Battle of Kampar: Battle worthy of mention

Major (Rtd) Tara Singh recalls the Battle of Kampar, describing it as 'about the only battle worthy of mention in the annals of the Malayan campaign' in WW2

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| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 23 Nov 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Major (Rtd) Tara Singh (middle) flanked by MAFSVA secretary Major (Rtd) Suwaran Singh Dhillon on the left and Capt (Rtd) Dr Kerpal Singh - PHOTO / SUPPLIED
Major (Rtd) Tara Singh (middle) flanked by MAFSVA secretary Major (Rtd) Suwaran Singh Dhillon on the left and Capt (Rtd) Dr Kerpal Singh – PHOTO / SUPPLIED

The gallantry of the Sikhs storming the Japanese lines with their bayonets in the Battle of Kampar (30 December 1941 – 2 January 1942) is the ‘only battle worthy of mention’ in the annals of the Malayan campaign of the Second World War, says a retired Sikh soldier.

An estimated 3,000 British soldiers defended the Kampar area against over 6,000 Japanese soldiers. It was the first serious defeat the Japanese had experienced in the Malayan campaign.

“It was about the only battle worthy of mention in the annals of the Malayan campaign of the Second World War,” said Major (Rtd) Tara Singh in a reflection speech at the Remembrance Day at Tugu Negara in Kuala Lumpur on 13 Nov 2016.

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil, but no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. Patriotism is not dying for one’s country, it is living for one’s country and for humanity. Perhaps that is not as romantic, but it is better,” he said.

The event, organised by the British High Commission, was entitled ‘In Remembrance (1941-2016): 75 Years of Commemorative Service’.

There was also a rendition of a poem entitled “Soldier” by Rashpal Kaur Mahli at the same event.

Major (Rtd) Tara, who had served the Malaysia armed forced for 28 years, was involved in several campaigns against the communists and is an expert in counter insurgency warfare.

He is also a vice president of the Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA), which is involved in efforts to construct a monument at the Green Ridge Site, the site of the battle.

The Battle of Kampar was an engagement of the Malayan Campaign during World War II, involving British and Indian troops from the 11th Indian Infantry Division and the Japanese 5th Division.

Kampar, a city in Perak, is about 170km from Kuala Lumpur. It has a gurdwara serving the local Sikh population.

Meha Singh Kishen Singh receives the HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge during he Remembrance Day 2016 in Kuala Lumpur organised by the British High Commission - PHOTO / British High Commission Facebook
Meha Singh Kishen Singh receives the HM Armed Forces Veterans Badge during he Remembrance Day 2016 in Kuala Lumpur organised by the British High Commission – PHOTO / British High Commission Facebook

Below is the full text of the speech by Major (Rtd) Tara:
REMEMBRANCE DAY SPEECH BY MAFSVA AT THE MALAYSIAN WAR MEMORIAL ON 13th NOVEMBER 2016

Good Morning, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentleman

Today let us remember and honour the many British and Indian soldiers who have fought so bravely in defense of this country, so that we might enjoy peace, freedom and democracy.

For all casualties of war, military and civilian, there is no peace and for all of them we mourn. War may sometimes be a necessary evil, but no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. Patriotism is not dying for one’s country, it is living for one’s country and for humanity. Perhaps that is not as romantic, but it is better.

The Battle of Kampar (30th December 1941 to 2nd January 1942) was an engagement of the Malayan Campaign during World War II, involving British and Indian troops from the 11th Indian Infantry Divison and the Japanese 5th Division.

On 27th December 1941, in an effort to prevent the capture of RAF Kuala Lumpur, the 11th Indian Infantry Divison occupied Kampar which offered a strong natural defensive position. The mission was to delay the Japanese advance to allow the 9th Indian Infantry Division to withdraw from the east coast.

The Japanese intended to capture Kampar as a new year’s gift to Emperor Hirohito and on 30th December 1941 the Japanese began surrounding the British and Indian positions.

The following day fighting commenced. The allied forces were able to hold on for four days before withdrawing on 2nd January 1942, having achieved the objective to slow down the Japanese advance.

The fierce battles which ensued saw gallant soldiers in the likes of Major General Archie Paris (Commander 11th Division), Brigadier Henry Moorhead (amalgamated 15th/6th Brigade), Brigadier Ray Selby (28th Gurkha Brigade), Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Murdoch (Commander 155th Field Regiment) – who on midnight of 31st December 1941 “ordered a twelve gun salute to be fired at the Japanese.

