Sai Wan War cemetery commemorates the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers killed in the two World Wars. There are 1136 identified burials here, plus an additional 444 unidentified soldiers. A further 2072 individuals with no known grave are named on the memorial at the entrance to the cemetery.
The majority of those commemorated in Sai Wan War Cemetery died during the Battle of Hong Kong, or during Japanese captivity thereafter. After being attacked in December 1941, Hong Kong quickly fell to the Japanese. British defences at locations including Shing Mun Redoubt (the ‘Gin Drinkers’ line’), the Wong Nei Chong Gap, and Mount Davis were rapidly overrun. Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day 1941, which would later be known as ‘Black Christmas’.
Sai Wan war cemetery is peacefully located on a hill overlooking modern Hong Kong and the ocean beyond. Walking around the cemetery reveals graves of many nationalities – all a long way from home. Soldiers from Britain, Hong Kong, Canada, India, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong are all commemorated here. There are also graves from all branches of the British armed forces. After its woeful supply of aircraft were destroyed on the opening day of the Battle of Hong Kong, RAF personnel fought to defend Hong Kong as regular ground troops.
The cemetery includes a Cross of Sacrifice at the bottom of the slope, while the Stone of Remembrance, engraved with the words Their Name Liveth For Evermore, stands at the top. The entrance to the cemetery includes memorial plaques to soldiers whose graves are unknown, and to those who were cremated according to their religious beliefs. Overall the cemetery is a surprisingly peaceful area in the middle of busy Hong Kong, managing to be calming and reflective despite the surrounding environment. As with all cemeteries managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), Sai Wan cemetery is immaculately kept.
Notable graves within Sai Wan cemetery include that of Brigadier John K Lawson, the highest ranked officer to be killed in the Battle of Hong Kong. Company Sergeant-Major John Robert Osborn, recipient of the only Victoria Cross awarded during the Battle of Hong Kong and the first Canadian to be awarded a VC during World War 2, is named on the memorial inside the cemetery entrance. He was killed on 19 December 1941 whilst protecting his men from a Japanese grenade, and has no known grave.
In addition to Sai Wan War Cemetery, Stanley Military Cemetery in Southern Hong Kong contains the graves of over 500 people. The site was used as a POW and internment camp by the Japanese; those buried there died in captivity.
Hong Kong features a surprising number of World War 2 related sites in various states of decay. There are the remains of defensive emplacements on Mount Davis, at Pinewood Battery (Victoria Peak), Devil’s Peak, the Gin Drinker’s line, and Wong Nei Chong Gap (and probably more that I have missed).