THE WITHDRAWAL FROM NORTH MALAYA
ON the Kelantan front we had left our troops struggling back on the dark and wet night of 8—9 December to their new positions in front of Kota Bharu. When dawn came their total strength only amounted to about 700 men, while of the commanders ot the three infantry battalions engaged one had been wounded and the other two were missing with a large number of their men. Before long strong enemy pressure developed down the main road from the aerodrome to the town and there was some infiltration behind our positions on either side of the road. Many of the Japanese troops were lightly clad and equipped, and our troops, not for the last time in Malaya, experienced great difficulty in telling friend from foe and Japanese soldier from Malay or Chinese villager. The situation quickly became confused. Fortunately civil plans had worked smoothly under the capable direction of Mr. Kidd of the Malayan Civil Service. The Sultan of Kelantan and his household and all European women and children had left for Kuala Krai, where military railhead had been established, and the few Asiatic civilians who wished to leave were doing so in an orderly manner and under control. There was therefore no further point in covering the town of Kota Bharu, so Key decided to withdraw his battered force to a position some four miles south of the town with the 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment on the right, the 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles on the left, and the Dogras in reserve. The withdrawal of the forward units did not go according to plan as the enemy were by this time already across the road between Kota Bharu and Kubang Kriang, but the 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment fought its way through to Kubang Kriang village where, fortunately, it was joined by its commanding officer and many men of the battalion who had been cut off the previous night. Hot on their heels came the enemy and there followed a stiff, confused fight at close quarters. By i i a.m. the enemy had captured the village and most of our troops withdrew towards Peringhat, four miles farther south. Here they were joined by two companies of the 2/10 Baluch Regimen withdrawn from the beaches to the south, and the position was stabilized. In the meantime the welcome news had been received at brigade headquarters of the arrival at Kuala Krai of the 4/19 Hyderabads, the battalion which had been sent up from Command Reserve. Orders were sent to this battalion to move up into a position about Ketereh, twelve miles south of Kota Bharu. By 5 p.m. the battalion was in position with good fields of fire across scrub and padi fields. Other troops were withdrawn through it. By nightfall, therefore, the 8th Brigade had been able to pause for breath, take stock of itself and find the state of affairs much less unsatisfactory than it had thought. Many large parties previously missing had rejoined their units, which had been fed, rested, and had fully recovered their spirits. Furthermore the brigade was now comparatively concentrated in favourable country instead of being spread out over great distances of swamp and padi with few communications.
On 10 December units were reorganized. More stragglers came in during the day and by nightfall the strength of each of the three battalions which had been heavily involved was up to 600 or more. As so often happened later in the campaign our casualties did not prove to be so heavy as at first reported. News was received on this day of a further enemy landing at Besut, on the coast of Kelantan. This exercised a direct threat to the large new aerodrome at Gong Kedah. There was no air reconnaissance so it was not possible to ascertain the strength of the landing, and the news was disturbing because it not only constituted a threat to the aerodromes at Gong Kedah and Machang (on the main Kota Bharu—Kuala Krai road) but also to the communications of the whole forče. It was for this reason that Key decided on the morning of the eleventh to abandon the aerodromes and to concentrate his force south of Machang where it could protect its communications. The aerodromes were no longer required by our air force, but it was unfortunate that the runways at Gong Kedah and Machang had to be left intact as demolition arrangements had not been completed.
The new position was astride the main road with the 2 Frontier Force Regiment on the right and the 2/10 Baluch on the left, the other two battalions of the 8th Brigade being echeloned back along the road. The demolition of the great Guillemard bridge over the Kelantan River, the longest railway bridge in Malaya and an engineering showpiece, was ordered.
