Historic Military Buildings in Hong Kong

Submitted by David on Thu, 05/14/2009 - 09:00

A surprising amount of Hong Kong's military buildings still exist. Sometimes because they are in out-of-the-way places that noone has thought about redeveloping yet. Sometimes because they are still under the control of the military authorities, and so are out of bound for redevelopment. And a precious few are considered listed buildings, and so are actively protected.

During its time as a British colony, Hong Kong's role as a military base went through several different phases.

Through the 1800's and into the early 1900's, the potential enemies were the other European colonial powers of the day. This is the time when the Hong Kong's coasts were peppered with coastal batteries, ready to defend against any attack by a foreign navy.

When fighting eventually broke out, it happened in Europe. World War I must have seemed a very remote event to those living in Hong Kong. Japan and Britain were allies at the time, and Hong Kong came through the war untouched.

Shortly after WWI, there were clear signs of a new naval arms-race beginning, with Britain, the USA, and Japan the main players. Negotiations began to bring this to a halt, resulting in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. One of the terms of the treaty was that Britain could not improve the naval bases or defences in its overseas territories, including Hong Kong. So began a period of stagnation for Hong Kong's defences.

Japan left the Washington Naval Treaty in 1936. However, while the treaty had been in place, the bilateral alliance between Japan and Britain had been allowed to lapse. This meant a powerful potential foe was now on Hong Kong's doorstep.

So began a new burst of work to enhance Hong Kong's defences, running up until Japan's invasion in December 1941.

Immediately post-war, there were several years of relative peace and re-building. That didn't last long, and a new build-up of British forces began, this time with the Chinese army as the potential foe. This characterised the 1950's, with the Korean war still a recent memory.

After that came a steady decline in the size Britain's military presence, until their final withdrawal as part of the handover in 1997.

So, let's take a look at what remains from the British armed forces' 150+ years in Hong Kong.


My interest in this area began with a visit to Lyemun Barracks some time ago followed up later with a stay in the Lyemun Holiday Bungalows (former barrack buildings) which were then available for bookings by the public. Dont know about now. This was before the construction of the Coastal Museum. Alot of old buildings to see, view the glorious sunrise in the morning and tour Sai Wan Battery up the hill.

Yes, definitely. I think more than half of the places in this section have at least one photo, but certainly the goal is that every one will have one or more  photos.

I'm very grateful for the readers like moddsey and T who help add in photos. If you ever see a place you're interested in that is missing a photo, please help to add one. I've tried to make it easy to add one of your own photos, or a public photo from flickr, but let us know if we can make it any easier.

Those who like exploring the remaining WW2 gun sites may be interested in a book titled "The Guns and Gunners of Hong Kong" by Denis Rollo. An A4 size hardback published around 1995 by the Gunners' Roll of Hong Kong, ISBN No 962-7680-01-x. Eight chapters cover the history of the gunners in HK and 7 Appendix the last being "A Gazetteer of the Batteries of the Fixed Defences of Hong Kong. There are numerous pictures including large gun barrells being rolled up Mount Davis. However with no price tag or regular book publisher mentioned this may be a restricted book only available from the Gunners' Roll of Hong Kong, although I'm sure I had seen in it in the Coastal Defence Museum shop shortly after the museum opened. The book was printed in Hong Kong by Corporate Communications Ltd.


Thanks for the link to the website, that's a new one to me.

That site does have a page specifically about Rollo's book. They say it's out of print, but you can register there to show your interest in buying a new copy if they reprint. They also note that: "the Hong Kong Central Library in Causeway Bay holds two copies of this book for viewing in their Reference Library.".