Battle History

Page created by Linda May

Before Hong Kong

On 20 October 1941, the fate of 1975 men was sealed. They were to be sent to defend the island of Hong Kong. An island that had been, up until that time, seen as "an undesirable military commitment". An island that was viewed as "not a vital interest". An island that was stated to be an outpost, for which no relief was thought possible.

As early as December 1940 or January 1941 Major General Grassett had begun trying to convince Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham of the defencibility of Hong Kong. While it does not appear that he was entirely successful, he did make the point that reinforcements would improve the defensive capability. Brooke-Popham proposed to increase the current garrison from 4 to 6. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on receipt of this proposal, reiterated that he agreed with the policy previously set and maintained by his Chiefs of Staff - "the retention of Hong Kong is not essential for the security of Singapore i.e. "it should be treated as a valuable outpost only".

January 10 1941 the Chief of the Imperial General Staff recommended that the period before relief should be extended from 90 to 130 days. Simply, they were to increase reserves of food and ammunition to a 130-day supply.

January 19 1941 Brooke-Popham again proposed to increase the garrison. His pleas went unheard.

January 25 1941 the Ministry decided to shelve the whole Hong Kong issue. Unfortunately for Canada, 8 months later, it would be resurrected.

What transpired during those 8 months should have only served to clarify the reasons not to reinforce this "non-defensible outpost"

One of the driving forces behind the Canadian deployment in Hong Kong was Major General A.E Grassett. He possessed an exaggerated belief in the defensibility of Hong Kong and in the Japanese lack of fighting ability.

In a meeting in September of 1941 of the Chiefs of Staff, Grassett presented a proposal suggesting that an additional 2 battalions be deployed for the defense of Hong Kong. For the first time (in writing) Grassett suggested that Canada might be willing to supply these battalions.

The resultant view:

In a draft memo from Major General J. N. Kennedy, Director of Military Operations and plans, he suggested that the current policy of no reinforcements being sent to Hong Kong should stand. This memo was never sent. The actual memo sent on Sept 7 1941 stated "If you think General Grassett has made out a good case, the Chiefs of Staff may wish to submit it to the Prime Minister."

That same day, a note was drafted to the Prime Minister, making the following points: