C.S.B. HICKMAN, the former Secretary and Treasurer of the Club, who
had been a prisoner-of-war, had volunteered to stay on in Hong Kong
to assist with the reorganisation of the base and advise on the future
of the Club. He
felt that the N.A.A.F.I. with their greater resources should run the
Club for a year while it was getting back on its feet.
feeling was not generally supported and a meeting of representatives
of all the ships present was held in the Club on Saturday 6th October
Flag Officer, Western Area, opened the Meeting personally, and explained
the position of the Club before the war. He particularly stressed
the importance of any decision made by Officers and Men present at
the meeting. Their decisions would affect not only the welfare of
their ships then in harbour, but the whole future of the China Fleet
Fisher then turned the meeting over to Commodore D.H. Everett, C.B.E.,
D.S.O. The Chairman explained the duties of the Committee which had
assembled at Flag Officer Western Area's direction.
That the Committee should be the Port Canteen Committee and deal with
the China Fleet Club in addition to its other duties.
That the Committee should merely be the emergency Committee of the
China Fleet Club.
These proposals were voted on and the second was carried on the casting
vote of the Chairman.
further meetings and discussion it was unanimously felt that the Club
should be run as pre-war: "by the Fleet for the Fleet". It was hoped
that voluntary work would be done by ships' companies and that Canteen
Committees would vote funds to help rehabilitate the Club. Admiralty
was then approached for a loan of £10,000 for this purpose, but regretted
that they could not provide financial assistance since it was the
policy in wartime for N.A.A.F.I. to run Service clubs.
that news the sub-committee issued
a report on Saturday 13th October saying:
"If the Admiralty will
do the same for the Fleet Club as they will do for N.A.A.F.I., and
the Commander-in-Chief will give shipping space for the Club, similar
to that given to N.A.A.F.l., it seems practicable for the Fleet to
run the Club". With this report adopted, a General Committee
was formed, and the Club was back in action.
The N.A.A.F.l. had started
selling beer in mid-September, although that was rationed to 11000
bottles a day. Tickets were allocated to each ship and beer sold to
the lucky ticket holders.
The kitchen and restaurants
were the first to receive attention by the "volunteer force"
and started serving meals at the beginning of November. Towards the
end of November local beer came on the market and sales increased
by leaps and bounds, though spirits were not available until Christmas
the following year.
The China Fleet Club was
back in business!
Junior Sailors Restaurant
The following years saw
a marked improvement in the financial state of the Club and redecoration,
refurbishing and modernisation were the order of the day. It had been
feared in 1948, that a reduction of income would come with the reduction
of the Fleet, and Singapore becoming the Far East Naval Headquarters.
But then the "Korean situation" blew up at the beginning
of the ‘fifties, and the Club found itself looking after large numbers
of naval (including allied) personnel.
In 1952 the land between
the Club and the Missions to Seamen was purchased for HK$230,250,
and the building erected there became known as the Coronation Annex.
It was opened on the 5th April 1954 by Rear Admiral G.V. Gladstone,
C.B. The total cost of the annex was $861 ,068, which involved a considerable
overdraft at the bank. But with typical farsightedness, good business
soon cleared the overdraft.
The ground floor of the
Annex was a large godown, which was initially rented to San Miguel
Brewery. It served as their Hong Kong depot for seven years until
1961, when San Miguel had to move to the New Territories when the
Club was forced to terminate the lease due to reclamation of the land
in front of the Club. It was too difficult to transport beer across
the harbour once the junks no longer had direct access to the godown.
The Fleet Club
On the first floor a four-lane
bowling alley was installed and was immensely popular. The 2nd floor
contained the Club’s shopping arcade and the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors,
Chinese Staff Living Quarters. The 6th floor contained the laundry.
It was in 1954, too, that
the United States Navy Purchasing Branch approached the Club with
the idea of opening a Purchasing Branch for American personnel visiting
Hong Kong for recreation. Eventually the third floorof the main building
was leased exciusivelytothem. The floor had previously contained dormitories,
but with the reduction inthesizeof the British Fleetinthe FarEast,
it was rarely used to capacity. The extra income was lust what was
needed at that point in time.
1955 saw that well known
San Miguel Brewery neon advertising sign go up on the roof, at that
time, the largest in Hong Kong. "Long John" Whisky added
their neon sign in 1960 -more income for the Club!
Renovation and redecoration
continued yearly. In 1961 the exterior of the Club got a new coat
of paint and colours - Desert Sand with Terracotta Bands and the 25th
Anniversary of the opening, on 21St March 1959 was celebrated at a
cocktail party in the presence of Sir Robert Black, the Governor of
Hong Kong, Admiral Sir G Gladstone, Commander-in-Chief, Far East Station,
Lt. Gen. Sir E Bastyan, Commander, British Forces, Hong Kong and Air
Commodore T Holder, Air Officer Commanding, Hong Kong. Sir Michael
Turner, Chief Manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and a Trustee
of the Club was present together with the Honorable Hugh Barton, Managing
Director of Jardine Matheson, and also a Trustee of the Club. The
Commissioner of Police Mr A.C. Maxwell attended and Commodore G.D.A.
