Wednesday 11 October 2017

Stanley Camp and Stanley Photographs

Prison officers Club (1945)

Stanley Village from the hill leading to the fort - a sketch map from 1/Mx war diary (UKNA)

Stanley Prison
Repulse Bay - on the way to Stanley

Stanley Military Cemetery

Maryknoll House 

Sunday 1 October 2017

Boa Vista

The Japanese landed on Hong Kong Island during the night of 18/19 December 1941. A Canadian platoon (No. 5 Platoon HQ Coy Royal Rifles of Canada) commanded by Lt Gerard Williams was deployed on Boa Vista. I assume this was their pre-arranged war-station. Boa Vista is a hill 846 feet above sea-level and commanding the strategic Tai Tam Gap with its military HQ. The military complex at Tai Tam Gap included East Infantry Brigade and East Group Royal Artillery HQ. The Royal Rifles of Canada had their  Battalion HQ at the same location. A path from Boa Vista led to Sanatorium Gap (aka Quarry Gap). This is the gap between Mount Parker and Mount Butler. On the night of the landings, the Japanese battalion that landed at Aldrich Bay proceeded up the north face of Mount Parker, and  then moved in a northwesterly direction, counter clockwise, around the upper levels of Mount Parker to arrive at Mount Parker Road close to PB 45. After overrunning the section at PB 45 they proceeded up to Sanatorium Gap. After a fierce fight, they captured the gap which had been defended by No. 1 Platoon of No. 1 Coy HKVDC.  They then continued uphill to occupy Mount Parker, which was their principal objective. Lt William's Platoon  was ordered up to Mount Parker  from their position on Boa Vista. They followed the path to Sanatorium Gap where they met up with guides sent from the HKVDC positions at Sanatorium Gap. However, when they arrived at the gap there was no sign of the HKVDC, who by that time had been overrun. The Canadian platoon proceeded up Mount Parker only to find the Japanese had occupied the summit and were in much greater strength. The Canadian platoon was destroyed. A second platoon (No. 9 Platoon) from 'A' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada under the command of Lt Collison Blaver was ordered up to Boa Vista to replace Lt William's platoon. Blaver's platoon was later ordered up Mt Parker, where they ran into entrenched Japanese positions and withdrew after suffering a number of casualties.

Map extract showing Boa Vista, Mt Parker and Tai Tam Gap
Boa Vista was a strategic position, and I had always assumed that there would be some evidence of splinter proof military accommodation shelters for a platoon size force of 25 to 30 men. However I had never found any sign of military structures. I then had a call from my friend Sergio Marcal who had found a military splinter-proof shelter at Boa Vista. He had also found a Royal Rifles of Canada cap badge near the wartime military structure.

Cap badge of the Royal Rifles of Canada 
Stuart Woods and I arranged to meet with Sergio Marcal on top of Boa Vista. We climbed up from Tai Tam Gap and Sergio showed us the military structure that must have been used by Lt Williams and later Lt Blaver.

My friend Sergio at the military structure.

The splinter proof shelter on Boa Vista
A structure like this could usually sleep a section of nine men  (three retractable bunks on three walls). The building is hidden in the undergrowth and not visible from the nearby trail. It seemed to be facing the direction of Mount Parker (northwest). Within 20 metres or so there was another structure which was brick-built and did not look like a typical WW2 military structure, this remains a mystery.

The brick-built structure


'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada Coy HQ shelters at Obelisk Hill and Brigade HQ at Tai Tam Gap

Obelisk Hill - Coy HQ
I met up with Martin Heyes to visit 'D' Coy Royal Rifles of Canada war shelters at Obelisk Hill. The site consists of a string of accommodation shelters, a kitchen shelter and two military-grade toilet blocks. 'D' Coy RRC was commanded by Major Maurice Parker. These shelters accommodated his Coy HQ and Platoon 16 and 17. His No. 18 Platoon was at Tai Tam Tuk nearby and No 18 (R) Platoon was attached to 'C' Coy in the  Lye Mum Gap area. 'D' Coy 1/Mx also utilised these shelters as Coy HQ and reported to Major Parker. The 1/Mx Coy personnel were based in pillboxes around the coast from San Wan Bay (near Pak Sha Wan Battery) and around the D'Aguilar promontory to Tai Tam Tuk /Tai Tam Bay Area opposite Red Hill.

