Shield Force tasked with “cleaning up” Kowloon immediately after the end of the Japanese occupation, Part One – power stations

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. First up Power Stations, which in Kowloon at this time meant Hok Un power station which was badly damaged before and during the Japanese Occupation.

Please note, the photograph of Hok Un Power Station below does not come from the newspaper article.

Homeward Bound Headline China Mail 28th March 1946 From Graham WoodHomeward Bound Headline B China Mail 28th March 1946 From Graham Wood

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.

Hok Un Power Station Image 6 Graham Wood

Hok Un Power Station on 16th January 1946 Courtesy: Graham Wood

Power Stations

Electric power was an obvious priority. A blackout of the Peninsula would undoubtedly then have meant wholesale looting and worse. A review of the power station revealed the immensity of the problem, but the Commander-in-chief had ordered that the supply be maintained at all costs, and work was begun by personnel of 53 E.U. (P) and 5751 M. & E. flight.

The primary difficulty was lack of fuel. Owing to the lack of coal, the Japanese had converted two boilers to wood burning, and their capacity was 240 tons a day. Only one generator out of six was working, and that had little or no maintenance in more than 3½ years working. Of the wood fuel required, 60 per cent came by lighter from Hong Kong, but the remaining 40 per cent had to be carried painfully, slowly by coolie labour using hand-trucks, from mainland dumps.

A further contingency that had to be reckoned with was that it was then the typhoon season, and a typhoon, or even a strong gale, could easily stop the lighter supply from Hong Kong. It was imperative, therefore, to establish a safe supply of wood until such times as coal became available. Pressing forward with the search for wood, a reconnaissance party in a recommissioned engine of the Kowloon-Canton Railway penetrated into the New Territories, then still occupied by armed Japanese. Fortunately, the enemy were quiescent, and large stocks of wood were discovered at Taipo and Fanling, 20 and 15 miles out.

High Speed

A fuel supply was thus assured and power maintained, but the margin was so close that on one occasion the power house was within 15 minutes of closing down completely when the utmost effort brought in supplies. Concurrently with this effort work was going on at high speed in the power house to repair the ravages of long ill use and lack of care. The four generating sets that the Japanese had left were overhauled and renovated  and prepared for service by Sept 20. While this work was in progress, the reconversion of two idle boilers from wood to coal was under way, it being known that a collier was outward bound from Australia for Hong Kong.

Source: The China Mail 28th March 1946.

This article was first posted on 8th December 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Hok Un power station manufacturer’s nameplates
  2. CLP: The construction of Hok Un power station 1921, Part One
  3. CLP: The construction of Hok Un power station 1921, Part Two
  4. CLP: The construction of Hok Un power station 1921, Part Three
  5. CLP: The construction of Hok Un power station 1921, Part Four
  6. Hok Un Power Station, a compilation of those who helped restore it at the end of World War Two
  7. John M. Henderson, Engineering Company, Aberdeen, Scotland…link to Hok Un power station, Hong Kong
  8. Andrew Wood biography – involvement in the repair of Hok Un power station at the end of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
  9. Hok Un Power Station, post World War Two images
  10. CLP’s Hok Un Power Station – immediately post World War Two
  11. CLP’s Hok Un Power Station during the Japanese occupation

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