Ping Shan airfield – further information
Rob Weir: The following information comes from War Office (WO) and Foreign Office (FO) documents held at The National Archives at Kew, London, UK. These notes were basically made “in passing” as a diversion to my main interests and so are fairly rough. I’ve put them in ascending date order from the first reference I found until the last. This doesn’t mean there aren’t more, its just that I didn’t find them. The documents reflect details that floated between sections and head office, and were used to make decisions which – from other experience – may rest in a different group of documents. This sort of explains why decisions were made without apparent knowledge.
Where I have used ……., means that there was further detail, but which I didn’t think had any bearing.
WO 106/4825 HK General – Reoccupation –Administration. 45/46.
Folio 47 describes proposed airfield at Ping Shan (21 Nov 45) as 2,000 yard single runway, 50 yards wide. Already surveyed in case it can go to 3,000 by 120. Limited availability of RAF Construction personnel. Only approval in principle, but approval necessary to permit negotiations with local population over requisition and compensation.
WO 208/750A Intelligence Weekly Reports Oct 45 – Aug 46.
Among lots of irrelevant files is one, dated 29th Nov 45, which has a comment about a Commando patrol leaving its HQ at nearby Ping Shan airfield.
FO 371/53629 China. Hong Kong.
A series of documents related to the defence of HK in the post war period.
- Hong Kong Defence Plan Dec 1945, an appreciation by ADM Harcourt mentions that Ping Shan Airfield is under construction and should be ready in about five months time.
- In late Dec 45/early Jan 46, the Chinese Government made a formal request that work cease on the Ping Shan airfield, as it was disrupting and displacing a large number of their citizens, which was against the NT lease agreement. There are a couple of covering letters on the subject, one of which notes that their permission wasn’t asked, as that might have been seen as British acceptance that the Chinese Government controlled Hong Kong. The documents end without any resolution, but do show that the HK Military Government were considering its construction to an 8,500 feet runway built to civilian standards for eventual joint military/civil use.
FO 371/53630 China. Hong Kong.
More documents on the same subjects. The Ping Shan problem was still current, but the last relevant file, 17 Jan 1946, casts doubt on the use to civil standards, pending a report on “considerable expenditure” and meteorological and topographical features not being suitable for civil operators. Construction of the airfield, to Military standards by the Military, should continue.
FO 371/53631 China. Hong Kong.
Only notes on Ping Shan refer to the reply to Chinese Government and some other comments about compensation payments to locals.
FO 371/53632 China. Hong Kong.
21 Feb 1946. Report on Ping Shan.
Ping Shan southern approach considered by Civil Aviation and BOAC so much below standard as to make site unsuitable for all weather services by heavy aircraft. RAF consider it operable though not ideal for southern approach.
Mission suggests alternative site called Deep Bay, two miles North West of Ping Shan Village ……..
Ping Shan estimated to cost 190,000 pounds Sterling for 2,000 x 50 yards completing early summer 1947, or £ 2,900,000 for 3,000 x 100 early 1948. Deep Bay runway 2,200 x 100 £2,750,000 completing Sept 1948 or 3,200 x 100 £3,750,000 Dec 1948. At Deep Bay, 900 villagers would be displaced for short runway, but no more for full 3,200 yd strip. At Ping Shan, 480 displace at first state rising to 1,800 qt full scheme.
Deep Bay undoubtedly the better site if the extra time and money can be accepted.
Stopping work on Ping Shan and transferring to Deep Bay, though most unfortunate politically is not an overriding factor ……
Until ordered to the contrary, intend to proceed with Ping Shan development at slightly reduced speed. If we have to stop work consider it will be necessary to repatriate men of 5358 Wing …… and whose morale has been maintained largely by explaining the importance of getting Ping Shan constructed as rapidly as possible.
FO 371/53633 China. Hong Kong.
Signal from Chiefs of Staff 2 Apr 46.
Construction of Ping Shan has been reviewed in light of reduced Military requirements, and report of Air Ministry and Civil Aviation mission.
We can no longer justify heavy expenditure in continuing this project on Military grounds …….. We had hoped that cost of project would have been shared by Civil Aviation, but do not find this site up to International Standards for heavy aircraft. They are only interested in site at Deep Bay.
For these reasons, you are to abandon all work at Ping Shan and release RAF Airfield Construction Unit to return to UK.
FO 371/53639 China. Hong Kong.
Nothing about Ping Shan, but one file refers to investigation of Stonecutters Island over Deep Bay site for new airport. (27 Nov 1946). The reasoning for Stonecutters is that it is within the confines of the Colony proper (political and strategic reasons), and not in the NT.
The image shown on the Home Page of this article is of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park accompanied by W.A.D Brooks, Air Commanding Hong Kong, experiencing a Caterpillar bulldozer demonstration at the Ping Shan site immediately post-WW2.
This article was first posted on 18th November 2013.
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