Pillboxes on the mainland
Thanks to Rob Weir for the latest instalment from his records of British military sites in Hong Kong. Here's a map of their locations:
[Each marker shows one pillbox. The colour of the marker shows the current condition of the pillbox: red=demolished, yellow=ruin, blue=unknown. Click any marker to see the pillbox name and GPS coordinates. Click the name for more details, and to see if we have any photos of that pillbox.
Subscribers - if you can't see the map, please click here to view the web version of this page.]
Rob explains their background:
These pillboxes (PBs) were positioned to protect against attacks from the north through the passes and tracks in the Kowloon hills, as well as sites of possible amphibious landings. They ran in a line across the Kowloon Peninsula from the Texaco Peninsula (Kwai Chung), to Hung Hau on the Clearwater Bay Peninsula.
Construction commenced in 1935 and was completed in 1938.
Their size and shape varied with the number of firing loopholes, and local conditions, and with only one known exception (PB 119), all had 3 feet (91 cm) thick reinforced concrete walls and roof. Firing loopholes were protected by outward opening steel doors, and a steel door closed the entrance. Interior ventilation was through air shafts protruding above the roof, to internal ducts in some walls.
Many of the hillside PBs had long access tunnels to the entrance, and some were linked together by tunnels (indicated by a/b). PBs and tunnels were usually built in excavations in the hill, then covered with earth so only the loopholes and air shafts were visible. Those on flat ground did not have the tunnels, and were painted to resemble village houses.
Post war, the majority were either explosively demolished, leaving only piles of rubble, or removed entirely during New Town development. As of 2013, only three are known to survive largely intact: PB 313, 314, & 315.
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Rob's conventions in each pillbox's notes:
- Names are those used at the time the pillbox was in use, and may vary from current naming eg. Lye Mun > Lye Yue Mun
- "Year completed is:". Approximate means 'around that time'. Accurate means the year is accurate, but month & date are not.
- "Condition at last visit:". Intact - it is still in the condition it was when used. Ruin - still visible, but damaged. Demolished - no traces remain.
- "Date of last visit:" eg Jul-1998. When Rob last visited the site to check its condition.
- "Ref:" Rob's reference number for this site.
- "Other:" Anything else useful to know.
The layout of the pillboxes on the map shows a couple of other pieces of history.
First, they let us see the extent of the "Gin Drinkers Line". It consisted of trenches and pillboxes, built to defend against attack from the north. Looking at the map we can see it was made up of several defensive lines, rather than the single line the name suggests.
Second, we can see how much reclamation has taken place since the 1930s. Originally, the western pillboxes ran along the shoreline of Gin Drinkers Bay, which gave its name to the Line. The bay has long since been filled in.
Finally, if you look carefully you'll note several numbers are missing from the sequence of pillboxes: PBs 210, 211, 304, 305, 409, 410, 414, 422, 423, and 424. These are pillboxes that Rob doesn't feel confident he knows their location accurately, so they have not been shown on the map.