Wong Nai Chung Gap

On the morning of December 8, 1941, the Japanese invaded Hong Kong. Despite being militarily under-prepared, the colonial government was advised to defend the city as long as possible (Fedorowich, 2003, pp. 148-149). The sparsely-manned and militarily ill-equipped Gin Drinkers Line on the mainland was quickly conceded however, and in December 19 the fighting over Hong Kong Island continued (Fedorowich, 2003, p.147). Allied forces were driven back to the bunkers at the strategically important Wong Nai Chung Gap, connecting the northern with the less populated southern parts of the island. It would become the bloodiest day in the battle, as around 450 allied and just as many Japanese soldiers were killed and around a dozen civilians in St. Jones Ambulance were massacred. With the last counterattacks by the remaining “C” Force – the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers – on Christmas day, the battle over Hong Kong ended and British crown colony was surrendered to Japan.

Most of the memories of battle in Wong Nai Chung Gap, the last stance of the East Brigade, have likely been forgotten. The remnants of past warfare, the pillboxes, tunnels, and ammunition storages remained in the mountains however, gradually reclaimed and integrated by the forest. In 2006, the structures became part of Hong Kong’s first battlefield trail which should retrace the stages of the fighting. Since then, the occasional sign reminds the leisurely wanderer of the place’s historic significance.Yet, when deviating from the designated path, some ruins and tunnels escaped the attention of the tourism authority. These debris now exist in a void between remembrance and the spectator’s interpretation. They constitute a historical place but not a lieu de mémoire, as the collective importance has been lost over time. Once bitterly contested, they now remain largely unfettered by city’s spatial urgency and the demands of mass tourism.

Previous: Sai Ying Pun Community Complex | Next: Nam Koo Terrace