The time had now come to review the whole question of policy with regard to our Kelantan force. Its task, it will be recalled, had been to protect the three aerodromes in. that State for the use On the of our air force and to deny them to the enemy. Our air force casualties no longer required them, and it was more than doubtful if our flank small force could prevent the enemy using them though it could Dun certainly be a nuisance value. On the other hand, it was now clear that the enemy’s main thrust was going to develop down the west coast, whether with a limited objective or not we could not yet tell, and it seemed probable that we should require all the force we could muster to stop that thrust. It was a problem in which both the Commander-in-Chief and the other Services, as well as moved the civil administration, were interested, so Heath came down to Singapore on the twelfth for a conference on this subject. The alternatives were either to leave our force in Kelantan to do what it could there or else to withdraw it for employment elsewhere. We were very much influenced by the precarious situation as railway regards its communications. There was no road between Kuala Krai and Kuala Lipis—only a single line railway which twisted and turned through wild undeveloped country and crossed many rivers and ravines. It only required one of the bridges to be broken by enemy air action or by sabotage and the whole force would have been lost. And the enemy held complete supremacy in the air. The situation was perilous in the extreme. There were other factors to be considered—the possible loss of material and equipment, the effect on morale of a withdrawal and the fact that so the enemy’s forces in Kelantan would be freed for operations elsewhere—but the overriding considerations were the vulnerability of the communications and the need to concentrate our forces to meet the west coast threat. After full consideration I decided to withdraw the Kelantan force as soon as rolling stock could be made available. The decision was submitted to the Commander-in-Chief the same afternoon and approved by him.Orders were issued immediately and the evacuation of surplus stores started at once. The operation had to be conducted with not the utmost secrecy if it was to have any chance of success. On the twelfth the enemy became very active and attacked instrength, but the 2/10 Baluch Regiment counter-attacked, coming to close grips with the enemy and inflicting casualties. The enemy was now evidently using fresh troops and a prisoner taken on this occasion stated that his unit had marched the twenty-six miles from Kota Bharu and gone straight into action for the first time. On the following day the 2/10 Balueh Regiment again inflicted casualties on the enemy who were trying to advance round their flank.
During the next few days the withdrawal continued systematically, the enemy being made to fight for each position, with comparatively little loss to the defenders. By the sixteenth all surplus stores and equipment had been evacuated and the withdrawal of the troops by rail began. The 4/19 Hyderabads were the first to leave to rejoin their brigade which, as has been stated, had been moved up to the help of the 11th Indian Division. On the nineteenth the railhead at Kuala Krai was evacuated. The rearmost troops withdrew from Kuala Krai on foot as the large railway bridges south of that place had by then been destroyed. Practically all the stores and all the vehicles, except about eighty, for which no railway flats were available, were successfully evacuated. A rear-guard under Lt.-Col. McKellar, known as Macforce, was left behind to watch the railway and prevent the repair of the bridges. It included troops of the Pahang Volunteers and of the Malay Regiment and carried out its duties most efficiently. On completion of its withdrawal on 22 December, the 8th Indian Brigade concentrated in the Kuala Lipis—Jerantut area, except for the 2 Frontier Force Regiment, which rejoined its own brigade at Kuantan.
So ended the battle of Kelantan. Our casualties had been fairly heavy but not excessive. The enemy, it is believed, had employed rather less than one division and is known to have suffered heavily at the landings. The operations were conducted with great skill by Key and his subordinate commanders. In particular, the successful withdrawal of the whole force down a single line railway under the very nose of the enemy’s air force, to which we could offer no opposition, was an altogether outstanding performance. It reflected the greatest possible credit not only on the commanders and their staffs, upon whom devolved the responsibility for planning and executing the operation, but also upon the staff of the Federated Malay States Railway concerned in it. It was as well that we succeeded in extricating our force from its perilous position in Kelantan, for the situation on the west coast soon began to cause us the greatest possible concern. When dawn broke after the battle of Jitra there were only three companies on the south bank of the Kedah River with one company watching the right flank at Langgar, four miles east of Alor Star. During the next two or three hours other troops came in but they were weary in the extreme and the situation remained what is usually officially called “confused”. The Japanese themselves did their utmost to keep it so. During the morning Murray Lyon was himself standing on the bridge south of Alor Star with his C.R.E. watching the troops come across when a motor cyclist followed by two more emerged from the town and approached the bridge passing some of our vehicles as he did so. As he accelerated past the General he waved and laughed at him. The General himself was the first to exclaim, “My God, that’s a Jap”, and he and his companions were quick enough to account for the remaining two motor cyclists, but the leader continued on his course. Farther south there was much sniping by Japanese troops in Malay dress, several of whom were killed. These were bold tactics and they had their effect, for bridges were blown with some of our troops and vehicles still on the far side and there were further losses. On the railway a strange thing happened. The demolition of the bridge was ordered but was not an entire success. It sagged in the middle but did not break. It was therefore decided that the armoured train, which had also been left on the wrong side, should add a crowning service to those which it had already rendered and complete the demolition of the bridge, sacrificing itself in the process. Its crew bade it farewell, opened the regulator to set it off towards the bridge, pulled the whistle and jumped off. The whistle jammed and the train, wailing like the lost soul which it was about to become, rumbled on to the bridge and on, over the crack, and still on, to the safety of the south bank with the note of its whistle changing to a shriek of triumph as it continued slowly southward with its crew sprinting after it. They managed to get on board and stop it, and the train continued its career until eventually wrecked by a bomb in Ipoh Station a fortnight later.
