Life in Hong Kong's ARP tunnels

Submitted by David on Thu, 11/09/2006 - 09:00
If you lived in Hong Kong in the 1940s or 1950s, or you know someone that did, we’re keen to hear of any stories about Hong Kong’s Air Raid Precaution (ARP) tunnels. The government reports tell us the location, size, geology, etc, but there is very little written about what conditions were like for the people that had to use the tunnels in wartime.

Here are the few references to the tunnels that I’ve found:


The ARP tunnels were built in a hurry in 1940 and 1941. Indeed the records show that several tunnels were incomplete at the time of the invasion. The hasty decision-making also opened the door to corruption, as detailed in Nigel Cameron’s book ‘An Illustrated History of Hong Kong’:
The decision after all to provide air-raid shelters for everyone meant that now the work had to be one at break-neck speed, and a virtually new organization created almost instantly. Huge sums were involved and the urgency led to graft, especially in the architectural branch of the ARP department. A commission of enquiry under a Puisne Judge was set up in August 1941 as the result of the discovery that the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation had managed to complete the blacking out of its headquarters in Queen’s Road for the total sum of $87 and not the $500 which had been allocated. The Bank, suspecting some irregularity, claimed its $500, duly received it, and reported to the government. The ARP Department architect was asked to give evidence. When he failed to attend, it was discovered that he had shot himself. Another British official in charge of the many air-raid tunnels being dug into the hillsides was admitted to hospital suffering from severe poisoning.

The commission met in the period between 14 August and 7 November 1941, attracting a blaze of media attention. But its findings were never published. The Judge presiding, P.E.F. Cressal, carried the draft report into internment in Stanley camp a month later, where he died in 1944. The draft vanished: after the war the enquiry was quietly dropped.
Q: How did the ARP department decide where the tunnels would be built?


Paragraph 44 of General Maltby’s dispatch reads:
44. Civil Population – The civil police found their hands more than full in maintaining order in the city but had the situation generally under control except in the A.R.P. tunnels, where in certain cases armed gangs of robbers were operating.
Q: Were the tunnels in Kowloon (eg those under Kowloon Park) ever opened to the public? It seems that most of the shelling and bombing was aimed at Hong Kong island.
Q: Were the tunnels open permanently from the beginning of war with Japan to the surrender on Christmas day, or were they only opened at certain times?
Q: Did the civilians prefer to shelter in the tunnels, or stay in their houses?
Q: What were conditions like in terms of space, ventilation, lighting, etc?
Q: How long would people stay in the tunnels for?

An article about the tunnels by Guy Searls in the 6th April 1992 edition of 'The Standard' newspaper gives a few answers:
In the evenings, whole families crowded into the tunnels to spend the night together in safety, even if not in great comfort. There are those who recall the stench in the tunnels. There were no "facilities" there, no running water or toilets. But it could have been worse. Each tunnel did at least have air circulation.

And one recollection of old timers who used the tunnels strengthen my faith that Hong Kong hawkers are among the bravest and most enterprising business people in the world. While the ordinary residents were running into the tunnels, the hawkers lined up outside to sell them food and provisions to last through the raid - or through the night - whichever was longer.

At least one of the tunnel networks shows evidence that the Japanese strengthened the tunnels during their occupation of Hong Kong. There were repeated Allied air-raids on Hong Kong during this time, so it is not surprising the Japanese forces would find the ARP tunnels useful.

Q: Were they also open for civilian use during those raids?


Many of the tunnels had timber supports, and it was noted in the late 1940s that much of that wood had been looted immediately after the war.

Q: Did the wood really last that long, or was it removed during the occupation? Firewood was very difficult to find at that time, so wooden beams from the tunnels would have been very valuable.

Q: I also wonder if the tunnels were used as living quarters at all during the occupation or post-war? Given the shortage of accomodation at that time, the tunnels would have been an attractive place to shelter.

If you have any other information about these tunnels, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, or send an email to mrb @ batgung . com (without the spaces).



The Imperial War Museum Collections Online website has the following picture dated December 1941, and with the caption: "Air raid wardens take up position at the entrances to public shelters in Hong Kong, during an exercise in the last days before the Japanese invasion."


Can anyone identify where this photo was taken?

[2018 UPDATE: Ashley has identified the location as the corner of QRE and Wanchai Road. Please see the comments below.]

