Thursday, 28 October 2021

Lance-Corporal Walter Ivan Cook Royal Scots


Lance Cpl Walter Ivan Cook, was one of several Anglo-Chileans, who served in the Royal Scots.  He was born in Chile 22 May 1917. Like many others, he answered the call of the mother country, a country he probably barely knew. He returned to Britain to enlist when war started in 1939. December 1941, found him a Lance Corporal serving with 'D' Coy 2/RS under the command of Captain David Pinkerton.  He distinguished himself in the fighting on the Mainland and was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry. It was gazetted in August 1946.

The Military Medal (MM)
 

During the night on Tuesday 9 December 1941, the strongpoint known as the Shing Mun Redoubt was captured. Five casualties were left behind at the redoubt. Three of them were taken prisoner by the Japanese. One of them, Private John Casey, was posted as missing in action and was not seen again.  The fifth man was Private George Jardine. Augustus Muir, the official historian of the Royal Scots, wrote that he had been wounded in the throat in close quarter fighting but was determined he would not fall into enemy hands.  Weak from loss of blood he struggled along the ridge path known as Smugglers' Ridge. He lost his footing and fell down a ravine to the right of the ridge path. When he heard movement, and hoping it was a patrol from his battalion, he shouted out for help. He was rescued by L/Cpl Cook. The citation for the award of the MM states that he had to go forward 500 yards from 'D' Coy's front line to rescue the wounded soldier. He did this under heavy artillery fire and succeeded in bringing out Pte Jardine. The next day, Thursday 11 December, L/Cpl Cook was in action at Golden Hill which came under sustained attack by the Japanese during the course of the day. L/Cpl Cook distinguished himself in executing grenade attacks at Japanese infiltrating dead ground on the western and northern slopes of Golden Hill. He carried on despite being wounded in the shoulder by rifle fire. At one point driving the Japanese off their position with a Thompson submachine gun. The full citation can be read below.


The Citation

After the British surrender on Christmas Day, Walter Cook was interned at Sham Shui Po Camp. He was shipped to Japan on the ill-fated Lisbon Maru which was sunk by an American submarine not realising the armed freighter was carrying POWs. He survived the sinking, he survived the prison camps and I assume he retuned to Chile after liberation and demobilisation. 



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Addendum:

Japanese POW card


















Thursday, 8 July 2021

Mount Davis - Underground bunker and the F2 Gun

F2 Gun

In December 1941, there were three 9.2-inch guns on Mount Davis they were numbered from the lower gun: F1, F2 and F3. F3, being the topmost gun, had the widest traverse for landward firing although still blocked to some extent by terrain around the Peak. Jubilee Battery consisting of three 6-inch guns was situated below Mount Davis and was unable engage in landward firing as the battery was completelty blocked by terrain on the landward side. The gun in the photograph is F2. The middle gun. In fact, you can see the numbering 'F2' painted on the gun emplacement (lower middle). I'm not sure of the date of this photo but I would think early-1930s. 

Pre-war pic of F2 (IWM)

Adaptions were made to these three gun emplacements. F2 for example had a blast wall constructed at the rear as can be seen in the photo below.  When the battery was completed in 1912 there were five 9.2-inch gun emplacements. At that time, there were two other gun emplacements between F2 and F3. These two guns were moved to Stanley in the mid-1930s. 

F2 Emplacement as it today (2021) showing the gun pit and the rear blast wall (Author)

On a recent visit to F2 we found the usual ammunition lockers with steel doors  missing as below:

Steel doors removed - Ammunition lockers

The photograph below shows the access and hoist to the underground magazine. The magazine pit was about 8 to 10 foot deep. 

Access to underground magazine and hoisting equipment

Hoisting pulley  (the shells weighed 380 pounds).
 

Western Fire Command

The Coastal Defence was divided into Western Fire Command and Eastern Fire Command.

Western Fire Command consisted of 12 Coast Regiment which operated  the batteries at Mount Davis (24 Coast Battery), Stonecutters and Jubilee (26 Coast Battery). Also under Western Fire Command were the batteries at Aberdeen (No. 3 Battery HKVDC) and Stonecutters (Parade Battery). The coastal defence guns in the western sector consisted of:

Mount Davis............3 x 9.2-inch 

Stonecutters.............3 x 6-inch

Jubilee......................3 x 6-inch

Aberdeen Island.......2 x 4-inch    

Parade Battery.........2 x 60-pdrs

In addition there were two 3-inch AA guns situated on Mount Davis, but these were part of the 5th Anti-Aircraft Regiment.

