Liberation of Hong Kong, 1945
Nearly 2,000 Canadians fought in the Battle of Hong Kong. I share the story of one of them in my book, Dickies From Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars.
Now they are all gone.
In November 2023, the last Canadian survivor of the Battle of Hong Kong passed away in Nova Scotia. Hormidas Fredette was 106. He was 13 years younger than Earl Dickie, and lived nearly twice as long.
According to Fredette’s obituary noted on his C-Force listing on HKVCA.ca, “He was the last of the veterans who fought so bravely in defense of Hong Kong and endured terrible capitivity in Japan. A true hero who will be greatly missed.”
Fredette was born in 1917 in Quebec. Like Earl, he joined the militia between the world wars, and signed up for service at the start of the Second World War. Fredette joined the Royal Rifles of Canada, and Earl joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers. Both units were sent to defend the British Colony of Hong Kong.
They surrendered on Christmas Day 1941, and were taken prisoner by the Japanese. They would spend nearly four years being malnourished, beaten and used as slave labour.
After the war, Fredette married his sweetheart, had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He worked for the CNR and a pulp and paper mill.
According to his obituary in the Globe and Mail (Veteran Hormidas Fredette was last Canadian survivor of the Battle of Hong Kong), Fredette did not talk about his terrible experiences until he was in his 90s, but his children remembered hearing his screams during the night. He also refused to accept Japan’s apology for their brutal treatment of him and his fellow prisoners of war.
As the last surviving member of the Hong Kong Veterans Association, Fredette shut down the association last year. The Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association lives on, committed to sharing the memory of these Canadian soldiers and their battle.
In January 1942, their families began the New Year anxiously awaiting news of their fate. Eighty-two years later, only the stories remain. In reading them, we remember them.