The Fire of Happy Valley Racecourse 1918-02-26


one of the worst fire disasters and highest number of casualties in Hong Kong history


1918-02-26 Tuesday, the second day of the Annual Racing, the grounds suffered an enormous and historic fire which killed 614 or more in-scripted by the Chinese.


“At a few minutes to three o’clock, just after the third bell had rung for the first race after Tiffin, the whole row of Chinese booth and mat-sheds, except one on the extreme north, collapsed, and awful confusion ensured.  The stands fell gradually, beginning from the stand labeled D.A.J.A. and falling southward and outwards towards the road and made a sound like a rasping of a saw.  It looked as if the tops of all the stands had been connected by a wire hawser and that this had been pulled over gradually.  The stands and booths took about 10 seconds to collapse. It is unclear how the fire began, but it quickly spread and the structure was an entire loss.


However, there were accounts that before the catastrophe, several people engaged in preparing meals on cooking ranges in the sheds, and it was the upsetting of these that caused the fire, which levied such a terrible toll of human life though the fire was highly blazed only for 20 minutes.


Many people became trapped, as construction of the building did not include well positioned exits. It is impossible to give anything like the correct estimate for the loss of life but up to a late hour last night 570 bodies were collected on the race course.  Probably it will never be authentically discovered how many perished.


The fire was got under at about 6p.m.  The charred human remains were carted away by coolies of the Sanitary Board for burial.  It is impossible to say how many were burned to death – probably this will never be known.


This Happy Valley Racecourse Fire produced one of worst disasters and highest number of casualties in Hong Kong history.


Mr Ho Kam-tong donated the fee, so Chinese mourning rituals were held at Happy Garden (named as The Garden, later Yeung Woo Hospital) by hired monks, because some ghostly phenomenon have been reported in the area thereafter.


In 1922, 4 years after the incidence, A public graveyard was negotiated with the government, then built by the Eastern Hospital Group. The path routed for the corpse transportation was named after the charity group.


Entry to the Race Course Fire Cemetery is accessible from the hill side behind the Hong Kong Stadium to the area of the Mount Caroline Cemetery. With a scripture: IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO PERISHED IN THE RACE COURSE FIRE on February 26th 1918. a marble plate was erected as one of trio-plats architecture with a pair of Chinese couplets sided by 3 stories small  towers in the graveyard which was renovated in 1993 funded by HKJC.


2010-01-21, it was selected in the List of Grade I historic buildings in Hong Kong and it can still be found tucked away behind the Hong Kong Stadium.




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