Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong

Battle of Hong Kong 1941

On 8 December 1941 began the battle of Hong Kong, now 77 years ago. Here is an extract from Dad’s diary of 10 December, recounting the first days of the Japanese invasion:

About 6:00am on Monday 8th I was woken up, called to the telephone and told that war was imminent with Japan.  By the time I got to H.Q. we were at war.  About 8:00am the first Japanese bombers came over.  They did a lot of damage at the Aerodrome, destroying 7 C.N.A.C. (Chinese National Aviation Corp) planes, The Clipper, most of the RAF planes and the two Walruses.  They were unopposed.  The volunteer A.A. (anti-aircraft) platoon had drawn no ammunition, I suppose because the day before was a Sunday.  The gunboat supposed to be in the seaplane anchorage was being used for something else.  The Japs made rapid progress down the Taipo Road, and by the evening we were back in Shatin.  H.Q. were gravely disappointed with the Stanley guns.  They have shot too big a line, boasted that they could get almost to Taipo, in actual fact they can only reach about 1500 yards beyond Shatin Station.  We were unable to answer several calls for fire as the targets have been out of range.

On Tuesday general skirmishing took place on the main approaches to the inner (Gin Drinkers) line, to which by nightfall all our forces had retired.  During the night Tuesday/Wednesday the Japs surprised and captured the Shing Mun Redoubt.  This is a severe loss.  Today there has been heavy fighting all along Smugglers Ridge and up towards Golden Hill.

The Allied forces had been on high alert for some time but, as each alarm turned out to be false, they became complacent and so weren’t fully prepared for the attack. When war did come, it was fierce and relentless, raging until Christmas Day when the Allies finally surrendered. For the people of Hong Kong, this year would always be known as Black Christmas.

It is hard for us to imagine what that must have been like, as we do our online shopping for Christmas presents, put on a load of laundry or take the dog for a walk. We must always remember what we owe this generation. Blessings for a peaceful Christmas 2018.

 

Battle Trail

Oh brilliant, I forgot to bring the melatonin, so did NOT get a good night’s sleep. Also it was rather warm (sorry folks but daytime is about 23C and night not much less) so I felt restless. This morning I met Martin Heyes, of Walk Hong Kong, who is an expert on the WW2 history of Hong Kong. My Dad spent most of his time at the Battle Box, the Allied HQ on HK island. Needless to say it has been destroyed and the spot is now occupied by the British Consulate. We went and had a look at the site, just so that I could orientate myself when reading his story.

British Consulate, HK

British Consulate, HK

We then headed uphill to Wong Nai Chung gap, the site of the decisive battle for HK. Martin walked me round a ‘discovery trail’ (with some limited printed information) bringing alive the battle – the tactical errors, the stories of survivors, the history of the Japanese in China and the roles of the various regiments and battalions. The British were utterly under-staffed and under-prepared, especially for an attack from land. The view from the UK War Office was that they didn’t stand a chance of succeeding and it seems that they didn’t want to waste resources (men, artillery or supporting troops) on a lost cause. Under the circumstances the Allies did well to last as long as they did! Here is a film of Martin Heyes describing the battle of Hong Kong:

 

Cricket ground, 1942

Cricket ground, 1942

Cricket ground, 2013

Cricket ground, 2013

While we were surveying the scene over the cricket ground and Happy Valley racecourse, 2 kites flew overhead. I love these birds – we often see several on our way to visit horsey clients along the M4. Julian and I have seen one or two when we’vc visited Roger’s grave in Wales – they always seem to be there, regardless of the weather.

Somehow it seemed like a wave from Dad – he was a keen birdwatcher and got very excited if he saw a kite (they were pretty rare in the ‘70s). I have fond, if slightly terrified, memories of travelling through Wales on the way to our annual holiday (a picnic on the beach at Aberdovey) with Dad birdspotting whilst driving on winding mountain roads with a substantial drop off.