Old RAF Hangar at Tai Hom / Diamond Hill

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This hangar was mentioned in the 'Japanese pillbox at Diamond Hill' place, but deserves its own entry. It is clear to see on the satellite photo above.

Here are the notes so far:

A recent copy of HK magazine had an article 'Tearing up the town' about historical areas that may be redeveloped and disappear. Their description of Tai Hom Village, Diamond Hill says:

Also in the area is the former RAF Hangar (Grade-III), which was used by the Japanese to store jets [I think they mean 'store aeroplanes'] and other machinery following their occupation of the territory.

A reader sent in a link to a photo of the area before the village was cleared. The rusty construction in the centre-left of the photo is the hangar: http://www1.uwants.com/viewthread.php?tid=5835800&extra=&highlight=%A4j%EA%A9%A7%F8&page=1

Rusty wrote:

[The pillbox was] for protecting the Japanese plane hangers, which is located just nearby in the same area.(the British hangers were located rather seaside, at the south-west corner of then Airport) (Kai Tak airport had gradually (moved) to the south in history, in the Second World War, this place is a northern boarder of the Kai Tak Airport)

Moddsey wrote:

It is not clear when the hangar at Tai Hom was erected and by whom (Japanese or British). However, through aerial reconnaisance photos prior to the end of WWII it is now known that the hangar was already erected in situ and would have definitely been used by the Japanese. After the war, the RAF used the hangar for their Spitfires. As the hangar was situated outside the confines of RAF Kai Tak, access to it was via a narrow road that crossed the Kai Tak Airport perimeter road (Choi Hung Road).

The Mapping of Hong Kong book on aerial reconnaisance circa 1944 [has an aerial photo which] shows the hangar and the access road traversing the ring road i.e Clearwater Bay Road, subsequently renamed Choi Hung Road.The 1945-1958 Kai Tak Airport comprised two paved crossing runways that were built by the Japanese with British POW labour. The main runway in similar direction to the reclaimed runway at Kai Tak was located in the area that we know today as San Po Kong.

Also see this timeline of maps of the Kai Tak area, to see how the hangar was once close to the airfield.


Old hangar at Tai Hom / Diamond Hill

More from Moddsey on the history behind this hangar:

The hangar at Tai Hom in your thread refers to the disused military RAF hangar at Diamond Hill probably erected by the Japanaese during the expansion of Kai Tak in WWII and subsequently used by the British after the re-occupation of Hong Kong. However, there is no record to indicate when this was done and when it became disued.

Prior to the closure of RAF Kai Tak in the 1970s, Kai Tak Airport and the airfield prior to it was divided into civilian and military use. The RAF had always occupied the eastern end of Kai Tak (next to today's Richland and Telford Gardens) whilst the civilian side was located at the western end. From the 1930s till 1941, the RAF and the Harbour Department (which controlled civiilan airport operations) both operated their own separate hangars.

In 1941 prior to the Japanese occupation, there were plans afoot by the authorities to expand Kai Tak Airfield and build paved runways. For such purpose, the RAF hangar located at the eastern end of the airfiled was dismantled in June 1941. During the war years the Japanese followed up with the British plans for expansion of Kai Tak and built the two paved crossing runways.

Getting back to the hangar at Tai Hom, whether material from the dismantled RAF hangar was used for the one at Diamond Hill is anyone's guess. However, the steel supports of the hangar do indicate that they are of British origin!

Old hangar at Tai Hom / Diamond Hill

More photos and notes from Moddsey:

The first photo shows the RAF hangar at Tai Hom with a Spitfire undergoing maintenance in front of it.

The second photo captures the discussion that is taking place. It is an aerial shot of the northwestern end of Kai Tak probably taken after 1954 showing the:

  1. RAF aircraft parking apron to the north of the airport
  2. Extension to Runway 13 that was completed in 1950
  3. RAF hangar at Tai Hom and the access road leading to it
  4. Diamond Hill squatter area
  5. Choi Hung Rd and the nullah
  6. Worn track through Nga Tsin Wai Village that was used by British POW labour to build the paved runways (right of the extended runway)
  7. Sha Tin Pass Rd (left of the extension)
  8. Clearwater Bay Rd winding up Customs Pass and
  9. Good Hope School founded in 1954 (Oldtimer's school)

The hanger was certainly built of British steel from Dorman Long.

When the hangar was visited about 3 years ago it was obvious that this was only a portion of what is assumed to be the original RAF hanger that was dismantled in 1940 for the new runway construction. The hangar at Tai Hom is only 1/3 of the length of the RAF hangar that was situated and subsequently dismantled at the eastern end of Kai Tak.

