Sunday 28 January 2018

West Brigade HQ - current condition of war structures January 2018

Brigadier John Lawson, initially commanding the Island Infantry Brigade, established his Brigade HQ  at the cluster of splinter proof shelters situated on the lower slopes of Mt Nicholson just above Wong Nai Chung (WNC) Gap Road. On the other side of WNC Gap Road there was a semicircle  of splinter proof shelters that were utilised by 'D' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers. 'D' Coy shelters were located on the hillside between WNC Gap Road and Blue Pool Road. In December 1941, Blue Pool Road ran up to WNC Gap from Tai Hang Road.

At the junction of Blue Pool Road and WNC Gap Road there was a group of three splinter proof shelters which were used as an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS). The ADS was only about one or two hundred metres from West Brigade HQ. The Medical Officer in charge was Captain Barclay, assisted by several RAMC orderlies and ten Chinese St John Ambulance Brigade orderlies. At least one of the brigade clerks (Intelligence Section) was accommodated at the ADS because of shortage of bunk space at Brigade HQ. To the south of the ADS was a mound on which there was a small police post (referred to in most accounts rather extravagantly as a police station). Today the mound is the home of Stanley Ho, and carries the impressive address of No. 1 Repulse Bay Road.

On the 19th December 1941, the three Japanese Infantry regiments, each utilising two of their three battalions, having landed on the North Shore the previous night, were all converging on WNC Gap, and as result West Brigade HQ and 'D' Coy shelters found themselves in the front line. The Japanese quickly captured the ADS, the police station, Stanley Gap AA Battery, and were on the slopes and crest of Jardine's Lookout directly opposite West Brigade HQ. At around 1000 hours Lawson left his besieged bunker with a small group of staff officers and orderlies and was shot in the leg by machine gun fire and bled to death outside his HQ. All efforts to relieve Brigade HQ and extricate the brigade commander, and recapture WNC Gap failed despite great gallantry in the execution of these counterattacks. Some of the brigade staff were able to get across the road and join the garrison at 'D' Coy shelters, but later the road was covered by Japanese machine guns, and it became impossible to get across. Some managed to get up the hillside behind West Brigade HQ, but there was no shelter or dead ground, and with out the tree cover and lower vegetation, several of those who took  this route to try and extricate were killed or wounded. The survivors on the hillside, feigning death, waited until dark and then made their way back to Brigade HQ. Those that were able to do so, dashed across the road to 'D' Coy shelters, before dawn, but even in the darkness some were  killed as they left the passageway and ran across WNC Gap Road. This left only the dead and wounded at Brigade HQ. The wounded were placed in the open shelter nearest the road to facilitate their evacuation by ambulance, although this never occurred as ambulances were unable to get up the road to WNC Gap. The Japanese were on the hillside above Brigade HQ shelters but did not come down whilst the garrison at 'D' Coy shelters were holding out. 

The photograph below shows two of the three rear bunkers protected by the blast wall. Brigadier Lawson had his command HQ and telephone exchange in one of these three bunkers. Bill Greaves, historian and heritage consultant, believes it may have been the third bunker from the left. The photograph shows the first and second bunker. The third was located at the end of the passageway and is today largely buried (see later photographs). On the surviving bunkers some of the original steel doors still remain as can be seen below.

Lawson's bunker today 
The war time diagram depicted below shows the rough layout at Brigade HQ and at 'D' Coy shelters in December 1941.

The layout at Brigade HQ and 'D' Coy shelters
The diagram shows the three rear bunkers at Brigade HQ and the brigade car park. The car park was located where the petrol station now stands. The mound north of the ADS shelters (top of Blue Pool Road) was occupied by Japanese snipers who were able to lob grenades and fire onto 'D' Coy positions. The mound can be seen in the 1947 photograph at the bottom of this post. 

The upper section of  Blue Pool Road no longer exists and the steep valley (Blue Pool Valley) to the east of Brigade HQ has been filled in and now accommodates the Hong Kong Cricket Club, municipal tennis courts and part of the French International School. Only the shelters at Brigade HQ and the nearby pillbox (PB 3) remain today as a physical testimony of the battle at WNC Gap. Like most war structures in Hong Kong they have received little attention and are dilapidating as time goes by. Last year (2017) the structures at Brigade HQ were vandalised by a small number of students from the nearby French International School. Steel doors and walls were spray painted with graffiti by youngsters who should have known better, and probably knew little about the war history, the lives lost, or about the military remains around their school. The authorities, to their credit,  were quick to clean up the damage and restitute the structures. They have also installed a cabin for a caretaker located at the set of two stand-alone bunkers further down the road. Today the site is littered, untidy and in my opinion unsafe, because a large tree is in danger of falling - see the photographs below. I have notified the Antiquities and Monuments Office. If the tree collapsed it would cause further damage to these historic structures, which should be considered a war shrine and should be cherished. It could also cause injury to persons visiting the site.

