by Brad St Croix


(Link to footnotes for this chapter)

Defeat looms large in the history of the Allied nations of the Second World War. The early years of the war were marked by defeat after defeat. Much of western Europe had fallen, including Britain’s primary ally France, to the Nazi war machine by spring 1940. German troops were at the gates of Moscow by late 1941, while Japan conquered European colony after colony in East Asia in 1941-1942. Despite the difficulties such losses caused, many nations, choosing to find positive elements from those defeats, present such as strategic withdrawals or even victories. Dunkirk was presented as a victory in its immediate aftermath and is hardly viewed as a defeat in Britain today. In writing about the morale of the British people in the immediate aftermath of the evacuation from the French coast, British historian Daniel Todman wrote that

just as Churchill was insisting to the Commons that “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory”, the daily morale report began by arguing that this was exactly what was taking place: “in general terms … the retreat is accepted as a “victory”, as a “lasting achievement”, as a sign that “we cannot ultimately be beaten”, that “we shall always turn a tight corner to our advantage”.1

Australian historian Robin Prior noted that Dunkirk was never a victory, “but considering that the Germans were operating further from their bases than the British, it hardly amounts to the overwhelming success claimed at the time.” Something positive can be taken from the evacuation as “Nevertheless, Dunkirk was at least some kind of success. The vast bulk of the BEF had retreated in good order and had been rescued from the beaches in the teeth of German military superiority.”2

Another Allied tactical defeat, Pearl Harbor, was used as a rallying cry to unite Americans to fight in the war. The America First Committee, working against American intervention into the war since late 1940, ceased operations in the aftermath of the attack.3 Famed American naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison best expressed this sentiment, claiming that “before even the fires burning in battleships were quenched by the waters of Pearl Harbor, the United States had become virtually unanimous in entering the war, grimly determined to win it…” Unity had come from the drags of defeat. To Morison, the events of Pearl Harbor seemingly needed to occur as “The loss of brave men and gallant ships on 7 December might in Homeric terms be called a necessary sacrifice to appease the neglected gods of war and of the sea; to dissuade Mars and Neptune from exacting a holocaust later.”4 The surprise attack created a symbol that still carries power in the United States to this day. By taking something positive from the jaws of defeat, the defeats at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor became symbols of defiance by nations under attack and rallying cries in dark days of war.

Canada did not try to accentuate the positive from its setbacks in the Second World War. The Canadian Army’s first major defeat was the Battle of Hong Kong. The nearly 2,000 Canadians sent to reinforce the British colony suffered 290 dead (almost 800 casualties) during the battle, including prisoners killed by the Japanese. The deplorable conditions that the soldiers faced in prisoner of war camps and forced labour in Japanese shipyards and mines killed 318 more.5 The 1942 raid on Dieppe plus the assault on Verrières Ridge in Normandy in 1944 also are examples of Canada’s defeats that receive much attention but are remembered mostly as bloody catastrophes possessing little redeeming value.6

So why does Canada view its defeats in the Second World War so negatively? The Canadian memory of the First World War offers an explanation for such a question. Canadian historian Tim Cook, in his book about the Second World War’s legacy in Canada, argued that Canadian battlefield success in the First World War explains the Canadian focus on defeat in the Second World War.7 Cook is not the only Canadian historian to hold such views. In his seminal work on Canadian memory and the First World War, historian Jonathan Vance highlighted that “even Canada’s social memory of the Second World War, as just a war as the modern world has seen, is dominated by overtones of negativity. Notions of individual heroism, self-sacrifice, and fighting in a good cause have been pushed to the background by a dominant memory that has come to emphasize mismanagement, injustice, failure, and cupidity.”8 The Canadian experience of the victories of the First World War left an indelible mark on Canadians’ view of war.

The commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and Canada’s participation in the world wars, offers insight into one why Canadians view the losses of the Second World War in such negative ways. As Vimy came to represent all of Canada’s First World War, victory came to represent Canada’s experience of the Great War. Cook explored how Vimy “became a focal point of remembrance and an icon of Canadian identity.” The Canadian Corps took 10,602 casualties in four days of fighting at Vimy, yet this battle, despite its considerable cost, is celebrated as a great victory and is the symbol of Canada’s First World War. It is important to note that casualty levels apparently do not affect how Canadians view a battle. Winning is the crucial part.

The Canadian memory of the Second World War lacks a centralized battle to coalesce around, a stark contract to the First World War. This lack of focus of commemoration was also due to the global nature of the war. Cook wrote “Lacking a unifying symbol like Vimy— impossible for this war because of the global nature of the fighting—it became over time to focus on a single region or victory to use as an anchor for the Canadian story.”9 The lack of a centralized symbol has left the memory of the war adrift, with many elements often simply forgotten. Also contributing to a lack of focus on Canadian martial achievements was the lack of commemoration after 1945. Cook has argued that the Second World War faded from Canada’s social memory quickly after the conflict’s end. Lacking a coherent narrative, memories of success lost out to negative remembrances about defeats at Hong Kong and Dieppe, the government’s internment of Japanese Canadians, and bitter debates about overseas conscription. However, by the end of the twentieth century, Cook has argued, this trend began to reverse as veterans began to discuss their service and Canadians commemorated, and even celebrated, Canada’s victories in the war. Cook referenced the Battle of Hong Kong as part of the forgetful general trend toward the Second World War that has undergone a change in social memory since the mid-1990s.10 This dissertation will depart from Cook’s assertion by arguing that in contrast to most events of the war, the legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong is still overwhelmingly negative, if it is recalled at all.

One major element of this negative outlook is the assignment of blame for the loss of Hong Kong in 1941. To properly understand the Canadian experience of the war, we need to be able to move past our urge to blame and deflect blame. From individuals who fought in the battle, to historians and politicians, many have sought to place the blame for Hong Kong on someone else11. Authors and historians have faulted the British and the Canadian governments for sending the troops to Hong Kong, often citing an imperial conspiracy to endanger Canadians. Nationalistic boasting is part of the process of blaming. As many authors and historians have contended that their nation’s soldiers were the best in the garrison, the defeat must have been the fault of the other troops. This exercise has accomplished little and should not be part of any serious study of the battle. This dissertation is not a call to absolve the government in any way— government leaders and officials must be criticized for their decisions as well—but the negative tone created around the battle persists. To condemn and castigate others willy-nilly, including our own leadership, does little to help understand our past. Placing responsibility for mistakes is an entirely different matter than simply blaming certain individuals. We must strive to understand why the defeats happened instead of solely trying to place the responsibility elsewhere.

Canadian historian Gregory A. Johnson has claimed that the majority of the works written on the Battle of Hong Kong after 1948 “tended to be presented as a tragic but gallant fight against insurmountable odds.”12 While Johnson’s assertion is valid, it underplays how dominant negativity has permeated discussions of the battle. Books about the battle such as The Damned, Betrayal, and Not the Slightest Chance illustrate how the Canadian experience at Hong Kong has been presented.13 This negativity extends beyond history books. On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle, tragedy was a major focus. In an opinion piece from December 2016 in the Red Deer Express, the author opined, “unfortunately, there has been virtually no remembrance of the horrific Battle of Hong Kong. . .”14 The battle and its aftermath were undeniably horrible for those who experienced it. Many began to see these terrible events as something best not discussed or as someone else’s mistake. In a 2016 New York Times article, Craig S. Smith, a Canadian journalist, wrote about the battle’s casualties without providing proper context. Discussing the death of “C” Force commander Brigadier J.K. Lawson, Smith wrote, “Remembrances of war are worth noting not just for the lives lost but for the bad decisions that led inexorably to the waste of those lives. Mr. Lawson [Brigadier Lawson’s son] need not have grown up without a father, but misinformation, poor planning and simple incompetence left him with little more than a pocketful of ornaments instead of a man.” 15

What does a negative legacy mean in the context of the Battle of Hong Kong? Historian Kwong Chi-Man claimed in Time Magazine in 2017 that December 8 had become Canada’s equivalent of Australia’s Anzac Day which commemorates the disastrous 1915 Battle of Gallipoli.16 Though the sentiment behind these words is warmly and genuinely meant, it is simply untrue. Unlike Anzac Day, the Battle of Hong Kong is either ignored by Canadians, dismissed as a tragedy that befell the garrison, or seen as a defeat brought on by British duplicity. Few Canadians gather on 8 December to mourn the fallen and remember what happened all those years ago. Canada has no national day of remembrance of the Hong Kong defeat, nor is this ever likely to occur.

Canadian historian Galen Roger Perras has championed the cause of re-examining the Battle of Hong Kong by averring that a new work on the battle needed to be written “that will critically examine the complicated prewar context, the battle itself, and the political and historical battles that have yet to abate.”17 My dissertation is an answer to this call. To frame this dissertation, I will explore how the Battle of Hong Kong has developed a negative legacy in Canada by examining the issue cited by Perras. One cannot escape an examination of the poor choices that were made in relation to “C” Force and the suffering that the troops subsequently endured. But such issues need not be the only elements to be discussed in relation to the Battle of Hong.

