Welcome to Gwulo

Here you'll find over 50,000 pages about old Hong Kong to explore, including over 30,000 photos. The content is added by a friendly community of people who enjoy sharing what we know about Hong Kong's history, and you are very welcome to join us.

Kind regards, David

P.S. To receive more old Hong Kong photos and stories, please sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

82 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

Submitted by David on Tue, 12/05/2023 - 13:17

December, 1941.

82 years ago, tensions were high as war with Japan grew ever more likely. On December 8th, Hong Kong's fears were confirmed when Japanese planes attacked Kai Tak, and Japanese soldiers crossed the border into the New Territories. The fighting continued until the British surrendered on Christmas Day.

The end of the fighting marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation, a time of great hardship for Hong Kong's residents. They would have to endure for three years and eight months, until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 and Hong Kong was liberated shortly afterwards.

What was it like?

Let the people who lived through those times tell you themselves: A new cycle of Hong Kong's wartime diaries has just begun, where a daily email message from Gwulo shows you a selection of diary entries written on the same date, 82 years ago.

If you look at the diary entries from 7 Dec 1941, you'll see that on the eve of war there were still conflicting opinions: Hong Kong's soldiers were being mobilised, but Major Monro had strong doubts, "I don’t really believe that anyone thinks that it will come to anything".

To read the diary entries from December 1941 and beyond, please click here to sign up and receive them by e-mail each morning. It's free of charge, your details stay private, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Sample extracts from the daily messages

Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary
Barbara Anslow's Diary, 8 Dec 1941
  • 8 Dec 1941: "I started my birthday with a war. Kowloon bombed about 8AM."
  • 10 Dec 1941: "Sid has been wounded.  Bullet through shoulder.  He told Hospital to phone Mum at the Jockey Club and she went to see him."
  • 13 Dec 1941: "We hear rumours that

New on Gwulo: 2023, week 48

Submitted by David on Sun, 12/03/2023 - 15:00

What's new and updated on the Gwulo website:



Update on the new Gwulo book

Yesterday I finally signed off the proofs!

That was a great feeling, as the rounds of edits to text and photos were starting to feel like they would never end. That's been the case with each of the books, but thankfully there's always a sudden rush at the end where everything slots into place.

The first glimmer of hope is when I see pages with their proper layout. I create the draft document in Microsoft Word, adding in photos to show how I want the page to look. When I've finished I'm pretty happy with it, but it always surprises me how much better it looks after Lilly, the designer, turns it into the layout for the printer. Here's page 12 as an example, with my Word version on the left, and the layout from Lilly on the right.

Vol.5: Word vs Indesign


The next leap forward is when I see the cover for the first time. This is one of the last parts of the layout to be completed, so when I see this I know the end is in sight.

Front cover of Volume 5 of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell


Once I finally decide I've run out of things to change, we ask the printer to produce a proof copy of the book. The proof copy is printed on a digital printer, so it doesn't exactly match the colours we'll get in the final offset-printed book, but it is very close. This is the first time I get to hold the book, and is always a happy moment.

Below is the proof copy I received on Thursday. The pages are grouped into 'signatures', in this case groups of 16 pages that are printed on the same large sheet of paper, then cut and folded, and sewn together during binding. You'll see I've initialled each 16-page signature, which is the signal that I've approved the printer to go ahead with printing. BUT, you'll also note I've crossed these two pages, as I wasn't happy with the appearance of this image. 

Proof of Vol. 5  - more work needed!


Looking through the proof copy I noted seven images I felt could be improved, which meant another late night's work in Photoshop. Lilly and Suk Woon (who works with the printing company to handle the actual printing) are both very responsive and quickly turned around my changes. Yesterday (Saturday) morning I received the new proofs for the updated pages. 

Updated proofs for Volume 5


The changes all looked good so I signed them all, handed them back to Suk Woon, and breathed a sigh of relief. Suk Woon takes it from here, guiding the book through the printing process.

We're nearly there! I'll let you know once I have the delivery date for the printed books.



Photo (18): Americans

Submitted by David on Mon, 11/27/2023 - 11:13
Sailor from USS Tulsa pulling rickshaw in Hong Kong

An American sailor has swapped places with the rickshaw puller in this photo from 1929. The sailor was serving on the USS Tulsa, an American gunboat that had previously been stationed off Central America. The Tulsa joined the Asiatic Fleet in early 1929, so this was probably one of the sailor’s first visits to Hong Kong. He’s wearing a white ‘dixie cup’ hat, not the darker ‘flat hat’ we saw earlier in the Happy Valley Grandstand photo.

New on Gwulo: 2023, week 46

Submitted by David on Sat, 11/18/2023 - 15:00

What's new and updated on the Gwulo website:




Photo (13): A civil-military marriage

Submitted by David on Sat, 11/11/2023 - 17:00
1926 Holyoak-Armstrong wedding, St John's Cathedral

The civil and military sides of British life came together for this marriage of Miss Dorothy Muriel Holyoak to Captain Charles Douglas Armstrong, MC, of the 1st Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment.

Their wedding was held at St John’s Cathedral on 16 October 1926, the time of year for perfect wedding weather in Hong Kong. Dorothy was no stranger to the Cathedral as she was christened there back in 1905, together with her sister Joyce. They were likely twin sisters, as their parents were married almost exactly one year before the christening.

As the photo shows, after the wedding ceremony the new husband and wife stepped out below an arch of swords, held aloft by Captain Armstrong’s fellow officers. The couple didn’t have far to walk though, as a car was waiting for them that, according to military tradition, men from Armstrong’s regiment would pull to their next destination.