Hong Kong Annual Report, 1957/Chapter 17

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The Colony's Auxiliary Services comprise the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force, the Police Auxiliaries and the Essential Service Corps. The Police Auxiliaries, which were reconstituted during 1957 by a merger of the Hong Kong Police Reserve and the Special Constabulary, are dealt with in Chapter 13 (see pages 230, 231). The Essential Services Corps, although legally an entity, is split for administrative and practical purposes into four autonomous Services: the Units of the Essential Services Corps proper, the Civil Aid Services, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Auxiliary Medical Service.

All these services, which consist partly of volunteers and partly of persons enrolled since the introduction in 1951 of compulsory service for locally resident citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, are financed from funds voted annually by the Legislative Council. Service in the auxiliary defence units is in many cases a considerable commitment not only to the individual concerned but also to his employer, and it is fortunate indeed that on the whole employers are most co-operative in releasing members of their staff for these duties, even at considerable inconvenience.

Except for small administrative and training staffs, the Auxiliary Services are manned entirely by citizens of the Colony who lead or attend training classes and exercises in the evenings or at the week-ends, and in the case of certain services attend more extended training at annual camps lasting up to fifteen days.

Training obligations vary from service to service. The greatest commitment is in those units where members must attend every year at least sixty instructional parades of one hour's duration, six full days training and fifteen days training at camp. The commitment is scaled down elsewhere to the particular requirement of the unit in question. An allowance designed to cover out-of-pocket expenses is granted for attendance at instructional parades, while for a full day's training and for attending camp, officers and members are paid at the daily rate at which they would be paid on mobilization.

The Royal Hong Kong Defence Force. The main units of the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force are the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, which mans and operates two motor minesweepers; the Hong Kong Regiment, with the strength and equipment of an infantry battalion at lower establishment; Force Headquarters Units, comprising a Light Troop (4.2 inch Mortars) and other specialized formations; the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force equipped with Harvard and Auster aircraft; the Home Guard; the Hong Kong Women's Naval Volunteer Reserve; the Hong Kong Women's Auxiliary Army Corps; and the Hong Kong Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The officers of the Force are found amongst its members, but there is in addition a small permanent staff of regular officers and non-commissioned officers attached for training purposes.

Volunteer Service in Hong Kong began with the formation of 30th May, 1854, of the Hong Kong Volunteers. In 1878 they were renamed the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps and in 1917 the Hong Kong Defence Corps. In 1920 the title was again changed to the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps.

The Corps was mobilized, about 1,400 strong, to meet the Japanese attack on the Colony on 8th December, 1941, and fought with the Regular Forces against overwhelming odds until ordered to surrender on 25th December, 1941. In 1956 their action was vividly recalled when part of the old Colours of the Corps, which had been buried in December 1941 to avoid capture by the Japanese, was discovered by workmen excavating a building site on Garden Road. The officers who had buried the Colours had subsequently died in captivity, leaving no record of where the Colours could be found.

For their gallantry in battle and subsequent escapes from Japanese prison-camps in Hong Kong, fifteen decorations were conferred upon members of the Corps; eighteen members were mentioned in despatches.

After the war the Corps was reconstituted on 1st March, 1949, as the Hong Kong Defence Force. Two years later, the title 'Royal' was awarded to the Force by His late Majesty King George VI in recognition of the part played by its forerunner in the defence of Hong Kong.

In March 1957 the award of the Battle Honour 'Hong Kong' by Her Majesty the Queen to the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force was announced. The Honour, which was awarded in recognition of the part played by the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941, is now emblazoned on the Regimental Colour.

The Essential Services Corps proper consists of a number of units, each responsible for maintaining an essential service such as the supply of electricity, water, communications, etc. Each unit is staffed primarily by those already employed in such service augmented as necessary by others. Since in an emergency most members would continue to perform duties in which they are already expert, the Corps requires less training than the Defence Force. The Corps is now several thousands strong. Training during the year has been devoted mainly to driving instruction.

The Auxiliary Fire Service, an autonomous unit of the Essential Services Corps, is designed to augment the Fire Brigade when necessary. It is a well trained, keen and efficient body some hundreds strong, which is regularly called upon to assist the Fire Brigade in fighting serious fires. The new A.F.S. Centre at North Point, which started functioning in November 1956, has greatly extended training facilities.

The Auxiliary Medical Service is organized to provide first-aid and hospital treatment for the population of the Colony in an emergency. It is built up around the Department of Medical and Health Services, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and other members of the medical and nursing professions. In addition, many people with no previous training in nursing and first-aid have been enrolled and trained to act as auxiliary nurses in hospitals or as first-aid workers in the field. The Unit is now several thousands strong and, whilst during 1957 there has been no marked increase in recruitment, training classes have been attended with keenness and the all-round efficiency of the Service has improved.

The Civil Aid Services are responsible for all civil defence functions not covered by the other emergency services, and comprise a Wardens' Service, a Rescue Service, a Communications Unit, and other command and administrative units. During 1957 the strength has steadily increased and is now several thousands strong. Members, of whom the vast majority are volunteers, are markedly keen.

In addition to the regular training programmes of the various Services which comprise the Essential Services Corps, a Colony Civil Defence Exercise lasting for a day is held annually and provides an opportunity for testing command and communications and for co-ordinating the functions of these Services in the field.