The Sai Wan Battery (also sometimes referred to as Sai Wan Hill Battery, Former Sai Wan Battery, Sai Wan Battery and Redoubt, or Sai Wan Fort) is a former British battery from World War II, located on top of Sai Wan Hill, adjacent to the Lei Yue Mun Barracks.
Today, the battery lies in perfect condition but the wild vegetation around it makes it difficult to explore. Also, entering the battery or redoubt is no longer possible.
The Sai Wan Battery can be visited via a short hike to the top of Sai Wan Hill from Chai Wan Road. So, if you’re in the mood to explore a WWII battery that also has amazing views of the city, keep reading.
Sai Wan Hill Hike
Hiking up Sai Wan Hill is actually quite easy. So, I may not technically qualify this as a hike but more as an exploratory walk. However, the initial section of the climb does feel like a hike. But once you emerge onto the paved road, it’s a short and gentle uphill walk to the battery, where you spend your time exploring the historical site.
The distance from the starting point to the entrance of the battery is approximately 900 metres, and it should take about 30 minutes to cover the distance. Once at the battery, you can spend as much or as little time exploring it.
To reach Sai Wan Battery, make your way to the start of Chai Wan Road, near Island Garden (the residential complex).
To reach here, you can take the Island Line MTR line to Shau Kei Wan station, take Exit C to A Kung Ngam Road, and then walk up Chai Wan Road.
Alternatively, you can take a bus directly to Island Garden. There are plenty of buses that ply this route, and it’s best to use Google Maps to determine the best route for you.
Once you reach Island Garden, walk uphill to the end of the property where this is a children’s playground. Turn left at the playground and then immediately look for the steps on the right next to the pumping station.
These steps mark the start of the hike.
Shortcut to the Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail
The steps are essentially a shortcut that cuts down the distance by 2.5 times as opposed to walking up the paved road. The paved road offers a gentler incline as opposed to the steps, which are a mix of steep and flat sections.
The initial section of the shortcut consists of relatively steep steps but it slowly becomes more gentle as it climbs up the hill.
Fortunately, the steps are shaded all the way, which makes this hike possible on hot, sunny days.
After the initial steep section, the mid-section of this trail becomes flat before it connects to the final flight of steps that reunite with the paved road.
Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail
The next section of the hike follows the gentle incline of the Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail. This trail is quite popular among joggers and walkers who live close by.
So, as you emerge from the steps, turn right and walk uphill on the Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail.
After about 300 metres, there’s a hairpin bend with a covered area with benches. You can take a break here, or continue on the Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail as the entrance of the battery is just another 50 metres ahead.
Entrance and Guardrooms
The two concrete pillars on the side of the trail mark the entrance to the Sai Wan Battery.
Just beyond the entrance is a guard post on the left, and a building full of rooms on the right. This building and the three other similar ones ahead I believe are the old guard rooms for the Sai Wan Battery.
Between the second and the third guardrooms is a Japanese tunnel. Like many WWII relics in Hong Kong, the Sai Wan Battery was also captured when the Japanese invaded the city. This tunnel was dug after the fort and battery were captured by the Japanese.
Just ahead of the tunnel are the two other guardroom buildings.
And finally, a few metres ahead of the last guardroom is the Sai Wan Battery and Fort. As I mentioned, this is a very short hike.
Sai Wan Battery
At the end of the Sai Wan Fort Morning Trail is a large flat area where the Sai Wan Battery sits, along with a large outdoor sitting area.
The fort/battery is made of brick and stone and finished construction in 1903. Although it has been cordoned off to the public, you can still admire its facade and peek through the windows.
The rooms inside the battery were used to hold ammunition and supplies for the battery above. To reach the top of the battery, walk along the short ramp past a few other rooms.
On the top of the battery, you’ll notice the two gun emplacements. In 1903, the battery housed two six-inch guns that were later upgraded to anti-aircraft guns in the 1920s.
Today, the big mounting bolts that were used to hold the guns are still visible in the concrete floor, along with the storage locker areas around the emplacements.
The views of Shau Kei Wan and Taikoo are also quite spectacular from the gun emplacements!
Fun fact, there is a fairly lengthy fight scene shot at the battery in the 1965 French film, Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine. In the film, the battery looks remarkably different without all the trees and vegetation that surround it today.
History of the Sai Wan Battery
The battery’s location occupies a strategic position overlooking the eastern approach to Victoria Harbour. And in the early days of trade, the British Forces constructed barracks to the south of Sai Wan Hill.
By the 1880s, the British Forces began building fortifications on a large scale at Lei Yue Mun to protect Hong Kong from foreign invasion, which led to the construction of a fort and a battery at Sai Wan Hill. The fort was completed in 1895 and in 1898, the 89th Company of the Royal Garrison Artillery began to build a battery next to the fort to house two six-inch breech-loading Mark VII guns. And as mentioned earlier, the British troops converted the battery into an anti-aircraft facility against airstrikes in the 1920s.
Involvement in WWII
On 8 December 1941, when the Japanese army started in-vading Hong Kong, the Sai Wan Battery was manned by the 5th Battery of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. While Japanese warplanes had bombed the battery repeatedly before the Japanese army landed on Hong Kong Island, Japanese warplanes were reportedly shot down by the guns at Sai Wan Battery.
But on the night of 18 December 1941, the Japanese troops landed on Hong Kong Island. And within 30 minutes after landing, the Japanese troops reached the Sai Wan Battery. The attack resulted in six gunners in garrison at the Battery being killed, twenty taken prisoners, and thirty escapees.
On 25 December 1941, the Governor of Hong Kong, declared the unconditional surrender of the colony. This marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, which lasted three years and eight months.
If you’re interested in learning more about surrender, I highly recommend a tour of the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail.
Top of the Redoubt
To continue on your self-guided tour of the Sai Wan Battery, follow the steps with the blue railing on the second ramp, to the top of the redoubt.
At the top of the steps, is an unused reservoir, which I believe was added much later to the redoubt.
Ahead of the reservoir, is a fenced area marked as a Transposer Station. But walk to the right side of the fence and take the flight of steps. Walk up the steps, and then turn right through the trees.
At the end of this path, you’ll notice that you’re standing on top of the redoubt! On the right side, there is a staircase that goes down to the lower level of the redoubt, which was presumably a caponier. I did not venture down the steps but feel free to explore at your own risk.
On the other side, you can make a loop and return to the transposer. But on this path, keep an eye out for a marker stone next to the fence.
The stone dates back to late 1843 or early 1844 and was to mark the corner of a plot of military land and as a triangulation station for Hong Kong’s early map makers.
Around the walls of the redoubt
After exploring the top of the redoubt, walk down the steps on the ramp and turn right onto the shaded path.
At the end of this path, is another gun emplacement with visible bolts in the concrete floor. I believe this emplacement, and the area where there is a bench, were two more emplacements facing east.
Behind the gun emplacement, there are steps to the outer wall of the redoubt. Walk up the steps and then turn left. At this point, you should be just behind the transposer station.
Walk on the trail till the corner of the redoubt. At this point, you can turn right and continue exploring the walls outside the caponier. Again, explore at your own risk.
Return to Chai Wan Road
After exploring the Sai Wan Battery and Redoubt to your heart’s content, you can simply trace your steps back to the starting point. Alternatively, there is a shortcut from next to the outer wall of the redoubt.
At the northwest corner of the redoubt, there is a path heading downhill. Head down this path that crosses the Sai Wan Hill triangulation station.
Keep walking downhill, and you might notice a few ribbon markers to let you know that you’re on the right path. This shortcut eventually emerges next to the hairpin bend just below the entrance of Sai Wan Battery.
Sai Wan Battery – A beautifully preserved relic
After World War II, the Sai Wan Battery continued to be used for military defence till 1987, when it was handed over to the Hong Kong Government.
The battery is one of the best-preserved batteries that I’ve seen in Hong Kong. It’s not as grand as the Mount Davis Battery, but it’s another beautiful war relic hidden in plain sight.
The Gough Battery and Redoubt on Devil’s Peak are directly opposite the Sai Wan Battery. I imagine that the two batteries had complete control over the eastern channel of Victoria Harbour.
I hope you enjoyed this short and easy guide to exploring the Sai Wan Battery. There are many such WWII relics in Hong Kong to explore!
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