The photo of the passageway shows a cave-in caused by the roots of a tree being undermined
Here you can see the exposed roots
The tree leaning over the site. 
The third bunker at the rear is missing. It is partly buried and may have been damaged by the slope-maintenance work behind the petrol station. This ought to be dug out and restituted because it may well be the actual bunker occupied by Brigadier Lawson, situated at the end of the passageway. The photograph below shows the passageway leading to the three rear bunkers.

This next photograph shows the two surviving rear bunkers - the third is buried where you can see the sheet of corrugated iron.
Add caption
To the right of the sheet of corrugated iron we can make out the front upper section of the third bunker and above it on the slope we can see the tall ventilation shaft for this "missing bunker."

The roof of the missing bunker
Ventilation shaft for the missing /buried bunker
In the photograph below we can see the roof of the two rear bunkers which are hidden and protected by the blast wall, and we can see the slope above the bunkers whereby some of the staff officers and Other Ranks tried to extricate.

Two rear bunkers protected by the blast wall
In the next photo you can see that the passageway has at some stage been filled in to construct the concrete drainage channel.
The drainage channel disecting the passageway.
This shelter looks like a garage, but it was not, as vehicles were parked at the nearby brigade carpark. In contemporary accounts it is described as the "open shelter" and it was closest to where the passageway reached the road.

The open shelter closest to WNC Road
The passageway leading past the open shelter to WNC Gap Road seen in the background
The photo below shows the petrol station which occupies the area that once formed the brigade carpark. The vehicles including Lawson's car were hit by shell fire on 18th December and all the vehicles were reported to have burnt out. Brigadier Lawson planned to use Captain Barclay's car for going round the posts.  Captain Barclay was stationed at the ADS at WNC Gap.   His car was parked outside the ADS,  about one hundred metres or so from Brigade HQ. 

I have no idea what the small structure is in the centre of the photo below, or whether it's a wartime structure. It has a small access door and it is painted in modern style disruptive pattern. On Sentosa Island in Singapore you sometimes see this kind of renovation and paintwork on war structures. I actually think it makes them look fake. Renovation that restores structures to how they actually looked would be more appropriate and acceptable. In Hong Kong very little has been done to preserve and protect war structures, in fact in the urban area many such structures have been destroyed for building or road construction. In the rural areas there are still many war ruins remaining including, batteries, splinter proof shelters and even trenches and weapon pits. Sadly as each year goes by they are  increasingly denuding and dilapidating. The only positive thing, is that because of this benign neglect, they are mostly in their original condition, and as a result have a more authentic charm.

Below is one of ten information boards located at intervals around the WNC Gap Trail. This one at West Brigade HQ has been tastily done and provides the visitor with useful information. We need more of these in Hong Kong, and better maintenance of wartime structures. The litter should be cleared out and the undergrowth cut back.

Information board at West Brigade HQ ruins
There is an additional cluster of two splinter proof shelters to the north of the petrol station (the site of the brigade car park). This set of two splinter proofs is about 100 to 150 metres from the rest of Brigade HQ. These buildings are more exposed, and are unprotected by blast walls. The shutters and doors are in too good a condition to be original and the hinges seem to be on the wrong side. They are original splinter proof structures that have been modernised by the addition of new shutters and doors which have been painted grey and signs like ORs (Other Ranks) and Officers painted in white on the doors. I have no idea who did this or why, but they don't look very authentic, but perhaps at least better than the gaping doors and apertures or bricked up doors and apertures that we see on so many other such structures.  

Below is a photo taken from "The Ruins of War" by Tim Ko and Jason Wordie (1996) which shows the same set of shelters with their doors and shutters removed and the apertures bricked up to prevent illegal occupation.

It is not clear who occupied these two structures in December 1941. I did hear from one historian that a veteran had told him that at least one of them was occupied by signals staff. The Brigade Signals Officer (Captain Billings) was in Lawson's bunker, and he probably had one of two signalmen with him manning the telephone exchange. It is possible that these shelters were used for accommodation for Royal Canadian Signals Corps including dispatch riders, but we are not sure, perhaps a reader can throw some light on this. 

The annotated photograph below is taken from West Brigade shelters looking over the Blue Pool Valley towards the western slopes of Jardine's Lookout. The photograph was taken c. 1947. The lack of forestation and the lower undergrowth that prevailed at that time means we can see Sir Cecil's Ride and Stanley Gap very clearly. The garrison at West brigade would have seen and engaged the Japanese at these locations. There was reportedly particularly heavy fire from the captured AA battery at Stanley Gap.  This photograph shows the semicircle of splinter proof shelters occupied by 'D' Coy WG. You can clearly see the ventilation shafts. One can see the cutting on WNC Gap Road and get an appreciation of the height of the mound where Japanese snipers were dug in and firing down onto 'D' Coy positions. 

The next photo is taken from the other side of the valley, from  above Sir Cecil's Ride. It was also taken in or about 1947, and shows WNC Gap, the police post, West Brigade HQ and 'D' Coy shelters as it would have looked in December 1941.

How it would have all looked in December 1941


Tuesday 23 January 2018

Lt Colonel Cadogan-Rawlinson

Roger John Edward Cadogan was born on 24th August 1898 at Bath in the county of Somerset. His parents were John Hebert Cadogan (1866-1912) and Alice Rawlinson (1873-1951). In 1931 Roger Cadogan changed his name by Deed Poll to Cadogan-Rawlinson adopting both his parent's surnames.
   In December 1941, he was a Lt-Colonel and commanded the 5th Battalion of the 7th Rajput Regiment in Hong Kong. When the war started his battalion was on the right flank of the Gin Drinkers Line. His battalion formed a rearguard during the subsequent evacuation of the Mainland Brigade under fire. Once back on  Hong Kong Island,  his battalion was given the difficult task of defending the heavily bombarded northeast shore and manning the pillboxes along that stretch of shoreline from North Point to Shau Kei Wan. It was on this stretch of the Island shore that the Japanese made their landings on the night of 18th December 1941. The Rajput defenders were outnumbered by ten to one as more than 8,000 Japanese troops including six infantry battalions landed in his battalion sector. His Battalion HQ had been located at Tai Koo Police Station. He and his staff officers were pushed back up Mount Parker Road. Cadogan-Rawlinson ascended Mount Butler and then turned westwards on the ridge path hoping to reach Jardines Lookout (JLO) and drop down to Tai Hang where his reserve company had been based. He hoped to reassemble what was left of his battalion.  However, by dawn on 19th December, he found the Japanese advancing up the north face of Jardines Lookout and blocking his route to Tai Hang. After helping to deploy a platoon of Winnipeg Grenadiers who were manning the col between JLO and Mount Butler, he headed south on a trail that led to Stanley Gap Road (now known as Tai Tam Reservoir Road). He went past the abandoned batteries on Stanley Gap Road and down to Gauge Basin which was being held by what was left of No 1 Platoon from No. 1 Coy HKVDC and the Coy HQ of No. 1 Coy, commanded by Captain Harry Penn. There were also two 3.7-inch howitzer batteries still in action at and around Gauge Basin. He then proceeded down to the lower reservoir and the Tai Tam X-Roads. 

At Bridge Hill shelters, situated near the X-Roads, he put a call through to Brigadier Wallis, the commander of East Infantry Brigade. Wallis had previously commanded the 5th Battalion of the 7th Rajput Regiment before being promoted to Brigadier. Cadogan-Rawlinson had taken over command of the battalion only a few months earlier when following the arrival of 2,000 Canadian troops a decision had been made to reorganise the infantry into two brigades. Wallis knew Cadogan-Rawlinson well having served together for many years in the same Indian Army regiment. Wallis had decided to withdraw his brigade to the Stanley Perimeter as he faced a very real prospect of all troops in the eastern sector being cut off by the rapidly advancing Japanese who were already firing into his HQ area at Tai Tam Gap. He asked Cadogan-Rawlinson and his group of staff officers, orderlies, and stragglers that had been picked up along the way, to hold the dam and the X-Roads until he could get his brigade and supporting artillery personnel safely across the dam.  Later Cadogan-Rawlinson was relieved by a Canadian platoon and Cadogan-Rawlinson was brought back to Aberdeen by MTB and then by truck to Wan Chai where he re-took command of what was left of his battalion. 

I knew about his battle exploits in Hong Kong, but little about his personal life and career. What happened to him after the war I wondered. An internet search revealed little about his life, but I did find that at the age of seventeen he obtained the Royal Aero Club Certificate. He had trained on a Caudron biplane, and alongside his certificate was a photograph of a very young and smartly dressed Roger Cadogan.


