A Travellerspoint blog

Black Christmas.

Hong Kong 1941.

rain

The weather here has been beautiful recently, but on Sunday I woke up to black skies and a constant blanket of drizzle. Despite this I decided I would still go out for a walk. In fact, maybe the gloomy weather was actually appropriate, as I intended to walk the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail. This is a war relics trail and goes to ten of the places which witnessed some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting in World War II. This walk seemed a natural follow on from my visit to the Gin Drinkers’ Line last week.

The Japanese began occupying Guangdong, Mainland China, in 1938 and Hong Kong was nervous about the possibility of invasion. Winston Churchill’s view was that Hong Kong would be impossible to defend due to its long, rugged coastline and mountainous terrain. He actually reduced the number of troops stationed here, as he needed so many to cope with the war in Europe. Just a few weeks before Hong Kong was invaded Churchill relented a bit and two battalions were brought into Hong Kong from Canada: the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Quebec City Royal Rifles.

The Japanese opened hostilities here by bombing Kai Tak Airport, on the 7th of December 1941 and in doing so took out most of Hong Kong’s aerial defences. On the 8th of December, a few hours after their attack on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese crossed the Sham Chun River from Shenzen and launched an attack on Hong Kong. The first line of resistance here was the Gin Drinkers Line which was manned by the Royal Scots and two Indian regiments - the Punjabs and Rajputs. This line was insufficiently manned and fell within just two days. The British retreated first to the Devil’s Peak on Lei Yue Mun and then abandoned Kowloon altogether and retreated to Hong Kong Island.

On the 18th of December the Japanese invaded Hong Kong Island, crossing Victoria Harbour and landing at North Point and Aldrich Bay. Huge plumes of black smoke could be seen rising from the North Point Power Station which the Japanese left destroyed in their wake. Then the Japanese troops marched in seemingly never ending lines along Sir Cecil’s Ride, a pathway I walked just a few weeks ago, towards the Wong Nai Chung Gap. The British defences were divided into two brigades. The West Brigade was composed of the Royal Scots, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Punjabi Regiment. They were defending Wong Nai Chung Gap. The East Brigade were made up of the Quebec City Royal Rifles and the Rajputs. They were based around Stanley. The 1st Battalion Middlesex and the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps were helping both brigades. The Japanese succeeded in separating these two lines of defence. They then forced the surrender of the Winnepeg Grenadiers. It was the beginning of the end for the British. At this point they were only still in control of the area around Stanley. The Japanese had also gained control of all the reservoirs and thus the entire fresh water supply. Eventually Japanese troops even managed to storm St Stephen’s College just outside Stanley which was being used as a makeshift hospital. Here they massacred the doctors, nurses and patients inside. Finally on December 25th 1941, forever after referred to as Black Christmas, Hong Kong Governor, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered to the Japanese on the third floor of the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Japanese had commandeered this hotel as their headquarters. At least 1,500 British troops, most of them from Scottish, Indian, English and Canadian regiments had been killed in the fighting.

Japanese Soldiers Marching Through The New Territories After Destroying The Gin Drinkers' Line.

Japanese Soldiers Marching Through The New Territories After Destroying The Gin Drinkers' Line.

North Point Power Station  on fire.

North Point Power Station on fire.

The Japanese advance along king's Road, North Point.

The Japanese advance along king's Road, North Point.

To get to the Wong Nai Chung Gap area I took bus number 6 from Exchange Square Bus station in Central. I got off the bus just after the Cricket Club and tennis courts, near to the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park. At the bus stop I noticed a memorial on a traffic island in the middle of the road, so I went to take a look at it. It was a war memorial in memory of those members of the St John Ambulance Brigade, Hong Kong, who lost their lives in the Second World War.

War Memorial.

War Memorial.

War Memorial.

War Memorial.

