15th December, 2014
British Commonwealth’s Troops Defend Hong Kong to Death, CCP Twisted History
As I read about the WWII, whenever Asia is mentioned, the elders always grind their teeth condemning how the Japanese brutalised the Chinese, and say that the Japanese have edited history in their favour. These elders, whenever they talk about WWII, always mention Japan’s three-years-and-eight-months long occupation of Hong Kong: how Hongkongers were mistreated by the Japanese Imperial Army, and the old trope that Hongkongers had to eat dead people to survive. I always ask these elders “after the Japanese invaded China, did they go straight to Hong Kong?”, “Did anyone from China defend Hong Kong?”. Most of them could not come up with an answer: The few who knew would explain that it was the Kuomintang Army who fought the Japanese in China, and White soldiers and Indian soldiers were the ones who defended Hong Kong. “Why was Hong Kong not defended by any Chinese?” – I asked this question as I had been brainwashed by the “Greater China Reunification” ideology. The elders would always reply “Of course there were. The Guangdong People’s Anti-Japanese East River Guerrillas were Chinese!”
As I grew up and began to read world history, I tended to read the accounts written by Europeans. When you read books written in Chinese languages about WWII, they all focus on how Chinese were brutalised by the Japanese Imperial Army and how horrible the Nanking massacre was – as if no other countries were involved in WWII. Because of my curiosity, I began to read more books and look up on the internet to learn more about the situation in various Asian countries during WWII. How about Hong Kong? Hong Kong was under British rule back then, so was logically defended by the British troops. As I dug deeper, I learnt that many soldiers who died for Hong Kong during the war were Commonwealth soldiers, including Canadian and Australian nationals, as well as Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force comprised of local Hong Kong soldiers and police officers of Indian descent. Out of these thousands of Volunteer Defence Force soldiers, many were new recruits fighting against the substantially greater numbers of the well-trained and battle-hardened Japanese Imperial Army. Most of the Volunteer Defence Force soldiers shed blood, many died. The Guangdong People’s Anti-Japanese East River Guerrillas, on the other hand, were a small CCP spy troop, and only started the guerrilla battles after Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese, and their key focus was to obtain intelligence.
Chinese often scold Japanese for altering history, but the fact is Chinese are the best at it: Without dwelling on how Chinese alter history, their ability to lie was demonstrated by the CCP Government after the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre as they said “(it is a) student led riot without a single casualty”. Chen Zuoer, a senior official in China, has repeatedly spread rumours against Britain in order to promote anti-British sentiment. Chen yesterday (14th December) said publicly that “British soldiers were cowards and surrendered easily” during WWII. Such cruel and unscrupulous comments infuriate people as Chen altered history to insult all the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the war.
The Battle of Hong Kong during WWII began on 8th December, 1941 when the Japanese Imperial Army attacked Hong Kong, a British colony. On 25th December, the Fall of Hong Kong started as troops defending Hong Kong surrendered. Since 1935, Hong Kong’s Government had begun to plan to defend the territory, spending over 5 million pounds in the money of the day (about 311 million pounds in today’s money). After Japan invaded China, Hong Kong’s Government passed an Emergency Ordinance to express its neutral stance but quietly began preparing for battle in case of invasion.
Sir Mark Young was appointed to be the 21st Governor of Hong Kong on 10 September 1941. In December 1941, Japan attacked Hong Kong without declaring war against the British Empire and attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbour. As soon as the Pearl Harbour attack happened, Sir Mark Young realised the situation has gone from bad to worse, and announced that Hong Kong was in a state of emergency. On 8th December, 1941 at 8:30am (a few hours after the Pearl Harbour attack), Japanese troops attacked Hong Kong and Japanese aircraft bombed Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport, announcing the beginning of the Battle for Hong Kong.
By 1941, Britain was focusing most of its war effort in Europe, and the British Army’s Hong Kong garrison was preparing for Japan’s Imperial Army to attack. However, the Hong Kong garrison was too small: 2,000 soldiers from Canada and various Royal regiments (including The Royal Artillery) were deployed to defend Hong Kong. These, together with the Hong Kong Police Force (which was given military status) made up the 18,000-strong Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force led by the Governor Sir Mark Young.
