A recent enquiry from 5 Force Support Battalion REME led to a search for the origin of their emblem – the head of a dragon.

REME units can propose their own emblems. Often this is based on the history of the unit, which may have been inherited from preceding and constituent units. When 5 Force Support (FS) Battalion contacted us, they mentioned the possibility of having had a preceding unit in Hong Kong but could not be certain.

So we began to look into the origins from each end of the story - possible dragon 'sightings' in Hong Kong and tracing back 5 FS Battalion’s history.

Starting with Hong Kong, finding images and symbols of dragons is not an issue. A few that we found related to our investigation were:

  • A dragon on the flag of Hong Kong whilst they were a British Dependent Territory
  • A golden dragon on the cloth badge of HQ Land Forces Hong Kong
  • A dragon featured in the cap badge of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps, who worked closely with British forces including REME.

The main REME unit in Hong Kong was 50 Command Workshop, or 50 Hong Kong Workshop as it was later known. They frequently used dragons in designs of their trophies. We even have a menu where the horse in the REME cap badge printed on the front was replaced by a dragon.

Badge of HQ Land Forces Hong Kong showing dragon and menu from 50 Hong Kong Workshop with dragon replacing the horse in the REME cap badge

Golden dragon on the cloth badge of HQ Land Forces Hong Kong, A:1988.3356.2. Menu from 50 Hong Kong Workshop REME, A:2017.0023.

While this was a promising start, we found that the unit history of 50 Hong Kong Workshop only lasted until approximately 1997. All records relating to the closure of the unit refer to it as a full disbandment, rather than a move or re-designation. This means it is very unlikely that 50 Hong Kong Workshop was one of the predecessors of 5 FS Battalion.

It seemed that there was no more progress to be made with the search for the history of the dragon in Hong Kong. We turned to the other end of the story, to work backwards in 5 FS Battalion’s unit history.

When they were formed in 2013, 5 FS Battalion’s immediate predecessor was 104 Force Support Battalion. We found the emblem proposal from 104 FS Battalion, which explained the choice of a red castle as their emblem. The castle was taken from the history of 55 Off Platform Repair (OPR) Company, who were one of 104 FS Battalion’s constituent units. The proposal stated that none of the Battalion’s other units had a ‘particularly strong or traceable history’. This suggests that 104 FS Battalion could not have links to the prominent unit of 50 Hong Kong Workshop.

red castle emblem of 104 FS Battalion

The red castle emblem of 104 Force Support Battalion

Just when we thought we had no more leads to follow, we were again contacted by 5 FS Battalion, who had found a clue in an old presentation. As well as 55 OPR Company, 5 FS Battalion were also formed from 50 OPR Company.

50 OPR Company was with 101 Force Support Battalion (not 5 FS Battalion’s immediate predecessor, 104 FS Battalion). However, when 5 FS Battalion was formed there was to be only one Force Support Battalion. Since 5 FS Battalion are also now the only battalion with OPR capability, we assume they adopted both OPR units, even though the rest of 101 FS Battalion went elsewhere.

In our collection, we have a short history from 50 OPR Company explaining their formation in Germany, 2008. When it was decided to use the number 50 for the unit, they wanted to honour the heritage of 50 Hong Kong Workshop, which as we know had been disbanded in 1997. This led to 50 OPR Company adopting various parts of their heritage, including dragons!

50 OPR Company group picture

50 OPR Company at their Anniversary Parade, 3 April 2009. Photo © Crown, in accordance with Open Government License.

In short, 5 FS Battalion acquired the dragon emblem from one of their constituent units, 50 OPR Company, who were merged into the Battalion due to its OPR capabilities. The dragon originally came from 50 Hong Kong Workshop, whose significant history was honoured by 50 OPR Company as inheritors of the unit number 50.