Naval Yard Police | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Naval Yard Police

Hi, I am trying to trace my ancestry and would be grateful for any asistance from menbers.

My great grandfather on William Nuttall married my great grand mother in Hong Kong in 1888. Marriage certificated declares he was a sergeant in the Naval Yard police.

Can anyone tell me if there are any archives of this force and where I should direct my enquiries. I understand there is a Police Museum in the Peak area but when I go to their website ther is no way of contacting them.

Thanking you for any advice given.

Regards Bob


Hi Bob

if you look at the other posts on this site re. the Naval Dockyard Police you'll see that finding people in this Force is rather difficult.  I've been researching it for many years, and am only slowly putting together a list of some of the men who served in it, scrappilly sources from a number of places.  There is - to the best of my knowledge - no definitive list, andI believe that it will not be possible to ever compile a complete one.  However - I do have a record of W Nuttall as a Sergeant in the Dockyard Police in 1890.  He wasn't a sergeant in 1885 and had left before 1893 - at the moment I can't be more precise than that.  Its good to know that he was in the Force in 1888.

The Police Museum doesn't have any material on this Force - I was talking to the Curator there about this recently.  The Museum is of the civil Force - the town police, if you will, whilst the Dockyard Police, apart from a few short years early in its history, was always a separate entity.  I've written about them in the period your gt-grandfather served in 'Policing HK an Irish History' as the Inspector at the time, William Lysaught, was from Newmarket, Co. Cork.

By the way there is a W Nuttall with a few entries in the Carl Smith cards at HK Public Records Office although the earliest mention here is 1890.  I'm not in HK at the moment, but they can be emailed and might be able to give you information that is on those cards.

Good luck!  Patricia 

Good morning Patricia,

Thank you for your response. I actualy responded to one of your (I think it was yours) postings on the Dockyard Police Force with this query but got nowhere presumably because the posting was old and not being monitored.

Yes I have already queried the Carl Smith cards and found three entries for William Nuttall and they all seem to be the same person. Will have to contact them and find out how to get copies, the website I looked at suggested that they would send me the info once I've made a declaration and sent them a check (cheque) will have to explore further. It's a pity, four years ago I was travelling regularly to HK and could have accessed the records in person.

My ancestor appears to have been an elusive/secretive person (deliberately or unintentionally). I've got a copy of his birth certificate that may be false (for another William Nuttall) giving birthdate as 1848, his marriage certificate indicates he was 40yo in 1888 (consistent with birth certificate date) yet his gravestone in Happy Valley shows he was born in 1842, Mecanese Families also give his birthdate as 1842. As his birth certificate indicared he was born in Manchester I joined the Manchester Lancashire Family HIstorical Society and may have made connection with one of his great grand nieces (if it is the same William Nuttall) who responded to me query and advised that her great grand uncle was in the HK police so am now trying to establish how many William Nuttalls were in HK at that time because there are/were a lot of them in that time period and many of them were in the armed forces. This lady's ancestor and my William had a lot in common, both were in the army both served in India and then ended up in HK. The birthdate of her ancestor is consistent with the gravestone birthdate being only a few days adrift.

One furher query for you Patricia, if the Carl Smith Cards are all of the ONE William Nuttall is it safe to assume that there was only one William Nuttall in HK in that time period? I see elsewhere in the HK Government Publications that a William Nuttall went on to be a custodian of Parks around 1913, that's two years before my great grandfather passed away.

Regards Bob 

Good morning, Bob

sorry to have missed your previous post.  In that you were asking about the Marines - it wasn't until into the 20th century that direct recruitment/secondment from the Royal Marines into the Dockyard Police started.  Before that there was no real organized recuitment and the Commodore and the Inspector just had to take the best of the men who offered themselves.  So I'd say that it is most likely that a soldier who's out in India then goes to China with his regiment, where he purchases his discharge and joins the NDYP.  This was a well-trodden path.  Turnover was high, which, added to his military service, might have seen him promoted to Sergeant sooner rahter than later - I've no record of the names of the 23 (European) constalbes in the Force in the 1880s-90s, except when they get mentinoed in the papers (usually for breaking the law!) - so there's no way of knowing when he joined - unless you can find discharge papers for him, which would give an idea. 

Moving to the other end of his career, I notice that he was first employed by the government in May 1913 (NDYP service didn't count as Government employment) and his services were 'dispensed with' on 31st December 1914.  That sounds like he was too ill or frail to continue.  It wasn't dismissal - that is always noted as such.  The Recreation Ground job was one which a number of former NDYP had in their later years.  But what was he doing between 1890 and 1913?  He may have been a watchman for one of the commercial docks - as a former NDY Sergeant he could probably get a better salary with the firms. 

In the period you're looking at there were roughly between 6000 and 13000 British - which makes the likelihood of there being another William Nuttall in the colony rather less - and the chances of the Carl Smith William Nuttall being your man greater, I'd say.  I'm out in HK later in the year and will look at the cards for you if you haven't managed to get them before then.  If you send me your email - I can be contacted on that'll be easier.

best regards