Malaya Invasion

      Ron - Someone asked me about Krohcol at the beginning of the , Malaya invasion, I apoligise for sending it on the list but can not remember who asked, brain dead.

      Sorry it took me a little while but found it eventually.

      Sunset of the Raj - Fall of Singapore by Cecil Lee.

      Page 97, 98, 100 there are also two very good maps, Page 99 and 101


      On Monday 8th December, upon receiving his orders to occupy the favourable Ledge position (certain strong positions in the mountains about 35 miles above the Thai border on the road to Patani), this column consisting of 3/16th Punjabis under Lt.-Colonel H. D. Moorhead reached at 14.00 hours the frontier beyond Kroh. As he opened the frontier gate the Subahdar was shot dead, and thenceforward the column was harassed by Siamese constabulary and roadblocks, despite the optimistic predictions of our Siamese Ambassador, Sir Josiah Crosby. Troops noticed that the Siamese left their boots at the foot of the trees from which they sniped. By dusk that evening as a consequence they were only 3 miles inside the border. They halted for the night and were continuously sniped. At dawn on Tuesday 9th December the column moved off, still under harassment which ceased at 03.30 hours. Some four miles from the Ledge they met the Japanese. The delay of twelve hours in starting and the opposition they met from the Siamese had lost them the race; although the belated orders were crucial, there has been criticism of the pace of the column's advance to the Ledge. Those that could explain this were killed in the campaign, in particular Lt.-Col. Moorhead.

      In this first encounter battle, three companies essayed an outflanking move through the jungle. Captain Charlton, the Adjutant, forward with the companies, observed tanks ahead and hurried back to the bridge at Kampong Toh which was being strengthened for carriers. It was demolished instead and with anti-tank rifles the tanks were stopped. The disaster that next day overtook the 1/14th Punjabis and 2/2nd Gurkhas beyond Asun was averted.

      Moorhead took up a position for the night behind the stream at Kampong Toh. "A" Company had fought with great heroism against infantry and tanks under Subahdar Sher Khan, and only eight men and an NCO returned. This very section was still a fighting formation at the end of the campaign.

      Now the 5/14th Punjabis (Lt.-Colonel Stokes) from Penang had arrived in support with 10th Mountain Battery and one troop of 273rd Anti-Tank Battery from Jitra. They were disposed as rearguard nine miles north of Betong.

      Thursday 11 th December opened with heavy Japanese attacks at dawn. At 00.10 hours 2nd Lieutenant Mohamed Zarif Khan brought back "D" Company from the previous day's spirited action with the Japanese whose attacks intensified in the afternoon. Over at Jitra the disastrous breakthrough of tanks was taking place. Here the 3/16th held firm. Nevertheless, Moorhead now estimated, correctly as it transpired, that he was facing a brigade of Japanese and with increased pressure he sought at 20.00 hours, by telephone with Divisional HQ, permission to withdraw through 5/14th Punjabis. Murray-Lyon by then had a first-class crisis on his immediate front; he gave discretion to Moorhead to withdraw to Kroh which had to be held "to the last man and to the last round." One officer in that force recollected how often that order was given.

      Moorhead decided to disengage at dawn next day, Friday 12th December, the day of doom for Jitra. Heavy attacks commenced before dawn, and he gave orders for withdrawal for 09.00 hours. A fierce fight ensued in the withdrawal. "C" Company was surrounded and Lieutenant Casson in command and his second-in-command, 2nd Lieutenant Skyrnes, were killed in hand-to-hand fighting. Reduced to half its strength, the battalion disengaged during the afternoon and passed through the 5/14th position in front of Betong where the suspension bridge was blown. Moorhead was the last to leave with the carriers, rescuing a wounded lance-naik on his shoulders.

      At midnight that day, Murray Lyon was relieved of his responsibility for Krohcol, and it came under III Corps direct, as he had repeatedly requested.

      The 5/14th Punjabis withdrew next morning, Saturday 13th December, inside the frontier to Kroh after contact with the enemy.

      The record of the 3/16th Punjabis, although like other battalions much milked, is noteworthy. Under the redoubtable and beloved commander, Moorhead, (later to be killed in Johore), it is one that deservedly received the praise bestowed on it by the historian of the Indian Army.*

      On Sunday 14th December Brigadier Paris of 12th Brigade arrived to take over command of Krohcol, and reinforcements to protect the right flank of 11th Division now retreating to Gurun reached the front. The 5/ 2nd Punjabis guarded the bridge over the Muda at Bukit Pekaka east of Sungei Patani, and the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Lt.-Col. I MacA Stewart) arrived at Baling on this day and Krohcol retired through them at 03.00 hours on Monday 15th December.




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