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5th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment

Extract from War Diary - 13th January - 15th February 1942

13th Jan 42 Battalion arrived at Singapore Naval Base. Disembarkation commenced 1400 hours. Total of Bn disembarked, 40 Officers, and 917 Other Ranks. Bn moved by March route to Woodlands Camp, Naval Base. Working parties unloaded ship.

14th Jan 42 Unloading of ship continued.

15th Jan 42 Unloading of ship completed. Lectures on Jap tactics given to all ranks. Lieut-Gen. Percival, G O C Malaya spoke to all officers at 1700 hours. Warning order to move received during evening. Two officer's interpreters joined.

16th Jan 42 CO. IO. SO. And Coy reps move to Jemaluang and reported to 2/19 A I F. CO met Bde Commander. 22 Australian. Bde. Reece of Jemaluang area carried out. Order to move Bn to Ayer Hitam received.

17th Jan 42 Battalion moved to Ayer Hitam by MT less 1st. Ref. (Total of 36 Officers 777 OR's). CO and Recon party reported to 11 Div. Comdr at Ayer Hitam. Bn disposed north and East of Ayer Hitam. Recon of Yong Peng carried out during afternoon. In evening orders received to move to Jemaluang.

18th Jan 42 Battalion moved by MT to Jemaluang. Took over def. positions, which had been previously received.

19th Jan 42 Three patrols sent out during morning. One to Kluang Road then North. One to Mersing Road W. One East towards the sea. At 1200 hours orders received to move to Kluang, afterwards altered to Ayer Hitam. Owing to shortage of transport Battalion moved in two parties. CO went ahead and reported to Comdr 11 Div. at Ayer Hitam.

20th Jan 42 Battalion harboured one mile West of Ayer Hitam in 11 Div res.

21st Jan 42 'B' Coy took up defence position facing West. About 2 1/2 miles West of Ayer Hitam. Sent out patrols that encountered the Japs, Two men wounded and one missing. During evening road to Batu Pahat reported blocked.

22nd Jan 42 At dawn patrol of two patrols-plus one carrier sec, made contact with British Bn at 73 Mile Stone. They reported road open. Battalion ordered to keep road open throughout the day. Coy's disposed in blocks as far as 73-Mile Stone. One patrol Coy-plus five carriers and two armoured cars moved forward to contact B Battalion. About 1600 hour's D Coy made contact with enemy near 73rd Milestone. One patrol was ambushed and Captain S. C. H. Boardman, O. C. Coy, was killed. Orders to move to Batu Pahat received about 1730 hours. In meantime one carrier returned and reported road blocked. No knowledge of other carriers or forward patrols. No information from D Coy patrols. Discussion on phone with Div. Commander resulted in order to stay in area 72nd Milestone. During night and move to Batu Pahat in morning. D Coy patrols withdrawn and Battalion harboured. No information regarding one patrol A Coy or carriers.

23rd Jan 42 At dawn cycle patrol - plus one patrol B Coy acting as advance guard moved forward 1/2 mile and encountered a road block. Cycle patrol fired on. B Coy patrol tried to by-pass roadblock but was unsuccessful. Lieut. G. H. R. Pallister seriously wounded. Remainder of B Coy endeavoured to outflank roadblock on North. Several casualties - 2/Lieut. P. H. McKean killed. 3" mortars used on supposed enemy positions and C Coy put round South flank. All efforts to move block unsuccessful at that time. C Coy successful in getting two patrols beyond roadblock but did not get across road. At approx 1130 hours Div Commander ordered Battalion to withdraw to Ayer Hitam into harbouring area South of village. CO reported to 11 Div at 1300 hours and received orders to be ready to move at 1600 hours by MT to Batu Pahat via Skudai and Pontain Kechil. Battalion moved off at 1600 hours and went into harbouring area five miles West of Skudia. CO reported to Commander 28 Bde at Pontain Kechil.

24th Jan 42 Battalion left harbouring area at 0400 hours and arrived two miles South of Batu Pahat at 0700 hours. CO met Commander 15 Bde who ordered him to report to Lt. Col. G. C. Thorne, O C. 2 Cambs. This he did, and received information that 2 Cambs had commenced withdrawal the previous evening and had been stopped just clear of the town. Col. Thorne ordered 5 Norfolk's to retake and occupy 2 Cambs previous positions in centre and on East of town. Zero 1045 hours Battalion attacked with two Coy's forward (A right, D left) supported by 3''Mortars and one tp RA. (No F O C, only Map shooting). Success on left. A Coy and the right pl of D Coy heavily engaged from area cross roads Ayer Hitam and West. No further movement was possible through difficulty of getting support of 3'' Mortars and RA on to enemy positions owing to lack of communications. There were indications of a threat from two high positions East of Main road. At 1500 hours B Coy were ordered to occupy these features which they did. They were then attacked and had to withdraw below the crest. It was decided to regain this hill at night.

