I wrote “Never Grow Old” in 2013 as a tribute to Canadian forces veterans and in particular to honour my father-in-law, veteran Lance Ross. The title was motivated by the phrase in our Remembrance Day service where we say ‘they shall not grow old as we who are left grow old’.
In December 1941, Lance Ross was, with 1975 other Canadians from the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers sent to Hong Kong for the purpose of fortifying the British garrison there as a show of strength to the Japanese. However, fresh from their success at Pearl Harbour, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked Hong Kong on December 8, 1941. The Canadians had been sent with limited training and meagre supplies and promised armaments which never arrived. Regardless, the small and hugely outnumbered force managed to hold off 35,000 Japanese for 17 days.
In the final battle, there were huge Canadian casualties. Those that survived were in store for even more misery at the hands of their captors. My father-in-law spent the next 4 years as a prisoner of war, both in Hong Kong and later in Japan. It was in Japan that he and his fellow Canadians were forced to work as slave labour in the Japanese coal mines, factories and shipyards, enduring unspeakable horrors and abuse. Those that survived were eventually liberated on August 15, 1945. Many were never the same.
This song, I hope pays tribute to those men who deserved to be treated and heroes, then and now.