The Battle of Hong Kong 8-25 Dec 1941 part 2




 
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December 8th, 2012  
Rowan
 
 

Topic: The Battle of Hong Kong 8-25 Dec 1941 part 2


The colony had no significant air defence. The RAF Station at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport had only five aeroplanes: two Supermarine Walrus amphibians and three Vickers Vildebeest torpedo-reconnaissance bombers, flown and serviced by seven officers and 108 airmen. An earlier request for a fighter squadron had been rejected, and the nearest fully operational RAF base was in Kota Bharu, Malaya, nearly 2,250 kilometres away.

Hong Kong also lacked adequate naval defence. Three destroyers were to withdraw to Singapore.

The Japanese bombed Kai Tak Airport on 8 December. Two of the three Vildebeest and the two Walrus were destroyed by 12 Japanese bombers. The attack also destroyed several civil aircraft including all but two of the aircraft used by the Air Unit of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp. The RAF and Air Unit personnel from then on fought as ground troops. Two of the Royal Navy's three remaining destroyers were ordered to leave Hong Kong for Singapore. Only one destroyer, HMS Thracian, several gunboats and a flotilla of motor torpedo boats remained.

On 8, 9 and 10 December, eight American pilots of the China National Aviation Corporation CNAC and their crews made a total of 16 trips between Kai Tak Airport and airports in Namyung and Chongqing (Chungking) in China, the war time capital of the Republic of China. According to articles in the New York Times and the Chicago Daily of 15 December 1941, the pilot's names were Charles L. Sharp, Hugh L. Woods, Harold A. Sweet,William McDonald, Frank L. Higgs, Robert S. Angle, P.W. Kessler and S.E. Scott. Together they made 16 sorties and evacuated 275 persons including Mme Sun Yat-Sen, the widow of the "Father of the Nation" and the Chinese Finance Minister H.H. Kung

The Commonwealth forces decided against holding the Sham Chun River and instead established three battalions in the Gin Drinkers' Line across the hills. The Japanese 38th Infantry under the command of Major General Takaishi Sakai quickly forded the Sham Chun River by using temporary bridges. Early on 10 December 1941 the 228th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Teihichi, of the 38th Division attacked the Commonwealth defences at the Shing Mun Redoubt defended by 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel S. White. The line was breached in five hours and later that day the Royal Scots also withdrew from Golden Hill. D company of the Royal Scots counter-attacked and captured Golden Hill. By 10:00am the hill was again taken by the Japanese. This made the situation on the New Territories and Kowloon untenable and the evacuation from started on 11 December 1941 under aerial bombardment and artillery barrage. As much as possible, military and harbour facilities were demolished before the withdrawal. By 13 December, the 5/7 Rajputs of the British Indian Army commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R. Cadogan-Rawlinson, the last Commonwealth troops on the mainland, had retreated to Hong Kong Island.

Maltby organised the defence of the island, splitting it between an East Brigade and a West Brigade. On 15 December, the Japanese began systematic bombardment of the island's North Shore. Two demands for surrender were made on 13 December and 17 December. When these were rejected, Japanese forces crossed the harbour on the evening of 18 December and landed on the island's North-East. They suffered only light casualties, although no effective command could be maintained until the dawn came. That night, approximately 20 gunners were massacred at the Sai Wan Battery after they had surrendered. There was a further massacre of prisoners, this time of medical staff, in the Salesian Mission on Chai Wan Road. In both cases, a few men survived to tell the story.

On the morning of 19 December fierce fighting continued on Hong Kong Island but the Japanese annihilated the headquarters of West Brigade, causing the death of Brigadier John K. Lawson, the commander of the West Brigade . A British counter-attack could not force them from the Wong Nai Chung Gap that secured the passage between the north coast at Causeway Bay and the secluded southern parts of the island. From 20 December, the island became split in two with the British Commonwealth forces still holding out around the Stanley peninsula and in the West of the island. At the same time, water supplies started to run short as the Japanese captured the island's reservoir.

On the morning of 25 December, Japanese soldiers entered the British field hospital at St. Stephen's College, and tortured and killed a large number of injured soldiers, along with the medical staff.

