Brigadier E.W. Goodman, D.S.O., M.C.



4-11th September 1941

I spent the next eight days settling in and finding out about things.  My HQ arrived by road on the evening of the 3rd in local lorries and went into camp in the Divisional Signal Company lines out on the circular road, Anna Nelson, Howard and Cooper living there too in the Signal Mess.  It was not a convenient arrangement as the camp was a good two miles away from me and from Div HQ, which latter was only about 500 yards from my hotel.  Much later on they were moved, Anna moving into the Div HQ Mess, but that was not until about November.  Our MT arrived on the 5th at Swettenham, having left Bombay in the Rajput on 26th September with Cooper (and also the 155 Fd Regt MT)

Enlarge Malaya Map

Click on map to enlarge


Div HQ was in a police building on Bluff Road between my hotel and the town, standing well up with good views over the town to the hills beyond.  There was a Mess and quarters alongside the office building where junior officers lived.  I was given two big rooms on the ground floor into which we spread ourselves.  Coates was the G1, a very nice person who dined with us in Quetta the same night as the Evetts dined.  (Oh! how I’d like to be back in Quetta in the bungalow you made so very nice and comfortable.)  I’d just met one or two of the rest of the staff in Quetta when the Division was forming there but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten most of their names by now.  But anyhow it was a very happy HQ and I always found them all very pleasant to deal with. 

The Field Regiment (155) came through KL in two parties en route for Ipoh, 130 miles north of KL, where they were to be stationed.  The party by train passed through on, I think the 4th, and the road party with the guns and vehicles on the 5th or 6th, staying one night in KL, where I went to see them at the Rest Camp.  I’m not sure of the dates but only remember it poured with rain the day the road party arrived.

Coates put me into the picture about my job and, as a job, it was pretty poor at the time though with prospects of becoming very much better by the early part of 1942.  At the time I found that I had 155 Fd Regt at Ipoh (where 28 Brigade also went) and a 6-gun Mountain Battery (23) who had 4 guns in Kelantan at Chondong Camp 16 miles south of Khota Bharu and a section in camp (hutted) about 5 miles inland from Kuantan in Pahang on the east coast – a well-scattered and rather exiguous command.  It will make it clearer if I explain the whole situation in Malaya as it was in September 1941.

To start with the geography of the country.  There are two main ranges of hills, the first and bigger running practically north to south from the Thai-Perak-Kelantan border (there the three meet) and forming the boundary between Perak and Kelantan and Pahang, Selangor and then running into Negri Sembilan where it ends.  The second ridge also runs approximately north to south, forming the border between Kelantan and Tiengganu, and ending about the Pahang River.  There is a third and smaller range, also running north and south, which forms the border between Kedah and Thailand and this runs into Perak ending just south of Taiping.  All these hills are covered in dense jungle.  Only the first, or main, range is crossed by motor roads and only by two: (1) the road from KL over the Gap to Kuala Lipis and Jerantut and Kuantan and (2) from KL via Genting Sempah to Bentong, Mentakab and Temerloh on the Sungei Pahang.  This road was being extended across the Sungei Pahang to join up with the Kuantan road at Marau.  A cross road also joined Bentong to the Gap-Kuala Lipis road to the north and to the KL-Singapore road at Seremban, Tampin and Gemas to the south. 

The result of all this is that the main communications run north and south and east to west communication is not good anywhere, being best in Johore.  There was no motor road communication with Kelantan from the south except by the coast road through Tiengganu and Pahang to Kuantan.  Portions of this could only be used when the tide was out and there were some very indifferent ferries on it.  There was no road between Kuala Krai in Kelantan and Kuala Lipis in Pahang, the only communication being a single line railway with many bridges and tunnels and so very vulnerable. 

9 Divisional area was roughly the States of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang (the Federated Malay States) and Kelantan and Tiengganu (two of the five unfederated Malay States).  In September when I arrived, the Div HQ was in Kuala Lumpur; 8 Indian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Key) was in Kelantan with HQ in Khota Bharu and (I think) three battalions (Dogra, Frontier Force Regt and Baluch) to the west of and outside of Khota Bharu, at Chondong Camp (17th milestone on the road to Kuala Krai) where were also 23 Mountain Battery and at Pasin Putel respectively.  There were also two sections of an AA Battery Khota Bharu aerodrome.  A very large area for such a force to cover.  The raison d’être of the Brigade was advanced aerodromes at Khota Bharu where there were some RAAF and two in the making at Gong Keedah and Machang.  There had been much dispute about building these aerodromes, but the RAF carried the day against the WO.  RAF wanted them to get the extra range for recces over towards Indo-China.  The troops available made them indefensible and even with enough troops the L of C was most precarious without any real road and only a single line of railway from Gemas, about 300 miles away, though roads were available to Kuala Lipis and Kuala Krai.  Between these two there were no roads at all and dense jungle country, a distance of 136 miles.

The next aerodrome going south was at Kuantan and here there was the 22 Brigade (Brigadier Painter) with two battalions (Garhwalis and Frontier Force Regt) concentrated in and near Kuantan, together with a section (two guns) of 23 Mountain Battery.  There were no AA guns and the aerodrome was not yet finished.  Kuantan was 248 miles by road from KL, and about 147 miles from Jerantut, the nearest railway station.  There was a ferry over the Pahang River between Jerantut and Pahang and another ferry about three miles short of Kuantan.  The third battalion of this Brigade (Coke’s Rifles) was at Mantin, about 45 miles south of KL on the main Singapore road.  155 Fd Regt was at Ipoh, 141 miles to the north, and also 28 Brigade.  But the latter, certainly three weeks later and actually never, I think, belonged to 9 Division but were Corps Reserve.

In addition to these regular troops there were also battalions of FMS Volunteers in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and I think Perak with one light battery.  Their HQ was also in KL and Brig Moir looked after them.  He also looked after the L of C, which I think stretched from the boundary of Perak with Province Wellesley down to Gemas.

III Indian Corps HQ was also in KL.  The Corps Commander was Sir Lewis Heath, who had done very well at Keren.  He had in his Corps area 9 Division as above plus 11 Division, of whom more anon.  I had nothing to do with III Corps to start with but in October it was arranged that they could call me in for advice on gunner matters and through this I was able to see much more of the country than I would have done if I had only been with 9 Division. 

11 Indian Division had as their area Province Wellesley, Kedah and Perlis.  Their HQ was at Sungei Patani where was 15 Brigade (Brig Garnett).  6 Brigade (Brig Lay) was at Tanjong Pau, just north of Alor Star.  They were mostly concentrated in these two places but they had a detachment at Padang Besar, the frontier railway station in Perlis.  There was also one battalion of 28 Brigade (Ipoh) at Taiping which had been a peacetime station for an Indian battalion.  General Murray-Lyon commanded 11 Division.  I had met him in Waziristan in 1937 and again at Fort Sandeman in October 1940 when he was commanding the Zhob Brigade.  Arthur Rusher was the CRA and his guns consisted of 22 Mountain Regiment less the battery I had, so at that time he wasn’t much better off than I was.  22 Mountain Regiment (Lt-Col Hughes) was at Tanjong Pau with 6 Brigade.

Penang Fortress was a separate command consisting of the island and a small piece of Province Wellesley opposite to George Town.  The Fortress troops consisted of one battalion only (5/14, commanded by Stokes, at SOS Belgam) and some coast defence gunners.  There was a big aerodrome at Alor Star, another at Butterworth near Prai and more in the making in Province Wellesley.  There was a big aerodrome at Sungei Patani.  There was also a small aerodrome on Penang Island and one at Ipoh and KL used by civil aircraft.  There was some AA artillery in 11 Division area but I cannot remember how much in September, as it was changing all the time. 

Going south again, the Australian Division was in Johore and Malacca with its HQ Johore Bahru, one Brigade (Brig Taylor) in Mersing and Endau and the second Brigade (27 – Brig Maxwell) in Malacca, Segamat and Johore Bahru.  The Commander was General Gordon Bennett and the CRA Brig Callaghan.  He had a regiment of artillery at Mersing, one at Kluang, where his HQ was, and an anti-tank regiment at Malacca.  There was an aerodrome at Kluang, and there may have been others in this area but I cannot say. 

Going south again there was Singapore Fortress, which comprised the Island.  But the fortress only faced the sea and only the south coast and the eastern and, to a lesser extent, the western entrance to the Johore strait, were defended.  The Fortress Commander was Maj-Gen Keith Simmons and he had under him two infantry brigades – 1 (Brig Williams) and 2 (Brig Fraser) Malayan Brigades; the coast defence gunners (two regiments) (Brig Curtis) and the AA gunners (Brig Wildey).  There was also one Field Regiment (Lt-Col Dyson).

Commanding all the troops in Malaya was Lt-Gen Percival with his HQ at Fort Canning in Singapore.  In addition there was the RAF, including some RAAF, all commanded by Air-Vice-Marshal Pulford.  The Navy had a Vice-Admiral Spooner commanding the Dockyard, with Sir Geoffrey Layton commanding the Far Eastern Station.

Having finished a sketch of the distribution of troops in, and geography of, Malaya I will get on with the diary, as far as I can remember events.  There will be many gaps but my letters may fill in a few of the gaps, especially as regards dates.


4-11th September 1941

As I’ve already said I spent the first eight days settling in and finding out what was what and where it was.  Anna Nelson, though I always found him rather irritating and apt to do silly things at times, on the whole turned up trumps and did me very well indeed.  He got on very well with the rest of the Div HQ staff and was full of energy.  Howard did me very well too and had his head screwed on well.  Cooper, the Staff Lieutenant, was very young and not much good with the men.  Later, during the war, he went back to a battery and I got a much better replacement.  The men were a mixed lot and were, many of them, not the right type for a small HQ, nor were they well trained in motor maintenance and driving.  Cooper tried to do what he could with them, but it wasn’t much as it turned out and, when war started and men were on their own a good deal, maintenance was far from good.

During my settling in I found a visitors’ book in the British Resident’s bungalow.  I wrote my name in it, as I saw Gen Barstow and others had, but nothing ever came of it.

The whole impression I got – I hope I am not being wise after the event – was that the civilians didn’t think war with Japan as being likely to happen at any rate at any proximate date.  From what I’ve heard since captivity, the Governor certainly was of that impression.  The army was done very well and for temporary camps well housed in attap (palm leaf) huts, generally with concrete or brick floor and often electric light.  There was no cold to contend with, only rain and damp.  In many cases the huts’ walls stopped three or four inches short of the floor to allow the breeze to circulate.  Anti-malaria precautions in and near towns were very good indeed and in KL I hardly saw a mosquito or fly.  Flies there were in plenty as we discovered in Changi after becoming POWs.  I never really got acclimatised, I think, until after the capitulation and never really felt fit.  It was partly due to the travelling about which is always upsetting, and partly mental – I do hate being separated from you, and partly hotel food I suspect.  The great drawback to the camps was that, in many places, they were in rubber.  I am sure that this had a depressing and bad effect on everybody’s mind who had to live in them.  I said as much to Lay when I was up in 11 Division area in October.  He got rather annoyed about it but I knew I was right.  The light in such camps was always very dim and subdued, it got light in the morning very late and dark in the evening very early; after rain the leaves continued to drip for a long time and altogether there was nothing in favour of camps being there.  There was certainly no reason from a military point of view such as concealment.  In war no-one was in them and the position of everything we had was well known to the Jap very soon after it was put there.  Spying for them was too easy and there must have been a good many natives in their pay, though I only actually heard of two cases definitely proved – one a Chinese and the other a Tamil.  The camp my HQ was in was in the open as was, I think, everything at KL.  Rubber stopped a few miles outside.  Gen Barstow came back from leave sometime between 4th and 10th September and was as pleasant as ever.

