Sunday 23 January 2022

Beach Defence Unit (PB 24 and LL 24)

PB 24 at St Stephen's Beach was demolished in the late 1990s. Only the Lyon Light structure (LL 24) remains. It is located on the hillside just above the right-hand building in the photograph. The photo shows the Sea Cadet compound surrounded by a wire fence. Rob Weir recalls the PB was located below and to the left of the LL structure and closer to the shoreline. To get to the LL you have to work your way around the perimeter fence and then go up the hill behind the right-most building looking out for a modern water tank erected beside the LL structure.

The Sea Cadet compound at St Stephen's Beach (Writer's collection)

The roof of the LL structure showing some of the stone cladding used as camouflage 
 (Writer's collection)

Inside the LL structure there is quite a lot of junk and signs that it may have been used in the past as a dwelling. As I made my way along the perimeter of the Sea Cadet compound I saw a man fishing from the rocks. He asked where I was going and I explained what I was looking for.  On my return he asked to see the photos I had taken of the military structure. He thought it might have been the one he lived in more than fifteen years ago. He now lives in the Ma Hang public housing estate. There were signs of squatters huts near the LL structure. 

The searchlight aperture has been bricked up in the middle leaving two windows on either side as seen  below. The photo also shows a pipe in the wall on middle right. At first I thought it may have been the exhaust pipe for the engine that powered the searchlight. However, Rob Weir advised that the engine was on a shelf at the rear of the structure and the exhaust outlet was built into the back wall. This protruding pipe may have been the voice pipe for communicating with the PB. Some other LL structures show a similar feature. 

The front of the structure was semi-circular in construction. When the searchlight was not in use the aperture would be closed by steel shutters. The steel entry door and steel shutters are missing and no doubt illegally sold to scrap merchants after the war. 

Inside the LL structure - the aperture has been partly bricked up. (Writer's Collection)

Beside the entrance doorway was this metal pole shown in the photo below. It looks like a water pipe but it is in fact part of the frame of the retractable bunk. These bunk frames can be seen at Jardines Lookout PB 3 ......but are best seen at PB 21 on Chung Hom Kok Beach.

The Lyon Light had a crew of two men. The LL was normally above the PB sometimes situated on a tower (like PB 32) or on the roof like PB 33 (A) or on the hillside above like this one. The LL  if not on the roof was normally 10 to 40 metres away from the PB.

Part of the frame of a retractable bunk. (Writer's collection)

The photo below shows retractable bunk frames in situ at Chung Hom Kok (PB 21). The canvas between the frame has long since disintegrated. Most of the PBs could sleep nine men with two more bunks for the crew in the LL structure. 

The frames for a retractable bunks in PB 21. (Writer's collection)

The LL contained the 2ft diameter searchlight and the petrol generator for powering the searchlight. The generator may have looked like the one in the photo below.

1940's Briggs & Stratton generator (Source:

Entrance with steel door removed - the tiles suggest use as a dwelling (Writer's collection)

The PB was commanded by Sgt William Stone, 1/Mx 'B' Coy. He was wounded during evacuation of the PB and the nearby Prep School on 25 December.  'B' Coy included PBs 21 (Chung Hom Kok Beach) to PB 30 (Turtle Cove). The company was commanded by Captain Martin Weedon whose Coy HQ was originally at Stone Hill Shelters. The Coy HQ  which is still extant was later moved to St Stephen's College Prep School. Stone Hill Shelters was then used briefly as East Brigade HQ after the troops in the eastern sector of the Island had withdrawn to the Stanley Perimeter.

The PB was in action on the morning of 25 December when Japanese troops infiltrated, in the early hours,  along the coastline to St Stephen's Beach and occupied the copse at the back of the beach. They were driven off by members of the Middlesex Detachment ('B' and 'D' Coy), based at the Prep School, and by PB 24 which opened fire on Japanese troops on the beach all of whom were killed or driven back. This was a PB that saw action - thankfully, although in poor condition, the LL structure still survives the ravages of time and neglect.



1/Mx War Diary WO 172/1689 

Rob Weir for information on Lyon Lights and fixed defences


View from the roof of the LL structure


  1. Hi Philip, so this PB 24 would have had a clear view over St Stephen's and was positioned to interfere with enemy landings on the beach. The LL position would light up any night landing. A well thought out article. I wonder why the regulars were used so much for pill box work? MX were a machine gun battalion so that must be part of it but I would have been inclined to use militia in some of the boxes and keep regulars back as a reserve. The dispositions reflect the lack of adequate units available. A defence of any depth required at least four or five more batallions of infantry and more artillery.

  2. Hi Navig: I think you raise a good point that the Volunteers could have been used to man the PBs freeing up the Mx to perform an infantry role rather than static defence role - although many ended up anyway fighting as infantry. Philip