Former RAF Officers' Mess, Kai Tak [1934- ]

Submitted by David on Thu, 12/02/2010 - 10:57
Current condition
In use
Date completed
(Day & Month are approximate.)

Photos that show this Place


Ex-Royal Air Force Station (Kai Tak), Nos. 50 & 51 Kwun Tong Road, Kowloon Bay, Kowloon

Historical Interest

The history of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Hong Kong dates back to 1924 when the first group of RAF personnel arrived in Hong Kong as members of the Fleet Air Arm. In 1927 the RAF Base was formed at Kai Tak. Their first duty was to undertake the first full-scale aerial photographic survey of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the outlying islands. The first buildings were constructed of timber with matshed hangars. Others lived down in Ma Tau Kok (馬頭角) about a mile to the west in a building which was destroyed in a fire in 1930.

The three buildings of the Ex-Royal Air Force Station that now remain were built in 1934. No.50 was the former RAF Headquarters. It became the Kai Tak Vietnamese Refugee Camp (啟德越南難民營) between 1979 and 1981 and continued to be used for detaining Vietnamese refugees under different names until 1997. It then became the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre (明 愛向晴軒) since March 2002.

No.51 was the Officers’ Quarters Compound (which include RAF Officers Mess and an Annex Block). It was handed over to the Government in
1978 and converted into a Detective Training School of the Hong Kong Police Force, and remained in use until 2001. Nowadays, it is the site of the Academy of Visual Arts (視覺藝術院) of Hong Kong Baptist University.

Architectural Merit

The former RAF Headquarters block is a two-storey Colonial Neo-Classical style building with elegant colonnaded verandahs all round it.
The columns are square with simple bases and capitals. The balustrade panels are cross-braced ornamental ironwork panels in Regency style. The roof is flat with a simple projecting cornice at parapet level. The building is a long rectangular block strictly symmetrical in design. Internally, there are no architectural features of note. Doors and windows have been modernised.

The former RAF Officers Mess is situated on a plateau or platform cut into the hillside. The architectural style is also Colonial Neo-Classical. It is a two-storey building with colonnaded verandahs like the Headquarters Block. The main part of the building is symmetrical with end projecting bays and a central entrance porch approached by a wide flight of granite steps. Both the porch and steps show Art Deco influence in their design. There is a projecting kitchen wing at the rear of the building and an additional wing and ablutions block at the southeast end of the building. Internally, architectural features include period fireplaces, covings to ceilings, and stylised capitals to columns. Most of the original wooden doors and windows which are fitted with jalousies or louvred shutters still remain. The original main wood panelled entrance doors still remain and the RAF eagle emblem is still in position over the doors.

The Annex Block is situated at the northwest end of the former Officers Mess on a small lower platform. There is a small bridge connecting it to the road. The architectural style again is Colonial Neo-Classical. A stone tablet engraved “1934” can be found built into the wall at the northwest corner of the building. Most of the original doors and windows still survive. Like the Headquarters Block and the Officers Mess, the roof is flat.

Rarity, Built Heritage Value & Authenticity
The three main buildings are rare examples of 1930s Neo-Classical style buildings with historical as well as built heritage value. Modernisation has affected their authenticity to some extent, but they still retain their original architectural appearance.

Social Value & Local Interest

The social value of the buildings lies in the uses to which they have been put which have all benefited the community in some way. They have never however been in the public eye so that they are not well known.

Group Value

The compound also has several other structures including a former barrack office, a squash court, air raid shelter, dust bin store, Nissen Hut, mini-range, latrine block and incinerator. There is also a basketball court, flight of granite steps, and ornamental railings to the road. A disused tunnel portal can also be seen built into the slope below the former barrack office. It is believed that this was the entrance to an underground tele-communications centre. Together with the surrounding military structures, the three buildings create an interrelated environment of the Ex-Royal Air Force Station. The site is physically close to graded buildings such as Sam Shan Kwok Wong Temple (三山國王廟, Grade II) and the Ma Wan Tsuen Tin Hau Temple (馬環村天后廟, Grade II).

Adaptive Re-use

The buildings have been re-used for different purposes.


The Ex-Royal Air Force Station buildings were accorded Grade I status in 1998 by the Antiquities Advisory Board.

Hi David,

Thank you for supplying information on the captioned building. I was told that the front lawn of the Officers' Mess was by then annually used to display an air fighter named Spitfire VN485.  Was that ture? Also, there were sayings that the place was once used to accommodate landing and taking off of helicopters. If it was right, can anybody tell me the exact location? I have visited the place in a few months ago and wish to upload some photos to share with all enthusiasts interested in this topic but do not know how to do it!


David Chung


There have been several mentions of Spitfires on this site [see this list of search results], including VN485, but I don't remember any mention of one on the lawn of the mess.

Thanks for sharing your photos. Check these FAQs for help, especially How to: add photos from your computer to and How to add a Place to a photo

Regards, David

  Think maybe a bit of confusion here regarding Officer's Mess and Officer's Quarters. I had mentioned in one of my previous comments that when our School (KGV) had used the RAF Pool for their annual swimming sports, a bunch of us wandered down the track a bit and found this Spitfire parked on the lawn of the Officer' Mess. This Officer's Mess was a single storey building for recreational purposes only, not accomadation.


