Gifts brought home to the Midlands by a postie turned Shanghai detective will go up for auction in Lichfield.

Albert Henry Aiers joined Shanghai Municipal Police in 1903 and worked his way up over the ensuing decades to become assistant commissioner by the time he returned to England in 1938.

Now a collection marking his career features in a sale at Richard Winterton Auctioneers on 11th December.

It includes the rare gold first edition photograph album by AH Fong, The Sino-Japanese Hostilities 1937 Shanghai, containing 200 photos of the conflict.

Fong was the main police photographer at the time and a renowned figure in Shanghai.

Other lots in the auction include a Chinese silver shield and a silver bowl bestowed as leaving gifts on Albert, who returned to Bordesley Green because his wife was sick of living in fear in “lawless” Shanghai.

Albert’s grandson Keith Franklin said: “He was a detective in the Shanghai police and was heavily involved in the investigation of opium gangs.

Keith Franklin with Albert’s passport

“It was a time when you would be walking around with a revolver – he told me the place was totally lawless.

“One of the gangs he helped take down was the notorious Central Robber Gang.

“I understand AH Fong gave him the photograph album as part of his leaving present – he was presented with trunkfuls of things to take back to England.

“But unfortunately my grandmother did not like being in Shanghai, she never really felt safe there and didn’t particularly want all these reminders.

“So when they were living in England she was paying everyday bills such as the butcher and the baker with all manner of treasures from China!”

Originally a Post Office boy, Albert joined the force aged 18 in order to get to Shanghai. His three brothers also followed in his footsteps.

Keith’s mum Glenys Franklin, who died in January 2019, was brought up in Shanghai until she was 12. Her sister was taken prisoner by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Also up for sale is a silver-headed cane which is understood to have belonged to Albert’s brother Thomas.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton said: “Albert Aiers’ story is just so utterly fascinating.

“To think of the sheer nerve of someone aged just 18 deciding to enrol in a police force in a far-flung place such as Shanghai and then to end up embroiled in dangerous investigations involving opium gangs – if it was adventure he craved then he surely received it.

The photo album gifted to Albert Aiers

“Albert must have done his job extremely well and he was clearly respected and admired by his colleagues who showered him with gifts when the time came to return to England for good after three decades’ service.

“This album of photographs by AH Fong is particularly fascinating. It really brings the past to life and gives one another insight into the world of Albert Aiers.

“The photo album is valued at £2,000 and we have given the collection as a whole a conservative estimate of around £3,500 but in reality it could fetch a far greater sum given the fascinating backstory.

“It has been a delight to make our own investigations into the history of a singular Shanghai detective.”

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