The occupation lasted for three years and eight months until Japan surrendered at the end of World War II. The length of this period (in Cantonese, 三年零八個月; Sam Nin Ling Bat Goh Yuet; «three years and eight months» later became a metonymy of the occupation.
It was August 15, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered and the Colony was formally handed over to the Royal Navy on August 30.
Colonial Secretary Franklin Gimson announced the restoration of British rule on August 28 and two days later the RN fleet, led by Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt, entered Victoria Harbour.
The 10,000-odd Japanese soldiers in HK were interred at Shamshuipo – where they’d previously held the Allied PoWs – and within a few months all the Japanese, apart from those suspects of the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police) who were held for investigation by the International Military Tribunal, were sent back to Japan.
On September 16, Commander Carr, RN, escorted senior Japanese officers to Government House where they signed the surrender of all Japanese forces in China.
The document was signed by Imperial Japanese Army Major General Umekichi Okada, Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Ruitaro Fujita and Rear Admiral Cecil H J Harcourt, RN, who from September 1945 to June 1946 was the de facto governor of Hong Kong as commander-in-chief and head of the military administration.
When Hong Kong was finally in the hands of the Allies mom said that they met an American officer who gave Lindy a bar of chocolate. Lindy turned to her mother and said, “Mama, what’s this?”
The officer was so shocked that a little kid didn’t know what a bar of chocolate was that he got quite emotional and his eyes started tearing up 🙁
Liberating Hong Kong
by Kwong Chi Man
When the news that Japan might accept the Potsdam Declaration reached the Allied powers before dawn on 11 August, British, Chinese (nationalist and communist) and American forces in China all raced to control Hong Kong. Rear-Admiral Cecil Harcourt sailed a British task force toward Hong Kong in support of an order to re-establish British rule. (Intelligence agents of the British Army Aid Group carried this order from the British Embassy at Chongqing through the neutral Portuguese colony of Macau and finally to Franklin Gimson, Hong Kong’s Colonial Secretary, who was interned in Stanley.) Meanwhile, General Wedemeyer, the C-in-C of the American forces in China, tried to fly to Hong Kong to arrange the surrender of the Japanese garrison. His plane, however, was interned at Canton by the Japanese, as they were unsure to whom they should surrender.
When the news that Japan might accept the Potsdam Declaration reached the Allied powers before dawn on 11 August, British, Chinese (nationalist and communist) and American forces in China all raced to control Hong Kong. Rear-Admiral Cecil Harcourt sailed a British task force toward Hong Kong in support of an order to re-establish British rule. (Intelligence agents of the British Army Aid Group carried this order from the British Embassy at Chungking through the neutral Portuguese colony of Macao and finally to Franklin Gimson, Hong Kong’s Colonial Secretary, who was interned in Stanley. Meanwhile, General Wedemeyer, the C-in-C of the American forces in China, tried to fly to Hong Kong to arrange the surrender of the Japanese garrison. His plane, however, was interned at Canton by the Japanese, as they were unsure to whom they should surrender.
The British and the Chinese Nationalist governments claimed the right to accept a Japanese surrender in Hong Kong, and both turned to U.S. President Harry S. Truman for support. Truman decided to support the British claim, as long as they would allow Chinese and American forces to use Hong Kong as a springboard to reach other parts of China. The issue of sovereignty would be addressed later. Chiang Kai-shek thus lost the diplomatic battle and the troops he sent to Hong Kong would arrive too late to make a difference on the ground.
When the Japanese emperor announced his acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on 15 August, Japanese forces in Hong Kong were ordered to maintain public order and defend themselves. For more than a week, looting engulfed the city, while local Chinese leaders struggled to maintain order with the Japanese and the triads. Meanwhile, dozens of Chinese Communist guerrillas (the East River Column) attacked the Japanese outposts in the New Territories from 18 August, with the goal of controlling the area and seizing the arms of the Japanese forces. These attacks were repelled, but in one case the retaliating Japanese troops murdered a number of villagers in Lantau.
Back in Stanley, Gimson and other interned officials began to imagine the shape of a provisional government. After receiving the British government’s order from Macao on 23 August, he negotiated with the Japanese and was allowed to establish a headquarters at Central. By then, it was clear that Hong Kong would be surrendered to the British forces. Gimson, with the aid of other internees and POWs, maintained some essential services and public order before Harcourt’s fleet would arrive on 30 August.
Food was in dangerously short supply, even though the population had fallen by two-thirds, to 500,000–600,000. Britain was acutely aware of the problem and its South East Asia Command (SEAC) launched Operation Armour to ship troops, food and supplies to Hong Kong in mid-August. An RAF engineers unit and a commando brigade were diverted to Hong Kong. The former swiftly restored the essential services and communications and the latter took over the New Territories on 14 September. Harcourt’s fleet brought urgently needed coal and other supplies. The SEAC also arranged rice and food convoys from Burma, India, Thailand and Australia in the following months, saving the ex-colony from certain starvation.
On 16 September, the Japanese forces in Hong Kong surrendered to Harcourt. A week earlier (on 7 September, coincidentally the same date that the Nationalist troops arrived in Canton), David MacDougall returned to Hong Kong with the HKPU to establish a military administration. Together with the interned officials and the members of the British Army Aid Group, the unit re-established British rule and restored economic activities. This success helped secure Hong Kong’s position in international trade and industry in Asia in the coming decades, especially as other Chinese cities were in chaos. The Planning Unit considered many reform programs during the war, including political reforms to allow more Chinese participation. One consensus was that the pre-war laissez-faire style of governance had to be abandoned and the post-war government should respond quickly to citizens’ needs. This set the tone of the British rule in Hong Kong from 1945 to 1997, a period when the British control of the territory was never seriously contested.
[Souce: End of Empire]
Celebrations in Hong Kong after it was liberated …
I cannot imagine how happy my parents were to come through the war with their family intact. The only sad thing was that Baba Manya died just two months before the Japanese surrendered – I don’t know how long Victor Petrovich lasted afterwards but I think he died soon afterwards.
The streets were full of celebrating people and there were fireworks over the harbour at night 😀
My mother never told me that she’d received these two letters commending her for helping her friends who were in the PoW camps in Shamshuipo and Stanley. I only found them when going through her things after her death.
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Liberation of Hong Kong
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