Lieutenant Colonel Esmond Morrison’s (British Battalion), Lieutenant Edgar Newland, (Platoon Commander of 30 Leicester’s) who held the most forward position of the battalion.

His platoon was surrounded and cut off for most of the battle but Newland and his men fought off all attacks and kept hold of their isolated position throughout the two days). For his actions Newland later received the Military Cross.

The half company under the command of Captain John Onslow Graham and Lieutenant Charles Douglas Lamb (both officers from 1/8th Punjab Regiment) who fixed bayonets and charged at the Japanese position. The Japanese fire was so heavy that 33 men including Lt Lamb were killed in the charge.

Capt Graham continued to lead the charge though he had only 30 Sikhs left with him. He only stopped when a Japanese trench mortar bomb fell into the trench and blew both his legs beneath the knees.

Mortally wounded, Graham Sahib shouted encouragement to his remaining Sikhs and Gujars, kneeing on his shattered stumps and hurling grenades as the remnants of the 41st Japanese Regiment fled.

Altogether 34 Indians died in the attack but they retook the position. Capt Graham died of his wounds a day later and was subsequently mentioned in dispatches for his actions on Thompson Ridge.

As for the bravery, leadership and self-sacrifice of Captain Graham, his gallantry was an epic which must surely rank with any act of valour in the two world wars.

A havildar at the 1/8th Punjab HQ said on hearing Captain Graham’s death – “Meradil tut gia. Aisa bahadur admi khabi nahin honge”.

They sacrificed their lives so that future generations can live in honour, peace and prosperity. It is a tribute long overdue.

The ferocity of this epic battle brought out the finest characteristics of the Japanese, British and Indian troops engaged.

The gallantry of the Sikhs storming the Japanese lines with their bayonets bristling in the sunlight is still alive.

Their eyes aglow with fury of battle. The bearded Sikh warriors yelled the blood curdling cry of “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” and the Mussulman shouted “Ya Ali”.

An estimated 3,000 British soldiers defended the Kampar area against over 6000 Japanese soldiers. It was the first serious defeat the Japanese had experienced in the Malayan campaign.

It was about the only battle worthy of mention in the annals of the Malayan campaign of the Second World War.

Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association has joint hands in constructing a monument at the Green Ridge Site.

We, as a nation that knows and feels the relevance of the sacrifice of the brave soldiers, need to realise a memorial needs to be erected.

Today we stand as one in silent tribute – not only to keep the vow made long ago but also to rededicate this symbol of that promise.

Look upward now and against the sky see the bronze figures of peace and freedom. Their arms are linked. They cannot be separated. Because freedom without peace is agony and peace without freedom is slavery and we tolerate neither. This is the truth we owe our dead.

We are people of peace, respect, tolerance, kindness and honour. These qualities are alive in our national conscience precisely because we hold them as precious. We have the luxury to do so because those we remember today believed those qualities to be precious enough to die for.

That is why we will keep those men and women in our memory. Remembrance Day is not only about mourning our dead. It is a time to say thank you to all who served with distinction.

“One owes respect to the living” said Voltaire. “To the dead, one owes only the truth”.

Finally, Ladies and Gentleman, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.

Lest we forget! Thank You

[Major Tara Singh served the Malaysian Armed Forces for 28 years. His distinguished service won him several awards at Federal and State level. He served as an Infantry Officer in the Royal Ranger Regiment and was involved in several campaigns against the communists and is an expert in counter insurgency warfare. He has also served as staff officers at Brigade, Division and Army Corp Headquarters. He is currently a criminologist with a Malaysian Government-linked company]

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[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Asia. How to reach us: Facebook message or WhatsApp +6017-335-1399. Our email: editor@asiasamachar.com. For obituary announcements, click here]

2 COMMENTS

  1. SOURCE: NEW STRAITS TIMES
    Date: 8 Dec 2016

    Source: http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/12/195365/sikh-war-veterans-spearhead-bid-preserve-green-ridge-battle-kampar-memorial

    Sikh war veterans spearhead bid to preserve Green Ridge as ‘Battle of Kampar’ memorial

    BY ADRIAN DAVID

    KUALA TERENGGANU: The sacrifices of Sikh soldiers in jungle operations, notably the ‘Battle of Kampar’ during the Japanese Occupation, reveberates strongly with the veterans till today. The Malaysians had joined forces with their allied comrades from Britain and India to quell the marauding Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, by holding the fort at the Green Ridge in Kampar, Perak for four days. It was enough to slow down the quickly advancing Japanese soldiers to the south of Malaya, as 1,300 British Empire troops engaged in a fierce battle with 4,000 Japanese soldiers. Recounting the ordeal of his super-seniors, Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) president Major (Rtd) Baldev Singh Ganda Singh, 70, said the role played by his Sikh kin from India, Britain and local soldiers was exemplary in defending the nation.