The photograph showed that it was located at a dense populated area in one of the districts of Hong Kong. The district was full of business (shops & advertisements at the background) & residences (laundries hanging on the 2nd & 3rd level of the background building & the the huge crowd gathered as shown). The closest (highly probable) air-raid shelter in such environments would be located at the Queen’s Road East, also at close proximity of the Admiralty.

I don't think the photo was taken on Queen's Rd East, as it doesn't look like the area surrounding either of the two sets of tunnels along that road.

Recently I've begun to suspect that the picture was not taken near an Air-raid tunnel at all. Instead it looks more likely to be a picture of one of the 'Pen Shelters' that were also built. They were made from hollow concrete blocks, and built to be 'blast and bomb-splinter proof from 500-pound bombs falling 50 feet away'.

At the time they were built, they were reported to be suitable for conversion into market stalls and shelters for street-sleepers. I'm sure they'd have survived the war, but I wonder if there are signs of any now?


I am deeply regret that I am unable to assist you further as the person who provided the information in identifying the photo had just passed away (more than 90 years of age).

The greatest constraint was that this person had suffered from macular degeneration for many years and was almost blinded completely. In addition, this person was not in good health; I had extreme difficulties to starting a conversation.

When this person was in the mood of conversations, I had to find the right moment to describe the scene of the photo to the best I could.

After numerous conversations, that was all the useful information that I could collect from the fading memories of this person.

Hi there,

If it's around the old Government supply depot, it would be Oil street/Electric Road. Oil street is a very short street, going from King's Road right opposite the Fortress Hill MTR station up to the water front. The defunct depot bildings are still there, deserted. You should be able to see the walled-up site. I think there might be some old buildings there too, especially those low rise ones.

However I doubt it as right next to the depot, it used to be a Power Plant, where City Garden is located now. Back in the WWII days it was definitely a power plant and I have a faint recollection from reading History Books that the Power Plant was bombed by Japanese first thing when they invaded the Island.

Oh BTW, at Oil Street there used to be a public mortuary about a decade ago. Together with the Government Depot they had been converted to be a short term exhibition site for art groups some years back. I have lost track of this project though.

Best Regards,

The Saturday 13th December 1941 issue of the South China Morning Post has two articles referring to life in the shelters. The first begins:

The Chinese population has soon come to appreciate the protection afforded by the network of air raid shelters in the Colony and hundreds have made these their temporary homes, many remaining in them even during the daytime.

Shelters in all parts of the Colony are well patronized these nights, and will be more so following the warning by the military Authorities that intermittent shelling of the island was to be expected in future by Japanese artillery on the Mainland.

Many Chinese in the Central districts, especially the mid levels, now move to the Leighton Hill tunnels in Happy Valley and the Arsenal Street tunnels, with mattresses and other bedding, shortly before dusk and return to town in the mornings.
A reporter toured one tunnel yesterday where several flights of step lead deep into the earth. [Probably the Wyndham St network? It sounds like the entry at Portal 41 near the junction of Glenealy and Wyndham St. Mrb] Hundreds of Chinese men, women, and children were spread out over its enormous length and seemed completely at home. Ventilation was good.

Children were sleeping beside their parents or playing with each other while the many babies in arms slept peacefully. Here and there a family of three or four were eating meals of saltfish and rice while others were overheard chatting about prevailing conditions and expressing confidence in Hongkong’s defences. Nowhere could a sign of undue apprehension be observed.

The second article describes another visit:

An S. C. M. Post reporter who was forced to remain in town owing to the absence of transport spent the greater part of Thursday night outdoors and in various tunnels and shelters. He relates his experiences as follows:
The tunnels in the city area were filled with people. I went in through the entrance in one street, and emerged after a long walk nearly 400 yards distant. Men, women and children - hundreds of them - were sleeping in the tunnels.

When the shells came whistling overhead, I saw a few scores of others coming along. They had decided they would be safer in the tunnels.

A member of the public telling his experiences says: I took shelter in two air raid tunnels in the course of Wednesday’s raids. On the first occasion, I was caught in a bus which stopped near Arsenal Street and, together with hundreds of others, I made my way to one of the tunnels in the vicinity.

On arrival I found a great many people already there. A.R.P. officials at the entrances shepherded the people into the tunnels with quiet efficiency, and there was not the slightest semblance of panic.

