Individual Report: A9220 George MACDONELL

1st Bn The Royal Rifles of Canada

General Information

Rank: First Name: Second Name:
Sergeant George Stuart
From: Enlistment Region: Date of Birth (y-m-d):
Stratford ON Western Ontario 1922-08-05
Appointment: Company: Platoon:
Platoon Sergeant D 18 Plt

Transportation - Home Base to Hong Kong

Members of 'C' Force from the East travelled across Canada by CNR troop train, picking up reinforcements enroute. Stops included Valcartier, Montreal, Ottawa, Armstrong ON, Capreol ON, Winnipeg, Melville SK, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, and Vancouver, arriving in Vancouver on Oct 27 at 0800 hrs.

The Winnipeg Grenadiers and the local soldiers that were with Brigade Headquarters from Winnipeg to BC travelled on a CPR train to Vancouver.

All members embarked from Vancouver on the ships AWATEA and PRINCE ROBERT. AWATEA was a New Zealand Liner and the PRINCE ROBERT was a converted cruiser. "C" Company of the Rifles was assigned to the PRINCE ROBERT, everyone else boarded the AWATEA. The ships sailed from Vancouver on Oct 27th and arrived in Hong Kong on November 16th, having made brief stops enroute at Honolulu and Manila.

Equipment earmarked for 'C' Force use was loaded on the ship DON JOSE, but would never reach Hong Kong as it was rerouted to Manila when hostilities commenced.

On arrival, all troops were quartered at Nanking Barracks, Sham Shui Po Camp, in Kowloon.

Battle Information

We do not have specific battle information for this soldier in our online database. For a detailed description of the battle from a Canadian perspective, visit Canadian Participation in the Defense of Hong Kong (published by the Historical Section, Canadian Military Headquarters).

For specific experiences related to this soldier, check out the listings in the Links block below.

Wounded Information

Date Wounded Wound Description References

Hospital Information

No record of hospital visits found.

POW Camps

Camp ID Camp Name Location Company Type of Work Reference Arrival Date Departure Date
HK-SM-01StanleyFort Stanley, Hong Kong Island20, 31, 33Capture 41 Dec 30
HK-NP-01North PointNorth Point, Hong Kong Island41 Dec 3042 Sep 26
HK-SA-02ShamshuipoKowloon, Hong Kong42 Sep 2643 Jan 19
JP-To-3DTsurumiYokohama-shi, Tsurumi-ku, Suyehiro-cho, 1-chome, JapanNippon Steel Tube - Tsurumi ShipyardsVariety of jobs related to ship building943 Jan 1945 Apr 16
JP-Se-4B OhashiIwate-ken, Kamihei-gun, Katsushi-mura, Ohashi, JapanNippon Steel Company13445 Apr 1645 Sep 15

Transport to Japan

Draft Number Name of Ship Departure Date Arrival Date Arrival Port Comments Reference
XD3ATatuta Maru43 Jan 19, left Shamsuipo Camp, 0500 hrs; left Hong Kong 1300hrs43 Jan 22, 0400 hrsNagasaki, JapanBoarded train, arrived in Tokyo on 43 Jan 24 at 0700 hrs, boarded electric train for 10 mile ride to campTony Banham

Transportation: SE Asia to Home

Extracted from George Macdonell's book One Soldier's Story".

On the 17th of Sept, boarded the USNS HYDE. Sailed to Guam, quartered at the hospital. After convalescence boarded the USNS CATRON and sailed for San Francisco. Then to Seattle, Victoria, arriving in Toronto a week before Christmas. (Much more detail in the book)

Post-war Photo

Click for larger view

Photo from the 2009 unveiling of the Memorial Wall in Ottawa.

Decorations Received

Image Name of Award Abbreviation References Precedence Comments
Mentioned-in-DespatchesMiD37, 38, 12313Citation not found

Other Military Service

No related information found. Please submit documents to us using the contact link at the top of this page.

Death and Cemetery Information

Date of Death (y-m-d) Cause of Death Death Class Death Ref
2023-04-15Post War
Cemetery LocationCemeteryGrave NumberGravestone Marker

Gravestone Image

No related information found. Please submit documents to us using the contact link at the top of this page.

