The Happy Valley Racecourse Fire Disaster: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

The Happy Valley Racecourse Fire Disaster: View pages

This guest post is written by David Twynham. Please click here for the background to this post.


 On 26 February 1918, just after the running of the Derby at Happy Valley Racecourse, Hong Kong, a long bamboo matshed set up beside the course on a temporary basis for the highly popular annual three day racing programme and holding an estimated 3,000 spectators at the time, collapsed ‘like a pack of cards’ and fire was seen to break out.  

1918. Fire at Happy Valley racecourse

Within minutes the area was a blazing inferno.  Escape from the area proved extremely difficult and for the many trapped within the collapsed matsheds impossible.  Hundreds were asphyxiated and/or burned alive and  others trampled to death in the stampede to flee the scene.  The catastrophe was later reported to have taken the lives of  614 [1-1] men, women and children representing slightly more than one thousandth of the territory’s 1918 population which, according to Sayer (1975:139), stood at  561,500 [1-2] , with a further 400 or so injured.  It remains the worst man-made tragedy in Hong Kong’s history. Moreover, according to Matthews (1995:220), it continues to be the world’s worst sports related disaster in ((modern history)) [1-3].

    Coates (1983:171), briefly remarks that, in the aftermath of this tragedy, a Commission of Enquiry was set up by the then Governor of Hong Kong to determine the cause(s).  The Coroner’s Enquiry jury was unable to determine the exact cause of the disaster but criticised both the Director of Public Works and the Captain Superintendent of Police for inadequate construction and safety precautions.

The Initial Collapse

    As Coates (1983:171) describes it, 26 February 1918 began as an ideal race day with pleasant weather and a general mood of optimism.  Sir Ellis Kadoorie had just won the Derby with Tytam Chief. At about 2.55 p.m., only twenty five minutes later and just before the fifth race, the initial matshed collapse began.

    A great deal of evidence was given during the Coroner’s Enquiry by matshed occupants, nearby observers, engineers, architects, government officials, army and police officers and academics as to what caused the initial collapse, where it actually started and why. Regrettably much of this information and opinion proved to be contradictory as most could only obtain sidelong views of the disaster from different standpoints looking along the row and thus experienced difficulty in locating any point accurately. 

    The initial collapse happened without any warning other than a cracking sound, described by many witnesses as akin to that of fire crackers exploding. The jury later rejected claims that it was due to fire, an earthquake, panic or the deliberate cutting of bamboo lashings. They eventually concluded that the collapse began at some point between sites 8 and 15 inclusive as a result of “a failure of the structure to meet the demands made on it by legitimate use”, adding that this was probably due to overcrowding resultant from the large number of occupants. Whilst unable to rule out imperfections in design and unsuspected faults or latent material defects, nevertheless they could not identify any particular design features which were obviously fatal to safety.

Knock-On Collapse

    The matshed complex itself was about 90 metres long and incorporated 13 stands spread over 19 sites. A list of the stands is given in the Appendix. Each stand was separated from the next by bamboo uprights, cross bracing and matting. Being designed and constructed as one contiguous structure, each stand was totally reliant on those adjacent to it for lateral strength and support. Therefore, given the loss of lateral support in the middle section of the structure resultant from the initial collapse, adjacent stands slowly collapsed inwards one after the other in a ‘domino’ effect, until only the very end stands, that is to say no. 1-3 on the west side and 17-19 on the east side were left standing.

Post-Collapse Situation 

    The knock-on collapse trapped most of the estimated 3,000 occupants in the tangle of bamboo and matting. Some fortunately managed to crawl out, many others cut or clawed their way through the matting roof and climbed out; whilst still others were dragged clear by rescuers at the scene. Many hundreds were however caught under collapsed upper floors, unable either to free themselves or to be rescued quickly. Horrifying scenes of panic, confusion, disorder and personal distress were graphically described by many witnesses at the inquiry, some of whom had managed to free themselves from the wreckage.

Outbreak of Fire

    The weather that day was fine. Moreover the ground was hard from lack of rain, it having been a dry winter. The matshed bamboo and matting was therefore ‘tinder dry’. A breeze was also blowing from the south east to the north west, that is to say across from the golf course pavilion end towards the owners stand and from the front of the matsheds towards the golf greens behind them.

    The first signs of an outbreak of fire became visible, initially as a small spiral of smoke, between 20 seconds and three minutes after the final collapse from somewhere in the region of stands 8, 9 or 10 of the tangled mass. At the enquiry Mr. Chan Shiu Tong, SCMP (16 March 1918:10), a Crown Sergeant in the Police Reserve and a partner in the No 10 stand, claimed that he first saw fire in his collapsed stand when it was only one foot square in size. He tried to put it out but could not do so for lack of any water. He contended that had only two or three buckets of water been to hand he could have done so quickly and before the fire really took hold. Nevertheless the fire quickly grew in size leaving him with no choice but to make good his escape.

    The fire itself spread with phenomenal speed, engulfing the whole collapsed structure in flames, including the end sections, in less than 20 minutes. Moreover the heat radiation given off was of such intensity that after the first five minutes or so, rescuers were forced to retreat from the immediate vicinity. Within 45 minutes the structure had been reduced to ashes. ((A series of 17 photographs [5-22], believed to have been taken by the master photographer of Mee Chung Company, were taken over a 30-40 minute period following his first spotting the outbreak of fire.))

Fire Fighting

    Several members of the Fire Brigade were in attendance at the racecourse prior to the fire, although no hose cart or fire engine was present. About 25 labourers were initially formed into a bucket chain from the Golf Club hydrant. Following a telephone call logged at 2.57 p.m. at the Fire Brigade No. 1 Station, a dispatch box containing hoses was immediately sent, arriving about 10 -15 minutes later.  The Jockey Club hydrant was found to be out of order. A hose was therefore attached to the Golf Club hydrant. With one hose attached the water supply was slight. As Major D. Macdonald, Assistant Engineer of the Fire Brigade later testified:

water from one hose would reach no more than 10 -12 feet....pressure was no more than 30 lbs......the pressure was not sufficient for any practical purpose....If a matshed caught fire, unless one were standing by and with hose and with water laid on, the matshed could not be saved. 

SCMP (27 March 1918:11)

    In sum therefore the Fire Brigade staff were totally ineffective in bringing any control to the spread of fire due to lack of water and water pressure; and given that the fire had already gained a very strong hold before the arrival of fire fighting equipment. Moreover as submitted by Messer, SCMP (25 March 1918:3), the roofs of the matsheds were designed to keep out water. Thus to get at the fire underneath, the roof matting material would have had to be broken through; an almost impossible task given the ferocity of the blaze. Finally, he maintained that even if a proper flow of water had been to hand it could only have delayed the fire by a few seconds.

Rescue Operation

    Col. Ward of the Middlesex Regiment had the ‘fall in’ sounded and directed the placement of a cordon formed by soldiers and civilians around the blazing matsheds. This was in place about 7-8 minutes after the first outbreak of fire. He was subsequently obliged to exercise his personal judgement as to the number of people that could conveniently do rescue work. Other volunteers and panic stricken relatives of victims were excluded. At the enquiry Ward, SCMP (22 March 1918:10), stated that prior to this action on his part, the rescue response was totally uncontrolled and uncoordinated. Some rescuers were actually standing on parts of the collapsed structure where victims underneath were trying to get out. The cordon was maintained until early the next morning for reasons of public safety, to allow police investigations, the removal of 570 bodies and skeletal remains to take place unhampered; and finally to prevent looting of jewellery and valuables 

Dealing with the Injured

    Injured victims, many with the most horrifying burns, were strewn all around the area. Volunteers, including 22 St. Johns Ambulance staff already present at the racecourse, administered oil to their wounds. Others suffering severely crushed or broken bones, were tended to with first aid as best as circumstances and available resources would allow. 

