Tuesday, 11 July 2017

When the stresses of life led to committal

  A Metropolitan Police Peeler

Thomas Frederick GREY was born c. 1840/41 in the parish of Clonfert, Eyre Court, Ireland.  At the age of 20 he joined London's Metropolitan Police and was issued with Warrant No. 40333. On the night of the census he was listed with colleagues at the police station in Clerkenwell, North London.

By March 1865 he was a 3rd. class constable at Woolwich Dockyard earning 20 shillings a week.  A couple of months later he transferred from Woolwich to Hampstead Division and allocated the divisional number S748.

Police Orders dated 24th. November 1866 called for volunteers to serve in Hong Kong.  Successful candidates would act as sergeants and receive a starting salary of £130 a year.

Police Orders dated 19th. March 1867 published the names and date of resignation of the six successful volunteers.  Thomas' divisional number of S748 is shown with the letters AR appended.  These indicate that he was a member of The Reserve - elite officers who were the first to be called out in the event of an emergency.

Administrative matters had been going on behind the scene for the previous three months and it had been agreed that the men would sail on a P&O steamer leaving on 20th. March and that their rail fare from London to the port would be covered.  In addition they would each receive an advance of salary amounting of £20 towards the cost of purchasing their outfits.  During the outward voyage they would receive half salary.

The local Hong Kong press announced the arrival of the six police officers aboard the SS Carnatic and stated that "It is supposed they are to be promoted to the same rank as the present inspectors as they have been billeted off in the same quarters".

Thomas reached the rank of 1st. Class Inspector in February 1869.

By 1871 more police officers were needed and Inspector Grey was despatched to the UK (at 24 hours notice) to recruit 40 constables for duty in the Colony.  On this occasion both the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary declined to assist.  As a result the Crown Agents sent him north to try the Scottish Constabularies.  Here he was more than successful and managed to recruit a total of 45 men.  The first batch set sail on the SS Sarpenden on 2nd. December with the second batch, along with Inspector GREY, leaving on the SS Glaucus on 23rd. December.

In September 1878 Inspector GREY led a party of police against 80 armed men who were responsible for a sensational attack on a gold dealer's shop in Wing Lok Street.

Thomas was promoted to Acting Chief Inspector in April 1880 and for a six week period in 1881 was Acting Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Thomas took sixteen months Home Leave from August 1882 to December 1883 during which time he married.  Irish records show the marriage of Thomas Frederick GREY to Emily Barbara ALLT on 20th. September 1883 in the Parish Church of St. Peter, Dublin.  The register entry was altered to amend the spelling of Thomas' surname from Gray to GREY.  For some unknown reason Thomas stated his occupation as being Civil Service Clerk.

A son, Arthur Oveston, was born at Central Police Station on 6th. August 1884.  He was baptised at St. John's Cathedral on 17th. September.

A second son, Allan Frederick, was born at The Magistracy on 31st. October 1886.  He was baptised at St. John's Cathedral on 15th. December 1886.

Emily's name varies in the records - sometimes being shown as Emilia.

Mr. James PARKER had retired as First Clerk of the Magistracy in early October 1886.  Promotion opportunities to the senior ranks within the police force were few and seeing this as an opportunity for advancement Thomas applied.  There were several creditable candidates but as Thomas had the longest service he was recommended for appointment.  Unfortunately the responsibilities of the new office (and no doubt the responsibilities of a new family) played on Thomas' mind.  He suffered a nervous breakdown and the Colonial Surgeon advised that unless he was relieved of the responsibilities immediately he would have to be admitted to a lunatic asylum.  Life was so, so different back then.

The authorities agreed that Thomas should be granted leave without pay for three months in the spring of 1887 on condition that he resigned when the leave expired.  Thomas would be granted a pension for his 20 years service.

Pension papers show Thomas to be 5ft. 10 1/2 ins in height with a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.  His age was given as 47.  He stated that he would be drawing his pension in London and that his wife was living in Banagher, Ireland.

The 1891 census shows Thomas living with his family in Thorpe Road, Kingston, Surrey.  His age was given as 51.

