Sing Woo Road Air-raid tunnels (ARP Network No.18), Hong Kong, August 2019

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HughieD

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1. The History
A number of tunnel networks or Air Raid Precaution (ARP) tunnels were built in Hong Kong with construction first beginning in the late 1930s, to connect Victoria Park to Eastern Street and Hospital Street on Hong Kong Island. Once war was declared in 1939, the scheme was ramped up with a number of ARP tunnels quickly built or upgraded. Steele-Perkins or the ARP department claimed Hong Kong could be blacked-out within 3 minutes of attack. Many of the tunnels were incomplete at the time of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong.

Newspaper sources in October 1940 refer to the air raid tunnels (14 in total including ones in Wan Chai, Sai Ying Pun and Queen’s Road ) were 10ft wide across at the entrances and up to a similar width throughout their lengths with cross-tunnels driven in a U-shape to provide two entrances to each shelter. It was envisaged that each tunnel would accommodate up to 1,000 people.

By September 1941 21 different tunnel complexes with a total capacity of 200,000 people had been excavated. Three months later, on Saturday 13th December 1941 an article in the South China Morning Post referred to life in the shelters:

“The Chinese population has soon come to appreciate the protection afforded by the network of air raid shelters in the Colony and hundreds have made these their temporary homes, many remaining in them even during the daytime. Many Chinese in the Central districts, especially the mid-levels, now move to the Leighton Hill tunnels in Happy Valley and the Arsenal Street tunnels, with mattresses and other bedding, shortly before dusk and return to town in the mornings.”

In total, 28 ARP tunnels were constructed, 7 in Kowloon and the rest around Hong Kong island. At the heart of the ARP network was the “Battle Box” however this now no longer exists. This was the government’s command bunker or “Combined Services Underground Operating Headquarters” to give it its full name. In 1986 Commercial developers destroyed it to make way for the Pacific Place shopping and hotel complex. However, a number of the tunnel networks still exist and are in various states of completeness.

The tunnels of ARP 018, referred to as Sin Ying Pun, were cut into the hillside north-east of Happy Valley. On April 21, 1941 the Hong Kong Telegraph reported that:

“Work on two vast tunnels in the Happy Valley area is advancing smoothly, rapid progress is being made on the large tunnel extending between Broadwood Rd and Ventris Rd and onto Blue Pool Rd. When this tunnel is completed it is estimated that it will accommodate between 50,000 and 60,000 people.”

As mentioned above, the ARP 018 tunnel complex is located just in front of Broadwood Rd with entrances from Ventris Rd and Blue Pool Rd and several of the side streets in the vicinity of the tram terminus area in Wong Nei Chong. Today, Blue Pool road runs across the top of a large section of the tunnels. Most of the portals exited along the slope behind Hip Wo Lane. There were eleven portals in total, numbered 84 to 94. The first entrance, number 84, was situated on Tsun Yuen Street. Portal numbers 85-88 have now completely gone, along with numbers 90 and 92. Portal number 89 is still visible, along with No. 91, which is also still in relatively good shape. At a higher level, on the edge of Blue Pool road, No.93 which is the key portal as it is the one that allows access to this network (a little further up the road towards the junction with Ventris road No.94, the final portal, is no longer visible).

In 1977 there was a partial collapse of the tunnel triggering the Government to order a thorough investigation of all the disused tunnels. Subsequently, the condition of the tunnels was assessed and categorized into 3 classes of maintenance schedules: high, medium or low priority. A maintenance manual was prepared for each individual ARP tunnel. Here is a copy of the ARP18 network that resulted from this work:

48579602131_b8b14d2a7f_b.jpgARP18 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

2. The Explore
First explore of my 2019 HK visit. And indebted to local explorer Dr Howser, a non-forum member, again for this one. He’s been to a number of these ARP tunnels and has as much knowledge of this incredible network of tunnels under Hong Kong than anyone else. I visited two networks last year (ARP11 at Leighton Hill and ARP29 at Hoi Ann Street) with him so this was number three for me. All of them have their similarities but also their differences so they never become too samey.

Entry was incredibly easy, to say the least. Literally a walk in. Once you are in you are transported into a completely different world. These spaces are incredible in their own right but when you consider their location, even more so.

3. The Pictures

The main, rough cut long tunnel:

48577739987_9874b94f37_b.jpgimg2119 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577581401_b18e8967bf_b.jpgimg2123 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577578176_9e9538d0a6_b.jpgimg2127 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Then you get to this:

48577564976_7cb23497e1_b.jpgimg2134 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This section of the tunnel as been subject to strengthening to prevent collapse. While the tunnels are quite echo-ey, these concrete passages were almost perfectly sound-proofed and deadend the sound:

48577727637_89ca0ab842_b.jpgimg2128 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577571351_64501e02c7_b.jpgimg2129 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A slightly different bit:

48577567731_7b8e551640_b.jpgimg2132 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Here there was a vertical and now capped-off entrance point:

48577715012_9a9f3d6c98_b.jpgimg2136 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577681042_10a2f80591_b.jpgimg2165 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This part of the complex was the most wet:

48577711477_a8f58aa97e_b.jpgimg2137 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577555071_ee53df014c_b.jpgimg2140 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This section has been lined with concrete – maybe for strengthening purposes(?):
48577549256_9fb5ef9d16_b.jpgimg2144 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Loved this little canopy – not too sure why it got put here:

48577666496_d86c0ecb36_b.jpgimg2171 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577815227_d3990c91bc_b.jpgimg2172 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This section was as wide as the complex got:

48577697942_7a083a2ff8_b.jpgimg2147 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577820717_7061c01a2d_b.jpgimg2169 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The highlight of this place for me was the original flushing toilet facilities:

48577533446_454cecb99f_b.jpgimg2161 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577683757_02f698a0d9_b.jpgimg2162 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48577540816_caec28e29c_b.jpgimg2156 by HughieDW, on Flickr

It’s gotta be Dalton hasn’t it?

48577538381_d1ecfedb62_b.jpgimg2158 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48579744872_bd2673050c_b.jpgARP18 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48579600821_f72a2a710c_b.jpgARP18 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

One of the several original WWII painted signs:

48577812902_7d1b1b1305_b.jpgimg2175 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Some lime deposits:

48579603036_85a45e3ef7_b.jpgARP18 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 

krela

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Love the fact they get Dalton flushing toilets where most UK air raid shelters had chemical toilets!
 

Dirus_Strictus

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Love the fact they get Dalton flushing toilets where most UK air raid shelters had chemical toilets!

All to do with the Hong Kong sewage system - and the elevation of the surrounding land. In places sewage just eventually discharged out onto open ground/water, so the shelter sewage would do the same where the outlet could flow away from the shelter complex. Here in the UK many of the big shelters were positioned below or partly below the sewage network in areas where these big shelters were provided. Thus one could never connect the majority of the large shelters to the sewage network. There was a great deal of written information about UK underground City shelters and how best to protect them from the sewage network - should that receive bomb damage. Some of the HK sewage system was still pretty basic in 1965, God knows what it was like in War Time.
 

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