Western Fire Command HQ was based in the complex of rooms which included the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR) until it was penetrated and put out of action by Japanese shelling. Western Fire Command then relocated to RN Port War Signal Station on the mid-slopes of Mount Davis. The damage to the Plotting Room area occurred on 16 December. The shell was  a 24cm (9.45-inches) shell fired from a Japanese siege mortar, the largest calibre artillery piece employed in the battle. 

The RA War Diary states:

A 24 cm dud worked its way through a ventilation shaft and finished up behind a signal test frame. There were some twenty men in the plotting room at the time but no one was injured. The Fire Direction Table was undamaged but as the Plotting Room was neither weather nor shell-proof and all the instruments smothered in dust and debris, the two remaining guns [F3 had been put out of action by another dud 24 cm shell on 13 December] were connected up to the position finder direct. (UK National Archives)

RSM Ford was in the Plotting Room. He described the destruction in his personal war diary.

Today the Mount has received its bitterest and most intense bombardment. The plotting rooms [Note by Author: the plural suggesting the Fortress Plotting Room and Western Fire Command was in a collection of rooms in the underground bunker of which more later] and barrack rooms have been blown in and at about 5 o'clock we had to evacuate under shell-fire in parties of five. BSM Barlow and myself established order in the Battery Plotting Room amid smoke and fumes. Our lights are out and blower plant disabled and daylights visible through the roof. This roof was once a thickness of 15 ft of earth and concrete. A shell penetrated right through a steel door, ripped all the bricks from one wall [note the use of brick walls which we will see in our exploration of the bunker later] ploughed through another wall and finished up in the Telephone Exchange [a separate adjoining room] without exploding. Truly a miracle. All our troops are intact except one sergeant shell shocked and one gunner wounded. 

Ford describes how the undamaged Fire Direction Table was ordered to be destroyed. I assume he means the plotting table. These tables were large, made of steel, and had concrete support legs. Brigadier Wallis used the Plotting table at East Brigade HQ at Tai Tam Gap to spread out his maps and telephones. The photograph below shows the Fortress Plotting Room  at Tai Tam Gap and the concrete support legs still in situ. 

Fortress Plotting Room (Tai Tam Gap) (Photo by author) 

It looks like there are around eight concrete legs. Notice the steel roof and the concrete (rather than brick) walls. Also notice the colony of un-agitated bats and the bat excreta on the floor. Not my favourite place to visit but it has to be seen. We found a number of these concrete legs mostly broken up when we explored the underground bunker at Mount Davis.  There was a colony of bats in the underground bunker and although there were less of them they were flying around, no doubt agitated by our intrusion.

Exploration of bunkers at Mount Davis

We were able to gain access, but normally a padlocked door prevents entry to the seven largely intact rooms.  Two other areas which I label in the diagram below as 8 and 9 have been destroyed. No 8 was destroyed by war action. No. 9 was damaged and may have been demolished after the war because they were unsafe. 

Sketch Map of underground bunker at Mount Davis (with thanks to James Lewis)


Room 1 was the entrance room and contained brooms and some other equipment. In the photo below you can see the entrance door which is normally locked. This was the only room that had been used for storage. The other rooms are not used. The roof in Room was comprised of steel girders (like the FPR at Tai Tam Gap).

Room 1  the entrance (Author)

The author (courtesy James Lewis)


Various rooms lead off from a central chamber (Photo: Author)

   Room 4 with central pillar but the room is too small to be Plotting Room
 (James Lewis)

One thing we can not be sure about is whether the pillar was added after the war to block the hole in the roof created by the shell and to add support for the installation that has been built in this area above ground. This rather narrow room accessed from Rooms 2 and 3 has a sealed door leading from it (see photo below). We are not sure where this leads to.

The pillar (absent in other rooms) and the bricked up doorway. (Photo: Author) 

Room 5 - a larger brick-built room with two concrete table support legs
 (Photo: James Lewis)

Room 5 may have been the FPR - it is the largest room and it has what might be two concrete plotting table legs - there were others broken up concrete legs in the other adjoining rooms.

Room 7 with tunnel-type portal (Source James Lewis) 

This tunnel portal may have led to Room 9. 

James Lewis in the bunker complex (his face well protected from the bats)

Originally the roof of this area contained the 3rd gun (from the bottom). This gun was removed in mid-1930s and taken to Stanley. The photo below shows the gun emplacements for No 3 and No 4 ( the removed guns). No 4 was converted into a water reservoir.  No 3 emplacement was probably filled in. Photographs (further below) seem to show the blast  wall around part of the emplacement. After the war the area of the 3rd gun emplacement was built over.  