In 1898 the Colonial Office received correspondence from the Office of Registrar in Lunancy, Four Courts, Dublin concerning Thomas GREY a former member of the Hong Kong Police Force.  Thomas had been admitted to the Dublin District Asylum as a dangerous lunatic in August and the authorities were seeking details of his pension.  His age was shown as being 55.

A month later correspondence was received from Offices of the General Solicitor for Minors and Lunatics in Ireland with a similar query.  The Colonial Office replied that the Crown Agents were paying £12 a year to the Richmond District Asylum in Ireland for Mr. GREY's maintenance with the balance of pension being paid to his wife.

How long Thomas remained in the asylum is not known but the 1901 census for Ireland shows him living at 118 South Circular Road, Dublin with his family.  His age was shown as 57.

Emily Barbara GREY died on 7th. October 1903 of enteritis tuberculous from which she had been suffering for 3 years.  Her death was registered by her son A.F. GREY.

The 1911 census for Ireland shows Thomas and his son, Arthur, boarding at 109 Circular Road, Merchants Quay, Dublin.  Thomas' age was shown as 70.

Thomas Frederick GREY died of broncho pneumonia on 25th. March 1919 at 25 Raymond Street, Dublin.  His age was shown as being 77.  The death was registered by his son, Allan F. GREY.

Ironsides - an officer with steely determination

The story of John Calder SWANSTON (1851 - 1891) 
Hong Kong Police Officer (1871 - 1891)
can be found on my Hong Kong Cemetery Blog:

Saturday, 3 September 2016

From Bristol Bobby to Hong Kong Copper

My next talk 
"From Bristol Bobby to Hong Kong Copper"
is to be for the
Clevedon Civic Society Local History Group
Thursday 15th. September 2016 @ 7.30pm
St Andrews Church Centre, Clevedon

I understand that visitors are welcome - entrance fee £3

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Daniel HALL 1853 - 1913 Another of those Bristol Bobbies

Readers of my blog will already have read about Job Witchell who was recruited for the Hong Kong Police Force from the Bristol Constabulary way back in 1882 along with several colleagues.

This story relates to another of those officers – Daniel Hall.  But first a brief recap on that initial recruiting campaign.

In May 1882 Mr. Hogge, the Recruiting Officer of the Hong Kong and Straits Settlement Police visited Bristol.  The Hong Kong Police had been established some 38 years earlier when an Inspector and 2 Sergeants from London’s Metropolitan Police volunteered for duty in the very new Colony.  Every few years recruiting campaigns were held in the UK in order to build up a core of experienced officers and these came from the Metropolitan Police; Scottish Constabularies; the Royal Irish Constabulary; as well as from the smaller Borough Forces throughout England.  This was the first time that the south-west of England had been targetted and it proved a rich picking ground.

Surviving records show that Mr. Hogge had been in Devon during the latter half of April 1882.  There he managed to pick up a few volunteers from the Plymouth Constabulary.

He then moved on to Bristol where he spent a week - the first recruit being signed up on 2 May.

Dan Hall had been born in 1853 in Oldbury on the Hill in Gloucestershire.  He was baptised at Didmarton Parish Church on 30 October 1853 the son of Richard and Charlotte.   The 1871 census shows the family in Creephole between Didmarton and Oldbury on the Hill.  Dan’s occupation was shown as Mason.

But a complete change of career was about to happen.  On 16 June 1880 Dan joined the Bristol Constabulary as a Constable and was allocated the divisional number of PC 24C.  He was shown as being 5ft. 10 ¼ inches tall.

On the night of the 1881 census Dan was listed as a Constable at Clifton Police Station.

No doubt a year later all the constables in Bristol would have been aware that Mr. Hogge was on the lookout for recruits to serve in the Far East.  As has already been mentioned the first recruit from Bristol had signed on the dotted line on 2 May.  Might this have set Dan thinking?  Might he have wondered whether he could broaden his horizons further?  Why stay in Bristol when there was a whole world to explore?

Perhaps it was with these thoughts in mind that he and Constable Shepston had a few too many drinks and got into an altercation with Constable Perrett.  The outcome was not good – Constables Hall and Shepston were dismissed on 3 May 1882.

However, having lost his job there was now absolutely nothing to stand in his way – he volunteered for duty with the Hong Kong Police.

