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Roland Henry John BROOKS (aka Ron) [1910-1970]
Roland Henry John Brooks (Ron), Deputy Chief Office of the Hong Kong Fire Brigade, was one of the few to be awarded the King's Police and Fire Brigade Medal for gallantry.
Ron was 12 when he arrived in HK in 1922 with his father, Henry Tom Brooks, who had been appointed Superintendent of the Fire Brigade in Hong Kong. Ron arrived from London with his father, mother Emily, and sister Doris and initially they lived at the Kowloon Fire Station.
When he was 16 he joined the merchant marine as a cadet officer, but several years later, when the great depression caused a slump in shipping, he joined the Hong Kong Fire Brigade to serve under his father at the Central Fire Station, Des Voeux Road. He also lived there after his marriage, and post-war with his wife and three children.
After passing out as a sub-officer from the Training School instituted by his father, he specialised in various branches of the service: first as Training Officer, then Fire Boats Officer and Fire Prevention Officer.
Ron married Helene Caudron in November 1939 and some months later put her on an evacuation ship taking women and children to Australia, just ahead of the advancing Japanese. He was interned at Stanley prison camp by the Japanese - along with his mother Emily, his sister Doris and Lance-Sergeant Duncan George MacPherson, who married his sister in the prison camp.
Ron Brooks (my father), received the King's Police and fire Service Medal for the exceptional courage and initiative he displayed in rescuing ten people from the Hong Kong harbour in the vicinity of the ss Sai On (ss Xi'an) when it caught on fire in 1947.
Ron retired from the Fire Service in late 1955 and moved with his family to live in New Zealand. (Ron's early retirement was due to an injury he received whilst rescuing two people from a burning building.) Ron was fluent in three Chinese dialects - Cantonese, Mandarin and Hakka and he was often a translator in the Courts in HK and NZ. In Tauranga, New Zealand, he bought an orchard, had a 'mini' farm and became manager of a Fish Company. He and Helene also had another three children (6 in all). Ron died suddenly in Tauranga in 1970, from a heart attack.
Note: Both RHJ Brooks and DG MacPherson received the Kings Police and Fire Services medal in 1947 and HT Brooks received the Venerable Order of St Johns Medal in 1925. It has been noted by a NZ Medal Collector that this is one of the very few, (perhaps only?) family in the British Commonwealth with three recipients of awards for gallantry. The medals of HT Brooks and DG MacPherson are now held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand.