During the night on Tuesday 9 December 1941, the strongpoint known as the Shing Mun Redoubt was captured. Five casualties were left behind at the redoubt. Three of them were taken prisoner by the Japanese. One of them, Private John Casey, was posted as missing in action and was not seen again. The fifth man was Private George Jardine. Augustus Muir, the official historian of the Royal Scots, wrote that he had been wounded in the throat in close quarter fighting but was determined he would not fall into enemy hands. Weak from loss of blood he struggled along the ridge path known as Smugglers' Ridge. He lost his footing and fell down a ravine to the right of the ridge path. When he heard movement, and hoping it was a patrol from his battalion, he shouted out for help. He was rescued by L/Cpl Cook. The citation for the award of the MM states that he had to go forward 500 yards from 'D' Coy's front line to rescue the wounded soldier. He did this under heavy artillery fire and succeeded in bringing out Pte Jardine. The next day, Thursday 11 December, L/Cpl Cook was in action at Golden Hill which came under sustained attack by the Japanese during the course of the day. L/Cpl Cook distinguished himself in executing grenade attacks at Japanese infiltrating dead ground on the western and northern slopes of Golden Hill. He carried on despite being wounded in the shoulder by rifle fire. At one point driving the Japanese off their position with a Thompson submachine gun. The full citation can be read below.
Thursday, 28 October 2021
Thursday, 8 July 2021
In December 1941, there were three 9.2-inch guns on Mount Davis they were numbered from the lower gun: F1, F2 and F3. F3, being the topmost gun, had the widest traverse for landward firing although still blocked to some extent by terrain around the Peak. Jubilee Battery consisting of three 6-inch guns was situated below Mount Davis and was unable engage in landward firing as the battery was completelty blocked by terrain on the landward side. The gun in the photograph is F2. The middle gun. In fact, you can see the numbering 'F2' painted on the gun emplacement (lower middle). I'm not sure of the date of this photo but I would think early-1930s.
Adaptions were made to these three gun emplacements. F2 for example had a blast wall constructed at the rear as can be seen in the photo below. When the battery was completed in 1912 there were five 9.2-inch gun emplacements. At that time, there were two other gun emplacements between F2 and F3. These two guns were moved to Stanley in the mid-1930s.
On a recent visit to F2 we found the usual ammunition lockers with steel doors missing as below:
Access to underground magazine and hoisting equipment
Western Fire Command
The Coastal Defence was divided into Western Fire Command and Eastern Fire Command.
Western Fire Command consisted of 12 Coast Regiment which operated the batteries at Mount Davis (24 Coast Battery), Stonecutters and Jubilee (26 Coast Battery). Also under Western Fire Command were the batteries at Aberdeen (No. 3 Battery HKVDC) and Stonecutters (Parade Battery). The coastal defence guns in the western sector consisted of:
Mount Davis............3 x 9.2-inch
Stonecutters.............3 x 6-inch
Jubilee......................3 x 6-inch
Aberdeen Island.......2 x 4-inch
Parade Battery.........2 x 60-pdrs
In addition there were two 3-inch AA guns situated on Mount Davis, but these were part of the 5th Anti-Aircraft Regiment.
Western Fire Command HQ was based in the complex of rooms which included the Fortress Plotting Room (FPR) until it was penetrated and put out of action by Japanese shelling. Western Fire Command then relocated to RN Port War Signal Station on the mid-slopes of Mount Davis. The damage to the Plotting Room area occurred on 16 December. The shell was a 24cm (9.45-inches) shell fired from a Japanese siege mortar, the largest calibre artillery piece employed in the battle.
The RA War Diary states:
A 24 cm dud worked its way through a ventilation shaft and finished up behind a signal test frame. There were some twenty men in the plotting room at the time but no one was injured. The Fire Direction Table was undamaged but as the Plotting Room was neither weather nor shell-proof and all the instruments smothered in dust and debris, the two remaining guns [F3 had been put out of action by another dud 24 cm shell on 13 December] were connected up to the position finder direct. (UK National Archives)
RSM Ford was in the Plotting Room. He described the destruction in his personal war diary.
Today the Mount has received its bitterest and most intense bombardment. The plotting rooms [Note by Author: the plural suggesting the Fortress Plotting Room and Western Fire Command was in a collection of rooms in the underground bunker of which more later] and barrack rooms have been blown in and at about 5 o'clock we had to evacuate under shell-fire in parties of five. BSM Barlow and myself established order in the Battery Plotting Room amid smoke and fumes. Our lights are out and blower plant disabled and daylights visible through the roof. This roof was once a thickness of 15 ft of earth and concrete. A shell penetrated right through a steel door, ripped all the bricks from one wall [note the use of brick walls which we will see in our exploration of the bunker later] ploughed through another wall and finished up in the Telephone Exchange [a separate adjoining room] without exploding. Truly a miracle. All our troops are intact except one sergeant shell shocked and one gunner wounded.
