Rembering being a prisoner of war ...
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Corporal George Thomas Palmer
1941 - 1945
Hong Kong
Headquarters Company, 2nd Platoon, The Royal Rifles of Canada

"George was a real hero... he steadied the POWs down because he was so much older than the young guys. Since he was older and had lived in hard times, he could 'stand the gaff'. When people were ill-treated, beaten, starved, and shot in front of the group, he didn't get rattled. George would often do a 'turn' [if a friend was too sick or weak, George would step in and work their shift] for some of the men such as John Doiron. George would also tell the men to eat the maggots in the rice to get their protein. Many men told me that only for George Palmer, they would never have made it to the end of the war... he was a strong man."

- Rev. Francis Corcoran -

Arthur G. Penny states, "... no troops in the twentieth century - and certainly none in World War II - have been tested more terribly, more searchingly than were the Canadians at Hong Kong: men brave, intelligent, if you will, but all unused to combat and fighting within an area to which they were complete strangers. Nor have any other troops met such a test with greater credit to their country, to their military traditions and to themselves."

My grandfather was one of these men (a corporal with the Royal Rifles of Canada, Headquarters Company, Platoon 2) who fought in Hong Kong against the Japanese during WWII. He was one of 1,974 Canadians from the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers who were involved in the defence of Hong Kong alongside 12,000 other defenders - including naval and air force personnel and many non-combatants. The defenders had virtually no navy, air force, heavy artillery, or reinforcements to assist them. Facing them were approximately 60,000 battle-hardened, fully mechanized, fully reinforced, fanatical, tenacious Japanese troops, fresh from battles in China.

Most, if not all, of these Canadian soldiers had no previous battle experience. That is not to say they weren't ready; they were prepared. But, when the battle began, it had only been three weeks since they arrived in this totally unfamiliar environment far from their homes.

As the motto of the Royal Rifles dictates, our soldiers were Willing and Able men and women, surrendering only when told to do so by the Commander-in-Chief on Christmas Day, 1941, after fighting for 17 1/2 days. The Japanese Colonel who accepted the surrender, told the Canadian officers, "He had never known men could fight so hard."

- Michael Palmer -


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Unit Identification Patch
Shoulderpatch and badge of the Royal Rifles of Canada.

George Thomas Palmer

Above is a picture of the Japanese Camp Guards guarding George when he was a Prisoner Of War.

The following is the statement given by H.F-40192 Corporal Palmer, George Thomas, Royal Rifles of Canada taken at Headquarters, M.D, No. 6, Halifax, Nova Scotia January 7th, 1946

A. When and where were you captured?

Answer: 23rd December 1941 in the area of St. Alban's Convent, Hong Kong.

B. I show you a photograph attached hereto and marked Exhibit 'A'. Will you examine this photograph (click here to view photograph) and see if you can identify any of the Japanese in it?

Answer: Yes sir. The 3rd man from the left in the 2nd row of the photograph marked 'A'.

C. Do you know of any specific acts or omissions committed against yourself?

Answer: No sir.

D. Do you know of any specific acts or omissions of a specific nature against other Canadians?

Answer: Yes sir. The Jap marked 'A' in the photograph is the man who bayoneted C.S.W. Sheppard in the arm on the 30th or 31st of January 1944. On that occasion, a man fainted on parade and CSM Sheppard wanted to take him in and the Guard Commander said to bring him back. He then called Sheppard over and slapped his face and Sheppard kind of pushed him away. He then knocked Sheppard down with a stick and then bayoneted him in the arm. It was the left arm and he put Sheppard in the Guard Room for twenty one days. Sheppard got alright again and is home now at River Bend, Quebec.

The man marked 'B' the man 2nd from the left in the photograph was the Guard Commander. One day a man was standing at the door of the kitchen on a crutch and he did not salute him and he turned round and slapped his face.

The man 3rd from the right in the 3rd row and marked 'C' in the photograph was also a very bad Guard Commander against the Canadians.

E. Do you know of any acts or omissions of a general nature against Canadians such as general mistreatment, starvation, abuse, group punishment and lack of medical care, etc.?

Answer: That was always the conditions sir.

F. Do you know of any acts or omissions of a general or specific nature against other nationals?

Answer: No sir.