A Tale To Tell & Remember

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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Remembering the Battle of Parit Sulong 1942

Parit Sulong Catafalque
14th February 2012 - Ever since I was a little boy, I was always intrigued by the World War 2 in Malaya stories and some of the personnel accounts told to me by my grandfather and his generations that lived through the war. As such, most of the book that I borrowed at the school library since my elementary days will always be about the World War 2 fought here in Malaysia. The best one I read so far was by John Fleming entitled Twilight in Malaya. Reading it give me the thrilling experience as I was one of the defending personnel against the Japanese agression through the Malayan campaign.

2. I always have my own reservation about the Malayan campaign. Through my reading and life long research, I can conclude that the Fall of Singapore on the 15th February 1942 was the biggest ever blunder made by the British military commanders. It's effect were massive, the British colonial power not only lost their grip and power in Malaya but also the respect of the Malayan people mostly the loyal Malays afterwards which was translated into an independence in 1957.

Battlefield in 1942
3. I was given a rare opportunity by my good friend Suhana  today to accompany her for an official ceremony held at the Parit Sulong riverside in remembering the tragic lost of the Australian 8th Division personnel that was killed during the Parit Sulong massacre and the Battle of Muar. It has always been my childhood dream to meet these war heroes as I always think that the Allied soldiers became POWs due to the British military commanders faux pas in terms of tactics and military decisions. Had they held their ground and put up a good fight in the Battle of Muar instead of retreating and surrendering down south, it would be a much better outcome rather then died unnecessarily, gunned down without mercy during their short captives by Japanese Imperial army near the Public Works Department (PWD) barracks beside the Parit Sulong river.

The location of Parit Sulong bridge defended by the Australian 8th Division
4. The Battle of Muar and Parit Sulong will always be remembered as the the battle where the Australian army and the 45th Indian Brigade put up a good fight against the Japanese Imperial force. The defending forces actually did inflicted a heavy casualties against the invading Japanese starting at their first encounter in Gemas and later throughout the Battle of Johore. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson they held their ground stemming the Japanese advanced so much so that the battle fought was so fierce and many of the Aussies personnel were wounded and killed. In the aftermath of the Battle of Muar, the Australian commanders decided to surrender themselves to the invading enemy with the thought that they will be given a humanely care. They were put under Capt Rewi Snelling as the commander in charge to negotiate medical treatment with the Japanese but instead they were rounded up at the PWD barracks, brutally beaten, machine gunned and later lit up fire mercilessly by the Japanese nearby the Parit Sulong river.

5. It was a gruesome massacre but one of the victims, Lt Ben Hackney survived the massacre and the war managed to tell his stories to the Allied war crimes investigator. Of the estimated 150 wounded prisoner who were captured by the Japanese, only three survived, one died couples of days later in the Battle of Singapore and two survived the war.

Australian war heroes
6. I have the highest respect for the Australian 8th Division and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from the British force that fought the war in Malaya. Through my reading, the battle that gave some heavy resistance towards the advancing Japanese would involved the Australian 8th Division in Johore and the able unit of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders throughout the Malayan campaign. They were the real fighting man of the defending Allied forces in Malaya. The book entitled Moon Over Malaya by Jonathan Mofatt and Audrey Holmes McCormick offers vivid details of the personnel accounts and dramatic moments of the Argylls and Sutherland Highlanders unit throughout their Malayan campaign against the Japanese invasion and highly recommended by me.

7. Today I have the honor of meeting some of these war heroes. It was truly was an honorable experienced, instead of reading about them in books since my childhood times,  now I have an exclusive opportunity to shake these men hands. I have the highest respect to them, fighting in another country thousand of miles away from their home, just show the true  brevity and spirits of these legendary warriors.

Wreath laying ceremony
8. I also managed to snap some pictures to share with my fellow viewers and it is very sad to note that Malaysian are very poor in treasuring its own rich history. You can see by the photos that I post, the PWD barracks that was once witnessed as the place where the wounded Aussies were held prisoners and later killed are in a poor and dilapidated shape. It should have been conserve and recognized as one of the country's historical site. I realized that we still have a long way to go in our "history department". We need to do a lot of work to inculcate our young-lings on the importance of appreciating history and its teachings. I wonder maybe due to this poor stressing in the history department and our failure to stress the importance of analyzing history, might be the reason why when came jokers claimed that the Communist Terrorist were the true independence fighters, some of our people actually believed in it. It  was very unfortunate and a sheer ignorance on our part, merely sees history as a past affair.

The dilapidated state of the PWD barracks where Australian POWs were machine gunned and lit up fire by the Japanese Imperial army
9. I also managed to get the autograpghs of all the Australian war heroes that were celebrated today. I will definitely show it to my children and grandchildren one fine evening telling them stories of the heroic soldiers that fought well during the Battle of Malaya. Deep down my feelings I know my children and grandchildren will appreciate history and it's teachings as I am today. God bless these heroes and lest we forget!

Teddy at the Parit Sulong catafalque


Amry2beMuallij said...

Assalamualaikum..En shah, saya tinggal di parit sulong dan menjadi suatu kebanggaan pada kami orang jati yg mewarisi sejarah ini..tp boleh x saya tanya kenapa xda/sedikit (yg saya tahu) pahlawan-pahlawan melayu/waris2 nyer yang sama2 memepertahankan parit sulong dahulu..? Maaf la saya kurang baca sejarah, harap en syah dapat bagi info sikit. tq

Anonymous said...

I was there (with a group of Australian veterans & their families and friends) in 1992 for the 50th anniversary at Parit Sulong. The veterans were mostly sailors/navy men (some were in their late teens during the WW2) from the HMAS Vampire who among other heroic acts was the rescue of the survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. Among the VVIPs at the ceremony were the then Australian High Commisioner & the MP at that time YB Datuk Rohani Ahmad.
"" Brings back a lot of memories to me personally and stirred a lot of interest in the Malayan Campaign/Pacific War 1941/45""


Anonymous said...

My cousin John Charles Rescorl 2/19 Battalion Royal Australian Army was one of the wounded who stayed and didn't survive the massacre.

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

Teddy said...

hey anon,

you should tell us more about your cousin John Charles Rescorl 2/19 Batt RAA.

Anonymous said...

Waalaikumussalam, izinkan saya menjawab pertanyaan itu. Jawapannya ialah tidak. Hampir tiada orang melayu(kecuali yang berkhidmat di bawah tentera British ketika itu) mempertahankan tanah melayu kerana 1. mereka percaya akan kebolehan British untuk mempertahankan tanah Melayu 2. Mereka dah termakan propaganda jepun untuk membebaskan negara kita dari jajahan british 3. Rejimen askar Melayu telah diletakkan di Singapura

Faces of Tun Teddy

Faces of Tun Teddy