Thursday, 9 June 2011

When Captain William Caine of HM 26th. Regiment of Infantry was appointed Hong Kong’s Chief Magistrate in 1841 the colony was a dangerous and lawless place. Caine’s police officers were soldiers who were considered unfit for regular army duties. The pay was low, conditions unhealthy and turnover rapid. Caine recruited about 90 Europeans of whom only 47 were still in the force in 1845. The Governor made several requests for experienced police officers to be sent out from Britain but officials in Whitehall decided it would be too expensive to recruit the whole force from England. It was agreed that a Superintendent and two Inspectors would be sufficient and the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police were consulted and chose three of their officers: Inspector Charles May and Sergeants Thomas Smithers and Hugh McGregor – all from the East End of London. The three officers resigned from the Met. on 7th. October 1844 and set sail on the SS Oriental. They arrived in Hong Kong on 15th. March 1845 and were duly advanced to the ranks of Superintendent and Inspector.

This then was the start of the Hong Kong Constabulary. Through the years it maintained strong links with the Metropolitan Police and forged even better links with other British constabularies. After the riots in the 1960s the Hong Kong Police Force was honoured with the title The Royal Hong Kong Police. After the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 the title reverted to Hong Kong Police.

Many of the historical records of the Hong Kong Police were destroyed during the Japanese occupation. This is regrettable but not disastrous for much information can still be found here in the UK.

If you are looking for details of that elusive Hong Kong Police ancestor then please contact me. I will be happy to advise on what might – or might not – be available.