HKVCA -Spring 2023 - Contents


"Never Forget"

National Newsletter of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association

Spring 2023

President's Message

Shortly after the end of WWII and the repatriation of Canada’s Hong Kong POWs, the Veterans began meeting and soon formed an association, the Hong Kong Veterans Association (HKVA). Forty years later, as the number of living Veterans was diminishing, thoughts turned to how the legacy of ‘C' Force would continue to be honoured. The result was the establishment of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association. This year is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the HKVCA. Carol Hadley was one of those who played a large part in establishing our Association, and I direct you to her article elsewhere in this newsletter where she discusses the goals that were established for the HKVCA all those years ago.  With the hard work of many of our members, those goals - and more - have been achieved!

 passing the torch - image

Passing the Torch

The symbol in the graphic is, I think, very appropriate  -  passing the torch from the Veterans to their descendants and friends.

But passing the torch can’t happen without willing workers. We need volunteers who will help ensure that the Battle of Hong Kong and the role of Canada’s 'C' Force does not disappear from sight as we lose our last Veterans.

Please consider volunteering your time. There are lots of opportunities, for example: the Teachers’ Zone on our web site needs updating. Are you a current or former teacher who would help us with this task? Or do you know one? There are also other opportunities to help. Just contact your Regional Director to offer your time.

Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 25 at 2pm Eastern Time. Please see the details elsewhere in this newsletter, and please do plan to join in.

Virtual Events

Our next virtual event will be on Monday, April 24 at 7:30pm Eastern Time. We’re very pleased to welcome Brad St Croix, who will present his PhD dissertation on the myths surrounding the role and performance of Canadians in the Battle of Hong Kong. You will receive an invitation by email in early April.

For those who missed it, you can watch our most recent virtual event, Spatial History and Virtual Mapping of the Battle of Hong Kong here. This exciting new technology enables a whole new way of visualizing the events of the battle!

Have a very enjoyable spring!

We will remember them.

In Remembrance

Viola Mann Gaudin, widow of Kenneth Gaudin, RRC E30229 November 2022.

Jeremy Swanson

(memorial below submitted by Derrill Henderson, Past President HKVCA, and Secretary HKVA)

On Wednesday, the 28th of December, our association lost a dedicated friend. Jeremy Swanson, who worked diligently on the award of the Dickin Medal for Gander, died in Ottawa after a six year-long illness. He died just a month after his 70th birthday. 

Jeremy was employed by the Canadian War Museum and was always interested in the saga of the Hong Kong Veterans, and he worked with them on several events over the past decades. In recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Hong Kong story, the Canadian Government named Tuesday, October 27, 1984, to honour our HK vets and invited them all to Ottawa. A reception was held in the West Block, Parliament Hill. The War Museum (at its original location) turned the entire second floor into an exhibit; a model of a Japanese POW prison camp. It was so realistic that many of our vets chose not to enter. Jeremy played a major role in this exhibit.

 Photo of Gander Memorial

Gander Memorial

As Jeremy listened to the vets who entered the exhibit, he learned about Gander and became fascinated by the story. He was made aware of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) through a contact he had in the UK. The PDSA had granted medals to war animals which had undertaken courageous acts for the protection of their human friends. 

To petition for such a medal, the request and supporting documents had to come from the Regiment; therefore, Jeremy pushed me to acquire statements from the veterans who had witnessed Gander’s acts of heroism, and to submit the request for the Dickin medal. Jeremy and I became close friends through this experience.

Following consultation with his comrades, then President HKVA, Roger Cyr, presented Jeremy with an Honorary Life Membership in the HKVA. 

 Photo of Dickin Medal Ceremony

Dickin Medal Ceremony, British High Commission, Ottawa. From L-R: Jeremy Swanson, Roger Cyr, British High Commissioner, Derrill Henderson, Floyd Kelly, and representing Gander, Rimshot, a local Newfoundland dog.

