Sunday 1 April 2018

Pillbox 315 - Gin Drinkers Line

Armed with directions from two FaceBook (FB) friends, Jeff Li and Alexander MacDonald, who are both military history enthusiasts, I set out to find and visit PB 315. The pillbox is situated on a knoll overlooking the Byewash Reservoir and close to the dilapidated ruin of an old colonial house.

1938 Revised Map showing PB 315 & PB 314
The Colonial House
The colonial house looks like a 1930's era building, it is situated beside Tai Po Road below Piper's Hill. It was once used as a family home for senior engineers or senior managers of the Water Supplies Dept, I think referred to at that time, in this area,  as Kowloon Water Works. The main reservoirs were built between 1910 (Kowloon Reservoir), 1931 (Byewash Reservoir) and 1937 (Shing Mun Reservoir). It was apparently occupied until 1970s/1980s. I have seen reference to the house at one stage being occupied by HK Police (Special Branch), but the decor inside is more consistent with family use. There is an outhouse which includes a garage and servants quarters.  

The front entrance  
Side view

The back door was open so I took a look inside. There was parquet flooring, a fireplace, and bathrooms with a 1970s style decor. The hill on which the house is built is sometimes referred to as Monkey Hill. This is an appropriate name because the whole area is home to a large numbers of monkeys, and no doubt they would have been a nuisance to the occupants.
Reception room 
The Pillbox (PB 315)
To reach the PB one has to proceed past the house, and up a path through what must have been the back garden to a knoll where the PB is located overlooking the reservoir below. The PB is approached by a concrete trench which leads to the entrance of a concrete tunnel or passageway which leads into the three-loophole pillbox with two gun compartments. 

 Pillbox 315
The concrete trench leading to the tunnel
One of the gun compartments and machine gun loophole
Passageway with storage compartments and a space for a water tank

Historian Rusty Tsoi advised that the tilted wall in the photograph above may be connected to use of a gas curtain. Rob Weir who is an expert on WW2 Fixed Defences in Hong Kong confirmed that he had long suspected that the PBs on the Mainland had gas curtains. I have also seen reference too gas curtains being used in ARP tunnels.

There are Japanese characters scratched on to the wall of the passageway. Rusty advised that they translate as follows. 

"Captured by xxx squad, 8927 Butai (38 Mountain Gun Battery), 38 Div"
(xxx means unidentifiable)

"Those from Aichi county, good luck on your fightings"

It is not clear who manned this PB, but probably it was2nd Bn Royal Scots ( 2/RS),  as it was near to their Battalion HQ at Filter Beds House. The Bn HQ occupied this position (Filter Beds) after withdrawing from a more forward position, at 6th milestone on Castle Peak Road, on Wednesday 10th December 1941, following the loss of the Shing Mun Redoubt on the night of 9th/10th December. There is no evidence off fighting in this vicinity and no battle damage to the PB. The area to the north was held by 'D' Coy 5/7 Rajput Regt, commanded by Captain  Newton. This Coy were in action on 10th and 11th December. The area to the northeast was held by 'D' Coy 2/14 Punjab Regt, commanded by Captain David Mathers. This Coy was in action on 11th Dec. On Thursday 11th December, two companies ('B' and 'C' Coy) from 2/RS were heavily engaged and both Coy commanders were killed in action. At some stage during the morning these two companies withdrew down Castle Peak Road, as far as the World Pencil Factory, at Lai Chi Kok. Although the resultant gap was plugged to some extent, the weakness exposed on the left flank of the Royal Scots sector,  led to a decision to accelerate the evacuation of the Mainland. The Royal Scots were ordered to break off at dusk and were evacuated to the Island from Kowloon City and the Vehicular Ferry at Yau Ma Tei. The crew of PB 315 would have withdrawn that afternoon/evening. The Japanese Artillery Regiment that captured the position,  probably on 12th December,  would have done so unopposed. 


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