Signalman Wader´s Diary

Part 2

The Japanese War


Christmas was drawing near. I was on guard on Sunday the 7th December 1941. It had been raining hard all day, the Indians had left camp that day. I went on guard at 11 o'clock till 1. At 12 o'clock it started to pour down again but as luck would have it I had my cape with me. I was wishing it were 1 o'clock so I could go off guard out of the rain. My relief never came at 1 o'clock, so I waited a while. All at once there was such a bang, I said to myself ``That's thunder, now for another soaking", in a few seconds there was another big bang, I suddenly realised it was Ack Ack fire. I looked at my watch and it was exactly 1.15. I didn't know whether to leave my post or not. I blew my whistle and decided to make my way to the guardroom. When I got back, the camp was in uproar. Everyone was packing up what he could, sergeants were yelling out orders. We went round to the stores and got as much as we could onto the lorries. By 3 o'clock we were spread out in groups of 3. With loaded rifles watching the entrance from Sabut beach, we expected to see the Japs break through any minute. If they had, we would have been done for. 76 men couldn't have held them. There were only 3 planes left on the aerodrome, the others had gone to Lybia two weeks before. We saw our only planes go up, one was brought down and one was damaged landing and was out of action.


Japanese Landings at Kota Bahru

Early morning 8th December 1941

We were still guarding the entrance from Sabut beach at 8 o'clock in the morning. We went over to the cookhouse in threes to get a snack. I had just got over there when a Jap fighter came very low over the camp. He dived and opened up with machine guns, I threw myself in the nearest ditch and we let him have it with our rifles. Two blokes opened up with Bren guns and drove him off. After he had gone we had a look round. The tent we used to wash in was riddled with bullet holes, the same with the corrugated sheets on the roof of the cookhouse. At 1 o'clock we were waiting for orders, we got orders to go round to the aerodrome, being a line section we thought we were going to repair damaged communications, but were surprised to find that we were needed for defence of the aerodrome. We found ourselves as infantry men instead of signals.

On the far side was the river. They thought the Japs were on the other side so we had a Bren gun carried down by the river. We were so busy watching we didn't hear the Jap plane come gliding over behind us. He had shut his engine off which is why we didn't hear him. He opened up again with his guns, bullets spluttered all over right and left of us, I dropped flat thinking my last hour had come - it's a good job some of the Japs are short sighted. We breathed once more when he went off. One of our Corporals panicked s his nerves gave out. You couldn't blame him, it was hell for ten minutes, if I ever said my prayers it was then.

One time there was a terrific explosion, I looked round and saw flames and smoke, I thought one of our trucks had gone up, but found out it was an ammunition dump which had been hit. There was a Colonel down by the river and he said he didn't think there was a Jap within miles, he gave us orders to withdraw so we went back down to Montgomery Camp and had a rushed meal. It was dark by now. After we had eaten we got into our trucks and waited for further orders. I was dead tired and must have fallen to sleep as I was suddenly awakened by shouting, and the trucks starting up. I looked towards the aerodrome, it was in flames and the flames were sweeping towards our camp. We pulled out and went down into Kota Bahru village. Here we had to guard the bridges, again we got orders to move. We went right away from the village this time, we saw Bren gun carriers overturned and private cars burnt out on the roadside. We met Indians struggling along the road. We saw Chinese women and children fleeing for their lives. We came across bodies of women and children who had been riddled by machine guns from a Jap plane, they were ghastly sights, their bundles lay beside them. I was glad to get away from it.

We arrived at a place called Mountain Battery, which had been evacuated by Indian troops. We tried to find something to eat, I found whisky biscuits and cigarettes. We had a bit to eat and pushed off again. We then reached a place called ``Bentong". Here we had to build a 26 mile route of communications. We billeted ourselves in a house in a rubber plantation. We worked hard for 4 days, going backwards and forwards and finished the route in 4 days 2 hours. On the last day we were returning to billets after a hard day in the blazing Sun. But before we had a chance to turn into the plantation, our officer and the rest of the boys were coming out. They had tested the line and heard Japs speaking over the wire. They were only 30 miles away so we had to beat it!