I found a practice camp had been arranged for the battery up in Kelantan about September 17th so I arranged to go up there with Nelson.  He flew up on the 10th, I think it was, and I followed on the 12th.  The trip up to Khota Bharu certainly gave one an excellent idea of the country.  The more or less flat plain between the hills and the sea in Selangor and Perak was mostly rubber or tin mines.  There is tin near KL but Ipoh is the great centre, the Kinta valley being the richest tin area in the world I believe.  Once one gets about 10 miles north of KL the network of roads which exists in Selangor stops and there is practically only the one main road going north and keeping fairly close to the railway.  Down in the direction of the sea the ground got very flat and in places there were miles of mangrove swamp.  The hills on the right as one went towards Penang were fairly high (the Gap is about 3,800' and the hills go up to 6,900' further north, averaging about 5,000') and covered in dense jungle right up to the top.  There were hardly any clearings visible from the air and a forced landing would not have been easy.

I can’t remember exactly how long it took but I think we left KL about 9am, came down at Ipoh about 10.15am and then on to Penang, where we arrived about 11am.  The aerodrome there is at the southern end of the island, the far end from George Town.  Leaving Penang we flew practically straight across to Khota Bharu in Kelantan, crossing over the main range I spoke about.  Once one had crossed the 20 miles or so of cleared ground along the coast, one was flying over jungle the whole way.  We went over Grik on the Perak River, which was to come very much into our news later on, and then over the hills about 6,000' and skirting the Thai border down to Khota Bharu where we got about 12.45.  About 4 hours for a journey which takes about 15 hours by train, including a night.

I was met by Anna and Sopper, commanding the Mountain Battery and they drove me to Brigade HQ where I met Key, commanding 8 Brigade.  Then we went on and I think I had lunch in the Battery Mess in Chondong Camp about 17 miles up the road to Kuala Krai after which I must have gone on to Pasir Puteh where the 2/10 Baluch were, with whom Anna and I were living.  They had a pleasant camp in palm trees on rather sandy soil (Pasir Puteh means ‘Whole Sand’).  I had a room in a hut which was very adequate and had electric light.  I found it hotter there and stickier than in KL but it may have been because I did a good deal of walking.  The first part of the drive from Khota Bharu to Chondong was through padi fields, later came palm groves and rubber with some low hills, jungle covered as they nearly all are, on the east or left side of the road.  The road was narrow and banked up a bit above the padi.  It was all interesting but not particularly attractive.  From Chondong to Pasir Puteh the road ran through jungle or rubber most of the way.

I had lived with 2/10 Baluch for 9 months in 1924 at Fort Sandeman but the officers had all changed except one Major, Featherstone, whom unfortunately I had not liked.  The CO’s name was Frith.  They made me very comfortable and gave me a sepoy to look after me.  It was nice to have Indians to deal with again even though my orderly was ivory from the collarbone upwards!  The chief trouble I had was in washing clothes.  One got wet through whenever one walked and it was with great difficulty that I managed to keep up the supply of clean clothes as the local dhobi seemed to think that 3 or 4 days was a reasonable time to take to wash them.  They had a very comfortable Mess and I enjoyed living there after the hotel.  They had, I remember, a very good brand of coffee, which you made by just passing hot water on it.  Not as good as a Cona and ordinary coffee of course but much better than badly made coffee.  It was made by Nestlé.


13-14th September 1941

On the 13th and 14th September Anna and I reconnoitred the area for shooting.  It was all flat except for one little hill about 300 feet high which we had to toil up and made me hotter than I had been for a very long time.  The area was to the east of Pasir Puteh and we went down to the beach where I had my first close view of the China Sea.


15-16th September 1941

The Battery shot on these two days.  We had a lot of infantry out to watch and things went quite smoothly.  One shell went wide and fell rather close to one of the stops on the edge of the range, which caused a good deal of frenzied flag-wagging, but no damage was done.  I found it very hot and sticky but I enjoyed it as I always do, watching shooting.  I don’t think that they were very long days.  But it was very nice to get back to a bath and some dry clothes.


17-18th September 1941

On these two days we (Anna and I) did further recces to find a better practice area but without success.  Where it was at all hilly was all jungle and where it was flat was low scrub which prevented one seeing more than 300 or 400 yards along the ground – beyond that one only saw the top of the scrub.  The low, flat country was also apt to be very wet and boggy.  We also went to see all the beach defence guns (18 pdrs) manned by infantry and found things not very satisfactory.  We also saw all the prepared gun positions and all the coast that was held from Semarah, by Pasir Puteh, up to just north of Khota Bharu.  It was all most interesting.  The infantry company at Semarah had an ancient motor launch and we had a trip in that which was pleasant.  It included bumping over the bar to get out to sea and then coming ashore by just putting the bow up on the beach, the tide being too low to get back over the bar.  One night I went over and dined with the Battery at Chondong and had a walk round their lines.  It was nice being with Indian troops again.

The Baluchi also had a sort of ‘At Home’ one evening for local planters, some of whom came about 30 or 40 miles.  They were a very mixed crowd and it must have been a lonely job being a planter in Kelantan or even in the MCS.  But they had all been very good to the Army, which of course was quite an innovation for those parts.


19th September 1941

We took our leave of the Baluchis in the morning and drove out to the aerodrome beyond Khota Bharu where we got a trip in a Buffalo piloted by an Australian, to take a final look at the area and see what the gunners’ camouflage was like.  We did spot a possible area for practice which Anna reconnoitred later on in November, I think it was.  The front end of the plane was one big window and it was rather like being in a greenhouse.  After coming back, we called in at Brigade HQ to say goodbye and then drove the 40-odd miles up to Kuala Krai to catch the train.  It left at 12 noon and was my first experience of Malayan trains.  It was most comfortable. I had a compartment just like a wagon lits and shared it with, I think, a Dane as far as Kuala Lipis, where he got out about 6pm.  One could get meals on the train.  It was a casual performance – no menu but quite good and very clean.  The train provided bedding and I had the carriage to myself that night.  We went via Gemas, where the coach was hitched onto the KL train from Singapore.  We arrived at KL at 7am in time for a bath and breakfast.


21st September 1941

In the afternoon I left in the stationwagon and a 15cwt truck with Anna and five British other ranks for Kuantan.  We only went as far as the Gap that day – 59 miles.  There was a very good Rest House there, some 4,000 feet up.  It was delightful to get into a cooler and drier place and to stop sweating for a bit.  I think I told you all about the Rest House in a letter I wrote to you.  Painter was there going to Singapore.


22nd September 1941

We started early the next morning for Kuantan, 189 miles.  The first 13 miles or so were all downhill, a regular hill road, but with thick jungle on both sides.  I don’t remember the road well but I think when one got down to the bottom of the hill there was a certain amount of padi.  We went through Raub, where there are small gold mines and where 9 Div HQ moved to after the war started. We stopped for lunch at Jerantut Rest House (82 miles).  This was much more reminiscent of an Indian dak – bungalow.  A few miles beyond Jerantut the road crosses the Pahang River by a flying bridge, or jenny.  One drives onto a pontoon which is attached to a wire rope across the river by two ropes or pullies.  The current pressing on the pontoon, which is put at the correct angle by altering the length of the attaching ropes, pushes the jenny across.  There was a strong current flowing and we got across in about ten minutes.  From then on to Kuantan the road for the most part ran through thick jungle with occasional padi.  It was a narrow road and very winding and driving the stationwagon was very tiring as the steering was so heavy, due to the oversize tyres for which it was not designed.  We arrived about 4.30 and put up at the Rest House there.  At first sight it all seemed slap-up with taps, pull the plugs, etc., but as there was apparently no water laid on it was not so good.  One Lloyd was staying there too, an RE lieutenant-colonel whom I had known as a subaltern in a field company in Kohat in 1925.  The British other ranks put up at ‘Victory’ (sic) Camp where Bde HQ was, about 5 miles short of Kuantan and where we had called on our way past.  There was another jenny about two miles short of Kuantan, which was much slower than the Jerantut one, being pulled across by two men working windlasses.


23rd September 1941

The morning was spent in seeing the section of 22 Mtn Bty shooting.  We had to drive a long way through rubber (the way the Japs eventually came through) to about two-thirds of the way to Besserah, north of Kuantan.  The shooting was out to sea and was only calibration.  After that was over Hartigan (commanding the Garhwalis) took me round the beach defences from Besserah to Kuantan and showed me the beach defence guns.  It was difficult and thick country.  Their guns were slightly more satisfactory than the Kuantan ones.  Every infantryman that I met seemed to think that, comparatively speaking, any fool could fire and shoot well with an 18 pdr stuck down on the beach!  In the afternoon Parkin of the Sikhs showed me round the south end of the area, astride the Pekan road, and after that I went on to Bde HQ to see the Mountain Section lines.


24th September 1941

We went back to KL by car driving through the whole way – 248 miles in one day.  And very tiring it was.  We had lunch again at Jerantut.


25th September 1941

In the evening I left by train for Singapore in a very slap-up, air-conditioned sleeping car and a compartment to myself.  They have a very good system whereby by paying, I think, $2 extra one can ensure a compartment to oneself.  The train left at about 9.30pm I think and got into Singapore at 7am.  It is slow but consequently ran very smoothly and was very quiet.


27th September 1941

Curtis met me at the station and drove me out to his bungalow at Alexandra.  I had written to him – he commanded the Fixed Defences of Singapore Island – from Kuantan saying I wanted to see some of his beach defence guns and he replied asking me to stay, which was very kind of him.  After breakfast and a bath he took me down to HQ Malaya Command and then to see 16 Defence Regiment’s beach defence guns.  I was able to fix up for an officer and some NCOs to go up to Kelantan and Kuantan to hold local courses.  After that Curtis took me on to see one of the 15" guns, which was most interesting.


28th September 1941

I was taken down to Fort Canning (HQ Malaya Command) again and saw the Ordnance about oddments which were wanted up in Kelantan and Kuantan.  I then found my own way back to Curtis’s bungalow via Singapore Town, where I did some shopping in Raffles Square.  Singapore has rather a fine front with some very modern buildings.  After lunch and tea I went for a bit of a walk with Mrs Curtis, who was very pleasant, and ended up at a small local tennis club where Curtis was playing tennis.  After dinner Curtis went off to see some shooting and I went off by the 10pm train back to KL, again travelling in great comfort.


29th September 1941

I arrived back in KL at 7am.  It was very convenient there, the hotel being within one minute’s walk of the station.  So one could be having a morning cup of tea and in a bath in ten minutes or so.


30th September 1941

I was off on my travels again, leaving KL at either 9 or 10pm, I can’t remember which.  This time it was only a short journey to Ipoh, the centre of the mining district of the Kinta Valley.


1st October 1941

The carriage I was in, this time not air-conditioned, was taken off the train on arrival at Ipoh at about 2am, run into a siding and left there.  So one could sleep on until 7 or so, as it was very quiet.  The conductors of the sleeping cars were a very pleasant change to their brethren of the wagon lits, as one never saw them on arrival at one’s destination and they never apparently expected a tip.  I had a wash and shave and breakfast in the station and then drove off to see 155 Fd Regt in my car, which had gone up by road on the 30th.  The Regiment were in Canning Camp in rubber, quite good as camps in rubber go.  They were settling in alright but it was not a good place for training, though no worse than other places.  I spent most of the morning there and then, after lunch at the station, drove back to KL by road in the car, as I wanted to see the country.  I got to know bits of that road pretty well later on.  The road was a mixture of very fast, broad, straight stretches and windy, twisty bits, rather narrow, which seemed to be characteristic of all the older roads in Malaya.  The straight stretches were all new and I suppose eventually would have been more or less continuous from Ipoh to KL.  I never got my bearings properly in Ipoh and places always seemed to be in the opposite direction to which I expected them to be. (map-reading!!)

For the first 15-20 miles to Gopeng and Kampar the country was fairly open and cleared, being all tin mines.  For the rest of the way it was jungle in rubber with some tin mines down to KL.  I remember being very sleepy in the car so didn’t see as much as I might have done!