These myths about Canada’s reinforcement of Hong Kong, the battle, and its sad aftermath are defined by their lack of context, an emotional appeal to the suffering of the garrison, and the use of hindsight to blame and hurl abuse. These myths gained their power by presenting the decision to send troops to Hong Kong as an immoral one. The brutalities inflicted on the garrison’s survivors once they entered Japanese captivity as prisoners of war (POWs) are a prime example. Such views are illustrations of the “poor bloody infantry” stance that pities common soldiers for the poor treatment meted out to them by politicians and generals. Many popular studies of Hong Kong make such claims in order to exploit the reader’s emotions and support poorly constructed arguments. If we are to properly understand the context of Canada at war, we must avoid focusing on the morality of the decision to send Canadians to the British colony. While hindsight tells us that sending troops to Hong Kong was a mistake, Canada did the right thing by reinforcing Hong Kong in late 1941 in an attempt to deter the expansionist and merciless Japanese Empire. While we must remember the sacrifices made and mourn the dead of Hong Kong, we cannot permit this battle to become a permanent negative memory in Canada’s collective historical consciousness. If this trend continues, those who fought in the battle will have their stories submerged in a sea of bitterness about British perfidy or Canadian callousness that prevents Canadians from properly understanding the battle. A more positive legacy will allow all elements to be further examined and better understood. The negativity leaves little room for further discussion on the battle or more nuanced approaches to be offered.


This dissertation focuses on the myths that persist about the Battle of Hong Kong. Examining what these myths are and how they developed is a good starting point in an effort to change the discourse. A loose theoretical framework about the persistence of myths will be used to understand the negative legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong. In Zombie Myths of Australian Military History, historians discussed ten of the most durable Australian military zombie myths. Zombies, though perhaps an odd choice to frame an academic work, are a fitting metaphor for these myths. Craig Stockings, Australian historian and editor of the collection, has described zombies as acting “on instinct. They lack vitality and freshness. Instead, they are rotten and usually display a number of outward signs of decay. Despite this, they are strong and surprisingly resilient.”18 A more fitting description of the Hong Kong myths cannot be found. Using this book as its model, this dissertation, by departing from the many different works about the Battle of Hong Kong, will offer much needed context and nuance so often missing from discussions on the battle. The Battle of Hong Kong has received varied levels of interests, ranging from front page news receiving national attention to discussions among academic military historians. But the attention has never completely disappeared. Interest in the battle is cyclical. Like the proverbial zombie, the myths never die, and the stench of decay is powerful. Vietnamese-American scholar Viet Thanh Nguyen evoked the poem “The Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible” by Galway Kinnell when he wrote, “the refusal to discuss the [Vietnam] war can still be seen in light of the war itself. Somewhere the corpse continues to burn...and even if we avert our eyes and pretend we cannot smell it, the odor lingers, its flickering shadow occasionally leaping into our peripheral vision.”19 As Stockings added, “This is not a harmless phenomenon. Zombie myths are as hazardous to our intellectual health as their ‘real’ counterparts would no doubt be to our physical form.”20 Describing the same sentiment, American historian Robert S. Weddle has argued that “Historians’ keenest perception and utmost concern for truth is demanded to correct them [historical factual errors], regardless of the inconvenience.”21 The truth must be known, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it may be. The myths surrounding the Battle of Hong Kong linger in the Canadian collective memory and they need to be disposed of. This dissertation will contribute to the historiography of the Battle of Hong Kong by challenging the myths by examining their origins and offering corrections to them. This dissertation contributes something new to the historiography of the Battle of Hong Kong as its legacy is rarely studied in academia and will offer new insights into how the myths developed and how the legacy became what it is today. It also provides a framework for the legacy of other Canadian defeats to be studied

Before delving further into this topic, several definitions must be provided for the crucial concepts employed throughout this dissertation. “Myth” is the most important term to define. In his seminal work on Canadian memory and the First World War, historian Jonathan Vance has “employed ‘myth’ to refer simply to the particular conception of the Great War that that is my central concern. I do so, not because that conception conforms strictly to any of the definitions of myth that have been proposed by scholars working in the field, but because the word seems to capture the combination of invention, truth, and half-truth that characterizes Canada’s memory of the war.”22 I also use this definition of myth in this dissertation. “Negative legacy” is another important term to define. Negative is a lack of positivity marked by features of hostility, withdrawal, or pessimism. The lack of positivity is the key part of the definition for my arguments. Legacy as defined as something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. Finally, “influence” must be also understood to examine how myths take hold and integrate into our historical understanding. As this is a difficult term to define, I cite American philosopher W.T. Jones who argued that similarity is useful to define influence as in “b in some respect similar to a.” This definition will be used when discussing for example the influence newspapers had over the Canadian public’s understanding of the battle by spreading myths. Jones also contended that the “basis for asserting influence to have occurred in cases where the owner of b, so far from reproducing identically any aspect of a, has reacted against a.”23 This definition of influence will be used for discussion on works, such books, articles, documentaries, and other secondary sources, and they interact with each other. Rejection of previous ideas and arguments forms an important element in the Hong Kong historiography.

The Battle of Hong Kong Historiography

Before delving into the battle’s historiography, a brief overview of the events leading to the Canadian reinforcement of Hong Kong and the fighting in December 1941 introduces the key individuals and dates. The immediate cause for the despatch of Canadians to Hong Kong can be attributed to Brigadier Arthur Edward Grasett, the General Officer Commanding of Hong Kong. While travelling through Canada on his way back to Britain, Grasett met with General Harry Crerar, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) of the Canadian Army24, in Ottawa in late summer 1941. Upon reaching Britain, Grasett suggested to the British Chiefs of Staff that Canadian troops could reinforce Hong Kong. On 19 September 1941, the Dominions Office cabled Ottawa, asking for Canadian troops to be sent to Hong Kong. Canada said yes, and Canadian soldiers left for Hong Kong in late October. “C” Force was comprised of two infantry battalions, the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers, plus assorted support units. This force augmented the Hong Kong garrison made up of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Scots; the 2nd Battalion, 14th Punjab Regiment; the 5th Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment; the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment; the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC); and various artillery units and support troops.25 The Japanese assault struck on 8 December. The garrison stubbornly resisted the attack until Christmas Day 1941, when Governor of Hong Kong Mark Young and garrison commander Major-General C.M. Maltby surrendered the colony.

While some works have created myths about the Battle of Hong Kong, others have amplified those myths to larger audiences. To borrow a phrase from historian Jane E. Calvert, the Battle of Hong Kong has “both a history problem and a historiography problem.”26 My dissertation will address this issue by correcting the myths while identifying the primary prognosticators of these myths. Although a historiographical piece about “C” Force exists, it failed to mention the revisionist historians who emerged after the release of the highly controversial documentary series The Valour and the Horror.27 In his piece on the historiography of “C” Force, historian Tony Banham contended that narratives on Hong Kong composed after 1960 fit into a national bifurcation along British and Canadian lines. Banham has asserted that British accounts tend to lump all units into the British garrison while also being “somewhat disparaging of the Canadian involvement.” By contrast, Canadian writers often have focused on their countrymen who are presented as fighting in isolation from the garrison’s other nationalities. Critical of this “Canadianisation” of the battle, Banham accused Canadian historians of “single-mindedness” despite their claims that their studies were far more broad.28 Banham’s allegation has some merit. Arthur Penny’s 1962 short regimental history The Royal Rifles of Canada, a seldom cited source, was named as the text that began this nationalist schism. Despite Banham’s assertion, just two of the major studies on Hong Kong—Carl Vincent’s markedly anti-British book No Reason Why: The Canadian Hong Kong Tragedy, An Examination, and Grant Garneau’s The Royal Rifles of Canada in Hong Kong, 1941–1945—have cited Penny’s work. Further, Banham failed to note Canadian historian Terry Copp’s 2001 article on the Battle of Hong Kong which focused on the entire garrison’s experience. While some of these historians who have written about Hong Kong or the Far East generally include Canadians who were educated in Britain and are experts on British imperial and military history, Banham makes no room for these historians in his assessment. But the division between popular and academic histories of the battle is a more striking division than the one along national lines. These two groups employ vastly different methodologies, while popular historians often have a large audience than their academic counterparts. This situation will be discussed in depth below.

My analysis occurs in a loose chronological order. Each phase shared distinct views, given the available sources and prevailing attitudes at the time of their publication, thus allowing for a clearer organization of the historiography. The time periods overlap as well. The first section, from 1948 to 1957, was defined by official histories and reports. The findings, assumptions, and omissions made by official historians, using the academic standards, greatly influenced the work of those who came after them. The second period, from 1953 to 1991, marked by popular histories and a limited number of academic works, witnessed the beginning of a reassessment of the official histories’ conclusions on the Battle of Hong Kong. The third section covers the release of the documentary series The Valour and the Horror in 1992 to the present. That series was a watershed moment in the battle’s legacy for the documentary inspired a revisionist movement that reacted against the series’ historical errors and poor interpretations. All of these works discuss some or all of the major events of the Battle of Hong Kong including the Canadian reinforcement, the battle itself, and the short- and long-term aftermath of the fighting. The final historiographical section will examine numerous academic works that discuss Britain’s policy and defence planning in the Far East during the prewar period. While some of these works did not deal directly with Hong Kong, they offer important insights into why the colony was reinforced in 1941. Examining these works allows the literature on Hong Kong to be placed in the broader context of the historiography of the Second World War in the Far East. The dichotomy of academic versus popular history and how they assess the Battle of Hong Kong is one of the reasons why the legacy of the battle remains so strongly negative.