Obituary / Life Story

George MacDonell (100) of Toronto, Ontario, passed away on April 15, 2023. George was born in Edmonton, Alberta on August 4, 1922. He joined the local militia in Listowel, Ontario while he was still in high school and went on to enlist in the regular force following the outbreak of the Second World War. He served in Eastern Canada and participated in the defence of Hong Kong, before spending more than three and a half years as a Japanese prisoner of war. After acting with honour and distinction on the battlefield, he completed his high school education and went on to graduate with a BA from the University of Toronto at the top of his class. After school, he launched a very successful business career starting at Canadian General Electric where he rose to become a senior executive. After CGE, he went on to hold other top senior positions at companies including GSW, Maple Leaf Mills and others. Later in his career he served as a Deputy Minister with the Ontario Government from 1980 to 1985. During his life, he wrote and had published several books, sharing his experiences in the military, business and his personal life. These include One Soldier’s Story, They Never Surrendered, A Dog Named Gander, and George - The Life and Times of George S. MacDonell. He also authored countless papers on Canada’s economic climate, several of which were shared on Social Media sites and with the government. In his later years, George remained active by volunteering in The Memory Project, a volunteer speakers bureau that arranges for veterans and Canadian Forces members to share their stories of military service at school and community events across the country. At the many schools he visited, he never left without telling the students that “if we wish to enjoy our freedom in this wonderful country of ours, we must always be prepared to defend it”. If asked about his life and long list of achievements, George would say that he was lucky and lived a wonderful life. George is survived by his son Paul and his wife Jessica along with his grandson Tyler and his wife Jenny. George will be laid to rest beside his beloved wife Margaret at a private family ceremony in Listowel, Ontario.

Links and Other Resources

See the HKVCA Suggested Reading page for information on George's books:

  • They Never Surrendered
  • One Soldier's Story
See also a story of George's life published in The Globe and Mail on April 21, 2023, titled: George MacDonell, one of the last two Canadian survivors of the Battle of Hong Kong, dies at the age of 100

Facebook has proven to be a valuable resource in the documentation of 'C' Force members. The following link will take you to any available search results for this soldier based on his regimental number. Note: results may be contained within another related record. Facebook Search Results

Related documentation for information published in this report, such as birth information, discharge papers, press clippings and census documents may be available via shared resources in our HKVCA Vault. It is organized with folders named using regimental numbers. Use the first letter of the individual's service number to choose the correct folder, then scroll to the specific sub-folder displaying the service number of your interest.

General Comments

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My name is George MacDonell. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1922. I was the fifth generation of Scottish immigrants. My first ancestors arrived in Canada in 1824. My mother was a nursing sister in World War I and she was a nursing sister just behind the front lines of the main trench warfare lines in northern France. My father was a major in the army. They met in London during the war, were married after the war, and I was their only child.

I was sent to Wolseley Barracks, where there was a high-class boot camp for young army recruits. There, I was trained as infantry under the best instructors in the Canadian army. I became very interested in light machine guns and within a few months in this very demanding, tough training centre, I became a lance corporal. A few months later, I became a corporal and one day, the commanding officer sent for me and said, you’re going to be sent to a new regiment being formed in Québec City and you will go there as a sergeant. And you will report to the commanding officer of the Royal Rifles of Canada, which is now being recruited in Québec City.

And so from the training centre, I went to the Royal Rifles of Canada, which had just been mobilized and which needed weapons instructors. I served in that regiment until it was suddenly nominated in the fall of 1941 to proceed immediately to Hong Kong. And with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, the Royal Rifles formed “C” Force, under the command of Brigadier Lawson, and we proceeded across the Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong.

Within a month or so, the Japanese attacked Hong Kong in overwhelming force; their navy, air force and a massive Japanese army attacked Hong Kong. Within three weeks, the island was overrun and the governor was forced to surrender the island to the Japanese. However, the Canadians, who were penned up by that time after fighting the entire period extremely well, refused to surrender and only did so when the governor interceded personally and forced us to lay down our arms. So we did not surrender by raising our hands or throwing away our weapons. We had determined never to surrender but, finally, accepted the orders, obeyed the orders from the governor.

