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A call to action: Vindicating the soldiers

Author Nathan Greenfield has set up a petition calling on Canada to ask the British government to repudiate a report by British brigade commander Brigadier Cedric Wallis that accuses members of the Royal Rifles of Canada of dishonourable conduct and even mutiny during the Battle for Hong Kong.

In his East Brigade War Diary, a document he completed after the war that now resides in the British Archives, Brig. Wallis makes several damning claims, including that, "The unit threw away its 3 mortars as the men so (sic) no point in carrying such heavy loads." Prof. Greenfield found in his research that the men did, indeed, destroy their mortar tubes, but only after exhausting their ammunition, not out of laziness.

Brig. Wallis also alleged that the men "would wander off and pick up anything they fancied," and abandoned their battle positions. Prof. Greenfield says that dozens of men who fought at the battle dispute this claim, pointing out that such behaviour was a capital offence.

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On another point, on Dec. 24, Brig. Wallis refused a third request by Lieutenant-Colonel William Home, the Canadian commander of the RRC, to pull the exhausted and badly depleted troops back to more defensible positions. The troops had been fighting without rest for six days and were falling asleep on their feet. Brig. Wallis wrote in his diary that he believed he was facing a "bloodless mutiny" and "considered arresting or shooting Lt.-Col Home," but refrained from doing so because he "had come to the conclusion [that]many officers would require shooting."

According to Company Sergeant-Major George MacDonell, he and his NCOs considered Brig. Wallis's order to attack on Christmas Day, when surrender was imminent, "madness," but "not one man refused the order." Those who were there bristle at Brig. Wallis's charge that troops would discuss the suitability of an order and, "If those present did not care for it, in all probability, it would not be carried out."

Of the 120 men involved in that attack, 101 became casualties. Decades later, Sgt.-Maj. MacDonell had occasion to ask Brig. Wallis why he ordered the attack. He answered, "It was a mistake."

Why did Brig. Wallis level his accusations against the Canadians? Royal Navy Commander J. Douglas once told Lieutenant Benjamin Proulx (a volunteer in the Hong Kong Defence Corps), the only Canadian to successfully escape from a Japanese PoW camp, "They're going to make a goat out of the Canadian regiments. … None of those people who say the Canadians ran can tell you where they did run. There was no evidence of any specific kind against the Canadians."

Click here, to get to author Nathan Greenfield's Facebook page. First, click "like" on his page to access the petition, and then click "like" on the petition itself to register your support.

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