South China Sea
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Sent in after Britain's plea for help

ON September 19, 1941 the British Government, in the hope that a show of force might deter a Japanese attack on Hongkong, approached the Government of Canada to ask whether it could provide two infantry battalions for service on the Island.

The Canadians agreed and The Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were selected as the most appropriate reinforcements by virtue of their recent garrison experience in Newfoundland and Jamaica.

Neither unit had yet achieved the standard of tactical training required for active service, but it was hoped that they would not be called upon for any operations other than garrison duty. On November 16, 1941 the Canadian units arrived at Hongkong with 96 officers and 1,877 other ranks. Initially, the Canadians were allotted the role of beach defence and they were already deployed when the Japanese launched their attack on December 18, 1941. The circumstances in which the Canadians went into action were far from favourable but they made an important contribution to the defence of the Island, inflicting heavy casualties on the Japanese.

During the battle for Hongkong the Canadian units lost 290 dead, a number of whom were executed by the Japanese after their capture, and 493 officers and men were wounded.

The survivors were held in camps on Hongkong until 1943 when the majority were transferred to Japan as a workforce for the mining industry. Further casualties were suffered during captivity and altogether more than 550 Canadians lost their lives out of the force despatched to Hongkong. Extracted from The Forgotten War, The British Army in the Far East 1941-1945, edited by David Smurthwaite, published by the National Army Museum, London, in 1992.