Friday, 17 August 2012

Hugh Pilkington, Volunteer in Malay States Volunteer Rifles ( MSVR) and FMSVF

 Hugh Pilkington ( Left) during his years a rubber planter in Negri Sembilan, Malaya

FMSVR training on a Vickers Machine Gun - Pilk , seated, is the gun loader 

Hugh Pilkington, Rubber Planter and volunteer in the Malay States Volunteer Rifles (MSVR)
Pilkington (Pilk) joined the Malay States Volunteer Rifles in 1927. He was with the force for 10 years since then and the Malay States Volunteer Rifles would have amalgamated with the Malaya Volunteer Infantry to form the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF) when he returned to England in 1937. Although it was not compulsory to join, it would not be comfortable if not. As volunteers, they were not paid but their petrol for travel to training would be reimbursed. Pilk often claimed over $20 per month in the late prewar years – a fair sum given reimbursements of 20 cents per mile.
Pilk attended the often casual meetings of the volunteers and the weekend camps. Above picture showed him training with a WW1 Vickers Machine Gun as a loader. Standard uniform was a pith helmet with flash, wearing roomy shorts nick named Bombay Bloomers or Empire Builders with long socks.
At age 33 and 15 years in Malaya as a rubber planter in Negri Sembilan, Pilk returned to England. He chose Norfolk in East Anglia to settle down – not knowing that he will return to Malaya in 1942 as part of 6 Norfolk Regiment, 18th Infantry Division - reinforcing the commonwealth troops in the Battle of Malaya and Singapore against the Japanese.
Extracted from “ The Missing Years” by Stu Llod

David Marshall in B Company, 1st Battalion Straits Settlement Volunteer Force

 Private David Marshall, B Company, 1st Battalion SSVF 

David, centre of picture with pipe, at Nisi-Asibetsu POW Camp, Japan 1945

David Marshall, a lawyer, soldier, Chief Minister, politician, diplomat in Singapore
At the time of the Munich Crisis 1938, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, David Marshall decided  to join the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF) as a private soldier at the age of 30 – due to an intense hatred of all forms of dictatorial government.
He recalled then “This is going to be the next great War. Germany on one side and Japan on the other. Japan is going to come here. This is my country (geographically). And I went to the Volunteers and said I wanted to join”.
David was with Allen and Gledhill – founded by Rowland Allen and John Joseph Gledhill in 1901. The law firm was the largest in Singapore, managed by three European partners. One of the partners, William Munro was also a SSVF Volunteer. David joined the firm in 1940, was the first Asian assistant and was paid $750 per month. Another Asian assistant, Wee Chong Jin, joined later in the same year. He was destined to be Chief Justice of Singapore.
The SSVF was set up along racial lines i.e. The 1st and 2nd SSVF Battalions, Singapore had 6 companies: Company A( British), B ( Europeans), Company C (Scottish), Company D(Eurasians), Company E (Chinese), Company F(Malays). When David joined, he was not European and there was no Jewish company. He declared himself a Jew and “an Asian” and was offended when they registered him as an Asian and shunted him to the Eurasian Company D. He refused and was reassigned to B Company where he met William (Bill) Goode, who was to become the last British governor of Singapore.
Bill recalled that David was not a very smart soldier – he dropped the Lewis gun in a pig-pond in the back of Changi and that they all have to clean it afterwards.
The volunteers were issued and drilled with the Lee Enfield .303 rifles. There were group training with light machine guns such as the Lewis gun, the Bren gun and the Thomson sub-machine gun. Training was conducted on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons – hence the volunteers were also called “Saturday Night Soldiers” by the regulars.
Weekly trainings were supplemented with a few weekend camps and once a year, a fortnight in-camp training. In mid 1940, the volunteers were called up for a two month in-camp training at Telok Paku, Changi ( 26 km from town)in July- August 1940 and April- May 1942. They were accommodated in huts with shower facilities and each day begans with a dawn parade for physical training, followed by showers, shave dressing, breakfast and inspection. In the evenings, there were lectures and indoor gun-drills. After dinner, the men were free to rest, play bridge or other card games.
On weekends, the married men can sleep out but had to return to camp before midnight by Sunday. Besides, employees such as mercantile assistants were allowed to return to work at 2pm and return to camp for parade by 5.15 pm from Monday to Friday in view of the long absence from work during these in-camp training.
The 1942 training were intensified conducted by regular British Army Instructors to include mock battles with blank ammunition and thunder flashes staged in the rubber estates of Sembawang and Tampines. There were unarmed combat and weekly route marches – a distance of 25 km to be completed within 3 hours. Each platoon had one Lewis light machine gun and was also issued with a Boys Rifle that can fire a 0.55 inch bullet against armour of light tanks. Meantime, new volunteers no longer had their kit measure out and tailored by Chinese contractors – standard kits were issued to all volunteers. Each week there was pay parade and European volunteers were paid $1.04 per day whilst Asians were paid 52 cents—paid along racial lines.
On 1 Dec 1941, a state of emergency was declared in Malaya and Singapore. Governor Sir Shenton Thomas issued a mobilization order to call upon the SSVF for active service. Volunteers reported at the SSVF HQ at Beach Road for active service where they complete all administrative procedures with the issuance of army books, identity discs, rifles, bayonets and ammunition.
They were then transported to the Geylang English School once they have been processed and kitted up, plus the collection of company’s general stores. The school has been requisitioned as the HQ for 1st Battalion, SSVF Singapore which has A, B, C & D Companies. 1st SSVF has been assigned to defend the beaches from Bedok to just pass the Singapore Swimming Club at Tanjong Rhu from Dec 1941 to Feb 1942. The volunteers spent the next two months digging trenches and putting up many barb wire strong-points. The defence from Bedok to Changi was assigned to the Manchester Regiment.
11 Feb 1942, B Company was moved to Peirce Road to reinforce an Australian Battalion. David was made the company runner. The company occupied the tennis courts securing Holland Road from elevated ground for 24 hrs. Next, they secure Ridout Road for four days supporting the frontline.
14 Feb 1942, the Japanese had broken through the frontlines right down to the Kong Guan Biscuits Factory on Alexandra Road and the volunteers were prepared for a counterattack at dawn the next day. However, that evening of the 14th, David was summoned to Company HQ to be told that the British were surrendering.
B Company spent the next 2 nights camped at Peirce Road before being told to march to Changi. The SSVF forces gathered at Goodwood Park Hotel on Scotts Road. Their helmets have been confiscated to be shipped back to Japan for recycling.
Extracted from “Marshall of Singapore – A biography” by Kevin Tan

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Force 136, Malaya

Captain Goeffrey Frank, Force 136 Malaya
Geoffrey Frank was born in 1924, Kuala Lumpur and attended the Victoria Institution. He was 17 years old when he was evacuated from Singapore with his parents and siblings on the Devonshire setting sail on 7th February 1942 to Bombay. By then, he was already a volunteer truck driver.
Whilst in India, he joined the 17th Dogra Regiment and volunteered for Force 136 and trained as a paratrooper. He was made Captain with a pseudonym “wagtail” and was second in command of the patrol, “Tideway Blue”. He landed in Malaya on 14 August 1945 to link up with other Force 136 operatives and the MPAJA in North Johore, a day before the Japanese surrender. Force 136 HQ Malaya was at Bellamy Road, Kuala Lumpur.
On the evening of 5 Jan 1946, Geoffrey met with a freak accident at the Raffles Hotel car park and passed away on 7 January 1946 from his injuries.
Extracted from “Playing for Malaya – A Eurasian Family in the Pacific War” by Rebecca Kenneison

Light Battery Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, Selangor

George Lawrence Hess'e, LBFMSVF, MPAJA, Force 136

Light Battery Federated Malay States Volunteer Force, Selangor

The Light Battery of the FMSVF has 4 guns, 2 in Perak (Left) Section and 2 in Selangor (Right) Section. Commander was Maj. Ronald Wilshaw, A Chemist from the Dept of Agriculture. Senior Officers were all Europeans, some NCOs were Eurasians. Most Eurasians came from C Company, Selangor FMSVF after reorganization and disbandment of Eurasian Company. Sgt Dick Marks brought some men to LBFMSVF, Sgt Ossie Dorall took his men to Armoured Cars, and Sgt Anthony “Gooche” Howe took his to Signals.

The battery was mixed, with 50-60 Europeans and equal number of Eurasians, some Chinese in the Perak Section and one Malay – but work wasn’t. The Europeans aimed and fired the 3.7inch Howitzers; the Eurasians and the Malay worked entirely on transport, wood chopping, latrine digging, loading and unloading of munitions from the lorries.

George Hess, in 1941 and a Eurasian, joined the LBFMSVF after being hassled by his foreman, Stevie McCoy, in the Federated Engineers where he worked as an apprentice. When he joined, he was given a uniform with a wide leather belt that made him look like a “scarecrow”. He later traded it in with a local tailor and had a new one made for $30, paid by his mother.

Being a competent mechanic, he was assigned in the LBFMSVF as a dispatch rider on a Norton. He was mobilized a few days after 1 Dec 1941, when a state of emergency was declared and the Volunteers mobilized. The volunteers spent very little time together owing to the importance of rubber and tin to the war effort and was neither as cohesive nor well trained – little use was made of these well-educated men in the Malaya Campaign who almost all spoke Malay and was intimately familiar with the country.

The LBFMSVF was sent to the north and gave up their howitzers after 3 weeks of mobilization to an Indian Mountain Battery whom has lost their guns in action in Jitra. They were replaced by 4 x18 pounders, one of which was a display piece which Cecil Hay described as an ancient relic. Nonetheless, the European gunners began to improve the sights of the guns and replace the gun carriages with salvaged axles and parts as the volunteers, mostly tin miners, were engineers by training.

The poorly equipped volunteers obtained and salvage lorries, cars, bikes, weapons and equipment from abandoned aerodromes which were evacuated hastily by the RAF. Lance Bombardier Harry Oppenheim (Perak Section LBFMSVF) noted the saying “He runs like an RAF grounder, when anyone bolts”.

The LBFMSVF was stationed in Ipoh, and was in Kampar by Christmas where CSM Ian Patterson joined Spencer Chapman to venture behind enemy lines to gather intelligence. After Christmas, the battery moved to Kuala Lumpur and pitched up at the race course and continued south west to the coast to help regular artillery units repel coast landing by the Japanese.
Cecil Hays records “2 Jan afternoon, Right Section (Selangor) stood to and took up positions on Kuala Selangor Hill. At 6.30pm, together with 73rd RA, fired at Japanese attempted landings.” The 2ndst Selangor FMSVF was deployed inland at the Batu Tigah cross roads to prevent the infiltration from the flanks that will cut of the allied forward units. Despite volunteers’ advise, the Japanese were not opposed when they landed at Sabak Bernam.

By 27 to 28 Jan, the battery was withdrawn further south across to Singapore. They camped at Paya Lebar. Towards the end of the Malayan Campaign, their last position was at Monk’s Hill School, near the government house.

Extracted from “Playing for Malaya – a Eurasian Family in the Pacific War” Rebecca Kenneison