For its fall 2021 issue, Canadian Military History has published a special issue to commemorate the Battle of Hong Kong’s eighteenth anniversary. This issue explores various aspects of the battle, its aftermath and its memory.
The issue is available now at https://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/.
“Condemned to be Free:” The Dilemmas of Canadian Civilians in Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong
Abstract: Enemy occupation after military defeat is generally seen as a situation in which the defeated are deprived of choices. This is obviously correct, but it is also true that they are sometimes faced with dilemmas harsher and more significant than those of peacetime. The study of the experience of Canadian civilians during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong casts light on some of these dilemmas. This article begins with an account of the Hong Kong Canadians on the eve of war, showing them to consist of two distinct but linked communities—the Chinese and the European. It goes on to describe some of the Canadian contributions to the defence of Hong Kong, before proceeding to its central concern: an analysis of the choices made by individuals during the occupation.
Reappraising the Battle of Hong Kong: Preliminary Observations from a Spatial History Project
Kwong Chi Man
Abstract: This article summarises the author’s recent experience of revisiting the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 through a spatial history project based on a critical reading of primary sources from Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. The spatial history approach allows the author to propose new observations about the operational and tactical dimensions of the battle, the experience of the Canadian forces, the performance of the Japanese forces and the reasons for the battle’s outcome, which was seemingly a foregone conclusion. This article also discusses some possible future research directions on the topic and outlines how these new directions help with the commemoration of the battle in Canada, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom.
The Battle of Hong Kong, Forgotten and Remembered: C Force, Cultural Memory and Commemoration
Abstract: This article considers how veterans of C Force and their families have shaped Canadian cultural memory of the Battle of Hong Kong and their engagement with memorial and material landscapes. In considering bottom-up processes of commemoration, this article suggests that the “forgotten battle” of Canadian service in the Second World War has not been forgotten after all. Instead, Canadian cultural memory of the battle reflects the enduring impact of individual experience in shaping national narratives.
Fun Behind the Wire?: Francis “Huck” O’Neill and the Canadian POW Experience in Hong Kong, 1941-1945
Michael B. Pass
Abstract: Many prior studies of Canadian POWs during the Pacific War have focused on the sadism and mistreatment of their Japanese jailors, helping to make this a dominant image of the conflict. This article moderates this view by discrediting the notion that Japanese soldiers were motivated by an omnipresent belief in “bushido,” as well as by studying newly discovered documents produced in captivity by Canadian Auxiliary Services Officer Francis O’Neill. It argues that Japanese conduct towards POWs was more variable than previously recognised and highlights moments of levity and fun as O’Neill and his fellow prisoners organised sporting events, games and theatrical productions.
From the Vaults: Objects Relating to the Canadian Experience in Hong Kong
Stacey Barker & Jeff Noakes | Canadian War Museum – Musée canadien de la guerre
Abstract: This article focuses on the material culture of Canadians’ experiences during and after the Battle of Hong Kong. Stories of combat, captivity, and the return home are told through this selection of personal objects now preserved in the collections of the Canadian War Museum. These artifacts highlight the particular circumstances and harsh conditions faced by prisoners of war and civilian detainees, and serve as entry points into the wider history of the battle, its aftermath, and its lasting consequences.
Cet article porte sur la culture matérielle des expériences des Canadiens et Canadiennes pendant et après la bataille de Hong Kong. Des histoires de combat, de captivité et de retour au pays sont racontées à travers cette sélection d’objets personnels maintenant conservés dans les collections du Musée canadien de la guerre. Ces artefacts mettent en lumière les circonstances particulières et les conditions difficiles auxquelles sont confrontés les prisonniers de guerre et les détenus civils. Ils servent aussi de points d’entrée dans l’histoire plus large de la bataille, ses répercussions et ses conséquences à long terme.
The Victors, Not the Vanquished: A Conversation with Hong Kong Veteran George MacDonell
Brad St.Croix | Feature
Abstract: This article centres around a conversation the author had with Battle of Hong Kong veteran George MacDonell. Several questions were asked to gain insights about events related to the battle as MacDonell saw it and the years the Canadian prisoners of war spent in brutal Japanese captivity. MacDonell was also asked about his opinions on a variety of subjects. Ultimately, one of his greatest concerns is that the exploits of him and his comrades would be forgotten. This article is designed to bring attention to such a worry so that work can be done to ensure this does not happen.
Brigadier J. K. Lawson’s Diary: October to December 1941
Tyler Wentzell | Feature
Abstract: This article contextualises and reproduces the diary kept by Brigadier J. K. Lawson during his command of C Force at the Battle of Hong Kong. The diary covers events from Lawson’s departure from Ottawa by rail on 23 October 1941 until his death in battle on 19 December. Allied soldiers hid Lawson’s diary and other effects from Japanese guards during four long years of imprisonment and had them delivered to his widow after the war.
A Halifax: The Story of MZ 899
David J. Bercuson | Feature
Abstract: We know a great deal about the Royal Air Force’s (RAF)’s bomber offensive. There is also an extensive library of autobiographies, memoirs and other primary sources telling the personal stories of a great many aircrew, some famous—such as Guy Gibson who led the Dam Busters Raid of 1943—and others not so famous—such as Howard Hewer’s In For a Penny, In for a Pound, the story of a young man who flew in Nos. 148 and 218 Squadrons of the RAF. But few of those works have focused on the aircrew of individual aircraft because of the dearth of primary source material available to tell their stories. This is the saga of one such crew who flew a Halifax Mark III with No. 433 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and who did not survive the war. The heart of this story is based on the personnel records of these men, held at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.
Canadian Military History is a joint publication of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and the Canadian War Museum – Musée canadien de la guerre