People, young and old, made themselves comfortable on the benches and with the electric lights burning brightly and no crowding , the half hour I spent in the tunnel passed quickly.

Here and there I came across Europeans. I saw a European nurse in uniform near one of the entrances, She had passed my bus in a car only a few minutes before and had stopped her car dutifully and had taken shelter when the alarm went.

On the same bench with me was a European male engrossed in a cross-word puzzle. I envied him.

While walking along the labyrinthine passages, I could feel the air currents blowing against my face. The air conditioning is good.

In the course of my wanderings, I ran across the A.R.P. official in charge of the tunnels in this section. He happened to be a friend of mine and told me that he had had no trouble at all with the shelterers, who had obeyed all the instructions given them.

Later in the day, I had occasion to visit one of the tunnels behind Leighton Hill Road. Here the conditions did not appear to be so good. Some of the people taking refuge here were crowding the entrances and whether because of this or not, the air was not so clean.

While I was there, people were coming in with camp beds, mattresses and bedding, apparently having decided to spend the night there.

Further along, however, behind Wongneichung Road, the tunnels appeared to be in better shape again. There was not the same tendency here to crowd the entrances and the ventilation was good.

In that same issue of the newspaper, they printed the official communiqué announcing that "We have successfully evacuated our troops, supplies, and essential services from Kowloon". Apart from the Devil’s Peak peninsula, this meant all the shoreline facing Hong Kong island was now available to the Japanese forces and their artillery. Bombardment from land and air would increase significantly over the following days, making the shelters all the more valuable.

This issue of the SCMP is available on microfiche in Central Library. Unfortunately this is the last entry on the microfiche. Does anyone know whether the issues for 14-25th December are available, either online or in print?


This photo comes from the Jan 14 1942 edition of the Hong Kong News, the English language newspaper put out by the Japanese during their occupation of Hong Kong.

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 19:28
1941 Captured troops march past ARP tunnels
Date picture taken
26 Dec 1941


As often noted, history is written by the victors. The caption for the picture read:

When the British surrendered, the defeated troops were interned according to international law. Internment camps have been set up in various parts of Hongkong and Kowloon, and all except the wounded were sent there. Amongst the former garrison of Hongkong were many hundreds of Indian soldiers, who were severed from their homes and sent here to take up arms by the British. They were also interned, but all of them show gratitude for the coming of the liberating Japanese forces. A group is shown [in this photo] on their way to the camp.

Unfortunately the picture here is a scan of a print of a microfilm copy of the newspaper - ie not very good quality. If anyone has a better version, I'd love to get a copy.

Can anyone confirm where the photo was taken? I'm guessing they are walking past the portals along Queens Road East, just before the road joins Queensway near Pacific Place.


I arrived in London this morning, and had some free time this afternoon to visit the Imperial War Museum (IWM). I wanted to read some of the wartime diaries they have in their archives, and found a couple that referred to life in the tunnels.

In Mrs M W Redwood's diary, her description of of the days from 7 - 25 Dec 1941 focuses on her time as a volunteer nurse in the temporary hospital in the Jockey Club. But in the Monday 7th December 1941 entry she also notes that

"at 7am a message came from A.R.P. headquarters, requesting that my daughter, who was attached to the department, should report as soon as possible for duty."

Fortunately, keeping a diary seems to have been a family habit, as the IWM lso has a copy of Miss B C Redwood's diary. She gives several mentions of her A.R.P. work:

10 Dec: Went in Battery Path Tunnel in alarm when on way to town. It was more orderly than I had expected (despite large numbers of interested rather than frightened Chinese).

11 Dec: Our office may be moving to C.S.O.tunnel.

12 Dec: Mabel has joined the V.A.D.s and sleeps down below (the hospital) in air raid shelter.

13 Dec: Mr Puckle gave me a lift to the C.S.O. tunnel. Peggy Wilson had already arrived. Our job was to keep a log of the events (mostly messages per telephone call) and also to make out identification cards for the ARP people. It was boiling hot in the tunnel, and I was glad to short-sleeved jumper.

14 Dec: Then I went up to the Tunnel. The Central Police Station was bombed badly in the afternoon. Felt the concussions even in the tunnel.

