- Battle of Hong Kong
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Hong Kong
caption=Japanese soldiers riding horses along
Queen's Roadin December 1941.
partof=the Pacific Theatre of
World War II
8 December 1941- 25 December 1941
Hong Kongand proximity
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
British Indian Army
Royal Hong Kong Regiment
air force|United Kingdom
Imperial Japanese Army
Mark Aitchison Young
Christopher Michael Maltby
commander2=flagicon|Japan|alt Sakai Takashi
casualties1=4,500 killed and wounded
casualties2=706 killed,1534 wounded|
The Battle of Hong Kong took place during the Pacific campaign of
World War II. It began on 8 December 1941and ended on Christmas Daywith Hong Kong, then a British colony, surrendering to the control of Imperial Japan.
Britain had first thought Japan as a large threat with the ending of the
Anglo-Japanese Alliance. This risk increased with the expansion of the Sino-Japanese War. On 21 October 1938the Japanese occupied Guangzhouand Hong Kongwas effectively surrounded. Various British Defence studies had already concluded that Hong Kong would be extremely hard to defend in the event of a Japanese attack, but in the mid-1930s, work had begun on new defences, including the Gin Drinkers' Line.
By 1940, the British had determined to reduce the
Hong Kong Garrisonto a symbolic scale only. However, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, the Commander-in-Chiefof the British Far East Commandargued that limited reinforcements could allow the garrison to delay a Japanese attack, gaining time elsewhere. Winston Churchilland his army chiefs designated Hong Kong an outpost, and initially decided against sending more troops to the colony. In September 1941, however, they reversed their decision and argued that additional reinforcements would provide a military deterrent against the Japanese, and reassure Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shekthat Britain was genuinely interested in defending the colony.
In Autumn 1941, the British government accepted an offer by the Canadian Government to send two infantry battalions and a brigade headquarters (1,975 personnel) to reinforce the Hong Kong garrison.
C Force, as it was known, arrived on 16 November on board troopship"Awatea" and armed merchant cruiser"Prince Robert". [ [http://www.hkvca.ca/historical/accounts/christie.htm Kay Christie's Story] - Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association] It did not have all of its equipment as a ship carrying its vehicles was diverted to Manila at the outbreak of war. The Canadian battalions were the Royal Rifles of Canadafrom Quebec and Winnipeg Grenadiersfrom Manitoba. The Royal Rifles only served in Newfoundland and Saint John, New Brunswickprior to their duty in Hong Kong, and the Winnipeg Grenadiers had been posted to Jamaica. As a result, many of the Canadian soldiers did not have much field experience before arriving in Hong Kong.
Overview of the battle
The Japanese attack began shortly after 8 am on
8 December 1941(Hong Kong local time), less than eight hours after the Attack on Pearl Harbor(because of the day shift that occurs on the international date line between Hawaii and Asia, the Pearl Harbor event is recorded to have occurred on December 7). British, Canadian and Indian forces, commanded by Major-General Christopher Michael Maltbysupported by the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Forces, resisted the Japanese invasion by the 38th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sakai Takashi, but were outnumbered three to one (Japanese: 52,000 / Allied: 14,000) and lacked their opponents' recent combat experience.
The Japanese achieved
air superiorityon the first day of battle as two of the three Vickers Vildebeesttorpedo-reconnaissance aircraft and the two Supermarine Walrus amphibious planes of the RAF Station, which were the only military planes at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport, were destroyed by 12 Japanese bombers. The attack also destroyed several civil aircraft including all but two of the aircraft used by the Air Unit of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp. The RAF and Air Unit personnel from then fought on as ground troops. British naval vessels were ordered to leave Hong Kong for Singapore.
The Commonwealth forces decided against holding the
Sham Chun River, which was quickly forded by the Japanese using temporary bridges, and instead established three battalions in the Gin Drinkers' Lineacross the hills. These defences were rapidly breached at the Shing Mun Redoubt early on 10 December 1941. The evacuation from Kowloonstarted on December 11, 1941under aerial bombardment and artillery barrage. As much as possible, military and harbour facilities were demolished before the withdrawal. By December 13, the Rajputsof the British Indian Army, the last Commonwealth troops on the mainland, had retreated to Hong Kong Island.
Maltby organised the defence of the island, splitting it between an East Brigade and a West Brigade. On
15 Decemberthe Japanese began systematic bombardment of the island's North Shore. Two demands for surrender were made on 13 Decemberand 17 December. When these were rejected, Japanese forces crossed the harbour on the evening of 18 Decemberand landed on the island's North-East. They suffered only light casualties, although no effective command could be maintained until the dawn came. That night, approximately 20 gunners were massacred at the Sai WanBattery after they had surrendered.
