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Talk by David Wilmshurst on the Japanese Invasion of Taiwan of 1895

posted 9 Jan 2018, 23:44 by Stephen Verralls   [ updated 9 Jan 2018, 23:44 ]

 On the evening of the 23rd November 2017 at the Banyan Room of the United Services Recreation Club David Wilmshurst, historian, author and former Government Administrative Officer give a fascinating talk on the Japanese invasion of Taiwan of 1895. Being a subject on which David has written on, a full house heard David explain the background to the campaign as well the politics of both sides in the conflict. For those not familiar with the campaign:

 The Japanese invasion of Taiwan (May–October 1895) was a conflict between the Empire of Japan and the armed forces of the short-lived Republic of Formosa following the Qing Dynasty's cession of Taiwan to Japan in April 1895 at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese sought to take control of their new possession, while the Republican forces fought to resist Japanese occupation. The Japanese landed near Keelung on the northern coast of Taiwan on 29 May 1895, and in a five-month campaign swept southwards to Tainan. Although their advance was slowed by guerrilla activity, the Japanese defeated the Formosan forces (a mixture of regular Chinese units and local Hakka militias) whenever they attempted to make a stand. The Japanese victory at Baguashan on 27 August, the largest battle ever fought on Taiwanese soil, doomed the Formosan resistance to an early defeat. The fall of Tainan on 21 October ended organised resistance to Japanese occupation, and inaugurated five decades of Japanese rule in Taiwan.

Christmas Dinner 2017

posted 24 Dec 2017, 03:20 by OMRS Admin   [ updated 6 Jan 2018, 15:37 ]

A balmy evening on Friday 15 Dec 2017 saw the Branch hold the 2017 Christmas Dinner in the delightful Garden Room of the United Services Recreation Club, Jordan Road, Kowloon.

A total of 22 Branch members and guests enjoyed a sumptuous repast of traditional Christmas fare, having met for pre-dinner drinks on the open-air deck outside the room beforehand.  A truly lovely setting!

Those attending were called to dinner by Branch stalwart Colin Aitchison in traditional fashion, although unfortunately Colin was unable to stay for the dinner due to work commitments.

Prior to the meal Branch President Steve Verralls displayed a fascinating group of medals awarded to a former soldier of the Lincolnshire Regiment, consisting of both gallantry and campaign medals.

This display was followed by a presentation by Angus Stevenson-Hamilton, back in Hong Kong from his home in Devon, of a group awarded to a very thankful winner.

A highlight of the evening was the ever-popular lucky draw, and some amongst those attending were fortunate enough to win some lovely prizes donated by generous members and guests.

At the conclusion of a very successful function, a few stalwarts adjourned for a nightcap in the Club’s Gunners Bar.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Branch Committee member Mike Broom, without whose contribution the USRC venue would not have been available to the Branch.

Photographs of the event can be seen here.

A walk along the Border with MacIntosh Forts - 31 January 2015

posted 5 Feb 2015, 22:57 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:17 by OMRS Admin ]

 A group of 16 enjoyed the Border walk and many thanks to John Holmes for being our guide as well as to police Station Sergeant Jimmy Pang of Lok Ma Chau Division for his assistance. Philip Cracknell has included an account of the walk in his blog Divertissement : A walk along the border - Hong Kong  As Philip had to leave immediately after the walk he was unable to include details of the six hour de-brief held in the Better ‘Ole, which is unfortunate as those who attended have little recollection of it.  Philip's blog post is well worth a read.
Our branch Secretary has put a nice photo album together here as well. 

Friday 19th September 2014 - Visit to Sun Yat Sen Museum

posted 21 Sep 2014, 20:12 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:20 by OMRS Admin ]

There was a good turnout for a weekday visit to the Sun Yat Sen Museum in the Mid-Levels in Hong Kong, including a couple of our local friends.
It was an enjoyable visit on a very hot day, scheduled at somewhat late notice given the rescheduling of the previously proposed visit to mainland China, to the Whampoa Military Academy.   The museum, recently opened, is very good in an interesting historical building.  Those interested in the history of nationalist China will be aware of how closely Hong Kong (and indeed the UK) was
involved in influencing many of the key figures of the enormous changes in China over the past 120 years or so.
Afterwards, a number of those present went on the for the curry buffet at Zetland Hall, with a few whiskies afterwards to celebrate the continuation of 'the "Union', following the Scottish referendum. 

