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Hong Kong Veterans of World War II


This is a speech written by David Frenette, 12 years old, Great Grandson of John Edward James, H 6912, Winnipeg Grenadiers.


We sailed to Hong Kong without any fears, The Royal Rifles and Winnipeg Grenadiers.  We were young, exited and naively brave, off on the Awatea to fight and to save.


Good morning honourable Judges, Mrs. Chochla and classmates.

If you have not guessed my topic is the Hong Kong Veterans of World War II. 

The Hong Kong Veterans made up of the Royal Rifles of Quebec and the Winnipeg Grenadiers of Manitoba were the first Canadian soldiers to see combat in World War II.  The Battle of Hong Kong started right after the Japanese Army bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.  The Canadians were untrained soldiers sent to train and reinforce Hong Kong.  The Japanese were highly trained soldiers and they attacked Hong Kong while the Canadian soldiers were there.  Others there fighting with Canada were soldiers from India, Britain, Scotland and Australia. 

After 17 days of straight battle, the Hong Kong veterans surrendered after they ran out of ammunition and support on Christmas Day 1941.  After 17 days, they didn’t expect that their true battle for survival was just beginning.  They were about to spend the next four years in some of the worst and most brutal prison camps in World War II. 

On Christmas Day, when they surrendered the Japanese went through all the Hong Kong hospitals.  The Japanese murdered many of the wounded soldiers and raped and killed some of the nurses.  There was little or no medical supplies in the camps.  When they had to get their legs or arms cut off because of battle wounds or sickness, they had no pain killers like we do today and so amputations were done without painkillers.  Many died of diseases and starvation.  They had to work all day long and only got a cup of rice for breakfast and supper but some of the smart ones caught bugs and put them in their rice to give them the vitamins they needed to stay alive. 

Many of the veterans didn’t stay in Hong Kong.  They were put to work in the Japanese mines and many died from hard labour and starvation.  After almost 4 years, the survivors were saved when a bomb was dropped on Japan or so the veterans say.  There were rumors that Japan was going to murder all their prisoners.  Japan would not have given up if not for the 2 bombs that were dropped on Japan. 

At home I was reading some old newspapers and I found one that caught my eye.  This one story from Manila was about my Grandpa James who was in World War II and part of the Hong Kong Veterans.  In the story in the newspaper, Grandpa said the first thing he was going to do when he got home was have a chocolate ice cream soda. 

I went to Ottawa last summer to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of V-J Day and met some of the Hong Kong Veterans.  Few veterans are with us today.  Their message in Ottawa was to pass their story on to future generations so we never forget the horrors of war. 

My speech today is one way for me to keep their memory and story alive.



By David Frenette Grade 7