November 14, 2017 – Cameron Cathcart, Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association

Cameron Cathcart served as a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery before choosing a broadcasting career. He worked with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for 30 years, much of the time as a Parliamentary reporter in Ottawa and foreign correspondent in Washington, D.C.  Broadcasting has given him the opportunity to travel the world, including war zones. This has given Mr. Cathcart a deeper appreciation of the contribution and sacrifice of Canada’s Veterans. He has organized numerous events to honour Veterans and current serving members.  Mr. Cathcart is the principal organizer and Master of Ceremonies for Vancouver’s annual Remembrance Day Service. He is an active member of the British Columbia Regiment Association as well as a member of The Royal United Services Institute Committee, which oversees the development of Honour House – a hostel for family members visiting Armed Forces personnel undergoing medical treatment in Vancouver. Mr. Cathcart also volunteers his time to assist  in the planning committee for The Royal Canadian Navy’s 100th Anniversary in 2010 and for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in 2014. His extensive experience in broadcasting and knowledge of media procedures has helped ensure Veterans issues and concerns are brought to the forefront of public attention.

Transcription of Cameron’s Talk

I just want to remind everyone that last year 2016 was, in fact, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong and to some extent it is still a forgotten engagement here in Canada. However, we did try to make amends for that to some extent last year. The bravery and resilience of all these young men who were essentially untrained and unprepared. I will also explain my personal connection to the Battle of Hong Kong as well. This is the modern Hong Kong and anyone who has travelled there will know that it keeps growing. I think more than 8 million people live there now. A dramatic change, of course, in the past 75 years and as Hugh has mentioned Britain handed over its former colony to China in 1997. In sharp contrast to today’s skyline here is what it looked like in the early to late ‘30s. As we know it was acquired by Britain after the Opium War in 1841. As it turned out, 1941 was the 100th anniversary of the crown colony.

In the late 1930’s Hong Kong was an important trading and military outpost, centre of the British Empire’s universe in Asia. In 1941 its population numbered over one and half million, half of those people, I was told, were recent refugees from mainland China, who had escaped the Japanese Army. As you recall, they invaded China in 1936. The colony extended from the island of Hong Kong north that included Kowloon, then into the New Territories to the border with China. That’s very important in the events that will occur fairly soon.

Leading up into World War II there was a dismissive attitude among the Western powers, especially the British, about Japan’s fighting capability. As a result, Hong Kong’s defences were weak by military standards, any military standard. Interestingly enough the intelligence was virtually non-existent. This is all surprising because as I just mentioned Japan had invaded China in 1936 and up to 30,000 troops were sitting across the border waiting to attack. In a word, the situation was dire.

Like Singapore the situation with regards to defence was very critical. These men, by the way, are on the so-called Gin Drinkers Line which occurred just below the territorial border with China. As referenced by Hugh this is the Singapore relationship. The coastal defences, like Singapore, pointed the wrong way toward the South China Sea. They weren’t pointed north. As referenced by Hugh Chaun, Japanese spies had been busy too, sending information on targets and critical infrastructure to the Japanese army. When the military chiefs suggested to Winston Churchill that Hong Kong defence should be beefed up in the summer of 1941 Churchill predicted that if Japan decided to invade the colony the defenders would not have the slightest chance. That now famous remark was prescient. Britain was focused on its own survival, as German bombs hammered the old country. The defence of far-away Hong Kong at the edge of the Empire was simply no longer a priority.

In time, however, Churchill did change his mind, when assured by his military chiefs that a Canadian force was ready to step up to help the colony survive. And here he is with William Lyon Mackenzie King. There was mounting public pressure here in Canada on the prime minister, his cabinet and government to get into the war to support Britain. So when Britain asked for it, Harry Crerar, the Canadian who was then chief of general staff, of the Canadian army, easily convinced King and his Cabinet that Canada could and should help in the defence of Hong Kong. So without approval of Parliament, the fateful decision to send two Canadian regiments to Hong Kong was taken in September, 1941. As we now know, they were being sent to a deathtrap.

