The History of the British Battalion in the Malayan Campaign, 1941-1942 is a story of the tired and heartbroken British and Indian units who fought gallantly all down Peninsular till the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942. This engagement was fought by the 6/15th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 11th Indian Division. Reduces in 6,000 men. The fact they inflicted 500 casualties on their opponents, shows how resolute was their resistance. This is a record of a very gallant fight in inexperienced troops, written by a Chinese civilian, one of many who at great risk to their own lives aided us and attended to our wounded. He was present at the battle himself, when only 12 years of age, fought at one of the strongest prepared positions on the Japanese invasion route to Singapore. Here we hoped to halt the enemy advance, but having no Naval or Air support the Japanese were able to land behind our lines requiring our withdrawal; this was typical of many actions in the Malayan Campaign. Such disasters will always occur when troops are outnumbered, harassed without respite, no sleep, and no reserves.
When the battle was fought, the author was commanding the 8th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 9th Indian Division, on the East Coast, the 11th Indian Division being deployed on the West Coast.
The survivors of the two British Battalions-Leicesters and Surreys-were formed into one British Battalion, Under the command of a very courageous and excellent C.O., Lt. Col. Morrison of the Leicesters, they went from strength to strength as the invasion proceeded. At Singapore, the 8th Indian Infantry Brigade counter-attacked through a very difficult country to regain control of the vital viaduct linking Johore and Singapore.
In captivity, the day after Singapore fell, the author was interviewed by the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Japanese Guards Division. One of the first remarks was, “We Japanese admire the way your troops fought under hopeless conditions”.
During the Malayan Campaign of 1941-42, many have died and many books have been written about it but not many bring out the stories of the tired and heartbroken British and Indian units who fought gallantly all down the peninsula till the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942. Many units were caught undertrained and under-armed against a very powerful and well-trained jungle force of fanatical and brave warriors from Japan. The British were stunned by the much-underrated enemy who was superior in the air, sea, and land in the Malayan Campaign. The stoic gallantry of the British and Indian units was never told because these brave men fought and lost in the greatest British military disaster in the fall of the Fortress of Singapore.
One British unit, the British Battalion made up of remnants of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire and 2nd East Surrey Regiments won their finest hour and glory on the three low ridges just north of Kampar. It was in the Battle of Kampar from 30th December 1941 to 2nd January 1942, that the Leicester Tigers and the East Surreys fought with great distinction when they held the 5th Division from Hiroshima to a standstill.
The Japanese 41st Infantry Regiment was a crack unit that saw action in China and broke through the British at Jitra and Gurun in North Malaya. This regiment of nearly 6,000 was used in the three-pronged assault against the British Battalion of 700 strong aided by the 6/15th Indian Brigade reserve of the amalgamated Jat/Punjab Regiment of about 500 strong. The full brunt of the all-out assault on the 1st and 2nd January 1942 was borne by the steadfast British Battalion The Leicesters and the East Surreys lived up to the traditions of their regiments. Tradition has always been a great thing in the British Amy and the remembrance of the great deeds a regiment has performed in the past is a source of great pride and strength to future generations.
The pride of the regiment has always been one of the basic factors in the high morale of the British soldier in peace and in war. In Kampar, they won their pride and glory after giving the Japanese a bloody mauling. In the Battle of Kampar, the men from the Midlands and London displayed coolness and extraordinary heroism in holding back the overwhelming numerically superior enemy. They had denied General Yamashita the prize-the capture of Kampar on Ist January 1942 as the New Year’s gift to his Tenno Heika, Emperor Hirohito.
The courage and fighting spirit displayed by the British Battalion against such overwhelming enemy strength supported by air, reflect the highest traditions of the 1st Leicesters and 2nd East Surreys. These men of the British Battalion have every reason to be proud of for the gallantry hurling back waves of fanatical Japanese on Thompson’s Ridge. The leadership of the Commanding Officer in Lt. Col. Charles Esmond Morrison, D.S.O., M.C., was inspiring and outstanding in the crucial Battle of Kampar.