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Hong Kong

Taken from a newspaper cutting - date unknown - but clearly shortly before the surrender to the Japanese on 25th December 1941

Nearly 10,000 sea miles from London the long expected ordeal of Hong Kong, nearest British base to the heart of the Japanese Empire and for years enviously and bitterly coveted by Tokyo, has begun.

The garrison has already fallen back from some of the advanced posts in the colony's triple lines of defence. Air reinforcements, if they can be spared, may be flown from Singapore, roughly 1,500 miles to the south-west, and the Chinese armies of Chiang Kai-shek are marching on Canton to take the Japanese in the rear.But, until the British and American fleets can join forces, Hong Kong must largely look to its own artillery, anti-aircraft guns, rock shelters, food supplies and hoarded water to enable it to resist the triple threat of air and land attack and sea blockade.

Greatest Port

For a hundred years, Hong Kong (originally known as Hiang Kiang - 'the place of sweet lagoons') has been part of the British Empire. Its prosperity has steadily grown until in 1921 the late Lord Balfour could claim to the Washington Conference that Hong Kong with its 17 miles of waterfront and its docks, in which the largest battleships could lie up for repairs, was the greatest port in the world - more prosperous even than the pre-1914 Hamburg. Great fortunes were made there.

Hong Kong is unique in character and appearance, an island citadel of ragged mountains and sheer cliffs reflected in the deep, blue waters of landlocked harbours, with the city of Victoria, of over half a million inhabitants, crowded in the narrow space between mountains and foreshore.

Across the great harbour lies Kowloon on the mainland. Here the decisive battle for Hong Kong must be fought. If that town is taken by the Japanese, the harbour and town on Hong Kong island can be pounded unmercifully by Japanese artillery.

Hong Kong covers two-thirds the aea of the Isle of Wight and is as big as Middlesex. After 1921, when under the Treaty of Washington, Britain promised that Hong Kong should not become a first class naval base and the defences of the island were neglected. Then in 1937, when the Treaty had been denounced by Japan, General Ironside arrived on the scene with orders to transform Hong Kong into a modest kind of Far Eastern Gibraltar.

Eight million pounds were spent on fortifications. The island, its population swollen to more than a million by an influx of Chinese refugees from the Japanese terror on the mainland, prepared for the war which every white man in the Far East had for years known to be inevitable, and now Hong Kong is in the front line.

Obvious Peril

Its peril is obvious and considerable. It is the nearest point to Japan of that powerful strategic triangle of the anti-Axis Powers: Singapore, Manila and Hong Kong.

Manila, the American base, equally threatened by the Japanese, is 634 miles to the south-east. Singapore is 1,500 miles away. Japanese land forces are assembled in strength at Canton, 70 miles to the north and their advanced columns are even now feeling their way into Hong Kong's outer defences on the Kowloon peninsula.

In Southern Formosa, 380 miles to the east, is the powerful Japanese air and naval base of Tako.

Obviously a determined effort will be made to preserve Hong Kong for the Allies. If it remains in our hands, the British and American Fleets will be able to conduct from it operations against the mainland of Japan.