The bunker was situated under the 3rd gun. (Photo from The Guns & Gunners of HK)

It is possible that the bunkers we explored may have been part of the magazine for the 3rd gun (courtesy James Lewis).  The destroyed area marked in the photo can be more clearly seen in this post war photo taken when the RAF manned Mount Davis using it as a radar station.

Post war photo with RAF Nissan huts showing damage to Room 8 area
 (Photo courtesy of Stephen Chadwick Ex RAF Police) 

This photo seems to show the empty emplacement with what looks like a blast wall (as at F2) and no doubt added on after the emplacements were built. The photo shows the considerable damage  to the area described as Room 8 in the sketch map. The next photo dated is 1987 and is interesting as it shows what may be the facade of Room 9 in the sketch map.

1987 Photo showing extant military structures at or near Room 9
 (By kind permission of Gwulo and 367 Association)
 
The 1987 photo shows the Youth Hostel and interestingly that section of battery buildings  (marked as Room 9 in my sketch map). These are now demolished but when and why? Possibly they were unsafe and it looks like only the facade was extant. The photograph  below taken was from Guns & Gunners of HK and indicates that this is a 1946 photo showing the bomb damaged Fortress Plotting Room - and note there is a pillar as in Room 4  but this is where the similarity ends. The room looks bigger as does the pillar. So where was the FPR ?

1946 Photo of FPR (Source: Guns & Gunners of HK)

Conclusion:

I may have raised more questions than answers, but I hope the study will be of interest to readers and at least thought provoking. We can say the Fortress Plotting Room was situated most likely in Room 5 and possibly Room 8, but we cannot be sure. The complex that made up the Plotting Room, and Western Fire Command HQ, no doubt consisted of several separate rooms, for example, a room for the Telephone Exchange and a room for the plotting table. Room 4 is the only one with a pillar but it is a narrower room than the one in the 1946 photo and what looks like an open doorway (see photo above) in the right-hand corner of the room does not match Room 4 today.

Room 4, as of today, does have a bricked up portal but it is in the left-hand corner of the room. The main problem with Room 4 is it is too narrow to have contained the plotting table. However, this room (Room 4) could have been the room where the shell first entered the FPR complex. The brick built rooms, like Room 5, may have been originally used as the  magazine for the removed No 3 gun and possibly the nearby removed No 4 gun. We can see from the post-war photos taken during the RAF period at Mount Davis that the building (in the area we describe as Room 8) was very extensively damaged. 

Room 8 may have been the Plotting Room or it may have been the room where the shell first entered, which would explain the extensive damage. Given what limited information we have, I tend to think it was Room 5 that contained the Plotting table with its two standing concrete legs still extant. It was probably the most protected room being directly under the old No. 3 Gun. If I had to hazard a guess - I would say the shell first entered through the roof of Room 8 and that Room 9 was an accommodation block. As always interested in reader's comments and thoughts as to the layout. 

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Sources:

Diary of E. C. Ford Imperial War Museum Docs. 10841

War Diary Royal Artillery UKNA WO 172/1687

Guns & Gunners of Hong Kong  (1991) Denis Rollo




Tuesday, 6 July 2021

HMS Unshaken

This story is about a Royal Navy wartime sailor, Stoker Petty Officer Frederick Dack, and the submarine HMS Unshaken (P54) in which he served during the Second World War. Frederick Dack, predeceased his wife, Joan. It was only after Joan passed away, and while her son, Martyn, and her grandaughter Nic together with Nic's husband Jay Dorman were sorting out her possessions that they came across the bag. The bag contained Frederick Dack's war photographs, including shots of  HMS Unshaken and her crew. There was also his Royal Navy service record tracking his wartime career. He had been awarded a Mention in Dispatches (MiD) and there was a copy of the award certificate dated April 1944. The submarine on which he served had been constantly in action while based in the Mediterranean.  He and his ship mates had been in the thick of naval action and always in harm's way.  

Frederick was born in Downham Market, Norfolk in 1920. He joined the Royal Navy, aged twenty, in 1940. He commenced basic training at the shore establishment, HMS Royal Arthur. He then underwent further training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham and then at HMS Dolphin, the submarine training base at Gosport in Hampshire. 

