To say that Hong Kong Invaded is one of the most unusual books I have ever read
would not be an overstatement. A fictional account of the fall of Hong Kong to a
combined French and Russian force, originally published in the Hong Kong China Mail
in 1897 under the title Back Door and attributed to a contemporary but unidentified
author, the concept is certainly original and the editor has undertaken copious research
into the identity of the many characters in the original story, most of whom are not
referred to by their real names, but are clearly based on persons living in Hong Kong at
The editor attempts to show that the author may have been a visionary, with frequent
references to the similarities between the fictional hostilities and those of 1941, when
Hong Kong became the first British territory to surrender to an enemy since the
American War of Independence. The most significant difference in the manner in which
the campaigns were conducted was the fact that the fictional assault on the Colony was a
joint land/sea operation, with the main thrust taking place on the south side of Kong
Kong Island, hence the title Back Door.
The author clearly intended his speculative offering for local consumption at a time
when concern for Hong Kong's defence was a common phenomenon and the situation
on the south side of Hong Kong was of particular significance. Following publication the
story was produced in pamphlet form and was eventually sent to a number of officials in
the Colonial Office. Although it is not recorded whether or not this was a successful
exercise, at least one howitzer battery was authorised and work completed in August
1899 at Wongneichong Gap with the object of repelling any landing by an armed force
in Deep Water Bay, a scenario which was highlighted in the fictional account.
Of particular interest to those who served in Hong Kong is the part played
in the book by their predecessors and it is true that the then Governor (Robinson), the
Attorney General, Colonial Treasurer, Harbour Master and a small number of others
receive a mention. However, very few details of their involvement are provided and the greater part of the story is taken up with a description of hostilities, hence the more
frequent mention of combatants, both regulars and volunteers. One anomaly is the fact
that all police officers in the book are given their real names and ranks, the only group to
be so treated, with the sole exception of the Captain Superintendent, F H May, who is
thinly disguised as Mr Miht! Francis May was later knighted and went on to become
Governor of the Colony (1912 - 1919).
Regrettably the editor's treatment of the subject does not make for easy reading, there
being a constant need to refer to explanatory notes throughout the text. Given that there
are over 1100 such references contained in 70 pages (the original book consists of just
56 pages), the tedious nature of this exercise becomes laborious for the reader,
particularly as some references are so banal as to render them superfluous.
My overall impression of the book is one of a scholarly example of "future war
fiction", the ethos of which is perhaps best conveyed by an observation in the publisher's
notes which accompanied the review copy - "Today the genre's serious but often
jingoistic concern for national defence has been transcended by super-national anxiety
about the survival of the whole human race"!!