Canadian soldiers training in the hills on Hong Kong Island prior to the Japanese invasion in December 1941. They were to suffer heavy casualties during the short campaign.

Almost simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese launched attacks on the main British Imperial outposts in the Far East – Malaya and Hong Kong.

The invasion over the beaches of Kota Bharu in northern Malaya met fierce resistance from pill boxes on the shoreline – and the Japanese sustained very heavy casualties. These pill boxes were manned by men of the Dogra Regiment of the 8th Indian Infantry Brigade. Eventually the pill boxes were destroyed and their occupants wiped out. It would seem as a consequence we have very few accounts of this early battle.

Large numbers of Indian troops were amongst the reinforcements sent to Singapore and Malaya in November 1941. The Regiment of this unit is not stated.

‘Empire troops’ were also defending Britain’s other Far East possession.Tom March was a senior NCO with the Canadian Winnipeg Grenadiers based on Hong Kong. He watched the first Japanese attack on the 8th December:

Early the next morning we heard the sound of gunfire on the Mainland and the explosion of bombs on our old camp at Sham Shui Po and the flying field of the Island. Then a Jap reconnaissance plane, clearly marked with red ball, passed directly over our heads. It had come. This was war.

We of the Grenadiers hoped to be in the thick of it. We did not think highly of the Jap. We had confidence in ourselves and in our Officers. Let them come. One more glorious episode of Empire was to be written with the help of Canada. Strange how many enemy planes kept coming over.

Where were our planes? Although we did not know it then, well-aimed bombs had already destroyed them before they were able to leave the ground. The Japs first objective had been the airport and the destruction of the half dozen obsolete biplanes that stood there. Even had they left the ground they would have been duck soup for the Zero Pilots. Their crews later fought valiantly with the ground troops.

As the day wore on the Japs dropped bombs on the crowded dock areas and other chosen spots both on the mainland and the Island. We could see several big fires. Now it was our turn. A Jap Zero marked with the blood-red orange of Nippon dived at our roadblock.

We also dived, for the ditch. The Japs machine guns rattled and the dirt flew. There were some Indian troops in a truck nearby at the time and they also jumped for the ditch. One threw himself on top of me. When the plane had passed and the commotion subsided somewhat we found that we had no casualties. I collected myself and asked the Indian soldier, who spoke fair English, “Why did you jump on me?”

He replied, “Sergeant Sahib. You white man, valuable to King Emperor. One Indian soldier no great matter if killed.”

I could not quite figure this out. Was he really concerned with the survival of one white man of such exalted rank as a Sergeant or was he making sure that my dive for the ditch would receive notice thereby excusing himself and his companions for doing likewise. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thanked him.

I had the suspicion that white officers in Indian Regiments are expected to stand up and be shot in order to maintain the white mans prestige under such circumstances. Not for me. A dead Officer is no example, or at best a poor one.

Read his whole account at the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association.

The USS Penguin had operated as a Minesweeper from Scapa Flow during the First World War and was converted to a Gun boat in the 1920s. She was sunk off Guam on the 8th December 1941.

Attacks on the United States dependencies in the Pacific followed a similar course. For example Captain G. J. McMillin, U.S. Navy, the US Governor of the island of Guam received notification of hostilities at 5.45 am local time:

Enemy planes appeared from the direction of Saipan shortly after eight o’clock, and the first bombs were dropped on the Marine Reservation and vicinity at 0827. The Marines were in barracks, or on their normal duties throughout the post. Several were injured running across the golf course, for protection in the surrounding thickets. The Pan Air Hotel kitchen received a direct hit, and several native employees were killed.

An attack was made on the U.S.S. PENGUIN outside the Harbor; the ship gallantly fought, but was soon in a sinking condition. Ensign White, U.S.N.R., was killed by machine gun fire at his station on the AA gun. The PENGUIN had the only guns on the Station larger than a .30 caliber machine gun. The ship was abandoned in a sinking condition, and sank in deep water off Orote Point.

There were several men injured, but all of the crew succeeded in getting ashore on life rafts, bringing Ensign White’s body with them. The Captain, Lieutenant J.W.. Haviland, 3rd, U.S. N., was wounded.

The full report can be read at Mansell.com.

On the same day President Roosevelt was addressing the United States:

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Dec

7

December 1941

Japanese shock attack on US Naval base at Pearl Harbor

Gee !, then more speculation, perhaps a happy conclusion to Japanese / U.S. negotiations had something to do with it. Loud explosions made us decide to be elsewhere. We were being bombed, and we were on the top floor. By the time we got to the ground, the building was being shaken by the explosions and wall tiles were crashing down the steel staircase behind us. Outside we found some blokes trying to set up a machine gun while enemy planes roared overhead enroute to the harbour. There were more big explosions further down the hangar line and rubbish began to fly. Such a beautiful day and all this happening “just like in the movies!”

Dec

6

December 1941

Home Guard prepare for invasion of England

The police tried to truncheon one stopped carrier and I could stand the other chaps’ comments no longer. I dropped the damn phone, and my sense of duty, and had a glimpse in time to see the police attack repelled by rifle and revolver fire. One poor devil had a blank charge in the eye at about 1 ft range, and came to our post half-blinded.

Dec

5

December 1941

Five Stuka’s shot down in one sortie

At 300 yards I opened fire with all my guns at the leader of one of the rear sections of three, allowing too little deflection, and hit No. 2 and No. 3, one of which burst into flames immediately, the other going down smoking and went into flames after losing about 1000 feet. I then attacked the leader of the rear section…from below and behind, opening fire with all guns at very close range.

Dec

4

December 1941

The British reinforce Singapore

Bizarrely each day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the whole camp came to a standstill for a compulsory Siesta. Every man had to be in his bunk during that period. I disagreed with this from the start. The enemy seemed unlikely to suspend hostilities to allow us time to rest during the hottest part of the day.

Dec

3

December 1941

British tanks still outgunned in the desert

Closer and closer the German tanks came, and miraculously our line held. Again, somehow, the enemy had been able to muster almost fifty tanks. Against the inferior armour and gun-power of our only slightly more numerous Honeys it was almost enough to give victory.

Dec

2

December 1941

German families learn of their sacrifice for Hitler

His heroic death occurred when he was fighting bravely for Greater Germany in the front lines during a heavy battle with Russian tanks. The entire company and I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to you for the terrible loss which has befallen you.

Dec

2

December 1940

HMS Forfar sunk by Kretschmer’s U-99

Two minutes later the 5th and last torpedo struck, again on the Port side. This was the final blow as the ship broke in two owing to the after magazine blowing sky-high. She was well down by the stern now and I remember the ghastly cracklings as the after end bent inwards crushing the decks like matchwood. She heeled quickly over on her Sta’b’d side, the after end disappeared, and as she settled, she turned right over and sank slowly and steadily by the stern.

Dec

1

December 1941

The end of the Jews in Lithuania

Today I can confirm that our objective, to solve the Jewish problem for Lithuania, has been achieved by EK 3. In Lithuania there are no more Jews, apart from Jewish workers and their families. . . I am of the view that the sterilization program of the male worker Jews should be started immediately so that reproduction is prevented. If despite sterilization a Jewess becomes pregnant she will be liquidated. . . .

Nov

30

November 1941

Hitler rants and raves over progress in Russia

The Fuehrer is in a state of extreme agitation over the situation. … The interview appears to have been more than disagreeable, with the Fuehrer doing all the talking, pouring out reproaches and abuse, and shouting orders as fast as they came into his head. Regrettably, ObdH yielded to the Fuehrer’s insistence and has issued the order not to fall back to the aforementioned line in one move.