The Royal Rifles of Canada from Quebec City, were stationed in Newfoundland at that time, on guard duty, protecting the British colony. Keep in mind that Newfoundland didn’t join Canada until 1949. They had some rudimentary training and acquired a Newfoundland dog as their mascot. Sadly, that dog, which they named Sgt Gander, became a casualty during the first days of Battle of Hong Kong by biting into an enemy hand grenade. The Winnipeg Grenadiers had been sent to tropical Jamaica to help protect that island. They marched, enjoyed the weather and local beer, but did very little actual training. These two regiments now formed “C” Force – a designation that meant troops were “not ready” for battle. That categorization had an ominous tone.

With news that Canadian troops had been sent to defend Hong Kong, newspapers took a jingoistic stance, showing how mighty Canada would intimidate the Japanese army, as this cartoon shows.

As we know, it didn’t turn out that way. As usual in time of war, the troops had no idea where they were going. Eventually close to 2,000 Canadian soldiers and two nurses left Vancouver on October 27, 1941. Most were aboard the Awatea, a New Zealand ocean liner, now a troopship, seen here passing under Lions Gate Bridge. Smaller numbers left aboard HMCS Prince Robert, one of three converted Canadian National passenger ships used on the BC coast, and taken over by the Royal Canadian Navy at the outbreak of war in 1939. They look like good ships and we’re told that if you got out into the blue water they rolled nicely. Something like the BC Ferries I imagine.

The Canadians arrived in Hong Kong on November 16, 1941. They were wearing tropicals, they quickly began much needed basic training. This is the third ship. It’s called the San Jose. It was supposed to leave Vancouver at the same time as the Awatea but in fact it didn’t leave until November 6. It was a very slow moving ship. All of this was the result of bureaucratic blunders in Ottawa. The San Jose was loaded with 212 military vehicles, guns, along with artillery pieces, heavy machine guns, munitions and stores. But the ship never reached Hong Kong. It was diverted to Manila, arriving there on December 12 – five days after the Battle of Hong Kong actually began. The vital Canadian supplies ended up with the US Army, who had just started fighting the Japanese in the Philippines.

When our boys did get to Hong Kong, eventually, they received a warm welcome marching through Hong Kong to salutes from British military, civilian officials and crowds of curious onlookers. After settling in at the North Point Barracks, it became a steady, day-long training routine. The Canadians also took up defensive positions in mountainous terrain on the island of Hong Kong. There was a lot of marching too, as Winnipeg Grenadier Tom Forsyth wrote in his diary:

“We had a gruelling session of drill under the lashing tongue of a Lieutenant. Went to a movie after and saw a show called ‘The Long Voyage Home’.”

How ironic that was.

British Major General Christopher Maltby, on the left, was the overall commander of 14,000 troops defending the colony, consisting mainly of British and Indian regiments, a Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force and now, 2,000 Canadians. In this picture before the battle, Maltby is likely discussing strategy with Brigadier John Lawson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and commander of “C” Force. Maltby was described as a haughty “Colonel Blimp” type and dismissive of Japanese troops. In fact, he claimed they were badly equipped, had bad eyesight and they couldn’t fight at night. They very shortly proved him wrong.

The dam burst at 3:30, on the morning of December 8. We talked about the border, this is where they were sitting earlier, and look at that they came in very quickly. Three separate regiments, 228, 229 and 230, came right up against Gin Drinkers Line which was defended by the Royal Scots, the Punjab and Rajput regiments. These boys didn’t last too long, the Japanese moved in very quickly. Diaries show that there was some demoralization among the Royal Scots as well as questionable leadership. The Indian regiments fought quite well but they were all backed up and pushed down. Invading the British colony were three crack regiments of the Japanese army, pouring into the New Territories like a tsunami, overtaking the Gin Drinkers Line, driving the Royal Scots and the Punjab and Rajputs back to Hong Kong Island. So the fate of the colony was sealed at that point.

