Weary Portsmouth sailors found peace and tombola in China Fleet Club

The China Fleet Club, Hong Kong
The China Fleet Club, Hong Kong

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During respites in the bitterly fought wars of the last century many Royal Navy personnel made the most of whatever down time they had and in the seas around China they could do so in style.

Here is a photograph of one of the most iconic buildings ever to be visited by members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

It is the China Fleet Club in Hong Kong.

Is there any long-serving ex-matelot in the city who didn’t visit the club at least once and play the forever popular tombola?

Owing to the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese government which would take place in 1997, the club closed its doors in 1992 almost 90 years after it opened.

The China Fleet club first opened for business in 1903 as the Naval Canteen with a new building opening up in 1929.

In 1941 the Japanese – having taken Hong Kong – made use of the building but the club was reopened again after the end of the war.

It was used as a place of rest during the Korean War in the early 1950s and then again, by the Americans, when the Vietnam war was at its height in the 1960s.

A new building for the club came into use in 1980 with little expense spared and became one of the most iconic buildings on the crowded island.

In 1987 came the dramatic news that Britain would hand back Hong Kong to the Chinese Government 10 years later and so it wasn’t long before the club had to close its doors.

Knowing what was coming, the final game of tombola was played on November 30, 1992, which marked the end of nearly a century of looking after the wellbeing and entertainment of sailors and Royal Marines.

However, with good funds the money was used to build a club back in the UK and the China Fleet Country Club was born in the west country on the banks of the River Tamar just across from the famous railway bridge.

Do you have any memories of the famous servicemen’s club? Were you ever lucky enough to win a prize on the tombola? Any memories you have would be appreciated.