The exceptional Chinese-Canadian man who broke ethnic barriers

posted in: Chinese, Highlights, History | 4

His name was William King Lowd Lore. He was born in Victoria, British Columbia in 1909.

At the time, and for decades previously and for decades afterward, anyone of Chinese decent in Canada faced major discrimination hurdles.  This amazingly included being denied the right to vote which was not granted until 1947.  They had also been denied access to act in certain professions such as lawyers and pharmacists which required that someone be “a citizen of Canada”.

1943: When Canadian W.K.L. Lore graduated from naval officer school, he became the first ethnic Chiniese officer in any Commonwealth navy.

Thus, the career and accomplishments of William Lore were quite simply exceptionally amazing feats.

Through his obviously hard work and intelligence, one of the first of those huge barriers was being accepted into McGill University’s engineering programme in Montreal.

However, the stock market crash of 1929, and the Depression forced him to return home.

Back in British Columbia, he worked as a reporter for a local Chinese newspaper where again hard work, and dedicated attitude gained him professional respect by all.

In 1939, another barrier was breached as he became the first Chinese-Canadian to enter the civil service, accepting work as a wireless operator for the Department of Transport.

When war was declared he tried to join the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) but was rejected due to his race; not once, but three times.

In 1943 however, the RCN policy changed and at the personal behest of Vice-Admiral Percy F. Nelles, Chief of Naval Staff, Lore once again applied and this time was accepted.

Through hard work, dedication and intelligence, Lore rose from the rank of Sub-Lt, to Lt Cmdr and served in a variety of increasingly important roles during the war.

Lo Lore graduated from the Officers Training Course in June of 1943 and was at first appointed a temporary became the first Chinese Canadian in the RCN, thereby breaking yet another racial barrier by being the first person of Chinese descent to serve in any of the British Commonwealth navies.

Lore quickly became an extremely valuable intelligence officer first serving in Naval intelligence headquarters in Ottawa. He soon moved to London England and the Combined Services Radio Intelligence Unit. Later he served in a top secret jungle camp in Ceylon, (Sri Lanka) under Admiral Louis Mountbatten and helped in planning a major attack against the Japanese in Rangoon Burma.

After being assigned to the British Pacific Fleet, he was seconded to the American 7th Fleet with intelligence services there.

By August 1945, Japan was in the process of surrendering and Lore was with the British fleet sailing into Hong Kong harbor with Rear-Adm. Sir Cecil Harcourt.

Harcourt was well aware of the courageous defence of Canadians in Hong Kong against massive Japanese forces and so ordered Lore, as a Canadian , to be the first Allied officer to land on Hong Kong since it’s surrender. He had lead a troop of marines ashore to take control of the shore base.  He was also to head the forces freeing the Canadian, British, and other prisoners from their horrific conditions at the Sham Shui Po concentration camp.

Again as a sign of respect for his service, Lore was present at the official handover of the colony and the Japanese surrender of Hong Kong on September 16.

Lt Cmdr Lore’s history displayed on a panel in the promenade of a pier in Vancouver among several panels featuring historical moments in Canadian history ©

In 1946, he returned to the RCN and promoted to the rank of Lt.Cmdr. and retired in 1948.

He then earned a law degree from Oxford, and decided to return to the colony he had helped liberate, where he set up a law practice. It was there that this amazing Canadian died at the age of 103.

On his death in 2012, Canada’s then Defence Minister, the Honourable Peter MacKay issued this statement

“Mr. William Lore’s drive and determination to serve his country and to achieve recognition of Chinese Canadians as full members of Canadian society serve as a wonderful example to all of us and show that we all can make a difference. As a sailor, Lieutenant-Commander Lore made Canada proud.”

On hearing the news of his passing, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander RCN and the Canadian Forces (CF) Champion for diversity said,

“Although it may not have been his intent, he was a hero to many others as he led the way in helping making the CF a more diverse organization and Canada a more accepting society.”

4 Responses

  1. Robert Yip

    A wonderful, inspiring story of a Canadian war hero! Lt. Cmdr. Lore has shown how the removal of racial barriers allows the best and brightest to succeed and to make Canada better. By sharing these stories, RCI/CBC makes Canadian history more interesting and tells us things we never learned in our history books. Thank you RCI/CBC!.

  2. Samson Young

    Indeed, majority of Canadians are not aware of this story, including the majority of Chinese-Canadians themselves. It’s a story of both loyalty to serve the country that denied him and his people and the courage to fight against this injustice. It is because a hero like Lieutenant-Commander Lore who made the sacrifice then, that today, all Chinese-Canadians, both from older generations who were came here as pioneers in building the cross Canada railroads; those who were born here (but denied citizenship) as well as those new Chinese immigrants such as myself and my family; who came later to this great country of ours, can proudly call Canada home.

    But we must remember that: Unfortunately, the Canada in the past was not at all like this… To quote the saying that: “Freedom is NOT free.” is very appropriate here…

  3. Robin Young

    I met “Uncle Willy” in the mid 1990s in Hong Kong. He was the older brother of my Chinese Martial Arts teacher, James Lore (Lor King Hong). We visited him at his lawyer’s office in the Sincere office building in Hong Kong. Even at his advanced age, he was a formitable presence. His stories were amazing, detailing his arrival at Hong Kong POW camp and his interaction with the Imperial Japanese guards and his meeti g with the Canadian prisoners. I remember the intensity in his eyes as he told his stories.
    A wonderful man, a Chinese-Canadian icon.

    Peace, Uncle Willy.

  4. Jennifer Yip

    I spent time with Uncle Willy in the early 90’s when I was out west to see my Grandma and many friends and family. Her cousin Willie was in town from Hong Kong, and I somehow became the driver for Uncle Willie, and his cousins Victoria and Mary. We toured around the lower mainland visiting veteran friends of Uncle Willie. by the end I felt, though still a teenager, that I was an honorary of the Octogenarian Club. Wonderful memories of some inconspicuous but amazing people.

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