[MrB: She writes that memories of the next few days were very mixed up, but
that at the start of each day she...] "jammed on tin hat and slung respirator, and - provided there were no raids on - scrammed up Battery Path to Tunnel"

18 Dec: There were bombs in the vicinity of the C.S. Office. The concussion made our hair go up on end and wave backwards and forwards. The C.S.O. garages were burnt out and/or bombed, also the group of cars that were outside the C.S.O. A lot of Indian policemen were injured and carried into the tunnel.

5 Jan: We A.R.P. people seemed to be the first group to be interned in these little hotels on the instructions of the Japs. [MrB: She was put in the Tai Koon Hotel.]

Both ladies' diaries continue, with the bulk of the content describing their time during internment in the Stanley camp.

+ + +

The IWM records refer to several other ladies' wartime diaries:
- Mrs D Ingram. (No reference to ARP matters)
- Mrs H G Wittenbach (IWM librarian could not find the document)


George Wright-Nooth's book 'Prisoner of the Turnip Heads' briefly mentions their construction:

[in 1939-41] other signs [of concern about the possibility of war in Hong Kong - MrB] were the hurried building of pill-box and machine gun emplacements all around the colony. It was again the Maginot Line principle. Anyhow there were far too many to be fully manned by the existing troops. You did not require any military training to realize that many were badly positioned. Large-scale corruption was involved both by government officials and military personnel. When it came to the fighting many of these fortifications proved to be as effective as papier mache against bullets and bombs.

Then there was the frantic rush to build air raid tunnels and other shelters which was followed by the inevitable corruption. The organization responsible for this was the hastily formed Air raid Precaution Department (A.R.P.). The main protagonist in the enquiry which followed was a retired RAF officer, Wing-Commander Steele-Perkins, who was the Head of the Department. "Mimi" Lau, a Chinese Woman, was one of many witnesses. She was anxious to move in the Chinese and European upper social circles and was to become famous locally because of the concrete blocks which were used to build the shelters. These were square with a large hole in the centre and were referred to, and still are, as "Mimi Laus"!

The local Hong Kong War Diary website gives a link between the two previous posts, as it lists 'Redwood, Barbara C. Stenographer' among the ARP staff, and notes she was 'Secretary to Steele-Perkins'.

It has a section describing the ARP department:

The original director of Air Raid Precautions was Wing Commander A.H.S. Steele-Perkins, who left HK before the outbreak of warto become DARP India. Puckle then took over, with Bevan as his deputy.

The ARP headquarters and training school were opened in May 1940 in Morrison Hill Road (the post-war Harcourt Clinic). By mid-1941 there were something over 4,000 wardens in total, from a planned establishment of 9,600 (which would have allowed an ARP post for every 100 houses).

It also gives a list of ARP department's staff members.

Received by email:

I, too, have been interested in the IWM photo and trying to find its location. I have always held at the back of my mind two possible locations (both on HK Island):
A. Hennesy Rd/Canal Rd junction looking E or
B. Johnston Rd/Luard Rd junction looking W.
The reason being how the houses are faced in relation to the main road/shelters and the curvature of the road and houses in the distance.

Here's a map showing the two locations:

[gmap markers=letters::22.27936080755739,114.1812863945961 + 22.276580970939314,114.17152315378189 |zoom=16 |center=22.277917946926618,114.17573690414429 |width=640px |height=400px |control=Small |type=Map]

The construction of air raid shelters begain at breakneck speed from September 1940. The scheme involved the:

1) buildling of concrete pen shelters in open spaces and wide roads;

2) boring of tunnels into hillsides to be used as air raid shelters;

3) construction of trench shelters in open spaces;

4) blocking up of pillars on ground floors pf buildings and

5) division of Hong Kong Island into 'shelter areas' (which MrB has commented upon)

The photos provided by Harrison Forman shows evidence of the air raid shelter construction taking place at the time.