2-14th October 1941

I don’t think anything special happened during this period.  I probably did a bit of exploring of the neighbourhood in the car.  I think we had our one and only Div HQ exercise when the whole HQ turned out and set itself up in a rubber plantation about six miles down the Klang road.  Sometime about the 4th October I was made artillery adviser to III Corps HQ in KL.  So sometimes I had to go up there when they wanted me.  The chief problem as I remember was to produce a scheme for a unit to man half-a-dozen or so Italian Buda combined AA and anti-tank guns, captured in the Middle East and sent on to Malaya.  My dealings there were principally with Fawcett (BGS) and Smith (Q) and their respective staff officers.  I was glad of something more to do and, dealing with Corps, one heard about things that didn’t always get down to Div HQ.  It also got me a trip up to 11 Division area, which I shouldn’t otherwise have had.  I used to walk a lot for exercise and got to know the roads of KL pretty well.  I went and dined with Bustling Bill one evening (it may well have been in November and not now).  His ADC – Austen – and Hartigan (Garhwali) were there too.  The ADC was very nice, about 28 or 29 I suppose, and I think a stockbroker in London by trade.  Afterwards we went onto a cinema, what I can’t remember.  About the 8th October I was told that I was to attend a conference in Singapore at the end of the month and so I’d better go up to the north and look round 11 Division area.  So I wrote off to Arthur Rusher and fixed things up.


15-16th October 1941

 I left KL by the night train, getting to Prai (for Penang) at 6am.  There I was met by a car and drove up to Sungei Patani (23 miles) where Arthur put me up in his billet.  He had very wisely refused to live with the rest of Div HQ in huts under rubber and instead had got permission to live out and had made an arrangement with the Manager of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank there (Sungei Patani) and pg’d with him, much to his benefit as the manager’s quarter was a good one.  The Bank do their people well and furnish the whole thing down to linen.  The Manager’s name was Willans.

After breakfast we went off to see a demonstration by 22 Mountain Regiment in a rubber estate a few miles out of Sungei Patani.  The shooting was not very instructive I thought.  After that was over Lay (Comd 6 Bde) drove me up in his car to Tanjong Pau – a big camp in rubber a few miles north of Alor Star and about 30 miles from Sungei Patani.  There he dropped me at the Mountain Regiment Mess where I stayed two nights.  As I’ve already said, the camps in rubber were very gloomy and depressing and I am sure must have had a bad effect on the troops’ morale.


17th October 1941

Hughes (CO 22 Mtn Regt) took me round the Jitra position, the Malayan equivalent of the Siegfried Line.  But when I saw it, it was very much in the making and in fact was never finished.  As I didn’t make any note of what I thought about it at the time I may be being wise after the event in saying I didn’t like it and didn’t feel at all happy about the gunner part of it at that time.  It struck me then, and again later during the war, that Hughes wasn’t much good at making the sort of preparations required for a position like that.  The anti-tank ditch was in the process of being made but was not a formidable obstacle, and in fact when tanks did come, they came down the road which wasn’t blocked.  (I heard a few days ago (15/9/43) that the machine making the ditch was still working after troops were in position at Jitra and the battle had started!)  From Jitra we went on to Changlun and the Thai border across which I stepped so that I can say I’ve been in Thailand!

The jungle on either side of the road up there was very dense indeed.  Here more preparations had been made, the road mined, MG posts in concrete, etc.  In the afternoon we went to see the other flank of the Jitra position which was slightly better from the gunner point of view, though it was obvious that we wanted guns with long range like the 25 pdr and not the 4.5" or 3.7" howitzer, which is all there was at that time.


18th October 1941

Hughes took me up into Perlis which was not attractive.  It was mostly padi and quite a number of steep limestone hills rising straight up out of the plain, many of them with nearly sheer sides.  We went into a cave in one of them which was interesting.  I believe many of them are to a great extent hollow.  We went on to Kahi Bukit where we went through the tunnel in the hill in which the footpath is carried on duckboards over the stream.  We came back via Kodiang, the capital, where we went up the hill which is called the Jubilee Park.  It was rather pathetic and neglected.  Then back to lunch and afterwards back to Sungei Patani to stay again with Arthur Rusher, dropping Hughes at the BG’s house (?Hall) in Alor Star where he was going to play golf.  That evening Garnett (15 Bde) came to dine and it was very pleasant.


19-20th October 1941

In the morning walked round the Sungei Patani aerodrome with Arthur and picked his brains about gunner defence of an aerodrome against parachute troops and also saw some AA guns then just mounted.  We had a talk about the Jitra position and then I expect, but don’t remember, a snoozle in the afternoon.  In the evening Willans drove me down to Butterworth and onto the ferry across to George Town.  It’s such a pretty place from the Butterworth side.  We went to the E&O Hotel where we met Macintosh, Rusher’s BM, who was giving us dinner.  Rusher got involved with an Ordnance General – Vershoyle-Campbell – on a visit from India, which made us late in arriving at the Penang Club, which seemed very slap-up.  So unfortunately dinner had to be rushed as I had to catch the ferry back to Prai.  George Town boasted of, I believe, the only station without a train!  You go into a place just like the entrance to a station, buy your ticket at the window and then walk out onto the ferry boat.  The crossing was about 30 minutes I think.  I was very much attracted by Penang and fully intended to go up there at Christmas if it could be arranged, as of course it couldn’t.  I got into the train at Prai and arrived at KL at about 7 or so the next morning.


21-25th October 1941

Spent in KL.  I believe that about this time Wally Baker came on his tour from India.  On one of these days Cooper and I went off in the stationwagon to reconnoitre a practice camp area which had been used by Dyson’s regiment.  It was I think in Negri Sembilan or may have been just in Malacca.  It proved to be quite a good area, an old tapioca plantation and then covered with lalang grass.  We drove down the main Singapore road through Seremban and Tampin and then turned off to the right to Nyalas and eventually found the area.  We got excessively hot tramping about.  After lunch there on the range we drove back the same way, it being about 160-70 miles altogether and a tiring day.  I have always regretted since that we did not go on to Malacca and stay the night there, as from all accounts it’s a most attractive place.  And incidentally it would have meant a less tiring day and could have cut out about 60 miles driving.  I think it was that I had been away so much recently that I did not look forward to any nights away that could be avoided.  I’m sorry now.

Anna and I also recce’d a practice area at Sungei Besi some 8 miles south of KL.  This was near a big, open tin mine – a most enormous hole just dug out of the ground.  We walked a lot and got our stockings full of spear grass.  It wasn’t much of an area, being too small.  I also spent a morning driving up the KL-Bentong road as far as the pass over the hills by Genting Sempah to see how it compared with the Gap road.  It was worse, narrower and more twisty.  It was a pleasant morning and nice and cool up at the top (between 3 and 4,000 feet).  Otherwise I don’t remember that anything particular happened.


26th October 1941

I set off for Singapore again on the night train.  The Corps Commander and his BGS (Fawcett) and Barstow were also on the train.  I had previously asked Curtis if I might take him at his word and beg a bed.


27th October 1941

The Conference was held at Fort Canning.  Being a new arrival I found it all very interesting and it was an opportunity to meet a good many people.  I don’t remember the hours but it was probably 10-12.30 and 2-4.  At this Conference Playfair, CSO to Brooke-Popham (Far East Command), gave a most convincing exposition of how impossible it was for the Japanese to start war before March 1942 and that even then it would be a most hazardous undertaking for them!


28-29th October 1941

The conference continued on these days.  On the 29th we were taken to the Command Gymnasium in Tanglin Barracks and shown a demonstration and after that went to see some of the beach defences out beyond Kallang.  After that Barstow, Key (8 Bde) and I drove out to the Naval Base and were taken round.  It was a vast place and of what little use as it turned out.  We had lunch – and a very good one too – with the Naval Chief of Staff whose name has completely gone from me, and then drove back via the end of the Causeway and Bukit Timah, having gone in through Nee Soon.  It was an interesting day.  They had there a most interesting chart showing where every Allied ship was from South Africa, all over the Indian Ocean and right across the Pacific.  It seemed to be mostly staffed – that particular branch – by ladies and I expect that is the sort of job you might have got if you could have taken on a whole time job, which of course you could not.  It must have been the evening before that the Curtis’s took me to a cinema, which was kind of them.  I went back to KL by the evening train on the 29th, arriving home on the morning of the 30th.

I went into hospital at Tanjong Malim for a couple of nights for examination and injection, having previously been over to see the surgeon, a very wild Irishman called Doyle, but whom I found then and again later in Changi to be very skilful and kind.  I cannot remember the dates of this visit but it must have been between the end of October and the middle of November I think (in your letters you mention a letter of mine of 23rd November in which I evidently told you that the visit to hospital had been a success, so it looks as though it was November 20th).  It seemed a good hospital in the Sultan Idris College.  The Sister who looked after me had previously been in the BMH Nowshera.  Anyhow it was a satisfactory visit.  The hospital was commanded by an ex-Naval doctor who seemed very pleasant. 

Towards the end of October 155 Fd Regt was taken from me and handed over to 11 Division, moving north from Ipoh.  My dates for November are particularly vague and the only ones I can vouch for are those of 5 Field’s arrival and my going up to Kelantan again.  Oh! one other thing – Duff Cooper visited KL about the 25th or 26th October and I had a talk with him which I told you all about. 

1/11   I went (in Barstow’s place) to the paying of homage ceremony at the Sultan of Selangor’s palace at Klang.  A very interesting and colourful scene which I described to you in a letter.


6th November 1941   5 Field Regiment (Lt-Col Jephson) arrived at Singapore.  They had been at Shinkiani, beyond Manserah, when I went to Abbottabad in July.  They also were armed with 4.5" howitzers as was 155 Fed Regt.  They had two batteries of 8 guns each: 73 (Maj Don) and 63/81 (Maj Bland).  They went up to Ipoh into Canning Camp which by then 155 Fd had left.


7th November 1941

Their train party passed through KL on the evening of November 8th very much behind time, having been delayed for about 12 hours at Gemas by a train off the line.  I went down to see them, or rather tried to see them but couldn’t find them where they had been shunted to in the goods yard.  It was a pouring wet night and every gate which I found was locked.  So in the end I had to give it up and got back very wet as the Austin Seven I had been in was far from watertight.  Their road party passed through on the 9th or 10th November but I cannot remember going to see them.  I am sure that I would have, had I been in KL, so it is possible that it was then that I was in hospital at Tanjong Malim.  Sometime in November also 80 Anti-tank Regiment (Lt-Col Napier) also arrived from England, though I think they must have come about the 22nd.  They all went to 11 Division except the 273 Battery (Maj Slater), which went to Taiping and was under me.


10-19th November 1941

The principal events of the month were the manoeuvres of 12 Indian Infantry Brigade (Brig Paris) held in the area between Malacca and Rawang and Kuala Selangor, north of KL.  They were divided into three exercises of 2-3 days each.  They were run by III Corps and I was artillery umpire.  Anna and Howard helped and we got some officers down from 5 Fld as well.  Jephson also came down to watch and actually they proved of great value as training the gunners for the war which started next month.  I am not sure of the dates but they were approximately 10th and 11th, 13th to 15th and 17th to 19th November, not that the dates matter at all.  The first exercise started at Kajang about 14 miles south of KL and took place mostly north of KL up in the Kuala Selangor-Batang Berjuntai area, both of which are about 28 miles north of KL.  A day or so before the exercise all the umpires were taken over the ground and were told what was wanted.  Oddly enough a very similar situation cropped up during the war in the same area.  Actually the first exercise only lasted one day, finishing at about 8.30pm, being stopped on account of rain!  And that in Malaya where rain is not a rare occurrence.  In spite of the fact that it was very like what did actually happen, it was a dull day.  It started off by my having to be at Kajang by about 7.30 I believe, and then hanging about for a long time before anything happened of interest to me.  Dyson’s Fd Regt (122) was taking part.  It was nice to see him again.  I think I left Kajang about 10 or 11 and spent the rest of the day driving the roads.  It came on to rain in the evening and the Corps Commander called it off about 8pm.  It was really rather absurd and was rather typical of our peacetime training.  Being a POW, if it has done nothing else, has taught one what white people can do in a climate like that of Malaya.  So back I went to the hotel, to a bath, dinner and bed.

