The Peninsula Hotel [1927- ]

Submitted by philk on Tue, 11/11/2008 - 19:02
Current condition
In use
Date completed

It opened as a hotel in 1928, but the building was completed earlier than that. From the hotel group's website:

1927 - The Peninsula taken over by military authorities, accommodating The Second Battalion, The Coldstream Guards and a battalion of The Devonshire Regiment; soldiers vacated the hotel a year later.

1928 - The Peninsula officially opened to the public by Sir Wilfred Thomas Southorn CMG, Governor of Hong Kong.

Photos that show this Place


I'm surprised how long it took before the camouflage paint added by the Japanese was removed / covered over. It's still visible on photos dated 1948 and 49.

At first I thought maybe it was because the hotel was still used by the British military for several years after the war. But the hotel group website has an entry for 1946 saying "The Hong Kong establishments returned to the company's control after being requisitioned."

So are the dates on the photos wrong, or did the camouflage paint really last that long? Was it just too expensive to cover over at a time when money was in short supply?

Pre-war I remember 'the Pen' as the height of luxury, its ambience so impressive.   I had tea there with a friend just before our war.

In the 1950's my husband small children and I spent two days there before sailing on Home leave. 

Years ago I read somewhere that Noel Coward wrote one of his plays while staying in the Pen, 'Private Lives' I think.    But I don't know if that is true!

My grandfather was posted to Hong Kong for a few months immediately following the war and had a number of interesting adventures there ( He mentioned having a farewell party in the Officers' Club at The Peninsula the night before being demobbed:

We had reserved the large dining-room in the Officers' Club on the tenth floor, seventy invited guests sat down to dinner and, at 10pm or so, I made a body-count of those who 'just came for the beer' and gave up at one hundred and eighty. 

It looks like the hotel only had 6 floors, so he must have been mistaken about that detail, but presumably the club was on the top floor of the hotel. I'll be in Hong Kong for my birthday this year and would love to go for a drink in the same place, but apparently all the restaurants today are on the ground floor or first floor. Does anybody know where the Officers' Club would have been? Was there a room on the upper floor in 1946 that has since been converted to suites? I called the hotel to ask, but the person on the phone didn't know about the history, and I couldn't find anything on the website to suggest that they have any historians on their marketing team.

Submitted by on
Wed, 06/13/2018 - 07:15

Peter Hibbard wrote the book 'Beyond Hospitality', a history of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd. (parent company of Peninsula Hotels). He was recently interviewed by two Chinese newspapers, and seems to have some official role with the hotel group as the 'ambassador of history and archives'. He may be able to shine some light on the history of the hotel.

David asked back in 2010 about the duration of the camouflage on the Peninsula hotel's exterior post WWII.

Here is an eye witness account of it being still there in 1948 by Brian D. Wilson who arrived in HK on 23rd December 1948:

By the time I arrived in Hong Kong, three years after the liberation in 1945 (there was actually two weeks' gap between the Japanese surrender and the arrival of the first British forces in the Colony), there were few obvious signs of wartime damage, such as was commonplace at that time in London. But one prominent feature of war was the exterior of the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon. It was still covered in olive, brown and green camouflage paint.

And of course this photo dated 14th June 1949 still clearly show the camouflage on the Peninsula’s exterior

Did we ever find out when the camouflage eventually got painted over? 

In 1952 the Peninsula Hotel was still covered in camouflage 

In this collection of photos of Hong Kong from a US sailor from the carrier USS Princeton in 1953, the small but crucial clue was that the Peninsula Hotel's paint job covering up the camouflage was complete. In fact the nearby Holt's wharf in the same photo showed the ER crest which marked the coronation. The short-sleeved denizens of HK and the beach photos suggested a warm summery visit.  

1953 Holt's Wharf
1953 Holt's Wharf, by moddsey

The USS Princeton was deployed to the Western Pacific and Korea from 24th January 1953-21st September 1953

According to the Action Report for the USS Princeton covering the period from 13th April 1953 to 19th May 1953, the USS Princeton arrived in Hong Kong 13:00 19th May 1953, suggesting the HK photos in the collection were taken in the week from 19th May 1953-26th May 1953. For the period of 9th June to 3rd August 1953 and 14th August to 3rd September 1953, there were no recorded visits to HK, before the carrier sailed back to San Diego, USA.

So the camouflage on the Peninsula Hotel likely got painted over in early 1953, certainly before 19th May 1953. 

Work in progress.