RAF Mount Davis [????-1959] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

RAF Mount Davis [????-1959]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists
Date Place demolished: 
1959-01-01

I didn't know the Mount Davis site was used by the military after WW2, so it was interesting to hear from Norman Lawson that he'd been at RAF Mount Davis in 1956-7. He writes:

After about a year [at Cape D'Aguilar], we were posted to Mount Davis, where I served out the remainder of my National Service.

Both Cap D'ag and Mt. Davis were Radar stations. CD for fighter control (I was in Fighter Command/FEAF) whilst [Mt. Davis] was surveillance. We tracked the Migs from Peking (as was) towards HK before they turned around.

We must have done this hundreds of times! A fairly pointless exercise, as it was generally acknowledged that our aging Vampires and Meteors would hardly be off the Kai Tak runway if they came all the way!

It looks as though the site may have closed shortly after Norman left. If you scroll to the bottom of this page, there's a description (and photos of "Project Cabbage Leaf" in 1957-58. It was to build "a new radar station at Tai Mo Shan in the New Territories of Hong Kong to replace the aging Mount Davis radar on Hong Kong Island."

Ther's another brief description of the site by Allan Pitcairns:

RAF Mount Davis was a Radar installation in the 1950s. It was built on the site of a pre WW2 gun emplacement which was destroyed by the Japanese at the beginning of the war. I served there as a Radar Operator from 1955 till early 1957. The station tracked all inbound and outbound civilian and military aircraft and provided ground control for fighter squadrons based at Kai Tak. The station's aging Type 14 Radar was replaced in 1956 by new GEC equipment which had greater range and capability. It was part of 117 Signals Unit which was based at Kai Tak.

Allan's note that new equipment was installed in 1956 doesn't match with the Cabbage Leaf description of the 'aging Mount Davis radar'. Maybe they are talking about two different pieces of equipment?

Does anyone know whan RAF Mount Davis closed?

Photos that show this place

Comments

Many thanks for your webpage and photographs of Mt Davis I was there fom 1954 til the 6th January 1956 and I have regular contact and reunions with 3 other ex Mt Davis guys. Brandan Gammons, Brian Koering and Leo Miller. I was lucky enough to revisit Mt Davis in Sept 2009 and while much has changed there are still a few identifyable landmarks. We have lots of pics from our days which we would love to share. I also live near Arthur Prichard who would have been there during later 1956,

Again my thanks.

Les Walker

Les, thanks for getting in touch, and good to hear you enjoyed Norman's photos.

Yes please, we'd love to see any photos of HK & Mount Davis you have from that time. If you'd like to post them up directly, there are some guidelines here. Or if you have a large batch  that can all go up at one time, please drop me an email so we can work out the easiest way:

David email

regards, David

I was a sergeant in the RAF at Mt Davis where we built a radar set from a kit of parts supplied by the Americans.  The radar was built on an old gun emplacement that was accessed by to 45-degree ramps. The kit was dragged to the top of these ramps using a Scammell tank recovery vehicle to winch up three-ton lorries to the top.

One day a clever RAOC driver decided to drive down the ramp with an empty three tonner in front of the Scammell. This was fine until the Scammell dropped out of gear and they ended up going down relying on the Scammell's brakes. Fortunately the RAF driver in the three tonner did not touch his brakes otherwise it would have jack-knifed and they would have ended up at the bottom of a cliff.

Whilst I was there, the radar antenna was blown down by a typhoon and had to be replaced.

A party of airmen went out on a liberty run in a three-ton lorry to go swimming. I was 'duty officer' and received a phone call to say that the vehicle had been in an accident. It turned out that the bed of the lorry had slammed against a cliff side and all the bolts securing the lorry bed were sheered off, depositing the lorry bed and the troops on the road, no injuries thankfully. 

Terry, thanks for sharing your memories. Please can you let us know which years you were in Hong Kong, and when the radar set went up?

