Feature Article on Looking back on the Hong Kong Volunteers
In October 1853, the Crimean War broke out and the British forces in Hong Kong were deployed to the battlefields in Europe. The size of British garrison in Hong Kong decreased substantially, and this led to the establishment of the Hong Kong Volunteers (Volunteers) in the following year to bolster the defence. Initially, 99 citizens joined the force, most of whom were British, but there were also Portuguese and other people of European descent. Notable prominent individuals among the first group of Volunteers were the founder of Lane Crawford, Thomas A. Lane, renowned merchant brothers George and Frederick Duddell, and watch dealer Douglas Lapraik.
Since its founding, the Volunteers had undergone changes to both its name and organisation. In the 1920s, local Chinese people began to take part in military service; and in the 1930s, the first-ever volunteer female first-aiders were recruited. In December 1941, 2,200 members of the then Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps fought in the Battle for Hong Kong, fiercely resisting the enemy; 172 of them were killed in action, 39 people went missing, and 78 people died in Japanese detention camps. In 1951, King George VI of Britain awarded the title "Royal" to the reorganised Hong Kong Defence Force in recognition of the Volunteers' contribution during the war.
After the war, the Volunteers fulfilled a number of roles, such as assisting the regular army and the police force with border defence missions, carrying out patrol duty in times of social unrest, and dealing with the problem of the Vietnamese boat people. They also took part in disaster relief operations, such as during the 6.21 Rainstorm in 1966 and the 6.18 Rainstorm in 1972. Indeed, the Volunteers upheld their mission and served Hong Kong well in different areas over the decades. On 3 September 1995, the Royal Hong Kong Regiment was officially disbanded. The Volunteers bore witness to changes in Hong Kong's defence deployment over 100 years and contributed to a rich and colourful chapter in local military history.
Lieutenant-Colonel William Caine. He advocated the enlistment of civilians to form a volunteer force, which came into being in 1854.
(Courtesy of Public Records Office, Government Records Service)
On behalf of King George VI, Governor Sir Alexander Grantham presented the King's Colour to the Hong Kong Defence Force, 1951.
Members of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) set to board a Wessex helicopter during a field training exercise, 1980s.
Disbandment Medal of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) in 1995.