On December 8, 1941, 2 x battalions of Canadians, The Winnipeg Grenadiers and The Royal Rifles of Canada were an important part of the British garrison defending Hong Kong against a Japanese attack.
On 19 December, the second day of fighting after the Japanese had landed on Hong Kong Island, soldiers of “A” Company, Winnipeg Grenadiers were holding defensive positions in the centre of the Island.
Japanese troops had surrounded the ‘Winnipeggers’ and were lobbing grenades into the Canadian position. On numerous occasions, Company Sergeant Major John Osborn, a WW1 veteran, picked them up and threw them back at the enemy.
When one fell where Osborn could not reach it in time, he shouted a warning to his men and threw himself onto the grenade smothering the explosion. He was killed instantly but his sacrifice saved the lives of many of his men.
CSM Osborn was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military award for bravery in the field.