Acrimonious and often virulent debate surrounds examinations of the Canadian expeditionary force dispatched to Hong Kong in the fall of 1941. The tragic fate of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers in the battle for Hong Kong and their horrendous treeatment at the hands of the Japanese following the surrender of the garrison has polarized opinion. Generally, historical treatment has ranged from C.P. Stacey’s and J.L. Granatstein’s considered assessments of the contemporary difficulties facing the political and military leaders to the Valour and the Horror’s and Carl Vincent's accusations of negilgence among Canada’s political and military leadership.
Major-General H.D.G. “Harry” Crerar was the Chief of the General Staff, the government’s chief military advisor and senior army officer, when the British telegram requesting “one or two” Canadian battalions for Hong Kong was received. “[The] Canadian Army,” advised Crerar after several days of deliberation with his political masters, “should definitely take this on.” The accepted historical perception has been that his strategic counsel was made in ignorance of the conditions of the situation in the Far East. Questions subsequently raised on the state of training of the two battalions chosen for the expedition further enhanced the belief that Crerar’s actions were hasty and ill-considered.
Despite criticisms based on the unforgiving perspective provided by hindsight, Harry Crerar’s role in these decisions has been subject to only limited scrutiny. A closer examination of Crerar’s background and training reveals a carefully constructed logic in his approach. Placing the decision within the framework of Crerar’s training and education suggests that the three most important elements in his evaluation were a reasoned analysis of the contemporary strategic situation in the Far East, his long-term objectives for the army, and the reality of the state of the army’s training.
"Crerar and the Decision to Garrison Hong Kong,"
Canadian Military History: Vol. 3
, Article 12.
Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol3/iss1/12