Hong Kong Invasion 1941

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Dec 31, 2011.

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  1. On the local TV, we occasionally get a 5 min 'Quickie' between programs, where a Gent talks about the jap invasion, a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour.
    He does indeed praise the defenders, mainly Local Chinese residents, with Brit Officers (as was the case way back then) and gives and example of a Galant Stand made by them when jap attempted to cut the island in half.
    I know little of the conquest of Honkers, anyone any comments or can name a Good Book on the subject ?

  2. John

    this book is worth reading
    The battle for Hong Kong 1941-1945
    John R. Harris, Oliver Lindsay
    The battle for Hong Kong 1941-1945 ... - John R. Harris, Oliver Lindsay - Google Books

    Not a Wike fan per se but there are some excellent external links from the Wiki page
    Battle of Hong Kong - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Official report by Major-General C.M Maltby, G.O.C. Hong Kong

    If you haven’t read John Toland’s excellent pullitzer winning door-stopper
    Rising Sun -though I suspect you might- I can highly recommend it.
    Irish George [ex-LI] at Backstreet Books most probably has a copy.

    • Like Like x 1
  3. Cheers for the prompt reply.

    "Irish George [ex-LI] at Backstreet Books most probably has a copy."

    Is that in the soi behind Geko at Thaepe ?

  4. John
    the soi beside Boots East of Thappae Gate and the moat - it is next to one of the big Gecko shops.
    Backstreet Books. 2/8 Chang Moi-Kao Road, A. Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50100. Phone: +66 (0) 53 874 143.
    see map here
    Backstreet Book Siam

    BTW George knows your chum, the gallant RE Major, RH, well.

    I believe the Honkers book mentioned above published by HK University, would probably be best acquired from the Uni direct or Amazon.
  5. Two books that I found useful for background were;

    'The Lasting Honour' by Oliver Lindsey and 'The Fall of Hong Kong' by Tim Carew. They were both written a good few decades back but it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up second-hand copies. Carew's book as I recall deals equally with the battle and the subsequent horrors of internment.

    Probably because of the limited numbers involved, it is easier to focus on the deeds of individual regiments involved than say, Malaya/Singapore, and both books give accounts of the actions of the Canadians, the Royal Scots, Middlesex Regt and the HK Volunteers, my memory is that Carew's book focuses a bit more on the Middx Regt.

    Lindsey was a Guards officer who researched his book while serving a tour in HK.

    For an alternate viewpoint, one of the more unusual books I have about the occupation of Hong Kong is 'Small Man of Nanataki' by Liam Nolan. It tells the story of Kiyoshi Watanabe. He was a Japanese army interpreter who smuggled in much needed medical supplies to POWs and civilian internees. Following your posting, I've just re-read the book's postscript written by the Director of Medical Services, Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke, in Hong Kong at the time. He wrote:

    "When I was organising relief for prisoners of war and interned civilians after the fall of Hong Kong before myself being picked up for 'treatment' by the Kempetai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo, I was helped by several Japanese who, like (Watanabi) who had no notions of disloyalty to their own country, but were appalled by the conditions in the camps and anxious to do all they could to relieve unnecessary suffering. Some were tortured; some executed. Watanabe, I am thankful to say, escaped, but he would be the first to want this book about him to be a tribute to be a group of humanitarian Japanese, of whom he was the most outstanding"

    A story still to be told perhaps?
  6. Yes Rhoddie I know the location.
    The last time I took Roy there their staff reversed me into a Flower pot.
    No sweat now as he uses the family/firm chauffeur.

    Thanks Tawahi, as I have said on this forum before the Japanese as a people Baffle me.
    The ones I have known on a personal level have been very nice folks.
    Polite, respectful and kind.
    In the past board members have commented on the 'Correct' attitude of the Japanese Military in WW I and yet I was brought up with a father who at times used to 'Shudder' when he recollected certain times in Burma.
    My friend Roy who is 92 fought in Burma from 41-45, a sapper he saw a lot of action, Sittang Bridge, First & Second Arakan and then the pursuit down from Kohima across and the Irrawaddie.
    When I first got to know him He gripped my arm and said of his time in Burma, John there are things in war that even Soldiers should not see. He also occasionally has the Shudder.

  7. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    May I also recommend 'Second To None' and 'The Hong Kong Volunteers in Battle' to you. Which you can see on the Regt Assoc website You can order it from the Assoc or take a stroll to the Regt Assoc Clubhouse in the Jockey Club in Happy Valley and buyit over the counter.

    You might also be able to get yourself on the list to attend the next battlefield tour they organise.

    Have you been to the Museum of Coastal Defence?
  8. Just found this on The Asia Times web site. An excerpt from a long artical.
    Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.

