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Looking back - liberation and rebirth

Read on for OffBeat' fourth column in this series looking back at the history of the Force through excerpts taken from the Royal Hong Kong Police Association Newsletter

Following Hong Kong' liberation in August 1945 the vast majority of European officers were in dire need of recuperation. Whilst the Force had functioned as such in the civilian internment camp at Stanley and had, as far as possible, attempted to resume its full duties immediately on receipt of notice of the Japanese surrender, the privations of three and a half years required immediate and sustained rest. Repatriation for those officers whose origins were outside Hong Kong, was carried out in October 1945 and in the majority of cases, it was well into 1946 before they were well enough to return, if at all.

The Military Government administered Hong Kong until May 1946 with Commando and Marine Units supplemented by other arms performing police duties under Colonel C. H. Sansom, the first post-war Commissioner of Police. In December 1945, a contingent of about 30 former Shanghai Municipal Police Officers were taken on the strength of the Police and Prisons Branch of the Civil Affairs Unit and, although there was considerable wastage from this group, they did much to prepare the colony for its eventual return to civil Government under its former administration. Most of these officers were engaged on a three year contract, a few stayed on for five years, but there were virtually none left by the end of 1950.

At the fall of Hong Kong many of the Indian police melted into the civilian population, but times were hard and those with families to support were faced with little option but to join the Japanese by whom they were employed at subsistence level in various guard duties. Others managed to get into China and either join the British Army Aid Group to carry on resistance work or make it back to India where a number took part in the eventual re-conquest of Burma.

On liberation, many returned to Hong Kong and resumed their former careers but with the partition of India imminent, recruitment from this source underwent re-appraisal and the Sikh element of the Force was disbanded in 1950.

The recruitment of Punjabis continued until 1961, however. In 1953 the Pakistanis, who since the war had been spread around various units, were concentrated in the New Territories to form the Emergency Unit, a quick response force of company strength. At this time Hong Kong was affected by the Korean war and by the 50,000 or so British and Commonwealth troops whose presence in general and off duty activities in particular were causing problems.

The Pakistanis remained as a unit until 1970 when, with no further recruitment since 1961 when 50 including three men from the Royal Naval dockyard police were the last to be taken on strength, they were decentralised and posted across the very broad spectrum of policing in Hong Kong. Although, for religious reasons, they continued to reside at their traditional base in Fanling.

Be sure to catch the next column, the last in this historical series.

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