Ordered by Emperor Hirohito himself, the Japanese Empire had launched all-out war against the western powers in Southeast Asia with coordinated attacks on the same day on Malaya, the Philippines, Guam and Pearl Harbor which, because of the International Date Line, had been attacked earlier on December 7. As the Japanese moved south, Kowloon was the first to fall. Here crowds are listening to the invaders from loudspeakers. The enemy wasn’t kind to these people, a forerunner of atrocities at Stanley, on Hong Kong Island toward the end of the engagement.

Like Hugh Chaun, our former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, then Adrienne Poy, was a young child in Kowloon at this time. Luckily for them the Poy family escaped to England, then to Canada, where they began a new life.

At dusk on December 18 the Japanese army crossed the harbour from Kowloon and attacked with four separate assaults, including Lyemun Fort. This is where Hugh Chaun’s relatives were killed while courageously defending the colony.

Here again is Tom Forsyth writing in his diary:

“We are at war with Japan. After breakfast the siren started to wail. Our old parade square bombed; some Chinese killed and several Rifles wounded.”

The Japanese army began its invasion of Hong Kong Island soon after two demands for surrender that were rejected by the British Governor. This resulted in the island and Kai Tak airfield being bombed, and targets hit with heavy artillery from Kowloon. Once ashore the invaders knocked out critical infrastructure like the power plant, and quickly advanced up the mountain valleys.

Having invaded China in 1936 the Japanese army was a tough and experienced fighting force, determined to oust western colonial powers from Asia. They were well equipped, compared to the defenders. By hauling artillery up the mountainside, they succeeded in taking the high ground. From Jardines Lookout the Japanese overlooked Wong Chong Gap, a critical pass splitting the island. The north-south road runs through the gap, from right to left across this picture. While tough fighters, Japanese troops encountered very heavy resistance from the Winnipeg Grenadiers, who inflicted severe casualties on the enemy. In fact their actions delayed the Japanese push to the south by at least three days. Incensed by these heavy losses at the hands of the tough Canadians, after the surrender, the Japanese took deadly reprisals on both the Grenadiers and Rifles who had survived. With a sense of foreboding, Winnipeg Grenadier Tom Forsyth again turns to his diary:

“I cannot bring myself to write what happened between the 18th and the 25th. All I can say is I saw too many brave men die, some were my best friends and died beside me.”

As this Canadian Army map shows, the Japanese moved very fast and took over half the island by December 19 and 20. Their strategy was to split Hong Kong in two, dividing the defenders and driving the remaining defenders south, toward the sea. December 19 was a fateful day for the Grenadiers. That morning the Japanese threw hand grenades into “A” Company’s position. Most were tossed back by this man – Sgt Major John Osborn. But he missed one and to save his men, threw himself on the grenade. Osborn was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his courageous act, the only VC awarded in the Battle of Hong Kong. The Osborn Barracks in Winnipeg was named in his honour.

When I was visiting Hong Kong not too long ago there was a lovely little statue at the foot of the public park and it’s a statue of Mr. Osborn. I asked someone and it turns out that statue was installed by the people of Hong Kong in recognition of his bravery. A nice touch.

Late that same morning the Japanese attacked Brigadier John Lawson’s headquarters. He decided to withdraw. But it was too late. Surrounded, Lawson and his staff decided to fight it out and emerged from their bunker, guns blazing. Moments later Lawson was cut down by a Japanese machine gun, the highest ranking Canadian officer to die in World War Two. He is buried at the Sai Wan Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Hong Kong.

The Japanese strategy to split Hong Kong Island was really working. By December 22, the Rifles, Grenadiers and the British Middlesex Regiment were running out of ammunition, water and food. Two days later the Japanese made further gains against the East and West brigades and on Christmas Day overran the last allied positions on the southern Stanley peninsula. The white flag was hoisted and on the afternoon of Christmas Day, December 25th, Governor Sir Mark Young surrendered the colony.

General Maltby, surrounded by top Japanese army brass is seen here signing the surrender paper.

Here again is Tom Forsyth:

“When we heard of the surrender men broke down and cried asking, “surrender now, after all the good men we’ve lost?” Stunned, dazed, apathetic. I never dreamed it could happen.”

