Hong Kong Industry during World War Two
HF: This is an article where we can gradually add information about what happened to HK’s industry, manufacturing, mining , transport and other related areas during World War 2. As bits and pieces come in I’ll update the article and re-post it with the current date.
PC Philip Cracknell
HF Hugh Farmer
YL York Lo
TM Tymon Mellor
FCM Fung Chi Ming
CM Craig Mitchell
ER Elizabeth Ride
LT Lawrence Tsui
1943 Aug “By August the coal stocks were exhausted. The power stations could no longer supply electricity, industrial activity ground to a halt and the colony was plunged into darkness as soon as night fell” (Snow)
British Army Aid Group (BAAG)
LT: Various series in Folder 10 of the Lindsay Ride Papers for the AWM collection regarding the BAAG contain much information about shipping as well as industries and economic activities in HK and S. Guangdong all meant for targeting by Allied bombers. They would provide good information on industrial activities in HK under Japanese Occupation.
Lawrence further points out that “the BAAG is a regular (not irregular) force under GHQ India, New Delhi, through the Military Attache at the British Embassy in Chungking, China. I have a letter from the HK Government Secretariat in hand, written in 1962, clarifying this status of the BAAG with the UK Government.”
The BAAG started as a MI9 & MI19 operations in March 1942. It immediately combined with remnants of SOE operatives as well as evolved rapidly & extensively as an enemy intelligence collection operations. It functioned under the cover of elaborate Medical Services and Refugee Relief in South China.
HF: http://gwulo.com/node/13968 (Gwulo is an easy way to find out about and access the following). The Elizabeth Ride Collection is a collection of material based on the life and work of Elizabeth’s father, Sir Lindsay Ride. It will be of most interest to people researching wartime Hong Kong, 1942-5, as it includes detailed records of the activity of the British Army Aid Group, the BAAG.
Lindsay Ride Private Papers, The
Lawrence Tsui writes: The voluminous Lindsay Ride Private Papers are deposited at the Australian War Memorial. Copies and summaries of work done by Elizabeth Ride are placed at the Hong Kong Heritage Project, I understand. Gwulo.com has good coverage on this; including explanations of the Intelligence Summaries (KIS, WIS & KWIZ). The sections relevant to this site in the KWIZ would be II & III referring to general conditions under the Japanese Occupation. However, there were coverage under other headings as well, such as targeting & results of Allied Bombing of HK. The Agents reported on strategically important companies and docks etc, producing site plans, diagrams and maps. Allied bombings were extensive in late 1944 and early 45. I came across the Taikoo Docks (and other docks and factories) information in KWIZ 66/6 in Folder 10.
HF: RTHK transmitted a programme My Own Private Museum – Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong on May 8 2013. There’s nothing specific about Industry, Manufacturing etc, except a brief mention of the difficulties faced by small businesses and those with warehouses. It covers: Ko Tim Keung’s collection of Japanese magazines published during WWII providing a glimpse into the propaganda generated by the Japanese military machine to justify its aggression. Police memorabilia of the period collected by Lam Kin Keung shows how Japanese used the police force, the secondary military power, to infiltrate every corner of the occupied areas to control people’s life .Collector Cheng Po Hung explains how the Japanese took over the territory’s finance and economy by issuing military yens. http://programme.rthk.hk/rthk/tv/programme.php?name=tv/hkstories20e&d=2013-05-08&p=5852&e=214339&m=episode
HF: This appears to be a student history project but contains some very good footage of HK during the occupation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmju0wAj2ws
HK:Another student history project but again some interesting film of HK during the occupation
LT: On Jan 26 1945 [during an Allied air raid targeting various locations] Oil storage at No.11 Kowloon Godown was set on fire.
The Japanese regime introduced a programme for reopening factories to produce goods such as shoes made with rubber from Indochina and Malaya. ( p 123 Carroll)
There was a great shortage of all kinds on commodities, caused partly by General Tojo’s directive to find and export all valuable material kept by the British… for use in Japan. This resulted in the shipping from Hong Kong to Japan of the colony’s large reserve of rice, among othervaluables like vehicles and machinery. ( p 127 Tsang)
Bakilly – the forgotten maker of perfumes, hair cream, toothpaste and other personal care products
YL: see York’s comment below our Bakilly article.The original Bakilly factory was located in 18-22 Shaukiwan Road (near the present day Taikoo Shing) when the firm was founded in 1918 until the late 1920s when it was relocated to a 10000 sq ft space in 203 King’s Road (now King’s Centre) as a result of the firm’s success. Sadly the firm’s factory was bombed first by the Japanese during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 and then by the Allied forces in April 1944. As a result the firm was devastated and had a difficult time recovering in the late 1940s, and only able to achieve less than 20 percent of its prewar sales.
