Tuesday, 30 November 2010

1941 Operation Matador – A Forward Defence of Malaya

Air Chief Marshall Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, Commander British Far East Command ( source: life)

1st Dec 1941 Sir Robert Brooke-Popham has ordered “2nd Degree of Readiness”. Troops were ordered back to barracks and Volunteers were mobilized.

5th Dec 1941 War Office gave authority to Brooke-Popham to execute Operation Matador, upon the following situations:

a) If he had information that Japanese expeditions were advancing with apparent intention on the Kra Isthmus; OR

b) If the Japanese violated any other part of Thailand.

6th Dec 1941, a Hudson from No.1 RAAF Squadron based in Kota Bahru reported enemy ships convoys 265 mile north. However, after consultation with the Navy, Brooke-Popham hesitated and instead ordered “No. 1 Degree of Readiness” – ready for immediate operations and prepare for enemy attack without prior warning. No order for Operation Matador was executed.

In Kuala Lumpur, during a conference between GOC Malaya Command & GOC III Indian Corps, Percival acted on the sighting reports by No. 1 RAAF. He advised Heath to make preparatory launch of Matador and ordered “Raffles” – Code word for “Action Alert”

Evening discussions in Singapore between Sir Shenton Thomas, Brooke- Popham & Percival – Brooke-Popham decided that it was too premature to launch Operation Matador

7th Dec 1941 – 1848hrs; Japanese vessels were spotted 150 miles from Kota Bahru, steering south – 30 hrs after the 1st Japanese sightings. Brooke-Popham claimed that this latest report only reached him at 2100hrs.

7th Dec 1941 – 2230hrs Malaya Command Conference at Singapore Naval Base War Room - After again consulting with the navy and the army GOCs, Brooke-Popham again delayed “Matador” for the night and placed General Heath 11th Division to be ready to execute Operation Matador at dawn of 8th Dec 1941.GOC Malaya Command, Percival, by then, knew it was too late to preempt the landings at Thailand.

8th Dec 1941 – 2220hrs the Japanese ships were anchored off the coast of Kota Bahru and by 0330 hrs, landings by the Japanese at Singora and Patani have been effected. 11th Indian Division was still waiting for dawn at the border of Malaya – Jitra.

WW2 Defence of Malaya by Malaya Command

A Punjab Regiment em-busing on a train to the defend the North of Malaya ( source: life)

7th Dec 1941, Malaya Command had General Heath's Indian III Corps responsible for the defence of Malaya North of Johore, Malacca and Penang. 11th Indian Division was deployed in the North East of Malaya. The Division was on alert to move into Singora and Patani as part of Operation Matador- a forward defence move to preempt landings by the Japanese in Siam in Singora and Patani.

The 9th Indian Division was deployed in the North East, to defend the possible Japanese landings on the beaches before Kota Bahru. Each Division has 2 brigades - comprising 1 British and 2 Indian Regiments. The 28th Indian Brigade, comprising 3 Gurkha Regiments was General Heath's Reserve.

The 8th Australian Division, comprised of 2 Australian Brigades, together with Johore State Forces, defended Johore and Malacca.

Defence of Singapore was the responsibility of Singapore Fortress Troops. The 12th Indian Brigade was General Percival's (GOC Malaya Command) reserve, based in Port Dickson.

Malaya Command General Officer in Command

(L to R) Air Force Marshall Conway Pullford, Major Gen. Arthur E. Percival, Air Chief Marshall Sir Robert Brooke-Popham and Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton discussing manuevers in late 1941 ( source: Life pictures)

Malaya Command was the Army GHQ ( Fort Canning, Singapore ) of Commonwealth troops based in British Malaya for its defence during the invasion of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1941 to 1942. The General Officer in Command ( GOC) was Lieutenant- General Arthur Percival. Under his command was the Singapore Fortress, 3rd Indian Corps, 8th Australian Division and the 18th British Division

In addition there was the RAF, including the RAAF, RNZAF, all commanded by Air-Vice-Marshal Pulford. The Navy had Sir Geoffrey Layton commanding the Far Eastern Station. Sir Robert Brooke-Popham was Commander-in-Chief( 18 Nov 1940 - 27 Dec 1941 ) of the British Far East Command, making him responsible for defence matters in Singapore, Malaya, Burma and Hong Kong.