On the face of it, the takeover of Hong Kong by the Japanese was an orderly, but costly, exercise. Here, the victors proudly ride through the downtown business area on horseback. That same day at Stanley, the last section defended by the Canadians, atrocities were carried out by other Japanese troops.

They overran a hospital, bayoneting doctors, and the wounded Canadians still in their beds. Nurses were raped and murdered.

Defending Hong Kong was a total disaster with all defenders killed, wounded or captured. The tide had now turned and the Canadians were back at their old North Point Hong barracks, but now as prisoners of the Japanese. This photo of North Point was taken just after the war, because picture taking by POW’s was strictly forbidden on pain of death or torture. That rule didn’t stop the artistic talents of some Canadian POW’s however. This smuggled drawing is that of the notorious Sham Shui Po camp in Kowloon. I have an association and connection, I suppose, with a few Royal Rifles of Canada soldiers who became Prisoners of War. One was Marius Boutin, a 23-year-old next door family neighbour of ours in Breakeyville, a town not far from Quebec City. Marius died from the effects of dysentery after months of hardship and malnutrition in Sham Shui Po. My mother felt his death deeply. This is his headstone at Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong.

This is Argyle Street POW camp shown in another ‘secret’ drawing. If caught, the punishment for this artist would be severe. Cruelty by the guards and their superiors against the POW’s was normal. Typical of the debilitating physical conditions of the men who survived the terrible camps is this photo, taken the day after they were liberated.

My further connection to the Battle of Hong Kong is through a close relative, Ian Breakey who was a lieutenant in the Rifles. He was from that small paper town near Quebec City I mentioned earlier called, interestingly enough, Breakeyville. I was born there and our family lived there when I was a child. Ian Breakey was a lieutenant in the Royal Rifles of Canada. After the loss of Hong Kong everyone wondered if he would still be alive. He was. But no one knew until this telegram confirmed he was a Prisoner of War, sent to his wife in October 1942, 10 months after his capture.

Letters, or notes, were exchanged but at a very slow pace. This brief note from his wife, Hazel, tells about his family and winter driving conditions. It’s dated March 1944. Ian replied right away, but again it didn’t reach Hazel until 10 months later. Each was printed in bold letters with minimal information, likely to comply with censor regulations. His son Alan Breakey, says that his father Ian was deaf in one ear for the rest of his life after spending nearly four years as a POW in Hong Kong. But, he also said his father felt lucky to return in fairly good health. He went to Hong Kong at 32, and died at the age of 83, surviving just over 50 years. Not so fortunate was Sgt John Payne of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. He and three others decided to escape to China from the North Point Camp. Full of realistic hope, Payne sent this poignant letter to his Mother at home in St Vital, Manitoba the night before he escaped.

August 19, 1942 North Point Cam.

Dear Mother,

I have decided, either fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, to take a chance on getting through to Chunking. I’ve investigated as much as possible and feel sure we stand a jolly good chance of getting there. There are numerous reasons for this step, the chief being that the cholera season and fly season is startin; dysentery and Beri Beri are high in camp. And anyway, I am really sick of Japanese hospitality. You share, I know, my own views on fatalism so for that reason, I know you won’t condemn my judgment. Just in case I shouldn’t make it you must remember that according to our beliefs I have departed for a much nicer place, I hope. Although it will grieve me to exchange my guitar for a harp even though there’s a higher percentage of gold in the latter. But that’s enough of this drivel. I’ll be able to destroy this note myself I’m sure. So bye-bye for now.

Your devoted son, John.

P.S. best regards to Di and Joanna [his sisters]. Tell them to join the air force in the next war.

Sgt Payne and his comrades were soon caught and next morning all four were beheaded by a Japanese officer in front of his fellow prisoners. Ken Cambon was a survivor and like all fellow POWs he was put to work. Along with most of the lower ranks, NCOs and some officers, he was sent to Japan to dig coal or work in shipyards. Without proper food they suffered dysentery, beriberi and diphtheria. Many went blind.