After looking at the memorial, I crossed back to the petrol station at the bus stop and walked up some steps and then climbed a slope towards the reservoir. Although it was not part of my trail, I began by having a look at the reservoir itself. Every description of this I have read mentions that the reservoir is filled with big fish and turtles. If there were any, they were hiding from the rain when I visited. The reservoir park has toilets and a little cafe.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

From the reservoir I walked a further five minutes uphill then crossed the road to station one of the trail. Each station displayed a map of the entire route. I have placed a copy of it below.

Route Map of the Trail.

Route Map of the Trail.

Station One of the trail is the former ammunition magazines which supplied ammunition for the two 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns which were deployed at Station Two. There were also some other remains near them, though some were lost when a carpark was built next to this site.

Ammunition Magazines.

Ammunition Magazines.

Ammunition Magazines.

Ammunition Magazines.

More Remains near the Ammunition Magazines.

More Remains near the Ammunition Magazines.

More Remains near the Ammunition Magazines.

More Remains near the Ammunition Magazines.

The guns at Station Two managed to shoot down a Japanese aircraft on December 16th. Later the Japanese overwhelmed this position, killing the twenty-five men defending here in the process.

Site of Anti-Aircraft Guns.

Site of Anti-Aircraft Guns.

Site of Anti-Aircraft Guns.

Site of Anti-Aircraft Guns.

The buildings below were not actually marked on the trail, but they were so close to Station One and Station Two and so old looking that I am guessing they had something to do with the war, maybe they were store rooms.

Store Rooms, Maybe?

Store Rooms, Maybe?

Store Rooms, Maybe?

Store Rooms, Maybe?

Store Rooms, Maybe?

Store Rooms, Maybe?

To get to Station Three I had to walk along the edge of a catchwater. There are several reservoirs nearby and many things related to the Waterworks Department. I saw the strange looking ruined structure below next to the catchwater, not sure what it is or if it is war related. Every so often there were views which would have been beautiful in good weather but basically just showed me dark, threatening skies.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Structure by the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Along the Catchwater.

Station Three did not actually have any remains. It was a viewing point where you could look out over a valley and see where the western and eastern defences were located. It wasn't the best day for doing anything that involved viewing something in the distance, but it was certainly atmospheric.

View.

View.

Ferns.

Ferns.

I then walked on to Station Four and Station Five. These were both pillboxes and were located near each other. Station Five was located higher up than Station Four. The pillboxes were located like this to offer each other protective covering. Pill Box Four was manned by the Hong Kong Volunteer Force. Pillbox Five by the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Both positions managed to hold off the Japanese attack for around twelve hours before they were overwhelmed. The Japanese finally succeeded in climbing the pillbox at Station Five and dropping grenades down its ventilation shaft. It was during this stage of the fighting that one Canadian soldier, Company Sergeant Major J.R. Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, fought so bravely that he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. He threw himself on top of a Japanese grenade that had landed near his men in order to save their lives. He was killed instantly. There is a memorial to him on one of the Hong Kong trails but I haven't seen it yet. Next to Station Five there was a lovely forest path and beautiful flowers. It was hard to imagine scenes of brutal fighting taking place in such a peaceful setting.

Photo of the Hong Kong Volunteer Force.

Photo of the Hong Kong Volunteer Force.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Pillbox at Station Four.

Beautiful Flowers growing right next to pillbox at Station Five.

Beautiful Flowers growing right next to pillbox at Station Five.

Beautiful Flowers growing right next to pillbox at Station Five.

Beautiful Flowers growing right next to pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Pillbox at Station Five.

Ventilation Shaft of Pillbox at Station Five.

Ventilation Shaft of Pillbox at Station Five.

