Internal Security – and Riot Drill
When we were put on Internal Security duties we had to learn riot drill Indian Army fashion. We carried it out in full battle order including tin hats and gas masks, not the best of gear in the climate. The squad numbered about twenty with the drill carried out with fixed bayonets to a slow, deliberate and measured pace. The Troop was now split into two squads, Able and AbleAble, and these squad members all placed in the same barrack room. Some squaddies now moved barrack rooms and this disrupted our accustomed barrack room life, an unwelcome change. Each squad was allocated one of the Troop’s 3 ton QL trucks, that was swathed in chain link wire mesh.
Riot duty was onerous, for 24 hours a squad was on call at 30 minute standby. While on call, the squad stayed and moved together as a whole; e.g., to the cookhouse or to the Naafi. At all times the squad had to remain properly dressed and be prepared to set off for action. The rationale for the rearrangement that the squad occupy a single barrack room now becomes apparent. After the 24 hours passed, we were then on two hour standby for a further 24 hours. In effect, it was 48 hours of continuous duty.
Riot Drill – How To
Drill involved forming the traditional British square around the QL. My position was in the front rank. On the order the squad in square formation advanced slowly around the QL having first made a display of affixing bayonets (this required its own drill and energetic practice on hanging sandbags- a rather unpleasant business and even worse had it been for real) and loading their rifles with live ammunition, a move designed to show the rioters we meant business. Then on the command to fire the front rank knelt, and we were given a specific target and the number of rounds to fire. A Bren gun was mounted on the QL cab roof, but we were not allowed to fire it unless we had been fired on first, a very British and gentlemanly arrangement. We also had a banner in Chinese which ordered the mob to disperse or we would fire. A bugler added to this show, but as ours could only blow ‘Come to the Cookhouse’ it seemed rather farcical. I realize now that if there had been a riot and the rioters not been prior subdued by the civil HK Police it would have been our task to shoot them, for that was the sole purpose of the drill.
Enthusiasm for Riot Drill – Not Us
A newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Hango sent to the Troop took all this very seriously. We had first learned the drill while he was still at Sandhurst, and we did not appreciate this newcomer’s enthusiasm for it as on every occasion possible, he had us out on the square. Troop Captain Tilburn was happy I think to leave it to him. The Troop sergeants too were less than enthusiastic over Hango’s seriousness.
Riot Drill Exercises
After mastering the riot drill, we took part at different times of the day and at night in various exercises with other units and the police in the Chinese districts in and around Victoria. Inevitably during these there was much waiting at different states of readiness and then intense activity. Also many bustling and self important red-tabbed officers finding fault. Sometimes too we just went out in the truck to patrol around in full gear, showing the flag and as show of force. It was not much fun in the heat wearing a tin hat and battle order on the exercises in the streets or when patrolling standing in a metal truck which absorbed and reflected the heat like an oven. Usually the base for these exercises was the Cheero Club to which when the exercise was over, won or lost as if we cared, we could adjourn for some refreshment.
Fortunately despite some alarms and being brought to 30 minutes readiness, we were never called out in earnest for the Hong Kong Police were well organized and capable of handling most things. It was our good fortune not to have been called out, for we were not fitted to these duties that were more appropriate for a tough infantry unit and to whom a Saturday night punch up was a treat.