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About the Project

The Battle of Hong Kong (8-25 December 1941) was one of the first battles of the Pacific War and was the most significant military engagement between two regular armed forces that took place in Hong Kong in its modern history. The invading Japanese forces of around 35,000 strong faced a garrison of 13,500 consisted of British, Indian, Canadian, and local troops. In eighteen days, the two forces fought in the New Territories, Kowloon, and Hong Kong Island. The garrison suffered 3,445 casualties (KIA, WIA, and MIA) and the attacking force 2,218. Around 4,000 civilians were killed and wounded. Hong Kong then entered a period of Japanese rule that lasted for three years and eight months.

There have been numerous studies on the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941; in recent years, more primary sources, in the form of the memoirs of those who had experienced it, are available in different forms, sometimes on the internet. However, it has been a challenge for researchers to show the spatial and temporal dimensions of the battle and their relationship with the events, the people’s experience, and the war ruins that still exist in Hong Kong. In the 1950s, the British government decided to withdraw the coastal defences in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong government and the garrison began to clear some of the WWII-era defence structures to prevent them from being occupied. Still, some of these facilities exist, and some are relatively intact. Some of them are within walking distance from the urban area and have been discovered and explored by hikers. Provided that the safety and environmental issues are addressed, these structures allow the citizens and visitors to learn more about Hong Kong’s historical experience and its international role during the Second World War.

The spatial history project “Hong Kong 1941” uses geographic information systems (GIS) to build a web map about the Battle of Hong Kong and a database of British military installations in Hong Kong during the Second World War. It offers an easy-to-use historical database for educators, tourists, and conservation professionals. The Principal Investigator of the project is Kwong Chi Man, Associate Professor of the Department of History, Baptist University. He and his research team have studied the Hong Kong battle since 2011, collecting first-hand data from the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Australia, and other places. As of June 2021, he has six works on the topic (with one forthcoming). The research team also created the “Hong Kong Resistance: the British Army Aid Group, 1942-1945 (https://digital.lib.hkbu.edu.hk/history/baag.php?lang=EN)” in 2020 to explore the underground resistance movements in Hong Kong during the Second World War.

The web map contains the following layers of data:

  1. Unit disposition: the map will divide the Battle of Hong Kong campaign into 51 “time-steps”, each showing the positions and status of the units on both sides. The data granularity is down to platoon/squad/individual artillery pieces.
  2. The location of various military structures: including coastal Defence batteries, anti-aircraft batteries, pillboxes, headquarters, shelters, medical posts, communication lines, demolition points, pre-arranged artillery targets, etc. The data granularity is up to individual buildings (such as individual pillboxes).
  3. Faces of War: the stories of those who had experienced the battle.
  4. Objects of War: objects and artefacts related to the battle, such as weapons, vehicles, military aircraft, vessels, personal equipment, and others.
  5. Images of War: photos taken during the period.
  6. Units: information about the units on both sides participating in the battle.
  7. A list of Hong Kong combatants: personal information on 1,600 Hong Kong residents from different ethnic groups and backgrounds who participated in the battle.

The related works previously published by the research team

Kwong, Chi Man. Hongkongers in the British Armed Forces, 1860-1997 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), forthcoming in 2022.

Kwong, Chi Man. “One Step at a Time: The LyemunDefences during the Colonial Period (見步行步:殖民地時期鯉魚門地區的防禦工事),” Hong Kong Old and New: Essays on Hong Kong History and Culture, 2017 (鑪峰古今:香港歷史文化論集 2018), (Hong Kong: Centre for Hong Kong History and Culture Studies, 2018), pp. 110-129.

Kwong, Chi Man. “The Hong Kong Chinese Soldiers in the Second World War (第二次世界大戰期間的華籍英兵),” Hong Kong, Society, Tensions (香港.社會.角力), (Hong Kong: Infolink Publishing, 2017), pp. 7-33. (http://www.ip.com.hk/rbook055.htm)

Kwong, Chi Man. “From Breech-loaders to Atomic Bombs: Liberal Militarism, Capability Gap, and British Defence of Hong Kong, 1878-1958 (從後裝砲到核武:「自由軍國主義」、「戰力差距」與英國在香港防務, 1878-1958),” New History of the Coastal Defence of Modern China 近代中國海防史新論 (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 2017), pp. 480-499. (https://www.jointpublishing.com/publishing/catalogue/humanity-academic/contemporary-china/9789620440472.aspx)

Kwong, Chi Man; Tsoi, Yiu Lun. “PB 3 during the Battle of Wong Nai Chung Gap: From the Japanese Sources,” Surveying and Built Environment (The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors), Vol. 23, No. 1, (2015), pp. 75-89. (https://www.hkis.org.hk/archive/materials/category/20160816094144.0.pdf)

Kwong, Chi Man. Congguang zhilu: riju xianggang yu taipingyang zhanzheng (Road to Liberation: Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong, 1942-1945 [Chinese]) (Hong Kong: Cosmos, 2015). (https://www.cosmosbooks.com.hk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=988825566

Kwong, Chi Man. Laobing busi, xianggang huaji yingbing (Old Soldiers Never Die: Hong Kong Chinese Soldiers in the British Forces [Chinese]). Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 2014. (https://www.jointpublishing.com/bookstore/chinese-books/social-science/military/history/9789620443589.aspx)

Kwong, Chi Man; Tsoi, Yiu Lun. Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014. (https://hkupress.hku.hk/pro/161.php)

Kwong, Chi Man; Tsoi, Yiu Lun. Gudu qianshao: taipingyang zhanzheng zhong de xianggang zhanyi (Exposed Outpost: The Battle of Hong Kong in the Pacific War [Chinese]). Hong Kong: Cosmos, 2013. (https://www.cosmosbooks.com.hk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=988825434)

Kwong, Chi Man. ‘Reconstructing the Early History of the Gin Drinker’s Line from Archival Sources,’ Surveying and Built Environment, Vol. 22, No. 1, (2012), pp. 19-36. (https://www.hkis.org.hk/archive/materials/category/20160816094316.0.pdf)


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