A number of year ago, while researching the Fall of Hong Kong (December 1941) for the wartime stage production of A Tribute to Courage (2003) and again for Echoes of the Forties - Songs and Stories of a Wartime Generation (2007) I encountered the story of HMS Thracian. Among the casualty list was a twenty year old George Egan, Able Seaman, Royal Navy, the son of Reginald and Doris Egan, of Oldham, Lancashire. The date of his death was December 25, 1941. That discovery produced an endless desire to learn more about this individual who had the same name and who died in Hong Kong on December 25th, my birthday, although I was born in 1948 and he had died in 1941. At the time I had an international student from Hong Kong in my history class and I asked him to visit on his summer break the Sai Wan War Cemetery located in Hong Kong and photograph the headstone. He returned in September with the photos.The battle for Hong Kong lasted from 8th December until 25th December 1941 when the British forces surrendered to the Japanese.All major naval vessels had been withdrawn, and only one destroyer, HMS Thracian, several gunboats, and a flotilla of motor torpedo boats remained.Troops on the Kowloon Peninsula were order evacuated on December 13th and HMS Thracian sailing from Aberdeen assisted in moving troops to Hong Kong island. The Thracian was attacked by aircraft on December 15, ten days before the colony's surrender. Hong Kong Island was subjected to heavy air and artillery bombardment in preparation for invasion. On the night of the 15th, HMS Thracian moved past Green Island and engaged two anchored steamers believed to be carrying Japanese troops. Both steamers were sunk in Kowloon Bay. HMS Thracian was badly damaged by Japanese aircraft and was grounded on the 15th of December 1941 off Lamma Island and was scuttled by being run aground on Round Island in Repulse Bay on the evening of the 16th -17th of December, 1941. A mixed naval force of about 200 men, including men from HMS Thracianwere sent to take over defence of the Central Ordnance Munitions Depot (referred to as the Little Hong Kong ordnance base area). It was perhaps here that George Egan would fight and die in defence of Hong Kong.The base served as a secure military facility for ammunition and weapon storage and was composed of twelve pairs of underground bunkers, a depot headquarters and a sentry box. The Central Ordnance Munitions Depot was manned by some 60 soldiers of four different nationalities in December 1941. Among these were soldiers from Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, and Royal Engineers. There were also five soldiers from the Winnipeg Grenadiers; 14 local Chinese uniformed soldiers of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, 18 men from the Middlesex Regiment, as well as Punjabi infantrymen. It was the last place to surrender during the Battle of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong War Diary (1st December - 15 December) of the Royal Rifles of Canada records that on Tuesday, December 23, “A” Company was ordered to retire from the Repulse Bay Hotel to Stone Hill and then to Stanley Village. They split up into small groups and infiltrated through enemy dominated territory. “About midnight Major Young with 54 other ranks Canadians and British got in a motor boat and arrived at Round Island and got aboard the Thracian and remained there until the morning of the 24th. About 2100 hrs Corporal Mulrooney and Lance Corporal Weldon of the RRC volunteered to go to STANLEY FORT in a little boat which they were able to paddle and convey a message that the personnel on board the Thracian would arrive the following night.” After the Fall of Hong Kong, HMS Thracian was recommissioned on 25 November 1942 as Patrol Vessel No.101 and eventually served as a training ship in March 1944, with a torpedo school at Yokosuka. Recaptured in 1945, HMS Thracian was eventually broken up at Hong Kong post-war. Crew of HMS Thracian
GEORGE EGAN Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Able Seaman Regiment: Royal Navy H.M.S. Thracian Age: 20 Date of Death: 25/12/1941 Service No: C/SSX34001 Son of Reginald and Doris Egan, of Oldham, Lancashire. Cemetery: SAI WAN WAR CEMETERY Grave Reference: II. H. 3.
George EganAble Seaman Royal Navy - HMS Thracian Central Ordnance Munitions DepotHong Kong - December 1941