January 13, 2015
Battle of Hong Kong
The Canadians first made an appearance in the Second World War in December of 1941, while called to protect Hong Kong from a Japanese attack. The Canadian soldiers along side the Hong Kong soldiers fought relentlessly with overwhelming odds against them. The soldiers refused to surrender but were eventually overrun by the Japanese. Those who survived the battle became prisoners of war and suffered the torture, disease, brutality and starvation by their captors.
In the beginning the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill believed that it would be nearly impossible to protect Hong Kong in the event that any other country was to invade. Hong Kong was considered to be an outpost for the British military; therefore Churchill believed there was no need to send any reinforcements. In October of 1941 Churchill and his colleagues changed their minds and requested that the Canadians provide two battalions to head overseas to Hong Kong. The British changed their minds to convince the Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shek that Britain was genuinely interested in defending their colony. Although Hong Kong did not have any significant air defense and little naval strength, it was also believed that the Japanese would have been scared off by the amount of force shown in Hong Kong, which gave even more reasoning to send more men.
The Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King put forward two battalions, the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. The Royal Rifles of Canada were a bilingual unit from Quebec and were previously stationed in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Saint John. The Winnipeg Grenadiers were previously stationed in Jamaica. Both of the battalions received limited military training in any of their previous locations. Between the battalions sent and other Special Forces or nurses, there were one thousand nine hundred and seventy five Canadians on the boat headed towards Hong Kong. The British and Canadians fought alongside many Indian soldiers as well. It was expected that the battalions wouldn’t face any hand-to-hand combat but when the Japanese launched a series of attacks on Hong Kong the battalions were thrown right in the middle of battle with the Japanese 38th division.
The Japanese attack began shortly after 8 in the morning on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack of Pearl Harbor. The attack was not after a declaration of war therefore, violation of international laws. Major-General Christopher Maltby commanded the British, Canadians and Indians with the support of the Hong Kong volunteer defense corps. Lieutenant-General Takashi Sakai commanded the Japanese. Japanese soldiers outnumbered the Allied forces four to one.
The Japanese attack started by bombing the Kai Tak airport, the attack destroyed four of the military aircrafts and several other civilian aircrafts. The remaining two aircrafts belonged to the Royal Navy, which were given orders to bring the aircrafts to Singapore. All the weapons remaining in the Allied hands were one destroyer, HMS Thracian that was designed especially for combat; several gunboats and various motor torpedo boats. Just hours after their first attack, Japanese troops moved across the region but were met with resistance at the mainland brigade. Unfortunately the units fell back to the Gin Drinker’s line, which the Allies hoped to maintain for about a week.
On December 9 the Japanese captured the Shing Mun Redoubt, which was an important area of high ground – completely exposing the left flank in the Gin Drinker’s line. As the sun fell, Japanese troops used the advantage of darkness to launch their attack on the Allies; the Japanese were victorious in their attack and proved that General Maltby had underestimated his enemy.
On December 10, the Winnipeg Grenadiers were stationed on the mainland to strengthen the forces against the Japanese.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers were the first