1945 Map of Hong Kong & Kowloon

Submitted by David on Sat, 09/09/2017 - 17:00

The newest map on Gwulo shows Hong Kong and Kowloon in 1945. (Click to view the map as an overlay).

I noticed three curiosities on the map:

#1 Which year exactly?

Ideally, a map shows a snapshot of how an area looked on a certain date. But with this map, the date changes according to where you look:

  • 1929: Morrison Hill has the text "in course of demolition 1929" (show me). The remains of the hill were still being quarried away in 1945, but it's a sign that some parts of the map were much older than 1945.
  • 1945: On the other hand, the oil tanks at the junction of Canton Road and Jordan Road are labeled "Destroyed Oil Tanks" (show me). That's right up to date, as the oil tanks were destroyed during the Second World War.
  • But not all 1945: Not all the wartime damage is shown. eg the key has an entry, "VIII. Queen's College, Aberdeen Street", and the corresponding label on the map (show me). But in 1945 the building was just a ruin, as it was also one of the buildings destroyed during the war.

The text at the bottom-left corner of the map explains the differences. It notes the map is the "3rd. Edition 1945" (show me), but that it was originally published by the War Office in 1930, and revised by the Survey Office of the Public Works Department in 1931.

So the bulk of the map reflects Hong Kong around 1930, but with ongoing updates to reflect how Hong Kong looked when the British administration returned in 1945.


#2 Map contours

Hong Kong's buildings are so tall and so densely packed it is difficult to get a feel for the shape of the land beneath them. This map can help, as it shows the land's contours, even in the built-up areas.

For example, there's a series of U-shaped contours across the hillside between High Street and First Street (show me), telling us this was originally a shallow valley running downhill between two ridges. If you go back a further 100 years to the 1845 map you can follow the streams all the way down to the shore (show me). By 1945, the streams in that High Street / First Street area have disappeared (show me), running in pipes underground. There's still a sign of them further uphill though. Three blue lines are shown running downhill to Park Road, which must be where they go into the pipes.


#3 Map Key

The map has a key, listing all the numbered buildings shown on the map (show me). I wonder if this was also shown on the earlier copies of the map, or if it was a 1945 addition? I'm guessing it was a 1945 addition, to help the large influx of armed forces and civil servants who had recently arrived in Hong Kong.

Most of the pre-war British administration had spent the previous 3 years and 8 months either as Prisoners or War, or interned in Stanley Camp. Those who survived til the liberation in August 1945 were in poor health, and were sent overseas to recuperate. As their replacements were new to Hong Kong, the key would have been a good addition to help them find their way around.

Here is the full key, with each building linked to its page on Gwulo. Click a building's link to see any photos / additional information we have for it.





Getting the most out of the map

There's lots you can do with this map: eg zoom in to see more detail, hide the markers, make it transparent to see the modern map underneath it, and more. To learn how, please watch the short video tutorial.


Source of this map

The original copy of this map is held at the National Library of Australia (NLA). They provide details of the map (their ID: 3033521), an online viewer, the ability to download medium-resolution JPG or high-resolution TIFF copies, and confirmation that the map is out of copyright. It would be great to see Hong Kong government's map collections offer the same facilities.

Thanks to Howard Wilson for reminding me of the NLA's collection, and pointing me towards this map.


New on Gwulo this week...

If you can leave a comment with any more information about these, it will be gratefully received.

Some of the new photos added this week:

1910s General Post Office Building (2nd Generation)
1910s General Post Office Building (2nd Generation), by Moddsey


1953 Liberty theater, by Eternal1966


1970 Lai Yuen amusement park, by Eternal1966


1935 wedding at Union Chapel, by Robert


Click to see all recently added photos.