This film is part of Free

Typhoon Hong Kong September 1937

Poignant amateur footage records the aftermath of one of the worst typhoons in Hong Kong's history.

Amateur film 1937 8 mins Silent


In the early hours of 2 September 1937 Hong Kong Island was struck by its worst typhoon to date. These poignant scenes were mostly shot that same morning by an amateur filmmaker who surveys the destruction: ships run aground, houses levelled, thatched roofs blown away, collapsed piers, women and children clearing rubble, and many giant ocean liners - half submerged like bath toys.

Hong Kong harbour was the seventh busiest port in the world in the 1930s. When the typhoon hit, the harbour was unusually crowded with ships moved on from Shanghai, which had been recently invaded by Japan. Among the ships pictured here are the Chinese steamers An-Lee and Eng-Lee, the Tymeric of Glasgow, and Dutch liner Van Heutsz, which was carrying over 1,000 refugees from the Battle of Shanghai. The harbourside's picturesque dwellings were also totally destroyed, along with around 1,800 fishing boats, and the small fishing villages of Sha Tin and Tai Po, which were wiped out by a tidal wave. Around 11,000 people are thought to have been killed.