The 11th Division retreated to positions behind the Krian River on the 18th December just giving the British in Penang enough time to escape capture. Then fearing his troops would be cut off by the Japanese troops from Kroh, Percival tried to use the natural obstacle of the Perak River as a defines against the Japanese tanks. His biggest problem was the river stretched from Telok Anson in the south to the Thailand border in the north and having lost a great number of his troops, it was too large a front to cover, but he had to hold the Japanese as far north as possible as reinforcements were promised by mid January.

During this retreat an officer wrote:

‘It cannot go on like this. The troops are absolutely deadbeat. The only rest they are getting is that of an uneasy coma as they squat in crowded lorries which jerk their way through the night. When they arrive they tumble out and have to get straight down to work. They are stupid with sleep, and have to be smacked before they move like automatons or cower down as a Jap aeroplane flies two hundred feet above them.’

Yamashita read the situation well and on the 26th December the 4th Guards Regiment crossed the Perak River to the north of Kuala Kangsar through thick jungle and then headed south for Ipoh, trying to outflank the British, they would then proceed to Kuala Lumpur. The British front had now been joined by the 12th Indian Brigade and the badly cut up 6th Brigade had merged into the 15th Brigade, they had now retreated by the 31st December to a strong defensible sight at Kampar where the artillery for once had a clear sighting of the ground between them and the advancing Japanese.

The Japanese started bombing the forward positions on New Years Day, Then as the infantry gathered after a long journey by bicycle, they were sent in and heavy fighting broke out. The British held but lost some high ground on the right called Thompson’s Ridge.

Percival wrote:

‘The enemy attacks were made with all the well-known bravery and disregard of danger of the Japanese soldier. There was dogged resistance in spite of heavy losses, by the men of the British Battalion and their supporting artillery, and finally, when the enemy had captured a key position and the battalion reserves were exhausted, there was a charge in the old traditional style by the Sikh company of the 1/8th Punjab Regiment. Through a tremendous barrage of mortar and machine-gun fire they went, led by their company commander, Captain Graham, until he fell mortally wounded, and then by their subedar. Their cheering rose to a roar as they charged, routing the enemy with heavy loss. The situation was completely restored, but only 30 of this gallant company remained. The battle of Kampar had proved that our troops, whether they were British or Indian, were superior man for man to the Japanese troops.’

Major-General Paris had taken over the 11th Division from Murray-Lyon and was told by Heath that the Japanese had landed a sea-borne force twenty miles to the south of their present position. Paris asked if he could withdraw his troops south so they would not get cut off and Percival agreed as long as he kept the Japanese north of Kuala Kuba till mid-January. This was to stop the Japanese getting the airfield of Kuantan but the Japanese attacked the 22nd Indian Brigade at Kuantan on the east coast on the same day, this move gave the Japanese the air-base they wanted to attack Singapore, for the final assault.

On the 2nd January the Japanese Guards Division tried landing troops at Kuala Selengor and Port Swettenham but were held off till the 4th when they achieved a landing just north of Kuala Selengor and moved inland at Battalion strength. Percival asked the Perak Flotilla to stop any more landings but it had been bombed continuously and was down to only two motor launches. While the landings were taking place 11th Division had retreated to the Slim River with very thick jungle on either side it was thought the Japanese could not outflank the defenders and the road defences would stop the tanks.

Heavy bombing stopped day time activities and the commanding officer of 5/2nda Punjab wrote:

‘The battalion was dead tired: most of all the Commanders, whose responsibilities prevented them from snatching even a little fitful sleep. The  battalion had withdrawn 176 miles in three weeks and had only three days rest. It had suffered 250 casualties of which a high proportion had been killed. The spirit of the men was low, and the battalion had lost 50% of its fighting efficiency.’

Japanese_tankOn the 5th January the Japanese attacked the 4/19th Hyderabad and were beaten back leaving about sixty dead. They then attacked again after midnight down the road and railway line and their artillery put down a concentrated fire at 0300 hours, this was followed by tanks and lorries carrying infantry. When the front tank was blown by a mine the Japanese infantry left their transport and attacked the Punjabis and a fierce battle was fought which developed into hand to hand fighting. The Japanese then found some old roads that had been overgrown, these were then used to by-pass the defences. The Japanese came across the Punjab Reserve Company who again held them back with some gallant defines, but again some more loop roads were found by the Japanese. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders just had time to erect a road block when four tanks appeared and swept it aside, the tanks went on to Trolak six miles north of the Slim River Bridge. Some Argyll armoured cars armed with ant-tank rifles tried to stop them but the tanks destroyed them and overtook a Punjab unit scattering them into the jungle now Japanese infantry were supporting the tanks. The Japanese kept going and went straight through the 2/9th Gurkhas and went on to deal with the 2/1st Gurkhas who were scattered into the jungle, the Japanese tanks reached the Slim River Bridge at about 0830 hours. The bridge had not been blown yet and only had anti-aircraft guns defending it which the tanks dispatched quickly, some of the tanks went over the bridge leaving a tank to guard it. The 155th Field Regiment were completely surprised by the tanks but quickly got their act together and stopped the tank  advance, the tanks withdrew to the bridge defending it in numbers.

While this action cost the British central Malaya, General Sir Archibald Wavell had just reached Singapore as Commander of ABDA, (American, British, Dutch and Australian) this command included from Burma to the Philippines, taking over the Headquarters Far East.


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South Malaya



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

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