Many of the deleterious myths began with a supplement to The London Gazette which was published on 29 January 1948. This Despatch was written by Major-General C.M. Maltby, Hong Kong’s commander in December 1941. Submitted to the Secretary of State for War on 21 November 1945, Maltby stated that the Canadian battalions were improperly trained and unable to fight properly in Hong Kong’s hilly terrain. Citing failed Canadian counterattacks and poor decisions made by Canadian commanders, Maltby indirectly blamed “C” Force for the problems that led to Britain’s defeat. Still, Maltby asserted that “strategically we gambled and lost, but it was a worth while gamble.”29 However, this version of the Despatch was edited at the insistence of the Canadian government and C.P. Stacey, the Canadian Army’s official historian. Any sections that unfairly depicted Canadian troops were altered or redacted. Despite the changes, Canadians still were presented as incompetent soldiers. Maltby’s Despatch caused much controversy upon the releases of both its edited and unedited versions. These controversies will be further examined in relation to the battle’s overall legacy.

The Canadian and British official histories of the Battle of Hong Kong laid the foundation for future historical work on the subject. As Louis Morton, official historian of the United States Army’s war in the Pacific, has noted:

Much of this new literature deals with World War II and is the product of professionally trained historians employed by the governments of most of the major powers, rather than of military men as had previously been the case. The British have their official history, prepared largely by civilians, as do the Australians, the Dutch, the Canadians, the Russians, and others. In the United States, also, the official historians are mostly professionally trained civilians…they are fully qualified members of the profession.30

The Canadian Army’s official account of the war with Japan was released in various forms, all spearheaded by Stacey and the Historical Section of the Canadian Army General Staff. Published in 1948, the first incarnation, meant for a more popular audience, was entitled The Canadian Army 1939–1945: An Official Historical Summary. 31 It contained no citations but still relied on primary documents, ranging from official reports to recorded personal recollections, collected over the course of the war to give a brief overview of the Canadian Army’s Second World War.32 The first volume of the Army official history of the war, Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific, followed in 1955, with an entire chapter about Hong Kong. While this iteration was more academic in tone and structure than the first account, it had extensive citations and it lacked the typical analysis present in more traditional academic works. Both of Stacey’s works covered the British troop request, the Canadian government’s decision to send the troops to Hong Kong, and the battle itself.

In his memoirs, Stacey called Hong Kong the most difficult historical problem that he faced in his long career.33 Despite the limitations caused by the need to protect reputations, Stacey questioned the lack of intelligence gathering and analysis:

Canada had at this period no intelligence organization of her own capable of making a fully adequate estimate of the situation in the Far East; essentially, Ottawa depended upon London for such information. Nor was any military appreciation requested of or prepared by the Canadian General Staff as to the situation of Hong Kong in the event of war with Japan. The Canadian Government had not been told of Mr. [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill’s earlier doubts. It was of course amply clear however that the garrison’s position in war would be most perilous. The Government's decision was evidently made mainly upon the upon the circumstances as presented in the Dominions Office cable.34

While the reinforcement obviously did not deter the Japanese attack, Stacey argued that “we can see today that the decision to reinforce Hong Kong was a mistake.”35 Stacey’s explanation of Hong Kong laid the foundation for future works to build upon and provided questions to further explore, although historian Kenneth Taylor maintained that Hong Kong “represents a prime example of the inadvisability of continuing to accept the Official Histories as the definitive works they purported to be.”36 My work will differentiate itself from Stacey’s by making use of the unedited Maltby Despatch. Official histories, far from being the final word on a subject, are just a beginning. Providing insight into the development of the discourse on the battle, Tim Cook has suggested “It has been the official historians of the Department of National Defence [DND] who, for much of the twentieth century, have controlled the academic writing on the world wars…” 37 As a result, popular works about the Battle of Hong Kong dominated the discourse as academic historians did not write works on the battle for many years. This development allowed myths to spread through the Canadian consciousness of the battle, tainting its legacy.

The British official history of the war in the Pacific, authored by Major-General S. Woodburn Kirby and released in 1957, repeated many of the themes found in other official accounts as Kirby relied heavily on the Maltby Despatch to discuss the Canadian units fighting at Hong Kong: “Neither battalion had had the opportunity for the type of intensive tactical training so vital to success in battle. Indeed, it was understood both in London and Ottawa that they were intended for garrison duty only.” Despite the focus on training deficiencies, the Canadian units were not singled out as being worse than the garrison’s other defenders. Instead, Japanese fighting abilities were credited, while prolonged garrison duties, a lack of combat experience, and malaria among the Royal Scots all had weakened the British units. While the reduction in men available for battle caused numerous problems, Kirby concluded “there was however no lack of good and gallant leadership. Though disaster befell some detachments, men of the British, Canadian and Indian battalions fought well, in circumstances which were always discouraging and were soon recognized to be hopeless.”38 Kirby maintained that the Canadians had done the best they could under very difficult circumstances. The academic nature of these official histories did not fully return to works on Hong Kong until the 1990s.

Academic military history occupies a unique position in the divide between academic and popular history. This gulf is very evident within the Hong Kong historiography. Louis Morton has discussed the development of academic military history and its connection to the reading public:

Only later, in the latter part of the [nineteenth]century, was its purpose broadened to include the enlightenment and education of the reading public. It is not surprising, therefore, that the academic historian with deep roots in the traditions of his profession should regard military history as an alien branch of his own discipline, as narrow and technical in approach, didactic in character, and unrelated to the board stream of historical writing.39

Furthermore, academic historians have become far less interested in writing for a wider public. As American historian Peter Novick has noted, “No dramatic controversies marked historians’ abandonment of the aspiration to achieve a dominant position in providing history for the general reading public. There was merely a continuing decline, accompanied by occasional, and increasingly ritualistic, headshaking.”40

An explanation of the differences between popular and academic historical works is needed in this dissertation, as most of the works that influenced Hong Kong’s legacy are popular works of history. Historian Eric Arnesen has provided important insights into the difference between academic and popular history in his article on the historiography of British abolitionism:

The worlds of academic scholarship and popular understandings of the past are two distinct if sometimes related phenomena. In the best of circumstances, the work of professional scholars, based on years of painstaking research and conceptualization, finds its way into the hands of those outside the academy. Ideally, academic research and arguments inform or define not just what our students might think but what the broader public does as well. But the “best of circumstances” is one of those phrases that might be misleading, for the occasions when academic scholarship decisively shapes larger interpretations and understandings occur far too rarely. Under more commonly prevailing circumstances, academic historians’ work forms a kind of backdrop against which historical popularizers, with access to larger reading markets, can paint their own distinct pictures; to mix metaphors, academic work constitutes building blocks that can be selectively arranged to suit the popularizers’ purposes.41

Arnesen also has noted that academic historical works are not intended for broader audiences, while popular historians have larger reading bases, in part, because they “reject scholarly jargon, disregard academic obsessions and (usually) analyses, and ignore historiographical hair splitting. Instead, they aim at producing compelling and dramatic narratives that will hold the interest of non-professional readers.”42Popular history is heavily inspired by journalistic techniques, while academic history relies on the interpretation of documents and sources. Popular history mostly rejects historiography, even though historiography is crucial to proper understanding of historical context. Academically trained public historian Nick Sacco has noted that these differences come down to the interpretation of the past versus the reporting of it. “Some of the more popular works of history I’ve come across tend to do more reporting of ‘what actually happened’ rather than closely examining primary and secondary source documents for new ways of interpreting the past or questioning common understandings of historical events.”43 The questions that each of these two groups seek to answer are an important part of who forms their audiences. Discussing the kind of questions explored by both groups of historians, American historian Michael Robinson has concluded “I think that most audiences would prefer these works to the ones we [academic historians] produce, in part because we are often interested in a different set of questions. Should the public find our questions interesting? Perhaps. But ultimately I think it is our responsibility as historians to make the case.”44 David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism, has argued that “professional historians select their areas of research not by looking at history but by surveying the historiography. . .then staking out a new sliver of the established academic terrain.” 45 Popular historians select topics based on their own interests and what is likely to have wide appeal whether or not it has been explained many times before.

Opinions on the value of both academic and popular history by those within the academy are decidedly split. Many believe popular historians have little of value to offer and in some cases are outright menaces to history. Gordon Wood, a leading academic historian of theAmerican Revolution, made his opinion clear by stating that “nonacademic historians who unfortunately often write without much concern for or much knowledge of the extensive monographic literature that exists. If academic historians want popular narrative history that is solidly based on the monographic literature, then they will have to write it themselves.”46 But Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burnstein have gone further, contending that “frankly, we in the history business wish we could take out a restraining order on the big-budget popularizers of history (many of them trained in journalism) who pontificate with great flair and happily take credit over the airwaves for possessing great insight into the past.” Claiming to speak for all historians, they asserted that “journalists doing history tend to be superficial and formulaic. To the historian’s mind, they don’t care enough about accuracy.”47 Many academic historians have displayed arrogance and elitism in critiquing popular history. Novick has well described this attitude: “for the most part best-sellerdom in history was reserved for amateurs like Walter Lord, Cornelius Ryan, William L. Shirer, John Toland, and Barbara Tuchman, whom most professional historians, justly or unjustly, regarded as the equivalent of chiropractors and naturopaths.”48 Yet the media’s influence upon the Canadian public’s understanding of history is undeniable. It is, therefore, important to look at popular print media, such as newspapers and magazines, to determine how these myths about Hong Kong are spread to the public. Newspaper circulations increased in the second half of the twentieth century in Canada therefore increasing their ability to provide history to the masses. Wilfred H. Kesterton had noted that “the average daily boasted about 5,000 subscribers in 1901, average circulations had grown to approximately 25,000 in 1940, and 40,000 in the 1960’s.” This increase was due to the concentration of the Canadian population that allowed for more daily newspapers and better technology to print more newspapers. 49 As the media continues to influence how Canadians view the battle, journalistic techniques and work cannot be ignored.