Then began almost four years in the Japanese prison camp. I spent the first year or so in Hong Kong and then I was shipped to Japan. We were in Yokohama, Japan, in a camp called Camp 3B, and we were working in Japan’s largest shipyard, a vitally important war industry building much needed Japanese freighters and naval vessels. In order to strike back at the Japanese, these two young men, Staff Sergeant Clarke and Private Cameron, decided that they would commit sabotage through arson, damage the shipyard so that it could not produce the ships that it was scheduled to complete. And they did that by starting a fire that was timed to occur when the prisoners were back at their camp, about two miles away, during the night, under the blueprint factory and the place where the wooden forms are patterned, it’s called the pattern shop. And since in those days there was no electronic storage of information in computers, once you burned the blueprints and the patterns that came from the blueprints, there was no way you could build a ship or do anything in that shipyard.

The shipyard employed thousands of people and it was the most vital war effort of the Japanese, destroyed by two young Canadians. And they did it in utter secrecy, they told no one but they pulled it off successfully and they even saved their own lives by doing so undetected.

We were moved to a camp in northern Japan called Ohashi and it was there, working in a mine, again as slave labourers, that we were when the emperor of Japan surrendered to the Allied forces. Now, the Japanese army was furious at this surrender and in fact, revolted, tried to capture the emperor and continue the war but they failed. And so we were left in a very dangerous position, surrounded by hostile Japanese troops and without any arms and extremely ill: so badly starved that we were in the last extremes of starvation and one form of illness after another. And so we were in a very dangerous position. We were fed by air after a week or so when the American forces spotted our camp from the air. It took almost a month for the Americans to assemble the appropriate forces and a naval force to come to a nearby port to pick us up. So that period was a very dangerous one and one where we were in a very precarious position for about 30 days.

The story, however, is not about how the Canadians were defeated. It’s about how they fought and how they behaved against impossible odds. And it’s about the mettle they showed when it was apparent that there was no hope and there was no possibility of a successful outcome. They never surrendered and they fought like tigers.

This veteran was interviewed by Veterans Affairs. To view, visit the VAC Video Gallery page and use the search tool. Note: VAC moves pages around constantly, so you may have to work to find the video. Currently the best way to access the Hong Kong veteran interviews is to select the "Heroes Remember" category, then use the advanced search option and click on the "Hong Kong" campaign option.

End of Report.

Report generated: 24 May 2024.

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Additional Notes

(These will not be visible on the printed copy)

  1. Service numbers for officers are locally generated for reporting only. During World War II officers were not allocated service numbers until 1945.
  2. 'C' Force soldiers who died overseas are memorialized in the Books of Remembrance and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, both sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada. Please use the search utility at VAC to assist you.
  3. Some birthdates and deathdates display as follows: 1918-00-00. In general, this indicates that we know the year but not the month or day.
  4. Our POW camp links along with our References link (near the bottom of the 'C' Force home page) are designed to give you a starting point for your research. There were many camps with many name changes. The best resource for all POW camps in Japan is the Roger Mansell Center for Research site.
  5. In most cases the rank displayed was the rank held before hostilities. Some veterans were promoted at some point prior to eventual post-war release from the army back in Canada. When notified of these changes we'll update the individual's record.
  6. Images displayed on the web page are small, but in many cases the actual image is larger. Hover over any image and you will see a popup if a larger version is available. You can also right-click on some images and select the option to view the image separately. Not all images have larger versions. Contact us to confirm whether a large copy of an image in which you are interested exists.
  7. In some cases the References displayed as part of this report generate questions because there is no indication of their meaning. They were inherited with the original database, and currently we do not know what the source is. We hope to solve this problem in future.
  8. We have done our best to avoid errors and omissions, but if you find any issues with this report, either in accuracy, completeness or layout, please contact us using the link at the top of this page.
  9. Photos are welcome! If a photo exists for a 'C' Force member that we have not included, or if you have a higher quality copy, please let us know by using the Contact Us link at the top of this page. We will then reply, providing instructions on submitting it.