Sketch by Jack Chalker

Siege of Hong Kong

December 8th 1941 dawned, to the sound of aeroplane engines and the thud of bombs over our airfield.  The expected invasion of Hong Kong was now on in earnest.  Japan was now at war with the Allies.  All the outposts were now fully manned except for the border.  The Japs had a thirty mile start on us without any opposition.  Thousands of Jap troops poured across the border and spread over the New Territories, the element of a surprise attack had caught us on the hop.  Confusion reigned now and misleading orders started to flow.  Our platoon, consisting of a signal section, personnel were to withdraw to a position on a mountain called Tai Mo Shan.  We finally reached this position to discover an empty pillbox.  Our armaments consisted of a two inch mortar, with no sights, a boys anti tank rifle with no ammunition and carrying our rifles with a bandolier of fifty rounds of ammo.  We knew we were in a hopeless position but were determined to fight to the death.  No food or rations was received that day.  The night passed without incidents.  The next morning, the 9th December, we woke to the sound of big guns and machine gun fire.  The Japs had reached the Shing Mun Redoubt and there was one almighty battle raging.  From our position on Tai Mo Shan, we had a clear view of the valley and we realised the Japs had surrounded us on three sides, only the side leading down to the road was free of the enemy, we could not defend this position.  Our Officer got in touch with headquarters and explained our predicament.  Headquarters gave orders that an artillery barrage would start at 1900 hours to cover our position and our withdrawal.  Transport would be waiting for us when we reached the road.  The Japs had not attacked our position, by late afternoon and it was beginning to play on our nerves.  The sounds of battle from the Shing Mun Redoubt had died out, we knew it must have been over run.  Our position would be next.  Time crept slowly by to 1900 hours, with it came the sound of shells, the artillery barrage had started.  The barrage caught the Japs by surprise, they had been massing in the valley for another attack and were caught in the shell fire.  It was a massacre, but it saved us.  Our evacuation started immediately.  On reaching the road, we were astonished and amazed because there was no transport waiting, the only way to get out was to walk.  For all we could think of was the Japs had the road cut off and we were walking into a trap.  The only consolation we had was that it was getting dark and that would cover our movements.  We finally stopped for the night at the bottom of a hill which had slit trenches already dug, and lay down to rest.  We had no food, and were utterly fatigued but rest was what we needed.  At dawn, the platoon was awakened with the warning to be absolutely quiet and to be ready for immediate action.  Seemingly, the Japs had advanced during darkness to a position only 100 yards away from us and settled down for the night.  We had the element of surprise, the order came to fix bayonets.  It was to be hand to hand combat and no mercy to be shown.  I would think that all of us would have prayed silently to God and hoped we would survive this battle.  The order to charge was given.  With our hearts pumping and the adrenalin flowing through, we raced towards the enemy.  It was a complete surprise, as the enemy had not spotted us until we were on them, then it was man to man.  All I can remember is a mist in front of my eyes, my heart pounding, as I cut, thrusted and used the butt of my rifle against any of the enemy that came my way.  Imagine our surprise, when the enemy, although vastly outnumbering us, broke off the action and withdrew.  Much to our amazement as our platoon regrouped it was discovered, that only one casualty, a soldier, with a bayonet wound in his shoulder was our score.  After this engagement, our officer told us that we would fall back to the city of Kowloon, to take up street fighting positions.  Corporal Fowler and I were told to take the injured man to the nearest Police Station for treatment.  On our way back to our positions, which were covering the foothills and a large typhoon drain which drained into the harbour, we noticed a group of soldiers crouched over a road parapet which crossed over the drain.  Enquiring what they were doing, we were told that the Japs were infiltrating the city via the drain.  They told us, they were a fair way up the drain and that they were waiting for them to come closer.  We asked if any of them had any hand grenades.  A couple of grenades were given to Corporal Fowler and myself, we would make an attack on the Japs who were in the drain.  We would be under cover all the way to where the Japs were infiltrating, but, at this point, we would be in the open and in clear view of the enemy and possible draw enemy fire.  On reaching the point where we would attack, we pulled the pins from the grenades and lobbed them into the drain and then got into cover as quickly as possible.  We made our way back to where we started, and to our astonishment, the group that was to give us covering fire were gone.  Corporal Fowler and I made our way back to where our platoon was supposed to have taken up position.  On reaching this position, we found that they had withdrawn, we had no idea as to where.  We decided to make for Nathan Road, the main road and our best way of making contact with our platoon.  While walking down the road, a police wagon stopped beside us and the driver told us to get aboard.  We told him we were trying to locate our platoon which would be somewhere in the vicinity.  Imagine our surprise when he told us that all troops had received the order to withdraw to the island and that we should come with him as he was evacuating to the island.  We asked the driver if he had any food with him as we had not eaten for the last three days.  Luckily he had some sandwiches with him, the sandwiches were very welcome to us.  On our way to the evacuation point, through the city of Kowloon, the sight of the people, looting the shops and fighting with each other sickened us.  