    Victims were later moved by all available transport, including private cars, lorries and rickshaws to various hospitals, both Government run and private, for treatment. Adequate bed space for the injured was a serious problem. An earlier outbreak of spotted fever and measles had filled the hospitals almost to capacity. Moreover hospitals were soon besieged with crowds anxiously trying to track down missing relatives. These people were eventually allowed to patrol the wards seeking their loved ones. At the Government Civil Hospital, two wards undergoing repairs were hastily cleared and opened up. Due to the lack of doctors, university medical students were brought in to help minister to the injured. Staff of the Tung Wah Hospital were instructed to distribute 400 coffins to the scene and to the hospitals. In the event this number did not prove sufficient and many bodies were later conveyed to a mass burial site.

Total Death Toll  

    One of the objectives of this case study has been to try and establish the individual identities of those who perished either during, or later as a result of this tragedy so as to enable a more precise determination of the total death toll. As mentioned earlier, this figure has variously  been quoted as ranging between 604 to 614 persons.

    The shrine erected above a mass burial site for the dead at So Kun Po, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, whilst itself dedicated to Chinese and Western men and women, however only records the names of 610 fire victims of Chinese ancestry. These names have been listed separately by gender on two tablets. These tablets, which are positioned either side of a central tablet, were photographed and all names subsequently translated into Cantonese romanisation.

    All articles appearing in the SCMP during the period from 27 February to 20 April 1918 were then examined for the names of those confirmed to have died as a result of the disaster. These additional names were subsequently cross checked against the shrine listings so as to ensure no duplication. As a result it has been possible to identify a further 77 victims by name. All 687 persons are listed in the appendix. Thus, in terms of lives lost, the fire disaster was clearly a far larger tragedy than has ever been realised or acknowledged in the past 78 years. However no claim is made that the figure of 687 represents the final death toll, the true total of which will likely never be established.

The Coroner’s Enquiry

    On 4 March 1918 the Coroner’s Enquiry was formally opened before Police Magistrate J. R. Wood, SCMP (5 March 1918:3) under instructions to conduct an inquest into the cause of the death of a single person, Mrs. Mar Kan Shi. Seven special jurors, all being well known members of the community attended on summons and three, Messrs A.H. Barlow, W.C. Jack; and J.H. Wallace were selected with Barlow being appointed Foreman. After each had taken the customary oath they were reminded by the Attorney General that over 500 people had lost their lives. He addressed the jury at some length, pointing out the importance and urgency involved and that the Government wished for as full and exhaustive an enquiry as was possible. They were invited to criticise any Government Departments found in any way culpable and to advise the Government as to measures to be adopted in the future

    The  Hong Kong Annual Report for 1918, (CO 131/55:28) records the minutes dated 7 March 1918 of a meeting of The Legislative Council. A suggestion had been made by Colonial Secretary to HE the Governor, Sir Henry May that a Commission be appointed to enquire into the disaster. Sir Henry  is  quoted  as  considering  this  to  be  unnecessary,  in  that  past commissions  had not proved of particular use and the ordinary Coroner’s machinery was quite sufficient, especially as Mr. J.R. Wood would conduct the proceedings. He further commented that steps would be taken to get a competent jury and the Crown Solicitor would assist in the fullest possible manner.

    During the subsequent 22 days of enquiry proceedings, commencing on 7 March 1918 and ending on 12 April 1918, the court heard testimony from 101 witnesses. There is no indication that any of this testimony was given under oath. The Coroner himself adopted a deliberately informal approach to the examination of witnesses. Nevertheless the enquiry process, as analysed from daily SCMP coverage, gives every appearance of having been both thorough and probing. Moreover the informal style adopted undoubtedly drew out much evidence that a more formal judicial approach may well  have excluded on the basis of hearsay.

Coroner’s Summing Up

    On 12 April 1918 the Coroner made a lengthy summing up for the benefit of the jury, much of which has already been referred to.  However one comment made towards the end of this summing up stands out above all others: would appear that this calamity was one which could most probably have been prevented by the exercise of foresight, and foresight which one might reasonably have expected before the event and which is certainly easy to expect after the event.

SCMP (13 April 1918:3) & May     1918(CO 129/448 folio 290)

Jury’s Conclusions and Recommendations

    The jury were then asked to express their views in their own words regarding  25 questions put to them pertaining to the cause(s) of the disaster and deaths resultant from it. Finally they were asked to comment on the actions of various Government Departments and to make recommendations. 

    The jury’s conclusions as to the causes of the collapse and subsequent fire disaster have already been outlined within this case study analysis. However their criticisms directed against the Public Works Department and the Police Department, and their subsequent recommendations as to measures necessary to avoid any recurrence as outlined by May (1918:folios 296-299), are clearly of significant historical value as well as being important in terms of learning lessons. They are therefore reproduced in full in the Appendix (criticisms and recommendations).

Lessons Learned

    Of the lessons arising out of the Coroner’s Enquiry, arguably the most important relates to the ever present danger posed by fire to matsheds and other wooden or inflammable structures. The lesson was to replace such structures with non inflammable ones. Should this not be possible then adequate contingency planning and precautions, such as a ban on smoking and cooking, would be necessary so as to guard against this risk. Fires of this type, once they have gained a firm hold, spread very rapidly. Unless extinguished at a very early stage, they are almost impossible to bring under control. Therefore the necessity for Fire Services personnel and equipment to be on full stand-by at locations where fire risk is high together with an adequate supply of water for this purpose. As regards crowd safety the need to regulate and control attendance so as to prevent too many people from entering and/or congregating in any restricted space. Also to ensure that these persons have sufficient exits through which to escape quickly in any emergency situation. 

    With regard to inter-departmental liaison, clearly it is vital for all relevant departments and bodies to work closely together so as to co-ordinate their respective actions and roles and to ensure that all pertinent government regulations are adhered to with regard to safety and security. The clear lesson arising is that complacency is a killer. Finally the Coroner’s jury highlighted the lack of any data regarding the structural properties of bamboo so as to ensure matsheds were not loaded beyond their structural capabilities.

Were the Lessons Learned Applied at the 1919 Meeting?

     Following the disaster and with Government approval, Crown Land was leased at the Happy Valley Racecourse by the Jockey Club and permanent brick and concrete stands constructed for the 1919 meeting. 

    According to the China Mail newspaper (24 February 1919:5), which covered the first race meeting for 1919, the new concrete and brick permanent stands were a great improvement on the matsheds and perfectly safe for those frequenting them. The raceday crowds were however smaller than in previous years. Alongside the new stands a complete fire apparatus was stationed.  The engine was steamed up and the fire escape ready for action.  A number of regular and volunteer Fire Brigade members were in attendance. Inspector Gerrod and his team of uniform police officers had dispersed early to various points. Plain clothes officers were also present in good number to look after the welfare of the public. Clearly therefore lessons learned had, where appropriate, been applied.


  • 1-1: The figure of 614 deaths is taken from the epitaph written by Li Yi Mei and inscribed by Lu Song Ju on the monument to the victims erected over their mass burial site at Coffee Hill, So Kun Po, Hong Kong. The monument however lists the names of only 610 fire victims, all being of Chinese ancestry. The Guinness Book of Records specifies the deaths of 604 persons resultant from the fire.
  • 1-2: In 1918 it was estimated that the population of Hong Kong was composed of 13,500 non Chinese and 548,000 of Chinese descent.
  • 1-3: According to the Guinness Book of Records, the worst ever recorded sports related disaster occurred during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161). The upper wooden tiers in the Circus Maximus, Rome collapsed during a gladiatorial combat, killing 1,112 spectators. 
  • 5-22: The final photograph shows the matshed complex reduced to ashes. Available for viewing in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of History.

Brief History of Racing at Happy Valley Racecourse

    Interest in horses was not a traditional Southern Chinese characteristic. Lawrence (1984:5), claims it was imported by the British when they took over the then sparsely inhabited island of Hong Kong in 1841.

    The racecourse itself was established in 1865 on a flat, swampy area of land to the east of a small town named Wong Nai Chung (Yellow Mud Valley), but known to the European inhabitants of Hong Kong at that time by the much more agreeable name of Happy Valley. Bamboo railings marked out the oval race track whilst temporary matsheds were erected to provide cover for spectators.

