The Battle of Hong Kong 8 to 25 Dec 41 (80 years ago). Day by Day

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
My great uncle, Harry Hunter, Royal Scots was killed in Hong Kong. I believe he was killed in action around Wong Nai Chung Gap. He was in the machine gun platoon. Him and his number two mowed down hundreds of Nips. Apparently, one of the Nip Generals lost a son or son in law who was killed by the gunners which resulted in some of the worst atrocities the Nips committed in Hong Kong. At least Harry zapped plenty of Tojos before he bought it. The battlefield tour was very good. I did it in 1997, before the handover to the Peoples Liberation Army, when I was serving in the Black Watch. We are the people, who's like us, nobody, cause there all dead.
Big Shawzer ex Savages 1BW
I lived in HK between 1983 and 1992. I knew plenty of people who had fought in the battle and others who had suffered under the occupation. Some as PW or internees and others in the general population.

Not so many left now.

It slightly annoys me every year on 7 Dec when the media goes on about Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was very important, not least because it brought America into the war, but the media seem totally unaware about The Far East, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya and other Japanese targets.
 
I lived in HK between 1983 and 1992. I knew plenty of people who had fought in the battle and others who had suffered under the occupation. Some as PW or internees and others in the general population.

Not so many left now.

It slightly annoys me every year on 7 Dec when the media goes on about Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was very important, not least because it brought America into the war, but the media seem totally unaware about The Far East, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya and other Japanese targets.
Including, of course, China, which the Japs invaded in 1937. My paternal grandfather was with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and he and his family were interned in what was then called Tientsin, now Tianjin.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Hong Kong 80 years ago:

20 Dec 41

East Bde, which comprised the Royal Rifles of Canada, 2 Coys of Middlesex taken from there now useless pillboxes, 2 Coys of the HKVDC and a small parties of support arms and services, withdrew south in order to counter attack. This attack and did not materialise until the morning of the 20th.

The battle for the Island now took the form of two minor but separate campaigns. These are presented chronologically with the West Bde action first.

20th of December. The line is shown on the map 4.

West Brigade. On the 20th the Japanese moved the 229th across the main roads south of wong Nei Chong Gap and captured Shousan Hill (Pt 143). Col Rose, commandant of the HKVDC, who had now been appointed Bde Commander West Bde, ordered a mixed force, mainly made up of Punjabis to try and remove the enemy and proceed up the road to Wong Nei Chong Gap. They failed. Withdrawing from Shouson Hill they establish a defensive zone in the area of Little Hong Kong, Bennett’s Hill and Brick Hill.

At 1700 hrs the Japanese occupied Mt Nicholson taking advantage of the mist which shrouded the hill. This was carried out by the 228th Regiment. In the late hours of the night of the Winnipeg Grenadiers in preparation for dawn attack on Wong Nei Chong Gap began to form up on Mt Nicholson unaware that the Japanese were occupying it. They came under heavy fire and had to withdraw to Middle Gap.

About this time came the persistent rumour, only now backed up by supposed report from the KMT mission in Hong Kong, that the Colony need only hold out for a few more days for 60,000 Chinese were concentrating on the border preparation for taking the Japanese in the rear. Needless to say these raise hopes proved to be false.

East Brigade. The counter-attack which had been the reason for East Brigade’s withdrawal SE now went in. Brigadier Wallis counter attacked along the main Repulse Bay road intending to reach Wong Nei Chong Gap. After he had driven forward elements of the Japanese from the Repulse Bay hotel and a large garage on the other side of the road, is advances halted at the Repulse Bay Hotel by fire from Pt 269, Middle Spur and Violet Hill.

At 1700 hrs Brigadier Wallis receives a report that Stanley Mound was under fire and that the Japanese were seen to be occupying Pt 362. He immediately withdrew to his original position around that Stanley leaving one Coy over the Royal Rifles of Canada to hold of the hotel area “at all costs”.