The next spasm was between Malacca and KL and started on the evening of the 13th at Alor Gajah, 78 miles south of KL.  I drove down there and, after hearing the orders, as it was dark, there was nothing more for me to do except tell the other artillery umpires what I wanted.  Having done this I went off and stayed the night at Seremban Rest House, 46 miles away on the KL side.  It was an exceedingly good Rest House, more like an hotel – polished boards, electric light, bedding, etc., provided.  I gave my driver dinner and breakfast there, which I hope he appreciated as he slept in the stationwagon.  I was up at dawn the next morning to see the start of the battle which had arrived at Seremban about then.  There was a good deal of hanging about and I got some breakfast there.  The rest of the day was spent on the road, chasing batteries and HQ.  One had to find out what information the gunners had got; what action they took; see how they moved; see whether they took proper steps for their own local protection; etc., etc..  It entailed a great deal of driving, with often a great deal of traffic on the roads which, when side roads were named, I think I covered 3-400 miles during the three spasms.  I remember I had beer, bread and cheese for lunch at Kajang but on the whole I seem to remember that my food arrangements were bad: I appreciate their importance more now!  We finished up that day I can’t remember where.  But on thinking it over I am beginning to think that the 14th was the end of it.  I can remember that the whole thing finished up just north of KL as my being up with a battery and having my life saved by Anna appearing with tea and biscuits.


17th November 1941

The third and final spasm was between KL, Klang, Morib and the SE.  This was run by Painter.  I remember very little about it except Dyson giving me a very excellent breakfast in a bungalow put at his disposal by a planter who had gone away on leave, which was uncommonly good of him.  On the last day I remember setting off from 12 Bde HQ about 3.30 to see what was happening down Morib way.  When about 10 miles or so short of Morib my axle (back) broke and there I was at about 5.30pm stranded about 60 miles from home.  So I set off to walk to Morib, leaving the driver with the car.  Luckily I met a planter who gave me a life to Morib Rest House from where I telephoned to KL for a car and a breakdown lorry to tow in the stationwagon, to be told that the exercise had ended about half-an-hour after I left HQ.  So I had a meal at the Rest House until the car arrived for me.  I drove back to my car to tell Robinson, the driver, what was happening and then set off for KL, where I must have arrived about 11pm – all rather annoying.


20th November 1941

On the 20th and 21st they had a Conference at Corps HQ where bouquets or raspberries were distributed.  I had to get up and talk about the gunners and could not be very complimentary to the infantry!  I had Jephson to dine one night and Dyson came and had lunch with me.  Dyson asked me to stay a night or two with him at Malacca where his regiment was.  I am sorry now that I couldn’t go – I had been away so much.  After the Conference Anna and I had to put our heads together and send out training instructions to 5 Fd as a result of what had been learnt on the manoeuvres.  I think they were pretty good ones!

Shortly after this Anna went up to Kelantan and on to Kuantan to see the infantry-manned 18 pdrs practice.  I also sent Howard up to Kelantan to have a look round.  I dined out with the Lloyds one night, just they and I and a Colonel Patterson (RA) on L of C staff.  We went on to a cinema afterwards.  It was nice getting away from hotel meals.  I asked them back to dine but they weren’t able to come.


28th November 1941

On the 28th 88 and 137 Field Regiments arrived from England, 88 being for 9 Division and 137 for 11 Division.  88 went to Mantin, about 27 miles south of KL, and 137 to Kajang.  Barstow took me and Trott (A/Q) down to meet them at the station at which the train party arrived – Batang Benar – at about 7.30am.  D’Aubuz was commanding 88, a regular officer whom I had not met before, and the second-in-command Weir, whose brother had been in the same brigade as me in the last war.  Anna went to meet 137 at Kajang and helped them in.  It was an exciting experience dining with Bustling Bill as he was always in a tearing hurry to get to the other end.  Both regiments’ vehicles were to come on afterwards by road and, in the event, had not all arrived when war started.  I gather later that things were pretty chaotical in Singapore.

As I had been made president of two general courts martial to be held up in Kelantan I had to leave KL by the night train on the 29th.  That day too, owing to the deterioration of the Japanese situation, the second degree of readiness was ordered in the evening, that is units were at 12 hours’ notice to move.  I remember Podge Howard chasing me to the station with my revolver, which was a great nuisance to have to carry.  5 Fd Regt were also put at 12 hours’ notice to move to Kuantan and Kelantan that day.


30th November 1941

I arrived at Kuala Krai about midday and was met by a Brigade car which drove me and Brodie out to Khota Bharu (42 miles) where we stayed at the Rest House.  Brodie was Deputy Judge Advocate General – a lawyer whose job it is to keep the Court on the rails legally – who had come up from KL in the same train.  Khota Bharu Rest House was fair only and not at all up to the standard of the Gap or the Rest House at Seremban.


1-6th December 1941   Every day morning and afternoon, except the 6th, was spent on the court which sat at Chondong Camp where the 2/12 FFR where to whom the two accused – Pathans – belonged.  There were actually two trials: the first of the two Pathans for murder lasted three days and the second on the driver of a MT Company, for throwing acid over another sepoy, lasted two days.  The 2/12 gave us lunch each day.  In the evenings after we got back Brodie and I walked round Khota Bharu and went to the local cinema one night.  Saturday was spent in getting all the evidence typed out and initialling and signing up the two trials, a lengthy business.  But Brodie was excellent and made it all as easy as it could be.  The Pathans were kept in the local jail and so must have fallen into the hands of the Japanese as they were still there on the night of 7/8th December when the war started.  I sent my one and only letter by Clipper from Khota Bharu – a Christmas letter to Helen and Bobby – at vast expense and I often wondered whether it ever arrived.  On the Saturday Brodie and I went to the local Arts & Crafts shop where I bought you a very small present which I still have with me (9/43).  They made some very nice silk sarongs there – I wish I had some now.  On Thursday evening I dined with Key at the 8 Bde HQ Mess.  As I remember nobody expected war just then.  They had a lot of mines laid along the beaches and we heard a good few go off, set off either by dogs or by coconuts dropping on them!  There was a bit of a flap about Thursday or Friday and they started requisitioning lorries and I think the Mountain Battery moved out to its battle stations.  That I think was called off and then the same thing occurred on the Saturday, and certainly that afternoon the Mountain Battery did move out, Sopper coming in to see me on the way through. 

On 5th December 73 Battery (Don), 5 Fd Regt, arrived up at Kuala Krai, having gone by road to KL from Ipoh and thence by train, in the longest train reputed ever to have run on the Malayan Railways.  They went into camp at Chondong, but I did not see them there.


7th December 1941

I had meant to go back to KL by the train leaving on Monday the 8th as on the 7th there was only a train known as the ‘Slow and Dirty’, which only went as far as Kuala Lipis, where one either stayed the night and went on the next day by train or by road to KL.  On account of Saturday’s situation I wired to Anna to send a car to meet me at Lipis on Sunday evening, and Brodie and I set off by train from Kuala Krai at about 10am on the 7th.  There was some difficulty in getting a car and eventually I was lucky enough to get a lift for the two of us in a car belonging to a RE Warrant Officer, who was driving on duty to Krai.  We got to Lipis at about 7pm (136 miles – not very rapid), having passed on the way the through train from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with women on board.  I often wonder what happened to them as the Japanese landed at Khota Bharu that night.  Of course Khota Bharu is not on the sea but about 5-6 miles up the Kelantan River, but still closer than one wants one’s womankind to be on such occasions.  The car met us at Lipis Station and, after a wash and some dinner at the Rest House, we set off for KL, which we reached at about 2am on Monday morning the 8th.  After dropping Brodie at the Station Hotel, I went up to Division HQ to find that the war had started.  There was nothing for me to do so I went back to the hotel to bed.  When Singapore was bombed on the morning of 8th December, all the lights were on and there was no black-out, though the warning of planes approaching had been given.

When 73 Battery had moved to Kelantan, HQ and 63/81 Bty, 5 Fd had also moved by road via the Gap and Jerantut to Kuantan where they arrived on the 5th and 6th December respectively, the Battery going straight into action.  So when war started my ‘command’ consisted of 5 Field Regiment split between Kuantan and Kelantan and the Mountain Battery with HQ and two sections in Kelantan and one in Kuantan and 88 Field Regiment at Mantin not yet complete with guns or vehicles.  The Anti-tank Battery at Taiping moved about this time to Kelantan, just in time to get bombed at Gong Kedah aerodrome and lose most of their kit as a result.


9-12th December 1941

I was in KL.  Our chief occupation was getting 88 and 137 Fd Regts ready to move up to 11 Div area.  They were far from complete and much telephoning to Singapore was necessitated.  However we got them off and as far as I remember 88 moved first by road and then 137 who also went by road except for their armoured OPs (tracked vehicles which do not stand a long road journey well), which were put on the train at KL.  On the 10th December I was told to move across to III Corps HQ and set up an office there.  There was nothing for me to do at 9 Div HQ, having lost 88 Field, so I was glad of the move.  On the same date 9 Div HQ moved to Raub, 79 miles away on the Kuantan road, centrally placed to look after Kelantan and Kuantan.  I’m sure Barstow was very glad to get out of KL and away from III Corps HQ.

As soon as we got down to III Corps HQ, which were in a school on Batu Road nearly a mile from the Hotel, our chief preoccupation was supply of ammunition, which was not working too well.  Whose fault it was I do not know, I’ve talked to both ends, and they both blame the other.  I remember one complete train was lost for a few days.  I’ve since found out that there was a good deal of 5th Column work on the railway.  A truck intended for, say, Ipoh, would have its label changed and would be sent to Malacca, a label would be taken off altogether, involving much delay.  Kuantan had to be made up with ammunition, which was duly done in time.  But changes in the destinations of two batteries entailed an ammo train being sent off to Kuala Krai unnecessarily, though I think we stopped it at Kuala Lipis. 

I’ve just come across some notes I got from Cooper and what I wrote about 88’s move on the previous page is not correct.  At first things things seemed to be going reasonably well in Kelantan and nothing much had happened on the west coast so Barstow decided to send 88 Field less two batteries (351 and 352) up to Kelantan.  They were duly put on the train at Seremban, I think, and went round via Gemas.  By the time they had left Seremban on 9th December the situation had deteriorated both east and west and it was apparent that no more artillery was required in Kelantan, especially in view of the fact that the only practicable communication between Kuala Lipis and Kuala Krai was an extremely vulnerable 136 miles of single line railway.  Instead it was decided to send HQ 88 Field up to 11 Div to take over their own two batteries, which were on the way up there, and to divert 464 Battery to Kuantan.  I think we tried to stop the train at Gemas but failed.  So Cooper was sent off on a motor bicycle to Jerantut to stop them there.  He went off on the evening of the 9th and caught them alright next morning except for the CO (D’Aubuz) who had gone on ahead and was on his way between Lipis and Krai.  So we telephoned to Krai to have him sent back.  The battery (464) was duly sent off by road from Jerantut to Kuantan where it arrived on 15th December.  (I think that this date is wrong.  I got it from 5 Field’s history but I am inclined to think that Cooper’s dates are correct and the battery should have arrived at Kuantan on the 12th or, at the latest, 13th December.)

Here I had better make it clear that this only pretends to be a story of my own doings and not of the campaign as a whole.  I shall put in bits about the campaign, but only sketchily and my dates for it will be even less reliable than those of my own doings.


9th December 1941

I think Howard was sent off by train to Prai to find out the ammunition situation up there.  He returned probably on 11th or 12th December.


