Nov 12 2006

Remembrance of a lost cause

Published by at 10:12 pm under Current Events,Globe and Post

Remembrance Day has passed. By November 12, most people have likely already tossed away their poppies.

But reminders of what the day is about are still with us, not only in Canada.

In a lush park near the financial heart of Hong Kong, there is a statue of Warrant Officer John Robert Osborn of the Winnipeg Grenadiers.

I came upon it quite by accident a year ago, wandering through as a tourist. I remember looking with curiosity at the inscription on the bronze memorial. Having served with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles infantry unit in my younger days, I felt some kinship with the Canadian soldiers who had gone there long ago.

The story of the defeat of the Hong Kong garrison by Imperial Japanese forces is well-known to most Canadians with even a passing knowledge of the Second World War. The outgunned force of green troops had little chance against the battle-hardened Japanese.

It was a lost cause, but the previous experience of the Japanese occupation in the rest of China must have given the soldiers and the city’s citizens some inkling of the pillage, rape and terror that was to follow. There could have been no other choice than to attempt the fight.

Do Canadians have a habit of taking on lost causes? Most Canadian war or peacekeeping efforts of the last century or so seem to have gotten bogged down in stalemate or a shaky, contentious status quo. From Korea to Bosnia to Afghanistan, our efforts are rarely rewarded with outright victory.

Still, even when the cause already seems lost, good deeds can be done – and remembered.<

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