Gregory, Commodore-in-Charge, Hong Kong and its Senior Trustee. Commanding
Officers of all H.M. Ships in Port, Ratings from those Ships, the
General Committee and others connected with the Club were there to
During the installation
of air conditioning in 1964 a live shell was found two feet below
the Reception Room on the Ground Floor. The shell, Japanese, weighing
831bs and 3’2 long, was removed by the Police Ballistics division.
Doubtless it had landed in the Club during the battle for Hong Kong
back in 1941.
Fleet Club Theatre
By the mid-sixties the balconies
on the first and second floors had been glassed in, and together with
air-conditioning of all the lounges and bars this added a considerable
amount of space in the Club. Around that time the theatre, which was
also used as a cinema, was closed down and completely gutted. A new
floor was built, and an eight-lane bowling alley was installed on
the ground floor and an air-conditioned dance-cum-tombola hall on
the upper floor. Two new automatic lifts replaced the old manually
operated ones. That project cost the magnificent sum of HK$1,300.000.
It was opened by H.E. The Governor, Sir David Trench on 21st September
- THE BOOM YEARS
VIETNAM WAR, however tragic, meant virtually a decade of "boom" years
for the Club. American and Allied personnel used Hong Kong exclusively
for "Rest and Recreation", and the Club, on the edge of ever-popular
Wanchai, prospered. And with prosperity came plans for a new Club.
During 1970 the General Committee decided that the present Club accommodation
was becoming outdated and expensive to run and maintain.
were held with, sometimes, monotonous regularity. But as recession
reared its ugly head, and Defence Cuts came into force twas finally
decided in early 1976 to remain in the old building.
was another three years before the possibility of rebuilding was raised
again, in 1979. When the future of the Services in Hong Kong had been
confirmed, the Trustees met to discuss the Club's future. It was felt
that the Club was well patron ised by the Navy and their families
and also by visiting RN and Commonwealth ships and that its facilities
were undoubtedly very popular with everyone.
New Club 1980 - 1992
The new China
Fleet Club - note the San Miguel sign replaced by Foster's beer sign
EARLY 1980 BROUGHT the
next step towards redeveloping the Club and it was decided to go to
Tender for a new Club on its present site, the winning Tender to provide
temporary accommodation for a period of 3.5 years. Four companies
tendered, with Sun Hung Kai coming out the winner. Although Sun Hung
Kai later withdrew their tender, they allowed the offer of temporary
accommodation to stand. Hong Kong Land then offered to take on the
redevelopment, and this was accepted.
The temporary Club, situated
in Sun Hung Kai Centre was very successful, if with somewhat reduced
facilities, for members. Nevertheless, long-standing favou rites like
Tombola, Folk Shows, and of course Mollie’s Music Hall, continued
to make their appearance.
The new Club was opened
by H.E. Sir Edward Youde G.C.M.G., M.B.E., the then Governor of Hong
Kong, on 31st May 1985 and occupied the first nine floors of Fleet
House, a 25 storey building in Wanchai, on exactly the same site as
The Club contained a
magnificent array of facilities and was fitted out at a final cost
of some $43,000,000. The facilities included (from the ground floor
up), a Reception area for hotel bedrooms, a multi-purpose Auditorium,
Jewelry, Naval Tailor and Gift shops, three bars, a splendid restaurant
with seating for approximately 200 people two squash courts, a Bowling
Alley and Snooker room and two floors of accommodation totalling 38
en-suite bedrooms. Also provided were a Ladies and Gents Hairdresser,
a Video library/souvenir shop and two floors of 50 shops leased to
the United States Navy Contracting Department.
No expense had been spared
during the fitting out period. From the elegant marble floors of the
foyer to the real leather arm-chairs in the Kelly Bar, everywhere
was evidence of sheer luxury.
The Club continued its
previous role of playing host to visiting warships of NATO friendly
Nations, and over the following years thousands of sailors from all
over the world made it their first port of call in Hong Kong.
Thanks to the foresight
of the architects and the project management team, the Club was able
to be a little more ambitious with regard to the production
of shows in the Auditorium. Consequently, besides the perennial Mollie’s
Music Hall and plays by local drama groups the Club now attracted
performers from around the world. Among those to appear were THE DRIFTERS,
MAX BOYCE, BILLY CONNOLLY, GERRY & THE PACEMAKERS, THE SEARCHERS,
CANNON & BALL, JIM DAVIDSON, THE SUPREMES, DANNY LA RUE, SHEP
WOOLLEY, THE STYLISTICS and THE BARRON KNIGHTS. The list went on and
on and the shows invariably played to packed houses.