Gin Drinkers Line

The Gin Drinkers Line (Chinese: 醉酒灣防線) or Gin Drinkers' Line was a British military defensive line against the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941, part of the Pacific War.

The concept came from France's Maginot Line, built after World War I. The British believed the line could protect the colony from Japanese invasion for at least six months and even called it the "Oriental Maginot Line" (Chinese: 東方馬奇諾防線). The Japanese generals also believed the line would stop their advance until the scouts found out the line was very weak. For example, only 30 soldiers defended Shing Mun Redoubt in the Battle of Hong Kong. It had a capacity of 120 men.

Gin Drinkers Line
Gin Drinkers Line
Map of the Gin Drinkers Line
Chinese醉酒灣防線
Hanyu PinyinZuìjiǔ wān fángxiàn
Wade–GilesTsui-chiu wan fang-hsien
IPA[tswêitɕjòu wán fǎŋɕjɛ̂n]
Yale RomanizationJeuijáu wāan fòhngsin
IPA[tsɵ̄ytsɐ̌u wáːn fɔ̏ːŋsɪ̄n]
JyutpingZeoi3zau2 waan1 fong4sin3

Geographical location

The Line's name originated from Gin Drinkers Bay, a former bay in nearby Kwai Chung, New Territories (now reclaimed and part of Kwai Fong). It passed through Kam Shan, the Shing Mun Reservoir, Beacon Hill, Lion Rock, and Tate's Cairn, ending at Port Shelter in Sai Kung. Its total length was 18 kilometers. Its key points were the stretch between Beacon Hill and Sha Tin Pass, and the Shing Mun Redoubt, the latter of which also housed command HQ for the Line.

The Line made use of the mountains north of the Kowloon Peninsula and was strategically important in preventing any southward invasion from the New Territories.

Construction

Construction lasted from 1936 to 1938. The Line was not a solid defensive line, but rather a series of defensive positions linked together by paths.[1] Bunkers, concrete fortified machine gun posts, trenches, and artillery batteries were built along the line; however, this artillery support may have been insufficient.[1]

Shing Mun Redoubt

Map of Shing Mun Redoubt
Map of Shing Mun Redoubt

Defensive headquarters were located at Shing Mun Redoubt (Chinese: 城門棱堡 or 城門碉堡), which had an observation post (acting as headquarters of the redoubt) that could call artillery support from Mount Davis battery and Stonecutters Island Fort, and four pillboxes (PB400-403) fitted with Vickers machine guns and Bren LMGs. There were 1.5 meter deep defensive channels or trenches, named after the roads of London such as Charing Cross, to aid the English soldiers of the Middlesex Regiment.

The Battle of Hong Kong

8 December 1941: initial contact

On the morning of 8 December 1941, Japanese forces bombed Kai Tak Airport, wresting control of the skies from the British and initiating the Battle of Hong Kong. At noon, the Japanese advance guard crossed the Shenzhen River to invade the New Territories. The northern garrison fell back to the Gin Drinkers Line, destroying roads and bridges on the way to make it more difficult for the invaders. By dusk, the Japanese had taken Tai Po.

There were only three British Army battalions manning the Gin Drinkers Line: the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots in the west, the 2/14th Battalion, Punjab Regiment in the centre and the 5/7th Battalion, Rajput Regiment in the east. It was hoped that they could hold for at least three weeks and inflict casualties on the Japanese.[1]

9 December: Japanese sneak attack

Battle of Shing Mun Redoubt
Battle of Shing Mun Redoubt

On 9 December, Japanese advance scouts of the 228th Regiment headed towards Tai Mo Shan, and discovered that British defences were weak at "225 High Ground" near Shing Mun Redoubt and Shing Mun Reservoir. The high ground dominated all positions of the western portion of the Line. Therefore, the Japanese advanced a sneak attack.

At 21:00 that evening, the lieutenant in charge and ten elite soldiers began the sneak attack. Combat engineers successfully breached the barbed wire and destroyed bunkers. By 07:00 on 10 December, they had taken the high ground and 27 POWs, opening a breach in the Line. The success surprised Japanese commanders who had thought at least a month was required to break the British defences, and thereby diverted more forces from mainland China to boost manpower. They also thought that a premature breakthrough would lead to rear forces and artillery troops falling behind, but ultimately agreed to launch a general assault.

