The Mainland Evacuated ...

By nightfall of December 13th the evacuation of the mainland was successfully completed. Despite continuous attack it was orderly and there were surprisingly few casualties. Unfortunately much of Wallis' heavy equipment had to be left behind.

Pictured is The Happy Valley Race Course with The Jockey Club in the foreground and Causeway Bay in the background.

The Japanese took command of Kowloon, a terrified city in total chaos, marched triumphantly through the city with prisoners being prodded along at bayonet point. The Japanese officers declared Kowloon an 'open city' and branding all Chinese women as prostitutes they left the people to the tender mercies of their soldiers. History records that what followed was an unbridled orgy of raping, looting, torture and murder.

From Major Parker's Memories ...

The following was written by Major M.A. Parker, Commanding Officer "D" Company, Royal Rifles of Canada, in 1982. He used notes which he had written in a diary while in captivity and kept for more than 37 years. They are his observations made about the fighting on the mainland, and about the senior leadership. He had not changed his mind in 1982, so was not looking back with 20/20 hindsight. If anything, his opinion was even firmer, and was shared by other officers of the Royal Rifles.

"The Mainland Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Cedric Wallis who had previously commanded the 5/7 Rajputs. Wallis was a dedicated and energetic officer whose personal courage was beyond question, but some of the Canadians, particularly the Royal Rifles, were subsequently to question his military judgement. “The Gin Drinkers Line had collapsed, Brigadier Lawson, in a telephone conference with Brigadier Wallis, could get little information from him, or his staff, and we were under the impression that a large battle was being fought on the mainland. It turned out that fighting on the mainland was minimal, and that total casualties were very few. We were astonished to see the mainland turned over to the enemy in only 5 days, and judging from the casualties, without much of an attempt to stop them. Was Wallis a little bit rattled?

“We were assured that the demolitions on the mainland had been so extensive that it would take many weeks before the Japanese could bring up their artillery. The next day the first heavy shells began exploding on Hong Kong Island.”

There was a certain amount of tension between the British and the Canadians at the Field Officer level. The British thought the Canadians were a rag-tag bunch of rowdy, cowardly colonists, not good for very much. Much to the consternation of the Canadians some British historians have written as much. The Canadians thought of the British as arrogant, condescending prigs. They also thought they were wrong to hold fast to the idea that attack would come from the sea..

It was at this point, as the mainland troops were returning to Hong Kong on December 13th, that General Maltby took stock of the situation and decided to re-deploy his troops into two Brigades, the East Brigade, under Wallis, and the West Brigade under Brigadier Lawson. Major Parker says. "A major disadvantage of this new arrangement was that the Canadian Battalions were separated and only one remained under Canadian Brigadier Lawson's command. The Canadians were not very happy with this arrangement ... but little could be done about it. This seemed unfortunate at the time and was to prove increasingly so during the battle and in post-battle repercussions".

The Hong Kong defenders were still dueling with the Japanese artillery units across the mile-wide strait separating the island from the mainland and had dispersed several Japanese troop concentrations, silencing two of their artillery sections.

Japanese planes were also bombing positions on the island and the situation was getting grimmer by the hour. Governor, Sir Mark Young, had refused a Japanese summons to surrender. "Military men in London agreed that the island could not hold out indefinitely because of the problem of supplies. There were 1,500,000 Chinese civilians to feed, besides the defense forces. There were in fact enough supplies laid up in Hong Kong to last, as mentioned, 120 days. The problem was there were not enough men to last that long."

The Eve of Battle

The only effective forces left in the East Brigade were the Royal Rifles of Canada, some Middlesex Machine Gunners, and some HKVDC units. The Rajputs were exhausted at rest in the rear echelon. All troops were sleep deprived, tired and hungry. On the night of December 16th the Japanese made a probing attack which, in spite of their exhaustion, was beaten back by "C" Company of the Royal Rifles.

From an interview with Rifleman John Beebe...

"From December 8th to 18th the battle went on at a distance, but with the Japs pushing down in force and getting closer and closer. By that time they had surrounded Kowloon and then on the 18th they succeeded in crossing to the island in heavy fog. From then on, it was hand-to-hand with cold steel."

The Japanese occupied the mainland from Kowloon to Devil's Peak. On the night of December 17th. they began a heavy bombing and artillery barrage of the island's northern coastal defenses from North Point in the northwest to Fort Sau Ki in the northeast knocking out many of the pill box machine guns manned by the Middlesex Regiment. They had amassed thousands of troops, tons of equipment, and hundreds of small craft, all without causing any doubt in the mind of General Maltby that the main attack would come from the South.




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