On the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, forces of the Japanese Empire attacked the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong without warning. Philip Cracknell provides a research-driven narrative about the Battle for Hong Kong in 1941, which commenced on December 8 and lasted for three weeks until the surrender on Christmas Day 1941. Hong Kong had become a strategic liability, an isolated outpost. It would be sacrificed, but not without a fight. The main priorities for the British in Asia were Malaya and Singapore. The Crown colony was gallantly defended, but it was a battle against overwhelming odds. Crucially, as a resident of Hong Kong for 30 years, the author knows every inch of the ground. He challenges some assumptions, for example the whereabouts of "A" Coy, Winnipeg Grenadiers on December 19, when the company was destroyed during a fighting retreat. What exactly happened, and where were the actions fought? One can still see so much evidence, in the form of pillboxes, gun batteries, and weapons pits. Bullets and other relics can still be picked up lying on the ground. The defending troops mainly consisted of British, Canadian, Indian, and Hong Kong Chinese. Dozens were massacred, including more than 50 St John’s Ambulance personnel—a grim pointer to the hell of the Pacific war that followed. Over the following nearly four years of occupation, an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong civilians were executed. The battle for Hong Kong is a story that deserves to be better known.
About the Author
Philip Cracknell was posted to Hong Kong in 1985, at the time working for the UK subsidiary of a major New York Bank. He developed an interest in Hong Kong’s war history. His archival research was conducted in London and Hong Kong. Living in Hong Kong, he was able to spend a considerable amount of time on the battlefields. He conducts periodic battlefield tours for the Hong Kong Club, Royal Asiatic Society, veterans, schools, and charities.