Shield Force tasked with “cleaning up” Kowloon immediately after the end of the Japanese occupation, Part Two – KCR and Kai Tak
Graham Wood has kindly sent the following newspaper article, published in March 1946.
HF: I have retyped the article to enhance clarity and aid searches. As the article is fairly lengthy and covers several subjects of interest to readers of this website namely: power stations, the KCR and Kai Tak airfield, and Ping Shan airfield which was proposed to replace Kai Tak post-WW2, I will post a separate article on each of these topics. This article ends with information about the KCR and Kai Tak Airfield.
The Wing, which comprised 90 per cent of “Shield” Force, was at sea bound for Okinawa and ultimately the Japanese mainland, with airfield construction as its primary objective on the invasion route to Tokyo, when news was suddenly received of the Japanese surrender.
At the time “Shield” Force was the largest body of troops nearest to Hong Kong and the Kowloon peninsula and was redirected here.
In its first months in Kowloon 5358 Wing was faced with a cleaning-up job that involved many a task far removed from its speciality of airfield construction. This included the maintenance of electric power, the servicing of all available transport, overhaul of an engine and rolling stock and an initial survey of the condition of the Kowloon-canton railway line and a complete road survey of all roads in the New Territories.
When en route to Okinawa in the troopship, the Empress of Australia, “Shield” Force received signal instructions to proceed to Hong Kong and take over the Kowloon Peninsula, reports as to conditions in Kowloon were vague.
Arrival in Empress
The Empress of Australia berthed at Kowloon Wharf on the morning of Sept. 4, 1945. A brief picture of the situation ashore was given to the officers and men and, by 3 p.m. 5358 Wing Headquarters and 5025 Airfield Construction Squadron, totalling some 650 personnel, were disembarking in full marching order.
Before three hours had elapsed, temporary billets had been found, and 5025 Squadron were establishing their first pickets and guards. At dawn on the following day, 5024 Squadron began disembarking, and later in the day 5026 Squadron followed. The remaining Squadron, No. 5207, came ashore the next day.
The total force comprised some 2,600 personnel. Each squadron was made responsible for an area of the peninsula. The first move was to take over from the Japanese strategic points, including district police stations. Law and order had to be maintained, and the difficult task undertaken of the suppression of looting.
The First 36 Hours
The first 36 hours ashore taxed the resources of the Wing to the utmost, but the airmen, faced with a task entirely new to them, responding nobly and quickly, soon had the situation in hand. Billets had to be fixed, in most cases, in stripped buildings, rations were spasmodic in arriving, but strategic points were held and hastily summoned parties quelled innumerable outbursts of looting by day and night. Japanese in small and large numbers were rounded up and disarmed and altogether, it is estimated, some 2,600 personnel dealt with 18,000 of the enemy.
The disarming of the Japanese completed, the difficulties of the task yet ahead became all too apparent. Transport did not exist; electric power was unreliable and the supply limited; the streets were littered and stank with accumulated rubbish and filth. Something had to be done to begin the work of restoration, and at a time when the resources of personnel were strained to the upmost, tradesmen and others who could be ill-spared from their initial task were allocated to the first vital jobs of keeping the machinery of civic welfare running as smoothly as was possible under the circumstances.
The Wing was responsible also for the overhaul of an engine and rolling stock and a preliminary survey of the condition of the Kowloon-Canton railway line. A small supply of coal was located and a regular daily service was instituted on Sept 11. This not only enabled fuel to be transported to the power house, but it also once again made transport available to the main supply sources for Kowloon of fresh vegetables. When Commando troops arrived at a later stage, the railway proved invaluable for transporting men and stores to their posts in the New Territories. Wing personnel in the railway workshops serviced originally two engines and 18 trucks.
A detachment of 5026 Squadron was rushed from the troopship to Kai Tak on Sept 5. There they found the buildings in a shocking state. Electric light and sanitary fittings had been wrecked, the sewage system was inoperative in some of the buildings sewage was actually floating on the floors. Personnel worked with a will and within three days the field was again operational. A detachment of 4857 Flight undertook the hazardous task of clearing the bomb dumps and magazines of Japanese bombs, pyrotechnics and ammunition.
Source: The China Mail 28th March 1946.
This article was first posted on 15th December 2021.
Related Indhhk articles:
- The Kowloon Canton Railway (British Section) Part 2 – Construction
- The Kowloon-Canton Railway (British Section) Part 3 – the construction of Kowloon Station
- The Kowloon Canton Railway (British Section) Part 4 – The Early Years (1910 to 1940)
- The Kowloon Canton Railway (British Section) Part 5 – The Post War Years (1945 to 1978)
- The Kowloon Canton Railway (British Section) 1910-1940 – major accidents/incidents
- Pearl Harbour Day in Hong Kong – Japanese attack on Kai Tak airport, December 1941
- Kai Tak airport – BAAG Reports 1942-1944, plus other HK landing strips
- Kai Tak airport – 1925 to 1945, a brief history
- Flying boats before Kai Tak runway opened – SCMP article
- Japanese Extension of Kai Tak aerodrome, BAAG reports, 1942-1944