Routledge, Ronald John

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Ronald John Routledge
1 September 1920 – 2005
Sgt R Routlage 1945.jpg
Place of birth Regina Saskatchewan
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Rank Major
Awards DCM, CD

Major Ronald John Routledge (1 September 1920 - 2005) was a Canadian Soldier who served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in the Second World War and afterwards. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions while interned by the Japanese during the Second World War, the only such award to a soldier of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during that conflict.

Early Life

Ronald Routledge was born September 1, 1920 in Regina Saskatchewan. Routledge came from a family of four children, he being the second child and only son. His father, a decorator by trade, was a member of the Regina Rifles and served in the First World War. He graduated high school in 1939 shortly before Canada declared war on Germany.[1][2]


Encouraged by his father, Routledge joined the Regina Rifles Regiment cadet program in 1934 at the age of 14. He later transferred to 18th Field Battery RCA before joining the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in 1940 where he was trained as a wireless operator. In October, 1941, he along with 32 other members of the Signal Corp were told they were headed overseas. As part of "C" Force, they boarded a vessel in Vancouver however they did not know until they were near the Philippines that they were heading for Hong Kong. They eventually arrived in Hong Kong and were assigned to barracks at Shamshuipo. Wounded when the Japanese made their first attack on Shamshuipo in December, 1941, (he and Sigmn Lloyd “Bud” Fairley were the first casualties sustained by “C” Force[3]) he spent time in hospital before returning to duty. With the surrender of the troops on the Stanley Peninsula on Boxing Day 1941, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Interned at the Shamshuipo POW Camp, Routledge became involved in communicating with a clandestine group established by the British called the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) being run out of China "to find out what was happening in Hong Kong and to contact guerillas who might be helpful in guiding further escapees."[2] When the Japanese caught on, Routledge was identified as one of those handling the messages in and out of the camp and he was handcuffed and taken away on 1 July 1943. Despite being brutally tortured in an attempt to learn who the leaders of the effort were, Routledge gave up no information. In December 1943 the Japanese convened a formal court and Routledge was found guilty of "aiding and abetting espionage" and sentenced to 15 years with hard labour.[2] Sgt Routledge was held at Stanley Prison until June 1945 when he was transferred to Canton Prison where he stayed until released at the end of the war.

Once returned to British care, he spent three weeks in hospital in Hong Kong. After being transported by hospital ship to Manila, he remained in hospital for a further two weeks. Finally, fit enough to return home, he traveled via a USA ship to California and then on to Victoria.

Routledge continued to serve in the Army following the War. He attended advance training at Royal Roads, taught at the Royal Canadian School of Signals and also served for a time in the Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System. In 1951, he was commissioned as an Officer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. He retired in 1965 having attained the rank of Captain.[2] He was later called out as a Major at the Vernon Cadet Camp, completing 33 years in Canada’s service.[4]

Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation

For his service during his captivity during the Second World War, Sgt Routledge was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), the second highest award for bravery in the British Empire and the only one awarded to a member of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during the war.[5]. His citation read:[6]

For devotion to duty and conspicuous bravery whilst on Special Service during his period of captivity as a prisoner of war in Hong Kong in the hands of the Japanese.

From the middle of October 1942 contact had been established between officers of the Shamshuipo Camp and British Intelligence Officers [BAAG] at Waichow.

About the middle of May 1943, when the method of sending and receiving messages was through the medium of Chinese drivers of the ration lorries, it became necessary to replace the contact who had been dropped from the ration party, and consequently was no longer in a position to continue the service. Routledge was a member of this ration party who, without hesitation, volunteered to fill the vacancy. He showed considerable initiative and intelligence in performing the extremely difficult and hazardous duty of passing the messages under the eyes of the Japanese guards, when the slightest slip would have resulted in exposure leading to severe punishment, even to the loss of his life. He performed this service competently until the channel of communication was closed about the middle of June. This work was of the utmost value to the Camp, ensuring as it did the vital supply of medicine for the many sick in hospital and providing important information to the outside which was urgently required.

On the 1st July he was sent for by the Japanese Military Authorities and, suspecting the reason, he showed great initiative and presence of mind by giving the alarm to his fellow workers en route. He was removed from the Camp and taken to the Gendarmerie Headquarters and charged with communicating with the enemy. He was brutally beaten and suffered a variety of tortures including the Japanese "Water Torture" to endeavour to compel him to disclose the names of the officers directing these operations. In spite of incredible suffering he resolutely refused to divulge any information, and showed great courage and fortitude in enduring these repeated tortures for several hours before finally being removed to Stanley Prison to await Court Martial for espionage. The court sat on 1st December and after the statements were read the Prosecutor demanded the death penalty, but the Court awarded a sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

He was confined to Stanley Prison until 22nd June 1945, when he was removed to a Military Prison in Canton. He was returned to Hong Kong on 21st August and set free.

The resolute courage of this NCO in spite of indescribable suffering, and his devotion to duty, provide an example in the highest tradition of the Service.

Routledge Hall

In 2010 "Routledge Hall", a new dining facility at CFB Kingston was named in honour of him.[4][7] (44°14′21″N 76°26′15″W / 44.23917, -76.4375)

Related Pages

Related Items

See Also

Battle of Hong Kong - Wikipedia article

References and Footnotes

  1. Veterans Affairs Canada - Heroes Remember Series - R.J. Routledge
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Fowler, Robert (1997) "Ronald Routledge, DCM, CD," Canadian Military History: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, Article 12.
  3. Beyond the Call
  4. 4.0 4.1 "CFB (K) Dining Facility Named after the Father / Grandfather of Two Ex Cadets" - e-Veritas article
  5. The London Gazette, Supplement 37664. 23 July, 1946. Page 3826.
  6. Gwulo: Old Hong Kong website
  7. Honouring a Hero, Kingston Wig Standard, 10 November 2010.