Sacco has offered a more neutral position in the debate on popular versus academic history, stating that “the more I think about it, the more unsure I become of this academicpopular divide. In the end I think all historians can learn a lot from each other about method, content, style, tone, and organization without putting each other into boxes based solely on book sales.”50 David Greenberg has provided suggestions as to how academic historians can reach a wide reading audience: “If a book is conceived with only historiography in’s unlikely to succeed in the public realm. If it’s conceived without historiography in mind, it’s unlikely to succeed as scholarship. I’d propose what might be called a Goldilocks approach to historiography.” 51 This Goldilocks approach requires a blend of academic and popular approaches in where historiography is present in a historical work but only indirectly by appearing in citations or separate appendices.

Popular history works can be both bad and good history. Unfortunately, much of the discourse about Hong Kong demonstrates the bad type of popular history as the lack of academic rigour and analysis in these works has furthered many myths surrounding the battle. Few scholarly works about the battle were released until the 1990s. This is not entirely the fault of academic historians for official records were not released to the general public until several decades after the war’s end. 52 However, there has been ample time to write such history since the release of the records, and yet, a work of this nature is still missing. Thus, we require a new work about the Battle of Hong Kong that blends the narrative structure of popular works with the coverage of historiography and attention to historical principles that is found in academic history.

Popular works about the battle were published soon after the war. Released in 1953, A Record of the Actions of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps by Evan Stewart, was one of the earliest non-official works on the battle. Stewart, a major in the HKVDC, had fought in the battle. Relying on the Maltby Despatch, though Stewart focused primarily on the HKVDC, he gave attention to other units, including the Canadian battalions. He also supplemented his own memories of the battle with accounts by Japanese commanders. But as Stewart’s account blended ground-level observations with top-level decision-making, it is an invaluable source about the battle. Fifth columnists featured predominantly in Stewart’s account of the battle, an element largely overlooked by later accounts. Stewart observed that while the Canadians had little time to acclimatize to their surroundings, they fought just as well as other garrison troops. He provided an insight into morale during the battle as some soldiers wanted to surrender to avoid further bloodshed while their commanders believed that the Allied war effort would benefit from continued resistance. 53 Disagreements of this nature had a major impact on the battle’s legacy.

The Fall of Hong Kong, a popular history book by Tim Carew, a British Second World War veteran, was published in 1960. A polemic and poorly crafted, the book describes “C” Force as being a poor addition to the colony’s defence. While he focused mostly on the Middlesex Regiment, when Carew discussed Canadian units, he criticized the Royal Rifles’ leadership and the unit’s inconsistent attitudes to combat while also highlighting supposed drunkenness. Carew claimed that the Canadians lacked combat readiness as many troops had been serving for less than six months. Using recollections by other soldiers in the garrison, Carew presented the British troops as superior to non-British troops. 54 Carew’s work suffered from multiple issues, notably a complete absence of citations or a bibliography, poor research, and outright plagiarism. Carew’s work has many historical errors, unsupported assertions, and plagiarized passages that its historical scholarship cannot be taken seriously. The Fall of Hong Kong initiated a series poorly researched and argued books on the battle. Further examples will be discussed below.

In 1977, W.A.B. Douglas and Brereton Greenhous, two Canadian military official historians, co-authored Out of the Shadows: Canada in the Second World War, in which they took a more critical stance toward Canada’s war effort. This work was “an attempt to give a popular overview of the events that comprised Canada’s part in the Second World War.”55 While written by academically trained historians, the work relies heavily on secondary sources. “C” Force’s despatch to Hong Kong received much of the limited space devoted to the battle. Noting that Britain’s Chiefs of Staff had long recognized Hong Kong’s indefensible nature in a war with Japan, the authors, failing to provide context to the decisions that led to Canadians being sent to the colony, concluded:

There were two good reasons why this [the Canadian reinforcement] should not be done, the first being the vulnerability of Hong Kong and the second that there were no adequately trained and uncommitted troops in Canada at the time. However, the Canadian prime minister’s comprehension of strategy and logistics was not very profound and in this essentially military situation his customary political insight deserted him. 56

Claiming that it was “less easy to find excuses” for Minister of National Defence J.L. Ralston and General Crerar, they put the blame on them, as well as on Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The authors described the fighting capability of “C” Force as “an academic question” given the circumstances that developed at Hong Kong. But they also argued “not even Panzer Grenadiers or Guardsmen or Marines in such meagre numbers could have withstood for long the blow that was about to fall on Hong Kong.” Little more was said about the garrison’s fighting abilities. 57 Douglas and Greenhous’ work offers analysis without the vital research to support their claims.

In 1978, British historian G.B. Endacott offered a far more academic look at Hong Kong during the Second World War. In Hong Kong Eclipse, Endacott covered the entire period of Hong Kong’s war, starting before the Japanese attack and through to reconstruction efforts after Britain reoccupied the colony in 1945. Briefly discussing how Canadians came to reinforce Hong Kong, while Endacott noted that Brigadier Grasett had travelled across Canada, he made no mention of his vital meeting with Crerar although Grasett urged the Canadian government to send two battalions to Hong Kong. While this account does not accurately depict the series of events that led to “C” Force’s despatch, the basic details are covered. Endacott labelled the Canadian reinforcement as a “tragedy.”58 As disorganized garrison forces lacked proper communications and failed to successfully counterattack the Japanese, “the impression left is that on the British side the battle lacked that close direction and planning necessary to hold the Japanese for any length of time. But it has to be admitted that they were fighting a battle that could not be won, and many must have felt this.”59

Oliver Lindsay, a British Army officer who served during the Cold War, published The Lasting Honour: The Fall of Hong Kong, 1941 in 1978. This popular work offered a more balanced approach to the Hong Kong controversy. According to Lindsay, Grasett “deserves no gratitude for convincing in turn both the Canadian and British CGSs that additional battalions would make ‘all the difference’ to the defence of Hong Kong.”60 Yet Lindsay also concluded that Britain, for moral and political reasons, had to defend Hong Kong to bolster China and to avoid “a sordid act of appeasement” for abandoning Hong Kong could have destroyed American faith in Britain.61 Lindsay’s conclusions about the Canadians are striking:

Canada deserves infinite gratitude for sending reinforcements to Hong Kong, when the international situation was so precarious. Nevertheless there was no justification for the Canadian CGS sending two battalions well-known to be untrained for anything other than mundane garrison guard duties. Trained and uncommitted battalions, impatient for action, were available, but were not chosen because the urgency was not understood. In an event it can be seen today that the decision to reinforce Hong Kong at the eleventh hour was a mistake. The arrival of two extra battalions was expected to be a strong deterrent, but had no such effect.62

Lindsay’s 2005 work, The Battle for Hong Kong 1941–1945: Hostage to Fortune, which repeated many of the same points from The Lasting Honour, again attributed the decision to send Canadians to Hong Kong to Grasett. But this time Lindsay also critiqued Brigadier Cedric Wallis, calling him “the most controversial soldier in the battle for Hong Kong.” According to Lindsay, Wallis had been “seriously mentally unbalanced” in his dealings with Canadians. Very sympathetic to the troops of “C” Force, Lindsay concluded that “The Canadians did their best in the most adverse circumstances.”63

Canadian civilian books and articles on the battle, many of them popular history works, have fixated on the suffering of the garrison after the fighting had ended. As such, official explanations for Canadian troops being sent to Hong Kong, regarded by many authors as cynical cover-ups meant to trick the Canadian public, constituted a betrayal of the Canadian troops. In his 1980 work Desperate Siege: The Battle of Hong Kong, one of the earliest Canadian civilian works about the battle, Ted Ferguson wrote a popular history narrative account of the battle that lacked citations while its bibliography was hardly extensive. The fighting quality of the British and Indian battalions was mentioned along side Canadian exploits. Other nationalities were covered in equal measure, including those who lived in the colony before the attack began. AntiBritish sentiments were still expressed through the words of John Fonesca, a man of mixed birth and thus an outsider in Hong Kong high society.64 Blaming Grasett for the despatch of Canadians to the colony, Ferguson also criticized Canada’s government, as “nearly two thousand Canadian soldiers were committed to the defense of an isolated British enclave without anyone in Ottawa fully realizing the enormity of the task awaiting them.”65 The author’s journalistic background is clear given his accessible writing style that relied heavily on quotations from the battle’s participants. As Bantam stated in his historiography article on “C” Force, “published before the big backlash sparked by ‘No Reason Why’ and the release of the unabridged version of Maltby’s report, this is arguably one of the best-balanced books to come from Canadian sources.” 66 While Ferguson’s work maybe better balanced than other Canadian offerings, it has too many issues to be considered a reliable account of the Battle of Hong Kong. Desperate Siege was an entry into the continuum of the poorly researched and argued books about the battle that began with Carew’s The Fall of Hong Kong.

Carl Vincent, a Canadian archivist, presented the events of December 1941 as a British conspiracy, with Canadian government support, to put Canadian lives in danger. His polemical and overtly nationalist 1981 work, No Reason Why: The Canadian Hong Kong Tragedy, An Examination, was the literary culmination of the Hong Kong continuum begun by Carew. In a poorly crafted public history publication masquerading as an academic book, Vincent blamed numerous government and military officials, particularly Grasett, for sending Canadian troops to Hong Kong. Canadian troops should have never been sent to Hong Kong as they were not ready for combat, with Vincent averring that “There was no reason why Canadian troops should have been despatched to the doomed outpost of Hong Kong—but through a combination of British cynicism and Canadian thoughtlessness, they were sent anyway.”67 Vincent wrote this book as “a reaction to the melange of myth, rumour, unfounded accusation, one-sided accounts, and official whitewash...” While Vincent claimed that his book was based “to a great extent on primary sources,” 68 in fact, his research into the context of the Canadian reinforcement was incredibly thin, relying on just thirteen British primary documents found in British archives, only six of which warranted a citation. By using so few sources, Vincent, unable to fully understand the geopolitical context of the time, did not accurately present the strategic situation that led to Canadian troops fighting in Hong Kong.

