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Hong Kong during the 1950s
On 1 July, Hong Kong marks the 10th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule after 156 years of British administration.


David Johnson (right) with friends during the 1950s
David Johnson (right) and friends during the 1950s

My memories from Hong Kong are from 1954. Our artillery unit had been ordered to go to Hong Kong from Korea.

We had been stationed in the wilderness guarding a strategic bridge over the river Imjin not far from the border with the North. So going to Hong Kong was a very welcome prospect.

In Hong Kong we had to occasionally man an observation post overlooking the border with Communist China. Drilling, practising and the unending cleaning of guns and equipment ruled our days.

The weekends were different. Whenever I could afford to, pals and I would take the weekend transport truck from our barracks in the New Territories into Kowloon and wander around. One of the most interesting things to do sample cuisine from around the world - there were restaurants from every part of the globe.

View of Hong Kong from the peak
David Johnson took this photo from Victoria Peak in the 1950s
Kowloon was a bustling noisy place - noise of rickshaws, trams, street vendors and people. It was largely without the traffic noise and the pollution we all endure today, however the aroma was rather stronger.

One of the greatest delights was travelling on the Star Ferry to Hong Kong city.

It was more formal than Kowloon with fewer people on the streets, fewer marketplaces, more vehicles but it had some very interesting sites.

The buildings seemed huge - particularly the Bank of China now a mere mouse to today's giraffe-like structures. But the most exciting journey was up the funicular railway to Hong Kong Peak.

From there one could see the whole of the Harbour, the spread of Kowloon and in the background a ring of hills leading into the New Territories.

The New Territories also had fascinations for Western eyes. Paddy fields, pearl oyster farms, rural villages and the local people who were forever polite and smiling.

Junk in harbour (Photo: David Johnson)
Junk in harbour (Photo: David Johnson)
Manoeuvres also took us to out-of-the-way places. One of my clearest memories is of swimming off a remote beach in a race to reach a buoy some distance from the shore.

I reached there first to my surprise and climbed up to celebrate to see the rest of the troop jumping up and down and making a lot of incoherent noise. Very proud of myself I swam leisurely back to shore to be told that a large shark had swum towards the group and passed between the buoy and the shore while we were still racing.

Wherever we went in the colony we were met with courtesy - even those who got drunk and rowdy had understanding handling. But the Military Police were usually near enough to prevent situations escalating.

Indeed the strongest impression that I retain from those times and travels is the humanity of all that I met - the differences are superficial.

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