Attack Launched
On the 4th December 1941, Yamishita’s preparations were put to the test as the Japanese convoy left Samah harbour heading for Malaya. On the 6th December a British Hudson aircraft from Kota Bharu spotted the convoy, after a slight skirmish it escaped to warn of the convoys presence. Luck was on the Japanese side however and bad weather gave them cover, so air reconnaissance became impossible. At 7pm they changed course and travelled north into the Gulf of Siam. On the 7th at 10.10am the convoy split up to reach their landing positions and early on the 8th with the waves up to three feet high the landing craft were launched. Major-General Takumi had the worst of the conditions at Khota Bharu, the waves were up to six feet high causing havoc as the troops tried to board the landing craft from the ships sides. Then as the craft neared the shore, shots were fired at the Japanese by 11 Indian troops under Brigadier Key. These troops had been put on standby to launch Matador by Brooke-Popham, they were defending the beaches in the Kotu Bharu area and consisted of the 3/17th Dogra and the 2/10th Buluch. The Dogra´s had ten mile of beach to cover and the Buluch twenty-five, so they were overstretched.

Takumi was told to call off the landings, before he could make a decision his ship was hit and after being taken on board a launch decided to head for shore, This very courageous act against the odds began a hard fought fight on the shoreline to gain a footing against heavy fire from the defending Dogra troops who fought with great gallantry. The Dogra´s took the full force of the Japanese landings and were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of landing enemy troops.

Japanese landings
At 2.15am Yamishita received a message saying Takumi had succeeded in  the landing, Yamishita was now aboard ship in Singora harbour and he wrote in his diary:

0800 hours. Entered the Governor’s residence and ordered the police to be disarmed.

1300 hours. Succeeded in reaching a compromise agreement with the Thailand government.

2300 hours. Formalities completed allowing us to pass through Thailand.

While Yamishita was negotiating, his staff were busying themselves for the attack on Malaya. Tsuji sent troops dressed as civilians across the Malayan border to take control of vital bridges before the British could destroy them.

While all this was going on the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and successfully put the United States Air Force out of action in the Pacific. The Japanese now controlled the air space over Malaya.

The first air attack on Singapore took place at 4.15am on the 8th December on the Chinese quarter, after the air craft had dropped their bombs they machine gunned the streets for two hours,  killing sixty-one and injuring 133, no reaction by British Command to the reporting of the convoy by a Hudson aircraft, had put Singapore in a vulnerable position, no blackout was in force and the city gas lights were still on.

It was now that Brooke-Popham decided that the plan code named Matador would not work but he could not get in touch with Percival as he was out of his office.

The Kota Bharu airfield was prematurely evacuated in panic. Rumours were the source of the panic, somebody wrongly reporting Japanese troops on the fringe of the airport. Nothing was destroyed in the rush to leave, any vehicle was used to escape, leaving a workable airfield with bombs and fuel in tact. Without air cover the Indian troops were up against it. The 1st Hyderabads wanted to leave, in trying to stop them Liet.-Col. C.A. Hendricks was shot and killed, a promised inquiry into this incident never materialised.

When eventually Percival was contacted, he phoned Major-General Murray-Lyon and told him to and defend Jitra with his 11th Indian Division, it was now 1300 hours, ten hours after the Japanese had landed. This late decision had caused many problems as the troops were being held in positions to launch Matador and not defend a line in Malaya.

After the war it was reported that Matador would have only been successful if launched on the 6th when the Japanese convoy was first sighted.

Malaya invasion

In was ironic that in 1937 Percival had pinpointed Singora, Patani and Kota Bharu as possible landing sites in an enemy invasion of Malaya, but he had left it too late to make that final decision to launch Matador, it was no longer a defence. General Lewis Heath commandeered the 3rd Indian Corps and it was at this time his  relationship with Percival went on a decline. Heath blamed Percival for not implementing Matador although it is has been argued Brooke-Popham could have made that decision himself, after all he was the C-in-C of the Far East.

Heath was later to comment to his troops when impisoned at Changi, that the air force had promised to dispose of 40% of all enemy invasion ships.

The Allies had under estimated Yamishita who had created a big bluff in landing his first troops at Kota Bharu. While the RAF bombed these troops, the Japanese had landed unopposed at Singora and Patani. Matsui and his 5th division were now streaming south from Singora to Alor Star and from Patani to Kroh from both successful landings. In front of Matsui´s troops were tanks, the objective was Jitra.

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Z Force



[Malaya] [Cause] [Japs Prepare] [British Prepare] [Malaya Attack] [Attack] [Z Force] [Jitra] [Penang] [Long Retreat] [South Malaya] [Singapore] [Chronology]

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