Relying more on emotion than actual historical research, Vincent’s work was firmly entrenched in the “poor bloody infantry” school. Vincent claimed that the battle did little to affect Japan’s war effort and that Japanese casualties were not excessive for the gains made. He claimed that though the Canadians were ill-trained for their task, they fought well.69 Little attention was paid to No Reason Why at the time of its release. Academic historians did not weigh in on Vincent’s conclusions until after The Valour and the Horror aired as its Hong Kong episode relied heavily on Vincent’s book. 70 Despite the heavy criticism directed toward him in the aftermath of the release of The Valour and the Horror, Vincent is still regarded as an authority on Hong Kong. In a 2015 piece in Legion Magazine, his opinion on whether Canadians should have been sent to Hong Kong was cited along renowned Canadian historian J.L. Granatstein’s.71 Undoubtedly, the controversy surrounding The Valour and the Horror has ensured that Vincent’s subpar work remains prominent in any discussion of the battle.

The release of The Valour and the Horror brought the myths about the Battle of Hong Kong to their largest audience yet. This series was the ultimate culmination of the continuum that began with Tim Carew and continued by Ferguson and Vincent. The series was written by documentary filmmakers, journalists, and brothers Brian and Terence McKenna. The program originally aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) television channels. An estimated 4,500,000 to 6,000,000 people watched each episode on the English-language network, while an average of 350,000 to 400,000 tuned in to the French-language network, RadioCanada.72 Archivist Ernest J. Dick observed that The Valour and the Horror’s “18–20 per cent audience share...out of all Canadians watching television—is exceptional for any Canadian programming, let alone historical documentary programming.” 73 The series’ reach was undeniable.

The first episode in the series, entitled “Savage Christmas,” which aired on 12 January 1992, chronicled the battle and the years the Canadians spent in Japanese captivity. The series brought the Hong Kong story into the mainstream in a dramatic way that few, if any, print books could. This series was a “bad” piece of history akin to Gar Alperovitz’s book Atomic Diplomacy in that both works, by inciting more revisionist scholarship, changed the field for the better but likely in ways neither Alperovitz nor the McKennas had intended. 74 The McKennas claimed at the beginning of the episode that “This is a true story. In some cases actors speak the documented words of soldiers and nurses. There is no fiction.”75 As such, this documentary needs to be held to a high standard of historical rigour. The series raised questions regarding truth, journalistic independence, and who can create history. As this series was so controversial, and as this dissertation examines the legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong, “Savage Christmas” is an important part of how the battle is viewed as it repeated many of the false claims and myths made by others, albeit to a much larger audience. Additional analysis of this episode and its aftermath is needed and I will do so by examining the academic revisionist response in detail along with what Brian McKenna has done since this series.

The claim that the episode had no fictional elements was a lie for the McKennas created most of the supposedly documented words. The decision to send Canadian troops to Hong Kong to bolster the colony’s garrison was presented as an imperial conspiracy concocted in London and approved by Ottawa. One such dramatic scene summed up the series’ thesis:

Men like Roger Cyr blame the Canadian government for sending them on the hopeless mission to begin with. “As a soldier, I have no problem with being sent to war. Doesn’t bother me. What frightens the daylights out of me is the thought that my government would have not only willingly, but very actively, placed itself in a situation where it would knowingly offer a couple of thousand of its young men as lambs to the slaughter in order to meet some sort of political expediency.” 76

It is not disputed that Cyr may have said something very similar to the filmmakers. He had every right to be angry with the Canadian government after spending almost four years in captivity and having benefits denied to him after the war. However, nowhere in Cyr’s interview transcript can these words be found.77 Cyr’s supposed quote was used twice in the episode, undoubtedly, to drive home the filmmakers’ claims of betrayal.

Despite the numerous problems with the series, some of its interpretations were correct. One example is the references made to the mistakes made by the Canadian government in relation to military intelligence: “Incredibly, Canada answered England’s call without making an independent assessment of the peril, accepting the mother country’s assurance that the men would not be in harm’s way.”78 As Canada did little in terms of assessment, the sentiment of the first part of the claim is essentially correct despite the dramatic and unfounded accusation that Britain said Canadians would be safe. Given that The Valour and the Horror changed the conversation about the Battle of Hong Kong, it will receive the required attention in its own chapter. The errors presented in “Savage Christmas,” mostly related to the battle itself, will be addressed—an area that is lacking in the previous literature on the Battle of Hong Kong.

A popular history book with the same title accompanied the series and repeated the documentary’s errors. Written by Merrily Weisbord, a writer and a documentary filmmaker, and Merilyn Simonds Mohr, a fiction writer, the book lacked citations or a bibliography. Citing the theme of betrayal, the authors asserted that “The Battle of Hong Kong contained the elements of a classic tragedy: badly trained inadequately supplied soldiers thrust innocent and ignorant into a garrison about to be attacked by a disciplined, technologically superior army that outnumbered them five to one.”79 Unsubstantiated claims litter this work. The authors claimed, inaccurately, that the Royal Rifles are made up of mostly French-Canadian farm boys. In fact, the regiment were known colloquially as the “Million Dollar Regiment” for many of its members were drawn from the Anglo-Québec elite, including the son of Cabinet Minister C.G. Power.80 The authors claimed that the Canadian troops were woefully unprepared for combat as they had received almost no training. They also asserted, without offering evidence, that “twenty percent of the men called up for garrison duty in Hong Kong had never fired live ammunition from a rifle; 40 percent had never manned a machine gun. The Rifles had a little practice throwing dummy grenades; The Grenadiers had tossed none at all. Few of these soldiers had ever seen a mortar shell.”81 The book, providing even less historical value than the documentary series, represents the various problems that plague public historical works.

The outcry against the series led to an official CBC Ombudsman Report prepared by William Morgan. Asserting that The Valour and the Horror did not meet CBC standards, Morgan used reports from academic historians to reach this decision. These reports, plus responses from other historians, were collected in a book, The Valour and the Horror: Revisited, which brought much needed academic attention to the Battle of Hong Kong. Canadian historian John Ferris, in his response to “Savage Christmas,” claimed that “this program was the one least criticized by veterans and historians; indeed, except for three minutes of a 104-minute presentation, “Savage Christmas” showed nothing to which any reasonable person could object.”82 This three-minute period covered the decision to despatch troops to Hong Kong. As Ferris’ expertise lies in diplomatic history, the combat portion of the episode was not his focus. Correcting the errors related to the despatching of Canadians to Hong Kong made in The Valour and the Horror, Ferris disputed claims there were no reasons to send Canadians to Hong Kong. Citing English Canadian pressure on Prime Minister W.L.M. King’s government to do more for the war effort, Ferris concluded that “Canadians went to Hong Kong because Canadians and their government wanted to do their part.” As Canadians viewed Britain’s war as their own, sending troops to Hong Kong seemed normal in 1941.83 Ferris vehemently rejected any notion of a conspiracy theory involving both Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor. Instead, “Stupidity, not conspiracy, dispatched 2000 Canadians to Hong Kong and the American Pacific Fleet to the bottom of the sea.”84 Ferris believed that Canadians went to war for the wrong reasons— primarily to defend a not-so-benevolent British Empire—but ultimately this decision produced the right result, the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Sending troops to Hong Kong was simply another part of this fight against evil. Ferris has assigned blame for the events at Hong Kong to an unlikely villain in this story, prewar Canadian society. The lack of funding and support for the Canadian military during the interwar years coupled with the fact “C” Force was sent to the fight the Japanese for reasons of protecting British interests is the reason for Ferris’ claim.85 Ferris’ work opened the door for more revisionist historians to present differing views of the Battle of Hong Kong than that of the producers of The Valour and the Horror.

A series of academic revisionist works followed in the wake of The Valour and the Horror. Canadian revisionists rejected unsophisticated, nationalist assaults, notably the antiBritish sentiments of Vincent and The Valour and the Horror. As so much distortion of the discourse resulted from the Vincent/McKenna works, the historians who viewed the Battle of Hong Kong in much the same way as the original official histories have been labelled revisionists. In Zombie Myths of Australian Military History, Australian historian Peter Stanley tackled the myth that Australia faced invasion by Japan during the Second World War: “The irony is that among historians the orthodox view has been, and remains, that Japan neither invaded nor planned to invade. Extraordinarily, to contest this popular assumption or belief is now to be labelled a ‘revisionist.’” 86 A similar line of thought can be applied to the legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong. This should not be the case, yet the negativity surrounding the legacy of the battle has made this necessary.

