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24 August 2008 @ 12:22 pm
Stanley Military Cemetary, Hong Kong  
The Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 may be of little importance to historians. In secondary school we studied Chinese history, European history, Japanese history and even Indian history, we learnt about what happened during WWII in Europe, but no one thought it necessary to tell us about the history of the city we lived in. I knew that Hong Kong was attacked by the Japanese on December 8th 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and that it surrendered on the "Black Christmas" 17 days later, but no one had ever told me about the 4,500 killed and wounded and the 8,500 taken as prisoners of war during the defence of Hong Kong from Imperial Japan.

It is almost impossible to imagine that a battle took place in this city, that men and women had died defending it. But in so small a place, the remains of the war are all around us if one knows where to look.



My family used to go to the Shing Mun Country Park for a picnic or barbecue family day every month. The Country Park is less than a half an hour drive from my home. What I didn't realise is that while I was enjoying the food and the view of the reservoir or walking along the green trails there, I was probably just metres away from the still almost-intact Shing Mun Redoubt, key strongpoint of the Gin Drinkers Line, a British military defence line against Japanese invasion in Hong Kong in 1941.

Inspired by mylodon, I visited the Stanley Military Cemetery to remember this almost-forgotten battle and the subsequent three years and eight months of Japanese occupation.

Stanley Military Cemetary

The Cemetery is a quiet and peaceful, the sort of place you don't often find in Hong Kong.

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Many of those buried in this cemetery were younger than me when they passed away.

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I've been here before when I was very small. I remember wondering why there were so many Canadians buried in Hong Kong of all places. Now I know - they were sent here, poorly prepared for battle and out-numbered; and they died here, valiantly defending a city they hardly even knew from a brutal, imperialist army against overwhelming odds.

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I learnt this from Wikipedia:
A Canadian Company Sergeant Major, John Robert Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, threw himself on top of a grenade, sacrificing himself to save the lives of the men around him; he was later posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Osborn was the first Canadian awarded a Victoria Cross in the Second World War. His was the only Victoria Cross awarded for Battle of Hong Kong.

The statue in memory of John Robert Osborn in Hong Kong Park.

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I will never forget.
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maximaxi47 on August 24th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
What lovely photos. The cemetery does indeed look peaceful. It's odd how the way history is taught, the things that affected your ancestors are often overlooked. I bet you if you asked a Canadian they could tell you much more about the defence of Hong Kong and its fall. It's the same way here about Singapore (The 8th AIF Division was lost in the fall of Singapore). Believe it or not I knew more about that than the fact that Darwin in the Northern Territory and Broome in Western Australia were repeatedly bombed by the Japanese. I never found out about that at school. Strange, but true.

mylodon: whaletailmylodon on August 24th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. Really moving. My Dad fought out in Burma and was stationed in India for a while so I find this whole theatre of war of interest.

That cemetery - the simplicity and beauty of it.
just_jac7: london snowjust_jac7 on August 27th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)
Very touching and moving - It's a pity all those untold stories cannot find a voice and be hesrd.