    Frederick Dack (back row at right) at HMS Pembroke
 (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

HM Submarine P54 was laid down in 1941 at the Vickers-Armstrong yard in Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched in February 1942. Her first commanding officer was Lt Richard Gatehouse. He commanded from April 1942 until June 1942. The submarine was commissioned in May 1942. Lt Charles Oxborrow was appointed as commanding officer on 21 June 1942. Initially the submarine had no name and was referred to simply as P54. It was not until 1943 that she was given the name Unshaken as one of the Royal Navy's U-class of submarines. It is a striking name, and conjures up the Commander Bond-like image of 'shaken not stirred'. She was, and still is, the only Royal Navy vessel to bear that name.

HMS Unshaken leaving harbour (Source: ClydeMaritime web site)


Ship's badge (Source: Wikipedia)

Unshaken had twin screws powered by diesel engines which could produce a speed of 11.5 knots on the surface and a speed of 10 knots when submerged. She had a normal complement of 33 officers and men. She had four forward 21-inch torpedo tubes and she  had a 3-inch gun (76 mm) mounted on her deck casing. 

3-inch deck mounted gun (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

Ship's company (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

I believe Frederick Dack first joined P54 in April 1942. On 25 June, a month after commissioning, she sailed out of Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, and was deployed  off the northern Norwegian coast. Her orders were to provide a submarine screen for the Artic convoy PQ-17 and QP 13. In particular to protect the convoys from enemy surface ships. On 5 July 1942, P54 reported a sighting of the German battle ship Tirpitz accompanied by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper with escorting destroyers and MTBs. The German surface fleet were stalking the Russian bound convoy. A Russian submarine and an RAF Catalina flying-boat also reported sightings. Later that day, a German aircraft spotted and bombed Unshaken. Three bombs were dropped but they all went wide. Having been observed, the German Admiral in command ordered the surface ships to return to base. Unshaken commenced her second war patrol on 4 August 1942. This time she was ordered to patrol off the coast of southern Norway. On 12 August 1942, Unshaken drew her first blood when she torpedoed and sank the German merchant ship, Georg L. M. Russ. Another German merchant ship, Wolfgang L. M. Russ, was fired on but the torpedo missed its target. In September, Unshaken commenced her third war patrol providing a submarine screen for convoy PQ-18. In October 1942, she was ordered to join the Mediterranean fleet and she sailed south to Gibraltar from her base at Dundee. 

Unshaken in the Mediterranean (Source: IWM)

The IWM photograph carries the caption 'HM Submarine Unshaken leaving port on patrol against Axis shipping in the Mediterranean'. At Gibraltar, she joined the 8th Submarine Flotilla ahead of the Allied invasion of North Africa. One of her first actions was landing, and then picking up, a reconnaissance party from a beach at Oran on the Algerian coast. 

On 25 November, disaster struck when the submarine surfaced during a storm off the coast of southern France. The commanding officer, Lt Charles Oxborrow,  and two crew members, the Yeoman of Signals, Sydney Bennett, and Able Seaman Charles Thorn were lost overboard when the submarine un-intentionally submerged while they were still on the bridge during heavy weather. The log book describes the submarine slipping down 30 feet. A search was organised but the three  men were not seen again. Sub-Lt Herbert Westmacott assumed command until a replacement officer, Lt Jack Whitton, from the 8th Flotilla, took command at sea after coming aboard from HMS Samphire, a flower class corvette. He remained in command of Unshaken until May 1944.  

On 14 December 1942, a large merchant vessel with two escorts, was attacked with four torpedoes but no hits were achieved. A similar incident occurs on 19 December when three torpedoes were fired at a merchant ship. The torpedoes missed their target and the escort vessel dropped a number of depth charges. On 20 December 1942, a French merchant ship, Oasis, was attacked off the coast of Genoa. The last remaining torpedo was fired and the submarine surfaced and engaged with the deck gun, but no serious damage was inflicted. On 12 January 1943, four torpedoes were fired at the Italian merchant ship, Compania, but again all the torpedoes missed their target. In March 1943, a German U-boat was engaged but the four torpedoes missed their target. Later that month, Unshaken was ordered to Malta where it joined the 10th Submarine Flotilla. 

Finally, her luck changed and on 8 April 1943 she sank the Italian merchant vessel, Foggia having fired three torpedoes. On 10 April she surfaced and fired at a suspension bridge located near Korba on the Tunisian coast. Fifteen rounds were fired with the deck gun and several hits observed. On 28 April, two British destroyers attacked Unshaken while she was surfaced, assuming she was a German U-boat. Unshaken dived to safety and was undamaged. Later that day she sank the Italian torpedo boat Climene. 