Before embarking on his voyage east there was one more thing which had to be done – he needed to find himself a wife.  The lady in question came from Sopworth a small village a few miles south of Didmarton – her name was Elizabeth Perks.  Elizabeth was a nursemaid and the 1881 census shows her working for John Falconer at Leintwardine House in Herefordshire. 

Photograph by:  Percy Benzie Abery 1877-1948

Dan and Elizabeth were married by license at St. Mary’s, Leintwardine on 7 June 1882.  The witnesses to the marriage were Arthur Sheppard the coachman at Leintwardine House and Thurza Lewis the housemaid.  The press announcement shows Dan to be the fourth son of Mr. Richard Hall of Didmarton and Lizzie the youngest daughter of Mr. James Perks.

Leintwardine Parish Church

Six weeks later Dan joined his fellow recruits as they embarked from Liverpool.  The wives and children of some of the policemen joined their husbands on the 6 ½ week voyage to Hong Kong but Elizabeth appears to have remained in England.  She was expecting Dan’s child.   Violet Lizzie was born the following spring.

Two days after arrival in Hong Kong the new recruits were sworn in at The Magistracy for a tour of duty lasting 5 years.

They must have faced a real culture shock as everything was so different.  They found that their colleagues were Sikhs and Chinese and it was going to take an awful lot of work to be able to communicate with them.

Out on the streets the markets were crowded; ear cleaners & barbers set up their stands on the roadside; and the fortune teller always drew a large crowd.

And the streets were always adorned with washing!

Dan settled down well to the normal day to day routine and 1886 saw him taking part in a couple of events at the annual Police Sports Day – the Hop, Skip & Jump and the Tug o War.

A few months later a Police shooting match took place at Kowloon Range.  The teams were made up of men from No 1 and No 2 Rooms at Central Police Station and a PS Hall is shown as one of the representatives of No. 2 Room.  The press reported that some of the men were 

quite untrained shots and the shooting all round was not of a high class”.

A few months later Dan’s duties took him to No. 37 Staunton Street where he came across two Chinese men.  One was busy writing out lottery tickets for the game known as Tsz’ fa.   Gambling was illegal in the colony so PS 91 Daniel Hall made an arrest and took them off to court.

At some point after Violet’s birth Elizabeth joined Dan in Hong Kong and they went on to have three more children – Daisy Charlotte born on 31 December 1884; William Maskelyne born 18 December 1887; and May Harriet born 10 March 1890.

We shall catch up with some of the children later in the story.

At this time the Hong Kong Fire Brigade came under the auspices of the Police and on 1 May 1889 Dan took up duty as an Assistant Engine Driver for which he received an allowance of $144 per annum on top of his sergeants salary of $624.

On 6 September 1892 he advanced to Engine Driver with an allowance of $192 on top of his sergeants salary of $720.

Bubonic plague swept through Hong Kong in the summer of 1894 and Sergeant Hall played his part.

"On 31 May additional bye-laws were made by the Sanitary Board and under them notices were issued to householders in the Central District of the City of Victoria and at Kowloon calling upon them to cleanse thier houses.

Up to date 1,805 notices have been issued in the City and in obedience to them 1,303 houses have been cleaned under the supervision of Non-Commissioned Officers and men of The Royal Engineers.

Thanks to the exertions of Sergeant Hall it was found possible to induce householders in a large portion of the Eastern District to clean their houses without having recourse to the serving of notices whereby much time was saved.  The entire villages of Yaumati and Hunghom have been cleaned in the same manner under the supervision of two men of the Royal Engineers."

On 1 February 1896 Acting Inspector Dan Hall was appointed an Inspector of Nuisances.  The Sanitary Board annual report shows him to be in charge of No. 11 Health District.  Duties included:

"The Inspector of Nuisances shall see that the Government Scavenging and Night-soil Contractors for the time being strictly comply with the terms of their contracts and that all night-soil and urine, all house-sweeping and dry rubbish, and all refuse, noxious or innocuous, are removed in accordance with the prescribed regulations at least once a day from every tenement in the City of Victoria".