24 July 2014 - Vive La Différence! French Insignes de Tradition in Indochina

posted 30 Jul 2014, 19:55 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:21 by OMRS Admin ]

A splendid evening with our lecturers Peter "Bertie" Hunt and Gerard Prime.  See here for the details of the lecture advertised in advance.

It was a most convivial occasion with a good crowd of about 12 people with plenty of informed conversation before and after the lecture over refreshments. 

Gerard brought his most splendid collection along of Insignes de Tradition, and we all learnt much about French forces in general, as well as more specifically their insignia and of their Indo-China experiences.  Peter related how he has been interested in researching French Indo-Chinese history for some time and has recently come back from Dien Bien Phu. 

A hearty thank you to all who made this special and unusual occasion possible.  

Gregory James on the Chinese Labour Corps

posted 23 Jan 2014, 03:02 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:25 by OMRS Admin ]

On Wednesday 22nd January many members and friends met at the Police Officers’ Club in the bar and later in the History Room for what proved to me a most excellent evening.


We were very fortunate to have as our guest speaker Gregory James who has extensively researched the Chinese Labour Corps and has considerable information on the bronze version of the British War Medal issued to the Corps and the recipients of these medals.


Gregory introduced his recently published book ‘The Chinese Labour Corps (1916-1920)’ and copies were available for purchase and signing. Details of the book are reproduced below.

Gregory captivated the gathering for about two hours with an almost endless series of fascinating slides, anecdotes and sheer wealth of research information about this little known formation.    Both before and after the lecture Gregory was excellent company over refreshments in the bar and proved to have a command of his subject that very few would be able to match.  


The Chinese Labour Corps (1916–1920) by Gregory James. ISBN 978-988-12686-0-0   xxiv + 1,285 pp. [OCLC: 758984699]

In The Chinese Labour Corps, Gregory James offers an informative account of the creation, management and operation of the 95,000-strong auxiliary unit recruited in China for service in Europe during the First World War. Financed and administered by the British War Office, it was raised at a time when Allied casualties, on the Western Front and elsewhere, had seriously reduced the availability of the manpower necessary to ensure the maintenance of a combat-fit military force. He shows that the Chinese Labour Corps derived its organisational structure from earlier Chinese units in foreign service, for example the Canton Coolie Corps recruited by the British and French during the second Opium War in the mid-nineteenth century, or the contingents of labourers contracted to the mines of the Transvaal at the turn of the twentieth. In this important and wide-ranging contribution to military history, the author draws on an extensive array of public and unofficial sources to chronicle the saga of a wartime cross-cultural encounter whose legacy remains in the narrative of contemporary Sino-Western relations.  

24 September 2013 - Sam Olsen - Liaison Officer in Kosovo and Iraq

posted 29 Sep 2013, 19:10 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:24 by OMRS Admin ]

The OMRS Hong Kong Branch September meeting was a presentation by Sam Olsen, postponed from earlier in the year. 

Sam Olsen spoke about his experiences as a cavalry officer in the British Army where on overseas postings he acted as an Allied Liaison officer to numerous NATO countries in both of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Kosovo. He spoke about attachments to different armies, and the way that their attitudes and adopted cultural postures can have a real effect on operational execution. Some of the anecdotes about armies that were mentioned included:

·         French: drinking in enemy bars: it's perfectly normal to get plastered with ones foes.

·         Russians: invite the senior Finnish officer to a dinner party and then kidnap his deputy for a ransom - presumably to pay for the prostitutes brought in as a part of ones baggage chain.

·         Americans: Burger King, helicopters and accidentally invading Serbia

·         Czechs: shocking practical jokes and burly check points: Dear Senior British Officer: Happy Christmas and here's one of the enemy that we nabbed for you so that you can receive praise from your superiors for gathering enemy information. Would you like us to torture him for you?

·         Aussies: SAS and drinking.   Bravado and bottle retrieving a few million US dollars from the corrupt Basra police. Strewth, mate.

·         Norwegians: Christmas dinner and saunas.  Where's the best place for an O-Group? In the sauna of course. Or was that the Finns.

·         Italians: rockgardens and no translators.  Those tough Italian soldiers prevented from leaving base and spent their entire active service building a rock garden - a hard earned medal there. 