     On 17 and 18 December 1846 the first two day race meeting was reportedly held on a small scale, co-ordinated by a small group of racing enthusiasts comprising army officers, government officials and businessmen.

    Ching [5-1] (1965:183), mentions George Wingrove Cooke, a special correspondent of The Times, who allegedly described the racecourse as being one of the world’s most picturesque spots. According to Ching, the 1865 Annual Race Meeting was indeed a public picnic; and it remained so until the 1930s.  Race days were not holidays for all; but everyone who could desert his treadmill was there. Flags and bunting abounded and there was always a military band. Attendance within the Owners grandstand enclosure was at first predominantly European; and ‘mixed with the uniforms and jockey silks there was a generous sprinkling of swallow tails and toppers.’ Outside of this area, members of the public, ‘with their natural tendency to congregate and speculate, were background extras to the scene, or crowded into the centre of the course, which was open to all.’  The inevitable caterers were in attendance there, adding to the carnival atmosphere. Whilst bookmakers were not  tolerated, and in the absence of any accessible totalisator, holiday-makers nevertheless contrived to have their small flutters.

    The Jockey Club itself was established in 1884 whilst in about 1890 the Hong Kong Golf Club was formed, and laid down a nine-hole course in the centre of the Racecourse. The golfers built their pavilion immediately opposite the Monument and had two greens outside the race-track.

    In 1896 the Jockey Club embarked upon plans to add to the safety and comfort of the ponies as their existing matshed stables had been constantly in serious risk of fire. Permanent stables for eighty ponies were built - a two-storied brick building. While there were private boxes for owners, there was as yet no special accommodation for members generally. In 1900 “reserved enclosures” were provided for members in front of the grandstand.  These were fenced-off pens, along the rails, to which admission was by ticket.

    The next improvement of interest was the provision, in 1906, of a special matshed stand for Chinese ladies, erected at Jockey Club cost on a site rented from the Government, outside the Members grandstand enclosure. It stood in the border zone between the permanent stands and the Golf Club pavilion and was erected afresh for each Annual Racing Meeting.  In subsequent years other similar matshed stands were added alongside it, until they combined into a long crescent.

History of the Public Matsheds from 1865 to 1911

    Up until 1890, the general public had been permitted to erect matsheds  on racecourse Crown land for the annual races upon application and without charge. However over the years the matshed complex had expanded to encompass 26 sites, although constructed as one continuous structure. Moreover the number of applicants continued to increase each year. Therefore, to bring control back to what was perceived to be a rapidly deteriorating situation in the fairest possible way, the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Hong Kong Government decreed that, with effect from the 1891 meeting, the matshed complex would be limited to 19 annually auctioned sites. A photograph [5-2] taken in 1901, clearly shows this long line of contiguous matsheds.

    The annual auction arrangements commenced with a letter from the PWD Superintendent of Accounts, Correspondence and Stores to the Government auctioneer, instructing the latter to auction the rights to erect and occupy 19 designated racecourse sites for race day matshed booths.

 The auctioneer subsequently advertised the sale in all local English language papers and in four Chinese papers.  Site plans and a list of the six conditions of letting were placed in the hands of intending purchasers a week before the sale. On the day of the sale, with the exception of conditions 5 and 6, they were taken as read.

Interestingly, in line with prevailing custom, the auctioneers did not publish the names of  certain buyers. Therefore the list of purchasers by name was not the same as listed in the company book. Moreover both company names and aliases were also accepted without the auctioneer necessarily first ascertaining the identities of individual purchasers.

Regrettably it has not been possible to acquire a list of the six matshed letting conditions prevailing up until 1911. Conditions No 1-4 are  however believed to be unimportant to this case study. Condition No. 5 referred to the long standing prohibition on gambling in and around the vicinity of the racecourse whilst No. 6 provided for the protection of the Golf Club putting greens also situated on Crown land behind matshed sites 10 and 13.

Successful purchasers obtained a certificate from the auctioneer on production of which they were issued with a permit by the PWD Executive Engineer in charge of the Building Ordinance Office. The permit in question was of a standard type utilised for many years to cover a multitude of miscellaneous permit requirements. As in many cases the permit was not issued by name, subsequent individual accountability for condition infringements was not possible. In any case the permits did not specify any penalties for condition infringements.

 The 19 individual matshed sites were pegged according to the plan by a PWD Land Surveyor. He did not subsequently inspect them, instead assuming that the matsheds were subsequently constructed in accordance with these pegs.

Legislation Governing the Erection of Matsheds 

    The Building Ordinance of 1889 included matsheds within the definition of ‘building’. Thus, by strict interpretation of this Ordinance, no matshed could lawfully be erected without first submitting an application for approval on a special form, together with plans. Although the Director of Public Works (DPW) was not provided with any legal authority to dispense with this particular procedure, nevertheless in practice he did just that, on the grounds that the law as framed was impracticable.

    In about 1903 the Building Ordinance was superseded by the Public Health and Building Ordinance, the main objective of this being sanitary improvement in urban areas. Despite the above mentioned impracticalities, matsheds were still included within the definition of ‘building’. Section 222 of the Ordinance rendered it unlawful for anyone to commence any building or repair or reconstruct any existing building without first submitting a plan signed by an authorised architect to the Building Authority. A scale block plan showing neighbouring streets and buildings was also required. Section 209 also has clear relevance to matsheds in that:

    no person shall erect a matshed without previously obtaining permission in writing from the Building Authority or officer deputised by such Authority in that behalf and except subject to the regulations in the schedule or such other regulations as might from time to time be made.

     Irrespective of these sections, compliance with this new Ordinance, with regard to general matsheds was never insisted upon. Whilst there was a general belief within the PWD that the racecourse matshed erection permits were issued in accordance with Section 209, there was no mention of this on the permits. Having not applied the law to these matsheds, there was no need to certify them as having been constructed in accordance with the requirements of the Ordinance. Although the racecourse matsheds had been inspected by a PWD overseer annually since 1903 with a view to protecting the public, the Building Authority did not, in practice, supervise the erection of ordinary matsheds, of which there were a large number scattered throughout the territory.

    The PWD was also responsible for permits and licences for matshed theatres, which were erected for the purpose of staging Chinese opera performances. Regulations relating specifically to matshed theatres were strictly enforced by the PWD. Staff were obliged to specify the number of persons the building was licensed to accommodate and the number of fire buckets to be provided. There were also regulations dealing with gangways, entrances and exits and a prohibition on naked lights and smoking. When questioned at the Coroner’s enquiry as to why racecourse matsheds were not subject to matshed theatre legislation, the PWD argued that theatrical performances were generally held at night when there was a great deal of artificial light and in enclosed buildings with some limited exits. They were therefore at greater risk.  The racecourse matsheds were only utilised during daylight hours and allegedly open at both the front and rear. Thus in the PWD’s eyes the risks were lower. On this basis they were of the opinion that the application of the matshed theatre legislation to the racecourse matsheds was inappropriate. 

Matshed Construction from 1891 to 1911

    As from the 1891 meeting, construction of the matshed complex had been undertaken by the Sze Hop Matshed Construction Company, under the supervision of their foreman and partner Mr. Kwok Sun. The company supplied all the materials, principally bamboo poles of varying lengths up to 40 feet, with some fir poles as well. The roof was composed of bamboo matting. Labour was also provided for construction and dismantling afterwards. In practice, all successful racecourse matshed site purchasers were obliged to engage the company on an individual basis. 

    From 1891 to 1911, all 19 sites were composed of two storeys; the ground forming the natural base for a basement floor from which a raised flooring of varying height would be constructed for the ground floor, with one full floor above. Up until November 1911, the matsheds were braced by bamboo struts both from the front facing the racecourse and from the rear facing the golf course greens. The rear struts were either placed in holes dug into golf course land or lashed to a stake driven deeply into this same ground.