The mid 1890s saw the Hong Kong Police Force involved in a corruption scandal of mega proportions.  My previous blog on Job Witchell mentions that he was convicted of accepting bribes and sentenced to six months imprisonment.  But his was not the only name to come up during investigations.  Several other police officers – Inspectors down to Constables – were shown on “The List” provided by the convicted gaming house keeper Sam Yin.  At one point it looked as if all were to be dismissed from the force but closer examination of the evidence showed that it would be impossible to prove that any one of them actually received the money which it was said was paid over to them.  They escaped dismissal but all were compulsorily retired.  After much debate they were allowed to claim the pension that was due to them.  The name of Daniel Hall was on that list.

The press reported that D. Hall, along with several of his colleagues left for home by the P&O Coromandel on 5 March 1898. 

"They had a very hearty send off from their comrades and civilian friends and bag-pipes skirled them a farewell from Market Wharf.  The Chinese testified their goodwill to the departing officers with a loud and long sustained firing of crackers".

During the whole of his service from 1882 to 1898 Dan had only taken 4 months and 20 days leave. So it is doubtful that he had ever made a trip back home.  Dan’s pension when converted to sterling amounted to £45 16s 8d per annum.  This would not go far in supporting his family when he returned to Gloucestershire so he became an Inn Keeper, running the Brewers Arms in Wotton-under-Edge.  The premises had been advertised for rent by the Stroud Brewery Company a few weeks after Dan returned home in 1898.  In 1911 the rent was shown as being £12 per annum. 

It has not been possible to find a picture of the Inn but having scoured old maps and old directories I have come to the conclusion that this property, now called The Moorings, was possibly once the Brewers Arms.  If anyone can prove or disprove this I would love to hear from you.

Dan died on 15 February 1913 after contracting pneumonia.  The press reported:

"The death of Mr. Daniel Hall of Wotton-under-Edge this week after a short illness removes from the midst of the townspeople a worthy and much respected resident.  He enjoyed good health up till the time of his illness and his unexpected end was heard of with sorrow in the town.  Mr. Hall spent the early part of his life in Hong Kong and came to Wotton-under-Edge to conduct the Brewers' Arms, a well known hostelry.  He has recently been living in retirement in Long Street.  Mr. Hall had served the town with acceptance on the Parish Council and at the time of his death he was a member of the Town Trust.  He was a regular attendant at the meetings and his attention to the various matters which cropped up between them showed how deeply interest he was in his duties.  He was a prominent Conservative and did much useful work for the cause".

Dan was buried at the Parish church on 19 February 1913.  There was a large gathering at the funeral service including three of his former Hong Kong Police colleagues.   

The parish register gives his address as “The Steep” which was an extension of Long Street.  The picture below shows the Conservative and Unionist Club on the right - a wall lamp marking its location.  Dan would have known this well.

Dan’s estate, amounting to £116 2s, was adminstered by his son, William Maskelyn Hall, plumber. 

Throughout the 1920s Dan’s widow, Elizabeth, lived in Wortley Road, Wotton-under-Edge.  In her late 70s she became profoundly deaf and became confused.  When crossing the road she developed the habit of stopping in the middle and then going back.  Her son warned her of the dangers.

On the evening of Tuesday 4 February 1930 Elizabeth left her home in Wortley Terrace and began to cross the road.  As she was deaf she did not hear the approaching motor-cyclist.  The driver, 24 year old William Taverner, had a good light on his motorbike but it was getting dark. He knew there was a corner coming up in the road so he reduced his speed to 10-15 miles an hour.  Suddenly, right in front of him only a few feet away, he saw a dark figure. There was no time to sound his horn - he applied his brakes and swerved to try to avoid Elizabeth but the handlebars hit her on the side.  William was thrown clear as Elizabeth fell to the ground.   She died the following afternoon.  The inquest returned the verdict of “Death from shock following accidental injuries”.

The parish register shows that Elizabeth was buried on 8 February 1930 at the age of 77.  Young William Tavender attended her funeral.

This concludes the story of Dan and Elizabeth - but what of their children? 