In the Alor Star area an intermittent fire fight continued throughout the day, but the Japanese only made one determined attempt to cross the River Kedah. That was in the afternoon when they succeeded in gaining a temporary footing on the south bank but were driven back by counter-attack. Our troops were clearly in no sort of condition to withstand an attack in strength, so after darkness fell they were withdrawn to the Gurun position. At dawn the following morning the remnants of the 6th Indian Brigade were also withdrawn from the intermediate position at Simpang Empat, six miles farther south, and by midday on the fourteenth all our units, or what was left of them, had reached their allotted positions at Gurun. Most of them had had no rest for a week and were to have none now, for the position had to be prepared for defence. As soon as war broke out, orders had been issued for a large civilian working party to be assembled to work on the Gurun position under the supervision of military officers, but no work had been done and there were no labourers there. Whether they had assembled and dispersed or never assembled at all I cannot say as reports on this point are conflicting.
Things were bad enough on the front of the I ith Indian Division but now a very real threat to its communications also developed. Early on the morning of the twelfth (the day of the battle of Jitra) the enemy had again attacked the 3/16 Punjab Regiment on the Kroh front but were driven back. An out-flanking movement, however, forced the Punjabis to withdraw with heavy casualties to one of their forward companies. Eventually this regiment fell back through the 5/14 Punjab Regiment to Kroli. Its strength, including reinforcements, was now about 400. After destroying some bridges on the Grik road it moved into a prepared position two or three miles west of Kroh on the road to Baling, which lies thirty miles east of Sungei Patani, a key point on the communications of the iith Indian Division. The 5/14 Punjab Regiment with attached troops was left to delay the enemy, which it succeeded in doing for another twenty-four hours, but by dusk on the thirteenth the whole of Krohcol was concentrated in the position west of Kroh. The village of Kroh -lies close to the frontier and from it a metalled mountain road runs west into the fertile areas of Province Wellesley and South Kedah. It was to cover this road that the defensive position had been prepared. Another metalled road, however, ran south for five miles to Klian Intan where, for twenty miles, it became an unmetalled rough mountain road until it rejoined the metalled road at Grik, which joins that place with Kuala Kangsar on the main west coast highway. ‘i’he road north of Grik was little used in peace-time and special reconnaissances had reported that it was passable oniy for light M.T. in dry weather. This road, whatever its capacity, now lay open to the enemy and, taking the long-term view, constituted an even more serious threat than the more direct road into Province Wellesley to the whole structure of our defence of North Malaya. Fortunately the 12th Indian Brigade Group was now beginning to arrive and a company of the 2nd Argvll and Sutherland Highlanders with some armoured cars of the Federated Malay States Volunteers was immediately sent to Grik to block this road. This detachment, small as it was, was soon to play a heroic part in the grim struggle to avoid the Japanese pincers.
To relieve the commander of the 11th Indian Division of some of his responsibility, the 3rd Indian Corps took over direct responsii)ility for the Kroh front at midnight on 12—13 December, and the following night Heath himself moved up with advanced headquarters to Bukit Mertajam in Province Wellesley, which had been selected and prepared for this purpose in pre-war days. At midday on the fourteenth, Paris, the commander of the 12th Indian Brigade Group, took over command of Krohcol and moved it to Baling where it was absorbed into his force.