Ford describes how the undamaged Fire Direction Table was ordered to be destroyed. I assume he means the plotting table. These tables were large, made of steel, and had concrete support legs. Brigadier Wallis used the Plotting table at East Brigade HQ at Tai Tam Gap to spread out his maps and telephones. The photograph below shows the Fortress Plotting Room at Tai Tam Gap and the concrete support legs still in situ.
It looks like there are around eight concrete legs. Notice the steel roof and the concrete (rather than brick) walls. Also notice the colony of un-agitated bats and the bat excreta on the floor. Not my favourite place to visit but it has to be seen. We found a number of these concrete legs mostly broken up when we explored the underground bunker at Mount Davis. There was a colony of bats in the underground bunker and although there were less of them they were flying around, no doubt agitated by our intrusion.
Exploration of bunkers at Mount Davis
We were able to gain access, but normally a padlocked door prevents entry to the seven largely intact rooms. Two other areas which I label in the diagram below as 8 and 9 have been destroyed. No 8 was destroyed by war action. No. 9 was damaged and may have been demolished after the war because they were unsafe.
Sketch Map of underground bunker at Mount Davis (with thanks to James Lewis)
Room 1 was the entrance room and contained brooms and some other equipment. In the photo below you can see the entrance door which is normally locked. This was the only room that had been used for storage. The other rooms are not used. The roof in Room was comprised of steel girders (like the FPR at Tai Tam Gap).
Room 5 may have been the FPR - it is the largest room and it has what might be two concrete plotting table legs - there were others broken up concrete legs in the other adjoining rooms.
This tunnel portal may have led to Room 9.
Originally the roof of this area contained the 3rd gun (from the bottom). This gun was removed in mid-1930s and taken to Stanley. The photo below shows the gun emplacements for No 3 and No 4 ( the removed guns). No 4 was converted into a water reservoir. No 3 emplacement was probably filled in. Photographs (further below) seem to show the blast wall around part of the emplacement. After the war the area of the 3rd gun emplacement was built over.
It is possible that the bunkers we explored may have been part of the magazine for the 3rd gun (courtesy James Lewis). The destroyed area marked in the photo can be more clearly seen in this post war photo taken when the RAF manned Mount Davis using it as a radar station.
This photo seems to show the empty emplacement with what looks like a blast wall (as at F2) and no doubt added on after the emplacements were built. The photo shows the considerable damage to the area described as Room 8 in the sketch map. The next photo dated is 1987 and is interesting as it shows what may be the facade of Room 9 in the sketch map.
I may have raised more questions than answers, but I hope the study will be of interest to readers and at least thought provoking. We can say the Fortress Plotting Room was situated most likely in Room 5 and possibly Room 8, but we cannot be sure. The complex that made up the Plotting Room, and Western Fire Command HQ, no doubt consisted of several separate rooms, for example, a room for the Telephone Exchange and a room for the plotting table. Room 4 is the only one with a pillar but it is a narrower room than the one in the 1946 photo and what looks like an open doorway (see photo above) in the right-hand corner of the room does not match Room 4 today.
Room 4, as of today, does have a bricked up portal but it is in the left-hand corner of the room. The main problem with Room 4 is it is too narrow to have contained the plotting table. However, this room (Room 4) could have been the room where the shell first entered the FPR complex. The brick built rooms, like Room 5, may have been originally used as the magazine for the removed No 3 gun and possibly the nearby removed No 4 gun. We can see from the post-war photos taken during the RAF period at Mount Davis that the building (in the area we describe as Room 8) was very extensively damaged.
Room 8 may have been the Plotting Room or it may have been the room where the shell first entered, which would explain the extensive damage. Given what limited information we have, I tend to think it was Room 5 that contained the Plotting table with its two standing concrete legs still extant. It was probably the most protected room being directly under the old No. 3 Gun. If I had to hazard a guess - I would say the shell first entered through the roof of Room 8 and that Room 9 was an accommodation block. As always interested in reader's comments and thoughts as to the layout.
Diary of E. C. Ford Imperial War Museum Docs. 10841
War Diary Royal Artillery UKNA WO 172/1687
Guns & Gunners of Hong Kong (1991) Denis Rollo
Tuesday, 6 July 2021
This story is about a Royal Navy wartime sailor, Stoker Petty Officer Frederick Dack, and the submarine HMS Unshaken (P54) in which he served during the Second World War. Frederick Dack, predeceased his wife, Joan. It was only after Joan passed away, and while her son, Martyn, and her grandaughter Nic together with Nic's husband Jay Dorman were sorting out her possessions that they came across the bag. The bag contained Frederick Dack's war photographs, including shots of HMS Unshaken and her crew. There was also his Royal Navy service record tracking his wartime career. He had been awarded a Mention in Dispatches (MiD) and there was a copy of the award certificate dated April 1944. The submarine on which he served had been constantly in action while based in the Mediterranean. He and his ship mates had been in the thick of naval action and always in harm's way.
