Guess Who Did The Laundry Aboard Ships of the Royal Navy

When you think about large naval vessels carrying hundreds of crew for many weeks on the high seas, probably you never thought about how much dirty clothing and bedding needs to be washed and pressed. In addition to having batteries of guns, a battleship had to have washing machines and dryers! And who was selected to do the laundry work?

Believe it or not, but sometime in the 1950s and 1960s, ships of the Royal Navy of Great Britain going between U. K. and Hong Kong had two or more CHINESE LAUNDRYMEN! No, they were not Chinese sailors in the U.K.Navy. They were contracted labor obtained in Hong Kong, and they earned a living by charging sailors for doing their laundry!

In fact, one Chinese did laundry on a Royal Navy ship for 53 years before retiring.

After ironing more than an estimated three million shirts and surviving a bomb attack, the British Royal Navy’s longest serving Hong Kong laundryman plans to return home to retire.
Chick Shun-chui, 72, is heading to the SAR after a 53-year career in the navy, the Ministry of Defence announced this week

Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer helps farewell Shiu Hang Che in 2014.

An informative blog by Godfrey Dykes gives rich historical detail of how the Chinese laundry was created and operated on battleships.

“In approximately 1950/51 (certainly during the early part of the Korean War) the Admiralty ordered that spaces should be made available in HM Ships to be assigned and dedicated as permanent LAUNDRIES – HMS Tyne was also the Flagship for the Korean War.  Laundry machinery was designed or procured from well known manufacturers and for the first time in naval history, a laundry school was established at Devonport in HMS Drake. The whole process of washing, ironing and starching clothes which started from pragmatic experience very soon became a science and led to the appointment of the Laundry Officer. ”

On his blog post, Dykes includes copies of a detailed 20 page Laundry Manual as well as other documents describing equipment in the laundry.

From the Table of Contents, you can see that some serious thought to every detail was made.

If a Chinese had to know this much about running his on laundry on land, he would have gone into some other work! At the bottom of his post, Dykes lists these other documents.

LAUNDRY MANUAL INTRO ADMIN AND ORG.pdfWashing machines in HM Ships and Fleet Shore Barracks.pdfMaterials used in RN Laundries [Soap, bleach etc].pdfRN Laundries – The Washing Process.pdf
RN Laundries – Drying Equipments.pdfRN Laundries – Flat Ironing Machinery.pdfRN Laundries – Presses and Pressing.pdfRN Laundries – Collar and Dress Shirt Processing.pdf
RN Laundries – Racking & Packing Processed Articles.pdfRN Laundries – Decontamination of Clothing & Equipment.pdfRN Laundries – Appendix and Work Routines.pdf

in a postscript, recognition of the lack of recognition of the contribution of the Chinese laundrymen to the Royal Navy is given.


Parliament UK

Early day motion 290

Main content


  • Session: 1997-98
  • Date tabled: 23.07.1997
  • Primary sponsor: Hancock, Mike


That this House notes with concern that loyal Chinese laundry workers who have been serving the Royal Navy for decades face having to accept draconian and appalling changes to their contracts of employment; condemns the ruthless way the laundry workers have been faced with the sack unless they accept the new contracts by Guernsey Ship Management Ltd.; and notes that if dismissed the workers would have to return to communist-controlled Hong Kong with no rights to stay in the United Kingdom despite their long service.

Should I Be Flattered?

I stumbled upon a cute image related to Chinese laundries accompanied by the well-worn expression associated with the business, “no tickee, no shirtee.”

medium plaig

As I read the accompanying text, I felt a sense of familiarity, and thought, wow, this writer certainly is good!


I reread the text and suddenly I got the feeling that these views were very much like my own! I googled several sentences and discovered that indeed I had written these exact words onMarch 10, 2011 on my Chinese Laundry blog!