Children of Dan & Elizabeth

If we return to Hong Kong we find a reference to young Willie Hall, age 8, the son of a police officer, winning the short race for boys at the police children's party.  The party was an annual event held at Central Police Station.  The press reported that:

the compound and lawn were beautifully decked out with many large banners and smaller brightly coloured flags and streamers – and all along the lawn were the tables bounteously heaped with the dainties that delight the little ones.  The afternoon was spent in sports and after tea an adjournment was made to the Captain Superintendent’s quarters for the great event of the afternoon.  The festivities were a great success and the tiny folk as they left seemed to have enough added joy in their faces to last out at least another year.  Perhaps the feature that made the most vivid impression on their minds was the unique sight of Captain Sterling as he entered the room and dispensed the presents from the twinkling Christmas tree.  Rigged in a sumptuous white Mother Hubbard trimmed with golden yellow fringe and having huge leg-of-mutton sleeves wearing on his head a monstrous fluffy white cotton wig and over his eyes massive dark brows, and with a giant’s staff in his hand he seemed to be one of the Norse gods and to bear in his towering form all the mystic weirdness of his home of ice and snow.  The children will always feel that they will never see just such another Santa Claus.

It is worth mentioning here that Job’s daughter, Lily Witchell, won the Over 7s Flat Race for Girls; Jim Witchell the Long Race for Boys; and James Witchell the Obstacle Race.  

Violet Lizzie Hall
1883 - 1962

It goes without saying that in a small place like Hong Kong the children of police officers would all have been friends – or at least have know each other.  So perhaps it is not surprising to find that Violet Lizzie Hall (daughter of Dan & Elizabeth)  married Robert Charles Witchell (son of Job Witchell).  The ceremony took place on 12 December 1906 back home in England - in the parish church of Wotton-under-Edge.

Violet’s youngest sister, May Harriet Hall, was one of the bridesmaids and also witnessed the marriage.  The press reported:

An interesting wedding was solemnised at St. Mary’s Church on Wednesday, the Rev. H.W.B. Berry officiating, the contracting parties being Robert Charles Witchell of Hong Kong, China and Violet Hall of Wotton-under-Edge.  The bride who was given away by her father Mr. Daniel Hall looked charming in a gown of white silk with embroidered tulle veil, surmounted by a wreath of orange blossoms and carried a beautiful shower bouquet of white chrysanthemums, the gift of the bridegroom.  She was attended by two bridesmaids – Miss May Hall (sister of the bride) and Miss J Huggins (cousin of the bridegroom) – who wore white mercerised crepoline dresses trimed with Valencienses lace, and white frilled hats with trimmings of pale blue silk, and carried bouquets of chrysanthemums and wore pearl brooches the gifts of the bridegroom.  Mr. J. Witchell of Oulton was the best man.  Mr. Mitchell of Bath presided at the organ and played suitable voluntaries.  A reception was held at the Brewers Arms, the clubroom being specially decorated for the occasion, and later Mr. and Mrs. Witchell left for Weston-super-Mare, previous to leaving for China.  The bride's travelling dress was of green cloth with black hat.  The presents were very numerous."

Weston on a damp & dismal day!

Robert Charles Witchell was a Sanitary Inspector in Hong Kong and  he and Violet went on to expand the Witchell dynasty with several children.  One son, Charles Henry, died on 1 August 1916 at the age of 6 ½ years.  His grave in the Hong Kong Cemetery is marked with a small scroll headstone.  I first recorded this inscription during my project aimed at recording all the MIs within the cemetery back in the 1980s.  When I returned in 2009 to photograph all the headstones the inscription was still legible.

The family returned to the UK on leave in the spring of 1928 on P&Os Morea. It was to be a fateful leave.

On 19 October Robert died at Ham Green Hospital in Somerset. His estate amounted to £551 14s - his address was given as Hill House, Old Sodbury.  Violet Lizzie was named as his widow.  Robert’s funeral took place at the Arnos Vale Crematorium in Bristol on 23 October.

After her husband’s death Violet returned to Hong Kong for a few years but in 1939 returned to the UK to live at 4 Junction Road, Bath.  

Violet’s son, Robert George, had been a source of worry.  He had married Maria K. Ignatieva in Shanghai but she proved to be a very expensive lady to keep.  To read more about her son’s sorry tale I refer readers to Rudi Butt’s blog:

After a troubled life perhaps it is no surprise to find that Robert George Witchell died in 1948 at the age of 40:

"Mrs. R.C. Witchell of 35 Belvedere, Bath has received the tragic news that her only son, Mr. Robert George Witchell was killed in a motor accident in Germany on December 18.  He was 40.

