As I write this, it’s the last day of February but soon enough it will be spring, and not just in BC! Since our last newsletter, we held our 2016 Annual General Meeting on December 10. I encourage you to review the draft minutes, from which you can access all the reports we presented. Something new this year in the President’s Report is the mandatory inclusion of a two-year plan. If you haven’t already read it, I invite you to read it and contact me with any questions or comments.
Some themes just naturally happen. Included in this edition, is information about the 2017 nominations and election process, under the energetic and committed leadership of Kathie Carlson of Prairie Region. Also you will find information about our next National Convention, to be hosted by Atlantic Region. Ruth Murgatroyd, our Atlantic Director, is eager to welcome us all to Fredericton this August.
I don’t plan to attend the Convention, as my husband’s niece is getting married that same weekend. Another board member will chair the General Meeting in my place. However, working with our National Secretary Ian Doull, I will be planning the next General Meeting with great attention. We tried out a few new ideas in December and we liked how they turned out, so we will repeat them, and we may try a few other ideas as well to make the meeting as interesting and productive as possible.
I mention all this because we are closing in on our first full cycle of yearly governance with annual nominations, elections, Executive Committee appointments, and General Meetings. It just seems like a nice, tidy package, when you see it all together as a whole.
We will remember them.
Remember to visit our nominations page and either print, fill in and mail the form, or use our convenient email service.
Lawrence Ross, RRC, on December 29, 2016
Nada Bell, widow of William Bell, WG, on February 15, 2017. She was mother to Dennis and Marleen Bell and Bill Bell, HKVCA members.
Jesse Clayton, widow of “Flash” Clayton, on January 30.
Eva Hunt, widow of Clarence Hunt, RRC, E29342 on January 3.
Dorothy Morris, mother to HKVCA member Margaret Benjaminson, and widow of William H. Morris, WG, on December 27 2016.
Lyla Beattie, widow of Kenneth Beattie, RRC E30758 on January 7, 2016.
We Will Remember Them
Greetings from New Richmond.
We are having more snow this winter than for many a year, and it’s not over yet! Still the St.Patrick’s storm to contend with.
I have very little to report at this time. I spoke with Paul Dallain yesterday. He is well and still gets out for a walk every day. His wife, Irene, is in a care facility near his home and he gets to visit her.
Bob Barter is also in a “home” in nearby Maria. Bob turned 95 on December 22.
As I approach my 95th birthday I find that my enthusiasm for many things has greatly diminished, but that is normal, I suppose. I am one of fourteen Royal Rifles still here and for that I am grateful.
I would like to doff the hat especially to George Peterson, the last remaining member of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and to Horace (Gerry) Gerrard, the last remaining member of Brigade Headquarters.
That will be all for this time. Be good to each other and May God Bless.
First of all, I must correct a mistake that appeared in the online version of our Winter edition. In the article about Eric Maloney Way we published the wrong caption under the photo of Mr. Maloney accepting the sign on behalf of the LeBoutillier family. We have corrected the error, and the online version is now correct. The photo and caption were not in the print version.
You may have noticed that in recent issues (including this one) we've highlighted some of our 'C' Force members by publishing “remembrance” articles from the family. These are valuable as they serve to remind us that there were consequences to the families, as well. These narratives, whether filled with good times, or those that were not so good, help to fill in the complete picture of this event in our history. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to contribute.
Augustin Cyr says goodbye to his future bride at New Richmond train station.
After volunteering to enlist in 1941, Dad along with his two brothers; Leo and Clement Cyr and our Mother’s brother William Cyr boarded a train in New Richmond, Quebec headed for Vancouver to start their unknown journey to Hong Kong.
Little did they know that they would be captured on Christmas Day 1941 and be held prisoner for the next four years, first in Hong Kong and later at Yoshima camp in Japan. He married our mother, Marie Pauline Cyr almost immediately upon his return and they had four of us children (late brother John).
Dad worked as a machinist at Gilbarco Canada and retired in 1967. Years after Dad passed at age 56 in 1971, we only just began to learn the suffering those men endured. It was only then that we realized why Christmas was so very special in our home growing up. We now know that Dad was only trying to make it magical for us at the same time he was trying to forget.
We will NEVER forget.
When most of us think about the Battle of Hong Kong, what we have in mind is the role of Canadians there, especially the Winnipeg Grenadiers at Wong Nei Chong Gap and the Royal Rifles at Stanley. There’s no question that these were seminal events in the struggle against the Japanese invaders, but by no means the only ones.
This past December I visited Hong Kong, and decided to spend a little time exploring some aspects of the Battle that I had not previously.
I visited a couple of sites which did not see action by Canadians - the Shing Mun Redoubt, and Devil’s Peak - in the company of Martin Heyes, a tour guide who specializes in the WW II history of Hong Kong.
The Shing Mun Redoubt was part of the Gin Drinkers’ Line - a string of fortifications built in the 1930s and somewhat analogous to the Maginot Line - that stretched 18km across the New Territories. The Redoubt was the lynchpin of the Line, housing the Command Post, the Artillery Observation Post and a series of tunnels, yet was defended by only about 45 troops due to manpower constraints. It was situated at the southern end of the Shing Mun Reservoir, and was intended to guard the most likely land route into Kowloon. The first infantry attack by the Japanese Army was here, on December 9, 1941.
First Infantry Attack by Japanese Across This Terrain
Exploring the Redoubt required a fair bit of bushwhacking, and we climbed up steep slopes, through overgrown trails and scrambled through the narrow tunnels. Surveying the terrain it’s not hard to see why Gen. Maltby had decided that he didn’t have nearly enough troops at his disposal to properly man the fortifications, especially over their entire 18km length. Under Brigadier Wallis, three infantry battalions – Royal Scots, Punjab and Rajputs - were deployed on the Gin Drinkers’ Line, with one platoon of the Royal Scots at the Redoubt. But this was woefully short of the strength required, which became obvious when the Japanese, who had concentrated their efforts on the Redoubt, attacked and the Royal Scots were forced to withdraw. On December 10, Maltby ordered “D” Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers to the mainland to support the defenders, but on December 11 – before the Grenadiers saw action - he ordered his troops to evacuate to the Island, except for the Rajputs, who he ordered to move to Devil’s Peak.
Gun Emplacement at Devil's Peak (note shell holes at right)
Devil’s Peak was another set of fortifications on the Kowloon side. They had been built much earlier than the Redoubt, in the early 1900s. Devil’s Peak overlooks the Lei Yue Mun Passage, which is the narrowest stretch of water between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The fortifications consisted of gun emplacements, ammunition storage and shelters, and were situated high on Devil’s Peak, which gave excellent visibility of potential attacks by sea from the east.
After being sent by Maltby to Devil’s Peak, the Rajputs established their defensive position and dug in. During the fighting, Japanese aircraft shot up the fortifications, and there are still shell holes visible from the attacks. Ultimately, though, on December 12 the Rajputs were ordered to evacuate to Hong Kong Island, and they did so across the Lei Yue Mun Passage.
On the short ferry ride across the Lei Yue Mun Passage to the island, I spent a few moments wondering how it felt to the soldiers who were evacuated across that narrow body of water 75 years ago … but my imagination just wasn’t up to the task!
Lye Yue Mun Passage, With Museum of Coastal Defence at Left
Another acquaintance in Hong Kong, Geoffrey Emerson, invited me to accompany him to a ceremony being held at Stanley Military Cemetery to commemorate French citizens who fought in the Battle. Before the outbreak of war, there had been about 400 French citizens living in Hong Kong. Most of these had been evacuated by the start of the Battle, but six who remained joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) and the struggle against the invaders. You can read more about this and the ceremony itself, here.
Perhaps not surprisingly given Hong Kong’s strategic position in the East, there were also citizens of other countries working there at the time of the Japanese attack. Among them, nine Danish citizens joined the HKVDC and were involved in the fighting.
The highlight of my visit, as always, was the annual commemorative ceremony at Sai Wan War Cemetery on December 4. This ceremony has been held at Sai Wan the first Sunday of December every year since 1947, and is hosted by the Consulate of Canada in Hong Kong.
Cross of Remembrance at Sai Wan War Cemetery (courtesy, Consulate of Canada in Hong Kong)
This year, perhaps because of the 75th anniversary, the turnout for the ceremony was much larger than usual. What made it even more special was the contingent of four members of the RCMP Pipe Band (3 pipers and a drummer) who attended and performed. The previous evening the pipers had given a concert at a church in Kowloon, accompanied by a brass ensemble. The event was a joint fundraiser for the World War II Veterans Association Hong Kong and the Royal Canadian Legion, and the combination of pipes and brass resulted in absolutely beautiful and moving music.
