Individual Report: B63742 Sydney SKELTON

1st Bn The Royal Rifles of Canada

General Information

Rank: First Name: Second Name:
Rifleman Sydney
From: Enlistment Region: Date of Birth (y-m-d):
Toronto ON Central Ontario 1922-08-07
Appointment: Company: Platoon:
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

Excerpt from interview on the Battle of Hong Kong website

Rifleman Sydney Skelton, 19 years old, of "D" Company of the Royal Rifles of Canada had been wounded when he and two other soldiers ran into a Japanese machine-gun nest. His two companions were killed instantly. Skelton was hit by the heavy caliber machine-gun bullets and flung down an embankment which provided cover until he was rescued. Badly wounded he was taken to St. Stephen's Hospital.

Rfm. Sydney Skelton, of "D" Coy of the Royal Rifles, recounts: "I was sharing a 10' x 12' room in St. Stephen's Hospital with about 40 other wounded. The hospital doubled as a prison after the battle was over and we had laid down our arms. I had been wounded by machine-gun bullets in my right leg and took another in the arm. I had been waiting for surgery when I was captured so I was given only a hospital blanket when the Japs took the hospital. I had been given some pre-operative anesthetic and was pretty groggy but certain things you never forget." What he never forgot were the sounds of the conquering Japanese Infantry celebrating their victory that Christmas Day.

Rfm. Skelton continues: "The Japs stormed the hospital throwing grenades and bayoneting the wounded. I had rolled under a bed and lay as still as I could. A Jap turned me over, kicked me in the face, and tore off my bandages. I didn't move, or make a sound. The guy must have thought I was dead and took off. I heard screams coming from outside, terrible screams I can still hear in my head twenty years later. I saw a Jap coming into the hospital and take men outside at random. One of the wounded they dragged from his bed, cut off his ears, and ripped out his tongue. Then they took him outside and shot him. There was a lull in the din and he heard a British officer shout: "If you can walk or crawl to the door you may be allowed to live."

At this point Skelton tried to crawl to the door: "I was really confused from the anesthetic and I started to crawl, dragging my blanket, towards the door. A guy just ahead of me, a Hong Kong Volunteer, with a clasp knife in his belt, but his hands raised, was bayoneted as soon as he went out the door. The Padre grabbed me and slapped me to my senses. I'm alive today, thanks to him." A Japanese officer entered the hospital, saw Skelton with his wounds bleeding. He tore off Skelton's watch, hit him with the flat side of his sword and ordered him to go upstairs. Though badly wounded, Skelton crawled up the stairs and into a room that would be his prison for the next two days.

Wounded Information

Date Wounded Wound Description References
41/12/23A gunshot wound to the thigh at Stone Hill36

Hospital Information

Name of hospital Date of admission Date of discharge Comments Reference
HK-SSC1941-12-231941-12-26Moved to Bowen Rd Hospital

POW Camps

Camp ID Camp Name Location Company Type of Work Arrival Date Departure Date
HK-NP-01North PointNorth Point, Hong Kong Island42 Jan42 Sep 26
HK-SA-02ShamshuipoKowloon, Hong Kong42 Sep 2643 Jan 19
JP-Fu-5BOmineKawasaki-machi, Fukuoka pref., Kyushu Island, JapanFurukawa Industries OmineCoal mining43 Jan 2345 Sep 22

Transport to Japan

Draft Number Name of Ship Departure Date Arrival Date Arrival Port Comments Reference
XD3BTatuta Maru43 Jan 19, left Shamsuipo Camp, 0500 hrs; left Hong Kong 1300hrs43 Jan 22, 0400 hrsNagasaki, JapanTony Banham

Transportation: SE Asia to Home

Nagasaki, Japan to Okinawa -- HMS SPEAKER (aircraft carrier)

Okinawa to Manila --- USS RENVILLE (attack transport)

Manila to Esquimalt, BC -- HMS GLORY (aircraft carrier)

Post-war Photo

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

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
1968-12-01Heart FailurePost War
Cemetery LocationCemeteryGrave NumberGravestone Marker
Scarborough Ontario CanadaPine Hills CemeteryVeterans SectionYes

Gravestone Image

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

Obituary / Life Story

1945 Next of Kin: Mr. William H. Skelton (father), 139 Eaton Ave. Toronto ON. Spouse: Helen who died Sept. 4/2018.

Links and Other Resources

There may be more information on this individual available elsewhere on our web sites - please use the search tool found in the upper right corner of this page to view sources.

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

Click for larger view

From Facebook group- The Battle of Hong Kong 1941-1945 George Best posted August 2021

The photocopied tickets of Kowloon Motor Company were given to my buddy many years ago by the son of a Rifleman of the Royal Rifles of Canada . His name was Sydney Skelton ( D Company RRC ,age 19 then) and he posted these tickets back to his family before the outbreak of war . The punched holes showed the destinations as Star Ferry and Shamshuipo. Sydney was wounded by machine gun bullets in his leg and arm on 23/12/1941 at Stone Hill (near Stanley) and was sent to St. Stephen's College where he witnessed the massacre on Christmas Day. He feigned death by covering himself with a bedsheet. Years of internment and forced labour in Japan could not break his will to return to Ontario to marry his childhood sweetheart. His war diary is kept in the War Museum of Canada in Ottawa while the original bus tickets are retained by his son. They may be the only remaining prewar bus tickets in HK that have link with the C Force. Quite unique because they were really tickets to the battle of Hong Kong.

End of Report.

Report generated: 14 Jun 2024.

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Additional Notes

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  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.
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