COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF Frog Lee is a killer. And he's happy to talk about it. He's pleased to tell how he once led 39 men into battle against 150. 'We won,' he says without a smile. 'Killed them all.' As he talks he marches through the jungle with his trademark stubby cigar clamped in his teeth and his trademark look of steely determination in his eyes. He breaks his steady, rhythmic stride only once, to allow his combat-tuned eyes to gauge a short but steep bank in front of him. Pausing for just a moment the barrel-chested commander's mouth forms a slight grimace and, with chunky black combat boots kicking hard into the caked mud path, Frog clears the incline and ploughs on through the thick foliage. A few strides more and he arrives at a sun-drenched clearing where he stops to mop his brow with his chubby fingers. He allows himself the luxury of glancing up at the clear blue sky. It's not hard to read his thoughts: it's a nice day for war. Frog is not alone in the jungle. Behind him on the narrow but well-trodden path march a column of soldiers; an eight-man platoon, all of whom are also battle-hardened killers. Each man is armed to the teeth and each is dressed in the olive-green fatigues of the United States Army. They all wear a distinctive badge on the right shoulder, a dagger cut by three lightning flashes. War buffs would recognise such markings as those of a military elite - the macho stuff of modern legend. And they would be right. Above each badge are the words 'Special Forces/Airborne'. These men are - gulp - Green Berets. As they pick their way through the shaded jungle, members of this crack platoon whistle a well-known military melody. The tune is Colonel Bogey, which brings back memories of the movie Bridge Over The River Kwai. But that would be the wrong war. This is Nam, man. If any big-screen allegorical pointer is needed it has to be Apocalypse Now. And no points for guessing who is playing renegade despot Colonel Kurtz. Commander Frog is staring slightly impatiently into space as the platoon reaches the clearing. The men shuffle to a halt and under Frog's meditative, see-all gaze, they stop their jovial whistling. These battle-hardened killers - in their black and green face paint, camouflage head scarves, wide-brimmed floppy jungle hats, M16 'Vietnam issue' automatic rifles, grenade pouches, bullet-magazine pouches and everything-else pouches - realise they have company. The men quickly size up the locale. Parked in the basketball-court-sized clearing are two vehicles, behind one of which is another group of men. They are not dressed in the comforting green of the US Army but wearing vests, blue trousers and flip-flops. Could they be the dreaded Viet Cong? Well, perhaps not. They are, after all, sitting around a fold-up table slurping Coca-Cola and playing mahjong. And this is not the Mekong Delta, it's the New Territories. The jungle clearing is actually a car park. And the Special Forces platoon turns out to be an assorted collection of civilians - clerks, van drivers and bank managers - who only kill on Sundays, only for fun and only with small white pellets fired from air guns. But that doesn't mean it's not serious. No, sir. This is war. The rules of engagement are simple. Platoon fights platoon and if a pellet hits you, then you are dead. To avoid death you have to crawl around, hide in bushes, behind trees or in derelict buildings. Although some of the guns have a range of 25 metres, the only real risk is to the eye so visors are de rigueur. The objective - the way to 'win' - may be to seize a flag, some territory or successfully escort a 'VIP' through enemy territory. But the bottom line is kill or be killed. And although the rules are simple, winning is not. Like any kind of warfare, it's all about tactics. Commander-in-Chief Frog taps his not inconsiderable temple. 'You need to have this to win,' he says. As the Green Berets move through the clearing - ignoring the mahjong players - their mood changes. They fan out into the dark jungle with caution. The enemy is nearby. Suddenly the men are communicating with hand signals, whispers and through their walkie-talkie headsets. They crouch as they walk, occasionally breaking into a run or falling to the floor with their weapon of choice at the ready. And, whether they see the bad guys or not, they continually rake the jungle with sprays of white pellets about the size of a ball-bearing. Invariably when one starts firing, they all start firing. Have gun. Will use it. This afternoon, Sergeant Town Joe Ho is taking up the rear. He's an old pro when it comes to combat and boasts he has been 'playing war nearly all my life'. But this afternoon he's happy to hang back and chat, as long as the conversation is about all things war-like. He has never lifted a real gun in combat. 'The British were prejudiced,' he says, fingering his Green Beret. 'Because I am Chinese I would never have been allowed into one of their elite units.' And the People's Liberation Army? 'I don't speak Mandarin,' says the wiry 31-year-old, quick as a flash. He almost spits with disgust at the mention of other styles of war gaming. 'This is not paintball!' he says, then adds with a snarl: 'It's just not the same. Paintball is just not authentic.' It's a word used a lot on the battlefields of the New Territories. In civilian life, his name is Ho Hing-cheung and he's an industrial machine salesman. On the battlefield, he's a different man. Someone bigger and braver. And he likes it that way. It all started for Sergeant Town Joe when he was a kid and his uncle bought him a replica Smith & Wesson cowboy pistol. He still plays with replicas but these days they're a lot more convincing. The cheapest gun in his collection cost him less than $1,000; the most expensive, he says, 'about $40,000'. And he now has so many - 'more than 30', he won't be more precise - that he has a problem storing them all. 