The Hong Kong Telegraph dated 12 October, 1940 furnished the following information:

1) Air raid tunnels bored into the hillsides were copied from those seen in Chungking after a site visit by the Director of ARP, Wing-Commander Steele-Perkins. The first experimental tunnel modelled on the Chungking plan was in the process of construction at Blake Gardens. Other air raid shelters being built at the time were at:

a) Canal Road West, Wanchai (pen shelters);

b) Battery Path opposite the Hong Kong Bank;

c) Ellis Kadoorie School, Sai Ying Pun;

d) Lower Albert Rd beneath Govt. House;

e) Western end of Queen's Rd East

f) Gascoigne Rd to Public Square St, Kowloon;

g) Waterloo Rd to Wing Sing Lane, Kowloon

2) The air raid tunnels (14 in total) were to be ten feet wide across at the entrances and up to a similar width throughout their lengths. At certain depths, cross-tunnels would be driven to form a U-shape providing two entrances to each shelter. It was emvisaged that each tunnel would accommodate 1000 people.

3) Pen shelters that were being built in Canal Road West (westrern side of canal) between Hennessy Rd and Leighton Hill Rd comprised 20 in all and were constructed of hollow concrete blocks (Mimi Laus!) filled with sand. It was claimed that these blocks were blast and splinter proof from a high explosive 500 lb bomb exploding 50 ft away. Each pen shelter was designed to hold 120 people.

The information above provides a clear indication of which tunnels were constructed first and a better clue as to when Harrison Forman made his trips to Hong Kong. As for the IWM photo, I tend to lean towards the Canal Road West direction, so to speak!

DEC 1940

a)  Sites for additional tunnels were investigated in Central Police Station, Leighton Hill and a place between Bonham and Hospital Roads;

b) It was considered that nullahs afforded good protection from air raids after experiments were carried out in Kowloon. The only drawback was in the event of rain, the use of nullahs were not practically feasible.

c) Blake Garden Tunnel was completed together with an oval type shelter nearby that would accommodate 1000 people. 

d) A new tunnel construction had commenced in Hill Rd, Kennedy Town and an extensive tunnel network would commence in Leighton Hill that would shelter up to 10000 people.

JAN 1941

An air raid tunnel was under construction opposite the Royal Naval Hospital in Wanchai and would be completed within two months.

FEB 1941

Ventilation tests of the Battery Path Tunnel opposite the HSBC were carried out with satisfactory results. 1500 workmen and labourers were used.

MAR 1941

Work commenced on the Lower Albert Rd/Wyndham and Ice house St Tunnel network.

APR 1941

a) Erection of pen shelters on Hong Kong Island neared completion.

b) Verandah covered pavements and the spaces in between their supporting pillars were being considered as shelters through the erection of hollow concrete blocks.

JUL 1941

Arsenal St ARP tunnels neared completion and would be opened to the public  as soon as possible.

AUG 1941

a) The Arsenal St ARP tunnels were fitted out with electric and lamp lighting, first aid posts and stores Battle gates were erected to prevent those taking shelter from converging from opposute directions.

b) ARP enquiry begain into its construction and financial mismanagement.

SEP 1941

21 sites had been excavated and could accommodate 200 000 people.

Source: Hong Kong Telegraph


Moddsey, you are turning up a lot of good information - looks like you are currently working through the newspaper archives? I think we've got enough bits and pieces we can split it up into pages - a bit like the pages of the Martin Booth companion. Something like:

Civil Defence in HK, 1930s & 40s

  • Introduction
  • Timeline
  • ARP Tunnels
  • Pen Shelters
  • Shelter Areas

Just got stuck into the Forman time in Hong Kong during 1940-1941 and thought might as well unearth other bits of information about the ARP tunnels whilst I was going through the archive. I found the Hong Kong Telegraph provided more information about what has been referenced so far particularly in the Monday papers which giave a rundown of the previous week's news. Cheers. 


I was on the Mini Bus this morning heading to Times Square, as we went down Blue Pool Road (near the junction of Ventris Rd) I saw a group of workers doing a “Bysan” (Blessing ceremony with jossticks, fruit and meat) next to the ARP with one of the portals wide open. Not one for wasting an opportunity, I jumped off the bus for a nose around. I got talking to one of the chaps there who turned out to be the fella in charge and a very nice bloke. He actually works for “Safety Specialist Services Ltd”, a consultancy firm.

He told me that his company has the contract to renovate all of the ARP’s for commercial use. He told me that the government is now trying to utilize the tunnels for various things. I asked about the U shaped one in Wong Chuk Hang and he told me there are plans afoot to turn it into a wine storage “Cellar” with the possibility of small restaurant/café, (similar to Shouson Hill) but the plans are still being approved.

