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)

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.

Could this be the Guard House above the barrier

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 one of the gunner's private car 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 I 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 may have been the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR), on the summit are two old and at the time disused gun emplacements and the F3 Gun emplacement. The F3 gun being described as the 'pet of the battery' because of its elevation and ability to fully traverse giving it a wider firing arc.

F3 Gun emplacement

F3 Gun emplacement

AA Gun equipment 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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Saturday, 19 December 2020

Lt-Commander Gordon Frederick Cracknell, RN

I realise that I am always writing about other people's Dads and not my own. So this story is about my Dad who served in the Royal Navy in WW2. 

My father, Gordon Frederick Cracknell, was born 10 December 1923 in Wickford, Essex. His father, my grandfather, Frederick James Cracknell, had served in the British Army on the Western Front during the First World War and had risen to the rank of Captain. After being demobbed he worked for a small company, I don't know the name of it, but I think they did garment manufacturing and I think he had a sales role. He married Annie Wilson on 25 December 1919. A Christmas Day wedding. My sister, Lynn, has a pen and ink drawing he made of her while serving in the trenches. They got married at St Mark's Church in Lewisham. They had two children, Gordon (b. 1923) and Basil (b. 1925).

My father attended Battersea Grammar School. He left at the age of sixteen and got a job working with the Sun Life Insurance Company. This would have been around 1939 at the time the Second World War began. He later applied to join the Fleet Air Arm in or around 1942 after he had reached the age of eighteen. He once told me that all the men that he trained with were killed in action and he may have met the same fate had he not been dropped from flying training. I recall him telling me that he was sick every time he flew and that was why he was dropped. He was very disappointed but he had at least learnt to fly. He was then moved to the seaman side of the Royal Navy and became an officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve  (RNVR) known as the 'wavy navy' because of the wavy stripes worn on their uniform sleeves. I don't know where he served in 1942/43, but I know that from 1944 to 1946 he was serving on the destroyer HMS Undaunted. The photograph below shows my father as a Sub-Lt RNVR probably taken on Undaunted in the Far East during the Pacific War.

Sub-Lt RNVR in the Pacific War (Source: Author's collection)

The photograph below has scribbled on the back 'taken at the Admiralty Islands (Manus)'. Manus was where the liberation fleet sailed from to repossess Hong Kong in August 1945, although this photo would have been taken sometime in 1944.

Taken at Admiralty Islands (Manus) (Source: Author's Collection)

HMS Undaunted in Sydney Harbour (Author's collection) 

HMS Undaunted sleek and fast  (Author's collection) 

The U-class destroyer, Undaunted,  was built at Cammell Laird and launched in 1943. After fitting out she was commissioned in March 1944. Most of the ship's company joined her in February 1944 and I assume that was when my father joined her as a 21-year-old Sub-Lieutenant. She was fast and agile with a top speed of 37 knots (43 mph). Her main armament consisted of four 4.7-inch guns in single turrets (A, B, X and Y). My father commanded X and Y (the two rear guns). The armament included two 40mm Bofors and six 20mm Oerlikon guns. In addition, she carried two sets of torpedo mounts. Her 4.7-inch guns could elevate to an angle of 55 degrees making her a useful anti-aircraft vessel. Her guns could also be used to provide bombardment to support land operations. 

A and B guns surrounded by the crew. (Author's Collection)

After completing her work-up at Scapa Flow she acted as an escort for the aircraft carriers involved in the operation to sink the Tirpitz. At about this time she also served as an escort on the Arctic convoys.  After my father retired from the Navy, at the age of 35, he was placed on the reserve of officers and kept his uniform at home. I remember this included a pair of thick yellow and black arctic gloves. My sister once used these gloves to pick up a hedgehog from the road and bring it to the safety of our back garden. In June 1944, Undaunted took part in the Normandy Landings where she covered Sword Beach presumably providing bombardment and naval gunfire support for the Army. 

It was at Normandy that she took aboard General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, and Admiral Ramsay. The two senior officers were embarked from the cruiser HMS Apollo which had grounded and damaged her propellors. Undaunted gave them a fast passage back to Portsmouth Harbour. After D-Day, Undaunted operated in the Mediterranean. She then sailed through the Suez Canal to Aden and Bombay acting as an escort to troopships. At this time she was assigned the pennant number  'D 25' shown in the photograph below from my father's wartime album rather than her normal pennant 'R 53'. 

