3rd Heavy Ant-Aircraft Regiment
A personal account by John Evans, Gunner 1779127, 11 Battery.
"What I always wanted, was to highlight a battery which did what it was there for. It was not about me or other radar men, but the battery as a whole. Of which I was proud to be attached to."
John Evans, Gunner 1779127
11 Battery, 3HAA RA.
Brigadier Wildey, o/c anti-aircraft defences, quoted 3HAA Regiment as composed of six guns, two 29 Battery and four 11 Battery.
In November 1941 I, and others trained in GL ( gun laying radar ), arrived Singapore and were posted to the above battery. In December, we and the battery were on a prepared site at Majedi, Johore Baru, where there were two huts and a mess room, we radar men being accomodated under canvas .On the night of 7/8 December, I was manning the radar receiver, while another the transmitter, searching to the North, and picked up a big blip on screen, rang the Command post reporting a formation of aircraft, quoting the bearing and range. That brought someone to use the hand operated siren, scarcely adequate in getting men to their posts for the first time, and not having the benefit of a bell in the hut..as at home. They got off seven rounds. I have wondered why that night incursion was undertaken , and I can but think that were the Japanese to draw fire at night, it would indicate the presence of radar.? That was the only night raid.
The battery was sent to Kuala Lumpur; reportedly returning as all others were retreating; while radar was despatched to Mersing on the east coast to take over while RAF static radar withdrew. Given that GL was short range, I saw no point in our being there, but then, the fact was that we and our GL radar were not required, any more than searchlights. The guns were well directed by their predictor in daylight.
There were some Australians dug in at Mersing where there was a small beach, and on the occasion of a Japanese aircraft passing over, it received some rifle fire and turned back for another look, the result being that three light bombers arrived next morning, and i saw bombs leaving an aircraft for the first time. I heard it said that the Japs ' were only ten miles away', and the RAF had left, leaving a side of beef hung in a doorway with a cleaver in it.. We followed suit, given slight damage to the Receiver and no point in being there. Returning to Changi,we heard that those bombers returned every twenty minutes.
What to do with GL ? We were there and had to do something, so were directed here and there, setting up the equippment to no purpose. We had some men with us who had not arrived with our small group, and , attached to the battery, having been on static radar with the army.
We were set up on the Island Golf Club, and there was a light Jap artillery battery which could readilly be heard firing as it , and one of ours, half heartedly exchanged fire, neither able to direct accurate fire. The Jap battery always had one round which failed to explode, and a bit of turf lifted by that showed it was a small round which had entered.
During these exchanges, we lay on the side of a monsoon drain, and a small dog; a bitch; whined and tried to cuddle between us. Those men who had joined us as mentioned, had two dogs, Roddy and Tina, and they decided that as the dogs could not be kept, better to kill them. Roddy was shot...I did not witness that, and Tina made a run for it, but mistakenly took to the lake to swim for it. A second shot at her saw her gone.
As four of us sat talking , a faint sound was heard passing by, and we looked at each other but continued, but when another was heard closer, we got off that exposed position. for they were bullets around maximum range.
The ground fell away to a point where there was an Australian camp. The following morning several of them, complete with kit, were approaching, while a Captain of theirs was heading for the camp. " S'long Cap". S'long lads, best of luck " They were intent on getting a ship out of there, and this was about six days prior to surrender.
We moved on and set up at Singapore Police Station, erecting ariels as occasional low flyers went past. The Police Station we inspected, there being an assortment of ceremonial swords, small arms and ammunition. One man who had not been with us on arrival at Singapore was banging away with a .22 revolver. I had picked up a .38 colt automatic but could not find ammunition, but kept it anyway.
At last we set up on a gun site. It was a 3.7 Indian battery and there was room to accomodate our equipment, the receiver being near the command post, while the transmitter and generator were behind a hedge, with a house on stilts nearby.
I and Cliff Burgess were in the transmitter, and when the guns opened up, we were going to the right for cover, but when they did open fire, Cliff said there was a shallow trench to our left and we occupied that, Cliff lying below me as I hoped everything was below ground.
