In the autumn of 1941 World War Two was raging across Europe, but the battles of the Pacific region were yet to come. Although considered of little strategic importance by Winston Churchill, the island of Hong Kong was considered defensible by some Canadian military leaders. On October 20th, 1941 the decision was made to send just over 2,000 Canadian soldiers to help defend Hong Kong from possible Japanese aggression. On December 8th the Japanese attacked…
In defence of the island, the Canadians fought the battle-hardened, well-trained soldiers of the Japanese forces. One artefact of this battle is a Japanese military sword now at The Manitoba Museum. On December 20th, Lieutenant Leonard B. Corrigan was in action with a small fighting patrol of the Winnipeg Grenadiers when they encountered an enemy patrol and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. According to his citation for the award of a Mention-in-Despatches, Corrigan killed two Japanese soldiers and was attacked by a Japanese officer with the sword. He caught the sword with his left hand (suffering a severe injury) and killed the officer with a flare gun. Despite their victory over the enemy patrol, the Canadians were taken prisoner days later and spent the rest of the war in captivity. Their Prisoner of War experience is told at The Manitoba Museum in the Parklands/Mixed Woods Gallery.
Part Two of this blog will showcase an artefact from their POW experience, when food was in short supply and the days were long.
For more information on the Battle for Hong Kong, visit http://www.hkvca.ca, or for more on the experience of Canadians in the Pacific during the Second World War , visit the exhibit (which will feature some of our artefacts) in Calgary – http://themilitarymuseums.ca/whats-new