|Birth: ||Dec. 5, 1920|
|Death: ||Dec. 24, 1941, Hong Kong|
William Thomas Carcary was born December 5, 1920 to Jane and Alex Carcary of Carman, Manitoba where he lived his whole life.
He was a good-natured young man. As a teenager, he thought nothing of giving two little girls a ride on his bicycle. With my cousin, Mildred Johnston, on the bicycle bar as his flour and a much smaller Shirley in his bicycle basket as his sugar all three would ride down the road running alongside the Carcary home. Not many teenage boys would feel comfortable with two little girls on their bikes.*2
After school, Billy worked in a small hardware store in Winnipeg for a short period of time.*3
The Winnipeg Grenadiers (Machine gun) Regiment was put on active duty September 1, 1939*4 and by September 14, Bill had enlisted (Service #63500) in The Winnipeg Grenadier Regiment, a regiment that originated in Morden, Manitoba, south of his hometown. By 1940 the regiment had become a rifle battalion.
Bill was in A Company and took his six month basic training at the Fort Osborne Barracks. Canada wasn't prepared for war thus many of the men were given old WW1 uniforms and leggings.
The regiment was to relieve British troops in Bermuda and Jamaica. On May 31, 1940 the men boarded a C.P.R. train from the freight sheds in Winnipeg. Brief stops allowed time for short marches so the men had some exercise. They arrived in Montreal May 23 and the following day were in Halifax boarding the Lady Drake for the Caribbean.
Part of the regiment (C Company) stayed in Bermuda for 2 1/2 months and the remainder arrived in Jamaica for garrison duty May 31, to relieve British troops that had been guarding German and Italian prisoners of war and some of the local troublesome people. British troops were moved south to guard oil refineries. The regiment had only two weeks of training at Montpellier Camp, with no rounds being fired in training.
On March 15, 1941, The Winnipeg Grenadier Regiment was redesignated The 1st Battalion, The Winnipeg Grenadiers, CASF.
They remained in Jamaica until October 1941 when they were replaced by The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada. The advance party of 150 men arrived August 14, 1941 and the remainder arrived September 3 on the Lady Drake to relieve The Winnipeg Grenadiers.
On September 27, 1941, the Grenadiers embarked at Kingston, Jamaica arriving in Montreal October 10. Back in Winnipeg, they were given a nine-day furlough (October 11-20) with pay.
Bob Johnston who delivered newspapers at the time remembers seeing the Carman boys coming off the bus when he met it to collect the Winnipeg newspapers.*5 Bob Lytle, Les Adams, Artie Clark, Stan Clark, Gordon Clark, Joe Delorme, George Delorme, Ernest Gagnon, Roy and Gordon Land were home; Bill arrived another day.*7
All leaves were cancelled when Britian asked the Canadian government, even though they knew it was a lost cause, to send troops to defend Hong Kong against a Japanese invasion. There is some contention as to what really happened when Canada was asked to send troops. "The story of how the Canadians were 'invited' to Hong Kong is a bit of a complex one, and it's hard to say whether anyone was really to blame. Of course, in hindsight it seems obvious that it was a bad idea, but it wasn't quite so obvious then. I believe the man whose idea it was (Grassett) sincerely believed their presence would be a deterrent to invasion, and thus their training and equipment wouldn't be so important. But a cynic would also wonder if both the British and Canadian governments were a bit too ready to take that gamble.
The defence of the Colony was under the command of General Maltby. He only took over in July 1941, when Grassett left, but I honestly think he did a reasonably good job. It was a challenge as Hong Kong has such a uniquely complex topography, but the main point is that he wasn't going to be able to win whatever he did; the Japanese had access to as much force as they needed, plus air power, whereas the defenders had very limited resources."*
The men from Carman were ordered back to Winnipeg Sunday, October 19, the weekend the Carcary family had family visiting because Bill was home.*7
It was known the troops were not combat ready. They each had 35 rounds for rifle practice. Being under strength, 436 new men joined the regiment, 63 of whom had no basic 16 week training and no training on heavy weapons. They were told they would receive combat training when they reached their destination that, although they didn't know it, was to be Hong Kong.*6
To make matters worse they had only 6 of the 21 Universal carriers that was standard for a battalion, only 12 of the usual 37 1500-pound trucks and no other vehicles. They had only 1 of the 22 Boys anti-tank rifles they should have had and although they had mortars, there was no ammunition for them.*6
The regiment left Winnipeg on a C.P.R. train October 25, 1941. Arriving in Vancouver October 27, the regiment boarded a New Zealand ship, the Awatea, for their three week journey. They arrived in Honolulu November 2 and by November 14 they were in Manilla, Philippines, finally arriving in Kowloon, Hong Kong.*6
The Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada were ferried to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon December 7 and on December 8 they were at war with the Japanese invaders' larger force. The British had prepared for an attack from the sea and from the north, but by December 9 with the hordes of invaders, British lines began to fold.*6
On Tuesday, December 9, 1941, the Carcary family received a message from Hong Kong saying all of the fellows, many of whom were from Bill's hometown, were safe and well.*7 Obviously it had taken time to reach Carman because by then war had been declared and Hong Kong was in dire straits.
Hong Kong Island had been divided for defense purposes. The Royal Rifles of Canada and Rajputs were defending the eastern side and the western side had the Winnipeg Grenadiers, the Punjabs and the Royal Scots. The Grenadiers were on the southwest and centre of the island. From December 11-17 there was little activity on the coast. "A" Company of which Bill was a part was at Little Hong Kong, "B" Company at Pok Fu Lam, "C" Company at Aberdeen and "D" Company at Wong Neichong Gap.*6
The Japanese assault began December 18. The Rajputs were wiped out and the Royal Rifles of Canada were forced back. Canadian officers were killed covering for their units' withdrawal and they were being overrun. December 19 "A" Company and a platoon of "D" Company were ordered to keep Jardine's Lookout and Mount Butler. "A" company was divided and part of it was led by Company Sgt. Major Osborn, who had been born in England, but left for Canada in the 1920's*8. They managed to keep the area, but the heavy Japanese attack finally forced them off the high points, leaving the company with heavy casualties, both officers and men. The company managed to rejoin but were surrounded by Japanese.*6
As the Japanese threw grenades into their positions, Osborn would throw them out. One grenade could not be reached and it was at this time Sgt. Major J. R. Osborn threw himself on the grenade to save his men, an act of courage that earned him a posthumous Victoria Cross.*6
"D" Company's 17 and 18 platoons were hit by a Japanese battalion north of the Gap, surrounded and overrun with only a few escaping. "A" Company had disappeared December 19 and part of "D" Company was wiped out. Only "D" Company Headquarters was holding the Gap. Calling for help, Brigadier Lawson who was also born in England, but moved to Canada when in his twenties,*8 destroyed all essential records and the telephone switch board. While leading the men out, all were wiped out.*6
The destruction of the regiment continued, many were killed, others taken prisoner and those that could not walk on forced marches were murdered as prisoners of war.
Not knowing Bill had been killed December 24, Mr. and Mrs. Carcary went to Winnipeg to spend Christmas with their daughter, Betty, and her husband, Grant.*7
The January 7, 1942 Dufferin Leader paper stated the family had received news Bill was one of two Carman boys killed in the fighting December 1941 in Hong Kong.*7
A memorial service was to be held at the United Church Sunday afternoon, January 18, 1942, at 3:00. A large number of people attended from town and the surrounding district. Beautiful floral tributes banking the pulpit were testimonial of the sympathy felt for Bill's parents and of the high esteem in which the young soldier was held.*1
Part of Rev. C. H. Heatherington's memorial stated: Today we meet to do honor to another Carman boy, who has fallen in action, Private William Carcary. At present we have little or no information as to the time and manner of his death. It is possible that Private Carcary was the first of our Carman boys to be killed overseas.
Bill Carcary was just a young lad when he enlisted and one of the youngest to be sent to Hong Kong. He, too, made an offering that was very costly and precious. He gave his life for a cause. Bill was very anxious to offer himself when war came, some might say too anxious. I have heard some of these young fellows criticized for enlisting too soon and too early. The fault-finder might say it would have been better to hold back and save themselves. Why rush into danger and peril and pain? But above the murmur of the fault-finders there is One who says, "He hath done what he could." That which he hath done will be spoken as a memorial of him.
I often wondered where we would be today if it weren't for the courageous and self-giving spirit of our youth, for in time of war we depend so much on our youth. This war, more than any other war, depends upon our youngest and best, their dauntless courage, their steady nerve, their strength and endurance. The older we grow the more conservative we become, the more we are inclined to weigh the pros and cons, and count the cost; but with the type of enemy thrust against us there was no time for deliberate action, as we older people would have indulged in. The allied nations owe a debt they can never pay to these young heroic souls, like Bill, who counted not the cost. They not only did what they could, but they did it without hesitation and delay, and our enemies, in spite of their years of preparation were held at bay.
