Former Commissioner, Mr Charles Sutcliffe, passed away in Canada on September 24 at the age of 89. Before retiring in 1974, he had served the Force for 14 years, including five years as Commissioner from 1969 to 1974.
At the age of nineteen Charles Sutcliffe trained as an analytical chemist and joined the Cheshire Yeomanry as a reservist, mostly to assuage his passion for horses. He rode all the time and soon became a Staff Sergeant Riding Instructor teaching those much older than himself.
He yearned for adventure and was advised to join the Metropolitan Police as a stepping stone for overseas service. He commenced his police career in 1937 as a beat constable in London. War was declared in September 1939 and Charles Sutcliffe joined up. He saw active services in Palestine and North Africa. In 1945 Captain Charles Sutcliffe returned to London for a well-earned leave where he met his future wife, Melba who was serving in the Canadian Forces and had been posted to London during the war. He proposed to her by mail as he was posted to Ethiopia.
The marriage almost didn't happen because a few months before Charles had been attacked by a crocodile while swimming and had sustained massive lacerations to his legs. He didn't tell Melba in his letters fearing he would lose his leg and jeopardize the marriage. At the ceremony, Major Charles Sutcliffe had to use a cane to walk beside Melba. Charles retired from his regiment in March, 1946 and joined the Colonial Police Force in Tanganyika. This he spent dealing with turbulent unrest associated with the Mau Mau infiltration of Kikuyu tribesmen. He fulfilled his ambition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro while searching for a lost photographer. It was a remarkable feat, with limited equipment, in the thin air at 20,000 feet.
Charles transferred to the Hong Kong Police in 1960 as an Assistant Commissioner on Tanganyika's independence. Before long he was again confronted with danger through the riots of 1966. An Inspector at the time recalled carrying a long baton which had broken whilst he was using it to clear a bonfire of debris at an intersection. "K1 " the Landrover used by Charles Sutcliffe as the SACP/K (Regional Commander Kowloon) turned up at the scene and Charles Sutcliffe emerged.....also carrying a long baton. Seeing the young Inspector with his broken one, he approached him and offered him his own long baton saying, "I think you may need this more than me ". Naturally, this made quite an impression on the Inspector and his platoon, not least because Mr Sutcliffe was "out with the men " in the front line.
In 1969, Mr Sutcliffe was appointed Commissioner and set out to break the back of corruption. He changed the rank structure, raised pay scales, reformed recruit training and embarked on an ambitious course of building development to cater for the increasing populations in the New Territories.
Gradually, the reforms worked and harmony was restored. In April 1969, the Force received a rare honour. The Queen bestowed the title 'Royal' to the Hong Kong Police, and Princess Alexandra became Commandant-General. On his retirement, Mr Sutcliffe was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Mr Sutcliffe retired from the Royal Hong Kong Police in 1974 and settled on Salt Spring Island in Vancouver, Canada. He pursued his off duty passions of horse riding and sailing. He was Commodore of his local sailing club and participated in the Round the World Yacht Race; completing the leg from Hong Kong to New Zealand in 1981.
Mr Sutcliffe's funeral was attended by many families, friends and colleagues. The HKP Old Comrades Association was represented by Paddy Clancy and Ian Tyzzer. His funeral was also attended by his Personal Assistant, Allan Speevak, a Canadian and former Inspector of Police.
Charles Payne Sutcliffe left a remarkable legacy on the Force and it was his vision that has undoubtedly assured the Force's reputation as 'Asia's Finest'.
He is survived by his wife, Melba and grandchildren Natalie, Colin, Russell, Ian, and Aiden.
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