12th December 1941

Howard again for Bukit Mertajam by train.  Arrangements were made to withdraw the guns of the Volunteer Light Battery (4 x 3.7") to send to 23 Mtn Regt and to replace them with 18 pdrs.  Visited the Volunteer Light Battery on the KL Racecourse.

13th December 1941

I left KL with the Corps Commander and his ADC (Humphrey) and the G2 (Smith), together with some clerks, servants and Military Police.  I travelled in great comfort in a special saloon with the Commander and his ADC and we had all our meals in the car for the next ten days.  We left at about 9pm and arrived at Bukit Mertajam (236 miles) about 5.30am on the 14th December.  Some of Corps HQ had also gone by road and were established in a school about 300 yards from Bukit Mertajam station.  Here on this morning the CO of the 3rd Cavalry (Skinner’s) (de Winton) came in to report to the Corps Commander about 8 or 9pm.  I cannot remember what rôle he had been on but any less-inspiring leader I do not think I have ever seen.  Unshaven (which was not his fault) and looking the picture of woe and misery it was a shock to meet anybody like that so early in the war.  He admittedly had much to complain about as his regiment had only just arrived at Penang and were very incomplete with vehicles – I’m not sure that they had brought any – and those they had I think they were not used to.  So altogether the regiment (mechanized in Pindi in ’39 I think) was not in good shape to start in on a war.

Before I go on with my own diary, I’ll try and put you roughly in the picture as to what had been happening up north in the 11 Division area.  (The following is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.)

A scheme had been worked out in peace to make an advance into Thailand in case the latter was hostile or invaded by an enemy.  The scheme – known as Matador – involved the use of portions of the 11 Division.  If this advance was not ordered, then the 11 Division occupied a main position about Jitra known as the Jitra position.  If the warning for Matador was issued then the Jitra position could not be fully occupied.  A warning for Matador had been issued and preparations for the move forward of the troops detailed made at the time of the outbreak of war.  Matador was called off on 8th December, 48 hours after the warning for it had been issued.  A column (3/16 Punjab Regt, reinforced by the 5/14 Punjab Regt (Stokes)) was sent out on the Kroh road to occupy the ‘Ledge’ position, some 30 miles inside Thailand.  It was only given leave to cross the border at 1.30pm on 8th December.  It arrived at one end of the ‘Ledge’ at the same time as the enemy, about ten times its strength, arrived at the other end.  It suffered severely and had to withdraw.  (See the Corps Commander’s lecture on the campaign.)

Alor Star, Sungei Patani and Butterworth aerodromes were heavily bombed and we lost many aircraft.  The enemy definitely had air superiority, not only in numbers, but also in performance of machines.  On 9th December contact was made with the enemy forward of the Jitra position on the frontier.  Penang was also heavily bombed about this date and all Government and civilian services ceased to function.

To go back to my diary.


14th December 1941

Muirhead, my driver, with Chester, arrived at Bukit Mertajam about 1.30pm in the stationwagon, having left KL that morning by road.  Howard also returned that morning.  I went with the Corps Commander and the G2 (Smith) to see 11 Division HQ at Harvard Estate, near Sungei Lalang about four miles north of Sungei Patani.  We went via Kulim and the Kg Kelil Bridge over the Muda River, in order to have a look at the bridge, which was likely to be of great importance if a further withdrawal was necessary, either on the main 11 Division front and/or from Kroh.  On arrival at Harvard Estate about 3pm at the HQ we found a very confused situation.  On 12th December the enemy had broken through the Jitra position with tanks and there was confused fighting all that day.  On the 13th December 11 Division withdrew to the Gurun position.  This was a good position, but a position in name only as it had not been prepared.  It was occupied on 14th December, but the enemy’s whereabouts was not exactly known and many conflicting reports were being received.

By this time all the guns for static defence on the Jitra position had been lost and also two guns of 4 Mtn Bty, overrun by tanks, and all four guns of 7 Mtn Bty with all the transport owing to the premature blowing up of a bridge at Manggoi (both losses occurred on the 11th December).  I saw Rusher and found out various of his wants.  We then returned to Bukit Mertajam via the River Muda, where a fine, new ferro-concrete bridge was being prepared for demolition, and Butterworth.  We went out to the quay to see Penang, ordinarily a beautiful sight but now sadly spoilt by the smoke from many fires in the Chinese quarter, which had borne the brunt of the bombing.  There were some sailors there, survivors from the Prince of Wales, who were helping to work ferries and boats getting stuff away from Penang.  And so back to Bukit Mertajam.


15th December 1941

Went with the Corps Commander to Kulim where the Kedah Police were being disarmed.  The majority were Malays with families in Kedah and it was not considered fair to keep them serving as the Japs would probably take it out of the families.  (Possibly, I don’t know, their reliability was suspect.)  There were some Sikhs there in the Police too, who were treated similarly, they also having families locally.  All were given the option of serving on if they wanted to.  But I cannot remember that any took advantage of the offer, Sikhs included, which was a great blow to the Corps Commander, who had been a Sikh.  So they handed in their equipment and uniforms, the rifles being piled into lorries, the men were paid off and that was finis to the Kedah Police.  A sad sight.  The Superintendent was nearly in tears over the business, and small wonder.  After we got back I had to go off again in the afternoon to an estate near Junjong, to give orders to our lugubrious friend of the 3rd Cavalry, who was to go off with his regiment to the neighbourhood of the Kg Kelil Bridge to hold the area and bridge, pending the arrival of reinforcements expected the next day.  There was heavy fighting at Gurun this day and there was danger of the Japs getting round the right flank and down over the Kg Kelil Bridge.


16th December 1941

I was off early this morning to catch the reinforcements coming up to give them orders where to go.  It was not known for certain which way they were coming so I had to go to a road junction a mile or so short of Kulim so as to catch them, whichever of the two roads they came along.  I must have been there from about 8am until they arrived sometime about 4 or 5pm I think it must have been.  It was a wet day.  There was a small village near the road junction where the people had been eating durians, a very foul-smelling fruit, but which, if you can stand the stink, is very good, so people say.  They eventually arrived and I gave them their orders and then went back very hungry indeed as I’d not been able to get any food before setting off in the morning and had had nothing since the night before.

Howard had been sent off that day with Chester towards Taiping to stop AFVs coming up for the 3rd Cavalry, as they (3rd Cavalry) could not have taken them over then.  It was this day, or it may have been on the 15th December, that it had been decided to evacuate Penang on the night of 16/17th December. 

All the time and until the 23rd December I lived in the Corps Commander’s coach.  Food, which was provided by the cook belonging to the coach, got progressively worse.  One of the first things to vanish were eggs and meals became very scratch.  In fact for the whole time until the capitulation I was more uncomfortable and fed worse than I ever was or did in France or in Waziristan.  One is far better off in a unit than in a big HQ like a Corps or Div HQ.  The ADC did his best in the coach but there were no canteens or shops near Bukit Mertajam, so I imagine he must have brought stuff with him from KL.  Still I shouldn’t turn up my nose at those scratch meals now.

Writing this down does not make it appear a very strenuous life.  But there was an awful lot of hanging about waiting for something to happen and very irregular meals which was all tiring especially when coupled with our not very cheerful frame of mind.  In the evening I was given a recce to do the next day with Crawford, the Chief Engineer of the Corps.


17th December 1941

So at 7 o’clock he and I set off.  (Since the 15th I had been using a Corps Ford V8, a much more convenient car than my old wagon, which was being used by Howard.)  We went south to cross the Krian River at Nibong Tebal – road and railway alongside each other – which were being prepared for demolition by the Sappers and were being put in a state of defence by a mixed crowd from a reinforcement camp evacuated from Penang (Lt-Col Pine-Coffin) – so early in the campaign.  But by this time 11th Division had lost 60% of its strength and probably 75% of its fighting efficiency.  We then went on to Parit Buntar and Bagan Sarai, turning off the main road at the latter along a secondary road which ran parallel to the Krian and was under water for a good stretch.  We went as far as Selama.  Here we found most of the column which had withdrawn though Kg Kelil.  They, for a pleasant change, were quite cheerful.  We then returned, getting up to the river where we could, to have a look at it.  It was not easy as generally the river was bordered with swamp and bushes so one could never see much.  We had to go as far as the mouth of the river and then returned to Parit Buntar Rest House where we had a meal and reported to the Corps Commander.  In the afternoon we did further recces about the mouth of the river, getting the car bogged and came back via the coast road through Kuala Krau and back via Simpang Lima.  We slept that night at the Rest House and I had a meal with Colonel Napier of the 80th Anti-tank Regiment, whom I met for the first time that day.  The railway station at Bukit Mertajam was bombed this day, but the coach escaped.


18th December 1941

Rusher and his BM arrived during the morning and we went over the results of the recce together.  Afterwards we had lunch at the Rest House.  I was just paying the bill when some Jap bombers arrived and let go their bombs.  I don’t know how close they fell but we all went flat on the floor and the table was covered with dust and plaster; the notes for paying the bill being blown off the table. The Rest House boys vanished, to reappear later.  Two bombs fell about 300 yards away on the opposite side of a sort of village green; one of them went through the roof of a house through the floor in one corner of a room in which Carpendale (28 Bde) was with his three COs, and exploded underneath, hurting none of the people in that room.  Later in the afternoon I set off for Taiping, but before I had got out of Parit Buntar my car broke down with back axle and gearbox trouble.  I managed to get hold of a van belonging to, I think, 80 Anti-tank, which was going my way and I shifted my belongings into it, arranging for the car to be towed to Taiping.  Whether it ever got there I never discovered but I seem to remember later on, seeing it on a truck at Ipoh Station, so it must have arrived.

On the road between Parit Buntar and Bagan Serai we passed a gun tractor of 155 Fd’s off the road, well and truly bogged due, I suspected, to bad driving.  Later that day I met an officer of 155 Fd to discover that they did not appear to be making any attempt to retrieve the tower, about which I had something to say!

I found Corps HQ in a brand-new Chinese girls’ school (only opened in November 1941), with the Corps Commander’s railway coach at the station.  Howard was there with Chester, Muirhead and the stationwagon. 

The line of the River Muda was evacuated on 17th December and the line of the Krian River was occupied, probably, on the 18th December.

On this evening we heard of the Japanese threat coming down the Grik road.  They sprang a surprise on us, as they had got the track joining Kroh or somewhere just east of it, to Grik.  Our information was that it was not passable to motor transport but they managed to get it going and brought a considerable number of troops with, I think, tanks along it long before it was thought to be possible.  We had up there only one company of FMS Volunteers from 13th December, relieved the same day by a company of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (A&SH) and also some FMS Volunteer Royal Engineers.  The Japanese attacked the A&SH position covering Grik on 16th December.  On 17th December reinforcements of one company of Volunteers and one troop of armoured cars were sent up and on 19th December 12 Infantry Brigade took over.


18th December 1941

I think after consultation with Malaya Command on the ‘green line’ (secure telephone), it was decided to withdraw to the line of the Perak River and also order up 12 Inf Bde from Singapore to deal with the threat from Grik.  One battalion of 12 Inf Bde, the Hyderabads, were in Kelantan, so it only had two battalions left: the Argylls (in Waziristan in 1937) and the 3/16 Punjabis (in Amballa in 1933).  Late that night we left in the coach for Ipoh.  Taiping station was a mass of traffic as a General Hospital was being evacuated.  That was my first and only visit to Taiping, which looked a very pleasant place, standing under Maxwell’s Hill, the local hill station.


19th December 1941

Advanced Corps HQ was established in a big boy’s school in Anderson Road, to the north of the town.  Howard put up at the Majestic Hotel by the station and I was in the coach at the railway station where we had arrived that morning.  The next seven days were spent in various reconnaissances, north and south of Ipoh.  I have not been able to sort out all the dates properly, so those given in the margin are not necessarily correct (the order of events may be wrong) but it will make it easier to follow with dates.  [The Krian line was evacuated on the 19th/20th December.]