The population was going berserk, there was panic everywhere we looked.  Transport to the island was awaiting us when we reached the evacuation point.  The island seemed quite peaceful, there was no sign of panic and it looked like a normal day, when we landed back on the island, this was December 12th 1941.  The police took us to a house where we had our first meal in four days.  After our meal, I decided to make contact with my platoon.  The information was forthcoming from the police, who had made contact with our regiment and received the necessary information as to where the platoon was situated.  Within the next two hours, I was safely back with the platoon, they all thought I had been killed but all were glad to see me back with them.  We stayed in our present position for a couple of days until GHQ had finalised our defence positions.  Our position was to be a hill, overlooking Wong Nei Chong gap and also battalion headquarters.  A Canadian battalion would be reinforcing the Royal Scots at this vital location.  The Middlesex regiment was to man the pillboxes, along the island’s seafront, facing Kowloon, which was now occupied by the enemy.  Air raids were now more frequent and heavy shelling of the island had increased.  The Japs were making preparations for the invasion of the island and were pounding military positions mercilessly.  We knew the invasion would start very soon, but where and what point in the island.  The Taikoo sugar refinery had been hit with heavy artillery fire and was burning fiercely with heavy black smoke obliterating the whole area.  We were put on full alert.  The invasion, which was seaborn came at Stanley Bay with huge losses to the landing forces.  The enemy firepower and landing forces was enormous, and so overwhelming, that it was only a matter of time that they established a beach head.  The enemy soon fanned out, taking a lot of prisoners as they advanced from the Stanley beach head.  As the days passed, the fighting got heavier and more bitter, no quarter was being asked and none was given.  By this time, the Japs had occupied about one third of the island, but their advance had been slowed down with bitter hand to hand fighting.  The Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps were in the thick of the various battles which were raging right across the island.  The Royal Scots and a Canadian regiment had taken up defensive positions, around the area of Wong Nei Chong gap, we surmised that the final battle would be fought right here.  The Japs were pouring in reinforcements and the situation looked very grim.  We learned the Japs had offered terms of surrender, twice so far, but they had been told, to go to hell, each time.  Time was running out for us, we were not getting the food to sustain our tired bodies.  Our morale was still very high.  The Jap advance had been halted, short of Wong Nei Chong gap, they seemed to be regrouping.  Enemy shellfire was getting heavier all the time, their air force was pounding military positions and their naval units were shelling our positions, at will.  It was pretty grim in our position, as Jap snipers began to take toll of us.  I was telling my mate to keep his head down, but he was not quick enough, a sniper’s bullet got him in the forehead, death was quick.  Christmas was drawing nearer, but our thoughts were not of Christmas cheer, but whether we would be alive, to sample it.  The long awaited attack on Wong Nei Chong finally started.  The enemy had infiltrated our lines and taken up a strong position in the police station, they had to be removed at once.  Units of the Royal Scots were made ready for the recapture of the police station which was in a vital position.  It was a slow, precarious movement, along a track leading from our hillside position to the police station and in full view of the enemy and not knowing what to expect.  Our nerves were getting pretty frayed as it was stop, go, less noise, get ready, move.  I reckon it must have taken the best part of an hour, before we reached the point of attack, all in full view.  The attack was in full swing, by the time we reached the road.  We had to cross over the road, then up a flight of steps to reach the police station, not knowing what was happening.  At any second, we expected to meet a hail of gunfire.  Our troops were mystified by the fact that no shots came our way and that there were no Japs in the police station.  Whether the Japs had retreated or been driven out, by the troops preceding our attack was a bit of a mystery.  Later we took up our positions which we had previously occupied and awaited for the onslaught, we knew was coming.  We learned later, that the Japs were threatening to poison the water supplies and that their Air Force was using indiscriminate bombing of the densely populated areas of the city.  We knew the end was nigh, but there was still a battle to be fought and it was going to be savage and bloody.  For the last ten days, we had halted the Jap advance and although tired, filthy and hungry, we were still fighting mad.  Battles started raging all round the hills, near Wong Nei Chang gap, the Japs had been reinforced, and were now making an all out attack on our positions, we would be over run in the long run.  The fighting grew fiercer, their artillery was hammering away at our positions and they were making suicide attacks and taking heavy losses of manpower, surely this could not last.  There were rumours that the British Government had ordered the surrender of the Colony, to save further useless loss of life.  It still came as a surprise when the cease fire order came through.  The troops had no thought of surrender, and were very disappointed and bitter about it, most wanted to fight on.  Christmas Day, and all troops were told to go to the nearest barracks and surrender their arms.  They were ordered not to leave their barracks and to await further orders.

 

Next Chapter

Internment

 

 

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[J. McHarg Miller] [Stationed] [Siege] [Internment] [Lisbon Maru] [To Japan] [Notogawa] [War is Ended]

 

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