Hong Kong's Police Launches | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Police Launches

There is a Clark Gable film called Soldier of Fortune. The film includes some spectacular scenes of 1955 Hong Kong, including trams running along the waterfront and street scenes of Western and Tsim Sha Tsui. But what attracted me, being a former Marine Police officer, were the shots of the old Marine Police Headquarters (minus the Noonday Gun) and the 'action' scenes of Police Launch 15, upon which I served, or at least sailed. Still shots from the film here:

Marine Police Headquarters
Marine Police Headquarters, by Les Bird


Marine Police Headquarters
Marine Police Headquarters, by Les Bird


Police launch 15
Police launch 15, by Les Bird


The other star of the Soldier of Fortune, Police Launch 15 (name Cormorant) had an interesting life, as did her sister, Police Launch 16. Like the other ten Harbour Patrol Launches (we had a dozen of these vessels, PLs 5 to 16) they were 45ft, wooden hull, habour tug boats. Built in 1946 for the Admiralty in Australia, they served in the Hong Kong Police from 1946 to as late as 1988.

I have attached a couple of photos of them in Hong Kong. The first photo is of PL 5 (c. 1950) in her original configuration.

Police launch 5
Police launch 5, by Les Bird


The second photo is of PL 10 at work in Victoria Harbour, mid-1960s. You will see the addition of a swish canvas flying bridge.

Police Launch 10
Police Launch 10, by Les Bird


Whilst most of these twelve tugs saw their entire service in Victoria Harbour, PLs 15 and 16 were redeployed to Chueng Chau in the early 1960s. PL 15 became the Cheung Chau station launch, whilst PL 16 policed the small but busy harbour. In 1967 PL 16 was sunk by a terrorist bomb whilst alongside Cheung Chau pier. She was later raised, repaired and returned to service.

PL 15s claim to fame came in 1972 when she attended the scene of a fire on board the Seawise University (formerly RMS Queen Elizabeth) at anchor west of Stonecutters Island. PL 15, positioned under the stern of the burning Seawise University, evacuated the ship before it burnt out and sank at its mooring. At one point this small harbour tug had 150 survivors on board. The total number of persons normally permitted was 15.

Les Bird

PS Soldier of Fortune is available to watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w38jwdbz9Y


Looking at the second film still, the 'bong-baan's'  hair looks a bit on the long-side for daily duty at Marine HQ ....and the 'major' (with red sash) appears frightfully young. He must have been very gifted at  tying sailors' knots to be promoted to the most senior NCO position at such a tender age.  (I guess its just the film director's artistic licence)