Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sign my petition to object about the desecration of WW2 site in Hong Kong

In my post about Pillbox 2 (PB2), on the western slopes of Jardines Lookout,  I wrote about how the Water Supplies Department of the Hong Kong Government have built an ugly eye-sore of a water pipeline supported by concrete blocks right across the front of PB2. It has been constructed between the path (Wong Nai Chung Gap Battle Trail)  and the PB. What insensitivity ! Do they not know that soldiers were killed and that the wounded were put to death in this pillbox ? Maybe not. Do they care ? This is not just a war shrine that should be respected but it is a part of Hong Kong's history and heritage so much of which has been demolished, built over and destroyed by  government departments who shows little respect for Hong Kong's heritage and history. All I am asking is that the government department (Water Supplies) re-site it on the other side of the path (less than five metres away).  The government should tidy up the sites by cutting back the  undergrowth and preserving and protecting these war monuments. In 2009 the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) accorded these sites as Grade 2 status but little care has been taken since then by the Agricultural Fisheries & Conservation Dept (AFCD) who are responsible for the site. Did AFCD and AMO not object or not study the detail of the plan to lay the pipeline outside PB2. These government bodies should be protecting these sites not spoiling them. The crew of this PB and the adjacent pillbox (PB 1) deserve better than this.  If you agree please sign the on-line petition and share it. The link is below.


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


Latest Update (12th Dec 2016)
The Water Supplies Dept have indicated a willingness to bury or move the offending pipeline. I am waiting for confirmation of this. After that we need to put pressure on AMO and AFCD to tidy up the area, cut back the vegetation, (there are tree saplings growing out of PB 2) and replace dilapidated sign boards, and get rid of rubbish (around West Brigade HQ shelters). To better look after, preserve and protect the trail, and the war monuments. There is a bigger issue about all the other pillboxes, battery buildings ands war shelters around Hong Kong which also deserve preservation and protection.

PB 2
The pipeline outside the front of PB2


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Following in the footsteps of Colonel Shoji's 230th Infantry Regiment advancing towards Jardines Lookout and Wong Nai Chung Gap 18th -19th December 1941

During the night of Thursday 18th December and the early hours of Friday 19th December 1941 the Japanese Army landed on the North Shore of Hong Kong Island. They landed two battalions of infantry at North Point under Colonel Shoji who commanded the 230th Infantry Regiment, two battalions at Tai Koo under Colonel Doi commanding the 228th Infantry Regiment, and two battalions around Shau Kei Wan under Colonel Tanaka commanding the 229th Infantry Regiment. Each battalion  consisted of approximately 1,000 men. In addition to the infantry -  Artillery, Engineers, Gendarmes and various other units were landed. Six thousand Japanese front-line infantry plus other support troops against one Indian infantry battalion, the 5th Battalion of the 7th Rajput Regiment commanded by Lt-Col Cadogan-Rowlinson. The result was inevitable. The Rajput battalion was largely destroyed on the north shore and the Japanese Army moved rapidly inland capturing the high ground. 

Colonel Shoji landed at North Point, by passed the Hong Kong Electric Power Station which held out until the following morning, and established his regimental HQ near the reservoir on the hills behind North Point. The pre-war map below shows the area around North Point and the reservoir. The map also shows the track known as Sir Cecil's Ride which the 230th Regiment followed to Wong Nai Chung Gap.

The North Point landing ground and the reservoir
The second map extract (below) shows the wider area to provide more context. The areas marked in red are restricted British military areas. Colonel Shoji was ordered to move towards Jardines Lookout and capture Wong Nai Chung Gap (WNC Gap). In fact almost the whole Japanese army and all six infantry battalions were converging on WNC Gap on Friday 19th December. WNC Gap can be seen on the map below in the centre of the Island and between the "G" ad the "K" in HONG KONG. This post is not about the invasion of the Island or the battle at WNC Gap and Jardines Lookout,  it's a photo composition of a re-enactment of the route taken by Colonel Shoji during the early hours of Friday 19th December from North Point to Wong Nai Chung Gap.

Pre-war map of Hong Kong Island showing the route taken by Col. Shoji
It was a sunny October day in Hong Kong and I had wanted  to follow the route taken by Shoji's troops along Sir Cecil's Ride (the Ride) which they accessed from near their Regimental HQ at the reservoir. I had often walked the Ride near Wong Nai Chung Gap but I was not familiar with the section leading from the north side of Jardines Lookout towards North Point.

The photo below shows the Chinese International School and in the  centre background is Braemar Hill Mansions, which together with Choi Sai Woo Park was built over the filled-in reservoir known as Braemar Hill Reservoir. Colonel Shoji who first saw it at night described it as a lake.
The site of the wartime reservoir
The reservoir (which was also known as Choi Sai Woo Reservoir) was built by Swire (Tai Koo Sugar Co Ltd) in 1894. A water gate with this date still remains on the northern side of the reservoir in what is now Choi Sai Woo Park.  The reservoir was purchased by Cheung Kong Group (Li Ka Shing) in 1975 and filled in to create Braemar Hill Mansions, a luxury private apartment complex on the hillside overlooking North Point and Tai Koo. The park was built some years later. The photo below taken in 1970s shows the reservoir before it was filled in and on the western side the rocky hill that I was standing on above Sir Cecil's Ride and looking down on North Point.

