Anyone hiking along Smuggler’s Ridge (孖指徑) between the Shing Mun Reservoir and the Kam Shan Country Park will soon run into the desolate Shing Mun Redoubt.
The historical site is quite near the entrance of section six of the MacLehose Trail.
It serves as a mute reminder of the Battle of Hong Kong between the British and the Japanese invaders more than 70 years ago.
The redoubt was part of the Gin Drinkers Line (醉酒灣防線) that was built along the series of ridges across the New Territories from 1936 to 1938 by the British colonial government in preparation for the war.
The defensive line of trenches, pill-boxes and bunkers was intended to stall the Japanese from advancing beyond Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island.
Situated at the edge of the defense line, the solid redoubt was vulnerable to attacks.
On the night of Dec. 9, 1941, 500 Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack to the left flank of the Shing Mun Redoubt, where it was only garrisoned by 30 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots.
Severely undermanned, the redoubt yielded to the Japanese forces in one night.
By observing the bullet holes on the wall of the defense tunnel, one will not find it too difficult to imagine how brutal the battle was.
Most of the redoubt’s underground tunnels are still accessible today. They are engraved with the names of London streets so the soldiers could easily remember them.
Hong Kong fell into the hands of the enemy after 18 days of fierce battle, and officially surrendered on Dec. 25, 1941.
The all-time true inhabitants of the area are the monkeys, which is why Kam Shan Country Park is often referred to as “Monkey Hill”.
However, the monkey we see there today are no longer the indigenous rhesus macaques, as most of them had vanished as a result of rampant hunting and the loss of their forest habitat.
Major surviving species are the Rhesus Macaque, Long-tailed Macaque and their hybrids.
The monkeys were introduced from abroad in 1910 in the hope that they would consume the narrrow-flowered poison nut (牛眼馬錢), one of the four highly poisonous plants in Hong Kong, to prevent it from tainting the water of the Kowloon reservoirs, which were completed in the 1920s.
But the macaques’ diet has gone beyond the indigenous plants in the area and they are now smart enough to open potato chip packages and even bottles.
Remember to hide your food well while doing the trail, and never try to feed them as it is not only illegal but also very dangerous.
To go to Shing Mun Reservoir: Take green minibus route no. 82 at Shiu Wo Street, Tsuen Wan.
To return from Kam Shan Country Park: Take KMB bus route no. 72 or 81 to Cheung Sha Wan or Jordan.
Reference: Government website (Section 6 of the MacLehose Trail)
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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