Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Bristol Bobbies

ss Pembrokeshire

On 5 September 1882 the ss Pembrokeshire arrived in Hong Kong after a 6 ½ week voyage from England.  She carried with her a group of police officers recruited in the UK for the Hong Kong Police.  14 of the policemen were from the Bristol Constabulary, 6 from Liverpool and 4 from Plymouth.  3 of the officers were married and had brought their wives with them.

Originally 25 had been recruited and received the bounty of £15, however, one of the men did not make it onto the ship which left London in July.  It was thought that the missing constable had probably used his bounty money to buy a passage to the US instead.  It is likely that the man in question was PC 17D Roy Blunt Singer.  Singer was described as being 5ft. 11ins tall and had joined the Bristol Constabulary on 28 September 1881.  He was certainly included in the list of recruitees but no trace of him has yet been found in Hong Kong.  A man with such a distinctive name cannot disappear forever and his death has been found in Three Rivers, Michigan in 1947.  It appears that he found work in the US Rail Yards.

The band of men who did leave on the ss Pembrokeshire had a less than pleasant voyage for they encountered 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 had been disgusting.  It was with some relief that they set foot on shore. 

The Press reported :

Upon arrival at the Central Station their comrades feted the new comers right royally, and the sounds of jollification and harmony – in the quiet police style as becomes men who devote their lives to the preservation of order – could be heard emanating from the police quarters.  There seems to be a considerable amount of esprit de corps amongst our gallant peace and property preservers.

Thereafter their lives took very different paths.  2 were to die and others lost family members to fevers and plague.  A few became entangled in a corruption scandal which rocked the Colony in the 1890s; and a handful had long and very successful careers before returning to the UK. 

Their stories are now being pieced together.

If you think one of your ancestors might have served with the Hong Kong Police then please e-mail me.  (You will need to type this address into the e-mail as it is not a direct link - I am trying to avoid spammers !)