Mr. Witchell, who was born in Hongkong, lived there until just before the war, when he came to England to join the Army.  He served with the Royal Artillery throughout.

At the time of his death, no details of which have been received, he was with the Civil Control Commission.

A widower, he has three sisters who live in Hongkong.  His father, Mr. R.C. Witchell, died over nine years ago whilst on leave in this country."

Violet died in 1962 at the age of 79.  Her funeral service was held at the Arnos Vale Crematorium.

William Maskelyne Hall
1887 - 1968

Electoral rolls for 1909 and 1910 list William as a Lodger occupying a furnished bedroom at the Brewer’s Arms in Wotton-under-Edge.  This was the licensed premises run by his father, Dan. 

The 1911 census shows William as a decorator in Ebbw Vale, Monmouthshire. 

On 24 December 1913, a few months after his father’s death, William married Margaret M. Roberts in Wotton-under-Edge. His address was shown as Tortworth which is a few miles west of Wotton.

Indications have been found showing that William probably served with the RAMC during the war.  On 26 August 1916 he had the painful duty of writing to Mrs. Davis in Wotton-under-Edge informing her of the death of her husband, James Davis.

 August 26th.

Dear Mrs. Davis

It is my sad duty to inform you of your husband’s death.  He was hit by a piece of shrapnel and died instantaneously, thereby suffering no pain.  On behalf of the Ambulance and particularly the section to which he belonged, I offer you our heartfelt sympathy.

He was much respected by all who came into contact with him and the news of his death, which occurred this morning, came as a great shock to us.

Believe me to remain

Yours sincerely

William M. Hall

After the war William built up a builders and plumbing business at Westridge, 11 Bradley Street, Wotton-under-Edge.  This was a semi-detached stone built property comprising 2 reception rooms, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, fitted bathroom and 2 attics.  At the side was the entrance to the builders yard with garage, large workshop, outbuildings and pigsty.  

The property was put up for sale in 1950 but as William and Margaret were still listed on the electoral roll throughout the early 1960s it appears that they had a change of heart.  By 1966 they were shown as living at 11a Bradley Street.  This was a newer property built on land behind the original cottage – possibly built by William himself?

William died on 29 May 1968.  Probate calendars show his estate to be valued at £8103. 


This story of Daniel Hall and his family forms one very small part of my research into the 1882 Hong Kong Police intake which - for the purpose of historical talks - I have nicknamed “The Bristol Bobbies”.  I hope to post more of their stories in due course as each is very different.  

If any reader should have additional information on Daisy Charlotte Hall or her sister, May Harriet Hall, I would love to hear from you.  It appears that they both went into domestic service. Daisy could well have married (or at least had a partner) whilst May possibly remained single.


Special thanks to Rosie Kingman for providing the missing piece of the jigsaw which enabled me to link Violet with her parents.

Grateful thanks to Bill Griffiths for permission to use the extract about William M. Hall from his book "First World War Heroes of Wotton-under-Edge".

Thanks also to all the Local Record Offices and Libraries which housed a wealth of information. As well as to The National Archives at Kew (my second home!) and to the Hong Kong Public Record Office, Hong Kong Libraries and the British Library.


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Job WITCHELL - From Bristol Bobby to Hong Kong Copper (and beyond)


In May 1882 Mr. Hogge, the Recruiting Officer of the Hong Kong and Straits Settlement Police visited Bristol.  The Hong Kong Police had been established some 38 years earlier when an Inspector and 2 Sergeants from London’s Metropolitan Police volunteered for duty in the new Colony.  Every few years recruiting campaigns were held in the UK in order to build up a core of experienced officers and these came from the Metropolitan Police; Scottish Constabularies; the Royal Irish Constabulary; as well as from the smaller Borough Forces throughout England.  This was the first time that the south-west of England had been targetted and it proved a rich picking ground.

