The following are some observations by Major Fearon, Commanding Officer of the Independent Company, regarding road transport during the Malayan Campaign:
Perhaps one of the most exhausting features of the Campaign was the almost continual movement (by road) by night without proper lighting. It was found that drivers would frequently go to sleep driving to the great danger of the troops in the lorries and the ditched vehicle was common site on all roads over which the Army passed. As there was also considerable necessary running of vehicles by day, it was found essential to have 3 drivers for each vehicle, 1 for day running and 2 for night, and this provided great strain upon ordinary combatant personnel of the Company.
It was very fortunate that the Company had the lorries, which were kept going in the excellent hands of Lt Smith, RIASC, as on many occasions the Company would have had little chance of survival without them.
Actually, it is believed that the Independent Company, by careful handling of the lorries and judicious replacement by salvage and confiscation on the rod, was the only force to return to Singapore with a full complement of vehicles. There were also two 3-ton lorries of the Australian G.P. Tpt Coy which joined the Company at TELOK ANSON, and remained with it until the return to Singapore. These two lorries, with one driver apiece, did excellent work.
One heard a lot during the campaign and afterwards of the inexperience of the Indian drivers, but anyone who has had experience of driving heavy vehicles day and night with insufficient rest over a long period, frequently under bombardment from the air, will be bound to acknowledge that all the experience in the world will not make his driving safe.
In the writer’s experience, the finest drivers of the lot were from the Australian Transport Companies who appeared absolutely imperturbable right to the end; the Malays were excellent mechanics with a genius for keeping a vehicle on the road, but inclined to be dangerous drivers; between the British and the Indian drivers there was very little to choose – both were often dangerous, both were exhausted and slept at critical moments during night driving, and both cursed the other for his recklessness. The British driver at his best is streets ahead of the Indian driver at his best, but, on average, there is very little to choose between them.