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Canadian Commemorative Ceremony 2014 – Speech by the Consul General of Canada

Honoured veterans, distinguished guests, chers amis

Here in this sacred place, it is indeed an honour to once again stand before you.

73 years ago tomorrow the uniformed sons and daughters of Canada proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with their Chinese and Commonwealth counterparts to valiantly defend Hong Kong.

As we all remember, on December 8, 1941 Canadian troops experienced our nation`s first battle of the Second World War.

Three years and eight months later some of those soldiers, but sadly not all of these courageous Canadians would also be among the last to finally return home.

In the fall of 1941 our Canadian troops - who had just arrived in Hong Kong three weeks earlier - were organized into two battalions: The Winnipeg Grenadiers from Manitoba and the Royal Rifles of Canada from Québec.

These two battalions would be called ‘C-Force’.

Pour la plupart de jeunes hommes à peine entrés dans l’âge adulte et maintenant engagés dans une expédition qui allait boulverser leur vie.

Despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, outgunned, and out-trained, our Canadian soldiers and their allied comrades would desperately fight on for seventeen and a half days, demonstrating extraordinary courage against overwhelming odds.

And when they could fight no more, on the darkest Christmas day in Hong Kong’s history, the British governor finally surrendered.

However, surrender as we all know, would not mean the end of their struggles.

In prisoner of war camps at North Point and over at Sham Shui Po, or in camps in Japan, Canadian soldiers and many others would face horrific conditions.

283 Canadian soldiers, who fell in the battle of Hong Kong, are remembered here adjacent to this cross of sacrifice.

Another 20 of our soldiers are buried at the Stanley Military Cemetery on the southern side of this beautiful island.

All of them – whether they fell on the battlefield or in the brutal conditions of the camps – gallantly gave their lives so that each of us could be here today.

In this regard, I encourage you to take the time today - as i have done so many times before - and read the headstones - all are members of a lost generation.

With this in mind, we the living, should in no way allow time to lessen the significance of what happened here as well as in other unfortunate theatres of war throughout the years.

Regardless of its place in the past, it is a necessity that we – the reapers of the hard won fruits of liberty. 

Remember these past struggles as we have done every year since 1947.

Those of you who have joined us at this very special ceremony for many years will remember individuals

Like Sergeant Major John Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers.

He will be remembered for his last great deed where he threw himself onto a grenade which exploded,

Instantly killing him, in order to save the lives of the other soldiers who were with him.

For this act of heroism, Sergeant Major John Osborn was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Then there are other Canadian heroes, like Brigadier John K. Lawson, whose final words were, "they are all around us and i am going out to fight."

In memory of John Lawson and John Osborn, my colleagues and i have named two conference rooms at our new consulate general after each of them.

But these are only two of the many countless heroic acts that were performed by the men and women who defended Hong Kong in 1941.

Today, as in years past, we promise to again remember all of them, as well as those who fought during the Great War and in subsequent battles in other parts of the world, most recently in Afghanistan.

Now as many of you know, November 11, 2014 was particularly poignant back in Canada. As we remembered the brutal murders of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. 

We also paid tribute the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

The men and women who fought in these campaigns, who defended Hong Kong, did so to protect our freedom and values that we constantly cherish.

As the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Caanada so eloquently said in his Remembrance Day speech this year from Canada’s national war memorial and I quote:

 “We are people of peace; of respect and tolerance, kindness and honour. These qualities are alive in our national conscience precisely because we hold them as precious. We have the luxury to do so because those we remember today believed those qualities to be precious enough to die for.

And now here we stand, and here we shall remain: unshaken in resolve; grateful in remembrance of those who have sacrificed; rededicated to our eternal duty of peace and freedom – the very soul of our nation.  Lest we forget.”

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Date Modified:
2014-12-23