I went to see 155 Fd in Canning Camp, to which they had been withdrawn; also 23 Mtn Bty whose lost guns had been replaced to four only, by guns taken from the Volunteer Light Battery.  They had also had their transport made up.  That afternoon the Army Commander came up and the Corps Commander had a long conference with him at L of C HQ in Tambun Road, Ipoh, I standing by in case I was wanted, which I was not.  General Percival stayed the night in the coach, going back to Singapore the next morning.  Two officers of the Argylls – Wilson and Smith – arrived as part of a ‘reconnaissance team’ and I did most of my recces with them, using their car, a 1941 Chevrolet, much easier to drive than my wagon.


20th December 1941

With Corps Commander and I expect the ADC and G2 to look at the country north west of Ipoh.  We went via Pusing, Blanja bridge of boats and then by the road parallel to the Perak River to Kuala Kangsar, where the Sultan of Perak has a palace (Istana).  At Kuala Kangsar there was a conference in the library (a very good one – I should like some of the books now) of the Malay College, with 11 Division commander, about which I can remember nothing at all.  The country we had seen was most unpromising – rubber and jungle and no possible positions without an immense amount of preparation by felling and clearing trees.  I think we returned to Ipoh after the conference via the bridge over the Perak, a big one with the roadway about 40 feet above the water, which was being prepared for demolition.  The rest of the day was spent at Corps HQ.  In these days there was always a lot of hanging about and there was generally a conference in the evening about 8 or 9pm.  So meals were very irregular and sketchy, dining generally being about 10 or even later.


21st December 1941

I went with Wilson (A&SH) via Blanja, Bruas up to Trong and the road junction at Ct Jering and back through Lawin to Kuala Kangsar where we had a meal at the Rest House.  We again drew a blank as far as positions were concerned.  After the meal I think we waited until the Corps Commander arrived who saw Brig Paris (12 Bde), who arrived later and had his HQ there.  His Brigade was withdrawing down the road from Grik and was then I think somewhere about Chenderoh Lake or perhaps further up at Lenggong.  I met Stokes there (he was killed later) who had evidently been through a hard time.  We eventually left Kuala Kangsar in the dark and had a hectic drive back to Ipoh via Chemor with only sidelights in the middle of a big convoy of lorries. 


22th December 1941

In the morning we went south of Ipoh to Gopeng and Kampar looking for a position in which it would be possible to make a stand.  This was much more possible country, being mostly cleared and tin mines.  Eventually the position at Kampar was judged the most likely and that afternoon we had a more detailed look over the whole area.  I do not remember who did the recce from the infantry point of view and settled on the localities but I think it must have been Brig Garnett.  That day the coach was moved from the south-west end of the station to the north-east end, why I don’t know.  Simson and Peake (the CE and CRE, L of C) stayed the night in the coach.  I was to get to know Simson pretty well as we were in the same room at Changi and later on at Karenko.


23rd December 1941

More recces: in the morning at Bidor south of Kampar with a surprisingly good meal at Tapah Rest House and, in the afternoon, a further recce of the Kampar position for actual gun position (I think Hughes, 22 Mtn, was with me), including the Sungei Siput part of the position where 155 Fd were going.  On the way out I went in to see 88 Fd whose HQ were in a Dutchman’s bungalow on the outskirts of Ipoh, but could only see Weir, the 2ic.  On getting back to Ipoh we found that the railway station had been bombed that morning, an ammunition train being hit only about 100 yards or so from the coach.  Humphrey, the ADC, was there at the time, but was not hurt though some windows of the coach were broken.  By this time the boys belonging to the coach were getting a bit rattled but, after disappearing, returned later in the day. 

All the time we were in Ipoh, Jap aeroplanes were fairly active but bombed the town very little, though they always looked as though they were flying straight for Corps HQ.  I always noticed that one had the sensation of being the centre of the universe whenever enemy bombers came anywhere near one.  About this day there was some looting in the town, which was largely deserted.  I went to Whiteway Laidlaws to buy some hairbrushes and found the Eurasian manager nearly in tears because the shop had been broken into during the night and some stuff stolen.  It was a bad show.

On the 23rd December there was a withdrawal across the Perak River, the bridges at Enggor being blown, but not altogether successfully, I believe.  The Blanja boat bridge was cut and, I imagine, the boats sunk.  The enemy was very active bombing the bridge and approaches most of the day.  The guns got across safely just before the bombing began.  There was contact on the 24th December and fighting round Chemor.  11 Division HQ moved back to Ipoh and Corps HQ, except a small, advanced HQ, to Kuala Lumpur


24th December 1941

The coach left Ipoh station that night and got to Tapah Road station early on the 24th December.  There the stationwagon met me and took me to Tapah, where the advanced Corps HQ was in the local Mines Office.  Chester stayed behind to collect my kit and came in for a bombing of the station which did a good deal of damage.  That was the last I saw of the coach.  Whilst at Tapah I slept in the Mines Office and a sort of mess was run in the next-door bungalow.

That day there was another recce with Wilson and Smith of the Bidor position and one down the Teluk Anson road.  I think we met various infantry at Bidor police station first, but my recollection is that something went wrong and that people who should have turned up didn’t.  In the afternoon I was up again at Kampar and Sungei Siput and saw D’Aubuz (88 Fd), Hughes (22 Mtn), Napier (80 A/tank) and Murdoch (155 Fd) and discussed things.  Things had sorted themselves out by then more or less and there was little for me left to do.


25th December 1941

In the morning back again to Kampar to see Hughes, whose HQ was installed in another of the Sultan of Perak’s palaces.  A dreadful place furnished in terrible, mid-Victorian style, plush curtains, masses of ornaments and terrible pictures – quite hideous.  We cleared up some points.  Hughes was very seedy with my late complaint.  A bit later he took my advice and went sick and had a very successful operation.  Then I think I met D’Aubuz again and also went to see Garnett (Comd 15 Bde) whose HQ was outside Kampar on the south side in a Frenchman’s bungalow, the owner of which had handed over the whole show to them, cellar included.  The latter, Garnett, was in a heavy condition and had had a bad time.  I then went back to Tapah.  It must have been this day that I arranged with Anna back at KL to get me a new car as the back axle of the stationwagon was making strange noises and beginning to play up again.  Rear HQ of 11 Division began to arrive about noon, their advanced HQ still being in Ipoh, rather a long way away (24 miles).  It is the normal thing in a moving battle for a divisional HQ to be divided into two parts – the advanced where the commander, his G1, CRA and possibly another G officer, and the rear where the Q staff are and the remainder of the HQ.  All the time we were at Tapah odd aeroplanes were continually coming over, but while we were there, never dropped any bombs on Tapah, which was full of troops.  The advanced Corps HQ occupied three houses next door to each other.  In one, the Mines Office, most of us slept; next door was the office with telephone and we had a mess in one room and I suppose the Corps Commander slept there.  Actually we lived quite well at Tapah, it being the smallest mess I was in all the time, except when I was living in the coach.

General Pownall, who had just taken over at GHQ Far East from Brooke-Popham, came up that day to look round and in the afternoon went up to Kampar to see the position, going up to Kapar, on to Dipang and back via Chenderiang.  Between the two roads marked on the map is a hill about 3,700 feet high, so the two halves of the position were completely isolated from each other.  He had tea back at Tapah and then went off.  He is a gunner and was very pleasant to talk to. 

We had Christmas dinner that evening, the only Christmassy thing about it being a bottle of fizz which somebody had acquired that day from Teluk Anson.  It ran to about a sherry glassful each and very good it was.

On 24th December 1 Division got a new lot of generals and brigade commanders.  Gen Paris from 12 Bde took over the Division from Murray-Lyon, who had not been a success.  The 6 and 15 Bdes being so reduced in numbers were amalgamated and Moorhead took over the Brigade (6/15), Lay and Garnett being invalided; Selby (2/9 GR) took over the 28 Bde from Carpendale, who was also invalided.  The latter was in a very bad state of nervous shock.  But I must say that there is something apparently wrong in the selection if three out of three brigadiers all crack up in a fortnight.  Admittedly the type of fighting there had been – in rubber and jungle – was very trying as one could not see and so never knew when the enemy was working round the flank and rear.  And of course everything had gone wrong and losses had been very heavy.  Platoons and companies just disappeared in the withdrawal, getting cut off, many of the officers and men joining up again in driblets later on, having worked their way back through the jungle or by boat.  Some were out for three or four months, to be taken prisoner finally.  Some of the Sikhs had proved disloyal and a KCO, Dhillon of I think Fitzpatrick’s regiment, had gone over to the Japs right at the beginning.  But on the whole the Indian troops did well when the very heavy losses in their British officers are considered and also the initial state of the battalions which had been heavily milked of Indian officers, NCOs and men and British officers to send to India to form new units, and which as a consequence were far below peacetime standard.  But as far as is known the great majority of the Indian troops remained loyal (this particularly applies to the post-capitulation period) under very trying circumstances.  The Argylls made a good name for themselves but I do not know that either the E Surreys or Leicesters were outstanding.  By this time they had been amalgamated into one battalion, owing to losses.  A number of men turned up later, some working their way round the Japs, others still later as prisoners.  On the 25th December a small party of E Surrey officers and others (who I cannot remember) turned up at Tapah by boat via some place in Kedah where they had been cut off, Penang or Teluk Anson.


26th December 1941

In the evening I went back to Kuala Lumpur in a new Ford V-8, which had arrived for me that day by road from KL (see below, page 42).  It was a great improvement on the old stationwagon.  I never got to like the gear shift lever on the steering column, which these modern American cars have.  (I wrote the last part above about 20th December 1943 and it is today 9th July 1944!  A long pause, I will try to finish it off now.  I’ve been pretty idle during the interval but not entirely, as I’ve verified a few dates!)  88 Fd Regt arrived Kampar from Ipoh.  It was a very trying drive as very soon after starting I caught up a long lorry convoy with sidelights only.  So passing them was difficult and in many places the road is narrow and twisting.  However the OC convoy was very helpful and piloted me past, he riding a motorbicycle.  Tanjong Malim station had been bombed that day, very accurately, and I remember we got held up there through an air-raid alarm.  It was a false one as fortunately the Nips did not pay much attention to roads at night.  I must have got to KL about 9pm.  The hotel had gone off a great deal, boys had disappeared and local food like eggs seemed to be quite unobtainable.  The hotel was not very full, which surprised me as I had expected a good many evacuees from up-country.  They must have all gone through to Singapore.


27th December 1941

I spent this day down at Corps HQ getting up-to-date.  Anna Nelson had done very well.


28th December 1941

I went back to Tapah, this time having a clear run, the trip being by daylight.


29th December 1941

Had a final visit to the Kampar position and Chenderiang, on the way going with the Corps Commander to see 12 Bde HQ (Stewart) in a school in Kg Dipang.  I’m not sure where the line was but I think just north of Gopeng.  Things were not too happy when we were there – I cannot remember details – but I think it was a false alarm.  We went back to Tapah (Advanced HQ 11 Div had arrived there on the 26th and I had been up to their bungalow to see Arthur Rusher before driving back to KL.  On the 26th also Podge and I had lunch in a bungalow at Tapah with a local who had joined up – his name and what he was I cannot remember). 

I collected all my kit and Podge and I, Chester and the driver returned to KL, where the Corps Commander had already gone.  I went to the hotel, had my kit moved out, paid my bill and moved down to Corps HQ, where I had a quarter.  The hotel was too far from Corps HQ for me to be able to stay on there.  The quarters were quite adequate – a room in an attap hut raised up on stilts.  There were a couple of shower baths quite close and a mess.  The mess had been designed for about 30 officers but when I joined it there must have been about 50 plus a floating population of people coming in to report, passing through, etc.  The food was run by a KL lady – I don’t know who she was – and I think all things considered did very well.  The mhidmatgars were all Indian – a scruffy looking lot – and of course there were not nearly enough of them but they too, I thought, did well.  Meals were scrappy and if you weren’t in the first flight you had to collect your own plate, etc., and seize the first vacant place.  If you were late it was probably a case of bread and cheese.  I remember having beer and bread and cheese at breakfast, the one and only time I’ve ever had beer at breakfast.  Very nasty it was.  The office we had there was also in an attap hut, just alongside the main school building in which Corps HQ was.  We shared the hut with the CE (Crawford) who later moved out being replaced by some AA people (Allpress).  Anna and I took it in turns to sleep in the office alongside the telephone.  I think Podge took a turn at it too. 

