Nancy, get your gun!

Submitted by Admin on Sun, 04/22/2012 - 12:39

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.

Nancy HKDF

Relax at sea

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:

Lee Enfield .303 rifle

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:

Taking a break

And also shooting from on board ship at floating targets at sea.

Shoot 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.

HK Bisley Champ

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.

Silver spoons

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:

On Parade

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.

HMS Cornflower

The Wrens can be seen on the upper deck just above the figure 9 of the ship's number:

HMS Cornflower2

Wren Nancy Kong relaxing on board HMS Cornflower 1952:

On ship

Civilian life

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.

Nancy Griffiths

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.


Hello Bill,

Many thanks for your life story, including this one. I always consider myself a true blue Hongkonger but I never imagined there could have been a lady in Hong Kong at that time who was even remotely comparable to your Nancy. You must be one of the most lucky guys in this world. Thanks again for your generosity in sharing with us.

Best regards,

Hello Keieichsee

thanks to you for your kind words and interest in my Nancy,

Yes, I think I am the most lucky guy in the Nancy was the most wonderful woman I ever met...AND...believe it or not...she was the first girlfriend I ever had...truly..and without a word of a lie..we met on a blind date in the China Fleet Club in Wanchai on 28th November 1950...courted the old fashioen way...and married on 22nd September 1952...

This year would have been our Diamond wedding anniversary..and November ..sixty two years since we met..

I will be coming to Hong Kong in December for two weeks....perhaps we should meet and have a chat

best wishes


Hi Bill,

Nice to hear from you. I have told myself : why not? It must be quite something meeting someone who (please excuse me) literally is from "the Hong Kong that I used to know". I shall be moving back to HK (from Down Under) sometime in August unless something really 'miraculous' happens to keep me there. Let's keep in touch. My email: I really hope that some like-minded person would join in.

Best regards,

I forwarded a copy of this article to Stephen at the local Maritime Museum. He replied:

Thank you so much – and what a wonderful story for us to have in our collection. (By the by, the picture of the rifle is of the old, WW1 short magazine Enfield .303 No.1, Mk I-Mk.III, the one Nancy Kong is actually using in all the images with her shooting is the WW2 No.4 Mk I – the main difference is in the muzzle end – basically a different bayonet mounting and room for an early form of flash eliminator; there is also a different rear sight and a larger magazine. Those of us who are old enough to have trained with these pre-FLN 750mm beasties remember the differences well.)

The first photo is interesting too for the uniforms of the three ladies not in whites. The two at the back look, from their cap badges, as though they might be Royal Marine WRNS (sometimes called Ma-wrens!), but at the resolution of the pic it’s impossible to say. The cap badge of the lady in the front who isn’t a Wren is fascinating – and I haven’t a clue!

Hello Stephen

I am Nancy's husband Bill

great to read of your interest in  her story   and that you have found it worthy of a place in your collection.

I wonder if some day in the future her cups and medals could be added to your collection, so that they could be kept for posterity....I have nobody here who would find them of interest.... 

I am afraid I can't help with identifying the girls in the picture with Nancy...all the pictures shown are from her collection....I only knew a few of her colleagues...

\as to the picture of the rifle, I just copied that from a picture I found on Google...I knew for a fact she used a Lee enfield, but not which Model...and later when she joined a civilian club in 1955 she was shooting a Ross bolt action 303...again I am not sure which Model even though I bought it for her, and at that time it had to be kept in the armoury in the Police station in Kowloon. All we kept at home was the bolt.

It would be interesting to find answers to your query...wher do you think we can look?

Please keep in touch..I will look you up when I come to Hong Kong in December for a two week vacation.

Regards Bill...



Hello Doug

This was deinitely a Ross Rifle but don't know which model....I bought it for her when I started my second tour of duty in HK in 1955.

I am certain that I bought it actually at the Police station in Kowloon...and one of Nancys cousins was then a Policeman, and he put me on to it.

We had to keep it in the Police Station armoury for security but we kept the bolt at home....Sorry I can't be of more help.

I am sure I have some other photos of her with it ..I will try and find them..


Hello David

will do if I can find it amongst all the pictures I now have scattered all over the floor of my living room.....I am frightened to get the hoover out in case everything disappears..

I am now in the throes of trying to find Aces I am in touch with Franki Fonsecas wife who now lives in Liverpool..and maybe sometime in the summer we might arrange to meet and chat about Frank....and the wonderful times we had together.

Thanks for digging out the other photos. of the HKDF building...very interesting

Best wishes Bill 

I well remember taking part in this competition - I think the range was at Bowen Road. I had practiced for weeks with my Lee Enfield at Kai Tak, and at the competition I was fine tuning the rifle sights by blackening the knife sight at the end of the barrel with a burnt matchstick, when darn, it moved on me. Anyway, it was a great experience, and I did manage to finish as a First Class Shot (not enough to get an award). Nancy must have been an extraordinary lady.

Tidbits of stories like this sure bring back great memories.

I forgot to mention that the Hong Kong Bisley 1951 that I participated in was when I was serving with the HKAAF. Those were the good old days.


Fantastic story, Bill, and thanks for posting. Brings back memories of the old China Fleet Club in the early 1950's. Was never lucky enough to have a blind date as you did but I'm sure you'll remember the loud audience chorus of 'Good old Fred' at the start of the cartoons in the makeshift cinema whenever  Directed by Fred Quimby flashed on the screen.