We then arrived at a camp called ``Kedah" 70 miles away. We rode like hell all night. I was sat in front of our truck with my pal driving. We were all dead tired and I had to watch him, he kept dozing off. I must have fallen asleep too as I woke with a start as he jammed his brakes on, what I saw made my hair stand up! We had been going along this road, which had a sharp turn left, there was nothing straight forward only space. It was a cliff with about a 300 foot drop. My mate had fallen asleep and just before we reached the corner, one of our despatch riders had stopped to guide the convoy round, he had noticed there was something wrong and yelled out just in time. It was a narrow escape

Next day we had put 70 miles between us the nips, we were off again on our run to Singapore, only 300 miles to go. We went through places called Kuala Kri, Kuala Lipis, Jerum Tipis?, Raub Gamas, Sagamat, Kuala Lumpur and Gahore Bahru. We went to a camp trying to get something to eat and a wash and shave. We were in a hell of a state, covered with mud and beards on. Well, they told us to get cleaned up and they would have a meal ready for us in half an hour, we thought we would get a decent meal here, but when it came it was the usual bully and biscuits.

I knew by now we couldn't hold Singapore much longer. Gahore Bahru was our last line of defence. We left Gahore and went across the causeway into Singapore. This bridge was the only way to get across from Singapore to Malaya. The next morning they were going to mine it ready for blowing it up. We went to the Alexandra Barracks. It was the 4th of January and when we arrived at Alex' I got a cable which had been waiting there a fortnight for me. I sent a cable and a letter off straight away and was told later that they had got away. Some fellows came and shook hands with me and looked at me as though I was a ghost. They said ``Go and have a look at orders at HQ", I did and saw a list with my O.C.'s name on and our names. It said ``75 Line Section wiped out while in defence of Kota Bahru aerodrome." I was frightened it had been sent through to the war office.

Well we got a good bed and got some sleep, which we badly needed and felt quite fresh next morning. I was in the canteen one night when a young fellow spoke to me. I looked at him and knew him as one of my childhood mates. We had a drink together and talked about home and old times. I never saw him again after that night.

We had to go out constantly repairing lines damaged by bombing. One day, three of us were sent to a place to work on a switchboard, we did 3 hour shifts. We had just been on it 3 days when the Japs broke through at 2 points only a few miles away. We got orders to destroy the switchboard and go back to Alex's. Two nights after we got back, we had just got to bed when the sergeant came in and said we had to pack. All the Indian boys and Chinese had left the cookhouse and all the dirty plates on the tables in the dining hall. Things were getting a bit hot now.

We left and went round the back of some houses by the Great World Cabaret. Some of the boys and our O.C. went to some flats about a mile away called Saint Nicholas Flats. At the back of these houses we had an anti tank gun mounted in case anything came along the crossroads. We ran a line out from here to Saint Nicholas Flats so we could keep in touch with the rest of them. We had to run it through Alexandra Barracks, when we got to Alex's, some chaps were destroying all wireless apparatus. Well we ran one drum of cable out and came to a fence so some of the boys had to take another drum round the other side. They had to go out of the barracks to get there, so three of us sat down and waited, all we could do till they got round was bare the wire ready to make the joint. While we were waiting we heard aircraft, we took cover in a drain 6 feet under the ground till they passed over. Before long we heard our lads shouting from the other side of the fence so we came out of our hole. The N.C.O. who cracked up at Kota Bahru was with us and he stayed in the hole, his nerves were still bad. He was in a hell of a state. You couldn't blame him. I felt sorry for him sometimes. Well, we got the ends of the cable bared and were just going to make the joint when we heard planes again. They dived, opening up again with their guns, we had to take cover once more and they passed over. We had to get that line through somehow so when we got a chance we dashed out, grabbed the cable and lay flat under a wall to make the joint. When we had finished, we called out mate out of the hole and went round to out old stores to see what we could salvage, then went to the canteen to see what we could get hold of. Everything was just how we had left it. We managed to get 100 cigarettes between us. We could still hear the planes in the distance. We came out and were going towards our beach when we saw a bomber coming towards the camp. One side of our stores was an air raid shelter and one on the other side, well, we dashed for these shelters and we saw a car stop and a Major and two officers got out and went into the first shelter, I was the last to get there. As I got to the first shelter, one of my mates was just going in and he called me. I knew it was nearly full and the plane was nearly overhead so I dashed round to the other side. That was full so I had to sit near the entrance. I had just got in when e heard the bombs screeching as they came down, then ``Thud, Thud." I felt the heat of the blast in my face, the timber and earth on the roof came in on top of us but no one was badly hurt. I just bruised my shoulder.

After they had passed over we went out to see what damage had been done. The stores and truck had gone sky high, the other side of the shelter had been hit direct with a bomb. There were R.A.M.C. men dashing about with stretchers, it was a ghastly sight we saw. There were legs and arms all over the place. The Major and officers had been blown to bits. They were just putting our mate on the stretcher, he was the only one alive. It had blown his shirt off and bullet pouches, the poor devil was only just alive. Why I changed my mind when he called me to go in that shelter I don't know, call it fate if you like. They took him to hospital. We didn't think he would last long.

