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Port Arthur Branch No. 5 unveils plaque honouring troops who defended Hong Kong during World War II

The unveiling also had a side display of World War II military items from Hong Kong for visitors to observe

THUNDER BAY — Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 5, along with the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association, unveiled a plaque Sunday afternoon that is dedicated to 2,000 troops who defended Hong Kong during World War II including the father of Darlene Axent Gilmore. 

“I belong to the Hong Kong Veterans Association, my dad was a prisoner of war in Hong Kong for the approximately four years and they got in touch with me and asked if we would like to have a plaque here locally to commemorate the fellows that were in Hong Kong and of course I said yes,” Gilmore said at the unveiling. 

“So, I got in touch with the legion here and they were more than happy to accommodate that, so we've been planning this for a while and now it's come to the day when we dedicate it, and it will be on permanent display here at branch.” 

Like many others during the Second World War, Gilmore’s father was a young man when enrolled in the military and Gilmore says that he and others had no idea what they were in for overseas; her father was only in Hong Kong for a few weeks before the city surrendered, and he and others spent the four years and eight months as prisoners of war. 

“Basically, it was not very nice the way they were treated, they were starved, they were beaten, it was slave labor and a lot of them passed away in the camp. Then those that came back, they never really got over it, he never spoke of what happened,” Gilmore said.  

“The only time he would ever talk a little bit about it was when some of his comrades were together, but even then, it was very, very little that that he would talk about and so, so I never really knew a lot about what happened.” 

George Romick, president of the Port Arthur Branch No. 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, said that he and other executives agreed right away to install the plaque when Gilmore approached them with her request. 

“Basically, the Hong Kong battle was probably the first battles that the Canadians were involved in. Nobody thought when the Canadians went over there that the Japanese would attack,” he said. 

“So again, as I mentioned earlier in the presentation, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, that's the same date that the Garrison at the Hong Kong was attacked by 50,000 Japanese against basically 12,000 British and Canadians and New Zealanders at that time.” 

Gilmore said that she hopes this plaque will help people remember local military history and the effects it still has on families in the community. 

“I think every war, every battle has, you know, it takes on a personal aspect, if you have someone who was involved in it and so this one for me is, and my family, you know, it's struck home because we lived through what happened for the rest of my dad's life,  

“And so, it helps to know that it's just not going to be in the history books; there's a one or two paragraphs and then forgotten about, because I think it's important that the young people know that these things happened to their family members as well as strangers, so that hopefully, no one ever has to go through this again.” 

The plaque will remain on permanent display in the Port Arthur branch #5 headquarters. 

Justin Hardy

About the Author: Justin Hardy

Justin Hardy is a reporter born and raised in the Northwest.
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