Members of RCMP Pipe Band Perform at St John's Cathedral, Kowloon
Also present at the Sai Wan ceremony were four veterans of WW II, three of whom were Chinese-Canadians who served in various locations, and Peter Choi, a citizen of Hong Kong and a veteran of the Battle of Hong Kong who served there in the British Army.
What I’ve found during my many visits to Hong Kong over the years is that there are so many aspects to the story of the Battle of Hong Kong, and there is always something new and very interesting to see and do in that wonderful city!
Our Writing Competition Manager, Adma Hashem is gearing up for what is hoped to be a ‘bumper crop year’ of student entries. The deadline for submissions is April 21, 2017. Entries will be judged by a carefully selected panel of educators from across Canada. Top winning student names will be announced in this summer’s newsletter, and all winning entries will be published on the HKVCA website.
A feasibility study will be conducted to evaluate the book, ‘A Dog Named Gander’, by HKV George MacDonell and Sue Beard. This study will determine if the book should be moved forward as a story of interest for the Social Studies curriculum throughout Canadian elementary schools.
A test study will begin in New Brunswick with a focus group of 16 Educators. A fair balance of active and retired as well as French & English teachers will be chosen. They will provide input as to where this book is age (grade) appropriate/relevant to current history programs. A book evaluation questionnaire will be supplied, and results tabulated for the Department of Education. If favourable, a meeting with the Minister of Education will be set up to review findings.
Although our Facebook site is very active, the younger generation seem to think Facebook is for old people. They would prefer Twitter or Instagram. My 14 year old nephew has offered to give me a tutorial, and some insight on how to set up a successful site on Twitter and Instagram…will keep you in the loop.
Greetings to the HK Family from the BC region. Normally this time of year in southwestern BC, spring would be in the air. This year we have experienced colder temperatures and more snow than normal so we still wait patiently.
We are pleased to welcome two new members, Helen Shupe and Sean Kerr. Helen is the daughter of Claude Spencer (d) of the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Sean’s grandfather was Stanley Wright (d) who served with the Royal Rifles. Both Helen and Sean were members years ago and have returned to the HKVCA. Welcome back!
I was recently talking to Jim Watson who lives in Kelowna. Jim is the son of Ann Maze who is the widow of Richard (Dick) Maze (d) who was a lieutenant with the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Ann is now 106 years young and enjoys receiving the newsletter which Jim reads to her because her eyesight has failed. Best wishes to Ann and all our HK widows from coast to coast.
Lee Naylor is the past Regional Director and Education Chair of the BC region. Last fall, Lee and a lady named Satoko Norimatsu (Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre in Vancouver) went to Victoria on Vancouver Island to interview Gerry Gerrard who served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in ‘C’ Force. Gerry is the last surviving Hong Kong veteran residing in BC. The interview centered on Gerry’s account of the Battle of Hong Kong and his subsequent internment as a POW in Hong Kong, then Japan.
As a result of this interview, two articles were published in the Japanese magazine, Shukan Kinyobi. To our knowledge, this is the first time in Japan that a magazine has published material enlightening the Japanese public about the Canadians who fought and died in Hong Kong with the survivours becoming Japanese POW’s for almost four years in slave labour camps. Congratulations to Lee and Satoko for this accomplishment.
Thank you to those members who have submitted their $20.00 membership dues for 2017 in BC. The renewal requests have only been trickling in slowly so hopefully this gentle reminder will change that and we can all do our part to keep the HKVCA vibrant.
Greetings from the freezing Prairies!
Thank you to Mitzi Ross for organizing the Annual Meeting in Ottawa in December for those who could attend. By all reports it was a good, productive time and the service at the Memorial Wall went well too.
All the Veterans and their widows that we had correct addresses and phone numbers for, have now received their Commemorative coins, leaving approximately 10-12 names for which we need more information. During this process we were able to identify a few widows that had passed and we hadn’t been notified.
