Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold - Tamara Dobson (1975) - H.M.S Tamar, Central

We'll skip the rest of the Aberdeen stuff for a while and instead have a look at some shots from inside the H.M.S Tamar compound. Of course, these days it's the rather symbolic P.L.A HQ but back in 1975 it was still very much part of the British Garrison in Hong Kong. In a nice little coincidence that I thought would be interesting to mention: the vessel that the compound is named after - HMS Tamar - was scuttled in the harbour just prior to the Japanese crossing of the harbour in December 1941, and recent dredging works for the ongoing Wanchai bypass reclamation works recently discovered a large silted over metal object next to the Convention Centre that is thought to possibly be the hulk of the Tamar ship. [edit: turns out it was the HMS Tamar and rather than save it the Govt decided to dump it further out into the harbour so it didn't get in the way...)

These days the former naval base with its attached dock is now a further 150+ metres inland and there is a highway running between it and the harbour front. The lower screen captures do show the actual entrance to the place, however, since the PLA took over much has changed and I have no idea which direction this entrance faced - was it on Edinburgh Place or facing another way? If anyone can confirm that would be great. Whichever way, I believe this gate has now been removed and/or changed to remove the references to its former name.

Additional: Oh dear, a consequence of me not paying much attention to my later screen shots mean I missed off the obvious positioning of the entrance. So here it is, but many thanks to Arthur and gweilo8888 for humouring me :-)

Actually, in hindsight it seems quite obvious where the brick colour of the current wall changes, showing us where it has been rebuilt. Never mind, I'll pay more attention next time...

Anyway, as you can see, there are still some buildings around including the stripey exterior of Hutchison House and the Murray Road carpark behind it. In the top right of the screen grab is the Furama Hotel with its recognisable window shades. This was still around until just a few years ago, but now the AIG building stands in its place and I'm afraid the area is worse for it.


  1. Hi Phil,
    I think the old main gate faces the back stage of the concert hall of the City Hall. For the pair of the anchor signs on that gate, I think one of it is preserved at a local museum (Coastal Defense?), the other one was kept at one of clubs (RHKYC?), if I remember correctly.


    1. Thanks Arthur. Sadly Google Maps' Streetview only goes back as far as Feb 2011, so I don't have any images from before the last renovation.

    2. Yep, AY is definitely right. I used to spend quite a bit of time around there in late 1991, when I was getting some help with a repeat of my maths A level at Cambridge Tutors, who if memory serves had an office in the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Wan Chai.

      I used to get a 92 bus down to Choi Hung, hop on the number 5 to Tsim Sha Tsui, take the Star Ferry across to Central, and then walk around HMS Tamar to the Heliservices landing pad just on the other side, where I'd watch the helicopters take off and land while I killed time waiting for my appointment. (I've mentioned that before, actually:

      So once or twice a week, I'd walk past that gate and, as you do, peer inside past the guard at the mysterious off-limits area. And yes, it was directly at the end of the short Edinburgh Place spur that runs along what was the waterfront in front of City Hall.

      Gwulo has a nice shot of it here:

      And you can also make it out just left and a little in front of Queen's Pier in this shot:

      It's also visible (just) in the bottom right corner of this pic:

      The helicopter, btw, is interesting. Everything I can find (old copies of Flightglobal publications from 1974 / 1975, etc.) suggests that as of that time, Hong Kong Air International Ltd. had four helicopters -- a Bell 212, a Bell 47J, and two Alouette IIIs.

      From the design, it's a Bell 47-series, but it's not a 47J, because it has an open tail boom. The 47J's main external difference was an enclosed boom, as you can see here in a picture of VR-HGM, Hong Kong Air's sole Bell 47J:

      Nor can I find any evidence that a non-J model could be converted to a 47J. I found a list of historic Hong Kong civil rotorcraft here, and it lists only one other Bell 47-series, though -- VR-HGD, a Bell 47G-5:

      ...which does have an open tail boom, but I can't find any pictures of that model with the exhaust duct protruding from between the saddle fuel tanks under the main rotor. And to confound things still more, VR-HGD crashed with substantial damage on Golden Hill, Tsuen Wan in 1968, so unless it was somehow repaired, it seems unlikely to be that one anyway.

      I'm a bit baffled, to be honest. If it's not VR-HGM (which it isn't), and it's not VR-HGD (which I don't think it is either), and it's certainly not an Alouette or Bell 212... What the heck is it? Anybody care to shed some light on the mystery?

    3. in that case, all trace has sadly gone. I'm surprised because it took several years after the handover before the PLA actually removed the reference to the Prince of Wales from the main barrack building.

    4. oh dear, I am a silly boy. I just looked at my other screen grabs and can see that the entrance was indeed on Edinburgh Place - there is a very nice shot looking down said street just after the camera pans right from the entrance. I'll add the picture at the bottom of the entry as an addendum :-/