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We Hadn’t a Chance at All

Heroes Remember

We Hadn’t a Chance at All

By this time, the major was sending more men to me. There was those people, like there was Indians, East Indians that were policemen or they were working in there, had no place to go so therefore they’d go to the unit. The unit commander would send them to major, my major, and then to report to Sergeant Bérard up there. And I had 68 men by this time instead of 34. And they did very well. Consequently, too busy to think a little what was happening on the mainland. I knew about the Gin Drinker’s Line, British situation there. But, anyway, when I heard that they had landed at North Point, I’d studied the maps as much as possible. It was hard to get a map in those days. The way we were taught in the service in Canada, before we left, we knew when we were to see the map, you could tell or do whatever you wanted. But over there, it was hard. And although they came very close, they were about a thousand yards away, my position was pretty well intact. My company commander was in front down below and that was a real bad situation down there. Even the other platoon commanders, the other two platoon commanders were really afraid of what was going to happen. And they start backing up. Anyway, by this time we knew that the Japanese force was, we had 12,000 troops - British, Canadians, East Indians and Hong Kong volunteers that made 12,000. And the Japanese had a force of 66,000. They had an air force that could bomb you, and they could shell you from the sea with their navy. We hadn’t a chance at all, because the regiment’s establishment comes with a support company in those days. Anyway, it’s flexible and you have a platoon of 58 men, machine gun platoon. You have another platoon of three inch mortars. You have anti-tank weapons. All these plus the engineer’s weapons. They bombed, they destroyed bridges, whatever, they are with you there and if you don’t have those, you don’t have much. You have just your rifles, your grenades, your Bren guns and two inch mortars. We didn’t have transport. We didn’t have any supporting weapons. We didn’t have any support company. They should have had Vickers machine guns, three inch mortars, and anti-tanks guns, but they didn’t have anything like that.

Mr. Bérard reflects on the dilemma of the Hong Kong defenders from a tactical perspective.

Léo Paul Bérard

Léo Paul Bérard was born in Ste Anne des Chenes, Manitoba, in 1915. He was one of only four of the family’s thirteen children to survive. His father was a farm and forest worker. Mr. Bérard studied carpentry in school, and helped his crippled brother to learn the trade. In 1933, he enlisted with the Winnipeg Grenadiers to join their ball team - he was given the rank of corporal. He pursued extensive NCO training, attaining the rank of sergeant. Mr. Bérard offers us a view of the Honk Kong/Japan internment through the eyes of a soldier who deeply respected his officers and men, and who was in turn respected by them. Many of his clips include very personal references of this sort. After returning from the war, Mr. Bérard remained in the Army, where he trained soldiers for the Korean deployment.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Léo Paul Bérard
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Winnipeg Grenadiers
Platoon Leader

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