At the Charleswood Legion Annual Levy on January 1, 2017, Myrtle Lytle received her 70th Anniversary Service pin. She joined the Legion as a young girl of 18 or 19 in Carman, and when Bob Lytle came back from Japan, they started dating, married and had five children. The whole family were present for her 70th Anniversary Service Pin presentation, including daughter, Susan, from Calgary.
We had to cancel our monthly meeting in January as the weather was inclement and about 2 feet of snow made it difficult to travel.
In February we were pleased to observe George Peterson’s birthday and his 96 years. Congratulations George!! Rob Foord, a member in Ontario, nephew of Winnipeg Grenadiers Frank Foord, wanted to speak with a Winnipeg Grenadier so it was arranged for him to talk with George. George Peterson indicated he had an hour-long phone conversation with Rob, and was able to tell him a few more things about his Uncle Frank Foord. George informed us that he has some pictures at his home that he will be sending along to Rob.
The 75th Anniversary plaque commemorating the Battle of Hong Kong arrived in December. Meetings will begin soon to redesign the present memorial at the Field of Honour in Brookside Cemetery to accommodate the new plaque.
A Polish/Ukrainian filmmaker had contacted Barry Mitchell, Vince Lopata and Carol Hadley asking for information and pictures on six of our Veterans for a production they are making. Some information was shared with them and suggestions on finding more.
Barry Mitchell inherited from Juliet Lafortune two pictures; one being a large framed photo of one of the Winnipeg Grenadiers Corporal Charles Michael Beltz. Barry, with the assistance of a friend who is very experienced with researching things on the Internet, found Corporal Charles Beltz had a lake named after him in 1973. Corporal Beltz died December 19, 1941, at the age of 23. The search also revealed three or four names, including a daughter of Corporal Beltz who lives in Oakville, Ontario. Barry spoke to his daughter by phone, and she was delighted. She is a member of our HKVCA in Ontario, and Barry mailed her the large framed photo of her Dad, Corporal Beltz.
Barry Mitchell and Lori Smith have been working to find graves of the HK vets without an HK grave marker and to find the family to see if they wish to purchase one. To date we have located a couple but this project is ongoing.
The Red River Heritage Fair is scheduled for May 4, 2017, with the theme 150th Anniversary this year. Stan Lopata and Alex Taylor will attend with the display.
We were saddened at loss of Nada Bell, widow of William Bell WG, passed February 15, 2017 mother to Bill and Dennis Bell (HKVCA members). HK widows Helen Prieston lost her son Larry and Myrtle Lytle who lost her son Robert. Our condolences to our members and their families.
We will remember them.
We are undertaking two interesting projects in Ontario that are intended to keep the story of the Battle of Hong Kong visible in our communities, and to commemorate the Hong Kong veterans who are no longer with us. To make these projects happen we need a few volunteers who can get involved and make them happen.
Here’s a brief description of the projects:
1. We recently placed a descriptive plaque at the Parkwood Institute in London, ON. We’d like to put similar plaques in Legion halls, schools or other locations where Hong Kong veterans have spent time or are known in their communities. The project would involve finding suitable places for the plaques, arranging for permission and coordinating a small ceremony for the unveiling of the plaques. The plaques themselves are already designed, and you can see what they look like by visiting this page. There is also the possibility of linking this project to Canada’s 150th Anniversary, as one community is planning! One or more volunteers are needed to handle this project.
2. The HKVCA offers a grave marker that can be affixed to the headstone of deceased Hong Kong veterans. Although the marker has been available for several years, many families are still unaware that it exists. This project is intended to contact the families of deceased veterans to inform them, and encourage them to consider putting a grave marker on their loved one’s headstone as a form of commemoration. A volunteer is needed to contact the families and make them aware of this offering.
Volunteers would find the following to be helpful:
If you are interested in helping with either of these projects, please contact Lori Atkinson Smith by email or by phone at 905 894-5368 to learn more about them.
Life is at a standstill here in the North. Either we are hunkering down and trying to stay warm or for those lucky enough have gone South where it is warm or hot!!! Everyone is waiting patiently for Spring. Sad news to report on the death of Jessie Clayton wife of Robert "Flash" Clayton (predeceased). In my books they were legends in their own time and will be greatly missed. All our members in the North pass their condolences to the family.
Greetings all and hope you enjoyed a nice holiday season in company of family and good friends. Here we are again looking to spring and nature’s awakening. In our region, even if many still have much snow, we are enjoying our “sugar shacks” tasting our wonderful golden syrup and all the “French Canadian” trimmings for the 2017 season.