10 December: general assault

Japanese forces then opened a two-pronged assault on the Gin Drinkers Line. By the next day, they had already claimed Kam Shan and Tate's Cairn. Major General Christopher Maltby knew that the position was untenable and at noon decided to withdraw the garrison to Hong Kong Island to preserve its strength, signalling the defeat of the Line. Defenders to the west of the Line began retreating towards the island at 20:00. The Rajput Battalion stayed behind as a rear guard, only retreating on the morning of 13 December towards Devil's Peak and Lei Yue Mun towards Hong Kong Island. This was also the final retreat of British forces from the Kowloon Peninsula.

Reasons for failure

The Gin Drinkers Line was and still is considered to be a complete failure. The line and the whole of Kowloon were abandoned by the British troops in just two days. There can be said to be three main reasons:

  1. Insufficient troops: although their weaponry was sound, there were not enough British soldiers to maximise the Line's potential. For example, the Shing Mun Redoubt could have garrisoned over 120 men, but was garrisoned by just 30 troops.
  2. Insufficient training: most of the Hong Kong Garrison was composed of new recruits lacking field experience and proper training.
  3. Underestimation of the Japanese: the British assumed that the Japanese did not wage night battles and relaxed their guard. They were also overconfident in the Line's capabilities and believed that the Japanese could be easily repulsed.

Today

Shing Mun Redoubt
Shing Mun Redoubt

Most of the Line's remains cannot be found. There are still some defensive structures left at Shing Mun Redoubt, and bunkers at Lion Rock, Tate's Cairn, and Port Shelter.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c The Defence of Hong Kong - Shing Mun Redoubt and the Gin Drinker's Line; by John Cartwright
Battle of Hong Kong

The Battle of Hong Kong (8–25 December 1941), also known as the Defence of Hong Kong and the Fall of Hong Kong, was one of the first battles of the Pacific War in World War II. On the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor, forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the British Crown colony of Hong Kong. The attack was in violation of international law as Japan had not declared war against the British Empire. The Hong Kong garrison consisted of British, Indian and Canadian units besides Chinese soldiers and conscripts from both within and outside Hong Kong.

Locations which played an important role in setting the pace of military operations during December 1941 include TaiPo Road, the Shing Mun Redoubt trench and tunnel complex in the Gin Drinkers' Line, Devil's Peak, Ma Lau Tong, Lyemun (also spelt as Lye Moon or Lei Yue Mun), North Point, Aldrich Bay (Quarry Bay), Shaukiwan, Saiwan Hill, Wong Nei Chong Gap (Wong Nai Chung Gap), Tytam (Tai Tam Gap & Reservoirs), Shouson Hill and Stanley Fort. Coastal defence batteries including those at Stonecutters Island, Pak Sha Wan, Lyemun fort, Saiwan, Mount Collinson, Mount Parker, Belchers, Mount Davis, Jubilee Hill, Bokara, and Stanley provided artillery support for ground operations till they were put out of action or surrendered.Within a week the defenders abandoned the mainland and less than two weeks later, with their position on the island untenable, the colony had raised the white flag of surrender.

British Hong Kong

British Hong Kong denotes the period during which Hong Kong was governed as a colony and British Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom. Excluding the Japanese occupation during the Second World War, Hong Kong was under British rule from 1841 to 1997. The colonial period began with the occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841 during the First Opium War. The island was ceded by Qing China in the aftermath of the war in 1842 and established as a Crown colony in 1843. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. Although Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were ceded in perpetuity, the leased area, which comprised 92 per cent of the territory, was vital to the integrity of Hong Kong that Britain agreed to transfer the entire colony to China upon the expiration of that lease in 1997. The transfer has been considered by many as marking the end of the British Empire.

Christopher Maltby

Major General Christopher Michael Maltby, (13 January 1891 – 6 September 1980) was a senior officer in the British Indian Army who served as Commander of British Troops in China in 1941 before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, after which he became a prisoner of war.

