By Lieutenant (Navy) Tony Wright
During its port visit to Hong Kong on May 6, 2018, the crew of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver paid tribute to Canadian soldiers who died defending Hong Kong from the Japanese during the Second World War and are interred at the Sai Wan War Cemetery.
The island of Hong Kong fell to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941 following 17 days of fighting by British, Canadian, Indian and Chinese soldiers. There were 290 Canadian soldiers of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers who lost their lives during the battle, and most are buried at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong.
Of the Canadians captured after the battle, 267 eventually perished in prisoner of war camps. The Sai Wan Memorial at the entrance to the cemetery bears the names of over 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Battle of Hong Kong, or in captivity, and have no known grave. Many of the names are Canadian.
Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, Deputy Commander, Royal Canadian Navy; Commander Christopher Nucci, Commanding Officer, HMCS Vancouver; Coxswain Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Wist; Jeff Nankivell, Consul General to Hong Kong; and 20 crew members travelled to the Sai Wan War Cemetery to visit the graves of the war dead and lay a wreath in remembrance.
Vancouver’s sailors were able to walk through the cemetery to visit the graves and were given a brief tour by historian Tony Banham. After some words of remembrance by RAdm Couturier for those lost, Cdr Nucci and CPO1 Wist laid a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice, found in the Canadian section of the cemetery.