As background to this incident, the Japanese attempts to land in the Kuala Selangor area on the 2nd and 3rd January were repelled by artillery fire from Brigadier Moir’s force, which General Heath then reinforced. On 4th January, Japanese troops (Richardson referenced some 600), using a track north of Kuala Selangor, drove back forward patrols, and reached the north bank of the Selangor river. This included engaging with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment capturing some armoured cars and lorries belonging to the Regiment.
The Independent Company was sent to Bantang Berjuntai to cover the Berjuntai bridges with the Australian Army’s Rose Force whose Commanding Officer, Captain D.T. Lloyd, came under the command of Major Fearon. Rose Force was an equivalent to the Independent Company originally formed to work in co-operation with the Navy on the west coast of the mainland and conducting guerrilla warfare behind the enemy lines.
The Rose Force account of the fighting around the Berjuntai Bridge area is available in the Australian War Memorial archives. (AWM52 –Australian Military Forces, Army headquarters, formation and unit diaries, 1939-1945. 1/5/67 Forces. Rose Force Malaya and A Force. http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/AWM52/1/5/67/)
At half past six, a conference was held with Major Fearon and a plan of attack worked out. The plan was for the Independent Company to re-cross the river and move along the road until making contact with the enemy, and then to withdraw back to the bridge through the Rose Force. The Rose Force was to move behind the Independent Company and take up an ambush position some distance from’ the bridge.
From Fearon’s account the operation started at 0715hrs, with Rose Force occupying a hill North of the river commanding approaches to the western bridge.
Meanwhile the Independent Company HQ, 2 and 4 Platoons crossed the river and continued up the road towards the T-junction about 1.5 miles North of the bridge to assist in the withdrawal of the 3rd Cavalry.
The remnants of the 3rd Cavalry detachment were contacted about half way up the road and reported the enemy hot on their heels. As they were in no fit state to fight (they had been fighting continuously for a long period and had lost all their transport), they were ordered to retire over the bridge and rest.
On approaching the T-junction at 0745 hrs the leading scouts of the Company reported enemy troops crossing the junction going East. In the cover of thick jungle, our forces closed up to within 150 yards of the junction to a position from which an exceptional view was had of the enemy, some on bicycles and some jog-trotting along the road in single file with officers at the junction directing the men to the East.
They were taking no interest in our road, their intention obviously being to cross by the other bridge and reach the main Kuala Lumpur road at Rawang .
Fearon makes further mention of the use of bicycles by the Japanese based on a Japanese account of the Malayan Campaign.
Referring to the bicycle detachments of the West Coast Force the same publication states “This speedy bicycle force enduring the scorching heat in the daytime, advancing steadily in the evening, breaking through the rubber plantations, flying through mud, and carrying their bicycles across bridgeless rivers, gave the fleeing enemy no rest. This force was, indeed, an essential feature of the history of tho Malaya Campaign.”
On a signal from HQ, both Platoons opened fire with a crash on the unsuspecting enemy and caused great havoc amongst their ranks. The re-action of the Japanese was typical of their skill and training in this type of warfare.
Troops on either side of the ambush instantly plunged into the jungle towards the flanks of our troops and a confused battle started almost immediately on both flanks.
Owing to the strength of the enemy it soon became obvious that if the Company was to escape annihilation a withdrawal would have to be made, and the Commanding Officer issued orders for the withdrawal to commence at 0800 hrs by the platoons leapfrogging through each other.
This manoeuvre proceeded successfully until 2 Platoon on the left of the road entered very bad swamp and became unduly delayed.
The enemy took advantage of this, and working down the right of the road on the high ground evacuated by 4 Platoon, forced 2 Platoon further into the swamp. Most of the Platoon was eventually extricated, but the Platoon Commander and 8 Indian soldiers were missing at the roll call held after the action.
It should be noted here that while we don’t know exactly what Walter’s involvement was in this engagement with the enemy, if he was still part of 2 Platoon, based on references in his diary for the incident at Sumpitan, then he was in the thick of the fighting around Berjuntai Bridge too.
From the Rose Force account of the fighting :
At a quarter past nine, firing was heard further up the road and very soon the first men of the Independent Company were contacted, moving back along the road as arranged. They were very heavily engaged and in the first few minutes of fighting, lost one officer and one section. As the Independent Company withdrew, the firing became very heavy down the right of the road. The Rose Force party allowed the enemy to penetrate past the point on the left side of the road, and on receiving orders from Captain Lloyd, came in behind them. One section under Corporal N.E. Wilding accounted for the first bunch on the right hand side of the road, and the enemy were then placed between two groups and completely routed. The Rose Force men suffered one casualty in that Lance Corporal Robb, the guide to No 1 Section of the first platoon was shot through the right arm.
By 0945hrs, Rose Force and the remnants of 2 and 4 Platoons had all crossed the bridge to the south of the river.
The Rose Force account states :
Very heavy mortar bombing of the bridge area ensued as the enemy brought up reinforcements. At a quarter past eleven, the Brigade Major arrived at the bridge and arranged for artillery support. At half past eleven, heavy artillery were fired from the guns on the opposite bank of the river and further up the road. Later a conference was between the Brigade Major, Major H.M. Ford of the Royal Artillery, Major Fearon and Captain Lloyd.
A counter attack was arranged, the objective was a high feature on the opposite river bank commanding a view of the entire river and bridge area.
The Rose Force party was to do the attack and be covered by the Independent Company.
After taking the objective, it was to be held at all costs. By a quarter past twelve the objective had been taken and the attack was successful. The sections dispersed and sited, to hold the bridge head.
At about 1300 hours, a small fighting patrol was taken out by Captain Lloyd and an enemy motor bicycle captured, also some enemy mortar gear. Half an hour later enemy patrol activity and general troop movements commenced on both flanks and further up the road. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment placed an armoured car on the far side of the bridge to cover same. During the afternoon the 88th Field Regiment kept up a constant barrage on the cross roads area, and other targets to prevent troop movement down the road. Enemy planes were very active and constant dive bombing and machine gunning was carried on all day. One balloon was sighted and reported to Brigade.
The Independent Company was sent out for reconnaissance at 11.00 pm through the area and again at three o’clock the next morning. They reported great damage having been done on the cross roads area and very little troop movement at those times.This entry was posted in Uncategorized