"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
Details from the regiment were called out on service on 26 August 1939 and then placed on active service on 1 September 1939, as The Royal Rifles of Canada, Canadian Active Service Force (Details), for local protection duties. The details called out on active service were disbanded on 31 December 1940.
Details of the regiment were again called out on service on 1 January 1941, under the designation Details of 2nd (Reserve) Battalion, The Royal Rifles of Canada. The details were removed from active service on 30 September 1941.
The regiment subsequently mobilized The Royal Rifles of Canada, CASF for active service on 24 May 1940. It was redesignated as the 1st Battalion, The Royal Rifles of Canada, CASF on 7 November 1940. The battalion served in Newfoundland on garrison duty from early November 1940 to August 1941. On 27 October 1941 it embarked for Hong Kong, where it was destroyed while fighting in defence of the colony. The unit was reconstituted on 10 January 1942.
It served in Canada in a home defence role as part of the Vancouver Defences of Pacific Command. On 2 January 1945 it embarked for Great Britain, where it was disbanded on 10 January 1945 to provide reinforcements to the Canadian army in the field.
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