Northumberland Fusiliers

9th Northumberland Fusiliers

      Keith Andrews - I am on a mission of mercy this time, and need some help regarding this enquiry. Those of you that know me on this net will be aware I tend to reply to Artillery questions, as my dad was with the Corps. This one as you see from the title is
      Infantry. The young man asking the question is a serving soldier in Commando Battery, Royal Artillery (well, not much more I can say is there?)and is seeking information regarding his late grandfather who served with the above Regiment at Singapore.
      Here is what I have been told:
      All that I have at present is that his grandfather was due to go to Africa (I assume North Africa rightly or wrongly) but his ship was diverted. His name was John James Gascoigne, and he was a chef with the Fusiliers, and held in Changi.
      From what papers I have on Singapore, this is what I have found:
      Listed on an Order of Battle that I have shows this Regiment as being part of the 18th Division, with one company being part of the 54th Infantry Brigade, Brigadier E.H.W.Backhouse commanding, and another company being part of the 55th Infantry Brigade, Brigadier T.H.Massey-Beresford commanding. The 18th Division I think was responsible for defending the Northern area at Singapore.
      As far as departures to the Railway, parties T to O came from the 18th Division, and left over a period of 6 days, starting 29/10/42, with the last one on 3/11/42. BUT this all assumes he went onto the Railway.
      And that is as much as I know. I need to find where the nominal roll for the Regiment listed as No.53, compiled in Changi which may give some answers.
      If anyone can help, would they please respond, I will follow my normal procedure in these matters, all replies will be forwarded on direct with no alterations by me. If the young man then gets in touch direct, he will know who supplied the information.
      Thanks in advance for any help you can give

      christof - I have some info you may find useful. my late father Amos Lawton (RNF's) sailed from liverpool on the Warwick Castle, he retained his boarding card which is in my posession along with a boarding card for the Felix Roussel which he was later transferred to before going on to singapore. there is some confusion in the family as to what happened next. my father said he was taken prisoner straight from the Felix Roussel, yet others report heading for the hills upon disembarcation.
      I would be grateful if you could enlighten me on this matter, or indeed share any info you have on the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

      Ron - This is some info from Singapore The Pregnable Fortress about the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

      'One of the divisional units, the 9th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, had voyaged to Halifax with other units aboard the Warwick Castle, a ship of 20,000 tons, and the men were not very pleased when attempts were made to cram them into some of the comparatively less luxurious American ships. Something of a revolt took place - armed American seamen were involved in helping put it down - but finally the matter was resolved by spreading the troops more evenly over the fleet. The 9th were made to suffer for this 'mutiny'. When they got to India, they had to undergo forced route marches with full packs.'

      The Felix Roussel did not sail with BM11 - Task Force 14.2, it sailed later with BM12. This included Drafts for 9th and 11th Divisions (3800 troops) and Stores, Div. troops for 18th Div.

      The BM12 convoy left Bombay on the 23/1/42 and arrived at Singapore 5/02/42. Singapore capitulated on the 15/02/42.