I visited the Gander Memorial in Gander, Newfoundland last September. In the Memorial Park, along with a memorial statue of Gander, was a storyboard that told the story of Gander and his Dickin Award. I was pleased to see that the storyboard included a photograph of those who worked on the acquisition of the medal (see photo).

Jeremy's dedication will continue to be known by all who visit the memorial.

From the Editor

Received from Ken Skelton, (son of Sydney Skelton, RRC)  (abridged):

The Autumn 2016 Newsletter includes the following by Veteran Gerry Gerrard " I was the first one of 500 Canadians to go aboard the ship, the TATSUTA MARU." That did not happen, no member of 'C' Force boarded a ship emblazoned with that name on her stern.

But along with my father 80 years ago today, they did board the "TATUTA MARU" - on a trip our fathers clearly remembered for the suffering on the journey to Japan.

The 'Tatsuta Maru' was renamed in 1938 to 'TATUTA MARU" - but the proper way to describe any renamed ship (common in the shipping industry) is to show the current name of the ship followed by the former name in brackets with the prefix 'ex' - so TATUTA MARU (ex-Tatsuta Maru). This practice is used by Lloyd's of London, the World Ship Society, prestigious publication JANES, Ships monthly etc.

Online searches including Wikipedia continue to use Tatsuta Maru throughout, they are in error. In 1938 'TATUTA MARU' replaced the original name on the stern and bow - I have a 1942 wartime Japanese military-oriented photo magazine showing the name on the stern as part of the article on the 1942 Diplomatic exchange. I also have acquired two Japanese NYK Line postcards, one showing Tatsuta Maru in Hong Kong surrounded by several Chinese Junks 1937 and one of the 'TATUTA MARU' at sea 1939.

The "TATUTA MARU' name can also be seen on the Canadian National Film Board docuseries of the 1960's CANADA AT WAR episode 4 - Days of Infamy.

Although it is claimed that the name was changed due to transliteration and romanization of names - the deletion of a single letter hardly seems to meet the criteria of transliteration, although Japanese is a very complex and nuanced language.

The actual problem was that the Imperial Japanese Navy Jintsu Class Cruiser "TATSUTA' in 1938 was in action in Chinese waters as well as the Liner "Tatsuta" which was also plying those same waters at the same time. The Military vessel launched in May 1918 took precedence. (this cruiser sunk 1944).

(Editor’s note: the name on our website, which appears mainly in the ‘C’ Force Individual Reports, has been changed)

(Thanks to our proofreaders: Anne, Kathie, Lori and Barbara.)

Web Updates

Our Websites

First of all, we’ve been updating our websites with lots of new information on ‘C’ Force members. The Individual Reports get a lot of attention as our Facebook members (over 1600!) continue to add to our information library. This is due, in no small part to the efforts of Lillian Roesch who manages to ferret out lost details, and encourages others to share what they have.


Due to Facebook and the addition of new content, our websites have been visited by many. For instance, in the month of February:


Guest of Hirohito

Thanks to the generosity of Noreen Cambon (daughter of Hong Kong veteran, Ken Cambon (see photo), we now feature a digital copy of his book Guest of Hirohito in our Suggested Reading list. If you have an interest in both the events of the battle and the personal price paid, this is a book you’ll want to examine.

While you’re visiting the page, make sure you look over our Online Library list as our group of digital books continues to grow.

Lost in China

We’ve also added a link on our Suggested Reading page to Jennifer Dobbs’ book Lost in China which focuses on two children stranded in Western China during World War II. While not dealing with Hong Kong directly, this book illustrates the broader human effects of Japanese aggression.

Improved Navigation

Due to the increased content, we’ve also redone the structure of our Suggested Reading page to make it easier to zero in on an area of interest. You can view the new road map at the top of the page.


Back in 2021 senior Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook wrote an article The three battles of Canada's Hong Kong Veterans which was published in The Globe and Mail. He has graciously allowed us to publish it on our site. You can find the link to it by visiting our Submissions and Links page.

Winnipeg Grenadier Quilt

From the 1943 edition of the "Home Front" here is an article by Anne Francis 

A unique honour roll of 945 gallant names The Hong Kong group of the Auxiliary to the Winnipeg Grenadiers made it.

