Visit made to grave of fallen soldier

Two Terrace residents travelled to Hong Kong Island this fall to pay tribute to a fallen soldier who was born and raised here

Ric Bennett and Glen Olver of Terrace kneel behind the grave of John Little who died as a prisoner of war in Japan. Little’s tombstone is located at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in northeastern Hong Kong Island. It was built in 1946

Two Terrace residents travelled to Hong Kong Island this fall to pay tribute to a fallen soldier who was born and raised here.

Among the 1,528 grave sites at Hong Kong’s Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery is that of John Little, nephew of Terrace’s founder George Little and brother to 86-year-old Terrace resident Grace Warner.

Ric Bennett and Glen Olver of Terrace visited Little’s grave in mid-October, planting two Canadian flags at his grave and performing a Royal Canadian Legion tribute in his memory.

Having driven past the John Little Memorial Falls 35 km west of Terrace along Hwy16 many times, Olver said making the trip was meaningful to him.

“To be able to go back and actually see where he rests, it’s quite something,” he said.

Bennett, also a long-time Terrace resident and military-history enthusiast, agrees.

“We’re lucky to be Canadian,” he said, adding the lives of those who fought for this country were traded for  freedom today.

But times were different then. Grace Warner remembers her brother John as a strong, kind young man who was good to his parents.

“He milked cows while he was still going to school,” Warner said. “One milking went to one family and one came to our house and we were seven kids. Depression days.”

At 19, Little joined the army while working in Prince Rupert, stopping by his Terrace home for a brief visit before heading to train as a signalman, a military communications job, in Nova Scotia.

On Oct. 27, 1941, Little was one of 1,975 Canadians to board a boat to Hong Kong from Vancouver — soon to be one of the first Canadian ground troops to fight in the Second World War.

Stationed with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, the battalion and the Royal Rifles of Canada were given the job of defending Hong Kong.

Long before the ship sailed, the prospect of defending Hong Kong against a Japanese attack seemed in doubt.

Debate swirled within British military and political circles as to the importance of Hong Kong, whether it could be defended and even if troops there should be reinforced.

An official policy of not sending reinforcements was reversed in late 1941 under the theory that this would give pause to Japanese attack plans.

Many Canadian troops sent weren’t heavily armed and were not fully trained.

Little, along with 554 other Canadians  who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong alongside him, never did return home.

On December 8, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong and by Dec. 11, the Winnipeg Grenadiers would become the first Canadian battalion to fight in the Second World War. After barely two weeks, Canadian and other British and British Empire forces surrendered.

“It was Christmas Day,” said Warner. “I remember that we were all at the table at Christmas and at that time we didn’t have a radio, and our uncle (George Little) came down from their house, walked down the street to our house, to tell us that Hong Kong had fallen.”

At the time, Warner remembers hearing her brother was wounded.

Later, word about his capture travelled home, as did news after Little’s death.

“When mom got the word, it was June that he had died in a prison camp,” said Warner.

Records show Little died of dysentery on June 4, 1942.

“He just went too soon,” said Warner, adding she is touched that Bennett and Olver  visited her brother’s grave.

“I think it was a lovely thing that Ric Bennett did,” she said.

Bennett plans to share photos of his trip with Warner and family.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN | Creating a “community of practice” inspires

Art Matters by columnist Sarah Zimmerman

Hockey puck with nails found at Terrace Sportsplex Arena

City believes it has already caused $4,000 of damage

Kitselas First Nation receives $1.2M boost for apprenticeship development program

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education announces $7.5M for six Indigenous training programs

Terrace Skating Club takes home 24 medals from regional championships

Skaters claim top spot for fifth year in a row

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

B.C.’s oldest practising lawyer celebrates 100th birthday, shares advice

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

UPDATED: Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Most Read