The 45-degree ramp and the gun emplacements are still there - no radar anymore though!

Regards, David

As teenagers my friends and I had many BB gun "wars" on weekends up at Mount Davis.  Plenty of people did this.  Local and expat kids alike.  The ramp is indeed still there as are the steps.  In fact, the last time I was there I can remember someone taking photos of their Land Rover's "amazing breaks" as it climbed the ramp to try to sell it.

I'm not sure if those bungalows are still there but if they are they're completely collapsed.  Additionally, the sandy pitch there is now covered with grass.

It looked like the big round area to the right as you reach the top of the ramp was an anti-aircraft silo at one point.

I was a young RAF Policeman at Mount Davis during Sgt Fowlers time, whom I remember. In fact I was on the crashed vehicle. We had to send 5 passengers  walking back to camp, the vehicle was overloaded by five. As a RAF Policeman I should not have been party to this. At the time we were all in a panic. Most of us had tickets to watch Blackpool v Hong Kong select. We missed the game which Blackpool won I believe 7 - 1 Stephen Chadwick

Stephen,

I am trying to find out the years when I was at Mount Davis, please let me know if you can remember

Ex Sgt, Terry Fowler

I was there for 2 years around 1956, we assembled the radar from a kit of parts supplied from the Americans at Clark Field in the Philipines. We had to get up to all sorts of dodges to erect the radar tower, calling on the navy who used poles and ropes because it wasn't feasible to get a crane up the ramp. RAF aerial erectors also helped with little regard for what are now regarded as 'Elf n Safty' rules but they got the job done without accidents. The radar reflector was blown down by a typhoon once. Because of procrastination by the Signals officer, a decision to lower the reflector was put off as lowering it unnecessarily meant at least 14 hours without radar coverage. the subsequent damage meant that we were off the air for far longer. 

I had no experience of putting a radar set together but we learned on the job. I remeber teams of airmen rolling drums of diesel fuel up the ramps for the 110 volt generator. The drums ascent was aided by a rope arond them pulled by another team at the top.

Terry, if the Blackpool vs HK football match was on while you were at Mount Davis, Wikipedia says that happened around mid-1958:

In May and June 1958, Blackpool embarked on an a tour of Australia before taking on an All Hong Kong XI and a combined Chinese XI. A Ray Charnley hat-trick saw the Tangerines beat Hong Kong, and the Chinese were beaten 10–1 in the second game. Both fixtures were played at the Government Stadium in front of 28,000 fans.

Regards, David

I was posted to Mount Davis Dec 1956 and left in June 1958. I am pretty sure you were there all my time. Most of my time apart from work, was spent playing either cricket , table tennis or football for the station and the RAF. To be honest so was the rest of my 22 year service.  The CO was Sqn Ldr Inkson. No doubt you will remember Sgt Graham the SWO and his attempts to drill the lads on the football field. Regards Stephen

Dear all,

I am a designer in HK (ADO) who's now handling a project to renovate an existing youth hostel by Youth Hostels Association at Mount Davis. Given the execellent location within such a rich cultural landscape, we designed the hostel with a theme to showcase the military history of HK, especially stories happened at Mount Davis. We hope that travellers around the world can appreciate this piece of nice mountain not only for its scenic view, but also the stories behind.

Having seen the both dialogues, I feel so excited that we could potentially gather some first hand information of the oral/photo history for Mount Davis. While I keep doing research from government's record (which is very little), I wonder if any gentlemen could share your stories / photos for us to enrich the project?

Thanks David so much for setting up this platform. It is so informative and attractive!

