Shield Force tasked with “cleaning up” Kowloon immediately after the end of the Japanese occupation, Part Three – Ping Shan Airfield

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 Ping Shan airfield. We have a number of articles about the airfield which are linked below.

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

Homeward 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…

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

Ping Shan Airfield

With the greater part of their task accomplished in the Peninsula, the Wing commenced on preparatory work for the laying-out of the Ping Shan Airfield. Initial preparations have now been completed and access roads and a connecting light railway built to the quarry that is now producing 15,000 tons of broken granite monthly.

The Wing has also been working at Kai Tak, putting down  new concrete hard stonings and erecting a hutted camp. Since the end of December, it has started training Chinese for skilled tasks in construction work. To date, 280 plant operators have completed a course, 270 drivers have gone through the R.A.F. lorry driving and maintenance course and 100 fitters through a Diesel-conversion course.

A job recently completed was the rebuilding for heavier motor traffic of the 10 mile road from Tsun Wan to Taimoshan Peak. A job yet to be completed is the clearing of the hill outcrop at Taiwashan in the Ping Shan Valley where 230,000 tons of rock are to be cleared away by blasting.

Since its arrival in September, the strength of the Wing, with personnel going Home on demobilisation, has fallen to about 1,500. With nearly 1,000 going with a week and a transfer of some 200 to other units, 5358 Wing is to continue with its strength reduced to about 300.

Source: The China Mail 28th March 1946.

This article was first posted on 20th December 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Ping Shan – proposed airport for Hong Kong
  2. Ping Shan Airport – Statement of Air Officer Commanding Hong Kong, 1945
  3. Replacing Kai Tak airport post WW2 – three articles about Ping Shan/Deep Bay
  4. Lam Tei Quarry – Ping Shan Airport , RAF Technical Magazine Report, May 1946
  5. Ping Shan airfield – further information
  6. Ping Shan airport – an extract from Paul Tsui’s unpublished memoir
  7. Ping Shan – proposed airport for Hong Kong – further images
  8. Lam Tei Quarry connections with post WW2 proposed Ping Shan Airport

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