My grandmother and grandfather came to Hong Kong in the late 1970’s. They stayed a week and were not here to shop or see the sights but to go to the cemetery in Chai Wan. My grandfather fought in Europe during the war, and his friend was one of those who fought and died defending Hong Kong.
Every year since the end of the war, Canadians and those around the world gather at the Sai Wan War Cemetery to remember the dead. This is the 70th year.
Canada sent 1,975 soldiers to defend Hong Kong in World War II. In the early hours of December 8, 1941, the battle for Hong Kong began. The troops fought for 17 and a half days but were finally forced to surrender on Christmas Day.
Of the 1,975 Canadians who went to Hong Kong, only 916 survived. It was the highest casualty rate in World War II for Canada.
The Cemetery was built shortly after the end of the war to remember those who fought. The dead were marked by small wooden crosses. They have been replaced by small white grave stones marking the name, battalion, rank, date of death and the country. There are hundreds of them on the green grass but more inscribed on the memorial at the entrance.
There were speeches, prayers, thoughts, and songs. I tried to find my grandfather’s friend but couldn’t. I spent the rest of the morning walking, remembering and learning what happened 70 years ago.