The Royal Naval Dockyard Police

Submitted by peeblesrunner on Thu, 04/05/2018 - 16:49

I followed a thread from a previous post as per the below; 

I have found my grandfather's name listed as a crown sergeant but would like to find more information on his service record with the Police. I have also seen an address and phone number posted as per the below and wonder whether they are able to help. 

Royal Naval Historical Branch 
Ministry of Defence 
24 Store 
HM Naval Base
Hampshire PO1 3LU
Tel. 02392 724893

I have also found from the linked site the following information

Nichol, John Bell Crown Sergeant (LM). Can someone explain what a Crown Sergeant is and what the LM in brackets means

Hi there - I've been researching this Force for some years now - did approach the Historical Branch you've mentioned but had no help there.  I am currently working in much more depth on this ... if you can give me the name I'll see if I've anything else, but it will only be scraps, I'm afraid.  I've seen no evidence of service records existing.  I doubt such were sent back to the UK, and a 1946 document I've read suggests that there was almost no written records left post war.  


If you go back a stage in the War Diary listings, you'll see that (LM) means on transportation to Japanese POW camp by the Lisbon Maru, but that he survived the attack on this vessel.  

Crown Sergeant seems to be used in the Dockyard as denoting a full sergeant, not in an acting role.  But this is work in progress as ranks were somewhat fluid here- I'll let you know if I find differently.


Hi Patricia. Thanks for the follow-up.

My grandfather's name is John Bell Nichol. His HK RN Dockyard Police service number is L 21921/46

I have managed to establish that he was interned when the Japanese invaded HK in Dec 1941. As you have noted in your other post he was on the infamous Lisbon Maru, was sunk, survived and transported to Japan. He made it home after the war. 

I have also dscovered that a Crown Sergeant is like a staff sergeant. So a senior NCO. 

What I cannot establish is when he joined the police as to get to that rank he must have been in for some time but I can find nothing about him joining.

Anything you can help with is much appreciated. 


Hi Paul

sorry not to get back earlier but this is ongoing research ...

I can find no refs to "Crown Sergeants" in the NYPF at this time.  It was organized as a Police force, not some branch of the military/navy so "nco" isn't t relevant here.  Inspectors and later Superintendents weren't commissioned, although in the Civil force Superintendents were gazetted.  But Crown sgts do occur in the Civil force.  In I think Nov 1940 the 53 strong European NDYPF was supplemented by the loan of a number - possibly 60 - men on loan from the Civil Force.  


So, from this and your comments, I suspect that your Grandfather was one of these 'loaned' men.  Its very unlikely that he would have resigned from the Civil to join the Naval independently, as pay and conditions were considerably less favourable.  I'massuming that the Civil men stayed on their t & c when they were loaned, otherwise, war or no war, there would have been considerable grumbling, and there'd be something in the records about it!

In terms of his service in the Civil force, I am almost certain that he didn't join before 1932, but I can't find anything more definite than that, I'm afraid.


Hello. Pre-WW2 Europeans could join the HK Police either as Gazetted Officers, (i.e. their names appeared in the London Gazette the same as commissioned officers in the Armed Forces), or as “rank and file.”

If a man joined in the latter category he was appointed as a Police Constable. After 1 year’s service he would be promoted to Lance Sergeant and his badge of rank was 3 chevrons.

The next rung up the promotion ladder was Police Sergeant, often referred to as Crown Sergeant, because his badge of rank was 3 chevrons surmounted by a crown.

Whether this was the same system used by the Dockyard Police I do not know, but it seems it could have been highly likely.

After Crown Sergeant came the Inspectorate rank, and a VERY select few could actually make Chief Inspector.

I will hopefully meet a lady aged 83 from Scotland who will make her first visit to HK in July, to visit places connected with her uncle, surnamed McHardy, who retired in 1949 as the Chief Inspector for the New Territories. He came through the ranks in the manner described above.

Hi, I am researching my great grand father , one William Nuttall born in Lancashire in 1848ish, He married my great grandmother in Hong Kong in 1888 and the marriage certificate states that he was a Sergeant in HM naval yard and his residence aw HM naval yard. I'm assuming this would have been the early days of Tamar.

Can anyone tell me if there are records of his service such as his service number so I can pursue my investigation further? I have been in touch with Genealogy organisations in the UK and have been advised that naval yard police in the UK back in the late 1800s were drawn from the Royal Marines but did not know if that applied in Hong Kong. I have looked up the Royal Marines archive to no avail, several William Nuttalls but none matching my criteria. We believe he served in India before arriving in HK at some unknown date.

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Thanks Bob

I have been researching my mother's family.  She had a sister Mercia Xavier who married a John Nichol in Hong Kong in 1938 and arrived in the UK in 1946 with their 2 children.  They lived in Peebleshire, Scotland.  I am wondering if this could be the same John Nichol?

Patricia I see you are given a 30 Minute talk at the Naval Dockyards Society Conference on 31 OCtober.  Patricia O’Sullivan Out of the Shadows - the Police Force of Hong Kong’s Royal Naval Dockyard.  None members can sign up through Everbright, £20.  That site has the full schedule, mainly about Indian and South Africa.