September 3, 1939 is a significant day in the history of the world, as it is often recognized as the day when World War II broke out. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Britain, being an ally of Poland, and France issued an ultimatum to Germany to exit Poland. Hitler ignored it, and on 3 September, the two nations declared war on Germany, raising the curtain for WW2.
This declaration of war had an immediate impact to Hong Kong, then a British Colony, and more specifically to La Salle College. On the same day war was declared, German civilians residing in Hong Kong, as “enemy aliens”, were immediately approached in the small hours, and were escorted to somewhere in Kowloon (exactly where is not yet clear, but probably it was some military or police facility). Throughout that night, Germans from around the colony were arrested and ferried to that facility, numbering to around 100 or so.
By day break, these Germans were driven to La Salle College. As recalled by some old boys, Chinese workmen had been working on the campus, driving wooden pillars into the college campus. It later emerged that these were to be used as supports for coils of barbed wire to surround the campus. There were also four watch towers that were erected in the four corners of the school grounds. The two entrances on Boundary Street were cordoned off, and the only entrance to the college was the driveway entrance from La Salle Road.
Classes in the College could not continue, and Bro Aimar quickly moved classes to LSC Annexe (this building was to become LSPS in 1957). This annexe was built after erecting LSC, and was intended to house aspirants to the Brotherhood. The building, then a small one storey building, only had four classrooms on the first floor (these were the classrooms for P1 with the red bricks).
Bro Aimar arranged to convert the ground floor covered playground into another four classrooms. He also arranged for a brick and wood structure to be erected west of the original building to create another four classrooms (OBs who studied in LSPS between 1957 to 1960 may recall that structure). With these twelve classrooms, the school’s classes (from Class 8 to 1, ie today’s P.5 to Form 6) would be conducted in AM and PM sessions. There were 668 students in La Salle at that time. Although classes continued, the boarding department had to be closed for lack of space.
The German interment arrangement continued for some months, and slowly the school gained back some usage of the main school building as the number of German internees decreased. By later in 1940, the Brothers regained full possession of LSC.
Since the opening of LSC in 1932, this was the first time the HK Government / War Department occupied the school campus and building. This was a much unwanted precedent, and sadly the school would find itself occupied by outsiders a few more occasions.
December 8, 1941 to January 29, 1942, the campus was occupied by British Army / HK Government as a relief hospital during the attack of Hong Kong by the Japanese. Wounded Japanese were also said to be hospitalized in La Salle. Few details on that arrangement are on hand presently.
On January 29, 1942, the Brothers were expelled from their College, and eventually many Brothers left the then Japanese occupied HK for Indo-China and other places.
The Japanese surrendered in August 1945, and the Brothers returned to HK in April 1946, finding the College then occupied by Indian Troops. The Brothers eventually reoccupied the building with the help of the Education Department, and the Brothers recommenced school in September 1946. The state of the building was very poor, after several years of uncaring use by the various military occupants.
After a mere three years being back “at home”, the Brothers were requested to loan their campus again for the Military Authorities, this time for eighteen months, and that a temporary school buildings were erected for the Brothers in Perth Street. Eighteen months turned out to be eleven long years. Many OBs endured the Perth Street days.
The occupation of La Salle’s campus is believed to be closely related to the ending of the Chinese Civil War, and the possible attack of winning side, Mao’s Communist Party of China into Hong Kong to recover British occupied Hong Kong.
So interestingly yet unfortunately, La Salle’s school history has been closely tied with many world events.