The Fall of Hong Kong
A sharp humming comes to the attention of Hawaii citizens on a warm December morning, followed by the loudest sound any of them would hear in their lives, and then silence. The attack on Pearl Harbour immediately hit every newsstand across the world, but that wasn’t everything the Japanese had in store that day. On December 7th, 1941, late that morning, Empire of Japan bombed and attacked the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, which not only consisted of Chinese units, but also units from Britain, India and Canada as well. This attack was a violation of international law, since Japan had not then waged war against Hong Kong. The Japanese had waged war against China since 1937, not butting heads with the British Crown Colony thus units from the west.
This resulted in a 17 day war known as the Fall of Hong Kong, one of the first battles in the Pacific War.
The battle first started at around 8:00am (Hong Kong time), when the Japanese bombed Kai Tak airport and started invading Hong Kong. By December 9th, the Japanese had secured Shing Mun Redoubt, the most important strategic position to Gin Drinker’s Line, where advanced units had fell back to. Hong Kong in addition to the other countries within the British Crown Colony tried to resist the attack by the 21st, 23rd and the 38th Regiment, but were outnumbered nearly 4:1, and in addition couldn’t compare to the Japanese’s advanced war tactics. Despite not being prepared to handle the size and raw brute force of the Japanese, units did not surrender. Over the course of the 16 days, twelve massacres occurred, many of those affected being Canadians. One of the most horrifying being when the Japanese invaded a makeshift enemy hospital, and killed soldiers resting in their beds. In the end, over a fourth of the Canadians deported sacrificed their lives.
Canada’s military was small and had not been adequately trained to participate in war, thus contributing little efforts to the early years of the second world war (1939) The prime minister at the time, William Lyon Mackenzie King did not want to commit Canada to battle because of this. In addition, he was weary about donating troops to the British in fear of re-igniting the country’s inner conflicts between French-Canadians and English-Canadians. Instead, he tried to implements ways that Canada could help progress the war indirectly, like growing food for and training soldiers. So when the British asked Canada for support in the Battle of Hong Kong, he assumed that the soldiers dispatched would only be there to guard post, and not engage in heavy combat. Even though Canadian allied troops knew they were extremely ill-prepared (none of them had even participated in battalion-level training exercises), they refused to stop fighting until they were all literally overrun by the enemy. The Canadians that survived the attacks became prisoners of war; many were victims to torture and starvation by their captors. However, a select few extremely notable Canadians sacrificed their lives in order to save a great number of their allies. One of these Canadians being John Osborn, who without hesitation jumped on a live grenade to shield his fellow soldiers.
This horrifying battle resulted in the sacrifice of many Canadians in order to keep peace in not only Hong Kong, but the entirety of Asia. Many casualties took place, but the soldier’s courage set an example to what events were needed to take place in the future to become victorious.