AOP, Middle Spur [1939- ]
Here are notes and video from a recent visit to the wartime Artillery Observation Post at Middle Spur, overlooking Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay.
Video of Middle Spur AOP today
Middle Spur in the fighting, 1941
Here are mentions of the area in Tony Banham's book, 'Not the slightest chance':
- 19 Dec, 15.00: The ordered counter-attack on the Japanese beachhead is attempted. [...] B Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers is ordered to advance across the Gap eastwards in a line running from Sir Cecil's Ride to Middle Spur.
- 19 Dec: At night, Japanese forces move south as far as Gauge Basin, Stanley Gap, Violet Hill, Middle Spur, and even Shouson Hill, and occupy the garage of the Repulse Bay Hotel.
- 20 Dec: Wallis wrote "When I told the G.S.O. 'I' early on 20 Dec that I considered the enemy were in the VIOLET HILL-MIDDLE SPUR area in some strength (probably a [battalion] and mortars) he seemed astonished and incredulous."
- 20 Dec, 10:00: It is clear that the Japanese are passing round and over Violet Hill, and are already on Middle Spur and in buildings south west of the Repulse Bay Hotel.
- 20 Dec, 10.45: The Middle Spur OP [ie the building we visited in the video] is reported surrounded, [...]
- 20 Dec, 11.00: [...] The Royal Rifles' party then attack over the hills towards Wong Nai Chung Gap, but make no headway (via the catchments) towards their objective of Violet Hill, or even Middle Spur. [...]
- 20 Dec: Two 18-pounders of the 965 Defence Battery under Second Lieutenant E. G. Phillips help infantry around Repulse Bay, firing over open sights at enemy on Middle Spur and Violet Hill. Four mortars are destroyed, and many casualties observed.
- 21 Dec: In the afternoon, the Navy gives what help it can. [HMS] Robin fires fifty rounds of 3.7-inch howitzer at Middle Spur, [...]
- 21 Dec, 17.00: Major Templer arrives at the [Repulse Bay Hotel] to take command of all forces around Repulse Bay. He leads A Company Royal Rifles, driving (via Eucliffe, with only three lorries reaching this point thanks to fire from Middle Spur) [...]
- 22 Dec. In the south, Repulse Bay comes under heavy mortar fire from the Japanese on Middle Spur.
By the end of 22nd Dec, the Japanese were in control of the Repulse Bay Hotel, and the area around Deep Water Bay. The fighting in this area moved down towards Stanley, and there are are no more mentions of Middle Spur.
Were the Royal Artillery soldiers manning the AOP able to escape before they were surrounded?
Was the trench dug by the Japanese or British forces?
Was the trench intended as a place to fight from, or mainly for communication between the larger rectangular areas? I wonder if those larger areas housed the Japanese mortars that were mentioned several times in the accounts of the fighting.
The service reservoir near the trench appears on a 1949 map (Mapping Hong Kong, plate 2-13). Was it already there before the war?
Does the concrete path between AOP and concrete shelter date from the wartime?
We used the Countryside Series map for Hong Kong. Starting from the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir, follow the path south along the catchwater on the western slopes of Violet Hill. You'll see the map shows the path heads south, then turns east . At the point it turns, there's a dotted-line path marked heading in an 8 o'clock direction down a ridge. That's the path we followed.
It follows the line of telephone cable. You'll see the older, metal-sheathed cables,
and occasional newer plastic-sheathed cables where the ground has been washed away.
At the bottom of the slope you'll see the trench as shown at the start of the video.
With hindsight, I'd recommend retracing your steps back up the hill to the main footpath.
First we tried following the concrete path you see at the end of the video. It carries on for a good distance, without getting too badly overgrown. But eventually it was heavily overgrown, and we could see steep drops nearby. We turned back and tried the opposite direction.
That took us across the small reservoir, and along a concrete path around the hill. It brings you out to this bigger, newer reservoir, and a road.
End of problem? Seems that way, but we follows the road down and ended up at a big gate & fence, with barbed wire along the top. So back up the road to the big reservoir...
Finally we just crashed downhill through the undergrowth (roughly following the line of a large pipeline) till we hit the public road. Again, it would have been quicker and easier to just walk back the way we'd come. Safer too, as there are some steep drops where the road has been cut into the hill.
Thanks very much to Rob Weir for joining me on the walk, and showing me where this AOP is.
If you have any more information about the AOP, I'm very interested to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.