Kamikaze Tunnel 2 Lamma Island

Kamikaze Tun­nel 2 Lam­ma Island

The ocean is calm as the British Air­craft Car­ri­er slow­ly steams into the Japan­ese occu­pied waters of Hong Kong, appre­hen­sive of float­ing mines. A sun­ny morn­ing in August 1945. Bat­tle sta­tions aboard the HMS Vengeance are manned, gun­ners on high alert. The 7 foot bar­rel of the Bofors gun fires 40mm, 2 pound artillery shells at a rate of 2 every sec­ond or 120 a minute. Eight of these high-cal­iber guns are mount­ed on the deck, aimed men­ac­ing­ly out­ward, armed, primed for bat­tle. The crew care­ful­ly scans the water and rocky Hong Kong islands for hos­tiles. Sud­den­ly, in the dis­tance a small 25 foot wood­en boat paint­ed green appears, speed­ing towards the 695 foot air­craft car­ri­er. The Japan­ese sol­dier pilot­ing the boat secures the wheel with a strap and jumps into the ocean as the small explo­sive laden boat con­tin­ues, head­ing straight for the HMS Vengeance. It’s still a safe dis­tance out when the Bofors guns open fire on the boat and it bursts into flames explod­ing with the force of half a ton of TNT. It’s no match for the high­ly trained crew of the British Navy and 8 high pow­er anti-air­craft guns.

SCENES IN HONG KONG FOLLOWING THE RE-OCCUPATION OF THE CROWN COLONY AFTER THE JAPANESE SURRENDER, SEPTEMBER 1945 (A 30520) Kamikaze: Naval Weapons: Japanese fast motor boats, packed with high explosive and intended for use against allied shipping, found abandoned in Picnic Bay, Hong Kong after the surrender. These light wooden craft are about 25ft in length, painted green, and are ready in their launching trolleys. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187664

Kamikaze: Naval Weapons: Japan­ese fast motor boats, packed with high explo­sives, intend­ed for use against allied ships.

Admi­ral Har­court is aboard the HMS Indomitable, anoth­er British air­craft car­ri­er steam­ing into the treach­er­ous waters of Hong Kong that morn­ing. 30 Kamikaze boats are head­ed for the British fleet when the order is giv­en to the fight­er pilots in the air to elim­i­nate them. Their inten­tions can­not be ascer­tained before the boats are fired upon, but no chances are tak­en, as, a mem­ber of Admi­ral Har­court’s staff, WK Lore recalls: “Intel­li­gence reports showed that these motor boats were designed to car­ry half a ton of TNT at the bow. And also they had four for­ward speeds and no reverse. Admi­ral Har­court then gave the order to sink them. It may appear that this was on the cal­lous side. But it must be remem­bered that the British fleet includ­ed sev­er­al cap­i­tal ships with sev­er­al thou­sand men each.”

HMS Vengeance in 1944

HMS Vengeance in 1944

These motor boats were extreme­ly fast and manoeu­vrable. They were very small targets.
“The big guns of the fleet would be almost use­less against such boats if one moved into the midst of the British ships. It was a deci­sion reluc­tant­ly but cor­rect­ly made after weigh­ing the 30-odd Japan­ese lives against pos­si­ble thou­sands of British lives and loss or dam­age to units of the British fleet.”

Excerpt from the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post of Sun­day Novem­ber 30th 1975:

Kamikaze Boats and surrendering Japanese Soldiers. Thursday, August 30, 1945

Kamikaze Boats and sur­ren­der­ing Japan­ese Sol­diers. Lam­ma Island, Hong Kong Thurs­day, August 30, 1945

The tunnels today:

It’s full of trash. I don’t want to go in there.” Krish­na tells me at the entrance of the tun­nel. Out­side there are a few signs but they are weath­ered with age and I can’t read any­thing. On the map how­ev­er we are right on what is labeled as “Cave Kamikaze”. It’s not a cave but a tun­nel bored into the rock dur­ing WWII. It’s unclear if the Japan­ese them­selves did the work or if it was pris­on­ers of war but the pur­pose of the tun­nels is clear, they were used to store muni­tions and “kamikaze boats”. It’s high­ly pos­si­ble that the boat that tried to sink the HMS Vengeance 70 years ago was launched from one of these 3 tun­nels in Pic­nic Bay on Lam­ma Island.

