What: Here's the writing on the back of the photo:
So we're looking at the:
Telephone and look-out hut at Cape D'Aguilar SS.
(I believe the 'SS' means 'Signal Station'.)
No fancy satellite technology in 1909, their telescope handled all surveillance:
and messages were sent by flashing this lamp:
There are mentions of a Signal Station at Cape D'Aguilar in the annual Harbourmaster's report. Here's a typical entry, from 1893 :
31. Telegraphic and Telephonic communication has also been kept up with the Gap Rock and Cape d'Aguilar during the year. [...]
From Cape d'Aguilar 987 vessels were reported, and in addition 70 messages were sent and 123 received.
But the 1905 report  notes that the station had closed, replaced by a new station at Waglan island:
Cape d'Aguilar. The reports from this station were discontinued during the year, being superfluous, and on 11th August, on the removal of the Cape d'Aguilar light, the station was vacated by the department.
When: May, 1918.
Who: We know that by 1918 the harbourmaster no longer maintained a signal station here. I guess from their hats that these two men were with the Royal Navy:
Then had the navy always been here, running their own Signal Station in parallel with the harbourmaster's? Or did the navy take over when the harbourmaster moved out?
Or perhaps they were here because in 1918, Britain was still at war?
In theory, one role of a lookout would be to watch for enemy ships. But the German East Asia Squadron, based in Tsingtao, had all left the area in 1914 . Since Japan and Britain were allies in 1918, there weren't any enemy ships to watch for ...
Which meant plenty of free time for a smoke, and having your photo taken!
Where: We know it was at Cape D'Aguilar, the south-east tip of Hong Kong island. But where exactly? The current map of the area has several small square structures marked, spread out over a large area.
The top of the building was wood, and no-doubt is long gone. But the stone base looks sturdy, so there might still be traces of that left.
Theer's a small clue to its location from the shadows. If you zoom in to the wall on the left, there's a clock just above the man's elbow, showing the time is around 9:40am.
The shadow cast by the raised window shows the building is facing towards the sun. Taking the time into account, that means it faced roughly south-east.
As always, corrections and additional information are very welcome. Please leave a message in the comments below.
- Harbourmaster's Annual Report for 1893
- Harbourmaster's Annual Report for 1905, Appendix E.
- German East Asia Squadron