    Page 1 of 2
    Hong Kong's unwanted Christmas present
    By Ronan Thomas

    Hong Kong knows how to celebrate Christmas. Each year, the nativity is marked by spectacular Christmas lights adorning the skyline on both sides of Victoria Harbor, from Central across to Kowloon. On Christmas Day, a brass band plays festive melodies non-stop outside the summit restaurants on the Peak. Popular Christmas-themed "Winterfest" events are held at public venues across the territory. The retail drive starts in September.

    Yet beneath Hong Kong's surface bustle this year lie sombre memories of another Christmas. Seventy years ago - starting on December 8 and culminating on December 25, 1941 - Hong Kong was under attack from swarms of Japanese bombers. From Kowloon a shrieking typhoon of Japanese artillery shells was

    striking the streets of Central and Wan Chai. The runways of Kai Tak airport were reduced to rubble in minutes. Last-ditch British and Chinese resistance on Hong Kong Island stood no chance.

    This year marks 70 years since the battle and fall of Hong Kong: the loss of the former British colony to the forces of Imperial Japan on Christmas Day 1941. In a lightning 17-day campaign, Japanese forces poured over the Chinese frontier into the New Territories to eventually take Hong Kong Island.

    Defeat of the combined British Empire and Hong Kong Chinese defenders was followed by over three-and-half years of brutal Japanese occupation, indoctrination and systematic exploitation. For Britain, already engaged in a life or death struggle against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, a bruising new Asian front of the war now opened up.

    With Hong Kong's capitulation - just over a century after the British had risen its flag at Possession Point in 1841- a British Crown Colony was surrendered to an enemy for the first time. When Hong Kong was liberated from its Japanese overseers in August 1945, the territory would bounce back remarkably within a few years. But in December 1941 no light shone in the colony's darkness, save the stoicism, tenacity and courage of the territory's imprisoned inhabitants.

    This Christmas, international veterans groups and Chinese civilians who suffered at the hands of the Japanese in Hong Kong are holding ceremonies of remembrance at war cemeteries across the territory. The main services - such as one for Canadian ex-prisoners of war (POWs) held on December 4 - are taking place at Sai Wan Cemetery (at Chai Wan, on north eastern Hong Kong Island).

    Sai Wan holds the graves of over 1,500 British Commonwealth casualties from the battle and its aftermath and commemorates 2,000 others who have no known grave. On December 7, the Japanese government issued a muted apology to Canada for the suffering inflicted on its prisoners in Hong Kong, Veteran reactions were mixed, recalling past suffering, fortitude and gratitude for survival. For Christmas Day 1941 saw the unwrapping of a most unwanted present.

    Military tsunami
    The fall of Hong Kong took place in a period of stunning Japanese military success. Between December 7, 1941, and April 5, 1942, Imperial Japan stripped three western powers of their Southeast Asian colonial outposts. The British lost Malaya, Borneo and Burma; the Netherlands lost Sumatra and Java in the Dutch East Indies; the United States lost the Philippines. All of the island groups in the Western Pacific fell and neutral Siam (Thailand) was invaded. By May 1942 over 110 million Asian souls lay under Japanese control.

    The Pacific War of 1941-1945 had originated from rampant Japanese regional expansionism in Asia from 1937. Obsessed with securing sustainable raw material sources and fixated by the concept of a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Zone" (in the face of a US-led embargo on oil imports), Japan decided to seize the assets of its regional western competitors whilst they were at their weakest (of the three only Britain was fighting by late 1941 in Europe and North Africa; the US still remained aloof from direct involvement).

    Perceiving this as a matter of national survival, Japan calculated on a synchronized pre-emptive strike across Asia, prior to fighting a defensive naval war to consolidate her raw material gains. It was an audacious strategic gamble. In fact, Japan possessed only marginal superiority in men and material and had fatally underestimated long term US and British resolve. But in 1941 their December attacks were a tactical triumph and brilliantly executed.
    Japan's military tsunami in Southeast Asia was unleashed a few minutes before midnight on December 7, 1941 (December 8 west across the International Date Line and one hour before the Pearl Harbor attack), with landings at Kota Bharu in British-controlled northeast Malaya and on the Kra Isthmus in neutral Siam (Thailand).

    Both attacks smashed through local defenses as the Japanese moved remorselessly on their primary target 800 kilometers south: Singapore (which the British would surrender in the most ignominious of circumstances on February 15, 1942). One hour later - at 7.55 am (Hawaii Time), Sunday December 7, 1941, Japan launched the most famous surprise attack in history, bombing the US Pacific Fleet at anchor in "Battleship Row", Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

    The US had broken Japanese codes before the attack (and shared the results with the British) and Japanese attacks against Western targets in Asia were considered imminent in early December 1941. Nevertheless, a taskforce of 31 Japanese warships, spearheaded by six aircraft carriers under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, had crossed the Pacific undetected. 400 km from Hawaii, Nagumo launched 353 Aichi D3A1 Val dive bombers, Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters and Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers against Pearl Harbor and other ground targets on the island.

