Thank you, the veterans and their families were told more than 60 years after the Battle of Hong Kong. The dedication of a new monument to in Ottawa, Canada, August 15, recognized a much-overlooked chapter in Canadian history
The Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall, on the Rideau River near Canada’s Parliament Buildings, lists the names of the 1,975 men and women that helped defend Hong Kong. The 17 day battle was Canada’s first military engagement of the Second World War.
The Japanese army invaded the then British Colony from Mainland China in December 1941. The Canadian defenders, fresh off the boat, and lacking equipment and proper training, fought heroically until the colony surrendered to Japanese forces on Christmas Day 1941.
More than 800 Canadians were wounded or killed in the battle. The survivors spent the remainder of the war in POW camps, facing unimaginable conditions, disease, and torture. A further 267 Canadians died during captivity.
The new monument is a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made by Canadians during and after the Battle of Hong Kong, acts some veterans felt were marginalized or forgotten.
Not so now.
Government ministers thanked the 22 Hong Kong veterans that attended the ceremony.
“Even in the difficult times you faced when you returned home, you promised never to forget those who were left behind,” said Canada’s Veteran Affairs Minister Greg Thompson
“I truly believe that when this day is over, when you have the chance tonight to explore the silence and solitude of your own thoughts . . . you will hear the distant voices of your fallen comrades — and they will be saying: ‘Thank you. Thank you for today. Thank you for your gift of remembrance.’ “
There are smaller memorials in Hong Kong to the Canadian veterans. A memorial wall at the Sai Wan War Cemetery on Hong Kong Island lists the names of the soldiers that died during the Battle of Hong Kong. A plaque at the Wong Nai Chung Gap trail (a former defensive line) documents Canada’s involvement in the short defense of the colony. Canadian maple trees, planted by the Hong Kong Veterans Association, can be seen at the Sham Shui Po Park in Kowloon, the former site of a POW Camp.
John Robert Osborn, VC, awarded the Victoria Cross for his act of valor during the Battle of Hong Kong, is honored with a statue in Hong Kong Park, and a marker where he fell during the battle.