Chapter 16

Chapter 16



It was an impressive sight as we neared the coast of Malaya with what appeared to be most of the Navy lying offshore, including two French battleships and fleets of other ships. Landing started immediately and must be confessed was a shambles. What it would have been like if resisted does not bear thinking about. Fortunately there was none. Some landing craft discharged the men and tanks too far out so that one or two of the latter sank out of sight, and we ourselves dropped into water up to our shoulders,so that it was quite difficult to wade ashore with all our equipment on us, and we would have been in no condition to fight our way up the beach if that had been necessary. On shore there was a harried beachmaster, trying to get everyone off the beach into the woods, and we finally formed up on the road, hoping that no Japs would shoot at us, and began a long march towards Port Swettenham which was to be our destination. On the way, we came across several units of Japanese troops, formally surrendering to our forward units. We had no trouble with them at all , so we were finally convinced that the war was over. When we arrived in Swettenham, we moved in to empty houses,of which there were many, so that the whole Company was well accommodated. Later I inspected the docks and found nothing damaged and, in fact, saw that a few finishing touches had been made to the wharves that I had been building before the war and had not had the time or labour to finish. To begin with we did not have much to do, and I was able to pay a visit to our old house at Port Dickson, finding it quite undamaged, and was most surprised to meet my old office clerk living in it. He was even more surprised to see me, and somewhat embarrassed. I surmised that he had collaborated with the Japs, but could not blame him, as he was a burgher from Malacca, which means that he was a Dutch Eurasian, not really accepted by the Malays or Chinese, and would have found it hard to get work. He told me that Jap officers had been living in the house, and he had only moved in to protect it when they moved out.


Eventually we were given jobs to do, the most interesting being to build ramps for Dukws to run up from the water, Dukws being amphibious lorries used extensively for landing men and materials over beaches or where there were no port facilities. These ramps had to cope with a tidal range of 16 feet so we made them hinged floating jetties and as they were urgently required we had to work 24 hours a day, which involved diving with our makeshift gear in pitch darkness and a tearing current. However the men were wonderful and did it all without complaint.


Demobilisation and extended home leave was now in progress, but I was not yet eligible for either, because I had not joined up until April 1942, and was well down the list for demob, and as for home leave, as I had joined up in India I was not entitled to this either; however with Budge and Sue in Ooty I did not want it.


Most of the men were quite happy to stay on in the army,as long as they got leave occasionally, but for the officers it was a different story,and all were all too keen to get home now that the war was over. We lost Mills on demob and Dodds, our elderly subaltern, and several of our British warrant officers, on home leave. I was sorry to lose two of our WOs who were excellent. Milne became 2i/c, and two young subalterns, fresh out from Britain, joined us


When there was no more to do in Swettenham, we got orders to entrain for Bangkok, which we did, and found that we were to travel in open goods trucks, which was rather a nice way to see the country, as we had our bedding with us,and a portable generator to provide light when we needed it; for food we relied on American K rations. As far as I remember, the journey took two whole days ambling along slowly , as we were not a scheduled train and there was no hurry. My date for demob was approaching,and I knew that I would not be long in Bangkok, but as yet I had had no hint as to who would be my successor, and I thought it quite likely that we would be disbanded. I was most anxious to get away as Eryl had been born on 22nd June and I had not seen her.


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