One of the first sound academic revisionist arguments about why Canada agreed to reinforce Hong Kong was provided by Galen Roger Perras in 1995. According to Perras, “strengthening Hong Kong was a reasonable act that in hindsight has acquired an unworthy moral taint. Many who have criticized the reinforcement have not given enough credit to the context in which that choice was made.” Perras highlighted the lack of consensus concerning Hong Kong’s defences even as many others asserted that British military leaders had definitely concluded that Hong Kong was a military liability by August 1940. 87 Perras remarked that it was not until Grasett’s September 1941 recommendation that the British Chiefs of Staff Committee considered reinforcing Hong Kong. And while the Grasett-Crerar meeting has assumed particular importance for why Canada was asked to provide reinforcements for Hong Kong, that meeting remains shrouded in mystery. Perras wrote that “we simply do not know what was said, but it would have been strange indeed for the two generals to have discussed Hong Kong’s military plight at some length without any suggestion that Canada might do something to remedy that situation.”88 As to why Canada accepted the request, Perras noted the strong connections that many Canadians, especially Canadian soldiers, felt toward Britain. “When it seemed clear in late 1941 the Americans could be counted on to support Britain, and Grasett presented the possibility of employing Canadians, the British swallowed concerns about Hong Kong in favour of a risky strategy that sought to deter Japanese attack with a minimal effort.”89 Context—that crucial element missing from many popular works—was finally given its due.

Canadian historian Christopher Bell’s 1996 academic article, “Our Most Exposed Outpost: Hong Kong and British Far Eastern Strategy, 1921–1941,” directly challenged many myths surrounding Hong Kong’s security during the interwar period. Providing important context to the Hong Kong reinforcement debate, Bell asserted that “the underlying assumption that Hong Kong’s position was always hopeless and should have been recognized as such...distorted our understanding of British Far Eastern policy. In particular, the offensive nature of British plans for war against Japan during the 1920s and early 1930s and the vital role of Hong Kong as a naval base during this period have been widely overlooked.” Bell noted that while it was apparent that Hong Kong’s defence would be no easy task, it was not always seen as impossible.90 Bell contended that as the policy between 1938 and early 1941 was to maintain Hong Kong’s garrison at the lowest possible level, the sudden reversal of this strategy in late 1941 was “commonly viewed with bewilderment; not surprisingly, it has led to conspiracy theories”—The Valour and the Horror being but one prominent example. 91 Bell mentioned that except for requesting Canadian help, Grasett’s arguments added nothing new to Hong Kong’s reinforcement debate. Instead, the British desire to match American actions in the Far East by late 1941 was the new element in a decades-long debate about Hong Kong’s security. As Bell has asserted, “Carl Vincent’s conclusion that there ‘was no reason why’ two battalions of Canadian infantry were sent to Hong Kong in the autumn of 1941 does not stand up. There was, in fact, an abundance of reasons.”92

Not all academic responses to The Valour and The Horror were negative. One example is Brereton Greenhous’ 1997 book, “C” Force to Hong Kong: A Canadian Catastrophe, a nationalist tome that merely repeated what others had said before. Citing Vincent’s book as the best Canadian monograph on the Battle of Hong Kong, Greenhous’ work was built on assumptions, symbolism, and emotional responses to the garrison’s suffering. For example, he claimed the Gin Drinker’s Line was unfortunately named because of the “connotations of sybaritic idleness.”93 Intent on assigning blame for the Canadian reinforcement and the battle’s dismal outcome, Greenhous made British leaders a prominent target, claiming that Britain chose to reinforce Hong Kong only if Canadians were put in danger. Crerar was also castigated for sending the Canadian troops to Hong Kong due to his ambitious, sycophantic nature and his need to impress British military leaders. As Crerar should have known that war with Japan was coming, troops should not have been sent to Hong Kong. 94 Despite the difficulties facing “C” Force, as Japanese troops admitted that the Canadians fought well, Greenhous claimed that Canadians had fought far better than most of the garrison:

As for effectiveness, the best criterion is the loss rate inflicted on the Japanese, and in that respect the Canadians seem to have done better than anybody else. In such confused fighting as developed on the island it is certainly not possible to allocate enemy casualties upon a specific national basis, but after reviewing the observations of the Japanese commanders in statements given to British authorities— “strong opposition,” “fierce fighting,” “heavy casualties,” “65 per cent losses”—the reader is struck by the fact that these kinds of comments occur when the fights under review were primarily with the Canadians, and not against other British or British-led troops.95

Nationalist boasting was a prominent part of Greenhous’ work—views that might be explained by his contrarian, argumentative style. Tim Cook has called him “an accomplished if quarrelsome historian. 96 Indeed, Greenhous’ official history study about Bomber Command also offered the same kind of anti-British tropes found in The Valour and The Horror. 97

The revisionist trend allowed scholars and historians to re-examine different elements of the battle in greater detail. Wai-Chung Lawrence Lai, a Hong Kong-based architecture professor, applied academic principles to his 1999 article about the British garrison’s combat effectiveness. He disputed the idea that Hong Kong was pointless to hold, as the prevailing Chinese opinion was that Hong Kong must be defended against Japan.98 Employing a statistical comparison between the defence of Hong Kong with British garrisons that defended Crete in May 1941 and Singapore in February 1942, he concluded “if we weigh the relative loss rate of the British garrison by its relative strength vis-a-vis the invaders for each battlefield, then we might come to the conclusion that the Hong Kong garrison was most effective in inflicting disproportionate casualties upon the invader.”99 Further, Crete’s defenders did the most damage when German paratroopers were descending to the ground or when gliders landed on the rocky terrain. Once in force, the Germans quickly overwhelmed Crete’s garrison.100 Facing experienced Japanese light infantry, Lai demonstrated that Hong Kong’s defenders fought better than previously assumed, s a situation likely ignored without the application of academic principles and the revisionism that assailed the myths about the battle.

In a 2001 article that broadly examined the Battle of Hong Kong, Terry Copp asserted that “It is not difficult to ask questions about the defence of Hong Kong it is just answers that are hard to come by.” Explicitly mentioning Grasett as the reason for the Canadian reinforcement, Copp harshly critiqued the Canadian and British governments for buttressing Hong Kong:

The Canadian troops sent to Hong Kong were grievously handicapped by their lack of training, poor equipment and shortages of ammunition. They were poorly served by their own government which had for so long avoided spending the sums of money necessary to prepare the Canadian forces for a global war which Canadian public opinion would demand that they fight. Their lives were also endangered by Churchill and his Cabinet who were prepared to sacrifice British and Commonwealth forces in the Far East rather than jeopardize hopes of a major victory in North Africa.101

Contradicting Banham’s historiographical argument, Copp provided examples of non-Canadian units that had fought well. Copp discussed the Rajputs’ stand on the mainland which, without having prearranged artillery support, inflicted some of the heaviest Japanese casualties of the battle.102 Citing the Grenadiers’ “D” Company’s stand at Wong Nei Chong Gap, Copp argued that “their courageous stand, which according to Japanese accounts led to heavy Japanese casualties, delayed the advance of 230th Regiment but the 229th succeeded in reaching Deep Water Bay and splitting the island early on 20 December.” Despite the garrison’s efforts, it surrendered on Christmas Day when the prospect of Japanese troops nearing the Fortress Headquarters caused Maltby and Young to lose their nerve. 103 Copp presented a sympathetic view of Hong Kong veterans without creating a “poor bloody infantry” narrative.

As British-educated Canadian historian Kent Fedorowich remarked in his 2003 article, “similarly, the controversy over the defence of Hong Kong has not abated in particular regarding the last minute decision to reinforce the colony with Canadian troops. Since the 1960s a variety of work ranging from the sensational to the scholarly has been written on the fall of Hong Kong.”104 Averring that change was a constant in plans for the colony’s defence, the Canadian reinforcement was simply another change, albeit a poorly timed one. Gregory A. Johnson’s 2008 chapter “The Canadian Experience of the Pacific War Betrayal and Forgotten Captivity,” was an excellent first offering on aspect of the battle’s legacy. Johnson’s focus was not solely on the Battle of Hong Kong, but instead centred on the “Canadian understanding of the experience of the Asia-Pacific war.” 105 Johnson’s well crafted chapter called for more to be known about the Canadian POWs in the Pacific and not the legacy itself. Luckily, Johnson’s call was heeded, and more academic works have been written on the POWs. 106 While Johnson brought together all the elements of the Canadian reinforcement, the battle, and its legacy, this study will expand upon areas Johnson considered to give a fuller discussion of the battle’s legacy. The existing works on the battle and its legacy have only scratched the surface of this topic.

Canadian historian Nathan Greenfield’s popular history book, The Damned: The Canadians at the Battle of Hong Kong and the POW Experience, 1941–45, is evidence that the Canadian focus on the garrison’s suffering has not been supplanted by revisionist views. Greenfield said little about why Canadians were sent to Hong Kong in late 1941 beyond an assertion that domestic pressures on King compelled him to send Canadian soldiers. 107 While Greenfield has blamed Grasett and Crerar for the decision to send the troops. Most of the book is focused on the individual soldier’s exploits in the battle. Exploiting emotional appeals to craft arguments, Greenfield also relied heavily on Vincent’s monograph. 108 Greenfield passed over the number of casualties on both sides, as “numbers tell us only so much. Battle is struggle—with the enemy, of course, but also with the elements, the hills and, as day followed day, exhaustion. Battle is seeing your buddies blown apart.”109 Employing veteran’s accounts of the events, Greenfield believed that “C” Force’s troops had military training, which if not meeting the standard found later in the war, indicated the Canadians were hardly an untrained rabble.110 But while noting that many of “C” Force’s leaders had First World War combat experience, Greenfield offered no conclusion about the fighting effectiveness of the Canadian troops. Greenfield presented the POW years as a second battle for survival that continued long after 1945 for government payments to the veterans, which did not arrive until 1998, was caused by “bureaucratic delays and wilful political blindness.”111 Greenfield’s work simply offers a starting point for understanding how the veterans were treated upon their return to Canada.