    On this "date of infamy" (as described by US president Franklin D Roosevelt) the Japanese destroyed 18 US warships, including two battleships and 186 US aircraft. 2,403 US servicemen were killed. Japan lost only 29 of their own aircraft and 55 aircrew. In hindsight, Japan's aim to remove the US as a regional naval competitor - as it had done with Tsarist Russia in 1905 - was fatally flawed.

    The devastation at Pearl Harbor had not included a single US aircraft carrier. Admiral Nagumo did not follow up his initial successes with additional attacks. In due course, Japan would reap that particular whirlwind. Nevertheless, from December 1941 the harsh glare of Japan's Rising Sun shone now over Asia. Hong Kong was next.

    Japan swoops on Hong Kong
    Since the late 1930s, the British government had viewed its Hong Kong colony as militarily indefensible. Two decades of appeasement policies in Britain coupled with official complacency and arrogance as to Japanese military capabilities had not equipped the colony with anything like an adequate defense.

    Instead, what meagre British military resources there were in for Asia in the 1930s had been devoted to build up the naval base at Singapore as a supposedly "impregnable" fortress.

    When war broke out in Europe, London placed Hong Kong on war readiness with a nominal garrison of just under 15,000 men (mostly British and Indian) but an air of unreality and denial persisted. It was hoped that the colony could hold out for four months both from the sea and from the landward side facing the Chinese frontier.

    The threat to Hong Kong increased in late autumn 1939 when sizeable Japanese forces occupied Guangzhou, behind the Chinese frontier with the New Territories. By 1941, with the growing prospect of Japanese military involvement in Asia, British prime minister Winston Churchill changed the rhetoric, urging Hong Kong's defense whatever the cost.

    From 1941, the colony authorities beefed up its existing land defenses in the New Territories. Under the command of Major General Christopher Maltby, the British put their faith in a dense 18 km-long network of slit trenches, tunnels, bunkers and pillboxes (built between 1935 and 1938 with sections given London street names), which lay across the New Territories along Smuggler's Ridge, 17km south of the Chinese frontier, past Golden Hill, north of Kowloon.

    At the center of the Smuggler's Ridge defense line - also known as Gin Drinkers Line (GDL) - the British reinforced a key strong point, the Shing-mun redoubt, hoping that determined resistance there by the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Regiment could impede if not hold the Japanese back.

    But the manpower provided to hold this so-called "Maginot Line of the East" was totally inadequate: a Mainland Brigade of only four British and Indian Army infantry battalions, a local defense force, insufficient artillery pieces and a derisory number of Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft and Royal Navy gunboats in support.

    Most of Hong Kong's heavy guns faced out to sea and could not traverse. In June 1941 the evacuation of British women and children by sea was begun. Other eleventh hour attempts at defense were made. Over 70 pillboxes were built, barbed wire entanglements dug in on beaches and sand bags placed outside public buildings on Hong Kong Island.

    Mines were laid in the sea lane approaches to Hong Kong by the Royal Navy. By July 1941, Hong Kong's governor Sir Mark Young declared that the colony was well prepared to resist any attack. But it was far from the truth.

    In a further example of optimism over reality (on Churchill's orders) Hong Kong Island's single defending British infantry battalion - the 1st Middlesex - was reinforced by two Canadian infantry battalions (The Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles of Canada, many of whom were half-trained and French speaking only) who landed from troopships on November 16, 1941, without adequate mechanized support. They arrived just in time for annihilation or capture.

    At 8 am on the morning of December 8, 1941, the Japanese swooped on Hong Kong. Japanese medium bombers, flying from occupied Formosa (Taiwan), struck Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The RAF's aerodrome at Kai Tak was almost immediately put out of action and the Sham Shui Po Barracks were wrecked.
    40,000 men of the 38th Division of the 23rd Japanese Army (using maps of the British defenses provided by fifth columnist spies from Hong Kong's Japanese community) poured over the Chinese frontier into the New Territories. During 9-10 December the Japanese stormed both the Smuggler's Ridge line and the Shing-mun redoubt, killing over 40 British and Indian defenders in their trenches and pillboxes.

    On December 11, the British decided to evacuate from the mainland. The same day the garrison remnants fell back to Kowloon, strafed by low-flying Japanese aircraft. At Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) they commandeered whatever water transport was available - including iconic, if slow moving, Star Ferries - before retreating 40,000 men of the 38th Division of the 23rd Japanese Army (using maps of the British defenses provided by fifth columnist spies from Hong Kong's Japanese community) poured over the Chinese frontier into the New Territories. During 9-10 December the Japanese stormed both the Smuggler's Ridge line and the Shing-mun redoubt, killing over 40 British and Indian defenders in their trenches and pillboxes.