It was in this very critical situation that the policy as regards Penang had to be considered. As previously stated, the island of Penang had, since 1936, officially been a fortress. In fact, in December 1941, it was very far from being one. Of the fixed defences which had been approved for it only the two 6-inch batteries with their attendant searchlights had been installed. They were sited to cover the approaches to the anchorage, which lies between Penang and the mainland, from the north and from the south. None of the anti-aircraft defences had arrived. For the beach defence of this island, which is fifteen miles long by ten miles wide, there was only the partially trained Penang and Province Wellesley battalion (less one company) of the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, although two regular battalions had been asked for. Other troops on the island included the ist Independent Company, a company of the 5/14 Punjab Regiment, a mixed reinforcement camp and some administrative detachments. The civil airport was too small for normal R.A.F. requirements.
The only fighter defence was provided by five Buffaloes which were able to operate for one day only from the Butterworth aerodrome on the mainland. The effect of the first bombing of Georgetown has already been seen. On the twelfth, at a meeting between the Fortress Commander (Brigadier Lyon) and the Resident Counsellor (Mr. Forbes), it was decided to evacuate on the following night all European Service families and such sick and wounded as could be moved from the military hospital. The Resident Counsellor was also asked to arrange for the evacuation of all civilian European women and children. This decision was taken as a normal measure to evacuate bouches inutiles. On the thirteenth, fifty naval ratings, survivors from the Prince of Wales and Repulse, arrived to operate the ferries, the crews of which had disappeared. On the fourteenth the municipal commissioners of Georgetown presented a memorandum to the Fortress Commander stating that the civil administration had broken down and pointing out the dangers which might result from the fouling of the water and the collapse of the sanitary and conservancy services.
The original object of defending the island of Penang was to secure the anchorage against sea and air attack. In the event of our troops on the mainland being driven back, it had been my intention that they should fall back on the axis of the west coast communications, throwing into Penang two additional infantry battalions with supporting troops, and that we should then endeavour to hold Penang. But that plan did not contemplate the critical situation which had now developed on the mainland. ‘rhere was no question of transferring any troops to Penang. On the contrary, every single man we could lay hands on was required on the mainland to avert the disaster which threatened. For if the 11th Indian Division, which was already in a state of great disorder, could not be saved and if the double threat which had developed from the Kroh front could not be averted, the road to the south would lie open to the Japanese. That would mean that the troops of the 9th Indian Division on the east coast would in their turn be cut off and the Japanese would have an uninterrupted advance until they came to Johore. Moreover, all the aerodromes in Central Malaya would fall into their hands. The time had obviously come to reconsider our whole policy towards Penang. The matter was of such importance that I brought it before the Far East War Council on the morning of 14 December. The pros and cons were discussed and carefully considered. Admiral Layton, who had succeeded Admiral Phillips as Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet, said that the anchorage at Penang was no longer of any value to the Navy. It was decided that our ability to hold Penang must depend upon the result of the battle on the mainland; that it would be bad tactics to split our forces; and that we ought to concentrate upon trying to avoid the calamity which threatened us on the mainland. The bad moral effect of evacuating Penang was realized, but we felt that it had to give place to military necessity. In accordance with this decision, I dispatched a telegram to Heath, within the area of whose command Penang lay, authorizing him to make use of such part of the garrison of Penang as could be made available to take part in the Kedah operations. He was also informed that, should it become impossible to cover Penang from the mainland, the policy would be to evacuate the island removing by sea the garrison and such essential stores as might be found possible and to destroy the remainder. Instructions on similar lines were issued by the Governor to the Resident Counsellor Penang.
Let us return now to the fortunes of the iith Indian Division at Gurun. The position selected was astride the main trunk road and railway about three miles north of the village of Gurun. On the west of the road is the steep rocky feature known as Kedah Peak, which rises almost sheer from the plain to a height of 4,000 feet and dominates the surrounding country. On the east of the road and extending away to the south are numerous rubber estates with their network of estate roads. Parallel to the front of the position ran a lateral road from Yen on the coast to Kg. Kumbar crossing the main road at Guar Chempadek. This position was occupied with the 28th Indian Brigade on the right and the 6th Indian Brigade on the left. The latter was responsible for the vital railway and road sectors of the front. In reserve was the depleted i5th Indian Brigade. But there was little time to settle into this position. As already related, our last troops had only who had followed up quickly in M.T., were already attacking reached it at midday on the fourteenth and by 3 p.m. the enemy, our forward localities. ‘rhe attack started with an air bombardment of the Guar Chempadek cross-roads under cover of which lorry-borne infantry advanced supported by tanks. The position at the cross-roads was lost but later recaptured by a spirited counter-attack led by Brigadier Lay in person, and orders were issued for the cross-roads to be reoecupied in strength during the night. The enemy, however, anticipated this move. Pushing boldly down the main road under cover of darkness, his troops penetrated deep into our positions. There were many local encounters between parties of the two sides which met as they moved about during the night and at 7 a.m. the headquarters of the 6th Indian Brigade itself was attacked. With little warning it was rushed and overwhelmed by a strong force of the enemy. The brigade major, staff captain, signalling officer, and many others were killed. Only the brigadier himself and one or two men survived. The main road and the country to the west of it lay wide open.
