16 Dec 1941, A. H. Potts' wartime diary | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

16 Dec 1941, A. H. Potts' wartime diary

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Date(s) of events described: 
Tue, 16 Dec 1941

The next morning I spoke to Major Dewer about the state of Kings Road and the Lyemun road and futility of trying to clear ten thousand shells with so few lorries, and asked his permission to visit GHQ and submit a scheme which if approved should enable me to clear a great many shells in one night.

My idea was that I should be given at least twenty lorries and allowed to make a dump of the shells on the south side of the island behind Mount Parker at the top of Shaukiwan Hill. 

He though it a good idea and I set off for GHQ with his blessing and advice to lay it on thick.  Major Dewer was an excellent fellow and I found it easy to work with him.

I reached Flagstaff House but found great difficulty in finding the entrance to the enormous dugout which had been constructed to house G.H.Q.

There were many MPs and sentries around but no one seemed very willing to disclose the entrance to the “Holy of Holies”.

Eventually I found it situated at the back of a building built close to the hillside which had been cut away so that the back and one side of the building faced steep slopes.  In the corner formed by the slopes I found the entrance.  I then had to descend innumerable steps with many right-angled turns till I reached a steel door where I was made to produce my pass before it was opened, admitting me to a small compartment with another steel door on the opposite side.

This door was opened once the outer door was closed admitting me to the real thing.  There was a small power plant supplying light and air-conditioning and here the Staff lived, eat [change to ate?], and slept some hundred feet below the ground and quite oblivious to what went on in the outside world, except what was conveyed to them by telephone and other messages.

There was a passage off which many small rooms opened and to one of these I was conducted.

I had decided it was best to go to the fountain head so I had asked to see the C.R.A.

I knew Brig. McCloud slightly, having met him at various Volunteer dinners, at camp and numerous cocktail parties.  He offered me a cup of tea which I accepted and then went straight into it for I had decided to tell him exactly what I thought and felt about the ammunition situation.

I told him the various facts I knew regarding the shortage of shells at all batteries and the state of Kings Road and Lyemun and explained my scheme to him;  this he approved but told me I must liaise with the Adjutant of the HK & Singapore Brigade about it.  He took me to see the C.R.E. about the condition of the roads and we were informed that a message had just come in to say that two hundred yards of tramway cable had been cleared from Kings Road the previous night;  and they all thought it a very good joke when I said I knew that as I had done it, but I told them there was still plenty more which needed clearing and was assured this would be attended to and also the craters on the Lyemun Road.

I asked the CRA why a magazine had been built in such a vulnerable place as Lyemun and was told that when it was built, there was no thought of the Colony being attacked from the mainland, and that was why the magazines at Shouson Hill had been hastily constructed when the threat became imminent.  My comment was that it might have been advisable to move the shells to Shouson Hill on its completion some six months ago, to which he readily agreed.

After my interview with the CRA, I returned to Shouson Hill via Pokfulam where I called in at my house to collect some clean clothes and also decided to take my dog “Mr Bones” to Shouson Hill as Mount Davis was receiving a tremendous hammering both from bombs and shells, and I found him in a very nervous state.

I then called at the Queen Mary Hospital to see Susie and was startled by the news she gave me that Uncle Pat had been hurt by a bomb which had dropped a few yards in front of Landau’s house, and had shattered the window near which he was sleeping.  I found him somewhat upset but apart from this right eye which had received a splinter of glass, his other injuries were only superficial and he was quite cheerful.

I had tiffin with Susie at her mother’s house and then returned to Shouson Hill, where I reported my visit to the CRA to Major Dewer.  He advised me to visit the Adjutant of the HK Singapore Brigade and do my utmost to push my scheme through, so I set off to Wongneichong Gap where I found they had their headquarters.  Fox their adjutant told me GHQ had already been on to him about it and it was hoped to carry out my idea the following night.

I then took “Mr Bones” for a walk through the Tytam reservoir area – it was a perfect afternoon.

The weather had been bad for the first few days of the attack on Hongkong, which had been in favour of the Japanese as there was considerable fog in the hills which helped to cover their advances.  It had now turned fine but the nights were pitch black and very cold.

I returned to Shouson Hill and reported the result of my visit to Fox, and then set off for Happy Valley to join my column.  I decided to take ‘Mr Bones’ with me which was a mistake as he took great exception to all sentries at road blocks when we were going down Kings Road that night on our way to Lyemun.

We encountered tramway cable again, but were fortunate in avoiding it, but in any case would have been alright as we had a metal saw and large wire cutters.  The Lyemun Road had not been repaired, and it was a ticklish job negotiating the two large craters in pitch darkness.

The Ordnance men at Lyemun were pretty jittery and said they had been fairly heavily shelled all day, and expected the Japanese would be making another attempt to land before long.

Corpl. O’Connor who was in charge asked me to ring up GHQ and report that a great many sampans had crossed from Shaukiwan to Devils Peak and that they should be prevented from returning as it was more than likely they would have Japanese aboard disguised as fisherfolk.

I reported this, also that I thought it might be advisable to blow up the pier at the foot of the road, and was informed these matters were being attended to;  however, the sampans returned, and I have no doubt contained many Japanese and ammunition, and the pier was not destroyed.

Sergt. Barman was working with me with several other sergeants from the batteries, and we cleared a good few hundred shells that night.  There must have been a fifth columnist signalling from the hills above the magazines, for each time we reached the barracks, which by this time had been badly shelled, and started down the hill to the magazines we were shelled and again on the way out;  however, we all got through safely but had some unpleasantly near crumps which added greatly to Mr Bones discomfort.

At this time there were numberous patrols around, the gates were shut and guarded and it was necessary to produce your pass to enter the magazine area, there was a searchlight beam across the narrow Lyemun Pass and the pillbox near the pier was manned, so things seemed in reasonable order.