Yes, we hold a tremendous debt to our youth. Hear the word of an eighteen year old boy, speaking last June at the commencement exercises of his college. Among other things he says, "We know the horror of war, we know its misery, its destruction, its slaughter, and we are young and we want to live, and we know it is going to hurt to die, even on the battlefield of our country....But we don't feel lost, we are not even discouraged, and it will surprise you perhaps to note that we regard our future, not as a negative thing, but as a golden opportunity. For you see we have what the world so desperately needs for its salvation----the power of youth. The present situation is a challenge, and we accept that challenge."
We older people of the world have a lot to answer for. It was our blindness and stupidity, our selfishness and complacency, that made this war possible. We won the last war, but we did not win the peace. Why? Because though we have learned to sacrifice for war, we have not learned to sacrifice for peace; and peace, just as much as war depends on sacrifice, on the willingness of people to sacrifice and cooperate and achieve together a saner and better world.
"They have done what they could," these brave young souls in face of the world conflagration have rushed to put it out. What they have done, these brave young souls, will be spoken of by succeeding generations as a memorial of them. What kind of memorial will we older generations have? We people who after the last war lived so selfishly and complacently, and allowed conditions to exist in enemy lands, conditions that had become so intolerable, that war was the inevitable outcome.*1
It is believed Bill was killed in Stanley Village, but his body was never found. It is known he was not with his unit when they were overtaken by the enemy. The fact he had written home saying he had a motorcycle*3 might indicate he was a dispatch rider who had carried a message to another area when he was caught by the Japanese. Unless a lost war diary comes to light, Bill's fate will never be known.*8
The Canadian troops made a gallant attempt, even with the great odds against them, to stop the Japanese invaders. They fought with little training in unfamiliar terrain, were outnumbered by enemy forces, lacked transport for men and supplies that were in short supply and what intelligence they had was either weak or non-existent.*6
After 17 1/2 days of battle only 1418 men of the original 1975 remained. 290 Canadians were killed in Hong Kong, 493 had been wounded and 267 died as prisoners of war.*9 Those prisoners of war suffered horrendous conditions of hard labor, torture and starvation. Letters sent home from these camps were dictated by their captors as all revealed the men were well treated and there was no problem with their situation.*7
After Bill's brother, Ab, was killed in Egypt, his parents had an in memoriam in the local Dufferin Leader paper December 16, 1943:
CARCARY - In loving memory of our dearly beloved sons,
Pte. William T. Carcary, Winnipeg Grenadiers, killed in action at Hong Kong December 1941 and
Flt. Sgt. Albert A. Carcary, RCAF
believed killed in the Middle East July 22, 1942.
We think of them in silence,
We oft repeat their names;
What would we give to hear their voices
And see them smile again
Ever remembered by Mother, Dad, Betty and Grant.
The province of Manitoba named a geo-memorial for Private Bill Carcary May 1971. Carcary Lake is located sw of Neultin Lake 59 41' 19", 101 34' 32".
Private William T. Carcary's name appears on the Sai Wan Memorial, Chai Wan, Hong Kong Island, his grave site unknown.
Rest in peace, Bill.
Ever remembered by family and friends.
*1 The Dufferin Leader January 21, 1942.
*2 Shirley Tort
*3 Stan Leighton, Bill's cousin
*4 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
*5 Bob Johnston, a neighbor of the Carcary family
*6 Canada at War - The Winnipeg Grenadiers - Hong Kong Dec 6-25, 1941.
*7 The Dufferin Leader
*8 Tony Banham
*9 CTVOttawa.ca - Published Saturday August 15, 2009
Alexander Carcary (1888 - 1960)
Jane Carcary (1885 - 1976)
Albert Alexander Carcary (1913 - 1942)*
William Thomas Carcary (1920 - 1941)
Winnipeg Grenadiers R.C.I.C.
Sai Wan Memorial
Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Plot: Column 26.
Maintained by: Shirley Tort
Originally Created by: International Wargraves ...
Record added: Aug 10, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 15249368
Remembered by Canadians with pride and thanks for your fight to end tyranny and those of us who knew you remember you with respect and affection.|
Added: Dec. 15, 2013
Added: Mar. 31, 2013
"They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them." Rest in peace!|
Added: Jan. 19, 2013