Navy closes last outpost
By PAUL TYRRELL
THE Royal Navy yesterday closed its last observation post in Hongkong, which was used for decades to gather intelligence on ship movements into and out of China.
The end of the Tai O Coastal Watching Station was marked with a ceremony outside the building on the outcrop off the west of Lantau Island.
Built shortly after World War II, the station was one of five originally used to monitor shipping going in and out of the mainland.
The other stations in Port Shelter, Waglan Island, Stanley and Cheung Chau were all closed by the 1970s but the Tai O facility remained open to help provide information on ships entering Hongkong waters.
Five naval ratings would work for six weeks at a time in the post and would be helicoptered to the island with their provisions. Double link barbed wire surrounded the 200 square metre site and guard dogs patrolled the perimeter.
The men have been re-assigned to other duties while the dogs have been found homes in Hongkong.
The Commander of HMS Tamar, Commander Berry Reeves, joined a small group of officers at a ceremony to mark the taking down of the Royal Navy Ensign.
The two buildings and land on the site will be handed over to the Hongkong Government next week.
A spokesman for the Hongkong Garrison said the post was a relic.
''The station is a throwback to different times and has outlived it usefulness.'' He added that although the station was used to watch vessels entering China in the 1950s and 1960s, its role had changed in recent years.
The Navy also announced yesterday that its 142-year-old link with Hongkong Island would end on May 18 when HMS Tamar moves to Stonecutters Island.
The military base in Central will be known as the Prince of Wales Barracks after the navy's switch and the headquarters of the British Forces in Hongkong will remain on the site until 1997.
The eastern area of the existing HMS Tamar, which comprises the dock, workshops and other small buildings, will be handed back to the Hongkong Government when the navy leaves.
Negotiations on the post-1997 use of the Prince Of Wales Building and the remaining land at the existing HMS Tamar has still not been decided by the Joint Liaison Group.