Keeping History Alive for Generations to Come

Monument Remembering those who are veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong © Richard Lawrence Photography

With a rich history like Canada’s, there are many stories that do not get the attention and honour that they deserve. The Battle of Hong Kong, a pivotal moment in Canadian history, is one such story.

Marked by a 17-day struggle against the Imperial Japanese Army, 1,975 soldiers were dispatched, 290 of whom lost their lives during the battle, while an additional 267 endured harsh captivity as prisoners of war. Today, only one Hong Kong veteran remains, underlining the urgency of preserving their legacy.

Founded in 1995, the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association (HKVCA) recognizes that the loss of living veterans means a loss of history for future generations. The association has taken up the task of not only preserving history but rewriting it, honouring the Indigenous veterans of the “C” Force, who played an essential role in the Battle of Hong Kong during World War II.

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Documenting History

The HKVCA’s comprehensive database houses detailed records of each of the 1,975 soldiers. This trove of information includes birthplaces, enlistment details, regimental affiliations, circumstances of death, and even personal accounts of wartime experiences, where possible.

To ensure the lessons of the Battle of Hong Kong are passed down through generations, the HKVCA has developed a range of educational resources. These include lesson plans for high school teachers, personal stories, photographs, and links to additional materials. Quarterly newsletters and virtual events further engage audiences and provide insights into this critical chapter of Canadian history. This wealth of knowledge is invaluable to educators, researchers, and anyone seeking to understand the profound sacrifices made during this historic battle.

Beyond education, the association has placed commemorative plaques at over 50 Legion branches and other locations across Canada, serving as enduring tributes to the soldiers who fought in Hong Kong. Additionally, the Memorial Wall in Ottawa is a national symbol of remembrance for all 1,975 veterans.

Memorial Wall for the veterans of the battle of hong kong, hkvca, indigenous veterans project
77th Anniversary of the end of the War in the Far East © Richard Lawrence Photography
Preserving Indigenous Legacies

Among the brave soldiers who fought in the battle were Red River Métis and other Indigenous soldiers, whose stories remain untold. The Indigenous Veterans Project, created and driven by HKVCA, and possible with significant funding from the Métis Veterans Legacy Program, is working to tell these previously untold stories, recognizing and commemorating these heroes while also fostering connections within Indigenous communities.

Through extensive research, the project aims to uncover the Indigenous heritage of the soldiers, painting a clearer picture of the sacrifices made by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis who contributed to Canada’s armed forces. The information gathered will be used to update the HKVCA’s database, create a dedicated section on their website, and generate educational materials highlighting the stories of Indigenous veterans.

While these records are vital to building a record of Canada’s true history, this initiative goes beyond remembrance. Through this process, families have been able to reconnect with their Indigenous heritage and with each other. Many are discovering long-lost connections, rekindling relationships, and celebrating their shared history. As many of the volunteer members of the association have family ties to the 1,975 soldiers involved, this bears significant weight and meaning.

“By doing this project, we’re giving those men and their families a space to stand up and say ‘I am a proud Métis. I am a proud Cree. I am a proud Anishinaabe,'” said Project Leader and association member Pamela Poitras Heinrichs, whose father was a Red River Métis Hong Kong Veteran.

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