An induction of the book
“Dark Side of the Sun”
A Hong Kong Battle and POW Journey
By Paul K.P. Wong
November 11, 2010
Sixty-nine years ago
Grandma & Grandpa Palmer in 1941Wedding Day.
(L to R) Graham Boudreau & George Palmer in 1941.
“Dark Side of the Sun”
Uncovering the secret, untold details of the horrific experiences in a Japanese POW camp during WWII halfway around the globe involving 700 POWs (Americans, Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch) would be impressive even for the most ardent historians and professional authors. It’s even more impressive when someone does it with no previous research or writing background and who is an accountant by day.
Michael Palmer’s debut book, “Dark Side of the Sun” (published in 2010 by Borealis Press www.borealispress.com), chronicles the horror-filled journey of his grandfather during the battle of Hong Kong and the untold story of the reign of terror at the Omine POW camp in Japan.
Less than eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour, Michael’s grandfather, George Palmer from PEI, and 1,973 other Canadians from the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers (C Force) began their desperate defense of Hong Kong against the advancing Imperial Japanese Army.
Michael Palmer, the author.
It had only been three weeks since the Canadians arrived. The Hong Kong defenders were only 14,000 strong (including Chinese, British, Indian, and Canadian soldiers), with virtually no navy, air force, heavy artillery or reinforcements to assist them.
Facing them were approximately 60,000 battle-hardened, mechanized, fanatical, tenacious Japanese troops, fresh from battles in China.
Palmer and the other Canadian defenders would be the first Canadian army units to engage the Axis in the Second World War during the three-week terror-filled battle of Hong Kong.
The cover of the book
For a grandson only wanting to uncover the simple truth about his grandfather’s experiences, “Dark Side of the Sun” certainly exceeded expectations. Aside from being available in stores across Canada, it’s received much press and acclaim in newspapers and magazines across the nation, it was nominated for a national Governor General’s Literary Award, it’s being used as a character study in an English course (ENGL 233) at the University of Calgary, it’s been selected for inclusion and Michael was invited to the 2010 15th Annual International Writers Festival in Calgary/Banff along with 73 published and award-winning authors from around the world, and, lastly, it’s been featured on regional and national CBC programs and on the national Omni television news broadcast across Canada.
Anyone who is interested in this book may contact:
email@example.com for the details and price.
An Introduction of “Hong Kong Diary Revisited - The Family Remembers”
Paul K.P. Wong
November 11, 2010
“Hong Kong Diary Revisited - The Family Remembers” is a remarkable personal/historical record about the Canadian soldiers against the Japanese Army’s invasion in 1941 in Hong Kong. It was published by the family of Corrigan in November, 2008.
The cover of the book.
Who Was Lieutenant Leonard B. Corrigan?
Leonard was born in Whitewood, Saskatchewan in 1911, and was a lifelong resident in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. In 1933, he married Gladys Voldahl from Braddock, Saskatchewan. In 1941, Leonard was 30 years old, athletic and in good health. He worked at the Swift Current Post Office. He and Gladys had two daughters, Paddy age 7, and Shelagh age 2.
Background to the Diary
Leonard volunteered to join the South Saskatchewan Regiment and took officer training in Victoria, BC in the summer of 1941 to become a 2nd Lieutenant. He was assigned to 8th Hussars (Recce) in Farnham, Quebec.
In October 1941, he volunteered for transfer to the Winnipeg Grenadiers when it asked for replacements. 1,974 Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles left for the Canadian west coast on October 25, 1941, where they were shipped out to an unknown destination. The Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles arrived in the British Colony of Hong Kong on November 16, 1941.
In Hong Kong, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles joined the Empire Brigade, forming a 1000 man contingent under British Command to defend the colony, with representation from Canada, Scotland, England and India.
Kathie Carlson, the publisher.
Leonard was stationed on Hong Kong Island at Wong Nei Chong Gap - the Empire Brigade Headquarters. Troop training was minimal, the equipment and supplies were almost non-existent. What the troops did not know was that Sir Winston Churchill had declared the Colony of Hong Kong could not be defended against a Japanese Invasion. Yet, the Canadian Government sent the poorly trained and under equipped brigade anyway. The British felt the Brigade would act as a deterrent to a Japanese invasion of its colony of Hong Kong, and thought any possible invasion would come by sea.
On December 7th 1941, the same day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and Singapore, a well equipped, well trained and seasoned Japanese army, over 50,000 troops, bombarded and crossed over the Hong Kong boarder from mainland China to invade the British Colony of Hong Kong by land. The mainland portion of the colony was overcome in a matter of hours but the battle in the hills on Hong Kong Island, where Leonard was stationed, lasted for 17 days. On Christmas Day 1941, the British Commanders surrendered to the Japanese seeing that further fighting was fruitless as supplies and munitions had run out. Leonard and the other Canadian survivors were held in the Sham Shui Po Prisoner of War Camp on Hong Kong Island for 3 years and 8 months.