We have 2 heritage buildings namely (i) The Fomer RAF Headquarters with address at 50 Kwun Tong Road, Kowloon; and (ii) The Former RAF Officers' Mess at 51 Kwun Tong Road, Kowloon.

The most apparant difference of these two buildings in respect of their location is that The Former RAF Headquarters/Quarters is situated at gound level of Kwun Tong Road whilst The Former RAF Officers' Mess is situated over a small hill on the back of 4 residential buildings named Kai Tak Mansion facing Kwun Tong Road.

In another words, these two buildings are opposite one another along Kwun Tong Road with The Former RAF Headquarters/Quarters nearer to the former Kai Tak Airport.

Can richops remember where the swimming pool was by then, at the hill top or on ground level of Kwun Tong Road?


David Chung

In the 1950s, the RAF Kai Tak Swimming Pool was located to the north west of the main entrance of RAF Kai Tak proper on Kwun Tong Road.

Photos of the swimming pool can be viewed here:


From the photos that I have seen, the Spitfire that is mentioned was never located on the small hill across the road i.e. the RAF Officers Mess.

The Mess that is mentioned is the RHKAAF Officers Mess as the Spitfire (VN485) belonged  to the RHKAAF. The location is today's Richland Gardens in Kowloon Bay. More like this location:

Yes our swimming sports were held within the Airbase and the mess with the Spitfire on the lawn wasn't too far from the pool. The photos that you have shown of the RAF pool do not correspond to the photos that I have, unless extensive rennovations took place between when the photos were taken. I  shall try and upload them.

Have seen the 2 black-and-white Swimming Pool photos.

Very impressive!

I lived at Kai Tak Mansion in front of the captioned building since 1962. I was at that time only 10 years of age. I used to go up to the roof of Kai Tak Mansion and looked from the back to see the Officers' Mess. To my right hand side facing Kwun Tong Road, there was a villa like house allegedly accommodating the Commander-in- chief of the RAF with a small swimming pool built in front of the house. The site has now converted to a small park.

In whole, the Former RAF Officers' Mess was a very mysterious place to me as I could not go to visit it nor communicate with those foreign tenants because of my incompetence in speaking English by that time.

Now, I know the place is kept as a heritage by the govenment and knowing that there were some sturctures like Air Raid Shelters and Barrack Office or even a hidden tunnel that make me more and more eager to uncover the history of this building.

Unfortunately, the HK government seems not putting much efforts to make known this building to the public and just allows it to be used by a university with a view to preserve its existence only without permitting public to tour around the site of the building.

It would be most grateful if anybody could post more pictures of the place for my viewing and tell me some history/storeis of the place like alternatively, did the place also used for military purpose or the like?

I really wish to encourage the HK government to convert the place to a museum so that we could see some architectural designs of the then British ruled government.

Hello I am Kanas, a Master of Visual Art student in HKBU, I am working on a site specific artwork about This Former RAF officers' mess. My work is trying to introduce and let more people know the history of this meaningful place. Could anyone here know any detail set up about the place inside this mess? Like function of each room or your life in the mess? Everything that you could share about this place I would love the know. I could sent you my documentation and let you know more about my work if you are interested. Here's my contact: Thank you so much!

Hi Kanas,

Thanks for getting in touch. I'm sorry that I don't have any more information to share about this building, but if you can share anything else about the site you are very welcome to post it here. Or if you are already planning to post it to the internet, please could you let us know the link to your web page?

Regards, David 

Ok I am new hear and I must very impressed with this site. My mother was stationed in Hong Kong from October 1952 to October 1953 she was theater Nurse with rank of Leutenant in the British Army 33 Hospital. I have an album of Hong Kong photos from her time. Unfortunately she passed when I was really young in 1975. So her stories I don't have. I have posting record only. I have a photo of her at a "Battle of Britain" Cocktail Party in either 1952/53 at the Kai Tak she is with a bunch of RAF officers and her nursing colleagues. I haven't scanned the shot properly and need to get it done I've just take a photo of it using IPhone. Now how do I post here? Sorry first time user...

Hello. These Photos are from my mothers Album, she was posted to Hong Kong 33 Hospital from October 1952 to October 1953.  I believe it's taken at the Officers Mess Kai Tak lots of RAF Officers about but needs to be confirmed. It looks to be on a lawn outside taken in the evening. My mother is the lady in the striped dress. I hope it is of some relevance. I do have other photos from the top of the old La Salle college and also coronation celebrations.

Thanks very much for posting your mother's photos. I've collected them into an album at:

It's a long shot but if you can let us know her name when she was here, you may hear from someone who knew her. By coincidence we currently have a visitor in Hong Kong who was stationed at the same hospital, but he was there from 1955-8, so his time there didn't overlap with your mother's.

Regards, David

Thanks David,

My mothers name was Catherine Eithwen L Jones  (she used the Name Eithwen as her CHRISTIAN name) she was a nurse in the QARANC served from 1949-1961.

Posted to FAREAST






That's all I have at this stage. I'm using my mobile which is a little hard.


Hi Hamish,

I understand that your mother served in BMH Singapore before. I am from Alexandra Hospital, the team of new permanent stewards at the old BMH Singapore. We'd like to learn more regarding her experiences here, and if there are any photos she took during her time here.

We're really keen to commemorate and preserve the heritage of this place.

Hope to hear from you soon!