He then reported that he had not sufficient strength to forces way through the enemy holding Violet Hill and Middle Spur. He propose to attack, in order to regain contact with the West Bde, between Taitam Gap and Gauge Basin. “This plan, desperate though it was, was approved”.

1639994743397.png
 
I lived in HK between 1983 and 1992. I knew plenty of people who had fought in the battle and others who had suffered under the occupation. Some as PW or internees and others in the general population.

Not so many left now.

It slightly annoys me every year on 7 Dec when the media goes on about Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was very important, not least because it brought America into the war, but the media seem totally unaware about The Far East, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya and other Japanese targets.
Totally agree with you. The battle of Hong Kong was of course brutal. Especially when we're out numbered, and logistically starved of resupply.
I actually visited Pearl Harbour in 93, when Bravo Coy 1BW worked with 3/3 US Marine corps for a six week exchange.
Indeed, the Black Watch and 3/3 Marines go back to the Korean War, when the BW were fighting on the front line, they were given respite by the 3/3 . As the marines fought on, and the Jocks could get some much needed rest.
Yes, it bites my shite when the sacrifice of so many servicemen and women, British, Chinese, Canadian and so forth. Not forgetting the appalling atrocities they faced along with the civ pop.
We shall not forget.
 
Especially when we're out numbered,
I think both sides were about evenly matched in men. Although the Japanese could call on more reinforcements. An option not available to the British.

There was even debate by the British over whether HK should be defended at all and the troops better employed elsewhere like in Malaya. All was always known by the British high command that HK was indefensible long term and was a lost cause once Japanese reached the China/HK border in 1939.

In the end though Churchill felt that for the sake of the empire and to avoid losing face with China an attempt must be made to defend the colony no matter how forlorn. Prior to 1939 there had been a cruiser and submarine squadron based in HK but it was withdrawn to Home Waters at the start of the European war.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Hong Kong 80 years ago:

21 Dec 41


Line:

West Bde – Soo Kun Poo; Leighton Hill; Mt Nicholson; Brick Hill

East Bde – Middle Spur; The Twins; Red Hill.

West Brigade. The Winnipeg Grenadiers again try to recapture Wong Nei Chong Gap only to be met once more with devastating fire from Mt Nicholson which accounted for 50% of the attacking force and included all officers. They were driven back and withdrew to Mt Cameron where they barely mustered 100 men.

In Leighton Hill ‘Z’ Coy, The Middlesex Regt ‘the odds and sods’, still held out although the Japanese were making a determined effort to move them.

Col Rose decided to make one last desperate effort to breakthrough to Wong Nei Chong Gap and ordered the CO of the Punjabis to recapture Shouson Hill and press on to the Gap. With the force numbering barely 50 men of Punjabis and Half RN, the CO lead the attack on Pt 143. This was the last attempt by West Bde to recapture Wong Nei Chong Gap.

East Brigade. On the afternoon of the 21st Brigadier Wallis counter attacked on the line approved the previous day – Taitam Gap/Guage Basin. He barely got off the road before his forces were attacked on three sides from every bit of high ground in the area, and halted. The position was hopeless and his troops were finally driven back by I/229th who had been brought in from the reserve. The Japanese, following this attempt by East Bde, further reinforce the area with another Bn from the reserve.

General Maltby then personally ordered another attempt, the same day, to force the road past the hotel in Repulse Bay. This force, in vehicles taking the Coy of the Royal Rifles of Canada from the Hotel and leaving a Coy of the HKVDC there, run the gauntlet of Japanese fire and advance of the road and to reach the Police Station in Wong Nei Chong Gap. But in doing so they were so weakened when they arrived they could do nothing about it and the pathetically few remaining workforce to withdraw back down the road to the hotel. Very few made it back.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Hong Kong 80 years ago:

22nd of December

Line:

West Bde – Soo Kun Poo; Leighton Hill; Mt Nicholson; Brick Hill.

