The island of Penang was known by the British as Fortress Penang but in reality it had four anti-aircraft guns and a garrison of 500 untrained troops. The first air raid against the island took place on 11th December, with twenty-seven Japanese bombers flying in a V-formation. The civilians took to the streets to watch not knowing what was to come. After flying over the town the planes turned and bombed in groups of three. The bombs dropped included heavy demolition, light anti-personal and incendiary, nearly all the bombs were dropped on the densely crowded native quarters in Georgetown.
The emergency services were mainly run by untrained Chinese and although they tried their best, they were under increasing pressure as many of the local population who had decided to take to the hills got in the way. It was a scene of utter confusion, and a direct hit on the fire station meant there were no fire fighting equipment, fires went on burning for days with corpses left littering the streets, after a few days the smell from these became unbearable. Law and order broke down and looting of the shops began. The next two days saw heavier action as the Japanese increased the number of planes, but they did meet with some opposition from the RAF from Butterworth on the mainland.

The British started evacuating on the 13th but the orders included only British born personnel and civilians, this caused a feeling of despair among the Asiatic population, and anger towards the British for leaving them to fend for themselves at a time when they wanted leadership. Not all the British left Penang, Dr. Evens of the General Hospital stayed to look after his patients and was later allowed to the Japanese to continue his work.

On the 17th December the Kobayashi Battalion of the Japanese 5th Division landed on Penang from small boats and the island was theirs without a single casualty. The British had not applied the scorched-earth policy very well and left the Radio Station working. The Japanese did not waste any time in broadcasting  proper gander to Malaya and their opening words were:

‘Hello, Singapore. This is Penang calling. How do you like our bombing.

Some Japanese troops tried to claim their spoils of war, taking anything they wanted and killing anyone who got in their way. Tamashita heard about this and swiftly dealt with three soldiers convicted of rape by a court martial, he had them executed by a firing squad and their commanding officer, Lt-Col Kobayashi put under thirty days close arrest.

The Asiatic was losing confidence in the British to defend them, especially when the British left them to fend for themselves on Penang, up till now the British were their masters and above reproach, they now would be viewed in a different light.


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Long Retreat



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

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