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By 1941 with the war going badly in Europe, the British Empire was also faced with rising tensions in the Pacific. Japan had been on he March since the early 1930's. The crown colony of Hong Kong was considered a vulnerable position and Britain and Canada decided that re-enforcements were needed to shore up its defences. Canada ordered the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers to Hong Kong and on October 27th, 1941 they sailed from Vancouver on the Awatea escorted by the HMCS Prince Rupert.  These units comprised over 1877 men and 96 officers. These two groups became known as C Force. The heavy equipment and transport which was shipped just a few days later was never to reach Hong Kong because of the attack on Pearl Harbour and the outbreak of war with Japan.

These units arrived in Hong Kong on November 16th and took up their garrison duty, expecting to have time to train most of the troops which were relatively green. The Japanese attacked the U.S. forces in the Philippines, Pearl Harbour, Guam and Wake Islands and Hong Kong.

The Canadian's were deployed along a defensive position known as Gin Drinkers Line. On December 10th, 1941 these defensive positions were breached. By December 13, all of the commonwealth troops had retreated from the mainland to Honk Kong Island. The Japanese demanded surrender that day and again on December 17th. The allies turned them down and on the night of the 18 Japanese troops massacred 20 commonwealth troops. On the night of the 19th another massacre of commonwealth troops toke place and continued to December 15th when the hospital at St Stephen's College was captured and over 60 injured soldiers were tortured and killed. That afternoon brought the realization to the Governor of Hong Kong that things must be stopped and that a surrender to the Japanese would have to take place. He did so and the commonwealth troops were marched off into captivity.

The reaction in Canada and Britain was one of confused surprise. The upstart Japanese were sweeping through Southeast Asia and the British Empire was crumbling. The only bright spot in the December of setbacks was that the U.S. was now in the war and an ally of Britain and Canada.


The Battle of Hong Kong