When Captain William Caine of HM 26th. Regiment of Infantry was appointed Hong Kong’s Chief Magistrate in 1841 the colony was a dangerous and lawless place. Caine’s police officers were soldiers who were considered unfit for regular army duties. The pay was low, conditions unhealthy and turnover rapid. Caine recruited about 90 Europeans of whom only 47 were still in the force in 1845. The Governor made several requests for experienced police officers to be sent out from Britain but officials in Whitehall decided it would be too expensive to recruit the whole force from England. It was agreed that a Superintendent and two Inspectors would be sufficient and the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police were consulted and chose three of their officers: Inspector Charles May and Sergeants Thomas Smithers and Hugh McGregor. The three officers resigned from the Met. on 7th. October 1844 and set sail on the SS Oriental. They arrived in Hong Kong on 15th. March 1845 and were duly advanced to the ranks of Superintendent and Inspector.
The climate in Hong Kong is hot and humid during the summer months and loose cotton clothing proves the most comfortable to wear. However, this was the era of the British Empire and loose cotton clothing was not for the British. Thomas as an inspector had to wear a thick blue dress coat the same as in England !!! The story of Thomas’ time in Hong Kong – as an East End lad turned Pioneer – is a story in itself but unfortunately far too long for this Blog.
This then was the start of the Hong Kong Constabulary. Through the years it maintained strong links with the Metropolitan Police and forged even better links with other British constabularies. After the riots in the 1960s the Hong Kong Police Force was honoured with the title of The Royal Hong Kong Police. After the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 the title reverted to Hong Kong Police.
Many of the historical records of the Hong Kong Police were destroyed during the Japanese occupation. This is regrettable but not disastrous for much information can still be found here in the UK. If you would like to know what these sources are then why not reserve a place at the “My Ancestor Was a Policeman” Workshop to be held at the Society of Genealogists on Wednesday 3rd. November 2010. Alternatively, if you would like your Hong Kong Police Research undertaken for you, then please use the “Contact Us” tab at the top of this page.