Volunteer soldiers in Hong Kong [????-????]

Submitted by David on Mon, 10/04/2021 - 11:46

These were a group of Hong Kong residents, but from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities, who trained as soldiers to defend Hong Kong.

Wikipedia's page, Royal Hong Kong Regiment, gives a timeline of the various names used to describe this group over the years:

From To Name
1854 1854 Hong Kong Volunteers
1854 1862 Disbanded
1862 1866 Hong Kong Volunteers
1866 1878 Disbanded
1878 1917 Hong Kong Artillery and Rifle Volunteer Corps
1917 1920 Hong Kong Defence Corps
1920 1949 Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps
1949 1951 Hong Kong Defence Force*
1951 1961 Royal Hong Kong Defence Force*
1961 1970 Hong Kong Regiment
1970 1995 Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers)
1995   Permanently disbanded

* - The history page at https://www.rhkr.org/history.htm notes that during the years 1949 to 1961 the Hong Kong Defence Force and the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force included naval and air force units, as well as the soldiers in the group that this page describes.

Armed services

Photos of this organisation:


I have recently completed a Paper on Evan Stewart, who as a Major in the HKVDC during the 1941 Battle for HK commanded No. 3 Coy. I am pleased to say that this Paper has now been approved for publication in the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society in the U.K., but unfortunately it won't appear until (probably) late 2022!
No matter.

In preparing the Paper I was indebted to the son of Evan Stewart, Colonel Michael Stewart (Retd), who lives in the U.K. aged 91 years. Michael was born in QMH in 1931 and was evacuated with his mother to Australia in 1940.

Whilst corresponding with Michael he informed me of the following interesting snippet of information. The official title of No. 3 Coy was "Eurasian" and the Coy is referred to as such by Major General Maltby, GOC British Troops in China, in his dispatch of 21 November 1945 on operations in HK during Dec 1941.

However, according to Michael the men of his father's Coy did not like being referred to as "Eurasian." As a mark of respect to his men Evan always referred to them therefore as No. 3 (Machine Gun) Coy. The Coy were superb machine gunners; in the eyes of many they were better than the 1st. Battalion Middlesex Regt, who were a regular MG battalion of the British Army.

Michael further informed me that during WW1 his father enlisted in the Middlesex Regt. and served as a machine gun officer.

Hello Tideswell27, my father John Prettejohn was in 3 Coy, fought and was wounded at WNC Gap on 19 Dec 1941.  He was interned at Shamshuipo then transported to Narumi POW Camp in Japan so he would have known his Maj Stewart as his CO and Lt Bevan Field his platoon commander.  If you have not seen it, I have a  copy of an article from the SCMP from Dec 1958 regarding his Memorial Service at St John's Cathedral which I could send if it is of interest to you.

You are quite correct in regard 3 Coy being superb machine gunners - I remember my dad saying he was able to squeeze off a single round on his Vickers MG and hit a distant target which I understood to be quite a skill.  Being of mixed heritage, Eurasians were a close knit community in those days not quite fitting in on either side of the cultural divide.  

I am aware of someone in Canberra, Australia who is writing a book about Maj Stewart - are you related? 

Hello micar 

Many thanks for your reply. I don't believe that I have seen the article in the SCM Post, to which you refer. If you could forward that to me at tideswell27@hotmail.com, I would be very grateful. I'm afraid that I'm not related to anybody in Canberra, Australia!

I am honoured to have been asked to lead a group of people from the Royal Asiatic Society on a visit to Stanley Military Cemetery in November 2021, (Covid restrictions permitting of course), and talk on some of the burials there.

One of the burials which I plan to mention is that of Kathleen Martin; a former Camp internee who died in captivity in 1945. Mrs. Martin was a teacher at St. Stephen's College who, at the time of her death, was married to the College Principal, the Reverend Canon Martin - a fellow Stanley internee.

What, I hear people ask, is the connection between Mrs. Martin and Colonel Evan Stewart? Well, she was born Kathleen Stewart, Evan's older sister. He was born in 1892 in Bedford, England, the son of Christian missionaries in China who were home on leave at the time.

In 1895, by which time the parents were back in China with some of their 8 children, (others were attending school in the U.K.), insurgents attacked their mission station in Fukien (Fujian) Province, torching it and murdering some of the occupants - including the parents, housekeeper and some of the children.

An 11 year old girl had the presence of mind to hide herself, an older sister and her 3 year old brother from the insurgents whilst they were on the rampage, only coming out when they had left the scene. That 11 year old girl was Kathleen Stewart and the 3 year old boy was her brother, Evan.
An amazing story and piece of family history!