Hebe Jebes Issue Sep to Oct 2013 Sep 2013 - Page 49

3 4 5 Opposite: 1) Members of the East River Detachment with Donald Chan—Admiral Chan Chak’s son. 2) Stone originally marking Hiram’s Highway. Note the 42 RM CDO—42 Royal Marine Commando on the side. This page: 3) Inspector Chris Potts RHKP, 4) General Ritchie presenting the banner and monetary rewards as thanks to the people of Sai Kung in 1947 and 5) A replica of the Golden Pennant. Highway. What has happened to it I do not yet know but I soon will. I also knew that the lieutenant that was in charge of the road’s construction earned the nickname ‘Hiram’ because of his love of the American brand of sausages made by Hiram K. Potts. Even Sir Denis Bray, in his book Hong Kong Metamorphosis named him incorrectly as Hiram Potts, but had correctly recorded the fact that he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Commandos. This is how Bray described his time as a District Officer: “The district had no major towns and only two roads. One was a good two-lane pre-war road down the length of the Clear Water Bay peninsula to a gun emplacement for the defence of the eastern approaches to Hong Kong. In early postwar years, a permit was required for access to this road as nearly the whole length of it was used as an ammunition store, the munitions being stored in little huts at intervals on alternate sides of the road. The main road to Sai Kung town was a jeep track rejoicing in the name of Hiram’s Highway. It was built by the army in the very early postwar years as a reward for the resistance by the Sai Kung people during the Japanese occupation. The road derives its name from the Commando Lieutenant, Hiram Potts, who was in charge of its building in the early postwar days. He and his commandos laboured alongside people of the district to construct a perilous jeep track down from the Clear Water Bay Road. Traffic could only move one way and, if you missed the timing, you had to wait for ty minutes for the next window of oppor tunity. The widened road was only opened for two-way traffic just before Chinese New Year in 1960.” Lieutenant John Wynne Potts of 42 Royal Commando had a good war raiding the Japanese in coastal Burma. He arrived in Hong Kong with Admiral Harcour t’s liberation fleet. Due to the war a lot of American food was shipped into England, and amongst the food supplied to the Commandos was Hiram K. Potts’ tinned sausages, and he loved them. The English love a nickname so Mr John Wynne Potts acquired the nickname of Hiram. Sai Kung, prior to the war, had always been remote and difficult to get to—one of the reasons the Japanese found it difficult to control.The only way in was by a footpath or a boat. So with military logic, a Marine Commando—with an engineering background limited to digging trenches in India and gun emplacements on the Orkney Islands in Scotland—now had the task of constructing a road, to live up to the Marine motto per mare per terram— by land and sea. With his company of eighty Marines as well as Japanese and Korean POWs he set to building the road. A visiting officer seeing him at work made a sign saying Hiram’s Highway and the name stuck. This was replaced later with a concrete block formalising its name as Hiram’s Highway. Potts stayed in the Marines for 36 years, retiring in 1978, also seeing action in Cyprus and Malaya. His son was an inspector in the Hong Kong Police Force and posed by the stone. By this time (1949) Potts had transferred from 42 Commando to 40 Commando and was still in Hong Kong. At a full dress parade, upon receiving the order, ‘Officers draw swords’ Potts drew and presented his, but it was broken. He had been in a light hear ted—drunken—sword fight with a fellow officer the night before and his sword had an accident. He completed the whole parade with only half a sword. As one can see from his military records, he stayed in the Royal Marines for some time, retiring finally in 1978. He was only promoted to Honorary Major on his retirement. He died in 2009 in Chichester. My thanks to Colin Aitchison and the following websites as valuable sources of information when researching this article: www.unithistories.com, www.militaryforums.co.uk, and www.rm-badges.com September/october 2013 47