Hong Kong’s French International School (FIS) says it will clean up the French-language graffiti recently found on a nearby World War Two battle site, though it could not confirm whether its students were responsible.

The prestigious private school also says it will conduct education programmes to raise student awareness of the Battle of Hong Kong and the importance of the historical sites.

Photo: Philip Cracknell.

Historic tour guide Philip Cracknell first discovered the graffiti and litter strewn around the former West Brigade headquarters two weeks ago. He told HKFP that he has seen teenagers gather regularly in the area.

The former headquarters was the site of a fierce battle on December 19, 1941 between Canadian forces and the invading Japanese, a day after the latter landed on Hong Kong Island. The battle was led by Brigadier John Lawson, who was killed in action at the site. He was the highest-ranking Canadian soldier to die in World War Two.

‘Special role’ in the site’s upkeep

An FIS spokesperson told HKFP that the school could not confirm whether any of its students were involved. “However, given the proximity of the site to the Blue Pool Road campus, the school is taking… positive action.”

The school said it would ask the Antiques and Monuments Office for information as to how to clean the site and repair the damage.

Photo: Philip Cracknell.

“FIS will approach [the office] to see if it is possible for FIS to have a special role in the upkeep of this monument,” said the school. “We have students who have already volunteered to do so.”

See also: The WWII sacrifice of ‘Free French’ defending Hong Kong

“The Headmaster has organised talks for all FIS secondary students attending the Blue Pool Road campus to remind them of what constitutes acceptable behaviour and to highlight the repercussions of this thoughtless and disrespectful act.”

Awareness initiative

FIS added that its history department will raise awareness of the Battle of Hong Kong among the school’s students, bringing in external guest speakers.

“[We will] invite Mr Philip Cracknell and Mr Bill Lake, a former soldier with the Royal Artillery… to talk to the students about the battle and the war ruins near Wong Nai Chung Gap by way of educating them as to their historic importance.”

The Battle of Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from FIS, history enthusiasts Watershed Hong Kong also said it has contacted the Antiques and Monuments Office.

The group requested that the office erect signs at the former West Brigade headquarters to introduce passers-by to the site, and prevent the site from being vandalised again.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office told HKFP that it is aware of the graffiti, and is seeking advice from specialist conservators on how to remove it. “In parallel, we have also increased the frequency of the cleansing work for the bunker,” said a spokesperson.

“In order to prevent further vandalism at the site, we have already put up notices on site to remind members of the public to keep the bunker as well as the nearby area clean.”

The Battle of Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The office added that it granted the site a Grade II historical building status in 2009, which means that efforts should be made to selectively preserve structures. “There are already information plaques along the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail introducing the historical significance and heritage value of the [site].”

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 8, 1941, Japanese forces invaded the then-British colony of Hong Kong from its northern borders.

Outnumbered and outgunned, British and Allied forces surrendered on Christmas Day, beginning three years and eight months of a brutal occupation. The battle took the lives of some 2,000 soldiers and 4,000 civilians.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.