East Bde – Middle Spur; The Twins; Sugar Loaf; Red Hill.

West Brigade. Through lack of ammunition, food, water and medical supplies the final survivors of the Wong Nei Chong Gap defence forced surrendered. This force which was in the main Canadian, received one of the few tributes from the Japanese who admitted that their determined stand cost many Japanese lives and ‘threw their troops into confusion’.

However at 2200 hrs the II/228th attacked and captured Mt Cameron driving the fewvremaining troops of the Winnipeg Grenadiers from hill. East Brigade. With the East Bde weakened by their two counter attacks of the 21st the Japanese moved down into Repulse Bay and although the Hotel held out for another day the area was in the control of the enemy. The HKVDC Coy finally decided to withdraw from the hotel in small groups leaving the women and children who are taken refuge in the hotel as this was considered to be the safest policy. Very few are the troops got through to Stanley although no harm came to the civilians in the Hotel when the Japanese occupied it. Many prisoners who were taken in other places were less fortunate.

East Bde now form the line based on Stanley Mound/Stone Hill but on that afternoon in these troops are thrown from these hills are the advancing Japanese. Through the complete lack of reinforcements they were not able to counter attack.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
80 years ago in Hong Kong:

23rd of December


Line:

West Bde – Soo Kun Poo; Leighton Hill; Mt Nicholson; Brick Hill.

East Bde – line at running West/Est between Stanley Mound/Stone Hill and the main road.

West Brigade. The Middlesex at Leighton Hill reported that the Japanese had gone round them and when attacking the Race Course area.

The composite force in the Little Hong Kong area proposed a determined attack by the Japanese. Realising that this was going to be a tough nut to crack the Japanese went around the area and moved on Bennett’s Hill. It was at this stage that they committed their final reserve the III/230th in the determined drive on Victoria.

East Brigade. In spite of the now desperate position Brigadier Wallis ordered a counter attack by the remaining troops of the Royal Rifles of Canada on Stanley Mound and Stone Hill. They were supported by the MMGs of the Middlesex. They manage to gain the crest of both hills but were unable to hold on as the counter attacking Japanese drove them off by artillery and mortar fire onto those troops expose on the bare hill tops. The Canadians were forced to withdraw to Stanley Village although the Japanese, by now feeling their losses in this area, did not follow up.
 
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BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
80 years ago in Hong Kong:

24th of December

Line:

West Bde
– Soo Kun Poo; Happy Valley; Mt Cameron; Little Hong Kong; Brick Hill.

East Bde – Line West/Est just north of Stanley Village.

West Brigade. Z Coy, the Middlesex Regt on Leighton Hill were finally forced to withdraw having been assaulted all three sides with all of their MMGs knocked out by mortar fire. They move down through the built up area of the race course and the survivors manage to make contact with the British forces to the west.

The Japanese made no major attacks in the West Bde area during the whole day after forcing ‘Z’ Coy to withdraw.

East Brigade. The remnants of the Royal Rifles Canada will be withdrawn at the request of their officers to Stanley Fort to rest. They have been continually in action for 5 days since the landings of the Japanese and were nearing exhaustion. Their position in the line holding Stanley Village was taken over by mixed force the Middlesex and the HKVDC. During thenight of the 24/25th this is composite force was subjected to a Banzai charge by the I/229th and I/230th. Despite enormous losses, their second heaviest in the whole battle, the Japanese overrun these positions. The day was saved by the Royal Rifles of Canada being brought back into action again from Stanley Fort. Their counter-attack drove the Japanese back to the original line with the exception of the Police Station. (These Canadians were to be wiped out counter attacking again the next day).
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
80 years ago in Hong Kong:

25th of December


Line:

West – East Point; Happy Valley; Mt Cameron; Bennett’s Hill; East of Aberdeen.

East – Line East/West south of village.

East Brigade. Brigadier Wallis ordered a further counter attack by the Royal Rifles of Canada. They were annihilated by the Japanese from positions which they add consolidated during the night.

