Les Bird joined the Royal Hong Kong Police in 1976, and worked in the Marine Police for 21 years until June 1997. Originating from Staffordshire in the UK, Bird’s work was diverse – in the late 1970s he was a rural inspector of West Lantau, in the early 80s he returned to launch-going duties, overseeing the influx of tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the years that followed. During his service Les commanded three of the five Marine Divisions and also headed the SBU, the Marine Fast Pursuit Unit combating cross-border smuggling of people, arms, drugs and luxury cars.
Born in 1951, Les comes from a military family. His father, grandfather and three uncles all served in the Royal Navy, whilst his mother served as a gunner with the Royal Artillery during World War II. Les was the second from his family to serve in Hong Kong, his father was part of the British Royal Navy force that came to Hong Kong in August 1945 at the end of the Japanese military occupation and subsequently helped in the policing of the territory throughout 1946.
After leaving the police in 1997, Les moved into the private sector, working in the security industry across Asia. He is an endurance athlete, and has taken part in Ironman events and long-distance triathlons worldwide. He represented Great Britain at the 2009 Ironman World Championship. In 2011 he swam the English Channel and in 2012 summited Mont Blanc.
Les has been invited to speak about his two books at a variety of institutions, including the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Asiatic Society, the Nautical Institute and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. In 2020 he spoke to a sold-out audience at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival about his memoir ‘A Small Band of Men: An Englishman’s Adventures in Hong Kong’s Marine Police.’ And at the 2021 Festival, again to a full house, he presented photographs and stories from his second book ‘Along the Southern Boundary: A Marine Police Officer’s Frontline Account of the Vietnamese Boatpeople and their Arrival in Hong Kong.’ Photographs from his second book were included in exhibitions at the Chinese University in Hong Kong (2021) and at the Wende Museum in Los Angeles (2023).
Les is the chairman of Asia’s Rhinos Rugby Football Club. He resides in Hong Kong and is married with two daughters.