Canadian Virtual War Memorial

John Robert Osborn

In memory of
Warrant Officer Class II
John Robert Osborn
December 19, 1941

Military Service:

Service Number:
H/6008
Age:
42
Force:
Army
Unit:
Winnipeg Grenadiers, R.C.I.C.
Citation(s):
The citation in the London Gazette of 1st April, 1946 :
At Hong Kong, on 19th December, 1941, a company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers became divided in an attack on Mount Butler. A part of the company led by C.S.M. Osborn captured the hill at bayonet point, but after three hours owing to the superior numbers of the enemy the position became untenable. C.S.M. Osborn and a small group covered the withdrawal and when their turn came to fall back he single-handed engaged the enemy, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire to cover their retirement. Later the Company was cut off and completely surrounded. Several enemy grenades were thrown which C.S.M. Osborn picked up and threw back. When one landed in a position where it was impossible to pick it up, he threw himself upon it and was instantly killed. His self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. C.S.M. Osborn was an inspiring example to all throughout the defence, and in his death he displayed the highest qualities of heroism and self-sacrifice.
Honours and Awards:
Victoria Cross

Additional Information:

Born:
January 2, 1899 Foulden, Norfolk, United Kingdom
Enlistment:
September 4, 1939 Winnipeg, Manitoba

Son of John Robert and Harriet Sussana Osborn. Husband of Margaret Elizabeth Osborn, of St. Vital, Manitoba. He served in the First World War as a seaman in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and saw action at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. At the end of the war he moved to Saskatchewan where he farmed for two years at Wapella. He then worked with the maintenance division of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Manitoba where he married and had five children. He joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers in 1933 and was called to active duty on the 3rd of September 1939. At forty-two years of age he was the second oldest VC recipient in the Second World War. There is no known grave but his name appears on the Sai Wan Memorial in Hong Kong. His medal is on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Commemorated on Page 40 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. Request a copy of this page.

John Robert Osborn is a recipient of the Victoria Cross.
Complete list of Canadian Victoria Cross Recipients

Burial Information:

Cemetery:
SAI WAN MEMORIAL ; Victoria, Hong Kong
Grave Reference:
Column 25.
Location:
This SAI WAN MEMORIAL honours over 2000 men of the land forces of the British Commonwealth and Empire who died in the defence of Hong Kong during the Second World War. The SAI WAN MEMORIAL is in the form of a shelter building 24 metres long and 5.5 metres wide. It stands at the entrance to Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery, outside Victoria, the capital of Hong Kong. From the semi-circular forecourt, two wide openings lead to the interior of the building. The names are inscribed on panels of Portland stone. The dedicatory inscription reads:
1939 - 1945 The officers and men whose memory is honoured here died in the defence of Hong Kong in December 1941 and in the ensuing years of captivity and have no known grave The northern side of the Memorial is open and four granite piers support the copper roof. From a commanding position 305 metres above sea level, it looks out over the War Cemetery where some 1,500 men lie buried, and across the water to Mainland China - a magnificent view of sea and mountains. The Cape Collinson area has many cemeteries. Walking up this narrow one-way traffic road, one will pass the Catholic Cemetery situated on the hillside to the left of the road, and the Hong Kong Military Cemetery on the right. Sai Wan War Cemetery is about half way up Cape Collinson Road and faces the Muslim and Buddhist cemeteries. One can also get a taxi from Chai Wan Terminus and follow the same route. Alternatively, one can board a public light bus, Route No.16M, which runs from Chai Wan MTR Terminus to Stanley. En route to Stanley the minibus will pass Saiwan War Cemetery.

Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Digital Collection

Send us your images
  • Photo of JOHN ROBERT OSBORN – In memory of those who served in Hong Kong during World War 11 and did not come home. Submitted with permission on behalf of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association by Operation: Picture Me.
  • Newspaper Clipping – In memory of the men and women memorialized on the pages of the Winnipeg Evening Tribune. Submitted for the project, Operation: Picture Me
  • Photo of John Robert Osborn
  • Newspaper Clipping – Company Sergeant Major JOHN ROBERT OSBORN is was reported to have been Killed in Action in the Canadian Army's 242nd overseas casualty list of the war published in the Globe and Mail on January 8, 1943.
  • Canada and the Defence of Hong Kong – Source: Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Canadian Casuatlies in the Defence of Hong Kong – Source: Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Memorial Plaque – John Osborn VC Memorial - Hong Kong Park
  • Monument – Monument was designed, manufactured & installed by Brunet Monuments back in Dec. 19, 1991.  Made of three different types of granite interlocked together. The monument was dedicated by his comrades to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his acts of heroism.  Event was attended by Osborn's family and surviving veterans of the Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada - Manitoba Branch.  It is placed inside the Tower building of the Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg, MB.  The Tower Building was renamed "John Osborn VC Tower" in honor of the WW II heroes.
  • Monument – John Osborn VC Memorial - Hong Kong Park
  • Memorial – Company Sergeant Major JOHN ROBERT OSBORN is one of 20 members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps who are commemorated on this panel of the Sai Wan Memorial.  He was one of 290 Canadian soldiers killed during the defense of Hong Kong, from December 8th to December 25th, 1941.
  • Dedicatory Inscription of the Sai Wan Memorial – Dedicatory inscription of the SAI WAN MEMORIAL.  This memorial  bears the names of more than 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen, including 228 Canadians.
  • Cenotaph – Barrie Military Park, Canadian Victoria Cross Recipients, Cenotaph
  • Unknown Marker – The Sai Wan Memorial is located at the entrance of Sai Wan Cemetery.  1,505 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War are buried or commemorated at this  cemetery, of which 444 of the burials are the remains of unidentified soldiers, including those of 107 Canadian soldiers, most of whom were killed or died of wounds during the defense of Hong Kong, which took place from December 8th to December 25th, 1941. This is one such grave marker.  There is a possibility that the remains of Company Sergeant Major JOHN ROBERT OSBORN lie beneath this grave marker, or one of the other 106 grave markers in Sai Wan Cemetery that simply read, A SOLDIER OF THE 1939-1945 WAR.  A  CANADIAN REGIMENT.  KNOWN UNTO GOD.  The unidentified soldiers are commemorated at the Sai Wan Memorial.

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