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Our Roots

Page updated on: 15-Aug-2016

The idea of the sons and daughters forming a group to assist the Hong Kong Veterans Association (HKVA) first surfaced at the 1993 National Convention in Dorval QC. This idea was based on the concern that HKVA members were beginning to struggle due to advancing age and increasing health problems, having less energy to fulfill their association's aims. The result was a proposal which was was presented and accepted by the HKVA National Executive in 1995.

The veterans established the first Commemorative Board with each Branch of the HKVA nominating a representative. At the HKVA recommendation, legal counsel was sought for the fledgling organization. A list of Objectives was prepared by the new Board and submitted to the veterans. It was hoped that we would have at least 2000 members (one from each family of the C Force member) but was recognized that membership fees would not be sufficient and funding would be necessary. Charitable Organization status was very quickly recognized as essential. Our lawyer took the initial steps to obtain Letters Patent, prepared an organizational structure and drafted our first By-Laws.

The process began in late 1997 when the application was submitted to the government for approval and the Charity number was finally assigned in 2001.

Initiatives

Once the new Association was formed the focus was to concentrate on the Pension and Benefit issues, and to “keep the HK event in the public eye”. One of the early decisions was the desire to construct a Memorial Wall along the lines of the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington DC. The vets also wanted monuments erected in Hong Kong to commemorate the Battle. One veteran raised the idea of having the surviving veterans video taped. And we, the HKVCA, proposed the Monument Badges. With our Charity Status we could solicit funds and issue tax receipts in an effort to carry out these projects. (Note: as of August 2016 the name has been changed from Monument Badges to Gravestone Markers)

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments were contacted through the Canadian Embassy to see if they would allow us to place plaques at major battle sites. The Hong Kong government were planning a tourist trail so they were prepared to cover the costs of the plaques, including installation, and maintenance. When Veterans Affairs were asked about a “dedication” of these plaques during an upcoming Pilgrimage, they too were very interested and offered to take the project over.

When members were in PEI on Pension & Welfare issues in 2000, the project about getting the veterans videotaped was mentioned. Veterans Affairs had a similar project in mind and they picked up the cost. We did the scheduling and they did the interviews. VAC chose Neil Robinson for the job, which was a good choice according to the vets.

Grave Marker BadgeThe vets liked the idea of placing a Monument Badge Gravestone Marker see image) on the gravestones of HK vets buried outside of Hong Kong or Japan. The Quebec/Maritime Branch provided the funds to get the first production of these badges underway. The agreement was that the monies from the sales would be used to purchase more badges until all HK vets had one (or a similar marking) on their monuments.

Passing The Torch

The National Convention in Winnipeg in 2001 had the theme of “Passing the Torch” as the veterans saw that the Commemorative Association was getting stronger and would be able to carry on their projects and administration.  The HKVA National Executive sent a document to all their branches looking for guidance from the vets.  The majority of the branches wanted the younger association to ‘take the torch and run with it’.  A couple of branches wanted to keep their identity but also be members of the Commemorative.  So ultimately it was the veterans' wish to have all the widows and veterans as life members of the Commemorative and for all members to work together.

Regional Organization

While the National Executive was creating structure for the Association, so were the Regions.  Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes had the strong backing of the HKVA and these Regions had a core of ‘children’ that were “associate members” of the HKVA to give their area a good start.  British Columbia received some structure when new members became involved and with lots of hard work they held a successful National Convention in 2003.

After the National Convention in Winnipeg in 2001, the HKVA branch in Alberta and Saskatchewan was approached to initiate the HKVCA in their area.  They soon found volunteers to take executive positions in a newly formed Commemorative Association and an AB/SK Region was up and running. Hard work has resulted in a good operation and now Calgary has hosted the National Convention in 2007.

Projects

Personal Accounts and Books

From the beginning, it was agreed that our efforts to  “keep the Battle of Hong Kong in the public eye” should be directed at the youth of the country through various educational means.  Books about the Battle of Hong Kong were needed to assist in this venture.  Several of the HK vets had written their diaries or personal experiences in book form with limited distribution. 

In an effort to expand book distribution, the Commemorative Association acted as “agents’ for some of the books and were able to place them in schools where they could be used as a resource. These journals also told the Hong Kong story for those veterans who would not speak of their own experiences. 

One book, the Royal Rifles of Canada, was sponsored by the Quebec/Maritime Branch while another book, One Soldier’s Story, was given to the HKVCA as a fundraiser by its author, George MacDonell.  Other HK vet authors, Leo Berard and Tom Forsyth, contributed a portion of the sale of their own books to the HKVCA.

Personal Accounts also form a valuable information resource on our website.

Instructional Booklets

The BC Region was fortunate to be able to obtain the services of Graeme Stacey, a history teacher who was fascinated with the HK story. Graeme had written a thesis on the Far East theatre of World War II that included many of the details of the Battle of Hong Kong.  He was encouraged to convert much of his writing into curriculum form and the resulting instructional booklets are now available through the BC Department of Education.

Ten Lessons

In a similar fashion, the Ontario Region approached Nick Brune, an award-winning historian, to author an educational document dedicated to the Battle of Hong Kong.  “Canada in Hong Kong 1941 – 1945 The Forgotten Heroes Ten Selected Lesson Plans” was published in English and in French and is now promoted by our association to history departments across Canada.  It has been accepted as a teaching tool by several school divisions and is supported by the books that the HKVCA have available as resources.  This is a good beginning to making Canadians aware of the role that Canada played in Asia.  The Ontario Region is now sponsoring an Essay contest for students using the Battle of Hong Kong as the subject.  They are also developing members as speakers to address schools and other interested groups of people on the events of Hong Kong.

Port Perry Pilgrimage to Hong Kong

In 2005 the Port Perry school division with 200 students, parents and teachers made a pilgrimage to Hong Kong to place a time capsule containing the projects that the students created on the Battle of Hong Kong. Upon their return, their organizing teacher, Nancy Hamer Strahl created a memory book of the trip that has been issued to all the HK vets and all the people that helped with the trip and the student projects.

Today's Efforts

Books were the beginning of the ‘fundraising’ for the HKVCA.  Gradually we have added crests, membership pins, Honour Rolls, monument badges, Gravestone Markers, sweatshirts, convention pins, videos, etc to raise extra funds for our projects.  A new concept, CanadaHelps, which is a charity organization that assists other charity groups with internet donations, has been accepted by the HKVCA to give the opportunity of using credit cards to make donations to the Association projects and the regions.

The essay contest mentioned above is now a National project and has been renamed: HKVCA Cross Canada Writing Contest. It is documented on our Teachers' Zone website which focuses on education. It has become a key tool in our quest to educate our youth about this part of our history.

In 2006 an opportunity became available to enable the HKVCA to develop the Memorial Wall concept.  A committee was formed to obtain a design, fundraising, and site. Three years of hard work paid off with the Wall being dedicated in August 2009. The Memorial Wall is unique in that it lists all members of 'C' Force, whether living or dead.

And we are not done yet …….  We are working on having a couple of hundred video interviews of the veterans digitized and put on our website.  We continually gather information about the members of C Force to offer a more complete picture for the future generations.

Watch this space as we will keep it updated with our latest initiatives and activities.

Duties and Responsibilities

Check out this page to see how we are structured at the Executive level.