Torpedo Depot / Kowloon Naval Yard / Government Dockyard [????-????] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Torpedo Depot / Kowloon Naval Yard / Government Dockyard [????-????]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists


  • 1887 map shows it as "Naval Yard", without any breakwater. (Mapping Hong Kong, plate 4-2)
  • 1902-3 map shows it as "Torpedo Depot". The breakwater has been built, and is shown on this and following maps. (Mapping Hong Kong, plate 4-3)
  • 1924 map shows it as "Torpedo Depot" (Mapping Hong Kong, plate 4-4)
  • 1950s The Royal Naval Dockyard in Kowloon was known as the Royal Navy Small Ships Maintenance Base. (SSMB) This is where all the maintenance and repairs of the Armed Motor Launches of the famous Hong Kong Flotilla were maintained together with small ancillary craft. A Large Landing Craft 1110 housed a workshop with precision machine tools. (Comment from PETERBN)
  • 1956 map shows it as "H.M. Dockyard, Kowloon Yard" (1956 Kowloon overlay)
  • c.1959 Taken over by the HK Government around 1959, to become the Government Dockyard. It was responsible for the maintenance of all HK goverment departments' vessels. (Comment from Ho Lim-peng)
  • 1997 The Government Dockyard moved to Stonecutters' Island. (Comment from Ho Lim-peng)

Today there is still a breakwater there, and it is marked "Typhoon Shelter" on modern maps.


Photos that show this place


I wonder if anyone has any closer pictures of some of the older buildings that used to sit near to the Govt pier that sits behind the Canton Road fire station. I was looking at some behind the scenes stills from The Sand Pebbles and know that the Hankow set was created here. (see images here and here). There looked to be some nicer colonnaded buildings here that obviously have become victims of redevelopment over time and was hoping somebody may have some better/closer images. From the film, it looks as though there was also one with red brick/granite columns further to the right as well.

I should say the same buildings were also featured in Lord Jim filmed in 1963 (released in '65).

They're interesting - I hadn't noticed them before. Zooming in on these two photos gives other views of the buildings' layout, but not much detail:

Sea Terminal-aerial image location
Sea Terminal-aerial image location, by IDJ


Tsim Sha Tsui-May 1979
Tsim Sha Tsui-May 1979, by IDJ

The 1979 image shows that they have gone already. I think the Fire station building must have replaced the northern most one. It looks like the area to the south of that was just cleared out completely.

Interesting that there is so little online about the Kowloon dockyard. Here are a couple of picture of the area c1939 including one with detailed view of  a couple of the buildings.

 Kowloon Naval Depot Aerial View
Kowloon Naval Depot Aerial View, by Herostratus
Kowloon Naval Depot 1939
Kowloon Naval Depot 1939, by Herostratus

The area became a container terminal in the 1970s for a bit, although it didn't last long. 

A view of the area after it had been converted to a container yard:

TST Aerial View
TST Aerial View , by Herostratus

A nice view of the buildings from 1955:

Kowloon Naval Dockyard
Kowloon Naval Dockyard , by Herostratus

Another great picture. The colonnaded buildings seen on the two films I mentioned are to the left of the picture. Cheers Phil

Another view of the area from the sea:

Royal Mail Launch with Kowloon dockyard in background
Royal Mail Launch with Kowloon dockyard in background, by Herostratus

Torpedo practice firing from the Kowloon Torpedo Depot is first mentioned in HKGRO in October 1898.

GN No. 479: From the north end of Camber at Kowloon Torpedo Depot for a distance of 800 yards in a northwesterly direction.

Again from HKGRO, it would appear that the range ceased to be in use from mid-1902.



Aerial photographs of the Goverment Dockyard in northern Tsim Sha Tsui (Source: HKMS 2.0) are shown below.

Timeline (Kowloon) Government Dockyard 1949-1973
Timeline (Kowloon) Government Dockyard 1949-1973, by Klaus
The six photos cover a range from 1949 to 1973. Little change on the dockyard buildings can be seen from 1949 to 1961 (as far as the low resolution allows). On the 1963 and 1967 photos, the round structure of the Sea Terminal is visible. To me it seems as if the Sea Terminal used existing storage buildings that were refurbished. In 1973, all buildings are demolished and the place was used as an outdoor storage facility.
End of operation therefore was probably at the end of the 1960's.

I have heard Nelson MA Nai-kwong talked about his role working in this Torpedo Depot before the Japanese invasion in 1941.  Ma later joined the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) as Agent No.71 and code name 'NITRAM'.  He was sent back behind enemies's line to persuade dockyard workers - Mateys, to abandon their posts under the Japanese and go to Free China.  Many did. The BAAG was stuck with them as the original plan to send them to dockyards in India did not materialise.  

Ma was later sent to Macao and worked under the BAAG Macao Team leaders 'PHOENIX' (Dr. Gosano) and later 'PL' (Y.C. Liang).  He was awarded a BEM for his war service.

After the War, as a businessman, Ma became a good friend of the Emperor of Japan, playing tennis with him from time-to-time.

Ma passed away at the grand old age of 97 in mid-2000s.



This Marine Dept. document  says 

"Prior to 1971, Government Slipways in Yaumatei had small open yards and slipways only...
1971-1995, after Government Dockyard was established at Canton Road,...
In 1995, Government Dockyard was relocated to Stonecutters Island."

  which suggests this was under HK government management from 1971-1995. It was in use from 1995-1998 as a ferry pier, that being from the time the Jordan Road ferry pier was swallowed up by reclamation, until the end of the HK+Yaumatai ferry service to Central.

Prior to 1959, the Government dockyard was in Yaumatei - north of Jordan Rd - in/near a typhoon shelter. The location has been reclaimed for many years. I think it was off what is now called Ferry St but I cannot recall that street name when my Father was in charge of the Dockyard between 1954 & 1958. There was a single slipway, launches were pulled up on a wheeled cradle from the harbour. Opposite the slipway was the main office which had 2 very small stone lions, similar to those guarding HSBC, at its entrance. The workshops surrounding the slipway were very old and the move in 1959 to more modern premises would have been welcomed. Unfortunately photos my family had have been lost.

thanks to JamesHo for adding this map. I think it may identify some of the buildings I was originally enquiring about.

Kowloon naval. dockyard.png
Kowloon naval. dockyard.png, by Hong Kong Dockyard ADM 140/1484-1911

Judging from this map, I believe the godown seen in this The Sand Pebbles screen shot (or see links in my first comment at the very top), was the "gun mounting store". The columned building on the left looks to be the Seaman's Quarters (revealed once the Boat/Timber Store was demolished). And the white columned building on the right was the Police Quarters.

The red/white brick building seen on the far right this shot seems to tally with the Storeman's Quarters.