25th Jan 42 C Coy together with remainder of one coy 2 Cambs attacked at 0400 hours. Attack was unsuccessful although Coy reached a position just short of the crest. During previous night and early morning 24/25 Jan 42 fairly heavy mortar and L.M.G fire was experienced. The line was readjusted during morning, the enemy making no effort to attack. About 1300 hours Bde Commander ordered Battalion to hold present positions and cover withdrawal of 2 Cambs, then withdraw. Thinning out commenced 2100 hours and positions were finally abandoned at 2115 hours. Battalion marched back about 4 miles and were then ferried by M T to crossroads near Batu Pahat Aerodrome. Arrived at mid-night.

26th Jan 42 Battalion was disposed tactically according to 15 Bde orders, relieving British Battalion. During morning CO went to HQ 15 Bde at Sangarrang and received information that road from Sangarrang to Rengate had been cut by several blocks. At approx 1000 hours the Battalion was ordered to move towards Sangarrang, sending all transport ahead. At 1430 hours Battalion was ordered to protect transport and stand by ready to go forward with transport when blocks had been cleared. At this time some 250 vehicles were on the road head to tail with head of column just off Sangarrang Bridge. At 1745 hours Bde Commander ordered all transport to be destroyed. All men were to make their way to South of Rengate across country and Bridge was blown at 1830 hours. Battalion less a few stragglers crossed the Bridge, majority going North.

27th Jan 42 Majority of Battalion (approx 500) reached Benhut about 2300 hours. Another party (approx 160) went South of road and made for coast.

28th Jan 42 Main party reached B Echelon near Skudai about 0400 hours where they received rum and tea. At 1100 hours this party proceeded to Serangoon Road Camp, Singapore by MT.

29th Jan 42 Battalion rested and commenced to reorganize and refit. Reverted to Comd 53 Bde.

30th Jan 42 Re-organization continued. CO and 12 men return.

31st Jan 42 Re-organization continued. Capt. H. E. Schulman and approx 150 men returned having been picked up from the coast by the Royal Navy.

!st Feb 42 Reorganization continued. !st. ref. rejoined Battalion from 7 M.R.C. (4 Officers, 120 OR's).

2nd Feb 42 Reorganization continued.

3rd Feb 42 CO plus reconnaissance groups left Serangoon Road Camp at 1000 hours for Naval Base. Battalion proceeded by MT to Naval Base at 1600 hours and relieved JATS. Dispositions, C Coy right in Seletar Grange - B Coy centre, Beaulieu House - A Coy left in Dockyard, D Coy in res. (residential area). Strength of Battalion, 35 Officers, and approx 800 Other Ranks.

4th Feb 42 Battalion moves. Shelling commenced. Coy's worked on Defences - wiring and sandbagging.

5th Feb 42 Defensive works continued. Intermittent shelling all day.

6th Feb 42 Defensive works continued. Intermittent shelling all day.

7th Feb 42 As above. Lieut. Potter, Lieut. Carey and 3 Other Ranks cross Straits of Johore and spend 24 hours on enemy territory.

8th Feb 42 GOC 11 Div visited Battalion area at 0500 hours. Defensive works and shelling continued. Lieut. Potter's patrol returned.

9th Feb 42 Intermittent shelling. Defensive works continued. Demolition in dockyard commenced.

10th Feb 42 Defensive work continued. Some shelling - further demolitions in dockyard.

11th Feb 42 As above.

12th Feb 42 Battalion withdrew from Naval Base to Sembawang commencing 0300 hours. D Coy acted as rearguard for Bde. During morning Battalion occupied positions North of Aerodrome, C Coy right, - A Coy centre - B Coy left - D Coy in res. At 1400 hours CO visited 8 Bde. At 1600 hours Battalion came under orders of 8 Bde and commenced to withdraw to Singapore City via Nee Soon. D Coy and B Coy were bombed en route. Several casualties. CO proceeded to 3 Corps HQ via 53 Bde HQ to a certain 53 Bde area. Battalion reached harbouring area on Braddell Road by 2100 hours and rested for night. Battalion reverted to command 53 Bde.

13th Feb 42 Battalion took up defensive positions. D Coy right - A Coy centre - C Coy left. B occupied 2 Cambs area until arrival of 2 Cambs about 18oo hours and then went into Battalion res. At approx 2000 hours right forward pl of A Coy were attacked. Attack was beaten off with few casualties. Heavy firing and shelling all night but not on Battalions positions.

14th Feb 42 Heavy attack on 2 Cambs resulted in left flank being exposed. Line was readjusted by 2 Cambs counter-attack and by putting in B Coy less 1 pl between 2 Cambs and 6 Norfolk. During night enemy infiltrated between 2 Cambs and forward and rear pls of C Coy establishing machine gun posts in C Coy res pl area. RA support was excellent. SOS fire called for by C Coy.

15th Feb 42 Both A Coy and C Coy endeavored to eliminated MG post, 3'' mortars assisted. Battle on A Coy and C Coy fronts continued from dawn to 16oo hours. By order of Command 53 Bde Battalion ceased fire at 1600 hours. Strength of Battalion 30 Officers and approx 660 Other Ranks.

Changi P.O.W. Camp. 17th February 1943

Lieut. Colonel.

Commanding 5th Battalion. The Royal Norfolk Regiment.