The Jolly Roger flown when entering harbour after a successful mission with Frederick Dack at right 
(Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

 On 28 May 1943, Unshaken landed a raiding party on the the island of Pantilleri located between Sicily and Tunisia. The raiding party consisted of two officers and six other ranks. The mission was to capture a sentry to gain intelligence by interrogation. All went well at first, the party were successfully landed and a sentry was duly captured. However the sentry could not be silenced and subdued. His shouts alerted the other guards and four Italian soldiers came rushing out and were killed by the raiding party. However one of the British soldiers was seriously wounded in the exchange of fire and had to be left behind. The captured Italian resisted all efforts to get him down the cliffs and eventually he had to be left behind. The raiding party returned to Unshaken, but without the sentry the mission was not completed.

On 22 June 1943, Unshaken sank the Italian two-masted schooner Giovanni G. In the afternoon she made an unsuccessful attack on an Italian merchant vessel which was escorted by two corvettes and a torpedo boat. The corvettes dropped depth charges and a near miss caused some minor damage to the submarine. The next day Unshaken sank an Italian merchant ship, Pomo, which was escorted by a corvette and a torpedo boat. On 14 July she sank an Italian patrol boat and on 10 August she sank the Asmara, an Italian troop transporter. Three days later she engaged a German u-boat on the surface. 

 On 9 September, Unshaken came across a submarine and closed in for the attack thinking it was a U-boat. However, they saw it was an Italian submarine the Ciro Menotti. They had  already received a signal advising that the Italians had surrendered the previous day. Unshaken surfaced and fired one round from the 3-inch gun across the Italian submarine's bows. The Italian submarine responded with machine gun fire. The British submarine pulled away to torpedo range. The Italians crew ceased firing. The boats moved to hailing distance and the Italian captain said they were under orders to head for Brindisi. She was forced to stop and a boarding party was sent across. Jack Whitton, the British captain, ordered the Italians to turn around and alter course for Malta. The 3-inch gun was trained on the Italian captain's conning tower. He relented and a boarding party was sent across consisting of three ratings under Lt Swanston. One Italian officer and three ratings were taken aboard the Unshaken as hostages. The Italian submarine was duly escorted to Malta. 

On 2 October Unshaken engaged a German submarine-chaser with two torpedoes in the sea area north of Elba. The German vessel counter-attacked dropping ten depth charges. On 7 October Unshaken attacked a German tanker and a general cargo ship escorted by two E-boats. The torpedoes missed and the E-boats fired several depth charges. In November Unshaken sailed to Britain for a refit in Dundee. The refit scheduled for January 1944 was postponed and Unshaken joined the 9th Submarine Flotilla operating off the Norwegian coast.

Unshaken (Source: Naval-History.net) 

Unshaken carried out a series of war patrols off the Norwegian coast. One of her last engagements was in April 1944 when she sank a German merchant ship the Asien. In late May 1944 she was scheduled for overdue refit. On 17 July 1944, Lt Jack Pearce was appointed commanding officer of Unshaken and from this period until the end of the war she was used mainly for training purposes rather than war patrols.

HM Submarine Unshaken was de-commissioned in September 1945. She was broken up in February/March 1946 at Troon on the Firth of Clyde. Stoker Petty Officer Dack was demobilised at about the same time in March 1946. The submarine service, sometimes referred to as the silent service, was a demanding role and required men of strong character. Any submarine, but particularly World War 2 submarines would have been cramped and uncomfortable. Most of the time there was no sunlight and no fresh air. The submarines were closely packed with machinery and torpedoes. Fresh water was scarce and washing oneself was not permitted.  Silence was required to avoid noise detection. It was a dangerous occupation. Your chances of escape if hit by a mine or a depth charge were not good. However, it was an elite service, and once a submariner always a submariner. At times it must have been exhilarating, especially coming back from a successful mission flying the Jolly Roger. There was always that combination of fear and excitement with every man attending to his duty and knowing that his shipmate would be doing likewise. It was a brotherhood of the sea. 


