Winnipeg's Arden 7 honoured for service in Battle of Hong Kong

The memory of seven young men who volunteered to fight in the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941 was honoured Saturday.

Last surviving member says friends, brother would approve of park dedication

George Peterson, the last surviving member of the group captured as prisoners in the Battle of Hong Kong, sits on one of seven short benches that commemorate the group's service. (Tamara Pimental/CBC)

The memory of seven young men who volunteered to fight in the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, all from Winnipeg's Arden Avenue, was honoured Saturday.

The city unveiled the Arden Seven Commemorative Plaza in Jules Mager Parkin St. Vital this morning.

Although all survived being captured and taken prisoner, only one of the seven is still alive. 

George Peterson was part of the unveiling ceremony. His brother, Morris, was among the group. 

"I was proud to serve my country with my brother and friends and I know they would approve of having this beautiful park in our neighbourhood dedicated to us," he said in a news release. "I appreciated being personally involved in this project and would like to express my gratitude to all of the individuals, government representatives and St. Vital Historical Society for their support and work on developing this park."

The city said the men served in the Winnipeg Grenadiers during the Second World War and included Fred Abrahams (also known as Fred Harding), Bill Lancaster, twin brothers George and Morris Peterson, and brothers Alfred, Edward and Harry Shayler.

The park features seven chairs symbolizing the seven friends, and commemorative plaques outlining their story.

The city and the province contributed $75,000 to the project. 

'War never settles anything'

The Winnipeg Grenadiers was one of two Canadian battalions that made up a total force of 1,975 to defend the then British colony. 

Canada suffered severe casualties, with 290 killed and 493 wounded. Many ended up as prisoners of war in horrific conditions. More than 550 never returned

Peterson said he hopes the memorial reminds people of what happened in the early days of World War Two. 

"A lot of people, when I tell them I was a prisoner in the war of Hong Kong, they didn't know Canadians had fought in Hong Kong in the first place," he said. 

Peterson admitted it was an emotional day for him.

"War never settles anything," he said, his voice cracking. "Everybody is a loser in a war."