The Battle of Hong Kong


As I’ve mentioned, I spent four years of my childhood in Hong Kong.

A good part of my weekends was spent exploring the hillside behind our apartment building. There were a great number of spooky ruins in the forest, including Pinewood Battery.

I always knew it was a relic from the Second World War, one of the big gun emplacements meant to protect the colony of Hong Kong in the case of an attack from the sea.

While Pinewood Battery did not play a pivotal role in the defense of the island, these weekend jaunts were one of my few direct and personal contacts with a violent and relatively recent period in the history of the British Empire.

Today, we should pause to think of the Canadian troops who died protecting that Empire – and the freedom of countries and communities across Europe and Asia.

December 18, 1941 was the day Japanese troops, who had been working their way through the mainland portion of the colony, crossed the channel and attacked Allied troops on the island.

It was a violent and personal battle, with close fighting across the rocky and mountainous terrain of the Island. And it was all over by Christmas Day, 1941.

Canada had a substantial garrison of Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles on the island: of the nearly 2000 Canadian soldiers in the garrison, over a thousand died or were injured during the battle or during their four-year detention as prisoners of war.

The CBC’s digital archive has a radio retrospective on the Battle of Hong Kong, with interviews with surviving members of the Canadian forces that fought in Hong Kong. has a recreation of the events that led up to the death of Sergeant-Major John Osborne, and his posthumous awarding of the Victoria Cross.

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