 

As a matter of fact there is one surviving Hong Kong veteran in Victoria. He is 96-years-old and he is blind. The Red Cross above Ken’s heart indicates he was a medical orderly in the camp. In his book, Guest of Hirohito, Cambon reveals that when he was sent to Niigata in Japan, he realized he would not live long, because of his slight build and lack of nutrition. As it turned out Ken Cambon didn’t work the coal mines because he somehow convinced the Japanese commandant that he was a medical student. As such he would care for any sick Prisoners of War in the camp but the reality was that he wasn’t a medical student at all but the ruse worked and he survived. This post war photo shows a repatriated Ken, happily welcomed home by his grateful family in Quebec City. Ironically Ken Cambon later did study medicine at McGill University. He became a doctor, practiced here in Vancouver for many years and became professor emeritus at the University of BC. Ken Cambon died at the age of 84.

After the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan they surrendered on August 15, 1945. Fifteen days later this man – Lt Commander William Lore – led the first contingent of armed sailors into the notorious Sham Shui Po Camp to liberate Canadian, British and Hong Kong POWs. Years later he recalled what happened next ..

“I went into the first building I came to and it was very dark. There were about 40 men in there, Canadians, sitting at tables and so forth. I said, ‘Hi you guys, don’t you want to see a Canadian?’

They ran forward and saw my cap badge. Then they cried and weren’t ashamed of crying. And finally, I cried too because they were telling me what they had suffered.”

Lore was born in Victoria and because he was Chinese could not join the navy. However by 1943 he succeeded in doing so and later as a Lt Commander, became the highest ranking Chinese-Canadian in the RCN at the time. Later, William Lore studied law at Oxford and set up a practice in Hong Kong, where he died in 2012 at the age of 103.

As the surrender proceeded Japanese officers in the POW camps handed over their swords to the armed liberators; now they were captives themselves. Ironically, HMCS Prince Robert, which had delivered the troops to Hong Kong in 1941, returned to pick up the liberated Canadian POWs in 1945. The captain of Prince Robert, Commander Day, is seen here surrounded by happy Canadians on their first day of freedom and anxious to get home. It wasn’t long before they got their wish as HMCS Prince Robert arrived off the BC coast dropping off survivors at Esquimalt.

Next stop for the Prince Robert was Vancouver, seen here as she passed under Lions Gate Bridge into Burrard Inlet. The surviving Grenadiers, Rifles and numerous other army units, were back on Canadian soil. While the happy survivors left Hong Kong and the POW camps behind, most of their fallen comrades would forever rest at the beautiful Sai Wan Commonwealth War Cemetery, on the mountainside above Hong Kong or at the smaller cemetery in Stanley. There are about 25 Canadians buried there. Many of the nurses who were killed in that barracks at the end of that war are buried in there as well. It’s a lovely cemetery and if you are ever in Hong Kong you must visit that one as well. When my wife and I visited the Sai Wan cemetery a few years ago, I placed a pebble on the headstone of Marius Boutin, my parent’s friendly young neighbour. I did the same at Brigadier Lawson’s headstone.

In the colony, and less than four years after they invaded Hong Kong, the tables had now turned on the Japanese. Here, the enemy commander is signing Japan’s surrender, carefully watched by a wary soldier armed with a machine gun. Note that two of the officers are still holding tightly to their Samurai swords. Japanese prison commanders and guards suspected of war crimes were rounded up. This included Kanao Inouye, nicknamed the “Kamloops Kid” by the Canadian prisoners of war. He was called that because he was born in Kamloops, went to school in Vancouver then university in Japan. He joined the Japanese Army in 1942. Speaking perfect English Inouye he would become a valuable asset for the Japanese. Kanao Inouye claimed that he was persecuted while growing up in BC. This, of course, was very likely in BC during the 1920s and 1930s. So, Inouye took revenge on the Canadians now under his control by torturing and beating dozens of the POWs. Two years after the war ended, Inouye – the Kamloops Kid – was tried and hanged in Hong Kong for 22 proven war crimes.
This image of newly liberated Canadians from a concentration camp, is seared in the memory of those who survived and their loved ones at home. Today there are only 14 survivors of the Battle of Hong Kong still alive. In the West, there is one man in Victoria, who is 97, and one in Winnipeg. The remainder live in eastern Canada.