We walked back to our place having no lorry and rung our O.C. up on the telephone and told him what had happened. He went to the hospital and was told there was a chance of our mate recovering, we felt better after hearing that.

We had now reached the 13th February, I had to go and do my 2 hours guard on the anti tank gun, you could hear the shells whistling overhead and hear the explosions. I finished my turn and went round to the front of the house and we sat watching the ships blazing in the docks just over the other side of the ``Great World".

About 12 o'clock that night we heard someone coming along the road, when they got near we challenged them and were glad to find they were British and not Japs. That same night a shipload of wounded and Australian nurses tried to get away, but was unlucky and she went down.

The next day we had to go out and do some repairs to some lines which were down. One of the boys got up the pole and started repairs. He hadn't been up long when there was a rifle shot from somewhere. The bullet hit the pole just above his head. Our sergeant told him to come down, then he went up. We watched carefully and the shot came again, we saw where it had come from, we fired back and some other chaps went round with tommy guns, but it was too late, they got away. We were always getting sniped at, Singapore was lousy with 5th Columnists.


General Wavell's Speech. February 13th 1942

Wavell -1It is certain that our Troops in Singapore outnumber any Japanese that have landed on the Island. We must destroy them, our whole fighting reputation is at stake and the honour of the British Empire. The Americans have held out in the Bataan Peninsula against great numbers. The Russians are turning back the picked troops of Germany. The Chinese with almost complete lack of modern weapons have held a great part of their country for 4 years. It will be disgraceful to yield over our much fortified Island of Singapore to inferior forces. There must be no thought of sparing the troops, no mercy must be shown to weakness in any shape or form. Officers must lead their men and if necessary, die with them.


There were 10,000 people killed in one air raid, Chinese and Tamils. They couldn't bury the dead fast enough, we dug great pits and threw as many as 100 bodies in. The civilians didn't look at us now as though we were dirt like they used to do.

On the night of the 14th we got orders from our Commanding Officer to join them at Saint Nicholas Flats. At the corner of the road leading there a machine gun spluttered the road, so we went along each side of the road in parties of 3. When we got within 100 yards of the corner there was another burst, one of our lads was hit and badly wounded, we dragged him under cover. We waited for half an hour and nothing happened so we kept well into the hedge and moved on. We reached the corner without further mishap. When we got there some of the R.A.'s were sticking their bayonets into the bushes, they got him alright. Just another 5th columnist.

We arrived at Saint Nicholas Flats feeling tired. We hadn't had much sleep. We got inside and fell asleep with boots on and everything. Next morning one of the boys was cooking breakfast when a shell burst by and he was hit with a piece of shrapnel, but wasn't badly hurt. That morning, the 15th of Feb at 11.30, our people went towards the Jap lines flying a white flag but they wouldn't recognise it. They went again at 4 o'clock. We got the order ``Cease Fire!" the all clear went. Singapore had capitulated. Everyone sat down and just stared at each other, wondering what lay before us, and thinking of those at home. The bottom had dropped out of everything. We felt it when we were told to pile our rifles outside. We were broken men. We learnt afterwards that the Japs went onto Alex's hospital soaked in ``Saki". They went into the operating theatre where two doctors and two orderlies were performing an operation, the Japs, drunk and soaked in saki just bayoneted them all leaving them dead. They did the same with some of the patients till a Jap officer came in and stopped it. They killed 40 orderlies out of 100. When our big noise went to the Jap to surrender, he gave them the number of men. The Japanese asked where the rest were. The Japanese division was about 20,000 strong while ours was about 14,000 strong. We were well outnumbered. Apart from the fact that we had no air support, I think if we had had any then things would have been different.

The number of prisoners taken by the Japs at capitulation was roughly 65,000. Their losses were 54,000, ours 10,000. We found out later why they didn't land on Sabut beach two miles from our camp at Kota Bahru. They tried to land but were repulsed by the Indians leaving something like 10,000 dead on the sands. They made a landing higher up the coast, the Indians did a good job, this was the end of the East Asia was for us.


General Percival Speech. February 15th 1942

It has been necessary to give up the struggle but I want the reason explained to all ranks. The forward troops continue to hold the ground but essentials of war have run short. In a few days we will have neither petrol, ammunition or food, and the water supply on which the cast population and many of the fighting troops are dependent on threatens to fail.

The situation has been brought about partly by hostile air and artillery actions, and being driven off our dumps without sinews of war. We cannot fight on. I thank all ranks for their cooperation throughout the





Part Of


Honorary Life Membership





 RJT Internet Services Picture

Best Viewed with:


Design by Ron Taylor

Copyright © RJT Internet Services 1999