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La Fronde Restoration Ceremony

posted 15 Jul 2018, 07:13 by John Leighton   [ updated 15 Jul 2018, 22:46 ]

La Fronde was a French torpedo destroyer which was sunk in Hong Kong during “the great typhoon” of 1906, resulting in the death of 5 sailors. Following this tragedy a memorial was erected to the incident, which now stands in the HK Cemetery in Happy Valley.

Over the years the monument had deteriorated quite alarmingly, but thanks to the efforts of a number of people has now been restored.

A re dedication ceremony was held at 11:00 hrs in the Cemetery on Thursday 5 July 2018, at which a number of branch members were present, including Paul Harrison who was involved professionally with the restoration work.

Background information can be found in an SCMP article linked to here, a copy of which is attached to this web page below.

The event was hosted by the Consul-General of France, M. Eric Berti, and many of the sizeable French community in Hong Kong attended, including M. Xavier Pech, who spoke at the ceremony wearing his uniform as a Lieutenant Commander. Both M. Berti and M. Pech serve in the French Navy Reserve (citizen service), with M. Berti holding the rank of Commander.

M. Pech referred to the vessel as a frigate in his short talk at the memorial, whereas other references to the warship refer to it as a “torpedo destroyer” - it is referred to as a destroyer on the monument.

M. Berti mentioned that although the monument highlights the part played by the British community in Hong Kong when it was first commissioned, sight must not be lost of the efforts made by the French community; not only in Hong Kong at that time, but also the part played by French citizens of what was then known as French Indo-China, in its construction.  And, of course, the role played by the modern French community of HK in terms of fund-raising to have it restored.

Photographs of the occasion can be seen here. M.Berti is wearing the grey suit and red tie, and M.Pech is wearing naval uniform.

Tony Banham book talk "Reduced to a Symbolical Scale"

posted 29 Apr 2018, 23:20 by John Leighton

On Saturday 28 April the Branch hosted a talk by local historian and author, Tony Banham, on his latest (and perhaps NOT now final) book, entitled “Reduced to a Symbolical Scale.”

The book details the evacuation of thousands of British subjects from the former Crown Colony of Hong Kong, to Australia, in the face of Japanese aggrandizement ahead of the Pacific War in 1941.

The talk was held in the wonderful venue of the Volunteers Association Clubhouse in the Happy Valley Stand of the Happy Valley Racecourse. It was apparent, from the interest shown by many attendees in the many artefacts held by the Association on display, that this was the first time that many people had visited this venue.

Out thanks to the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (the Volunteers) Association for kindly allowing us the use of the Clubhouse.
The provision of a cash bar also proved to be a popular decision!

The event was a great success with over 40 people present. Attendees included not only Branch members, but also many people with a general interest in this turbulent but fascinating period in Hong Kong’s history.

Photographs of the event may be seen here.

Stanley visit with David Mahoney

posted 30 Jan 2018, 05:45 by John Leighton   [ updated 29 Apr 2018, 23:20 ]

The Branch organised a wartime walking tour of Stanley on 14th January 2018 to mark the visit to Hong Hong of David Mahoney, a branch founder member and Past President. On a perfect Hong Kong winter’s day our own Martin Heyes led the way taking us to St Stephens College (where many wounded soldiers and nurses were massacred on Christmas Day 1941), Stanley Prison (the wartime civilian internment camp) and Stanley Military Cemetery.

As we moved through the cemetery members were able to relate accounts of individuals resting there as well as accounts of the fighting at Stanley which was the final stand of the British garrison in December 1941.

The day concluded suitably with a few ales at almost historic Smugglers Inn – a regular haunt of the British Stanley garrison before the change of sovereignty. Needless to say, a certain amount of medal battering was conducted over the ales.

 Photos of the day can be seen here.

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. 

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