Early on, there was little information on what had happened to the Canadian troops in Hong Kong and it was several months until Gladys heard second-hand that Leonard had survived. However, official word did not arrive until after the first year, and all letters were returned undelivered. Conditions in the camp were characterized by overcrowding, abuse, poor diet, malnutrition, dysentery, diseases, starvation, and slave labour. Many did not survive the 3 year 10 months imprisonment and most suffered life-long ailments and complications of the diseases from the squalid conditions, poor treatment and malnutrition.
In 1942, some prisoners were shipped out from Hong Kong, (enduring extremely squalid conditions during transport) to work as slave labourers in Japanese mines and ship yards. Many did not survive the transport and subsequent harsh conditions. Leonard was fortunate to remain in Hong Kong. As an officer he was not required to work for food but often went to work to help out the enlisted men.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles were the first Canadians to engage in battle in the Pacific in World War II, and they were the last to be liberated and returned to Canada not until October 1945, some 4 years after they embarked.
The published book includes background information and letters exchanged between Leonard and Gladys, many of which were returned undelivered in the early years of the war. In Chapter 20, the family’s observations of life before and after WWII are included.
In the book, Leonard’s Diary is published unedited. The diary reflects the language of the war years – exactly what Lt. Leonard B. Corrigan wrote. He was an officer and was treated better than the enlisted men, particularly the soldiers who were later sent to Japan to work in the mines. In the diary he doesn’t dwell on the hardships. When Leonard left Canada he was thirty, in good physical condition, which gave him an edge in facing the mental and physical hardships of being a prisoner of war. He lost over sixty pounds while a prisoner, and had health problems the rest of his life. Much of the prisoner’s lives revolved around food, or the lack of it – and this Leonard thought difficult to read, but it was what they had to cope with and endure every day. It was also day to day observations of the events of war and the impact of internment.
This is the only diary we know of that was written by a Canadian Officer. Parts of the diary were buried around the Prisoner of War camp – and later found to have disintegrated when they were dug up. He had help from fellow prisoners to get the remaining diaries out of camp on his long journey home. Leonard would likely have been executed had the diaries been found by the Japanese. They were told on board the ship on their way home that they would be court-martialled if the contents of any diaries were made public.
Why publish now?
For over 60 years the Corrigan Family held the diary intact, but more recently, the few surviving members of the Hong Kong Veteran’s Association strongly encouraged the family to publish the diary because it has historical significance. Because most people still do not know that in l94l, the Canadian Government sent 1974 poorly trained and equipped Canadians to defend Hong Kong – even though the British had said the Colony could not be defended against a Japanese invasion.
Because, even today, it is still timely and comforting to share with, relate to, and to help other families who have, and who are currently experiencing the ongoing consequences of their parents absence, and consequences of their parents experiences during conflict and war.
The Prisoners of War didn’t return until after Hong Kong was liberated later in l945. The Winnipeg Grenadiers were the first Canadians to be in active combat in the Pacific. They were some of the last Canadian soldiers to be liberated and returned to Canada not until October 1945.
The returning veterans then had to fight their own government for proper health care, pensions and understanding. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the medical community even understood what diseases and parasites the Hong Kong veterans had lived with, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.
In 1952, the Canadian government released the Japanese government from being required to compensate the Hong Kong Veterans for slave labour for nearly four years, which gravely upset the veterans. The first Victoria Cross was awarded to John Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers.
After World War II
Leonard and Gladys had two more daughters, Kathie and Mik. Leonard became the Swift Current Post Office Postmaster. He retired from the Post Office after 46 years of public service and continued to live in Swift Current until his death in 1994. His platoon respectively referred to him as the fighting Irishman. He was a respected, hard working community leader, involved with many service clubs. He played saxophone and Gladys played piano in the dance band, the “Serenaders Orchestra” that entertained Swift Current residents for many years.
Gladys was active in many sports and is a member of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. She passed away in 1979. The hand written Diary is now preserved in the archives of the War Museum in Winnipeg.
Today, the four Corrigan sisters are: Mrs. Pat Turcotte, Mississauga, Ontario；Mrs. Shelagh Purcell, Cobourg, Ontario；Mrs. Kathie Carlson, Lethbridge, Alberta and Mrs. Mik Bergersen, Pincher Creek, Alberta.
To obtain a copy
Since self-published the book by his family in November 2008, it is not available in book stores at the present time. To obtain a copy, please contact the website at firstname.lastname@example.org.