“At age twenty-five, James Andrew Flanagan began an adventure he believed might add a little excitement to his life…..his exciting journey quickly turned into a never-ending nightmare.” So begins author Andy Flanagan in his introduction to a little told part of WWII: the Battle of Hong Kong that started just hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and ended on December 25th, 1941. Fought mainly by Canadian troops, the Japanese overpowered the small contingent (who only had their rifles, no tanks) sent to help evacuate Hong Kong.
The survivors, Andrew Flanagan among them, were taken captive and were eventually taken to the island of Japan where they (if still alive) finished out the war.
Born in St. Margaret’s (near Miramichi, NB) and raised in Jacquet River, Andrew (or “Ando” as he was called) was one of 200 New Brunswick soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong. One-third would never return home.
“Don’t be fooled, don’t let anyone romance war” he would tell anyone who listened after returning home. While The Endless Battle does not analyze the battle itself, it gives enough background information to lead into the aftermath that Ando was involved in: the horrors the Japanese committed to the surrendering troops and hospital staff and patients (many were bayonetted as they lay helpless in their sick beds), and the confinement in atrocious conditions. Ando swore he would never eat rice again.
“Many of the returning men would not speak of the horrors they had endured. That was how they handled the memories. I, however, felt compelled to do the opposite.”
The true value of The Endless Battle is the first-hand accounts of Ando as he worked and fought to survive against all odds. He kept journals, but the Japanese would confiscate them from time to time. No matter, Ando would remember everything: every abusive guard, every scrounged meal, every type of work he was forced to do over four years of imprisonment.
Filled with photos and lists of those who served in the Royal Rifles of Canada at the Battle of Hong Kong, this book is another important addition (this volume 24) to the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series published by Goose Lane Editions. Other editions previously reviewed here were:
- Letters from Beauly: Pat Hennessy and the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland, 1940-1945 by Melynda Jarratt
- Till the Boys Come Home: Life on the Home Front in Queens County, NB, 1914-1918 by Curtis Mainville