FOR the first time in years, the Royal Navy in Hong Kong is at sea this Boxing Day following an edict from the new Commander British Forces, Major-General Bryan Dutton - known in the ranks as General Melchet, from Britain's Blackadder television series. The Navy is to be seen this year, a clear message to would-be smugglers hoping to take advantage of the seasonal celebrations. The boys from HMS Starling put on a brave - or rather a Santa Claus - face and, of course, a red hat. These are the boys nick-named Wildcats by the smugglers, who leap like madmen into fast-moving smuggling boats, but never, for safety reasons, while wearing a Santa Claus beard. Quite understandably, Starling's new captain, Lieutenant-Commander Alastair Cook, who took command just two weeks ago, declined to wear false whiskers during the crew's on-board Christmas dinner last Friday, preferring, for the time being, to maintain an air of authority. The honour went instead to Charge Chief Mick Gladwin who helped keep the yuletide spirit alive on Christmas Day, when the ship's complement were on standby, and thus barred seasonal alcoholic cheer. Behind all the light-hearted attempts to keep Christmas alive in Hong Kong, the serious business of anti-smuggling patrols goes on and they remember only too well last year when their Christmas presents from the smugglers came in the form of gunshots. Since then, the smugglers have become even more sophisticated and are using AK47s and stun grenades to ward off potential captors. They wear body armour, gas masks to protect them from the anti-smuggling taskforce's tear-gas and give out false information over the radio, knowing the Navy is tuning in.