From the Black Watch to the Red Guard

Kilted soldiers arrive to stage Hong Kong's end-of-empire tour de force in

A piece of British military history will be played out next week when the Black Watch flies to Hong Kong, making it the last regiment to join the garrison.

Officially it is coming because the bureaucratic machine which runs these things has popped its name out of the computer which schedules troop movements on a rotation basis. In reality, the regiment, which also presided over the end of empire in India, is coming because Britain is still good at putting on a military show and few regiments look better on the parade ground than men in kilts.

The Black Watch will provide the backbone of two ceremonies on 30 June, the last day of colonial rule. The first will be the traditional flag- lowering. It will take place at sunset against a backdrop of Victoria Harbour, where Captain Elliot first sailed in to take possession of what a very annoyed Palmerston described as a "barren rock".

The "rock" is now filled to bursting with skyscrapers which crowd round the HMS Tamar military headquarters, where a joint military and civilian ceremony will draw to a close as "The Last Post" is blasted out for the last time. "It will be one of those 'not a dry face in the house occasions'," said Roger Goodwin, the garrison's spokesman.

Joining the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch will be the Band of the Scots Guards, the Highland Band and the Gurkha Band, all of which will have been flown in because the rundown of the garrison will have reached a stage where bodies are thin on the ground.

As midnight draws near, a much smaller guard of honour will be sent to the extension of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where they will join an equal number of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops. Before some 4,000 dignitaries, the British will lower the Union flag and the flag of the colony of Hong Kong, followed by the raising of China's flag and the new flag of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

Because Britain and China had difficulty agreeing on the handover ceremony , the small- scale military display is the result of many compromises. China initially wanted something on an even smaller scale. Britain had visions of a bigger outdoor event, albeit one which played down any suggestion of British military triumphalism.

The upshot is a slightly awkward indoor event which may well require air blasts to make sure the flags unfurl in an appropriate way.

China is keeping its powder dry for what is expected to be at least one much larger military ceremony next day. Within minutes of the Chinese flags being raised the British will have to be off the premises. The Royal Yacht Britannia will be tied up alongside the Convention Centre, allowing the Prince of Wales, the Governor, Chris Patten, and the Commander of British Forces to make a dignified exit.

They will sail out of the harbour accompanied by the Navy's three locally based patrol vessels (which are likely to be sold to the Philippines), HMS Chatham, a 22 frigate, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Percivale. The latter will have been loaded with the remnants of the military's heavy equipment, including a mobile studio for the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which will continue its broadcasts until the last day.

As for HMS Chatham, it will have been pressed into service as a sort of floating office block and command centre, so that the military headquarters can be fully vacated.

The Commander's office will have been transferred, leaving the HMS Tamar complex to the cleaners and backroom personnel whose job it is to ensure that nothing of a sensitive nature is left behind for the PLA.

Chatham and Percivale are being detached from Operation Oceanwave, a full-scale British naval exercise which will be in the area.

There has been much speculation about the timing and location of this exercise but Mr Goodwin insists that it is nothing more than "a helpful coincidence".

As Britannia makes its way to a nearby port, probably in the Philippines, the lower forms of military pond life will be hustled on to chartered aircraft at Kai Tak airport, where they will be given permission to break the midnight flight curfew and fly directly back to Britain. Precise planning for all these events has now moved into high gear, with those responsible being all too well aware of Robert Burns's strictures about "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men ..."

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits