Chapter XI – OPERATIONS IN NORTH PERAK

IT was necessary now to review the results of the first ten days’ fighting. At sea the Japanese navy had obtained undisputed control of the waters east of Malaya though it had as yet made no attempt to interfere with our communications either to the south or to the east by naval or air action. Even the submarines of the Royal Dutch Navy, which during the first few days had operated so successfully in the waters east of Malaya, had by now almost been wiped out. The main concern of the Japanese Air Force was obviously to confirm and extend the superiority which it had already established. Most of its attacks, therefore, were still directed against our aerodromes. The strength of our air force, including Dutch reinforcements, was now only a little over a hundred. The Japanese probably outnumbered us by about four to one while their aircraft were technically superior to ours. As regards the army, our strength on the west coast, apart from the volunteer units, was now barely one division. Owing to the difficulties of air reconnaissance it was impossible at the time to know at all accurately what strength we had against us. We thought we had roughly one division based on Singora and one on Patani with a third division in Kelantan. Actually it appears that the Japanese made their initial landings with two divisions, or perhaps a little more, and one tank regiment. Of these most of the 5th Division, which was one of their crack divisions and had been specially trained in amphibious operations, landed at Singora. In addition, about the middle of December a division of the Japanese Imperial Guards arrived in South Thailand by train from the north and started to move down in support of the forward troops while a second tank regiment arrived in December or early January. The strength of these Japanese divisions could be put at about 20,000 each and of a tank regiment at about 150 tanks. We had no tanks, a situation which caused us much embarrassment when considering the tactics to be adopted. In addition to their actual formations it is probable that the Japanese also held strong reinforcements at their base camps, for throughout the campaign they kept the same formations in the front line for prolonged periods and always seemed able to fill them up with fresh troops. Another factor which had to be taken into con-sideration was the condition of the troops of the nth Indian Division. Though their morale was by no means broken, they were undoubtedly very exhausted by almost continuous fighting and movement both by day and by night. Moreover, it is not too much to say that the Indian troops in particular were dismayed to find the British so outclassed in the two essentials of modern war—aircraft and tanks. As regards the enemy’s strategy, it was now pretty clear that he intended to continue his advance down the west coast with a view to attacking Singapore from the north. Combined with this, his naval and air superiority made it possible for him to land a force on any part of the east coast with a view to attacking our communications or even to attack Singapore Island itself. It was not at all an enviable position in which we found ourselves. We could not risk denuding our already weak garrisons of Singapore and Johore any further, for a successful enemy attack there would have broken the whole fabric of our defence. There were some who thought that we ought to with¬draw all our forces at once from North and Central Malaya and concentrate in Johore. This view was held by some of the com¬manders in the forward area who, having seen the aerodromes which they had been told to protect evacuated, perhaps quite naturally began to wonder what their future role really was. Looked at purely from the point of view of the land operations there was much to be said for this point of view, but it failed to take account of the long-term strategy. Our task was still the protection of the Singapore Naval Base, and if we had withdrawn our forces to Johore at that stage we should have allowed the enemy to establish their superior air force within close striking distance of that establishment. Moreover, it would have been able to reach out and attack our convoys bringing reinforcements to Singapore. We knew that every endeavour would be made to send reinforcements to Malaya but we also knew that no reinforce¬ments could arrive before some time in the first half of January. Yet it had already become abundantly clear that our only hope of turning the tables on the enemy was to get these reinforcements in safely. This applied both to reinforcements for the air force and for the army. Already by seizing the aerodrome at Victoria Point in South Burma the enemy had made it impossible for fighter reinforcements to fly to Malaya and even the longer-range aircraft had to come via Sabang, the island off the northern tip of Sumatra. Fighters either had to come crated by sea or else be flown off carriers. I held the view that the first step towards recovery of any sort was to regain control of the air and that this could only be done by bringing in more fighters. I was prepared to make almost any sacrifice to get these fighters in safely and to get them into the air. As regards the latter, it was clear that we should in the future have to rely on aerodromes in Johore and on Singapore Island and the existing ones were already becoming very congested. There was urgent need to increase the ground facilities, but there was no time to make big aerodromes. So the A.O.C. started on a programme of building a series of air strips and I promised him all the help I could. I agreed in fact to give him priority for such civilian labour as he required. This was later to cause us much embarrassment but I never departed from the agreement. To ensure the safe arrival of the convoys, fighters would also be required to protect them during the last stage of their journey to Singapore, and I agreed to give this priority over other requirements. It was the old story—there weren’t enough fighters to go round and the forward areas were left desperately short.