China Paint Manufacturing Company (1932) Ltd
During Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, China Paint…remained in operation. (10)
Continental Rubber Manufacturing Company
“During the war the factory had produced military belts, sports shoes, masks and other rubber parts. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the products were confiscated.” (10)
Cowhide Factory, Cheung Chau Island
Hong Kong Memory Project: Wat Wai Chun’s younger sister had a lonely life during the Japanese rule. There were no adults around to take care of her. Neither were there any companion of her age. She lacked a good learning environment and a stable life…At the time when Hong Kong was severely bombed, a bomb dropped on a cowhide factory in Cheung Chau.
Source: Wat Wai Chun’s life on Cheung Chau during the Japanese occupation, WW2 – HK Memory Project
Duro Paint Manufacturing Company
During Japanese occupation of Hong Kong… Duro Paint remained in operation. (10)
Great China Match Company on Peng Chau Island
YL: In December 1941, HK fell to the Japanese and six months later in June 1942, representatives of the Japanese trading house Mitsui approached N.L. Lieu in HK asking him to consider returning to Shanghai to revive the family’s enterprises there. In November 1942, the Japanese seized the Peng Chau plant but after 10 months of negotiations with help from his brothers who had by then formed a joint venture with the Japanese in Shanghai, N.L. was allowed to re-open the Peng Chau plant in August 1943, although production for the remainder of the War was limited due to shortage of raw materials and fuel with only 11 workers working part time.
In 1946, the firm resumed its operation at its pre-war office at 409, Bank of East Asia Building in Central. with expanded capital of HK$1 million and in July, the Lieu family sent Li Siu-po (李少甫, Ningpo native who joined Great China in Shanghai in 1934 and worked for the family enterprises in Hangzhou and Szechuan) as the new factory manager of the Peng Chau plant in HK
Green Island Cement Company
See: Green Island Cement Company during World War Two
Hing Wah Battery Factory
ER has sent this BAAG report
HK Tobacco Company (British American Tobacco)
ER has sent this BAAG report
Hume Pipe (Far East) Ltd
PC: writes about the company on 10 Dec 1941. The following reports come from the War Diary of HMS Cicala.
0715 Opened fire on the Hume Pipe Factory with 6” HE. This was a most unsatisfactory target at close range as it was a long low building partially obscured by a high bank, however many hits were obtained , and then the two corrugated iron sheds in front of the factory were shelled and destroyed.
Island Paint Company Ltd (香島漆廠, IPCO)
YL During the Second World War, two branch factories were set up, one on Kwong Wah Street and the other in 141 To Kwa Wan Road, Kowloon. IPCO manufactured ship paint, building paint, synthetic enamel, varnish, lithographic and letterpress printing ink.
National Lacquer and Paint Products Company, Limited
During Japanese occupation of Hong Kong… NLPP… remained in operation. (10)
The Japanese regime introduced a programme for reopening factories to produce goods such as shoes made with rubber from Indochina and Malaya. (p 123, Carroll)
South China Iron Works
HF “South China Iron Works Ltd., founded in 1938, lost much of its machiney during the Japanese occupation, but by 1949 had resumed production of diesel engines, including ‘specially designed’ three wheeled vehicles ‘especially designed for use in Southeast Asia’, and 2.5 ton trucks.”
From Made in Hong Kong: A History of Export design in Hong Kong 1900-1960, The Urban Council, May 1988
A undated photograph accompanying the quote shows the factory as being in Tsuen Wan, though in tiny font
ER has sent this BAAG report:
KWIZ #77 15.12.44
Lin Ma Hang mine
HF: Small-scale mining was carried out in a haphazard way during the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. This was done mostly by robbing pillars in the eastern section of the mine, which resulted in the roof caving in and making it generally unsafe. Most of the equipment was removed during this time and the buildings were looted and damaged but probably not by the Japanese. (unknown source)
LT: There was some mention of mininghan done during the Japanese Occupation, especially the Lin Ma Hang Mine, in the intelligence reports of the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) – see the Sir Lindsay Ride Private Papers.
Ma On Shan Iron Mine
TM: In 1940, the South China Iron Smelters Co. Ltd. took over the mine and started to excavate commercial quantities of ore in an open cut quarry using hand operated tools. Production reached up to 100 tons a day with the concentrate, carried to the coast using mule and horses and shipped to the Green Island Cement Company. The mining company had plans to build a blast furnace on the sea-front to produce its own steel. However, the Second World War interrupted production.
