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In Autumn 1941, the British government accepted the Canadian Government's offer, mediated by a former General Officer Commanding in Hong Kong and Canadian, Major-General A. E. Grasett to send two infantry battalions (1,975 personnel) to reinforce the Hong Kong garrison. The force departed North America on 27 October and arrived 16 November. They did not have their full equipment: a ship carrying all their vehicles was diverted to Manila when war began. The soldiers were still undergoing training and acclimatisation. The major Canadian units involved in the defence of Hong Kong were:
In addition to this the Canadians provided a Brigade HQ. The Canadians were initially positioned on the south side of the Island to counter any amphibious landing. Ironically this would mean that when the Japanese invaded the island they were the units called upon to counterattack. On 8 December, Japanese aircraft destroyed a nearly-empty camp at Sham Shui Po where two men of the Royal Canadian Signals were wounded, the first Canadian casualties in the Pacific theatre, and the first Canadian army casualties in combat. On 11 December, the Winnipeg Grenadiers became the first Canadian Army subunit to fight in battle in the Second World War, with D Company acting as a rearguard during the retreat from Kowloon. Private John Grey was killed during the evacuation. It is unknown how he died but guesses have included mobs, fifth columnists, and being executed by the Japanese.
In the subsequent fight for Hong Kong island, the Canadians lost 290 personnel of which 130 were from the Grenadiers. The commander of West Brigade HQ, Brigadier John K. Lawson, was killed. The remaining Canadian soldiers surrendered to the Japanese on Christmas Day.
Soldiers of 'C' Force were awarded a total of 100 decorations. The following table shows the unit, the decoration and the number awarded.
|Canadian Auxiliary Service||MBE||1|
|Canadian Auxiliary Service||MiD||1|
|Canadian Chaplains Service||MC||1|
|Canadian Chaplains Service||MiD||1|
|Royal Canadian Dental Corps||MiD||1|
|Royal Canadian Postal Corps||DCM||1|
|Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps||MBE||3|
|Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps||ARRC||2|
|Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps||MiD||1|
|Royal Canadian Corps of Signals||DCM||1|
|Royal Canadian Corps of Signals||MM||1|
|Royal Canadian Corps of Signals||BEM||1|
|Royal Canadian Corps of Signals||MiD||2|
|Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps||MM||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||DSO||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||OBE||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||MBE||2|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||MC||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||DCM||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||MM||6|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||DM||1|
|The Royal Rifles of Canada||MiD||28|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||VC||1|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||DSO||1|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||MC||3|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||DCM||1|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||MM||5|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||BEM||2|
|The Winnipeg Grenadiers||MiD||26|
In order of precedence descriptions are as follows:
VC - Victoria Cross
DSO - Distinguished Service Order
OBE - Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire status
MBE - Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire status
MC - Military Cross
ARRC - Associate of the Royal Red Cross
DCM - Distinguished Conduct Medal
MM - Military Medal
BEM - British Empire Medal
DM - Dickin Medal
MiD - Mentioned in Despatches
References for the above awards
Canada Gazette, 44 10 January, No. 10, Vol. 78, p2404
Canada Gazette, 46 8 April, No. 14, Vol. 80, p2066
Canada Gazette, 46 15 June, No. 24, Vol. 80, p2404
London Gazette, 48 20 February, No. 38212, p1175
The Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association dedicated the Hong Kong Memorial Wall on Sussex Drive at King Edward Avenue in Ottawa, Ontario on 15 August 2009 to the 1,977 Canadians who sailed to Hong Kong in 1941 to assist the British in defending the colony against the Japanese invasion. The names of 961 members of the Royal Rifles are etched on one side of the wall and the names of 911 Grenadiers are on the other side of a six-metre concrete wall covered in granite, with the upper part shaped as a mountain landscape. The 106 members of the Brigade Headquarters, including doctors, dentists and chaplains are listed on either end of the memorial. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada erected a memorial rock with plaque near the Hong Kong Memorial Wall on 15 August 2009, which describes the Canadian role in the defence of Hong Kong. "In late 1941, 1,975 Canadians arrived in Hong Kong to reinforce the garrison. They fought with courage and determination against overwhelming odds after the Japanese attacked on December 8. Many distinguished themselves under fire, including Company Sergeant-Major John Robert Osborn, who won Canada's first Victoria Cross of the Second World War, During the seventeen-day battle, 290 men died. After the surrender, 267 more perished during long years of harsh captivity. The Canadians` role in the defence of Hong Kong stands as an eloquent expression of their lasting honour."
- Government of Canada Publications - Canadian Participation in the Defence of Hong Kong, December, 1941 http://publications.gc.ca/site/archivee-archived.html?url=http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/mdn-dnd/D63-4-163-1946-eng.pdf
- "Hong Kong Memorial Wall: Memorial 35059-053 Ottawa, ON". National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials. Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
- "Hong Kong Memorial Wall plaque: Memorial 35059-076 Ottawa, ON". National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials. Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
- Stacey, C. P. (1956) . Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific (PDF). Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. I (2nd rev. online ed.). Ottawa, ON: Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery. OCLC 917731527. Retrieved 6 September 2016.