About a year ago, Mrs. G.W. Macfarlane had the bright idea of embroidering the names of the Hong Kong - Grenadiers into a quilt. The ladies of the auxiliary set to work at once, and they've just finished the job.

Letters went far and near to Grenadier families in the country. Each sent in a name and a dime to cover expenses. Patrol Sgt. John Kelso, whose two sons fell on that tragic Christmas morning two years ago, wrote the 940 names on six-inch strips of cotton - clear, neat writing. The women embroidered them in red and blue, the regimental colours.

The Grenadier crest in colour holds the centre of the big white quilt. The names of the men who died for their country are set around the crest, with the survivors around the edges. The ladies spent two days checking to make sure no brave name was omitted.

For the last three weeks, the quilt has been on frames in the livingroom of Mrs. W.H. Corrigan, while the quilting went on. You can see this moving piece of craftsmanship in Eaton's window today. You can take a chance on owning it if you go to the Grenadier's tea next Saturday, November 6, at the headquarters, 194 Main Street. The silver you spend at the tea will help those fine women with their welfare work among the regimental families.

By the way, the Grenadiers' ladies are planning to pack 6,000 Prisoners of War parcels on their day instead of the usual 4,000.

The Russians have given permission for parcels for Prisoners of War in Japan to be shipped through Vladivostok. So the ladies are full of hope that at long last cigarettes and small comforts may reach their men.

 Photo of Winnipeg Grenadier Quilt

Winnipeg Grenadier Quilt

In 1968, at the Reunion, the quilt was raffled and won by Eloise Harding and her husband Bill donated it to the Pilot Mound Legion. A special box was made for the quilt with two rollers so the quilt could be changed to show the different names.

At the National Convention in 2001 the quilt was brought to Winnipeg for the attendees to view. It was noted that there was some deterioration of the material and restoration was required. After discussion with the Manitoba Museum we were able to place it there following the restoration being completed. The Manitoba Museum has many items that the veterans brought home and arrangements can be made to see them by contacting the Museum.

From the editor: An additional item about the quilt can be read in a 2001 MB newsletter. Originally from a 1980 newsletter and Shared by Yvonne Hogle, sister of John Payne, WG.

Sgt. Gander Update

I want to take a moment to let you all know how proud my short film makes me and that all of the people who have watched it have given such nice reviews. For your information, I have the North Atlantic Aviation Museum placing the information cards at the SGT Gander display along with showing the film on a regular basis for people to learn of Gander's story and to bring attention to the public about ‘C’ Force and the Battle of Hong Kong.

I have been informed that the museum will be offering my SGT Gander clothing for purchase in the Museum's Gift Shop.  

This past January 28th, I gave a presentation of the film and had a Q&A session to help tell the entire story.  I have been in contact with CSM John Osborn's family regarding being able to bring the similarities between CSM Osborn and of SGT Gander, how they were both awarded their medals (Victoria Cross for Osborn and the PDSA Dickin Medal), (considered the animals' Victoria Cross) for performing similar actions, protecting their men from hand grenade explosions. I am so proud of these actions by both, and I am honoured that I have been welcomed into the HKVCA family throughout "My Journey" to tell Gander's story.

If you haven't had time to view my short film, you can watch the film on and enter Search for "A Tribute to Gander by JP Bear" on your television or computer.

I want to pass on my Sincerest Best Wishes to All of the HKVCA Families and especially to all ‘C’Force members for all their dedication, in my mind, some of the Greatest Person's I have ever met. 

I don't know if you are aware, but when I first began my journey of passion, back in January 2017, I was in pretty good health, but over the last 2 years I have developed Pulmonary Fibrosis and am going through the steps to possibly be given a double lung transplant. All I can say is that when this all developed, I prayed to God that he would give me the strength and time to complete my goal before he would take me "Home". I am not trying to make this sound like it was a death wish, it is just the fact that I wanted so sincerely to tell this story and to complete my work. To let the world know of the sacrifices by these fighters, and how they fought to help keep the world a safer and freer place for all to live in. 

God Bless You All -         Cheers - Please Remember My Motto: THIS IS A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD.

A Special Postcard

Have you received a postcard via Canada Post mail lately? Not likely - in today’s fast-paced communication world it's all about instantaneous messages.

Postcards, those 4 by 6 inches laminated pictures from travelling family and friends in far-off places. I miss that - the excitement of getting a postcard.

A few weeks ago the mail truck stopped at the end of our driveway. Trudging through the snow, my husband brought back....yes....a postcard! It is addressed to all of us. A thank you. From the other side of the world. Hong Kong.

I share it here for you to read. A very important message. Know that ‘C’ Force members in 1941 and all of HKVCA here in 2023, and everyone in between, are thanked. 

 Photo of postcard

Text area of postcard

You are welcome Stacey! From the HKVCA family.

(Postcard text is below)

Hello Lori - Greetings from Hong Kong! My name is Stacey. I got your address from the HKVCA website. I was born in Hong Kong but I didn't know much about local history as I'm a science student. Until recent years. I learnt that Canadian soldiers actually engaged in a battle to defend the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong against a Japanese attack during WW2. Many of them were sacrificed or were tortured cruelly once they were caught.

War of Ukraine and Russia let us understand that peace can be lost so easily. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Canadian Veterans. Best wishes, Stacey 21.1.2023

(Note- The postcard was a joint postcard for peace activity).

Prairie Prose

As I begin this article the weather is hovering around 0’ so it is very slushy to walk or drive with the melting snow and of course it shows the numerous potholes. But that is the result of our crazy weather.   We have been blessed with good weather so far this year.

We continue to hold monthly meetings at a local restaurant, combining social and business at the same time.  Most enjoyable.  

We are working on additional pull-up banners - one for various locations in Manitoba where items are dedicated to the HK veterans. Barry Mitchell has solicited help from others to get this put together by taking pictures of an item and gathering some of its history. Anyone outside of Winnipeg can send him information with a photo to be included in this banner. We will ask other members in Saskatchewan and Alberta to do the same when this is complete. Lauren Heinrichs will help us with the graphics layout when all the information is gathered.

Stan Lopata has been attending the Zoom meetings for the Red River Heritage Fair which takes place on May 4 at the University of Winnipeg. Alex Taylor and Stan will participate in the Scavenger Hunt and man our display - handing out information to adults and older youth. They will also be doing a history presentation to the Winnipeg Grenadier Cadets soon.

The next plaque will be on April 7 at the Dryden Legion and we will be doing the dedication by Zoom. They hope to have the local cadets and family members of the HK veterans from that area in attendance.

I had an inquiry on the history etc. of the HK flag. When I have all this information it will be placed on the VAC website and sent to the webmaster for our website. 

Thirty years ago the “kids” of the HK veterans were asked to form an association to help with the administration of the veterans and widows. Many of these “kids” had been associate members of the HKVA and already helping with the administration and/or planning for the veterans but this was to be official. Two years later at the 1995 Convention the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association held their first national meeting following the veterans meeting. A National Executive was formed and each province formed a Regional Executive to assist in their region. 

The ‘kids’ assisted for a few years then in Winnipeg in 2001 there was a passing of the torch ceremony and we began to fulfil the wishes of the veterans. 

1. The veterans asked to have their experiences recognized and told through education (our website has a Teachers section to help with this). There are audio and virtual accounts done by the veterans over the years. There is a ‘C’ Force section with all the members listed and their personal information available to learn from. (This information has been supplied in most part by their war record, families and friends.) There is a store on the website with many books relating the story of the Battle of Hong Kong. 

2. The veterans wanted a monument with all the names of ‘C’ Force and that is located in the nation's capital, Ottawa as per their request.

3. The veterans and widows would be life members with the HKVCA advocating for them especially after the ‘sunset clause’ comes into effect and the HKVA ceases to exist.