They have only just started to work on the current one in Happy Valley, after leaving an Ozone machine in there for over a week to purify the air. He tells me that because they have been sealed for around 50 years, they contain airborne hazards such as mould spores and other unplesantries, that need to be managed before they can go inside to fix areas of collapse. The insides of the ARP are still in good shape apparently, with a hall inside big enough to fit a 747… so he tells me. 

I got talking about the others ARP’s in the area, subtly trying to find out if there are any with holes. I think he may have seen through my rouse, as he was swift to remind me of the dangers. He tells me that the ARP system along Queen’s Road East is very hazardous due to high levels of radiation from hospital medical waste from X-Ray material (good old, short sighted, HK Government).

He tells me that they take lots of photos and videos of all of the ARP, and said he would be willing to send a few upon request. If anyone has any questions about the current state of ARP’s, then he is your man.

Anthony Lai:

P.S. I only took a quick photo of the inside, as they were just starting to test the air quaility. At the back of the room (where the guy is standing) is a door that leads though to connecting tunnels.

Happy Valley ARP


Craig, this is exciting. I take the same minibus often (number 5, I presume) and am curious to know which portal it is? Is it portal 91? Where exactly is the location? You also mention Shouson Hill, is there a portal there as well?  I need to pay more attention to the walls rather than the shops...

Hi there,

The one in Shouson Hill had been in used by the Crown Wine Cenners for quite a few years.  It is located in Shouson Hill Road East, very close to the slope at the back of the South Island School, as well as those Government quarters.  Last year some construction/maintenance workers discover some sort of a bomb or explosive device at a slope not very far away from the cellars.

Best Regards,


Hi there,

I guess even for the tour/temporary one time membership it could cost you an arm and a leg for the food and wine.  For educational purpose I would certainly like to see their collection, but I don't think I could afford most of their stock anyway............

Best Regards,



Sophia, I’m afraid I don’t know what Portal number it is, but there was a number 2 on the inside. I had a quick look at portal 91 and that isn’t it. 91 ishigher up the road but under Blue pool rd. The portal I’m talking about is off Blue Pool itself, about 30m up from Ventrus Rd, easily seen from the road going into the hill. It has a gray steel door with a couple of posters on them at the moment. 

I have been fortunate to have had lunch in the Crown Wine Cellar about a year ago. Really nice. My understanding is that they don’t sell wine as such, but offer the location for storage for personal and commercial use. They have turned a couple of the lower bunkers into storage areas with very sophisticated equipment monitoring and adjusting every aspect of the environment to ensure the perfect conditions down to a fraction of a degree. The glass structure you see from the road is for functions, but there is a tunnel that leads into the bunker then into a lovely old fashioned Smoking Room with huge glass walls to see into one of the “cellars”. The place is very nicely done out. The Bunkers themselves where made from hollow bricks, as it was for ammunition storage and would help contain any “accidents”.   


Craig, glad to see your tunnel detectors are working as well as ever. And together with the recent 'New Grading', what good news! I'll write to him tomorrow to see if he can let us have any further information.

I think he's a little optimistic that it can be used as a temporary parking lot for Phil's 747. They are certainly larger inside than the entrance section you saw, but according to the previous survey the inside cross-section is about 4m x 2m, while the entrance is about 2m x 2m.

Cheers, MrB

Oops, a typo there.  I meant to type Shouson Hill Road West but I typed East instead.

Talking about the cellar, they do have a small collection which you may order if you dine there.  But they are basically cellar for rent.  According to their website they are nearly up to their capacity if not already full.

Best Regards,


Craig that's interesting news. There's several ARPs round there but I'm a bit confused as to where the one you're talking about is.

BTW the guy you met obviously is the Tunnel Guy.

He hosted a visited to a tunnel in 2005

4 June 2005


Site Visit to Canton Road Air Raid Precaution Tunnel

Speaker: Mr. Anthony Lai, RSO, RSA, FSIC3

                   Principle Consultant, Safety Specialist Services Ltd.

Upon completion of the visit, the visitors shall

- understand the risks arising out on a disuse tunnel;

- be given a full picture on the mitigation measures for the risks;

- understand the monitoring system for entering into a confined space;

- get more information and experience sharing in confined-space working safety,

   particularly on tunnel safety.