Perras’ article from 2011 has provided a historiographical look at the Battle of Hong Kong, especially the revisionist shift that began after The Valour and the Horror. He claimed that a larger work exploring why Canadians troops were sent to Hong Kong that reinterprets the political context behind the decision was still needed. Perras emphasized the need to move past blame: “For this reason, and more, we still need a monograph that avoids nationalist ‘fingerpointing and grudge settling,’ is interpretatively innovating, and mines multinational archival sources.”112 He raised questions about Canadian connections to the British military and argued that the depth of Canadian integration into the education structure of the British military before the Second World War needs to be better understood. Understanding how Canadian military leaders thought about imperial defence would highlight why they supported the request from Britain for troops. Perras also explained that the creation of the Canadian official history of “C” Force was influenced by politics and a need to protect reputations. 113 As personal connections can affect how history is created, Perras was right to point this out in the context of Hong Kong. While reputations were protected, history likely had suffered. Impressed by Lai’s findings, Perras called the work an example of a new method in “getting the story right.” 114Perras’ support for correcting myths on the Battle of Hong Kong is clear.

Terry Copp’s 2011 article provided another revisionist and academically sound examination of the Canadian reinforcement. Copp argued, “with Churchill now pursuing a policy of deterrence through symbolic acts there could be no question of changing the decision to send “C” Force to Hong Kong.” Australia enthusiastically received the news of the Canadian reinforcement, while a suggestion to send a Canadian brigade to Malaya was made but the war in the Pacific began before this idea could be assessed. As Copp noted, “when Carl Vincent wrote his oft quoted study of the Canadian role at Hong Kong he chose to title his book No Reason Why. In fact, there were many reasons why the Canadians were in Hong Kong. This is clear when the actions of the Canadian government and its military advisors are examined in the context of 1941 without the benefit of hindsight.”115

Kwong Chi Man and Tsoi Yiu Lun have offered an important perspective on “C” Force in their military history of Hong Kong. Published in 2014, Eastern Fortress: A Military History of Hong Kong, 1840–1970 placed “C” Force’s deployment within the broader context of the defence schemes for Hong Kong. Discussing the Canadians as simply one part of the garrison without presenting them as martyr/victims of British imperialism, the authors explained the defeat through the lens of almost 100 years of defence plans and strategic shifts. The authors have argued that colonial defence was maintained to preserve British imperial prestige for British officials in London and Hong Kong wanted to present strength to enemies and allies alike.116 The authors tracked changes in the defense focus, prior to 1941, from one based on a naval-first doctrine to a land-based defence system. Kwong and Tsoi’s work revealed the planning and decisions that went into the Canadian reinforcement. Sending the Grenadiers and Royal Rifles was neither a snap judgment nor part of some devious imperial plan to sacrifice colonial troops. The meeting between Crerar and Grasett produced “C” Force’s despatch, even though Crerar and Grasett refused to admit that such a discussion occurred. The authors attributed Hong Kong’s quick fall to the decisions made during the battle itself, not to the overall planning of its defence. Indeed, they claimed, “Compared perhaps to other British and Allied possessions in Asia, Hong Kong was better prepared, despite its ultimate fall.” They also noted that “C Force, often denigrated as inexperienced, inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese forces on several occasions.”117 This conclusion was based on in-depth research that placed the battle into a much broader context than most works.

In his 2012 book The Necessary War: Canadians Fighting the Second World War 1939– 1943, Tim Cook took issue with conspiracy theories surrounding the reinforcement of Hong Kong in late 1941. According to Cook, a naïve Canadian government, not a malicious one, sent Canadians to Hong Kong. The lack of an independent Canadian intelligence agency was highlighted as the reason for the poor understanding of the geopolitical situation in the Far East, a claim Granatstein made in a book about conscription in the Second World War, a contention I take issue with below.118 Aside from the lack of intelligence, the troops sent to Hong Kong were no different from other soldiers put in the line of fire elsewhere. Further, countering any notion of imperial conspiracy, Cook cited Britain’s despatch of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse and the fact that the British had many more of their own troops at Hong Kong.119 While Cook touched upon the theme that the Canadians were poorly trained, he used Japanese accounts to demonstrate that the Canadian troops fought with skill and determination. Blame for Hong Kong’s poor defence was placed on Maltby’s decisions during the battle, in particular, Maltby’s failure to create a central reserve both on the mainland and on the island. Cook has blended elements of revisionism and orthodox Canadian narratives of blaming the British for the fate of “C” Force.

Several non-historians from Hong Kong have written works on the battle that do not fit in any previously identified category of historiography. 120 These important sources from the past ten years on the plans of defence of Hong Kong and the battle itself have been neglected. Academic articles on the construction of the Gin Drinker’s Line, determining the location of pillboxes, and an earlier iteration of the Gin Drinker’s Line have demonstrated that invaluable field-work has been conducted. 121 The information provided by these articles will be used in this dissertation to explore defence planning and the events of the fighting, something that is often absent in other secondary works about the battle.

The Historiography of Far East Intelligence and the War against Japan

Many of the popular history works about the battle neglect the important academic historiography that had discussed Britain’s geostrategic position in the Far East before the Battle of Hong Kong. This dissertation will not make the same miscalculation. The intelligence failures of the prewar period are an important part of this section on the historiography of the Far East. One such work is Antony Best’s 1995 book, Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbour Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936–1941. Best has provided important insights when it comes to discussing the topic of the war in the Far East:

However, to come to any true understanding of the events of 7–8 December 1941 it is important to clear the mind of any preconceived notions of responsibility, with all the moral connotations that word implies. History is fundamentally a process of understanding; it should not be an excuse to indulge in finger-pointing. The idea of blame is dangerous because it encourages the historian to take short cuts. The desire to attribute blame exaggerates the natural and almost inescapable tendency to study historical events through the prism of hindsight.122

Not trying to shift the blame for the Pacific War from Japan to Britain, Best’s work instead sought “to understand the motivations that lay behind the Anglo-Japanese confrontation and to rise above the issue of blame.”123 Best’s findings regarding the road to war in the Far East covered two important points about British policies in the prewar period: Britain’s use of deterrence toward Japan; plus attempts to encourage the United States to back Britain fully in any war with Japan. Contending that British policy before war’s outbreak was designed to weaken or deter Japan, not to provoke it, Best has argued that “In fact it could be said that Britain was in a state of hostility, if not hostilities, towards Japan from October 1940 onwards. Faced with increasing evidence of Japanese collaboration with the Axis Powers in the economic, diplomatic and military fields, Britain had no choice but to pursue a policy of containment which would limit the assistance Japan could give to its partners and also reduce its ability to go to war.” Describing Britain’s policy toward Japan was “a kind of ‘death by a thousand cuts,’” and Best concluded that by 1941, “British policy towards Japan was still primarily based on the need to avoid war and it was assumed that this could only be achieved by a rigid policy of deterrence.”124 Hong Kong’s reinforcement was undoubtedly part of this process.

American actions played a vital in determining Britain’s policy toward Japan in 1941. Best has noted that after Japan seized southern French Indochina, America suspended all trading with Japan and froze all Japanese assets in the United States, policies that Britain speedily duplicated. Britain used its policy of deterrence while also showcasing displays of strength in order to gain American support. Churchill “wrote to [American President Franklin] Roosevelt assuring him that a ‘considerable Battle-squadron’ would be available for use in the Indian and Pacific Oceans before Christmas. The Prime Minister and [Anthony] Eden had thus achieved an important victory which was designed not only to bolster Britain’s position in South-East Asia but also to encourage American resolve.” By autumn 1941, emboldened by the strengthening of the American military position in the Philippines, Britain increased the numbers of troops and aircraft sent to Malaya. 125

In his 2000 book, Intelligence and the War against Japan: Britain, America and the Politics of Secret Service, British historian Richard J. Aldrich has explored the influence of British and American intelligence organizations on the war in the Pacific. Exploring the rivalry between British and American services as well as competitiveness amongst British secret services, Aldrich has noted that:

the intelligence failures of 1937 to 1941 owed much to a colonial mentalité, which prompted the West to focus on internal colonial stability rather than external threats, and also encouraged the underestimation of Japan. Thereafter, it suggests that the course of the Far Eastern Wat witnessed the development of separate and divergent “foreign policies” by numerous secret services, some poorly controlled.126

The British intelligence services in the Far East experienced much upheaval in the prewar years, thanks to:

a shift in British strategic thinking. The Admiralty had accepted that they could not fight the German, Italian and Japanese Navies simultaneously. The defence of Hong Kong and French Indochina looked increasingly impossible, and even Singapore would receive no relief for many months. This pessimistic outlook dictated the removal of the main British intelligence centre from Hong Kong, replaced by a new inter-service intelligence organisation at Singapore in August 1939 entitled the “Far Eastern Combined Bureau” (FECB).127

Once war broke out in Europe, the British intelligence services, not unnaturally, focused on Europe and the Middle East. However, intelligence gathering against Japan did not suffer. Instead, Aldrich has noted that the FECB gathered good intelligence, but it was often ignored: “There was no intelligence disaster at Singapore; instead there was a stubborn failure of command at several levels to accept warnings.” This problem extended to Hong Kong for its commanders believed that the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) was weak, something that intelligence operatives familiar with the IJA did not aver. 128 Intelligence did not fail Britain in the Far East; instead, its commanders failed to use the intelligence provided to them.

