• Si Biggs

Re-occupation of Hong Kong

Updated: Sep 17

Unit/ Formation: 44 Cdo RM


Location: Hong Kong


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1945


Date/s: 11 September 1945


Admiral Harcourt’s force (T.G. 111.2) at Subic Bay on 25th August. On 29th August C.T.G. 111.2 was in W/T touch with the Japanese commander at Hong Kong and that day British aircraft flew over the Colony dropping messages.


Though there was considerable risk from American mines, the location of which were received from the Japanese, Admiral Harcourt entered Hong Kong the next day in SWIFTSURE, accompanied by EURYALUS, PRINCE ROBERT, and destroyers, leaving outside the mineable waters B.S. 1 in ANSON and carriers who entered later.


Naval parties were landed everywhere; the only other guards available, until arrival of a Brigade of Commandos from the South East Asia Command, being the Royal Air Force Personnel of Force SHIELD.


In 1945 No.44 (Royal Marine) Commando sailed for Hong Kong, landing on 11–12 September; they remained with the 3 Commando Brigade including 42 Commando on garrison duties after the civil administration was restored in March 1946.


On 16 March 1947 the then 44 Commando of 3 Commando Brigade RM was redesignated as 40 Commando, Royal Marines. The intention being to perpetuate a Commando, representative of the Dieppe raid and the Italian theatre of war, and to recognise their contribution to the Allied victory in Europe as with that of 45 Commando, combined with 42 Commando's contribution to Allied victory in the Far East.



Liberating Hong Kong

When the news that Japan might accept the Potsdam Declaration reached the Allied powers before dawn on 11 August, British, Chinese (nationalist and communist) and American forces in China all raced to control Hong Kong. Rear-Admiral Cecil Harcourt sailed a British task force toward Hong Kong in support of an order to re-establish British rule. (Intelligence agents of the British Army Aid Group carried this order from the British Embassy at Chongqing through the neutral Portuguese colony of Macau and finally to Franklin Gimson, Hong Kong’s Colonial Secretary, who was interned in Stanley.) Meanwhile, General Wedemeyer, the C-in-C of the American forces in China, tried to fly to Hong Kong to arrange the surrender of the Japanese garrison. His plane, however, was interned at Canton by the Japanese, as they were unsure to whom they should surrender.

Watched by a Marine sentry, envoy Makimura walks back down the flightdeck of HMS INDOMITABLE to the plane waiting to take him back to Kai Tek airfield, Hong Kong. He had been discussing the surrender of the city. © IWM A 30508

When the news that Japan might accept the Potsdam Declaration reached the Allied powers before dawn on 11 August, British, Chinese (nationalist and communist) and American forces in China all raced to control Hong Kong. Rear-Admiral Cecil Harcourt sailed a British task force toward Hong Kong in support of an order to re-establish British rule. (Intelligence agents of the British Army Aid Group carried this order from the British Embassy at Chungking through the neutral Portuguese colony of Macao and finally to Franklin Gimson, Hong Kong’s Colonial Secretary, who was interned in Stanley. Meanwhile, General Wedemeyer, the C-in-C of the American forces in China, tried to fly to Hong Kong to arrange the surrender of the Japanese garrison. His plane, however, was interned at Canton by the Japanese, as they were unsure to whom they should surrender.

The British and the Chinese Nationalist governments claimed the right to accept a Japanese surrender in Hong Kong, and both turned to U.S. President Harry S. Truman for support. Truman decided to support the British claim, as long as they would allow Chinese and American forces to use Hong Kong as a springboard to reach other parts of China. The issue of sovereignty would be addressed later. Chiang Kai-shek thus lost the diplomatic battle and the troops he sent to Hong Kong would arrive too late to make a difference on the ground.

When the Japanese emperor announced his acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on 15 August, Japanese forces in Hong Kong were ordered to maintain public order and defend themselves. For more than a week, looting engulfed the city, while local Chinese leaders struggled to maintain order with the Japanese and the triads. Meanwhile, dozens of Chinese Communist guerrillas (the East River Column) attacked the Japanese outposts in the New Territories from 18 August, with the goal of controlling the area and seizing the arms of the Japanese forces. These attacks were repelled, but in one case the retaliating Japanese troops murdered a number of villagers in Lantau.

Back in Stanley, Gimson and other interned officials began to imagine the shape of a provisional government. After receiving the British government’s order from Macao on 23 August, he negotiated with the Japanese and was allowed to establish a headquarters at Central. By then, it was clear that Hong Kong would be surrendered to the British forces. Gimson, with the aid of other internees and POWs, maintained some essential services and public order before Harcourt’s fleet would arrive on 30 August.

Food was in dangerously short supply, even though the population had fallen by two-thirds, to 500,000–600,000. Britain was acutely aware of the problem and its South East Asia Command (SEAC) launched Operation Armour to ship troops, food and supplies to Hong Kong in mid-August. An RAF engineers unit and a commando brigade were diverted to Hong Kong. The former swiftly restored the essential services and communications and the latter took over the New Territories on 14 September. Harcourt’s fleet brought urgently needed coal and other supplies. The SEAC also arranged rice and food convoys from Burma, India, Thailand and Australia in the following months, saving the ex-colony from certain starvation.

On 16 September, the Japanese forces in Hong Kong surrendered to Harcourt. A week earlier (on 7 September, coincidentally the same date that the Nationalist troops arrived in Canton), David MacDougall returned to Hong Kong with the HKPU to establish a military administration. Together with the interned officials and the members of the British Army Aid Group, the unit re-established British rule and restored economic activities. This success helped secure Hong Kong’s position in international trade and industry in Asia in the coming decades, especially as other Chinese cities were in chaos. The Planning Unit considered many reform programs during the war, including political reforms to allow more Chinese participation. One consensus was that thepre-war laissez-faire style of governance had to be abandoned and the post-war government should respond quickly to citizens’ needs. This set the tone of the British rule in Hong Kong from 1945 to 1997, a period when the British control of the territory was never seriously contested. [1]


No.44 (Royal Marine) Commando


No.44 (Royal Marine) Commando was raised in August 1943, from the 3rd Royal Marine Battalion under command of Lieutenant Colonel F C Horton. It served in the Far East with the 3rd Special Service Brigade. It took part in the Burma Campaign and was located in the Arakan during the Japanese U-Go Offensive, before carrying out a number of raids along the Burmese coastline. During the 1944–45 third Arakan offensive it took part in the landings at Myebon and the battle of Hill 170. It was then withdrawn to India to prepare for the invasion of Malaya Operation Zipper. The war ended before the operation began and the commando was diverted to reoccupy Hong Kong.[2]

This photo was taken by my father in law after the war, when he was serving in Hong Kong with 45 RMC. According to the Royal Marine Museum the crest was cut in 1946 later refurbished by 42 RMC, then later built on. The museum states "hillside about Fualing" - but I guess it should read "Fanling" Jack O’Sullivan [3]

Early in 1946 Royal Marines cut their cap badge the Globe and Laurel in a 2ft deep outline 80ft by 54ft on the hill side at Fanling, facing the Chinese border with Hong Kong.


More related 'dits'


References


[1] End of Empire - Liberating Hong Kong by Kwong Chi Man Assistant Professor of History, Hong Kong Baptist University

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Gwulo Old Hong Kong Website

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