lander and Margaret Lockhart Smith. Shortly after his birth his father was appointed the bishop of Hong Kong and the family moved. John Lander grew up in Hong Kong, but returned to the UK for secondary school and eventually graduated from Trinity College Cambridge in 1929. He was an avid rower and represented Britain in the 1928 Olympic Games where he won a gold medal.
After university Lander secured a job with the Shell Company. He returned to Hong Kong and from 1929 to 1931 worked there for Asian Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of Shell. He was then transferred to Manila and stayed there until 1938 when he returned to England in search of a wife. While in England that year, he met and married Kathleen Elizabeth (Betty) Francis. Shortly thereafter the new couple returned to the Philippines.
In 1941 Lander was offered a promotion and an opportunity to return to the Hong Kong office of Asian Petroleum Company, but because of the threat of Japanese invasion his wife and son stayed in the Philippines. Betty and her young son Gerry were later held captive in the Santo Tomas internment camp after the Japanese invaded the Philippines.
He left on June 14, 1941 which is the date of the first letter in this series. The letters continue until December 2, 1941, a week prior to the eventual invasion of Hong Kong by Japanese forces.
Once in Hong Kong Lander joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and worked as a gunner at Stanley Fort. He was killed attempting to defend Stanley in the battle of Hong Kong on either December 24 or 25th, 1941.
Betty did not learn of her husband's death for almost two years. After the war she returned to the UK for two years, then emigrated to South Africa.