The tun­nel we stand in front of is tun­nel #2 of 3. The trash in here looks like it was washed in by a storm at sea. Ocean garbage. I gin­ger­ly step through it mak­ing my way to the back of the mud­dy tun­nel, illu­mi­nat­ing it with my pow­er­ful head­lamp. Krish­na stays at the entrance as a few curi­ous tourists stop by, none ven­tur­ing fur­ther than the entrance. I snap some pic­tures and head back out, try­ing not to get eat­en alive by the kamikaze mosquitoes.

I notice two bats hang­ing from the roof of the tun­nel, their sharp claws grip­ping the wet rock. Look­ing clos­er I can see them drink­ing the water drip­ping down from the ceil­ing. They’re kin­da cute…in an odd fly­ing-mouse-with-a-grotesque-pig-like-face kin­da way. Back at the entrance, poor Krish­na got eat­en alive by mos­qui­tos. My loose clothes shield­ed me more than her. I’m slight­ly sat­is­fied by the fact how­ev­er, that many of these blood suck­ers are on the menu tonight of my bizarrely adorable bat friends. In fact each bat will eat on aver­age over 6,000 insects. I hope they are all mosquitoes.

Inside Kamikaze tunnel 3

Inside Kamikaze tun­nel 3

It’s dark now but we return the fol­low­ing week­end to explore the rest of the tun­nels. The first is most­ly filled in. I read that it was used by locals to store garbage and then was filled with dirt. There is a small open­ing but it’s wet and a tight squeeze.

A few min­utes after pass­ing the sec­ond tun­nel I see a small path going into a low clear­ing in the thorny pur­ple flow­ered Bougainvil­lea. I have to get on my hands and knees and crawl, even then the thorns grab at me, demand­ing an entrance fee of ripped cloth­ing. Anoth­er tun­nel is hid­den behind this cur­tain of thorns. Almost no trash. The ceil­ing is cov­ered with bats. Some­how I con­vince Krish­na to crawl through after me. Again it’s filled with mos­qui­tos. I can see we are dis­turb­ing the bats as they swoop about ner­vous­ly. I try to stay away from the back of the tun­nel where most of them are to pre­vent dis­turb­ing them, all while reas­sur­ing Krish­na that they don’t want to suck her blood and are excel­lent aer­i­al nav­i­ga­tors despite their errat­ic fly­ing, it’s very unlike­ly that they will hit you in the face. Lit­tle do I know every time I shine the light away from her she freezes in the dark. Total­ly still, not want­i­ng to move. Unfor­tu­nate­ly I don’t see the fear on her face. For me this is nor­mal. I’m at home explor­ing dark places. Back in Los Ange­les I would go out canyoneer­ing at night a few times a week. Unex­plored canyons, while you can’t ful­ly appre­ci­ate their beau­ty with just head­lamps, have anoth­er lev­el of adven­ture when the sun goes down.

Outside Kamikaze tunnel 3

Out­side Kamikaze tun­nel 3

Getting to the Kamikaze Tunnels:

Cave Kamikaze on Google Maps

From the Sok Kwu Wan Fer­ry Pier on Lam­ma Island, go South through town (Turn right com­ing from the pier) fol­low the path past the Tin Hau Tem­ple, around the mud flats on the Lam­ma Island Fam­i­ly Walk (A paved path that goes around Lam­ma Island). In 10–15 min­utes you will see a large tun­nel on your left (marked as “Cave Kamikaze” on Google Maps). This is Tun­nel #2. Tun­nel #1 is a few min­utes ear­li­er but you can skip it. Tun­nel #3 is a few min­utes down the path. If you do decide to go in tun­nel #3 please be respect­ful of the bats that call this place home. Don’t shout and try to make your vis­it as fast as pos­si­ble. They are real­ly sen­si­tive to loud nois­es and cam­era flashes.

Further reading:

Mem­oirs of Charles David­son, P.O. 812 Sqdn from the HMS Vengeance 

Thread on Gwolo.com here