I don’t remember much about these few days.  We used to get air alarms most days but no bombs were ever dropped.  KL had been bombed while I was away – what had been 9 Div HQ was nearly hit; two fell just near the Selangor Club, blowing in the wall of the billiard room and breaking most of the glass in the windows of the library; two or three more fell on the Padang and one on the road in front of the Post Office.  They also hit the Survey Office.  I had a good deal to do with the Chief Surveyor, Bridges by name, who was very helpful in producing maps.  A survey section was in the process of formation at the beginning of the war and Bridges was very helpful in releasing people, providing records, etc.  His people did a lot of good work.  Before the war started I had been over the office and seen maps being drawn, etc., which was all very interesting.  I don’t think the Asiatic stood up to the bombing well.  I believe large numbers used to go out every evening and sleep outside whilst a great number went off altogether.  I don’t think that they are altogether to be blamed.  One hears a good many stories about the behaviour of the civil administration and white people generally, but as far as I am concerned it’s all hearsay so, whether the behaviour is good, bad or indifferent, I don’t really know.  I expect a bit of every kind, taking Malaya as a whole.

And so ended 1941, not very cheerfully.  But I am glad I didn’t know what 1942 had in store for me and for you.  I think I had the idea then that we should withdraw down as far as Johore and that there we should find a line ready, somewhere about Kluang or even further north about Labis.  Nobody in KL knew much about the country. 


1st January 1942

I spend the 1st January at Corps HQ and on the 2nd moved across to L of C HQ (Brig Moir) with Anna, leaving Podge at Corps with Cooper.  L of C were accumulating some artillery and hence my move.  Moir’s HQ were in a very nice bungalow on the race-course – it had an air-conditioned bedroom.  Anna and I with the men we brought (car driver, etc.) lived in another bungalow just behind.  It was quite a good bungalow whose owners – poor things – must have left in a great hurry as there was stuff lying all over the place, letters, even their passports.  I meant to take these to the bank who would probably have known the owner’s movements but Chester burnt them, being determined they should not fall into the wrong hands.  I went into the bathroom which had an electric geyser, turned on the tap and out came boiling hot water.  The electricity never failed in KL and the owners in their hurry had never turned off the geyser.  Little things like that bring home to one what an extraordinarily unpleasant thing war is.  It’s bad enough in the open country but in towns it’s frightful.

With the L of C, where I think I stayed until about the 6th or 7th January, there was to start with the 73rd Bty of 5 Fd Regt.  It had been up in Kelantan and, when that area was evacuated about the 18th December, came by train to Kuala Lipis and thence by road to KL.  It came under L of C on 23rd December and had been sent down to Klang where it came under command of the 3rd Negri Sembilan Volunteer Battalion (Lt-Col Riches).  It was very split up.  Don, the BC, had his HQ at Port Swettenham and had one section there also; one section was at Kuala Selangor some 29 miles to the north; one section was in Klang and one section at Morib 27 miles away to the south.  273 Anti-tank Bty (Slater), which had also been evacuated from Kelantan, was also in the Klang area.  Owing to the scarcity of infantry they had one, if not two, troops at Morib and patrolled the coast road down to Sepang, 27 miles south of Morib.  Their third troop was at Port Swettenham, where we tried to get two guns mounted on a couple of small steamers commandeered by the Navy.  The attempt was not successful.  The Volunteer Light Battery was also there, one section at Kuala Selangor with 73 Bty’s section and the other I think near Kapar, 11 miles north of Klang.

On the 2nd January 88 Fd Regt, less 464 Bty, came down from 11 Div and came under L of C, D’Aubuz having his HQ in Ampang Road.  351 Bty (Ford) went into action south of Batang Berjuntai; 352 Bty (Cornish) I think arrived later and went to Port Dickson to relieve 464 Bty (Kelly), who had arrived from Kuantan on the 3rd January, and had one troop at Morib and one at Port Dickson.  Other troops were the 3rd Cavalry, who arrived on 2nd January, 3/17 Dogras less one company, two composite companies of 11 Div reinforcements; one squadron less one troop, FMSVF Armoured Cars, 2nd Selangor Volunteer Battalion and the 3rd Negri Sembilan Volunteer Battalion.  Total 6 rifle companies, two machine-gun platoons, six armoured cars and artillery (excluding Dogras and 3rd Cavalry) – a bit thin for a front consisting of the Selangor River from somewhere east of Batang Berjuntai to the sea (about 14 miles) and the sea coast from Kuala Selangor to the southern border of Selangor about Sepang, about 80 miles.


2nd January 1942

On the 2nd January the guns at Kuala Selangor had a very nice little action against boats making an attempted landing.  They got two hits on a 1,500 ton steamer at 4,000 and sank three launches, successfully repulsing that attempt to land.  On the same day the enemy did land at the mouth of the Sungei Bernam.


3rd January 1942

Anna and I went down to Port Swettenham to see 73rd Bty, and to meet Col Riches.  Port Swettenham had been bombed a good deal and the boats the Navy had were unable to move by day as we had no air.


4th January 1942

I went up to see 22 Mtn Regt (Cowie, acting for Hughes sick), who had come under III Corps and were in Waddieburn Estate, north-east of KL.  (My memory is very hazy about all this but I must have been dealing with Corps as well as with L of C, as I remember taking orders to 22 Mtn Regt from Corps for a move up to the Batang Berjuntai area to support the 6/15 Bde – I remember now that the orders for their move were taken later about the 6th or 7th but I think I went to visit them once before.)

Nelson was busy reconnoitring up at Rasa, about 30 miles north of KL, where a position was being prepared and also in liaising with the Survey people to get the information we wanted.  I remember going one morning to the bank, where there was a long queue waiting to draw out money.  I was popular as I wanted to pay in money to send off to you.  Cooper went to 73 Bty about now to replace a casualty.


6th January 1942

We went back to Corps HQ on 6th January.  That day I was sent off to HQ 15 Bde near Rawang on the road to Batang Berjuntai in the morning but what for I cannot remember.  Later I went again with orders for them, I think, to take over the Batang Berjuntai-Kuala Selangor area.  They were very, very tired and the Bde Comd (Moorhead) had great difficulty in taking in the orders.


7th January 1942

This was the day I went with orders to 22 Mtn Regt in Waddieburn Estate, for them to move up to Batang Berjuntai at once.  I went up myself to see some of 80 Fd’s batteries and then on to see the mountain batteries’ advance parties and make sure that everything was all right.  They supported an attack next morning when unfortunately Scott, commanding 7 Bty, was killed.  This was the day of the disaster at Slim River when tanks broke through the 12 Bde.  Col Murdoch, 155 Fd, was missing, presumed killed, and Holmes, commanding 137 Fd, was killed.  This regiment lost 16 guns and a lot of men.  A bad day.  11 Div HQ came back to Batu Cavas, north of KL.  Went to see them in the evening, and saw Rusher to find out about things.

8/1   Went up again to see 11 Div (P.S. I think the night visit above must have been on the 8th, not 7th, Rusher could hardly have got back on the 7th).  This day the line was about Rasa, 30 miles north of KL.


9th January 1942

There was more infiltration in the Kuala Selangor area (there had been a landing on 7th January) both down towards Klang and also east towards Rawang on the L of C to Rasa.  This day the line came back to near Rawang, Podge had moved to Segamat with rear Corps HQ and my rear HQ on the 7th or 8th.  On the evening of 9th January about 4pm Anna and I went off with the rest of the HQ to Seremban, 42 miles south.  I wanted to get some biscuits in chocolate and went into Littlers’ shop, which was open, to find it in an awful mess as it had been looted.  The floor was covered with stuff, broken bottles, etc. – apparently destruction for the sake of destruction – but not a scrap of food.  The road was full of traffic, all unfortunately going south, and we had a slow run, arriving after dark.  After some difficulty we found our billet near the Resident’s Office, in a clerk’s bungalow.  We went and got some food at the Seremban Ujong Club, which was full of civilians, mostly I think on their way down to Singapore.  Everybody rather excited about a novel and, thank goodness, unusual experience.  The Club produced some breakfast the next morning too.  I think I had my last pre-captivity egg there!


10th January 1942

We went on to Segamat this morning, about 85 miles.  Corps HQ was in a school on a hill by the Sultan of Johore’s Rest House in which the Corps Commander was living.  We – Anna, Podge and I – were billeted in a sort of bungalow – probably one of the Malay school teachers – about 100 yards away.  By this time we were some 125 miles behind the line (KL was abandoned this day).  The plan was for 11 Div to withdraw through a line from approximately Batu Anam to Muar on the sea, held by a mixed force ‘Westforce’ consisting of 9 Div (8 and 22 Bdes) and one Australian brigade and 45 Bde (Duncan) newly from India; 11 Div then to have some much needed rest, reorganisation and re-equipping.  I think 14/15th January was the date 11 Div was to pass through.


11-12th January 1942

We did a number of recces and liaised with the Australian gunners, who had a field regiment and some anti-tank guns in the 9 Div area – Batu Anam to Jementah.  We were up at Gemas, where an Australian battalion was to lay an ambush, round Batu Anam, Jementah, Buloh Kasap and Segamat looking for gun positions, etc.

There were several conferences in the Rest House at which the Army Commander (Percival) and the Australian ‘Westforce’ commander, Maj Gen Bennett, were present.  GB was very confident as to what the Australians would be able to do and generally beat the big drum.  Barstow was I think not so optimistic.  Chester was sent up, or rather back, to Singapore with all surplus kit, maps, etc., and instructions to do some shopping for me.  He didn’t get back for 36 hours owing to floods and then empty-handed as the Singapore shops were shut!


13th January 1942

I was sent back to 9 Div, whose HQ had arrived, and moved down the hill to some bungalows behind the Civil Rest House where they were.  It was nice to be back and, for the next 14 days, I did something approaching my proper job.  The HQ was in rows of Malay quarters, quite modern but tiny, but very exposed to the air.


14th January 1942

5 Fd and 88 Fd started to arrive from the east and west coasts and went into action.  For technical reasons each regiment had to be split and eventually 88 Fd (D’Aubuz) less 351 Bty plus HQ and one troop of 63/1 Bty of 5 Fd supported the 8 Bde (Lay) who had his HQ at Buloh Kasap, about 5 miles south of Batu Anam.  Two batteries were in the Batu Anam area and the third was back behind Buloh Kasap with eventually a troop in front of Segamat, uncomfortably close from the point of view of noise to Div HQ’s second position mentioned below.  5 Fd (Jephson) less HQ and a troop of 63/81 plus 351 Bty and 278 Bty (which belonged to Dyson) supported 22 Bde (Painter).  They had positions out along the Jementah road about where the road from Batu Anam joined it, about the crossing over the Sungei Muar where Bde HQ were, and in Segamat itself.  (I am doubtful about 278 Bty.  They were there but I think HQ and two troops were directly under me and sited for the defence of Segamat from the east and south and supporting Hartigan, commanding the Garhwalis, and responsible for the defence of Segamat.  The third troop being under Jephson to support 22 Bde.)  8 Bde held a position across the road to Gemas just north (or rather west – the road runs east-west) of Batu Anam.  Between Batu Anam and Gemas lies a stretch of fairly clear country without trees in preparation, I imagine, for rubber planting.  It was a pleasant change to be able to see something but unfortunately there were plenty of good tracks available round the right flank through rubber, which came down to within about a mile of the main road on this side.

