HONG KONG

HONG KONG
8 - 25 DECEMBRE / DECEMBER 1941

 

 

 

 

 

 

La bataille de Hong Kong a commencé le 8 décembre 1941, huit heures après l'attaque de Pearl Harbor, dans le cadre du théâtre asiatique de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Pendant cette bataille, les forces japonaises ont attaqué Hong Kong, qui a résisté pendant 17 jours.

 

 

 

Contexte

Dès 1936, la colonie britannique de Hong Kong commence à se préparer contre une éventuelle menace posée par les troupes japonaises, l’armée impériale japonaise occupe Canton en octobre 1938, construisant la ligne de fortifications Gin Drinkers. Le territoire ne disposait cependant que d'une force armée limitée, malgré le renfort de deux bataillons de soldats coloniaux indiens des régiments du Rajput et du Punjab et d'une milice locale, le Corps des Volontaires de la Défense de Hong Kong (Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps). Le 2e bataillon du régiment Royal Écossais était stationné à Hong Kong, de même que le 1er bataillon du régiment du Middlesex.

Malgré les intentions manifestement belliqueuses du Japon dans les mois précédents, le gouvernement du Royaume-Uni n'avait envoyé que peu de renforts de troupes, préférant se concentrer sur la défense de ses autres territoires asiatiques. Le Canada avait néanmoins fourni un contingent issu des corps des Winnipeg grenadiers et des Fusiliers royaux du Canada, arrivé six semaines avant l'attaque japonaise, et dont une partie n'avait pas encore d'expérience du combat1.

Bataille et reddition britannique

Les Britanniques, les Canadiens, les soldats Indiens et les volontaires, soutenus par des renforts de la Royal Air Force, résistèrent 17 jours aux troupes japonaises commandée par Sakai Takashi.

Les Japonais gagnèrent la supériorité de l'air le premier jour de la bataille et les forces défensives étaient trois fois moins nombreuses que l'ennemi. L'équipement des troupes postées dans la Gin Drinkers Line s'avéra insuffisant pour arrêter l'avance des Japonais. Les Anglais et les Indiens se retirèrent de la ligne, et par conséquent de Kowloon, sous le bombardement de l'aviation et de l'artillerie. Un combat féroce continua sur l'île de Hong Kong ; le seul réservoir dans Hong Kong fut perdu. Les Winnipeg Grenadiers défendaient le quartier stratégique de Wong Nai Chong Gap qui contrôlait le flux entre le centre-ville et les parties sud de l'île plus reculées. Les quarante membres du comité local de la France libre, constitué en 1940 par le consul de France, participèrent à la défense parmi les unités de volontaires2. La République de Chine venant d'intégrer les Alliés, il fut question que les troupes chinoises interviennent pour prêter main-forte aux Britanniques, mais la défense de Hong Kong tomba avant qu'une action ne puisse être entreprise.

À la date du 25 décembre 1941, connue sous le nom de « Noël noir » par les habitants de Hong Kong, les hauts fonctionnaires coloniaux britanniques, avec à leur tête le gouverneur de Hong Kong, Mark Aitchison Young, se rendirent au lieutenant-général Takashi et à son chef d'état-major, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, au troisième étage du Peninsula Hôtel.

Conséquences

Au matin du 25, des soldats japonais investirent l'hôpital installé dans le St Stephen's College, et massacrèrent une soixantaine de soldats blessés, ainsi que le personnel hospitalier3. On estime que 10 000 femmes ont été violées dans les premiers jours après la chute de Hong Kong. Un grand nombre de résistants réels ou supposés furent exécutés.

Hong Kong fut ensuite soumise à une administration militaire japonaise. Rensuke Isogai en devint le premier gouverneur.

Philip Snow, un historien de la période, raconte que les rations des civils furent sévèrement réduites afin de conserver la nourriture pour les soldats. Il y eut de nombreuses expulsions vers des régions de la Chine continentale qui étaient encore plus dépourvues et plus touchées par la famine et les maladies. Les expulsions visèrent la plupart des rapatriés chinois qui avaient rejoint Hong Kong quelques années plus tôt, lors de la guerre sino-japonaise.