On the front of the 28th Indian Brigade there had been little activity during the night and at dawn on the fifteenth it was still holding its positions, as also was the right flank of the 6th Indian Brigade on the railway. Some troops of the 28th Brigade were now ordered to operate against the flank of the Japanese force advancing down the main road while others were ordered to Gurun to block their advance. While these moves were in progress Murray Lyon himself arrived at Gurun to see what was happening. He quickly took in the danger of the situation and ordered an immediate withdrawal behind the Sungei Lalang, seven miles south of Curun and five miles north of Sungei Patani, where the 1st Independent Company from Penang was already in position. Later in the morning, on return to his own headquarters where the three infantry brigadiers and the C.R.A. were assembled, he decided to withdraw that night behind the River Muda, which forms the boundary between Kedah and Province Wellesley. The main road bridge and the ferry crossing at Kota to the west of it were to be held by the Independent Company and by a squadron of the 3rd Cavalry, both recently transferred to the mainland from Penang and the only fresh troops available. It was a sorry plan but the best that could be done. Except for one dauntless but tired brigade the division had little fight left in it. There was much to be done. Transport and bivouac arrangements had to be made, large supply and ammunition dumps at Sungei Patani had to be cleared or destroyed, further demolitions had to be prepared and aerodrome defence troops at the South Kedah aerodromes had to be withdrawn. During the morning the R.A.F. had evacuated Butterworth aerodrome also. It had been heavily and consistently raided during the week, during which the Japanese air arm had concentrated almost exclusively on knocking out the R.A.F. on its northern aerodromes. Many of our aircraft had been destroyed on the ground. Here, as elsewhere, the manner of evacuation was not beyond reproach. Throughout the campaign the air force pilots and air crews, battling against heavy odds with inferior material, lived up to the highest traditions of their Service. The ground staffs, however, many of whom had been in the Service but a short time and had absorbed but the rudiments of true discipline, suffered much under pressure from lack of training and of tradition. It was ever so. You cannot throw raw, untried troops into the turmoil of battle and expect to get the best out of them.
Much of the credit for averting a catastrophe must be accorded to two companies of the 2nd East Surreys and to Lt.-Col. Selby’s 2/9 Gurkha Rifles which, between them, held at arm’s length an enemy thrust which might otherwise have swept on and annihilated the disorganized remnants of the division in rear. One company of the Gurkha Rifles held on so long that it was eventually cut off and had to take to the wooded country. It rejoined its battalion four days later with all the men but two, still in possession of their arms.
For the chaos and failure of these two days lack of communication between divisional headquarters and forward troops was largely responsible. There was no time to lay out a proper system and reliance had to be placed largely on civil lines. These usually followed the railway and often when railway bridges were blown the communication system went with them. The rapidity of the withdrawal succeeded in breaking contact with the enemy but at an enormous price. The remnants of the 11th Indian Division were collected between the River Muda and Bukit Mertajam, tired out, dirty and dispirited with their few remaining weapons clogged with mud and rust. Many had been without sleep for seven nights or longer and many without food. Some had been lucky and found stocks of food in the coolie lines of abandoned rubber estates; some had been fed by villagers; few by the normal supply system. There had been crippling losses in men, guns, ammunition, small arms, equipment, transport, and supplies. And this was the division which was to puii itself together somehow and go on fighting for another desperate month before it first sighted relief.