The 22 Bde held a main position at the junction of the road from Segamat to Muar and the road from Batu Anam to Muar.  It was about 5 miles south of the 8 Bde area and the two brigades were to all intents independent of each other.  Some of the guns could fire on both brigade fronts.  On the afternoon of the 14th January the Japs dive-bombed Div HQ, putting a bomb in the next bungalow to my office and causing casualties.  It wasn’t a good place for HQ so the General moved about ¾ mile down the road towards Buloh Kasap into three little houses and sending rear HQ back to Voules Estate about 10 miles south of Segamat.  This was a much better arrangement.


15-18th January 1942

The Australian battalion’s ambush at Gemas came off on the night of 15/16th January, at least two days earlier than it had been expected that the Japs would arrive.  It was quite successful (6 tanks) but the enemy came on in too great force and the battalion had to withdraw on the afternoon of 16th January, after which 9 Div became responsible for the Batu Anam-Jementah front.  It is believed that, on the night of 15/16th January, some of D’Aubuz’s guns did good execution shelling Gemas, a bottleneck through which the enemy had to come.  A certain amount of the night of 15/16th January I spent with Coates, G1, at Maxwell’s HQ in Segamat.  Maxwell commanded the 27 Australian Bde responsible for the ambush at Gemas.

About this time we were told that Segamat was to be the limit of our withdrawal (probably on the 18th January) and so it was prepared to defend it all round, Div HQ having a small section for which it was responsible.  16-18th January were spent in visiting batteries in Jementah area, Batu Anam, Buloh Kasap – where D’Aubuz gave me a very good lunch! – Segamat and the wagon lines round Gemang and the ammo depot at Bukit Sipur.

On the 15/16th January the enemy landed at Batu Pahat which at once altered the whole situation and introduced a very grave threat to our main L of C with Singapore through Ayer Hitam, only 20 miles from Batu Pahat.  Batu Pahat was 32 miles south of Muar where the left flank of ‘Westforce’ was.  So Segamat could not be the limit of our retreat and, on the 16th or 17th, I went with Barstow and we met Lay north of Labis looking for rear positions.


19th January 1942

‘West force’ started its withdrawal from the Segamat area in the evening of January 19th.  The 8 Bde withdrew after dark through a position on the Sungei Muar just west of Buloh Kasap.  I was very glad when all the guns west of the river had got back safely as there was a certain amount of activity round Batu Anam.  22 Bde must have done the same but I remember nothing about it.  There was only one road east of Segamat and both brigades had to fit in on it, the two lines of traffic meeting at the bridge on the east edge of Segamat.  I was there at the bridge with Barstow until about 10pm by which time all the guns had passed through.  Some bright fellow (an Australian I believe) had set fire to some houses in the town which lit up the bridge and would have made it a good target for an aeroplane if any had come over, which fortunately they didn’t.  The Japs shelled the other side of the town which in the darkness sounded unpleasantly close.  Noise that night was very deceptive and trench mortars up near Buloh Kasap sounded as though they were behind us.  

After the guns were through I went back to the new Div HQ in Voules Estate, which was west of the road near Tenang, 7 miles south of Segamat.  I had a great job finding my car and then a great job finding the HQ.  The big rubber estates are a maze of roads and the bungalows, in which we generally lived, were always a considerable way off the road and a longish way from the coolies’ lines where the offices were.  However I eventually ran it to earth, got a very belated meal and to bed.  It was a good bungalow and I shared a room with Stevens, RIACS.


20th January 1942

The HQ moved again to Yong Peng, about 40 miles south of Segamat.  During the day I went to see Jephson, who was in a hide in the big Socfin Estates (palm oil) south of Labis.  88 Fd were there as well I think, but only their wagon line as they were in action around Labis where the 22 Bde had taken up a position.  I cannot remember when Div HQ had left but I do remember arriving at Yong Peng after dark and finding Div HQ in a Chinese bungalow, the RA portion being the kitchen.  We were, I suppose, about 5-600 yards from the main crossroads in Yong Peng which together with the main road to Ayer Hitam and Singapore came in for a good deal of bombing during the time we were at Yong Peng.  So it was a noisy spot with guns and anti-aircraft guns and one had to spend a certain amount of time in slit trenches.  (The other pen, yours which you gave me in Poona at Christmas 1937, has just given out and the nib will no longer mark properly, so I’ve had to change over to this fine one.)


21st January 1942

I went with Coates (G1) up to Painter’s HQ just beyond Labis and saw D’Aubuz too.  We stopped on the way back to look at an intermediate position which Coke’s were taking up.  In the evening I was up again to see one of the batteries of 88 Fd (Ford) who was in action alongside the railway at Labis.  Howard meantime was reconnoitring for wagon lines in the area south of the Ayer Hitam-Kluang road.  It was difficult often to find suitable areas which had good entrances and exits.  These were now important as units invariably had to move in during darkness and it was necessary to have some sort of traffic circuit inside if complete confusion was to be avoided.  Howard got pretty good at it.


22nd January 1942

On the night of the 21st January 22 Bde moved back to Kluang with 88 Fd, while 5 Fd, who had not been in action, moved back to another hide near Kluang.  Div HQ moved later, somewhere about midnight, I think.  I associate Yong Peng with a good deal of noise and a very excellent fresh pineapple!  It sounds very greedy but on the whole, and unavoidably, we fed so badly that anything good was quite remarkable.  We had a night drive down to Ayer Hitam, along to Kluang and then down the Rengam road and eventually off it into a rubber estate.  It was a bad HQ, about ¾ mile off the road by a narrow one-way traffic road.  There were big coolie lines and the RA portion was the dispensary!  We arrived about 7am on 22nd January.


23rd January 1942

5 Fd went into action behind Kluang, Jephson having his HQ with Painter’s (22 Bde) HQ just east of the railway behind Kluang.  Incidentally while batteries were going into action behind Kluang and infantry were taking up positions just in front of the aerodrome, coolies were still working on the aerodrome.  Jephson had a slight fracas with the PWD over a lorry he ‘acquired’, he rather naturally thinking that there was no further use for a lorry by the PWD there!  8 Bde (Lay) with D’Aubuz’s HQ were in a copse on the main road from Kluang to Rengam, just behind Mengkibol.  I spent a good deal of the day on the Kluang road. 

There was some alteration in the plan for holding round Kluang and Painter with Jephson moved his HQ back to the same place as Lay was in.  This I think was due to the Japs coming on quicker than was expected.


24th January 1942

The rearguard, which was I think the Garhwalis, got into trouble and the situation round the aerodrome was not too good during the night of 23rd/24th January.  So on the 24th the 5/11 Sikhs with 73 Bty were sent out to clear things up, in which they were very successful, though unfortunately young Don, the Battery Commander, was wounded.  (Actually he was lucky as he got away to India and was last heard of at the Staff College, Quetta.)  I remember more visits to the Field Regiment HQ and alterations of plans but details have gone.

That night the Div HQ moved out of their inaccessible rubber estate to a new place about a mile back the other side of Rengam and just off the road.  That night I spent in the car and managed to sleep quite well.  It was wet and we had a bit of a job getting into the place as the ground was soft and slippery.


25th January 1942

More visits to HQ and final arrangements for the further withdrawal to south-east of Rengam.  22 Bde were to be rearguard to the Div.  In spite of careful recces by Nelson and Howard it was found impossible to support the 22 Bde once they cleared Rengam and started moving down the railway owing to an entire absence of roads, estate or otherwise.  The withdrawal could not be down the main Singapore road through Simpang Rengam as another brigade was coming down that way from Ayer Hitam.  To avoid Simpang Rengam I sent as many of the RA vehicles as possible via estate roads from Rengam, which joined the Singapore road south-east of Simpang Rengam.  In the event the last guns to get clear via Simpang Rengam only got away just in time before the arrival of the Nip.

That evening we (Div HQ) moved again back to Sedenah, getting in about 8pm.  I was with the General, G1 and A/Q in the manager’s bungalow.  He poor man, Pierpoint by name, had all his belongings there and how he must have hated our invasion.  That night at dinner was the last time I saw the General as he was probably killed on the 27th and I left on the 26th.  Nelson had gone back to III Corps HQ at Johore Bahru, so I had Howard with me to do BM and Trapnell, a subaltern I had collected from 122 Fd to do SC.  It was rather tragic being in the bungalow, one of hundreds, with all belongings – books, pictures, etc., left in position, to be abandoned the next day.


26th January 1942

5 Fd who had changed over to 8 Bde were sent back to Singapore on the night of 25/26th January and, on the morning of the 26th January, Jephson arrived at Sedenah to take over from me as I had been ordered back to III Corps.  So after I had handed over I drove back to Johore Bahru and reported to III Corps HQ.

And thus ended my connection with 9 Div, and my time as a CRA of a division.  I hadn’t had much of a run for my money.  Perhaps it was as well as it wasn’t long enough for me to be found out!  9 Div HQ was a very happy one, personally I think a very much better one than 11 Div HQ, who had the brunt of the fighting.

While we had been coming back from Segamat there had been heavy fighting at Batu Pahat, Ayer Hitam and down the coast.  We had lost fairly heavily in casualties and in detachments cut off.  The unfortunate 11 Division who had passed through ‘Westforce’ on 13th January to go to rest and reform had barely 24 hours out of the line before they were called back again to deal with the coastal threat.  The Australians, who had promised much through their commander Gordon Bennett, delivered little and in fact compared very unfavourable with other troops, British and Indian.  In fairness to them I do not think that GB represented their opinion and he was not popular with many of them.  He appeared to be a politician and soldier, not a good combination, especially if the soldier side is weak.

By the time I got back to Johore Bahru on 26th January it had been decided that we must withdraw to Singapore Island, the question being how long we could take in getting back there.  Troops had already started withdrawing to the Island and 18 Div had arrived from England after a three-month voyage.  One of their brigades and field regiments had been sent up straight away to Yong Peng and Ayer Hitam.  The rest of the Division was sorting itself out in Singapore.  Their troops were naturally unfit, not acclimatized and entirely new to the type of country in which they would have to fight.

I arrived at Johore Bahru in the morning and found Nelson.  HQ could tell me nothing as no decisions had yet been made as to how the Island was to be held.  No work had been done on putting up wire, digging trenches, etc., all along the north shore of the Island as ‘it would be bad for civilian morale’.  So all I could do was to get hold of Dyson, who was in the Naval Base with his regiment, and find out from him when guns could be put into action.  Luckily he had very complete and full knowledge.

Corps HQ were in a big bungalow on high ground east of and just on the edge of Johore Bahru.  I had a billet in a small native bungalow which Anna and I shared with Allpress and his BM (he ran the mobile AA guns and was at the Shop with me – I’d not seen him since, until he arrived in KL at the beginning of the month).  The Mess was higher up the hill in huts in the compound of some public building.


27th January 1942

Orders were forthcoming and this day and the following days to the 30th January were spent in allotting areas and sorting out the guns; dealing with the defence of the Johore Bahru bridgehead which was to cover the final withdrawal; and trying to run to earth the authority responsible for the plan of defence.  This was Paris, who had been commanding 11 Div, and who was eventually found to have an office in Fort Canning with Malaya Command!  There were of course inevitable changes in plans with corresponding changes in siting of guns.  Beach defence gun detachments were improvised out of the remains of 137 Fd Regt who had suffered severely at Slim River on 7th January.  155 Fd Regt, who had lost guns at Batu Pahat, had to have new ones; one battery of the Mountain Regiment was to be re-equipped with 6 howitzers.  There were plenty of odd jobs to do but no real command.  They had a pretty good shot at bombing Corps HQ and put down a stick of bombs about 100 yards away.  Being bombed is very unpleasant indeed and the aeroplanes always appear to be making a bee-line for one.  They made a better shot at the Mess, hitting huts alongside it, which (the huts, not the Mess) were burned out so that some people lost all their kit.


Next Chapter





Part Of


Honorary Life Membership





 RJT Internet Services Picture

Best Viewed with:

Design by Ron Taylor

Copyright © RJT Internet Services 1999