Wartime Stoves above Quarry Bay
Earlier I wrote about the wartime shelter area in the valley above the old Taikoo dockyard and sugar refinery. At least one of the cooking areas is still standing - the one I saw had 10 cooking platforms, and each cooking platform had spaces for cooking with 8 woks. At the time I thought cooking with 80 woks would have supported a lot of people, but there were more ... a lot more.
Recently I've been looking at an aerial photo of the valley taken in 1949. It shows there were nine cooking areas, each with ten cooking platforms. So room for cooking with 720 woks! There may have been even more - there are cooking areas up to the southern edge of the photo, so there may have been more further south / higher up the valley.
Here's roughly where the cooking areas were, according to the photo:
What is there to see today?
- A - ?
- B - Now a BBQ area
- C - Still visible today
- D - Today there are AFCD buildings here
- E - Still visible today
- F - Still visible today
- G - Overgrown and in poor condition, but some stoves remain
- H - Now a clear area, with one small cooking platform remaining
- I - ?
There must have been a lot of work needed to get these shelter areas ready. Not just building the cooking areas - think of the amounts of food and firewood needed to keep these kitchens running. There must have been large stores of both in this area.
I'd also like to know what preparations they made to get enough cooks into the area to man these stoves. You might think: "everyone knows how to cook in a wok", but these large woks are quite different.
"Cooking rice in a small pot is a skill that everyone had mastered. [...] Trying to do the same thing in woks, some four feet across, using shovels for wooden spoons was a highly skilled job requiring considerable experience,"
He wasn't directly involved in that relief operation, but was later required to:
"organise the cooking and food distribution after a severe typhoon called Wanda, in 1962. So many people had been made homeless that we had to produce seventy-five thousand meals a day. We built makeshift kitchens on wasteland and looked for anyone who had experience in this kind of work. In the normal way, we never had to advertise for labour, but on this occasion we could not find enough men who had the required expertise, so we did advertise."
If this was their experience in peacetime, it's not hard to imagine the problems they'd have running these shelter areas in wartime.