In the fall of
1941, nearly 2,000 Canadian soldiers and support staff were sent to Hong Kong. The
British government had requested Canada’s
assistance in fending off the
anticipated attack of the city by Japan’s
Imperial Army. Many of the soldiers had received little training, and they arrived in Hong Kong
woefully short of appropriate supplies and arms to fight effectively.
the Japanese attacked on December 8,
1941 the Canadians fought with
valour. Including the
Canadians, the total defensive force
numbered about 14,000. The Imperial
Japanese Army attacked with a force of about 50,000 - all
well-trained and equipped. The fierce
battle lasted 18 days, during which nearly 300 Canadians were killed. The Canadians did not surrender; they
were ordered by the Governor of Hong
Kong to lay down arms when it was apparent that there
was no hope of successfully repelling the
overwhelming number of Japanese soldiers.
The survivors of the
battle were taken prisoner and marched to POW camps on the
island of Hong
Kong and on the
mainland in Kowloon. The brutal treatment of the POWs began here and continued throughout the remainder of the
war: over 3 ½ years of beatings,
starvation, inadequate shelter, lack of medication and labouring as slaves
under the worst imaginable
conditions. Many of the Canadian POWs were shipped to Japan during
1943 and early 1944 and were used to mine coal, load ships, work in shipyards
and other slave labour. The brutality exhibited by their captors in Hong Kong continued unabated in Japan.
In all, nearly 300 Canadians died in the
The soldiers who died in Hong Kong were buried in Sai Wan
and Stanley War
Cemeteries in Hong
Kong. Those who died in the camps in Japan
were buried at Yokohama
survivors returned home in September, 1945 many were suffering from diseases and
medical conditions caused by their
hellish treatment. It took many years
government to recognize the unique
nature of their captivity and its
effects and to provide suitable care and compensation.
Today fewer than 35 survive.
For many years it has been a tradition that Veterans and their families visit Hong Kong and Japan every 5 years to commemorate the sacrifices made by these brave Canadians. It will not be acceptable to let the memory die with the last of the Veterans.
This December you are invited to join a group who will be travelling to Hong Kong and (optionally) Japan to see where the battle took place and to commemorate those who fell during the battle and in the POW camps.