HMS Undaunted with wartime camouflage and bearing pennant number 'D 25' (Author's Collection) 

She joined the British Pacific Fleet acting as an escort for the larger ships and providing anti-aircraft support. My father remembered the kamikaze attacks and particularly the impact they had on the American carriers with their wooden flight decks. He recalled the bravery of the US Marines at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It was at this stage that his fellow officers played a rather mean trick on him. His fellow officers knowing he could fly aircraft, from his time with the Fleet Air Arm, told him that the Admiralty was looking for volunteers to fly kamikaze missions against the Japanese. He thought about it, he wrestled with it, but the fact of the matter was that he could fly and volunteers had been called for. He offered his services only to find it was a practical joke.

In early September, the formal signing of the surrender of Japan took place in Tokyo Bay aboard the battleship USS Missouri. HMS Undaunted acted as Guard Ship. I recall my father telling me that he once had to take a party of sailors from Yokohama to Tokyo by train. The train was utterly crowded. He spoke to a member of the platform staff. The staff member spoke to the passengers and they quickly and willingly cleared a carriage without demur. An insignificant incident but I think he was impressed by the discipline and lack of hostility from ordinary people to the victors that were occupying their country. He even got to do some sightseeing in post-surrender Japan. There are photographs of temples, lakes and waterfalls at Nikko. 

In Nikko - my father in front with a midshipman (Source: Author) 

The war was over and the destroyer now sailed south to Sydney. She then sailed to Auckland, New Zealand where she undertook a 6-week refit having steamed 150,000 miles since commissioning some 18 months previously. In January 1946, she sailed home via Sydney, Melbourne, Cape Town, St Helena, Freetown and Gibraltar. She arrived at Devonport on 19 March 1946. My father's album has photos of some of these stops on the homeward bound. 


On the homeward bound - HMS Undaunted in the foreground (I think either in Sydney or Melbourne) - (Source: Author)



Portrait photo of my father as a Sub-Lt RNVR. (Source: Author)

After the war, my father decided to stay in the Royal Navy. He loved the service. He was promoted to Lieutenant and given a permanent commission (straight stripes on the uniform sleeve). It was a difficult time, the Navy was putting ships into the reserve and reducing the personnel. In 1947/48 he served on HMS Hind, a Black Swan class sloop. In 1949 he served on HMS Largo Bay an anti-submarine frigate.  He was the executive officer but I think these ships had skeleton crews and were in the reserve fleet.  He used this time to study and qualify in Accountancy. In 1950/51 he was back in a sea-going role on HMS Pluto, a fleet minesweeper. At a cocktail party on Pluto, he met the love of his life, in the form of Leading WRN Elizabeth ('Terry') Walker. They married at Portsmouth Cathedral in September 1951


    Bridesmaid, Basil Cracknell, Annie Cracknell, Frederick Cracknell, Gordon & Terry Cracknell, Bill & Lilian Leonard,
    Bridesmaid. (Source: Author's Collection)

Basil was my father's younger brother. Annie and Frederick were my father's parents, Lilian Leonard was one of my mother's sisters. She was given away by Bill Leonard. The happy but exhausted-looking couple took their honeymoon in Lynton, Devon. 

My mother at her wedding aged 21 (Author's Collection)

My father, aged 27, on honeymoon in Devon (Author's Collection)

In 1952 my father was attached to the Royal Australian Navy. As a newly married couple, they sailed from Southampton on the MV Dominion Monarch on 11 January 1952 (my mother's 22nd birthday). They arrived in Sydney, Australia on 11 February 1952. The ship had stopped at Las Palmas and Cape Town. They lived in Sydney and later in Frankston, Melbourne. My father served on HMAS Hawkesbury (1952) and Cerberus (1953)

'Omaroo' my parent's bungalow in Cronulla NSW. Their first real home (Author's Collection)

I always thought they had a Holden but a friend tells me the car in the pic (above and below) is a UK-built Standard Vanguard. So perhaps they shipped it out from the UK  when they moved to Sydney.