'My sister gets angry with me because I have put some of them in her bedroom,' he says as he walks into combat. Ask Joe if he's married and he stops dead in his tracks and slaps his worryingly realistic M16 and pulls an especially tough, Hollywood-style combat face. 'This is my wife,' he says. As the platoon approaches a derelict farm building, Sergeant Town Joe bobs down a dirt track behind them. He constantly looks around him. Left, right, left, right, behind, in front. Joe has done this before. As he walks, a 'dog tag' ID draped around his neck gently knocks against a metal buckle attached to one of the many pieces of webbing adorning his combat suit. The tag states his name, his date of birth and his Hong Kong ID number. And it says he's a member of '5th Army SF, United States'. The clink, clink, clink of Special Forces tag against Special Forces buckle is not loud enough to give away his position, but he's a pro and it's annoying him. He tucks the thin piece of metal inside his General Issue T-shirt. Nothing is allowed to get between Town Joe Ho and a good piece of war. 'Of course it's not real,' says Joe of his ID as he leans against the wall of the derelict building. He bears the sort of bemused smile one might use with a crying child or a dog that cannot do a trick. There's clearly a time and place for dumb civilian questions and a war zone isn't it. 'How could I have a Special Forces dog tag with my name on it? No. I had it made in Mongkok.' Joe peeks his head round the corner of the building to check on the state of the war, then lights a Marlboro and happily explains the ethos behind the Special Forces platoon. 'We are different from the other platoons because everything we wear was once worn by US Special Forces. Everything.' The shirt? Joe nods with a solemn scowl. Boots? 'Yes.' Socks, hat, trousers? 'Yes, yes, yes,' he says pointing at each item in turn. 'The GIs smoke Marlboros, so I smoke Marlboros.' The clothes alone cost in excess of $2,000, the authentic pouches and other attachments even more. What about his underpants? Were they are also worn by some of the world's toughest combat soldiers? Joe looks around to make sure no one is listening. Then he leans forward and answers in a barely audible whisper. 'Calvin Klein,' says the killer. As if the world has been rocked by this revelation, the quiet of the afternoon is ripped apart by the sound of automatic weapons. Joe dives for cover, all talk of underpants forgotten. With the alertness of a rabbit, he surveys the battle in the facing valley. The Special Forces are involved in a vicious fire fight: it's time for Sergeant Joe to go to war. 'It's showtime,' he says with an extravagant flourish as he eases his thin frame to the corner of the building. He leans against the whitewashed wall, the tension making him breathe heavily. He holds his weighty rifle in classic macho pose - diagonally across his body - and he slowly turns the safety catch to the position marked 'auto fire'. He turns his head back one final time and growls 'I'll be back'. Then he springs from his cover and, doubled over, sprints across an open patch of rough grass in a zigzag manoeuvre. He sees a ditch to his left, runs hard, leaps and ... falls flat on his face. But any pain the tumble might have caused this tough soldier does not show. 'Just like real combat! Yeah!' shouts a mud-splattered Sergeant Joe across the war-rocked New Territories' afternoon. 'IT TEACHES teamwork, tactics and discipline,' says 32-year-old Frog Lee as he lights yet another short fat cigar. Frog used to be a police officer. Now he runs his own army. 'Before I started this I was nobody. When I left the police six years ago, I had this idea about setting up an Outward Bound school,' he says in tones not dissimilar to those of a born-again evangelical preacher: there's a message to deliver and he wants to ensure the uninitiated understand it. 'Then I realised how popular this was. Back then I had never played war games but because of my police training I knew how to, I knew all about the tactics. And I realised how good it is for developing interpersonal skills. There have always been groups of guys that like playing war games, so I thought why not start a business that brings newcomers in? That was why I started the club.' 'The club' is the Hong Kong War Game Union, its headquarters a collection of camouflaged, military-like buildings on a rural site near the small village of Tin Fu Chai Chuen, in the heart of the beautiful Tai Mo Shan Country Park. It is also the home of another Frog Lee creation, the Outdoor Adventurous [sic] Training Centre. The OATC seems to be the money-making side of Frog's empire. During the week the OATC runs various, and very serious, corporate leadership and team building 'training programmes', the sweat, grunt and bond sessions so loved by modern office bosses. On weekends, the OATC also runs novice war game 'fun' days. Although both are run on pretty strict military lines, both seem to be popular and are apparently making Frog and his buddies a considerable amount of money. The weekend war games cost around $500 per person per day, and often attract more than 60 people. The real money-spinner, says Frog, is the corporate training, at between $1,000 and $3,000 a course. But Frog says he's not in it for the money. The Hong Kong War Game Union is very serious indeed and is made up of three platoons who spend their weekends trying to kill each other. There's Special Forces platoon, of course, 730 platoon and last - but certainly not least - A-Tech 'Tiger Strike' platoon. These weekend warriors, like all good cross-dressers, realise that the devil is in the detail. The more authentic the uniform, the better the fun. Looking the part is everything. Platoon 730 - so-called because it was formed on July 30, 1995 - is a People's Liberation Army-style commando unit and dress accordingly in commie kitsch, complete with little red stars on their caps. 