For decades, rifleman Ray Donald Jackson’s family had no mementos to remember him by, not even a picture. Meanwhile, his last surviving personal item was lying in the ground in Stanley, Hong Kong, where he was killed while serving with the Royal Rifles of Canada during the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941.
Thanks to a group with a passion for military history, things are about to change.
The Hong Kong group found Jackson’s wristwatch in the side of Stone Hill back in March. It is now on its way to Jackson’s family.
His great nephew, Stephen Burgess, said that he’s shocked and thrilled to receive this part of history after 76 years of it lying in the dirt.
On March 27, the military history group in Hong Kong was searching the area where the Battle of Hong Kong took place. They search old battlegrounds for bullet shells, canteens, and other reminders of the time when the war came to Stanley.
The Battle of Hong Kong was one of the first battles in the Pacific Theater in World War II. It took place on the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time the Japanese attacked, Hong Kong was still a British colony.
More than 1,000 Allied soldiers died in that battle. Jackson was one of them, and he was buried at the Sai Wan Military Cemetery in China. Many others were injured or captured before the Allies surrendered to the Japanese.
Dave Willott is one who found the watch. After cleaning it, he found a name and rank etched in the back: “Pte. Ray D. Jackson B68205.”
Searches conducted online led the group to the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association in Canada. They found Burgess in less than 24 hours. He’s one of Jackson’s closest living relatives and a history buff in his own right. Jackson died at the age of 21 without any children.
Burgess will receive the watch at a special ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion on Spring St. in St. Catharines, Ontario. He’s thrilled that a memento of the war and Canada’s service in it has been able to be preserved.
A member of the military history group made a wooden box for the watch with the Royal Rifles of Canada emblem engraved in the lid, CBC News reported.
In the days leading up the presentation, the watch is in the care of Lori Atkinson Smith of the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association in Canada. She says holding the watch gives her a peaceful feeling. She’s astounded that they were able to find the next of kin to present it to and can’t wait to give the watch to Burgess.