      christof - >Ron, thanks for your reply. from the information i have the battalion disembarked the Warwick Castle 9th nov 41'at Halifax and re embarked on the USS Orizaba (Capt Gulbranson)sailing on the 11th nov and arriving in Cape Town S. Africa on 9th dec. shore leave was granted and the Orizaba sailed to the port of Kilindi, near Mombasa where it was visited by Lt General Sir William Platt. the 18th division was then diverted to the far east, with the 53rd infantry brigade going direct to singapore while the rest went to Deolali in Bombay 6th jan 42'. on 21st jan 42' the 9th battalion RNF's embarked onto the Felix Roussel and headed for singapore.they arrived at dawn on the 5th feb 42'and sustained some damage from an enemy attack (27 aircraft). 2 bombs hitting the Felix Roussel, killing 5 men and wounding about another 14. men of the battalion claim to have shot down at least 3 enemy aircraft. at dusk on the same day the Felix Roussel moved into Keppel harbour and the battalion disembarked under darkness, heading for the northern slopes of HILL 85 at the north east side of the island. the ship returned to India without unloading.
      liason officer with the battalion until 15th feb 42' was Captain Hindmarch (Malaya Police) who's home was in Felton Northumberland.
      do you or anyone else know what happened at Hill 85?
      did these poor men actually reach their destination or were they simply picked off by the enemy and forced to surrender without firing a shot. my late father was adamant he was taken prisoner from the Felix Roussel and forced to hand over his weapon. he also said he never fired a shot. from there he ended up in various prison camps. he was drafted to work on the railway Kanucutting 'Hellfire Pass', and although he was a gunner he ended up as a 'medic' in HQ coy RNF's, this was because prior to the war he was with the St John's Ambulance Brigade. i think this really saved his life while he was out there.i still have his soldiers pay/service book which also tells a few stories. some men he spoke highly of and who also served with him were Bob Hall(Sgt), Jack Stanton, Joe Snowball and Mabel Wilson to name a few. perhaps these names are also known by others using this site. if so i would be glad to hear from anyone so we can swap information and piece together the horrific times these brave men endured.
      god save the queen. England for the cup.

      Ron - RNF were part of Tomforce

      On the 10th February "Tomforce" was formed, the 4th Royal Norfolks along with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers formed this force under Lt-Col.L.C.Thomas. Their orders were to support 12 Indian Brigade and stop the enemy advance on Bukit Timah. The force travelled in buses to the north side of Bukit Timah then advanced towards the village, the 1/5 Sherwood Foresters advanced from the south, but that night the village was taken by the Japanese.

      The next day the battalion advance through thick woods on a two company front. "A" were followed by "D" on the left and "B" followed by "C" on the right. The enemy were waiting and marked their position with flares, this was followed by low level bombing and machine-gunning. "B" and "C" companies were hit and suffered badly. It was considered an impossible task to advance further as the Japanese were heading north of "Tomforce" towards the reservoir near Thompson Village. The battalion withdrew to the Singapore Racecourse to try to stem the Japanese advance, joining with 4th Suffolks on the right to form a perimeter defence of the MacRitchie Reservoir.

      All looked to be in place until an order for the 4th Suffolks to advance towards the Swiss Rifle Club Range, letting the Japanese infiltrate with cover fire from high ground they all ready held. This caused the right flank of the battalion to be exposed. The enemy quickly took the advantage and completely surrounded the battalion leaving only a small area free to the east.

      At 9am on the 12th the Japanese attacked the forward line at "A" company in strength on the Bukit Timah road, using tanks they forced the company back. A counter attack was planned but orders to withdraw to Adam Road were received. They withdrew though the east gap but the carriers had to go down the Bukit Timah road and came across enemy tanks but against all the odds they managed to fight their way through without loss.

      Once again under the command of the 54 Infantry Brigade, "Tomforce" was dissolved.

      Keith - >Chris, At the IWM last Friday(9th), looked at the David Nelson box in the Documents section, found this snippet;
      Nominal Roll - 9 RNF - OVL = Overland Party, departed 7/11/42, Lt. Col. H. S. Flower, RNF, in command. This party would have left the Great World Camp for Ban Pong, and 4277290, Lawton A was included.
      Hope this helps in your research.
      A fair bit of RNF items in this file, but not a lot.

      Paul - I would like to contact Harry Howarth author of the excellent "Where Fate Leads", if at all possible. Can anyone out there help please.

      Keith - >Paul, You could give the Regimental Museum a try,
      Tel 01665 602152
      Curator - Capt.(retd) P.H.D. Marr.

      Keith - >Paul, Another lead, Harry is mentioned in Moon Over Malaya, page 194. I am in contact with Jonathan Moffatt, one of the authors in connection with the Argylls, and tracing a Lanchester armoured car. Do you want me to drop him a line to see if he can help.

      Ross - I have read your 9th Northumberland Fusiliers Web-page and I believe you will find your account of the failed "Tomforce" counter-attack up Bukit Timah Road on the morning 11 February 1942, is incorrect. Plus The 4th Suffolks on the Swiss Hill was a different engagement. Sorry.



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