Air Raids in Hong Kong during the Pacific War

Tymon Mellor: With the threat of a war, it was recognised that Hong Kong would be susceptible to air raids. The British Colony was a key logistics hub for Asia and the deep-water port made it ideal for marine traffic. The territory was initially subject to Japanese raids in 1941 then American lead bombing from 1942 until the conclusion of the war in 1945.

As early as 1936, combined military exercises were being undertaken to prepare for an air attack[i] by dropping small bags of flour from planes. The first real test came at 8am on the 8 December, 1941 when 12 bombers and 36 fighters from the Japanese Air Force attacked Kai Tak aerodrome. The raid destroyed all five RAF planes parked on the airfield along with most of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) planes. The remaining three CNAC planes were flown out that night evacuating the 275 CNAC personnel[ii].


Further Japanese raids occurred on the south side of the island and on shipping within the harbour[iii]. The civilian population took to the recently constructed Air Raid Precaution tunnels for shelter.

With the fall of Hong Kong on the 25 Dec, 1941, Victoria Harbour became a major logistics base for the Japanese military and an obvious target for the Allied forces. Thus, the US Army Air Force carried out air-raids from October 1942 to June 1945, primarily targeting Japanese cargo ships Kai Tak aerodromeand supporting infrastructure [iv].

Following the liberation of Hong Kong on the 30 August 1945, a survey was undertaken to assess the extent of bomb damage to the Colony’s infrastructure. A simple report along with marked up aerial images was prepared by the 12 September 1945[v]. A copy of the report and images are shown below.

Bomb Damage 00

Many of the targets were ships at anchor in the harbour, where the bombs failed to explode, and they became buried in the soft marine mud of the sea bed. With the extensive reclamation of the 1980s and 90s these bombs are now being found in the deep excavations associated with new buildings and the Shatin to Central Link stations. More will be found as we live with the legacy of war.

32 Pt I Ch5 Taikoo Dockyard Under Attack January 1945

Bombing Tai Koo Dockyard, 16 Jan 1945

Bomb Damage 01

Taikoo Dockyard, bombed on the 16 Jan 1945

Bombing Kowloon

Bombing Kowloon 29 July 1943

Bomb Damage 02

Bomb damage probably from the major raid with 296 aircraft on the 16 January 1945

1943 4547514741 F154909458 Z

Bombing Kowloon Docks and by accident Hung Hom village on 16 Jan 1945

Bomb Damage 03

Kowloon Dockyard bombed on the 16 January 1945

Bomb Damage 04

Bomb damage probably from the major raid with 296 aircraft on the 16 January 1945

Bomb Damage 05

Hong Kong Navy Yard bombed on 12 June 1945

Bomb Damage 06

Oil storage tanks hit 3 April 1945


The National Archive WO 193/925



[i] Persistent Attacking From the Air, SCMP 23 Mar 1936

[ii] Kai Tak Airport in the war years, 1941 – 1946

[iii] Colony Continues Artillery Duel, SCMP 12 Dec 1941

[v] The National Archive WO 193/925

This article was first posted on 17th May 2022.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock – WW2 bombing – the aftermath
  2. WW2 bombing of Lai Chi Kok oil depot – Standard/Socony/Kawakami?
  3. The condition of Hong Kong dockyards immediately post WW2, newspaper report October 1945
  4. The Royal Naval Dockyard Hong Kong during World War Two

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