Britain had a plan to abandon Hong Kong and hand it to China without agreement on its future, documents recently made available have shown. Plans for a withdrawal were drawn up in London and revealed to only a handful of civil servants because of fears of raising alarm. But British military officials approached their US counterparts for help in effecting a retreat and Australia to see whether it would be ready to make aircraft available for an evacuation. Plan Cinderella was drawn up in 1951 when Britain believed it might be unable to maintain control of the colony. Foreign Office officials accepted the abandonment of Hong Kong as part of a 'global strategy' based on the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The plan was based on the belief the British might need to re-deploy its garrison from the territory and that the Government would not be able to stay in place without military backing. A 'top secret' memo from London to the then governor, Sir Alexander Grantham, instructed him to begin planning for a possible withdrawal. The documents show that British Foreign Office staff believed there would be no point in negotiating a withdrawal with Beijing because China might begin to undermine the authorities in Hong Kong. They accepted that once the British administration had withdrawn there was likely to be a breakdown of law and order, but did not see any way of raising the matter with the Chinese authorities. 'We do not think that it would be right to gamble on the possibility of a peaceful handover to the communists,' the memo to Grantham said. Grantham was told that the plan for Britain to walk away from Hong Kong should be prepared in addition to plans for an evacuation in case of war with China. Hong Kong historian Arthur Hacker said Cinderella was a 'panic-stations contingency plan', which he would have expected any colonial government to have had. 'There have always been plans to abandon things, like there have always been plans to give back Gibraltar to the Spanish going back 200 or 300 years,' he said. Details of Britain's plan to abandon Hong Kong are contained in a file of papers from the Chiefs of Staff secretariat only recently made available through the Public Records Office.