    “Many were not only injured or maimed, but also gave their lives.

    “We have not forgotten their deeds, thus in forming this association as a remembrance, honour and to assist fellow veterans in need,” said Baldev at a nostalgic inaugural reunion for the newly-formed MAFSVA at Trio’s Café in Bercham, Perak recently.

    MAFSVA is pioneering efforts to preserve the Green Ridge as a historic World War II battle site and recognise it as a ‘Battle of Kampar’ war memorial.

    Reminiscing, Baldev said that General Officer Commanding Malaya, Leutenant-General Arthur Percival was tasked with making a standoff by the 11th Indian Infantry Division against General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s 5th Division’s advancement at the Green Ridge. The ridge, atop the 4,070ft (1,233.3m) Gunung Bujang Melaka, was a strategic point that offered a clear view of the vital Kuala Dipang iron bridge over Sungei Kampar, and its surrounding plains covered with open tin mines and swamps.

    The Japanese intended to capture Kampar as a New Year’s gift to Emperor Hirohito as the fierce battle began on Dec 30, 1941 before British Empire troops withdrew on Jan 2, 1942. There were heavy casualties on both sides, with thousands killed. “Having ourselves seen action during the Emergency period of the Communist insurgency and Confrontation with Indonesia, the esprit-de-corps is there always.

    “The Sikhs are a minority among the minority.

    “As a band of retired soldiers, we believe in continuing to help our fellow veterans, many of whom had served with distinction and are now struggling to make ends meet,” said Baldev, who served with the Army’s Royal Logistics Corps for 18 years. He added that MAFSVA continued to keep the military tradition of giving its members a regimental ceremony during funerals.

    “The family members of the deceased are very appreciative in seeing that we are still able to give the dead veterans a memorable sendoff, complete with the bugler rendering the Last Post,” said Baldev.

    Meanwhile, ‘Battle of Kampar’ war memorial project chairman Major (Rtd) Tara Singh said apart from being a source of national pride, the Green Ridge would be a heritage and tourist attraction.

    He called on the local authorities like the Defence Ministry and Tourism Malaysia to support the project which has received the backing from the British and Indian high commissions.

    “MAFSVA will host a ceremonial remembrance day prayer for the battle’s 75th anniversary at the Kampar Gurdwara Sahib on Jan 22 next year. We hope to get some headway by then,” said Tara.

    MAFSVA vice-president and Perak chapter chairman Commander (Rtd) Avatar Singh Sarban Singh said a campaign to register Sikh veterans is ongoing through the assistance of gurdwaras nationwide.

    “We have put up posters at the gurdwaras and despatched messages via social media to disseminate the information, especially to the families of veterans who are disabled, bed-ridden or ill.

    “This is our way of giving back to society,” said Avatar, who had served the Royal Malaysian Navy. MAFSVA deputy president Major (Rtd) Bhagwan Singh Virik, who was a logistics officer with the Royal Services Corps for 25 years, said he had been fascinated with the Green Ridge as a student.

    “I used to visit the ridge with former teacher Chye Kooi Loong to dig for war relics left by soldiers. These included badges, helmets, mess tins, mugs and others.

    “We collected them for a mini museum at the Anglo-Chinese School in Kampar where I was its curator for six months in 1961-62. The items are now at the Armed Forces Museum,” said Bhagwan, 72.

    He paid tribute to the valour and endurance of the British Empire soldiers: “They died as heroes, far away from their homes, and the best way to honour them is erecting a war memorial so that their families can come and pay their last respects.”

    Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/12/195365/sikh-war-veterans-spearhead-bid-preserve-green-ridge-battle-kampar-memorial

  2. Dear Sir

    I recently read an article in Asia Samachar (dated 23rd November) by Major Tara Singh regarding the Battle of Kampar and the role of the 11th Infantry Division. The battle was, in part, designed to cover the withdrawal of the 9th Infantry Division.

    My father fought with the 9th and was on the beaches at the time of the invasion in December 1941. He never really mentioned his time in Malaya when he was alive and only told me little bits about his time as a POW in Thailand after Singapore.

    Would it be appropriate to ask you for contact details for Major Singh to see if he might have more information?

    Many thanks

    David Walker

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