WAR veterans are furious at newly surfaced claims from a former British major general that Canadian soldiers were cowardly and drunk, and refused to fight in the final defence of Hongkong against the invading Japanese in 1941. An archive report says two battalions of raw Canadian recruits lost their nerve at the turning point of the battle, with many refusing to leave the bars of the Repulse Bay Hotel stronghold they had been ordered to defend to the last man. They are also accused of begging to surrender. The allegations of near-mutiny are contained in a file, originally closed for 100 years, which has been released by the Public Records Office in Kew, London, and reported in today's Sunday Times. The file was written one year after the event by the commander of the 11,000-strong British, Canadian and Indian force, Major General Christopher Maltby, whose men surrendered to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941 after an 18-day battle. Its release follows other British documents criticising Australian troops before the fall of Singapore. The highly controversial report was last night questioned by a former British officer who was in the Repulse Bay Hotel at the time, and said the Canadians were not cowards. Lieutenant Tom Quillian spoke to the Sunday Morning Post from his home in Hessonford, Cornwall, where he expressed amazement at the claims. Maltby's account criticises the 140-strong Canadian garrison comprising the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles sent to bolster Hongkong one month before it was invaded. He writes of men from both regiments disobeying orders and retreating. British officers and troops in the Royal Scots are also castigated for losing a vital part of the defences, and Maltby says British intelligence overestimated Hongkong's ability to defend itself. But most of his wrath is directed at the Canadians. Instead of holding the hotel at all costs, he says the men ''were drinking all over the place and no further military action was taking place, or was apparently ever contemplated'', even though the hotel was crowded with women and children refugees. It is claimed their drunken commanding officer, Major Charles Young, was deprived of his command and his British replacement had the Canadians driven in trucks to the frontline. There, according to the report, the officers of the Royal Rifles stood by while their men staged what amounted to a sit-down strike. Young told Brigadier Wallis, commanding the East Infantry Brigade, ''it was the considered opinion of the battalion as a whole that fighting should cease''. Brigadier Wallis refused and said the ''Canadians must fight or march out with white flags''. The report continues: ''The Royal Rifles refused to surrender alone and so he decided to withdraw them temporarily into Stanley Fort to rest and reorganise, leaving the defence of the Stanley peninsula to more reliable troops, who would have freer scope when the forward area was clear of disaffected soldiers.'' The allegations have dismayed Canadian veterans who have led a fight by labour camp survivors to win compensation from the Japanese Government for the harsh treatment of military and civilian prisoners in the Far East. Mr Roger Cyr, 71, national secretary of the Hongkong Veterans' Association of Canada, said: ''My feeling is that it is an attempt to recoup any damage done to a personal reputation. ''Maltby came out of the war in an unfortunate light. He was not accepted in better circles in London, and was deemed to have been a failure. He was told to fight to the last man and that did not happen.'' Lieutenant Quillian said: ''Maltby was deep in the bunkers at Victoria and didn't know what was happening on the other side of the island. These reports were written by senior officers covering their own backs after the war. ''We were in the process of dismantling the guns and torpedo tubes to mount ashore when the Japs landed. We were ordered up to Wong Nai Chung Gap in three lorries and got badly ambushed when we got up there. ''I don't know of any incident where the Canadians refused to fight. The first thing I remember seeing was a group of Canadian soldiers going out on patrol to attack the Japanese up at Wong Nai Chung Gap. ''They were going out with Tommy guns and there was no question of anybody refusing to go; they all went.'' Maltby, who spent 31/2 years in a prisoner of war camp along with 6,500 British troops who survived the battle for Hongkong, died in 1980. Mr Philip Lawlis, 75, of London, Ontario, was a rifleman in A company with the Royal Rifles. He remembered Young as a heroic commander. ''He was a real good soldier, a top soldier,'' he said. ''It is all lies that he was drunk or led a strike. I was with Major Young and did not know that he was ever deprived of his command. All this is new to me and I don't believe a word of it.''