The HKVCA continues with promoting the members of ‘C’ Force through social media (website, Facebook), descriptive plaques in public places, lawn signs, banners, gravestone disk, honour rolls and continuous research on many of the veterans that didn’t have family or where we’re unable to locate them. The Indigenous section on the website and the ongoing research to identify those veterans continues.

It would be appropriate to have an event to note this anniversary. Please send your suggestions to your Regional Director to be discussed by the Board of Directors.

 Well we are off for a short vacation so hopefully it will be a short winter and we can soon get outside again.

God bless!

Ontario Offerings

Rushing to meet the deadline for the winter newsletter, there were two errors in the edition. Barbara Cunningham Drew let us know that her father, Winston Cunningham, served with CDC. And Jim Hurd’s father was Edward Lionel Hurd, RRC, not Edwin. Apologies to both families.

Mavis Martin started the new year with a move to a retirement home in Kemptville. Within a short period of time, she has arranged for furniture, got settled and met new friends. She also met the daughter of a Hong Kong Veteran and some people with connections to New Carlyle where her husband, John Martin, RRC, grew up.

Barry Fair, father John Grey Fair, RRC, called to say he had been away over Christmas and had a good holiday with family in Stratford.

Jean Killoran, John Killoran, RRC, is 95 and living in a nursing home. She talked about her husband who she said was good-natured but wouldn’t talk about Hong Kong. Jean and her husband volunteered at the legion in Sarnia and his picture is in the hall there.

Oda Barlow, Edwin Barlow, RCASC, celebrates her 100th birthday on March 27th and plans to mark the day involving the whole family have been made. Oda anticipated seeing people from all over, gathering at the new restaurant in Picton. Congratulations and Best Wishes Oda. What a wonderful milestone.

Grace Thornton, Howard Thornton, RRC, commented on the many changes she sees - even to the winter weather – not the same amount of snow! One thing to keep though is your sense of humour.

Gloria Fortune, Herbert R. Fortune, WG, - daughter Vicky Hedelius reports her mother is stable in the long-term care facility in Burlington. Gloria is 94, and still thinks of the Hong Kong connection.

Donna Drimmie, Victor Oliver Fehr, RRC, said her family had an early Christmas because of the weather. Donna continues to make cards for her family. Sometimes it’s the only mail they get, she said with a laugh.

Irene Firlotte, Lawrence Firlotte, RRC, turned 97 in January and daughter Susan says she keeps quite well.

Susan Ewing, Ken Ewing, RRC, is lucky to have children who live close and come to visit – always a good help. It’s the weather that keeps changing and it’s so different.

RCMI Military History Night

The HKVCA is proud to partner once again with the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto for one of the RCMI’s Military History Night events. The featured speaker will be Jon Reid, son of Capt John Reid, one of the Canadian doctors who cared for ‘C’ Force soldiers in Hong Kong and Japan.

The event will be held on Wednesday, June 14 at the RCMI, 426 University Ave, Toronto. It will begin at 7 pm, and all HKVCA members and guests are invited to attend. An email with further information will be sent around the beginning of June. 

Quebec Report

Greetings everyone,

Looking forward to spring.  Some days we are experiencing a severe winter stormy snowy day and the next a spring day with the sweet sap running from our maple trees.

We thank our Regular Members for renewing their 2023 dues and everyone for their donations.  

Although we are not organizing gatherings, we continue to stay in contact with our widows and members with our local news.

We recently lost one of our widows, Viola Gaudin, widow of Kenneth Gaudin RRC. Again, we offer our sincere sympathy to all her family and friends.

We recently welcomed two new members to our Hong Kong family of Quebec Region.  Welcome all.

Our region wishes you all a Happy Easter.

Take care and stay well.

Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association will be held on: Tuesday, April 25 at 2pm (Eastern Time).


  • Approval of Minutes of last AGM, held April, 2022.
  • Presentation of 2022 Financial Statement
  • Election of Directors
  • Appointment of Officers
  • Brief presentations by Regional Directors
  • President's Remarks
  • Questions from Members
  • Close
To join the meeting: watch your email for an invitation containing the instructions in early April.

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