The Mail was, of course, always eagerly anticipated. It usually was quite regular with two by air each week taking about 5 days. The Battery Clerk would collect it from the BFPO in Hong Kong and it was distributed in the Troop barrack rooms by our Sergeants. Sea-mail took longer about 6-8 weeks for this depended on the shipping. Letters with extra postage came by air, and heavier items – sometimes a home made cake, books, periodicals and newspapers by sea. By these means we were well provided for and I had no complaints, except when well paid strikers in the UK delayed it. They can have had little idea of what it meant to us.
Stanley Barracks – Geography
Before discussing our life at Stanley Barracks, my account moves to discuss Stanley Barracks itself, and its surrounding. Stanley lay about twelve miles from Victoria on the south east side of Hong Kong Island, and was approached by a winding road that ran across and along the easterly side of the Island. In 1950 it comprised a small Chinese fishing village on the shores of a bay, some rather splendid European houses occupying the higher ground and a large civil prison headed the bay. Stanley Barracks were situated further along being out on the Stanley Peninsula facing out into the South China Sea. In WWII it was one of the last places to fall to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941 after fierce fighting, and was the scene of subsequent atrocities.
The peninsula is comparatively narrow and from a height of between 300 and 400 feet falls steeply on either side into the sea. A winding road climbed from Stanley Village to the Barracks. From the guard room at the entrance as the road continued to climb and wind around with on the left hand higher ground on which were quarters for officers and married families, then barrack blocks and a medical centre. As the road straightened out and continued other barrack blocks including one that we occupied, the sergeants mess, garrison church and stores were on the left. To the right at a lower level you could find the cookhouse, Naafi and ablutions, and lower still the parade ground and vehicle park. Along the cliffs were the remains of coastal gun emplacements and other fortifications. On either hand were fine views of Stanley Bay and the Shek O peninsula to the east, Lamma Island occupied by the Chinese communists about eight miles distant to the west, and to the south a view out into the South China Sea.
Stanley Barracks – Buildings and Quarters
The buildings were permanent and substantial being the home of the Hong Kong Garrison. Built I think in the 1930’s in a colonial military style, with flat roofs and open verandas either side on the ground and two upper floors. The barracks were large and able to hold many more troops than us and 173 Locating Battery stationed here also. Many of the upper barrack block floors were empty, though occasionally later used for drafts going to or from Korea.
These quarters were a definite improvement over the temporary and tented camps the Battery had existed in previously. It was an improvement too in that we were not required to sleep under mosquito nets. But the shortage of water, hot and cold, remained – “the water’s on”- was a welcome shout when everybody made for the showers and ablutions before it was turned off again. It was difficult to keep clean and fresh in the hot and humid conditions that prevailed. The barrack rooms we occupied were on the first floor with troop offices and stores on the ground floor. Each room had doors onto the verandas, wood block floors, an open coal fireplace at each end for fires in the winter, ceiling fans, electric lights and a battery radio.