Kowloon drydock large enough for 324-foot ship in 1941 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Kowloon drydock large enough for 324-foot ship in 1941

I am trying to determine the drydock that held the American freighter Admiral Y.S. Williams just before the Japanese invasion in December 1941.  I know the ship was 324 feet long and that it was drydocked in Kowloon.  I assume this means the HK & Whampoa dockyard, but maybe the Cosmopolitan dockyard had a drydock large enough to take the Admiral Williams?  Does anyone know which drydocks in Kowloon could hold a ship of this size? 


There are several possibilties . I suggest you read these Forum Topics 

1) Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Company ( “Kowloon Docks”)

Within this Forum topic there is a chart which indicates that at least two of the three dry docks in these premises might have taken this vessel. Even their shortest No.1 dock was about 300 ft. ( estimated) 

2) The Cosmopolitan Dockyard had two dry docks which could be combined to form a single long dock over 400 ft in length

3) Taikoo Dockyard also had the Graving dock 783 ft in length. But you can exclude this if you are sure the one you are lookig for  was on the Kowloon side

So you have quite a choice.   You could perhaps check out the Hong Kong newspapers if you know the dates. They used to provide a lot of shipping information.

You can access these on the HK Public Librararies website



Thanks, Chinarail.  You answered one of my questions, which was whether the Cosmopolitan Dockyard could handle a ship of 324 feet.  I don't have a precise date when the Admiral Y.S. Williams arrived in Hong Kong, but it could not have been any earlier than mid-October 1941.  I do know the ship was drydocked in Kowloon, and the crew was concerned because they were close to some large oil tanks when the Japanese artillery fire started dropping.  That sounds a bit like Lai Chi Kok.  I'll see what I can find out by poking around the newspapers, as you suggested.  Thanks again!

Interesting finds-

U.S. freighter Admiral Y.S. Williams, under repairs at Hong Kong Island, China, for damage incurred in a grounding that had occurred on September 24th, is intentionally damaged to prevent use by the Japanese.

Many of the ships were broken up or otherwise lost between 1929 and 1945 but a few survived the war. An example of surprising survival is Sunewco, one of the ships completed in 1920 for Transmarine as was Surico. Renamed Admiral Y. S. Williams in 1934 the ship was scuttled in Hong Kong in December 1941. The hull was salvaged by the Japanese and operated as Tatsutama Maru which survived the war but was found to be unfit for service in 1945. In 1952 the ship was put back in service as Yamahagi Maru until disappearing from registry in 1956.[10


APO 500
11 November 1946

AG 560 (11 Nov 46) CPC/FP




Central Liaison Office, Tokyo.


Repair and Refitting SS "Tatsutama Maru" ex "Admiral Y.S. Williams," SCAJAP No.T 125.

1. Reference is made to Memorandum for the Imperial Japanese Government, file AG 560(5 Oct 46)CPC/FP, SCAPIN 1254, 5 October 1946, subject "Salvage, Repair and Refitting of Captured Vessels", from General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.
2. The Imperial Japanese Government is directed to take immediate steps to repair and refit the SS "Tatsutama Maru", ex SS "Admiral Y. S. Williams" in order that the ship may be returned in a condition substantially similar to that at the time she came into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Government.
3. The SS "Admiral Y. S. Williams" will be repaired at the Kobe Mitsubishi Shipyard, Kobe.
4. Photographs, size 8" x 10" will be submitted in duplicate showing three views of the ship as follows:
a. From either bow showing bridge looking aft.
b. Profile view.
c. From either quarter looking forward.
5. A further memorandum directing delivery in restitution will be issued by General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, as soon as the necessary repairs, refitting and trials are satisfactorily completed.



Colonel, AGD,
Adjutant General.

Thanks, Fivestar!  Your information tracks with mine. The SCAPIN orders make for interesting reading, as there were several pertaining to the postwar attempts to repair the Admiral Y.S. Williams.  I don't know much about the ship's postwar service as the Yamahagi Maru, so it would be interesting to learn more.  For example, who were the owners?  And how did they come into possession of the ship?  When and where was the ship scrapped (sources do not agree on the date).

The Admiral Y.S.Williams was "given" to Yamashita Kisen K.K. to replace the Yamahagi Maru which was sunk on 12th October 1944.

I am still trying to determine when the vessel was disposed off in the mid/late 1950s. Unfortunately most of my contacts in the major Japanese Shipping Lines have now passed away.

Thanks, Fivestar.  That's useful information and I appreciate you sharing it.  I have been able to pinpoint when the Admiral Y.S. Williams arrived at Hong Kong.  According to one crewmember's account, the ship entered Victoria Harbor on November 27, 1941 and went into drydock at Kowloon.  I still haven't been able to confirm whether the ship entered the drydock at the Cosmopolitan dockyard or the HK & Whampoa dockyard, though!  However, during the withdrawal from the mainland the British forces used demolition charges to wreck the drydock gates in the drydock that held the ship, so that might be a useful clue.

Anyone know which drydocks were dynamited by retreating British forces?

I have come across a reference to the Yamahagi Maru being in Singapore on 7th May 1958 and another that a vessel of the same name was a "blockade runner" to North Vietnam in 1963 although operated by Sanwa KK.

Thanks, Fivestar.  At least one source gives a 1965 scrapping date for the Yamahagi Maru, so that would be consistent with the blockade running to North Vietnam in 1963.  See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/submarine.htm.

Based on one crew member's account, I have pinpointed the arrival date of the Admiral YS Williams at Hong Kong as November 27, 1941.  I still don't know which drydock in Kowloon took the ship, though!

Thanks, strange that all references I can find point to a grounding on 24th September 1941. Question is where did the grounding take place and why did it take 2 months to arrive in Hong Kong, unless 24th September date is wrong?

You have the correct date for the grounding (Sept. 24, 1941), which occurred in the Philippines.  According to crew accounts, the ship was towed to Manila Bay after the grounding, and spent quite a bit of time there before being towed to Hong Kong (arriving November 27).  I suspect that the delay stemmed from the time needed to line up an oceangoing tug to pull the ship to Hong Kong and/or the wait for an open drydock in Hong Kong.  That's just an educated guess, as is my hunch that the tug SS Ranger pulled the ship to Hong Kong. 

Based on the following the grounding could have been in the cebu region?

" the Emilia along with fellow coasters Agustina and Cegostina, were dispatched to Cebu City where a load of baled rubber and tin was being warehouse. The stock had previously belonged to the cargo ship Admiral Y.S. Williams which had grounded herself immediately before the war began."