The Crown Agents had instructed Mr. Hogge to contact various Chief Constables prior to visiting but apparently he failed to do this and the press reported that he had privately solicited officers with tempting offers and that as a result their Force was to be decimated. However, because Mr. Hogge had not gone through official channels for this recruiting campaign he also managed to pick up three men who were no longer serving with the Force.  One of these had resigned a couple of weeks prior to the recruiting campaign, another had resigned a whole year before whilst the remaining one had been dismissed  just days prior to Mr. Hogge’s visit. 

The Deputy Captain Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police was on leave in the UK at this time and had the final say as to which recruits were acceptable.  He required them to have at least 12 months service and be of good physique.  They were to receive a bounty of £20 for volunteering. The pay was better in Hong Kong at 30 - 35 shillings a week and after 10 years service they would be eligible for a pension.

Job WITCHELL was one of the 13 men selected in Bristol for service in the British Colony. They resigned their posts on 14th. June 1882.   Job had been born in the coal-mining village of Westerleigh, Gloucestershire in 1858/59 and at the age of 13 was “down the mines” with his father.  But this was not the life that he wanted so at the age of 21 he joined the Bristol Constabulary and on the 1881 census is shown as being posted to Bridewell Police Station on A Division.  During his 28 months service he wore the collar numbers of 131A and 28A.  Police records show him as being 6ft and 0¼ ins in height with the previous occupation of “collier”.

The 1882 Hong Kong Police intake was one of the very few to accept married officers.  Job was single but thought it prudent to find a wife before leaving his homeland.  The lady he chose was Maud Mary POWELL (later known as Mary Maud) and they married by Licence at the Bristol Register Office on 5th. July.  For some unknown reason Job chose to enter his name as Samuel Job WITCHELL and his occupation as “carpenter”.  Admittedly in early July he was “between jobs” but it seems strange that he chose this occupation over “police officer”.

A few days later The Bristol Bobbies travelled to Liverpool where they met up with other recruits from Plymouth and Liverpool.  They were to make journey to Hong Kong on the ss Pembrokeshire and this was to be the ships maiden voyage.  As it transpired this was not to be a pleasant experience for our travellers because they encountered very strong monsoon winds across the Indian Ocean.  Added to this it was reported that during the voyage one of their number had fallen 25ft. down a hold and had been lucky to escape with his life.  To make matters even worse the food onboard was described as being disgusting.  So it was with some relief that they set foot on shore in Hong Kong. 

The Press reported :

 "Upon arrival at the Central Station their comrades feted the new comers right royally, and the sounds of jollification and harmony could be heard emanating from the police quarters."

Two days later they were sworn in at The Magistracy for a period of 5 years duty.

Police Stations were situated throughout the island but conditions were less than desirable.  The Colonial Surgeon reported that :

"none of the Stations can be commended in a sanitary point of view and they are nearly all overcrowded."

Sickness amongst Police was mainly fevers and diarrhoea and this table shows that with an average strength of 103 European officers in 1882 the rate of sickness was 89.32%:

What a place for our Bristol Bobbies to have volunteered to come to.  But despite the conditions Job and Mary Maud went on to found a dynasty in the British Colony.

By 1886 Job had made Acting Sergeant and by 1889 was undertaking additional duties as Assistant Engine Driver with the Fire Brigade. The early appliances used by the Brigade came from Merryweather in the UK and were now over 20 years old.  Apart from 4 steam engines they had a floating fire engine, 9 manual engines, and various “Fire boxes”.

Hong Kong’s world famous Peak rises behind the city of Victoria and is often shrouded in mist.  The city was built on the lower slopes but the streets had a steep incline which made fire fighting extremely difficult.   Water was obtained from Fire Plugs linked to the City’s Water System but the pressure was so low that what should have been a strong jet of water turned into a very sad trickle by the time it came out of the hoses.  The solution was to pump water from the harbour and to do this the engines would be stationed at various points up the hill and the water pumped from one to the other to the next.

The Fire Brigade HQ was at No. 5 Police Station in the centre of Town.  Watchmen were stationed on lookout duties and the alarm was raised by the ringing of bells.  3 strokes indicated a fire west of the Harbour Office; 2 strokes a fire between the Harbour Office and Murray Barracks; 1 stroke for a fire east of Murray Barracks

Every year in January those connected with the Fire Brigade would steam off to one of the islands and for their annual outing.  