Walking to Stations Six and Seven involved going along a pleasant path through some woods. There were lovely view points here, although not quite so beautiful on a rainy day, and there were some beautiful plants and flowers. Both Station Six and Seven were situated on top of the covered over Jardine's Lookout Reservoir. Station Six was a View Point over the valley where Wong Nai Chung Police Station Headquarters were once located and where the West Brigade Headquarters were located. Intense fighting took place here as the Japanese wrestled for control of the valley. The Royal Scots and Punjabis came to help their comrades who were struggling here, but were ambushed and killed on route. Station Seven is also a viewpoint looking out over the city with information about how the British tried and failed to stop the Japanese from reaching Wong Nai Chung Gap.

Stations Six and Seven were on top of a covered reservoir.

Stations Six and Seven were on top of a covered reservoir.

Beautiful Flowers on the walk.

Beautiful Flowers on the walk.

Beautiful Flowers on the Walk.

Beautiful Flowers on the Walk.

Stations Six and Seven are on top of a covered reservoir.

Stations Six and Seven are on top of a covered reservoir.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

Views from Stations Six and Seven.

From the covered reservoir I walked down a stairway towards Station Eight. Station Eight is actually part of the Sir Cecil's Ride Trail. This trail was called after Sir Cecil Clementi, a former governor of Hong Kong who liked to ride his horse here. The Japanese followed this trail from Quarry Bay to Wong Nai Chung Gap to launch a surprise attack on the British troops.

Steps down to Sir Cecil's Ride.

Steps down to Sir Cecil's Ride.

Sir Cecil's Ride Pathway.

Sir Cecil's Ride Pathway.

Colourful Plants on the way.

Colourful Plants on the way.

Beautiful Flowers on the Walk.

Beautiful Flowers on the Walk.

Colourful Plants on the way.

Colourful Plants on the way.

Sir Cecil's Ride.

Sir Cecil's Ride.

Fried Egg Plant Flowers Knocked Down by the Rain.

Fried Egg Plant Flowers Knocked Down by the Rain.

Vegetation sparkling clean after the rain.

Vegetation sparkling clean after the rain.

Looking over the Hong Kong Cricket Club.

Looking over the Hong Kong Cricket Club.

Little Streams on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Little Streams on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Little Streams on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Little Streams on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Trees with Twisted Roots on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Trees with Twisted Roots on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Jungle on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Jungle on Sir Cecil's Ride.

Japanese Soldiers Marching Along Sir Cecil's Ride.

Japanese Soldiers Marching Along Sir Cecil's Ride.



For Station Nine and Ten I had to return to the start of the walk, then cross Wong Nai Chung Gap Road and head downhill for a short way. Station Nine was right next to a petrol station. This station was once part of the headquarters of West Brigade. It was manned mainly by Winnipeg Grenadiers, but also by some British troops. The Japanese went all out to destroy it. Reinforcements were called in to help the soldiers here, but they were ambushed and killed on route. The remains of several overgrown bunkers can be seen at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Ruined Bunkers at Station Nine.

Station Ten was just slightly further down the hill from Station Nine. The buildings here also formed part of the West Brigade Headquarters. The information post here told that the last attempt by the British to repel the Japanese was led by the Quebec City Riflemen who charged at the Japanese across St Stephen's Cemetery. When they were defeated, the British finally surrendered. The station here had photos of the governor signing the surrender treaty.

Governor Young Surrenders in the Peninsula Hotel.

Governor Young Surrenders in the Peninsula Hotel.

The Headquarters of West Brigade at station Ten.

The Headquarters of West Brigade at station Ten.

The Headquarters of West Brigade at station Ten.

The Headquarters of West Brigade at station Ten.

Although there was a lot to see on the trail, it was nor really all that long, so after I finished I jumped on a number 6 bus and decided to look at a few things in Wan Chai before going home. I had been intending for a long time to look at a few things on or near Queens Road east. I started by looking at the Wan Chai post office. This building was opened in 1915 and served as a post office continuously until 1992.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Wan Chai Post Office.

Not far from the post office stands a cylindrical building known as the Hopewell Centre which has a revolving restaurant on its top floor.

The Hopewell Centre.

