Thursday, 6 October 2016

Pillbox 2 on Jardines Lookout - Desecration of a war shrine

I recently walked along  the Wong Nai Chung Gap Battle Trail on Jardines Lookout, as I got to Pillbox 2 (PB2) I noticed a lot of construction work going on. I found that the Water Supplies Dept. of the HK Government have constructed an ugly water pipeline, with large concrete blocks acting as support stanchions, right outside the front of PB2 marring the view of the pillbox from the popular battle trail. There were so many other places they could have laid this pipeline rather than laying it across the front of the PB. They could, for example, have laid it on the other side of the path, just a few metres away, rather than across the front of the PB.

Why is this important? It's important because this PB and the one higher up the hill (PB1) can be considered war shrines and part of Hong Kong's history and heritage. A number of soldiers died at these two pillboxes on Friday 19th December 1941 following the Japanese landings on Hong Kong Island during the night of 18th/19th December. The crews of these two pillboxes fought gallantly all day against overwhelming odds. The non-walking wounded were put to death in PB2 by the Japanese after the remaining survivors of the two PBs had surrendered. The handful of defenders who surrendered were all to some extent wounded and they were down to their last ammunition. Others had been killed in action at or around the two pillboxes. Some had managed to extricate and continue the fight from elsewhere. The soldiers were drawn from the HK Volunteer Defence Corps and from the Canadian Winnipeg Grenadiers. The area around these two PBs was a battlefield and it seems to me like a desecration or war remains by a government department. No doubt the planner in the Govt. Dept. responsible  for the construction ……...either (1) knew nothing about the military structure and did not bother to enquire, or, (2) did not think it was important. I immediately wrote to the South China Morning Post Letters Page and invited the Water Supplies Department to explain which of course they did not.

PB 2

The pipeline laid right outside PB2

Marring the view and tantamount to a desecration

Construction work outside the PB

Will this be next - the battle scarred PB 1 a little higher up the hillside

The culprits - the Water Supplies Department
Letter published in SCMP dated Saturday 15th October
The letter was published on 15th October. On Monday 17th October I went with an SCMP reporter and photographer to the site of the two PBs. The SCMP produced an  article which was published on Saturday 22nd October.

Article published in SCMP 22nd October 2016
On the same day I launched an on-line petition with a view to collecting a thousand signatures that I thought would be the minimum needed to provide me a mandate to continue and escalate the objection. The petition can be accessed by clicking the link below:

water-supplies-department-of-hong-kong-government-stop-construction-of-water-pipeline-at-pillbox-2-a-war-shrine-in-hong-kong

The Water Supplies Dept. have confirmed to SCMP that the pipeline is permanent, they came up with a weak excuse as to why it was not buried i.e, that it might disturb the structures. Actually they don't need to bury it - all they need to do is to move it five metres to the other side of the path. They claim that since it is not less than 2 metres from the pillbox they are within their rights to lay the pipeline in front of the PB.

In November (2016) I  took a number of Chinese Press reporters and photographers to the site of PB 2 and PB 1. This ensured good coverage in a number of Chinese newspapers. The on line blog quickly reached over 1,000 and currently there are nearly 1,500 supporters, signatures from Hong Kong and from other parts of the world. I wrote a formal letters of complaint to Water Supplies Department and Antiquities & Monuments Office (AMO) and Agricultural, Fisheries & Conservation Dept (AFCD). AMO was responsible for the heritage trail and AFCD for the up keep of the general area.  The trail is poorly maintained, Many of the sign boards are damaged and dilapidated. The war structures have been neglected. They are overgrown and at  PB 2 there are tree saplings growing out off the structure. At West Brigade HQ Shelters there is rubbish strewn around the shelters. It really is a disgrace. The crews of these two pillboxes and especially those that died at PB2 deserve better than this.

Update 12th Dec 2016:  The WSD, AMO and AFCD have acknowledged my letters of complaint and the on-line partition protesting against the treatment of these war structures.  I have heard that WSD are planning to either move or bury the offending pipeline. A recent visit showed that their contractor was demolishing the concrete stanchions. I am still waiting for formal confirmation but it looks like we may have a positive outcome. We now need confirmation from WSD and action from AMO and AFCD to better look after the trail and the war structures along it.




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