Orders were brought to Brigadier Wallis by two British Staff Officers under Japanese escort to surrender in the afternoon. He refused to believe that this was genuine saying that the local situation did not warrant surrender and ordered his Bde Major to go through the Japanese lines and obtain this order in writing. Stanley Fort surrender at 0230 hrs on the 26th of December.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Merry Christmas! Lest We Forget.

I will continue the thread with some of the aftermath and conclusions of the 22 Oct 64 Study Day.

If anyone would like to see the full documents PM me and I'll make them available to you.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
I attach an small essay written up for our Regimental website which gives the battle from our pov, which differs slightly from the official history. The official history was written mainly from Canadian sources and prior to the POWs returning to UK and only efforts by RS senior officers was it changed. The original account basically accused 2RS of just giving in leaving the rest of the garrison stranded. This essay gives the Bn's movements and how they were whittled down. To say that the general officers were not if the highest quality is a bit of an understatement.


Scroll down to 2nd Battalion, but by all means read the rest of the Bns' war record, quite interesting.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Thanks for that. There is a brief discussion of that earlier on.

If there is any blame it is on years of inaction prior to Dec 41. Maltby only arrived in Hong Kong in the latter part of 1941 and did what he could but it was too late and by that stage resources were limited.

It has to be put in context of the battles being fought else where and the limit of what could be spared for what was not yet a war.

It is a pity that Maltby and his senior team where not in Singapore. I suspect there would have been a somewhat different outcome there with his leadership - or any leadership.
 
I attach an small essay written up for our Regimental website which gives the battle from our pov, which differs slightly from the official history. The official history was written mainly from Canadian sources and prior to the POWs returning to UK and only efforts by RS senior officers was it changed. The original account basically accused 2RS of just giving in leaving the rest of the garrison stranded. This essay gives the Bn's movements and how they were whittled down. To say that the general officers were not if the highest quality is a bit of an understatement.


Scroll down to 2nd Battalion, but by all means read the rest of the Bns' war record, quite interesting.

Hong Kong gets over looked by the fall of Singapore. Both battles are a study of how not to waste time in defending an island
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
H
Hong Kong gets over looked by the fall of Singapore. Both battles are a study of how not to waste time in defending an island
Hong Kong is also a study in how to conduct a fighting withdrawal, including a major wet gap crossing.

Or from the Japanese POV a study in attack across very challenging terrain, jungle, mountain, OBUA, and a major wet gap crossing.

It is also a study of the importance of LOAC.
 
It is a pity that Maltby and his senior team where not in Singapore. I suspect there would have been a somewhat different outcome there with his leadership - or any leadership.
I very much doubt it. The result would have been the same if Slim had been GOC. Singapore and HK were two different battles. The battle of Singapore began after the 8 week retreat down the Malayan penisula. Singapore was lost when the airfields in Northern Malaya and more importantly when General Gordon Bennet failed to hold southern Malaya in Johore.

Slim and Alexander failed to hold Rangoon in Burma, in fact Alexander almost got the whole British force captured. It was only the fact that they were able to carry out a long retreat (the longest in British Military history) up Northern Burma to the relative safety of India. There were the same problems experienced by British forces in Burma as there were in HK and the Malayan campaign.
 
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I very much doubt it. The result would have been the same if Slim had been GOC. Singapore and HK were two different battles. The battle of Singapore began after the 8 week retreat down the Malayan penisula. Singapore was lost when the airfields in Northern Malaya and more importantly when General Gordon Bennet failed to hold southern Malaya in Johore.

Slim and Alexander failed to hold Rangoon in Burma, in fact Alexander almost got the whole British force captured. It was only the fact that they were able to carry out a long retreat (the longest in British Military history) up Northern Burma to the relative safety of India. There were the problems experienced by British forces in Burma as there were in HK and the Malayan campaign.
Any links to your post would be gladly appreciated
 

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