My mother with the car outside their first home at Cronulla (Author's Collection)

They moved from Cronulla to Gordon. 


Their second home at 59, Nelson Street, Gordon, NSW.  (Author's Collection)

My elder sister Lynn Elizabeth was born in Melbourne in May 1954. Two months later my parents with their baby daughter returned to the UK on the Oronsay.  On return to the UK, my father was stationed at Portsmouth Barracks as Assistant Training Officer. The family then moved to Dovercourt in Essex when my father was stationed at Harwich. I was born in Colchester, Essex in April 1956. My father was by this time a Lt-Commander. He was commanding officer of HMS Clarbeston a coastal minesweeper involved in fishery protection.


HMS Clarbeston - ship's company with my father in the centre (Author's Collection)


Mother, Father, me and my elder sister around 1959 - just before my father left the Navy (Author's Collection)

The family moved from Harwich back to Portsmouth where my younger sister, Julie Anne was born in January 1959. At this time the Navy was making cuts. Officers were being offered early retirement at a reduced pension. My father had responsibility for his wife and three children. What would best for the family? The service life was less well-paid and involved long periods of absence. It was a hard decision because he loved the Navy and he was doing well in his career. He had passed the staff course and had been given his own command. However, he decided to take the option for early retirement at the age of 35 in 1959. He was accepted for a role with Unilever in the Audit Department. The family moved from Portsmouth to Banstead and my father commuted to Unilever House near Blackfriars Bridge. In 1964, my father was posted overseas and the family moved to West Pakistan, then later to Venezuela, Trinidad, Chile and Uganda. 

In about 1983, my father retired for the second time. My parents settled in a pretty village in Kent. My mother passed away in 2015 and my father in 2017. They had a long and happy marriage and they always remained cheerful. As for HMS Undaunted, she was taken into the reserve fleet after returning from the Far East in 1946. She remained 'mothballed' until 1953. She was then converted into an anti-submarine frigate. She was recommissioned in 1954. In 1959 she was fitted with a helicopter flight deck. In 1974 she was back in the reserve fleet. In 1978 she met an ignominious end. She was used as a target ship for missiles including Exocet, Sea Cat and Sea Slug. She withstood these but was finally sunk by torpedoes fired from the submarine Swiftsure. Today she rests in her watery grave somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean.  



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Gallery


HMS Undaunted (D 25) to starboard of the cruiser HMS Euryalus.  (Source: Internet) )


Undaunted converted to a frigate F 53 with a helicopter flight deck fitted aft. (Source WNS.com)



Undaunted used as a target - the damage done by an Exocet  missile (Source: Internet) 






Thursday, 3 December 2020

Beach Defence Units - PB 31, 32, 33 and 33 (A) Taitam Bay

In the two to three years before the Pacific War began, some seventy pillboxes were constructed at intervals around the shoreline of Hong Kong Island. The combination of pillbox and Lyon Light (searchlight)  is referred to as a Beach Defence Unit (BDU). They differed from Line of Gap pillboxes and Gin Drinkers Line PBs which were not equipped with searchlights. The Lyon Light (LL) was contained in a reinforced concrete structure manned by two men. The LL structure was normally positioned 10 to 50 metres from the PB.  The LL communicated with the PB by voice pipe.  The LL had retractable bunks on the rear wall to sleep the two-man crew. There was a steel entry door and there were steel shutters around the searchlight aperture. The light was powered by a petrol engine with an exhaust outlet in the back wall. The PBs were connected to Coy HQ and other PBs by telephone line. 

In this article, we will focus on four BDUs located on the east side of Tai Tam Bay as illustrated in the wartime map below. These four PBs were manned by 'D' Coy 1/Mx. The PBs were manned from 7 December until 19 December when all troops in the eastern sector were ordered to withdraw to Stanley. 'D' Coy garrisoned the Maryknoll Mission House at Stanley. A large number of 'D' Coy were killed in action or executed after having been taken prisoner at Stanley.



