Written in 2007
In the years after I finished my flying career, I visited quite a few places that I would not normally have expected to visit on duty. One such place, which I had never before recorded for security reasons, was to Hong Kong in May/June 1981. I had long wanted to visit Hong Kong and that wish came to fruition on 20 May 1981 when I landed (albeit in a civilian airliner) on the infamous Runway 13 at Kai Tak International Airport. That was the famous approach whereby aircraft had to fly very low over the outskirts of the city, turn right through almost 80 degrees as the aircraft skimmed the rooftops, and only then did the runway come into sight. As Wikipedia puts it: “With numerous skyscrapers and mountains located to the north and its only runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, landings at the airport were dramatic to experience and technically demanding for pilots. It was ranked as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world.
I was in Hong Kong with two of my colleagues from the Joint Services Intelligence Centre in Ashford, Kent, where I was the senior RAF officer. We were there to ‘liaise’ with the Royal Hong Kong Police Special Branch. Halfway through the visit I was invited to take a 48 hour trip on a police launch which was on a routine cruise around the many islands close to the Chinese Border reporting on, and sometimes boarding and searching, local vessels for smugglers. I was permitted to take photographs as long as I did not identify any British or Hong Kong personnel – or any potential smugglers we might come across.
Here, therefore, is a selection of my pics – which I deliberately did not have developed for many years and which I have just come across in my archive.
Below: My permit for travel within the 'Frontier Closed Area'. My 'one day only' visa covered my three days and two nights on this 'cruise'!! No-one ever asked to see the permit. Some of the images below were in the so-called New Territories while the distant mountains were in mainland China. Since June 1997, when the British lease expired, the whole area is part of the Republic of China.
We landed on a few of the islands but I had no idea where we were!! Since I was dressed in civilian clothes but all the police were dressed in uniform, the inhabitants were rightly suspicious of me.
Above: This small village was deserted. I was told that the inhabitants were all working in UK.
Above: That's mainland China in the background.
Above: On one island, my escorts deliberately dashed on ahead of me when they realised I had stopped to change the film in my camera.
Below: When I caught up, this is what I found: my two colleagues on the extreme left, watching local young boys and men play football. In accordance with my orders, I made sure no faces were visible.