Seventeen-year-old Roger Cadogan

Caudron biplane
I saw a reference to his having served in the Royal Flying Corps.  Prior to 1917, it was a requirement that a pilot had to have obtained a Royal Aero Club Flying Certificate before he could be granted a commission in the Royal Flying Corps or the Royal Naval Air Service. It is not clear how long he stayed in the Royal Flying Corp or why he later transferred to the infantry. In 1917 he is listed as a subaltern (2nd Lt) in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI).  In 1918 he fought with the 2nd Battalion DCLI at Salonica on the Macedonian Front. He remained with the regiment after the war ended, and in 1922 is listed as a Lt before being promoted to Captain in December 1922. At some stage, he transferred to the British Indian Army most likely in the late 1920s. In 1935 he was serving as a Major with the 7th Rajput Regiment. He continued in the rank of Major until 1941 when he became Lt-Colonel in command of the 5th Battalion in Hong Kong following the promotion of Cedric Wallis to Brigadier.

Lt-Col Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson as an  infantry officer in WW1 (Source: IWM)

After liberation in 1945, Cadogan-Rawlinson returned to Britain and retired from the Army aged forty-seven, in 1947 on grounds of ill-health, no doubt as a result of three and half years of brutal incarceration in a Japanese POW camp. He passed away, aged only fifty-six, in April 1954, in Ulverston, in the Lake District of Cumbria. In 1929,  he appeared on the electoral roll with the same address that he had provided on the Royal Aero Club certificate in 1915. The address being Evelyn Mansions, London. This is a large, red brick, late Victorian or Edwardian mansion block that still exists, off Victoria Street in the City of Westminster. It may have been his mother's address, as an Alice Millers Cadogan was registered at the same address. She died aged seventy-eight in 1951, only a few years before her son died so prematurely.

I am not sure when he got married but in a passenger manifest (Bombay to Plymouth) in 1932, he was travelling with his wife Moya McGreevey McDowell and a one-year-old child (Kenneth). He and Moya had two sons, Kenneth Roger Brook (1931-2008) and Christopher Robert (1936-). Cadogan-Rawlinson's address in 1931/32 is given as High Duddon, in Broughton-in-Furness (near Ulverston). There is a Duddon Hall complete with a gatehouse, which may have been his ancestral home. After this article was published this was confirmed by Catherine Smith, who found this article on Cadogan-Rawlinson whilst researching the artist George Romney (1734-1802). She kindly wrote advising:
"Roger was a direct descendant of the famous artist. His grandfather, William Sawrey Rawlinson, inherited Duddon Hall (formerly Duddon Grove) in 1860 from Rev. George Millers, a minor canon of Ely Cathedral. Rev. Millers was the nephew of George Romney and his wife Mary. The inheritance came with the proviso that William Rawlinson’s family bear the name Millers in addition to their own surname. Hence Roger’s mother was Alice Millers-Rawlinson. Duddon Hall is a Grade II listed building. The Hall fell into disrepair after the Second World War, but was restored in the 1980s, and is now divided into apartments."
It was probably during or after WW2 that the family moved out of Duddon Hall and moved to a nearby house called High Duddon, a Victorian country house. In 1986 the house name was changed to Dower House. The house remains today, and the current owners have lived there for 25 years, and run a charming lake-land guest house from the property. They recalled the two sons visiting at various times when they were in the area.

I believe Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson married secondly to Mary Jane Easton, and they had one child Martin Lloyd Cadogan-Rawlinson, born in 1946. At this stage, I have no idea what happened to Moya, or when he married Mary Jane Easton, and whether it was before, or after the war. 

In 1947, India became independent and there must have been a large number of former British Indian Army officers who were out of a job. These were officers who in many cases had spent their entire career with the Indian Army. They spoke the languages of their men. Leave was infrequent, and many no doubt looked forward to retiring at the end of their military careers, to a peaceful home in the English countryside, but I suspect that as they strolled the quintessential village green, in the long shadows of a summer evening, that they sometimes dreamt of the flash of a sabre, of the heat and the dust of the North-West Frontier, and of battles fought, long, and arduous, and half a world away.  

Author's Note
If anybody can provide further information on Lt-Colonel Roger Cadogan-Rawlinson's life - I would be most appreciative and include it in this post which I hope to expand as more information on his life comes to hand.

Catherine Smith
Rozanne Nichols