Be interesting to hear more about any plans for the tunnels. I noticed they were working on one of the queen's road east ones under the school (with the hazmat in it) a few weeks ago

ARP Portal 093, Blue Pool Road, Entrance
ARP Portal 093, Blue Pool Road, interior
ARP Portal 093, Blue Pool Road, Renovation Map

Thanks to Craig's instructions, I found the tunnel. It is across the street from the Jockey Club and up the hill.  Most interesting was a renovation map taped on the wall showing the network of tunnels. Mr Lai was not there but a kind workman allowed me to take the pictures nonetheless. Thanks Mr B for setting up this "place" location

ARP Portal 093, Blue Pool Road street view

Sophia, thanks for the photos. I also paid them a visit this week, so they must be feeling popular! But I forgot to take any photos, so I'm glad to see yours.

I had a chance to talk to Tony Lai from SSSL. The map you show is part of their safety service, used to show visitors the layout, and key features of the tunnel. So, rather than being involved with any renovation work, SSSL  is responsible for implementing and monitoring a safety system for entering into the tunnel. Once this is in place, other companies' contractors can work safely in the tunnels.

So in this case, the contractor whose project needs access to the tunnels is Hang Lung Property, as they are redeveloping the strip of land above Blue Pool road (and so above the tunnels).

SSSL are the first people into a tunnel at the start of a project. The first visit will be made using breathing apparatus, taking air and water samples, and checking the general condition of the tunnel. Depending on the results of testing the samples, they may conduct fumigation to kill off larger bugs and pests, and ozone sterilization to kill microscopic hazards such as mould & bacteria. Then fixed lighting is set up in the working areas, together with portable torches at every tunnel junction in case of any lighting failure.

Once the basic preparation is complete, the other contractors may begin work. However, a team of SSSL staff are present in the tunnel throughout the project. They continue to monitor air quality, control access to the tunnel, and provide initial rescue services in case of any emergency.

The bad news for us is that the tunnel is considered a 'Confined Space', which means it is covered by certain government regulations. The one that affects us is that only people who are certified to work in confined spaces are allowed to enter. The desk and the yellow chain across the tunnel in your second photo mark the boundary of the restricted area. You can't pass there unless you are certified.

So, there is a lot more to going inside a tunnel than I expected!

Here's a paraphrase of further information from Tony:

Some key events:

  • 1940-1941: 28 ARP tunnels were constructed, 7 in Kowloon and the rest around Hong Kong island.
  • 1977: There was a partial collapse of a disused ARP tunnel at Sai Ying Pun. This triggered the Government to order a thorough investigation of all the disused tunnels.
  • November 1977: Under Agreement No CE 11/77, a consultant was appointed to carry out the study on the disused tunnels and to administer contracts thereafter for necessary site investigation and remedial maintenance. These are the studies that provde most of the information available to us today.
    Based on signs of movement, distress and structures condition of the tunnels, they were categorized into 3 classes of maintenance schedules: high-, medium- or low-priority. A maintenance manual was prepared for each individual ARP tunnel.
  • 1990: The Highways Department was given responsibility for the inspection and maintenance of these ARP tunnels.
  • Today: The inspection and maintenance of disused ARP tunnels is scheduled at fixed intervals. Inspections focus on water inflows / siltation, linings / cracks / structural defects and surface condition. Other items to be checked include the presence of any debris, and the condition of the portal gate and locking device.

Restrictions on access to ARP tunnels:

A typical case:

  • Before contractors begin work in a tunnel, Safety Specialist Services Ltd conduct a tunnel survey to capture data for the preparation of a formal Risk Assessment and to establish necessary site-specify safety measures for the environment. A layout plan showing all accessible routes and junctions inside the tunnel is placed at the portal gate for reference.
  • At one tunnel, the initial survey found:
     - contamination from unknown bacteria
     - 2 baby snakes seen
     - some of the route was blocked by the root of the tree
     - 2 shallow water ponds
     - the tunnel linings were rotten and small cracks were found
     - apart from the high concentration of Hydrogen Sulfide at the dead end of the tunnel, no Carbon Monoxide or combustible gases could be detected.
  • Next the tunnel was fumigated using Ozone followed by flushing the with fresh air for 72 hours.
  • Then preparations were made to allow contractors to begin work:
    - install florescent lighting at 150 lux, and a mechanical ventilating system with airflow of 37 meter3 per minute.
    - emergency battery operated torches are positioned at every junction inside the tunnel.
     - easy-operating breathing hoods for escape purposes during emergency are placed along the route.
  • During the rest of the time work is underway:
     - the entrance of the tunnel is managed by a registered safety officer
     - gas detection is carried out every 2 hours
     - safety advice outlining the hazards, precaution measures, PPE requirement and safety rules are shown on the notice-board near to the portal gate
     - people holding a valid Confined Spaces Worker certificate may enter ithe tunnel and are required to register with the control desk. The control desk staff use the Register and Tally Board to control the flow of people entering into the tunnel.

