December 25

This Day in History

World War II

Dec 25, 1941:

British surrender Hong Kong

On this day, the British garrison in Hong Kong surrenders to the Japanese.

Hong Kong was a British Crown colony whose population was overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese. It was protected by a garrison force composed of British, Canadian, and Indian soldiers. The British government, anticipating a Japanese attack, had begun evacuating women and children on June 30, sending them to Manila, capital of the Philippines. The Japanese had responded to the evacuation by posting troops across the Kowloon peninsula, blocking escape from Hong Kong by land.

One day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began their raid on Hong Kong as part of their broad imperial designs on China and the South Pacific. The British governor, Sir Mark Young, mobilized his forces, which were slim, and his weaponry, which was antiquated. Within two weeks, Japanese envoys issued an ultimatum-surrender or perish. The governor sent the envoys back with a definite refusal. Consequently, the Japanese followed up with a land invasion on the 18th of December. Ordered to take no prisoners, the Japanese rounded up captured soldiers and bayoneted them to death.

Continued bombing raids severed water mains, and Japanese infantry took control of remaining reservoirs, as well as the power station, leaving the British with the threat of death by thirst. Despite cries from the governor to "hold fast for King and Empire," no further resistance was possible by the dwindling garrison forces. On 3:30 p.m. Christmas Day, white flags of surrender were flown.

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