Holding the Barren Rock


On July 1, 1997, Britain transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China after 156 years of rule. In that time, the colony went from “barren rock” to booming powerhouse. Twenty-five years on, Dr Kwong Chi Man explores the British military history of Hong Kong and what legacies remain

1841 Taking Hong Kong

On January 26, 1841, a party under the command of Commodore Gordon Bremer landed on Possession Point (now Possession Street) and raised the Union Jack on Hong Kong Island, which was ceded to Britain the next year.

The takeover took place during the Opium War of 1839-42 between Britain and the Qing Empire. The early garrison suffered heavily from disease, and the construction of permanent barracks was seen as urgent. Under the supervision of Major Edward Aldrich (later Colonel), barracks were built in the area now known as Central. A bay on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island was named after Aldrich, and a cape was named after Lieutenant Thomas Collinson (later Major-General), who surveyed the island.

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