Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, Happy Valley, Hong Kong Island

Wong Nai Chung Gap lies in Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island and was the location of one of the decisive moments in the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. Securing the gap and splitting the defending British-led forces in two facilitated eventual Japanese victory and the occupation of Hong Kong.

A heritage trail was set up along its remaining war relics in the early 2000s by Hong Kong’s Antiquities and Monuments Office and the local tourism commission and under the guidance of local history enthusiasts and authors Tony Banham and Ko Tim-keung. The authorities made accessible and outfitted with storyboards the pillboxes, gun emplacements, ammunition magazines and the former command bunker of West Brigade Headquarters at Wong Nai Chung Gap, which had all survived the war and had until the 1990s endured time partly submerged and largely undiscovered.

In December 2005, the trail was formerly inaugurated on the occasion of a Canadian delegation visiting Hong Kong, which also consisted of World War II veterans who had fought in Hong Kong themselves. The delegation unveiled several of their own memorial plaques on Hong Kong Island. One, right in front of the above command bunker, also known as ‘Lawson Bunker’ after the commanding officer of West Brigade, the Canadian Brigadier Lawson who was killed outside this bunker during the Japanese invasion. Another plaque was installed near Jardine’s Lookout to mark the place where Canadian Sergeant-Major Osborn had been killed and won a Victoria Cross during the Battle of Hong Kong. Two further plaques were unveiled at the gunpowder factory at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence and in Stanley’s St. Stephen’s College, respectively. The latter had been the location of a massacre committed by Japanese forces during their onslaught onto the remaining Commonwealth forces in the south of Hong Kong Island. The inscriptions of the Canadian plaques read as follows.

Plaque at Lawson Bunker:

"This plaque is dedicated to all members of Brigade Headquarters Canadian "C" Force."

On the morning of December 19, 1941, invading Japanese forces advanced on this strategic position where Canadian Brigadier John Lawson commanded the West Brigade from a bunker dug into the hillside. Attempts to reinforce the area failed. Refusing to withdraw, his bunker was overrun. His last words over the telephone to his Commanding Officer stated that he was ‘going outside to fight it out.' In doing so he lost his life, thereby earning the admiration of his comrades and the enemy for his heroic actions.

Plaque at Jardine’s Lookout:

"This plaque is dedicated to all members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers of Canada."

In the early hours of December 19, 1941, "A" and D" Companies of the Winnipeg Grenadiers of Canada fought to stem the waves of Japanese troops attacking the strategic high ground on Mount Butler. After a vicious struggle the Canadians became divided. A group was driven downhill to Jardine's Lookout, where Company Sergeant Major John Osborn took charge of about 65 Grenadiers of "A" Company. Hand grenades were thrown at his group. Osborn responded by flinging these back at the enemy. One grenade was thrown which he could not pick up in time, and after shouting a warning he threw his body over it, thus saving the lives of several comrades. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military valour in the British Commonwealth.

Plaque at the Museum of Coastal Defence:

"This plaque is dedicated to all members of the Royal Rifles of Canada."

Near this site, on the night of December 18, 1941, invading Japanese forces were engaged by "C" Company, Royal Rifles of Canada, commanded by Major Wells Bishop. Fierce attacks had earlier silenced the artillery batteries and anti-aircraft guns. Counterattacks ensued, and after inflicting heavy casualties on the numerically superior invading force, the Canadians were forced to retire rather than allow themselves to become encircled. Major Bishop was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery in this action.

Plaque at St. Stephen’s College:

On Christmas Day 1941, this school building stood on the front line between the invading Japanese forces and those defending Stanley. It was, at that time, acting as an emergency hospital, and overflowing with medical personnel and wounded soldiers from Canada, Great Britain, Hong Kong and India. By the time the wave of war had passed through, many were dead.  An estimated 120 men and women were cremated on the lawn outside, and their ashes are buried where the St. Stephen's Memorial stands, in the Stanley Military Cemetery. Canadian soldiers who died in defence of Hong Kong are buried today, in the Sai Wan War Cemetery and Stanley Military Cemetery, where their sacrifice continues to be remembered.