I have said that our task was still to ensure the security of the Singapore Naval Base. This was confirmed about this time by the Chiefs of Staff in a telegram in which they emphasized that no other consideration must be allowed to compete with this. On 18 December, in accordance with a proposal made by President Roosevelt, an inter-Allied conference took place at Singapore. The conference decided that the immediate plan should be to dispose our combined forces then available in the Far East so as to:

(a)    Keep the enemy as far north in Malaya as possible and hold him in the Philippines, and
(b)    Prevent the enemy acquiring territory, and particularly aerodromes, which would threaten the arrival of reinforcements.

The conference also recorded its opinion that our urgent and immediate need was for reinforcements which must be on a scale, not only to meet the present scale of attack, but also that likely to be put into the field against us.

On 17 December I decided to go to Ipoh, an important road and rail centre in the State of Perak, to discuss the situation with Heath. Before I left Singapore, Heath rang me up on the telephone and said he was very anxious about his troops on the Krian River in view of the situation which was developing on the Grik road. He asked for permission to withdraw his whole force behind the River Perak—one of the largest rivers in Malaya. I told him that he could do this if he really thought it absolutely necessary. Although the River Perak is a very fine natural obstacle, it has distinct limitations as a defensive position because the road and rail communications in Central Perak run roughly parallel to it for a distance of about seventy miles which makes the lines of communications very vulnerable.

On arrival at Ipoh about midday on the eighteenth I found that orders had already been issued for the withdrawal behind the River Perak but no movement had yet taken place. The situation on the front was slightly better. There had been no fighting on the Krian River line and the xst Independent Company had already been dispatched to Lenggong on the Grik road to help to stabilize that front. Moreover, the 12th Indian Brigade Group was moving back into reserve at Kuala Kangsar. In view of my instructions I wanted to impose all the delay we possibly could on the enemy, and it seemed a pity not to take advantage of the good ground west of the River Perak. On the Grik road, which was now the dangerous front, the enemy were still nearly forty miles from the main road at Kuala Kangsar, and there seemed no reason why in that close country we could not hold them up for several more days. Heath agreed with this view and that afternoon he sent out a fresh instruction to the effect that, while adhering to the general policy of withdrawal behind the River Perak, the enemy would be held west of the river as long as possible without permitting our forces to become inextricably committed. Heath and I then went off for a reconnaissance of the River Perak, a fast- flowing river about a quarter of a mile wide in most parts. We looked particularly at the Blanja bridge, the first crossing south of the main road and some twenty miles from it. This bridge, which was constructed of pontoons, was likely to become a vital point when our withdrawal started. Between it and Kuala Kangsar on the main road a good secondary road ran parallel to the river on the west side, but there was no road on the east side. This we thought would be a weakness as far as defence was concerned because it Would give the enemy easy access to the river while at the same time making it very difficult for us to watch it. From there we went north to Kuala Kangsar, where we met several units which had just come back from the fighting farther north. Most of them were in good heart though badly in need of rest. The great Iskandar bridge north of Kuala Kangsar, by which the main road crosses the River Perak, was being prepared for destruction. It was one of the finest bridges in Malaya and it seemed terrible that it should have to be destroyed when it had, comparatively recently, been built at such great cost. We got back to Ipoh late at night and talked at length in the special train in which Heath had established his headquarters. It was quite comfortable that night but became the centre of an air attack the next day and had most of its windows broken. I left for the south again the following morning.

During the visit I discussed many matters with Heath. It was obvious that both the 6th and the 15th Indian Brigades were unfit for the battle until they had been rested, reorganized, and re- equipped. These brigades were in the process of concentrating in the Ipoh area and were both very weak. We decided that the only thing to do was to amalgamate them into one brigade which was to be known as the 6/15 Indian Infantry Brigade. This was to be done by amalgamating battalions which had similar charac¬teristics, i.e. the two battalions of the 16th Punjab Regiment became one, the two British battalions (the Leicesters and the East Surreys) were joined and became known as the “British Battalion”, and so on. All this was done in the space of a few days and the success of the scheme, at least in most cases, says much for the co-operative spirit of all concerned. Indeed the British battalion, which was to distinguish itself greatly during the remainder of the campaign, has without doubt formed a perpetual link between the two famous regiments from which it was formed.

