Sai Wan War Cemetery Memorial Service by the Canadian Community on December 4, 2005
This year is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Hong Kong from Japan’s occupation. In December each year, the Canadian community in Hong Kong gathers at Sai Wan War Cemetery to hold a memorial service to pay tribute to those brave young Canadian soldiers for their sacrifices in the defence of Hong Kong.
Amongst those attending, we had Senator Hoi representing the Canadian Government, Mr. Gerry Campbell, Consul General, representatives from the Chamber, Canadian Club, CCA and CUA, many veterans representatives and associations and many others. Here is a short recount of the story relating those soldiers.
In the defence of Hong Kong, the Canadian regiments consisted of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers.
The Canadian contingent sent to Hong Kong had 1975 soldiers. They had received only minimal training.
On October 27, 1941, the Canadian soldiers set sail from Vancouver and arrived Hong Kong on November 16 and were hastily deployed in the defence of Hong Kong.
At the time, Hong Kong was a British Colony. It had no significance air or naval defence and had only 5 airplanes. Its earlier request for a fighter squadron had been rejected and no support could be offered from other RAF base.
Immediately upon the arrival, the Canadian soldiers would have only three weeks for intensive training on the island and to familiarize themselves with the difficult terrains that they had to defend.
With the sudden air attack of the USA Pacific naval base at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, the war with Japan in the pacific theatre seemed inevitable and the Japanese did, on December 8, start the invasion of Hong Kong.
The Japanese commenced their land attack on the Kowloon side and after 3 days of fierce fighting, all the defence troops withdrew to the island to begin their last ditch defence of Hong Kong. It was in this theatre where the Canadian soldiers had demonstrated their bravery in the defence of a land and a people of which they had little chance of getting to know.
The invasion of the Island came at night on December 18. Here Canadian soldiers engaged in major action and ended with significant casualties. There were 290 killed and 493 wounded.
On December 24, the Japanese overran a makeshift hospital in Hong Kong, assaulting and murdering nurses and bayoneting wounded Canadian soldiers in their beds.
On Christmas day, Hong Kong surrendered and many Canadian soldiers became prisons-of-war and they had to endure extreme hardship and conditions. Many did not survive during the three and half years of occupation.
Of the 1975 Canadians who started the journey from Vancouver, more than 550 never returned.
We, Hong Kong people, are forever indebted to every one of those soldiers, live or dead, and their families, for their sacrifices.