During the Japanese occupation of the territory, from 1942 to 1945, the mine was operated sporadically by the Japanese who shipped the raw ore to Japan to support war production. At this time the mine employed about 1,500 workers (it is not clear if these were paid or forced labour as adopted in many Japanese captured mines) and as there was still no mechanical transport, horses and donkeys were used to carry the ore down the hill to the dockside.
Military Yen In Hong Kong
On 26 Dec 1941, the day after the Hong Kong Government surrendered to the Japanese,the Japanese authorities decreed the military yen to be the legal tender of Hong Kong. [this conflicts with another source which states this did not happen until 1942 – Does anyone know the actual date?] The use of the Hong Kong dollar was outlawed and a deadline was set for exchanging these into the military yen. [Does anyone know the date of this deadline?] When the military yen was first introduced on 26 December 1941, the exchange rate between the Hong Kong dollar and the military yen was 2 to 1. However, by October 1942, the rate was changed to 4 to 1.
Newspapers during the occupation
Fung Chi Ming: The English language (Japanese) newspapers published during wartime, known as Hongkong News, is only available in microfilm, deposited at the Hong Kong University Library (possibly also in the HK Central Library, Causeway Road). In the HK public libraries website, there is a limited amount of digitalized newspapers but they do not include the Hongkong News.
HF: Sep 1942 ” At present there are four morning and one evening newspapers in Hong Kong. They are: daily newspapers such as the Xiangiang, the Xingdao, the Huaqiao, and the Dongya Evening Post. These are all published in Chinese. In addition, there is the Hong Kong Daily published in Japanese, and the Hong Kong News in English. The newspapers come out daily in a single sheet, and are sold at 5 sen Military Currency each.” (quoted form the HK Broadcasting Office in Faure p225) I do not know if the Japanese or Chinees language newspapers can be seen in Hong Kong, nor if so in what form.
Caltex Oil Terminal – Tsuen Wan
ADW: Parts of the Terminal were old. One of the tanks was built around 1936, of riveted construction rather than welded, and it was badly damaged by Japanese bombing during the war. It was taken apart, rivet by rivet and plate by plate, then the plates were beaten back to semi-flat using sledge hammers (the marks were clearly visible on the plates) and re-riveted. The rebuilt tank only leaked a little so it was used for lube base stock because lighter products such as diesel would have spurted little fountains all over it.
Texaco Oil Depot
LT: On 26th Jan 1945 [during an Allied air raid targeting several locations] the Texaco Oil installation at Tsuen Wan was bombed and caught fire. Oil storage at No.11 Kowloon Godown was set on fire.
Place/Area/Street Names during the Japanese occupation
Aberdeen – during the occupation the Chinese name for Aberdeen, ‘Hong Kong Tsai’ was changed into the Japanese, ‘Yuan Hong Kong’ (元香港), meaning ‘The Origin of Hong Kong’.
Street Names – Japanese versions
The re-naming of streets into Japanese apparently took place on 1 Apr 1942.
Dec 4 1941 Last mail sent out of HK – to Australia
Stamps during the Japanese occupation
http://www.stampcommunity.org/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=26965 a forum discussing this subject. This suggests: “Until April 1945, ordinary Japanese stamps were used in Hong Kong, which had surrendered December 25, 1941.”
Public Records Office HK (PRO)
The PRO has put together a small but useful introduction to : Life under Japanese Occupation
Li Shiu Chung – Property Investor
The Riches to Rags to Riches Sagas of Li Po-lung (李寶龍) and his son Li Shiu-chung (李兆忠)
YL: During the Japanese occupation, Li resumed his career as a property broker. At the time landlords were liquidating properties at bargain prices to get by and as a scion of the Li family, Shiu-chung was connected to many of the sellers. He also befriended many of the buyers including the Chiuchow merchant Liu Po-shan (廖寶珊, 1900-1961), who became one of the biggest landlords in Western district with the help of Li and later founded the Liu Chong Hing Bank (now Chong Hing Bank).
Please see the article: Ship breaking in Hong Kong – post WW2 to 1961 which includes the following, “Between 1947 and 1950 the [HK ship breaking] industry mainly relied on war wrecks from HK harbour, in 1949 and 1950 unwanted “Liberty ships” were broken up.”
HF: The numbers in the above newspaper article differ from the following. “[Post War] Almost none of the navigation aids remained, and the fairways ad wharves were clogged with 13 major and 95 minor wrecks.” (Ward).
And again from an information board at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum which states, “[the liberation of Hong Kong] found a devastated town, wrecked dockyards and 230 shipwrecks strewn across the harbour”. It continues “all wrecks were cleared by Sept 1947”.