On the morning of
19 December, a Canadian Company Sergeant Major, John Robert Osbornof the Winnipeg Grenadiers, threw himself on top of a grenade, sacrificing himself to save the lives of the men around him; he was later posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Fierce fighting continued on Hong Kong Islandbut the Japanese annihilated the headquarters of West Brigade and could not be forced from the Wong Ne Chong Gap that secured the passage between downtown and the secluded southern parts of the island. Again there was a massacre of prisoners, this time of medical staff, in the Salesian Mission on Chai WanRoad. From 20 Decemberthe island became split in two with the British Commonwealth forces still holding out around the Stanley peninsula and in the West of the island. At the same time, water supplies started to run short as the Japanese captured the island's reservoirs.
On the morning of December 25, Japanese soldiers entered the British field hospital at St. Stephen's College, and tortured and killed over 60 injured soldiers, along with the medical staff. [ [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-0094(199701)32%3A1%3C43%3AMARIHK%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A Massacre and Rape in Hong Kong: Two Case Studies Involving Medical Personnel and Patients] - Charles G. Roland]
By the afternoon of
25 December 1941, it was clear that further resistance would be futile and British colonial officials headed by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered in person at the Japanese headquarters on the third floor of the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. This was the first occasion on which a British Crown Colonywas surrendered to an invading force.Fact|date=February 2007 The garrison had held out for 17 days.
Eighteen days after the battle began, British colonial officials headed by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered in person on
25 December 1941at the Japanese headquarters. Isogai Rensukebecame the first Japanese governor of Hong Kong. This ushered in the three years and eight months of Imperial Japanese administration. Japanese soldiers also terrorised the local population by murdering many, raping an estimated 10,000 women [Estimate from Harvnb|Snow|2003 via Citation
title=The history of Hong Kong
June 5, 2003
publisher=Economist.com] , and looting. This day is known in Hong Kong as "Black Christmas".
Prisoners of warwere sent to:
Shamshuipo Prisoner Camp(later a Vietnamese detention centre)
Argyle Street Campfor officers
North Point Campprimarily for Canadians and Royal Navy
Yokohama Campin Japan
Fukuoka Campin Japan
Osaka Campin Japan
Although Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese, the local Chinese waged a small guerilla war in New Territories. As a result of the resistance, some villages were razed as a punishment. The guerillas fought until the end of the Japanese occupation. Western historical books on the subject have not significantly covered their actions. The resistance groups were known as the Gangjiu and Dongjiang forces.Enemy civilians (meaning Allied nationals) were interned at the
Stanley Internment Camp. Initially, there were 2400 internees although this number was reduced following some repatriations during the war. Internees who died, together with prisoners executed by the Japanese, are buried in Stanley Cemetery.
British sovereignty was restored in 1945 following the surrender of the Japanese forces on
15 August, six days after the United Statesdropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
The Allied dead from the campaign, including British, Canadian and Indian soldiers were eventually interred at the Sai Wan Military Cemetery on the northeastern corner of Hong Kong Island. A total of 1,528 soldiers, mainly Commonwealth, are buried there. There are also graves of other Allied combatants who died in the region during the war, including some Dutch sailors, and were re-interred in Hong Kong post war.
cenotaphin Central commermorates the Defense as well as war-dead from World War I.
The shield in the colonial coat of arms of Hong Kong granted in 1959 featured the
battlementdesign to commemorate the Defence of Hong Kong during World War II. The arms was in use until 1997 when it was replaced by the current regional emblem.
Lei Yue Mun Fort has lost its defence significance in the post-war period. After the war, it became a training ground for the British Forces until 1987 when it was finally vacated. In view of its historical significance and unique architectural features, the former
Urban Councildecided in 1993 to conserve and develop Lei Yue Mun Fort into the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence.
The nearby Sai Wan Battery, with buildings constructed as far back as 1890, housed the Depot and Record Office of the
Hong Kong Military Service Corpsfor nearly four decades after the War. The barracks were handed over to the government in 1985 and were subsequently converted into Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village.
