MRI Forum 31

"The Defences of Macau"

by Richard Garrett


Summary of the Presentation

The Portuguese territory of Macau was the first European base in China . Their success in trading with the Chinese was the envy of other European states and the Dutch were the first to try to take it over by force. The Macau forces were not that strong and their forts were not fully complete but they managed to repel the attack. From then on the defences of Macau were given more priority and were sufficiently strong to deter any further incursions.

When Macau's prosperity declined in the later half on the seventeenth century the defences were neglected but in the nineteenth century they were upgraded to provide an aggressive face to the Chinese. This new stance had been initiated by Governor Amaral, but was continued by his successors. The weapons were also upgraded and a host of new facilities were built. However, the second half of the nineteenth century was a time of spectacular advances in weapons and by the end of the century much of Macau's defences was obsolete.

In the first decades of the twentieth century great strides were taken to update the defences with new breech-loading guns and modern small-arms. The new guns were housed in new batteries hidden on the hills of Guia and Penha. However, thankfully these new facilities were never tested, as during the Japanese wars the Portuguese remained neutral. When peace returned to China in 1945 it gradually became clear that the territory would have to be returned to China. The military facilities were handed over to the Government and fortunately much has been preserved enabling those interested in Macau's past to have a glimpse of its less secure past.

Profile of the Speaker

Richard J. Garrett (M.A.(Cantab), F.I.C.E., F.I.Struct.E., F.H.K.I.E.) was educated at Dulwich College and Trinity College, Cambridge. A qualified engineer he retired in 2003 and was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow, Centre of Asian Studies, the University of Hong Kong. He is a member of the Arms and Armour Society, the Society for Army Historical Research and the Ordnance Society. He has written many articles on antique weapons and has been researching the Fortifications and Weapons of Macau. This work is sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Bureau (Instituto Cultural do Governo da Região Administrativa Especial de Macau) and his book on The Defences of Macau is due to be published by them in 2008.