RAF Shatin Airfield – Headquarters, Part Two
Peter Howell has kindly sent the following introduction and images. If you wish to know more about Peter’s involvement in the Shatin Airfield and life there please see our RAF Shatin Airfield articles linked below.
HF: I was a little confused as to whether the name of the building and compound at RAF Shatin Headquarters was Arcullis House or Camp. I asked Peter for clarification about the names and to outline what the buildings and compound were used for.
Peter Howell: I suggest simply calling the building and grounds Arcullis Camp, the House could then be referred to as “the House”.
The “function” of the House in particular was as the HQ of the whole operation. On the ground floor were several offices, a meeting Hall with a stage and several small rooms which served as accommodation for the NCO’s. The first floor was given over to barrack rooms, each containing 6 beds. The square building on the north side of the house had the Other Ranks canteen within it, and also provided more accommodation.
On the first floor, there was also a radio room containing a high powered Army Transmitter/Receiver which was used for international communications. During the Christmas period 1953, I managed to hold a morse conversation with a Radio Ham friend in Somerset, but that was a rare event.
Living conditions for the personnel were very basic. There was no mains running water, sewerage or electricity. What water there was came from a spring on the hillside to the West, a rain water collection tank fed the toilets within the house and drinking water was transported from Kowloon several times a day in a large water bowser. There was a shed containing Thunder Boxes to the East of the House, these were emptied daily by local farmers who used the contents as fertiliser for their crops, Night Soil I think they called it – we were banned from eating locally grown produce by the Medical Officer!!
Electricity was generated by a large diesel generator in a shed to the north of the Guard Room, it only operated from about 6 in the morning to 11 at night, except in times of emergency or if there was an alert in force.
The buildings to the South of the Camp housed the Naafi and the laundry.
In addition to a series of 3 ton and 15cwt vehicles, the unit possessed an ambulance and also a Rolls Royce engined Scout car which had 5 forward and 5 reverse gears, which provided great entertainment at the weekends on the airstrip when there was no flying going on!
I hope that this short missive is sufficient explanation of the “function” of the Camp.
HF: I have added the photo captions provided by Peter and an image number so that individual images can be easily identified by anyone wishing to add information.
Peter Howell adds: As I mentioned about security at the airstrip, it was all taken very seriously, and at the main camp there was no security fencing of any consequence around the perimeter, particularly the side facing the sea which was completely open to intruders.
It was not unusual for there to be an alert in force on the occasions that a batch of refugees had managed to slip through the defences at the border and it wasn’t sure where they were. On these occasions live ammunition was issued to those on guard duty and it was normal to have a round “up the spout” in case of unwanted marauders.
I can’t remember anyone ever having to actually pull the trigger, although on one occasion I heard strange noises emanating from the back of the cookhouse at some unearthly hour of the night and issued the three statutory warnings before firing. I’d noisily operated the bolt on the rifle to show that I meant business at which point one of the Chinese kitchen workers emerged having been taken somewhat unwell after over indulging on rice wine! He was very lucky, although I don’t know that I was a particularly good shot. I was 19 when this occurred, and it was a very black night with all the eerie sounds of night time in the Chinese countryside as a background. I never looked forward to guard duty, which we did every 5 or 6 nights due to the the small number of personnel.
This article was first posted on 28th April 2021.
Related Indhhk articles:
- RAF Shatin Airfield – Headquarters, Part One
- RAF Shatin Airfield – aerial images
- RAF Shatin Airfield – daily life
- Shatin Airfield 1949-1962
- Shatin Airfield – 1954 article about British Army/RAF use
- Shatin Army Camp – link to Shatin Airfield
- Shatin – first powered flight in Hong Kong 1911
- An Aeroplane Called Wanda – historic flight over Shatin March 18th, 1911.
- Charles Van den Born – first powered flight in Hong Kong, Shatin, 1911