Order of battle
The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)flagicon|UK
The Middlesex Regiment(Machine gun battalion) flagicon|UK
**5th Battalion, 7th
14th Punjab Regimentflagicon|India|British
The Winnipeg Grenadiersflagicon|Canada|1921
The Royal Rifles of Canadaflagicon|Canada|1921
**Hong Kong Chinese Regiment
Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps(HKVDC)
**8th Coast Regiment,
**12th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery flagicon|UK
**5th Anti-Air Regiment flagicon|UK
**1st Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery (2 batteries) /
**956th Defence Battery, Royal Artillery flagicon|UK
* Supporting Units
Royal Engineers, RE flagicon|UK
Royal Army Service Corps, RASC flagicon|UK
Royal Army Medical Corps, RAMC flagicon|UK
Royal Signals, RS flagicon|UK
Royal Army Ordnance Corps, RAOC flagicon|UK
Royal Army Dental Corps, RADC flagicon|UK
Royal Army Pay Corps, RAPC flagicon|UK
Military Provost Staff Corpsflagicon|UK
** Hong Kong Mule Corps flagicon|UK
Empire of Japan
Imperial Japanese Army
Twenty-Third Army (Japan)
Southern Expeditionary Army Group
* 38th Division: 228th, 229th and 230th Infantry Regiments
Imperial Japanese Navy
2nd China Expeditionary Fleet
British Commonwealth defensive positions
Key sites of the defence of Hong Kong included:
*Wong Ne Chong Gap
*Lye Moon Passage
Shing Mun Redoubt
Gin Drinkers' Line
Notes and References
Greater East Asia War in the Pacific
History of Hong Kong
Hong Kong Garrison
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence
Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong
Second Sino-Japanese War
Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers)
External links and references
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/categories/c54618/ BBC submissions]
* [http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/WW2/London_Gazette/hong_kong Offical report by Major-General C.M Maltby, G.O.C. Hong Kong]
* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/corpshistory/rem_corps_part16.htm#far Royal Engineers Museum] Royal Engineers and the Second World War - the Far East
* [http://www.wwii.ca/page42.html Canadians at Hong Kong] - Canadians and the Battle of Hong Kong.
* [http://www.hamstat.demon.co.uk/HongKong/index_hk.html#MTB The 2nd MTB Flotilla escapes from Hong Kong]
* [http://fourthmarinesband.com/cambon.htm GUEST OF HIROHITO by Kenneth Cambon, M.D. Story of the youngest royal rifle]
* [http://www.durhamregion.com/dr/regions/whitby/story/2332353p-2701461c.html A soldier's story and the Battle of Hong Kong] Dead link|date=April 2008|url=http://www.durhamregion.com/dr/regions/whitby/story/2332353p-2701461c.html
*PDFlink| [http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~ghayes/Copp.pdf The Defence of Hong Kong: December 1941 by Terry Copp] |630 KiB
*PDFlink| [http://web.archive.org/web/20060824135009/http://www.forces.gc.ca/dhh/downloads/cmhq/cmhq163.pdf Report No. 163 Canadian Participation in the Defence of Hong Kong, December, 1941] |299 KiB (Archived version as of
August 24, 2006)
* [http://www.hkvca.ca/index.htm Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association]
* [http://hksw.org/despatches_106_1_j.htm The Fall of Hong Kong]
* [http://hksw.org/Shing%20Mun.htm The Hong Kong Defence]
*Tony Banham, "Not the Slightest Chance: The Defence of Hong Kong, 1941",
University of British Columbia Press; Hardcover (5/1/2003): ISBN 0-7748-1044-0. Paperback (1/1/2004): ISBN 0-7748-1045-9
* [http://www.hongkongwardiary.com/ The blog of the author of the above book]
* [http://www.hkvca.ca/historical/banham.htm Tony Banham, Battle of Hong Kong Background And Battlefield Tour Points of Interest]
title=The Fall of Hong Kong: Britain, China, and the Japanese Occupation
publisher=Yale University Press
year=2003 ISBN (Hardback); (Paperback)
* [http://www.geocities.com/rcwpca "The detailed story of the actual battle and a tribute to Major Maurice A. Parker, CO "D" Coy, Royal Rifles of Canada.]
* [http://www.geocities.com/alfbabin "The story of Alfred Babin, stretcher bearer, HQ Company, Royal Rifles of Canada.]
* [http://www.geocities.com/phil_doddridge Philip Doddridge, Memories Uninvited - "A fascinating story of a young man who finds himself caught up in the horrific battle for Hong Kong and the years of captivity he lived through after the battle was over on December 25th, 1941."]
* [http://www.stanfordprojects.co.uk/index.html "Story of the Stanford family and the effect of the fall of Hong Kong in 1941."]
* the fall of Hong Kong as seen from a civilian point of view: "Taken in Hong Kong, December 8, 1941" is the story of an American Standard Oil employee interned at Stanley Prison, and repatriated via the Asama Maru and Gripsholm. Available amazon.com
last = Burton
first = John
year = 2006
title = Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor
publisher = US Naval Institute Press
id = ISBN 159114096X
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