LT: Various BAAG agents were actively observing all enemy shipping in HK and providing details of Japanese ships as well as the various dockyards, making detailed drawings of both. (See Lindsay Ride Papers at the AWM Series 10 Folder 16).
LT: The BAAG’ had a strong interest in collecting intelligence on Japanese shipping into & out of Hong Kong during the Occupation. In the Ride Papers (Ref: AWM Series 2 Folder 32) there were some reports of a plan to set up an Observation Post for shipping at Lamma Island circa August 1944. Agent 530 Sham Yung-hung, formerly HKRNVR), whose family were from Lamma Is, was sent back to conduct feasibility studies. The plan was for Sham to bring back a BAAG OP Team and operate a Force 136 radio set on a moving junk steered by his family off Lamma. There were reportedly no enemy troops or Red Guerrillas on Lamma. Japanese troops from Aberdeen visited from time-to-time only.
Originally, the BAAG tried to set up a Shipping OP at Sunset Peak on Lantau. The plan was disallowed by the Nationalist Government on account of the needed co-operation for protection by the local Red Guerrillas. Then the Nationalist Government allowed a BAAG OP to be set up at Tzatleunshan, Daipeng Bay. Upon arrival in the Autumn of 1943, the OP Team was captured by the local Red Guerrillas and held for ransom for some 4 months. This Lamma Island OP would be free from such complications. I’m not clear why the Lamma Operation was not implemented.
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided HK lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. Five vessels in the harbor were severely damaged and half sunk.
CM: On this date two TBM-Avenger bombers carried a payload of 11, 2000-pound bombs over the city. Five targeted ships. [see SCMP 8th January 2014, ” Bomb fell in huge early 1945 US raid.]
LT: Various BAAG agents were actively observing all enemy shipping in HK and providing details of Japanese ships as well as the various dockyards, making detailed drawings of both. (See Lindsay Ride Papers at the AWM Series 10 Folder 16).see Lawrence’s article: World War Two -BAAG, Mateys and Allied attempts to disrupt HK Dockyards
Jan 1943 “For a time the Imperial government hoped to staunch this haemorrhage [caused by American aircraft and submarines sinking Japanese merchant ships] by exploiting Hong Kong’s potential as a shipbuilding centre. The colony’s shipyards would be put to work turning out auxiliary merchant vessels for the use of both Hong Kong itself and the entire Southern Region. In January 1943 the first such vessel rolled off the slipways, and the media claimed that Hong Kong would able to produce another one every three days. But the colony proved unable to to sustain this momentum. In the following months, to judge from official announcements , just five more auxiliary ships were produced.” (Snow)
CM: On 16th January 1945 two TBM-Avenger bombers carried a payload of 11, 2000-pound bombs over the city. One was dropped on Aberdeen Dockyard. [see SCMP 8th January 2014, ” Bomb fell in huge early 1945 US raid.]
HF: BAAG WIS#15 30th December 1942. In October 1942 the Army handed over Bailey’s Shipyard to the Osaka Iron Works Company.
LT: BAAG Ref: Kwiz 86/5 Feb 1945 (Lindsay Ride Collection AWM Series 10 Folder 30). BAAG was active in collecting information, including sketches of ships and site plans of this dockyard. Details of work done, work force and problems encountered were reported.
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided HK lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. During this raid the Cosmopolitan Dock at the end of Boundary Street was damaged.
On 26th Jan 1945 during air raids by Allied aircraft [targeting various locations] the Cosmopolitan Shipyard was damaged.
Kwong Hip(Heep?) Lung Shipyard
LT: BAAG Ref: Kwiz 86/5 Feb 1945 (Lindsay Ride Collection AWM Series 10 Folder 30). Renamed Dainichi. BAAG was active in collecting information, including sketches of ships and site plans of this shipyard. Details of work done, work force and problems encountered were reported.
Kowloon Docks (HK & Whampoa)
HF: “The bombed Jinsham steamer returned to duty after repairs at the Kowloon Dockyard (Whampoa). (Cheng 2006) When was the ship bombed and when did it return to duty?
HF: BAAG WIS#15 30th December 1942. In October 1942 the Army handed over Kowloon Docks to the Osaka Iron Works Company.
Oct 25, 1942 Report of an American bombing raid (CATF) 12 B-25s and 7 P-40s, on Kowloon Docks.
HF: BAAG KWIZ#76 24th November 1944 Two small generators remain working in the China, Light & Power Co. Station (22365684). Electricty is supplied only to Kowloon Docks and Green Island Cement Works, each of which receives 3 days’ power in the week. This power station has been allotted 47 tons of coal from Formosa, and on 5th November had about 2,000 tons of coal in stock.