Matshed Supervision and Safety from 1891 to 1911

    From 1903 onwards and following the issue of permits and the pegging out of sites, it was PWD practice for a Building Inspector to be notified of the issue of the permits and tasked  to make inspections of the racecourse matshed booths during the construction period. 

    Whilst little information is available regarding these inspections during the period from 1903 to 1911, there is reason to believe that constructional safety was minimal. No instructions were given to the matshed construction company either by the PWD or the site lessees as to the maximum number of people to be accommodated within the matshed complex. There were no directives with regard to the size and number of entrances and exits; no requirements to submit construction plans for PWD approval; nor any restrictions placed on the maximum number of storeys that could be built. Furthermore there were no specifications as to material quality, no regulations pertaining to the length or thickness of the poles, or as to the distance between poles, nor as to the lashings to be used. No stress or dead weight loading tests were carried out by any party so as to confirm the structural soundness of the matshed complex nor, for that matter, was any data relating to the stress and sheer properties of bamboo itself available in this respect. Construction techniques appear to have been left very much in the hands of the matshed construction company; this being on the premise that the construction supervisor was considered by the PWD to be the acknowledged expert. Finally there were no restrictions regarding fire, cooking or smoking on the premises. 

Prohibition on Gambling

    Despite the prohibition on gambling as specified in Condition No. 5 of the site permits, it was common knowledge that lessees operated betting on the races from their stands. According to Dr. Douglas Laing [5-3], many were little more than gambling dens. It was therefore commonplace for the stands to have four foot by six foot wells, each constructed in the upper storey floor, from which small baskets could be lowered to purchase betting tickets from the ground floor vendors. Although prohibited they were nevertheless clearly tolerated by the police, as Messer indicated:

The police have not interfered with pari-mutual or cash sweepstakes conducted in these sheds. Other gambling is interfered with.......The Government did not instruct me not to interfere.

SCMP (26 March 1918:11)

Government Inter-Departmental Co-ordination

    In terms of responsibility, the PWD was responsible for the provision and enforcement of measures so as to ensure, as far as was possible, the safety and convenience of the public and for the preservation of the property of the public. The Police and the Fire Brigade were tasked with the protection of persons and property of the public from the malicious or careless acts of individuals, to keep order and to deal with the outbreak of fire. Regrettably in terms of inter-departmental liaison between them, scant evidence of this was evident.


  • 5-1: Henry Ching was previously the Editor of the South China Morning Post newspaper.
  • 5-2: The continuous row of 19 public matshed sites can be seen in the upper left to middle section of the photograph shown on page 59 of Henry Ching’s book ‘Pow Mah’.
  • 5-3: At the time this document was written, Dr. Douglas Laing was believed to be the sole surviving witness to the disaster. He was aged 94 when interviewed by the author in 1996.

Public Matsheds from 1912 to 1918

    According to Coates (1983:170), by the 1918 three-day Chinese New Year racing carnival it had become the custom for the entire west side of the Happy Valley racecourse, from the village at the top end to the monument at the Valley entrance, to be lined by a long row of matshed stands. He claims that the Jockey Club was extremely careful to ensure that all matshed structures on its property were properly constructed and safe. With the benefit of hindsight, the Government, as it turned out, was not so careful.

Matshed Letting Conditions from 1912 to 1918

     As earlier mentioned, up until the 1911 race meetings, condition No. 6 only provided for the protection of the Golf Club putting greens also situated on Crown land behind sites 10 and 13. However in December 1911 conditions laid down for the adherence of lessees were both modified and increased by the DPW himself. Condition No 6 was  re-written:

The tenant of each both site shall protect the turf on such site by placing over the whole area thereof boards at least ½ inch thick.

SCMP (8 March 1918:10)

    Two new conditions, No 7 and 8 respectively were added. Condition No 7 demanded proper sanitary conveniences whilst No 8 read as follows: 

The tenants of booth sites No 6 - 17 inclusive shall provide a gangway 10 ft. wide at the narrowest portion as indicated on the plan showing sites.  Such gangway shall be formed of planks placed close together and raised two feet above the turf and shall be bounded on the western side by a fence not less than six feet high from the ground, formed of close boarding or matting or some other approved material.  Such gangway and fence shall be constructed and maintained during the races by the tenants to the satisfaction of the Building authority.

SCMP (8 March 1918:10)

        When questioned as to whether Legislative Council approval had been obtained for the amendments to condition  No 6, and the new conditions No 7 and 8, the DPW claimed that, as he was the approving authority anyway, he had not bothered with this process. Interestingly, a PWD official later produced documentary evidence at the hearing which proved that Golf Club correspondence with the DPW had only been in respect of the provision of urinals and the erection of a fence to mark the boundary on the Golf Club side. There was nothing in writing that justified the subsequent revision of condition No 6. 

    As regards the bamboo bracing struts projecting from the rear of the matshed complex onto the greens, photographs produced at the enquiry of the  rear of the matsheds as taken during the 1917 meeting apparently confirmed that between sites 9 and 15 inclusive no rear struts were in place. When later questioned about the lack of rear struts, PWD officials were most reluctant to admit that these had either previously caused major damage to the greens or that there had been a deliberate policy to omit them. However A.E. Wright, Executive Engineer of the PWD, in charge of the Building Ordinance Office came close to an admission when cross-examined by counsel for the matshed contractors after being shown a photograph of the rear of the matsheds taken in 1917. When asked as to whether it was not extremely possible that the builder was instructed to omit the struts from the back near the Golf Club he replied:

It is possible, not extremely probable.

SCMP (12 March 1918:10)

    Moreover when later asked whether, if the struts had been erected since 1911, they would have injured the green, he replied that only slight damage would have resulted, a remark that was to earn him a rebuke from the Coroner:

Don’t you think you might attribute a little common-sense to myself and the jury?

SCMP (12 March 1918:10)

    Later during the enquiry, Mr. Grist, SCMP (23 March 1918:3), a member of the Golf Club Committee recalled that in 1911 the Committee approached the Public Works Department with a view to preserving the greens over which these matsheds were built and that in consequence of that the PWD made certain regulations to preserve the green. The Committee suggested that a causeway be constructed at the back of the sheds. He did not recall any suggestion being made regarding struts however it was suggested that it would be advantageous if the poles were not let into the ground. The construction of a fence was a suggestion of the Golf Club as previously spectators came out of the sheds and walked over the green. Whilst the Committee were never able to preserve all the green, nevertheless the measures were very beneficial.

        When asked as to whether the removal of bracing struts and the construction of a fence and a gangway were contrary to the interests and safety of racegoers, Grist replied:

We left it to the PWD to safeguard the interests and safety of the public.
SCMP (22 March 1918:3

    PWD officials also gave evidence as to why the new conditions as regards the requirement for planking and construction of fences and gangways had been necessary. The Coroner concluded that it was reasonable to assume that the changes had been made in order to protect a much larger area of the Golf Club’s greens, located at the rear of the matsheds. He added that such action had clearly been initiated by the DPW himself following complaints by the Golf Club regarding damage to the turf caused by public racegoers walking about behind the matsheds resultant from wet weather conditions at the 1911 meeting and people urinating in the vicinity. The Coroner also concluded that the matshed contractor had omitted the rear bracing struts from the matsheds from the 1912 meeting onwards at the behest of the PWD. 