Yes, the tunnels have finally proven I'm certifiable.

I'm looking into getting the above certificate, as a step towards taking a look around inside the tunnels. What I know so far is that the one-day English-language course costs around HK$1,300.

Before I check on dates, is anyone else interested? If yes, please send me an email.



Hi MrB, I would be interested in enrolling onto the confined spaces worker course. It would be nice going into tunnels with some idea of the dangers we may face instead of crashing through willy-nilly in total ignorance.

I am now entering my busy season at work, so might not be able to attend if it is during the week but I’ll try my best.

Thanks for the thought. Craig



I was told that these tunnel entrances were to do with an armaments 'rail line' that ran up to the ammunition dump (opposite the British Consulate, and now renovated/turned in to arts centre). The rail line took shells down to the (then) naval facilities (Arsenal Street). Not ARP shelters.


Hi Alex, Please could you clarify which tunnel entrances you mean?

I guess the ones on the junction of Queen's Road East and Queensway?

They were the entrances to the ARP network that runs back south under the ridge. Click here to see a photo of them shortly after construction finished. It shows the same style of entrance with the wire-mesh gate that we see on the other ARP portals around Hong Kong.

In the later, wartime photo earlier in this thread you can see the numbers painted above the entrances. Each ARP portal was numbered.

Regards, David

Interesting. Though the photo is the same as the one from the IWM collection shown above, the Associated Press website gives a slightly different (and slightly garbled!) description:

The spruce, A. R. F. workers manned the shelters and, with a test siren arm, the children, women and young men, most of them of the poor end up to watch, bringing their wares with them, when war was hours imminent in Hong Kong, China, Feb. 16, 1941. (AP Photo)

The AP version is sharper, but I still don't recognise where it was taken. Any ideas?

Regards, David

I had previously thought that the 1941 IWM photo of the entrance to the pen shelters could have been on Hennessy Road but the absence of the wall facing the canal and the curvature of the road as seen in the 1955 photo indicate that the pen shelters were located somewhere else.

Notes from Barbara Anslow by E-mail:

For the record, Wing-Commander Steele-Perkins, the Director of Air Raid Precautions,and my boss until he becme DARP India a few months before the Jap attack, was completely cleared of any collusion re ARP building contracts, at the end of the Enquiry.   He was a man of great integrity in my view and experience, despite an ill-advised friendship with the famous Mimi Lau.

Thanks to Tony Lam for sending in these pages from the Dec 1938 - Jan 1939 issue of Hong Kong Builder. They likely influenced the design of the various public and private air raid shelters built in Hong Kong before the Japanese invasion.

Air Raid Shelter Construction Techniques

This public shelter was located at the present location of the Wanchai Market/Zenith i.e. opposite the junction between Queen's Road East and Nullah Street.  The site was where the first generation Wanchai Market once stood (1858-1937). When the second generation Wahchai Market just across Wanchai Road (i.e. present day One Wanchai) was completed in 1937, the first generation market was demolished and the site became a place for open-air stalls selling groceries. The place turned into the public shelter in the photo around 1940-1941, and became a site for open air stalls again after the war. 


Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.33.34 PM.jpg
Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.33.34 PM.jpg, by Ashley

Referring to the picture I uploaded:
1. The building in the background (Present day, QRE 223-229A, just next to the old Wanchai post office), on the left hand side of the original photo (shaded blue) can be seen in a photo of the first generation WanChai Market.
2. There is a sign of a porcelain mill (Shing Cheong Lung, circled red) in the original photo just next to the shelter. Shing Cheong Lung is still seen in a 60's photo of the place, along with the two ad walls separated by a small alley.