Wednesday 18 March 2015

What happened to 'A' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers on the night of 18th/19th Dec 1941

I have been interested in what happened to 'A' Coy Winnipeg Grenadiers when they were sent up towards JL/Mt Butler in the early hours on the night of the Japanese landings from their base around Little Hong Kong. The Coy was destroyed and suffered a large number of casualties. SM Osborne won the VC in the fighting retreat. 

In reading survivors accounts a lot of them had no idea where they were and some cite Jardines Lookout, some Mt Butler and some even suggest Violet Hill. However on the morning of 19th December they were seen by Lt Birkett's Platoon Sgt (Sgt. Tom Marsh) withdrawing down the hill to the right of his position at the AOP on top of Jardines Lookout. An officer from A Coy came over to find out who they were and complain that Birkett's platoon had fired on them. However by this time Birkett's platoon was also under attack from Japanese troops coming up the north face of Jardines Lookout.

This sighting by Birkett's Platoon put 'A' Coy on the ridge between Lt. Birkett (Jardines Lookout) and Lt French (the col between the two massifs of JL and Mt Butler). I went up to this spot with a friend equipped with metal detectors to seek evidence of this positioning and sure enough quickly found on the ridge line three Japanese 6.5 spent rounds and three charging clips. We also found parts of Japanese grenades. 

 Moving away from the ridge towards the south I was expecting to pick up Canadian rounds and I did - the one pictured is a 303 Bren gun fired Canadian spent round with the ejector mark obliterating the DAQ (Domnion Arsenal Quebec) but the 1940 showing up clearly. 

The hillside is very overgrown and difficult to get through but I believe if one can follow it down to Stanley Gap it will unfold more rounds and grenade parts along the line of withdrawal of 'A' Coy from the ridge. I think this demonstrates that 'A' Coy were not lost on Violet Hill but that they got to the watershed or ridge-line between Jardines Lookout and Mt Butler but as daylight broke found themselves face to face with a large body of Japanese troops just to the north of the ridge-line. 

One company and two platoons from the Winnipeg Grenadiers facing fearful odds.

"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods."

                                                                                    (Thomas Macaulay - The Lays of Ancient Rome)



  1. Hello Philip,

    I was reading the trial papers of Colonel Tanaka. In the trial papers, one of the witnesses( Banfill) mentions that a wounded 2/Lt of the HKSRA was executed by the Japanese on the trail leading to Stanley Gap from Mt Butler. I have a suspicion that the second lieutenant mentioned was 2/Lt Baron Platts . Is this theory possible?

    1. Hi: thanks for your message. Sgt Tom Marsh recalled seeing a British artillery officer when they reached the AOP. This may have been 2/Lt Platts in charge of the crew at the AOP. The officer withdrew perhaps to call in artillery fire. According to RA War Diary he was manning an AOP in the area of Jardines Lookout. He was killed earlier that morning, RAHQ had ordered an AOP party of one officer (Platts?) and four other ranks to assist the AA Battery at Stanley Gap which was under attack. I suspect he was killed much closer to Stanley Gap AA Battery. Philip

    2. The AOP I refer to is of course the one on the summit of JLO - it's still there today.