Page 12 – 13 / 1941 – 42

Left Hand Page

Precis of lecture given by Lt. Gen. Sir Lewis Heath

Meanwhile the East Coast position had also deteriorated although not to the same extent as in the West.

The 8th. Bdge. had managed to evacuate nearly all its stores and transport from KELANTAN, but the enemy pressed down the East Coast and defeated the 22nd. Bdge. covering the KUANTAN aerodrome. On the 6th. January this Bdge. had withdrawn to the West of the BENANG river.

On the 7th. January Gen. Wavell visited our H.Q. and decided that if the enemy was to be held it was imperative to bring some fresh troops to the West sector. Accordingly it was decided to bring one Australia Bdge. and the 9th. Indian Div. to form West Force at the expense of our forces on the East Coast. Shortly afterwards West Force was reinforced by 45 Bdge. which had just arrived from India.

It was then decided that a new force should hold the line well to the North of the most important string of aerodromes – BATU PAHAT, KLUANG & JEMUALANG, and a position was then selected along the general line of the MUAR river. The right of this position was at GAMAS and very strong, but the same confidence was not felt about the left. There was an ever present danger of being outflanked at sea at the MUAR river in the same manner that we had been outflanked at KAMPUR and later at the north of KUALA LUMPUR.

The Australians carried out a very successful ambush just north of GAMAS, but the position was destined o suffer the same fate as the others. The Japanese had been reinforced by a fresh Guards Div., which concentrated on attacking the 45. Bdge, inflicting much damage. The West Force reserve Battalion A.I.F. had to be sent in, and another A.I.F. Battalion brought over from MERSING on the East Coast.

It was at this juncture that the 53 Bdge. arrived on the scene. One Battalion was sent down to BATU PAHAT and another acted as reinforcement to the Australians.

There was still a slight hope that it would be possible to hold the line north of the aerodrome, but we were severely handicapped by the enemy’s air superiority, which gave him command of the sea on both coasts. Actually 51 Hurricanes had just arrived and were manned by one trained Hurricane Squadron and one Buffalo Squadron. But even these could do nothing in face of the superior numbers of the enemy, and 25 were lost in the first week.

The enemy continued his outflanking movements and a threat developed to YONG PANG, which resulted in out forces in that area having to be brought back.

Meanwhile the enemy effected a landing successful at ENDAU on the West coast but the two Battalions of Australians at MERSING help up his further advance.
Later a further outflanking movement resulted in BATU PAHAAT being cut off, 2000 of our troops being evacuated to SINGAPORE by sea during successive nights.

It now became clear that the line of aerodromes could not be held and once again it was necessary to withdraw. The possibility of establishing a bridgehead at JOHORE BHANU was examined but it was found not to be possible, particularly as the water supply could not be defended.

It was therefore decided to make a general withdrawal to SINGPAORE ISLAND and hope that the enemy had not got sufficient craft to ferry his troops across the JOHORE STRAIT.

It was a vain hope as on the first night of this attack, the enemy succeeded in transporting across the STRAIT almost a complete Div. in the West and a further six Battalions in the North West.

It was afterwards learned that the Japanese had brought from Japan special motor landing craft for this purpose, being landed in the North and brought as far as possible down the PENINSULA. By bolting THREE of these craft together it was possible to transport a TANK.

Right Hand Page

A Cutting from the New York Herald – August 1941

All in the British Military Service. They Will Stage War-aid Play in Malaya

By Victor Keen
(Via, Singapore-San Francisci Clipper Service)

Singapore. – Three British actors, close friends before the war and now in Military Service in British Malaya, and a British actress known to the stage in England, the United States and Australia, had a reunion recently to plan the production next month of Noel Coward’s play, “Design for Living” which will presented as a war benefit the first week in July.

Some months before the present war, Jack McNaughton, now a lieutenant in the English Loyal Regiment, and his wife, Jane Cobb; John Wood and Roger Barry, now in the Australian imperial Forces stationed in Malaya, were appearing in stage productions in London. At the outbreak of Hostilities, McNaughton and his wife were in London, Wood and Barry in Australia. All three joined the military service about the same time and, although in different army units, were sent to Malaya, McNaughton being stationed in Singapore, and Wood and Barry in jungle posts in the Interior.

Jack McNaughton, son of the English stage comedian, Gus McNaughton, who is now a British film star, was playing a comedy role in the “Gate Review” which ran for two years at the Ambassadors in London prior to the war. Previously he played with fay Compton in houseman’s London and New York stage hit “Victoria Regina” and was afterwards in Coward’s London cast of “To-Night at Eight Thirty.”

Enlisted in Territorials

Enlisted in the territorial, McNaughton was called up for service a few days before war was declared and subsequently was commissioned lieutenant in the Loyal Regiment. He was the first of the stage trio of friends to be sent to Malaya.

Although McNaughton has never played in New York, he has two cousins in the theatrical profession in the United States. Harry McNaughton, formerly on the stage, is now featured as an English butler in radio skits and Charles McNaughton is on the legitimate stage.

Jane Cobb, better known to her friends as “Bunty”, played with Helen Hayes in the New York production of “Victoria Regina”, her last London theatrical engagement was in “The Wind and the Rain”, by Merton Hodges. She first met John Wood, in Australia, where she played with him in “ The Barrettes of Wimpole Street”.

John Wood, an Australian, has appeared on stage and screen in England, the United States and Australia. After playing in every city of importance in Australia, Wood accepted a one-year contract in Hollywood, where he was cast in “The Last Days of Pompeii”. In London he played with Lilian Braithwaite at the Criterion. He was under contract with international films before the war.

While living in London, Wood shared an apartment with the McNaughton and was best man at their wedding. Called home by the critical illness of his mother soon before Poland was invaded, Wood joined up as a private when war was declared. He was sent to Malaya with the first contingent of Australia. Forces which arrived in February of this year. To his surprise the first man to greet him as he walked down the gangway of the transport at Singapore was Jack McNaughton, also in uniform. McNaughton, unaware that Wood had joined the army, had been sent by his regiment to welcome the incoming Australians.

Roger Barry, who had joined the army without the knowledge of his friends, landed from the same transport that brought Wood to Singapore, but it was not until both Australians had been stationed up country in the jungle for some time that each learned of the other’s whereabouts.

Barry played the juvenile lead with Marie Tempest in London and afterwards made a world tour with her company.

Following the collapse of France and the evacuation of British Force from Dunkirk, Jane Cobb received an invitation by cable from American friends in New York to bring her four-year-old son to the United States for the duration of the war. Her husband had already gone to Malaya. Although she had just been offered a part in the London production of “Design for Living”, Jane decided to take her son to New York and to join her husband in Singapore. Leaving her son with friends in New York who had children of about the same age, Jane departed for Singapore in February, about the same time that Wood and Barry were leaving Australia for the same destination. This writer met her aboard a Dutch steamer en route from Manila to Singapore.

Meet in Singapore

It was more than a month after Jane Cobb’s arrival in Malaya before she (continued on page 14 – 15 / 1941 – 42)