To most people, intelligence work is something mysterious, but in wartime, military information is critical to the understanding of strategic deployments, the latest defence setups and even military strength. Those who are interested in learning more about the intelligence work of the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) in World War II should not miss the exhibition, "British Aid Group Drawings", currently on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence until March 16, 2011.
Featuring 38 priceless drawings provided by the Australian War Memorial, the exhibition reveals the BAAG's military intelligence on Japan, the situation on the battlefield as well as the BAAG's duties. Most of the drawings on display are very small in size but carry a great deal of detail, making them instrumental to the victory of the Allies in World War II.
Colonel Lindsay Ride, who founded the BAAG, was briefly detained at Sham Shui Po Prisoners-of-war Camp after the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese in 1941. He later escaped, walked through Shatin and reached Sai Kung, where he took a sampan and left Hong Kong waters, reaching Shayuchung on the north coast of Mirs Bay. With the help of Chinese guerrillas, Colonel Ride made his way through Waichow (Huizhou) and arrived at Kukong (Qujiang; present-day Shaoguan), the wartime capital of Guangdong Province, where he founded the BAAG.
The BAAG officers were generally those who had pre-war experience of Hong Kong and China. They helped the prisoners-of-war in Hong Kong to escape from Japanese captivity, and successfully organised a network of agents to collect military intelligence that contributed much to the final victory of the Allied Powers. In August 1945, Japan declared unconditional surrender, and members of the BAAG participated in the takeover of Hong Kong by the Allied forces. On December 31, 1945, the BAAG was disbanded.
The drawings collected by Colonel Ride during the war period were later donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The exhibition features part of this collection. The drawings on display contain detailed depictions of the various buildings and structures under surveillance, the surroundings, geographical location, the number of guards stationed at the deployment, as well as the types and quantities of supplies stored there. The exhaustive information means the drawings could not have been the product of hasty effort by a single intelligence officer. The drawings were often handed to personnel who knew nothing about the sites and structures recorded, and who would rely on them to carry out air raids, avoid counter-attacks from Japanese military installations, or even arrange meetings with other members of the organisation at specific locations so that intelligence could be exchanged. Furthermore, for convenient delivery and to evade detection by the Japanese forces, the intelligence drawings were produced on small pieces of paper, and the meticulous drawings are supplemented with detailed but precise textual illustration. They remind us that the Allies' victory was indeed the fruit of a concerted effort.
The Museum of Coastal Defence is located at 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong. It opens from 10am to 5pm and is closed on Thursdays, except public holidays. Admission is $10 and half-price concessions are applicable to full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition, please visit the museum's website at www.hk.coastaldefence.museum or call 2569 1500.
Ends/Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The "Drawing of the Anti-aircraft Gun of No. 2 Work Department of the Imperial Navy" is on display at the "British Army Aid Group Drawings" exhibition. This drawing shows the No. 2 Work Department of the Japanese Imperial Navy, the site of the Royal Naval Dockyard before the fall of Hong Kong. It continued to serve as an important military base during the Japanese occupation. The Japanese forces set up anti-aircraft guns and gun emplacements to control the airspace above the No. 2 Work Department of the Imperial Navy. In 1944 and 1945, Allied fighter jets carried out a number of air raids on the northern part of Hong Kong Island, but mistakenly bombed civilian residences in Wan Chai to the east, causing terrible damage and heavy casualties.
This picture shows the "Drawing of the Anti-aircraft gun at the Stable in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Imperial Navy Ammunition Department" . It mentions the barracks of the Indian garrison, which was in fact Whitfield Barracks located in present-day Kowloon Park, Tsim Sha Tsui. The intelligence officer provided detailed information on the gun emplacements, two connecting caves built by the Japanese, the location of the quarters (in terms of the distance from the gun locations) and the number of soldiers on guard, suggesting that the intelligence was the fruit of extensive research. Furthermore, the report mentions that the barracks were equipped with anti-aircraft guns camouflaged under leaves and trees so as to alert Allied fighter pilots to be cautious during air raids to avoid return fire from the Japanese.
According to this "Drawing of Japanese military club Suikousha" , the Japanese Southern Expeditionary Naval Force had requisitioned civilian residences on Argyle Street and established a military club called Suikousha where high-ranking officers could discuss classified matters. The Suikousha was in fact a social networking organisation for the Japanese forces, with its name originating from the ancient saying that "friendships among gentlemen are plain like water." The intelligence officer provided detailed descriptions of the military club's surroundings, and specified that the building housing the Suikousha was equipped with a Kempeitai-endorsed electric rod. This rod would help intelligence officers work in the area and Allied fighter pilots to identify the building. The area depicted in the drawing is around present-day Yee On Court (at the intersection of Argyle Street and Waterloo Road in Mongkok) and Kadoorie Hill.