Battling against the tens of thousands of soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army, the Hong Kong Defence Force was outnumbered and the defensive line the Government had built across the New Territories was crushed. On 12th December 1941, Kowloon was completely taken over by the Japanese troops. Japanese troops brought in reinforcements including artillery and aircraft to force the British to surrender, but Sir Mark Young refused to give in. On the same day, the then Regimental Colonel Winston Churchill telegrammed Hong Kong, encouraging the Defence Force to resist attack, and defend the colony. Although the British-led Defence Force lost many battles against the Japanese troops and had to fall back to Hong Kong Island side, they continued to fight as Hong Kong was part of the puzzle: A world war that global allies were fighting together.
Many Volunteer soldiers were killed during the Battle of Hong Kong. Canadian soldier John Robert Osborn, for example, led his troop of 65 to retreat to the fortress at Jardine’s Lookout. The troop was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Army with hand grenades, and Osborn picked up and threw the grenades back to the enemies. When he found a grenade which he couldn’t return in time he warned the troop before throwing himself onto the grenade in order to save his troops – and was killed instantly. Honouring his sacrifice to protect his fellow soldiers, Osborn was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Osborn’s statue still stands at Hong Kong Park, and Osborn Barracks in Kowloon Tong was named after him. However, after the 1997 handover, Osborn Barracks was renamed as “East Kowloon Barracks”.
Brigadier John Kelburne Lawson, Commander of the West Brigade, was also killed on the same day. He and his comrades were surrounded by Japanese troops, defending Wong Nai Chung Gap. When he realised they were outnumbered and surrounded by the enemy, he destroyed all military documents, before facing the Japanese troops with his handgun – and was subsequently killed. The Japanese soldiers admired his courage, and gave him a proper burial. Brigadier Lawson’s body was reburied at the Sai Wan War Cemetery after the war.
After 18 days of hard battle, the British Army’s Hong Kong garrison could not fight anymore and Hong Kong’s 3-year and 8-month long occupation began on Christmas Day after Sir Mark Young surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army unconditionally on 25th December, 1941. Governor Young was captured as a war prisoner. Major John Alexander Fraser was caught by the Japanese, gathering and transmitting intelligence from within the Civilian Internment Camp (Stanley barracks) where he was interned: Despite severe tortures, Major Fraser refused to give the Japanese any information, and was later executed by them. His body was buried in a mass grave, together with other 30 prisoners.
In August 1945 the Allies finally won the war, bringing an end to WWII. Japan surrendered unconditionally and Hong Kong was returned back to Britain. Hong Kong was liberated. Sir Mark Young was released and returned to Britain to recover before resuming his role as Governor of Hong Kong in 1946.
The day of Hong Kong’s liberation was celebrated every year after the war: an important day with major historical value. However, following the handover in 1997, Hong Kong SAR Government no longer commemorates Liberation Day and Remembrance Day, and neither of these two days remains a public holiday. The HKSAR Government announced in August this year that “Victory Day of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression” and “Nanjing Massacre Memorial Day” had been established (3rd September and 13th December respectively). The public sees this as an attempt by the HKSAR Government, under the pressure from China, to gradually erase people’s memory of The Battle for Hong Kong. Commemorating the heroes who fought and defended Hong Kong is a positive activity with historical value. However, because the heroes were from Britain and Canada, instead of China, China is determined to cancel the public holiday in Hong Kong which commemorates WWII.
Many more martyrs sacrificed their lives to defend Hong Kong during WWII. China always claims that Britain does not care about Hong Kong and has never done anything for Hong Kong, but it is in fact China (the modern China that was founded by the CCP) which does nothing good to Hong Kong. Where were the Chinese Communists during WWII? They courted the support of China’s farmers when the Kuomintang was busy fighting the Japanese army. The Chinese Communist Party snatched power while the Republic of China (founded by Sun Yat-sen and now residing in Taiwan) was suffering from the war. After the war, Mao Zedong thanked the Japanese for invading China (additional link).
Denying the sacrifices the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force made is even more evil than forcing students to receive patriotic national education. The heroes who are buried beneath Stanley Military Cemetery and Sai Wan War Cemetery do not deserve China’s slander and defamation. The soldiers of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force who died are martyrs, and Hongkongers should learn their history. We must not allow this part of our history to be obliterated from our history books.