This morning we were on the bus shortly after 9am for the Battle Fields tour with Tony Banham, author of Not the Slightest Chance. We spent a good part of our time in the Wong Nai Chung Gap, an area that my father was in during the battle. We did manage to get much closer to Jardine's Lookout than we did during the plaque unveiling, but we didn't get all the way to the top due to time constraints.
It was great to see that a lot of work is being done to make the Battle Fields in the Wong Nai Chung more accessible to the public. The trails are being cleaned up, the pill boxes are being dug out (they had nearly been buried during the time since WWII), and signs are being put up to mark the trails.
The following is a sign for the modern day Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail from the plaque unveiling at West Brigade Headquarters. Our Battle Fields tour took us over the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail from station 1 to station 10.
|You can click on the image to the right to see the battle map of 1941. The Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail winds through the eastern slopes of the Wong Nai Chung Gap just to the right of the center of the map.|
We are at Station 2, the Anti-Aircraft Gun Position, and that's Tony sitting down on the left.
The following are a couple pictures taken looking to the north-west of the Anti-Aircraft Gun Position at Mount Nicholson.
From the Anti-Aircraft Gun Position we followed the water collection ditch to the north east. The ditch something that existed back in 1941, however back in 1941 all these hills had been clear cut by the Chinese for firewood and the hills were bar. It was quite easy to walk along the ditch, compared to the terrain of to the side of it, but you can be sure that our soldiers didn't take the easy path back in 1941 because without those trees one would be very exposed to the enemy.
That's the Wong Nei Chung reservoir in the hillside just to the left of center in the following picture. That structure also existed back in 1941.
Do you see it now?
West Brigade Headquarters is to the right of the gas station (the small slightly obscured building in the bottom of that triangular shaped clear area on the hillside in the center of the picture below) and Lawson's Bunker to the left. The peak above and to the right is Mount Nicholson.
Do you see the gas station now?
During our walking tour Tony pointed what became obvious during the Battle of Hong Kong. The location for West Brigade Headquarters and Lawson's Bunker were a bad choice. They were an easy and desirable target for the Japanese. The Japanese wanted control of the Wong Nai Chung Gap in order to split the defending forces in half and once they got control of the slops of Jardine's Lookout behind us West Brigade Headquarters and Lawson's Bunker was an easy target for their machine guns.
That's the top of Pillbox #2.
Pillbox #1 is a couple hundred feet up the hill and across the water collection ditch from Pillbox #2. As Tony pointed out, some serious fighting took place in this water collection ditch back in 1941.
A flower like this on the side of the trail is clearly a sign of more peaceful times since WWII and a stark contrast to what happened here 64 years ago.
This is Pillbox #1. The entrances to both Pilboxes we sealed, so we could only look at the outside.
The following two pictures are of the remains of a building a couple hundred feet east of Pillbox #1 that dates back to before 1941 and the Battle of Hong Kong.
The picture below was taken looking to the east/north-east. Mount Butler and Jardine's Lookout are about a twenty minute walk straight off into the distance beyond the trees behind the remains of the building. That's the area were Sgt. Major John Robert Osborn was when threw himself on the grenade that saved the men around him.
The northern portion of the Wong Nai Chung Gap.
The Happy Valley Rack Track again. The track was here back in 1941, but all those building around it weren't. Part of today's Central Hong Kong area is on reclaimed land, so back in 1941 it was part of Kowloon harbour.
Here we are at Station 7 overlooking the Happy Valley Rack Track to the north and the Wong Nai Chung Gap to the west.
Another more complete photo of the Wong Nai Chung Gap.
And here we are at Station 9, near the end of the trail and the site of Lawson's Bunker.
I really enjoyed this walking tour. It gave me a good sense of the area were my father (Paul-Emile Mondor) was back in December 1941.