John Ferris also has focused on intelligence services in the Pacific, particularly the FECB. In 1993, in an article on British perceptions of the IJA, including insight into the fighting at Hong Kong, Ferris argued that “forms of military ethnocentrism, not racism, were the single greatest cause for mistaken expert estimates of the I.J.A.”129 These views led to poor preparations against the Japanese offensives in December 1941. Ferris commented that though the FECB had two officers that spoke Japanese, all agents were overworked and their findings about the IJA were often overlooked. Thus, “it is difficult to determine how far the local underestimate of the I.J.A. stemmed from stupidity as against incompetence.”130 Contending in a 2012 article for reassessment of the FECB’s prewar work, Ferris wrote that the FECB’s objectives were “‘to give timely warning of impending hostilities in its area’ and to provide operational intelligence in war.” 131 Discussing FECB influence over Singapore’s defence, Ferris wrote:

Conversely, just before the attack, it did encourage [Commander in Chief, China Station, Admiral Geoffrey] Layton, [Admiral Tom] Phillips [Layton’s successor] and [Air Chief Marshal] Brooke-Popham to misconstrue their danger. Britain received the worst of both worlds from the FECB. It rejected the FECB’s assessments of Japanese capabilities, which were accurate enough to enable effective preparation, while accepting views on intentions which were wrong, and shaped by enemy deception.132

Hong Kong’s defence, like Singapore’s, was also negatively affected.

Dissertation Organization

This dissertation is organized into two parts. The first part, consisting of Chapters 1 through 5, will explore persistent myths about the Canadian participation in the Battle of Hong Kong. In the vein of Zombie Myths of Australian Military History, I will offer analytical scholarship about each myth to counter false assertions. The second part explores the legacy itself and will examine the events and processes of how the myths were created and why they have developed such strong staying power.

Chapter 1 is framed around the myth that because Canadians had no connection to Hong Kong, they should not have been there to defend it. This claim will be dispelled by examining the strong relationship between the Canadian and British armies and how this situation offers a partial explanation as to why Canada accepted the request for its troops to garrison Hong Kong. Many senior Canadian officers, notably Generals Arthur Currie, Andrew McNaughton, and Harry Crerar, fought for stronger links to the British Empire. Some of these leaders took this position given a sense of duty to the Empire, others emphasized the connection for Canada’s benefit. This connection had negative outcomes for Canada with the reinforcement of Hong Kong being one of the worst. Canada was not duped or betrayed by Britain into reinforcing Hong Kong. Rather, the ingrained sense of a connection to the British created blinders that influenced Canadian decision-making. This chapter establishes the long-term context surrounding the connection individuals felt toward the British Empire, a vital context oft absent in the literature about the battle.

Chapter 2 looks at the myth that as Hong Kong was deemed indefensible well before the Canadian reinforcement, “C” Force should not have been despatched. The changing of plans was a constant factor in the colony’s defence. The Canadian reinforcement was one more in a long string of second guesses and political battles. Examining the defence planning for Hong Kong from 1841 to 1941 is crucial to understanding the Canadian reinforcement for events dating before the 1930s influenced this decision. The long-term context about why Hong Kong was reinforced in 1941 is lacking in other Canadian works on the topic, a troubling failure. Also, new information will be provided on the much lauded Grasett-Crerar meeting as well as British attempts to permanently acquire the New Territories. Further, I will provide fresh insights into the racially motivated defence policies in Hong Kong.

The Canadian acceptance of Britain’s request to reinforce Hong Kong is the subject of Chapter 3 as some of the most persistent myths about the Battle of Hong Kong revolve around this topic. The decision has been presented as a cold-blooded sacrifice of troops so that the Canadian government, or specific individuals, could benefit from the situation. To provide shortterm context, all the major players involved in the decision and why they supported the reinforcement of Hong Kong will be investigated. A vital factor in the decision was the role of frustrated Canadian public opinion and a hectoring Canadian press that wished to see Canadian troops more involved in the war. Also, this chapter offers new insights related to the Canadian acceptance of the request. The debates surrounding the Hong Kong reinforcement were short in comparison to discussions on the Canadian garrisoning of other British-held possessions and territories, including the despatch of Canada’s Second Division to Iceland in 1940. For the first time in a work about the Battle of Hong Kong, the link between a series of articles in The Globe and Mail published over the summer of 1941 and King’s decision to support the reinforcement will be examined. A deeper analysis of Ralston and Power’s roles in creating “C” Force—one based on research, not conjecture—will be presented.

Chapter 4 will address the myth that the troops of “C” Force were poorly trained for combat. The selection of the Royal Rifles and Grenadiers became controversial because of this supposed lack of training, and therefore a new examination of the entire process of their selection and training is needed. As the literature on the course of events of the selection is confused and unclear, a correction will be provided. Political pressures and personal relationships that influenced this decision form a key part of the analysis in this chapter, notably C.G. Power’s largely neglected role in the despatch process. The training of the Royal Rifles and Grenadiers will be examined in richer detail than any other previous work. The level of training and experience of the other soldiers who were added to these battalions to bring them up to strength also will be discussed in detail for the first time.

Chapter 5 explores two popular opposing myths related directly to “C” Force’s performance in the Battle of Hong Kong. In the first myth, Canadians are presented, mostly by non-Canadian popular history writers, as ill-disciplined fighters whose poor performance led to Hong Kong’s fall. In contrast, the second myth portrays the Canadians as the best fighters in the whole of the garrison, a notion pushed mostly by Canadian writers. Neither of these myths accurately represent reality. The troops of “C” Force were given a task that they carried out to the best of their abilities under difficult conditions. Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite’s combat effectiveness model, which assesses the willingness of the troops to fight plus their combat skills, is used to determine the Canadians’ fighting performance. This chapter will demonstrate that “C” Force’s performance did not rank below the other units that fought at Hong Kong, nor were Canadians superior to the other nationalities present in the garrison. A far more ambiguous conclusion on their performance will be offered in contrast to other works. Chapter 5 explores the battle in more detail than previous revisionists and makes use of new British sources on the Canadian performance in the battle.

Chapter 6 covers the Hong Kong Inquiry of 1942, which was the first major event to present several myths about the battle to the Canadian public. This will be the first comprehensive account of the Inquiry and its aftermath that is not part of the framework of another topic, such as biographical pieces on the Commissioner of the Inquiry and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lyman Duff. Many of the myths, notably British perfidy and claims of conspiracy to conceal the truth, began during the Inquiry. The origins and the processes of the Inquiry are covered in detail. The political events and actions tied directly to the Inquiry will receive attention, as will the press reaction to the Inquiry itself and its immediate fallout. Another addition to the historiography is an analysis of Ralston’s January 1942 investigation into the transport issues faced by “C” Force, a topic not well discussed elsewhere.

Chapter 7 looks at the legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong from the Second World War until the present. Over the decades, many individuals and groups presented the battle negatively for either political or personal gain. The protection of reputations and careers motivated the leaders of the garrison to record the history of the battle as quickly as possible in a way that was favourable to them. In relation to this war of reputations, Stacey’s opposition to the release of an unedited Maltby Despatch will be investigated. The difficulties the veterans faced upon returning home and the lack of proper compensation and recognition from the government also will be considered, including new insights into the awarding of Pacific campaign pay to “C” Force members as well as various medical studies conducted about veterans’ health. The media’s impact on the legacy will also receive a thorough examination.

Finally, Chapter 8 examines The Valour and the Horror’s overtly negative assertions, the controversy the series caused, and the battle’s legacy after the series. The problematic nature of the McKenna brothers’ series will be closely analyzed. An exploration of the errors relating to the battle made in “Savage Christmas” is missing from the literature, as the context behind the Canadian reinforcement received the majority of the scholarly attention. Such an analysis will be provided in this chapter. The various investigations by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Senate that the series spawned will be explained. The press reaction to the series will form an important part of the chapter, as will the academic revisionism that formed in direct response to the series’ claims.

Perras has provided excellent insight into why “C” Force was sent to Hong Kong, which helps to frame a discussion of the battle’s legacy: “They were big losers in this high stakes wager, but their sacrifice was not futile. Had the gamble worked, a war with Japan might have been postponed until the West was in a better position to fight it or avoided entirely.”133 “C” Force was not sent to Hong Kong with any malicious intent nor as a part of any grand conspiracy as many of the myths allege. The conditions existing at the time of the decision in September 1941, such as increasing British and American presence in the Far East aimed at deterring Japan, led to, in part, to the Canadian acceptance of the British request. Domestic factors also played an important role in the Canadian decision. While Hong Kong was a difficult place to defend, the efforts of the Canadian government, along with its allies, to deter Japan was a commendable action. This is unlikely to provide little solace to those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese or lost loved ones but re-examining the Battle of Hong Kong, but such a line of discussion allows the myths about the battle to be challenged by providing a starting point to correct the overarching negativity that clouds the perceptions of the battle in Canada.

This dissertation attempts to answer the question why the focus on the Battle of Hong Kong has been mostly negative. To accomplish this goal, I will integrate numerous new findings related to the battle and its legacy to revise standard views and perceptions of it. My conclusions bring much needed nuance to the existing historiography of the battle. A proper academic study of the battle’s legacy does not yet exist. The intention behind this work is to provide such a study. It is not intended to be a sweeping account of all the events related to the battle but a revisionist effort to deal with myths, false claims, and misunderstandings that so often appear in popular works and media. The legacy of the Battle of Hong Kong in Canada is overwhelmingly negative in the collective memory of Canadians due to the widespread nature of the myths surrounding the defeat. To correct this situation, the myths must be first understood and dismissed with proper academic study. Such a change will create a more positive legacy for the Battle of Hong Kong in Canada, which will in turn improve our understanding of the battle and offer a guide for further study into Canadian defeats in the Second World War.