The second kitchen room
A narrow passageway
The entrance to Shing Mun Redoubt
Warning signs to visitors of the GDL headquarters
The kitchen exit, leading back to the tunnels
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The Maginot Line of The East

Gin Drinker’s Line, (GDL) a defensive line that stretches eighteen km from Drunkard Bay (modern Kwai Chung, New Territories) to Port Shelter in Sai Kung was supposed to hold against an attack from the north for at least three weeks. GDL was overtaken in all of two days. Battered but with pieces remaining, this WWII relic stands along Hong Kong’s Maclehose hiking trail.

By the late 1930s, tensions between the countries of Japan and China had spiked. In the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, the two countries battled for the right to Taiwan and the status of South Korea. Defeated, the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan to the Japanese and recognized South Korea as an independent state. Much like its predecessor, the Second Sino-Japanese War centred on the fight for consolidation of territory.

At the time, Hong Kong was a British colony. Occupied in 1841 during the First Opium War, Hong Kong would become an important part of the Pacific War. As the Japanese military battled in mainland China, the British set to building Hong Kong’s defence against invaders. From 1936 to 1938, the ambitious construction of the GDL took place as the Japanese soldiers steadily moved closer to the Hong Kong border. Built by the British garrison stationed in the colony, the GDL spanned the eastern and western points of upper Hong Kong. Its design was inspired by the Maginot Line, a French defence against Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg that was in use from 1935. The British referred to their defensive line as “The Maginot Line of The East”. Despite victorious intentions, neither would hold against their enemies.

After its spectacular fall, the GDL was never used again. All its ninety-three outposts, also referred to as pillboxes, are mostly in ruins due to post-war destruction for their steel bars. Even when Hong Kong was again under British rule, the site remained abandoned and buried in the undergrowth. Warfare technology had progressed so much that the GDL was considered a weapon of a bygone era.

Text & Photos Victoria Mae Martyn