Unsung Bravery: History of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps

13.12.2013 – 11.6.2014

Thematic Exhibition and Upper Galleries, Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

Now disbanded, the Hong Kong Military Service Corps (HKMSC) was a regular British army unit that was raised in Hong Kong and consisted mainly of Chinese living in the colony. The history of Chinese people serving in the British military can be traced back to 1857, when the British enlisted local residents in Hong Kong to transport munitions and stores during the Second Opium War; a few who spoke some English were promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Local Chinese were subsequently recruited as sappers and attached to different British military units.

Before Hong Kong fell to the Japanese in 1941, the newly formed Hong Kong Chinese Regiment recruited local residents to help man the territory's artillery and coastal defences, but it was dissolved once the colony surrendered. Britain resumed its administration of Hong Kong after the Second World War, but, struggling with the decline of the British Empire, found it difficult to maintain the military manpower needed to ensure the territory's security. The Hong Kong Chinese Training Unit (HKCTU) was therefore established, comprising local residents who were enlisted as regular soldiers. The unit was later renamed the Hong Kong Military Service Corps in 1962, a title it was known by until its disbandment in 1997.

Based at the Lyemun Barracks (present-day Lyemun Park and Holiday Village and the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence) and later at Stonecutters Island Barracks (currently used by the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army), the HKMSC provided comprehensive training for cadets. Reporting directly to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) of the United Kingdom, the corps was responsible for border safety and control and was also called into action to provide emergency rescue services after natural disasters such as typhoons and landslides. Some members were even deployed as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus in 1991.

With the display of about 70 pieces of valuable artefacts and historical photos relating to the HKMSC, this exhibition offers a chance for visitors to learn about the history of this military unit and the contributions it made during the British administration of Hong Kong.