The Hopewell Centre.

The Hopewell Centre.

The Hopewell Centre.

The buildings I was seeking out though were three colourful buildings known as the Blue House, the Yellow House and the Orange House which I have often passed on the bus and wanted a closer look at. The Blue House is a four-story tenement building which dates from the 1920s. It is an example of a tong lau which means that it is a kind of residential building with balconies. The Yellow House and Orange House are next to it. I went in the Blue House and took some photos of the exhibits inside. My favourite things were the lovely posters in the courtyard. As I was looking around this area I suddenly saw a beautiful, friendly cat and as I neared it, it immediately turned really angry. I was surprised by this till I noticed a huge dog had appeared behind me. Fortunately, the dog was on a lead so no battles broke out. Another thing I liked was the vets near the Blue House which had great paintings on its outside walls.

The Blue House.

The Blue House.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Inside the blue house.

Blue House Doorway.

Blue House Doorway.

Blue House Courtyard.

Blue House Courtyard.

Poster in the Blue House Court Yard.

Poster in the Blue House Court Yard.

Poster in Blue House Courtyard.

Poster in Blue House Courtyard.

Old Houses in Wan Chai.

Old Houses in Wan Chai.

Overflowing Shop.

Overflowing Shop.

Angry Cat.

Angry Cat.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

Painting on a nearby vets.

The attendant at the Blue House gave me a map of things to see in Wan Chai and though I decided I'd leave most of the things for another time, I noticed that there was a temple really close by, so I thought I would take a quick look. I don't know why but I expected it to be small and probably not too interesting, but it turned out to be fantastic. Not sure why it isn't better known. The Pak Tai Temple is located at number 2 Lung On Street. It was built in 1863. It is a temple dedicated to the Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven. Once again it adds weight to my belief that the Taoist religion base their gods and goddesses on real people, as Pak Tai was a prince of the Shang Dynasty. He lived over 3,000 years ago. Apparently this is the biggest temple you will find on Hong Kong Island. It is beautifully decorated inside. I particularly loved the flower shaped lamps.

The Entrance To Pak Tai Temple.

The Entrance To Pak Tai Temple.

Dragon, Pak Tai Temple.

Dragon, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Lamps, Pak Tai Temple.

Incense Coils, Pak Tai Temple.

Incense Coils, Pak Tai Temple.

Bell and Drum,  Pak Tai Temple.

Bell and Drum, Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Pak Tai Temple.

Berries in the courtyard,  Pak Tai Temple.

Berries in the courtyard, Pak Tai Temple.

Lion, Pak Tai Temple.

Lion, Pak Tai Temple.

Horse, Pak Tai Temple.

Horse, Pak Tai Temple.

Finally, on my way home I went along Lee Tung Avenue where there was an exhibition called 'Butterflies of Hope' which I thought was very beautiful. This was created by Victor Wong. It is an AI interactive art display with over 350 LED butterflies as well as traditional Chinese red lanterns. Apparently it lights up at night and plays music. There were lots of interesting statues here, too. I'm not sure if they are always here or if they were part of the exhibition.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

Statues.

Statues.

Statues.

Statues.

Statues.

Statues.

Butterflies of Hope.

Butterflies of Hope.

I then walked through South Horn Playground, got on the MTR and went home, stopping to admire some beautiful azalea on the way.

South Horn Playground.

South Horn Playground.

South Horn Playground.

South Horn Playground.

South Horn Playground.

South Horn Playground.

Azalea.

Azalea.

Posted by irenevt 13:10 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

The mist really makes the photos looks amazing! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Hi Henna, yes it was very atmospheric with all that fog. Shame about the views though.

by irenevt

I loved the Dragon at Pak Tai Temple. Dragons are wonderful. You found some beautiful flowers too.

by Beausoleil

Hi Sally, it was a really beautiful temple and very well kept. Thank you for visiting. Hope all good with you.

by irenevt

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