On the homeward journey songs were sung – including one of their very own:

The Song of the HK Fire Brigade

Where are the boys of the Old Brigade

Who fought with us side by side?

We miss them on our Fire Parades

For some have gone home—some have died.

Who so ready and undismayed?

Who so gallant and true?

Where are the boys of the Old Brigade?

Where are the lads we knew?

Then steadily shoulder to shoulder

Steadily man by man

Fighting the fire with one desire

To do all the good we can

Where are the boys of the Old Brigade?

Friends who have faced Afong 

Some from their happy homes have strayed

Many have left Hong Kong

Over the sea at Duty’s call

Far from our loving gaze

We drink their health, may one and all

Have many joyous days.

Then steadily shoulder to shoulder

Steadily man by man

Fighting the fire with one desire

To do all the good we can

By 1894 Sergeant WITCHELL was acting as Inspector of Markets.  The Colonial Veterinary Surgeon reported:

"this officer has given me great satisfaction, his duties being always carried out in the most able and efficient manner."

On 23rd. April 1896 Job was promoted to 3rd. Class Inspector – the first of our Bristol Bobbies to reach this rank.  Records show that in addition to his Inspector’s salary he received a $30 Good Conduct Allowance; $30 for knowledge of Chinese and $120 as Inspector of Vehicles.

However, the following year a scandal of mega proportions was to hit the Hong Kong Police and several of our Bristol Bobbies were caught up in this.  The Cantonese loved gambling but this was prohibited within the British Colony.  Not that this stopped the mighty Triad gangs.  They set up a web of corruption which extended to Police Officers in order to get them to turn a blind eye to the gambling dens. 

The Head of the Force, Francis Henry May, was a strict disciplinarian and when he heard rumours that police officers were being bribed he started investigations.  To his horror documents were found which implicated not only Chinese police but Europeans as well. 

Inspector Job Witchell was the officer who became scapegoat in the case and he appeared in court on charges of accepting bribes.  He pleaded not guilty but the evidence was overwhelming.  Job had an excellent record up to this time and had received many commendations for his work.  He was also a popular member of the community and this led to the jury recommending leniency – the judge took this into account and sentenced him to just 6 months imprisonment.

A few weeks later Mary Maud gave birth to her last baby but he only lived for three days.  He was buried in Grave 5959 in Section 41 of the Colonial Cemetery on 16th. November 1897.

The following February on release from prison Job confessed his guilt and acknowledged the justice of the sentence passed upon him.  He also expressed regret for remarks which he made at the conclusion of the trial “imputing unworthy motives to the Captain Superintendent of Police”.

Mary Maud died one week later in the Government Civil Hospital and was buried in Section 5 of the Colonial Cemetery.

On his release from prison Job had a long and successful career in private business. He was also a prominent member of the Freemason community.  He remarried on 23rd. October 1909 - his new wife being an Australian widow.

Mary’s grand daughter, Lilian Edith SOUTHERTON (2nd. child of Edith SOUTHERTON nee WITCHELL), died in 1922 at the age of 5 ½  months and was buried with her grandmother in Section 5.

Job  died in the Colony on 13th. August 1925 and was buried with his first wife & grand daughter in the Colonial Cemetery.  

But the family grave was not yet full.  In August 1950 another grand daughter, Nora Evelyn STUTCHBURY (nee WITCHELL), was murdered by terrorists in Pahang, Malaya.  Her body was flown back to Hong Kong and buried with her grandparents & cousin on 23rd. August 1950.

Postscript:  The grave of the little boy who had died in 1897 aged just 3 days remained untouched & unmarked in Section 41 – that is until the mid 1970s.  In 1975 plans were afoot to construct the Aberdeen Tunnel from Happy Valley through the hills to the south side of the island.  This meant exhuming thousands of graves.  Those with headstones were all moved elsewhere within the cemetery whilst remains from graves with no headstones were placed in niches in a brand new ossuary – each with a plaque to mark their existence in this world.  72 graves without headstones were exhumed from Section 41 – 18 of them being of stillborn or very young infants who had died in the 1890s.  Naturally after some 80 years there were no remains from these tiny graves so niches were not provided within the Ossuary.  

If you think that I might be able to assist with your own Hong Kong research then I would be delighted to hear from you: