How a drunken hijack and hostage stand-off ended the careers of two British soldiers in 1980s Hong Kong

  • Two soldiers hijacked three vehicles and took a pair of police officers hostage at Kai Tak airport
  • The 20-year-olds landed themselves in prison for their drunken shenanigans

 “Hijacks, hostages, shots … surrender,” ran a South China Morning Post headline on November 2, 1983. “A hostage crisis that apparently began as a joke ended peacefully yesterday morning when two British soldiers who had gone on the rampage through Hongkong surrendered to police at Kai Tak airport,” the story continued.

“It all began at about 2am, when the two off-duty soldiers stationed at Man Kam To on the border commandeered an Army Land Rover and seized an automatic rifle and ammunition.”

They drove to Wan Chai, where they reportedly “stopped for drinks” before the Land Rover was spotted by the police and a chase ensued. The soldiers abandoned the vehicle in Tin Hau, fired a number of shots and hijacked a truck, taking its driver host­age. The driver was released in Wan Chai, where the men took control of a private car “and drove through the cross-harbour tunnel – stopping to pay the $5 toll on the way”.

“Still carrying the rifle, the two soldiers drove straight to the airport, arriving at the departure hall at about 6.25am,” where they took two policemen hostage, stealing their revolvers and ammunition. They entered a restricted area, where 12 airport security staff were ordered to lie on the ground and additional shots were fired.

Airport police officers “immediately set about establishing a dialogue with the pair, who turned out to be willing to talk”. The soldiers made no demands “other than for food and cigarettes” and by 7.45am they had released their hostages and surrendered.

“We were told that the whole incident started off in the early morning as a dare or a joke, a bet if you like,” one of the officers who persuaded the pair to give themselves up told the Post. “It was apparent that the two soldiers had been drinking,” he said

The soldiers, William Downs, 22, and Malcolm Chambers, 20, were sentenced to four years and three years, respectively, and immediately dismissed from the army



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