Gin Drinkers Bay

Gin Drinkers Bay (Chinese: 醉酒灣; literally: 'Drunkard's Bay') or Gin Drinker's Bay, also known as Lap Sap Wan (Chinese: 垃圾灣; Jyutping: laap6 saap3 waan1; literally: 'Rubbish Bay'), was a bay in Kwai Chung, Hong Kong.

The bay was reclaimed in the 1960s and became Kwai Fong and part of Kwai Hing. At the mouth of the bay stood the island of Pillar Island.

The bay was a harbour for Tanka fishing junks. They relocated to Tsing Yi Tong and Mun Tsai Tong of Tsing Yi Island before the commencement of reclamation.

Lap Sap (垃圾) means "rubbish" in Cantonese. It is unclear why the bay was named "rubbish" in the past. However, it was coincidentally once a dumping area for rubbish after extensive reclamation. It is assumed that in Gin Drinkers Bay Park or Kwai Chung Park near Pillar Island that the area is subject to landfill gas produced deep in the ground even though it is covered with earthen hills. It remains closed due to unsafe levels of landfill gas.

Gin Drinkers Bay is known for the Gin Drinkers Line, which formed a defensive line against the Japanese invasion in 1941.

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Sai Wan War Cemetery

Sai Wan War Cemetery (Chinese: 西灣國殤紀念墳場) is a military cemetery located in Chai Wan, Hong Kong which was built in 1946. The cemetery was created to commemorate soldiers of Hong Kong Garrison who perished during both the First World War and the Second World War. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the commemorative graves/plaques of 914 soldiers from Undivided India are grouped in 3 memorial locations within the Sai Wan cemetery complex : 104 Indian soldiers whose tombstones are located on the slopes of Sai Wan Cemetery, 287 more Indian soldiers interred at Sai Wan Memorial while a further 118 Indian soldiers whose remains were cremated according to their religious customs are inscribed on commemorative plaques at the Sai Wan Cremation Memorial. The Sai Wan War Cemetery contains the graves of 228 Canadians.

Shing Mun

Shing Mun (Chinese: 城門) is an area between Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin in the New Territories of Hong Kong. It used to be, as suggested by its Chinese characters, a gate between the two areas separated by a range of hills. The Shing Mun Valley carries water to Shing Mun River. Before the construction of Shing Mun Reservoir, there were several villages near the valley. Some of these villages were later relocated near the Tsuen Wan entrance of Shing Mun Tunnel.

The area played a major role in the defense against Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong. Gin Drinkers Line is across the area.

Because there were many major constructions and geography features in the area, Shing Mun may mean one of the following by context:

Shing Mun Tunnel

Shing Mun Country Park, which contains the Shing Mun Reservoir

Shing Mun River

Shing Mun Redoubt, which housed command HQ for the Gin Drinkers Line

Shing Mun Reservoir

Jubilee (Shing Mun) Reservoir (Chinese: 城門水塘; Hong Kong Cantonese: sing4 moon4 sui2 tong4) is a reservoir in Hong Kong. It is located in Shing Mun, the area between Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin, in the New Territories.

Tai Wai

Tai Wai is an area in the New Territories of Hong Kong, located between Sha Tin New Town and the Lion Rock. It is the largest part of the Sha Tin District.With an MTR station serving two lines, 5 bus termini and several tunnels and roads connecting it to other parts of the New Territories, Kowloon and Tsuen Wan, Tai Wai is an important transportation node in Hong Kong.

Tate's Cairn

Tate's Cairn (Chinese: 大老山; Cantonese Yale: Daaih Lóu Sāan; literally: 'Big Brother Mountain') is a mountain peak in Hong Kong, 583 metres (1,913 ft) in height. It is one of the peaks of the Kowloon Ridge and falls within Ma On Shan Country Park. The peak began to appear on colonial maps in the 1860s but remained un-named until the beginning of the 20th Century.The origins of the name of the peak is unknown, but it may originate from maps created by a surveyor named George Passman Tate, Assistant Superintendent of Indian Survey Department whom is responsible for government maps of Hong Kong and New Territories in 1899 and 1900.Built in 1991 at a cost of HK$2 billion, Tate's Cairn Tunnel is a 3.9 kilometres (2.4 mi)-long twin-tube vehicular tunnel running north-south beneath the peak.

The Stage 4 to 5 transition of the MacLehose Trail is located beneath the cairn.

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