Lance Brown, last aide-de-camp to the last Governor, is agitated. He is running out of time and the anguish is etched on his face. There is still much to do before midnight, June 30, when he will perform his last duty in Hong Kong and escort Governor Chris Patten and family on to the Royal Yacht Britannia. 'I'm frantic at the moment,' he confesses in a sun-filled sitting room at Government House. 'If my mind drifts or I start talking gobbledegook, I do apologise.' He gazes out of the window at a cluster of Hong Kong high-rises as the Post photographer, disappointed that packers have already stripped the mansion on Upper Albert Road of portraits of Mr Patten, shoots a roll of film. Mr Brown, a 44-year-old police superintendent, admits he would have dodged this interview. But he ran out of time to cancel. For the past two years as the Governor's right-hand man, he has lived in a flat in the grounds of Government House. He has been by Mr Patten's side for almost every waking hour, accompanying him to formal cocktail receptions with the territory's movers and shakers, and on whirlwind trips to Macau to press diplomats' flesh. He has been with him on walks around Hong Kong housing estates and during such solemn ceremonial duties as laying the wreath on Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph. On Monday, he will have an insider's view as history is made at the handover ceremony. ' 'Privilege' is the word,' he says. 'When I came to Hong Kong it was for three years. Seventeen years later I find myself closely involved with the end of not just British rule in Hong Kong, but the end of the British Empire.' The pace, he says, has been gruelling. 'I've got a 20-second 'commute', but the fact that you're living within the perimeter walls and you walk through a police cordon to get home each day means you never really get away from work. 'It's not a natural home for me. Antiques and servants don't really appeal: I'm pretty down-to-earth. I'm always conscious of the fact that even at home when I'm in a pair of shorts and flip-flops and drinking a beer, I'm actually still at work. The phone can go any second and I'll be off and running.' In the final days of British sovereignty, the phone is going constantly as Mr Brown strives to choreograph the Governor's every public move. 'Everyone is trying to farewell him and we're trying to cram in as much as we possibly can. On top of all that we've got the events of the last three days with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the arrival of ministers and internationally protected people from overseas, more farewell ceremonies, the Queen's Birthday reception, double investitures and, of course, the handover. We've got a handful of working days in which to do three months' work. 'The mood is slightly different now. There has always been a lot of enthusiasm, clapping, cheering and shaking of hands whenever he's gone out, but now everyone wants the last photograph or the last signature.' He winces at the potential for glitches: 'One of my predecessors still has nightmares about the most famous one, although it wasn't really his fault. The Governor was arriving at a formal parade on Stonecutters Island by helicopter, but instead of coming in on the landing site it landed on the actual parade. It was scattered to the four winds, leaving everyone with red faces.' Two years ago, when the Governor's then aide-de-camp Mike Ellis decided to move on and study for a career in law, Mr Brown had already reached what he believed would be the pinnacle of his career: the position of commanding officer of the Special Duties Unit (SDU), also known as the Flying Tigers. His officers were a hand-picked and secretive elite, who had been trained as paramilitaries at Fanling for the most dangerous operations, from counter-terrorism to crack raids against bandits toting AK-47s. He remembers an incident in the early hours of December 2, 1992 as one of his most stressful. 'It was one of those days where you plan as best you can but then the unexpected happens and things start going pear-shaped. 'We were trying to arrest a gang of heavily armed criminals in a high-rise block in Tsuen Wan. I was down in the lobby with one team of officers and there were others outside when one of the culprits tossed a grenade out the window. It exploded at ground level, injuring seven of my men. One lost an eye. 'While that was going on, seven metres away we had armour-piercing rounds from an AK-47 being fired through the wall and the door at another team of guys. When our guys finally got access to the flat, the culprits inside had thrown another grenade at the team coming in the door and set the place on fire. 'It's three o'clock in the morning, I've got seven officers down and seriously injured outside, gunfire upstairs and I get a call from my team leader saying: 'Now the flat's on fire. We'd better evacuate the building'.' Next day's Post headline said 'Seven police wounded as gang tosses Russian grenades.' Mr Brown emerged unscathed and three of his officers were awarded Queen's Gallantry Medals. 