Les prisonniers de guerre furent envoyés dans des camps de travail, situé sur le territoire de Hong Kong ou bien au Japon4. Des forces de résistance chinoises, comptant notamment les réseaux du Parti communiste chinois basés dans le Guangdong, furent actives dans les Nouveaux Territoires. Ces colonnes menèrent des actions de guérilla et informèrent les forces armées britanniques jusqu'à la fin du conflit mondial, amenant les Japonais à organiser des opérations de répression et à raser plusieurs villages5,6.

Hong Kong fut occupé jusqu'au 15 août 1945, peu avant la capitulation du Japon.

The Battle of Hong Kong (8–25 December 1941), also known as the Defence of Hong Kong and the Fall of Hong Kong, was one of the first battles of the Pacific War in World War II. On the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor, forces of the Empire of Japanattacked the British Crown colony of Hong Kong. The attack was in violation of international law as Japan had not declared war against the British Empire. The Japanese attack was met with stiff resistance from the Hong Kong garrison, composed of local troops as well asBritishCanadian and Indian units. Within a week the defenders abandoned the mainland and less than two weeks later, with their position on the island untenable, the colony surrendered.

 

Background

Britain first thought of Japan as a threat with the ending of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in the early 1920s, a threat that increased with the escalation of the Second Sino-Japanese War. On 21 October 1938 the Japanese occupied Canton (Guangzhou) and Hong Kong was surrounded.[4]

Various British defence studies concluded that Hong Kong would be extremely hard to defend in the event of a Japanese attack, but in the mid-1930s, work began on new defence facilities, including the Gin Drinkers' Line. Key sites of the defence of Hong Kong included:

By 1940, the British determined to reduce the Hong Kong Garrison to only a symbolic size. Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Far East Command argued that limited reinforcements could allow the garrison to delay a Japanese attack, gaining time elsewhere.[5] Winston Churchill and his army chiefs designated Hong Kong as an outpost and decided against sending more troops to the colony. In September 1941 they reversed their decision and argued that additional reinforcements would provide a military deterrent against the Japanese and reassure Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek that Britain was genuinely interested in defending the colony.[5]

Canadian contribution

Main article: C Force

Six weeks before the battle, this Canadian contingent arrives to bolster British presence.

In Autumn 1941, the British government accepted an offer by the Canadian Government to send two infantry battalions and a brigade headquarters (1,975 personnel) to reinforce the Hong Kong garrison. "C Force", as it was known, arrived on 16 November on board thetroopship Awatea and the armed merchant cruiser Prince Robert.[6] It did not have all of its equipment as a ship carrying its vehicles was diverted to ManilaPhilippine Islands, at the outbreak of war.

The Canadian battalions were the Royal Rifles of Canada from Quebec and Winnipeg Grenadiers from Manitoba. The Royal Rifles had served only in Newfoundland and Saint John, New Brunswick, prior to their duty in Hong Kong and the Winnipeg Grenadiers had been posted to Jamaica. As a result, many of the Canadian soldiers did not have much field experience before arriving in Hong Kong.[citation needed]

Battle

Japanese artillery firing at Hong Kong

Canadian infantry in Hong Kong with a Bren gun

The Japanese attack began shortly after 08:00 on 8 December 1941 (Hong Kong time), fewer than eight hours after the Attack on Pearl Harbor(because of the day shift that occurs on the international date line between Hawaii and Asia, the Pearl Harbor event is recorded to have occurred on 7 December). The Japanese attack was not preceded by a declaration of war and so was in clear violation of international law. BritishCanadian andIndian forces, commanded by Major-General Christopher Maltby supported by the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps resisted the Japanese attack by the Japanese 21st, 23rd and the 38th Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant General Takashi Sakai, but were outnumbered nearly four to one (Japanese, 52,000; Allied, 14,000) and lacked their opponents' recent combat experience.

The colony had no significant air defence. The RAF station at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport (RAF Kai Tak) had only five aeroplanes: two Supermarine Walrus amphibians and three Vickers Vildebeest torpedo-reconnaissance bombers, flown and serviced by seven officers and 108 airmen. An earlier request for a fighter squadron had been rejected, and the nearest fully operational RAF base was in Kota BharuMalaya, nearly 2,250 kilometres (1,398 miles) away.

Hong Kong also lacked adequate naval defence. Three destroyers were to withdraw to Singapore Naval Base.[7]

Battle of Kowloon and New Territories

The Japanese bombed Kai Tak Airport on 8 December.[8] Two of the three Vildebeest and the two Walrus were destroyed by 12 Japanese bombers. The attack also destroyed several civil aircraft including all but two of the aircraft used by the Air Unit of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp. The RAF and Air Unit personnel from then on fought as ground troops. Two of the Royal Navy's three remaining destroyers were ordered to leave Hong Kong for Singapore. Only one destroyer, HMS Thracian, several gunboats and a flotilla of motor torpedo boats remained.

On 8, 9 and 10 December, eight American pilots of the China National Aviation Corporation CNAC[9] and their crews made a total of 16 trips between Kai Tak Airport and airports in Namyung and Chongqing (Chungking) in China, the war time capital of the Republic of China. According to articles in the New York Times and the Chicago Daily[10] of 15 December 1941, the pilots' names were Charles L. Sharp,[11] Hugh L. Woods,[12] Harold A. Sweet,[13] William McDonald,[14] Frank L. Higgs,[15] Robert S. Angle,[16] P.W. Kessler[17] and S.E. Scott.[18] Together they made 16 sorties and evacuated 275 persons including Mme Sun Yat-Sen, the widow of the "Father of the Nation" and the Chinese Finance Minister Kung Hsiang-hsi.

Map of the Japanese lines of attack

The Commonwealth forces decided against holding the Sham Chun River and instead established three battalions in the Gin Drinkers' Line across the hills. The Japanese 38th Infantry under the command of Major General Takaishi Sakai quickly forded the Sham Chun River by using temporary bridges.[8] Early on 10 December 1941 the 228th Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Teihichi, of the 38th Division attacked the Commonwealth defences at the Shing Mun Redoubt defended by 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel S. White.[8] The line was breached in five hours and later that day the Royal Scots also withdrew from Golden Hill.[8] D company of the Royal Scots counter-attacked and captured Golden Hill.[8] By 10:00am the hill was again taken by the Japanese.[8] This made the situation on the New Territories and Kowloon untenable and the evacuation to Hong Kong Island started on 11 December 1941 under aerial bombardment and artillery barrage. As much as possible, military and harbour facilities were demolished before the withdrawal. By 13 December, the 5/7 Rajputs of the British Indian Army commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R. Cadogan-Rawlinson, the last Commonwealth troops on the mainland, had retreated to Hong Kong Island.[19]

Battle of Hong Kong Island

Maltby organised the defence of the island, splitting it between an East Brigade and a West Brigade. On 15 December, the Japanese began systematic bombardment of the island's North Shore.[19] Two demands for surrender were made on 13 and 17 December. When these were rejected, Japanese forces crossed the harbour on the evening of 18 December and landed on the island's North-East.[19] They suffered only light casualties, although no effective command could be maintained until the dawn came. That night, approximately 20 gunners were executed at the Sai Wan Battery despite having surrendered. There was a further massacre of prisoners, this time of medical staff,[20] in the Salesian Mission on Chai Wan Road.[21][22] In both cases, a few men survived to tell the story.

On the morning of 19 December fierce fighting continued on Hong Kong Island but the Japanese annihilated the headquarters of West Brigade, causing the death of Brigadier John K. Lawson, the commander of the West Brigade .[20] A British counter-attack could not force them from the Wong Nai Chung Gap[20] that secured the passage between the north coast at Causeway Bay and the secluded southern parts of the island. From 20 December, the island became split in two with the British Commonwealth forces still holding out around the Stanley peninsula and in the West of the island. At the same time, water supplies started to run short as the Japanese captured the island's reservoirs.

On the morning of 25 December, Japanese soldiers entered the British field hospital at St. Stephen's College and in the St. Stephen's college incidenttortured and killed a large number of injured soldiers, along with the medical staff.[23]

By the afternoon of 25 December 1941, it was clear that further resistance would be futile and British colonial officials headed by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, surrendered in person[24] at the Japanese headquarters on the third floor of the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. This was the first occasion on which a BritishCrown Colony had surrendered to an invading force.[citation needed] (British Somaliland which fell to the Italians in August 1940 was a protectorate.) The garrison had held out for 17 days. This day is known in Hong Kong as "Black Christmas".[25]

ONT COMBATTU / FOUGHT

 

TUÉ AU COMBAT / KILLED IN ACTION

 

ACORN John Murdock - Mi'kmaq.

BLESSÉ / WOUNDED IN ACTION

 

 

 

MÉDAILLÉS / AWARD A MEDAL
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