HISTORICAL EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE ON THIS DAY IN CANADA

25 December

Hong Kong Surrenders

We were greatly concerned to hear of the landings on Hong Kong Island which have been effected by the Japanese. We cannot judge from here the conditions which rendered these landings possible or prevented effective counter-attacks upon the intruders. There must however be no thought of surrender. Every part of the island must be fought and the enemy resisted with the utmost stubbornness.

The enemy should be compelled to expend the utmost life and equipment. There must be vigorous fighting in the inner defences, and, if the need be, from house to house. Every day that you are able to maintain your resistance you help the Allied cause all over the world, and by a prolonged resistance you and your men can win the lasting honour which we are sure will be your due.

óWINSTON CHURCHILL, 1941

Christmas Day is a time for remembrance as well as rejoicing. Perhaps the most tragic Christmas in Canadian history was in 1941 when the officers and men of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers had to surrender to the Japanese in Hong Kong during World War II. They were prisoners of war in the most gruesome surroundings until late in 1945. The fighting at Hong Kong and the prisoner-of-war camps took the lives of 550 of the 2,000 men sent from Canada. Many of those who returned to Canada had to be carried on stretchers; some were mere shadows, weighing less than 100 lbs. They suffered for years from the effects of the camps.

In September, 1941, it was decided to reinforce the British garrison at Hong Kong. The following December the Japanese made surprise attacks on British and American bases at Pearl Harbour, Northern Malaya, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and Hong Kong. War was declared.

Canada agreed to send two battalions to Japan, and the Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers were chosen. The Royal Rifles had been on coastal duty in Newfoundland and at Saint John, New Brunswick; the Winnipeg Grenadiers had been serving in the West Indies. After brief training at Valcartier, Quebec, and at Winnipeg, they were taken to Vancouver in special trains. Many of the men did not want to go and fifty of them deserted from the Winnipeg Grenadiers. On October 27, when the troops went on board the Awatea, the British ship that was to take them to Hong Kong, about forty men decided to get off and forced their way into a shed, where they remained for about twenty minutes until officers and N.C.O.s "persuaded" them to return to the ship.

Successful defense of Hong Kong was hopeless. The British commanding officer, MajorGeneral C. M. Maltby, had a force of about 14,000 including the Canadians. They were overwhelmed by greatly superior Japanese forces in less than two weeks of fighting, with heavy casualties inflicted on both sides. The Japanese demanded the surrender of the 'Hong Kong garrison as early as December 13, but fighting continued until Christmas afternoon. By this time further opposition was impossible and the garrison surrendered.

OTHER NOTABLE EVENTS ON THIS DAY IN CANADIAN HISTORY

25 December

-1635    Samuel de Champlain died at Quebec.

-1785    Christ Church opened at Sorel, Quebec. It is the oldest Protestant church in Quebec.

-1898    It was announced that postage throughout the British Commonwealth would be one penny (two cents) for half ounce letters.

-1971    Justin Pierre Trudeau born to Prime Minister and Mrs. Trudeau, becoming the second child born to a prime minister during his term of office. The first child born to a prime minister was Mary, daughter of Sir John A. Macdonald, in 1869.