    On December 11, the British decided to evacuate from the mainland. The same day the garrison remnants fell back to Kowloon, strafed by low-flying Japanese aircraft. At Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) they commandeered whatever water transport was available - including iconic, if slow moving, Star Ferries - before retreating back across Victoria Harbour to the 31 square miles of Hong Kong Island.

    Sunken and half-submerged British vessels soon littered the harbor. The Japanese promptly began to shell the island from Kowloon, broadcasting loudspeaker calls urging the defenders to surrender, whilst their dive bombers laid waste to Central, Statue Square and Wan Chai.

    The Jockey Club in Happy Valley was lacerated by bombs. Civilian refugees surged inland. Order turned to chaos. No assistance from the sea was available to Hong Kong's beleaguered populace. The Japanese had removed Britain's Asian naval deterrent force on December 10 when over 50 of their bombers sank the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse in the South China Sea.

    Even as Churchill was demanding by telegram that governor Young and his assistant colonial secretary Franklin Gimson fight in Government House to the last man - "The eyes of the world are upon you. We expect you to resist to the end. The honor of the Empire is in your hands" - endgame for Hong Kong was approaching.

    In under a week - by December 18 - Japanese amphibious assault troops were across the Harbour, landing on East Point on Hong Kong Island and pushing inland. Crossing east of the Peak, they swiftly divided the island into two halves, before rolling both up. At the North Point Power Station, on the island's northern waterfront, courageous resistance from British and Chinese members of the Hong Kong Volunteers held the Japanese up for over a day.

    Japanese atrocities were now reported. In several cases, wounded British soldiers and medical staff were bayoneted out of hand. By December 20, the Japanese had taken Repulse Bay. Isolated pockets of last-ditch British and Empire and Chinese resistance continued as far down as Stanley in the southeast but on Christmas Day 1941 governor Young and General Maltby surrendered Hong Kong to Japanese Lieutenant General Takashi Sakai.

    Sakai and Vice Admiral Masaichi Niimi led a victory parade on horseback through Hong Kong's streets. For several hours, Japanese officers let their soldiers off the leash to rape and loot at will among Hong Kong's civilian population. Of the 15,000-strong garrison, over 1,500 British and Empire soldiers had been killed in the battle and over 1,300 were seriously wounded. At least 4,000 Chinese civilians died.

    The Japanese suffered around 3,000 casualties in the assault. The military prisoners - 9,000 men - were placed in appalling conditions in fetid prison camps in Kowloon and at North Point. Several thousand of these were subsequently shipped to Japan and elsewhere to work as slave laborers. A tiny number of British soldiers and civilians escaped to unoccupied parts of the Chinese mainland."

  9. Missed the bit about British Nurses being gang raped then being strung upside down having boiling hot water poured into their vaginas.....
  10. UK was bankrupt post WW I. Much like now.
    The once mighty Navy was reduced to a few Modern (1914-18) battle ships and the largest Army UK had ever had was cut down to nothing, not quite as bad as now but considering it's range of Duties far too small.
    By 1923 it was known that in the event of expansion by a foreign power in The Far East, Japan would be that nation and a large sea battle would be necessary.
    The British Home Fleet was tasked to sail immediately the Japanese Fleet sailed south and a major sea battle was on the cards.
    Large causalities in ships where expected and this led to the construction of the massive Singapore Dockyard, capable of repairing Line of Battle Ships.
    There never was a Fortress Singapore, that was the invention of some jurno.
    A single division to protect Hong Kong and one that would have been bled white by the milking of trained men and officers, would have stood no chance and even four months would have been optimistic, Whitehall Dreaming, is perhaps the politest exspresion.
    Britain's fortunes in Asia have never recovered, good or bad I do not know. We lost or gave away the trade that made UK and are now left with Euroland.

  11. Really? Haven't heard that one.

    This shows what Jap was like though:

    Massacres and Atrocities of WWII in the Pacific Region

    Maybe one day the Japanese government might even apologise?

  12. Shortly before his execution, Douglas Ford expressed a wish that his remains be interred in Edinburgh. That was not to be and he is buried in Stanley War Cemetery, along with Lt Col Newnham and Flt Lt Grey.

    All three were awarded posthumous George Crosses. Although they could have implicated General Maltby who was party to their communications with BAAG in mainland China, they gave nothing away under torture.

    A story of great fortitude and courage
  13. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    I've just read Lyndsays book and whilst at times it goes off at a tangent it is very good and doesnt play down anyones contribution.
  14. If you are visiting HK I can recommend Jason Wordie's "Ruins of War", which gives a day-by-day account fo the fighting, plus details of all of the remaining WW2 sites with 'then' and 'now' photos and details of how to get there. He also does guided walks, but I haven't tried one yet.
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