"George was a real hero... he steadied the POWs down because he was so much older than the young guys. Since he was older and had lived in hard times, he could 'stand the gaff'. When people were ill-treated, beaten, starved, and shot in front of the group, he didn't get rattled. George would often do a 'turn' [if a friend was too sick or weak, George would step in and work their shift] for some of the men such as John Doiron. George would also tell the men to eat the maggots in the rice to get their protein. Many men told me that only for George Palmer, they would never have made it to the end of the war... he was a strong man."
- Rev. Francis Corcoran
Arthur G. Penny states, "... no troops in the twentieth century - and certainly none in World War II - have been tested more terribly, more searchingly than were the Canadians at Hong Kong: men brave, intelligent, if you will, but all unused to combat and fighting within an area to which they were complete strangers. Nor have any other troops met such a test with greater credit to their country, to their military traditions and to themselves."
My grandfather was one of these men (a corporal with the Royal Rifles of Canada, Headquarters Company, Platoon 2) who fought in Hong Kong against the Japanese during WWII. He was one of 1,974 Canadians from the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers who were involved in the defence of Hong Kong alongside 12,000 other defenders - including naval and air force personnel and many non-combatants. The defenders had virtually no navy, air force, heavy artillery, or reinforcements to assist them. Facing them were approximately 60,000 battle-hardened, fully mechanized, fully reinforced, fanatical, tenacious Japanese troops, fresh from battles in China.
Most, if not all, of these Canadian soldiers had no previous battle experience. That is not to say they weren't ready; they were prepared. But, when the battle began, it had only been three weeks since they arrived in this totally unfamiliar environment far from their homes.
As the motto of the Royal Rifles dictates, our soldiers were Willing and Able men and women, surrendering only when told to do so by the Commander-in-Chief on Christmas Day, 1941, after fighting for 17 1/2 days. The Japanese Colonel who accepted the surrender, told the Canadian officers, "He had never known men could fight so hard."
- Michael Palmer