About 290 Canadians were killed in the battle of Hong Kong and close to 270 died as POW’s. No fewer than 96 decorations were awarded to Canadian soldiers including one Victoria Cross. As author Nathan Greenfield has written, Hong Kong veterans fought a third battle, this time with their own government. They wanted restitution. It wasn’t until 1998 that Ottawa agreed to pay $24,000 to each living Hong Kong veteran or surviving spouse, for their forced labour under inhumane conditions endured as Japanese POWs. Then in 2011 the Japanese government formally apologized with this quote:

“The tremendous damage and pain to Canadian former POW’s who have undergone tragic experiences in the camps both in Japan and Hong Kong”

Two years earlier in 2009, a Memorial wall was dedicated in Ottawa, the unveiling witnessed by Hong Kong survivors, their families and friends. It acknowledges all the Canadians who took part in the Battle of Hong Kong and its aftermath. The top of the wall, as you can see, is a dramatic reminder of the mountainous island they were sent to defend.

As I conclude here are the titles of books from which I developed some of my research. An excellent overview is found in The Damned, while Mobilize provides insights into why Canada was unprepared for World War Two.

I very much appreciate your interest in this forgotten, tragic chapter in Canadian military and political history. When you are in Hong Kong next, and I know that many of you probably do visit, be sure to visit the peaceful Sai Wan Cemetery and the nearby Stanley Cemetery. While there take time to reflect on the sacrifices of our young, brave Canadians long ago who “didn’t have the slightest chance”.

Questions & Answers

  1. In your research, were you able to uncover any reaction in Britain to what they had done to set us up and to have watched the slaughter?

    A. I think the short answer is no. I found nothing. I may have been lax in my research but I suspect the war journals of, say, the Middlesex Regiment or the Royal Scots may refer to it.  But if it is being referred to, I think it’s of minimal interest. Until people in Canada started trying to remind our fellow citizens of what happened in Dieppe in 1942, which is also another tragic and unprepared catastrophe, often these things were not discussed or thought of. It’s like the Kiska Campaign up in the Aleutian Islands. Who knew about that? That’s a forgotten war. The engagement in Hong Kong was a forgotten conflict and the same is true to an extent for the Korean War.
  2. What’s the military speculation on whether the third ship that was delayed by bureaucracy. If that had arrived with the troops in the first place would it have made any difference?
  3. It probably would have extended the time. The Japanese were very well equipped which was part of the problem with the lack of British intelligence. There they were sitting just across the border. I think it may have helped but I doubt very much that it would have made a difference in the final analysis. I think perhaps the battle might have been extended three or five days perhaps. Especially with artillery, they could have engaged with Japan more vigorously in that sense because all they had was small arms. Insofar as the ship is concerned, I think that was just a bureaucratic cock up. Keep in mind this was a rushed job. All of a sudden Mackenzie King and his cabinet said, “my God, we have to get someone over there, we have to help the Brits and make sure we are addressing the concerns of our public.” Don’t forget it’s a political decision as well and I think all this last-minute decision-making perpetrated this bureaucratic blundering. If they had decided a year or six months before they would have been much better equipped. That ship was an American charter and as far as the Americans were concerned I think it was just a decision that was made.
  4. You mentioned bombing. Was there a Japanese air base?

    A. There was in China but the Japanese had up to 30 attack planes and they knocked out Kai Tak Airport in about 10 minutes. The British had three aircraft sitting on the runway and all of them were destroyed in about three minutes. There was no air defence as such.
  5. How outnumbered were they?
  6. The estimate is that the Japanese had 30,000 and about half of them, 14-15,000, were defenders. These were hardened troops. They had taken over most of China by this time and they were determined, it’s as simple as that.
  7. What happened to the East Indian regiments?
  8. The Rajput and Punjab regiments did an extremely good job there, as best as they could, but they too were not that well equipped. The Scots, Punjabs, Rajuput and Middlesex had machine guns but they didn’t have any real heavy equipment. They did well but a lot of them were killed. If you go to the Sai Wan War Cemetery today you will see their names just spread all across the wall.
  9. In many battles, there is a search for reinforcements. Did our Canadian and British soldiers think that their help was going to come from somewhere? What was their expectation?