Frederick was born in Downham Market, Norfolk in 1920. He joined the Royal Navy, aged twenty, in 1940. He commenced basic training at the shore establishment, HMS Royal Arthur. He then underwent further training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham and then at HMS Dolphin, the submarine training base at Gosport in Hampshire.
HM Submarine P54 was laid down in 1941 at the Vickers-Armstrong yard in Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched in February 1942. Her first commanding officer was Lt Richard Gatehouse. He commanded from April 1942 until June 1942. The submarine was commissioned in May 1942. Lt Charles Oxborrow was appointed as commanding officer on 21 June 1942. Initially the submarine had no name and was referred to simply as P54. It was not until 1943 that she was given the name Unshaken as one of the Royal Navy's U-class of submarines. It is a striking name, and conjures up the Commander Bond-like image of 'shaken not stirred'. She was, and still is, the only Royal Navy vessel to bear that name.
Ship's badge (Source: Wikipedia)
Unshaken had twin screws powered by diesel engines which could produce a speed of 11.5 knots on the surface and a speed of 10 knots when submerged. She had a normal complement of 33 officers and men. She had four forward 21-inch torpedo tubes and she had a 3-inch gun (76 mm) mounted on her deck casing.
I believe Frederick Dack first joined P54 in April 1942. On 25 June, a month after commissioning, she sailed out of Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, and was deployed off the northern Norwegian coast. Her orders were to provide a submarine screen for the Artic convoy PQ-17 and QP 13. In particular to protect the convoys from enemy surface ships. On 5 July 1942, P54 reported a sighting of the German battle ship Tirpitz accompanied by the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper with escorting destroyers and MTBs. The German surface fleet were stalking the Russian bound convoy. A Russian submarine and an RAF Catalina flying-boat also reported sightings. Later that day, a German aircraft spotted and bombed Unshaken. Three bombs were dropped but they all went wide. Having been observed, the German Admiral in command ordered the surface ships to return to base. Unshaken commenced her second war patrol on 4 August 1942. This time she was ordered to patrol off the coast of southern Norway. On 12 August 1942, Unshaken drew her first blood when she torpedoed and sank the German merchant ship, Georg L. M. Russ. Another German merchant ship, Wolfgang L. M. Russ, was fired on but the torpedo missed its target. In September, Unshaken commenced her third war patrol providing a submarine screen for convoy PQ-18. In October 1942, she was ordered to join the Mediterranean fleet and she sailed south to Gibraltar from her base at Dundee.
The IWM photograph carries the caption 'HM Submarine Unshaken leaving port on patrol against Axis shipping in the Mediterranean'. At Gibraltar, she joined the 8th Submarine Flotilla ahead of the Allied invasion of North Africa. One of her first actions was landing, and then picking up, a reconnaissance party from a beach at Oran on the Algerian coast.
On 25 November, disaster struck when the submarine surfaced during a storm off the coast of southern France. The commanding officer, Lt Charles Oxborrow, and two crew members, the Yeoman of Signals, Sydney Bennett, and Able Seaman Charles Thorn were lost overboard when the submarine un-intentionally submerged while they were still on the bridge during heavy weather. The log book describes the submarine slipping down 30 feet. A search was organised but the three men were not seen again. Sub-Lt Herbert Westmacott assumed command until a replacement officer, Lt Jack Whitton, from the 8th Flotilla, took command at sea after coming aboard from HMS Samphire, a flower class corvette. He remained in command of Unshaken until May 1944.
On 14 December 1942, a large merchant vessel with two escorts, was attacked with four torpedoes but no hits were achieved. A similar incident occurs on 19 December when three torpedoes were fired at a merchant ship. The torpedoes missed their target and the escort vessel dropped a number of depth charges. On 20 December 1942, a French merchant ship, Oasis, was attacked off the coast of Genoa. The last remaining torpedo was fired and the submarine surfaced and engaged with the deck gun, but no serious damage was inflicted. On 12 January 1943, four torpedoes were fired at the Italian merchant ship, Compania, but again all the torpedoes missed their target. In March 1943, a German U-boat was engaged but the four torpedoes missed their target. Later that month, Unshaken was ordered to Malta where it joined the 10th Submarine Flotilla.