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Gallery

At the controls of one of one of HM Submarines (Most likely HMS Unshaken).                                (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

HMS Unshaken at Grand Harbour Valletta, Malta (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)

Mention in Dispatches (MiD) awarded to Frederick Dack (Courtesy: Jay & Nic Dorman)


Acknowledgements

Jay and Nic Dorman for permission to use family photographs and providing  information on Frederick Dack

Sources

IWM

Web site: Uboat.net

Web site: ClydeMaritime.co.uk

Web site:  Naval-History.net

Web site:  rnsubs.co.uk

Web site:  wikipedia

Facebook page Royal Navy Ships & Submarines





Wednesday, 7 April 2021

A walk through history - Mount Davis, Hong Kong

In 1900, a decision was taken to establish a battery of five 9.2-inch coastal defence guns on Mount Davis so as to command the western approaches to the harbour. The battery was completed in 1912. In 1935, two of the five guns were moved to Fort Stanley. During the Battle for Hong Kong, the battery at Fort Davis consisted of three 9.2-inch Mark V coastal defence guns and two 3-inch AA guns. The battery, known as 24 Coast Battery, was part of Western Fire Command, which was responsible for the coastal defence batteries in the western sector of Hong Kong Island. There were no coastal defence batteries situated on the Mainland during the battle. 

Jubilee Battery, below Mount Davis and situated close to the shoreline, was equipped with three 6-inch guns. The guns on Mount Davis, especially F3, the highest gun, were able to traverse and fire landward, which they did with great effect during the battle, although it was not what they were designed for. The batteries had limited amounts of high-explosive shells and were mainly equipped with amour-piercing shells, which were more effective in engaging enemy warships. The guns at Jubilee were blocked by terrain and could only fire seawards. When the coastal defence batteries were constructed, it was not contemplated that they would be used for landward firing at infantry positions. The artillery support for the infantry was expected to be provided by the howitzers of the mobile artillery. In fact. the coastal defence guns and beach defence guns (18-pdrs) played a major role in engaging enemy infantry and for destructive shoots on for example infrastructure targets. 

The AA section at Fort Davis was part of 17th AA Battery, 5th Ant Aircraft Regiment. The section commander was Lt Jock Wedderburn who later escaped from prisoner of war camp. 


WW2-era map of Mount Davis (HK Government)

F2 Gun - One of the 9.2-inch guns at Fort Davis.   (IWM)

March 2021

It is Saturday 13 March, 2021. The taxi drops me and my son, Chris, at the junction of Mount Davis Road and Victoria Road. We start walking up the military road that leads to the summit. I am armed with a wartime sketch map which indicates that the first military building is the Guard Room and beside it the main gate or barrier.  Hidden in the trees, we find a ruined building that may be the Guard Room although I find no evidence of the gate posts.

Could this be the Guard House?

The inside of the structure devoured by a tree

Walking up the gun-road we come to a latrine or toilet block and then to the first gun emplacement F1.

No mistake what this is

Gun emplacement F1

Splinter-proof structure near F1 (possibly used as a gun store for F1)

Battery Observation Post for F1 with concrete pillar (possibly for Range Finder equipment)

December 1941

7 December 1941
A State of Emergency is declared. RSM Enos Ford is ordered to his war station at Fort Davis

8 December 1941
RSM Ford is woken up by the sound of bombing and strafing as Kai Tak was raided at around 0800 hours. The two Fort Davis AA guns open fire, although the Japanese aircraft are out of range. Stonecutters Island with its three 6-inch guns (26 Coast Battery) and two 60-pdrs at Parade Battery is subjected to a heavy aerial bombardment.

9 December 1941:
Ford has a grandstand view of the continued bombing  and shelling of Stonecutters during the morning. On this day, Mount Davis receives the first ranging shots from Japanese artillery. He takes shelter, and emerging later finds that a private car belonging to one of the gunners has been blown to pieces. The water tank has been hit. Ford writes in his neat hand-written diary (now held at the Imperial War Museum) that the F3 gun is in action answering the Japanese fire round for round. The Royal Artillery War Diary mentions that Fort Davis guns were engaged in destructive shoots at factories and at a road bridge on Castle Peak Road during the evening. During the night 9/10 December, the Japanese capture the Shing Mun Redoubt, the strongpoint, on the left flank of the Gin Drinkers Line.  Ford is somewhat disparaging in his diary about his commanding officer, Major Eric Anderson and the second-in-command Captain Ben Hammett. 

Major Anderson and Captain Hammett have gone to earth and cannot be located. So has Joe Gould [RSM Henry ('Joe') Gould]. Shelling continues throughout the day, and troops are ordered to remain under-cover if not on duty.

10 December 1941:
A concentration of artillery fire from Mount Davis (F3 gun), Stonecutters No 1 Gun (6-inch) and the two 60-pdr guns is brought down on the Shing Mun Redoubt. Fort Davis and Stonecutters again came under heavy bombardment. Ford takes a trip to the Cathay Hotel near North Point where he had been staying before the battle.

