Celia Hicks | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Celia Hicks


In 1947, as a six year old with my mother Winifred A Collins and older sister Sheila, I arrived in Hong Kong on the troop shp Dunera to join my Dad who had been posted to HK by the Admiralty after the Japanese surrender.   We had had a six-week voyage and witnessed so many different cultures.  It was fascinating to a six-year old.

My father, George Charles Seale Collins, had travelled out in 1946 on the  aircraft carrier Ocean to become the Suprintendent of Gyro Compasses for the Far East, based at the Dockyard.  On arrival he joined other men at The Cecil Hotel where rats visited the rooms at night!   

On our arrival I remember him standing on the dockside at Kowloon wearing white 'duck' and under a traditional umbrella in the rain.  It was a year since we had seen him.

We drove up The Peak in an RN truck, an experience in itself with all the hairpin bends!  There was a notice in the truck which said 'Unauthorised persons are prohibited from travelling in this vehicle'.

We lived in a spacious flat on the 1st Floor, 16 Peak Mansions, overlooking Pok Fu Lam Reservoir and had an enclosed balcony and of course, servant's quarters.  The humidity was such that clothing had to be changed frequently as there was no airconditioning on the island except for the HSBC building and the Dairy Farm, let alone in the flats we lived in.   The flats surrounded a mosquito infested, dark inner courtyard.  We slept in RN issue beds with iron bed frames, mosquito netting suspended above.  

On arrival there were signs of the war damage; the lift was broken, at least one of the rooms damaged but to me the building was impressive.  The Peak Tram terminus was nearby where there was also a derelict building on the hillside above.   A short walk took us to Mt Kellet and the Matilda Hospital.  My sister and I attended the Peak school and were Brownies.

Our servants, Chen, Ah Be and eventually Ah Toy were special.

We also occupied 29 Peak Mansions on the top floor at another time in the years before we finally returned to the UK in 1951.   We also lived at Argyle St near Kai tak where I remember climbing alone into a fighter plane.  De La Salle College was being built nearby.   

Before returning home to the UK in the P&O Carthage we also lived on Stonecutters Island, most adventurous for my sister and me as we went to school via an MTB and played on the beaches. There was an Army Radio Station and quarters there. 

Our youngest sister Rosemary was born in Kowloon Hospital in 1950.

Commordore Brownfield was the man in charge of the Naval Establishment and Sir Alexander Grantham was Governor.   On one occasion we went to Government House. 

My father would also fly to Saigon and Sasebo to organise the repair of US, British and Dutch ships.  Whenever he went away we always seemed to have a typhoon and hid in the dry cupboards away from any danger from glass windows.

Eventually my sister went to King George V  and I attended a school in Victoria Barracks and Gun Club Hill on Kowloon side.

It was the time of the Mau revolution against Chiang Kai Shek and the Amethyst incident.  There were many refugees and fires broke out in the 'squatter' homes.

At weekends we took Dad's allocated boat to Silvermine beach on Lantau and often drove to Big Wave and Repulse Bay, then completely undeveloped.   We blistered in the shade of the rocks!  We also enjoyed the culture of Tiger Balm gardens.  Dad played hockey and cricket. My love of the game came from scoring for his team.

HMS Tamar housed the China Fleet Club where we saw 'The Wizard of Oz' fro the first time. Magic!

We attended children's parties on the ships Belfast, Jamaica and London, the sailors being so delighted to have some sort of family contact.    There were cocktail parties for the adults and my parents in full evening dress were 'piped aboard'.  Very Raj!




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Type Title Author Replies Last Postsort ascending
Book / Document Memories of my childhood years in Hong Kong, 1947-1951 Celia Hicks 4 Wed, 2021-08-11 22:07
Image Raj!...especially.compared to UK at the time Celia Hicks Sat, 2021-08-07 11:52
Image Hotel Cecil 1946 Celia Hicks Sat, 2021-08-07 11:52
Image Hockey at Stanley Celia Hicks Sat, 2021-08-07 11:52
Image HMS Ocean Celia Hicks Sat, 2021-08-07 11:52