Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail lies next to one of Hong Kong’s most famous tourist attractions. Victoria Peak is better known for the views over Hong Kong Island and its famous tram. However, less than 30 minute away on the Western side of the peak are the abandoned remains of Pinewood Battery, build in 1905.
The battery was built to have a commanding view over the surrounding water (the forest that currently covers Victoria Peak was not there at the time). At the time of its construction the battery held two 6-inch guns. As the Japanese attacked in December 1941 Pinewood Battery was heavily damaged, and was abandoned before it saw any real action. In the years since the war the battery fell into ruin, but was recently award Grade II protected status. The Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail was created in 2009 to educate visitors about the site and its history.
The Pinewood Battery ruins are accessible by taking Harlech Road around the south side of the peak, from where sign posts are clear. The walk from the Victoria Peak is either flat or steeply downhill. Note that in some cases the signs appear to be pointing in two different directions, but in reality these paths join up later. The first part of the ruins encountered are very similar to those found on Mount Davis, and appear to be some form of store rooms. The ruins are very well kept, with no graffiti to speak of, which is great to see. In parts it is even possible to see what looks like the original camouflage paint on the buildings’ walls.
There are several small side trails that lead off to smaller buildings, including one that looks like an observation post and another that looks like a bathroom(!). However, the main part of the ruins is the former gun emplacements, of which there are two. Like those on Mount Davis the concrete structures and the central mounting point for the artillery as clear clearly visible. They must have had a commanding field of fire before the forest reclaimed the hill.
Between the two main gun positions are some smaller buildings, original brickwork now finally collapsing and succumbing to nature. Although some of the ruins have been demolished in recent times (before the sites Grade II listing), it is easy to appreciate the scale of the site and how awe-inspiring it must have looked at the top of this hill.
Information boards dotted around the sight offer a history of the battery, while the ruins themselves are quietly evocative of a different era. Standing alone among the spooky ruins, it is still hard to imagine the ferocity of the fighting that occurred on this small island, and the hardship that followed under Japanese occupation. We are lucky that a small group of people have recently made efforts to preserve historic sites such as this, the Mount Davis battery, and the ruins at Wong Nei Chung for future generations. Particularly in a city as fast-paced and crowded as Hong Kong, it is easy to see how the land these ruins occupy could be cleared for ‘development’.
Once you have finished exploring the ruins, the easiest way to get back to Central Hong Kong is to continue descending down the path to the east. A road and then a series of stairs brings you out near the HKU MTR station. This is a much easier option than walking back up the steps to the Victoria Peak terminal.
If you are interested in World War 2 sites in Hong Kong, there are a surprising number that can be visited. The closest to Pinewood Battery is Mount Davis, on the hill opposite. When continuing down from the Pinewood trail it is possible to turn left and head along Pok Fu Lam road towards Mount David Road. The Wong Nei Chung Gap was another key defensive position in the Battle of Hong Kong, and can be found to the East of Victoria Peak. There are also World War 2 sites in Hong Kong that I haven’t visited, including the Gough Battery at Devil’s Peak and the Shing Mun Redoubt. Over 3500 Allied soldiers died during the Battle of Hong Kong or in subsequent captivity, including over 2000 who have no known grave. They are all commemorated in Sai Wan War Cemetery on Hong Kong island.