Matshed Construction from 1912 to 1918 

    As earlier mentioned, no control was exercised by either the Government overseer or by the matshed contractor as regards the number of storeys built. However up and including the 1912 annual meeting the matshed complex had not risen above two storeys and a basement area. Prior to the 1913 race meeting the matshed contractor was instructed by the permit holder of matshed site No 8 to add one extra storey to his site. A circa 1914 photograph [5-4] of the matsheds, clearly shows this three storey stand just to the left of the Colonial stand. As at the 1917 meeting, three of the 19 sites had been constructed to three storeys whilst by 1918 this had risen to four. Moreover by the 1918 meeting, sites 10 and 11 had increased in height by an additional four feet, when compared with the 1917 meeting; this modification having been carried out by the contractor at the behest of the new permit holders. A photograph [5-5] taken of the matsheds in 1918 very shortly before the disaster, clearly illustrates these structural changes. In the enquiry Mr Kwok Kun, a partner and the foreman of the Sze Hop Construction Company that had built the matsheds confirmed, SCMP (12 March 1918:10), that the lessees had given him instructions as to the height, number of storeys, and entrance/exit requirements of their respective stands. Clearly the modifications from 1913 onwards not only created an uneven roof but also uneven floors, both factors creating structural weakness. Comments by the DPW at the enquiry tended to confirm this:

In my opinion the sheds of 1914 being more uniform in height were more stable than those of the present year. The difference in the levels of the floors means loss of strength. I would not go so far as to condemn the sheds for the variation in floor levels. I don’t think that variation necessarily caused the collapse. It would contribute.

SCMP (29 March 1918:6)

Matshed Supervision from 1912 to 1918

    When questioned at the enquiry, Inspector Sara, the PWD area overseer, who had carried out annual inspections since the 1913 meeting, claimed that matshed construction in 1918 was similar to previous years.  To his knowledge there had been no changes to individual matshed site heights during his six years of inspection. He thought the stability of matsheds were quite sound, adding that the matshed contractors knew as much about matsheds as anyone. As to the number of people to be accommodated, he claimed never to have been given guidance or instruction. In his opinion it was not his duty to consider how many persons the matsheds would accommodate. He had inspected them with the assumption that they would be full. However under cross questioning as to how many people would fill them he admitted that he did not even know what area each site occupied. He was also unable to comment as to what steps he had taken to ascertain the strain a matshed could take, replying that his instructions were only to give them careful supervision. Having done so he had not seen the need for any modification or strengthening work. The jury noted that Inspector Sara was not in any way an expert in this form of matshed construction, concluding  that without guidelines and a plan from which to base his examination, his inspection was worthless.

Circa 1914 Partial Matshed Collapse 

    During the first day of the 1914 race meeting Mr. Blake, SCMP (13 March 1918:10), one of three joint lessees of the Unity stand, which occupied sites 4,5 & 6 of the matshed complex, claimed to have witnessed a partial collapse of the top floor of the stand occupying site 8, the only three storey stand. Shortly after the second race that day, some of the upright bamboo supports shifted. As a result, a good degree of panic ensued. He subsequently lodged a complaint with Mr. Hough, Clerk of the Course who told him that he had nothing to do with the matsheds and advised him to complain to the Governor. Blake did not however do so. Nevertheless he continued to harbour serious misgivings with regard to the structural safety of three storey stands.

Matshed Cooking Arrangements

    Cooked foods had always been available for purchase from hawkers sited either in the infield area of the track or in front of the matshed complex. Cooking arrangements inside the matshed complex itself did not however commence until sometime between 1910 and 1914. Thereafter many of the basement floors of the stands had charcoal braziers for cooking or for boiling water. Whilst the matshed contractor admitted to being well aware of this arrangement, nevertheless PWD officials from their Director downwards, claimed total ignorance of this throughout the enquiry. In particular Inspector Sara, SCMP (9 March 1918:10), stated that there had been no requirement placed on him to examine the complex either during or between each day of occupation. He had therefore been unaware that cooking had taken place in the matshed complex. When asked for his view at the enquiry on such arrangements, he commented that it was rather unsafe to do so.

Racecourse Water Supply and Fire Fighting Arrangements

    On 14 February 1914, two days before the commencement of the 1914 races, Assistant Superintendent of Police T.H. King, SCMP (29 March 1918:6), and a party from the Fire Brigade tested the fire hydrants, one being situated immediately behind the Golf Club pavilion on eastern side (right side) of the public matsheds and the other at the entrance to the racecourse. Without any fire hose attached, the water pressure from the three inch supply main laid in 1897 was registered at below 60 lbs. With a hose attached  there was a further major drop in pressure. It was therefore concluded that there was insufficient  water pressure to cope with any outbreak of fire in the matsheds. That same morning the  PWD was informed of this by letter and requested to provide for a minimum of 100 lbs. pressure on that main, this being measured with one delivery point open. A  reply forthcoming during the race meeting stated that the pressure as earlier measured by the Fire Brigade was deemed normal and that there were no facilities for increasing it.  Despite this, no fire precautions were taken by the Fire Brigade at the race meeting that year or in successive years up to and including the 1918 meeting. In fact as was admitted by the Hon. Mr.C. Mc I Messer Captain Superintendent of Police and Superintendent of the Fire Brigade at the enquiry, the overall question of fire precautions at the matsheds had never been properly considered:

 No precautions were taken against fire as there were no regulations requiring such.......The question of fire precautions had not been considered.

 SCMP (25 March 1918:3)

     Furthermore no instructions were ever given to any of the matshed lessees as to appropriate measures to combat fire. 

Complacency and Lack of Inter-Departmental Co-ordination

    Inter-departmental liaison had not in any way improved over the years up until 1918. If anything the prevailing level of complacency had deteriorated even further. For example, when requested by the Coroner to give an opinion as to the cause of the collapse and fire, Chatham commented:

    It appears to me that as the structures had been erected year after year for so many years without any accident of any description occurring in connection with them and they had stood the test of the first days races, and also on the second day they had stood the test of the most prominent race of the day, I cannot understand why the collapse should have occurred unless something had been done to weaken some parts of the shed.

SCMP (9 March 1918:10)

    Chatham later admitted that his department had made no request to Messer, for any special fire precautions to be taken during the race meeting nor had any plans of the matsheds been submitted to them. When asked as to whether this would have been the proper thing to do, Chatham  replied:

He (Messer) does not pretend to be ignorant of the existence of these matsheds.

SCMP (29 March 1918:6)

    Moreover when asked as to whether, in light of the disaster, plans should have been submitted to the Fire Brigade, Chatham commented: would have been a purely formal matter, because no plans have been submitted (by the contractor) for 23 years.

SCMP (29 March 1918:6)

    Later, when advised that Messer had earlier given evidence to the effect that he would probably have made recommendations as regards the need for adequate exits in some of the matshed sites if only the matter had  been referred to him by the PWD, he replied:

there were no plans of the sheds.... The sheds have been put up for 23 years and I have never heard a murmur about the exits.

SCMP (29 March 1918:6)

    However despite all Chatham’s failings, perhaps the most blatant admission of complacency at the Inquest was that from Messer himself:

I walked along the road on the Monday of the Races (25 February 1918) and saw the crowds going into the sheds. The idea struck me that if a fire happened the exits would be insufficient to cope with a panic.

SCMP (27 March 1918:11)

    On questioning, Messer admitted that despite harbouring such safety concerns, he had not subsequently initiated any additional precautionary measures. When asked by the Coroner as whether, as head of the Police Department and having noticed that the exits were insufficient for dealing with panic, he should have prevented people going in, he replied:

It was one of those things that had been going on from time immemorial and I should have thought a lot before trying to prevent people going in.

SCMP (27 March 1918:11)

    Moreover when later pressed as to whether the actual risk was still not sufficient for him to interfere he replied:

No, on account of the old established custom.

SCMP (27 March 1918:11)

    It is interesting to contrast Messer’s opinions above with those given by him below the previous day:

If I had been consulted in advance with regard to proper fire precautions for the racecourse matsheds this year I expect I should have condemned the sheds, the three storied ones especially, on account of insufficient exits I might possibly have insisted on the subdivision of the matsheds, to give spaces so as to prevent fire from spreading. I should have known from the start that the water supply was insufficient, and I should have contended myself with the provision of buckets of water, possibly patent fire extinguishers and  sufficient exits.

SCMP (26 March 1918:11)


  • 5-4: Taken either at the 1913 or 1914 race meeting.  The first three storey matshed site can clearly be seen to the left of the Colonial Club site. Note the series of bamboo struts coming out at right angles from the front of the matshed complex. Obtained from Honeychurch Antiques, Hollywood Road, Hong Kong.
  • 5-5: Taken in 1918, shortly before the collapse and subsequent fire.  Note the uneven effect that the proliferation of three storey sites, now four in number, has on the matshed complex roof outline. Obtained from The Public Records Office, Kew-ref CO 129/447 folio 478.

The following symbols have been utilised to indicate source references for names of victims as obtained from the SCMP.
    *    SCMP (28 February 1918:4, 6 & 10)
    #    SCMP (1 March 1918:6)
    ~     SCMP (2 March 1918:3)

List of the 382 Male Victims who perished in the Great Fire at the Happy Valley Racecourse on 26 February 1918

Tse Po

Leung Pak-chuen

Tsui Kwai-fong

Ho Ying-chun

Leung Wai-nam

Lam Ki-shan

Ho Wing-cheong

Leung Tsz-pan

Lam Wai-ching

Ho Shi-ching

Leung Hung-ka

Lam Wa-chi

Ho Sik-lau

Leung Yu-tsip

Lam Lap-kat

Ho Chik-yuk

Leung Sik-chiu

Lam Shing-po

Ho Ping-nam

Leung Cho-fat

Lau Ah-wan

Ho Chung-hong

Leung Lok-chiu

Lau Ching

Ho Yu-sheung

Chan Yu-chun

Lau Kwong-fuk

Ho Yuk-tin

Chan Kam-shun

Lau Wa-kwok

Ho Chun

Chan Kwok-tsan

Lau Hong-yat

Ho Tsun-fung

Chan Ching-fong

Lau Shuk-chong

Ho Pui-chun

Chan Fuk-yu

Lau Tsan-sen

Fung Chi-nam

Chan Kam-chuen

Lau Hau

Fung Siu-ying

Chan Yau-yuen

Lau Sheung-yik

Fung Lok-yuen

Chan Man-cheung

Lau Hok-so

Fung Chun-wun

Chan Yuet-sang

Lau Kam-chak

Fung Wing-hin

Chan Tun

Lau Kam-wa

Fung Tak-cheong

Chan Tak-chim

Lau Yuk-sang

Fung Ying-ming

Chan Chiu-hung

Lau Kwan

Fung Yik-sam

Chan Cheuk-hoi

Lui Yik-fan

Fung Hei-po

Chan Kin-sang

Li Ka-nai

Fung Chun-ping

Chan Tsoi-yuen

Li Siu-ming

Fung Wing-yan

Chan Wing-chung

Li Ah-so

Chu Wing-lam

Chan Yu-sum

Li Hon-nam

Chu Shu-fan

Chan Pak-shun

Li Hon-tong

Chu Wing-sheung

Chan Ching-po

Li Shu-fan

Leung Kam-fu

Chan Pak-kai

Li Yuk-chi

Leung Hon

Chan Fu-yiu

Li Yuk-mau

Leung Kuen

Chan Yeung-hin

Li Chiu-man

Leung Chuen-chai

Chan Kwun-kam

Li Ping-po

Leung Ah-so

Chan Pak-wai

Li Kui-yuen

Leung Tsan-sen

Chan Kam

Li Choi-jeng

Leung Chik-sang

Chan Ki-po

Li Wing-hoi

Leung Wai-sam

Chan Shui-po

Li Chu

Leung Po-wing

Chan So

Li Long-hing

Leung Sek-hoi

Wong Yiu

Li Jeng-fai

Leung Ying-to

Wong Nam

Li Ting-yau

Leung So

Wong Ping-hei

Li Sui-lung

Leung Kam-fai

Tsui Leung-shun

Li Tong

Leung Sai-lun

Tsui Ping-wu

Li Yin-kei

Leung Kwong-san

Tsui Tai-kit

Li Kwan                   

Li Wun-lung

To Yiu-hung

Yip Hon-cheung

Yeung Cho-chi

To Wing-on

Yip Kam-sui

Yeung Tak-hing

To Yeung-sing

Yip Cheung-hi

Yeung Tak-chuen

To Kau-chai

Yip Tsan-pong

Hung Cheong-nin

To Sai-so

Yip Yuk-pui

Chung Hiu-po

Mak Kan-shing

Cheng Chun-wai

Chung Cheuk-chiu

Mak Chung-sang

Cheng Man-shing

Chung Sang-choi

Mak Yiu-on

Cheng King-tsiu

Tang Kwan-pui

Mak Sin-fat

Cheng Yi-wai

Tang Kai-chung

Mak Chiu-chung

Cheng Yiu-hung

Tang Chak-ue

Mak Wing-chun

Wu Sui-kei

Tang ching-lun

Mak Wong-nap

Wu So-chai

Tang Kwong-kau

Mak Kan-tong

Wu Cho-sau

Tang Sui-nin

Mak Wang-hin

Wu Hang-yiu

Tang Siu-tong

Mak Yu-chuen

Wu Yiu-sen

Tang Fu-chuen

Ng Cheong-kan

Wu Ming-yan

Tang Shek-chuen

Ng Sui-hei

Wu Yiu-ting

Tang Wing-on

Ng Fuk-hing

Wu Sam-long

Kwok Wa-fai

Ng Kuk-man

Ng Wing-hung

Kwok Wing-piu

Ng Pui-chai

Ng Ping-kwai

Kwok Fuk

Ng Tai-hing

Ng Sing-hoi

Kwok Kan

Ng So

Ng Siu-wai

Kwok Man-yuk

Szeto Yeung-sum

Lai Leung

Chau Siu-lun

Lo Wang-yu

Lai Tuen

Kam Yun-tin

Lo Sau-man

Lai Nai-huen

Kam Yun-cheong

Lo Shing-tung

Lai Po

Kam Siu-pang

Lo Kai-yui

Lai Wing-tuen

Kam Cham

Lo Kwok-choi

Ko Siu-fan

Iu Ka-tok

Lo Kon-sen

Ko Tai-luen

Iu Chun-sun

Cheung Sik-chuen

Tsoi Hon-shing

Chau Sin-ting

Cheung Leong-hong

Tsoi Wa-cheung

Chau Chak-yun

Cheung Sui-ki

Tsoi Ching-wu

Chau Sik-ching

Cheung Ah-chai

Tsoi Yau-cheung

Chau Wo

Cheung Yu-tsan

Tsoi Yuk-shing

Chau Kam-yiu

Cheung Keng-po

Tse Yu

Chau Yiu-lun

Cheung Kui

Tam Ying-fu

Chau Siu-wing

Cheung Yin-kui

Tam Po-ting

Chau Pang-ling

Cheung Yiu-kwong

Tam Chi-sang

Tsang Siu-wai

Cheung Keng-kwong

Tam Kwan-kin

Tsang Mun-shing

Cheung Yi-kim

Pun Chung-hing

Tsang Tin-yeung

Cheung Tsang-kwong

Pun Hong-chiu

Tsang Sap-kan

Cheung Yeung-po

Pun Kwan-wa

Tsang Wa

Cheung Tai-choi

Pun Tai-chi

Tsang Sui-nam

Kwan Shi-kit

Pun Chung-wing

Tsang Yun-fuk

Kwan Chau-kwok

Pun Ying-pun

Tsang Tang-hok

Kwan Kwok-lau

Auyeung Yu-lam 

Auyeung So-hing

So Po-sheung

Leung U-chap

Auyeung Ngau-chai

Lo Yim-hung

Cheung Sai-kee

Wong King-man

Lo Fuk-chuen

L.J. Xavier *

Wong Ming-san

Fu Kai-hei

Peter Gandall *

Wong Fu-ling

Yung Chun-shing

J.J. Coelho *

Wong Tsz-yung

Wat Shu-sing

Richie *

Wong Chiu-wing

Mok Sai-kiu

A. Jorge *

Wong Kam-shing

Tso Kam-chuen

Eduardo Pereira *

Wong Wai-to

To Sum-chuen

Joe Rogrigues *

Wong Sit-yiu

Sit King-suen

J.L.M. de Rozario *

Wong Sai-kiu

Liu Wai-yuet

Santiago *

Fan Tin-ying

She Ching-yun

David Marshal *

Fan Chi-yan

Yu Wai-chung

Fukuda *

Yau Cheung-hoi

Yu Pik-yu

Uetsuki *

Yuen Lam-chai

Pau Chung-chau

Albert Ahwee Snr. *

Yuen Mui-cho

Tong Muk-hung

J.D. Barros *

Yuen Tung-shing

Man Yuet-po

Matsubara *

Yuen Chi

Man Yip-hi

T. Mumemoto *

Yuen Yik-kan

Fat Ka-lat

R. Kuwahara *

Yuen Yun-lam

Ho Wing-cheong

H. Sato *

Shum Hing-shing

Chan Man-cheung

G. Okamura *

Chin Chuk-kai

Seto F

S. Mantani *

Fong Man-hing

Fung T H

Maekata *

Lok Cheuk-wing

Wong Chi-yung

Z. Fukuda *

Lok Shing-chun

Sun Lai-wing

A.K. Fatydad *

Hon Kat-lam

Yau Cheong-hoi

Tom Ahmet Mahomedan *

Pat Ming-shang

Kwan Fuk-lam


Chui Kwok-fai

Wong Yung


Luk Tsz-wun

Wu Sau


Luk Hin-shu

Kwok So


Luk Ping-cheung

Cheng Sik-hung


Ko Hon-hung

Cheng Sik-fai


Ko Fuk-cheung

Yeung Ah-pe


Mang Siu-lun

Wong Chan-wa


Hui Cheung-yan

Chan Mi


Hui Tak-yung

Li Shi-tan


Kwong Noi

Ng Kam-chan


Kwong Hon

Ho Chun-fung


Kwong Man-wun

Kwan Chun-kwok


Kwong Hon

Li Kwai


Kong Yiu-nam

Yeung Tuk-chun


Kam Chuk-suen

So Sze-hin


Wong Sui-wing

Leung Hung-to


Ma Chai-chai

Kwong Cham


Ma Kat-chai

Mak Chun-shan


So Shi-hin

Ng Kwok-man



List of the 303 Female Victims who perished in the Great Fire at the Happy Valley Racecourse on 26 February 1918