All other units had to be re-equipped as far as our slender resources would permit, but we were already getting short of arms and equipment and we could not make good all the deficiencies.

For the rest of the campaign there was always a shortage of light automatics and of anti-tank rifles.

The question of formation commanders also had to be considered. All the brigade commanders of the nth Indian Division were now in hospital. The command of the 6/15 Brigade was given to Lt.-Col. Moorhead, who had distinguished himself as a tactician and leader on the Kroh road. The 28th Brigade was already being commanded by Lt.-Col. Selby of the 2/9 Gurkha Rifles, and it was decided to leave him in that appointment, which he filled with great success for the remainder of the campaign. Then there was the question of the divisional commander. It was already apparent that the Japanese troops were, taken as a whole, much more skilful in the tactics of bush warfare than were our own troops. I felt that an officer with the widest possible experience of bush warfare was required to lead the x ith Indian Division in future and suggested that Brigadier Paris, the commander of the 12th Indian Brigade, should succeed Murray Lyon who, though undoubtedly a brave and tireless leader, had had limited experience in that particular type of warfare. Paris, a senior and most experienced officer, had been in Malaya for two and a half years and commanded what was probably at that time the best trained brigade in the country. Heath agreed to this change which took place a few days later. That left vacant the command of the 12th Indian Brigade, which was given to Lt.-Col. Stewart, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a fine fighting soldier who had made a special study of bush warfare tactics.

We decided that all troops must be given a minimum period of forty-eight hours’ rest as soon as that could be arranged. The only way to do this seemed to be to organize the defence in depth by brigades as soon as the Perak River had been crossed. Owing to the vulnerability of our communications to an attack across that river it did not seem sound to attempt any protracted defence north of Ipoh, even though a withdrawal would expose the rich Kinta Valley tin-mining area which lies immediately south of that town. It was therefore arranged that Heath should select and have prepared a series of positions between Ipoh and Tanjong Malim. In point of fact he accompanied me on my return journey for part of the way and we made a preliminary reconnaissance of some of these positions together. In selecting positions, priority was given to tank obstacles and cover from air in both of which arms the enemy were well equipped while we were entirely deficient.

To the 9th Indian Division we assigned the task of continuing to deny the Kuantan aerodrome to the enemy and of securing the nth Indian Division and its communications against attack from the east coast. I conveyed these instructions verbally to Barstow whom I met by arrangement on my way south.

Finally, we felt that the farther and the faster the Japanese advanced south the more vulnerable would their communications become. We knew that the administrative arrangements of the Japanese Army have never been very strong, but I don’t think any of us realized fully at that time how very sketchy they in fact were. There were two ways of attacking these communications, one from the sea and the other by land. I had already, when leaving Singapore, left instructions that a special raiding party of fifty picked Australians was to be formed to operate from the sea against the enemy’s communications, and the Royal Navy was organizing a west coast flotilla of lightly armed craft which was to be based on Port Swettenham. It was a great pity that we could not make use of the Independent Company which had been specially trained for this sort of work, but it was too badly required at the front at this time to warrant its withdrawal. As regards attacks on the Japanese communications by land, the Gurkhas were selected for this work, for which their characteristics were specially suited, and arrangements made for a special party of these grand little fighters to be trained in guerrilla fighting.

I returned to Singapore on the morning of 20 December and shortly afterwards issued a paper containing information of the Japanese tactics and instructions as to how they should be countered. In this I stressed that the first essential was rigid discipline and absolute steadiness and, secondly, that the enemy’s outflanking and infiltration tactics must not lead to withdrawals which should only take place on the order of higher authority. I suggested that the best method of defence might be for a holding group to be dug in astride the main artery of communication with striking forces on the flanks ready to attack as soon as the enemy made contact with the holding group. With a view to trying to curb the many wild rumours which were flying about, aggravated by the difficulty of finding out what really was happen¬ing, I ordered that the spreading of rumours and exaggerated reports of the enemy’s efficiency must be rigidly suppressed. I pointed out that in this type of warfare it was generally the efficiency, alertness, and cunning of the individual which counted; that troops must expect to be shot at from unexpected directions and that all must be prepared to hit back; and that we could not defeat the enemy by sitting in prepared positions and letting him walk round us but that we must play him at his own game and attack him on every possible occasion. I believe that these instructions were fundamentally sound. There was no lack of offensive spirit among the troops, but though the spirit was willing the flesh very often was weak, and it was the utter weariness which overcame most of the troops during the campaign rather than any defence complex which made it so difficult for commanders to organize attacks.

If my readers will turn for a moment to the map of Malaya they will see that there is only one road in the centre of the country which joins the west coast area with the east. This road runs from Kuala Kubu (north of Kuala Lumpur) via Raub to Jerantut and thence to Kuantan. This lateral road was now assuming great importance, for if our forces on the west coast were driven back beyond Kuala Kubu the enemy would be in a position, if they could capture Raub, to cut the only road communication of our forces on the east coast. This situation caused me to review the whole question of our policy as regards the Kuantan garrison. I discussed the problem with the Commander- in-Chief Far East and the Air Officer Commanding, and it was agreed as a general policy that we should withdraw the Kuantan garrison at a time to be decided later in accordance with the development of the situation.

Let us return now to the battle-front and first see how things were going on the Grik road. The Argyll and Sutherland High-landers, the first battalion of the 12th Indian Brigade to reach Kuala Kangsar, had been ordered to move up this road at dawn on the nineteenth, after a short night’s rest, and Lt.-Col. Stewart, their commanding officer, going on in advance reached Lenggong, thirty miles north of Kuala Kangsar, early that day. The Japanese were then in Sumpitan, a large village four miles farther north, and Stewart ordered the Independent Company to move forward immediately and recapture it. The attack was carried out by this small unit with fine spirit and after a sharp and gallant action it captured the village but later, in face of a counter-attack and shortage of ammunition, it was ordered to withdraw. The Argylls and a battery of artillery had now come up, and that night the forward troops took up position at Lenggong with a company of the 5 /2 Punjab Regiment watching their rear at Kota Tampan, where the Perak River approaches the road. It was as well that this company had been posted here for late the next day a body of Japanese infantry, exercising as usual much initiative, came down the river on rafts and attacked the right of the company. In the meantime, the Argylls had been heavily engaged all day at Lenggong and in the evening had to send back a strong detachment to clear their communications. By the twenty-first the Argylls had concentrated again in the Kota Tampan area, where they held off renewed enemy attacks while the 5 jz Punjab Regiment occupied positions west of Chenderoh Lake. This large lake, which measures several miles both in length and in breadth, is situated just east of the Grik road and on its southern shore is the great Perak hydro-electric power station which supplies the State of Perak with electric current. The Japanese now began to exploit this lake and several rafts laden with soldiers were sunk. It was difficult, however, to prevent this movement at night and the approach through the lake gave the Japanese the opportunity of by-passing Kuala Kangsar and of threatening the main road and railway bridges over the River Perak and the communications east of them. Fortunately, the 4/19 Hyderabad Regiment, which, it will be remembered, had been withdrawn from Kelantan, now came on the scene and was concentrated east of the River Perak to meet this threat. But the enemy was now only some twelve miles from Lawin, where the Grik road joins the trunk road west of Kuala Kangsar. The small force which had been opposing them on this road for the last week had done its duty gallantly but with considerable loss, and the situation now clearly demanded the speedy withdrawal of the 28th Brigade Group before it could be cut off in its positions north of Taiping.

On 19 and 20 December there had been some activity on the right of the extensive Krian River position and, to avoid being outflanked, the 28th Brigade Group had fallen back to more concentrated positions at Ulu Sapetang and Bagan Serai after destroying the bridges over the Krian River. But the situation was still a delicate one. These troops were forty miles west of the vital road junction at Lawin, whereas the Japanese on the Grik road were, as we have seen, only twelve miles from it. There was also the possibility of a sea-borne landing in the Port Weld area directed at Taiping. Three valuable days had already been gained, but it was clearly high time that our scattered forces got back behind the Perak River, and there is no doubt that Murray Lyon, who now had command of all troops west of the river, was absolutely right when he ordered a general withdrawal to commence on the night 21—22 December. The 28th Brigade Group fell back with its right column on the main road with orders to cover the withdrawal of the 12th Brigade Group across the Iskandar bridge and with its left column directed on to the Blanja pontoon bridge. The reader may wonder how it was possible for infantry to cover such great distances in such a short time. The answer is that it was frequently possible throughout the campaign, by the use of troop-carrying transport and requisitioned civilian vehicles, to make the weak infantry brigade groups or even larger formations fully mobile. On the afternoon of the twenty-second the 5/2 Punjab Regiment on the Grik road repulsed a determined enemy attack and inflicted heavy casualties in two well-laid ambushes, but this was the last fighting west of the Perak River. During the night 22-23 December, all troops, except for a bridgehead at Blanja, were successfully withdrawn across the river. The Blanja bridgehead was withdrawn the following night. A gap was successfully blown in the Iskandar bridge. At Blanja a portion of the pontoon bridge was swung to the eastern side and the pontoons sunk.

In sixteen days the Japanese had succeeded in capturing the whole of that part of Malaya which lies north and west of the Perak River, including the island of Penang, and also the State of Kelantan. The undefended State of Trengganu lay open to them. They had also sunk two capital ships and decimated the offensive strength of our air force, which had been driven off the northern aerodromes into which so much money and labour had been poured. There is no denying that those were remarkable achievements. Yet they were not nearly so remarkable as had been planned and the Japanese were already well behind their programme. For we now know that their grand strategy was to cut off and destroy the whole of our forces in Kedah by a rapid thrust from Patani via Kroh to cut the west coast communications west of the Perak River and that they hoped to reach the line of that river in two days. Had they done so, not only would our land communications to North Malaya have been severed but the whole structure of our defence would have been undermined. The road to the south would have lain wide open and the communications to our east coast forces would have been exposed. As a result of all this hard fighting and of these desperate situations we still had a force with which to oppose the enemy on the line of the Perak River. That was no mean achievement.

South of Ipoh in the Kinta Valley lies one of the most productive tin-mining areas in the world. Here much of the country has been cleared and, though the ground is broken and intersected with water-courses, it is in general more open than most parts of Malaya. In consequence, it is better suited to artillery action, an arm in which we had definite superiority. Twenty miles south of Ipoh the main road and railway and the surrounding country are dominated by a rocky bastion in the township of Kampar, which rises precipitately from the plain to a height of 4,000 feet. Here a position was selected where it was hoped that it would be possible to make a protracted stand and it was rapidly being put into a state of defence. Other positions farther back were selected in the Tapah, Bidor, and Slim River areas, and finally one north of Tanjong Malim to cover the important Kuala Kubu road junc¬tion. The plan was for the reorganized 6th/15th Indian Brigade Group, which had now been partly, though far from completely, re-equipped, to occupy the Kampar position while the 12th and 28th Indian Brigades fought delaying actions on the main road north of Ipoh and on the Blanja front respectively. This they succeeded in doing with much success. On 26 and 27 December, the 12th Brigade Group was heavily engaged in the Chemor area (ten miles north of Ipoh), where it succeeded in inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy whose units moved forward in cldse forma¬tion. By the twenty-sixth all troops in Ipoh had moved south and as much as possible of the military stores had been evacuated. Some it had been necessary to destroy. Among the last to leave their posts were the Chinese and Eurasian girl operators of the telephone exchange who were handling military traffic and who continued to do so in the face of bombing and the approach of the enemy until ordered to leave. All honour to them. On the left flank, where our forward troops had fallen back from the line of the Perak River to Siputeh, there had been no contact except by fighting patrols. The 12th Indian Brigade on the main road front, however, had now been in action continuously for twelve days. The men had fought well and knew it, and their morale was unbroken, but their condition was like that of troops who have had twelve strenuous days of manoeuvres under foul conditions. Tired troops against fresh troops inspired by success and capable of exploiting to the full the mobility conferred on them by their ability to live on the country, to eat its rice and to move on its cycles; fighting blind against an enemy in possession of detailed information of our strengths, movements, and dispositions and enjoying also the advantages of freedom of the seas and supremacy in the air. That was the picture. I had issued instructions that the 3rd Indian Corps, while imposing the maximum delay on the enemy, must remain in being as a fighting formation, for I had no reserves with which to replace it. It was vital that the nth Indian Division should not be sacrificed, and Paris, who had now taken over command, quite properly decided to fall back behind Ipoh on the night 27-28 December. The withdrawal of the 12th and 28th Brigades was timed to begin at 7 p.m. It was a complicated move as transport was insufficient for a single lift and the routes of the two brigades converged in an awkward bottleneck at Senlu. It proceeded, however, without a hitch. And so Ipoh went to the enemy.

The 28th Indian Brigade moved into its allotted position on the right flank of the Kampar position while Stewart, now commanding the 12th Indian Brigade, was given the task of delaying the enemy’s approach to the main position held by the 6th/i5th Brigade with freedom of action north of Kuala Dipang. It was hoped that the delay would last for three days, but early on the twenty-ninth the Brigade Group was again in contact with the enemy. The attack was repulsed but, realizing that the enemy was now in strength, the divisional commander ordered the brigade to withdraw that evening through the Kampar position and to come into reserve at Bidor. The enemy followed up closely and again tanks produced a demoralizing effect on tired troops, but the situation was saved by the Argyll armoured cars and carriers. Eventually the Kampar River was crossed and, after several abortive attempts, the large bridge over it was blown.

Actually this demolition was not of great moment for, as so often happens with the Malayan rivers which rise and fall rapidly, it was found shortly afterwards that the river was fordable for all arms.

The 12th Brigade Group went to Bidor that night. It had had a gruelling time for, since the battle of Gurun, it had borne the brunt of the fighting and in its doggedly fought rearguard actions between Batu Pekaka and Selama, on the Grik road and in the Ipoh area, it had gained time for the reorganization of the remainder of the nth Indian Division and for the occupation of the Kampar position. It had also inflicted delay and heavy casualties on the enemy though it had suffered severely itself. Like many other formations it needed rest and rebuilding but that was not to be.

The long and vulnerable communications south of the nth Indian Division now began to cause us anxiety, for they could be threatened either from the sea or from the lower reaches of the Perak River. To meet this threat the 1st Independent Company had been sent to the Telok Anson area, a small port near the mouth of the Perak River, from which it sent out distant boat and cycle patrols. It was supported by an infantry battalion at Changkat Jong.

Both sides now tried to make use of the sea off the west coast of Malaya. The Japanese had for years had a fleet of self- propelled craft specially designed for landing operations, and in the middle of December a number of these were landed at Singora and conveyed by road across country to the Kedah coast where they were launched on 22 December. We on our side had no such craft but, as already recorded, a west coast flotilla had been improvised from local craft and an Australian raiding party organized. It was known as Roseforce from the name of the liaison officer seconded to it. It went into action for the first time about Christmas, when after an approach journey and landing by night it ambushed successfully a M.T. column west of the Perak River. Lorries and staff cars containing high-ranking officers were destroyed. This little operation showed the great possibilities of such attacks against the enemy’s very vulnerable communications and it was hoped to repeat it on many future occasions. But again it was not to be. Before many days had passed the Japanese Air Force had made it impossible for our small unprotected craft to move in daylight and H.M.S. Kudat, the base depot ship for the force, was bombed and sunk in the harbour of Port Swettenham. The final blow fell on 1 January. Some time before war started in the Far East we had ordered from America five “Eureka” fast coastal vessels which we had contemplated using for this very purpose. They arrived in December and we handed them over to the Royal Navy to man and operate. They left Singapore on the last day of December destined for Port Swettenham to join the west coast flotilla, but when approaching that place early on 1 January they were spotted and attacked by Japanese aircraft. All five vessels were either sunk or driven ashore. It was not long, as will be seen, before the Japanese began to develop their own coastal operations always supported by their aircraft. The outstanding lesson from all these operations round the coasts of Malaya is that supremacy in the air is a prerequisite if they are to be conducted successfully without heavy losses.

In the air the Japanese effort was concentrated chiefly against our aerodromes until 23 December. On that day heavy attacks were made against troops in bivouac areas and on the move. These attacks continued for the rest of the month. Our troops were almost entirely without air support as all the remaining fighters, except a few which operated from Kuala Lumpur, had by now been withdrawn to the Singapore area. Air attacks against the Singapore area were not renewed until 29 December when the first of a succession of night attacks took place. Our own air striking force, which seldom consisted of more than half a dozen machines, carried out night attacks against enemy occupied aerodromes. The Sungei Patani aerodrome, in particular, where over a hundred Japanese aircraft had been located, was attacked on several occasions. In addition, aerial reconnaissances were carried out daily off both the east and west coasts as far as the availability of aircraft permitted.

And so closed in Malaya the momentous year of 1941 in which war had again come to that country after so many years of peace. Before we resume the story of the operations in the New Year, let us digress for a little to see what had been happening in other parts of the far-flung Malaya Command and to consider some of the problems of the civil front which were already beginning to have such an important influence on the development of the campaign.

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