OTD: Winnipeg Grenadiers, Royal Rifles of Canada caught in Japanese invasion of Hong Kong

On today’s date in 1941, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada – both of which received minimal training as front-line troops – were blindsided by the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong.

On Dec. 8, at 8 a.m. – only a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour – Japanese aircraft attacked the Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. The attack damaged or destroyed the few aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The camp at Sham Shui Po was another target, and two men of the Royal Canadian Signals would become the first Canadian casualties in Hong Kong.

The Fine silver coin was designed by Canadian artist Joel Kimmel.

This Fine silver coin commemorating the Battle of Hong Kong was designed by Canadian artist Joel Kimmel.

Earlier this year, to honour the soldiers of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, who valiantly fought to defend Hong Kong from enemy invasion in December 1941, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a Fine silver coin marking the 75th anniversary of their bravery and sacrifice.

On Sept. 23, the 99.99 per cent silver Battle of Hong Kong coin was unveiled before veterans and guests at the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

“This Royal Canadian Mint silver collector coin pays a lasting tribute to the bravery and resolve of the Canadians who fought to defend Hong Kong in December 1941 and whose actions remind us all of the high cost of defending our values,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

“Even though the soldiers of the Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles of Canada had not seen combat before the Battle Hong Kong, they stood firm in the face of aggression and showed a courage that will never be forgotten.”

The soldier in the foreground is dressed in the shorts and short sleeves of the Pacific uniform; rushing forward with resolve and courage, he makes his way past a concrete pillbox that bears the markings of heavy artillery fire. Behind him, another soldier moves up the sloped edge of a cliff overlooking the bay, and aims his Lee Enfield rifle with bayonet.The coin was designed by Canadian artist Joel Kimmel and features two Canadian soldiers in Pacific uniform fighting on the rugged terrain of Hong Kong Island as Japanese ships massed in the waters below evoke the scale of the enemy invasion facing Commonwealth troops. Amidst the jungle conditions and rugged terrain of the island of Hong Kong, these two soldiers would have been among the Allied forces that formed a line of defence to counter the enemy’s advance toward the Wong Nai Chung Gap.

The all-out enemy assault was backed by a strong air presence, as represented by the Mitsubishi Zero falling from the clouds towards the ground, with heavy smoke rising up from its propeller. The overwhelming nature of the Japanese attack is also conveyed through the ships that fill the bay between the island and the mountainous mainland in the background.

The coin’s obverse features the effigy of King George VI, the monarch who reigned throughout the Second World War.

“The Mint is proud to continue honouring Canada’s veterans through coins which allow Canadians, as well as collectors around the world, to remember their incredible stories of sacrifice in defence of justice and humanity,” said Sandra Hanington, Mint president and CEO.

“With a new silver coin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong, the Mint recognizes the dedication of Canadian soldiers who fought hard to defend our values despite overwhelming odds.”

The coin has a weight of 31.39 grams, a diameter of 38 mm, and a mintage of 10,000.

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