By the afternoon of 25 December 1941, it was clear that further resistance would be futile and British colonial officials headed by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered in person at the Japanese headquarters on the third floor of the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. This was the first occasion on which a British Crown Colony had surrendered to an invading force. (British Somaliland which fell to the Italians in August 1940 was a Protectorate). The garrison had held out for 17 days. This day is known in Hong Kong as "Black Christmas".
Aftermath

Japanese occupation of Hong Kong

Isogai Rensuke became the first Japanese governor of Hong Kong. This ushered in the three years and eight months of Imperial Japanese administration. Japanese soldiers also terrorised the local population by murdering many, raping an estimated 10,000 women,[20] and looting.
Although Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese, the local Chinese waged a small guerilla war in New Territories. As a result of the resistance, some villages were razed as a punishment. The guerillas fought until the end of the Japanese occupation. The resistance groups were known as the Gangjiu and Dongjiang forces.
Enemy civilians (meaning Allied nationals) were interned at the Stanley Internment Camp. Initially, there were 2400 internees although this number was reduced following some repatriations during the war. Internees who died, together with prisoners executed by the Japanese, are buried in Stanley Cemetery.
British sovereignty was restored in 1945 following the surrender of the Japanese forces on 15 August, six days after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
General Takashi Sakai, who led the invasion of Hong Kong and subsequently served as governor for some time, was tried as a war criminal and executed by a firing squad in 1946.

The Allied dead from the campaign, including British, Canadian and Indian soldiers, were eventually interred at the Sai Wan Military Cemetery and Stanley Military Cemetery. A total of 1,528 soldiers, mainly Commonwealth, are buried there. There are also graves of other Allied combatants who died in the region during the war, including some Dutch sailors, who were re-interred in Hong Kong post war.
The Cenotaph in Central commemorates the Defence as well as war-dead from World War I.
The shield in the colonial coat of arms of Hong Kong granted in 1959 featured the battlement design to commemorate the Defence of Hong Kong during World War II. The arms was in use until 1997 when it was replaced by the current regional emblem.
Lei Yue Mun Fort has lost its defence significance in the post-war period. After the war, it became a training ground for the British Forces until 1987 when it was finally vacated. In view of its historical significance and unique architectural features, the former Urban Council decided in 1993 to conserve and develop Lei Yue Mun Fort into the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence.
The nearby Sai Wan Battery, with buildings constructed as far back as 1890, housed the Depot and Record Office of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps for nearly four decades after the War. The barracks were handed over to the government in 1985 and were subsequently converted into Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village.

Prisoners

At the end of February 1942, The Japanese government stated that numbers of prisoners of war in Hong Kong were: British 5,072, Canadian 1,689, Indian 3,829, others 357, a total of 10,947. They were sent to:
Sham Shui Po POW Camp
Argyle Street Camp for officers
North Point Camp primarily for Canadians and Royal Navy
Ma Tau Chung Camp for Indian soldiers
Yokohama Camp in Japan
Fukuoka Camp in Japan
Osaka Camp in Japan
Of the Canadians captured during the battle, 267 subsequently perished in Japanese prisoner of war camps, mainly due to mistreatment and abuse. In December 2011, Toshiyuki Kato, Japan's parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, apologized for the mistreatment to a group of Canadian veterans of the battle in Tokyo.Awards
John Robert Osborn (January 2, 1899 December 19, 1941) 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, conferred upon a Canadian for actions during World War II. After seeing a Japanese grenade roll in through the doorway of the building Osborn and his fellow Canadian Winnipeg Grenadiers had been garrisoning, he took off his helmet and threw himself on the grenade, saving the lives of over 10 other Canadian soldiers. He was born in Norfolk, England.
Gander was a Newfoundland dog posthumously awarded the Dickins Medal, the "animals' Victoria Cross", in 2000 for his deeds in World War II, the first such award in over 50 years. He picked up a thrown Japanese hand grenade and rushed with it toward the enemy, dying in the ensuing explosion, but saving the lives of several wounded Canadian soldiers.
 


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