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At Valcartier one day we were issued with tropical uniforms and told, “You are going abroad. The regiment is going overseas, you have a week's leave to go home and say good bye to your folks.” And when we returned, we received brand new tropical uniforms and that came as a surprise because we thought we were going to England. And when we got these tropical uniforms we thought then well, perhaps we're going to the desert to join the British 8th Army. But when we boarded the train, the train went to the west instead of to Halifax. And when we asked our officers, “Where are they going?” They said, “Well, we don't know but we'll open our sealed orders when we get at sea.” So we went to Vancouver, boarded our troop ship, the ship left and in the second or third day at sea we were informed we were going to Hong Kong. Well we knew nothing about Hong Kong. And we were just amazed at this modern, beautiful Chinese city - Kowloon on the mainland and Victoria on the island. And so, we immediately went into the Sham Shui Po barracks with the British Army.

While training in Val Cartier, Mr. MacDonell recounts how the soldiers were issued tropical dress, having no idea of their destination. Once heading West, they suspected Hong Kong.

George MacDonell

Mr. MacDonell was born in Edmonton, Alberta on August 15, 1922. He lost his parents at an early age and was raised by his uncle and family. In 1939, he ran away from home and made the decision to join the army. Mr. MacDonell served as Company Sergeant Major during the Battle of Hong Kong and in 1941 was captured and was a POW for four years. Post-military, Mr. MacDonell earned his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto and went on to have a successful business career. Mr. MacDonell is very active in his city and very proud of having served. Mr. MacDonell is retired and resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
George MacDonell
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Rifles of Canada
Vehicle Technician

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