Today is VJ Day when Japan surrendered 75 years ago. That was also the day that 1475 Canadians were liberated from a Prisoner of War camp in Hong Kong. They had defended Hong Kong from attack by the Japanese army but suffered heavy losses before surrendering. The defending Canadians were from two regiments, the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Many of the Royal Rifles were from Cobourg and Port Hope and today they were remembered in a ceremony at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park. Members of the veterans’ families were there to lay wreaths. The event was not promoted so that the crowd would be less than 100 – which it was. But paying their respects were Warden and Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson, Mayor John Henderson, MP Philip Lawrence and MPP David Piccini.
But there were no political speeches – Mayor Henderson spoke briefly about how the event came about (see video), but the others did no more than just be there.
MC Mark Purcell, grandson of one of those remembered (Lt. Leonard Corrigan) gave a brief history of the battle:
On December 8th, 1941 the Japanese army invaded the British Colony of Hong Kong. Among the defenders were 1,975 Canadians from across Canada who were asked by the British Government to assist with the defence of Hong Kong. They were from two Regiments, The Royal Rifles of Canada and The Winnipeg Grenadiers. Along with Battalion Headquarters Staff and Signals Corp, they formed ‘C’ Force.
They fought for 17 days losing about 250 members. On December 25th, 1941, the British Government surrendered and the remaining 1,725 members of ‘C’ Force were interred as Prisoners of War in Hong Kong and Japan for the next three years and eight months. They lost about 250 more men from illness, starvation, accident and poor treatment while in the POW Camps. On August 15th, 1945 the remaining 1,475 were finally liberated and were allowed to go home after medical treatment for starvation and Tropical illnesses that affected them all.
It is for that reason that we are here today, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of their release from captivity. Currently, there are only five left but we remember them all for their courage and the sacrifice that they gave for all of us.
Five wreaths were put on the Cenotaph, mostly from families, but including one by Jamie Doolittle representing Probus Canada and local Probus clubs (video has wrong name).
Two family members read out the names of the 37 veterans from Port Hope and Cobourg – see the video.
There were no speeches or prayers although Mark did also read out the poem by Laurence Binyon:
They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.
Response: We will remember them.
I think all present were moved by the ceremony.