Stonecutters Island

Stonecutters Island
Stonecutters Island, with West Kowloon in the foreground.

Stonecutters Island or Ngong Shuen Chau (Chinese: 昂船洲; Mandarin Pinyin: Āngchuánzhōu; Jyutping: ngong5 syun4 zau1) is a former island in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. Following land reclamation, it is now annexed to the Kowloon peninsula.

Location of Stonecutters Island within HKSAR



The island boasted at least three mating pairs of sulphur-crested cockatoos; noisy but welcome additions to the island fauna.

There were also many snakes on the island. Banded kraits, brown cobra and bamboo snakes were common denizens of the island - even into the late 1980s. Black kites often hovered overhead, looking for prey and carrion amongst the many tamarind, ficus benjamina and banyan trees. Mynah birds would constantly recite a morse code ...- (V for victory).


Under British Rule

The island was ceded by the Qing Dynasty Emperor of China to Britain with Kowloon in 1860 through the Convention of Peking. The island was initially used for quarrying by the British, hence the English name for the island.

A British Royal Navy signals Radio Interception and Direction-finding Station was established on the island in 1935. From 1935 to 1939 the base was the main radio interception unit for the Far East Combined Bureau, which was four miles away across the harbour in the naval dockyard.

After World War Two the island became host to British Army units including 415 Maritime Unit RCT and the Ammunition Sub-Depot RAOC. Explosive storage became more important following the Hong Kong 1967 riots and the Hong Kong Mines Division elected to have all commercial explosives stored on Stonecutter's prior to being issued to the various blasting sites in the colony. British Army (RAOC) soldiers oversaw all commercial explosive issues post 1968 until the colony was transferred to China in 1997. Before 1997, It was the training anfd HQ Depot HKMSC (Hong Kong Military Service Corps).

The island was policed by Indian Sikhs; the choice was obvious because traditionally, Sikhs neither smoke nor drink alcohol. The Army Department Police (ADP), as they were known, saw continuous service on the island during the British era. Field hockey was the game they loved, and they were often seen playing bare-footed on the padang. During this author's time (1982–1984) the ADP boasted two Indian national hockey players. It was common to see their blue pagris (turbans) drying in the sun outside their barracks.

The Royal Navy continued to provide a ferry service (known as T-Boats) connecting islanders with HMS Tamar on Hong Kong and the Star Ferry terminal in Kowloon. Additional boats were provided by 415 Maritime Unit RCT and crewed by Local Employed Personnel (LEPs). Avid gambling was enjoyed by the crewmen as their little vessels connected the islanders with the mainland.

During the 60s, 70s and 80s, the island became used as a 'Rest and Recuperation' resort, having several chalet style bungalows built around the NAAFI shop, restaurant and swimming pool complex on South Shore. There was also a commercial interest on the island; Jardine/Du Pont erected an explosive factory on the island to cater for the ever-growing need for commercial blasting explosives. The island factory manufactured several tonnes of water gel and other commercial explosives per week. Limited stocks of PRC, British and other commercial explosives were stored in the island's Victorian explosive storage tunnels.

During the 70s and 80s, the island was also the FOB (forward operating base) of a Royal Navy Hovercraft unit deployed to assist the Hong Kong government with anti illegal immigration operations. The Royal Navy unit (Naval Party 1009) was under control of Cmdr Chris Stafford and two SRN6 Mk6 Hovercraft were continually operated until 1985 when the unit was finally disbanded.

Some buildings or military facilities within the Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks are now graded historic buildings.[1]

During World War II

Stonecutters Island was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army on 11 December 1941, following heavy shelling. Merchant ships in the island's docks were scuttled, and demolitions were carried out at Kowloon Naval Yard and on the island. During World War II, radio installations on the island were used by the Japanese for military purposes and for extending the range of transmission of the NHK Overseas Broadcasting Bureau.

The Japanese (during the WW2 occupation) used the unique isolation of the island to house a snake farm. The snakes were milked of their venom to provide antidotes for their soldiers bitten on active duty in the Pacific theatre.

After 1997

Following the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997, the naval base is now operated by the People's Liberation Army of the PRC.

Infrastructure on the island

The island was connected to the Kowloon peninsula by the West Kowloon Reclamation in the 1990s to provide land for the construction of the road and railway network to the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok, and for the Container Terminal 8 of Kwai Tsing Container Terminals.

Stonecutter's Island is the site of a large sewage treatment facility known as Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works. Since the facility was built in 2001, it has managed to reduce the amount of E. coli in the water by 99 percent, while other pollutants are reduced by 70-80 percent, allowing coral to return to Victoria Harbour and made Hong Kong's beaches safe for swimming again. [2]

Also, the Stonecutters Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge which linked up the Kowloon peninsula with the Tsing Yi Island to form part of Route 8, was opened in 2009.

See also


Further reading

  • Harland, Kathleen. The Royal Navy in Hong Kong Since 1841. Liskeard, England: Maritime Books, 1985. ISBN 090777119X

External links

Coordinates: 22°19′20″N 114°8′10″E / 22.32222°N 114.13611°E / 22.32222; 114.13611

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