Regards, Wilson

R A F Mount Davis Football Team

I was stationed at 117 SU in the orderly room, from 1957 to 59 when we moved to TMS.  I was on that wagon, and remember the event very well. We had set off from Repulse Bay due to an unexpectedly persisitent rainy afternoon. we had clambered aboard in a hurry and I was sitting on the off side next to the tail gate still putting my shirt on over my head. The lorry skidded on the greasy surface and hit the rock wall with its off-side. The next I knew we were on our backs sliding along the tarmac in a tangle of arms and legs and jungle jiice from the urn everywhere.  The two lads sitting forward of me and I all had identical cuts on our heads from sliding on the road with the sole protection of the wagon's canvas tilt. I suppose we were lucky. Sometimes we travelled with the tilt off. Various cars stopped to off assistance and a kind lady took me and another lad in her green morris minor to the hospital where we were given attention Traunatic effusion of the knee (right) and head injuries were diagnosed. I seem to have a memory of being attended to at BMH.

Seeing all the pictures of the Mount Davis site makes me wonder nostalgically where went those I took. Who would have thought in those days that the sight of the ration wagon outside our transport hut, or of the amahs' washhouses would evoke so many pleasant memories.

It would have been 1958, it was that summer I saw Stanley Mathews relaxing on the beach at Repulse Bay, whether that was the same day that our wagon crashed on the way bay I couldn't say.

The C.O. 1956- 1958 was Squadron Leader John Cherry Inkson, Navigator, and a real gent, he would have been flattered and no one would have begrudged him that third wide braid on his shoulder, maybe he acquired it later.

117 SU started operating in the mist shrouded radomes of Tao Mo Shan in January 1959. Whether TMS and MSL ran in parallel for any time I don't know but the new CO was on the TMS site from that January.

Kskword,

Thanks very much for the extra information. I'll set the closing date to Jan 1959 - if anyone else knows different, please let us know! Also if anyone knows which date it was first set up, please let us know too.

For the record, I think the abbreviations mean:
 - TMS : Tai Mo Shan
 - MSL : Maw Sin Leng / Mo Sin Leng (The Chinese name for Mount Davis)

Regards, David

PS You might want to leave your full name / nickname too, if you're interested in hearing from any mates who were there at the same time.

Thanks to Guy Shirra for pointing this one out:

HONG KONG: A bomb disposal squad was sent to a Hong Kong hiking trail Friday after a walker found an unexploded World War II-era device near a youth hostel, police said.

Officers evacuated 22 people from the hostel and cordoned off the area after the expatriate hiker discovered the Japanese artillery shell on Mount Davis at the western edge of the Hong Kong island, a police spokeswoman said.

"Initial investigations lead us to believe that this is a World War II-era bomb... so we will arrange for people to detonate it," she said, describing the device as "dangerous".

Television news footage showed a large dark green metal object protruding from the muddy ground amidst dense tree coverage.

Last year hundreds of people were evacuated by police when a British artillery shell was found in Hong Kong, which was the scene of fierce fighting between Japanese and British allied forces in 1941. (AFP)

http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-84315-WWII-bomb-found-at-Hong-Kong-hiking-trail--

It was a Japanese 150mm High Explosive Shell

Japanese Artillery Shell

It's funny - when I heard this on the news last week, the first person that popped into my mind was Craig!! hehe

Hi Phil,

Ah, something like Mr M strikes again huh?  :-P  

I wonder if this shell was found anywhere near the path we trotted along last month.   The shell in the photo looked just like an iron cylinder to me.  I would not have recognize it if I walked by it.

So far I had only seen some training rifle bullet shells with traces of coloured powders along section five of the Lantau Trail.  But that was three decades ago......

Best Regards,

T

I was an RAF Police Dog Handler and served at Mount Davis during 1955/56.   The new aerial was already in position when I arrived so it must have been erected during late '54 or early '55.  I remember that it was a type FPS8, an American piece of equipment, which would appear to verify the earlier comment that it came from the US airbase at Clarkfield in the Phillipines.   The nissen hut I lived in was on the top site and was positioned just below the aerial.

None of the earlier post appear to mention the road up to MD.  It was (and still appears to be if you use the Google Road program) very narrow and winding.   Sometimes we would have a night out on the town and the taxi we were in would refuse to drive up it.  It was a bloody hot and long climb up and there was a dedicated telephone, in a box at the beginning of the road, where you had to ring the guardroom and tell them you were coming up.