Finally, her luck changed and on 8 April 1943 she sank the Italian merchant vessel, Foggia having fired three torpedoes. On 10 April she surfaced and fired at a suspension bridge located near Korba on the Tunisian coast. Fifteen rounds were fired with the deck gun and several hits observed. On 28 April, two British destroyers attacked Unshaken while she was surfaced, assuming she was a German U-boat. Unshaken dived to safety and was undamaged. Later that day she sank the Italian torpedo boat Climene.
On 28 May 1943, Unshaken landed a raiding party on the the island of Pantilleri located between Sicily and Tunisia. The raiding party consisted of two officers and six other ranks. The mission was to capture a sentry to gain intelligence by interrogation. All went well at first, the party were successfully landed and a sentry was duly captured. However the sentry could not be silenced and subdued. His shouts alerted the other guards and four Italian soldiers came rushing out and were killed by the raiding party. However one of the British soldiers was seriously wounded in the exchange of fire and had to be left behind. The captured Italian resisted all efforts to get him down the cliffs and eventually he had to be left behind. The raiding party returned to Unshaken, but without the sentry the mission was not completed.
On 22 June 1943, Unshaken sank the Italian two-masted schooner Giovanni G. In the afternoon she made an unsuccessful attack on an Italian merchant vessel which was escorted by two corvettes and a torpedo boat. The corvettes dropped depth charges and a near miss caused some minor damage to the submarine. The next day Unshaken sank an Italian merchant ship, Pomo, which was escorted by a corvette and a torpedo boat. On 14 July she sank an Italian patrol boat and on 10 August she sank the Asmara, an Italian troop transporter. Three days later she engaged a German u-boat on the surface.
On 9 September, Unshaken came across a submarine and closed in for the attack thinking it was a U-boat. However, they saw it was an Italian submarine the Ciro Menotti. They had already received a signal advising that the Italians had surrendered the previous day. Unshaken surfaced and fired one round from the 3-inch gun across the Italian submarine's bows. The Italian submarine responded with machine gun fire. The British submarine pulled away to torpedo range. The Italians crew ceased firing. The boats moved to hailing distance and the Italian captain said they were under orders to head for Brindisi. She was forced to stop and a boarding party was sent across. Jack Whitton, the British captain, ordered the Italians to turn around and alter course for Malta. The 3-inch gun was trained on the Italian captain's conning tower. He relented and a boarding party was sent across consisting of three ratings under Lt Swanston. One Italian officer and three ratings were taken aboard the Unshaken as hostages. The Italian submarine was duly escorted to Malta.
On 2 October Unshaken engaged a German submarine-chaser with two torpedoes in the sea area north of Elba. The German vessel counter-attacked dropping ten depth charges. On 7 October Unshaken attacked a German tanker and a general cargo ship escorted by two E-boats. The torpedoes missed and the E-boats fired several depth charges. In November Unshaken sailed to Britain for a refit in Dundee. The refit scheduled for January 1944 was postponed and Unshaken joined the 9th Submarine Flotilla operating off the Norwegian coast.
Unshaken carried out a series of war patrols off the Norwegian coast. One of her last engagements was in April 1944 when she sank a German merchant ship the Asien. In late May 1944 she was scheduled for overdue refit. On 17 July 1944, Lt Jack Pearce was appointed commanding officer of Unshaken and from this period until the end of the war she was used mainly for training purposes rather than war patrols.
HM Submarine Unshaken was de-commissioned in September 1945. She was broken up in February/March 1946 at Troon on the Firth of Clyde. Stoker Petty Officer Dack was demobilised at about the same time in March 1946. The submarine service, sometimes referred to as the silent service, was a demanding role and required men of strong character. Any submarine, but particularly World War 2 submarines would have been cramped and uncomfortable. Most of the time there was no sunlight and no fresh air. The submarines were closely packed with machinery and torpedoes. Fresh water was scarce and washing oneself was not permitted. Silence was required to avoid noise detection. It was a dangerous occupation. Your chances of escape if hit by a mine or a depth charge were not good. However, it was an elite service, and once a submariner always a submariner. At times it must have been exhilarating, especially coming back from a successful mission flying the Jolly Roger. There was always that combination of fear and excitement with every man attending to his duty and knowing that his shipmate would be doing likewise. It was a brotherhood of the sea.
Jay and Nic Dorman for permission to use family photographs and providing information on Frederick Dack. Martin Backhouse for additional information from his extensive research on Unshaken and her crew.
Web site: Uboat.net
Web site: ClydeMaritime.co.uk
Web site: Naval-History.net
Web site: rnsubs.co.uk
Web site: wikipedia
Facebook page Royal Navy Ships & Submarines
Wednesday, 7 April 2021
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.
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 posts.
Walking up the gun-road we come to a latrine or toilet block and then to the first gun emplacement F1.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.