Thursday, April 7, 2011

Remember Brigade Headquarters

“C” Force  Brigade Headquarters

Consisting of approximately one hundred Canadians, Brigade HQ included Brigade Staff, the Chaplains Service and members of the Army Medical Corps, Army Pays Corps, Army Service Corps, Dental Corps, Ordnance Corps, Provost Corps, Postal Corps, and Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.  The request for these additional personnel to be added to the two infantry battalions (Winnipeg Grenadiers and Royal Rifles of Canada) came from the War Office in London on October 11, 1941.   Four days later the request was granted in Ottawa and a Brigade Headquarters with 16 officers and 83 other ranks became officially part of “C” Force. (ref. CMHQ Report #163)

The men and women (two nurse officers) of Brigade Headquarters were there to provide support services for the members of “C” Force.  Mostly trained as operators, clerks, drivers, and various medical staff, they were called upon to carry out their duties under trying battle conditions, and in many cases had to take up weapons and fight for their lives.  Eighteen of them received Military Honours and Awards for their actions.  Thirty-five never made it back to Canada - a terrible casualty rate.  They gave their lives: killed in action, died of their wounds, or died from illnesses while prisoners of war.

My uncle, Don Penny (R.C.C.S.), recorded most of these casualties in one of his notebooks.

Unfortunately, too often the published materials about our Canadian troops at Hong Kong ignore the important role played by the units of “C” Force Brigade Headquarters. They served with honour and distinction.  Let’s make sure we remember them, along with the Grenadiers and Royal Rifles.

(Note:  CMHQ Report #163 – Canadian Participation at Hong Kong – is available online:  It’s a very interesting document with sections that outline the BHQ contribution.  I encourage anyone with an interest in “C” Force to have a look.)