Under heavy attack Brigadier
Wallis began his mainland demolition work at breakneck speed..
His troops were under an artillery barrage and an air
bombardment that shook the world around them. Even under heavy
artillery bombardment from the British 6" and 9.2" guns of the
8th Coastal Regiment of the Royal Artillery the Japanese
advanced quickly. They captured the key strong point at Shing
Mun Redoubt which was a well fortified position which, it was
said, could hold for 5 or 6 weeks. It held for 5 hours. Wallis'
position had quickly become untenable.
The Royal Scots, the Rajputs and the Punjabi fought a rear-guard
action that inflicted moderate losses on the enemy but under
tremendous pressure they withdrew to the Gin Drinkers Line. The
British expected they could hold out there for a least a week
but in an incredible 12 hours the Japanese were on their
doorstep. Somehow they had advanced the 40 kilometers from the
Chinese border and on the morning of December 9, were pounding
on the gates of the Gin Drinkers Line.
On the announcement of hostilities on December 8, the Honourable
J.L. Ralston, Canadian Minister of Defense, cabled Brigadier
Lawson: "Concurrently with the Dominion's declaration of war
against Japan, I send you the assurances of complete confidence
that the forces under your command will, in the days ahead,
worthily uphold the best traditions of Canadian arms." Lawson
replied, "All ranks appreciate your message. We shall do
everything in our power to maintain the best traditions of the
From London, England came a cable addressed to the Canadians.
"Canada's China Force is the envy of the Canadian Corps. Lucky
guys was the phrase heard on every side with reference to their
comrades stationed in the Far East, at Hong Kong. 'And to think,
if I'd stayed with my old Regiment, I'd be with them in Hong
Kong now.", said one Canadian First Division Colonel who had
gone over to England with the 1st. Canadian Contingent two years
earlier". In light of what took place that colonel must have
counted his lucky stars he had not stayed with those "lucky
guys" of his old regiment.
Courtesy of Bill Lake
On December 9th in a cable from Hong Kong the situation was
described. "All defenses of the mainland are being successfully
maintained. Artillery fire brought enemy parties to an abrupt
halt. Desultory air raids occurred during the day but there were
no serious casualties. At least one plane was badly crippled.
Air attacks were made on British warships which retaliated with
gunfire, beating off the attackers. No ships were lost".
In the words of Rifleman John Beebe, of No.18 Platoon of the
Royal Rifles of Canada, "First we got the report of Pearl Harbor
on Dec. 8th. and when the first Jap planes came over between
8:30 and 9:00 on the following day we were all at our posts,
alerted and ready for them. There were about 40 fighters and
bombers in the first batch and just a few British planes to
oppose them. But they went up and managed to down a couple of
Japs." In fact, no RAF aircraft took to the air that day. Any
Japanese aircraft shot over the next few days were brought down
by anti-aircraft fire from the guns of The Hong Kong Singapore
Royal Artillery, the first Volunteers to see action.
Rifleman Beebe: "A lot of
damage was done by the Jap air raid and by the British 9.2 guns
at Stanley opened up the same day, firing at the mainland where
the Royal Scots were meeting the Japs head-on. The boys were on
constant guard, with road blocks set up and under orders to stop
everyone without credentials."
While the air raid and the artillery bombardment of December 8
were heavy they left the Canadian troops pretty much unscathed,
but the island's infrastructure was a mess. There were water
shortages, power failures, and telephone disruptions that made
communications difficult. The military were using the telephone
lines as a part of its communications network. The Japanese had
tapped into the telephone lines and were using them to listen in
on what the British were up to, and to pop in false information
to further confuse an already off-balance enemy. The constant
interruption of service annoyed both the British and the
The Japanese had easily slipped hundreds of infiltrators onto
the island in many disguises. They were up to the second on
English counter measures, troops locations, ammo dumps, vehicle
compounds, fuel supplies, artillery gun positions ... the
Japanese knew everything worth knowing. The 5th. Column did as
much physical damage as they could as well. Even some Chinese
who didn't like the British disrupted whatever they could. In
one case the Japanese infiltrator offered to guide a truck
driven by two Canadians to its destination. The Canadians were
killed and the cargo destroyed.
The confusion kept the defenders off balance, caused them to
lose sleep, miss meals, and make unnecessary movement of troops.
Tired and disoriented the units kept on toiling. The Japanese
were not about to let them get any rest.
The Island's Defensive Layout
There was a story that it would take one hundred years to take
the island of Hong Kong. Both the British and the Japanese had
heard the story and pretty much believed it. It was in every
sense of the word ... a formidable fortress. There were 72
reinforced concrete pill boxes around the perimeter of the
island, dozens of underground concrete bunkers which could house
up to 9 men in each one. "D" Company Headquarters had 17 such
bunkers within its perimeter alone. There were numerous fixed
position artillery emplacements, ammunition and other supplies
to last the defenders 120 days. Getting a foot-hold on the
island from the sea would have cost any invader dearly. But,
with the Japanese attacking the Gin Drinkers Line on the
mainland, General Maltby still refused to entertain the idea
that they just might attack from that not too distant shore.