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Not the Slightest Chance

The Defence of Hong Kong, 1941

Tony Banham

Publication Year: 2003

The book assembles a phase-by-phase, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and death-by-death account of the battle. It considers the individual actions that made up the fighting, as well as the strategies and plans and the many controversies that arose.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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p. -

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pp. ix- viii

Not the Slightest Chance was the story that could never be written. More than 10 per cent of the Colony’s defenders had been killed in battle; a further 20 per cent died in captivity. Those who survived the fighting and three years, eight months in brutal POW camps seldom spoke about their experiences. Many died young. Anything written down during the fighting was burnt...

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pp. xiii- xvi

Firstly, to six people without whom this work could not have been completed in its current form: David Roads, ex-journalist and intelligence man, who once told me he was one of the few US Marines to have fought the Japanese in all five major campaigns. He would be worth a book in his own right. Part Native American, he also married a Miss Philippines, and took a dollar off Al Capone...


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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-2

Not the Slightest Chance is focused on a single month of Hong Kong’s short but exotic history — December 1941. The hundredth anniversary of the Crown Colony, this was also the moment when its ownership changed hands for the second of three times in its history. This work has three aims. The first is to bring together into one volume the salient...

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1 - The Background

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pp. 3-10

As an island and tiny peninsula on the south coast of China, Hong Kong’s one and only asset in the middle of the nineteenth century was the remarkable deep-water harbour for which the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ wasnamed. It was just what the British needed, as Guangzhou — at that time the only Chinese port at which trade with foreigners was permitted...

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2 - The Battle

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pp. 11-20

Responsibility for the defence of Hong Kong and its grotesquely swollen wartime population lies squarely on the shoulders of Major General C. M. Maltby. Maltby, a highly respected career soldier of the old school, has a garrison of some 14,000...

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3 - Phase I: The Loss of the Mainland

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pp. 21-64

The task of the Mainland Brigade is expressed in very simple terms: hold the Gin Drinkers Line as long as possible (134). Once the Japanese cross the front line, the Royal Engineers, covered by the Punjabis and elements of the HKVDC, begin their delaying action. Interestingly...

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4 - Phase II: The Siege of the Island

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pp. 65-92

It had been hoped that the Gin Drinkers Line would hold for at least a week. However, the forcing of the Shing Mun Redoubt within some forty hours of the start of the attack has made the line untenable. In fact, it is fair to question...

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5 - Phase III: The Invasion of the Island

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pp. 93-114

The siege has cost the garrison a further fifty-four dead and thirty-eight wounded. More important, it has greatly damaged the defences on the north shore and has tired (and in some cases demoralized) the defenders. The streets, particularly in the area from Shau Kei Wan to North Point, are covered...

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6 - Phase IV: The Forcing of Wong Nai Chung Gap

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pp. 115-164

One hundred and forty men have been killed on 18 December, in the first few hours following the invasion. A further 451 will be killed this day, the biggest single loss of the...

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7 - Phase V: Pushing the Line West and Encircling Stanley

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pp. 165-282

The Japanese attacking Hong Kong, like the Russians attacking Berlin four years later, had realized that there should be a focus for their attack. In Berlin it was the Reichstag...

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8 - The Week Immediately Following the Fighting

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pp. 283-288

On Saturday, 27 December, the Japanese flag is raised in Central. However, they are still not fully in control of the Island. Lewis Bush HKRNVR, a fluent Japanese speaker with a Japanese wife, is sent at the request of...

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9 - Conclusion

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pp. 289-292

Post-war, the Battle of Hong Kong was largely forgotten about. In British eyes, the fall of Hong Kong had been overshadowed by many greater tragedies closer to home. Hong Kong people themselves either wanted to put...

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10 - Epilogue

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pp. 293-294

Hong Kong really took off from a base of being the most looted city in the world—there wasn’t a piece of wood to be seen in Hong Kong when I got back from Shanghai where I’d been a prisoner of war. And the whole city was, well, there was one cable across the harbour...

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pp. 295-334


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pp. 335-384

Annotated Bibliography

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pp. 385-410


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pp. 411- 431

E-ISBN-13: 9789882202313
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622096158

Page Count: 460
Publication Year: 2003