To confuse things even more, the civil hangar that was situated at the western end of Kai Tak also disappeared during the war. It is feasible that material from this hangar could have been used for construction of the one at Tai Hom.

The Tai Hom hangar was surrounded on three sides by a high bund presumably for air raid protection. The Japanese Pillbox was behind it.

Another interesting fact from the second photo is that it appears that the RAF hangar was still in use during the mid-50s. I always assumed that it had become disused much earlier. Looks like I was wrong. There is no information on RAF Kai Tak with regard to the hangar becoming disused and/or when the land was handed over to the Government. It may well be that the RAF hangar and airport land in San Po Kong became disused with the opening of the reclaimed runway at Kai Tak in 1958 and not due to land becoming necessay for the squatter village in Diamond Hill as I originally thought.

Thanks to Moddsey for adding so much detail.

If you were stationed at RAF Kai Tak and remember this hangar, please could you share any memories about what the hangar was used for, and when and why it closed?


Photo of the old hangar

I couldn't work out why I couldn't see the hangar in Hedda Morrison's photo 'Kai Tak airfield, looking across eastern Kowloon to Lion Rock.' It was Moddsey's comment above that made it clear:

"The Tai Hom hangar was surrounded on three sides by a high bund..."

A bund is an embankment, so the hangar was hidden behind an earth embankment. If you zoom in to the photo, you can see the hangar after all. Here it is, with the outline of the roof appearing in the centre of the view, just peeping over the top of the embankment.


Recent photos of the RAF Hangar

We've received a set of photos of the hangar taken in 2006. The first photo is here, then click the 'previous image' links to see them all.

The sender hopes the recent interest in the hangar can be the start of broader public support to "preserve the hangar at Kai Tak, with the goal of making it part of a larger aviation museum."

As we've seen above its history includes being part of the original pre-war airfield, its relocation and use by the Japanese during their occupation of Hong Kong, and its use by the RAF in years after the war. That's quite a story, which I'd say makes it worth preserving. What do you think?


Recent photos of the RAF Hangar

Hello. My workshop is just 5 mins from Diamond Hill so today I took the oppurtunity during the public hols with less traffic around to have a gander. It is very easy to find since the hangar shares a space with a Wilson Carpark! Once inside the carpark the hangar dominates the view on one side. It is fenced-off but for the more adventurous there are gaps everywhere and just by the Wilson ticket booth there is another booth inside the fenced off area with a security guard. Sadly my lack of cantonese didn't get me very far with the old boy behind the fence.

I took a wander around the whole site via the main road and then through the public paths. The site is quite extensive with footings and foundations clearly visible dotted around the site. There are some great tiled (mosaic) floors, around 100m away from the hangar itself.

The easiest way into the compound would be through the old man at the Wilson carpark, failing that at the immediate exit of the Diamond Hill MTR station on the main road opposite Hollywood Plaza, there is a huge gap in the fence that looks like it is used daily, and from there the hangar was just 20m away. Presumably the Japanese pillbox was just through there as well but I could not see it.

Well worth a quick trip but very sad to see the site in such an awful state.

RAF Hangar

Great photos but also sad feeling about its condition after years of neglect.
With the roof gone, the deterrioration of the steel structure has accelerated. The critical parts are the connectors and gausset plates which have been rusting away. The skeleton can be restored but only after a thorough inspection by a structural engineer; and additional columns and trusses may be needed. No false ceiling should hide the original metals which are the surviving soul of the hangar.
If there are not already preserved sites and structures related to the Kai Tak airport, it makes it more urgent to preserve this hangar.
Hope and wish you get funding to start this project.

Spitfires at RAF Kai Tak

One of the photos above shows a spitfire outside the hangar. Here's an interesting description of one of the roles of spitfires in Hong Kong - photo reconnaisance over China.


RAF Hangar, 1938 - 2008

The Hong Kong Historical Aircraft Association (HKHAA) have kindly sent in some more information.

First is a map from 1938, showing the location of the original hangar (bottom-left corner) before it was dismantled. Looking at that it seems the hangar's original location also appears on the 1930 map we have on the Kai Tak History page.

On the 1938 map you can also see the building labelled '1' in the top-right corner. The HKHAA say that was the RAF Officer's mess. If you look on Google's satellite image of the area, that building is still standing today, though with a couple of changes from its 1938 original layout.

Next was this photo of the hangar taken in 1938.

Finally there's this map of the area today, confirming the location of the hangar and the Japanese pillbox.


The Conservancy Association website also has some detail...

about Tai Hom Village, including photos of the hangar and pillbox: