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Weekly Commentary  

Tell them

It was Christmas Day, 1941. Seventeen days earlier Hong Kong had been hit with a massive military assault of Japanese troops.

A small contingent of Canadian soldiers was defending the Chinese people.  They were from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles, many from Quebec.

They were hopelessly outnumbered and woefully under equipped.  By anybody's estimate they should not have been able to fight back for more than a couple of days.

However, as Canadian troops are known to do, they stood fast when others would have faltered. 

They made their final stand at a place called St. Stephen's School. 

The school had been converted to a field hospital for the wounded from various fields of battle across Asia.  Its rooms and corridors, attended by courageous nurses, were filled to overflowing with badly injured soldiers, most of them incapable of defending themselves, let alone others.

On that day when their families back in Canada were opening presents, enjoying turkey and whispering quiet prayers for their absent loved ones, the officers of those troops were facing a terrible dilemma.  The number of casualties in the field, killed and wounded, was now in the hundreds and climbing by the hour. To continue fighting would mean obliteration of the regiment and possibly the annihilation of the hospital at St. Stephen's.

The officers made the heartbreaking but appropriate decision. They would order their men to lay down their arms and surrender. And they would ask for the attack on the hospital to cease.

They laid down their arms. And then to their horror a furious and undefended assault on the hospital was unleashed.  There is no point in describing the details of what then took place. Those who survived actually would prefer that I didn't.

This Remembrance Day, instead of laying a wreath at one of the many ceremonies throughout our beautiful constituency, I will be in Hong Kong. 
I will be promoting our Asia Pacific Gateway Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert and conducting trade related meetings at other Asian venues.

The personal highlight for me will be the honour of representing Canada at a special Remembrance ceremony at St. Stephen's School in Hong Kong.  Now once again a place of education, the School, its staff and students want to do a memorial ceremony of thanks to those brave Canadians.

I will be presenting to their archives a memorial DVD set, narrated by one of our soldiers who was there on that awful Christmas Day in 1941.  I will be taking some pictures and emailing them to my mother. Her father, my grandfather whom I would never meet, was one of those brave, tough Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong and at St. Stephen's.

Captured, he would spend the next four years in prisoner of war camps. There is also no point in describing what took place there either.  Those who survived would prefer that I didn't.

Instead, I will say a quiet prayer of thanks, for the grandfather I never knew, and for all of our veterans everywhere, from all campaigns.

There is an ancient Hebrew scripture that urges us to tell "our children and our children's children" of the great sacrifices and the heroic deeds of our elders, so that we could know freedom.

I will be telling mine. I hope you will tell yours. Lest they forget.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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