That formation of twenty seven flew in very close formation, and came twice daily .When ready to bomb it losened up a little and a few seconds later,a faint whisper was heard, increasing to a roar, an ever increasing roar, and the area erupted thunderously, smoke and dust rising in a flat topped cloud.
There were two anti-personnel craters close to our trench with grooves along the ground making then look like rising suns. The generator was on fire and the transmitter cut to pieces. A small but fairly deep crater was at the door of a room below the house on stilts, and 5th Searchlight men, who had been cast aside, occupied that , and they had emerged, one saying that there was a casualty in there;strange for all others were safe. We bought him out, his face pulped, and I went to the command post for a sretcher to find a gun had taken a direct hit. How many of these bombs would each aircraft carry ? The craters near our trench were about the size of a kitchen sink, and hundres probably rained down.
We heard that 11 Battery had been hit with a direct hit on the height finder, an officer and six other ranks killed. We at last rejoined that battery which had been moved to Anson Road Stadium, a foiotmall pitch by Kepple Harbour, and apart from the bomb which hit the height finder, I noted one against the sandbagged wall of each gunpit, there being several others to the fore of them, probably ten bombs or close to that. It was Friday 13th when they were hit, and the Japs must have thought the batterry wiped out.
Owing to instruments needing repair, the battery was not in action on the 14th, neither was the Indian Battery which was not in action on the 15th, as was 11 Battery.
On the evening of the 14th, we heard two large shells pass over Anson Road Stadium, they sounding like an express train in doing so. Had there been more, they could scarce have been missed.
I and another were trying to sleep on the back of a lorry. The four booms of that Jap light battery were to be heard, they firing into a fire at Kepple Harbour with the usual three shells exploding. We took to a shallow ditch but were overcome with small ants. My companion said men were at the Seaman's Mission which was just up the road, so, awaiting the next fall of shot, we hastened there in case they shortened their range.
At no time did I hear any other Jap artillery, and if we could hear that, we would surely have heard any other ?
I lay down and closed my eyes and seemingly opened them again immediiately, four hours later, reveille being sounded by the lone Bofor at 6am as it engaged a passing low flier. It was not heard again.
We made our way to Anson Road and the gunsite, and our first contacts were a couple of passing low fliers . A number one on a gun directed fire at them, squinting along the gun barrel ..." traverse left, traverse left, depress, depress, fire" and a short fuse up their tail. The loading trays had been removed from the guns and shells punched up by hand, radar men given the job of fuse setting.
Eventually, we picked up a prime target, a formation of nine bombers heading for the Naval Base, and the first salvoe was smack on the nose of the leading aircraft, the second, smartly on the way before that, exploded in the same place, which was agonising, but we had to take comfort in that they had been forced to turn away.
The spotter soon picked up another target. It was them ! They had detoured and had come bback for the battery ,approaching from Kepple Harbour, with the sun at their backs, and with guns at maximum elevatuion then, it was take cover, which meant lying down in the gun pit which was far too large and likely to gather in bombs.
We took one bomb. I do not recall hearing it but later had a suspicion that my toes had been drumming on the ground. Cracks opened in the ground, and raised eyes saw the earth coming down.,and inspection of the crater suggested thirty feet across and fifteen feet deep, and no more than twenty yards away. There was nobody else bar 11 Battery to be heard that day apart from the brief early morning sound of the lone Bofor.
We left the site about 7pm, I sure that the following day would be my last, for as long as we engaged them, they would see to it that we were knocked out. News of capitualation came as a reprieve.
I recall throwing away my tin hat and the pistol, and picking up a non-military tope which was rather cunbersome. Our kit had been sent to Changi where it had been bombed.
The following day the guns were depressed and set on a common bearing, we regretting that the terms of surrender did not allow for spiking. When the Japs walked onto that much cratered site, with the guns so displayed, they must have been impressed , and after several weeks of imprisonment, we were told that we had been given a job for putting up a good show, true or not, it was our officer who said so, and off we went to Saigon on 4th April 1942.