21 May 2013: The Naval Career of Chang Man Ying, Royal Navy.

posted 5 Aug 2013, 21:22 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:24 by OMRS Admin ]

The Branch met to hear a talk from Chief Petty Officer Steward Chang Man Ying, recipient of the Naval General Service Medal with two bars - Yangtze and Malaya, Queen's and U.N. Korean Medals, Campaign Service Medal - Bar for Borneo and Naval Long Service Medal.  Branch Secretary, Steve Verralls, presented these medals to him having just had then remounted.  

CPO Chang served in the Royal Navy for 25 years and was on HMS Black Swan which accompanied HMS London up the Yangtze to try rescue HMS Amethyst. Both ships came under heavy fire and had to call off their rescue attempt after being holed many times by PLA shore batteries. 
CPO Chang recalled being advised with the other crew of the rescue attempt when they were nearing the mouth of the Yangtze and on being called to action stations before the rescue attempt was made. His action station role was to serve as medical orderly in the sick bay but his services were not needed. He recalled sailing to Japan in 1950 and being involved in so called convoy duty escorting supplies from Japan to South Korea. He saw no shore action excepting seeing shelling of shore positions. Whilst based in Singapore he served on similar convoy and security duties around Borneo. This is the first time we have ever had a living "Chinese" recipient of the Yangtze bar talk to us.
Following the above talk, the Branch then had a talk from Albert Lam MBE, who had translated for CPO Chang.  Albert studies Chinese history, including the famous Yangtze incident covered in CPO Chang's talk. He showed us a copy of Communist documents released by China in 1999 relating to this incident. He mentioned that the Americans and other countries had been warned off sending ships up the Yangtze because Communist forces were massing on the North side of the river to attack the KMT on the Southern side. For reasons best know to the British they persisted with trying to evacuate their citizens from Nanking and as a result came badly unstuck. 
One of those involved in the Amethyst negotiations, Sir Edward Youde, later became Governor of Hong Kong. For three months Communist forces actually supplied food and water to the Amethyst before she made her escape and the Communist could have easily destroyed the R.N. ships. The documents also reveal that Communist forces took over 1,000 casualties in this incident from British shelling.

It was an excellent and informative evening, and the Branch thanked both visitors for their presentations.

2013 Annual General Meeting & White Russians in the Hong Kong Police

posted 5 Aug 2013, 21:01 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:23 by OMRS Admin ]

Report and Photographs to Follow Soon


The 2013 Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong Branch of the Orders & Medals Research Society will take place on Thursday 25th April at 2000hrs at the Police Officers’ Club, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The following positions are up for re-election: President, Hon. Secretary/Treasurer and two Members, with the incumbent post holders offering themselves for re-election:

President:              Angus Stevenson-Hamilton, QPM CPM

Secretary/Treasurer:    Steve Verralls, PMSM

Member (Webmaster):     John Leighton

Member:                 Martin Heyes

The AGM is not expected to take very long and will be followed by a presentation entitled the "White Russians in the Hong Kong Police - The Anti-Piracy Guard" by Richard Morgan. 

Visit to Opium War Sites in the Pearl River Delta

posted 16 Apr 2013, 01:25 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:23 by OMRS Admin ]

On 16th March a good number of members and guests travelled via ferry to Nangsha to visit sites connected with the First Opium War located in and around the Pearl River Delta.  Thanks must go to Martin Heyes and Steve Verralls for their organisation of an excellent trip, returning late at night via Guangzhou by train.  The first location to visit was at Humen (the 'tiger gate' of the Pearl River) and the Opium War Museum. This museum contains the original opium pits where confiscated opium was destroyed, and also - new since the previous OMRS visit - a three story building outlining the story of the lead up to, execution of, and aftermath of the war. It was generally commented that the museum was very good, presenting a somewhat balanced view of events, which lead up to the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997.  Amongst exhibits was one describing the debate on the war in Gladstone's premiership in London, painting a more nuanced picture than some popular history has usually recounted the events of the era.  From there, it was onto the 'Sea War Museum', next to the Pearl River, just below the Humen bridge.  Several galleries of the detail of the naval campaign are provided, and then it was a quick walk north along the shore to one of the main gun emplacements and casemates protecting the Pearl River at the 'tiger gate' narrows at Humen beneath the bridge.  Both lower shore gun positions and upper hillside positions were explored, before a trip by speedboat across to an island for yet moreexploration of the defences.  After a few refreshments and a bit of food, we then set off for the journey home - curiously it was thought easier to travel north to Guangzhou and return by train, meaning about double the time for the return leg of our trip than the outward leg - fortunately the time passed agreeably thanks mostly to Martin Heyes and his entertaining and unique conversation style. 

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