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. Sixteen ships were sunk or damaged, including one sunk at Kowloon Dock.
CM: On this date two TBM-Avenger bombers carried a payload of 11, 2000-pound bombs over the city. One was dropped on Kowloon Dockyard. [see SCMP 8th January 2014, ” Bomb fell in huge early 1945 US raid.]
5th Apri 1945 (FEAF) B-24s bomb Kowloon Docks.
8th April 1945 (FEAF) B-24s bomb Kowloon Docks.
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided HK lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. Sixteen ships were sunk or damaged, including: one sunk and one damaged at the Naval Dock.
On 21st Jan 1945 air raids were conducted by some 20 Allied Aircraft which included damaging the Naval Dock, including electrical workshops & godowns.
Taikoo Dockyard (Mitsui Dockyard)
HF: BAAG WIS#15 30th December 1942. In October 1942 Mitsui Bussan Kaisha took over Taikoo Dock from the HK Government.
LT says: Folder 10 Series 16 of the Lindsay Ride Papers of the AWM collection regarding the BAAG contain a couple of site plans of Taikoo Docks circa Aug & Sep 1944. These were supplied by BAAG Agents as intelligence for targeting by US Bombers. I should think bombing took place immediately after. The Taikoo Docks could have been bombed more than once though.
Can anyone provide the exact date of the above raid. And any further information about locations bombed by either Japanese or Allied forces during WW2.
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided HK lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. Sixteen ships were sunk or damaged, including six damaged at Taikoo Docks.
CM: On this date two TBM-Avenger bombers carried a payload of 11, 2000-pound bombs over the city. Four were dropped on Taikoo Dockyard. One narrative on this attack said, ” Five planes dove [sic] from south to north , releasing their bombe between 3,000 and 3,500 feet and all bombs were observed to hit in the dry dock area…It is considered that serious damage was done to… the dry docks.” [see SCMP 8th January 2014, ” Bomb fell in huge early 1945 US raid.]
HF: “The Taishan steamer, sunk by British forces, was recovered from the waters of Chaiwan and brought for repairs at the Mitsui Dockyard (Taikoo Dockyard). (Cheng 2006). What date was this ship sunk?
Tsuen Wan Shipyard
LT: On 16th Jan 1945 over 300 Allied Aircraft raided HK lasting from 0900 to 1800hrs. Sixteen ships were sunk or damaged, including two destroyed in Tsuen Wan Shipyard.
Wing On Shipyard
LT: BAAG Ref: Kwiz 86/5 Feb 1945 (Lindsay Ride Collection AWM Series 10 Folder 30). BAAG was active in collecting information, including sketches of ships and site plans of this shipyard. Details of work done, work force and problems encountered were reported.
Please see the article, HK Industry during World War Two – Transport
1943 Aug “By August the coal stocks were exhausted. The power stations could no longer supply electricity, industrial activity ground to a halt and the colony was plunged into darkness as soon as night fell” (Snow)
China Light and Power
Hong Kong Electric
In 1941, during the Battle of Hong Kong just prior to the Japanese occupation the plant was severely damaged. Casualties included the plant’s manager, Vincent Sorby, who later died in a prison camp of wounds received during the attack
Oct 25 1942 (CATF) 12 B-25s and 7 P-40s, bomb the North Point power plant which provides electricity for the shipyards.
Immediately after the occupation began “a handful of British engineers were kept on at the telephone exchange…to repair war damage and to get the various installations working again” (p138 Snow)
This article was first posted on 9th August 2014 and has been updated many times since then.
- Carroll, John M, A Concise History of Hong Kong, HKUP, 2007
- Cheng Po Hung, Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong , 2006
- Cheng Po Hung, Early Hong Kong Transport, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2009
- Faure, David, Edited by, A Documentary History Of Hong Kong: Society, HKUP, 1997
- The Lindsay Ride Private Papers are deposited with www.awm.gov.au
- Snow, Philip, The Fall of Hong Kong: Britain, China and the Japanese Occupation, Yale University Press, 2003
- Tsang, Steve A Modern History of Hong Kong, HKUP, 2004
- Ward, Iain, Sui Geng: The Marine Police 1841-1950, HKUP, 1991
- Arenz B, Hong Kong Kong Trams Pacific Century Publishers Ltd, 1998
- Hong Kong Memory Project
Related Indhhk articles:
- HK Industry during World War Two – transport
- HK Industry during World War Two – fishing, food and beverages, tobacco
- HK Industry during and immediately after World War Two – utilities
The Index contains many articles about Hong Kong during World War Two