When: A note pencilled on the back of the photo explains:
Hongkong. King Edward's birthday 1901. Men of war firing a salute at noon.
His birthday was the 9th of November, so this photo is exactly 113 years old!
Here is the newspaper's description:
The Warships in the Harbour, the English mail steamer at Kowloon Wharf and some of the German merchant ships were decorated, rainbow-style, to-day in honour of the birthday of King Edward. A salute was fired at noon by the various warships, and the afternoon was observed generally as a holiday. Monday has been fixed as the official holiday, when offices and stores will be closed. A levee will be held in honour of the occasion at Government House, this afternoon at 4 o'clock.
Page 4, China Mail, 9 Nov 1901
Who: A king? How peculiar.
When the British came ashore at Hong Kong in 1841, Queen Victoria was 21 years old and had reigned for just three years. She would reign for another sixty years, until her death on the 22nd of January, 1901 .
It must have seemed strange to have a King's birthday after sixty years of "God save the Queen".
What: Royal Navy ships, and lots of them. This was the time when Britain's navy followed the two-power standard, ie the British fleet should be as strong as the combined forces of any two other countries .
Here are closer views of the ships (they appear from left to right in the main photo):
If any shipping experts are reading, how many can you identify? The only one I recognise is the obvious one:
- E - HMS Tamar
Something to note about the ships is the dark colour of their hulls. Today we expect navy ships to be grey coloured - we even call it "battleship grey" . The navy changed to the grey colour scheme in 1903, just two years after this photo was taken.
Where: We're up on Kennedy Road, or possibly a garden just above Kennedy Road, looking north across the army's land towards the harbour. Down at the bottom of the photo is a line of houses. They are marked "A. Block" on a map of the area from the 1920s , and stood where the pagoda and tai chi garden are in today's Hong Kong Park.
Above them is Headquarters House, still standing today but now called Flagstaff House:
Down at the water's edge, a couple of temporary piers stretch out to the sea. Here's the one on the left:
The piers each have railway lines on, and a steam crane can be seen. They're part of the construction work for the extension to the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Finaly, across the harbour Tsim Sha Tsui is still a bay, yet to be filled in by reclamation:
If you can see anything else in the photo of interest, please let us know about it in the comments below.
Photo reference: A283
Also on Gwulo.com this week:
- Queen Victoria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria
- British Naval Policy - 1890-1920: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/uk-rn-policy2.htm
- Battleship grey: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_navynote.htm
- Map ref: HG7 from SMO map library.