Madam Tsoi Ho

Ms Leung Wa-shing

Ms Lau Lan-siu

Ms. Tsoi Chu

Mrs Leung Lo

Ms Lau Sin

Ms Tsoi Ah-chi

Mrs Tse Chan Shui-ching

Mrs Lau Sun Sin-wan

Ms Tsoi Yuk-ying

Ms Tse Tai-mui

Mrs Lau Pun

Ms Ko Siu-heung

Mrs Tse Chau

Mrs Lau Chan

Mrs Ho Chau

Mrs Tse Chau

Mrs Lau Lam

Ms Ho Sui-heung

Mrs Tse Chau Shun-ching

Ms Lau Sui-chu

Ms Ho Choi-ang

Ms Tsang Po-neung

Ms Lau Pui-kwan

Mrs Ho Chan

Ms Chan Sui-chun

Mrs Lau Sun

Ms Ho Choi-fung

Ms Chan Sui-lin

Mrs Lau Tse Oi-chun

Ms Ho Ah-tai

Ms Chan Kau-mui

Ms Lau Kam-oi

Ms Ho Choi-tsai

Ms Chan Ah-kam

Mrs Lui Yeung

Ms Ho Ki-tsai

Ms Li Ah-mui

Mrs Yu Chan Lin

Mrs Fung Chan

Ms Wong Chun-mui

Ms Li Ngan

Mrs Fung Lo

Ms Chan Yat-shan

Ms Li Yuk-shu

Mrs Fung Li

Ms Chan Man-ping

Ms Li Wong-choi

Mrs Fung Leung Wa-shing

Ms Chan King-chung

Ms Li Hang-chun

Mrs Fung Wong Sai-so

Ms Chan Ho-ying

Mrs Li Ho

Ms Fung Lai-ho

Ms Chan Yee-so

Mrs Li Wan

Ms Fung Lai-chun

Ms Chan Lin-fa

Ms Li Lin-yuk

Mrs Fung Leung

Mrs Chan Lam

Mrs Li Lam

Ms Kwok Man-yuk

Ms Chan Kam-ping

Mrs Li Tse

Ms Leung Yu-yuet

Mrs Chan Kwong

Mrs Li Wong

Ms Leung Min

Mrs Chan Tong

Mrs Li Auyeung Lau-chun

Mrs Leung Lau

Mrs Chan Pun

Ms Li Ah-sam

Mrs Leung Pun

Ms Chan So-ngan

Ms Li Chiu-tan

Ms Leung Chao-sim

Ms Chan Tai-choi

Ms Li Wai-chun

Ms Leung Yuk-ku

Mrs Chan Chau

Ms Li Ah-kei

Ms Leung Ah-yuk

Ms Chan Yau-ho

Mrs Li Mak

Ms Leung Yu-kat

Ms Chan Ho-yan

Mrs Li Ho

Ms Leung Yuk

Ms Chan So-wan

Mrs Li To

Mrs Leung Chau Shing-yi

Mrs Wong Chan Sui-ching

Mrs Li Mak

Ms Leung Chu

Ms Wong Ming-chun

Ms Li Yuet-ying

Mrs Leung Chau

Mrs Wong Tsoi Siu-han

Mrs Li Chan Yee-hung

Mrs Leung Chan Tong

Mrs Wong Ho Mo-ching

Ms Li Kam-ho

Ms Leung Ah-ho

Mrs Wong Chan

Mrs Li Yip

Mrs Leung Lo Chuen

Ms Wong Sai-so

Mrs Li Tse Kwan-po

Ms Leung Lai-ku

Ms Wong Yuet-oi

Mrs Li Mak Yin-kiu

Mrs Leung Yuen

Ms Lam Lau

Mrs Li Lam

Mrs Leung Wong Tai-choi

Mrs Lam Ling Wong

Mrs Yeung Ho Lau

Mrs Leung Fung

Ms Lam Lin-oi

Mrs Yeung Wu Kam-ling

Ms Leung Tai

Mrs Lam Tsoi

Ms Yeung Kam-chin

Mrs Leung Fung

Ms Lau Lai-king

Mrs Yeung Chau               129

Mrs Yeung Chung Kwai-chi

Mrs Au Tsang

Ms So Ah-ma

Mrs Yeung Lau Kat-hing

Mrs Shing Li

Mrs Liu Leung Yin-mui

Ms Yeung Yuk-kwun

Mrs Ching Lam

Mrs Liu Leung

Ms Yeung

Ms Ching Lin-ho

Mrs Yu Chau Lai-sang

Mrs Yeung Lam

Mrs Mak Leung Ah-luk

Mrs Tam Chan

Ms N/k Shun-chun

Ms Mak Sau-tim

Ms Tam Lo-fun

Ms Chung Choi-nog

Mrs Mak Ho

Ms Tam Sze

Ms Chung Kam-kwo

Mrs Mak Kwok

Ms Tam Sze-ku

Ms Chung Lin-heung

Mrs Mak Tse

Ms Pun Ho

Ms Chung Kuk

Ms Mak Cham-fuk

Ms Wong Chun-ho

Ms Chung Hin-yeung

Ms Mak Ah-king

Ms Wong Kung-chun

Ms Tang Shun

Mrs Mak Ho

Ms Wong Mui-kwai

Mrs Tang Kwok

Mrs Mak Tse Kwan-hing

Ms Wong Chun-shum

Mrs Tang Li

Mrs Mak Ho Kam-fa

Ms Wong Wa-sun

Ms Tang Shun-hing

Ms Ng Kam-chun

Mrs Wong Chau

Ms Tang Chat

Ms Ng Kam-ho

Ms Wong Tung-kam

Mrs Tang Chan

Mrs Ng Wai Sui-king

Mrs Wong Auyeung

Ms Tang Shun-ching

Ms Ng Wun-sze

Ms Wong Tai-choi

Ms Kwok Fat-kwun

Ms Ng Chu

Ms Wong Cho

Ms Kwok Mui

Ms Ng Kam-ho

Ms Wong Mei

Ms Kwok Chan

Ng Sze-kan

Ms Wong Kam-ho

Ms Kwok Kam-so

Ng Kam-pui

Mrs Wong Chan Sui-ying

Ms Kwok Yuk-lin

Mrs Szeto Wu

Mrs Wong Fan

Mrs Kwok Chan Ng-mui

Ms Lo Choi-chun

Mrs Wong Lau Lai-king

Mrs Kwok Lui

Ms Lo Kam-kiu

Ms Wong Chau

Mrs Chau Ho King-hei

Ms Lo Yin-kiu

Ms Wong Ah-cho

Ms Chau Ah-nui

Ms Lo Ah-yan

Ms Wo

Mrs Chau Li

Ms Lo Sai-chi

Ms Sun Po

Ms Chau Wo-kan

Mrs Lo Luk

Ms Shek Kan-ching

Mrs Chau Ho

Mrs Cheung Wong Pik-wai

Mrs Yuen Lau

Ms Chau Ah-nui

Ms Cheung Shuk-ying

Mrs Yuen Mak

Ms Chau Kwai-king

Ms Cheung Tai-yi

Mrs Yuen Mak Cham-chi

Ms Chau Yin-yu

Mrs Cheung Wong

Ms Yuen Ah-king

Ms Chau Lai-sang

Ms Kwan Kam-chi

Mrs Yuen Ting Ah-to

Ms Chau Li Mui

Ms Kwan Chit-chi

Ms Yuen Lai-king

Ms Chau Kan-nui

Ms Yip Man-suen

Mrs Shum Leung

Mrs Tsang Lau

Ms Yip Chau-yuk

Ms Fong Cheung

Mrs To Chau

Ms Yip Kwan-ying

Ms Ngai Kau-mui

Ms To Lai-kam

Mrs Yau Wong Yau-kwai

Ms Luk Choi-fung

Ms To Wai-ling

Mrs Cheng Lau

Mrs Kong Wong

Mrs To Chan Luk-mui

Mrs Cheng Cheung Lai-ping

Mrs Fok Leung

Ms To Sai-so

Ms Wu Ng-mui

Mrs Fok Leung Yung-hi

Mrs To Chan

Mrs Wu Yuen

Mrs Fok Leung

Mrs Au Wong Yuet-oi

Mrs Ng Lo

Mrs Lo Yuen Kam-hoi

Mrs Au Chan Hing-kwai

Ms Ng So-nui

Mrs Lo Fok Sau-chun

Ms Shing Pui-chun

Mrs Lai Lo

Ms Ma Sze-mui

Mrs Mak Ho Po-yuk

Ms Lai Suet-ping

Mrs So Luk Yin                 

Mrs Yu Yip

Ms Yiu Morita *


Mrs Yu Chau

Ms Kana Kiyama *


Mrs Man Tsoi Yin-fong

Ms Carlotta Ribeiro *


Mrs Sung Ng Mai

Ms Maria Ribeiro *


Ms Yim

Mrs Razack *


Mrs Hong Chung Sau-kuk

Mrs Ak Rabman *


Mrs Hong Chung

Mrs Y. Morita *


Mrs Ho Chan Siu-kuen

Mrs K. Kinoshita *


Ms Siu Wan-kam

Mrs J.L.M. de Rozario *


Mrs Fung

Miss Doria M. Xavier *


Mrs Lau Fuk-ki



Mrs Wong Kin-wo



Ms Chan Sap



Ms Leung Mui



Ms Leung Yee-kat



Ms Ah Tai



Ms Leung Im-ho



Ms Kwok Hun-kai



Ms Ho Tai



Ms Ma Kan-shi



Ms Lau Pun-shi



Ms Ip Mo-lan



Ms So Chau-ho




List of Successful Matshed Permit Purchasers 1918 Race Meeting: 

Site 1-3              The Jockey Club
Site 4-6              Unity
Site 7                 Xavier
Site 8                 Remedios 
