Battle for Hong Kong, December 1941
- Philip Cracknell
15th July 2021
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 8 December 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 thirty years, the author knows every inch of the ground. He challenges some assumptions, for example the whereabouts of ‘A’ Coy, Winnipeg Grenadiers, on 19 December, when the company was destroyed during a fighting retreat.
What exactly happened during the battle, and where were the actions fought? One can still see so much evidence, in the form of pillboxes, gun batteries and weapons pits. The defending troops were mainly British, Canadian, Indian and Hong Kong Chinese. The Japanese had superiority in numbers of men, guns, and equipment, and complete air supremacy. The defenders suffered a casualty rate of over 30 per cent and many more died during the brutal incarceration that followed the surrender ‒ a grim pointer to the hell of the Asia-Pacific War that followed. Churchill always knew that Hong Kong would fall, but wanted to cause the invaders maximum delay and maximum cost. As he acknowledged after the war, the defenders had won ‘lasting honour’. The battle for Hong Kong is a story that deserves to be better known.