I left the fort during an air raid to go to Cathay Hotel to pick up some kit. Miss Ellis, the proprietress, just out of hospital, very defeatist and thinks more of her money than the outcome of the war. Have a meal, tell her to keep cheerful and depart with such kit as I can carry.

Miss Leontine Ellis died of cancer, aged forty-nine, in Stanley Internment Camp in August 1942.

11 December 1941
Ford writes in his diary that the Japanese 'started plastering us with 240mm' (9.45 inches) shells. These shells were fired by the Type 45 Siege Mortar. This was the most powerful artillery piece used by the Japanese in the Battle for Hong Kong. The noise and impact of the falling shot must have been terrifying.

March 2021

I continue up the road from the F1 Gun emplacement, and to my left I come across the ruins of the Royal Navy's two-storey Port War Signal Station.

Port War Signal Station

A steep-sided concrete trench protected by high blast walls leads to the signal station

Entry to Port War Signal Station

After taking a look at the RN Signal Station, we carried on up the road, and as we neared  the top, we came to the F2 Gun emplacement with a splinter-proof shelter across the road built into the hillside. Perhaps, used as a magazine for holding shells close to the gun emplacement. The F2 Gun has a high blast wall at the rear of the emplacement.

F2 Gun emplacement

Ammunition lockers (steel doors missing) at the F2 emplacement

The F2 Gun Emplacement

F2 emplacement and blast wall

Splinter-proof shelter behind F2 (possibly used as a gun-store).

Rob Weir advises that the magazines were underneath gun-pits.
The magazine for each position was basically underneath the gun pit. They are probably still there but inaccessible. I make that comment as the British Army apparently had a set plan for 9.2” Batteries which was applied throughout the Empire. The shells and cartridges come up by a lift or belt to the lower gun floor and are then transferred to the gun using the crane supplied. (Stanley, being a bit more up to date, had powered lifters to the gun).  (Rob Weir)
I do recall a couple of enthusiasts using rope and ladders entered the magazine at one of the 9.2-inch gun emplacements at Fort Davis. 


December 1941

12 December 1941
Ford writes in his diary that he went to Battle HQ (the deep underground bunker known as the Battle-Box) together with Master Gunner Brooks and  Master Gunner Cooper. The latter from Belchers Fort. Belchers Fort was situated in Kennedy Town close to Mount Davis. It was manned by 965 Defence Battery and was equipped with one 6-inch and two 4.7-inch guns.

13 December 1941
The Fire Command Post at Fort Davis received three direct hits from the Japanese 240mm mortar. There were some injuries but no fatalities.  Ford wrote that he had a lucky escape as he should have been on duty but had changed his roster to an earlier one.  Later that night, he went on a recce around the Peak and Mount Kellett looking for an alternative position for the Fire Command Post. A decision was taken later to move Western Fire Command to the RN Port War Signal Station. The Type 45 240mm siege mortar could fire a 440-pound shell a distance of ten to 14 kilometres. 

                                                    Type 45 Siege Mortar and mounting

          Type 45 Siege Mortar in use during the Battle for Hong Kong

14 December 1941
There was a direct hit on a magazine at the AA position. One of the two AA guns was destroyed, and the other could only be fired over open sights without the use of instruments. Nine Indian gunners were killed and six were wounded. The F3 Gun, the highest of the three 9.2-inch guns, was put out of action by a dud 240mm round which fell on the pit shield and 'fizzled like a firework without exploding'. The shell damaged the inside of the barrel, and as a result, it was rendered unable to fire a shell through the bore.  Ford wrote that a number of unexploded shells and bombs were lying around the battery. Belchers Fort, situated nearby,  was put out of action after a heavy bombardment during the day.

15 December 1941
Ford comments that 'we still have two guns and all our troops in action'. Pinewood AA Battery was put out of action  on this day following intense shelling and bombing.


March 2021

Just below the summit are the ruins of what had been the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR). The F3, top-most gun emplacement, is found on the summit close to the ramp.  The F3 gun being described as the 'pet of the battery' because of its elevation and ability to, more or less, fully traverse giving it a wider firing arc.