My tour started at Kai Tak.  Then I moved on to the airfield at Sek Kong where my night patrols included the small Radar site at Ping Shan.  This was about ten miles down the road from the airfield- the road passing though Kam Tin and Un Long and then turning off into the paddi fields.

Happy memories!  I was quite shocked when I first used Google and saw how things are built up everywhere.

Hello John,

Thanks for writing. The road up the hill is still narrow and winding!

Some more photos you might enjoy:

If you can add any more photos or memories, they'll be very welcome.

Regards, David

I arrived at RAF Mount Davis in July 1955 as a newly trained radar operator doing National Service.  The unit was equipped with wartime vintage Type14 radar equipment.  During the summer of 1956 new General Electric FPS8 ariel and equipment was installed and was still in operation when I left in February 1957.  I recall that the new equipment was all hauled up the steep ramps and many of the airmen on site were seconded to help with the installation work.  The new radar ops room was a big improvement on  the old one with air conditioning and in true American style, with recesses on the consoles to accommodate a coke bottle and a pack of cigarettes. 

I was a member of the RAF Mount Davis athletics team which won the championship in the summer of 1956 (my only claim to athletic fame) A photo of that team appears on this site.  It was all so long ago but they were happy days

Could any of you RAF "Old Timers" help me establish a timeline for the AA at Mt Davis. I refer to the site at the east of Mt Davis, not the old one destroyed during the battle. I would like to know if it was still occupied in the mid 1950's, or even later. Thanks.

I also remember the narrow road. I was on traffic control in the Guardroom when The Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall arrived at the foot of the road and requested permission to drive up. Thinking how quickly I could warn the off duty police, I said yes, forgetting that a Standard Vanguard pick up was on the way down. This often occurred, with my luck they met on a corner putting both vehicles out of action. Our vehicle was 56AR77. I have photographs of the damaged vehicle. Also photographs of the damaged 1 tonner that we were in when it crashed on returning from the swimming run. I appeared in front of the CO and was "admonished" As a dog man you will no doubt remember Harry Brown and Ray Elsome. Regards Steve

I remember Sgt. Graham well, also his mate Sgt. Sam Swale. They had their meals in the Sergeants' mess where they shared the services of Kwong the cook with the officers' mess. The C.O.'s room, which he shared with adjutant, occupied one half of a nissen hut. The other half was split between the orderly room and the drawing board plotter bods.

Last year, 2014, an  elderly couple appeared at a BBC antiques roadshow with some jade artifacts. They had bought them during the time they were stationed in Hong Kong. The gent bore a striking resemblance to Sqn. Ldr. Inkson, my only reservation as to his likeness lies in the gent's height. But as we all can testify, as the years increase size diminishes.

Wilson Many of us former 'mountaineers' would appreciate the current state of our former home. Is there a link on gwulo to recent pictures, or could you add the after views to our befores.

Here's a view of Mount Davis from the slopes of High West, taken yesterday morning:

Sandy Bay and Mount Davis
Sandy Bay and Mount Davis, by Admin

Regards, David

I was at Mount Davis yesterday, so took a few photos to show how it looks today. 

This 1957 view was taken looking down from the big concrete ramp:

Mount Davis

What was the building set into the hillside used for in those days? Today it is all locked up. Here's a panorama taken from the ramp:

The flat area on the right, which had Nissen huts in some of the 1950s photos, is now a Youth Hostel.

Looking up the ramp in 1957:

Mount Davis

Today we can't get the same view because there are so many trees and bushes in the way. The radar is long gone, but the ramp is still there:

Ramp to top of Mount Davis

The open area at the top in 1957:

Mount Davis
Mount Davis

It's still an open area today, but has trees all around it:

Open area at top of Mount Davis

Looking at the old photos, did you use to lose the football over the edge very often?

