British navy bids poignant farewell to Hong Kong base
April 11, 1997
Web posted at: 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT)
In this story:
HONG KONG (CNN) -- With tears, tradition and brass-band pomp,
Britain's Royal Navy closed its HMS Tamar naval base in Hong
Kong on Friday, making way for China's July 1 takeover.
(1M/29 sec. QuickTime movie)
Two hundred sailors -- both British and Chinese -- marched,
sang hymns and recited the Lord's Prayer under a burning sun,
wearing tropical white dress uniforms similar to those worn
by the first navy men to land on Hong Kong Island on January
The ceremony at HMS Tamar, the naval base on Stonecutters
Island in Hong Kong harbor, took place exactly 100 years to
the day after another vessel of the same name first arrived
in Hong Kong waters.
A lone sailor struck a ship's bell eight times -- the "Eight
Bells" that signal the end of a long watch -- before the
White Ensign, the flag of the Royal Navy, was gently lowered
to an anthem of recession.
(884K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"I had to wipe away a tear..."
-- Commodore Peter Melson, British Royal Navy
'No sad thoughts'
"The White Ensign has just been lowered over this shore
base, but the values that it has stood for will, I hope,
remain in this place: respect for law and for person,
trust, duty and service," Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten told
"But there is no cause for thinking sad thoughts, that there
is dishonor in these endings. Nothing has melted away. There
have been no defeats," Patten said.
The HMS Tamar base was once home to three armadas,
consisting of scores of battleships, cruisers and
The navy fought piracy, then the Japanese army, and isolated
Hong Kong from the turbulence of China's 1949 communist
revolution, said Maj. Gen. Bryan Dutton, commander of the
British Forces in Hong Kong.
'Allowed Hong Kong to flourish'
"I think the armed forces will be remembered for having
provided the infrasructure ... which allowed Hong Kong to
flourish," Dutton told CNN.
The closure ends a 156-year association between the Royal Navy and Hong Kong but not
necessarily the British presence in the region.
"The Asian Pacific rim is extremely important to the interests of many countries in Europe," said Admiral Sir Jock Slater, the navy chief known in Britain as the First Sea Lord. "Therefore, I think there is every chance that we shall be deploying army, navy and air forces to meet and work with our friends in the years ahead."
China not represented at ceremony
China, whose navy will occupy another site on Stonecutters
Island, was not represented at the ceremony. The only
Chinese present were locally hired personnel, many of whom
must now find new jobs.
The future of the HMS Tamar site is uncertain, but the three
Peacock class patrol craft based there have been bought by
Correspondent May Lee and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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