F3 Gun emplacement

F3 Gun emplacement

AA Gun equipment (Predictor/Range Finder) platforms

AA gun equipment platforms containing predictor and height-finder

I originally thought these two concrete platforms were the AA gun positions although it occurred to me they were rather too narrow especially compared to the 3-inch AA gun positions at Sai Wan Fort. Rob Weir advises that these platforms were used for predictor and height finder equipment for the AA guns which were thought to be in a walled compound nearby. 
The original site for the 3” guns was a walled compound composed of stone or concrete blocks. A Japanese photo of 1942 showed one mangled gun and part of the compound destroyed. Where it was is unknown, but I suspect in the area which is now the picnic area near the top gun pit (F3). The AA position you showed was built in 1940/1 in anticipation of the supply of 4.5” HAA guns. West Bay, Waterfall Bay and Brick Hill were built at the same time, and Sai Wan and Pinewood reconditioned to take the new guns. Only Waterfall Bay received the 4.5", the others had to make do with what was available. By the time new equipment was received in 1949 there had been a change in policy apparently, and the protected pit with ready use ammo lockers had mainly made way for the gun to be mounted on flat pads at ground level. Three, out of four, remain today just near the top gun position. All HAA was withdrawn from HK in 1957. The walled area on top of the buildings you photographed was protection for the Predictor and Height-finder which fed the information through the control room below, to the guns. (Rob Weir)

December 1941

16 December 1941
Ford described this day as the most intense in terms of bombardment by artillery fire and aerial bombing. The Battery Plotting Room (BPR) was destroyed.  
BSM Barlow and myself  established order in BPR amid smoke and fumes and picric acid. Our lights are out and blower plant  disabled and daylight visible through the roof. This roof was once a thickness of 15 ft of earth and concrete. A shell penetrated right through this, through a steel door, ripped all the bricks from one wall ploughed through another wall and finished up in the telephone exchange without exploding.
Surprisingly there were only two casualties, a sergeant with shell-shock and one injured gunner. The gunners were ordered to temporarily evacuate the fort. They moved to Felix Villas a set of private residential apartments at the bottom of the gun road situated by Victoria Road. The next night they took up their positions again and manned the guns at the fort. When the gunners returned one of them was shot dead by one of the no doubt nervous sentries. 

19 December 
Major Anderson gives his officers and warrant officers the most defeatist talk I've ever heard. He conveys the impression to all that at first sight of the enemy he is prepared to surrender. Captain Hammett continues to disorganise the food by not allowing people to have a hot meal. 
23 December
Ford left the fort and went into town. He was in town during an air raid and had to take shelter in the Supreme Court Building. While he was there two shells hit the roof of the building. 
I decide in a moment of generosity to take my escort and driver to a meal at the Hong Kong Hotel. As soon as the meal was over we get roped in to arrest armed deserters from the Rajputs who were sheltering in air-raid shelters.
The deserters were handed over to Military Police.

24 December 
During the afternoon a force of fifty gunners from Fort Davis and Jubilee were sent to the Wan Chai area to fight as infantry under Lt Arthur Clayton and Battery Sgt Major Barlow. Ford wanted to be included.
I volunteer for the next party but am indignantly informed by Captain Hammett that I shall be of more value in counter-battery work than as an infantry leader. The Davis guns have been in action again today. 
25 December
The colony surrendered. The two remaining guns at Fort Davis are put out of action presumably in the time-honoured way of placing a shell in the muzzle and firing a shell from the breach. On 27 December the Japanese took over the fort. The following day the battery personnel were marched to Victoria Barracks. On 30 December they were incarcerated as prisoners of war for the duration.


March 2021

I wander around the ruined battery buildings on the summit, some of them show splinter damage from the battle which took place nearly eighty years ago. 

Battery buildings protected by a blast wall

A stunning view of High West from the war ruins on Mount Davis

There is an abundance of wartime battery buildings

The Peak (Left) High West (centre) and Kellett (right) from AA position on Davis

A fire-place could it be the Officer's Mess or Senior Ranks Mess ? 

I doubt this is pre-war camouflage (it looks too recent) although original traces are often visible

This December, it will be the 80th anniversary of the battle. In Hong Kong there are still many ruins of war in the form of gun emplacements, battery buildings, splinter-proof shelters and artillery observation posts. One can still find weapons pits and trenches. Enthusiasts, using metal detectors, still find  helmets, bayonets, rifles and other relics of the fighting including live ordnance, for example live rounds, live shells, grenades, mortar bombs and aerial bombs. The Hong Kong Police bomb disposal unit (EOD) are still frequently being called out and the sound of detonations is heard again. The structures like these at Mount Davis are dilapidating over time but they still carry that original and authentic charm and they speak to us of the short but fierce battle that took place here in December 1941 and the period of brutal occupation and internment that followed the surrender on Christmas Day all those years ago. 

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