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Reprinted from The Sentinel Courier, Pilot Mound, MB


The story of the Hong Kong Veterans, which when fully understood, is one which gives a different perspective to December and to the Canadian Government during World War II.  It’s a story with more significance than Pearl Harbour, sister events in reality, yet the attack on Hong Kong gets swept under the carpet while Pearl Harbour gets monuments and movies.

The attacks were simultaneous. Pearl Harbour lasted only a few hours while the Canadian Soldiers at Hong Kong fought valiantly for four weeks. The difference in recognition and publicity between the two attacks is clearly unfair, and something the HKV’s and their families have been working to rectify for decades.

Hong Kong became Canada’s greatest military blunder when she sent 1976 untrained men the ages of Wade Wilson, Bill Treble, Mark Sloane, Owen Taylor, Derek Friesen, Danny Hildebrand, Rick McConnell, and Alain Gould to impossibly defend an allied position against 50,000 Japanese. Those who were not murdered after Hong Kong’s surrender Christmas day, 1941 were forced into prison camps in Hong Kong and Japan, used as slave labour, tortured, tormented, starved, and given little medical attention for four years.

Japan did not adhere to the rules of war, nor did it cooperate with the International Red Cross.  The POW’s families had no way of knowing their loved one’s location or if they were dead or alive.  When the war ended the survivors returned as different men, not speaking of their experiences except with each other. The good health they enjoyed before Hong Kong never returned.  Most were tragically misunderstood the rest of their lives.

While the Japanese Government refuses to acknowledge the atrocities of their POW camps, the Canadian Government has attempted to do a little.  In 1998 a settlement was paid to the remaining Hong Kong Veterans, yet nothing to the families of those who had already passed away. In 2001 another and final pension was granted –  small compensation considering the after affects of being held POW - a lifetime of nightmares, ill health, emotional & physical scars and personality changes all of which also affected their wives and children.

Among the Hong Kong Veterans are thirteen men from this area:  Buster Agerbak (Father of Carol Hadley – former president of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association), Ken Agerbak  (Father of Greg Agerbak, Father-in-law of Myrna [Henderson] Agerbak), Tage Agerbak (Father of Albert Agerbak), Dick Currie, Eddie Currie, Jack Fordyce (good friend of Jick Wallace & Family), Jack Hay (Father of Bill Hay, Grandfather of Landon, Julie, Katharine and Laura-Jane Hay), Bill Mayne (Brother of Laura Glenn, Great Uncle of Jeff & Danny Glenn, Kern Martindale), Keith Stewart (Father of Dennis Stewart, Brother to Black Jack), Guy Stewart, Ed Toews, and Buzz Winram.  (My apologies to those families I’m unable to make a local connection to.)

Their families belong to the Hong Kong Veterans’ Commemorative Association whose work, in part, is to bring the truth of what occurred in Hong Kong to light. Currently they are proposing to build a Memorial Wall in Ottawa which will honour the Canadian Forces who were sent to Hong Kong by having their names engraved on it. While the Memorial Wall’s prominent location at Sussex & King Edward in Ottawa has been donated by the Canadian government, it will not receive any further government funding, and the HKVCA is seeking sponsorship from Royal Canadian Legion Branches and the general public to cover the costs of construction, landscaping, and continued future maintenance.

Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted.  Tax receipts will be issued for amounts over $20.00 and further recognition will be given according to the following structure:

-          Up to $499 – a Letter of Thanks from the Regional and/or the National Treasurer

-          $500 - $999 – a Letter of Thanks signed by the President of the HKVCA

-          $1000 - $2999 - a Certificate of Thanks

-          $3000 - $4999 – a Plaque

-          Over $5000 – a plaque, the donor’s corporate logo (if any) and link on the HKVCA website, a listing in the dedication brochure, and inclusion in any newspaper or other advertising of the Memorial Wall Dedication.


Donations can be mailed to:

The Hong Kong Veterans’ Commemorative Association

Box 381, Winnipeg MB  R3C 2H6

Or can be made online at:

http://www.canadahelps.org  (However the HKVCA is charged 3% of your donation should you choose to use this method.)

Yet I see an irony in the fact that the HKVCA feels it needs to issue thanks.

Canadians enjoy the freedom to travel this country safely, to speak our minds, and to freely do the things we love to do.  We can do so because of the sacrifices and Supreme Sacrifices of Canadian Soldiers (in this case the Hong Kong Veterans) during World War II. We continue to be protected today by the Supreme Sacrifice of Lane Watkins and by his comrades’ ongoing work in Afghanistan. Glen VanMol and Greg Decosse may pass their batons to Tyler Burns and Jarret Edwards.

In reality, donations toward the Memorial Wall should instead be considered our way of saying thank you to these men and their families, regardless of whether we knew them or not and for which we need no thanks in return. Maybe a truthful movie will never happen, but through years of dedicated work of the Hong Kong Veterans’ Commemorative Association, and our donations of gratitude, a Monument to the Hong Kong Veterans is finally achievable.