I've also added photos of a ruin you'd have passed on the roadway up to the top:

http://gwulo.com/node/23986

Regards, David

PS If you can add any more photos of Hong Kong in the 1950s we'd love to see them. Here's how to upload a photo: http://gwulo.com/node/2076

The structure embedded in the hillside comprised about five rooms. From left to right storeroom, the motor transport office, and the laundry rooms, where the amahs were based. the Nissen hut to the left accommodated various trades at different times. The vehicle drivers and admin were permanent, the remainder were at different times, medical orderly, radar mechanics, and transients. The amahs came in the early morning and collected clothes and uniforms for the daily wash and later, when the men were at work, they would strip and change the bedding.. The fruits of their excellent labours are to be seen drying in the breezes above.

Thanks for the extra information. It's good to have all that washing explained at last!

Regards, David

During 1957/58 mount davis' s replacement cabbage leaf was being constructed on tai mo shan and became operational in january 1959 when the old equipment on mount davis was decomissioned.

Hi chadwick1 could you possibly upload your photo of the one tonner we crashed in returning from the repulse bay swimming trip.

1955 RAF Mount Davis football team

I  was stationed  at RAF Mt. Davis  1955--56 and played for the football team, shown above.

On the photo are the following. Back row, L-R:

  • Dick Pearce
  • Mike Keast
  • Cpl.  Beech
  • Sgt. Albone 
  • Horsefield
  • Mackinem

Front row, L-R:

  • Cpl. Breakwell
  • Ged  Wallwork  
  • Jock  Benvie  [Capt.]    
  • Jock   Walker and
  • Jock  Marshall

We won the Hong Kong Cup that year, a very good team.

We had a great time at Mt. Davis - Golf in the New Territories. Swimming in Repulse Bay and life saving at the swimming pool at Stanley Barracks (Army). TOC-H, Cheerio Club, The Seamens Mission and plenty of San Miguel in the NAAFI.

I could go on and on, I really enjoyed my 20 months on Mount Davis.

If any of the team see this, it would be good to hear from you again.

   4123062  SAC  Gerard Wallwork [Radar  Op. ]

A couple from Gerard Wallwork: http://gwulo.com/atom/23083 and http://gwulo.com/atom/23082

And Stephen Chadwick has uploaded several more: http://gwulo.com/image?field_gallery_tid=2042&items_per_page=All

If you can add any photos of Mount Davis or Hong Kong, here's how to: http://gwulo.com/node/2076

Regards, David

These three are the last of my memories of the place I fell in love with:

1954 Good conduct medal presentation
1954 Good conduct medal presentation, by Gerard Wallwork

 

1954 Battle of Britain Day
1954 Battle of Britain Day, by Gerard Wallwork

 

1954 The Governor's Residence
1954 The Governor's Residence, by Gerard Wallwork

 

The locals were so happy and friendly, the amahs and we had a local cook, we called him lofty (he was tall for a Cantonese). He sometimes caught snakes, kept them alive, sewed their mouths up, and sold them to the shopkeepers!

Thanks again for a great website. It has stirred my interest in Mt. Davis and HK all over again.

Sincerely, Gerard

Hi Gerard, 

Thanks for the photos you've shared with us, and I'm pleased to hear the website brings back happy memories.

Best regards, David

 

What a great thread...........the essence of 'Gwulo'!

 

I have been inspired to take a walk up Mount Davis this coming weekend.

 

Thanks to all contributors.

Dear Gerard, Thank you for sharing your images. I had a wonder up Mount Davis a month or so ago and took some film, which I juxtaposed with some of your images. You can see the short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ5d1Z2YIrk Hope you enjoy it. Sincerely, Shaun

I have uploaded the photographs of the one ton truck mentioned to Stephen Chadwick's gallery.   I saw mention of Sqn Ldr Inkson, I mistakenly promoted him to Wg Cdr. I did see him later at RAF North Coates. He was a Wg Cdr then. Regards Stephen