On 8 December 1941, eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces launched an invasion of the British colony of Hong Kong. Defending the territory were some 12,000 British, Indian Army and locally-raised troops, as well as two battalions of newly-arrived Canadian Infantry. Outnumbered and with their air support destroyed, Commonwealth forces were quickly driven back. By 12 December, they had been forced to retreat from the mainland to Hong Kong island.

Japanese aircraft and artillery bombarded the island before an amphibious infantry assault was launched on the night of 18 December. Over the following days and nights, a fierce battle raged throughout the streets, woodlands and hillsides of Hong Kong. Increasingly exhausted and running low on ammunition and supplies, Commonwealth troops fought on, but with little chance of escape or relief they were forced to surrender on the morning of Christmas Day, 25 December 1941.

During the battle, Commonwealth forces suffered some 4,200 wounded, missing or dead, while most of the survivors were taken prisoner of war. Today, at cemeteries and memorials around Hong Kong the CWGC commemorates more than 5,800 Commonwealth servicemen and women of the Second World War, of whom nearly 600 remain unidentified. Some 1,500 of those commemorated died during the battle of Hong Kong in December 1941.

related Cemeteries & Memorials

Sai Wan War Cemetery contains the graves and memorials of more than 1,490 Commonwealth servicemen and women of the Second World War, of whom 440 remain unidentified. Also commemorated in the cemetery are more than 70 Dutch and five American Servicemen and 12 Indian Army servicemen of the First World War. At the entrance to the cemetery stands the Sai Wan Memorial which bears the names of more than 2,000 servicemen and women of the Second World War who died in Hong Kong or subsequently in captivity and who have no known grave.

Stanley Military Cemetery contains more than 590 Commonwealth servicemen and women of the Second World War, of whom more than 170 remain unidentified. Also commemorated in the cemetery are more than 90 non-war graves of civilians, many of whom died during the battle of Hong Kong or subsequently in captivity.