Berger, Max

Plot LocationSai Wan Memorial
Column 28
Given Name(s)Max
Place of BirthSarnia, Ontario, Canada
Date of Birth (Eng)November 6, 1920
Date of Birth (Heb) 
Date of Death (Eng)December 19, 1941
Date of Death (Heb) 
Age at Death21
Hebrew Name 
Spouse’s Name 
Father’s NameMorris Berger
Mother’s NameRegina Berger
Other Surnames 
Marital Status 
Maiden Name 
Service RankPrivate
Religious Status (כ/ל/י) 
Cause of DeathKilled in action
Other Family DataHe had either a brother or a half-brother, Joe Berger, who was 13 years older, and a sister Laura Berger Eagle, who was one year younger. She died in Libertyville, Illinois in 2005.

His parents were born in Hungary, he in 1877 and she in 1884.
Inscription (Eng) 
Inscription (Heb) 
Inscription (Other) 
HistoricalThere is a possibility that his remains lie beneath this or one of the other 106 grave markers in Sai Wan Cemetery that simply read, A SOLDIER OF THE 1939-1945 WAR. A CANADIAN REGIMENT. KNOWN UNTO GOD.

Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, service number A/56551. Parents lived at 167 Davis Street, Sarnia.

Max grew up in Sarnia and attended Sarnia Collegiate. After graduation, he worked for Maidment’s Taxi; he was active in Canadian Young Judaea, and he was later employed at St. Thomas, as an electrician. Max, single at the time, enlisted in the army in 1939.

In late October, 1941, he was part of a force of 1,975 Canadians who left Vancouver for Hong Kong to help defend the colony. While on board the ship, he wrote a letter home to his parents in November. It would be the last time Morris and Regina would hear from their son. The Canadian force comprised two battalions — the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada; a brigade headquarters group; and various specialist details (including a signal section, two medical officers, two nursing sisters and three chaplains). The Canadian force would be a part of 14,000 Allied troops (also from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, China and India) who were tasked to defend the island of Hong Kong and the adjacent mainland areas. The Canadian battalions (with no battle experience) arrived November 16, 1941, and, along with Britain’s Middlesex Regiment, were tasked to defend the island. It was felt that the Canadian soldiers would have some time in Hong Kong to get more training. Instead, they became the first Canadian soldiers to fight as a unit in the Second World War when Japan attacked almost simultaneously Pearl Harbour, Northern Malaya, the Phillippines, Guam, Wake Island and Hong Kong.

The Japanese attacked the Colony’s mainland positions on December 8, 1941, resulting in all mainland troops withdrawing to the island. Japan invaded Hong Kong Island on 10 days later. The invasion force was overwhelming in strength and backed with a heavy arsenal of artillery and air support. Heavily outnumbered, the Allied troops had no significant air or naval defence and had no hope of being relieved or resupplied. The Canadians performed valiantly and held out for as long as possible.

Max Berger spent the early part of the battle delivering supplies to frontline units with a dwindling pool of motor transport, including local taxis. When it became impossible to continue their supply activities, Max’s unit became a part of an adhoc unit of Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. They then joined another scratch force made up of Royal Canadian Army Ordinance troops who were holding the north end of what was called the Ridge position. The Ridge position was the only link between the two main British positions and, if it were lost, the Allied formations would be split in two. The fighting for the position was fierce and, faced with overwhelming odds, on December 18, the British forces tried to pull back. It took them two tries and they succeeded the second time. Sometime between December 19 and 22, Private Max Berger of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps was killed. His body was never recovered.

A plaque honouring the fourteen Jewish members of the armed services from Sarnia was unveiled in the Ahavas Isaac Synagogue, Davis Street, Sarnia on March 30, 1945. (Adapted from the Sarnia Historical Society website)

In 2008, the City of Sarnia opened Berger Road in honour of Max and his service to the country.

It’s likely that he was born in 1919 as his name appears in the 1921 census as age 1. If he were born in 1920, it would have said 6 months. His sister’s name is also listed there with her age recorded as being 2 months.

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