A string of accommodation shelters at Obelisk Hill

A seldom-used trail led downhill from the bunkers towards Tai Tam Tuk - which would have been the route taken by No. 18 platoon back and forth from Coy HQ.

Kitchen shelter (Obelisk Hill)
Military-grade toilet blockat Obelisk Hill

Tai Tam Gap Military HQ
We also explored the war shelters at Tai Tam Gap. These had accommodated Royal Rifles of Canada Battalion HQ, East Infantry Brigade HQ and East Group Royal Artillery HQ. Particularly striking was the underground bunker which contained the (disused) Fortress Plotting Room which was used by East Brigade as Brigade HQ. Here is the entrance to the underground bunker.

Entrance to underground bunker containing FPR
We followed a series of corridors until we reached the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR) which was used as Brigade HQ. When we reached the Fortress Plotting Room - it was wet with what I assumed to be bat droppings and there were a lot of bats hanging from the roof. Neither of us being particularly partial to bats, we did not stay to properly explore this room or the tunnel leading off it (visible in the photo below) or the side rooms to the left of the tunnel. The tunnel seems to have been an emergency exit and possibly a ventilation feature. The concrete pillars were supports for the large steel plotting table. It was pitch dark and the light in the photo is from our torches and the flash of the camera.

The Fortress Plotting Room (with bats roosting on the ceiling)

Looking towards the emergency exit and ventilation tunnel and the room to the left.

This is what Captain Peter Belton (Staff Captain) had to say about Brigade HQ in the FPR at Tai Tam Gap, which commenced operations on Sunday 14 December following the Brigadier's withdrawal from the Mainland on Saturday 13 December.
The Brigade Office was located in the Plotting Room at Tai Tam in a shell and bomb-proof accommodation. It consisted of one large room and some twenty yards of tunnel. The latter I decided to use as sleeping accommodation for troops and arranged for bunks to be fitted. The officers were to be in outside shelters. The staff, both officers and men, were messed by the  Royal Rifles of Canada. (Captain Belton - Brigade Staff)
Here is Brigadier Wallis commenting on the underground Operations Room at Tai Tam. (Appendix D East Brigade War Diary and courtesy of Rob Weir).
This room was largely occupied by a huge steel table which was useful to work on with maps , but hampered movement. In this room were located:
Brigade Commander
Brigade Major
Staff Captain
2 Operators - Brigade Signals Exchange
Brigade Intel Officer
Three Brigade Clerks. 
In a tiny side-room was the large telephone exchange. In another small room was the emergency lighting plant. The room was reached by a long winding narrow passage into which the Sappers were busy fitting sleeping bunks for staff and Signals personnel. This passage was very dark and crowded at night and it took me some six minutes to leave my maps and numerous telephones and reach East Group RA and 'D' Bn HQ in the shelters up above mine, after threading my way through a maze of camouflage nets and nervous RRC sentries. The atmosphere (in the Brigade office) was heavy and even with the emergency plant working and the air vent open (emergency exit) the air was unhealthy and oppressive and made clear thinking difficult. One became flushed and had bad head aches."
Above the underground bunker that contains the FPR are two or three tiers of splinter proof bunkers used by RRC as Bn HQ and by East Group Royal Artillery.

Kitchen shelter

2nd tier of shelters

3rd (upper) tier of shelters

Overgrown lower-tier shelters
Lower-tier shelters - neglected and overgrown
There are two line-of-gaps pillboxes at Tat Tam HQ and some seventeen splinter-proof shelters. Between Tai Tam Gap military HQ structures and 'D' Coy positions at Obelisk Hill was a group of two shelters one of which is shown in the photo below, which I think may have been the ADS (Advanced Dressing Station).

What may have been the ADS