'We get our uniforms made in Hong Kong ... they only cost $200,' says one member proudly. A-Tech Tiger Strike has the hunkiest soldiers of them all, although at first sight they seem a strange hybrid, sort of Desert Storm GI meets New York S&M devotee. They wear big, big helmets; massive, lace-up leather boots; full-face visors, and lots of sprouting ferns. At the start of each 'war day' the men assemble in drill fashion on the OATC parade ground and, as each platoon's flag (as well as the group flag) is run up the flag pole, they stand to attention and salute. At the end of the day, the process is repeated as the flags are taken down. Some of the men hum the Star Spangled Banner through their teeth as the flags jerk down the poles. Frog doesn't. He stands rigidly to attention, right hand fixed to his forehead in an American-style military salute, staring hard at the flags. Yes, there is more to this than money. 'To succeed in life, people have to be honest,' says Frog about the War Game Union. 'In life you have to be able follow orders, follow rules. People see the flags and it gives them a feeling of respect.' All 150 members had to go through an initial three-month probation and full membership is not guaranteed. Prospective members must turn up three times in their probationary period and final approval is given by a committee. Even after full membership has been obtained, performance and discipline are still monitored. If anyone is found guilty of cheating - not playing dead when they are shot - they are promptly thrown out. Like a regular army, members can progress through the ranks: corporal, sergeant, sergeant major and lieutenant. But there is only one man in charge. 'There is a lot of competition between the platoons, but I unify them,' says Frog. 'I am the only one that they will all listen to. I am their leader.' MEMBERS of the Hong Kong War Game Union are not the only ones who spend their days running around the jungle pretending to kill each other. There are thousands of men (and very few women) engaging in similar weekend wars all over the rural New Territories. The battles are always competitive, and always conducted in uniform. There are platoons of Viet Cong, British Special Air Service, and rather worryingly at least one Nazi platoon who dress up in the uniforms of the Waffen SS and stomp around waving Swastika flags. 'I know they were evil,' says 21-year-old Leo Yeung Wing-tsang, part-time SS member of the Nazis, 'but I like the uniform. It's cool.' Leo isn't in Frog's army. He works in a military gear shop called the Armed Forces Company in Kwong Wa Street in Mongkok and as such trains with another crack military outfit. For work today he is dressed as a 'flying tiger', the elite Hong Kong Police special duties unit. He wears big black boots and a jet-black jump suit. If you think that's smart, you should see him on weekends when he wears his square helmet and grey tunic with two black 'S's on the lapel that used to denote membership to Hitler's private storm troopers. And what does it denote today? 'Some of them do get a little too into the beliefs but not me,' says the softly spoken and diminutive young man. 'I just wear it because I like the style.' Liking the style costs Leo and his gang of Nazi wannabes 'between $10,000 and $20,000'. That's for the hat, the kinky leather boots, the de rigueur Nazi badges and replica weapon of choice. Like most war games garb, it is all made in Japan. 'It's actually quite normal to be interested in armed forces stuff,' says Leo defensively. 'There's that side to everybody. To start with people often say they don't like it. But once they play, they usually love it.' According to Leo, more and more people are exploring their more aggressive sides and spending their spare time killing for fun. Leo's shop is one of a cluster of 10-plus army-related shops based around Dundas Street, Mongkok. In all of them are weekend warriors and warrior wannabes dreaming of combat. There are dozens of them, some fat, some thin, some 'combat-ready' in battle greens, most in civilian attire. All are staring at the plethora of metallic black air guns: pistols, little machine guns, huge machine guns and gargantuan machine guns. It is here that Town Joe Ho purchases his weaponry. And although he is happy to show a novice around this cluster of shops stacked high with war equipment, he is not so keen to reveal the actual Joe Ho 30-gun collection. At first he says such a visit would disturb his sister. Some of the guns are, after all, in her bedroom. Then he says he would worry about burglars. When told his address will remain anonymous, he says he is frightened about more mysterious visitors. 'We had a lot of attention from the British Secret Services when they were here,' he jokes. 'They didn't like the fact we taught British military tactics.' After much harassment he gives the real reason why his own weapon cache has to remain private. 'It's my mum,' says the soldier. 'She doesn't know how much all this stuff costs. I told her that each piece only cost $300 ... Everyone's frightened of their mum, aren't they? If she finds out the truth she'll kill me. You must understand.' So now we know what really frightens a battle-hardened Special Forces sergeant. And it ain't the jungle.