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The Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941 n Why were the British/Americans so caught off guard? n Why were the Canadians there? n Were we “lambs to the slaughter”

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Presentation on theme: "The Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941 n Why were the British/Americans so caught off guard? n Why were the Canadians there? n Were we “lambs to the slaughter”"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941 n Why were the British/Americans so caught off guard? n Why were the Canadians there? n Were we “lambs to the slaughter” sacrificed by the British? n Why were we so ill-prepared?

2 Hong Kong n Were the Canadians somehow responsible for the failure to hold Hong Kong?

3 An Overview n The strategic “problem” of Japan, n The decision to send Canadians n The tactics of survival

4 Japanese Imperialism Japanese Imperialism n 1904: Japan occupies Korea n 1931: Japan occupies Manchuria n 1937: The “Rape” of Nanking n 1940: French Indo-China occupied n September: Japan signs the Tri-Partite Pact with Germany and Italy –Remains neutral

5 The British Problem n The British army is overstretched –Defence of UK –Middle East –India –Malaya/Singapore n What to do with Hong Kong? n August 1940: British Chiefs of Staff “ –“Hold as long as possible” but recognized that, if war came, Hong Kong could not be reinforced or relieved.

6 Churchill’s First Position n January 1941 “This is all wrong. If Japan goes to war with us there is not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or relieving it.” n Why does Churchill change his mind?

7 1941: The British View n June: The Germans attack the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa) n Would the Japanese fight the Russians (north)? n Or the Americans, British, Dutch (south)? n Most felt that the Japanese would move north.

8 1941: The Japanese View n 2 July 1941: Japanese Imperial Conference –Japanese occupy French Indo-China –US/UK freeze Japanese assets –A policy of deterrence

9 Canadian Involvement n August 1941: Major-General A.E. Grasett goes to Ottawa n (GOC, Hong Kong defences) n Meets with Major-General H.D.G. Crerar, Canadian Chief of Staff –“addition of two or more battalions to the forces then at Hong Kong would render the garrison strong.” –No decisions on Canadian participation

10 September 1941 n Grasett makes his case to Churchill –changed situation in the Far East –British have reinforced Malaya –“great moral effect” to reinforce Hong Kong

11 19 September 1941 n The British formally request Canadian aid in the defence of Hong Kong n As a member of the Canadian Cabinet, how would you respond to this appeal?

12 27 September 1941 n The Canadians approve the request –“anything which would either defer or deter Japan from coming in [to the war] would be highly desirable from our point of view.” –J.L. Ralston, Minister of National Defence

13 Who to Send? n Could Canadian battalions in UK go? n What of those in Canada? n Royal Rifles of Canada--mobilized 8 July garrisoned in Newfoundland n Winnipeg Grenadiers--mobilized 1 Sept garrisoned in Jamaica

14 What Level Training? n Basic training (16 weeks) –just 6% had less n Weapons training (incomplete due to shortages) n Company level training incomplete n Battalion level training incomplete

15 “C” Force n CO Brigadier J.K. Lawson n 96 officers/1877 other ranks n Set sail Vancouver, 5 October 1941 n Arrive Hong Kong, 16 November 1941

16 Japanese Intentions n 18 October--General Tojo leads a “war government” n If negotiations break off by 25 November, Japanese plan to attack Phillippines, Guam, Hong Kong, British Malaya, Burma, The Bismarcks, Java, Sumatra, Timor

17 Hong Kong n Population 1941: 1.5 million n Colony 410 sq. miles n Island 29 sq. miles

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19 The Defences n Limited by Treaty n most naval vessels withdrawn n little artillery/anti-aircraft guns n no aircraft (closest RAF station: 1400 miles) n Army defences 11,000 fighting soldiers

20 The Defensive Plan n Delay on the mainland n Then defend the island n Canadian battalions stood guard on the island for a seaborne attack that did not come

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22 The Battle Chronology n 7 December: Japanese 38th Division attacks from the north n 9 December: The “Gin Drinkers Line” is broken n 15 December: The Japanese cross to Hong Kong Island n 20 December: The island is divided n 25 December: The Garrison surrenders

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25 19 December 1941 n Brigadier Lawson is killed n CSM John Osborn, Winnipeg Grenadiers, is killed –Wins the Victoria Cross

26 25 December 1941 Maltby Surrenders to the Japanese

27 The Final Canadian Tally n Dead 23 officers/267 other ranks n Wounded 28 officers/465 other ranks n Died in captivity: 4 officers/124 other ranks –4 shot n Diphtheria, 1942: 50 dead n 136 died during forced labour in Japan n Of 1975 Canadians who left Canada in October 1941, 557 never returned

28 C.P. Stacey’s verdict n “We can see today [1957] that the decision to reinforce Hong Kong was a mistake.” n “The historian’s hindsight is always far, far better than the foresight of the men, groping in the dark, who had to do the work at the time.”

29 Acknowledgements and Further Reading n Maps courtesy of Mike Bechthold, Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario n Charles Roland, Long Night’s Journey into Day: Prisoners of War in the Far East, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2001.


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