THE HISTORY OF KING GEORGE V SCHOOL

King George V School is one of the oldest schools in Hong Kong. When the school first opened it was very different to the school you attend today.

 

When did the school start ?

The first KGV School was built in a small building in Nathan Road in 1894. It was called the Kowloon College and it was built because the Europeans in Kowloon wanted a school for their children only. The building was blown down by a typhoon in 1896.

 

The first ‘proper’ school was opened in 1902. It was called the Kowloon British School. The building was paid for by a rich Hong Kong businessman, Sir Robert Hotung. It was opened only to European children. There were only about 50 children in the school. You can still see the building, it is next to St. Andrew’s Church on Nathan Road.

 

When and why did the school move to Homantin?

The school soon became very crowded. Students from all over Hong Kong were sent to the school and so its name was changed to the Central British School.

 

By 1930 the school had more than 300 students. The playgrounds were only 7 meters square and wooden huts had been built at the back of the school as extra classrooms. So it was decided to build a new school in the countryside where there was plenty of space.

 

In 1935 the school building was begun in the hills of Homantin. The Headmaster who first asked for a new building was Mr. Nightingale; the teacher who found the best design for the building was Mr. Rowell; and the first Headmaster in the new building was the Reverend Upsdell.

 

What was the new school like in 1936?

There was a very grand opening ceremony on the 14th September 1936. The school really was in the middle of the countryside. After lessons and before going home, you could walk through the fields for a swim and a picnic on Hung Hom beach!

 

What happened to the School during these first few yea.rs?

In 1937 the Japanese army invaded China. Lots of European women and children came from Shanghai to Hong Kong in order to escape the war. They needed somewhere to live and in the summer of 1937 the school buildings became a refugee camp. The teachers and students helped look after them-they even got two weeks extra summer holiday! It soon became safe for them to return home and everything went back to normal.

of the children who left would never see their fathers who had stayed in Hong Kong again.

 

What happened to the school during the war?

As soon as the school closed in 1940 it was turned into a hospital for British soldiers stationed in Hong Kong. It was surrounded by sandbags and barbed wire to protect the buildings from air raid attacks.

In December 1941 the Japanese invaded Hong Kong. Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas Day and all Europeans were sent into Prisoner of War camps-including many teachers and ex-students of CBS. The names of those who died in the battle of Hong Kong are on a board in the school foyer.

The Japanese used the school buildings as a hospital for their officers. It was really very efficient, the rooms you now use as classrooms were then the wards, X-ray rooms and offices. Part of the Peel Block was also used as living areas for the Japanese officers.

It is said that the Pavilion on the games field was used as a torture chamber during the war. This may well be true as there was a prisoner of war camp on Argyle Street. Prisoners were brought up to the school field to work on the vegetable gardens that were dug at the end of the football pitch. One of them hid a radio under the soil {it is probably still there}. There was a cemetery at the bottom of Tin Kwong Road and it was rumoured that the bodies were buried under the school field.

In 1945 the school ‘hospital’ was given over to the British prisoners of war who needed treatment. They made a chapel in the Tower Room and used the school hall for drama shows. The Japanese guards remained in control until their country surrendered in August .

What happened at the end of the war?

When the surrender was announced the Japanese left the school in procession led by Lieutenant-General Saito who was holding up his sword! As soon as they had left a Union Jack was flown on the clock tower. This was probably the first British flag to be flown in Hong Kong after the war.

The school buildings were generally in much better conditions after the war than most of Hong Kong. The school was now taken over by the Royal Air Force as a military hospital. One of the doctors engraved the words ‘ Never in the Field of Human Conflict’ above the entrance to the Hall.

The school re-opened in the Summer of 1946. The Principal was Mr. Ferguson and one of the teachers, who had fought to defend Hong Kong during the war, was Mr D

Crozier. When he held the first assembly of the year in September 1946 you could still see the flag of the Rising Sun painted at the back of the stage in the hall. The field looked like a vegetable garden and there were 79 students.

In 1947 children of all nationalities were able to attend the school. The school was no longer just a British school. So on Speech Day 1948 it was announced that the school would be called King George V School. King George had been king in 1935 when the Foundation Stone of the school was laid.