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Bingwu Typhoon Souvenir Book

This souvenir album made by members of the British Army’s Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), possibly to mark the end of one of their unit’s service in Hong Kong. Given the lacquered wood covers with their kimono-clad women and view of distant Mount Fuji, the album was possibly acquired from the Japanese commercial photographer M. Mumeya of 8a Queen’s Road Central along with some stock photographs from Mumeya. The first three photographs note the locations in Hong Kong where their unit worked and significant events in the years spent in the territory – 1904-1908.

The photographs are both a mixed bag and not in sequence. The majority – 39 out of 50 – are of one of Hong Kong’s largest natural disasters – the devastating Bingwu typhoon of September 18th, 1906, in which perhaps 10,000 people died, 59 ships were either wrecked or grounded, 2,493 small craft were wrecked or destroyed and 190 houses were ruined in just 3 hours. It was one of the worst natural disasters in Hong Kong’s recorded history. Mumeya published an album of 50 Bingwu typhoon photographs in 1906-7, copies of which were sold to raise money for the Typhoon Relief Fund Committee.

Despite the devastation, it was to be 12 years before a modern typhoon shelter was built to mitigate future damage.

The other photographs are of the steamer Hankow that caught fire on 14th October 1906 with the loss of 111 lives, various scenes in Hong Kong including of the first Hongkong and Shanghai Bank building, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Victoria Barracks, the old “Star” Ferry Pier and various ‘exotic’ shots such as criminals in the stocks, a woman street hawker and country scenes, including one of the Kaiping diaulou (開平碉樓) in Guangdong Province.

This album was acquired by the museum in 2011 as one of its growing number of original primary source archival documents.