Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Stormy seas - the story of George BOOLE

George Arthur William BOOLE was born in Siddington, Gloucestershire on 30 March 1877 and baptised in West Down, North Devon on 26 August 1878, At the age of 17, whilst working as a labourer for Mr. Mitchell & Co. in Barnstaple, he joined the Militia (4th. Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment) and on 10 June 1895 enlisted with the Royal Marines in Exeter. Training was at the RM Depot at Walmer in Kent before being posted to the Plymouth Division. The majority of George’s service was on ships of the Channel Squadron before volunteering for duty with the Hong Kong Police and leaving England in February 1900.

By 1904 George was a Lance Sergeant acting as Assistant Foreman and Engine Driver of the Floating Fire Engine.  In April 1904 a huge fire broke out at Godown No 23 of the HK & Kln Wharf & Godown Co in Tsim Sha Tsui.  The godown in question was storing a quantiy of very flammable material and it was not long before the whole building exploded.  Fire engines raced to the scene and the men worked all night fighing the flames and damping down.  During the height of the blaze Dr. Gibson made his rounds attending to those who needed treatment - he was followed by a coolie carrying bottles of spirits for the men.  It was stated that:
"the restorative effects of these stimulants were noticed to have a good result and the men worked harder than ever after receiving their "nobbler"".

On 18th. September 1906 a severe typhoon hit Hong Kong killing hundreds and causing considerable damage. Guests taking breakfast at the Hong Kong Hotel saw the roof of the new Post Office being carried away on the winds. The press reported:

The gale kept ripping out planks here and there until the structure looked as if it had been ‘stormed at by shot and shell’. These planks went whirling away like scraps of paper some dropping far out to sea, others boomeranging into neighbouring verandahs. Passengers and sightseers on the streets ran great risks. Two policemen passing that way were nearly struck just before the big collapse took place. What was left on the roof lifted and swayed giddily uprooting or disconnecting the supporting timbers and scaffolding. These crumpled down like a house of cards making a horrible noise and the roof followed with a sidewise lurch, slowly, almost gracefully, until it went to pieces with the rest on the street below.”

There were many daring acts of courage. On seeing a man being blown into the harbour Mr. Bevan and an Indian constable went to his rescue. The constable unwrapped his turban, Bevan snatched one end of this and jumped into the water and was able to get a grip on the man. The couple were then pulled ashore by the constable.  

Perhaps the saddest of stories concerned the Donaldson family who were living on a houseboat named the Kongnam. Mr. Donaldson was an assistant with Messrs. Butterfield and Swire and although quiet in nature was well liked by his colleagues. Mrs. Donaldson was a dance teacher. The Kongnam took a real battering from the waves and when the sea washed away the deck-cabins Mr. Donaldson snatched up their baby and attempted to rush to safety but a wave carried them both into the sea.  Mrs. Donaldson with her four year old son and two Chinese ladies huddled together until the boat lurched and they too were washed into the sea.

Police stations at Sham Shui Po and Shatin were demolished; Police launch No. 1 was sunk at Tai Kok Tsui and No. 2 launch went down at Castle Peak. Inspector Kerr and his crew were rescued by a Customs cruiser. The Captain Superintendent of Police in his report after the event commented that he was satisfied that Lance Sergeant 128 Boole had done his best to try to save No. 1 launch. The Water Police saved over a hundred people but in the aftermath they had the unpleasant duty of clearing wreckage and retrieving corpses. Constable Mundy was so overcome from the smell that he had to be taken to hospital. Two days after the storm it was reported that 1,688 bodies had been recovered.

1908 saw yet another typhoon hit the colony. George was again in charge of No. 1 launch when during the height of the storm it was hit and keeled over. George fell overboard and was pulled to safety by Seaman 465 LAM Kun hoi - just in time to avoid being crushed. Sergeants Clarke and Devney along with PC Ogg were also injured during the storm.

George left Hong Kong in 1910 for a spell of Home Leave - much of the time being spent in Ilfracombe with friends. 

He returned to Hong Kong on board P & Os Malwa in December 1910 and was posted to the Water Police at Taipo - by now he was an Acting Crown Sergeant. 

Then one morning in July 1911 he began to feel unwell and developed a fever. He knew he had to get himself to hospital but by the time his train reached Kowloon he had lapsed into unconsciousness.   

George died on the way to the hospital.

His funeral took place in the evening of 10th. July 1911 and was attended by 100 comrades and friends - and, as the inscription reads: