Nancy, get your gun!
The following guest post is courtesy of Bill Griffiths, introducing us to his late wife, Nancy Kong. Nancy joined the Hong Kong Defence Force Naval branch in 1949, and soon gained a reputation as a sharpshooter. Here is her story:
Joining the Wrens
In 1949, the Hong Kong Regiment was reorganized and became part of the Hong Kong Defence Force, which also included separate Air and Naval units. A certain young Chinese girl, Nancy Kong who had lived in constant danger and suffered under the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War two, joined up to serve as a Naval Rating determined to do her best in serving as a volunteer.
Learning to shoot
It was not long before she was introduced to the service rifle, and started learning to shoot using the old Lee Enfield bolt action .303:
She initially tried to hold the rifle left handed, and from the very beginning seemed to be a natural, hitting the target with great accuracy. This in itself was quite amazing as she was such a petite young girl, only five feet tall and weighing only a mere seven stone.
Her Instructors were impressed and managed to persuade her that she should try shooting right handed so that she could then manipulate the bolt action and enable her to take part in rapid fire. This she did and the effect was outstanding, as she became even more consistent and was soon shooting at distances of over six hundred yards with a high degree of accuracy.
Nancy trained almost every weekend shooting on ranges on Stonecutters Island and Kai Tak:
And also shooting from on board ship at floating targets at sea.
Hong Kong Ladies Champion
It was not long before she was entered into competitions, so confident were her instructors of her talent and capability. This was one determined and confident young sailor girl, and she soon started collecting trophies in the form of silver cups, medals and silver spoons to mark her success.
She was entered in to competitions in the Hong Kong Bisley, often competing against seasoned veterans on the rifle range, and not only held her own as a markswoman, but often beat much more experienced servicemen who had spent many years shooting at competition level.
One story she loved to tell was about the time she was on the range just about to start a competition, and she was on the firing point next to a British Army Colonel, who when he saw her made some rude comment on how ridiculous it was to allow girls on the range and to be amongst experienced riflemen who would probably be upset by their presence. He was definitely upset a little later on when he discovered that Nancy had beaten his score by quite a considerable number of points and won the trophy for that particular event. Nancy just smiled and walked away with her winning trophy. What a great feeling that must have been for her, especially as the Colonel was nowhere to be seen at the prize-giving ceremony!
This determined little Wren had been awarded three Riflemens certificates from the National Rifle Association for having made high scores at ranges between 200 and 800 yards.
In addition to which in just a couple of years had collected eleven silver cups, six silver spoons, and six medals, one of which was for becoming the Hong Kong Ladies Champion in 1952.
This was just before she married her English Husband Bill after meeting him on a blind date in 1950. Nancy was a very proud little sailor girl, and a credit to the Hong Kong Defence force. Here she is with the Wrens on Remembrance Day parade, November 1951:
Meeting the Governor
In 1951 The Hong Kong Naval Defence Force was presented with a fully equipped Minesweeper. Formally ‘HMS Lysander’, this was renamed ‘HMS Cornflower’ by Lady Grantham at a special ceremony on board the ship. His Excellency The Governor, Sir Alexander Grantham also attended. HMS Cornflower was used by the Hong Kong Volunteers as a training ship.
Nancy is second from right, being presented to the Governor during his visit to their new ship.
Next is ‘HMS Cornflower’ with the ship's proud new crew waving goodbye to the Governor after his visit.
The Wrens can be seen on the upper deck just above the figure 9 of the ship's number:
Wren Nancy Kong relaxing on board HMS Cornflower 1952:
There followed several years away from Hong Kong, then in 1955 Nancy’s serviceman husband was posted back to Hong Kong. Of course he took Nancy with him, and there she joined a rifle club where for the next three years she continued to display her talent as a competent markswoman, although now as a civilian member, shooting just for pleasure.
Sadly, Nancy passed away last May, leaving Bill after 59 happy years of marriage. Bill would love to hear from anyone who remembers Nancy, or who was part of Hong Kong's Armed Forces in the 1950s.
You can see more photos and clippings in Bill's gallery.