PB 31

This is a 4-loophole PB situated on the beach at Tung Ah Tsuen village. This PB is situated quite near Obelisk Hill where both  'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada and 'D' Coy 1/Mx had their Coy HQ. On my visit in October 2020 - I started at Obelisk Hill and followed a path that led to the beach. From there we clambered over the rocks along the shore-line to look at PB 31 and PB 32. The commander of this PB (PB31) was Cpl Albert Devonshire. Her survived the battle and incarceration. PBs 31to 33 were under the overall command of 2/Lt Gurth Blackaby, 1/Mx who was killed in action on Christmas Day 1941.

PB 31


LL 31 Lyon Light structure (the concrete structure on right is a post-war add-on.)


Side view of PB 31 (showing the blocked up doorway). 

The original key for this PB was found by Tim Rankin at Stanley. The PB with all its stores would have been locked when not in use. When the PBs were evacuated on 19 December the PB would have been locked by Cpl Devonshire the PB commander.  The fob is labelled with the PB number and the grid reference for the PB.

The PB key found after all these years (Courtesy Tim Rankin)

PB 32

This PB is located at Tung Ah Pui Village. It is a 2-loophole PB. It has a concrete MG post nearby. The most unusual feature is the two towers which house the Lyon Light structure. This PB was under the command of Sgt Thomas Harvey. He was killed in action at or around Maryknoll Mission House.

LL 32

PB 32

MG post at PB 32

PB 33

This is a 2-loophole PB located at To Tei Wan village - also known as 'Hobie Cat Beac'.  The PB was commanded by Cpl. Charles Goddard, 1/Mx. He survived the battle.


PB 33 (used for boat storage) and LL 33 taken 1994 (Courtesy Rob Weir)


PB 33 (A)

This PB is unusual because it has the Lyon Light (LL) structure on the roof. It is located near the village of Hok Tsui Yuen. The PB is very weathered and stands on an exposed rocky outcrop. To reach it there is a steep descent on a path from Cape D'Aguilar Road. The commander of PB 33 (A) was Sgt Thomas Baker 1/Mx.  He was killed in action on 25 December 1941. PB 33 (A), 34, 35 & 36 were initially under the command of 2/Lt Thomas Harris, D Coy, 1/Mx.  Harris was moved to Z Coy on 17 Dec and replaced by Lt James Witham. Harris was killed in action at Causeway Bay 19 December 1941. Witham was killed on Lisbon Maru in October 1942.

PB 33(A)


PB 33 (A) showing LL on roof

Interior of PB 33 (A) showing two of three loopholes

PB 33(A) on its rocky outcrop


General Observations

It was interesting to read that the stores in each PB included mosquito nets, mosquito veils and mosquito gloves. They were supplied with hurricane lamps. They had anti-gas ointment, detector spray and a rattle (for gas alarm). Each soldier was issued with a gas mask.  They had petrol cans for the Lyon Light and paraffin for the lamps. They had 7,000 rounds of .303 ammunition. Twelve grenades and a Verey pistol. Their stores included binoculars, prismatic compass, hand torches, 50 sandbags. There was one 'canvas bed bottom' for each bed frame. The bed/bunk frames were retractable and fixed to the wall as in the photo below.

Retractable bunk frames at PB on CHK Beach


Each PB was issued with 2-days of reserve-rations, salt-water soap (Beach Defence Units only) and the 1/20,000 standard military map of HK. One brown single blanket per man. Each PB had one telephone. Other equipment included hammers, spades, axes, buckets, brooms and wire cutters. There were a lot of stores maintained in the PBs and accordingly when not in use (ie in peace-time) the steel entrance door was locked.

The garrison of each BDU was generally one NCO in charge (Sgt or Cpl) and 5 to 6 ORs plus 2 ORs in the Lyon Light structure.  There was one Vickers Gun per loophole. There were 2 to four loopholes on each PB. At night two sentries were required to be on duty, one of whom was inside the PB and one outside the PB.  White Verey lights were used to illuminate and red Verey lights were used to signal a sighting of hostile craft. The telephone will be used by the PB commander to order artillery barrage. 


Addendum:  List of Stores held in PBs  and standing instructions (Source UKNA) 

PB Stores


PB Stores (Contin) 


Standing Instructions for PBs (UKNA)



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