The British Empire Library

Mariners: The Hong Kong Marine Police 1948-1997

by Iain Ward

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by David M Wright (Hong Kong 1949 - 1961 as a frequent visitor, and 1961 - 1992 resident)
Fate or possibly some obscure Oriental Karma seem to have decreed that I have some involvement with this book. The author originally asked me to supply material for his chapter on 'The League of Gentlemen' in which I served and commanded for several years until it was disbanded in 1988, and then to proof read that same chapter. Unfortunately I was whisked off on duty overseas at the two material times and so was unable to assist, and it was therefore with great surprise that I received an invitation to review the publication.

The book is the sequel to an earlier volume by the same author, 'Sui Geng' that covered the years from 1841 to 1950. Like the previous volume, it is one which I would categorise as 'a coffee or side-table book', i.e. one which can be picked up and read at one 's leisure with no need to memorise the story as the style of writing compartmentalises the subject matter of the moment. One may even read the chapters or even the sub-headed sections in any order. This is further facilitated by the book being furnished with a very comprehensive index and two useful appendices.

I am also in an unusual situation as a reviewer in that, with a few exceptions, I knew almost every officer named in the book, many of whom are still close personal friends. Indeed one of the Inspectors involved in the rescue after the Pearl River incident was a godparent to my son.

The author has included a detailed bibliography of his sources of information for statements on official policies and records, but for the bulk of the book, the text relies extensively on the words and reminiscences of the officers who were there at the time of the events recorded.

It is the collating of these personal reminiscences that gives character to the book, indeed for those readers who were privileged to have shared the atmosphere of the 'Mariners Rest' described by the author as 'where there was invariably a discussion to be had whatever your subject. Not necessarily a coherent discussion of course ...', the origins of many of the accounts will be immediately recognisable.

The book is well provided with photographs and although a goodly number are from private collections, many are poignant reminders of the lofty corridors and airy offices of the old Marine Police Headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui where the walls were festooned with such memorabilia.

There are many other publications which have recorded the official 'hard fact' history of the mariners in the same post war period with all the material being extracted from the official Hong Kong Government archives by professional writers commissioned from the outside world to carry out the task. This book has been written by a Mariner who was there, 'saw it, did it and is entitled to wear the appropriate T-shirt', after collecting and collating a vast amount of eye witness and participant knowledge from his many colleagues who are mentioned throughout the narrative.

It is a book which has captured and amply illustrates the camaraderie and esprit de corps of a truly remarkable, capable and elite body of Police Officers and is well worthy of a place on any coffee table.

British Empire Book
Iain Ward
lEW Publications
Mariners: The Hong Kong Marine Police


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