Site 9                 Ritchie
Site 10               Chan Shui Tong
Site 11               Cheong Lee
Site 12               Lok Kee
Site 13               Kwong Kee
Site 14               Yow Kee
Site 15               Aoi
Site 16               Ahman
Site 17-19          A Hon

With regard to the two Government Departments whose actions have so largely come within the scope of this enquiry we wish to place on record the conclusions we have come to respecting same.

Public Works Department

    We regret that the Director of Public Works has not in previous years laid down definite standards of construction for these race stand matsheds.  Admitting that the lack of reliable data as to the strength of the material customarily used in matshed construction makes the efficient checking of plans difficult, this is hardly a valid reason for dispensing with all criticism of contractors drawings; neither is the fact that no such check on the methods of construction has been exercised in former years sufficient to exonerate the Director of Public Works from the charge of failing to carry out his duties as laid down by the Hong Kong Ordinances.  We are of the opinion that the public matsheds during construction and on completion should have been inspected by a qualified engineer.  Not having the history of the development of the Water System of the Colony before us, we suspend judgement on the question whether the administration of the Water Authority has been negligent in not making provision for a better supply of water in the neighbourhood of the Happy Valley.  It must be borne in mind however that his attention was drawn some years ago by the Police Department to the fact that the supply was insufficient for fire purposes.  We are of the opinion that the present water supply is inadequate.
Police Department

    We consider that the Captain Superintendent of Police erred in not taking on his own initiative obvious necessary precautions for the safety of the public, and the fact that he was not officially notified by the Public Works Department with regard to these sheds does not exculpate him. While it is an open question whether the great loss of life could have been prevented, or even curtailed, had an ample water supply, the necessary fire appliances, and the assistance of experienced firemen been immediately available, still that does not excuse the failure of the Captain Superintendent of Police to foresee and provide against such a contingency as an outbreak of fire in the matshed race stands.

    We would add in conclusion that there appears to have been a regrettable lack of consultation and co-operation between the Police and Public Works Department with regard to arrangements which immediately concern both Departments.

That in view of the danger from fire the practice of permitting the use of temporary race stands constructed of such inflammable materials as matting and bamboo be discontinued.

    The accommodation required, in addition to that provided within the Hongkong Jockey Club enclosure, should take the form of suitable permanent buildings in which all inflammable material is eliminated as far as possible.

    If owing to local conditions it is not found possible to act on the recommendations contained in the two preceding paragraphs and a continuance of the employment of matsheds as race stands is found to be absolutely necessary, then special precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of the public using the sheds.

    The framing of the necessary regulations to render a repetition of the recent awful disaster impossible must rest with the Government, but we would like to draw special attention to the following obvious safeguards:

    Necessity of leaving sufficient intervals between each shed to prevent, or at any rate retard, the spread of fire.

    Confining the structures to one floor only and limiting the height from the ground at which that floor may be built.

    Prevention of overcrowding.

    Provision of sufficient exits.

    Total prohibition of the use of oil lamps, naked lights and fires for cooking.

    Attendance at the racecourse of firemen on duty with fire appliances ready for instant use.

    Provision of a sufficient water supply to cope successfully and immediately with any outbreak of fire. 

    Further the duties of the several Government Departments concerned should be clearly defined especially with regard to:

    The planning of the sheds.

    The passing of the structures as conforming with all Government requirements.

    Inspection of same while in use.

    Steps to be taken to ensure the provision of an adequate water supply.

    Enforcement of all regulations laid down for the guidance and control, in particular of the public using or the lessees of matshed race stands and in general of any contemplated assembly of people in a public place.

    That the Government should initiate enquiry with the object of demonstrating and recording the physical properties of the materials used in matshed construction.

    (sd)    A.H. Barlow,
    (sd)    W.C. Jack,
    (sd)    J.H. Wallace,
    (sd)    J.R. Wood,
            Police Magistrate.
    Hongkong, 12/4/1918.
    Enquiry closed.
        (sd)    J.R. Wood,
            Police Magistrate,