Braemar Hill Reservoir (Source: Flickr.com)
A Cathay Pacific Dakota crashed on the hillside to the south of the reservoir in 1949 killing all twenty-three people onboard. The plane apparently hit the 20ft wall on the north side of the reservoir. The photo below shows the crash site and the reservoir to the right.

Plane crash on hillside above the reservoir (Source: Wikiswire.com)

The photo below shows the water gate, hidden by the foliage, and bearing the date 1894 on ramparts to the north of the reservoir site.
The Water Gate showing the date 1894 in Choi Sai Woo Park
The photo below shows the entrance to Choi Sai Woo Park. It is not very large, rather long and narrow but well maintained and a quiet oasis amongst the high rise buildings and the myriad of drivers waiting outside the Chinese International School. The care-taker lady at the entry box not only spoke very good English but knew something of its war history and the plane crash.

Choi Sai Woo Park with its hidden history.
In the next photo I am on the high ground and paths lead up from where the reservoir was situated  to where I am standing on a hillock beside Sir Cecil's Ride. I am looking down on to North Point where the 230th Regiment got ashore, and overcame resistance from 'D' Coy 5th/7th Rajputs whose commanding officer Captain Newton was killed in action.

On a bolder strewn hillock near Sir Cecil's Ride  looking don onto North Point
I think the boulder strewn outcrop (above) which overlooks North Point and in 1941 overlooked Braemar Hill Reservoir is the same rocky outcrop depicted in the war time photograph below showing Japanese troops against a backdrop of Hung Hom Wan.


In the next photo I have turned round 180 degrees to look at the direction taken by the Japanese Army. They headed south along the Ride towards Jardines Lookout which can be seen in the centre of the photo. They headed off at around 0200 to 0300 hours.  When they got to the base of the north face of Jardines Lookout they sent one of two infantry companies up to the summit from different directions whilst the main bulk continued anti-clockwise around Jardines Lookout reaching Wong Nai Chung Gap (WNC Gap) just before dawn on Friday 19th December 1941.

The route taken by 230th Infantry Regiment towards Jardines Lookout and WNC Gap
The photo below is taken from the Ride looking west. Immediately below is the Causeway Bay area. the 2nd Bn 14th Punjab Regiment attacked up this slope on Friday 19th but were facing overwhelming numbers and were pushed back with heavy casualties. Large numbers of Japanese troops, supplies, artillery and support troops were using the Ride as a main supply route to WNC Gap which had been captured that morning. There were still troops holding out at  'D' Coy shelters opposite West Brigade HQ and at the two pillboxes (PBs 1 and 2) on the western slopes of Jardines Lookout.
The view from Sir Cecil's Ride near North Point looking west 
The next photo below shows a view of the Sir Cecil's Ride along which two battalions of the 230th Regiment advanced during the early hours before dawn to attack WNC Gap. They ran into resistance from three FDLs (Forward Defended Localities) manned by No. 3 Coy HKVDC, and they ran into resistance from Canadian troops (Winnipeg Grenadiers) on Jardines Lookout.

Sir Cecil's Ride
The photo below shows Jardines Lookout and I will use it to show the Canadian positions.  Lt Birkett's platoon ('HQ' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers) with Sgt. Tom Marsh as  2i/c held the crest. Their platoon had ascended the western slope above PBs 1 and 2 and reached  the Artillery Observation Post (AOP) on the crest at dawn just as one company of Japanese infantry arrived from the north. The Canadian troops put up a gallant fight  having been blasted by mortar and swept with machine-gun fire until they were eventually overrun.   'A' Coy WG were to the left of the crest (I think they reached the hillock visible to the left and not Mt Butler or other locations described elsewhere) and were pushed back to Stanley Gap. Further left in the col between Mt Butler and Jardines Lookout a platoon commanded by Lt Charles French was positioned. They were overran and destroyed.
The north face of Jardines Lookout from Sir Cecil's Ride
This was a walk through history. I had never followed the route from North Point. I was wearing sports gear and moving fast and to my surprise it took me less than hour to get to WNC Gap from the hill above the site of the former reservoir. Colonel Shoji's battalions came along this track in the dark , carrying equipment and weapons. They would have taken longer and would have been held up by having to overcome the FDLs (referred to as JLO 1, 2 and 3) and other section posts close to WNC Gap. It probably took them between 2 and 3 hours to reach WNC Gap.

The loss of WNC Gap was crucial. Counterattacks were made throughout Friday 19th and through to 21st but all of them failed to regain the Gap. This was the beginning of the end. It was only a matter of time. The Allied troops now had to fight a losing battle, and hold on for as long as they could, which they did, until the surrender on 25th December 1941. 


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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:

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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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