HMCS Vancouver remembers Canadian soldiers: The Battle of Hong Kong

Commanding Officer of HMCS Vancouver, Cdr Christopher Nucci, accompanied by ship’s Coxswain CPO1 Wist, lays a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice at Sai Wan Cemetery on May 7. Photo by MCpl Brent Kenny, MARPAC Imaging Services

Commanding Officer of HMCS Vancouver, Cdr Christopher Nucci, accompanied by ship’s Coxswain CPO1 Wist, lays a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice at Sai Wan Cemetery on May 7. Photo by MCpl Brent Kenny, MARPAC Imaging Services

Lt(N) Tony Wright, HMCS Vancouver ~

On May 6, during a recent port visit to Hong Kong, the crew of HMCS Vancouver spent time at the Sai Wan War Cemetery to pay tribute to Canadian soldiers who died defending Hong Kong from the Japanese in the Second World War.

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. Two hundred and ninety Canadian soldiers of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers 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 more than 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.

Twenty crew members from the ship travelled to the cemetery to visit the graves and lay a wreath in remembrance. Accompanying them were Deputy Commander, Royal Canadian Navy, Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier; Commanding Officer, HMCS Vancouver, Commander Christopher Nucci; Vancouver’s COXN, Chief Petty Officer First Class, Steve Wist; Consul General to Hong Kong, Jeff Nankivell.

The sailors were able to walk through the cemetery and were given a brief tour by historian Tony Banham. After some words of remembrance by RAdm Couturier, Cdr Nucci and CPO1 Wist laid a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice, found in the Canadian section of the cemetery. After a moment of silence, the crew continued to visit the graves, asking questions of Banham who shared stories of the battle and the sacrifices of the men who fought.

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