    A. The answer is no. I think Churchill made it very clear when he said they didn’t have the slightest chance. There were no plans for evacuation or reinforcement. So nearly 2,000 of our boys were out there on their own and that’s been revealed over and over again.
  10. Did the British or the Americans learn anything from the Battle of Hong Kong?
  11. I don’t know. It’s hard to say whether they learned anything. By the time the engagement was done, everyone else was moving on. If they had learned anything, Dieppe probably wouldn’t have occurred. It’s my suspicion that they learned nothing. At Dieppe, intelligence was very bad. They didn’t do any intelligence about the type of beach they had. They had tanks coming up these beaches. They could get off the landing barges but they couldn’t get any further because they got ground up in the beach. I don’t think the Americans paid any attention, it was a sideshow as far as they were concerned and I think the British felt the same way. It was a symbolic colony that could be given up for whatever time it took for the war to be won.
  12. What happened to the Canadian prisoners of war?
  13. Eventually those who survived – about 270 did not survive – they came back to Canada right after the surrender and Canadians didn’t pay them much attention generally speaking. Their families obviously looked after them and the government kind of hoped they would go away. There was a Royal Commission called the Duff Royal Commission and it was considered to be a whitewash. Nobody was ever to blame for what happened. The decision to send them there, the unpreparedness, the lack of training, the lack of equipment, the lack of strategy. I think the Duff Commission which took place about a year or two later because of certain agitations. The Conservative and CCF opposition of the day were very adamant about getting the answers and that’s what happened but it produced a report which didn’t blame anybody and today it’s considered to be a whitewash.
  14. Were there any Canadian civilians in Hong Kong at that time?
  15. There were some apparently but I doubt they would have been involved except perhaps in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force. I mentioned the Poy family early on. They were able to get away to London but they did so via Africa interestingly enough. They spent a year or two in London and I think they came to Canada just after the war. Adrienne Clarkson’s sister became a senator and her older brother became a doctor. All of them are still alive.
  16. I think in Adrienne Clarkson’s biography she mentions that one morning or sometime during the day, the Japanese just came to their door and told them they had 24 hours to pack their bags and they really had no idea where they were going.
  17. I knew Adrienne. She and I worked at the CBC at the same time and I remember her telling me that she hid in the basement of her house in Kowloon for days and then the Japanese approached.
  18. There were a lot of young women who were terrified of the Japanese arriving and raping. Quite a few of my younger female cousins went with an uncle and escaped to so-called free China and then I think my uncle developed a farm there and managed to keep them busy with their vegetables and so on. A lot of people did that kind of thing.
  19. They took the initiative and they left.
  20. When did the Japanese offer their surrender?
  21. There were two offers of surrender. I think it was obvious to the Japanese that they were going to take it over. The offers were rejected by the colony’s governor, Mark Young.
  22. Japan apologized to the Government of Canada as well as the Canadian survivors of the Hong Kong engagement in 2011 but not the Chinese. Why?
  23. Some of the surviving Canadians were not satisfied with that. They felt it was too vague and too generalized but at least they got some form of apology. As far as the Chinese are concerned, I do know that they have never apologized to China for the invasion and the Rape of Nanking. That is one of the overriding issues today. As you well know, there is a fair amount of tension between China and Japan about two islands claimed by both country. This is a manifestation of ongoing problems including Japan’s failure to apologize. It’s up to the Chinese to deal with that.
  24. Why did the governor not accept the terms of surrender?
  25. It was a British colony, and outpost of the empire in Asia and it had to do with the dismissive attitude about the abilities of the Japanese army. It may have been that, I’m not sure, but I find it surprising that they would never have done that. On the other hand, the surrender would have had to be negotiated but I have no idea what the Japanese had in mind if the British colony had accepted it. Maybe the governor felt that it was better not to because the fight was with the combatants as opposed to the civilians and maybe he was concerned about the future of the civilians who lived in Hong Kong and not the military people.


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