'When you've finished a raid like that, the anti-climax is like nothing you've experienced before,' he says. 'The adrenalin rush is over. You feel a deep depression.' Mr Brown, a Briton, had planned to resign by the end of 1995 and emigrate with his young family to Canada. 'I couldn't envisage anything else that I wanted to do in the force after SDU.' When the opportunity arose to work as aide-de-camp, he changed his mind and moved into Government House. 'I decided it would be an interesting way to finish a career and see the end of British rule. It's shown me a side of Hong Kong that I would never have seen any other way.' But there have been sacrifices: 'The hardest thing about the job has been the separation from my family. My wife and I decided that because my hours would be so intense she and our two young kids would relocate to Canada while I stayed and did the job. If I'd have known how tough that was going to be, I would not have made that decision.' As aide-de-camp, Mr Brown's only weapon now is a 'very blunt ceremonial sword'. It goes with his uniform of cavalry boots, thick cavalry trousers, high-necked tunic, belt rig and hat - 'the ADC's helmet' - consisting of swans' feathers. For a man whose title is of military origin, Mr Brown has been involved of necessity in the political battles that have erupted around the Governor over his democratic reforms. 'I feel that frequently he was under an inappropriate level of assault from people who either misunderstood what he was trying to do, or deliberately misunderstood for their own personal reasons,' Mr Brown says. 'There are people out there who, I feel, have put their own vested interests way above the interests of Hong Kong. I find that very sad. It has soured my feelings towards certain aspects of society in Hong Kong,' Mr Brown says. 'He's a very resilient man, but there's no doubt it does get to him. He keeps a front to the public, so they are probably not aware of what's going on inside. But I think I and most of the staff who have worked with him are able to judge his mood pretty accurately. 'I believe that at the back of the mind he's always been aware of the enthusiasm with which he has been received by other sections of society, and that's helped him when dealing with the other problems that have come his way. I have no doubt that, if there was an absolutely open vote tomorrow on who the people would want to run this place, he would have a huge sweeping majority.' The public outings have not always gone smoothly. During a September 1995 district visit to a Kowloon Bay temporary housing area with Housing Authority chairman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, 'someone decided that thrusting a caged rat in the face of the Governor and the ADC was a good idea', recalls Mr Brown. More than 1,000 residents and demonstrators, chanting 'The Governor tells lies!', accused him of having reneged on promises to move them out of the rat-infested area and jostled him as they walked through the melee. 'We were in a boisterous crowd and they were being egged on by organised agitators. It got quite hectic and we were forced to physically battle our way through,' he says. 'The annoying thing was that the Governor couldn't speak to the people with the problems because he couldn't get near them while the professional agitators were creating so much noise and fuss. 'At the time I thought the job was going to be more physically exciting than I'd expected, but that was the last time it happened. We've come very close, on a number of occasions, to having kids and the elderly trampled underfoot by photographers rushing from one place to another to try to get a snap. It will only get worse with the frenzy surrounding the handover.' With his job due to end in less than 72 hours, he says he feels like he is strapped to an emotional roller-coaster. 'After 17 years it's going to be difficult to leave. When you combine that with the sort of emotion that's generated around the Governor, it becomes very moving. 'We're going to more and more farewells and I have no doubt that on the last weekend when we farewell Government House for the final time it's going to be an emotional time for everyone. 'There are household staff who have been here 30 years, working for the British Government. Every governor is different and this one probably more different than any, but there are still a lot of unknowns for his staff who are staying. I've no doubt they'll be just as loyal and proficient when they're working for the Chief Executive.' Mr Brown's trip on the Britannia will be short and sweet. After boarding with the Governor, his family and Prince Charles, and bidding a final goodbye, the aide-de-camp will hitch a lift back to Central on board one of the royal yacht's pilot-boat escorts. 'I'll hop off and fly out on July 1 to rejoin my family. There will be trepidation about leaving a fascinating job with a reasonable salary and going into unemployment; I hope there will also be the excitement of starting a new life and beginning again elsewhere.'