Brigadier Wallis established his headquarters at Tai Tam Gap, a central position in the eastern sector. To soften the island's defences, the Japanese directed heavy artillery bombardment at the island, mounted destructive air raids, and systematically shelled the pillboxes along the north shore. On December 17, the Japanese repeated their demand for surrender. Once again it was summarily refused, but the situation was very grim. With the sinking of two British relief ships off Malaya and the crippling of the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor, there was no hope of relief, and the Chinese armies were in no position to give immediate aid.
The defenders awaited assault in complete isolation. Brigadier Wallis visited the Rajput Regiment's headquarters on December 18, and wrongly assured the Indian military personnel that the Japanese would not attack.
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Like General Maltby, he grossly underestimated the fighting ability of the Japanese. The invasion came with nightfall on December The enemy launched four separate amphibious assaults across a three-kilometre front on the northern beaches of Hong Kong Island. They came ashore in the face of machine-gun fire from soldiers of the Rajput unit who were manning the pillboxes. From the shore, the Japanese forces fanned out to the east and west and advanced up the valleys leading to high ground.
The Royal Rifles engaged the invading Japanese and tried to push them back. Other platoons of the Royal Rifles went into action on the west side of Mount Parker and suffered many casualties from the already-entrenched enemy. The strength of the invasion force was overwhelming, and by early December 19, the Japanese had reached as far as the Wong Nei Chong and Tai Tam Gaps, again proving their effectiveness at night fighting.
With the enemy well established on the high hills from Mount Parker to Jardine's Lookout, General Maltby ordered the East Brigade to withdraw southward toward Stanley Peninsula where, it was hoped, a counter-attack could be made. By nightfall, on December 19, a new defensive line was established from Palm Villa to Stanley Mound, and a brigade headquarters was set up at Stone Hill.
Unfortunately, some valuable mobile artillery was destroyed during the withdrawal. Even worse, vital communications were severed between the East and West Brigades when the advancing Japanese reached the sea at Repulse Bay. The Brigade was now seriously reduced in numbers, with the Rajput Battalion being virtually wiped out defending the northern beaches. The Royal Rifles were exhausted. Deprived of hot meals for several days, they had to catch whatever sleep they could in the weapon pits which they were continually manning.
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Yet, during the next three days, these men valiantly drove northward over rugged, mountainous terrain to join with the West Brigade, or to clear the Japanese from the high peaks. They managed to drive the enemy out of an area around the Repulse Bay Hotel. However, they were unable to dislodge the Japanese from the surrounding hill positions and were forced to withdraw.
One company of the Royal Rifles was left to hold this area and a renewed effort to break through was made on December Next came an attempt to reach Won Nei Chong by a more easterly route. Despite heavy enemy opposition south of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, the Royal Rifles succeeded in driving the Japanese out of a number of hill positions and in destroying a group holding the crossroads south of the reservoir.
Again the attack could not be maintained. The companies had become separated and they were out of mortar ammunition. The enemy was still pushing and Brigadier Wallis decided to withdraw his men to their former positions. Fighting at Repulse Bay continued, but despite a valiant effort, the defenders had to be withdrawn.
After December 21, no further attempts were made to drive northward, for the troops were depleted and exhausted and the Japanese, who had been reinforced, mounted constant attacks. At noon on December 22, the Japanese took Sugar Loaf Hill, but volunteers from the Royal Rifles' "C" Company went forward and by nightfall they had recaptured the hill.
Another company, however, was driven from Stanley Mound. On the evening of December 23, orders were given for a general withdrawal to Stanley Peninsula. The exhausted Royal Rifles were taken out to Stanley Fort, well down the peninsula, for a rest.
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However, they were soon recalled for action as the Japanese were making advances which the Volunteer Defence Corps and other available troops could not contain. The Royal Rifles celebrated Christmas Day, , by returning to battle. Brigadier Wallis ordered a counter-attack to regain ground lost the night before.
Charged with covering the southwest and west coasts of the island, the Grenadiers established their headquarters at Wan Chai Gap. To be ready for action at a moment's notice, "flying columns" were organized from the Headquarters Company and were billeted just south of Wan Chai Gap. When the enemy landed on the evening of December 18, the flying columns were ordered forward. Two platoons were directed at Jardine's Lookout and Mount Butler, where they engaged the Japanese in intense fighting.
Heavily out-numbered, they were cut to pieces and both platoon commanders were killed. Reports of its action are confused—so many officers and men became casualties—but it apparently became divided and part of the company, led by Company Sergeant-Major CSM J. Osborn, drove through to Mount Butler and captured the top of the hill. A few hours later, a heavy counter-attack forced this party back where it rejoined the rest of the company.
Then, while attempting to withdraw, the whole force was surrounded. The Japanese began to throw grenades into the defensive positions occupied by "A" Company of the Grenadiers, and CSM Osborn caught several and threw them back. Finally one fell where he could not retrieve it in time. Osborn shouted a warning and threw himself upon the grenade as it exploded, giving his life for his comrades. Shortly afterwards, the Japanese rushed the position and "A" Company's survivors became prisoners.
Osborn was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. However, before the action was completed the headquarters was surrounded. A company of Royal Scots attempted to provide assistance, but less than a dozen were able to get through. About 10 a. He left the bunker with a pistol in each hand to take on the massed enemy, losing his life in the effort. Meanwhile, "D" Company of the Grenadiers held on firmly to its position near Wong Nei Chong Gap, denying the Japanese use of the one main north-south road across the island. The Grenadiers inflicted severe casualties on the enemy and delayed Japanese advances for three days.
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They held out until the morning of December 22, when ammunition, food and water were exhausted and the Japanese had blown in the steel shutters of the company shelters. Only then did they surrender. Inside were 37 wounded Grenadiers. Retrieved 23 February Archived from the original on 23 May Retrieved 12 November CBC News.
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