September 20, 2012
LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR, PREMIER HONOUR HONG KONG WAR VETERANS
HONG KONG--Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee and Premier Greg Selinger today laid wreaths at a ceremony at Sai Wan War Cemetery to honour Manitobans who fought to defend the British Colony of Hong Kong during the Second World War.
“Despite being sent to the other side of the world unprepared for what they would encounter, the Winnipeg Grenadiers fought valiantly in defence of the freedoms all Canadians enjoy today,” said Selinger. “Standing on the ground where so many brave Manitobans made the ultimate sacrifice is a truly humbling experience. To all the Hong Kong war veterans who are still with us today, and to the families of all those who fought and died, thank you on behalf of all Manitobans. We will never forget.”
The Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Quebec-based Royal Rifles of Canada were sent to Hong Kong in late 1941. War with Japan was not considered imminent at the time. Both battalions had limited training and had prepared mainly for non-combat duty. In December, the Japanese military launched a series of attacks including those on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Approximately 290 Canadians were killed in defence of Hong Kong and 267 more died as prisoners of war in the years that followed. Of the 1,975 Canadians who went to Hong Kong, more than 1,050 were either killed or wounded.
Lee was born in Hong Kong in May 1944, shortly before the end of the war.
“I grew up two blocks from the place where many Manitoba prisoners of war were held for years under horrendous conditions,” said the lieutenant-governor. “My mother would tell me stories of the atrocities and hardship endured by the Canadian soldiers who fought so bravely to defend our freedom. The sacrifices they made in the name of peace and justice will always be solemnly remembered by the people of Hong Kong.”
Lee and Selinger are in Hong Kong with Manitoba business leaders taking part in a Council of the Federation trade mission to China.
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