Since our holiday break we have been at work planning this year’s events. We recently held an executive meeting with the reading of the 2016 year end reports etc. We will shortly be mailing (or emailing) to all our members news on this and to come as well as updates on their fellow friends and members.
As everyone knows, membership is a very important item for the continued survival of our association in the regions thus also at the national level. We thank you all for your support and ask that you encourage your family members of the younger generation to join and/or re-joint our association in the region and help us all to keep the memory alive.
The grapevine tells me (you may have heard this on your local news stations) that Le Manège Militaire de Québec “Armory” in Quebec City will not be totally reconstructed for the 2017 summer. The outside work should be completed this year but the interior will be completed in 2018. Will keep you posted of any developments and the eventual official re-opening date of the Armory.
Les Voltigeurs de Québec continue their awareness, support, etc of the Royal Rifles of Canada and to keep the memory alive. Some representatives were in Hong Kong attending the December Ceremonies for the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong.
Will be bringing you more news happening in Quebec Region as time goes on.
We would like to take this opportunity to say “Hello” to all Mothers on this Mother’s Day coming up. Thank you, all amazing Moms for being there for us with your love, care and encouraging support. Wishing you all a Happy Mother’s Day.
Looking forward to meeting many of you during our next National Convention. Safe travels.
That will be it for this time. Take care.
Greetings from the Atlantic Region HKVCA.
I am pleased to announce that the Atlantic Region will be hosting the HKVCA National Convention in Fredericton, New Brunswick in August this year.
The convention will be held on August 18th and 19th at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Fredericton, 659 Queen Street. As Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick, it is easily accessible by air or car.
Fredericton is served by Air Canada flying directly from Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax and WestJet from Toronto. The Fredericton Airport (YFC) is located approximately 8 miles from the city centre – a 15-20 minute drive. The official taxi supplier to Fredericton Airport is Trius Taxi of Fredericton and is on-hand to meet most all flights. Persons with disabilities who would like to make specific arrangements with Trius should call 506-454-4444 at least 72 hours before arriving.
Another option is to fly into the Moncton International Airport, which is a 2 hour drive from Fredericton. Air Canada, WestJet and Porter offer flights to Moncton.
Early booking of airline flights is advisable since there are a limited number of seats into and out of Fredericton during the August tourism season.
The Maritime Provinces are served by Maritime Bus. Tickets, schedules and route information are available from the Maritime Bus website.
More information to follow in the upcoming months.
Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers and contributors, our online services continue to grow. We've received many updates to the records of 'C' Force members from family members and historians as well. If you're curious, pay a visit to our 'C' Force site (link: http://www.hkvca.ca/cforcedata) and display the Individual Reports for Alfred Mills and Lawrence Ross. These are examples where the family concerned submitted additional information, making the report more personal and interesting. If you can help, just drop us an email using the contact information found on every page.
Our Facebook site continues to expand with more and more visitors checking in. Dan is doing great work in remembering each birthday of our 'C' Force members, and linking to their Individual Report. We are missing many birthdays, so let us know if you can help out.
We owe David Archer a vote of thanks. His mission with the name Operation: Picture Me is to find a photo of everyone listed on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. We've been given access to his photo collection and are adding ones of interest to our 'C' Force web site.
From Vince Lopata: Archives Canada now has the Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947 on their website. Worth a visit
The update to our web sites is continuing – we are making all our pages “mobile-friendly”, easier to navigate, and information easier to find. If you get frustrated trying to use any of our web pages, we'd love to talk to you – we love compliments, but the real valuable feedback comes from complaints. Once we know of a problem, we can fix it.
Have you paid your dues for 2017? Just head over to our web page, fill in the info, and mail 'em in.
Moving? Just moved? Don't forget to let us know - it costs the Association money each time a newsletter is returned by the post office, but more importantly, we don't want to lose contact with you!
Know someone who you feel would help our association achieve its mission? Nominate them.
You can print a copy of this newsletter right from your browser (right-click and select "Print" in most browsers, or select from the menu) or print a PDF copy which is an exact copy of the paper version.
Note: there may be items in the online copy of the newsletter that are not included in the PDF version, and the online article layout may differ.