It was 10 o'clock on a moonlit Sunday night,' recalls Kenneth Andrew, his eyes glazing over as he slips back 85 years with ease. 'I was in the Wah Long Distillery and I was down on my knees. I daren't stand up because I'd throw a shadow. 'I was looking through a crack in the wall and I saw the junk coming. I knew it was bringing Man Yat, the leader of the gang.' At 103 (he turns 104 next month), Mr Andrew is Hong Kong's oldest former policeman. He has been retired for longer than most career officers serve in the ranks of what came to be known as Asia's finest. But his memories of policing the unruly colony and dealing with the many cultural slights attendant on colonial rule, remain vivid in the telling. These days, in his tidy room in a nursing home in Bournemouth, England, he regales visitors with stories of pirates, gangsters, philanderers and corrupt police officers, all larger-than-life characters from his 27 years in Hong Kong. Mr Andrew - recipient of the King's Police Medal and the Colonial Police Medal, and the doyen of the Beechey House rest home - laments the passing of all his old friends. His wife died many years ago. A woman who later became his close companion died recently in her 70s. Gesticulating, he continues his story of the time he lay in wait for the feared criminal Man Yat and his henchman. It was 1912. 'They got the wind up and they were back but they didn't know if we were there or not, so they tried to draw us out,' he recalls as if it were yesterday. 'We sat where we were. They went right around, following the lie of the land. Before you could say anything they were there. 'They jumped off their junk on to the pier and in no time at all they were in the room and we were face to face with Man Yat and his friend. 'Man Yat tried to shoot me but his gun didn't go off: it was a bit damp. So I shot him through the heart and my sergeant shot his assistant, who was holding a dagger made of razor blades. Look, you can see him in the picture.' Mr Andrew, pulling Hong Kong Detective (one of a handful of books he has written) from the window sill, leafed through the pages until he came to a black-and-white photograph showing a young Chinese lying on his back with the ring of a bullet hole through his chest. The killing in Hong Kong of Lee Hai-sun, a kingpin in the opium trade, sent a shudder through the community. 'Mr Lee was the boss of the opium business and he was always in trouble with the Macau authorities. He was shot on the street, something unheard of in those days, and afterwards they named a road after him,' Mr Andrew says. Those were the days when restrictions against the widespread use of opium were starting to bite, the Chinese were banned from living on the Peak, Connaught Road was on the waterfront, and metal dollars bore chop marks. 'If you saw someone with smallpox marks on his face, he was called 'Chop Dollar'. I had a friend named Chan who had smallpox all over his face. He was known as Chop Dollar Chan.' When Mr Andrew applied from England to join the force, he had to promise in writing not to wed a Chinese woman or keep a Chinese girl. He was surprised to learn when he arrived on a P&O ship in 1911 that a law made it a criminal offence for a Chinese woman to commit adultery. 'When they took over Hong Kong they incorporated this old Chinese law into the British law. Nobody had ever charged anybody with adultery, but one day a man came to me and said he wanted to report that his Chinese wife had been to bed with the doctor and that he wanted something done about it. I had to charge her and she got three months in prison. The doctor got nothing. 'And when they took her from court and put her in the van to take her to Stanley prison there was a crowd outside, shouting, kicking and spitting at the van.' As a chief detective inspector, Mr Andrew spent much of his time at police headquarters, one of 153 Britons in the force. 'I had a number on my collar, it was 150, and there were three more after me,' he says. 'We were known as A group. There were many Indians, Sikhs and Mohammedans - they were known as B. The Chinese were C because they were at the bottom of the pile. 'When I was chief inspector of Kowloon I used to have to pay the troops in my office. I used to feel ashamed at giving the Chinese constables such small money.' Mr Andrew was closer to the Chinese than many of his British colleagues, largely because he wasted little time in getting to grips with the language. In recent years expatriates have been required to take an intensive Cantonese course as soon as they arrive but that was not the case in his day: 'Most of the English police didn't bother to learn. All they wanted was their pension after 25 years. I had a Cantonese teacher and I can still speak it after all these years.' Word that he was fluent in Cantonese spread, not only among his peers but in the local community: 'All the Chinese underworld knew that I could speak Chinese so they used to come to me, on the street, on the telephone, anywhere. 'My life was made busy with information given to me by people I didn't know.' He soon earned a reputation as an especially zealous officer. 'I was always in trouble over something or other. Not for being drunk: I was reported for doing too much duty.' The commissioner of police called him in and advised that if he wanted to keep his job he should slow down. Another time when he was summoned to see the boss the circumstances were more sinister. Mr Andrew had been investigating a complaint by an Indian constable that he had been struck by an English man working in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. 'There was a crowd of people there so I asked the Indian constable to point out the chap. He did and I said to him: 'This Indian constable says you struck him.' ' The accused banker was untroubled about the allegations of assault, saying all he had done was give him a bit of a push. Only when Mr Andrew pulled out his whistle and told him one blow on it would bring half a dozen officers to the scene ready to frogmarch him to Central station did he co-operate. After the arrest, a colleague told Mr Andrew: 'He is the chief accountant at Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. He's next to God.' Next morning Mr Andrew discovered the accountant had called the police commissioner, a close friend of his, who had ordered his release and wiped the charge sheet clean. Mr Andrew was called in again. This time, two fresh $10 Hongkong and Shanghai banknotes lay on the commissioner's desk, 'from the gentleman from the bank as compensation to the Indian constable'. The constable refused to take the money, demanding justice. 'The man was never charged because he was a friend of the commissioner's. That was the way it worked then,' says Mr Andrew. 'One of my chief problems in Kowloon was dealing with Englishwomen who had been neglected. 'They had been picked up by somebody, like a marine, and abandoned.' One Englishwoman had been jilted by her American lover who had taken up with a Frenchwoman. 'The American didn't know what to do with her so he put her in The Peninsula hotel and bought her a pet monkey. 'She called me up and said: 'This man has been very bad. All I do is cry and the monkey just pees'.'