1898 saw the New Territories being ceded to Britain for a term of 99 years and with the expansion of the Colony came the expansion of the Police Force. In 1899 38 Europeans were recruited with a further 49 being recruited in 1900. Included in these figures were two intakes from the Royal Marines who were to go down in history under the nicknames of “The Twelve Apostles” and “The Forty Thieves”. As with all intakes there were some who left or were discharged after a short period of time but in the main these two intakes produced men of substance who made Hong Kong their home and who had long and very successful careers. In the coming months this blog will relate all their stories but let us start with those men whose remains lie within the former Hong Kong Colonial Cemetery in Happy Valley and who are, in the true sense of the words, Hong Kong Souls.
James Edward NEW
James was born in the East End of London in February 1875, the third son of Samuel Kearly New and his wife Mary Ann (nee Damon). James never knew his father who died when he was an infant. His mother remarried and after a few years in her home county of Dorset the family returned to the East End. As a young man James became a dock labourer and at the age of 19 enlisted with the Chatham Division of the Royal Marines – Private 8076. Within a few months he had obtained the 2nd. Class School Certificate. Fifteen months later he embarked on the “Theseus” for Africa and took part in the Benin Punitive Expedition.
James received Good Conduct badges in 1896 and 1900 and was also awarded the West Africa medal with 1897 Benin clasp. In February 1900 James was one of 40 marines to transfer to the Hong Kong Police.
The group embarked on the Glen Line Steamer “Glenfarg” at London on 2 February and arrived in Hong Kong on 27 March. The following day at 3.30pm the Governor inspected the whole of the Police Force in the compound at Central Police Station. The new recruits lined up at the rear of the European contingent and it was reported that they had signed on for a period of 5 years on pay of $75 per month.
James was posted to the New Territories as PC 99. After taking over the New Territories in 1899 temporary matsheds were constructed at Taipo, Au Tau, Sha Tin and Fu Ti Au for use of the police. By 1901 several new police stations had been built but some of these were found to be very unhealthy and the local Chinese declared them to have bad “Fung-shui”.
Summer months in Hong Kong are hot and very humid – think of a steamy sauna and you will not be far from the mark. On 22 June 1901 James went on duty as normal but by the evening he was feeling decidedly unwell. He was attended by Dr. HO Nai-hop the Medical Officer stationed in the New Territories but over the next couple of days he became very ill and his temperature rocketted to 107 degrees. He died at 10pm on 24 June having been in Hong Kong for just 15 months.
Mr. E.R. Hallifax, Assistant Superintendent of Police in charge of the New Territories, arranged for James’ body to be sent to Hong Kong. Dr. Bell, Assistant Surgeon, pronounced that death was due to sunstroke. James was reported to have an irreproachable character. He was the first of “The Forty Thieves” to die in the Colony.
James was unmarried but he did have family in England – his mother and a sister. The Hong Kong Government sent notification of the death to the authorities in London but instead of despatching the news by telegram a letter was sent by sea-mail – not arriving until early August. Before the family could be notified officially they received a private letter from one of James’ colleagues in Hong Kong. Both sister and mother complained bitterly about the lack of information. As a result it was agreed that future notifications would be sent by telegram rather than by the “slow boat from China”!
James was buried at 7am on Wednesday 26 June 1901 in Section 2 of the Colonial Cemetery – Grave 6404.