It was in these circumstances that the final decision to evacuate Penang was taken by Heath. Most of the combatant troops had already been transferred to the mainland. There was no air defence whatever for the island and only a tiny garrison left, There was little chance of holding it for more than a few days and, unlike Tobruk, it did not constitute any real threat to the enemy’s advance. It was better to take away all who might be of any further use for the prosecution of the war and to destroy as much as possible of the material that could not be removed, At 11 a.m. on the fifteenth, Heath issued orders to Lyon, the Fortress Commander, for the evacuation to be completed by the night 16—17 December. The success of the evacuation depended upon strict secrecy until the last possible moment. Lefore then much had to be done. Troops had to be collected from all over the island. Arrangements had to be made for the destruction of such installations as the cable and wireless stations, international cable terminals, oil installations, dock facilities, the aerodrome, shipping, the fixed defences, and large stocks of ammunition and other war equipment. Time and the supply of explosives were both inadequate to complete the destruction, but the amount achieved reflects the greatest credit on Lyon’s foresight and powers of organization. The most serious failures were the Penang broadcasting station of the British Malayan Broadcasting Corporation, which within a few days was pouring forth a foul stream of lies and anti-British abuse, and a number of small vessels and barges in the harbour which were neither removed nor scuttled. The latter was probably due, at least in part, to the masters and crews having disappeared. The Japanese later made great use of them in developing their threats to our communications from the west coast. ‘When the omission was discovered a destroyer was sent by night to mine the southern exit from the harbour but this could not have been entirely successful. Shipping for the evacuation had to be found locally and was strictly limited. The remaining troops and all Europeans, except a few who remained behind at their own request, were evacuated. Asiatics serving in the Volunteers were given the option of being evacuated or of staying. The majority decided to stay to protect their families. Lack of transport would have made it quite out of the question to evacuate large numbers of Asiatics. Moreover it was undesirable at that stage to increase the population of Singapore. Except as regards those who wished to take an active part in the war and those who were in real danger from the Japanese, it was better in Penang as on the mainland that the Asiatics should remain in their homes.
The hurried withdrawal of the i ith Indian Division had now exposed the rear of the 12th Indian Brigade Group which had absorbed Krohcol and was now in the Baling area, so to fill the gap between these two formations the 5/2 Punjab Regiment of the 12th Brigade was sent to watch the River Muda in the Merbau Pulas area. Here, early on the sixteenth, the sentry on the Batu Pekaka bridge, which had been partly demolished, was hailed by a civilian, in appearance a British planter. Covering him with his tommy gun the sentry signalled him over. As he reached the sentry the man sprang at him and grappled with him. But the Punjabi was alert and a few seconds later a plucky German lay dead on the bank. Throughout the rest of the day the 5/2 Punjabis were engaged at this bridge repulsing repeated Japanese attacks.
On the morning of the sixteenth, Heath visited Murray Lyon and decided to withdraw the i xth Indian Division behind the River Krian, the southern boundary of Province Wellesley, where the swampy ground combines with the river to form a good natural obstacle. The 28th Indian Brigade was to withdraw at once and the remainder next day. The 28th Brigade arrived at Nibong Tebal, where the main road and railway cross the river side by side, in the early hours of the seventeenth and relieved men of the 3rd Mixed Reinforcement Camp who had been hurried there from Penang. Fifteen miles to their right, at the crossing at Selama, were the 3/16 Punjab Regiment and the ioth Mountain Battery which had been sent there on withdrawal from Kroh. The withdrawal of the remainder of the division, including the rearguard from the River Muda, and of advanced headquarters 3rd Indian Corps from Bukit Mertaj am, was carried out by daylight on the seventeenth. The division concentrated in the Taiping area covered by the troops on the Krian River line. The 12th Brigade Group fought a rearguard action from the Titi Karangan area, to which it had been withdrawn from Baling, to the Selama area. By the eighteenth all troops were south of the River Krian and at last there was a little respite for these harassed weary men It was not long, however, before a new threat developed. On the Grik road contact had been made a little north of Grik on the night 16—17 December. Our small force was hard pressed on the seventeenth and fell back to the area south of Sumpitan. Here it was reinforced by two platoons of the ist (Perak) Battalion of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force. It now became clear that the enemy had directed the main body of his Patani force down this road, difficult as it was for wheeled transport, and was endeavouring to cut off the i ith Indian Division by reaching the main road at Kuala Kangsar. Indeed, reports from Japanese sources have subsequently indicated that this was a strong attack and that their grand strategy was to cut off and annihilate the whole of the troops in Kedah and Province Wellesley.