Minister of Veterans Affairs honours the immense courage of Canadians during the Second World War
OTTAWA, Dec. 7, 2016 /CNW/ - The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong:
"Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Hong Kong, an important and solemn chapter in Canada's long military history. On this day, we take time to honour and remember the brave Canadian heroes who fought to protect the people of Hong Kong and suffered extreme hardships both during and after the battle.
"In late October 1941, Canadian soldiers traveled from Vancouver to Hong Kong to aid in the defence of the vulnerable British colony. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese attacked and our soldiers there would become the first Canadian Army unit to see heavy action in the Second World War. Over the course of more than 17 days, these men, mostly members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, would represent Canada on the world stage in defence of the area.
"Against overwhelming odds, the brave Canadians in Hong Kong fought on. Although many of our soldiers were very inexperienced, they defended Hong Kong with great strength until they were finally forced to surrender on Christmas Day. What followed for the survivors were close to four years in harsh Japanese prisoner of war camps before finally being liberated when the Second World War ended in 1945.
"The fighting in Hong Kong took a heavy toll: some 290 of our men were killed and almost 500 more were wounded defending the colony. More than 260 additional Canadian soldiers would later die in the brutal Japanese camps. In 2011, in a gesture of reconciliation, the Japanese government issued a formal apology to Canada's Veterans for their mistreatment of prisoners during the Second World War.
"We will never forget the brave Canadians who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong. The legacy of those who did not return home lives on in our memories. The members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, and our other soldiers who served in Hong Kong represent the very best of our country; not only did they fight to defend the peace and freedom of another nation, but they also fought for the sake of future generations.
"Lest we forget."
SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada
For further information: Media Relations, Veterans Affairs Canada, 613-992-7468, [email protected]